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I won NaNo and another snippet

Technically NaNo doesn’t end until Friday, but I uploaded and validated my win today with a grand total of 80,900 words. I finished both The Game of Love and Lab Rats.

The Game of Love is exactly the type of hot mess draft that just pushing through a story, even when deep down you know it’s weak and needs a lot of work, can produce. I knew it was a mistake not to go back and fix things, but I pushed through instead. Now what I have is a hot mess that will need so much editing it will be almost starting from scratch. Ironically this is the first novel I’ve ever outlined, and I guess part of me thought that it would help create a cleaner first draft. I’ve reread it and there’s promise, but it’s more like a draft I would have written a dozen years ago (aka the last time I won NaNo) that my current standard of writing.

Lab Rats is a whole other ballgame. I hope that after reading the snippet in the last post you also see the promise. Here’s another snippet from Chapter One, featuring my hero, who has a giant stick up his butt at the start of the book.

Dr Benjamin Wells didn’t watch daytime television. It was a frivolous waste of time, and the only frivolity he enjoyed was Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“Dr. Wells?” the brunette in the first row—Valerie Alvarez, according to the seating chart—waved her hand in an undignified manner.

“Yes, Ms. Alvarez?”

“Do you think that there’s any way, biologically speaking, that the viral video about the werewolf on that morning show is possible?”

“I think we should leave nonsense like werewolves to discount writers and movies, don’t  you?”

“So you don’t believe it?” The voice came from the back of the room without so much as a raised hand.

“I will admit to not seeing it, but no, I do not believe that such mutations are biologically probable,” Ben replied.

“You say not probable, not impossible.” Yet another student blathering on about this damned video.

Enough. Today’s lecture is on DNA methylation. You have all read the assigned reading, I hope.” From there he launched into his lecture.

The students, properly rebuked, opened their laptops and began to take notes. There were no more ridiculous suppositions about mythical creatures.

Once back in his office, though, curiosity got the better of him. What was this dratted video they were all going on about? He entered Video werewolf talk show into the search bar. Already ashamed of this waste of time, he clicked on the first search result.

He rolled his eyes at the pap his students were watching. What a waste of time. Was this some sort of mass joke on the professor in retaliation for a test he hadn’t graded on a curve? Trends in movies? Who cared?

“Screw that,” finished the actor and he stood. Ears shifted upwards on a head that was turning, indeed lupine in nature. Fingers became shorter and melded together into a paw. The screaming in the background was frenzied. Then the video cut out.

Ben wanted to dismiss it as CGI. But something deep inside of him—the reptilian part of his brain, he reasoned—quaked in fear. All of that rippling skin, hair sprouting from every inch of the body, hands blurring into paws made his stomach roil. If this was real, there seemed to be no way to know who was human or not until they exposed themselves. What if people of actual consequence—generals, the President, the Dean—was one of them?

Fear skittered along Ben’s spine.

The phone rang at seven that evening, just as he was about to leave his office and go home. He almost didn’t answer, but his stepmother’s cold voice droned in his head that when one is present it’s just good manners to answer a ringing telephone.

Ben picked up the phone. “Dr. Benjamin Wells.”

“This is General Abernathy with the US Army Medical Corps.” The voice was low and rumbled, yet carried an undeniable authority. It was a voice used to being obeyed.

“How can I help you, General?”

“It is the belief of our scientists that you are the best person to examine the werewolf. Your paper on mutations of human cells suggests you can tell us if this is a mutation or something entirely inhuman.”

Benjamin blinked several times. “You want me to experiment on a werewolf?”

“Yes. We have it in custody, and in a reinforced cage. We can get you the blood you need to conduct your research. Will you serve your country?”

Revulsion flooded Benjamin’s body. He wanted to go back to this morning, before he’d heard about the video. He didn’t want anything to do with mutants or the government. But another voice twined through his brain—someone will do their research for them. They will be famous, able to get tenure at any university Think of the research money. The two impulses battled for supremacy.

Benjamin was as surprised to hear himself say, “Yes, sir, I will.”

“Excellent. I will meet you in your office at oh-six-hundred tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.”

The phone clicked, signalling that the General had hung up.

What have I agreed to?

Nano progress and a snippet

With only eight days left, most of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is behind me. I’ve “won” in that I’ve written more than 50,000 words this month–an unprecedented level of success and productivity. I guess this is what I can do with basically no distractions like television (I genuinely forgot Outlander was back, and I’m a huge fan), keeping my book playlists on repeat so that the characters are constantly in my head, and dragging my laptop literally everywhere. It’s also what I can do when I dance on the edge and sometimes slightly into the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is kind of exhausting, honestly.

I think it’s healthy to have a daily writing goal and it’s helping me quite a bit right now. But I’m also going to have to go into an editing phase and I’ll need to figure out how I can write and edit at the same time. Historically I’ve only focused on one and that means huge lags between my projects. It’s been two years since Capturing the Moment was published (three since it was accepted for publication) and while there have been huge changes in that time, like an international move, I have not always used my time well. I have some ideas for New Years Resolutions, but we shall see how things progress from here.

Thus far in Nano I have completed the book about love and espionage at a video game company  (which is either a long novella or a short novel), and am about 90% done with the second big project of November which is a long novella about what comes after the Were community is exposed on national television, and what will be the first in my first series of stories.

In the meantime, he’s the opening from that Shapeshifter book, which I’m currently calling Lab Rats

Everything went to hell in less time than it took to conduct a five minute interview on Wake Up LA!

Liz Green, the perky blonde co-host batted her eyelashes at Justin Carson. He was a deliciously hot up and coming actor. She wondered if he had a girlfriend, and if he might be amenable to a little extracurricular activity in her dressing room. She leaned forward, just enough to give Justin a glimpse down the front of her top.

“So what do you think of the new trend? Zombies are in, werewolves and vampires are out.”

“Zombies suck,” Justin said flatly.  “Werewolves are where it’s at.  You think dead humans are scary when they want to suck you blood or eat your face?  That’s not scary. You know what’s scary, Liz?  When you can’t tell the monsters from the humans. How can you?  Anyone here could be a werewolf. I could a werewolf.”

Liz, laughed nervously. “I had no idea you were so passionate about scary movies!”

She had never lost control of an interview before, and Justin wasn’t about to faze her. He was probably teasing a new project. She could picture him in a horror flick, and even more clearly, she could picture herself clinging to his arm, pressing her face against his broad shoulder, his arm coming around her to hold her close. Later that night, he’d tease her for being so scared of make believe creatures, and then he’d rock her world six ways from Sunday.

“But you know what, Liz?  No one thinks they’re real, so humans get cast to play werewolves.”

Liz laughed and played along. “Sounds like you’ve got a very meta project coming up. Actors playing werewolves who are actually werewolves. Give us another hint.”

Justin growled. Actually growled.

Nervously, Liz looked at her notecards. “So how did you connect with the character of Grant for After Dark?”

Justin stared at her, unblinking.

Liz glanced at the camera. The interview was D.O.A. and she still had three minutes to fill. Her foot jiggled, the heel bouncing against the floor. The idea of hot sex in her dressing room was starting to fade in the harsh light of a bad interview. She knew she’d be blamed for it—bad delivery of questions, not enough effort at chemistry, making him upset. She took a deep breath, then flashed a dazzling smile at Justin.

“I heard the producers are hoping to start a whole After Dark franchise.”

Maybe that would get this interview back on track. Most actors couldn’t wait to talk about how their franchise was going to be the biggest thing since the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies. Please let this get him out of whatever snit he was in. Please, please, please.

“Weres are scared of being outed, and this is the consequence.  Screw that.”

Justin’s hands clenched the armrests of his chair, and his knuckles turned white from the pressure. His nails scraped over the buttery leather, leaving marks in their wake.

“Um…” God help her, she was going to have to dump to commercial. Liz sat back, and squirmed, no longer thinking of sweaty trysts on the soft blue coverlet of the daybed she’d picked over having a couch in her dressing room. At this point, she’d be grateful just to climb into the daybed and pull that coverlet over her head until she could face the world again after this horrific goose egg of an interview.

Justin stood up. He kicked off his shoes, but his paws ripped through the socks. His jeans shredded as his legs contorted, becoming shorter and thicker. His face elongated, and suddenly long canines snapped at his shirt until it, too, ripped and fell away from his body. Within a minute, a large wolf had replaced the handsome man.

Liz screamed, and fell off her chair, out of view of the camera. She skittered backwards, away from the monster she’d actually fantasized about fucking. She could feel a wetness spreading under her as she peed herself in fear. She scrambled to her feet, kicked off her heels and ran as fast as she could toward the safety of her dressing room, which had a solid lock. She’d be safe there, or so she hoped.

As Liz was escaping, the audience had fallen into chaos. People were shoving each other, willing to trample the less vulnerable in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Screams mingled with sobbing as the reality that this wasn’t some strange special effect—this was a real honest-to-God werewolf. And if you believed him, he wasn’t the only one. They fled as if he were on their heels, about to take a big bite out of them.

A woman wearing a smart blue pantsuit with tasteful gold jewelry dashed into the frame.

“Justin, we need to go. Now!”

The large wolf snarled at her.

“I said now,” she snarled back.

The wolf turned its head to the camera, tilted its head back, and howled.

The video cut out.

NaNoWriMo 2k18

Last year I wrote a blog post talking about why I wouldn’t do NaNo and what makes it a bad idea for me.

GUESS WHAT I’M DOING?!?!111

So I am doing NaNo this year (add me as your buddy–Delilah Night), *but* instead of starting a new project, I’m continuing to work on my contemporary romance about love and espionage at a video game company. I also keep telling myself that I don’t care about making daily word count, but then I low-key got stressed yesterday because my daughter’s birthday party took over my day and all my energy. (Yes, again. My two have birthdays three weeks apart.) 

Ask me on Dec 1 if this was a good idea of complete folly.

To get me through the month, I’m only going to post once or twice a week, with some cross posting to keep me sane.

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo

I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) several times and “won” once. Since I’ve had kids I’ve usually tried to do it, and failed every time.

Chris Brecheen’s post NaNoWriMo: The Good, The Bad, and The Really, Really Ugly inspired me to write this post, but I agree with many of his reasons not to do it, and I’ll use my own experiences to highlight why. Chris’s points are in black.

It’s a terrible month to do it. As a mom I’m already overwhelmed by life in general. However in November I have one child’s birthday (and birthday party), Thanksgiving with all the attendant cooking and the added bonus of my children at home for three days, the usual family commitments–rock climbing/gymnastics/Mandarin/karate, along with the day to day stuff. Now I’m sure I could find things to complain about every month, and the pace of my own writing reflects that I have never really found the balance between writing and family, but November seems like a rough month in general.

Some people stop writing because of it/It instills a sense of failure.

However, even though I know Nano is a popular event among aspiring writers, I implore people who have never had any real experience writing a high word count every day not to participate or at least to lower the word count or in some other way practice self-care. I wish I could tell you they always listened. But we don’t live in the magical sugar cane land of rainbow unicorn farts and candy corn mountains. Instead, Charlie gets his kidney cut out, and what I have is a collection of friends and acquaintances in various levels of existential crises about whether they’re even really writers and how impossible writing can be. They burned out like shooting stars and slammed into the unforgiving wall of Nanowrimo.

Because of Nano, there are some people out there who AREN’T writers anymore.

The one year I won, I felt like a million dollars and I felt inspired to start a blog that I dutifully wrote in for two years until I had a kid. However, it should also be said that the one year I won I’d just had back surgery and wasn’t allowed to do very much. I basically stayed in my house alone, watched tv, and wrote. NaNo was the thing that brought me back to writing after not having done much of it in six years. However, the first time I attempted and failed NaNo, I didn’t shrug it off. I did feel like a failure. I didn’t exactly stop writing, but I stopped believing I could write a full book. I stopped and started and failed to write several books, which reinforced that belief. I couldn’t even get them to fifty thousand words, much less more, which reinforced that belief. Completing NaNo isn’t a measuring stick by which you can define your ability to write.

People think they’ve written a novel. Fifty thousand words is a lot but as Chris points out, it’s also a totally abitrary number. For most anthologies I’ve been involved in, it’s the bare minimum for a print run. It’s nearly two hundred double spaced pages. But by most publishing house’s standards, it’s a long-ish novella. A full on novel is usually nearly double NaNo’s goal of fifty thousand words. Further, like Chris points out, there’s a whole cottage industry around NaNo that preys on the winners, offering to publish their books for a fee. Or authors shoot themselves in the foot and self publish without an edit. I certainly felt “done” and was super proud of my “book.” I even printed it out and had it bound. That doesn’t make it a book and more importantly it doesn’t make it a good book.

It emphasizes word count over everything. Let’s build on that–it’s all about vomiting up a first draft. About halfway through Not What His Mother Expected (I know, terrible title) I realized that the main couple wasn’t the interesting part of the book. His sister and her girlfriend would’ve made a far better star. But I didn’t start over and rewrite it as Not What HER Mother Expected. I kept going because you’re not supposed to edit–you’re just supposed to vomit out your ~1700 words a day–and part of the reason NWHME sucks is that it really shouldn’t be about the main couple. Further, there’s no real emphasis on the all the work that comes after. There’s no EDitDEcember (and Jan and Feb and and and). There’s no real value of craft.

Personally, I learned my craft first when I wrote, obviously. You can’t edit or improve that which you never wrote. I started on Literotica.com, which I highly recommend for erotica authors. I found a supportive community, which in turn encouraged me to write more. I got better by writing more stories. But I didn’t really get better until I started editing. Finding good beta readers who didn’t stroke my ego, but rather told me what sucked was bruising. I still brace myself when I get comments from betas or editors. Writing fifty thousand words one time did prime the pump, so to speak, but it isn’t what made me a good writer.

I stopped writing this entry to go and find my NaNo story. The prologue was so bad I could barely get through it. Honestly, it’s so bad I can’t even bring myself to share anything beyond the title with you.

Word count matters eventually. Short story submissions usually have a minimum and maximum word count. As I said above, short story anthologies usually have a minimum word count to get a print run, and publishing houses each have their own rules about what constitutes a short story/novella/novel. But you will not be published (outside of self publishing) if you don’t edit.

Also, word count outside your novel doesn’t count for NaNo. This blog post is over a thousand words and I wrote another blog post for my other blog about moving my cat to Singapore. Probably about the daily NaNo word count between them, but neither “count.” Technically, neither does any of the editing/extending that I’m doing on Plunder because it’s not a new, shiny story that I started on November 1, 2017. And I find that irritating because all of it is writing. Maybe in thirteen years, when my youngest is in college I could do NaNo as a personal challenge over and above whatever novel I’m editing and blogging (or whatever we’ll be doing in thirteen years) but certainly not this year.

So no, I’m not doing NaNo, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you want to do it, go for it. But be aware of the high “failure” rate and don’t beat yourself up for not finishing. Don’t beat your chest and think you’re done when you do finish (well, beat your chest because it is an accomplishment). I’ll cheer you on, but I’ll do so from the bleachers.

Outlining

I’ve always been a bit on the fence about outlining–I wasn’t great at doing it for research papers in college and I’ve never been terribly good at doing it for my stories, either.

However, given that I am trying for something on the longer side, I don’t necessarily want my characters to hijack me off onto some side journey I wasn’t planning on.  The year I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, my secondary characters totally hijacked my story and I ended up caring more about them than my primary characters.  This is deeply deeply ironic given that it was a romance semi-sort-of based on my partner and I and a “what if” scenario.

Of course the flip side is that doing an outline (even if it’s just a few sentences for each planned chapter) does give some structure and tells me what I need to know before I get started on Nov 1–for example, I know very little about video games and how they are made, so I need to learn that or change something about my planned story.

Doing/thinking about my story outline is also helping me feel like I’m writing when what I’m actually doing is a major housecleaning project and baking for a birthday party this week.

Only 29 days until NaNoWriMo

On November first, a horde of writers will dive into the frenzy that is NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month.

While I’ve always been a writer, I am also somewhat lazy and highly distractab—SQUIRREL! (That was a reference to “Up” for those who missed it.)

So for me, the idea of a community built around the idea that in the course of a month you start writing and you don’t stop–you don’t sit down and revise or stop to rename your characters six times.  You just write and get it out on paper.

I first heard of NaNo (as it’s fondly known) in 2006.  I’d been writing erotica for 4 years, but hadn’t done much in over a year at that point–I’d met my partner, gotten married, worked full time, blah blah blah excuse excuse excuse.  Ironically, I ended up needed to have back surgery that would involve a 6-8 week leave of absence afterward in Mid-October.  By November first I was past the initial onslaught of pain meds, and bored.  I’d never tried to write anything terribly long before, so 50k seemed like an insurmountable length–but it wasn’t like I had anything else/ better to do once I’d done my physical therapy for the day.  So I wrote.
In 2006 I wrote a terrible little novella that I hope will NEVER see the light of day.  But I did it.  I wrote something with a narrative that lasted for more than 50K words.  In having done it, I realized I could do it again.

I’ve tried a few times since, but have not hit 50K in one work during NaNo.

The key difference between 06 and other years is that I did not seek out community.  In 2006 I went to write ins (where we camped out at a library and wrote for an afternoon), socials, and participated in the online community.  I kept uploading my book in progress to keep my word count active.

In 07 and beyond…I meant to register.  I sort of checked up one or twice.  I didn’t do the whole write in thing.  I was participating only tangentially.

This year, I’ve been inspired to become as involved as practical again.  I’ve met one of the two local Nano organizers, and have followed the twitter handle for the local Nano events.  I have signed up at the website (add me as a buddy if you’re over 18– Delilah_Night), and I’m going to stay accountable to you guys.

So while I have 29 days more to think and to plot, which erotic novel would YOU want to read (without giving too much away)…

–Erotic mythology–Lancelot and Guinevere?

–Erotic Contemporary–Gamer CEO in lust with one of her (gorgeous, British-Indian) programmers?

–Erotic Paranormal–A curse set in motion in 1840’s New Orleans changes the life of a history professor in 2012?

Thoughts?