Every year I prepare a writing playlist specifically for NaNoWriMo. Sometimes I need absolute silence to write, other times I can do with some tunes to get me in the right frame of mind.
I find that film soundtracks work best of all.
This year I discovered Spotify. It’s a free web player with a massive library of albums. The only downside is that sometimes they put in ads, but that’s OK because they tend to only last for about 30 seconds. It can be frustrating interrupting your music flow, but for a free web player i won’t be complaining.
NOTE – I tried using the Spotify app on my phone, but it’s not the same. Selecting a playlist led to other random songs being played as well. Only on the web player and on tablets does it actually do what you want it to do.
Here is this year’s playlist, thanks to Spotify:
Spotify says it’s about 6 hours worth of music. It’s remarkably different to my 2011 NaNo soundtrack which eventually consisted of one song played on repeat.
I’ve been super busy this year producing work under a couple of different pen names, but I always find November’s NaNoWriMo to be a good writing exercise and time to produce something under my real name.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since 2010. Two of the books I completed and self-published under NaNoWriMo were highly praised. The third is currently being looked at by a publisher. We’ll ignore the year my cat and computer both died and I lost half the novel I was writing. I still haven’t quite recovered from that and can’t bring myself to re-write the lost novel.
But anyhow, it’s October again and time to start my NaNo prep.
A few months ago I won a pre-made book cover in a giveaway, and I decided to build a story around the cover.
I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for NaNo 2014, but I pretty soon managed to settle on a character, figure out her goal, throw some obstacles in the way and develop a plot.
I’m a planner. If I don’t know what’s going to happen in the novel I sit there staring at the screen.
Conversely, if I know how the story’s going to end, I normally don’t feel the urge to complete it.
(Which is probably why I have so many unfinished novels.)
I’m planning my new novel using the three act plot structure.
Act 1 ‘Exposition’:
- Inciting incident
- First turning point – where the hero accepts their new calling
Act 2 ‘Rising Action’:
- Obstacles and progress
- Mid-way point – a major setback
- More obstacles and higher stakes.
- Second turning point – what I call ‘the point of no return’.
Act 3 ‘Resolution’:
- Stand up and fight – the final push.
This is the structure I’ll be following in writing my novel. Let’s hope I can stick to it!
I know it’s stupid, but there’s something that has obviously affected me deeper than I previously realised.
Back in 2012, when there was a scuffle on Goodreads that led to some particularly nasty people being kicked off, my books were targeted in a slew of hatred by a number of individuals Goodreads eventually permanently banned for their harassment and breaking of their terms of service. Among many of the artificial insults slung my way (because I was an author and therefore vulnerable to attack) such as my being jealous, my sending trolls after critics, and other things, was one insult that seems to have stuck in my mind all these years later.
It was targeted to my book the Edge of Darkness, which I self-published in 2011. The insult was that my book was ‘not long enough to be a real book.’
I guess that word count insult has stayed with me, because I wrote The Edge of Darkness in 2010’s NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an event held every November that encourages you to write a 50K long book.
The world was a vastly different place back in 2011. Small press publishers didn’t have the clout they have now. Indie publishers and self-publishers didn’t have the clout and even the respect some of them have now. Some people assumed self-publishers would be producing traditional-publishing-worthy tomes but simply at cheaper prices.
I’ve made no secret the fact that I didn’t query The Edge of Darkness is because as a full-length adult sci-fi it only stood at 52K words, and traditional publishers only look at sci-fi if it’s much longer, around 70-110K. There was no way I was adding word padding to a completed story, so I was stuck. Small presses were so far off my radar I didn’t even consider handing my book over to them. I felt the only other option was to self-publish.
Three years later and I’ve noticed several things that have changed in the world around me.
The Edge of Darkness isn’t an adult book, it’s a New Adult book. My heroine, Max, is 26, but because she was a prisoner for five years she’s psychologically undeveloped and is still a young adult, I’d estimate in her early twenties. She’s still facing issues other young adults aged 18-25 face. She’s just doing it in deep space with robotic parts. New Adult was barely a genre back in 2011. Now it’s everywhere.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of digital imprints are calling for books exactly this length. They want genre books up to 50K or thereabouts. They don’t want to wallop their readers with enormous books. They want to offer somewhat shorter fiction, to entice readers into investing less time and effort reading this one book, in the hopes the reader might read more.
When I wrote Storm of Blood, I was still stinging from The Edge of Darkness ‘not being long enough’ (according to a troll who was kicked off Goodreads for harassment, so I know it’s ridiculous I’m still stinging from that one insult). Storm of Blood topped in at 80K, but writing that much burnt me out. For a long time I couldn’t face writing something so long when I’m clearly made for writing shorter fiction. I know in the grand scheme of things 80K isn’t particularly long when there’s 110K-150K tomes out there vying for attention, but 80K is pretty respectful among the traditionally published. I don’t regret writing that much, because I do feel the story is complete and every word and every scene was needed.
But the next thing I wrote after Storm of Blood was much shorter. I needed a break from the pressure of producing longer fiction. I wrote a series of contemporary romance novellas. They topped in at 25K each, but they were a connected series.
And then I panicked, because Lissa doesn’t write contemporary romance. She writes sci-fi and paranormal books about kick-butt women with magical powers.
So I don’t even know if you’re ever going to see these romance novellas, which I honestly do love and am very proud of, because this genre doesn’t fit in with my brand. I’ve left them trunked for six months while I figure out what I want to do with them. Do I want to self-publish them under Lissa, or a pen name, or even query them?
And then there’s the question of the daunting task of the next Storm Force book. Storm of Magic is coming, I swear. But trying to match 80K in a year as well as the dozens of other books I want to write, including another sci-fi about superheroes and that paranormal bisexual romance I lost half of when my computer died… add on to that the pressure to be ‘successful’ and to churn out my work as fast as I can even though I have a day job and a family and my writing is a slow process anyway because I actually trunk my novels and leave them to breathe between edits…
…and the word on the street is that if you’re not producing 2 books a year, your audience will forget you…
All of this pressure is why I’m struggling to write anything long at the moment. Well that, and the fact that I literally have dozens of ideas and trying to catch one to pin it down is like trying to herd river water by throwing darts.
I’ve been writing short fiction, short stories, to keep up with the craft, but it’s nothing the sci-fi/PNR part of me can ever publish.
I’ll settle, eventually. I have lots and lots of books ready to be written. Maybe this is simply the post-Book 2 blues getting to me. We’ll see.
I’ve published two full-length novels and both of them contain people of colour as either the main character or the love interest(s).
In The Edge of Darkness, my protagonist Max(ine) is Filipino.
I consciously made the decision to write her as non-white building on my father’s experience of being the son of immigrants to Australia, and because Australia’s always had a high level of Asian immigrants.
Why the Phillipines? The answer can be as shallow as ‘I once knew a beautiful man from there’. Despite my family’s strong connection to Japan, I wanted Max to represent a less popular section of Asia, one you don’t see very often in popular literature..
Max is also named after the main character from Dark Angel, played by Jessica Alba, who’s mixed race.
In Storm of Blood, my protagonist Tina is white (as are the majority of Australians, where the book is set), but her boyfriend Tengu is Chinese (from Hong Kong) and the other boy who plays a role in her love life, Lachlan, is descended from Pacific Islanders.
Tengu appeared in the last short story from the Storm Front collection. I was looking for a lesser-known demon for Tina to turn to for help when I stumbled upon the tengu Chinese shapeshifting demon in my research. I took a lot of creative licensing in Tengu’s kind of shapeshifting and it’s really got nothing to do with the original Chinese demon I first discovered. Buddhism says that the tengu demon were originally disruptive and dangerous, but over time their image changed to one of protection, which is how book Tengu is with Tina.
And the reason I made Lachlan a Pacific Islander is because the inspiration for his looks is an actor called Michaal Copon who’s just really good-looking. He was in the cheerleading movie Bring it On: In It to Win It along with Cassandra Scerbo (of Sharknado fame), who inspired my look for Chelsea. One look at that pair in that film and I knew that was what I wanted in my book.
As a side note – I did consider making the villain character gay, but I couldn’t bring myself to possible represent that community in a bad light. Some of the characters in my novels are gay, but if there’s no way for me to make that explicit, you’ll never know who. My philosophy is that that’s pretty much how it works in the real world, too.
I feel that all-white casts in books can be generic and boring, and I always get excited when I read books by Malinda Lo who always includes diversity not only in race but in sexuality, too. But I figure, Malinda (who’s an excellent writer) includes diversity because she’s hyper-aware of it, being a minority herself. I’m not a minority, but it sure is nice when a straight, white, cis female can include diversity in her books as well.
My biggest reason for writing diversity in my books is very simple: why shouldn’t I?
The book I’m working on at the moment is a young adult bisexual love story about a mixed-race girl.
A few weeks ago I began an experiment that is still ongoing.
I made my two Kindle Select books, paranormal short story collections The Archive of Lost Dreams and Storm Front, free on Amazon for two days.
But I didn’t tell anyone about it, because I wanted to see how the algorithm works without publicity and if they could be discovered organically.
I’m not into marketing my books, you see. I believe that if I make them available and keep them available, someone might find what they’re looking for.
However, to continue the experiment (and because I have three days leftover) I am making them free again from 15th April to 17th April.
This time I’m telling everyone.
You can find them on Amazon.com by clicking on the covers.
Can you believe it’s been three years this year since I published my first novel, the deep space cyborg adventure The Edge of Darkness?
I can’t. Time has flown.
Normally when books are traditionally published sometimes they’re first put out in a hardcover version, which is more expensive for publishers to sustain, so after about a year or so they put out a paperback version as well. They normally have different covers. Seeing as how The Edge of Darkness is turning three this year I’ve decided to spruce her up with a cover change.
Of course this cover still has the nebula in it. Because the first book I published was sci-fi, I think that’s always going to be part of my author brand.
I love the new cover. It’s ridiculously hard to find the right image, but I think I made the right choice putting Max and Ethan there. I feel like simpler is better for this, which is why I made the decision to keep the text white and unadorned.