NanoWriMo ends – how did you do?

It’s over! Did you make it?  Did you try? Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m referring to National Writing Month, also known by those in the secret society of writers as NanoWriMo. For those that aren’t familiar, it’s the one month each year where authors are challenged to write 50,000 words. Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter what you write, or how good the result, the idea is just to get writers into the mindset of writing on a regular basis.

For most doing NanoWriMo it’s a challenging proposition. Mainly because most doing so are balancing a day job and “a life” which often includes significant others and sometimes younglings who still need to be fed and cared for even in the month of November. Plus there is the whole start to the holiday thing, which can eat into the time available when you are locked in a chair writing away.

To all those who tried and succeeded…Congratulations. To all those who tried and fell short, well good for you for making the attempt…and there is always next year.  Also, keep in mind that Scrivener (a great program for writing) has special discounts: 50% to all those who win, and 20% off for everyone else.

As for me, I wasn’t “officially” doing NanoWriMo as I was already 13,000 words into my current work in progress when November rolled around and technically you are supposed to start a new project.  But my yesterday word count was 63,580 so I did actually write 50,000 words this month, but I do this full time so that’s not all that unusual. (I try to shoot for 2,000 words a day). What makes these 50,000 words important is they are “finished” as opposed to just brain dumping.  Now that’s not to say that there won’t be editing when the book is all done, but they also aren’t stream of consciousness that is indicative of most NanoWriMo results.  I’ve already been over them several times during the writing and they are at the 90% completed stage that I produce during my first draft.

So although I’ve not updated much recently, progress is continuing. As with any of my writing I won’t know until it’s done whether it will die on the table or live on – but that’s why I write “full series” before  publishing anything.

That’s my update…how did others fare?

First chapter is looking good…

First chapters are really important for me…well they should be for every author, but I place a lot of emphasis on them. Some of my favorite openings have been:

* Theft of Swords: The Crown Conspiracy – the thought of Riyria being robbed and Royce giving the thieves advice for the future just seemed like a great, fun way to start out a book.

* Theft of Swords: Avempartha – I really liked Royce and Hadrian putting the squeeze on “DeWitt” for him setting them up.  I also liked the way that whole conflict resolved itself.

I’m actually thinking that the first chapter of Dherg may be my favorite so far.  I think I’m channeling a bit of “The Jester” by starting this chapter out with a great roller coaster ride…very reminiscent of the opening of Indiana Jones (one of my favorite movies).  So I’m pretty darn happy right now, and am going to get back at it. But just wanted to drop in update people about how book #2 is going. 

Time to start updating again

When last I posted I had just finished the first book of the series.  This was a first draft and I wasn’t even at a stage where I would allow Robin to look at it.  I think the book was suffering on trying to do too much so I spent quite a deal of time determining what I could do to simplify and focus it.  

I ended up removing one of the POV characters and this really did the trick. It also required quite a bit of re-writing and restructuring.  This is what I’ve been working on for the last month or so, and now I’m really happy with the state of book #1.

With that completed, I’ve turned it over to Robin. She’s only read the first section and already has a lot of great feedback (which I quickly incorporated). She has some other things she has to do before she can start digging into it but with that out of the way (for now) I’ve turned my attention to book #2.

Work on it officially started yesterday. I’m not sure I’m going to do a daily word count as I did with the first book but I will have some periodic check-ins with where it is and where it is going.  My hope is to have it done by the end of the year.  

Book #23 is done!

So yesterday I finished writing Rhune.  I’ll have bigger post in my website, but just wanted to officially log this in…book #23.  Yes, I’ve written 23 books, although most of them you’ll never see.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • 11 “practice books” where I was just trying to “learn my craft” and “find my voice”.  Some okay ideas but terrible execution
  • 6 Riyria Revelations: Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha), Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm, Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis)
  • 2 Riyria Chronicles: The Crown Tower (releasing in less than 2 weeks), The Rose and the Thorn (releasing on my birthday – Sep 17)
  • 1 Hollow World – approaching finishing the copy edits on this.
  • 2 books that I’m not sure what to do with:  Need editing at a minimum (Antithesis and A Burden to the Earth)
  • 1 in the New Empire Series

Currently it stands at 122,800 words. Much left to do on this but nothing I’ll be doing anytime soon.  First will require Robin to do the Alpha read, based on her feedback I have a couple major changes that I may or may not need to do.  I pretty much have lined up things nicely or Dherg.  I’ve been burning the candle on all ends: Hollow World, Riyria Chronicles and now this.  So I’ll probably be taking a break and trying to get some things around the house taken care of that have been neglected.

One chapter to go!

For the last two days, I’ve been struggling a bit.  The house is a mess (with Hollow World shipping materials and boxes of stuff for The Crown Tower release).  I’m spending some time each day working on Hollow World edits, but i still want to make progress on Rhune (especially since I don’t feel like I can take a break until I get this wrapped up).

I recognized early on yesterday that what I was writing just wasn’t going to cut it.  I don’t generally suffer from writer’s block…and this wasn’t that as I knew what I wanted to write…but it just wasn’t coming out like it should.

So I spent the late afternoon, getting my “head together.” I went on a really long and difficult bike ride, had dinner out and then rode a good way home as it was still too early to take the Metro (bikes aren’t allowed between 4:00 – 7:00 because of Rush hour).

I returned exhausted, but after a shower I re-read what I had written, and yes it was as bad as I thought it was.  The good news is the rewrite went much better.  I spent today’s morning finishing off the climax of the story and I now just have the final concluding chapter.

So this afternoon I’ve got to write 2 blog posts for Orbit, then it’s back at reviewing the copy edits for Hollow World.  I think both of these projects are going to be wrapping soon and with Crown Tower debuting in a couple of weeks it might be that they all “conclude” pretty much together.

Today’s editing rant about the English language

All I can say is thank the gods, God, or whatever you believe in, for editors. I’ve been going over the copy edits and they’ve saved me from countless embarrassments. It’s Daniel Steel and not Steele. Yes, there is a difference between bawling and balling (that could have been really embarrassing). So some of this is basic fact checking (bad lazy writer), some of this is just not being familiar with the variations in words. But there are some things that I’m convinced are in their brains just because the do this day in and day out.

Let’s take the following as an example.

Pax led the way across the open plaza on which huge burnished metal shapes were imbedded. 

Imbedded is a fine word, meaning “Fix or set securely or deeply.” But in going over the copy edits one astute editor changed it to embedded which has two meanings:

  1. Enclosed firmly in a surrounding mass
  2. Inserted as an integral part of a surrounding whole

Yep, a better choice.  Now I don’t think I would have been embarrassed if I hadn’t discovered there were two such closely related words, and I’m glad at the improvement, but dang.  Did the English language really need both of these?  Which came first, and why the slight differences?  

It’s things like this that make me realize I’ll never master all the little nuances of this language. I know there are some that are supposedly more difficult to read or write…but I have more than enough trouble just dealing with stuff like this.


Editing tip…subjunctive mood

When I was in high school, I really wanted to be a novelist.  The possibility of this happening was darn close to zero because I was terrible at spelling, but more importantly I wasn’t very good at grammar.  So, not surprising, I went into art instead of writing.

Years passed, then decades. Spelling checkers emerged and helped a great deal with spelling, and after editing, or reviewing copy edits of others for a number of books, my grammar improved.

I try to learn something new about grammar regularly, and at this rate I’ll never run out of new things to learn.  I was actually pretty proud of myself as I caught an error that my copy editor was adding by mistake.

Editors adding in a mistake doesn’t make them bad editors. If you look at the sheer volume of changes to a manuscript it’s not surprising that a nit gets through.  This is one of the reasons why I’m using two copy editors for Hollow World, what one misses the other catches.

So here is one of the things I recently learned. I often struggle with the choice between was and were.  When choosing based on quantity, I’ve pretty much got that down.

  • The trees were green.
  • The tree was green.

Simple enough.  But I always seemed to flip-flop on sentences like this:  Should it be:

  • I wish I was a younger man.
  • I wish I were a younger man.

Without knowledge of subjunctive mood I would conclude that the first is correct because I’m referring to a singular person…and I would be wrong.

You see the choice between was and were is not always just based on quantity.  It also can represent a mood and indicate whether something is factual or a wish-fulfillment. If stating a fact: use was. If “wishing” for something use were.

Consider the following:

I wish I were a younger man and that I wasn’t dying.

In this sentence the person is expressing a wish…one of which isn’t true, and the other, unfortunately is.

While I’ve known for years about was/were related to quantity, it was only recently that I learned about it with regards to mood. If you would like to learn more, here is a helpful link.  If you struggle with this, you’re in good company:

Damn the subjunctive,” Mark Twain wrote in his notebook. “It brings all our writers to shame.”