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Nanowrimo, Short Pieces, Walk the Wards

Nanowrimo 2017: Let’s try this again shall we?

Last year the election shot my Nanowrimo run into a thousand pieces, and my ability to write anything this entire year hasn’t done too well either.

But I do know this: when I did Camp Nanowrimo in July, that did let me make some progress on the long-overdue novellas. So I’ll be taking a crack at Nanowrimo this year, in the hopes of FINALLY finishing those things off.

What’s in the book

As of this writing, the Warder universe novella collection Walk the Wards stands at 38,507 words. And as a reminder, this collection will contain the following stories:

“A Power in the Blood”: In which a psychic must help the new Warder of Providence, Rhode Island solve the murder of his sister.

“The Deepest Breath of Song”: In which a shy young musician must help his town’s Warder protect migrating sea creatures from being hunted and killed.

“The Plight of the Warder’s Daughter”: Caitlin Hallett, daughter of the Warder of St. John’s, wants to see the world before she commits to a city. But her father Thomas is ill and his ability to guard St. John’s may already be failing. How will Caitlin choose between her ambition and her love for her city and her father? And how will a visiting son of the Warders of Quebec–les Gardiens–help her decide?

As of yet untitled: The tale of what happens to Jude Lawrence when she goes to Faerie to try to find her missing friend Kendis Thompson. This story is set during Bone Walker, Book 2 of The Free Court of Seattle.

“Diminuendo”: Kendis Thompson discovers that magic can’t help when her cat Fortissimo is suddenly, violently ill.

If I can do a decent Nanowrimo run this month, that should move me a lot closer to getting this book ready to go. We’ll see what happens. Wish me luck, folks! And if you’re diving into the Nanowrimo fun as well, hey, feel free to buddy up with me on the Nano site. As with many places, I’m ‘annathepiper’ there.

Let this be the hour when we write words together. Fell prose awakes. Now for plots, now for pacing, and the red dawn of OH GOD I CAN’T GO TO BED YET I HAVEN’T HIT MY WORD COUNT. Forth Eorlingas!



Nanowrimo, Writing

What do you do when sick of a work in progress?

For those of you who didn’t see this on my social networks today, I was very pleased to announce that I’d been invited to send in a post for the Nanowrimo blog, now that they’re doing a series of posts on the general theme of “Now what?” for folks coming out of doing Nanowrimo this past November.

My post went up today and can be found here! (The Nano blog is hosted on Tumblr, so if you’re a user there and you feel so inclined, reblog it, won’t you? Thank you!) If you’re coming to my blog from that post or from places it got shared today, hiya and welcome!

This post, though, is in response to a question that I got asked on Twitter:

This, I felt, is an excellent question. So here’s a post about that.

First, at least in my experience, there are a few different variations of “sick of your novel” that might happen. So I’m going to talk about each, and what I’ve been able to do about them.

Oh god oh god I have been trying to pull words out of my brain for this thing for MONTHS NOW and they’re just not working and AUGH.

If I’ve been pounding my head against a work in progress for what seems like forever, and it feels like the words just don’t want to flow, this is usually a warning sign that something about what I’m doing isn’t actually right for the story. What I have to do for this is take a step back, see if I can figure out what is not working, and come at it from a new angle.

This is in fact something I’m wrestling with on my current work in progress, Warder Soul. I got about 20,000 words in on it, but with this lingering sense of discontent with what I was doing. But after talking it out some with my wife (who, while not a writer, is an EXCELLENT refiner of my ideas), I decided to try the beginning again with a new strategy.

I am unbelievably stressed out right now and the sheer thought of looking at my word processor is making me want to pitch my computer out the window.

There are times, though, that the failure to produce words isn’t necessarily the fault of the story. If I’m too stressed out by external causes, this can kick my creative productivity in the teeth and make pulling words out of my brain about as fun as pulling teeth out of my mouth.

I’ve got a stupidly complicated medical history for somebody my age, and as a result of this, I’ve had long stretches in the last 12 years in which it was impossible for me to get any creative work done due to having to recover from assorted medical things.

Similarly, I have come to learn that if I’m stressing out about other sorts of things (like oh, say, the election that just happened), this can also kick my productivity in the face.

What I have learned to do about this: give myself permission to not write. Which might seem counterintuitive to the whole “but I’m stressing the fuck out about not writing to begin with” thing, sure. But the thing is, for me, a certain level of pressure to get a novel done can be useful. Too much pressure, on the other hand, is setting myself up for creative burnout. I have had to learn to tell myself that it’s okay if I need to take a creative break. Even if it’s a long one.

In times where it would stress me out almost as much to not actually be writing, I compromise with myself and set a stupidly low daily word count goal. Say, two hundred words. Something tiny like that which doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating as, say, five hundred or a thousand. And if I can achieve a much smaller goal like that, sometimes the sense of satisfaction I get from it is enough to make me want to keep going.

But again, it’s also important to tell myself that if all I have in me for a day is two hundred words, it’s okay if I stop.


Any writer who’s gotten past the first draft knows this pain, boy howdy let me tell you. Editing can be deeply satisfying for me sometimes–digging into a scene or a chapter, and finding little nuances I can change about it to improve it. On the other hand, if I go six or seven drafts (and I HAVE), this can get really tiresome really fast. Particularly given that I do also have a full time day job, and I often just don’t have enough brain left over after a full day at work to come home and beat a chapter’s worth of edits into submission. (This, by the way, would be why I haven’t been able to finally edit Queen of Souls yet.)

And sometimes, if I go long enough editing a given book, I just start missing actually creating brand new words.

Which is exactly why I have multiple works in progress. If I get sick of editing something, I can go throw words at something else for a while. Which does help.

Non-writing-related breaks also help. For me, that’s usually a) getting on the treadmill, b) picking up an instrument and practicing tunes, or c) playing games.

I’m doing Nanowrimo as fast as I POSSIBLY CAN and oh god oh god I can’t stand the thought of one more day of this AUGH.

Nanowrimo demands you write at least 1,667 words every day of the month to hit that 50,000 word goal. And y’know what? That’s frickin’ hard for a lot of writers, even people who have been writing for years. It’s okay if you start feeling burned out by the pace.

When I’m trying to do Nano, it helps immensely to remind myself that while hitting that 50,000 word goal is fun and all, at the end of the day (or the month, as it were), the actual end goal is to write a novel. And even if I don’t manage to do the 50,000 words in November, if I keep going and eventually wind up with a book, I still win.

And part of what I learned from my very first Nanowrimo is that, in fact, I usually can’t manage a Nano-level daily word count. My much more standard goal is 500 words a day.

If you try Nanowrimo and find that that daily word count is too much for you, it is entirely okay if you pull back to a pace that better fits your creative speed. Every single writer has different capacities. Every single writer has different ways they’ll need to do things. Find the pace that works for you.

How about the rest of you?

Those are the major ways I’ve found to date that I can get sick of a work in progress, so now I’ll turn it over to my fellow writers and Nanowrimo regulars out there: how have you found yourself getting sick of works in progress? What do you do about it when it happens? Tell me about it in the comments!

Editing to add: The writer who sent me that tweet above now has a post up about this! Check it out!

Nanowrimo, Warder Soul

Nanowrimo Day 9-12 Report: Still writing as I can

This week has, suffice to say, not been good for my word count. But I have attempted to coax at least a bare minimum of words out of my brain every day since the election, on general “because dammit I am not letting this kill my creativity” grounds.

I’ve made it into Chapter Five of the story, though I begin to suspect I may have actually planned it out to be too short. I do have a full outline, and I’m still more or less following that. But if I write everything I’ve planned, the story may come out around 50-55K rather than a full-length novel. I’m not focusing yet on what I want to do about that, because it’ll distract me from actually getting the first draft done. But this will be something I need to review once I have a full draft.

Things I have had to look up in the last few days: doublechecking some pictures of some of the colorful town houses in downtown St. John’s, just to confirm that some of them do in fact have garages; photos of the B&B Dara and I stayed at when we were there in 2012; and a quick doublecheck to make sure that it’s plausible for a male cancer patient to lose his facial hair (because Thomas Hallett, Warder of St. John’s, is undergoing chemo as of the timeframe of this story).

Today, for the first time in days, I have actually managed to make word count. And I can say with no small satisfaction that at least regardless of everything this week has tried to throw at me, today’s writing has let me accomplish fulfilling things.

Christopher has gotten to greet his uncle Thomas and cousin Caitlin in person, and given that his family are in fact Newfoundlanders, he has greeted them properly. Which, as the Newfoundlanders and/or Great Big Sea fans who follow me will know, is of course by saying “What’re you at?”

Also, my first Quebecois character in the Warder universe is now officially on camera. Gabien Desroches–Gabe to Anglophones–is a minor character so far but I’ll be working on establishing him as Caitlin’s beau. He has also uttered a bit of French as part of his dialogue, nothing complicated, just “c’est bon, ça”. The bigger challenge with writing him properly will not be using actual French–it’ll be how to phrase his word choices to be plausible for a French speaker speaking English. I have at least some small experience with this, what with having been around several French-speaking Quebecois musicians off and on over the last couple of years, and listening to and learning how they tend to phrase things.

Tomorrow I have a fiddle lesson. But I should be able to break 20,000 on the book as long as I get writing time in too. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Day 9 word count: 537
Day 10 word count: 523
Day 11 word count: 328
Day 12 word count: 1,704
Nanowrimo total: 12,409
Full book total: 19,190

Nanowrimo, Warder Soul

Nanowrimo Day 7-8 Report: Yeah about what I expected

I gave myself proactive amnesty for not getting anything done on Nanowrimo yesterday or the day before. Which, turns out, yeah I needed that. Because I pulled in only 547 words on Monday–I was shooting for my off-Nano word count if I couldn’t hit the full 1,667, and I did at least do that.

Yesterday, though? Not a word. Too distracted by a little political thing going on. Y’all probably were distracted by that too.

I am not convinced I will be able to wrangle any words today either, but given that I am taking today as a mental health retreat day, some words might at least help a bit. At least writing about Kendis and Christopher is a situation I can control.

I am dubious at this point that I will hit the 50,000 mark by the 30th. But I will also give myself the break of reminding myself that the actual important point here is finishing the book, and Nanowrimo is simply a side bonus.

Day 7 word count: 547
Day 8 word count: 0
Nanowrimo total: 9,317
Full book total: 16,098

Nanowrimo, Warder Soul

Nanowrimo Day 6 Report: Newfoundland! And 15,000 words!

Yesterday was particularly productive on the Nanowrimo front, since I didn’t have to go anywhere, and what usual weekend chores had to be done (laundry, bill paying, updating the checkbook) didn’t really interfere with the serious business of getting words out of my brain.

So I put a real big dent in Chapter 4, and finally pulled off what I’ve been looking very, very forward to writing in this plot: having Kendis and Christopher show up in St. John’s. I have also now brought on camera two more characters very important to this plot: Caitlin Hallett, Christopher’s cousin, who is also the daughter of his uncle Thomas who’s the current Warder of St. John’s; and Gabien Desroches, Warder-born from Quebec, where the Warders are called les Gardiens. I’ve already written a little bit about Caitlin in the novella I have on the back burner right now–the novella in which she’ll meet Gabien for the first time–but this story’s really going to be where these two step up to the plate.

Interesting items of research for yesterday’s efforts: a LOT of peering at Google Maps’ Street View pics for a particular area right near Signal Hill, and any Newfoundland-based readers who follow this blog will know what I mean when I say ‘Johnson Geo Centre’. Some peering through the Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador, looking for an appropriate word Caitlin could use to affectionally refer to Christopher. And considerable browsing of the Snow Clearing section of the official St. John’s website, trying to get an idea of what exactly it’s like in downtown St. John’s when the place gets hit by snow.

Related to that last, I also had a highly interesting chat with friend and reader userinfolethendy on Facebook. She informs me that on a practical day-to-day basis, there’s considerable distance between city policy on snow clearing and what actually happens. Critical to know. Thanks, Lethendy!

(Also: any other Newfoundland-based friends and readers, I will be putting out a call for Newfoundland-based beta readers once this draft is done. I will need you to reality-check my depiction of the city, as well as dialogue for Caitlin and Thomas. Christopher is less of a priority since he’s already an established character, and he’s been away from home for years, so his speech patterns have become rather more Americanized. But it’s highly likely he’ll jump right back into more Newfoundland-based dialogue for the brief time he’s going to have a chance to do so. WHEE!)

Fifteen thousand words reached in the draft! FORTH EORLINGAS! \0/

Day 6 word count: 1,902
Nanowrimo total: 8,770
Full book total: 15,551

Nanowrimo, Warder Soul

Nanowrimo Day 4-5 Report: In which my characters are going to hate me

Day 4 of Nanowrimo ran really short, only 680 words. Which means I’ve now got two days of deficit to make up for. Though again: my real goal here is finishing the book; winning Nano is just cake. Though it’ll still be nice to do that too.

Yesterday I did in fact hit the goal: 1,708 total words! I would have done more, except that Dara and I had to go out for a good chunk of the afternoon and run a bunch of errands. Truly dedicated pursuers of the 50,000 goal might argue BUT BUT BUT WRITING. My counterargument is that Dara really needed new shoes–shoes that wick up water from damp pavement, never mind puddles, are a problem during Seattle’s rainy season–and I’m the one with the REI membership.

Once all the errands and adulting were done, though, I was able to buckle down and get writing. Go me!

I finished Chapter 3, and as of this writing, I’ve also put a serious chunk into Chapter 4. This has gotten me to one of the first big plot points I’m laying down in this book, which was already called out in the outline. What I had not previously anticipated is that I was going to line up Elessir, Kendis, and Christopher right behind Jude for the level of crisis this plot point is going to throw at them.

I’ve already dropped the hint that a big chunk of this book is taking place in St. John’s. But I hadn’t really committed yet to the implications of “St. John’s in February”–which means St. John’s with winter weather. I’d already known this was going to mean likely conditions much colder and snowier than my Seattle-based characters are used to.

But as of last night, with Dara’s encouragement, I went ahead and committed dropping Kendis and Christopher into the middle of a blizzard. Muahahaha. >:D

(Seriously, with all the shit I’m throwing at my principle characters in this book, it’ll be a wonder if they don’t revolt on me and decide to defect to some safer plotline. But then, I’ve always maintained that my job as an author is to make up imaginary people and then make their lives as difficult as possible.)

Research topics of interest through the last couple of days have involved looking up assorted locations on Signal Hill, a couple of different CBC articles about blizzards in St. John’s, and the Wikipedia pages for both ‘blizzard’ and ‘whiteout’. And although this didn’t require looking anything up, I did also recall that my experience with the Worst Commute Ever will actually come in handy for descriptive purposes here.

For giggles and grins, here’s what my Nanowrimo profile’s stats page looked like as of last night!

Nanowrimo Day 5 Stats

Nanowrimo Day 5 Stats

Day 4 word count: 680
Day 5 word count: 1,708
Nanowrimo total: 6,868
Full book total: 13,649

Nanowrimo, Warder Soul

Nanowrimo Day 3 Report: Not quite to daily quota

Here is a list of things important for me to keep in mind when I’m doing a Nanowrimo run:

  1. Despite how it doesn’t get nearly as much press on my blog and on my social media, I do in fact have a full-time day job;
  2. Having a full-time day job does mean that no matter how late I stay up writing, I do in fact still need to get up in the morning;
  3. While I am often mistaken for being younger than I actually am, I am in fact not as young as I used to be, and that manifests more often in my stamina than it does in my outward appearance;
  4. Therefore, if I’m up past midnight for two days running because I’m trying to pull 1,700 words out of my brain, that’s going to make getting up at a quarter to 7 a lot more difficult.

Which is why, on yesterday’s Nano run, I didn’t quite make it to the 1,700 words a day mark I’m shooting for, because that’s a nicer, round number. Nor did I make it to the actual minimum mark I need to hit, which is 1,667, in order to hit that 50K by the end of the month.

But I did still clear 1,100. And given that my writing record this year has not been good, I still choose to count this as a victory. Plus, we’re heading into the first weekend of the month and I should have some time tomorrow to make up that deficit.

I finished the fight scene I was working on in Chapter 3 and started the next scene after–which, as it happens, will be the first non-Kendis-POV scene in the book. The POV in question is Elessir’s. Those of you who have read Bone Walker may recall that I did jump POVs a couple times in that book, keeping Kendis in first person and everybody else who got POV time in third. I will be doing the same thing in this book.

Also, I decided that Seattle has monkey puzzle trees, but Faerie has serpent puzzle trees. And serpent puzzle trees have branches that get very, very cranky at you if you fall through them. Elessir and Jude are now in a position to offer firsthand testimony about this.

Also #2, writing this entire chapter, as well as what I know is coming in the next one, reminds me that when it comes to adding tension to a scene, the maxim for me to live by is apparently “when throwing characters into a difficult situation, think up ways to make it as difficult for them as possible“. Muahaha. I’d apologize to Jude for what I’ve just done to her, but Jude’s tough, she can take it. ;D

Also #3, Kendis is about to be simultaneously relieved and very, very cranky that her decision to leave her phone behind before committing a major act of magic (because having to replace your smartphone every time you manage to fry the damn thing gets expensive) will turn out to have been less useful than she thought. Sorry, Kenna-lass, I’m not apologizing to you either.

Day 3 word count: 1,113
Nanowrimo total: 4,480
Full book total: 11,261