Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 29: NaNoRevMo 2012

Done Done Done!

With one day to spare! Now I can be with my family in Anaheim watching Andre Agassi play against John McCenroe. I will be able to enjoy my dinner and maybe even wine!

It was a crazy night last night. I had a work-related presentation. It was at the Osteria Mozzo in Hollywood on Melrose. Great company, amazing wines, nailed the presentation, and the gelato was sinful. But the whole time I kept on thinking of one thing... "Thank God, I don't have to pay for this indulgence."

Okay, there was another thing that I was thinking of. The manuscript, NaNoWriMo, and you, my support and cheering team.

I got home at just past 11:00 PM. But I was committed. So I prepared a double espresso, two heaping spoons of Nutella and I hunkered down.

It took me just under three hours. By the time I was done, my knee was shaking and I was certain that I would throw up before I made it to bed.

More importantly, by the time I was done, I was really done.

I revised the entire manuscript and hit 59,261 words. Just shy of my 60,000 word goal, but like I've said before, I won't add scenes and dialogue just to hit a number.

This manuscript shall now go into sleep mode for two to four weeks. By then, I will have created enough distance that I can read through it all (hopefully in one sitting) and see the story anew.

My next post will be my thoughts on these past 30 days (29 but who's counting).

Thank you for sticking with me. And thank you for being a mechanism for guilt. We're all motivated by different things. Committing to a daily post forced me to always make progress.

Fight the good fight!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 28: NaNoRevMo 2012

The end is in sight...

And that's a good thing because the global conspiracy is in full swing.

We had a block-wide power outage yesterday. Then I started feeling a bit ill last night. Tonight, I have a day-job-related dinner/presentation--so I won't be home past 10:00 PM and then tomorrow, the last day of NaNoWriMo, my wife and I will be taking our kids on a small vacation. We're going to go and see the great Andre Agassi compete.

What does this all mean? I will have to steal time from wherever I can find it if I want to have any chance of finishing my secondary goal for November.

As a recap, I finished my NaNoWriMo challenge (yey!)
Then I added a new challenge: incorporate a new sub-plot, revise the manuscript, and try to hit 60,000 words in the process.

So where am I?

Day 28's total: 1,587
Overall: 57,073
Chapters revised: 30/38 -- 79% done

Close. I can feel it.

Fight the good fight!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 27: NaNoRevMo 2012

Running on fumes...

If you don't know what that means, here is the definition per The Free Dictionary:
...continuing to do something when you have almost no energy left...

That's been me. Work has been exhausting, the turkey hangover continues and I'm not even sleeping when I go to bed. A recipe for disaster.

This is the cosmic conspiracy against me. But I continue to fight through it. This is where I am now:

Day 27's total: 1,065
Overall: 55,486
Chapters revised: 22/38 -- 58% done

All chapters revised by Nov 30th. I've estimated that the story should be about 60,000 words long... we'll see how close I get.

I have to remind myself that exhaustion is a state of mind. Why is it that some can brush off an injury while others have to stay home over the same injury? Mental toughness--that's the difference.

Fight the good fight!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 26: NaNoRevMo 2012

Halfway through the revision...

It's been a rough couple of days. It's tough to go through the entire novel, make changes, corrections and see inconsistencies while you're exhausted.

Editing and revising require a focused eye. That is one thing that I am lacking right now. But I continue to remind myself that I only have a few more days to get this done. I can do this thing.

Half of the chapters have been revised. And I am inching my way to 60,000 words:

Day 26's total: 839
Overall: 54,421

I am not concerned with the relatively small daily total. Remember that during revisions, things will get cut and things will get added. In general I would expect the overall trend to be negative, but since I am interlacing a new sub-plot, the total word count will continue to inch up.

Let's do this.

Fight the good fight!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 25: NaNoRevMo 2012

It is official, I won the NaNoWriMo...

As evidence, I get this nifty badge. If you haven't done it before, you upload your manuscript into their word count gadget, and presto, you are declared a winner!

But I don't have time to celebrate yet, because I've now committed myself to new challenges which include:
(1) Revise the entire manuscript to incorporate a couple of new plot elements
(2) Hit 60,000 words

All before end of November.

Clearly, I'm dilusional, but what else was I going to do in the wee hours of the evening? Sleep?

Day 25's total: 813
Overall: 53,582

Fight the good fight!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 24: NaNoWriMo 2012

On this day, Wri changed to Rev...

In case you're not sure, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.

I am now declaring that the Writing is done and I am officially in Revision mode.

After a day of struggling with the decision, last night I started the revision of the manuscript. A handful of espresso shots later, I am now ready to admit that I couldn't be happier with the decision.

The sub-plot brought with it a handful of other elements that are proving to be very valuable. But as I had suspected, I am not just working on the new sub-plot, I am doing a full on revision. Not ideal, as I don't have enough distance from the story, but that's okay.

As revisions go, the process usually includes removing things and adding things. In the net, I've added.

Day 24's total: 1,364
Overall: 52,767

Now my challenge is two-fold: can I finish the revisions by the end of Nov 30th? And can I hit 60,000 words by then?

I love challenges.

Fight the good fight! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 23: NaNoWriMo 2012

When is the right time to revise your manuscript?

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, just as I finished the first draft of the new manuscript, an idea emerged for a powerful sub-plot. And the question was, should I go ahead and put it in now or wait?

Why wait at all?

I didn't initially understand this concept, but after reading Stephen King's On Writing and James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure (two must haves for any aspiring or established writer in my humble opinion) I understood and put in practice the art of objectivity.

Basic idea is this: once done with a manuscript, you literally set  the manuscript aside for a minimum of two weeks (ideally one month). During that period of time, ideas, new conversations and even new scenes will bubble up. You should keep a journal of all these things. But you shall not open the manuscript during this wait period. Like fine wine, you want to give it time for the chaos that was first-draft-writing to settle. But more importantly you want to create distance from the story.

When you crack it open again, you see it anew, and get reintroduced to the characters, see the scenes for the first time, and quickly pick out the dry characters, or boring conversations. You have become more objective with time. You are like a first time reader, unimpressed by the love affair you had with the manuscript just weeks ago.

To add that new sub-plot, I had two choices:

One approach is a whole-manuscript revision, so to lay the sub-plot in properly and not abruptly. I fear that I do not have enough distance to do this yet. And what I'll end up doing is making changes to the entire manuscript without the objectivity and clarity needed.

Another option is to do a very high-level and quick scan of each chapter, to get reacquainted with the scene and if it seems like "it's about right" then you shove it in there. Maybe shove isn't quite the right term, but with sub-plots you do need the touch of a surgeon rather than the brawn of a butcher.

Sub-plots are usually emotional or around life issues. They don't suddenly show up. These are in the inner monologue, in the way the main character reacts to situations. It is part of the persona.


As I write this post, I've changed my mind... I must admit, I had planned to just shove it in there... but I've decided that I will invest the time, starting tonight and do a whole-read of the manuscript and give this sub-plot the justice it deserves.

Now my blog is taking over my writing decisions... oh well. Wish me luck...

Fight the good fight!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 22: NaNoWriMo 2012

After all the guests left, I got to work...

The plan was that this post would declare the conclusion of the first draft. Because I did in fact write out all the scenes as I had planned. And that should be a reason to celebrate, right?

But once I was done and typed the symbol which indicates the end...


...  I realized that I was not done after all... I hate that... okay maybe I don't hate it. But now I have to deal with this new idea. Do I write it now or do I make a note of it in my journal then take care of it when I revise the manuscript.

I like completion. I like closure. But in this case, the idea came to me just as I was typing ###... that must mean something.

As of last night, here are my statistics:

Day 22's total: 1,075
Overall: 51,448 

What to do? I may need to eat more turkey and ham leftovers before I make a decisions...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 21: NaNoWriMo 2012

And then we crossed the finish line...

Tis' ture. Last night (or I guess it's technically this morning) at 12:37 AM, I stopped writing and saw the word count total: 50,373.

I'm not done yet. About two scenes to go which may add up to 2,000 more words, but it feels great to have passed that line.

I have to prepare things for Thanksgiving today, but I  plan on squeezing in another hour out of today.

Wish me luck.

Day 21's total: 2,677
Overall: 50,373 

And since it is Thanksgiving Day in the US, I want to thank all of you who have been emailing, commenting, tweeting  or encouraging through Facebook.

A writer's journey is a lonely one by design. You don't write by committee. But you do need the motivation of the community. So thank you for being part of my community. You are my tribe and I hope you know, I am part of yours.

Fight the good fight!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 20: NaNoWriMo 2012

On the 20th day, I took a one day break...

Not really.

I didn't write yesterday. I had planned to take it off. But let's be honest, is a writer really ever off-duty?

I spent the night with some friends and I picked their brains to help add details to my story. I am fortunate that I have a circle of friends who are professionals in various industries. Yesterday, I spoke to the attorneys. Asked them about injunctions, court procedures, feasibility of certain court decisions and more.

Why? Because I needed to make sure that the court ruling that I had in the story rang true. Although my story is not a courtroom story or a police proecedural, I want to make sure that I will not get browbeat over boneheaded "facts." The narrative needs to ring true and keep the reader firmly planted in the story world.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was not worried about the lack of upfront reasearch because I would write around it. However, when the opportunity is there, you have to jump all over it. Ask questions. Listen to real stories so that you can add elements of reality. Discussions like these have a tendency to add new material that you had not thought of.

On Friday, I will see my friend who is a sourgeon. He better be ready for me.

Fight the good fight!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 19: NaNoWriMo 2012

It's looking good my friends...

I think (hope) that there's enough left in the story to help me slide across the finish line. I found this on the web site. Stats! I love stats.

According to this, all I have to do is write 210 words per day to hit the 50,000 word goal. I write more than that on my daily blog :)

All joking aside, I need to hunker down and finish strong -- and I don't mean with the word count. Now it's about making the end worthy of the journey my characters have had to endure.

Day 19's total: 2,279
Overall: 47,696

Fight the good fight!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 18: NaNoWriMo 2012

Slow and stead as she goes...

The story is now in Act III. The battle has started and one by one my hero is tying the loose ends. The mystery is getting unraveled, but an unplanned event or two are about to kick my hero and team right in the shin.

This is when I get a burst of enthusiasm and try to go nuts on coffee just to reach the end. But this time, I'm going slowly. A satisfying mystery is not about who did it, but why they did it. It needs to resonate at a primal level. Ideally the reader will nearly feel for the antagonist.

Day 18's total: 1,130
Overall: 45,417

Will I wrap it up before I have to carve up the turkey and ham?

Let's see what I can get done tonight.

Fight the good fight!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 17: NaNoWriMo 2012

Even on bad days, make sure you write something.

Yesterday was just not meant to be. All plans went out the window right around 6:40 in the morning and then it got worse.

But I was committed to writing something--anything.

So I did.

Day 17's total: 166
Overall: 44,287

I know, I know. Pitiful, right?

But I assure you it was a solid paragraph!

Having said that, this is why it is more powerful to have a weekly goal than a daily word goal. A daily goal not achieved could have a detremental psychological affect. I have plenty of psychologicical issues. I don't need more.

So in the final analysis, a bad writing day, but a solid week.

Fight the good fight!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 16: NaNoWriMo 2012

On the sixteenth day of NaNoWriMo, my manuscript gave to me...

A stinkin' headache!

Yes, my dedicated readers and cheerleaders. A headache. Why? Plot problem. I am about to break into Act III. But the I don't feel that the Fhit has hit the Shan yet. In other words, I don't think the situation is bad enough for my hero.

To break into Act III, the hero must feel that there is no other choice but to enter that final battle. The hero must feel that death (physical or psychological) is imminent and the only choice is to face his fears.

I don't think I have that. What I have is okay... but okay is not good enough. It needs to be awesome. Courageous. Unexpected.

And it's a shame because up to that point I was tearing through the word count.

Day 16's total: 2,416
Overall: 44,121

Now, I have to take a step back and possibly do a bit of clean up work.

Wish me luck. And don't forget...

Fight the good fight!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 15: NaNoWriMo 2012

And on the 15th day of writing, I discovered a new twist...

The stinkin' butler did it after all!

Okay, that's a joke. I don't have a butler in my story. I have a man-servant.

As I was writing a scene, I knew that I was getting to an important part in the plot -- the darkest point in the story, where it seems like everything is lost (called the Dark Night of the Soul in the Save the Cat! framework). So as any self-respecting writer would do, I ran away from my desk.

Sometimes, I have to get myself worked up for a scene. I need to bring as much emotional depth as I can muster. So as any self-respecting writer would do, I got a spoon and ate Nutella out of the jar.

Right then, I realized why one of my characters exhibited some physical characteristics. She had done something twice in the body of the story that just came out naturally. I didn't question it, I let it go on. But now, as I allowed the Nutella to coat my soul, it came to me why. What it really implied.

I got the energy boost I needed (not from the Nutella per se) to tie out little details that would lead to a twist in Act III. It's fantastic when the author doesn't even suspect the twist coming.

Not a marathon stretch last night, but a respectable day.

Day 15's total: 1,384
Overall: 41,705

Fight the good fight! (and get some Nutella)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 14: NaNoWriMo 2012

And then I got lost...

Here's the thing about mysteries: the connections, the lies, the misinformation, and misdirections can really get confusing.

As you'll recall from Day 1, I didn't really plan this project out. It was a high level plan. But maybe I should have done a bit more work on the puzzles, the mysteries and interrelations between the characters.

So I took a bit of time yesterday and drew a relationship diagram. Basic idea is that you list all the characters as bubbles. Then you connect them (one to many, many to many) and in the connection explain how they are related or what motivates their connection.

What that did for me was clarify why my silly characters were doing weird things. It turns out, my subconscious was onto something with some of the decisions it made. So I cleaned up the relations and suddenly a whole slew of opportunities presented themselves.

I violated my law of "don't revise." I went back to a couple of the chapters that had been off-course and I revised them. And I got to tell you, I love what I'm seeing. I took a step back to help move the flow, and in the process I added more words.

Day 14's total: 1,862
Overall: 40,321

Not too shabby given that this was all revision based. More importantly, I am 14 days into the 30 day event, and I have just passed the 40,000 word mark (where's my chocolate?). I'm starting to feel confident. But I won't count my bacon, until the eggs are scrambled... or something like that.

Fight the good fight!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 13: NaNoWriMo 2012

Lucky 13? Maybe...

Yesterday should have been one of those days that if I got in a thousand words, I would have been happy.

My wife was to come home late, so I had to deal with my little monkeys. Homework, get them to bathe, prepare dinner, and assure that they don't dismember each other in the span of the night.

With the potential outcome of the future already pre-determined, I had given up on real productivity. But something happened.

The kids were on the ball with their homework. They bathed and changed at the speed of light. Dinner was a hit. We were done by just past 6 PM. They were fed, clean, and in their PJs.

I popped in a DVD in the home office (Shorts, a Robert Rodriguez movie). So as they watched, I wrote. And wrote. Took a couple of small breaks to make pop corn, but I kept on writing and the words kept rolling out.

 By 11 PM, my head spinning, I posted this on Facebook...

Day 13's total: 7,944
Overall: 38,459

So maybe I was off on my math, but as you can see, not a bad night given that I had assumed the day would be a total loss.

You never know when you'll have these types of days. I could have written it off. But I chose to try. I chose to write.

Fight the good fight!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 12: NaNoWriMo 2012

After a day off on Sunday, on Monday, I was back into the manuscript...

A good, solid day of writing. But I'm a bit worried now. As I've mentioned, I'm writing a mystery novel -- my first dive into that genre. I read a lot of mystery novels and know that this genre should be no less than 60,000 words. NaNoWriMo's goal is 50,000 in thirty days.

I'm past the mid-way point in the novel and have realized that I may not have enough meat in my plot to get me past much more than 50,000 -- great for NaNoWriMo, bad for a mystery novel.

I started to panic a little, questioning why I didn't think it out further before I jumped in.

But worrying is a wasted emotion.

I got it out of my system and decided to move forward. If by the time I'm done I have 40,000 words, so be it. That's the story that was produced. However, I have confidence in my characters. I have a feeling that they'll throw a couple of curve balls soon, extending the word count in a natural organic and meaningful way.

But one thing is for sure, I will not add empty scenes, empty words, or empty subplots. A good story with escalating conflicts and deep characters generate words. Words do not create a good story.

Day 12's total: 3,880
Overall: 30,515

Fight the good fight!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 10: NaNoWriMo 2012

*slap to the forehead* Doh! I nearly forgot to post yesterday's update.

Some of you are my Facebook peeps and saw this post:

Yes, she did it again. My wife gave me a few hours of uninterrupted writing time. I don't care who you and what you do, without real support from those who surround you, living your dream in the face of life, becomes a challenge of Herculean proportions.

And the results?

Day 10's total: 4,255
Overall: 26,635

Remember to thank those that help you and support you. And in honor of my supportive family, I took today, the eleventh day off. I will be back on Day 12.

Hope you're doing well. Keep writing and, as alway, Fight the good fight!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 9: NaNoWriMo 2012

The voice emerges...

I am at the mid-point in the story and I received another great surprise. I wasn't very productive on day 8 (in terms of word count). I wrote one scene, but a real good scene. Possibly my favorite.

The surprise was the voice of my protagonist and antagonist. They've evolved and have built a unique speech pattern. Even the selection of words and sentence structure seems to be true to who they should be.

Clearly, it's always best to have this up front, but my experience is that it rarely happens that way. It'll mean that when I revise the draft, I will have to rewrite the scenes with the evolved voice. But that's okay. I actually love revising and adding new scenes. It becomes a game. I look forward to how my characters respond to the original scenes or to new ones.

Day 9's total: 1,369
Overall: 22,380

Okay, back to the manuscript. I will officially start Day 10 of NaNoWriMo as soon as I've pressed "Publish" on the blog. Ready? Laters

Fight the good fight!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 8: NaNoWriMo 2012

And then he did what he wasn't supposed to...

It happens all the time. My characters say and do things that were not planned. What happened this time is that it threw a monkey-wrench in the plot line. My high level plan is now out the window.

"So what," you may say. "Just delete the unplanned stuff and keep at it."

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions in store for me. I have learned to trust my characters. I have honored their request to change my story. And between you and me... I like where it went.

Now, I have to think on the fly as to how this new plot-line will reveal itself. Or, I may just let the characters take over. Allow the inmates to take over the sanitarium. Does that make me the medium?

The good news is that it sparked new energy in the manuscript. It could have derailed the progress. And it may still derail it in the coming days if I don't come up with the rest of the path. But for now, the word count is solid.

Day 8's total: 2,307
Overall: 21,011

Fight the good fight!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 7: NaNoWriMo 2012

I'm tired, okay? I want to sleep!

That's what I continued to tell myself last night. But I had to write. I just had to.

Sure I could have taken the day off. Why not? I'm ahead of plan after all. But there was one reason above all that forced me to move forward. Shame.

Yeah, you heard me. I have to write my daily diary on this blog. I may not have a huge following but this series is getting a few hundred hits a day (thank you, by the way). So as you can see, that's pressure. Real pressure.

So if I had been smart, I would have done this whole "write a book in a month" thing in the privacy of my little room. And if I finished, then I would have told the world that I was done.

But that's the rub isn't it? It's easier to give up when no one is watching.

And since you guys are watching, I pushed through. It was sloppy, messy and painful (get your head out of the gutter!). Once I'm ready to revise, I may lose half of those words. But at least I have something to edit.

Day 7's total: 2,104
Overall: 18,694

Just Write and remember...

Fight the good fight!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 6: NaNoWriMo 2012

No life lessons in this post...

And that's the thing about writing... most of the time, the magic of writing isn't that magical. I'm sure you've heard the saying about 5% inspiration, 95% persperation? Well, it's a good approximation. Although, I do believe that coffee accounts for 10% and Nutella another 5%... good chocolate should account for another 10%. Snack. Snacks are good for 7.5%... but I digress.

All kidding aside, writing may be an art, but art can only be produced by the same methods that you produce anything in life.

If you want to have a vegetable garden, you can't just be inspired by the though of fresh veggies. You have to treat that soil, take care of the insects and snails, water the soil, manage the weeds and so on.

The basic principle is hard work and discipline. Because if your butt isn't in the seat, and if your fingers aren't moving on that keyboard, then words don't show up on your manuscript.

Speaking of words...

Day 6's total: 2,573
Overall: 16,590

Just Write!

It's not easy. I get it--trust me. Life gets in the way. But that's what we have to do. Otherwise, we would all be lawyers :)

Fight the good fight!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 5: NaNoWriMo 2012

Yesterday was one of those days that should have ended poorly, but didn't.

It is natural for "reasons" to get in the way of your writing. We are reasonable people. And we will use our reasons to stop us, slow us down, or give us an out.

As I mentioned on Day 1, I made a from-the-hip decision to write a mystery novel. As I've said, I read mysteries all the time, but that's out of love, not because I write them. In other words, I don't read it like a writer, I read it like a fan. I am not trying to pick up techniques -- What worked about that interrogation scene? What was the procedure for evidence discovery? etc.. -- I'm just reading.

Well... my story has broken into Act II now. And it became very clear that I was hitting knowlege walls. I needed research to help me with my facts. And I allowed myself to get into a funk -- questioing the wisdom of writing this story, questioning my own sanity, questioning why the sky is blue...

Then I remembered something that Stephen King said in his masterpiece On Writing. Research is for backstory. The key word is "back." He says, keep it way back. He advises, make up what you don't know. You can clean it up later.

And so I did.

Remeber this, you can't edit what you haven't written. Let the story roll. Don't let the fact that you are a reasonable human get in the way of following through on an unreasonable venture -- writing.

Day 5's total: 4,350
Overall: 14,017

As for my overall progress, I'm still on track. But remember, this is Act II. The long middle where you will hate your story, your characters, your scenes, and your third grade teacher for good measure.

Let me know what resources you use. Share your pain with me. Remember: misery loves company.

Fight the good fight!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 4: NaNoWriMo 2012

Yesterday was weak. Today was wick-ed.

Get it? Get it? Weak -- Wicked?

Come on! Give me a break, okay? I'm tired. I tried to come up with something that rhymed and that's the best I could do.

Today I nailed down 4,956 words. Yes, I basically doubled the output of my first three days on my fourth day. That puts my novel's grand total to 9,667.

As happy as I am about the results, I know that there will be days that I will not be able to produce more than a few hundred words. This is the truth about word counts -- daily goals are okay... weekly are superior. Some days will fall flat and others will give you gifts like the one I received today.

What went well today? Three important things:

(1) Yesterday was a busy day for family and friends, and although I got in about 1,300 words, there was a lot more I wanted to write. The nice thing about stopping when you still know what you want to write next is that the next writing session receives a turbo boost.

(2) As my day progressed yesterday, additional lines, scenes, and conflicts continued to bubble up. I took notes in my handy dandy notepad (you do have one, right?)

(3) And possibly the most important thing is what I posted on Twitter
The support I get from my wife is the driving force behind my work. Couldn't do it without her. And no, she does not read my blog, so I will get no points out of this one :)

I may try to squeak in a few more words, but I'm in a good place right now. I know what I want the next scene to include. I think I'll sleep on it and, as Stephen King says, let the boys in the basement do their magic while I sleep. 

Fight the good fight!

Day 3: NaNoWriMo 2012

I had a solid plan for Saturday -- I was going kill the word count.

But first, I had to clean my home office. It was a bit of a mess. I was having a hard time concentrating.

Before I knew it was lunch time and the boys were hungry. No problem. We can do that.

We ate, then I ran up to the office. Within 30 minutes there was a national emergency. The kids were arguing over who owned which Lego set. My wife laid down the law, the losers came to me, the united nations, to get compassion. Instead, I lost another writing opportunity.

Then my son had a tennis match. A great match and by the time we got home, we had to bathe, change and go to a friend's 40th birthday party.

We got back home just past midnight. The gin and tonic had worn off a while ago, but my eyes had given up for the night.

By the end of the day, I had put in a respectable 1,317 words (total word count of 4,711). Not bad. But not what I intended.

And I'm okay with that. Part of the challenge a writer faces is that time is never your friend. You will never master time or be able to wrangle the word count. We try to control it. But frankly, it controls us.

Don't make yourself wrong. Don't feel like you're less than, or not good enough. This is life doing what it's good at -- getting your attention and eating into your time.

The key is to write something --anything-- every day.

Fight the good fight!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2: NaNoWriMo 2012

Apparently when I decided to do this NaNaBooBoo, I inadvertently decided to post updates as well.

Here goes. I had three hours to write while my son was at his tennis clinic. Always nice when those things happen. A few things came up today.

When I start a new story, I typically circle around the first chapter for a while. I'm trying to find the voice of my narrator. Also, I test the POV and tense. I thought this one would be a 1st person present, but 3rd person past is sounding better, more appropriate. 

I have a writing philosophy that I try to stick to: write forward. I try my best to not go back and edit the work I've just done. There are a lot of reasons for that:
  • The story changes over time. Let it change. It's okay. This is a bit of the magic. When the story is changing, keep at it so that the hidden story emerges. You can go back later, when you're done and fix the little mistakes. Make a note on a post it and stick it to your forehead. Otherwise, just keep moving.
  • Your characters do something completely unplanned. That's the magic of writing. Your characters are coming to life and they're deciding for themselves. Okay, so maybe you're actually the one deciding but what's really happening is that you hear their voice and their personality more clearly now. Let it happen. This is when the words begin to fly
Hint: The key about writing fast is to write fast. Yes, I am a bit of a guru :)

All joking aside. You can edit it later. Right now, you want to get words to pour out. And in my experience, if I can keep pace with how fast the story (the movie) is playing out in my head, then I have a chance at capturing some of the rawness that will make for a compelling read.

Having said all that, I did get stuck in the first chapter because I needed to get the tone, the voice, and tense right. 

The result of today's exploits is a nasty headache. I may continue writing after the double espresso kicks in. Or I may take a power nap (sleep for three hours then wake up) and continue working on this when the house is fast asleep. 

And for the moment you've all been waiting for... as you'll recall, yesterday I laid a goose egg -- zero word count. Thankfully, today I made up for yesterday's slow start.

Total word count: 3,394

Fight the good fight!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 1: NaNoWriMo 2012

I've done a lot of dumb things in my life--what's one more?

For those of you who don't know what this cryptic thing called NaNoWriMo means, thousands of writers from across the globe, both experienced and novice alike, are officially participating in the annual National Novel Writing Month. That's write right. 50,000 words in thirty days.

I must admit, I've never participated before and was not planning on participating this year either. I had been deep in rewrites of my latest manuscript and didn't see how I could possibly be done with that one and still jump into the abyss of NaNoWriMo.

As fate would have it, I finished the revisions late October 30th. I knew I would not look at my revisions for a good two to four weeks (I always give breathing time for my manuscripts before I read it again). 

So a stupid thought entered my damaged head. Should I NaNoWriMo?

Of course the answer is no. Rest should be top priority. But I hate making these types of decisions without deep and thorough deliberation. 

So I asked my wife, "Wife, should I play?" 
She said, "Husband, love of my life, why not?" 
So I asked, "What should I write about?" I have a lot of half cooked ideas, but I hadn't actually given any one of them a lot of thought. 
She didn't miss a beat. "A mystery novel."

I've never writeen a mystery novel. I love them. But not sure I can write them. I grew up on Agatha Christie and continue to read the modern masters. This was an interesting challenge.

If I was an established author, I would probably not stray far from my core genre. But since I'm still a nobody, there's nothing better than to jump into different genres, test different styles of writing, different perspectives, and frankly exercise a few muscles that I have not used to date.

NaNoWriMo it is.

Will I be able to write 50,000 words in thirty days? Sure, why not? I've done 60,000 in Ten days. Then again, I did get very ill after pulling off that stunt. You may think, that's stupid of me. But the real stupid thing is that I am doing this publicly so all my thousands and thousands (maybe millions!) of fans may see me crash and burn.

Enough talk, today is day 1 and the journey starts. 

So what did I accomplish on day 1? 

Thankfully I had a little concept that I had considered a couple of years ago. It was a basic idea with some elements that were interesting to me.

I have written the log line for the story (one sentence summary of the story). I have also written out the story beats as defined by one of my favorite guides -- "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder. I HIGHLY recommend this masterpiece for structuring your stories. Yes, it's meant for movie scripts, but if you're writing anything commercial in nature (genre fiction is ideal -- not so much for literary fiction) then with a bit of massaging, the framework is brilliant.

I also used the tools recently laid out by the great James Scott Bell on his blog.

So, Ara, what did you accomplish today? Drum roll please... Day 1, the word count is... are you ready? Zero words.

Okay, so that's not a good start, but I have the framework for the story and that has to count for something. I am not a heavy plotter. However, I do prefer to put in more than a couple of hours, so this is fairly close to being a pantser (write from the seat of the pants and see where one lands). I must admit, I like the way this idea has come together. If you're also participating, look me up. My user name is "araTHEwriter" -- very original, I know.

Send me some muse love... and coffee... and Nutella.

Fight the good fight!


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Burn

You're almost done...
Jersey Town Crit 09 (97)
By Jersey Tourism
[CC-BY-2.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons

You set out your workout goal -- twenty miles on the bike. You've never done twenty. But las time you got to seventeen. What's three more?

You pass your previous mark of seventeen and something happens. Your legs gain forty pounds in a matter of seconds. You begin to slow. Each breath you take hurts a bit more. You begin to doubt and the wind suddenly picks up--slamming you in the face.

You look at your distance watch... 17.2 Miles. It's impossible. You'll never make it. And then, the fire starts. The burn. That sensation that is universally understood but also misunderstood.

The breakthrough is on the other side of that burn. That burn is your body telling you to stop. That you've done enough. You're fine. Just stop.

But if you continue, if you press on, if you push through the tears, your body transforms. And so do you.

Anyone can exercise, just like anyone can write. But only those who stick through the hard times, the doubts, the BURN, will they come out better.

Only the author knows if they took a shortcut. If they stopped before the magic happened. Next time your inner voice tells you to stop, that the sentence is good enough, that the motivation is good, that the scene is memorable enough, stop for a moment. Do you feel that burn? Do you see the fear that stops you?

If something feels wrong, or weak, or incomplete, I can guarantee that you are right. Push through that burn. What comes out on the other side will be worth the pain. Feel the burn. It means something magical is about to happen.

Have you ever fought through and discovered something new about your story? About yourself?

Fight the good fight!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Santa Barbara Writers Conference - June 2012

I attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference last week.

This conference doesn't mess around. It is six days of intensive work. There's something brilliant in the way it's been architected. It's been designed so that the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.

While there, I learned from the guest speakers. Dorothy Allison's speech infused me with fire. Gar Anthony Haywood's honest and raw words put reality back into the equation. The road to success is long and often elusive. And Fannie Flag reminded me why I love to read.

On Monday, I met with agents. The plan was to get their take on my novel, and its marketability. What I didn't count on was the interest I received. Now I have my work cut out for me. But that's why I play this game I love. When it's a labor of love, there is no such thing as too much work.

But the thrust of the conference was dedicated to the craft of writing. Each workshop dedicated to read-and-critique. If you haven't done this before, the basic approach is this: you read 2-5 pages of your work, and others in the workshop make fun of you give you valuable feedback. Truth be told, the workshop leaders and the attendees were brilliant. Spot on and helpful. I was suspicious at first, unsure what to expect. Instead I walked away with dozens of pages of notes.

But when I listened to other people, and dedicated myself to helping another, that's when magic happened. Have you ever tried to help another by teaching them something, or coaching them? Then you know the power that is generated in those conversations. You get better in the process.

You'd think that would just about cover it. It was in the agenda, after all. We'd get to work on our material, we'd listen to brilliant writers, and we'd get to meet with agents. Could there be more?

Yes. There is more.

The most important thing I got was the expansion of my tribe of writers. Each time I spoke to another writer, my world expanded. Each conversation brought us closer. And each toast we drank, solidified our bond.

At the Santa Barbara Writers Conference my tribe grew. I met some phenomenal people -- too many to mention, but some that I hope will be part of my writing journey for decades to come. Believe me that their success will be mine. We writers, we're all the same. We live with doubt and hope. Both ever present and powerful. But when we are with our kind, our tribe, we know that we can accomplish anything. All we need is a pen and paper (or iPad for that matter). We are writers.

Fight the good fight!


Time for desert. When you have time, watch this video. Fair warning: she's a badass!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth -- The Book Trailer

I warned you this day would come.

You read my book review (you didn't? Read it now!)

You already pre-ordered the book (oh, come on... you're killin' me here)

You've visited her new website (just go...)

And now, the event you've been waiting for -- the epic book trailer for STRUCK.

Tell me that isn't brilliant. I am blown away by the book trailer. They should have just filmed the rest of the book and they would have had the movie released at the same time! Her husband Ryan Bosworth is the director. Yes, he's a badass.

As you may recall, I was one of the extras. I know what you're thinking. "Dude, where are you?"

Two guesses.

Hmm, no. I am not the prophet, the creepy dude with cataract eyes.

One more...

Okay, I'll help you. I'm the dude at the far left of the screen at the 00:33 second mark.

What do you mean you can't see me? Look again. Silhouette of my glasses... proud nose.

Still can't see it? Here it is.

Okay fine. So you can barely see me... but I really was there. And I really was epic.

I tell you what, go to Jennifer Bosworth's Facebook and "friend" her. You will find dozens of pictures from the shoot.

Here's one. Yes, that's me on the far right.

You will also find that she's one of the nicest people you'll come across. Which explains why she writes about the end of the world, or writes screenplays about murderous psychopaths. Word to the wise: be nice to her. You may end up in one of her books!

Okay, this concludes Ara's one second of fame. The good news is that I still have a whole 14 minutes and 59 seconds left. My services can be hired for a nominal fee.

Fight the good fight!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth

"A girl struck by lightning hundreds of times holds the fate of the world in her hands."

That's on the cover of the advanced reader copy of Jennifer Bosworth's debut YA novel STRUCK.

With that hook, I didn't need much more to jump right into the novel. But there's more to the story...

Full disclosure: Jennifer Bosworth is a friend. No, not just a Facebook "friend"... I've actually met her. I even provided my extraordinary acting skills (stop laughing!) to the production of her book trailer (okay, so I was an extra... I was still epic!). Needless to say, even without the killer hook, I was more than ready to read this novel.

As I cracked the book open, an unfortunate memory came to mind... I had just finished another YA novel that had left me disappointed (I'm being kind).

That "other" book felt formulaic, contrived. Somethings I could forgive, like forcing a love triangle. Other things were not excusable, like not finishing the story just so there can be another book twelve months or so later. Then I realized, I was seeing a lot of that lately...

Are you in my state of mind yet? I had been looking forward to STRUCK for months, now another book had left me a bit jaded. 

But I had faith in Jennifer. After all, she's a Stephen King fan. She wouldn't let me down! (no pressure)

So, you ask, was the book good? 

Well, yes. It was great! 

And it was great without formulas... instead, she relied on something very old-school... story telling

Many can write a book, very few can write an engaging story.

The first thing that you'll notice is that  STRUCK is written in first person past tense--and I loved that. It was very appropriate for this story. It reminded me of campfires with friends spinning a good story.

Then you meet Mia. She is the lightning addict, the answer, the problem, and the voice of the story. A memorable character whose imperfection and inner struggles make her vivid and memorable.

This is a sensory-rich book. Because Jennifer Bosworth is a screenwriter, she was able to harness her magic to create a visual world. To her credit, she does this without inundating the reader with mind-numbing detail. She gets us there with just the right amount of context and detail. 

Also, the scenes are crisp and the chapters tight. Long chapters mean long scenes. Long scenes usually translate to slow pacing. Slow pace feels like a marathon (marathons are overrated). This book starts fast, then transforms into a sprint!

And when the book ends, the reader is left complete. No need to wait 12+ months just to see what happens next, and next, and next. You get the story all in one book. How quaint!

Finally, for me, the hallmark of a good story is when at the end I am left stranded in the story world--not quite ready to leave. And that's what STRUCK accomplished. A great book, written by a talented story teller. 

I highly recommend STRUCK by Jennifer Bosworth. It will be released on May 8th, 2012. You can go on Amazon or any other booksellers and pre-order it today. 

I thought this blurb captured the essence of the novel nicely:

“Cinematic! Struck builds into a massive, darkening, electric storm of a novel.” —Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us

I would have said those same words, but Jay Asher beat me to it. Well played, Asher. Well played.

When the book trailer is released, I'll warn tell you all about it. I really do think I was awesome... even though after all that is said and done, my 1.7 seconds of fame will probably ended up on the editing room floor... That's show business folks! :)

"It's about the story, and it's always about the story." ~ Stephen King -- On Writing

Fight the good fight!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dream Agents: The showdown

Searching for an agent?

As a loyal, devoted, rabid fan of mine, you will recall that some months back, I blogged about my dream agent. Cut to the chase, I said my dream agent is Martin Short in the cult classic movie the Big Picture, with Kevin Bacon.

Go read it, then come back.

Good. So with that in mind, I had to share with you my new dream agent. I saw this posted on The Southern California Writer's Conference Facebook page, so I just had to share it.

I need you (my friends) to understand why it takes so long to finish a novel--even after you think you're done.

You want opinions, so that you have a comfort level with the "goodness" of it, or said differently, you hope it doesn't suck. You want it to shine. Hence, you enlist the helpf of others. 

Most professional readers (agents, editors, etc) are very good, and when they give feedback, they are coherent, amazingly sharp and perceptive. In other words, they make your story better and your writing better. The only real way I found you can get this type of help is at conferences that accept submissions for agents and editors. 

Some so-called professionals, however, are all over the place, leaving you to wonder, did he/she read my work? Or is he/she asking me to be the ghost writer of the story he/she hopes I will write? This can also be true with writing groups. You need to pick well, otherwise you will be writing their story, not yours.

Yes, this video is a comedy sketch... but I will say this: I recently had a very similar conversation with an agent. Let's leave it at that :)


And just to be fair, here's Martin Short, once again:

I must admit, I don't know which one is my favorite... Which is yours?

Fight the good fight!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sticks and Stones?

-- Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me) --

It's a cute saying. False, but cute nonetheless.
Photo credit: Photoshop Player 2009 on Flickr

The fact of the matter is that the impact of words last far longer than a bruise or a broken bone. Words can shatter. Words can alter. Words are powerful.

Think of the words that continue to haunt you since high school. Think of the word that your significant other said, only once, but you never forgot. 

(Before you lecture me, yes, I get it -- the rhyme's goal is to encourage the reader to not allow words to hurt them, because after all, they are only words... audible expressions of air... tell me how that works out for you)

As writers, we have a fundamental issue to reconcile. We aspire to get our work in front of as many readers as possible. But do we really? Are we ready to take what comes with the territory?

I've met some writers, and know of many more, who have yet to put themselves out there. They don't like to share their work with others, afraid of the feedback. They don't want to be critiqued publicly. Not yet, they tell me.

Then there are those who do have their work our there, and the first negative comment on Amazon, or critical book review by a blogger causes a meltdown. Their reaction is either a public embarrassment or a psychological breakdown that throws them off track.

It seems to me that a successful writer is the resilient writer. 

FADE IN: Definition by

    adjective /riˈzilyənt/ 
    1. (of a substance or object) Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed
      • (of a person or animal) Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions


    I used to say that athletes were the most resilient type of people out there. Have you seen how a football or rugby player gets squashed by another giant? The very next moment, they're up on their feet, spitting out a tooth, then smiling. 

    But I've come to realize that if a writer wants to last and produce material for a few decades, then they have to become the poster boy/girl for resiliency. 

    My friend Webster says a resilient person can 'recover quickly from a difficult condition.' Check. Writers are bombarded by the most damaging type of 'difficult conditions.' We are judged and punished by words for our words, for our art, for our babies. 

    They're judging us! Us! Who do they think they are?

    Reality check, the best are judged and critizized. King, Rowling, and everyone before them and after them have been told and will be told they suck. This is the nature of art. More than ever, everyone is a stinkin' critic. And you can't stop the democratization of opinion. 

    How will you handle it? Will you implode, or will you sit in front of your computer and produce more? 

    Butt in the seat, or your face in the sink? Choose.

    Only one will produce art and make you better. Only one will stop you from pursing your dreams.

    Words by others will hurt. And that's okay. We need to absorb that, acknowledge them then move forward--always move forward. If we're going to let words hurt us to the point that they stop us, then maybe we should consider an easier vocation. Maybe rugby?

    Fight the good fight!

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Occam's Razor and Advice by Stephen King

    Sometimes we overthink things.

    Okay, maybe you don't. I know I do. Sometimes.

    And sometimes, there are advice out there that go right to the heart of the matter.

    You may have heard of Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor, depending which part of the planet you're from). This principle says that when there are various competing hypotheses, the one that makes the fewest assumptions is usually the correct one. Basically, the simplest explanation is the most plausible one.

    Stephen King was asked what advice he would give newbie writers. In this short one-minute clip, you will learn all you need to know about being a writer.

    Is is simplistic? Maybe. 

    Is it accurate? Does it go right to the heart of the matter? Can you in any way-shape-or-form dispute it?

    Sometimes we overthink things. And instead of being stuck with thoughts that paralyze us, maybe we should be engaged in the act of doing. 

    Write a lot and Read a lot.

    Fight the good fight!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Query Letters -- Love or Hate?

    I hate query letters

    That's not completely true. I hate that to the writer, the query letter is seen as the chasm between unfulfilled dreams and a career.
    winnond /

    Query letters are how your manuscript lands into the hands of your dream agent, assuming you need an agent. And to be clear, my dream agent is still Martin Short from the Big Picture.

    But the query letter doesn't have to be seen in such a limited way. My recommendation -- even if you're going independent, self-pub, small-pub, or Irish pub, you should still do the query letter.

    Before you send the mob to my house, here me out.

    I've spent considerable time and brain cells (what little I had left) on this topic. I am convinced that when you develop the query letter, it will highlight gaping holes or issues in your story. If you've been struggling with your query letter, the issue may not be the letter itself, it may be (ghasp!) the story you've written.

    So I've made a solemn oath. I will write a query letter, before I've started to write my next story. Call this a story treatment if you like. But the approach is sound and powerful if used properly.

    After countless hours of research (mostly on Super Agent Janet Reid's Query Shark, but also on dozens of other sites) I have compiled my notes for you:

    1. Focus on the Action: leave out the backstory. Most queries give too much description. Probably because we feel like we need to explain why we are where we are, etc. Get to the heart of the matter and fast. Show it. Use powerful verbs. In other words, trust yourself as the writer. Everyone has a backstory. Only your protagonist is about to get into this specific problem.

    2. Who is the Protagonist?: Who is the hero/ine? Wee need to know very quickly. Janet Reid recommends opening the query with the hero, in action, facing a problem. Also, only mention the most important characters -- no character soup.

    3. What is the Problem?: Start with where the protagonist has a problem (the inciting incident, the disturbance). Again, show it. Let us feel the protagonist's problem. Let us care for her and what she's going through.

    4. Compelling, interesting Villains: Boring villains mean boring story. The antagonist has to be so bad that you love him. Think silence of the lambs. 

    5. What are the Stakes?: They need to be high. Saying, "He just got laid off," is sad, but not enough to carry an entire story. The stakes need to be high. James Scott Bell says there needs to be a feeling of impending death (actual or psychological). High stakes raise difficult choices...

    6. Choices, please: The choices your protagonist faces must be explicit and compelling. If the choice includes, "she'll walk away," then there's no story, is there? Real choices. Though ones. Gut wrenching ones. If Katniss Everdeen does not survive the Hunger Games, her sister and mother will most certainly die. They have depended on her for everything. She volunteered to save her sister. She must survive, even if it means killing the boy whom she has known since she was a child. Tough choices, make for high stakes.

    7. 250 words please: General acceptable theory says your query letter should be one page -- but one page can go as high 380 words... maybe more. By sticking to the 250 word count, you are forcing yourself to be succinct and stick to the core of the story. If you're doing this for the benefit of developing your idea you'll be tempted to cheat -- but you shouldn't. Get your main plot down. You will be able to overlay your subplots later. But no matter how many smart sub-plots you add, it will not make up for a flawed main plot. Make sure your main story rocks.

    8. Rhythm: You need to develop an ear for rhythm. That's accomplished by reading your lines out loud, We've talked about this, reading out loud is a good (critical) practice. This practice will also highlight clunky writing. Reading out loud tells you when "They are" sounds better than "They're." Rhythm will also establish the tone and voice of your story.

    9. Entice: The whole point is for the reader to say, "I want to know more." As you write the query letter, you should get excited too! Your blood should be pumping, and your fingers should be ready to explode with words.

    10Test: Let your writer friends read it. Get their input. Not only for proof-reading (which is critical, of course) but to see if they get it, if they're excited, if they want to read the manuscript. A good query letter/story treatment should sell itself.

    As for me, I have to apply all the above to my query letter and story. 

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you have anything to add to this list? I'm sure you do. You can tell uncle Ara :)

    Fight the good fight.
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