Tag: advice

Guarantee your NaNoWriMo Win

The month is halfway over. Maybe you’re on track to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words by November 30.

Or maybe not.

But even if you only have 12,000 words written, you can still win.

No, I’m not crazy. I believe in setting a goal and making yourself reach it. Even if it means skipping dinner. Or staying up until midnight.

First off, you must decide that you want to win. If you don’t really want it, then there’s nothing truly motivating your writing.

I’m not the person who works better under deadline. Or maybe I should say, I don’t do my best work if I wait to begin until an hour before it’s due.

I’m a planner. If you want to write 50,000 words in 30 days, then you need to plan for it.

After you’ve decided you want to win, write down the number of words you’ve currently written on your novel (or should I say project? I was a rebel and wrote five short stories last year for NaNoWriMo). Now, subtract that amount from 50,000.

Does that number seem daunting? An impossible goal.

It’s not. Say that aloud right now. “This is NOT impossible.”

You might need to keep repeating it a few dozen hundred thousand times until you’re thoroughly convinced. But don’t take too long, because you need to get back to writing.

Now look at your November calendar. Ask yourself, “What days do I know I can write for at least two hours?”

If you don’t think you can do it on November 25th because you’re baking two pies and three dozen rolls for the family dinner on the 26th, that’s fine. If you know it won’t happen on the 26th because your house will be overflowing with family on friends on Thanksgiving Day, that’s perfectly acceptable.

However, you need to realize that the more days you excuse yourself from writing, the more WORDS you’ll be required to write on the other days.

Now take the number of words you must write to reach the goal and divide it by the number of days you know you can write. This is how the NaNoWriMo organizers come up with the 1,667-word daily goal they tout at the first of the month.

Let’s say you had 33,215 words left (you know, 50,000 minus the number in your document at this moment) and have decided you can write only 11 days for the rest of November. That means you need to write 3,020 words per day in order to meet the goal.

I can write 1,000 words per hour with ease once I get into the groove. If you can churn out words at that pace, that means three hours dedicated to writing on each of those eleven days.

But I’m Stuck

Image from cutestpaw.com

You only think you’re stuck.

Really.

Grab a pen and notebook and start scribbling ideas about your main character, his goal, his problems, and his goals. Then type those words into the document you’re using to tally your words for NaNo.

How many words did you just add?

Are you ready to get back to the story now? If not, choose another character or a setting and start scribbling about that. Eventually, the story will start itching to get out.

Or maybe you’ve drawn a blank about the current scene. Skip it.

“But it will leave a hole in my story.”

Who cares?

Seriously. Do you want to WIN this challenge? Or do you want to write a perfectly coherent story?

You might be able to do both. Or you might not.

Know this, once the first draft is written, it can be fixed.

In fact, it will be in dire need of multiple surgeries. I promise you can fill in the hole when you go back to rewrite the second draft.

So, why are you still reading this?

Go write some words.

You’re a winner. And for this challenge, winners need to write the words.

If you have some awesome advice for other NaNo writers, leave it in the comments. If I get enough awesomesauce (yes, that’s a real word according to the Oxford Dictionary), I’ll write a post in December to share all that wisdom.

Road to Published – Polishing your Manuscript

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Revise. Edit. Polish. Repeat.

Any writer worth reading after will tell you the creative process of writing is more often about the concerted effort of perfecting previously written words.

To that end, I have a library of books on the subject. I follow blogs of respected authors who address pitfalls. If you’re a writer, you should do the same thing.

If you’re just a reader, wanting to ogle a writer in their native surroundings, you don’t care about that stuff. You want to know about my process.

One of Many

PlotA gaggle of books have been written on this topic. (Did I mention I own an entire book case of tomes on writing craft?) My process isn’t the only way to take a manuscript from first draft to saleable pages.

My method is derived from the process James Scott Bell describes in his book Plot & Structure. I’ve detailed that in an earlier post.

I use several books to help me make each pass through my manuscript count. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Mastering Showing and Telling are two of these books.

Self-Editing devotes a chapter to the most common problems found in fiction manuscripts. There are exercises at the end of each to help you hone your editing skills.

Marcy Kennedy’s book gives a list of search terms to use in MS Word during the revision phase. When they show up in your manuscript, it’s a good indicator you’ve entered the realm of telling.  And we all know readers want us to show them what happens.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of the process you choose, you’ll need to start at the beginning. You’ll need to face the fact that this revision, editing and polishing process is going to take longer than the actual writing.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

That shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, experience writers tend to have a different view. After they’ve learned to effectively polish their manuscript, it helps them write a cleaner first draft.

Someday, you might write a cleaner draft, too. I know I haven’t reached that place with my novels, but when I wrote three short stories back-to-back, the third one had the cleanest of all first drafts.

I begin by printing out the entire manuscript. I read through it, line by line – aloud. I replace weak words using my thesaurus. Sentences that are clunky on my tongue get rewritten.

Those pages look like a mass of lines and scribbles. At the end of a chapter (or three), I take the cluttered pages back to my computer and enter the revisions while they are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, I revise these as I’m typing along.

Once I finish this, a minimum of three full days of work, I compile from Scrivener into a Word document. And let the searches begin.

I’m looking for all “to be” verbs and exchanging them for strong action verbs when possible. I’m eliminating adverbs and tightening all sentences to their barest.

After this stage, I usually walk away from the manuscript for at least a week. When I return, I can use the search function to eliminate repeated words. One of my published author idols tells how to do this in one of her posts. I recommend reading her whole “Gold Mine Manuscript” series.

When you’re finished – you’re NOT

Whew! All done.

Wrong.

Now, it’s time to reprint the manuscript. Read it aloud. Line by line.

Some people recommend starting from the end. I haven’t tried that yet, but if you’re already sick of your story, this might be a way to see it from a fresh perspective.

More scribbles appear on your crisp pages. Each day of grueling editing work is followed by the data entry aspect.

Eyes burn. Words swim across your vision. A woodpecker takes up residence inside your skull – rapping out a message in the middle of your forehead.

If you can convince someone else to proofread the manuscript once you finish this “polishing run,” your manuscript will be better for it.

Otherwise, plan to take at least a week away from it between the final red-pen pass and the proofing stage.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. This mantra repeats over and over for every story, article, and book I breathe into existence.

Publishing isn’t just vomiting a story onto the page and sending it out to be loved. Writing takes work.

Before your story is ready to step onto the stage of being marketed to agents or editors, or be independently published, you will never want to read it again.

I’m serious.

What is your favorite step in this process? Least favorite? Does anything in my process surprise you?

It’s all about the Attitude

positive-attitude quotespositive

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the daily memes. They’ll stop soon. There can’t be 365 unique quotes about having a positive attitude.

Life should be an adventure. And as I learned on my biking trip in Hawaii, the key to enjoying an adventure is to have the right attitude.

Some people would say there are only two types of attitudes: positive and negative. Or maybe good and bad. But I think attitudes are colored in shades of gray.

Negative

At the black end of the spectrum is the naysayer. You know who I’m talking about. They just won the lottery – and complain about the amount of taxes they have to pay.

Any normal person takes at least a few minutes to jump around like a maniac, shrieking in delight. But a blackened attitude doesn’t see a good side.

It’s difficult to spend more than a few minutes with this person. Why? You feel like crying. Or strangling them. Or jumping off the nearest cliff.

Or heading back to bed – with earplugs so you don’t have to listen to their downer-isms any longer.

It’s Eeyore, but without the cuteness.

Bad-ish

Thankfully, there aren’t too many people with a full-blown negative attitude. At least not as a permanent fixture in their personality.

We can excuse it when they’ve had a bad day, been fired from their job, wrecked their car or lost someone they loved. If they were all sunshine and roses in those moments, we’d question their mental health.

The type of person that bugs me is the dark gray bad attitude. This is the person who takes it upon themselves to rain on everyone’s happiness.

“I just got a raise.”

“Uncle Sam thanks you for the additional taxes he’s getting,” Says Big Gray. Really? How about a “congratulations” before you burst my joy with your sharp words?

This type of person is worse than Mr. Black because I can’t be myself around them. I’m constantly keeping my excitement about life inside because I don’t want it sullied by their caustic commentary.best-quotes-on-attitude

Average

Somewhere at the mid-scale gray is where most of us reside. We have good days when we can spout appropriately positive remarks upon hearing the good news.

We’re quick to agree with those whose day was less than charming, consoling them with a few black comments of our own. All in the name of being there for them.

Good-ish

There is a silver-hued attitude. We know some people like this. They always have something upbeat to say no matter what the situation.

“I lost my job.”

“That’s terrible, but truthfully, you’ve seemed pretty unhappy with it the past few months anyway. Now you can find something better.” Oh the brilliance of their shiny silver-tongued words.

But do they mean them?

Often, the people who are eternally optimistic make me suspicious. It’s not that I don’t believe you can have a positive outlook all the time (we’ll get to that next), but because sometimes turning the tables on a disaster is the wrong move.

Don’t they care that I lost my job? Their positive spin minimizes my anguish over the bad turn I must endure.

Positive

What on earth does she think a positive attitude looks like, then? If it isn’t the person who always has something nice to say, what else is there?

True empathy.

“We had to put my dog to sleep.”

If you try to put a positive spin on this, you’ll alienate that person. Go ahead. Try it. Give me your positive comment below.

Sometimes no words are the most positive thing you can offer. Sharing their tears and wrapping them up in a hug are great ways to fill the silence.

Seriously.

How is this positive?

When that person thinks back on that difficult time, your kindness will stand out. They might even tell you how much they appreciated that you didn’t try to console them with words.

I’m a writer, but sometimes there are no words that are situation-appropriate.

The person with the crystal-white positive attitude exercises wisdom with their tongue. They have upbeat words when that is what fits the moment. Helpful words flow from their lips when a person spews negativity and there is a positive antidote.

Ms. Positive knows that sometimes a smile, shared tears, or physical comfort is the positive “shot in the arm” to remedy truly heartbroken moments of negativity.

In the end, life is all about the attitude you face it with. Where are you on this scale? Or maybe you see it in black and white. Let’s discuss it.

Is it a Hot Flash?

I’m sitting in an air conditioned room at the airport in Maui. I feel like I’m in a sauna.

While checking in, I experienced such stifling claustrophobia I thought a panic attack loomed on the horizon. Not that I’ve ever experienced a panic attack, but the heart palpitation, sweating and desire to scream seemed like symptoms.

In the long security line, my armpits felt like pools. Where was the cooling breeze that kept things temperate during the week-long vacation?

Since I’ve been having irrational mood swings, I decided the above episode qualified as a hot flash.

And it continues on. We’ve been in the air conditioning for more than ten minutes and yet sweat beads on my forehead with unattractive regularity.

Obviously, “flash” doesn’t describe the length of these midlife episodes. Could it be over in a flash, please?

That would be no.

I thought I might be too young to experience the ugly “change” that women everywhere endure. I like to think I’m still in my prime. Does menopause suggest otherwise?

What other exciting symptoms could I look forward to during this season? Are there any wise words and suggestions from my readers to help me survive it without killing someone?