Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm not dead yet

...just swamped with client-related work, unusually so for the post-Thanksgiving "lull."

But here's your chance to tell me all about your NaNoWriMo experience: did you win? (Let's talk soon about "winning" NaNoWriMo and why I have mixed feelings about it -- remind me.)

What was your word count?

Did you meet your personal goals?

Are you pleased with the outcome and/or the work in progress?

When will you start revisions?

What advice would you share with a would-be NaNo-er, based on your experience?

Tell me, tell me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo: The joys of measurable goals

I'm on Day Four of Crazy Week and, I have to say, pretty delighted with my progress. (If you've queried me recently, sorry to say that's been the bottom of the priority list lately, but the inbox is getting some attention this afternoon.)

I posted, half-jokingly, on Twitter yesterday that I just bought a book called LEARN TO MANAGE YOUR TIME, but wasn't sure when I'd get to read it. I love books like that (shameless plug here for my client Erin Rooney Doland's UNCLUTTER YOUR LIFE IN ONE WEEK), where it feels like a book can provide all the answers to your needs.

But I can't be the only one who sometimes confuses buying the book with reading the book, can I? As if the book's purchase would osmotically impart all of the book's wisdom to me. Sigh.

One major thing (of many!) that I have in common with anyone who strives to make money from their writing is that I have to figure out how to organize my time. There's nobody to tell me what my priorities should be, though there are quite a few people who would like a say in the matter, and I am the only person who gets to decide what goes on the day's to-do list. All my deadlines and all my work projects are more or less self-imposed.

That's scary sometimes, and there are certainly days--weeks--when I have to dig deep to find my motivation.

My mom would tell you that I've always worked best under pressure, which might help to explain why despite the stress, I'm having a really good week as I crank through as many list items as I can. Deadlines, even when they're pretty arbitrary and of my own making, are really, really good for my productivity.

I think the connections to NaNoWriMo here are pretty obvious: nobody makes you sign up, and nobody makes you produce the word count. You've all done this to yourselves. But signing up for something like NaNoWriMo is a way of publicly stating that what you're doing is important to you, and worthy of the time and attention it demands.

If you can't make time to write, you can't write anything.

Here's a post from the amazing Neil Gaiman giving his NaNoWriMo pep talk; it's well worth the read.

Check in in the comments and let us all know how you're doing (and what your word count is)!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo: What are you so afraid of?

Here's a quick prompt for anyone who needs a NaNoWriMo (or other) boost:

What's the one thing your protagonist most fears?

Make that fear come true.

What happens next?

Monday, November 14, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Almost the halfway point.

Hi everybody!

November's a busy month around these parts, too-- I try to get as many things wrapped up before Thanksgiving as I can, so this last full week before the holidays is a mad rush of sending out submissions, wrapping up contract negotiations, and general desk-clearing.

It's tough to get a lot of people's attention between Thanksgiving and New Year's. There's a lot going on outside of work, and even though publishing doesn't party at the holidays like it used to--a friend of mine tells stories of champagne fountains ("tell me again about the rabbits, George!") at a publisher's holiday party-- it's still challenging, at most publishers, to get enough people in a room to make a decision about whether to acquire a manuscript. This presents the risk, from my perspective, of an editor's enthusiasm for a project cooling off before the bosses have had a chance to weigh in. So, with some carefully-thought-out exceptions, the tenor of my job changes quite a bit at that time of year.

But if things feel hectic for me, I can only imagine how the NaNo participants among you must be feeling, staring down the barrel of that 50,000 word count, with a little over two weeks to go. (Okay, that was mean. Sorry.)

If you're proceeding "chronologically" through your manuscript (writing page 1, then page 2), as a client and I were talking about this morning, then you should be near the novel's half-way point. Given the pacing of NaNoWriMo, it's not a great idea to do much editing as you're cranking out the pages, but if you can avoid switching your "inner editor" all the way on, you might give some thought to the pacing in this part of your story.

I wrote, briefly, in my first NaNo post about what I and a lot of others call the "flabby middle," that plague of writers everywhere, the primary symptom being that the story runs aground for some chunk of time. Imagine an Agatha Christie novel in which Miss Marple stops searching for clues for a little while, and instead describes her current knitting project for ten or twenty or thirty pages. (I might actually like that, but I am a knitter, and I have eclectic taste.) The knitting part might be pretty interesting, and it might be beautifully written, and it might be true to the character, but if it's not moving the story forward in a meaningful way, it should be frogged.

Here's a suggested first-draft technique for avoiding the flabby middle: write a one-sentence summary of each of your chapters. Simple as you can. Doesn't matter if it would read as very cryptic to someone else. If you get to a chapter description that reads like "Character goes away and thinks about what just happened for a while," then that's probably going to read like a flabby middle, unless that character makes substantial progress of some sort during the scene, and unless there's no other (more active!) way for that progress to take place.

Do you have any techniques for avoiding the "flabby middle?" Got any battle-of-the-bulge horror stories? And what's your word count?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo: useful links

Day Two!

I'm hoping you're not actively procrastinating on your NaNoWriMo project just yet, but if the excitement's starting to wear off and the panic's starting to set in, here are some useful links to take a look at. There is a TON of great advice out there; here are a few of my favorite pieces.

I'll share more in a week or so, if these are helpful, but here's my big piece of advice: turn off the Internet. Get off Twitter. Install a browser add-on like LeechBlock if you have to. Limit your distractions so you can focus on what you really want to get done: 50,000 words of a novel.

But once you've met your word count goal for the day, come back here and tell me in the comments section what that word count is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: It Begins!

Today's the day! How's everyone doing so far?

Post your word counts in the comment section!