Daily Challenge Check-in: September 30, 2015

Words/Time: 43 minutes and 2382 words. The latter of that was revision of “Pithea.” I’m trying to add more description about what characters are doing while conversations are going on. I was pretty lazy about that when I first wrote this during NaNoWriMo 2013. And I’m trying to ease back off Evan a bit, because I know I’m harsher on him than I always need to be.

The time was spent responding to notes left by others of the TCSTB, in our shared file that we use for meetings every week. It sometimes makes the meetings progress more quickly if notes are read and responded to ahead of time.

Daily Challenge Check-in: September 29, 2015

Words/Time: 2770 words revising “Pithea” with two of my sisters over Skype. Also known as the 56th meeting of the Tri-County Sisterhood of the Traveling Book. We got through just over 9 pages of double-spaced text. There was a lot of off-topic discussion tonight, probably about an hour and a half. There is often at least some off-topic discussion during our meetings, and I don’t normally quantify it, but it was a lot tonight, and not all at the beginning like usually when it’s a lot. There were also some characterization issues, and some problems with logistics related to relative location of characters during a long walk. They’re mostly sorted.

Daily Challenge Check-in: September 28, 2015

Words/Time: 282 words and 10 minutes.

The words were free writing from the following prompt: “A fight breaks out between a muscular person and a much weaker person who is clearly being bullied. You decide to intervene. Describe the fight, your intervention into the fight, and the result of said intervention.” It’s from the book 1000 Awesome Writing Prompts, which I have on my Kindle and use for most of my free writing right now.

The time was spent working with Scapple on my possible NaNoWriMo project. I have a lot of notes, and plenty of details, but my biggest question right now is what kind of timeline there can be, and what all will happen in between the bigger plot points. I have no sub-plots.

Daily Challenge Check-in: September 27, 2015

Words/Time: 70 minutes and 167 words. Most of the time was spent revising “Pithea.” A morbid scene has been discovered, and Naolin has found the only person left alive.

I spent some time transferring revision notes from hard copy to computer in anticipation of the upcoming TCSTB meeting. And the words were from some writing practice I did.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have hit on a possible idea for NaNoWriMo. I’m still in the broad plot part of planning, and unsure of how to make my jumbled thoughts into something more coherent. There’s still time though.

My NaNoWriMo

I am going to do something a little different with this post than I normally do. Not that talking about my writing is all that different, but I’ve never done so to this extent. As I prepare for NaNoWriMo and do my best to help others prepare, I have been purposely vague on my own history. I try not to spend too much time talking about my own writing, because that’s not the point of these NaNo prep posts.

I do post daily about the writing work I’ve done for the day, because this blog was originally intended to keep myself accountable. I’ve since expanded it into a place to share writing tips, but I still post at the end of every day in which writing work of some kind happened, to check in. However, they’re usually short posts with not much detail (or a bit of detail with no context).

Today, I am going to share my personal NaNo history. If you don’t really care about my personal NaNo history, I won’t be offended if you simply don’t read on. (I probably won’t even know.)

nanowinner07I first heard about NaNoWriMo on a forum for Ragnarok Online fanfiction. The moderator mentioned it, and I ran to go check it out. I decided immediately to join, even though it was already October. At the time, I had written a good amount of fanfiction for the aforementioned game, and was stalled on the 5th (and last) in a series of novella-length stories. I also had a brand new fic I wanted to work on, but needed to finish the other first. NaNoWriMo gave me a brand new motivation to push past the blocks. I was so excited, I didn’t even want to wait until November. So I started on October 21st and wrote for 30 days. I finished the book I’d been stuck on in short order and spent most of the month writing “Outcast.”

There was no region near me, so I was stuck in the “Indiana: Elsewhere” category, and most of the people were from way north or south of me. There was no real hope for much social interaction, but that didn’t bother me. I’m pretty terrified of people anyway.

I ended the month with 50,288 words, and though “Outcast” wasn’t finished, I did finish it within the next year. It’s still one of my favorite stories ever, and I can’t wait until it gets its turn at being re-set in the world of Pithea.

“Outcast” is a story about sin and redemption, losing everything to gain much more, and the nature of true friendship. More information about the story can be found here.

I skipped 2008. Though I agonized over my decision all month (or at least the first few weeks, until I decided it would be too late to start anyway), I’m pretty sure this was the point when I was starting to transition away from writing fanfiction, but couldn’t really move on from those stories.

nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1.png In 2009, though, I was raring to go again. I had worked for several months on building a world in which I could set my fanfics–original, but still accommodating the stories I’d already written. With that new world in mind, I wrote “Pursuit of Magic.”

I’m pretty sure I was still in the Indiana: Elsewhere region, though I think I may have been a little involved in the region of a town not far from me too.

I wrote 22 words over the goal, finishing one day early. This time, I did actually write the end of the story. However, I had a lot of gaps in the last third of the story. A lot of areas that I hadn’t fleshed out and didn’t want to slow down to decide what should happen. Still, I had a final scene that I really loved, so that was something.

In 2010 and 2011, a combination of not having much inspiration in the fiction area and having a young child, while also homeschooling an older one, gave me enough reason to sit NaNo out. I wish now that I’d at least tried those years, as well as 2008. I didn’t really know back then how to generate ideas, so without any readily available, I truly didn’t think I could do NaNo.

2012-participantFollowing on the heels of two years off, 2012 was a rough one. The world I had started creating back in 2009 hadn’t worked out, and I’d officially decided that my fanfictions–the characters, plots, and future ideas–needed to be laid to rest. It was difficult, but I did have an idea for a new story. It wasn’t much of an idea, but I went with it. I don’t even remember if I had an outline, but I know the plot I had in mind didn’t extend very far. And during the month, I kept playing with the setting and changing things.

Fort Wayne, a city near me, had gotten its own region in (I think) 2010, so I had a region closer to home to join. I considered going to some events, but in the end, I was still too shy. I did join in on discussions on my region’s forum though.

It was messy, but I ended the month with 51,288 words, crossing the finish line on the 27th. I had barely any semblance of a story, and certainly not a full novel. I haven’t touched that story since then, as I’m quite sure I was forcing the idea anyway. If anything good came of that month’s writing, it was the understanding that I really need to plan more before November.

The best part about 2012 was that on the main NaNo website, there was a link to NaNoToons, a daily webcomic that runs during November (sometimes starting partway through October). And the day before November started, the guy who made the webcomic posted a link to the first episode of a musical he and some others had made about NaNoWriMo. By the end of the month, I was hooked on Debs & Errol and involved in a whole new world of geekiness, and the rest is history.

2013 NaNo Participant FB ProfileIn 2013, NaNoWriMo took on a new excitement for me. I had hit on a new idea for a story world that would work for my fanfictions. Instead of trying to simply alter the game world they’d been created in to make it original, yet similar, I realized it would be better to build a new world from the ground up. I started with one basic element around which I, along with my husband, have crafted the world that I use now. I spent a lot of the year figuring out how things would work, and how to fix problems in my existing stories to make the basic plots still work in the vastly different world.

From my fanfiction days, I had a core group of 5 stories (the series I mentioned back during the 2007 section). Most of the other plans I had, and many of the characters, stemmed from that series. So it was the first thing that needed to be converted to this new world. Originally, I really thought I’d just be able to go through and edit it to fit and to be one novel instead of 5 shorter stories.

Somewhere along the way, I realized how ridiculous that notion was. Not only was there too much that needed changing, but I had grown so much as a writer in the 6ish years since I’d written them. It was much smarter to rewrite completely. So I picked out what I wanted to keep and started plotting a new story. I boiled five 20k-30k word stories into one story in 4 parts. And then I proceeded to have the best November I’d had so far, writing what has since been titled “Pithea.”

I went to my first local event in 2013–the kickoff party. My husband went with me, and I got to meet some of the other Wrimos from my area. I kept thinking I’d get to a write-in, but it’s hard to get out alone with kids and a husband who works full time. Going to the kickoff was a huge step for me anyway.

I hit 50k words on Nov 14 that year, and ended the month with 90,228 words total. I chalked the amazing numbers up to having a lot planned for the story. I’d been working with these characters for almost 10 years, after all, and the story itself was a rewrite. The story wasn’t finished, but I wrote the rest over the next few months. In February 2014, I finished my first ever novel draft.

“Pithea” is the story of two teenagers who find their places in life while growing up in a world filled with Power and Madness. More information about the story can be found here.

2014-Participant-Facebook-ProfileThis brings us to last year. I went into November with a well-developed outline. I was writing a story that runs somewhat parallel to “Pithea,” with some characters and even a few scenes that coincide. I planned out 2014’s novel earlier in the year, while revising “Pithea,” so I knew for sure what the characters were up to when they showed up in “Pithea.”

Also, my 2014 novel was a rewrite of my 2009 novel. However, it was set in a different world from the one I’d tried to craft in 2009. Some basic mechanics were different enough that a lot of the plot had to be gutted and rebuilt. So though it’s a rewrite of very broad plot points, it was a vastly different story. Even the final scene from 2009 ended up needing rewritten, thus losing the big moment that I’d loved. By the end of the month, I had a finished draft of “Pursuit of Power.”

There was so much different about last year. I went to the kick-off party again, with my whole family. I joined a Skype group with other people from my region, where we proceeded to have word wars most of the month (my first word wars). I blogged about my progress every day, which was kind of fun–recapping the day’s story progress and how I’d fit the writing time into my day.

I broke my single-day word count record (which was probably in the area of 6000) with 10,516 words on the 15th. I also tried a challenge set forth on the forums to write 3k in 1 hour. I wrote a little over 3000, but I didn’t enjoy the experience. I crossed the 50k mark on November 12. At the end of the month, I weighed in with 107,234 words. 2014 is the first year I ever finished NaNo with a completed manuscript. Unlike its predecessor, “Pursuit of Power” was truly finished, without huge gaps of story that I’d have to fill in later.

“Pursuit of Power” follows Alexander Surett, who is messing with forces he doesn’t understand in an attempt to find the truth behind his father’s death. More information about the story can be found here.


I always say I learn something new every year during NaNoWriMo. Some of it is about what to do, some about what not do to. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll learn this year, though I suspect a lot of that is already happening right now, with the series of blog posts I’ve been making about preparing for NaNo, and my own work to that effect.

There’s no reason to think that the virtual strangers who stop by my blog care to read so much about my past experiences with NaNoWriMo. Maybe it will provide some insight, excitement, or simply entertainment for someone though.

What is your history with NaNoWriMo? Do you love it or hate it? Feel free to share your own thoughts on the matter.

Daily Challenge Check-in: September 26, 2015

Words/Time: 1 hour, half of which was revising “Pithea.” I’ve delved into a long scene that involves a cave, a rescue mission, and some maddened animals.

I also spent some time organizing some thoughts I’ve had toward a possible NaNoWriMo project. It would be very different for me though, to a point that I don’t know if I could do it. For one thing, it’s sort of a murder-mystery–a genre I like to read but always figured would be complicated to write. And for another, it would have to be sort of comical, and I’m really not a humorous person. I worry the attempt at humor would fall flat. Still, it’s an idea, and I have time to pursue it and decide if I want to write it or not.

Characters for NaNoWriMo

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbIf you’ve been planning your NaNoNovel, hopefully you have a solid bead on a plot by now. The big questions–who, what, where, why, and how?–have been answered, or maybe you’re working on that now. This could be a good time to focus in on the who? of it all.

(If you’re still stalled on the basic plot, don’t give up yet! I haven’t hit on the idea I’m hoping for either. Keep generating ideas by free writing. There are a lot of options out there for prompts. I have a few posts from earlier this year about ways to dream up new ideas for stories that you can find here. Or, if you haven’t already, go through the activities in my “Seeds for NaNo” posts from the last few weeks, which are listed on this page. Write down every nugget of something that you could turn into a plot, or that you think you’d like to use as part of a bigger story. Keep trying to tie those thoughts together, and always ask questions: “Why would someone jump in the sewer dressed in a ball gown?” Crazy things like that, worked backwards, can lead to places you’ll never expect to end up.)

A lot of times, my characters really come into their own while I’m writing the actual story. However, there are things that we can do during the planning stages to flesh out the characters.

1. List:
First, it would be helpful to see all of the characters you already have in mind, all spread out somewhere. Making a list of each character is a good starting point. You can add to the list things like, “Guy who beat MC out of the job she wanted and rubs it in her face,” “Person Joe goes to, to find answers when he’s suspicious,” or other roles that you know you need to fill, but don’t have any specifics in mind for yet.

Then, give each character their own page in a notebook, their own note card, their own document file, or their own section within a file (Scrivener and other writing programs work well for this kind of thing). List everything you already know about that character–age, physical descriptions, personality, background, role in the story, where they’ll end up by the end of the story, even how they may change by the end of the story.

Some people like to use character sheets/templates, and that’s okay too. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on character sheets in the past, so I’ll just say I don’t use them. They don’t work for me. However, that doesn’t mean they’re bad, and if you’ve never used one, it certainly can’t hurt to do so. I would at least suggest not using the first one you find, though. Read through the fields that are there for you to fill in and find one with categories that will actually give you insight into your characters.

2. Write:
To get to know my characters, give them their own voice, or discover why they are who they are, my favorite method is just writing. Write a scene unrelated to the plot, centered around the character in question, maybe even from the point-of-view of that character, even if the main story isn’t. Writing prompts can come in handy for something like this, if an idea doesn’t readily present itself. But the general idea is to write out a scene and let that character shine in their uniqueness, and it gives you a better feel for that character.
(Disclaimer: the above paragraph was copied right from a previous post I made about character creation. In fact, it’s the post I linked to in #1 above. Clearly I feel this point deeply.)

3. Ask:
This is an odd one for me to include. You know those people who say their characters are always talking in their head? Complaining about what the writer has done to them, or begging to be let out if they’re still pent-up? Yeah, I’m not one of those people. It seems like every other writer out there is, but I’m not.

However, I did something similar once–initiated by me, not a disembodied voice in my head. I was working at a menial task for several hours, and had forgotten my iPod. I was faced with a nice long time of silence and boredom. In those types of situations, I often do try to think of what areas of my current writing need attention, so I can be thinking through an issue while I’m doing something else. This time, I decided to have a conversation with one of my main characters. His name is Naolin, and he gets a pretty raw deal in “Pithea.”

I started by asking, “What do you think of the story?” And then I imagined what his response would be, based on his character and what happens to him in the story. After a few snarky answers on his part, I decided to start at the beginning by asking him about the motivations for some of his actions when he first appears in the story. Though all of the questions and answers came from me, when digging deeper into his psyche in relation to the scenes in the story, I actually did gain some insight into a few of the things that he’d done simply because I said he’d done them. There was more of a why than I otherwise would have had.

Later, I tried to start over when I had a notebook to write it in. It never quite went as well as that first time. From now on, I’ll record the conversation the first time, somehow–either by writing/typing it or by saying it all out loud while I’m, say, doing the dishes and recording myself talk (though that’s only if necessary…I hate listening to myself afterward).

4. Voice:
The last thing I suggest for working on your characters in advance is to work out their voices. I’ve found it to be a difficult task in the past, but making sure that every one of your characters doesn’t talk in exactly the same manner (and moreso, that they don’t all talk exactly like you) is important. Deciding how a character should talk can go hand-in-hand with figuring out who they are.

Where is he from? Different regions of the world, and even of the same country, have different dialects. (In the US, would they say soda, pop, or sodapop?)

What kind of education does she have? If she’s an English major, she should have pretty good grammar. If she didn’t finish high school, she may (not necessarily, but could) have poor grammar.

Perhaps someone rarely uses contractions, or someone uses ridiculous similes a lot, or someone only speaks in one-word sentences. All of these things can distinguish characters from each other. That doesn’t mean that every single character has to have a distinct way of talking. That could slow the story down too. But keep these things in mind and you can make your characters more memorable. Also, try to avoid outright stereotypes, but sometimes it can help to start with a stereotype and back off a bit, or change it to give that character more depth.

One final note: plan your characters now, but never be afraid to let them develop differently than you had planned while you’re writing your first draft. When they really start to come alive, they may tell us things we don’t realize until we actually see them in action.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on my ramblings, your own tips, or any questions you may have along the way.

Daily Challenge Check-in: September 24, 2015

Words/Time: 1747 words, most of which was revising “Pithea” with two of my sisters over Skype. Also known as the 56th meeting of the Tri-County Sisterhood of the Traveling Book. We got through 5 pages of double-spaced text. We had to move the meeting to a different day this week, and thus had to also cut it short. We spent the first hour discussing ideas I’ve had over the last week in regards to a big change for the world in which the book is set before moving on to normal revision.

About 500 words were writing practice I did early this morning (like, before I went to sleep early). I used some writing prompts from a book in a continuing pursuit to drum up a new idea for NaNoWriMo this year.