What NaNo taught me


I’m not nanoing this year but I hear from some new-to-Nanoers who are having trouble keeping up with the pace. My friends are going bald. So I thought I’d offer a bit of advice to help those who are stressing over Nano keep their lovely hair and sanity by talking about my first Nano experience and what I got out of it.

When I did nano for the first time, and only one to date, I chose to let the characters lead me, tell me who they were and what their story was. I didn’t plot before hand, didn’t try to think up a story or characters. Okay, being a complete pantser had a lot to do with that. These days I have transformed into a plotser- I plot a little, still write by the seat of my pants a lot.

On Nov 1, 2006 I sat and wrote whatever came to me, no matter what it turned out like. Every day I started as soon as my last daughter in school was gone for the day. A fresh, new story, not one I’d been thinking about beforehand. I got the surprise of my life when it turned out to be a paranormal—something I never had attempted or even imagined myself writing as a strictly contemporary writer. I rarely read anything different than what I wrote back then. Nora Robert’s Key Trilogy was the most paranormal-y thing I think I’d read in ages, in fact.

At the end of each day I would do one of two things. One, we aren’t supposed to do but I was just doing well not to edit during the writing process each day, so I went back and read my day’s progress, fleshed it out a bit to see what I had and who my characters were turning out to be… or two, I wrote on one of my current wips and put nano away until the next day.

That seemed to help me get through the month. I did finish my nano challenge out. I didn’t let it stress me. I had fun. It shouldn’t be a chore to do what we love. Write. We’re supposed to have fun and learn to turn off the internal editor and just write, nothing more. I accomplished that even if my word count came in under the wire by several thousand words. December is for fleshing out and edits. November I wrote. I don’t think there’s been one month since that I can say “I wrote every day this month.” I miss Nano. But it seems like each year when the contest rolls around I’ve either just begun a new story, and for nano you need one never started other than primary plotting, or I was in edits. This year? I’m trying to finish a story for a specific project with my publisher. Last year? I had a request from Harlequin-Mills & Boon for a full manuscript (ms) that wasn’t written to completion and only had two months to write it, to be complete by the end of November.

So what happened to that single Nano ms from 2006? Check out the excerpt below and tell me what you think.

Setup: Working title- In the Mist of the Mind; Dray Corbeau’s subconscious keeps calling out for help and Chelcie Miles has picked up on his distress. After two conflicting meetings in the minds she is determined to discover who he is and what he wants from her. Chelcie has decided to risk contacting Dray by telepathy, after her aunt/guardian, a powerful mind manipulator, has warned her not to.

“Are you there?” Chelcie spoke aloud to break the silence then waited to the count of ten. She hadn’t had a lot of practice calling, though it was a basic gift for some, and wasn’t sure if she was doing it right. 

When she heard nothing in response she closed her eyes, not giving up. Face raised to the sky, hands lifted high with palms upward, she exhaled slowly, calling on the Spirit element to guide her mind. With a swift breath she sucked the cool, wet spring air deep into her lungs, and let the moment draw her in as she waved her fingers before gradually curling her hands into loose fists. Her very being was drawn into mind as she focused. In an instant she felt her mind drift from her body.

“I need to speak to you.” With breath held, she waited, but only briefly this time.

What do you want, Ma Petit?”  The French words came across soft and slightly hesitant, as though he was holding back in preparation for retreat.

She let her breath go slowly and opened her eyes, but she didn’t see the garden around her. Her gaze focused within a warm mist. “You mistrust me.” After he’d invaded her sleep and did such sinful things to her, he didn’t trust her. What a farce!

Fallyn would be furious beyond compare if she knew Chelcie had not been swayed from contacting the stranger. The pain of being caught still rested on the verge of her conscious mind. And yet, did that excruciating experience stop her from allowing him back inside? Not at all. And how else could he invade her sleep unless she had allowed it?

Not only had she allowed him inside, she had welcomed his caresses. Worst of all was letting him seduce her and get information in doing so. It was as though he’d silenced her until she couldn’t speak so she had to use her gift to communicate…

Had that been his intention all along? Had she been drawn to him by trickery?

It was possible he didn’t know her enough to get what he needed, but Chelcie had volunteered a small tidbit of herself, therefore opening the door for him to enter, and to take freely whatever he desired.

With good reason,” his voice broke in to suggest. “You very nearly crippled me the last time we spoke. It left me no alternative but to slip in unawares. Much the way you tried to do to me, don’t you agree?” So the yanking had been as painful for him as it had for her.

And, he had a point, but she was loath to admit it to him as she set the blocks in place. He would not get more than she was willing to offer. In sleep, or awake.

“It was a rotten thing you did. I was sleeping unprotected.”

I wouldn’t harm you, Little One. Not without a very good reason. You were completely safe with me,” he promised. “But, you already know that, Ma Petit Familiar,” he added in soft allure.

“Why do you call me little one when you know my name?” The version of the pet name he used suggested intimate familiarity between them. It brought back vivid memories of the dream he’d created for her. Almost pleasant memories. She shook that thought from her head.

You said you need me.” He failed to answer her question.

“I said I needed to speak to you.” She corrected with a secret pleasure that he was playing with her, being as seductive as a lover. A lover whose name she did not know, and was hesitant to ask should it open her up to him more.

So, we will meet,” he said with confidence that worried and excited her. The continuing softness of his voice teased her senses and she knew an instant of panic. He could destroy her with his mind alone.

“Yes,” she breathed.

I wrote two characters I still adore and that was important to me. This is the very first time anyone will taste a sample of that NaNoWriMo project. It’s my hidden ‘baby.’ So what do you think of it?

And should it be delegated to a box under the bed/in the closet/lost file? Or should I finish and submit? I really do want to know what you think.


About Calisa Rhose

I'm a mother of three daughters and wife to a wonderful man of 35+ years. I'm also an avid seamstress, polymer clay artisan and die-hard crafter, always coming up with things to make with, and for, my six granddaughters and two grandsons. Check out my craft site https://lisasfancifulallure.wordpress.com/ when you have a moment. I'm also a small online business owner of Okie fLips on Etsy and Poshmark (eBay/Merkari coming soon), https://www.etsy.com/people/cmselfridge and https://poshmark.com/closet/okieflips I'm a published author of sensual romance. I write about stubborn men and women who don't take no for an answer, and there's always that golden HEA. Cowboys and first responders are my favorite contemporary heroes to write about. My light paranormal heroes are strong men ready to protect their women--not that they need protecting, since they are capable of caring for themselves.

Posted on 11/17/2011, in Goals, my writing, progress and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Hi Calisa, I did Nano in 2009 because I edit ad infinitum and it was slowing me up way too much. I figured Nano would cure me of that. Still can’t believe I finished my 50,000 words that year. What I wrote was a complete mess but I used bits and pieces of it. The bad thing is it didn’t cure my editing. Well, it’s a little better but I still edit as I go. I didn’t do Nano again because I have stories already started that I have to work on but maybe next time… I love the premise of your excerpt. Looking forward to reading more.


    • I’m the same way, Gale. Too many other projects and no off button for me internal editor. lol One day I’ll do it again. Right now every year I tell myself I will and then something comes up before that and I never think to wait a month or two to start it.

      Thanks for coming by! Glad you like the teaser.


  2. Okay, so I can’t do math. I meant to say 3x more. Ish.



    • Glad you came by Becca. And 3x or 5x, it’s about getting it on paper, or computer, that counts. How you finish it is for after Nano is over. I’m proud of you for sticking with it!

      I will definitely finish Mist! Thank you to all who are so supportive in this story! I love it and some day hope to share it with you all. 😎


  3. I definitely think you should finish that story, Calisa. It’s very haunting.

    I’m doing NaNo this year, and fully admit what I’m writing is crap. I am working plot and character issues as I go, so it’s as much “working diary” as it is manuscript. Lots of talking to myself on the page. But I find it to be very freeing. My manuscript is going in directions it never would have if I’d tried to plot it out beforehand or went back and edited/revised. Yes, there will be tons of revisions when I’m done. But get this–my normal “pace” is 10 pp a week if I’m lucky. I’m writing 10 pp a day right now. I suspect I’ll throw away half of them. But that still comes out to producing 5x more than the way I wrote before.

    To each his own, I say. NaNo doesn’t work for some. But I’m having fun with it. 🙂


  4. Thanks Sandy. Love that you made it by. 🙂


  5. I’ve never done NaNo because I am always in the middle of a project — maybe next year.

    Loved the excerpt and hope you follow the advice given above and finish the story!


  6. I’ve never done NaNo, haven’t even considered doing it – at this point anyway.

    Calisa – finish and submit “In the Mist of the Mind”. Love the excerpt.


  7. I’m unofficially doing NaNo this year, but was one of those people pulling my hair out. I took your advice during my writing time today – to just let the words flow and not worry about it being messy or not making sense right now. I wrote 2,000 words in an hour and a half. I haven’t been able to write more than 1,250 words at a time all month. Woohoo! Thanks so much for the advice. :o)

    And please finish your NaNo story. I was instantly intrigued and would love to see more.


    • WOOOO Katherine! You were one of my inspirations for this post! I am sooooo so so pleased it helped you! Pass the word on if you know others who might benefit. Wow 2K… YOU ROCK girl!

      But- do you still have hair? That’s the important thing. 😀 I will finish mine. This is the first time in five years I’ve talked about it publicly since nano 2006.


  8. NaNo has proven more difficult this year. Story (or I should say stories because another one evolved from this I’m writing as well) feels messy. Not flowing. Also, too many outside interferences this year, but I’m continuing to trudge along, determined to finish. Your story? Pull it out from under the bed. You’re too good at writing now to leave an unfinished project. Revisit it with fresh eyes and see if the characters come back to life. If so, then you have no choice but to finish their story and submit. Sounds promising (but I always like the seductive paranormal creatures that invade sleep).


    • I’m sorry yours are giving you a hard time. Hate when that happens. But I have faith you’ll straighten them out. Is it part two to DG?

      Oh- Mist is not, nor has it ever been, under the bed, Joelene. I’ve been trudging (to borrow your word) along on it for five years now. Not at a steady pace, but whenever something hits me for it- I pull it out for a few hours. I will finish it. And thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂 It’s what I do after I write THE END that I’m not sure of at this point. 😀 Thanks for visiting!


  9. Yes! Call it your elusive ‘need to work on it’ and bring it out when you feel the urge to have them meet! Err… who is Fallyn?


    • Fallyn is the aunt/guardian. There’s a lot more to her story than you read here. 🙂 And that’s what I do- a little here, a few words there. But they’ve already met! This is their pre-meet conversation and I’m almost done with this story, Nancy! Yeah- they’ve met…


  10. Calisa, you need to finish this!!!!! Get off the computer and get on the computer! Er…you know what I mean. I loved this excerpt. LOVED IT! Get it done, get it done!!


    • AJ- I mentioned “my baby” to you when you read Jon’s chapters. This is it! It’s at 50+K and counting. I’m glad you like it!

      Getting off the computer…er, on the computer… whichever it takes to handle my cowboy. Then- who knows what I’ll pull out next?

      Thanks for reading. 😀


  11. Marc Schuster

    I love your point about having fun with the project and not letting it stress you. Good advice for anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo!


    • Welcome Marc. It’s nice to meet a new friend. I hope this helped you. That was the first thing I learned after about a week of pulling hair out and trying to make word count each day– and realizing I couldn’t because my editor (internal) was COD.

      Thanks for stopping in!


  12. See, try being an editor and doing Nano. It was one of the worst challenges I’ve ever taken on and that was after only one completed, or started, ms! But I managed. That’s why I went over it each night. lol

    As for ITMOTM- I want to. It’s been five years this month and I still love it. But- I still haven’t finished it, either. I’m near the end though and know what I want to happen. Now to get it there. Why so long? Because every time I open it I read the whole thing and fill in more, change…edit… before I add another paragraph or two and then close it until it calls to me again. 🙂 I am not rushing it, for sure! 😛 But soon I think it will be completed and my cps will definitely have the first opportunity to rip into it.



  13. I want you to finish and submit. If you need me to crit, I’m your lady! I really, really enjoyed this snippet of your work. I was drawn in the instant I read, “Are you there.” And yes I was. =) Thanks for sharing this with us, Calisa! I did NaNo last year. Needless to say, it took me a year to complete my paranormal Rising Currents: Louisiana Moon.


    • Thank you, Lani! You rock! 😉 And I might even post more snippets… I might need to give Mist its own sub page in my What Else tab…

      And at least it only took you ONE year. It’s been five for this one and I still need to write The End. 😀


  14. Hi Calisa, I love the concept of NaNo, but have never tried it because my internal editor is too bossy. I can’t move ahead until the previous chapter is whipped into the best shape I can make. If I try, it will just nag at me until I go back and tweak everything.

    As for your story…I say you should go over it again, submit it to your amazing cp’s and get their thoughts and comments and suggestions..and then sub it! What have you got to lose? You never know until you try!

    Great blog 🙂


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