Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Good the Bad & the Ugly of NaNoWriMo

Yep, it’s that time of year again. The time when turkeys cower in fear, leaves multiply on your lawn faster than rabbits, costume companies pretend there actually is a reason to take kids’ cartoon characters and make “sexy” versions of them, and last but not least, the time of year when hundreds of thousands of people decide to write a book in a month—I speak of course about National Novel Writing Month.

If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, check out their website here. It’s a really cool idea and has picked up amazing steam since it started in 1999. The basic concept is that you and a bunch of other people all try to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of a novel) in the month of November.

First of all, let me say that I think anything that gets people writing is awesome. So many times people tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book. And I say, “Well then start writing.” And whenever you do anything with a group of people who have the same goals, it makes it a little easier. So, yeah, NaNoWriMo=very cool.

If I stopped my blog right here, everything would be great. I said the right thing to the right people at the right time. Now is the part where I doff my hat and exit stage left.

Except that, while I think NaNoWriMo is very cool for a lot of people, I also think that there could be times when it is actually could be a bad thing.

Here’s why.

Imagine applying the book in a month concept to other activities. Compose a symphony in a month. Train for a marathon in a month. Build ten houses in a month. Perform 100 heart transplants in a month. Have six kids in . . . okay, maybe we will stop the analogy there.

The thing is, different people write at different paces and different books take more or less time. I have written an entire book in close to a month. I’ve also taken a year or more to write another book. Quantity does not always equal quality.

I was recently talking to an editor about an author. The editor thought the author was a great writer, but the author’s work often seemed rushed. The editor felt that the author was hurrying to finish one book after another without taking the time to get each of them right.

I know that NaNoWriMo isn’t about completing a final draft in a month. The idea is that you force yourself to crank out 50,000 words and then come back and edit them later. And that absolutely works for some authors. They do what we used to call in grade school a sloppy copy and then make it better and better as they rewrite.

If you are one of those kinds of people, NaNoWriMo may be a great fit for you. But not everyone can do that. You can’t always “force” creativity. Some stories just take a while to come together. And I worry especially for newer writers that if you start training yourself that writing is like mowing the lawn, you just get up start the mower and get to it, you might be training yourself to be a bad writer.

I think I’d be more comfortable with something where you had to spend x number of hours on your novel in a month. Maybe you create a character bible, maybe you outline, maybe you write that number of hours without worrying about how many words you complete. As an author I’d rather spend an hour writing a great page or even a great paragraph than an hour cranking out 2,000 words that will never be something I’d want to show the public.

I’m not saying don’t take part in NaNoWriMo. If nothing else you will learn whether you are able to write 2,000 words or more a day. I know lots of authors whose first published work came as a result of a NaNoWriMo project.

But if it doesn’t work, don’t feel like you are a failure. Writing is not brick laying. It’s not emptying trash cans. It’s a process that can come together all at once in a rush of inspired storytelling or sweat itself out word by painful word. Sometimes it involves outlining for weeks or months. Sometimes an entire story arrives in only a few minutes with a burst or fireworks and sounding trumpets.

Don’t worry about what other authors are doing around you. Don’t write YA because that’s what everyone is doing. Don’t write a novel in a month because it’s November are you are supposed to. Do what works for you and stick with it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What’s the Deal With Farworld?

At least ten times a week, I get e-mails similar to this one.

“Fire whoever is hindering the progress of farworld #3 & 4 Sent from my iPod”

Okay, that might be a little more vitriolic than some of the messages. But the sentiment is the same. I’ve read both of the Farworld books. I love them. I can’t find book 3.

Up until this point, I’ve hesitated to say much publicly since things seem to change almost daily. Even now, there are a still a few things that could change, but I feel I owe my readers some answers. So, here we go.

1) Why isn’t Air Keep out?

I don’t really know who to blame for the delay. The publisher? The economy? Other projects that have come up since then? Me? All of the above to one extent or another.

I can say that as anxious as many of my readers are, no one is more upset about this delay than I am. Right now, book four, Fire Keep should be out and I should be doing final edits on the last book in the series, Shadow Keep.

Problems started to come up shortly before book two came out. I had just finished spending a year promoting book 1, visiting over 400 schools and signing somewhere in the ballpark of 10,000 books, when my publisher told me there was a chance they might not do book 2. Needless to say that just about killed me. Fortunately, they did release book 2, but with no marketing $ at all.

Since then, book 3, Air Keep, has been on, off, on hold, maybe in paperback, and everything in between. At the same time, other projects have come up. As an author, you can only write what the publisher is willing to publish. However . . .

2) Is there going to be a book 3?

There is absolutely going to be a book 3. In fact, I promise in writing here and now that there will be three more books in the series and they will be written and published. They are, in order, Air Keep, Fire Keep, and Shadow Keep.

I am actively writing Air Keep. There are two other projects that I have to turn in first. But one will be turned in this week end, and the other will be turned in by the end of this month.

Once that is done, I will be working solely on Air Keep.

3) When will book 3 come out?

My goal is still to have it finished by the end of the year. I recently traded e-mails with the artist who did the artwork for the first 2 books. I would very much like to have him do the art for the final three books and he’s excited about it too. If I go through a traditional publisher, they set the release date. But if I self-publish it, which is very much a possibility, book three could be out as soon as the end of this year or early next year in e-book. And shortly after that in print.

4) Do you know what will happen in books 3-5?

Absolutely! I’ve always had the whole series planned out, and that has made waiting even harder. A couple of nights ago, I revealed the first chapter of Air Keep to my writing group and when I got done, there was total silence. Not what they expected at all.

I am so excited to let the rest of you experience what is in my head, that it is just about killing me. I recently discovered that there are no more copies of Water Keep in the warehouse. That means that over 30,000 copies have been shipped out. Along with library readers and people loaning books to other people, I estimate that over 50,000 people have read Water Keep. I think that means there a few people waiting for the rest of the series? Yes?

If I end up self-publishing, expect to start seeing chapters posted here starting in early November. I may do as many as ten before the book comes out. If I go with a traditional publisher, that could change.

5) Where will I be able to get Air Keep?

Regardless of how I publish the next three books, you will absolutely be able to buy both print and electronic versions online (Amazon, B&N, etc) as well as here on my website. I am also talking to a distributor who should be able to make them available in some stores as well (especially in Utah, and surrounding states.)

And since it’s been nearly three years since I did regular school visits, how fun would it be to schedule some more the first of next year?

If you have any other questions, post them in the comment section, and I will try and answer them.

Thanks,


Jeff