NaNoWriMo Prep from a Pragmatist. Yep, that’d be me.

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NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday, and I’m using this week to prepare for it. The 50,000 word count for a singular work will be on top of my writing, which includes some editing and spec work this month as well. Knowing that my plate is going to be full (and then some) means that I have to plan in advance for an insanely busy next couple of weeks. I’ve been through this kind of writing crunch before, which means I know I can do it again.

Here’s some of the steps I take to plan for an insane month. Your mileage will vary, as your living arrangements and family life might be different than mine.

1.) Remove or reduce day-to-day decisions. What I wear, what I’m going to eat, when I need to pay bills, chores…these are some of the examples of day-to-day decisions that take up headspace. When I’m slammed, I do a lot of meal planning/crock pot recipes and set out my clothes the night before. Yes, this means I am wearing pants(1) this month. Though I work from home, these types of decisions can impact both my health and productivity, so planning these things ahead of time means I don’t have to think about it. Mind you, this includes household maintenance tasks like chores and laundry as well, which means I have to communicate and sort out responsibilities with my partner. I might use my Sunrise app as reminders, or program my alarm at the same time every day, too.

2.) Eliminate distractions(2). You’ll probably notice that I’ll either be on social media a lot less, or at certain times. I’ve got a dual monitor along with my phone, and I’ve been playing around with how and when I post. For this month, I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do, because maintaining it isn’t a huge priority for me for promotional purposes. However, there are other distractions that might occur. E-mails, phone calls, doorbells ringing… One of the digital solutions I use, is to schedule times when I respond and send out e-mails. I’ll sometimes be clear about when I expect to respond if a decision is required, too, because there is a tendency to expect one right away even when it’s not pressing. Of course, in some cases it is, but managing expectations for communication can go a long way to save time. I cannot stress the importance of sending clear e-mails enough, and I feel it is an art form. In addition to these tips, I’m shutting off my phone, wifi, as well as my second monitor.

3.) Plan downtime. This often gets missed, but it is hugely important. Often, I see people scheduling what they’re doing on the calendar. It is equally as important to schedule when you’re not doing anything, or when you need to take a break. This might include coffee and drinks with friends, or it might be to watch a movie or make dinner. I am also not going to sit for hours and hours at a time, because this isn’t healthy. Instead, I’m going to set up a schedule for the first week and then adjust from there. It also means, however, that I am planning for some flexibility and additional options for downtime than I might normally. Examples of mini-breaks range from origami to playing Tetris to taking a walk outside or stretching.

4.) Manage noise and song selections. Okay, so I’ve often mentioned how focused I am on sound. I have a pair of noise-canceling headphones, but I also have instrumental playlists set up on Pandora and my iTunes account. The other thing I do, when I’m in a heavy production month, is eliminate the amount of media that has words in them or, alternately, new words. I’ve listened to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radioplay a thousand times, for example, and it fades into the background for me. One app and browser that replicates coffee shop noise is Coffitivity, but honestly? Video game soundtracks are fantastic to listen to, because the compositions are interesting and I don’t visualize a scene

5.) Say No to Research. The story that I’m writing for this doesn’t require any research, other than a few questions that I’m clearing up ahead of time. Even if I did need to do some research… That rabbit hole can wait. It is a time sink to click on links and read more information, and while a normal (e.g. non-insane) work day might allow for a certain percentage of reading, a high word count month does not for me. Mind you, a high word count month is not sustainable all the time for obvious reasons, including the physical strain it can take on your hands and wrists, but cutting down on the time I’d normally spend reading means I’ll be a lot more focused on my manuscripts.

6.) Devise a Two-Month Business Plan. This is basic business planning 101 for me. By putting together a two month business plan, instead of a 30 day writing plan, I’m thinking above and beyond NaNoWriMo. Now, for me this is completely necessary. My plans incorporate smaller projects and larger initiatives that I am writing for other people and pursuing on spec. However, I am not just thinking about November, because if I focus solely on this month, then I’ll be completely unprepared for December. This technique circles back to eliminating distractions, and it means that I’ve got a foundation to work from the following month. I don’t expect to be married to next month’s business plan, mind you, but it removes any overlap so I don’t miss anything.

7.) Factor in Flexibility. Things are going to go wrong. I might run out of mac and cheese. I might get suckered into a doorstop novel. Brain might revolt and ooze out of my head. It could snow. Anyway, my point is that there a lot of things that might go wrong, and factoring in a disaster recovery plan for me helps keeps words flowing. However, there’s always that chance that I have to stop, and I need to know that’s okay. I got really sick one year, and that pretty much ended my ability to keep writing because I had medicine head for two weeks. I can still write, mind you, just not as much nor as good. I picked it back up after NaNoWriMo was over, so I still finished my initial goals, even if it took me a little longer.

8.) Outline, List, and Plot. When I know what I’m writing, I tend to write faster. Even if I don’t adhere to every aspect of an outline, coming up with a bucket of potential “up the stakes” possibilities, motivations, etc. and having that handy ahead of time is hugely useful for writing. Thus, I’ve explored possible options for this particular story by capturing them in a list of words I can leverage while I’m writing, or to further brainstorm and use those as a jumping off point. It’s a little bit like plotting, but it’s less tied to the specific story structure and more focused on aspects of a character or a scene. If I got REALLY crazy, I might put together word lists, but that sort of thing usually happens after for me, during the revision process as I refine.

…and that’s it! Those are some of the things I am doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo. To the word mines! With a large, bloody axe!

(1) Not wearing pants is so overrated. I keep this regulated to casual Fridays or slothy Sundays.
(2) My agency will be doing a month long series of posts, including an article from me about your writing workspace. I’ll be sharing more information as we proceed.

    Mood: La la la!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Thar be coffee
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Um. Sorry, yo.
    In My Ears: Beats for Studying playlist on Pandora
    Game Last Played: Diablo III
    Book Last Read: Um… Well, I’m starting Howl’s Moving Castle.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time
    Latest Artistic Project: STILL EDITING.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.

Writing 101 Advice from Geek*Kon 2015

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Geek*Kon 2015 was a mixture of seeing old friends and making new ones. I did have a great time and these fans are doing everything they can to put on a great show. I was thrilled to see folks like Emma Bull, Greg Weisman, Christopher Jones, Will Shetterly, and Alex Bledsoe speak to up-and-coming writers, fans, and all around great people.

Rather than give a recap of every panel and anime-related item I purchased (*coughs* Jiji rocks!), I’d like to highlight some of the wonderful advice given during my Writing 101 panel. The panel consisted of Alex Bledsoe, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull and myself. Here are some of the nuggets of advice given during the panel that I hope inspires you to write your heart out. Please note that I made every attempt to attribute said advice correctly, and some of the comments are sub-attributed to Steven Brust. Rather than rehash many of the tidbits I’ve mentioned here on my blog, today’s spotlight is on the other authors and their words of wisdom.

  • Point-of-view (P.O.V.) solves everything. Brust/Bull
  • Story starts with your P.O.V. character. Shetterly
  • Deal with the precipitating event as the first part of your story. Bledsoe
  • What serves the story is what you don’t tell. Shetterly
  • With respect to critiques and feedback from readers, “Worry about reader problems vs. reader solutions.” Shetterly
  • I write first drafts to create a skeleton. Bledsoe
  • With respect to revisions: “I pace around my house, reading the manuscript aloud.” Bledsoe
  • Figure out what drafts are supposed to do. e.g. They can be systematic or intuitive. Bull
  • Make the story more specific during revisions. Shetterly
  • What really matters, is the story itself. Shetterly
  • It’s better to write a bad first draft, than no draft at all. Shetterly

We also talked about info dumps and the Dread PrologueTM, and how many of the info dumps can be avoided by choosing the right character when selecting which character is telling the story. We also mentioned how it’s okay to suck (you’ve no doubt heard me say that before), and how the senses are crucial to add in layers of worldbuilding. For example, Bledsoe mentioned that a sense of smell can really make a big difference.

I hope today’s wrap-up inspires you to write, write, write! And remember, you’ll never internalize or finish what you start unless you sit down and simply…write. GOOD LUCK!

    Mood: Luxuriating in this damp, windy weather.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Mostly managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH.
    In My Ears: Tron Legacy soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Kingdom Rush
    Book Last Read: For research, not pleasure. Ergo…
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Frozen. Because in my house, it’s a horror movie.
    Latest Artistic Project: Sewing project that turned out to be a pescatarian oni. Don’t ask! Am planning Halloween-related crafts, however.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. A new one coming soon! SOON I SAY!

My Geek*Kon Schedule

Geek Kon

I’ll be a guest at Geek*Kon this weekend. Here’s my fabulous schedule! You’ll hear more about my upcoming book, The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse, and other stories in the pipe.

Friday, August 21
7:00 to 7:50 – Spooky Scary Awesome Action
8:00 to 10:00 – Gaming with the Guests

Saturday, August 22
1:00 to 1:50 – The Shiniest Things in the Gorramn ‘Verse
3:00 to 3:50 – Fiction Writing 101 – Mendota
5:00 to 5:50 – Vampires in Fiction – Green Bay/Milwaukee

Sunday, August 23
1:30 to 2:50 – Build-a-World Game Show

My GenCon 2015 Schedule

This year, my fan-facing activities will be related to Firefly and the GenCon Writer’s Symposium. There will be several books of mine available at the show, and you can read about those here. If you are a member of the press, please contact me privately so I can find time to spend with you. If I’m currently working on a project with you and you’d like to meet up, please feel free to send me an e-mail as my schedule is pretty full.

Thursday, July 30

10:00 a.m. – SEM1577156 Craft: Where to Start the Story ICC : Room 243

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – MWP Booth #1613

6:00 p.m. – SEM1577164 Craft: RPG Tie-In Fiction ICC : Room 243

Friday, July 31

2:00 to 3:00 p.m. – Signing in Author’s Alley

8:00 p.m. – ENnie Awards to announce the winners. Nominations for games I’ve worked on can be found here.

Saturday, August 1

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – MWP Booth #1613

7:00 – SEM1577146 WB: Monsters and Other Horrors ICC : Room 244

Sunday, August 2

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Read & Critique – Room 244 with Geoffrey Girard and Delilah Dawson.

My Books and Games At GenCon 2015

GenCon Indy is less than a few weeks away, and that means its time to update you with my schedule! In the first of two posts, I’d like to share with you which of my books and games you can expect to find at GenCon. The books and games on this list are the titles I have confirmed that will be at the show–there may be others, but this is what you can expect to find. Most of them are fairly recent releases, too, and came out within the past two years.

The “G” in GenCon is gaming, so let’s start with those!

Margaret Weis Productions Booth 1613

At the MWP booth, the entire Firefly RPG line will be available for you to buy. That means, you can pick up a copy of the following:

  • Firefly RPG corebook – Nominated and won multiple awards, plus it’s up for two ENnies this year.
  • Echoes of War: Thrillin’ Heroics won an ENnie’s Judge’s Choice Award recently. If you’re looking to get into the game, but don’t want to make the investment for the corebook and the supplements, this is your best way to do that.
  • Things Don’t Go Smooth is a GM-facing supplement that gives fans more Antagonists and tools to fine-tune your Firefly experience.
  • Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim is for players and GMs. It introduces Reputation rules, iconic characters, and more!
  • Ghosts in the Black is a campaign supplement designed by Robin D. Laws. This is the latest book in the line, and is filled with twists and turns.

Onyx Path Publishing Booth 1103

At the Onyx Path booth, four of the titles I’ve worked on will be available in print. They are:

  • Hunter the Vigil: Mortal Remains – Explore the Vigil as it pertains to mummies, changelings, prometheans, demons, and sin-eaters.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Dread Names, Red ListDread Names, Red List explores the Camarilla’s “Most Wanted” List, naming those deemed most dangerous by the Justicars and their chosen deputies, the Alastors.
  • Gothic Icons – This was Onyx Path Publishing’s April Fool’s joke for 2015. However, so many people liked it the company kept it available for future customers. Enjoy!
  • Geist Ready Made Characters – Ready-Made Player Characters (Geist: the Sin-Eaters) includes the Crossroads Drifters krewe, who perform for the living and the dead. Characters designed to for instant use in your Geist: the Sin-Eaters game.

Signing and Miscellany

Now onto the books! I will have a signing from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Author’s Alley area of GenCon. During this time, I’ve confirmed I’ll be bringing copies of:

  • Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror – This is an anthology about ghost hunting that I edited for FR Press. Fantastic authors like Alex Bledsoe and Jess Hartley are in here!
  • Queen of Crows – Published early 2010, this is one of the first enhanced e-books to hit digital media. The story explores the gut-wrenching decision a shaman must make, once he realizes what dark future is approaching.
  • Redwing’s Gambit – This is a novella about conspiracy and paranoia in the space-lanes. Redwing’s Gambit is set in the shared science-fiction universe of Bulldogs!

I may be bringing some other books, too, but right now I’m trying to keep the options limited for ease of carrying. There may be other books at the show, like Unframed: the Art of Improvisation for Gamemasters, Gods, Memes, and Monsters, and For Exposure: the Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. Be sure to watch for them. I’d much rather spend my time signing books than selling them, so come say hello on Friday!

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