Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It's All About What Works For You #amwriting

This is the first year since I wrote Keir that I haven't done a single NaNoWriMo. Not even Camp earlier in the year. And the really weird and worrying thing is, this is the first time I've seen others posting about their word count and I've merely shrugged rather than wish I'd joined in.
I know I'm burnt out. I've felt that for some time. The actual publishing side of being an author has virtually killed off my passion for writing, and I've given myself permission to not write and to not feel guilty about it right now. I hadn't written for almost 20 years when I sat down and started on Keir, so I know one day I'll come back to it.

But since Greta and Donna have talked about their writing processes and NaNoWriMo, I wanted to share my thoughts, especially as I see far too many writers who don't make the 50K in November getting depressed about it. Declaring themselves failures.
You. Are. NOT. A. Failure.
Did you get words down? Then you're a champ. A writer is someone who puts their butt in the chair and puts down words. It doesn't matter how many. It doesn't matter if they're crud. You've got them down, and they can be worked on, improved, polished up until they shine. That's how any author does it.

Confession time: I have never hit 50K. I've won a couple of Camp NaNoWriMos where you can set your own word count and I've used it to finish off shorts, or even to do edits on a novel, but never 50K straight. Even when the muse it in full flow, I'm normally burned out by 30K even on a good run. The two NaNo novellas I have published are both in the mid 40K range at complete, but didn't hit that count during the event. They're still complete and published works at the end of the day.

NaNoWriMo is definitely not for everyone, and you definitely shouldn't feel a failure for not hitting 50K. I think it's worth trying, but not using it as the measuring stick for your writing success. In general I've used Camp NaNo for finishing off projects/editing, and the main NaNo event too kickstart a project or clear my head of one that wouldn't leave me alone (my adorable zombie story, Restless In Peaceville, for example. Muse wanted to do it, I didn't think I could or should but she wouldn't shut up until it was done. That was some NaNo! O.o ). I didn't hit 50K but I achieved my own personal goals - things finished or off my mind, lol. My personal writing method is chaotic (and will probably make my two co-bloggers shudder). Not only am I a 'throw the words down and move on' writer, but I don't even write linearly! Bwahahaa!

I have tried plotting, but it doesn't work for me. I put down a few key scenes (they might be beginning and end and a few in between, but not necessarily), then fill the gaps. If I don't have a deadline, I might well do some editing/re-reading between writing sessions, but not during NaNo. Once the first draft is done, my next step is a brutal 'slash and burn' revision where I ruthlessly delete out the crud and weak words and repetitions, and rewrite the rest. After that, it's less destructive. :-P

But the key two points about this post and Greta's and Donna's are:
1. It's what works for you. It doesn't matter a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys what any other author does. It's no good at all forcing yourself to plot because so and so does and they're super popular for example (though I advocate for any author, new or experienced, to maybe try things they haven't before). When I first started out and saw lots of authors talking about plotting, I felt such a failure. I tried to force myself into it. It didn't work out and actually killed my enthusiasm for a story so much that I still haven't gone back to it. I've now come to the conclusion that I do my own kind of basic plotting by throwing down those few keys scenes and building around them, but that's as close as I get.
2. What matters next is what you do with that story after putting down the first words and before submitting to agents/publishers or publishing yourself. There is no one way it must be done but you do need to revise, self edit, spell check, and put it through an editor before release (yes, I've seen authors insist they don't need an editor because they self edit. I disagree. I want my book to be the absolute best it can and I never put anything out without it going through an editor. I've seen too many books where it looks like even basic spell check hasn't been used. I know editing costs, but if you can't at least get someone to proofread for you, prepare for complaints).
For me the process is those key scenes, filling in the gaps, a 'slash and burn' revision (I know that sounds awful), probably a couple more revisions before beta readers (then revising based on feedback), before a spell check and off to my editor. Depending on how it goes, there are generally at least three passes on developmental edits, followed by a line edit. Then it goes to my proofreader (who is also an editor, so she'll pick up on other details). It takes time and money, but I'm not doing it any other way.
The fastest I've got from first words to submission is four months - exceptional, and only because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo, subbed a sample during a call for NaNo novels at the time and got a request for a full. Normally I'll spend about two years on a piece from first words to submission/sending to my editor, even on a short story. It all depends.
Right now I'm doing the slash and burn revision on Keir's Shadow (Book Three of Redemption) because I wrote it some four years ago and have learned heaps about writing since then (especial about plot, romance, and character motivation, oh my!). There's also changes that need making because of the transformations books one and two have gone through. A large chunk of book three - 30K words - were written in one crazy day that left me I'll for about a week after because the words didn't stop coming. Just another example of how chaotic my writing methods are.
Conclusion: everyone is different. The five of us who blog here all have different methods, but we're all published authors so clearly our very individual writing processes have worked for us. Experiment and find what works best for you, but don't be afraid to try something new or even something old again at a future date. Just don't get bogged down in all the articles that say 'it must be done this way and no other'.
And don't get down about not hitting 50K for NaNoWriMo. It isn't the be all and end all. Oh, and while hitting 50K in November doesn't matter and as I repeatedly tell my eldest who is forever starting new stories - finishing is important. You can't publish an unfinished book.

Status Update
As mentioned above, despite my current disenchantment with writing, I am working on Keir's Shadow. Right now it's a bit like putting sticky plasters over the hole in the Titanic, but progress nonetheless. I promised the book for 2017, so I have a year - six months for me to fix it, then six months for Danielle Fine to kick my butt help me polish it. :-P I have always loved book three and there are some gems in the dirt, but there's an awful lot of dirt to shovel first.

Today is absolutely the last day of the iBooks SFR Sale Event! Click HERE to be transported to 21 out of this world romances.

It's also your last chance to pick up my two scifi heroes at a discount before I start putting the prices back up - time travel romance with Keir ($1.99 instead of $4.99), and scifi adventure with Gethyon ($0.99 instead of $3.99).
A Science Fiction Romance Novel
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A Scifi Adventure Novel
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No chook pics this week - the girls are fine despite the cold but I was indoors all last week nursing a cold - but here's some of my monsters enjoying some home fireworks and sparklers for Bonfire Night.


  1. Clears throat.... "I did it MYYYYYYY way..." This is an excellent post, Pip. 50k in Nano doesn't matter at rat's patootie. But if it works for you... The important things are to finish, to fine-tune through editing and rewriting - and then get it out there.

    And I know what you mean about the burn-out of publishing.


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