My changed view on NaNoWriMo

I’ve done NaNo since 2003 and tried Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. The

Things Have Changed

Things Have Changed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

first four times I ‘won’ the 50 K challenge, but didn’t achieve it ever since, and didn’t achieve the goal for Camp either. I didn’t even get halfway there.

My Changed View

What I’ve come to realize is that I’m now putting too much pressure on myself to complete the marathon, to the point that I’m stalled to actually do so.

So, I’ll plan to try a different approach and see how it works for me:  from now on I’ll use the start of a NaNo event to spur me to start a project (a novel in November, something else for Camp) but I won’t concern myself with completing the target by the deadline date.

Maybe by not pressuring myself I’ll succeed at it more often again. I want to always finish the book that I start, instead of leaving it to be forgotten when the event is over. Some of my past projects I already plan to revisit, some of them I need to rewrite from scratch because I no  longer have my backups. Just as well, as the new versions won’t feel as clunky.

An Important Caveat

Note that I’m not bashing NaNoWriMo in the least. I’ve been a part of it since nearly its start (I think there were three before I began) and it can help an author to get the words out of their head – and  my view may change yet again, many times in fact– but for now this is what I’ll try, and see how it works.

“Don’t Get it Right. Just Get it Written.” James Thurber

Blog

 

YA: Today’s Buzzword

That’s an abbreviation for young adult fiction. It is also a descriptor because it can fit into nearly any genre. There is YA science fiction, YA Dystopian, YA fantasy, and so on. What makes it YA is just that the protagonist(s) is/are teenager(s). The main goal of this literary genre is that it gives young people more reason to read.

There are many subset genres of YA

There are many examples of this field, some of which I’ll cover more in  other posts on this blog, but they  include the Harry Potter  book series, the Divergent one, and the current big hit, The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games (film, YA hit)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote one my third NaNoWriMo titled Introvert. It was my most successful to date, writing the most words per day and completing it in record time for me.

The one rule that I’ve seen to all YA fiction that I’ve seen is a rule that makes sense:

“No sex”

This doesn’t mean that all teenagers don’t; although frowned on, some teens do, even though they aren’t all mentally ready.

What I mean is that as a rule, you don’t describe it in detail (or at all). Doing so risks making your fiction seem to be child pornography, and put you at legal risk.

The field for this fiction (so long as you follow the rules) is huge, with the potential for the books to become films. It’s also a field that I have ideas for… I have to locate my file for Introvert because I have an idea for a sequel.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping aLED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 (I began this post before this event; I’ll state what I didn’t do.)

… or Camp NaNoWriMo, which I’m doing right now… which is why I haven’t updated this site in a week.

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O....

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O. B., 1844-1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips to achieve your word goal in the month (50, 000 for NaNo, variable for Camp – I’m writing a 20, 000-word project, for example):

1. Avoid distractions

Scrivener can do distraction-free writing via its full-screen mode. The text editor part  is all that you see. You don’t see the Binder, or the menus,  or anything else. All you have to focus on is writing.

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are more distractions that you should avoid. Avoid e-mail, Twitter, and (especially) Facebook; most of it is flashy graphics that draw your attention away.

Twitter

Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I failed on most of this. My blog subject list is in Drive, so I was usually in Gmail. I had my Twitter feed open at all times and kept it open to check on. As to Facebook… there’s a good reason that it has the nickname ‘Wastebook’… I was on it constantly.

2. Word-Padding is Your Friend

Always write full character names. Don’t use contractions; spell each word. Your fingers accidentally space words out? Leave them in. You don’t need the word ‘that’ in a sentence? put it in anyway. Adverbs slow a sentence down? Doesn’t matter. Use them anyways.

For NaNo / Camp NaNo quantity is your goal, not quality. The next point will talk about that fact.

At first, I didn’t  fully embrace this. I tried to correct my typos. I got out of it eventually.

3. This is the First Draft

Cleaning up what Ernest Hemmingway said about first drafts, they are not pretty.

Feel free to write scenes that you will cut in later drafts. They will add words now; you can cut them in later drafts.

I did this one. I wrote some scenes that I know I’ll cut later.

4. Ignore Your Inner Editor

As you write you’ll hear a voice in your head correcting your words and critiquing your scenes. Ignore it.

It’s the voice of your Inner Editor trying to slow you down. It will stall you  if you let it.

I didn’t.

** update **

Here's a tip that some people use, but I don't:

Some people count the words that they write for other projects in this one. I'd consider doing this cheating myself.

conclusion

Use these tricks and (unlike me) you might win.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – How Did I Do?

Not as good as I’d like, but still good. Let me explain:

My final word tally was 9015 words out of a goal of 20, 000. That’s   the part not so good.

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping an LED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t have my story outline done, so I lost valuable time ‘pantsing‘. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not effective at that.

Another problem is that I didn’t really get into my writing groove until the last week. If it had happened sooner I might have a different post here now!

How it’s still good: I realized that my story would be less than 20, 000 words. I wanted to revise my goal down, but I came to that realization 5 days too late to do it.

I’ll take 3 days off, then get back to it. I intended it for people to opt-in to my mailing list, and I still have that intention.

 

Using a Blog to Attract Readers

Camp NaNoWriMo is still taking up my free time, so another guest post

By Autumn Birt

Start a Blog. It is one of the first pieces of advice given to aspiring authors. And it ends there like those three words provide all possible information on what you should do with said blog. It is like saying “build a rocket” without mentioning target, trajectory, size, fuel, or range!

When I first heard that advice, I was still trying to figure out how to write a book, much less how to format, e-publish, and market. I didn’t even know enough to ask “What should I do with a blog?” Much less the far more important question, “How do I use it to attract readers?” Starting a blog was something on the to-do list, checked off without much thought.

Over five years later and I’ve learned a few things. And one of them is what the heck to do with a blog, especially how it might help you attract new readers. Here are some quick tips to help you out!

1.Have Focus

By this, I mean everything from post topics to photo scheme. Someone landing on your blog page should know within 20 seconds that you are a writer and in what genre. Use that banner image well! Have it showcase an awesome photo related to your stories or mock-ups of your books. If you have free stories you are giving away, they should be front and center. Don’t leave someone landing on your site wondering what you do and if you are serious about it. Be serious about it.

And the focus does go for post topics too. Your mindset for every post should be “I am trying to attract readers.” So what attracts readers? It might be cooking, but I think there are better topics. Like: what the characters in your story might be cooking. Do they eat dragon? Hydroponic vegetables are grown in zero gravity? Or classic recipes from 1792?

2. Share the Story

One of the biggest mistakes I see new author-bloggers make is they talk only of the writing journey. Which is definitely important. Readers should know this is hard work and a tremendous effort to produce a novel. But you need to share what is going on in the story too!

Readers need to know more than how many months it took you and how many times you almost quit. It doesn’t say anything about what you are actually writing. Share the work you’ve done on creating a synopsis. Get opinions! Share excerpts from the novel, short stories from each of the characters, world building, and research. You spend months creating the background and minutiae of details that end up comprising a whole sentence in the finished novel. Want to know a great place to put all those bits that create the solid framework of the novel without really being visible to the reader? Your blog.

Don’t just tell readers that it took a long time and a lot of work to write a novel. Let them be part of the experience. Show, don’t tell holds true in blogging too.

3. Don’t Make it All About You

No one likes to hear incessantly about someone as if they are a narcissist in a room of mirrors. And that holds true about your blog and your stories. Have posts looking for feedback. Better yet, take that other piece of new writer advice to “read a lot of books” to heart and write book reviews! What better way is there to attract readers than to help them find new books?

Network with other authors. Offer guest posts and interview fellow writers. And don’t forget to reply to comments and thank people for stopping by. If you don’t know where to find other authors to network with … well this is probably a better use of social media than spamming potential readers about a new release. Look for authors in your genre on Twitter under the correct hashtag. Join a writer’s group on Facebook (I have two if you are looking!). The good news is meeting other authors is easier than tracking down new readers.

These three things will get you started. If I had a final piece of advice it would be that readers don’t come overnight. Expecting huge results of new followers and fans to your new blog would be an anomaly. Don’t get frustrated. Just like writing a novel, perseverance will create outcomes. You know very well that giving up produces zero results.

And take it from someone whose fifth blog post hit the front page of Freshly Pressed, fast, early exposure is sometimes not the best thing. I hadn’t found my voice or topic when that happened. I ended up with over a 1000 new followers and absolutely no clue what to say to them. Because I’d randomly started a blog because I was working on a book and I was blogging about every odd and random thing that popped into my head. The post that made it big? It was on Work/Life Balance. Not writing. I don’t think I even mentioned I was a writer in it! Oh to go back now…

I can’t, but hopefully I can give you some advice to get it right! And if you are a writer with a blog, I’d love to see it. I’m looking for a few writing blogs to go over and feature in my next course: Blogging for Authors. So if you don’t mind exposing your website to a critical eye and getting some feedback on things to tweak, leave a comment with your website in the notes below!

Best of luck and happy blogging AND writing!

Autumn is a best-selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all of the same series, though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy which was released in full in 2015. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release all the books in 2016. Book 1, Sparks of Defiance, was released in March!

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books and to pick up writing tips, workbooks, and courses at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

 

fifth order

friends of my enemy

Pat Flewelling, on alternative plotting

It’s quid pro quo time.. over a year ago I posted on Pat’s blog (here‘s a link to the blog), now she’s returning the favor.

With me writing for Camp NaNoWriMo right now, this is an appropriate post.

I’m not as prolific, but few people are!

At last count, I’ve written 59 novel-length manuscripts since 1993, and I’ve just come back from a weekend-long novel writing marathon with the better half of # 60. Some have been completely pre-planned. Some were written off the cuff. Most haven’t been published, because they just haven’t been solid enough.

When I thoroughly plotted the story in advance, one of two things would always

The Marathon

The Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

happen: either I would deviate wildly off course, or I would get so bored that I’d just stop writing altogether. I often mistook a tangent as some kind of award-winning plot-twist, and having to delete 10-15% of the manuscript was a real killer to my motivation. And sometimes, I was just bored, because there was no sense of discovery left over, no room to play around. I was choking my own creativity.

At the other extreme, stories that had no predestination took longer to finish. I’d often spend hours staring slightly cross-eyed at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was taking that last thought. I’d also ended up spending countless hours editing after the fact, removing tens of pages of verbal dross.

But for this year’s novel writing marathon, I decided to try something new. I planned only so much, but I also left major plot points blank.

I thought of it like a vacation itinerary. Let’s say that I knew I was leaving Montreal on a Monday at 7:00 a.m., and that I had to be in Toronto by Saturday at noon. Let’s say, furthermore, that I also wanted to visit Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Oshawa, before finally heading into the Big Smoke. As long as I got to Ottawa by 4:00 p.m., I could take any route I wanted. I could take the back roads and enjoy a longer drive through the country, or I could stick to the highways and get there sooner, then park the car and stroll around on foot before leaving at 4:00. I wouldn’t decide which route to take to Ottawa until I was in the car with the radio on and a coffee in hand.

During the marathon, I discovered not only that I actually stuck to the plan, but I wrote in an unforeseen major character, who made the plot more engaging and resolved a lot of plot holes. I finally had a planner that would direct my story toward a fun and logical conclusion, but one that left plenty of opportunities to make stuff up as I went along. Most surprisingly of all, because I had a known destination and unknown roads, I found my narrative pacing became the strongest it’s ever been.

But, after this many novels, I know that what works for one project doesn’t necessarily work for another. Likewise, what works for me may not work for you. All I can suggest is that you keep experimenting until you find what works best, and have fun with it along the way.

Pantsers vs. Plotters

With me starting at Camp NaNoWriMo on July 1st I thought that I should explain the difference between these two story methods, and what I do or don’t.

“Pantsers”

This is an expression, short for “writing by the seat of your pants”. A writer goes into a project with nothing planned and just writes what comes to them. They have no characters planned, no scenes either. They just make everything up as they go along writing.

For some people this is the best way to work on a project. They are always surprised by what appears on their screen (or on their typewriter / paper), and as a result don’t have many predictable turns in their stories.

Me? I ‘ve tried it for many years — and won the first 4 — but it proved to be too open for me. I needed more structure to guide me.

Outliner

The opposite alternative is to work from a detailed outline of your story. Even the characters are defined — in name, personality is sketched, their character File:Plotextraktor.pngarcs are mapped  out, the works.

Some people like that level of planning. They can come to finish novels often that way.

Personally, I find that much structure too much. I like to have some measure of surprise in my writing, so control to that level I find stifling.

That led me to an alternative:

not snowflake

File:Snowflake11 2.png
Here‘s a description of how it’s done.

I find this method still tends to be too stifling. It still doesn’t leave room for surprises and twists.

Instead I use a hybrid method that incorporates story beats.

the beat goes on…

I create character sketches, and I outline some scenes (like the end) but I leave the rest open, so that I can still come up with other scenes that will surprise me.

I guess you would call it planned chaos.

chose your own way

Note that this is how I do it.  You may chose to do things differently; say how in the comments.

 

Wil Wheaton and Not Writing for Free

I won’t commit idea theft myself, so Wil Wheaton‘s original post is here. Here’s an opinion on Slate.

English: Wil Wheaton at a San Diego Comic-Con ...

English: Wil Wheaton at a San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Guild in July 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I agree with both views. I offer what I write free on this blog; what I’m writing for Exploits of a Midnight Traveler is also free — but no one is being paid for it.

In the case of Huffington Post, however, the site is valued at 53 million dollars. It makes money off the advertising that it sells on every post it puts.

Telling people that it can’t pay them is silly. Saying that it is free publicity and exposure… that’s offensive. Will it offer beads and rags  too?

When someone is making profit from your work, you should be paid for it too. PERIOD. A restaurant doesn’t give away food in return for word of mouth (unless you’re a published food critic); a  non-Olympic athlete won’t play for a team solely out of love for their sport; why, then, is it OK for an artist to work for free?

I write RPG products to make money. My novels will sell on Amazon. I’ll give away a story to help to build up my email list… I don’t write these things without a purpose to benefit to myself.

Free exposure is not it.

Why I’m an indie author

If I was under a contract to a big company, I could only write the books that  I was under contract for. I could write other things, but I’d likely have to sit on them for a different deal,  or have to publish them under another publisher, under a pseudonym.

As an indy, I can publish whatever I want whenever I choose to.

Advantage: indie pub

Independent Truck Company logo

Independent Truck Company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I was under a contract to a big company, I  would be hampered to writing in just one genre, and just one style. If I was signed for one series, I would be forced to write for that series alone. If it was for novels (it often is) I could only write novels and not short stories or non-fiction (the exception being if they help to drive interest to your contracted novels, and if they don’t affect your contract time).

[Of course Steven King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rawlings are exceptions to this rule.]

Indy pub authors, on the other hand, can write and publish whatever  I want and when I want to. I can  start one series, then another, then  put out an unrelated short story or a non-fiction work. I have that freedom.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

People under contract to a big publisher have no control over how their work is presented.

Indy pub authors control every aspect. The cover art is what they chose, as are the fonts (for a hardcopy book; for eBooks it’s still not under your control) and even illustrations inside the book .

You can print on demand and/or e-publish on Kindle/Nook/epub/Smashwords/whatever you choose.

[If you pick the  Kindle KDP program you can’t try another for 90 days..]

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

Audiobook? Indy Pub authors can do this at will, and profit from it. Authors on contract can too — if they’re on the contact to get paid for it. Otherwise the publisher might produce one, but all profits go to them.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

To play Devil’s Advocate, there is a big negative: all the costs (art, editing, advertising, etc.) come to you. After your first work sells, you can set money aside for the next one, but that first one may cost a lot.

advantage: traditional pub

Novels in a Polish bookstore

Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one minus doesn’t outweigh the positives though.

 

I’m back (finally)!

I’m still editing the settings on everything here (including the Theme and sidebar, plus my BlogRoll) but I now have most of  the basics installed, and  I can start posting again.

I missed posting the past month. It’s been too quiet in my head.