Nano Notches

After I recorded the final word count for my 2019 NaNoWriMo attempt, I began wondering, ‘Am I a cheat? What is a NaNoWriMo win? How did I get here?’

If a win means writing 50k words of a new work in November, then I’m a cheat. How many times?

The rules have been flexible for many years, and over the years, I’ve adapted those rules to fit my situation.

I’m no longer a ‘purist’ after a few NaNo successes. Nowadays, my draft outlines written in October are always part of the attempt. I always copy my outline and write over it. Even notes and comments to myself now become part of my ‘splurge’ draft novel.

My declining ability to write/type long and fast enough to tackle a fresh 50k has put paid to new creations. Anyway, with a few drafts clamouring for completion, adding to the heap seems foolhardy. So, I reuse drafts already written.

2019 was my ninth year of doing NaNoWriMo, but I’ve only worked on seven different novels. This year was a revision of last year’s success so a perversion of the rules.

My first attempt was in 2011, when my outlines were rough notes—a scrappy road map with room for detours. However, I’d already resorted to planning after my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves, was taking 13 years to publish as my plotlines kept changing.

Here’s a run-down of my NaNoWriMo journey:

2011:   The Last Leaf. I wrote 50k but didn’t know how to validate. Preparation—minimal research and a scrappy road map. A fantasy novella and part of my ‘Gossamer Flames’ saga.

2012:   Wyrm Blood. 54,817 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to a draft mystery, called ‘Wyrm Bait’.

2013:   Tortuous Terrain. 56,169 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’ awaiting reader demand.

2014:   Fates Maelstrom. FAIL with zero words after poor preparation. Intention was to relocate a Dartmoor draft novel to North Wales.

2015:   Fates Maelstrom. 70,274 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Dartmoor novel was heavily re-written to introduce my Welsh police detective Sparkle Anwyl. Originally, Book 1 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2016:   Eagle Passage. 55,612 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline using a Heroine’s Journey plotline. An alternative history set in a 21st century Viking Age with airships.

2017:   Ruined Retreat. 60,264 words—a validated win. Preparation: detailed research and outline. Last true fresh draft-win. Originally, Book 3 of Snowdon Shadows series.

2018:   Fevered Few. 54,599 words—a validated win. Preparation: this started life as a collection of short stories about Sparkle Anwyl prior to Fates Maelstrom. So, I devised an outline plot to bookcase the stories and provide the framework for new material. Cheating?

2019:   Fevered Fuse. 68,535 words. A revised version of ‘Fevered Few’, with a revamped title, an amended plot and new scenes. I worked on a new outline/order in October—and even made notes. But was it a real win? Is it even Book 1 of the Snowdon Shadows series? ‘Azure Spark’–my A to Z story–is a prequel of sorts.

What is on the cards for NaNoWriMo 2020? Perhaps, it will be a chance to revise a draft from the archives. Another cheat?

Seeking A Knife’? Part of the Snowdon Shadows series—originally the sequel to ‘Fates Maelstrom’. Although, half-written–before Sparkle’s sexuality evolved–I need to rewrite earlier Books first. 

Wyrm Bait’? An old mystery I regret filing away after detailed comments from a reputable British editor, who was positive while suggesting a logical approach to the rewrite.

I will have to plan further ahead if I intend to write anything. October will leave things too late. With MS an MS gets tougher every year—even an MS MS.

However, I’m amazed at one genuine win—my short story selection for the forthcoming IWSG Anthology. I never expected ‘Feather Fire’, my attempt at a MG story, to make it past discerning judges. I was wrong and stand alongside some great fellow writers. So, I congratulate those other writers and thank the judges.

Nearer the release date, I’ll share some nuggets from the research behind the adventure set in 1944.

For now, I’ll share the announcement of the winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest!


Coming May 5, 2020 –

Voyagers: The Third Ghost


Middle grade historical/adventure
Featuring these stories and authors:


The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days – Katharina Kolata
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard – Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba – Charles Kowalski

We’d like to thank our amazing judges:
Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge
Dianne K. Salerni, author
Lynda Dietz, editor
S.A. Larsen, author
Rachna Chhabria, author
Lindsay Davis Auld, agent – Writers House
Tonja Drecker, author
David Powers King, author

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane–what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski  Louise MacBeath Barbour , Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!