Category Archives: Word Count

That does it! NaNoWriMo 2014 is a Wrap!

This year I cut it closer than any other year. Instead of finishing a few days early, with bursts of productivity throughout the month and gaps where I fell behind, I kept a fairly steady pace. Plodding along (Ha! As if I just described 1,667 words a day as plodding!), until I crossed the line a few short minutes ago.
That’s right I’ve done it! I won NaNoWriMo (and I got this nice little banner to prove it, because we all know miscellaneous images from the internet proves things! Oh, and the banner is a link.)
Now. That said, there are likely some of you that didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, or perhaps some that did participate and didn’t cross the 50,000 word threshold. Well. You want to know the truth?
It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. I said it right here, and my word is law (on this blog anyway). 
NaNoWriMo isn’t really about writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Ok, well it is. Sort of. But not really. Nay! The point of NaNoWriMo is to (follow along with me here) build good writing habits.
Whether those habits are: 
250 words a day, 7 days a week
500 words a day, 5 days a week
1,667 words a day, 7 days a week
or Eleventy-bajillion words a day, 3 days a week
What matters is consistency and habit, and learning deep down, that if you chip away at something a little each day you can do it.
Let’s look at what a novel is at face value, and for the sake of argument I’ll throw away my usual target of ~100,000 words and go with NaNo’s 50,000 words.
50,000 is still a BIG number. There are roughly 250 words per printed page in a paperback novel. That means there are roughly 200 pages in a 50,000 word book. It’s not a door stop, but we’re not talking about a flimsy pamphlet either.
Starting at 0 words, putting together 50,000 of them seems nigh impossible. But, 1,667 (the daily goal of NaNoWriMo)? That’s not TOO bad. I can write that in a few hours (or less if I have a really good outline and no interruptions).
After day 2? I’ve got a little over 3,000 words. After day 9? I’ve got 15,000 words. That’s a BIG number right there, in a little over a week.

I likely never would have finished Crow’s Blood (the idea for which came out of a NaNo novel) were it not for NaNoWriMo teaching me that chipping away at the big number with a pile of little numbers would actually get me there. I learned that I could write a full length novel.

Now, that’s not to say that this year’s story is done (not by a long shot), or that the 50,000 words I’ve written are any good. It’s a Zero-draft, chances are a lot of those words are due to be scrapped and replaced with better ones in the first revision pass (and I’ll do MANY revision passes). But I find it a LOT easier to revise something that exists on the page, and it’s good writing habits that get them there in the first place.

Even if you don’t cross that 50,000 word line to “win” NaNoWriMo, as long as you worked consistently toward the goal of writing your novel, and learned some of those good writing habits, you’re still a winner.

So for everyone who partook in this month of writing dangerously and developed those good writing habits along the way.

Here. Have a Wordasaurus! You earned it.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did you do?

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Filed under 50K, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Revision, Word Count

A Few Quick Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

First, in case you’ve been living under a rock (or you’re someone who follows, or is visiting this blog, not because you want to mine it for amazing little golden wisdom and insight nuggets about writing, but because you know ME personally):
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a bit of a misnomer, but InNoWriMo (International Novel Writing Month) and GloNoWriMo (Global Novel Writing Month) don’t roll off the tongue as nicely… scratch that, GloNoWriMo is still kind of awesome! It takes place in the month of November every year and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or ~1,667 words/~6.67 manuscript pages a day.

You don’t have to be some sort of mythical “writer” beast to be able to participate. Writing isn’t magical. Stories don’t burst forth from our heads fully formed and flapping their leathery wings. Writing is work. It starts with a cool idea, or a character, or a setting, or even as little as a really awesome one-liner. From there it’s a building process, one keystroke at a time.

This is my 4th year participating, and I’ve reached the 50,000 word goal every year. It takes me anywhere from an hour and a bit to three hours to write 1,667 words, mostly because I have a hard time shutting my internal editor out entirely.

I’ve had varied reactions to doing NaNo this year. Writer folks have all cheered me on and talked about doing it themselves (which is cool), or why they’re not doing it (which is also cool). Non-Writer folks have been split. Those who don’t know me as well as they should simply ask “why?”, especially when they see my recent announcement. Those who know me well know that I LOVE the challenge and dabbling in the community that shared pressure and experience brings.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about writing the next Harry Potter. It’s about building good habits and reaching the stunning realization that YES, you can write a novel. 50,000 words is a big number. And NaNo is all about showing that it is possible to write that many words in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a few hours a day, tops, for a month.

And if you don’t reach 50,000 words? Big deal! The real key, the point behind this whole exercise, is to form good writing habits. Sit your ass down in front of a keyboard, find your head-space, shut down Twitter and Facebook, close your web browser, and write. If you can do that consistently for 30 days then word count be damned, you win!

A few caveats for you, my fellow writers:
Crossing that 50,000 word finish line on, or before, or even after the 30th feels fantastic. It’s a rush! But even if you’ve written “The End” you are not done your novel. DO NOT QUERY! DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH! That way lies ruination and heartache!

You see, 50,000 words used to be a novel. These days it’s a Novella, with the actual word count of a novel falling somewhere between 60,000 words (literary works, cozy mysteries, contemporary YA, romance, etc.) to 110,000 words, which is roughly the maximum you can get away with for a debut Epic Fantasy or Science Fiction novel.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’ve typed “The End”, be it at the close of your 50,000 word Novella, or your 110,000 word Epic Fantasy. BOOM! That’s awesome. Now, before you send it off:

Step away from the keyboard!

Go get a drink, or take your family/friends/self out for dinner. You deserve it! You wrote a NOVEL(LA)!!!! Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you get back.

*****

Back? Fantastic! Now that you’ve had time to blow off some of the endorphins that had you rocketing to the moon it’s time to get real. What you have on your hands is (almost definitely) not ready to go out. It needs a good revision or two (or 5) to whip it into that sort of shape.

Provided your dinner break earlier wasn’t on the scale of days or weeks, you’re likely going to need some distance to do it right. Not every writer does, but most of us need to get away from a story and come back to it as a bit of a stranger to be able to sort the gold from the muck. Go work on a different story, or write vignettes, or character studies. Whatever you do though:

KEEP WRITING!

I’ll see you later, I have to go register GloNoWriMo.org and get some words written.

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Filed under 50K, NaNoWriMo, Query, Word Count

The 777 Blog Hop

In what can only be described as cold-brewed wanton and impish revenge for calling him out in my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Colten Hibbs has tagged me in the 777 Blog Hop.

Those who have been tagged have to open their current work-in-progress (WIP), and go to the 7th line of the 7th page and post the next 7 lines.

My current work in progress is a Sci-Fi Noir Detective story I’m affectionately giving the working title “Sci-Fi Noir Detective Story”. It’s on it’s Zero-Draft.

If you’re unfamiliar with that term Zero-Draft, it’s the very first, very rough draft that’s written at the beginning of any project. It’ll be full of holes, notes, dead ends, incomplete arcs, crappy repetitive language, eye-bleedingly-bad punctuation and prose, and worst of all… stilted dialog!

After spinning my wheels on some of the characterization and motivation (which will all change by the end of the Zero-Draft), I’m about ~6,500 words ( ~26 pages) into actual writing, and about 1/10th of the way through my outline.

I’m a sparse writer, beginning with a skeletal framework and layering description on top of it, so my manuscripts tend to remain relatively spare through several revisions. Luckily, the 7 lines that this Blog Hop highlights aren’t affected much.

Without further ado:

 The speaker, Kats wasn’t sure whether she was Cross or Cork, let out a long breath. “Out of the ordinary? That’s Incidental territory. Those bastards wouldn’t know ordinary if it landed on their dinner table. 

The Nature’s Path, or Incidentals as their detractors called them, were a decades old movement that denied the benefits of genetic enhancement and error correction. They’d swelled in numbers for the first twenty years or so, then levelled off at around four percent of the population. Very few Incidentals ever held jobs higher than bottom rung maintenance positions. 

Despite their relatively similar social status, Tankers like Kats were as far removed from the Nature’s Path as it was possible to be.

Anything in that passage is subject to change, in whole or in part. I may even remove it from my manuscript with fire and brimstone at any time of my choosing.

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Filed under Grammar/Spelling, Outline Writing, Revision, Voice, Word Count

I Suck at Writing: A Confession

I suck at writing. I don’t mean my prose, or my descriptions, or my characterizations (though I’m sure to be lacking in a number of those areas).

I mean in my work ethic.

I haven’t written a single word of real writing in ~8 weeks.

There are all sorts of excuses I could line up, between my day-job workload, to travelling, to any number of things. None of them are truly valid to the writer in me. I’ve had all those things going on before and I soldiered through and got the words down.  Hell, some of my most productive times have been when my day-job was demanding 12-16 hours of my life per day.

So what have I done? Well, let’s see. I’ve read a BUNCH of books. I sort of caught up on some of the TV I’ve recorded. I’ve seen a few movies in theatres (and really enjoyed them). I’ve kicked some ass at The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. And I’ve spent far too much money on Skylanders.

Writing related? I’ve cycled out a few more queries on CROW’S BLOOD. Tracked through and kept up with the blogs of all the writers I know and love. And I’ve re-worked the outline for my historical fantasy about six times.

Six times may seem like I’ve been keeping busy, but really I haven’t. Not busy enough anyway. I could be doing a lot more… you know… writing.

I’ve been doing some much-unneeded self-examination on what exactly my problem is. Turns out it’s pretty simple:

I suck at writing. This time I am talking about the prose, descriptions, and characterizations.

I worked on CROW’S BLOOD for a LONG time. I finished the first draft in November of 2011! Never mind that I completely threw that draft and story away and re-worked the entire novel from the ground up. That’s more than 2 years ago!!!

It’s been that long since I really dug in and worked on something new. The sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of every draft as the story and prose got tighter is gone, and the distance from that first clunky and painful draft is vast.

When I look at what I’ve written lately (and by lately I mean before I got into my writing funk), all I can see is the warts and garbage and things that make me want to set it on fire and walk away. It’s no wonder I’ve re-outlined the thing so many times. Outlines are safe. I can write a REALLY cool outline. Point form mind-maps don’t have to be pretty.

I’ve forgotten that it’s OK to suck, especially on your first draft. No one has everything worked out. No one has the perfect words for every sentence. No one really knows where the commas are supposed to go!

I suck at writing. But I desperately need to remember and keep reminding myself that it’s OK to suck. I’m going to keep doing it, updating my word-counts here on my blog so you can all keep score (and I can keep myself accountable).

I need to push on and get through the first draft. That first, clunky, broken, full of holes draft. I need to finish the story. I need to tie up all the loose ends. And I really need to achieve that awesome sense of finishing something.

You know why?

I’m really good at revision.

– Alex

P.S. Have any of you ever hit that wall? Let me know how you got past it in the comments.

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Filed under Outline Writing, Query, Real Life™, Revision, Validation, Word Count

My NaNoWriMo Survival Kit or How I Won and Didn’t Lose My Mind

I promised this at the beginning of the month: A list of the tools and tricks I use to survive (and win, 3 years in a row) NaNoWriMo.

I want to be perfectly clear, I don’t work for any of the following (except perhaps the last), and I don’t make any money off promoting their products. They’re simply things that have become an essential and integral part of being able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Could I do it without them? Sure. I absolutely could (except again, the last). I won my first year of NaNo using MS Word and nothing else. But I’ve built this arsenal and I intent to continue using it as I work to build and perfect my craft.

So here it is.

Literature & Latte‘s Scrivener and Scapple
I used Scrivener during NaNo last year, in fact I learned Scrivener during NaNo last year. It’s an incredibly robust piece of writing software that I now do 95% of all my writing in (even the technical documents I often write for work).

It has an easy to grasp interface with plenty of places for notes, synopsis, and tags, that all feeds into a neat little corkboard interface you can use to shift scenes about. It’s robust built-in tool-set can be overwhelming if you just dive in and try to use it all at once. Take some time and do the tutorials, and always remember: You don’t have to use EVERY feature. Use what works for you.

Just a note on Scrivener, the Manuscript Target display loses count somehow and will be short on words if you leave it open all the time. Use the “Project=>Project Statistics” count for a closer idea, it will also update the Manuscript Target count.

Scapple is new for me this year (it’s a fairly new product). Where Scrivener is robust and complex, Scapple is stark and simple. It’s a free-form mind-mapping tool that I’ve started to use for outlining (and taking notes at work…). I’m positive I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Scapple can do.

Nuance Mobile‘s Swype for Android with Dragon Dictation
If it weren’t for this software I’m positive I would have lost my mind. I spend ~3 hours a day, 4 days a week commuting from my day job. That’s 12 hours of potential writing time I waste in my car. At the same time, driving is boring, which also makes it one of the best times to have epiphanies about plot points, scenes, and character interactions.

Before using the Dragon Dictation piece of Swype I would do my best to remember all the little ideas I had while driving, and I’d inevitably fail.

That said, Dragon Dictation is FAR from perfect in a car with a great deal of road noise (I drive a 2012 Civic that I’m positive is made out of aluminium foil). Not to mention it might be less than optimal that I’m dealing with a Hidden History/Fantasy story with words that people just don’t use on a daily basis.

Still, even with the clean-up I had to do on what it scratched out for me, it was a great help in not losing my mind.

Mur Lafferty‘s I Should Be Writing NaNoWriMo Specials
I listen to the ISBW Podcast regularly (well, as regularly as Mur gets them out there, but she’s a busy writerly type person, with books coming out and deadlines and whatnot so I harbour no ill will). This year she’s done a series of podcasts dedicated solely to NaNoWriMo. I found them to be a nice break, and at times a good reminder that other people suffer from the same problems and blocks I do while writing.

Clementine Player’s “Rain” Extra.
This one’s a little different. On my Mac I use Clementine Player instead of iTunes, mainly because iTunes doesn’t support FLAC or some of the formats I’ve purchased or ripped music into. I write in a room adjacent to where the rest of my family watches TV, and frankly, I think they’re all going deaf.

Sometimes if I’m writing something challenging where I need to concentrate the sounds from the TV just don’t help. I need something without words to distract me and send me off on tangents. Sometimes that means classical music, instrumental, or even house/club/trance/techno.

Then there are the times where even having something with a regular beat, or discernible patterns causes problems. That’s where the “Rain” feature under “Extras” comes in. It’s a generated thunderstorm, where the thunder and rain patterns are random and non-repeating. It’s perfect.

ZeFrank‘s “An Invocation for Beginnings”
If you ever needed a kick in the pants to get something started, whether it’s the project on the whole, writing a particular scene, or just getting your butt in the chair, Ze’s Invocation is just what the doctor ordered.

I listen to it when I start out. I listen to it when I hit a wall. I listen to it when I just don’t feel like writing. It hasn’t failed me yet.

My Wife
She holds all the loose pieces on that seem ready to fly off at any given moment. Not only does she give me the time (time she loses) to write, she supplies encouragement and support, and most important of all, she sometimes even brings me caffeine!

She tolerates my cranky moods when things are going well. She kicks me in the ass when I whine too much. And she doesn’t make me sleep on the couch if I’m up ’til 1am “just finishing one more paragraph”.

Out of all the things that make winning NaNo possible, she’s the one I couldn’t do it without. Oh… and a word processor, because writing 50,000 words out by hand or on a typewriter would suck.

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Filed under 50K, Learning, MacBook Pro, NaNoWriMo, Real Life™, Scrivener, Word Count

NaNoWriMo 2013 Mid-Way Update.

This is a few days late. It was written on the 15th but I started to fall asleep at the keyboard before publishing (oops). I’ve gone through and updated some of the numbers to match the new publish date of the 17th.

We’re half-way through NaNoWriMo for those of you who are doing it with me. I’m a few hundred words behind pace (Update: I’ve since caught up), which is an achievement considering how quickly I got behind at the beginning of the month.
As I noted in my last blog update, this year’s NaNo is a real experiment for me, and it created some interesting challenges.
First: It’s a totally new story, not another book in the story that I’ve already written. As a result, my outline was sparse and my sense of characters very light. I’ve stated before that I’m an agile outliner, allowing for vast and sweeping changes to a relatively detailed outline. This time around the outline is a bare-bones skeleton, and I’m doing a fair bit more seat-of-the-pants than I’m used to. Revisions should be fun.
Second: It’s a historical urban fantasy in a relatively well-documented place, in a relatively well-documented period, with a protagonist from an incredibly well-documented family. Take all these knowns and start adding in fantasy elements of the secret-history type. It’s a bit of a nightmare and I spent the first week fact-checking everything. That certainly didn’t help my word-count. I’ve learned to let more go and use notes to myself to fill in details later.
Third: I’m writing in first person past tense. Past tense? Easy enough. First person? That was a hell of a learning curve. We speak and live our lives in first person all the time (unless you’re one of those twonks who refers to themselves in third person). It should be easy, but when you’re trying to write a compelling story from the perspective of a person that doesn’t exist outside of your head. Plus there’s a lot of I’s and Me’s and We’s in there and you can’t start every sentence with a first person pronoun or it gets old fast.
All told I’m feeling good about the story and making good time. I still struggle with First Person POV from time to time, and get lost in research over the smallest things (oh, this will just take a minute), but I’m learning, and making good progress.
I have another blog post that I’m working on for the end of the month covering all the various tools (such as Scrivener) and tricks (such as speech-to-text for notes) I’ve used this month, as my toolset is a bit different than the previous two years.
I want to give a shout out to my NaNo Writing Buddies who have already completed NaNo (well ahead of schedule):
Jason Cantrell: 90,913!
Angi Nicole: 63,975!
GypsyLuc: 61,622!
HeatherxMarie: 52,737!
Scarlett9284: 50,282!
And last but not least, my brother Cysec: with 50,355 words, and completed NaNo for the first time this year (and also early).

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Filed under deadlines, Discovery Writing, Learning, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Research, Revision, Scrivener, Viewpoint, Word Count, World Building

NaNoWriMo 2013 Kickoff

50,000 words in 30 days. Fifty-Thousand words!!!! In THIRTY days! That’s a hard thing to type without throwing in some expletives. It makes me want to go all Sam L. Jackson.

November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo if you need a short form that makes people look at you funny). The deal is, you have to write 50,000 new words (minimum length for a work to be considered a “novel”) within the confines of the month of November. I’ve “won” 2 years in a row and I intend to win a 3rd, so I’m going to be sticking my little NaNo progress tracker over at the right and updating it as I go.

This year has some significance in that I’m starting a new project AFTER completing a full novel. So I’m writing something completely fresh that’s really only been bouncing around in my brain-pan for a few months. It’s going to suck! And that’s OK because first drafts always do for me.

You see… I’m somewhat terrified by the whole “starting from scratch” thing. Sure, I have an outline (a very light one) and characters (the core at least), but I both LOVE and HATE this part of writing. The blank page. The uncertain future of the story. It fills me with quickly alternating (almost to the point of oscillation) high levels of excitement and dread.

I can do ANYTHING with this story! What if I SCREW it up? This idea is so AWESOME! What is it DERIVATIVE of? Oh I’ve got this FANTASTIC twist. How the HELL am  I going to pull it off?

Truth be told, to begin to even quiet those feelings (they NEVER go away) I need something to work with. I’ve found my comfort zone, and it’s much closer to the revision end of the spectrum than the writing end.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE telling stories and making things up. Plotting, characters, worlds, I love all of it. I just like telling them well (and I do hope I do).

So today I embark on NaNoWriMo 2013, with a story in my head and a knot in my stomach. What are YOU doing for your November?

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Filed under deadlines, Ego, Id, Motivation, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Revision, Word Count