Reworking My Goals

I’m not going to finish this draft on time. I don’t know if I mentioned it on here (I prowled through my old posts, but I couldn’t find anywhere I explicitly stated it), but my goal was to have a complete first draft by the end of the year. From there, I figured about a month or so for rewriting and editing, a month for it to be out to my beta readers, then another month or so of more rewriting and editing. All told, I figured I’d be ready to send it out sometime in the early spring.

That isn’t going to happen. To get there, I needed to be writing 2 chapters a week. And I just spent 3-4 weeks on chapter 10. Now, with only 8 weeks left in the year, it’d be highly unlikely I could finish on time, even if I were able to put in the 2 chapters a week. I don’t know how many chapters are left in my story, but there’s every chance it’ll be more than 16. Not to mention my current rate of work. I’ve picked it up a bit, but it still took me a whole week to do chapter 11 (which isn’t quite done, but one more session should do it).

My available time to write may well be shrinking within the near future, too. Financial concerns have me looking for a part-time job, and, while I haven’t heard anything yet, the possibility is still there.

It’s a bit of a bummer. This was the first project where I really set myself a deadline, and now I’m not going to make it. Still, the deadline is burned into my brain. I’m going to push for it, and see how far I can make it before time is up. Only then will I have a realistic idea of how far I need to extend that deadline.

I’m still proud of myself. And, truly, the only one who’s pushing me to meet that deadline is me. It’s still important to keep commitments I make to myself, but also perfectly okay for me to decide it’s not working and make a different plan.

Talk to me in the comments. Do you set deadlines for yourself? How often do you keep them?

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is upon us! For non-writers out there, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is, of course, the month of November. The point is to set a daily writing goal, and complete 50,000 words over the course of a month (you can find the official website here).

I have a confession to make. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I first heard about it a couple of years ago, and I really wanted to do it, but at the time I was working a lot and honestly didn’t believe I would be able to put in the time necessary. I wasn’t writing consistently at the time, and the daily goal of about 1,600 words seemed impossible.

Some days that daily goal still seems impossible. There are some days I don’t write at all. Some days I try, and only manage to eek out 1,000 words or less. Even on my best days, I’m lucky to hit 2,000 words. So each year I think about it, but I never really have the desire to sign up.

NaNoWriMo is somewhat disputed in the writing community. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the issue. On the pro side, the challenge helps writers by giving them a static goal, allowing them to track their progress, and to focus simply on getting words onto a page. They don’t have to be the best words, and editing is discouraged. The sole goal is to just throw them out there and see how far you can get. Some writers may need that, that motivation to just write and not re-think everything.

On the con side, the challenge makes writing a forced activity. The idea of having to meet a specific word goal puts too much pressure on the writer to write those words and doesn’t allow the story to flow the way it is supposed to. The challenge is marketed as “Write a novel in a month!”. But 50,000 words is only 50-75% of a novel, if that, depending on your genre and target audience. So, even if you complete the challenge, you still haven’t written an entire novel. Another con is the quality of the writing. If your sole goal is put words on a page, then you’re not putting them there in the best way possible. Even if you finish, your story will still require significant editing and rewriting to really shine.

Both sides have merit. I’m not taking either one. I don’t feel drawn to do it, and I’m not passing judgment on those who do. But I do love what it represents. Check out the following statistics from wikiwrimo:  in 1999, the challenge only had 21 participants. Fast forward to 2016, and there were 384,126 participants! That’s 384,126 people who made a decision to take their writing to the next level, who made a commitment, who tried. And that’s inspiring.

Talk to me in the comments. Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? What are your thoughts?

Divine By Choice

This weekend I finished Divine By Choice, the sequel to P.C. Cast’s Divine By Mistake (see my thoughts about this one here). I had trepidation about reading this book, because I remembered not liking it very much the first time. Come to find out, I didn’t like it much this time, either.

Once again, Shannon is yanked out of her world (only this time she is yanked out of Partholon and returned to Oklahoma), and has to deal with the mess Rhiannon is leaving in her wake.  There are a lot of things I could point to as reasons why I didn’t much care for it: This book introduces quite a few new characters that we’re supposed to care about, but it doesn’t give us reasons why we should. Shannon falls in love with a man who is the mirror image of her husband within days of knowing him and has a very cavalier attitude about her marriage. She fights the same evil she did in the first book, only pulled through between worlds, which I find lacking imagination. Shannon also suddenly has new magic powers that she conveniently uses once she’s back in Oklahoma to talk to the trees in the forest.

But the main problem I have with it is the weakness of the heroine. Now, I don’t consider myself a modern feminist. But I do enjoy a strong female lead, and I think women as a whole are strong characters who should be written like the well-rounded people they are. Shannon is not a strong female lead in this book. She wasn’t overly strong in the first book, but that can be mostly excused. She’s in a world she doesn’t know and has to learn the rules, so it makes sense that she would lean on other characters who are more experienced. She often showed her compassionate side, and truly desired what was best for her people, which is a more subtle type of strength. In the end, she joined her people in battle, and put herself in harm’s way to save them. While she wasn’t overtly strong, she showed growth, which is what readers need in a protagonist.

In Divine By Choice, though, I saw very little strength from her. To be fair, she begins the story sick from her pregnancy, and her body is physically weak. But even once the sickness abates, she is still helped in and out of the car and is helped to the door by the big strong man. There’s deep snow outside, but instead of walking in it like a big girl, she is either carried (again by the big strong man) or is clutching his arm for assistance. Even though she is back on her home turf, she relies on him to make plans and get her where she needs to go. She asks him to take care of her, to feed her (meaning to swing through the Arby’s drive-through), and to love her.

As I also noted in Divine By Mistake, Shannon doesn’t put a whole lot of effort into discovering how she was brought back into her own world. Clint (her husband’s mirror image) tells her what he thinks happened on his end, but she doesn’t bother to verify his information or figure out exactly what happened. She even waits several days to contact Rhiannon (who she knows is still in the same world), even though Rhiannon would be the perfect person to get information from.

In the final battle, Shannon doesn’t even fight. She gets snatched and stabbed, and watches while Clint saves the day. He summons Native American warriors to kill the evil creature, then sacrifices himself to send Shannon back to Partholon. She literally does nothing.

Overall, Shannon drove me nuts in this book. I have a policy about not putting a book down before it’s finished, and I’ve only rarely broken it. My main goal in reading this book was to bridge the gap before reading the next one, Divine By Blood, which is the only one I haven’t read before. It’s new to me, which makes it exciting, and I’m hoping I truly enjoy it instead of it just being something for me to finish and move on.

I Like My Secondary Character Better Than I Like My Protagonist

Yeah. I’ve been neglecting my story, so I’ve gotten behind, and I’m still working on chapter 10. If you remember from Introducing New Characters Partway Through A Story, chapter 10 switches the perspective from the protagonist to the crown prince, to describe events taking place in a different part of the kingdom. It’s an essential part of the story, and I’m having a lot of fun writing it.

The problem is, I like writing about Prince Tynan better than I like writing about Callum. It may be that after 9 chapters I’m a little tired of Callum. It may be that Callum is a little whiny and sometimes stupid and I’m thinking about going back and rewriting him a little to make him more likeable. It may that I like Prince Tynan’s storyline better than I like Callum’s storyline. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a bit hard to revert back to writing about Callum.

I never intended to have much to do with the prince. As I’ve refined my plot his role has grown, and I intend for him to be important to the resolution, but I still don’t want him taking up a lot of space in this story. Partly because I don’t want to get into writing about the kingdom as a whole or castle politics. But mostly because this is Callum’s story. He’s the one who needs to learn and grow and ultimately save the day.

I like Prince Tynan because he’s smart, well-educated (they’re not the same thing), and family oriented. He listens to wise counsel and makes good decisions. He’s concerned about the future of his kingdom and is taking seriously the role he’s assigned to play. But as much as I like him, I need him to stay somewhat in the background right now. I’m semi-considering another story in which he can feature. At the end of this one, Prince Tynan lives, and will be needed to help pick up the pieces of the conflict. Maybe I can write a sequel just for him, and give him his own story. I have a half-formed idea of what that could be, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. One story at a time.

As for Callum, I need to work on liking him more. The re-write should help. Moving faster will help. I know from experience that the longer I stall on a story, the less desire I have to finish it. I just want to move on to something fresh and exciting. Getting back into his story and out of chapter 10 should help.

Talk to me in the comments. Have you ever felt more drawn to a secondary character than your protagonist?