How I Spent 2013 (Writing… and not Writing)

2014 is still in its infancy and it’s the time of year that everyone (and their dog) looks back to the previous year and outlines their goals for the new year. I didn’t accomplish all my goals for 2013, the ones I started out with fell by with wayside while I finished projects I hadn’t even intended to start.

This is my not-so-brief overview of 2013:

1. Writing Competitions (I did a few, only won once)

2. Too much research  (aka ‘The Year of Too Many Plots’)

3. Writing with Depression is difficult (but stuff still got done!)

1. Writing Competitions

NaNo 2012 – Finishing stuff is hard

  • Title: The Magus Deception (I know – it’s a working title)
  • Synopsis: Treason abounds in small fishing kingdom. After bending the knee 60 years ago to the Dominion, the small island of Chelonii has never settled its rebellious way. As the far-flung royal family assembles for a council delegation, they learn of ships being lost at sea and libraries being burned. Sensing there is something deeper involved, (former) Sister Arlana and her wild-child brother Juval begin their own investigation – uncovering murder, conspiracy and a 600 year deception.
  • Stats:

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In 2012 I started NaNoWriMo for the first time and I was hooked immediately. There was an instant sense of community both online and locally. I restarted writing original fiction, planning, and almost finishing, a Fantasy novel that had been sitting in my head for years.

Once 2013 rolled around I had difficulty keeping my attention on the fantasy novel. I tried joining the 100K in 100 days challenge and worked steadily throughout the month of January but was never able to maintain the same stamina that I had in November.

I still like the story that I wrote, however what’s stopping me from returning to work on it is the huge mess of editing that needs to be done. I began writing with a lofty theme in mind which I squished into the story. Once I found my writing voice and worked out the full plot that theme became pretty irrelevant. There were so many small changes that I made as I wrote that the start of the novel didn’t fit with the working ending. I also realized that just because I envisioned the novel as part of a 3-piece epic, that didn’t mean that I could leave a bunch of dangling plot lines.

I added another 20K to the word count – bringing it up to a respectable 70K – but the story still  has no resolution and no real beginning. Maybe 2014 will be the year I finally finish this mess.

Camp NaNo – Follow-through? What follow-through?

  • Title: Brewing is Murder
  • Synopsis: They’re not Nick and Nora – but they drink like them. A mysterious phone call in the night, a wort boiled over, and a missing strain of yeast. It all leads to the discovery of body. But is it accidental or is it murder? Set in winter-time Ottawa, a couple of inexperienced sleuths try to solve a murder and maybe have a few beers.
  • Stats:

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In April I joined the spring version of NaNoWriMo, it was almost the same was the November version except for the fact that you could chose your own word-count goal. I still aimed for the 50K goal, which might have been my first problem.

I decided I needed a fresh plot, something that I could focus on while I let the 2012 NaNo Novel stew in the background. I studied up on types of mystery novels, and figured out the one I wanted to write. My boyfriend does homebrewing, and microbreweries are the latest fad in Ottawa at the moment. I had enough information and interest to work on a mystery novel centred on beer making and drinking.

My plan fell completely apart near the start of the novel, I enjoyed what I was writing and everything was falling easily into place but I still had the niggling concern that I shouldn’t be writing anything new until I finished my fantasy novel. I ran into trouble when I was writing the first murder, the protagonist finding her boss’ body, and I just couldn’t get interested. This was supposed to be the most interesting, the most informative, the most gruesome part of the novel and I just wasn’t interested. I sent the novel aside, promising myself I would work on it in October/November – spoiler alert – I didn’t.

NaNo 2013 – Mission Accomplished

  • TitleDog Gone
  • Synopsis:  After the murder of one of the rarest creatures in the world: a hellhound, Audrey Caron has to navigate both the criminal underworld and the actual underworld. Family debts rack up and Audrey is left to her own devices to catch a criminal, clear her name, and stay alive.
  • Stats:

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I mentioned in my last blog post that this was an urban fantasy novel I started as a lark and it’s the first I actually ended up finishing. I rounded out 2013 doing the first batch of editing. Another 200 pages to edit for spelling/readability then off to my first round of beta-readers.

2. Too much research – aka ‘The Year of Too Many Plots’

I love research. Looking up books and articles was my favourite part of university. While trying to focus on my novels in 2013 I kept getting myself distracted by new, shinier plots. Along with the novels I worked on through 2013, I also plotted out and began research on two more novels, both of these new novels involved topics that I was always interested in, poison-making and steampunk.

  • Poison Plot Outline

The concept sprang out of a short story I started writing in the summer (oh, I also learned I dislike writing short stories). Once I finished the short story I ended up with a novel planned out. The downside was that I was so enamoured with the idea of the novel that the short story had no real plot – it was a character study more than anything.

I spent most of August reading through Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, learning way more about poison than my boyfriend was probably comfortable with.

  • Steampunk Plot Outline

Steampunk is an area that always interested me. In the middle of November, smack-dab when I should have been concentrating solely on NaNoWriMo, I spent a day researching the genre, local history and sketching out a rough plot.

I ended up finding some steampunk guides online and turned to friends who knew more than I did and who could point me in the right direction. I’ve read a few gaslamp/steampunk novels but not enough to know all the tropes. Our main public library only had a few books on the design of steampunk artifacts, not on the genre itself – of course, all those books are on order due to arrive later this year.

In December during my stay-home vacation I spent a day at the library going a little more in-depth into local history than was probably needed. I learned tons about my topic, however I also learned there was very little built up in Ottawa during my chosen time period (1830s). I wanted a small town, not a bunch of logging camps. So it’s back to the grindstone with that plot.  In my off-time, I’m researching everything I possibly can: dresses, medicines, storehouses, Canadian parliament, military figures etc.

3. Writing with Depression is difficult

For every month I was on a roll, writing 15-30K and researching, there were two months of almost nothing. You’ll notice there’s a blank space of a couple months in my blog posts. It’s been a hard year, there’s been a lot of personal and familial problems that affected me. I don’t like to dish about my personal life but suffice to say that I’m glad 2013 is done. For every goal that I met, three others got pushed aside. I keep comparing my weekly progress with full-time writers, just to purposefully stack the deck against myself.

I have to be content with the fact that, even though I would stop for lengthy periods, I would always return to writing.  The fact that I was able to finish my first novel and source a couple of beta-readers have been a huge boost.

For the months that I was able to sit down and commit to writing, 2013 was a productive year. I’m been keeping in contact with a writing buddy, setting up weekends that we can write together and be pretentious about themes and symbolism.

For 2014, my writing goals are to publish my urban fantasy novel and finish two more novels this year. 

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