November reading summary and December TBR

Well, I did it!

November was a very busy month with a TON of travel and very little stability (we’re moving, location TBD after the holidays). But, I still managed to push through and write 50k words in 30 days. Phew. I have to say, as cool as it is to have “won” NaNoWriMo again — this is my 6th win — the thing I’m most proud of this month is that I wrote every day. Regardless of how crazy life got, no matter what got in the way, I put my butt in the chair and typed. Even if it was just 79 words (my worst day: the day after Thanksgiving). Even if it meant that I had 6 days where I wrote at least double the daily “par” word count of 1667 words in order to catch up.

So, what do I have to show for it? I have just over 50k words of something that is starting to become novel-shaped. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a (very weak) plot. It has one or two scenes that I’m particularly proud of and a TON of holes that need to be filled in. Gaping holes. Now, I just need to actually *finish* this first draft. But before I do that, I need to tinker with last year’s NaNoWriMo project so that I can send it out for a developmental edit.

Because of all this writing (and life) craziness, I didn’t read much in November. I finished one book. It was a really good book — The Sisters of Alameda Street by Lorena Hughes. It’s a family drama with some romantic sub-plots and an underlying mystery driving the story, and it takes place in Ecuador — a country I lived in for about two months back in 2008. I’d recommend it for anyone who liked My Brilliant Friend.

On my way to Thanksgiving, I bought myself an autographed copy of Kirstin Cashore’s new novel, Jane, Unlimited. I started it, but I didn’t have much time to read over Thanksgiving. I’m almost to the end of the first branch of the story. If you aren’t familiar with this book, it has a kind of “choose your own adventure” or Sliding Doors (though I haven’t seen that movie) premise to it. There’s a base story that sets things up and introduces the characters. Then there are five (I think) possible branches for what happens directly after that base story. Apparently, each of those branches is a different genre of story. It sounds really creative, and I loved her Graceling series, and the story has a lot of elements that I love (huge, creepy house on a private island, odd rich people behaving badly, lots of references to ocean creatures). I’m planning on spending the better part of my weekend curled up with this book.

I’m not sure what else I plan to read in December. I have a “kinda sorta” TBR list, but it’s basically just a list of the books I was going to read for the remaining Read Harder Challenge tasks. I have eight left to read. They’re mostly all books that I really want to read. Some of the ones I picked are really short. So, we’ll see how it goes.

More than anything, I have a lot of reading-related thoughts floating around in my head that I’m going to work on organizing into blog-posts for December. I have a lot of thoughts, folks. Especially about book buying and Goodreads and TBRs and life. So, stay tuned for more on that.

And, I know I don’t talk about writing a lot on my blog (on purpose). But, if you want to hear more about what’s going on with my writing, I’m starting a newsletter. You can sign up for it here. It will contain content that I don’t offer anywhere else on the internet (or at least newsletter subscribers will get that content months before everyone else). I’m shooting for a monthly schedule to be sent each month on or around the 15th, starting in December. This month’s newsletter may just be a giant photo of me watching The Last Jedi with my friends. Plus a few other writing-related tidbits. We’ll see…

Happy holidays, everyone!

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October reading summary and November TBR

Hello, readers! Happy Halloween and happy NaNoWriMo-Eve!

There’s a LOT going on right now in my world, and October was not a great reading month for me. I only managed to read TWO books. I know. Scary.

Here are the books I read in October (links go to Goodreads):

  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — This was not exactly what I expected, but it was also even better than I’d anticipated. I think it’s shelved as “YA,” but the chapters are split evenly between the 1980s and the late 2000s. The characters are fifteen in the flashback chapters and in their thirties in the “present day” chapters. I’d thought it was going to be more definitely YA, but I actually liked this format better. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the romance, but the romance in this is SO GOOD. It’s a sweet “reuniting with your childhood best friend who broke your heart at fifteen by not returning your affections” kind of story. There are a LOT of references to music, not all of which I’d heard of before, and it definitely made me wish there were a playlist for this book. If anyone knows of a playlist for this book, please let me know. If you like magical realism, records/music, and/or childhood friends who are destined to be soul mates, you should check out this book.
  • Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn — This is the follow up to Heroine Complex and is a SFF romance series featuring a group of friends with super powers who live in a house together in San Francisco. It’s a very fun and very cute read. It’s way more about friendships and relationships than “saving the world,” though there are some fun (and funny) action scenes as well. I loved the hero in this one, and I found the heroine very relatable. I definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a light sci-fi romance. This book does stand alone, but you may want to start with the first book in the series or the plot of the first book will be spoiled for you.

Now that there are only two more months in this year, I think I have a TBR dilemma. To make matters worse, I’m not sure I’m going to have a ton of time to read in November. The next two months are going to continue to be VERY busy for me, and my outside of work priority is switching over to writing from reading, at least for the next 30 days (NaNoWriMo Time!).

I really wanted to complete all 24 Read Harder tasks this year, but I also have five books that I REALLY want to read before the end of the year because I’ve really been looking forward to reading them and have a feeling they are going to be five star reads for me. Let’s compare and contrast and see if I can come to a decision about what to do…

These are the books I wanted to read for Read Harder challenge:

The problem is that there’s nothing on that list that’s jumping out at me as a book I know I’m going to love. There are some books that are supposed to be really good (ex: 1984, The Parable of the Sower, The Boys in the Boat, Reading Lolita in Tehran), and there are most likely going to be some surprise favorites in there (my money’s on Falling in Love with Hominids and/or Lagoon), but there’s nothing really jumping out at me and screaming “Read Me!”

Meanwhile, these five books are calling to me because I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time:

The first two (The Stone Sky and Our Dark Duet) were pre-orders that have been sitting on my Kindle, waiting for me to get around to reading them, but they’re both the last in their series, and I’m not really ready for those series to end. The middle one (Jane, Unlimited) is on hold for me at the library, but I put a temporary freeze on it because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it in November. The last two (Three Dark Crowns and The Queen of Blood) have been on my Kindle since nearly their publication dates, and now they both have sequels out this year. All of them sound like I will LOVE them and devour them.

So, do I do the responsible thing (Read Harder)? Or dive into these delicious SFF books that are calling to me?

I think the answer is obvious. The thing I should be putting a temporary freeze on is my Read Harder challenge so that I can pick one of the lovelies to read next. Except…any one of those books will definitely distract me from writing….Ugh. What do I do?

#ReaderProblems. 🙂

September reading summary and October TBR

It’s October and officially FALL! Now, if only we had some nice crisp fall weather around here so that I could break out my sweaters and boots… I love fall, and I love that we’re now only one month away from National Novel Writing Month! But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s catch up on what I read in September…

Here are the books I read in September (links go to Goodreads):

  • The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman (Kindle) — I chose this book to read for the “Read a Travel Memoir” Read Harder task, and it was even more enjoyable than I’d hoped. The only problem was that it stoked my wanderlust in a major way and made it very hard to get excited about going to work.
  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet (Kindle) — This, on the other hand, was less enjoyable than I’d hoped. On the surface, this appeared to be everything I’d ever wanted in a secondary world fantasy romance. I liked the characters and thought the world-building was good. However, I found it to be plagued with consent issues, and had a less than satisfying ending for both the plot and the romance. I’ll probably keep reading because I like the world and the characters, but I’m not feeling a burning desire to run out and get the next books.
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron (Kindle) — This one was also a little disappointing. Again, I liked the world and all the side characters. It’s fine as a first book in a series, but the main character (Julius) is possibly the least interesting character in this book. For large swaths of the story I had a really hard time caring about what happened to him. I’ll definitely keep reading, not just because I happen to own the next two books in the series, but again I’m not feeling a burning desire to jump into the next one.
  • The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (Kindle) — Now THIS is the romance that I wanted from my month of reading romance. This is a novella prequel to her Brothers Sinister series, of which I’ve read the first two and one other novella. The heroine in this book is excellent, the hero is just exactly reluctant enough in all the right (reasonable) ways. Their romance is perfectly paced, and I appreciated the hero’s handling of the heroine’s previous (bad) experience in the bedroom. This is a hot, fast, entertaining read. Now why can’t I find an author who writes romance like this for the (secondary world) fantasy and/or sci-fi genres?
  • Star Nomad by Lindsay Buroker (Kindle) — I thought this was a romance. I was wrong. It was categorized as romance on Amazon. There’s some romantic tension, but it’s mostly just a sci-fi adventure that is heavily influenced by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. The crew that the heroine assembles for her ship is nearly a direct one-for-one copy of the characters Mal gets to join him on the Serenity. As for the not-quite-a-romance, it’s like the author swapped Mal and Zoe’s roles, making Zoe the pilot/captain (with a dead husband) and Mal the badass fighter (in this case a cyborg), then twisted their backstory so they were on the opposite sides of the war instead of fighting alongside each other. It’s not a bad sci-fi adventure. It’s just not what I was expecting, and the world-building was a little weak.

Overall, I really enjoyed focusing on reading romance this month. I’d hoped to read more sci-fi and fantasy romance, but I definitely need to do some more work to find new authors to read in those genres. To that end, I asked for sci-fi and fantasy romance recommendations on Twitter and ended up getting re-tweeted by Courtney Milan which landed me a TON of recommendations. I started a list on Goodreads. So, if you’re on Goodreads and have suggestions, feel free to go vote on what’s already there or add your recommendations. I’m probably going to start there when I create my next romance reading list.

Most of October is going to be consumed with work (day job), and NaNoWriMo prep (for myself and for my region). So, I’m not anticipating having much time for reading outside of my insane commute. I’ll probably use whatever reading time I have to catch up on my Read Harder tasks and the new releases I’ve purchased but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Here’s what’s on my TBR for October:

I’ve already started Signal to Noise and one other book. I’m anxious to read both The Stone Sky and Our Dark Duet, but I am painfully aware that they are both the last books in their respective series, written by authors I love. Since I loved the earlier books in both these series (5 stars, all of them), I really want to savor these last ones. As far as I’m concerned, these aren’t really commute reading…these are more like “Do Not Disturb” binge reading. Finding time for that is going to be tough. Hence, the other three books on my list: Superheroes Anonymous (a book that’s been on my Kindle for a while), Falling in Love with Hominids (a book of short stories), and Heroine Worship (the recently released follow up to Heroine Complex that I read and enjoyed last year). I picked the two super hero books to help get me in the right mood for this year’s NaNoWriMo…for reasons that I’ll be ready to talk about more in November…maybe.

In case you can’t tell, I’m ridiculously excited about NaNoWriMo. This will be the ten year anniversary of the first NaNoWriMo I ever participated in (2007), and it will be my third year as Municipal Liaison for my region. Today I started setting up my Scrivener file for my new project, and updated my novel and bio on the NaNoWriMo website. It’s beginning to look a lot like Novel Writing Season!

If you want a behind-the scenes updates on NaNoWriMo and my other writing projects, you may want to sign up for my monthly newsletter. I’ll still post general writing updates here, but newsletter subscribers will be the first to know about new projects and get sneak peeks of what I’m writing.

If you’re not interested in that sort of thing, no worries. The blog isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s turning 5 this month! Happy almost-blogiversary to me!

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for or add your sci-fi and/or fantasy romance recommendations to my list on Goodreads, or just add them in the comments…. until next time, Happy Reading!

#NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously

Yes, I am completely aware that it’s mid-July, and there are four more months until NaNoWriMo and The NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. That doesn’t dampen my excitement one bit.

I’ve already set up my donation page to attend this year’s event. If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most fun writing events I’ve attended, and I look forward to it every year.

Even if you’re not a writer or not able to attend this year, I’m hoping that you might consider a donation to support the NaNoWriMo organization (and my fundraising campaign).

If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU! Your name has been added to my “reward” list. I haven’t figured out what the reward is going to be yet, but stay tuned. I’ll make sure it’s awesome.

I know there are countless worthy causes out there hoping to get their hands on your charitable donation budget. Here’s why I encourage you to make (even a very small) donation to NaNoWriMo:

  • NaNoWriMo does inspiration like nobody else. It’s so inspiring that it’s been the catalyst to me writing 4 novels during past Novembers. With the magic and inspiration of NaNoWriMo 2017, I plan to do it again.
  • The money from donations is used to provide children and adults the encouragement, structure, and inspiration they need to achieve their creative potential.
  • Proceeds from the event will fund National Novel Writing Month’s free creative writing programs in hundreds of schools and communities around the world. For an example of what that looks like in action, watch this video:

So please, if you like my blog and want to support my writing while also supporting an excellent organization, click through to my donation page and consider a $5 or $10 donation. Anything helps. My goal is to reach $275 raised by the end of July. So, help me out? Pretty please?

My #NaNoWriMo month in review

Well… I did it!

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Through sheer force of will and determination, I made it to 50k. On the days I wrote, I wrote like the wind. By the end of the month I was easily averaging over 1k words per hour. But there were days in there where I just couldn’t write, and it had nothing to do with the story.

Even though almost everything seemed to be conspiring against me to throw roadblocks in my way, I pushed through. Because, when it came down to it, I had been looking forward to NaNoWriMo all year. I freaking love NaNoWriMo. I know its not for everyone, but it works really well for me. I wasn’t about to let the election and everything else take my November novel writing tradition away from me. Sheer stubbornness does come in handy some times.

So, I made it to 50k and I did it one day early. I still have probably about 30k to go in order to finish the first draft of this novel, but for once I’m not coming out of the month drained. I’m invigorated and pumped to keep going. Right now I’m planning on writing ~1k per day through December so I can have this first draft done before the end of the year.

So, I suppose I could tell you a little about my novel now. Nothing too specific, yet. I am still working on it, after all, and I don’t like talking about projects before the first draft is done. But, basically, it’s a space opera influenced by a Jane Austen novel and by basically all my favorite sci-fi novels and movies. I don’t have any ideas for a title yet. I’ve given it the working title of “Sparks” because that’s the hero’s nickname for the heroine.

I know that’s not much to go on, but stick around. Assuming I finish with the first draft as planned, I’ll probably be looking for beta readers who are available in January/February. And, before I (officially) ask for beta readers, I’ll at least have a blurb written so people can learn more about the story before signing up to read and provide feedback. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll likely focus on fun post through the end of the year, including my usual “best of” posts, my year end summary, and my goals for next year. If you know of an Instagram photo challenge, or a book blogger challenge that you think I might like, let me know in the comments.

Happy Holidays!

#NaNoWriMo mid-point update

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For those curious about my NaNoWriMo progress, we’re halfway through the month, and (as of this writing) I have just over 27k words. That puts me slightly ahead of the “peanut butter” schedule (1667 words/day). But, I’m about 10k behind the “reverse NaNo” schedule I’d intended to follow.

I had been doing really well on the reverse NaNo program, hitting most of my daily word count goals and catching back up if I missed the mark for a day. Then the election happened, and I couldn’t write. Last week was a rough week for writing. I wrote about 5400 words total last week and most of those were on Saturday and Sunday.

But, (knock on wood) I seem to be back on track now. I probably won’t hit my goal of finishing at the Night of Writing Dangerously coming up on Sunday. But I *might* be able to hit 50k before Thanksgiving. Even if I don’t, I’m still in a way better position at this point than I was last year — after which, I took a massive nose dive and had to claw my way to a win. I’m just hoping this post doesn’t jinx me like last year’s mid-point post did.

Regardless of when I hit 50k, I won’t be able to stop there. Right now, I’ve only written about a third of what I’ve outlined. I’m still building to the big drama at the mid-point. If I do the math, that puts the forecasted length of this book at 80k words, which sounds about right.

Which reminds me… I should really stop wasting word count on blog posts and get back to the word mines… 🙂

Happy Writing!

#NaNoWriMo reverse word count tracker, #BuJo style

In order to write 50k words in November, the standard practice is to divide 50,000 by 30 days and give yourself a daily word count goal of ~1667 words per day.

This year, I think I’m going to try something a little different… It’s called “Reverse NaNo,” and it looks like this:

The idea is to capitalize on initial early excitement and momentum and get ahead of your word count early. I really like this idea for a number of reasons. So, I created a word count tracker in my notebook, and I’m going to give it a try. If all goes well, I might even be done with my 50k words before the Thanksgiving holiday! Another added bonus is that, if I stick to this plan and meet these word count goals, I might have a real shot at ringing that bell at the Night of Writing Dangerously.

You see, if you finish your 50k words during the event, you get to go to the front of the ballroom and ring this very loud bell. Everyone cheers for you. It’s pretty awesome. I was nowhere near 50k last year during NoWD, and I had no idea about this particular tradition. This year, I’m going to be ready.

Oh, and yeah… That picture of my notebook is also revealing my weak attempt at trying out the whole Bullet Journal craze… I’m trying to decide if I like this free-form planner concept, or if I want to continue my tradition of buying (and only sort-of using) my usual weekly planner from Moleskine…

So far, I haven’t quite figured out a format that works quite right. Of course, my weekly planner isn’t perfect either, and I do like the flexibility that the “BuJo” method offers. I’ve got a couple months left to mess around with both options before I have to decide if I need to buy a 2017 planner. So, we’ll see.

Do you use a bullet journal? What resources did you find most helpful when you were very first getting started?

#WriterTag responses and more #NaNoWriMo prep

I saw this tag on Jenna Moreci‘s vlog and thought the questions also worked well for a NaNoWriMo prep blog post.

WRITER TAG QUESTIONS:

  1. What do you eat or drink while writing? I drink green tea and lots of it. When I’m in a rush or feeling lazy, I drink Stash organic green tea in bags that I buy in bulk. Or, I drink loose leaf in my teapot if I’m feeling fancy. As for snacks, I haven’t quite figured out how to snack and write at the same time since both things require using my hands. I find that if I’m snacking, I’m not typing. So, I save the snacking for rewards. Recently, I’ve discovered that I really like plain popcorn with just salt as a writing break reward. I also reward myself with dark chocolate. In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’m making sure that I’m fully stocked up on all my favorites.
  2. What do you listen to while writing? I prefer to listen to music with no words when I write. Classical music is okay, but I prefer movie score soundtracks or electronic music. For soundtracks, I love the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack, and I just discovered the Children of Dune soundtrack. Both of these are “comfort food” movies for me, which means they work great as soundtracks for highly emotional scenes. As for electronic music, I like dubstep. I have a tendency to enjoy the bro-iest and most intense stuff (Knife Party/Pendulum, Skrillex, and deadmau5, as examples). The beat is motivating for typing fast, and I can tune out the words because they’re kind of repetitive. For this type of thing I like Amazon Music’s playlists. Devastating Dubstep Drops is usually pretty good for the intense stuff, and Electronic Beats for Work is good when I don’t want a lot of lyrics. In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’ve made sure that all these go-to soundtracks and playlists are available on my phone and on my laptop when they are both in “off-line” mode. If you’re wondering why I need them available when I’m off-line, see my response to the next question…
  3. What is your biggest distraction while you’re writing? THE INTERNET! Seriously. I have to turn off the wi-fi on my laptop and put my phone on “do not disturb” so it doesn’t beep if I get a message. During the month of November, I’ll probably only be online when I’m at work, or as a reward if I happen to be killing my word count goals and tracking ahead of schedule.
  4. What is the worst thing that has happened to you while writing? My computer went nuts one time and started deleting a chunk of text I’d just edited. It was like the delete key got stuck or something. I couldn’t stop it and had to just close Scrivener and restart it. Luckily, I had back-ups of the file. I’m usually pretty good about back-ups. I haven’t decided on my back-up strategy for NaNoWriMo this year. I’ll probably export the compiled doc from Scrivener and save it in multiple places before I go to bed each writing day. Or, I may post chapters to Google Docs so I can share them with some of my “alpha readers” to get feedback as I’m writing. Or both. You can never have too many back-ups.
  5. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you while writing? I finished a novel. And then I did it again. And then I did it one more time. Finishing a novel (even though it just means you have a pile of editing to look forward to), is such a rush. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
  6. Who do you communicate with while you’re writing? When I have a new idea for a novel I don’t really talk about it in detail with anyone, even my husband, even critique partners. In the early stages of an idea it always feels so tentative, like if I say too much the idea will just fizzle and go away. Or, sometimes the idea is so big and vague I don’t really have words to describe what I want to do, it’s just a feeling or an image in my head. If I try to explain anything to anyone at that stage, I’ll just sound like a crazy person. I’m most comfortable talking about what I’m working on when I’m about half to two-thirds done with the first draft. At that point I’m committed and I have a pretty good idea what I’m doing. So, after I finish my 50k words for NaNoWriMo, I’ll be happy to tell you more about my project. Until then, you’ll just have to wait. 🙂
  7. What is your secret to success and your biggest writing flaw? Secret to success is definitely discipline combined with persistence, two skills I learned from competitive swimming and coxing crew. My biggest writing flaw is neglecting character development in favor of plot and world-building. Oh, and beginnings. I hate trying to write amazing first chapters, and first sentences are the absolute worst. One of the reasons NaNoWriMo works so well for me is because it’s all about discipline combined with persistence. And I give myself the freedom to write a completely crappy beginning because I know I can always make it better later.
  8. What is your inspiration? What makes you productive? I’m inspired by professional writers like Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, and Courtney Milan. Even though they’ve each reached some level of success, they haven’t lost their hustle. They treat their writing career like a business and they still write great books. They inspire me. This is super dorky, but when I was in the middle of editing during Pitch to Publication earlier this year, my husband printed out a copy of one of Victoria Schwab’s photos of her desk (for that day). It’s basically just a table with a laptop, a cup of tea, a notebook, and some headphones. But, it’s become my visual reminder that those writers are just like me. They put on their pants one leg at a time the same way we all do. They put their butts in their seats and their hands on the keyboard and write the words. To quote Victoria Schwab, “One word at a time. One page at a time. One scene at a time. One chapter at a time. One book at a time.” That’s how it’s done, and that’s going to be my NaNoWriMo mantra.
  9. What is one thing that you do or that other writers do that is super annoying? Compare myself to others. I’m competitive. I try to find healthy ways to compete (like in the pool, for example). But when I’m beating myself up because I don’t think I’ve been as productive as I “should be,” I have an annoying tendency to start comparing myself to others. I’ve gotten better at catching myself doing this, taking a huge step back (and usually off the internet), and focusing my eyes on my own paper. When I’m producing new words (like during NaNoWriMo), this isn’t a problem. When I’m stuck (aka, not writing), it’s easy to find myself falling into the competitive death spiral.
  10. Are you willing to share something you’ve written? Oh, sure. Why not. In celebration of NaNoWriMo, I’ll post an excerpt from my very first NaNoWriMo novel (un-edited) for your reading pleasure. This is from 2007, and it’s the first time I’ve opened this file in almost that many years. The novel is pretty bad. But because you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward. So, I’ve posted a (somewhat) embarrassing excerpt on my NaNoWriMo author dashboard. You can read it here.

Before I sign off, thanks to Jenna Moreci (who I don’t know, but is another writer who inspires me) for the idea for this post. You can watch her answer these same questions in the video below.

If there are any other writers out there reading this blog, I’d love to hear your responses! Post a link to your blog post (or vlog post) in the comments if you do a response to the “writer tag.”

NaNoWriMo Prep Time

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Hooray! NaNoWriMo is just 22 days away! I love the space theme this year, and it’s especially fitting because the story I’m planning to write is a relationship driven sci-fi novel that takes place (mostly) on Mars.

I’m psyched to start writing, but I can’t officially start until November 1st. In the meantime, I’ve been working on novel prep. For those of you who are curious, I thought I’d share a little about what I’m doing.

First, a caveat — every time I do this, my process is a little different. Last year, for example, I mostly worked from a rough outline and a beat sheet and did minimal prep work. In previous years, I did even less prep work. Back in 2013, I completely pantsed my novel with no outline or prep work. Going into November the year after that, I think I knew exactly one scene that I wanted to write, but that scene didn’t take place until nearly two thirds of the way through the novel. So, I wrote down some “way points” that would get me to that scene. Then I started writing and pantsed my way from point to point until I ultimately got to that scene.

What I’m saying is, there are a lot of different ways to “win” NaNoWriMo, and there is no “right way.” Do what works for you.

This year, I’m trying to take a little more time and be a little more organized with my prep, mostly because the story I want to write is a little more complicated than what I’ve done in the past. I’m attempting a “re-telling,” but I want it to feel like an entirely new story while still being true to the emotional and plot beats of the original.

I’ve started by thinking about which story elements I’ll be including in my novel (primarily Relationship with sides of Wonder, Drama, Issue, and Ensemble, I think). Now I’m working on fleshing out each of the four story building blocks:

  1. Character
  2. Plot
  3. Setting
  4. Conflict

My characters and my plot are both drawn from the original story. How they differ from the original will depend a lot on the setting I’m planning. So, I’m starting with world-building. Once I’ve got the world figured out, I can tweak my characters and my plot to fit seamlessly into my world. In the process, I’ll be adding a whole new layer of conflict that didn’t exist in the original story.

So far, I’ve mostly been doing research for my world, but it’s getting to the point now where I think research is really just a procrastination excuse because I’m not exactly sure *how* I want to organize my world-building. I’ve been searching for writing tools that might help, but I think this may work best if I just start free-writing my thoughts in a notebook the way I’ve always done. I’ve built five completely different worlds for the five novels I’ve written, so far. I’ve never used any writing tools for world-building before, and world-building has always been an area of strength for me. So, I’m pretty sure I’m completely over-thinking this part.

Once I tackle the world-building, the characters and plot will be much easier. I already have good tools for these areas. I’ll probably use character sheets to define each of the main characters’ motivations, objectives, sensibilities, etc. Then I’ll map out my emotional and plot beats and modify them to fit the setting. After all that, conflict *should* be pretty obvious, but I may just make some more specific notes on that so I don’t forget what I’d originally planned once I start writing.

For the record, I’m just getting started, and it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing, even though this will be my 6th time writing a first draft of a novel. Perhaps this first draft thing never gets any easier… What’s keeping me motivated is my vision for this story and the knowledge that, if I can make this work, it’s going to be awesome.

Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and dive into world-building.

Oh! But, before I go… I’m only $38 away from hitting my fundraising goal to support the non-profit that runs NaNoWriMo, plus many other excellent creative writing programs for children and adults. If you haven’t already donated, please have a look at my fundraising page and consider a donation.

For those who have donated: Thank you for supporting me in my novel-writing quest, and for helping National Novel Writing Month create a more engaged and inspiring world. You’re awesome!