NaNo No Go Go

This one goes out to you NaNo folks! This is super long so sorry in advance.

Look at the date! I can’t believe I’ve gone this far into the month of October without shouting out about NaNoWriMo.

For the un-anointed, thats short for National Novel Writer’s Month, which is a writing event that takes place during the month of November. The intention is to give birth to 50K words, basically a novelette.There aren’t any rewards other than little images you can use on your social media, however just the process of writing is pretty rewarding in itself.

So here we are on October 22nd and I’m so buried in rough drafts of stories ready to be fleshed out, short stories that have been started, and manuscripts in their final phases of development, that I have NO SPARE TIME to devote to NaNo this year. But IF  I were to participate the badge would look like this:

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It’s almost sad. But not quite.

There is a multitude of beauty in NaNoWriMo. Not only can you use it as an excuse for alone time: Sorry, I’m busy tonight, I have to get my words in. But if you use it right, you’re creating a rough draft that is quite voluminous, so you are ready to dig in and sculpt it for the eleven months that follow, leading up to the following November. You could, if you were that kind of person, even write a new book every year, and finish it in between.

I’ve participated every year except one since 2007 or so. Sadly, they have a new website and it erased my previous contributions, so I can’t confirm the date. But I think that’s right. Some years I got crap, other years I got gold. What kept me going was not just the hope for gold, but the thrill of writing unhindered, without worry of having to edit or be judged for that matter. It’s quite exhilarating.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for those of you in the thick of it. If you want to use this for plain old traditional writing, you’d have to make some variations (like pay attention to your family more for goodness sakes!) but it would work too.

So here we go:

Make a schedule. Here’s my *pretend* nano schedule. Keep in mind when I’m NaNo-ing that the writing portion is more like 1 – 2 hours a day, every stink’n day. When I first started it was 3 hours, so I shared that here, but on a good day I write on average 2000 words an uninterrupted hour now, so things have improved. As you can see there are lots of empty spots on this schedule. We’ll get to those soon.

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Set a goal for word count. For an on-time easy-peasy NaNoWriMo month, 1667 words a day will do it. More on that in a minute. Here’s a snapshot of my Excel spreadsheet.

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Write all the time, even when you’re not scheduled to. All of those blank spots? When I’m on NaNo (or yeah, on deadline,) all of those times when I’m left waiting for a kid or a dinner timer to chime? I’m writing. Constantly. Or doing the business of writing, which you are hereby relieved of for NaNo month. When you do this, you’ll get ahead in your word count. Trust me you want this. Really bad. There will be viruses. There will be whiney friends/relatives/kids/animals who need attention. There will be Thanksgiving. You will need some word padding. Find them here.

Don’t let yourself read more than the last paragraph, or the last chapter if you’re a speed reader. If you let yourself, you will get stuck in the very destructive mind frame of: this needs to be fixed before I can write more. The problem with that is that you’ll never get to the end. I have seriously met folks who have been writing their book for ten years. No joke. So do yourself a favor and just stop it already, don’t re-read unless it’s to catch you up on where you were at.

Editing is a huge no-no. See the above paragraph. Editing will slow you down and quite possibly give you writer’s block. You don’t need that.

Know your genre. I say this because once upon a time I wrote an entire story thinking I was writing Women’s Fiction. It never went anywhere. The story was flat. Years later I looked back at it and realized it was supposed to be a dark comedy/thriller. Now I can see where it was supposed to go. See? This step is hard when you’re just starting out, but try anyhow.

Know the age group you are writing for. This one might be a no brainer for you. It might not. I have a potty mouth. I write sexy and sometimes grotesque. My writing does not lend to YA. I didn’t know this about myself until I wrote quite a bit. But again, give it your best shot. Get to know yourself and you’ll know what your age group is.

For speed of writing, you’ll need these tools.

  • Thesaurus – seems like cheating, and I’ve heard those advise against it, but sometimes when you’re speed writing you just get stuck and your brain says one word but it means another. Like voluminous instead of voluptuous or vice versa. Or you keep saying something is cute and you need some more ideas. Boom.
  • Dictionary. For spelling, duh. Well, sometimes. But in this case, the pressure of writing will do funny things to your brain. What’s that thing-a-ma-jig called that you put your foot on and make the wheels go? Is it a snowboard? No?
  • Caffeine. Because duh. We could add alcohol too but it puts me the fuck to sleep. Same with marijuana. So for the sake of remaining pure, we’ll stick with this.
  • Carbs. Also a no brainer. Cookies. Cupcakes. Doughnuts. French bread. Brownies… I could go on but I’m making myself hungry. These things fuel your writing. Seriously. So you’re a health nut you say? Make them high protein with healthy sugar/fats. But still, carbs are a must.

Pantsing -vs- Plotting

There is a huge debate about who is right: Pantsers or plotters. I don’t have an answer for you here. However, promise me you won’t just stop reading this if you’re one or the other. There is some important stuff you’ll need here to start.

Character sketches. What happened to your protagonist(s) and antagonist when they were five to make them who they are today? What’s their family life like? What’s their psychological bend? Funny quirks? Favorite swear words?

Setting profile. Sometimes it will be really simple and it’s in a real place and all you have to do is look it up on Google maps. Others it’s made up. In that case you might have to draw it up so that when you’re describing a scene it makes more sense.

How does your story begin? I know I know, you’re a pantser not a plotter! You don’t need this. Well, you might not need it on paper, but you do need to be able to envision it in your brain. Repeat this to yourself as you read on. The most important part for you pantsers is that you can see each of these plot points inside of your head.

What’s the inciting incident? This is called so many different things in so many different books. It means the point where the story begins, and not page one… that’s different. The event that turns your character’s world upside down and now they have to spend the rest of the book trying to put it back to normal.

Do you know the climax? This one might be asking too much of you at this point, but if you have it the story might flow easier.

What’s the end? Secret: I often write the first scene or three, then the inciting incident, followed by the end before I go and do the rest. It feels like cheating, because then I know a lot about the story before I think I should but boy does it help.

Now for the plotters: If you could put all of this in an outline form complete with plot points on real actual paper, ala Save the Cat or any other, you are more than golden. Trust me, the outline will change a bazillion times as you write, but it’s helpful when you’re getting off track.

I want to point out there are at least 681 THOUSAND books out there on how to write a book, so my post here is extremely lean in providing information. If we really wanted to, we could get all kinds of wrapped up in a character’s, even each of the scene’s Goal(s), Motivation and Conflict. An entire book has been written on that. So we’re gonna bypass it.

But this should be enough to get you started.

If that isn’t enough homework for you, (Ye gads are you seriously asking for more? Really?) Here are some chewy books that will help, in addition to the NaNo website I’ve hot linked up on the top of this blog.

Good luck NaNo-ing!

I’m Sorry – or – It’s NaNoWriMo Time Again!

“I’m sorry. So sorry.”

This is what I feel like singing, as I go about planning my November. It’s that time again, NaNoWriMo’s month long event. Are you familiar with it? Basically, it’s writing a rough outline for a novel, in 50,000 words or more, in 30 days. Boom. That easy. Ha.

Well, and not doing my laundry until I *have to,* cooking as little as possible, and lying awake at night with words etched on my retina that can’t be blinked away. The insomnia thing might be created by too much coffee and or tea drinking – or from my brain working too hard.

Then there are write-ins with other crazy people, all night write-a-thons. And lot’s and lot’s of apologizing for the things I forgot to do because I was too preoccupied to remember I was supposed to (insert word here or choose from the following list: pick up Little Bear from school, bring snacks, turn in a report, make dinner, stay in the correct lane while driving, etc. etc.)

Knowing all of the side affects going in, just why would I – or anyone else for that matter – do such a thing? Why not just swallow the stories that bubble up in my throat like vomit and chase them with a shot of tequila? Or wheat grass juice, depending on the time of day of course. I don’t have an answer for you that would make sense. But, this crazy story creation thing might not be all bad. I mean, it does keep me centered and out of the drama vacuum that tries to suck me in. It channels my political angst. And boy howdy is there a *ton* of that going around right now.

This year the stories that crept up my throat are a group of related Science Fiction short stories. I’m not sure what sub-genre it will be yet. I just know that for me, it feels like women’s fiction is needing to take a break. I write this while a devilish voice whispers in my ear, “Yeah, right. Let’s just see what comes out of that brain of yours when the calendar pages are flipped to November.”

Let’s just see indeed.

Usually, when I just let my brain go, it results in a thriller, otherwise known as soft-horror. Well, once a women’s fiction piece about exercising came out during a free-write, but I think I see the parallel between horror and exercise, don’t you? No really, I like exercising, but it can be torture.

So what actually goes into planning a month of writing dangerously for me? Sometimes a lot, and sometimes it’s just me flying by the seat of my pants. That was last year. Last year I was already in creation mode so writing 1667 words a day was no biggy. I had it down to how many minutes a day I had to write to get that far (I think it was 90 minutes.) This year is going to take some planning though, between book-keeping and doing “paid” work.

So my planning? I’ve started making freezer meals. I’ll have five in the freezer by end of day today. Patting myself on the back for that one. I have three pages of ideas roughed out. My characters aren’t built yet, so I need to go do some people watching to fill that one in. Thankfully a trip is planned later in October so that will work out nicely.

I’m hoping to do 5 – 7 short stories, but it might turn into 15 shorter ones or 3 longer ones. Only time will tell. I’m not ready to talk about the world(s) I’ve started constructing. I might just hold off until November 1 to share that bit of info.

The synopsis for working title Bliss, goes like this: A series of short stories centered in a perfect town with perfect people living perfect lives. Life’s ultimate joke: If you have everything you want, will you want everything you have?

Really vague, I know, but it’s early yet.

So much fun!

And really, I’m sorry ;-).

Creation Crash Course

I think I have a creation hangover. Is that even possible? I’m exhausted, as if I just delivered a baby. Or had an all night bender. I’ve likened writing a healthy story outline to the baby thing before, but this time I thought I had it beat. All signs were pointing to me kicking the creation crash in the ass, but someone must have messed with the arrows on that crazy driving course. Maybe they spun them upside down or something. ‘Cause I’m sitting on that very ass too tired to get even a glass of wine and a nibble.

Plllbbbtttt.

So here I am, hiding in my bedroom, thinking about three active projects I have going right now. Only thinking about them because I’m taking a few days off of creative writing and/or editing.

One: a good friend of mine and I have started a girls night out meets book club website called gnowus.com (know-us.) We had our un-official launch last night with an extremely fun live blogging event for both our Book Club and our Movie Club.

Two: I’m ghost writing a memoir for a new client – which translates to me writing an outline, helping the client write the memoir (I recommended Dragon NaturallySpeaking) and then I’ll do a heavy edit on it. The final piece, if they choose, is to assist in the shopping of the final piece to agents and/or editors, even e-publishing if that’s the route they wish to pursue.

Three: I’m ever so excited to put the final spin on Going In. Incase you noticed the “working title” part has been dropped. After spending much time thinking about it I think the title fits just perfectly. The intriguing part, is that the paranormal story line is getting amped up and I’m blending two of the characters for a more refined finish. Oh and I have been thinking of luring a new group of readers to help me with the next phase, the dreaded “first” read (really second, but who’s counting.) I wonder if they know I’m thinking this? :-).

There is a Forth and Fifth, but I’m keeping one a secret until next year, the other is the NaNo HUGE story outline, working title “The Soul Truth,” and that guy needs to take a nap before I get working on him again. I think I have enough to keep me busy until then.

Maybe.

We’ll just have to throw Christmas, house guests and oh yeah, getting ready to sell the house into the mix to make it more exciting I guess.

Happy December everyone!

Split Personality Time! It Must Be November

Part of me is saying “Ahhhh 2 days left. I have to finish grocery shopping, paint the interior of my house, care for the kids, help with homework, cooking, bill paying,” heavy breathing break, “Christmas cards need to go out and presents need to be purchased… AND I’m going to write a new story.” That’s the mom voice.

The other part is saying in a slow, seductive voice, “Hm. This? Now this is a piece of cake. I can DO this.” This is the voice that paints in a negligee. We’re not tight, she and I. 

Then the other part of me is saying, “Run for the hills, it’s gonna be a big’n.” Yeah, you heard that right, I’ve got three voices inside my head. Well, sometimes more. Depends on the story.  And no, I don’t have a country bumpkin in my new story. A gypsy, yes. But not a bumpkin.

For those of you out there doing NaNoWriMo: How are you guys doing on getting ready? What is left on your list of To-Do’s?

For those of you dealing with the blows that life is coming up with, keep the world spinning for us during the month of November, please? We couldn’t do this writing thing with out you.

 

 

Titles Are Over-Rated

In honor of this auspicious date, I’m blogging! Ha!

10, 11, 12, Go!

So this title came about being I couldn’t find one for this blog post. I know, lazy lazy. But also, because I’m having trouble naming the next story. No, titles really aren’t over-rated. I really believe they are as important as naming a baby. But for the time being, let’s just call this post that, okay? And the new story has a name too! But I’m not in love with it. So far it’s called Wanderlost.

Which brings us to  my silly excitement for NaNoWriMo (once again.) I wish I could explain this phenom. ‘Cause really, it makes no sense to me, this writing multiple stories at once thing. When I started doing these marathon writing sessions back in ’07 (this is really only my 5th year, I skipped ’09) it was evil hard to write just one story.

Alas, an addict was born. Or, well, conceived. At first the creativity came at a slow trickle. I’m not sure when it started gushing down the pike, but it did, and fast. At one point I can remember having four different stories batting around in the labyrinth that is my brain at the same time. The voices got pretty loud and I’m pretty sure I was a scattered mess. Oh wait, I still am…

Huh.

Anyhow, thankfully, I’ve gotten all of them but the one that is due to be born this coming November out into the light of day since then. Which means, I’m done, right?

After November 30th, I’m done, right?

He he.

I’d like to say that’s true. ‘Cause really, writing is a chore. I’ll be talking to someone and they’ll say something intriguing like “and that blue elephant ate a leprechaun” and I’ll be off on a wild yarn inside my head not paying an iota of attention to what they are saying, nodding along and smiling. Rude, right? Truly. But, sorry, some of us just don’t have a way to control that damn ADD gene.

So no, not done.

I should have a short story completed in the near future. It’s not my same-o same-o – this guy is Sci-Fi (For the newcomers, to date I’ve written only thrillers and women’s fiction. Ironically similar, go figure.) And I hope to share it with you all… Any tips on where? A safe place to share stories for the novice, hmmmm. Another lesson to be learned. Oh and read that to mean, a place where it’s less likely to be stolen and sold by foreign markets et al. I know, paranoia will destroy ya. Bet that gives you some insight into my brain now, doesn’t it?

Love to hear your advice!

And for my fellow NaNoWriMo’s — see you on the front lines! 20 days!