Monday, October 25, 2010

NaNo Thoughts

Next Monday starts the November Madness known as NaNoWriMo and I have to admit I'm looking forward to it...most of the time.  I have my idea though I still have a lot of pondering to do.  I have to finalize some character names too.  And...I don't have a title yet.  Which is unusual since I normally have titles first. There is a possible title I'm considering but no decision has been made yet. I hope to get most of the plotting, names and such finished today.

I've also added a word count widget to the sidebar of the blog just so y'all can keep up with the numbers without having to go to the NaNo site.

And speaking of the NaNo site...they have some great forums there however they can be a huge time suck. What you plan to be a 5 minute "break" cause you are stuck on a scene often ends up into an hour or more lost.  So, leave the forums until you have your daily word count down.  Turn browsing the forums into a reward.

Also, turn off the internet while you are writing.  Don't worry about checking email, facebook or twitter.  They can wait.  I know it sounds unreal, but the world won't end if you don't check 'em out every fifteen minutes.  :-)

Need a word count meter?  Try StoryToolz.  You can have up to three meters going and they are simple to update.

To finish NaNo with a 50k word count you need to write 1,667 words each day.  Thing is, Thanksgiving comes around in November.  So, if you are going to be traveling to family or having them come to your place and won't be writing for a day or two, get some extra words whenever you can. 

Most of all...

No matter how you do during NaNo, you'll have more words written at the end of the month than when you started on the first.  And that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Numbers, Pt. 2

The other day, after my horrid "numbers" thought, I had a nasty attack of shoulder vultures.  I mean, with those kind of numbers, why even try?   I sulked a while, had some chocolate then sucked it up and got back to writing. (Yesterday was good day for sulking...I had to be in the car most of the day.)

Thing is, my numbers aren't "quite" correct and I want to thank Timothy for reminding me of something.

This is part of Timothy's comment...

I've spent the bulk of my career as a publisher's book editor. I reviewed over 20,000 proposals. Most of these had a good idea buried somewhere in a fair or poorly written document. 80% of what I received did not make it past the initial review.

I've heard this before.  I've even heard it's about 90%, depending on the publication.  So, let's look at those numbers from the other day again.

Let's say they get 100 submissions a month but only 10-20 are decent.  But you know what...they only need 15 for that  month's issue.  That makes the chances of getting in a lot better.  Sure they hold things over from month to month but when you get rid of the chaff, the numbers aren't so bad.

And, I don't know for sure but I'd bet out of those 10-20, only 5 or 6 pieces really, really shine. 
Now let's look at the high end of the numbers, 500 submissions a month.  At 80%, 400 of them won't make the first cut and at 90%, 450 won't.  That only leaves 50-100 submissions.  And let's say only about 20 really sparkle and shine. 

Things still don't look so bad.  And that's why it's so important to do your part.  Again, study your target market, know what they publish.  Write the best story you can.  Get reader feedback, polish and shine your submission until it sparkles. Follow those submission guidelines.

Publication can and will happen. :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Numbers Game

This morning while hubby took his shower, I stayed in bed for a few extra minutes and while in that half asleep phase I had a thought that sorta woke me up.  And not in a very good way.

I've heard it said many times that getting published is a numbers game.  The more you send out the more chance you have to get something published.  And that's true.  You can't get published if no one sees your work.

But here's what  came to me this morning. 

There's this well known magazine I'd love to have a story in.  It comes out monthly and has about 15 stories in each issue.  That means they need about 180 stories for the entire year.  Thing is...every writer in this magazine's genre wants in so sends them stories.

Let's say they get 100 submissions a month for 1,200 a year.  But they only need 180! 
What if they get 200 submissions a month?  That's 2,400 a year.  Again, they only need 180.
Let's take it up a notch, 500 submissions a month for 6,000 a year.  They still only need 180 though.

The numbers are kinda staggering and don't really give much hope.  But, there are things we can do to better our chances of getting one of those 180 slots.  (Or any other magazine.)

1.  Study their publication.  Read back issues.  See what type of stories they like to publish.
2.  Write the best story we can and polish it until it gleams. (This means learning our craft and practicing.)
3.  Follow submission guidelines. (Yes, basic info we should know but sometimes we need to be reminded.)
4.  Hope for the best, expect the worst.  Meaning, have another market in mind in case of rejection.
5.  Realize there are a lot of stories competing with yours.  Just because it's rejected doesn't mean your story is bad.  It just means it wasn't what the editor was looking for at that time.
6.  Never give up.  Keep writing, keep submitting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Snowflakes


I've my one sentence summary of my NaNo novel and I've been working on the paragraph.  I've done a lot of pondering but just haven't written anything down yet.  But, for those of you doing better than me, here's step 3. 

Step 3) The above gives you a high-level view of your novel. Now you need something similar for the storylines of each of your characters. Characters are the most important part of any novel, and the time you invest in designing them up front will pay off ten-fold when you start writing. For each of your major characters, take an hour and write a one-page summary sheet that tells:
•The character's name
•A one-sentence summary of the character's storyline
•The character's motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
•The character's goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
•The character's conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
•The character's epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
•A one-paragraph summary of the character's storyline

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Snowflake Method

I'll admit it, I'm a plotter.  To some degree anyway.  I like to have a roadmap that shows where I'm heading.  Sure, I might drift from the map at times but it's nice to have the map, just in case.   So, this year for NaNo I thought I'd give something different a try during my plotting.  And, I thought since misery loves company or something like that, I'd have y'all join me in the process.

For this week, let's work on step 1 & 2.  I've copied them here for your convenience but you can find the whole process on this site

When you get your steps done, feel free to post 'em in the comments for the rest of us. we go!!!

Step 1) Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Something like this: "A rogue physicist travels back in time to kill the apostle Paul." (This is the summary for my first novel, Transgression.) The sentence will serve you forever as a ten-second selling tool. This is the big picture, the analog of that big starting triangle in the snowflake picture.
When you later write your book proposal, this sentence should appear very early in the proposal. It's the hook that will sell your book to your editor, to your committee, to the sales force, to bookstore owners, and ultimately to readers. So make the best one you can!

Some hints on what makes a good sentence:

•Shorter is better. Try for fewer than 15 words.
•No character names, please! Better to say "a handicapped trapeze artist" than "Jane Doe".
•Tie together the big picture and the personal picture. Which character has the most to lose in this story? Now tell me what he or she wants to win.
•Read the one-line blurbs on the New York Times Bestseller list to learn how to do this. Writing a one-sentence description is an art form.

Step 2) Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel. This is the analog of the second stage of the snowflake. I like to structure a story as "three disasters plus an ending". Each of the disasters takes a quarter of the book to develop and the ending takes the final quarter. I don't know if this is the ideal structure, it's just my personal taste.
If you believe in the Three-Act structure, then the first disaster corresponds to the end of Act 1. The second disaster is the mid-point of Act 2. The third disaster is the end of Act 2, and forces Act 3 which wraps things up. It is OK to have the first disaster be caused by external circumstances, but I think that the second and third disasters should be caused by the protagonist's attempts to "fix things". Things just get worse and worse.
You can also use this paragraph in your proposal. Ideally, your paragraph will have about five sentences. One sentence to give me the backdrop and story setup. Then one sentence each for your three disasters. Then one more sentence to tell the ending. If this sounds suspiciously like back-cover copy, it's because . . . that's what it is and that's where it's going to appear someday.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I'm most of you know about NaNoWriMo but just in case you don't, the basic idea is to write at least a 50k novel during the month of November from scratch.  You can plot and plan before Nov. but no writing allowed.  It's an interesting challenge that thousands of writers each November take part in.

For those who don't know about NaNoWriMo, you can find more info at their WebSite.

I've taken part several years now.  When I set my mind to it, I've managed to finish with something that can be used as the basis for a novel.  In fact, the dragon novel I'm revising now (that's under contract by the way) is a NaNoWriMo project.

This year, I've decided to take the NaNo leap again.  I'll be doing something a bit different from my normal mystery or fantasy so I'm kinda excited.  I'm actually ready to start plotting some.

So, I thought we should plot our NaNo novels and share the journey to 50k together.  I think tomorrow we'll talk about characters.  :-)

Here's today's questions? 

1.  Who's going to take the NaNoWriMo plunge?
2.  What are you going to be writing? 

P.S.   The NaNo website might be a bit  slow for the first couple days of this month as they have just relaunched it and are working to get the bugs out.