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Write at Night – Resources for Writing on the Night Shift

Writing, Publishing, Working on Your Craft – One Night At a Time

2K to 10K: Writing Faster (MORE WORDS, YO!)

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love By Rachel Aaron

This is perhaps one of the most useful writing books I’ve come across so far. It is a very practical handbook, with some of the suggestions sounding so obvious that you feel ridiculous for not having done it sooner.  For 99 cents, this thing is a n0 brainer purchase.

The author herself had been steadily cranking out 2k words per day, after her day job. At that point, it had been taking her three hours per writing session to reach those 2k words.

Then, when she was paying for a baby sitter so that she could write, she found that despite having more writing time, her production remained 2k words per day. After months of this, she got serious.

How did she address this issue? She started by planning her writing and logging her writing output.

She discusses the metric she relied upon, which is the triangle of Knowledge, Time and Enthusiasm.

  1. The first step to writing faster is to know what you’re writing about before you write it. This meant she started jotting out truncated versions of her scenes by hand before writing her actual scenes. It’s inefficient to make things up as you go so sketching it out rapidly in advance speeds up the writing. Spend 5 minutes to do this for every scene. Essentially, you are drawing yourself a plan for the day’s writing goal.
  2. This is the logging part. She kept a chart for 2 months to see how many words she wrote. She learned that she was more productive outside of the home. (I’ve heard many other writers report that they will go somewhere like the library to crank out some serious output.) Also, no WIFI speeded up her writing as well. She also learned that when she had bigger blocks of time, her output increased per hour. Ie, if she had 1 hour, she wrote 500 words. But if she had 5 hours, she averaged 1500 words per hour.
  3. She also had the revelation that the days she wrote the most productively were the days she worked on scenes she looked forward to writing. This brought up a new revelation—if the scenes were a struggle and boring to write, maybe no one would want to read them. So perhaps those scenes needed to be cut or revised.

For me, it was the enthusiasm section where I found her advice to be the most helpful for me. After jotting out the short summary of where the scene was supposed to go, she would play it in her head and look for cool little hooks she wanted to write. If she couldn’t find something cool, she knew she had to fix it.

Though she wrote this portion to address the “enthusiasm” I found it helpful from the knowledge perspective. Playing out the scene in my head in advance of writing, like I was watching a movie, greatly increased my own writing speed because it solidified the KNOWLEDGE I had about what I was writing.

The rest of the book is packed with advice about scene mapping, time lines and how to be a more efficient editor. I could not recommend this book more highly.

Featured post

Control Strategy

Augmenting human limbs — they’ve come a long way, baby.

Ken Bebelle

In our upcoming Cold War series, the men and women of the Union Wolves overcome harrowing injuries with the help of some incredible prosthetic devices. Indeed, futuristic prostheses have long been a staple of sci-fi and pop culture.

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To give you and idea of how far we have to go, here’s an example of some of the fanciest tech we have available to us today:

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A little hard to see, but that’s a silicone socket embedded with a net of surface electrodes. While the mechanisms of prosthetic components have advanced steadily, it hasn’t been until recently that options for control strategies have really taken off.

The system pictured above reads the entirety of the limb’s muscle signals to allow the user to control the prosthesis. It’s as close as we can come right now to reading the nerve signals in a publicly available system. Combining pattern recognition with machine learning…

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Looking for a space marine story? Free book for you, dear reader.

The Ringhead aliens have arrived, and they are xenoforming the Earth, sending mankind towards a new Ice Age. Year 2107. It’s the longest night of the year when they appear. Scientists are baffled by two alien constructs that have pierced the planet at each hemisphere. Keenan and his pack of Union Wolves are first in […]

via First steps… — Ken Bebelle

Move in Progress

Trying to build my author platform, as all the gurus advise.  Future content will be found here.

In case you missed it – new posts at the new site:

Scene Mapping With Scrivener

So in my last post, I talked about how Rachel Aaron recommends making a scene map.

Since I own Scrivener, I imported my MS Word file from NaNoWriMo (100+ pages!) into Scrivener and now I have a great visual way to see my story with the Corkboard view.

Here’s the corkboard view:

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And for those of you who haven’t used Scrivener before, the main advantage (for me anyway) that it has over MS Word is that if you drag a card (scene) to move it, the text for the scene moves too.  It is a much more elegant way to reorder the scenes of your book.  No more cutting and pasting and freaking out!

Also, for those of you who are not linear writers, it lets you write a scene from the end of the book and not have to go crazy scrolling around to find stuff you wrote before. Just hop around from scene to scene using the toolbar on the left.

What if you are in drafting mode?  Then you click directly on the scene from the toolbar on the left and the main screen populates with the text of your draft like this:

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So if you are at that stage where you are tired of navigating on a single MS Word doc, or tired of having eleventy billion separate Word docs, using Scrivener is the best way to deal with that.

If I had been a genius, I would have done it the fast way as shown in the tutorial below, where when he wrote, he used a hashtag to separate his scenes.  (I used *** but didn’t know I could import and split in one command!)  So I did it the painful way and just went scene by scene, manually using the split command in the Document menu.  It still didn’t take that long.

Here is the tutorial from Scrivener on importing your file and splitting the scenes:

You Finished Writing Your 1st Draft, Now What?

Ok Wrimos, you’ve made it to the magical milestone of finishing your first draft. It was awesome, you celebrated, you took a snapshot of your winner certificate.  But now what?

If you’re like me, you’re probably slightly nauseated at the editing and re-writes that await you.

So in the spirit of eating an elephant one bite at a time, I made a list based of off what the very sensible Rachel Aaron suggested.

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

By Rachel Aaron

So even though I wrote about this book before, I had saved my notes from the editing section to write about when I was ready to do my own edits.

She walks you through 3 main steps to begin your editing process.  Thankfully, these are very straightforward steps:

  1. Make a Scene Map
  2. Make a Timeline
  3. Make a To-do list of all fixes

The Scene Map

This is not meant to be fiddly or overly detailed, it is meant to help you later navigate your story when you begin to fix certain elements.

Chapter 1 (8000 words)

  • Scene 1 – S drives to the woods and meets friend.
  • Scene 2 – S and friend find dead body.
  • Scene 3 – S and friend run away but leave behind all their camping gear.

After doing this for the whole draft, she then suggests that you find a way to visually assess your various plotlines and subplots.  Then print it out.  For example, for every scene where S and love interest develop their relationship, maybe highlight that in pink.  If you see that there is hardly any pink anywhere and you meant to have a romantic suspense, then you know you’ve got a problem and where to start evening it out when you begin the edits.

The Timeline

With a scene map completed, you can then create a timeline.  You can think of this as your setting and the duration of the scenes.  For example if you realize that your villain has been sitting around for 3 weeks doing nothing, that’s probably not very realistic.  Now you have an item to fix.

The To Do List

As you go through the draft on your first pass, and after reviewing your scene map and timeline, you will be taking notes and compiling a long list of items to fix–the punchlist items of your story.

Also, rank these problems in difficulty from hardest to easiest to resolve.  Tackle the hard ones first.

And here’s where you see the genius of Rachel’s scene map.  She does not recommend you do front to back editing (ie, beginning to end) because it’s hard to keep all those things in your head as you start a fix.  Because if you think about it, let’s say in that example I gave above, when you realize that your protagonist and her romantic interest have hardly any spark, instead of re-reading your whole draft to find every scene where you could insert a steamy kiss or shared revelation to deepen intimacy, but also run into other chronological fixes from your punchlist and then get distracted and start changing the physical characteristics of another character, Rachel recommends you fix that entire romance problem all at once by hopping around using the scene map.

That way, you tackle your fix it list in a systematic fashion and can actually cross things off as done.

Logically, what she suggests is extremely sound advice.  I’m looking forward to implementing these and I’m grateful to her for sharing her wisdom in this book.

 

 

 

3 Things I used to Refill the Creative Well after NaNoWriMo

I had heard other authors discuss this but had nothing to base it on until after doing NaNoWriMo myself, and that is the experience of writing until you are empty.

50k words was the most I had ever written before on any subject, EVER.  It was over 100 pages single spaced–and, it wasn’t even finished.  Meaning, there are four more scenes that I will be going in to complete the line by line writing for.  In meeting the Nov. 30 deadline and to meet my personal desire to at least have the skeleton completed, I ended up writing just the beats for four scenes.

Regardless of not being an entire first draft, I felt empty for three days afterwards and gave myself permission not to write.  It actually felt strange.

So I tried to refill the creative well.  I read fiction. I read graphic novels.  I watched fun things on Netflix with my children. I cooked.  I socialized with people.

1.   Action Adventure Television

Watching the TV shows and movies definitely gave me a lot to think about from a storytelling perspective.  My son and I love Marvel’s Agents of Shield, and in 45 minutes, that show has a lot of action.

It’s jam packed with alien invaders, alien artifacts, hand-to-hand combat, cool gadgets, emotional drama, unrequited love, mythology and secret societies.  It’s a marvelous teaching tool for how to keep things fun and how to get your protagonists out of a hole.

 

2.   Graphic Novels

Visual storytelling is such a great way to activate the brain. There’s so much to engage your brain and your eyes.  It’s also a useful tool for when you resume writing and need to describe the things you see unfolding before you and to share it with your audience.

My older son struggles with reading chapter books, so usually I prime the pump by reading aloud with him for the first couple of chapters.  Also, I have found that he has far more enthusiasm to read the chapter book when I also buy the graphic novel.  I grew up reading comics and I still very much enjoy graphic novels.  They aren’t just for kids.  So if you are in the mood for some faster paced story telling, , I recommend picking up something like Rick Riordan’s newest, The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel (Kane Chronicles)

If you don’t fancy the young adult genre, the master storyteller himself, Neil Gaiman has many fantastic graphic novels to choose from, the recent one I read being The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel Single Volume.  Not that you need an excuse to read Neil Gaiman, ever.

For those of you who don’t already have this, run don’t walk, to get your copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 1)
It is full text, a gorgeous book.

3.  WriMo Buddies

This was my first NaNoWriMo.  November was a horrible month for me, travel wise because I was hardly in one place for very long.  This meant missing many of the local write-ins which I had been hoping to go to.  I went to school with a someone who is now a very accomplished fiction writer, something like 10+ books and three of them optioned for movies or television.  She commented once that being a writer is tough on extroverts because it is such solitary effort, where you just shut the door and get your butt in the chair night after night.

I think even if you are an introvert, you could probably relate to feeling that you are going at it alone when you are trying to crank out your daily word count.  So it was with great pleasure that I had dinner with two dear friends who had also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time.  And we didn’t have a deadline.
So we ate a homecooked meal, ate chocolate cake, and drank red wine.

We talked about the scenes we had gotten stuck on, the scenes we were surprised we wrote, the scenes that we loved.  It was wonderful to share about our story journey.

And it worked.  Because I’m feeling the urge to write again, and to tackle those last four scenes.

What Every Writer Needs to Finish NaNoWriMo

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I finished 50k words tonight.  There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t think I was going to make it.  I had been traveling (3 trips in November!), I had family obligations, I had a day job that I needed in order to pay the bills.

But overall, I made a big push for it and these are the things that let me get past the 50k mark in time:

  1. Family support
  2. Writing Advocates/Participants
  3. Personal Stake

When I said I needed to do my writing, my spouse and my children understood.  I got up extra early some days, or stayed up late other days.  But they all knew what I meant when I told them they needed to carry on without me because I had X number of words to write.

I talked two of my dear friends into doing NaNoWriMo.  There is nothing quite like a shared hallucination to keep one going.

Actually, so many of us have a story within us, or many.  We can say no to it for only so long, but we aren’t getting any younger.

At a certain point, we reach agreement with ourselves and our dear friends that we are ready to give fiction writing a chance and to do it in a brutally efficient fashion.

And lastly, when we share this goal with others, and take other steps to make it real, we create a personal stake in the outcome.  Call it ego, if you like, but whatever it takes, sometimes we need extra incentive to push on.  I bought a cover from an artist to make it more real.  I told those close to me about my commitment to NaNoWriMo for one month.  Those things made it more real for me, and I believe increased my chances for success.

Other things that helped.  Many walks and a Bintiva balance disc.  What’s that? A wiggle pad, because true devotion to the craft usually means butt in chair.

A wiggle pad really helps.

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)

You Are a Writer

By: Jeff Goins

I’ve raved about Kindle Unlimited before and yet again, I find it yields a treasure trove of good non-fiction resources.  Jeff Goins has a massive following for his blog and I actually had no idea who he was, except that people on other podcasts would talk about him.  I tried to visit his website and was inundated with popups trying to sell me things.  I signed up for his email list and was immediately bombarded with high pressure sales crap to buy a seat at his nearly sold out seminar. I looked him up on Amazon and he has NEVER published a fiction work yet makes his living telling everyone to go out and write.

So far, I was NOT a fan.

But I did download his Manifesto (the reason I signed up to his email list, which drives me nuts because it is so spammy), and I LOVED it.  It’s very inspiring.  His resources page is great.  And his book was free on Kindle Unlimited.  So how could I go wrong?

I downloaded his book and then paid $1.99 to have an Audible of it and then played it at 1.5x speed to cruise through it. It’s very short, and I think it is a nice pep talk.  This is an updated edition of his book.

He shares about his personal insecurities and the way that his mindset changed and I liked hearing about it.  He draws on advice from someone I admire, Stephen Pressfield and talks about “turning pro” and feedback from Pressfield.  That was perhaps my favorite part.  There is nothing earthshattering in here.  Write every day.  Be ok with the fact that it isn’t good.  Eventually, you will find your author’s voice.

Also, he talks about his foray into nonfiction writing, the way he reached out to editors to seek publication of his pieces.  He discusses how to be persistent and when to back off.  It’s sensible and may be useful to those interested in magazine/epub type exposure.

If you are needing a little peptalk to keep you writing daily, this is a good one.

For me, this was worth the $1.99 on the Audible and it was definitely a good deal for my KU subscription.

 

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