Ten Tips for Writing a Rough Draft in 30 days

calendar-1847346_640

November is NaNoWriMo month. Writing a novel in a month is a great goal. A daunting one for most of us. Not a perfect novel. Just the first draft. I usually don’t participate in NANoWriMo. Thanksgiving and lots of birthdays makes it too challenging. I tend to do the one-month marathon in March during Seekerville’s Speedbo. That month has worked the last few years for me. But you can choose any month to write your rough draft in 30 days.  First, you need to get a few things done before hand.

  1. Complete your research

By this I mean basic research. Setting, plot development, vocabulary for genre, backstory information such as medical terms, military speak or police procedure. You can add more detail for clothing etc. during the rewrite phase.

 

  1. Have notes, outlines. Character sketches and setting maps finished.

Notes help you remember what you wanted to write for specific scenes. Character sketches guide you in your character’s responses to situations. The sketch helps remind us of bad habits, fears or past hurts.

 

  1. Plot out your daily word goal 

The goal is up to you. Divide the require end count for your genre by the days you plan to write. You can plan a specific word count goal that gets you half way or three quarters through your manuscript. That’s usual enough of an incentive to finish it.

80,000 divided by 30= 2667 daily goal

45,000 divided by 30= 1500 daily goal

80,000 divided by 25= 3200 daily goal

45,000 divided by 25= 1800 daily goal

 

  1. Figure out what time(s) of the day are best for you to write each day.

I prefer mornings because my creative juice gets drained after 7pm. My day job days tend to produce a smaller word count unless inspiration hits at night.

 

  1. Choose your quiet place(s) for maximum productivity.

If you work better surrounded by noisy family, go for it. Most often there is that desk in your office, the kitchen table or the recliner in the den where creativity blooms. Sometimes a location away from home can help inspire reaching a word count goal.  I can’t do Starbuck or Panera’s because they’re just too noisy. But give me a study room at the library and I can knock it out of the park.

 

  1. Resolve to do your best and not quit writing until your 30 days have past.

Even if you don’t reach your word count goals because some days got complicated. You’ve managed to get more words on paper than if you hadn’t accepted the thirty-day challenge.

 

  1. Do it with friends.

NaNoWriMo and Speedbo encourage working with others. They provide help and encouragement all along the way. You can gather a few writer friends and hold each other accountable for your progress. Weight Watchers uses this same strategy. We know any hard thing is easier when we don’t feel alone. Writing is a lonely endeavor.

 

  1. Reward yourself

Set short and long-term rewards. A specially Latte or your favorite decadent treat for a weekly word count goal. Perhaps a week-end excursion for complete the 30-day challenge. If you tell your spouse you’re plan is a romantic get-away if you meet the challenge, they will probably do all they can to ensure you succeed.

 

  1. Post it on Social Media

This accomplishes two things. Additional accountability and early marketing for your book. Those who follow your progress are going to be curious about the finished project.

 

  1. Prayer and reflection

Time with the Lord brings clarity and encourages our spirit. Daily revitalization is a key to perseverance.

Hope you found these tips helpful for whenever you decide to take a 30-day challenge. My last two books began at Speedbo.  I’m gearing up to complete my next rough draft through Speedbo as well.

I’d love to hear how thirty-day challenges have grown your writing career. Share any other tips you’ve found helpful.

Advertisements

Be like Bull in Developing Your Characters

bull-posterThere’s a new show on CBS that parallels the writing life. Bull stars Michael Weatherly (NCIS) as a psychologist who specializes in trial science. The science of getting in the heads of jurors to help present a case you can win. Bull and his team take on cases of innocent people (of course I suppose trial science can be used to help the guilty get off.) and analyzes what is needed for those individuals to be found not guilty when the media and initial evidence points to their guilt.

Dr. Bull preps the defense counsel on what questions to ask during jury selection to find jurors who will be sympathetic to his client. After the jury is selected he hires people to be a mirror jury. Each juror’s personality, convictions, and worldview are matched to the real jurors to create a fake replica jury. Bull’s team have mock trails to discover what the outcome would be based on various scenarios.  What is in the background or character makeup of each real juror that could influence the verdict and how can they present the case and the client to these twelve to gain their confidence for a not guilty verdict. Fascinating stuff.

courtroom-898931_640

As a writer, we create characters we want our readers to sympathize with. Otherwise, they won’t read to the end. We need to dig deep as we create our characters and find out what is their underlying motivation. They must be more than one-dimensional. If your heroine had an FB page what would she post? How are your hero’s finances and do your characters love their jobs? We need to get into their heads. Did the protagonist have a wonderful childhood or is there a family secret that taints his view of the world.

Bulls team digs into the background of each juror and based on that information creates a profile on how they would probably respond to various pieces of evidence and information shared during the trial. A recent episode was a malpractice trial. The doctor was a brilliant physician but an egotistical jerk. The patient was suing because a lifesaving hysterectomy prevented her from ever having children. She felt it could have been avoided. The sympathy of the jury squarely with the patient.

Challenge of winning over the reader

Of course, Bull’s team discovered the special machine used to do the surgery was the culprit that caused the excess bleeding that led to the doctor’s decision. The challenge was to get the jury to look beyond the doctor’s arrogance to be open to the idea the manufacturers of the surgical equipment were at fault. The doctor had to allow himself to be vulnerable on the stand. The dramatic scene with the doctor admitting he only has one talent—being  a surgeon—but he lacks people skills in every area of his life. It wins the jury to his side.

Our characters must win over our readers. The cranky old guy should reveal how much he misses his son who died in the war. The addicted mother needs to share with her daughter what pushed her over the edge. The fiancé admits his fear of being a father because his dad was abusive.

Keep up with social media and current events to create believable characters

Research into each juror helps Bull craft questions for the lawyer to bring the desired result. We writer’s need to know what our readers want. What questions are we seeing on TV and social media? What is trending? Those are the things that make for fresh plots. Things that address real or perceived needs. Settings and situations that make the reader curious. A friend of mine has her character building a tiny house. Another author explored negative mothering that left the heroine struggling with self-worth.  Reality shows are all the rage and those settings can make for interesting plot twists whether romance or murder. Again, the types of characters populating these settings draw the reader to follow your story to the end.

Each episode of Bull ends on a high note for the client and a takeaway lesson. Our novels need the same sort of conclusion. And if our characters are relatable to our reader the conclusion will meet the felt need. And just as I look forward to the next episode of Bull, your readers will anxiously await your next novel.

How do your characters mirror life?

How do you build character’s your readers relate too?

Subscribe to this blog in the right-hand column. Thank you.

 

 

 

Whittling Down History Tidbits to Add A Little Setting Spice to Your Novel

 

list-7-things-jesse-james-book-e

Jesse James dressed in a Qunatrill’s Raider uniform.

Today I thought I’d share a fun factoid I read while researching my novel. You can’t research the old west and not read about Jesse James. You may know he was an outlaw. He robbed banks for a living. He had been one of Quantrill’s Raiders before and during the Civil War. They were a group of men who attacked free-staters in Kansas. Free-staters were against slavery. Kansas was a territory being settled by those both for and against slavery. The settlers hoped to gain enough population with the same view on slavery in order to sway statehood votes in their direction. Quantrill’s men would burn out anti-slavery towns and murder their residents in hopes of making Kansas a slave state when it sought statehood.

 

Guerrillas in the Civil War

If not for the Civil War these men would have been arrested and hanged. But the confederacy recruited them. These murderous outlaws became a special guerrilla unit who wreaked havoc on many fronts in support of the war effort.

 

jesse-james

I was surprised to see how many times Jesse had his picture taken. And yet people rarely identified him as the one who committed the crime.

 

Robberies no Robin Hood

After the war, Jesse along with his brother Frank formed a gang and began their infamous adventures. The banks and trains the James -Younger gang robbed were believed to be owned by former union officers and other Yankees they felt wronged their family. The former soldiers were now part of the Republican Party and active in Reconstruction. They became the target of revenge for wrongs inflicted on the south. James Edwards, a newspaper reporter painted Jesse as a Robin Hood character. But there is no evidence that the gang ever shared their loot with any in need.

jesse-james-robert-ford-edited-by-matthew-t-raderJesse James was eventually shot and killed in his home by Robert Ford.  Ford, a member of Jesse’s own gang, wanted to claim the $5000 reward the railroad placed on James.

Hiding loot

When visiting Merrimac Caverns with my children years ago, we learned James and his gang hid out in the caverns. And it was believed they hid loot from robberies there, as well. The caverns are a dark and dangerous place and unless you are familiar with the tunnels you could get lost for days.23579635

Women’s clothes

While reading about Inns and how they accommodated travels during post-Civil War America a story was told about Jesses James. Theses Inns were no Holiday Inn. The large room had rows of cots and all the travelers shared the same space. The women might be housed in a separate room.

The story goes, in order to escape capture after a bank robbery, Jesse disguised himself as a woman. He spent the night at a roadside Inn. The Innkeeper thought it odd that the woman insisted on sleeping with her valise. She would allow no one to even touch it. The discovery of the woman’s identity came after Jesse was long gone. I imagine the outlaw’s stay became a great draw for future guests.

Seasoning your story with tidbits from research

I found Jesse’s disguise as a fun addition to my own villain’s escape plan in my novel, Secrets and Charades. Because Evangeline left Missouri to go west, she feared robbery and mentions the James gang as having robbed the bank not too long before she headed west. Just a few tidbits of history from all the volumes of facts I learned to give a feel of place and time.

What interesting factoid have you learned while researching for your book?

Did you find it fascinating or fun?

Did you add it to your story?

 

 

From My Novel Research: Pioneer Schooling

McGuffey ReadersIn my novel, Secrets and Charades, there is no school close enough for 12-year old Juliet to attend. Like many pioneer children, Juliet was taught at home. McGuffey Readers were the standard text for children nationwide. These books were passed down from parent to child since it was first published in 1832. The 1st and 2nd readers introduced the basics. The 4th and 5th were geared toward 7th and 8th graders. Once a child completed these, they might end their education and seek work or continue on to higher learning.

The initial two became the standard for public schools until 1960.Within the pages were reading, phonics, spelling and grammar exercises. Many scriptural principles were taught as part of the reading lessons. The revised versions removed much of the religious teaching the McGuffey brothers felt so important for a well-rounded education.

Front of McGuffey ReaderUnfortunately, not all parents could read. Or at least not English if they were recent immigrants from Europe. Those settlers were willing to pay (even in produce) someone to teach their children. Often it was an older daughter of one of the settlers who had completed her own education using these same readers.

Parents would send books from home with their children to use in the classroom. Usually Bibles, Sunday School quarterlies, dictionaries, poetry books and McGuffey’s.  Books were shared. Students took turns reading out loud. I read of a classroom set up in an abandoned dugout—a house dug into the side of a hill. The students practiced ciphers and spelling by using sticks and the dirt floor.1882 Math book cover

Lots of calculating was done in their heads and answers were given orally. Math was not considered important for elementary students. Gradually math tables were introduced as part of their studies. Large cities often had more substance to their math curriculum.

Male students educations required more than reading. They needed a head for ciphers and neat penmanship to be considered employable. All the answers were found in the back of the textbook enabling anyone to teach themselves math.

Education for girls was minimalized with the focus of teaching her own children or perhaps a classroom when she grew up.

A community felt more civilized if they were able to build a church and a school. Often one building served both purposes.1880 Arithmatic book

Fortunate was the child whose parents could read and write. Winter days the children spent studying while Ma sewed and Pa repaired tools he would need in the spring, Learning took place in snatches when the family wasn’t doing other work crucial to their survival.

A school established in a rural area accommodated harvest and planting times. Short sessions allowed the boys to help in the fields. Older girls and small children might continue to attend school while their older brothers were absent.

McGuffey readers are still sold today. Homeschoolers used them to experience a bit of history.

Hope you enjoyed this interesting factoid from my research. What interesting things have you found out as you’ve researched your latest writing project?

Feel free to subscribe to my blog if you would like to receive Writer’s Patchwork in your email.

Bloody Detail Errors

What do you know about blood? Free Stock Photo

What do you know about blood?
Free Stock Photo

I saw two interesting but inaccurate things on two of my favorite TV dramas this week. I work as a receptionist at a blood center. I’ve been there for over a decade, and although I have no contact with the blood or drawing it, the company works hard to educate all of us about blood, blood products and procedures. I have learned more about blood than I even thought was possible to know, and there is still much, much more I don’t.

Blood collection requires specific skills.

Blood collection requires specific skills.

Detecting details through the eyes of experience

I share my background so you understand my comments. When my family watches TV shows, we notice details. Details from our own experience. My son, former army, will mention the military equipment for a foreign army in a battle scene is really US army issue. His experience makes him aware of inaccuracies.

My years working at a blood center makes me painfully aware of portrayals of blood banks on TV, in movies, and even in commercials. In a recent episode of one of my favorite shows I couldn’t help picking apart a scene where thugs rushed into a blood bank and stole rare blood. So many things were wrong with the scene. 1) Rare blood is not stored at your local blood collection center. All blood collected at small centers are shipped to their main office where the labs prepare it, and it is stored for hospital use. 2) Very rare blood types may be frozen and are usually not in large supplies.

Unrealistic settings and procedures

The scriptwriter did have a few things right. The donor was taken to a private room to go over his questions. It is not however referred to as an exam room, but a screening room. I’ve seen shows where the characters sit in the waiting room and discuss their answers to the questions. Never allowed to happen in real life. However, in this show the HEPA privacy issues were handled appropriately.

Another unrealistic issue: security. As I said, the rare blood would be stored at the main office. It would be tricky to steal the blood because we have lots of security protocols. And the blood is coded and refrigerated so it wouldn’t be easy for a laymen to choose the right blood bags.

Most viewers don’t know this and for the sake of the overall story line I can overlook their faux pas.

There is more to blood than O,A,B and Rh factors. But how that information is used in a scene is crucial to accuracy.

There is more to blood than O,A,B, AB and Rh factors. But how that information is used in a scene is crucial to accuracy.

Rare Blood type error

Last year all employees were taken on an extended tour of our labs and distribution center, carefully explaining the process of preparing blood. Additionally they shared lots of factors about rare blood types. One particular piece of information stuck out in my mind. There is an extremely rare blood type called Bombay. It is so rare that you would have to search a national database to see who has some frozen on hand. Bombay is unique to India. These individuals are not good candidates for type 0 negative—the universal donor. It could be fatal. Because it was identified among residents of Bombay, it is only reasonable to assume only people of Indian descent would have that blood type. Yet, the second drama I watched this past week had a white youth with this rare blood type getting a heart that gets stolen by a white criminal with the same blood type.

Again, very few people would know this. So, no one is going to call the producers of the show and complain. I, once again, overlooked this detail for the sake of the I-did-not-see-that-coming plot twist.

Sprinkle in the details along with the plot twists

If I were writing a scene in a blood center I would be more aware of the correct details. It would be a question of which details to share without boring the reader. As you research details for your novels and short stories decide how much detail to share and get it right. Readers can be taken out of the story if they catch your details lacking accuracy.

If you watch a favorite movie often enough, you catch weird details. My sister watched Tombstone often. She started counting the shots fired from the six-shooters in the OK Corral gunfight. One gun shot fourteen bullets. But in the minutes it takes to film the scene, the extra bullets are necessary to intensify the drama. The same is true of rare blood types and criminals. It ramps up the drama.

As you write your dramatic scenes and plot twists, sprinkle it with just enough disbelief to make it fun. Be careful not to deviate too far from actual facts; otherwise your readers may scoff and close the book. Or worse, give you a bad review because of it.

What inaccurate details have you found in a movie, TV show or book? How did it impact your enjoyment?

Facebook: Research and Motivation

My hubby posts his photos on FB. Lanscapes can open a world of ideas for setting.  Photo by Charles Huff

My hubby posts his photos on FB. Lanscapes can open a world of ideas for setting.
Photo by Charles Huff

Writers are often reminded—warned would be a better word—not to spend too much time on Facebook. I’m here to say you can get some great writing ideas from social media. I‘m not talking about the obvious posts from fellow-writers with leads for paying markets or helpful blog posts but the other stuff. No not the kitty videos or what you had for dinner (although that could be helpful if you aren’t sure what your character is going to make for the potluck.) But the posts of friends and family that have nothing to do with the writing craft and everything to do with life.

Writing exercises:

ShepherdPitGermanShepherdDogAmericanPitbullTerrierHybridDogsCoby3YearsOld1

A photo sparks a poem or short story idea. Vacation photos can help fiction writers with destinations for their characters. I found helpful photos of dogs while trying to decide what kind Brutus my service dog would be. There’s the political statements that pull your chain and bring out your strong opposing view. See an Op-Ed piece.

Great quotes. I counted a dozen new quotes today. Some made me chuckle and others made me nod. A few inspired me or brought on that ah-ha moment. Aren’t all of those responses what writers want from their words? Look through your FB feed and see if you can’t create a few hundred words from one of those quotes.

tears slogan-2

Story ideas and character possibilities

Videos to spur story ideas from ordinary heroes who have overcome. Whether its illness or family loss there’s an idea there. Perhaps someone helped create a business to deal with poverty and homelessness. What a great passion for your protagonist.

Learning the pulse of the public

Seeing what’s important to those in your social media circle gives you the pulse beat you need to focus on as you craft stories. That’s how I decided my hero in my latest novel should be a wounded warrior. I saw lots of post reminding women they are strong and reposts of women who overcame abuse. My heroine experienced abuse and struggles to find herself. Whether its Facebook, Tweeter or Goodreads I try to get a sense of what others in my sphere of influence are reading. That’s important to note because these will be potential future buyers of my books.

wounded warrior sparked an idea.

wounded warrior sparked an idea.

Stress relief

Sometimes we need a good laugh after a grueling period of word craft. “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” We all know we can find at least one laugh out loud moment on social media every day.

Charlie Brownenhanced-buzz-8803-1377104870-6

So the next time someone comments on the time you spend on social media, tell them its research.

What interesting thing on social media spurred your creative juices?   Share in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

To receive these post in your email go to the right column and sign up. Thank you.

Conference Tip# 5 Do Your Research

 Do the research in advance. It's worth your time. Dreamtimes.com free stock photo.

Do the research in advance. It’s worth your time.
Dreamtimes.com free stock photo.

“Go! Learn things.” Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS

Research before you attend a conference is a huge key to success. Go to the conference website click on each faculty member, agent, editor and publisher attending. Read, read, and read. Click on links directing you to their website. Read lots, learn stuff. What do they publish? Do you have something that fits their need? Print off the faculty page to circle, highlight, and take notes of those you wish to see.

After you learn stuff

Only make appointments with those people who are interested in your genre, article subject matter, or the idea you are pitching. Positive feedback and requests for your manuscripts are most likely to happen if you’ve done your research.

Most of the faculty will have a photo on the site. Having a copy with you will help you identify them between classes, break time, elevators and dining halls. Introduce yourself and briefly pitch your stuff. It’s not being rude. They expect conferencees to pitch to them outside of appointment schedules.

List those you wish to have appointments with by order of importance. You will only be allowed to make a few appointments. You’ll have to catch the rest on the fly.

Don’t forget panels

Attending panels at the conference furthers your research. Editor A does not list flash fiction for his magazine on his website but during a panel he mentioned he is now looking for it. Tada! You now can add him to your list of who you wish to contact.

Check your samples and clips

Look over the samples and clips you are taking to the conference. Decide in advance which ones you want to share during each appointment. Write more samples if an idea hits you while researching the needs of editors. It might be the perfect fit. Be sure it’s your best work.

Knowledge is power

So in conclusion-research, research, research. The more you know the less overwhelmed you will be at the conference.

Do you have any pre-conference research tips? Share them please.

 

Want to follow my blog? Click the link on your right.