November Challenges: Week #4

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The close of November brought the end of both NaNoWriMo and the Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest). By some miracle, I managed to complete my goals for both challenges despite a few days of writer’s block and the Thanksgiving holiday.

NaNoWriMo

Early Bird word count: 1,611

Week 1 word count: 3,262

Week 2 word count: 4,567

Week 3 word count: 3,535

Week 4 word count: 2,416

Total: 15,391

I hit my goal of 15,000 words (plus a little more). It doesn’t get any better than that! All I can say is I’m grateful for planning a little bit ahead when I clocked in three early bird writing days. I knew Thanksgiving weekend was going to be crazy, so I worked in a few extra days beforehand to alleviate the stress of cramming in writing time while also trying to spend time with family. Thank goodness the only pantsing going on was with the actual writing, rather than with scheduling!

The Month’s Trends:

I pantsed it the entire time!

I fully expect to be referencing my notebook during the next phase of my novel, but the first seven chapters were completed pantsed. And I loved every second of it! I never would have guessed it, but pantsing is quite liberating.

I’ve always planned everything I write, but this time my characters had other things in mind. I fully intend on giving them more control as the process continues. Why bother fighting them? They know their story best, right?

Music Matters

I’ve always used carefully constructed playlists to help fuel my muse’s imagination. Even with pantsing, this is still true. Imagine Dragons, Junip, and Muse all played a key role in giving my main characters a deeper sense of emotion, while also unearthing some pretty interesting secrets.

I have a lucky charm.

My typewriter key pendant has become a talisman of inspiration. I don’t know if I’m just imagining things, but my writing time always seemed to go a little smoother when I wore it. I’ll be wearing it until The Muse’s sequel is finished.

There’s always time to write.

Is my life crazy busy? Yes. But this month has reminded me that there is always time to write. I just have to want it bad enough. Small sacrifices had to be made, but it was worth it overall to get the chance to tell the story that’s been inside my head for so long.

November Poem A Day Challenge

A month of poeming has come to an end and I’m proud to say I wrote a poem for each day in November. I had to play catch-up a couple of times, but I still completed the challenge on time.

The next step is choosing 20 poems to create a chapbook submission. I’ve entered this competition several times before without success, but I’ll jump in again anyway. It’s free to enter and I love the challenge of piecing together a collection. I learn something every year about what works and what doesn’t when selecting poems for a chapbook.

The last batch of poems I wrote for the PAD challenge will be posted on my haiku blog, Haiku Tree, throughout this week. Check it out!

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How did you fare on your goals for November?

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c.b.w. 2016

 

A Plan For NaNoWriMo

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Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself if it’s actually a good idea to do NaNoWriMo. My schedule is already ridiculously full and my stress level is already off the charts. Do I really need to add writing 500 words a day to my insane list of things to do?

In a word: YES. Writing is actually a stress reliever for me. Just like knitting helps me sleep (the repetition helps to slow down the thought train in my brain), writing lets me escape everything giving me a headache.

The only thing I’m worried about is having a enough time to complete 500 words. From past experience, I know I can punch out 500 words in an hour if I’m really focused. During the work week finding that kind focus will be challenging.

To deal with the work week challenge, I’m giving myself the freedom to have variant word count days as long as I hit a weekly goal of 3,500 words (which works out to 500 words/day). Some days I’ll be happy to get 200 words, while on others I might get up to 1,000. I know this isn’t how NaNoWriMo traditionally works, but I know what will work best for me!

I have several days off in November due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’ll be using those days off to their full advantage, along with weekends. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead whenever the day job isn’t taking up 12 hours of my day.

We’ll see how it goes. While I’m motivated to dig into my novel, I’m also realistic. If I make my goals, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This is supposed to be a fun stress reliever, not a source of stroke inducing deadlines!

In any case, I hope my favorite coffee shop ordered extra mocha so they can keep me happily caffeinated while I write!

Stay tuned for updates on progress!

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

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c.b.w. 2016

The November Plan

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After some careful thought and consideration, I think I’ve come up with a plan for the month of November. Both novelists and poets look forward to November as a month that both inspires and challenges thanks to NaNoWriMo and the Poem A Day Challenge on Poetic Asides (via Writer’s Digest). I’ve participated in both in various forms, but as I posted last week, I found myself in a quandary about what to do this year, (see This Writer’s November Debate).

To satisfy both the call of the novel and my muse’s obsession with haiku, I’m going to attempt an interesting compromise of both November challenges.

I’ve decided to attempt a modified run at NaNoWriMo. I like the idea of having a kick in the pants to start writing another novel.

The sequel for The Muse has been haunting me for a while. My characters are getting very chatty and the story is reasonably sketched out. I started writing The Muse with less than what I have for Lineage (see, I even have a title), so I feel pretty confident moving forward.

The goal is to write 500 words a day. Despite a heavy workload at the day job, I think this is plausible given my average writing speed. If all goes well I’ll have 15,000 words by the end of November.

As for the PAD Challenge, I’m going to approach this in a different way. In years past, I diligently posted a poem a day in the Poetic Asides comment section. My current haiku writing schedule will not allow for this, so I’m going to modify the poem-a-day framework to match what I’m already doing.

Saturday is haiku writing day – I punch out anywhere from 7-10 haikus every week. All I need to do is reference the PAD challenge prompts each Saturday and write haikus to match those prompts.

The haikus I write will not be posted here, but instead will be posted on what until now has been my secret haiku blog. For the last year and a half, I’ve posted a haiku every single day on Haiku Tree. This is the home for the haikus I write on Saturdays. I figure the PAD Challenge will simply direct haikus I’m already going to write rather than add another task to my schedule.

I hope my muse is ready to write, write, and write some more.

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c.b.w. 2016

And We Go Back

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It’s been very quiet on the novel front (even though my muse has been very chatty on the sequel!), but that’s about to change. I’m ready to take another dive in the literary agent pool, despite the ever growing odds against me.

I spent the summer waiting for query responses that never came – the silence was deafening – and evaluating both my novel and query package. After another round of rejections, I can’t help but ask myself if some of the changes I made were doing more harm than good.

The last round of query packages included a new query letter and a full Chapter 1 rewrite in the novel. Both changes were prompted by several rounds of rejections. There’s only so many rejections you can take before you consider that maybe there’s something wrong with the product.

Prior to the changes, I was averaging about 75% actual responses and 25% no response to my query package. While it is gratifying to receive some sort of a response, the fact of the matter is they were all rejections.

After the changes, the stats changed significantly and not in a good way. In the last round of querying, less than half of the agents I queried responded. The rest offered nothing but silence. This was either a really bad stroke of luck or I need to rethink the tinkering I did on my novel.

Given the drastic change in statistics, I’m thinking it’s time to get back to basics. It’s obvious the rewritten first chapter isn’t grabbing agents’ attention (all that I queried requested the first chapter as part of the query package), so I’ll be scrapping the rewrite in favor of the original version.

After comparing the two this weekend, I can honestly say I like the original version better. It moves a bit slower, but it offers a stronger introduction to the lead character. Furthermore, it provides stronger contrast to the character she evolves into as the novel progresses.

As for the query letter, that’s where it gets a little tricky. I like my new query letter better than the original, yet it’s also part of the package that incited little or no response. So, now the question becomes, was it it the query letter, the rewritten first chapter, or both that turned off so many agents?

Yeah, that’s a sticky wicket.

I went back and read my original query letter and there’s a lot to like about it, but it’s not that exciting. The new query letter has a little more personality and leaves a little more room to personalize it for individual agents. The logical solution to pull the best elements of each and combine them into one new query letter. Yet, I’m left asking myself if that’s really necessary. The original letter has a great track record for getting responses – why mess with it?

If I’ve learned anything in this process, second-guessing yourself can be disastrous. I’ve believed from the start that my novel is something special and I can’t afford to lose that focus. The plan moving forward is to submit the original novel (as structured by me and my editor) and to utilize both query letters. As I research agents, I’ll decide which query letter might be the best fit for each agent on my list. Social media, blogs, and websites for prospective agents offer a lot of insight on personality and preferences.

I’ll consider this last round as yet another lesson learned. We’ll just add it to the lengthy list of things this process has taught me! Despite the constant failure, I remain optimistic. My novel will find its way into print – it’s just a matter of when.

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c.b.w. 2016

Back To The Novel Front

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It’s been a loooooong time since the subject of my novel has come up here, in my head, or anywhere else. Some think I’ve given it up or just don’t care anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always been lingering in the background waiting for me to come back to it.

Here’s where things get brutally honest. There were a number of reasons why I had to shelve my passion project. Most of them revolved around having no choice but to reorganize priorities. I’ve heard writers are supposed to have tunnel vision when writing and pushing for publication, but I refused to keep the blinders on when it came to being there for those I care about when they needed me the most. That meant redirecting my muse towards shorter writing projects so I could be at hospital beds, visit with friends who had limited time in this world, and provide extra care to aging furkids.

There was also the little thing of having to take care of myself. I needed to take a step back in a number areas of my life, so I could evaluate and adjust to so many changes that have taken place in the last three years. It’s been overwhelming to say the least and I’m not sorry for taking the time I needed. Slowly but surely, I’m coming back to things that have gathered dust during my absence.

Last week, my novel muse is started to whir back to life. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I opened the file for The Muse. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about after so much time …

Would I still like it?

Does it still read like a finished novel?

What about the Chapter 1 rewrite – does it still work?

With all those questions rolling around in my head, I read through the most recent draft. I still love it. Minutes later, I opened my Query Tracker spreadsheet and updated all the information I had for agents on my list (a lot has changed since my last round of query packages!). While it sucked to add a few more rejections to the list, it was energizing to select the next batch of agents that will be receiving query packages.

Now, here’s where things get fun. It turns out my muse had another surprise in store for me. My characters started talking to me again (I swear I’m not crazy!). The sequel for The Muse has been locked away for a while, but I opened up the file again and pulled my Novel Notebook from the shelf. I outlined two major sections of the plot and found I need to conjure up two new characters, and add depth to one that already exists. How cool is that?? It looks like this summer will be full of creativity and more world building!

Like so many other things in my life I’m sure the process will be slow, but it’s nice to be back on the novel front.

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c.b.w. 2016