Brooke E. Wayne: Contemporary Romance with a Kiss of Humor
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What I Got out of my First #NaNoWriMo Experience

What I Got Out of my First #NaNoWriMo Experience

I started prepping for my first National Novel Writing Month in mid-October by gathering research and summarizing my chapters and scenes. A little here, a little there, until I had a 38-page word doc outline to run with come November 1st.

I wanted to participate by the rules 100%:

  • Writing EverydayIMG_7825
  • Logging in and recording my progress
  • Earning my badges for participation as I go
  • Tweeting regularly on the #NaNoWriMo hashtag on Twitter @brookeewayne
  • And keeping to the Nov 1st as word-one rule

 

In the end, it took me twenty-three days to write a 53,838-word novel, sticking to my outline about 95% of the time.

I found it difficult to get started even though I had everything in place. The words just wouldn’t flow at times as easily as I had hoped despite all the prepping I had done to keep that from happening.

LESSON LEARNED: That setback reinforced my belief that no matter what, no matter when, if the inspiration strikes and the words begin to flow, WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t let the moment pass believing it will return when the ‘time is right’. It won’t.

The pressure of meeting a deadline of 50,000 words in 30 days wore on my nerves harder than I thought it would at first. As soon as I passed the 50K threshold, I could literally feel my shoulders relax when I was typing. Weird.

LESSON LEARNED: When I’m faced with publishing deadlines someday, I need to brace myself for the inevitable psyching-out that will occur. Cue husbandry duties of nightly back massages…happy wife-happy life.

When I rounded the halfway point, I found my stride.

LESSON LEARNED: Keep moving forward, fighting, clawing, and forcing the words out like you’re digging out of your own grave because you will break through.

I also fought the urge to go back and edit, delete, revamp, and mess with the story every step of the way. I even forced myself to wait until the end to run spell check. Yeah, that took a good twenty minutes of my life away.

LESSON LEARNED: I need to go back. I just do. I have to fuss with the way things are written a little before moving on. Not major editing, just, you know, getting that voice down that drives the story. Every word should matter, right? Not doing that along the way made moments of writing forward feel like I was walking on broken glass.

In the end, a story that had begun as an Adult Rom-Com spoof on an 80s throwback story pieced together from actual events in my HS days emerged as a viable YA novel that I am definitely going to polish after it marinades for a couple of months. And I will pitch it alongside the Adult MS I have out now still surviving in the trenches of querying-round-one.

Between now and the revision period, I’m continuing the practice of writing everyday–specifically, I am going to write a sequel to my queried MS. My “break” from writing yesterday that I allotted myself still yielded three sentences to that story already underway just to keep to my promise.

I am proud that I pushed myself to write a second full MS and even more proud that I wrote it through NaNoWriMo, challenging myself when life was ridiculously cluttered with progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, a sinus infection piggybacking the cough & cold flu, while others in my family were tossing their cookies with the stomach flu, and even adding an afterschool club I had decided to run two days a week.

Of all the lessons learned, I discovered I could handle a lot in a short amount of time without going completely crazy.

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Week One of NaNoWriMo

As a first year NaNoWriMo participant, I made a deal with myself to start day one and keep moving forward with one goal in mind: 50,000 words.

In preparation for the event, I scrounged around inside my head and pulled out some heartfelt, funny, and awkwardly painful memories of my high school days and threaded a story line through it. My chapter and scene outline, character sketches, and research amounted to over 8,000 words. None of which, I would count towards my rough draft.

Then on day one, I started to type.

I liken the experience last Sunday to running up hill holding my breath.

Not being allowed to reread, delete-delete-delete, revise, and then keep on going has been a slow, torturous journey for me.The reason is because I like to fine-tune as I go.

Notice how I didn’t say polish.

So rereading became inevitable by mid-week, and to scratch my nagging itch, I finally gave into bolding the lines I thought were keepers…the rest, debatable…but not delete-able, not yet anyway.

IMG_7693Getting to 10,000 in one week was a lot harder than I expected. Not because chocking up a word count was some sort of challenge—I’m more than capable of rambling on and on at the keyboard—but that I examined every word in my head before it came out of my fingertips like I was picking out the perfect mix of my own assorted Godiva box of chocolates.

If you’ve never done this, grab a credit card and go to the mall.

Go now.

(You’ll thank me later.)

I also had a lot of my writing time eaten up with How-the-Hell-Did-I-Do-That? moments this past week. (See pic.)IMG_7687

I admit, some words did get the ax here and there when I broke down and reread what I had written after a few days, but overall, the story is unfolding, as is.

(Gulp.)

And I have 21 days left to go.

I know I need to pick up the pace to reach my word count, but I do get a full week off before the deadline (Yay, teaching perks!), and I am finally finding my groove with the MC’s voice.

I just need to resist the urge to backtrack, as well as, stop treating every single word like it’s there to stay. I still have 40,000 more words to go, and I’m learning to accept that they’re just not all going to be a mouthwatering delight. And I must Keep. Moving. Forward.

Sunday Writing Rambles: Starting a Star Wars Movie Club

Like many writers, I teach, and I started a Star Wars Club after school this week. Six movies—six weeks. So many of my students were saying they were fans but had never seen all the movies.

So I had to help them out.

Going into the week, I’d come up with the plan to show the Star Wars movies out of my own fangirling since childhood. It was something my brother and I used to obsess about together.

Such sweet memories. We’d do things like pile all our toys in the middle of the floor and pretend we were getting squished in the compactor, and, of course, we also had every action figure and would play with each other for hours on end.

I miss him all the time, but, when the news of the seventh installment of the series was finally coming out this winter, it brought on a little extra sting to the sorrow of his passing. But he’d be so proud of me spreading the Star Wars love among my students.

FullSizeRenderMy classroom was packed for the first showing. Maybe I had my own force with me getting this club started with such a great turnout.

I teach archetypal literature, and, when my principal started asking the staff to come up with creative clubs to keep our beloved students out of trouble after school, a Star Wars Movie Club immediately came to mind.

It fits the literary archetype of the Hero’s Journey perfectly, so it’s an English teacher’s favorite. (In case you didn’t know, George Lucas actually sat down with Joseph Campbell and fine-tuned the plots to all twelve scripts with him.)

Yes, twelve.

I hope I’m not spreading rumors here, but I met a parent who saw all twelve of them spread out in Lucas’s office when he was a little boy. He shared with me that his dad’s workshop was next to Lucas’s, and he would often visit and listen to Lucas talk about his super cool space story. The parent also told me how excited he was, decades later, when installments one, two, and three were finally produced and wondered why the other manuscripts hadn’t come to light yet. Well, now we know.

Timing is a blessing and a curse when you’re a writer.

From conception to production, the stages of becoming a published writer can feel like a lifetime achievement. I’m grateful that the journey in itself is so fulfilling. And only time will tell as I prepare to write a completed rough draft next month for NaNoWriMo while I wade in the query trenches with my first manuscript.

I can imagine that when Disney approached George Lucas about his life’s work with a four-billion-dollar price tag, his sigh must have resonated across the universe. Who knows what direction Disney will take the series beyond the remaining six manuscripts? But I’m believing it’ll be worth every penny.

Sunday Writing Rambles: When a Plotter Plots for #NaNoWriMo

When I was a kid, I used to jot down every poetic couplet or line of dialogue that popped into my head on anything I could get my hands on—gum wrappers, receipts, and even the palm of my hand if my journal wasn’t within reach. Then I’d transcribe everything into my word processor, plugging all of my ideas and bits of writing into documents that I’d groom until they were nice and shiny.

You see, I lived down the street from an author, and she gave me one piece of advice: Write everything down, always.

FullSizeRenderSo I did.

And I still do.

Since last weekend, I’ve been pulling together all of my scattered ideas into a single Word Docx. I’ve pecked things into my Notes app, scribbled chunks on loose-leaf paper at work, built a secret Pinterest inspiration board, and even scrawled out a ton of ideas in a spiral notebook that I’ve kept on my night stand for those middle-of-the-night gems.

As of today, I have managed to take detailed notes on 90 scenes (87 solid scenes plus 3 skeletal scenes that need a little more fleshing out for purpose), as well as complete my basic research for my time period references–all of which are now neatly tucked away on my laptop (and forever secured in my Apple Time Capsule).

My project that I am working on will be my second full-length novel, but this will be my first time knocking out a rough draft in thirty days through National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo).

I’m a little surprised how easily the plot is falling into place.

Although it’s a lot of truth that’s been exaggerated then marinated in romance, I feel that it’s fresh, original, and promises to be something I’ll be proud of when November 30th rolls around.

I’m definitely a plotter/planner all the way.

Although, I have to say that many times through the process of editing my first novel, I did fly by the seat of my pants in a couple of places.

There’s one scene in my first novel where my MC opens the door and meets a man who causes her to rethink everything she thought she knew about love. This man was not in my plot-packed notebooks. When the front door flew open and this salty, carefree, heart-stopping, smooth talker appeared, I was as surprised as she was, but I went with it. Further edits wiggled him in from the beginning, and he forever defined my main character’s overall arc. Breaking free from being a planner and going with the whole pantser feel was exactly what my novel needed to bring everything together.

I’m not afraid to fly by the seat of my pants through any part of my upcoming novel, but as of this weekend, there’s no way I’ll be wondering what to write next especially when I still have two more weeks to plot away. I’m learning that even though I can safely label myself a plotter/planner, I’m capable of pantsing it, too. Either way, I’m embracing the challenge ahead, writing everything down … as always.

Sunday Writing Rambles: Putting the Creative into your Writing

Everybody is an expert these days. It doesn’t matter if you’re self-published, traditionally published, hybrid, or, like me, biding your time in the trenches of querying—everybody has something to say about “How To’s” based on experience or simply something cool he or she lifted from Pinterest.

I’ve steered clear of joining the ranks mainly because I don’t have anything published yet. (Uhm, not including all that boring copy I wrote for an encyclopedia set to pay for my MA a long time ago.) Somehow, I got it stuck in my head that until I had earned the title author by means of publication, I wasn’t one.

Then, a few trad pub mentors spanked me for being too unassuming. My mantra has been, “Inspired by Love and Laughter—Aspiring to Write About It,” for almost a year now in my social media outlets.

Cute, huh?

Except for the Aspiring part.

Ouch!

I didn’t even realize how condescending I was being to myself until it was pointed out to me.

Turns out, I’m not aspiring to be a novelist; I am one. I wrote a novel—a big ass novel that at one point weighed in at 100K but is now hovering over 83K. It’s alive and well and hanging out with some agencies for the time being. It might not be published … yet … but someday, it will be.

It’s a lame reason to hold back all the knowledge I know about writing. I get that, but, nonetheless, it did cage me in … for a while.

I sloughed off the “Aspiring” part this week and have decided to add some lessons to my blog posts. I’ve been an English Language Arts teacher for nearly twenty years. I know a thing or two about plot structure, character development, cultivating voice, the importance of arcs in dynamic characters, and layering to reach the ultimate climax. I teach the ancient Hero’s Journey Archetype (not Campbell’s or Vogler’s adaptation—but I am quite familiar) and The Coming of Age Cycle Archetype. I even wrote my MA thesis on the latter to the tune of nearly 140 pages, and don’t even get me started on the value of symbolism in prose (eh-hem, more than just discovering clever names you might have snatched off a baby naming website).

When it comes to my novel, as lighthearted as it is, I aim to have my reader cock an eyebrow and think, “I see what you did there,” as she’s reading. I am still humble enough to know I have a helluva road ahead of me in learning more as an author, but at this point, it’s time for me to start spilling the beans on what I do know.

Rookie novelist that I may be, I actually have a lot to offer, and lately I have had to combat the I’m not worthy feels when pressing send to the agents I am approaching, so to remedy my querying jitters, I am going to start dipping out of my bag of tricks and share some tips that can elevate someone’s writing:

A Lesson on Length: Size Does Matter

Here’s a popular pin from my PINTEREST board: Writing Tool Kit

FullSizeRenderIf you’ve done Word Press’s Writing 101, you’ll recognize this writing exercise. The assignment was to take the choppy, droning, monotonous cadence of the seven-words-per-sentence prompt and revamp it using varied sentence lengths.

Varying the amount of words per sentence creates a lilting effect for the reader, but rather than packing the lines with extra adjectives and a few unnecessary adverbs to stretch their lengths, I weaved in some poetic devices to bring the setting in the varied lines to life.

ORIGINAL PROMPT:

“The man rode hard through the woods. The black horse’s effort lay in lather. The sun beat down from high overhead. Dark birds circled, drifted, and then returned. The land baked, and dust hung suspended.”

MY INTERPRETATION:

Naked branches tore at the man’s shirt, gnarled and twisted, bending their claws in desperation, as he broke free from the parched woods. They were closing in. A merciless heat beat down on the wasteland. Desolate. Wrought with lifeless wreckage caused by the blistering sun. His black horse, never faltering once, pressed forward upon the scorched riverbed. Hot breath burst from the beast’s flaring nostrils. Closer still. Men’s cries rang out. Their gunshots shattered dark birds against the stark white sky, once drifting in aimless circles. His freedom neared. He could see the border just over the horizon. Sensing the man’s adrenaline, his horse bore down, and dust hung suspended in the wake of their escape.

Personification:

Giving something that doesn’t have a heartbeat life in the form of humanlike characteristics or attributes

naked branches … bending their claws in desperation … parched woods … merciless heat beat down …

Alliteration:

Two or more words beginning with the same consonant, thus creating sound effects

wrought with lifeless wreckage … hot breath burst from the beast’s …

Imagery:

The use of any of the five senses—sight, scent, sound, taste, and touch

(The whole damn thing—okay, okay… here’s my favorite:)

gunshots shattered dark birds against a stark white sky …

Another trick I used in varying my sentence length was to break the rules of grammatically sound sentences and go for some one and two word punches.

… desolate … closer still …

Using poetic devices to add layers to your writing can elevate it in both quality and quantity.

Class dismissed.

Sunday Writing Rambles: #NaNoWriMo Prep

Today, I’m spending the afternoon wrapping my mind around NaNoWriMo, hoping to empty out a 50,000 word bare bones rough draft this coming November that’s been buzzing around in my head for the last few months. I’m a newbie to the event, and I’m liking what I see as I continue to snoop around the website for the umpteenth time this week.

I’ve been taking copious notes today on the plot I plan on drafting. It’s loosely based on the horrors of my 1980s high school experiences that I can freely laugh my tush off about now. As I’m pulling together information on the various characters and scenes that are essential to my story, I’m realizing something about the category I thought I was aiming for… though my novel will be set in a high school, this will not be a Young Adult novel. Just because the characters are teenagers, that does not mean the novel is meant for a YA audience.

MollyI am decidedly targeting the forty-somethings who regard the glory days of their dayglow turned pastel youth with fondness—like me. It’s also going to be a comical love story, of course, because romcoms are my thing.

Would a YA or NA person enjoy the novel—absolutely… the 80s are back in a huge way, and our youth are obsessed. I see 80s terms on graphic t-shirts at least once a day (I’m an English teacher), and they’ve ALL watched at least a half a dozen 80s movies because their parents were 80s teens and have made them. Who doesn’t love that era right now?

As far as my plans go for the novel, I’m naming it Breaking Rad because it pulls in the 80s generation with the term Rad that’s hot right now, plus it’s a pun-tribute to one of my favorite TV shows that will hook adults, and yes, there will be a breakdancing dance-off at a Sadie Hawkins Dance which is the location of the climax of the story. –But that’s all I’m going to reveal for now. I just wanted to stress that I’d mentioned in my previous blog that I was considering tackling a YA novel for NaNoWriMo, but alas, I’m targeting Adult again with my writing in tone, voice, heat-levels, and whatnot, but I’m sure anyone who loves a bitchin 80s throwback story is going to enjoy it, fer-sure.

Taking the Plunge

IMG_6951Writing a novel is like strapping yourself into the first cart on a roller coaster, knowing damn well what you’re getting yourself into, but screaming your head off anyway as you rise and fall, spin around, hold back the urge to puke, and finally squee with excitement from the thrill of it all.

Then, as soon as your ride’s over, you run *with arms flailing* and jump right back in line to do it again.

I’m once again returning to my work in progress. I’m revisiting the WIP outline to shake things up a bit (and what I mean by that is switch scenes around on my outline).

The plot has the potential to be a sequel or even a second in a series if I opt to highlight secondary characters instead of continue with the love story from my first novel, and I could even squeeze out the back story paragraph in the first chapter, change the names, alter the initial location a tad bit, and voilà, have myself another stand-alone project to work on. How I managed to pull off a secondary plot that is so flexible is beyond me, but I’ll own it because, shuh, it’s that unique. (Borrowing my MC’s voice ;-)) But no matter what I end up doing, I’m only making adjustments to notes.

Then I’m going to set it aside again. Yep, you heard me right.

Before I go all roller coaster on it, I am going to wait out the verdict on my first round of querying (ever!) that I began this weekend. I’m holding off doing any actual writing for the WIP in the event I land a fabulous agent, and that person has a vision I can share in for the future of my first novel that will impact what comes next, (see all the possibilities above). I’m flexible like that, and so is the novel’s concept.

With NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I’m then going to switch gears and start prepping for the event over the next six weeks. I’ll be reviewing and adding to my concept notes on a different novel I plan to write, which is intentionally designed to be the first in an adult contemporary series, and I’ll also begin building an outline for another novel I am aching to pen but is in another category (YA, R) other than my focus (Adult, CR). I’m leaning heavily on working with the Young Adult novel for NaNoWriMo because, in the end, it’ll need to be shorter in word count than my usual category, and it’ll definitely be a stand-alone, and, after completing it, I will be able to polish it quickly because it’s a much simpler plot than I’m used to constructing while the verdict is out on my first round of querying (and hopefully my only round).

Whether I go for the first in a series or the YA stand alone, I’m definitely mounting that roller coaster again and gearing up to squee as NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Who’s with me?

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