In Honor of National Novel Writing Month…

In celebration of the festival of words that is NaNoWriMo, I give you this blast from the past:

And especially for Mary Lindsey, who was hooking up words and phrases and clauses just last night…


What I’ve learned about writing a novel and trying to publish, part one.

I am admittedly an utter newbie to this whole process, so I’m no expert.

But in medicine, the philosophy is “See one. Do one. Teach one.” As soon as you learn something, you pass on the knowledge to those behind you on the learning curve.

And, you don’t find the words “Academic Director” in your title without being inclined to try to teach.

There are several things I’ve learned along this crazy journey that I’d never thought about or that straight-out surprised me. So, I’ve decided to mention what I’ve learned here in case it’s helpful to someone else.

I came home after a 24-hour shift in October and unexpectedly started writing what has turned out to be “The Edge of Memory.” I wrote the first two chapters that day. By that night, I posted to my chitties:

I have started doing something I have always wanted to do.

It’s a huge overwhelming creative undertaking.

And I both want to tell people all about it and ask their opinions, AND keep it all jealousy close to my chest.

I honestly don’t know if I will ever complete this task.

And while on one hand, telling people about it might provide motivation, it would also embarrass the heck out of me if I never manage to follow through.

I feel like a kid learning to ride a bike… I am pedaling like a madwoman and have just seemingly found my balance, so I want to shout, “Hey! Look at me go!”, but that might just be inviting everyone to watch me fall.

Can anybody relate? Anybody who is not actually learning to ride a bike, that is?

My friend Sandra posted in that thread that she understood completely and that she had signed up to write 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month in November. Which is another thing I had never heard of.

That was the first time I considered wordcount. How long is a novel supposed to be? What counts as a “novel” versus a novella?

I researched this topic when I was procrastinating on actual writing, or incubating some plot problem. And I found a lot of different answers, so I hoped my novel would end up somewhere in the overlapping range of 80,000 to 100,000 words.

I formatted my novel file to 6 x 9 paperback size. Pulling Kent Haruf’s Plainsong from my shelf, I obsessively thumbed through how many pages I’d written thus far to gauge whether I was on track throughout my first draft.

As fate and my characters would have it, my novel stands at barely over 90,000 words. It has 40 chapters averaging 2000 – 2500 words each. So, I ended up just about where I wanted to be, which justifies all the research and obsessing.

But I could have saved a lot of time if FinePrint Agent Colleen Lindsay had posted this analysis on novel lengths a few months earlier. Incidentally, her blog is quite funny and worth checking out even if you’re not interested in publishing.

So, things I have learned about novel lengths so far:

  1. 80,000 – 100,000 is a good average
  2. Erring on the shorter side is probably best if you’re a new writer
  3. There are different expected novel lengths by genre
  4. Less than 50,000-60,000 words will probably be considered a novella (rather than a novel) and is harder to publish.

I’ll post some other things I’ve learned along the way in my next entry.

Keepin’ on Keepin’ on

So a few little things to report.

First of all, I’ve joined a critiquing website that was recommended by someone I did NaNoWriMo with a couple of months ago. And I have my first chapter up for review this week. I already have had 4 lovely reviews written– the most so far of anyone else in the “newbie queue”, so that is encouraging that my story is interesting enough for someone to start reading.

So, yay!


Also, I am working on a top-secret project for my test readers. So look for that to roll out sometime next week, I think. 😉

In other news, work has been crazy busy, so between that and the holidays, my husband’s birthday and whatnot, I have not had much time to edit yet. And it’s driving me batty. But I think that’s a good thing… I am really itching to work on it, and I feel like the changes I’ve made so far are really improving things.

For the record, I have revised the revision of the first 3 chapters, too. teehee.gif

I would really like to get through the major revision in the next month or so, and then maybe print my personal copy. I would like to hold it novel-sized in my hand and read through it again that

Overall, I am slowly plugging away. type.gif

If anyone reading this could comment on the alternate title options, I would appreciate it. 🙂

That’s It, It’s All Over!

The NaNoWriMo Contest is all over. The fifth and final Golden Ticket has been found.

The website I joined for aspiring novelists ended its wordcount contest late last night.

I finished with 66,460 words for the month of November– a nice bit over the required 50K.

I finished chapters 31 to 33 yesterday, so my book now stands at 33 chapters, 77,008 words, and just under 250 pages.

I reworked my chapters outline (the first one I did called for 17 chapters *snort*) and came up with 41 chapters total. So far, I have stuck to that guide, with the last 3 chapters covering exactly what I’d expected they would.

If that estimate is correct, I have only 8 chapters left to write. That is simply mind-blowing.

The last chapter I wrote last night was the one I’d been dreading since I first started writing this. I think I am roughly satisfied with its vagueness.

It will, like everything else, require editing later, but right now I am focusing on powering through to the first draft finish line.

Today I am worried…

I don’t know what it is exactly, but I am worried that my book is too darned dark.

I haven’t even revealed the worst secrets to my main character yet, and it’s already pretty awful.

How dark is too dark? When does a novel stop being entertaining and start being draining?

I hit poor Beatrice pretty hard with some twisted information yesterday, and she still hasn’t discovered the worst of it. Will anyone really be interested in reading about the horrors that have befallen her?

Today, I’m just not sure. *sigh*

But, regardless, the official wordcount validator is running now at NaNoWriMo and I’ve uploaded my November work into it for a total of 52,884 words and am now an official “winner”, so there’s that.

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Well, last night just after midnight, I wrote my 50,000th words since November 1st.

Total word count for my story is over 60,000 words. Yikes!

I’m also excited because I’ve worked out my last major plot problem (I think). I’m in the middle of Chapter 26 now and would love to crank through 27 tonight, but I’ve got a bit of real life to take care of today.


So, the goal of the NaNoWriMo site is to write 50,000 words of your novel in 30 days.

NaNoWriMo starts on November 1 and goes to the 30th. It is the words I have written since NaNo started that you see in my word count. I do not count the few chapters amounting to ~10,000 words that I wrote before I found out what NaNo was.

The day I came home from work and suddenly began writing was October 18th. Today is the 29th day since I started writing.

And I just passed that 50K benchmark! My complete document of all I’ve written so far is currently 50,041. And my 50,000th word right now is “downstairs”.

I am somewhere near the middle of my story now. I’ll keep writing, of course.

I still need to write another 10K at least before the end of the month. And probably another 30 – 40K after that to finish the story.

Oh, and incidentally I reformatted my book to a different page size, so it is now 157 pages, instead of over 200. That will be cheaper for me to print it out when I’m done. 🙂


I am learning lots of things as I continue in this quest to finish a novel.

For one thing, I have learned what a “word war” is. Essentially, it is a contest for a group of people like myself who are writing novels to compete on who can write the most words for their story during a fixed (e.g. 10 minute) time frame.

I have also learned that my husband has some sort of superhero power that allows him to know the moment I have been asked to join one of these contests and further instills in him a need to come from wherever he might be and discuss such pressing issues as “What should we have for dinner tomorrow?” and “What time will Thanksgiving dinner be this year?”

We would never have learned that he possesses this unique skill, had I not started writing this novel.

As I get more and more into the meat of the story, I get more and more nervous about writing it. It’s a very different kind of nervousness than I started with.

My initial nervousness was an “Oh, snap! What am I thinking?! I can’t write a novel!” sort of nervousness.

My new nervousness comes from believing that I will finish this novel. I know the things that will befall my poor main character, who is still fairly clueless about what is in store for her. And I am stressed to write it.

So I think I was stalling today. I looked up recipes, trying to decide what she should cook for dinner, which– although relevant to the plot was probably not the best use of my time today. *snort*

I am heading for bed now. I hope tomorrow’s chapter will go quickly. I have reason to hope; I think I’m ready for it. 😀