Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 3 - Guest Post by Nikki Logan!

Nikki Logan sold her 2008 50K/30Day story just five months after she wrote it. She’s just finished her tenth book for Harlequin Mills & Boon, proving that the lessons learned in 50/30 come in really handy in the high-pace world of commercial fiction. She’s also a participant in the 2011 50/30 because she thinks writing is so much more fun as a team-sport.

Three years ago this week I was a couple of thou into my second attempt at category novel aimed at Mills & Boon. I’d written one earlier targeted at Blaze but the feedback I was getting was that my sex was fine but I wasn’t sexy enough ‘in premise’ to write for that high octane line. Wrong voice.

I wasn’t (and still am not) a fan of the serious Alpha required for Sexy, and so I set about writing something more suited to the young urban ‘younger-sister-of-Presents’ line, Sexy Sensation.

The book I wrote was set on the rooftops of Sydney and pitted a landscape designer heroine with a cocky television producer she had been in love with at sixteen. I had a fantastic time writing that during June 2008, notably because it showed me that Sexy Sensation wasn’t my line either. I finished the book, had a few days spare to edit it. And then I didn’t look at it again.

Fast forward a few months to November 2008 and I was contacted by the Senior Editor for M&B London who wanted to talk about revisions to my Blaze which had won an opening chapter comp she judged. There was a lot wrong with it but more right with it. She was interested.

I was beside myself.

But then came the dreaded question… while I went off to explore the diversity of story types offered by the Sweet line at her suggestion, she wanted to know ‘do you have anything else I can look at?’

Are you mad? No. That was my first category. Oh, wait… yes, there’s that 50/30 book in my drawer.

And so I gave my Sydney book one more excited, panicked day of editing and emailed it off on a total of four days editing: raw and awful and imperfect. And then I kicked myself for my naïveté.

But it was the right decision, because Kim called me less than a week later and said ‘we’re going to work on this book’ and gave me some revisions to look at. And then I got to do all the editing it needed.

In mid-December I got the call and a two-book deal.

Moral of this story is not that you should send a book off raw and awful and imperfect and hope for the best. I just lucked out there. The moral is that you should always, always have ‘something else’ ready to go.

A book in a month is a wonderful way to grow that back-list of ‘something else’. A book you can come back to when you’re having a fresh-eyes break from whatever you’re writing. A book you can come back to between other books. A book you can polish up and get out there into the submission system.

A book that can be your ‘something else’.

I first joined 50/30 because I was a devotee of the stream-of-consciousness, pantsing style of brain-dump writing and I was hoping to mix up with some similar writers. I had no idea how many different types of process there were until that month or how hard and fast some people were going to go.

I have a vague recollection of some writers knocking off obscene totals in 24 hours or a weekend, totals which weren’t healthy or sustainable. I have a clear recollection of others trying to match it and failing horribly and in a few cases crippling their creative selves and blowing their chances of finishing on time. Every single person has their own pace and their own process. Don’t judge yours by someone elses’. So:

First rule of 50/30 fightclub - Do not get caught up in the wordcount arms-race.

It doesn’t matter what someone else is doing, it only matters what YOU are doing. Set your goal and divide it by thirty: that’s your daily target. By all means tweak it upwards on weekends and downwards on busy nights. But just don’t be tempted by breaking any world records. I promise you steady and sustainable will get you there in one piece.

The other temptation (particularly if you share samples of your work to keep you motivated) is to edit and polish as you go. That’s a big fat 50/30 no-no. If you happen to be one of those gifted few for whom the words spill out of your fingertips already literarily perfect then you can ignore this one. But the rest of us really struggle not to edit as you go. But seriously, people, fight it.

Second rule of 50/30 fightclub:Don’t be tempted to edit as you go along. 

By all means quickly fix up crappy sentences as you find them but going over and over a passage for perfection is not what June is for. That is what July is for. And August. And the rest of the year if you want. JUNE is for getting that story out of your head and onto the page. Imperfect. Unbalanced. But there.

And lastly, don’t let your words become the enemy. 50/30 is a marathon and it’s a team marathon. It’s not about you beating your wordcount into submission, it’s about you and your muse working together to reach an achieveable goal. The moment you let things turn adversarial you start losing.

Third rule of 50/30 fightclub: Remember that you and your muse are a team. 

You need each other. If you look after her she’ll look after you.

So that’s about it. Hopefully you’re going great-guns and sitting up around the 25% of your goal total by the time you read this. If you’re not, don’t worry, just shuffle your diary, make more time to write, and do your best.

The only shame is in quitting without trying.

See you at the finish line!



Rachael Johns said...

Great post and just the kind of pep talk and reminder I think we all need. I'm amazed how much I can write when I'm in a challenge - competitive nature :) Hopefully some of it is worth editing when I've finished :)

Nikki Logan said...

But for everyone freaking out, don't panic. 25% was when I thought this was posting next week.

You're not behind. You're not.

You're doing absolutely fine!!


Enid Wilson said...

Thanks Nikki, you're quite a fighter, 10 books in 3 years!

I'm loving the challenge so far. But it's still early (did I sound negative? Must stop that inner voice). I hope to finish 2 wips which have been sitting as wips for 2 years. Then I can work on that additional book, about dugongs.

Chemical Fusion

Helen Lacey said...

Great advice, Nikki. It is important to remember that we're not all going to have the output of a 'Nora'. This is my first 50/30, and I'm trying to get into a routine. It's a good kick-start though, especially when starting a new book.

Colleen said...

Thank you, Nikki. This was very encouraging. Having spent the last week trying to work out what to write for this, I finally decided to try a little Nikedo ('just do it'), and go with the works I'd started and take off what had already been written. If all goes well I should have the first one completed by the half-way mark, and be well into the second one. And, for once, my muse agrees.

This was a great blog piece. I will be returning to it and reading it often as this 50/30 progresses.

Thank you, once again :-)

Coleen Kwan said...

Good advice, Nikki.

I'm using 50K30Day to write in a genre I've never tackled before. It's a great opportunity to just let loose and experiment and not be bound by too many rules or expectations.

Suzanne said...

Lovely post, Nikki. Thank you for the inspirational advice. I did freak out when I read 26%! OMG! I'm so far behind. And then, I read your follow on post. Phew. I love 50k30days, because it makes me set a goal/deadline and I'm one of those crazy people who need deadlines. The sun is shining here and its a beaut day. Happy writing all.

cassandra gaisford said...

Love the comment re writing being a team sport Nikki:) Only day 3 and even though all the team members are in cyber space I feel way more productive knowing you are all out there striving for the same goal.

Like Colleen I'm tackling a genre I've never tried before too. It's amazing how much more exciting it is when I let my muse guide me versus whip out the perfectionist critic.

Thanks for the post and the inspiration!

zarisson said...

Thanks for the inspirational post, Nikki. I love these excercises - all of my completed mss have come from them. The deadline is EVERYTHING.


Sue said...

Hi Nikki,
I had never thought of writing as a team event but thought this challenge could allow me to try a different approach. I have two completed mss and two wip from the last thirteen months. I tend to edit as I go and am trying the 50/30 to test the waters to see if it is possible for me to "just write"!
I believe you nailed what it is all about in this post. Well done! btw - next week will probably be a zilch total for me - heaviest week of work in the year! (sigh)
May the Muse be with you all.

Diane said...

Thanks Nikki, I suddenly feel so much better about my 7 manuscripts in various stages of decay or development. 'Yes, I do have something else.'

I'm one of those crazy people who churned out 7000 words on the final night of either the Nanowrimo or 50ks challenge (I can't remember which ms I wrote for each now) - just to reach that 50ks in the end. And had a nice little RWA bunch of pompom girls cheering me on every half hour. I'm a little less concerned about making it over the line anymore as long as I'm focusing on my work most days.

Jenn J McLeod said...

Well I'm procrastinating big time by trying to work out what you are doing in that pic Nik. LOL It looks like you are on the edge of a cliff and hanging on!!!!! (Bit like how I'm feeling right now) But seriously, I do love your nature theme.

Despite the word 'luck' in your post, you remain to me the perfect example of someone who has thought out their platform and market - another important thing for an aspiring writer. Your conf session will be fantasic.

This Writer's Life - Susan Battah said...

I've found my muse! Thanks for the inspiration off to the computer

Ness Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VMcKay said...

This is my first 50k and I am taking Colleen's approach to 'just do it'. No more excuses, I will finish my ms spill this month.

Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement and support it really makes a difference when you are just starting out.

Let the muse bless us all :-)

Sara Land - Sunshine Coast Qld said...

A query for Nikki, I am considering asking for a pitch opportunity for HMB Sweet at conference. I haven't pitched before. The idea is this 50/30process (plus time to edit) will result in something worth pitching. (ex-journo, deadlines motivate me). But I won't have anything else in my drawer. Should I pitch? Your insight appreciated.