December Write Day: Rounding Out

Ah, the optimism of the pre-holiday season, doomed to be crushed under the weight of festive preparations. November was such a weird month, but not really because of the holidays, like at all.

I mentioned in my post two weeks ago that I had a rough bout with some kind of illness around the middle of the month. Well, just a week later, our toddler caught hand foot and mouth disease, which is basically a beefed up cold with a rash. The boys were both home the entire week leading up to Thanksgiving, and I took a day off work to stay home with them. We flipped our Thanksgiving plans around and were basically on constant guard for any sign of the virus in our 3-month-old, or ourselves. Somehow, we have as yet escaped unscathed, and the toddler is just about healed.

So, yeah, November was a weird month. As you might imagine, my NaNoWriMo progress was greatly interrupted by these happenings.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Complete NaNoWriMo! This 50,000-word challenge is the perfect opportunity for me to rewrite New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I’m aiming for about 45k words for this story, to keep it in line with Uprooted, so as long as I finish the story, I’ll call this a success.
  2. Keep reading through Uprooted. This is a stretch goal for me. I don’t want to be too distracted from NaNoWriMo, but reading through my first story could help me be productive when I hit a block on New Earth.
  3. Keep reading in general. While I’m not committing to reading a certain amount this month, I’d like to read something other than my own work. Again, this can serve as a bit of a mental break from writing/revising when I need it, and that’s just as important as the writing itself.

Complete NaNoWriMo?

Not even close. I started out slowly and fell behind within the first few days, but at the midway point I thought I could at least hit 15,000 words or so and get a good head start on New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2.

I wrote 8,500 words total in November, and almost nothing during the final week. Oh well. 8k is a solid total any other month, so I’m glad I at least hit my average.

I like where New Earth is going, as well. It started out slowly because I realized I needed a bit more set-up at the start, and the plot is changing more than I had anticipated. Still, it’s given me an opportunity to rethink how this story fits in with part 1. Speaking of which…

Keep reading through Uprooted?

Not really. I was hyper-focused on writing during the first part of the month, and then the wheels fell off during the second part. This will be one of my goals this month, when I’ll have some real time off around the holidays.

Keep reading in general?

Yes! I happened to finish two books in November, one of which I’ve already reviewed. I’ll likely review the other one next week.

I’ve gotten my hands on The Gathering Storm, book 12 of The Wheel of Time, and I’m already excited for it. Barely a chapter in, this book carries the weight of an epic finale on its shoulders. It’s also the first book in this series co-authored by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. Sanderson’s writing style is definitely different from Jordan’s, but what I’ve seen of the main characters so far, he stays true to their spirits. I’ll have a tough time putting this one down.

Goals for December

  1. Write 8,000 words for New Earth. This feels like a small goal, but we’re quickly approaching the holidays, and I’m still trying to figure out my writing schedule now that I’m picking up the boys from daycare in the afternoons. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it, but this month will hopefully be a bit more normal than last month.
  2. Read through Uprooted. This is no longer a stretch goal. I need to spend some quality time with this draft before I forget everything about it. I want to allow myself to be more multi-faceted in my writing projects. In the absence of writing for NaNoWriMo last month, I managed to take some quality notes for other projects I’ve been mulling over for some time. It felt good to make progress on something, even if it wasn’t on my primary thing, so I want to be more flexible when the mood to think about something else strikes me.
  3. Read 3 books. At least one of these will be The Gathering Storm. I was stuck on a couple of longer reads through October and November, so I want to finish out my Goodreads goal strong. I’ve read 21 of 24 books so far, and I’m well within range of achieving that goal.

Steve D

NaNoWriMo Progress: Halfway Point

Every year, I seem to forget that by the time we get halfway through November, it’s a week before Thanksgiving, and the month is effectively over. National Novel Writing Month started off pretty well for me, and then took a nose-dive. I will be revising my goal for this month at the end.

While I wasn’t churning out 2,000 words per day, I was making solid progress on my draft of New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2 for the first ten days or so of the month. I saw early on that the 50,000-word pinnacle was slipping from my grasp even as I continued writing, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I was still writing every day, sometimes multiple times per day.

Then, two things derailed me simultaneously:

  1. My writing schedule got thrown off
  2. and I got sick

No writing schedule?!

Up until this month, I had been pretty diligent about logging off from my work laptop (working from home) and logging on to my home computer to write for short sessions in the evenings. This worked well, because my wife would pick up our toddler from daycare and start getting dinner ready while I had 20-30 minutes to write before spending the evening with them.

Then, our youngest son, the three-month-old, started daycare, and we flipped our schedules. Because my work schedule tends to be top-heavy with meetings each morning, we agreed that I would pick the kids up from daycare. It didn’t occur to me that this would erase that precious, if short, writing session I could lean on at the end of my work day.

Now, I logoff from work and pretty much immediately have to run out to get the kids.

I try to write at night after dinner, with some success, but I’ll need to find a new way to carve out time from my day. I’m considering writing early in the morning before I logon to work…

…but early mornings have never been easy for me.

The sickness

I caught a stomach bug over the weekend from my toddler that sapped my energy and basically took away 3.5 days of writing time. I’m still recovering, although doing much better.

It’s completely out of my own or anyone else’s control, but it was frustrating to lose a weekend to being sick — not just because of writing. I missed a family birthday celebration and basically didn’t move for three days.

NaNoWriMo the Second Half

So, here I am just over halfway through the month having written 7,000 words. There is no way I’m hitting 50,000 at this point, and I had accepted that even before I got sick. 7,000 would still rank in the top half of my monthly word count totals for this year, so it’s definitely not nothing.

However, I still want to finish strong. With Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday of feasting and family, I’m not going to have the pressure of writing over that weekend hanging over me. So I’m already cutting four more days of writing time in favor of other priorities.

That gives me about 10 days to eke out a writing schedule and make some more progress on this story.

Revised NaNo Goal: 15,000 words total

NaNo Stretch Goal: 20,000 words total

It’s always good to have a realistic goal and a stretch goal, just to motivate a bit more, so there it is. 15k feels doable to me, and if I’m really disciplined, 20k might be, too.

Steve D

Book Review: KNIFE OF DREAMS sets up an epic final act for THE WHEEL OF TIME

I recently finished reading Knife of Dreams, The Wheel of Time #11. You may remember that in my previous entries about some of the books in this series, I have lamented the plodding pace of the narrative, especially for particular point-of-view characters.

After a few books’ worth of dragging plotlines, Knife of Dreams finally brings some real momentum to this series, and ties off a few narrative threads in the process.

For the most part, the reader spends several chapters with a particular character at a time, watching their narrative unfold in more depth. Unlike in previous books, however, there is actually forward progress with the main characters, and Jordan even returns to each character towards the end of the book to see where they’ve landed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was glad to find it spent the most time with only three of the primary characters: Mat, Perrin, and Elayne. There are check-in sections with Rand, Egwene, and others, mostly serving as compelling placeholders for things to come in the next book(s).

The three or four smaller plot lines that are all tied off in this momentous installment is clearly guiding the reader and each of the characters towards one thing: the Last Battle. With only three books left in the series — I say that as if each book wasn’t more than 600 pages — Knife of Dreams is definitely setting up the end game for the series.

I’m not ready to forgive the narrative slog that was books 7 through 10 (especially 10). I can see that groundwork that Jordan was laying for the mini-climaxes in previous books. I’m just not convinced that it needed to take as long as it did to get to this point.

Anyway, I feel like I’m over the hump of the middle part of this series, and I’m ready to jump into the final three books, which were completed by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. The Gathering Storm (book 12) will be my first introduction to Sanderson’s writing, so I’m excited to see how he adapts Jordan’s story and narrative style. Then I can start reading Sanderson’s own work!

Steve D

November Write Day: National Novel Writing Month 2021!

October came and went, but it felt like a lot happened. I returned to work after vacation, attended a work summit for the first time in two years, and did a lot of reading. Now, I’m taking an extra bit of time off to spend with the three-month-old before he starts daycare. Oh yeah, our new baby is three months old this week. Having two kids still feels very new to me. Maybe taking them both to daycare together will normalize it a bit more. In any case, the baby is awesome, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my extra few days of being a stay-at-home dad.

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Finish current draft of Uprooted.
  2. Read through Uprooted and takes note.
  3. Prepare for National Novel Writing Month.

Let’s discuss

Finish current draft of Uprooted?

Success! My writing goal for October was to complete the second draft of Uprooted, The Herb Witch Tales #1, and I wanted to do it as quickly as possible. I set a writing goal for 3,000 words by October 14. I wrote 3,800 words and completed my draft at a total of about 46,000.

That’s a fair bit longer than I had originally intended for this story to be, but I think it’s the right length. I feel good about where this story is at right now. It will need some further revisions, but no more rewrites, and that’s exciting.

Read through Uprooted?

Not quite. I didn’t print out my draft as originally planned. Instead, I just started reading and making edits directly in Word. I just didn’t have quite the motivation to do so as I thought I would. Each time I sat down at my computer to read, I found myself getting bored or distracted. Not bored of my story–just bored of reading a long document on my computer. It’s not the best way to revise a story, but I also know that I just need to do a first pass on it before diving a little deeper and sharing it with some beta readers.

I’m still only about a third of the way through this read-through, and with National Novel Writing Month now in full swing, I’m more focused on writing again. I may have also been looking forward too much to NaNoWriMo, and not focusing on the task in front of me.

Speaking of which…

Prepare for National Novel Writing Month?

Yes, at least as far as I “prepare” any story for writing. I have an outline of ten chapters with a 1-2 sentence summary and a few detailed notes for each. For the latter half of the story, my chapter notes tend to be questions that I will need to consider in order for the plot to advance in the way I intend.

This is a really bare-bones outline compared to what some writers do (where my NaNoWriMo Planners at?), but it’s just a guide for me. My stories tend to unfold more naturally as I write them. That’s just my style.

I can already tell you that the first two days of NaNoWriMo have been slow for me, writing-wise. I’m finding it difficult to write the opening section of the story. Fortunately, I have some content I can fill for the middle part of the story. I just need to get past the introduction.

Goals for November

  1. Complete NaNoWriMo! This 50,000-word challenge is the perfect opportunity for me to rewrite New Earth, The Herb Witch Tales #2. I’m aiming for about 45k words for this story, to keep it in line with Uprooted, so as long as I finish the story, I’ll call this a success.
  2. Keep reading through Uprooted. This is a stretch goal for me. I don’t want to be too distracted from NaNoWriMo, but reading through my first story could help me be productive when I hit a block on New Earth.
  3. Keep reading in general. While I’m not committing to reading a certain amount this month, I’d like to read something other than my own work. Again, this can serve as a bit of a mental break from writing/revising when I need it, and that’s just as important as the writing itself.

Steve D