Collaborative Steampunk Novel Update and a Few Thoughts about NaNoWriMo

Collaborative Steampunk Novel Update

When I announced that I would be coordinating Project 7 for the Collaborative Writing Challenge starting in Dec. I admit I was a little worried about recruiting people. Steampunk has become a lot better known in recent years, but there are still plenty of people who don’t really know what’s it about, or at least aren’t comfortable enough with the genre to feel like they can contribute.

On the one hand, I complete understand and obviously I’m not going to push and say someone should do it if it doesn’t interest them. On the other hand, I see Steampunk as less of a genre with distinct borders and rules, and more of an overlay that can be added to a mystery, romance, or any other sort of story.

It looks like there are a lot of people who feel the same way! 70 slots have been filled so far by 30 writers, and there’s still over a month before the project begins. Each project has a minimum of three authors in each slot, and up to five, so there is plenty of space if you haven’t signed up yet. Just don’t wait too long!

Remember, the project starts in December but runs until August, so even the prospect of starting a project after the bustle of the impending holidays has you seriously considering if a string of lights is sturdy enough to hang a person by, just keep in mind you could sign up for a chapter way out in March when you’ll just be twiddling your thumbs.

NaNoWriMo Update

A typical science fiction or fantasy novel for adults comes in around 100k words (~350 pages depending on the size of the book). YA books tend to be closer to 70k, but even that word count is higher than the goal for the National Novel Writing Month of 50k. So why the discrepancy?

Writing a book is at least 80% revising.

Let’s face it, the first pass is going to be bad. Some people’s bad is a lot worse than others, but generally speaking there are going to be plenty of issues to fix on even the structural level, not to mention at the specific word choice level. Personally, I am finding it incredibly difficult *not* to be doing revisions as I go, which has been my pattern in the past. I know that what I wrote yesterday is rubbish and I want to make it at least refined enough to be just regular or old ‘bad’ before I move on, but that won’t help me reach my word count goal. Grrrrr.

revising-memeSo rather than be annoyed, I decided to change my mindset and embrace the utter craptitude of the firstest, roughest draft. I am writing whole scenes of dialog with just the words the characters say but with no dialog or action tags. I am leaving myself notes and giving myself permission to move on from problem passages to press on to things I know for sure. And I am not reading over things I wrote a week ago and painstakingly looking to see if I used “she” to begin too many sentence. (Though old habits die hard and I know many would already say I pay way too much attention to that sort of thing when I should just be writing.)

I am also doing a ton of pre-writing exercises to help me get really focused when it comes time to sit down and write. Pre-writing can mean anything from answering character and world-building questionnaires to writing a summary of what you want to accomplish in a chapter. But before I could wrap my head around that level of detail I made a spreadsheet with a separate page for each of the 6 parts of my story that I used to outline down to the scene level and projected word count.

I’m about 1/3 of the way into this whole NaNo experiment, and I’ve written 14,369 words on Mistress of None so far this month, bringing the total words for Part 1 to over 25,000. This has been a very different way to approaching novel writing and I can’t say I like everything about it. On the other hand, I have also gained some invaluable new methods and most importantly, the confidence I’ve gained in myself.

All writers go through times where they feel like poseurs or like they can’t possibly succeed, and I was having one those dark periods in August after the dour advice and attitudes of the folks at the Writer’s Symposium at Gen Con. Now, I feel like I’ve proven to myself that I have the drive and the tools to make a real go of this.

Now I’ve just got to convince the rest of the world…

 

 

Author: Phoebe Darqueling

Gears, goggles and glamour; Corsets, crafts and creativity; Sci-fi, silliness and steampunk; Dirigibles, dancing and DIY; Physics, phonics and phoenixes; Bustles, balloons and beads; Lace, leather and life; Fantasy, feathers and flaws; Paper, piercings and pirates!

5 thoughts on “Collaborative Steampunk Novel Update and a Few Thoughts about NaNoWriMo”

  1. Nice work on your NaNo, and yes, sometimes it takes a bit of twisting your mindset to keep going forward, but it’s a great tool for teaching people about finishing. The most common issue I’ve found among writers is a pile of unfinished manuscripts. Trust me, I have my own.

    However, a little caution on those word count numbers. Both you listed are at the high end in traditional publishing to the point that I was told to edit my 95k SF novel down to 80k-85k by agents while I still get notes from readers warning people it’s a LONG book ;). Of course, I’ve heard from other readers that wanted more of the world…and guess where those 10k went. I rarely get length concerns for my Steamship Chronicles even though those are in the 50k-60k range, so length is literally a battle you can’t win regardless of genre. By most counts, novel begins at 40k, which is where most original SF came in and many literary fictions still fall. When you start going over 100k, traditional publishing will look for things to cull and/or split it into multiple books, while indies can be all over the map.

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    1. The plan is to compile parts 1-3 as one volume and 4-6 as a second if all goes well. That way they are both more manageable printing/publishing sizes. But I want each part to be available as its own installment in ebook form.

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      1. Makes sense for anything under 40k, but if you’re planning to take it indie, the cost is per page count. I use formatting magic 😉 to keep my longer books still within the 200s, though my SF series is 271 pages, I think.

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