Why I Now Believe In NaNo

Lookit what I won.

In 2011 I wrote a post entitled, “Why I Don’t Do NaNo.”

NaNoWriMo, to the uninitiated, is the National Novel Writing Month. Each November writers are encouraged to plant the butt firmly in chair and crank out a 50,000 word novel. It’s been going on for several years now, and it always brings out a lot of excitement in writer circles.

In 2011 I talked about how it didn’t work for me when I tried it a couple of times. It was good for some people, but didn’t work for everyone, and I was one of those writers.

Fast forward to 2013.

Facebook was buzzing with my writer friends saying how they were going to disappear for the month because of NaNo. The excitement was palpable. Just because I said I wasn’t going to do it, I felt a pang of missing out.

Man, they were going to have all this fun.

Then on October 30, I thought, why not? I can try it again. If I get a few thousand words out, it’s more than I would have had if I weren’t writing. My main project was under going another round of revisions, so it was out of consideration.

But there was this new idea I’d been composting for a while. I even got to do some brainstorming on it with Jill Williamson on our flight back from the ACFW writer’s conference in September. Would the new idea hold water? NaNo seemed like an opportunity to play with it and see what could happen.

I jumped in.

For the first week, I kept up pace. A writer has to average 1667 words a day to finish the 50,000 on time. Then life started interfering and I fell off. Well, at least I had some words down.

Except I had a taste of success. Circumstances worked out. I kept plugging away.

By November 28 I had three days left and 10,000 words to go. Could I do it? Facebook friends were now cheering me on. My wife succumbed agreed to let me have time over the holiday weekend to hit the keys.

And on November 30 I clocked in at 50,077 words.

So, this is partially a self-indulgent, congratulatory post. Whoo-hoo, I did it!

But I also learned some things about writing.

I learned how to push for a deadline. My first novel was written over seven years. No sense of urgency there. Now I knew I could be dedicated and churn out some significant production if challenged.

I was able to explore a new idea. Obviously the first draft of everything is mostly crap, but it forced me to work through some plot points, and there are a few keepers in there. Of course, the chapter where I was stuck and decided to interview one of my characters for “word count” won’t make the final cut. But I learned things about Demarcus that I can use later on. It’s all good!

Having a minimal outline helps. I was drowning for a bit until I brainstormed a few plot points to get me out of a bunch of conversations over food. Even when one of the points was, “something bad happens now,” it helped me have enough structure to push forward.

I went from doing 1000 words on my best day to 5200 words. Again, they came fast and furious, and I hope they at least make complete sentences, but I got them out. Now the revision scalpel can come out.

So to me in 2011 – you were wrong. You can do NaNo, and with the right circumstances it does help you out. But enough of the blog post – you’ve got revision to do. Get cracking!

Have you done NaNo? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below.

It Is Time

I normally post writing related items on Wednesday, but I can’t wait to get this news out there.

It’s been a long journey. Seven years of work and drive to learn the craft of writing. I know I’m still growing, but I’ve come a long ways in that time. I’ve finished a novel. I write a column for a local paper that runs about every six weeks.

Due to this encouraging news, I’ve decided it is time to go into writing full-time.

I realize that it may seem presumptuous to pull the trigger at this time, but I have a really good feeling about it. Besides, my wife teaches piano lessons, and with me home at the computer, she could easily double the amount of students she sees to cover things until I have everything firing on all cylinders.

Thank you to all of my loyal readers through the years. The best is yet to come, so I’ll see you on the other side. As soon as I clean out my desk, that is.

No risk, no reward!

Taking The Next Step

Here we go.

I’ve been on this writing adventure for a long time now. I started back into it as an adult writing fan fiction (shout out to KFF, yo!). I had forgotten how much I liked telling the stories that popped into my head.

I came up with an idea for a novel. My writing friend Athena Grayson helpfully shot the sick goose dead before it got very far off the ground.

Then I had another idea. This one had some promise.

I started writing.

That was…a while ago.

We won’t go into detail how long ago *cough*2005*cough*.

I followed writers, read blogs, hung out at writing forums, and started writing about writing myself. I read a lot of books. Read books on craft. Read suspense, mystery, crime, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, YA, and even a romance or two.

Very slowly, I wrote.

I kept waiting for the muse to hit to really write. I learned the muse sucks.

Then something changed. I learned to write no matter what. I set my mind to it and plugged away at it. In the last year I wrote twice as much as I had the previous six years.

Suddenly I had a first draft of a novel done.

Well shoot, now what do I do with it?

So here I sit in the airport terminal. Ready to fly off to Dallas to meet with a few other writers (about 700 or so, not many). I’ve made the commitment. I’m not doing this lightly. It is time to go for it.

Here I go. And if I have any advice to give, it would be this: go for it.

See you on the other side.

Taking The Next Step

Here we go.

I’ve been on this writing adventure for a long time now. I started back into it as an adult writing fan fiction (shout out to KFF, yo!). I had forgotten how much I liked telling the stories that popped into my head.

I came up with an idea for a novel. My writing friend Athena Grayson helpfully shot the sick goose dead before it got very far off the ground.

Then I had another idea. This one had some promise.

I started writing.

That was…a while ago.

We won’t go into detail how long ago *cough*2005*cough*.

I followed writers, read blogs, hung out at writing forums, and started writing about writing myself. I read a lot of books. Read books on craft. Read suspense, mystery, crime, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, YA, and even a romance or two.

Very slowly, I wrote.

I kept waiting for the muse to hit to really write. I learned the muse sucks.

Then something changed. I learned to write no matter what. I set my mind to it and plugged away at it. In the last year I wrote twice as much as I had the previous six years.

Suddenly I had a first draft of a novel done.

Well shoot, now what do I do with it?

So here I sit in the airport terminal. Ready to fly off to Dallas to meet with a few other writers (about 700 or so, not many). I’ve made the commitment. I’m not doing this lightly. It is time to go for it.

Here I go. And if I have any advice to give, it would be this: go for it.

See you on the other side.

Pre-Conference Jitters

In one week I’ll be at the airport.

It’s time for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Dallas. This is my first writing conference, and I’ve already shared some resources I’ve found while preparing.

One would think that with all the advice on the web that there wouldn’t be nerves. Ah, who am I fooling? We’re human, and anytime we do something wildly different it will create anxiety. I’ve been working on a novel for a long time. It’s finally to a point where I feel comfortable going and seeing what happens.

So, if you’re like me and worried about what to expect for your first conference, here’s a few more posts I’ve found circulating the net while procrastinating preparing for take-off.

Mike Duran says chuck the check list but pack the deodorant.

Agent Karen Ball gives her two B’s for the conference. Scroll to the bottom of her post, and you’ll find several other helpful links. One of them I’ll link specifically, from Tamela Hancock Murray for the ACFW 2011 Conference with the helpful title of Conquering Conference Jitters. So you can read that post, or jitter away. The choice is yours.

Maybe I’ll see you at the conference. If we’re lucky, we won’t end up like the unfortunate gentleman below.

True picture of a n00b at the ACFW conference last year

The End (Just The Beginning)

There comes a day in every writer’s life when they must type these words.

The end.

I’ve resisted calling myself a writer or an author, because I’ve never written those words on something significant. Sure, I’ve finished a few short stories, but my novel WIP was something that seemed like it never would get done. Other people might argue that since I write regularly (this blog, a newspaper column) then I am a writer. I never felt like I was there.

Until this weekend.

On Sunday evening I sat on the couch, my laptop warming my legs. I finished the last sentence of my novel. Set the laptop down to think about it. Picked it up, read the last chapter and reconsidered.

Then I typed, “The end.”

I finished the first draft of a labor of love. I started with the initial idea and first couple of chapters in 2005. Yes, it took me this long! I thought about giving up several times. It never seemed right to quit though.

After 60,000 words (what the word processor counts, not including all the erased words that didn’t make the cut), I had the basis for a novel. I could say it.

I had written a book.

Well, I finished the first draft. Which I count as significant, since so many people say they’re going to write a book and never do it. I vowed last year to not be that person.

So…now what?

*Looks at his watch, taps his chin*

Oh, you’re still here? Cool. Me too.

Now of course is the dreaded revision process. Although, I liked the last time I did some serious revision. I realize that my writing needs a lot of work. Characters are flimsy and need a work-out. Plot points disappear like the Big Lost River here in the Idaho desert. Cliches need filleted.
And it’s not like I’m on a deadline or anything…
(more details next week)

Getting Out Of The Rut

photo by Catie Rhodes 
Who’s been in a rut before?
Everyone raise your hands. We’ve all done it. Whether it is with our food choices, our daily activities, or our writing, we’ve been in the place where we get stuck and can’t move on to new and exciting things.
The rut is comforable. You don’t have to think about it. The path is set, all you need to do is follow it.

My family just did a weekend road trip that included seeing part of the Oregon Trail. To me it was amazing to think that thousands of people trekked west in the mid-1800’s for a new life. The standard path was so well worn that there are still ruts visible over some grassy hills in southern Idaho after all this time.

I’ve been stuck in a grammatical rut for the last couple of chapters. I’m trying to finish for a deadline. That might be pushing me to stick to a comfortable routine. My rut is this: “James wanted to finish his coffee, but Kristin was giving him that look.”

Nothing wrong with that by itself, right? My problem is that I keep using this compound sentence structure EVERY paragraph it seems. I don’t want simple short sentences every time, but this way of using a conjunction is becoming to repetitive. SEE! I just did it again.

Argh. It is hard enough pushing toward the end. I can see it. The end. No more mirage shimmering in the distance. It really is there. But in fighting toward it I still want to do a decent job and not have to return to edit every single “Blah, blah, blah, BUT/AND/SO blah, blah, blah” clause that I can’t seem to avoid.

At least I am recognizing it. We all have blind spots as authors. Better to know now than be surprised withthe edits. Now, how to get past this? There’s always the “bomb under the sofa” technique.


What say you? What have some of your ruts been? Anything goes here! For writers, how did you get out of said rut?

Write What You Know – Or Not

I think I’ve gone a long time as a writing blog without having a post on “write what you know.” I had second and third thoughts on whether I should bother. I’m sure there are 4.634 gazillion blog posts on the subject.

The term write what you know is considered a good adage to follow. If you quilt, you can write compelling fiction about a team of quilters. If you like motorcycles but hate quilting, let the first group do the quilt stories.

There are people who rail against this advice. “If we only wrote what we knew, we wouldn’t have any science fiction. Or historicals. Or sparkly vampire love fests.” (Maybe that last one wouldn’t be a bad thing.)

I would say, they’re both right.

I didn’t have to eat durian to describe it
I work in medicine. I spent two months in Thailand. This may have have some influence on my WIP involving a medical student traveling to Thailand. It makes it easier to start there, as I have background in it. When I’ve had critiques, people comment on the sections where I use the tropical location, or have a suspenseful scene with medical overtones. These parts seem to resonate more.
Writing what I know seems to be paying off right now.

The rub is that I don’t know if I can write the same stuff forever. I haven’t been to every country, and I don’t think everything I write will be set among tropical breezes and exotic fruit. Obviously authors write about many things they don’t know firsthand. They do their research, use real world experiences as references, and play off of them to write something new and unique to them.

Brandilyn Collins has an excellent three post series on her old blog where she can take anyone and put them into the mindset of a murderer. If we wrote what we knew, a lot of mystery and suspense writers have some skeletons in their closets. Maybe literally. But Brandilyn’s method helps an author go to a place they would never reach otherwise (we hope).

There you go. I’m officially on the fence. Sometimes you need to write what you know. Other times demand something original, but you can still find analogies in your life to make it pop.

What side of the fence are you on?

Write What You Know – Or Not

I think I’ve gone a long time as a writing blog without having a post on “write what you know.” I had second and third thoughts on whether I should bother. I’m sure there are 4.634 gazillion blog posts on the subject.

The term write what you know is considered a good adage to follow. If you quilt, you can write compelling fiction about a team of quilters. If you like motorcycles but hate quilting, let the first group do the quilt stories.

There are people who rail against this advice. “If we only wrote what we knew, we wouldn’t have any science fiction. Or historicals. Or sparkly vampire love fests.” (Maybe that last one wouldn’t be a bad thing.)

I would say, they’re both right.

I didn’t have to eat durian to describe it
I work in medicine. I spent two months in Thailand. This may have have some influence on my WIP involving a medical student traveling to Thailand. It makes it easier to start there, as I have background in it. When I’ve had critiques, people comment on the sections where I use the tropical location, or have a suspenseful scene with medical overtones. These parts seem to resonate more.
Writing what I know seems to be paying off right now.

The rub is that I don’t know if I can write the same stuff forever. I haven’t been to every country, and I don’t think everything I write will be set among tropical breezes and exotic fruit. Obviously authors write about many things they don’t know firsthand. They do their research, use real world experiences as references, and play off of them to write something new and unique to them.

Brandilyn Collins has an excellent three post series on her old blog where she can take anyone and put them into the mindset of a murderer. If we wrote what we knew, a lot of mystery and suspense writers have some skeletons in their closets. Maybe literally. But Brandilyn’s method helps an author go to a place they would never reach otherwise (we hope).

There you go. I’m officially on the fence. Sometimes you need to write what you know. Other times demand something original, but you can still find analogies in your life to make it pop.

What side of the fence are you on?

I’m Not Here Today!

Today is normally Mission Monday at Spoiled For The Ordinary, but I have a different mission for you today.

I wrote a guest post for Redwood’s Medical Edge, a great blogging resource for writers by author and RN Jordyn Redwood. We connected a couple months ago in the blogosphere and it worked out that I could contribute an article on the difference between mid-level health care providers, like physician assistants and nurse practitioners. There can be a lot of added conflict if you use a mid-level in your story, but I’ll let you read the article over there for full effect. Thanks for hosting me Jordyn!