Collaborative Steampunk Novel Update
When I announced that I would be coordinating Project 7 for the Collaborative Writing Challenge starting in Dec. I admit I was a little worried about recruiting people. Steampunk has become a lot better known in recent years, but there are still plenty of people who don’t really know what’s it about, or at least aren’t comfortable enough with the genre to feel like they can contribute.
On the one hand, I complete understand and obviously I’m not going to push and say someone should do it if it doesn’t interest them. On the other hand, I see Steampunk as less of a genre with distinct borders and rules, and more of an overlay that can be added to a mystery, romance, or any other sort of story.
It looks like there are a lot of people who feel the same way! 70 slots have been filled so far by 30 writers, and there’s still over a month before the project begins. Each project has a minimum of three authors in each slot, and up to five, so there is plenty of space if you haven’t signed up yet. Just don’t wait too long!
Remember, the project starts in December but runs until August, so even the prospect of starting a project after the bustle of the impending holidays has you seriously considering if a string of lights is sturdy enough to hang a person by, just keep in mind you could sign up for a chapter way out in March when you’ll just be twiddling your thumbs.
A typical science fiction or fantasy novel for adults comes in around 100k words (~350 pages depending on the size of the book). YA books tend to be closer to 70k, but even that word count is higher than the goal for the National Novel Writing Month of 50k. So why the discrepancy?
Writing a book is at least 80% revising.
Let’s face it, the first pass is going to be bad. Some people’s bad is a lot worse than others, but generally speaking there are going to be plenty of issues to fix on even the structural level, not to mention at the specific word choice level. Personally, I am finding it incredibly difficult *not* to be doing revisions as I go, which has been my pattern in the past. I know that what I wrote yesterday is rubbish and I want to make it at least refined enough to be just regular or old ‘bad’ before I move on, but that won’t help me reach my word count goal. Grrrrr.
So rather than be annoyed, I decided to change my mindset and embrace the utter craptitude of the firstest, roughest draft. I am writing whole scenes of dialog with just the words the characters say but with no dialog or action tags. I am leaving myself notes and giving myself permission to move on from problem passages to press on to things I know for sure. And I am not reading over things I wrote a week ago and painstakingly looking to see if I used “she” to begin too many sentence. (Though old habits die hard and I know many would already say I pay way too much attention to that sort of thing when I should just be writing.)
I am also doing a ton of pre-writing exercises to help me get really focused when it comes time to sit down and write. Pre-writing can mean anything from answering character and world-building questionnaires to writing a summary of what you want to accomplish in a chapter. But before I could wrap my head around that level of detail I made a spreadsheet with a separate page for each of the 6 parts of my story that I used to outline down to the scene level and projected word count.
I’m about 1/3 of the way into this whole NaNo experiment, and I’ve written 14,369 words on Mistress of None so far this month, bringing the total words for Part 1 to over 25,000. This has been a very different way to approaching novel writing and I can’t say I like everything about it. On the other hand, I have also gained some invaluable new methods and most importantly, the confidence I’ve gained in myself.
All writers go through times where they feel like poseurs or like they can’t possibly succeed, and I was having one those dark periods in August after the dour advice and attitudes of the folks at the Writer’s Symposium at Gen Con. Now, I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I have the drive and the tools to make a real go of this.
Now I’ve just got to convince the rest of the world…
I’ve been wanting to do NaNoWriMo for years, but November has never worked out to be good timing in the past. This year, I finally get my chance!
The goal is to write 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days. Most novels are between 70-100k words, so if you get technical 50k is more like 3/4 or half of a novel, but it is plenty of words to serve as a foundation. I started my project in October so I could hit the ground running yesterday when it began in earnest.
If I’m going to do a thing, I like to do it well. I’ve got lots of outlines and notes to help carry me through, but I’m also going to need lots of time. So for the month of November, forgive me while I slack off a bit on my posting schedule here on For Whom The Gear Turns. I still plan to be posting regularly on my Facebook author page with excerpts and quirky facts I learn about America in the 1870s, so don’t forget to follow me there as well.
All month long I’m spinning the yarn of Viola Thorne, a con woman who is forced out of retirement when her past comes back to haunt her…Literally. Her story will take readers from the Old West across America on the Transcontinental Railroad and down the Mississippi on a steamer ship, and that’s just to get her back to New Orleans where she must solve a deadly mystery to atone for her twisted past.
Here’s a little piece of Chapter 1 of Mistress of None to wet your appetite.
A gentle sensation as light and dangerous as hornet wings fluttered on the back of her neck and slowed her hands. Miles away from anywhere anyone might possibly want to go, she should have been safe from prying eyes in the hot spring even in broad daylight, and yet she could feel someone watching her. Unwilling to let the peeping Tom know she was on to him, Vi went back to washing her hair but listened for the telltale the crack of a twig or the whisper of cloth to give her an idea of the infiltrator’s approach. If it came down to it, she could always reach out with her other sense, but only as a last resort.
She leaned her head back to rinse, the lather tinged a dull red from the henna she used to muddy her identity. The chance of being recognized out here in the territories was remote, but she still preferred to distance herself from her old life where she could and her chestnut hair was a small sacrifice for obscurity.
Though the frontier night continued to stretch out quiet and undisturbed before her, the presence was somehow drawing nearer. Her fingers brushed against her garter and the knife she always kept strapped to her thigh for just such an occasion. The chance it was a jack rabbit was as good as it was some poor soul wandering in from the gold fields, but naked and alone out in a distance corner of her ranch, she wasn’t in much of a position to take that risk. With a deep breath, she reached deep into herself and quested for the feelings that always tickled at the edges of her awareness.
After spending most of her life pushing the sensations away they were dull and distant, like the embers of a fire banked and left to be rekindled in the morning. She let her mind wash over and through the waiting coals and her long-repressed senses suddenly flared to life.
Even though her audience was over her shoulder, his outline burned bright and blue inside her skull. In one swift motion, her blade flashed moon-bright and hurtled toward the place he stood. A hollow thunk told her it had hit the tree behind him, just as she’d expected from the color of his aura.
“Are you crazy? Throwing around knives without looking,” the ghost cried in alarm and patted his chest where the knife had passed straight through him. “You could kill someone like that!” He took a few noiseless steps away from the offending blade as if it was going to jump out of the tree and bite him.
Vi’s mouth curved up in one corner. “You’re already dead,” she mocked. “What are you so worried about?”
Good Luck to All NaNoWriMo Participants This Year!!!