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Nov 30, 2012

I Won #NaNoWriMo! Now What?

It's the end of the month, I've met my NaNoWriMo quota and I have the rough bones of a novel complete. Now it's time for me to step back and evaluate the novel I wrote as well as the way I wrote it.

Here's my evaluation about the novel itself:

State of the Draft: I have about half-scriptment and half draft. I would have been fine with just a scriptment, but that would have been only 20,000 words (about one third of the final word-count), so I drafted some of the scenes more fully. The first third and some of the second two thirds are done, pockmarked with scenes in between that are still just outline plus dialogue. About four scenes are outline only.

My Feelings About the Novel: During the month, I read three types of books to help me write the novel. I read books on How To Write Mysteries, books on How To Write Comedy and autobiographies by heroin addicts because of the heroin subplot in my book. I also spent a night staying up late watching both Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream, one after the other. I'd never watched either movie before because I feared they would depress me.

They depressed me.

Even as I was finishing my draft, therefore, I was beginning to re-think a huge subplot in the novel, and feel like I couldn't include it without either (a) dragging down the novel into a really bleak zone, or (b) making light of a subject that deserved a heavier treatment. The humor was supposed to balance this... I wanted a Dark Humor effect, but the humor wasn't coming out strongly enough yet (because the jokes are at the sentence level and I hadn't gotten to them), so I wasn't satisfied with the project.

I had a larger problem too, because the tone for this novel would determine the tone for the other novels in the series I planned (such as September Knight, which I'd also outlined.)

In short, I hit the Hating This Novel stage, and hit it hard.

Does this mean the whole novel needs re-writing, drastic revision or even the trashcan folder? Not necessarily. What it means is that I need a break from this novel. I'll put it aside and read it again in January. Maybe I'll realize it's not as bad as I thought.

Things I Still Like About the Novel:
I will definitely return to this novel and this series. I like the world-building, the ability to use modern slang freely because it's contemporary fantasy (aka "urban fantasy"). I like my character and I want to complete his story.

My Goal:
My goal is to have this series (of either 3 or 4 books) finished by August next year. If I don't (it will depend on when I finish The Unfinished Song series), I will push it back another year. I won't make the same mistake I made with the Unfinished Song and start publishing it before it is completely finished, so if I say I can publish a new book in the series each month, I can keep my word.

Here's my evaluation of the process of writing the novel:

Outlining Works
I admit I was nervous going two weeks into NaNoWriMo with a big fat Zero (0) wordcount. It really paid off in the end though, as I was able to write quickly and even reached one day of 10,000+ in a day (albeit, that was more than 8 hours of work...I worked 6 hours during the day and then six hours during the night). I hope my Tips helped other writers. They definitely did help me.

New Writing Techniques:
I learned a lot about writing a mystery. In the end, I ended up writing about 10,000 words from the point of view of the murderer Off-stage in between the scenes On-stage which will be in the actual novel. I need more practice with mysteries, but this was a big step for me.
Same goes for comedy writing. I always wanted to know how to write "funny" but bought into the belief that it had to be innate. Turns out that comedy, like most things, owes more to hard work than natural talent. Yay! Score another point for the naturally talentless!

Reading While Writing
I also read a lot of books during November. I read about 15 nonfiction books and 5-6 novels. (I should write a list.) This is surprising to me, since up until now, I've found it hard to write and read heavily at the same time. I think the secret is that I read a lot early in the month, when I was outlining, and what I read composted nicely in my mind to help me during the writing itself. What didn't work as well was reading during the heavy writing days... especially not reading heroin addict autobiographies. Although perhaps there's never a "good" time for that.

Blogging While Noveling
I was also pleased that I was able to keep up my blog while writing my novel. The secret was that I was writing about writing, so I always had something to say. I still don't think writing about writing is probably the most interesting thing to blog about from a readers' perspective, but if it turns a blog from a distraction into a helpful tool of inspiration, the trade off is worth it. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up 2 blog posts a day, but I will not dismiss blogging as "goofing off" anymore. What worked best was writing the blog posts ahead of the day I posted, however, not rushing to get a post out on the same day. (As I'm doing with this post!)

Here's What I Plan to Do Next:

Same Thing, Different Book
Here's the thing...I've been writing professionally for two years now. That means I do NaNoWriMo every month. Now, I don't always write 55,000 words a month, as I did this time. Sometimes I write more. Sometimes I write nothing at all, especially if I fall into a really deep depression. (Annual January-February Funk, my nemesis, I shake my fist at you!) Depression is a soul-sucking ninja that slashes the throat of the Muse and leaves inspiration bleeding to death on the bathroom floor, next to an empty bag of cheesy poofs. This year, I'm going to try to fight back! I hope you'll help me....

Anyway, I have a busy December planned. We are driving half-way across the country for the week around Christmas, and I feel that deadline hanging over me like a guillotine blade. (As much as I am also looking forward to it.) So I have, I figure, only half a month to do a whole month's work. There's a certain book I took a break from to work on October Knight, and now, freshly enthusiastic, I intend to get back to Blood, book 6 of The Unfinished Song. I hope to apply some of the same super-writing tips that helped me during NaNaWriMo. And perhaps I will blog about them!

By the way, keep your eyes peeled. The Cover Reveal for Blood is coming soon!

Update on #NaNoWriMo 30: What To Do After #NaNoWriMo

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I pulled an all-nighter to finish my 50,000 words. The question is what do you do after NaNoWriMo? Of course, that depends on the state of your novel.

If you did not finish:

1. Do not stop cold.

Let's say that it's midnight on Nov 30, or dawn on Dec. 1 and you have just one or two chapters left... or maybe even the last third of the book. But NaNoWriMo ends, and you think, "Damn, I didn't win," so you give up, stop cold. Or perhaps you "won" ... you passed 50,000 words... but on an 80,000 word book, that means you're still 30,000 words short of finishing.

Do not stop writing!
Here's Robert Chazz Chute shares his experience with this and warns others not to make the same mistake:
It’s okay to paste in the broad strokes to fill in later (e.g. “insert awesome sex scene here” or “this is the chapter where little Bobby discovers he can crush badger skulls with the power of his mind.”) However, as I reached 50,000 words, I stopped short. I didn’t write the last scene before typing “The End”. Later, when I returned to my manuscript to revise and edit, the magic momentum was gone. The missing end sucked my enthusiasm for the project. NaNoWriMo is a sprint and it feels great to cross that finish line. Fifty-thousand words isn’t the only finish line. Build the skeleton of the entire book and you’ll have something more solid to work with when you’re done.

By the way, you can pick up his book Breaking the Indie Code for free right now on Amazon. Lots of good tips.

2. Do not give up.

Perhaps you began NaNoWriMo late, or things interrupted you (gobble, gobble) or Life Happened. However many words you've written are more words you have written than if you'd written nothing at all. Many a time I haven't "won" NaNoWriMo because November was simply a terrible time for me to try to finish a project. December is usually no better. January on the other hand ...what a dreary month. That's a great time to write a novel. Want to do this all again with me in January?

3. Be the Tortoise.

Perhaps you never goofed off during NaNoWriMo, you just wrote slowly, or had less time each day, but still kept up your wordcount fairly steadily. If so, hold dear to that my friend, because that is the secret to success. It's not speed so much as persistence that wins the race. NaNo is designed for Hares but its the Tortoises who usually win in the end. Be the tortoise.

"Ooo, I love the sexy scenes..."

If You Did Finish

1. Evaluate Your Work Honestly.

You may be so exited that you want to immediately send your NaNoWriMo novel to an agent or upload it to Amazon as a self-published book on Dec. 2. For the love of Thalia, don't do that. Evaluate your novel honestly first. It will need editing, that much is a given. The big question is how much? Ask yourself what kind of draft you really have here.

2. Keep Going...

This may seem obvious, but you have to make a choice. Keep going or set your project aside? If you chose to keep going, you move straight into the revisions and editing stage of the novel. Look at the highest level first, the overall plot and story arc of the novel. Does it work? Is it as exciting and high premise as you can make it? Is the ending satisfying? This is a good time to bring in beta readers.  You do not want to start line editing if nine out of ten readers say that the book sags in the middle or that the ending left them unhappy or confused. Address the biggest structural problems first, then do the scene by scene revisions, and only after all that find someone to help you edit and proofread.

3. ...Or Set it Aside.

Often the biggest favor you can do for a novel is leave it alone. This is especially true if you are sick of it. Force yourself to finish the draft, yes. If it still doesn't quite gel, but you just can't stand it anymore, or you're bored with it, then go ahead and let the book stew. The best thing to do is work on another project. This is when it is a GOOD idea to chase off after something new and shiny. Ignite your enthusiasm again by tackling something completely different.

Whether You Finished Or Not

1. Keep Writing Regularly

 Here's a great site that helps encourage you to write daily, without the "finish a novel" pressure. It's called 750 Words and the goal is to simply write 750 words a day.

In case you missed it, by the way, check out these great 10 Tips from famous writers, who give the Pros and Cons of famous adages such as "show don't tell."

Here's the arguments for and against writing daily... in my opinion, they are both right!

#05 Write EVERY DAY.
FOLLOW IT: Many people want to have written. Writers want to write. Every day, all day! (But, alas, the world beyond the writing room intrudes. And there are all those books to read!) It’s the doing, the intense activity of the mind, that fascinates the writer and allows her to shape order from chaos. Writers write. Writing is work. And you go to work every day. It’s not a choice. If you don’t punch in, you lose your job. Understand that writing isn’t for everyone, and if you find yourself resisting the activity, maybe you should rethink your commitment to the craft. It’s OK. Maybe you haven’t found your passion yet. We all find time to do the things we love.
But if you’ve tried to quit and catch yourself back at the desk—well, then don’t give up. Give in. The good news is that all your writing doesn’t go on at the desk. It goes on while you’re out in the world. Carry a pen and a notebook; gather evidence. You think differently with a pen in your hand. And you observe more keenly. You learn to pay attention; you keep your senses alert. The notebook becomes a repository and a source of material. It becomes a refuge. Go there when you need to think. Writing, you realize, engenders more writing.
And everything you write today informs everything you will ever write. —John Dufresne
BREAK IT: Don’t write every day.
I’m a big believer in word quotas. Some of the earliest, and perhaps still the best advice I ever got, was to set a quota of words and stick to it. I used to do a daily count. But a thing called life would intrude and I’d miss a day. Or, there were times when writing seemed like playing tennis in the La Brea tar pits, and that’d be another day I’d miss.
Such days would leave me surly and hard to live with.
Then I switched to a weekly quota and have 
used it ever since. That way, if I miss a day, I don’t beat myself up. I write a little extra on the other days. I use a spreadsheet to keep track and add up my word count for the week.
I also intentionally take one day off a week. I call it my writing sabbath. I find that taking a one-day break charges my batteries like nothing else. Sunday is the day I’ve chosen. On Monday I’m refreshed and ready to go. Plus, my projects have been cooking in my subconscious. The boys in the basement, as Stephen King puts it, are hard at work while I’m taking time off.
I also advocate taking a weeklong break from writing each year. Use this time to assess your career, set goals, make plans—because if you aim at nothing, there’s a very good chance you’ll hit it. —James Scott Bell

2. Keep Tracking Your Writing

I'll be honest, I have a hard time sticking to this. Yet when I do track my writing, I find it incredibly helpful. I've started a new Excel file in which I wrote the following headings:


I distinguish between Sit (when I sit at my desk) and when I Start (start working on my novel) because sometimes I write a blog post or check email or watch YouTube videos before I get down to work and I want to know how long it takes me. I distinguish between Wordcount and Other because not all work directly increases wordcount.  Today, I spent the morning re-reading and editing the first couple of chapters of Book 6 so I could slip back into the world of Faearth. This isn't a step I can skip; it's as much a part of writing as typing new words.

3. Keep Reading

There are only two things a writer needs to do to become a better writer. Write and read. Not necessarily in that order. Fiction and nonfiction; books in your genre and books in other genres; nonfiction books that give you techniques on how to write and nonfiction books on weird, wild subjects that inspire you on what to write. Read, read, read. We writers and readers and editors and publishers and dreamers are all part of the same literary ecology.

Some writers fret every year about NaNoWriMo encouraging a lot of hacks to add more books -- more competition -- to the tons of books already out there. If you look at other books as competition, you risk become jealous, bitter or sour. Silly, why do that to yourself? Look at other books as fellow seeds helping you to reclaim the barren lands of empty minds. No seed can do that alone. We are not made less by adding more writers and readers and books and stories to the world. We are all made more.

NaNoWriMo Tip #30: Wrapping Up and Revision

"I just can't face editing my novel!"

Do you hate editing?

Me too.

Or I used to. That’s because editing usually involved the mental equivalent of ripping open my chest with a rusty knife and tearing out my internal organs.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When I first used the Rich Outline method – and it was hard for me, not coming naturally at all – I discovered that if I wasn’t trying to rearrange the major plot organs of my novel to force it to make sense, Revision was actually the most enjoyable stage of the work. That’s because I had raced through the draft, writing crudely and sloppily, but now I could relax and polish my prose to my heart’s content. I was easier to focus on writing beautifully when I wasn’t also trying to figure out what was going on at the same time.

I’m hoping that if these Tips helped you (or me) at all, you’re in the same position now. You have a solid but ugly draft, which is akin to the steel scaffolding of a building. It’s not pretty, but it won’t fall down in an earthquake or sink in a flood. It’s sturdy. Now you can brick on the elegant façade, secure in your story’s underlying structure.

It’s a good idea to take a break between your draft and your revision. If you’re a first time author, this is important and probably feasible. The reality of publishing schedules might mean that if you’re a professional, you don’t have time for a breather. Revision is simply the next stage of writing, part and parcel of it, and you don’t pause.

Even if you don’t pause, however, you should reward yourself for a job well done. Take yourself out to dinner (tow along loved ones if you like), buy yourself a token gift or add a gold star to your chart. Celebrate milestones…and then keep writing.

See you tomorrow.

If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99:


Nov 29, 2012

Update on #NaNoWriMo 29: What Kind of Draft Do You Have?

By now, whether you've been doing NaNoWriMo the whole month, or only in the last few days, or only sporadically in between downloading your consciousness into a metal scorpion for the gladiatorial robot jousts your Overlords demand every day at Tea Time, you should have some sort of drafty novely thingy.

The question is, what kind of draft is it?

Do you have a neat draft...?

Do you have a messy draft...?

Or do you have a scriptment that still needs some unpacking?

It's going to make a difference in revisions.

Let's go over the possible States of the Draft.

1. Neat and Complete

You make all of us sick. Not only did you finish NaNoWriMo with a day (or more) to spare, but your draft is neat, complete and ready to send to an editor and proofreader.

Of course, this is what we all wish we had, but for many reasons, we might not yet be at this stage.

Major Strengths: You finished a novel.
Major Weaknesses: None. Unless you might decide it needs major structural revisions despite its status because you rushed to completion but left out the emotional heart of the original story. 

2. Neat but Incomplete

Maybe your first five chapters are polished to a shine, but the other nineteen aren't written yet.

Major Strengths:  This is not a bad position to be in, as long as those other nineteen chapters will unfold in the same meticulous fashion.
Major Weaknesses: You could be in a position of having to throw away three of those beautifully polished chapters once you realize they make no sense in light of Chapter Eighteen.

3. Overflowing Mess

This used to be what my drafts always looked like... sprawling miles of wordy fat. Too many subplots, too many chapters, too many scenes, too many pages, too many characters, too many, too much, too crazy! Oy.

Major Strengths: You wrote a lot, and you wrote it fast. It's (usually) easier to trim than to add.
Major Weaknesses: With a draft like this you'll need to cut, cut, cut. And after that, you'll need to tighten, trim and cut some more. And add some more. And cut some more. Until you finally have a draft that is neat and complete and ready to proofread.

4. Complete But Unpacked

If you wrote more of a scriptment than a draft, your novel is incomplete, but in a different way than the neatly unfinished #2 type or the slopy mess of #3.

Major Strengths: All the requisite scenes are penciled in, but they need ink.
Major Weaknesses: The scriptment may, like other forms of draft, have weaker spots -- places where the scenes are not blocked beat by beat, or have places that will not unpack as predicted (take more or less words than predicted.). This is a fairly solid foundation for further work, since it will be easy to sit down and know exactly where to start.

New Uncut Version of Star Trek episode, "The Measure of a Man."

Lt. Commander Data

There will be a new release of the famous episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Measure of a Man." That's the episode where there's a trial to determine if Data deserves to be treated with right equal to humans and Vulcans and other sentient species, or if he should be treated as property because he's an android.

I heard the news from Out of the Darkroom: Horse Keeping:

My friend Melinda Snodgrass arrived yesterday from New Mexico because there's a nation-wide showing of her famous episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation tonight (at theatres near you all, actually) and we're going to the screening in Century City with her. "The Measure of a Man" is based on the Dred Scott decision, but it has a happier ending. The screening will be of a restored version--the original screenplay was too long for a one-hour slot, but the editors gave her a video tape without the cuts that were made. Because she had this version, it will appear in the new Blu-ray release.

I can't wait to see the uncut version! I hope it will be made available for sale online.  Here we see Data's sense of humor (from a different episode):

Here's one of the famous scenes from Measure of a Man:

PICARD:Do you like Commander Data?
MADDOX:I don't know it well enough to like or dislike it.
PICARD:But you do admire him?
MADDOX:Oh, yes it is an extraordinary piece of . .
PICARD:. . of engineering and programming, yes you have said that. You have dedicated your life to the study of cybernetics in general and Data in particular.
PICARD:And now you intend to dismantle him.
MADDOX:So I can learn to construct more.
PICARD:How many more.
MADDOX:As many as are needed. Hundreds, thousands if necessary. There is no limit.
PICARD:A single Data, and forgive me Commander, is a curiosity, a wonder even. But thousands of Datas isn't that becoming a race. And won't we be judged by how we treat that race? Now tell me Commander, what is Data?
MADDOX:I don't understand
PICARD:What is he?
MADDOX:A machine.
PICARD:Are you sure
PICARD:You see he has met two of your three criteria for sentience. What if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the slightest degree? What is he then? I don't know. Do you? Do YOU [turning to the judge]? Well that's the question you have to answer. Your Honor, the courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the truth, for all time. Now sooner or later this man (MADDOX) or others like him will succeed in replicating Commander Data. Your ruling today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of people we are, what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty. Expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him, and all those who come after him, to servitude and slavery? Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life -- well there it sits. Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well here's your chance, make it a good one.
LAVOIR:It sits there looking at me but I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent or qualified to answer that. I've got to make a ruling, to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We've all been dancing around the main question: Does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have. But I have to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose.

NaNoWriMo Tip #29: Seven Questions to Ask About Your Manuscript

If you’re still racing to the end, or slogging to the end, keep going.

If you’ve finished, then take a breath and re-read your manuscript (or at least skim it), looking for loose ends.

1. Are names, places and logistical details consistent? Decide the correct name and spelling and keep the list in a Story Bible. These, you can correct as you go along.

2. Are the major plot questions and each of the subplot questions answered by the end?

3. Are all major characters accounted for at the end?

4. Are all the red herrings deflected and the true revelations revealed?

5. Are villainous characters given their just desserts?

6. Is the ending clear, not ambiguous? (Unless you’ve made it ambiguous on purpose, in which case, THAT should be clear.)

7. Are there any “plot promises” which you’ve forgotten to redeem? (Say the hero promised a minor character something and you meant him to keep that promise but forgot to mention it again.)

If you’re still racing to the end, or slogging to the end, keep going.

If you’ve finished, then take a breath and re-read your manuscript (or at least skim it), looking for loose ends.

As you read or skim your novel, write down all of the characters, plot promises and loose ends that you find. Keep going all the way through until the end; don’t try to fix them as you go (unless it’s a super-duper easy fix). After you have your whole list, determine how difficult it would be to fix each one: Easy, Relatively Easy, Difficult or Mind Bogglingly Daunting?

If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99:


Nov 28, 2012

Update on #NaNoWriMo 28: A Novel Scriptment

A screenplay goes through many stages, from storyboard to treatment to draft script to shooting script. Not all these terms are useful for novel writers. (Obviously a "shooting script" is not relevant, although it has its equivalent perhaps in the "gallies.")

I think some screenwriting terms and traditions are useful for novelists... the storyboard and the beat sheet, for instance.

Another useful term is scriptment. A scriptment is a halfway between a treatment (a summary without dialogue) and a full script draft.

What would a novel scriptment be? It would be half-way between an Outline and a Draft.

I like this term because to me "draft" implies a novel that is complete but inelegant. It needs editing and polishing, maybe even cutting scenes or adding or moving scenes, but it's a readable novel. An outline is just a skeleton. But if you have your novel blocked out scene by scene, with a lot of the dialogue included, in the correct tense and PoV, this is the novel equivalent of a scriptment.

If you know how your scriptment unpacks into full draft, you can estimate the correct word count for your novel. For instance, my scriptment for October Knight is now finished. It's about 30,000 words of scriptment, with some of that unpacked into draft already, coming to about 40,000 words right.

Obviously I haven't "won" NaNoWriMo officially (although if I include my blog posts and my NaNoWriMo Tips, I have written comfortably over 50,000 words this month...) but what I do have is an extremely useful and solid foundation for a that will require far less time in revision than previous drafts I've done before I knew how to extensively plan my novels before I wrote them.

NaNoWriMo Tip #28: No Fail Formula to Write Any Scene

Cut hard scenes down to size.

Some scenes are daunting.

Especially endings. The final showdown? The shocking reveal? The declaration of love? The dawning insight into the Meaning Of It All?

What might cause you to stumble on a hard scene?

1. Perfectionism. 
Maybe this is a pivotal scene, or the climax of the story, and you want it to be PERFECT. After all, if the pivot isn't clear the whole rest of the story will fail... if the ending sucks, the book will be ruined... Ahhggggg!  The pressure!

2. Flow. 
You've dreamed of this scene but now that you sit down to write it, you realize it's not working. For some reason it's not flowing from the previous scene or into the following scene.

3. Ignorance. 
You've never written this kind of scene before. Maybe it's suppose to be romance, and you're used to action, or it's supposed to be a chase scene but you're used to writing witty repartee at garden parties.

4. Emotion. 
This scene is supposed to be funny or poignant or scary, but you don't know how to convey the emotion. When you try it comes out flat, or worse, you don't even know where to begin.

5. Action.
 The scene has lot of action (perhaps a battle or a disaster) and you're not sure how to block it. It either comes out too short (everything compressed into one or two paragraphs) or as a mechanical blow-by-blow recitation of the action.

Fortunately, there's a No Fail Formula to tackle hard scenes. You've no doubt heard about how to eat an bite at a time. Same with hard scenes.

No Fail Formula to Write Any Scene:

Step One: Break it down.

Let's say you start with a chapter. If you haven't already, break the chapter down into scenes. Write one line for each scene, explaining what change takes place. Now break down the scene into its own beats, again simply summarizing what change takes place. Now take each of those beats, and if necessary, break those down too. By this time, you'll probably find yourself at the sentence level, writing out what happens, but don't get hung up on the beauty of those sentences. If you need to remind yourself, put them in bullet points to remind yourself that this is still "notes" for your scene, not the scene itself. At the same time, write in the same Tense and Person (and PoV character) as the scene will be. If any beautiful or witty prose sneaks through, it will be ready to use. (Nothing is more aggravating than having to change all your sentences from third person present tense to first person past tense.)

At this point, you should find that the scene makes sense logistically, if nothing else. The story flows through it logically from the scene before to the scene after. If you've noted every beat in the scene, you can choose to leave it in this state while you push on to the end of the book. Technically, everything after this is revision.

Step Two: Study up on the tricks of the trade.
Now that you have the scene blocked out in the blandest, least challenging notes-only-form as possible, you can begin to worry about making it shine with whatever mood you need. There are known techniques for making a reader feel emotion while reading and this is where you apply them. If you don't know them,

Is this scene supposed to be scary? Review how to frighten readers. Sexy and romantic? Study up on sizzle. Exciting? Check out the rules of thrillers and fight scenes. Funny? Research humor. Yes, you can learn to be funny.

Or say that all you want is to write gorgeous, yet not purple, prose. Read up on the Sentence or re-read your favorite authors to inspire you.

This is also the place where you Search and Destroy:

... all cliches;
... over used "favorite" words or expressions and destroy them;
... excess words.

Here's a secret: You can learn to write any emotion, if you study and practice.

Which brings us to the third step.

Step Three: Write three versions of each key sentence.

What? THREE? At least three. However many versions it takes.  (If you are a perfectionist who tends to get stuck endlessly rewriting the first chapter of your book for three years, give yourself an upper limit too -- no more than 5 versions of each sentence, then you must pick one of those five versions no matter how "bad.")

You don't have to do this with EVERY sentence (perfectionists, take this warning to heart!), but with "key sentences." It's up to you to decide what sentences are key.

You may do more at this point than change sentences.

Let's say that you've read Rayne Hall's book Writing Scary Scenes and you've discovered that one trick is to have your hero walk through a door before entering a scary situation. You didn't have a door in your scene before, but it's not hard to add (it's important that you not make convoluted changes at this point). Before, the scene began with the hero in the room with the corpse. Now you insert an extra sentence or two about the hero knocking on the door, which swings open eerily...already unlocked. You've learned that this is a threshhold moment which can dramatically increase the suspense, so that makes it a Key Sentence. You write between three and five versions. Then pick the best.

If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99:


Nov 27, 2012

How To Sell Your Books On Nook UK

Great news! 

NOOK is now available in the United Kingdom and that means you can reach even more readers when you publish your eBooks through PubIt! We have added new features to PubIt! so that your eBooks will be available for sale in the UK on (if you have indicated that you have Worldwide Rights to your titles).

Our new UK functionality will automatically convert your US pricing to an equivalent UK pricing in GBP (£). If you prefer to set your own UK list price, follow these quick steps:

  • Select Actions>Edit next to your titles in the My Titles tab in the PubIt! dashboard.
  • In section 1, you will see a new field called "List Price (UK)"
  • Uncheck the box next to “auto calculate UK price based on US price”, and then enter your desired UK pricing in GBP (£).
  • Click "Calculate My Royalty" to see your royalty for each UK sale
  • Scroll down to Section 6, check the checkbox next to "I confirm that I have all legal rights...", and click "Save & Post Changes".

Help! I'm Just Starting #NaNoWriMo! (Emergency Tip Day 4)

Help! I'm Just Starting #NaNoWriMo! (Emergency Tip Day 4)

Day One: Refine Your  Idea - Brainstorm a Log Line and create a Beat Sheet
Day Two: Expand Your Idea - Deepen Your Characters and Spice up Your Plot
Day Three:  Outline Your Novel - Create a Scene by Scene Outline
Day Four: Outline Your Scenes - Scene Helper

Day Five: Draft Your Scenes - From Scene to Draft - First Third of Your Novel
Day Six: Keep Going on that Draft - Second Third of Your Novel 
Day Seven: Wow, you have a whole extra day to write, plenty of time - Third Third.

Day 4: Outline Your Scenes

Tip #20: Scene Helper

Here's some other steps to do on Day Four:

NaNoWriMo Tip #27: Get Back The Mood, Push to Finish!

 With any luck, you know that wonderful pressure at the back of the head that comes when you are almost finished with a book and you HAVE TO FINISH IT NOW!

I’ve experienced that. (So has my family, poor schmoes.)

However, I’ve also had to reverse problem, rather more often. In fact, I’m having it right now. I’m almost done writing out my Tips, and because I’m ALMOST done, some whacked part of my mind feels as if I AM done.

Imagine a marathon runner who comes within sight of the Finish Line and says, “Ok, I see the end. I’m done here.” And stops running before he crosses the line.

That’s me.

I see the end in sight and something deep inside says, “Right, then, let’s get on to the next project.” Then Something Shiny distracts me and I’m off. Forcing myself to finish those last three chapters, or that last 5,000 words or the final showdown between the white hat and black hat…. Holy Gamoly, Batman! We’re doomed!

7 Tricks to Beat Fear of Completion

To entice, force, trick myself into finishing, I’ve come up with several strategies.
1. I buy myself a completely self-indulgent present, wrap it, and don’t let myself open it until I’ve finished. It’s usually inexpensive and childish—like a Katniss Barbie doll—to deliberately reward the childlike part of me, which, I suspect, is the source of most of my impatience to get on to the next project. It’s usually something I would never buy for myself, and that no one else would buy for me. Once I got a massage! Another time I just bought Twizzlers. Obviously, your choice of self-gift will be highly personal.

2. I write the last scene, then the next to last scene, and so on, until I meet up with the spot I stopped. This works best if I’m already very close to the end.

3. I skip the hard scenes and go for the low hanging fruit. I don’t do this most of the time, by the way. I prefer to start with the hardest scenes first, and use the easy scenes as rewards. But if I’m hard pressed, I’ll take the low road.

4. I write at least the first sentence of each remaining scene. Again, this only works if you have a pretty clear idea of what scenes remain.

5. I write the Script (dialogue only) of remaining scenes.

6. I break down each scene into subparts and focus on finishing one subpart at a time. I write each scene and sub-scene on a To Do list and check it off as I go, so I have a sense of forward progress, however incremental. (I'll go into more detail on this method tomorrow.)

7. I take a lot of caffeine and stay up 24 hours, and just keep writing like a madwoman, until I collapse. Not really recommended, but it does work.

Getting Back the Mood

Suppose you have either (A) veered off track, or (B) lost steam on your novel or (C) had to deal with other crazy stuff in Real Life and become derailed completely.

You can either (A) take a break from your novel for a while. Yes, even if you didn’t “win.” Yes, even if it’s not “over.” Really, it’s okay.

Or (B) do some fun stuff to re-ignite your passion for your book.

Here are some things I do when I get off course:

1.     Talk about my novel to a sympathetic person. (It’s imperative this person not be a downer.)

2.     Talk about my novel to myself. Yes, I talk to myself. I am a writer. I’m allowed to be crazy.

3.     Write a page about why I love my novel.

5.     Reread what I wrote.

If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99:


Nov 26, 2012

Update on #NaNoWriMo 26: Shiny Attack!!!

Thing are going well with my NaNoWriMo novel, but if you were paying close attention you may have noticed me slobbering after a Shiny New idea.... another novel earlier in the series, September Knight.

I have the best of reasons to think about September Knight. It comes before October Knight. (Obviously.) And one should really know the events of the prequel first...riiiiiiight?

Anyway, when attempting to ward off an attack of the Killer Shiny, it's best to throw it some meat. So I've gone ahead and written down the beat sheet, and some of the outline. Then I returned to my novel.

Work-in-Progress: "Thinking and Writing Are Different" and More Grea...

Work-in-Progress: "Thinking and Writing Are Different" and More Grea...: Some great advice from the Writer’s Digest Conference, via writers Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow:

"Thinking and writing are different," Bender said. You may have great ideas in your mind, but "the only book that exists is the one on the page." The process of writing is not one of translating your thoughts onto the page. No, it's the other way around. "Writing gives us access to our own minds."

How To Make Your Own Sticky-Note Outlining Kit


I prefer the 1.5"x 2" sticky-notes in bright colors, but there are many sizes and tints to choose.


Any paper will do. I prefer pastels, with which I can differentiate the different acts of the book. (Say: four sheets of marigold paper for the chapters of Act I, five sheet of lilac for Act II, etc.)

Three-Ring Binder

Punch holes in the paper, stick the paper in a three ring binder and use one sheet per chapter (or per scene) and label your sticky-notes with the beats. 


Help! I'm Just Starting #NaNoWriMo! (Emergency Tip Day 3)

"The Witcher" by A.Sapkowski

For those of you on the Gonzo NaNoWriMo, here's Day Three.

Day Three: Outline Your Novel. 

You outline your novel quickly the same way you outline your novel slowly: One step at a time. Use index cards or sticky-notes to brainstorm plot points you'd like to include, play with them, and expand each beat in your Beat Sheet until the outlines starts to fill out.


Yesterday, I worked on characters for my September Knight story. I need this story blocked out before I can proceed on my other book October Knight (which has some recurring characters and occurs the next month). I don't necessarily need to write out the whole story, but I do need to have a solid outline, to make sure the two books are compatible.

I know this book will have a mystery. I know it will have a romance... but if I want Clare to also have a romance in October Knight (uh oh, these books were supposed to be self-contained!) I have to make it a "happy ending for now" romance, knowing it won't be her "real" true love. That's going to be...tricky.

So maybe I will make another relationship more important in this book: a friendship. The female equivalence of a "bromance" or buddy cop movie. How about a fairy god-sister?

I already had the story broken down into four acts. I knew there would be three chapters in each act, and at least three scenes in each chapter. That was the structure I needed to fill with plot. I jotted down plot points and characters that needed to be introduced in Act One:

Plot Point: A corpse is discovered. The cause of death is mysterious in some way.
Plot Point: The September Key glows when Clare registers for school. It's never done that before.
Plot Point: The guidance counselor, Mr. Cambiel, asks Clare if she will accept the role of September Knight.

Character Introduction: Jinx (fairy god-sister); Clare's reaction -- resentment, feels Jinx is there to spy on her)
Character Introduction: Zola (ghost friend); Clare's reaction -- curiosity, envies Zola's joy and freedom
Character Introduction: Mysterious Hot Guy #1; Clare's reaction -- too shy to act on her attraction, kicks herself
Character Introduction:  Mysterious Hot Guy #2; Clare's reaction  -- too shy to act on her attraction, kicks herself

I'm also using a couple of sneaky tricks. I have a Love Triangle and also a Friendship Triangle. Clare will have to choose between two hot guys, but that won't be completely resolved here. More importantly, she has to chose between two friends, Zola and Jinx. Although these are not a sexual or romantic relationships, the principle is exactly the same, plot wise, as a love triangle. Both friends must offer something that is attractive to Clare, making her decision difficult.

I'll be using the Rule of Three to help out in Act Two. (She tries out for Theater, Cheerleading and Soccer), which will help me structure the second and third act.Once I have the major characters and initiating events in motion, the events for the final act will flow into a climax and conclusion. Especially since I already know the ending, thanks to the beat sheet.

Here's some other steps to do on Day Three:

NaNoWriMo Tip #26: Keeping On Track

Shiny idea is trying to hook you! Don't bite! (Or at least don't get reeled in...)

These are my personal tips for NaNoWriMo. You know the drill. Take only what works.

As you write, no matter how detailed your outline, new ideas will occur to you. This is a good thing. The new ideas are often an improvement or refinement, and you should go with your gut.


Sometimes, you need to reign in that impulse and keep on track. So how do you know? Look for these danger signs:

Lure of The Shiny
You find yourself off on a tangent, chasing a new idea that radically changes the direction of the book… not because your original premise was worse, but because the new thing is Shiny. It’s distracted you, like a will-o-the-wisp leading you to your doom in a forest of never finished manuscripts.

Subplot Coup By A Supporting Character
One of your characters, often armed with a subplot, has monopolized your interest, to the peril of the main character and main plot. You need to kick that usurper back to the curb. Or cut a backroom deal by promising him his very own book if he’ll just back off for now.

No End In Sight
If you wrote an outline, you know your ending. But maybe you ignored my advice to know your ending first. Or maybe the ending you planned now strikes you as wrong. Or maybe you still know how the story will end and what you need to do to get there, but the chapters you thought would 2000 words each are turning out to be 7000 words each, so although you’ve won NaNoWriMo already / reached 50,000 words, you’re only Chapter 7 out of 30 chapters.

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

If any of these warning signs are occurring, step back and assess how you want to move forward. Ask yourself if you really want to pursue the Shiny, include the subplot, change your main character, write a totally different novel, or expand your novel’s length to 210,000 words.

Choose wisely.

If you prefer these Tips as an ebook you can buy it here for $0.99: