Self-Publishing Diaries: Pantsing

Featured Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Outlining takes time. It’s smart, but it’s also been my kryptonite. In the past, I’ve used outlining as a way to feel productive, but to ultimately procrastinate. My approach to this 30-day draft is to wing it. And, that decision might be a nail in this project’s coffin. At the end of this, my novella will be some incoherent mess. But, the goal is to have a finished piece. I’m not going to be too torn up about it not being some ground-breaking piece of literature.

I’m currently at 4276 words. Under my goal by 724 words. The night’s not over yet, but unfortunately, with the workweek right around the corner, that’ll probably be it for me. During the week I’m lucky if I can get in a couple of hundred words here or there.

In all honesty, I wrote the majority of those words today in a frantic frenzy to have something to document. Accountability is amazing for getting me going. That and the fact that I desperately needed something to occupy me today. I couldn’t bear another minute of getting sucked into Netflix’s endless queue or aimlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed where the writers I love talk about the stories they’re creating.

This draft has become one of the few things I look forward (the only other things on that list are Gun Gale Online and lemon sandwich cookies. Yes, I’m a bit pathetic) to when I get up in the morning. Even though I don’t pound out a ton of words for my draft every day, I have made it a habit to work on other pieces as well.

I suppose writing, in general, is what is keeping me sane. My depression has stolen so much from me. It’s stolen my desire to care about anything or anyone. When I’m writing, that lack of caring works to my advantage. I’m not bogged down with doubts. I keep typing because what else is there to do in what currently feels like a very empty existence.

This post is kind of turning into a drag, so I’ll end it with my stats and goals:

4,276 wrds/30,0000-ish wrds (If I can end it in 25,000 I’ll be fine)

12 pages written

22 days left

On average I need to write 1,169 words per day to reach my goal in time.

 

Next week on Self-Publishing Diaries I’ll talk about my novella’s plot and how I plan to craft my self-publishing alter-ego. ‘Cause I’m not ready to publish under my name just yet. Read my first entry here, where I decided enough is enough and I should just write and publish a dang novella. 

An Unconventional Approach to NaNoWriMo

I’ve attempted to participate in NaNoWriMo twice. My very first attempt was made in 2012 with a project called Kings, which was a retelling of King Thrushbread. I did zero planning and managed to only write 1k words before getting tired of the idea. I know, I possess an amazing amount of stamina.

The second attempt was in 2015 with an untitled YA manuscript. I did a little better that time. I vaguely remember it being about some girl getting into this elite school and a young documentary duo following her around to get the inside scoop as to what was happening behind closed doors. It was supposed to be a romance/thriller, but it was just a mess due to the fact that I – once again – did absolutely no planning. I made it to around 33k before abandoning the manuscript.

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I can’t find either files of these manuscripts on my computer. They’re forever lost, but their memory is immortalized on the NaNoWriMo website

Since 2015 I haven’t considered trying to do any sort of writing challenge because 1) I struggle to outline 2) under pressure I tend to freeze up. In the untitled project, I remember writing whatever came to mind just so I could have something the page. It could be gibberish for all I cared. I would narrow in on the target word count and pound out nonsense. Suddenly, writing wasn’t fun anymore and I rationalized that the big experience was fine because once the month was over I’d at least reap the benefits by having a finished novel. Unfortunately, by day 25 in 2015 I had burned out so much and had such negative feelings associated with writing that I took a long break. Not only on the draft but writing in general.

I approached NaNoWriMo as a numbers game. Focusing on the numbers made me really hate sitting down to write. But, I still feel like there’s something valuable I can gain from attempting NaNoWriMo this year. Thing is, I have to change my mindset about the event.

Writing by Chapter and Not Word Count

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Photo source: pixabay

This year my goal isn’t to write 50k words. I’m focusing on finishing the project, not making a certain word count.

Thinking about the numbers terrify me. But, thinking in terms of scenes within chapters is much less intimidating. Since focusing on the scenes is my priority it’s unavoidable to pants this situation. I suppose some people could but with my track record, my projects will turn quickly into lost causes.

Projects & Outlining

I want to work on two projects this year. Yes, it’s a huge and possibly unwise undertaking for someone who hasn’t finished a novel yet but hear me out. I’ve already written and outlined a decent chunk of my YA project. By the time November 1st rolls around I will have at least four more chapters written which gets the manuscript up to nine chapters. I’ll be working towards finishing the other seventeen during the event. Here’s the projects I plan to work on:

YA Novel | Currently at 15,359 words (this will be the only time I mention word count until the end of November). I want to tell the story within 25 chapters so that’s how I’m going to plot it.

Romance Novella | Currently at 0 words. I feel like I can tell this story in 15 chapters.

I’m using Evernote to plan both stories. My collection of folders include an overview, character profiles, and chapter-by-chapter outline

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This is a random novel I’ve been plotting. Not going to pursue it for a bit though.

To be honest, this experiment may or may not be the greatest approach to writing I’ve ever had. But, I’m willing to put in the effort and even … give up social media for it. I know it’ll be worth it. Besides, using my free time to write is wise no matter how wild my plan is to finish these projects. Wish me luck. I’ll check in weekly to report how much of a mess I got myself into.

If you’re giving NaNoWriMo a try this year two questions: Are you pantsing or planning? And are you sticking to the original challenge of the event or are you modifying it for your needs?

Writing Romance Novels Online: Three Things I’ve Learned So Far

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Like many others romance readers out there I can’t help but write my own stories, taking inspiration from the likes of Jane Austen, Janette Oke, Talia Hibbert, and Jenny Han (I have a very specific palette that has been perfected over the years). I even hope to be able to share my stories one day with a wide audience that’ll love my characters as much as I do. (Fingers crossed)

In the meanwhile, I’ve always been very big on sharing my work online. I’ve written on this blog before about how I started sharing my work online on a blog and then on the now extinct writing communities, Inkpop and Figment. I could never really get a hang of Wattpad, but have recently started trying to post in hopes of finding a writing community similar to the one I had before… Spoiler, it hasn’t been working too well, but honestly, that’s on me. I haven’t been trying as hard as I should. But, I digress.

There’s a ton of things that go into making a romance novel work. And there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re sharing your process with readers in real time. This isn’t a how to write a romance novel post. This is how I’ve learned how to share a romance novel online, without compromising my story.

1. Don’t put three-act structures in every, single chapter

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Releasing chapters weekly mimics the style of an episodic show. I refer to is as the monster of the week syndrome. The writer will have a chapter that sets up a problem, action rises, and it’s resolved by the end. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This style worked for me considering I was focused on making my chapter as exciting as possible for my audience, once a week. And it’s almost always necessary for any writer who specializes in this version of serial fiction in the 21st century – where attention spans are decreasing because of the endless content begging to be consumed – to keep the conflict rising and falling. But, since I want to one day edit my online works into novels it’ll be difficult time revising 50k+ words of so many highs and lows. It’s smarter to keep the bigger picture in mind and not just how I’m going to make this chapter as attention-grabbing as possible.

2. Flesh out my leads before I post anything

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I have this habit where I really pay close attention to my lead male while leaving my lovely, leading lady on the back burner. Maybe I’m just living out my fantasies – there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when it comes to really getting serious about having a well-round plot I need both characters to be fully formed individuals.

If my characters aren’t fully formed before I share them with people online I’ve noticed they begin morphing into stereotypes. People would comment on one of my character’s personality and I would take whatever they observed and ran with it – especially when it came to side characters. And this was a lazy co-op because I figured since the readers already had a sense of who someone was I didn’t have to work hard enough to create a more human character.

3. I’m not writing the Gospel, so changing it later on is perfectly acceptable.

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Fix it in post is a film-making phrase I’ve adapting in many aspects of my life. It embodies the mood of keep moving forward. And it works perfectly for novel writing online. A first draft is going to be crappy. No matter if I’m sharing it online or not. Sure, I clean up the grammar and spelling before I hit that publish button on Wattpad. But, whatever I write I have to understand that it’s not going to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect to share. And most importantly, it’s not going to be forever.

I’m not married to anything on that page. And if I decide to change a major plot point in chapter fifteen when my readers on now on chapter twenty, so be it. Either they’ll be fine with going back or fine with finding someone they thought was dead is now back and fighting for the lead’s hand in marriage… You get the idea.

I have to keep in mind that putting down words is all that matters at first. Got to get out of the bad before I start chipping away in search for the good.

 

It’s definitely a push and pull when it comes to sharing in-progress work online. But, a part of me will always be interested in hearing others’ opinions about my newly developed drafts. Maybe one I’ll learn to keep things to myself until they’re fully formed. But, for now, I’m happy with sharing my stories when they’re in their genesis.