November Wrap Up

Greetings, friends!  November was quite productive for writing, as I hit 50k on Thanksgiving for NaNoWriMo.  Some people apparently don’t know what that is, so I’ll explain.  National Novel Writing Month occurs every November, and writers from all over the world attempt to write 50,000 words during the thirty days of the month.  Averaging almost 1700 words a day isn’t easy!


After finishing the first act of my third novel, Our Sister’s Mage, I sat down and tried to reorganize the outline for the rest of it.  I ran into so many problems!  I finally realized I had too many threads for the size I was thinking it would be (which was the size of my second novel), and briefly considered getting rid of some.  Then I remembered I’m writing epic fantasy so more words really aren’t a problem!  What this means thoug,h is I have no real idea of when I’ll complete the draft, even if I hit my goal of 1,000 words a day.  Guess we’ll all be surprised!

I’ve been getting some feedback on my second novel, Dragon Herald.  People seem to like the first few chapters, where I’ve done a lot of revisions over time.  The book as a whole though may be lacking, especially toward the end.  Actually, I know it is lacking at the end.  Once I finish the first draft of the Mage book, I plan to go back and revise this further while the Mage draft rests for a bit.  We’ll see how it goes!

The first novel is published here on the blog, for now.  You can find all the chapters of Defiant here.

Defiant: Chapter Twenty-Four

We are 17 days into nanowrimo, and at the end of yesterday, I had 35,000 words.  I could write a little more than 1000 words a day and hit the 50k by the end of the month, so there’s some good news.

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50k does not make a fantasy novel, however, so I will still have plenty of work to do once I “win.”  I’ll slow down a bit at that point, and I don’t have a great way to tell how long my book will be, so I’m setting a goal of the end of February to complete the draft.  This estimate is likely wildly inaccurate!  But I like having a plan.

When the first draft of the third novel is complete, I’ll return to editing the second novel.  I’ve had some feedback and continue to get more each month.  I’m also learning a lot in writing the third one I can apply to the second one.

But let’s return now to the first novel I wrote, Defiant.  This is the last, very short, chapter.  I have problems with endings, which is something I hope to fix in edits for my second book and perhaps even avoid in book three?  We can hope.

Read More

Defiant: Chapter Twenty-Three

Deep in Nano!

Chapter Twenty-Three

Defiant: Chapter Twenty Two

Greetings and happy November!  As promised last week, I’ve started NaNoWriMo.  We’ll see how it goes.  Last year, I decided to cut my effort short as I had too much going on with other parts of my life.  Work gets busy during this time, and although I don’t spend a lot more time there, I do spend a lot more of my creative energy.  So far, so good though!  I have over 8000 words heading into today’s writing times.

Let’s continue our read-through of Defiant, with Chapter Twenty-Two, which begins our thrilling conclusion to Aida’s journey.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Defiant: Chapter Twenty One

Greetings, readers!  I am sorry about skipping last week; these things happen when you’re planning your next novel!  Nanowrimo starts this Friday, and all of my plans are in place to crush the 50k goal.   You can find me there at “julieowrites” if you’re joining in the fun!

The second book is still resting on the shelf as some people read it, but I also had another group read the first chapter.  I got some great feedback!  By “great,” I mean it was kind and positive, but also included a lot of problems.  The great news is I know how to fix all the problems.  I’ll do the same thing with the second chapter next month.

In the meantime, enjoy Chapter Twenty One of Defiant!

Chapter Twenty One

Defiant: Chapter Twenty

We are all the way up to Chapter Twenty in our journey through my very first novel.  There are twenty-four chapters total, so we are wrapping it up soon.  What would you like to see next?

Novel Three continues in the planning phase, kicking and screaming.  I’m using Scrivener, Excel, Aeon Timeline, Wonderdraft, and Scapple to organize it as much as possible in the hopes of having a usable outline at the start of November.  If that happens, I bet I can hit the 50k for Nano no issue.

Knock on wood.

Chapter Twenty

Defiant: Chapter Nineteen

Greetings and happy Sunday!  I’ve sent off the third draft of my second novel, Dragon Herald, to some readers.  This week, I’m working on the outline for the third novel, The Sister’s Mage.  If everything works according to plan, it might be ready to draft in time for Nanowrimo.  We’ll see!

Here’s chapter 19 of Defiant while we wait!

Chapter Nineteen

Defiant: Chapter Eighteen

Wow!  It has been one week since the Writing Excuses Cruise, and another change from last year is I have all the energy in the world to write.  I’m wrapping up the third draft of my second novel.  Once it is out to readers, I’ll continue planning the third novel, and then start drafting it sometime in November or December.

We’re on to Chapter Eighteen in my first novel, Defiant.  As a reminder, none of these novels I discuss are related.  This is a stand alone work and the first novel I ever wrote.

Chapter Eighteen

Writing Excuses Cruise Review

Welcome to my annual review of the Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat, aka the Writing Excuses Cruise.  I’m calling it “annual” now because I plan to repeat it every year I can attend, so you can probably guess this review is positive.  Everything I wrote last year is still valid, though I feel a bit better equipped to tell you why I had such a good time and why you should join us next year.

The Writing Excuses Cruise

Writing Excuses is a Hugo Award-winning podcast, hosted by Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler.  Each week, the hosts and/or their guests discuss a writing-related topic.  “Fifteen Minutes Long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart,” is the tagline, though the last part is very inaccurate.  These folks create award-winning, best-selling novels, stories, and webcomics for a living.  They know what they’re talking about, and they share it for free on the podcast.

Every year, they host a writing conference and retreat on a cruise ship.  These events include classes, contests, critique groups, costume parties, readings, and open time with the instructors and staff along with all the excursions, food, towel animals, pools, and fun of a cruise.

storm and sunset at sea on Writing Excuses Cruise

Writers, Assemble!

There were over 150 writers on board the Liberty of the Seas for the Writing Excuses Cruise, and all of them were wonderful.  Just like last year, it felt totally normal to wander up to someone else with our badge and say hi, hang out, or sit down with for a meal.  If someone forgot an item, needed a cough drop, or required assistance in any area, they could hop on our Discord chat, and someone would help.

Our group was both easy-going and focused, with some writing over 20,000 words over the week.  Others, like me, didn’t add much to our wordcount but spent time in revision.  We chatted about our stories and ideas and helped each other out.  I’d been stuck on a plot point for way too long, but another student offered the obvious solution after I spent less than two minutes describing the problem.

Although most were focused on Sci-Fi or Fantasy, many on board came from other genres such as Romance or Mystery.  I had lunch with some sweet romance authors, who were later featured for their self-publishing success during a recording session for the podcast.  The classes, students, and cruise ship hold something for everyone.


Friday night started with a critique group class with Mary Robinette, which confirmed my suspicion that my writing group is amazing.  Brandon Sanderson joined us next for a Q&A via Skype, as he couldn’t swing by in person this year.

Saturday began with an optional tour of NASA, which Mary Robinette helped lead because she writes fantastic sci-fi and knows things.  We had a revision class with Patrick Rothfuss in the afternoon, which was as amazing and hilarious as I’d expected.  This was followed by a mass autographing session, where he signed a book I brought from some of the above-mentioned amazing writing group.

Sunday was all about getting on the ship.  I’m not going to lie and say this was a good time.  They make it as easy as possible, but there’s something unnerving about loading several thousand people and all their stuff onto a massive ship in a matter of only a few hours.  Everything improved once I was on board and found food, however.  Dan Wells then taught a class on story structure, which will be a main informant in the plotting of my third novel.

On Monday, Cory Doctorow taught a class called “Digital is Different.”  I would describe it as some combination of copyright law, computer science, and writing.  Some of it was above my head, but all of it was fascinating.

Later, I skipped a class from Mary Robinette on giving an effective reading, because I’ve had it elsewhere.  I mention this because if you consider attending, you should know you’re allowed to skip classes.  They encourage it, in fact, so you can have fun and get enough rest.

I attended K. Tempest Bradford’s class on Intersectionality and Characterization.  This was an excellent opportunity to think how we all move through the world differently, and experience things differently, based on so many different factors.

That afternoon held the first half of breakout sessions, which included one on one meetings with instructors or small group sessions on short stories, novels, or other topics.  Costume Karaoke also occurred that evening, but I did not attend because of sleep.  This was apparently as fun as it sounds, though.

Tuesday was Cozumel!  I did not get off the ship, and that is okay!  Many of us hung out in a bar at the top of the ship to write.  This was also the first day I hung out at office hours, where all the amazing instructors and staff made themselves available for an hour for individual questions.  This happened on most days, so many students got to meet with someone about their work.

On Tuesday afternoon, I went to my breakout session, which was two hours of query critique and discussion with five other students and DongWon Song.  When I finish my second novel, I will write one of these query letters and send it off to agents in the hopes of finding someone to represent my work.  It is a page long advertisement for a 100,000-word novel, so it is challenging to pull off.  After this breakout session, I think I need to change all but one half-sentence of my letter.  It isn’t quite as depressing as it sounds, as I learned a lot.

Grand Cayman was Wednesday.  I did not get off the ship yet again, but returned to the same bar and worked on my novel.  I think this was the first day I volunteered to help with the office hours, so I met more people.  That night, we had a costume contest and party.

On Thursday, the ship docked at Falmouth, Jamaica.  Guess what?   I stayed on the ship and continued to revise.  This is important because nobody cared.  At this conference, it is entirely fine to do the odd thing of staying on the ship and writing instead of doing the standard vacation thing.  I had plenty of company.  That night, DongWon taught a class on how to start your story strong and grab the readers’ attention.  I’ll probably rewrite some of my first chapter as a result.

Friday we were back at sea, and Mary Robinette presented a class on short stories in the morning.  I skipped this one too, as I’ve had her short story intensive class (which I highly recommend).  I did attend Matthew Drake’s class on violence in story-telling, or at least half before we got to the content warning.  Lightning Readings were next, and I had my first cocktail of the entire cruise, and then the ship got really, really wobbly.  This was not related to the cocktail, but the waves.  Houston had weather while we were gone, and our return was bumpy.  Bring medicine if you’re prone to motion sickness.

Piper J. Drake gave a great class on Saturday morning on making animals in stories feel real, complete with loads of adorable pupper pictures.  I’m not sure I need to add anything beyond adorable pupper pictures.  Mary Robinette taught a worldbuilding class, which will be a main driver of my third novel’s setting.  There was a massive Q&A with all the instructors, and people roved to whichever staff they wanted to chat with.  We ended with a farewell party, prizes, and dinner.

Sunday was all about getting off the boat, which while better than last year, was still unpleasant.  Thankfully, I made the earlier flight home and arrived at my apartment over five hours earlier than planned.  As soon as all my travel tasks were complete, I succumbed to post-cruise vertigo and went to bed.

Although not referenced above, the event also included Sandra Tayler, Kathy Chung, and Erin Roberts.  These writers were wonderful resources all around, and I had the chance to talk to them during Office Hours and dinner.  While I’m dropping links, the whole thing was put on by the Whodunit team, and they completely rock.  Alyshondra Meacham kept everyone going, as she is practically perfect in every way.


I covered this last year, but I re-ran the numbers: the cost per day for this event is the lowest of any conference or class I have in my writing-wishlist-spreadsheet.  If you add up the travel, lodging, food, and conference costs for anything you might attend out of town, I think you’ll find the same.

Let’s examine this for a moment.  The cheapest conference I want to attend, and would argue that you want to attend, is hosted by a podcast with a Hugo Award and staffed by people who have a boat load of awards and best selling works.  I’ve only been to a few conferences, but by comparison, the instructor/student interaction at this one far exceeds any of my other experiences.  Add on the fact I get to hang out with a bunch of friendly people who like to do the things I like to do and talk about the things I like to talk about, and this cruise is a winner.  Introverts are accepted and celebrated.  And it is on a cruise ship!

I’m on a Boat

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you might be unaware of its awesomeness.  Let’s start with the food.  There is all the food.  You can have food almost 24/7 at no additional cost.  Room service and specialty meals cost more, but I only spent $37 on board this year, and that was all on special tea and that pina colada.  I was always stuffed.

Cruises are generally terrific, even aside from the food.  They always go to pretty places, and there are plenty of things to do other than staring at the pretty places.  There was a casino, theater, ice skating rink, water slides, rock climbing wall, track, spa, fitness center, arcade, and live shows.

This year I splurged for a single balcony room.  It was fantastic.  I think I saw Jupiter, among other things.  I watched passing storms and passing ships, caught the sunrise and sunset, and generally enjoyed the view.  As an FYI, even with this additional cost, this cruise is still not among the most expensive options on my list for cost per day.

Compared to Last Year’s Cruise

As I attended the Writing Excuses Cruise last year, I have the opportunity to compare experiences.  Here is a short list of differences:

  • I took a direct flight, so I did not end up spending the night in Dallas.
  • I did not come home with a sinus infection.
  • Last year I was stressed about many things, and the above two points didn’t help.  I wanted to learn all the things and do all the things, which then cycled back to the respiratory illness.  I took it much easier this year.
  • This year seemed to have a 15-20% reduction in class time.  It sounded like they were trying to give us more time for self-care.  Many might want more class time, but most of us probably needed to spend more time doing other things.  Want vs. need: a writer’s tale.
  • I had a balcony so I’d spend more time outside.  This worked wonders.
  • I also spent more time outside my cabin, writing with other writers, and generally hanging out.


Okay, so you’re probably wondering what I didn’t like.  I have some specific suggestions for when I get the survey from the Writing Excuses staff, but those aren’t really complaints or things I didn’t like.  Here’s my list of cons:

  • I’m not a huge fan of rough seas, as I get motion sickness easily.  The Dramamine I took made me sleepy, so I’ll need to find an alternate solution next year.
  • Not a fan of vertigo upon returning home.  It is apparently a Thing, and common, and no big deal, but very annoying.
  • I was very anxious getting on and getting off the ship.  There’s just a whole lot of people and a lot of stuff going on.  I’m not sure how to fix that.

Otherwise, I can’t think of anything that made me think, “Wow, that is super annoying.”

Now What?

The obvious thing to do is plan to attend next year’s Writing Excuses Cruise, September 25 – October 4, 2020.  I’ll make sure to link to it later.  You could also start listening to the Writing Excuses podcast, if you have not, and check out any of the above-linked authors for some excellent reading.  And finally, keep writing!

Defiant: Chapter Seventeen

Quick post today as I’m preparing to leave the Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat.  I’ve had a fantastic time, met a lot of great people, and learned new writing things. Look for a post later recapping my thoughts, but in the meantime, have a sunset!


If you’re new to this party, I’m posting my first novel one chapter at a time.  I wrote the entirety of this story before my first Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat, so all those fancy things I’ve learned on both cruises were not applied.  I’m still pretty proud of it though, and people seem to enjoy it.  If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can find Chapter One here.

Chapter Seventeen

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