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!

#WEP – Write…Edit…Publish – OCTOBER CHALLENGE – DEJA VU OR VOODOO

October-WEP

 

This month, I am taking part in the #WEP October Challenge, part of WEP’s 2018 Challenges and my second WEP tale. I’m posting a day early to avoid the rush and be ready for reading great pieces tomorrow.

Once again, the IWSG (Insecure Writers Support Group) have joined in the fun.

 

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Beyond the seasonal theme, I will try to give some background to the piece. I’m attempting to avoid deadly spoilers here as, in a way, this piece must stand-alone – for instance, the identity of ‘I’ is gradually revealed in the piece.

However, this is another incident in the career of a central character in my Snowdon Shadows series – SPOILERS ahead. The incident is set three years after my August WEP Challenge and will become a chapter within my NaNoWriMo attempt next month, entitled Fevered. There are incidents between my August contribution and this one, but I hope that this tale works on its own. Enjoy.

 

White Lady

Copyright © Roland Clarke

Silhouettes prance in the glow behind the standing stones. Night and long grass hide us from prying eyes.

Do they care what Kama and I are?

A screech arrests our embrace.

Headlights stab across the field. A car plunges off the bypass and smashes into the stonewall. Rubble splashes into the ditch.

We leap to our feet and weave through the crowd. Did anyone see the crash? Or were they engrossed in the Nos Calan Gaeaf rites?

I jump the water beside the steaming wreck. The driver and passenger are conscious but bleeding. I call the incident in as I climb through the smashed wall.

“Single car accident on A487 westbound from Porthmadog Roundabout. Visible injuries. DS Kamatchi and PC Anwyl attending. Over.”

“Will dispatch ambulance and traffic unit to assist. Control out.”

Kama helps the passenger who has dragged himself to the verge. Blood from his forehead smears his hair. He rambles in Welsh about a woman.

Is there a body in the roadway? Shivers. Sweat. Nobody other than stopped cars. My tattoos tingle. I finger my studded bracer. N for Night, S for Spirits, A for Accident.

The driver’s eyes are glazed. Drink or drugs? The traffic police will have to investigate.

I open his door and crouch.

Voodoo lady
Did I dream you up or are you for real?
Are you for real?

I point to the radio, but the driver ignores it. The music dies.

Ydych chi’n iawn, syr? Are you okay, sir?”

Mouth agape, his eyes track over me. “You aren’t her. What are you?”

From Cardiff by his accent, but Welsh is our shared language.

“An off-duty police constable. Can you remember what happened, sir?”

Blue lights flicker behind us. My traffic colleagues.

“The dream was so real. Will this ever end? She threw herself in front. I tried not to hit her. Is she alive?”

Midnight on All Hallows Eve.

A shadow shrouds me. I start.

“Sorry. I’m PC Morrow. Have you breathalysed him”

I face Morrow – shake my head. Wave him forward.

As he measures the driver’s blood alcohol, I study the accident scene.

Kama talks to the other traffic officer placing cones around the area. Paramedics treat the injuries.

Skid marks – visible in the patrol car’s lights. Did the driver swerve to avoid something – someone?

I examine the mangled bonnet of the vehicle and the remains of the dry-stone wall. No sign of a body. Under the car? No fur, no blood. Nothing.

“He’s Ellis Pryce. His documents check.” Morrow shows me the licence. “He’s been drinking – not enough to explain his ramblings. Are you the pale person Mr Pryce wants? My Welsh is too basic to make sense—”

Intriguing. The mystery teases me.

Morrow falters. “Don’t think he means DS Kamatchi as she’s – dark-skinned. Anyway, why’s a detective here?” He judges me and Kama. “You’re friends and—”

Juggle the truth.

“Flatmates. We’re off-duty – a girlie night out. But as my tad says, crime never even observes the Sabbath. I’ll see what Mr Pryce wants.”

Morrow scratches his head. “Wise man, Sergeant Anwyl. The best.”

Lean back inside the car. Does my tad suspect my affair with another woman? Do any of our colleagues?

Pryce drowns out my concerns.

“The dream was so vivid. I’d never driven a carriage. Even at our farm in Ogmore. Horses, yes. Not a coach. The hooves killed her.” He stares through me, reliving his nightmare. “The blood? Where is she now?”

Shivers. That South Wales accent. Different like their legends. A troubled soul?

Or something more realistic? Clouds-, a reflection, a seagull. I can ask Kama – my Tamil girlfriend is shrewd.

First, reassure the man.

“You hit no one, sir. The woman has left. My uniform colleagues will make sure that you and your friend stay safe—”

“Never stole her gold. I’m not a thief. I’m a coachman earning an honest living.” His eyes are closed. “Let me check my horses before I leave.”

I signal to Morrow. “This car won’t move. Is roadside assistance coming? Do you need us to interview witnesses?”

“Breakdown lorry’s on its way. If you and Detective Kamatchi want us to finish here, type up a report – tomorrow. Good to work with you both. Nos da.

I echo his farewell. Kama lures me across the road and back into the shadows. Arms around each other, the footpath away from Port draws us.

My brain probes. “Did the passenger see someone too?”

Kama stops. “A woman dressed in a white dress.”

My fingers trace her tears forming. She shivers.

“You too, cariad. Y Ladi Wen – the White Lady. The bogeyman from our myths.”

“As a child in the Valleys, I heard the legend.”

“Here, it’s the frightening Hwch Ddu gwta, a tail-less black sow that terrorises people.”

She nods, then kisses me, stroking my hair.

“My parents told similar tales from Tamil Nadu. About creatures with different fangs. What do you believe?”

I delve into my upbringing – my faith.

“My blood is Celtic. Chapel will never rule this soul-night – nor our bond. Spirits journey among us. Maybe the driver experienced that—”

She brushes my lips with a damp finger.

“Enough. You needn’t solve this, nor should traffic. Call this a cold case – a ghostly one.”

Does Y Ladi Wen want this unresolved? Is she leading us further?

The path branches off to the right, through a gate into the darkness of ivy-clad trees.
Hidden, we settle on the ground. No need to pretend.

Roots are our pillow. Night sounds echo. Bats flit above us.

Earth scents banish sweat and shivers. Bodies and hearts entwine again.

But my tattoos are tingling. More letters. D for Dream, C for Coach, L for Lady, and E for Eerie. My mnemonic guide. CALENDS? November First?

We will dig more.

 

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Comments are welcome as usual, but for the WEP Challenge, the following applies:

Word Count 993: MPA

(FCA welcome – if you want to send one, just let me know in the comments.)

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Visit other participants at https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/2018/10/welcome-to-wepff-writeeditpublish.html

 

POSTSCRIPT:

If you have enjoyed this tale, I am looking for beta-riders willing to read some other episodes in Sparkle Anwyl’s career.

Yn ddelfrydol siaradwr Cymraeg.

 

NaNoWriMo Musings

NaNo-2017-Winner-Twitter-Header

November has gone and another NaNoWriMo is over. Time to think about what I discovered.

First some basic stats. This was my sixth year of NaNo and my fourth win, writing at least 50,000 words. Other wins were: 2012 – Wyrm Blood; 2015 – Fates Maelstrom; 2016 – Eagle Passage. I did write over 50k in 2011 but failed to validate that total in time. Although I fell short some years and didn’t start in 2014, I have completed the first draft of every ‘novel’ by the end of the year. My ‘lifetime achievement’ – NaNo writing – is 354,334 words.

My daily average for this November was 2,008 words and as a result, I reached the 50k target on November 22nd, in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my US family – without feeling that I ought to be writing. By the end of November, I had written 60,264 words of Ruined Retreat.

On reflection, I realise that with perseverance I can write 2,000 words per day – if I know roughly where I am going. I did have to minimise the time working on emails, checking Facebook, getting distracted but I wasn’t a total bore, I hope.

Back to that outline: a rough one, sketchier than with previous ‘novels’ but with the advantage of being Book 3 in the Snowdon Shadows series, so I knew some of the characters. Now, as I return to the fifth draft of Fates Maelstrom, Book 1 of the series, I know even more about the characters and where they are going.

Previously, I had plotted my novels with intricate detail, almost scene by scene. The problem was that diversions were difficult even if the characters demanded them. The danger of a too-rough outline is having too many wild plot horses to tame – as with Spiral of Hooves which took thirteen years to complete.

 

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on Flickr

 

This time, I used a mystery plot template from The Novel Factory at https://www.novel-software.com/ and the three-act structure proved ideal, especially when I discovered that Scrivener had a similar three-act fiction template when I created the Ruined Retreat file. Having merged the two ‘guides’ to create, my novel flowed out more easily and logically. On November 26th, I completed the first draft and spent the next four days reading through what I had written, changing the glaring errors and marking the phrases that needed to be worked on and developed.

An interesting side-note is the research for this novel. Some research was done while I roughed out the plot, although that was more like compiling links for later use. I also marked up keywords in the text with Scrivener – yellow highlights and red text – to remind me where research was still needed. However, I must confess that my research brain doesn’t always switch off and niggles me until I check a fact. But I do ‘favourite’ the site if there’s too much to check, then knuckle down to writing more words.

Okay, 60,264 words are not going to be the final total for Ruined Retreat, but it’s the first draft so something to build on. I have finished a first draft during NaNo before but in most cases that was the furthest stage reached, even if they can be developed. This time, I won’t get to draft two for a while, but writing Ruined Retreat makes the earlier books in the series more achievable in 2018.

So, once I’ve cleared some non-writing priorities – like getting a good US health insurance policy and my UK tax return –  will make finishing Fates Maelstrom top of my agenda. But I suspect I’m facing a tough task deciphering the copious notes that were meant to bring order to a writhing plot some months ago.

Or do I just ignore the stray sheep and write knowing where I’m heading – towards a ruined retreat in Snowdonia?

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#IWSG – Backtrack 2017

Today, I’m answering the December 6th IWSG question – As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeMy first thought for this monthly post for the Insecure Writer’s Group is to say – or sing:

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do, I saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

I’m not sure if the ‘charted course’ was always planned and that might have been for lack of a GPS signal or the right map. I tried working with a few outlines as I am a plotter, but life is never as simple as planned. The answer for me is five-fold and some were successes, some failures, and most were near misses:

  1. When I started 2017, I thought Gossamer Flames, my post-apocalyptic saga, was my next target book for release. But for various reasons, that intention ended and the ‘novel’ was shelved. Looking back, I might have invested less effort into that – but at least, I have a draft v4 to work with when I return.
  1. However, the first major derailment of my writing has been my health issues – from being rushed to hospital with Aspiration pneumonia to being diagnosed with blood cancer on top of having multiple sclerosis. While my health has stalled the writing at moments, I can look back and think positive: the pneumonia was treated, my cancer is at stage zero, and the MS is not getting worse. Should I have changed my diet earlier?
  1. I had planned to re-release Spiral of Hooves for some time, so the re-release in a newly revised edition on August 7th, was timely and on many levels, I have no regrets. People that never read Kindle books got to hold paperback copies. However, looking back I might have spent less on the re-launch – yet, I now have a back-catalogue that only I can make unavailable.
  1. After the 2017 A to Z Challenge and my re-launch, I ran an interesting poll, asking friends on Facebook what I should be focusing on – including Eagle Crossing, the novel linked to my A to Z theme. As a result – and with overwhelming support – I turned my attention onto Fates Maelstrom, Book 1 of my Snowdon Shadows However, looking back, I fear that too many restarts might have added too many side-plots. Whether the current draft becomes an unwieldy beast continues to haunt me.
  1. Finally, there was NaNoWriMo. I achieved the ‘Winner’ certificate and I even finished draft 1 of yet another novel. That will be next post – my thoughts on my NaNoWriMo win. But looking back, I worry that I chose the wrong novel to write – Ruined Retreat, Book 3 of the Snowdon Shadows Book 3? What about Book 2? Well, Seeking a Knife was written – or rather started in 2015. The main plotline was my first encounter with Welsh detective Sparkle Anwyl, around whom I created the series. Yes, I should have used NaNoWriMo 2017 to finish Book 2. But…I have Book 3 finished and I know a lot more, so ‘regrets…too few to mention’.

But that’s another post.

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Have you got any backtrack thoughts looking back through 2017?

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The awesome co-hosts for the December 6 posting of the IWSG are Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

 

#IWSG – My NaNoWriMo Confession

 

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for another chance to confess – well, to tell the truth in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group post. Time to answer the optional question for this month:

November 1 question – Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I’ve done NaNo five times – the first time in 2011 = lots of first drafts. I’ve managed 50k three times and one of those ‘wins’ is my current rewrite – draft 4 of Fates Maelstrom. I am taking part again to draft the third book in the same series; same detective and setting so this new story adds to my initial character. Not quite background, but knowing where she is going helps establish a few more aspects about detective Sparkle Anwyl.

 

She is a Detective Constable in Book 1 – Fates Maelstrom – but promoted to Detective Sergeant by Books 2 and 3. There may be a twist in that at the end of Book 3 due to her girlfriend – yes, she discovers that she is bi-sexual in Book 1.

Does a non-sexual relationship with a boyfriend prior to Book 1 make her bi? Book 2 was drafted, in part, in 2015 but will need some work, especially as the questions about her sexuality and identity hadn’t emerged yet.

Anyway, publication. As yet, none of my ‘wins’ has reached even the editor stage, although Fates Maelstrom is heading that way. By next year, the answer might be yes.

What about you? Do you do NaNoWriMo and get published? Are you taking part this year?

 

Dolbadarn Castle

Photo of Dolbadarn Castle, Snowdonia by Etrusia UK on flickr

 

 

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The awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG are Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

#IWSG – Favorite Aspect of Being a Writer

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

I’m still struggling with my health so normal posts are postponed until…whenever.

For now, it’s time for my monthly post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day:

November 2 Question: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

If I had more than one novel published my answer might be different. I would have books to promote and readers to link with. However, I’m still at the early stages so I need to focus on those stages of writing.

For now, my favorite aspect must be able to take the germ of an idea and create an outline where that initial inspiration comes alive. Yes, the actual first draft is meant to bring that alive, but I find that my characters and their actions emerge on stage in the outlining stage.

Or is that because as I work on this post, I’m outlining an idea for NaNoWriMo? Maybe when I get into the draft, that will be my favorite aspect of being a writer. Or have I misunderstood the question? Am I meant to say being my able to work wherever?

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

Our revved up IWSG Day question may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for this November 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jen Chandler, Mary Aalgaard, Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan, Tyrean Martinson, and Christine Rains!