What I learned from NaNoWriMo 2017

With a strange sense of satisfaction, I find myself writing this blog post before the end of November.  I learned a lot about myself and my writing this during NaNoWriMo this year.

Here goes:

Special Award: Mary Robinette Kowal’s “No NaNoPrep” course was invaluable.

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Number One – I need more plot and structure to write.  I didn’t have enough material prepared, from incidental character names, to plot points, to the details of my characters.

Number Two: Don’t have to race to the next plot point. I worked to enjoy the scene I was writing.  There is more to improve on this. I also believe this is a weakness in my writing.

Number Three: Taking time to introduce my characters properly to the reader, makes them easier to write.

Numero Cat: I write the most words during word sprints at coffee shops, with an outline of the scene and alone.  Word sprints help me write, better, quicker, faster.  Make the  best use of my time. Having an outline of the scene or section I am writing generates greater output.  Once I start writing at a coffee shop I am highly productive. I write the best when I am alone focusing on what i need to do. While it is good fun and helpful to write with others, I am less productive. One of my goals is to have a higher output of words. Currently I average around 1200 – 1500 word an hour.  I want to get that much higher.  Once again more on this in an upcoming blog.

Number Five: Working with a soundtrack helps. I need to look at using different soundtracks for different sections. Instrumentals work best.

Number Six: Netflix is my friend. During breaks from writing, watching a TV show in the same genre helps to keep me grounded. I need to test this out more to be sure. Not movies, series. I don’t binge watch Netflix. If you binge watch, then I would suggest that this is bad tip for you.

Lucky Number Seven: Writing podcasts, like “The Prolific Writer” and “Writing Excuses” help my motivation. A LOT, LIKE A TON!

Number Eight: I don’t know how you become a writer without a writing group. The information and encouragement from a writing group should be mandatory for all writers, regardless of proficiency level. Thanks to Courtney, Lou, Melissa, Morena and Sharelene for keeping me on the straight and narrow.

Number Nine: (no not the Beatles song) Coffee shops. Lovely, pretentious,  coffee shops. My thanks go out to : http://iconoclastcoffee.com/ , http://remedycafe.ca/ , and https://www.transcendcoffee.ca/

There must be some deep psychological reason I love writing at coffee shops. A misplaced idealistic dream about what it means to be a writer? But Damn it, I love writing at coffee shops.

Be Well…dcd

Breaking 50K

Six days of #NaNoWriMo2017 and I can see my goal of 60K words in the distance.  Just passed the 50K mark, the “official” finish line for NaNo. Why 60K? Why not? Or is that to trivial an answer?

Those who I share this writing adventure with have busier lives than I do. Some of children, some are working longer hours with other goals besides writing. I on the other hand, have the time to write. Time to write better, quicker, faster. I don’t have to be satisfied with 1667 words and day for NaNoWriMo. Indeed, I should be able to do 2K words 5 days out of seven, seven out of seven during November.

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I also need to take time to learn from my writing. This NaNoWriMo has been the easiest so far. By being easier, it has also taught me many lessons on what I need to do better. But that is a topic for another blog. I am hoping to get 5k done today and maybe tomorrow. Then NaNoWriMo2017 will be over for me.

Be Well…dcd

Here’s your raw NaNo writing excerpt:

“I’ll see what we have and get the water Lady Isott.” The server said and headed off to the kitchen. As she reached the kitchen door, Mila and Cara came out bumping into the server. Mila and Cara grabbed the serving woman and pinned her to the floor, Mila with a knife at the women’s throat. The guards at the door drew swords and rushed towards the kitchen, as they ran, Trevor stuck his foot out tripping one. The other plunged straight at Mila’s back with a sword. He didn’t see Slode step out of the privy hallway running him through with his sword. By the time that Isott swung her gaze back to the other fallen man Gris was ontop of him, binding the man’s hands as Slode walked over blood falling onto the man’s face from the blade of his sword. The man stopped stuggling instantly.
“Back room.” Trevor gestured and everyone dragged their captives down a corridor near the kitchn to what looked like stock room. Two serving staff rolled the dead body into a table cloth and took it through the kitchen. Another two staff immediatley had mops out and were wiping up the blood. Isott was amazed at that everything disappeared so fast.
“Isott,” hissed Trevor, “Get over here.”
She went to Trevor and the rest. Trevor closed the door
“Won’t someone call the city guards?” Isott asked.
“Most people won’t remember seeing anything if you ask them tomorrow. Some didn’t even see it tonight.” Trevor said.
“How? How can that be?” Isott asked. “It happened in plain site.”
“What people will remember is that a serving girl stumbled going into the kitchen. Most didn’t see Slode kill the man. They weren’t looking that way. What they will say is the guards went to help the fallen serving girl helping her into the kitchen.”
“Those that did see everything will keep their mouths closed for fear of being associated with the bandits. And no one will believe that Mila Xygen was involved in anything.” Mila said while looking directly at the serving woman who Slode had tied to chair. Mila’s dagger was dangerously close to the woman’s face. The other would be assassin was tied in another chair. Gris was staring at him.

Waiting…Anticipation…Excitement

One week or so from now I will be at When Words Collide 2017. A tremendous opportunity for me to learn more about the craft of writing, to get inspired about my writing and lastly, face the music. (A little melodrama never hurt anyone)

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You may wonder what ‘face the music’ means. This past year one of the writing groups I participate in committed to submitting to the editors, publishers and other authors offering free critiquing sessions. These people do this with little or no chance of gaining from the sessions. It’s part of what makes this conference great, people giving of their time and expertise. Like a fool, I thought, sign me up. To that end I requested three slots at the conference to give an editor samples of my work and receive feedback. I have no aspirations other than to learn from people on how to improve my writing.  Depending on the slot(s) I will be submitting different pieces. Having requested the waiting is underway.  And winner winner, chicken dinner – three slots!

Anticipating a busy three days, I am trying to prepare better for the grind of the conference. What does that mean? For me it means healthy snacks, regular meals and letting myself enjoy the conference. I will try and not worry if I am at the “BEST SESSION”, but rather enjoy where I am. If it is horrible, I will not worry if I offend anyone and get up and leave. More than ever this year I want to seek the opinion of others. What sessions did they enjoy?

One session I have put my name in for is a 50 minute sit down with Guy Gavriel Kay. There are 12 spots to be determined by a draw. The exquisite beauty and personal pain he can give to a reader through his characters is magical.  Hence the excitement. What does one ask of a literary hero?

Until then

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Be well…dcd

 

 

My last exchange with Robin Young

I knew him as a writer only. He passed this last week.

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A man with his own style. A character in some ways . His excellence at wordplay and pinpoint, acerbic wit endeared him to me, and others. I also enjoyed his critiques of my writing. As a struggling writer, which is what I am, his crisp, on point, reviews of my stories changed my prose.

He was in for his second battle with cancer. When I visited him, he still had good color, a clear mind and was writing.  His passing was sudden and surprising.  I have no details at this time. Perhaps one of his creations came to life and took him to a better place.

As promised in the title, my last exchange with Robin:

doug [2:04 PM]
Where do they have you now?

robin [5:07 PM]
Robin spat the stinging dryness of the high desert sand out of his mouth and realized his was no a good place to beta-test the latest DragonDictate.

doug [5:07 PM]
ROFL

[5:08]
You would have to retrain the entire profile for speech recognition

robin [5:13 PM]
“They spirited me out of that nasty Bucharest ‘mental hospital’, stuffed me in the back of a rattling aluminum box with a couple of Mousafah’s bully boys and tossed me out on the street in front of a down on its heels named “Cross Cancer

doug [5:13 PM]
You so need to write this

[5:13]
So you are at the U of A?

robin [5:14 PM]
Two wordsCross Cancer

doug [5:14 PM]
ok

robin [5:14 PM]
Room 3142

doug [5:14 PM]
Roger Roger

robin [5:15 PM]
That was fun – thanks!

I leave you and myself with the words The Great Poet:

Be cheerful, sir:
Our revels now are ended 
These our actors,
As I foretold you were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all of which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
~ William Shakespeare


A Good Man, I will miss him.
Be Well
dcdear

 

Editing, no one told me there would be editing…GAH!

Sent the first scene/chapter off of “The Einstein Fallacy” for critiquing.  Should have all the results back around April 20th, 2017. I may post a before and after.

I wish I had a drinking problem. Even though I trust these people, and they are excellent writers, fear still invades me at the thought of having anyone read my work. Why?

Why?

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I suppose it’s because if they don’t like the writing, they don’t like me. The subconscious me wants them to validate my writing so they will validate me. My mother always said I was a fragile child, and it appears that I am. Aren’t we all fragile children? Somewhere hidden inside we fear being known and at the same time want to be known. That inner self. To be identified with, to know we aren’t alone. The exposure of true self is guarded.

But lets return to the skill of editing. I don’t have it. It is so much easier for me to write drivel on a page then it is to go and edit the writing. Having said that, I can learn to edit. Here is my current process in a nutshell:

  1. Tea and a Timer. Normally Peppermint and the Pomodoro “Tomato Timer” https://tomato-timer.com/ I work 25 minutes get up and take a break for 5 and then back at it. I try to do a min of an hour.
  2. I start with Passive Verbs, spelling, and adverbs, and remove them – as Stephen King said:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s — GASP!! — too late.” Stephen King

3. Once this is done I print a hard copy, double sided, 1″ Margins, double spaced, and read it out loud to myself and make notes in the text with a red pen. I go all the way through. This time it took me three days over the weekend. If I see that I need to move where plot points are, I detail them on a separate sheet as well, with the page numbers listed.

4. Back on the computer, I read through a couple of more times and then send it off to an alpha reader that is unknown to my writing groups. If they reply with the “I want to know more” or “Well what happens next”. I submit.

5. Once I get the feedback. I make sure that I understand their notes, asking for clarification or examples when needed. Then I put these items away for 10 days to two 2 weeks. The urge to leap in and make the changes suggested to me is too strong. I have to take a step back, wait and then in cold sober calculation consider what needs to be changed.

The goal is to have all the chapters done in time for When Words Collide this summer and pitch it to a Publisher. Or as I refer to it, outa da fryin pan and into the fire…

As always, be well

dcd

oneRock

 

My mistakes in writing

The biggest mistake I make in writing is the simplest. Avoiding writing. Sounds way to simple. But it is the biggest issue for my attempts at becoming an author. I talk a lot about writing, I read a lot about writing but I don’t do a lot of writing.  I have grandiose ideas and plans. Wonderful characters in great situations, at least I tell myself that, and sometimes others. In many ways, this struggle is the reverse of the trouble I had when I quit smoking.

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I had tried quitting many times before I found the way that worked for me. This is important. It’s important for you to know that I have tried many ways to write and to quit smoking. For me to quit smoking it boiled down to, “I won’t have one right now” or “I don’t need one right now”. I just had to beat the habit one cigarette at a time. One craving at a time. Sounds simple, right? But if you have ever tried to quit smoking or anything else, you know it’s not simple or easy. I won’t attempt to describe the struggles. That is for another day.

So for writing, I need to write today. I don’t need need to finish 70,000 words. I just need to write today, where ever I am, however, I feel. Even if I write 250 words a day that gives me 91,250 words in a year. More that what is needed for a novel, novella. Unless of course if you are a “Sanderson”, where 300,000 is the norm.

The silliest part is that I can be quite productive if I just sit down and write. I can crank out a lot of words in a short period of time. Crappy words, but words none the less. Its not that I am not trying.(double negative) I have started participating in two writing groups that will help my word count. One that meets and writes weekly and one that meets monthly. But those discussions are for another day. Yes I know, I have promised two more blog posts, one on my journey to quit smoking and one on my writing groups. Don’t complain it will give you something to look forward to.

As Always
Be Well…

 

Ebb and Flow

I was fortunate enough to attend the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Retreat  3 full days of writing, two  and half days of writing and two 5 hour drives (Listening to Writing Excuses) This will probably be two blogs. Lots to comment on. It will also be choppy and not edited.

The retreat is run by Randy McCharles, who also organizes When Words Collide. The retreat is open to authors, writers, and want-to-be writers, like me, from around the world to attend. There is not a specific genre focus. The focus is on you the writer coming to get work done, without distractions, in a community of writers.

Oh, the setting is pretty inspiring. The Rocky Mountains do that to a person.

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Did I mention the food? Three Words, Sticky Toffee Pudding. Uh-Uh, that’s what I be talk’in about. There is no reliable internet. So if you back up to the cloud be sure to bring something else to save your work.

Good News 16,187 first draft new words for the Mystery Novel being written for some colleagues. Once of the concepts I have learned in the last several months is that Sci-Fi and Fantasy contain other elements; like mystery, adventure and thriller elements. Writing Excuses describes these as “elemental genres”.  You can have a romance that contains a mystery. A mystery that contains thriller as part of the story. But I digress.

I learned some valuable lessons at the retreat. Writers, in general, want other writers to succeed. Even if you are in the same genre. Ask question to a write about how they write and you will get honest straight-forward answers. You will almost always get as many different ways to do something as there people responding. Here is an example:

How do you plot? (if you are a pantser this doesn’t apply)

  • Sticky Notes
  • Word Document Outline
  • The outliner in Scrivener
  • Excel
  • Recipe cards

I have been using Scrivener for some time. It has helped me tremendously. I have found that it is important for me to try out different ways of outlining. Maybe something will work better. Another person described her process as quilting. An apt analogy.

This kind of advice was offered throughout the retreat. I commented to several people on how writers as a group, openly share their secrets. I have been in other groups who don’t openly share their secrets or tricks. This is quite refreshing. There is no silver bullet. As I have mentioned before, there is no easy path to being a writer and author. You don’t decide to write because it’s easy.

Side Bar – Robert J Sawyer – Dean of Canadian Science Fiction, Author, Speaker, Teacher and as it turns gentleman, friend to the n00bie. I checked in the afternoon went to my cabin, went down wrote a little and visited ‘Cabin 13’.  (Cabin 13 is the lunch, break, chill cabin) Walked through the door, and there he was. A little bit of fanboi set in and I don’t know what to say. He proceeds to introduce himself and everyone else in the room, including what they write – ‘YA’ nominated for an aurora, Fantasy – working with Adrienne Kerr (editor extraordinaire)’. All I could spit out was, ‘Doug, noobie writer’. WOW – so articulate. Said, ‘Hi’ to everyone, chatted briefly, and went out had a nap and then went for dinner

The bistro restaurant that is part of the Baker Creek Mountain Resort  was wonderful. I grabbed a table for two hidden around the corner and started looking at the menu. Several minutes later, Mr.Sawyer and others walked in.

“What are you doing! No one eats alone, get over here.” Robert says.

I shuffled over to the table and was chastised by the rest of the writers. I suppose I could have hidden? But why? A meal with humor, insight and that warm sense that someone else understands the struggles you face as a writer. Plus! I got have sticky toffee pudding. Fortunately, another one of the writers helped me with it,  otherwise, all of that sugar could have turned me into giddy 8 years old. No one needs to see that…

oneRock

Part Three – Hybrids:Blending SciFi and Fantasy

For some writers the most difficult part of describing their work is what genre is it? As we have seen over the last 5-10 years there are more and more “sub-genres”.  Incorrectly identifying your genre can have a profound influence on the success of your novel. One of the authors on this panel told us the story of how one of her novels fell victim to this problem.

She had written a romance that was also a fantasy. To her it was a romance and so she sold it to her publishers as a romance with fantasy elements – which it was.

The novel did not sell well. She explained to us that a romance novel with fantasy elements is much different than a fantasy with romance elements. It all goes back to the unspoken contract we make with readers.

Every genre has this unspoken contract with readers and in the case of the romance world, relationship is king and queen. Any sublot or sub genre that creeps into a romance novel has to be aware of this. The panellist went on to say that because the ending was a typical fantasy ending – where all the various plot angels and conflicts resolve together in a nice neat package – the novel was less than satisfying to the romance readers who hold relationship resolution in high regard.

The same is true of the other genre’s – take a mystery story. If the end of the novel is not the solving of the mystery, but rather that the two detectives confess their love to one another – it would disappoint the mystery reader.

In the midst of all this there are now distinct “hybrid” genres. Why? Because that is what the story is.

Most commonly we see this in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Quite often it gets referred to as “speculative fiction”. There is “Historical Fantasy”. Currently one of the favourites is a time-travel, fantasy, romance .

As it is important to know what your story, characters and setting are, it is equally important to who your readers are.

That’s all for today, hopefully more tomorrow as always –

Be Well – dcd

The First Ten Pages

In less than two weeks I need to get the first ten pages of my first novel into the hands of several people. As a first time writer looking at what i have written, none of it is now good enough. A couple of months ago I really enjoyed reading it, now, its crap. So I am re-writing, and re-writing and being frustrated. My biggest struggle is what I call the “This” or “That” dilemma .   Right now I have two openings for the book, I like both, so I have blindly sent them off to two friends to see what they like. That in itself is scary enough. (I am using the word first way too  much, I should change that first)

And to top it off, I am having terrible problems with verb tense and point of view. AGH! I need help!

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The above was written 10 days ago, and I am happy to say that I got the pages out to several people and have received some responses already! Friends are wonderful.

First of all I got some great feedback from a college English teacher who went through and helped me clean up punctuation and some verb tenses. On top of that she likes sci-fi and believes there is hope…

I suspect that I will spending the better part of the summer reading about verb tenses. What was most interesting to me was how much I didn’t know. I am amazed that I graduated…GAH! [Please note that AGH! and GAH! are different and not typos of each other]

Three other brave souls have the 10 pages: A Co-Worker, A Friend who is an author and a professional writing coach. Only time will tell if I am crushed or not. My mother always said that I was a fragile child.

On the MORE GOOD NEWS FRONT , I have almost another 5000 words done and I haven’t had to kill any characters recently, unlike some authors who believe that blood and gore are all the rage. [Take That GRR].

This update is done and off to the ether of the internet.

Be Well, dcd

What Time Is It?

IMG_20121016_000651Do not allow yourself to be defined by time.

Your age doesn’t make you something, the number of hours you put into something doesn’t mean you are expert. You are not too old to do that, or to young to do this.

Don’t drink before noon? What? Who says you can’t have cheese cake for breakfast? What do you mean you can only make love at night. Day and night are divisions of time as well.  I only have so much time today! Horse pucky! You always have the same amount of time.

Time is not the boogeyman, you don’t need to have time to write, you just have to write, right now, right?

Time is not something that is control of anything, nor do you get to control it. It just is.

Define yourself by actions, not by a schedule. If she has to wash the cat on Saturday night, you know she is not into – move already!

There is nothing better than going for coffee, now

speaking of which – TIME TO GET A LATTE!

be well – dcd