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Not too surprising considering my last post, today I put those lovely words on the page: The End.

Coma Wedding is the first novel I have completed since my NaNo almost two years ago on November 30th of 2007. If you've been following for a bit, you'll possibly remember that a medical mystery knocked me silly all of last year and so this is a major win :).

That said, this story is not what I'd consider my normal fare, though elements of it do cross over with other stories. I thought From the Sea was hard to classify (originally Selkie), but Coma Wedding takes it a step further.

This is a romance with no on-screen sex--heck, no sex at all, though a honeymoon has certain implications :). It is a time travel story with no explanation of the event beyond the fates, and the characters don't believe in time travel despite having to admit it happened in this one unique case. Yes, there's a ghost. No, he doesn't haunt, he doesn't scare little children, and he isn't trapped there until some great wrong is undone. He hangs around because something is unfinished, true, but he's so unghostlike that both he and the others often forget his lack of corporeal form until his chill reminds them.

And most importantly, it ends just after the honeymoon...when the Laura gets an offer to return to the industry she loves--in other words, a job.

I haven't reread it yet. It could be the most horrible, mixed-up story ever, but I really don't think so. The characters caught me and wouldn't let go. They dragged me through the chaos of their tale, refusing to settle into any known pattern and refusing to compromise even on something as simple as length. I thought 80k-90k was reasonable...they thought differently.

Whether this story will find a home, I cannot say. Of all my outlier novels, I think this is the furthest out. On the other hand, because it has a (mostly) contemporary setting, because it's about "normal people" despite the strange things that happen to them, it may have an easier time finding a place. After all, the mainstream market tends to be rather egalitarian, even if science fiction and fantasy aren't as welcome. Good thing then, I guess, that the time travel isn't explained :).


And stats:
New Words: 0 words
80 scenes
80 complete - 100% of the novel
0 Scenes remain
0 Remaining word count
107039 Estimated length - with an average of 1338 words per scene.
107039 Current Total
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And the countdown continues. Only two scenes remain in the Coma Wedding outline.

 

So...I reworked one of the scene blurbs today for a reason that I think merit's mentioning.

 

When I returned to the United States as a kid, I lived in Virginia and Massachusetts before moving out to California where I stayed until about 3 years ago. I'm still getting used to having seasons again when almost half my life was spent without significant ones.

 

Coma Wedding is a (largely) contemporary novel. It's set in the southern East Coast, and it begins in March and carries through to early November.

 

I make a point of mentioning seasons, the turning of the leaves, the snow on the ground, the light turning dimmer, but I haven't quite absorbed them into my psyche. On one side of my outline is a little counter. I say how many days have passed in the book, and it comes up with a date based on adding to the "base date" back in March. This helps me keep track of the big holidays that would have to have some, no matter how minor, impact on the story. Things like Fourth of July doesn't slip by without someone mentioning it, without seeing a flag, or hearing a homegrown fireworks go off. Therefore, I need the calendar to make sure my characters notice costumed folks showing up on October 31st for example.

 

However, this also tells me what time of year the action is happening. As you might have guessed, two scenes from the end, I'm smack dab in the middle of November...in Virginia.

 

So two scenes ago, my heroine goes running outside with just an old gardening sweater as a coat. Some people can do that (like my kids) but to everyone else, she would be freezing. And so she is. I got the weather angle perfect there and even made it into a plot point :D.

 

But when I started into the next scene this morning and read over the blurb, I realized my outline failed to account for such a simple thing like season. I have them going out onto the porch in early evening for privacy...in NOVEMBER. It's not like they're going to bundle up first.

 

Since I didn't want to end the book two scenes prematurely by my heroine either dying of pneumonia or slipping on the icy steps and breaking her neck, I fixed it in the actual draft, but the problem in my outline has served as a timely reminder of the importance of tracking the time line closely, and of the myriad of ways weather has an impact on the story.

 

So what are the ways you handle weather in your stories, whether driven by reality in a contemporary setting or by the climate forces you've put into place?

 

 

And stats:

New Words: 1371 words

80 scenes

78 complete - 98% of the novel

2 Scenes remain

2686 Remaining word count

107436 Estimated length - with an average of 1343 words per scene.

104750 Current Total

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Okay, I know it's been a while since I gave a real update for Coma Wedding. But a Pretty Bauble was the higher priority project and I'm lousy at updating. But here's the thing. Coma Wedding is rolling along merrily. At the end of last week, I took some time to update the outline so it's now in pretty much final form (open to change of course as it always is) and now have a reasonable belief that the final length will be around 110k. It's an interesting length, but within limits of the type of book (so crossover it ends up being mainstream ;)).

This has been an odd book from the start. First it comes and grabs me when I wasn't writing anything, then I started NaNo without finishing the outline (and it was in lousy shape for the part I needed then), and when I reached the end of NaNo, I was dead. So I stopped entirely and blamed the book. But it wasn't the book, it was me. So now here I am racing along at frequent 1500 or better writing mornings, something generally unheard of.

I like this book. I like the characters, I like the tangles, and I even like the fact that it's a paranormal, time travel, romance, coming of age novel about finding yourself.

So, the big news in my rambling is that the outline is complete, I'm on target for finishing by March 15th, and maybe even early. I have 7 scenes to go and am completing a scene a day pretty consistently.

And it even has a real title. The title is just as strange as the book, so who knows...it might stick: Once Upon a Coma.


And stats:
New Words: 1488 words
80 scenes
73 complete - 91% of the novel
7 Scenes remain
9457 Remaining word count
108084 Estimated length - with an average of 1351 words per scene.
98627 Current Total
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As a writer, I find myself gaining comfort in the oddest things. Today, I made myself cry. Not outright balling, but a tightened chest and watery eyes as the words on the page twisted my heart.

 

Now this is a novel I wrote. This is a novel that I know the ending to and already know that it'll come out all right.

 

So I have to wonder at the words affecting me, and hope that they'll affect all my readers in the same way.

 

I'm having some difficulty with But a Pretty Bauble. It's the kind of difficulty most writers claim to want with all their hearts, but facing the possibility in reality is nothing to write home about.

 

I have made some line-level changes, though there are whole pages that are "perfect," and have caught only one continuity error, a minor one. I'm swept up in the story, and this first draft is so far from raw that it's unbelievable.

 

Which is where I get to the problem. Have I achieved the impossible and produced an almost perfect draft (in comparison at least)? Or am I still, after letting it sit for three years, too close to the story to see the flaws?

 

When I weep, is it because I know how this should be, or because identifying with Hiba in this moment is impossible to avoid with what I managed to get on the page?

 

I'm not used to being this confident in a book, and at the same time having so little confidence :). But only time...and critters...will tell.

 

And stats (Note that I've passed the halfway point :D):

Edited Today: 6,301 words

16 Chapters complete - 59% of the novel

13 Chapters remain

30,773 Remaining word count

44,819 Current Total

77,493 Predicted Total


P.S. One of these years I'll do a complete Coma Wedding update.  As it stands, I'm moving forward and nearer to the point where I haven't finished the outline :P.
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I have a confession to make.

 

I have been hiding from this blog. Not that you might have noticed because my postings have always been rather spotty ever since I started it, but those are the facts.

 

Thanks to a surgical complication, I spent most of 2008 seriously ill and dosed on half a dozen medications including high-level narcotics for pain. This ended with a total hysterectomy last September (once they finally figured out what was going on with me. I'm so irradiated I probably glow in the dark :D).

 

Why is this relevant?

 

Since the surgery and freedom from constant severe pain, I've been muzzy headed. Now I tried my darnedest to accept, having been sick for a year, that it might take up to that long before I was back to normal, but it hasn't been fun. On the other hand, my levels of frustration and upset at this fact were just as vague even though the implications were to eliminate the ability to multitask and reduce me to almost no spontaneous creative energy. I've been "drifting" through everything, unable to remember consistently, and unable to get stressed and worried about it even as unnatural as that may seem.

 

This is why I've been ducking my "writing" blog. It's not writer's block, exactly. It's more like writer's haze. But either way, it has been worth more than my energy to talk about what's going on here. Among other things, though I drag my characters through horror, they always come out of it. I believe in happy endings...or at least ones with the possibility of being better. So I couldn't talk about this until I had something hopeful to say.

 

And here it is: hormones actually affect the ability to think. And not, as my dear friend Val said, only in a negative way despite the trend of teenagers and thought.

 

I'm only on day two of having a brain, so I can't be totally conclusive, but here's my pattern, and it certainly seems pattern-like.

 

After the surgery, I was put on a hormone patch (hormone replacement therapy is automatic for surgical menopause because your body isn't ready for the transition).

 

That level was too low, shown by hot flashes and the need for too much sleep, so they upped the dose.

 

The new dose seemed to resolve the two main issues and left me to recover from the surgery and illness (which I credited with the slowly reducing memory issues and creative haze).

 

But the patch proved incompatible with an active live style, the glue failing to hold up to perspiration :p.

 

So I requested a pill. They put me on a lower dose because pills don't have as many levels and you want to be on the lowest effective dose.

 

Now, with my recovered brain, I can see that my ability to cognate reduced back to the early surgical recovery days. I couldn't even program, my typing speed dropped because I couldn't think of what to type, my vocabulary reduced, my ability to spell went out the window, and I couldn't find the energy to care about typos. (Fun as I'm preparing to teach an intensive class, eh?)

 

So when the sample was starting to run out, in a rare flash of inspiration, I asked my doc if the hormones can affect thought. She didn't know for sure, but was willing to give me a higher dose to see. This dose is higher even than I was on the patch.

 

And I just wrote over 1k in about an hour on Coma Wedding!

 

You might think this is nothing much considering that I managed NaNo before, but first of all that was on the higher level patch and second of all it was a real struggle with rare flashes of creativity.

 

So, for those of you on hormone therapy for whatever reason, if you're experiencing writer's haze, you might ask to try a higher level...or add more soy to your diet depending.

 

I know there will still be aspects that I'll have to adjust to, but it is so much easier now that I don't have to fight through dense fog to articulate a single word. I noticed the effect on my writing most dramatically, but it impacted everything from coding to having a face-to-face conversation. While life sure was interesting, it was the Chinese curse interesting :p.

 

Who knows...you might see more posts about what I'm doing now that I'm past this :).

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Hmm, well, it's interesting this...

I completed NaNo on 11/21, a bit late for some years, a bit early for the goal. That's the good part.

The bad part is that I have stopped dead.

I've had some questions about this novel because in some ways it is very much a straight contemporary despite the odd paranormal elements. This would make my third completed contemporary novel...once I complete it...but my belief is that I want to do more fantastical SF or fantasy.

So why is it that these contemporary ideas grab hold and won't let go? The answer must be that a part of me loves these stories. At least that's the answer that I came to.

I thought about how I felt not when thinking about the story from a distance but when I'm writing, when I'm in the characters' heads.

See, my SF and fantasy tends to be hard hitting. I tend to make my characters work for everything and cut the support out from under them at least once. In my contemporary stories, it's more about the positive people parts. It's about how people come together, what pulls them apart and what makes them hold on. All of my contemporaries are happy stories. They might have low points, but nothing like what I put the characters through in my speculative fiction.

So I'm thrilled (?) to discover the cause of my writing drop off is bronchitis. It has nothing at all to do with the story.

The ultimate answer is that both types of stories fill something within me. I like the sappy romantic stories as much as the traumatic, realign-my-world stories. This shouldn't come as any surprise because I read that same spread for the different moods, nor should the pull of a sweet story have startled me considering I was coming off a rough year. That might even be why I couldn't pull off writing Karth's Story earlier this year because that one is a gut-wrencher on many levels.

I guess this post is more about psychology than writing, but there you have it. The good news is that I fully expect as soon as the elephant gets off my chest, words for Coma Wedding will start pouring out.

And stats:
67 scenes
37 complete - 55% of the novel
30 Scenes remain
39,242 Remaining word count
87,640 Estimated length - with an average of 1,308 words per scene.
48,398 Current Total
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The weakest point in my NaNo was the outline, as I've mentioned before.  So this weekend I signed up for a word count marathon on Forward Motion that allows me to count both novel words and world building, unlike NaNo.  I did get a decent jump on my novel, not the 50k I was hoping for, but more than the minimum for sure.

So, Coma Wedding now stands at 44,301 words.  The first act is coming to a close, this piece which sets up the rest of the novel and so is the largest.  It's an odd case because though this is a paranormal, time travel novel, there has been almost nothing to distinguish this from a contemporary...okay, one set in 1977.  Is it working?  I don't know.  But the characters seem likable and their stresses are stressy.  We'll see what it comes out to be in the end, but for the time being, my job is just to write.

The outline has reached almost 17,000 words and takes my characters up to the final step.  I could have written the actual ending today (in the outline at least) but my outline is estimated at 86k already.  The notes I have in the synopsis add a last little twist in that I think is interesting, but at the same time will add word count, though I don't know how much.  I haven't decided whether to leave it in or cut it out, so I didn't put in the final scenes.  I think 86k is enough to get me through NaNo and beyond, so I can make that call when I'm a bit closer to it :).

My current statistics are:

66 scenes
34 complete - 52% of the novel
32 Scenes remain
41695 Remaining word count
85996 Estimated length - with an average of 1303 words per scene.
44301 Current Total

Note that my average words per scene has dropped.  I had a couple scenes come in at 800 rather than 1,400 words.  On the other hand, I still haven't reached the ones I think will run long, so the estimate is a fluid number right now.  Thank goodness for the autocalculator on my spreadsheet :).
 

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Reason 2002 for completing the outline BEFORE you start to write:

There is nothing more effective against forward progress than the dreaded "something must go here" scene, especially if you're a linear writer who gets bogged if you continue past something that needs to be done in detail. I don't function well with the inline notes saying to [explain X] or [Sally meets Brian here]. It's been a while since I ran across this particular problem because I haven't written with this spare an outline in many years.

Here's my normal process (in sketch):

1) Write a rough synopsis of the whole plot from beginning to end (because synopses always include the end :)).
2) Write a jumble of notes, some of which are scenes, some of which are partial scenes, some of which are multiple scenes.
3) Put them into linear order.
4) Review them for timeline or story tension issues
5) Polish them to make sure the scenes cover what needs to be said in the way it needs to be said.

Okay, that's a very high level take, but mixed in there is "identify all the places where for timeline, pacing, or tension, I need to add transition scenes. Scope out the shape of them."

Sometimes those "scopes" still give me trouble when I get to them, but I can see the scene notes, and if I think around it for a while, I can find an entry point. It helps to know it's coming because I can start nudging around for that entry point while writing the previous scenes.

So imagine my dismay when I glanced ahead this morning and realized that coming off a highly emotional scene, I then jumped some 20 days into the next kicker. Umm, no. I don't care about all the rules that say to "skip the boring parts." You don't hop, skip, and jump your reader through the story. That ends up making them feel like they're on a pogo stick rather than driving a fast car. While both can be thrilling, the first leaves you feeling a little jounced around and dislocated.

So what did I do? I stole from Peter to pay Paul. I took some of the substance out of the next upcoming scene and pushed it into a midstream transition scene that gives (I hope) a sense of how things have been going while also cranking up the tension about what's going to happen next. My heroine is now divided between what she wants and what she thinks she should do, made more complicated by the fact that the situation isn't really in her control anyway.

Or rather that's what I did after I found the entry point. Wasting a whole day trying to figure my way into a scene that I didn't realize was needed until too late was no fun. It makes me even more nervous about the state of my outline, though I've still got a good nine or so scenes before it gets really shaky. What if there are more transition scenes I've missed? What if I'm faced with a point where the entry takes another whole day to discover? And how do I keep from letting the fact that I know some 14k from now I'm going to fall off the end of the Earth (okay the outline) into no man's land result in writer's block, or at least writer's slow as I try not to get there?

The answers are varied:

1) I swear never to do this to myself again (yeah right, but it sounds good and reassuring).
2) I plan to spend a good portion of the weekend strengthening that outline, getting it fleshed out through all the way to the end.
3) Take a deep breath and know that some 10-15 scenes from now, the book will meet the NaNo standards for a win. If I have to stop dead and redo the outline with no forward motion at all, I will still have laid claim to my purple bar. For that, I only need to add one more scene and maintain the current word count per scene average. Since I know some of the scenes coming up are likely to run long--and may actually break into more than one scene--I'm on pretty firm ground where the 50k is concerned.

And yes, I'm watching in the back of my head so I can put together that workshop on initial outlines a handful of FMers, and others, have requested. Maybe it'll give me the opportunity to get ahead so next NaNo I can choose one of my completed outlines to do...assuming the Muse Conference doesn't slam another brand new idea right up to the front line that is :p.

And stats:
35 scenes
25 complete - 71% of the novel
24 Scenes remain
14,183 Remaining word count
49,641 Estimated length - with an average of 1,418 words per scene.
35,458 Current total
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We're almost done with the second week of NaNo, and it has been going very well. My outline has grown hardly at all, now totaling 10,410 with 34 scenes (only two more than a week ago). I've been sitting on my laurels where that's concerned and only the average scene length has improved my estimate which will (assuming scenes meet the average) take me to 49k. Obviously I still have some outline work to do.

Now you'd think I have all the time in the world to work on that outline. After all, it's only the 13th so I've got lots of time to get to 50k. Well, that's true, but it doesn't reflect my current reality. I'm averaging about 2000-2200 a day, and I'm heading into a marathon for the weekend (Forward Motion runs word count marathons every weekend throughout November). My current count is 33,197 words. That means I have 15,877 words left in the scenes in my outline, and I could easily put away that many words between now and Tuesday if things go well.

At least this weekend's marathon is the standard one, so though my outline words don't count for NaNo, I can still get marathon credit to encourage me to flesh out a bit more. It would be nice to have an outline that goes all the way to the end of the book since my progress is such that I might actually make it. I'm not counting on such an explosion however.

The good news is that the second section of the book is one for which I have more scenes (albeit rough ones) already. The third section, however, is hardly scoped at all beyond the very general synopsis.

Regardless, I jumped into NaNo with a fresh idea from about October 18th, a self-imposed edit deadline that had to be met before I could start NaNo so no time to outline, and a year of having written almost nothing. I could so easily have crashed and burned. To be honest, I'm feeling a little draggy as it is, another reason to front load so if I crash halfway, I'll already have my purple bar (it's all about the purple :)). With all that going against me, my progress is phenomenal and I'm happy with it.

That's not to say I haven't had my moments. I've pushed through them so far, and am working under the pressure of pure gumption rather than being drawn to write a lot of the time, but ultimately when I can get myself to focus, the words do come. I've got a very tight knit group of three characters who are recovering, growing, and learning about each other quite nicely. Whether or not this will be some grand opus, whether or not it lingers in my "to edit" pile for much too long, there's no question that I'm producing a novel here :).

Now if only I had a remotely reasonable title :P. If it hadn't been almost the same as a movie, the right title would be While I Was Sleeping, but that's taken so...
 

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So, the crazy first week of NaNo is complete and I did pretty well, especially considering that I started NaNo with 25 scenes outlined in VERY rough draft, almost all of them involving the second part of a three part book :P.

My word count currently stands at 22,458. I am almost halfway exactly through the first section of the book. It's slow going at times, but overall, the story's coming together.

I just completed my second 48-hour marathon since NaNo began, the first one netting just over 8,000 words and the second just over 7,000 words. On the days in between, I only missed the minimum for NaNo once, and that was by 14 words. Yeah, I know, I should have just tucked something in there, but it was the end of the scene and why put in garbage I'll just have to clean up later.

If I continue at the rate I'm currently maintaining, I should reach 50,000 on November 17th. However, that rate reached a high of 4,046 and is now averaged down to 2,807 and continues to drop. I do have to maintain a bit of padding because I have family coming for Thanksgiving and the weekend before that as well. I may be able to sneak in some writing in the early morning on those days, but I have no way of knowing. It'll help if I'm smart enough to synchronize my laptop, because my study becomes a guest bedroom when people with cat allergies are expected :).

Another interesting statistic...my outline which was just under 6,000 on November 1st has grown to 10,346. This includes character notes, a map of the ground floor, and other relevant world building on top of the actual outline.

Right now I have a total of 32 scenes outlined (one of which is still rough draft that I hope will flesh out before I get there and am stumped) for an estimated 44,916 words. I'm also hoping to add a few more scenes into the outline before I run out and still have words to add. I do have some 17 additional scenes roughed out, but they're very rough.

Is this my normal NaNo process? Absolutely not. I rarely get to focus 100% on NaNo any more, but usually my NaNo novel is already outlined and clicking in my head all the way through so I can have the pleasure of writing without having to consider all the other aspects. This year has been crazy in many respects, and doesn't seem to be getting any easier. That said, I was facing a year without a single novel written. I might still be in that state because this novel is going to end up significantly longer than 50,000, but I'll be a heck of a lot closer than if I'd given NaNo a pass.

P.S. The book is now titled Coma Wedding. It is still a working title, and one that has little connection to how the story came out, but there you go. That said, it'll still be filed under cm because otherwise I'd have to edit everything :p.
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"Thank you, everyone, for your kind welcome. I've struggled with this fact for several years now, and finally have to admit. I have a NaNo addiction."

*sighs*

"Yes. You're right. It does feel better getting it all out. I can give myself excuses, point to the benefits of getting an extra novel written each year, of practicing writing to a deadline, of darn well having fun, but none of that changes the facts.

Every year, right around this time, whether or not I've committed to doing NaNo--and often when I've adamantly said it's not in the cards--I suddenly drop everything to create or polish my outline. There's no other explanation for it than addiction. Rational thought comes into it only so far as to provide rationalizations. I am an addict."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This year's project is lovingly titled "Coma Marriage," even after I nixed the marriage from the synopsis this morning ;). It was inspired by an exercise one of my Muse Online Conference workshop participants completed. This novel has, in the course of two or three days, sprung into form through providing feedback to the participant, two on-the-edge-of-sleep moments, and discussing the thought with Valerie Comer. And up until yesterday morning, I was still kicking and screaming about actually writing this novel.

Oh, and it will be my first completed entry into the adult paranormal romance category (since Sorcery and the Perfect Dress (last year's NaNo) is a young adult paranormal romance).

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