Prepping the Calendar

As May approaches, I’ve been taking a careful look at my schedule.   With a calendar in front of me, I start circling and marking important days.  Mother’s Day.  My birthday (and it’s a significant one this year).  A guest blog spot for Carina.  My beloved sister’s first Samhain release.

Ask yourself questions.

  • Any school duties this month?  e.g. Princess Monster just finished the science fair at her school (lucky it wasn’t next month)
  • Note when the kids get out of school. 
  • Any major projects that might require overtime for the Evil Day Job?  (Not this time)
  • Do I want to take a few days of vacation?  (yes, need to schedule with my boss)
  • Any dinner dates out?
  • Can I pull together a loose menu plan for at least a couple of weeks?
  • Any family events I have to prepare food for?

If I were writing 50K for May, I’d cross off days with big events and adjust my daily quota accordingly.  To be safe, I’d also give myself a few extra floater vacation days just in case something unexpected comes up.  I try really hard to get a little cushion in the first week, writing 2-2.5K each day, because it’s inevitable.  The glow will fade, the drive will waver, and it’ll be really hard to keep going.

Most importantly, SCHEDULE YOUR WRITING TIME.  Decide now when you’re going to write.  Are you going to get up an hour earlier?  Write over lunch?  Write when the monsters are asleep?  Write in 15 minute chunks throughout the day?

Whatever your life, family, and work schedule, make sure you have time in your personal calendar for writing.  Don’t commit to a huge writing month without figuring out HOW and WHEN you’re going to pull it off.

MayNoWriMo Prep: Baby Steps

My number one goal for May (other than keeping my sanity with all the Coyote Con and MayNoWriMo group stuff to juggle) is a synopsis for a possible follow-up to The Bloodgate Guardian.  That might sound like a small goal (versus writing 50K in one month!), but as I go through my initial notes, it’s going to be quite difficult.

For one thing, the characters I planned to base the second book on are side-characters I’d created in the second incarnation of BGG.  They lived in subplots — they weren’t intended to carry an entire story themselves.  Also, I didn’t have these two characters ending up together, so the romance elements are completely AWOL.

In general, I’m ahead as far as basic character development.  I know Quinn’s backstory and how the story could open for several sections through his POV.  I don’t have as good a handle on Tara, his potential heroine.  The other question that nags me is the paranormal aspect.  In BGG, the hero is a shapeshifter and a Maya priest.  If I don’t do some work, both Quinn and Tara are humans.  As is, their story would be humans vs. demons.  Maybe that’s okay….or maybe I need a new twist.

As May rushes closer and closer at the speed of light despite my huge to-do list and fervent prayers that I’ll get it all done by May 1st, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.  When that happens, I need to step back and make a list.  Break the big insurmountable goal down into baby steps.

Baby steps I can handle.  Huge complex synopsis is beyond me right now.  So here’s my preliminary to-do list of baby steps….

1. Pull Quinn and Tara files from the second incarnation of BGG.  DONE.  (Woo-hoo!  It always feels good to cross something off the list — which is why no step is too small to write down!)

2. Go through second incarnation of BGG and pull all the secondary demon sections.  I had a major shift in bad guys between version 2 and version 3 (the one that is getting published) so I need to at least sketch a possible timeline of the demon’s movements through Texas.

3. Brainstorm some additional paranormal possibilities.  Quinn is very solid in my mind, so I’m considering some new angle with Tara.  This involves making notes, re-reading some of my research for inspiration, and general doodling.  Dedicate a notebook for this brainstorming and keep it in my purse for down moments.

4. Work on the romance.  Why are they meant for each other (when I obviously missed that the first time around!)?  Why are they the worst possible matches for each other?

5. Go through the Emotional Toolbox for each character.

6. Re-evaluate existing plot scenes from #1 and make decisions about what to keep and what must change.  (A butterfly flaps its wings in chapter one and everything past page 10 has to be thrown out.)

7. Write up background and character letters for both characters.  Really explore their past, dark secrets, etc.  Dig!  Ask Why over and over and over.  Go through the Emotional Toolbox again if needed.

Throughout all these steps, I’ll be jotting ideas on note cards.  Not formal scenes, yet, just ideas, so now I can….

8.  Go through notecards and begin discarding defunct ideas and expanding the good ones.  Order.  Streamline.

9.  Write that synopsis!

Writing Fast(er)

This is from a post I wrote up for MayNoWriMo.

Everybody’s writing process is different, so don’t get hung up on the “right
way” to do anything. The trick is to find what works for YOU. You may be a
write-by-the-seat-of-your-flaming-pants writer. Great. Maybe you need to have a few notes written in advance. Maybe the whole thing should be plotted out in gruesome detail. It’s totally up to you.

This is what works for me.

1. At least some plotting. Each of my projects had different needs.
Ironically, the first year (2007) I had a very detailed plot and even created
storyboards for the project, but it required the most work. The second year, I had nothing written down at all — but the entire plot was in my head. I knew exactly how the story would end and just wrote hard to get there. The last year, I had notes, but no detailed plot.

For me, I really need to know the end (what I’m writing to) and a few key spots, but half the fun and glory of writing hard and fast is the discovery, the sense of magic as unexpected bits unfold. So don’t be afraid to just GO.

2. Each day, I start a new file. If I can’t finish the scene, I make notes and
continue that file the next day, but one big WIP file does not work for me when I’m writing fast and hard.

3. No reading back to other days (another reason I use individual files). If I
have questions, feel like I messed up a plot point, or forgot a backpack (inside joke: in Beautiful Death, I kept forgetting to have Isabella bring the backpack with her from scene to scene), I jot a few notes in my notebook, but I KEEP GOING FORWARD.

4. No backtracking or revisions. This is the hardest for me. When I’m writing
leisurely, I always re-read the last day’s work and “polish” it before
continuing. It’s like a pre-edit. But it’s also very tempting to keep
editing/reading instead of writing new words, especially when the going is tough in the story.

But wait, you cry. What if a major plot point needs to change? How can you
keep going?

I open another file (might as well count this toward my words, right?) and type out all my thoughts about the revisions I’ll need to do. I write out all the changes I think I’ll need. Then I continue FORWARD in a new file as though those changes have been made. Writing them out gives me the closure I need to move foward.

5. No cheating. If you read the NaNoWriMo forums, you see people talking about ways to get your word count for the day, like typing song lyrics, or throwing in an exploding goat into the scene (that has nothing to do with your story), etc.  That just doesn’t work for me. I’m a working writer. I’m going to have to revise this steaming pile of poo before I can submit it. Do I really want to have to edit out an exploding goat later?

6. Don’t get hung up on grammar, research, or word choice. I often write a word and then type [word choice?] to indicate that’s not really the word I wanted, but I can’t think of it. MOVE ON. In the Maya story especially, I had lots of [research Chich’en Itza] or [name the pyramid in the made-up city] or [check the spelling of Hunahpu’s name]. MOVE ON. If you’re like me, a five-minute check on the internet turns into checking e-mail, Twitter, etc. and your writing time disappears.

7. Write with focus. I don’t start a project that I know nothing about, I don’t
know where I’m going to submit it, etc. I always — even for the most basic
spaark of an idea — make a “target sheet.” Genre, length, and where I’m going
to submit it. When I’m finished, I don’t always submit it where I expected, but that focus helps keep me on the track toward “the end.” e.g. if I know I’m
targeting romance, then I’d better not kill the hero at the end of the book,
right? ::Ahem, guilty as charged, although I did fix it.::

Any pointers or tips you have to share?

Catching Up

Sorry for the unexpected blog silence!  I’ve been sick this week.  Pretty much all I’ve done for two days is watch movies (Snow White A Tale of Terror, Pan’s Labrinyth, The Invasion, and several others that I’ve already forgotten) and cross-stitch. 

I have a new idea I want very much to document, but I haven’t had the energy to even take a single note yet.  I’m returning to the Evil Day Job tomorrow one way or the other, even if I can’t sleep like last night (cold medicine right before bed really jacked me up).

I feel like April is slipping away and I’m nowhere as prepared for MayNoWriMo as I hoped.  Here I am the “moderator” or “host” for the challenge, and I can’t even get my own act together!  Argh! 

If you’ve searched and found the yahoo group, I haven’t officially opened it yet.  I need to get a few more things in order and I’ll open the group on Friday.  There’s no need to re-apply — I’ll approve the handful that are already in the queue.

The schedule for Coyote Con is really coming together.  You can now register for the events and ask for a ticket to the panels you’re interested in (we have to manage the number of participants in the chat rooms so they don’t crash!).  A few things may change as we juggle everyone’s schedules and commitments, but we’re very close.

This weekend, I need to drag out all my old Maya notes and the subplots that got axed from BGG.  I need to open up a new stack of notecards.  And get busy!!

Please spread the word to your writing groups about Coyote Con and MayNoWriMo!

Coyote Con Live

The website is live and we’ve also got a tentative schedule.  I’m so thrilled that Lynn Viehl, aka Paperback Writer, will be taking questions from the SF/SFR panel and blogging her answers later in the month!  Also Heather Massey and Nathalie Gray will be talking about Steampunk!  woot!

It’s going to be such a great month!

I turned in the blurb sheet for Victor tonight and finished a late critique.  All the MayNoWriMo and Coyote Con stuff has totally derailed me — so it’s a good thing I took the whole month off!  I may not actually get much writing done in May, either, not with all the moderations, guest blog coordination, etc. but it’ll totally be worth it.

I already know what my MayNoWriMo goal will be:  a complete synopsis for Maya #2.  More posts will come this next week about what I need to do to make that goal happen.

MayNoWriMo Guests, Sponsors, Virtual Con

Take a look at the MayNoWriMo page to see the terrific prizes and guest authors who’ll be writing articles of inspiration for us all month. 

We’re also working out the details for a virtual con hosted by Drollerie Press at the same time.  We’ll have live panels in the chat room on topics ranging from worldbuilding to character develop to transformative sex scenes.  Once we finalize the schedule, I’ll link to that information.   If you’re interested in leading a panel for the virtual con, please stop by Drollerie for the details.

If you’d like to donate a prize or write an article as a guest blogger, please drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll get you scheduled.  I’ll link to your article from here as well as the yahoo group to direct traffic to your site throughout the month.

On April 23th, I’ll open the yahoo group for the MayNoWriMo participants so we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other a bit and finalize our goals.

If you have any questions, shout them out in comments.  It’s going to be an incredible month!

Upcoming: MayNoWriMo

I’m thinking about organizing a MayNoWriMo challenge.  No, you don’t have to write 50K in May — but I like the idea of setting a goal and then working my ass off to reach it.  When several people get together and work their asses off to reach their goals, something magical happens.  We can begin to feed on each other’s excitement.  Success breeds success.  Synergy builds. 

We could get a lot done in May if we set our minds to it.

My initial thought involves a temporary yahoo group that is disbanded shortly after the challenge.  Everybody sets a goal for the month.  e.g. Revise 250 pages.  250 words a day.  Write 50K first draft.  Send out 20 queries.  Something.  I don’t care what it is, but it has to be measurable and it should be attainable.

Attainable is key.  Did you know the success rate for NaNoWriMo is something like 10%?  How many people used to sign up for Sweating with Sven and then quietly drop out?  If you need a little extra motivation and encouragement, I think prizes may help us stay the course.

The group list would be for support and checking in.  Everyone who meets their goal will be entered to win a grand prize.  I’m not sure what that prize will be, either a gift certificate, a writing book on craft, a nice journal, etc.  Something along those lines. 

After the celebration at the end of the month, the list will be debanded.  I’ve been on a lot of writing groups over the years, and they’re exciting for a month or two, but then the list kind of dies.  That’s why I’d plan to use the list to have fun, encourage, reach our goals, and then move on.

So what do you think?  Is anyone interested in committing to the challenge?  What kind of prizes would you like to see?

MayNoWriMo: Day 31


Sorry for the screaming, but I’m pretty darned pleased.  If you’d asked me a week ago, I would have been sure I wouldn’t make it.  I just didn’t have any fire left in me.  I was distracted, dismayed, and generally dissastisfied.  But that’s why challenges like this work for me.  I simply can’t stand not meeting that commitment.  If I begin to say to myself that it’s impossible, then I begin to work harder. 

So many times this month I wanted to give up and work on a more fun, exciting, easier, [insert adjective here] project.  I had a bright, shiny new idea that I wanted to tackle.  I had a release, and another in the upcoming month.  I had website pages to update, reviews to hunt down, kids getting out of school….

You name it — I had an excuse for it.  But the challenge kept me on track. 

Almost 10K in two days to finish.  My wrists held up pretty good (although they may be sore tomorrow) — but I’ve been sleeping in my splints all month to be safe.  The story isn’t finished, either, so I guess this craziness continues into June.  However, I sort of wrote myself into a hole today, and I need to decide whether to continue down this path or not.  Lilias learned some key information “too early” for my plot, so now I’ve got to decide what changes, or if it’s feasible to keep her in the dark.  I like having smart characters that act — and not stupid characters that sit around waiting for someone to give them a clue — so I think I’ll be tweaking my stupid outline yet again.  :wink::roll:


No rest for the weary!  Anybody up for a JuNoWriMo???

50,368 / 100000

MayNoWriMo: Day 30

Wow, I never thought I’d be this close!  Today I got an incredible amout of work done, thanks in part to getting up somewhat early while the rest of the family snoozed the morning away.  I had 3,494 words before they got up!  Then I had another late afternoon session while the monsters played on the blow-up water slide (1020 words), and then while watching TV tonight, I chipped away at the scene and wrapped it up, bringing my day’s total up to 5,833 (this does include some words from last night too but I didn’t make an update so I threw them together).

MayNoWriMo total: 46,233.  Only 3767 to go!

46,233 / 100000

I’m too tired to pull up a snippet. Tomorrow is church and laundry, while the monsters are also wanting to go swimming over at Aunt BB and Uncle J’s apartment complex. It would be heavenly if That Man would take them and let me stay home….

Don’t hold your breath.