Friday, November 27, 2009

You finished NaNoWriMo, now what?

It’s revising time!

You’ve won NaNoWriMo. Wow. Now you have 50-70K words of...what?

Something...maybe something good; but rough, cluttered, inconsistent, even embarrassing in places--not something you can do much with...yet.

The next step is to revise. But where do you start? How do you do it? What do you focus on?

Here are three books that will help to answer these questions and more:

Revision And Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

This book rocks.

Scott begins with twelve chapters on core story elements you should check and enhance while editing, including Characters, Plot & Structure, Scenes, Dialogue, etc. He then offers three chapters of advice on the process, and finishes with “The Ultimate Revision Checklist” which runs 39 pages and provides a structured walkthrough of everything discussed previously.

This had the most influence on my revision process and has some really good advice, and a sound theory of fiction that can be used for plotting, outlining and writing in general.


The only downside: much of the info in this is duplicated in his other book Plot & Structure, so you really don’t need both.

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

This is a series of workshop-style exercises that can be used to revise a manuscript (and are also good in the formative stages to solidify an outline). It covers things like multidimensional characters, inner conflict, stakes, complications, subplots, fixing low tension scenes, and pitching your completed work among others.

These exercises are a good bridge between a 1st draft and a second draft, and most of them assume you have a finished manuscript to use in the exercise. They also compliment (and have a slightly different flavor from) his book: Writing the Breakout Novel, which I also recommend.


The downside? It will take while to get through the exercises, and another read-through and draft will be needed to pull the vivisected novel back together again, though it will be much stronger. Second, his other book: The Fire in Fiction is mostly redundant information.

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

This book has some great tips and techniques for focusing in on character, layering in depth. Especially for NaNoWriMo works, going back and taking another pass to expand, enhance and evaluate the characters will make a rough story a strong novel. This book has good tools to make characters multidimensional, dynamic and to help portray emotions in more subtle, engaging ways.

This is also good for general theory, as well as a reference to use during the planning/outlining phase.

There you have it, three ways to turn your NaNoWriMo productivity into a novel you can be proud of.

Status -- November 27, 2009

Slow week for writing -- going through the motions, but focused on family and medical stuff. However, have some good news: Made finalist in the St. Martin’s Press “New Adult” submissions contest sponsored by #YAlitchat.

What this means is that a) I won a book (wahoo!) and b) St. Martin’s will be looking at a partial. As a fringe benefit, I have come into contact with several other aspiring authors in the YA and New Adult markets, and had a referral to an agent who asked to see a full.

Other news:
- Beta Readers have their packets and are reading.
- 2 rejections on short stories.
- 1 new short story 50% done.
- Brainstorming on next project.
- Set up files for next draft of ZPF.
- Having great fun playing Modern Warfare 2.
- Spending way too much time on-line shopping.

That’s it for now. Plan to post some articles for NaNoWriMo authors, and get more short fiction out the door.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Status -- November 15, 2009

Finished 3rd draft yesterday!

Ordered Beta-Reader copies today.

Beta’s should see something Thanksgiving week or right after.


  • clean up metrics
  • eradicate defunct files
  • list a few odds and ends that I will want if I do a 4th draft.
  • Ping Beta’s to verify they are still interested, and how deep they want to go.
  • Draft checklist for Beta’s (3 page for casuals, page-per-chapter for those going deep = 47 pages, + the basic 3 = 50 pages).
  • Query another batch of agents.
  • Wait to hear from the agents who have already asked for fulls.
  • Outline next book
  • Send out short fiction
  • Write some new short fiction
  • Relax a little. Actually this is the top of the list.

Will continue writing fiction every day, and will continue blogging about it here, as well as tracking what happens with ZPF.

Monday, November 9, 2009

If Not For the Day Job

I want to talk about Day Jobs. Day Jobbery as Mr. Lake likes to say. There are some sharp differences between Full Time Writers and Day Jobbers. Let’s examine some of those.

It’s hard watching full time writers through blogs and Twitter--they get so much done in just a few days...and they squander so many hours on silly crap. Often, I think to myself, “If only I had the luxury of that much time...I could draft a book in month. I could finish a book in three. A couple years of that pace and I would have at least a few successful books out there.”

The implicit assumption here is that I would be a more successful writer If Not For the Day Job. But is this true?

Basically, I spend the majority of my time and mental energy in a different field, trading time and talent for a paycheck. The money is nice. There are other benefits as well. But is it worth it?

Let’s examine the merit or lack thereof of writing full time, vs. writing in addition to another profession. I will look at several factors:
  • Writing/Productivity

  • Experience/Knowledge

  • Interesting Characters


Full Time Writers get to set their own schedule. They can spend hours, days, weeks researching. They can put in enough hours to finish any size project in a reasonable amount of time. They have the luxury (advantage?) of completing a project while the passion and the core of the idea are still fresh in their minds. Best of all, they can produce several books in a year.

As a part time writer, it takes weeks to get simple revisions done. Months to get a draft done. Years to finish a single book. At this point, it would appear that all the cards are stacked in favor of the full time writer.


Full Time Writers are versed in writing. Any other knowledge comes primarily from other books...research. For the most part they have little experience or in-depth knowledge outside of writing, especially those who wiled away their education on BFAs and MFAs (though sometimes those beloved souls can string pretty words together...all in a row).

Day Jobbers bring all the experience and knowhow of their profession to the table. Take my Day Job for example. I am versed in a profession, a culture, multiple technologies, and I am plugged into emerging trends and technologies as they happen...not months or years after the fact when it’s captured in a book. However, this depth will only be in one field, one facet of life. For the rest, Day Jobbers have to find time to do the research, and having less time available, the advantage seems to go to the FTW again.

Interesting Characters

Full time writers work alone. They may meet interesting people, but only the social butterflies really do much of this, and most writers tend to be a bit on the introverted side.

Day Jobbers are surrounded daily by fascinating, quirky, ridiculous, and sometimes ridiculously intelligent people. All of whom are fodder for characters and interesting studies in human nature and interaction.

Having a day job puts a writer into slow motion, but there appear to be many advantages to Day Jobbery. I don’t see either path as being the ‘best’ as both have advantages and disadvantages.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Status -- November 8, 2009


76% complete on proof-reading/polishing

1st set of queries sent to agents:
- 4 responses back so far:
-> 2 rejects (waah)
-> 2 requests for full manuscript (yay!)

The Bad:

As I predicted, life has tossed a few curve balls. Day job is up to ~60 hours/week and will be for another week or two. This burns time, energy and creativity. So that’s slowing things down.

I also opted to do another draft...a polishing draft. Doing line-edits on hardcopy: catching typos, eliminating extraneous words, reordering sentences for greater impact, etc. Sentence level stuff. In preparing material for the queries, I found a few embarrassing typos, and noticed a lot of extra words and other minor problems that jumped out at me when I read printouts. Figured I better do that for the whole thing. Luckily, this kind of editing goes much faster than writing, so I’m 76% through it, but the process is trending toward two weeks to complete.

This means next weekend for assembling the beta-reader version (was shooting for today--waah). A bit later than I hoped, but still have a chance to get them out by Thanksgiving.

The Good:

I’ve started marketing the book. First volley of queries went out at the end of October. So far, two agents have asked to see the full manuscript--very encouraging. For those of you not in the business, let me explain:

Getting an agent doesn’t get the book published, but an agent can get the book in front of interested publishers significantly faster than an author can, which greatly accelerates the process. In addition, agents will generally be able to negotiate a more favorable deal. So, an agent seems like a good idea.

What does it mean to have an agent or publisher request the full manuscript? Well, the hierarchy is like this: query->partial->full. Partial = synopsis + three chapters. Full = the whole book. A request for partial is a lukewarm response, the person hasn’t ruled you out, but doesn’t want to spend too much time on you. On the other hand, a request for ‘full’ implies stronger interest, as in “This project looks interesting enough that I’ll take a few hours to read your book.”

Having a request for full is exciting. Having multiple requests for full is very encouraging. Having those requests come in right away is mind blowing. I’ll know in a month or two if any of them want to represent it. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Zombie Survival -- RMA Recommended Training Video

Your survival may depend on being prepared, and understanding how to survive a zombie incursion. The kind researchers at Danger 50000 Volts have prepared this helpful video (in 3 parts) to help enhance your chances of surviving the outbreak:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Refugee Management Admin: Fence Data

Standards based on Refugee Management Administration data collected from camps 7, 15, 23-31, and 42

Barbed wire:
  • #of active zombies: 6-10
  • Time to penetrate: < 15 minutes.
  • Note: 1-2 will often slip through prior to fence failure.

Wood plank from the outside (against flats and posts):
  • #of active zombies: 15-20
  • Time to penetrate: 8-12 hours
  • Note: Once failure condition exists (individual flats destroyed), total failure occurs in < 1 hour.

Wood plank from the inside:
  • #of active zombies: 2+
  • Time to penetrate: < 15 minutes.
  • Note: Active dead quickly dislodge individual flats.

Chain link from outside (against link and posts)
  • #of active zombies: 50-100
  • Time to penetrate: 48+ hours (governed by arrival rate)
  • Note 1: this assumes proper installation of posts: 36” depth with 8” poured footer.
  • Note 2: penetration results from mob topping fence (utilizing ramp formed of other zombies).

Chain link from inside (pushing link away from posts):
  • #of active zombies: 15-20
  • Time to penetrate: 12-16 hours
  • Note: standard chainlink is mounted to the posts by wire or clips at a small number of points. These points break under modest pressures, causing failure by separation of chainlink from posts. RMA recommends reinforcement by 1/2 inch cable at 24 and 48 inches to prevent separation.

Wrought Iron Bars
  • #of active zombies: 75-100
  • Time to penetrate: 48+ hours (governed by arrival rate)
  • Note 1: this assumes proper installation of posts: 36” depth with 8” poured footer.
  • Note 2: penetration results from mob topping fence (utilizing ramp formed of other zombies).

Note that recommended fencing types and installation methods resist breakthrough, but not overtopping by large mobs of dead. RMA recommendation is to clear fence line daily.