NaNoWriMo 2016 Round-Up

I am pleased to say that this year I actually won National Novel Writing Month! I completed the extremely rough draft of Ashwood at 50477 words. I know that there are a lot of things I’ll be changing when I start editing it next year, but … Hey. I won!

Ashwood was a lot of fun to write and this outlining process I’ve been doing seems to be working fairly well.

At least to get the skeleton of the book written, anyway.

About a year ago I took James Patterson’s Master Class on writing and one of the big takeaways I had was his outlining process, which I’ve been trying to implement. There are some things I like about it … and there are some things that I don’t like about it.

I’ve used this for three stories now; Torven, Dead Weight, and Ashwood.

Torven, my little novelette, it worked beautifully for. I was able to cut eleven chapters down to eight and had a lot of fun writing the story.

Ashwood, my romantic horror story thing, it also worked great for. I had an outline that had been brainstormed with another over the course of several weeks and, while I did change some things last minute, this outlining process worked wonders to see me to the finish line.

Dead Weight …

Hmmm.

I don’t know what it is that went wrong with Dead Weight, but something was off. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that I had a lot of great ideas but when I went to actually write them they fell flat.

Or it could have been the fact that I was typing the first draft instead of hand writing it. That’s the only difference I had between Dead Weight and the others.

Why yes, that means I hand wrote all of Ashwood in 30 days AND typed it up in time to win.

Because I’m awesome.

And I love hand cramps.

In any case, the outlining seems to be working. There are a few things I’ve tweaked here and there to make it my own process, but overall it works.

For those of you who participated in NaNoWriMo this year, whether you won or not, you’re awesome! Well done! I hope you got words on the page and that you love your story.

To close out this year’s NaNoWriMo season I think I’ll leave you with a snippet from Ashwood … In all its unedited glory.

~*~*~

“Oooo,” Marisol crooned, sliding out of bed and to her feet. She was built like a pixie, just a little over five feet tall with a spiral perm that made her chocolate brown hair bounce whenever she moved. “A social rescue. He just might be the one.”

One can only hope, Tessa thought, reaching into the hutch for her boots. But she said; “Based on six weeks of drowning in coffee and the worst possible introduction in the history of dating?” She shook her head. “We need more Intel.”

“And dimples,” Marisol said with a cheeky grin. She stretched her arms over her head, her every move fluid and graceful and for half a second Tessa was glad Brendon would be meeting her out front. The last thing she needed was to be standing side by side with Little Miss Size Two when he picked her up.

“And dimples,” Tessa said, agreeing with her friend. “But we still need more Intel.”

“That’s what a first date is for,” Marisol said, dropping her hands to her sides and sashaying her way to the opposite hutch.

Tessa had never moved like that in her life, which was a shame because she had a feeling her love life would have seen more action if she could. She felt another spurt of jealousy well up inside her, but it was short lived. Mary had the big amber eyes and porcelain skin every woman would die for, but she was also the sweetest damn woman ever.

Definitely a good thing Mary was staying up here.

“So how’s Psychology Guy?” Tessa asked, desperate for a change of subject.

Marisol’s rosebud mouth quirked up into a shy smile. “Good,” she said. “He’s really into this paranormal investigating stuff. He wants to prove it’s all a trick in our heads or something so …”

Tessa finished lacing her boots, realizing as she did so that they looked quite a bit like combat boots and frowned. Not exactly sexy, but her only other alternative was her sneakers and those were getting a hole in the toe.

Unsexy or poor and unsexy; the decisions she had to make.

But then she realized Marisol was watching her, neatly arched eyebrows raised in expectation like she’d asked a question.

“Soooo?” Tessa asked, already not liking where this was going.

“So we’re planning a paranormal investigation party out at the old Ashwood place and I really, really, really need you to come,” Marisol said quickly, clasping her hands in front of herself and giving Tessa a wide-eyed, entreating look. “Please.”

“A … what?” Tessa blinked, wondering what alternate universe she’d stepped into where she was being begged to attend a party. That hadn’t even happened in the Army and there’d been plenty of opportunity there.

“A paranormal investigation party,” Marisol said, abandoning whatever she’d been doing with her hutch to bounce over to Tessa, all animation and excitement. “It’s a party where we go through the Institute after dark and try to find some kind of proof that it’s haunted, or that it’s just playing tricks with our minds. We’ll record everything so Lundy and I can go over it all the next day.”

Tessa stared at her, speechless.

“You know, like Ghost Hunters,” Marisol said, beaming.

“And … uh … why do you need me?”

“Have you seen the Ashwood Institute? It’s huge! We need all the help we can get.”

Tessa’s phone blared, buzzing in her coat pocket, which was hanging by the door. She got up to retrieve it thinking; Yes, I’ve seen the Ashwood. It’s big and it’s falling apart and no one should go in there, especially after dark. It probably had football sized rats and bird-eating spiders lurking around. Hell no, she wasn’t going in there.

Ready, Set … NaNoWriMo!

Coffee … Check.

Paper … Check.

Pens (assortment) … Check.

Outline … CHECK.

General food plan for 30 days of craziness … Check.

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed something in there, but for the most part I think I’m ready!

For those who do not know what NaNoWriMo is, I would encourage you to check out their page. I’ve inserted the link for you but the gist of the game is that you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

It’s as easy (and as hard) as that.

I’ve been participating in one fashion or another for several years now and I really think I’m going to win this year.

Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, is being set aside until March. It isn’t quite finished but it’s close enough that I can take the next few months and let it simmer in the back of my mind. I’ve found that going through and doing an edit of what I have helps me in the long run.

It allows me to really see where the characters have been so that I can tie everything up in the last few chapters.

Which brings me to Ashwood, also known as “That Ghost Story I Want To Tell” or “The NaNo Project” or … any number of names I’ve given it over the last several weeks.

I have the outline already up and on my corkboard AND in detailed form on paper that I carry around with me every day and make notes on. (No, this isn’t cheating. I haven’t written a word of the manuscript yet, just the outline.)

And I am SUPREMELY excited to start it. I had help making the outline of this novel – Thank you, Brendon! – and while it is loosely a romance novel, it is heavily a supernatural/ghost story dealing with an Institute …

Because all the really scary stuff comes from Institutes.

Seriously. Have you looked into what was done to some of these poor people? Just knowing what happened there is creepy.

In any case, to help me remain on task and to give myself something to look forward to every week, I will be posting snippets of the work in progress here with updated word counts and whatnot.

Because … why not?

This is supposed to be fun, after all.

 

Outlines, Deadlines, and NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again! That moment when I start really pushing the writing stuff and getting words on paper and all that. National Novel Writing Month begins in just a few short weeks and I’ve been happily fixing up my outline for a horror/supernatural novel.

If you’ve never heard of National Novel Writing Month then I encourage you to check them out. The contest is basically against yourself and the clock, trying to get 50,000 words written during the month of November. I’ve participated for several years now and have loved it every year … even if I often fail.

Witch-Born was written during NaNoWriMo in 2008, actually. (It’s on the side bar!)

But wait! I’m still working on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. Will I be done in time for November 1st?

Why yes, yes I will. Because I am sitting at 10 chapters left in that rough (so very rough) draft. And because it is a rough draft I can totally put things like “Good Lord, Aimee, edit the crap out of this section” in the margins and move on.

So worry not! I will undoubtedly meet my deadline.

And while I’m at it, I’ve been working on the outline for the NaNo project, which has been titled Ashwood.

Pardon me as I do an excited squeal about this particular project. Ashwood is a horror/supernatural/romance thing and I’ve already done the second pass on the outline for it. I’ve been collaborating with another writer, Brendon Mann, who has helped shape the outline of this book and will be aiding me with all the male POV scenes.

Speaking of Brendon, he acted as a bit of a last-minute Beta Reader and Copy Editor for Persona, which I had scheduled to be released in December of this year. However, after he finished the novel he insisted I try another pass at the traditional market, so I’ve sent out several more queries with different publishers and agents.

We’ll see if any of them request a full manuscript. If they do, the projected publication date of Persona will obviously be put on hold until said publisher has made their decision. (Thank you, Brendon, for forcing me to try again. I seriously hate writing a synopsis and things, but at least I can say I gave it another go.)

In the meantime … I’ve got a list of things to help me survive National Novel Writing Month …

  1. COFFEE. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.
  2. Creamer to go in the coffee because, let’s face it, black coffee is gross.
  3. A new coffee mug, only to be opened and used after I make the mid-way point of the novel. (Reward systems are important.)
  4. Ranch flavored Corn Nuts – because I’ll make sure to feed my kid, but I’m likely to forget to eat myself.
  5. Notebooks, note cards, pens and pens and pens – so that I can write the last line I’ve typed down and then carry it with me to work and things. That way I can get more stuff down on my lunch break and whatnot.
  6. … I have to buy all the Thanksgiving stuff now, because I will be a bit of a zombie through the month of November and am likely to forget important things like pie. (Seriously. If I forget the pie this year, my son might flog me.)

I’m sure I’ll think of some more things between now and November 1st, but for the moment this list will do. If you’re going to try NaNoWriMo this year, I’d love to hear what tricks you do to keep yourself productive, awake, and somehow function as an adult at the same time.

Crappy First Drafts

The last several weeks I have been focused on Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped, and I’ve been taking my NaNoWriMo approach with it.

What is my NaNoWriMo approach?

Well, for those of you who might not be aware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held by the Office of Letters and Light, and it is basically a free-for-all competition where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. They have little competitions run throughout the year, but the main one starts November 1st.

That’s a lot of words in 30 days and in order to achieve this lofty goal, one must set aside certain things …

Like their internal editor.

So when I say I’m taking my NaNoWriMo approach with Dead Weight right now, I mean that I have gagged my internal editor and shoved her in a dark closet somewhere. She’s still screaming at me, especially about Chapter 14 because I think I broke the rules of gravity in there somewhere, but I’m not listening.

Not yet.

The focus is to get a draft down that I can edit. The focus is that the story line makes sense, the plot is engrossing, and the basic elements of the characters are fleshed out. I can add more color and life to the page later.

The goal is to have a completed crappy draft by the end of October so that … I can participate in NaNoWriMo for real this year. I think I say that just about every year and I end up having to use November as a motivational month to get my current projects done, but this year …

This year I’m going to win NaNoWriMo.

With a paranormal romance novel, no less.

That’s right. I will be writing a full-on romance novel. I know several of my books are in the “fantasy romance” category, but when push comes to shove those are more Fantasy than they are Romance.

It’s going to be fun.

It’s going to be a challenge.

And I am going to win … leaving me with two crappy first drafts that will desperately need editing in 2017.

National Novel Writing Month – 2014

That’s right. I’m one of those crazy people, the one’s who take November and turn it into a month-long marathon with words.

I went grocery shopping and stocked up on caffeine, chocolate, and popcorn. I made sure my son had a new Wii game to entertain himself while my brain is occupied in all things Dead Weight. (Yes, that’s the title of the new manuscript.)

I revisited the series Bible — because this is the second book in a much larger series — and plucked out the items I want to explore in this book.

… and since the first book hasn’t come out yet I’m not allowed to share any of them with you. Cause … you know … spoilers.

I can talk about theme’s, though!

Complicated, fun, themes!

So … Tapped, the first book, is centered on the theme of family. Real easy to spot. You’ll see it when the book hits virtual shelves in January. (January 13, 2015. No, I haven’t forgotten. Yes, I am still playing with formatting and such.)

Dead Weight’s theme is “letting go.”

I know, it’s not one word. We’re supposed to try and filter everything down to a one-word theme and all that but … No. Screw the rules. That’s my theme.

I don’t have a word count yet because it’s all handwritten but I’ll make sure to post such a thing on Friday. Until then … I’ve got writing to do.

Go, NaNo-People! Let’s get this done!

Prepping for NaNo!

Woo! NaNoWriMo is right around the corner! For those of you who STILL don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, go HERE and check them out because they will overload you with pure awesome!

I have been all sorts of excited for this year’s NaNoWriMo because it’s the first year I won’t be in school. Which means it’s the first year in a long time where I can actually participate rather than quasi-participate in accordance ajmaguire-ResidualHaunting-COVERwith homework schedule and what have you.

(To those of you following along with Residual Haunting, don’t worry! I have an 11 week buffer so the novel will continue to be posted as scheduled until its completion.)

All year long I’ve stared at November on my calendar and wondered just which novel I would work on for my month of play. At first I said I would re-write Primal into my 1920’s investigator-runs-into-dragons idea but as the date drew closer I became more and more obsessed with my Civil War/Western, The Abolitionist.

And then I thought I would use the month to be a NaNo Rebel and complete a project rather than begin a new one.

For realz, it’s a mess in my head most days. I’ve got so many plots and characters and novels mapped out it’s a miracle I’m still sane. 

Here we are midway through October and I’ve changed my mind again. But this time I’ve committed to the project by actually placing it in my NaNo profile. So!

I’ll be writing Dead Weight in November.

I only wrote a little of this novel back when I originally completed Tapped but I’m scrapping all of that and starting fresh. This is primarily because a lot of that original draft has to change to accommodate changes made during the edit of Tapped.

Note to self: Never start a sequel until the edits are complete on the first novel.

I considered putting the blurby thingy up here in celebration of the upcoming project but I fear it would give spoilers to the yet-to-be-published Tapped, which would sort of be like shooting myself in the foot. Instead I will leave you with a vague idea of what the novel will touch on.

Hopefully Spoiler-Free Blurby Thing

A call for help draws the crew of the Zephyr to Saturn and directly into the path of the Consulate. When the ship is damaged they (because I can’t tell you WHO survives the first book, now can I?) are forced to dock with an abandoned station deep inside Saturn’s atmosphere. But there’s more to this station than meets the eye (Oh, shut up, I know it’s cliche. It’s hard to be vague and enticing all at once) and the crew soon learn that the station isn’t quite as abandoned as they’d originally assumed.

And there you have it! That’s what I’ll be working on in November.

Unless I change my mind again.

Which is entirely possible.

Steampunk Flavor

So there I was trying to write a straight romance novel for National Novel Writing Month in 2008, bored to tears because … well, I guess I’m just not made to write romance novels … when my friend suggested I make the story “steampunk.”

I had no idea what “steampunk” was at the time, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo I took up his challenge. The world of Magnellum, where Witch-Born and Dead Magic take place, was given a distinctly “steampunk” flavor in all its trains and dirigibles and telegrams, but it does fall short of being an actual “steampunk.”

Real steampunk would focus more on the steam-powered technology and how it works and how it affects the characters and … you get it. Witch-Born and Dead Magic do not do this. They focus more on the magic in the world, thus detracting from the steam-tech on the page.

That being said,  I enjoyed the flavor. It opened me up to new possibilities within the novels like the dirigible — because who doesn’t love a good dirigible? And it gave me Valeda Quinlan.

Valeda is a newspaper reporter. The distinctly steampunk flavor of the novels sort of threw the concept of a reporter at me. I mean, if they have telegrams then they have newspapers. If they have newspapers then they have reporters.

Yes, Valeda is unabashedly a character trope. She’s as nosy and tenacious as they come. But she gets thrown into a situation where her talents as a reporter can’t help her, which is what makes her so fun. I do love “fish-out-of-water” stories.

Valeda is also more at home with the steam-technology prevalent in her world. Where the Witches of Magnellum tend to avoid mechanical contraptions, Valeda sees nothing wrong with them, so Dead Magic explores these things a trifle more.

The original draft even had a massive clock with all its gears and shifts for me to play with, but in the end that was edited out of the book. It distracted from the main storyline and had no real purpose than to blare “STEAMPUNK FLAVOR” at you.

In fact, there were many such instances like that one where I had to walk the tightrope between too much flavor and not enough. Perhaps one day I will make a revised edition of Dead Magic that puts all of that flavor back in, should Readers desire it and I feel so inclined. For now, however, the work will stand as it is.