My NaNoWriMo Experience

For those unfamiliar with the term, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing” according to the NaNoWriMo website. I had heard of it before but had ignored primarily because whenever November had come around in years past was when I was in a writing lull. Capture

This year, I opted to participate for a few reasons. First, I was reminded of it from an email from IngramSpark, a service I’ve used to self-publish several of my works. IngramSpark had a promo to waive title setup fees by using a NaNoWriMo promo code, even if the work wasn’t produced during NaNoWriMo. I happened to have finished all of the pre-production for my novelette Childhood, so the timing was great. But the reminder also caused me to check out the NaNoWriMo site.

Second, I was gearing up to write Fatherhood, the full-length follow up to Childhood (which serves as a reader magnet to introduce the characters). Why not see if I could write 50,000 in a month?

A couple of caveats: I’m not endorsing the NaNoWriMo site – I used it to track my progress, nothing more, nothing less. I do plan to learn more of their mission but, honestly, writing 50,000 words in a month doesn’t leave much time for any other discretion time activities.

Also, I technically did not start at zero words. I had completed about 8,500 while I was working on Childhood this spring. However, because of changes to Childhood during the development editing process, I needed to rework those first six chapters, plus my outline. That’s reflected in the graph above; once I finished that (nine days in), I started to track.

As you can see, I made it, but not without a few significant pushes. I took a couple of days off from work around week three to write, completing over 5,000 each day. That helped to put me at a manageable but still difficult 2,800 or so per day pace to finish, which I stayed on consistently until the end. The last day was a Saturday, so I knew I could spend more time writing, and therefore took a break Friday. I knew at that time I’d make it.

A few lessons learned:

  • Having an outline was critical to success. I was determined not to write fluff. While this is obviously the first draft and will require much editing and revisions, the plot stayed on point because of the outline.
  • It became easier to write more. I got into a groove, a regular cadence of crafting a scene (typically 600-900 words), taking a break, then repeating until the goal was met.

This has also primed me to finish the novel draft this year. My previous novels have landed right around 80,000 words. With 30,000 to go, I launched another challenge for myself beginning December 2nd (I took the first off) – 1,000 words per day. Thus far, writing 1,000 per day has been relatively easy. I just completed one scene of 723 words and will complete the rest (part of the next scene) shortly after posting this.

Bottom line, for me NaNoWriMo helped kickstart my project. If all goes well, I will have completed an 80,000-word novel in two months, though in reality, it took ten months to prepare, including writing the novelette.

Childhood Release Date

I’m happy to announce that Childhood will be released by SCP February 10, 2020. The next day kicks off a 14-day blog and review tour with CelebrateLit.

scott-webb-167099-unsplashKatie lived a lonely childhood, her after school time filled with responsibilities to her father and special needs brother. Her chores prevented her from experiencing the carefree life her peers, including Joey, her neighbor and secret crush, lived. She began running to impress Joey, then discovered track as a possible way out of the small town of Nortonville, Tennessee. But as the promise of a college scholarship drew her closer to the escape she had dreamed about since childhood, she wondered why she didn’t feel better. What was missing?

Childhood is the novelette prequel to Fatherhood, a full-length novel about abortion from the father’s point of view. Fatherhood is targeted for release in 2021.

Photo scott-webb-167099-unsplash.jpg from Unsplash

Childhood Cover Reveal and Offer

The cover is complete for Childhood the novelette prequel to my upcoming novel, FatherhoodChildhood follows young Katie Whetley’s quest  to find her place in life as she grows up in the small West Tennessee town of Maynard. Childhood will be released later this year.

The good news is that you can get a free eBook copy of Childhood before it’s released! If you have enjoyed one of my previous novels (Forgiveness, Leaving Darkness) and write a review on either GoodReads or Amazon, I will send you the eBook file once completed. Just email me (greg.schaffer@secondchancebook.org) a link to the review and I will add you to the list. As always, I appreciate your support!

From a Certain Point of View

In Return of the Jedi, Luke confronts Obi-Wan about not revealing Darth Vader as his father. Obi-Wan responds with what I can only call thin logic that he didn’t lie when he told Luke that Vader killed Anakin, that it was the truth – from a certain point of view.

scott-eckersley-irtWpLLwRX4-unsplashPoint of view, or POV, in a manuscript describes from what character the scene is experienced. The reader is “in the head” of the POV character – what the character sees, the reader sees. Changing POV within a scene, or even a chapter, can confuse the reader by removing the perspective anchor. Referred to as “head-hopping,” maintaining what I refer to as “POV discipline” is a basic skill novelists need to master.

However, the perspective is a part of the equation. While working with an editor on the manuscript for Childhood, a novelette to introduce the main characters and situations of my upcoming novel Fatherhood, two recent revelations have revealed that perhaps I’m not as skilled in POV as I thought, and that POV can be a powerful yet subtle story-telling device.

The first example was a simple dialogue tag – “Dad said.” I, apparently mistakenly, have always avoided using Dad and Mom and other similar dialogue tags because they’re not names, defaulting to “her father” and so on. My editor made the change to Dad. I am fortunate to be working with an excellent editor. There has to be a correct reason for the change, and it tied to POV. In this scene the character POV is the daughter of the man who spoke. “Dad” is the daughter’s name for her father, therefore is appropriate (and conveys a feeling of family). “Her father” is rather stuffy. Point taken.

The second example is more subtle. My editor replaced “egg innards” with “slimy egg.” That bothered me at first, as I liked the description “egg innards.” Enter POV again though. The story is told through a young girl’s eyes, not a 52-year old man’s. While I may lob “egg innards” in casual conversation, she, as a twelve-year-old, probably not.

Can you see the connection? Going beyond POV discipline and using POV to inject aspects about the POV’s character is a powerful tool I honestly had never considered before. Editing is often tedious work, but this revelation has energized the process for me. I feel that a certain “tunnel vision” point of view has been lifted.

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

Tackling Abortion

A dismembered arm, a torso, a head – all bloodied, lifeless, gone.

Joseph Barbetti turned away from the image, magnified a hundredfold so anyone within the bounds of the ellipse in front of the Nashville courthouse could see the grossness, and suppressed the urge to retch. He acknowledged their right to protest and agreed with their position on abortion.

But why did they have to do it like this, in your face with shock and awe, and first thing in the morning?

The is the first draft opening of my novel-in-progress, Fatherhood, revised this morning. The original opening was more benign, with main character Joseph Barbetti slamming a gym bag against a locker in frustration at the edge of losing his job, anxious to relieve the tension with an early morning five-mile run.

This book is neither about job loss or running. It’s about abortion.

greg-rakozy-38802-unsplashI have to begin it there, and with “shock and awe,” because the taking of a human life is too serious an offense in my opinion to introduce on page seventeen. It needs to be up front, in your face.

I’m not a father, nor have I endured the abortion of my offspring. Yet for as long as I can remember I have not understood why this is such an issue. In my eyes, it’s murder, whether inside or outside the womb. I don’t think you need to be a father to see that. From my perspective, abortion for convenience is wrong.

I know many others have a differing opinion, and I respect that. I only ask for the same.

Abortion in cases of incest, rape or when the mother’s health is in danger is a much more nuanced topic. I never have, and never will, walk in those shoes. For that, I don’t have the answer, only that love and compassion is needed.

I don’t intend Fatherhood to be a black-or-white look at abortion. Like Leaving Darkness, my novel about depression, I hope to create (I’m only about 2,300 words into what I’ve planned as an 80,000 work novel) a story that someone may read and gain a different perspective on a difficult situation. Not just the mothers, but the fathers as well. Hence the title – I’m writing from the father’s perspective.

It’s a difficult road in front of me, one I don’t relish, but this is what God called me to do, and I plan to respond with a work filled with compassion on all sides. I’d appreciate prayers that I’m able to find the right words that will reach the right people.

A first draft of a novel is full of mistakes, not usually found until the second draft process. I found perhaps the biggest one today before the end of Chapter One. We don’t need to bury abortion, we need to discuss it. Millions of lives – unborn children, mothers, fathers – are at stake.

Childhood, the novelette prequel to Fatherhood, available free this summer. Sign up for your copy at http://eepurl.com/gk67iD

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

 

 

 

Choir

I serve in my church choir. We don’t sing every weekend, but usually about every three weeks. When we do sing it’s usually for all four services, two Saturday and two Sunday. We have a weekly rehearsal on Tuesdays and have to learn anywhere from one to five new songs per singing weekend. Then there is Easter and Christmas where we have an extra service usually and more preparation than a choir-840987_1920“normal” singing weekend. Add that my wife and I live 45 minutes from the church, and it should be plain to see that serving in the choir is a significant commitment.

Singing in the choir was my wife’s idea. I had performed some pretty unremarkable covers and original songs during my music learning phase 20-plus years ago and had the grand experience of having been in chorus (and glee club!) in elementary school, but that was the extent of my experience. Still, it eclipsed hers, yet she was enthusiastic about joining. I agreed because we had served in a church ministry prior (making coffee) and wanted to do it with her to support her. Besides, it’d likely only be for a semester (we run on a two-semester schedule with the summer off) as surely her interest would pass.

That was spring of 2016, and we’re still singing with the choir.

We are a worship choir, not a performance choir, though of course we strive for excellence. We help lead people to become more complete and devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I saw this my first time on the stage risers in January 2016 (after I got over my stage unease). That keeps us engaged and willful servants. What a privilege!

And so it is with writing. Three indie novels in to my writing experience, I have learned much, but nothing more significant than understanding my mission is to write for the Lord. I am not a performance writer, though I strive for excellence. I have found my current calling to create Christian Fiction novels that tackle difficult subjects, with the goal that perhaps those tales can bring encouragement and direction to Christ in peoples’ lives.

Does that mean that I will always write Christian fiction? I don’t know, just as I don’t know if I will always sing in the choir. But I will always remain open to God’s call for what He wants me to do to help advance His kingdom.

Photo: https://pixabay.com/photos/choir-church-choir-light-shadow-840987/

Novelette

I’ve never written a novelette before but read somewhere that creating one for a book is a great way to market a book and your brand. I’m working on building my email list, something honestly I should have done several years ago when I wrote my first book, Forgiveness. Live and learn.ben-white-197668-unsplash

I’m working on a new novel tentatively titled Fatherhood and will share more about that book as it develops. Childhood is the novelette I’m developing as a prequel to Fatherhood. Fatherhood is told from the father’s point of view (POV), while childhood from the mothers. Childhood, as the title implies, presents how the couple met as children and the development of their relationship through college.

My main purpose for writing Childhood is to have a freebie to give away in exchange for a mailing address to build my mailing list. I understand that agents and publishers look closely at that as part of the author’s platform (a term I did not know of until my first writer’s conference a week ago, the Mid South Christian Writers Conference). Therefore, my plan is to create this 10,000 word or so novelette (complete with professional editing of course), add a nice cover, and self-publish through Ingram Spark as I have done with several other works. It may even generate some revenue, but it’s email addresses I’m interested in.

As I’ve written the first draft the past few days (5000 words, so about half done) I’ve realized another important benefit. I’ve progressed significantly with the development of the characters and the world building. I see this as such an important offshoot of the novelette exercise that I will probably continue to do this for all of my future novels. When I began five days ago (my goal is 1,000 words on average per day, so I’m right on track) I didn’t even have names for the two main characters. Now I have that, their background, some personality traits, and a great foundation for the conflict that Fatherhood will create.

I’ll announce here when the novelette is available. I don’t have a timeline, as I need to ensure its quality and therefore don’t plan to rush its release. But the process of creating Childhood has certainly been positive and exciting.

Interested in a freebie now? Receive a free copy of Forgiveness at https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kc5ix83t35

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash