New Year, New Draft of an Old Project

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Photo by GetĂșlio Moraes on Unsplash

That’s right, I said I was going to dig up an old project to rewrite and publish in 2020, and the one I’ve chosen is #rockstarnovel, my NaNoWriMo novel from 2016. Yeah, it’s been gathering dust for three years now.

Despite that, I’ve thought about it often. To this day, when I go running, if my brain gets blank my mind might jump to these characters, because I’ll imagine them covering whatever song is up on my playlist. Which one of them would suggest it? How would they arrange it? Would they play it straight or put some spin on it? Who would the lyrics mean the most to?

Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I went and made my first romantic hero in print a struggling singer-songwriter, so go figure the next big project I tackled afterward stepped me up to a full band.

I’m about a quarter of the way through rereading it and taking a fresh set of notes about what needs cutting and what needs fixing. Part of the problem was that I bit off more than I could chew with my concept–a double romance, both of a pair of twins finding love over the course of the same tour of their band. One of those plot lines turned out far superior to the other, and facing the rewrite the first time I tried to keep them both, shoring up the lesser one with more development. But it wasn’t working, and I knew it wasn’t working, so I set it aside to work on other things, and here we are years later.

Another part of the problem is that I had done about zero research into what being on tour was like; since then I’ve read quite a few rock-star novels, whether adult romance or YA, and taken notes on what made sense and what didn’t. (Obviously some are more realistic than others. Also, not all tours are created equal in the real world.) I think I can make this believable enough to read as realistic without slavishly including every single detail until the plot is totally lost in the shuffle. (I’m haven’t forgotten you, For The Record.)

So what am I doing differently this time around? I’m cutting that second, weaker romance entirely, which entails looking at each chapter from either of those characters’ POVs and deciding if I still need to show those events, and if so, which of the surviving POV characters get to “see” them. And if I am cutting the whole chapter, I have to make notes about what world- or character-building I did in it, so I know where to find it if it needs to get moved elsewhere when I start to rewrite.

This is going to be a tedious process, but a necessary one. A lot of writing advice would have an author “bang out” their reread as fast as possible, so as not to get bogged down in fixing each problem as it comes up, but to look at the whole. I’ve seen advice that says get the whole process done in as little as three to four days, but I don’t write full-time, so I’m aiming to have it done in two weeks. By the 15th, I want to have all my notes in order, an outline of events with the chapters I’m keeping slotted in and the holes marked where I have to write new ones, and a reasonable goal set, time-wise, for getting the next draft written (once I know how much new material I need.)

So expect me to check back in on this in two weeks!

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: January 2017!

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I made four major resolutions for this year: write more, journal more, exercise more, and Read My Own Damn Books.

I’m happy to report three of the four are going well. (It’s tough to run when it’s all ice and snow outside. I’ll do better as the weather gets warmer.)

On the writing front, I have cold, hard numbers to report. As part of the 365K/365 Day Challenge, I’ve been tracking my word count vigilantly.

For January:

  • 41,078 words written (/31,000 goal)
  • Highest words/day: 2,655
  • Lowest words/day: 1,006
  • Average words/day: 1,325
  • Yearly goal completed: 11%

And almost all of that writing has been on a single project: the Rock Star Novel, a.k.a. my NaNoWriMo 2016 novel that “won” at 53K but wasn’t nearly done at all. The final version of the first draft clocks in at a whopping 115K (that’s 20-25K more than any of the What We Need books’ early drafts) and boy, am I ready to work on something else for a while!

That something else, for a few days at least, will be proof notes on the WWNTR beta draft, then when I’ve got all that in order, the actual rewriting will follow. #RockStar might have taken me longer to finish than I’d hoped, but it’s done, and I won’t let my beloved trilogy go unfinished any longer than I have to!

On the journaling front, I’m in love-love-love with my art journals, and I actually finished my first one a few days ago, the one I’ve been showing off (sporadically) since I made the darned thing last April. I’ll start sharing pages here from my new one in February, of course. I splurged on new art supplies (I have succumbed to the joy of gel pens,) and giving my right brain something fun to do has helped keep my left brain from burning out over all the writing.

My reading is also going well: 15 books this month! One I borrowed from my mother and two were library books I needed for the PopSugar challenge, so I’m actually a tiny bit behind pace for Mount TBR 2017–I’ve only read 12 of my own, which puts me behind pace for the year. But I’m focusing in February on catching up on some backlogged romances, and those usually go fast, so I’m not worried.

How’s everyone else doing on their goals for 2017, reading or otherwise?

The Post-NaNoWriMo Slump

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What do you do after NaNo?

If you’re like me, you “won” but you didn’t actually finish your story. And if you didn’t win, you probably didn’t finish your story either!

After writing with such dedication for the entire month, I’m feeling burned out on writing, even though I’m still daydreaming about the story and what I have left to transfer from brain to text.

So how am I tackling it? Here’s some post-NaNo advice.

  1. It’s okay to take a break. Whether it’s a day or a week or a month or more, it’s always okay to take a break. With the holidays this is a busy time of year for many of us, and it may be harder than ever to squeeze in writing time. It’s okay.
  2. If you do find yourself with time and desire to write, stop focusing on word count. You don’t have a daily goal to meet anymore (unless you still want to because that’s helpful for you) so try instead to sit down for half an hour and write what you can. Or do ten-minute sprints in between other activities. Or set a timer for an hour and write, just forget the outside world exists until it dings. Time spent is the accomplishment now, not words written.
  3. But don’t use #2 as an excuse to let your inner editor come back. You’re still writing a first draft. Leave the bad words on the page and fix it later.
  4. If you had any writing rituals for NaNo, keep them in place. Light that scented candle or make yourself a mug of your favorite tea, or do your twenty jumping jacks first, or whatever–everyone’s got a different writing routine. Even if you’re not writing every day, or you’ve taken a break, keep the routine in place on the days you do write. It will help you find the same spill-it-all writing mindset you had during NaNo!

NaNoWriMo ’16 Progress Report, Week 3

Word counts for the week:

  • Monday: 2,726
  • Tuesday: 1,275
  • Wednesday: 1,413
  • Thursday: 2,335
  • Friday: 653
  • Saturday: 1,230
  • Sunday: 4,441

Week Three Total Word Count: 38,097

I had to write a ton yesterday to help make up for the fact that I know I will have nearly no time today, due to a loooong day at work plus Monday being grocery day for the week and things like that.

I’m beginning to see now that not only will I not be finished with this story by the end of the month (all three of my books hover around 90K words, not 50) but I might not even be done by the end of the year–with four POV characters I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and I feel like I’ve barely gotten started, even with nearly 40K in the bag. So we’re looking at maybe 110-120K to get the story told, minimum.

I’m confident, though. I’m going to power through. And why shouldn’t a double-romance story be longer?

NaNoWriMo ’16 Progress Report, Week 1

Word counts for the week:

  • Tuesday: 2,556
  • Wednesday: 3,609
  • Thursday: 1,870
  • Friday: 2,312
  • Saturday: 2,102
  • Sunday: 1,762

Week One Total: 14,211

I have been thinking about this story (which shall be tagged #rock star novel, lacking a proper title or even a working stand-in) for months. Literally. I’ve been daydreaming about these characters all throughout editing and publishing What We Need to Decide over the summer, and certainly this plot bunny distracted me through revising What We Need to Rebuild.

It’s a relief to finally commit these characters to paper, so to speak.

Out of context spoilers, so far:

  • A bus crash
  • Terminal liver cancer
  • Platonic snuggles at a bar
  • Sibling tension (twins, even!)
  • A road trip to California
  • Cryptic text messages
  • Waffles

The first day of the month, I was struggling to switch mindsets, from the hypercritical editing mode I spent October in, to the word-vomit mode NaNo requires. I would write for a few minutes, hate all of it, get up, try to read, abandon my book, then write for another few minutes. It was tedious and stressful and I suffered serious doubts about jumping into NaNo immediately after deadlining a polished draft of another project.

Wednesday, I hit my stride. Words poured forth without hesitation from my brain, spilling through my fingertips onto the keyboard in a flood of unpolished prose.

It certainly helps that I’ve been pondering the key points of this story and its characters on and off for months–but already I’m finding new scenes to write I’d never envisioned, because I write a scene I had, then obviously this is what needs to happen next, and it should be from this character’s perspective.

Oh, yeah, by the way, I have four POV characters, because this is an ambitious double-romance novel I’m pantsing. I thought early on it should be a duology, first one couple, then the other, but really, the love stories need to happen concurrently to make it work. It’s all going to be a glorious mess and I’m going to have a hell of a time in the rewrite phase, but that’s the point, right? First drafts can be terrible, god-awful reams of absolute crap, and still turn out to be the bones of a decent story.

I have embraced the spirit of NaNo once again. Go forth and write terrible revision fodder!

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: October 2016!

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Happy Halloween, everybody!

This month, I read a whopping 17 books! It should be noted, three of them were DNFs, but that’s still well above my average.

It’s almost as if I know I won’t have nearly as much time to read in November. Hmm, I wonder why…

Oh, that’s right. NaNoWriMo.

What else have I done this month? I’ve finished rewriting What We Need to Decide, just barely. Over the first week of November I intend to polish up a few last minute details, mostly filling in some missing chapter titles, and ship it to my betas. (After I complete my NaNo word count, of course.)

Squeezing this draft in so close to NaNo means I have done almost no true NaNo prep, though I have at least decided on which plot bunny to nurture, and spending the last week and a half rewriting anywhere from 2-5K words a day means my fingers are limber and ready to bang out some serious word vomit.

In other news, I have picked out my first official reading challenge for 2017. It was an impulse decision made two days ago, but it’s a set-your-own difficulty challenge I couldn’t resist: Beat the Backlist. It dovetails neatly with my anticipated participation (say that five times fast) in Mount TBR 2017–just that for BtB, I whipped up a specific list of 40 books I will absolutely read in 2017, whereas Mount TBR doesn’t care which ones I read, only that I read a certain amount.

I prioritized my list thusly: 1) books from unfinished series; 2) works by author-friends I own but haven’t gotten to yet; 3) series I have all of but haven’t started; and 4) a few titles I’m really looking forward to, to bring the number up to 40, which seemed nicer than 37.

(I realized after the fact that I neglected to include the rest of Preacher on the list, but all that means is that I don’t necessarily have to wait until 2017 to get to those.)

In blog business, last  year I posted my weekly NaNo Progress Reports on Fridays, which have since been taken over by my book review posts. Since the month begins on a Tuesday, moving the NaNo posts to Monday seems like the thing to do. That leaves Wednesday posts as my only free topic day, and I will do my darnedest to find things to talk about and get all of them up on time.

If any of my readers are also doing NaNo this year, I’d love to be your buddy!

NaNoWriMo ’16 Prep #2: The Care and Feeding of Plot Bunnies

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If you’re like me, you’ve always got more than one story idea rattling around your brain. Sure, you may daydream about one for a while, then it gets superseded by another, but they’re always there.

If you’re not like me, you haven’t already written down your plot bunnies. I do–whenever I get a new story idea, no matter how small or weird or improbable, I write it down.

So it’s time to build a plot bunny ranch.

Open up a blank document/project in whatever writing program you use, and write down everything. Character names and descriptions. Snippets of dialogue. Plot points. Themes. Setting descriptions. Scene ideas. Potential titles. Everything you’ve thought of.

It’s fine if you don’t have all of these, and they don’t have to be in any kind of order. I have one project where my notes are 75% short scene breakdowns, but I haven’t settled on what my characters look like, and the names have changed a few times.

If you’re not going to start something completely new for NaNo–maybe you are, but if you’re not–then you’ve got to decide which plot bunny gets raised to rabbithood next month, and if you don’t have all your thoughts down on paper first, you might have a harder time deciding.

Plus, all that prewriting will only help you, come November.

Got the first one done? Excellent. Open a new document and start the next one. Keep going until you’ve emptied your brain.

I’m still not 100% sure which little bun-bun of mine is getting written, though I’ve got one I’m leaning towards, and looking over my notes this week will probably decide me.