It’s hard to believe National Novel Writing Month is over.  November went by fast; it was busy and full and at times stressful, but what a ride!  I wrote every day, averaging over 3,000 words per day, ending with just over 100,000 words altogether.  Although I finished the rough draft of my novel, it needs a LOT of editing, so it will be awhile before it sees the light of day.  I do intend to publish it eventually, though, assuming I can get it to the point where I’m happy with it.  Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I chose to write about a topic I know very little about, so I’m going to have to get input and feedback from experts in the field as I revise!

For those who are curious about my novel, here’s a brief description that may eventually become the back-cover blurb:

For fourteen-year-old Bensin, life as a slave in the Krillonian Empire is bearable only because he can practice and compete in the martial art he loves.   He has promised to protect his younger sister Ellie, but after he is sold to a coach whose training begins to really build his skills, everything changes.  With victory in the empire’s most important tournament almost within reach, will he give up everything he has been working toward to come to her aid when danger threatens?  And can he successfully deceive his new owner – the first free person to treat him kindly – and break the law to free his sister?

This is a sample cover (not the final version I’ll use when I publish it) that someone I met on the NaNo site was nice enough to design for me.  You can take a look at more of her art work here.  The weapon Bensin is holding in the picture is what I call a cavvarach (pronounce it so it rhymes with “have a rack”), which he uses in the martial art I made up called cavvara shil.  The hook on the top edge is actually supposed to be pointing the other way.  To win a duel, you must snag your opponent’s cavvarach with the hook and pull it out of their hand.  It also counts if you knock or kick it away (yes, kicking one’s opponent is allowed too).  Another way to win is by knocking your opponent down and holding their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.  It’s been a fun challenge designing this sport and incorporating it in my story!

So what’s next?  Well, I’m trying to follow other writers’ advice and not look at my document for at least a week or two (though it’s been a lot harder than you might think!).  After I let it rest a bit, I’ll read back through it and do all my usual editing and polishing, as well as a little more research into martial arts and fitness in general to make sure all the details are realistic.  I’m guessing that will take a couple of months, maybe longer.  At that point, I’ll need beta readers (people to read through it and give feedback and suggestions before it’s published), so if you’re interested, let me know!
In the meantime, if you missed my last two posts about NaNo, you can click here to read my midway through the month post: NaNoWriMo: What Exactly is Going On?  (You’ll see an artist’s sketch of my main character, Bensin, and there’s also a link to where you can read a scene from the story.)
Or, click here to read my first post about the event: NaNoWriMo – Writing a Novel in a Month!
I keep posting my NaNoWriMo updates on Facebook, and then people I talk to in person keep asking me what that means and what I’m doing.  So here’s a little more info.

The idea is that you try to write at least 50,000 words of a novel between November 1st and 30th.  Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are doing this (there are 293,135 writers participating this year, according to the official site).  So, that’s what I’ve been working on every day this month in almost every spare moment of free time I’ve got.

Some Stats about my Novel:

title: the Collar and the Cavvarach
genre: speculative fiction (i.e. almost fantasy – it takes place in a different world, but it’s one very much like our own)
word count so far (as of 2:45 p.m. on November 10th): 31,854 words
page count so far: 50
chapters written so far: 4 (+2 paragraphs)
total chapters needed (probably): 10
plot summary in a nutshell: A teenage warrior slave must risk everything to save his younger sister.
why collars are significant to the story: all slaves have to wear them
what a cavvarach is: a type of weapon used in a popular martial art in this world

Since I’m ahead in my word count, I’m not worried as to whether or not I’ll get to fifty thousand words by November 30th.  But I really want to actually finish the whole novel!  According to current estimates, the total length could be anywhere between eighty and a hundred thousands words.  But that’s my real goal – getting to the end by November 30th!

Even if I succeed, will it be well written and ready to publish by November 30th?  Definitely not!  This is only a rough draft, and I’m not rereading it until I get to the end.  It will need a LOT of polishing and revision!  But yes, I do hope to eventually publish it.  And if all goes well, it could be the start of a new series; I do have ideas for other characters and events in that world.

An artist in one of the NaNoWriMo forums was kind enough to draw my main character, Bensin, for me for free.  This isn’t exactly how I pictured him (he wouldn’t be quite that skinny, for one thing), but I think she did a pretty good job considering all she had to go by was a brief description.  You can see more of her artwork here.  Yes, that’s a cavvarach he’s holding, though my idea of what it should look like changed a little after I sent her the description.  The hook part should be at the top, not the bottom, and only the bottom blade would be sharpened to fight with.  (Part of a warrior’s strategy is to try to get his hook around his opponent’s and pull the other guy’s cavvarach out of his hand.)

So, that’s what’s going on with my November.  I hope to post another update around the 20th, and again at the end.  In the meantime, if you catch me doing something other than writing, feel free to demand to know why I’m not working on my novel!

Click here to read a scene from The Collar and the Cavvarach.

Click here to read my first blog post about NaNoWriMo.

Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month?  There’s a website ( that organizes a huge event every year for hundreds of thousands of professional and amateur writers across the world.  Basically, writers compete against themselves to see if they can write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words entirely in the month of November.  There are forums where you can link up with other participants for support and encouragement, writing resources to help you along with your story, and prizes for the winners.  I also found out that they have a program for kids:  Some of my students are eager to try it!  (There are some useful teacher resources on the site, too.)

I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, and I’m really excited!  Stay tuned; I plan to post brief weekly updates here on my blog about how my writing’s going.  My goal is to write for at least two hours a day each weekday or until I come up with 1400 words, and four hours on each weekend day, or until I get to 2800 words.  That will give me a bit of a buffer in case I fall behind.

Of course, nobody expects anyone to complete a GOOD novel in just one month.  The idea isn’t that it will be complete and publishable by December 1st.  Most people will probably only finish the rough draft in November, but the next eleven months (or however long it takes!) are for the revising, editing, and polishing.  I certainly don’t plan to show anybody my November’s work until I’ve had a few more months to turn it into something I can be proud of. 

What will my novel be about?  Well, that’s a good question!  I’m currently tossing around three main possibilities.  My first choice would be to write another book in my Annals of Alasia series, but while I have lots of ideas for my characters’ futures, I don’t actually have a complete plot in mind yet.  And I can’t start writing a book without a plot!  (Yes, I know, some writers do it that way.  It may work for them, but it doesn’t work for me!)

Another possibility would be to take a light-hearted short story I once wrote about the misadventures of a group of commandos and turn it into a book of related short stories.  That might be the most fun option, as the writing style I use there is both silly and a little weird.  It’s not my usual genre, but it’s fun to do something different once in a while, right?

But the choice I’m leaning toward most right now would be a piece of speculative fiction in a completely new series.  It’s hard to classify its genre, since it would take place in a setting very similar to our own in almost every way.  The characters are all human, and they have cars, phones, fast food, and workouts at the gym.  The main difference would be that it’s set in a city that’s part of a large empire, and in this empire, slavery is not only legal but widely practiced.  (It’s not based on race; people can be sold as slaves for breaking the law, being unable to pay off debt, getting involved in rebellion against the government, etc.)  One of the two main characters would be a slave and the other his owner.

At this point I have the most ideas for the third option, so I have a feeling that’s what I’ll probably go with.  I’ve already outlined the story, and I’m starting to plan out the characters’ personalities.  Here are two very useful resources that I bought awhile ago and plan to bring out again to use now.  Click here to go to my post that tells more about these books and why I think they’re so great.  If you’re a writer, I strongly recommend them!


Are you thinking of participating in NaNoWriMo this year?  I’d love to hear about your plans!  In the comments, feel free to tell us what you’re thinking of writing about, and please share any helpful resources you’ve found to make the process go more smoothly!

Update: Click here to read my second blog post about NaNoWriMo, which includes a link to read an excerpt from my novel in process!