The Godsend that is NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t ,mean the Christmas trees going up in WalMarts and Targets around the country (seriously, can we not get through Thanksgiving first?). I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as the kids call it).

That… is what the kids call it. Right?

Anyway, for the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a challenge in which you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. It sounds maddening, and it can be (but less so if you consider that averages out to 1,667 words a day). Truthfully, the maddening part comes at the end of the month, when Thanksgiving approaches and family obligations take precedence.

But there is one benefit to NaNoWriMo, particularly for someone like me.

I’ve made no secret, both on this page and on my social media platforms, about my writing struggles of late. My lack of productivity has taken a toll in recent months, not only on my (lack of) word count, but also in terms of my emotional well-being. Writer is a large part of my identity, and if I’m not writing…

But one thing about NaNoWriMo, and why it’s such an important program, is that it establishes the habit of daily writing. It’s difficult to meet the 50,000-word goal in perfect circumstances, but if you’re not writing every day, then the task is even more daunting. Not that there’s shame in not reaching 50,000 words; there isn’t, and any progress made during NaNoWriMo is to be celebrated.

And in the interest of transparency, I’ve reached the 50,000-word mark every year since 2014, but none of my projects have been finished by the time November ended. That’s where the habit of daily writing comes in. Ideally, that habit carries beyond November into the rest of the year.

Which, again, is the whole point.

Three of my novels — Bounty, Behind the Badge, and Notna — started as NaNoWriMo projects. The fifth Jill Andersen novel, Betrayed, was my NaNoWriMo project last year, and this year, I’m using NaNoWriMo to take on a story and a genre I’ve never tried before.

That challenge, and NaNoWriMo as a whole, has been invigorating. Just yesterday alone, I knocked out almost 4,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project — a fantasy romance titled Unforgotten (working title). I also wrote 4,000 words in completing a short story for an upcoming anthology (from the same folks who brought you Cracks in the Tapestry).

Without NaNoWriMo, I’m not sure I’m a writer — and if I am, I seriously doubt I’d be published. Establishing that habit, treating writing as a journey rather than a destination, is what November is all about. It’s the perfect tonic for a lack of productivity, and I can’t wait to see what other words the month will bring.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, best of luck to you! What are you writing? I’m J.D. Cunegan on NaNo’s website, so become a writing buddy if you’re so inclined.

And remember, even if you don’t reach 50,000 this month, anything you do create is worthwhile.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads. and DeviantArt.

A Hard Truth and a Paradox

Typically, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

Seems simple enough, right? Isn’t that what we teach the youngsters among us? Practice makes perfect? No one is good at something right out of the gate? You have to work at whatever craft you want in order to become good at it?

Well, it appears this does not apply to writing books.

I mean, one would think that after writing and publishing five novels (and a collection of short stories), I’d be pretty darn good at this. One would think the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Uh… about that…

Writing is a fickle beast, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to when it shows up. Actually, that’s not quite true… there are a few things that have come together to conspire against the act of putting words on the page (insert Russia joke here).

First of all, there’s that pesky thing called a day job. It’s great in a sense, because it pays me well enough that I can afford to invest in my writing. I can better afford such things as promotional services, cover artists, editors, conventions and the like. But it also drains me, the day-to-day hustle leaving me exhausted when I get home — so much so that writing, as enticing as it is during the work day, proves elusive after hours.

And yes, I realize that to some extent, that issue is my own lack of discipline. I readily admit I’m not as strong in that regard as I should be. I know as much as anyone that the real work of writing occurs when you don’t feel like writing. And yet, there are nights when I can’t bring myself to open that manuscript.

Even if I do open it? That blinking cursor just stares at me. Mocking.

The cursor hates me. I don’t know why.

It’s not like I’m bereft of ideas. I resorted to outlining in an attempt to (finally) finish Betrayed. I’m even fairly certain where to go with the next two Jill Andersen books, Bitter End and Big Apple. I’ve come up with several potential short story or novel ideas that are so outside of what I normally write that I’m excited to tackle them (I just… haven’t yet, though with one of them, that’s because it’s my NaNoWriMo project, and until the calendar reads November…).

I even had a short story I was writing for an upcoming anthology — from the same people who brought you Cracks in the Tapestry. But it derailed not even 4,000 words in, and I’ve yet to find a way to salvage it. That anthology might wind up happening without me.

Dec. 4 will mark two years since my last published novel. Two freaking years. For a guy who was once pumping out new releases every six months. What the hell? What happened? I thought this was supposed to get easier the more I did it, not soul-crushingly difficult.

I know part of the reason my sales are so bad is because I haven’t released anything lately. It’s generally accepted that consistent new content is the best way to get people to buy your stuff, and I have failed massively in that regard.

Maybe NaNoWriMo is the kick in the ass I need to get back in the game. But as it stands right now, I’m far better at daydreaming about writing than actually, you know, writing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

 

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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and DeviantArt.

Reintroducing Myself…

160425-news-castleFor the unfamiliar, this is Detective Kate Beckett from the TV show Castle. I discovered the show — and her — about five or six years ago, and she’s the big reason why Bounty finally got written and published back in June 2015.

Readers have noted that Jill and Kate are very similar — and that’s not an accident. Kate Beckett inspired a lot of what Jill became (and there were a lot of similarities that were already there). The murder mystery element rounded out the narrative, but it was Beckett who, in a roundabout way, gave Jill the missing element she needed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an episode of Castle (the show did not end on good terms), and I find myself struggling with the fifth book in my series.

So why not remind myself of what made these books — and Jill — work in the first place? Why not reacquaint myself with the perfect blend of badass and compassionate that made Kate Beckett the great character she was?

Beckett’s strength never came at the expense of her femininity or her personality — if anything, all of those facets enhanced and strengthened each other, and that was what I hoped to infuse in Jill through my writing.

And while Castle was very much about the growth of Beckett’s relationship with Castle, she was always very much her own person, her own character. When the show was at its best, she never lost who she was in service of the plot (we’ll ignore season 8…).

So I need to reintroduce myself to Detective Katherine Houghton Beckett, NYPD Homicide. I need to remind myself of the things that made the Jill Andersen books such a joy to write in the first place — and maybe I can finally finish Betrayed.

But it’s good to know where inspiration has struck. Jill Andersen did not start with Kate Beckett, but the latter wound up doing a good bit to shape who the former is. And maybe reminding myself of that will help get me out of this creative funk I’m in.

Besides, Kate Beckett once pistol-whipped a United States Senator and walked out while he cradled his bleeding head and ran away. How badass is that?!

(I mean, yes, he was a very, very bad man. But still!)

Update Time

-I’m in the final stages of Betrayed‘s first draft. At this rate, it should be finished in two weeks. As of now, the fifth book in the Jill Andersen series should be out by the end of the calendar year.

-The script for Bounty: Origins, my debut graphic novel, is coming along slowly. But progress is there.

-Related: to follow along with my artwork. follow me on Instagram and DeviantArt.

-Next weekend (Aug. 24-25), I will be at Fairfax Comicon! Come say hi, pick up some Fairfaxbooks, and you’ll likely get an autograph or two.

-If you can’t make the con, but you’re still interested in signed copies, I got you.

-Once Betrayed is released, I’ll be officially announcing a new series that I’ve been toying with. I’d announce it now, but it would sort of spoil stuff that happens in Betrayed.

-Remember, Notna is now just $2.99. No better time to pick up the books readers are saying is a cross between Indiana JonesBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and Supernatural.

-Don’t forget, the Jill Andersen book tour is still ongoing.

-Currently reading: Starbound by S.E. Anderson (comes out Tuesday!) and Wanderers by Chuck Wendig.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Jill Andersen Book Tour!

The month of August is an exciting one, as I’ve booked a book tour through Silver Dagger Book Tours! For the next 30 days (give or take — math’s not exactly my strength), blogs throughout this (sometimes) wonderful thing we call the Internet will extol the virtues of the Jill Andersen series. Along the way, you’ll also see guest posts from yours truly, and there will even be a giveaway!

Click here for the tour schedule, and be sure to share everything on your social media.

Boundless
Jill Andersen Mysteries Prequel
by J.D. Cunegan
Genre: SciFi Superhero Mystery
A little more than two years before the events of Bounty, Jill Andersen
makes a life-altering decision. But this decision comes with
consequences she didn’t foresee, and her first night as the
vigilante Bounty winds up being something for which she was wholly
unprepared.
A crisis of faith eventually gives way to certainty: both in terms of
discovering who killed a young man named Johnny Ruiz and in terms of
coping with the latest change in her own life.
Along the way, Jill defies death and discovers just how deep the city’s
corruption runs. But will she survive the experience long enough to
decide if a life of vigilantism is for her?
**only 99 cents!!**
Bounty
Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 1
Jill Andersen is one of Baltimore’s best and brightest detectives, but she
harbors a dark secret — a secret that threatens to come out when the
body of Dr. Trent Roberts is pulled out of the Chesapeake Bay. Dr.
Roberts’ connection to Jill reveals a past that involves a tour in
Iraq, a secretive cybernetic experiment, and a conspiracy that
involves a native son.
Can Jill solve the case while still keeping her secret? Will her partners
at the Seventh Precinct find out what she’s so desperate to hide?
What was Dr. Roberts looking into that led to his murder? And perhaps
the biggest question of all…
Who is Bounty?
Blood Ties
Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 2
For as long as Jill Andersen could remember, her father was a hero.
But heroes don’t commit murder, do they? The state of Maryland said
Paul Andersen did just that, three times over, and was set to execute
him for it. But Jill and the rest of her colleagues at the Baltimore
Police Department come across the murder of a law student that leaves
her hopeful that she can clear her father’s name.
While Jill and her colleagues work against the clock to clear her father’s
name, new players emerge, hinting to a deeper, darker conspiracy than
what was previously known. An enigmatic faction known as The Order
reveals itself, and the mystery surrounding Paul’s alleged
duplicity leaves more questions than answers.
Along the way, Jill must not only face the possibility that her father was
not who she thought he was, but she must also face the prospect of
her secret being revealed. The stakes are higher than ever in Blood
Ties, the intense follow-up to J.D. Cunegan’s debut mystery Bounty.
Can Jill save her father before it’s too late? Will she even want to?
Behind the Badge
Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 3
For Jill Andersen, being part of the Baltimore Police Department has
always been both a tremendous honor and a serious responsibility. Her
father, before his fall from grace, had instilled in her a great
respect for police and the work they do day-to-day. But when a
teenage boy winds up dead on the outskirts of downtown Baltimore,
Jill finds herself once again faced with those who would abuse their
badges to fulfill personal agendas and uphold biases.
Jill still has a job to do, but she soon finds that not everyone is in her
corner. For the first time in almost four years working Homicide,
Jill finds herself at odds with people who claim to be on her side.
From other cops to suits downtown all the way to the Mayor’s
office, it becomes increasingly clear that Jill will need to rely on
more than just her badge if she’s to solve this case.
But even if she finds justice, what’s the price?
Behind the Badge, the gripping, hard-hitting third novel in the Jill
Andersen series (Bounty, Blood Ties), gives readers another taste of
author J.D. Cunegan’s comic book-inspired brand of fast-paced
prose, with chapters that fly by and plot twists that will leave
readers constantly guessing and waiting for more.
Behind the Mask
Jill Andersen Mysteries Book 4
It’s hard to be a hero when everyone’s out to get you.
Once upon a time, Jill Andersen considered herself a hero. Not just
because of the badge handed to her by the city of Baltimore and the
pledge she once made to protect and serve. Her secret life, as the
vigilante Bounty, had allowed Jill to protect her native Baltimore in
ways her day job never could.
But all that has gone to hell now. One case pushed Jill past her limits,
to the point where she made choices she can’t take back. As a
result, the entire city is on the lookout for her. Allies can no
longer be counted on. People who were once in her corner might very
well be trying to bring her down… to say nothing of those she has
crossed along the way.
But that is the least of Jill’s problems. A shadowy figure emerges
among the chaos, and his link to Jill’s past has the potential to
be her ultimate undoing. Jill thought every link to Project Fusion
has been settled once she solved Dr. Trent Roberts’ murder almost
one year ago, but if she’s not careful, her past might just kill her.
Behind the Mask, the gripping, hard-hitting fourth novel in the Jill
Andersen mystery series (Bounty, Blood Ties, Behind the Badge), gives
readers yet another taste of author J.D. Cunegan’s comic
book-inspired brand of fast-paced prose, with chapters that fly by
and plot twists that will leave readers guessing and waiting for more.
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder
mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic
book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of
Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in
journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love
for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books,
his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of
a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be
found at a race track or watching a race on TV.
Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!

 

NEWS: New Price for NOTNA!

Great news, everyone!

Notna is now just $2.99 for ebook!

36384932History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons.

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it.

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands.

J.D. Cunegan (BountyBlood Ties) introduces Notna, a supernatural fantasy epic that will leave readers flipping through the pages with every twist and turn. Grand in scale and steeped in the very comic book lore that lured Cunegan to writing in the first place, Notna proves that anyone can save the world – or die trying.

Pick up Notna on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple iBooks, and paperback.

Also, don’t forget to check out Legends of the Gem, a collection of short stories that dives further into the history of the Gem of Notna.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Plotting vs. Pantsing (or Maybe Plotting *and* Pantsing?)

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been outlining of late.

Don’t tell the World Association of Pantsers. They’ll have me excommunicated. Or maybe they’ll throw a sheet over my head, toss me into the back of a van, and drive me to the set of Whose Line is it Anyway? and not let me leave until I successfully complete one of the hoedowns.

A little backstory… I’ve been trying to write Betrayed (Jill Andersen book 5) for almost two years now. I am now on the fifth (yes, you read that right) rewrite. I have not yet managed to complete a first draft. I’m not sure why; I feel like Betrayed has a strong story with a lot of action and intensity and some emotional beats I know are gonna really throw my readers for a loop.

But I keep getting stuck. So you know what they say about desperate times.

A few fellow writers recommended Libbie Hawker’s book Take Off Your Pants! Don’t let the title (or the cover rife with underwear) fool you; this is very much a how-to tailored toward showing pantsers a good, logical method of outlining.

As with almost every book about some aspect of writing, this is not gospel, and everyone’s mileage may vary. There are suggestions in this book I know I won’t be using, or if I do, I’ll use them in a different way from what Hawker suggested. But that’s the beauty of this craft we call writing: there’s no one right way to do it. Everyone has their own method, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Still, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay — hell, even important — to not be so set in your ways. Especially if your ways aren’t working for whatever reason. I can’t tell you why Betrayed has been such a struggle, especially since my previous method had already netted me five published novels and a collection of short stories. But it did, and I had to adapt.

I won’t lie, outlining feels a little weird. But I can already tell it’s also going to help.

Betrayed will get written. It will get published. And then I’ll finally be able to move on to all these other projects I want to work on. And now that I have an outlining format that works for me, I’ll probably become more productive, and at least return to the days when I was publishing two books a year. Those days were better.

So check out Hawker’s book if you’d like.

But more than anything, don’t be afraid to examine your process and make changes if you feel stagnant. This entire process is fluid, it evolves, and you have to know when to evolve with it.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.