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My Decade Of NaNoWriMo: ReDux!

Last year I wrote a big long thing about my NaNo experiences, and as it was rather well received I thought I’d bring it out, hose it down, biff a hat on it and do a lazy lazy repost.

So then! November. NaNovember. Did I ever tell you about the time I was the first person in the southern hemisphere to finish NaNoWriMo? Ah, those were the days. The scent of lemon, the halcyon days of spring, something to do with birds quite possibly, and of course I was very, very drunk. If you’re thinking about ‘doing’ NaNo I really recommend it, it’s a great chance to just get some words out without worrying about anything except your wordcount. Some people say this is a rubbish way to write, that you should be focusing on quality, to those niminy-piminy naysayers I say away! Away with your negative applesauce, go spread your brand of gloomsome folderol elsewhere!

But anyway, here be the goods:

2001: I’m twenty years old (or similar) and everyone is too polite to tell me I’m rubbish at writing. I stumble upon NaNoWriMo, lo! What’s this? Fifty thousand words in a month, are they mad? With youthful arrogance and untoward bravado I sign up anyway. November 1st arrives sooner than I had expected, and I’m struck senseless with a lack of inspiration—what to do? I have no story! Aha, but I do have a project, a silly wannabe-Pratchett thing that could use some words. I’ll just write that! Days pass. My word count hovers at two or three hundred. What to do? Just keep writing, harder and longer than I’ve ever written before! More days pass. My daily word count is now in the dozens. No motivation, no plan, no outline, I don’t know where this story is going, I’m just making this up as I go along, I don’t know what to do!

November 30th rolls around.

I barely dare look at my word count.

But I must.

Shock. Disbelief. Somehow I’ve written fifty thousand and sixty-seven words in November. Fifty thousand and eleven of them are unreadable rubbish, but this doesn’t matter. I have joined the elite circle of NaNoWriMo winners. Fifty thousand words in a month; to this day I have no idea how I managed it.

2002: I am a year older; I am a year wiser (theoretically). This time I have a plan—vague, ill-conceived, barely workable, but a plan nonetheless. I will structure my novel into vaguely-linked segments, and each segment will be about anything I want, in whatever tense I want, in whatever style I want. Fantasy, comedy, slapstick, high adventure, Lovecraftian horror, all of these would have a place in my grand second NaNovel. My plan has a secondary component; daily word count goals. This worked better than I expected, and was something I kept as part of my NaNoWriMo armoury.

November 1st: I start writing.

November 4th: This is easy. This is fun. I’m getting some great words out and meeting my daily goals without hassle, who needs an outline, who needs a plot, I’m sure things will tie themselves neatly together once I get near to the end.

November 12th: Over halfway there! Yes, I’ve resorted to retelling my favourite myths and legends as stories-within-stories, no, the plot doesn’t seem to be anywhere near any kind of resolution, yes, I’ve lost track of at least two characters, but I’m sure it’ll work out in the end.

November 17th: WHAT AM I DOING.

November 20th: HELP.

November 22nd: I have met every one of my daily word count goals, but I am not proud of the things I did to achieve this. The story has figuratively exploded, a giant in-universe retcon in a desperate attempt to gain structure and purpose. On the positive side of things I only have twenty thousand words to go.

November 24th: THESE ARE THE LONGEST TWENTY THOUSAND WORDS IN THE HISTORY OF ALL THINGS.

November 25th: Screw it, I’m giving up.

November 25th 1/2: Oh all right then fine I’m not giving up, I never give up, let’s just write anything and see what happens.

November 26th: Uneventful.

November 27th: In a classic fit of anticlimatic activity, somehow I edge over fifty thousand words. The completed manuscript is unsalvageable, but once again, somehow, I have won. I suspect the daily word count goal may have been a contributing factor. Unexpectedly, I’m looking forward to next year’s NaNo. Yes, next year, I’ll have a PROPER plan then!

2003: I actually DO have a proper plan this time. I know you were expecting some kind of deflation joke but this isn’t a book, this is my LIFE. I write notes, I cobble together a basic eight-page outline, I make my daily word count goal chart, I start writing.

Eight days later, I have fifty thousand words and a completed story.

I feel fantastic.

This was the year in which I was the first person in the southern hemisphere to win. The book I wrote is … not terrible. Not entirely. The story of a girl who lets her imagination get the better of her, who is stalked by her fridge, who is visited in her dreams by a man she’s known since she was a little girl, strange and lonely. No, not entirely terrible. With work it could be publishable, but blech, work. On to the next; 2004 will be even better!

2004: This year is not even better. I come into NaNovember without an idea; blind, I start writing anyway. The first two attempts are dismal failures, I get five thousand words into the first before giving up, over ten thousand into the second before abandoning ship.

The third idea holds promise; a fantasy story with intrigue and machinations and spycraft and I didn’t outline it at all so everything fell to pieces after twenty thousand words. Nevertheless I struggle on, write some decent scenes and some cute dialogue and then realise that the story is never going to come anywhere NEAR completion in fifty thousand words. I snip it off with an utterly unsatisfying cop-out ending and call it a learning experience. Still, I wrote fifty thousand words in a month so that’s a technical win.

2005: Hectic. My November was spent in Japan, I think I arrived on October 30th or something ridiculous like that. Fortunately this was the dawn of the era of flash drives, so I wrote the whole thing on a one gig USB stick and borrowed computers. This was the year I came the closest to losing, I submitted my finished manuscript six hours before the deadline. Not a bad little story, actually, but it needed more than fifty thousand words to tell it—another cop-out ending, less unsatisfying than 2004’s, but nowhere near a publishable story.

At this point I am beginning to suspect that outlining may be a good idea.

2006: Despite my suspicion about outlining, I don’t outline this year. Instead I write Fairytale X/Once Upon A, Like, Time, which is a collection of fairytales retold by a semi-clueless teenager trying to understand just what the heck they were going on about, with a lot of MST3K-style snarking. Kind of fun, kind of quirky, kind of shallow. An easy fifty thousand words, but at what cost? I feel like I wasted this year. 2007 will be different.

2007: I don’t really remember what I was doing around this time, but 2007 saw the creation of brother-sister pair Apples and Oranges. They live in a world not unlike our own, except just a teensy bit more awesome. Kind of a fun book, but structurally rubbish. (Still not outlining at this point, and it really, really shows.)

2008: Last year’s book was pretty fun, I should write a sequel to it! That’s a grand idea! Except I was never clear on the story I was telling so the book kind of just fizzled out. Fifty thousand words of pointless (though kind of fun) fluff. On to the next.

2009: I’m starting to take writing more seriously. I’m also starting to appreciate the value of outlining; of having a plan before I begin. I have a lot of ideas for Apples and Oranges, so I outline and then write the third in their series, a quirky little thing about the creation of a Pokemon-like game by the Free Art Academy Apples attends. It’s fun but terribly, terribly self-indulgent, although the climax, wherein Apples and OJ use their spirit guides, David Bowie and Michael Caine, in a Pokemon-style battle, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever written. (To me, I mean, not to anyone else. Anyone else would read it and just think, “This author is mad, and not in a good way”.)

2010: I’m starting down the road to indie authordom. E-publishing has not come up on my radar yet, but I’ve put a few books out in print (to be universally ignored). At this point I had written Miya Black I through IV, was struggling with V, and had also written Birds Of Passage and The Boy & Little Witch. My intention had been to write the fourth book in the Apples and Oranges series, about the adventures of OJ’s band, and I had some great ideas for it … but in the last week of October an idea came out of nowhere and wouldn’t leave me alone, a superhero story, a diary thing—I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Come November 1st I wrote notes like a maniac, hammered out a pretty detailed outline, and by the end of the day I had eleven thousand words written. Day two, another nine thousand. On day three I got serious, put my head down, and got up to 41,000—and ran into a problem. The story was finished! There wasn’t anything more to tell! But I worked on it that night, I read through and thought about things I could include or expand on, and eventually I realised that there was something significant I could add to it and that took me over fifty thousand words. Phew. So last year I finished NaNoWriMo in four days, and came out of it with Charlotte Powers: Power Down. You’d think it’d be an unbelievably rough first draft, but in fact it turned out to be one of the cleanest I’ve ever produced. I took a couple of weeks to edit and proof and eventually I published it.

2011: The book I wrote in four days is by far my best-selling title; I’ve sold twice as many copies of Power Down as I have of all my other books combined. Yep, life is funny sometimes. This year I ran into an odd kind of problem, similar to the previous year: at around day six I ran out of story. I did all I could to try to add to the book, to wring out a few more words, but there was just nothing I could do. The story began where it began and ended where it ended and everything in between was doing what it should be doing, and adding more to that would be pointless—nay, wrong. I put that book aside and had a good sort of a think about things, and the next day I reset my official NaNo word count to zero and started in on a new book. Outlined it, wrote it, and got fifty thousand words by the 30th—which didn’t actually finish the story, but still, that’s a technical win.

2012: This year, I push myself. I want to get back that old feeling of panicked terror and crushing pressure. Fifty thousand words in a month is easy, if you’ve done it ten times before. Even a hundred thousand isn’t so much of a stretch. That’s why this year I’ve decided to write one hundred and fifty thousand words in November. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but that’s part of the fun. Most likely I’ll write a literary wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing first, then probably Charlotte Powers #5, then Tactics Heart until I drop.

I’m really looking forward to it.

In any case that’s my decade (and a bit) of NaNoWriMo. I’ve had some laughs and learned a lot, especially the importance of planning and outlining. Doing NaNoWriMo has also helped with my focus and discipline, has greatly increased my writing endurance, and has left me with about half a million words of unpublishable rubbish (but it’s good to get words out, no matter how rubbish they are). All in all, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now without NaNo. If you’re interested, do it.

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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Of Writing

 

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State Of My Personal Indie Nation – November 2011 Edition

NaNovember! And what a crazy NaNoWriMo this one was—my first attempt (Charlotte Powers 3) turned out to be only 40k long, which wasn’t so helpful with a 50k target, so I had to very quickly outline and write another book (Charlotte Powers 4!). Thankfully the second one clocked in at well over the necessary 50k and all was well, although it needs a lot of rewriting. In essence, my first effort was a technical failure but a success as a book, while my second effort was a technical win but a failure as a book. In any case NaNo was hugely fun and I had a great time with it, as always. That’s the real answer to any NaNo-naysayers; it’s fun. Like I always say, nothing’s a waste of time if you’re enjoying yourself, and getting a couple of first drafts out of the deal isn’t too shabby either.

Anyway, numbers!

November 2011 Sales

Charlotte Powers: Power Down – 58
Charlotte Powers: Power Play – 29
The Undying Apathy Of Imogen Shroud – 3
Miya Black, Pirate Princess I: Adventure Dawns – 1
Miya Black, Pirate Princess II: Freedom & Responsibility – 0
Miya Black, Pirate Princess III: Fractured Lives – 1
Resonance Book One: Birds Of Passage – 0
The Boy & Little Witch – 0

Total Sales For November: 92
Sales/Day: 3

So! It’s finally happened! Finally and definitively I can say that November 2011 is the first month in which I sold LESS than the month previous. Phew! It’s such a relief to have that out of the way. Also, it’s only by four books so it’s not a huge drop. As predicted, the release of the Kindle Fire has resulted in a huge increase of sales of, y’know, ACTUAL comic books from the Kindle store, which has had the effect of pushing Charlotte Powers out of the Superhero Top 100 almost entirely. I’m actually not that upset about this, it was a great little boost for a while but I was never relying on it to continue forever (plus I’m mostly being beaten by The Batman, impossible to feel bad about that). Technically the books shouldn’t have ever been in there at all (it’s the superhero comics section, after all) but it really is the best category for a superhero story (as there isn’t a prose superhero category) (ALTHOUGH THERE SHOULD BE) (zombies too, there are MORE than enough zombie books out there to fill out a category) (but categories are definitely one area where Amazon is deficient), and it meant the book got exposed to people who became interested in it and bought it (and possibly read it and maybe even enjoyed it). What I mean is that I don’t think putting my book in that category was hurting anyone, so I never felt bad about doing so. Anyway! The free ride’s over and consequently sales are down, but that’s okay. YA’s a tough sell no matter what little lucky breaks you get, I just have to hope that enough people liked the story enough to recommend it to friends. (And hope also that it’s still showing up on some also-bought lists.) It might be that next year I have to do some actual (gnngh) marketing, but on the other hand naaaaah. Anyway, although I predict a further drop in sales for Charlotte Powers now that the Superhero Top 100 cheat code doesn’t really work any more, my hope is that they won’t stop completely. As long as I’m selling something I’m okay, it’s when nothing is moving at all that I get a bit down, worried that my fate is to write lovingly crafted, well-reviewed books that sell about ten copies a year.

Anyway, in 2012 I’ll be focusing on my episodic series, that’s going to be VERY fun. I was looking through my notes for it today and it really has the potential to become something pretty special. Of course it’s easy to say that when you haven’t actually written anything, but I’ve got a really good feeling about this one. I think it strikes a good balance between what I want to write and what people want to read, more than anything I’ve yet published—of course, when I say ‘what people want to read’ I don’t really mean mainstream people, I’m more talking about my people, those trope-savvy, webcomic, anime and game-loving people who are always on the lookout for something new and interesting and depthy to latch onto.

Milestones for this month? Over five hundred sold, that’s pretty special. Half a thousand! Also, with Charlotte Powers 3 & 4 done for NaNoWriMo I have now written over eight hundred thousand words of fiction in 2011. I’m not sure if I can crack a million words by January 1st, but I’ve surprised myself in the past so, y’know, we’ll see.

Aside from the aforementioned Charlotte Powers 3 & 4, what did I accomplish in November? Quite an entirely surprising amount, actually! I did take a break from NaNo for a few days to work on an unrelated project, around 30,000 words that may or may not be useful (I just couldn’t help myself, I really got sucked into that thing almost to the point of obsession, although I’m still not sure if it’ll go anywhere). I also picked away at some notes and research for Tactics Heart, and even started doing the second draft outlines for the episodes (up to nine already and having a ball). Charlotte Powers 5 also called, said, “Hello, I’m pretty much definitely going to be the last book in the series and I’m kind of slightly just a bit epic, so keep that in mind, okay?”. I’m almost certainly going to have the entire Charlotte Powers series published by the end of next year, it’ll be nice to actually have something ‘finished’ out there. This seems like an ideal point to segue into:

GOALS FOR DECEMBER
1 – Tactics Heart. Lots of stuff to do there. Most importantly, writing up proper outlines for every episode (twenty-one at this point, in the first season) and lay groundwork for the website. Maybe write an actual episode or two.
2 – Edit, proof, polish Charlotte Powers 3.
3 – PUBLISH THAT SUCKER.

That’s probably enough, considering I’ll be in Japan for most of the month (and the next). This does mean that I won’t achieve my goal of having ten books published by the end of 2011, but I’d rather fail a self-imposed challenge than push things out too quickly. I guess I could publish Miya Black IV but considering the potential market for that is less than a dozen people I’m not really in too much of a hurry. It is pretty much finished, though, and having it out there wouldn’t hurt … well, maybe. I’ll see how things go. In any case getting Charlotte Powers 3 published is a definite priority—in time for Xmas! Maybe I should churn out a Christmas-themed novella too. Haha. Kind of half-serious about that.

In any case, NaNovember was (as always) both fun and productive. December is going to be busy, but I’m always happiest when I have a lot to do and deadlines to pummel into submission.

Next year will be, I predict, unusual and exciting. I’m looking forward to it already.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in My Personal Indie Nation

 

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State Of My Personal Indie Nation – October 2011 Edition

October was a slow, somewhat lazy month. With the whole ‘Power Play not being available to buy’ thing hanging over me I have to admit to feeling a little disconnected from publishing—if I finish a book and publish it and hardly anyone can buy it, then what’s the point of publishing at all? My motivation to get things finished was lacking, I suppose I should say.

However, the good news is that the problem has FINALLY been fixed—just a few days ago, but still. Phew. I’m immensely relieved to have that out of the way, I feel free to move forward now. Looking at the positive side of the whole thing, I received quite a few emails and messages from people who enjoyed the first book and wanted the second, emails that I might not have otherwise received. Silver lining and all that.

But enough faffery, numbers!

October 2011 Sales

Charlotte Powers: Power Down – 69
Charlotte Powers: Power Play – 7 (pretty good, considering)
The Undying Apathy Of Imogen Shroud – 12
Miya Black, Pirate Princess I: Adventure Dawns – 2
Miya Black, Pirate Princess II: Freedom & Responsibility – 1
Miya Black, Pirate Princess III: Fractured Lives – 1
Resonance Book One: Birds Of Passage – 3
The Boy & Little Witch – 1

Total Sales For October: 96
Sales/Day: 3

The bump for Imogen Shroud came from Kindle Lovers, which was pretty nice. Sales for Charlotte Powers are down from last month—there was a stretch where I didn’t sell anything at all for about four days, and the resulting drop from the front page of the superhero top 100 proved difficult to recover from. Also I’m pretty sure Amazon is fiddling with their ‘also bought’ algorithms—just a feeling, but a strong one.

Milestones for this month? For a start, my first return! Also, over three hundred copies sold of Charlotte Powers: Power Down, and over four hundred books sold in total. With the ten-sales-in-a-day bump for ImoShrou from Kindle Lovers I also got above #10,000 in the Kindle Store for the first time, which was fun.

Edit: Some lovely lovely people bought books at the last minute and pushed my monthly total up to 96, which means that I have at the least equalled last month’s numbers. Adding in the downloads/donations for Power Play and, well, it seems that I could unambiguously state that this is NOT, in fact, the first month in which I sold less than the month before. I’m quite happy about this, as you may well have guessed.

Enough of that, what did I get done this month? My goals were fairly vague, mostly notes and outlining, and near the beginning of October I made the firm decision not to do any actual writing at all this month—take a break, so to speak. So mostly I worked on covers, I redid all of the Charlotte Powers books and I’m very happy with the results. I also made a teaser trailer for next year’s big project (more on which in a bit), which involved learning how to use Premiere Elements (conclusion: video editing is VERY fun). Aside from that I wrote notes and notes and notes and notes, mostly for Bright Battle Story: Tactics Heart. I also worked on Charlotte Powers 3—so much stuff to figure out with that, it got fairly exhausting at times. I love being in the middle of a series but it does mean there’s a lot more to think about. Anyway, I’m almost definitely going to do it as my NaNovel, so publishing before the end of the year is fairly likely. Goals? Goals!

GOALS FOR NOVEMBER
1 – NaNo~!
2 – NANO~!
3 – NANO~!
4 – Also finish outlining Tactics Heart.

Because Tactics Heart is, or will be, next year’s Big Project. I’m going to serialise it! Not on Amazon, that wouldn’t work at all, but instead I’m going to build a new website for it and put out an episode a week for like twenty weeks. All for free! Then at the end I’ll turn it all into a beautifully formatted e-book and slap it up on Amazon. I’m totally in love with the story and characters and setting of Tactics Heart and it just lends itself so perfectly to a serial format, so why not, eh? Why not! It’ll be nice to have something in the background, too, something constant while I’m working on other things.

So that’s the plan. Write Charlotte Power 3 in November, continue to prepare Tactics Heart for next year, and maybe proof-and-polish Miya Black IV for a late December release.

Onwards!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in My Personal Indie Nation

 

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My Decade Of NaNoWriMo

It’s coming up on that most magical of months, NaNovember, which means WRITING. Yes, yes, so I spend a significant percentage of every other month writing as well, that’s beside the point. Did I ever tell you about the time I was the first person in the southern hemisphere to finish NaNoWriMo? Ah, those were the days. The scent of lemon, the halcyon days of spring, something to do with birds quite possibly, and of course I was very, very drunk. If you’re thinking about ‘doing’ NaNo I really recommend it, it’s a great chance to just get some words out without worrying about anything except your wordcount. Some people say this is a rubbish way to write, that you should be focusing on quality, to those niminy-piminy naysayers I say away! Away with your negative applesauce, go spread your brand of gloomsome folderol elsewhere!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a little of my NaNo experience here, just for fun, just for a laugh, ahahaha, a chronicle (if you will) of my rise … to glory.

2001: I’m twenty years old (or similar) and everyone is too polite to tell me I’m rubbish at writing. I stumble upon NaNoWriMo, lo! What’s this? Fifty thousand words in a month, are they mad? With youthful arrogance and untoward bravado I sign up anyway. November 1st arrives sooner than I had expected, and I’m struck senseless with a lack of inspiration—what to do? I have no story! Aha, but I do have a project, a silly wannabe-Pratchett thing that could use some words. I’ll just write that! Days pass. My word count hovers at two or three hundred. What to do? Just keep writing, harder and longer than I’ve ever written before! More days pass. My daily word count is now in the dozens. No motivation, no plan, no outline, I don’t know where this story is going, I’m just making this up as I go along, I don’t know what to do!

November 30th rolls around.

I barely dare look at my word count.

But I must.

Shock. Disbelief. Somehow I’ve written fifty thousand and sixty-seven words in November. Fifty thousand and eleven of them are unreadable rubbish, but this doesn’t matter. I have joined the elite circle of NaNoWriMo winners. Fifty thousand words in a month; to this day I have no idea how I managed it.

2002: I am a year older; I am a year wiser (technically). This time I have a plan—vague, ill-conceived, barely workable, but a plan nonetheless. I will structure my novel into vaguely-linked segments, and each segment will be about anything I want, in whatever tense I want, in whatever style I want. Fantasy, comedy, slapstick, high adventure, Lovecraftian horror, all of these would have a place in my grand second NaNovel. My plan has a secondary component; daily word count goals. This worked better than I expected, and was something I kept as part of my NaNoWriMo armoury.

November 1st: I start writing.

November 4th: This is easy. This is fun. I’m getting some great words out and meeting my daily goals without hassle, who needs an outline, who needs a plot, I’m sure things will tie themselves neatly together once I get near to the end.

November 12th: Over halfway there! Yes, I’ve resorted to retelling my favourite myths and legends as stories-within-stories, no, the plot doesn’t seem to be anywhere near any kind of resolution, yes, I’ve lost track of at least two characters, but I’m sure it’ll work out in the end.

November 17th: WHAT AM I DOING.

November 20th: HELP.

November 22nd: I have met every one of my daily word count goals, but I am not proud of the things I did to achieve this. The story has figuratively exploded, a giant in-universe retcon in a desperate attempt to gain structure and purpose. On the positive side of things I only have twenty thousand words to go.

November 24th: THESE ARE THE LONGEST TWENTY THOUSAND WORDS IN THE HISTORY OF ALL THINGS.

November 25th: Screw it, I’m giving up.

November 25th 1/2: Oh all right then fine I’m not giving up, I never give up, let’s just write anything and see what happens.

November 26th: Uneventful.

November 27th: In a classic fit of anticlimatic activity, somehow I edge over fifty thousand words. The completed manuscript is unsalvageable, but once again, somehow, I have won. I suspect the daily word count goal may have been a contributing factor. Unexpectedly, I’m looking forward to next year’s NaNo. Yes, next year, I’ll have a PROPER plan then!

2003: I actually DO have a proper plan this time. I know you were expecting some kind of deflation joke but this isn’t a book, this is my LIFE. I write notes, I cobble together a basic eight-page outline, I make my daily word count goal chart, I start writing.

Eight days later, I have fifty thousand words and a completed story.

I feel fantastic.

This was the year in which I was the first person in the southern hemisphere to win. The book I wrote is … not terrible. Not entirely. The story of a girl who lets her imagination get the better of her, who is stalked by her fridge, who is visited in her dreams by a man she’s known since she was a little girl, strange and lonely. No, not entirely terrible. With work it could be publishable, but blech, work. On to the next; 2004 will be even better!

2004: This year is not even better. I come into NaNovember without an idea; blind, I start writing anyway. The first two attempts are dismal failures, I get five thousand words into the first before giving up, over ten thousand into the second before abandoning ship.

The third idea holds promise; a fantasy story with intrigue and machinations and spycraft and I didn’t outline it at all so everything fell to pieces after twenty thousand words. Nevertheless I struggle on, write some decent scenes and some cute dialogue and then realise that the story is never going to come anywhere NEAR completion in fifty thousand words. I snip it off with an utterly unsatisfying cop-out ending and call it a learning experience. Still, I wrote fifty thousand words in a month so that’s a technical win.

2005: Hectic. My November was spent in Japan, I think I arrived on October 30th or something ridiculous like that. Fortunately this was the dawn of the era of flash drives, so I wrote the whole thing on a one gig USB stick and borrowed computers. This was the year I came the closest to losing, I submitted my finished manuscript six hours before the deadline. Not a bad little story, actually, but it needed more than fifty thousand words to tell it—another cop-out ending, less unsatisfying than 2004’s, but nowhere near a publishable story.

At this point I am beginning to suspect that outlining may be a good idea.

2006: Despite my suspicion about outlining, I don’t outline this year. Instead I write Fairytale X/Once Upon A, Like, Time, which is a collection of fairytales retold by a semi-clueless teenager trying to understand just what the heck they were going on about, with a lot of MST3K-style snarking. Kind of fun, kind of quirky, kind of shallow. An easy fifty thousand words, but at what cost? I feel like I wasted this year. 2007 will be different.

2007: I can’t really remember what I was doing around this time, but 2007 saw the creation of brother-sister pair Apples and Oranges. They live in a world not unlike our own, except just a teensy bit more awesome. Kind of a fun book, but structurally rubbish. (Still not outlining at this point, and it really, really shows.)

2008: Last year’s book was pretty fun, I should write a sequel to it! That’s a grand idea! Except I was never clear on the story I was telling so the book kind of just fizzled out. Fifty thousand words of pointless (though kind of fun) fluff. On to the next.

2009: I’m starting to take writing more seriously. I’m also starting to appreciate the value of outlining; of having a plan before I begin. I have a lot of ideas for Apples and Oranges, so I outline and then write the third in their series, a quirky little thing about the creation of a Pokemon-like game by the Free Art Academy Apples attends. It’s fun but terribly, terribly self-indulgent, although the climax, wherein Apples and OJ use their spirit guides, David Bowie and Michael Caine, in a Pokemon-style battle, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever written. (To me, I mean, not to anyone else. Anyone else would read it and just think, “This author is mad, and not in a good way”.)

2010: Last year. I’m starting down the road to indie authordom. E-publishing has not come up on my radar yet, but I’ve put a few books out in print (to be universally ignored). At this point I had written Miya Black I through IV, was struggling with V, and had also written Birds Of Passage and The Boy & Little Witch. My intention had been to write the fourth book in the Apples and Oranges series, about the adventures of OJ’s band, and I had some great ideas for it … but in the last week of October an idea came out of nowhere and wouldn’t leave me alone, a superhero story, a diary thing—I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Come November 1st I wrote notes like a maniac, hammered out a pretty detailed outline, and by the end of the day I had eleven thousand words written. Day two, another nine thousand. On day three I got serious, put my head down, and got up to 41,000—and ran into a problem. The story was finished! There wasn’t anything more to tell! But I worked on it that night, I read through and thought about things I could include or expand on, and eventually I realised that there was something significant I could add to it and that took me over fifty thousand words. Phew. So last year I finished NaNoWriMo in four days, and came out of it with Charlotte Powers: Power Down. You’d think it’d be an unbelievably rough first draft, but in fact it turned out to be one of the cleanest I’ve ever produced. I took a couple of weeks to edit and proof and eventually I published it.

2011: The book I wrote in four days is by far my best-selling title; I’ve sold twice as many copies of Power Down as I have of all my other books combined. Yep, life is funny sometimes.

Anyway, that’s my decade of NaNoWriMo. It’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot, especially the importance of planning and outlining. Doing NaNoWriMo has also helped with my focus and discipline, has greatly increased my writing endurance, and has left me with about half a million words of unpublishable rubbish (but it’s good to get words out, no matter how rubbish they are).

As for this year, I’m still undecided about what I’ll write. I may even end up doing Hidden Power. Seems to be a lucky combo, NaNo and Charlotte Powers.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Of Writing

 

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