Some very awesome news nerds! I just won my first NaNoWriMo. Right now Counterfeit Horizon is 50,103 words long and 233 pages (formatted for submission). As a novel its not complete, but its a functional rough draft of an amazing story written on a pretty tight timeline.
So I’m going to high five myself around the house for the rest of the evening. I might pour myself a glass of the vino. I might turn on my television and watch someone else’s work for a little while. Really boob out for a bit.
The book is close to being complete, December may be more than enough to finish the story. I’m having fun with it, but I’m also really looking forward to ending it. I’m super excited for myself, as a writer. I can do this kind of work. On a timeline.
A special round of thanks
My Ever Lovin’ Wife
You, dear woman, are the deserver of some serious kudos. You’ve stood by my side through thick and thin and even listened to my crack pot ideas and hair brained schemes. I feel expansive gratitude to an unresponsive universe for putting me in the right place at the right time. And — as if meeting you were not enough all on its own — somehow, somewhere I found the magic words that got us together.
Thanks for being my friend, the mother of one of my kids, and my closest of my editors.
My Ever Lovin’ Family and Friends
You guys are the best. You read my stuff when its rough. I mean rocky, boulder-field rough. And I know that your smiles are largely contrived and you may chuckle about those manuscripts in bed late at night, but as part of the process, you are indispensable. I could not do this without you. When I’m a best seller, spending my evenings swimming in a J.K. Rowling sized swimming pool of money I will remember you and give you a reason to smile.
You’ll find your ARCs in the mail.
Dude! You probably do not have a clue how much a part of this little success you are. Seriously, I hope someday to meet you, face-to-face, so that I can shake your hand. Buy you a drink. Back in 2012, while I was struggling through a series of life and health problems you responded to an email I sent you with what became some pivotal words. You helped me decide to take this path and you’ve inspired me since to keep on writing.
Thanks for your work, Reginald is still your best (IMO). Thanks for being an example and inspiration.
I was just realizing, while sitting down at my desk and firing up my music stream, that there is a bit of a downside to giving yourself a NaNo style deadline to complete a novel length story. I have not looked recently, but I’m imagining that if I fired up Audible on my phone and navigated over to the statistics page I would undoubtably find that my book listening is way down this month.
And its not surprise that the amount of time I’ve put in reading anything on Kindle or in print for that matter has been severely amended. Oh the things we give up for our shot.
I guess there is something to look forward to when December 1st rolls around, huh?
This has been an endurance race. There is no other metaphor that even comes close to describing my first NaNoWrimo. I’ve spent the last twenty-four days brooding over this story, pushing myself up one intellectual hill and then down back the other side. And today I know that the finish line will be, if not in sight, near enough I’ll be able to imagine the path that remains. Today I’ll cross the 40,000 word mark and only have a fraction of the goal to figure out and write down.
This is a pretty exciting moment for me. And, much like a long endurance run, its very difficult to share how I feel about it with anyone else. Regardless, its a pretty special feeling. There is excitement and pride for certain and a certain amount of astonishment at what I’m capable of achieving (188 pages as of this morning). I know that there is a fair amount of work left to do, but I’m feeling pretty comfortable with banging out the words since I’ve long since wrestled the worst of the pain and trolls in the story. Running or writing, I really like this mosaic of sensations that I get right about here.
I’ve learned a number of lessons too. And like running, they seem to be mostly my lessons; you may or may not find value in the same rules of thumb that I’ve come to recognize have worth, but I’ll share a few of them just in case you might learn something from my experiences.
Everyday I get up. I move around the house and sometimes the town. Then, I get tired and I return to my house to sleep. It can be the easiest thing to be riding my bike to the store with Aral in the trailer on the back and realize I’ve just solved some plot problem. The words will be there, scrolling across my inner eye, teasing me because I know that by the time I get where I’m headed they will have fled. I’ll spend much of the day playing hide and seek with them.
But, I’ve also discovered that I can promote the situations that result in words and then set my day up so that there is no possible way they can get away. I set traps for them. Doing laundry? Well its a thoughtless exercise, think about the story and then when you have folded the last t-shirt rush to your computer and bang them out. You will nab three of four hundred in fifteen minutes.
The most productive day I’ve had this month (nearly 7,000 words over 24 hours) I rented a carpet cleaner and shampooed the rugs. The tiny reservoir had me walking back to the sink about every ten minutes or so and I nailed most of those words on my iPad waiting for the water to heat up. The situations you create for yourself are word traps.
Ask for Help
You may think what you are doing is pretty darn crazy. Somewhere between actively trying to win the lottery and searching for your own personal strike of lighting. And statistically you are correct. So few authors will ever become the kind of authors that make a living from what they write. Its hard work and there are very few rewards and no recognition in the mean time.
But here is the astonishing part, if you want it badly enough, I mean want to write badly enough, people around you will be impressed. They will lend a hand, but you may need to ask. I spent a week at my parents house this month letting them help me manage my little boy. I could have done it on my own, but their help allowed me time to resolve some particularly nasty plot issues I was having with Counterfeit Horizon. Their help allowed me the time I needed to sort out these problems to my own satisfaction.
Even better, discussions with my Dad and my wife Tess have given me some ideas for how to deal with some other nastiness. The results are excellent. Finally, you as a NaNo and also as an author have more than just writing tasks you need to focus on to complete your book. A friend of mine from my Army days, Jeffrey Witty, nailed this awesome cover for me. He is an incredibly skilled illustrator. Who was, much to my astonishment, interested enough in my story to pen and paint one of the hunter-seeker drones from the first chapter.
The point is, you have friends and family that are actually really interested in what you are doing. They may think you are a crack pot and a bit of a lunatic at times, BUT (and this is a bit “but”) they also want to see you succeed. If you need help ask for it. Even if you do not need help, ask for it. You will be surprised at what people will give you if you have the courage to ask.
Hang In There
Last Friday I lost one of my dearest friends Gigi. She was my loyal collie and constant companion for the last fourteen years. She helped me through some really rough spots in my life and on my journey to this time. Her passing was not easy and I’m still feeling her loss deeply.
But, and this is something I had to consciously decide on my own, I want to be a writer. I’m grieving for my friend, but I want to be a writer. So, yesterday and again this morning, I woke up and started doing this thing that is not grief. I’m not sure it will even help me deal with the loss I know I’ve got to cope with. Hanging in there to see your project completed is pretty important. Its **that** important.
As you write your novel NaNos things, both big and small, are bound to occur in your life. Some of them will be wonderful and some of them will be miserable. They are just as much a part of your life as the book that you want to write. Want to write it! When you feel that nagging sense of self doubt start running you down chose to hang in there. Beat it back and write on.
Today one of my best friends and constant companions passed away. I am so sad. And I know I’m going to miss her so much. Not the dog that she had become in her old age. Creaky joints and bad breath, but sweet and lithe girl that kept me going when things got rough both on and off the trail.
Yesterday I hit 50% on my NaNo novel “Counterfeit Horizon”. This last week has been a challenge with some real difficulty and lower word counts that I should have allowed. I think there are a number of reasons for this, but ultimately, I’ve discovered a singular solution that takes care of them all.
The first week of NaNo went pretty darn well if I do say so myself. I had an outline and some of the most detailed character sketches I’ve ever made. The plot had a road map, which, when I gave it thought, gave me a great satellite view of the story landscape. Character A started the story there and Character B began just over the horizon. The trick, at that point in the story writing process seemed to be introducing these great people I had made up and then sending them along on their journey through the story.
I had worked quite a bit of that introduction out in my head seemingly. The second week rolled over and I struggled to connect the dots. The map I had lacked detail and so every time I sat down to pound out my words I struggled to peer into the future for each character. Honestly, I started to wish I had undertaken a fantasy novel, because writing Vera kiteboarding through the Caribbean or getting Frank out of the subway tunnel without killing him would have been much easier had I been able to wave my magic wand.
After struggling mightily all of yesterday (about 400 words in a pile of hours) it occurred to me that I was starting to hate one of my protagonists, and not in a good way. He is a mixed bag of character attributes, and unlike most protagonists, he starts from the bottom and works his way up. Throughout the story the means have to justify the ends for him, which means he needs to do bad things and then feel like he has been successful.
But then, after wasting time doing battle in the plains of Azeroth, the problem became plain to me. Writing Frank had become a chore. Writing these people was turning into a chore, and I needed a way to make it fun again. Instantly, a lot of the blocks fell into place. Frank became Bad MacGyver in my mind’s eye. You are going to love to read him because he creates these huge messes and then, despite his sociopathic tendencies maintains manages to cobble together a solution (at least for himself) out of paper towels, bubble gum, and duct tape. That is some fun shit to write.
Vera, she has a traveling problem. Every time the least little thing bothers her, she takes off. ANd with the amazing technology of the future at her finger tips she can leverage these toys to travel very, very far. But hey, guess what, running away from your problems seldom solves them.
Helena is a repressed stress junkie. She is smart and a proven innovator who has become increasingly ok operating on her own, but she feels compelled to solve everyone else’s problems. Little does she realize, but this leaves her exposed and we catch her when she starting to fall apart at the seams.
And then there is Aashif, who meticulously plans everything. He wants desperately to get ahead and the drum in his soul beats out a project management cadence. Unfortunately for him, he lacks the insight necessary to deal with contingency. His plans are doomed to fail and when they do, watch out. Aashif will become the savage beast.
I’ve got to figure out a way to have fun writing each one of these people. Its critical for me as the story teller. When I do, the words just sort of pour out of me (I did nearly 2k last night in about three hours).