I Hereby Foreswear NaNoWriMo

I’ve finished NaNoWriMo for this year, and possibly for good. The 81,000 words were done in nine days. For the first five days I did 10,000 words a day, but was able to slow to a more relaxed 8,000 a day after passing the 50,000 word goal.

I think it’s the deadline that does it for me. There’s this urgent need to finish. I get it when doing a first draft anyway, but have forced myself to slow down a bit recently. Not that the urge ever completely vanishes.

I’ve wondered whether it’s a desperation to achieve something, given my lack of any kind of success so far. But I don’t feel anywhere near the same urgency during the revision process. There’s a desire to get through it, and eventually to be rid of the thing so I can get on to the new, but never the same fevered intensity.

Since I don’t really need NaNoWriMo to prompt me to write now, I think it may have offered me all it can. And the increased stress and anxiety I feel from it may just make the writing process less enjoyable (though much such enjoyment tends to be retrospective).

So I hereby swear off doing NaNoWriMo again.



The book (sequel to The Border Guard, which is currently submitted to an agent – 1 initially, with a few more I’ve started researching next in line) is written, at least. It still needs a lot of work. Chapter 3 is way too sparse, so that needs something else. I need to insert a chapter so the POV character has actual interaction with another character before the first scene they get together here, in order for that to really work without relying on the reader having read and remembering their interactions in the first book.

I also realised one of the plot strands left in the first book doesn’t have any attention here, so I need to work out whether it will play a role, or whether to exorcise it from the first book.

More worryingly is that one of the overall themes (probably not the word I want) of the first book isn’t as prevalent here. I can’t tell if that’s a problem yet, and may need some distance to properly judge. Overall I’m relatively happy with some bits of the story, so I don’t want to have to do a complete rewrite.

So now I’m trying to decide whether to focus on working out what needs to change in this one (after some time away from it), or start outlining the third (and final) book, to get a proper overview of what things need to be. But will the outline fix the current structure of the second book in my head, or will it show me what it needs to be?


NaNoWriMo 2015

I finished NaNoWriMo yesterday, at just short of 88,000 words. So that’s done for another year.

Glyphmaster still needs a lot of work. Most of the character arcs feel lacking, some of the minor characters need more fleshing out (or at least coherence), some revelations feel like they need more foreshadowing (and I’m not yet sure how to do it without too much exposition early on), and one of the characters in a political position may well need most chapters redone (I was trying to show the array of problems their position meant dealing with, but at the moment it feels too incoherent). Also quiet a few of the viewpoint characters are in fairly depressed/lost mindspaces, which may be a bit repetitive.

But I’m still too close to really judge this stuff, so it’s going aside for a couple of months. Next up working on a short story, then preparing Song of Thunder for publication, probably next month, then beginning revisions of The Monster in the Mirror, then collapsing, then either back to Glyphmaster or reviewing the first two parts of Dwimmerfall and trying to come up with the third.

Progress Report – October 2015

I’m more or less done with the outline for Glyphmaster, the third book in the Glyphpunk series, which I’ll write for this year’s NaNoWriMo. My progress can be tracked here. (Just not yet, obviously.)

I’ve enough time to do the proof read of Song of Thunder, a short fantasy novel – basically The Wild Bunch, with orcs and goblins. I’ll hopefully get that formatted and ready in late November, and probably release it in December. Here’s the cover:

Song of Thunder








After that there’s a couple of shorter stories, and then beginning the revisions of The Monster in the Mirror. So the quiet here may last for the rest of the year, unless something occurs to me when I happen to have spare time.

NaNoWriMo Progress

So a week in to NaNoWriMo and I’m done. The remaining stories from the Tales of the Thief-City series have first drafts, and it took me just over the 50,000. I do have another unrelated short story I might try and knock into shape and get done this month if I can.

I might leave this as my last NaNoWriMo. I don’t do well with the deadline. I’m borderline OCD for not liking being late, so I rush even more than I normally do with first drafts. And as I allow myself plenty of preparation time beforehand, I usually have a week or two at the end of October where I’m not really doing much but I already have the urge to get on with the writing.

Even more than with other first draft writing I worry that the haste is producing bad work. Yes, it’ll go through a few rounds of revision, but would it require fewer if I spent a little more time on the first draft.

While I use NaNoWriMo to get on with writing certain projects, and assigning a certain time to doing awkward writing can be useful, I may just need to be more efficient with my regular schedule.


Next up is trying to get the outline for this other short into shape, and/or then revising the recent work.

Plans Aflounder

I’ve finished this year’s NaNoWriMo, passing the 50,000 word mark on the 7th. So my idea of writing slower didn’t really work, possibly due to the pressure of a deadline, no matter how far off.

Maybe I’d be better limiting myself to a maximum word count per day of a few thousand, with a minimum amount of time spent writing it. I’m not sure forcing myself into writing slower will do much beyond making the end seem that much further away.

The way my writing process has developed, the first draft is the most laborious section to force myself to do. When writing it isn’t so bad, but the idea of getting down to it, and how far off the end is, can be dispiriting. I usually have a detailed outline so I don’t run into blocks worrying what should happen next, or logical inconsistencies with the story (these do still occur, but the most blatant get weeded out during planning). It can at points make the first draft nothing more than transcribing and expanding, although conversations often go off at tangents (only meeting back up with the plan later on).

Revisions are when I feel less of a time constraint, so I focus on sections as I go along and spend more time getting everything right. The revision cycles usually go on until I’m sick of the story anyway.

Maybe I’m simply worrying too much about the state it is in the first draft, and should focus instead on making the necessary changes in revision. My attempts to take a more structured revision approach haven’t yet been successful, but it could be worth a try.


Story Length

The stories were disappointing in that what I thought would be a shot novel and a novella turned out to be a novella and a shorter novella. I seem to have become unable to gauge from even a detailed outline how long a story is going to be. Not exactly a new problem, but I haven’t been this far off before.

Part of this may be addressed in revisions, where I could well expand on the descriptions which get only spares detail in the first draft. They’re the main thing that tend to change in revisions, since I’m not naturally inclined towards descriptive bits. I prefer to be getting on with the story, so in first draft my impulse is to stick to the fundamentals of plot and character without going into detail on the stage dressing. I tend to glaze over on this stuff when reading too, favouring the more abstract view of the story. So this is likely to be harder to alter in my writing style.


With the NaNoWriMo done I’ll hopefully be able to come up with some material for the blog. In between revisions for Glyphwar.

Slow Time

Posts have been scarce around here both because I’m preparing for NaNoWriMo, and because I can’t seem to find stuff to write about. The latter should be dealt with next month (not that I won’t have plenty work to do afterwards), but there’s no telling when the former will change. I’ve got a few postings in various states, and some ideas, but just can’t seem to get them to focus in my mind.

For NaNoWriMo I have two stories prepared.

Grey Enigmas, in the same setting as Grey Engines but set a century and a half later:

In a telepathic society where everyone has their inner snitch, crimes do not remain secret. So when a murder is committed without an obvious culprit, the authorities are at a loss. Their only recourse is an imprisoned detective.

Dreams of the Dead:

I don’t have a blurb for this one yet, but it’s tangential to the Tales of the Thief-City series. At the moment it’s looking like more of a novella than a novel.

Hopefully I’ll be able to produce more content in December.

Self-Review 16: Coral Throne

Coral Throne coverCoral Throne (Stoneweaver book 2)

After generations, the waters of the drowned world have receding. With society perilously close to unravelling, the realization causes turmoil, and a scramble to maintain power. Coming to grips with his new role, Danath must protect the island from scheming tyrants, and a secret army of Stoneweavers which may not exist.




The second of my NaNoWriMo books for 2011 (it was finished by the 18th), and the first sequel novel I’ve gotten around to. The first didn’t do much in terms of sales to justify the time, but the story kept intruding on my thoughts to the point where I had to do it (the usual way I decide what’s next).

Being a sequel made me far more uncertain about elements of it. I wanted to keep enough of the feel of the first one that it didn’t seem completely different, but the nature of the story meant it would be different. There was more politics and talking, and not as much fighting early in the book.

The impetus for the story was thinking how the events of the first book would change the world, physically and socially (this book is only during the early days of the changes, even set years after the first one). The social changes mean stoneweaving (the magic system of the setting) is also changing to be used more in non-combat ways. So there’s probably a lot of the story dealing with the world-building side of it, and it can be hard to know how much detail to go into. It’s a matter of finding the balance between enough detail to sell the reality of the setting, without it slowing down the plot, and in fact getting it to drive the plot where possible. Ultimately I just write as much as I find interesting and hope that view’s shared.

I left some seeds in for what’ll happen in the third book when/if I get around to it, but that’s still gestating in my head at the moment.

Self-Review 15: The Sin of Hope

The Sin of Hope smallThe Sin of Hope

A secret older than religion, or a more recent delusion? Hired to find the witness to a crime, PI John Daly soon realizes he hasn’t been told everything. With the Vatican and local mobsters also on the man’s trail, does his loyalty to a client of questionable sanity outweigh his religious devotion and his chance at redemption?



Having learned from the first NaNoWriMo (Allegiances) this year (2011) I outlined two novels in preparation. The Sin of Hope was finished by the 8th, but it was only around 45,000 words.

This is probably the novel I’m happiest with, apart from the length which didn’t change much beyond the first draft. That could well be an impediment to getting people to read it, since surveys show eBook buyers tend to prefer longer works.

This was very much based on the pulp detective stories, or at least the way I look back at them. I read a few in preparation, and then basically ignored them and did the story as I saw it in my mind. I think there’s probably an element of homage in there, even if only the leads name – Carroll John Daly is credited with writing the first hard-boiled story.

This was the first book I had properly edited. Since it’s a first person narrative from an American character, and I’m not American, I wanted an American editor to make sure the voice sounded right. So I hired Susan Helene Gottfried, who I can unequivocally recommend.

While I feel the story ultimately ends up fairly agnostic, the worldview presented is influenced by my atheism. I see religions as social survival mechanisms which have outlived their usefulness. They provided stories to answer the questions which couldn’t be answered, to stave off the sheer terror of the unknown. They offer the promise (against all evidence to the contrary) that life is fair and we’re watched over by a benevolent force, and that anything we don’t know, we don’t need to know. These stories were then passed through generations, becoming taught as truth rather than folklore. They become firmly entrenched, especially when confronted by science (which offers real answers rather than stories) or other religions (which offer irreconcilable conflicting narratives). In the modern world they’re so exposed to these opposing viewpoints that they become militant, seeing their beliefs as being under siege. So for all they may still serve their original purpose for some, in general terms they cause more trouble for society, and hinder social progress.