Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

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23 #NaNoWriMo Days Later

I mentioned on Twitter that I’m missing my dad, particularly at this time of year. He took such pride in my nightly word count recaps. He was a writer, in his younger days, and always regretted not following up on a few leads he had. He used to ask what agents were looking for these days. I would tell him I’d let him know when I found out.

I haven’t found out yet, but I haven’t been actively querying. November is a time for creating something new. I’ve had mixed feelings about my work-in-progress, but it’s fun and even if it took a good two-plus weeks to start picking up steam, so be it. At first I spent a lot of time questioning having a story-within-a-story like I do, but the more I tried not to have it there, the more reluctant I got to write.

I’ve written mystery before. My first published short story was a noir detective story called The Case of the Bloodstone Dragon. It’s in Dragonthology from Untold Press. I will forever be grateful to the folks there for believing enough in my work to publish it. I almost called it The Curse of the Bloodstone Dragon, but I didn’t have enough room to go into the history of the curse itself. Maybe some day!

With this November novel, I’ve gone from horror/supernatural to mystery, which is a much better fit. Just because something features a ghost doesn’t mean it’s got to be classified under horror. Mystery it is. Right now it’s called The House on the Hill, which isn’t particularly innovative. I’ll change that up once it’s done. Today it sits at just a smidge over 45,000 words and I’m so happy to have come this far. I will definitely meet the NaNo word count, but I also know it needs to be almost twice as long as it is now.

First drafts, I always say, are for barfing out all the details. Revision passes are for deciding what stays and what goes, but all the words in this manuscript are ones I need to know. Even if nobody else ever sees them, I still need the backstory and background.

I’m having fun not censoring myself. Once November has run its course I’m sure I’ll be knee-deep in revisions, back to my regular critique group, back to the three or four novels I have that I’m still finessing…and this one.

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12 #NaNoWriMo Days Later

So far I’ve:

– written about 24000 words
– changed the genre from horror/supernatural to mystery
– met a lot of characters I had no idea existed
– discovered I was writing a story-within-a-story
– had a few “aha” moments where the connections became clear
– had an equal number of “uh-oh” moments where I decided I didn’t like a thing I was writing
– reminded myself time and again that this is just a first draft.

I don’t have to finish this book, but I want to. The thing about NaNoWriMo for me is that it’s an exercise in keeping on keeping on. Are words for the sake of words really worth the effort? I won’t know until I finish a first draft, reread, and then decide. Until the end of the month, I’ll keep on writing.


Happy #NaNoWriMo, everyone.

…once again, I had a sudden epiphany late last night and decided to write a different story from the one I had planned. I hope this inspiration I got was the right one. Anyway, I’ve started and while I can’t say there’s no turning back, I think I like what I have on this first day. It’s something I’d intended to work on last year, but got sideswiped by a different story at the last minute. Maybe I should stop thinking I know what I’m going to write until November 1 from now on.

Good luck and happy writing to those of you racing against the calendar with me. Good luck and happy writing to those of you who are not! I cheer for all of you.


It’s almost November (or: how I #NaNoWriMo)

Over on Twitter, a friend asked if I had any tips for a first-time NaNoWriMo participant. This will be my third year doing NaNo, which hardly makes me an expert. It does help me learn a few things about myself and my writing process, and the ways I can push myself to take advantage of the sparkling creativity that’s so easy to brush to the floor most of the time!

That’s my purple-prose way of saying here are the tips I shared.

  1. Treat writing like a job. I get up in the morning, get dressed like I’m going to work, and sit down and write for two hours. There are a million ways to put off writing – that’s why I do mine first thing in the morning. That way I can procrastinate on all the other things in my life…once I’ve made my word count.

  3. I set my own word count goals. To complete a NaNo “novel” the goal is 1667 words a day, but we all know a 50k novel is a little on the short side. If you want a longer first draft, up your word count goal. It’s not as difficult as it seems! When all else fails, I look at my writing as a series of 100 words at a time. I can write those all day long, so doing 20 of them is not a big deal.

  5. Don’t stop and edit. Just write, every day. The goal is to come up with a first draft, not a finished novel. That’s what the rest of the year is for.

  7. If you can find a cheerleader willing to read your words every day or week, that’s a great way to motivate yourself to keep going. Not a critique partner, just a cheerleader who’ll tell you they love your work and can’t wait to read more.

  9. Peruse at least one of the forums on the site, either in your age group or genre, but don’t let it suck up all your time. (Don’t be cowed by the people who claim to have huge word count achievements! I’ve seen people say they got to 50k words the first day. To each their own.)

  11. A lot of people approach NaNo as if it’s going to consume their every waking moment for the whole month. I’ve never found this to be true: I get my stuff done, then have a perfectly normal life the other 22 hours of the day. (The hype around being too busy at NaNo to do anything but eat badly and leave the house a mess is just that, hype. We’re writers. We know that 1667 words a day is absolutely achievable. In fact, this post is already over 350 words. We write in prolific ways all the time without stopping to count!)

  13. The one thing NaNo does for me (besides let me tell stories I don’t plot out or go into with much more than vague ideas most of the time) is get me into the habit of daily writing. In my case I don’t sustain it for the other 11 months of the year, but I do use that time for editing and helping my critique partners and for writing queries and loglines, summaries and tip sheets.

That’s about it. Not too bad, right? If you’re going to try to write a complete first draft in a month, be sure to take deep breaths and appreciate yourself for your word count output in November! Good luck! I’m an excellent cheerleader if anyone needs one. Add me to your buddy list and then drop me a line. I’ll be sure to return the favor.

If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them. What works for you doing NaNo?


Exchanging Original Fiction

I’m putting out feelers here…

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about setting up an original fiction exchange. I’ve done a lot of fanfic exchanges and they’re great, but I’m wondering how to work an exchange for original short stories.

Would any of you be interested in that kind of exchange? There are many ways to run it–I’d want to take the time to figure out the best way (probably a prompt fill)–so if you have ideas, interest, or questions, please leave a comment.


The Fun Part of Fandom

For years now, my friend Paige and I have been running a late-summer fanfiction exchange called I Need My Fics (her title, isn’t it beautiful?). The exchange has always been small (okay, intimate) and lovely. We’ve had some wonderful stories.

We’re in the last five days of this year’s exchange, and prompts are open to anyone who’d like to write in the existing fandoms. For the basic exchange we require stories to be a minimum of 1000 words. Once we open the prompts, that requirement goes away. We’re accepting stories of any length. They’re due on September 21 by 9pm EDT.

The open requests live right here on Archive of Our Own. If you’re motivated to write something, all you need is an AO3 account. If you need an account invitation to fill one of our prompts, I have a handful to give away.


When am I finished with my book?

Last year, end of November, the last day of NaNoWriMo: “I’m finished! Look at that! in a month, I wrote 76,000 words!”

Around about January or February, with the preliminary round of feedback: “Hmmm. I don’t know if I can make most of these changes. They go against the moral fiber of my characters.” I’ve since decided that this is my knee-jerk reaction and is really shorthand for “Whoa, that’s way too much work, I don’t want to twist the characters into stereotypes. Let me think about this.”

Around about April or May, in random conversation with my favorite cheerleader (aside: everyone writing a book needs a cheerleader, whose job it is to simply cheer you on and tell you everything you’re writing is great no matter what so you can finish the damn thing): “Huh. I wonder what would happen if I told this book from multiple points of view.” Cheerleader: “YES!” (Thank you, cheerleader, I love you a ton!)

Cue massive rewriting, resulting in a 113k beast of a book that I loved a lot more than NaNo Draft #1.

Around about July, the night before my dad died: Mockingly mean feedback received on my query from a complete stranger in a twitter pitch thing. Me: “That’s it, I’m hanging up my pen. I don’t need this shit in my life on top of everything else.” The next day put things in perspective, though.

Yours truly, heartbroken and resigned.

Yours truly, heartbroken and resigned.

Two nights later. Me: Huh, I think complete stranger might have been right about one thing (the book’s too long), if not the others. I would still wage an epic war over her nasty mocking tweet methodology, but I’m going to start reworking.

Around about August: novel is down below 95k. I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it! Enter novel into Pitch Wars, get a couple requests for fulls, feel pretty good. Don’t get chosen.

Around about September: Get some great feedback from two people who actually won’t be my mentors after all. Sit on it for a week or so, mull it over, figure out how to best make sense of their comments while maintaining the integrity of the book/plot/characters. At the same time receive “I vehemently dislike the way you wrote this and also I don’t like half your main characters, I want you to take them out and focus on doing it this way” feedback from a reader. Me: spend a few days feeling like I might as well go back to Around about July and just scrap the fucking book, since it’s obviously no good. A few days later, I reread the feedback from those who actually won’t be my mentors and mentally highlight the parts that say things about how the writing was great, the book was strongly considered, and they were completely drawn in. I stop feeling so hurt.

Today. Me: gearing up for Draft #3. Taking advice from both of those who actually won’t be my mentors, from the vehement disliker, and from my cheerleader. Starting to outline the changes, and realizing there’s no hurry. Decide not to participate in tomorrow’s #PitMad, feel the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders. Like someone somewhere said (I find it attributed to multiple people), writing a novel is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and I’m in no rush to finish it.

I want it to be the best story it can be. I have a lot of faith in it, still, just like I did before. I can answer my own question this way: I’m finished with my book when I have no more inspiration to work on it.

That’s not the case yet.


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