NaNoWriMos I Have Known

Here we are, on the brink of another National Novel Writing Month! What is it? Quite simple, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month of November: an average of 1667 words a day. This will be my twelfth(!!) year of participating, and potentially my tenth win.

The years start to run together, so I just sat down and took a walk down memory lane. For my own reference, here’s where I’ve been:

Year One (2002): Into the Blackness–Won!

A friend (now a published author!) talked me into giving NaNoWriMo a go, despite my better judgement. It wasn’t my first attempt at writing a novel. I’d written bits and pieces of various children’s stories, plus about 25k of a sort of YA romance (all lost–thankfully, most likely–to a computer crash). But it was the most I’d ever written at one thing, and I wasn’t at all sure I’d manage.

I’ve always loved time travel stories, so for my first story, I decided to write about a mysterious artifact which allowed one to travel to any point in one’s past–and the various people fighting for control of the artifact.

I finished. Some of it actually wasn’t awful. I might even do something with it again someday.

Year Two (2003): Alien Spam Thing

This…did not go so well. It was one of two failed attempts over the years. It was supposed to be a comedy, wherein a group of aliens disguised themselves (not always well) as Midwestern farmers in order to slowly stockpile Spam–a delicacy of great worth back on their home planet–for pickup at pre-scheduled intervals several years apart. The trouble? I couldn’t help but take it too seriously, which made my brain hurt, and I ultimately couldn’t stand it any longer.

Year Three (2004) Leaves From the Life of Rose–Won!

Boring beyond all measure. Basically a fake journal of a girl almost but not quite exactly like me. The most exciting thing that happened to her was developing a crush on a furniture mover who liked Perry Como.

Year Four (2005) Dark Lord Bob and The Toaster of Doom–Won!

I was in Fort Collins, CO that year, and could not for the life of me come up with anything to write about. At the last minute, the same friend who’d dragged me into NaNoWriMo madness said something about “Dark Lord Bob,” and I ran with it. Bob was an IT guy who inherited the rule of a dark kingdom, much to his confusion. There were ninja llamas, there was an Igor character, a princess, fairytale stereotypes galore–and an evil toaster. I wrote 50k, but hadn’t finished the story. This is another it’d be fun to revisit.

Year Five (2006) Dangerous Memories–Won!

My first run as a NaNoWriMo rebel: I continued a work in progress. It’s a space story that started out as an exploration of a future in which one could pay to have memories erased, but morphed into Captain Paul Bremer and his merry band of misfits and Martians saving the universe from a deadly virus. This one will actually be finished. Off and on I’m working on the rewrite (carving out the entire original plot…*sigh*). Now called “A Star to Steer Her By.”

Year Six (2007) Untitled–Won!

My first attempt at a thriller: the protagonist’s wife is killed by her lover, who also frames him (thoroughly) for her murder. In the aftermath of a hurricane, he escapes from prison, and works to find the killer before he strikes again. It was…interesting. Probably too big for me and my lack of world knowledge. Also, at least some of it was written from the killer’s point of view, which I found both fascinating and unsettling. A learning experience.

Year Seven (2008) Complexity–Won!

I tried for something a bit Anne Tyler-ish, but it definitely ended up being more me, whatever that means. Centers around four individuals who share a stairwell at their apartment complex, but don’t really know one another until… Turned out pretty well, actually.

Year Eight (2009) Persistence of Memory–Won!

This was a reworking of the amnesia-for-hire concept, but a completely different setting. Male protagonist was a doctor who, with a partner, researched the ability to remove just particular memories. Female protagonist commits a rather horrible act, comes to him begging to try the procedure on her. Had the added interesting twist of him wanting her to fall in love with him, but worrying it wouldn’t be real due to her amnesia. Something like that. Another that *might* make the rework pile. Again. Something about this amnesia thing fascinates me, and I won’t give it up until I finally pull off a story I’m happy with.

Year Nine (2010) Revolutions–Won!

Probably the hardest year of all. It was about a group of people setting off to start the first Earth colony of another planet. I couldn’t lighten up enough to accept how off I was sure my science must be. Likely due to that, the ship was still on the ground as of 50k. Puh-thetic.

Year Ten (2011) Ace Moses and the Woman Who Croaked

This is the story I’m going to tackle again this year: a detective story set in a world where magic and real now mix. He has a fairy sidekick, an awkward but well meaning best friend, and a world with whatever weirdness my little heart desires. I had a lot going on personally the year I first tried to write this and bombed just a week or so in, but I’m excited to try again.

Year Eleven (2013) Mind Jinx–Won!

Yes, there was a hole: I skipped 2012. It is what it is. 2013 was a good year. Mind Jinx is about a man who works as an avatar–that is, someone uses him as a puppet, more or less, while he is still aware. Writing from his perspective while someone else was in control was…well, a head trip. I finished this story recently and plan to polish and start querying.

Year Twelve (2014) Ace Moses (again)

This time I hope to fully realize the “magic detective” urban fantasy I’ve had floating in my head off and on. I get to indulge in all sorts of silliness and I like the characters a great deal–I could even see this world becoming a series. We’ll see how I feel about them once I hit the grind of week two and a half….


I’d like to think each NaNoWriMo has taught me something. Some years have certainly played more to weaknesses than strengths, and it took me awhile to find my groove. This year promises to be a trip, in more way than one. Can’t wait for midnight!



Making Delicious Messes

About a week ago, I finished the rough draft of my latest novel, Mind Jinx. Hooray.

Kind of.

For me, a first draft is so far from a finished project, it’s hard to get too excited. For starters, I’m a “discovery” writer: I’ve never had luck writing to an outline. I may have ideas for the beginning and the end and some scenes along the way, but in the process of finding the story, I do a lot of writing my way down promising passageways that end in walls, or down tempting trails that peter into nothing. I jump from one scene to the next without polishing the in-between bits as much as they should be polished. I leave scattered discrepancies like references to Avery’s brother Doug, though two pages later, I decided Avery was an only child.

My rough drafts are, in short, rough. Very.

It’s a bit like starting the process of making, say, chocolate chip cookies. Continue reading