All Work And No Play

It only just dawned on me in the last couple of days that I hadn’t blogged in a couple of months. Holy Continuity, Batman! Where does the time go?

In my defense, I’ll say that this has been the busiest few months I’ve had for quite some time! In early September I began a beta-read on a friend’s YA science fiction novel, while he was reading through my adult fantasy novel. What is a beta-read, you ask? Betas read through a complete work for a colleague or friend and offer honest input on plot, character development, twists, the whole work in general. Beta-reading can be grueling—it isn’t like reading any other book. Betas read with a critical eye and try to look for weak spots so they can point them out. A beta’s goal is to help the writer tighten the characters, sharpen the focus; in short, they want to help the writer take their story to the next level. I think I finished this particular work in about two weeks.

Mid-month, I attended the Hampton Roads Writers Conference for three days of workshops, networking, and generally having fun with other writers. The breakout sessions can be tough, but they’re all designed to help writers improve their craft. I met some great folks at this event—I always do—and made some friends that will last for years.

After the conference I spent time critiquing another, shorter piece for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Hampton Roads, then turned my attention to my own WIP, which had been critiqued by my beta partner. That round of edits proved a major undertaking. I worked on it most of my free time for the next three weeks and finally set it aside as a “finished” draft to rest and settle while I attended the Virginia Writers Retreat at the end of October.

I’d never been to a writers retreat, and didn’t really know what to expect. But I definitely enjoyed myself and met some great folks. One of those was a fellow writer who regularly participates in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month). She asked if I was taking part this year and I told her no, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I could. Timing couldn’t have been better. I’d set aside the WIP on which I’ve been working for years, and decided to take up a new project, one that really excites me. I had the concept, the questions for research experts (and some answers to those questions), and was almost ready to begin writing. I just didn’t have a plan of how to get from Point A (the beginning of the story) to Point Z (the end). So instead of writing on the actual story at the retreat, I worked on an outline and basic questions I still needed to research. By the time I came home from the retreat, I’d decided to go for it. What did I have to lose, right?

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you can learn more here. The basic gist is this: NaNo participants set a word goal (the baseline one is 50,000 words, but participants can set their own targets at different levels), and then try to make that goal by the end of November. 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 1,667 words every day. Participants track their progress on the NaNo site, encourage each other on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, and basically throw themselves at this goal every day through the month of November.

So. Guess where I’ve been since November 1? Yep. I watched no TV at all for more than two weeks, not spent one afternoon lounging, not lollygagged at all. For the record, as of today (November 23, 2019), my total word count is 45,451. That’s more than halfway to an 80K word novel manuscript in three weeks! I didn’t know I could do it. I’m pretty proud of me right now.

So there’s the answer to why I’ve been so quiet, including far more information than you probably hoped for. My first manuscript is still on the table. Once I finish this draft of my new project (end of December? Sooner?), I’ll pull the first one out, dust it off, and make final revisions before I begin agonizing over query letters and synopses. I’ll keep you posted on that.

And you know what I’ve learned? Other than a whole lot of really cool information uncovered in research—which was hard to walk away from; some rabbit holes run deep—for this medical science fiction project, I learned that:

a) I can tackle a brand-new project, throw myself into it, and make huge strides toward a goal in a very short time.

b) There are so many people in the writing community who excel in their fields—neuroscience, evolutionary biology, epidemiology, biomedical tech, and so many others—who are more than happy to answer questions, especially for writers. Because many of them are themselves writers, they get it. I can’t thank them enough. (I’m talking to you Melinda, Katie, Erik, Deb, Nikita, Tina, and Kelly.)

c) The NaNo community is so supportive! Even writers I know on Twitter who aren’t participating encourage others on a daily basis, cheer them on, praise their successes, and encourage them when they don’t meet their own expectations. Every writer has bad days. Those words of encouragement, especially from another writer who knows what you’re feeling, are golden. And

d) Even I can only juggle so many balls at once. Thus my absence here.

While all that was going on, I also submitted other short stories and have had three (so far) accepted. One, “Muzi’s Boon,” was published September 24, and has been listed on the “About Me” page on this site. The other two are “29 Langwood Street,” which is scheduled to be published on 11/30/19, and “Upshot,” which is set to come out in December. I’ll update that “published” list regularly, so check back there for the links. Three more are still out on query, so wish me luck on those.

Thanks for sticking around, even when I’m a little (or a lot) quiet for a while. Maybe I’ll have some really great news to share in the coming year!

(Afterthought: I first wrote this post on 11/16, when my word count was 32,353, but didn’t post it until today, 11/23, when my word count for NaNoWriMo had reached 45,451. That’s an additional 13K words in the last 7 days. Other writers are way out in front, more so than I, but NaNoWriMo isn’t a competition. Any words on the page are a win, so I’m very excited about my progress!)

Passion photo by Ian Schneider
You Got This photo by Prateek Katyal
Sticky Notes photo by You X Ventures
All photos courtesy of Unsplash