NaNoWriMo 2017: Check!

I finished the 50k word NaNoWriMo writing challenge yesterday, and here are my impressions of the experience:

Time Management

This was a lot of work, but ultimately not as difficult as I expected it to be as long as I stayed on track with my daily word count goal (2k), and only missed the days that I knew in advance I would have to. I often could not begin writing until late in the evening, which was frustrating on many days when my energy was low, but usually doable. The better days were when I could find an hour or two to write earlier, when I had more energy. As long as I always pushed myself to write the 2,000 words at some point in the day, I found the goal to be challenging, but very possible.

The Positive:

I got a LOT of writing done in a much shorter time than I usually do, and learned a great deal about managing my time to fit in the writing without putting strain on my family and other responsibilities.

I felt the freedom to be descriptive. I usually tend to not overindulge in descriptions too much, at least at the beginning when I have a plot to drive, but I knew that I would need them in this draft to help me picture my world thoroughly and early in the process. The challenge will be deciding what to cut and what to keep in later drafts.

I am a little addicted to updating my word-count and checking my stats on the website. It’s a strangely satisfying motivator!

And of course, I experienced a highly satisfying sense of accomplishment as I watched my word count climb. 😊

The Less Positive:

I struggled with feeling like I was rushing the process in pursuit of my word count goal. I thought that I had prepared enough, but after a while I began to feel that, although my plot had an arc, my outline was not detailed enough. This usually doesn’t bother me when I’m writing at a slower pace, because I have the freedom to discover the subplots as I go, but it was difficult to find the time to focus on both plot evaluation and actual writing.

Additionally, I frequently felt that my characters were not where I wanted them to be, and it was probably from a lack of attention during my prep stage, and a sense of urgency to keep moving forward.

What Did I Learn?

I learned a lot about managing my time in order to meet my goal, and that I am capable of achieving a high word count quickly. In general, preparation is not my strong suit, so If I plan to move very swiftly through the first draft of a manuscript, I need to remember that there will be less time to plot along the way. A clearer picture in my mind beforehand will help the process immensely.

Would I Do it Again?

Yes! If I happen to be ready to begin another manuscript at the start of November, and manage to do some adequate preparation, I will definitely do it again. It was a great way to kick off a new manuscript. I am happy with where I am in the manuscript right now, and excited to keep going. The story is far from done – the draft is probably about 65% complete, but I plan on multiple revisions.

Now, I plan to slow down a bit and make sure I am satisfied with the direction of my plot and characters, and then continue on and hopefully keep up the momentum that began with NaNoWriMo.

 

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Published!

My short story, “Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars” is my first work to be published, and will be featured in Enchanted Conversation at the end of June. Seeing my name listed among the authors to be published was an incredible feeling, enhanced by the excited grin on my toddler’s face as she smiled into my eyes and asked over and over, “You happy, Mama? You happy?”

Each issue of this magazine has a different fairy tale theme, and writers are invited to submit work that is inspired by a specific tale. I loved having a theme to challenge me and ignite the story, and I hope to write many more using such prompts.

Fairy tales, as I’ve written about before because I love reading and writing them, are so freeing within their parameters. There’s a challenge to stay true to the story, no matter how strange, but freedom to decide how you would prefer to see it unfold.

When I write a novel, I know I have to do it in measured doses. It may feel like a frantic flurry of intense work at times, but the goal has been broken down into stages. When I write a short story, it is in a condensed storm of urgent writing. I have to get the entire idea down in one sitting before I forget what I want to capture. It makes the experience exhausting (especially as I don’t have long periods of quiet time at my disposal right now and need to work quickly), but ultimately satisfying. Because of the block of time required, and the intensity of the first draft writing period, I attempt this sort of writing less often. I would love to do more of it, though.

I wrote “Knight of the Sun, Moon, and Stars” in a whirl of excited, forceful concentration, and I’m so thankful for the chance to share it through a delightful publication oozing with love for fairy tales. I cannot wait for you to read it!

Spinning Fairy Tales

“Your first-born child.” This time its voice was like a rainstorm, heavy and deceptively soothing.
With great effort and a fire in my throat, I mustered another weak chuckle, to show it that I was not afraid, even now, and what an unprofitable bargain it was proposing. The weak laugh earned me a blinding, choking pressure against my windpipe, and the manacles at my wrist began to steam and sizzle. I smelled my own flesh burning as white hot streaks of pain shot through my arms, my fingertips.
Without enough air for speech and my throat almost completely blocked, I forced out the words that would taunt me and howl in my ears eternally. “She’s all yours.”

– Excerpt from my short story, “Spun of Gold and Pain.”

In theory, fairy tales are my favorite place to start. This is theoretical because both of my full manuscripts have no fairy tale origins. But whenever I’m ready to start somewhere new, these old stories are the first place I look for inspiration. Sometimes they take form as a short story, sometimes as a valiant start that wasn’t valiant enough to find its stride. But they always succeed in firing up my imagination, because the possibilities feel infinite.

I’ll never forget the day I decided that maybe it wouldn’t be ridiculous to try writing fiction again, as an adult. Sitting in my little apartment, entranced by Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, I decided I wanted to try something like it. I wrote a now-lost beginning and a flagging, but intrigue-packed, plot outline to a re-telling of “Rapunzel.” I had an awful lot to figure out about writing fiction, much more than I realized at the time, but I got a taste of just how exciting it could become for me.

We all had different pictures in our head when we first read or heard the various fairy tales we grew up with, but for me, those images aren’t immutable. They are growing, changing opportunities for richer, fresher versions of beloved stories. I love to tell my kids stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk” or “Little Red Riding Hood” over and over, but add a new, different detail each time I tell it. One of my very favorite fairy-tale re-tellings is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. It takes the ageless story and asks “what if?” to enormously successful effect.

In my short story “Spun of Gold and Pain,” I asked the same question while contemplating one of my favorites,”Rumplestiltskin,” and the result was a strange little story that I became quite fond of. I won’t be posting the whole story here, at least not yet, but here’s another bit of it:

I named her in a haste that irked the king. I called out her name in a strong voice in the moment of her birth, and then it was done. The power of a naming was solemnly regarded and could not be undone, not even if the child’s father is a king. My daughter would not be like me, a nameless, unwanted wretch of a child. She would not be vulnerable to the malicious whims of a fey. She would be safe.