30 DAYS HATH NOVEMBER
30 Days of Writing. Nanowrimo (however you want to pronounce it). What did I get out of it? What did I LEARN? Well, I tried a few new tactics this year---more advanced outlining and character development, pre-writing the first draft, and writing without editing (mostly, mostly). It was SO HARD not to re-read and rewrite. For the first time ever, I made notes in the MS when I left off or when an idea came to me so I could go back to that particular page/scene/moment and rewrite/revise or add in a new element. I wrote WITH A WORD COUNT TICKER showing me the advance of every new word.
I started off with 7k+ words which is probably a bit of cheating but do I care? Absolutely not. I hosted two freaking Thanksgivings this year, worked full-time, side-hustled, and parented. I socialized with friends and family. I designed fucking Christmas cards. I baked two apple pies. I NEEDED THOSE BANKED WORDS to fill in for the lean times because as a busy human existing in 2022, it is impossible for me to churn out nearly 2k words every single day.
HOW'D YOU DO?
I MET MY GOOOAAALLL! I am officially 50k words into Nowhere Man: a Ghost Story. 13 chapters in. Book is a little over half done, which is right about where it needs to be. I'm trying SO HARD to keep this one in the 85-90k sweet spot. SO HARD. I am such an over-writer and then a terrible trimming-the-fatter that I cannot do this to myself again.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
I think the biggest change was in my perception of what was important in this particular stretch of writing. Hitting word count, sure, but actually knuckling down and moving the story forward. Getting to the ending. Not spending copious amounts of time revising or fussing over certain events/characters. In fact, AN ENTIRELY NEW CHARACTER WITH THEIR OWN SET OF PROBLEMS popped up over Thanksgiving weekend and I was like "Oh, better integrate them." So now I'll be spending some time fleshing out that character either in the revision stage or in the time between revisions, or after my December writing break.
*drumroll please* While it's not likely going to be the cover this book is published with, this was my favorite version to make it out of the drafting stage, and the one I'll likely use for future updates on the book until something changes.
Here it is!
I also made a page for Nowhere Man: a Ghost Story, because why not?
As mentioned above, I'll be taking the next three weeks OFF to focus on a side-hustle editing project that is absolutely demanding my attention. I've been doing SO MUCH editing lately, that it was incredibly difficult to switch between those two brains and boy howdy do I need a break from doing both.
HOWEVER---once my editing project is done, I'll pick up the torch and have the rest of December (PLUS a week-long break between holidays at the beach) to devote to finishing up the book. My goal is end of January for the first draft. After that, I'll set it aside and pick back up on the Rosita revisions from my beta readers. Once I finalize Rosita, then I'll go back for another pass at Nowhere Man.
Trying to keep a good balance between projects so I can have "fresher eyes" when approaching both but really that means I have like TWO FULL BOOKS wobbling around in my brain and I routinely mix up character names when talking to people about them. Ruh roh.
It's Day 30 and I'm 50k words into the Nowhere Man: a Ghost Story WIP. I plan on finishing up the first draft in Winter 2023, so I can pivot back to Rosita Ruins the Heist once I get all the lovely edits back from my beta readers.
WELL, IT'S FRIDAY, ISN'T IT?
Yes, it is time for my atonement, the day of reckoning where I tell you of my sins and successes over the past week. I managed to accomplish quite a bit of writing, but when I look back on the week, it's been a blur. Oh yeah, we had Friday off last week but my daughter was glued to my side and I scheduled flu shots for everyone but me (it's okay, I got the jab yesterday). Saturday was brunching and house-related BS as always, and Sunday was literally the entire day consumed with watching Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and grabbing food in Portland afterward.
Then, the work week happened and it's been the process of closing out one textbook edit and gearing up for a few more (possibly DEs this time around). Also shopping for hosting multiple Thanksgiving dinners. Prepping Christmas cards. The whole holiday rush is upon us, at it always is this time of year. I haven't had much down time lately.
HOW'S THE WRITING THEN?
Behind? But not by too much at this point. Writing this book has been an incredible rollercoaster of flying up and down in word count depending on the day or the hour of the day. SO MUCH EMOTIONAL TURMOIL. On the 15th I was riding high because I was 2k words ahead, and now on the 18th I'm behind again. Ideally, I would be logging 2k words a day, but hitting that mark is just not always achievable. Especially when there are SO MANY DISTRACTIONS right now like watching Twitter implode and successfully skirting COVID, RSV, and the flu. LOL
I wormed my way out of one writing barrier only to smash into another wall this week and this one feels a lot more stuck than I was previously. Sort of. I set up the grounds for a scene that I could write out of order (gasp). I know the rest of the plot, so I could just Hulk smash my way into later bits that I know for certain need to happen. Not sure what's driving the lack of motivation or enthusiasm. I WAS SO READY TO WRITE THIS BOOK and now I'm just like "Ok, gotta put in my hours" with no drive or passion behind it. I hate that for me.
THE OUTLOOK IS GOOD?
Of course it is. This is me we're talking about. I'm building a revision plan in my head as I type. Part of me STRONGLY DESIRES going back to add in the bits right now, but the other part of me knows that getting the whole book on page and completing it will actually be a better use of my time. Why can't I revise and edit while writing the first draft like I really want to?
Because, Dear Reader, it's a waste of time when likely that content will be cut and reformed anyway. I know this to be true. And still, and yet, the writerly heart wants what it wants. No amount of logic can deter that.
Part of my reticence, I recently discovered, is my lack of connection to the main character. He's a Grade A-hole but likely not sympathetic ENOUGH. So, I need to go back to earlier chapters and seed in some more likable elements to ground him and build reader (and let's be honest, my own) sympathy. The good part is, I know what those things are NOW so I can just move forward like they're already in place.
I know. I don't know. Just accept it. It's the process.
A HACK? A POTENTIAL HACK?
One way that has helped me---when I am finally, blessedly in the writer flow---is using the display word count feature in Google Docs, so I get an up-to-date measurement as I write. Before I would get in the writing zone, hit the pause button to see how many words I'd logged, and have to do math only to discover I'd written like 250 words when I was thinking it was 1,000. Imagine the disappointment and heartache. Tracking word count in real time has given me a fun sense of liberation. Like catching the moment when your odometer hits 100k miles or something. It's fun to mark those milestones and watch the word count pile up without that sense of foreboding or dread. Best of all, it doesn't require me to stop what I'm doing and commit to another digital task. I simply look down, feel the surge of pride, and keep moving.
It's Day 18 and I'm 31k words into this WIP. Happily, I'm up 12k words from last week, and I've progressed three more chapters, so that's something over nothing. Just wish I could stop wrestling with stupid doubt. My bully brain is really doing a number on me lately, and that doesn't help the writing process. Like, AT ALL. Send some positive, kind vibes my way??
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?
I made it through another week, that's what. Didn't accomplish much writing over last weekend because Saturday was cleaning and Sunday was an all-day marathon of family photos, Columbia Sportswear employee store, picking up an electric piano for Audrey, and swinging by Shake Shack for dinner.
BUT THE WRITING WAS OK?
Eh, sort of? After starting out strong with SEVERAL THOUSAND WORDS in the bank, I've hit a lull in the story which required A LOT OF WALKING WITH MUSIC to wrestle my way out of. Part of the thing exciting me last week was "no real outline for what happens during the haunting" so I could use my IMAGINATION but then this week I was like "what imagination?" and putting words on the page was like playing mental Jenga. Things are on the page now but they're not necessarily in the right order.
I also need my characters to be ENEMIES at this point but I'm like BUT WHAT IF THEY JUST LOVE EACH OTHER ALREADY and that is my fatal flaw. I can't just have characters be mean or mad for too long.
Anywho, my word surplus was slowly drained over the last seven days and now I find myself in that tricky spot so many authors arrive at during this exercise...BEHIND. I told myself I didn't care about meeting word goals but it turns out I secretly do and I'm starting to get that panicky feeling because I SHOULD BE MAKING MORE PROGRESS.
How about some other fun content instead?
CHARACTER INSPO IMAGES
I DID spend a lot of time pre-Nanowrimo building out very full character profiles, complete with inspirational character images. Introducing the cast of characters in Ghost Story (Nowhere Man): from left to right Desmond Jones, Molly Starr Park, Maxwell Edison, Georgia "Georgie" Lee, and Sadie Krueller.
THAT'S NICE, BUT WHERE YOU AT?
Six chapters in and 11 days in. I'm slowly working my way out of the initial haunting weeds and learning some cool stuff about ghost hunting and...uhm...particle physics so that's great news? Ha ha. No but really, I am seeing the light at the end of this particular writing tunnel. I was STUCK and STRUGGLING during parts of this week. It's amazing what a little exercise and playlist can do for the brain.
There was a great bit I had the pleasure of writing last night with sleuthing on a Tinder-esque dating app and I probably just need to ignore the word count and "have more fun." That's easier said than done because how am I supposed to measure my success and performance and abilities if not against an arbitrary goal? By comparing myself to others? ;)
It's Day 11 and I'm 19k words into this beautiful, glorious MESSY-MESS. Yup, it's officially in hot mess territory WHICH IS FINE because it's a rough draft. I'm allowed to cut/paste content into "ghost chapters" in this part of the process. Look, gimme another week and I'll be back on track. *cracks knuckles, rolls head on neck, jumps in place and shakes out my shoulders* Let's do this.
THIS WEEK WAS A WEEK
Between my favorite holiday (Halloween) and the recovery from the holiday (both myself and my child), and then editing a big old sweaty textbook in my day job, things have been slightly busy BUT I HAVE BEEN DOING GOOD THINGS. I promised myself recently I'd try to eat healthier (Halloween candy doesn't count) and exercise so I'm back to taking daily walks EVEN IF my workload is mind boggling and I NEED TO WRITE and guess what? I'm disgusted to report that I'm still getting stuff done so my theory that cutting out exercise saves me from anything is patently false.
I sort of cheated but I already confessed to that. I started this month with a bonus 7k words but arriving at my current destination was all me this week. It helps that I wrapped up any other side projects I had going on RIGHT BEFORE Nano started so I'm not reading anything else at the moment, even though my Boo loaned me Gideon the Ninth on October 30th and I am SO TEMPTED. I handed my current draft of Rosita Ruins the Heist off to another beta reader, so I'm not EVEN thinking about any other books.
The Nowhere Man/Ghost Story has my full attention.
And as this is a first draft/rough draft, I'm allowing myself (however painful) to not worry TOO MUCH about the actual writing and instead focus on the voice (since it's first-person POV) and getting the meat of the story down on paper. There will be plenty of time later to pretty up sentences and phrasing and excise bad exposition. This is GO TIME, BABY, YEAH and decorating the prose is like adding the pretty flowers on top of the cake and you have to make the cake part first which is usually so unattractive that people wouldn't eat it without frosting.
Damn. Now I'm kind of craving cake...
Since I enjoyed posting up the synopsis last week as a teaser, I thought I'd share more pre-work. I put together multiple Pinterest boards within Pinterest boards and settled on a sort of "mood/aesthetic" which so far doesn't match the writing style or tone so much as it flows with the story and the internal world of the characters. More on that later. Maybe when you read the book? ;)
THAT'S NICE, BUT WHERE YOU AT?
Four chapters in and only four days in and I have a really good sense of where things are going. I just have to STAY THE COURSE which is so incredibly challenging for a former pantser turned plantser turned somewhat plotter. However, Molly Starr Park made some excellent decisions in the previous chapter and both Desmond and I are curious about what happens next. The only thing is, I know exactly what the next sequence will be! Ha ha!
I did not fully map out what occurs during the haunting, so this is fun mess-around break-stuff territory inside of a pretty well plotted outline so maybe that's the key? Build out the story and characters, but build in spaces for imagination and play to take over?
It's Day 4 and I'm 11k words in to this beautiful, glorious NOT-mess. Let's see what kind of shenanigans I can get up to this weekend. *fingers crossed*
Melinda Jasmine Crouchley, YA supernatural science fiction author and professional editor.