Saturday, October 26, 2013

So You Wanna Write a Story for NaNoWriMo

So you've never written a story before and all your friends talk about NaNoWriMo so you thought you'd give it a shot. What do you do? Where do you start? And have you looked at that number? 50,000 words by the end of the month. Oh My God!!!! How do I write that much? Well, I'm here to tell you, it's not as bad as it sounds. The book I'm looking to publish now is 140,419 words long, that's 516 pages long. Popular books that you might be more familiar with are The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 204 pages long, Brave New World is 196 pages long, and The Great Gatsby is 144 pages long. Not so bad, now, right?

So now that you have your word program sitting there in front of you, where do you start? A beginning is a great place to start. You are telling an imaginary story about you, only you aren't really you. Who are you? Do you have blue skin? Do you have four arms? Oh gee, as I write this, I'm reminded of the movie Avatar. I'm sorry that wasn't what I had in mind, but at this point it doesn't really matter. You could have four legs, three opposable fingers on each hand, and one eye - or you could just be human - what you are kinda depends on what kind of story you want to write.

That brings us to the next decision you need to make. Where are you? If you have blue skin, you probably aren't on Earth, at least not on the Earth we are all familiar with. Then comes the narrowing down of some kind of when. Time would be relative to location. If you are on another planet, the length of a day, the turning of the seasons, even the ambient temperature, may all be very different. But Earth is familiar and we know all the natural laws. If you are on a different planet, all natural laws might be very different. Who knows, magic might be the norm rather than engineering. Hmmm now that's a thought. Whatever you choose, the natural laws need to be understood so your character can function within their restrictions.

Now, special powers solves all such problems. I mean, if you could do anything, what would you do? But though it might be fun, don't you think it would make things too easy? or maybe too hard?

Okay, so you have your main character (or two), your home on your world with it's level of technology and environment. What more do you need? You need a goal, and along with that, you need a plausible reason for needing to accomplish that goal. In my next book, I started out with a small boy, small for his age. He was scooped up on the street and dropped into slavery because he had ice-blue eyes. His goal? Well, it's complicated and changes as the story goes along. At this point, freedom from the metal chains is the goal. His knowledge of the world is highly limited. Later, his goal becomes learning everything there is to learn about swordsmanship, but that becomes complicated too. For some of the story, his goal is to become old enough to repay a debt. His journey to accomplish that goal is a healthy chunk of the story. He has to traverse a glacier, keep an unplanned companion from suffering from possibly fatal frostbite, not to mention stay out of trouble for the duration of the trip, and there at the end, he was nearly foiled. Ultimately, his intended goal, to repay his debt, wasn't necessary after all (sigh) but such is the stuff of stories.

So where do you start? Start by walking out your door (metaphorically). The bad guys have kidnapped your daughter and you need to rescue her. You were the one who was kidnapped in order to keep you from claiming your crown. You need to escape, bring all the kidnappers to justice, and claim your crown all before you reach the age of eighteen in thirty days. Can you think of other scenarios? Have at it, and have fun.

So there you go. You've made all the pertinent decisions, now sit down and write. All you need to do is walk out your door.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say. 
-- The Road Goes Ever On - The Hobbit

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Have a Winner

The correct guess was To Become Whole in Land and Soul. However, having learned from my first book, as you can see, I've changed the name.

Here's the blurb for the back.

When Slave Master Patro first laid eyes on the child’s ice-blue eyes, he knew he would be the most sought-after slave on the market. The fact that he didn’t seem to be able to talk was a minor frustration.

Canis couldn’t tolerate the collar though. It not only contained his body, it strangled his soul. When this turmoil turned dangerous, Patro agreed to free the boy, but there were conditions, conditions Canis couldn’t hope to meet, not if he wanted to be truly free.

Once again, for an awesome cover of your own for a great price, see Candice Bowser. She's just awesome.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Name That Book

What do you think of my latest cover? Candice Bowser does such an awesome job. And don't you just love those eyes?

Anyway, enough of my drooling over this. Since I'm going to read through the book one last time before putting it under this awesome cover, I thought I'd spend the time with a little give-away contest. The prize will of course be this book signed.

Once it's in the system on CreateSpace, it'll take it a couple days to be available as an eBook and maybe a week for it to be up as a paperback, if everything goes smoothly. At that time, I'll order a box and as soon as it is here, the person who can guess the name of the book will get a free copy.

This contest will run until I load it up on CreateSpace. You will be competing with people from Google+ and my Facebook friends and fans. The people from LinkedIn and Twitter will see this only if they click on the link when I advertise this blog.

You get as many guesses as you like until someone gets it right. Just to make myself perfectly clear. This book has already been written. It has been waiting patiently for this opportunity. Figure out which book it is, and it will be yours as soon as possible.

Have fun

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mind the Details

  1. She just knew she wanted him to touch her.
  2. He never knew what hit him.
  3. They had no idea why they were getting in that car.
  4. He had no idea what was coming.
  5. For some reason she just knew she had picked the right direction this time.
  6. For some reason, he liked what he saw.
  7. For some reason, no one believed her.
Have you ever read phrases like these? Have you ever said to yourself, 'Of course he or she had to know, but what clues did they have?' 'Of course they had a reason to get in that car, why would you get into a car for absolutely no reason?' 'And if if he had no idea what was coming, then were his eyes closed? Was he unconscious?' 'Of course there was a reason to go that direction, or to like what he saw, or to believe her.'

Every moment we are flooded with assorted input, and at any given moment we are reacting or making decisions based on that input. To be a good writer, you need to be able to break down that input in order to make actions and reactions believable, rather than your character's actions just coming out of the clear blue sky.

Are these better? Maybe - maybe not.
  1. Her skin tingled with waves of goosebumps as his imaginary hands caressed her body. (and I don't write romance)
  2. (The blow was completely unexpected) The blow took him totally by surprised, giving him no chance to even attempt blocking it.
  3. (The choices of why they got in the car are many and varied; here's one) They were bored stiff and the sun was shining; it was a good day for a drive.
  4. He hadn't planned beyond this point, and he was apprehensive about opening the door, but there was nothing for it; one simply must put one foot in front of the other, come what may.
  5. She had already explored every other route she could find. Despite the fact that it seemed inhospitable, it didn't look like there was any other way.
  6. When she walked into the room, suddenly he found it hard to breathe, and his mouth turned up in a grin of its own volition.
  7. (There had to be some reason why they wouldn't believe her. Either it was what she was saying or her delivery) She rattled off her tale and then rolled her eyes in exasperation when everyone just looked at her. She gave an exaggerated sigh and flounced out of the room.
So, as you walk your character through your story, remember the little details. I'm not talking about big flowery paragraphs about what is happening at any given moment. Most of the time, it's only the occasional word or two. Sometimes it's something as simple as seeing all the steps.

Take a fight. During a fight adrenaline is pumping and your perception of events slows down. It's okay to conduct your fight one step at a time - blow by blow - insult by insult - act by reaction.

Remember the details. They are all important to the life of your story. Without them, your story just might not be able to take it's first breath.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Managing Your Time

So how good of a manager are you? I bet your better than you think. You set the alarm clock Monday through Friday, unless you're lucky and don't need to work. Even so, every day comes along and you decide how much time you're going to spend doing whatever. Common household things need managing every day - dishes, laundry, and meals to name a few of the most basic. For those of you who have a yard, that too needs some management. Somewhere in there time to write is squeezed in.

At home, I manage all of the above, but as my husband concentrates more on his chair and computer games, I've taken on more of the outside chores. Picking up things that might become lost under a snowfall is paramount this time of year. I also have taken on more of the managing of the boats, though I insist on my husband's help for some of that. Not really because I need the help, but to get him out of his chair more. Managing the boats involves keeping them bailed if it's raining and if they're in the water. This time of year, the boats are high and dry with their plugs pulled so bailing isn't an issue, but they still need some managing. In preparation for winter, they need to be cleared out of their summer clutter and the seats need to be covered. So I make a trip down there every day, mostly because I like the walk and I like watching the river do whatever it's doing - every year is different, but in the process I work on getting things ready for winter.

Here in the yard there's the generators to manage. We run a 3000W when we're running the freezer and then switch to a 1000W later in the evening after the freezer cycles. Every day around noon I go out and fill both then start the big one. Sometime shortly after dark, we switch over to the smaller one. When winter comes to claim us in full, our freezer will be moved outside where it won't need to be ran quite so often - saves gas.

For the winter, I've taking to sitting down at my computer first thing (with a cup of coffee, and maybe after lighting a fire as it gets colder). This time is dictated by the life of my computer's battery so I spend most of it writing, or at the moment editing for a friend. Sometimes I need to look something up so I turn the internet on. Of course such a move generally leads to checking emails and then ultimately Facebook. When my battery is used up, it's time for outside chores until sometime after the generator is started. By then the chaos of the day is too much for writing so once I'm on in the PM, I'm usually on until I start yawning, though sometimes the internet gets boring enough that I can get off and do a little reading. I have a book on my kindle going and a book on my computer, both written by friends. 

Summers, especially next summer, things will be different. At work I take care of the cabins and rooms. At my old job it was much the same with the addition of managing the garden and yard. There is no garden or yard to manage at my new job but I'm going to do some sprucing up anyway. There's not nearly enough flowers or grass there - and no, by the time I'm done, there won't be any more work involved than normal.

The changes I needed to refine was my time during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I now work the dining room during those times, something I seldom did before, so I needed to time myself through the rest of my day in order to be at a certain point at the right time. Fifteen minutes per cabin means I have an hour to get the downriver cabins done. The rooms are smaller and closer so another hour means I can get the rooms done and give the dining room a touch-up most days. Next summer it is my goal to get the other four cabins finished before lunch too, which means I am going to need to see where I can pare down some time just a bit.

After lunch clean-up, I finish whatever needs doing in the cabins and then I have about three hours or so to myself. Last summer, I spent most of that time napping, but it looks as though this coming summer I may not have a hidy-hole for that. My going back and forth to work means someone else can use the housekeeper's cabin. I might find me a corner somewhere though - time will tell. As it stands now, I'm planning to take my computer with me every day. At the very least, I can do my advertising at this time, but I'm also planning to get in some writing. Afternoons are very quiet since most everyone takes a nap during that time. I think the time spent writing would be nearly as restful as taking a nap, though given an empty guest cabin, I'll be catching a wink or two too.

So the management of my time is a learning experience, and I am constantly trying to refine it. Finding a place where I can squeak in some writing time is important to me. Plus, wonder of wonders, even though nearly all of the clientele of this lodge is Swiss, they are buying my books. Who'd'a thunk?

How do you manage your time to write?