November is over. My NaNoWriMo total ended up not much improved from my mid-month progress report – 23,295. I just stopped a little over a week ago and didn’t write another word. There are, I think, two major reasons for that – I got stuck on a scene that lacked conflict and wasn’t happy with a previously written scene that fed into the later scene, and I picked up a new hobby which consumed a lot of my time, crochet, by which I am crafting Christmas presents for my family.
The manner in which I was writing throughout November was to have word wars, ten or fifteen minute stints where I was in competition to produce words with other writers. It proved productive, but I’m not sure it was the right thing for me. Yes, I wrote a lot, but this approach produced the problems that ultimately caused me to stop.
While my writing focus has mostly been in prose, it’s important to remember that there are a lot of different media by which to tell a story beyond the novel and short story formats – movies, TV serials, plays, radioplays, and comics. Today I’m interviewing a webcomic creator Jonathon Dalton about his latest project, writing for the comic format and running a Kickstarter campaign.
Hailing from the vicinity of Vancouver, Canada, Jonathon splits his time between making comics and teaching primary school. He has been posting comics on the internet since 2002. His first graphic novel, Lords of Death and Life (which I loved and highly recommend), was printed in 2010 with the help of a Xeric grant. He is the vice president of Cloudscape Comics, the British Columbia comics society, and has been working on his recently completed project, A Mad Tea-Party, for over nine years.
New writers often post in forums to ask if this idea they have is a good one. They post a summary of it and request that strangers offer harsh critique of the idea and opinions of whether they should continue writing the story. Regardless of whether I like the idea or not, the answer is always “yes.” Why? Because if that’s what the writer wants to write, who am I to tell them no?
The problem is that these new writers misunderstand what makes a story successful. The idea is not sacred. An experienced writer has dozens of them a day. Ideas aren’t stories. Ideas are just one of the building blocks of stories. It is a writer’s job to transform those ideas, to develop them into characters and plots and to deliver them to the reader in a compelling narrative. That is what makes a story: the hard work that comes after the idea.
My progress with this novel hasn’t been quite what I’d hoped. Certainly not at the rate I need to win the challenge, but I am getting there. After a fantastic day in Leicester last Sunday, joining my former region for some coffee, chat and word warring, I’ve had a few zero days this last week.
Today I determined to at least make up for a dud Friday and Saturday (though in my defence I had a nasty headache all Saturday that left me unable to do anything), and with some word wars with the lovely people over at Mythic Scribes I have managed 5,013 words today, bringing me far closer to where I should be, though I’m still a few thousand behind. I should be at 28,334 words by the end of today, I’m actually at 21,356. So getting there, but still some way to go before I catch up.
Congratulations, you’ve published your novel! Well done, that’s a point many people don’t reach. Now you just need to sell it. And that’s harder than it looks. Statistics published in The Guardian reveal that half of all self-published authors earned less than $500 in 2011. When you consider that hundreds of thousands of books are self published annually (319,000 in 2012), you’ve got a lot of competition.
It is widely acknowledged that having reviews helps sell your novel. On Amazon Kindle, readers can browse by review rating – and any book that’s never been reviewed is cut right out. Reviews help wavering potential readers make up their minds whether or not to buy. Readers might even discover that your book exists by reading a review of it on a book blog they follow. So reviews are an important component of marketing your book.
My progress on NaNoWriMo has been less than I’d hoped. On Tuesday I didn’t write a word. I knew I should have tried, but I didn’t want to. I wasn’t happy with what I’d already written, and yesterday I ended up rewriting everything I’d written on Monday and half of what I’d written on Sunday. I’ll still count those words for NaNo, but they’re wrong and I’ve discarded them as far as the story is concerned.
I know I’m not meant to be going back and fixing things at this point. It’s a first draft, and I’ve just got to get it done, which means moving forwards and not backwards. But what I’d written had major problems. My character went from one mood to another too quickly, and didn’t find enough opposing her for there to be any tension, so I struck it out and had another shot. I’m happier with what I’ve got, but now I need to find a way to make the scene go the way I want it to.
So here I am, a little over 37 hours into November. The month didn’t begin quite as planned, as I had a big deadline at work and had to stay a little late to get things finished – such is bidding. This meant I was working for the first four hours of yesterday and sleeping much of the rest, but after a late afternoon false start I wasn’t happy with, I did manage to make a real start some time after 11pm last night, and got 770 words done before midnight and another 696 before I went to bed at 1am.