November Really *Is* the Novel Writing Month

So, I thought I’d sit down and total up what I wrote all through the month of November, aka Nanowrimo, the National Novel Writing Month.

Ready to be stunned and amazed?

Well, perhaps not.

In case you’re not aware of it, I finished three novels in the month, so…

Any Other Reality, Nano, completely done in November = 67,807
The words I added to All the Men in My Life = 43,961
The words I added to In the Family = 76,307
The words added to The Monster in My Garden Shed = 25,864

Total for original fiction last month = 213,669

Two hundred thousand words, lol. I could have won Nano four times, I suppose. I’m just pleased with my overall turnout this month.  Now to get the editing going…

Multitasking and Writing

I am a multitasker.

How does that relate to writing?

Two basic ways, I would say.

First, there is always some kind of story going in my head regardless of what I’m doing. Well, unless I’m sleeping, but then I’m dreaming, so yeah, still a story. I’ve been in the middle of reading a book, set it down, and just stared off into space before–because the story that was running in my head became more interesting or compelling. I used to get complaints all the time from my family because I was writing while watching a movie or playing a game. It’s always there. Some story is being told in the back of my brain, and I can’t shut it off.

So, for those of you who think multitasking is a bad thing, I guess that’s too bad for me because I’m screwed. The stories aren’t going away.

It does make some of the mundane tasks in life more interesting, though. Cleaning while figuring out the latest section of a story is to be preferred over cleaning without it.

The other aspect of multitasking and writing for me is window flipping. Yes, I have a PC, so I have… Windows. Even if I didn’t, though, I’d still do the window flipping thing. I need to feel like I’m doing more than one thing, even when writing. So I usually have a couple browsers open (my current favorite is chrome, but I like firefox and despise internet explorer) with email accounts open, livejournal friends pages to refresh, and any research I might need to do in another tab.

I can write while watching movies or television, but admittedly, I accomplish more when it’s just music going in the background. I don’t do well with silence while I’m writing, and singing along can help inspire me and keep me going.

It’s interesting how doing more than one thing at once helps me accomplish that one thing.

Always Too Many Stories

One of the bane’s of a writer’s existence has to be that there is never enough time.

There will always be more stories than can be written. It’s an inescapable fact.

I tried to say once that even if all I did was write for a year, I’d never get through half of my stories for a particular subject. It was pointed out to me, very wise and correctly, that half was optimistic.

I’m not optimistic by nature, but that’s a different story.

The point of this being that there’s always something new that wants to be written or something old that was abandoned that wants to be picked up. There’s never enough time in a given day to do as much writing as wants to be done.  I say that as a fairly fast writer. Depending on the day, I can come up with at least 10,000 words, if not more.

For instance, in the space of about ten days, I wrote 76,307 words on one story, all the while working on my Nano fic and getting about 20,000 words on it. So, I wrote about 96,000 words in those ten days, roughly that 10k a day.

So, say I wrote 10,000 words a day, every day. Nano novels are 50,000 words long. That would give me a Nano novel every five days, in theory.

Why don’t I have a novel every five days? Other than actually having to do something besides write every now and again (though admittedly not doing as much of those non-writing tasks as those around me would prefer), of course.

My problem isn’t with speed.

No, my problem is with attention and inspiration. Recently I started tricking myself with the whole “this project must be done so that one is like cheating” thing, making one or more of my other stories “guilty pleasures.”  That means that I keep up a certain amount of work on the one story, and then the others get to be like… fun. More fun. Writing is almost always fun.

So really, the reason why I don’t have another finished novel yet this month is not about speed or even dedication. It’s that there’s never enough time, and when you have all these stories competing for your interest and time, you end up with some kind of crazy form of ADD that says, “ooh, look, shiny” and tries to drag you away from what you’re working on.

Did I need another story to compete with The Monster in My Garden Shed? No. I really didn’t. I already have the blog story, The Not-So-Super Superhero, that I am also working on. That didn’t matter. I couldn’t not work on the one with Effie in it, the one I’m going to call Nickel and Dime for now, after Effie’s store.

In some ways, I think that the pressure helps, having all these things to do. I keep waiting for the point where it breaks me, but I think self-preservation kicks in before that happens–I did that with In the Family, finished it to give myself some relief… Then I started working on All the Men in My Life and restarted the cycle. Is that healthy?

No. Oh, definitely not.

I’m dysfunctional.

I talked before about multitasking. About window flipping. Well, I need that window flipping with stories, too. Sometimes it’s nice to go to something else for a break. Sometimes it’s impossible to balance. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave a story alone for a while.

There’s always so many to choose from… Not hard to rotate through them.

The hard part is keeping more ideas from coming to distract you with their newness and shininess.

The Characters Write the Story, Not Me

I have said it before, and I will end up saying it again: I don’t write the story.  Well, I put it on paper, I type it, but I don’t dictate every little part of it. I sometimes call my stories wild rides, and that’s because sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next.

Some people sit down and write a full timeline before they start a story. I’ve tried it. It can be very useful. It can help keep a person focused. Or it can give a person a reason to write the later sections because they know what’s coming. Or at least that’s how I’ve misused it in the past.

After considerable exploration of the process over the last seventeen years (that’s how long I’ve been writing fiction for myself, though the early stuff was admittedly crap), I’ve found that what works best for me, regardless of the type of story I’m doing, is to brainstorm certain parts, the important ones, and to keep them in mind and a general sense of where the story is going. Some big reveal is always coming, the romantic pairing eventually finds their way to each other, and the major conflict is resolved. That is the nature of a story.

Knowing these general thoughts, even if it’s not perfectly clear in the beginning, is enough. Once the characters are created, once they’ve come to life, they’ll take the story where it needs to go. A lot of the time, it’s not even where I expected it to go.

Almost every time, though, it’s a whole lot better.


The characters know what works. They know themselves. They know what they’d do in a given situation, and they act accordingly. They say what they would have say, and it never fails to amaze me how one line in a conversation can change the course of the next section of the book or even the entire story.

Letting the characters tell the story, their story, is important. It makes them real, makes the story realistic. It is, I think, the single most important thing I can do if I write a story.

It’s Not the Author Who Matters

Going along with the characters tell the story idea, there’s this thing that’s been bugging me, and I think that in many ways I highlighted this with Any Other Reality.

Yes, that story is, in many ways, a spoof. It pokes fun at a type of fiction that–don’t get me wrong, I love. I have given many years of my life and much effort–almost blood, sweat, and tears to this type of writing.

What it really gets at, though, in the end, is the authors.

And I include myself in that number. I’m not immune. The pygmies are even mentioned.

I think one of the worst things a writer can do is forget to respect their characters. They’re human (sometimes) and bound to make mistakes, but they generally have reasons for the choices that they make. Ignoring their basic motivations and history to tell the story the way the author wants it is not right. It’s a bad process, and going down that road will not improve anyone’s storytelling. As a reader, when a character makes a choice that comes out of left field, you’ve just about lost me. Sometimes I stick around to see why they did that, and other times I’m just done. I can tell I won’t like where it’s going if that stuff happens.

Some equate writing to playing god. That’s something I’ve never liked.

I create characters, yes. I create worlds. They live in these worlds.

Does that make me the puppet master?

I try very hard not to be. They have reasons and motivations, and really, I’m just telling their story. It’s like I was a silent witness to it, not that I was telling them what to do. I wrote it down, but I didn’t interact.

So I feel the story is the main thing. It’s all that matters.

Forget I was even there.

Research Is a Matter of Definition

To be perfectly honest, most of the time I see research as a necessary evil.

Reality is one of those pesky details that frequently gets in the way of a good story.

I have a few stories, mostly historical mysteries, that are sitting around in some incomplete form because I’m not motivated enough to do the research necessary to make them authentic and realistic.

Research would be more interesting if it involved traveling, but most of the time, my research is limited to what I can find on the internet. I don’t get to go to exotic locations, though hanging out at the local museum and doing history fest I like to count as “research.” I even dress in as much period costume as I can.

Still, while pouring over books or browsing sites and trying to decide if they’re trustworthy or not, there are still fun ways to do research.

For instance, I’ve been asked to do a story where I change a part of a well known plot. I don’t really know how I’ll do it. Not yet.

But the movie has been remade three times, and guess what I get to do for research?

Oh, yes. I get to watch.

That’s my kind of research.

The Story Before the Story Might Need Telling

A piece of my plot is… missing. It’s a conundrum.

It’s difficult to explain that without spoiling the entire plot of The Monster in My Garden Shed. I could try, but I think it’s better if I just work on figuring it out, and when I’ve got it fixed, people will know because I’ll finish the story. My brain processes better when I’m trying to sleep, so perhaps tonight, after having a long discussion about it, I will know what the deep dark secret is.

In the meantime, I distracted myself by writing more flashbacks–I could probably fill a whole novel with the relationship between two of the characters before the story starts, and I admit, it’s tempting to go to that story… only I think it would really only interest… me.  I can’t say that the earlier scenes I’ve written haven’t been enjoyed by at least one other person, but that’s a few scattered scenes, not a complete story of nothing but them.

Personally, I love the dynamics between characters, their interactions and especially their banter. Even if that was all a story was, I might just be okay with that. It doesn’t work for everyone, and even for me, as a writer, that pesky thing known as a plot comes in and intervenes. I do pretty well with plot. It’s not my enemy. It’s not necessarily my friend, though, either.

I think it’s safe to say we’re occasional allies, but mostly, it likes to ruin things for me.

The trick is in balancing plot with interaction and even introspection and dare I name my weakness? Description.

I think I have a fairly good system at this point. I write my banter and interaction, then I reread, I find the lack of description and introspection, and I add that in. It’s still unbalanced, but I do believe I’m getting better at it. I will probably never be one of those authors that paints an entire world with my words, but I know one thing for sure: you can hear the words my characters speak exactly as they say them. It’s something I’ve heard before, though for me, I do hear them as I write.

The voices are clear.

The plot? Maybe not so much.  This could be why summaries give me such fits to write.

There is a certain bitter sweetness to flashbacks and stories before the story. A prequel always has to end, and that ending is fixed and even known before the whole thing starts. That said, why would I go through the path and take it to the painful end that I know is coming?

I’m not sure. I faced this problem before with a story I set aside, and my only solution there was not to do it. This one is, of course, different, so I can’t say that I’d walk away from it entirely, and key points of the past have to be known to me, at the very least.

That reminds me. There is one moment I don’t think I’ve touched on for Garden Shed that I have to make sure I don’t forget about. I think I know where I’ll put it, though. I’m trying to keep these flashbacks relevant, and I know that this one would lead right into…

Oh, I can’t tell you that. I’d spoil the story.

After I’ve finished it, I might tell you what I mean by all these vague hints.

It Was the Moon

Driving home last night, I couldn’t help but notice how orange the moon was.

I could only see the lower half of it, though it looked full.

It was amazing, really.

I watched it as I drove, always further away no matter how many miles passed going toward it.

What really drew me toward it was the orange, though. I kept thinking that if there was a moon in the Ascanati world in The Monster in My Garden Shed, then that would have been what it looked like.

I tried to take a picture of what I saw, but unfortunately, I don’t have the right camera for that kind of thing.


moon at night

Said May Well Be the Worst Word Ever Invented

So I was writing this paragraph earlier:

“I agree with the necessity of washing them,” Garan said. They said you should wash even brand new stuff from the store before you wore it. Besides, while it might be a minor detail, one most people might not notice, the clothes would not smell right. They should smell like they’d been washed in the same place, by the same people, if the cover was going to be realistic. “I’m not going to feel comfortable until the threat is completely over.”

What is tripping me up is the first part, after the dialogue, where it goes Garan said and then they said.

It doesn’t sound right to me to use said twice right there.

So I go to look up said in the thesaurus. First, the one in my office program calls it an adjective and has no real alternatives other than aforementioned and stated. I blink, pull up the internet window, and go to my usual thesaurus site.

I get a list of possibilities. I read through them, repeatedly, dismissing each in turn. They don’t fit.

I go to another site, get that said is an adjective again–and no, I’m not denying that it has a use as an adjective, but is it too much for the sites and programs to connect said as the past participle of say? Do I actually have to go look for say?

Apparently so.

But then say comes up as an adverb.

You would think, “said” being probably one of the more common words in the English language, it wouldn’t be so hard to find the right alternative. I can still hear, echoing in my brain, the voice of my sixth grade English teacher as she ranted about the horror that is lack of variety and read aloud from a Nancy Drew book that basically went:

said Nancy.

said Bess.

said George.

said Nancy.

And my teacher gave us a list of things to use instead. I try not to use said, but sometimes it’s just what you have to do. If I use it, I try to pair up some kind of adverb with it, to say how they’re saying it, but in this case, my mind is a blank, the thesaurus has failed me, and I feel like banging my head against something.

Said, you are an evil word, and I’d stop using you if I could.

One Story Is Not Enough

A lot of the time, when I finish a story, I spend a while lamenting the end of it.

It’s a bittersweet thing. The story is so much fun along the way, the characters are like friends, and then they’re gone. I don’t mean that they die because stories don’t mean everyone dies at the end–not usually, at least, though that’s the best thing to tell someone if they ask you about how a movie was or how it ends.

No, the characters still have their lives other than the story, but usually, unless I go back to reread their story, they don’t come around.

Occasionally, I get sequel ideas. A lot of the time, it’s more me wanting to get back those friends, and there’s no real plot there.

Some of them are more full-fledged, and they are ready to start right after the first is done.

Nickel and Dime is like that. I ended it yesterday, and I was immediately ready to move on to its sequel. Parts of that were so clear in my head that I was not about to stop.

Other sequels aren’t as easy to pin down. I keep thinking that Thyme and Whim should come back in an alien invasion story (yeah, so you’re so laughing now) and that Dennison should show up at the villa to disrupt Frankie and Rico’s lives, that maybe Jax should have his own story and continue Franklin and Mira’s a bit. I think there’s only one I finished recently that doesn’t have any potential sequels, and that’s the spoof. Still, the ideas I have for the others haven’t developed into anything I’d actually be able to turn into a book.

Maybe a moment or two for some of them. I was considering small stories in a collection as a possible idea. Most authors would maybe give some holiday stories, but as I don’t celebrate them and actually loathe most holidays, that won’t happen. Still, a collection is a possibility.

It’s just that one book is too short a time to spend with a great character (or two or more) and sometimes you want to see more, even if there’s no long sequel, no second story to tell.

You won’t find me telling stories about their kids, though. No, that’s a personal pet peeve of mine. I hate the stories that turn it all about their kids, even if the kids are grown up. So I won’t go down that route.

A glimpse or two or a sequel, that I can do.