Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Schedule for Making Nano Much Easier

For all you NaNo writers, here is a schedule for the amount of words that you should be writing on a day by day basis:

Day 1: 1, 667 words Day 15:25,005 words
Day 2: 2, 334 words Day 16: 26,672 words
Day 3: 5,001 words Day 17: 28, 338 words
Day 4: 6, 668 words Day 18: 30,006 words
Day 5: 8, 335 words Day 19: 31,673 words
Day 6: 10,002 words Day 20: 33,370 words
Day 7: 11,669 words Day 21: 35,007 words
End of Week One! End of Week Three !!!

Day 8: 13,336 words Day 22: 36,674 words
Day 9: 15,003 words Day 23: 38, 341 words
Day 10: 16,670 words Day 24: 40,008 words
Day 11: 18,337 words Day 25: 41,675 words
Day 12: 20,004 words Day 26: 43,342 words
Day 13: 21,671 words Day 27: 45,009 words
Day 14: 23,338 words Day 28: 46,676 words
End of Week Two!! Day 29: 48,343 words
Day 30: 50,000 words
End of Week Four !!!!


All right, gang, see how easy it is? Well, okay, so I'm kidding. No one ever said it would be easy. But how about some more tips for making it as easy as possible?

1. Have plenty of caffeine on hand. French Vanilla is wonderful, it tastes great, has a touch of sweetness, and doesn't need cream or sugar to dilute its ability to keep you awake.
a. Don't drink coffee? Okay, no problem, high caffeinated tea will do just fine. Try Madagascar Cherry/Cinnamon... great flavor and your eyes will be wide open...a little dry, but wide open.

2. At least as important as caffeine is CHOCOLATE! Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate with caramel, mint chocolate, chocolate with really doesn't matter what kind of chocolate it is, it only matters that you have enough on hand to last for 30 days. But it's fattening, you say? Forget about that. Diets and healthy food must go out the window for the month of November. Only high caloric, high energy foods will suffice. You have all the rest of the year to think about healthy eating.

3. Peanut butter and Jelly/jam/preserves...or almond butter, or cashew butter...any will be okay, as long as it's paired with high sugar jam of some kind. Of course, for those of you who are absolutely NOT going to go off your diet the way you're supposed to, you are allowed to use Seven Grain or Whole Grain bread.

4. Pizza: the 'kitchen sink' kind with everything on it except for anchovies. After all, you're going to need sustenance other than the above mentioned snacks, and the wonderful thing about pizza is that it is as good cold and a day old as it is hot and fresh. So as long as you can keep the cat, the dog, the spouse and those pesky kids out of it, one extra large pizza should last for a couple of days.

So the above tips should be taken seriously, and will make a good start come November 1st. If I can think of some more in the next few days, I'll post them, too.

Speaking of meals...lightly tho' we were: Remember that your fairy godmother did not put you on this earth to write a novel in 30 days AND cook...or clean...or do laundry. For this month, frozen meals are in, as are McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's. If worse comes to worst, tell hubby to buy a roasted chicken at the supermarket, get a couple of salads at the deli, and he and the kids can have a feast.

As for 'clean anything,' the dust bunnies have always wanted a place to play, now's the time for them to get out and romp, and if the kids want clean clothes, they know where the washer is.

Well, that was easy! Now are we all set for NaNoWriMo??

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Panic is setting in! What have I done? I have signed up for NaNoWriMo for the very first time. Now why would I do that? I have queries to write, chapters and synopses to get printed, all of these to get out to publishers, my second novel which is historical fiction already begun and 5 chapters written, and I've signed up to write 50,000 words on a brand new novel in one month's time??? And that month includes Thanksgiving, which means at least 2-3 days of no writing at all. I seriously think I've lost my mind.

If I've lost my mind, perhaps some of you have, also. I can't be the only crazy writer around here, can I?? So let's talk about some ways we might be able to lessen the panic, and still get some productive work done.

For those of you who outline...I'm not one of you...doing your outline during the rest of October is a great idea. For those of you who are like me and don't outline, here are some other suggestions.

1. Get Organized!
I put this in red because I am NOT organized when it comes to writing...or anything else, my DH would say. Do you have a specific place to write? A study, a den, your bedroom, the kitchen table? Try to get ONE place for your computer and make it off limits for the entire month of November for anyone else in the family! And if that means eating in the formal dining room, or on TV trays in the living room, , or making hubby and kids watch TV or do homework someplace else, so be it. After all, it's only for a month, anyone can live with that, right?

1a. Outline? sticky notes?:
So okay, it's all going to be in red. Have you outlined your novel? I won't talk about outlines because I hate them, and those of you who do decent outlines already know more about them than I do. And you can outline your novel this month, too.

But I love sticky notes! I have them on my computer, the window, my bookcase, three different places on my desk, one on my printer, two on the lamp shade, and I even tried to put one on Dylan last night, but he ate it.

The sticky notes are ideas that come to mind in the middle of watching TV or doing dishes or cleaning the parrot cages. I run in here, grab a sticky note pad, jot the idea down and stick it...well, any place. I'm hoping this works for the Nano novel as well as it has for my other novel.

2. The Little Devil Who Sits on Our Shoulder and Whispers in Our Ear...You Know, The One Known as Our Inner Critic?
Okay, we've got to get rid of her immediately if not sooner. We are not supposed to critique, edit, or revise during this month. This novel is going to be a rough...very rough...draft. So tell your inner critic to BUG OFF! I don't know...put her in a shoebox and stick her under the bed; stuff a nasty rag in her mouth; put ear plugs in; borrow Pongo's trident and pin her butt to the wall ( and if you aren't acquainted with Pongo, you're missing someone extraordinary!). Do whatever you have to do to shut that critic's mouth for 30 days! Ignore her nasty comments about wrong spelling here, convoluted punctuation just doesn't matter! For now, anyway.

3. Put Some Soft Lovely Music On:
No matter what your musical tastes are, this is the time for soft, lyrical, quiet music. It helps you think without becoming involved in what the music is all about. Try something by Ferante and Teichner, or John Tesh, or some of the "mood" music you find in stores like Target or K-Mart. No rock n' roll ( too loud), no opera ( too dramatic), no country( too sorrowful), just something quiet and peaceful even if it's not what you normally listen to.

4. Planning Our Time to Write:
None of any of these suggestions, or those on any other sites, are going to make any difference if we don't plan time to write. I'm retired, so it is easier for me to plan out time than for most writers, who also juggle outside jobs and family ( kids) responsibilities. So how are we going to do this? We've got to set aside a specific amount of time each day ( or night) to do nothing but write. If that means getting up an hour or two earlier than usual, set your alarm. If it means writing after the kids go to bed, tell your husband it's only for a month, so quit pouting about "no me" time. If it means not watching TV after dinner, either record the programs or just do already know how the majority of them are going to turn out, anyway !

The point of all this is, that for this particular event, we all have to be a heck of a lot more serious, concentrated, focused and determined than usual if we are going to meet that 50,000 word required in 30 days time. And for most of us, because of Thanksgiving, relatives coming, cooking and baking, it's not even a full 30 days. I've never done this before, but people who have tell me that when you finish that 50,000 words you have a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Even though the novel is a rough, rough draft, and even though you will have to go back and edit and revise until you are blue in the face, the fact have written a full novel ( or more than half of one that you can add to) in a very short period of time.

Yes...I can definitely understand that feeling of accomplishment when November 30 rolls around, and we can add our names to the list of those who strived and succeeded.

Are you with me?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This and That

I'm back! The storms are gone...for I'm able to get back on the Internet. The Central Coast of California is a beautiful place to live, with the aquamarine ocean sparkling in the sun, and the rolling hills that turn from pastoral green in the spring to brown velvet in the summer and back to green/gold in the fall. It is wonderful to watch the countryside complete its yearly fashion show, as it shows a different face each year, much like the runway models we see on television.

There are just a few things on my mind today, as I get back into the realm of writing. A little bit of 'this' and a little of 'that.'

First, let's talk about "first lines." This seems to be a big deal in publishing. Remember what you mothers used to tell you when you were only get one chance to make a first impression? That holds very true for things like query letters and fiction, when we're either trying to get the attention of agents, editors, or our kid readers...or all three.

Here are some of the classic first lines in children's literature:

1. "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. ( Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White)

2. All children, except one, grow up. ( Peter and Wendy, by J.M Barrie)

3. It was a dark and storm night. ( A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle)

4. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. ( Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling)

We are told we need a 'hook' to grab the reader's attention and draw them into the story. This hook should give an indication of what is to come, and make them want to keep reading. And this is true of both the first lines of a query letter and of fiction We want our first lines to make the reader ask questions about the story: Who is this character? What is happening here? How is this going to turn out? If the reader is an agent or an editor, we also want them to say: I need to find out more about this story; I am interested in who this person might be or what her story is all about.

How can we be sure that we have intriguing first lines? That's easier said than done, right? One way is to start with something happening that makes the day different from the rest; something that arises from action on the part of the MC, from dialogue between the MC and the secondary character/s, or from some narrative that immediately brings the reader into the story and makes her/him want to ask questions and get answers.

In the novel I just finished, my opening line is: "AJ, why isn't your father ever around any more?" Jaime asked as she applied bright red polish to her toes. What questions does this arouse in your mind? Who is AJ? Why is Jaime asking such a personal question? How is AJ going to answer it? What is happening with AJ's father that he isn't 'around' any more? Hopefully, these and more would be questions my reader would ask, and want to read further to get the answers to.

In my WIP, an historical novel of the Civil War, the first line reads: Whup! Whup! Whup! Screams shattered the morning quiet as the sickening thud of a whip lacerating bare skin snaked through the mist. This first sentence doesn't tell you anything about the MC, but it does make you ask questions, right? Who is this happening to? Why is it happening? Where is it happening? Is there anyone around who is going to stop it from happening? At least, these are some of the questions that I hope my readers will ask.

The point is, opening lines must make the reader either ask questions about that line and where it is going to lead, or it must make her/him feel drawn into the story immediately and want to know what is going to happen from that point on. First lines don't come easily to anyone, but they are possibly the most important line in every storyline we write.

I guess the above was the 'this' and now I'm going to talk about the 'that.' In my last post ( I think it was the last), I said I would talk about how to keep track of non-fiction notes and information.

The Note Card System:

This is probably the system most people use ( I don't, but I'm not as organized as I should be !) Here are the steps that you can use:

The Saber Toothed Tiger: First packet of 5 x 7 cards:

1. Upper left hand corner, put in a code for your subject and the type of source your using, e.g book, internet site, journal article, etc.: let's say for this one its STT: jnl art. ( Saber tooth tiger, journal article.)

2. Upper right hand corner: author of journal article, date of publication, name of article, name of journal article is in, page number/numbers you are using information from.

3. Body of card: put the quote, thought, or text of information used.

You need to use separate cards for each bit of information you gather, and from each source: (a) book; (b) journal article; (c) internet site; (d) magazine/newspaper; (e) historical societies; (f) personal diaries, quotations from historical figures; (g) information from libraries, archives and museums.

Arrange your cards in a card file, with dividers indicating each source, e.g., book, journals, etc. Some people...who are WAY more organized than I am...can actually arrange their cards according to where they think the information will go in the NF they are writing: e.g., 1st page, 2nd paragraph; middle of article; last page, 1st paragraph, and so on. Sorry, that's way too efficient for me !

This card method is probably the most popular, and it is very efficient. I, on the other hand, do something very different. First, I make out my bibliography...and I use EasyBib ( for this, it is easy, it is accurate and it is free. Then I go back to each of my sources and take handwritten notes in a notebook. Then I transfer those notes to the computer, print them out, and write my NF article. Not the most efficient way, I admit, but it's just the way I do it. I'm not suggesting anyone else do it, although I do suggest you use Easy Bib for your bibliography. It sure saves a lot of work on your part.

Hope this has been of some help...see you later!