An Auspicious Start: NaNo 2016

I approach every NaNo season with a mix of excitement and apprehension. This year, those feelings are even more so. My last book, The Blood Contract, was released November of 2014. In the two years since, I’ve written a total of three chapters, if that. I have no great excuse for my absence from writing. I believe in part I’ve been in a quasi state of mourning, lamenting the loss of my daughter who was moved across the state after my divorce 3 years ago. I dealt with the situation the best I could on my own and, failing that, I turned to drugs. No, not the good kind that may have actually helped, but rather the prescription sort my counselor and I thought might get me through. Whatever good they did me, they also served to wholly seal off my creative thoughts. I spent many months unable to write a paragraph or a verse. Not to make it sound overly melodramatic, but losing my creative mind felt like losing a good portion of myself. I decided I would rather deal with the panic attacks and mental fatigue than lose myself again.

It took months and no small amount of effort but I managed to regain who I was. It came about first in songs, as a lyric would pop into my head, accompanied by a melody. Before long, I had recorded my first song in months and had many more verses and tunes at the ready. Working on my books took a little longer. A song is nice because on a good night, I can spend a few hours and have something tangible I can listen to. It may simply be a draft, but it’s something I can enjoy. Books are longer, more time-consuming and in some ways, have less of a reward. I reread my stories because I’m editing or rewriting them. Not, generally, because I intend to enjoy them over and over, unlike my songs.

But the music served as inspired lubrication for my mind and soon, I found myself mentally prepared to write. Any quiet moment (and some not so quiet), plots and characters and dialogue and scenes churned away in the back of my mind, puzzling out dilemmas, interacting in ways I hadn’t before considered. It was the way my brain typically worked, the way it had always functioned for as long as I can remember. It felt like home again.

Though my mind was willing, time was not so giving. During the sabbatical I had taken for my mental well-being, I had shifted jobs. Though this came with some advantages and seemed to me to be the next logical step forward, it was also burdened with one huge caveat: no more lunch time. Ergo, no more time to write at work.

I tried to write at home but found myself too easily distracted. It’s hard to focus on plots when a cat is crawling all over me and when my guitar is sitting there, just begging to be played. I considered writing at work after I was done for the night, but often my days were 10-12 hours long, and I found I just didn’t have the desire after staring at a computer screen all day.

I say all this because it is the past. I am determined now to get my life back in hand. There are so many ways I’ve let it slip away from me, but writing is something I can not and will not sacrifice. I wrote long before I ever decided to publish, and if I was forbidden from publishing ever again, I would continue to write. It is the steam I vent to keep the pressure within me from building, the spark of sanity that sends the dark creatures within me scurrying.

With that in mind, I decided NaNo 2016 would serve as my rebirth.

For those of you not familiar with the idea, NaNoWriMo is a sort of self-imposed contest writers take in an attempt to finish 50,000 words during the month of November. It has to be a new book, one that hasn’t been worked on previously, though the author is allowed to sketch out plotlines and characters ahead of time. I’ve participated since 2010 and have only passed it once. In 2012, with World of Shadows, the third book in the Unseen Things series. Then, it was known as a trilogy and when I published the second book, The Shadow Within, I was sure the third was soon to follow. In the four years since, I have rewritten several chapters of the book and split it into two.

For the past two years, I’ve had all but the last few chapters written in World of Shadows. I apologize to those who have been waiting for it. I decided to focus on AfterLife, the fifth Only Human on the Block book after the release of The Blood Contract, because I was on a roll and the ideas were coming hot and heavy. But then the mental funk hit and… well, I’ve already explained that in detail. Suffice it to say, the last two years have not been among my best.

I wrestled with the thought of which book to work on for NaNo this year. I even made a list of potential titles, listing the pros and cons of each. In the end, the answer seemed obvious. The book to bring me back into writing, back to NaNo, should be the follow-up to the one I went out on. Even though I haven’t yet finished the last few chapters of World of Shadows, I know and have known exactly how it will end. And the fourth book comes with a substantial time jump and a POV shift (each of the books in the series have been from a different POV), which was the reason I wanted to split the third book into two in the first place. So I came to find myself typing the words TWIN SHADOWS BY S.L. MADDEN to begin my foray into NaNodom.

Or rather, I would have, except my computer booted up with a blue screen of death. I fired up the laptop while I ran a restore on my desktop. Ultimately, it worked and my PC was usable (meanwhile, the laptop was still loading Windows…sigh), but by then, I was out of time and had to get ready for work. Not the best first day of NaNo.

Between home and work, however, I came to a decision I had been mulling over for awhile. I decided to take a lunch break.

I’d considered it before but told myself I’m already working long enough hours. Why prolong them? Yet giving myself an hour to write not only helped me accomplish my daily word count (well, close enough), it helped give my brain a little breather. It’s too early to tell if it’ll help long-term, but short-term, I’m willing to give it a try. As a result, I have 1482 words written. And I feel great.

I’m going to finish NaNo this year. I’m going to finish World of Shadows and finally publish it alongside Twin Shadows. And I’m going to complete AfterLife (I haven’t forgotten that book, I promise!). I suppose it could be argued the 1200 or so words I typed here would have been better spent working on the book, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to blog. I’ve been out of touch in more ways than one, so I wanted to reach out once more before I immerse myself back into writing.

As always, thanks for reading (and for your patience),


S.L. Madden



That’s my magic number at this point in time.  I’m currently 2529 words behind my goal, putting my average of 1200 words per day significantly short of the 1667 target.

I have 39139 words left before I cross the 50K finish line.  That means I have to write about 1782 words per day in order to make it to the end.

I can do this.  I know I can…



…Now ask me again at the end of this weekend, and we’ll just see if I feel differently.

…Two Steps Back


I’m not sure exactly how to spell the scream I’m just barely suppressing, but I think that might be a close fit.  I went into work this morning at my usual time, only to discover I wasn’t supposed to be here until noon.  My wife dropped me off so I immediately went about calling/texting to let her know.  Unfortunately, her phone kept going straight to voicemail, so I left a few messages at home then decided as long as I was at my computer, I might as well get some writing in.

I spent the next hour + writing, not necessarily getting a lot done but happy I was able to move forward and break through the 20K barrier.  I hit SAVE, closed the file, then tried to send it to my email so I could pick it up again tomorrow morning.  The file was nowhere to be found.


The worst thing is, I’ve done this once before.  Instead of downloading the file and then opening it, I opened it straight out of the email.  Then, instead of hitting SAVE AS, I simply hit SAVE.  And since that wasn’t enough, I went ahead and closed the file before verifying it had, indeed, saved.  So, I spent an hour and a half at work, not getting paid, and not accomplishing another other than achieving a new level of frustration.

It won’t take me long to retype what I had written, but I hate losing work.  Especially since I could have easily avoided the situation.  As it is now, I’m sitting at a semi-respectable 21981.  It’s just about where I should be at this point in the competition, but it’s well behind where I’d like to be.  Add in the fact I lost out on my lunch period today and tomorrow to write, and it’s especially bummer-worthy.

At least I was able to wake up early this morning and get some writing done.  Otherwise, there’d be less whining coming from me and more tears.  Yeah, I’m comfortable enough with my manliness to cry over lost wordage.

S.L. Madden

Feeling Down

I started off this weekend with the best of intentions.

For three straight days, I didn’t have to wake my wife and daughter up early for the bus. That meant if only I could drag my sorry carcass out of bed at an unreasonable hour, I could zoom ahead in my word count.  Theoretically, I could get ahead by several thousand words, hedging my bets against the upcoming holidays.  With any luck, I could also set my target a little higher and actually complete the rough draft by the end of the month.

Saturday was a little tricky, as it marked my sister-in-law’s wedding. My plans went to the wayside as I had to wake my wife up early so she’d be ready to go get her hair and make-up done.  After that, I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to catch up, as it’s virtually impossible to lose yourself in writing while babysitting my daughter.

I thought I could rectify it on Sunday, but somehow, I ended up sleeping in.  I haven’t been feeling 100% lately, and Sunday was a significantly low-point for me.  I still got up and wrote, but I sort of stumbled through the prose, telling myself I would have to go back and clean it up anyway.  Sunday was also the day I started questioning the way I was writing this book.  It’s an issue I’m still trying to work out, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue writing it as I am.

Monday was my last day to meet and beat my goal.  At this point, I was barely breaking even.  After having been ahead of the curve since the start of the month, I was starting to feel the pressure.  I woke up early and…yeah, I felt the pressure.  I was so stuffed up and my head pounded so hard, I half-expected my nose to start gushing blood just to relieve it a little.  That didn’t happen, but neither did any writing…at first.  After some time in the dark and an Advil, my headache started to subside and I donned my headphones, eager to start writing.  Unfortunately, I lost over an hour, but I still managed to catch up to my goal…barely.

At this time, my word count average is 1669 per day, a mere two words more than the required average to complete the 50,000 words on time.  It leaves me very little margin for error, but I know I can stay ahead.  I’ll continue waking up early and using my lunch breaks to propel myself forward.  It’s a bummer I couldn’t use this long weekend to boost my numbers, but I’m still very much in the race.

S.L. Madden