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#NaNoWriMo is coming to end…what to do next?

At the end of November many writers will have 50k words, or close too it. Some will have completed a novel. Others will be close to completion. Most will need a long nap. Writing 2k every day can be exhausting, especially when the words are forced or not flowing. Producing that kind output is a full time job when many of those participating in NaNo have other jobs and families, its even more exhausting.

So now that it’s almost over, what do you do next? Most of the advice I see out there is to take a break. While I think that is an excellent idea, I think there is one thing you should do before you set aside your NaNo project. I suggest you make an outline of what you think you just wrote. Your mind has been in constant thought, producing word after word. Its time to see if those words make sense.

When I wrote Rekindled during NaNoWriMo, as soon as I was done, I took out a notebook and started labeling pages. One was for Hero. Another for the Heroine. I had a page for the best friend and ex-girlfriend’s romance. I had a page for the dead father. A page for the hero’s boss and the hero’s mother and their relationship. I had a page for the heroine’s best friend. A page for dead father’s best friend who is holding a lot of the secrets tying all the above people together. I had a page for the bad guys who were tying to kill the Heroine. Finally, I had a page for the plot line. I jotted down what I thought I knew about what I wrote WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE MANUSCRIPT. I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about what I had just written.

Then, I took a break. I didn’t work on that manuscript at all, though I thought about it and I keep a notebook with me, jotting things down.

Next, I printed it out and sat in a big comfy chair with my feet up and just read it. This was the hardest part. I didn’t allow myself a red pen. I forced myself to stay away from the computer. I did however give myself permission to take notes. They were mostly questions, like “why did I write that scene in that point-of-view?” or “who really is Kaylee’s father?” That question really hit me hard because I hadn’t planned for Kaylee to have a different biological dad than the one who raised her and who had been murdered, but it was my subconscious at work, so I had to figure it out. This process was very difficult, but very important in understanding what my brain had done while I was busy tossing words onto the page to meet my word count.

After I had gone through the manuscript, I had to make some difficult decisions. Many of my scenes were written in the wrong point of view. So they had to be changed. I had to delete two point of view characters. Also, the reason Kaylee had come home in the beginning of the book wasn’t the reason I had been working of off halfway through the book.

I honestly was so confused by middle of December I felt like I almost had to start all over again. So, I took a deep breath and went back to basics. I asked myself what the Kernel Idea was for this book. I wrote that down and one sentence gave me a lot of direction, but I still had a lot of rewriting to do, but it went much smoother after that.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

#Nanowrimo Point of View and Voice

After many years of writing and teaching novel writing, I firmly believe that perspective or point of view is the number one style problem for most writers.  It is also one of the easiest problems to correct with a bit of awareness of both the problem and possible solutions.  For the sake of simplicity, in this chapter I will stick with the term point of view, although it is interchangeable with perspective.

When considering how to tell your story, the first thing you have to do is select a point of view.  This may be the most critical decision you have to make.  Often the type of story you are writing will clearly dictate the point of view, but a good understanding of the various modes of presentation is essential because this is one area where beginning novelists often have problems.  They may select the right point of view, but it is often used poorly because of a lack of understanding of the tool itself.

Regardless of which point of view (or points of view) you choose to use, there is one thing you must have: you as the author must have a good feeling about the point of view with which you are telling the story.  If you don’t have a warm and fuzzy about that, this confusion will most definitely be translated to the reader.  Remember, ultimately, point of view is your voice as a writer.

Some people write like an MTV music video:  point of view flying all over the place, giving glimpses into each character but never really keeping the reader oriented.  I say this because the best analogy I can give for point of view is to look at it as your camera.  You as author are the director:  you see and know everything in your story.  But the reader only sees and knows what the camera records:  the point of view you choose.  You must always keep that in mind.  You see the entire scene, but your lens only records the words you put on the page and you have to keep your lens tightly focused and firmly in hand.

The key term to know, like a director, is the word ‘cut’.  A cut in film terminology is when the camera is either a) stopped, then restarted later, or b) stopped and another camera is then used.  To a writer, a cut is a change in point of view.  In an MTV music video, you can go about three seconds before having to ‘cut’.  Robert Altman, in the beginning of The Player, uses an extremely long single camera sequence before the first cut– another reason to watch the film.

The most critical thing to remember about point of view is that you have to keep the reader oriented.  The reader has got to know from what point of view they are viewing the scene.  Lose that and you lose the reader.  Thus, as with everything else, there is no wrong point of view to write in, or even mixture of point of views to write in, but it is wrong to confuse the reader as to the point of view through which they are ‘seeing’ the story.

Take the camera point of view a bit further.  When directors do a scene, they immediately look into a viewfinder and watch the recording of the take.  They do this because, although they saw what happened, they have to know what the camera recorded.  As an author, you have to get out of your own point of view as the writer and be able to see what you write as the reader sees it.

  • What is reality?  What someone perceives it to be.
  • Thus there is no ONE reality.
  • So your choice of point of view taints reality.
  • In real life, POV is different perspectives on a situation.
  • 3 people see an event, three different POVs.

In writing, POV is the author’s choice of the perspective through which the story is told.

  • 3 people see an event, we only get the POV the author chooses to show it through.
  • Or three different POVs that conflict.

Which is real?

What point of view do you think you’ve written your manuscript in?

What is Communication?

  • The primary goal of communication is to evoke a response.
  • Thus the receiver of the communication is more important than the sender.
  • Thus, the sender needs to take the point of view of the person the message is intended for.
  • We are transmitting both logic and emotion.
  • We are transmitting on the conscious and subconscious levels.
  • We are externalizing something internal.
  • Receiving a message correctly is also key.
  • Figuring out what someone is really trying to transmit is a critical skill.

Written Communication

  • Writing makes things real.
  • We speak differently than we write.
  • Think like the reader.
  • Less is better.
  • Writing is the only art form that isn’t sensual.
  • Signifies responsibility.
  • It’s in the public domain.
  • Gets it out of your head into the real world.
  • Don’t qualify; say what you mean and say it simply.
  • Organize research records.
  • Information that can’t be accessed is useless.

Controlling the Camera

Who Is Telling The Story?

You are. But whose voice does the reader ‘hear’ when they read?

You are getting a story that is alive in your head, into the reader’s head, through the medium of the printed word.

The POV you choose is the format of that medium.

The Camera

  • POV is the camera through which the story is recorded.
  • All that counts is what is recorded.
  • Get out of your head and focus on the camera and what the reader ‘sees’.
  • A shift in POV is a shift in the camera=a cut.

A Cut

  • You stop the camera, restart the same one in a new time and/or place.
  • You stop the camera, go to a new camera.  Can be same place (head-hopping) or a new time and/or place (a new point of view character).
  • Or you as the author control the camera and can go anywhere and any time you want (omniscient point of view).

Can you say what your book is about in 25 words or less?

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

Ready, Set, #NaNoWriMo

The first time I heard of NaNoWriMo was back in 2004. I had only been writing for about year, but was struggling with my process. The more I learned, the harder writing became and I thought that maybe if I could go back to the good old days where I didn’t know anything about novel structure, plotting, GMC, character arc, turning points, emotional plot points, yadda, yadda, yadda, things would get “easier”…enter NaNoWriMo.

I had an idea for a book. My first thought (what Bob would call a Kernel idea) What if you’re x-wife returned to town on the same day her father was murdered and you’re job was to arrest her? I had nothing else. No backstory. No setting. Not even a single character name. I knew nothing about the story other than my hero was a cop, the heroine had runaway years ago, came back, and found her father’s body in the front hallway, dead. Normally I’d spend a month or two talking out the plot, the characters, doing research, writing “false starts’ and getting a feel for the story, but NaNoWriMo was about to start. Everyone was doing it and my critique partners at the time challenged the “plotter” of the group to write from the seat of her pants.

RekindledSo I did. I wrote almost 65,000 words in one month. Not bad. I produced a book, Rekindled. This year I’m unofficially participating. I’m finishing up book 3 in the New York State Trooper Series, which will be out by the end of this year, but I’m also starting to plot and write a new book. I’ll be heading down to Write on the River to start work on the new book.

I think NaNoWriMo is great for writers. Check out the #nanowrimo hastag on twitter. It creates an energy that is contagious. Writer’s cheering each other on. Encouraging each other to continue, push forward and write through the blocks. We measure our progress through word count, so it makes sense to set a word count goal each day, and work toward it. But there is more to a book than word count.

When I did NaNoWriMo, I tossed my personal writing playbook out the window. I started off real strong, writing sometimes 4k words in one sitting. I never looked back, keep pushing forward. No matter how hard it was. Not matter how much I felt like not writing, I sat down and typed. I was going to complete NaNoWriMo no matter what. I kept writing. It was draining me, but anyone who knows me well, knows when I’m challenged and determined, there is no stopping me. I’m a finisher. Ever see the movie Turner and Hooch with Tom Hanks? There is a scene in that movie where he goes to the Vet’s house and she had been painting, but was done for the night, with the walls half done! How could she not finish what she started? Tom just picks up the brush and decides the job must be finished. That’s me. I start something, got to finish it. No matter what.

When 01 December rolled around I had written THE END. I was exhausted. My brain had no concept of what I had just written, but I had completed the goal—write at least 50k. I never took my eye off that prize. I made a goal, and I completed the goal.

It took me two weeks before I could even look at a keyboard and a screen. I printed the manuscript out and started reading. I knew I would have some revisions, but what I found out was that my process had changed drastically.

I learned that every writer has to find the writing process that works for them and the only way to do that is to be willing to re-evaluate the way you do things and try something different.

Nanowrimo coverIn honor of Nanowrimo month, Cool Gus has put together a Nanowrimo Survival kit at a discount:  three books in one at a big discount (over 50% off buying them individually).  We’re only going to run this special for November, then we’ll be taking it down.

The Novel Writers Toolkit which is how to write the book.

Write It Forward which is how to be a professional author and build a career using my Who Dares Wins concept.

And How We Made Our First Million on Kindle which is about negotiating the world of digital publishing.

Write It Forward!

53 Books Later: Ten Things I’ve Learned As a Writer

HelicoptersMy first novel came out in 1991:  The Green Berets: Eyes of the Hammer.  It is still selling well and the Green Beret series just saw its eighth book, The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost come out.  The protagonist from that first book, Dave Riley, is a bit older, supposedly retired, a bit crankier, and more than a little crazy.  Reminds me of someone I know.

I’ve published 52 books since that first book.
Off the top of my head, here are some thoughts of lessons learned.

  1. The best thing a writer can do for their career is:  write.  The best promotion is a good book, better promotion is more good books.  Everything else is secondary.
  2. The moment an author thinks ‘they have it made’ is when their career is pretty much over.
  3. Don’t say bad things about yourself or your writing.  There are more than enough people out there in the world willing to do it for you.
  4. I don’t remember most of what’s in my books.  Readers know them better than I do.  I have to go back and re-read my own books when working on a new novel in a series.  Once a book is done it is no longer my ‘baby’.  It is a product which goes on the market with all that is entailed.  I sever my emotional ties to it which causes some of my amnesia.
  5. My favorite book is always the one I’m currently writing.
  6. When someone tells me they have the book idea no one has ever written before, I wish them well and walk away.
  7. The number one thing I did wrong in my traditionally published career and now focus on in my indie career is network.  This business is made up of people.  Those people make decisions that affect you.  If they have to make a decision between an unknown name on the internet or someone they’ve met face-to-face, guess what?  It goes against my nature to do this, but I force myself to.
  8. Someone is always doing something better than me.  I try to learn from others but have gotten to the point I don’t let it bother me or worry about it.  I do my thing.
  9. Someone is always going to be making more money writing books than me.  I’m thankful I’ve managed to do this as a living for over two decades.  Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does pay the mortgage.
  10. There are two very important aspects to this job: being a writer and being a business person.  They are equally important and required for success.IMG_0745
  11. As an ode to Spinal Tap, there always has to be an eleven.  Every writer needs a good dog or two to lie at their feet, snoring under their desk while working.
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