The Clarion West Writer’s Workshop

I am an online participant of Clarion West this year.

What does that mean? It doesn’t mean I’m attending online workshops or webinars, it doesn’t mean that I had to go through a big selection process. It means I signed up with the goal to write, and agreed to participate in the write-a-thon. At first my plan was to write 750 words of a novel that I wanted to get finished by the end of this year.

Then I found out about three (!) short story submission opportunities, and I think I want to go for those instead. They all have deadlines in August, and I feel like they’re all up my alley.

So that’s my idea for Clarion West during the write-a-thon: 750 words a day and three short stories at the end of it. And maybe in between, I’ll get a crack at my novel.

Too bad the write-a-thon started today. I’m already behind – it feels like Nanowrimo all over again.

Speaking of Nanowrimo, Clarion West coincided nicely with my decision to try Camp Nano this year. I’m starting up with a friend, though I’m not sure what she’ll be working on for the month of July.

Unlike Nanowrimo, Camp Nano isn’t all about writing a novel in a month. For Camp Nano, participants make their own goals and word counts. I think it’s a great way to be introduced to the concept of Nanowrimo for anyone who isn’t so sure that this write-50,000-words-in-a-month thing is a good or feasible idea. The pace is much more relaxed and you can work on finishing a novel, writing short stories, poetry, scripts of any kind, essays…pretty much anything.

In November I tried to update my blog every day with news on how the noveling was going. My experience proved two things to me: Firstly, that I would be terrible at the blog-a-day challenge, and secondly, that I didn’t necessarily want to share my tripe with the world. So I may not be posting as much as I would aim to during the month of July. But I’m sure I’ll find something to write about; no one can keep me silent forever.

On a finishing note, I have a question for any short story writers out there. I never seem to have a suitable short story when a compilation is requesting submissions. As a result I often end up writing a short story with the one compilation specifically in mind. There are a lot of cons to this procedure, which I may come back to (perhaps after I have submitted my short stories?), and I’m curious – does anyone else write a short story directly for a specific compilation? Do you do it often? Do you often submit previously prepared short stories to compilations and magazines? I guess I’m mostly asking genre writers here, since I’ve noticed that a lot of genre magazines/compilations have themes for each issue.

A Self-Publishing Assembly Line

I am really, really bad at sticking to a schedule. When I first started writing this blog, I made it my goal to publish on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It was also going to be a fiction-only blog. Oh well.

But I have to put this out for discussion, because I read an article about it that kind of blew my mind.

This article, which was featured in the New Yorker’s Book Bench, outlined the idea put forth by the man who runs an online publishing company called Leanpub, and equates publishing in this day and age to a startup business.

The idea behind Leanpub is that while you’re in the process of writing your book, others can read it and influence the process. They presumably make constructive criticisms and suggestions which act as the ‘editorial’ phase and at the end of the day, the argument here is that you’ve got an entertaining book that you know people want to read because hey, you already tested it with a bunch of readers.

When I first saw this, I thought, “Assembly-Line Publishing. NO.”

Just think. You’re a fantasy author. You’ve got a great idea for an urban fantasy revolving around witches. You put up your first chapter and the comments roll in: “There should be vampires! They should SPARKLE. The two main characters should be in love but they can’t be together because he’s a werewolf or a warlock or blah blah blah…”

I’m using Twilight as the exemplary trend here, but you can take any book craze – Harry Potter, the Da Vinci Code, even Sweet Valley High (ugh). My immediate gut reaction to this publishing process was that people are going to start reading a book not with the interest in seeing how it finishes, but with an interest in manipulating the story themselves.

My second issue is that it supposedly makes the post of editor redundant. Um, what? As someone who’s been reading from age 5 and writing from age 6, I can tell you that while I can critique a piece, I am not qualified to edit it. It’s a skill set that I could have learned but never acquired, and I would argue that for many other writers, it’s the same. Just because you get 35 people to read your novel doesn’t mean that you don’t need an editor at the end of the day.

This experiment, however, is intriguing to me. I want to see how well it works and what it’s like. So I have decided to take the plunge. I’m going to try it.

I’m going to use one of the Nanowrimo ideas that I didn’t work with this year – Predestination, in case you’re interested. It’s an idea that I like but don’t love, and this provides me with the opportunity to improve my writing without really risking anything but a bit of wasted time.

I’ll be periodically blogging about the experience as I go. At the moment I’ve just signed up, so I don’t know much about the inner workings.

If you’re interested in taking a look at Leanpub to decide for yourself, you can always click here.

Nanowrimo: How about editing that novel?

One of the big criticisms that I heard about Nanowrimo last year was that it encouraged people to do mediocre work, which many sent on to agents and editors without the benefit of revision. As someone who greatly enjoys Nanowrimo, I’ll be the first to say that it’s not the program’s fault if some people don’t think before they click ‘send.’

But I have to say, I was always a fan of National Novel Edition Month (Nanoedmo) because it is the natural accompaniment to National Novel Writing month. In fact, we should have three or four Nanoedmos every year, right?

It’s natural that it’s not going to be as popular a program as Nanowrimo. First of all, a lot of the people who write a book in November (myself included) don’t think it’s worth editing by the time they’ve finished it. Second, it’s just not as fun. Instead of spontaneity and a race to reach a word goal, you have to be calculating, harshly critical, and unbiased. But it’s just as important as (or more important than) Nanowrimo.

It makes me kind of disappointed, then, that OLL is opening numerous Camp Nanowrimo programs, which again focus on the writing (this time with a set-it-yourself word goal for less stress). It’s not that the Camp Nano features aren’t cool, or that Camp Nano won’t be fun. In fact, it will probably be nearly as great as Nanowrimo. But all this emphasis to get people excited for Camp Nano is keeping Nanoedmo in obscurity. In fact, OLL doesn’t host or sponsor Nanoedmo. That event is hosted by an outside group of authors who understand that a work of quality is written and rewritten.

The creative process is the place where it all starts, so of course it gets most of the glory. But is it just me, or are the sponsors of Nanowrimo missing out on an important part of their job? All aspects of the process should be made explicit, so that we can stop propagating the myth that a first draft is all you need.

Information on National Novel Editing month can be found here.

Final Day, Final Thoughts

Firstly, congratulations to all you who reached the 50,000 word goal today (or earlier in the month). You are gods among men.

I didn’t finish. I didn’t even get halfway. My piece stopped at the grand total of 22,244 words. They are words that I will probably never look at again.

I’d like to list a few possible reasons as to why I didn’t finish. This isn’t an attempt to make myself feel better…at least, I think it isn’t. I’m not so good with psychoanalysis, so it may refer to some (not so well) hidden wish to justify myself.

As someone who is used to pushing towards success, even when that success is hate-fueled, grueling and yields terrible results, I kind of want to know why this year was different. And I came up with the following reasons. Maybe these are reasons that others can relate to as well.

1. The Thesis of Doom. This one is obvious. I am a champion freak-outer, and I have been alternately relaxed and panicked about my thesis for the past six weeks. It didn’t help that I think I’ll be changing a significant portion of it to reflect some new discoveries. I know that Nanowrimo is designed for people who don’t have all day to write, but sometimes when you’re swamped with work, you wade and wade and wade…and find more swamp. For me, that’s just how things were this month.

2. I didn’t have the proper motivation. What was the point of writing 50,000 words? For me, not much. Because, in every other year, I’d written junk while hoping for gems, this year I decided to take a different approach and attempt to hone my novel-writing skills without publication as that end goal. As a result, when I started on November 1 I knew that a) my prose would probably be terrible and b) I didn’t want to fix it. So why put in the effort of so many words in such a short span of time? Earlier in the month I wrote a post in which I stated that the point of Nanowrimo is to write a novel, not to publish one. I stand by that, but  once I realized that I wasn’t trying to write something even vaguely publishable, something in me kind of gave up. Really, there was no point.

3. Finishing things seems to be my kryptonite. This is a problem that I’d better get over before I need to hand in my thesis. But it’s true. When I was in high school, I wrote three finished manuscripts in about a year and a half. One of those was for Nanowrimo. Now, I only start things, get sidetracked, and never come back to them. My Nanowrimo novel of two years ago was a completed manuscript, but I cringed whenever I went back to edit it. And since then I haven’t written anything of length that has a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s going to be my next obstacle in writing – once I get the thesis of doom out of the way.

4. I had no competition. I hate to admit it, but in certain ways I can be extremely competitive. I don’t like having a lower grade than my classmates (the same grade is fine), and I don’t like failing when others achieve, particularly when I am certain that I can do it. What drove me to complete Nanowrimo the very first year that I participated was the knowledge that one of my classmates had finished halfway through the month. Part of me just couldn’t bear the idea that she could win and I couldn’t. So I did. This year, the social part of Nanowrimo didn’t work out so well for me, for a number of reasons. And the nanoers that I did have contact with weren’t going to finish either. So I didn’t feel the pressure to do it myself.

So, I didn’t finish Nanowrimo this year, and I’m okay with that. I’ve always known that some years I’ll finish, and some I won’t. And I learned some things about myself along the way that will hopefully lead to a more productive Nanowrimo next year.

Now, we can go back to our regularly scheduled programs, read books, write at a leisurely pace, and dream fondly of next year.

Happy End of November, everyone!

Day Twenty-Three

Whew. It’s been a long time since I was on here. Comparatively, anyway.

Guys, I have come to grips with the fact that I won’t be finishing my novel this year. I think I am at peace with it. If not, you’ll see some spectacular word counts in the next few days…but I’m not even at 25,000 words. So I get to make up the other 27,756 by November 30?

I could do it, in theory. Stranger things have happened. But let’s not get too optimistic here.

I’ve been ruminating on exactly why I am likely to fail this year. More specifically, I’m ruminating on where exactly I can place the blame so that it lands on someone else. Because at the end of the day, I have some issues as a writer that I need to work on.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – I’ve still got 6 days!

Mood: resigned (and sick, and sick of working)
Word Count: 22,244 (not bad for a month’s work, really)
Music: Trollolo song (blame my boyfriend)