Monday, November 30, 2009


Just a quick one tonight before last night's lack of sleep completely overtakes me and I fall asleep where I sit.

Today marks the end of Nanowrimo 2009. Did I win? Nope. Did I come close? Ha! Not even. My final word count is less than 2,000. I hit a massive wall right from the outset and chose to let it rule me. I'm disappointed in myself. Not that I didn't "win" but that I let my anxiety and frustration and unwillingness to fight the block consume me and keep me from telling a story I think has potential to be a great one. My preconceived notions of title and characters and plot never meshed and instead of changing one or the other, I kept trying to force everything into a neat package.

So another Nanowrimo is over and with it, another unfulfilled idea. The good thing about challenges, however, is that they can happen at any time. With that in mind, I'm going to take December to rework my Nano idea into something I feel comfortable with and I'm going to move forward and- hopefully- keep in mind the lessons I learned in November. My challenge to myself is to write every day. Every. Damn. Day. Even if what I end up writing are throwaway words, I will write. No more excuses, really. I'm all out of them; it's time I just write.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting Ahead Of Myself; or, What Happens When A Story Really Comes To Life

(Brought to you by the "Better Late Than Never" department, since turkey coma took over my brain last night...)

Well, my NaNoWriMo project is currently sitting at roughly 61,000 words, and I'm not quite halfway into the story. Which means that this one, like last year's, is probably going to run a lot longer than it should.

I'm not terribly worried about it at this point, because I can already see lots of places where the story can be trimmed and condensed. There's a lot of what I've seen referred to as "tea drinking" in it. By that, I mean the stretches of story where the characters are drinking tea, and we get the excruciating details of how each takes his/her tea, and how many times they stir it, and how many sips they take of it, and so on. While a certain amount of that is necessary to help flesh out a story's world, too much of it can really bog down a narrative. So that's something I'm definitely going to keep in mind come the editing phase.

The story is also set in the Victorian era, so a lot of the descriptions and conversations are far more wordy than they really need to be. But my goal for this draft is to get down all of the images and nuances that are essential to how I want to tell the story; I can go back later and pare out a lot of the excess verbiage while still (hopefully) keeping in the flavor of the era.

I can see that there's a lot of repetition in it, too. There are three separate places, for instance, where my MC's father thinks about or discusses her relationship with The Love Interest. I'm pretty sure I can lose at least one of them, and I can shorten up one or both of the others (though frankly, I'm very pleased with the scene where The Father confronts The Love Interest directly and don't want to pare it down too much).

Finally, I can look back at what I've written so far and identify a lot of stuff that is really part of the backstory/worldbuilding phase that I, as the author, need to know about, but that you, as the reader, really don't, or at least not in quite so much detail. I can trim that out pretty easily, I think, and it will make for a better story that way.

But what pleases me most of all is that this story finally seems to have found its voice. (I know, a mere 60K words in!) The characters are beginning to come alive for me at last, and the tone is finally starting to even out. I have a fair idea of the arc for the rest of this book. I know where I want to go, and I mostly know how I want to get there. There are still a few fuzzy plot patches, but that's really not a bad thing. Discovering what goes in them will help keep the project fresh and alive for me.

That's not the problem.

The problem is that, in the shower* yesterday morning, I got a very clear vision of where the rest of this trilogy (yes, trilogy) is headed. In particular, a number of the plot points for Book Three have become clear to me, and one scene in particular presented itself to me almost fully-formed.

Now I'm in a quandary. I really don't want to lose momentum on my current story, but on the other hand, I want to make sure to capture these ideas while they are still fresh in my head. I'm not sure how to handle this, though at the moment I'm leaning toward making Book Three wait until December 1, at least. Then I'll take a day or two to jot down outlines and notes for what I want to make sure to do when I get there before I go back and finish the current story.

How do other people handle it when a story wants to run away with you? Do you run off after the plot bunnies, or do you make them wait their turns?

* Have I mentioned that many of my best story ideas come to me in the shower? Why is that, I wonder?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reading and Writing

I was discussing my post with fellow Melt-Ink Pot-er, Andrea, and how I couldn't think of something to write about this week (scandalous, I know). She suggested that since to be good writers, we need to also be readers, that I should blog about what I'm reading right now.

Unfortunately, I find myself in somewhat of a reading slump lately. Oh, don't get me wrong, I am reading. In fact, I believe I have four books that I'm working my way through at this time. The problem is that none of them are reaching out and grabbing me. I pick up one and read it for a few pages, even a chapter or two. Then I put it down and wander aimless through my living room for something else to read. I stare at my bookshelves, pick up books and look at them, put them back, and do this over and over again. Finally my husband will ask me what I'm doing. When I tell him I'm trying to find something to read, he looks at me like I'm crazy.

There is no lack of reading material on my shelves. I have shelves of books that haven't been read, as well as Sony Reader that has about 20 digital books waiting to be attacked (and I won't even count the books I have on my iPod).

One of the books I'm reading is by an author I adore. This is the 6th book in a series she's writing and while I still like what I've read so far, it doesn't grab me the way books one, two, or even four did.

I know that some readers when they get in a slump will go back and reread an old favorite. I'm not a rereader. I've rarely reread a book in my life. My question is how do you overcome reading slumps? Reread an old favorite? Completely switch genres from what you have been reading? Lose your mind in a video game for a couple hours (if you haven't done Wii Archery on the Sport Resort, you don't know what you're missing)?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Insert Title Here

In her most recent post, Colleen talks about titles and how they matter to her as both a reader and a writer. It's a great entry and it got me to thinking about how I view titles from both standpoints as well. She briefly mentions covers too; because I am lame-o and skipped my turn last week, I'm going to subject you all to another post this week, on covers this time (probably on Wednesday).

As a reader, the title is usually the first thing that draws me to a book, especially when I am wandering around the bookshop without a game plan in mind (game plan when bookshopping? oh yes, sometimes I come up with one). Like Colleen says, titles can convey a lot in a few words. I tend to spend most of my browsing in the mystery section, horror too if there is one. Because there are always more books than there is time to look through them, titles help me sort through the stacks and skip over the books I am not interested in checking out. For example, while I enjoy them on occasion, so-called 'cozy" mysteries are not my thing so when I see titles with obvious puns such as Crime Brulee or Pointe and Shoot, I know to keep on moving down the shelf. I do love a good, grim mystery, however, so titles such as River of Darkness and Blood on the Tongue are going to stop me in my tracks. Sometimes a title is misleading, which can be an exciting thing for me as a reader (i.e. The Doll who Ate his Mother by Ramsey Campbell is actually not about an evil doll who comes to life) or it can be an utter disappointment (Fangland by John Marks springs to mind).

As a writer, I understand that while the title I choose will most likely change down the line- whether by me or (pleasepleaseplease) my publisher-I need to come up with one that I feel conveys the heart of my story. Sometimes they come easily and sometimes they don't, but I like to have a title when I begin to write. That doesn't mean it's always the right title. For this year's nanowrimo project, I selected a title that came to me so effortlessly, I just had to use it. Unfortunately, it goes with my story as well as oil does with water and to be honest, I think that's one of the reasons why I've failed so horribly at the challenge this year. I kept trying to make the two mesh when they so clearly did not. No matter how I changed my plot, I could not disconnect it from the title. Bottom line is that that particular title is meant for another story, one that is slowly percolating in my brain, and I just need to save it for when the time is right.

I'm going to echo Colleen's words in her entry: what do you think about titles?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Title (or what am I going to call today’s post?)

We’ve all heard the saying, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Whoever coined that phrase must have been a romance reader. Let’s face it, some of the old-school covers were pretty worthy of being ripped on (no pun intended) and even now, there are some covers that can be pretty cringe-worthy.

But what about titles? To most authors coming up with the perfect title is almost as important (and in some cases, like with me, as difficult) as writing the story in the first place. Most publishers ultimately change the author’s title when they decide to publish but initially it’s the big attention getter for an authors work from contests to query letters. A title has to convey a sense of time, place and what kind of book it is not to mention conveying a brand (Harlequin Presents anyone?). That’s a lot of pressure for an average of 3 or so words.

I’ve been a reader of romance long enough to know that the old adage of judging a book by the cover is true. So as I’m skimming the shelves it’s usually a title that will catch my attention first (especially now that most books are put on shelves with the spines, rather than the cover, facing out). If the title sounds interesting, I’ll usually read the back cover before I even look at the front cover.

Coming up with titles for my own work is often such an exercise in frustration that I avoid dealing with it until I have to. For example, the title of my historical western novella that I’m submitting to Harlequin’s Undone line, has changed several times since I started writing it. I am not 100% in love with the current title that I’m using and chances are it’s going to change before I submit it. I know that if Harlequin buys it chances are really good that they’ll change the title. But it still, along with everything else, is going to have to catch the attention of an editor.

The other day something happened that has never happened to me before – a title just came to me. What’s stranger is that it wasn’t for anything I was currently working on. But the title (which sorry, not ready to share), was so just perfect that I now plan on doing a project around it. It was a kind of refreshing change to the usual frustration that comes with coming up with titles.

What do you think of titles? Do you use them to determine what books you may or may not buy? What about with your own work, do you struggle to come up with them? Do you have to have one before you begin a project or do you wait until you’ve finished?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Being Creative NOW; or What Are We Waiting For?

Wil Wheaton* had an excellent post on his blog this week titled, "Get Excited and Make Things!" If you consider yourself a creative person at all (and why would you be here if you don't?), you really should go read it. Yes, now. I'll wait.

You back? Okay.

Anyway, it really got me to thinking about just how easy it is to be creative in the first decade of the twenty-first century. As pre-published authors, we have access to resources our predecessors could only have dreamed of. Let's start with the computer you're using to read this, and the internet connection that delivered it to you. But that's just the beginning. Stuck on a research point? Open an new Google tab in your browser window, type in a few key terms, and whoosh! Need to get a feel for your location? Google Street View. Don't know the names for the various parts of an airship? Wikipedia! And -- the bit that amazes me most of all -- you can do all of this on a laptop with no physical connection to anything.

Know what I did last night? I decided I needed to create a map of a college campus for my WIP. So I went to Google and called up a map of Oxford, England. No, not just a map. A satellite view. And I found a spot where I could squeeze in my imaginary campus (it's on Longwall street, back between Magdalen College and Holywell Cemetery, with the canal there as the eastern border). I took a screen shot of this spot, pasted it into Paint, and -- using the satellite views of other campuses in the area for inspiration -- drew my campus map on top of it. Voila! One Royal Academy of Science, to order. Even geekier? I can link you to the base map that I used, and if I'd thought of it last night, I could have uploaded the final map to Flickr and linked to it here. (I may come back and do that tonight from home, so check back!)

[Aha! And I did. Here is my map of the Royal Academy of Science!]


Things like this boggle my mind. Even as little as ten years ago, I would not have been able to do something like this, or at least not as quickly and easily. I might have been able to come up with a street-level map of Oxford, but not one that would show the buildings and the detail I needed to get a feel for what a college campus in Oxford would look like. I could have made a black and white photocopy of the map and drawn on it by hand. I might have even been able to scan it in to the computer and used Paint like I did last night. But sharing it with my friends would have involved more steps, and taken a lot longer. (Ten years ago, I was still using a dial-up connection, after all.)

The point is, it's easier than ever to be creative. The only difference, as far as I can tell, between people who create and people who do not is simply motivation.

So what kinds of projects -- writing or otherwise -- are people working on? What motivation do you need in order to make them happen?

*Yes, I'm a geek. I read Wil Wheaton's blog. And I admit it. In public. So there.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Writing and Music: To Listen, or Not to Listen

With the "busyness" of life on this side of the computer, I come to you with a humble heart and apologies for not posting anything last Saturday. Truly, I am a bad, bad blogger. However, despite the larger hurdles I've jumped recently, I have thought a great length about today's topic.

Duke Orsino opens the play Twelfth Night with one of my favorite quotes: "If music be the food of love, then play on." Never was a statement more filled with truth, in my opinion. Music is such a part of our lives, regardless of how, where, what, and when we listen to it. For my part, music adds a fourth dimension to my writing life: it generates ideas for plot and character, and encourages thoughts into words that flow onto the page. My writing would be flatter without music.

However, the question I'd like to throw out is simply, "Do you listen to music when you write?"

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer; like most everything in writing, it's all a matter of opinion. Many famous writers have declared they do not listen to music while they write: Nora Roberts, for example, considers writing her profession and therefore treats it like a business, sans music. On the other hand, I have read about some published authors who use music's energy to write, while others use music to literally block out everything else.

My writing is very much tied into music. Usually I listen to soundtrack music while writing scenes, though I have been known to use upbeat rock to write faster-paced scenes. At times, however, my inner writer will grab onto a song and won't let go until I have written that scene replaying in my mind. Those are the times when I plug in my iPod and put the song on repeat until I'm finished - something my husband finds immensely amusing.

It's true, sometimes I use music to put myself into a writing mood. Most of the time, however, music is my passenger in the drive through writing a story. Sometimes it helps me navigate my way through a scene; other times it takes control and leads me on a merry chase. How do you use music in your writing life?

By the way, I am listening to Enya's Christmas CD as I type this post. Seems fitting on this chilly morning so close to the start of the holidays.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Samantha and I had lunch together today to start brainstorming an idea that came to us this morning. We’ve had the notion before to work on a book together and while that original idea I’m sure will see daylight this new idea has us all a twitter.

There are a lot of writers out there who work together; Lauren Dane and Megan Hart; Anthea Lawson is a husband and wife team; PC Cast is a mother/daughter team and I know there are others I’m just not thinking of. They are all successful, both independently (though I think that Anthea Lawson has only written together) and as a team. Anthea (the wife) spoke last weekend at my RWA chapter meeting. Someone asked her the question of how they work together. She said that her husband is really good at plotting so they come up with an outline of a section and then she writes it. He’ll read it and suggest changes and they go from there.

I think that to collaborate you have to draw on each other’s strengths and be mindful of the not so strong points that each person has. This morning via email Sam was really good at coming up with great plot detail that will make our story pop. Plotting is her strength. I’m pretty good at coming up with something out of nothing (or at least very little) so I’ll be able to fill in the blanks.

I’m excited to work on this project with her. Have you ever thought of collaborating with someone? Have you ever written with someone before? What advice would you give a pair that’s thinking of hitting the blank page together?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finding Your Voice; or, What's That Under The Sofa Cushion?

Ah, the elusive "voice". It is the one thing we pre-published authors are often told is the most crucial aspect of our writing, but no one can tell us where to find it or how to develop it, or even how to tell when we've got it, other than to just keep writing.

This past week, I submitted a couple of chapters of my space-pirate adventure to an on-line writers group formed by some of the people who took part in the Writer's Workshop at Anticipation (a.k.a. the World Science Fiction Convention) this past summer. Discussion of the chapters got lively, but in a friendly, constructive, helpful way. I got some very good ideas out of it, and I think I can see what I need to do with the story next. (Less death and destruction, more humor. Check.)

Which is all very cool, but that's not the only thing I got out of it.

The next day, one of my commenters posted this on his blog. I'll quote part of it here, but you really should go read it all, because it's good (and also short):

"I recently gave a critique to someone about their story – which was a relatively funny piece – and then I got an email reply to my comments that was loads lighter than the story they’d written. Why was this? Because in the email they were relaxed. They were just trying to get back to me, not trying to entertain or write something important."

Wow. Obviously, he was referring to our discussion about my chapters, but it really hit home for me.

Sometimes, as writers, I think we try too hard. We read endless style guides and how-to books and author blogs, and we go to conventions where we listen to advice from authors and editors and agents and even publishers. And after we've done all of that, we're lucky if we can write our grocery lists without stopping to ponder whether the dramatic tension could be increased if we put the milk ahead of the cheese, or worrying ourselves to death trying to decide if it should be "a dozen eggs" or "12 eggs."

Yes, style and grammar and even spelling are important, but those can be tweaked later. What we need to learn to do in order to find our "voice" is to relax and just tell the story.

For me, that's part of what NaNoWriMo is all about. (Aha! You knew I'd get back to that, didn't you?) It's not about proving to myself that I can write 50,000 words in a month. I already know I can do that, since I've done it twice before. It's a chance to focus more on the story and less on the style. That doesn't mean that I don't pay attention to style at all -- I'm a bit OCD that way, if you haven't already guessed -- but if stray commas or adverbs sneak in, they can be weeded out later. I'm just having fun telling the story. And that's how to find your voice.

Oh, and for those who are paying attention, I'm currently at just a little shy of 29,000 words. In other words, just past halfway and well on my way to the 5oK goal, though maybe only about 1/5 of the way into the story. I'm still aiming at 100-120K words total, but looking back on what I've written so far, there's a lot I could take out and tighten up, so even if I end up around 140-150K, I'm probably doing all right. Heck, as long as it ends up shorter than last year's, I'll be happy.

So my challenge to my fellow writers is this: Spend some time this next week just having fun with your writing. Relax, let the words flow, and let's see what happens!

I love it when I can serve as an object lesson!

(If you want to become NaNoWriMo buddies, or even if you just want to follow my word count progress, I'm arwensouth on the NaNoWriMo Web site.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Left turns

Two Tuesdays in a row, I have not managed to post on Tuesday. *bad Tuesday blogger bad bad* Last Tuesday I can blame on being very sick and just did not have the ability to come up with anything. As for yesterday, well, I still can't get to the blog from home and I was too busy to do it at work. But enough with excuses... Here I am on Wednesday.

A few days before Nano began, I had finally settled on a project. I was going to resurrect the erotic sci-fi vampire story I had begun a few years ago. Now, the issue was that I couldn't just pick up where I had left off. I had written myself into a corner with that one. There was a mystery/adventure for the heroine but the motivations behind the bad guys were very fuzzy and not clearly defined. So I took some of the basics from my old plot and decided to keep X and Y. But what about Z, what about that mystery/adventure for the heroine? I began exchanging emails with Andrea (who is my plotting saviour, I can bounce ideas off her all day long and she either knocks them down or hits them back with questions that keep my mind moving) and suddenly I had the basic building blocks of the new story. And someone that had been a friend to the heroine was now the new big bad. All right! We're on our way. I was ready for Nano.

Then something happened... Monday morning (Nov. 2) just the second day of Nano and while I was driving to the train station a kernel of something popped into my head. It was a title (And believe me, that's unusual, I hate trying to come up with titles). Suddenly, I was off. This title was for a whole new story - shapeshifter menage type story. I spent that day figuring out my main characters names, what they looked like, their relationships with one another and their world.

So there I was now with two things I wanted to work on. What to do? Well, I'm working on both. I'm editing what was previously written in my sci-fi vampire story (more like hacking it to pieces) and spending time developing my characters and plot of the shifter menage. I won't hit 50,000 words for the month. I'll be happy if I have 5,000 new words this month. My goal is simply to actively work every day this month. If I do that, then I've "won".

Monday, November 9, 2009

You put one foot in front of the other

I'm still fighting the blahs that struck me last week and my writing has suffered for it. It's never too late to start over, however, so that is what I am doing. I've reworked my opening at least three times and I've finally hit it to where I can continue. 50k words at this point is a mighty big stretch. Okay, it's not gonna happen, but the whole point is to write so I that's what I'm doing.

About that opening...I know, I KNOW, I'm not supposed to rewrite during Nanowrimo. However, I don't know how it is for you, but I cannot get into my story's groove if I am not comfortable with the opening (not that that means I finish what I write if I do happen to like my opening- just ask Sam, who's read many of my first paragraphs but has yet to read the last one). If the first couple of paragraphs don't jive with the tone I'm trying to set, I'm dead in the water. There is no skipping ahead, either: it has to work from the beginning or it doesn't work at all.

I guess that's one of my writerly quirks. Maybe it's something I'll grow out of, or maybe not. How do you approach your beginnings? Can you bust through a block right from the get-go and carry on without stress? Or do you sit and ponder and rewrite until the story starts just the way you want it to? I'm not saying that I never go back and edit the openings I do like from the start, because I surely do.

The interesting thing (to me, at least) is that my Nanowrimo story starts out in the same place in each revision; it's just the wording that keeps changing. I went from third-person to first-person back to third-person. And as I sit here and type this out, it's dawning on me that a lot of my issues with my story stem from a very basic problem: I do not know enough about my main character (and this ties in well with Colleen's recent entry). Once I pin her down, I think the rest will come much easier.

At the rate I'm going, I don't expect to "win" Nanowrimo this year. As cornball as this sounds, though, I am winning in other ways. I'm pushing myself past my usual comfort zones and I'm writing. It's crap and it's slow going, but I'm writing. And that's what it's all about.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Connecting With Characters

Characters. Can’t write with out them and you sure can’t have any kind of a story without them. You can have the best setting in the world, the greatest idea, but without people to bring that to life you won’t have much of a story.

There are just as many ways to develop characters as there are to plot. There are entire books on the subject of creating a character. Some writers conduct “interviews” to get the feel for their characters, others fill out questionnaires and still others fly by the seat of their pants.

I’m a visual person so I usually come up with the description of my character right away. I have to be able to picture them in my head and since I am hardly an artist I go to the next best thing – celebrities. When I was developing my anti-terrorist team for my romantic suspense series I looked for actors that resembled the men I had pictured. I found screen shots of these actors and saved them with the name of the character they were representing.

Beyond knowing what they look like I have to know the personality of my characters, especially my main hero and heroine. I need to know how they are going to react to the situation I’m putting them in and how they are going to react to each other.

Background is also important but I don’t spend a lot of time on it unless it’s important to the story or important to why they are the way they are.

Right now I’m working on developing the characters for my next project. I don’t feel that I can do the kind of plotting I want without first knowing who my characters are going to be. Once I have that down, plotting will be next.

So how do you develop characters? Do you fill out questionnaires? Have you ever had a character that you’ve just connected with? What about one that you didn’t like?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finding The Time; or How To Fit NaNoWriMo Into Your Life

November is upon us, and I, like a lot of my friends, am involved in the frenzy that is NaNoWriMo.

This year's story is going well. I'm already about 4K words ahead of the minimum pace needed to "win", and while I know that at least some of what I've written during the past couple of days will eventually be edited out, I still feel pretty good about my progress. I definitely recommend writing Victorian-era stories for NaNoWriMo. All those long-winded descriptions, all that wordy dialogue ... they really help pile up the word count. Heck, every new character you bring in is worth about 400 words just to make all the appropriate introductions! I'm feeling pretty confident about my chances for success this year.

The first time I did it, though, I was full of doubt. Where could I possibly come up with the time to churn out 1,667 words per day?

I soon learned that there are little bits of time scattered all through your day. The trick is finding them and using them.

Here are some of the places I found spare bits of time:


1) Watch less TV. In fact, give it up altogether if you can. At least for this month.

After all, isn't that why God gave us TiVo?

I'll be honest. My Beloved Husband and I don't watch much television anyway. We're too cheap to pay for cable, and for years we lived in a canyon of apartment buildings where, while we were less than three miles from downtown Denver, we couldn't even get most of the Denver stations. So it was pretty easy for us to all but give up television. We mostly use our TV as a device on which to watch DVDs, but I'm even cutting back on that for November. (Season 2 of Rome notwithstanding.) So other than my one hour per week of network television viewing (Supernatural), I'll mostly be staying away from my TV.

2) Cut back on social media.

Between this blog, two on-line critique groups, LJ, Facebook, and Twitter, it would be easy for me to spend hours on-line just being sociable. While I'm not cutting those things out altogether, I am making a conscious effort to scale back (though you probably couldn't tell from my Tweet-fest last night...). Just check in once in a while and remind people that you've not dropped off the face of the Earth, and that you'll be more sociable ... later.

3) Be prepared to write anywhere, anytime.

I have a netbook, which is great as far as being able to pop it open and start pounding away on the keys at the drop of a hat. Other folks I know use their laptops and AlphaSmarts for the same purpose. But if you can't afford any of those things, at least carry a little notebook and pencil along with you to capture those nifty turns of phrase that run through your head, or plot bunnies that crop up with new suggestions, or character sketches, or...

I write at work, at lunchtime (with varying degrees of success; my co-workers seem to have difficulty understanding "I'm at lunch right now," and there is no break room to which I can retreat to show them that really, I'm NOT doing work stuff right now!). On a good day, I can grind out 500-700 words in 30 minutes; yesterday, it was more like 350 in a very scattered fifteen minutes.

Any time I think I will have more than five minutes of sitting still with nothing to do, I whip out the netbook. Waiting for take out pizza. Waiting for (and riding on) the bus. Waiting for the optician's office to open so they can put the lens that fell out of my glasses last night back in place. Anywhere. Anytime.

4) Stretch the days.

Biological need usually wakes me up about an hour before the alarm goes off. And once I've gotten up and tended to that, I'm awake. So why not spend that time writing?

Having trouble falling asleep? Work on your NaNo for half an hour, then try again. Usually works for me, and with the added benefit of piling up a word count while fixing the insomnia problem.

5) Pre-visualize.

All those boring meetings you attend at work, all that time spent in line at the DMV, all the minutes wasted listening to your mother-in-law catalogue your shortcomings* ... these all used to frustrate me during November, because I could be using that time to write, dammit! Then I figured out how to use the time to my advantage: Spend those stray minutes setting up your next scene in your head. Rehearse bits of dialogue, toy with different ways to describe your hero's tumbling brown locks, plan the logistics of exactly how SuperSpy will steal those top secret plans from the underground bunker. Then when you *do* get to sit down and write, you have a far better idea of where you want to go.

6) Strategic Eating:

Now, I'm not saying that you have to eat out for the entire month. But sometimes, grabbing burgers on the way home really is the answer. Quick, cheap, fills the gap, keep going.

Alternatively, plan your meals out so that you can squeeze in a little writing while you're waiting -- like my take-out pizza example above. The guys at our favorite pizza joint are used to me coming in and ordering pizza to go and a Fat Tire for here, then plopping myself and my bottle at a table and working away for fifteen or twenty minutes.

If you really can't afford to eat out, plan your meals so as to get the most bang for your buck. That big pot of chicken soup I made for Halloween is still feeding us; I just finished the leftover spaghetti that was also good for three meals.

Alternatively, look for good sales on microwaveable dinners, canned soups, and other prepared foods. Don't neglect good nutrition, but save the gourmet cook-fests for December.


"But," I can already hear you saying, "I can't write in just five or ten minutes! I need an hour, maybe two, just to get warmed up!"

Actually, you'd be surprised. First, see #5 above. If you already have part of a scene pre-visualized and waiting to be written, you can usually get it down pretty quickly.

Another trick: Don't stop at the end of a scene. Finish a scene, then force yourself to write the first couple of lines to the next scene. Then you'll be in the middle of the action, and it'll be easier to pick up again.

If all else fails, and you only have five minutes and are certain you can't get anything done in that time, that's an excellent time to read back over the last page or two that you wrote and see if there are any places you need to add in a description or clarify the action. At least, that way, when you have a few more minutes, you'll be better organized.

So those are my tips -- at least the ones I can think of right now. How do you squeeze more writing time into your day?

* No, my m-i-l doesn't actually do this.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Write Now

Sometimes the words won’t come. Sometimes life’s lovely little curve balls overwhelm everything else. Sometimes you just stare at the screen for a while and then walk away without a second thought.

This is me tonight. It’s been a day. You know, one of those days. I need to recover physically and I need to recharge mentally. I am drained. The last thing I want to do tonight is write, especially considering my Nanowrimo struggle yesterday (only 207 words and believe me when I say they are baaaad). What I really want to do- after eating a bag of peanut butter cups and having a good cry- is crawl under the covers with a book by an author who actually knows a thing or two about plot and pace and characterization.

But. BUT.

I won’t. I need to write. I need to persevere and carry on. My story is not going to write itself (although I rather wish it would) and I am not going to feel better when I am even farther behind than I am already. 50 words will be a triumph, given my state of mind, but I am not letting myself off of the hook that easily. If I want to be a writer, I need to write regardless of what is going on around me, especially when I am just starting out and still trying to find my footing. I have to. No ifs, ands or buts. Not any more.

Writing is not always easy, but neither is life. Sometimes you just gotta roll with the punches and find the words no matter how well they are hiding.


How is Nanowrimo going for the rest of you? I know we're all setting different challenges for ourselves and not all of us are gunning for 50k. Has your story started out like you imagined or have you already switched things up? I'm still writing about a haunted house but the particulars, especially my main character's background and ties to the house, have changed drastically. I've also decided to switch from third-person POV to first-person and I think this will make a huge difference for the better. If something about your story isn't working, what are you doing to fix it?