November. For the past five years, that has meant committing to writing at least 50,000 words of fiction for NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t going to participate this year, but then I changed my mind.
I know there are arguments for and against NaNoWriMo, and a lot of them are valid.
I agree with two of the major naysayer arguments: You don’t have a finished novel by the end of the month. And you shouldn’t just force yourself to write a novel. But you do have a first draft that you can continue to work on for months or years to come, and while I would strongly advise against writing if you don’t have an idea or the urge to write, a project like this can be helpful to get you started (see next point).
And I agree with the yaysayer arguments as well: NaNoWriMo is fun and social. And it makes it easier to you allow yourself to commit to writing. You can try out something new and have fun with it and talk to other participants online or go to write-ins and make connections. Writing is often something (for those who don’t write full time) that isn’t allowed to be top priority or which gets trampled by self-doubt, and an endeavour like this can give you a great boost.
NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for every writer. But it does for me.
I have decided to settle for less than 50K this year because I am too busy editing Aconitum for its weekly installments to complete this new story (and I am so thrilled to be doing it that I don’t want to take a break from it). Why did I sign up, then? Because I really wanted to get started on this new idea that popped into my head this summer and still is sitting there, waiting for me to put it into words. I want to get the beginning of it typed and see where it takes me.
Before I sign off here to get some writing and editing done, here’s a short recap of what I’ve been up to in the last month:
I am super happy and grateful to be able to say that Aconitum made it to JukePop‘s monthly Top 30 again in October, this time as number 14. And I had a piece of flash fiction, Innocence, published on a new site called QuarterReads. If you like reading or writing flash fiction, I definitely reccommend taking a look at the site.
*Disclaimer: The header isn’t very funny if you’re one of those people who pronounce the event [na-no-REE-mo] and not [na-no-RYE-mo]. Just saying.
It’s been a month and a little over a week since the first chapter of my serial novel Aconitum was published on JukePop Serials. I would like to tell you about … No, wait. Before I start talking, I want to show you this picture:
Yep, it’s a latte. More specifically a very nice caramel latte that I had at a local cafe today. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about coffee. But it is the story of why I went out to have that particular latte.
So far, my experience with JukePop has been great. When I submitted my novel, I hoped to have it accepted and to get into a schedule of posting a new chapter every week and to get a few readers who would +Vote the story and perhaps even drop me a comment. Well, check, check, check, and check! And that is far from all. Aconitum has been given more attention than I had dared hoping for, and I have received a lot of useful comments – suggestions, critique, speculation, encouragement, and questions.
I have had the opportunity to read some really good stories written by fellow JukePop authors. Among my favourites are fairytales, alternate historic fiction, comedies, fantasy and science fiction stories. If you’re curious, you can take a look at some of the ones that I follow. I’m also really happy that I’ve gotten to talk to other writers because the community is friendly and welcoming.
Is JukePop perfect? I don’t think that any platform is. There will always be technical glitches and, when money or popularity is involved, some people are bound to take advantage of loopholes in the system or use questionable methods of gaining attention. But my opinion is that JukePop has a very attractive system and a lot of potential for growing and expanding to a larger audience (currently JukePop is having a Kickstarter Campaign to make indie novels available to more libraries), and I think that most of the kinks can be dealt with efficiently.
Okay, so what about the latte?
Every month, the 30 stories that have received the most +Votes get rewarded. Their writers are paid, they get a fancy little ribbon on their covers, and they are promoted by JukePop on Facebook and Twitter. You can probably see where this is going, right? I really did not expect to make it to the Top 30. And certainly not after Aconitum’s first full month online. But there we are. Number 28. I am so excited and happy and thrilled and grateful!
A few days ago, I told a friend that if I made it to the list someday, I would go out, symbolically spend some of the money on a cup of coffee to celebrate, and take a picture of it. So there you have it: The latte that Aconitum earned me.
Let me say this: I like simple things. – Not in all aspects of life, but when it comes to the technological side of my creative process, I generally just want something that works and isn’t too hard to learn.
So when a friend told me about the program Scrivener some time ago, my reaction went something like this, “Wow! That sounds amazing. All those options. All those features! I’d never use half of them, and besides it must take forever to master.”
For a while, I kept typing my fiction of 80K words + in OpenOffice. I liked OpenOffice. I still do and I still use it for some things (like spellchecking in my native language). But I found that I was looking for a way to get a better overview of my stories than having to scroll through hundreds of pages or keeping each chapter in a separate file.
“Okay,” I finally thought, “I’ll have another look at that Scrivener thing.” So I tried the free trial, and it was not long before I used the 50% off coupon that I had from NaNoWriMo to buy the program.
See, the thing is that while I was right about not using all the fancy features, you don’t actually have to in order to get something out of a program. Yes, there is a direct link to online dictionaries. Yes, you can have a research folder with pictures and what have you. Yes, you can set wordcount goals for your project. Yes, you can toggle to full screen mode. Yes, you can convert your project to an ebook. But you can also ignore everything that you don’t need right now and use what you do need. It doesn’t hurt to have features that you may not use right now, but perhaps can one day.
So far, Scrivener has been very helpful for me when it comes to editing because I can put my chapters in folders, rearrange them, and add descriptions for a quick overview.
As for how hard it is to get started and understand the program … It’s really not bad. If you have a basic knowledge of word processing tools, you will get it pretty fast. I began typing, played around with making new folders and went, ”Huh …” and, ”Oh, I see!” a lot. There was one thing I wanted to do, something to do with the layout though I’ve forgotten what, and couldn’t figure out at once, but a simple Google search gave me a tutorial for that.
And there’s a good selection of templates for novels, scripts, non-fiction and so on if you don’t want to play around with your own layout from the start.
So colour me converted. From .odt to .scriv.
Conclusion: Scrivener is a brilliant tool for writers, but it doesn’t make your bad puns better.
If you’re interested in Scrivener, here are a few useful links:
- Literature and Latte – The company who makes Scrivener.
- Scrivener Resources – Exactly what it sounds like. A link list.
- 10 Reasons why Scrivener is the Best Writing Software – Explains ten good points, some of which I have completely ignored in this post.
- Simply Scrivener – Lots of tutorials.
My serialised novel, Aconitum, is now online on JukePop Serials!
Want the blurb? Well, here it is:
As if being a certified werewolf hunter isn’t enough of a moral morass already, Hector Rothenberg hears rumours of a wolf who can change its shape at will, and he realises that he must investigate the truth.
But he needs to hurry up – especially if routine missions keep going almost fatally wrong.
Aconitum is the story of one man’s physical and mental journey. It is also the tale of a society which knows that werewolves are a real threat, of a doctor with a dark secret, a skilled lady in a lucrative business, a rich aunt, a grumpy, old mentor, a cheeky Frenchman, a village idiot, tragic death, romance gone wrong, and a young man who really wanted nothing to do with any of that.
A literary supernatural tale of werewolves, the ones who hunt them, and the people who are caught in the crossfire.
Is that biting off more than a werewolf can chew?Well, come and see for yourself.
I have been looking so much forward to sharing this story with you, and I really hope that you’ll check it out.
And hey, while you’re there, I recommend taking a look at some of the other stories on the site. There are some really good ones on there.
You can browse your favourite genre, see which ones are currently most popular or look at the newest stories uploaded. You can even download an app to your phone or tablet to read the novels on the go.
Aconitum will be updated weekly, every Thursday, but in order to read more than the first chapter, you will need a profile on the site. It’s 100% free and super easy. Oh, and also … If you like a story, you can give the chapters +votes. Those votes can earn the author a nice ranking and the possibility of payment. And, even more importantly, it makes the writers happy and motivates the them to keep updating.
When it comes to writing, I consider myself fairly prolific.
Not compared to those writers who wring out several pages every single day or write a 100K word story three times a year. But I do manage to type up a novel length story or two and the odd pieces of short fiction (short stories, challenges, writing prompts) every year.
But when it comes to editing I feel like such a slowpoke. – Why is that?
Well, the obvious answer is that for me, creating is what motivates me to write in the first place. By writing, I put into existence something that would not otherwise be there. I like watching the story unfold, I enjoy getting to know my characters and going with them on their personal journeys. I love what it gives me. I can turn off that inner editor fairly well and just see what happens.
Editing presents me with two things that I’m not that keen on:
First, it is a lot more restrictive. The process of editing is about finding mistakes and faults and everything wrong with the story. When is it enough? How much nitpicking will I do, and will I end up destroying something good on the way?
And second, the finish line feels like it is so far away. Even if I have a bigger picture in mind when I write, it is pushed to the back of my head and the here and now of what I am typing is the important thing. When editing, I am looking for the result rather than enjoying the process.
Is there a way to make editing more enjoyable? I think that I have found one solution while editing one of the stories that I am working on right now. It is very simple, but may actually help: Think of editing as a creative process just like writing. Take one chapter at the time and consider each of them a goal in itself. Yes, there is a finish line at the end, but that is the case when writing too. And then remember to notice the strong points of the story as well as all the weak ones. Yes, editing is about remedying problems, but it may not be so bad to notice what you are doing right along the way.