Why Haven’t I Written Anything Lately?

This is the big question looming over me.

Since mid-January, I have written almost nothing on my novel. And I don’t really know why. Scrivener is always open on my computer. I have time. I know exactly what happens next. I’m at the climax, after all. But I’m not writing.

Part of it might come from doubts and fears, I’m sure. I’m realizing that I have a couple of problems in the story that need some serious revision. And that makes me worry that the whole thing is worthless. (It’s not.)

That leads to the second issue: revision work. I know that there will be literally months of revision work on this and it’s intimidating. Since NaNoWriMo, the web/Twitter world related to writing has been all about revisions and the more I read and think about it, the more intimidated I am. Part of me is worried about how much work I’ll have to do AFTER I finish my first draft.

So why is that stopping me?

I don’t know.

I have some kind of mental block here that I’m struggling to overcome. Today, I wrote a character’s full background story, so that’s something. And I wrote this blog post. But I haven’t written a word on the novel itself.

I know this needs to change. Maybe by posting this here, I’ll motivate and/or embarrass myself into finishing.

My 2017 Writing Accomplishments

As 2017 began, I was deep into revising and editing one book. As 2017 ends, I am nearing the end of writing another book. A lot happened this year.

Last year, I wrote a YA fantasy novel. In January, I was revising and getting feedback from beta readers. Once I was satisfied with it, I began the querying process. In late February, I began sending out queries to dozens of literary agents.

By mid-April, it was beginning to be obvious that I did not have an instant bestseller. I lost track of how many rejections I got. Suffice to say, if an agent responded at all, it was with a rejection. Dozens of them. After some negotiation and interplay with a couple of agents on Twitter and via email, I finally, finally got a rejection that actually told me something. Multiple reasons could be found, but the primary one was that the market was still a little flooded with that particular sub-genre. For now, the best thing to do was to set it aside until a more opportune time.

That led to the next book. I had envisioned the YA novel as the first in a series, and I have rough outlines of at least two more novels. But to work on those when the first one isn’t going anywhere would be somewhat pointless. Instead, I began looking for my next unrelated novel.

I have numerous story ideas piled up here and there. Some of them are sketched out in notebooks, some on documents on my computer. Which one would be best, however?

After careful consideration, I settled on a concept that I’ve had written down (and mostly forgotten) since 1991. A friend and I brainstormed it one crazy college night. Needless to say, it needed some work. I started serious world-building in May.

With the start of summer, I began writing the new novel. The writing was slow and difficult most of the time. Bit by bit, it took shape.

Then Hurricane Harvey came along and derailed everything in everyone’s life.

By mid-October, I had hit 50,000 words, and I really needed motivation. Fortunately, NaNoWriMo came along. As I’ve written previously here, I wrote 50,012 words in November.

Since then, holidays and other factors have slowed me down again. I was hoping to be done by Christmas. Or New Year’s Day. Neither of those are happening. As of right now, the novel currently stands at over 120,000 words.

How much is left? If you had asked me in September, I would have said, the novel will be around 110,000 words. If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said it will be 130,000 or so. Now? I’m not sure. I’m entering the climax of the story, but there’s a lot left to tell. I’m thinking closer to 140,000.

I can finish this in January. I know it. Will I finish it in that time frame? I’m not 100% sure, but I’m confident that it will be done within the next few weeks.

Then I start revising. Then beta readers. Then more revising. And probably more revising. And then… then we’ll see if this novel can generate more interest than the last one in the publishing industry.

Welcome, 2018. This year, things will be… different.

50,000 Words in 30 Days. It can be done.

Whew.

November is over, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. For the second year in a row, I took part and accomplished my goal. It wasn’t easy this time.

Last year, I was working on a YA fantasy novel that was very fast moving and action-packed. I could breeze through a lot of words extremely fast. I succeeded in getting 50,000 words done without too much difficulty, even though it was my first time.

This year, I’ve been working on a much more detailed, elaborate adult fantasy. It’s far more complex, both in world-building and plot. Even though I had much of it mapped out, it was still a lot harder this year to get words down. I actually started it many months ago, and the writing was going very slow.

But having a specific challenge, a target to aim at, makes a huge difference. Along with that comes accountability. By telling people what I was doing, here and on Twitter, I was holding myself to the challenge. If I didn’t make it, everyone would know.

At the halfway point, I didn’t think I was going to make 50,000. I consoled myself with the truth that I would still have accomplished a great deal, regardless of whether the final number matched that 50K or not.

And then things kind of took off. I should thank fellow writer Wayne Thomas Batson for his Facebook group and chat on “Blackened Keyboard Friday.” That really gave me the motivation to get a lot done on the day after Thanksgiving, and then push through to the end. I had to work really hard on the last two days of November, but it was worth it.

I finished November with 50,012 words written. Yay me!

The novel now stands at 110,762 words. Based on what’s left, I’m now expecting it to reach 135,000 or more. It’s hard to say. Here’s why:

This novel is really two stories in one. There are two main protagonists with separate stories that weave together eventually. For one of the protagonists, I am now well into the climax of the story. Her part probably has 10,000 more words, at most. For the other protagonist, I have longer to go. His story needs something else to tie in with the climax and I’m not 100% sure about it yet. Depending on how that works out, I could be done with his story in 20,000 words… or it might be a lot more. It’s very hard to determine right now.

So the story continues into December. I hope I can at least finish by Christmas, but I’m not even sure of that at this point.

These are the things I know:

  1. I will finish this novel.
  2. It’s turning out so much better than I thought it would be.
  3. I’ll be doing lots of editing in 2018.

Time to get back to it! A major supporting character is about to die, and it’s a scene I’ve had in my head for almost a year…

Another NaNoWriMo Update

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Just a quick update on my NaNoWriMo progress:

So far in November, I’ve written 27,569 words in 19 days. My average is now 1451 words per day. That’s dropped a bit, but is not surprising considering a lot of stuff that happened in the past two weeks.

The novel’s current word count is 88,323. It’s becoming more and more clear that the final length will definitely exceed 100,000. It’s taking these characters longer than I anticipated to get into position for the climax of the story.

Unless I see a huge surge in word count this coming week, I don’t think I’ll get a full 50K in. But that’s okay. I’m working hard every day and making significant progress. The novel will be completed, if not this month, then before Christmas, at least.

One of the biggest problems facing me now is patience. I’m eager to get this manuscript into some other hands to get their reactions. But I can’t do that any time soon. I’m well aware that the novel in its current form needs some editing/revising. I know of a few places that need significant revisions.

It’s coming, though. And if I pull off writing the climax as I anticipate it to be, I’ll be very happy. Almost there now…

NaNoWriMo after One Week

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It’s been seven days of November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, as the cool kids say).

In that time, I’ve written 10,435 words. That’s an average of 1491 words per day. It’s not quite at NaNoWriMo levels (that would be 1600), but it’s pretty good. It would be higher, but one evening I had a flat tire that took way too much time to resolve. I should have made that loss of time up on another day, but haven’t been able to do that yet.

The novel’s current word count is 71,204. I’m on track to break 100,000 by the end of the month if I maintain the current pace. I’d like to do better and break 110,000, if the book goes that long.

My initial target for this novel was 100,000 words. When I reached 50,000, it seemed right on track, because that was around what I considered the midpoint of the story. Now that I’m into the latter half, I’m starting to think it may be longer. There’s a lot of story left that may take more space to tell.

I’ll update the blog again in another week or so. This one will be difficult for numerous reasons, and the week after that includes Thanksgiving. November’s not the perfect month for this kind of thing, but what month is?

NaNoWriMo & Me

November is NaNoWriMo! Or, to use the full title: National Novel Writing Month! If you’re not familiar with that, it’s a challenge for writers, aspiring and otherwise. The goal is to write a full novel, or 50,000 words, during the month of November.

Last year, I took part in this challenge for the first time, writing 50,000 words in my YA fantasy, Viridia (which I finished a few weeks into December). It was my attempt to jump-start my writing, to actually accomplish something, and to prove that I could write at that rate.

It worked.

I didn’t sign up on the website or anything, but I made the goal and kept track of it. I updated some people and kept myself accountable, and I pulled it off. It was a great feeling.

As November approaches this time, I’m in the middle of my current novel. As I write this, I’m at 54,530 words, with a goal of 60,000 by the end of this week. While I’ve been working hard, I haven’t kept myself to a strong pace.

Ever since Hurricane Harvey derailed things, I’ve been slowly working my writing pace and schedule back into place. I’m generally achieving 1,100+ words per day this week.

My goal for NaNoWriMo this year is to finish this novel. If I write 50K in November, the book will reach 110K. I don’t think it’ll be quite that long (though I could be wrong). Therefore, if I accelerate to the pace of 1600+ words per day for November, I should be able to finish.

I’ll update the blog with the word count as I find time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out why this supporting character feels so creepy every time he walks into a room.

Quasi-Review: The Stormlight Archives

The Stormlight Archives, by Brandon Sanderson, is a series that inspires me and depresses me at the same time. As a reader, it inspires me and moves me in ways few stories do. As a writer, it depresses me, because if something this awesome exists, why should I bother?

Sanderson doesn’t need me to sing his praises. He’s a best-selling author many times over. If you enjoy fantasy and haven’t read his books, then what is wrong with you? Get to a library or Barnes & Noble right now!

Seriously. His writing is fantastic, and The Stormlight Archives are the best of the best. So far, there are two books (out of planned ten) in the series available, and the third one comes out in November. I’ve just finished re-reading the first two, to refresh my memory and whet my appetite for book three.

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The first thing that awes me in these books is the worldbuilding. Many fantasy writers think they’re very clever when they devise a unique magic system, or do something unusual with language or flora & fauna. Some like to create a massive history of their world, in detail, going back thousands of years. Or maybe craft a fairly original mythology for their people, complete with ideas about religion or fantastical beings. Sanderson is not satisfied with doing one or two of those things; he does them ALL. He brings in the magic, the history, the peoples, the creatures, the mythology, the legends… and all of it connects. None of it is just thrown in for fun. There’s a logic to every element that makes it fit with all of the other elements. I am absolutely amazed at how much detail is packed into the world of Roshar. Just the ecosystem alone is incredible!

And if that weren’t enough, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The world of Roshar is linked in with many of Sanderson’s other books in one grand mythology (cosmere). It’s practically overwhelming. If you’re not interested in that, it doesn’t interfere with the main story at all, but it’s an interesting aside. Fantheories go nuts over this, by the way.

Second, Sanderson awes me with his characters. There are times that I’ve seen magnificent worldbuilding, but the writer is horrible at portraying true-to-life people. Not so here. Kaladin, Shallan, Dalinar, Szeth… all of them are fascinating people with complete personalities. Kaladin, especially, is a protagonist to rival any in fantasy fiction.

Third, Sanderson knows the art of the surprise. More than that, he’s brilliant at hiding a surprise in plain sight! I absolutely adore it when something is revealed, usually at a crucial moment in the climax, and it’s something absolutely stunning that should have been obvious. (See the Mistborn books…)

wordsofradiance.jpgSpeaking of the climax of the story… that’s where Sanderson is unbelievable. As a reader, I can’t wait to get to the conclusion of a Sanderson book, because I know it’s going to blow me away. Even when I already know what’s going to happen, I’m excited. While re-reading Words of Radiance, I was on the edge of my seat, so anxious to get to the climax… and I already knew what was going to happen! It’s not just action-packed; it matches up with the character arcs in beautiful ways.

I find very little to complain about in Brandon Sanderson’s writing. Even though his books are very long, the pacing is usually spot on. In The Way of Kings, I’ll admit that I felt like it took a little too long to get to Kaladin’s story arc climax, but only just a little.

The Stormlight Archives are planned as a ten-volume series. I’m hoping for great things, but I’ll admit to a little nervousness about whether he can maintain the greatness for that long. The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan, was the picture of an epic series that lasted way too long for me. I felt like five or six books could have been left out and it would have been a better story. I sincerely hope I don’t feel that way when Stormlight ends.

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As a writer, I can’t help but feel intimidated by Brandon Sanderson. It feels natural to ask, “If something this awesome is being published right now, why should I even bother? I can’t match this quality.” Logically, I know this is a fallacy. I know it makes no sense. Convincing my emotions is another thing.

The stories I write are not the same as the stories Brandon Sanderson writes. I think they’re not as good. But that shouldn’t change anything. They’re my stories. I’m the one telling them. Even if no one else ever enjoys them the way I do, that’s okay. But maybe someone will. Maybe a lot of people will. I won’t know until I try, and try again.