Tag Archives: writing

When Sneaky Dialogue Trips on a Branch

Fair warning: some Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers within.

spoiler space

and some more

and a little more

If you don’t want spoilers you should have clicked away by now.

Okay.

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now, and let me start by saying this: I loved it. It was all kinds of fun, full of stellar characters and action and banter and and and *lightsaber noises.* I loved how they let Finn and Rey revel in being fucking awesome. Finn’s whoops when he’s in the gunner seat on the TIE fighter, and Poe being all “Fuck yeah, buddy!*” Finn and Rey escaping in the Millennium Falcon and rushing up to each other going “You were awesome!” at each other for a good gushing minute.

You can expect a couple more Star Wars-ish posts, but I wanted to state up front how much I dug the movie before I poked at a thing that needled at me. It in no way negates my overall enjoyment! But I think it’s useful for writers to take note of, and to be aware of in their own work. Ready? Here goes.

By the time Han and General Leia are reunited, we are fairly – possibly even 100% – certain that Kylo Ren is their kid. I’d need another rewatch (oh poor me) to know if it’s confirmed at that point, or if there’s still the possibility that he’s Luke’s son instead. We’ve seen him talking to Darth Grandpa’s melted helmet by this point, so we know he’s either Luke’s or Leia’s for sure. And Supreme Leader Snoke has given him shit about not having confronted his dad yet, which again, could refer to either Luke or Han. We also have a moment, when Han’s telling Rey and Finn about an apprentice turning on Luke, where you can infer that said apprentice is Han’s son – I’m not sure if it’s implied in the dialogue there, if it’s the way that Harrison Ford delivers the line, or if my storyteller radar was simply pinging and telling me this “apprentice” wasn’t some rando mini-Jedi.

Anyway. By the time Han and General Leia get to talking about their son, it becomes very quickly clear that Kylo Ren = the son in question. If we weren’t sure before that point, we are now.

What stuck in my craw was this: from that point on, they refer to him only as “our son.” I know there’s a whole taking on a new name thing when he becomes a Sith apprentice. I do get that. And that Han yelling “BEN!” when they’re on the catwalk is supposed to be a Big Significant Moment. So the reveal here is less about “SURPRISE! OUR KID IS KYLO REN, THE VILLAIN OF THIS FILM” and more “We named him after Obi-Wan.”

But…the dialogue didn’t work. It became one of the few points in the movie where you could see the writers’ hands on the keyboard.

Think about this – when you talk to a friend about a person you both know well, do you refer to that person as “our friend,” or do you call them by their name? I might refer to someone by their relationship to me if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know the third party – and even then, it’s probably going to be “my husband Greg” the first time he’s invoked, and “Greg” thereafter. But when we all know each other? It’s first names all the way.

So watching Han and Leia twist themselves into knots to avoid saying “Ben” got frustrating fast.

Maybe – maybe – you could argue that it’s too painful for them to say his name, but I’m not going to buy it. If a few of those “our sons” had been “he/him” instead, it would have flowed better, and not sounded like the writers were trying to avoid a reveal. I also can’t believe they’re trying to keep other people from overhearing the conversation. Han and Leia are iconic figures to the Resistance. Their people sure as hell know they had a kid thirty some-odd years ago. Most of the people around that table probably remember little Ben running around the base. They ruffled his hair. They let him, I dunno, climb into the X-wings and pretend to fly them. Even if Luke’s new Jedi training program meant he was trained from the time he was little, like the kids Grandpa Anakin wiped out, you can’t tell me the news of Han and Leia’s Impending Sprogling didn’t get the same kind of attention Will and Kate’s did. The first child of the heroes who toppled the Empire? They would’ve had enough baby shower gifts to keep the Falcon from leaving orbit.

Which means the only people they’re really hiding his name from is the audience.

It’s a narrative trick that can be super-effective if done right, but once your readers (or viewers, or listeners) spot it, often becomes a blinking light that says “AUTHOR SECRETS HERE.” Sometimes it’s a thing that becomes more obvious on re-read. Once we know that Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, Ben Kenobi’s lines to Luke in A New Hope take on a different meaning. Likewise, when you’re reading A Game of Thrones, discussions of Jon Snow’s parents become revealing in what they don’t say.

I don’t know all the secrets of hiding – concealing? Withholding? – key information from your audience. But if you’re working on a story that requires you to do so, some things I can think of that might help you avoid getting caught palming the coin:

  • Have beta readers who are good at Figuring Shit Out. These might be your friends who read George RR Martin or the Wheel of Time books (damned Aes Sedai…). If you’ve got gamers among your beta readers, also a good potential pool. We never believe that NPC’s dead until we see the body.** Ask them to mark down the point in the story where they saw what you were doing, and how they knew. How close is it to your reveal in the text?
  • Read your dialogue out loud. If you can hear the tap-dancing, it’s time to take another look.
  • Figure out the earliest point you want the reveal to happen. Does the story still work if somebody figures it out before then?
  • Read and watch media where you didn’t see the twist coming. Where are the clues, now that you know to look for them? How are they presented?
  • Likewise, read and watch media where you totally saw the twist coming.  What tipped you off?

You’re probably always going to have some readers who see where you’re going before you want them to. That’s okay! We can’t outsmart everyone, every time. And being tricksy is haaaard. See: why I don’t write mysteries.***

What are some of your favorite methods for misdirection? Which ones do you regularly spot? What stories have genuinely surprised you? (Warning: there may be spoilers in the comments.)

*not a direct quote
**And even then, we question.
***Technically, I wrote one for a creative writing class in high school. I cringe to this day.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person, as you might gather by this post happening on January 3rd, not the 1st. I used to be! But it turns out that Here is a thing I would like to do quickly becomes Here is a thing I failed to do and oh god I’m a terrible person awfully quick. In recent years, I’ve figured it’s better to treat those things as a sort of rolling works in progress list, revisited every now and then.

Clearly, since it’s been, uh, a couple of months since I blogged, dusting this place off is one of them.

So! quick 2015 recap:

 

Writerly Things

Fiction:
Grave Matters, February (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon)
The Fire Children, June (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon) 
“The Eleventh Hour” in Fireside Magazine, July

This is where I point out that, if you’re eyeballing your nominations lists and think any of those are worthy of appearing on your ballot, have at it! I’m also in my second (and therefore final) year of Campbell eligibility.

Freelancing:
The alternate ending I wrote for Eternal Lies is out in the world!
Our hard copy of Vampire: Dark Ages 20th Anniversary Edition arrived and it is beautiful. I might be a bit biased, what with having contributed to it.

I wrote for several other RPG projects last year. More info and links when I get the go-aheads.

Travel

I thought I’d traveled a lot in 2014. Oh, past me, you sweet summer child. My job changed a bit last year, which means I now get to go out in the field and visit my bookstores. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a wee bookseller, and it’s been wonderful getting out on the road and meeting my new buyers and their teams of eager, enthusiastic booksellers.

The year was also con-tastic: Arisia and Boskone – the latter during one of our many snowmageddon scenarios – followed by C2E2, GenCon, and WorldCon.

I attended our annual nerd family reunion out in Seattle in July, was on staff at Viable Paradise XIX, and trekked down into the mountains of Tennessee with Hill for a Murder Yeti retreat. As you can tell since I’m writing this, we were not eaten by bears. Or murder yetis.

Other Things

In any given year, I read a whole ton o’books. Part of that is the dayjob, part is my commute, part is just, y’know, liking to read. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of them all, and the grand total is… 43! Slightly shy of a book a week, but considering the travel and deadlines I’ve been under most of the year, and that whole writing thing, I’m pretty happy with it. This count is only for prose fiction, by the by. If you added in trades of the comics I read (woohoo Ms. Marvel, Saga, and Captain Marvel!), I’d probably hit a book a week easy. I do intend to do a best-of post. Theoretically while people are still mulling their ballots!

That post will also include thoughts on movies and TV shows I watched, because there were a lot of those as well. I make grabby hands when it comes to a good story, regardless of medium. It was a pretty good year for story (Mad Max: Fury Road! Haven! The Expanse! Star Wars: The Force Awakens!) so I’ll have some things to say in that regard as well.

Onward to 2016!

Let me get the hard announcement out of the way: I’m sad to say that Ace declined to buy more titles in the Night Owls series. That doesn’t mean I’m 100% done with my crew of smartass bookselling monster hunters, but it’s going to be a bit before their adventures continue. I am mulling some options, including potentially dipping my toes into self-publishing for Dead Letters. (The mulling includes taking a look at the contract for the first two books and chatting with my agent about what I’m allowed to do in that vein.) I may also post some short stories featuring the cast up here. First things first, though, I need to finish writing it, and paying projects are going to take precedence.

I will be attending Arisia, Boskone, and WorldCon for sure. Am mulling GenCon, Readercon, and 4th Street Fantasy as well. Without a book coming this year, my attendance at some cons is going to be based on what I can afford.

One of the realities of having a day job and a writing career is, even though it’s nice that the day job means I can use vacation time to attend cons, not all of the con-attending is, y’know, vacation. Cons are also work. Here, take a peek at what my month-by-month looked like last year:

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

With the exception of May, every month had some kind of travel or social aspect to it. (I didn’t travel for the holidays. I spent them with family and friends, and while they’re all people who I love dearly and am comfortable and happy being around, that doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t frickin’ exhausting.) I realized around September that I was feeling super-tired, even though I’d used up a whole bunch of vacation days. But when you take a closer look, there were several times throughout the year that I’d work a full week, go to a con, come home and go right back to work. No time to decompress.

Also figure that for several of those months, I was either under deadline for RPG writing, promoting Grave Matters and The Fire Children, and trying to do that thing where I write another book.

Two things toward the end of the year put all of that into a bit more perspective. At the writers’ retreat, I spent two solid, eight-hour days doing nothing but writing. Since we were in the mountains, internet was going to be spotty to start. The house did have wifi! HOWEVER. when you have 40 writers connected to it – whether we were “researching” or vacuuming cats on Twitter – the signal bogged way the hell down and was basically useless. Which meant no distractions, woohoo! I cranked out something like 10,000 words over two days. Then, at the end of the year, I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s (she says, in her last hours of said time off…) It took me a couple of days to get the slacking out of my system, plus there were holiday things afoot, but by… Tuesday? My brain was bombarding me with story things. I haven’t been as productive as I was at the retreat, but it’s been nice to feel the words flow.

Which means, as I was filling out my 2016 planner, I realized I needed to do myself a bit of a kindness. Somewhere in there, this summer, I’m taking a week off just for me. Giving myself permission to spend the days as I like: cleaning my house, catching up on reading, going the hell outside. And, yes, writing. It seems like a pretty low-bar type goal, but it’s one I’d like to hit.

Note that I’m not complaining about the travel or the writing, by the by. This is a job, one that I love. But it’s also okay to have some downtime, which is a thing I struggle with.

Speaking of writing projects, here’s what’s on the docket:

  • Adrift – yes, still. Swashbuckling fantasy. Elves and an undead assassin aboard a pirate ship.
  • Cantankerous – YA SF. Think, uh, Firefly for teens.
  • “Blood in the Thread” – Still in the planning stages. This is my crane wife/seven swan brothers story.
  • “Spun” (or maybe it’s Spun) – My short stories have a bad habit of turning themselves into novels. This is one of those that’s threatening to do so.
  • Dead Letters and other stories from the Night Owls ‘verse – these are at the bottom of the priority list at the moment, but I never did tell you all what happened with that wraith in Val’s trunk. Or how Cavale met Sunny and Lia.

I’ve also started up a project that I’ve declared a trunk novel for the time being. Kind of a writing-without-pressure deal, and a bit of an experiment. I’m a fairly linear writer, and in this case I’m letting myself bounce around if I want to. And be inconsistent with details. And maybe tenses! It’s funny, for a panstser I sure feel the need to go back and fix shit when I figure out a new aspect of the story. I’m trying that thing where you leave yourself a note for future revisions and move on. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What did you dig in 2015 that I should go in search of?

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Places I Have Been

Another round of, well, me, on the internet this week!

Kristin at My Bookish Ways hosted an interview with yours truly. I got to recommend other books to read and keep on your radar, too!

A Book Obsession gives Grave Matters three butterflies! /adds to pile of neat ratings icons

Gikany and Una at That’s What I’m Talking About gives it an A: “One of the things we love about this series is that it is strongly character driven.  Ms. Roy’s down-to-earth characters ground the novel, giving it a firm foundation.  We found ourselves completely engrossed in the novel as we watched Elly and Cavale struggle not only to figure out who is controlling the dead but also to better understand themselves.”

Chuck Wendig is an awesome signal-booster for writers, and let me yatter on about Five Things I Learned Writing Grave Matters.

Can I tell you how keen it is when someone admits to laughing at a joke you stuck in the book? How neat it is to get feedback on that line you were afraid was maybe only funny to you? Steph at Bea’s Book Nook mentions a scene that made me giggle as I wrote it, so I’m fist-pumping a bit over here.

The periscope goes back down for a bit. I have some faerie pirates and a dead woman to attend to.

 

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Writing is a Job, For Which You Should Get Paid

Sitting in my drafts folder over at the olde blogge, I have a post entitled “I Just Want You Lot to Get Paid.” I never finished writing it, and the incident that sparked it is several years out of date, but the sentiment still stands. Last week, events in the writing world that had me thinking about it all over again – the short version is, YA writer Stacey Jay put up a Kickstarter for the sequel to Princess of Thorns. She mentioned that part of the goal amount would pay her bills for the four months she’d be writing the book, and if the project didn’t fund, she wouldn’t be going forward with it. The internet fell on her head in a terrible, frightening way and she pulled the Kickstarter. Her posts about it are here and here.

It’s raised questions about how – or whether – a writer should get paid for work that hasn’t been written. There’s also quite a bit of ur doin it wrong in regards to Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, which I disagree with.

First of all, on writers getting paid and setting the price they’ll accept for their work:

Writers are freelancers. We have to determine what constitutes a fair wage for us, what is worth our time and focus.

That manifests in many different ways.

If you’re going the trade publishing route, it means looking at all facets of an offer: the advance, royalty rates, which rights they’re buying, what kind of marketing support your publisher is offering. For example, would you prefer to take a higher advance from Publisher A with the understanding you’ll need to do most of the promotion yourself, or a lower one from Publisher B where the company will promote the heck out of you? That might depend on how good you are at self-promotion, or how much time you have available to dedicate to it. What’s right for one author might not be right for another, and that’s okay!

If you’re self-pubbing, it means setting a price that pays you for the work you’ve done at a rate you’re comfortable with. I have not yet dipped my toes into this area, but I know if I do, I’ll be poring over pricing and promotion and a million other things I probably don’t even know to consider, because if I’m going to put my work out there on my own, I want to get paid for it. Some writers do great at $.99, others at $2.99 or $4.99 or more! Balancing what is a good price for the author vs. what the reader is willing to pay for it is a form of alchemy all on its own.

If you’re submitting short stories, it might mean choosing only to submit to pro-rate markets, or going with a semi-pro sale to a place that has built up an excellent reputation. I would, in general, discourage writers from “for-the-love” markets – places where hosting your story (“exposure”) is supposed to be a reward all on its own. If anyone knows the original person whose response to that was, “Yeah, you can die of exposure,” please let me know, because I’ve been repeating it for years.

If you’re creating a Kickstarter or a Patreon, it means setting a minimum price at which you’ll produce the work. I always assume that the price of actually writing things is baked into those projects. And well it should be! You’re paying editors and cover designers and, I dunno, sticker makers for whatever they produce to make your book look good. You should also be paying yourself for it.

I’m not quite sure where the logic is in the idea that writers and other creative people are allowed to just break even, and that’s it. As though we’re allowed to recoup only the cost of materials, but not the hours spent using those materials. It’s a mindset that says your printer ink is more valuable than the words. Or your paint is more valuable than the art created with it. That’s… that just not true. Your work has value. Your time has value. I want you to be compensated for it.

This is where I blather a bit about crowdfunding in general and Kickstarter in particular.

Some people suggested Ms. Jay should have used one of the other crowdfunding platforms for this project – Go Fund Me or IndieGoGo or the like. That seems to be primarily because she said she’d use the funds to pay her bills, and the sentiment was, she shouldn’t treat Kickstarter as an advance – that Kickstarter is ONLY for work that’s already been finished and just needs some flashy stuff added, or to cover cost of production.

To which I say, fie.

Go look at the Kickstarter for Diaspora, which got funded way the hell over its goal because it would, when finished, be an alternative to Facebook. They stated RIGHT UP FRONT that they’d use the money to spend the summer writing the code that would become the social media platform. Here:

We are four talented young programmers from NYU’s Courant Institute trying to raise money so we can spend the summer building Diaspora; an open source personal web server that will put individuals in control of their data.

And

We have a plan, a bunch of ideas and the programming chops to build Diaspora. What we need is the time it takes to iron out a powerful, secure, and elegant piece of software. Daniel, Ilya, Raphael, and Maxwell are all ready to trade our internships and summer jobs for three months totally focused on building Diaspora. We want to write code all the time, everyday.

I do not recall people getting angry that these guys were spending their ten thousand dollars on rent and utilities and food. That they were leaving their internships and jobs to make the thing the Kickstarter was funding, and that therefore did not yet exist.  That wouldn’t exist for several months. That might – because this is a risk you take backing any Kickstarter – might never come to fruition.

There’s a whole other post’s worth of what it implies when a woman asking for money gets shouted down, but men creating things don’t. It’s not just the Diaspora dudes. Plenty of writerly men have successfully crowdfunded not-yet-written books and did so without a tenth of the static Stacey Jay got. I’m not going to take myself off-topic here (and oh, could I spend a few thousand words on this), but I do want you to think about that. It’s significant, and I’ll be coming back to it in the future.

When you back any Kickstarter, there’s the danger that you might never receive whatever it is you paid for. I have backed projects that were delivered much later than the “Estimated Delivery Date” for the tier I chose. Sometimes life happened. Sometimes people needed to go back to the drawing board to make an even better product. One of the projects, which had a very prominent SF author’s name attached to it, raised half a million dollars and after quite a long period with no updates, said “Hey, sorry, it’s not going to happen.”

So do you sometimes lose out? Sure. But again, that’s part of the risk of any crowdfunding venture. In Ms. Jay’s case, she’s an established author. She’s met deadlines before. She has a fanbase who wanted to read more of the story, and considering she’s done this professionally, would likely have delivered on time. This wasn’t a high-risk Kickstarter.

Lastly, can we talk about advances a little? Let’s do that. Some of the pushback on that Kickstarter was that, advances – as done by trade publishers – come after you’ve submitted the work to an editor. As in, the advance is for something that’s already in first draft form, paying you for work you’ve already done.

Well. Sometimes? But not always.

Yes, if you have a single book deal, the money you get paid is most likely for work you wrote on spec. On spec means you bled the whole book out, polished it up as many times as needed, then sent it out into the world to be considered by editors.

But what about multi-book deals? Night Owls was written when Ace bought it, but Grave Matters sure as hell wasn’t. Part of my advance was for that second book. Once upon a time, advances were there to help keep the author in food and whiskey while they wrote their next work. Multi-book deals are a lot like that. When you read that so-and-so got heaps-o’million dollars for a five book deal, it’s a safe bet that only the first book is finished, and they’ll live off of that advance while they write the rest. There is nothing wrong with this. It is now on the author to produce those next works on time, but the publisher is taking the same gamble as the Kickstarter backers in this scenario that the words will get written and turned in in a timely manner.

Now consider that some writers can sell books on proposal. That’s when you or your agent go to editors and say “here’s the idea I have. Give me money and I’ll write it.” You see it with non-fiction books for sure, because part of the money is intended for the author to get out in the field and research their subject, then sit down and write it. It happens with fiction, too, though, especially if the author has a proven track record. In both cases, money is going toward the author so they can pay their bills while they’re in the process of creating their work.

So, if we’re going to consider Kickstarter funds as advances, the argument that “that’s not how trade publishing does it!” falls pretty flat.

Writing is a business. The blessing and the curse of it is, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. The industry itself is in a state of flux, and has been for what, at least a decade now? People are figuring out new and different avenues to get their work out there – both into bookstores and directly into the mailboxes or inboxes of readers making grabby hands for new content.

If you find a way to do that and keep the lights on, too, I support you.

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Hello, 2015!

It’s time for this blog’s very first State of the Things, which is fitting for a new year. I didn’t write this up on January 1st, as resolutions and I don’t go the distance. For reference (and to refresh my own memory) here’s what I was hoping to accomplish in 2014.

Brief recap, GO.

  • My first professional short story sale, “Ex Astris,” appeared in Fireside.
  • Night Owls was published. A thing I wrote! Out there in meatspace!
  • On the RPG side, Green Ronin released Dragon Age Roleplaying: Set 3. I am now playing through Dragn Age: Inquisition and goggling at Orlais, because reasons. Do we get to see Tevinter, too? NO WAIT, DON’T ANSWER THAT. SPOILERS.
  • Pelgrane Press’ Mythos Expeditions contains an adventure I wrote, “A Load of Blarney.”
  • I was a Kickstarter stretch goal! Or, rather, a world I created for Storium was. So excited for people to play in Camden’s Hollow.
  • The Fire Children sold to Ravenstone Press. /gleeeee
  • So much travelling. All the travelling. Forever. Including WorldCon in London, which was amazing.
  • I was on staff at Viable Paradise XVIII*.  Which, by the way, applications for VPXIX are open… now!

And now, onward to 2015.

Books and Writing

Grave Matters, the sequel to Night Owls, hits shelves on February 24th. Preorder links, if you’re so inclined: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

The Fire Children, my first YA fantasy, comes out this summer, on June 30th. More preorder links: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

I have several irons in several fires. Currently poking at:

  • Adrift – swashbuckling fantasy aboard the Creeping Jenny (aka the Please Don’t Sink)
  • Dead Letters – the third book in the Night Owls series. I’d tell you what it’s about but SPOILERS
  • “Dominion” – a story about Lilith
  • “Blood in the Thread” – I have this thing for birds and wings and stories about them.
  • RPG freelancing. More when I’m allowed to say.

Travel and Appearances

I’m attending both Arisia and Boskone, and will be doing readings at both. The schedules are being finalized, so I’ll post ’em when I’ve got ’em.

Deeper into the year, I’ll be at WorldCon in August. I’m still eyeing GenCon, but there’s stuff (good stuff!) happening at the day job I’ll have to consider when planning out more travel.

Etc.

Looking back at last year’s post, I accomplished a hell of a lot. I still need to be better about the things that get pushed aside for writing: the garden didn’t happen. I was terrible about practicing my guitar. Greg probably cooked more of our meals than I did (he doesn’t mind. He likes to cook. But damn it.) I didn’t get back into running. But, with all those things, like I said in my post-NaNo, uh, post, failing to hit those goals doesn’t mean I have to put them aside and never try again.

*This is where my greatest lament that I fell apart on the “practice my guitar” front kicks in, but my pretty little not-a-Martin was in good hands during the week. This fall I will play something and accompany myself, damn it.

So, that’s the shape of the year. How’s yours looking?

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NaNoWhatNowMo

Okay, ‘fess up. Who among us is bleary-eyed this morning, having raced midnight to eke out those last few words on the way to 50,000, in a breakneck attempt to “win” NaNoWriMo this year?

If you hit that milestone, congratulations!

If the deadline whooshed by and you have a tangle of words that, no matter how you squint, doesn’t make it anywhere near 50K, don’t despair:

YOU ARE NOT DONE.
YOU DID NOT LOSE.

If you’re kicking your own ass this morning because you didn’t hit that goal, I understand. I’ve been there. But here’s the thing: if you’re serious about writing, your output over one 30-day period does not define you. People who hit the goal now need to go back and edit – or even finish – their novels. Their work isn’t done. Neither is yours.

Give yourself a little time to wallow, if you need to. It’s okay. But set a deadline on that: a couple of hours, the morning, maybe even the whole day. Eat some fancy chocolate, goof off on the internet, snuggle your furry animal friends. Fight pixellated dragons. Do things that make you feel better.

Then get right back up on that writing horse.

Were you fired up on November 1st? Ready to tackle the blank page and fill it with your characters, your story, your badass ideas? Go back and read those first few pages. Reread your notes, if you jotted any down in October.

If you feel the need to tinker with what’s there, this might be the time to do it. I say might because no two people have the same writing habits. Sometimes tinkering is a good thing. Others will end up tinkering endlessly, rewording and rearranging the same page over and over and… But if you’re anything like I was, the first few times I NaNo’d, there were absolutely chunks of exposition and backstory and useless junk I wrote in a fit of must get to 1667. Cut these – don’t get rid of them entirely; they might be useful later on. Could be good things for you, the author to know, whether or not your reader ever learns them. Yes, it reduces your wordcount even more, but that’s not a bad thing.

Whether you’ve tinkered or not, take stock of where you are in the story, where you want it to go from here.

Set yourself a new goal. Look at your calendar and be realistic. Did you notice any patterns in your writing in November? Were some days better than others, output-wise, or even brainspace-wise?

I know that, for me, 1667 words every single day isn’t a goal I’m going to hit consistently. I have a day job. I have other responsibilities. Somewhere in there, I need to read books, see friends, have non-writing-related fun. I also have learned that, in general, Monday nights are a wash for me. That first day back at work after the weekend leaves me tired and out of focus. On the other hand, Sundays are my big writing day.

Think about how to word your goal in a way that works best for you. Do you do well with a smaller daily goal, one you can realistically hit and feel good about if you go over? Is it better for you to be able to look back over the month and average out the words at the end? The point here is, set a goal you can hit, and hit consistently. It’s not cheating. You don’t have to stretch for anything. You don’t have to prove you can do more, or do it faster, than your natural writing pace.

Did you have NaNo buddies? Whether you participated in the community or had friends you knew from outside of NaNo cheering you on, keep in touch with them. Ask them to keep writing, too. Having a circle of people who will hold one another accountable – or, y’know, give you a swift kick in the ass to get writing – can be another way to keep the words flowing. Word sprints, bi-weekly critiques, even simply occasional “how’s the writing going” emails. What do you need from them? What do they need from you? Do those things.

Above all, keep writing. You can do this.

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