Sunday, October 22, 2017

NaNoWriMobility

[I moved Monday's National Novel Writing Month post to today because tomorrow I'm going to unplug and do something else.]

I broke a keyboard last week, something I do once or twice a year. I'm heavy-handed and clumsy due to my arthritis, which is why I buy cheap keyboards; the expensive ones break just as easily. Unfortunately this time I killed my Neo2 smart keyboard, which is no longer being manufactured. Since I can store two hundred manuscript pages on the Neo2, run it for weeks on 3 AA batteries, take it anywhere and even drop it occasionally without a problem I decided to get one off eBay.

The replacement I bought was the last new one listed; which means when I burn up this one I need to find another cheap brand of smart keyboard (there are none), go the tablet-with-paper-thin-attachable-keyboard route (which I will probably break in a month), or start using my much more expensive laptop when I want to take my writing on the go (with which I must use a wireless keyboard because otherwise I'd break the keypad portion of the very expensive laptop.)

Being immobilized irks me because I like to take breaks from the desktop and go out on the porch with my Neo2 for an hour or two. I also use the smart keyboard when I'm getting too distracted by the internet, or my eyes hurt from the monitor glare, or I need to go to the library. During the extensive power failure period after Hurricane Irma I used the smart keyboard exclusively to write and save my laptop charge. Anyway, the new Neo2 is on its way, but in the meantime I'm stuck at my desk.

I want to be mobile next month while I'm working on my NaNo novel for a bunch of other reasons. My story is set in a nearby town, which I plan to visit and write on-scene to get a personal look at some of the setting. I plan to attend at least one official NaNoWriMo write-in, meet some of the local participants and write with them. I may also take a weekend trip, and I always like to do a little writing at the hotel at night or early in the morning. Being mobile also allows me to deal with lack of enthusiasm, so if I start to drag during November I can pack up my keyboard and go someplace that inspires me.

You don't have to be on the move during NaNoWriMo, but having the option to take your writing with you may help you get more done. Also, you don't have to take actual gadgets. I always carry a small notepad with me everywhere in case I see or hear something I want to jot down and remember. Writing in longhand in a notebook or on a legal pad will require you to transcribe it later, but it's a great way to shift gears with writing. You can even take a voice recorder with you on the go and dictate your writing to it. If you've never tried writing elsewhere, this is a great time to give it a test-drive -- you may find it changes your process for the better.

Are you a mobile writer? Any ideas on how to get other writers on the go with their work? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 20, 2017

PSA Time

It's definitely time for a PBW Public Service Announcement.

There is someone publishing author bibliographies on Amazon.com, and yes, they're selling mine for $2.99. I had no idea it was that valuable. Why didn't you guys tell me to publish my bibliography? I could have made tens of dollars!

Okay. If you would like to view my correct bibliography, in reading order, please do not buy it from Amazon.com. I keep it on the blog. As it happens, I've had it on the blog for many, many years. Simply click here to access it.

Oh, and you can send me $2.99 if you want, but unlike this Amazon.com seller I'd rather you not pay me for something that has always been provided for free by the freaking author herself.

That concludes the PSA. Thank you for your attention, and have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Cover Art



My latest cover art from my French publisher J'ai Lu, for their translation of In the Leaves. This is also the first book I sold to a traditional publisher without an agent, so it's a bit of personal history, too.

Monday, October 16, 2017

NaNoWriMondays: Habits

For National Novel Writing Month we always talk about the big issues: productivity, motivation, time management etc. Of course they're important, so they get a lot of attention. But almost every writer develops habits that can often become roadblocks on the way to the finish line. Since we have a particularly difficult road to travel in November, here are:

Ten Writing Habits That Can Wreck Your NaNo Novel
(And what you can do to stop or curb them)

Backtracking: Aka writing a scene or chapter, re-reading it, editing it, re-reading it, editing it, re-reading it, editing it, etc.

Solution: Read and edit what you write for NaNo only one time. If you can't resist the habit, only indulge it for that day. The next day, no matter how much you want to backtrack again, write something new.

Critiquing: Getting feedback from other writers on the work while it's in progress.

Solution: I don't do this, but I know it can be an important part of the process for other writers. Bottom line: You don't have time for critiques. Hold off on all of them until December 1st.

Doubting: Various ways of beating yourself up because you're not worthy, talented, a pro, as good as [insert name of favorite author], you suck, you never finish anything, your ninth grade English teach spit on everything you wrote, or any other reason that shuts down your muse/mojo.

Solution: First, agree with yourself. You're not worthy, or talented, or a pro, or as good as whoever, etc. I often think I suck at this, so you're in good company. Second, write it anyway. Write it for fun. Write it like you're just practicing your typing. Write it for no damn good reason at all.

Excessive Researching: You look for three accurate resources to confirm every fact in your story, and you won't go on until you find them all and add them to your bibliography.

Solution: Do your research and fact-checking in December.

Nesting: In hopes of creating a warm and cozy writing space you constantly do things like make idea boards, collect chachkas, surround yourself with scented candles, hang writing good luck charms over/around/on your computer, and pin motivational messages to yourself on the wall.

Solution: I'm not a nester, but I do respect your right to bury yourself in inspiring junk. The two problems with nesting are 1) being unable to stop long enough to write anything and 2) being distracted from the work by all the inspiring junk you've piled in your writing space. To solve either or both, for the month of November write somewhere else where you are not permitted to nest, like the quiet room at the library.

Over-Editing: There are various forms of this (like backtracking), but they all boil down to spending way more time editing than writing.

Solution: During NaNoWriMo do only a single pass edit of what you write. Save the rest for December.

Perfection Questing: Acts involved with the need to be sure your plot, characters, word choices and anything else involved in the writing is perfect, and the inability to write anything new until they are.

Solution: Like doubting, this habit can be paralyzing. I once sat next to a famous writer dude at a luncheon who admitted to me he spent ten years writing a single book because he had to be sure every word of it was perfect. You don't have ten years, you have thirty days, so write the story first and make it perfect later.

Procrastinating: Finding reasons not to write that include but are not limited to your lousy day job, mental exhaustion, your family problems, the fascinating new season of DWTS and so on.

Solution: This is a tough one, but remember that life is short. So is NaNoWriMo. I suggest that for the month of November you commit to writing an hour every day -- no matter how much your life sucks, or how little you get on the page. You may not cross the finish line, but having actual writing as part of your daily routine for a month may help combat the procrastination blues.

Waffling: You have difficulty or you're unable to make story decisions, which stalls your progress.

Solutions: I've got two for this: if you can't decide between two or more options, flip a coin until you narrow it down to one and use that. If you can't think of any options, place an editing marker like this in the story [name of John's high school] and move on.

Zoning: You can only write in the zone, aka those times when the words come in a huge, thrilling, endless rush that keeps you working tirelessly for hours.

Solution: I would love to write in the zone all the time. Personally I only get there once or twice a week -- if I'm lucky. The rest of the time I just show up for work and do my job. Showing up and doing the job for thirty days is a good way to get out of the zoning-only habit, too, so try it.

Do you have any writing habits that you want to kick? Have any advice for kicking them? Let us know in comments.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Story Jinxes

Since it's Friday the Thirteenth I thought I'd admit to:

Ten of My Writing-related Superstitions

Avoidances: There are some things I avoid writing in a story (and on the blog) because they spook me or I consider them jinxes, like that lettered board people use to talk to the dead. See how I avoided writing the name of it? Ha.

Beginning Rituals: I always meditate for an hour before I start a new story. Mostly I try to empty my brain and make it into a clean slate, but I also give thanks to the universe for any creative energy it's willing to send my way. If I can't do this, I'll put off starting the new story until I can.

Coin-Flip Titles: When I can't decide between two titles I really like for a story, I flip a coin and let the Fates pick it. This is why Evermore is not titled Everlasting.

Color Cursed: Yellow has been my bad luck color for most of my adult life, although I'm trying to get over it now via therapeutic quilting. Until I do, any time you see anything yellow in my work? Definitely not a good sign.

Crazy 8s: The number 8 relates to many weird things in my personal history, and it spooks me, so I try to use it sparingly -- usually only for weird things in a story.

Do No Harm: If I do base a character on a person in the real world, I try not to kill them off in the story, as I think that's tempting Fate in a very bad way. Anything else goes, however.

Easter Eggs: I regularly embed little treasures in my stories (and I'm not going to tell you what or where they are) mainly for fun, and to see if readers are paying attention. Like anagrams (also something I regularly hide in stories) I think they're good luck.

Fabulous 14s: Fourteen is my lucky number, and I do put it somewhere in every story I write as a personal talisman. If I can't fit in the actual number somewhere, I'll use the letters of the word fourteen as a secret acronym or acrostic sentence.

Names Not Used: I try never to name characters after people I dislike, random nouns, or members of my family. I think the first is bad luck, the second is silly, and the third is creepy.

Never me: It gives me the willies when writers Tuckerize themselves to become characters. One of the reasons I stopped reading Stephen King is because he did. Thus you will never see PBW as a character in any of my stories. I will occasionally refer to myself as part of a joke, but always unnamed.

Do you have any writing superstitions? Let us know in comments.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rats

Just got notified that one of my favorite online shops for writers is closing:

"It is with mixed feelings that we announce we will be closing the Writer’s Bloc online store in November 2017. We are holding a going out of business sale offering deeper discounts on all of our popular items in an effort to clear out our inventory. We want to send out a special thank you to our loyal customers and deeply appreciate all of your support over the years. You’ve introduced us to some fabulous brands that we love and write with on a daily basis such as Clairefontaine, Rodia, LAMY, Noodlers, Pelikan, Pilot, Aston Leather, and so many others. You will certainly be missed!

Thank you for sharing the last 10 years with all of us here at Writer’s Bloc."

Monday, October 09, 2017

NaNoWriMonday: Less than 10%

National Novel Writing Month gets plenty of online attention and participation. We writers talk about it a lot before, during and after November. Since it began NaNoWriMo has evolved into a writing community of its own. Just take a look at the stats from last year: 384,126 participants jumped in and gave it their best shot. Of these (according to their 2017 press release) over 34,000 crossed the finish line with a 50K book that they wrote in 30 days.

A lot of writers join in, but less than ten percent finish (and I'm not on my high horse here; I failed to win one year because one of my pets died and I was horribly depressed.) While it's fun to talk about writing a novel in a month, and even to start one when November 1st rolls around, it's a lot harder to actually produce fifty thousand words in thirty days.

I think there are three big obstacles that almost everyone has to deal with during NaNoWriMo:

No time -- you have only 30 days to do it. No extensions. No time off. No sick days.
Holidays -- In the U.S., Thanksgiving. And if you're a shopper, Black Friday.
Work-- Some writers insist on working at a day job so they can pay their bills. Disclaimer: I'm one of them.

Then there are the more nebulous reasons, such as when the idea fizzles out, or the self-doubt kicks in, or you find yourself wanting to kill off all the characters in the story. Basically the writing stops being fun and becomes work. You find yourself slogging through the pages, and making up excuses not to work on it, and suddenly it's November 29th and you have 40K left to write in order to win. One month goes very fast.

I can't guarantee you'll cross the finish line in November; no one can. But here are some tips that may help you be part of the less than ten percent who probably will:

1. Advance Chapter: Test out your story idea by writing a chapter now, or sometime before NaNoWriMo begins. You don't have to count it as part of your 50K, and it will give you a preview of how the writing will go.

2. Brain Work It: Imagine your story from start to finish in an abbreviated form, like a movie trailer playing it your head, until you can clearly envision the major or dramatic highlights (and this won't work for organic/pantser writers).

3. Make a Mix: This isn't something I can do anymore (hearing loss sucks), but plenty of writers make up soundtracks for their work that they listen to before or during their work sessions. Having the soundtrack seems to help some writers better envision the story.

4. Whiteboard it: Outline your story on a whiteboard. Killzoneblog.com has a neat article on this here with example boards from J.K. Rowling and Norman Mailer.

Look around you and see what changes you can make with your writing time and space. In order to produce 1,667 words per day, you'll probably need to write for at least a couple of hours. I recommend splitting the writing into two sessions. It may also help to work when things are calm and quiet, like early in the morning before everyone gets up, and/or later at night when they're all in bed. Or leave the house and go somewhere quiet, like the library.

For those of you who prefer noise, take a laptop to Starbucks or a mall food court or a busy park. You also don't have to write every day, but if you're planning to take time off during NaNoWriMo, write a little extra on the days you do work to compensate.

Another big time sink that can kill your writing: television/movie watching. Stop it completely for the month of November, and devote that time instead to your novel.

Also, don't try to go it alone. Ask your friends and family to help you during NaNoWriMo however they can to free you up for writing.

Does anyone have any tricks they use to be more productive with their writing time? Let us know in comments.