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NaNoWriMo 2013: Week 3

So, I’m even later posting this week than I was last week, mostly because of my day-job. Turns out our team is being relocated to the institute with which we’ve collaborating for over a decade, and whilst physically that’s barely 100 yards, psychologically it’s a big deal because it means reapplying for my current position plus overseeing my team’s transfer. I’m pretty confident of staying in my job, but it requires lots of meetings & discussions and has thus been taking my focus away from my writing. So…

Right now I’m behind and struggling. I’ve gone back and filled in a couple of scenes I skipped, which helped keep the words flowing, but I’m rapidly reaching the point where I’m trying to make up new plot without any idea of what’s going on. I have this annoying feeling that a plot breakthrough could be right around the corner if only I press on, so that’s my current strategy. Keep on keeping on – because that’s the only way a book gets written.

Target word count: 36,667

Actual word count: 30,483

NaNoWriMo 2013: Week 2 and the halfway point

I’m posting this a bit later than planned, because my cold has worsened since I went back to work and I’ve not been getting much sleep. Still, a pro soldiers on even when they don’t feel like writing!

This week’s been one of ups and downs, kind of like last week: I had a great weekend and even a great Monday, clocking up nearly 7k in 3 days, but then the lack of sleep turned that lead into a deficit. On the plus side, on my low/zero writing days I had some interesting epiphanies about my characters, plot and worldbuilding, which I hope will translate into more outline when I’m feeling slightly less crap.

I took a sick day today and, thanks to an important conversation between my two lead characters that I’d been looking forward to writing since I planned out the backstory, I racked up almost 2k without really trying, bringing me close to being back on track to hit 50k by the end of the month. I won’t say “finish” because I won’t have reached the end of the book by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ll have a substantial chunk of it.

Target word count: 25,000

Actual word count: 23,985


NaNoWriMo 2013

Seven years ago to the day I embarked on my very first NaNoWriMo, in a desperate attempt to get over the 25k hump* that had been dogging me for several years. What I ended up with was a crude 50,000-word sketch of a novel, but one with characters and a setting that I loved enough to spend the next four years revising it into something saleable: The Alchemist of Souls.

The trilogy spawned by that first gloriously satisfying NaNoWriMo is now complete and published, so I felt it only fitting that I should use this year’s “30 days and nights of literary abandon” to start a brand new project. Read more

I&E follow-along: panic time!

I meant to write this post yesterday and schedule it to go out whilst I was on my way to BristolCon, but I’ve been blindsided by a cold (great timing, huh?) and forgot all about it. So instead I’m typing this in my hotel room whilst waiting for my con buddies to turn up…

Well, there’s only one week left to NaNoWriMo—which means that I have no time left to make substantial changes to my outline. Gulp! On the plus side, the opening chapters are pretty much ready to go (I’ve had snippets and images leaking into my thoughts at odd moments for the last few weeks), and I have maybe a dozen chapters’ worth of scenes altogether. On the minus side, I have only the vaguest idea of what’s going to happen after that, so there’s a danger I may stall at the 25% mark, as I did so many times in the past.

However I now have a lot more novel-writing experience under my belt, so I think I can weather the storm. I’ve got more than enough material to keep me going for the first week, and hopefully by the time I’ve written the first few chapters I’ll have a better handle on the characters and where I might take them. I”m not sure I’ll ever be a hardcore outliner, particularly when it comes to completely new projects like this one, but the last few months’ preparation have been invaluable in laying down the foundations for this novel and eliminating ideas that didn’t float my boat.

So, I’m going to enjoy the convention (as much as is possible with a streaming cold!), and not worry too much about where the story is going until I get there. I’ll be posting my progress every Friday, so we’ll see if this strategy works!

BristolCon schedule and a free chapter!

Only two weeks to go to the release of The Prince of Lies, and things are hotting up! In ten days’ time I’ll be at BristolCon, where I have the following items in my schedule:

10amPanelSeriously Inventive Ways Of Killing People, with Sara Jayne Townsend, Janet Edwards, Doug Smith and Alex Shepherd

10.5o amReading

5pmPanel: Magic in Fantasy, with Storm Constantine, Snorri Kristjansson, Paul Cornell and moderator Jonathan Wright

7pmKaffeeklatsche (sign up to have a free chat with coffee & biscuits)

If you can’t make it to BristolCon for my reading (and even if you can), you might like to pop over to fantasy book blog The Founding Fields, where you can read Chapter One of The Prince of Lies absolutely free!

There’ll be more cool stuff—including various giveaways—over the coming weeks, so watch this space…



I&E follow-along: Finding the plot

This last couple of weeks I haven’t made a lot of progress on I&E because I’ve been catching up on promo work for The Prince of Lies: blog posts, interviews, etc. On the other hand the WiP has never been far from my mind, since my planning time is rapidly running out!

Because of all the changes I’ve made in the past few weeks, I now find myself with a bunch of characters in search of a plot. I have personal arcs for the protagonist and another major character, and I have the beginnings of a wider conflict – but I currently have little idea of where that’s going or who’s behind it, which is very frustrating. I think I need to sit down this weekend and use whatever tools Holly has given us on HtTS (Dot & Line, etc) to ferret out the main conflict and resultant plot.

On the plus side, I have a better idea of how the series is going to work structurally, and I even have a possible title and fledgling concept for a third book. Now if only I can rein my Muse in and focus on the WiP…

I&E follow-along: spotting problems

Whether you outline in detail or just make some basic notes on characters and conflict (HtTS Lesson 8), this is your chance to figure out if the choices you’ve made are leading you in the right direction.

I had this issue with the protagonist of Book 1 of this new series. I chose a profession for him based on what I thought would be cool and useful further down the line, but when I came to work out how he’d acquired these skills, I realised there was a modern-day parallel that would take me into politically sensitive territory. In another book or in the hands of another writer that might be fine – but it was the wrong direction for this series.

So, I sat down and worked out which parts of his backstory I had to throw out and which I could keep, then took his life in a different direction that would nonetheless bring him to the place I’d envisaged the book beginning. As a bonus, it’s changed his personality in ways that I think will fit far better with the plot I have in mind, as well as totally solving the naming issue I was having.

In summary: don’t be afraid to interrogate your ideas. Better to throw out five hundred words of outline (as I did) than twenty five thousand words of first draft!

I&E follow-along: musical chairs

This week I made a couple of changes to my new project. Firstly, I realised that the plot I’d been working on would be better if it included a character I’d intended to save until the sequel, which means that I need to swap the two stories around in the timeline and work on the other one first. This is really just a continuation of the process I started a few weeks back, of working out how my characters’ arcs intersect with wider events in the world. It’s really no different from the way you shuffle scene cards around to find the best order—only on a rather larger scale.

A smaller, but significant, change was that I realised I wasn’t terribly enamoured with the name of the principal city and much preferred that of a neighbouring one. So I’ve renamed the neighbour and transferred its name to the main city. Trivial stuff in some ways, but I’m looking ahead to the time when I have to name this series officially, and since the city plays such a major role in events, I want the option of using its name as part of that.

Of course with my usual paranoia I’ve googled it and only found a couple of obscure mentions, so I reckon I’m good to go! Now to knuckle down to plotting this other book…