November Plans

Psychologically speaking, it’s hard to notice the absence of something–or so I’ve read.  All the same, you may have noticed that I did not post yesterday, November 1st, about National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve completed NaNoWriMo six times, including the past four years.  It’s always a lot of fun, and I’ve achieved some big writing goals.  But NaNo doesn’t fit into my writing plans this year.

I’ve been deep in revisions for my Phantom of the Opera retelling for most of the year.  I finished Book One just in the past month.  My goal was to get Book Two to beta-readers by the end of the year.  Considering Book One took much longer than I expected, that may be a lofty goal…but I’m still hopeful!

And so I’m doing my own writing goal this November.  It doesn’t make sense to track words, because revisions don’t quite work that way, so instead I want to track time.  From all those past NaNos, I’ve learned that I can do about 400 words in a 15-minute writing sprint.  Multiplying it all out, 50,000 words for NaNo takes me about an hour a day, or 30 hours in November.

My life is pretty hectic at the moment, so I’m not trying to commit to 30 hours of revising–but I do intend to do 15 hours of revising, or about half-an-hour a day.  If it goes well in November, I’ll try it again in December.

I don’t really know how far that will get me in revising–because I’ve never done this before!  But I do know that writing goals tend to be attainable if I set them, and that the muse tends to work things out.  When I set out to finish my Phantom trilogy for NaNoWriMo, with literally no idea how much of it was left, I finished it in 50,009 words–no joke!  So we’ll see if it turns out that Book Two needs thirty hours of revision.

I’ll keep posting Writing Wednesday updates, and we’ll see how this goes!

NaNoWriMo Day 30+ and Crossing the 50,000 Line

I have been very remiss in posting on here the last few weeks!  I had every intention of posting about the NaNo process as it happened…but then it happened to take up every spare writing moment I had!  I spent the month doing a lot of writing sprints before work, on my lunch hour and at odd moments here and there.  I spent most of the month hovering near the goal amount, and crossed the 50,000 after work on November 30th.  Then went out to my writing group!

So much for stats.  As to content–as I was beginning to feel earlier in the month, this turned out more of an exploration than a proper novel draft.  I think I got, perhaps, halfway through what would eventually be the story, but I’m not sure the first half always went the right direction.  I did a lot of world-building in October but not much plot-planning, and struggled to find it in November.

On the other hand!  I discovered some new things about my characters, and about the world even, and the themes emerged pretty strongly too.  I’m not exactly sure how much of what I wrote will end up in a final version–possibly a lot of fragments, cut up and rearranged.

I don’t plan to finish this semi-draft during December, as I often do with NaNo novels.  This was a good exploration and got me back in the writing rhythm after losing my speed some last year (too much revision, and too much other life going on too).  So I’m going to put this one away to think about some more, and in the meantime I want to play with some short stories and work on plotting…because that seems to be the big issue on my last three novel drafts that still need revision.  So it seems like a good time to play with something shorter to hone some skills.

For now though, have an excerpt from my NaNo novel.


We approached the Great Hall, an intimidating enough building without uneasy thoughts to accompany an approach.  I had only been inside twice, once each year for the opening ceremonies of the new term.  The effect was quite different when streams of students were covering the plaza and heading through the open doors.

The rest of the time—well, I had passed the Great Hall hundreds of times, but it had always felt more like a mountain than a building, a prominent feature of the landscape but not something to approach, let alone enter.

Gery marched up to it fearlessly enough, bypassing the main doors for a small side entrance quite confidently.

The door opened on a short hallway, leading to a second, interior door, this one with a gargoyle sitting beside it.  “Who goes there?” the gargoyle intoned.  It was an old gargoyle, judging by the depth of the voice.  Those were the best ones.

“Gerhardt Greerson,” Gery said promptly, “with an appointment with Minister Drehagan.  And guest.”

I didn’t altogether love that, but the gargoyle squinted at us both then boomed, “Enter,” and the door swung open on a flight of stairs. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Day 30+ and Crossing the 50,000 Line”

NaNoWriMo Day 12 and the Hunt for a Plot

We’re almost halfway through November–but not quite!  NaNoWriMo is rocking right along for me.  I passed 20,000 words today, which puts me right on target.  Next week is particularly busy though, so I’m expecting to slip behind somewhat.  We’ll see.

So much for quantity, as to quality…I’m having a mixed NaNo.  There are some parts I’m writing that I like a lot.  I still like the premise and the world, and I’m discovering more about the world as I go.  But this is starting to feel more like very intensive world-building than noveling!  I’m writing scenes I can probably use in a final version and probably more or less in this order–but it’s still not coming together as tightly as I would like.  I feel like there’s a lot more that should be here, and I don’t know quite what it is yet–like I may not have just the right angle, or have the right scenes to tell the story I want.

So!  More clarity may emerge, or I may end up with a rougher first draft than has happened in some previous years.  Although with a brand new world to explore, I suppose it’s not that surprising.

In the meantime, here’s a scene I do like reasonably well.


The airlift opened on the seventh level and we stepped out.  Gil went to the edge of the balcony to lean over the slender carved railing and look down.  I did not join him.  I had tried that my first trip here and regretted it.  Depths are more dizzying than heights.

I walked purposefully over to the second archway on the left, this one unusual in its carved grating.  The silver key slid easily into the lock and the grating swung silently open.

This wasn’t the entire literata section, of course, just the most advanced, most obscure books.  Maybe a little part of me was pleased to have an excuse to go exploring here. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Day 12 and the Hunt for a Plot”

NaNoWriMo Day 4 and the Roller Coaster of NaNo

We’re several days into NaNo by now, and my word count looks like a nice smooth ride.  This is an illusion.

It really has been a good run in terms of words.  I started the month with 2,181 words on the first day, well above the 1,667 goal.  I always want to start strong—I have a slightly superstitious feeling that if I start out behind on day one, I’ll never catch up again.  I’ve hovered right around the daily word count, if slightly below, ever since, putting me almost exactly on target here on day four.

The content has been a bit more of a roller coaster.  I didn’t have much plot, remember, so I started out throwing some “how we met” scenes together on the first couple of days.  And that went reasonably well, even very well since I enjoyed my protagonist’s friend and love interest quite a lot…until this morning, when I realized I had themes I needed to build slowly and character reveals I wanted to do gradually and no idea what my characters should be doing while all that happened.  I needed a plot framework to hang all the rest of this on.

In a way I feel I have three novels here—one is a whimsical fantasy world we’re exploring, another is a school story, the third is a politics/resistance story, and I’m having trouble merging them together.

So I had my first NaNo freakout, and threw some random ideas around, and talked to a writing friend, and finally settled on a plan that meant going back and inserting a new chapter two.  I can probably keep the original chapter two (and all words count whether they stay in the final version or not), but I needed something earlier.

I decided I was too focused on the politics and needed to bring more school in.  And then I hit on a way to combine the two with a politically-motivated head of school, and now things are beginning to seem clearer, at least for a while…until the next NaNo crisis!

In the meantime, have an excerpt.


The door swung shut behind her, suddenly cutting off the light that had been falling across the room.  Indirect light still came from the doorways at either side, but the room at once grew shadowy and dim.  And she hadn’t yet spotted the light source.

“Illumination,” she said aloud, and was rewarded by a faint glow extending a few feet around her.  It was enough to find her way to the left-hand doorway.  She looked inside, had a murky impression of a kind of lounge area.  Curtains were apparently closed over any windows.  She tried the opposite doorway and found a much better-lit kitchen space.  She went that way.

Good words like health and tasty lined the upper walls, and the room seemed to have ample counterspace and a good sized ice-box.  She circled past a jutting counter, noticing Illumination written across its top.  She reached out a hand, touched the word and concentrated.  The entire support part of the counter lit up, amply lighting the dim room, and Alyse let the glow around herself fade.

Beyond the counter was a long wooden table.  Under it lay a very large sheepdog.

Alyse sighed.  She had agreed to a house that permitted pets, but she had hoped this wouldn’t happen.  “A dog.  Phinny is not going to like you.”

The dog cocked his head to one side, opened his mouth with a hint of lolling tongue, and asked in perfectly intelligible tones, “Who’s Phinny and why not?”

Alyse did not actually collide with the counter behind her, but it was a near thing.  “Oh—sorry, I didn’t—you must be…”

“A shape-shifter?” the dog prompted.  “Or a hudjinn, either term is fine.”  He lifted up to his four feet, furry back barely clearing the bottom of the table, and pushed out past a chair.  Out from under the furniture, he rose impossibly onto his hind feet—or would have, except that his front paws had barely left the ground before he seemed to shimmer.  Alyse instinctively blinked, and by the time her eyes were open again a tanned human about her own age was extending a hand.  “I’m Gil.  And you are?”

“Alyse,” she said mechanically, just as mechanically shaking his hand.  She had heard of shape-shifters, of course.  There had been one or two at her last school, but she didn’t think she’d ever spoken to them.  She’d certainly never seen them shift.  Not that it mattered, they were people just like anyone.  But it was slightly disconcerting to find one under your kitchen table.

NaNoWriMo 2017

Happy November, everyone!  The first of November means the start once again of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month, when thousands of writers set out to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November.  This will be my sixth year participating.  Two of my published novels (The Storyteller and Her Sisters and The Lioness and the Spellspinners) started out as NaNo novels.  It’s hard every year, but always a lot of fun too.

This year I’m launching into a new fantasy world.  My working title is Not the Chosen One, a story from the point of view of the very smart female friend of the prophesied Chosen One.  If it sounds like Harry Potter, yes, I think my fondness for Hermione influenced this idea–but from that germ of an idea I anticipate a more original novel as it grows.

I have a complex magic system to start playing with involving eight different disciplines, including literata, magic involving words.  I’ve read several books where word magic was at play…and never liked how it was done!  Clearly I should explore this myself.  I also decided this world has four sentient species: humans, dragons, jinn and sea serpents.  They have not always got on. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2017”

NaNoWriMo Day 30: Across the Fin. Line

Apologies for the long silence on the progress of NaNoWriMo!  But the good news is that I haven’t been here because I’ve been over there, head down and typing away at the novel draft.  There’s been some ups and down, with word count advancing and retreating from the by-day goal (though nothing as fraught as earlier in the month!)  And this morning before work I typed my last few hundred words to link-up and flesh out my last couple partial scenes, and typed Fin. at the bottom.

Only to find I was exactly 173 words short of 50,000 for the month!

So I went back and expanded a much earlier scene that I already knew needed revising, to finally wind up at 50,009 by my calculations. 🙂 Trying to get it across 50,000 for NaNo’s validator was a little more complicated, as new and old writing was hopelessly enmeshed within the draft.  I’ve been calculating all month by subtracting my pre-NaNo word count from my total.  So just between you and me, I validated 50,000 words of the novel draft in NaNo’s validator…I just can’t claim that they were the same 50,000 words that I wrote this month.

This makes my fifth NaNo, and it was both the same and different.  Writing in 15 minute sprints, like last year, worked brilliantly again.  I average 400 words in 15 minutes, so I spent the whole month calculating how I could get enough sprints in each day to manage my word goal.  There were fewer moments of big-picture inspiration (suddenly seeing how it all fits together) because this draft was so fully imagined that I already knew how most things fit together…but there were smaller-picture inspiration moments, making a scene work or getting a particularly nice bit of dialogue in.

I have a couple early scenes I still need to write in the draft but I am within a hair’s-breadth of completion and that is truly exciting.  Though I am also already making extensive plans for the revisions…so this may still go on for quite a while.

But today I’m celebrating another 50,000 word November.  So have an excerpt about books! I wrote most of this during November, except for half a page in the middle.  It’s complicated… 🙂


It took me a month to read Hamlet.  It wasn’t nearly as long or dense as Victor Hugo, with significantly less architecture.  Instead there was love and sword fights and betrayal and conspiracy.  And Erik was right, the plot meandered a lot as Hamlet tried to bring himself to kill his uncle (or decide definitely not to), but they said wonderful things along the way.  There were a few perfectly ordinary phrases I’d been using my whole life without knowing they’d come by way of Hamlet.

I thought it was delightful.  Right up until the final Act.  And that sent me marching off to Erik’s apartments in a state of righteous outrage.

I knocked first (I wasn’t that outraged) and once he invited me to enter I strode in and demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me Hamlet died?” Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Day 30: Across the Fin. Line”

NaNoWriMo Day 13: Back from the Deeps

Closing in on the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo already!  I’ve been running at a deficit ever since political results came in, but the muse, temporarily scared off, seems to have largely returned.  I kept the deficit fairly low, and have now managed to catch back up again this weekend.

I’m hitting some new challenges on the writing front–I was expecting all along that the writing would get easier once I got to the final, more plot-driven section of the book.  Well, I’m there now, and have discovered a new complexity.

You see, when I saw I had a partial draft before NaNo, it wasn’t quite as simple as, say, having written chapters 1-30 and needing the last ten.  I’ve been writing most of this out of order, so it’s more like I wrote the first thirty chapters, had a multi-chapter gap, and then had portions of the final few chapters.  I’ve filled in the gap and am into those final few (which still stretch over a lot of scenes and words).  Now I need to connect things up and fill in missing pieces…and it’s harder to get the word count that way.

I can write a lot of words quickly if I can get into a scene and just tear right through it.  Completing a partial scene or writing transitions between scenes are smaller chunks and it’s harder to get momentum up.

On the other hand…I get to move forward through the book in leaps and bounds since entire scenes are already here.  And I feel that I’m really finally getting down near the end–which is exciting and alarming!  But more exciting. 🙂

Have an excerpt!


Everything was perfectly fine and I was perfectly happy and I was perfectly, perfectly content without Erik at all.  Or so I kept telling myself. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Day 13: Back from the Deeps”