Ask a Busy Person: Why I’m Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

Someone recently told me that if you want something done you should ask a busy person to do it. As a busy person, then, I will tell you that I’m planning for something completely ridiculous: I’m signing up for NaNoWriMo this year, with the intent of writing, if not 50,000 words, at least something worth mentioning on the sequel to Dark Empire.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve experienced joy, stress, panic, fear, anger, and several other worthy emotions in our household, mainly due to some family medical crises, but the only one I’m excited to share is the birth of the Stowaway. He makes all the rest somehow less terrifying with his precious presence. As a new mom, I will admit to some sleep deprivation and aggravated hormones, which I keep trying to remind myself are writing gold. While we’ve been praying about these challenges and trying to stay emotionally afloat, I’ve been keeping an informal diary of my thoughts and feelings, and I’m sure I’ll be mining it someday—though not today or anytime soon, when everything feels too fresh and raw.

Instead, for now, I want to focus on producing words on my many projects:

  • An urban paranormal short story I’ve been trying to wrap up while I’ve been on maternity leave
  • The research phase of steampunk as a possible setting device for another story.

Meanwhile I haven’t forgotten to Free Worvanz: some ideas about Del and her future adventures have been percolating, and I’m gearing up to scribble about them during the month of November: I have an outline, I have characters who are developed, and I have a plan.

You might not see too much of me on the blog during November, but funnily enough I have more posts scheduled for November than I have for most of this year. So I completely lied: you will be seeing A LOT of me on the blog this month while I proceed with NaNoWriMo. I’d love to hear from you, especially encouragement as I attempt to tackle this 50,000 word goal.

The last time I did the challenge, in 2011, I discovered that I wrote 22,000+ words in the month of November, which nearly doubled the word count of the project I was working on. That project, or at least the part I had completed prior to attempting NaNoWriMo, became Dark Empire. And it is upon these 22,000 words that I’m building Book 2, which was originally going to be Part 2 of Dark Empire in a single novel.

Obviously my expectations for what volume of plot I could fit into a novel-length book have been seriously revised over the last few years. Given that the project I want to write mirrors the one that I had already started, it seemed like November was a great time to brush off the manuscript again and try to get into the groove of writing some more. As a writer, I love repetition and reflection as plot devices, so why not apply the same technique to the act of writing?

Thanks to a very interesting podcast on Rocking Self Publishing about writing 5,000 words an hour, I’ve also been trying my hand at more speed writing, turning off my inner editor and allowing myself to write with typos and then go back and edit everything later. Hopefully that new effort will manifest itself as a useful habit during November and I’ll be able to demonstrate improved writing productivity. I still write very linearly, proceeding start to finish in mostly a straight line and then throwing out the words in nearly the right order. The exception to this method is in the editing phase, where I go back to the beginning and add back in all the juicy details I left out in writing the first draft. Must be the engineer in me: I can only draw straight(ish) lines too.

What are your thoughts about loading up the plate of an already busy person?


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Saturday Snippet – Advancing Story Through Description

On Saturdays or Sundays, you can check out a snippet from my latest writing efforts.  All snippets are copyrighted.  These excerpts from my writing are first draft, unedited words, and may not appear in the final work.

It’s been a while since my last post, during which I’ve been diligently working to finish the last few remaining scenes.  Many of my fellow writers are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, but I will have to pass this year.  While I do have a fair bit of writing planned for November, my current writing goals involve getting this book edited, polished, and published by the end of the year.

My current writing efforts have involved fleshing out scenes, adding setting descriptions, and trying to nail down the right title.  The latest contender is “Dark Empire.”  I’d like for the title to tie to magic, which is linked in this series to the phases of the two moons circling Andoth.  Since magic is banned in Worvanz and is viewed in color by the mages who use it, “Dark Empire” appears to connect the main setting to the main conflict.  I’ll have to savor it a bit longer to decide if it’s the right fit.

The more interesting aspect of what I’ve been working on is setting description, or world-building.  While I’m writing a first draft, I have a nasty habit of keeping all descriptions to myself and assuming readers can see the pictures in my mind while they read.  Going back to add color, sight, sound, and smell to a bland reference to, for example, the Imperial University sometimes can feel like I’m shoveling boring description down the reader’s throat (although all my beta-readers assure me I’m not), which I like to avoid at all costs.

One way I’ve found to add description while reassuring myself of keeping the reader’s interest is by providing descriptions that pique interest and could advance the story in a later scene or a later book.  Here is the latest example from my freshly added description of the Imperial University campus:

Enraptured, Arna watched the towers as they continued past, while Del’s gaze darted over the hills seeking out other memories.  Her breath caught in dismay when she caught sight through a gap in the trees of the vast stone wall surrounding the Imperial University. Crumbling in many spots, its massive iron gates hanging lopsided off their hinges and rusting, the wall no longer glittered with heavy layers of spells.  Del distinctly remembered how the stones had sparkled like gems from the volume of protective magics the university mages constantly casted.  Up close, for she had studied them carefully as a girl, the individual stones comprising the wall were actually dark gray, veined with deep red ore.  Mines far to the north supplied the unusual stone, which sold for more than its weight in gold because of its unique magical properties.  What those properties were, Del had never learned, but she recognized in its use the profligacy of the Imperial family, who had spared no expense building the finest structures of the most exotic materials just as they had never curbed their enthusiasm for any outward displays of wealth and comfort.  While the towns around Luden were buried in snow, feasts at the Imperial Palace included tropical delicacies imported from lands far to the south and carefully ripened in greenhouses along with impossibly delicate flowers brought to Worvanz by fortune-seeking explorers.  The emperor had a long-standing policy of richly rewarding those who brought to his court the most exotic specimens of plant and animal life.  Del remembered visiting the Imperial Menagerie as a child but feeling sad for the birds forced to remain in their cages, trapped not by the bars but by the very climes they could never hope to escape.

This description is rife with potential conflict and story, none of which I really need in Book 1, but which may come out to play later in the series.  Some of the opportunities, in a paragraph of just under 300 words:

1) The mines where these stones originate must be a pretty scary magical place, and the miners must be some spectacular kind of brave.

2) Conflict between Del and her Imperial relations related to their different views about how the imperial wealth should be used

3) The adventures of some intrepid explorer traveling to the farthest reaches of the world in search of some exotic treasure, and the troubles he found during that quest.

4) A unique property to one of the plants or a special quality to one of the animals in the menagerie (dragons, anyone?)

In addition to the potential stories in this snippet, other places in the story where I mention the Imperial University hint at more events that occur there and provide a richer canvas for Del’s story.

Do any of the potential side stories I’ve mentioned resonate with you?