NaNoWriMo Revisited

Once again, it’s November, a month known to thousands around the world as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Last year, there were 325,142 participants, including me. Crazy writers all over the world work to write a
50,000 word novel in 30 days. Roughly 20% of those who begin end up achieving that goal.

nanowrimologoThe Sea Beckoned was born during NaNoWriMo. By the end of November, I had written 50,361 words of a novel with a day to spare. They weren’t all great writing, but it was a start. After my initial edit, I was down to 42,000 words. During NaNoWriMo, it’s all about quantity, not quality. After November, editing starts.

I wrote at home, in coffee shops, on vacation, in airports and airplanes, on Thanksgiving Day and even in another country. At the end of the first day, I had written 2,252 words. It takes an average of 1,667 words per day to get to 50,000, but I knew I would have days when writing would be difficult so I tried for 2,000 words each day.

Writers who finish 50,000 by 11:59 on November 30 are considered “winners”. You can see my nifty Winner badge in the right sidebar of this page.

This year, I chose not to participate. I really loved the adrenaline rush of my work last year, but I know right now I need to concentrate on the book at hand rather than start something anew.

I wish the best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers this year. Everyone who signs up is a winner in my eyes. Whatever they have written by the end of the month, it is more than they had November 1. Good luck to all!

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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Character Names

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the characters have pretty much named themselves. The more I got to know each of them as I worked, it was easy to find the right name. I’ve read articles about naming characters and the different approaches. Scrivener even has a random name generator. But, I’ve always loved coming up with names.

Yesterday, though, I realized I’d made a mistake. One of my characters is first generation Irish. I’d named her Stella. I thought the name really suited the character I had in mind. I had a sense of how Stella would think and how she would act.

RoseUnfortunately, Stella is not an Irish name. Today I’ve been surfing, looking for the another name that would work for my character. It’s not just that it has to be Irish, It also has to suit the personality of the character I’ve created. I’ve come up with five names and I’ll need to think about them for a while.

I think names do matter. William Shakespeare’s Juliet declared, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But then, she meant that even though Romeo came from the house of Montegue, the enemies of her family, he was a good and worthy person and his name didn’t define him. I think it may not have made him a bad person, but it did define who he was.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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It was a dark and stormy night…

CastleRight now, I’m going through each scene in my story and reviewing the setting. Where does the scene take place? Have I identified the place? Have I described it so the reader can get a feel for it?

I’ve already identified the towns or cities where scenes take place, but what I’m working on now is more specific. And more integral to the action and the story.

Setting serves different purposes. First it grounds the scene. Readers already know (or think they know) something about what will happen based on where it occurs. Is it a conversation over dinner at the kitchen table? Or in an elegant ballroom? Is it a seedy motel room or a suite at the Ritz? A dingy front hall or an elegant foyer?

Setting can also tell readers something about the characters. One of my characters has an office in his home and that office is paneled with dark wood and the shelves that go all the way up to the ceiling are overflowing with books. The walls are covered with diplomas and citations. The room smells faintly of pipe smoke. Does that tell you something about the character? Does it surprise you to know he is a college professor? Probably not.

I’m also considering weather, time of day, light, and even the smell of some of the places. A scene that happens on the street in a blowing snowstorm has a different feeling than one that happens on a front porch on a summer evening. Really, the same thing can happen but it would have a different feel. I’m working to make sure what I write feels the way I imagine it to be.

If I’ve done my job well, the setting will enhance my novel and be as important as any character in telling the story.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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Status Update

I’ve had a lot of questions about my novel and where I am or how I’m doing, so today I’m going to share an update. Each day is a little different and as I’m writing this, I realize I should have a better plan as I proceed. I guess that will be my next step, to identify all I need to accomplish and a logical work sequence.

I’ve been working on fleshing out my characters. It is interesting that as I do, I realize what is important to each character. This helps me enrich the story with more details. I can also see that subplots will develop as I get to know each character better.

There is more research to be done on the various settings in the book. I knew much of the story would take place in New England, a part of the country I’m not very familiar with. I have resources to help me, but I’ve had to pick locales based on proximity to the shore, to each other, and to a Coast Guard station. Once I think I have a good location, I check the demographics of the town back in the time that part of the story takes place.

researchI’m constantly checking online for information about life and culture during different time frames. I’ve looked up how young people would have dressed and what religious celebrations were common at the time. Did I mention I love Wikipedia and gladly contribute during their fund raising drive?

Accurate details help make the story real to readers. I know it would distract a reader if I referenced something that didn’t actually exist, such as putting seat belts in a car from the 50’s. During my research, I’ve also found interesting details to incorporate into the story.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’ll try to share some of what I learn as I write.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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Reading about Writing

Since I began this project, I’ve read a lot about writing. There are many, many books out there. I did a search on Amazon for “writing” and it came back with 42,056! Some books are written by writing professors or teachers. Many are written by famous writers. Stephen King wrote On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Anne Lamont wrote Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. In his book Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Larry W. Phillips collected the musings of the legendary author.

BooksAnd then there are the blogs. I subscribe to several, including Fiction University, A Writer’s Path and Writer’s Digest. Each day, I get helpful hints in my email.

At times, I feel guilty spending so much time reading about writing when I think I should be writing instead. But I’ve learned so much! As I’ve acknowledged from the beginning, even though I’m a writer, I’ve never written a novel.

The advice I’ve read has been enormously helpful. It got me over the brick wall I ran into after last November. I had 50,000 words, but I didn’t know what I had or how to organize it. If I wanted people to read my book (and I do), I felt a responsibility to deliver the best possible book. I wanted a book people would enjoy reading and would recommend to others.

So far, the advice I’ve read has helped me structure my story into a readable structure. As I continue, I’ll incorporate what I’ve read as I work to enrich my character descriptions, create realistic settings and craft believable dialogue.

In case anyone is interested, I’m going to add a page to this site which includes the resources I’ve found. It will be titled “Resources” in the tabs above. I’ll try to update it on a regular basis. It’s my way of paying it forward.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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Status Update

A friend asked me recently how far along I am in my story. I told her the same thing I’ve been telling others. I figure it’s going to take me a good year to get to a passable draft.

Then she asked me how much of the story I know. I told her I know the whole story. I know how it starts, how it ends and pretty much of what happens in the middle.

I don’t know everything about all my characters. I don’t know where everyone came from, what their family is like or even how all of them look. I know how some of them talk, but some I don’t, yet. If they have back stories worth exploring, I haven’t identified them right now.

I’m not sure where all the different parts of the story take place. Some settings I have figured out and some I haven’t. I’ve spent a lot of time on Goggle Maps and Wikipedia researching possibilities.

I’ll need to add some more challenges for my characters to overcome, but, at this point, I’m not sure what they are. Subplots need to be added. I spend a lot of time studying and refining the narrative arc to make sure the story stays interesting enough to engage a reader and then keep them engaged. There will need to be high points, low points and time to rest built into the flow of the story.

xmas tree1After our conversation (thanks, Nan), I figured out how to describe my progress. Right now, my story is like a freshly cut Christmas tree. It’d been chosen and claimed and is standing, bare naked, in my world. Now it needs lights, all our special ornaments and a star at the top to be the best Christmas tree I know it can be.

Have I mentioned how particular I am decorating our Christmas tree? It’s going to take some time.

xmas tree2Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

We Have a Title (Maybe)

As I’ve worked on my novel, I’ve struggled with the title. I realize the title and the cover will be a big part of selling the book. You may not be able to tell a book by it’s cover, but if the title and cover aren’t appealing, I know I probably wouldn’t pick it up, or download it on to my Kindle.

My first working title was Lost at Sea. One problem with that title is it gives away too much of the story. Another problem is there are several books by that name already listed on Amazon.

So, I decided the boat name would be the title of the book. At that time, the name of the boat was Leanan Sidhe. In Celtic folklore, Leanan Sidhe is a beautiful fairy who takes a human man as a lover. I liked the symbolism for my protagonist and I like the Irish touch since one of my characters is Irish. But the problem with Leanan Sidhe is that no one would know how to pronounce it, making it a very bad title for a book. Incidentally, that also makes it a bad boat name for the same reason. Boat names need to be easy to pronounce and understand on a radio. Scratch that!

The seaFor a few weeks, the book was titled Come Sail Away. I had the Styx song stuck in my head for quite a while and some of the lyrics kind of went with the story, I mean except the part about the starship. Ultimately, though, I decided Come Sail Away is an invitation to someone and there is no such invitation in my book. Pity, because I really like the song. Maybe I could even have worked aliens into the plot . . .

I’ve been working with the current title long enough now I’m ready to share it. That’s not to say it won’t change down the road, but for right now, I like it. The title is The Sea Beckoned. Let me know what you think.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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Back from Camp

Camp-Winner-2015-Twitter-ProfileCamp ended last night at midnight. Organizers describe Camp NaNoWriMo as “An Idyllic Writers’ Retreat, Smack-Dab in the Middle of Your Crazy Life.” I met the camp goal I set for April which was editing everyday and that makes me a winner! Everyone who meets his or her goal is considered a winner.

This time, the actual work was a little less onerous because the goal was readily achievable. I could do it while living my everyday life. When I was writing 50,000 words last November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writing became my life.

My next goal is to prepare for a new adventure: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days. The program was created by Janice Hardy as part of her Fiction University, a great web resource for writers.

She created the program for the month of March, but I didn’t learn of it until later in April. That’s OK; I wasn’t ready for it in March. In fact, I’m not ready yet. My goal is to start in mid-July.

The program is designed for novels that are farther along than mine. Fortunately, it will be available until the end of the year. I checked.

Odd, isn’t it? I have a lot of work to do to get my story to the point where I can consider a program to revise it? But I get it.

I read that if I finished 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, I probably wouldn’t even have a first draft for a novel; I’d have a zero draft. Maybe that would be less true for an experienced writer, but it was absolutely the case for me. I want my novel to be 80,000 to 100,000 words. But I don’t need to just add more words; I need to add more story, to craft my zero draft into something other people (besides my mother) will want to read.

My next checkpoint is July 13.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

Progress

progressWell, I finally feel like I made significant progress yesterday! I moved around a bunch of scenes to create a flow I think works better. I’ve been concerned about the sequence and timing of events and felt the story could drag and readers would lose interest. I was also worried if there was sufficient character motivation.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a whole lot of writing and re-writing left to do. With the changes, I need to modify a lot of transitions and create some new ones. Characters and settings need to be more fully developed. I want to add more sub-plots. In the original draft, I only had one sub-plot, and it was really more character back story than sub-plot.

Still, I’m glowing in the success I have from yesterday. This morning, I reorganized my printed copy to reflect the changes. It feels like progress. Progress is good.

Now, back to the grindstone!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.
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Editing is Hard

Editing is hard work!possible cover pix I thought creating the story would be difficult, but once I got into the groove, the writing flowed. Now it seems all I’m doing is throwing out scenes that don’t advance the plot. And I liked some of those scenes a lot!

I don’t actually throw anything away, but the folder called Unused Material keeps growing. At the end of  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I had over 50,000 words. I thought by now my word count would be higher, but it continues to fall.

The work I’ve started with is tightening the story and refining the narrative flow. Hopefully my efforts will result in a leaner and meaner version. I’m thinking of this as diet and exercise to make the book stronger. When I’m satisfied, I will dress the story up with all the compelling descriptions and details I have in mind. The result should be an attractive and appealing novel. That’s my plan!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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