Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     NaNoWriMo is about writing a novel in 30 days.  The rules state that you start writing a brand new novel on November 1st and after 50K words and/or 30 days, you should have a new novel.  But rules were made to be broken or at least bent.  Many participants use the NaNo challenge to finish a novel they have already started, because 50K words does not a novel make (at least not completely, for most genres).

     So if the rules can be bent to continue a novel already in progress, why can’t they be bent even further (or in the other direction maybe)?  The point is to get the writing done, right?  Why force yourself to sit and focus on something that inspiration refuses to participate in?  If I am bored writing it, then the reader will get bored reading it.  It will feel as forced to the reader and it does to me, trying to pull the words from someplace they don’t want to be found.

     More than 26K words in and I am still eking towards the real action in the story I am writing.  I’m actually only one scene away, but it’s like there is a wall preventing me from seeing or going any further.  There is a lot of lead up and a good chunk, if not most of what has already been written, will likely not make the cut when it comes time to edit (which is not until after November of course.)  But the closer I get to the good bits, the harder I find it to focus and produce the words I need to get there.  And no, there is no jumping ahead and writing the good bits first, because I only know the feeling I’m going for and a portion of how it will be achieved.  Getting through the lead up helps shape the story as a whole and without it, it would be like building a house with no foundation.  At least, that’s how it works for me.  Other writers will have different opinions and approaches.

     Yesterday, I was barely able to write over six hundreds words.  My mind and my heart just weren’t in it anymore.  So why force myself to continue something when inspiration is pulling me in another direction?  Simply to stick to the rules?  But then doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the challenge, to get me writing?  So as of this morning, I am going back to working on a short story I was writing before joining this year’s NaNo.  Anything new I write will be counted towards my daily word count since I am still writing, just not the novel I intended.  If I finish that and I still don’t reach the 50K word goal, then I will just go wherever inspiration leads me.

     It just doesn’t make sense to fight with my muse because he/she/it isn’t telling me what I want to hear and then later curse him/her/it out because they aren’t telling me anything at all.  Unfortunately, as many writers can attest, we are slaves to our muses and not the other way around.  So we need to be open to listening when they are speaking and that’s exactly what I’m choosing to do.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     It’s starting.  The very thing that made me question whether or not I should participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  Gone is the lull in the project at work that had freed up my mind, giving me time to get swept up in the excitement of the NaNo prep that was going on all around me.

     I started off stronger than any of my previous attempts, averaging over two thousand words a day for the first week.  But then slowly but surely, that number began to dwindle in week two.  As the workload increased at my job, my motivation and energy began to drop.  Add to that the fact that I was starting to get bored with the novel and it was looking like a recipe for disaster.  The nice cushy lead I had given myself is gone and for the first time yesterday, I ended the day slightly behind the total word count.

     The problem I realized is that after a long exhausting day at work, I would come home and sit down to write, but I was bored with what I was writing.  I still have yet to get to the real meat and potatoes of the story.  And try as I might, I have trouble writing ahead and then finding ways to tie everything together, transitioning from one scene to the next.  For this reason, I find myself compelled to write the story chronologically and then go back and beef it up or revamp it.

     I was starting to drift and the story slowly veered off track.  Wondering how I was going to find my way back to the story I wanted to write from the detour the story had taken, I came up with a few ideas during my walk home tonight.  For the most part, the heart of the story will stay the same but a lot of the build up will change or disappear altogether (but not until after NaNo of course).

     So while I am almost a full day behind my word count at this very moment, I still have three hours to reduce that number and I’m hoping that the new ideas will give me the push I need to get me back into the groove of writing two thousand words a day.  After all, I need to build up a nice cushion again so that I can relax on Thanksgiving.

     While I may have fallen behind, I am still pleased with the progress I am making.  This is normally around the time when I’ve fallen so far behind that I get discourage and make less of an effort to catch up.  With a little over two weeks left, I am only about nine thousand words shy of my previous best and haven’t even written the most intriguing part yet which should set my fingers flying across the keyboard once again.

     Well, gotta go!  I’ve got a word count to increase!  I hope your NaNo experience is going smoother than mine.

     As you most likely already know, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  Although it is my fourth year participating, the entire experience feels different from previous years.  First, I was completely unprepared this time, no characters, no plot, nothing but a setting in mind.  Second, I have absolutely no notes on this newest novel, not a one.  Third, I’m trying something new with POV.  Fourth and most exciting, I have NaNo friends!

     I’ve stated in the past that my first go at NaNo found me floundering for a novel idea until the very night before.  But once the idea struck, I had everything I needed; characters, plot, conflict, etc…  I scribbled it all down like a mad genius and went to be satisfied that I now had a solid foundation to build on.  When I woke up the next morning, more than 2k words poured out of me and I was off to a great start.  

A picture is worth a thousand words so 50 should help me reach my goal.
Image courtesy of Jetkasettakorn /

     This year however, the only thing I had to work with was the idea that I wanted to write a horror story, potentially dealing with a young couple moving into a haunted house.  But I had no idea who the couple was, what they looked like, why they were moving into the house or why the house was haunted.  Then another participant mentioned using photo prompts to help them create 30 short stories in 30 days and I thought, photo prompts, that’s exactly what I need.  So I headed to Pinterest to create a board dedicated to my NaNoWriMo novel.  With each picture I found, the story began to take shape, morphing and evolving along the way.  While in its current state it is still a story about a haunting, it is no longer the story that I first thought up a little over a week ago.  For the first time, I can truly say that I am writing by the seat of my pants.

     In the past, I have had notebooks or Scrivener projects chock full of notes, character sketches and conversations that I’ve wanted to include in the novel.  I would use these to help keep me on track.  One year, I even attempted to do an actual outline in hopes that it would guide me on what to write next, keeping the words flowing freely.  

Swapped notes for photos
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     This year, the closest thing I have to notes are my photo prompts.  I have no character sketches and no real idea of how the story will end.  Somehow, the story seems to be writing itself this time around.  I just set my fingers on the keyboard and they do the rest.  There is no over-thinking, no second guessing and no constant need to edit this time around.  I even noted inconsistencies with POV and tense and just kept going with the knowledge that it would get fixed during the initial edit.  And if it gets missed in the first edit, there is always the second or the third or however many it takes to get it ready to share with the world.  This is a huge step for me.  When I first started writing, noticing something like that would have caused me to obsess, feeling the need to fix it right then and there, setting me back on my word count and making me lose the momentum that I had built up.

     I always prefer to write in the first person, present tense.  I know a lot of authors and even readers find this approach a bit odd, some even calling it unnatural.  But to me, this is what feels right.  The main character drives the story, explaining what is happening along the way, taking us on a journey.  This time around, I am still using the first person, present tense, but instead of one main character telling the story, there are two.  The novel is being split into parts; the first telling the story over a span of six months, from one character’s POV, the second telling it from the other character’s POV over the same six month period and the third part will give us the outcome (not sure how the POV will be worked in this part).  I’ve never written a story from two different POVs, nor have I ever written one with parts.  I’m not sure if the final product will still be structured this way or if I will find some way to merge the first two parts and just do a normal chapter book.  Only time (and maybe beta readers) will tell.

     And for the most exciting change in this year’s NaNoWriMo participation, I have other people that understand what it is to take on this beast that is NaNoWriMo.  In the past, I have always done this on my own and half way through, I would just start to fizzle out.  I’m hoping that this year, seeing all of my fellow participants soldier on, will be a motivating factor for me not to give up.  And when I feel my conviction start to waiver, I have people that I can turn to, who have been there and done that, to give me the metaphorical swift kick in the pants that I will need to keep going.

This time I’m not alone
Image courtesy of Ambro /

     So far, I am doing great, writing an average of about 1,700 words a day.  To find out what the novel is about and read an excerpt, click here.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

     For the last four years, I’ve been “trying my hand” at this writing thing.  I know that this is something I can truly see myself doing full time.  In the first month alone, I had amassed a collection of 7 short stories and poems.  Then just a few months later, I found NaNoWriMo and I actually created a novel, something I thought beyond my abilities.

     So, after four years, I should have a nice lengthy collection, right?  I should have short stories and poems coming out of the woodworks.  After participating in NaNoWriMo three years in a row, I should have three novels complete and simply needing polishing, right?  Wrong.  I didn’t know just how wrong until I came across, a site created by HarperCollins Publishing that allows writers to share their work with readers, editors and publishers with the possibility of getting published by HarperCollins.  The site requires any work that you share to consist of a minimum of 10,000 words.

     My first novel was shared with fellow writers earlier this year and, after their helpful feedback, requires a lot more editing before I am ready to share it on  The second novel is only about halfway written and the third is, well only a third written.  I couldn’t finish the second and third because the more I wrote them, the more I found things that didn’t work with the first or that didn’t make sense.  So with the ever evolving first novel still incomplete, I chose to sideline the other novels and concentrate my efforts on the first novel.

     Without an actual novel to share, or even a part of one that I was willing to share, I decided to compile most of my poems and short stories.  With the exception of a handful, I loaded them all, one by one, each representing a “chapter”.  I watched the number climb; 7, 10, 13, until I had a total of 17 “chapters”.  I was feeling pretty good about this.  17 poems and short stories, that’s not a shabby number.  But the number that was shabby, the word count.  Somehow, all of those works only accounted for 6669 words.  All these years and all the writing I thought I had been doing and this was all I could scrape together?

     I already knew that I lacked focus and discipline.  I just didn’t realize how bad it was.  If writing is truly what I want to do, then why aren’t I doing it?  What am I waiting for?  These novels aren’t going to write or edit themselves.  

     Time to step up my game and get serious…

Photo credit: unknown (obtained from Writers Write)

     Have you ever been drawn to a book simply by its title?  What you name your book is just as important as the content you fill it with.  It is the first chance you have to attract a reader and give them an idea what your book is about.  In a blog, written by Amanda Patterson, she offers 8 tips to consider when naming your book.

1. It should suit your genre

2.  It must have something to do with the plot

3.  It should be easy to remember

4.  It should appeal to the reader on an emotional and an intellectual level

5.  It should be easy to pronounce

6.  Short names are better (3-5 words)

7.  Visual titles work best

8.  The title should also reveal a bit about the soul of the book

     Look for successful books within your genre and find a common thread.  Can you see your book fitting in among these?  A reader should be able to tell just from the title alone, what genre your book falls under.  The title should give the reader an idea of what they will be reading.  What is your book about?  If you could describe the plot of your book in five words or less, what would it be?  

The title should be something simple, yet it should stand out.  You want to be sure that the title of your book is distinct enough that it will be instantly recognizable, yet simple enough to stick in the mind of a reader so that they can recommend it to other readers.  It should evoke powerful emotions or be so thought provoking that it intrigues the reader so much that they feel compelled to read the book.

     You want to be sure to make the title easy to pronounce for your target audience.  If you are writing a children’s book, you wouldn’t want to use a sophisticated phrase that would be beyond their comprehension.  Keep it short, sweet and to the point.  Offer readers a glimpse of the soul of your novel, giving just enough to attract their attention, but not so much that they don’t feel like they need to read the book.

     We spend so much time writing the stories and painstakingly editing in an effort to get everything just right.  All of that hard work is for naught if the same care is not taken when choosing a title.  Think of naming your novel as naming your child, because in essence, that’s what our novels are to us.

Image courtesy of Penywise  morguefile

     I have been asked what I am currently working on, so I thought I would share with you what has been going on.  Over the last two months, I haven’t done much work on my novels.  Having offered up my first novel for a beta read and deciding not to continue working on the third novel until I finalized the first two, for fear of creating an inconsistent mess, I turned my focus to the second novel in the series.  I would sit down with a broad vision of what I wanted to happen and words would make their way onto the page as I tried to build the bridges I needed to reach my destination, but something just didn’t feel right.  Something just kept gnawing at me, preventing me from making any real progress and for the longest time, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

     Even after getting feedback from the beta readers, I wasn’t gung-ho about getting back to work like I had hoped.  I thought that maybe I just needed to stew on the feedback and work things out mentally, but it wasn’t that simple.

Image courtey of Arthur Tress

Other than a few notes here or there, I had absolutely no drive to write and it was making me so anxious that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  So, when faced with a case of what I like to call “writer’s dunce”, I did what I usually do; I turned to reading as a means of clearing my head and gaining a fresh perspective.  After reading three novels, I still didn’t have the urge to jump back into my work and I still hadn’t pinpointed the source of the problem.  Normally, before I’ve even finished reading one novel, I’m filled with ideas and the urge to get back to work, so this was troublesome.

     In addition to reading books, I started reading critiques and discussion boards, not only on the books I was currently reading, but on others in genres similar to my own work, that I had read in the past.  Some of the discussions helped to bolster my confidence that I was doing some

things right, avoiding some of the pitfalls that caused the most grief for readers of my intended genre.  I think somewhere along the way, I subconsciously began to realize why I was having such a hard time continuing with my own work.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but the more discussions I read, one by one eliminating the doubts that were clouding my thoughts, the clearer it became.  My problem, it would seem, is that I had completely lost the essence of what I was trying to achieve.  

     I had set out to write a vampire story laced with romanticism.  What I ended up with, was something altogether different; a romance novel with a vampire twist.  My main character was a watered down version of who I wanted her to be, of who she is, epitomizing the weak, dependent females so often featured in romance novels.  This was not what I had wanted at all and the further I had written into the story, the stronger this theme seemed to weave its way into my novels.


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic

How could I be expected to keep writing when my work was starting to get on my own nerves?  I think that somewhere deep inside, my main character was trying to tell me that I wasn’t writing her story correctly.  Sure, the events were unfolding as they should, but I hadn’t painted her in the the right light.  Vampires are meant to be hardcore; so dark that they terrify you, but at the same time beguile and intrigue you.

          Now that I have identified the problem, I need to work out how to go about fixing it.  It seems that I have quite the challenge ahead of me.

     If you are thinking of becoming a published author and have been doing your research, then you know that marketing is key.  In order to attract readers, you have to market not only your work, but yourself as well.  In this digital age, whether self publishing or going the more traditional route, authors are expected to market themselves by creating a platform.

What is a Platform?

     A platform is your tool, as an author, for creating a fan base, connecting with your target audience and making yourself visible.  It is a measurable way for publishers to gauge how large of an audience you have been able to amass and what sets you apart from other authors.  If you can show a publisher that you have a large number of people interested in your work, you are more likely to get published than an author with an unknown, unmeasurable audience.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Do I Need to Build a Platform?

     If your goal is to publish, then you will most definitely need to build a platform.  You want to be able to show a publisher that you not only have a good product (your novel) but that you already have a market to sell it to (your audience).  Foresight is key and you should begin building a platform as early as possible.  Creating a platform is not something that can be done overnight, so don’t wait until your novel is finished, edited and ready to be shopped to publishers to get started if it can be avoided.

How Do I Build a Platform?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

     A platform can be built offline, online or a combination of the two.  An offline platform is made up of public speaking, classes taught, printed media, etc…  This type of platform is the more traditional route that is slowly becoming obsolete as a sole means of marketing.  An online platform consists of social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc…) and a website.  With the major shift to social media over the last several years, this is the best way for an author to connect with a large audience.  Social media allows you to connect with subscribers and followers in places you may not otherwise be able to reach.  It also allows the target audience to feel more connected with you as an individual.

     Once you have built your platform, your work is not done.  It is important that you take an active role with your audience.  The more you interact with and respond to your audience the more interested they will be.  Keeping your audience’s interest is just as important as getting their attention to begin with.

Image Courtesy of MR. LIGHTMAN /

     If you’ve been following along, then you know that I submitted my first full length novel for a peer review a few weeks ago.  After a little over three weeks, I have gotten back a total of four reviews.  It was my fear that the reviews would point out such huge flaws that I would need to practically start from scratch, deterring me from writing for a bit.  At the same time, it was my hope that the reviews would give me something specific to focus on while doing my next edit.

     What I got, is something in-between.  Other than the feedback on my spelling and grammar, each and every one of the reviews focused on something different, both strengths and weaknesses.  As it stands, I seem to be in a position of “you can’t please everyone”.  The best I can do at this point is to process all of the information and feedback that I’ve received and decide what works with my overall vision of the novel and what doesn’t.  With expectations of receiving a few more reviews, I plan to hold off on the edit for a bit longer.  

Image Courtesy of basket man /

     I never expected this to be an easy journey, but the decision to become an author is not something that can be taken lightly.  It is a decision to put your heart and soul into words and share it with the world, leaving yourself vulnerable and at the mercy of anyone who reads your work.  I’m glad to see that the overall consensus so far is that I’m on the right track and while there is quite a bit of editing to do, I’ve gained another supporter or two that will help motivate me to get the work done on not only this novel, but the follow-up, which I have completed two-thirds of the first draft for.

     It feels good to be taking another step forward, albeit a baby step.  While I wait for more reviews to come in over the next two weeks or so, the plan is to revamp my website.  It’s been quite a few months since I’ve made any updates and it is long overdue.  

     When writing a novel, an author has several choices to make that have nothing to do with plot, setting or characters, the meat and potatoes for any novel, that can either make or break their work.  The article Choosing a Tense and Point of View for Your Novel by Eileen Albrizio, explores all of these choices and various ways they can be combined.  Should the story be written in first person, second person or third person point of view?  Once that is established, the author then needs to decide whether to tell the story in past, present or future tense.

Point of View

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     First person point of view is when the story is narrated by the main character.  The reader would be able to know what the main character is thinking and feeling in addition to what they are doing, but they would not have this same connection to any of the other characters.   The story is also limited to the main character’s “line of sight”, which means the author cannot explore what is happening to another character that the narrator is not in direct contact with.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “I”, “we”, or “us”.  

     Second person point of view is when the narrator explains, directly to the main character, what is happening or has happened to them.  The reader would then become the main character, being guided on what to do or how to feel by the narrator. This view can be identified by the use of the pronoun “you”. 

     Third person point of view is when the story is told by an outsider looking in.  The narrator is able to see what is happening to each character, even if the characters are unaware of what is happening to one another.  The author is able to convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of all characters, not just those of the main character.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “he”, “she” or “they”.


Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles /

     Once it has been decided what point of view to use, an author must then decide what tense the story should be told in.  As Nicole Thomas says in her article Past vs. Present Tense When Writing, the tense chosen can set the mood of the novel.  Eileen Albrizio’s article, mentioned earlier, points out that sometimes the choice in point of view will steer an author towards the use of a particular tense. 

     The use of past tense means that the narrator is already aware of everything that has or is currently transpiring.  Future events can be hinted at or foreshadowed, because the narrator already knows the final result.  Through the use of past tense, a first person narrator could describe how other characters felt at a particular point because it may be revealed to them at a later point in time.  This is the most common tense used by writers.  Why?  According to Nicole Thomas’ article, this is the way our brains are programmed to write.  We tend to reflect on events that have already occurred.

     The use of present tense means that events are unfolding at the time the reader is reading about them.  The future is unknown to both the reader and the narrator and can only be revealed as time goes on, creating a sense of camaraderie towards the main character.  Nicole Thomas advises that present tense works best when used with the first person point of view.  Does this mean that it cannot be used with any other point of view?  Absolutely not.  Eileen Albrizio’s article explains how to use present tense with the various points of view.

     The use of future tense means that events have not yet occurred; everything is about to happen.  This is a great way to create suspense, but can heavy for the reader and is best used when writing short fiction.

Decision Time

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     Now that all of the options have been explained, it is time for the author to determine the combination to use.  Is there a formula for success?  Unfortunately, there is no specific combination of point of view and tense that will determine if a novel will succeed or fail.  What works for one author, may not work for another.  And even for the same author, what works for one novel, may not work for another.  The choice is dependent on things like the author’s comfort level,  skill or intention.  There is no right or wrong choice.  The key is to remain consistent in your choice to avoid confusing the reader.

Image courtesy of pschubert (

     At this time last week, I was consumed with ideas for one of my series.  Although the plan for the next few weeks did not include writing, I couldn’t get the series out of my head and set to work revisiting a book that I had attempted to write over four years ago.  Combing through my documents, I found two very lengthy character bios, one for the main character and one for a friend of hers.

     It may sound odd, but I really didn’t remember putting so much effort into writing these bios; but I was happy to find them because they contained a lot of the ideas I had for the entire series, spanning several years.  What I did remember from the time when I first came up with the concept was some research that I had done, but for some reason, I couldn’t find any of it.  Of course, this means that I needed to do it again, because if you hadn’t noticed by now, I can’t do anything without first doing extensive research.  Even if I don’t retain half of what I’ve looked up, I feel better just for having done it.

Image courtesy of jdurham (

     I got so caught up in the research over the next day or two that I only managed to write the opening for the book.  After that, the creative ideas that had been bombarding me, slowly but surely subsided and I was able to focus on my reading, which was my original plan.  I managed to finish one book and make significant headway in a book that I am critiquing for a fellow author.  

     The second book is taking me a little longer than usual because I want to try to be as thorough as possible.  I don’t think I was really built to be a book critic because when I read, I don’t analyze the book word for word the way I have seen in many reviews.  Instead, I base my opinion on how the storyline grabs my attention or fails to.  Does the story make sense or is it something I wish could really happen?  I focus on the characters and whether or not I can relate to them.  Do they remind me of myself or anyone I know?  I let my emotions take the lead.  Did I feel the emotion the author was trying to convey allowing me to feel what the character(s) felt?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then I count that as a good book.  

     I don’t try to discover hidden meanings in what I’ve read.  I don’t pick the story apart and question each and every choice the author made.  I don’t take it so seriously that I fail to find the magic of the portrait the author is trying to paint.  To me, this is like looking at the Mona Lisa and wondering why da Vinci didn’t choose a happier model, a lusher landscape, or a more cheerful color palette.  The Mona Lisa would not be the Mona Lisa if da Vinci had made any other choices; yet, this simple work of art is one of the most famous paintings, still known to the masses after over 500 years.

Image courtesy of lukeok (

     But, I digress.  Having reverted back to my original plan, the writing is once again on hold.  The focus is on reading and eagerly awaiting feedback on my novel that was submitted for peer review about a week and a half ago.  I’m trying not to do any writing in an effort to clear my head and prepare for the feedback I get.  If I set my mind to having the novel go a certain way, then I won’t be open to hearing the feedback I get and won’t be able to grow and learn how to become a better writer.