Category Archives: For Real This Time

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?”

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The Writer’s Voice

The Writer’s Voice is a fantastic contest based on the NBC show The Voice.  I was lucky enough to have my name drawn as one of the 150 participants, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Query:

Dear amazing Writer’s Voice coaches,

Maggie Fitts, known less affectionately by some of her classmates as Maggie “Doesn’t” Fitts, is sick of being the fattest girl in class. After a series of embarrassing events at the end of eighth grade, Maggie is determined to lose weight. When a cute guy moves in across the street, Maggie’s determination grows stronger. If she can pull this off, she just might be able to start high school with a new body and a new boyfriend.

But when Maggie’s parents announce they’re getting divorced, her whole world is thrown upside down. Now she must find the balance between having fun with her friends, getting her crush to like her, shuffling between her parents, and trying to lose weight. Her best friend keeps telling her that losing weight won’t make her happy, but Maggie refuses to listen. If she fails, she’ll begin another year as “the fat girl,” and she can’t let that happen. When her uncle suffers a heart attack, however, Maggie is forced to reconsider everything she thought she knew about health and happiness.

FOR REAL THIS TIME, complete at 49,000 words, is a contemporary young adult novel. It should appeal to fans of Carolyn Mackler and Sarah Dessen.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Katie Green

First 250 words:

If there’s anything worse than being a fat girl going bathing suit shopping, it’s being a fat girl going bathing suit shopping while your skinny friend complains about how fat she is.

“This would be so cute on me if I wasn’t so fat,” Hannah complains, holding up a pink bikini. She turns to face us, holding it up to her chest. “Wouldn’t this be cute on me?”

Brilee and I exchange eye rolls. Brilee’s not nearly as fat as I am, but at least she’s not skinny like Hannah.

“It’s adorable,” says Brilee, moving onto the next rack of bathing suits. “Why don’t you just try it on and see?”

“I can’t,” says Hannah. “I’ve put on so much weight this year! I can’t believe there’s only three more weeks of school. I should have been dieting. That’s it. I’m going on a diet tonight. I think I’ve gained like twenty pounds this year.”

If she thinks she’s fat, I can’t even begin to imagine how fat she must think I am. I keep my mouth shut and my head down, trying not to draw attention to myself until the topic changes. Instead, I flip through a rack of bathing suits that are way too small for me. The largest size here is a twelve. I wear a twenty. I glance over at the junior plus section, but that’s all the way on the other side of the aisle.

The Next Big Thing

I’ve seen a lot of people participating in this blog hop, but this is the first time that I’ve been asked to participate. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a way for writers to talk about the project they’re currently working on. It gives them the chance to share why they’re excited about their project, and it also gives them the chance to talk about their awesome fellow bloggers/authors.

I was nominated for this by the wonderful J. Elizabeth Hill, author of the novel Bound, which can be purchased from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo Books, and Barnes and Noble – click here for links to purchase. If you enjoy fantasy novels and/or books with great character development, I highly recommend picking up a copy of her book. If you’re not already following her on her blog and Twitter, you should definitely start now:

Julie on WordPress         Julie on Twitter            Julie on GoodReads

And now for the blog hop. 🙂

1. What is the working title of your next book?
For Real This Time

2. Where did the idea for your book come from?
There’s so much talk about the “obesity epidemic” in this country, and so much emphasis being placed on childhood obesity in particular, and I’ve gotten sick of it. I’m sick of this society telling fat people that they’re worth less than their thin counterparts. I’m sick of watching women put their lives on hold while they try to get the perfect body. I wanted to write a novel a girl who buys into this idea and show her transformation as she realizes that she’s fine the way she is.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
This definitely falls under the genre of contemporary young adult.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I don’t generally picture my characters as actors, though in this case I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I can’t think of a single young, fat actress, so I can’t really picture anyone who looks like Maggie.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The summer before high school starts, a fat teenager struggles to lose weight and eventually realizes that health is more than just a number on the scale.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My current plan is to try to find an agent, although I have not completely ruled out self-publishing, either.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took me two weeks to write the first draft.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There are two books that I think are quite similar to mine as far as style and subject matter: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler, and Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by every nasty remark I ever heard directed at me or other fat people, as well as by my feminist film study teacher, who first introduced me to the Fat Positive movement and helped me realize that no one should apologize for her size.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
There are a few things going for this book that I don’t feel are always true for similar books. First, the fat girl that the story focuses around is actually fat. She’s not freaking out because she’s 5-10 pounds overweight. She’s 5’6, weighs 220 pounds, and wears a size 20. Plus, Maggie and her love interest actually speak to each other. There is no love at first sight, and no love triangles. It’s just a simple story about the complicated life of a fat teenager.

And now for the people I’m going to nominate. The people listed below enjoy writing and are people whose blogs I enjoy reading. If I tagged you and you’re not interested, either because you’ve just done one of these or because you’re not currently working on anything, please don’t feel obligated to participate. On the flip side, if I didn’t tag you but you are interested in participating, please do so anyway and let me know that you’ve done it.

1. Julie Upshur @ Of a Writerly Sort

2. Hayley Vornholt

3. Wordsurfer @Cresting the Words

4. Abigail Sharpe

5. Rachel @ Spilled Ink

Body image as plot device

There was a brief conversation on Twitter tonight about novels that use body size as the main plotline, and how that’s horrible and shouldn’t happen. I respect both of the people who were having this conversation, and I know one of them reads my blog, so I hope she doesn’t read this as an attack or anything, because that’s not at all what this is. I fully respect people’s right to disagree with me. I just thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject. I was going to respond on Twitter, but there was no way that I could share my feelings in 140 characters. Thus, I decided to write a blog post on it.

The novel that I just finished writing is called “For Real This Time,” and it is about a fourteen-year-old girl who’s trying to lose a bunch of weight before high school starts. There are several subplots – there are issues with her parents, there’s a cute guy who moves in across the street that she really likes, and she has to deal with unpleasant interactions with her friends and classmates – but the main plotline is her attempt to lose as much weight over the summer as possible. She starts the novel at 223 pounds, and she wants to get to a “healthy” BMI, which would put her weight around 155.

Now, the people on Twitter were partly complaining because the “fat person” in the novel was her size, and I can agree with them that that’s ridiculous. I’ve seen one novel out there about someone who’s struggling to accept herself, and she starts the book weighing 168 pounds or something like that. I can completely agree that it’s annoying to see thin people complain about being fat. Of course, fat is always a matter of perspective. For instance, if your weight starts with the number 1, I don’t think you should complain about your weight. Of course, that’s coming from someone who hasn’t weighed less than 200 pounds since ninth grade.

And that’s where my novel comes in. There’s a huge number of overweight children in the United States, and they’re constantly demonized as stupid and lazy and gluttonous. People act as if losing weight is easy and that anyone who can’t lose weight must not be trying very hard. Young girls especially are treated like crap if they don’t look like society wants them to look. Looks and body image are such an important part of today’s society. They shouldn’t be, but they are. It’s ridiculous to try to pretend that they’re not.

And that’s part of why I wrote this novel. I wanted to write a novel about a young girl who hates what she looks like and show how she eventually realizes she’s just fine the way she is. I’m sure a lot of people have no interest in reading this sort of book, and that’s fine. But I would have wanted to read a book like that. I still want to read books like that. I think this is especially important since everyone’s currently so worried about childhood obesity. Everyone’s so concerned about the number on the scale, not what they’re putting in their bodies or how much exercise they get. I want to read stories about fat people who feel out of place but eventually learn to be comfortable with who they are. It’s easy to look at someone who’s ten pounds “overweight” and say that of course they should be happy with who they are. It’s harder to look at someone who’s seventy pounds “overweight” and say the same thing.

I’ve always tried to what the sorts of stories that I would like to read but that no one else seems to write. Maybe I just haven’t found the books for me. Maybe I’ll never find an agent because most people don’t want to read the same sorts of books I’ve always wanted to read. But I have to write them anyway. I’m used to being the minority opinion on most topics. This is one of them.

Body image plays a huge role in people’s lives – even if they don’t realize it. If you’re happy with yourself, you have so much more confidence than someone who hates what they look like. There are tons of stories out there about “plain looking” people, or “fat” people who wear a size 8. I want to read about a high school student who wears a size 18/20. That’s where I was in high school, and I hated what I looked like. Now I wish I had just stopped worrying about it then, because now I’m even bigger. I wish I had realized back then that dieting doesn’t work.

I know that it’s important to show fat people as main characters without having their weight be an issue at all. Just like it’s important to show gay characters without making their being gay be the main focus of the novel, or minority characters without their race being the main issue. I understand, and I agree. But I think it’s also important to have some novels address issues that those people face. Some novels should show the struggles gay people face coming out, or the struggles that black or Hispanic people have in a society that’s not always quite as progressive as we seem to think that it is. And some novels should show the struggles that fat people face in a world that only seems to value thin people. Should all novels with fat characters be like that? Of course not. But I still think some should.

Hopefully my novel is a lot less preachy than this blog post is, but I’m not really trying to be subtle in this post. I just wanted to share my views on the subject. If you disagree, I’m open to discussion. And, again, I hope no one took offense to this post. That certainly wasn’t my intention.

Novel 1 of the New Year – Complete

My writing goal for January was to finish the second draft of For Real This Time, and I have succeeded. Well, sort of. I finished it two days after I was supposed to finish it, but I’m okay with that. I finished it, and that’s what matters.

The first draft was 72,000 words. The second draft is 48,857 words. I’m not really sure how that happened, but I’m trying not to freak out at how short it is. I’m sure that I’ll add more words when I edit it next time. Right now, the novel is in the proper order. I have included more of the characters that I was supposed to include, and I have taken out a lot that didn’t really fit with the story. It still needs a bit of work, but it’s a lot better now than it used to be.

I’m learning to edit in stages. When I write the first draft, I try to stick to my outline, but I allow myself the freedom to change the outline as I go. When I edit the novel for the first time and turn it into draft 2, I work on making sure that the events happen in the proper order. Then, draft 3 is when I make sure that I have all the right details and descriptions and conversations. I try to make sure all of that’s right in draft 2, of course, but my main focus is getting everything in the right order.

I’m rather pleased with how this draft turned out. I actually managed to keep a fair number of scenes from the first draft. I edited those scenes a bit, but I didn’t change all of them. That makes me happy, as it means I didn’t completely trash my first draft. I trashed half of it and then moved the other half around a bit.

I’m not 100 percent sure which novel I’m working on next. I promised my sister I’d work on my lit fic zombie novella next, but I also have a new plot bunny that I’m really interested in. It came to me in early January, and it won’t leave me alone. I don’t have all the details of that one worked out, but I’m really excited about it. The main character keeps telling me a bit of her back story, and I’m really interested in learning more about her. I’d feel better if she’d tell me her name, but I guess I can’t ask for too much too soon.

I’ll probably end up working on Choices (the zombie lit fic) next and make notes on the other one as it comes to me. Besides, this is the shortest month, and Choices is my shortest work, so it makes sense to work on that one now. I wrote Choices for my Day 1 NaNo novel. Some of you might remember that I tried to write 50,000 words on November 1. I did not succeed, but I did manage to write 30,531 words, and I finished the first draft of Choices, so I was still pleased with myself. Now I get to go back and see how much of that actually makes sense.

Finding a process that works for me

Julie wrote a wonderful post the other day about the importance of being happy with what you’ve accomplished instead of always comparing yourself to other people. This is a great piece of advice, especially when you’re starting to doubt your ability as a writer.

I go through moments when I’m happy with my writing process and all that I’ve accomplished, and there are times when I’m not. For a while last year, I thought I was happy because I found a process that worked for me – write a first draft really fast, then throw it out and write a second draft really fast, and then edit that second draft. It wasn’t the process I wanted to have work for me, but it was what seemed to be working.

And then I started following more blogs and people on Twitter. I started realizing that it was time to get serious about writing if I ever wanted to actually get something published. I read articles on editing and saw what other people did. I read about people who took their first draft and fixed it and turned it into a good draft. And I thought, Hey, I can write like that, too! And I decided to try to change my writing process.

To be fair, part of this desire came from one of the novels I finished this past NaNo – LET GO. This is the novel that I started for NaNo 2008. I got about 10k in before I quit. I started it again in 2010 and got only a couple of thousand words in that time. Then I started it again for Camp NaNo 2012, and this time I liked what I was writing. I wrote the last 15-20k for 50k weekend during NaNo, and I ended up with a completed draft that I was actually quite happy with. I spent the end of November/beginning of December getting it ready for Pitch Wars, and I submitted it. I didn’t get chosen, but I learned a lot about writing and queries, and I found a whole slew of interesting people to follow on Twitter.

While all of that was wonderful, there was one thing that came about from all that that wasn’t so great – I got the idea that I could write a first draft that was good. I thought that since LET GO was decent the first time I wrote it, I must have outgrown my old process of write a draft and then throw it out and rewrite it completely. It’s like I forgot about the first two drafts that I started and threw out.

That’s why I was happy when I sat down to edit FOR REAL THIS TIME. I thought that it was a great first draft that just required a normal amount of editing, not a complete rewrite. So when I finally read over it and made a bunch of notes and realized that I did need to mostly start over, I was devastated. I felt like I was a failure, like I was regressing as a writer.

But you know what? I’m over that. I’m sitting here with 8 chapters and 20,000 words written for draft 2 of FOR REAL, and I’m really liking what I have so far. I’m not saying it’s the most amazing thing ever written, of course. I know it’s going to have to undergo one more round of edits before I try to show it to anyone. But you know what? I’m happy with it.

I’ve found a system that works for me. I write a first draft as fast as I can (in this case – 2 weeks). Then I leave it alone for about a month. Then I go through and edit it. I make a line edits and substantive edits. I know every single article written on this topic says not to do this, but you know what? I can’t help it. I went to college to be a copy editor. I was called a grammar Nazi in high school. I can’t read a novel with a pen in my hand and not fix errors when I see them.

When I finish this round of edits, I go about fixing the manuscript. In this case, that meant throwing out most of the book and rewriting it. Now, I will admit that I’ve kept more of this first draft than I thought I would. Some chapters were completely rewritten. Some were moved but kept mostly as they were. Others were added. I’m doing whatever that chapter calls for. The important thing, though, is that I’ve learned to stop doubting my process.

Would it be nice to be able to edit a draft and not have to rewrite almost all of it? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that I’m a failure if I end up rewriting all of this. That’s just what works best for me. That’s what I did in college with my creative writing classes. I would write a really fast draft of a story the night before it was due, and then I would throw that out and write a new draft, and I always ended up loving that second draft.

I need to stop doubting myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other people. I need to do what works for me and stop worrying that it’s not what other people do.

I set a goal for myself this month to finish the second draft of FOR REAL THIS TIME. My goal was to write one chapter a day every day of the month, starting Jan. 11, which was the day after I finished the outline for it. I ended up missing one day, but I also combined two chapters, so I’m still on track to finish on time. I’m not doing this as fast as I wrote the first draft, but it’s working for me – and that’s what matters.

Finally making progress

Okay, it’s only taken me a week and a half, but I’ve finally finished the outline for draft 2 of For Real This Time. This seems to be a recurring theme with me: I write a novel, think that this is going to be the time that the first draft is really good, print out the novel, make a bunch of comments and edits, and then go back and decide to just start over anyway. Although, I am happy to say that there are some scenes that I will be keeping. That’s a big step for me. Usually I just toss the whole thing and then rewrite the scenes that I mostly like. Granted, I haven’t started writing yet, so it’s still possible that that could happen, but I’m going to try to be optimistic right now. Plus, there really were quite a few scenes from the first draft that I liked.

The first draft was 17 chapters long, and we didn’t even see the love interest until chapter 9. Draft 2 will be 21 chapters, and we mention the love interest briefly in chapter one and meet him in chapter 6. That’s still a bit later than I would have liked, but the story is more set up for the introduction now. I’ve also spaced out some of the events. The first draft was horrible in terms of pacing. I liked the beginning, where we got to know Maggie and what she wanted most out of life, but after that, the novel sort of lost it. The middle section took up a lot of time and attention, but not a lot really happened. One minute she’s meeting Parker for the first time, and the next minute the summer’s over and the story is wrapping up. It was horrible, and there were a lot of loose ends and events that didn’t really make sense, or events that were alluded to but never actually happened, even though they should have. This version will be a lot better, as I believe I’ve fixed most of those problems.

One of the problems with my writing is that it’s usually very one-dimensional. I always love my main characters and want to see them grow and learn, but I don’t always write the most interesting ways for them to get what they want. I think that’s why I usually gravitate toward literary fiction – there’s still a plot with those novels, of course, but it’s less of a factor. In literary fiction, you’re allowed to have a character sit in a chair for hours, reflecting on life, and have that be the only thing that happens in that chapter. The same can’t be said for books in any other genre. You actually have to balance a bunch of different storylines, and that’s not something I have a lot of practice in, I’m afraid.

When I was in middle school and early high school, I wrote a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction. I actually wrote several of them that had plots that were at least semi-interesting. And then I started to write romantic fan fiction, and my stories lost something. I would focus on the romantic aspect and ignore everything else. I would have Harry’s friends turn against him because it was easier to write the story without having to worry about including them. I think that’s the main reason that the last book I read, The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden, reminds me so much of fan fiction – because it’s really only about the romance. There are side characters who show up and talk to the main characters, sure, and Callie and Kayden both have issues in their past/present to overcome, but the majority of the novel is focused on their relationship, and that’s exactly like my fan fiction used to be.

I think that’s why it took me so long to do this outline: there were so many different threads to keep track of. There was the main storyline of Maggie’s quest to lose weight. There was her friendship with Parker, which she hopes will become something more. There are her best friends. There’s drama with her parents and her extended family. There are the people at school and in her neighborhood who were mean to her. Some of those are more important than others, of course, but they all had to be included, and that was more work than I’m used to. It’s good work, of course. I’m happy to do it, and now that I’ve finally figure out what I’m doing, it’s fun. I know that this is what it takes to be a successful writer who’s happy with her work. It just took a bit longer than I was expecting.

I have 10 novels that I want to work on this year – the five that I want to edit, the four that I want to finish, and a new one that came to me the other day that I can’t get out of my head. I’m hoping to work on one each month, with the extra two months as sort of a cushion in case I don’t make it. Since this month’s novel is obviously For Real This Time, I should really get around to rewriting it now that I’m done with the outline. One chapter a day for the rest of the month, and I should be able to finish this, especially since I am keeping some of what I already have written.

Editing Weekend

As some of you might know, I recently applied for Pitch Wars, a contest where you pitch your novel to agented authors and editors, and they pick one entry to read and critique. I submitted a pitch for my “New Adult” novel about three college roommates who learn about each other and themselves. My novel wasn’t chosen, but I received some really helpful feedback from one of the mentors I queried – Miss Dahlia Adler. I may not know exactly how to fix my query letter, but I know what to fix, and that is a huge help!

Between November 26 and December 3, I was reading through my novel and making some changes. Since then, I haven’t really done anything as far as writing is concerned. I have enjoyed the break, but now it is time to get some work done. I am going to start by editing the second novel I wrote for NaNo: For Real This Time. I haven’t really given Maggie much attention since I finished the first draft, but I think that it’s her turn. I printed out the draft and have it in a binder. From what I remember about the novel, it actually was a decent first draft – I just hope I still feel that way after I start reading. I hate wasting paper, but I find editing so much easier on paper.

This weekend, my boyfriend and his parents are going out of town, and I am staying at their house to take care of their dogs. I have decided to use this time to get a jump start on my editing. I’m going to try to do my first read through this weekend. I have pens and highlighters and sticky notes and a notebook. My goal is to go through and make notes on parts that need fixing. I am also going to look at the novel scene by scene to see which parts should stay and which parts need to be added. My goal is to have all the changes marked down on this draft before I type it into the computer. I think I often get bogged down with how much I have to do, and I end up getting confused and quitting. I’m now going to take this step by step. This method worked well with Tilt Your Head and Smile (or at least it did before I stopped editing to work on Camp NaNo and never started back up again), and I’m hoping it will work this time, as well.

If there’s one thing Pitch Wars has taught me, it’s that writing one draft isn’t enough. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep going. You have to fix the first drafts. It’s important to write a lot, yes, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t edit. I went to school to be an editor. This should not be the part of the process that stumps me. I currently have seven completed drafts and four incomplete drafts. I’m much closer to where I should be now than I was last year (at least I have finished drafts now), but I’m still not where I should be.

My goal for the rest of this month is to get a decent draft 2 of For Real This Time. I already have a decent draft of Let Go. It’s time I start taking this seriously. I’ve learned a lot this year, and I’ve accomplished a lot, but I still have a lot to do and learn. And I’m looking forward to waking up early tomorrow, waving goodbye to my boyfriend, and then diving straight into editing.

NaNo Wrap-up

I meant to write this yesterday, but I ended up going to the regional TGIO party and helping my boyfriend’s family set up Christmas decorations and stuff of that nature, so I didn’t really get around to it. So, here we are. December. For the first time, I’m actually glad that NaNo’s finished. I sort of lost interest in writing during the last few days of the month. I learned about this Pitch Wars contest, and since November 26, I’ve been more interested in editing one of my manuscripts to prepare it for that contest than I have been about writing more first drafts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Now for some numbers from the past month.

Total number of words written: 243,374

That’s not the 250k that I was aiming for, but it’s still 20k more than I wrote last year, so I’m still pleased with it. At least it’s an improvement. And I know that I could have reached my goal if I hadn’t gotten distracted those last couple of days. And if I had prepared more ahead of time. I had planned on working on three novels. I was going to write drafts one of Alone and For Real This Time, both of which I thought about be about 100k. Then I was going to finish up draft one of Let Go for 50k weekend. I wrote about 45k of it for Camp NaNo, and I wasn’t even halfway through with what I was going to write for it, so it seemed like a good plan.

The only problem with my plan was that none of those novels turned out as long as I thought they were going to be. I’ve never written short novels before, but this time I ended up doing just that. I think they’re going to get longer during the second drafts, as I’m sure there are things that sounded good on paper but didn’t end up working in actuality. The fact remains, however, that even after I added another novella for my Day One project, I still didn’t hit my goal. But let’s focus on what I actually did manage to write:

Choices – 30,531
For Real This Time – 72,000
Alone – 70,000
Let Go – 35,000 (total novel 79,970)
Together (sequel to Alone) – 23,199
Other (short stories and new novel attempts) – 12,644

So I now have 3 finished novel drafts, 1 finished novella draft, 2 complete short stories, 1 incomplete draft, and 3 more novel/short story attempts that ultimately went nowhere. Still, I’m pretty happy with what I did manage to write. True, I should have finished Together, but I really didn’t think that I would get that far. Alone was just supposed to be one book originally. Then I realized that there was too much going on to be just one book, so I broke it into two books. I didn’t really think that I would get to book two, so I didn’t really plan it out much. I have a general idea of what the plot is, but I didn’t break it down into chapters like I had with book one, so I had trouble trying to write it. I don’t need to have every line of dialogue planned out before I write, but it’s helpful for me to have more than just the overall storyline.

Still, I’m quite pleased with most of what I wrote. Choices was my Day One project. It didn’t quite make 50,000 words, but I still managed to write the whole thing in a day, and that makes me happy. I still like the storyline, just maybe not the exact words that I wrote. I’m still glad that I wrote it, and I definitely learned some things about that story that I wouldn’t have if I had planned it out ahead of time. In fact, the title of that story was taken from a few scenes that I thought of at four o’clock in the morning, when I was half asleep, and it tied the entire story together. So I’m actually pretty happy with that one.

I’m also happy with the other novels that I finished. I like the short stories that I wrote. I’m not so happy with the stuff that I wrote during that last week, but I kept writing, and that’s what matters. I wrote more this month than I ever have in a month before, and I’m going to try to focus on that instead of the 6.7k that I didn’t write that would have taken me to my goal. This has still been a great month for writing. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t write, so I’m happy with that. And now for some other numbers:

Most words written in a single day: 30,531 (Day 1)
Least words written in a single day: 1,468 (Day 29)
Average words written per day: 8,112
Most words written in an hour: 4,306
Number of days it took me to hit 50k: 4

Those are good numbers. I’m going to be happy with those. I hit 50k two days sooner than I did last year. I completed 50k weekend two years in a row. I wrote more words in a single day than I did last year. I managed to write 4k an hour twice. I managed to write some first drafts that I actually like. I mean, sure, they need major editing, but I might not have to completely rewrite them all. Of course, I thought that last year and I ended up rewriting that one, but I’m hoping that’s not the case this year. Of course, I guess I’ll find that out when I read over my other drafts. 🙂

A Brief History of NaNo

I’ve seen a few posts about people’s NaNo histories, and it’s inspired me to write my own. Besides, I really have nothing to do for the next few hours. I have a meeting with my adviser at 4:15 (she forgot about our last appointment on Monday). After that, the plan is to come home and nap for a few hours so that I’m well rested for when NaNo starts at midnight. Somewhere in the next three hours I should also make chili so that I have something to eat tomorrow while I’m supposed to be writing. I can’t afford to waste any time cooking tomorrow. But more on that later.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo October 31, 2007. I had heard about NaNo several months before. I read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction at the time, and many of my favorite authors were warning their readers that they weren’t going to be updating for a while because they were going to be busy with this strange thing called National Novel Writing Month. I looked it up to see what they were talking about, and I thought it sounded stupid. You didn’t get anything for it if you won, and it seemed like a huge waste of time. I rolled my eyes and moved on to other things. (For the record, I thought Harry Potter sounded stupid when I first heard about it, too. Then I read the first book and became obsessed for the next ten years. So you can probably see where this is going.)

Flash forward a few months to Halloween 2007. It was my first Halloween in college. I was coming back from the dining hall when I saw a huge poster on the wall near the elevators advertising NaNoWriMo. I had seen it before but never really given it much thought, as I remembered thinking it was stupid the last time I looked at it. I’m not sure what made this time different. Perhaps I was feeling board and lonely. After all, it was Halloween, and I was preparing to spend the rest of my night alone in my room. Perhaps I just needed something to do.

Whatever the reason, I decided to check out the NaNo site again. This time, it sounded like something that would be a lot of fun. I registered that night and then came up with something to write. I had been reading a lot of personal essay collections at the time, and it seemed like fun. (Apparently I hadn’t read the rules closely enough to know that it was supposed to be fiction, but that’s okay.) That’s the only reason I was able to finish my first year, I think – whenever I got bored with one topic, I could move on to another. I ended up finishing my 50k a few days early, and it was a lot of fun. I absolutely hated the novel I wrote, but that’s okay. I learned a lot. For instance, I learned that I should never try to write a humor book again. Exclamation marks should be used very sparsely. Parenthetical asides are not as entertaining when I write them (although I obviously haven’t gotten over using them completely).

The next year, my roommate and our friend who lived next door all tried to do NaNo. I was going to try to pants that novel. I wanted to start with several characters but not plot. I somehow ended up with an overarching plot before I started writing. I had three characters in college who were going to learn things about themselves and each other. I got 10,000 words in and then stopped. This is the same novel that I started writing during the August Camp NaNo. I’m also going to try to finish it this year, but we’ll see how that goes.

In 2009, I got about 5,000 words in before I stopped. I was writing a fictional account of me and my boyfriend. A horrible idea in hindsight, but that’s what I was going to write. It was going to be a gift for my boyfriend. And then I realized that he wasn’t going to read it, and I lost interest. Lesson learned that year: you have to write the novel for yourself, first and foremost. If you don’t want to read it, you probably shouldn’t be writing it.

By NaNo 2010, I had graduated college and moved back home to Georgia. That’s when I joined the NanoLanta region and started attending write-ins and hanging out in the chat room. I found a novel idea that I really liked (Learning to Lie), and I wrote 68k that year. I still don’t have that novel where I want it, even after two drafts (it’s part of a trilogy, and it’s hard to write the first if you have absolutely no idea what will happen in books 2 and 3, or at least it is for me).

Last year was my first year joining the Overachievers thread. My goal was to finish an entire novel in a month. At first I was aiming for 75k. Then I upped it to 100k. Then 150k. I ended up writing 222,545 words. I finished Tilt Your Head and Smile (103k), finished writing my second draft of Learning to Lie (about 51k), started The Story of Em (54k), and started a fan fiction story (14k) because I needed something to write when I was stuck on the other ones. It was amazing.

This year, I have already upped my goal to 300k, and that is because I’m joining a small group of insane wrimos who are going for 50k on day one. You can follow us on Twitter if you search #50kDayOne or #50kkillmenow. This is my first year attempting this, and I’m not sure if I can do it, but I have the entire day off, so we’ll see. That’s why I want to have food already made for tomorrow and why I’m going to take a nap when I get home this evening – I won’t have much time for sleep tomorrow. I know I can do 50k in three days, as I did it for #50kweekend last year. One day might be pushing it, but we’ll see. If nothing else, I’ll start the month off with a big lead, and that would be exciting, too.

Now, the novels that I plan to write this month – in case anyone’s curious.

1. Zombies (working title)
Bath salts + flesh eating virus = zombies
Follows a group of six 20-somethings and two children as they struggle to survive a zombie outbreak. Not my usual genre at all, but it seemed like fun when I thought of it. There was a dare on our regional forum/chat (no longer recall which) to take “a man goes to the store” and make it into a tragedy. That’s basically what I’m doing. I also partly want to show that you can turn anything into Lit Fic – even zombies. 🙂

This will be the project I start with tomorrow, as it’s only half serious, and I won’t feel horrible if it ends up being horrible tomorrow. I mean, I want it to be good, and I have higher hopes for it than I should given the nature of it, but I don’t care about it as much as I do the others.

2. For Real This Time
After a traumatizing event at the end of eighth grade, Maggie Fitts , less affectionately referred to by her classmates as “Maggie Doesn’t Fitts,” is determined to lose weight – for real this time. When she meets Parker Williams, she’s even more determined to lose the weight. If she can pull this off, just maybe she can start high school with a new body and a new boyfriend.

But then Maggie’s parents give her news that threatens to destroy not only her diet but also her way of life. Will she find the strength to deal with her problems and stick with her diet, or will she succumb to the sadness that threatens to overwhelm her? And is losing weight even that important anymore?

3. Alone (working title)
In 2018, Congress passed what have come to be known as the Family Values amendments. The Personhood Amendment declares that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. The Marriage Amendment declares that marriage is between a man and a woman. It further states that only married couples can adopt children. As a result, half of all children are raised in overcrowded orphanages, anxiously awaiting the day they turn 18 and are released on their own without anyway to go.

Lucy Higgins has one year before she turns 18 and becomes yet another homeless orphan. Her only hope of salvation is the Exxmart Motors Lottery. Eligible students get to enter the Lottery, and four lucky winners – one from each of the four schools in the Atlanta region – get to go Etherton Academy, the prestigious private school uptown. Students at Etherton get a full scholarship to college, and Lucy knows that if she can just get in, she will have a chance at a real life.

But life’s not that simple. Just when things are finally starting to turn around for her, she gets news that threatens to undo everything she’s worked for the past seventeen years. Can she find a way out of the situation, or will she end up like every other teenage girl she’s ever know – cold and alone?

I’m not sure how successful I’ll actually be this month, but I’m hoping to get first drafts written for each of these novels. My plan is to finish these drafts and then spend a good portion of next year editing them. I think that was part of my problem this year – I was so focused on getting first drafts finished that I never finished editing anything. That’s going to change next year.

Less than eleven hours until NaNo starts!