After NaNo

I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a chance to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. My daughter did give it a try and I’m proud that she managed to make good progress on a project she’s working on. For those who don’t know about the National Novel Writing Month, every November writers are challenged to write 50,000 words in a month. Because I’m in the midst of commissioning two instruments at Kitt Peak National Observatory, I didn’t think I could commit to that amount of writing during November this year. However, I have participated twice before and both of my NaNoWriMo novels ultimately became published works.

While 50,000 words is a good amount of a novel, it’s shorter than what most genre publishers are looking for. Some publishers are happy to see young adult books around this length, but even they tend to want at least slightly longer. Also, the organizers of NaNoWriMo encourage authors not to spend time revising their works during the month. The goal is just to get 50,000 new words down on the page. So, how do you go from 50,000 unedited words to a novel you’re willing to submit to a publisher?

I first learned about NaNoWriMo from Jackie Druga, who owned LBF Books, which had just purchased my novels Vampires of the Scarlet Order, The Pirates of Sufiro, and Children of the Old Stars. She challenged me to try my hand at writing a novel in a month. I decided it was time to actually write a novel I’d started twice before, but gave up on called The Solar Sea. The reason I’d given up on this novel twice before is that I didn’t know quite what it wanted to be. Was it an adventure novel? Was there more of a suspense element? Should it be for adults? The 50,000 word length and being a parent of two young daughters inspired me to approach this new start as a young adult novel. I’d thought about it so much over the previous fifteen years, I had really clear pictures of the characters, so writing it was easy. When I got to the end of the month, I had a more-or-less complete novel. It needed spelling and grammar cleaned up. It needed details fleshed out. I ran it by three or four beta readers. I even read it aloud to my daughters and was pleased to see how much the story held them, but even at a young age, they pointed out places where they wanted more. By the time all was said and done, I had a 65,000 word novel and LBF said they were willing to publish it. If you want to see the result, you can learn more about the current edition at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/solar_sea.html

Because things had gone so well, Jackie encouraged me to participate in NaNoWriMo again the next year. This time, my project was much less defined. I knew I wanted to write a prequel to my novel Vampires of the Scarlet Order and I had a rough idea of what the story would be. I set out on the journey to create the book that would ultimately become Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. I did finish 50,000 words, but I was left with the feeling that I had far from a complete novel. I liked the opening, but felt like the book was beginning to meander toward the end. I also didn’t feel like it had a good focus. In this case, I set the novel aside until I had some idea of what to do with it.

I believe about two years passed. I made a few half-hearted attempts at editing, but was never quite sure what the book was missing. By that time, LBF Books had been purchased by Lachesis Publishing and LeeAnn Lessard approached me with the idea of writing five vampire novellas with erotic overtones. It occurred to me that my NaNoWriMo attempt to could be adapted into three of those. As I thought about what the other two novellas could be, I found a new opening that gave the whole project focus and an overarching theme. With that in mind, I was able to find an ending that became the final novella. Ultimately, those five novellas were published under one cover and called Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. Each of the novellas is a part of the story set in a different time period. As the story evolves, the vampires of the story become romantically involved. In this case, it helped to give myself some distance from the original creation and to get some input that gave me a slightly different approach. By the time I fleshed out the middle and added a new beginning and end, I had a 94,000-word novel. If you’d like to learn more about this novel, visit http://www.davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

To all of you who made good progress on a project this year during NaNoWriMo, I salute you! I wish you the best as you polish your work and help it find its final form.

My WordPress Family

This has been a hectic week. Normally I would just be finishing a long break from the observatory, but I spent two days back in the middle of my time off, so one of my co-workers could have time to run in the Boston Marathon. In exchange, I’ll get some extra time off for Phoenix Comicon next month. In addition to time at the observatory, I’ve been typesetting the Kepler’s Dozen anthology. It’s taking shape and looks like it’ll be ready to send to the printer soon. You can learn more and even pre-order a copy at www.hadrosaur.com/kepler.html

Wordpress Family Award

In the run-up to this busy week, Emily Guido presented me with the WordPress Family Award. Emily is a cherished member of my WordPress family. She has “liked” almost all of my posts and commented on many of them. Her support means the world to me. She’s the author of the Light-Bearer series which tells the story of how an angelic light-bearer named Charmeine fell in love with her polar opposite, a vampiric Blood Hunter named Tabruis. Go visit her blog and learn more.

Really, all of these blog awards are about paying it forward, and the rules for this one are super simple. All the recipient is asked to do are recommend ten other members of their WordPress family. All of the folks I name certainly qualify. Some have hosted (or will be hosting) guest blogs. Some have interviewed me. Some have just posted a few likes or a comment here or there—but those are the kinds of things are greatly appreciated and keep me going. Some of these folks have been recommended before and some are new. Whether you have seen them on one of these lists before or not, each of these people has something inspirational, interesting, or engaging to offer. I hope you go check out their blogs and I hope they take a little time to recommend some they like.

  • Deby Fredericks is the author of Wyrmflight, a “blog for kids (and everyone else) who loves dragons.” She’s also the author of Seven Exalted Orders a wonderful fantasy novel it was my pleasure to edit.
  • Melinda Moore is the author of Enchanted Spark, a blog that looks at the craft of writing. She is also the author of stories in Tales of the Talisman and has a story in A Kepler’s Dozen.
  • F.T. McKinstry discusses world creation and shares poetry at her blog. She’s another Tales of the Talisman contributor.
  • Elizabeth Campbell and a bunch of other cool people blog at DarkCargo.com. They talk about all manner of speculative fiction books, events, writing, television. You name a speculative fiction topic, it’s probably there!
  • Another collective blog is STEAMED which discusses all manner of steampunk writing. I’m scheduled for a guest post there next month.
  • Nrlymrtl reviews books, interviews authors, and hosts read-alongs at Dab of Darkness.
  • What Writers Say is a blog of inspirational quotations from famous writers.
  • Bell Night presents profiles of famous writers, including little known facts about them.
  • Paige Addams shares her paranormal romance works in progress, along with thoughts on the process of writing.
  • Shannon A. Thompson is a writer who gives excellent, practical writing tips on her blog.