Where I Spent November

November 30, 2011 at 2:05 am (Books, Fiction) (, , , , , , )

November is almost over, and with it, this thing called NaNoWriMo . . . which is actually called National Novel Writing Month . . . which should ACTUALLY be called International Novel Writing Month . . . which would be InNoWriMo….

I have derailed.  Let me start again.

November is almost over and so is that thing I’ve been doing.  What have I been doing?  Writing a novel.  Or, specifically, working towards 50,000 words of a novel, which is the goal of NaNoWriMo.  Believe it or not, I WON!  Won = reached 50k words before Dec. 1.

A few years ago, I wrote my longest piece of fiction ever.  It clocked in at ALMOST 8,000 words.  That’s it.  And I worked about a week on it.  But this November, I cranked out over 52,000 words!  And not just words, but most of them are really good, I think.  Heck, you’d probably even recognize most of them.  I’ve seen them many other places and I bet you have too.

All kidding aside, I’m really happy and proud of my story.  During the writing process, I have actually teared up twice from the story.  There are some really sad parts.  But I promise to those of you who will one day read it, there are happy parts too.

As far as one day reading it, this WILL happen!  My aim was a little different than some others for NaNo.  I wasn’t just writing 50k words or writing a book, I was writing a novel that I hope to publish someday.  How is that different than others?  Well, I met a lot of people who were writing fan-fiction, which is where you write using characters and places already established by another writer.  Imagine a book about Harry Potter that wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling.  OR a book about characters in Rowling’s universe, but NOT Harry or Ron or Hermoine.  Imagine a book about Cho.  Or Twilight fan-fic.  No, not that.  Let’s think about Cho again.  *sigh*  How old would Cho be now? 1

Back on track: the thing about fan fiction is, you can’t sell it.  JoRo owns the rights to all the characters in the Harry Potter universe, and she hasn’t given you permission to use them, and will sue your ass if you try.  Same goes for Star Wars, or Twilight, or Tolkien, or Superfudge.  (That’s right, I just challenged someone to write Superfudge fan-fic!)

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is, I’d like to sell my novel.  And the books to follow, because I realized early on that this was going to be, if not a series, at least two books.  Do I expect to make Stephen King-money?  No.  Do I expect to make $5.  Yes.  I am certain I will make $5, even if I have to ask my Dad to buy it.  Whether I go the traditional publishing route or  the self-publishing Kindle, Nook, PDF, route I don’t know.  But I do know it’s a damn good story and I’m a damn good . . . above-mediocre writer.

But I’m not done.  November is winding down, and although I’ve passed 50k (is it 50k or 50K?), I’ve still got quite a bit to write.  The way the story is outlined, I feel it will clock in around 85-90,000 words.

So here’s my request for you guys: stay on me about this!  Ask me what my word count is.  Ask me how the story is coming along.  Indulge me if I keep shouting out my word count.  Because soon this will all be over and I’ll start editing, which I promise will be done in the closet.  No shouting there.

And thanks so much for the support, everyone.  I can’t believe how many people have stood behind me during this.  Other writers I know, people I’ve never met except online, people I’ve only met because of NaNo, friends, my Constant Reader (you know who you are, Dennys!), and most importantly, Judith.  I couldn’t have done this without her beside me.  Or, to be more exact, without her across the room from me.  She had to endure countless interruptions of, “Guess what I just had a character do!” and “Listen to this!”  She also had to endure a LOT of Brian Eno being played.  Specifically, “Music for Airports.”  Thank you, Judith.  I couldn’t have done this without you.  I love you  🙂

1 = Cho would be 32. Wow. (Source)

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Another way to 50k

October 27, 2011 at 10:58 am (Books, Fiction) (, , , , , , )

This year, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time.  Simply, the goal is to start a new novel and write 50,000 words, all from November 1-30.  Thirty days to write fifty thousand words.  The idea behind the challenge is to just keep writing and get to the end.  The emphasis is on quantity because so many writers never finish novels because they are always editing as they go.  They forget that even if they write and finish a crappy first draft, they’ll still have a whole book!

Nowadays, 50k words isn’t really a whole book, though.  Back in the day, The Great Gatsby clocked in at like 50,061, but now books tend to shoot more around the 100,000 mark, plus or minus fifteen thousand.  But, for those like me, who have only written short stories, 50k is plenty to aim for, even if the book isn’t finished by that number.  Just getting to 50k in 30 days is the challenge.

In order to reach 50k in 30 days, writers need a daily word count of 1,667.  Most of us can write more than that a day, but the point is, that’s the minimum you need to write each day if you’re going to make it.  Thanks to repeating decimals and rounding up, if you do ONLY 1,667 words each day, you’ll get 50,010 words!  YAY you rose above the challenge!

Today, on the forums for Nanowrimo, I came across another way to reach the total word count.  This formula takes advantage of the enthusiasm writers have when they start the challenge, knowing that it gets harder as you go.  This system uses a much higher word count on day 1 (3,393) and works its way down to the last day where the writer must write 1 word.  Seriously, 1 word.  If the writer wants to aim for a full 100k book in November, just double the daily word count.  This means I would start day 1 with 6,786 words and on November 30 I’d write 2 words.  “The End” maybe?  🙂

Like I said, this takes advantage of the great enthusiasm NaNos have come midnight, Nov. 1, but it also has some other advantages.  When the month is winding down, but holiday season is winding up, the word count gets less and less.  Would you rather write 1,667 words on Thanksgiving day or 918?  That’s almost a 750 word difference and it comes 24 days in, when momentum may be stalling.  Another advantage is that starting day 13, the word count drops below the 1,667 that is needed the other way!  That’s 18 days of not fighting for 1,667.  And yes, some of us do fight to get that high on word counts.

Anyway, for anyone else interested in this countdown method, I quickly threw together a no-frills calendar with the daily word counts.  This is for 50k, since I’m going to aim for that before I consider anything else.  (The longest short story I’ve written to date was almost 8,000 words, so you can see why I’m nervous.)

Click the calendar for full size, right-click, and save!

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The Start of… Something

April 12, 2011 at 1:14 am (Books, Fiction) (, , , , )

I recently started a new story and for the first time EVER, I feel like it could lead to being a novel.  I usually write short stories and occasionally longer short stories, but for some reason, the scope and possibilities I have opened up before me with this one seem, well, bigger.

I once wrote a story about a guy who made a set of tap shoes for a cockroach.  I wrote a story about a guy stuck working in Wisconsin who wishes he could dream about the girl he left behind in North Carolina, but keeps having silly dreams instead.  I wrote a story about a guy who is making a cross country trip and finds himself talking to a hand puppet in a motel in Wyoming.  None of these needed to be longer.  They told the story I wanted them to, quickly and easily.  The short story format was perfect for them.

Then there was “Into the Black” and “The Carnival.”  The former could easily be the beginning of a book.  The latter could very well be fleshed out with a few more characters added and end up being a book of its own (both of which are ideas I have been toying with).

But this new piece that I started…well, it is already apparent to me that it belongs in a big world.  A wide open place where many things happen.  A place where the protagonist is on a quest.  This is all VERY obvious to me.  The problem?  I don’t know what that quest is!  I don’t know the “what if.”  Without sounding flippant, good novels can be thought of (though not summarized) in concise “what if” questions.  “What if Childe Roland was a gunslinger making his way to The Tower?”* “What if a magical ring needs to be destroyed in enemy territory?”**  “What if a retired man’s mind is beginning to slip and he wants to keep it a secret?”*** 

My newest piece starts right after a battle, the final battle of a war, and the prince commanding the losing side is the only person still alive from his troops, but no one knows he has lived through it.  Sounds OK, right?  He then meets a guy who is scavenging the bodies of the fallen soldiers and he lies about who he is, knowing that his enemies have won and are now in control of his former city.  Again, sounds all right.  But that’s where I’ve been stopped.  For three days now.  Because I have no “what if” for this guy.  What’s his quest?  To regain control of his city?  Sure! …except I know so little about politics and intrigue that I don’t know if I could do that.  If it was an Item Quest, well, somehow a tangible goal seems much “easier,” but I haven’t figured out what he would be questing after in the situation that was created.  I am a firm believer in what Stephen King talks about in his book “On Writing,” mainly: create the situation, create the characters and don’t worry about plot, it will come as the characters try to resolve their situation.  But guess what?  I ain’t Stephen King.  (Actually, you probably didn’t even have to guess that.)  I feel like I should have SOME sort of idea as to where they are headed… even if they never get there.  Right now I’ve got, “What if the former prince of a nation……….umm….”

Anyway, bear with me.  I feel like this story and my quest to tackle it are going to be with me for a little while.

*= The Dark Tower series
**= The Lord of the Rings
***= A Spot of Bother

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Great Stories, Poopy Endings

March 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm (Books, Fiction) (, , , )

So far this year I have read 2 books that I have completely enjoyed… until the very end. Castle by J. Robert Lennon and The Tsar‘s Dwarf by Peter H. Fogtdal were both great stories that pulled me in from the very start and completely held my attention. But both of these books had what felt like cop-out endings. Castle had the worst of the two, having a totally open ended non-ending. I don’t want to give it away in case you choose to read it, but I seriously closed the book after finishing it and said, “Really? Are you kidding me?” You know how in school the teacher would say, “OK five minutes left. Go ahead and wrap up what you’re writing”? It felt like that. Like the author scrambled to finish because his publisher was standing there, countdown clock in hand.

The Tsar’s Dwarf, on the other hand, wrapped itself up just fine… I just didn’t like it. The ending I mean. Loved the book but when I got to the end it was more of a “Aw, come on. Is that the best way you could think of to end this novel?”

Maybe I should read a biography next. One of someone whose ending I already know. Lincoln, I know what happened to him, right? …or do I?

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Unknown Wizard of Oz

March 14, 2011 at 2:02 pm (Books, Fiction) (, , )

I am currently reading the Wizard of Oz and am amazed by the differences between the book and the version most of us know. I am only two chapters into it but already things are interesting. For example, before the cyclone, there are no other people besides Dorothy and her aunt and uncle. No lady on a bike, no cousins, no nothing.

When the house lands in chapter 2, Dorothy is greeted by 4 people, 3 of whom are male Munchkins. The woman in the group is an old woman no taller than the Munchkins. She is the Witch of the North. That is the only name she gives, not Genda.

So now Dorothy must set out to see the wizard in the Emerald City having only met 3 Munchkins. Oh! but not before taking the silver shoes from the dead Witch of the East.

I’m sorry, did I say SILVER SHOES?! Oh yes I did. You see, it turns out with the invention of Technicolor, silver shoes just weren’t amazing enough. Ruby slippers, probably one of the items most connected in our minds with this story, weren’t in the story at all until the movie. I find that to be amazing.

As I start chapter 3, I can’t wait to see what other big changes are in store for me. If they are as earth shaking as the shoes, I’ll make sure to report back.

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