I Didn’t Win at NaNoWriMo… or Did I?

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant

Welcome to December 1st and the first day after National Novel Writing Month!

I hope if you participated, you achieved your big WIN and have the euphoric ambition to continue with your novel into December and beyond. Even if you didn’t get a NaNo-defined win, I hope you were able to make some solid forward progress and accomplish some personal goals.

Because that’s what NaNoWriMo is really about as far as I’m concerned–making us into more productive, more consistent, more successful writers.

I haven’t had much success at NaNoWriMo previously. Last year, I created an account, wrote one day, and then fell off the wagon. Then for Camp NaNoWriMo, I got through about half of the month before I burned out and spent the next several months not writing and in a state of self-loathing for not writing.

In October, I made myself join and participate in a few Facebook writing groups, namely Ninja Writers and Your Write Dream. I cannot stress how helpful these two groups were for me to get the kick in the butt I needed to start writing again. So much so that I got the bug to try NaNoWriMo again.

In fact, I wrote a post about it here.

1667 words per day sounded like a good way for me to reach the dreaded burnout followed by self-loathing. So I decided to up my normal word per day goal of 300 to 500. I knew going in this wouldn’t get me to 50,000 by November 30th, and I was okay with that.

I pre-planned. It was a truncated pre-plan, because I made the decision to participate in NaNoWriMo literally less than a week before November 1st. I had a solid idea of the beginning, middle, and ending. I wrote about half of the outline. I bought a new set of pens–I decided to try the Papermate Inkjoy pens and found an 8-pack of assorted colors. I bought a new full-size 5-subject notebook–I decided to write my entire first draft longhand. I bought a new half-size notebook–my standard for note-taking.

On November 1st, I started writing. I wrote every day for 30 days straight. A few days, I only managed a few sentences, but I still added to my word count. I aimed for 500 words per day and accomplished that all but three days. I participated in writing sprints with the Ninja Writers group every Sunday–several times during the day we would write as much as possible for thirty minutes and then report back. They were my most successful writing days in all the time I’ve been writing.

NaNoWriMo Ending

On November 30th, I had over 33,000 and a daily average over twice my goal. It wasn’t 50,000, but that hadn’t been my goal. My goal for November had been to write and write every day.

Goal accomplished.

I may not have won in the definition NaNoWriMo uses, but I feel I won because I made a writing habit and I didn’t burn myself out.

NaNoWriMo Writing Tracker

My goal for December is to continue writing every day and to finish my first draft. I’ll also be working through pre-planning another novel in the Plotting Workshop.

The premise for this novel?

A chivalrous knight has his black and white world turned upside down when his lord and lady are murdered and their daughter disappears.

Between that and writing a book for work (among other projects), I think I’ll have a fairly busy winter.

~ Effy

End Note: I’m not impressed with the Papermate Inkjoy pens. They write nice and even but I don’t think they lasted as long as they should. About 130 pages in and five of the eight are already dead, with two more close behind. Some quick math and I estimate each pen only wrote about 20 pages each.

New Post

The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King

The Dark Tower series, by Stephen King

I’ve learned many things from the writing of Stephen King (both reading his novels and his great book On Writing). Among those lessons, he’s taught me that fantasy and science fiction need not be segregated, but can be present in the same fictional world at the same time. It can be done. It can work. It can work well.

Aside from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I’ve come across this idea elsewhere too–from Anne McAffrey and Terry Brooks, to name a couple. I also found the idea fascinating in the 80’s cartoon movie Wizards.

Go then, there are other worlds than these. ~ Jake Chambers

Go then, there are other worlds than these. ~ Jake Chambers

This has been one of the cornerstones of my fantasy world for a long time. One of my first tries at writing a novel (in middle and high school) included a human from Earth ending up in my fantasy world of Dadreon. Over the course of the story, she learns the horrible truth, that Earth was destroyed and this alien fantasy world eventually sprung from its ashes. The horror of it struck me enough to think of it as a good enough segway.

Then, I grew up and I noticed the glaring holes in my worldbuilding. I’ve spent the past few years stitching up many of them, but I had started to think I would drop the “far-future Earth” idea because I wasn’t sure how I could make it work. I feared it had become my “darling” and one that needed killing. (More advice from Mr. King.)

Kill your darlings... ~ Stephen King

Kill your darlings… ~ Stephen King

I had my pantheon of gods. I had the protectors that served those gods. I had mortal races that had “normal” day to day lives, like real life, but in a fantastic world. These characters all make up the side of “order,” and on other side of that balance coin, the forces of “chaos.” But I still hadn’t figured out how to make the fantasy and science fiction elements blend. I didn’t want some blah reason for Earth to die. I didn’t want to make some statement of how awful we are as a human race and have us blow ourselves up in a nuclear war (which was my original thought, but never satisfying).

Then everything (finally, after almost 30 years) started to come together.

When I started my blog, I used it as an outlet for the fan fiction stories building in my head. Stories for my World of Warcraft characters. They were set in a known world, so I had that part done for me, very safe, but it’s such a wide world it gave me the latitude to get creative. Eventually, realizing I would never (realistically) be able to publish fan fiction (except on my own tiny corner of the internet), I shifted back to working on fiction for my own fantasy world of Dadreon again.

About 30 years after creating it and about 10 years since I’d even looked at it.

I filled in lots of worldbuilding holes. I made great progress.

But I missed those great fan fiction stories I had started.

So I began to wonder if there were a way to translate those stories from the Warcraft world to my own.

What I came up with was sparked by Effraeti’s “Descending Twilight” series. So I brainstormed and I wrote a teaser:

Earth, the Near Future.

Humans have been advancing their technology and learning the science of time travel, but not in time to save themselves. Dark old gods have emerged. They and their demonic minions lay waste to Earth.

In one last effort to save humanity, scientists flee through time both backward (to prevent) and forward (to escape), trying to find their salvation and discover what might stop these awesome, destructive beings.

But something goes wrong. Dr. Gabi Graf is caught in a temporal vortex and nearly killed. Somehow she is split in two and ends up in two times and places, each half aware something is missing…

Can she survive in the distant future? What will Earth have become at the hands of these dark old gods? And will she find what she’s looking for?

Gabi has become her own alternate timeline.

Okay, okay, so the blurb probably doesn’t need the last line, but I really like it.

Now, instead of working on my four book series Jadeflare (specifically Book 2) for NaNoWriMo, like I had originally intended, now I want to work on this. I have so many ideas in my head.I’m currently working to straighten them out in my head and on paper with the help with

I’m currently working to straighten these ideas out in my head and on paper with the help with Kristen Kieffer’s awesome Pre-Writing Story Bible. (Kristen also runs a great Facebook group called Your Write Dream with a great writer community if you’re interested in something like that.) Once I get every question answered in the Story Bible, I’ll do a chapter outline. Then I’ll enter those chapters into Scrivener. Then, I should be ready to start writing.

I love the idea of NaNoWriMo, but I doubt I’ll aim for 1667 per day (for a total of 50,000 between November 1st and November 30th). I’m thinking of doing something more lowkey and attainable, like 500 words per day, which was suggested by Shaunta Grimes who runs another awesome Facebook group called Ninja Writers, which is also a great writing community.

The Facebook groups are great support, but also a huge distraction sometimes (like when I’m unconsciously trying to avoid writing).

500 words are still more than my average, so it’ll still be quite a stretch.

But I can do this.

And I’ll work on this new novel idea (which I’m affectionately naming Split Personality until I come up with something better) until I get stuck like I did with Jadeflare. Then, I’ll switch and keep going with that.

I’m trying to tell myself that multiple projects are okay. It might slow me down, but if it keeps me writing reguarly, it’s worth it.

Wish me luck in November! If I’m not stressing too much over word counts, I’ll try to post updates. Otherwise, I might not pipe up here again until December 1st.

~ Effy

A Series-ous Problem

sprouts

I had an epiphany while getting ready for work.

I’ve been trying to plot out book 2 of my series with little luck. It has a plot of its own—Lakeerae is trying to learn more about her Jadeflare, but an assassin amongst the Avar is complicating things and now wants her out of the way.

However, I can’t seem to form that into a coherent outline. In fact, I can’t even get myself to start. I keep distracting myself with other things—like maps, or blog posts.🙂

Then I realized why.

Book 1 of my series was super easy to outline. It’s basically the Hero’s Journey, which worked great to give it a clear cut beginning-middle-end path. I meander along the way, no doubt, but it’s a nice, organized 3 Act play at the heart. Yay, organized.

Book 2 won’t conform to that. Now Lakeerae is between her initial journey and the overarching goal of the series which is only just becoming clear to her. So now I have to rethink my strategy, and it seems I’m being lazy.

I have to wonder if this is why the second book/movie in a series is usually less spectacular than the first. Often, the second seems to just be a means to an end. It’s not our introduction to the character, and it’s not him/her reaching their ultimate goal. It’s just some of the stuff that happens in between.

I had this epiphany after reading an article from Ink and Quills about book series. It wasn’t directly related to my problem, but it got me thinking enough to get me here.

Her suggestions for making a series that works:

  1. Make sure you have enough story. I know I have enough story. I’ve actually expanded from 3 books to 4. We’ll see if I can fill all that space, though. But from what I’ve planned currently, I think I can.
  2. Plan it out. Yes, yes, I need to plan. Apparently I need to plot all three of the remaining books, not just because of this advice, but to make myself feel better too.
  3. Don’t add filler. I don’t plan to. My goal is about 90k words per book, but if I end up under that with a story that’s satisfying, I’m okay with that.
  4. Don’t rush the ending. This is what editing is for! Currently, book 1 feels like I rushed to the end and half of the book exists in the last handful of chapters. All will be fixed soon.
  5. Focus, focus, focus. Yes, this is the goal. Unlike the original incarnation of this novel, which accomplished the goal about halfway through and then wandered through Neverland for the remainder, I have an overarching goal and an individual goal for each book. I just have to outline and plan and stay on target!

This makes me feel a little more confident about getting back to it.

My plan now is to just start outlining book 2. If I hit a snag, I’ll have to figure something else out, but for now, I’m going to plot out the chapters the way I did for book 1. I found this great group of videos from Autumn Writing, and using the Three Act Structure, it’s fairly easy to plot out chapters. It’s what I did for book 1. We’ll see if it works as well for book 2! I’ll let you know!

~ Effy

Three-Act-Structure-780x400

It Only Took Me 20 Years

finish-line

My May update is a little bit early, because…

Drumroll please…

I finished the first draft of my novel!

May Flowers Tally

May-Writing Tracking

The numbers:

  • Starting May 1st: 29,773 words
  • Ending May 19th: 41,496 words
  • April Total: 11,723 words
  • Average: 651 words/day

It’s pretty amazing to think that I wrote more words in the first three weeks of May then I did in all of April. But as hard as it was to get to the finish line—it sure seemed to go real, real slow at the end—I was sucked into the story at this point. Similar to when you get near the end of a book you’re reading, I kept at it and I kept coming back. I was able to sit down nearly every night and squeeze a few words out.

The end even took a slightly different turn than I expected it to, which was a pleasant surprise. Though, it will probably mean more editing in the second draft.

What This Means

As crazy as it is to think about, I started writing this novel in middle school. That means this novel is over 20 years in the making! It’s an incredible feeling to be at this point. I’m not finished, but this is the furthest I’ve ever been with anything more than a few thousand words.

To think that I’ve had these characters in my head for that long. To think I got the crazy idea in my head back in January—after months of looking at houses and going through a huge move—to pull out my old, original manuscript (hand-written by a pre-teen) and reread it. To think I started pre-writing with no idea what I was doing with a novel, because I’ve only ever finished short stories. To think I just started writing it in February. To think that now, in May, it’s a start-to-finish piece of writing—rough, but finished.

I’ve gone through a name change of my main character’s magical power—from Magefire to Jadeflare. This came about in large part because of the suggestion of Philip Athans, whose Worldbuilding class I took. He mentioned it seemed a little overused, and though I couldn’t find it used exactly anywhere, I knew it was a good suggestion if it even felt generic.

I’ve spent the last year and a half or so reworking and improving the way my world’s past and present fit together, how magic works, and the magical creatures that roam there.

I’ve worked through the ups and downs of weaving a story that makes sense plot-wise and within the confines of my world’s perimeters—sometimes tearing my hair in frustration and sometimes squeeing in delight at my lightbulb moments.

What Now?

Everywhere I’ve read, it’s been suggested to set aside my manuscript for a few weeks before I start editing it. It is proving very difficult to stay away, I’m very invested in my story at this point, but I’m trying.

This weekend, I wanted to start pre-writing the second book in my series. I quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to pre-write book 2 when I’m not entirely set on how book 1 is going to end up when I’m all said and done. (I still have a lot of editing, including major structural and plot pieces, to do yet.) So I spent some time fiddling with maps and writing down as much as I know so far about books 2, 3, and 4.

If I can at least get down a good idea of what my final plot structure for book 1 will be, I think I can feel more confident about starting book 2.

I’ve thought about working on some short stories or other little ideas I have, but I can’t seem to pull myself away from Jadeflare. As much as I want to put together an ebook of short stories, origin stories, and dragons, I can’t seem to pull myself out of Lakeerae’s head.

So I guess I’m stuck, and you’re all stuck with me talking about my process some more.🙂

~ Effy

Confessions of an eBook Reader

ebook

Over recent months, I’ve been trying to read more, and more importantly, I’ve been trying to expand my book bubble outside of my comfort zone. Not necessarily out of my fantasy comfort zone, but at least out of my current favorite authors comfort zone. To help with this, I’ve signed up for a few daily ebook emails—eReader News Today, Book Barbarian, Book Bub, and Book Shout. These newsletters bring me a daily dose of new authors, usually the first book of a series, for cheap or free. It’s given me the courage to expand.

Not only has it sparked some ideas for my own stories by pushing me to think outside of where I’ve gone so far with my fantasy world and my current novel, but it’s made me realize a few things about what catches my interest as a reader. In turn, this has helped change some of my ideas of what’s important for marketing a book.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve realized through the process of finding and reading ebooks.

Judging a Book by its Cover

We’re told all our lives that “judging a book by its cover” is a bad thing. With people, I totally agree. But with books, there might be something to it at least I unconsciously seem to think so. I’m definitely drawn to a book cover that capture my attention. When I’m quickly scanning these daily ebook newsletters, there’s only a few factors I have to go by—cover image, title, book blurb, and price. Sometimes there’s a rating too, which I also find helpful. But like with scanning anything, the most attractive cover image is going to catch the eye first.

This is what started me reading the last series I started. Eleanor, by S.F. Burgess, has a simple yet beautiful cover. As it turns out, it was so good, I bought the second book.

So whatever lies between the covers of the book, the cover has to be the first thing to captivate the reader’s attention.

A Captivating Beginning

One thing that getting a handful of books per week for cheap or free means is that I have the ability to scan the first half dozen pages (or maybe not even that far) to see if a book feels worthy of my time and attention. If it doesn’t suck me in right away—either because of a lack of action, uninteresting characters, or difficult to read prose (either because of language or typos)—then it’s on to the next book. Some of these free books I’ve downloaded will probably never be read because of this.

Getting PoV Right

Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I’ve realized I’m a bit particular about point of view, almost as much as I am about a book being polished of typos.

I prefer the same point of view to read as I do write—third person limited.

The book I’m currently reading is Born of Water, by Autumn M. Birt. I’m greatly enjoying the characters and story, but the point of view is distracting. It’s written in third person, kind of half limited, half omniscient. The person’s head it’s in changes within the same scene, sometimes it stays the same for a few paragraphs, sometimes a few pages. Sometimes I have to double back to see who was thinking what. Amazingly, the rest of the story’s elements somehow override everything else and I’m almost through book one.

For my own writing, I’ve become fond of the third person limited, and changing the point of view at scene changes. To note whose point of view the scene takes place, I always start with the first sentence naming the PoV character. ie. “Lakeerae sat down beside the crackling fire.” It allows me to get deeply into the character’s point of view, and it is important to me to know what the character is thinking and why they think they and others do what they do.

How to Write a Series

The sticky part of writing a series is making it work both as individual books and as a whole. Each book should be able to stand on its own and contribute to and move forward the series. I’m very particular about reading books in order, but it’s also important for a reader to be able to pick up the series from any point and know who’s who and what’s going on.

There’s nothing worse than a series cliffhanger that makes you feel like the author is trying to con you into reading their next book.

Book Hangover

One problem I discovered with my current way of finding books is that I haven’t been paying adequate attention to how many books might be in the series I’m starting. Or whether all of those books have been published yet.

It results in a wicked book hangover and makes it difficult to start a new book series.

I’m also not the most patient person, particularly when it comes to reading part of a series and then having to wait for the later books. I’ve been burned with this a few times, some series longer than others. I got really into the Cinder series, by Marissa Meyer. Three books in, I discovered the fourth book wasn’t published yet. Thankfully, I only had to wait a few months. I’ve waited much longer for book five and now book six of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin.

I’m always worried I’ll lose track or interest in a series if I don’t read them consecutively.

This has made me wondering if I should reconsider how I plan to release my novels when they’re edited and ready for publishing. Should I spare my (future) readers the frustration of waiting for unknown periods of time for the rest of the series? Should I wait and release them all together?

It’s an appealing idea. I don’t need the money. I have a job I don’t plan to leave anytime in the foreseeable future. I know it would push back the timetables, but it might be less stressful—once I release one, I’d feel pressured and obligated to write the others as quickly as possible.

Conclusion: Publishing Ideas

I know I’ve got some time to consider how I want to go about publishing and marketing my books, but it’s never too early to start thinking about these things. So what have I learned that can help me?

  1. I need a great cover and book blurb to convince readers to buy my book.
  2. I need a captivating beginning that makes sure my reader doesn’t put it down.
  3. I need a well-edited book that is as error-free as possible.
  4. I need to write in a good and deep point of view for my book.
  5. I need a complete series that is satisfying both individually and as a whole.
  6. I need to decide whether I’ll release my books one at a time or all together.

I think these are good things to consider as I write and edit.

Speaking of a good book blurb, I have a first draft of it for my first book:

Jadeflare—an uncommon magic fed by the elements themselves.

Now it is in the hands of a stubborn, reluctant young druid fleeing from a dark creature that is killing others of her kind. With the help of her loyal wolf companion, an aloof hawk, and a sharp-tongued gypsy, Lakeerae must stop the dark creature before it hunts her down. Her journey will take her from the safety of her home to black places ruled by her nightmares.

Will she be strong enough to bring light back to the darkness?

Please let me know what you think. Too much? Interesting enough? Suggestions?

~ Effy

April Showers Writing Update

writing-goal-success-april

I decided to continue on the heels of March’s success and continue to aim for 300 words per day in April.

The Tally

First the numbers:

  • Starting April 1st: 18,770 words
  • Ending April 30th: 29,773 words
  • April Total: 11,003 words
  • Average: 367 words/day

The numbers are pretty close to March’s, but that’s only because the beginning of April went great. The second week of April, I had my best writing week, over 4500 words, averaging more than twice my goal, 654 words/day.

Then, for almost two weeks, I found myself gripped tightly in the claws of the dreaded writer’s block. Writer’s block wasn’t the only issue either. It was a maddening combination of being tired, not feeling good, and lacking motivation. I have to wonder if it was also partly because I’d been pushing myself so hard and had written so much the week before. Or maybe it’s just because I’m getting so close to completing my first draft.

I tried to combat my writer’s block with other forms of self-motivation: reading, drawing maps, and playing with typography and calligraphy pens. In the end, the only thing that really worked was forcing myself to sit down and write.

Trying Out Scrivener

Early in the month, I decided to give in to writer peer pressure and try out Scrivener. I moved over fifteen or so chapters, including my notes, just those attached to specific scenes and lines and words that had been scattered throughout the Google Doc I was writing in originally.

I’m not completely sold yet, because I’m far too fond of having all my documents available in Google Drive for easy access from anywhere—work, my phone, my tablet. I’m the queen of multiple tabs, and I usually have two instances of Chrome (with my two Google accounts) open, both with 5+ tabs. So I only have my actual novel and its in-document notes in Scrivener.

However, if Scrivener makes it easier to turn my novel into an ebook, it will all be worth it.

Nearing the Finish Line

I surpassed 30k words, and I estimate I’m about 80% of the way through my first draft for Book 1. This worries me to a point, because it means my story will need some serious beefing up to make the epic fantasy goal of 90k+ words. Luckily, I found an article that helped me feel a little bit better about this, and it has fueled me with some ideas of what I can do to lengthen it already.

Now, the difficult part has become pushing myself forward to complete the first draft before I start editing what’s already there. I think this is slowing me down from getting to the finish line, as my notebook fills with these many little ideas.

In fact, brainstorming to finish book 1 led to trying to better flesh out books 2 and 3, which led to changing my mind about the titles for all three books, which led to changing how I originally thought book 1 would end, which led to changing this from a trilogy to a four book series. All of this is leading to more edits once I finish the first draft of book 1.

All good changes, changes that excite me because I know they’ll make the whole story more coherent and stronger, but still frustrate me because I keep feeling I’m slowing myself down. I really can’t fault ideas that will make it better in the long run though.

Closing Out April

I’ve had some stumbling points, but I met my goals for April.

I think May might be the month that I finish my first draft, if I can keep up my 300 words per day. I hope for that to be the update I give in a few more weeks.

~ Effy

March Madness Writing Update

writing-goal-success

My goal at the beginning of March was 300 words per day on my novel. Despite missing writing completely a few days and not reaching my goals on some others, I still surpassed my goal with the help of the writing I did on the weekends.

The Tally

033116-Writing Tracker

So here are the numbers:

  • Before March 1st: 7505 words
  • Ending March 31st: 18,770 words
  • March total: 11,265 words
  • Average: 376 words/day

Hooray!

So to continue this great success, my goal is to continue my average of 300 words per day through April.

Improving My Efficiency

Late in March, I started tracking my words per hour. I realized that when I write in the living room, which usually means the TV is on in the background, I average about 300 words/hour. I manage about twice that if I “hide” in the bedroom to write, or anytime I’m only listening music instead of the TV.

I’m even more productive on the weekend. Is this because it’s first thing in the morning? Cuz I’m by myself? Cuz I’m not still focused on the work day and how exhausted I am? Or does it all come down to the distractions while I write? I think I’m far more productive to music than having the TV on, which isn’t that surprising.

I started tracking these extra things because of a great book I’m reading right now: 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron. Her suggestions for increasing words are threefold:

  1. Knowledge: I’ve been spending 5+ minutes when I first sit down writing about what I’m going to write about. This both gets me into my writing mood and gives me a general skeleton of the upcoming scene.
  2. Time: I’ve been tracking my writing time on a spreadsheet—expanding this to include start time, end time, words, where I wrote, etc.
  3. Enthusiasm: I’ve been trying to get excited about what I’m writing—each and every scene needs to be exciting, because if I’m not excited, readers won’t be either.

When I’m not writing, I’ve been brainstorming in my notebook and reading whatever I can find on pre-writing, scheduling writing time, and maximizing my writing time. I recently read Writing Scary Scenes by Rayne Hall. It had some great suggestions for increasing tension, helpful to my novel because I’m leaning toward making it more of a dark fantasy blended with epic/high fantasy. I also found interesting article called Three Things to Do Before Before You Write a Book. It had some good information and led to an idea I’m still working at incorporating into my novel’s growing collection of documents—the Snowflake Method’s scene spreadsheet. I combined this with a suggestion about scenes from 2,000 to 10,000:

  • Break action down into scenes
  • Group the scenes into chapters
  • Make sure chapter breaks increase dramatic tense

Organizing My Writing

Currently, I’m doing all my writing on my Google Drive. I find it to be the best place to keep all of my writing and documents easily accessible from anywhere—be it my computer or my phone, home or work. It also allows me to write in a “no distractions” mode: CTRL+SHIFT+F to compact the doc controls and F11 to put my computer into Fullscreen mode.

I tend to over organize and I’m very particular. So my novel isn’t the only document I’m using. I have notes and spreadsheets galore:

  1. Novel doc
    • Confession: This is probably going to sound odd and even silly, but I realized that I write better on my novel with a page format that more closely resembles an actual mass media sized paperback page. On the Google Drive docs, I found a page size called “Statement” that is 5.5” x 8.5” and works perfect, rather than the standard 8.5” x 11”. It throws off my page counts and average words per page, but it seems to work better for me visually. I swear my word counts have improved since I did this.
  2. Dadreon World Notes doc
    • Jadeflare isn’t my only work in my fantasy world of Dadreon, and it’s a fantasy world I’ve been building since middle school. In recent years, it’s taken on more dimension and has started fitting together better. This doc includes gods, elements and magic, races and monsters, history, setting, etc.
  3. Theme & Outline doc
    • Part of my pre-writing, this doc includes my theme sentence, thematic words, genre info, target length, and a basic chapter outline.
  4. Scene List spreadsheet
    • This spreadsheet consists of one line for each scene, including scene number, chapter number, PoV, description, and estimated pages.
  5. Story Bible doc
    • This doc worked awesome for getting me started. It helped me ask questions that I would have missed. But now it seems too complicated to refer to regularly, and I’ve been mostly using the Theme & Outline and Scene List.
  6. Writing Tracker spreadsheet
    • This spreadsheet consists of one line for each day, including day of the week, date, start and end time, hours, writing location, words written, words/hour, writing project, and novel total.
  7. Paper Maps
    • I love maps. I love drawing maps. This is probably one of my favorite parts of worldbuilding. No, I don’t draw them in Google Drive, but I’ve started saving the majority of my files here too.
  8. Paper Sketches
    • Whenever I have an idea, I sketch it into my notebook. Sometimes it turns into a color drawing that ends up on the Google Drive.
  9. Pinterest board for Jadeflare
    • I recently read a great idea for organizing thoughts and themes—Pinterest. I wish I could remember where I got this great idea, because I’d love to give her the credit she deserves. I’ve had a Pinterest account for a while now, but this really gave me a great reason to use it. This is a collection of images that relate to my characters, settings, and plot and give me a nice visual reference.

Closing Out March

My birthday month was hugely successful. I’m making great progress in my novel. In fact, Saturday, I hit 20k words!

I think a combination of improving my writing habits and focusing on writing without constantly editing is really helping my progress. If I can stay focused on these things, I think this novel will actually get written!

Expect more updates from me soon.

~ Effy

Why I Don’t Write?

notebook

The other day an author I follow shared a writing prompt to write about “Why I Write.” I realized this comes up often, and that I’ve already written about that, probably several times in several ways. However, I’ve never written about what keeps me from writing—what scares me enough to stop me from lifting a pen (or sitting at the keyboard).

I thought Why I Don’t Write would make a more appropriate questions and post after my long hiatus.

During the winter semester last year (it’s literally been almost a year since I wrote here!), I wrote a lot and I felt my work became better developed for it—my world of Dadreon became more developed. Between Creative Writing (and the huge number of assignments in that class), Horror & Sci Fi, and Mythology, I had lots to inspire me and deadlines to motivate me.

Then, I started Kristen of She’s Novel’s 30 Day Author Up Challenge. It went well in the short lull between my winter and spring classes. Granted, it took up a LOT of time—writing a blog post everyday—but it felt good. Even if many of the posts didn’t feel as polished as I prefer, I had goals and deadlines.

Then, spring got underway. I got busy with both school and work. Spring turned into summer and now here it is spring again. Of course, I bought a house in the interim. But school, work, and house hunting turned into almost a year of my blog sitting untouched.

The wider that gap between my last published post and today became, the more difficult to pick up my pen/keyboard. Even when I did have time, I didn’t use it to write.

Why is that? I’ve always been happiest when I’m writing. I’ve been writing all my life—albeit on and off—and I’ve always received positive feedback on my writing.

I think the process of writing that last sentence says a lot. I had to rewrite and reword it several times. My confidence is not what it should be, that’s for sure.

My work sits hidden on my Google Drive or slightly less hidden here on my blog, in this tiny corner of the internet, obscure and unpublished. Family and friends give me positive reinforcement, and occasionally I have the opportunity to share something with a class. (Max’s class last winter was the most I’ve ever shared my work face to face.) But for some reason, I lack faith in my abilities, lately especially.

It’s easy to lose faith in the lulls it seems.

So I ponder further the question of Why I Don’t Write?

  • Writing is hard and requires a lot of work. Without deadlines I tend to lack the ambition to work that hard, to push myself. After my more than full time winter school schedule, plus working, I think I broke my ambition for a while.
  • Social media is so much easier to waste time on. I can spend five minutes or an hour. I can mindlessly scan and not have to come up with anything witty or even coherent if I don’t want to.
  • I get lost in a loop of not knowing what to write RIGHT NOW. For months, I made progress through my stories. Now I feel like I have to play catch up, find new things to write about, and it’s paralyzing.
  • Because of this paralysis, I’ve become bogged down in negative self-talk: I’m never going to go anywhere with this. I’m not good enough. It’s a waste of time. I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I can’t make the words fit together right. I’ll never get published. I’m too old.

My first step toward beating back this self-doubt and paralysis was starting a new, hand-written journal. I slowly started building myself back to writing regularly by writing there.

In fact, this blog post started in that little journal.

Another thing to help motivate me was to finally take the advice of several of the writers that I follow to create a schedule and write every day.

After we got moved, I found some of my boxes of books and notebooks. I realized that with all of the time I’ve devoted to writing over the past few years, I’ve not tried to finish any of the novels that have been in my head since middle school. I’ve spent all this time focusing on world-building and short stories.

But those will never make me a true “published” author.

So about two months ago, I reread my original version of the novel (all 200 rambling, handwritten pages of it) and started pre-writing. One of my favorite writers to follow, Kristen over at She’s Novel, put together a workbook for pre-writing. It sparked new ideas and facets of the novel I’d never thought of. It expanded my world further and improved the depth of my characters.

Then, I further improved my theme and outline with the help of Autumn Writing.

At the beginning of February, I started writing my novel.

At the beginning of March, I made the commitment to myself to write an average of one page, or 300 words, per day.

I’m trying to write every night, but I’m finding some weeknights I’m so exhausted that my brain just can’t do it. I’ve been making up my words on the weekend, though. So I’m starting to wonder if it makes more sense to give myself a weekly goal, rather than a daily goal—still aim for writing every day, but give myself a break if I miss a day.

Consistency has definitely been one of my biggest stumbling blocks.

I think giving myself more leeway is the way to keep myself on track. I need goals and deadlines, but if I miss one here or there it can’t beat myself up and fall into the all or nothing trap. That’s usually where I fall off the writing wagon. I’ll start a challenge or make a goal and once I miss one day or one post, I feel like I’ve failed and there’s no reason to go on.

I think that’s the biggest reason Why I Don’t Write.

The best example of this was falling behind on the Author Up Challenge. I turned my failure into ten months of not writing on my blog. I can’t let that happen again.

My novel is my top priority. But I also need to give myself the breathing room to miss a day without crumbling. I also have other options for writing on nights that I’m not feeling the novel—my journal or writing a short story or distracting myself with a blog post.

If nothing else, I’ll keep you up to date here with my novel progress.

Currently, I’m on Chapter 11 and I’m 15,993 words in. Since March 1st, I’m averaging 424 words per day.

~ Effy

Author Up Challenge – Day 16

Full Moon

Welcome back to the Author Up Challenge!

I’m going to cheat a little bit. I’m using Day 16 and 17 on one story idea. So today will be the first part, and it will be concluded in my next post.

Today’s prompt was:

Day 16: Write a Mystery

So enjoy this first half and I’ll get the second half posted ASAP.

~ Effy

Nightmares

Sharp slashes, not those of a single knife but many as from razor-edged claws, sliced across. Disembodied red lines appeared, followed by a disembodied female scream that inspired gooseflesh. Blood, blood like paint, splattered across the walls. It created spots and blotches that dripped and ran to the floor, forming rivulets that formed streams that collected into pools. The pools grew until they soaked his barefeet.

Looking down upon the puddle of red, he saw furred and clawed paws instead of toes.

Another scream echoed, but this time it was his own.

Phelan jerked awake. He battled his way from beneath the tangled covers, both of them soaked with sweat. The covers came loose, but only as he toppled from the bed and hit the floor with a crack as his right elbow struck first.

A string of curses followed.

Phelan flattened himself against the cool wooden floor planks, letting it wick away the heat of his tense body, but still gripping his throbbing elbow. The chill relaxed him and his breathing gradually returned to normal.

The man opened his eyes, not that it accomplished much. The room was black, along with the rest of the world outside the one small window where the moons and stars were obscured by clouds.

The light patter of rain began. It soothed Phelan back to sleep, right where he lie on the floor, his feet still tangled in the covers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The sun sat high and hot in the sky by the time Phelan awake again.

He rolled up the strewn blanket and tossed it onto the bed in a lump. The effort tore a yawn from him, and Phelan realized he could have continued to sleep. The stretched out the stiffness of his shoulders and shook off the urge to crawl back into bed.

It had been a few weeks since he’d gone into town, and his kitchen was bare. Time to see what needed done, who needed what fixed, and see if it would be enough to eat on for another few weeks.

When Phelan got to the barn, Bronte was trying to nuzzle into a bale of hay just out of his reach. The brown gelding nickered affectionately as the man approached. He sniffed for any tasty presents, of which Phelan had none, and snorted.

“Sorry, boy. That’s why we’re going to town.”

He opened the stall door and Bronte trotted out and straight to the hay. Phelan brushed him and saddled him while he ate. Then, they left for town.

Phelan found plenty of odd tasks around town. One of Hadden’s cows had damaged the fence again, there was a leaky spot in Kert’s barn roof, and Laufe had a number of horses needing new shoes. He kept busy throughout the day, and planned to stay over into the next.

While he worked, everyone was talking about the giant animal that had attacked Dewie’s oldest daughter, Mian. It had to be a bear from the description of the mess it had left behind. Phelan winced at such a callous way to even think about the remains of the poor girl.

He remembered more than one night being invited to their table for dinner, part of his payment for helping out around their farm. Mian had always been a quiet but happy girl, quick to smile and quick to laugh. She could only have seen sixteen or seventeen winters.

Phelan swore as he hammered his thumb instead of the nail. Pay attention, he scowled himself.

But he couldn’t shake the images from his previous night’s dream, and the scream.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That evening, Phelan took his meal at the tavern. Saundra chatted with him at the bar in between her other customers. They talked about nothing of real importance, except Mian again. Her fate was on everyone’s lips.

“Poor girl,” Saundra murmured again. “Poor Dewie and Kitt.” She shook her head and her brown tresses brushed the top of the bartop, her head propped lightly in her right hand.

The door opened, and Saundra looked up. Phelan glanced too, eager for a distraction from the morbid topic.

Kert led four other men into the tavern and they headed straight for where Saundra and Phelan sat. Saundra had turned all the way around to face them, and gave them an amicable smile despite their deep scowls. “Looking for a drink to take the edge off, gentlemen? It’s looking to be a dark night, my tavern’s bright and warm.”

Putting a polite hand up to stop her, Kert shook his head. “Apologies, Saundra, but we’re not here to drink. We’re here for Phelan.”

Phelan’s stomach did a sickening flip-flop.

Kert turned his gaze on the man. “We’re going out after this bear, before it can attack anymore people. We could use you if you’re staying in town tonight?”

Phelan started breathing again. “Of course.”

“We’d like to get a start before the sun goes down, but it’s going to be a long night.”

To Be Continued…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

Author Up Challenge – Day 15

A Fantasy City, by Wildweasel339 at Deviant Art

A Fantasy City, by Wildweasel339 at Deviant Art

Look, two days in a row! It seems lately that the weekends are the only time I can accomplish that. I’m getting this one posted nice and early too, because I have breakfast and movie plans for this morning.🙂

Welcome to Day 15 of the Author Up Challenge!

Today’s prompt was:

Day 15: Write a Dystopian Scene.

This follows directly on the heels of yesterday’s prologue piece, literally. It’s the first scene of chapter one from the same novel. The opening of my book after the prologue has seen a heavy amount of revision. I cut out several scenes to start with this opening fight scene. It will then switch to two other characters who will then join the main scene.

Originally, chapter one started in a tavern, with the two elves being overheard. I realized the weakness of this scene, despite its existence for 20+ years, so I updated it, ruthlessly. (Chop, chop, chop.)

This is really only a small introduction to the dystopian nature of my fantasy as it exists in this book, particularly for the elves. It really focuses more on the prejudices they face.

It ended up shorter than I expected, but only because it is one small piece of a scene that will get longer soon(TM).

I enjoy writing action scenes. I think my greatest inspiration in that regard has been R.A. Salvatore and his Drizzt series. He does action well. So I look forward to writing the rest of this one.

~ Effy

Search for the Elves of Haliaetus (Chapter 1 Excerpt — Rewrite)

“What do we have here?” asked the ugliest human Rynnan had ever seen. “Looks like these aren’t really people, but faerie-folk.”

Rynnan cringed at the ignorant man’s prejudiced words.

Another human, reeking of ale as if it oozed from his very pores, pawed at Laurana’s hair. His other hand tightly gripped a knife to her neck, his knuckles white with the effort. He had tugged her hood out of place just enough to uncover a long pointed ear and confirm the identity of her and her elven companion.

Rynnan had known the sun was getting low, but thought they had enough time to finish their supply run before it disappeared, and their disguises with it. The sun was below the horizon now, its energy no longer helpful even though the sky still held some of its fading light.

“I suggest you remove your hands from my friend, or I will make sure you never wield that knife again,” Rynnan said, his tone threatening and his voice a snarl.

“Whatcha gonna do, faerie?” the one with the knife asked. “You going to magick me?”

“I would not waste my energies so,” Rynnan replied. “I am more than capable of handling you without magic or weapons.”

“Oh, really? And me too?” the ugly one asked.

“Don’t forget about me, pig,” Laurana said, almost spitting the words. She kicked her foot out, smashing it into the ugly one’s chin.

The human spit a mouthful of blood from a bitten tongue. “You shouldn’t have done that, lovely,” he said in a threatening tone. “Now we’re going to have to scar up that pretty face.”

His friend, the one with the knife, gave a smile that illustrated his ill-intentions. He lightly traced the knife along Laurana’s cheek, leaving a line of red blood behind it. “Won’t be so pretty when I’m done.”

Exchanging a look with Rynnan, Laurana drove her heel back hard into the human’s crotch. Seizing in pain, he loosened his grip enough for Laurana to slip out of it. She twisted his arm, causing the knife to clatter to the hard-packed dirt road, and continued to turn and pull, taking the man with her and breaking his arm when his body stopped and his arm kept going.

Rynnan used the distraction to punch the ugly human in the throat. The man tried to shout and it came out as a gurgled wheeze. He reached for the elf, and Rynnan slid back, just out of reach. The ugly human almost overbalanced and fell, but caught himself and reached for something at his waist. Rynnan kicked him in the gut, and the ugly human doubled over and hit the ground instead.

Laurana had her foot on the other human’s throat. “I suggest you forget you saw us, friend,” she hissed.

“Hmm,” Rynnan murmured, looking over Laurana’s shoulder. “I think we have already brought more attention to ourselves.”

The female elf snapped her head around and made a face. Three more humans had noticed the altercation and approached them. Tugging her hood up higher around her face, despite it being too late to hide her ears and her race from the humans, Laurana sighed. “Looks like we overstayed our welcome here.”

“You sure did, faeries,” the ugly human croaked from the ground, clawing at the dirt and trying to pull himself up. “Now, we’re going to make you wish you never left your faerie trees.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.