Beautiful Books Link-up: My 2017 Nanowrimo Novel Fear Itself

(I’ve never tried a blog link-up before so if I do this wrong you can either let me know or shake your head and giggle. I’m okay with either.)

 

So, because this sounded like fun and Cait (paperfury.com) is awesome, I decided to join the Beautiful Books blog link-up and introduce the novel I’m writing for Nanowrimo!

Onto the Questions!

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

 

Like many of my novels, the idea came from two separate ideas that begged to be merged together: I should write a cozy mystery and people never write realistic books about mental illness recovery. (as in it doesn’t happen in the course of a single book!)

I’ve been thinking about this idea for several months. I’ve known a few basics about the plot, and that I want it to be a mystery series where I slowly progress the characters.

 

 

2. Describe what your novel is about!

 

Basically, it’s about a former NYPD cop named Meg who witnessed a traumatic event and subsequently ended up with PTSD and Agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her apartment building in almost a year but the new owner is threatening her home and she can’t have that. The entire novel takes place in her apartment building.

I actually wrote a blurb for my Nano page, so here’s that too:

Agoraphobic former NYPD cop Meg McGill just wants to be left alone. Her family thinks she just needs to “get over” her PTSD, her former partner wants her to come back to work, her psychiatrist won’t stop calling, and now the guy who just moved in down the hall wants her help.
Sebastian Reid can’t shake off his suspensions that something wasn’t altogether natural about his uncle’s death. He needs help and all his neighbors tell him to talk to Meg. Now if he can just get her to answer the door…

 

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

 



 

 

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

Meg: Meg is in complete denial about her mental health. She’s totally fine! So what if she doesn’t leave the building? She can get anything she needs delivered and her best friends live upstairs. She’s a little prickly, but if she’s always willing to help a friend and has a weakness for fluffy things.

Enter Sebastian: Sebastian is a precious little cinnamon bun. He’s the kind of guy that you just want to pinch his cheeks all the time. He’s a trust fund baby that works at a non-profit animal shelter part time and has fluffy blonde ringlets. You just can’t help but like him.

There’s also Mac, Meg’s former partner who is now in a wheelchair, his wife Sonia, Meg’s best friend, and their daughter Cora who is probably Meg’s favorite person in the world. Not to mention my favorite building resident Jean, a hoarder with a cat named Gulliver who regularly steals newspapers from the trash room and knows everything that goes on in the building.

 

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, ect?)

 

I try to learn as much about my characters as possible before November hits and do ALL THE RESEARCH. I’m filling up a binder with information so I will always have things to look at when I get stuck and am trying to plot out the mystery at least somewhat so it will look like I know what I’m doing.

 

6. What are you looking forward to about this novel?

 

I’m really excited to try writing a real mystery (I don’t count the one I did years ago, it was really terrible). I’m also really excited about my characters and seeing them come alive on the page. They’ve become so real to me and I just can’t wait to spend time with them.

This is also the first time I’ve written something completely new in a few years. Two of the past three years for Nanowrimo I’ve focused on a novel I’ve been expanding for nearly fifteen years, so I know the characters and the general story like the back of my own hand.

Fear Itself is completely fresh. Every day I discover new things about the characters and the story. No matter how much planning I put in before November 1st, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.

 

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

 

I feel like this applies more the fantasy/historical novels, but I’ll give it a try:

  1. My novel takes place in Brooklyn, NYC. Specifically the Brooklyn Heights/Cobble Hill area. (A million thanks to my good friend Christie for answering my endless questions about living in NYC and helping me decide on the exact correct place for Meg and Sebastian to live).
  2. Meg might spend most of her time in her apartment, but her colorful bohemian style and overloaded bookshelves make it anything but boring!
  3. The building’s residents are equally colorful and also the roof is an awesome place to hang out if you can’t sleep in the middle of the night.

 

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

 

Meg’s number one goal is to keep anything from getting in the way of her staying in her home. Sebastian wants to know what really happened to his uncle. Standing in both of their ways is Sebastian’s cousin Lloyd, who recently inherited the building, and the developers he wants to sell the building to.

Meg is also coming to terms with her past life. It’s her own brain that’s standing in her way, specifically her denial that there’s anything wrong with her.

 

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

 

Meg is forced to confront her agoraphobia and PTSD and admit that she is not okay. She needs help, and by the end of the novel she’s starting to be ready to accept it.

 

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

 

Themes include mental health stigma, making your own happiness, and not letting the past (or your family) define you. I’d like people to leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the sense that everyone’s going to be all right, and looking forward to seeing Meg and Sebastian again in the next book!

 

That’s it! The working title for my novel is Fear Itself, and you’ll find me typing away during the month of November. You can find me spending way too much time on Twitter and if you’re doing Nanowrimo too I’d love to be buddies with you! (My Nano Profile)

Are you doing Nanowrimo? Does Fear Itself sound like something you might enjoy reading? What are you writing? Talk to me my friends.

 

I now have a Mailing List! I’ve yet to send one out, but I’d love it if you subscribed. At max you’ll get 1-2 emails a month, talking about what’s been going on in my life and letting you know about recent updates to this blog. And when I write a short story for this blog, you’ll get to see it first, before it gets posted to the public! 


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10 Beginning Nanowrimo Tips From a 12 Time Veteran

 

(*Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Click here to read more!)

The first year I participated in Nanowrimo I failed spectacularly.

Actually, what I did was quit before the first week was over, with less than two thousand words written. I never touched that novel again (it was a cool idea, I should dust it off one of these days!).

The next year was 2005. I managed to finish on the very last day, just barely squeaking over the 50k mark. It changed my life. Since then I have participated every year but one. Twelve times in total, winning 10 of those 12 years. Last year I stopped at 40k when my mom had surgery the last week of November, choosing sanity over the last ten thousand words.

Every year I try to recruit more writers in participating in the month-long writing marathon. (Come on, you know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it!) So I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for success.

1. Read No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty
(Not an affiliate link, I just love this book!)

After my disastrous first year, I knew something had to change for me to actually make it to 50k. So I bought Chris Baty’s book (he’s the founder of Nanowrimo!). It’s basically a week by week guide to a 4 week first draft, teaching you how to let go and ride the roller coaster that is National Novel Writing Month. If the thought of writing 50k in a month is paralyzing, this is the book for you. (If you regularly write 2-3k every day, you can skip this step. Actually, why are you even here? You’ve obviously found something that works for you!)

 

2. Turn off your internal editor.

When I read Chris Baty’s book, this was a revolutionary idea for me. You know that annoying little voice in the back of your head telling you to delete adverbs and to stop writing this scene because it won’t make it into the final draft? That’s your internal editor. In November and all of my first drafts, I lock that annoying little whiner in the basement of my brain and do what I want.

Don’t worry, you’re not being mean. You can leave her food and water. But she can’t come out until December. There’s no place for her during Nanowrimo.

Your job is to write, not write well. Get the words down on the page and worry about how they sound later. It’s all fixable, as long as you have a draft to fix.

 

3. Commit.

If you’re feeling wishy-washy about this whole idea, it’s likely you won’t finish. Let’s face it, most of us need to see the word DEADLINE approaching fast to actually get anything done. (I hate all of you who can’t relate.)

If you want to do this, commit. Commit to yourself. Tell your family and friends. Don’t leave an easy way out. Bribe yourself if necessary. (There’s an entire awesome shop full of Nanowrimo swag. My first year I bought a t-shirt. I wore it until it was nearly translucent.)

 

4. Write what you’re most excited about.

If you’re like me, you don’t just have one story you want to tell. It’s likely there are several hanging around, just waiting to be pulled off the back burner and worked on. Forget what you should be working on. Pick the idea you’re the most excited about and use that as your project. If you’re excited about your novel you’re more likely to finish it than give up at the first sign of difficulty.

 

5. Put off anything unnecessary (but nothing necessary).

I know November is a busy month for many, because of the approaching holiday season and those pesky families expecting attention. Try to put off anything you don’t HAVE TO do. Stock up on prepared meals and coffee. Buy some extra underwear to avoid doing laundry. Plan to be less social. (Nanowrimo is a great excuse to avoid people. Use it!)

Save your energy for writing and for the most important things in your life. Don’t quit your job and release your children into the wild to fend for themselves. Those are necessities. (And don’t come crying to me when you’re broke and the kids are scratching at the back door.)

 

6. Stockpile words when you can.

Those first few days of any project are always the most magical. This novel is amazing! There’s so much you want to do with it! I could write forever!

Week two that feeling is starting to wane and by week three you’re wondering why you ever started writing something so stupid.

Take advantage of those early days when the writing seems effortless. Build up a buffer of words for when you can’t find them later on. You’ll thank me later.

 

7. Take a day off if you need, but never take off two.

Going along with the previous tip, at some point during the month you are going to need a break. Don’t take one until you absolutely need it, but also don’t feel guilty. We all need a break from time to time.

The key is to try* and not take more than one day off. One of the reasons Nanowrimo works is because you never have time to leave the story. Any more than one day and I start forgetting my characters. I lose the momentum of what I’d previously written. It’s easier to keep going than to start up again.

*Confession: I don’t always listen to this rule. That’s why I say try. Just like I say I’m trying to eat more vegetables. 😂

 

8. Connect with the community.

One of the many reasons I love Nanowrimo is the sense of community. All during the month there are thousands of writers filling the forums, sharing everything from writing dares, stories of success(or failure), and even offers of help with research from experts in certain subjects.

Join in. Make new friends. Participate in word wars. Ride the wave of other’s excitement and use it to keep excited.

 

9. Skip scenes and use placeholders.

Speed is the name of the game during Nanowrimo. If you’re stuck on a difficult scene, or just don’t feel like writing one, throw in a place marker (”insert scene where we figure out that big plot point I still haven’t figured out yet”) and move on.

This also works for names you’ve forgotten and facts you aren’t sure about. Example: my early drafts are often littered with things like “WHATEVERHERLASTNAMEIS” and “PICKANANIMALTHATWORKS”. Stuff like that. Don’t get caught up in the details.

 

10. Just keep going, no matter what.

There will be days when you want to quit. (And just feel normal for a bit. No wait, that’s a song…) You will want to heave your laptop out the window and forget all about this crazy novel writing thing. You’ll be tired and stressed and completely out of ideas.

JUST KEEP GOING. Write absolute nonsense. Do crazy things just to get your word count up. Use the replace-all feature to give all your characters names like Billy Joe and Becky Sue for a few extra words. My first year I got desperate and got rid of contractions.

Do whatever it takes to get those words down on the page. Remember, they don’t have to be great. They don’t even have to be good. But they do have to EXIST and I promise you there will be gems mixed into the mess that you couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Bonus:
11. Ignore everything I’ve said.

Just like writing the rest of the year, take all my advice with a grain of salt. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. HAVE FUN! Consider it an adventure. I personally think every writer should try Nanowrimo at least once, but it’s okay if it isn’t for you. It’s okay if you can’t write 50k. Every word you wrote got you one word closer to your goal and that should be applauded.

Are you planning on participating in Nanowrimo this year? Did you find any of my tips helpful? Do you disagree with any of them? Please do share in the comments.

 

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Camp Nanowrimo 2017 Day 1

In addition to the regular Nanowrimo even in November, there is Camp Nanowrimo in April and July. I didn’t participate in April, but my fellow #TurtleWriters on Twitter convinced me to join them in July.

Camp Nanowrimo is different from the regular event in several ways. You get to set your own goal (go ahead, set it as low as you want and rejoice in meeting your goals!), you can revise, write short stories, nonfiction, ect, and you can join a cabin.

The Cabin features is possibly my favorite part. You can join a random cabin or choose one filled with friends or people with similar interests. (I’m in the #TurtleWriters cabin this year) The cabin is basically a chat section where you can cheer on your fellow cabin mates and complain about how behind you are.

If you already knew all this, I apologize. Thought I’d sum it up for my family/friends dutifully following this blog so I’m not talking to myself.

I was originally going to work on a detailed outline for my Untitled Mystery Series so I’d be well-prepared for November, but a few days ago I got a better idea.

My novel Running Away is about a widower raising a little girl. I’ve been trying to motivate myself to return to this novel and get started on revisions. I thought a good way to do that would be to write a short story, a prequel, something I can share for free and (hopefully) build interest for the upcoming novel. The prequel will explore Clarke’s first days after he loses his wife and the support his large family gives him while he struggles with the sudden single parenting of an infant.

father photo

My goal is 10,000 words, but I’m going to go where the characters take me. If I feel the story has been told before then, I’ll move on to one of my many unfinished projects or try to stockpile some blog entries for when I’m feeling uninspired.

All blog entries this month will include my current word count and a short update on my progress.

Day 1: 1,124 words.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo? What are your goals and what are you working on?

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How Nanowrimo Changed My (Writing) Life

I was nineteen the first time I participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). I wrote about 2 thousand words and quit. It had been a whim and I was by no means surprised that I hadn’t finished.

I’d never finished a story in my life.

Not really, anyway. I’d been writing for around a decade, and I could count the number of things I’d finished on one hand. And I wouldn’t have needed all the fingers. I’d certainly never written anything close to 50 thousand words.

The next year I purchased Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem. I read it from cover to cover. I decided I was going to try again.

It was 2005 and I was in the process of moving to New York State to live with my sister. My laptop had broken in October, so I was waiting for my new one to come in the mail. I spent the first two weeks of the month with a pink notebook, scribbling until my fingers were screaming and writing the word count at the top of each page (I literally counted each word separately).

When I finally got my laptop, I was behind. I wish I remembered how far behind, I just know it was a lot. I had to type in two weeks of words as well. It seemed impossible.

A couple hours before the deadline, I validated my novel.

That last week was a blur. I remember sitting cross legged on my bed, with trashy court television shows playing in the background, typing as fast as I could. Somehow, I had made it.

The feeling was indescribable. I had never written that much in a year, let alone a single month. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I ordered a winners t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. (That t-shirt finally became so transparent it had to be thrown out a couple years ago. I wore the heck out of it.)

Over the next 11 Novembers, I participated in Nanowrimo ten times. I won nine out of those ten times. I completed eight novels (2014/15 was the same novel). In 2016 I had to give up at 40 thousand because my mom had knee replacement surgery.

Nanowrimo changed my life. My writing life at least. I learned how to turn off my internal editor and just write. I learned how to let go and let my characters do my own thing. I learned how to finish.

I left that first novel alone until January 1st, when I printed it out and eagerly read it. It was terrible, as predicted, but something amazing happened.

There were scenes I had no memory of writing. Best of all, I wasn’t as terrible as I’d expected. I’d learned so much about my characters. I suddenly saw the holes in my plot. Best of all, there were some gems in that first draft that I never would have seen if I hadn’t finished writing it.

In 2014 (and 2015) I decided to revisit that first Nanowrimo novel. In two Novembers I achieved a new personal best: 100 thousand words on a single novel.

I couldn’t have done it without Nanowrimo.

 

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