Category Archives: Writing Tips

NaNoWriMo: The 2013 Wrap-up

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The hardest part about National Novel Writing Month was dragging my lazy ass out of bed. That and, well you know, actually writing.

With another NaNoWriMo looming just around the corner, I thought it was time I posted my 2013 Wrap-up:

The Overview

2013 was my first attempt at participating in this chaotic, month-long writing marathon to churn out a 50,000 word novel in just thirty days. Along the way I learned quite a bit about myself, about my writing, and about my own abilities as a writer. I learned that I can write from an outline (granted, an outline thrown together in the week before the event), and still have the freedom to “pants it,” find surprises, and drift from the script now and again. I learned that I can set a writing goal, and I can achieve it. I learned that I can write (almost) everyday.

While I didn’t actually complete an entire novel, I learned that I have the ability to write a “novel-size” manuscript in just thirty days. And I learned (or rather reminded myself) that large quantities of coffee and energy shots can in fact replace sleep.

Overall, it was a great experience (from what I remember anyway, the entire month is all still very much a blur).While I technically “won” the event by hitting the 50,000 word goal on November 30, I’m certain there are some things I could have done differently, not necessarily better, to make the experience even more rewarding. So let’s take a moment to recap my adventures in NaNoWriMo 2013.

The Plan

I signed up mid-October on a whim, and started throwing together a quick outline from a story concept I’d been harboring for some time. I’d never tried to write “fast” before and had never really tested myself to see how many words I could cram out per hour, but I guessed that if I was typing at a good rate and just letting the stream of consciousness flow, just writing whatever came to mind without second guessing sentence structure or word choice, that I could probably hammer out about a thousand words in an hour.

So I planned to give myself roughly two hours per day to write, in the early morning hours before work and before the family started to stir. I hoped to reach two thousand words per day so that I could take Sundays off and not fall behind on word count.

The Process

My NaNoWriMo 2013 Starter Kit

My NaNoWriMo 2013 Starter Kit

Depending on the day’s work schedule, I would wake up anywhere between 4:30-6 a.m. I’d brew my coffee and take my place on the sofa, working on a T.V. tray set up as a desk with my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard. I had my music of course, ear-buds plugged in to my phone cranking out Pandora. (For some reason I was listening to a lot of Alt-J, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band.)

Most days I found it easy to hit my word count in the given time, and I do believe my estimates proved pretty darn accurate. From what I remember, I was averaging right around 1,000 words/hour. There were a few days that I found time to write in the afternoons and those sessions would put me ahead. Me, being the lazy, procrastinating person that I am–instead of using these moments to really take off and up my word count–found opportunity several mornings to only write for an hour or so and then go back to bed for another hour prior to work.

I planned on blogging the whole experience along the way, but became so engrossed that I only managed to poke my head out once for a Week One Update. After that, there was only writing, coffee, and then darkness…

The Aftermath

2013 WriMo Stats
As you can see from the above image, I stayed on track and hit a total of 50,041 words on November 30. I ended up writing every day except for two days, day #10 and #28. Despite that, I never fell behind in the overall word count goal for any given day. I think this is really a good point to take home for anyone attempting the event this year. It is very important to keep your head above water. If you want to write ahead, write ahead, but don’t skip a day if it’s going to put you behind thinking you will make up for it tomorrow. That is, write for credit; don’t write yourself into debt. While I have read a few other writers post about falling behind and then making up for it in a final, glorious surge near the end, writing from a deficit only makes an already difficult challenge that much more challenging.

The Result

2013 WriMo Stats 2
So, what do I have to show for all this, aside from the satisfaction of knowing that I am now officially a WINNER! (With a t-shirt to prove it! Yippee!) plus all that ooey gooey knowledge and creamy-center-filled confidence I gained? Let me tell you: I am now the proud owner of 50,041 words of a half-finished “zero” draft novel that I haven’t looked at since and can barely even recall writing let alone remember what the hell I actually wrote. It is probably complete orangutan puke, but it is mine. It is mine to finish. It is mine to rewrite, edit, and revise. It is mine to turn into something perhaps worthwhile, something that could even one day be yours as well, and if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, it might never have existed.

If you have never done NaNoWriMo before, don’t kid yourself, this is a very difficult challenge. By December 1, I was exhausted, burned out. With family obligations and a full time job, there’s no way I could keep that kind of pace going for much longer than a month. Even only writing a couple or three hours a day, it just wears you down, both physically and mentally, trying to keep pace and consistently make your word count. But if you can hang with it for the whole month, win or lose, it is extremely rewarding. And yes, I will be “competing” again this year. (As I’ll discuss here in a few days, this year I plan on cheating. Shhhh…)

How about any of you? Done NaNoWriMo in previous years? Care to share your experiences, good or bad? Or, if you’ve never done the event but are thinking about it, please feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below. While I’m still somewhat of a NaNoWriMoNewbie, I’d be happy to chat about the issue, and perhaps we can pull some real veterans into the discussion along with us.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, Just Write!

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I’m Not Dead: Balancing the Equation in My Writing Life

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I’m not dead. Not yet anyway.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to say, but if this is going to become a real post, I’d better make up a few more words. I could always explain things, tell you loyal readers why it’s been so quiet on the writing front these days, but I’m sure no one is really that interested.

Oh what the heck, I’ll just do it anyway. Besides, I need to find more ways to stretch this thing out, haven’t I? So then, what I’d like to do is elaborate on the things in my life which have caused my writing to slow down, and then explain my strategies on how I plan to overcome them. If you are bored with all the personal details, just hang in there and keep reading…I promise there’s a nugget or two in here somewhere.

So here it is, the reasons why productivity has slowed down so drastically in my writing world. It can easily be summed up with this simple mathematical formula: Writing productivity is inversely proportional to the intensity of real life. That is, as one speeds up, the other inherently slows down. So what has been causing the intensity of my life to increase so much? Work of course is the big obvious and boring reason, so we’ll just get that one out of the way. There! That feels much better. Now on to the more important issues.

Buying our first home has been one of the biggest challenges my wife and I have ever faced, from the initial and grueling home search, to obtaining the financing and gathering all the countless documents that go along with it, to a myriad of other hiccups, bumps, and catastrophes along the way which I don’t have the space nor the patience to get into here. We finally closed on our first home just four days before Christmas and orchestrated a complete DIY move over the course of the next week between Christmas and New Years (with a bit of help from our friend, Lisa…thanks Lisa!). Oh, and did I mention that our second child was born just three days after Christmas? So that means I practically moved an entire household by my lonesome while my wife was recovering from childbirth all while helping to care for our newborn baby boy and very active two year old daughter. Whew! Makes me exhausted again just typing it all.

So now what? Well there are still countless things occurring on a daily basis such as work, getting settled into our home, and taking care of the family which can all decrease writing productivity, and I know that this trend will never change. After all, such is life. So how will I manage all this and still remain productive in my writing? How will I bring balance to the equation? Not-so-simply this, I must carry on and try to become more creative when it comes to finding ways to squeeze in the time to write. (A bit like trying to squeeze lemon juice out of the peel, but nonetheless, it CAN be done!) That means analyzing how my time is spent overall and looking for ways to skim a little time off the top of other activities (i.e. sleep, surfing the internet, World of Warcraft), then arranging and compiling that time into blocks, chunks, and snippets which can be reallocated for writing.

I will use this time to update the blog as I can, and conceive of ideas to help generate content and traffic flow in ways that will require less of my time, hence using more of my endless creativity. I will also be behind the scenes organizing and editing two nearly completed chapbooks, slugging away at final edits on my novella, shopping around a few completed short stories and poems to various markets, and starting up another large scale writing project as well.

To summarize all this gibberish, all I can do to rise above the delima of not having the time to write–and bring balance to the equation–is to get extremely creative in my time management. With that, I must make the absolute most of the precious time I do manage to set aside for writing. I heard it said recently that not having enough time is one of the biggest falacies we give ourselves to use as an excuse. And in a way this is true. Everybody, no matter who you are, has exactly the same amount of time each and every day. It is what we choose to do with our time and how we use it that makes the difference in our success. While I agree with this for the most part, I will say that whoever first came up with this idea, certainly did not have children.

What about you? What creative ways have you come up with to find more time to devote to your writing or other projects?


On (UN)Productivity and New Writing Goals

I’ve never been much for giving myself writing goals–I’m too much of a blatant procrastinator for that. I suppose I’ve always looked at the prospect of having to meet writing goals as something else to come up with excuses for not doing, and quite frankly, I’ve got enough stuff to use those excuses on already.

As far as my productivity goes, well it’s rather inconsistent. I’m primarily a weekend author. My current schedule provides me with at least three days each week to write. Family obligations limit the time on each of those days to mornings when my lovely daughter is content to play in her playpen, or in the afternoon when she’s taking her nap. That leaves only a few hours during each of these days to write for my current projects, which is more often spent blogging, conducting market research,  and networking (these are euphemisms for web surfing, forum trolling, updating my website, tweeting, and just general avoidance of performing any real work). So the scraps of time that are left to spend on actual writing projects is split between producing new words and revising old words, and further subdivided between fiction projects and poetry projects. It’s a miracle I ever get anything done!

The last two weekends have gone by and I’ve produced 600 words on a new story. A full six days to write and I probably spent less than two hours actually writing (not counting for the blog). That’s sick. I can do better. I know I can be more prolific. I have it in me to produce in bulk. There have been times when I’ve produced 2,000 plus words in a day. I can write in quantity and be productive, but I have to sit down to write and not let myself get distracted. And trust me, that last part is a doozy!

So perhaps I should give this “writing goals” thing a shot. I want to write every day. Even if it’s small. But I want to commit myself to at least produce something. Even if I only write in small doses, as long as I write every day, I’ll still be producing more than I am now. I think an achievable goal for me would be to start with say, 250 words a day. I know I could hammer that out in less than an hour. Probably more like ten or fifteen minutes if the creativity is flowing, but I know it could be done in an hour even if it’s not. I know I can find an hour each day to dedicate to writing, instead of  wasting away on the internet or watching television or God forbid just staring at a blank wall.

Here it is then, my new writing goal: Write Every Day, 250 Words.

There, I said it. And it’s here in bold for you all to see and help keep me accountable. 250 words a day, 1,750 words a week, 7,000 words a month. If I do more, great! If I don’t meet the goal on any given day, too bad and better luck tomorrow. I won’t dwell on the failings because I don’t want to get discouraged. I want to keep this going. I want the act of daily writing to become habitual so that when I start writing for one of those novel ideas, I’ll be able to stay on track and produce the thing in a year or less. And honestly, I’ve got too many ideas accumulating in the brain/journal, so for Heaven’s sake–just write the damn things already!

What’s your take on setting writing goals? Do you make them? If so, what strategies do you use to keep yourself on track?


Thrills of “The First Time” Publication –And Beyond…

As a new writer there is nothing more thrilling than the first time you get to see your work published.  Like any of life’s great milestones, it is a moment to be forever cherished. Ah…truly, it is bliss.

I remember my first time. It was a zombie story called Slave in the Flesh, and it was printed in the zombie-themed anthology, Through the Eyes of the Undead in May, 2010. It seems a lifetime ago, but I realize it’s been less than a year and a half and the afterwards butt is still smoldering in the ashtray.

Since that time I’ve been striving to get more of my work–any more of my work–out there for all to see, and in any publication that will have me. I don’t stress this to discredit the publications that have published me. On the contrary, I am ever grateful and honored to have my work appear in each and every one of these excellent publications. My point here (if indeed I have one) is that when you first start publishing, a sort of bloodlust overtakes you and you need more. You become frenzied, and you don’t care where that next bit of blood is coming from or how you find yourself going about getting it. At least, this is how it seemed for me.

As I look over my publishing history to this point, I can see that I have published or am scheduled to publish, more than 20 short stories. In April of this year I started publishing poetry, and have since published 40+ poems with about ten more slated to be published through January 2012. I apologize if that sounds a bit boastful; what I’m trying to say is that I’m finally getting over the initial frenzy of “I just need to be published.” In other words, the afterglow of “the first time” is starting to fade.

Well then, what now?

There is an outbreak of writers out there looking for the quick fix, seeking fame and fortune in a one night stand. One or two of these in thousands might get lucky, but the rest will fade into oblivion. There comes a time in your writing career when you have to decide if you’re going to play the field all your life, or are you going to give it a real go in a committed relationship.

If you’re serious about writing, I believe there comes a time when you need to become more selective about not only what you are sending out for consideration, but also where you are sending it to. It becomes even more important to examine what you’re spending your time on as you go about slaving, writing, and revising. It becomes less about simply seeing your work published and more about building a readership, gaining fans, maybe getting a few professional credits to tack to your bio, or perhaps nailing just the right piece in just the right publication to garner some attention and maybe snatch up an award or two.

For my own writing career, it’s time I start actively switching gears into relationship mode. This gradual change has been occurring without me being fully conscious of it, as I’ve noticed myself concentrating on “bigger picture” projects: writing poems with collections and chapbooks in mind, stories for my own short story collections, longer narratives like novellas, and also plotting out novels.  I’m dreaming up more book ideas, titles, and cover designs than I’ll ever have time to produce in the next several years to come. I find I’m spending almost as much time, if not more time, blogging and networking than I actually do writing.

I’m committing myself until the proverbial “death do us part.” All my efforts now just become pre-marketing strategies and setting the stage for the long haul. I’m building a brand and carving a strong foundation for a real business in publishing. I’m getting set for the arduous road ahead, and patiently (yet still anxiously) awaiting the destinations this career in writing/publishing sees fit to take me. Like any committed relationship, a serious career in writing takes work. I’m ready to get to work, because I’m in it to win it, or die trying.

What was your “first time” publication and where do you see your writing/publishing path taking you?


#Howto #Write #a #Viral #Blog #Post

I’ve been blogging for almost a month now and this post will be my 16th I believe, so I’d say I’m pretty much an expert. Now it’s time for me to pass the buck as they say, and impart my infinite wisdom on to the little folks out there. (That doesn’t sound condescending at all does it? Oh good. I don’t want it to sound condescending.) So here are seven things you might need to know to make your blog posts sound important and look really snazzy:

1.) You need to pick  a topic. I know this sounds like boring work or school stuff, but trust me. Preferably pick something that is currently popular and trending. Don’t know what’s trending? No worries. That’s what we have Twitter for. And that magic little # doo-hickey you keep seeing everywhere is there for a reason: it lets us know the stuff we are supposed to care about. So let’s head on over to Twitter and see what we can write about. Ok. Here’s our topic: #inappropriatefuneralsongs. Awesome!

2.) Don’t worry if you don’t know anything at all about the topic at hand. And I mean ANYthing at all. Trust me. You don’t even have to discuss the topic in your post! That’s the beauty of it. Just randomly insert the trend word or phrase a few times,  #inappropriatefuneralsongs sprinkle in some other words arranged in a reasonably coherent fashion, then break them up into, oh I’d say about 3 or 4 paragraphs (Whoa! easy there partner, don’t make them too big, you don’t want to scare away your readership with all those intimidating blocks of text!)

3.) Use lots of biggish sounding words. Your word processor’s thesaurus thingy will help you with that. Again, trust me here, this is no boondoggle! #inappropriatefuneralsongs This technique works to mask the fact that you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. Most people won’t bother to look them up and will therefore mistake you for being smart, making them all the more likely to share your post to their friends, hence making them appear brainy by proxy. Besides, all that variegated vernacular will make you seem quite sagacious .

4.) #Hashtag. #Hashtag. #Hashtag. Use them in your title. #For #Every #Single #Word. Honestly, you have no idea which words in your title will be trending #inappropriatefuneralsongs by the time you publish, so it’s good to cover your bases, thereby increasing the likelihood you’ll strike the jackpot.

5.) Next, and this is perhaps the most vital aspect, find a SUPER COOL image to go along with your post. Kittens are always a good choice.  Recently Stumble Upon a bunch of cute kittens swarming over an apathetic gorilla? Oh you are sooo golden!

6.) Tag your post with just about every possible thing you can think of. #Every #Possible #Thing. I can’t stress this enough. Seriously, you simply can NOT have too many tags on your post! Get the encyclopedia out if you have trouble with this one.

7.) Wait before you publish! Now that your post is all finished, check your topic/trend word one more time. It’s not too late to change it because what was trending three minutes ago when you started this epic quest might not be trending any longer. Swap out those #trendwords as fast as you can and then click the publish button.

With any luck you’ve just published a super cool and trendy blog post that will go epidemically viral in seconds flat and launch you into #World #Wide #Web #Super #Stardom.

Well that’s it for me. I’m bored now. Besides, blogging isn’t nearly as cool as it was when I started writing this. I think I’ll go see what’s happening on Google+.


Keeping Up with the Social Media

It’s Friday. I’m up early with the baby. After a bottle, she plays happily in her playpen. With fresh coffee, I sit down at the computer. It’s quiet, peaceful. Just some low music, and the distant rhythms of the Sprout channel. A perfect time to do some writing. Let’s just check the email/Twitter/Facebook/blog while the caffeine takes effect…

Oh look! Someone mentioned me on Twitter. Better send a TY mention back. Oh and a RT from someone too? Lovely! I’ll just thank them and… Oh gosh! That’s right! It’s #FF (#FollowFriday) day today! How could I have forgot? I don’t want to appear to be a loser, so I’d better send out some proper #FF’s of my own.

Ya know, it’s been awhile since I combed through profiles for cool new folks to follow. Just a few minutes of that and, my my this is an interesting blog post. I really should respond to this, it seems to be quite an important topic. Hey that reminds me, I wrote a new post for my own blog last night, but I still have yet to edit it. Let me do that right quick before I publish. Oh, before I do that, I’d better go to Google and search for a nice image to go with that blog post. Done and done!

Now just a quick peek back to Twitter and Facebook to make sure my blog’s feed is working… hmmm Twitter’s is fine but the feed to Facebook isn’t working correctly for my Author Page. I’ll have to post it manually for now and, Holy Moly! Look at all these new notifications! Gardens of Time… people need what for their what? Why did I start playing this game again? Ok. Let me just return the favors and, oh look at the time, baby needs her cereal and a nap already! And I’ve got to feed and walk the dog…

Speaking of, I’m pretty hungry myself. Ok, a quick bite and then it’s back to…checking my Site Stats on WordPress… and Ha! I just had the funniest thought that would make an awesome Tweet! Back to Twitter to share this awesomeness… Hahaha! Mentions, mentions, hashtags, blog, you tube, tweet, stumble, stumble, post, respond, RT, RT, update status, reply…

Wasn’t there something else I was going to do? Oh. Write.


Become a Great Author the Easy Way–Grow a Beard!

With the ever changing world of publishing–ebooks, self-publishing, POD–everyone is searching for the fast and easy way to become a great author. We’ve all heard the overnight success stories. There’s a gold rush happening here and everyone is looking to cash in on this gravy train of self-publishing before it skips town. Some people will tell you that the only way to ‘get there’ is through hard work and tons of luck. But, there’s another way, a simpler way. And folks, I’m here to tell you how. All you have to do to become a great author is grow a beard!

Now you may be wondering, is it absolutely necessary to have a beard in order to become a great author? Well no, of course not. That’s preposterous! But it certainly helps. And it sure is easier to grow a beard than it is to actually try writing a really good book. Writing takes work. Lots and lots of hard work. Also, it takes work, dedication, work, and yep, more work. But the good news is that beards practically grow themselves!

Yes, it’s true! All you really have to do is wait for them to grow! It’s that easy! In a way, the path to becoming a great author is as simple as Sea Monkeys! And if you don’t want to do all that boring stuff like waiting, you could just Photoshop a nice beard onto one of your already existing, beardless (and no doubt boring) bio pics, and viola! You are now a bearded author! (Btw, this is also a good tip for the ladies. Shhhh. Don’t worry ladies, the secret that your beard is fake is safe with us.) And don’t worry if you haven’t published anything yet, you can still call yourself an author, and because of your beard, people will believe you! Honest. Would a bearded guy lie to you? NO! He wouldn’t.

So now that we’re all gathered here today (uhg, I should probably re-write that–sounds like the start to a bad wedding–on second thought, revision=more work, so I’ll just leave it be, I doubt anyone will notice anyway) and since I’ve already discussed this wonderful tip which will have you burning rubber on the road to becoming a very great author in no time flat, I’ll now provide you with some evidence to support my claim.

Here is a list of great authors (aka writers with beards), all of whom knew (or in some cases know–believe it or not, some of these guys ain’t even dead!) the absolutely vital importance of wearing a good beard:

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