Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Best Laid Plans



I prepped for National Novel Writing Month. I knew my characters, plot points, twists and turns (though more revealed themselves as I wrote), the beginning/middle/end. In short, NaNoWriMo—bring it on! 50K words in 30 Days? Pshaw! I’m “winning” again this year.

Except.

I didn’t anticipate my own life’s plot points and twists and turns. The major plot point that is going to reenergize my professional writing.

I’ve talked about needing to sever my contracts with a former publisher. Then the search for a new home. Well, it happened. On November 2nd I contacted a publisher, and on November 3rd I was offered a contract. I signed the contract on the 7th and was off to the races.

My NaNo word count suffered. I blew through my banked words and instead racked up deficits because my focus was re-directed. I needed to spend my NaNo hours working on editing/revising a manuscript that can go through the production process.

Hard as it was to admit, I couldn’t accomplish the NaNo goal AND work on edits on a short time line. But, after talking to others and myself, I realized my priority has to be my career.

Getting the first book in my culinary series out is definitely more important than getting 50K done on book five this month. If the other books in the series are queued up, it will be a loooong time before the publisher is ready to see Tequila Mockingbird in the queue. I have time to finish that book. In fact, that might be next November’s project, to finish what I started this year.

So, it’s not New Year’s, but here is my resolution:
Turn in the best possible version I can of Pastabilities by the end of the month, and spend my NaNo-dedicated time to this project.

If I finish sooner than I think I will, I’ll get back to NaNoWriMo and Tequila Mockingbird gladly. But, if the past is prologue, ain’t gonna happen.

If interesting to you, please share. Thanks.

Facebook: What happens to a big goal project like NaNoWriMo when “life happens”? Sharon Arthur Moore shares what is going on with TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD and PASTABLILITIES. http://bit.ly/2AVbfl4

Twitter: What happens to a big goal project like NaNoWriMo when “life happens”? @Good2Tweat shares her new resolution for PASTABILITIES and TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD. http://bit.ly/2AVbfl4

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Goals, Deficits, Plans


If you read my post yesterday on “Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” about getting a new publisher for my culinary mystery book, you know how excited I am about signing with the small press, Red Adept Publishing and owner/publisher Lynn McNamee. The woman is a dynamo, filled with marketing and promotion ideas for her quality booklist. The attention given to each novel signals how important her authors and their work is to her company. So I’ve been caught up in the fervor of what I need to do to be successful in this company, too.

I have been so distracted with gearing up for my new publisher that I have been neglectful of National Novel Writing Month for the last week and a half. The result is that I am currently 3900 words below the target words for this date. The target is predicated on finishing the 50K word goal on November 30th. Right now, the stats tracker on the NaNoWriMo site say that at 1667 words a day, that won’t happen. I’ll be into the first week of December to hit 50K words.

What does that really mean? What are my options?

I could toss the event this year, call it a month, and get to what is bright and shiny right now: prepping to be successful with my new publisher. After all, I have books 2-4 ready to work on putting into the pipeline. There’s no immediacy for book four. I could even finish writing it next NaNoWriMo cycle and still be ahead of the game.

I could settle into the 1667 daily goal and finish in early December. Just do the minimum (a bit more than 6½ pages a day) so I can spend time on other writing aspects. With this option, I would have this book banked and ready to work on when it comes up in the queue.

Or, I could grit my teeth, put aside future pieces related to getting ready for the launch of my culinary mystery book (about 9 months from now), and focus on getting Tequila Mockingbird off my plate. To finish by November 30th, that means writing 1911 words each remaining day, almost 8 pages a day, every day. Or, if I wrote 8-10 pages daily (about 2000-2500 words), I would be ahead of the game with a cushion for low volume days while I travel this month.

Which would you choose and why? I know what my plan is. Can you guess?

Sharing posts you enjoy brings more readers to blogs. Thanks for helping.

Facebook: NaNoWriMo word count deficits are common, especially in an event in which, historically, only ~13% of the participants meet the goal by the end of the month. I have three options. Which will I choose? http://bit.ly/2zGaIoQ

Twitter: @NaNoWriMo word count deficits are common, especially in an event in which, historically, only ~13% of the participants make goal by 11/30. She has three options. Which will @Good2Tweat choose? http://bit.ly/2zGaIoQ

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Keeping the Pace

Originally published on "Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time" on November 6, 2017, and updated for today's posting.
On another of my blogs, I wrote about PlotOber and planning the fifth in my culinary mystery series so the writing of it in November for National Novel Writing Month will go more smoothly.

Well, I’m into November, one-fifth of the way through today, and by the end of the day I need to have logged a minimum of 10, 002 words to be on track to finish November 30th with 50,000 words.

I’ll make it. Last night I recorded a word total of 8356, slightly over the 8335 that I needed. Pretty darn good, with weeklong company, if you ask me.

I started strong, as I always do. That story has been percolating for months and I focused the thoughts by using two magic elements: my Plotober massive planning elements and by brainstorming with my two critique groups. My crit partners have AMAZING minds! Have I said how lucky I am to have them part of my writer’s life?

Here’s a peek at my time tracker to-date. The far right column is  the minimum total number of words I need to have written to keep on track for NaNoWriMo. I got a strong start, “banking” words, so to speak for when I couldn’t write much.

Note, for example in the second column, that I had three days when I couldn’t make my minimum 1667 words for those days. Company. You gotta love ‘em, but there is a toll. My cushion of banked words let me enjoy my time with her.

Falling behind is inevitable, if my past years are predictive. But it is not fatal. I will just need to write more words on other days to catch up. She leaves today, so this afternoon maybe I can bank some more for the other days I’ll not write much if anything.

Have I mentioned that we are traveling for Thanksgiving this year? Again.

Each year I have about ten days of limited productivity due to company and travel. So I just have to write harder on those days that aren’t committed to fun, food, and family. I’ve got this! 

2017 NaNoWriMo Time Tracker
TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD
Book 5 “Dinner is Served”

Date
Daily Words/Pages Total
Running Total
Minimum Running Total
Nov. 1
2228/7
2228
1667
Nov. 2
2886/19
5114
3334
Nov. 3
1563/25
6677
5001
Nov. 4
725/28
7402
6668
Nov. 5
954/32
8356
8335
Nov. 6
1662/40
10,067
10,002
Nov. 7


11,669





























Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Merry-Go-Round is about to Open

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This post was originally published yesterday on “Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” as will others to be cross-listed this month.


Some call it NaNovember. Some call it #$*&!^%. Or perhaps they use the more popular NaNoWriMo.

No matter what label (epithet?) you use, National Novel Writing Month is a time to remember. And dread. And anticipate. And gleefully romp around in.

Re this blog, likely, as November progresses, I will not have long posts, just short ones and updates on progress once NaNo begins on November 1st.

I will dual post some days on “Write Away” (my writing issues blog) since the posts will be about my new culinary mystery and the writing process. Hey, that way you only have to read one blog and get credit for two this month!

I rarely struggled with planning my culinary mysteries in the past, but this one was difficult for me. I had trouble imagining, at first, my 10 key events (and ended up with 11 weak ones), and other elements that I use when planning my mysteries. Why is that, I asked myself as the deadline approached and I didn’t have a single scene card done?

I was scared.

What if I was dried up with no more stories to tell and only clever titles to toss out? What if I had a great premise and concept but not enough stuffing to prop up the saggy, soggy middle.

Where’s the tension? What are the characters’ motivations? Omigosh, “stuffingf” like that was missing. Big problem when you’re writing a mystery.

Enter a couple of brainstorm sessions with fab crit partner Sandy Bremser, and voila. I broke through the fear. We identified the major flaw (there are numerous big other ones we found, too) and brainstormed fixes. After the first session, I generated 6 scene cards. I got in another 10 after the second session. I am nearly at the halfway point (I usually create ~40 scene cards).

Now I know how the novel starts and how it ends, and I moved what I thought was a key scene in the middle to earlier so I could have a scene there that has much more tension. I created a bad guy, because, well, I didn’t have one before. Wow, Sandy! Thanks so much.

So still behinder than I’ve ever been at this point in my NaNovember PlotOber planning sessions, but I can do this. I will have those scene cards done before Wednesday morning. And, for the kind of writer I am, that is a huge relief.
Bring it!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How to Become a Successful Writer

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Now, I suppose I need to define “successful”, right? Surprisingly, to many of you who clicked on this title, I am not talking about commercial success. Although, that may well follow once you are “successful” as delineated in this post.

To explain what successful writing means to me, let me refer you to a recent post I had on another of my blogs. In “Happiness is . . .”  I shared a Gandhi quote that is on a necklace I frequently wear. The quote is: “Happiness is when what you think and what you say and what you do are in harmony.” Alignment of these three elements means you are not conflicted. Conflict is the opposite of harmony.

That’s the point with writing success as well. Writing success is when what you think and what you say and what you do align.

I’ve been in many writing groups over the last few decades. The usual panoply typically presents itself. The groups are peopled by those who are hobby writers and those who are professional writers.

Hobby writers are more diverse than alike, whereas, professional writers tend to share more commonalities with one another than hobby writers share among themselves.

Just to be clear, hobby writers are fine. I am not dissing them or rejecting their right to be the kind of writers they are. Their goals differ from mine, but they are just as valid for them as mine are for me.

The difference isn’t publication. I know hobby writers who publish in small town papers, and I know professional writers who haven’t yet put out that first book. The difference runs deeper than publication.

The problem occurs when hobby writers fool themselves into thinking they are professional writers. They want to be professional writers, they say. They tell themselves and others they are professional writers. They even demonstrate some of the traits of professional writers. But they aren’t, and they are just fooling themselves, not the rest of us.

Does that sound harsh? I don’t mean it to be, but I value honesty in myself and in others. I am a professional writer, and I act like one.

A professional writer has S.M.A.R.T. writing goals. The goals are specific and measureable, attainable and realistic with a timeline for accomplishment and steps along the way. Hobby writers just want to write and appreciate positive feedback from writing group members that don’t require them to put out much effort beyond writing.

A professional writer knows about the business end of writing (record keeping, tax implications, and marketing/promotion) and puts pieces in place, like blogs or twitter accounts as part of their plan. They may not like the business end of it, but they inform themselves and gear up for when they need to enact elements. Hobby writers say they don’t want a “platform.”

A professional writer knows other writers beyond the writing group. Perhaps the person joins affinity groups on Facebook and/or follows particular blogs and interacts with other writers there. Likely they’ve joined local writing groups for professional development. Hobby writers stick to their crit group.

A professional writer views writing as shis job and acts accordingly. That means reading in the field and attending training sessions at a conference of from local writing groups. Perhaps they attend national writing conferences. The professional writer has collected a library of books about the craft of writing. Hobby writers don’t see a need to spend money on materials, registrations, or travel.

A professional writer claims the identity of writer and can explain to others what that means. A hobby writer simply claims the identity. As they say in the South, they are all hat and no cattle. They can’t talk about what it means to be a professional writer because they don’t know what that means and they can’t talk about the steps required to be a professional writer.

A professional writer, most importantly, writes. Must write. Finds time to write. Doesn’t let other things interfere with regular writing (mostly). Having a writing routine means producing more word count than hobby writers if only because professional writers treat writing as a job, not a hobby to be fit in when there’s time. Professional writers show up, consistently, ready to accomplish their work.

Again, hobby writing is fine. But don’t fool yourself. Be honest. And enjoy your hobby writing and sharing of it. Professional writing is no better (or worse) than hobby writing. But knowing for sure which you are, and thinking, acting, and doing the things that make you a hobby writer or professional writer, will ensure that alignment that leads to success. And success as a consistent professional writer will help you attain those S.M.A.R.T. goals.

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Agree? Disagree? Share in the comments below.

If you found this helpful, I’d appreciate a share or two. Thanks so much!

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Facebook: Are you a professional writer or a hobby writer? What’s the difference? Does it matter? Only if you want to be a professional writer. http://bit.ly/2yLUBFp

Twitter: #Writers are either hobby writers or professional writers. Which are you? @Good2Tweat offers some thoughts http://bit.ly/2yLUBFp

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Guest Post: Tabletop Gaming--How It Can Enhance Your Writing

I am delighted to welcome James Patrick to "Write Away" today. He brings a topic that is new to this blog and, likely, many others! Welcome, James. I'm sure readers will find your post very interesting!

We read books written by authors we look up to for advice and pointers, attend seminars and webinars hoping to find that small key to fully unlock our ability, and we are constantly trying to find ways to simplify our process. There are a great many tools out there, and some of them are a bit unorthodox. Today, I am going to share with you one of my favorite activities and hobbies that has helped my writing in ways I never imagined.


For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG), please allow for this simplified explanation. A TTRPG is a game in which a group of players create a character based on the world the game takes place (known as a PC), and is lead on an adventure by a Gamemaster (known as a GM) through what we call the “theater of the mind”. Then, by the use of a series of dice rolls, the actions of the PC’s are determined to be achieved or failed.

Now, what if I told you playing these games was not only fun, but the entire process would help you beyond belief in your writing? Might give it a chance in the case, right? Well, here is the reason you should give it a try.

As writers and authors, we are all constantly trying to find ways to fine-tune our craft.

It should come as no surprise, right along with the importance of plot to a story, is the significance of character development. RPG’s give you a unique environment to not only create a wide range of characters, but to also become those characters during the gaming session. You act out their behavior, think their thoughts, and most of all, are an active part in their growth over time. By actually becoming the character you created, you have an insight beyond the simple imagining and writing that we as authors typically do.



Since I have discovered the TTRPG world, though I don’t play as much as I would like, the things I have learned from my experiences have been monumental in the character development in my writing. The perspective you gain from role-playing characters deepens your take on how your characters develop through your story. You learn to see through their eyes, feel their emotions, and most importantly, understand how they grow as a character in relation to a plot or storyline.

We have seen how being a player can help you as a writer, now let’s take a look at how running a game as a Gamemaster helps even more.


In the TTRPG world, the Gamemaster is the man behind the curtain. The GM not only runs the game, they create the story and encounters for the PC’s. In terms we as writers can understand, they are the master story-teller. Through the process of the game, they adapt an overall plot forward while ensuring the actual story is that of the players. I find there has been no better way to learn how to write a story and ensure the characters remain the most important aspect of your book.

In case you are interested in taking a look at what TTRPG’s are like before jumping in on a game, here are some of my favorite places and groups to watch. I hope you have enjoyed this article and as always, I hope to hear back from you about what you think.





 


James M. Patrick is the author of Ashes Will Fall, Rudy’s Rangers and the upcoming short story series Vega: Orc Slayer February 2018. This former soldier turned contractor currently works in Baghdad, Iraq and calls Stuart, Florida home.

James is highly active on social media and you can follow him on his Facebook Author Page and Fan Group; Twitter; or find the latest information on current and future projects at TheJamesPatrick.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PlotOber--When NaNoWriMo Really Begins


Thank You NaNoWriMo for the term, PlotOber. I’m not even sure I am using it as you meant for it to be used, but I appropriated it for my own purposes. The Phoenix NaNo group put up three plotting methods to aid those using October for plotting and planning. I checked them out, but I’m sticking with mine.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I just love this fall event—National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo (or just NaNo to many of us). What’s the big deal? And why am I so excited about it every year at this time?

I get to officially start a new book on November 1st!

Right, I can start a new book any time I want, but NaNo is special. Somewhere upwards of a quarter to a half million people, worldwide, will embark on the adventure of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I am part of this great zeitgeist of word energy. About 13% of us will “win” (meaning you got to goal). But the other 87% won, too. Because on December 1st they have more words written on a novel than on October 31st. That’s a win!

The novel I am starting is Tequila Mockingbird, book five in the “Dinner is Served” culinary mystery series published by a yet-to-be-determined publisher. I will share lots of recipes using alcohol, but I don’t promise there will be other recipes as well.

Early October is sign-up time. That means that almost all of October, for me, is spent plotting twists and turns and red herrings. I have an extensive plotting and planning process that I have described before for Potluck, book three in my culinary mystery series that powers me through to November 30th. No more saggy, soggy middles. Wahoo! No more wondering after chapter three what I’m going to write next. No more waiting for the muse to strike. My muse showed up in October and left behind a tidy pile for me to write about.

I was eating lunch with friends at an outdoor creperie in Flagstaff, Arizona and talking about my mysteries. My friends wondered at how I got my punny titles. I told them they just pop out at me, like Tequila Mockingbird. They laughed and then, “Did you just now make that up,” my friend asked suspiciously. “Oh, yeah. It happens that way all the time.” Making up titles is easy, but then I have to have a concept that matches the title. That takes more time.

For those who don’t know, a mockingbird mimics the calls of other birds, pretending to be someone else. In my story, Emilie, a woman who escaped arrest for the murder of her husband has resurfaced with a new identity after 25 years. I have her living in the neighborhood of my personal chefs, Alli and Gina and Gina’s mother, Maria. As her past is revealed, Alli takes on the responsibility of trying to clear Emilie’s name even while Alli’s fiance’s boss is seeking to prosecute her. This is the cold case he could never stop thinking about, so he wants closure.

So I have my premise and concept. Next for me in PlotOber is planning the theme and sub-themes, ten key events, writing my story treatment, writing the microblurb (elevator pitch), writing character sketches, and planning the 40 or so scenes on a grid (Expanded from 10 key events: who’s there, where are they, when is it, the point of the scene to advance the story, and what happens in the scene).

Busy month for me, right? But, oh, what fun! I just love beginnings! Join me in NaNoWriMo? Add me as a “buddy.”

Facebook: If you are a National Novel Writing Month participant, do you plan in PlotOber? Check out how I’ll be spending this month preparing for NaNoWriMo. http://bit.ly/2fmMiJ9

Twitter: PlotOber is when you get ready for #NaNoWriMo2017 by doing big planning. With prep, the 30 days/50K words fly by. http://bit.ly/2fmMiJ9