NaNoWriMo 2017: How to Find the Time

Pink Floyd, Jim Croce, and The Chambers Brothers have all composed wonderful classic rock songs about our friend and enemy: time. You can’t look at it, hold it, or examine it; time exists without form. Yet, time is incredibly valuable. For every day, and for the whole month of November, time will be prevalent in the minds of any would-be indie author racing for the finish line during NaNoWriMo 2017. So how to make the best use of the time you have for writing? I’ve summarized some of Chris Baty’s great ideas.

*In the last post I wrote about Setting a Proper Goal.*

A Study in Thirds

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It all starts with planning. In the final week of October, try logging everything you do over the course of a day. Identify everything according one of three criteria: Need, Delay, and Avoid.

Some Things Must Be Done

You shouldn’t avoid certain daily necessities during NaNoWriMo. Our days are filled with a laundry list of mandatory tasks, including laundry. And personal hygiene, feeding the cats, feeding the baby, cooking, cleaning, shopping at the supermarket…you get the idea.

These tasks should not be avoided or delayed, or things get ugly. Let’s say that author Bill stops showering and uses that time to write. Other local authors may use his lack of hygiene to their benefit. Imagine the following phone call.

Local Author John: “Hey, Bill. I hope you’re coming to the write-in tonight.”

Bill: “Wouldn’t miss it.”

John: “Good. Because I’m writing a scene that takes place in a foul-smelling bog. And Susan is up to a scene where some survivors find some rotting food.”

Bill: “I’ll bring my thesaurus.”

John: “We don’t need a thesaurus. We just need a quick whiff of you. Then you can leave.”

Sorry for the tasteless jesting, but I couldn’t resist.

Some Things Can Be Delayed

Yes, there are some tasks that should be done, but let’s face facts, putting them off for a month isn’t going to bring ruin to your life. Does the trim in the living room need a fresh coat of paint? So what? The house is not going to collapse for want of paint. Got some wood that needs to be stacked? It’s outside and drying out anyway. Does the back of the TV need to be dusted? No, it can wait. The TV will not explode from dust (although unattended Penguins on the Tele have been known to go up in smoke).

The Things to Avoid

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Study your list of daily activities. Look at the amount of time spent watching TV, commenting on humorous Facebook memes, Twitter, watching YouTube videos, or online shopping and gaming. If you’re going to implode because you’ve missed an episode of The Big Bang Theory or Once Upon A Time, use your DVR and watch it after you’ve done some honest-to-goodness writing for the day. Regard it as a reward for a job well done.

Consider Yourself Armed With New Knowledge

Come November, I hope you sit your butt down and get some serious NaNoWriMo writing done. If you don’t, you’ll never achieve your goal. Let me know if this strategy helped.

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

NaNoWriMo 2017: Setting A Proper Goal

According to Chris Baty in his book “No Plot? No Problem!” a deadline is one of the most powerful writing tools around. Deadlines are what keep all those newspapers and magazines generated on time, after all. That’s why every NaNoWriMo event has one. However, NaNoWriMo’s set goal of a particular word-count by a specific date is a goal that cannot be amended. Therefore, for NaNo, quality is the goal that should be tweaked.

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Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

The Principle of Exuberant Imperfection

According to Chris, in order to make something beautiful, you first have to make something ugly. This is the definition of Exuberant Imperfection, and is one of the principles where my thinking was completely wrong (I mentioned wrong thinking in a previous post concerning NaNoWriMo 2017). At times I used to stare at my screen trying to craft a perfect beat, or to replace a weak weasel verb. But I’ve learned now that the first draft is not the time to be doing that. Neither is the second draft, for that matter.

Have you ever seen a board freshly ripped from a log? It’s ugly. Once I made a pot rack that started as such a board, jagged and with an uneven surface ten times rougher than a burlap sack. The first thing I had to do was plane the wood to make it look like a piece of stock that one would buy in a Home Depot type of store. Only then could I shape it into its final form.

However, do not misconstrue my meaning. The object is not to aim low, but rather not to set an unattainably high bar. Remember the wise words of Hemingway, “the first draft of anything is a piece of shit.” Just write and keep writing; worry about the small details later when you edit.

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How Will You Approach NaNoWrimo 2017?

Have you been setting the bar too high? I know I have done that in the past, and therefore this year will be different. Let me know if this way of thinking will help with your NaNoWriMo 2017 writing project.

 

 

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 Is Coming

Even if you’re not a fan or avid viewer of Game of Thrones, I’m sure you’ve heard the famous tagline “Winter is coming.” Well, for all of us denizens within the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth, winter is coming and that means yet another November dedicated to NaNoWriMo.

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Courtesy of NaNoWriMo

 

I’ve never dove into a NaNoWriMo event head first. Usually because I think too hard about the deadline and 50K words and shrug it off. Granted, I’ve used the push from others to force myself into dedicated daily writing and completed existing drafts.

What Makes NaNoWriMo 2017 Different?

A friend at my small critique group slipped me a copy of “No Plot, No Problem” by Chris Baty. In case you’re not familiar with his name, he’s is one of the founders of NaNoWriMo. Within its pages I’ve discovered that my previous method and mind-set were completely off-base and essentially at odds with the manner in which any would be author should approach a #NaNoWriMo event.

As An Aid to Other Indie Authors

Throughout this October, I’ll have a series of blog posts that will serve as a quick “How To NaNo” guide. So forget about finding a coffee maker with an intravenous tube, three cases of Twinkies, or a special box to lock up your cats. The good news is you will not need to do push-ups or run for miles in this training program.

My Project For This Year’s NaNoWriMo

A few weeks ago I was having a sleepless night. While I tossed and turned, book III for my Tales of Tyrennia came to me in a flash. So, it’s a sure bet what I’ll be working on this November. In the next post, I’ll reveal the correct mind-set to have concerning your end product.

Use the Comments To Tell Me About Your NaNoWriMo 2017 Project.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Arroz Con Pollo (Castilian Chicken with Rice)

There are many versions of this delight from Spain. Almost every different culture in Latin America and the Caribbean has their own version of Arroz Con Pollo. However, this is the one I discovered while studying abroad in Madrid, which would be the original version from which all others are derived. Even the cooking Bible of culinary art Larousse Gastronomique refers to this dish as Castilian Chicken.

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Please note that although the Arroz Con Pollo in Spain will use different cuts of chicken that I use. Why? Because I’m completely grossed out by eating meat with bones in it.

And So It Begins

Start by steeping the flavorful spices in the broth. You don’t boil this mixture. Put it on your lowest setting in an uncovered pot for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

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3 ½ Cups of Chicken Broth

1 Teaspoon of Saffron threads*

1 ½ Teaspoons of Chicken Bouillon Powder

½ Teaspoon of Turmeric

*I usually do not measure this ingredient. I buy the McCormick Saffron threads and use half. Therefore, I get to make this dish twice from one bottle. Prices vary drastically. I’ve seen it at Walmart for $17.69 while the base commissary has the exact product for $9.49.

Next You’ll Need to Prepare the Flour for Dredging the Chicken

2 large boneless and skinned chicken breasts (cut each breast into 3 pieces)

1 cup of flour

1 ½ Tablespoons of Paprika

1 Teaspoon of salt

½ Teaspoon black pepper

Dredge the chicken pieces and shake off excess.

Get Those Veggies Prepped

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1 Large White Onion (Medium Dice…the link will show you how to properly dice an onion)

1 Small Diced Red Bell Pepper

1 Small Diced Green Bell Pepper

1 4 oz. Jar of Pimiento (Drained)

*Option…1 Cup of Green Olives with Pimiento

 

Don’t Forget the Chorizo Sausage

6 Goya Spanish Chorizo Sausages (Skinned and sliced ¼ inch thick)

There are many incarnations of the Chorizo, like Mexican and Basque versions. However, the type made by Goya is the one that fits the bill. These match what I had in Spain and in the better Spanish restaurants in New York City.

Other ingredients

¼ Cup of Olive Oil

A splash of White Wine

2 Cups of Uncooked Rice

As for Cookware

This type of cooking is made for Le Creuset enameled cast iron. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives. I’ve seen them in Walmart and Bed Bath and Beyond. Although I’ve never used other brands, I swear by the quality of Le Creuset. My mom has some for over forty-years.

The Next Phase

Start by placing the chorizo slices in a large pot (preferably like the one named above). Remember when it comes to any type of sausage, low and slow is the way to go.

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Once the chorizo has some color on them, remove and reserve. As you can see, the chorizo has rendered beautiful red-orange colored drippings.

Put the olive oil and fry the chicken pieces. You don’t have to cook them all the way through. You want some golden brown color. Remove and reserve with the chorizo.

Next add the veggies to the oil. After they become a bit soft you can sweat them.

You don’t have to remove the onion and peppers. Now toss in that splash of White Wine and deglaze. Just simply add the rice to the pot and get the rice coated in the oil and cooked a bit. Then add that broth that has been steeping for a while.

Add the cooked and chorizo back into the pot and cover. Treat it as if you are making plain rice. When it starts boiling, lower the temperature to the lowest setting for 20-25 minutes.

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Uncover and add the pimiento and olives (remember the olives are optional). Residual heat will warm those last two ingredients. Mix them in and serve.

I hope you try this one. Let me how it came out!

 

 

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Immersion: Closing the Gap between Reader and Character

I saw a Facebook post recently that asked the question, “What mistakes did you make in your early writings?” Naturally, I offered an honest answer. In past scribbling, I was guilty of “distancing” my readers from my characters. However, I have since learned how to close the gap between reader and character.

What Are Distancing Phrases?

You create distance by telling what the character saw, as opposed to letting the reader see through the character’s eyes. Instead of listing every possible manner of distancing and its fix, I’ve decided to write a small paragraph which displays distancing. Yes, I know there’s an element of the old Show vs. Tell going on here, but I’m concentrating on the relationship between reader and character.

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This Is True for Filmmaking as Well

Remember the last time you watched a well-made film? You were completely immersed into the world and characters presented to you. So much so, that you forgot about the real world. Notice what happens if the film breaks or if there’s a commercial interruption. You become jolted out of the immersion.

A Sample

Let’s say your main character is John. Here’s some text loaded with distancing.

John offered the diary to Mary. He could see her hand trembling with nervous trepidation as she grabbed the little green journal. “The page is marked,” John said. He watched as she took hold of the white ribbon and turned to the infamous page. As her eyes scanned the entry, John noticed her curled lip.

She closed her eyes and dropped the book. “I can’t believe my sister did something like that.”

He felt terrible about revealing the truth to Mary and decided to hug her.

Therefore…

If the main character is John, then everything written is from his point of view. Everything seen, felt, smelled, or heard happens through him. Therefore there is no need for “He could see…”, “He watched…”, or “He felt terrible…” Also, once these distancing expressions are removed, you get locked into heightening the points for added drama while editing.

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A Rewrite

John offered the diary to Mary. Her trembling hand reached out and then recoiled away. He stretched out his arm, forcing the book closer to her. “The page is marked.”

After a deep breath, she held out her hand. John planted the little green journal into her palm.

She opened it to the infamous page marked with a piece of white ribbon. Her lip curled as her eyes scanned the entry. “I can’t believe my sister did something like that.”

With an aching in his chest, he lurched forward, wrapped his arms around her and drew her close.

Guilty

There is a vast difference between my first short story, “Stasis,” and my latest one, “Night Flights.” Although improved, I was still not completely satisfied with my writing. However, I’ve learned so much about editing over the past year, and have applied that knowledge to my forthcoming fantasy novel.

How About You?

Did your early writing distance the reader? Did you do a bit too much “telling” and block your readers from getting immersed in your characters and world?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Little Frankie’s First Six Months

The Stork delivered our little bundle of joy at 4:30am.

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We brought him home two days later.

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At first babies don’t do much at all. For the first three months little Frankie was an eating, sleeping, peeing, and pooping paperweight. Then the first change happened, he smiled on cue, and the baby babbling started.

We had many guests in our house early on. Ruth and I almost didn’t get a chance to hold him while Grandma Charlotte visited. Some chloroform, a blunt instrument, and a crowbar remedied the situation. 🙂

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After his baptism, things really started changing. He’s now grabbing things, and his “talking” has progressed from a random sound to different sounds strung together like syllables. Also, he enjoys baths now. I think the first one was a traumatic experience.

Frankie has stopped getting frustrated by “Tummy Time”, and rolls himself over. Sometimes he can stand up too, provided that someone holds him steady for balance. I think his jumper has strengthened his legs. He used to be content to watch things move, now he must interact.

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His neck is sturdy and loves sitting in his high-chair. We’re expecting the Doc to give us the green light for solid foods this month. As the chef of the house, I’ve purchased a Baby Bullet to make him some fresh food. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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So far, little Frankie is growing like a proverbial weed. At six months, he’s wearing clothing meant for nine-month old babies. Rather than a chip off the old block, Frankie can best be described as a chunk off the old block, although his height and weight are proportioned. 🙂

Any other experienced parents want to chime in? What do you think of Little Frankie?

 

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Are You a Hooker?

An author needs to hook a reader from the very beginning. Inciting incidents or a slam-bang opening line leads to an intense first paragraph, then a great first page, which then expands into an irresistible first chapter. Let’s face it, authors are professional hookers. However, never forget that every chapter must have a “chapter-ending hook” as well.

For the beginning or end of a chapter, “hook” is simply a term used for clever device that which will grab the reader’s attention and hook them like fish. With their emotions and curiosity sufficiently teased, their hands will flip pages.

A Brief List of Chapter-Ending Hook Ideas*

Revelation: We learn something new about a character or a clue to a mystery. The revelation can either be character or plot-based.

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New character: Method to introduce a new character (almost self-explanatory).

Questions: Sometimes an answer generates more questions.

Decision: Your MC has a decision to make and all choices have dire implications.

Sex: Never end a chapter with sex, end it with the probability that something carnal could happen.

Temptation: All heroes or MCs should have “feet of clay,” as in a flaw or weakness. Tempt your characters and you will also tempt your readers to keep on reading.

New Conflict: If some conflict is resolved then a new one must be introduced. Or take an existing conflict and augment it.

Danger: The classic “cliffhanger.” A villain’s reappearance can mean a new danger as well.

*Well, what are you waiting for? Add some below. 🙂

Watch Some TV

As much as I hate, despise, and loathe some of the banal nonsense that passes for entertainment on the old “boob tube,” I must admit that you can learn a lot about hooks from TV. Television writers have to deal with hooks all the time. They are usually inserted for a commercial break because they don’t want you to reach for the remote control.

Take care that you watch something current. I know that it is always nice for an old rerun of the original Star Trek or The Twilight Zone, but their commercial breaks happen whenever the station decides to sell you something. Also, there were fewer commercials back in the 1960’s (or whenever) and they’re timed differently these days.

Stop Being So Nice and Polite

Perhaps you’ve noticed that to effectively hook, you have to be something of a “meanie” to your characters. Sometimes you have to be brutal and vicious. Just turn on the news, bad things happen to good people all the time. Any guilt you feel will be erased by your pride in producing a higher quality end product.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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My New Stray Cat

We have a new addition to our household, Moogie. Most Star Trek fans, especially those who lean toward Deep Space Nine, will recognize the name as the mother of Quark and Rom. Moogie was a stray cat, but now we have given her a home. I’ll take the opportunity on this #caturday to tell you all about her.

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The first time we saw Moogie, she was scratching at our back door. Although we knew she wanted a home, we were reluctant because of our newborn, Frankie. I searched the town’s Facebook page. Most people with lost and found pets post there, but I saw nothing about this cat. Then I took pictures of her, posted them, and received no response.

Talk About a Guilt Trip

Months ago, as I prepared the nursery for an impending visit from The Stork, I painted a portrait of St. Francis of Assisi, surrounded by animal silhouettes. I finished off St. Francis with a rabbit, a bird, and a cat. Two days later, there was Moogie.

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I kept feeding her most days because some days she was nowhere to be found. Every time I’d walk into the nursery and see St. Francis with the cat, my guilt trip got worse. After a few months of failing to find a home for her, my wife and I decided to keep her. After all, we were already feeding her.

Off to the Vet

The first problem was our cat carriers. They were too small for this rather large kitty. I purchased a carrier for a small dog and Moogie fit without a problem. I took her to the vet and he checked her out for feline leukemia and other communicable diseases. Because her long hair was matted, they gave her a bath and shaved her.

How Did the Other Cats Behave? Is the Fur Flying?

So far, only Phoenix and Luna have accepted Moogie. Despite the initial hissing contests, the cats eat together and have even tried to play with Moogie. Minnie, on the other hand, is reacting differently. She can be a very jealous cat. Minnie follows me around from room to room, always has to jump on my lap, or get into anything that has my attention.

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And Now?

Moogie and the other cats have settled into a routine. Our four-feline brood eats and plays nicely together. The transition has been smoother than expected. It is possible that the other cats were already accustomed to her because of her extended stay under our deck.

Got a stray cat story to tell? Or just a good one about your domestic kitty?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Beware: Head Hopping or P.O.V Shifting

Head Hopping is also known in certain circles as P.O.V (Point of view) shifting. These jumps can be overt or even jarring to a reader. Sometimes head hopping can be subtle and therefore difficult to spot in an editing pass. Can you spot the head hopping / P.O.V shifting instances in the following passage?

Of course I tossed in some changes in narration as well, just for “poops” and giggles.

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If done correctly, head hopping is perfectly fine. In the Game of Thrones series, George R.R. Martin titles his chapters after different characters. And that named character commands the P.O.V for that particular chapter. Also, you can use a page break, which is probably the technique most often used. Page breaks lend themselves well in third person narration. They are like flags which will prevent confusion between text and reader.

Which head hopping occurrence was the most difficult to spot? How about the shifts in narration?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Soul Breaker: City of Crows Book One by Clara Coulson

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson, a.k.a. Therin Knite, is not only an Urban Fantasy, but also a fast-paced police procedural, only the police are a special division of paranormal detectives called DSI (Department of Supernatural Investigation). The expression “page-turner” comes to mind. Clara Coulson has a style and pacing which make for a quick read.

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In the magic users’ underworld of Aurora, DSI agents are referred to as Crows; hence the name of the series, City of Crows. Within the pages of this somewhat campy-supernatural-Urban Fantasy-whodunit, we meet Cal Kinsey, an entry-level investigator with the DSI. The man is rather cocky but not too sure of himself at the same time. He wears a confident face for the sake of other DSI agents. However, self-doubt, botched moments during an investigation and a haunting prologue experience make for a well-rounded character.

All in all, the main character’s inner thoughts, personality, et al are positives. The only “con” would be a bombshell about Cal Kinsey dropped into chapter 24. There was no previous reference or hints about a peculiar aspect of his personality. This information has no bearing on the rest of the book, either. Don’t fret, though, this little surprise quirk doesn’t take anything away from the overall entertaining aspects of Soul Breaker or its main character.

Although written in the first person, Soul Breaker doesn’t suffer from overusing “I.” In fact, Ms. Coulson seems quite adept at using beats and other body language to prevent large blocks of talking-head or speaker-tag-laden dialog. Except for two lesser characters, Riker and Delarosa, most of the DSI agents tend to speak in millennial voices. I would’ve preferred more professionalism in their speech. Perhaps it is my middle-aged eyes. Of course, the mannerisms of the agents do lend to the campy quality.

The complicated plot is properly paced and I didn’t spot any holes. Clara Coulson has created and delivered a story which could’ve gotten out of hand and drifted quite easily. There could’ve been a lot of info dumping concerning magic and the Eververse. However, the world-building information is properly presented in dribs and drabs, and woven into the text quite well.

Soul Breaker is the first in a trilogy. The good news is you won’t have to wait for the rest. The second book, Wraith Hunter, the third, Shade Chaser, and a novella, Dream Snatcher, are ready for purchase. I’m looking forward to another adventure with Cal Kinsey, the DSI, and interesting Eververse creatures invading our realm.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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