Writing in a whirlwind

A little insight into what it's like to work on a novel when you're also writing other things

For Story Cauldron this week, I paused to reflect on how November and NaNoWriMo have been going, including progress on Book 3 of my Favor Faeries series, and I also shared a few images from my fall color outing last week.

I love autumn. The relief of cooler temperatures after a summer that always feels hotter than ever, the changing colors, back to school, Halloween, and so on. It feels like a chance to catch our breath and slow down a bit, even if it’s just for a moment before the holiday rush is upon us.

And November is special, because it’s time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is one of my favorite times of the year. For one month I can focus on writing something entirely new—meeting characters for the first time and discovering stories no one has ever told before.

This year has been a bit of a challenge. Since the start of November, I have been writing thousands of words every day: words for a weekly news blog, for this newsletter, for my serial novel, and of course for NaNoWriMo. It’s a lot. As we crest the middle of the month, I’ve had to grapple with so many different things whirling around in my head all at once. Not a single day goes by when I don’t write on my novel, and when I have to write other things on top of that? Well, it’s been making me a little crazy as I struggle to focus.

Cue the squirrel:

A smarter version of myself would have had some of this other work done in advance so I didn’t have as much on my plate in November. Unfortunately, although that was my intention, October was a lot busier and stressful than I had anticipated (as I had agreed to work on a podcast on top of everything else), so a lot of pre-work, including novel planning, got waylaid in the process.

Fortunately, it’s a temporary situation. Next week is Thanksgiving and things will be slower then. And NaNoWriMo only lasts another couple of weeks. Plus once December rolls around, things generally slow down in most areas of my life, which sounds absolutely heavenly right about now.

NaNoWriMo update

If you’re here as a fan of my fiction, you’ll know that I’m currently serializing the second book in my Favor Faeries series—The Boy Who Can Taste Colorhere on Substack. So it seemed only natural that my NaNoWriMo project for this fall would be to start Book 3, The Boy Who Dances with Faeries.

So far I’ve written about 12K words in what will one day be Act 1. To tell you the truth, I’m not super happy with a bunch of it, but the first bits of a novel can be the hardest to write, especially if you’re figuring things out as you go. So while I may only keep a fraction of that work, it’s a start.

Meanwhile, I knew what I wanted to do with Act 2, which has a point of view shift. (For those reading book 2 right now, in Book 3 you’ll get to see things from Travis’s POV for the first time—and boy, is it a doozy!) The problem was, I knew what had happened to Travis, but I didn’t have any plot points planned out.

Last Friday, just three days ago, I was stumped. I had written the start of the act, putting Travis where he needed to be, but I had no idea where to go with the story. Fortunately, my writing group did a live ‘writing prompt party’ on Friday. We each worked on a scene of our own and then, in two-minute increments, kept increasing the stakes. Out of that brief exercise (from Jorjeana Marie’s Improv for Writers book), both my character Travis and I discovered what was going to happen to him (though to be fair, I think I’m much happier about it than he is!)

Thanks to that exercise, I managed to write another 11K words over the weekend. (Yes, I wrote nearly as much Friday–Sunday as I had written the first 11 days combined. Because writing a novel is kind of like that sometimes.) As of today, I’m just above par, meaning I am on track to finish 50K words by the end of the month.

Anyway, if you’re reading my book right now on Substack (and if not, I’d love for you to give it a whirl!) you may be happy to hear that Travis is currently struggling to win a competition because he’s afraid he’s going to get mulched. Yikes! What does that mean, exactly? Is it a real threat? Stay tuned!

(The truth is, I don’t know these answers yet myself. 😬 That’s also what it’s like to write a novel sometimes. It’s entirely possible you don’t know any more than your characters do. And I guarantee Travis is not happy about that in the slightest. Poor guy!)

Fall color escape

Something else I did last week that helped my writing was to finally get out of the house to enjoy the changing colors of the trees just before a cold front swept them all to the ground. Autumn colors are always quite beautiful in St. Louis, with all of our maple, ginkgo, elm, sweetgum, sassafras, and other trees that shift from green to gold, orange, red, and yellow.

At the Missouri Botanical Garden, the trees showed up for the party! In addition to the stunning trees, I really loved this colorful fall garden, which was a mix of herbs, kale, and mums.

I also managed to squeeze some writing research into the trip. As it turns out, the Climatron (a giant geodesic dome that houses a tropical garden year-round) is a pivotal setting in both books 2 and 3. I’ve been there more times than I can count, and I never get tired of it, because, with the wide variety of plants there, it’s never the same place twice. Despite the humidity, I sat down on a bench and wrote some notes for my scenes, which is always better than trying to remember what it was like months later.

How is November treating you?

So that’s how my month is going so far. I’d love to hear from you. Are you doing NaNoWriMo? If so, are you keeping up with your word count, or are you struggling? How can I, or other readers of Story Cauldron, help you out?

If you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, are you enjoying the weather? Are you excited about the holidays? Drop a comment here and let me know.

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Thanks for your support

And finally, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to acknowledge everyone who has taken the time to read my newsletters. I’m grateful that you’re giving up a little of your time each week to read what I have to say. Your presence here means a lot to me and I appreciate your support.