NaNoWriMo 2014: Plans for Finishing a Novel


Yep, it’s that time of year again. You know, NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days. This will be my sixth NaNo, and I have to say it’s as daunting as ever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about it. But this year I’m doing things a little differently than normal. Instead of starting with the shiny, new YA idea that’s floating around in my head (it’s The Parent Trap meets Fringe), I’m going to work on a novel already in progress.

I started THE PROBABILITY OF FATE, an adult magical realism romance, earlier this year. I love this story and have about 30,000 words already done and revised. So I probably have another 50,000ish left to go, which works out perfectly with NaNo. This story is actually a combination of my second NaNo novel, which didn’t work as I had initially written it, and a new idea spawned from an apothecary table of my mom’s that I’ve been coveting for years. The original MS was too complicated and full of parts that didn’t fit together. (I actually cannibalized other parts I loved from that MS for last year’s NaNo novel!)

Here’s a quick run-down of the new story:

In Malarkey, North Carolina, a hole-in-the-wall town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, residents rely on the magical chocolates at The Chocolate Cottage to help them find love. Twenty-five year old Penelope Dalton has always believed in the power of the chocolates she makes alongside her mother. But the first time she drank the Corazón hot chocolate to reveal her true love—and dreamed of Noah Gregory, the rough-around-the-edges ex of her best friend—she realized some fates were not meant to be.

Now eight years later, Noah’s back in town for a few months and sexier than ever. The part of her that dreamed of him in the first place wonders if she made the right decision to ignore her fate—and him. The other, more practical part, is determined the keep him firmly on the bad-decision-boyfriend list. But as things heat up between them, she can’t help but wonder if the chocolates were right all along.

I blogged my progress with this book over the summer through Ready. Set. Write! but I haven’t worked on this MS in almost three months while I’ve been focusing on my Pitch Wars MS. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed these characters until I started prepping for NaNo and I am thrilled to get back to them, to finish their story. Fingers crossed I have enough words to carry me through another year of intense NaNo writing!


5 Things NaNoWriMo Taught Me This Year


I just finished (and won!) my fifth NaNoWriMo. I’m still in that hazy, how-in-the-hell-did-I-survive-that mode and wondering why I put myself through it year after year. I’m tired—like down in the bones, every cell in my brain is fried, I could sleep for a week tired. And it’s one of the best feelings ever.

NaNo isn’t for the faint of heart or those with serious ADD. It takes concentration and determination and in some cases the ability to say “I’m not going to make 50,000 words and that’s okay because what words I do make will bring me that much closer to writing the end.” But getting to 50,000 words this year was hard. Harder than previous years. Despite that though, I managed to make it, and I learned a few important things along the way.

5. Knowing you’ll be using this book in a workshop/retreat with an author you admire/respect/fangirl over causes a lot of stress

A few months back, I applied for a spot in a YA writers workshop/retreat at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in California. The main draw was that it was bring led by YA magical realism writer and all around cool chick Nova Ren Suma. After taking the class with her this past spring, it renewed my desire to interact with other writers. That class gave me some of my closest writing friends to date and a support group I am grateful for every damn day. On Halloween (aka the All NaNos Eve) I got my acceptance. (Insert serious flailing and squeeing with my friend Rebekah who also got in to the Feb workshop with me and our other CPs who are going in June!) I had planned all along to use the novel I would write this NaNo as the MS I workshopped at the retreat. Stupid, stupid, Sus. Instead of giving me the extra push to write when I wanted to take a break, all it did was make me stress about what I was going to do if the story wasn’t Nova-worthy and I wasted this amazing opportunity to work with her because I couldn’t get my shit together. (For the record, Nova is way too nice to ever tell anyone their work isn’t good enough, but I respect her too much to turn in something half-assed or merely perceived as half-assed by me.)

4. Writing chronologically is not for me

This is not new to me. I’ve never written a book in order from start to finish, but seeing as how I knew I needed to have a minimum of 50 pages ready for my workshop at Djerassi in February, I was determined to try. I made it partway into Week 2 before abandoning this plan. And here’s why: I write what excites me. When I get stuck on one scene, I don’t have to struggle through it just to keep in order. I can jump around and write a swoony scene or a fight scene or a big emotional revelation scene and get myself unstuck. I’m pretty sure this is the only way I’ve made it through every NaNo I’ve done. I’m glad I tried something new, and that I have 80ish pages straight through that I’m very happy with, but I just. could. not. do. it. anymore.

3. Being prepared won’t eliminate the inevitable Week 2 freak out

This book was the most prepared I’ve ever been for NaNo. I had a full scene-by-scene outline for the whole story, character sketches with photos, a Pinterest board of inspiration and who knows what else. And then Week 2 swooped in, laughed in my face, told me my book was shit, and then kicked my ass just because it could. What’s worse, Week 2 was right. My plot leaned toward the epic side of things (with big deaths and shocking betrayals and a love story so big it would be, as VMars’ Logan Echolls said, “spanning years and continents, lives ruined, bloodshed epic”). What I had planned was over the top and trying to be something my stories just simply are not. Not to mention one character was so disjointed I couldn’t even write him because I had planned for him to be one way (broken over the death of his sister) and was writing him to be something completely different (flirty, and swoony, and dealing with his loss like a healthy person). And I had no clue how to get myself out of the mess I’d made by trying too hard. I was thisclose to slamming my computer shut and quitting. Which leads me to…

2. Husbands and caramels save lives in November

M cares about my writing in so much as that he cares about me and I care about my writing. He’s not the type of husband to be my first reader (or even my tenth). He’ll read things if I ask him to, but what I write is just not his thing. And that’s okay. But when I descended into full on freak out mode, he calmly sat there with me, asking questions about the characters, making me dig deeper into their motivations and desires and hangups and flaws. He talked strategy and plausibility of plot. He didn’t laugh when I practically whined about how damn hard writing is or when I almost started crying because it seemed like the only logical thing to do (because, yeah, Week 2 is that much of a bitch). And somehow he got me through it. Then I went and reworked most of my plot and rewarded myself with a caramel because some days (or weeks in this case) will try to kick your ass, and when you survive it’s definitely cause for celebration.

1. NaNoing with other writers kicks ass

Over the past couple NaNos, I’ve convinced a few writer friends to do it with me. We’d touch base at work or sporadically though email, and that support was great. This year, however, four of my CPs decided to do it too. We spent the month cheering each other on; joining in on writing sprints; emailing fun scenes we’d written and inspirational quotes to each other; encouraging each other when one of us had a hard day; sending goodies, including caramels, mix CDs, “In case of NANo emergency break glass” vodka and other hole-up-in-your-room-and-not-talk-to-anyone writing essentials, and celebratory champagne. And on the days when I wanted to sit and read a book instead of writing, I’d make myself keep going because I didn’t want to have to tell these girls that I’d given up for no good reason.


I’m still a long way from being done (at least 15,000 words I think) but even after a month as difficult as November was, I still love this story and these characters and will see them through to the end.

Masters of Dialogue

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As a writer, I draw a lot of inspiration from television. That’s not to say that books don’t also have considerable influence ‘cause c’mon, you’ve seen my verging-on-needing-a-straightjacket book fangirling. But there are certain shows and show creators who, in my mind, are some of the best storytellers around. I worship at the feet of Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads), Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars and Cupid), Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) and Greg Berlanti (Everwood).


While they all had a staff of super-talented writers to back them up, they are the brains behind the characters I adore. They made girls who were snarky and quippy and smart and kick ass. They made bad boys good (ahem, Logan Echolls) and good boys swoon-worthy (hello, Piemaker). They made parents who gave a shit (Papa Mars walked through fire for his girl!) and friends who were fiercely loyal (Wallace, Lane, Hannah, I’m looking at you!).


And they instilled in me an epic love of dialogue. Man, do these writers know how to turn an f-ing phrase. If you don’t believe me, go watch five minutes of any of the shows above. That’s all it will take to recognize their brilliance. I’ll wait.


Okay, no, I won’t ‘cause once you get five minutes into any of those shows, you won’t come back until you’ve mainlined every season available. Just trust me on this.


But all of that’s to say that what gets me most excited about writing a scene is how the characters react to each other. What they say, how they say it, what physical movements go along with those words and the tone. Sometimes one line of dialogue in my head is enough to spark an entire scene or spin the plot in a whole new direction. Dialogue tells me who the characters are at their cores. And it gives me the opportunity to be snarky (okay, maybe I don’t need an excuse for that!) and funny and brave and bitchy and coy and angry and intense. And a whole mess of other things that I tend to keep hidden behind my antisocial shell (at least from the general masses).


So, as I get ready for Friday (let the NaNo games begin!), I’m remembering what I love about each of these shows, these characters and hoping what I write will be half as smart as they are.  And I’ll be doing it in VMars style, ’cause this came in the mail today:



Powering Up for NaNoWriMo

I have less than a month. Yep, that’s right. Less time to prepare for writing my next book than I will have to actually write during NaNoWriMo. Not that I will actually complete the thing in 30 days of crazy-mad writing, but I’ll (hopefully) end the month with roughly 200 pages of a story I am so damn excited about. That and my fifth NaNo win.

I’m not this dedicated during the rest of the writing year. I like to read too much. And you know, spend time with M. And the cats. And my friends. And then there’s this thing called work that takes up a lot of time too. But NaNo is my time to get the story out of my head and into existence. This one month is set aside for new ideas that I keep simmering on the backburner the rest of the year while I’m revising and reworking and re-plotting my other WIPs.

Most of the time, the new stories and characters are polite and wait their turn. But this year’s book refuses to be ignored. So in the midst of revising two other manuscripts (my previous two NaNo books that I’m still madly in love with), I’ve developed a scene-by-scene outline for the entire book, started a Pinterest board to capture the style and personalities of my MCs, and emailed a friend for plotting help to make sure the ending I want is plausible (she confirmed it can be and, because she’s brilliant, helped me see how I could weave in details of a character’s personality throughout the story to make a big decision feel organic to the character!). This is the most prepared I’ve ever felt starting NaNo. Fingers crossed that it goes as smoothly as The Art of Breaking did last year.

Oh, you wanna know what the story’s about? Here’s the pitch:

As a teenage grim reaper, Eliot James is used to death. But when the next name on her list is Sawyer Taveryany—the boy she’s seriously crushing on—she will have to fight her very nature to keep him safe.

Sounds fun, right?

The Art of Finishing


Whew, where did November go? Somehow I managed to get my 50,000 words while having various (wonderful) houseguests here for 14 days out of 30. And I’m honestly not sure how.

I always go into NaNo thinking that last year it was so hard to get through, that I struggled to make word count or got stuck somewhere with my plot and had no clue how to get going again. But somehow I always make it through. So, maybe for me NaNo is kind of like childbirth, but opposite. Instead of forgetting how difficult and painful it was like new moms once they have a squalling baby in their arms, I remember that bringing my novel into the world was frantic and frustrating and draining. And then when I make it through another 50,000 words in 30 days ( with a hellofa good start on a book I’m in love with), I’m surprised that I did it again.

But every time I do, I’m incredibly thankful that I still had at least one more book in me. Hopefully that’ll never change.

One month. One book.

Yep. NaNoWriMo is on its way. And this year, I’m trying something new. Young Adult.

I read enough of it, I figured that must mean something, right? So, here’s to writing books for teenage girls. Hell, who am I kidding? Here’s to writing books about teenage girls that 30-somethings will want to read too!

The Imagineaires: When rule-breaker Luca Grabel drowns at eight years old, she doesn’t go to heaven. Instead she becomes an imaginary friend. She gets assigned to Katie Tayloe, her best friend from life, and they spend the next nine years living almost like nothing ever happened. But they only have a month left. When Katie turns 18, Luca will get reassigned and they’ll never see each other again. And with her crush, Josh Burnley, suddenly able to see her, and the chance at a once-in-an-afterlife romance within her grasp, she has even more incentive to find a loophole. It’ll take all of her cunning to avoid a reassignment that would be worse than death.

The Wish Doctor

Well, it was a productive NaNoWriMo. I erased a little brother from existence with a careless wish, gave an old woman nasty stomach cancer (and then wished it away), ruined a marriage (and a perfectly good plum tree) with a romp in the backyard, reunited two estranged sisters, championed the awesomeness of beef bbq, and helped a lonely girl find peace and a little bit of hope. And all with 30 words to spare.

Now it’s time to reorganize, replot, and relax (at least a little). I’ve got another 20-30k to go before it’s done. But once again NaNoWriMo gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get the story out of my head and onto paper.

30 days and nights of literary abandon

It’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo. This year’s book involves a girl who make can wishes come true–including accidentally erasing her brother from existence–and and old woman who bakes secrets into pies. In the town of Normal, North Carolina  nothing is what it seems. And no one tells the truth.

I have character sketches. I have a chapter-by-chapter outline. I have the beginnings of a playlist. I have friends who are joining the insanity with me. I have dark chocolate salted caramels.  Let’s do this.