NaNoWriMo Tips: I Hate My Story

Welcome to the eleventh post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Have you ever been playing through a video game, particularly a long game that relies a lot on the choices you make throughout the game? Let’s say for example that game is Civilization VI, not that I have any experience with playing that for hours on end or anything1Australia is best civ. I will fight you, mate.. In Civilization VI, your games can drag on for hours, if not days, particularly when playing a single player match against multiple other computer civilizations. I had one such game a while back where I was 300-350 turns into my game’s 500 turn limit. I was winning, though not by as much as I would have liked, putting myself in a great, but not guaranteed, position to win the game. At that point, I came to a realization. I was done with this game. So I closed out of Civ without saving and went to do something else.

I felt this way about a novel once too. Remember that ill-fated 2012 NaNoWriMo attempt I talked about in the last post? I did end up working on that story some in December of 2012 before really getting going on it in earnest in early 2013. By the middle of March, that story was nearly 65,000 words long. I had two or three more chapters to write, including the final fight scene where the protagonist who had been repeatedly betrayed by those closest to him would get revenge on the ex-best friend who had been turned against him. I had created this elaborate dystopian backstory set in post-apocalyptic Finland and Estonia, complete with copious amounts of research into the foods of Scandinavia and the Baltic regions2Because the food that certain characters ate at certain times was used for foreshadowing and symbolism. Because reasons..

Yet, despite being likely less than 10,000 words from finishing, I gave up on the story. I was done. I hated this story.
Why I hated this story isn’t nearly as important as the fact that I hated this story (though I will get to the why). It was a first for me. Not finishing a story was one thing. My very first attempt at a novel was one I didn’t finish. I quit six chapters in once I realized that the idea I had picked was not very good and that I had only chosen it to impress my then-girlfriend3Who was far too excited to read my stories. And this is coming from the person writing them.. I had hated poetry and songs I’d written because, truth be told, I wasn’t good at it. This was, however, the first time I hated a full-fledged story.

It’s a really crappy feeling to get deep into writing a story only to realize the story isn’t what you’d hoped it would be. You begin to feel like all of the time you’ve put into the story has gone to waste. This feeling hits especially hard if this happens during NaNoWriMo. If you’re working on your story and begin to hate it outside of a NaNoWriMo project, yeah, it sucks, but you also have time to work on it, rewrite it, or whatever you need to do to get it to the point you want it at4Presumably. Ignore that previous point entirely if you nearing a publishing or editing deadline.. But in NaNoWriMo, not only do you hate your story, you now have to finish a story you dislike with a looming deadline. This prompts the question — how exactly do you handle hating your story during NaNoWriMo?

To answer that, I think it’s important to identify exactly why you hate your story now. After all, you liked your story idea well enough at one point in time that you wanted to write a whole novel based off of it. For my 2012 story, I got to the climax of the novel and hated it for three primary reasons.

  1. My main character seemed less likeable than I would have hoped by the climax. It wasn’t as though he was supposed to be a character who worked lived in gray areas either. He was a very Mary Sue-like character that lacked a lot of depth. If anything, the ex-best friend who became the villain of the story was more believable than him.
  2. There was a weird subplot to the story that I had written in based on these child prodigies that had been hidden by an underground network to keep them safe from the dystopian government running most of the world. By the end of the story, they functioned more of a deus ex machina than the actual saviors to the story that they were meant to be. I also named some of the children based off of minor Greek and Babylonian deities despite having limited knowledge of the former and negligible knowledge of the latter, making my analogies forced and inaccurate.
  3. Speaking of that ex-best friend in the story, she stupidly overpowered, both story line wise and in terms of her abilities in comparison to the main character. Her losing to the main character in any capacity seemed unrealistic.

Looking back, my story likely needed a massive rewrite more than it needed to be scrapped. That said, I was so caught up in how disappointed I was with myself that the story had turned out the way that it had that I just gave up. The story still sits unfinished to this day5If I ever attempt to revive any of the previous novels I’ve attempted for NaNoWriMo and turn them into a book, this specific story would likely be my second priority, behind my 2015 project. There’s a character in my 2015 project who I love so much that I need to find a way to work her into my current story. This is problematic in that I killed her off near the end of that 2015 NaNoWriMo story, but that’s not important right now.

So, how do you avoid this same fate for your story, even if you hate it? I have a few suggestions.

First off, if you get to the point where you feel like you hate your story, take a little time (be that a few minutes, an hour, or even a day) and step away from your story. Giving yourself a little space between times writing on your story can help grant you some clarity with how to continue on (or even fix) your story. If you have the ability to sleep on the idea, do so. I came to my initial realization that I hated my 2012 story around three in the morning on a Friday night. Nothing good ever happens when you’re tired and the clock is past midnight.

Second, this is a situation where having people around you, be they NaNoWriMo peers, friends, family, or just someone aware of the project you’re undertaking can be helpful. Even if they don’t totally understand the specifics of your story, talking through the story and why your’e struggling with it can help you better vocalize the struggle you have. I don’t recommend rubber ducking in this case, as having someone there to talk back to you can help to avoid going into spirals of frustration with your work. As someone who deals with these (frequently) myself, I promise it’s helpful.

As another potential way to help yourself turn your hate for your story around, take a moment to take stock of the things you loved about your story idea when you originally came up with it. I mentioned how I should have done this with my 2012 story earlier in this post. That said, I definitely feel like it’s an exercise that could be beneficial to more than just me. If I were writing my notes for why I loved my 2012 story enough to want to turn it into a novel, it’d look something like this (at least from what I can remember from six years ago).

  • The idea of writing a story that was an homage to the dystopian literature I loved reading as a kid (1984, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Giver, Feed, The Lorax6I would argue The Lorax is dystopian literature, even though I’ve had several people disagree with me on this point. Wikipedia agrees though.) was exciting.
  • I spent the better part of two days hand drawing a map depicting the new political layout of this futuristic world. I can’t understate how much I love maps.
  • I loved the idea of doing a twist ending. There was a planned hard right turn after the climax of the story. I still love this specific twist and may well use it in the future (even in a non-dystopian book).

I know I had a longer list at one point in time, however that list has since faded from my mind. The larger, and more important, point is that I can still remember some of why I wanted to write that story, even six years later. There’s going to be reasons that stick with you about why you wanted to write your story, even well after NaNoWriMo has ended. I think that those reasons by themselves are enough reason to stick to finishing your story this month.

And you know what? If you end up completely rewriting the story in December or at some point down the line, that’s fine. Do that. Tear the story apart and redesign it from the ground up. But finish the story first. It’s easier to edit a finished book than to try to rewrite something you hate as you’re writing it (at least in my experience).


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: What to do About Holidays

Welcome to the tenth (!) post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Happy Thursday. If you’re anywhere outside of the United States or its associated territories, today is just Thursday for you. Well, unless you live in Costa Rica, where it’s Teacher’s Day. Or in Cambodia, where today is the first day of the Water Festival Ceremony. Or in Lebanon, where it’s Independence Day. Look, this analogy is falling apart and I don’t know how to save it, so we’re just going to move on.

If you’re in the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day. There’s an outside chance you’re reading this at some point early in the morning when you’ve set aside time for NaNoWriMo related activities. There’s a chance you’re doing the same thing, just in the evening. That said, the most likely reason you’re here is because it’s sometime in the afternoon where you are. Thanksgiving lunch/dinner7It has always bothered me that my family refers to it as Thanksgiving dinner even though ours routinely starts between 1 and 2 pm. Dinner for who? The British? is over and though you love football and your family, you have no desire to discuss politics with your racist uncle while the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys are on TV in the background8Just me?.

In the event you did schedule yourself some time today and/or tomorrow to write on your NaNoWriMo project, amazing. You’re immediately doing better than I was in terms of day-to-day consistency in any of my NaNoWriMo project years. If you didn’t schedule yourself time — or if you’re like me and initially thought Thanksgiving was on the 29th, only for your writing calendar to later be messed up — I have some good and bad news for you.

The bad news is that unless you’re well ahead in your story, there’s a chance that some (if not all) of your weekend is shot. I know a lot of people travel during Thanksgiving weekend. While for some folks this means close trips just on Thanksgiving day, for others your voyage might have started on Wednesday, with the end coming as late as Saturday or Sunday. And though you could be writing as your making a long drive or flight back from wherever you spent your Thanksgiving9Shout out to Valparaiso, Indiana and Canyon Lake, Arizona, not just for being two of the unlikeliest places I’ve spent a Thanskgiving, but also because the former is fun to say and because the latter is beautiful., you’ll only have this luxury if you’re not the one operating the mode of transportation needed to get you home.

The good news though is that in spite of everything I just talked about in the paragraph above, the calendar is doing you some favors this year. November 22 is the earliest that Thanksgiving can fall in the year, so you have eight whole days to get your story finished after today. Even if you miss out on 1,666 words today, you have a full weekend at your disposal, as well as nearly an entire other week to keep writing.

While you might have been able to sneak away to read this post, it might not be as manageable to duck out and write 500-1000 words on the fly. That’s completely understandable. But I bet you’re reading this on your phone or a tablet10As the only people who bring laptops to Thanksgiving are people who use them to play Civilization because for the last time, Uncle Jethro, I don’t want to talk about immigration with you.. It wouldn’t be too conspicuous if you just spent some time listening to the holiday conversation and seeing if there was a sentence or two — maybe even a scene — that you could lift from real life and work into your book in some way. Just make a note of it in your phone. Then, once you do have some time to get writing done, you’ll have to spend a little less time thinking about what to write next.

I’ll keep this post short as it is a holiday. Take some time and relax. You’ll need it for the final stretch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of pecan pie calling my name.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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NaNoWriMo Tips: Handling Writer’s Block

Welcome to the ninth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Before I get in to the main points I want to talk about in today’s post, I want to share a bit of the background to how I put this series together. In late August/early September of this year, a couple of folks who I know that do fiction writing reached out to me asking if I was doing NaNoWriMo this year. My answer to them was, for various reasons, no. With that said, I did want to do something for the project, particularly since I haven’t personally participated in NaNoWriMo since 2015. So I decided to write this post series. I came up with my initial ideas for three posts in this series that same night. The first three post ideas were:

  • Help! My family thinks I’m crazy because of NaNoWriMo11This later became NaNoWriMo Has Turned Me Into a Hermit.
  • I’m not going to make it. Have I failed?
  • Handling writer’s block

Once I came up with my full list of topics and shuffled the order around a couple of times, I finally landed on the list of topics and order that you see at the top of this post. Since I determined that order I have, for the most part, been writing these posts in order chronologically. It made sense to me to do it that way. After all, the topics built off of one another through the progression of a writer’s journey through NaNoWriMo. You’ll notice that I did say that I’ve been doing the chronological writing mostly, not completely. You can blame this on the fact that I had writer’s block on exactly what I wanted to say for one of the posts. Guess which one it was.

It was the writer’s block post12Considering the topic we’re discussing today, it only makes logical sense..

I’ve had long bouts with writer’s block before on various projects. I’ve been blogging for nearly fifteen years now across various blogs. Some years, I’ve done a ton of work and written lots of great (or not so great, in retrospect) content. That said, between April 2013 and October 2014, I wrote five blog posts. Total13Considering I’m at 63 posts in 2018 counting this one, this could be a depressing figure. It gets much worse if I point out that I wrote over 100 posts in 2012 and nearly 450 posts as part of the #postaday project in 2011..

The mind of a writer is a strange thing. Sometimes, the words just come out and they won’t stop. My longest post (by far) this year is this 4,200+ word ode to one of my oldest friends (and one time Patreon Q&A host), Mike. I wrote that post over the course of two evenings, but pretty much all of it came out stream-of-consciousness style. I didn’t have to think about what I was writing — it just came out and became words to tell my story. Meanwhile, there’s some of the more average posts (length wise) that I’ve written that have taken me days or weeks to finish because I can’t get out the words I want to say.

When I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2012, I wrote the first 6,000 or so words to my novel within the first 48 hours of the project going live. I updated the NaNoWriMo site on day 1, but forgot to before I went to bed on day 2. I knew that I had a busy weekend on the 3rd and 4th and wouldn’t be able to write, so putting myself at 6,000 words at the start of day 5 would have put me just behind the goal pace to that point in the month.

Day 5 was a Monday night. I came home from work exhausted. I looked at my story, didn’t know what I was going to write next, decided I could handle it better later in the week, and chose to play video games instead. Day 6 was election night, so I accomplished nothing then either. By the time day 7 rolled around, I reviewed my story and came to the realization that I had no idea where to go with my story next. I had written three chapters of my story — two of which were primarily world building chapters — and had hit a wall.

At that point in time, I relied heavily on a couple of people that I considered to be writing muses to help spur ideas in my mind if I had no idea what I wanted to do next. It was a pretty reliable strategy and had been greatly successful for me. If you have writing buddies for your NaNoWriMo project, I strongly encourage you to bounce some ideas off of them if you hit a bout of writer’s block. It’s a very reliable strategy that helped me immensely in my 2011 project.

That strategy didn’t work out for me quite as well in 2012. One of my muses had taken a new job with significantly more responsibility, meaning she didn’t have the time to read much of anything in her now-vanished free time. I had a falling out with the other person just before NaNoWriMo, meaning I was now down the two people I used as primary sources of inspiration for my writing. This became a problem because I had an over-reliance on their help. I had reached a point in my writing, particularly my fiction writing, where their ideas and input had such a massive impact on my creative direction that I felt like I couldn’t write well.

Looking back, this was clearly wrong. Their ideas and direction were exceptionally helpful, don’t get me wrong. That said, there were other things I learned to do to beat writer’s block over time that might have helped me finish my 2012 project on time. I’ve talked in previous entries in this series about how helpful forums like NaNoWriMo’s writers forum and /r/nanowrimo are. And yes, I’ll reiterate that they absolutely are amazing resources. That said, they’re not the only places you can get ideas to help get you out of your writing rut.

Let’s say for a moment that you’re writing a fantasy novel for your NaNoWriMo project. You’ve decided — as many fantasy novelists do — to fill your book with courtly pageantry, castle intrigue, and lots of magic. That said, your story is in more of an urban fantasy setting because you want it to be grittier and darker. While that mood for your book may be great for your direction, you could always consider doing some research into more traditional fantasy books to look for direction as to how to write interactions between characters. Alternatively, you could use those same examples for exactly how not to tell your story.

I’m also a huge advocate for rubber duck debugging your stories. For those not familiar with the concept, computer programmers often have to figure out why their code is not working. It’s a tedious, line-by-line process that can take a ton of time. On top of that, since the programmer reading the code is usually the one who wrote it, they can be prone to missing their own simple mistakes. By reading their code out loud to something that can’t talk back to them or interrupt — in this case a rubber duck — it allows them to hear what the actual code sounds like out loud without having someone provide commentary on that code. It works surprisingly well.

While I’m not say you should read your story word-for-word out loud to a rubber duck (as you’re potentially nearing 35,000 words at this point), I would recommend giving a plot synopsis of what has happened in your story thus far to your rubber duck. You might find that doing so gives you some inspiration as to what to do in your story next, as hearing your story told in a linear fashion can help to spur ideas as to what to tell the duck your next plot point is. In the event you don’t have a rubber duck handy, any inanimate object with eyes will do. Why does it have to have eyes? It doesn’t, but it does make the conversation more amusing.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.


2018 Book Charity Drive…and Then Some

I don’t talk about my first book much anymore. It’s not that I don’t like my book — I’m still quite proud of it, in fact. Even though the book is reviewed well on Goodreads and on Amazon, there’s still plenty I could have done better in the book. Hell, I wrote an entire post talking about what I’d change in various stories if I had a chance to re-write the book on the one year anniversary of my book’s publishing.

One thing I wouldn’t change, however, is that I’ve used the proceeds from my book as a way to raise some money for charity. In 2016, I raised money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, while last year I raised money for UNICEF. As you might imagine from the title of this post, I’ll be doing the same thing this year, only with an added twist that I’ll get to in a bit.

Let’s start with the basics. If you buy a copy of my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, between now (November 19, 2018) and Christmas, all proceeds from your purchase will go to charity. I’ve chosen to put all proceeds to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, just as I did in 2016. I made the active choice to go with UNICEF last year, and though I don’t regret that choice in the slightest, I feel that the work the AFSP does is incredibly valuable.

I’ll do an update post at some point in the drive to give you all insight as to how the drive is going. I likely won’t do weekly posts like I did in 2016 (as I just don’t have time for it this year), however I will make sure to give some updates as to how things are going. For those unaware, CreateSpace and Amazon merged this year, so unlike previous years were there was a preferred link to buy my book, that isn’t the case this year.

Additionally, all pledges to my Patreon for the months of November and December 2018 will also be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This won’t just the the amount I get at the end14As Patreon takes a small cut of pledges., it’ll be the whole pledge made. I’d like to do something additional as a thank you to patrons who pledge during those months, so if you have any ideas, share those in the comments. If you don’t already support me on Patreon, click the button below and start doing so. I’d love to see you stick around past December 2018, however if you want to just pledge to me when I’m donating to charity to get the perks, that’s fine by me too.

And…rather unexpectedly since I initially wrote this post in early October, some other creators and authors have decided to also donate proceeds from their work, money based on viewer/listenership, or their time to help us out. A current list of those also taking part in this event can be found below.

Creators

Folks Helping With Marketing

Finally, if you see this post, anything you could do to spread the word would be immensely appreciated. I feel like part of why I saw such a drop off from the 2016 drive to the 2017 drive was the more limited word of mouth marketing I could do during that time. While I’ll be more active pushing the charity drive on social media this year, any help you all could provide would be greatly appreciated.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Continuity Issues in a First Draft

Welcome to the eighth post of my NaNoWriMo tips series. For other tips in this series, as well as a schedule for future posts, take a look at the links below. Today’s tip and my discussion of it can be found immediately below the schedule.



Over the next few posts15Well, three of the next four. I did some poor planning when I designed my initial schedule., I want to focus on some common blocks that NaNoWriMo novelers start to hit around this time of the project. That’s not to say that you’ve hit each (or any) of these yourself at this point. You might be buzzing through your novel, gradually increasing your word count as you fall more and more in love with your amazing story. If that’s the way that you feel right now, that’s amazing. That said, even though these posts might not feel like they’re for you at this point, I would encourage you to read them anyway. You never know when one of these feelings might creep up on you.

I can say that I’ve had each of the feelings I’ll talk about in the next three posts — feeling like my book has continuity issues, like I’m out of ideas, and that I hate my story — at various points writing many items that I’ve written. Hell, I’m even personally experiencing the topic of today’s post right now with my non-NaNoWriMo work in progress. The fortunate thing is that while these topics are all big potential stressors when it comes to writing, fortunately they’re (generally) not topics that all arise at the same time.

If you’re someone that came into NaNoWriMo completely blind, you’re likely at a point where if you go back to read your story, you’ll likely have a plot path you’re following, but there’s probably some giant plot holes that have started to introduce themselves. The main storyline may be in decent shape, but your main character’s backstory could be inconsistent chapter to chapter. Side characters may pop in and out of scenes where they don’t belong. If you’re anything like I was in 2015, you might even accidentally write a character into a chapter, only to realize later that you killed them off three chapters earlier. The sad part is that 2015 was the year I was relatively prepared to do NaNoWriMo.

Granted, continuity issues aren’t the worst thing to have happen at this stage of the writing process. As I’ve talked about in previous posts, NaNoWriMo is about getting your story on paper. It is, at its very essence, as way for you to write the first draft of that novel you’ve always wanted to work on. There will be mistakes in this first draft. It’s okay to make those mistakes as long as you’re making progress towards that goal of finishing both the novel and the 50,000 word goal, right?

Well, yes. That said, I know that once I realized a giant piece of inconsistency existed in my story, it make it a lot harder to keep moving forward. For example, in the story I’m working on right now, one of my alpha readers noticed a massive point of inconsistency in the backstory of one of my two main characters. Basically I had written lead up to why this character had broken up with her high school girlfriend one way in chapter 3 of the book and another way in the initially outline I’d written. Normally, this wouldn’t be a massive issue. Just change either the outline or the chapter and move on. The problem was that by the time the reader noticed my inconsistency, I had written both scenarios into fact at various points in the next six chapters of my story. This means that at some point in the future, I have a ton of re-writing to do, which was a little disheartening to realize initially.

My advice if you have a self-inflicted bout of continuity issues in your NaNoWriMo project at this point is to do the following.

  1. Pick a way to solve that continuity issue and stick with it going forward. Write everything from this point forward with that new plan in mind. You can go back and fix previous chapters later.
  2. Know where an instance of the inconsistency is, but don’t re-read your story seeking out every
  3. If you’re writing with a writing buddy, talk through your struggles with them (or feel free to share them in the comments here). Maybe they’ll give you an idea that solves your continuity issue going forward. If nothing else, they may well be able to empathize with the same struggle you’re facing.
  4. Keep a list of continuity issues you do notice through your story. Again, you don’t need a comprehensive list at this point — just things you notice if you go back in your story for any reason. Future you — the version of you that has to edit this story — will thank you.

A commonly overlooked reality of books, television series, and other media is that if left to go on for long enough, nearly any story will have some sort of continuity error, be it unintentional16As is the case with most continuity errors. or, less commonly, intentional17Pretty much any time Kenny dies in South Park prior to the creation of the Mysterion character.. Your story likely will too, both now as well as after you edit it once. Or twice. Or multiple times. The goal is to limit those continuity errors once you’re completely finished with your book.

The reality is that you’re not totally done with your book at this point. You’re just past the halfway point. There will be holes you missed as you’re telling your story, regardless of whether you went into the month with a plan or not. Do whatever you need to in order to help yourself deal with them now. That said, don’t spend too much time on continuity errors at this juncture. I promise, they’ll still be there in December when it’s time to edit.


Like my NaNoWriMo tips series? Have questions for me about the topics posted daily? Do you just want to talk about your story and have nowhere else to do so? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

Support my writing on Patreon by pledging at this link.