Monthly Archives: October 2013

NaNo Goals – 2013

NaNoWriMo starts in less than 27 hours. Part of me is really excited to start writing again, and the other part of me is terrified that I’m not ready. I should probably be working on another outline right now, but I’ve reached that point where I just feel all prepped out. I used to get the same way before tests. I’d make study guides, but then I’d get tired of pretending to study and just say “Screw it – whatever happens, happens.” That’s pretty much where I am right now.

Before this thing actually starts, I suppose I should share my goals for this month. I’ve posted these on the NaNo forums, but it can’t hurt to post them here. More accountability is always good, right?

• 50k Day One
• 75k opening weekend
• 100k by end of week 1
• 250k by end of month (dream goal of 300k)
• Finish at least 3 novels (5 if necessary to reach word count goal):

  • Degeneration – Contemporary YA
  • The Story of Em – NA Romance
  • The Whole Truth – Literary YA
  • Trail Magic (formerly 2,000 Miles) – Contemporary NA
  • Imprisoned Lightning – Contemporary YA

• Another 50k weekend
• Write at least 2k every day (preferably 5k)

That looks like a lot, but I think I can handle it. As you might remember, last year I got to 243k, wrote 2 novels, one novella, finished a third novel, started a fourth, and wrote a bunch of short stories. I’m hoping my projects will be longer this time so I won’t have to deal with short stories. Also, I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten every school assignment out of the way – EXCEPT for the lesson plans that I need to write once a week for my student teaching experience. I’m still going to be spending two days a week at a high school. Plus I have two Thanksgivings to do to and several things on that second Saturday of the month. Other than, though, I’m completely free.

I have the first three chapter outlines finished. The fourth one is about three-quarters finished, which is enough to get me almost to the climax. Really, I should be able to figure out what I’m doing by that point. The last novel is the one I’m worried about. I have the basic concept and the characters, and I have my three-act structure planned out. Sadly, that’s about it. I was hoping to have the rest of it figured out by now, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. I kept changing my mind about what was going to happen. What makes for more interesting characters is making the plot suffer, and what made for an interesting plot had rather stereotypical characters.

That said, I’m holding that novel off for the end. Hopefully I can get to 250k with the four mostly planned novels. Imprisoned Lightning is going to be the backup novel. I also have another idea that I got from the OA chat. I have two characters and a basic concept for that one. Plus, there’s always the dystopian series I started last NaNo. I still don’t have that one planned enough, but I could start rewriting it if I had nothing else to write.

I have tomorrow off, so I’m going to spend the day doing laundry and making food for the next few days. I’m then going to sleep most of the afternoon/evening so that I can wake up around 10 or 11 pm and get ready to write at midnight. I’m hoping I can quickly get back to the 3k/hour I was able to write last November and really get 50k Day One off to a good start.

Degeneration is my Day One project. I feel a bit like I’m cheating since I’ve written this story so many times, but I’ve decided to go with it anyway. I wrote it twice as a screenplay and once as a novel, and each draft has taken me one step closer to something I’m proud of. The last draft I wrote for one of the 2012 camp sessions, and it was about 49k. Now I’ve added a whole different subplot and changed her trip from two days to a week. It really is a significant difference. I’m not just rewriting scenes I already wrote – I’m adding like seven chapters that weren’t there before. And I’m not going to be looking at any of the previous drafts while I write, either. It’ll be just me and my outline.

I’ll probably end up doing what I did last year and write a brief post letting you all know how my 50k day went. I feel more prepared than I was last year, but you never know. Here’s a link to the spreadsheet I’ll be using, if anyone wants to keep up with my word count as the day progresses: Quix’s Day One Spreadsheet

I probably won’t post again before NaNo, so good luck to everyone who’s participating! Remember – don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about your goal. You’re only competing with yourself.

Also – don’t call anyone else a cheater just because that person can write more than you can. Hopefully no one following my blog would ever do that, but I felt the need to mention it anyway. Also, just because someone writes faster than you do doesn’t mean that that person’s writing is horrible. We’ve already had people in the Beyond 50k forum tell us that our novels must be utter nonsense, and I’m really not in the mood to deal with that crap already. So, just, yeah – be nice to all the other participants! 🙂

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (GoodReads)
Author: Sherman Alexie
Page Count: 230
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Contemporary

Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

This is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for a long time but only just got around to reading now. I can see why so many people loved this book. It tells the story of an Indian kid named Junior who decides to leave the reservation where he lives and attend the all-white school nearby. For those who don’t know, this novel is based largely on Alexie’s own life. Before anyone starts complaining about how unrealistic some of the events are (as I’ve seen several reviewers say), I’d recommend learning a bit more about Alexie. Yes, a lot of horrible stuff happens in this book, but that’s life.

What I liked about this novel was that Junior’s struggles were both unique and universal. Most of us probably have no idea what it’s like to grow up on a reservation. We don’t know what it’s like to be Native American/Indian. So in that respect, Junior’s story is unique. We can’t know exactly what it’s like to be him.

But we can understand his feelings. We may not have to deal with an entire reservation hating us, but we know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. We might know what it’s like to go against your family or your community. We may know what it feels like to lose someone we love. Like Junior points out, there are lots of different tribes, and we all belong to a bunch of different ones. We can learn a lot from this story.

But this novel’s not just a good lesson. It’s funny. Junior talks about sex a lot, but he’s a teenager. That’s to be expected. I didn’t really like some of the racist/sexist/homophobic language that was used, but it felt authentic to the characters. Really, the language was my only real problem with this book. I can deal with the sex talk. That was usually really funny, actually. The name-calling I didn’t like.

Still, I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, and it taught me more about Native American culture than I ever learned in school. If you haven’t picked up this book, I recommend you give it a shot. Aside from the language, it’s a good story.


How to outline your novel in 5 “easy” steps

NaNoWriMo starts in 2 weeks. Are you ready?

I’m not. At all. I finally came up with a fifth novel idea, which makes me happy, but I don’t know nearly enough about most of them to actually start writing them. Every time I try to sit down to plan or outline, I end up doing something else instead. Yesterday, I hung out with my friend and fellow Wrimo at a tea shop, thinking I would get work done, and ended up spending most of my time on the NaNo forums and the OA chat. Not really all that productive.

However, I told myself I would be more productive today, and so far I have succeeded. I finally finished my outline (well, one of my outlines) for Degeneration, one of my YA novels. Of course, this is the story I’ve written three other times (twice as a screenplay and once as a novel), so I really should know what I’m doing by now. Still, I added a bunch of plot this time, so this actually will be a complete rewrite. Again. At first I was upset by that, but I think it’s for the best. The last draft I wrote isn’t terrible, but it could be a lot better, and it’s always been easier for me to just rewrite it than to try to fix it.

While I was trying to outline, I started thinking about my outlining process. I love reading about how other people outline their novels, but I realized I never really talk about how I outline. That’s mostly because I never really thought about how I outline. I did that today, though, and I realized others might benefit from my sharing my process. Keep in mind that I am by no means saying that everyone has to outline like this, or that you have to outline at all. Many, many people prefer writing with no outline at all, or just the basic idea of what’s happening. That’s a perfectly acceptable way to write. I can’t do that, as I need structure, but that’s okay. There’s no formula for writing. You just need to find what works for you and do that.

This is what works for me.

Step 1: The General Story Arc
The first step is figuring out what my novel is about and then coming up with a general overview of the plot. For Degeneration, I knew the novel was about a family who gets together for a wedding. So the general story arc looked a bit like this:

MC doesn’t want to go back for the wedding –> MC goes back and deals with family –> Stuff happens.

I actually had a bit more planned for the end, but I don’t want to give anything away. 🙂 So, yeah, that’s basically what I started out with. Not a lot, but it helps if I know what I’m working toward.

Step 2: The 3-Act Structure
Next I break my idea down a bit further. I’ve always thought of novels in terms of 3 acts, probably because the first book I read about how to write was actually the book Screenplay. That book talked a lot about four main points in the screenplay:

  • The first 10 pages (Where is the character before the action starts?)
  •  The inciting incident (What sets the story in motion?) – Also called plot point 1
  •  Plot point 2 – also called the climax
  •  The resolution – what happens after the action has calmed down?

This structure has actually worked well for me when it comes to planning novels. The first 10 pages translates to the first 3 chapters, which is generally when you’re supposed to have introduced the main character and what s/he wants most. By the end of chapter 3, we should have come across the “inciting incident” that pushes the character forward. In my case, the first 3 chapters show my MC before she leaves for the wedding, and by the end of chapter 3 she’s learned that she definitely has to go.

Step 3: The List of Events
By this point, I have the very basics of the novel planned. I know what I want the story to be about. Now I make a list of all the events that I know I want to happen in the novel. They don’t have to be connected or in order. This doesn’t have to be a complete list of everything that will happen, but the more I can come up with, the better off I’ll be. For Degeneration, I made a list of all the different things I wanted the characters to fight about, as well as different things they would do while they were back in their hometown. I also mentioned possible suplots and how they might change as the story progressed.

Once I have the list as complete as I can, I go back and put all the events in chronological order, or at least as close to that as I can. Sometimes I simply separate them into “Beginning,” “Middle,” and “End.” Sometimes I have the novel broken into months. For Degeneration, I had everything split into the following categories:

  •  Before
  •  Day 1
  •  Day 2
  •  Day 3
  •  Day 4
  •  Day 5
  •  After

Step 4: The Chapter List
Once I have the list of events, I go back and separate those events by chapter. Depending on how I broke up the list, this can be easy or complicated. For this novel, it wasn’t that difficult, as most of the days could be split into 2 chapters fairly easily. This is actually what I finished this morning for Degeneration. According to my outline, the novel will be 15 chapters. I’m thinking each chapter will probably be 4-5k long, which means that my novel should be about 70-75k, which is a good length for a YA novel.

This type of outline is the bare minimum I like to have before I can start writing a novel. I am going to work on getting all of my November novels to this point before I move on to the last part of the outlining process.

Step 5: The Scene List
This is where I take the list of scenes for each chapter and actually figure out scenes. For the first chapter of Degeneration, I have “Introduce MC, school project, and the fact that she’s trying to pick a college.” Now I have to go back and actually plan out the scene. How am I going to introduce those topics? How can I make sure that everything flows together? If there are any bits of dialogue I know I want to include, I try to find a way to fit it in – at the very least I write it down so I don’t forget it later.

So, yeah, that’s how I outline. Like I said, I’ve gotten to step 4 with Degeneration. My chapter list is a little over 4 pages long and about 1900 words. I’m hoping to move on to step 5 before NaNo starts, but I worst case scenario, I can just work with what I have.

What about you? Are you doing NaNo? How do you outline – or are you more of a pantser?

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones

Okay, so I was supposed to post this like a week and a half ago. Oops. Better late than never, though, right?

Title: To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story (GoodReadshonest
Author: Sonya Sones
Page Count: 480
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Contemporary – in verse

Goodreads Summary:
Her friends
have a joke about her:
How can you tell if Colette is lying?

Her mouth is open.

Fifteen-year-old Colette is addicted to lying. Her shrink says this is because she’s got a very bad case of Daughter-of-a-famous-movie-star Disorder—so she lies to escape out from under her mother’s massive shadow. But Colette doesn’t see it that way. She says she lies because it’s the most fun she can have with her clothes on. Not that she’s had that much fun with her clothes off. At least not yet, anyway…

When her mother drags her away from Hollywood to spend the entire summer on location in a boring little town in the middle of nowhere, Colette is less than thrilled. But then she meets a sexy biker named Connor. He’s older, gorgeous, funny, and totally into her. So what if she lies to him about her age, and about who her mother is? I mean, she has to keep her mother’s identity a secret from him. If he finds out who she really is, he’ll forget all about Colette, and start panting and drooling and asking her for her mother’s autograph. Just like everyone always does.

But what Colette doesn’t know is that Connor is keeping a secret of his own…

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novel in verse, but I have to say that I liked it. This books was a fast read, one that I really enjoyed.

Colette is addicted to lying. Lies come more naturally to her than the truth. This made for an interesting read because a lot of what she says isn’t true. As she points out, she is a very unreliable narrator. Of course, she always fesses up to her lies (at least to the reader), so this wasn’t a hard book to follow. You didn’t have to try to shift through all the stories and figure out what was true and what wasn’t, which was nice.

I don’t usually like liars, but I found myself starting to connect with Colette and feel sort of sorry for her and even like her. Her mother’s so wrapped up in her own life that she doesn’t seem to realize what she’s doing to her kids. Will is sort of annoying sometimes but it still one of my favorite kids in books. Usually little kids are annoying all the time and are only really there to make me want to put the book down (or at least that’s what it feels like to me). But Will was a good kid. He was annoying at times, but more often than not he went along with Colette and made her happy, which was nice to read about. It seemed like a realistic relationship.

Even Colette’s mother seemed realistic. I’ve read a lot of books with an evil mother character, so it was nice to see that Marissa wasn’t all bad. I hated her in the beginning, but she came around eventually, which I appreciated. That felt more like a real relationship. She’s selfish sometimes and loving other times. Just like real people are.

Connor’s a fascinating character. He and Colette were on the same wavelength most of the time, and that made it really easy for me to believe why she became obsessed with him so fast.

That’s not to say that this book was perfect. Some parts were sort of cheesy. The ending, especially, seemed a bit sudden and not that realistic. Still, the rest of the book was good, so I can deal with a sort of cheesy ending.

I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future.


The one where I decide to do NaNo over my own objections

For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I usually do NaNoWriMo in November. You might also remember that I had a rather difficult month last NaNo. I wrote 242k, but my heart wasn’t really in it. If you go through the archives for all the November 2012 posts, you’ll see that I wrote a lot about all the hate directed at Overachievers – people who aim to write more than 50,000 words in November. I felt alienated from my region and most of the people on the forums, and it just really got me down. The competition wasn’t fun anymore.

So I decided to stop. I took all the NaNo stickers off my laptop. I wrote during the first Camp NaNo, but I didn’t join the cabins or post on the website; I just wrote with people on Twitter when they were writing. I tried to get into the cabin thing for the second camp, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t care about NaNo anymore, and I didn’t want to waste my time supporting something that didn’t seem to want me there at all. I still supported the idea of NaNo, but I swore I was never going to participate in another NaNo event again. I actually almost included that in my last post, but it was already getting kind of long, so I figured I’d write about it later.

Then, October 2, the day after I almost posted about how I would never do NaNo again, I got an email announcing the new forums. I don’t know why I looked. It was 6 am, and I had 20 minutes before I had to leave for school. But I looked anyway. I scrolled through the forums. And that’s when I saw it.

The Beyond 50k forum.

Finally, the Overachievers have a forum. A place where you can complain about how you’re having problems hitting 20k in a day, and people won’t criticize you. I was happy when I saw it, but I still didn’t think I would do NaNo. Once the joy of something dies inside me, it’s really hard to get it back. Or so I thought.

And then I started reading the comments. I saw so many people I hadn’t talked to in a year, people who had made me feel better when everyone else made me want to curl up in a corner and never speak to the world again. And I realized that part of me did still care. It wasn’t as much as it had been, but I wasn’t completely indifferent anymore.

And then I set a goal. And then more goals.

A total of 250,000 words.

A 50k day one.

At least one 50k weekend, possibly two.

Four or five novels, depending on how many I need to reach 250k.

I’ve decided that this is going to be my redo for last year. Last year I failed 50k day one (hit 30.5k instead). I failed my goal of 250k (hit 242k instead). This year I’m not going to fail. I’m not going to let other people get me down. I’m going to stay in my nice, safe OA forum. I’m probably going to avoid most regional events, although there are still some people in the region that I like (namely the ones who helped support me last year).

I’ve spent the last five days trying to figure out what to write. I still want to edit Tilt before the month ends. I’m going to rewrite Degeneration as part of NaNo. I have three other novels that I’m trying to outline. I’d really like one more novel as a backup plan, but I’m going to focus on the ones I already have for now.

I’ve already been doing my school work ahead of time, but I’ve doubled my efforts. I’ve done all but one assignment that’s due in November and that I can actually start early. I’ll be busier than I was last year, but I’m still hopeful that I can get this all done.

Hello, October. Where did you come from?

So, remember that blog post I wrote back in August, the one where I felt the need to assure everyone that I wasn’t dead and then complained about all the stuff I hadn’t done and vowed to do better the next month?

Yeah, this is another one of those.

I haven’t written a single post that wasn’t about someone else’s book since August 19. A huge reason for that is that I started my penultimate semester of grad school on August 20. My first class was YA Literature, which I was really excited about. I still am, mostly. For that class, I have to read 24 YA books. I’m currently reading book 24. Yes, I’ve 24 books in 6 weeks (6 weeks and 1 day if I finish the book tomorrow instead of today). Only two of those books have been less than 215 pages. Four I would classify more as MG than YA. But still – that’s a lot of reading.

This is part of my problem. I’m bad at multitasking. I should have just stuck with reading two books a week and then found a way to fit writing into that, too. Instead, I threw myself into reading. I wanted to see how fast I could read those 24 books. I liked being able to read without feeling guilty, like I was supposed to be doing something else. Yes, I should have been writing, but reading was homework, and homework is always more important.

Well, like I said, I’m about to be done with book 24. That means I should really cool it with the reading. I’m not saying I should stop, because I love reading, and I’ve really enjoyed the past 6 weeks. I’ve read so many books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and I want to keep going. I’ve read 62 books this year, and I really want to see how high I can get that number.

But I also want to do other things, which means I shouldn’t keep reading at that pace. I would have nearly had to post a book review a day to keep up with all the books I was reading. I still have two book reviews that I wrote but forgot to post, and I have nine more books that I’ve read but haven’t written reviews for. I’m not really having fun writing them, and anyone who follows this blog for the writing has probably been pretty sick of the book reviews.

So starting now, I’m going to try to go back to posting 1-2 book reviews a week. I’m also going to try to write at least one post per week that’s about writing. And in order to do that, I should actually write something.

My grandmother was in the hospital at the beginning of the month, and my mom was gone for several weeks to be with her. That trip and what she told me about it gave me a lot of ideas for how to make Degeneration a better novel. I will have to go back over my outline for that one and rewrite more than I thought I would, but I’m okay with that. I feel even better about that novel than I did in August. I know for sure where it’s going.

I also want to work on Tilt Your Head and Smile. I haven’t read that one since I rewrote it back in July, but I remember liking it and feeling like I finally got it right. I just rejoined a critique group, and I’ve been wondering which novel to give them. I think I’m going to read/review Tilt and then see what they think of it. Then I’ll work on Degeneration, since that one will take more time.

I’ve spend so much time jumping back and forth between novels. It’s like I don’t want to finish-finish one until they’re all at the same level, which is stupid. I have a new novel idea that I’ve been writing down notes for, but I’m refusing to let myself write it until the three that I am closest to finishing (Tilt, Degeneration, and For Real This Time) are actually finished.

So, yeah, those are my goals. Edit Tilt. Rewrite Degeneration. Stop reading 4 books a week.

And not have my next writing post be November 1 saying “Gee, where the hell did October go?”