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NaNoWriMoRama

Welp. It’s November 2nd, which means that I am once again living the NaNoWriMo life.

Some of you may be saying, “But, M.J.,…I read your last post, and you were being all not overly dramatic about your creativity being dead and buried in the garden. What gives?”

Well, I’ll tell you. Although I’m still pretty sure my creativity has been lost and/or buried at sea or whatever, I am still the ML (municipal liaison) for my region, so participating is part of the deal. But because of the aforementioned creativity outage, I just may be doing more pretending to write with abandon than actually writing. With abandon or anything else.

But look! I get this pretty, pretty badge out of the deal, so that’s pretty sweet.

I’m planning to use the Pot Luck technique I employed last year, where I jump around from one of my many WIPs to the next, chasing any wisp of a story spark I can find. Last year, I ended November with a grand total of 63,596 words spread across five WIPs. I don’t think this year will produce the same results (see: dead muse), but here are the projects on which I will, at the very least, be pretending to work, listed in priority order, from top to bottom:

Terrible Romance Sequel

My goddaughter is still waiting for this book, and I really don’t want to disappoint her any more than I already have so this WIP gets the top spot. I’m still not sure how to execute my vision for this book (or even if I can. I mean, that does remain a distinct possibility) but I recently had a conversation with a writer friend who said something about this story that made me go, “Huh.” and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Maybe that’ll lead to some progress? Maybe it won’t. I don’t know, but maybe we’ll find out. Bottom line is, I’d really love to be able to finish the first draft this month.

Adventures In Babysitting

The companion novella for Full Circle. I started writing it last year during NaNoWriMo and haven’t done a whole lot with it since. (You know, except completely blow up the entire premise, but how important is a premise anyway?) This project was bumped up on the priority list a few months ago because I wanted to finish it while Full Circle was still in its WIP phase, just in case story changes needed to be made in one or the other because of how their stories ultimately played out. Then a central character in the novella decided to be a jerk and go do some jerk things and put plot lines from both stories in doubt or peril or something like that. I’d love to resolve those issues this month. If I can.

Full Circle

Yeah. This is back on the list. Well, kind of. I sent the manuscript out to three betas and have heard back from one of them (the other two are either still reading or looking into some kind of beta reader protection program where they start new lives as new people somewhere far away from me so they don’t have to tell me how much they hate(d) the story) and based on that feedback, I think I need to rethink a story arc or two. Which I suspected might be the case when I sent the story out, so it’s not a huge surprise. I do, however, have a strict policy to not make any major changes to the manuscript while betas are doing their thing, so this project’s inclusion on this list is strictly reserved for any brainstorming scenes I might decide to experiment with this month while I try to come up with possible alternatives.

Threnody

This is supposed to be the fourth book of The Coileáin Chronicles. It wasn’t supposed to exist, but it does now and so I need to figure out what to do with it. Unlike the preceding books, I don’t have any sort of plan for it, and I’m not convinced that what I’ve written so far will hold up, so I’m feeling a little (translation: a lot) lost in the weeds here. Maybe that’s a sign that it shouldn’t exist. Dunno. But maybe I’ll figure something out.

The Third One

The third intended title in my Terrible Romance Series. “But, M.J.,” you may be saying, “you haven’t even finished the second intended title in this series. How can you be working on the third one?” And I’ll tell you…I don’t know. Writers just do that sometimes. It’s funny, though. I don’t know how to execute the plan for Terrible Romance Sequel, but thanks to The Third One, I do know where the main characters in Terrible Romance Sequel end up. Or, maybe I should say, where I would like them to end up because what I plan and what takes place ain’t actually ever been similar (Name! That! Reference!)

How Many Angels

My woefully ignored attempt at literary fiction. I like to include it because it’s nice to have an option that’s so very different from anything else on this list. I’m not convinced that this story is anything worthwhile, but…what else is new, right? Also…why not include it on this list? What’s the worst that could happen? I don’t write any words for it?

So yeah. I have a plan (kind of) and projects on which I can work (kind of), but I don’t really think much of anything will come out of it. That won’t be the greatest feeling in the world, but, again, what else is new?

I will, however, be there to support my fellow wrimos as they write all the awesome things. And that is pretty cool.

Here’s to you, awesome writers!

Usually during this month, I post weekly updates as to how things are progressing or, you know, not progressing as the case may be. It’s too early to say whether I will be posting any updates of any kind this year. It’ll all depend upon what happens and how I feel about it at the time.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year/month? What are you writing? (Also, if you’re looking for buddies, I can be found using the very clever username M.J. Fifield…)

Happy November, all. See you next time.

Sender’s Remorse and Other Complications

So, last month, I was one part of one scene away from finishing up my revisions on Full Circle and sending the manuscript to the betas. I thought for sure I would find a way to either not finish that scene and/or find new, exciting ways to procrastinate on sending out the manuscript, but I didn’t. I finished the scene and sent out the manuscript a few days later.

Usually, when I send a manuscript out to the betas, I have a moment where I feel all

because I did this thing. I completed a manuscript. I completed the revisions, and I feel I may have even made the story better. I have this moment (however small) where I feel a sense of accomplishment.

It soon dissolves into to a Great Lake of anxiety because I am, after all, still me, and I am nothing more than a overabundance of anxiety concealed in a trench coat pretending to be a semi-functional human being.

This time, however, I went straight into Lake Anxiety. There was no moment of triumph. No moment of accomplishment. There was no feeling that maybe I had made the story better. It was nothing but

(NOTE: That last gif is not the one I wanted to use. I wanted to use the gif of Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer saying “UNDO IT! UNDO IT!” from the season four episode Pangs, but apparently, no one’s made a gif of that moment, and I sure as hell don’t know how to make one. So if you know that moment from that episode, that’s what you should imagine here.)

My betas have had the story for a little over a month now, and it’ll be a while before I hear back. It’s not surprising—I write big books, and they apparently have lives outside of sitting around and waiting for me to finish writing a book (Dunno, though…sounds kind of fake…) so I am trying not to hit the panic button anymore than I already have (which is, granted, a lot) and refraining from sending them one apology after another for sending them such a shit manuscript to read. I mean, come on. It’s a big book and a big time commitment, and I feel horrible (more so than usual) that I didn’t do my best to send them a better story.

(And yes. This is what me not hitting the panic button (too much) looks like…)

Normally, I fill this time by working on another project. Gotta love distractions, right? My beloved goddaughter, for example, when she heard that Full Circle had finally gone out to betas was all, “Good. Now you can finish the Terrible Romance Sequel.”

Which would have been my plan, but it turns out that I still have no idea how, or even if, I can finish that book. All I’ve managed to do so far on that project is make this face:

Then I thought, “Hey! I’ll work on Adventures In Babysitting!”

This WIP, if you don’t already know, is meant to be a companion novella in the Coileáin Chronicles. It takes places during the events of Full Circle but is basically a few non-POV characters on a side quest, so I didn’t put it directly in Full Circle. I thought working on it would be a good idea, just in case anything shifted and necessitated changes be made in Full Circle because, you know, despite my best efforts and storyboarding tendencies, that happens.

A lot.

Which is totally fine.

Totally.

Doesn’t bother me at all.

Really.

Except…it happened in this WIP. Pretty early on, too. And it went a little something like this:

My villain: Cool storyboard, dude, but what if I did *this* instead?

Me: Hmmm. That does seem like something you would do. Or, you know, exactly what you would do.

Villain: I know, right?

Me: But…

Villain: But what?

Me: But in doing so, you’ve completely killed the ‘adventure’ part of ‘Adventures in Babysitting’.

Villain: Yeah. That sounds like a ‘you’ problem. Byeeee!

So now, here I am, with two possibly dead-in-the-water WIPs and the absolute belief that my betas are hunkered down in secret, closed-door meetings, trying to decide which one of them has to tell me how terrible Full Circle is.

Must be Wednesday.

On that note, I’m outta here. Thanks for stopping by, everyone. I sincerely hope your writing endeavors (or whatever you may have going on) are progressing well.

Happy Autumn, all.

Editing Update: Missed It By That Much

When last we met, I was embarking upon another action-packed installment of Camp NaNoWriMo with an official goal of editing 50,000 words but an actual goal of just getting through the 33 pages of editing notes covering 27 chapters in my current WIP, Full Circle.

Because I didn’t care how many words it took, I just wanted to get these edits finished.

Well, as it turns out, it was a good thing I didn’t care how many words it took because I didn’t get anywhere near 50,000.

But here’s what I did do…

I came agonizingly close to finishing the vastly more important part of this goal. I started off with 33 pages of editing notes covering 27 chapters.

And I ended with just one note on part of one scene in one chapter.

This scene has been dubbed the Special Hell scene for…reasons I’m not going to get in to in this post (but any Browncoats out there may get the reference). It is, technically, a completed scene, but I can’t shake the feeling that it shouldn’t be a completed scene. Meaning that I think there needs to be something more added to it. I just haven’t been able to decide what exactly that something should be and how much of that something needs to be added.

There are other scenes in the book I’m not sure about, but those I feel are…good enough for now, for lack of a better term. Meaning that I feel all right sending them off to the beta readers as is and waiting to see what (if anything) they have to say about them. That’s most of the book right now. I feel like it’s ready for the beta round, which—if you know me—you know is a Big Damn Deal.

I don’t, however, feel the same way about the Special Hell scene. Which is why I’m still holding on to the manuscript. My current plan involves experimenting with some different possibilities to see if any of those change anything for me with the hopes of sending the manuscript out by the end of the week or possibly next week.

But we’ll see if I can up with any new reasons why I can’t let go of the book.

History would suggest I can. And will.

That’s gonna do it for me today.

What are you working on this month?

Stay safe and well, all.

Editing Update: Get It Done

Well, it’s July 6th, which means I am technically back at Camp NaNoWriMo for the second summer session. (I’m the ML for my region, so I sign up for every event.)

This is my favorite kind of camping, because it doesn’t actually involve me leaving the house and/or sleeping on the ground in the woods, surrounded by all the creepy crawly whatevers that this godforsaken swamp state has to offer. (Plus, I can still eat s’mores if I want to…)

The first camp session was in April. My goal then was to edit 50,000 words in Full Circle. I ended up with a grand total of 70,000 edited words. Of course, as Full Circle‘s word count is well over 70,000, I still had (have) a long way to go. And though it may not feel like it, I have continued to work on the edits since April. But, alas, as they’re not finished yet, my goal for July’s Camp session is exactly the same. Edit yet another 50,000 words.

This time, however, the process is a little different, because the editing is now based on the Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List. When I started working on this list, back in June, it was 44 pages long. As of July 1st, it was down to 34 pages covering 31 chapters. As of the writing of this post, it was down to 33 pages covering 27 chapters.

So while my goal on the NaNoWriMo website is listed as ‘Edit 50,000 words’ because that’s how the website works, my true goal is to just get through those 33 pages and 27 chapters, regardless of how many words it takes.

Because here’s the thing: I don’t know how many words that will take. Words will be added, words will be deleted. I still need to somehow fix the villain arc and the woefully underdeveloped subplot. That one pain-in-the-ass character is still being a pain in my ass (Seriously, dude. I let you live. What more do you want from me?). And yet, there’s somehow still more.

I may need more than 50,000. I may need less. (Though, less does seem less likely for some reason…) I may spend the entire month just making this face:

You know, like I’ve been doing since this month began. (And this year. And decade. And lifetime…)

Though progress is (slowly) being made, I keep bouncing back and forth between ‘I’ve totally got this’ and ‘I’m far too stupid to write this book’. Yesterday, I was firmly the latter. Today is feeling slightly less hopeless.

So far, anyway.

So that’s my goal: get through 33 pages of notes covering 27 chapters by the end of the month. If I make it, great. If I don’t…well, then, August will be a perfectly fine month to finish these edits. Or September or October or however much longer this project will take.

But for the purposes of logging progress (or the lack thereof…) on the NaNoWriMo website, I recorded Full Circle‘s word count before I started on Day 1 and then, at the end of each day, I noted (or will note, as the month continues) the change (if there was/is one). Here’s how it’s gone so far:

Starting Word Count: 227,006

Day One: 227,504 (+498)

Day Two: 227,486 (-18)

Day Three: 228,124 (+638)

Day Four: 228,532 (+408)

Day Five: 228,605 (+73)

Clearly, this will not be my most productive NaNoWriMo experience ever.

So far, anyway. There’s still plenty of time to change that.

What are you working on this summer?

Be safe and well, all.

Editing Update: 44 Pages

Note: This post is part of an on-going (and possibly never-ending…) series. To read the earlier installments, click on the following links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

All right, so I feel like I should start off by explaining a little about my editing/revision “process” (yes, I felt the need to put that in quotation marks. Draw your own conclusions.). This is what comes after me finishing the first draft and sticking it in a drawer for at least three months. There are a couple of other steps which follow this list, but they’re way far away, so I’ll leave them out for now.

Step One: The Read-through. I print out a hard copy of the manuscript and read it, making many, many corrections and notes about problem areas with character, plot, and everything in between. Some of these notes even make sense. In theory.

Step Two: So It Begins. I sit down at the computer and start making changes to the manuscript, based on the issues found during the read-through. Step Two focuses on the easier fixes—typos and the like. Basically things which don’t require a ton of thought and/or effort to correct. Things that end up requiring more thought and/or effort are moved to a list of Things To Be Dealt With Later.

Step Three: It’s Later. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s time to start digging into and dealing with the list of Things To Be Dealt With Later. This list seems to get a new name for each book. Last book, it was called “Editing Shit Deemed To Difficult To Deal With The First Time Around”. This book, it’s called “Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List”. Because I’m clever like that. Also, because I enjoy profanity perhaps more than I should.

Step Four: Send It To The Betas. Worry and wait. Wait and worry. And hope like hell I sent them something actually worth reading. But remain convinced that I definitely did not.

Last week, I finished Step Two and moved on to Step Three and the Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List.

(For anyone keeping score at home, Step Two saw me delete an additional 10,000 words from this manuscript. The current word count going into Step Three is just over 225,000.)

The Labor-Intensive Editing Shit List, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, is 44 pages long. Which is a lot, but it’s not the longest editing list I’ve ever had (That was around 300 pages. True story.). Which, of course, makes me worried that I missed a lot of things. I’m sure I missed stuff—I always do—but what if I missed too many things? Or the most important things? Or even the really stupid obvious things I really should have caught a long, long time ago?

(Have I mentioned that anxiety is my co-pilot?)

But whatever. It’s a long list. The length of the list isn’t really the point of this post. Not that I’m sure what the point of this post really is. This post may not even really have a point at all. (Makes you want to keep reading, though, doesn’t it?)

A lot of the items on this list are issues with either weak or nonexistent transitions. When writing a first draft, I occasionally (fine, maybe often) use Dick-And-Jane type sentences to get me from one section to the next. They’re basic and terribly lazy writing, but they’re meant to be a placeholder so I can get the story itself down on paper. This is the editing round where I have to improve those transitions. Somehow.

I also seem to have a lot of notes about the need to inject description of various things as well as emotion and/or movement into particular scenes. There’s a little bit of fact-checking to be done that I was apparently feeling too lazy to do during Step Two. I’ll probably do those first during this round because, again, they shouldn’t be too difficult or time-consuming. (Keyword being ‘shouldn’t’, I suppose…)

I have one stupid, stubborn character who continues to be a pain in my ass. This is the same character, by the way, who was supposed to die in this book and then…didn’t (so, so happy!). But his motivations early on in the story are…uneven at best. A casualty of an evolving storyline. So I need to go back and iron some things out. Time-consuming, sure, but not impossible.

And then there are the two woefully underdeveloped storylines. These two fixes will be extremely difficult and time-consuming. Which means these two things will very likely be the very last things I tackle. One is the villain arc. Which is not surprising. I never get the villain arc right the first time around, and it usually isn’t finalized until some time after the beta reader round. (It just takes me a long time to work out all the details, I guess.)

The other storyline is a subplot that joined the first draft party pretty late and, as a result, is in desperate need of development because I’m pretty sure ninety percent of the notes I wrote during those scenes were some variation of “Yeah, but…why?” Sadly, deleting the subplot altogether is not an option. I considered it (Of course I did. Deleting the damn thing would have been waaaaaaaaay easier than figuring out how to make it work.) but for the moment, at least, it remains necessary.

My hope is that addressing (maybe even fixing? Dare to dream…) these two problematic plot lines (along with everything else, of course…) will help me get over those feelings of “Something’s wrong with this book, but I don’t know what” that have been plaguing me for a while now. And if not…well, we’ll cross that bridge when (if) we come to it.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. I have no idea how long Step Three will take. Way longer than I would like, that’s for sure, but beyond that…who knows.

Certainly not me.