National Novel Writing Month!

It’s almost here! 

I’ve participated in NaNo since 2007, and with the exception of 2008, when my son was 2 months old, I’ve managed those 50k in 30 days each time. Once, in-advisably, in ten days. Holy Moses I couldn’t use my hands after for the life of me. I’ve written promising things, I’ve written two things I’m really proud of. I’ve written something terrible I’d like to pretend never came from me and was a bear to get through. 

NaNo is terrifying and exhilarating and daunting and incredibly motivating. I love that there are no rules. I love that no matter what happens — if you make it or not — NaNo pushes people out of their comfort zone into the land of “maybe I can” or “yes I did”. 

Before my first NaNo, I was a writer who lived in Never Can Land. I didn’t think I had interesting stories to tell. I never thought I’d harness the discipline, and I wondered what the point would be when nothing would come of it. 

But then the universe arranged itself, as it sometimes does, and things just…happened. I was at a terrible job with awful people that I dreaded seeing each day. It was soul sucking, horrible…all of those things. 

The only other person in my office I could stand confessed to me that she wanted to write a book. She had no idea why, seeing as she didn’t like to read (I still haven’t figured this out). I’d just finished my second or third re-read of The God of Small Things and it had lit a fucking bonfire under me. I always knew I was a poet, but for some reason, I’d never really thought that I could take that poetry and learn to write fiction in my own way. Books like this are the kind that make one realize that you don’t have to follow the “rules”. You can do any fucking thing you want with the space and time and a blank document or sheet of paper in front of you. 

And that’s when, somehow, I ran across the NaNoWriMo web site. It was already November 3rd or something like that, but it…was a little more gasoline on that bonfire. And my friend and I decided then and there we had to do this crazy thing. 

The more I’ve written in my life, the more I realize I’ve come to obey a lot of the unwritten “rules* of writing. This is something I love because process and progress and learning: all good things. But I also love that I’ve honed my craft. I love that that push NaNo gave me each year taught me to be confident. Not in how others would perceive my stories (that’s a fanfiction story), but in my ability to find and tell a story. 

It doesn’t help to hear from your editor that the poet in me comes through in what I write. Discovering that I can blend my love for words and making images and movement from them with storytelling…what a lovely affirmation. 

But honestly, I don’t know if any of this would have happened without NaNo. I don’t know that I ever trusted that I would get published for anything, ever, but now I am. I don’t know that the first book I wrote is something I’d ever show anyone now, but with 7 original books and over 400,000 words of fanfiction written (that last part in the span of three years), I have an incredible amount of confidence I rarely let myself feel in my writing. 

If you have a dream or a hope or a longing, write. Fuck the idea of an audience if that scares you. Flip off that voice in your head that tells you you can’t, or won’t, or that you aren’t capable. Let yourself connect with that ache that urges you to make something. If you write 500 words, celebrate the shit out of that because *you did it*

I always encourage people to participate in NaNo because the structure is motivating for so many. The idea that this is a tiny space in time to let go and let yourself dream works for so many people. 

I go into each NaNo thinking “oh fuck what the fucking fuck will I write?”. But somehow, each year, something comes. So yes, November looms and I’m not sure what I’ll do but I feel that tingle in my fingers that says something’s coming. Let’s see what it is. I hope, so much, that for any of you who want to write, or who just want to say you did something crazy that once, that you’ll hope on this speeding bullet of a train too. 

Risk vs. Reward

My goal with this author blog (well one) has been to try to update at least once a week, talk about craft, get chatty about process, and as we get closer and closer to the big day, let you know more about the book. So my apologies for spectacular fail last week.

The good news, while I left a few of you hanging, assuming you are that invested, is that the reason I was MIA was because I was burning the midnight candle completing the second draft of my manuscript, just in time for a little break before I dive into a third read before my due date (8/18, so close!). There are still a couple of scenes to be written, the most important of which take place in Nebraska, a state I almost nothing about. I do have someone helping me with that part, we’re just working on coordinating schedules to really nail down details before I tackle that piece. Plus, character development wise, it gives us a really important background context and insight into why one of our main characters functions as he does throughout the novel even as he’s going through many, many changes. 

Oooh lookie! I gave you guys a little hint: nameless character has ties to Nebraska. I’m sure this leaves you salivating for more (she says sarcastically, which is really not a great look on me, I don’t pull it off well). If you looked closely at the lovely picture I tweeted the other week, you can also find some character names spoiled there. I’ll leave you to ponder with bated breath which one of them is from where. Oh! In reading an old blog post, I realize I did drop a character name, so I’ll unveil my darling Cam. I won’t tell if where he’s from though. 

I’ve been thinking, as I closed out the end of this story draft and writing out the final scenes, about what themes I could really pinpoint in this story. I am *terrible* at summarizing and boiling down and such for my own work because I can be very tied to all the nuanced details and threads that I think are so important to the story. They all seem relevant m’kay?? 

I spoke in one of my first blog posts about avian30’s Dream It, Do It challenge, and a novel theme I’d been working on: taking chances. But when I’d think about the boys I have here and their process over the almost three years their story unfolds, I realized it is not just that they need to take chances, but also weight the potential costs and benefits of taking big risks. 

In our lives, we’re often presented with choices that don’t have easy answers, no guarantees that one path will truly pan out to be the best course of action. Perhaps both seem overwhelming, or frightening, or carry the impending weight of difficult changes that must be taken. Often the cost just cannot be calculated. Maybe as we decide to travel in one direction, we’ll have to let go of something: something we’ve wanted, held dear, a perception of who we were or thought we were going to be. These are moments when taking stock of putting ourselves out there will be worth that risk, if the potential payoff will actually, you know, pay off. And then, for many of us, there’s going to be a grieving process for the thing we knew, the thing we didn’t chose; even if we perceive that we ultimately made the right choice. That’s not even to speak of times we realize that we’ve made the wrong choice.

Now I can’t tell you if these boys make the right or wrong choices throughout the book — that’s a journey I’d love for you to embark on with them. 

I would love though, to talk with you guys about times in your life when you were faced with a choice that carried risk. Did it pan out? Did it not? How did you handle that process? 

If you’d like to chat, I’d love to respond to asks and messages on the topic; anyone want to come play?

In which I make Erotica complicated

50 pages of manuscript left (before anything I have to add). 

My kids are at day camp for 2.5 hours a day for the next two weeks. It’s looking like I might get this done before my vacation (assuming my wrists and body allow me). 

I cannot believe I am this close to turning in an ACTUAL book for publication (fingers crossed). What a year. 

I’m knee deep in a complex section of the book; so many motivations and emotions and baggage to sort through. Sex that communicates, confuses, illuminates and things my men are trying to hide — this is a part of writing that I absolutely love. 

I once tried to explain to my best friend why I write erotica. How I rarely write sex that’s *just* sex. Exploring intimacy, lack of, motivations through sex challenges and inspires me. So much of the romance I’ve read in the past (and fuck I am an *avid* romance reader), treats sex as the end goal, as the culmination of an arc; as a reader though, I was often frustrated because I wanted to understand *how* sex changed things, how it spoke to the characters. How it pushed them apart, took them apart as individuals. How it healed or broke. I have a tendency to make things complicated. The potential for this to be a strength and the worry that it will be a weakness lingers over my shoulder watchfully. 

I know that sex can just be sex; but often what calls me to writing longer stories is trying to take apart the complicated tangles of characters lives, finding each brilliant thread that makes a whole. When I’m bringing characters together, sex is a huge part of that process. 

Right now, my boys are in quagmires of their own making. They are confused and a little angry but helpless magnets when it comes to the other. 

I wondered on twitter the other day, how much sex is too much for the reader? I got a lot of thoughtful responses from readers that amounted to a similar answer — if it’s plot driven and important for the movement of the plot, it will work. 

This is what I’m trying to do here, and I am hoping so much that I can pull this off. 

The Darkness

Currently I am knee deep in manuscript edits, which is a lovely blend of torture and fun. It’s wonderful to see that what I’ve written is not nearly as horrible as it seemed while I was frantically banging it out. 

However, going through this process highlights one of my biggest weaknesses as a writer (well perhaps also as an adult with responsibilities like raising kids). I seriously lack attention to detail skills. No matter how much I tried to proof my papers in school, I always got marked down for simple errors. I miss grammatical mistakes in my stories. I write so fast, I often make simple errors ( for example: it’s and its. Not because I don’t know the difference, but because I am not paying attention). Probably my favourite (yes, I spell it with a u, and it gets edited out of everything and makes everyone crazy but me) unexplainable error is my determination to spell against, agains’t. I have no idea why I do this. It’s so embarrassing (hey, consequently, a word I cannot remember how to spell no matter what I do) when I publish something only to find errors like this on a later read through. 

The editing process is a place when it can become all too easy to fall into that hole of self doubt where all you can see are your errors and weaknesses. Some, like the above, I am learning to find humor in (agains’t?!?! Really?). Others I really have to work not to focus on, because focus on those leads to The Darkness

The Darkness (as I shall now refer to self doubt) plagues me. I second guess almost everything, and often feel like I cannot trust my own interpretation of characters, motives, plot lines without someone there telling me it’s okay. 

I often wonder if I shouldn’t put a sticky note on my computer monitor reminding me that I am a good writer. I was raised in the school of Don’t Take Compliments. Figuring out how to honor my instincts as a writer often feels like wearing shoes that don’t fit — even acknowledging my strengths privately can feel like hubris that is unbecoming. 

Which honestly is a pile of crap. How on earth can I write and publish a book I believe in if I don’t trust that I am putting out something of worth? 

The truth, under The Darkness, is that I have been conditioning myself not to believe in something that is written deep in my bones — I would not have spent the last 20 odd years writing if I didn’t get something from it. And I certainly wouldn’t have taken risks with sharing what I write if I didn’t think what I was doing was worth it in some way, silly errors included.

Somehow, I feel like these posts always devolve into some form of believe in yourself, rah rah rah. Forgive me. Perhaps this is the only way I’ll prop myself up through the quagmire of finding it’s and its, against and agains’t, and figuring out what the hell notes like hey that word there that I need mean. I’ve also been completely consumed (and inspired) by Avian30‘s Do The Thing, which got my ass in gear hardcore when I was only half way done with a manuscript and had no idea how I would continue to climb that mountain. 

Luckily, as of right now, once I push The Darkness aside, the only mountain I have in front of me is editing pages and pages of smut. 

How I suffer 😀