Friday, October 28, 2016

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo in 4 Simple Steps

It's that time of year... 

NaNoWriMo is almost here!

While I am thrilled for Halloween this year, there is also the looming marathon of writing, NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

I love costuming, so any excuse to dress up and spook other folks is always welcome!

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you have the entire month of November to write a 50,000-word novel. Well, by the end of the month of November, you should have a First Draft of a 50,000-word novel.

Preparing yourself for a month-long marathon requires commitment, determination and daily goals that are achievable. 30 days. 50,000 words. It means a daily goal of 1,667 words. If you follow these prepping steps, you'll be on track to getting through NaNoWriMo like a boss.

Step One : Concept

Do you already have an idea of what YOU want to write about? 
People say write what you know and it's kinda true. I tell people "Write the novel you would want to read." You're writing this for yourself. Your friends and family will likely be proud of you for taking on this task of writing a bunch of words strung together into a meaningful story, but that is nothing compared to the sense of pride you will get from completing it, for yourself.
A marathon is always an instance of You vs You. You are the only limitation.

Is it too early to develop an outline?
These are valid questions. Technically, the marathon begins on November 1st, so any development that occurs ahead of time is probably considered cheating. However, you have to take into consideration that developing an outline is a huge tool to getting your first draft done.

The reason why an outline is important is that you will always have something to write about. 

Every minute that you spend sitting in front of your screen trying to think of what to write is a minute you are not putting down words. At first, it doesn't matter too much, but soon enough, those wasted minutes will add up, which in turn can feel discouraging and overwhelming.

Do you have a title in mind? A cool protagonist? Write these details down!

My point is, if you have ideas and they are developing before NaNoWriMo actually begins, don't feel bad about putting some basic concepts down on paper. Character names, character traits, general plot ideas, challenges, antagonists, drama points. If you have a brilliant idea, WRITE IT DOWN!
Sure, it's not November 1st just yet, but that's alright, you're just stretching your imagination muscles ahead of the game. Nothing wrong with that AND chances are, you'll come up with more brilliant ideas during the process of writing out your first draft that will replace your original concept (but that will be the subject of another blog post with plenty of advice for what to do DURING NaNoWriMo).

Step Two : Make Time

All praise the almighty word count! 
The most important part of NaNoWriMo is getting through it and the best way to do it is to dedicate at least 1 HOUR each day to just sit down and write. Now that November is just around the corner, take a look at your calendar. Take a close look at what you've got coming up. If you're like me, you already have a packed schedule, with work, social activities, family dinners (Thanksgiving is in November, d'oh!) and other unforeseen events you might want to attend!

That doesn't mean that an hour each day is impossible. You could choose to wake up early each day to write, or stay up an extra hour each night, but that's going to prove very taxing on your general well-being, and eventually on your happiness. That's no way to run this marathon.

Additionally, you are going to want longer blocks of time, especially on weekends or days off (assuming you have a full-time job and responsibilities during the week). Even if you intend on mostly working on your draft on the weekends, you should still plan on setting aside 1 HOUR EACH DAY. This will save you later on. Take a look at that calendar again and make appointments for writing, get those blocks of time figured out, knowing that on some days, you might write 2,000 words in a day, while on other days, that single hour brings you a mere 300 words. It's tough, but the more time you have set aside, the better off you will be.

You have to MAKE TIME. That means canceling plans or rescheduling. Perhaps encourage your social circle to compete in this marathon with you so it doesn't feel like you're missing out, which brings us to the next step...

Step Three : Form a Crew

Reach out to friends who have an interest in creative writing. Here's a clue: that's most people. Creative endeavors are exciting for all sorts of reasons, and I guarantee that there are plenty of people in your social circles who have always dreamed of writing a novel. This is your chance to reach out, and ask if folks want to participate in NaNoWriMo.

If they decline, ask if they can help keep you accountable and ask you what you're writing about today. Another cool thing to do is to share your writing with them and have them keep up as you're writing. You will find that they will want to know what happens next, and thus encourage you to keep going.

I hear you: "Oh, no! What if they judge my terrible writing!" The fear that they will judge you is real, I get it, but keep in mind that it's your first draft. It's not supposed to be perfect, and if they start being judgmental—they probably won't, they'll just keep encouraging you, but just in case—just remind them that they can participate too, or that they should focus on encouraging you to keep writing. 

NaNoWriMo is a marathon, you will NOT be going back and reading things, or fixing something here and there, that is all part of the editing process and will not figure in your first draft so don't even go there!

If you don't have any friends (forever alone), or none that want to participate, check out the NaNoWriMo website for some forum pals to join and form a crew with THEM!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant Banner

Step Four : Commit

This is probably the most important step. Commit to yourself that you will finish writing that novel's first draft. This is a test of your strength, courage and determination. Be stubborn! Be creative! Have fun! But once you take these steps toward reaching your goal, go all the way! You will not regret it!

Writer, Writing, Paper, Letter, Author, Business, Text

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Night in the Lonesome October

A lot has happened since my last post. I need to get back to weekly or at least twice-monthly blogging. So here's an update, but first, let's talk about this blog's post title, because it's relevant to your interests, I guarantee it:

A Night in the Lonesome October is a novel by one of my favorite authors, Roger Zelazny. I re-read it every year in October. It is narrated in the point of view of Snuff, a dog, who follows his master Jack (the Ripper?) as he completes various tasks, culminating in 'SOMETHING' that is to occur on Halloween night. It is a delightful read and while I could give you more details, you really ought to give it a read and enjoy the various surprises and references to well-known Halloween and spooky tropes.

October is a special time of year for me. It's when I started putting the plan for Love is Hell into motion, preparing an idea for NaNoWriMo back in 2014. October is also when Love is Hell occurs (it's especially interesting if you take the time to figure out what happens on what day of the month, *wink wink* hint hint).

What have you been up to, Fabien?

Mainly, I've been working at my day job, living life and all that. I went to my home country of France in July with my awesome girlfriend Jennifer and we had a blast! Did tons of things that rekindled my love of traveling.

These two dorks had the time of their lives, lemme tell ya!

In August, John Wick (the game designer and author, not the contract killer!) invited me to Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana to help man the booth at John Wick Presents selling books, giving demos, making new friends, and I also got to be a Game Master for two games of 7th Sea Second Edition, which was a real blast!

That poor dude. He doesn't even realize how much I like Starlord.

Oh! Speaking of 7th Sea 2e, I also got to write a little something something for an upcoming book, Nations of Théah, Volume 1. I was tasked with the difficult endeavor of writing the Montaigne section of the book; Montaigne is the "imaginary France" of the setting. It was challenging but a great experience, defining new places, people and challenges that will soon populate game sessions with great plot hooks and dastardly villains at game tables all over the world! At least that was my goal when writing it. The words have been handed over to the editing team. I hope you like the material I've come up with. Let's say that my recent trip to France was a great inspiration for much of what I wrote about.

I also recently wrote a short story which will be published in an upcoming role-playing game by True in One. The game itself is called Horrors and is a lot of fun! Well, I mean, if you're into scary movies and October spooky things and all that Halloween-y stuff, which I am.

Finally, I'm doing a bit of work for the 7th Sea 2e Game Master's Screen. Can't wait to use it since I'll soon be running that game myself for my Sunday afternoon gaming group.

What about Love is Hell's sequel, you dummy?!

Well, now that I'm completing projects faster, I'm once again able to focus on my own writing and I am happy to report that the first draft for The Kindness of Strangers is halfway complete! Besides, you're the dummy! So there!

Seriously though, thank you for buying my book and asking about the sequel.

Will we see another IFFF any time soon?

I'm not sure yet. On the one hand, I really need to finish writing The Kindness of Strangers, and on the other hand, I really liked working on the Interactive Flash Fiction Friday posts. I think the problem with IFFF is that while the concept was cool, it's not fulfilling the interactivity niche I was hoping to get out of it. I'm either going to change the format to just Flash Fiction Fridays, or do something more interactive somehow.

If you have any questions, post a comment! Cheers!

"We've had enough interactivity with you!" -everyone

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Making of 'Love is Hell' : The Road Trip Editing Process

There is definitely an advantage to going through your manuscript before the real editing process begins. By real editing process I mean finding qualified people to go through your manuscript and make a variety of suggestions, changes, and, well, edits, so that the manuscript can become a readable, proper book. Going through your "finished" manuscript is a arduous task, but it must be done, in order to prevent embarrassing phrases, errors of all sorts, and blatant jumps in tone and style. ( Remember when you didn't write for two weeks in a row? Yeah, your style changed in between somehow. )

Sure, it takes time, it's scary, IT'S NO PICNIC. However, it CAN be a road trip...

Imagine a romantic getaway, if you will. Two people on the road to Northern California, on their way to visit a relative. Hours and hours spent driving, keeping each other entertained and awake, following a white van for several hundred miles. It is March and the weather is still cool, lovely, really, if you bring a hoodie (which I did).

Last year, my girlfriend and I decided to take a few days off from work to visit her uncle who had to undergo surgery. I had printed the draft of Love is Hell a few weeks before the trip. I had gone through the first forty or so pages out of the two-hundred page manuscript and had kinda just... stopped. Editing your own work is hard, yet necessary. I needed to get it done. Needed motivation. Needed help, too.

So I brought the manuscript, a red pen, some clothes, and a camera. I thought I could get another twenty pages or so done if I found some time during the trip, thinking that I would not pressure myself if I did not get through a single page. We headed out, faithfully following that white van. We rocked out and sang along to some tunes, joked around a bit, ate random pub food, and eventually I got my hands on the script, took out my red pen and started reading my draft out loud. Then, a bit of magic happened. Catharsis.

Jennifer and I had both read the draft as I was writing it back in November. This time around felt entirely different. It felt like I was reading a book to my friend, discovering details in the very words I had written months before, unfolding the plot bit by bit, imagining it with a new approach: that of the audience. I remember feeling surprised at how good some of the writing was, wondering if I had really written this passage, or that dialogue.

The red pen was used with rigorous intent, often in some passages, then barely at all for several pages, then heavily again. It was a wonderful experience. I felt that I got a chance to discover my own voice as a writer. It was also great as a critical and analytical approach to my own work, because it gave me a chance to criticize myself openly, without feeling bad about it. You know, that whole "constructive criticism" bit.

Over the course of several days of driving and vacationing, I found out exactly where to add pieces that were missing, what to change, what to clarify, what to correct to make 'Love is Hell' (nearly) worthy of publishing.

It was so much fun that I decided that any subsequent writing I do should undergo the road trip editing process. I highly recommend it. It's a lot more fun if you read it to someone else or have it read back to you.

As always, follow the basic guidelines for editing/proofing your own work:

  • Print it out, single page, double-spaced.
  • Use a red pen for corrections.
  • Read it out loud to make sure it sounds right.
I can't wait to go on another road trip to edit my next book! I better get to finishing it soon!

Comment Prompt:
What editing process do you go through as a writer? 
What do you do with your manuscript when you're happy with it?