Me No NaNoWriMo. You, though? Go Go Go!

Now that we’re nearly a week into November, I think I can call it. I am officially not participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. For the sake of completion, I’ll also note that I’m not doing Movember or that other challenge, either. However, as a past participant (of NaNoWriMo), I figured I would share my experiences in case some other soul can find them useful.

I did NaNoWriMo kind of on the sly in 2018. If you’re someone who knows me, you may be thinking, “Wait, what?” You’re not alone. Until I hit publish on this blog post, a grand total of maybe four people on the planet know I did this, and I’m not sure about the fourth. Even Chandra wasn’t aware until a good way through the month. I know a big part of NaNoWriMo is the community, sharing your progress, etc etc…but I didn’t care about any of that. For me, it was enough to have a launch date to start drafting, and a target date to see how far I could get. Plus, I had seen some advice that you’re better off not sharing your goals, and it seemed reasonable to me.

The TL;DR of my experience with NaNoWriMo is:

  • Did I finish the novel in November? No.
  • Did I finish the novel at all? Yes!
  • Did I learn anything? Oh, hell yes.

Knowing that there’s a link up top to Conviction, I should clarify something before going any further. Conviction is not a product of NaNoWriMo. That’s actually my second work of long-form fiction, and is technically a novella anyway, so wouldn’t have counted. What I’m talking about here is a YA novel titled Augusta Quilliam Gets Ahead of Herself. I’ll just refer to it from here on out as Augusta.

Moving on…

One month is…not a lot of time to crank out even a rough draft of a novel, at least for me. In order for me to pull that off, I would have to know exactly where it was going from start to finish, and I would have to have more than just spare time dedicated to the effort. Since I both have a full-time job and spend a good amount of time staring into space when I write anything, there just aren’t enough hours or energy to hack out 50,000+ words in thirty days.

But— even though it took a bit longer, I did eventually finish Augusta. The timeline gets a little weird, because when I got to the end of what I thought would be the first draft, I realized that the story had a giant hole where the third act needed to be. This was I think in December or maybe January. It wasn’t until May that I felt like I was really done with it. 97,300 words. Whew! By the strictest definition of NaNoWriMo I missed the deadline by a good five-plus months, and overshot the target by nearly 50,000 words, but I still consider that a success.


. . . .

Not really. I didn’t just want to finish the novel. I wanted it to be good. That takes more work.

Next up came a round of reader feedback and revisions, leaving me with a novel of 92,700 words, followed by a more robust round of professional feedback (from Kat Howard, who I highly recommend). Among other things, that included a note that in addition to the suggested changes, I needed to get the word count down to a more acceptable YA range of 50-80K words. Oof. Double oof, since I knew there were significant bits I needed to add in order to flesh out why one of the characters acts like such a dick.

So, more edits and more reworking, until by late October I got to a final word count of 79,400, almost a full year after I first started drafting Augusta.

Awesome. When can I find it at my local bookstore, Jason?

Um, don’t hold your breath. I did take the first steps towards getting Augusta traditionally published, which meant writing up synopses, extracting the first X pages or chapters, and sending those with query letters to agents. As anyone familiar with this game is probably expecting, I got rejected by all of them. The first one made me feel like a Real Writer™, but it didn’t take long before the novelty wore off, and I lost interest in the whole process. I know, I know, Harry Potter got rejected a bazillion times, I should keep at it, blah blah blah. The thing is, it turns out spending hours hunting for and contacting agents only to have a slow parade of “no thanks” weeks or months later isn’t my idea of fun. It’s not that I find rejection difficult, and I recognize that it’s all just business so I don’t take it personally, but the hunger just isn’t there to put up with the hassle. (And if you’re paying attention, yes– somewhere in there 2020 smacked us all in the face, but this is one thing we can’t blame on that.)

Not that Augusta will never see the light of day. I do have a web site, after all. 🙃

I will say that even if Augusta never gets past the confines of my hard drive, writing it and taking it as far as I have has been an excellent learning experience. Just as they say reading makes you a better writer, the reverse is also true. I think I get more out of the books I read having done this, and not just because now I read the Acknowledgements section— a habit I picked up while looking for agents.

…and for those pursuing NaNoWriMo this year or any other, have fun with it and remember— this is the easy part.


Well, that was fun

Conviction, my little Star Wars novella, wrapped up its serialization run yesterday. It’s been an interesting experiment, though it mostly went like I thought it would. I was frequently late updating links to chapters, though never by more than a day. Until yesterday no one was reading it anyway, so I doubt anyone noticed. I did find myself reading each chapter as I added navigation links, and true to the legacy of George Lucas I made a few edits along the way.

To clarify, it’s not entirely true that no one has read the story. I did zippity doo dah to publicize it, but Chandra posted a link to the story yesterday on Facebook & Twitter, which generated enough traffic to make my WordPress app notify me in great excitement. A handful of people got as far as the first couple chapters before bailing, and as of today a grand total of one person has gotten through the whole thing, so to whoever you are…

Maybe next time around I’ll announce chapters as they come out like a person who actually wants his work seen. Not on Facebook, though. Facebook can suck it.

On a purely technical note, WordPress turns out to be an okay way to serialize fiction, but it’s not designed for it and there’s more manual attention required than what I would prefer. The initial posts all had to be done manually, and as I mentioned above I had to go back to each one again to add links as chapters came online. Hardly back-breaking work, but it’s a hassle.

Anyway, on to the next thing…


What is this “Conviction” thing?

Conviction is a fan fiction novella set in the Star Wars universe. In the tradition of the “Big Idea” and “Five Things I Learned” posts on John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig’s respective blogs, I figured I would write a short piece about it here.

First off, Conviction is about a droid designated R0-N1, who is reactivated after years of being shut off. He wakes confused, uncertain of his own history and not understanding his current circumstances. Once he gets some clarity on that, he has to decide what his real place in the galaxy is. It takes place between the events of Episode III and IV, more specifically between the events of “The Bad Batch” and “Rebels,” if you want to be more specific.

Oh, and R0-N1 has a posse.

Since this is fan fiction, I should note that there are a couple things you will not find in it. One is sex— this isn’t fanfic in the vein of Kirk and Spock getting friendly in the transporter room. My aim was to write something that would fit comfortably alongside any other Star Wars story, and not push beyond. I also wanted to avoid using any existing characters, so while there are clone troopers, they are of my own invention. A character or two from the films do get mentioned, but all the main players are new.

Beyond remaining faithful to the overall tone of Star Wars, the story should also fit comfortably within existing canon. Of course, that could change at any time. In particular, I’ve been watching “The Bad Batch” with great interest, because like Conviction, it touches on the transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers. My version of that transition is gradual, and there are still clones around some years into the Empire, so we’ll see if that remains possible within canon, or if my little fanfic turns into an “Infinities” story overnight. Given R0-N1’s history, it’s also possible that the new “High Republic” material coming out could impact it, though that’s less likely.

Of course, the likelihood of Conviction being conventionally published is slimmer than the chance of a heatwave on Hoth, so I’ve been sitting on it for close to a year, trying to decide what to do with it. I thought about tossing it up on something like AO3, but a quick glance at other postings revealed the kinds of material I hinted at above, and while I have no problem with that, I didn’t want my own story alongside it for the same reason Trans Wizard Harriet Porber And The Bad Boy Parasaurolophus shouldn’t be shelved next to “Prisoner of Azkaban”. God bless Chuck Tingle, but you don’t want to get those mixed up. The obvious thing has always been to post it on my own site, but I didn’t want to run the risk of a nastygram from Disney’s lawyers. Then I saw the first episode of Bucketheads, which somehow manages to be “not for commercial use” and have a Patreon account, at which point I figured the hell with it. I’m not asking for money, let’s toss it on the web site.

BUT— just uploading a PDF would be boring, and wouldn’t give the story much of a chance to find an audience (he says as if he’s going to promote it). Instead, I’m serializing it. As of this writing, the first chapter is up, and the rest are scheduled to be published on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. There are eighteen chapters in all, ranging from 500-3,000 words each. I’ll add chapter links to the index page and individual chapters as we go, and the whole thing should be up before the July 4 holiday. Maybe once the whole thing is up I can upload a PDF if anyone is interested.

One last thing. Because this is Star Wars, it is of course filled with action, hopefully has some humor, and if I’ve done a decent job, should be a fun read. That’s the minimum you should expect from any tale in this universe. Beyond what the story is about, there’s also what the story is about, and I hope it also succeeds in giving the reader something to think about. Namely, can a droid have a sense of morality? And what do you do when you realize your mission is no longer what it was? And finally, anyone interested in sharing this with Dave Filoni? 🙃