Four Things I’m Doing To Finish My Novel this November

Right, so last week I announced that I was doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year as a way to help me finish my novel. I mean, technically I’m not “doing” NaNo because I’m not trying to get to 50K words in one month. My novel is already over 50K, and I’m just trying to finish it. I need to write something like 30K this month (give or take a few thousand words, depending on how the story shakes out), and even 30K in a month requires a degree of discipline and some shenanigans to get through. After all, I have a full-time job, am trying to get back into running regularly, have a regular D&D campaign, this blog, and other stuff. So, what am I doing to set myself up for success and actually finish this thing?

Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are four things I’ve done to help me finish my novel.

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GeekGirlCon 2018: A Fangirl’s Debrief

This past Saturday I attended GeekGirlCon and I had such a blast. It was a good balance of panels and chatting with creators in the expo hall. I found myself feeling energized and inspired to tackle my own ambitions as a creator, and so I wanted to share what I did there and my takeaways with you guys. But first, let’s quickly cover what exactly is GeekGirlCon.

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Formatting Tips for Your Manuscript: First Line Indents and Double Spacing

So, last summer I received feedback on my manuscript, Footfall, from a published author. It was great feedback, very helpful. But one of the items of feedback that caught me off guard the most had nothing to do with the content of my story, but instead how it was formatted.

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Why We Need to Read Challenging Books: A Discussion of The Power, by Naomi Alderman

Writers tell stories for a multitude of reasons and people read stories for a multitude of reasons. I think what we get from the reading experience is very personal, and sometimes we simply want to use that story as a method of entertainment or escape. I don’t there’s anything wrong with that (actually, I think it’s awesome). But what about books that don’t bring entertainment or escape, but instead challenge us? I mean, books that are just plain hard to get through, both philosophically/thematically and narratively. How do we approach those? I’ve been thinking a lot about this very topic since I finished The Power by Naomi Alderman. It’s a book with a lot of strengths, but I also found it, to be frank, quite challenging on a number of levels. And yet, if someone were to ask me if I would recommend it, I would emphatically do so. To me, The Power fits into a larger canon of books that I think are necessary specifically because they are challenging to read. And I’d like to talk about why that is.

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Indie Spotlight: Spice Bringer, by H.L. Burke

Have you ever finished a book, crying? Crying, but not crying for the reasons you thought you’d be when you started the book? Have you ever sat quietly reading and then shouted an expletive, causing the concern of your partner? Well, I have. Guys, I finished Spice Bringer. What an emotional roller-coaster of a book. And I thoroughly enjoyed it all and I think you might, too! So, if the you’re intrigued by a book featuring a super compelling female lead, snarky salamander (I KNOW!), and fascinating world building, read on for my review of Spice Bringer.

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Life Goals, New Writer Services, and Footfall: It’s an Update Post!

So, I’ve been posting a bit more regularly to my blog, and I realized it would probably be good to let you guys know what I’ve been up to. I mean, I’ve actually been up to stuff. Are you surprised? Wait, don’t answer that.

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Indie Spotlight: An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt

When I was 11, I read voraciously and had a number of favorite types of books. I loved historical fiction. I loved science fiction. I loved fantasy. And, no matter what the genre, if a book had a dragon in it, I was definitely down to read it. When I got an advanced reader copy of Kandi J. Wyatt’s An Unexpected Adventure and saw that the main plot centered around a dragon, I knew I was in for a good read and it did not disappoint!

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

An Unexpected Adventure is a middle grade book about the adventures of 14-year old Harley and his friends Chace, Will, Cherise, and sister Karis and what happens when they find a dragon’s egg on the Oregon Coast. At first the story focuses on the practicalities of how a few middleschoolers can care for such a fantastical creature, but then things get complicated when the mysterious Professor Raleigh enters the scene with suspicious intentions toward finding the dragon. Harley and the others scramble to protect Steria (what a great name for a dragon!) from the professor. However, this becomes more and more difficult as Steria grows, learns to fly, and starts doing what dragons do, namely wreaking havoc.

There were a few things that I really enjoyed about this story. First, the kids all seemed to be really compassionate and empathetic, both in their interactions with the dragon and with each other. Steria was also a treat, with her evocative descriptions reminding me of a cross between a cat and a regal queen (I suppose cat owners may disagree that those two categories differ). I also really enjoyed the setting, Myrtle Beach in Oregon. I grew up in Oregon and spent more than a few summers hanging around the Oregon coast. It was fun to revel in the nostalgia of running around the lush forests, walking across the sandy beaches, and mingle with the locals.

To be sure, this is a middle grade book and it’s geared towards that age group’s reading level, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for adults (although I certainly had a lot fun reading it!). However, I think the themes, story, setting, and characters make this a great book for dragon-loving readers between the ages of 10 and 15.

An Unexpected Adventure is available through Amazon starting September 25. You can find information about the author, Kandi J. Wyatt, on her website.

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All the Reasons You Should Read the Broken Earth Trilogy

So, big historic stuff happened recently in the science fiction literature world. If you haven’t heard (you probably did, because I was screaming quite loudly), author N.K. Jemisin made history not only by winning the Hugo award for best novel three consecutive years in a row, but also for having every book in a series (The Broken Earth Trilogy) win a Hugo. If you’re not familiar with the Hugo’s, it’s a pretty prestigious award that recognizes great authors in the science fiction genre, with winners like Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Neil Gaiman.

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Allegory and Children of Blood and Bone

It’s a bit chilly for August, but that doesn’t stop me from dumping a few ice cubes into a glass. Add a quarter of lime, a lug of gin, and a generous pour of tonic, and it’s a drink. I mean, it’s liquid in a glass, so I suppose that’s not a high mark to reach.

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Another Draft Finished and My Summer Writing Plans

It has been some time since I last updated this blog, and I feel I’m due for a new post. The last few months have been challenging on many levels, especially for writing and my dedication to this book. I’ll share some of those challenges and what I think the next few months will look like (hint: more editing!).

So, let’s move on to what I’ve been up to the past few months. For starters, I’ve done another draft of my book. It has some substantial changes, but I also kept a number of scenes and elements from the old version. I finished this draft May 3rd and sent it off to its next beta reader. I’m hoping to get their comments back at the end of this month. Getting to this point was not easy, though. There were some very busy weeks at work, meaning I had to work late and write less. I also went through a difficult time with my mental health in February/March, and only started to feel normal once mid-April rolled around. But I have a lot of optimism for the coming months. The sun is shining, my brain is perky, and I have a path forward.

First on that path is reading, specifically about writing and how to create a novel. I know, I know. I can hear you now: “Hannah, wouldn’t it have made sense to read those books BEFORE you started writing?” Well, ideally yes. However, I’m learning as I go. And these books really would only have been helpful to me once I gained a closer understanding of my characters, which is difficult to do without writing those characters a bit. Anyway, I’m going to go back to the fundamentals and learn about character arcs, plot structure, and building themes. I know that a lot of these crucial story elements have a presence in my book, but they are muddled and get lost. So the trick will be making them stand out.

After I finish a few of those books (one down already), I’ll re-do my story’s outline and re-apply it. At this point I should have my recent beta reader’s comments, and I’ll use those to help revise. I’m hoping to keep this round of revisions fairly concentrated. There will be a lot of work to do, but I don’t want to spend all summer doing it. I am considering taking a few days off in June to help facilitate this goal. We’ll see how that goes.

The next step after revising will be sending the manuscript to one last round (hopefully) of beta readers. I know I need to find someone of African-American origin to review at this point. If you’re curious why, I will note that both my characters are black and I am not. So, it is important to make sure I don’t include potentially harmful tropes or anything like that. For more info on this subject, I highly recommend stopping by Writing with Color on Tumblr. I think I will also want a beta reader to review the magic system I’ve created and see if they spot any issues or  logic holes. I

So, after this round of beta readers, I’ll do more revisions as needed (hopefully they will be pretty focused) and then I’ll start querying. The goal is for the novel to be its best possible form at this point, and I will definitely do a final copy-edit and proofread before sending it to any agents. But really, once I start querying I will likely step away from actively working on the project and will try to start something else while the rejection letters role in. This novel has been my main writing project for 5 years, and I think my skill as a writer will improve if I start working on something different. Also, working on something else might keep me from burning out, which may have been a contributor to my need to take breaks in the past.

So, that’s where things are at. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update. My plan is to do these more often. I think this is slightly more likely than not because I’m back into a steady writing habit.

Cheers!

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