A Look Back at 2015

I would have preferred to post this before the end of the year, but the last few weeks have been rough for me. Still, it’s not too late to take a quick look at the writing-related highlights of 2015.

PitheaWith the help of 2 of my sisters, I finished draft 4 of “Pithea,” which was the most intensive revision the book should ever need. We met once a week on Skype to work through any issues, and the book definitely came out stronger on the other end. We even worked on general world questions, especially those related to the fantastical elements in the story world. It was also during these meetings that the book went from a working title (“Adventures in Pithea”) to its official one.

cover1I finished the first draft of a third novel this year, titled “Too Many Irons in the Fire.” It’s not one I expect to go forward with, but it was still a complete novel draft, so it’s an accomplishment to be proud of.

I participated in my 6th year of NaNoWriMo, and won with 100,383 words, passing the 50k word mark on the 12th. I wrote 25k on the first day, but I don’t think I’ll try that again. I went to my first write-ins this year and was even in an article in the local newspaper while attending one of them. It was during NaNo that I finished the aforementioned novel draft, and I also wrote most of a second novel.

I also want to share a few gifts I received for Christmas that are writing-related.

My husband went a little overboard, but it’s hard to complain about the amazing gifts he gave me. The first was a blank journal with the motto I made up last year engraved into the clasp.
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The second gift was a desk clock with pen, and he had my name engraved into the front of it. I teared up when I saw the engraving.

My mom gave me a t-shirt that my sister had designed. The front has a bunch of characters, towns, and other important words from “Pithea.” It also includes things related to the previously mentioned editing group my sisters and I formed for a year to whip the book into shape. The back of the shirt contains various quotes from that editing group–things one of us said while on Skype, or even during an in-person meeting, that we found particularly funny and decided to make a note of. I cried a little when I opened this present too, especially when I looked at the back.058 062

This final gift is much less emotional than the previous ones, but one that I was really excited to get. My parents-in-law found this deck of cards, which contains all sorts of different writing prompts, in varying detail. It’s called Writer Emergency Pack, and it’s billed as a way to help get unstuck if you’re having trouble with your writing. I’d say it would work for any time you wanted a quick start to a short story or writing practice too though. There are some really thought-provoking cards in there, and while I haven’t sat down and written anything with it yet, when the final work on “Pithea” is done, I’m looking forward to cleansing my palate, if you will, with some writing practice before I move on to my next big project.
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Going forward from here, I have a lot of plans. With the final draft of “Pithea” finished, I’m working on a short synopsis to use for submission. The first draft of the synopsis is done, but I’m asking for opinions from others who’ve read the book, and going to go back over it again myself after a day or two, when I have fresh eyes. Though I have a publishing company in mind to start with, of course I’ll start looking elsewhere to submit the novel too. I don’t plan to look for an agent, and in the end, if I haven’t sold the manuscript by the end of the year, I’ll probably self-publish it.

I also want to finish a quick revision of “The Triangle,” a novelette-length story I wrote several years ago. It’s completely unrelated to the world of “Pithea,” is set in the real world, and is the tale of a man struggling to keep his family together when he feels life is moving too fast and he’s losing control. I have a start on a cover design, so after I finish this revision, I plan to self-publish it. Hopefully that will happen in the next few months.

Then I’ll turn my attention to “Pursuit of Power,” a novel that runs mostly parallel to “Pithea.” I wrote it during NaNo in 2014, but have barely touched it since. It will probably be another long project, which I anticipate taking at least a year to revise. There are a lot of notes for big changes I need to make, along with normal editing that it likely needs.

I have tentative plans to write every day, meaning actual writing. For the last few years, I’ve settled for doing any kind of writing work every day, which 95% of the time means revision. I miss the actual writing, though. I usually feel like I don’t have time to write unrelated, pointless pieces when I need to spend all of my free time revising. However, the truth is, because I dislike revising so much, I don’t spend all my free time revising. Most days that I have time to do any revising, I could easily spend 10-15 minutes writing 250-500 words of writing practice before I start revising.

So my plan is to do just that. I’ll set the goal at 250 words per day and see what that looks like. Most of the time, writing from a prompt or such, it ends where my idea ends anyway, whether that’s 200 words or 750 words. My daily revision goal will still be 20 minutes on top of that. I honestly don’t know how well I’ll keep up with this, and I won’t feel like I’ve failed if it drops off. But it’s a plan for now.

To all of my fellow writers out there–whatever, whenever, and however often you write–what were your highlights for this year? What are your proud or disappointed moments from this year? And what are your plans for the coming year?

Writing Highs

I did something late Friday night that I want to share. The first novel draft I ever finished, “Pithea,” which I mostly wrote during NaNo 2013 has been undergoing revision for almost 2 years now. After I’d had some time alone with it, I started into a process with 2 of my sisters, wherein we’d meet every Tuesday evening on Skype and work through their notes on my revised draft. It’s more than just the writing we’ve been working on; the story is set in a fantasy-type world, and they’ve helped me work out the elements of it. As time has gone on, the story has gotten better, characters have gotten stronger, and the mechanics of the world I’ve built are clearer.

It’s been just over a year since we started these weekly editing sessions, and most of my writing time has been spent reading ahead of them and making more of my own revisions. We’re basically working from a 3rd draft, which I’ve been creating as we go. Hopefully this makes some sort of sense.

Anyway, Friday night, after I’d done my NaNo writing for the day, I sat down to get more revision done, more of “draft 3” ready so that we can work on it this coming Tuesday. And I got through the last 8 pages of the draft, which means that on Tuesday, we’ll probably finish the last pages of the draft too. Which means this revision, the most intensive one it should need, will be done!

Now there are still some things that need worked on. During our revision sessions, we passed over bigger issues that we knew would just slow us down. There were big, world-related questions that came up that we decided weren’t important to solve just yet. We will hopefully have an in-person, all-day meeting in the next month or so to hammer all of these things out. But after that, I’ll be one huge step closer to be ready to publish this thing. It’s actually scary to be so close and still have no idea what I’m doing. But it’s still better than doing nothing.

And in the time since then, other exciting things have happened. I finished the first draft of this year’s NaNoNovel, only halfway through the month. I was in the local newspaper (front page) with other area Wrimos, and the article even included a link to my blog! (See more about that here.) My region’s ML today shared the crocheted octopus she made for me, as a reward for being one of the first in our region to donate and contact her about it. And my NaNo winner’s shirt is on its way!

This weekend was definitely a high for writer-me.

NaNoWriMo Day 15

The Words: 2296 written today.  My husband’s side of the family had their Thanksgiving get-together today. We went straight from church (which was an early morning, as we were both on the worship team today) to their church, where they were hosting the meal. I wrote about 60 words in a notebook there.

Then we came home, scrounged supper, and I fell asleep on the couch. After the kids were settled to bed, I was rested enough to get some real writing done (after taking some time to gush over the article in the local paper about a write-in I attended; see the bottom of the post for more on that).

The StoryThe crazy woman has been talked down, and all are safe. More than one suspect have been arrested, though no definitive answers were really given.

Then Darcy went and talked with an older blacksmith who hadn’t been around all week. He recapped the week’s events and said something that led Darcy to a disturbing revelation…at which point the story ended! So that was the “brilliant moment” I was going for, in an attempt to leave the readers in surprise, frustration, perhaps even a little confusion (though not enough to leave them with no idea at all what’s going on). But I know it would need a lot more clarity to ever work. Part of the problem is that the idea for this came to me during NaNo, but would require some real planning to pull off. Something I can’t take the time to do during November. So for now (and likely for a very long time), the story will sit as it is. But it’s done, and the month is only just half over!

Total word count: 57,555

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Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 15th (I haven’t read it yet myself; I’ll have to go do that now!)

On a fun and exciting note, my very first ever write in was in the local newspaper! There was a reporter there, and she asked various questions, while also just jotting notes down while we Wrimos talked amongst ourselves. This is tomorrow’s paper, but it showed up on our porch tonight. Here’s the article:

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NaNoWriMo Day 14

The Words: 2441 written today.  Most of it was in the afternoon, and the rest came in the evening. Mostly with another word crawl. I don’t know what’s been going on this year, but the Skype group my region formed last year, which had word wars going on nearly every evening, has been dead this year. There was some activity near the beginning of the month, mostly from new people. But not many word wars. I’m a little worried that some of the more active people made their own Skype group somewhere else and do word wars there. Maybe that makes me paranoid, but seriously…what happened to everyone? I’ve found my own ways to stay motivated and keep writing, but I’m not feeling quite as connected as I did last year.

The StoryThe stand-off has escalated as the woman who was threatening Darcy’s dad with a hot piece of metal has a gun (literally out of nowhere, because the metal just wasn’t threatening enough for the scene to work). And now she has a hostage. But all hope is not lost, as another person has arrived on the scene and is trying to explain to her what he thinks is really going on around here.

Today was the point when I realized that my story simply cannot work the way I’ve written it. Not because of the lack of humor and the light-hearted take on the story I’d originally planned, but because the actual mystery and logic doesn’t work out very well at all. I will finish the story because I’m close to the end, and why not? But I don’t plan to revise it. If anything, I may considering reworking the elements that went into the motives and such, and rewrite the story from scratch. But that would be a project for another day, as I still have a lot of other novels to work on.

Total word count: 55,259

day 14

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 14th

Let’s end week 2 on a high note, with more NaNoMusical!

With the close of week 2, how is everyone doing out there? Did you survive the week 2 blues? Are you finding a new drive? Just remember, write whatever comes to mind; worry about if it works for your story or not, or if it’s any good or not, later (or never)!

NaNoWriMo Day 13

The Words: 2769 written today. I’ve been working on a word crawl for several days (not constantly, but I keep going back to it). Not only are there word crawls for various fandoms, the crawls break up the monotony of writing the same length sprints over and over. Using the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter feed does a similar thing, but I can start and stop when I want to, so sometimes it’s easier to work with than the Twitter feed.

I’ve been listening to period music a lot this month, from fife and drum music to songs by Father, Son and Friends. I love how it gets me in the right mindset and provides some background noise so the room isn’t so quiet.

The Story: The wife of one of the smiths who’ve died has decided that Darcy’s dad is responsible for her husband’s death. So she has come to exact her vengeance on him, assuming that the police won’t be able to adequately prove his guilt. At the moment, she’s in a stand-off with him. She has a poker in one hand (the very poker that someone murdered her husband with) and a red-hot piece of metal in the other. She’s already stabbed someone with the hot metal, someone who tried to overtake her.

And meanwhile, Darcy is off in the corner puking from the stress. Or possibly from something else that sort of just came up in today’s writing with no real planning (and no reason for why or how it came up the way it did). It may not stay as part of the story in the future.

Total word count: 52,818

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 13th

NaNoWriMo Day 12

The Words: 1256 written today, putting me over 50,000 words! Whoo! I actually wrote these right after midnight, reaching the winning point around 12:30 am. Then I didn’t write any more the rest of the day. My husband and I had plans to play a board game together, which took most of the night. I figured I’d get to some writing earlier if I had a chance, but if not, at least I’d done something. And since I’d just reached 50k, I wasn’t worried about pushing it for this one day.

So when I woke up with a headache this morning, which turned into a migraine by lunch time, and didn’t go away until supper time, I knew it was safer to just pass on writing more.

The Story: Police officers have just taken Darcy’s dad away from their tent to ask him some questions. They didn’t mention why, so the rest of the family is just trying to carry on with normal rendezvous activities for now. Darcy is starting to feel a physical toll from all of the things that have been going on, and fears the worst for her dad.

Total word count: 50,049

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 12th

NaNoWriMo Day 11

The Words: 3304 written today. I knew I was going to be gone from 8-10 pm, which is some of my prime writing time, so I wrote a couple of 15-minute sprints around 5:30, before supper. I was at 1593 words  for the day when I did get back to the computer in the evening, and I realized that I was only around 3000 words away from reaching 50k. I pushed forward, hoping to make that tonight. Then the ceiling in the room I was in started dripping, and the distraction from taking care of that made the writing a lot less productive than I was hoping for. But I’m coming in today with just a few thousand shy of the win.

(And spoiler for tomorrow, I did keep going and reached 50k at about 12:30 am!)

The StoryIt’s the busiest day of the reenactment, and the crowd is abuzz with rumors about everything that’s happened during the week. Then there’s a battle, complete with cannons and muskets and fallen soldiers. Only one of the soldiers doesn’t get back up when the battle is over.

Total word count: 48,793

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 11th

NaNoWriMo Day 10

The Words: 3128 written today. I went to my first write-in today, and it was not what I was expecting at all. I’m guessing write-ins go a lot of different ways, depending on how many and what type of people attend, or even the setting. We were in a room in the library with tables in a U shape, so we were facing each other mostly. And we talked as much as we wrote. But a write-in at a coffee house or book store maybe wouldn’t be as conducive to talking. I’m only guessing though.

I personally enjoyed the interaction, but if someone wanted to get more writing done, they may not have appreciated the rest of us talking so much.

I went with my sister, who actually lives 45 minutes away, and there are write-ins from our region that are closer to her. But I cajoled her into coming to make me feel less stressed about going alone (she’s a lot more outgoing than I am, but she has expressed that she would like it better if she knew someone at a write-in too). We settled in and introduced ourselves. There were only 3 other Wrimos there, and they were all new to NaNo this year.

There was a reporter from the local paper there during the first hour; she asked questions now and then while we were talking and took pictures. We did a total of two 25-minute sprints together throughout the 2 hours. There was no comparing of word counts afterward, which I assume happens during some write-ins, but this was definitely a very relaxed atmosphere. Two of the others were writing by hand anyway, and not keeping track of their words.

During the first sprint, I wrote over 1500 words. I was a little sad that I fell just barely short of 1667, because I thought it would be fun to say I’d reached the daily word count in the first sprint. But I reached it shortly after. And then I wrote another 1400 during the second sprint. Outside of the sprints, we mostly just talked about NaNo, about writing, and about our stories.

The write-in was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I finally went to one. I will probably go back at least one of the other Tuesdays this month.

I would have done at least some more writing during my normal evening writing time, but tonight my sisters and I had an editing session over Skype.

The Story: After being separated for 5 days, Darcy and her husband of only a few months, Sol, were reunited. The reenactment Darcy’s family is attending lasts for 9 days, and Sol had to go home from Monday through Friday to go to his regular job. Almost the entire day’s word count consisted of her filling him in on what’s happened while he was home and him comforting her. She has multiple reasons to be stressed.

Then Darcy tried to explain to her dad why she’s worried that he might be in danger, but he doesn’t agree with her concerns.

Total word count: 45,489

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 10th

NaNoWriMo Day 9

The Words: 2476 written today (exactly one word less than yesterday, apparently).  I worked on another word crawl, this one providing a lot more words than the mini crawl I did yesterday. In fact, I didn’t even finish it. I’ll probably continue it tomorrow.

I do have plans to go to a write in tomorrow, my first ever. I’m sure I’ll have something to say on that tomorrow night.

The Story: There are police officers going around asking questions, fingers being pointed, and past incidents being exaggerated. I just started into writing about the night before the busiest day of the show, which promises to bring all sorts of fireworks.

Total word count: 42,361

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 9th

I had every intention of posting this on Saturday, but I’ve been forgetting all sorts of things when I write these nightly posts. If you haven’t already seen it (and heck, even if you have!) here is the 2nd episode of the NaNoMusical for your viewing pleasure:

NaNoWriMo Day 8

The Words: 2477 written today. I decided to try out a word crawl today. I’d heard of them before, but hadn’t ever looked into what they really were. When I looked into some in more detail today, I realized that they might be perfect for my current situation.

Though the words came a lot more slowly than if I were just sprinting 15 minutes at a time with a few minutes in between, it didn’t take as much mental cajoling to get to the writing. I’m not sure why this worked better for me, and it probably won’t always, but since it did today, I’m happy.

The Story: After the bit of action that yesterday’s final line started off, I spent most of today’s words in the mind of someone who’s just lost a loved one and isn’t thinking very clearly. I went down a unhelpful track and then got myself back on the right one, one that will lead to the climax I want.

Total word count: 39,885

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 8th

Now that we’re into week 2, I’d love to hear how you are all doing. Are you ahead? Behind? Right on track? Is the story taking on a mind of its own or panning out exactly like you’d hoped? What motivational techniques have you found work or don’t work for you? Are you aiming for 50k, and stopping even if it comes early? Or are you going for an ending to the story?