The Deanfortythree Guide to NaNoWriMo

It’s almost NaNoWriMo! You have no clue what you’re going to write about, do you? I didn’t think so! And no clue how you’re going to pull it off? That either, I know. Well, never fear, I’m here with all the handy tips you’ll need to make it to December with whatever sanity you have intact!

Give Up Now: Let’s be honest, you’re not going to make it. Why not beat the rush and just quit now? Then take to your favorite social media platform and ridicule your friends as they toil in vain! Take pleasure in each one who fails, gives up and joins you. That is your NaNoWriMo. You’ll enjoy it 10000% more.

Do Not Plan Ahead: If you’re going to insist on going ahead with some insane word count goal, don’t plan it out. That will just drive you crazy. Wing it. Plus, you’re basically Hemmingway, Shelley, and King all rolled into one, so there you’ll be ahead of the curve by day three anyway.

Share Your Word Count: At least every hour. Everyone is waiting for those updates. Hashtag it up, too. Something like “#wordcount: 12 #writing #amwriting #NaNoWriMo #lookitme” should do it. The world awaits your brilliance.

Edit as you Go: Don’t be the dork who comes out of NaNoWriMo with a first draft. This is the GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, not some hack crap. Make sure every sentence is perfect before moving on.

Surf the Internet: Inspiration is a combination of lightning striking and magic. You never know when, where or how it will hit, so maximize your chances by scouring every corner of the internet. I recommend three windows of twenty tabs apiece. You won’t miss anything THAT way.

Panic if you Fall Behind: This is the killer. You get a little behind, and you’re screwed. Cancel all your plans, and scribble furiously until you’re caught up (then make sure you edit it, as above).


There you go! You’re all set for a great NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo: Writer’s Block

Ah, writer’s block. You’ve been there. In fact, you might be there right now and you’re here because you’re scouring the internet for something, anything to distract and/or inspire you because you have no clue what the hell to write.

Good times, right? Not so much, and even less so when you watch the precious minutes you actually have to write tick by without new words magically appearing on the page. But as I said, we’ve all been there. If you write, you will have writers block. The trick is getting around it, over it or through it.  Here are my suggestions- feel free to chime in with yours in the comments, as this is hardly exhaustive.

Prevention is the best medicine: Spend a few moments at the end of each writing session planning what you’ll write about next, and review it when you sit down to write. Get excited about it. This way you’re always looking ahead- and looking forward- to advancing your story.

Limit distractions: If you work from a laptop, turn off your wifi. This will force you to stay focused. If you do take a break, set a time limit and stick to it. Also, avoid mindless things- don’t get lost in facebook or whatever, go for a quick walk, get a snack. Do something that will get blood and creative juices flowing.
Just do it: Writing is easier when you have momentum on your side. If you stare at your cursor as it blinks, taunting you, you’ll keep staring at it. If you are writing, odds are you’ll keep writing- so start writing something, even if it’s not perfect. That’s what editing is for.

What do you do to overcome writer’s block?

NaNoWriMo: On Goals & Achievement

Right now, if you’re jumping on the whole NaNoWriMo thing, you’re probably freaking out a little bit, or at least, taking a deep breath before the plunge. Hopefully at this point, you have an outline in hand, even if it’s somewhat crude- a point A, point B, and some manner of path between the two.

Before the clock strikes and you dive headfirst into your 50,000 word monstrosity, you should set some goals. But my goal is to write a 50,000 word novel, you say. Indeed it is. But all novels were hardly created equal. What do you hope to accomplish with your novel? Is it to put 50,000 words on paper, no matter what? To write the great American novel? Improve as a writer? I’ve said it before and I will say it again- Know why you write.  Having a purpose in writing- especially with a hard deadline- will help you get there.

Have goals along the way as well. I love having an outline for this- I feel more accomplished reaching the next plot point or finishing a scene than I do with a specific word count (not that that’s bad, either).

Once your goals are set, stay focused on them and look for victories. I don’t have to tell you everything will not go according to plan. You’ll get sick. Your kid will get sick (THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER). You forgot you have to go to Nebraska for that one cousins wedding. So have backup plans, and backup plans for backup plans. And when you succeed, even in small ways, reward yourself. A friend keeps a candy jar on their desk and eats a piece every 500 words. Since I write pretty late at night, my reward is usually sleep. Give yourself little things to look forward to.

Feel free to post your goals and motivation tricks in the comments! Good luck to everyone taking a stab at it tomorrow!


NaNoWriMo: Getting Started

As I said before, I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in case you’re not familiar). There are several reasons for this, mostly due to the fact that in addition to the novel, I have to wrap up editing on one series of short stories and start a second, so you can rest assured I’ll be writing at a frantic pace as well. Even though I’m not ‘officially’ tackling it, I do tend to work that way- I work well within deadlines and write at a fast pace. So over the next month or so, I’ll regularly post tips and suggestions (and maybe a few opinions) as to what helps me.

So let’s start at the beginning- how do you like to start your project? My first step is to drink heavily identify the end. If you’re anything like me, you get about four million ideas for literally the best book ever OMG every single day. But how does it end? Where does it go? Jot the idea down, but sit down and revisit it- if you can’t put a bow on it, it will be hard to form a compelling story around it. The last thing you want is readers- or you- to get the end and think Well, what was the point of THAT?

My outline for ‘Worlds Away’

After that comes the outlining process. A quick note about that: Everyone does their outlines differently. I will share my method with me, but it’s mine and while you’re welcome to it, find what works best for you. You want your outline to serve as a map, a guide to the novel you’re writing and if it doesn’t point you in the right direction, what good is it?

Pictured is my outline from ‘Worlds Away‘, a short story of around 2,000 words (my novel outline is much more detailed and much less legible, relatively speaking anyway). Since this is part of a serial, you can see in the lower left the next plot point I had to get Digger, the main character to- establishing his position as a professor. I didn’t have to do that in this story, but it had to work to that end.

So I started this story with two pieces of information: The character (Digger) and the plot point that I needed him to achieve. From there I used a decision tree based on how I wanted the character to develop. I wanted to portray the he was a mercenary and was hired to do a job, acts heroically, and (SPOILER ALERT) still remains detached in the final scene.

So why even bother to have an outline? Why not work from what’s in your head? It’s your story after all, right? While that may be true, it’s very easy to stray. You risk damaging your plot and characters when you do, or worse, bogging your readers down with all manner of unnecessary minutia. This story, Worlds Away, gave me characters that are favorites of my readers- the romance of Mondego and Magdalena, which lead to Badger and the Crucible story line. Without an outline, that guide, those characters would not have been defined. With Digger, to whom balance while teasing his past is needed, I risked giving away too much and ruining the reveal and thus making the rest of the collection boring and irrelevant. Conversely, I could give away too little and when the reveal comes, no one cares. An outline provides a gut check for all kinds of things- even more so when you’re on a tight schedule like NaNWriMo.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

On Writing Sprints

So @Geekstarter asked me on Twitter what I thought of National Novel Writing Month, and if I had ever participated. The short version is: no, I haven’t, and not out of any objection to it. I think it’s a great exercise. To me, it falls under the same category as the three-day novel contest, or anything of that nature.

I said on twitter that it’s not how I work, and that’s not strictly true- I very much work that way. Jane Espenson, one of my biggest modern inspirations, has these great little writing sprints on twitter, and it always gets my creative juices flowing. When I write, I need to shut everything else out and write (except music, I look like a good when I get lost in it and am thinking, I’m sure). So it fits very much with who I am.

Where it doesn’t, however, is schedule-wise. The Kickstarter campaign for 3024AD- series 1 starts on the 25th of September and runs through October 25. That is where I am taking a break from the shorts, and will finish the first 3024AD novel, and then start series 2 of the shorts in November. So, I’ll be doing it- but a month early.

Also- and this is not what I recommend to any writer- I do not like writing groups. Like, at all. I’ve tried a few times, and it stifled me more than it helped me. I just don’t benefit from the ‘community’ feel the way others do (Again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing- it’s great motivation for a lot of people). For as social and public as I am in many ways, my writing is very private to me. That’s the main reason I started posting the shorts- I literally had to break myself of my inclination to never, ever show it to anyone. So while that was huge for me, and a lot of fun, my contrary nature just doesn’t enjoy that kind of ‘community’ (again- this is just me).

None of this is to say I will never participate, or have no desire to- just haven’t yet, and won’t this year.

I don’t have any kind of gracious conclusion, except to say, find what works for you and do that, then find a way to do it better. As a writer- as anything, really- strive to improve and challenge yourself. I think that’s a great way to do it.