Winner! NaNoWriMo 2019

At beginning of this week I figured if I averaged 3300 words a day, I could finish my NaNoWriMo project on Wednesday, leaving the rest of the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. That averages to around three hours of intensely focused writing a day with no distractions. Lucky for me, two of those days the kiddos were in school and the third they slept in a few hours.

I’m proud to day that with lots of grit and determination (and an unhealthy amount of leftover Halloween candy) I slammed dunked my way to the finish before lunch on Wednesday. There’s nothing quite like typing the words “The End.”

Wow. While I’ve done the challenge for several years now, this is the first time I’ve finished an entire draft of a project with the intention of publishing it later this year. Just thinking about it is both exhilarating and terrifying. What if the story I came up with is actually really stupid and I haven’t realized it yet? What happens then? Was this entire month of work a waste? I guess I’ll find out soon enough when I read it in a few weeks.

Writing Isben’s story was challenging. I was confined to use and stay faithful to the already existing confines of the Stonebearer universe, including what point he needed to reach at the end of the story. While part of this meant a lot of thoughtful review of how that might limit the possibilities, it also meant I had some guidelines to follow – a perk I’d not had before.

The story starts on the day Isben discovers that he possesses the power of the Khandashii and follows his struggle for survival each day after until he reaches the tower of Amul Dun and safety. One of the characters he meets along the way is now my new favorite character, after Bremin of course. The more he showed himself to me, the more I liked him. Sven the bard has some delightful surprises up his sleeves and in his amazing wagon.

Vision board for Isben’s story

Should everything go to plan, Isben’s story will be coming to Amazon March 2020.

For the next two weeks, I will be taking a small break from the intensity of NaNo and will spend my time reading a few amazing books to recharge my batteries, possibly writing a short story or two, and catching up on the dozens of things that I allowed to slip through the cracks as well as what needs to be done to prepare for the re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal in early January.

Stay tuned, there are a lot of awesome things in the works!


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NaNoWriMo 2019 – Halfway Point

Whoa-oh, we’re half way there … whoa-oh, livin’ on a prayer!

We just passed the halfway point of the challenge and my story ideas are turning into their own little monsters that taunt me at night. I thought I had an okay grasp of what the story needed to do. That is, until I realized that I had no actual villain to defeat. Gasp. I’ve written short stories where there is no villain and it’s worked fine, but I came to realize with a screeching halt that I’ve never done something novel length this way.

Cue the intense character naval gazing. This brings me to problem #2 – I have a set point where Isben needs to end up at the end of all this, and I can’t change it no matter how much the interesting story fairies try to convince me other wise.

This is hard.

In the past, when I’ve been bedazzled by a sparkly plot bunny, I’ve had full permission to follow it to my hearts content. That’s where some of my best ideas come from, chasing bunnies (and watching an unhealthy amount of Netflix, but I digress).

Dearest Isben, stop being so gosh darn internally complicated. I’ve had to psychoanalyze literally everything about you from your childhood upbringing and the expectations of your family, to your bizarrre irresistable urge to leave home, to how your culture has molded you into something that you feel is not right, and all to find a conflict compelling enough to drive you through this story without turning you into furniture.

That would be so much easier. Isben – you’re a couch now. Stop wanting an active role in your life and I’ll drag you to where you need to be without all the trust issues and drama. All I need is a moving truck and a GPS. You’d get there safe and sound with a minimum amount of drama.

Man, that would be dull reading.

Eyeroll. Fine. But I’m warning you, Isben, not only are you not going to be furniture, but you’ll have to struggle through every page until you reach the end. Don’t worry, I gave you a friend, he might quite possibly be the world’s most annoying bard, but he’s got a heart of gold. You’ll make it. I just need to decide in how many pieces…

Here’s to another ten days and the completion of this crazy project! Forget the treats, send a therapist.


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Book Review: Word Painting Revised Edition the Fine Art of Writing Descriptively, by Rebecca McClanahan

For November, and NaNoWriMo month for many of my fellow writers, I thought it would be appropriate to review a book that covers an important part of writing craft – description. There aren’t many books out there about this topic and indeed it would be a challenge to cover the subject in a way that didn’t sound just a little bit crazy. This book does an admirable job.

About the book:

In ten chapters McClanahan discusses different ways to approach the art of turning mundane descriptions into word paintings that grab the reader’s attention and helps feel part of the world they’re reading about. She explores using the different senses, how descrioption can help the reader understand character and setting, and using figurative language and metaphor. The book is thorough, insightful, and includes plenty of examples to help teach.

My review:

For me, the book was an excellent reminder of how much power lies in the perfect description. An evocative piece of description has the power to transport the reader to another place and time where they feel they are living within the pages and seeing and feeling the story through the eyes of the characters. A poor piece of description can do the opposite, pull the reader out of the story, confuse them, and make it hard to understand what is going on in the story.

Perhaps the most useful advice gleaned from the book is the importance of anchoring description deeply into the point of view of the person experiencing it. If the character is a baker, we want to feel the grit of the flour that has collected on the backs of his hands and reminisce of better times as we smell the comforting aroma of fresh bread.

Another thing that McClanahan does well is find hundreds of different examples to help solidify what she is trying to teach. Some of these are remarkable pieces of description that indeed transported me into the world of the scene. When I read them, it made me want to be able to do the same with my own writing.

Recommendations:

I recommend this to writers who feel they have the basics covered and are looking for a way to improve. This book is wonderful to help see different angles that can be taken in a passage of description and helps break writers out of old familiar patterns. It also shows how description doesn’t have to be long to be powerful.

I would not recommend this to brand new writers. While it’s full of important information, it’s also overwhelming with just how many possibilities there are in any given line of description. The best time to read this would be when a writer feels they have established their voice and are looking for ways to improve and deepen it.

I give this book 3 stars.


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to AmazonGoodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-CoverIt’s the end of October. For many writers it’s the time to sharpen our brains and finish up prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ve done the challenge for several years in different ways ranging from full manuscripts and partial manuscripts, down to editing and revision goals. While I’d love to be in a good place to dig into the third and final book of my Stonebearer series this year, I only barely finished the very rough draft of the completed second novel last week.

My real reason for not doing NaNoWriMo this year is simple – experience. I know my working habits and how much I can do before developing a serious case of writer burnout. It’s taken a few decades to learn I’m a hugely competitive person with myself. If I set a goal I kill myself to go get it.

For my first NaNoWriMo in 2010, I crossed the finish line an exhausted wreck. At that point in my life I had one fewer child and more free time and energy than I have now.  Immediately after finishing, I continued to blog and did an editing pass of my first manuscript that I had finished a few weeks before NaNoWriMo started. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it.

I learned I am not invincible when baby #3 came around in the Fall of 2011. All my time disappeared and with it, most of my energy. I stopped writing for over a year. When NaNoWriMo rolled around I watched wistfully as other writer friends whipped themselves into an excited frenzy to work on a new project. I would still set a goal, goals are good, usually to finish the revisions on my first book baby and for years not much happened.

It wasn’t until 2015 when I felt ready to attempt writing the sequel. I had both older kids in elementary school and the youngest in preschool. It was literally the first year since 2010 where I had a handful of hours free during the week.

It wasn’t enough time. I stressed myself out. Four free hours a week isn’t enough to do NaNoWriMo. My writing crept into family time and evenings and occupied every moment it could like an overfed goldfish in a bowl. But, apparently I’m very competitive. I had to finish the 50,000 words. And I did. And then I shelved the uncompleted project for nearly a year.

This year, I’m okay with working at my current pace. I have projects underway that I like and am moving at a pace that I can keep up with while maintaining a good work/life balance. If by next year I haven’t started the third book of the trilogy, which I doubt, then perhaps I’ll make it my 2018 project.

And that’s totally okay.

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Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’d love to talk about it in the comments!

Back to Business

The month of November seemed to fly by faster than normal, there was way too much going on and not nearly enough time for any of it.  We celebrated Thanksgiving and three birthdays.  Then there was the decorating and the cooking and the other dozens of things needed to prepare for the holidays.

As for NaNoWriMo, my rebel project hit a wall at the 15,000 word mark when I realized that I had a major plotting issue.  I call it my rebel project because instead of writing a new piece of fiction I chose to put the polish on the book I’ve been fighting to finish.

The problem goes something like this – everything was fine with the story, but it needed something to give it a little oomph.  To do this, I combined the roles of a more minor character with a main character.  This made so much sense in the planning phase and I was really excited at the different possibilities it offered.  Now I can have a love triangle along with all the action and adventure.

However, as I began my revisions and started changing that character to fit both roles I had a terrible realization.  I need him to be a part of a mini quest with another character but I had neglected to figure out how he gets involved with that character in the first place. They are not an obvious pair, and for the life of me I have yet to find a great way to get them to work together.

So, I shelved my revisions until I could find a way to fix this problem it out and started a crochet project instead.  This is avoidance behavior at its finest.  Now that I’ve taken a break and let the problem stew for a while I think I’ve found a way to fix it.  I’ll need to write it out and see if it will work.

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My new pair of slippers, I love the flowers!

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A cozy tam for the colder weather

On a happy note, I did manage to finish and package up a short science fiction story for submission to a few magazines. I’m crossing my fingers that all goes well, this is my first time submitting to a professional market that isn’t a contest.  If all goes well, I plan on doing more short stories for magazines. ‘

For the month of December I plan to pick up the manuscript once again, fix the plotting problem and continue revisions.  I would still love to finish this round by the end of the year, but it looks like it might take a bit longer.