Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

nano2002Yup, today we’re going all the way back to the beginning. This was my first year of NaNoWriMo! And yes, in this picture you can see what I expect is a pretty rare artifact–the 2002 t-shirt.

My first NaNo novel was The Y Plague, a story about a future Earth where the male population has been reduced by a very large percentage. No, I did not write this because I hate men. I wrote it because it was an idea that interested me and I wanted to explore it. Here’s the blurb (from before I really understood how to write a good blurb, but someday I’ll write a better one):

In a future where genetic degradation has reduced the male population to only five percent of the total, fertile males are prized as research subjects and breeding partners. There’s unrest, however, as men begin to resent the bonds of society and start to form their own Freemen colonies. The radical X/Alt group wants to see the end of all research aimed at restoring the male genome, and in Rome, the last male Pope uncovers a secret that will either drive him mad or rock the Catholic Church to its foundations.

I had a one-year-old and a six-year-old when I wrote this novel, so it required getting up early in the morning and staying up late at night. I remember pouring up a glass of juice every night so that in the morning, I just had to stumble out to the fridge and retrieve it, sipping as I made my way to my office. Then I pried open my eyelids and tried to get a few hundred words down before the day started. This strategy worked out very well for me, as I found that by the time I got to write again once the kids were in bed, my brain had been working on the next part all day. I wrote over 2k words nineteen days of the month that year, which I think was pretty consistent.

Looking at my spreadsheet from that year, I see that I passed 50k words on the 25th of November! Wow. I was on fire that year. I finished out the month with 58,337 words, and an outline for the final fourteen chapters of the novel. I kept writing until the 3rd of December and reached 59,029 words, but wrote the outline when I realized that although I hadn’t gotten to THE END, I had to turn my attention to the upcoming holidays. I didn’t want to forget where the novel was heading when I picked it up again in January.

I have never written those last chapters. *headdesk*

However, I pulled this novel out last year and began looking at it. I think it’s good. Better than I remember, actually, and perhaps even more relevant in many ways than it was when I started it. It’s very near the top of my list of things to finish. I think it probably needs a new title, since the “plague” is not really a plague and has happened long before the book begins, but I can deal with that.

One thing I’m doing during this retrospective is considering these unfinished novels, what state they are in, and what they need. From this I’m making a to-do list for 2017, so expect to see some of these titles (or replacement ones) popping up over the next while.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Nano2012

Today we jump ahead to 2012 in the NaNoWriMo Retrospective. This was the year I wrote most of the first draft of The Family Business, which is, sadly, another of the still-unfinished manuscripts waiting for my attention.

I had a lot of fun with this one; it’s a ghost story and a mystery, and it’s definitely one I want to finish. Here’s the blurb:

Stella McKarron is sorry when her Uncle Ambrose dies suddenly, but she doesn’t think it will actually change her life much. They’ve never gotten along terribly well, anyway. So it comes as a surprise to learn that he’s left her his cat (she’s allergic), his car (she doesn’t drive), his private detective agency (she’s a librarian) and his collection of ten thousand books (she’s actually okay with that one). The bigger surprise is yet to come, however, when his ghost appears and tells her that he was murdered, and the first case he wants her to take on is his own…

familybusinessHere’s my hastily throw-together cover mockup; I still like the concept although it could be MUCH better executed.

The November draft came in at just barely 50k, since I was also working on the rewrite of One’s Aspect to the Sun that month. I see from the notes in my spreadsheet that I actually did not have an idea for what to write this year until I actually sat down to do it. I’m trying to remember where the idea eventually came from, but it appears to be lost in the mists of time.

Notably, this was the year I set up my treadmill desk, and this was the first project I wrote at it. I don’t seem to have stats from that month, although I suspect they are around somewhere…I do like obsessive record-keeping from time to time.  We do seem to have had a lot of word wars in the Ramsey household, according to my notes, and some successful write-ins with other Cape Breton Wrimos.

I believe that this one remains unfinished because I made that classic error of trying to write a mystery without enough advance planning. Other genres can work out okay with the “gardening” approach, but mysteries require more of the “architect” thinking. Or as I once said in a radio interview, “When it comes time to lay down a clue, you’d better have a clue.”

Someday soon I’ll pull this one out and see what it needs. It’s  fun tale with some quirky characters and deserves to play out to “The End.”

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Poppies by Benoit Aubry of Ottawa

This morning I walked “into town” to observe the Remembrance Day ceremony. I do actually live in the town, by the way, but on the outer edge, and going “into town” has always been the family nomenclature. I had planned to walk with some others of my family, but due to this and that I ended up going alone with a new plan to meet them there. It was a sunny morning, and the wind held a jagged edge–but, hey, it’s November in Cape Breton–and altogether lovely for walking.

Since I was alone and hadn’t taken my headphones to listen to music, I set my mind, as I walked, to the problem facing me in my current novel project. Which, coincidentally, had to do with war. The question I have been trying to answer is basically, how can a small group of people stop an interstellar war?

The obvious answer, I suppose, is: they can’t. But this is fiction, and that wasn’t the answer I wanted. I wanted an answer that involved cooperation, and determination, and compassion, and alien races working together. I just couldn’t seem to find the right way to make all those pieces fit together into what also has to be a good story.

So I mulled it over as I walked, and I thought a bit about war, and a bit about my Great Uncle John, who fought in the Second World War and did come home, if a changed man. I thought about the characters in my book, and what’s just happened and is happening in the United States, and about other wars and other places and other stories. And I came back to my characters and all the bits of the novel that have already been set in motion.

And. I think it worked. By the time I met up with my family members, some very important story pieces had fallen into place, and others had revealed how they could work together, and new pieces had appeared, too. I didn’t quite dance in the street since it would have seemed quite disrespectful under the circumstances. But I felt much better than I had about the story in a while.

There isn’t really a moral to this story, but I suppose if there is one for writers, it’s that sometimes you have to give your brain a quiet place to churn, and let it go. Maybe it means a change of scenery or activity, maybe it means a nap or just a break from staring disconsolately at the screen. Maybe it’s not forcing ideas, but nudging your thoughts in a certain direction and letting them run, instead of staring at an outline that isn’t working any more. Maybe it’s a walk on a sunny, windy day, alone with your thoughts and a question to be answered. If you’re stuck, try all of these things, and more, if that’s what it takes. The pieces will fall into place.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

My NaNoWriMo Retrospective continues with a look back at 2003. I came, I wrote, I bought the t-shirt. And I wrote “THE END.”

nanoretro2003This was my second year of NaNoWriMo, and the year I wrote the first draft of One’s Aspect to the Sun. I learned a lot about novel-writing that year, including the fact that sometimes characters you intend to kill off in the second chapter just keep hanging around until you realize they’re not ready to die after all. I also found out how fulfilling it is to reach some semblance of an ending and type those two wonderful words.

I wasn’t certain if this was the year I became a Municipal Liaison, but I’ve just gone and checked my email (yes, I’m an email hoarder, I confess), and this was the year I started. So I’m glad to have that figured out, because I’m never sure when filling out the ML form each year. It didn’t occur to me before this to just go and check those old emails, for which I really have no excuse. As I recall, we were a pretty small group that year, and far-flung across the Island, as we still are, although there are definitely more of us participating now. I remember mailing out pins and possibly stickers to a few participants.

Anyway, this is a big year in the retrospective, because the draft I wrote this year became my first published novel (from Tyche Books) in…wait for it…2013. In November, even! Yes, ten whole years after I wrote that first draft. Now, I wasn’t working on it constantly during those ten years (I wrote a lot of other stuff in there, too), but I did write several drafts. I submitted it to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes) and took second place (which one of the organizers assured me meant that the novel was “publishable”), and rewrote it using the feedback I received from the judges. After a couple more rewrites and submissions, it found its home at Tyche. The beautiful cover art is by the talented Ashley Walters. The book was named “Speculative Fiction Book of the Year” by the Book Publishers of Alberta.

Here’s the blurb, which remained pretty much the same from the time I first wrote it in 2003 until the book came out:

When Luta Paixon, captain of the merchant trader Tane Ikai, looked in the mirror, she saw a woman in her thirties–even though she was actually eighty-two. Luta’s only explanation might lie with the mother who had disappeared over sixty years ago. But even if her mother were still alive, it would be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the farthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Looking back at my spreadsheet from this year, I see that I finished November with a word count of 50,715. On the second day, my note says, “A little worried that I don’t know where I’m going,” but by the end of the first week I seem to have settled into a groove and flown straight on till morning. I actually finished on the 27th, averaging 1878 words per day.

Which year will we visit next? Stay tuned!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_municipalliaison-2-250x250Yes, 2016 marks the 15th year I’m participating in the wonderful creative blast of National Novel Writing Month. I thought it would be fun, as the month progresses, to look back at the things I’ve written, the data I’ve kept, and, even more important, the t-shirts and other nano-merch I’ve acquired over the years. So sit back, pour up a celebratory glass of your favourite liquid for toasting, and enjoy this little trip through time and word counts.

I’m doing this in no particular order, so today I randomly picked 2008 (because that’s the t-shirt I’m wearing today).nanoretro2008This was the 10-year anniversary of NaNoWriMo itself, and the brown baseball-style tee boasts “NaNoWriMo” and a large number “10” on the back. This is one of my all-time fav NaNo t-shirts. That was the year I wrote At the Sign of the Starcase, and yes, that’s STAR CASE, not a typo. This was a middle-grade to young adult story, and I know I wrote it specifically trying to incorporate many of the elements my daughter enjoyed in the books she was reading at the time. Here’s the blurb:

In the five years since Maddie’s father disappeared, she and her family have struggled to go on with some semblance of a normal life. That life is shattered by the arrival of Neb, a vaguely rabbit-like creature who turns up in Maddie’s room one night, pleading for her help in finding a powerful book called the Cyclopedia and telling her that her father is still alive—but trapped in an alternate world. There’s no question that Maddie will try to help Neb and hope that by doing so she’ll be able to rescue her father. But keeping the rest of her family safe grows increasingly difficult once she finds out that there are others from that world who want the Cyclopedia too…and they don’t care what they have to do to get it.

Looking up my tracking spreadsheet from that year, I see that I finished up at 50,699 words. Some selected comments from the daily “notes” section of the spreadsheet: “Still no idea what I’m doing with this story, but at least it’s started,” “I hate that message that says, at this rate, you won’t finish on time,” “bleh,” and on a more positive note, “Woohoo, I’m getting so many great ideas in the last 24 hours!”

Unfortunately, all those great ideas did not lead to a finished first draft of Starcase, and I didn’t get to type “The End,” which is always my ultimate goal during NaNoWriMo. I always get the 50k, but that goal is more elusive. My daughter is no longer a middle grade reader, but I’m sure if I ever finish Starcase she will read it anyway just to be nice.

We launched our first Third Person Press title, Undercurrents, during that November, so I think that contributed to my struggle with this manuscript. However, I still like it and think it has potential, so it remains on my TBF (to-be-finished) list.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Samsung_840_EVO_SSD-8_-_front_blackIt is Friday the 13th, and yet I am cloning and installing a new SSD in my laptop. Nope, no triskaidekaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, or friggatriskaidekaphobia here.

It’s been a good week for writing, and my NaNoWriMo WIP has topped 30k words. I spent the first 29k of that figuring out what the novel was about, and then yesterday finding out how it would all fit together, but it’s not the process, it’s the product, right? For a usual November I would be ecstatic to be at 30k words on this date (and it is, in my 13-year tenure, unheard-of), because I’d be more than halfway to goal–but of course, this year’s actual goal is much higher, and so I am merely satisfied. Satisfied is also a good place to be, however.

I had a story rejection this week but…well, as my good friend Nancy says, at some point they get to be more like a kick on the shin than a devastating injury. They sting for a bit and then you shrug them off and that’s it. I haven’t found a new place to send the story yet because, darn, it’s long, and the majority of markets these days are looking for 5k or less, it seems. I just don’t write that many stories in that length. I’ll try to find some time to focus on that in the next week.

I’m doing a lot of on-call story advising this month since there are so many stories happening in this household right now. But that’s fun, and it’s so interesting to be able to watch other writers develop under the microscope, so to speak. And it’s nice to be able to answer many of the questions that I had to research long ago.

I set up a new blog over at WordPress.com this week, called Stalking the Story. Why do I want another website to look after? Well, I plan to make it the repository for just my writing-related posts, so if that’s all you’re here for, they’ll be cross-posted over there as well. I’m also hoping to have some guest bloggers over there in the coming months. It may, over time, turn into a cooperative blog, which is something I’ve thought I’d like to do for some time now, in partnership with other writers. We’ll have to see how it evolves.

Habitica avatarMy desk is actually getting a bit messy, as it is wont to do during NaNoWriMo, so I plan to take a break this weekend and tidy it up. No, I will not be procrastinating on my WIP. The other thing I did this week was set up an account at Habitica, which is essentially a way to manage your productivity and habits by gamifying your life and translating it into a video RPG. So far, I love it. It’s amazing how much more satisfying it is to make my bed when I know I’m getting XP and virtual gold for it. :) I mean, I’ve only been using it for a few days and I’m already level 5!

Some things I did to earn gold and XP this week:

  • made my bed
  • walked on the treadmill
  • wrote. a lot.
  • did laundry
  • drank more water
  • finished the fall yard work

I’ll bet you did some of those things this week too. BUT did you get XP for them?

SSD Photo Credit: By Samsung Belgium (Flickr: SSD840EVO_008_Dynamic_Black) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

NaNoMusingsSometime in the novel-writing process (because I’m a discovery writer / pantser / gardener sort of writer) I usually hit this wall. It’s not a solid stone or brick wall. It’s a wall–possibly more of a pile–of random bits and pieces of story, character quirks, events that may or may not happen but certainly could happen, ideas, themes, places, conversations, people, objects, and settings, all jumbled together in an unholy, writhing mess. And when I fetch up against this wall–a wall that I admit I have scrabbled together and created myself–it’s a scary place to be. It looms overhead and threatens to topple down and bury me in a tumble of story detritus I’ll never untangle.

Fortunately, I have learned, over time and the process of many, many NaNoWriMo Novembers, that this is when I have to walk away. Get up from my desk. Get out of my office. And ideally, take a shower.

I’m not saying I haven’t showered previously at this point. If I don’t need a shower, hand-washing a sink full of dishes might do the trick, as well. But the shower is the best.

Today I hit the wall. Today I took the shower. And the eureka moment was there, in the water, as it usually is.

Now the wall is more like one of those slide-the-squares puzzles. I can see what the solution is supposed to be, and it’s now a matter of sliding everything to its proper place. I may still have to add or take away bits and pieces, but I can begin to envision the finished picture.

Your eureka moment might not be in the shower–it might be in a long walk, or a run, or a marathon housecleaning session, or a painting, or a drive in the country. But if you’re staring at the wall, you likely need to get away from your desk for a little while. Get some perspective. Talk through the problems you’re having with the story, even if (especially if?) no-one can hear you. The solution is there. It really is. If you look, you’ll find it.

*”What the Water Gave Me” – Florence & The Machine

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

NaNoMusingsSometime in the novel-writing process (because I’m a discovery writer / pantser / gardener sort of writer) I usually hit this wall. It’s not a solid stone or brick wall. It’s a wall–possibly more of a pile–of random bits and pieces of story, character quirks, events that may or may not happen but certainly could happen, ideas, themes, places, conversations, people, objects, and settings, all jumbled together in an unholy, writhing mess. And when I fetch up against this wall–a wall that I admit I have scrabbled together and created myself–it’s a scary place to be. It looms overhead and threatens to topple down and bury me in a tumble of story detritus I’ll never untangle.

Fortunately, I have learned, over time and the process of many, many NaNoWriMo Novembers, that this is when I have to walk away. Get up from my desk. Get out of my office. And ideally, take a shower.

I’m not saying I haven’t showered previously at this point. If I don’t need a shower, hand-washing a sink full of dishes might do the trick, as well. But the shower is the best.

Today I hit the wall. Today I took the shower. And the eureka moment was there, in the water, as it usually is.

Now the wall is more like one of those slide-the-squares puzzles. I can see what the solution is supposed to be, and it’s now a matter of sliding everything to its proper place. I may still have to add or take away bits and pieces, but I can begin to envision the finished picture.

Your eureka moment might not be in the shower–it might be in a long walk, or a run, or a marathon housecleaning session, or a painting, or a drive in the country. But if you’re staring at the wall, you likely need to get away from your desk for a little while. Get some perspective. Talk through the problems you’re having with the story, even if (especially if?) no-one can hear you. The solution is there. It really is. If you look, you’ll find it.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

NaNoMusingsEspecially in the second week of NaNoWriMo, writing and the dream of writing can be a switch flipping between elation and despair. While the first week is usually a glorious outpouring of fresh new ideas taking form for the first time on the page, the second week becomes hard work. Those ideas don’t seem so fresh any more, and suddenly things are supposed to start making sense. You haven’t thought this through, and you’re not sure how you’re going to get these characters from that beautiful beginning to a satisfying ending, through a middle of vitality and meaning.

That’s okay. The only way to get there is to keep going. The only way to make it better is to write it badly first. That’s how the dream becomes reality.

Keep going. Week Two shall pass.

*The Dream Called Life – Edward Fitzgerald

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

NaNoMusingsSometimes it doesn’t matter how much time you spend thinking about a story or a story problem, the answers only come when you sit in your writing space, put your fingers on the keyboard and start to write. So “I need to think this through” can become an excuse instead of a productive exercise.

Of course it helps to mainline coffee and chocolate, too.

*Relient K, “Over Thinking”

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

NaNo-2015-ML-Badge-Large-SquareThis week’s desk report could be summed up thusly: NaNoWriMo.

But I won’t be quite that brief. Yes, we’re off and running in another November word marathon. This year I have some extra goals on the board–write an extra thousand or so words a day, and get to “The End” by the end of the month. So far…not bad. I did wake up this morning (Day 6) realizing how the novel should have started, which was, fortunately, not horribly different from the way it did. Some tweaking needed, and handling a certain situation with a changed twist.

Now, the first rule of NaNoWriMo (or at least one of the prime directives) is keep going, and don’t look back. I generally adhere to this guideline pretty closely, but since these changes will impact scenes I’m about to write, I decided to go back and make them. And I think this is the correct decision in this case. I might be a little further behind than I would have been otherwise, but going on from here should be smoother.

Apart from that, I’ve done little else writing-related this week, and that trend is likely to continue. I did have to take some time yesterday to add details to my world’s timeline, and to find some deck plans for starships (one very nice resource at this link). And we have four writers in the house this month (that’s everyone except the dogs), so we’ll all likely be thin, malnourished, and dressed in unwashed rags by month’s end. Glamorous writing life, indeed. Best thing that happened in the novel so far: a character unexpectedly (for me) punched out another character. The guy deserved it, but I didn’t realize my character would react that way.

If you’d like to connect over at the NaNoWriMo site, find me as wordsmith. One very cool thing that happened this week was that I rolled the counter on my lifetime NNWM word count over 700,000 words. The lifetime counter is a new feature on the site this year, and if you’ve been diligent with your tracking you can get a pretty accurate number.

IMG_4577.JPGWriting soundtracks so far this month (some of my favs):

Halo 3

Halo Reach

Firefly

Battlestar Galactica (reboot)

Assassin’s Creed II

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

IMG_4522.JPG This week’s report comes to you from the convention trail. We’re on the road to Hal-Con 2015 with coffee on board, tunes on the radio, a van full of cosplay and stunning fall foliage all around.

What moments I could snatch at my desk this week were mainly spent on planning for NaNoWriMo. We spent a good evening also brainstorming at the kitchen table for the three novel projects happening in the household next month. Much of my novel continues to float, indistinct as a distant nebula against the velvet black of space. But it will come.

A few times over the weekend, I’ll be hanging out at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia table at Hal-Con. I’ll have books and I’ll be happy to sign them, but drop by even just to say hello!

Yesterday I found out my lineup of WITS visits for this school year. I’m looking forward to interacting with some great teachers and students again this year.

****************************

Monday, Nov. 2/15

So Friday’s post started off well (although I was composing it on my phone, which was somewhat cumbersome) and then we started running into Generalized Road Difficulties. I won’t go into all the boring details, but simply say that the blog post fell by the wayside as GRDs escalated, and then we were at Hal-Con and that was the weekend.

Hal-Con was great overall, although the weather was cold and rainy off and on, and this year they didn’t have the underground pedways open. So that meant a trip outside for decent food, access to parking, etc. The expanded space this year was great, but the traffic changes, not so much.

imageHowever, I had a spectacular time hanging out at the WFNS table with the Federation folks (Writers’ Federation, not United Federation of Planets, of course), and chatting with/meeting other writers like C.S. MacCath, Clare C. Marshall, Kat Kruger, and B.R. Myers. Sold some books, too, and ran into several old and new friends. Attended some great panels like Whales in Space and Star Trek Empires in the Night Sky, and a very entertaining Q&A with Kelley Armstrong. She answered the question “What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?” with the too-true answer “The hardest thing about being a writer is *staying* a writer.”

And despite yesterday being a travel day, I managed 1136 words to start NaNoWriMo, which was more than I’d counted on. My true daily goal this year is considerably more than the standard 1667, but I was pleased to make a start and discover a character attribute I hadn’t previously known about one of my viewpoint characters. Love it when they surprise me with something. :)

And so, as the Asura say, Excelsior!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Over the years, I’ve blogged a fair bit here (and at my old blog) about the crazy, wonderful, month-long word-wrestle that is NaNoWriMo. I thought some of you might enjoy a little round-up of links to some of those thoughts, while there’s still time to read them before November hits. :)

Survive and Thrive During NaNoWriMo (Five Parts, start with Part One here)

5 Quick and Dirty Tips for Increasing Your NaNoWriMo Word Count

5 Questions and 6 Sentences

Help For The NaNo-Panicked (Part 1)

The Sort-of Outline

Are you participating this year? Find me on the NaNoWriMo site (I’m wordsmith) and say hello!

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Did you think I was going to forget? Nope, here I am.

Terriermon completeIt’s been a not-so-productive week at the desk, since I’ve been laid low by a rather miserable cold and spent a good portion of my not-as-miserable time sewing. The sewing was definitely rewarding, however, since I finished this plush Terriermon for my daughter’s upcoming Digimon cosplay. He turned out to be quite a size and required a ridiculous amount of stuffing, but we are super pleased with him! The fabric is fleece so he’s very soft and cuddly.

I did manage to put the finishing touches on that little book trailer video for The Seventh Crow, and made it live today. You can find it here if you’d like to take a look. I also sent out my October writing news newsletter. If you’re not subscribed, you can find it here, but there’s a contest running only for subscribers, so consider signing up!

One nice aspect of the writing life is that one doesn’t necessarily have to be at the desk to be working, so I did a fair amount of cogitating on the plotlines of my upcoming NaNoWriMo novel while at the sewing machine. There are QUITE a number of things going on in this novel, and I’m not sure yet how they will all fit together, so a goodly amount of thinkage is required. Next I think I’m going to organize some index cards, either physical or in Scrivener, to sort out what’s been percolating this week.

Although it has nothing to do with writing, I’m so pleased that we have a new Canadian government as of this week, I can hardly stand it. Also not writing-related, I planted (with hubby’s help) all of my new bulbs and perennials–tulips, crocus, daylilies, oriental lilies, hyacinth, coneflowers, and astrantia. In a departure from the norm, I even marked where they are planted. I’m rarely that organized in the garden. Now to hunker down and wait until the long winter passes before they bloom in the spring. Sigh.cleandesk

Notably, I’ve kept my desk clean and tidy for over two weeks now. I expect that to change when November hits, since I’ll be writing like mad and also starting to run an online workshop.

Books I’ve been reading/listening to this week:

Read only one book at a time? Not me! :)

Next Friday I’ll be on the road to Hal-Con 2015, but if I’m really on the ball I’ll have my blog post ready to go before I leave.

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

No, this is not a post about knitting or weaving…at least, only figuratively.

This week I’ve been struggling to pick up an unfinished manuscript and get it moving forward again. I wrote over 50k words of a second Magica Incognita novel last November, and expected to finish the first draft early this year with an eye to rewriting and editing in the spring, and maybe a publication date this past summer.

Well, due mainly to consuming family issues, nothing beyond projects I had outside commitments for happened from early spring to fall this year. I’m very pleased that I was able to keep all of those commitments…but other projects fell by the wayside.

I’ve said before that the key to a really successful NaNoWriMo draft is getting to “the end.” It doesn’t matter how much work that manuscript will take in revisions and rewrites and adding new subplots and taking it apart and putting it back together again–it’s all easier if you have a finished first draft that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, I didn’t get anywhere near “the end” of The Chaos Assassin. And the intervening ten months or so have effectively blurred the progression of plots and clues and conversations in my mind so that I sat down at my desk this week not really knowing where to start. Reading through the existing manuscript was a good place to start, of course, as well as reviewing all my notes and mind maps. I also made a timeline of the existing events in Aeon Timeline, a program I recently purchased. Seemed like a good way to try it out, and so far, I like it.

But even all of that didn’t get the story back in my head the way it was when I was writing that first draft. I still feel like I’m floundering around with a fistful of plot threads and no clear idea what to do with them.

So I am going to try making an outline.

Yup, me. Making an outline. Weird, right? Not just of what’s already written–I usually do that anyway, after the fact or as I go along, because it’s invaluable for rewrites later. No, I’m going to go further. I’m going to catch up to where I have written and keep going. Plan out the rest of the novel and then write it.

My head’s almost exploding at this point.

Since I’m not an outliner by nature, I decided to get a little help by looking at various outlining methods online. I wasted  spent a fair bit of time perusing articles, charts, worksheets, etc., but in the end came back to one I’d looked at before and that sort of spoke to me: Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Actually, an enhanced version of it by Tom Gowan. And a little bit of Dan Wells’ 7-Point Story Structure and a Scrivener version thrown in for good measure. No, I’m not dedicated to following it rigidly–just to using it as a guide to help put the manuscript back into perspective for me and assist me in finding my way forward.

So here we go. If nothing else, it’s colourful and pretty!

BeatSheet

 

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

file1941286445708I’m so pleased to officially report that my YA fantasy novel The Seventh Crow will be published by Dreaming Robot Press, with an expected release date sometime in 2015.

I wrote the first draft of The Seventh Crow as my NaNoWriMo project in 2005. It’s been through several drafts since then, growing and maturing (I hope!) with every one. No, I would not say that I’ve “been working on this novel for ten years”! Novel revision seems to be a very on-again, off-again kind of thing for me. If we condensed down the time that I actually worked on it, it would fit into a ridiculously shorter period of time. But sometimes that in-between time is important for the book, and for the writer. In any event, I’m very excited that the novel has found a home!

When you can’t remember most of your life, you’d better be prepared for anything. The day a talking crow meets her on the way home from school, fourteen-year-old Rosinda is plunged into a forgotten world filled with startling revelations: magic ability flows in her veins, she’s most comfortable with a sword in her hand, and the responsibility for finding a missing prince rests solely with her.

While dark forces hover in the background and four forgotten war gods from Earth’s past plot to reclaim long-lost power, Rosinda struggles with waves of slowly-returning memories as she searches for clues about her past and the true identity of her family; a search that takes her back and forth between two worlds. In a race against time to recover her memory, find the prince, and rescue her loved ones, Rosinda has only her friend Jerrell and an unusual trio of animals as companions. And as the gods prepare to bring her world to war, Rosinda is unaware that the shadow of betrayal lurks within one whom she trusts the most…

Stay tuned for updates!

Photo credit: curlsdiva

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

160px-Noalleynight

Pssst! Hey, buddy, you want some NaNoWriMo tips?

Disclaimer: These are not tips for good writing. However, it’s the middle of November, and if your word count needs a boost, you may find these ideas helpful. Just don’t forget to fix it all in revision. ;)

Names: give all your character double or even triple names — Betty Lou or Nanny Lola or Master Sergeant Bob. Every time you type a name, it’s at least a two-fer.

Chapter Titles: Name every chapter descriptively, like so:  Chapter Seven: In which Nancy tells Sue Ellen a Secret, Heather Loses a Toenail, and Officer Joe discovers something Terrible in the Bathtub.

In-line Annotations: Don’t waste perfectly good plot and character notes by placing them in the margins, comments, or a separate document. Stick those things right into your text. You typed them, didn’t you? They count! And when you go to rewrite, BAM!, there they are, exactly where you need to be reminded of them.

Description: If your characters don’t want to talk to each other and nothing much seems to be happening, describe the surroundings while you wait for the muse to come back from her coffee break. It’s not a full description until you’ve included at least one sensory detail for sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Throw in the weather for good measure. Soon your characters will be chatting and moving just to break the monotony. Bonus: You don’t need to remove all of these in revision. Having at least some of them is actually good for your story!

As-you-know-Bob: Although instances of this info-dumping-disguised-as-dialogue must be excised in your later drafts, having characters tell each other things they should already know is a great way to bump up a sagging word count. Bonus: Sometimes having your characters discuss these things will actually make the resolution to a plot problem come clear for you, the writer. And then you can get on with more exciting words for your next writing session.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and write…

Photo Credit: Dand8282

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

eraser-and-sketch-book-1-134654-m

A rough sketch is better than nothing.

With the beginning of NaNoWriMo less than a week away, many of us are still floundering around with bits and pieces of story ideas, wondering how we’re going to arrange them into something coherent for our novels. Today I bring you a brief exercise which might help you to put some of your thoughts in order. All you have to do is answer 5 questions and write 6 sentences.

Sound simple? Then let’s go. Here are the questions. You may answer them with a word or a sentence.

1. Who is your main character? (If you don’t have a name, now is the time to come up with one.)
1b. (optional) Who is his or her sidekick? (Companion, mentor, friend, frenemy, family member, etc.)
2. What does your main character want? (His or her overriding goal, quest, desire.)
3. Why can’t he or she have it? (The main obstacle thwarting that goal.)
4. What will help him or her achieve it? (A personal attribute, an item, a person or persons, etc.)
5. What will it cost? (Nothing comes without a cost. What will your MC have to sacrifice?)

Bonus Question: What is your working title?

Okay, now that you have those things sorted (and don’t move on to the next section until you do!), write a sentence describing each of the following:

1. Your main character’s situation when the story opens–what’s ‘normal’ for him/her and the world of the story.
2. What goes wrong–what changes–why ‘normal’ can’t or doesn’t continue.
3. What your main character will do to fight back or respond to what happens.
4. How that response doesn’t work, things only get worse, and defeat for the main character seems certain.
5. How the main character rallies and wins in the end (or doesn’t, I suppose).
6. Your main character’s situation when the story ends.*

If you can go into NaNoWriMo with even these few notes in hand, you’ve got–well, not a road map, but at least some sketchily drawn directions to get through your story.

*The idea for the second part of the exercise came from here: http://www.andrewjackwriting.com/2013/02/11/six-sentence-story-planning-for-pantsers/

Originally published at Sherry D. Ramsey. You can comment here or there.

Today on the blog I’m starting what I hope will be an interesting series of interviews with other authors. First up is D. Emery Bunn. Emery is an author, editor, and engineer, though his pile of interests keeps on getting larger. He got his start in writing thanks to National Novel Writing Month, and is an avid supporter of free culture, the power of writing, and the creative arts. Darkness Concealed is his first novel, but he will be working on the sequel and a cyberpunk short story collection. He lives at his home in Clovis, New Mexico.


Darkness_Concealed_cover-(1500x940)Sherry: Hi Emery! Your dark fantasy novel, Darkness Concealed, releases soon. Can you tell us, first, a little about the book and what it’s about?


D. Emery Bunn: Darkness Concealed is a dark fantasy/mystery, with elements of horror, both psychological and physical, sprinkled throughout. It’s a story that feels dark, yet remains a hopeful vibe. And I could quote the synopsis, but what’s the fun in that?


The world suffers an apocalypse that it calls the Darkening. Well-named considering that the dawn doesn’t come, and the moon and stars bail out, too. In their place is a numberless horde of monsters, each of them more than happy to murder everyone they find, and tear civilization to shreds. Few survive the Darkening, but every other day for 149 years is peaceful and safe.


Nobody knows why the Darkening happens, and people have long since given up trying to find out when four strangers end up bound to each other by chance events. The strangers aim for the impossible: answering that “why”, no matter what it takes. And what it takes is more than they thought they’d ever be willing to give.


Sherry: It certainly sounds intriguing! Now, most writers–as readers–have a lot a influences over time. Who were three of your favorite authors when you were younger? What about now?


Emery: I started on “older” books at a fairly young age. I read Lord of the Rings, Dune, and the Foundation Trilogy at age 13. And in a lot of ways, J. R. R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and Isaac Asimov are some of the greatest influences. Tolkien for his world-building, Herbert for his philosophical depth, and Asimov for his ability to make everything relate to everything else.


More recently, I’ve also been entranced by the door-stopping work of Neal Stephenson. I’ve read three of his works, including the titanic Baroque Cycle, and still I want to read more. I love how he can go off on a seemingly random tangent, and still take you with him, coming back to the plot at another time that works for him and me. I don’t have anywhere near the confidence to do such a strategy, but it is intriguing.


Sherry: Although writing is usually a solitary craft, most of us have a “support system” of family, friends, and writing groups or colleagues. Who are your biggest supporters?


Emery: I have supporters everywhere. As crazy as it sounds, the people at my work are mind-blown that I’m writing and releasing a book. Every single one says they want to read it.


I’ve also got a large (and growing) support network on Twitter. The vast majority of my publicity push for Darkness Concealed was drawn by asking the people I knew best on Twitter if they’d be willing to help me out. I love interacting with everyone, and offering my own support in one form or another in return.


Finally, my family is supportive, though from a distance. I live on the other side of the country from them, so I don’t draw on them to help me keep writing as much as I would otherwise.


Sherry: That’s wonderful! So let’s talk about the publishing side of things for a moment. Writers have a lot of options today–what made you decide to go the “indie” route? What did you do to prepare yourself to jump into the process of indie publishing?


Emery: I have a very unique view on copyright: I loathe it. I decided early on that anything I ever release will be available, full text, as a free PDF the same day on my site. And that decision limits me to exactly one option: go indie and release it myself.


But beyond that, I love what independent represents, and what it enables. You can market yourself, your books, and your style of writing in any way you want. You can aim for whatever goals make sense to you. Myself, I’m not really worried about making enough to replace my day job (which I do like a good deal), but a little bit of extra money a month would be awesome.


And in no way does my goal limit any one else’s. Going indie can mean anything that you want it to, and I love that.


Sherry: And you’re in this for the long haul. I understand Darkness Concealed is the first book in a series…do you have a schedule in mind for the subsequent books to come out?


Emery: I can’t speak for the third book, but the sequel I’m tentatively planning to have out around July 2015. The first draft will be my NaNoWriMo 2014 project in November, the second draft will be January/February, third draft April/May, final editing late June.


IMG_20131213_205925375Sherry: We’ll be NaNoWriMo pals, then. ;) What else are you working on? Any other current projects?


Emery: During October I want to finish the second draft (and maybe third, we’ll see) of a novella called Nikolay. It’s set in my cyberpunk dystopia/utopia setting Normalization. Everyone is required to be mentally and physically “normal”, and the technology exists to make it happen in both directions (dampening, or enhancing). In return, life is very, very easy-going.


Some people don’t like that, and deliberately break the law by disabling their cybernetic dampening and installing enhancements instead. They live a shadow life, but they get to reach whatever potential they can manage without getting caught and shipped to the asteroid belt. Nikolay is one such person.


Sherry: Sounds like you’re a project-juggler like me. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What’s your best piece of writing advice for new writers?


Emery: Write a story you want to read. I did that, and no matter what feedback Darkness Concealed receives I will be happy with it. I’m mentally immune to the inevitable 1-star reviews.


For new writers, this is a long, hard road that there is no shortcut on. It might feel like a slog at points, but trust me when I say that the journey is just as fun as the result.


Sherry: Thanks, Emery! D. Emery Bunn’s novel Darkness Concealed releases on September 23rd, 2014. You can find out much more about the novel, Emery, and publication updates at his website, http://www.demerybunn.com. You can also catch up with him on Twitter @demerybunn.


Have a new project you’d like to talk about here? Let me know through the contact page!

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