Camp NaNoWriMo: July 2017

Last year I decided that I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo again. There were a few reasons I gave at the time (word-counts stress me out, it’s mostly supposed to be for newbie writers, I have a day job that takes priority until someone wants to pay me for my writing) but honestly? This time last year I was in a very bad place and I was struggling to write anything at all.

This month I decided to get back on the proverbial horse and start writing novels again. Don’t get me wrong, my new found love for poetry has been a positive experience, but I do miss writing longer, fictional stories.

Down From The Tower is my main squeeze right now, as I’ve said previously, but I’m struggling to write more than a page a day, and I’m just not satisfied with that. I know I can do more. Time was I could knock out five pages without breaking a sweat, and ideally I’d like to get back to that. I’ve just gotten out of the habit, is all.

It’s a small project. Currently I’m calling it a stand-alone, but if it has a positive response I feel like there’s definitely room to make a series of it. I’m also only aiming for around 50K words, which is actually kind of perfect, because Camp NaNoWriMo starts in nine days.

When a fellow writing friend dropped me a line to ask if I’d be up for joining a cabin, I thought what the hell? Seriously, what do I have to lose at this point? Not much. What I have to gain, however, is that old, regular writing habit, and that’s something I really think it wouldn’t hurt to have help in re-cultivating in my life.

I’m excited, but a little nervous, too. It feels so much like I’ve been failing over and over again lately, so putting myself back out there has been difficult. I don’t want to fail again. There has to be a reason I can’t let this go, you know? There has to be a reason I’m still writing after all this time, after all the roadblocks and vastly disappointing outcomes of each project. I have to hope that I’ll get somewhere in the end if I just keep trying.

That Writing Life

I’m on holiday from The Day Job this week, and since I’m feeling a rare sense of pride in my writing (The Royal Sentinel is currently #340 in Fantasy on Wattpad, so yay!) I’ve decided to use the time to take a good crack at Down From The Tower.

I’d made some good headway a few months back, but due to my main character, Mandisa, accidentally morphing way too much into Naomi, I decided to start over again. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Naomi, but I wanted to write a very different sort of leading lady this time. Mandisa is practically Naomi’s opposite in almost every way. Best way to describe it is that Mandisa is the Elle Woods to Naomi’s Katniss Everdeen. It’s a fairly hefty change of pace for me, especially when you consider that I’ve been writing Naomi almost exclusively for the last six years, but it’s been the sort of super fun challenge that makes being a writer worthwhile, I feel.

One of the things I was pulled up for doing badly on when writing The Redwood War series was the bland world-building, so I put a lot more thought and effort into that with Down From The Tower. I doubt I’ll ever be at the Brandon Sanderson level of epic world-building, but I’m proud of what I have so far. It pains me a little to compliment myself (but I’m going to power through it anyway) but I feel like my strongest area will always be writing compelling characters, and honestly that’s just fine with me. Still, I always want to improve at what I do, and I’d like to hope that I’ll be showcasing at least a little of that with this project.

Also I always felt fairly bad for having more male than female characters in The Redwood Rebel (something I was able to fix really quite easily in The Royal Sentinel) so I’m not going to fall into that same trap again this time. It’s far too easy to trip over these tropes, even as someone who is fairly thoughtful about the media I consume and put out into the world, so I’m determined to be a lot more mindful in future. Once again, I hope it’s something that shows in my work.

Down From The Tower is currently only planned to be a short novel of around 50k words, and depending on its reception, may or may not become a series in the future. It’s been a really long time since I last sank my teeth into writing a big project, the last year or so having been entirely about editing The Redwood War series, and writing poems and poetic prose. I’m nervous about it, but I’ve been doing this long enough now that I know the only way to get past that fear is to just barrel straight through it. The feedback I initially had for The Redwood Rebel really knocked me back hard, and it’s honestly taken me this long just to build myself back up to the point where I feel ready to have a pop at traditional publishing again. That’s my plan for this project, at least, so I guess we’ll just have to see where it takes me.

In the end, it may work out or it may not, but I tried giving up and I found it was much harder than trying to succeed ever was.

For now I’m just throwing down words and powering through this first draft. Once that’s done, my plan is to knuckle down with book three of The Redwood War series (working title: TDC) until I have something resembling a draft I can feel at least semi-confident to send out for beta-reading. I’ll swap and switch between the two projects until they’re done, and who knows? Maybe in a year from now I’ll just be that much closer to being the writer I want to be.

Wish me luck!

“The Royal Sentinel” and Some Lorna Stuff:

So it’s finally done! All of The Royal Sentinel is up on Wattpad to be read and/or ignored as people see fit!

I had planned to keep posting a chapter a week until it was all published, but that didn’t really work out the way I’d hoped. Frankly, I’m not a terribly patient person at the best of times, and just between us (and anyone else who should happen to stumble across my wee corner of the internet) I have very little impulse control. The long and short of that is when I get struck by the urge to do something, I do it. And today I was struck by the urge to hang it all and post the dang story, already. So there it is. Enjoy!

So what’s next? Well, your guess is as good as mine, really. Book three isn’t even nearly finished, so it’s going to be a while before that’s ready. I have another poetry collection coming out in September (or possibly August, depending on this and that) and I’m still slowly chugging along through the first draft of Down From The Tower. I also really had the strongest urge to work on Going Under recently, but that story has never had a lot of love, so we’ll see.

I have some other things in the pipes, too. Non-writing things, I mean. I’m currently working on an etsy shop to sell my homemade candles, bath salts, and soaps, as well as starting up a local floristry business. I’m also considering the possibility of setting up a proper beta-reading service, but I’m still in the pondering stage of that particular brain-baby. As well as all of this, I have to keep enough energy and concentration for The Day Job; the only work I do that actually pays my bills, after all.

I’ve been feeling my own mortality a lot lately. I got hit by a car a few weeks back, which was terrifying, and yesterday I ended up in hospital with a ruptured ovarian cyst, which was… also really quite upsetting.

Oh, it’s not all as bad as it sounds, of course! I’m fine, really, I just have been thinking a lot about the sort of life I want to be living. My creative output has been shockingly low as of late, and well, I’m not really happy about that. I just want to do stuff, you know? I want to enjoy what I do, and enjoy my life, and making things makes me happy so it seems like the logical thing to focus on.

I don’t know what’s next, precisely, but I figure I’ll just throw a bunch of projects at life and see what sticks!

How To Finish a Project

So yesterday I was talking to a friend about the difficulty of finishing artistic endeavours. We’ve all been there. That rush you get with a new idea, the excitement of starting a fresh, new project… then it becomes work and you lose the enthusiasm for it. Or worse. You start to worry that no one will like it, that you’re a hack, that it’s not as good as you first thought. For me, it’s often a combination of both, and honestly, I didn’t even realise that the latter was a thing until very recently.

I was lucky. I’m bloody pig-headed when I want to be, and I have a fairly good work ethic. I don’t do anything in life half-arsed, and although that doesn’t always serve me well, when it comes to writing I’m very grateful to that part of my mentality.

Finishing The Redwood Rebel was probably the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. Doesn’t matter how I feel about it now, or how anyone else feels about it, either. I set out to write a book, and I did it. Now I know I can, there’s nothing to stop me from finishing another, and another, and to keep finishing books for as long as I want to be doing it.

But what’s the trick to getting there? Well, as always with advice from yours truly, I can’t give you a magical answer that will fix everything, but I can tell you what worked for me.

 

-Make a to-do list. It might sound silly, or maybe even obvious, but having a physical list of what you need to get done can help really channel your productivity. I keep two, personally. I write a daily list of things I’d like to get done, and then I have a long-term list, currently titled “The Plan VII”. Remember that nothing in life is ever solid, that plans change and you should adapt with them, but always keep your main goals in focus. Doesn’t matter how you get there in the end, does it? To-do lists are a good way to keep your sights on that finish line. Plus it’s so rewarding when you can cross off a task you set yourself!

-Surround yourself with inspiration. Music, art, books, people… whatever it is that makes you want to work, keep it prominent in your sphere. I always have some kind of inspiring quote as the wallpaper of my computer and my phone, I have specific playlists for when I’m working, films I’ll watch if I’m having a block, and people I go to for motivation. All through the sixth draft of TRR I would write “Stay The Course” on the back of my hand before I sat down to write. I also have a small statue of Athena on my desk with an incredibly judgemental expression, which helps if I stare off into space for too long. Find what drives you, and keep it close.

-Routine! Can’t even stress this one enough. Getting into a routine of work is so incredibly helpful, I promise you. Now a lot of us (myself included) have other things going on around us that keep us from having a specific time we can sit down to work on our craft, so when I say “routine” I want you to know I don’t mean in the traditional sense. I have a preferred time and place to write, but The Real World™ doesn’t give a bag of crabsticks about this and will go along with or without me. Instead, I have a routine for myself before I sit down to work, whenever that happens. For me it’s usually a change of clothes, washing my face, making a drink, putting on music, opening my files, scrolling through social media for half an hour (it’s an important part of the process, okay), then it’s writing o’clock. It works for me, but find what works for you, and stick to it.

-Set aside a work space. My productivity increased a huge amount once I got a proper desk, as opposed to just lolloping about wherever. Like the routine thing, it clicks your mind into the right gear to get your nose to the grindstone. I’m working with very limited space these days, but I do the best I can with what I have. Sometimes it doesn’t work, so I get up and go to find somewhere quiet to work, and that helps, too. I feel like physically going somewhere with the express intention to write makes me actually knuckle down and do it once I get there. Even if the only real reason is because it takes me a solid forty-five minutes to walk anywhere interesting from where I live!

-Remember why you’re doing this. Do you know why you’re doing this? I bet you do, even if you’ve never really vocalised it. It could be any reason at all; I shan’t speculate. We all have our reasons and it can be vastly different from person to person. Whatever your reason is, though, hold it close with both hands. Keep it front and centre at all times, on the good days, and on the bad days, too. Be kind to yourself, and remember that no one can be always working -nor should they- but keep that reason for working in the first place like a little beacon in your mind. Don’t give up. Please, don’t ever give up. It’s hard to follow your dreams, but it’s the best way any of us can spend our lives. Trust in yourself, trust in your projects, and if you can’t do that, trust in me when I say that I believe in you, and I know that you can do this. You just have to keep trying.

Updates and Gratitude

So I finally have a couple of days away from The Day Job, and I can get some real work done! Yay!

I’m slowly working my way through editing The Royal Sentinel chapter by chapter, (the prologue and chapter one can be read on Wattpad, and chapter two will be up on Friday!) but I’m a fair way ahead of myself and I have time, so I might only do a wee bit of that today.

Thank you so, so much to everyone who has helped get the word out about it, and The Redwood Rebel, too! It’s been a huge gamble for me to put it out for free, if only because that’s a solid six years of work for me sitting there, you know? Every single vote, comment, and share means the whole world to me, and will make a massive difference to my writing resume when I’m ready to submit other work to publication. I really do appreciate it so much!

Speaking of “other work”, that’s mostly what today is going to be for, and most of tomorrow, too! Down From The Tower is going very slowly, but it is going, and that’s what counts. I feel like I’m in a good place right now, and it’s not a particularly big project, but I would really like to pick up the pace.

I have been thinking about jumping in with Camp NaNoWriMo next month, but the pressure of word-counting doesn’t always go well for me. Plus it’s my birthday smack in the middle, and I have stock take at work the week after (Uuuuurgh….) but then again, the great thing about Camp is that I can set a lower goal than standard NaNoWriMo, soooo…?

I dunno. I’ll give it some thought. I do really need to find a way to kick myself up the arse and get working again. Once the first draft of DFTT is done, I’ll get on the first draft of The Redwood War book three, so I do really need to get a shufty on.

In the meantime (sorry to bang on) if you haven’t already, please consider voting for The Redwood Rebel and The Royal Sentinel on Wattpad? Even if you’ve already read book one before now, just please take a few minutes to scroll through the chapters and click the vote button! It’s not like AO3 where you can only leave one kudos per story, you can vote for every single chapter. Comments are great, too, but I understand that you may not have the time or the inclination. Voting is super quick and easy, though, and it makes a massive difference and boosts the story up the recommended reading list, thus making it more likely for new readers to find it!

Many thanks!

Update: The Redwood War

There are different kinds of currency in the world, and as much as I’d love to have some of the traditional stuff, after a lot of thought I’ve decided I’m going to place value elsewhere and not go with the Patreon idea.

Now I know that there’s a culture amongst writers and artists where what I’m about to do is seen as a sort of betrayal. I know that we should be paid for our work, and that we should insist on it and stick together, but I feel like the circumstances I’m in give me a bit of leeway.

The Redwood Rebel did not sell.

I worked on it for three years, paid for it to be professionally edited and given beautiful cover art. I ran promotions and competitions and did interviews on other author’s websites, I did monthly adverts on Facebook and Goodreads. I networked until I was blue in the face. I promoted the heck out of it, or as best I could as a self-published author, and the only time I ever saw any traction? When I ran free kindle copy weekends.

Now I’m not saying that people didn’t enjoy it when they read it. I’ve had some bad reviews, and I’d be lying if I said they didn’t still sting a bit, but I know the majority of readers liked it. I get asked about the sequel much more frequently than I get hate mail, and that means the world to me, honestly.

What I am saying, however, is that I can’t afford to do all that again. I’m not exaggerating when I say I lost a lot of my own money publishing book one, and I genuinely can’t do that again. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the reality of the situation.

That said, I do understand that a monthly subscription for The Royal Sentinel isn’t feasible for most people, and that at least a third of responses I had to the idea felt that I was being unfair. I would never want that, not for anything in the world. I may not be a successful author in traditional terms, but as far as supportive and dedicated readers go? Well. I am incredibly proud and happy.

The currency I choose is your good faith and enjoyment in my work. That’s why I’ve decided to post The Redwood War series to Wattpad as free content. As of right now I’m uploading a chapter a day of The Redwood Rebel, in an attempt to get some interest from possible new readers, and when that’s done I’ll start to share chapters of The Royal Sentinel, either weekly or fortnightly.

All I’d request in exchange is that you take the time to like and comment, and to share it about to anyone you think might be interested, so that when I finally write something I feel is worth another attempt at traditional publishing, I can confidently add to my resume: “I am the author of a fairly well-received web series”.

Thank you.