Sunday, November 24, 2013

The End is Nigh

Do you hear that?

What do you mean, "no"?

You sure you can't hear that?

Listen carefully. Listen very carefully.

There! Do you hear that?

Of course you do. It's unmistakable. 

That, my friends, is the sound of The End, and it's coming for you.

Well, not for you specifically, but rather for your NaNoWriMo story. 

Depending on what part of the world you're in there is anywhere between 5 and 6 days left to pound the keyboard and get the remainder of your 50,000 words down on the page. Some of you will be checking your graph on the NaNoWriMo site and doing some quick math:

Arithmetic at its finest
As we discussed last week, quitting is not an option. Quitting is for uh... quitters. More importantly, you don't gain a damn thing from throwing in the towel. You don't gain experience, your story certainly gain anything, and you sure has hell don't gain any knowledge. You do learn a little something about yourself in that process though, and you might be okay with what you uncover. If that's the case then you probably won't want to keep reading this post because I'm about to try to get all inspirational and stuff.

Take this from a guy that has about a dozen other half finished pieces of writing sitting in a folder. Quitting is a habit. A bad one; and to kick the habit you first have to want to kick the habit. If you're still reading this after I suggested you stop a paragraph ago I'm going to assume that you at least have a modicum of desire to press on. An excellent first step.

Ready?

Now, the next step is an equally important one: GO!

"Huh... wha...?" you just muttered, possibly with an expletive.

You heard me, the next step is the one you've been doing on-and-off for the past 24 days. My guess is that if you're surprised by this step that your writing has been more off than it has been on. I'm here to tell you that that's okay. The reality is that you might not get your 50,000 words in by the end of the week, but, and this is a big but (I cannot lie), every word you write now will get you one word closer to finishing your story. It's going to take as many as it takes to finish it and if any are missing a week from now, a month from now, or even a year from now it's going to be a lot harder to fill them in later than it will be to fill them in now.

I know of what I speak. My 50,000 from last year's NaNo got hacked up into 20,000 words for a "Book 2" and 30,000 words for the book I started. At the time, it was March and I had only 60% of what I had the previous December. So I started writing. Then I stopped writing. Then I started again. Then I took a break. Well, you get the idea. Now I'm about 5,000 words from cracking a bottle to celebrate. The only problem is November rolled around again.

*sigh*

That's why I'm so intent on staying three or four days ahead of this thing because my goal for NaNo this year is the 50,000 words I set out to write PLUS the 5,000 I'm still missing from last year. The point being, had I just written those words last year, or the year before - when I quit - I wouldn't have this guy hassling me all the time:

R.B. Wood's Kickstarter has just 6 days left too. #justsayin
In summary: 
Just keep writing. Not just for the next 6 days, but for the 1,667 after that.
Your characters will thank you. Your future fans will thank you.
You'll thank you (and I won't have to give R.B. your phone number).

~ Andrew

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eddie... I Want Half

Back in 1989 I was all of fifteen years old. My family had a VCR but mom and dad got to pick the movies so there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that either one of them would let me rent the critically acclaimed box office hit Raw starring none other than Eddie Murphy. Fortunately for me I worked at a video store and had a friend nearby who shared my particular interest in seeing this movie.

One afternoon with his parents out and my shift complete at the video store I walked over to my friend's house and we sat there and watched Eddie Murphy sling cuss words for into a microphone for 90 minutes in front of a packed house in New York City. It was awesome! One particular bit that he did caught my attention, and that was the piece he referred to as half.

  Me imitating Eddie Murphy  imitating Johnny Carson after he gave up half.  

This is a topical bit for the time in which it was written (1987). Johnny Carson had just gone through a divorce in which his now ex-wife had received a ton of money in the settlement (FYI, it wasn't half)[1]. Murphy does a good five minute bit on half. I won't get into the details here but if you want to check out the bit on YouTube you can go right ahead. It's not nearly as funny as a 39 year old as it was almost a quarter century ago, but the basic gist of the story is simple: half is a lot.

Skipping ahead five half decades we've just past the mid-way point of this NaNoWriMo adventure and what you should have figured out by now is... half is a lot.

Last week I wrote about the importance of getting ahead early and maintaining the momentum. At this stage, if you've fallen behind it's going to be an uphill climb for sure but the good news is there's still a lot of time left. I have had a couple off days but have managed to build on my two day buffer from a week ago and am now sitting on a three day buffer. My philosophy has been simple: if I can write 1,667 words then I can write 2,000.



If you haven't reached the 28,333 words required to date to maintain the pace through the first seventeen days then do not fret. You still have just about half the time left to reach your goal. Through thirteen days I had written 25,868 words and that included a slow start on day one and close to a goose=egg on day seven.

"But I've only written 15,00 words so far. There's no way I can finish in time!"

I call B.S. on that right here and now. A friend of mine got behind and said that he was going to have to start setting his sights lower. My first comment to him was that he should be taking the exact opposite approach. He should aim higher.

Let's use my hypothetical from above. Let's say you're only 15k into this thing and you're sitting on your couch reading this blog post sometime during the day of November 17. You've got thirteen writing days left to finish 35,000 words. Round that sucker up to 39,000 words (to make the math jive with my OCD) and divide by thirteen. That's 3,000 words a day.

Will that be difficult? Yes.

Is it impossible? Absolutely not.

Find yourself some writing buddies online and run some sprints. Sprints are a great way to force a good half hour block of words. If you normally like to sit and read the news in the morning use that time to write instead. Fifteen minutes here and fifteen minutes there and the words start adding up. Record those shows and watch them in December. Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert will still be funny in a couple weeks, I promise.

The important thing to take away from this is don't give up. Two years ago I fell into a funk around day ten and it looked irrecoverable. By day twelve I crawled back up to the break even point, but it took a 4,000 word day to get there and I was spent. I didn't think I had enough gas in the tank to sustain any sort of pace and I knew some slow days were ahead. They'd put me in the hole again and I'd have to pull out another 4k miracle to get back up. So I just gave up.

Here's what that graph looks like:


It looks really crappy, doesn't it? That's because it is. It's a crappy, depressing, shameful graph. Even if the brown bars didn't end up reaching the grey line on day 30 it still would have looked like a better graph than this flat line piece of garbage.

The takeaway here? Don't give up. You don't want to have to stare at a graph like this every time you log into the NaNoWriMo site in October to register that year's book. Instead, why don't you take a good hard look at my graph, acknowledge it's crappiness, agree that you don't need one that looks similar, stop reading this blog post (tell your friends to read first), and go write something!

May the words be with you.

~ Andrew

Sunday, November 10, 2013

One Third

Thirty days has September; April, June, and November...

That would mean that on the tenth day (or rather at the end of it), if one were participating in say... a novel writing competition or a moustache growing charity event, that one would be one third of the way through. As it turns out I am doing both of those things, and a good many of you out there are doing so as well.

Based on my last post on NaNoWriMovember many of the dudes out there have opted not to grow the 'stache for various reasons; choosing to donate cash money to the cause instead. Hey, whatever tickles your fancy, it's your chiselled visage not mine.

Before we get to the writers portion of this post, feel free to click the badass snake moustache if you want to donate something in support of the wonderful Movember funding programs:


Now, on to the writing! You are all writing, right? I mean, you can't crank out 1,667 words a day every day for thirty days and not do a little writing. In actual fact it's more than a little writing, as many of you with additional jobs beyond penmonkey can attest. This is my third year attempting NaNoWriMo and for the second time in a row I've passed what I consider to be the hardest part of the journey: the 10,000 to 15,000 word slog-fest.

This is the fabulous time where you've been going at it for several days straight and even though you're well into the foothills you take a look up, and you keep looking, up, up, up and you realize that at 10,000 words you're only one fifth of the way there - and you're already exhausted. Cue the self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.



But don't fire the Sherpa just yet. You can do this. How do I know? I just know. Now stop asking questions, you should be writing. And therein lies the key: stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop researching, stop wondering about this, and thinking about that. Just stop.

If you're one of those fancy plotters who has an outline then just follow the outline and write. If you're a pantser and letting your characters lead the way, then let them lead. It's not your job to question what they're doing, or if that phrase in Latin actually means what you want it to mean. Your characters are like that hard assed teacher you had in middle school. The one who was adamant, and wrong, about just about everything. Your job now, just as it was then, is to smile and politely write down 1 + 1 = 3.

Image courtesy Ohmmy3d at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finally, find yourself a friend or two. If you're on a roll then they'll help you roll faster. If you're stuck and ready to pack it in they'll pull you out of the mud. Whether it's on Twitter using the #NaNoWriMo hashtag or on Facebook with one of the many NaNo groups out there, find a support group and use it (join my NaNoWriMo 2013 group if you want).

There is nothing quite like screaming into the wind when there are a bunch of random people there with some fabulous WIND BUFFING MECHANISMS that will allow your screams to be heard (see what I did there?)



~ Andrew


Sunday, November 3, 2013

NaNoWriMovember 2013

If you read my last post you know that I'm taking on NaNoWriMo again this year. It's been a little more than two full days at this point and I'm already ahead of the curve; building up at least a day's worth of buffer.

There are various strategies for tackling NaNo but the one that appears to work the best is: hit it early and put up some big numbers, then maintain a steady stream throughout. Use the words you've built up to have an off day and recharge the batteries every so often - and then finish strong.

Having failed in 2011 and succeeded in 2012 I can speak to the fact that it's a gruelling contest and at the very least you need to be insanely prepared. Or just prepared. Or just insane.

My stats after two days of NaNoWriMo

If you haven't guessed already, for the next four weeks I'll be focusing on my journey through NaNo and sharing any interesting nuggets I find along the way. It also means that my posts will be a little shorter than usual simply due to the fact that I need those words in my novel. It doesn't matter they'll get edited out later; that's a problem for December.

Writing isn't the only thing I'll be doing in November. It's also the month where I get to listen to my family complain about my facial hair as I don a moustache to help raise awareness for men's health. Movember is an annual event were men from around the world attempt to go all Tom Selleck in an effort to get people to ask, "Why the hell are you growing that sorry-ass moustache?" and then donate money. It's been working out pretty well for the last few years and I'm proud to be a supporter.

I know, I know, the resemblance is uncanny.

So to recap:
  • If you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year try to get ahead early; 
  • use any buffer you can build to take a few breaks; and 
  • finish strong.

Also, if you're a dude, consider growing a moustache and raising some money for men's health. If that's not your thing, or you're a lady looking to support the cause you can find my donation page here: 


Together, we can change the face of men's health - and write books.

~ Andrew



Tom Selleck image courtesy Georges Biard (via Wikipedia Commons)