Tag Archives: novel

Another Year, Another NaNo


It’s November again, and that means putting life on hold in order to attempt to pen a 50,000 word novel. For me, last year was a lesson in humility. I thought I could wing it,  thought I’d have no problem being inspired, that the words would just pour out of their own volition. All I needed was a rough idea, a setting, bits of a plot, and the rest would come over the course of the month. I was so disgustingly wrong. It was one of the hardest things I have probably ever done. I was only able to hit around 16,000 words, and I was incredibly disappointed. Sure, that’s a lot of words in itself, but it’s not even halfway to the goal. Needless to say I really beat myself up, I hated everything I had written, and I questioned my own creativity and talent (and life). So to punish myself for my failure, I did what any normal person would: try and do it again!

Suck it, 2012.

Suck it, 2012.

So here I am, day 11, and I’m pretty much right on track to the goal. The exciting part? I’ve already passed last years word count. Do I like everything I’ve written? No. Will I use it all in the final product? Probably not. But at least I have something to work with, and that’s the point of NaNo. It’s all about just getting words down, get them out of your head so you can work with them later.

Since I’m having some more success this time around (hope I’m not jinxing it), I wanted to share some tips I’ve picked up during this experience. These are things I learned exclusively from NaNo, not from college (that’s a whole other post). First, I couldn’t be more of an advocate for Scrivener. It is beyond useful when writing something of this volume. Word just doesn’t cut it. If you haven’t tried it yet, you need to. There’s no reason not to, as they provide a free trial. You can even buy it after NaNo for a discounted price (more discounted if you win). So stop reading this and go install it (seriously).  http://www.literatureandlatte.com/nanowrimo.php


1. Write out of order

This is perhaps the best advice I can give. People think you have to write from beginning, middle, to end, but that couldn’t be more untrue. Limiting yourself for where you’re going to start is the number one way to get stuck. Maybe it’s due to my schooling, but I think of my stories in terms of scenes. I visualize something, and then I can describe it.  Do you think these scenes come to me in order? Hell no. They appear out of nowhere, and then I have to jerry-rig some kind of writing utensil to get them down before I forget, (tip 1.1: always carry a notebook). This is where Scirvener comes in handy. You can create entirely new documents for your various scenes, and then move them around later.


Each scene as it’s own note card. Makes it easy to play with the order, or to delete them all in a fit of rage…


2. Pre-write as much as possible


Yep, I pre-wrote something called “sexy time,” and I am not ashamed.

This is a touchy subject. Some people think you should just let it come to you, that when you sit down to write, your imagination and creativity will flow out through your fingers. Others will tell you that proper planning will go a long way. Because of my experience last year, I am definitely part of the latter group. Outline, take notes, come up with questions, research, do as much as possible. That way if you get stuck at any point, you can go back to your pre-writing and get inspiration from that. Is there a scene you haven’t written yet that was on your list? Is there a character you forgot about? This could add up to a whole day’s worth of writing, and all from a sentence you wrote down weeks ago.


3. Find inspiration

This goes along with pre-writing, but find visible inspiration if you can. I find this particularly useful when describing settings, or even characters. Having a physical example to use is a great place to start with description, and then you can let your imagination go from there. This is another way that Scrivener is invaluable. You can create whole documents of just your research, and not just words, but pictures as well. Then you can have 2 documents open, the picture and then the document you’re writing.


Try to avoid plagiarism: make it just different enough so you can’t get sued.


4. Use placeholders

Sometimes I’m writing and I come to a halt because of I can’t think of a name for something. Don’t let this kind of thing stop you; put in a placeholder. You can use symbols, like # or * to denote where you need to go back to later (to research more, come up with a plot element, whatever), or use capitals for placeholder names so they stand out. For example, I haven’t come up with my main character’s names yet, (annoying, I know). So far I’m writing about the adventures of GIRLNAME and GUYNAME. If I hadn’t done this, I would have stopped in the middle of my first paragraph and taken valuable time to research a name, time I needed to get my word count. Names are important, but you can come up with them later, (same with titles).

How romantic.

How romantic.


5. Avoid distractions

This is probably the most obvious, and hardest, goal to achieve, especially if you’re like me and have a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate. I have to have silence when I write, so having someone across from me screaming into their headset is not conducive to writing 1,667 words a day. If you write with music, just put your headphones on and go, (and know that I’m totally jealous of you). Try to write at times you know you’ll be alone. Get chores and errands done first so you can have time to write the rest of the day, with nothing else on your mind. Keep two browsers open: One for tabs pertaining to writing (things like the NaNo site, thesaurus.com, wikipedia, etc), and have one browser for everything distraction related. Only let yourself open that browser when you’ve reached a word goal. Also, try not to write blog posts when you should be writing, (oops).

Funny, amazing, awesome even, but it's helping with the word count.

Funny, amazing, awesome even, but it’s not helping with the word count.


But the best advice? Just do it. Even if you write 500 words, that’s 500 more than you started with. I didn’t win last year, but I did write 16,000 words, and that’s 16,000 more than I would have had if I hadn’t tried at all. Even 11 days in, it’s not too late to sign up. And hey, there’s always next year.  http://nanowrimo.org


NaNo Epic Fail

So I opened my NaNoWriMo novel for the first time since November today. I’ve been avoiding it since I lost. I managed to get to 16,000, which is amazing for me, but is quite short of the 50,000 goal. I think my downfall was two-fold. 1. No planning whatsoever. and 2. My story’s scope was too broad. I chose to do science fiction, and creating a story while simultaneously building an entire world from nothing is pretty damn challenging. Anyway, I wanted to post the good that came out of that experience. And no. I won’t be posting the love scene I wrote. I still can’t believe I did, and it freaks me out. Though it is kind of good, naturally.

The following is just excerpts, nothing is back to back, but is kind of in “story order,” (kind of).



It was never quiet. Not even early in the morning, when most of the encampment slept. There was always a bird chirping, soft footsteps running in the dirt, heavy, level breathing. But these were the normal noises of life, the noises you can easily ignore, and that can even help you fall softly into sleep. What jarred my eyes open every single night were different noises. They were far away, but that didn’t make them any less important. They were the sounds of bombings, gunfire, screaming. They were the sounds that reminded you that you weren’t in your own bed anymore, the sounds that reminded you of the dead. They were the sounds of a war.

I opened my eyes and gasped, the echo of the explosion still ringing in my ears. I put my hand to my heart, reminding myself of where I was. The sky was a swirl of colors. Reds, grays, and oranges mingled with the white light of stars and the blackness of the space behind. It had been like that since the Beginning. It had become a familiar, almost comforting sight, and it had become a ritual for me to trace the trails of the clouds with my eyes. I’d follow the stark redness into the nothingness of black, and then back into orange and gray. It always helped to restore my heartbeat to a normal rhythm, my breathing into evenness. But then I’d remember why the clouds were there, and I’d shut my eyes and rise out of bed.

This morning was the same as any other. I always arose before first light, so I had become accustomed to moving about in the dark. Careful not to step on those lucky enough to still be asleep, I made my way to the stream we had begun to use for washing and drinking. We weren’t always so lucky as to have an ever-flowing water source so close to the camp. I took my time this morning, floating slowly as I watched the sun leisurely pave a path through the crimson clouds. After scrubbing my head raw, I laid on the dirty shore and waited to feel heat on my skin. I must have dozed off, because when I awoke the sun was completely risen and I had to squint my eyes. I brushed sand off myself as stood up, and walked toward the voices of the encampment.

Of course, it hadn’t always been like this; sleeping without a roof, moving constantly, listening to death, it was no way to live. But it had become normal, ever since the Beginning. I remember a time when I had my own bed, one that I called mine every night. It seems a simple thing, but it becomes complicated once you don’t have one. Every morning I awoke to the aroma’s from the kitchen wafting around me, filling my entire room. Mother loved to cook breakfast for us. Somehow she always managed to wake up early and have it done before we even stopped dreaming.

But that was before. I can’t even remember what bacon tastes like now. I sat at one of our many campfires, eating what we always ate, liquidy, colorless grain in a bowl. The taste was almost nauseating, but luckily it was filling. We had come to calling it poison, affectionately. Some of the younger boys had made a joke of it at some point, and the name had stuck. It was fitting.

As I slurped my poison, I listened to the chatter around me. Old Henry was going on about how he didn’t know how he’d ever get sand out of his shoes, how his favorite hat had ripped and now his eyes hurt from the sun…the usual. I could hear Priscilla assigning duties to her officers, which would have been more impressive if their duties ever changed. Patrol the border, watch for enemies, collect any plant life. The first true were the only real true orders. There hadn’t been plant life on the plains since the Beginning. But it was an order that was always issued. I knew better. Nothing could survive out here, nothing but us.

“You’ve barely eaten any.” I looked to my left to find Tana perched next to me. She had her usual smile spread on her face. Her arms were wrapped around her legs and she rested her head on her knees. Her eyes were fixed on my bowl. She was about eight years old, we couldn’t be certain of ages anymore, and the only one in the camp who could never get enough poison.

“You can have the rest if you want.” I moved to give her the bowl.

“No. You need to eat it. It’s you ration.” With effort she pulled her eyes away from the grayish lumps that she loved so much.

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

She looked over both her tiny shoulders, and then snatched the bowl from my grasp. I smiled as bits of the stuff flew in all directions as she shoved the poison into her mouth. The spoon lay forgotten in the dirt.

I always liked being with Tana. Somehow, she wasn’t as jaded over our circumstances as the rest of us. Sure, she had her demons like all of us. She had lost both her parents years ago and for some reason had latched onto me. There were years of her life unaccounted for, before she joined the camp. She never spoke of them, and I never asked. I knew what it was like to hold onto your past. Maybe if you never spoke the words, then it never really happened. Even so, she took all the horrors in stride, never showing anything but the brightness of youth. She was my reminder that maybe there would be a future after all.

When she was finished and the empty bowl, licked clean of course, rested between us, we sat in comfortable silence, watching the flames of the fire. It would be so easy to just sit here and forget. Forget I had duties to perform, forget what the sounds in the distance were, forget I had scarcely slept or eaten in days, forget that people, like Tana’s parents, were dead and gone. I blinked into focus, and remembered.

“We better get going.”

“Aw, man. I guess so.” Tana stretched up her arms, let out an ear-shattering yawn, and hopped up. “Let’s go then!”

I was always amazed at her enthusiasm. Most kids would find doing the same things every day boring and repetitive. Tana looked each day as a new adventure. I was grateful. I’m sure the tediousness would have driven me crazy by now if not for her.

Our first and last job for the day, as it was with everyone, was to look for any possible evidence of vegetation. Unfortunately, most people only gave half-effort in this endeavor. I didn’t blame them. How many days had it been with nothing? The human mind can only take so much disappointment. I’m sure I would have fallen into that category if Tana wasn’t around. This was her favorite part of the day. She loved to over-turn rocks, dig holes in the ground, follow bugs to their hovels, and I was with her through it all. We never would find anything green, but Tana was enjoying herself, and that’s all that mattered to me.

After an unsuccessful morning search, Tana reluctantly left the valley to com down to the stream with me to perform our next task: gathering water for drinking. The running water was clean enough for washing, but it required more preparation if it was to be consumed. Over the years, the natural water supply of our world had become slightly polluted. Debris from explosions, unclean conditions, we aren’t sure what exactly did it. Not only that, something had changed our natural biology. Our bodies had begun to reject water, clean or not. This was another unknown. How could something so basic to our survival be compromised? But it had been since the Beginning. Luckily, the cleaner and purer the water, the better chance we had at keeping it down. That’s why it was so important for us to collect as much as possible. Only a portion would survive the purification process.

I didn’t like to think about the meaning behind our actions, and I certainly wanted to spare that of Tana as well, so I always tried to make a game out of it. We’d race to the stream, see who could fill their bucket the fastest, who could make the smallest splashes, those kinds of things. Anything to distract her from the true purpose.


Around the Camp

The fire crackled in the darkness. Orange and yellow sparks flew up and made shapes and patterns as they fell back onto the singed wood. My eyes grew hazy as I watched them. Members of the camp always gathered here when it grew dark, to share a bowl of poison along with their stories of the day’s adventures. Tana sat next to me as usual, slurping her food as she listened to the others with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

I found it hard to participate this particular evening as I couldn’t get the image of Priscilla and the guard walking toward the command tent, the officer clutching whatever it was that he had found. Whatever that item was, Priscilla had failed to mention it in the nightly debriefing of the day. What could be such a secret that she would pretend it never happened? Not only that, but I hadn’t seen the officer the rest of the day. This wasn’t so unusual; their job was to be unseen, after all. But even now, when most gathered, he was not with the other guards. He’s just on patrol. Not every guard is able to come to the fire at night. It’s only that. But I had a feeling deep in my stomach that wasn’t true. I don’t know how, but I just knew that something had happened to him, and it was because of the object.

“Erin! Hello? Anyone there?” Someone was snapping their fingers in front of my face. I shook my head to rid myself of the image of the guard with a sword thrust through his chest. Nonsense, I was sure. I looked up to see the offending hand belonging to Edwin. He smiled when my eyes finally came into focus. “There you are.”

“Sorry.” I tucked my hair behind my ear. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Oh, not long. Just about twenty minutes is all.” He smiled, pleased with his attempt at sarcasm.

I exhaled a breath that had been caught in my lungs and rolled my shoulders. “I have a lot of my mind.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

Should I tell him? Edwin would love this sort of mystery. Anything to break the monotony of our now present existence, as he liked to put it. He had a weakness for solving riddles, and most nights, when we sat around the fire, he would push me to come up with more and more difficult puzzles. I didn’t mind. It was healthy to exercise the mind with more than just physically-focused endeavors.

“No. It’s nothing.” I smiled. “Ready for one?” His hand rubbed his chin as I recounted a riddle I had come up with during the day. He didn’t need to know. It was probably nothing anyway. The officer had probably found an interesting insect specimen or a strange rock formation, and thought his commanding officer should know about it. That’s all. It was nothing. I was a fool to think our life here could change in the slightest. This was our world now, and nothing was going to change that.

We stayed up late that night. Edwin took longer than usual to solve the puzzles, either that or I was getting better at making them. I never liked retiring to bed; I didn’t like to be alone. The tents were separated by gender and by age, so neither Edwin nor Tana were my bedmates. I did have friends among those I slept next to, but nowhere close to those two. I had formed a bond with both of them, and it didn’t leave much room for anyone else. In times like this, we had to stick together, we had to look out for each other, and at night that wasn’t possible. I felt so vulnerable sleeping, even though it made no sense. We were heavily guarded at all times; Priscilla made sure of that. And I knew that my bunk-mates would never harm me. But I still was always on high alert.



“Erin? Erin! Wake up, wake up!”

The words sounded hazy, like they were very far away. I blinked. I saw the outline of Tana, but whenever I tried to focus on her face it would fade away, until I blinked again. I could just make out the wrinkles above her nose deepened as she mouthed my name. And then a black shape was behind her. It seemed to grow as it came closer, and a pair of blue eyes flashed brightly as I dropped out of consciousness.


“Why won’t she wake up?”

“Be calm. It will take time for her to awaken. You must be patient.”

“But what if she never does? She’s been sleeping for hours.”

“She will be fine. You have my word. See? Her eyes react even now.”

Something was stabbing the back of my head. I reached my hand up to feel whatever it was, but all I felt was something smooth; a bandage. This quickened my heart beat, and my eyes shot open to discover the owners of the voices I had heard float in and out of my dreams.

Tana was there, and she looked alright, thankfully. When her eyes met mine, she smiled enough to show crooked teeth. Whatever had happened, I was glad that she didn’t sport a matching bandage. But it was her companion that most intrigued me even more. He had dark hair, almost black, and it hung below his pointed chin. He wore a scowl so perfectly I imagined he did it often. He wore all black, and had a long sword hung across his back. The hilt was beautiful, a textured grip covered with different shades of gemstones, mostly reds and oranges mixed with black. His eyes I recognized. They were the beacons I had seen in my dreams, such a brilliant blue it was almost blinding.

“What happened? Tana? Where are we?” I sat up and couldn’t breathe. I inhaled sharply and coughed, clutching my chest. Gods, it hurt.

“Careful. You are not yet fully recovered. You require more rest.”

“I can’t rest! I don’t even know where we are! We have to transport the-” Trying to move had taken my breath away. I slammed my eyes shut as tears streamed down my cheeks. I was almost glad of the pain; it had stopped me from revealing the mission to a complete stranger.

“I’m afraid I must insist. You must remain lying down. You need time to heal completely.”

“Listen to him, Erin. He knows what he’s talking about. As least I think he does.”

I laid back down, though under protest. I had to admit, the pain did subside in a prone position. “Tana. Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.” And she really did look fine. Her hair was a little disheveled, more than usual anyway, and she was smiling her toothy smile she was wont to do. From what I could tell, she didn’t look worse for wear. I couldn’t say the same for myself.

“I remember someone was chasing us.” I eyed the newcomer with suspicion.

“We were, Erin. We were running and running. You were holding onto my hand, but I couldn’t keep up. I told you I would slow you down! You should have left me back at the camp.” Her bottom lip was shaking. I was always amazed at how emphatic a child she was. Her emotions were always tumultuous and unpredictable.

“Tana, stop it. You know that’s not true, and you know I would never leave you.” I squeezed her hand. “Now tell me what else happened.”

After an exaggerated sniffle, she continued. “Well, at some point I hit a branch, and we got separated. It was dark, I couldn’t find you again. I heard loud voices all around me, shouting, and they were getting closer. I knew I had to find you before they did.” She took a deep breathe. “But when I finally did, you were lying on the ground. There was a man standing above you, and the back of you head was red and dirty.” Her voice started to quiver and she remembered. Her eyes were far away. “The man was so scary. He was holding a stick, like the ones the guards at camp would have. And it was shiny and wet. I didn’t know what to do!” She started to cry then, the kind of crying that comes from your stomach, that takes over you and steals your breath away. Her throat made choking noises as she gasped for air, and I was able to lift my arm just enough to wrap it around her shoulders. She buried her head in the crook of my arm. I ignored the pain. She needed this.

I heard someone clear their throat above me, and I looked up to see the man with the blue eyes. I had forgotten he was there while listening to Tana’s recount of the events. That was bad. I should be more on my guard, especially in my almost incapacitated position.

“If I may, I believe I can pick up the story from here.” He eased on to the ground beside us, his eyes never leaving mine.

“Before you do, perhaps you can tell me who you are.”

“That will become clear once I recount the events.” He stared at me in question, eyebrows raised. I nodded, allowing him to continue Tana’s recitation. “With your assailant standing over you, the bloody baton in his hand, was precisely when I happened upon the both of you. Of course, Tana, I was not aware of your presence. Had I been, I would have shielded you from such horrors.” Tana sniffled in response. “I did not know who you or the man were, but it was clear you needed help, and his intentions were most assuredly not pure. I proceeded to disarm him and knock him unconscious.”

“What does that mean? I saw you fight him! You choked him with your arm, like this.” Tana demonstrated on me, wrapping her tiny arm around my throat. I’m sure it looked almost comical.

“I believe that’s what he meant by disarming him, Tana. Let him finish.” She sighed and sat back, but did not remove her arm.

“You’re quite correct, Tana. I chose hand to hand combat as not to injure him. As I sad, his identity was in question, and I do not take killing lightly.” For someone who looked like some kind of assassin I found that hard to believe. “When your assailant was down, I proceeded to check your injuries. You had lost quite a lot of blood from a head wound, and your stomach was badly bruised.”

I blinked. “My stomach? How could you tell?”

“Well, naturally I had to check you for injuries, those covered by your clothing and those not.” My head spun even more at the idea of this man lifting my shirt to “check my injuries.” But he seemed sincere, and from his ever-present scowl, I knew what he said was not in jest. He didn’t seem to notice my discomfort as he continued with the retelling unhindered. “I deduced you had broken ribs, and external trauma to the back of your skull. It is when I moved to lift you from the ground that Tana revealed herself.”

“I thought he was stealing you! I couldn’t let him take you without me!” Tana squeezed herself closer to me, if that was even possible.

“I can assure you, Tana. That was not my intent. My only wish was to transport Erin here to a more favorable location. But I am glad you revealed yourself when you did. It helps greatly to have another pair of eyes when one finds himself occupied.” Tana puffed up her face and beamed. Compliments had a tendency to go to her head. “Not much remains. I brought you both back my shelter and I tended your wounds. You were unconscious for a number of hours. I admit, I was worried you would not awaken.”

“I knew it!” Tana’s eyes bulged. “I knew you weren’t sure!”

“Forgive me for lying. I only wished to assuage any worry you had yourself, Tana.”

“Oh, well I-” I shushed her. I needed to hear more. This stranger had me mesmerized with his story. I couldn’t believe he had chose to help me, when killing me would have been the easier option. I hadn’t known such kindness was left in this world.

“You still haven’t told us who you are, you know.” He smiled at that, and his eyes grew a deeper blue than before.

“In that you are right. Then please, allow me to introduce my self. I am Davor.” He inclined his head. “And I believe I have already ascertained your identities. You are Tana, of course,” he nodded at my child companion, who beamed in return. This much attention must be intoxicating for her. “And you are Erin. I must say, it is truly a pleasure to talk with you, and not stare at your unconscious form in hope of your awakening.”

“And it is truly a pleasure to be conscious. Well, Davor, is it? I thank you for saving my life. If you hadn’t arrived when you did, I don’t doubt that man would have killed me.” I extended my free hand to shake his own. He stared at my hand for a second, squinting his eyes only slightly before clasping my hand with his own. But instead of shaking as was customary, he simply held it there. Heat radiated up my arm as the touch lingered. I looked up to search his face to find his eyes already seeking my own. I don’t know how long we stayed like that. It could have been hours for all I knew. What I did know was that staring into those crystal blue eyes before I had lost consciousness had changed my life forever. I just didn’t know yet if it was for better, or for worse.

NaNoWriMo: Because I Love to Torture Myself

So I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been pretty terrible at writing and posting things (I blame it on my short attention span). To combat this (and kick my own ass), I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo on the streets). I’ll attempt to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1st through the 30th.

Here’s the thing: I have absolutely no idea what to write about. Should I do a genre and write some crazy fantasy story (sans dragons omg)? Should I write a serious story about some angsty teenage girl who is mad at her dysfunctional family? How about a guy who constantly cheats on his wife and thinks about all the different women on his train ride to and from work (I have no idea where that just came from)? It can’t be anything I’ve written before; it has to be completely original.

So here is my plea: Please! Anyone! Send me ideas. Anything at all is helpful at this point. If you don’t, I’ll probably end up writing another sad little child story (and no one wants that to happen). 🙂

Also, If you are also participating (you crazy bastard), feel free to add me, I’m lindsattack on the site. Peace!