The End of 2020 is Nigh: A Writing Year Roundup

At this point, everyone knows that 2020 was a year for the record books. But I think most of us are unsure what to feel about it. Should we be sad, angry, or motivated for something better in 2021? My personal feelings aside, 2020 was a decent year for my writing work. I shifted from part-time writer back to full-time writer. I finished two new novel drafts and many short stories, and I finally took a poetry class to stretch my wings.

Poetry Composition Book

But…with coffee shops closed or with limited capacity, and the risk of Coronavirus everywhere, I didn’t go out and work. With restrictions for school and childcare I had to do more parenting duty. There was limited social interaction since last March. All of this added up to my writing year not being everything I’d hoped it would be. While I spent a lot of time at home and at my desk, my mind was often elsewhere and my energy was low.

2020 Had More Drive-Thru Coffees than Coffee Shops

But…

I won NaNoWriMo easily, as there was nowhere else to go. I have a lot of new subject matter to consider. My science fiction now feels much less far fetched. And I did finish those drafts.

Currently, of my 261,000 words in a year writing goal (which will end September 1, 2021), I’m at 141,390. That means I’m already over halfway to my goal, and about three months ahead of schedule. I haven’t even drafted anything in new in weeks as I’ve switched my focus at the moment to rewriting.

Starting next week (January 4th, 2021), I’m planning to getting back to drafting around 500 words a day, while my primary focus remains on rewriting. Finishing two manuscript drafts in 2020 means that 2021 will predominately be a year of rewriting. A year of taking the old and making it better (I think this is fair to say that I hope this for every aspect of life, not just writing).

In 2021 I plan to self-publish at least the first two books of the new young adult fantasy series I have been working on for sometime. I’m hoping to get around to the third book, but with other major projects on the go I’m not sure that’s going to be doable. So the third book of that series may have to wait until 2022.

With the coronavirus vaccine rolling out now, my writing life is sure to change again in 2021. My writing life always was going to change, as I planned for a year or two of full-time writing and then heading back to a regular day job for a while. I like to work this way, bouncing between a life where writer-me is out and about in the world gaining experiences, and a life where writer-me is tucked away in the basement, isolated and writing about the experiences I’ve gained.

Enjoying the End of 2020 and Wishing for Good Times in 2021

All in all, 2020 wasn’t a bad year for writing, but I will be glad when the clock turns tonight and we can put 2020 behind us. Here comes 2021, brimming with potential and a lot more time.

Do you have any writing plans for the new year?
Happy quiet celebrations!

JEH

NaNo 2020: How’s Your NaNo Doing #2.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve ‘won’ NaNoWriMo. I finished my 50,000 words the other day, which has pushed me well ahead of schedule in my goal to write 261,000 words in a year (I’m already half way there and I only started at the beginning of September). I’m not done the novel I was working on yet, I still have another 40K or so to go, but getting to 50K is a huge achievement, because once you’re this far into a novel, it has momentum, it wants to keep going, and it doesn’t want to stop.

I am, however, going to slow down my drafting now. I’ve realized over the past couple days that I’m tired from pushing myself so hard and that I’m missing things like writing on paper, rewriting short stories, and working on a diverse range of projects, including a bit of terrible poetry.

Now that I’ve completed NaNo 2020, I’m revising my writing goal back down to 1,000 – 2,000 new words a day and shifting a lot of my writing time over to rewriting. If I miss a couple days of drafting, I’m not going to be upset because I know where my project is now and I’m not worried about losing the plot. I’m also going back to taking weekends off and focusing on reading at that time, because I believe reading is a big part of writing. Also, I have Brandon Sanderson’s Rhythm of War to enjoy this month and I’m super excited for the 4th volume of The Stormlight Archive.

As I shift back to rewriting, I find that I’m actually really looking forward to it. Usually I dread rewriting. I love the rush of writing something new, going places I’ve never been before, meeting characters I’ve never met, but apparently it is tiring for me to do it for too long. And if I don’t ever rewriting the things I’ve drafted, then those things are never ready to be shared with the world, and that is a big point for rewriting!

So, that’s where I’m at. And, of course, I always celebrate when I make a goal, whether big or small. This time my celebration was a bit different because of Covid, because it’s November and it’s NaNo, and I’m still working on finishing my novel so I’m staying in. But, there’s still drive-thru, and sometimes a nice latté is all I need to feel the sweet satisfaction of scratching something off my to-do list.

To Do:

Complete NaNoWriMo 2020

How is your NaNoWriMo Doing?

JEH

NaNoWriMo 2020 Update: How is your NaNo doing?

It’s almost halfway through NaNoWriMo 2020. If you decided to join me and many other writers this year and stay home and spend all of November writing a novel (maybe your first, maybe one of many), than hopefully you’re a good chunk of the way in by now.

My NaNo is going great, though I was hoping to get in more marathon days. Take a look at my progress over the past week and bit below:

You can see that I was sidetracked on the third day of NaNo and spent a lot of time writing something that I wasn’t planning on writing but that was calling to me. I didn’t mean to do switch tracks, but I’m terrible at ignoring calls to new work. The good thing it was a short side project and it’s all drafted now, so I’m back on focusing on my main project, BGG, which I hope to have fully drafted by the end of the month, though it will be closer to 90,000 words than the 50,000 word goal that is a regular NaNo (hence my larger than average daily word counts. So, in other words, I still have a long way to go, but things are heading in the write direction!

Now, time for a snack and to get back at it.

JEH

NaNoWriMo 2020: Why We Should All Do It This Year

Happy Day One of NaNoWriMo everyone! If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, then you know that I’m an annual NaNo-er. My first NaNo was in 2006 – 14 years ago, and I’m doing it again this year with even more enthusiasm than I’ve had in some other years. This is a great year for NaNo, not just for me, but for everyone. I doubt I really have to spell it out, but I will anyway. Doing NaNo this year is a great way to pass the time while staying home, while trying to decrease the virus load and help end this pandemic sooner rather than later. With the news yesterday that England is heading into another national lockdown, it is a bit disheartening, unless, of course, you’re planning to write a novel this month, because then yes, this is exactly what you need to keep your butt in your chair and writing away madly!

In my fourteen years of NaNo, I’ve written many books. Some of them successufully (and others that turned out to be still uncompleted flops). After finishing my NaNo novels, I’ve gone one to publish many of them, and you can do this too, but you also don’t have to. You can write just for yourself. And let me say that while publishing and sharing my hard work with others is great, the best part is actually living in another world for a full month.

With a load of coffee by my side and left over halloween chocolate, I consider myself ready. I love writing fantasy, which makes my escape all the more distanced. When I was writing Tales of a Red-headed Sea-Witch, the first book my Black Depths series, I loved nothing more than settling into the log house in the woods that my character, Nessa, calls home. For a few hours a day, I became a sea-witch. I casted magic spells, made friends, and fought off monsters. I think we could all use a little bit of that control right now.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo, let me break it down for you. NaNoWriMo is a promise to yourself to write. You can write about whatever you want, you can make your sentences as short or as long as you want, you can chat with other fellow writers on the forum if you want. The only thing you have to do is write something—and really, if all you write is a title, that’s fine. NaNo isn’t graded. But if you do decide to write a novel this November, what you’ll really be doing is spending a month of your life daydreaming about the kind of world you’d rather be living in right now. Which can be just as powerful as taking a vacation. And heck, if it’s a vacation you really want, why not writing a novel about the vacation you would be on if it wasn’t for Covid-19.

So, come join me and many other writers doing NaNoWriMo this year. It’ll be a blast.

Next time: more on my new series, The Gemology Saga, and the cover for the first novel. And also, how am I doing at NaNo.

Go forth, fearless writers, and write!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Before I picked up this book, I read a few contradictory reviews and wasn’t sure that I would read it. There were plenty of diverging opinions about whether or not the world really needed this book. In the end, I decided that as I had really enjoyed reading the Hunger Games Trilogy, I wanted to read another book set in the world of Panam. And in this dystopian time of Covid and other things, I could use a good dystopian novel.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is President Snow’s story, but it is also the story of the Hunger Games. I didn’t like the book as much as I enjoyed Katniss’s story for one primary reason: I love Katniss, I do not love President Snow.

That said, it can be a very interesting perspective to read a book about someone you don’t like. Often, when we read, we want to be the hero, we want to feel what they’re feeling, do what they’re doing, become our hero. Reading an anti-hero novel is more like a love to hate. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book at all if I didn’t know that years later Katniss would come along and crush Snow under her iron hope, but because I did know that, I could stay with the story to the end.

Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes yet? What did you think?

If you haven’t read it, but did enjoy the Hunger Games, you may want to check out this prequel, however, I will say that it might not be for everyone.

4/5 Stars.

JEH

How to Write 261,000 Words in a Year: Update #2

My progress over the past couple of weeks has been spotty but great! I’m pushing to get a draft done, and I write best when I keep a draft flowing continuously for as long as possible, without taking breaks for side projects or rewriting. This is my novel writing process, it might not be everyone’s, but it works for me.

I think my process comes from over ten years of doing NaNoWriMo. Of course, it’s now October, which already has me in NaNo plotting mode, but there is a lot I need to get off my plate first (more on that later). Because NaNo requires writing a complete first draft in the month of November (or 50,000 words, which may or may not be a complete draft), I’ve trained myself to push through and write a story from start to finish in around 30 days.

With my current work in progress, I’ve been working on it slowly for a longer amount of time, but lately I’ve begun to felt the need to push through, which means I’ve had some bigger days. Here’s where I’m currently at:

I’m almost double where I need to be if I were sticking to my minimum of 1,000 words every workday for a year! This is exciting for a few reasons: 1) if I keep this up, I will be able to write more than 261,000 words in a year, and 2) if I need a break, I can afford to take one.

Currently, I am planning on taking a breather before NaNoWriMo. You can see that while I had three really productive days this week, I’ve really slowed down. This tends to mean I’m reach a bit of a burnout when it comes to sitting in my desk typing away.

Here in Canada, this weekend is Thanksgiving, so I’m also thinking there will be a lot of break time this weekend, though I’m hoping to keep the flow going by writing a few words here and there.

I’ll let you know how I’m progressing in another week or two. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Every so often, a book calls to you. That was how I felt when I first read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss a few years back. I loved this book so much I dreamed about it. I loved it so much I refused to read the sequel because I wanted to save it for later, since no one seems to know when the Third book of the Kingkiller Chronicles will be released.

A year ago I bought the special ten year anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind because I absolutely love beautiful books. The anniversary edition is hardcover and has both beautiful maps and illustrations. It is heavy, it is thick, and it is still my favourite.

I decided to reread this book last month, because I was in that epic fantasy super-giant book mood I get into every so often. And I loved it all over again. For me, The Name of the Wind is the kind of book I read without checking to see what page number I’m on. I just read. And then before I know it I’m at the end of the book. All too soon.

My favourite part of the book is the mystery around the Chandrian. Kvothe, though, is just a great character. And Rothfuss’ writing is so spectacular that in my dreams it is like I’m actually living on the streets of Tarbean myself (not such a great place to me if it were real).

Have you ever read The Name of the Wind? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

JEH

How to Write 261,000 Words in a Year: Update #1

In my last update, I stated my new goal this year is to write 1,000 words every weekday. If I do that, I will have written 261,000 words in one year, or the equivalent of 3 books of just under 90,000 words each. For me, drafting 1,000 words a day is pretty straightforward. I make myself sit down in my cosy armchair and I make my fingers move, without caring whether or not the words are any good. I’ll worry about that part later, during the rewriting process, once I actually have something to work with.

I started a chart at the beginning of September—my favourite time of year to start new goals—so that I can track how much I’m writing and what project I’m working on. Even with taking weekends off, which may or may not be the best thing (but I think I’ll make that a separate post), I’ve been able to meet my goal so far. So where am I at? Take a look at the chart below to see my progress for the past week.

Currently, I’m a bit over 5,000 words above my goal. I’m excited about this, as it means my goal is at the right level. Some days, I can barely manage to squeeze in the 1,000 words, and others it’s easy to double that, and occasionally, as you can see on Wednesday, I have so much other stuff going on that I draft no new words at all (though I try really, really hard to get at least a half hour of straight typing time in every day).

You can see the names of my projects on the right, too. Factor of Safety is the name of my current work in progress, a literary fiction novel that I hope to be able to share with the world one day. Weekend is not a project, just an acknowledgement atet it’s okay that I didn’t write any words that day. You’ll see on occasion other titles cropping up in this column, as I’m always working on more than one project, though at the moment all my other project work is focused on rewriting aspects (an no, I don’t count rewritten words in my word counts, my rewriting I do on an hours per day basis and I don’t currently track that, though maybe I should?).

Are you doing any writing? Is it going well? I hope so!

JEH