Sunday, November 18, 2018

Your Process and Mine

NaNoWriMo is a one month challenge for writers to write 50,000 words in a single month.  It's a kick in the pants for many people who have a hard time actually settling in to work on their writing on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

The goal is supposedly to complete a novel manuscript of 50,000 words in a single month, but a novel is usually 75,000 or so.  NaNo therefore produces a short first draft, which must then go through all of the remaining stages of book production -- resting, rewriting, resting, rewriting, betas, editors, copy editors, proofreaders, additional research and so on -- before it's ready to go.

I decided to use NaNoWriMo this year to get the first draft of Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, Renko's Challenge, done by a specific date to coincide with friends coming to Japan so I can join them on a Buddhist pilgrimage and set myself up for a read-through and beginning of a rewrite during a planned ski trip (YES!) at the end of January.

Lately, I've been working on a marketing class because I'd like to be able to reach more of MY readers, because once people read my books, they're hooked and continue to read more. That's fun for me and fun for them!  I see plenty of posts from Facebook groups related to both these things.

However, I have found that both of these are causing me anxiety because I just don't work the way both groups encourage.  I don't like chasing daily word counts.  I don't want to produce five books a year. I prefer quality to quantity.  So far, I have always met my book-a-year production goals, and had very little trouble doing so.  A book a year is a reasonable goal for a series when the finished product is a damned good series that's going to last far beyond its release date.

I'm very much a self-starter.  I am not a "job" person.  I've always had businesses, and have no problem getting myself out of bed and getting myself going.  While law has many deadlines imposed from without, I am also good at imposing deadlines from within.

Until now.

Not only has life gotten in the way, like it sometimes does, but I find the very deadlines I have imposed are curtailing my production.

I need time to think.  I need time to walk in parks, visit museums, relax my brain and let the characters and story come forth.  They don't do that very well when I'm chasing word counts.  So I'm taking some time off.  I am going to honor MY process and keep my goal of getting Renko's Challenge out by Summer Solstice 2019.

I don't need competition or pressure from others to accomplish that.  I need my own cranky form of self-discipline that allows me to shut myself off and make my writing my first priority.  I need to recognize and honor my own process.

It's important, I think, for all writers to discover and honor their individual processes.   Your process is the one that produces your books -- not just some quota of words -- in a reasonable time frame with the level of quality you want.  This is the process, moreover, that makes you love what you do as a writer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Characters Making Magic

There are plotters -- writers who carefully plan every move in every chapter of their books.  When they sit down to write, they simply fill in the blanks.
Then, there are pantsers, as in "by the seat of their pants" writers.  These writers just start writing and see where the material leads them.
I'm a little bit of both.  I like knowing my first line.  I like knowing my last.  I like having a major dramatic arc for the book more or less in place.
With an ensemble cast that keeps growing, I know I'm going to have to have a dramatic arc of some sort for each of the major characters.  I often have stacks of scenes that play into these anticipated arcs playing around in my head, but I am not sure where they're going to be in the finished work.
All of these intertwine to make what I hope will be an interesting, entertaining, book.

I'm about 16,000 words into Renko's Challenge, Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. I am sort of doing NaNoWriMo in that I am making a major push to have the first draft finished about a month from now.  I'm very close to a quarter in, so I should be able to do this with the push of a solid deadline.
When I am writing draft, I can't do anything else.  If I take a few days off, I have to read from the beginning, just as I reread the entire series before I start thinking about the next book, what it's going to say and how it'll come together, and maybe even before I book a single research trip.

I do not keep frantic track of daily word counts.  I'd rather have quality than quantity.  50,000 words is a novella, not a novel, and I write novels.  A first draft is a FIRST draft and will need a great deal of revision before it's ready for betas, for editors and before it gets anywhere close to publication.  Still, NaNo has virtues, and the biggest one for me is setting a firm and solid deadline.  Another is clearing my schedule so I am interrupted as little as possible and can plow straight through.

Why do I do that?  Because that's when the magic happens.  Yesterday, two of my characters got to talking.  They were talking about something that they started discussing in Noriko's Journey, Book 5.  I meant for them to pursue the idea, but suddenly their conversation was setting up an aspect of future history I hadn't known how to handle.  When you write historical fantasy, sometimes actual history rears its ugly head and you have to get your characters through what would likely have been a highly unpleasant time for them.  It's still not going to be fun for anybody, but I now know how they'll all get through it.

Just for a bonus, I've been wondering what to do with some reappearing characters who don't quite fit into this particular year of this particular time period.

Now they do.

That's why I am a plotting pantser.  This one is going to be good.