Category Archives: Guy Anthony De Marco

Plotting and Planning Tips From a Million-Word NaNoWriMo Author

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun exercise for the professional writer as well as the dabbling beginning author wanna-be. The purpose of the event is not to hit 50K words, believe it or not. The real goal is to get people to start writing, to try to build up confidence, and to start a daily writing habit. That 50K word “goal” is just something more concrete for a beginning author to shoot for.

Personally, I think even writing one single word is a milestone since you’re now one word closer towards the completion of your novel. You’re further along than you were yesterday. It’s the effort that matters, and that’s where you should focus.

As of November 30, 2016, my total NaNoWriMo word count is 1,079,395 — over a million words. Here are some of the tips I use to get ready for the month.

Know Your November Schedule

It’s funny how many folks plan on participating in a month-long event without knowing what they’re in for. A good example to start with is Thanksgiving for those folks in the United States. Many families travel across the country to visit relatives. You may be the visitor, or you may be the destination. Understanding that you will be focused on a huge dinner with ten visitors at your table all ready to critique your interpretation of Grandma’s Super-Special Stuffing® will allow you to plan for no writing on the day before the holiday. For some crazy folks, going out the following day to battle crowds on Black Friday may be a tradition.

If you’re in college, perhaps there’s a major mid-term you will need to study for. Thinking about your day job, is there a huge project that will be due during November? You should take that into account.

Now that you have the major “distractions” identified, consider how many writing days you have left. Subtract two days for life emergencies. Now divide the number of days into 50K to see what your real daily writing goals are.

Start: 30 Days
-2 for emergencies
-3 for day job project
-1 for Black Friday sales
-2 for Thanksgiving dinner preparation and the ensuing coma from overeating
= 22 writing days

50,000 words / 22 days = 2273 words per writing day to “win” NaNoWriMo.

This is your real writing goal if you decide you’d like to reach that elusive fifty thousand word goal. If you work with this number in mind instead of the 1,667 words it says on the NaNo website, you will be better prepared to make it.

Prepare More Than One Project

I never have issues with writers block because I’m always working on multiple projects at one time. If the words won’t flow for one of them, I understand my brain is working on something that needs to be solved before continuing. When that happens I can either switch to some other project or switch to a different section of the novel. For example, maybe I’m stuck with some aspect of worldbuilding and magic in a fantasy novel. Instead of just sitting there in front of a keyboard gathering dust, I can jump forward to where the protagonist runs across the fierce bandit ogre and defeats the beast, turning it into a loyal friend.

Then again, maybe that bit of magic is so important that I can’t continue for now. No worries! Your brain will be stewing on that issue for a bit, so perhaps switch over to a space marine science fiction story and begin to write the next scene. Should the solution to your magical quandary present itself, feel free to save the sci-fi mid-battle and swap back to the fantasy.

I prepare six novels for every NaNoWriMo, all in different genres. Each one is plotted out using Scrivener, my preferred large project word processor. I also write a paragraph for each chapter describing what should be covered at a minimum. Don’t worry! When the file is prepared, I check the total words and don’t use them towards my November word count.

Don’t Erase Stuff!

If I’m banging away on my keyboard and discover the last half of a chapter won’t work because of a gaping plot hole, I never delete the words I’ve produced. Instead, I make a sub-page off of my chapter page and copy/paste the parts that don’t work. I do this because those words do count unless you delete them. Never go backwards more than a single sentence. By hanging on to those homeless words, they will still count plus you may discover they actually work elsewhere in the novel. It’s terribly frustrating to discover that you wrote the perfect two paragraphs but you nuked them…and now you can’t remember the wording you used that made the two paragraphs stand out.

If it turns out that your saved snippets only help you once, you’ll be ecstatic that you saved them.

Remember, It’s a First Draft

This probably harms more authors than anything else. New authors in particular tend to see the perfect as the enemy of the good. They keep fiddling with a sentence to make it perfect instead of continuing on. It’s a form of writers block, in my opinion, and it’s self-inflicted. You must remember that NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean National Perfectly Edited Final Draft Novel Writing Month. This is a sloppy, rough first draft. You will have plenty of time to run through it a few more times before you even think to bring in an editor, publisher, or to even self-publish. You must give yourself permission to suck and to write crap. It will be cleaned up and polished later!

Get the overall words down on the blasted page and move on. I always include extensive notes in my first drafts, such as [Research how long it would take for an iron chest to rust through in salt water.] I enclose those notes in square brackets so I can just search for them and find the answers — after November 30th. November is a writing month and not a research month. Focus!

Sometimes a new character will suddenly appear, forcing themselves into the novel and you have no say-so. Cool! Just add notes: [Bob will be joining the group as they march towards certain doom. Give him a background and a decent name.] Then move on. If you’re spending an hour discovering the perfect name for your new character, stop wasting time. Call them Bob or Sally or James or Susan…something that won’t really fit in the finished novel. You can do a search-and-replace later.

What If I Don’t Wanna Write?

This does happen on occasion. Maybe those turkey leftovers are making you feel the tryptophan blahs. If this happens, go back and see what you need to research. Google those strange subjects that make law enforcement and the CIA think you’re a serial murderer who believes in magic and loves outer space. Then take paraphrased notes (by typing, not cut and paste!) and transfer them to your novel in square brackets. Yup, those words count. Most of the time you’ll find something that sparks your brain to fight off the tryptophan and before you know it you’re back to writing your novel.

But You Said Don’t Research in November!

Yeah, I did. And when you find you’re stuck and not building your word count, don’t be shackled to some “rules” because…there are no rules when you’re writing. Heck, you can even write using horrific grammar because this is only a first draft.

Now get your butt in that chair and start writing! Thanks for reading this post, and I hope you’re set to give it a go on November 1st. Best of luck!


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, MWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Notes from Guy’s Momentum Peanut Gallery

Personal Health

My biggest momentum-killing foe is my health. I fight the good fight as best as I can, sometimes winning and sometimes losing the battles. Overall, every time I get something finished and sent off to a slush pile, that means I have won that particular war. Then the next deadline appears over the horizon and the fight continues.

One of my many medical issues involves a common writer’s ailment – carpal tunnel. When I first started getting it I did what most folks do: I ignored it. Then it evolved from a single soldier to a tank battalion running over my wrists every time I typed more than a page.

My first plan of attack was to get a new keyboard (a split version that kept my wrists at a better angle) and switching over to a trackball-type mouse (a Logitech thumb trackball marble). This allowed me to type more pages until the pain became distracting.

A friend of mine hikes the mountains of Colorado while dictating his 200K doorstop novels into a small recorder. He recommended that I look into using that type of setup. I picked up some quality studio equipment and Dragon Dictate 13. After training it by reading some of my books so it understood my writing style, I can now write very fast if I can remember the words I want to use. I just have to remember to say “period, new paragraph, open quotes” at the right time. Overall I’ve been quite happy with it and use it exclusively for longer projects.

Writer’s Block

Something that comes up on a lot of the convention panels are new authors suffering from writer’s block, which is a symptom of issues with resistance. I always say I think writer’s block is your brain’s way of telling you that you don’t really know what comes next, so you should let it percolate for a while in brain brine. At any given moment I have multiple projects in work at once, so if something needs more stewing I can switch over to something else. Heck, I can even just go and write a blog post or five and schedule them on my website or send them off to other blogs that I contribute to on occasion. Writing is writing, after all.

I know that not everyone can jump from a science fiction novel to a nonfiction article on worldbuilding to poetry, but that’s one of the few good things about being an Asperger’s author. I’ll take all of the positives I can muster!

Laziness and Goals

There are times when I’m just feeling lazy or I want to watch a movie. Instead of indulging myself, I use those longings to set up a small writing goal with the reward being what I want at that time. I force myself to do some work to earn the payoff. This also helps me to keep writing as a time priority, which I find vital as a professional writer.

Of course, now my evil inner momentum-killing foe wants me to go watch a movie as soon as I click the “post” button. We’ll see, my inner demons, we’ll see…


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, MWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

The Author’s Law of Momentum

Welcome to Thursday, August third. Today happens to be the birthday of my youngest daughter, Wiggle Pickle, and it’s also National Watermelon Day.

Have you ever had someone toss you a watermelon? The big ones are tough to catch because they can slip out of your hands due to momentum. Similarly, finishing a writing project and holding a copy in your hand is always a good feeling that’s tough to hang on to when you have to figure out what to write next, but what about the momentum of that event?

Newton’s Second Law loosely says that the rate of change of momentum is directly proportional to the forces applied in the direction of those forces. The same can be applied to your writing. Once you have something released on the market, it’s time to decide on what to do next to keep that momentum going.

You can decide to take a break and relax, perhaps do some marketing to sell a few more copies. This means your new book may have some outside forces nudging it along, but soon enough those sales will drop. Less force means less momentum, and it begins to decline. Think of it as a form of friction. After people either buy your book or they see your advertisement and decide that book is not for them, they begin to tune it out as background clutter.

What can you do? Remember Newton, of course!

Now is the time to start working on your next project, just after you’ve completed one. More books with your name means more books have the potential to hit it big. NY Times Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson calls it the popcorn theory of success. More popcorn kernels in the fire means more opportunities for one to pop.

The more books with your name on the cover means more chances for a reader to discover they love your work. The best chance to sell another book is when a reader finishes a satisfying novel and is ready for another one. Those forces help to push your work forward. More forces mean more momentum.

Each book is a stepping stone to your writing world. If you only write one and spend your days flogging it, after a while people will almost look at you like you’re a spammer. Same thing, day after day after month after year. If you started working on the next book, after a year you’d have at least one close to finished. Some folks can have four quality books or more. Author Chris Fox has a video series where he is writing a science fiction trilogy in exactly twelve weeks. You get to see weekly updates. Last year he wrote a novel in 21 days, then turned around and pulled in a six-digit income by December 31st. All of this was documented on ChrisFoxWrites.com and his YouTube channel.

Sure, perhaps you can’t write a book that fast. The good news is you don’t need to. You just need to keep that momentum going by working on it. If it takes you four months to bash out a first draft, you’re that much closer to releasing the next novel instead of starting four months from now.

It’s your decision how you want your momentum to go. Down from lack of energy and force behind your work, or up from little nudges every day. Eventually the momentum will build to the point where you can earn a following of true fans who will buy your next book sight unseen because they know you produce quality work.

Don’t let us down!


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Realistic-ish Exotic Settings

It seems that anyone who wants to write in the action, adventure, or thriller genres has to have a bazillion air miles on their cards in order to fly out to all of those exotic locations, write that section of the story, and then jet off to the next locale. What if you want to write about those places but don’t have the means?

There’s a couple of things you can do.

Wing It and Make It All Up

Yes, this is an option. You can set your mutant giant ant story in Nevada, and they all die because they’re allergic to saguaro cactus. The problem with this is saguaros live in the Sonora Desert in Arizona.

Winging it will require a lot of research for almost everything you want to do in your designated setting — if it exists in real life. Should you set your tale in a world made of cheeses and populated by naked mole rats, you’re free to make up everything to your heart’s content. The one thing you will need to do is make sure that once you set a rule you follow it, just like the laws of physics on Earth. If your characters have to keep one foot on the ground else they float off towards the ever-present giant hungry mouth floating in the sky, they can’t ever jump for joy or fall off of a building.

Whatever rules you develop, you’re stuck with them. If you change things mid-story, your readers will be irate.

Limit Your Story to Somewhere You’ve Lived

If you happen to be a former military member (thank you for your service), the spouse of one (also thank you for your service), or even a military brat that visited and/or lived in different countries, congratulations. You should have enough background to write a story with the general look and feel of that locale.

There are a few caveats, though. You’re familiar with that area for a specific time period. If I wanted to write a story about Brooklyn from my time living there, it would be from the late nineteen-sixties or -seventies. That’s the ballpark swath of time my memories are based on. If I wanted to have two characters meet at Elaine’s Avenue M Deli, that wouldn’t work for a 1970-era tale. Elaine’s started their business in 2001. People who are familiar with that area will know this and it will knock them out of the book.

You could always make up an establishment, but make sure you’re vague enough that people can’t say, “Oh, that’s where DiFara’s Pizza is. He’s been there since 1965. Also known as one of the very best places to get a pizza in the galaxy.”

Beyond the businesses and buildings, the overall look and feel of places change over time. What you remember as a gritty blue-collar area might have been gentrified, slowly filling up with hipsters and people with sculpted beards drinking Starbucks through a straw. If you still know people from the old neighborhood, get them on the phone or drop an email asking them to tell you how things are these days. It gives you a good excuse to call your old Uncle Johnny and Aunt Grace and chat for an hour, assuming they’re not late for a Groupon appointment offering buy one, get one free skydiving lessons.

Oh, and for folks who don’t think Brooklyn isn’t an exotic location, try visiting it. Besides, it’s the capital of the known universe and the place to go when one wants the best pizza.

Google Street View

This is one of the best things to help authors since instant coffee. While it doesn’t cover the entire globe, it will certainly do a decent job of letting you know what most places look like within the last couple of years.

If you want to virtually be in an Eagle’s song, you can go stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. In fact, there is a park dedicated to that very activity, including a statue. In some shots, you may even find a flatbed Ford.

Now it is possible to walk (or drag your cursor) through places like Prague or Berlin. If you want to describe your spy running through the Palazzo Poggi Museum at the University of Bologna, Italy, you can describe dashing through the doorway between the sculpture of a nude woman and a human skeleton.

Travel Books

While geared more towards tourists, picking up a Lonely Planet or Fodor’s travel guide can help you to bring some realism to your exotic settings. If your budget is limited, you can always visit your local library for the latest copy or pick up one from a year or two prior from used bookstores or a library sale.

These guides give you a good flavor of each area, discuss some of the unique qualities and places hidden within each locale, and sometimes include iconic things to do and see. People who live there or have visited will certainly remember Damnoen Saduak Floating Market or the giant maze that makes up the Chatuchak Weekend Market just off of Phahonyothin Road. It’s easy to get lost in there, and an excellent spot for your spy to ditch the folks following her. The extensive descriptions will help you to get the feel of the place and fire up descriptions of all senses.

Just Google It

In the end, you can just give Google Search a shot. This is probably the most used method authors use, so you may end up missing out on the spots that are off of the beaten path. Try to dig into reviews of places to get visitors opinions. Maybe the museum is nice but it smells like fish because of the cannery next door. Those little details will help to solidify the setting with your readers, especially folks with the travel experience.

After all, it may help you to properly plan the extermination of that giant radioactive ant problem your characters have if you shift them so they’re standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.

 


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.