Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG: It's NaNo Time, and I'm Not

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and that means IWSG time!
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Be sure to drop in on our awesome co-hosts for October: Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and, well, me! 

This month's question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Since today is the kick-off for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for anyone who wonders), it seems only right to talk about that novel-in-a-month project. First, I'll answer the question: yes, and yes. I think I've done NaNo 4 times, once for a revision rather than drafting a new novel. Each time I hit the 50K-word target before the end of the month, and each time had to go on for 1-5 weeks to actually finish a draft, since (outside of kid lit), 50,000 words is not a novel.

So far, one of those novels has been published. Death By Trombone was my first NaNo project in 2013, and it worked very well. I had the book well outlined in advance, and as a result I managed to produce a complete draft by mid-December that didn't require major rewriting to become a  novel. Even so, I had to use a bit of NaNo nudging in 2014 to get on the revisions and finish it.  I published it (the second in the Pismawallops PTA mystery series) in 2015. For NaNo in 2015, I drafted Death By Adverb, the 3rd in that series, and let it sit while I worked on the 3rd Ninja Librarian book, The Problem With Peggy (which I might have worked on as an April Camp NaNo project. I know I did something with that one year).

Now, I dove into Death By Adverb with less of a plan, and as a result, I had more of a mess, including an ending that didn't quite cut it. That probably was part of why that book sat for over a year before I got back to it. But I did get back to it, and expect to have it out by Christmas, or by Easter at the latest...

My 2016 project was a little different, since I was working to take a collection of flash fiction and turn it into a novel. That would be the stories about Gorg the Troll, and I'd hoped to be back at it before now, but DBA is taking a lot longer than intended, partly because it's been a busy year. But when I do get there, I have a nominally complete draft to start from.

All this means that though I'm itching to start my next project, I won't be a NaNer this year. For one thing, I need to deal with the projects in the pipeline, at least a little. And for another, I just don't have time to plan and plot the way I'd like to before I start a new book. I've done it both ways enough to know: pantsing is tempting because once the general idea is there, the urge to dive in is huge. But it costs in the long run (especially when writing a mystery!), and I'm resolved not to leap before I look any more (I am also 100% sure I'll break that vow, since I've already made and broken it more than once). I'll even go so far as to urge you, if you are participating in NaNo and don't have an outline, to take a few days and create one, of whatever variety feels right to you. I'm betting you'll increase your odds of both "winning" (i.e., hitting 50k by Nov. 30) and actually finishing the book--and even of publishing. (I have written several times on this topic, but the most recent and most helpful is this).

So...all that said...go forth and NaNo, Nanners!

Oh--and best of luck to everyone (okay, including me) who submitted stories to the IWSG Anthology!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

89 comments:

  1. Very thoughtful post, Rebecca! Options well weighed. The same plan doesn't always fit every season (just like your favorite pair of pants). Thanks for hosting us today!!

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    1. So true--and thanks for the laugh about the pants.

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  2. Hi there! Thanks for hosting this month's IWSG prompt this month. I'm so impressed that you not only hit your 50k goal each year but that you've followed through in the process to finish and publish your books. Someday, I hope to be in your shoes. Until then, happy writing!

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    1. Maybe it was easier to publish my NaNo books because I was already publishing before I discovered NaNo. So I knew where I was going, and just used the fun to help move me along faster. And then I hit the editing. Oy.

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  3. Thank you for your insight here. I'm more of a plotter too, and last year's nano was as much of an experiment in pantsing as anything else. It was interesting, but the coherency of the plot has needed a lot of work.

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    1. Yeah, it's *fun* to wing it (and a big part of me inclines that way). But the fun ends when the editing begins, so maybe no worth it. I pants my weekly flash fiction. That's probably enough :)

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  4. Yeah, if I didn't have a plan, my story would be a mess as well. But lots of planning and a few extra weeks of writing can produce a decent story that doesn't require a overhaul.
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

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    1. Well, in my case, it can produce a story that doesn't require razing and rebuilding practically from scratch. They ALL need overhauls.
      Thanks for starting this event! (and I realize I left you out of the blurb at the top of the page. I really need to work on that).

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  5. It's nice to read about folks who have taken their NaNo projects and gone on to finish them and publish them. Thanks for co-hosting :-)

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  6. Hello, Rebecca. Thank you for co-hosting and thank you for your inspiration. While I've never participated in NaNo, I'm wishing all the writer's good luck. Possibly next year I'll dip my toes into the racy waters.

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    1. It's kind of fun, and a good excuse to carve out time and tell everyone in your life that you can't do something because you haven't reached your word count :)

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  7. Thanks for co-hosting, Rebecca. Congrats on your success with NaNo. You've figured out the magic formula. LOL Love the titles of your books, btw.

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  8. I don't Nano, but best of luck to all those that do!

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  9. I've participated in and won NaNo before, but now November is a busy month, and I'm a cheerleader instead. Thanks for co-hosting this month! :)

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    1. No, no NaNo :D (Sorry, couldn't resist). Thanks for coming by!

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  11. I'm with you on that--finishing what's in the pipeline. For some reason, over the years, I've collected four books that are mostly finished but not quite. I finished and published two and am working on the next two before starting a new one. I still like all of them!

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    1. Well, if you still like them, then they are worth finishing! When I dredged Death By Ice Cream from the files and wanted to mess with it, I took it to an editor and her advice was that if there was anything about it I loved, it was worth re-working. I'm not sure it's quite that simple, but maybe :)

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  12. Congratulations on finishing and publishing! I'm not participating this year either, as I've already got several projects I'm working on. Good luck with the anthology!

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  13. Hi, Rebecca! Happy IWSG Day, and thanks for co-hosting. I enjoyed hearing about your writing process. I'm not a NaNo person, but I'd like to try it ~ Maybe next year.

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  14. Death By Trombone? Intriguing title!
    Congrats on your NaNo experiences and successes!
    I think the NaNoWriMo appeal is the buzz… the thought that a global community consisting of thousands of writers, will be let loose upon all those potential story ideas that are just waiting to unfold. You are not alone in this crazy but exciting venture.
    But NaNo is not for me.
    Thank you for co-hosting this month!
    Happy IWSG Day!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Thanks!

      I think you pegged it for why NaNo works. And no, it's not for everyone.

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  15. Thanks for co-hosting today. Doing NaNo every year doesn't always work, but we can still chip away at the old rough draft! Or edits. Good luck.

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    1. NaNo may come and go, but edits we have with us forever. To paraphrase someone or other.

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  16. Awesome book writing/NaNo strategy. Love your book titles.
    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!
    Mary at Play off the Page

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  17. Planning your NaNo novel in advance is definitely the way to go. Congratulations on finishing and publishing a NaNo novel :-)

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    1. Thanks. It works for me, but sounds like not for everyone. I do think that some kind of planning is necessary if you want to finish (editing and all) books in a timely fashion.

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  18. I think the important thing you relate here is that you outlined the books before NaNo. Great idea. I wish everyone who participates in NaNo the best of luck. And bravo for having your NaNo published.

    Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!

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  19. Oh, I also followed your blog and connected on social media. Love the looks of your blog!

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  20. I'm sitting here saying Amen. That was my big decision. I have three NaNo manuscripts in the pipeline that haven't been worked on. It's time I finished them.
    Thank you also for co-hosting this month.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. Yup. Sometimes you have to turn your back on the party and just slog on. Or maybe that's just the way I'm feeling about where I am with my work just now :)

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  21. That's epic! I've never produced anything worth addressing in a public light via NaNo. I think it's just one of those things that either does or does not work for you. Put me in the "not" category. ;)

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    1. And I think the important thing is to know yourself well enough to get that!

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  22. Wow! Four NaNos? I'm impressed ;-) You've got an effective rhythm going on with incredible planning skills, something I'll need if ever I'm brave enough to engage ;-)

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    1. Well, I think I make it sound better than it comes out in real life :D But I do get a better sense of how to write with each book. And I made a commitment several years ago to BE a writer, and I've done pretty well at that (all but the part about making money. That's a topic for a different IWSG post).

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  23. I haven't heard the participants called Nanners yet but man does that need to catch on. It's a fantastic nickname. Four NaNos is impressive! I like your point about outlining for NaNo too. I'll use that benefit of your experience if I ever participate myself. Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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    1. I think I stole that name from Chuck Wendig, but I'm not sure anymore. I only know I heard it somewhere and it made sense to me :)

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  24. I enjoyed reading your comments about planning and pantsing writing style. My natural bend is pantsing, but the value of creating an outline and plot. So many choices. Thank you for co-hosting IWSG, your contribution is very much appreciated.

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    1. Thanks. My natural bend is also pantsing, but I admit to hating the messy results. As I may have noted, that is especially awful when writing mysteries, where it really helps to know a few things before you start.

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  25. Doing the NaNo four times deserves a medal! And so does hosting this month's IWSG. Thanks for doing such a great job.

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  26. It's wonderful that several of your NaNo projects turned into published books. Hopefully, it will keep happening in the future.

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    1. Well, I cannot tell a lie: I chose to be an author-publisher, so if my books don't make print, it's my fault :D But I have to bring them to publishable quality first, so it's almost as slow a process as the traditional route.

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  27. I am very jealous that you used your previous NaNo periods so effectively. And impressed that you have the foresight and presence of mind to know your limits and not get suckered in if you know it wouldn't be useful to you this year. Huzzah!

    IWSG November

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    1. I occasionally show glimmers of good sense. Not very often, but sometimes :p

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    2. That's simply not true :) Take that whichever way you prefer lol

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  28. I second your advice to take time to plan and develop an outline before you start Nano. So many useless words and wasted time if you don't. Hope you get your other projects sorted and done. Best of luck!
    JQ Rose

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    1. I'd be more confident of finishing the current project if the internet went out for a week or two, but I'll get there by and by :)

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  29. Yours is one of many comments I've read that suggest outlining in advance is a key to success. I agree that 50,000 is just a shell of a novel, to be filled in in the second phase/draft. Good luck with your projects and thanks for co-hosting today!

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    1. It is certainly (for me at least) the key to not writing a hot mess :)

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  30. I love your advice Rebecca. The power of a couple of days to think and stew over an outline can pay off. Thank you for co-hosting today :)

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    1. I would go so far as to say that I think that taking some time right now to outline will improve the odds of "winning" NaNo, even though you'd then have to come from behind.

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  31. I'm in the middle of a project too and always seem to be this time of year. Good luck with all your working on.

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  32. Great post and very timely.
    I can't pull off the NaNo but I'm impressed with those that can!

    Heather

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    1. It's been fun when I'm well prepared, and a bit more stressful when not.

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  33. Sound advice. I have a renewed sense of innovation!Thank you for co-hosting.

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  34. I'm not either. Haven't for several years. Congratulations on the published novel. That's pretty cool.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  35. Good luck with all your projects! I don't participate in NaNo proper; I make my own with my current goals.

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    1. I think that's what you have to do when you are writing all the time, because there's no knowing if November will come when you are ready for a new project.

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  36. I agree that pantsing can be challenging when drafting a mystery because you need to know early on how to build the reader up to the crime and you also have to incorporate other elements (e.g. red herrings) into the story.

    Good luck with everything you're working on.

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    1. Exactly! I pantsed my way through the first draft of Death By Ice Cream, and literally spent years going back and both tossing in the little clues and putting in red herrings.

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  37. I think pantsing is all very well when you are character driven, and have an overall idea of what's going to happen... e.g a title! Once I tried a crime type story I realised that HAD to be planned.

    I'm still a pantser at heart, but now I do a minimum of a five sentence outline to give me a frame for a story. 1) what's the situation 2) what upsets it 3) how it gets worse 4) how it gets really bad 5) how they get out of it (hopefully alive). It helps me, anyway!

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    1. Yes, I think for some stories that works well. I didn't have much more than that when I went into Halitor the Hero. But I consider your list there to be an outline! Though I did find that having more in my outline made it easier to write at the NaNo pace.

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  38. Some people are excellent pantsers. I'm not. Heh. I'm not participating in NaNo this year, but I do hope it works out to participate again one day. Good luck with your projects and for the story submission!

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    1. Thanks. I hope you are able to do NaNo again, too. It's kind of fun :)

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  39. Yep, jumping into NaNo when you're not ready can be a disaster. Better to concentrate on stuff you can finish.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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    1. It's been my pleasure! I think the key is sticking to the "Finish your stuff" motto--and that means editing and rewriting and polishing the crap out of it on schedule. Well, sort of on schedule.

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  40. Sounds like the Nano process has worked well for you over the years, that's brilliant. I guess good pre-planning is important to get the most out of it. I admire people who can do it but I'm not sure it is for me . . . not at the moment at least. Thanks for co-hosting this month.

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    1. It's definitely an individual thing. I sometimes need a good kick in the seat of the pants, so...

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  41. I think I'd have to be more of a planner to make NaNo work for me. But the one time I planned a story, I lost interest in writing it because I knew what would happen!

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    1. That made me smile. I guess the interest is in seeing exactly how it is going to happen!

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  42. Planning would definitely make NaNo easier for me. I'm such a horrible panster. Great to hear that you won and got a work published from it. The collection of flash fiction sounds interesting too!

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    1. Thanks! I write so much flash fiction, I can see myself producing several themed collections (bars and libraries both seem to show up a lot).

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  43. I used to love flash fiction. I really need to get back into that in rare free times. Well done for getting one published! I self-pubbed my first (why-oh-why) and removed it later, although I was offered a traditional contract later but turned it down. It turned into a monster and I wasn't 'ready' to do the project justice back then.

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    1. Flash fiction is good exercise for the creative muscles, as well as a fun chance to play with all sorts of genres that I wouldn't want to do as a whole novel.

      I've been self-publishing my books, and I like the total control, but since I'm clueless about marketing, I'm not exactly hitting the best-seller lists :p

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  44. I couldn't imagine pantsing a mystery, either! Thanks for co-hosting!

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  45. Thanks for co-hosting this month. I'm glad to hear that NaNo has been such a good platform for you. I wish you all the best.

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