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80K the Hard Way: Day Three

Okay, Day Three and I’m already behind but I had a really, really good reason. I’m not going to discuss it in extreme detail here because, frankly, it was pretty disgusting. Let us just say that access to a bathroom was required for the bulk of the day and I feel positively empty at the moment.

That being said, note that I DID get some wordage in, so there.

Anyway, today’s stats:

Started With: 5,714 words
Wrote: 636 words
Total word count: 6,350 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cleaned up the downstairs bathroom because, yeah, it was sort of necessary.

Writing Tips: Even if you don’t hit your daily word quota, it’s cool. Some words are better than no words at all. If you only write 500 words a day, that’s 15,000 words give or take in a month, and 91,000 words in half a year. Hell, at that rate you could churn out two books a year, which is nothing to sneeze at. So sit down and toss some words into your story, even if all you add is a sentence or two. You’ll be glad you did.

80K the Hard Way: Day Two

Well, this turned out to be a day where I pretty much shuttled between Uncertainty Principle and Shifter Woods: Howl when I wasn’t vacuuming, food shopping, or turfing the damn cats off my lap. The one pictured above is particularly determined and will jump onto the table where I put my laptop when I’m not working in order to sneak a paw onto my lap desk. I push it off, and she’ll wait a moment before sneaking it back on. If I don’t push it off (because I’m, you know, working), she’ll take that as a sign to try and climb on either the lap desk or me. She did get cuddles and scritches today because I’m not a complete monster, but man, she would live ON me if it was at all possible.

About the book — Evie gets back to quarters early and finds Ben packing an overnight bag. He has to go off base to accompany a team that’s picking up scavenged goods from one of their regular suppliers. She’s a little worried because she knows that he’s having nightmares, but has no idea how to broach the subject because he keeps telling her he’s fine. Plus she’s just been seconded to Project Rubicon and is learning stuff that is curling her hair a little bit, but she can’t discuss it with Ben because he’s not cleared for that level of security. There’s a reason why I called this one Uncertainty Principle, you know. There might be also be a sex scene at the end of this chapter, I’m not sure yet.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 3,043 words
Wrote: 2,666 words
Total word count: 5,714 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: The usual cat chores, obtained the makings for Italian wedding soup, vacuumed the living room, dusted some picture frames, and edited Shifter Woods: Howl.

80K the Hard Way: Day One

getlitHello, lovelies, and welcome to April where I will be writing the first draft of Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2) in one month. Yes, watch me shut off my internal editor and vomit words onto the page like a drunk in a Chicago bar on St. Patrick’s Day!

So far? I have a moody Ben, a distracted Evie, and Lilith having a discussion about what it means to be human. Because this is a romance, you know. Jesus, I can never do things the easy way.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 0 words
Wrote: 3,043 words
Total word count: 3,043 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Much laundry, cat chores, stopped off for more wet food and some protein for me, and edited Shifter Woods: Howl before getting to work on this. Because yeah, I’m a masochist.

Writing Tips: Give yourself permission to write crap. Not every word that you write in the first draft will be gold. In fact, they’re going to be pretty shitty, with little glittering bits here and there that show promise. Think of it as digging clay out of a riverbank and slapping it into the general form of a person — the second/third/yadda yadda drafts are when you start carving everything into shape, adding stuff here and deleting stuff there. Sometimes deleting a lot of stuff there. Right now you’re not concerned with precision, or the perfect turn of phrase (although if you can manage those little glittering bits, please do so), or a gripping scene. You want shitty words that convey the general plotline of the story, and you want enough of them so that you make your word count. Do whatever you have to do to get them there — write a general outline that you’ll fill in later, skip ahead in the story, write something absolutely ridiculous that you know you’ll have to delete later but amuses you now. This is the time to get mud all over everything and build that castle.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-eight through Forty AND a Cover Reveal

So, this happened at 7:31 AM this morning:


Which means I finished my rough draft within six weeks. Now, obviously I need to edit, get it out to betas, incorporate their comments and corrections and do a final polish before I release it, and as you can tell from the date that’s not going to happen in one day (damn you, sinus infection. I’LL SEE YOU IN HELL). So I pushed the publication date out to November 8.

Now, I had promised that I was going to do a cover reveal once I’d finished the rough draft. So, courtesy of the amazing and talented Jay Aheer, allow me to present the cover for Empress of Storms.

Empress-of-storms-CustomDesign-JayAheer2015-smallpreviewIt’s so pretty! You can understand why I was doing backflips when I got it.

And now, on to second draft editing so that I can get this puppy out to the betas on Monday. Editor powers, activate!

The last few day’s stats:

Started With: 76,291 words
Wrote: 6,775 words
Total word count: 83,066 words.
What else did you do today, Nicola: You don’t want to know

Writing Tips: Finish what you write. Even if you think it sucks, even if you know it’s never going to sell, finish it anyway. Why? Because it’s a good habit to get into, because you don’t know what an editor will like, and because you will feel like King Kong on steroids once it’s done. Writer’s high is a real thing, my friend, and I promise you will walk around with a ridiculous smile on your face for at least a day after finishing a project, especially a novel-length one.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-seven

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

Yeah, I got nothing. I’m at the point where I’m just trudging towards that light at the end of the tunnel.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 74,211 words
Wrote: 2,080 words
Total word count: 76,291 words.
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, broke up cat fights, went food shopping, did web support work for a client, mailed off jewelry sales.

Writing Tips: There is nothing wrong with promising yourself treats to meet a word count or deadline. Carrot and stick works very well for a sound psychological reason.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-six

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I have made an executive decision. November 1 was an arbitrary publication date for EMPRESS OF STORMS, mainly chosen because it was the beginning of the month. Due to the sinus infection I had during the past five weeks and other sources of stress, however, I lost well over a week’s worth of writing time.

So I am pushing the release date back to November 8. That gives me enough time to do a good, solid edit and polish, and means my beta readers won’t have me hanging over their shoulders saying, “Are you done yet? Are you done yet?” Seven weeks still ain’t bad for going from zero to “Oops, it’s on Amazon.”

Also, by doing this I’ll release EMPRESS OF STORMS on my late mother’s 75th birthday. When I told her about my first science fiction sale, she sighed and said, “I wish you wrote romance — that way I could show it to my friends.”

Be careful what you wish for, Mom. You just might get it.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 71,134 words
Wrote: 3,077 words
Total word count: 74,211 words. I am now officially less than 10K away from finishing and should have everything wrapped up on Wednesday. BOOYAH.
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cleaned out the fifteen tons of dead leaves at the bottom of the pool, thank you weekend storm, did laundry, had dinner with a friend of Ramón’s, ran errands, and worked on jewelry.

Writing Tips: Missing a deadline is something to be avoided whenever possible. When it can’t be avoided, however, don’t beat yourself up and ask for an extension. Even a little extra time can mean the difference between a shittily edited manuscript and one that’s as clean and tight as you can make it. So suck it up, admit that you blew it, and ask for more time. Editors and publishers can be surprisingly understanding. They want your best product, after all.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-five

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I love my cats. I truly do. But if they don’t stop climbing into my lap while I’m trying to write and demanding cuddles, I will be wroth.

“But Nicola, cats are wonderful animals! Surely you can spare a few minutes to scritch a sweet little chin or stroke a furred back!” I hear you say.

Yeah. I have five cats. Multiply “a few minutes” by five, every hour on the hour. That is what I’m dealing with as I write. At this very moment Miss Grey, she of the Great White Shark coloring, has just jumped up and headbutted my arm in a meaningful manner. When I ignored her, she sloped off to the breakfast nook to moinge around the food bowls. Before her, it was Skitty Kitty, the world’s most nervous tabby, who makes a point of climbing on me whenever possible because I’ll keep her safe. Before that, it was her sister Brown Sugar, and before that it was The Big Orange Idiot, who weighs 18 pounds and very little of it is fat. My Bodyguard is the only one who’s content to sit on the chair arm and just watch me write. Everyone else jumps on my stomach, digging their claws in (I swear, if I ever die in mysterious circumstances someone needs to make sure that Ramón isn’t arrested on suspicion of battery because my stomach looks like I’ve been stabbed repeatedly with tiny little curved needles), shredding holes in my t-shirts and interrupting my flow.

Okay, Miss Grey is back, which means I now have to type one-handed because the other one is curled around her while she snuggles into it, purring like a motorboat and waiting for me to pet her. So I guess I’ll do that.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 67,987 words
Wrote: 3,147 words
Total word count: 71,134 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, went out briefly to get cat food and because I haven’t been out since Saturday, repeatedly turfed cats off me, cuddled Ramón and let him destress a bit, made a coffee date with my friend and beta reader Stretch.

Writing Tips: Find a room in which to write that is cat-free. Trust me, it’ll be much easier for you.

83K Or Bust: Day Thirty-one through Thirty-four

surrenderthemanuscript(Image borrowed from the inimitable Rachel Caine.)

I’m not giving up.

Let me just get that out of the way right off the bat. I’m not giving up. I know I’m seriously behind, but I will make my deadline one way or the other.

I’ve been having anxiety dreams. Partially about the book, partially about the financial situation (briefly, Ramón was laid off and his last day is October 30. We have enough money to get us through November, but after that things will get dicey. He’s searching for a new job and is stressing about it, and I’m brushing off my tech writing CV in case he can’t find anything). A few nights ago I dreamed that we had to give our house back to the credit union and take over this horrible little apartment that was falling apart at the seams. This is a recurring anxiety dream of mine, and I always stand there staring at rotting walls wondering how I’m going to make the place livable, much less bearable. A friend of mine went through this over a year ago when he was kicked out of his apartment because his landlord wanted to gentrify the property. He handled it with immense and astounding grace, turning it into an art project and giving away all of his things before setting off on the road to conduct another massive art project around the US and Canada. I just have anxiety dreams and eat more carbohydrates than are good for me.

Needless to say, I have not been waking up full of the creative spirit and raring to write. At this point, writing a novel is a marathon anyway, and the stress on top of it isn’t that conducive to writing prose. And I have also been spending a certain amount of time reassuring Ramón, copyediting his CV, listening to job descriptions and agreeing that yes, he could do that, and generally being a good and supportive wife. Because that’s what you do when you love someone and want to take some of the burden off them and help as much as possible. Especially since, bless him, he doesn’t want me to go back to an office job if I don’t have to. And I appreciate the hell out of that, but if it’s the only way to get income in the house, back to contract tech writing I go.

We’ll get through this, by the way–no need to do a GoFundMe or anything. It’s a crappy time of year to be laid off, but if we can struggle through to January we should be okay (we live in a tech corridor, lots of jobs going in the new year, etc.).

So, yeah, I’m behind. But I’m still planting my ass in the chair everyday and writing. I’m down to Act III and the last three chapters, then I do the world’s fastest rewrite and get it off to my betas and send them quality chocolate for the fastest beta review in the world. And on October 31st, we shall see what we shall see.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 61,322 words
Wrote: 6,665 words
Total word count: 67,987 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, laundry, did a humongous food shop that will feed us for weeks, made Italian wedding soup for dinner, edited a couple versions of Ramón’s CV, and wondered if anyone had ever done a crossover fic of Doctor Who and Outlander. Basically because I’d love to see Twelve wandering through Castle Leoch with Clara in tow saying, “Ooh, you think you can out-Scottish me, laddie! I’d like to see ye try!”

Writing Tips: Stress fucks with writing. It’s just a fact. It’s hard to write good prose when your stomach is tied up in knots and you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the bills/what the pathology report will say/etc. Or you’re the support system for someone who is going through a very stressful time and needs you to step up to the plate for them. If you can make yourself write during this time, congratulations. You have a will of adamantium and I salute you. If you can’t, that’s not surprising and for God’s sake don’t beat yourself up over it.

83K Or Bust: Day Twenty-seven through Thirty

Yeah, sorry about that. Our internet has been going up and down over the past few days like a porn star’s panties, and today it finally shit the bed, which did not make Ramón happy as it severely curtailed his work activities and required him to go into the office.

That being said, did you know that when everything goes spla you can contact Time Warner Cable help on Twitter? You can.

Long story short, apparently there is something goofy with our switch box and a tech will be sent out tomorrow to see what’s going on. I know that TWC has been upgrading its local infrastructure and network to the DOCSYS 3 protocol so maybe this’ll mean that our cable TV splitter box will finally work and we’ll be able to watch BBC America and Starz again. Would be nice, just sayin’.

On the downside, it also means that I have to clean my office, the living room, and maybe run a vacuum through the front rooms before the tech gets here because if anyone walks into my house right now I will bring shame on my family from the filth of it all. I’m going to clean once the book is done, I promise. But right now, the dust rhinos are running free in herds.

Also, I know I blew my first draft deadline. Will I still be publishing on November 1? You bet your bippy I will. In fact, I’m so confident of this that I’m hosting a release day party on FaceBook — details are here, and everyone is invited. The lovely and talented L.D. Blakeley will be cohosting with me, and there will be games, giveaways, and much tomfoolery, so make sure you come.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 52,699 words
Wrote: 8,623 words
Total word count: 61,322 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cat chores at my friend’s house, mailed off jewelry sales, hit Walmart up for #0 padded envelopes, went out AGAIN in the middle of the night to get tuna for my eldest cat because it’s the only way I can get him to take gabapentin for his sore right front leg

Writing Tips: The internet is a wonderful thing. It gives us immediate access to information, lets us look at pictures of cute kittens, and provides a wealth of other activities that are useful in our daily life.

What else is it? A ginormous timesink, particularly the twin bogs of Twitter and Facebook. And I say this as someone who keeps promising myself, “Just a few more posts and I’ll go back to work.”

If there’s a way to shut off the internet so that you can work, do it. Go find a place that doesn’t have wifi — I’m sure there are some remote fields and caves that aren’t wired. Or shut off your computer’s wifi connection. Do whatever you can to make it difficult or time-consuming to “just hop online for a second.” You’ll be astounded at your productivity. And let’s be honest, the latest meme will still be there once you’re finished.

83K Or Bust: Day Twenty-six

The health continues to improve at a frankly astounding rate and the last few days in particular have definitely benefited from the steroid shot I got along with my antibiotics (translation: I was more than slightly hyper and got a lot of shit done). That aspect is slowing down as you’d expect, but I still feel hella better than I did four days ago. Pity that prednisone has such corrosive long-term side effects.

Anyhoo, we’re starting to spiral in on the end of Act II where Matthias and Danaë are about to go through the Hellene wedding ceremony only to get word of what precisely Matthias’s son Lukas has been up to all this time, plus two acts of betrayal which pretty much scramble all plans and launch my royal lovebirds into Defcon Four. Hey, if you’re not throwing the kitchen sink at your characters there’s no drama and the reader starts to get bored.

Today’s stats:

Started With: 52,699 words
Wrote: 3,663 words
Total word count: 56,362 words
What else did you do today, Nicola: Cat chores, cat chores at my friend’s house, made a bunch of jewelry, did laundry, and planning out the cleaning attack I’m going to launch on this house next week because Lord, I cannot stand living in this sty for much longer.

Writing Tips: Most people are generally decent, I believe. If you’re one of these generally decent people, you may be hesitant to put your characters in danger or pain, break their hearts, make them argue, or generally stress them out in some way. After all, no one but a psychopath truly enjoys someone else’s unwilling pain (consensual sadism is an altogether different topic and one we won’t cover today), so it makes perfect sense that you don’t want to hurt your MCs.

That being said, harden your heart and do it anyway. Drama comes from conflict, and without drama a story will collapse like a souffle in a gun range. It’s a truism of human nature that we like to watch trainwrecks, so don’t shy away from throwing some into your story. Not only does it add interesting conflict and drama, it often provides for terrific character growth and makes your MCs more relatable to the reader, which is always a good thing. And if you’re a romance writer, you can console yourself that your MCs will get a happy ending and all this sturm und drang will resolve itself somehow.