50k Slow: A Retrospective

I wrote my first completed novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo). It was a wonderful experience, including the pace. Every novel I’ve seen through to “The End” since has been drafted at that same frenetic pace. Daily goals, I learned quickly, are useful for me. The constant thrill of reaching and beating that goal was addictive to say the least.

The problem was that it got unhealthy. It took me a while to see that though. When you can look at 150k words in 21 days and think “Oh god, I have to top that somehow in order to be happy with myself,” it’s all gone a little too nuts.

Worse, I wasn’t enjoying writing anymore the way I once had.

So when I finally felt ready to write again after last year’s breakdown, I decided to reset and try something different. I’d write the book with a low word goal in mind (because I still love goals), something I could realistically do and still love writing. 500 words seemed a good choice.

The thing I had to make peace with, which hasn’t always been easy, is that I’d be writing this book for a while. No quick gratification. No massive word counts to announce. I couldn’t quickly move onto the next story. And I’ve had to deal with a lot of internal guilt when I do other things. The constant refrain of “You should be writing” haunts me sometimes.

But it’s been a good experience. I find I enjoy the slower pace. I’m able to think more about what I want to write, because I’m not rushing any of it. And I’m able to respond to the story better. I didn’t outline the whole thing this time, you see, just a few at a time.

The draft is also turning out better. It’s more to the point, less word-flab to it, and I feel like more has happened. I am so much happier with this version of the book (for those of you who don’t know, I wrote Where The Ether Flows once, but have junked it to totally rewrite and replot it). I’m also happier with this version of Devan. Many of the details of his life aren’t changed, but they make more sense now, and his reactions are different.

It’s also nice to think I can do other things. Gaming, reading. Or just sitting around and chatting. I can relax. I don’t have to feed every spare minute to writing. I can’t tell you how freeing that is. The idea that I can take a day off if I’m feeling poorly, mentally or physical, allows me to work when I’m at my best and it shows in the writing.

I’m not saying I’ll never fast draft again, because the future might require it. I’m just not going to let it be my default method again. I don’t know if I’ll ever do NaNo again. I love it and think everyone should give it a real shot at some point, but I’m finding a new process that’s working better for me. And that’s what matters, doing what works for you.

As of the writing of this, I’ve actually reached 60k, written across two and a half months. My hope is to have a finished draft by the end of the year. I think I can, I think I can. ;)

And if you’re curious about Where The Ether Flows, I posted a pitch and the first 250 words of it here. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I have a book to write. :)

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Pitches from the Pensieve

I’ve seen a lot of contests for writers go on in my years on Twitter, but I’ve never participated. Usually I don’t have anything ready. Then recently Kimberly VanderHorst asked me to be part of her team of mentors for Pitch Slam. I accepted with happiness and a small amount of trepidation (Am I really up to this?) and over the past several days, I’ve had so much fun that I need to thank past me for saying yes. The Harry Potter theme has made it even more awesome.

Pitch Slam involves submitting a 35 word pitch and the firs 250 words of your manuscript. The four Houses will each choose 9 and 3/4 entries for the final round. Those are going to be posted on blogs and agents will read them and make requests where they find entries interesting.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s nothing compared to the amount of work our entrants have done. So many good stories, amazing pitches and fascinating 250s from all these people. Choosing is proving very hard, but Team Hufflepuff will prevail and pick the very best. Even those who don’t get selected, you have my respect and many of you have amazing entries.

In the spirit of the fun, I’m going to share the pitch I put together (very rough) and the first 250 of  my current WIP. Seriously, both of these are first draft, and I usually do at least one round of revision before letting anyone see my work. *hides*

Name: J Elizabeth Hill

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Working Title: Where the Ether Flows

Word Count: Incomplete (real Pitch Slam entries have to be finished and polished)


Necromancer Devan is drawn back into his family’s strife when attacked by his father’s minions. The deeper he gets drawn in, the greater the danger he won’t live long enough to escape again.

First 250:

Devan stared in rapt fascination at his pale, unmarked hands under the light of the waxing moon. They’d been like this for months, but he was arrested by the sight every time.

Almost everything he’d endured had been worth this. Except for Eleene.

“Devan, get down from there!”

His youngest sister’s voice broke his focus. “Moll? What are you doing back so soon?”

“Does it matter? I need to talk to you.”

She was so earnest that he was instantly on guard, then hated himself for it. They’d always been close, despite their differences of opinion in recent years on how the family’s business and war should be conducted. It hurt his heart to feel any distrust for his youngest sister now. And yet how often had his father used her as a pawn in an effort to force Devan into doing what he wished?

“You just saw me less than a week ago. You can’t have even made it home. What made you turn back?”

Rather than answer, she snapped, “Get down out of that tree, Devan Endorus!”

He tried to laugh it off. “I’ve been climbing nandoras since long before you were born. Well, not ones this big but it’s safe enough.”

“But it’s not like it was anymore. I turned back because I realized what was wrong about you.”

Her eyes dropped to his hands before returning to his eyes, white around the blue iris now in contrast to her black ones. “So?”


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Game On!

It’s been too long since I really posted here. Even longer since I posted about how writing is going.

There have been a number of reasons for that. I’ve been busy with gaming, among other things. Relaxing while I’m on vacation. Snuggling Zedd more than he’s happy with, strictly speaking. I told him that’s how he pays for his cat food.


Is it just me or does he seem skeptical about that?

But in between all that, in the evenings (okay, after 10 pm usually), I’ve been writing. Rewriting really, but it’s a fresh draft entirely. I’m improving the story, though not making the wholesale changes I’d once planned. Instead, I’m telling the story I originally envisioned, but better.

I threw out not just one book to do this, but 3. I’d written the whole trilogy, and I had to lay them all aside. I didn’t trash the drafts, but I’m not going to look at them again (unless I need to look up a name). I don’t know what exactly the other books will be, or even if they’ll exist. This isn’t the time for me to worry about that. It’s the time to concentrate on Where The Ether Flows and Devan.

It’s kind of funny, me tossing the fairly well edited draft of Ether Flows to rewrite it with significant changes. I did the same thing with Bound. That one hadn’t gone through editing, but it had more problems with the original story than this one does. This time it was more subtle, but I knew a while back I had issues with this. I couldn’t pin it down but I have now. It worked out so well with Bound that I’m not exactly worried about it.

This year has so far seen me struggle with writing. A failed attempt back in July for Camp NaNo kind of shook my confidence, but there were a number of reasons that July was a species of hell. It’s over though and I put it behind me.

Instead, I committed to rewriting Ether Flows. I started early last month. I’m still working on it, and I’m oddly happy about that. I decided to reign my goals into a much slower pace than I’ve written in a very long time, 500 words a night. I’m even okay with taking a night or two off if I need it.

And yes, I keep referring to night for a reason. I’m re-embracing the fact that I’m a night writer. It’s rare for me to write during the day. Writing all day pushed me toward burnout. So I’m giving myself an hour or two a night, before bed to write. Any if I’ve had a rough day, I take it off.

Even with all these things theoretically slowing me down, I’m making forward progress for the first time in a while. I just passed 24k last night. It’ll take me many months to finish at this rate and I don’t care.


I am enjoying writing for the first time in two years or more. That is priceless.

I’m writing the story just for the story and myself. And this too is priceless.

As always, I have the very best people being supporting me, encouraging me. I’m blessed with the friends and family in my life. Their understanding and gentle encouragement have helped me move forward at my own pace and in a healthy way. I can’t thank them enough.

I’m having fun with Devan again. Seralin is so different but so much better than last attempt. I think this is going to be a good story when I’m done with it.

Writing is exciting to me again. Life is good. And I am deeply grateful for it all.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll be back again soon enough. :)

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Cover Reveal: Harrowed by Brian LeTendre and Jolene Haley

Book Name: Harrowed (The Woodsview Murders #1)

Book Genre: YA Horror

Book release date: 09/22/15 by Horror Twins Press

Harrowed on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25728924-harrowed


Harrowed blurb:

Journalism Rule #1: Always report the story. Never become the story.

Avery Blair has accepted the fact that nothing exciting ever happens in her small town of Woodsview, Massachusetts. As the editor of the high school blog, she prays for something—anything—to come along that would make for a great headline.

When Beatrice Thompson’s body is found in the girls’ bathroom, Avery has her biggest story ever. The rumors circulating the school say that Beatrice took her own life, but Avery doesn’t believe it for a second. Her instincts prove true when the next day brings another body bag.

The tiny community of Woodsview has become the hunting ground for a killer known as the Harvester. The killer targets Avery and her classmates, stalking their every move and terrorizing them with morbid messages.

With the help of her boyfriend Jason, her best friend Quinn, and an aging detective who can’t keep her off the case, Avery dives head-first into her own investigation. She discovers that the secret of the Woodsview Harvester is buried in the town’s history and its annual Harvest Festival celebration. With every clue she uncovers, Avery grows closer to unmasking the killer—and becoming the next victim.

Avery Blair has finally found a story to die for…if she can stay alive long enough to write it.


About Brian LeTendre:

Brian LeTendre Author Pic

Brian LeTendre is the writer of the Parted Veil horror series, which includes Courting the King in Yellow, Lovecraft’s Curse, and Lovecraft’s Pupil.

A gaming, comics and horror lover, Brian has co-hosted and produced a podcast about geek culture called Secret Identity since 2006, producing well over 1000 hours of programming. He also hosts and produces three other podcasts about writing (See Brian Write), design and small business (Kitbash Radio) and gaming (Co-Op Critics).

In addition to podcasting, Brian has worked as a freelance games journalist, and currently writes a webcomic called Mo Stache, which can be read for free online and will be collected in print in 2016.

Brian lives and works in Massachusetts.

Brian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeeBrianWrite

Brian’s Blog: http://www.seebrianwrite.com/

Brian on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Brian-LeTendre/e/B00AGFTZFA/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Brian’s Podcasts: https://soundcloud.com/seebrianwrite


About Jolene Haley:

Jolene Haley Author Pic

Jolene Haley is the author of the Woodsview Murders series, Harrowed (out 9/22/15) and Haunted, coming fall 2016. She’s also the curator of the best-selling horror anthology The Dark Carnival through Pen & Muse Press.

She runs a YA horror blog The Midnight Society, the author resource site Pen & Muse, and Hocus Pocus & Co., a small horror press. She writes every genre under the sun, but prefers horror.

When she’s not writing she can be found cuddling her two dogs and enjoying the beach, where she lives.

Jolene on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoleneHaley

Jolene’s Blog: http://jolenehaley.com/

Jolene on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7753660.Jolene_Haley

Jolene on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jolenelouisehaley

Woodsview Teaser #2

Join the book buzz using hashtag #WoodsviewMurders

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Release Day: Chameleon by KT Hanna

Chameleon Releases Today!

CHAMELEON Domino Project Front with Text 2

“Wow! A fast-paced, science fiction delight with fabulous action, a seamless world, and the most unique characters I’ve read in a long time.” Elana Johnson, Author of the Possession Series.


Four Fun Facts about Chameleon:

The first draft was called Exiled, and was drafted in 9 days.

Even though the first draft was written in 9 days, the book has been through approximately twelve edit rounds.

Chameleon got K.T. her first ever agent.

Before drafting K.T. works on the history of each element in each book – Shine alone has a 10 page history.


The Blurb:

When Sai’s newly awoken psionic powers accidentally destroy her apartment complex, she’s thrown into an intensive training program. Her only options are pass or die.

Surviving means proving her continued existence isn’t a mistake–a task her new mentor, Bastian, takes personally. Her abilities place her in the GNW Enforcer division, and partners her with Domino 12, who is eerily human for an alien-parasite psionic hybrid.

After eliminating an Exiled scientist, she discovers nothing is what it seems. With each mission more perilous, Sai must figure out who to trust before her next assignment becomes her last.

Available at:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | IndieBound

If you’d like a signed physical copy, Watermark Books has them in stock.


We’re having a blog hop, and an e-card & mega swag Rafflecopter giveaway!

The blog hop stops are noted below. Each day has a different theme and you can find out about the process, the idea, and the evolution of Chameleon, and even a bit about K.T. by visiting each blog, when their posts go live.

4-Aug 5-Aug 6-Aug 7-Aug 10-Aug
Fun facts about the book What I learned writing Chameleon Author Interviews The world of Chameleon The Evolution of Chameleon
Manuel Soto Marlo Berliner Leatrice McKinney Rebecca Enzor Patricia Lynn
J Elizabeth Hill Stacey Trombley Dawn Allen Sharon Johnston Bex Montgomery
E.L. Wicker JC Davis Suzanne van Rooyen Mandy Baxter Madelyn Dyer
Jessie Mullins Andrew Patterson Heather Rebel Jessica Therrien Carissa Taylor
Emma Adams Lady Jai Elayna Noreme Kendra Young

I’m giving away e-cards of your choice from B&N, iTunes, & Amazon – one to the value of $25, and three to the value of $10! Each prize includes a swag pack of a magnet, sticker, bookmark, postcard, and mousepad!

Just follow the options listed on the giveaway and you’ll be entered!full swag pack

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Me Squared

KT Hanna has a love for words so extreme, a single word can spark entire worlds.

Born in Australia, she met her husband in a computer game, moved to the U.S.A. and went into culture shock. Bonus? Not as many creatures specifically out to kill you.

When she’s not writing, she freelance edits for Chimera Editing, interns for a NYC Agency, and chases her daughter, husband, corgis, and cat. No, she doesn’t sleep. She is entirely powered by the number 2, caffeine, and beef jerky.

Note: Still searching for her Tardis


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A Meditation On (Not Really) Failing

We’ve reached the end of July (wait, didn’t we just start this YEAR?) and of course, that means the end of Camp NaNo. As such, I have some thoughts and decided to share them. As I was thinking about this year’s Camp NaNo, I realized others might have similar experiences, which means I might have something to say that they need to hear.

I’ve done both Camp Nano and the original November event many times over the last four years. I have succeeded every time, even when the day job kept me busy or insomnia came calling. No matter what, I’ve always hit and surpassed the 50k mark and often gotten very workable drafts out of it.

Camp winners

NaNo Winners

Until now.

This year, I skipped Camp NaNo in April. I knew better. I was still very much in recovery (as discussed here before) and the thought of writing was still painful. Besides, I was going to a con, which would cost me a few days. But when July came around, I had an outline for a book ready. I had just completed a draft of a short story. I had friends who were going to do it with me and we would encouraging each other through it. It was a good plan and I thought I was ready.


Then July kicked my ass for a number of reasons. I’m not the only one that happened to, just among my friends. I’m coming out from under the things that got to me, but of course, it’s well past too late for Camp.

For the first time, I failed at NaNo.


I could beat myself up about this, or swear that I’ll do better next time. I could allow this to add to my anxiety and mental pain level. But that wouldn’t be healthy. Worse, it would be dramatically unfair to myself.

So instead, I’m picking what I can take forward out of the wreckage that was July. I’m letting this “failure” help me grow as both a person and a writer.

See, I tried. I really did. But when life happens to you, there isn’t an option to say “This isn’t a good time. Can you come back later?” So I let myself let it go, rather than obsess about what I wasn’t doing and how I was going to fail.

I often say to others that they didn’t fail if they have more words than they did before, and I decided to apply that to myself. I have more words than before. I also took some time to reflect, to think about what I need to be working on. I also continued building a major project I’ve been working on for a month or two now.

PUA grab

And now, thinking about not successfully completing NaNo, I’m taking a moment to recognize that I was productive for more of the month than I realized at the time. More than that, I feel freer than I ever have in my writing life thanks to this failure.

I didn’t write my novel in 30 days and the world didn’t end. I’m still me. My friends still like me, even admire me in some cases. My cat is still cute. I still have a story to tell. It didn’t evaporate.


This may sound elementary to some, but for me, it’s a big deal. I think, in the back of my mind, I really believed that it would be the end of something at least if I didn’t hit my goals and exceed them. It got to the point of being unhealthy. I felt guilty doing anything other than writing. I’d get home from the day job and feel like I couldn’t even take a few minutes to unwind. I had to make the most of every minute that wasn’t day job or sleeping so I could write more words, all the words. All those crazy word totals you guys saw a couple years ago? That’s how I did it. I fed everything in my life into the writing bonfire.

Wow. Writing it out like that, it’s actually a miracle I didn’t burn out sooner than I did. That was so massively unhealthy. I feel a bit stupid for thinking that was okay.

So now I’m trying again, but differently. I only let myself write for an hour, two tops. I might go further if I get on real roll, but not just so I can have higher word count totals. And I’m allowed to do other things before writing. I just have a time I have to stop and turn to writing by.


I’ve also pulled back my daily writing goal. When things were at their most obsessive, I officially had a goal of 2000 words per day. Every day that I was writing a draft. Even when I’d been at work all day. And that was just the start. By the end, anything less than 4k was worthy of calling myself a slacker. *shaking my head at myself*

Now, the goal is 500 words. Yes, it’ll take me 5 months or more to write the first draft, but that’s okay. And it may be a better draft than if I pushed harder, wrote more in a day. Even if it isn’t, this feels comfortable. This feels like success. Because I don’t have to push myself. I’m coming to the keyboard willingly, guilt-free. I’m writing my 500 words and then either stopping or continuing, with either choice being okay.

The best part? I feel better about everything in my life right now. Writing. Day job. Me. And I’m sleeping better.

Do I really need any further indicators that I made the right choice, that I learned the right lesson? That it wasn’t really a failure at all?

So I hope you too will learn a little something from this. It’s okay to not do as well as you’d hoped or expected. It’s okay to run into difficulties and make choices. Most of all, it’s okay to scale back if you find yourself in an unhealthy place on any level. Be that kind to yourself. I hope you will. I wish for that with all my heart.

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Recovery Is Not a Straight Line

It’s been a while since I posted here. I keep meaning to, then finding I don’t know what to say or I forget what I wanted to say. Actually, I find myself struggling for words on a number of fronts. Meaningful words, anyway. 
My recovery is still on-going, obviously. Right now, it’s not going well.

Somewhere along the way, I think I got it in my head that I would get better at a certain rate and would stay better. Clearly I was delusional when I thought that, because it’s been anything but.

This isn’t to say I don’t have good days. I do. Some of them I even almost feel whole again. For a brief moment, I feel like the last two years never happened and I’m my old self. I miss her.

But then there are other days, ones where I can hardly think straight, where I jump at everything. Days where I question so many things I know I should trust. Worse, ones where I feel like being whole and mentally healthy again is an out of reach dream.

I hate those days. Like serious hate. But I also feel powerless against them. My therapist has pointed out that grief figured deeply in the breakdown and that grieving isn’t a straightforward process, despite how we talk about the stages of grief. But I’m exhausted, and worn out by all of this. The days where I run into a setback make it worse. So does feeling like a failure, which I’m dealing with right now.

I’m managing the day job all right, but everything else is still a mess. I have a book outlined and I’m supposed to be doing Camp NaNo this month, but the words and focus aren’t there. I’m mostly playing games, wishing I could sleep through the night. I don’t even have the focus to read most days.

These things were getting better, but at the start of the month, they all fell apart on me. I may have tried to do too much at once. I’m not sure. I only know I’m bewildered by the rapid descent back into semi functional unhappiness. I don’t like living like this and I wonder if I can ever be okay again.

I wish I had something positive to put here. I mean, I’m still working on building a couple stories/worlds, one of them a lot (The Pick Up Artist). But I’m not feeling terribly hopeful right now about my being able to actually write it at any point in the future. It’s a shame, really, because I like what I have so far of Pick Up Artist, and those I’ve told about it are excited. The heart is willing but the brain says fuck you.

Thanks, brain, really helpful response.

I’m still trying though. Trying to cope. Trying to ride out the rougher days. Trying to make the most of the good days without running myself aground. Most of all, trying not to withdraw from everything again. It’s hard to be here on the blog a lot of the time, but you can catch me on Twitter most days.

I’m still here, guys. Not giving up. Just quiet right now as I try to sort myself out.

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