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1. What Makes Your Sidekick Interesting?

Recently, I've posted about how to make your protagonist and antagonist interesting. Today I'm going to write about a character who never gets as much attention as those two, the sidekick.

First of all, your story might have multiple sidekicks. Both the antagonist and the protagonist might have a sidekick, and they might even have a different sidekick in different scenes. I'm going to focus on the hero's sidekick, his bestie, but what I say applies just as much to other sidekicks.

Have you ever read a story where the sidekick is just an extension of the hero, a helper character who sees the world in much the same way as the protagonist? Of course you have. It happens a lot. But to write a sidekick that way is to rob a ton of potential from the story.

A sidekick, like the protagonist and the antagonist, is her own person. Like all people, she has her own objectives and perspectives. She might be helping the protagonist win the day, but she's doing it for her own reasons. Sure, a big part of it might be loyalty to her best friend, but that loyalty only goes so far. As a person with her own views and needs and wants, she does everything to further her own agenda. Remember, every character has an agenda, and those agendas create conflict.

Just because two characters are best friends and are helping each other doesn't mean they always agree. The best sidekicks are an additional source of conflict. Think of Frodo and Sam, two characters whose affection for each other is almost sickening. They both want to get to Mt. Doom at all costs. And yet, there's conflict between them. As Frodo sinks into ring-induced paranoia, he no longer trusts Sam, and this causes trouble and, more importantly, enhances the plot.

The same is true of Luke and Leia, Harriet and Sport, and many other characters. In fact, the sidekick often seems much like another antagonist.

The sidekick provides help and shows the protagonist other ways of thinking, but at the same time, the relationship is often strained by conflicting goals and differing views. In many stories, the protagonist and sidekick aren't even friends. They might not even like each other. They might be reluctantly traveling the same road.

Remember, stories depend on conflict. There shouldn't be anything in the story, including your hero's sidekick, that does not add more conflict and peril. There is probably no other character who gives you more opportunity to add emotion and heartbreak as the sidekick.

As the hero's life goes out of control, she needs to be steadied by her sidekick. But the sidekick has his own ideas, and is sometimes unable to offer the support. He might even oppose the hero's goals and actions. Best friends, siblings, and spouses all oppose each other sometimes.

One of the most important things to remember as you write is that every character is a person, and every person has his or her own story. That the stories intersect in the one you are telling doesn't mean their individual paths are any less distinct. This is true whether characters appear to ultimately be on the same side or not.

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2. Writers' Conferences

Writers' conferences are so valuable. Some of the best Utah Valley ones are coming up in the next several months.
I just finished registering for the LDS Storymakers conference that’s going to be in Provo in May. I entered the drawing for a manuscript consultation with an editor, kind of assuming there was no way I would get it since I never “win” anything. To my surprise, I found out this weekend that I did get lucky this time, and I need to have 10 pages of my newly-finished manuscript perfectly polished by the beginning of March so that an editor from a publishing company can look it over and critique it.
Ensue panic.
Probably I should do my best to have my whole manuscript polished by May just for the tiny chance this editor will ask to see it. This doesn’t help my panic.
But in the end, this will be great because it forces me to really get my MS edited and consult with the experts that are available to me and force down my pride and my fear and fix those dang things that need fixing.
The value of writers' conferences in general is often that they kick me back into gear. When I’m feeling myself in a lull or when I’m even a little bit ready to just give up, writers' conferences get me excited again. In this case, it’s even giving me a deadline to work for with my manuscript. That alone will be so helpful.

So, I’m excited. This writers' conference is already doing its thing. 

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3. Fried

During the month of November, I was a writing fool. For the last two weeks, there’s been a rebellion.

It was an exciting month, watching a story develop under my fingers on the keyboard. If I had a solid direction for where the story was going, I could put down 600-800 words per hour and could find three or more hours a day to write. The month ended before the story did, and after 50,000 words had been reached. So exciting was this story, I figured another week or two was all it would take to finish.

Then December hit. Admittedly, there were a few items around the house, neglected for thirty days, that needed attention. People included. Yet for some reason I seem to be fighting myself to get back into writing. It’s not writer’s block or anything. It is more like writer’s enough-is-enough, or writer’s take-a-break. 

It is worrisome to me, this lack of motivation. I had a coupe of stories in various stages and with NaNo, now there’s one more. I almost skipped the November writing marathon, just to keep moving on the other two projects. I even found a writing craft book on characterization last month that I became excited about. Now none of them holds my enthusiasm.

I think we writers need to back off every once in a while. I’m trying to give myself permission to let up and take a break, but it is hard.

On the other hand, Carol Lynch Williams talks about acting like a writer, and writers write. Thus to act like a writer, one should plant themselves down at a computer and plunk out words.

So easy to say. Sometimes so hard to do.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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4. Description is also Voice

By Julie Daines

I keep hearing people talk about descriptive narrative as though it's something different from internal dialogue. I suppose if you're writing some kind of literary fiction from an omniscient POV, it might be. But for the most part--especially in children's and YA fiction--it is the same thing.

Interiority and description are the same. It's all in the POV voice. It's all about what the POV character is thinking. Sometimes they're thinking about their feelings and motivations, sometimes they're thinking about what they're seeing/hearing etc.

All of it needs to be written from the mindset of the POV character.

Remember this poem by Wordsworth?

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;

This is good practice to think about description in your own writing. Imagine a huge field of daffodils. Now ask yourself, how would a lonely or depressed person see that field verses an angry person, a betrayed person, or a happy-go-lucky person. Then write the description through their eyes and in their voice.

It's easy to try too hard to write a snarky narrative voice, but then when it comes time for description, wax into an eloquent Dickensesque voice. 

It should be all the same voice. 

All writers struggle with this, so practice and always keep it in mind.

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5. Now what?

It’s over. The annual November writing marathon is a thing of the past. We’re done. 

Almost, at least for me. 

I hit 50K words but I’m not yet done. It was more of a Na3/4NoWriMo thing for me, with a quarter more to go. The final few chapters are done. To muddle through the murky middle melancholy, I jumped ahead, knowing how it was to end, and wrote the ending. Then I doubled back, filling in the story with short summary chapters that helped march the story toward the end. Once the general direction had been established, I went back and expanded on the individual chapter summaries. I’ve still got about ten or so chapters to flesh out.

The question is what to do with it now, other than to finish it? Once it’s complete, then what? 

I suppose there are varying strategies. These imaginary characters have been a major part of my life for the last five weeks. They and their issues are on the brain and I’m very aware of what kind of things need to be resolved. I’m in a groove, the keyboard is tapping, the story is flowing and I’m not sure I want to let that go. Plus, I want to workshop it this summer at WIFYR and it’s not ready for that.

On the other hand, forgetting about the whole thing for a few months is not a bad option, either. Hide it away on a flash drive and let it stew in the subconscious and view it later with fresh eyes and a refreshed head.

I’ve ignored the story somewhat this week. I was steady with it and dedicated up through November 30. Once December hit, the urge to keep up with it wasn’t as strong, and other obligations have been ignored for a while. I’ve been more sociable with loved ones this last week. And reading. I didn’t get much of that done in November and have been enjoying that again. 

So, what is your strategy? Make December NaNoRevMo - National Novel Revision Month, or give yourself a break?

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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6. What Makes Your Antagonist Interesting?

Last week, I explained some of the ways to make your protagonist interesting. This time, I'm going to turn the tables and talk about the protagonist. I've written about the antagonist before, but this is a subject that can not be talked about enough. The antagonist is every bit as important as the main character.

In some ways, the antagonist may even be more important. Your main character cannot become sympathetic without an opposing force. The antagonist is more than just a bad guy who tries to stop the good guy. A good antagonist actually pushes the protagonist to action. The bad guys gives the good guy a reason to behave like a good guy.

Because he is so important, your antagonist has to be every bit as real, every bit as well-rounded, as the protagonist. So how do you do this?

The Antagonist is Evil

No. The good antagonist is not evil. OK, he could be, but not for the mere sake of being evil. The antagonist truly believes he is the good guy. Everything he does has a reason, and to him, those reasons are Right. They are Correct. They are Good.

Few characters are as flat and dull as the arch-villain who is evil just because being evil is evil. People aren't like that. Even people with a warped sense of reality (and here's a little secret: we all have a warped sense of reality, shaped by our own histories and imperfect perceptions), do things for a reason.

There are truly evil actions, and your bad guy might do some of them. But we humans have an almost unending supply of rationalizations for our actions. If we're honest, we recognize that sometimes the way we rationalize our actions is often, at best, flawed, and at worst, just plain delusional.

Just like you want your good guy to have flaws, you need your antagonist to have positive characteristics. In some stories, the reader might even start to wonder just which character is the good guy and which is the bad guy. The line doesn't have to be a thick one.

A Rebel With a Cause

Your good guy is on a mission, a quest to accomplish something. The same is true of your bad guy. Your antagonist has his own character arc. Character development is as important to your antagonist as to your protagonist.

So give your antagonist a cause. She wants to accomplish something, wants that more than anything else. And, like your protagonist, she is prepared to do what she has to do to achieve it, because that's what people do when something is of ultimate importance.

Even a bad guy who wants to do something truly awful, like, say, blow up a stadium full of innocent people, does it because he believes it has to be done to achieve the goal. He probably doesn't enjoy doing it, but feels it is necessary and does what has to be done to achieve the end result, which he believes to be for the ultimate good.

Most antagonists act in smaller ways. It's easier to justify the actions of somebody who is competing with your protagonist for the position of Head Cheerleader or who wants the powerful amulet for himself.

A Hero in His Own Mind

Because the antagonist believes what he is doing is the right course, he believes he is the hero. Or, at least, he is trying to become the hero. Your protagonist, who stands in his way, is the villain. My favorite example of this principle comes from politics. No matter what your political position is, you view the other side as wrong. Maybe even evil. The thing we don't always accept is that the other side looks at you the same why. Why? Because each side believes it is right. Each side believes it is the hero, and if they were only allowed to have their way, the world would be a spectacularly better place.

The other side is only "wrong" because you happen to believe in your own candidate. Chances are, you don't admit your own candidate's flaws, or at least not the big ones that the other side tries to highlight. Whether you want to admit it or not, the other side probably has a point, and the criticisms may well be justified. But you're committed to your side, so whatever faults your guy has, the other side is exponentially worse.

It's the same with your hero and villain. Switch to your villain's point of view and he is clearly, obviously, without a shadow of a doubt, the hero. Let your reader see that.

Let your reader sympathize with the antagonist, and understand why he wants what he wants, and maybe even see his point. Maybe you don't want your readers to agree with the antagonist (or maybe you do), but if your reader can sympathize with both characters, the conflict becomes more real, the stakes are raised, and your reader is more engaged.

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7. What Lead Richard McEwan to Write a Children’s Picture Book

What lead me to write a children’s picture book?

Until this Spring, I had no idea I would be writing a children’s picture book. My wife and I had recently moved to North Carolina and since I was mostly retired, many of my days were filled with projects. However, I believe the good Lord decided it was time for me to direct my efforts elsewhere.
Little did I know this was happening until I started to write my first book, and one day, I stopped and reflected on what was taking place…I was actually writing a story! 

Crazy as this may sound, I was taken aback by this realization, but once I thought about it I knew it was God.

I believe the book came together for a number of reasons:
(1) Our grandchildren: we moved to North Carolina to be near two of our three children and our grandchildren whose ages are 4 and under. Their love of books is more than evident whether being read to or pulling a book off the shelf to thumb through it by themselves, studying the illustrations or photography and relating the story.
(2) Our dogs: my wife and I have a great love for dogs in general and, specifically, for own. They are an integral part of our lives. Their antics lead to writing about them. Plus, they are both foster dogs.
(3) Fostering dogs: my wife for years would pick up a stray dog and either find its owner or a new home. With this passion, we became involved with the Animal Welfare League where we lived in Virginia. Over a five-year period we fostered about 50 dogs at our home until each was adopted. The dogs came to us via many sources including AWL, County Pound, and, of course, strays picked up by my wife!
(4) Children learning: picture books are a great vehicle to convey a message even before a child can read. As with this story, it is so important to instill in children at a young age the importance of caring for pets…I believe it is the first step in caring for others. 

It has been a joy to write the book. My hope is this story will encourage children to think about the story when they come upon a stray or lost pet, and with an adult’s involvement, help find it’s home or foster home or forever home.


About the Author: Richard McEwan retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina after a long career in sales, marketing and advertising. He lives with his wife, Christie, and their two dogs, Buddy and River, one cat named Oyster and many photos of foster dogs. He was inspired to begin writing because of his grandchildren's love of books.
The Adventures of Sir Buddy and Mr. Pupples: The Rescue
Written by Richard McEwan
Illustrated by Amy Rottinger
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number: 978-7-61244-307 -2
Genre of Book: Children’s Picture
Places where book will be available for sale: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ingram
Author Website: www.twodogstales.com

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8. Eleven things I learned during NaNoWriMo

1. Fifty thousand is a lot of words to throw down.

2. Not all 50,000 have to be good words. 

3. 50K does not a story make.

4. Notes to self to fix something keeps pesky internal editor guy hidden.

5. Notes to self boosts word count.

6. Pesky internal editor guy is persistent, is a narcissist, insists the rough draft can’t be done without him.

7. I write more words per hour when I know what I’m writing about.

8.Plotting is better than pansting, even if it takes away from writing time.

9. If it’s late and the day’s word count hasn’t been met and I’m tired, it won’t be met.

10. It is possible to slap down a rough story in thirty days, as long as internal editor guy is kept at bay.

11. Fifty thousand words is a lot of words.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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9. What Makes Your Protagonist Interesting?

What makes your protagonist interesting? Sparkling blue eyes? Rippling muscles? Brains? Money? Clothes?

Let's reword that. What makes a real flesh-and-blood person interesting? All of the things I mentioned above could be part of what draws your attention in the first place, but they aren't what holds your attention.

Just like a real person, the most important thing about your protagonist is that you have to care about him. I don't mean you have to like him. Many of the great protagonists aren't particularly likable. Ignatius J. Reilly, Holden Caulfield, Jay Gatsby, Scarlett O'Hara, Hamlet, Humbert Humbert and countless others are deeply flawed, sometimes to point of being straight-up unlikable. But the authors make us care about them. There has to be something sympathetic in the way even "bad" characters are portrayed, so we want to stick with them for a few hundred pages.

Some of the things that make a flawed character sympathetic are described below.

A character who is not very active quickly becomes boring. A protagonist needs to protag. The things that happen in the story have to largely be due to her own actions. Maybe she makes the wrong choices, but those choices raise the stakes. We might not like the character's choices, but we want to know how she is going to get out of her predicament, or whether she even will. She can win or lose, but she has to put herself into situations that draw us in, and then through her own actions, get out of them or deepen the peril. When your main character is always a victim and relies heavily on others to solve her problems, she's not likely to be very interesting, or to grow (or fall) during the course of the story.

A clever character who pulls us along with his unusual or profound way of thinking, his humor, and the unique way he looks at the world can make us care about him, even if his actions aren't always (or ever) admirable.

Relatable Problems
Yeah, OK, your readers might never be expected to slay the dragon, defeat the evil wizard C'na'ard, and make the world safe for the Nine Peoples of Gerkin, but they will care more about your protagonist if he has to face problems they can relate to. Disloyalty, unrequited love, school or work or family that create problems, dealing with a world that is too big to handle, and many other problems can be worked into your story, problems your reader does have to face. If we relate to your character's issues, we care more about spending hours looking at the world through his eyes, watching

Strength of Character

Your character should always take a stand. She should have a goal and do whatever she needs to do to accomplish the goal. The character's journey doesn't need to be a straight line. In fact, it shouldn't be. But it should trend in a general direction defined by her values, whether the reader (or writer) shares the values or not. Her actions don't have to be predictable, but when we get to the end of the story, we should be able to look back and see that the characters actions were consistent with her values.

We have to believe your character can fail. There are so many books, well-reviewed books, that have disappointed me because I never believed the protagonist was in peril. This tends to be a problem in YA fantasy, especially. A "Chosen One" character who is destined to defeat evil is not going to lose, and in some stories, the possibility of failure is never seriously raised. Every dangerous situation is easily defused without any serious peril. The character is perfect for the situation, and, well, let's face it: perfection is not very interesting. While it is unlikely that the protagonist is going to die, failure needs to be around every corner. The odds need to be against him. Death might not be a likely result, but it doesn't hurt if it does seem possible. Failure, however, might be worse than death, and with rising peril and a real likelihood of failure, we can't help but stay interested. It's like the proverbial train wreck we can't stop gawking at.

If your character creates the story through her actions, views the world through somewhat familiar eyes but in a unique and interesting way, is in real danger of failure or worse, and acts in a consistent-but-sometimes-surprising way, we'll be drawn into her world and her life, even if we don't always like her.

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10. Yay or nay

By now you either have given up on NaNoWriMo or know you stand a good chance of “winning” ten days from now.

If you’re in he first camp, I understand, I’ve been there before. For a number of reasons - lack of time, other commitments, stalling of story, loss of confidence, seemingly insurmountable odds of completing it - the wind has been taken out of your sails. You started November enthused and with a killer story idea, but the thing beat you down. That is the nature of this beast. 

However, one not need feel like a failure. Take solace in knowing you’ve got the start of something great. Maybe not the complete first draft, ready to be fine-tuned, you had hoped for, but a beginning. That spark of an idea that once held such promise, though now stalled, still has potential. It had potential then, it holds it now. Give yourself a little time away from it, allow it to stew in the subconscious, then come back to it in January and try again. 

If you’re in the second group, I’m pleased to finally be among you. At least I will have 50K words by then. It doesn’t feel like the story will have been completed. As this is different territory for me, I’m not sure what is required to receive that treasured prize of being allowed to print my own “I Did It” certificate, or a new car, or free trip to Disneyland, or whatever it is they do to reward winners. Again, I’m new here and am not sure the procedure for officially completing the marathon. Something from the NaNoWriMo site tells how to validate and “win.” I personally have promised myself a massage once “the end” is reached. 

There still is a week and a weekend to go, so keep writing. And if NaNo got the best of you, go get your massage anyway. You’ve earned it, too.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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11. Gifts I Want

It's that time of year when everyone everywhere has a list of gifts for your favorite mom, or golfer, or skier. So here's my list of gifts for writers and readers. Mostly these are things I personally want or like to have, so it's pretty self indulgent. I'm sure you can add items to the list.

I'd like to preface my list with this statement: I am all about gifts of experiences or things that can be used up, consumed. I don't need more stuff in my life, but I do want more life in my life.

1. SCBWI membership for your favorite aspiring/published/nationally known children's author or illustrator. Many of us on this blog are SCBWI members, and I'd just like to throw out a couple of wonderful benefits of this membership. First, it's the world's largest and most respected professional organization for children's publishing. It's important to your career to belong to the professional organization for your industry. We have great programs, great publications, resources of all kinds, networking, critiquing, and conferences. You'll make contacts with editors and agents, fellow authors, and learn from the best.

2. Audio books. Personally, I have never outgrown my love of being read aloud to. My mom hooked me early on, and my fourth grade teacher read to us every day after lunch. My husband reads to me every night before bed. When I was in the hospital once, he read me Beatrix Potter stories. Audio books are perfect for car trips, subway rides, plane travel, or just doing the dishes. I have an app on my phone, so I can take my audio books anywhere I go. And when the hubby is out of town, I let my audio book read to me before bed.

3. This one is sort of obvious. Gift cards to bookstores. One of the highlights of our Christmas celebrations is going to the bookstore after Christmas and using our gift cards. I prefer indie bookstores.

4. Send your favorite author/illustrator to a conference. There are dozens of workshops and events close by, or if you want to splurge, send them somewhere like Highlights workshops or Big Sur. Of course, SCBWI conferences are awesome, and there are many. The big ones in LA and NYC every year, as well as regional conferences all across the U.S. and around the world. Go to http://www.scbwi.org/events-home/ to check out all the possibilities. Conferences are invaluable investments in perfecting one's craft and meeting people in the industry.

5. Pens and paper. Yes, I know it's the age of the computer and other electronics, but I have yet to find an author or illustrator who doesn't use the old-fashioned method once in a while. I keep a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down ideas, images, resources, etc. I used to write out all my first drafts in longhand, and even now that I've trained myself to write at the computer, I still occasionally like to write a chapter on paper. It uses a different portion of the brain. If you don't know what your author friend likes, a gift card to an office supply store is also a good bet.

6. Chocolate. I don't think this needs any explanation, except that I prefer the highest quality dark chocolate available.

7. Coffee. See #6.

8. Time. Writers need time. Life is busy and there are a million other things demanding our attention. Give your writer the gift of time. A weekend at a cabin. A babysitter once  a week. An offer to do the dishes every night (or insert appropriate chore here) while he/she writes. A nudge to attend a critique group.

9. Buy your writer/illustrator a critique with an editor/agent through one of the conferences in our area. Learning what professionals see in your writing is so important and valuable.

10. A puppy. So this is personal, but I have to include it. My dogs are always by my side when I'm writing. I have two of them. But I've been asking for a golden retriever for almost a year, and if anyone who loves me wants to buy me one, that would be the best gift. Pets comfort you when the writing isn't going well. They encourage you to get out for a walk when your butt has gone numb from the butt-in-chair work ethic. They are also characters in many children's books. There's a reason for that.

There you have it. A complete guide for gift-giving for the writer. Print it out and give it to your family, or use it to thoughtfully gift your writerly friends. Or hound my hubby about giving me a puppy.

by Neysa CM Jensen
up in Boise, Idaho

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12. My Version of NaNoWriMo

So, I’m not really doing NaNoWriMo. I didn’t start a brand new novel, and I don’t have a goal of writing 50,000 words in a month.
Going along with the spirit of the month, however, I made a goal to actually, finally finish my novel that I’ve been working on for a few years now, and to write at least five days a week (which I don’t usually do).
Guess what? I’ve done it! I “finished” my novel last week and I’ve written five days for each of the two weeks this month. I say I only “finished” it because I kind of hate the way I wrote the ending. Endings are so hard, that I probably would have put off actually ending it for a long time if I hadn’t been pushing myself this month, so that was a huge success in and of itself for me.
Which is another thing—though I have finished novels before, I have always been too intimidated to go back and overhaul the whole mess of what I wrote to try and turn it into something decent. Another part of my goal this month was that if I finished my novel before the month ended, I had to spend the rest of the month editing as much as I could. I’ve already started doing that, and after my years of intimidation, I’ve discovered I really like editing. It’s addicting. One night I got so involved in it I didn’t realize how late it was getting until I looked at the clock and realized my husband had already been in bed for two hours. And even then I had a hard time stopping. I’ve discovered that editing a rough draft can even be easier than writing the rough draft, I think because I already have something to work with. I’ve been rewriting entire scenes and writing way more words per day than I was before. Who knew?
Moral of the story: I think this will help me get through a first draft a lot quicker next time because I’ll put less pressure on it to be perfect. I’ll know that rewriting it is actually much easier and more enjoyable than I had always thought. Maybe by next year I’ll even be ready to do NaNoWriMo for real.  

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13. The wall

It’s funny how things change in a week. NaNoWriMo started exceedingly well. Week two came along and it has became a chore.

The wall, the murky middle, the notorious hardest week of NaNo has arrived. Allow me to re-post tidbits and tips to help us all through. 

The first is from Monday’s NaNoWriMo site. I can’t locate the article to credit the author but I believe it came from the local Salt Lake chapter who advised: back up your work. Right now. If you’re on track with 25,000 words or only a tenth of that, it is too much to loose. Back it up now, back it up every other day hereafter.

Gwen Hicks, also from a NaNoWriMo email offered these points:
--Not every thing you write this month will be good, some  of it even bad. The key is to accept that you may disappoint yourself and not live up to your own standards, but the time to nitpick is after its finished. 
-A sign above Ray Bradbury’s writing office advises: “You must never think at the typewriter. You must feel.”
-Stuck? Start talking to yourself - ad-lib dialog, even record it on a sound recorder
-Trapped in a scene? Do a choose your own adventure with several possible outcome based on a charter’s actions.

My operating procedure has been to set a timer and write for an hour, repeating as many times as I can manage. I record the number of minutes for each hour. If I first devote five minutes to figuring out what needs to happen in a scene, my word count goes way up. Know what you’re to write before you write.

Know when to write (and when not to). My word count goes way down at night when I am tired. Some people fight through it and struggle on. I merely waste time when I should have given up and gone to bed. Know when you are most productive and when you are not, then plan accordingly. 

In different font color, I drop remarks in the middle of my text. Notes to self such as “fix that” or “thesaurus” is my signal where something wasn’t right, or a more precise word is called for. This keeps the internal editor at bay, yet gives him something to go on when I let him out of his cage. It’s quick, easy, and doesn’t in erupt the flow of thought. 

Lastly, Julie Daines on Monday posted tips on this blog that are so good, they bear repeating. They are:
-Let go of perfection.
-Chip away at the story using spare moments of time rather that waiting for a huge chunk of time.
-Keep fingers moving - you need to read what she says about that.
-Be all in - again, Julie says it better than I can summarize here, so follow the link for the complete idea.

It’s half-time. Don’t give up. We’ve still got sixteen days to get our stories to finished. Good luck.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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14. NaNo Pep Talk

by Julie Daines

Now it gets hard. You got your NaNo novel off to a great start, and you know how it's going to end, but what to do with all this middle part?

Here are some tips that help me get through the tricky middle weeks of NaNo:

1. Let go of perfection.

Realize that what you're writing is only a draft--an idea of what your book is about. Don't go back and edit, just keep moving forward. If you write something you don't like, don't delete it, just use the strikethrough function and then move on. That way it still counts toward your goal, you have a reminder for later that this is a part you hate, and you never know--you may end up keeping it later.

2. Chip away. 

We don't all have hours of time, so use every spare minute. Don't wait for huge chunks of writing time, chip away. The words will accumulate.

3. Keep your fingers moving. 

When you don't know what to write next, don't stare at the computer screen with glazed eyes, keep your fingers typing. Drag out the scene you just finished, write a boring transitional scene of your character driving home from work, write anything that will up your word count and keep your mind going.

You'll be surprised at the ideas that will pop into your head while writing a bunch of boring nonsense--just as long as you keep those finger going. Sure it will all get cut later, but in the mean time, the words count and your brain is working.

4. Be all in.

It's easy at this stage to say, "Well, I got off to a good start, I guess that's good enough." Don't give in to that little voice of doubt telling you you can't finish. If you really want to be a successful writer, you have to be all in--not just in November, but all the time. Discipline is how a goal is reached, always.

Being an author means writing. It means hard work. And it means meeting your goals and deadlines. NaNo is good practice for discipline.

Good luck to all you NaNoers this month!

Share some of your tips on how you are succeeding.

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15. One week down, three to go

How goes NaNoWriMo? Hope it is going well. 

At the risk of being bombarded with rotten tomatoes or having my house egged, mine is going well, remarkably well. I’m above 15,000 words and we’re only a week into it. My story has legs and the middle doesn’t appear too murky.

The key, I believe, was the planning I banged out in October. I had a few ideas floating around, but wasn’t sure how to bring them together. I looked back over writerly advice that abounds on the internet. Somebody, I think it was John Grisham, says the first thing he writes is the ending. Super simple and super smart. When I determined how the story was to end, those other ideas just fell into place. 

The next savvy bit of advice appeared right before the write-a-thon began and I snatched it up. The NaNoWriMo site is helpful and sends out tips and encouraging pep talks. Our ML, Safaia, stressed, a week ago Friday, importance of keeping up on the word count. Says Safaia, “Your life will be so much easier if you make that 1,667 words every day. I usually advise that if you can get a buffer, write 2,000 instead of just 1,667, then you'll have something to fall back on for when real life inevitably comes in and kicks your butt.” I adopted that philosophy and pushed for the 2,000. Only one day I didn’t make it, the evening I was bleary-eyed and dog-tired and only could manage 1,500 before sleep took over. I made up the next day with 2,500. 

So, congrats. We’ve made it to the quarter mark. The nice thing about NaNo this year is it started on a weekend and ends there, too, a long weekend for some of us.

Best of luck with it.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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16. Characters and Emotions

One of the most challenging aspects of learning the writing craft, to me anyway, has been how to describe and depict the emotions a character feels. It's simple to just tell the reader: Elliot felt mad. Not good writing. How to make the reader feel the mad, the anger, the heat of it. Some of my best writing teachers have suggested using physical sensations to describe the emotion, since most of us feel emotions in our bodies. I find that advice useful, but it takes time to develop. When I'm writing an emotion, I stop and try to feel it in my own body and then try to get that feeling down on the page.

Recently, I came across this telling graphic depiction of the areas in the body where emotions are felt:

Wow. I think every writer should print this out and post it above your computer. Look at anger, for example. It's all in the upper body, especially in the jaw and hands. And in the heart area. That's why phrases like "harden the heart" are part of our lexicon. But of course, as writers, we don't want to rely on cliched expressions to do the work we should be doing.

I find this graphic so interesting. Disgust is mostly in the throat. Depression is a deep dark whole in the center of your body. Shame seems mostly expressed in the eyes. I wish there were many more of these images to fit more emotions.

However, we all have bodies and emotions, so start mapping out for yourself. Observe those around you. This is one of my favorite games: watch people interacting and try to predict what their emotional states are even without hearing what they're saying. You can do this with the TV muted as well, although I prefer watching real people in their real lives. Notice how other writers do this well. You may not want to steal their fabulous phrasing, but you can learn from their unique take on a time-worn description.

I am inclined to use every moment as writerly research, so use any situation you are in to track emotional responses. How are people at a funeral expressing their grief in their bodies? How about during a family quarrel? What about driving on a dangerous stretch of road in the winter--white knuckles, right? But that's cliche, so dig deeper.

I would really love to have some interaction in the comments section here. Submit your ideas for describing emotions through bodily sensations. We can all help and learn from each other.

by Neysa CM Jensen
Boise, Idaho

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17. Everybody Has an Agenda

Everybody has an agenda. We all have desires, hopes, and dreams. We all have principles. We all have goals, whether we formalize them or not. We all have a background and a historical perspective that shapes our actions and our outlook. In our interaction with others, we are at least somewhat aware that the person we are interacting has views and goals that may or may not be the same as ours.

Even the people we love, the people we support, and the people we usually agree with are individuals with their own way of thinking. Every interaction we have is colored by the perspectives and viewpoints of all people involved.

How often have you argued with somebody or watched two people argue when both sides are saying basically the same thing? That happens because we are all individuals and we each have our own agenda, and to some extent, we recognize that our agendas don't always agree, even when the points we are trying to make are the same.

So why should the characters in our stories be any different?

If you want your characters to ring true, they must each have their own world view, their own wants and needs, and their own goals. Their own agendas.

Characters on the same side take that position for their own reasons. Characters on opposite do the same thing. Your protagonist and antagonist might seem like enemies, and since your story is told from the POV of the protagonist (probably), the antagonist may seem evil. But from his point of view, he's probably taking his position as a matter of conscience, because he thinks it's the right thing to do. From the antagonist's point of view, and that of his followers, the protagonist is the bad guy.

But agendas are not limited to main characters. Every time a character appears in our story, even in the most minor of roles, we need to consider what that character wants. Maybe we don't need to create a detailed character analysis of our most minor characters, but we do need to know what each character hopes to achieve. Each character has a life outside the story, even if we don't know anything about it.

Too often, we write a character out of convenience, to fill a story need, without thinking about that character as a real person with hopes and dreams of her own. Usually, when we read and come across a character like that, we're unsatisfied. But still we write them.

Each person in your story world is there for a reason. Not just your reason, to fulfill a story need, but a reason of his or her own. Each character wants something out of his interaction with your other characters or your setting, or whatever he is there for. Even if the character is there solely to offer support to another character, he is offering support for his own, usually selfish, reasons. Even two characters who agree can have agendas that create conflict, and conflict creates story.

So remember that as you write. Every time a character is in a scene, consider why that character is there and what he or she hopes to get out of it. This is one of the most effective ways to turn characters into people.

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18. Ready. Set. Go.

If you are reading this and participating in NaNoWriMo, shame on you. Quit procrastinating and get your 1667 words in. Come back when you’re finished.

With the stroke of midnight, NaNoWriMo has arrived. The local Salt Lake region had a virtual kick-off last night. At 11:30 they gathered in a chat room and hung out until the official start, at which point those late nighters got started. Not me. I was in bed energizing for a decent start this morning. 

The NaNo site offers support and encouragement along with some planned events, including write-ins. This is when reclusive writers join other solitary writers in a central location, laptops in hand, and ignore each other and write. There are different locations throughout the valley, but they will occur every Saturday at either the City Library or City Creek Harmon’s store from 2-5pm. Checking the NaNoWriMo site would be the best way to know when and where write-ins near you will occur. I’ve never attended the write-in sessions. Think I’ll give it a try this year.

The Salt Lake region also plans a Half-Way Write-In and Party on Nov. 14. The write-in will occur at the South Jordan Library and the party happens at The Pie near by. They also have scheduled a Last Chance Write-In for  Nov. 30.  

This blog’s Scott Rhoades offered NaNoWriMo tips on Carol Lynch Williams’ blog, Throwing Up Words. (He also had some advice on Wednesday here for people who can’t participate but still want to get the most out of writing this month.) Scott suggests following a daily routine in which you write at the same time. Whatever works best for you - early morning, late a night, an hour lunch break. You should minimize distractions during the time. Ignoring email notifications and texts are hard. Ignoring the kids is impossible. Family obligations can’t be put off for 30 days, but if you can get your family to leave you alone during your set writing time, then you can resume your normal role with them afterward. Scott also advises to take breaks. That could mean write for an hour, rest for five minutes repeat. Again, find something that works for you.

The only other thing I can add would be to know what you’re going to accomplish before you sit down at the computer. Spend the first five minutes of your day jotting a quick description of the scene you hope to write. Those five minutes will be returned in greater productivity. 

Other than that, the rest is up to you. Good luck to all.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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19. NaNoWriMo Tips to Success

By Julie Daines

With NaNoWriMo looming in the very near future, I thought I'd share a few tips that have helped me. If you know me at all, you know I'm a huge NaNo fan. All of my published books are NaNo projects. When I NaNo, I'm in it to win it.

So this Monday and on my next post--on the 27th, I'll put some quick NaNo tips on the blog.

1) Make it work for you. Advice on how to succeed at NaNoWriMo is flooding the internet this time of year. Sift through it all and find what works for you. If you try to force yourself into a method that doesn't work for you, you will have a hard time succeeding.

2) Plan ahead - even if it's just getting to know your characters. If you're an outliner, great, outline as much as you can, even if most of it doesn't end up in the book. (During Nano you have to keep your mind open and not get stuck trying to stick to an outline that's not working.)

If you're not an outliner, at the very least, do some serious preparation in getting to know your characters. The better you know your characters, the faster you can write because you will know what they would do in every situation. You will know their desires and objectives. You will know how to raise conflict and create story by denying them those desire and objectives. It will help with character arc.

Get your research done ahead of time. Research is a great way to generate ideas for your story, so do as much ahead of time as possible.

3) Be accountable.  Tell everyone you are doing NaNoWriMo in November. That way they'll ask how it's going and you'll have to answer. Give them an opportunity to cheer you on. Join online or local groups of NaNoers that have places to post your word count. Do word sprints with friends online. Go to NaNo write-ins. Let your competitive nature give you a motivational edge.

4) Adopt a new mindset.  It's easy to spend years writing a novel, so for many, the thought of writing one in 30 days is an insuperable barrier. But not if you change your mindset. It's been said that writing a first draft is like shoveling sand into a sandbox that you will use later to build a sandcastle.

So it is with NaNoWriMo. Don't expect anything but a very rough, very detailed outline by the time it's over. But once you get your butt in the chair and write without any inhibition, you will be amazed at what you can do. It's easier to keep track of plot, easier to delve deep into your characters because you spend so much time with them. No editing. No fear.

5) Just do it. Excitement and passion will get you started, but you'll quickly find that it is discipline and determination that carry you to the end. Don't get behind. Try to get ahead in word count as quickly as possible. Have a cushion. Kick spelling, grammar, finding the perfect word or the perfect metaphor out the door. Dedicate yourself to getting the backbone plot out in those 50K words. Then look forward to January to start making it perfect.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share or questions about NaNoWriMo?

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20. Writing Without Pants

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am on a four-week sabbatical from my writing job, and of course, I'm spending it writing. I'm now in my fourth week, and it has gone very well. So well, in fact, that I have been able to start a new project.

Usually, I think about a new story for months, even years. Not this time. I'm working on a story I've been thinking about for about a month.

What that means is, I don't have a plan. I have a concept and setting and a character type, and that's about it. In the past, when I've started writing, I've had a character and some major plot points. I've known more or less where I want the story, what I want it to be. I don't really outline, but I write a brief summary of the story as a way of thinking through it.

This time, I'm totally pantsing it. Some prefer the term "discovery writing." That's not a bad term, but it doesn't seem to fit. I feel more like I'm building a house by putting up random walls in random places without even considering a foundation and hoping that eventually they'll become a dream house. I'm not even sure all those walls are on the same lot.

They call it "pantsing," but there's a constant fear that it will end up more like that dream where you're walking around school or work or wherever and discover you're not wearing pants.

To be sure, I am discovering things. Around 30,000 words in and I have a better idea who my main character is and what some of his relationships are. I still don't really know what he wants. I'm starting to feel little twinges about what he might want and what his character arc might be. Weird things are happening to him, and I know how that ended up happening, but I don't know why or what he's going to do about it.

In a way, I guess I'm doing my own mini Nano. Just getting the words down, building scenes that may or may not survive, and will definitely not survive in their present order. As I write, I learn more about some aspects of what's going on, but rather than going back to fix what I've already done, I just keep plugging away.

I don't know how this will turn out. It's frustrating. I've never written without at least a vague idea of a direction, and I don't think I like it. But this week, while I still have pretty much as writing time as I want thanks to a very supportive wife and family, I'm just putting down words, about 2,000 a day.

The words are flowing, they're just flowing in all directions over a flood plain rather than in a controlled channel. It's a strange way to write.

But as long as the words keep coming, I'll keep letting them. I just hope that eventually, I'll be able to create a livable house that I'm proud of and want to show off.

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21. Critique Groups

If I could give only one piece of advice to those who want to write for children and teens, it would be to find a good critique group and make a commitment to it. I value my critique group more than you can imagine. Some of us have been in it for more than 10 years, while others are fairly new. They are all amazing writers, and as we have evolved, we have learned what works for us. Most importantly, we have learned how to offer really useful and necessary critiques, which is definitely a skill that can be learned and perfected and which doesn't necessarily just happen.

How to find or form a critique group:

One easy way is to check out the SCBWI walk-in critique groups via the web site. These are walk-in groups, so you can simply arrive and check it out. You might find others with whom you'd like to start a regular group.

While on the web site, you can also contact one of our region's critique group coordinators to get their help in finding others near you.

Attend local writing events, including SCBWI meetings and conferences, where you might meet others to form a group or others who are looking for a new group member.

Post on the SCBWI Utah/southern Idaho Facebook page and see if others want to form a group with you.

How do critique groups work?

There are several logistical choices available to a group.

PLACE and FREQUENCY: Some groups meet weekly, others monthly. Some are online groups. The group might have to try different meeting options to find what works best for that unique group of people. My critique group meets in one another's homes. I've been in other groups that meet in a public place or the home of just one group member or a mentor.

MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSION: I've seen this issue handled dozens of ways. In one group we brought several copies of our submissions to the meeting, where each person would receive a copy to read along as the author read out loud. This was fun for me, as I love being read to, but it had some limitations as far as critiques. Reading aloud took up much of our meeting time, and the critiques usually weren't very in-depth, as the readers never had time to ponder or reread the piece. My current critique group sends in 1-2 chapters (we are all working on novels, so this works for us) about a week before the group meets. It is up to each group member to read all the submissions before coming to the meeting. Then we use our meeting time more efficiently, as we jump right into critiques. Some groups do only a few pages of each manuscript each time, while others will do large chunks. How you handle this depends on a lot of factors, such as how many people are in the group, how much each person is writing between meetings, and how much time you have during a meeting. My group meets on Saturday evenings, so we can take more or less time if we feel like it. A group I used to be in met on Wednesday evenings and had only two hours to get through about eight manuscripts, so we were very focused and limited.

NUMBER OF PEOPLE: I think the ideal size of a critique group is somewhere between 3-8 people. More than that is just unwieldy in terms of having enough time to give each person a useful critique. You want at least three people so you have a diversity of opinions. I value the varied opinions of my critique group members, because if they ALL agree, I am pretty certain what needs to be revised. And if they don't all agree, I can pick and choose which approach I might take.

HOW TO CRITIQUE: This is the crucial piece. Some people like to focus on commas and spelling. That's not critique. I suggest focusing on questions. If something brings up a question for a reader, that is useful information for the author. If you're writing a mystery, those questions may be exactly what you're going for. On the other hand, maybe you thought you were being really clear, but the critiquers' questions indicate you need to do some revising to get at the clarity you want. Another way to look at the big picture is to think about the main elements like character, setting, plot, world building, etc. Sometimes it's fun to bring some useful exercises or information from any conference or workshop you've attended and focus on that element in all the manuscripts. The "sandwich" critique is always a nice way to approach a work: say the things you like in the manuscript, then concentrate on problem areas, then end with more nice things.

CHOOSING/ADDING MEMBERS: Our critique group is straightforward and sometimes ruthless. We are all veteran critiquers who are used to the give and take of brutal critique (not mean or harsh, but just absolutely honest), and not everyone is up for that. Some people have less thick skins and require a softer approach. We screen any potential new members to make sure they are up for our kind of blunt critique. If everyone can be honest about what they are ready for, it helps. I find it's also helpful if all the members of the group are writing in the same genre--such as picture books or YA. One magazine writer in a group I used to be in felt like her two pages each month versus everyone else's full chapter was just not a fair give and take. She was not the best fit for the group.

My best advice is to find a group of fellow children's writers and jump in. Be patient with each other and with the process as you find your way as a unit. If you feel like you don't know what you're doing, maybe occasionally bring in a more experienced author for some mentoring, or do some research. There are plenty of books on starting critique groups. Attending conferences and workshops will also teach you skills that will help you improve your critiquing skills.

by Neysa CM Jensen
in Boise, Idaho

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22. Outline quickie

NaNoWriMo is coming.

Pantsers will jump into a brand new story with merely an inkling of an idea. They can stop reading this post right now. Plotters should have started a few months ago. As a born-again plotter, I need to go into the month with more than just a notion. And, as a person whose been busy the last few weeks (haven’t we all), I need something quick.

Remembering a recent Writer’s Digest article, I pulled it up. It is called “7 Steps to Create a Flexile Outline for Any Story” and written by K.M. Weiland, a plotting guru.  

The seven steps are:
1. Craft your premise
2. Roughly sketch scene ideas
3. Interview your characters
4. Explore your settings
5. Write your complete outline
6. Condense your outline
7. Put your outline into action

KM uses this approach in a more drawn out fashion. She may spend as much as six months filling three notebooks to complete step 2. We’ve only got two weeks. My goal now is to slap something down, taking the rough ideas thats been bouncing around in the head for a while. The following is my interpretation of Weiland’s suggestions, watered down for quick application to your NaNo story. Go to the article for complete details.

1. Craft your premise
Weiland and John Truby advocate developing a strong premise, the basic idea of the story. It should answer these questions:
-Who is the protagonist?
-What is the situation, the hero’s personal condition at the beginning? How will that condition be changed by the hero himself or the antagonistic force?
-What is the protagonist’s objective? What moral choices will they have to make to gain the objective?
-Who or what is the opponent that stands in the way of the hero achieving their goal?
-What misfortune or disaster must the hero overcome?
-What conflict will arise from the MC’s reaction to the misfortune? What is the logical flow of cause and effect action throughout the story?

2. Roughly sketch scene ideas
Write a list of the ideas you have thus far for the story. It is not important to have all the details worked out or know the order of the scenes, just record them. I would suggest brainstorming session of possible scenes and events if the story is undeveloped. Weiland says to look back over the list and highlight any ideas that raise questions. Last is to go back and address each of the highlighted questions.

3. Interview your characters
In order for your characters to carry the plot, you will need to know all about them, not necessarily for their hole lives, but as they are when they come into the story. Work backward from the moment they become involved in the plot, at the disaster listed in the premise. What events have led them to this moment and caused them to react to it as they do? There are online resources that have a list of questions, or you may go freestyle, asking each character questions and then allow them to answer.

4. Explore your settings
You will need to intimately know your setting before you begin to write. Scenes can can shift from place to place, but the time and world where your story occurs should be fundamental to your plot.

5. Write your complete outline
Armed with this basic understanding of your story you’re ready to seriously plot your story. Using the ideas listed in step 2, develop a linear timeline, scene by scene, molding the existing ideas into a solid structure. You can be as extensive as you like, writing out a single sentence or something detailed, identifying the key components of each scene’s structure. These include, who the narrating character is, their goal and obstacles to the goal, the outcome and character’s reaction, and the lead-in to the next scene. Watch for possible lapses of logic or blank areas.

6. Condense your outline
As the outline may have a lot of rambling and thinking out loud, condense it down to the main points so that you have something easier to deal with as you write. You may want to write out the scenes on index cards, or do so using a program such a Scirvener or yWriter. 

7. Put your outline into action
Armed with a highly organized plan, you are now ready to write. Begin each writing session by looking over the outline and reading the notes for that scene. Work out any remaining issues before writing.  This is just a guideline to direct the session’s writing. Should an unexpected idea pop up, feel free to pursue it, knowing you can always fall back to the outline if that new venue does not work out.

Okay, that was easy. Now all yew have to do is plug in a story. We’ve got 14 days. Go.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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23. Adding in the History

I’m writing a historical fiction novel, which was such a big, daunting thing to me when I started (and still kind of is sometimes), that I was tempted to make the storyline take place in an alternate universe just so I wouldn’t have to do the research to make it somewhat historically accurate.
Yes, that’s called laziness. I’d always written fantasy before, and the joy of fantasy is you can make up your own reality and no one can tell you it’s wrong. But, at some point I decided it had to be done. My novel wanted to take place in the real world. Still, I decided to write out a first draft before doing any historical research. I didn’t want my story to be defined by my research; I just wanted the research to make the story believable in the time period I was writing it.
What helped me about writing my draft before I researched is now I know exactly what I’m looking for. I made a lot of notes as I went along of things I was unsure about, questions I had about what technology existed at that time, what clothes were in style, what they did for fun, what people did for work, etc. I had vague ideas from things like A Room with a View and Downton Abbey, but sometimes you get really specific in a novel and you don’t want to get it horribly wrong. It’s kind of terrifying sometimes, that that one history expert one day will read what I’m writing and just be horrified at me. So I try.
Now that I’m closing in on finishing my first draft (I think my personal NaNoWriMo is going to be making myself just get that done!), I’ve started gathering some books. Wikipedia only got me so far. My time period is late 1890s-early 1900s England, so the very end of the Victorian era and the very beginning of the Edwardian. Turns out, not the most popular era to write educational books on. It’s been harder than I thought to find the material I want. I don’t know what people did before the days of Amazon and Goodreads, because the library and the bookstore did not come through like I thought they would. Thanks to the internet, I've found some good books and some of them got sent straight to my Kindle.
The Boer War also factors largely into the story line of my novel. It was actually amazing how well the Boer War fit into the story line I had already made up with knowing at all what I was doing beforehand. It’s like it was meant to be. The Boer War took place in Africa, most of the soldiers died of diseases, and it was just a badly planned disaster—perfect for my narrative purposes. Hurrah. But, I found a total of two books at the library on it. A little bit depressing, except that one of them was written by Winston Churchill. Did you know he was a journalist in the Boer War before he was prime minister of England? I sure didn’t.
Some of my history-related questions are getting so specific I may have to go find myself a history professor someday and bombard him with my author craziness. I wonder if he’ll even know everything I want to know. Probably by that point I should figure that no one will know and be satisfied. Then I will have to begin the task of deciding what needs to be included in my story and what will just be exhausting info-dump. I hope that having already written my first draft will help with that too. I’ll just be inserting the info I’ve found where I already know I need it. Wish me luck.

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24. Word count

Even though this is a writing blog, let’s do some math.

Fifty K words for the NaNo November works out to 1667 words a day, about 12,500 a week. The daily count means almost 7 pages of double-spaced text.

I’m in trouble. 

The method I’ve been regular with is a daily timed writing session, with no regard to word count. If I had to guess, I couldn’t. I’ll write on the story, then type notes to myself or scribble them in a notebook. I’m sure it wouldn’t be near a thousand, probably less than 500.

With NaNoWriMo looming, there have been some articles floating around on how to ramp up word count. Then I Googled for other ideas.

Jessica Strawser, in a recent Writer’s Digest article, initiated this query. Juggling work and toddlers, she says it is about finding ways to write in between the times she actually sits uninterrupted at her laptop. One thing she does is use a voice recording app on her smart phone to record ideas that randomly floats into her head.  Scene snippets, dialog, plot ideas, etc., can even be recorded with a hands free device on the drive home from work. Sometime during the day, she emails herself notes about the next scene so she doesn’t go into it cold when she sits to write.

Other articles list things like establishing a writing routine and never vary from that schedule. Some swear by writing in the morning, others must wait until the kiddies fall asleep at night. 

There is the Pomodoro Technique (Google it) in which you set a timer for 25 minutes and work interruption free, then take a 5 minute break, the repeat.

Most writing on the subject confirm Stawser’s idea of having a notion of what you will write about before you sit to type. Rachel Aaron devotes the first 5 minutes to jotting down a quick description of the scene she’s going to write. Aaron claims she has gone from two to ten thousand words a day with her three-tier approach. The first and most important is the knowledge phase. She always spends 5 minutes, never less, sometimes more, writing a stripped down version of the scene; no details, she simply notes what she will write when the time comes to actually write it. This step alone increased her daily 5K. 

Aaron took two other steps to increase her writing. She noted the time and places she was most efficient and built her writing time around those periods. Lastly, she says enthusiasm ups word count. The fun scenes fly by faster than the boring scenes that work up to it. Which leads to, if it’s dull for you to write, what expectations do you have of your reader? 

I am not doing the Rachel Aaron justice with this quick recap. The whole article can be reached following the link below and is pretentiously titled “How I Went From 2,000 Words a Day To 10,000 Words A Day.” 

I’m not sure I’m ready to jump in at that pace. I’d settle for 1667 words. 

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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25. Repost: No NaNoWriMo? Eight ways to participate, sort of

This is a repost from around this time last year (with a few edits), for those of who who are not doing NaNo but want to share in the writing mojo that fills the air this time of year.

Not everyone has the time to participate in NaNoWriMo. Many of us who can't participate wish we could. But just because we can't dedicate that much time and effort to our manuscripts for four solid weeks doesn't mean we can take part in the spirit of the event.

Here, for the NoNaNoWriMos, is a list of eight things we can do to make November an especially fruitful writing month:

1. Dedicate time every day to writing.
Two hours. One hour. 30 Minutes. Whatever you can do. It's not easy for many of us to write every day. But for a month, we could probably do it.

2. Take one day as a solid writing day.
Maybe you can't do it every day, but take a day off from work, or take a single Saturday, and set a big writing goal. 5,000 words. 3,000 words. Whatever is a big stretch for you. Tell your family that you'll be happy to do whatever they need that day, but first you have to meet your goal. Then write until you've completed the goal. That might be a good use for that day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, if you can't set a different day.

3. Revise.
Maybe you don't have the time to write a novel in a month. But you can probably do a revision pass, even if it's not deep revisions. Revising takes a different kind of concentration. I find I can do it in smaller bursts, when I need to devote longer stretches of time to writing my first draft. Revise a page a night. Four or five pages a night will likely get you through most of your manuscript in a month.

4. Brainstorm.
Write down a story idea every day. The ideas don't have to be any good. Ask yourself what if and then add odd situations. If you can come up with 30 ideas this month, chances are good one or two of them will capture your imagination. One of those will spawn your next writing project.

5. Read more.
Don't have time to dedicate to writing? Then read more. Shut off or shut out the TV for a half hour every evening and read. Read something in your genre. Read a classic you've been meaning to get to. Read research material for the story you are working on or planning. Read a book about writing. Read a biography of a favorite writer. Whatever, just read. Reading doesn't require the same intense energy as writing, but it's an important part of the process.

6. Plan your next project.
Even if you are usually a pantser, the process of outlining a story can spark your creativity. Don't worry about the rules of outlining you learned in school. Make a list of plot points. They can be in order or not. You'll probably change the order anyway. Write a rough synopsis.Then start to build it out, adding more detail. When you're ready to write, you'll have the material you need to get started, and you'll probably find you have less writer's block because you know what's happening next in the story. You could even skip around to the scenes that interest you if you have problems with one scene.

7. Market yourself.
Research a new market every day, then send those queries. Even if you spend two weeks researching and two weeks querying, that's probably better than you do most months.

8. Journal.
For one month, keep a writing journal. Keep track of whatever you do each day to work toward your goals, even if it's not actually writing. Let your journal be your slave driver. It feels cruddy to write "I didn't do anything today." It feels really cruddy to write that frequently. Journals don't work for everybody, but give it a try and see if it helps to keep you going.

Maybe you don't have the time or energy or willpower to write a novel in a single month. Or maybe that's just not the way you work best. You can still feed off the writing energy that fills the air in November. Try one of the above, or combine some of them. Whatever you need to do to make November a great month for your writing.

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