Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo - now what?

How was your NaNo?

If it was a good month perhaps you’ve got a book, something with a chance of getting published. It still needs fixing, but at least you’ve got something to work with. If NaNo was rough, you may be feeling more dispirited. How, in jut 30 days, could an idea that held such promise fall apart?

What do you do with it now?

Take it to WIFYR, of course.

Either way, a debacle or a work in progress, WIFYR can help it along, especially in the morning workshops.

If your NaNo was great, that story needs to be workshopped. It may be good, but it’s probably not great. Writers need other writers to look it over, offer suggestions, coax the story to maturity. That is what happens in the WIFYR morning sessions. Your story grows.

If NaNo was a flop, same thing. Real, live authors lead these classes. They go through the same struggles as you, so from a writer point of view, they can look at your story and help you to see what it needs. As published writers, they know what publishing world is looking for.

The atmosphere at WIFYR is safe and comforting. Stories are discussed aloud, comments offered in non-threatening ways. Your writing colleagues understand. We know what you’re going through. WIFYR is a chance to talk about writing and come away more informed.

What are the WIFYR morning workshops? They are Monday through Friday, intense, fours hours a day in an MFA-type setting. You have caring people all around you who hope your story succeeds.

That is what the whole WIFYR is about. Growing as a writer.

What are you going to work on at WIFYR next summer?

(This article also posted at

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Count Outline/Discover Your Blessings

by Deren Hansen

I titled this post with an eye to the stereotype that writers are quantitatively challenged (and a nod to the conceit that our approaches to writing are so deeply ingrained that you can have our plots and our pants when you pry them from our cold, dead fingers).

It's too bad that we who are tellers of tales are supposed to wear our innumeracy on our sleeves. There was a time when telling and counting were practically synonyms: the teller at the bank tells the money, and another way to tell a story is to recount it.

It's all the more unfortunate, as we're about to celebrate a day of national Thanksgiving, that we've lost the connection between counting and telling because most of us now respond to a request to count our blessings with an enumeration: food, shelter, clothing, etc. But gratitude without context is a thin broth. What makes tomorrow's holiday a hearty feast is the stories we share with friends and family to explain why we are grateful.

Some, perhaps many, of you are in the final, desperate days of NaNoWriMo. And if you're not fretting about how you get your word count in tomorrow you may be tormented by rejections or prone to attacks of anxiety over the ceaseless change in the publishing industry. Regardless of the demon or demons with whom you're on a first name basis, I invite you to stop entertaining them for a few moments and consider the concrete ways in which your writing has blessed you — not the ways in which you hope it might bless you, but the tangible benefits you have realized from being willing to try to put words on the page in something more than a slapdash fashion day after day.

For my part, the discipline of taking a nebulous idea and rendering it clear and concise with well-chosen words has been invaluable.

We'd love to hear any stories of writing blessings you'd care to share.

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at

Monday, November 25, 2013

What Does this Phrase Mean to You?

By Julie Daines

Since I still have a long ways to go to finish NaNo, I'm going to keep this very short.

When I was in New York last week, I visited the New York Public library--you know, the famous one with the two lions out front.

Anyway, I saw this phrase engraved above one of the doors:

Translation: "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."

Rather than give you my interpretation, I'd love to hear what you think this means. Or, more specifically, what does this mean to you? Because I think we all take a different meaning based on our own life's experiences.

So take a break and let your mind go somewhere else besides your NaNo story. Think about why you read. Why you write. And tell me, what does this mean to you?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A start

The end is near and I know I’m not going to make it.

NaNoWriMo 2013 is heading into its last week. I’ve been working on my piece but it won’t be completed by next Saturday night. Nor will it be 50,000 words, but I will have a story.

It should be about two thirds finished when NaNo expires yet what I have now I feel very good about. Unlike my others, this story has been outlined. Actually, it is still being planned out. The likes of KM Weiland have touted the advantages of outlining.

Plotting is a time consumer, that is for sure. Trying to plunk down 50,000 words in a month is tricky in and of itself. Sharing that precious time with an off-task not actually writing can be discouraging. But the is big pay off is big.

Sitting at the keyboard with a clear understanding of where the story is to go allows a confidence to write. Fingers tap away heading in the general direction of the outline, yet there still is room for the story to find it’s own way and take those unexpected turns to surprise the author as it should the reader. My pantsing days are over.

A nice addition to the outline was a return to story basics. As I plotted the book, I took more time with a little research into simple story structure. A Google search for “3 act structure” produced a lot. There are articles on it, or clicking on the images tab pulls up graphic representations of the concept. With multiple interpretations of the concept one can quickly grasp an understanding with a minimum of effort. The story structure has been around since the ancient Greeks began entertaining.

I’ve thrown down 20,300 words and won’t be able to double it in a week. Yet with a basic understanding of story structure and a little time dedicated to plotting, by NaNo’s end I will have the start of a solid novel. By June, I should have something to workshop at WIFYR.

(This article also posted at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoCrunch: Frog-Marching the Muse

by Deren Hansen

Ok, the month is two-thirds gone and the words are piling up about as well as sand.

The muse who launched you into this NaNoWriMo insanity with a seductive promise of a great idea was last seen somewhere on or around November 8th, when she said something about a lunch break.

What can you do to get your muse back on the job?

Robin LaFevers, in a post on Writer Unboxed, suggests that if your muse won't dance to your desk unbidden, sometimes you have to frog march her in so you can get some work done. She offers "Eighteen Tips to Get Words on the Page:"

1. "Write in short bursts of 20-30 minutes or 500 words.

2. "Take a short 10-15 minute walk. Bring a small notebook or recording device.

6. "If your antagonist is not a POV character, consider writing a few short scenes from his POV anyway, just for your own benefit. Knowing what your antagonist is doing, thinking, planning often helps you understand what needs to happen next and what your protagonist will need to do."

7. "Repeat the above for the love interest, especially if they are not a POV character. It gives you a better feel for the push/pull of the relationship dynamics."

Read the rest here.

What do you think? Can you use any of these tips to harness your muse?

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at

Monday, November 18, 2013

When a child stops reading, imagination disappears

This is a short, cute video. It's a plug for the Literacy Foundation but I thought the video fit with writing children's stories. The world still needs writers to write the books and readers to read them. There is always room for more fairy tales.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Midway NaNoWriMo

How has NaNo gone? We’re at about the halfway point and I’m at about 15,000 words, 10,000 short. It took me a while to get out of the gate, but I had a big day yesterday and posted 2700.

A writing style problem/obsession for me is getting that first chapter or two just right. Not just the storyline and character arc set-up. The voice has to feel right. It took a couple of versions until I found what works and now that is carrying me through. One of the NaNoWriMo pep talk emails talked about the mid-NaNo blues in which the excitement of a new story has worn off and the “the end” is too far off. The author said that if you fall behind the daily word goals, it’s easy to make up with a big day or two. Seems she said 10,000 words big day with 3000 words here and 3500 words there throughout the day. Whatever.

Outlining continues to be instrumental. At each chapter’s start, I chart out what needs to happen. I can even project ahead and add scenes for a chapter or two down the road.

Another thing that hit me was a free write. Ann Cannon at WIFYR likes the free write idea and has pushed it. I don’t really have a set agenda, like asking how would your mc react if such and such were cast in his direction, as Ann would do. I start typing something like how I think the story is going and what it needs. It is ten minutes of non-story writing, but it seems to loosen the juices for actual writing time. I’ve done it for a few days and have gone a day or two without.

And breaks are important. I’ve managed three or more writing hours the last few days. I can’t sit in one place for too long, so I pull the laptop and the lap to various couches and chairs and whatnot around the room. Got a timer on the phone that goes off every hour (actually set for 1 hour and 1 minute) at which I pick up and change positions. I try to give myself five minutes or so. I pace around the place, bug the dogs because I need a diversion, or get something to drink.

Whatever works for you, hope it is working. Happy NaNo-ing.

(This article also posted at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Something Else to Worry About: Writing for Audio

by Deren Hansen

Continuing my theme of tormenting those working on NaNoWriMo, here's something else you need to worry about as you write: writing for audio.

Thanks to Audible's Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), if you retain the your audio rights it's now easier than ever to have your book produced as an audiobook. As with any new medium, however, there are things to take into account if you want your work to translate well.

Mary Robinette Kowal, who is both an author and a narrator, recently shared her tricks for writing fiction for audio:

"I try to keep my cast of characters in a given scene small and of disparate type.  It’s hard on a listener to distinguish between a lot of different voices, even if the narrator is Mel Blanc. Just listen to Writing Excuses, even with four different people, the guys sometimes bled together. When I’m teaching people how to give an effective reading, I tell them to look at their selection and make sure it’s something suitable for being read aloud. Not all fiction works well in audio. The side effect of this for print is that I’m more likely to write a diverse cast, instead of having ten white men of the same age in a room — and seriously, I had to narrate that once. It gives me more distinct characters.
"I avoid parentheticals. Seriously… those look good on the page, but when you are trying (this is really just a problem with audio, although even on the page it can create confusion sometimes) to connect the end of a sentence to a beginning that the reader has forgotten (they always forget) it can get complicated to make understandable and (go ahead and try to read this aloud (also ask me in a bar about the two-page nested parenthetical I had to read)) you’ll see what I mean.
"I avoid homophones. Take the word “moue” for example. It’s a lovely word on the page and describes a flirtatious pout. But there is no way to read, “She gave a small moue in reply” as anything other than, “She gave a small moo in reply.” Believe me. I’ve tried."

This is only a small sample of what Mary has to say, but it's well worth your time — unless you're convinced your work will never be narrated — to read the entire article.

[Good luck not worrying about homophones when you get back your writing.]

Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Effects Of NaNoWriMo on the Brain

This is your brain:

This is your brain during NaNoWriMo:

These middle weeks of NaNo are the hardest. You've gotten off to a great start, but now you're bogged down in the middle, not sure what should happen next. Or maybe you've got it all outlined but suddenly the outline isn't working and you have to rethink the plot. Or maybe your fingers are just itching to go back and start revising that first chapter, but you must be strong and resist.

If you're behind, don't give up, there's plenty of time to catch up. If you're like my crazy friend Taffy and you've already written the full 50,000 words, just keep it to yourself. We don't want to hear about it. 

I've been reading some of the pep talks, and the one thing that really hit me--because I identified with it--was a something that James Patterson said.
 Think it’s hard to write every day during NaNo? Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. Holidays, birthdays, vacations—you name it, we’re writing. The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.
NaNo can seem like an impossible task, but the reality is, if you want to get published and succeed in the business, writing like this must become routine. And if it's not writing, it's editing, or revising, or plotting, or filling out forms for your publisher. It is like a full time job that you have to squeeze into the non-existent cracks of spare time between all your other responsibilities that you actually get paid for.

Now get off the web and get back to your novel. 


If you're still ignoring me and need more advice, see this post for how to succeed at NaNo--especially if you're a pantser, or this post for some laughs and more advice.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


I’ve been NaNo-ing all week. I feel good about my progress even though behind on word count. After a week, I’m at 4829 words. That’s about three day’s worth at the average count of 1,667 words daily.

I’ve come to value the process of outlining and now am outlining on the fly. Its been interesting. Some of my actual writing minutes have been sacrificed for organization. That has paid off with productive time on task.

Then on Sunday and Monday, in the presence of that after-the-fact plotting, I spent way too much time perfecting the first chapter. This is NaNo with it’s write fast, fix it later mentality. Yet, I need to make sure my story gets off on the right foot. I’m not revising the beginning as much as adding missing things. Not all of it will be kept for the final book, but I’m still using it for my word count.

As the novel evolves, I keep updating my premise statement. Both K.M. Weiland and John Truby espouse the wisdom of so doing. The premise statement is the essence of the book, a single sentence that conveys the plot and theme. Weiland includes it in her Outlining Your Novel:Map Your Way to Success book and Tuby in his The Anatomy of Story. The idea is to nail down the whole book in a sentence or two.

As I work with the concept, it has helped me see what the book really is about. From there, I can see where characters are at the beginning and where they’ll be at the end. I realize that some things should be in place before the book begins. Others are inciting incidences that move the characters/story arcs. This allows me to use my first chapter to set the rules for “normal” in this world and lay out the incident that knocks things off kilter. As I have several things going on, I can plot out the each story or character arc.

Now I’m taking this premise device to each chapter. Before I sit to write, I try to see which of my premises next need to be advanced. Then I set chapter goals to deal with them.

It has taken time, but I can’t emphasize enough how a little organization up front has given me clear direction for how and where the story leads. I’m still new at this outlining thing and being pressed for time I can not give this story the full outlining it needs. NaNo is here and that means we tap, tap, tap those keyboards to churn out the daily word quota. Once I get the story set-up, it should run at a good clip.

That’s the theory, at least.

(This article also posted at