Saturday, October 29, 2011
For those of you just warming up your keyboards, ready to start pounding out your novels for National Novel Writing Month, I wanted to do a little retrospective of my NaNoWriMo novel experience.
It was January, 2007. Nope, I didn't do it in the proper month. Nor did I even register with NaNoWriMo. But I did finish the book in the month of January! My writer friend Sara (also mentioned in Jan's post) challenged us to join her online, as we all wrote a book in a month. Jan helpfully broke down the math side of things for me, which looked like this:
Day 1-Write 1,613 words
Day 2-You're up to 3,226 words
Day 3-You're up to 4,839 words...
And so on and so forth until on day 31, you're at 50,000 words.
This worked well for me, because I knew exactly what day my plot needed to take fateful twists and what day I needed to wrap it up with the epilogue.
I wrote in the freezing cold basement, constantly swathed in a plush red robe and slippers up to my knees. Since my husband didn't find this look particularly attractive, I had plenty of uninterrupted time with the keyboard and the three cats, who loved me so much they thoughtfully waited until I was in the basement with them to use their litter box.
Because my book dealt with the supernatural, I spent the entire month praying over what I wrote and over our house. I didn't want to open the doors to any unwanted visitors.
If you've read some of my completed book, Otherworld, you know it's paranormal fiction, in which the main character, a redhead named Aurora, can't stop hunting the ghost next door. Lately, I've considered just posting the rest of the novel on here for those of you who were a little addicted to it.
Why have I given up on getting Otherworld published? I learned some things from NaNoWriMo, and here they are:
1) Agents and publishers do NOT want adult fiction novels that come in at 50,000 words. It's too short. They've told me so, in no uncertain terms. Unless you're doing a short romance, it just won't work. 75,000 words is minimum for an adult fiction novel. But Young Adult and Middle Grade novels can be 50,000 words. Something to bear in mind when writing your NaNoWriMo.
2) It's not easy to simply add 30,000 words to a finished novel. You already have the plot wrapped up, you've told what you wanted to tell. Yes, you can change it somewhat and add scenes, but it's very difficult if you like to write straight through, like I do.
3) NaNoWriMo is the best way to motivate yourself to actually FINISH a novel. IF you like to write quickly. If you take longer to plan out every bit of your plot, it's only going to frustrate the living daylights out of you by day seven.
4) If you have something you feel strongly about and you're ready to work into a book form, NaNoWriMo is a great jumping-off point. But the process doesn't end there. You'll need to get a handle on how to write a great query and proposal for future agents, and joining a critique group in your genre is a great way to polish up your work. But posting all your chapters for critique, as well as critiquing others' chapters in return, can take months.
I used to think I would be a reclusive writer, holed up in a corner somewhere, only to emerge with a book ready for publication. But the more I write, the more I realize that writing is a COMMUNITY. Reading other writers' blogs has been encouraging, as I see others who've gone through this process on the road to publication. One of my favorites is http://www.novelrocket.com
Bottom line for NaNoWriMos out there--you're going to love the writing process, as a book takes shape in your mind! I loved it so much I named my blog after it! (Now I realize that doesn't look great when agents/pubs think I only took one month to write my current book.)
NaNoWriMos of the future, I wish you a very productive month of learning, growing, and realizing how a book can take over your life for a little while. And I hope to see you published someday! You're always welcome to do a guest blog here about your NaNoWriMo experience!
Sunday, October 16, 2011
As I'm editing my historical fiction novel, I'm running into quite a few people who are genuinely shocked that I'm writing in FIRST PERSON point of view. This means that my main character, Gudrid, talks like this:
"I smell ocean salt and sweat from ship-work on him. The darkened circles under his eyes tell me that he hasn’t been sleeping enough."
Instead of THIRD PERSON, which looks more like this:
"Gudrid smells ocean salt and sweat from ship-work on him. The darkened circles under his eyes tell her that he hasn't been sleeping enough."
Now, if I really wanted to be wacko, I could do SECOND PERSON, and it would be like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book (man, I loved those!)
"You smell ocean salt and sweat from ship-work on him. The darkened circles under his eyes tell you that he hasn't been sleeping enough." (At which point, you'll have to choose if you'll drug him so he can finally sleep, or just feed him to angry crocodiles....just kidding).
I also go way out of the historical fiction comfort zone by writing in present tense, instead of past. Why do I write this way? I did it in Otherworld. I'm doing it again in God's Daughter. Bottom line is that I write what I'd want to read. I like the immediacy of first person POV in the present tense. It makes Gudrid come alive for me. Or Aurora, in Otherworld.
Will I ever change? I just might, if it means I could finally get one of my novels picked up! Makes me wonder how many famous writers "sold out" on their personal preferences in POV or even genre style, just to make a buck and "fit in" with the trends. Yes, true writers write what they want and don't care what anyone thinks, but true writers don't always make money on their books right away. James Joyce wrote stream-of-consciousness, and you either like him or you hate him. There's no in-between. Would he get published today? Something tells me he wouldn't. Maybe Thomas Hardy couldn't, either, with his dense descriptive paragraphs. I can't imagine my life without Hardy in it, so I'm thankful he lived then and not now.
I'd love to know the POV and even the tense of your favorite book. I'm thinking that by far the most popular style of writing is third person, past tense (Jane Austen, et all). However, To Kill a Mockingbird is first person, past tense, I believe.
Please fill us in on your favorite style! And maybe next time, I'll just write a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for adults...