Friday, October 25, 2013

Survive & Thrive During NaNoWriMo

Last time out I gave you tips on prepping for NaNoWriMo. This time, I thought I'd share a few things to help survive and thrive during NaNo.

Instant Gratification

Take a chocolate bar (doesn't have to be a chocolate bar,  can be any snack/treat/whatever you want- raisins, grapes, beer-nuts, whatever. I'm using choc bars in this example, and it's transferable to groups of other items) and break the bar up into it's individual pieces. A Hershey's breaks up to 12 pieces. Set a words written goal for each piece, and when you reach that goal, eat one piece. 200 words/piece x 12 pieces = 2400 words written, 1 chocolate bar enjoyed, and almost a day and a half worth of NaNo words done! If you can maintain the discipline, it's amazing how fast your word count will jump up.

Go To War

Don't be scared to go to war with someone. Word war, that is. Word wars are a set time period of concentrated writing, and another great way to increase your production. Word wars might last for 5 or 10 mins, or an hour. These are a staple of write-ins. If you can't get to a write-in, look at the forums. Someone is always looking for a friendly fight. Check out twitter too. There are lots of word war hast tags floating around. #1k1h is a popular one year round.

Note Pads - Your New AMEX Card

In other words - "Don't leave home without it". Plot bunnies can strike at ANY TIME. A sticky note doesn't seem like much, but, according to Twitter's own @RebeccaEnzor you can plot out whole scenes on them.

Blocking Out

Another benefit of word wars is they let your gauge your writing speed. This is a handy piece of information to have when you're trying to schedule writing time. Myself, I'm an 800-1000 word/hr typist, so I know I need to block out about 2 hours to get my 1667 in for a day.
And if you can't sit and write your entire daily word count in one sitting? Don't. Break it up into blocks of time and/or words. @LianaBrooks suggests 800 word sprints. Two of these (and a few sentences more) and you have your 1667 for the day. A third sprint gets you ahead. (remember, hoard words like Smaug does gold!) Liana also suggested plotting out a scene or two, then go write them! Rinse and repeat as needed.

Rock Out

Music helps lots of writers to block out the noisy distractions of daily life. Some use it as mood music for a particular scene/chapter on which they happen to be working. Some writers swear by music, others disdain it as a distraction in and of itself. Experiment. Maybe something will work for you and help you slip into the writing zone. Just don't get caught writing your biker bar fight scene while singing out loud in public along with "Call Me Maybe". #Embarrassing

Quick Characters

The plot bunny ninjas have struck and left you a bleeding mess with a new character to shoehorn into your novel. "But wait!" you cry. "I don't have time to create a new character!" Don't despair. @jroseallister offers up this tip: Do an online birth natal chart and poof! detailed personality traits.

Myself, when writing in a genre with a strong RPG community, I like to use character generation techniques from an appropriate set of game books, and just strip out any game-specific items. If I'm writing up a sci-fi space pilot, I might use Star Wars RPG books to generate a character, and leave out anything to do with The Force, or Alderaan or X-wing fighters, substituting in anything appropriate and specific to my novel's setting.

Miscellaneous Tips

(These may complement/contradict other pieces of advice)
-- Turning off WiFi. (@zombieirishgirl)
-- Lots of tea/coffee/caffeine. (@zombieirishgirl)
-- Writing alone. (@zombieirishgirl)
-- Team up with a writing buddy and cheer/challenge each other onward. (@kitcampbell)
-- Buy a chocolate advent calender and for every day you make goal, you get to have a chocolate. (@clraven)
-- Sit there and gut it out. Don't get up until you finish word count. (@jroseallister)

If you're doing NaNo this year, leave your WriMo id in the comments and add me as a buddy (wrytersblock) and we can push/pull/poke/prod/drag/cajole each other along!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing Survival Tips in the Post-October World

It's October. The kids are back in school and Fall is here in the northern Hemisphere. At least, the calenders say it's been Fall for a few weeks. Here in Louisiana we are just now feeling it. Something else is here at the end of the month, just a hop, skip, and a jump across October. No, I'm not talking about November. NaNoWriMo. That's the National Novel Writing Month.

If you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, or you've maybe heard someone mention it but have no idea what it's about, then this post is for you. It's a month long contest to write a 50,000 word (or more!) novel in the month of November. From scratch. You can plan all year long, but the actual writing has to happen between 12:00am Nov 1st and 11:59pm local time Nov 30th.

Sounds impossible you say? 50,000 just too monolithic a number to comprehend writing in a month's time? Trust me, it's not. I type slow and I've won it. Four times. Broken down, 50K words is 1667 words/day for 30 days. It can easily be done, but you must prepare for it. Here's some tips on how to gird your loins for the 30 day battle with the word beast that is NaNoWriMo!

Stretch First

A couch slug does not simply buy new shoes and run the NYC marathon the next morning. Stretching is involved. If not, the slug will cramp up and be out of the race before the second mile. I know, because it happened to me. Not in the NYC marathon, but in NaNo one year. Had an idea, and 4 wins under my belt, a savvy veteran. I got this, right? Hadn't written all year, and fell flat on my face on day 2.

Work your way up to NaNoWrimo if you have the time by writing just a little bit, say 500 words. Then the next day, write just a little more. 550 on day two. 600 on day 3, and so on. Build yourself up to a NaNo pace (or even more than 1667/day, I'll tell you why in a bit).

Find A Jail Cell

You're going to hear this little voice in your head. It's going to whisper to you, second guessing your every decision. Casting doubts on your ability to write something that isn't complete crap. This is your inner editor. Find the deepest, darkest, dankest dungeon in your mind, and lock that little bastard away in solitary confinement for the month. NaNo isn't about perfection. It's about *WRITING*. Leave the editing for December.

Be A Thief

Steal writing time whenever you can find it. At your desk during lunch hour. While your kids are at swim/soccer/tae-kwon do/whatever practice. While riding the train/bus/carpool to/from work (Okay, not the car pool when it's your turn to drive). Carry a note pad to write on during these hidden minutes. You might only get 50 or 100 or 500 words written, but it's 50 or 100 or 500 more than you had.

Be A Hoarder

During NaNo, words are like gold coins. You need to hoard them like Smaug does treasure. Don't get to your 1667 and then think you have to quit for the day. If the Muse is riding you like a lathered up thoroughbred,  don't stop! The more you can write over the daily word count, the better. You can bank those extra words for day when you might not get to write as much. Or, the days you don't write at all and just want to curl up in a ball while your non-writing world goes to hell around you. Or your in-laws drop in unexpectedly. (Though you might still end up curled up in a ball on the floor)

Ignore Housework...

...Up to a point. When the dirty laundry pile is in danger of collapsing and burying your preteen, it's time to take a break. Stop writing, and start PLOTTING! This is especially good if you're facing a block and can't get passed it. Stop writing and do something else. Wash laundry, do dishes, vacuum, shovel snow off the drive way (if you're afflicted with such - snow, not drive ways). Mundane tasks that you don't have to really think about let your mind work in the background on your writing problems. Plot bunnies like to attack from the least likely corners!

More Stretching

Don't forget to stretch your physical muscles too! 30 days hunched over a laptop is not comfortable (but your chiropractor will laugh all the way to the bank). Remember to stand up and move around once in awhile. Rotational arm exercises to take the hunch out of your shoulders and arms are good too, and can be done in your seat.

Family Matters

Prepare your family for the month. Inform your family that Mom (or dad) isn't crazy because she/he is sitting there talking to him/herself- it's working out dialogue, or plotting. Tell them they may not see you as much for the month, and to be ready to eat lots of leftovers or take out. You'll eventually return, mostly sane. Mostly. Whether you're more sane after NaNo or less so is another discussion (Probably best had with your therapist) entirely!

Get Out

If you've joined a region, pay attention to regional forums. Often someone in your region will post information on something called a "write-in". Write-ins are a chance to meet your fellow WriMos in person, and write with others while socializing. Or socialize while writing. It often goes both ways. It helps to defeat that "I'm alone in the woods" feeling writing can give you, especially during NaNo. If you're not in a region with scheduled write-ins, or you are in an "Elsewhere" region, don't despair! Some Elsewhere regions have a chat room set up, for virtual write-ins. Poke around your forums.

In Conclusion

I could go on, but I'd likely not get this post ready before NaNo - 2014! (Procrastinatia is a monarchy, and it's good to be the king) I hope these tips help you have a successful November - if you write 50,000, 5,000 or even 5 words.

A little green muppet once said "Do, or do not. There is no try." In this case, Yoda is WRONG. There *is* a "try". Failure is always an option!  It's not whether you win or lose at NaNo, it's that you TRIED something you thought you might do "one day", or seemed scary and insurmountable.

That makes you a winner already.

If you're doing NaNo this year, leave your WriMo id in the comments and add me as a buddy (wrytersblock) and we can push/pull/poke/prod/drag/cajole each other along!

I'll be waiting at the finish with the champagne to celebrate with you - in victory or defeat! :)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Chasing The Lost: Book Review

It's not often I get to read a finished book ahead of the publication date. Sure, I've beta read and critiqued for people, but receiving an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) (even a digital edition) had never happened to me before. Until last week.

On twitter I'd lamented the fact that I always forget to look for Bob Mayer's books whenever I'm in a bookstore. Jen Talty, who is Bob's partner at Cool Gus Publishing, messaged me and asked if I'd like to read and review Bob's newest book, "Chasing the Lost".

Horace Chase is a former special forces soldier and policeman looking for the quiet life. Leaving behind a bad break-up, and an even worse run in with the Russian mafia on a case gone wrong, Chase puts Colorado in his rear-view mirror and moves to the house he inherited from his deceased mother on Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Retired life wants no part of Horace Chase.

In less than an day on the island, Chase is confronted by a contentious neighbor, a damsel in distress over her kidnapped son, more Russian mobsters, and dealing with his gunshot dog, Chelsea.

What follows is a roller-coaster ride of emotions, ghosts from Chase's past and gun battles to rival anything in print. Stitching all this together is a plot with enough twists and turns to leave a champion maze rat lost and drooling in a corner. The shocking ending, with twists right up to the last pages, proves the special forces mantra that Chase knows all too well: Nothing is as it appears.

This was the first book of Bob's I've read, and it's a good jumping in point for sampling his work. Chasing the Lost is a stand alone book told within the frame work of Bob's Green Beret series of books. Finding more of his work the next time I'm in a bookstore is definitely high on my agenda.

*    *    *
Bob Mayer is a NY Times best selling author and retired Green Beret with over 50 books published.

"Chasing The Lost" is available May 7th in both print and e-book formats.

Monday, January 7, 2013

And The Winner Is...

Last week I posted a long diatribe about how I'd failed as a writer in 2012, and my plan for being better this year, and to make this the year of finishing projects. (You can read that drivel here.) At the end of the post was a poll for the readers to vote on my first project to finish for 2013. The poll was open for 6 days and the results are in!

After a massive voter turnout, with a whopping 67% of the votes, the winner is.....

Echo-13: From the Files of the X-Corps - 2
The Dytek Enterprises Field Agent Handbook - 1

Here's a little teaser of what Echo-13 is all about.

Somewhere in the depths of space resides a small band of men. Men who do the impossible. Men who take on the dirty jobs nobody else can or will do. This is their story...

Legends and myths have been passed on from generation to generation throughout time. Missing star fleets of mighty warships. Lost planets of unbelievable wealth. That the home of the human race was a small, undistinguished, third rate, blue-green planet orbiting the star Sol. Some say that these are just children's tales, to be told at bedtime and nothing more. But all myths and legends are somewhere based on truth. Over the past few years a new legend has arisen, about a group of men that run around the galaxy doing the impossible. Most credit these tales to drunken starpilots. But a few believe that the legend is true, that this mysterious group of men is real. You decide.

I"ll post updates as I go here, and on twitter.

January Word Count: 0 / 15,500

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And The Horses Are In The Starting Gate

Well, It's Jan 1, 2013. We survived the Mayan doomsday. The world kept turning on Dec 22nd, and the 23rd... Guess they got that one wrong. Since we're all still here, I might as well get traction on this year.

New year. New goals. To that end, I've decided I need to get better at a writing schedule and sticking to it. The vast majority of my new writing last year happened in November. In the first two days. At that point, I really hadn't written anything since Nov '11, and very much at all going back to July before that.

November rolled up, and with it the annual NaNoWriMo - the National Novel Writing Month Challenge. For those who haven't heard of NaNo before, it's a challenge to write a 50,000 (or more!) word novel in the 30 days of November. I'd won this 4 consecutive years, a veteran. I'd hit 50K words in as little as 15 days one year. I figured I'd grab an idea and run with it all month. Been there, done that, I'd have it in the bag. No sweat. I failed spectacularly.

A couch slug does not simply buy brand new sneakers and then run the New York Marathon.

To go from so much inactivity to trying to crank out 1667 words or better a day to keep the NaNo pace just wasn't going to happen. After 12hr door-to-door days at the day job (You know, that thing that pays for life's little niceties, like food and internet), I didn't have the mental energy to write my name much less 1667 words a night.

So, I'm going to stretch this year before running that November marathon. Here's how:
January - 500 words/day for 31 days = 15,500
February through July I intend to add 250 words/day each month, ending up with 2000/day in July.
August I'm dropping back to 1000 words/day, building up again 1750/day in November. Notice, this is ahead of NaNo pace. December I cut myself a break and drop back to 1000/day.

Grand total for this schedule as presented is 464,500 words.

I want to prove to myself I can win this thing with a full time day job, and if I stick to this schedule I'll be in shape to win that marathon. I also want this year to be one not of new beginnings, but of finishes. I have stacks and stacks of projects with notes attached, and maybe a few paragraphs, or  WIPS (Work In Progress) with 5-10K words and a few notes for later. I've even got one WIP that, if I'd had a child when I started it, the kid would turning 21 in July!

The only snafu I have with this whole grand scheme is this: which of my (many) unfinished projects do I work on first? I'm going to let you, the readers decide. I'll post a short synopsis of each contended and let you all vote until Sunday on which I should start on first.

1: Echo-13: From the Files of the X-Corps - the oldest horse in this race. Ultra-deep top secret special forces action with the fate of the galaxy hanging on their next move. Lots of gun battles, space fights and explosions everywhere. I've said for the last several new years that I would finally finish it. Will this be there year?

2: The Dytek Enterprises Field Agent Handbook - Urban Fantasy. One man simply trying to clear his name at work. Oh, he works as a regional field agent for Death.

3: Jameson Hewitt Airship Mysetery - A Steampunk-ish mystery thriller set on an airship crossing the Atlantic at the beginning of a worldwide war.

4: Hunt Starfire Saga - Scifi, chronicling the birth of a mercenary startfighter unit. Book 1 of a planned 6-7 book series.

There they are! Go vote in the comments. I'm looking forward to seeing which horse wins this race.