Clever with the Word Count.

As previously mentioned in my last blog post, I had every intention of participating in the 2014 run of National Novel Writing Month, or as the I’ve been informed the kids are calling it these days, The NaNos.

And, uh, so I am participating in the 2014 run of National Novel Writing Month. Huh, that worked out nicely didn’t it? Look at me and my holding to a promised action! I’m like some kind of functioning human being! PRAISE ME.

Anyways. We’re at the mid-point of National Novel Writing Month and so far, so good-ish. I’m about four thousand words behind at the moment due to missing a few days because that whole Life thing insists on continuing even when I ask it nicely to pause for a month. But only a few thousand words isn’t that bad in my NaNoWriMo history! It’s practically on schedule except for the part it isn’t! This upcoming week is going to be my mad push to reach 40k before Thanksgiving so I can, for once, not have to worry about frantically pushing out twenty-three thousand or so words in the last four days of November.

So far this has been my most successful NaNoWriMo. Honest to gravy this is the first time I have actually and factually pinned down an ending to a story before working on anything else and woah dang howdy, I will never attempt another story without doing so. The fact that I have an end point to work towards, or at the very least an end conflict, makes it a lot easier to piece together the fiddly middle bits that have to connect the beginning with the end. I’ve got myself a main character, she’s got herself a little sister, there are class mates and magical abilities and categorical divisions that eventual fans will be able to identify with and buy merchandise based on them. It’s going to be brilliant, I tells ya, and I’m enjoying the process so far.

But let’s jump back a month, shall we? Travel back to October with me when everything was beautiful and I could fart around making sure a 500 word piece of flash fiction was just so for days on end. O, the halcyon days!

Back in October I bought a Humble Book Bundle [see note at the end of this post for a correction], which if you’re not aware of this being a thing that exists, OH MY GOODNESS LET ME TELL YOU A THING. The Humble E-Book Bundle offers you, go figure, a bundle of themed books for a price that you name. There is a base price (which is going to be stupidly cheap for the amount of books you get) that will net you a handful of e-books in various, DRM free, format or as the case is right now, a bunch of audio books. However, if you pay above the median price you unlock another handful of books that often include a big name author to help sweeten the pot. When you pay you can choose how much of your money goes towards the authors, towards the selected charity that has been connected to the bundle, and how much goes as a “tip” back to the Humble Bundle makers themselves. If you’re feeling flush with cash and make a big donation you even get your name on a leader board! Whee, recognition!

The first bundle I bought was a collection of what I think of as “Writer’s Self Help Books” and which for the love of all things adorable I cannot find right now on the Internet @#$%!!! I’ve perused these books and their promises to teach me to write a novel in 30 days/Three Weekends/Fifteen minutes but I’ve never taken them seriously.

Until now.

*cue dramatic music*

From now until I’ve read them all, I will be trying out each of these writing aid books and seeing what shakes out from following their direction. Some are more literal step-by-step guides to produce a manuscript while others are more tips, tricks, and viewpoints from an already successful author. I’ll have a review up each month to let you know my experience with each book.

First up is going to be No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty. Technically this wasn’t part of the Humble Bundle, but hey, I wanted to be thematic for the whole National Novel Writing Month thing I’ve got going here.

(Yeesh, six hundred words to get to the review. It’s almost like I’m trying to pad some sort of word count or something…)

Chris Baty is the head-honcho of NaNoWriMo. He started the event among a close group of friends and developed it into an international event that invites all comers to bang out a fifty-thousand word novel just to prove that they can reach into themselves.  It gives people the excuse to dust off the story that they had always promised they would write “one day” but never thought they could really write, and lets them write it out in full. No Plot! No Problem? Gives readers the history and ideas behind what NaNoWriMo has become today as well as giving loads of guidance on how to accomplish a fifty-thousand word novel in a single month.

If it helps your personal journey, Baty is not totally beholden to the month of November. If that time frame doesn’t work for you then he would be delighted if you picked a more preferable month and held your own, personal NaNoWriMo.  The whole theme of the book is that all one needs to do for a successful NaNoWriMo experience is to simply sit down and write. Hit your daily word requirement with no excuses and to the exclusion of your normal daily life. Tell your inner editor to hush and get the story out.

No Plot? No Problem! Itself is a light-hearted collection of advice on how to NaNoWriMo including where to write, how to set a writing mood, how to prepare without burning yourself out, how to put aside any attempts at editing, and how to manage real life responsibilities whilst churning out 1,667 words a day. There are tips from former NaNoWriMo participants and a week by week guide to lead you through the month.

It’s a surprisingly funny book. I wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud (or as the I’ve been informed the kids are calling it these days, lol) at a book about NaNoWriMo, but Baty has a sharp wit when relating his own writing experiences.

“Things went awry almost immediately. With nothing to do all day but write, I found myself doing everything but writing. Essential errands were run. Laundry was done. The bathroom was cleaned. Less essential errands were run. The bathroom was re-cleaned. A complex rooftop Habitrail system designed to make tree-to-tree transitioning easier for the neighborhood squirrels was built and nearly installed before the county’s animal services intervened. And so on.

The mounting guild I felt each evening over accomplishing so little writing during the day would then force me to cancel the plans I had made with friends that night. So I could stay in and get some writing done.

Night, of course, simply involved more work on the Habitrail.”

Per my own personal preferences, the advice offered in No Plot? No Problem! Neatly skirts the line between Solid, Practical Writing Advice and Tripping the Muse Fantastic nonsense. I have absolutely no patience with the idea of my character running away with the plot I have designed for them because oh goodness, don’t those characters have a mind of their own~! No. They don’t. They are mine, wholly and totally, and will serve the purposes I set out for them. Perhaps I am not a very whimsical person? Maybe I need to buy a prism or something. That being said, it’s very easy to heed the advice you want and skip over the advice that doesn’t apply to you. My eyes flitted over the small section about how to choose a Writing Totem but I lapped up every bit of the time management tips offered.

The week by week advice is my favorite portion of the book. It’s 75% carrot and 25% well-applied stick. Baty will cajole, encourage, and praise NaNoWriMo participants for making it this far and do his best to convince readers that if they just keep putting one foot ahead of another, they’ll make it through the month with their fifty thousand word count complete. He gives little booster exercises and both accepts writer’s frustrations while offering paths to move past them. This section is very similar to the weekly encouragement emails that NaNoWriMo participants receive and I’ve always found them to be a nice little life line. After your NaNoWriMo summit has been reached there is even a little bit of guidance in regard to editing that beast of a manuscript.

 Overall, I recommend No Plot? No Problem! As a read. If you’re a serial NaNoWriMo participant than buy it, and if you’re a writer just seeking overall advice then I super-duper-recommend you get it from the library at the very least.

OH HEY WAIT I FOUND THE BOOK BUNDLE! Okay, turns out it is a Story Bundle, which is different from a Humble Bundle even though they both work the exact same way with their you-name-it price levels and donations to charity. The National Novel Writing Month bundle is still available at the time of writing this entry (click here) if you wish to partake. I would keep an eye on the Story Bundles for sure because they are a super cheap way to beef up your e-book collection. Now that I’ve scanned over both it looks like Humble Bundles are more games and comic selections.

Buy both? Both. Both is good.

NaNoWriMo is Nigh – A Month of Getting Things Done

Every year I think I’m free but they pull me back in.
National Novel Writing Month is approaching, and once again, I’ll be participating. That being said, I am going to be working towards that 50k goal on my own terms. It doesn’t serve me very well to just crank out thousands and thousands of words worth of stream-of-consciousness narration and then look back on it in December and see the text version of a tangled box of Christmas lights so I am going to take a more organized approach.
Here’s my 2014 NaNoWriMo Plan:
Use this month to write a rough draft:  Last year I did this and it was a great exercise in working through a plot idea and trying to stitch together all the ideas I had for a story. The story itself is a mess and a half, but nevertheless it was a great way to force myself to get through the hemming and hawing that comes from conceptualizing a story. Once you start putting ideas to paper (digital or otherwise) you can get a clear picture of what’s going to work and what isn’t.
Also use this month to clean out my in-progress short stories:  I use my Gmail account’s draft folder as a sort of cloud drive for short stories, plot and character ideas, and keeping all the other crafty and creative things that spring to mind close at hand. It’s nice to be able to have a few hundred words of a story on hand that you can pull up on any computer without having to constantly shuffle the most current saved file back and forth between multiple machines.
At the moment I have seven incomplete stories in my draft folder, and I’d like to have at least five of them completed by the end of November. Even if they turn out to be flash fiction, that’s around 10k worth of word towards the NaNoWriMo goal and more importantly, five more stories to submit to markets. I am looking forward to this challenge as I feel it will be a good way to take a break from working on the rough draft without removing myself from writing. If I finish all seven stories, then great! Woo-hoo, go me!
So that’s-a my plan.
Additionally, I like to throw some sort of personal motivation into the mix. The thrill of 50k in a month is pretty sweet, but hey, I’m a base human being and enjoy my rewards being a little more tangible. As NaNoWriMo draws nearer I will have to figure out some little treat for myself as a reward for certain word goals.
The trick here is to make sure it is something that you cannot just wait until December to get; it has to be a fleeting chance at achieving it only through word count. For me, this works best when I deny myself something, only allowing myself access to it again after I reach 10k, 20k, 30k, and so on. For example, I’ll buy a package of Biscoff cookies (SO GOOD) and put it up on a high shelf, only allowing myself to open them after I reach 20k. If I never reach that word count then they get handed over to a friend. I never buy them in day-to-day life, so it’s rare enough to entice me without being overly expensive or anything.
Man, Biscoff are so good. I love those stupid cookies.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have an idea for a story yet, or waiting for the Muse to sweep you off your feet on November 1st? What kind of motivation would keep you writing during the long haul?
I’m user MuchandQuick on the NaNo forum, so feel free to find me and we’ll be buddies!

You Should be Reading: “Sic Semper” by Kristopher Reisz

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who either support creative works, or are creative types themselves. I know singer/songwriters, cosplayers, artists of various mediums, and of course a couple of writer-types. We keep each other confident during our bouts of writer’s block and celebrate each others accomplishments. One of those writer-types is Kris Reisz, who has an awesome name and an awesome short story out at Crossed Genre right now.  Here’s a teaser:

Vladislav IX had been the first monarch ever assassinated by bullet, a fact his ghost was quite proud of. “No brutish stabbing and hacking for me!” he crowed. “Powder and lead, efficient and to the point.”

Backed against the wall of the royal crypt, Alexander nodded. “Sure… I can tell.” The historic shot had left Vladislav IX with very little face above his curled white mustachios. This made talking to him unsettling. Luckily, the ghost carried most of the conversation.

“My reign was very forward-looking that way. I was also the first Cynanian monarch to eat a plantain.”

“Oh? Did you like it?”

“Not particularly. Mushy.”

Alexander kept nodding. He tried to remember something about Vladislav IX’s reign he might add to the conversation, but the truth was, Cynan had lots of Kings Vladislav. After a while, they all blurred together into one endless mustachio.

Just then, the shade of Queen Ludmila the First drifted close. “Vlad, stop pestering him. Can’t you see he’s nervous?”

Vladislav IX harrumphed. “I’m simply giving him some historical context for what he’s about to do.”

“He doesn’t need any historical context.” Queen Ludmila smiled at Alexander. “Just do what comes naturally, dear. Assassination isn’t difficult.”

Alexander gulped. “Y-you know why I’m here?”

The ghosts filling the royal crypts laughed. “We’re nobles, boy! Can’t slip an assassin past us,” Boris the Younger said.

“Unless he’s hiding in the privy with a spear, eh, Boris?” asked Mad King Casimir. This made all the ghosts – except Boris – laugh even harder. Boris the Younger (also known to the annals as the Man-Eater King and Boris Lutheran-Bane) snipped back, “Well, at least I wasn’t poisoned like some woman!”

“No, you just died with a spear-point rammed up your–”

“Lords, please!” Queen Ludmila drifted between them, then turned back to Alexander. “The point is, you’re hiding in the royal crypt fiddling with a gun. I’d know what you were up to even if I hadn’t killed my husband’s first wife.”

Alexander stuffed the revolver in his pocket, but the queen was right. He was here to kill the king.

Read the rest of “Sic Semper” at Crossed Genres. While you’re there, feel free to donate or purchase a subscription to get more stories and support the site. It’s a really rad publication, with lots of opportunities for authors to submit stories. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kris like I do, you will enjoy his works. So go read!

Life of a Former Slush Pile Reader

A TALE IN WHICH THE AUTHOR, at her computer, comes across a newly released story.

“Didn’t they already release this one?” she asks herself. “I could have sworn they printed it last year. Let’s see if anybody else noticed in the reviews.”

But no one did. There was nothing but praise for the story, and so the author reflects on where she might recognize this story from.

“Oh,” she says to her cat, “I read this when it was in the slush pile. I approved it and sent it to the next level of approval/rejection. Huh.”

The author felt pretty cool about that.

Daily Science Fiction and the Itsy-Bitsy Teenie-Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Word Count

Breaking news!  By breaking, I of course mean, “I read about this last week and am just getting around to telling other people about it!”

Daily Science Fiction has moved their maximum accepted word count from 10k down to a lean 1.5k.  The announcement came and went as a header for a story with little fanfare, an e-mail I deleted because I am an idiot and reflexively delete stories once I am done reading them.  There was no notice on their Face Book page, nor any mention of it on the main DSF website that I could find other than an edited submissions page that reflects the new word count limit. I do not think this is a negative move, as the owners and editors of DSF may do as they very damn well please with their submission guidelines and, as I recall from my deleted e-mail, are moving towards shorter stories in response to their audience’s desire for a more true “quick-fix fiction” story in their inbox each day. This shorter word count will also strip away the longer stories typically published on Fridays.

DSF is a voracious market that demands literally hundreds of stories a year to keep pace with its publishing schedule and I can not blame them for moving to smaller stories for shorted processing times in regards to slush pile navigation and the necessary editing process that touches stories of all lengths. It also helps cut back on the cost of paying authors, which even as an author who has and will continue to submit to DSF, I don’t see this as a bad thing. DSF will keep their 8 cents a word payment and I respect that a lot. If this was a cost-saving maneuver on their behalf then I would prefer that they take shorter stories and maintain their status as a Qualifying Short Fiction Venue for SFWA.

Daily Science Fiction is an awesome market, and I highly encourage anyone with a shorty-short story to throw their hat into the slush pile.  No, wait, throw your story into the slush pile. You would probably ruin a hat doing that.

 

 

BOOM. I’m back.

Two truths and a lie, and then a bunch of links:

1) Working on an early draft of a novel is boring.

2) There is a place in my town that sells “drinking chocolate” that is right across from our main library branch.

3) I returned all of my library books on time, as I always do.

 

First Draft in 30 Days is a how-to book that will, in theory, help you crank out a highly detailed outline that can be gently jostled into a first draft. I found it worth the trip to the library, and suggest you give it a read through if you have trouble organizing your plot.

Scared Yet remains a fantastic study of scary stories and if you haven’t discovered Kris Straub yet then you are just flat missing out.

She Walks In Shadow will hold open submissions for their Lovecraft inspired anthology. The submission pool is open to female-identifying authors only, and they will start taking submissions in November.  I want to submit to this real, real bad so we’ll see what sort of Lovecraft vibe I can shake out of my brain. What I don’t know about eldritch horrors I can make up for in a weirdly expansive collection of man made industrial incidents and I have all sorts of thoughts on how closely the two are related.

Scared Yet? A Study in Horror

Found a cool thing and I’mma share it with you! I’m like a golden retriever that brings back websites instead of sticks.

I highly recommend that you check out the video series “Scared Yet” by Kris Straub. Straub is the author/illustrator of the ongoing webcomic Broodhollow (excellent) and the notorious creepy-pasta “Candle Cove” (also excellent). In this serious Straub takes on the task of studying the more popular scary stories that have spread throughout the Internet, dissecting both their intent and construction to determine if the piece is a success or failure.

 

 

“Scared Yet” is a great resource for writers, regardless of how invested they are in the horror genre. It’s a great way to see how stories attempt to evoke a specific reaction from their audience and how it can go both wrong and right. Straub is respectful in his critiques as he seeks out weak stories not to shame their creator, but to show the flaws in its execution and where it might be improved. Pacing, believability, and what an author can and cannot expect of their audience are discussed in a broad sense that is not aimed towards authors but an author can certainly gleam some good information from each episode.

Go check it out!