I'd like to thank my NaNoWriMo sponsor

After having already started National Novel Writing Month and during the process of deciding how much to donate to the cause, I found out that Wrimos can get sponsored.

This is quite appealing in a number of ways. For NaNoWriMo the organization, it means more money coming in than an individual would likely give. For the novelist, though, I imagine that sponsorship would add an extra layer of impetus to finish and win. As a blogger, I would also love sponsorship to give me blog fodder and, I don't know, maybe some swag?

So I was thinking about seeking out sponsorship next year when it dawned on me:

I already had a sponsor.

I could not have won NaNoWriMo without the financial, emotional, and familial support of my husband, Sam.

So this is my shout-out to Sam, who managed the retail family business in the pre-Christmas season, who took over the parental duties as a more-or-less full-time work-from-home dad when normally we split childcare of our two-year-old, and who has consistently encouraged me and believed in me as a writer. Thank you for letting me be a wholehearted author for one spectacular, frenzied month.

Sam's taking the month of December, and beyond as needed, to work on a nonfiction book that's been percolating for years. I like to think my two years of NaNo success have afforded some inspiration, and I'm trying to sponsor him in return.

Thank you, Sam. You know you're the person I want to dedicate all my books to.

I have cross-posted something similar at
HoboMama.com, my parenting blog,
if you'd like more details on
Sam's month o' Mikko.


Wordless Wednesday: From 50,000 words to one

NaNoWriMo 2009 Winner's Certificate

NaNoWriMo 2009 Winner!


NaNoWriMo distraction

[caption id="attachment_155" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="NaNoWriMo comic from PVP Online"]NaNoWriMo comic from PVP Online[/caption]

©2009 "Write Fight" at Player vs. Player, by Scott R. Kurtz

In personal NaNoWriMo news, I am finally digging myself out of the Boring Hole I had put myself in.

I should really listen to myself more. I had created a female protagonist who was that most deadly of all sins in fiction: dull.

Dull and good. Ugh.

I have made her a Liar McLyingPants, and now all is much better. There is conflict, there is tension, there is motivation, there is...romance!

NaNoWriMo 2009 participantThe words are flying. Except, you know, when I'm writing posts featuring NaNoWriMo comic strips or checking Twitter to see if anyone's mentioned me (have they?) or compiling coupon lists (why did I do that?? Oh, right, because I was procrastinating from NaNoWriMo. I don't even want to tell you how late I stayed up doing that, because it's just sad. I am so tired that I just spent precious minutes combing my desktop for a file I hadn't yet downloaded. And, also, this parenthetical note is way too long).

Only a few more days, kiddos, and I've finally broken 40,000 words. We're in it to win it! See you at the finish line.


NaNoWriMo write-in: Kids welcome

NaNoWriMo.org interviewed Ian Dudley, founder of the Kid-Friendly Write-In.

I've so far attended one write-in, in which I didn't introduce myself and wrote alone at a nearby table with my hot chocolate and brownie (woot! double fudginess!), because I'm like that.

But, whether I'm going to an organized write-in or just to a coffee shop for a write-in-of-one, I have to do something with...the kid.

Ian Dudley came up with the grand idea of welcoming kids to one of the South Bay, California, write-ins. It's a pioneering thing to do, but here's hoping it catches on and spreads to Seattle and the rest of the novel-writing nation!

Go to NaNoWriMo.org for the full interview, but here are some juicy excerpts:

When I became a dad this year, I realized how limited write-in options are for parents who can't find babysitters. We've heard about NaNo widows and widowers, but NaNo orphans aren't an option (unless you enjoy frequent visits from CPS).

There have definitely been some hazards. One boy is fully mobile and tall enough to grab things, such as my camera, off of tables. He also climbed onto his mom's vacant chair and merrily started 'adding' to her word count before she caught him. (I don't know if she kept the words.) Typing with your laptop on the floor is an even greater hazard, with outright key removal being a risk.

Another mom wrote 188 words at our last meeting, which doesn't sound like much until you consider that her daytime word count would otherwise be zero. She says this is the only write-in she can attend, and that alone makes it worth having.

Yea for parent-friendly, baby-friendly options! Before I became a parent, I thought that the US was a family-friendly country. And then I had my little one and found out just how excluded and universally mistrusted and outright disliked we are. So if you are childless (child-free/pre-child/post-child) and don't relish the idea of children in your coffee shop, please try to have a little compassion for the (literal) little guys. You were a child yourself once, unless you are a cyborg, in which case, 10001010010001001000. Because if you are a writer, someone inspired you to start writing. Maybe for these kids, it's their write-in-attending, NaNo-attempting parents.

Peace to all, great writers and small.

Photo courtesy Patricia Dekker on stock.xchng


NaNoWriMo elation deflation

I was meaning to blog a few days ago about how upbeat I was feeling about NaNoWriMo. I really should have done it then, because now my balloon has popped.

I assume I'll get it back, so don't feel too bad. It's just that I took a hard look at the facts.

Fact #1: Despite being almost caught up to where I need to be to finish the month at 50,000 words, which is to say just over halfway there, I am nowhere near halfway done with my story. Furthermore, I looked at some statistics of average word lengths for romance novels, at least of the particular kind I am writing, and I got an average of 100,000-130,000 words. That's right. If I finish my 50,000 words, I will be at best halfway through my novel.

Fact #2: Hmm. I thought there was a Fact #2. My mistake.

NaNoWriMo 2009 participantThe NaNoWriMo rules state that you must have 50,000 words and a beginning, middle, and end. What this means is that I have a few options for finishing out NaNoWriMo and WINNING (if I could put sparkles around that word, I would, I swear):

Option #1: Finish up the story arc of my novel in 50,000 words by doing the writerly equivalent of skimming, at least as I get near the end date. Skip scenes, skip details, skip description, and just tell the bare-bones story.

Option #2: Write a whole heck of a lot more to finish the whole kit and caboodle by Nov. 30.

I have a 2-year-old and another blog and a home business and a life. I think Option #2 is off the table.

But this means that I will have to spend December and perhaps January (and if I'm really bad, let's pray not, February or more) writing the rest of the lost words to my novel.

Just to compare, last year I wrote a murder mystery, a jovial little thing that could clock in in final draft at 75,000 and be dandy. Once I'd done a first revision of my winning NaNoWriMo attempt, I had that easy. There were several scenes I needed to add, characters I had to flesh out, and descriptions to add in, because I hate descriptions (reading and writing! Sorry, all you describers of lovely sunsets!).

I compared my (other) unfinished romance novel to the NaNoWriMo length, and I am at 85,000 words in it, and I know I am about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through my story there. See what I mean? Because I ain't never finished that 85,000-word one, so that's not a good track record, is it, now?

So I'm all intimidated and rightly humbled and all that.

But I soldier on. Keep writing.

Photo courtesy OkayCityNate on flickr (cc)


Ways to procrastinate from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2009 participantIf you're a prior NaNo-er — or, really, just a writer at all — you already know the obvious ways to procrastinate from working on your novel: housework, real work, writing a snail-mail letter when you haven't done so in years, posting on your blog (ahem), drafting cover letters to agents, researching how many words your final novel should ideally be and how much you might get for an advance when it's as superbulous as you imagine it will be...

But sometimes we want something NaNoWriMo-specific to occupy us while we're not writing our 1,667 words for the day.

Herewith I provide you with a helpful list, from which you can choose your current NaNo-approved time waster:

     • First, you need to upload some NaNo bling to your blog. That's clear. Find various word count widgets and web badges here, and proclaim your NaNoWriMo affiliation. That will take some fiddling as you upload to Photobucket[your image host], choose your favorites, and test out the widgets to make sure they're working.

     • But then you'll probably want to upload your badge or widget to Facebook. Well, now you're in for a bit more procrastination, because it's not as easily done as said (thanks a lot, FB). Here's a tutorial on a workaround, and here's a helpful application to take the place of a clumsy posting of a widget, and here are instructions on how to make that application box appear on your wall rather than in your boxes tab. Now your friends can be envious of your daily NaNo progress. You're welcome.

     • It's not enough merely to brag about your progress, though. You also need to keep track of all those words you're (not) writing. To spare you the headaches of lengthy calculations and Excel fiddling, NaNo-ers have come up with and disseminated spreadsheets to do the math for you. I've found this word count calculator from Hillary DePiano to be the most useful for me. (And she's named the same as my favorite instrument, so you really can't go wrong! Also read her article "My 12 Step Guide for Succeeding at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)" for some can't-miss tips.) You can open her spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs. One change I made was to swap around a couple things. Because I write in Word, a running word count is easier for me to gather than a daily (it's right there on the bottom bar all the time, whereas I have to select each day's writing then go to Tools to figure out my daily), so I made the column that you enter a word count be the total word count. Then I switched the next column to subtract each day's count from the previous, thereby getting a daily count. I also find I have to reset the "I'm at" box each day, but it's no biggie. If anyone wants my version, with Hillary's credit still intact as the brains behind the operation, let me know and I'll upload or email it. It really does make me giddy to update with each smattering of paragraphs and see how much closer I am to my daily goal, and how high a percentage of my novel I've written so far. (To be thorough, this calculator from Heim Binas was intriguing as well, and good if you like to track hours written and mood in addition to words, and if you want to see visual charts tracking your progress. The downloading was a little tricky, though, and included some unsavory advertising [not the blogger's fault but the download site's], so be forewarned.)

     • You'll want to make sure you're regularly saving the brilliance you're (not) writing, so be sure to consider a backup strategy. I mean, a literal backup strategy, for your files. This way looks nice and complicated and like it would take a lot of your time. My methods are to upload and copy/paste to Google Docs and email attached and pasted copies to myself every day or so. Eventually, the files get too big to upload to Google Docs, but copy and paste still works. Or you could copy and paste just the new bits. But my way doesn't take as long, so you might want to try something fancier.

     • There's always goofing around on the NaNoWriMo.org forums, of course, and there's lots of procrastination to be had there. One of my favorites is the dares thread, because you can pretend you're totally going to write from one of those dares while you instead just keep reading and chuckling. There are even genre-specific dares threads, such as this one for my romance friends. I don't know why, but this one keeps cracking me up, and generally I tend not to find rape all that funny ["BPs" are bonus points]:
"Dare: have someone say Rape is always the answer
(this was here before, I'm adding BPs)
BP if this is to a completely innocent question
DBP if rape is the answer
TPB if this is a major plot point."

Because I'm just trying to imagine in what fictional circumstance the double bonus points in particular could credibly be earned.

     • In the same vein, apparently there are also local challenges that should distract you. For instance, the Seattle Region routinely hides ducks in their novels as a sort of U of Oregon-baiting. This year the ducks must be upside-down, and this thread is a hoot to peruse if you want to get lots of great ideas of how to insert upside-down ducks into a novel (hunting scenes, bathtub scenes, neon café signs, etc.) while at the same time not actually writing your own scenes.

     • Finally, go to NaNoWriMo.org and consider thoughtfully your donation, which you should make, by the way. Each level of gifts comes with its own booty, such as posters, stickers, and gift certificates, so click through and see where your generosity and selfishness collide. That is the correct donation level for you.

All right, that should keep you busy not writing for a few hours, particularly if you click around while you're on all those other pages. Don't say I never give you anything.


NaNoWriMo Decision comic

NaNoWriMo 2009 participantAs an addendum to my last post, check out this comic:

[caption id="attachment_125" align="aligncenter" width="730" caption="NaNoWriMo Decision comic -- Debbie Ohi"][/caption]

©2006 "NaNoWriMo Decision" at Will Write for Chocolate, by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, (cc)


National Novel Writing Month is coming: Are you with me?!

NaNoWriMo 09 participant badgeCross-posted from www.HoboMama.com

National Novel Writing Month is coming upon us. Starting Nov. 1, adventurous souls across the world will be writing 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days.

Are you up for the challenge?

I completed my first novel last year, and it's a high that's still going strong.

So if you're a person (like me) who has a stack of unfinished novels (it could be a figurative stack, if it's on your hard drive), take this opportunity to power through and become a novelist.

Go to NaNoWriMo.org to sign up or find out more, and use the last couple days of October to prepare. By that I mean, maybe think about a plot, but mostly just enjoy your last days of freedom!

I realize November is also NaBloPoMo, but I can't do both and function as a reasonable facsimile of a human being. If you can, more power to you.

Just wanted to make sure no one was missing this super fun, super irrational opportunity! Hope to see you there!


Seller Central account for Search Inside This Book

Follow-up / solution / oh-duh-now-I-get-it here: http://www.laurenwayne.com/2010/04/switch-between-seller-central-and.html. Basically, ignore all of the following.

Just as a follow-up to my last post on Search Inside This Book, I mentioned that you need a Seller Central account to sign up. I already had one, so I just switched my log-in email over to the one I'd given to Search Inside This Book.

Well, now I have a caution about using an existing Seller Central account for Search Inside This Book. I'm no longer using my Seller Central account for selling anything, but when I tried to log in to it to access previous information from when I previously used that account to sell DVDs through Amazon's Marketplace, I couldn't reach the typical Seller Central page anymore, no matter how I tried. It would only default to the Search Inside This Book page, which is a specialized author/publisher-specific interface.

Fortunately for me, this isn't disastrous, since it was a defunct seller account anyway, and I didn't badly need to get into those old files.

BUT...beware if you use your Seller Central account for serious selling that you might want to contact Amazon in advance and ask what's best. I know that having two seller accounts is actually against Amazon rules and can lead to your being banned as a seller. But if Search Inside This Book really does make your Seller Central account inoperable as a seller account for selling on the Marketplace, then you would need a second one specifically for your publishing interests.

So, there you have it. No real advice from here, but a counsel to seek out Amazon's take on the situation. Maybe there's a secret link to access your Seller Central information from the publisher page, or maybe it's something they'll fix in the future.


Search inside the book on Amazon

Now that I'm in the self-publishing world with my little personal book of poetry, I thought I'd share my experiences with Amazon.com's "Search Inside This Book" feature.

Here's the gist of the feature from a reader's perspective, which is that it allows readers to search for keywords and — even more importantly, I think — view sample pages before deciding to purchase.

From an author or publisher's perspective, that's golden. You get to entice potential readers with a few tempting pages from your tome, and those buyers will feel more confident about springing for a book online when they've had a chance to virtually thumb through the pages.

Where the Wild Things Are -- Maurice SendakIf you want to try out the feature for yourself, go to any participating book on Amazon.com and click on any cover picture that reads "Click to LOOK INSIDE!"

That appealing little icon will appear in small search results, as well, so readers will be able to see at a glance that your title is searchable. If they want to make sure your book deals with a particular topic, they can do a keyword search, as easy as searching a PDF.

Here's a sample participating title for you to play around with: Where the Wild Things Are.

If you click on the cover image, you can choose to look more closely at the front or back cover, flap, copyright page, or the first few pages. If you type in a keyword — "wild," say — you will see a paginated list of every instance of that word in the book, in summary form with the search term in bold.

As an author, you might be concerned about security and who's going to buy the cow if you give away the milk for free and all that. By logging into an unused Amazon account of mine, I discovered that if you haven't bought something on Amazon they won't let you see beyond a certain amount of pages. Even if you are a trusted buyer, if you do a lot of a keyword searches, they'll let you see only a certain amount of pages per day. So the whole text of the book is scanned in and searchable (and an easily transferred candidate for Kindle), but readers do not have access to read or download the full book without paying for it.

So, now that I've convinced you of the appeal of the program for published authors, I'll give you some hard infomation on how to sign up.

You send in a PDF of either your entire book or separate PDFs of your front cover, back cover, spine, and interior. You must send in at least the front cover and interior, and you can leave out any sections of the interior that you wish, for instance if you're still concerned about security. However, that will mean that those portions of your book will not be keyword-searchable, which might affect reader interest in your book.

Amazon was very accommodating and speedy in uploading and formatting the files. It was functioning within two days in my case. They will also deal with low-resolution files, though they prefer high DPI, and they can help crop or splice files as necessary.

The sign-up is connected to your Seller Central account, so if you have a Seller Central account already, be sure to use your Seller Central email address to sign up for Search Inside This Book. If you don't have a Seller Central account, this process will open one for you. Don't worry too much about that; I mention it only because it was a little confusing and opaque to me. The interface for signing up is a series of email exchanges rather than a straightforward web format. That said, the time involved to get everything set up was not painful.

So go offer your books for searching! It takes a few extra steps, but it's well worth it.


Self-publishing your personal writing

CreateSpace logoSpeaking of deadlines, one that's coming up fast is the June 1 deadline for NaNoWriMo winners to get your free bound copy of a book from CreateSpace.

I mentioned before that I wasn't keen on the idea of self-publishing my NaNoWriMo novel, because I plan to submit it for traditional publishing. But, for any writer, there is probably always some art form that was done more for personal pleasure than for publication glory, and a print-on-demand press is the ideal platform for preserving that art for future generations. Even if you're not a NaNoWriMo winner, read on, for I have good news on that front!

In the interests of scrambling, I am compiling 20 years (golly, I'm old) of my poetry into a chapbook for the purpose. I'm laying it out in Microsoft Word, having my graphic design-adept husband craft a cover, and calling it a day.

Of course, first I had to dig out boxes from storage to find some older poems that weren't still (or ever) digitally entered on my computer. I chose a little over 130 poems to be in the book (why not go whole hog, when I'm not sure I'll do this again?), most of them recent, but a sampling from my teenage years. And then I had to figure out how to organize them all.

I threw out chronologically. Do I start with the early (read "bad") poems, so that's the first thing people see when they crack it open? Or do I go reverse chronologically and have the clunkiest poems be the last thing left in people's minds?

No, no, I needed some other arrangement. I considered grouping themes (school, parenting, nature, etc.), or structures (formal vs. informal, or even subdivided such as, sonnets together, sestinas here, etc.). But it seemed like it would be too repetitious for the reader.

Reflections on the Journey — Courtney CyrIt finally came to me. A friend had recently crafted a beautiful self-published book of poetry and photography (see thumbnail to side). Because her photos are primarily macro nature shots, she wisely grouped her poems and pictures into a coherent seasonal progression.

I'm all about stealing what works, so I started making piles. Some poems were easy to sort: a poem with "July" in the title went in the summer stack, and a poem about the start of school went in autumn. Others were more metaphorical — poems of grief made it into winter, and hope for rebirth into spring. A few were more nebulous still. If the poem was mostly happy but not sentimental: That sounded summery to me. Did I sound pensive but not depressed? Fall, I think.

Eventually, I had four roughly equal stacks, and then it was time to make sure that the poems made a nice progression within each season, and leading from one season to the next. So, for instance, the autumn section would end with a poem suggesting colder days ahead. Again, some of this was bordering on esoteric, but it all seemed to work out.

For the week ahead, I'm editing and fine-tuning the layout. And then off my book goes to be printed! My very own proof copy of my very own poetry, on the page in black and white.

I chose to self-publish my poetry because I could submit it for publication, but I just don't want to. I write it because it begs to be written, not for a specific audience, and certainly not a commercial one. Unlike with my fiction! My novels also beg to be written, but I love having an audience in mind, and I don't at all mind revising my fiction to make it more sellable.

So, now for the good news — in perusing CreateSpace's site to determine the nitty-gritty of cost, shipping and handling, and royalty setups, I was pleasantly surprised that the prices for self-published black-and-white books are really astonishingly reasonable. And, they get you an ISBN and listed on Amazon.com automatically. And, because it's print-on-demand publishing, they print up a copy as soon as someone orders it, so there's no need to order a big print run, then store all the inventory and try to sell them all off.

I had been intending just to take my proof copy and run, but it's sorely tempting (and, yes, cleary that was CreateSpace's clever intention!) to buy several copies of my cute little chapbook to hand out to family and friends this Christmas. (Nothing says "I love you" like a vanity press offering!)

I also realized I could offer my collected poetry for sale on my personal writing blog, in case other friends wanted to pony up the bucks necessary to purchase it. If they buy it through Amazon.com, they can even qualify for free Super Saver Shipping. And I can price my paperback reasonably low, while still making a little bit in royalties!

So, even if you're not a NaNoWriMo winner, check out CreateSpace and see if it's a good fit for any of your unpublished works. Getting your own proof copy requires you to pay only the base publishing price plus shipping and handling, and the same goes for any copies you buy for yourself.

So, think about the gems you have languishing in a drawer: a stack of short stories? A fabulous how-to on creating wool diaper covers? You can also self-publish (is that the right term here?) movies and music, so if you have a CD of children's lullabies you've been dying to have professionally produced to give to your kids as a Christmas present (been there, done that), that's also an option.

I'll try to write once I receive my proof copy with an update on quality, turnaround time, and final bill. Happy self-publishing!


Give yourself a writing deadline

One of the problems of being a creative writer without a book contract or editor looking over your shoulder is that getting your work finished is completely up to you. If you're highly self-motivated, there's no problem there. But, for the rest of us, there's usually always something else you could be doing, maybe even should be. So it's a challenge to fit writing into your schedule of work, household tasks, parenting, fun, and you find the days, weeks, months, years going by without your pet projects being completed and sent out for publication.

Or maybe that's just me.

I've discovered that a fun and inspiring way to finish work is to have someone else set the deadlines for you.

My husband was intrigued that a simple PDF certificate was enough to keep me pushing through the intense month of NaNoWriMo. He also noted that I willingly wrote a poem a day for the PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides, which this year is also handing out completion certificates.

So he set a deadline for me to finish the second draft of my mystery novel, and promised me a special certificate if I got it done in time. He wondered if that would be magic enough to make me finish.

Well, my friends, he got his answer. I love me some pointless writing certificates!

The wonderful news, then, is that the second draft of my NaNoWriMo mystery novel is done, and we're calling it my reader's draft, because it was finally ready to be read by someone besides me. The grand kinks in the plotting had been worked out, whole sections moved around, and new transitions added. It's much improved, plotwise.

Sam was my first official reader, and there were two pieces of good that came out of that:

     First of all, he read it really quickly, because he enjoyed it. Yea! He particularly loved the character based on him. ;)

     Secondly, he had a wonderful host of suggestions for making it even better, most related to character building. He pointed out fundamentals of novel writing, like the fact that my main character should have a specific goal in mind from the very beginning, something to drive the story forward before the murder solving gets under way. Since it was a mystery novel, I was shorthanding it and allowing the mystery itself to be the only goal; I think it makes sense that that's the main goal, but since my character is an amateur detective, she needs to have something else going on in her life, some problem she's trying to solve, and ideally it should all relate to the murder in the end as well.

I can foresee a lot of thematic revisions ahead, intwining different threads and adding more character development and backstory, and it excites me at the same time it scares me. Maybe another certificate, Sam?

If you want to accomplish a writing project, you could use this tactic to your advantage. Find a person who will hold you accountable and who will present you with a prize if (and only if) you complete your mission. Unless you're closely related to this person, it should probably be financially inexpensive (e.g., PDF certificate) and not too much work to pull off. Or you could always buy yourself something but have someone hold it ransom until you turn in your manuscript. And it doesn't have to be a thing — it could be a fun outing or experience.

Alternatively, as with NaNoWriMo and PAD, you could find a group that's already doing what you want. There are blog posting and photography challenges out there, for instance, and presumably more besides. If you can't find a group you want, create one! There have to be other procrastinating creative types just aching for a kick in the pants.

In related deadline news, the PAD Challenge is wrapping up in a couple days. With racing to get my reader's draft finished, I have been haphazard at writing a poem a day. I more often write a few poems every few days! But it all counts in the end. I love that I'll have 30+ draft of poems by the end of the month (if I get cracking at catching up!). You still have time to get yours in as well. Remember to post in the comments on Robert Brewer's blog if you want your certificate! I know I'm geeked for it!

Photo courtesy Rodolfo Clix on stock.xchng


It's time for the Poem-a-Day Challenge!

April is National Poetry Month, so it's time to start the Poem-a-Day Challenge from poet Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides.

I really enjoyed participating last year and found having a daily prompt gave me just enough structure to inspire me to creativity.

Mind you, not every day's poem was a winner, but I was surprised at the quantity of quality that came out of that month. When you're writing 30 poems in a month, you're bound to create a gem or two!

Here are the full rules for 2009's PAD Challenge. They're enhanced and expanded from the first time around.

Post your poems in the comments on Robert Brewer's blog. If you post at least one poem for every day by May 1 at noon (EST), then you can achieve a completion certificate. (Very NaNoWriMo!) You can fall behind as long as you catch up.

At the end, Robert Brewer and guest judges will pick their favorite poems for inclusion in an eBook. Bonus!

Get started! Here's today's prompt: Write an origin poem.

Photo courtesy N Campbell


Free bound copy of your novel from NaNoWriMo08

Hey, fellow NaNoWriMo08 winners!

NaNoWriMo08 winnerIn case you didn't get the memo, you can still get a free bound copy of your work courtesy of CreateSpace through NaNoWriMo.

The details are under "I Wrote a Novel, Now What?":

CreateSpace, an Amazon.com Inc. owned company, is generously offering every NaNoWriMo 2008 winner a "free proof copy" of their 2008 manuscript. ... They'll even cover the costs of basic shipping to you.

To redeem the offer, you'll need a special NaNoWriMo winner's promo code.

... After you receive your proof copy, you can then choose if you want to make it available to the public at large—everything from showing up for sale on Amazon.com to complete invisibility.

More questions and answers are available on the NaNoWriMo forum.

The offer expires June 1, 2009.

If you're anything like me, you relish the thought of getting a free, bound copy of a book by yourself, but ... it's not necessarily your NaNoWriMo book that you want to have self-published.

That's ok, too. You can publish any old book of yours you want, as long as it doesn't exceed 828 printed pages in your PDF proof.

One reason I don't want to publish my novel-in-process is that I'm not sure that it will be publisher-ready by June 1 (though I sincerely hope so!). But the main reason is that I intend to submit it for real, live publication, and don't want an ISBN attached to it as I shop it around.

So, instead, I'm considering printing up some of my poetry and essays, and some of my husband's essays — things that we've "published" online but that we've never submitted for actual money anywhere. It would be fun to have them in print! Having a son now, I relish the thought of passing along some of our favorite writings in bound form.

What are you going to do with your free copy? Or, if you're not eligible for one, what have you considered self-publishing?


Writing software vs. doing the hard work

NaNoWriMo08 winnerI’ve been deep in the throes of editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It’s such a muddle to wade through, 50,000-plus words, and I do understand that that’s on the short end for a novel. In the end, being a cozy, it will be at least 60,000.

But whether 50,000 or 100,000, that’s a lot of words to edit!

I have three murder incidents in my book, as most mysteries do, and I realized after I’d written it in that crazy month that numbers two and three needed to be swapped. It just made more sense that way, and allowed the main character to get to know beforehand the person who’s killed last.

But, oh, dear — that means rewriting and rearranging fully two-thirds of the stupid thing. Even those wonderful, witty conversations I was so proud of will now have to fall, because the characters will all be talking about something else now.

But as someone on the NaNoWriMo boards consoled (and I can’t remember who it was now — sorry), you can’t edit nothing. At least I have a truckload of words to edit!

StoryMill boxI thought there might be some computing help out there to make my life easier. Microsoft Word is dismal when it comes to the demands of fiction writing. There’s no easy way to outline or to rearrange whole sections.

I started researching writing software for the Mac, reading reviews and comparing demo videos, and I settled on two that sounded promising — Scrivener and Copywrite — before a review for one of those led me to a third possibility — StoryMill. I looked at other options as well, but those three sounded like the best fit for the kind of writing I do, which is to say, novel-length fiction. Some other programs seemed to have more use for non-fiction writers or technical writing.

Intriguing features of these types of fiction-writing word processors (not available in all of them) are the ability to create timelines that link to your scenes, chapter views, the ability to save multiple revisions and revert to an earlier one if necessary, character description files, virtual corkboard for rearranging index cards that contain parts of the story, multiple windows to see various drafts simultaneously, inherent outlining, etc., and everything’s theoretically linked to everything else — so if you, say, moved a section on your corkboard, it would move that section in your novel as well, no tedious searching, cutting, and pasting necessary.

StoryMill timeline

I have links from Amazon just for StoryMill, so I went ahead and put up screen shots that were available to give a general idea of the sort of experience you’d have with one of these writers’ word processors.

If you want to find out more about the programs, feel free to click on the software site links above or read some reviews for them here: CopyWrite reviews, Scrivener reviews, StoryMill reviews.

StoryMill view

I won’t go into the details of each one, because ultimately I decided to hold off. It was when I was reading StoryMill reviews and one reviewer’s words really spoke to me:

May 15 2008 MSWWSM —

I can’t give this product any kind of fair review as I can’t quite figure out what it’s for. If I had to guess, I’d say this — and the similar Scrivener — are for writers who may indeed have the prose chops to get the job done but can’t get a handle on how to organize longer manuscripts in their heads …

Foremost, StoryMill and Scrivener are not models for how novelists I know actually work. We have various loose “processes”, we keep notes, we do research — not too little research on-the-fly, so to speak — and we may rough out in a notebook, on an index card, or on the back of the power bill, overarching plot lines, concepts, perhaps brief character sketches, snippets of especially pithy dialogue or metaphor we just have to use, that sort of thing. But everyone I know merely takes something that’s been stewing, sits down one morning, or evening, or dead in the middle of night, and begins writing; then we go back and eradicate, illuminate and, well, prevaricate, as required to make the story whole. …

As for aspiring novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, etc., I can’t help but advise you’d be far better off just sitting down and writing, ignoring the confusing disorganized mess you may create — because you CAN — and WILL, if you stick at it — develop a process for sorting things out, making sense of disparate parts and gluing them together into a coherent story. The bottom line is, called upon to take 60,000 - 120,000 words or more, vet this draft for grammar, style, continuity errors, etc., it’s never going to just wrap up nicely, and it’s always going to degrade into a brutal grind at times, whether you write on legal pads with a blunt pencil or with these sorts of computerized writers toolkits. It’s never easy, no matter what.

Emphasis mine, because man, oh, man.

Here’s a portion of the response from someone who liked the above review as much as I did:

although i am trying to write a novel with various timelines and therefore became interested in any computerized help i could get, i now am convinced that a dry erase board or a yellow pad with lots of revisions/erasures, as mswwsm notes, will work better.

a writer i admire once told an audience that when she teaches creative writing, she emphasizes B.I.C = butt in chair! there is no substitute and most of these apps are probably - at least for me - more of a distraction and an ill-fitted crutch than the solution and will probably never accomplish what mswwsm suggests. — rich ratzan

So, butt in chair, I have been doing the hard work.

I figured that spending any more energy than I already have on these software apps would just distract me from the task at hand. I would spend so much time copying my scenes into each demo version, then editing in each one to see how it works. I would type in character descriptions and obsess about details. It’s probably best just to use what I have and try to figure out a process for myself.

I think next time I write a novel, I will start off in one of these software options, to see if it helps. Ideally, I’ll start three novels simultaneously, so I can see which of the three options makes things easiest!

But for now — I have an outline of my original draft in OmniOutliner. I’ve rearranged it in the same app, checking my timeline by sketching it out with purple pen (hey, it was around) on the back of an envelope and drawing arrows to show which parts I wanted to change around or add.

I have another file in OmniOutliner for notes and revisions, which includes my character descriptions, painstakingly copied every time a character came up. Then I can make sure haircolor and age and the like don’t change throughout the story by referring back to my notes. I have listed things I want to add and things I want to change. I have ideas for place names and poisons. (Hey, it’s a murder mystery!) I chose OmniOutliner for this file, because I can indent subtopics to show that they relate to an above main topic, but also primarily because OmniOutliner offers little checkboxes all down the side. Whenever I’ve completed a revision task, I can check it off and stop worrying about it. Most of the boxes remain unchecked, but at least I know that they will get done, and I don’t have to keep it all in my head.

I’ve saved multiple drafts now in Word, and I’m going to start the annoyance of cutting and pasting according to my outline, and then … it’s rewrite time. I’ll just have to go in, read it through, and change what doesn’t make sense anymore. Which I’m assuming will be most of it. Sigh.

Butt in chair. I’ll get there.


How not to respond to readers

This is hilarious:

Dear Author: Top Ten Things Authors Should Not Do at Amazon

It reports on a flame war between an author and her reviewers on Amazon.com.

Note: Do not be this author.
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