Month: October 2011

NaNoWriMo 201 – Enough for 50,000 Words?

November. NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow.

You have a plan, picked direct from the last post. On to the story.

Wait, not sure on the story yet? Oh dear.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Still debating on a few story ideas, but how do I know if my story will last 50000 words? 

—Jansen Wheeler, Boca Raton, Fla.

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 196-year history, only three have claimed the prize.)

Simplest way: use one of your monthly time-travel teleports to zip to December and find out.

If you don’t want to burn one of those, try a few of these handy-dandies.

Summary time:

“Oh, yeah, it’s about (something something soooomething yeah).” If you can sum it up neatly within 10 seconds or in a simple sentence, you may be in trouble. Pull an anti-Inception here: the simplest, rawest form of the idea is not what you need. A two-second, five-word summary might not be enough concentrate, bub. But a two-paragraph, five-minute presentation of a summation? Maybe.

Digressive potential: 

While I normally discourage the abuse of this, NaNoWriMo isn’t about quality. If your narrative is too compact, loosed up the threads a bit. Writing Sci-Fi? Come on, Sci-Fi is nothing but digression. You can spend 10,000 words on why bipolar tachyon vortices work in prehistoric vacuums, but not in postpositive bended reality. Add a <tech> tag and move on. Same with fantasy. Spells, potions, the Codex Magicus, arcane histories, backstory that won’t advance the narrative: it will advance you to the finish line.

Characters: 

Quick: name the longest Charles Dickens novel, then name the Dickens novel with the most characters. Yep, it’s the same one. Then you have The Tale of Genji, featuring over four hundred characters. It’s long enough to win you NaNoWriMo for half a year. Point being: stick in enough characters to consume 50,000 words worth of treatment.

Flashbang flashbacks:

Did you know that, according to science, we humans spend up to 27% (!) of our day either rehashing the past, reminiscing, or dwelling on things we’ve done in the past? NaNoWriMo doesn’t care if you drive the narrative into a temporal ditch to go back in time and give your story some story-behind-the-story. Same thing with looking forward. Dreams and ideals to come are part of our existence. Feel free to imbue the narrative with the same. Give it the time trifecta.

Any other handy-dandies work for you?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and probed for more NaNoWriMo nectar during the month.

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NaNoWriMo 101 – Writing Plans

November.

Depending on where you live, autumn’s in full swing, or it’s already murdered by winter. Depending on where you live, Thanksgiving. Not shaving. Black Friday. Day of the Dead. No more baseball. Guy Fawkes. Native American. Leonids meteors. No more pink NFL gear. Lava fest. Beluga caviar smuggling. Taco Pizza Day. Week of walking on your hands. Anti-hiccup awareness.

November to writers: NaNoWriMo. I needn’t say more.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo? Because I want to know how you plan to finish. I wish I could say I’ve gotten to 50,000 words, but I haven’t. The closest I got was 32,809. Is there a sure fire way to reach that hallowed mark of 50k? 

—Brandy Ferris, Kent Acres, Del.

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 196-year history, only three have claimed the prize.)

Most important thing about a competition of words: numbers. 50,000 is a big African elephant to swallow. Most choke on the trunk right away, but even if you successfully engorge that much, you’re still not going to cram down the elephant’s head, tusks, and feet. Come now, everyone knows you can’t eat an elephant in a day all by yourself. Even if you chop it to eat over the month, you realize, “Wait, I’ve got ears for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and this hindquarters is way too much for the week. It’s gonna go bad before I can finish it. Better bring the neighbors over…”

Yeah. Reduce it all you want, but you’re still not planning. You can win that $50,000 if you have a concrete plan.

By the numbers:

November: 30 days. Requirement: 50,000 words. Words per day: 1,666.66 (need 2/3 of a word there).

Easy? If it were easy, then everyone would win. At this point in the blog, I’ve only got 363 words. Only 22% of goal, and I’ve been writing for hours.

By the plans:

The People’s Daily — 1,666ish words per day, every day, without fail. Rain, shine, beetles, brine.

Recommended if you’re single, unemployed, insomniac, or live the same kind of boring life day in and out. It’s the most straightforward, but I hope you’re cozy with monotony, because this plan is like superannuated mice. Really old, really quick.

The Weekend Wartortle — 5000 words per Saturday/Sunday, and 455 words per weekday.

Recommended for those who, like everyone in the known universe, work a Monday-Friday, 8 to 5. Minor quota for the day, with generous allowances for the weekend. Keeps you sharp, lets you avalanche on your days off.

The Weekend Warhalla — 6,250 words per weekend day. No weekdays.

Recommended for sissies who think they’re too busy during the week. Enjoy eating one-fourth of the elephant each weekend.

The Weekend Liberator — 2,273 words per weekday. No weekends.

Recommended for those who will go insane during the week to regain sanity during the weekend.

The Stay-at-Home Mom Who One Day Wants to Write a Novel — 1,000 words per weekday, and 7,000 words per one weekend day.

Recommended for, well, stay-at-home moms. You can squeeze 1,000 words in between naptimes, feedings, and when the tots are glued to Croelius and the Barnyard Gang DVDs. And when your spouse comes home, even better, as he can watch the kids while you finish off the quota. He’ll sign on, of course, since you’re not “writing all the time” with your one weekend day break. That gives him the liberty to wash the car, ride motorcycles with his buds, and do all that “guy stuff” you hate guys doing. But hey, you’ll be finishing a novel. 

The Prime Number — 1,667 words per day.

Recommended for math geeks who have to write a prime number of words per day. Convenient.

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — 1,000 words (and change) when in your right mind, 666 when you’ve undergone a hideous transformation.

Recommended for lycanthropes, sufferers of personality shift, menacing dissociative disorders, and other folks with terrorizing transformative tendencies.

The Micromanager — 140 words per hour, for twelve hours per day.

Recommended for people who really have to break it down into digestible chunks. 140 words per hour? That’s like a really big tweet every hour, on the hour. Trade in your mindless tweets every minute for mindless writing every 60 minutes, and you’ll be a winner in no time. Well, in 30 days no time.

The Procrastinatorsaurus Rex — 12,500 words for the last weekend in November, followed by about 8,334 words for the last three days in November.

Recommended for people who don’t get around to doing this until Thanksgiving weekend.

The Daily Double — Write one word on November 1st, then write double that (2 words) for the next day, then double the previous day’s amount (write 4 words) the next day, then 8 words the next day, then 16 words, then 32, and so on.

Recommended for people who don’t understand the concept of compound interest or a geometric series. But the bonus here is that while you’ll have over 17,000+ words to go on November 15th, you’ll be 15,000+ words over the goal on November 16th. Oh yeah. Math works miracles for writing.

What’s your plan?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and probed for more NaNoWriMo nectar during the month.

Writing Group Therapy

The writer’s best resources are the silence, the space to think, and the brass to put aside the need for coddling and constructive criticism. Meeting with other writers? Good idea, right? Not when it devolves into forcible agony of niceness, curling up in little balls, and coming out of the shell only when someone “plays nice” to you with your sorry writing. What should be a session of iron warring against iron becomes a farce, with many instead buying expensive light coffees, presenting mindless compliments, and tying cute little bows on pellets of turd.

This is how writing groups make you weak, your craft anemic.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Hi Mr. All Wrong,

What do you suggest by way of writing groups? I make it a point to share my writing snippets with fellow authors, but I have a hard time telling whether its productive or not. It’s like we don’t see eye to eye on much. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fun, but how do you get the most out of writing groups?

—Lauren Worley, Tigard, Ore.

Writing groups are like packs of dogs, wolves, or other assorted canids (like the flying blacktooth wilburfox). You have a ragtag group of followers under one alpha dog. But in writing groups, the alpha dog sticks his tail between his or her legs and starts acting like the omega dog, placating others and conceding far too much authority (“Oh, I love how your hero marries the heroine in the end! So romantic!”), shelving what needs to be said for what people want to hear.

Writing groups exist because most writers feel the need for validation and attention by leeching off of others who are just as needy for the same. Weak cycle is weak. In nature, your bad writing doesn’t deserve to be validated. Its jugular would be bitten, broken, shaken, torn out, and spat upon with bloody spittle. If your group is nothing but a therapy session, break out the wolf and make necessary edits as nature intended.

For starters, sniff out the natural alpha dog. This will be the person people look up to as the “most helpful writer,” probably the only one who forces a smile when he says, “That pioneer romance is a splendid idea! The saloon scene is so realistic and gritty.” They probably don’t have glaring errors in their writing, but if they’re letting this group continue, then you need to assert your dominance for the good of the pack.

Next, press the paw down on some throats:

“That story sucks. The narrative is trite, the characters wooden, and you use more clichés than would gag a whale shark. And you with the medieval fantasy? Can it. Fill up the moat with dirt and ransack that castle. That insipid mage bores me, and he’s going to put a sleeping spell on your reader if your reader was dumb enough to read this in the first place.”

Dominance acquired. If the pack leader moves to defend his mediocre sicklings, strike down his spineless writing and equally spineless leadership. Doesn’t matter if the people in Starbucks stare at you. You’re part of a revolution here. Defending the weak by keeping them weak is weak. That’s got to go. It might take a dozen well-placed stabs to their trachea with your No-Fat Chai Tea Skinny Latte straw, but it must be done.

As pack leader, you mustn’t tolerate this weak writing business. Either shape them up, or shape them out. Those who remain weak, discard. No more No-Milk Light Mocha Crappés at your table. Those who toughen up, embrace with firmness. They’ve submitted, but they must follow you in strength, forsaking needless coddling, striving to be better writers in their own right.

A cycle of strength to strength. That’s what you want in a group. Writers who go on to make other packs of strength. Writers who challenge your dominance. Writers who won’t object to punching holes in your throat when you start saying that someone’s flaccid noodle of a derivative mystery narrative is “ok.” Writers who will be violently honest.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and spotted in a forest leading a feared pack of writing wolves.

They’re Their There. There!

On a rare day, you’ll find that the heavens open and bequeath to the earnest petitioner a gift long awaited. Or maybe it’s just a gift of opportunity, whether it be your neighbors leaving their house keys in plain sight as they leave for vacation, or the ATM sticking out a tongue of $20 bills, or the person next door forgetting to secure their MegaBoost WiFi network.

(Cue transition to writing mistake that hasn’t been made yet.)

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Any good ideas on submitting a good query letter to a publisher? Its like their not interested in any submissions unless there already from published authors. How do you break that Catch-22 of not being published until you have publishing experience and getting publishing experience without being published? [italics added]

—Johnathon Larimer, Cleveland, Ohio.

There we have it. The gift of opportunity. If only we had a misplaced they’re in there, we’d cash in on a rare trifecta.

Good ideas on query letters? Later. You need a clinic in they’re/there/their — as do many, many others. I may even break out Grubthar’s grammar to exact avengeance on the matter.

They’re: Means they are. Through a marriage of convenience through contraction, we get two words for the price of one. Best way not to screw this up? If you’ve written they’re there and can’t substitute it for they are, then you are doing it wrong.

“I like me some MacDonalds; they’re fries are cheap.” = “they are fries are cheap.”

(Geebus, as you can see, this one takes particular thick-headedness to bungle. But one can never underestimate the thickness of thick-headedness.)

Their: Possessive. Has a quality of belongingness. Consider your parents’ house: if it isn’t theirs, it’s mine. Selfish? Nope. You forfeited that right when you decided that “ain’t noone gonna try learnin’ me English.”

Hint: their comes before their stuff, nouns, substantives, “whatev.” Their spoiled foie gras. Their mistress. Their eyebleed pink. Their night serum. Their dwarfslave. Could it be your crap instead? If so, no. It’s their crap. Get it right.

There: Linguists and erudite snobs call this an adverb.

There is often a place, nothing specific. It also includes places in time.

“’He touched me there, Your Honor.’ He stopped there, too broken to continue.”

Or it’s meant for attention-getting or attention directing.

“Hey there little guy, wanna have some candy with me? It’s in my back seat. Hop in!”

Plenty more than that, but if you remember not to step on the toes of they’re/their, you’re good.

Bonus!

Theyre: Uncommon, used in place of there in reference to British things predating the year 1785 or something.

“Looke at these olde gravestones theyre. Thys’un’s of me greate granmum. An there’s me mum’s. An there’s myne.”

Tharr: Pirate for there. Elongate for emphasis.

Tharrrrr be plenty o’ booty for the lot of ye!”

Thur: Only used in reference to “gettin’ crunk at the club.”

“<*~_~*>>> ITS ON AND WE FITTIN’ TO DROP IT ~ GETTIN’ CRUNK AT THE CLUB RIGHT THUR! <<<¡~_~!>

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and gotten crunk’d at your nearest book club right thur. 

Lame Shame Name Games

Nomenclature: it means “something about names.” Names may seem a small part of the narrative, but naming conventions will either be undercurrents of appropriate accentuation or they’ll be the proverbial cracks in rusted armor.

Names done well will be fitting, poignant, maybe even memorable. Done like an amateur, and you’ll have oft-repeated, repugnant eyesores, infecting your vision like an oozing gnat assaulting your eyeball. Small, yes, but annoying unto disgrace if you can’t get those little things right.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I feel like I can tell a good story, but I want to take it to the next level by picking some memorable names for my characters. I don’t want to make them too cliché, but I think stronger writers have a knack for picking the “right” name. Any suggestions?

—Ethan Fritz, King of Prussia, Pa.

It’s not every day that I receive an email from royalty, much less the King of Prussia himself. I’d be happy to offer my suggestions, fealty, and remaining serfs upon my property, my lord. If you have a knighthood to spare, hit me up. I’ve always wanted to brand out as Sir Writing All Wrong, First Regent of LeBaronshire.

Speaking of LeBaron, here are some suggested considerations when it comes to naming.

1: Don’t name characters where they shouldn’t be named.

Pick a name fitting for the space and time.

“‘T’was a blighte upon my honour,’ quip’d Kraysheawn Denarius.” — Wrong.

(Blatant disregard for the respective era. Don’t do that.)

“Rusty ‘Big Jim’ McDigger pranced out of the salon feeling like a new man.” — Wrong.

(Unless he went into the salon with a shotgun, I don’t think people named Rusty ‘Big Jim’ frequent those sorts of places. Not sure about the prancing.)

“The Reverend Alburt Stuffedcrust preached long and hard upon fornication.” — Wrong.

(Alburt works, but Stuffedcrust is pushing credulity. Sounds too yummy.)

“‘I need those documents and reports now!’ demanded Janice Malarkey.” — Right.

(Not too gimmicky, and [no offense to Janices] I can see myself being bossed around by a Janice. The high-heel fits.)

2: You’re not strong enough to go generic.

Don’t try the cutesy trick of “letting the story make the character.” Lame name, lame game.

“He couldn’t find his way to the ever enigmatic Brandon Fields.” — Wrong.

(Wait, maybe “Brandon Fields” is a place. If I have to ask, then you’ve failed.)

“Sarah Palmer cast her eyes upon the gazing shore.” — Wrong.

(Almost had me at “gazing shore.” Forgot to dismiss another bland name here.)

“No man could stand up to Brawn Davis.” — Wrong.

(Unacceptable, with “Brawn” placing 5th on the Top 10 Baby Boy Names of 2011.)

“The target, O’Higgins Brodansky, had eluded the best agents of P.O.R.T.O.P.O.T.T.I. with ease.” — Right.

(Can’t argue with ‘Brodansky,’ bro.)

3: Don’t get too cheesed away either.

If it’s too easy and too cheesy, you fail both tests. F-minus-minus. EZ-Cheez™ is not for writing. Save it for the pork rinds.

“Marlin Fisher reeled in the biggest tuna of the millennium.” — Wrong.

(Too easy, unless Marlin really wanted to be a doctor, only to have his dad replace his hands with fishing poles to limit his career choice to his unfortunate namesake.)

“The horse just couldn’t break Helena Montana.” — Wrong.

(Helena’s a big place. You’re gonna need a bigger horse.)

“Slow day in the meat locker for Butch Cleaver.” — Wrong.

(If Butch is a fishmonger, he can be forgiven. Since he’s not, then no. And why is poor Butch hanging out in a meat locker? Is he really hanging? *gasp* Is this a butcher shop run by cannibals?)

“Anyone hiring Jim Bob Deadfield knew they were getting the best assassin clown in the business.” — Right.

(I have difficulty fathoming the scarier component of this: a hitman named “Jim Bob” or a clown surnamed “Deadfield.” It’s too convenient, and it’s just right.)

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and appointed 5th Duke of Haruld’s Regentistry, Baronet.