The Rough Draft: Sketching Your Masterpiece

The most frustrating part of painting to me is showing someone what I’m working on  – mid-process. Kids are always the most honest.

“It’s kind of messy, Mom,” said my son, then five years old. He tilted his head to the side, squinting at my painting.

“I’m still working on it, bud. It’ll look a lot better when it’s done.”

“It will?”

“Yup. Just trust me. I’ve done this lots.”

He trusted me. That’s what five year olds do. And once it was done he did like it – even kept it on his dresser for years after that.

This story came to mind while I was stressing about one manuscript I had yet to finish. I had restarted it three or four times, but never completed it for one embarrassing reason –  I didn’t know how to write a rough draft. Not really.

A rough draft is suppose to be just that, rough. It’s meant to have phrases you aren’t sure how to complete, scenes that feel off, characters that feel flat, plot holes so big you could fall into them. I was looking at my unfinished manuscript as “messy” and instead of allowing myself to make a mess sketching out the basic lines of the story, I was trying to skip ahead and get a finish product my first time through.

Impossible.

The first draft gives us, as the writer, a chance to discover the story ourselves. This is true whether you plot out your stories beforehand or not – there will always be aspects to your plot and your character you’ll be discovering for the first time. Pausing to edit and perfect during the rough draft shuts off the pure artistic flow that comes when a writer is in the “zone.” Write now… only write. Edit later.

For you visual learners, like me, let’s look at the idea this way.

Images from www.metmuseum.org
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Raphael’s paintings started as sketches, like our rough drafts.
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With edits, he cleaned up the image, adding more detail and life to it.
madonna sketch
More edits still, and you can see how his piece is shaping in to what it will become.
After MANY improvements, we get the masterpiece.
After MANY improvements, we get the masterpiece.

Lois Lowry, the author of “The Giver” said when she writes a rough draft that she often scribbles down a variety of words that might fit in a certain sentence and goes back to find the right one during the editing process. I think that’s brilliant. She gets her thoughts on paper, but waits to polish it up once the story is ready for that step. Not before.

So, to all you other perfectionist writers, I encourage you to let go and let your rough drafts be messy. Very, very messy. Stop worrying about that flat character, or that scene that just doesn’t feel right. First get your story on paper – the whole, messy story. Then, and only then, go back and work that sketch into the masterpiece in your head.

What’s the trickiest part of the writing process for you?

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Famous Authors Interviews – Words of Wisdom

Be prepared to be shocked… authors, even the extremely famous ones , are real people – like you and me.  I know, shocking huh? 😉

Honestly though, while I’m glued to my computer for my day job, I enjoy listening to interviews with these real people. Their thoughts are inspiring and motivating – especially if you’re a writer too.

I was capitvated by J.K. Rowling’s interview with Oprah (see below). If you have 45 minutes it’s worth the watch (or listen, like I did). If not, I’ve included links to some other famous childrens author interviews I enjoyed (that are a lot shorter).

Be prepared though – you’ll want to write as soon as you’re done listening. Might want to save some time for that for later.

— click on the author’s name to see the video —

Author InterviewsJ.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) -CLICK HERE-:

She is the ultimate rags to riches story. One of my favorite things about her is her ability to remember what life was like before fame and to not lose sight of that. So refreshing!

Jon Scieszka (True Story of the Three Little Pigs) – CLICK HERE-:

What a funny guy. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts on reading and boys – how they struggle to read more than girls. I just enjoyed this interview in general, his happiness is contagious.

Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) – CLICK HERE-:

I enjoy Spinelli’s writing style – so I was eager to hear his interview. I loved that hated reading the required reading in school because I always struggled with that as well.

Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus) – CLICK HERE-:

Beverly was a children’s librarian before becoming an author. She got in to writing because the children weren’t satisfied with the books that were available. She never received a rejection letter – ever!

 Lois Lowry (The Giver) – CLICK HERE-:

Lois Lowry dropped out of college and finished after he children were all in school. She never submitted a story formally. She was approached by an editor and asked to try writing a story for children – which turned in to her first novel.

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Mo Willems

Mo Willems (Elelphant and Piggie, Pigeon) -CLICK HERE-:

Mo fell into writing almost by accident, but man am I glad he did. I LOVE the Elephant Piggie series.

Katherine Paterson (Author of Bridge to Terabithia) -CLICK HERE-: 

She stresses the importance of reading as an author. She also talks about the real life death that inspired the book The Bridge to Terabithia.

Kate DiCamillo (Author of Because of Winn-Dixie, Mercy Watson) -CLICK HERE-: 

Kate says she loves to finish stories but doesn’t actually love to write them. Each morning she has to convince herself to get the writing done. Man, I can relate to that some days.

Before you head off to to do some writing yourself, would you share comment below about something that motivates you to write? Thanks!

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DON’T TOUCH! This is MY reading time!

Hand Over the Books

I’m in that phase of life – the Tasmanian devil in a mini van phase. And the endless running around leaves me wondering how to follow the holy grail of advice to writers:

READ – read – READ!

I tried reading in the morning while I ate my cereal. Not my brightest idea. My day goes a little like this. I wake up long before the sun comes up and wake up my children (two who are far too peppy for 6 am). Then clothes and hair and teeth and lunches. Some shoe tying and shoe finding, then library book hunting – under the bed, under the couch – until we’re five minutes past go time. One says they never ate breakfast, so I hand them an apple and bread and shoo them out the door. Repeat the process two times for my middle schooler and high schooler – throw in a little driving faster than I should ’til that school zone sign comes in to view and you’ve got my morning (sounds familiar to any of you?). I count it a success if my kids get in the front door before the bell rings, I mean, who’s really looking if their socks match anyway? So…

Reading while I eat breakfast is out.

The rest of my day isn’t much slower. I work from home part-time, which sounds magical to everyone I tell and in many ways it is. But without set work hours and no clear cut ‘coffee breaks’ and ‘lunch hours’ like most office jobs – reading while I work is not an option either.

Afternoon carpool is different. I have about fifteen minutes in the car before my kids come out. I used to try and squeeze in some writing here (and still do sometimes) but most often, I read. Repeat that twice for picking up my middle schooler and high schooler and I’ve got 30-40 minutes of reading under my belt.

Afternoon carpool reading is a GO!

Is it selfish that that’s not enough time to me? I crave a big, long chunk of reading time but almost never get it unless I do the following:

Swap TV/Internet zoning out for reading time.

With four kids and all the after school activities that come with that, sometimes there isn’t even TV time to swap. When I do choose a book over HGTV I’m always more satisfied. In reality, I wish I was one of those avid readers that always preferred a book over TV – but I’m not. Often TV wins out, but I still think – especially on the channel flipping nights- we should all do ourselves a favor by turning it off and grabbing a book instead.

The only curse (or maybe it’s a blessing) I have with reading is it puts me to sleep. Anyone else have this problem? When I read I calm down. My body seems to take that as a cue that it’s time to sleep. When I was reading the sixth Harry Potter book for the first time, I came to the climactic seen in the tower – you know the one I’m talking about. One of the most pivotal scenes in the entire series, and what do I do mid-sentence? I fall asleep. I woke up four different times trying to finish the scene and couldn’t.  I finally gave in to the sleep and finished the chapter when I woke. My husband still teases me about that to this day.

Bedtime is my reading time.

My reading curse makes bedtime a great time for reading. It helps me unwind and fall asleep faster. Before my husband convinced me to trying reading at bedtime I would lie in bed for nearly 45 minutes – waiting for the chatter in my head to quiet. Books quiet my internal chatter ’til all I hear is the story I’ve wrapped myself in.

Then… I fall asleep. 🙂

Being a reader does not require ideal circumstances. Don’t let yourself or anyone around you try and convince you it does. Readers can come from any kind of life and any level of busy – you just have to want it bad enough.

When and where do you read?

Please comment below.

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Critique Circle

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 CritiqueCircle.com

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 HOW IT WORKS:  

Once you’re willing to let other humans read your works and are sick of pestering your friends to read your stories, it’s time to create a Critique Circle account. Creating a free account is easy, and you can start critiquing others work in the Story Queue right away. You earn credits for the critiques you give (typically around one credit a critique- more if it’s a longer piece). Then you use those credits to get your own stories added to the queue. It takes 3 credits to post your own story. If you want to post more than one story during the same critique period, the subsequent stories will cost more credits.

They have different queues for the many different genres of writing. You are open CC-Queuesto critique from and post your work to any queue you’d like. At first, I preferred to stick to posting my work in the “Newbies” queue which lets others on the site know you’re new to this. There is limited time to post here, but I recommend you use it while you can.  After that, I recommend you find your genre(s) and stick to reading and posting there since you’ll find writers with similar interests who have more experience in your type of writer (makes their critiques much more helpful).

Stories are left up for one week and receive between 2 and 8 critiques each – sometimes more, sometimes less. You can stop accepting critiques at any point. After reading the nice things people say, give them a ‘grade’ for their hard work and start the reading, posting cycle all over again.  Simple!

WHY I  LIKE IT:

My husband has phenomenal editing skills, but I can only ask him to read so many of my manuscripts before it starts to feel abusive. Critique Circle lets me see my manuscript through the eyes of readers who don’t know me, so they’re more honest than husband is (smart man). There is even the option to critique anonymously, if you’d like.

The site encourages critiquers (or “critters”) to be constructive while still being positive. 98% of the users of the site stick to this beautifully. Most critiques left me feeling good and ready to make their suggested changes.

CC- Critique

The other – less tactful – 2% I chalked up to it being “them not me” and would do my darnedest to set their opinion aside. With any critique site you have to go in to it realizing that just like you don’t like everything you read, there will be people who don’t prefer your work. It doesn’t mean it’s not good, or not marketable, it just means it’s not their taste. Those are the critiques you politely thank for their time and then ignore their suggestions. If you remember to stay polite regardless of what’s being thrown your way then you’ll see that kindness reciprocated.

OTHER FEATURES:

While I can’t begin to list them all, there is a lot more than just story queues on their site.  There are forums where you can meet and talk with other writers. Messaging so you can talk back and forth. Tools to track your progress. Writing exercises, games. Resources to answer your publishing/writing questions and blog posts to keep you encouraged. You really have to join to see everything they have to offer.  With Premium memberships your options are even greater for a small monthly fee.

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COST:

Basic Service is FREE. Premium membership for around $3 per month and Gold for about $6.

WHY YOU SHOULD USE IT:

Agents, editors – they all want to know if your work has been reviewed by others and for good reason. Your work is your baby, and like the parent of that awkward looking baby that has NO clue their child isn’t cute – you have to have someone that isn’t in love with your story look at it and honestly tell you if it’s awkward, cute or just a ugly duckling story that hasn’t been revised into a swan yet. Critique Circle is a great place for that. I recommend you give it a try.

CHECK OUT THEIR SITE:

www.critiquecircle.com

CCLogo
CLICK HERE

6 reasons to be grateful you’re a writer NOW

With Thanksgiving being less than a day away, it seems only appropriate to list the reasons we should be grateful to be a writer now instead of decades ago.

Drum roll please.

Thanksgiving

 

1. We don’t have to use whiteout.

Typewriters and whiteout are fun to mess around with.  The tick-tick-swuurrr is oddly soothing, but type a whole novel on that antique? NO WAY! I’m grateful for computers and not having to retype my entire manuscript when it’s time to revise.

 2. SO many books.

According to Nick Morgan on Forbes.com, there are 600,000 to 1,000,000 books published in the U.S. per year. And that’s added on top of the millions of books that already exist! The up side to this daunting number is there will always be a plethora of new stories to read. Definitely something to be grateful for.

3.  Choose your own publication.

We should be grateful that today’s publishing market is a choose your own adventure. If you’d like a road full of rejection with the hope of a substantial advance -choose traditional publishing. Want to risk it all? Choose self-publishing. Or, if you want to have a writing assignment nagging at you multiple times a week the road to blogging is right for you.

 4. You can say that!?

I’m conservative. I don’t read books with risque stuff and can’t stomach most of Stephen King (even though I highly respect him as an author). I know that what I like you might hate and vice versa. So thank you to today’s writing world for giving us variety to please every reader’s appetite.

5.  Spell check? Yes, please!

Yes, you too can have a super smart computer point out all your incomplete sentences and less than impressive spelling mistakes (insert sarcastic “Yay!”). Let’s be honest, having your word processor make you look like a grammar idiot has got to be much less embarrassing than the live human being doing the same that writers of yesteryear had to face.

 6. ‘Cuz we are liv-ing in a – a digital world (did you hear Madonna too?)

While I swear writers are the only people who use stamps regularly when it’s not Christmas time – I’m very grateful that more and more publications have moved to electronic submissions. Now instead of obsessively checking my mailbox I can obsessively check my inbox too. Isn’t technology grand?

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!

Comment below. Why are you grateful you’re a writer now?

Getting off the Ropes

Last week I failed as a writer.

Last week, half my family was sick. My son had a birthday, there were meetings, hangouts, my job, my husbands jobs, school stuff, church stuff… yada, yada, yada. All wonderful things and all exhausting. To add a little nuts to my life sundae I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month (which I ‘m loving, by the way) but when you have a week like I had there was no way in H-E- double hockey sticks that I was going to make my daily word count. And I didn’t.

Getting off the Ropes

This week I needed a pick me up. I needed a side rink, squirt in the mouth, slap in the face, ‘you can do this’ moment. So, in case you need a pick me up too, here’s some quotes that helped me get off the ropes. And some just made me laugh.

Thank you, Goodreads.


 “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

― Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

“Never annoy an inspirational author or you will become the poison in her pen and the villian in every one of her books.” ― Shannon L. Alder

 

“I have a pesky little critic in the back of my mind. He’s a permanent fixture and passes judgment on everything I write.

In order to placate him, especially when I’m endeavoring to write anything as ambitious as a novel, I have to constantly mutter, ‘I’m not writing a masterpiece, I’m not writing a masterpiece.’

This mantra lulls him into a kind of stupor so that he pays no attention to what I’m doing, because after all, I’m not claiming it’s any good. Slowly, and secretly, one page at a time, I write my story.

I know I’ve succeeded when he grudgingly admits, ‘That’s pretty good.’ And if I’m lucky, every once in a while, I blow him away.”
― Rukhsana Khan

 

“i want to never settle for anything less than my soul on paper.” ― Jonathan Culver

 

“Authors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.” ― Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

 

“they say that girls are the ones who want fairy tail endings, but then again, who are the authors of fairy tales? mostly men…” ― Alina Radoi

 

“Publishing a book is like being pregnant. By the end, you’re just ready to get that baby out!”
― Carmen DeSousa

 

“Authors: The only people you thank for leaving you emotionally devastated.” ― Love The Stacks Bookstore

 

“If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.”
― Roopleen

 


 

What quotes inspire you? Comment Below.

 

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Let’s eat Grandma!

Let’s talk grammar for a minute.

One of my favorite grammar posters is this one:

Lets Eat Grandma
Poster designed by Tator Bug

Grammar is a thorn in my side. There’s so many darn rules! How can anyone possibly keep them all straight? My favorite high school english teacher, Ms. Matheson, would hate to see this post. ‘Cuz then I’d have to admit that I zoned out whenever she started teaching grammar (and that I just started an incomplete sentence with the word ‘cuz).

In elementary school, I took one of my first stories to my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Jensen (mostly to show off, if I’m being honest. I thought it was hot stuff). She smiled, tucked the paper in her take home folder and said she’d read it  that night. The next day she handed the story back, covered in red ink; some were compliments, but lots were grammar fixes. I hid the story in my desk so no one could see.

I’ve gotten better at accepting criticism, but I still second guess my grammar. Every. Darn. Time. Semi-colons, dashes, commas before quotations… it all makes my head swim. If you can relate, read on. If you are a grammar genius (it’s okay to admit you are) then share some of that wealth below in the comments! How did you learn? Did you sleep with Elements of Style under your pillow each night? Do tell.

For the rest of us, green squiggly lines in Word and internet searches are magical things. Since Word’s grammar tool isn’t always the most accurate fix, here are some of my favorite grammar sites that help keep me on track. Most of the time.

1.  Grammar Girl:  http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

Lots of great podcasts on all things grammar.

Grammar Girl

2. The Purdue OWL:  https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/5/

It’s like going back to school, only I pay attention now. Lots of worksheets. Lots of answers.

purdue 0wl

3. Grammar Gorillas:  http://www.funbrain.com/grammar/

Okay, yes, this is a kid website. But come on, what’s more fun than playing a game to practice something boring like grammar?

grammar_gorilla

4.  Puncuation Paintball: http://streaming.discoveryeducation.com/braingames/iknowthat/Paintball/Medium.cfm

Another kid website – but another fun one 🙂

Punc Paintball

Any other great grammar sites out there I should check out? Let me know!

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Writing Basics that Work

I’ve done my fair share of web surfing. My fair share of looking for the writing “diamond in the ruff” that works for me. Below are three tried and true writing basics that will help every author become a better author (or just get that darn manuscript finished).

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#1 – Be consistent

Writing Basics that Work - Busy-620x483

How you define consistency is 100% dependent on you and your life. But every author (yes, every author) needs their version of routine to be successful at this craft.

I’ve tried all sorts of routines. The early morning, butt glued in the chair, write or die method. I’ve tried the late night, half asleep, slap the face and keep going method. I’ve even tried the method of locking myself in my room with a sign on the door for the kids that says: “No blood? No Broken Bone? No Enter.” All these methods had their perks, and all had downfalls (my 5 year old laying outside my door screaming for me to let her in while my husband tried to coax her back downstairs was one of the big downfall).

Given my full and crazy life, I’ve learn to snack write. I’m never entirely sure when I’ll have time to write, but I seize the moments I get and try my darnedest to write every day. 

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#2- Read. A LOT.

Writing Basics - Read

If any of you are working parents, like me, finding time to write (let alone read) can seem near impossible. But good reading does make better writing. I don’t find it coincidental that many authors, especially beginning ones, reflect their favorite author’s style in their own writing. It’s a good place to start. And hopefully it eventually carries them to find their own voice.

Reading also inspires you to write. Don’t believe me? Try it.  Next time you have a slump in your writing, re-read a book that once struck your internal tuning fork. Just see if you can stop yourself from wanting to write.

Don’t limit yourself to paper or e-books. Audio books are great for commuters or busy parents like me who live in a car – driving one carpool after another.  I also listen to books while I’m cleaning the house – laundry’s not nearly as awful with a great book on in the background.

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#3 – Write – for goodness sakes, WRITE!

Writing Basics - Write

What? Did I really put that? Seems a tad obvious..hmm?

Well … it is.

But I know that I’m not the only writer that has gotten caught in the research whirlpool then wondered why my word count for that day was so low. You know what distractions you have to turn off to make you focus, so now, you just have to do it. Every day (or whatever version of consistently you have).

To keep your writing flowing you also have to stop editing yourself.  Especially with that first draft. Make a mess! Know it’s not going to look great! Little secret here that some writers forget… no one has to see that first draft. No one. Your goal simple needs to be to finish it. Then, when revision time rolls around, you can spit shine it all you want. But first, you write.

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On that note.  This would be a great time to close this blog and get back to your writing (but not until you’ve left a comment below ‘cuz I’d love to hear if you’ve got any other writing basics that are must haves for you).

Please tell me your thoughts below.

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NaNo – NaNo – NaNoWriMo

Am I the only one that thinks of Mork and Mindy whenever someone talks about NaNoWriMo?

Mork and Mindy

Let’s just push past how old I’m feeling at this moment and get to the good stuff. A great blog post, by someone else.

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, but just signed up to do it this year, all because of Liana Brooks blog post on Critique Circle. She took what  seemed like a monstrous feat and chopped it up into tangible tasks. I’m working on Step 5 right now and kind of wish I could dive into the writing already.

So, without further ramblings, here’s the good stuff. I do caution… once you get to the end of this post you might feel crazy enough to sign up too. You have been warned!

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NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – can we be honest for a second? You are only doing NaNo for one of three reasons:

1) You need to get into a daily writing habit and writing 1666 words a day for a month is a good way of developing that habit.

2) You need to get a big chunk of writing done in a hurry and 50,000 words in a month ain’t a full novel for most genres, but it ain’t too shabby either.

3) You’re friends are threatening to steal your fuzzy socks and your chocolate stash if you don’t join.

See, the 50,000 words you get when you win NaNoWriMo aren’t the prize, they’re the byproduct. Winning NaNoWriMo means spending the month of November turning yourself into a better writer. And I want to help you be a winner.

There’s pages and pages of writing advice on the internet. You could read books on writing, and nuance, and metaphor. If you’re lucky you’ll spend your entire life reading great books and learning from other authors, but not amount of learning is going to help you get off the starting block and to writing a book unless you know where to start. So that’s what this post is about: how to prep for NaNoWriMo.

Mid-October you need to set aside a day for NaNoWriMo planning. You’re going to be doing your research, basic plotting, and some very simple outlining. It you’re a Plotter who needs to have all the details written down, fine, add more. If you’re a Pantster (like me!) you’ll find this method isn’t overwhelming and leaves lots of room for improvisation. Once you’ve got your date set grab something to make notes on and give yourself five hours to work… and yes it’s perfectly fine to do this in fifteen minute increments over the month of October. You’re busy, and that’s normal. 🙂

Step 1: Write the elevator pitch for your novel.

Don’t get hung up on finding an original plot or the perfect pitch right now. Just pick an idea that tickles your imagination and run with it. The fact that you are writing it will make it unique. Every person is different, and so is every story!

– In two sentences or less write what you’re going to write your book about. It doesn’t need to be perfect, you just need to verbalize it somehow.

– If you don’t know what to write about look for inspiration in art work, online story prompts, the NaNoWriMo Adopt A Plot forum, or on Tumblr where the Out Of Context D&D people give anyone with a pulse an urge to write fantasy.

– Can’t decide on just one plot? No problem! Plan them all out. Start writing whichever catches your fancy in November and write the others next year.

Step 2: Use the Dime Novel Formula

This is 100% stolen from the author of the Doc Savage novels Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent) and he deserves full credit. Partial credit goes to British author Tim Dedopulos who wrote a NaNoWriMo post in 2010 entitled How To Write A Novel In Three Days. We’re using a modified version of his method….

– Lester Dent said every good novel needed four things: A new way to kill someone, a new thing for the villain to want, a new place, and a menace that threatens your hero at every turn.

– Write down your four things.

Step 3: You Need Four Plot Twists

No one likes a book where they can guess the ending on page one. It’s boring. Plot twists set in the right place along the course of the book will give your reader a wild ride that keeps them reading long past bedtime. Plan on at least four plot twists.

– Plot twist #1 comes in the first quarter of the book. “You’re a wizard, Harry.” “I found a wardrobe that leads to a kingdom of snow and my brother ate the evil queen’s Turkish Delight!” etc. You get the idea.

– Plot Twist #2 comes about 40% of the way through the book, this one’s the gut punch. The hero loses something, they’re betrayed, something horrible happens and at all cost you must leave the readers thinking there is no way your hero can ever find a happy ending after this. If you’re George R. R. R. Martin this is where you kill [spoiler redacted], you soulless fiend.

– Plot Twist #3 comes at the climax of the story, when the fate of the universe hangs by a thread, and then suddenly PLOT TWIST! something amazing happens. Harry comes back from the dead. Loki really didn’t kill Thor. Mulan shoots Shan Yu with a firework and the Emperor bows to her.

– Plot Twist #4… and I know you’re scratching your head here… this one comes in the last pages of the book. The villain confesses they did it all for the love of the hero, the hero pulls the sword from the stone and finds out it’s plastic, the long-lost princess realizes she rescued the wrong kingdom! This is the very final twist that keeps the book alive after the last page is turned. It may seem diabolic, especially if you’re not writing a series, but it lets the reader believe the characters will live on and have more adventures even after the book ends, and that’s important.

Step 4: You Need Three Villains

Early in my writing career I wrote several novels that were great except the pacing and tension seemed almost nonexistent. It wasn’t until I wrote a book with a well fleshed out villain that I realized my early novels suffered from a lack of antagonist. Save yourself some tears and define your villains up front.

– Who is your Primary Antagonist? This is the villain that shows up one page one and gives our hero grief but who may not be a villain all along. If you’re writing an Enemies-To-Lovers romance this antagonist will wind up being a hero in the end.

–  Who is your Second Antagonist? The Middle Villain, is the one who comes in the center of the book (hence the name) and who the hero didn’t see as a problem beforehand. Either this antagonist was a friend before and betrayed the hero, or they become a villain because of the hero’s actions in achieving the first quest of the book. This antagonist carries a lot of weight and deals the hero the most set backs. They’re the one that drives the hero to the moment of despair and strips them of everything (which is why a betrayer makes such a good second villain). While dealing with the second antagonist the hero stumbles into a realization of who the bigger villain is. If you’re writing a series with One Big Villain driving the series (think Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews or Star Wars where the Emperor is the Big Bad) you’ll have the hero defeat a series of Middle Villains in each book and only face The One Big Bad in the final book. If you’re writing a series driven by Hero’s Choice this second villain will bounce between being a villain and being a temporary ally (think the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs or Star Trek where Romulans and Klingons are sometimes enemies and sometimes friends). The other series option is the No Hero series like Game of Thrones where everyone is an antagonist and a protagonist in their own mind.

– Who is the Third Antagonist? The Big Bad, the villain whose presence is felt but unknown throughout the book. In a series, you may not see this person until the end of the series. The best part about this kind of antagonist is it invites readers to reread so they can catch the earlier clues. You really can save this villain for the very end, or at least the last 1/3 of the book. They usually appear around the hero’s Moment Of Despair, when the hero has lost all hope, friends, support, and belief in themself. This is the villain that defines the hero. Because the hero looks up from the mud and blood and despair and say, “I cannot let you do this. I cannot let you win even if I lose everything.” The decision to fight this villain when all hope is lost, at great personal sacrifice, is what makes an ordinary person a hero. And because the hero is coming from such a low point, beaten and fragile, their victory is all the more sweet in the end.

*Whew! Got all that? Okay. Good. Take a breather because the next section is there we’re going to tackle the nitty gritty. You ready?*

Step 5: Building The World

Do you know what derails the most NaNoWriMo novelists? The research. They pause to look up a name, or find a place to set a scene, and then they’re lost down the rabbit hole of research and you find them wandering bookstores in mid-January wondering why people are hanging Valentine’s Day decorations. It’s sad, really. And you, smarty that you are, are going to dodge that bullet by naming everything right now!

– Make a list of 25 female names and 25 male names for your book. You can do it by culture or race if you need to, but get it done before November 1st. And, remember, if you hate the name November 15th you can change it in edits. That’s why we have the Search-Replace function.

– Make a list of all the modes of transport in your book. If you have spaceships or sailing vessels make a list of names for them too. Ten minimum. More is better. Pick a theme if you’re having trouble, like naming all the ships in your fleet after minerals: Jasper, Feldspar, Malachite…

– Make a list of all the places you might set a scene. Name the cafes, name the fields, name the forests, name the nebulas, name the schools, name the rooms. You may not use them all but they’ll be there if you need them.

– Make a list of all your props: weapons, clothes, whatever will be on stage goes right here. If it helps, pretend you’re planning a play. Picture what you might need. And feel free to add more when you start writing. These lists are guidelines only, you can use them or lose them to your heart’s content.

Step 6: The Setting Thesaurus

This is going to take a bit of time, so plan ahead. What you need to do here is follow the excellent example set by Becca and Angela and make a thesaurus for all the scenes.

– Honestly, this is more for the Plotters who need to know everything. Pantsters, write five or six key words to describe each place, one for each major sense. If you have more or have something you really want to see in that place, scribble it down.

– Bookmark the Emotion Thesaurus and Setting Thesaurus in case of emergencies in November.

Step 7: Time For The Math

NaNoWriMo is meant to be thirty days of steady writing, but let’s be realistic, unless you’re life is perfect you won’t be writing all thirty days. Look at your calendar right now and decide how many days you can write. For me is about 24 days in November. I take weekends off to spend time with my kids and I’ll be too busy cooking on Thanksgiving to write.

– Grab a calculator. Divide 50,000 by the number of days you have to write. This number is your target word count if you want to have 50,000 words at the end of the month.

– 50,000 isn’t a full novel for adult genres and most YA. If you really want a novel in a month you need to do that math with 75,000 words. I’m sorry.

– Curse yourself. Cry. Google WRITE OR DIE. Thank the creators of WRITE OR DIE for all they have done for you. Bookmark WRITE OR DIE. Tell your family and friends you love them, and then go buy some note cards.

Step 8: The Dread Outline

This trick I actually picked up from a fellow Critique Circle writer my first year participating in NANOWRIMO. She said she spent Halloween night handing out candy and writing scenes on a note card. One card per writing day with all the scenes she needed to write.

– Let’s pretend you have 25 writing days in November and you want 50,000 words. That’s 2000 words on each of your writing days, or one scene per day.

– Pick out 25 cards and write one or two sentences describing a scene you want to write on each card.

– Put a small sticker or check mark on Plot Twist days and mark the days on your calendar. You’ll probably be writing a plot twist on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th of November.

– Rearrange, discard, or rewrite anything that doesn’t seem to make sense.

– REMEMBER! This is only the rough draft. It’s meant to be rough. You are aiming to write something ugly. Everything will be smoothed and polished in edits. These cards can be changed at any time, they’re really here to be your count down clock to victory. No panicking allowed.

Step 9: Write Like A Pro

Can I share a teeny tiny little secret with you? There’s not an author alive who knows what they’re doing. That blank page is just as blank for you as it is for your favorite author. Every person is unique. Every person will write differently and in different ways. There is no wrong way to be an author.

– Sit down.

– Write.

– All the planning you did, that’s there for reference. All those lists and names and plot twists were written down so your subconscious could have time to play with the ideas and present you with the scenes when it’s time to write. On November 1st all you have to do is show up and write.

– If you get stuck, check your notes.

– If you go running down a new avenue just make sure to connect with your plot twist.

– Never abandon your villains, they’re what makes your hero a hero.

– Write.

– Keep writing.

– Don’t give up.

– Have fun.

Sign up for NaNoWriMo 2014 here.

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Wham! Hitting the Publishing Brick Wall

Do you have any friends that run? Not jog around the block, but really run?

I know a few.  I have an aunt that just finished a 200 miles race (yes, that sounds crazy to me too). And another friend that marathon hops. Dedicated runners, like these two, typically love the process – the prep for the race, the energy of race day, the high that comes after finishing. Sure, they may have bad days, but as a whole they love knowing they can do hard things. But all marathon runner, even these dedicated ones, have that dreaded mile where they hit a “brick wall” – that mile where they question their sanity and wonder “If I quit and walk into those onlookers over there, will anyone actually notice?”

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Publishing a story, especially a novel, is a marathon too. Just ask anyone who’s finished one. Maybe they get easier the more you finish, you seasoned pros will have to chime in on that one, but I still hit a brick wall with each and every one.

I recognize that every writer has a different “brick wall,”  and everyone has their own way of climbing over it. So that’s what I’d love to discuss today. What’s your writing brick wall along the path to publication?

My brick wall is submission. I enjoy brainstorming a work, fleshing it out, writing that first draft, polishing it up… fun, fun, fun. Then – I get stuck and the voices in my head start talking: “You spent how much time making up a story? Do remember you’re a mother? Was that really the best use of your time?” or the one that plagues me most – “You honestly think that’s good enough to sell? You sure you don’t want to go edit that some more?” (my voices can be pretty ruthless). I’d like to say I have a magical fix for my own publishing brick wall, but I don’t. Instead, I’ve learned to accept my weakness and use it to my advantage.

While I’m pretty methodical with my daily have-to-dos, when I’m dreading something (like submitting a manuscript), I procrastinate. Big time. So, how do I use procrastination to my advantage?

I work in spurts.

I’m someone who has to get everything done, just has to. So, while I may be a procrastinator, I also know it will all get done… eventually.  When I hit my brick wall, I sit and wait for that magical time when I’m sick of procrastinating and actually want to play catch up. Then I pounce and put myself in overdrive. I tackle all those half done cover letters, tell my voices to shut their yaps, deem my manuscripts “good enough” and send them on their way. My “intensive spurts” method isn’t for everyone, especially those with looming deadlines, but it works great for me.

Now on to you:

What’s your brick wall? And how do you get past it?

Please comment below.

Your fix might be the answer another writer is looking for!

 

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