NaNoWriMo 2012

Yup, I’m going to do this again. I’m basically going to add 50,000 words to my novel from last year in hopes of finishing it. Wish me luck. I did it once; I can do it again. Of course last time I took a week off work to do it, and this time I’ve already used my vacation. But if other people can do it, so can I.

Nanowrimo Participant 2012

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It’s like we’re not even watching the same show

“Glee” Recap (4.01): Marley & Me |

I can’t read this recap of Glee. You read it for me. I couldn’t get through the first paragraph, because it’s like the writer and I aren’t even watching the same show. Or sitting on the same planet, even. The crazy; it burns.

Kitty sez nope.

I thought her recaps of the last few episodes of Pretty Little Liars were bizarre and off-kilter, but this is nuts. She’s not recapping; that would be narrating the plot of the show for people who missed it. She’s outright rewriting the show with her own interpretation of events and interpretation of character motives, and it’s completely oddball.


Continue ReadingIt’s like we’re not even watching the same show

25 Ways To Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story

25 Ways To Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story.

I’m struggling with my novel quite a bit right now, trying to untangle the plot and see if I can figure out what I’m trying to convey. I had a really frustrating time last weekend trying to work it out. The “fly by the seat of your pants” method got a lot more done for me than the “meticulous plotting” method. But it also resulted in some of the plot tangles. So… I have a couple good suggestions from my NANOWRIMO group – and I have this awesome reference. I can see at least 3 different ways of approaching my plot in this article that would probably help me sort out my thinking.

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Pixar story rules

The Pixar Touch – history of Pixar – Blog – Pixar story rules (one version).

These are some fantastic story writing rules from Pixar Writer Emma Coats, as collected from her twitter feed.

Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

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Indiana Romance Writers of America: Golden Opportunities Contest

From the Indiana chapter of Romance Writers of AmericaIndiana Golden Opportunity Contest.

We welcome you to help us celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Indiana’s Golden Opportunity (IGO), one of the Midwest’s premier contests. The Indiana chapter of Romance Writers of America® (IRWA) has a well-deserved reputation for offering detailed, encouraging comments to our contest entrants from experienced professionals. Our four-page score sheet is designed to help entrants identify the elements of storytelling at which they excel while pinpointing the elements that require more attention. This means entrants will receive feedback that will help them create a quality polished manuscript. Many past winners have successfully sold the manuscripts they entered in the IGO, and we like to think we played a part in that. The contest is also a great way to prepare your work for Golden Heart. IGO attracts some of the most well-respected names in the industry as category and final judges.

This is an interesting opportunity for me, especially given that I’ll hopefully have a much more complete manuscript at the end of June than I do currently for my NaNoWriMo book. I could potentially enter this.

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Episodic v. Serial – Complications Ensue

Episodic v. Serial – Complications Ensue:

So when we actually saw Rob Thomas (creator of VERONICA MARS) giving a talk at Banff, DMc asked him about his thoughts on episodic vs. serial.

Rob busted out a factoid I’d heard before, but which really hadn’t sunk in. When people say they watch a show, on average, they watch one out of four episodes.

One out of four.

It’s a shock, because when I watch a show, I really want to see every episode. I missed maybe one or two FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTs last season, and I was really unhappy about it. One out of four? So the average audience member is really not that involved in the season arcs even of a soap opera like FNL; they’re just going along for the episodic ride.

Rob said if he’d been able to do a fourth season of VM, he’d have made it entirely episodic. No serial story at all. That was a shock.

Wow, one of the better shows developed for episodic viewing, and the writer wouldn’t do it that way again. Also – who watched Friday Night Lights that way? Good god. That show was amazing for layers and building. Why would you watch it for an episode here or there?

Maybe many people watch TV that way, but I sure don’t. There’s got to be two camps on this – I wonder what the split is?

And could you write a show that works for both camps?

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Brainstorming and Groupthink

From the New Yorker – Groupthink: The brainstorming myth, by Jonah Lehrer

In the late nineteen-forties, Alex Osborn, a partner in the advertising agency B.B.D.O., decided to write a book in which he shared his creative secrets…. His book “Your Creative Power” was published in 1948. An amalgam of pop science and business anecdote, it became a surprise best-seller. Osborn promised that, by following his advice, the typical reader could double his creative output…

But Osborn’s most celebrated idea was the one discussed in Chapter 33, “How to Organize a Squad to Create Ideas.” When a group works together, he wrote, the members should engage in a “brainstorm,” which means “using the brain to storm a creative problem—and doing so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective.” For Osborn, brainstorming was central to B.B.D.O.’s success. Osborn described, for instance, how the technique inspired a group of ten admen to come up with eighty-seven ideas for a new drugstore in ninety minutes, or nearly an idea per minute. The brainstorm had turned his employees into imagination machines.

The book outlined the essential rules of a successful brainstorming session. The most important of these, Osborn said—the thing that distinguishes brainstorming from other types of group activity—was the absence of criticism and negative feedback. If people were worried that their ideas might be ridiculed by the group, the process would fail. “Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it in the bud,” he wrote. “Forget quality; aim now to get a quantity of answers. When you’re through, your sheet of paper may be so full of ridiculous nonsense that you’ll be disgusted. Never mind. You’re loosening up your unfettered imagination—making your mind deliver.” Brainstorming enshrined a no-judgments approach to holding a meeting.

The trouble with the absence of criticism was that it doesn’t work – groups working together to solve problems come up with fewer solutions than individuals working alone. But what does work with groups? Critique does. A group can come up with better, more creative solutions if ideas are criticized and evaluated and discarded if they aren’t used. Challenges to our thought process cause us to reevaluate our ideas and take us off in new directions.

According to Nemeth, dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints. “There’s this Pollyannaish notion that the most important thing to do when working together is stay positive and get along, to not hurt anyone’s feelings,” she says. “Well, that’s just wrong. Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.”

Another factor that helps open the door to mass group creativity is the makeup of the group itself. Brian Uzzi began studying what ideal teams should look like by studying teams responsible for creating Broadway Musicals. He picked a particularly successful period of Broadway shows and analyzed their creative teams:

Uzzi wanted to understand how the relationships of these team members affected the product. Was it better to have a group composed of close friends who had worked together before? Or did strangers make better theatre? He undertook a study of every musical produced on Broadway between 1945 and 1989. To get a full list of collaborators, he sometimes had to track down dusty old Playbills in theatre basements. He spent years analyzing the teams behind four hundred and seventy-four productions, and charted the relationships of thousands of artists, from Cole Porter to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Uzzi found that the people who worked on Broadway were part of a social network with lots of interconnections: it didn’t take many links to get from the librettist of “Guys and Dolls” to the choreographer of “Cats.” Uzzi devised a way to quantify the density of these connections, a figure he called Q. If musicals were being developed by teams of artists that had worked together several times before—a common practice, because Broadway producers see “incumbent teams” as less risky—those musicals would have an extremely high Q. A musical created by a team of strangers would have a low Q.

He discovered that having a low Q was bad, but having a really high Q wasn’t the most successful configuration of a team either. It took having mostly incumbent members with a few new folks to challenge their thinking to keep interactions from becoming stale.

Another important component of creative thinking on teams is space and how it’s arranged. Physical proximity matters to group interactions, and having creative teams run into one another and interact in a casual way sparks lots of creative ideas. Steve Jobs understood that concept and continually reworked the architecture of Apple to generate those sorts of spontaneous interactions among his employees.

And a famous lab building at M.I.T – Building 20 – was ground zero for some of the most successful scientific and cultural collaborations in American history, simply because it had a ramshackle design that encouraged creative thought – researchers could rearrange their space they way they wanted and routinely knocked out walls and rebuild their labs if needed – and the building’s convoluted layout meant that researchers from wildly divergent teams ran into one another in the hallways, formed friendships and triggered intellectual thought outside of their area of expertise.

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Word Counts of Famous Short Stories (organized)

Shamelessly cribbed from Classic Short Stories and re-organized by word count from shortest to longest for comparison purposes. We’re discussing short stories with the Indy NaNoWriMo group this afternoon, and I thought it might help to have a word count chart similar to the one I did for Famous Novels back in November.

Of the 161 stories listed, 3081 is the median word count (number in the middle) and 4052 is the average word count. Duotrope (a free writers’ resource listing over 3950 current fiction and poetry publications) caps their search for short story publishers at 7,500 words, which means most publishers are looking for stories of less than that length.

Words: 710 – Virginia Woolf – A Haunted House
Words: 762 – Fielding Dawson – The Vertical Fields
Words: 810 – Mark Twain – A Telephonic Conversation
Words: 994 – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One of These Days
Words: 1274 – Saki (H H Munro) – The Open Window
Words: 1354 – Guy de Maupassant – The Kiss
Words: 1377 – Saki (H H Munro) – Mrs Packletide’s Tiger
Words: 1411 – Guy de Maupassant – A Dead Woman’s Secret
Words: 1429 – Guy de Maupassant – Indiscretion
Words: 1464 – Guy de Maupassant – Moonlight
Words: 1472 – Guy de Maupassant – Coco
Words: 1503 – Anton Pavlovich Checkhov – A Slander
Words: 1520 – Saki (H H Munro) – The Mouse
Words: 1552 – Guy de Maupassant – Yvette
Words: 1564 – William Carlos Williams – The Use of Force
Words: 1618 – Liam O’Flaherty – The Sniper
Words: 1624 – Guy de Maupassant – Farewell
Words: 1657 – Guy de Maupassant – Friend Patience
Words: 1691 – Guy de Maupassant – The Drunkard
Words: 1720 – Guy de Maupassant – The Christening
Words: 1764 – Guy de Maupassant – A Vendetta
Words: 1797 – Mark Twain – Luck
Words: 1830 – Saki (H H Munro) – Sredni Vashtar
Words: 1831 – Ambrose Bierce – The Boarded Window
Words: 1857 – Guy de Maupassant – Bellflower
Words: 1862 – Guy de Maupassant – In the Wood
Words: 1870 – Guy de Maupassant – The Dowry
Words: 1896 – Guy de Maupassant – The Unknown
Words: 1914 – Guy de Maupassant – A Family
Words: 1921 – Guy de Maupassant – Misti–Recollections of a Bachelor
Words: 1944 – Guy de Maupassant – Confessing
Words: 1978 – Anton Pavlovich Checkhov – The Lottery Ticket
Words: 2023 – Guy de Maupassant – A Humble Drama
Words: 2071 – Guy de Maupassant – Two Little Soldiers
Words: 2073 – E B White – The Door
Words: 2083 – Guy de Maupassant – Humiliation
Words: 2093 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Tell-Tale Heart
Words: 2098 – Rudyard Kipling – How the Leopard Got His Spots
Words: 2098 – Guy de Maupassant – The Hand
Words: 2106 – Guy de Maupassant – Old Mongilet
Words: 2109 – Saki (H H Munro) – The Storyteller (Saki)
Words: 2112 – Patrick Waddington – The Street That Got Mislaid
Words: 2149 – Mark Twain – A Burlesque Biography
Words: 2163 – O Henry – The Gift of the Magi
Words: 2208 – Guy de Maupassant – The Hairpin
Words: 2256 – O Henry – The Whirligig of Life
Words: 2284 – Guy de Maupassant – Denis
Words: 2350 – Mark Twain – Italian without a Master
Words: 2383 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Masque of the Red Death
Words: 2384 – Herman Melville – The Fiddler
Words: 2385 – Anton Pavlovich Checkhov – A Day in the Country
Words: 2385 – Guy de Maupassant – Waiter
Words: 2399 – James Joyce – Araby
Words: 2414 – O Henry – The Princess and the Puma
Words: 2421 – Dorothy Parker – A Telephone Call
Words: 2434 – Guy de Maupassant – Madame Parisse
Words: 2457 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Imp of the Perverse
Words: 2479 – Guy de Maupassant – Timbuctoo
Words: 2495 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Cask of Amontillado
Words: 2500 – O Henry – The Last Leaf
Words: 2530 – Guy de Maupassant – The Piece of String
Words: 2543 – Ambrose Bierce – A Horseman in the Sky
Words: 2544 – Rudyard Kipling – The Elephant’s Child
Words: 2555 – O Henry – The Coming-Out of Maggie
Words: 2623 – Mark Twain – Italian with Grammar
Words: 2631 – Mark Twain – The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Words: 2637 – Guy de Maupassant – Theodule Sabot’s Confession
Words: 2649 – James Joyce – Clay
Words: 2652 – Guy de Maupassant – The Marquis de Fumerol
Words: 2720 – Herman Melville – The Lightning-Rod Man
Words: 2731 – Guy de Maupassant – The Devil
Words: 2747 – Frank Stockton – The Lady or the Tiger?
Words: 2768 – Guy de Maupassant – Julie Romain
Words: 2797 – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Eyes of a Blue Dog
Words: 2811 – Edgar Allan Poe – Von Kempelen and His Discovery
Words: 2871 – Anton Pavlovich Checkhov – The Bet
Words: 2901 – Evan Hunter – The Last Spin
Words: 2989 – Guy de Maupassant – The Donkey
Words: 3016 – Dylan Thomas – A Child’s Christmas in Wales
Words: 3056 – Guy de Maupassant – Toine
Words: 3081 – Guy de Maupassant – The Father
Words: 3091 – Guy de Maupassant – The Necklace
Words: 3159 – Guy de Maupassant – A Coward
Words: 3208 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Wedding-Knell
Words: 3211 – Irwin Shaw – The Girls in Their Summer Dresses
Words: 3283 – George Orwell – Shooting an Elephant
Words: 3343 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Ambitious Guest
Words: 3400 – Graham Greene – The End of the Party
Words: 3448 – Ambrose Bierce – Beyond the Wall
Words: 3620 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Facts in the Case of M Valdemar
Words: 3624 – Bret Harte – Tennessee’s Partner
Words: 3642 – Guy de Maupassant – An Affair of State
Words: 3690 – Paul Bowles – In the Red Room
Words: 3772 – Charles Dickens – The Baron of Grogzwig
Words: 3773 – Shirley Jackson – The Lottery
Words: 3801 – George Saunders – The Falls
Words: 3804 – Ambrose Bierce – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Words: 3878 – Edgar Allan Poe – 7 Mesmeric Revelation
Words: 3899 – Roald Dahl – Lamb to the Slaughter
Words: 3998 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Black Cat
Words: 4058 – Guy de Maupassant – The Wreck
Words: 4134 – W W Jacobs – The Monkey’s Paw
Words: 4190 – Bret Harte – The Luck of Roaring Camp
Words: 4279 – Guy de Maupassant – That Pig of a Morin
Words: 4309 – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Eva Is Inside Her Cat
Words: 4356 – Charles Dickens – The Poor Relation’s Story
Words: 4372 – O Henry – The Ransom of Red Chief
Words: 4490 – Guy de Maupassant – A Vagabond
Words: 4492 – James O’Keefe – Death Makes a Comeback
Words: 4618 – Guy de Maupassant – Mademoiselle Fifi
Words: 4625 – Roald Dahl – Man From the South
Words: 4722 – Katherine Mansfield – The Stranger
Words: 5028 – Anton Pavlovich Checkhov – The Darling
Words: 5046 – Ring Lardner – Haircut
Words: 5072 – Roald Dahl – Beware of the Dog
Words: 5114 – Guy de Maupassant – The Inn
Words: 5215 – James Joyce – A Little Cloud
Words: 5231 – Stuart Cloete – The Soldier’s Peaches
Words: 5285 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Minister’s Black Veil
Words: 5387 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – Young Goodman Brown
Words: 5505 – George Orwell – Politics and the English Language
Words: 5547 – Jesse Stuart – Split Cherry Tree
Words: 5557 – Katherine Mansfield – The Garden Party
Words: 5565 – Honore de Balzac – A Passion in the Desert
Words: 5637 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Premature Burial
Words: 5672 – O Henry – A Blackjack Bargainer
Words: 5703 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Great Carbuncle
Words: 5704 – Bret Harte – How Santa Claus Came to Simpson’s Bar
Words: 5707 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Thousand-And-Second Tale of Scheherazade
Words: 5751 – Guy de Maupassant – Mademoiselle Pearl
Words: 5896 – Rudyard Kipling – Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from The Jungle Book
Words: 5952 – Tobias Wolff – Hunters in the Snow
Words: 6015 – D H Lawrence – The Rocking-Horse Winner
Words: 6078 – Frank Stockton – The Griffin and the Minor Canon
Words: 6155 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Pit and the Pendulum
Words: 6366 – Ambrose Flack – The Strangers That Came to Town
Words: 6758 – Ring Lardner – The Golden Honeymoon
Words: 6776 – Guy de Maupassant – Useless Beauty
Words: 6815 – Robert Louis Stevenson – Markheim
Words: 6826 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – Ethan Brand
Words: 6934 – Washington Irving – Rip Van Winkle (A Posthumous Writing of Diedrich Knickerbocker)
Words: 7053 – H G Wells – The Door in the Wall
Words: 7120 – Henry Van Dyke – The First Christmas Tree
Words: 7176 – Jack London – To Build a Fire
Words: 7178 – Mark Twain – Was it Heaven? Or Hell?
Words: 7181 – Edgar Allan Poe – A Descent Into the Maelstrom
Words: 7226 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Fall of the House of Usher
Words: 7396 – Edgar Allan Poe – The Purloined Letter
Words: 7419 – Thomas Bailey Aldrich – Marjorie Daw
Words: 7446 – Richard Harding Davis – The Consul
Words: 7805 – Jack London – A Piece of Steak
Words: 7876 – Guy de Maupassant – Miss Harriet
Words: 8080 – Mark Twain – The Private History of a Campaign That Failed
Words: 8426 – Richard Connell – The Most Dangerous Game
Words: 8881 – Carl Stephenson – Leiningen versus the Ants
Words: 8970 – Willa Cather – Paul’s Case
Words: 9601 – Thomas Nelson Page – The Burial of the Guns
Words: 10669 – Edith Wharton – Souls Belated
Words: 11870 – Edith Wharton – Afterward
Words: 12261 – Nathaniel Hawthorne – Rappaccini’s Daughter
Words: 33015 – H G Wells – The Time Machine

Continue ReadingWord Counts of Famous Short Stories (organized)

Apps I may need someday

Business Model Toolbox

The Business Model Toolbox combines the speed of a napkin sketch with the smarts of a spreadsheet. It enables you to map, test, and iterate your business ideas – fast.

With the Business Model Toolbox you will be able to:

  • – Sketch your business model using the practical methodology from the best-selling book, Business Model Generation.
  • – Add ballpark figures for market size, revenue streams, and costs – faster than any spreadsheet.
  • – Test the profitability of your ideas with a quick report and breakdowns by offer, customer segments, and costs.

Why I need may this: I can see this being useful for getting my writing distributed when I get my novel finished. I have a kind of elaborate plan for this including a marketing website that I need to build, with downloadable ebooks that I sell myself from the site as well as purchasing from amazon and barnes and noble.

A personal database app – ReadWrite reviews 4 of them for the iPad.

Why I need may this: I keep running into a frustration with tracking things accurately – I’ve been wanting a way to track my word counts in writing, but also some other things based on date that simply entering things in a calendar doesn’t help with. A calendar lets me enter information, but doesn’t sum it up for me in a query – “How many times this year have I put flea medication on the dog?” is one of those queries I’d like to have. (also, “how many times have I cleaned out the fish tank?” and “how many times have I visited the library?” “How many times over the last 5 years have I gotten an oil change” are other examples.) I’m wishing there were a journaling/calendar app that would do these things, but I haven’t found one, and think I may need to just build a database that does something like this, although the very idea makes me really weary, frankly.

Continue ReadingApps I may need someday

Writing Resolutions

Wordplay has a nice list of 12 writing resolutions – 1 for each month of the year. Pretty good stuff, and I plan to adopt them.

In January, I resolve to…schedule a regular writing time.
In February, I resolve to… create a roadmap to publication.
In March, I resolve to… stop procrastinating.
In April, I resolve to… edit an old story.
In May, I resolve to… send my story out for critique.
In June, I resolve to… enforce my writing time.
In July, I resolve to… streamline my writing process.
In August, I resolve to… fact check my story.
In September, I resolve to… do one thing to build my author’s platform.
In October, I resolve to… interview my characters.
In November, I resolve to… get organized.
In December, I resolve to… exterminate clichés.

Bonus: Year-Long Resolution:
This year, I resolve to read at least one book on the craft every month.

Continue ReadingWriting Resolutions