Monday, November 25, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 8

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Chapter 8: WEEK FOUR: Champagne and the Roar of the Crowd

Whew! We made it to Week 4! How is it going for you?  As of this writing, I am at 33,637 words, which puts me 8,029 words behind.  Sounds bad, but also consider: including today, I just need to write less than 2,800 words a day. Or, 3,000 words a day on five days, plus a day to wrap up.  Or, 3,500 words a day on four days, plus a day to wrap up.  Now, one of those days is Thanksgiving, and another is Black Friday, so I'm going to try to get 5,000 in today, which will put me in good shape to make it.

But that's my race to 50k. Let's get back to yours.

Baty wants us to go to the grocery store to buy a couple of bottles of champagne. (Sorry, folks in Pennsylvania. You can go to the state store, I guess.)

That done, take the part of you that says, "Well, I've already written a lot! Can't a finish later?" And shut it up, because you probably won't.

OK, back to making it about me for just a moment.  Last year, my NaNoWriMo project was way too research-intensive, so I gave up and made it a long-term project instead.  The good news is, I'm still chipping away at it, and enjoying it.  The bad news? It's a year later and I'm not even close to the halfway point.  This year's project will have a lot more completed -- and a lot of work to be done on it -- but I can leave it on my hard drive until the last project is done, and then dust it off and shine the parts worth saving. If I ever finish last year's project.  Big if. Learn from me, here.

And back to you!

Point is, we can do this! We're going to do this! (Uh, knock wood)

Supposedly, the noveling this goes easier once we hit 35,000 -- which I expect to blow past today. The end is in sight! If, like me, you're not there, join me in getting there before you go to bed tonight!

But then there's the holiday.  Especially this year, with Thanksgiving falling so late, I was hoping to finish by Wednesday. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. Baty recommends giving family the heads-up, but I don't see that helping a lot in my case. Ultimately, he wishes us luck.  Thanks, Baty.  We need it.

Once we hit the 50k mark (again, knock wood), we need to celebrate.  This isn't just Baty's advice, it's an invitation.  Most of you reading this know me in real life.  Finish your 50k? Call me.

Now that Baty has discussed (and not especially helped with) the challenges of this week, he offers some tips, as he does. First, be sure to stretch your muscles and rest your eyes. After this month, and especially this week, you'll need it.

Blanking? You made notes, right? Check them! Make sure you hit all the points you planned!

Hit 50k before deadline?  What the hell! Keep going!

Brag! Baty suggests finding a not-too-embarrassing page (like, say, the title page), pull up the word count display, hit print screen, paste the screen grab to Paint, save the file, then email like whoa.

But we have to get there first, so Baty recommends some writing exercises for this week.

If you have a wordcount cushion, consider crossing the finish line in longhand.

And if you go to a party, talk about being a novelist. I mean, someone is going to ask you, "What do  you do?"

...OK, these tips aren't going to help my wordcount. But they're still fun!


Need padding? Describe the weather in your setting!

In the second sidebar, Baty offers some tricks for making your printout look like a real book.  They involve using your word processor's layout function the have it printed out in Landscape, two pages to a sheet (or four, if you print front and back).  I personally do this to save paper; looking cool is a fringe benefit.

And the third sidebar is anecdotes from past winners about how they crossed the finish line.  But you know what? I don't care how they did it.  I care how you did it.  So leave a note in the comments! (But not from your phone.  That doesn't work for some reason...)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 18, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 7

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Chapter 7: WEEK THREE: Clearing Skies, Warmer Weather, and a Jetpack on Your BAck

Week Three is well under way. At press time my current wordcount is 21963, which puts me 8037 below par. How are you doing?

Baty kicks off Chapter 7 by assuring us that Week Three is a lot nicer than Week Two was.  I sure hope so.

Going into Week Three (which, we're well into Week Three, but let's do this stuff anyway), we should do the following:

  1. Lose any word debt you've accumulated. If you can't lose all of it, at least break 30,000 words by week's end.
  2. Let gravity be your guide. Your pace will likely pick up at this point.  Go with it.

What issues are we dealing with this week? We should have passed the halfway point, but did we? And independent of the wordcount, are we actually halfway through the story? Even if we hit the endpoints before we hit the wordcount, no problem, that's what prologues and epilogues are for (I have friends who might be reading this who hate prologues and epilogues, and to them I say: See! They do have a purpose!)

But if we're not at the halfway point in the story, well, we need to get there.  Even if we have to skip ahead. We can fill in the color later, when we've finished the story proper (see my previous paragraph). Make a note.  Those scenes can be written in the editing phase.  The actual plot really can't.

How are our support networks doing? I bet they're over it by now (parts of my network were over it by the end of Week One, which hasn't helped my word debt).

What tips does Baty offer for this week? Well, he suggests 6,000 word days.

Yes.  6,000 word days.

But he's not just dropping us into the deep end without a floatie. He explains how to do that :
  1. Pick a day when you'll have three two-hour chunks of free time available.
  2. Get up early and eat breakfast.
  3. Do three 30-minute writing sessions, with a 10-minute break after each.
  4. Do whatever until lunchtime.  Eat lunch. Repeat the 3/30/10 session.
  5. Do whatever until dinner.  Eat dinner.  Digest. Repeat the 3/30/10 session.
  6. Do a happy dance at your wordcount. Go to bed.
Do this both days of the weekend, and that ought to help that word debt. In fact, I'm writing this ahead of schedule (greetings, WriMos of the future!), and I'm seriously considering doing a day's worth to push me through Week Two.

Now, after all the writing you've been doing, you may still feel your Inner Editor sniffing around. Thumb your nose at it by doing something huge and reckless with one of your characters, "promising" yourself that you'll destroy your novel as soon as it's done (since no one will ever see it, it doesn't matter that it sucks!), or hyperfocus on details that don't actually matter to the plot.  In any event, keep writing!

Now, Baty suggests some exercises for Week Three.

Draw a map of everywhere that is relevant to your story, and color it.  In detail.  You're procrastinating, take advantage of it.  When it's done, it'll serve as both reference and inspiration.

Or, play the Person and Thing game.  Go to a place with good people-watching; bring a newspaper you haven't read yet. Close your eyes, count to 15, and then open them.  Write down a thorough description of the first person you see. Then, close your eyes again and flip through the paper.  Open to a random page and plop your finger onto a random spot.  Whatever your finger lands on -- hard-hitting news, personal ad, TV listings, doesn't matter -- is connected to the person. How? Figure it out. Once you do, stick the combination into your novel.  Play it with a friend!


I'll just quote the first sidebar verbatim:
Can I Give Up Now? No.  You cannot give up now.

The next sidebar asks a question that I hope applies to you, but I bet you won't ever apply to me: What do I do if I hit 50,000 words early? Well, finish the story, and then if you have time to spare, go back and fill in those sections you skipped that we talked about earlier.

The third sidebar suggests that if you find yourself with writer's block, pick up the novel you're using as a reference, flip to a random page, and see what happens.  There are no new stories, so y ou're not stealing, just continuing the writerly tradition.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 11, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 6

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Chapter 6: WEEK TWO: Storm Clouds, Plot Flashes, and the Return of Reality

So, we're about halfway through Week Two, and I don't know about you, but at press time my current wordcount is 9419, which puts me 8914 words below par.  I really need to double-down during the week to make up for these useless weekends.

As of roughly today, Baty predicts we'll be hitting the mid-week-two storm. We're off to a great start, but there's no time to congratulate ourselves.

Because now that we've completed our exposition dumps (we're not self-editing this month, so exposition dumps are A-OK), something needs to happen. We have to take that exposition and make it into a story.

It sucks. But largely because it's working. Overwhelmed just means there's more story! Push through, and soon enough, Week Three will arrive! And apparently, Week Three is awesome (I guess we'll learn more about that next week).

So what are some issues we might be having this week?

Well, you might not know what your awesome characters are supposed to do in the awesome world you built. That happened to me one year; I had some fun characters in a fun situation, and they just talked at each other for 40,000 words.  And then December happened. I still have a fondness for those characters, but nothing's coming out of that year's novel attempt, trust me.

But if you don't have a plot, just get your characters to do anything. You'll get an even better sense of who they are and what they want, and that, eventually, will turn into plot.

...Or not. Maybe your characters are turning out to be less awesome than you thought. If Our Hero is kind of a douche and you find yourself writing more about his bumbling sidekick, that's probably a good sign that it's time to switch protagonists. Sit down for a second, see if there's story potential there, and if so, go! But do not delete what you already wrote! It still counts!

So what if you're so overwhelmed you need a day off? Well, sure, go for it, you'll do better pausing now than burning out completely in a few days. But remember that when you do, you're going to fall behind in your wordcount. Staying sane is more important, just be wary.

And now Baty offers us Week Two-specific tips. He kicks off by reminding us: don't worry about getting everything right! That's what revisions are for! Just get it all on paper.

Here in the Nothern Hemisphere, cold and flu season is getting started, and a NaNoer can't really afford to get sick this month. A NaNoer is probably eating like crap and sleeping poorly, though, so we have to shore up the immune system in other ways. So wash your hands and take your vitamins (and if you're eating really poorly, your fiber, too).

Can't stand to push through to 1667 on a given day? Just pop your head in and put in twenty minutes or a couple hundred words.  If nothing else, it shrinks your deficit and keeps you from completely losing momentum.

Baty now gives us some writing exercises for Week Two:

Trick your friends into brainstorming and plotting for you!

Keep a notebook handy, because odds are you'll have a flash of inspiration while doing something completely unrelated.


In the first sidebar of Chapter 5, Baty warns us about the moment, which usually occurs this week, when we decide the story we've started is utter crap and not worth the time we're putting in. Don't give up on the book as a whole, though! Something in there is great, so find it and run with it!

In the second sidebar of the chapter, we get another set of anecdotes from previous winners. This round talks about ways to avoid self-editing.

The third sidebar discusses NaNoers obsessive tendency to check the wordcounts on our word processors. His advice? Write in time chunks, and then check your word count as a reward. I for one like to update my Official Word Count on the NaNoWriMo website after every sprint.

Sidebar the fourth talks about cheats, ways to pad your wordcount and build momentum. Maybe a character stutters, or suffers hearing loss so that all the other characters have to repeat themselves. Maybe someone has a dream -- you can write anything you want here. Get your character reading, and you can cite the book. Really stuck? Find-and-replace every instance of a character's first name with her full name; my book is set in Rome, so everyone has three to six names. And you can always delete your hyphens! Hyphenates count as one word to your spell check.

Backups are key, says the fifth sidebar. One easy, cheap way to back up your novel is to email it to yourself every couple of days. In fact, do it now!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Review #37

English: Typical Japanese sushi set, as sold i...
English: Typical Japanese sushi set, as sold in department stores. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sorry about the lack of updates this week, but as I warned you, NaNoWriMo is taking up most of my writing time and energy, and will be for the rest of the month.

But other than NaNoWriMo, what have I been up to?

On Friday, Chris and I met up with his parents in the city for dinner.

Saturday, we met up with friends to see Prisoners and then got sushi for dinner and drinks afterwards.

Sunday Chris and I ran errands and then prepped a nice steak dinner and stayed in.

Monday I went to a Write-In for NaNoWriMo, which really helped my wordcount.

Tuesday was book club, where we discussed House of Suns.

And Thursday I went to a REZ Reading, followed up with a session of Shut Up and Write.

Amid all that, plus my freelance work, plus cleaning the apartment for guests this weekend (which I'll tell you about next time), I somehow managed to read a little of Women's Life in Greece and Rome and a tiny bit of Whitman: An Interpretation in Narrative, and knit a little on my sock, my twisty scarf, my linen scarf, and a dog neckerchief.

Don't have a ton of time right now to elaborate on any of that more than I have, so enjoy the links!

What have you been up to this week?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What makes you happy? #32

As of 11:00 this morning this blog had 4,984 pageviews.

That means, by the time you're reading this, I will most likely have surpassed 5000 pageviews.

A screenshot of my stats.
I've been updating this blog since the beginning of the year, so that means it took me just over 11 months to hit this milestone.  That works out to about 454 hits a month, or about 111 hits a week, or a bit less than 16 hits a day.

In other words, roughly every 90 minutes, someone looks at this blog.

I suppose that's not that impressive. But in January of this year, when I launched, I got 80 hits. That's about two and a half a day.  And I'd bet that at least two of them were me checking on something for myself.

So that's progress. I choose to be proud of it, whether I objectively should or not.

And while I know there's not a ton of you out there -- around 15, I'd guess, and two or three of you are probably bots -- I am grateful for your readership.

Think I can hit 10K before October 2014?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Plot? No Problem! Chapter 5

Cover of "No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Str...
Cover via Amazon

No Plot? No Problem!

By Chris Baty

Section Two: Write Here! Write Now! A Frantic, Fantastic Week-by-Week Overview to Bashing out Your Book

This section's title page includes a footnote reminding us not to get too far ahead.  Well, I'm going to have to in order to make sure these go up on time, but if you're following through me, you just won't be able to.  In either case, the warning doesn't mean much for you and me. Anyway, the point is that we should make it a point to only apply each week's advice to the relevant week.

Chapter 5: WEEK ONE: Trumpets Blaring, Angels Singing, and Triumph on the Wind

Going by the calendar, we're about halfway through Week One.  How's your wordcount? As of press-time, I'm at 2603, or about 4063 behind schedule. Sigh.

Baty begins the chapter by trying to get us pumped for this adventure we're on. Then, he kidnaps our Inner Editors.

Oh, this is the rough part.  The one year I came closest to winning, ugh. Just thinking about that manuscript makes me shudder. But you know what? It got a story idea out of my head and onto the computer screen, and maybe, someday, if that idea starts bugging me again, I'll have something I can take apart and put back together.

But, yes, no Inner Editor.

Baty also makes three requests of us:
  1. Please take this challenge very seriously. Don't let your brain trick you into being lazy! Hit your daily quota! Win!
  2. Do not take any of this very seriously. Doing this is pretty ridiculous.  Embrace it!
  3. Know that you have done all of this before. Humans are storytellers, and we're just tellign stories, here.
Now, gather up the totem, reference materials, music, snacks, and other supplies you've been laying in over the past few weeks, and get to it!

Baty now gives up some tips and hints specific to Week One.

For example, don't get hung up on writing the perfect opening sentence. You can always add that in later. Stressing on it wastes time you barely have. Just jump in!

Likewise, when it comes time to save your file (do this often!), don't get hung up on the name. I usually go with "Nano[year]", so last year's was "Nano2012" and this year's will be the ever-so-original "Nano2013." File names can be changed; you can do that when you come up with a great title.

And don't stress on the perfect placement of chapter breaks.  Keep on telling your story, and the breaks will eventually work themselves out.

You're probably raring to go this week, all excited to finally start getting your ideas on paper.  Awesome! Take advantage of that! It doesn't actually matter if it doesn't make sense!
Even if you don't know exactly how you're going to fit those five ninjas into your courtroom drama, hey, they've arrived.  And they want to be in your book. So put them in there. Inevitably they'll do something for the plot. If their performance doesn't end up meriting their inclusion, you can always clip them out later.
You're not likely to be burnt out yet, so if you get in the groove, keep going! Your daily quota is technically 1667 words a day, but if you're in the zone, hit 2,000, or more! Try for 10,000 your first weekend (which, um, just passed)! Build yourself a buffer because, spoiler alert, you'll probably need one.

Also, every word you write counts toward your ultimate wordcount.  So if you need to cut something, italicize it, or change its font color to match your background color.  Me, I use strikethrough. Who knows? Something you cut could still come in handy later.

Also, open a Notes file on your computer. Whenever you have a  bright idea for your novel that will come in handy later, write it there. When it comes times to use it, use copy-paste to plop it in.

And don't share too much of your work this month.  If you're showing people, you'll be tempted to edit it first, and we are not editing this month! In fact, don't even re-read more of what you've written than absolutely necessary to pick up where you left off.

Now, Baty gives us a few writing exercises tailored to Week One. Give them a try over the next few days:

Need some quirkiness? Call friends (or ambush strangers) and ask them to describe their strangest relatives.

Now, watch a TV show you like but won't get sucked into. Is it fiction? OK, you're set. Count how many plots the show is juggling. When does the Central Problem show up? How does it use foreshadowing? Point of view? Remember, we want to use the parts we like.


The first sidebar in this chapter talks about figuring out when your most alert, creative times of day are, and then exploiting them. No real advice on how to do that, just a general suggestion.

The second sidebar provides reflections from past winners on the good and bad points of Week One.

The third sidebar reminds us to keep track of all our characters, so we don't change their names and lose track of them as we go.

So, what's your wordcount?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Review #36

Harpoon Brewery
Harpoon Brewery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now this has been a week!

On Friday, Chris and I headed up to Boston for his law school reunion. We met friends for drinks and dinner, before going to the alumni happy hour (which was crowded, loud, poorly planned, and generally not fun).

Saturday, half our group got pizza for lunch, before we met up with the rest of our group for shopping. I bought some art. Finally, we headed to the Alumni Gala. It was very nice, except they didn't reserve enough seats at each of the class-specific tables, so Chris and I ended up seated between a very pleasant awardee and a very snarky gentleman who had also been bumped from his class's table. Too bad there was no dancing, but it was fun otherwise.

Sunday we parted ways with Chris's law school friends.  Chris and I then obtained some excellent grilled cheese, then took a tour of the Harpoon Brewery.  By the time we got home, I felt like crap, but fortunately I wasn't ill, just suffering a combination of bad sleep, unhealthy food, stiffness from the long ride, and cold from the heat not being turned on yet.

Monday was proofreading for my volunteering gig. Also Monday, I was offered a freelance gig!

Thursday, Chris had a gift certificate that was about to expire, so we used it to get dinner.

Then the clock struck midnight and NaNoWriMo began!

In the knitting realm, I finished my first sock and started its mate, worked on my "linen" scarf, worked on my weather scarf, and picked at my "linen" notions bag and a gift bag.  Over in reading, I finished House of Suns, and worked on Women's Life in Greece and Rome.

What have you been up to this week?
Enhanced by Zemanta