So I started my NaNoWriMo project, and quickly sailed through the first 20K words. As always. And then I hit the 20K wall. As always. Then, I decided it was time to take the story to the expert, my muse, the smartest man I know: my husband. He read the first 100 pages of my old draft (from last spring). We hashed it out, and he told me what I already should’ve known and kind of knew and didn’t want to admit.
My story had a lame plot.
The characters? Sparkly. The concept? Dynamite. The setting? Really cool. The plot? Muddled and uninspiring and lame.
Sigh. He was so right. I hated that he was right because this book was something I’d put a lot, lot, lot of time into. This, in fact, was about my 7th rewrite. Not from the ground up, mind you, but working with the same characters, concept and setting…and plot. Every time I’d rewrite I’d wonder, “Uh, why is this STILL not working?” Because it wasn’t.
It made me think back on a book I’ve been slowly going through, written by Larry Brooks, who I’d met a couple of years ago at the ANWA Conference in Phoenix. His book is called Story Engineering, and in it he talks about the six things that make a story work. I had five. I was missing #6. Plot.
So. So. Sad.
And I finally, as I stood ready to take a swan dive off that 20K word wall last week, was humbled enough to let that sink in. While we were on a family outing to the river to throw rocks –Honestly, that’s a fun family outing. We love throwing rocks. Last month we threw rocks off a mountain.–we talked a little about possible changes to the plot and came up with something drastic. Well, I thought it was drastic. It would involve cutting out about fifteen characters. (Is this a tipoff that the plot was messy?) It would change all the motivations (and the ages) of the remaining characters. It would bring in the Nazis and throw out the muddled mess. It looked like…work. Intense work. But probably the right thing to do.
Then a big thing happened. An author friend had also given up her entire weekend and read my last full draft (with the old plot). Bless her heart! And she called and said she loved it–the characters, the setting, the concept, the dialogue, all just blew her away. Publish immediately.
I was so relieved. Then I asked her about the plot. “Oh, there were some parts that are maybe a little hard to follow, but I think you finally tied it all together in the end.”
Bingo. Less enthusiastic. I told her my husband’s assessment (which was diametrically opposed to her.) She, bless her, said he was up a tree. He didn’t “get” me. And in a way she was right. But that wasn’t good. I wanted him to get me, and everyone else to get me. She said to ignore him. I wanted so badly to believe her.
This left me mightily confused. I was asking that question of Jack Nicholson as The Joker, “Who do you trust?” But I had on less pancake makeup.
So I called yet another author friend. She’d been going through similar edits and finally had had a breakthrough. She said she’d also give my old draft a read this week. Bless HER heart.
But as soon as I got off the phone with her, my original friend called back. I told her I was still on the fence, and asked if I could just tell her the beginning of the outline Gary and I had come up with. I did. She was silent for a bit.
“Oh, I hate to tell you this,” she said, “and I am married to that old book. But, to be honest, I like this better. Much better.”
Suddenly, the clouds parted.
I knew exactly what I had to do.
Since then, I’ve written 14K on that new draft. It was a super busy weekend, so I got nothing done then, but I’ve been on fire otherwise. It’s flowing pretty well, and since I already know these characters, I know how they will react in these new (less muddled) situations. It’s not too horrid. Granted, I’m only at 14K and haven’t hit that 20K wall yet. Maybe I won’t. (Ha ha.)
But I’m left with a question of my integrity. How do I measure word count for NaNoWriMo? Do I have to adjust my word count back down to 14K now? Or can I add the stuff I’m going to scrap from that proverbial “wrong turn at Albuquerque?” If I hadn’t made that wrong turn, I never would have gotten on the right road, I am pretty sure of that. But do the words only count from the actual draft that will become The Book?
I don’t want to be a cheater. And if it makes me “lose” NaNoWriMo, so be it. I will still come out a winner, since I’ll finally be on the track of the book I have been TRYING to write for two entire years.
Can the NaNo police, or someone with a good sense of right and wrong please advise me? I look forward to your counsel.
Thank you. And now, to the manuscript.
It’s officially underway, the NaNoWriMo challenge. Not all people have heard of this. I mentioned it to my sister, who did say she’d heard of it but thought it was a conference. (It’s okay, Carrie. If I weren’t steeped in this whole writing culture, I wouldn’t know either.)
November. It’s not just about not shaving. It’s also National Novel Writing Month. (a.k.a., NaNoWriMo.)
Thousands of writers sign up on the official website, NaNoWriMo.org, and take the challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. This works out to about 2,000 words per day, if you take the Sabbath off. It all happens under the NaNoWriMo pretext: “The World Needs Your Novel.”
Now, I’m pretty sure the world does not NEEEEEED my novel. I am okay with that. It’s not like I’m Charles Dickens and making a thinly veiled social statement that will change the orphanage system in England–nor anything like unto it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I only write escapist fiction. The world doesn’t NEEEEEED it with all six capital Es. But maybe it needs it, with just two small ones.
Today I’m six days in, and I’m at word count. Probably tomorrow I’ll fall behind. And I’ll fall farther behind on Saturday and Sunday. That’s just how my life goes. My weekends belong to my family, Sundays to the Lord. Otherwise, I’d lose all balance.
But come Monday, I’m pretty sure I’ll be slapping out conflict, dialogue and characterization again–as much as I can. It’s pretty fun. I haven’t written a Young Adult novel in a while. My last release, the short story in the Strange and Lovely anthology last month got me thinking in a teen mindset again, so I decided to jump back in those waters. It’s really fun. I love it when writing is really fun.
Later, after NaNo, I’ll go back and edit the book I finished in October. And the book I was editing in September. And probably write a sequel to the October novel. And possibly rewrite something I wrote last September. And then I’ll edit this NaNo book, and then …
Life is too short to write all the stories I have in my head. It should be called NaNoWriLi, with Li for life.
I know romances often revolve around the “big three words.” But today, this romantic comedy writer wrote the big two:
Yeah, it was just the end of a first draft that’s probably a lot crummier than I’d like to admit. But still, I can’t improve it until there’s something to improve upon. And now…there is!
Hooray for THE END. Three cheers for those two words.
And just in time, too, because tomorrow starts the famous (or infamous?) NaNoWriMo. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s National Novel Writing Month. You can sign up here and challenge yourself to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Track your progress, connect with other writers, make friends, get motivated, and try to win. How do you win? Winning means that you write all 50,000 words in a month!
(Kinda.) Good luck, writing buddies! I’d love to hear how your progress is going! And definitely, if you get to write a THE END anywhere, I want to hear about it.
Love y’all. Happy writing!
I love a giveaway. It’s like…getting something for free! Free is such a good price.
This is an exciting giveaway because there are a ton of prizes all designed specifically for readers! And best of all, you could win a copy of Strange and Lovely! Enter away, friends. I hope you win!!!!!
A year ago I dipped my proverbial toes in the self-publishing waters for the first time. I threw a novella I’d written in a mad dash onto the Kindle scene, quickly followed by one of my novels from my backlist. Since then, the learning curve has been a mountain, and I’ve been wearing those spiky-toed mountain climbing boots ever since.
Has it been a great experience? Sure. And learning, while painful in the process, always feels great when you finally get it. Has it been perfect? Heck, no! Designing the covers nearly threw me into a tizzy. I doubt they turned out good, and I bet if I’d just hired it out, I’d have had time to write five more novels during that awful time. Learning how to format the innards of a paperback still makes me shudder to think of it. Marketing is just plain a MYSTERY. Why does one thing sell and another not? Who. Knows. Well, I guess I’ve learned a few things about that.
So, then, what’s been good?
One, like I said, the learning. It’s so satisfying to realize you can do something yourself!
Two, the money. It’s great to not have to split the profits with (or give the lion’s share of the profits to) someone who didn’t write a word of that story. Here at Chez Griffith, we had a teen become a driver, and having that extra little cash cushion to pay that huge jump in insurance and other costs came in pretty handy.
Three, the immediacy. Once the project is written and edited, you can design a cover, publish the book, and bam! On to your next creative project. There aren’t months of wallowing in the query and rejection process and being stuck on a two-year timeline until it comes out. Nope, just write, publish, write again. It’s a great motivator. Speeds up productivity something fierce. I think that’s my favorite aspect, to be honest.
Now, let me clarify. I’ve done it several ways. Self-publishing came after a decade of being published traditionally. And I have to give props to my publishers. I have had almost wholly good experiences with the presses I’ve worked with. I’ve met great, genuine people, made good friends, felt really happy with the decisions I’ve made to turn my writing over to them for publication. Many kudos to these publishing houses for their true awesomeness. There are some writers who are militant self-publishers, and others who turn up the proverbial nose at anyone not picked up by a traditional publisher. I’m in neither camp.
I’ve also done collaborations with other authors, where one or two of them take the lead and act as publisher. That’s been another interesting and exciting way to go. I’ve loved that. That’s how Immersed and Strange and Lovely came about–and the Triple Treat Romance collaboration boxed set. Best of all in that aspect, the interaction with other writers has brought me a lot of joy.
For me, what it boils down to is, where can I get my story out best? Ebooks sell a ton of romances and mysteries. If that’s what I’m writing, that’s a good option. Self-publish those babies. (And definitely hire the cover design OUT. Case in point: my book The Lost Art. The cover on that? Professionally done. Sold a TON more copies than my own designs. Alas. But with self-pubbing, I could still fix that. Change them up.) But with other genres, like literary or commercial straight fiction, I can see myself going back to a traditional publisher. The distribution and readership seems better that way. If I had it to do over again, I’d still go the traditional publishing route with Big in Japan. It’s a better outlet for that genre.
You know, the Sumo Wrestler Genre.
I love the first draft. It’s a world of discovery. Who are these people? What are their strengths, weaknesses, fears? What things should they face that will help them become who they were always meant to be, inside and out? What kind of a world should they encounter? What internal and external forces should be working against them? What other characters should they meet that will bring out the best and worst in them and force them to change? How will the characters conquer their demons at the end, or how will they get their just desserts?
And for me, there’s always this question? Will he kiss her when he gets the girl? To which the answer is always going to be yes. (Spoiler alert.) But the question of which girl will he get–the right one or the wrong one–remains up in the air.
Because someone said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett, I think. Terry Pratchett would know. He’s told a lot of stories.
Today I’m working on a first draft. The last few books I’ve written, the first draft has come flying off my fingers, and I’ve cranked out the story in very little time. But this one? It’s tougher. These characters are a little more complex. They have more foibles, and the world they’re entering is going to be more foreign to them. It’s along the lines of BIG IN JAPAN. Except no sumo wrestlers, and not in Japan. But that would be fun. Someone just emailed me and asked me to do a sequel, had a bunch of ideas for plots. I wonder…
Meanwhile, this book is happening. Slowly. But the slowness is killing me. It feels like I can’t wait the six weeks this draft is going to take. I’m dying to see how it turns out.
Okay, reading friends. Good times! Here’s a contest in connection with the STRANGE AND LOVELY: PARANORMAL TALES OF THRILLS AND ROMANCE for you!
First, here’s the GIVEAWAY! There are a TON of books being given by the TEN authors involved. Freeeeeeebieeeeeees! Who doesn’t love that?
Here’s the link (since I STINK at embedding code. Just click it. Sorry.)
Now, if you’re going to be a reader of this anthology (and I think you should!) Here’s a place to pre-order!
The book comes out October 4th, but all early orders have a SPECIAL PRICE! So just do it.
Meanwhile, I’ll be posting teasers from the stories. I’ll start with the teaser from CJ Anaya, my good friend! Her story is about a girl who meets an elvish guy. A very attractive one. But he’s going to kill her. So…enjoy “My Fair Assassin.”
Having someone tell you they’ve come to end your pathetic existence is probably an uncommon occurrence. I can’t imagine that anyone intent on murder would have the decency to pause long enough to look their victim in the eye, st…ate their mission and purpose, and with very little feeling, explain that the end result of their victim’s death will benefit an entire race.
Then again, what do I know?
There’s always the slim chance that plenty of killers are far more civil seconds before committing such a depraved act, but how would any of us ever be privy to those morbid details when the victims never live to share said details?
I knew I’d never live long enough to share mine.
The well-muscled warrior standing several feet in front of me had made that abundantly clear. I studied him intently, deciding it would be best to memorize every inch of him in case I managed to escape and succeeded in describing my would-be assassin to the local authorities.
Right! My need to drink in his image had absolutely nothing to do with his six-foot frame, broad shoulders, sharp, chiseled features, and flawless, crystal-blue orbs framed by a sturdy brow.
Weren’t murderers supposed to be ugly, unkempt psychos? This guy was a carbon copy of most of the Abercrombie models I lived to drool over. He had an otherworldly look and feel to him, and his clothing appeared to be made out of some kind of forest-green leather. His hands were gloved up to his knuckles, and his skin let off a golden, florescent glow.
I might have attributed his all-too-perfect tan to the San Diego weather, but I doubted other men in the vicinity were capable of making their skin glitter slightly whenever the sun’s rays kissed them. I didn’t think someone as imposing as this guy would have spent time throwing gold body glitter all over himself, but I couldn’t figure out what else he’d done to get his skin to shimmer like that. He looked like a warm summer evening, and smelled like the earth after a spring rain.
His hair was shoulder-length, shiny, and lightning white. Not the kind of graying white you might find on your local senior citizen, but the kind that looks like heaven.
His movements as he studied me and my dingy apartment were stiff and watchful. His expression was that of guarded curiosity, and when my cat, Nala, made a small whining noise from my bedroom down the hall, his stance came to attention and his arm muscles went taut as he withdrew a small dagger from a sheath at his waist.
Honestly, where had this guy come from, and why weren’t we dating?
Oh, yeah. He was here to kill me.
How does it happen that I have two covers to reveal at the same time? I DON’T KNOW — other than someone else designed these honeys. They are beautiful! I am so impressed. The first is for a triple novel boxed set that THE LOST ART will be included in this fall. It’s called CRAZY SWEET, and it’s part of the Triple Treat Romances boxed set series. I’m so excited to be included in it. Yay. And now… Voila! (Click on the title link for more info.)
The second one is for STRANGE AND LOVELY, an anthology of (clean) YA paranormal romance short stories. I have seen some of them and they are good fun! Mine is about a cheerleader and a ghost, of course. Because, why not? It’s coming out in October, and you’ll be hearing more–soon! Meanwhile, you can “like” the Facebook page for updates. So. What do you think of this COVER? Awesomeness?
This has got to be the best time in the history of the world to be a writer. Not only are there a thousand different outlets for sharing the written word, it’s also the most information-rich generation of all time.
Duh. Everyone knows this.
But it makes writing so much more fun! I can, on a wild tear, decide that I want my character to say this:
“Hunting for azurite this weekend. I like it because it’s a compound carbonate hydroxide of copper. Did you know it has a specific gravity of 3.77 to 3.89?*
Riiight. Did I have to travel to the local university and thumb through a reference manual to come up with this ridiculous line one character is using to bore another character? Nope. With a few taps of my fingers, I had this info, plus the information that the heroine’s parents:
recently delved into how much they liked azurite because it embodied the Blue Ray of energy that resonated to the dark blue energy perfectly of the Third-Eye Chakra.*
No trip to my local New Age Vortex required.
Thank you very much, Internets. You make writing even MORE fun.
Happy writing, all!
*Actual lines from my WIP, a romantic comedy–obviously.
I recently got sucked into a Netflix obsession. Admit it–you’ve either done it or been tempted. Streaming TV is my nemesis, and my great love.
It’s been probably seven or eight years since I’d seen it, but I started watching old seasons of What Not to Wear. You know, the makeover show on the TLC channel where two “fashion experts,” at the behest of the victim’s family and friends, stage a fashion intervention on an unsuspecting woman with low self esteem. It’s brutal. But sometimes it’s beautiful, the way the women react and then claim that this new style that’s been foisted on them has made them suddenly start respecting themselves. The women they attack often wear revealing clothing, and I love seeing how the new fashion rules they’re taught say that the woman should cover up to be attractive, not reveal too much. That part is refreshing.
The show is like crack. Ugh. I make myself ride the exercycle while I watch–that’s my punishment.
Someone else might not find it addictive, or even mildly entertaining. However, maybe because I love stories with really strong character arcs I’m just drawn to this bloodfest. Seeing people go from frump to fantastic in 42 minutes is just powerful stuff. The hosts are magically able, in almost every episode, to get to the bottom of the woman’s self-doubt and to her greatest fear. They pounce on it, repeat it over and over again, and then they insist that all her issues can be solved with the right pantsuit and a nice purse.
We know that’s false information. However, there’s something so tantalizing about that concept–that there’s a solution to what hurts so much inside us, and that it can be solved.
As an author, it’s a great chance to invent (or discover) fictional characters and either decide or find out what makes them tick. We dig deep into their psyches and discover that deepest fear. Then we POUNCE on it, gouge at it, make the characters just cry. Then we put them in situations where they meet the right foes or friends and where can solve their problem and discover their inner strength and become who they were always meant to be.
It’s tempting to think that all of life’s problems can be solved with fashion. They can’t. Sure, it’s good to take care of ourselves. To treat ourselves with respect and gentleness. And that can be the start of a beautiful friendship–kindness to ourselves. However, even beautiful, well-dressed people have struggles. Even wealthy, famous people have a “human experience.” No one can escape it. (Maybe that’s why it’s fun to read novels about beautiful, wealthy people who also struggle, even like the rest of us frumpy, financially-struggling folks. We relate.)
I still like writing about makeovers. And I’ll probably ride 42 minutes daily on that exercycle to get to watch that danged show. However, the most important makeovers we can undergo are the ones where we change our hearts, our minds, our attitudes. Where we surrender ourselves to truth and to divinity and become inside who we are meant to be.
I think that was the point of THE LOST ART, my most recent book. (I never discover the theme of the book myself until long after I’ve written it. Sometimes not until someone else points it out to me.)