Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Resolutions

Celebrate responsibly. Hear everything. Use later.
The end of the year reflections are upon me. It's been quite an interesting year full of very low Lows and middling Highs. Productive and full of promise; exasperating and exhilarating. Lots of introspection during the Lows as is more than normal in any human's life. That introspection begets revelation which begets resolution to be better.

For the last few years I've tried to boil my resolutions down to a six-word sentence, inspired by the Six Word Story idea. Last year I didn't have a 'real' resolution except to be a more consistent writer. The blog stats have certainly reflected that. In 2012 I posted as much as the previous three years combined. I guess that makes me some kind of blogger. Which kind I'm not sure...

As we begin the New Year, on the cusp of another sea-change in terms of mass media, my resolutions for the coming year aren't easily boiled down.

One thing, as far as my work life goes, is to be as open as I can be. To do what I do best and be the best at those things that I do. Sounds convoluted but it's honest. As resolutions go, it also doesn't sound like much but believe me it's a lot. As long as I get 100% from everyone around me at work, I will give 100% back. We're all in it together.

In terms of writing I will be at least as consistent as in 2012. Submissions will happen, too. I won't be afraid to send the work out because I will know that it's better than it was before and that it's good enough to be consumed by the public. You can read from this that the novel will go out again sooner than later and that short stories are destined to be picked up somewhere. Watch this space.

Finally, personally, I am going to shed myself of these bad habits that have reared up again. They're the result of terrible changes wrought on me early in the year and my weakness in combatting them. Exercise will be part of my daily life again, and eating less. These are simple things that made me feel a lot better and require minimal actual effort but it's so easy to let them slip by. No more. I need to feel better physically to reflect the determination I feel mentally.

Can I sum this up in six words? I don't think I have to. I know what I need to do and how it needs to be done.

And in our hearts we all know the same thing. As a society we do the same things, think the same thoughts. As individuals we make choices to be one thing or another, do one thing or another and we have to live with those choices.

I wish you a Happy New Year and the ability to make the right choices for you.

And thank you all for your support and reading the blog. I hope to hear from more of you in the coming year.

Best,


Jason


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best of the Year

This is a list of the 16 posts from this year that I would class as 'the best of' Jason Arnett dot com, 2012 edition. Interestingly the most visited post is Nina Simone and the Keyboard. Probably because I mentioned Nina Simone (who appears nowhere on the blog, sorry) and have a picture of The Scream in it. I'm just guessing. I've included posts that are my favorites and the ones that got comments related to the post. Also, just looking at the stats I can see which ones are more popular and so we get our list. I could have had 20, but I like that it's not a top ten or top twenty list. It's a 'best of'.

A New Montparnasse
Teh Future Iz Hear
Review: John Carter
Casting Color
Adapting
The Prurient Interests
Nina Simone and the Keyboard
Self-Publishing
Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises
Juggling
Brand Loyalty
Recompense
NaNoWriMo Prep: Character Profiles
Self-Identifying
A Bit Forward
A Bit of Critical Thinking

The blog will continue into 2013 with thoughts and ramblings about all sorts of stuff from my writing, other peoples' writings, music, art, films, politics, and just whatever crosses my mind. I suspect that there will be less about writing and the process and more about the things that are interesting me to write in the first place. You'll get stories about writing.

Thank you so much for being here this year. I hope I've entertained you and I look forward to continuing to do so in the coming year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

What I've Learned: The Year 2012

Double sixes means I get roll again, right? Loading the
dice so that happens every time means you make your
own luck. That and perseverance are how you win.
This should be subtitled or what I've had to re-learn this year that I should've learned long before now.

LUCK IS THE RESULT OF HARD WORK AND TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CHANCE. Really, as cliche as that sounds (or reads) that's the absolute truth. It takes practice to get good at what you do. Some people say there are numbers you have to hit in order to reach minimum competence in regard to learning a skill or trade. Between this blog, my novel and short-story writing, and my weekly contributions at The Confabulator Cafe I've written over 200,000 words this year alone. Jeez, that's a lot, isn't it? Over the last two years or so I can count over half a million words written. Over a million if I count back to 2008. All fiction. All in storytelling forms.

And I'm still learning how to write with skill.

If I find a way to get my novel published (and that's the plan for 2013) then it won't be because I got lucky. It'll be because I've put the work into it. There's no such thing as an 'overnight' success. It's always the result of figuring out the way to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.


PATIENCE. AND MORE PATIENCE. AND STILL MORE PATIENCE. I was fortunate this summer to have time to spend with my son while I was between jobs. He's sixteen and he took Driver's Ed. That's the age where he's 'becoming interesting', as the senior Dr. Jones put it once upon a time. As a parent I've learned patience in raising him. It takes time to grasp concepts and be able to put them into use. The same applies to being a writer or anything else. You get good at what you do over time, not over night. I hope that I'm improving as a writer - I feel like I am - and things are looking up in terms of being 'successful'. All a result of being patient.


MULTIPLE DRAFTS ARE PART OF LIFE AT THIS STAGE OF MY CAREER. Oh, god, multiple drafts. The novel has been through five separate revisions at this point. I'm sure there's at least one more to come no matter what.

That said, the first draft, as much as I loved it, was really and truly that hot mess we call a Zero Draft which amounts to nothing more than a 'treatment' of the novel the story will grow up to be. One of the reasons I'm in love with Scrivener as a novel-drafting tool is that I can tell it what draft I'm in and the text I write is a different color from what already exists in the document. I can tell you that five colors on a single page is kind of distracting but damned effective in showing me how the manuscript has improved and changed. I understand that as I improve going forward I'll be seeing less and less of a rainbow. I'm looking forward to that.


THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO YOU WILL SUPPORT YOU NO MATTER WHAT. There are tests in every relationship and when you are at your lowest you'll find who's there for you. The people who love you as friends and more will wait for you to tell what's on your mind unless it's obvious that you're  in a serious, perhaps life-threatening crisis. It hurts when you realize that people you thought were close really aren't but that's part of life, isn't it? Sometimes they come back but it's hard to trust them as completely as you might have once.

Just to be clear, I'm not mentioning any names and I'm not talking about any one person in particular. I'm generalizing because in this case it's the best way to illustrate the point. I've been pretty low a couple of times in my life and it's hard to see your way out of any hole that's deep and dark. As a creative person it's important to realize that you are really not alone though it seems that way. Occasionally you have to look up at the top of the hole and hold out your hand. The people who love you will help pull you out.

You'll find out.

BAD HABITS WILL REAR UP WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT THEM. Not just in my writing (passive verbs) but also in my everyday life. I have to be aware of them when they come roaring back (like eating too much) and then double down on the things I have to do to combat them (like actually exercising). Watch out for them and when there's a time when you'll slip (and you will) embrace the fact that you are fallible and human and then beat that sucker down like - well, like whatever metaphor you prefer does.

WHO YOU KNOW MATTERS. (NO REALLY, IT DOES.) I wish it didn't, I really wish that everyone who was worthy could just be successful based on demonstrated talent alone. It could be that way in the future, but we're not living there yet. Or even now. Still not yet. So take the time to be nice to people you meet and follow Wheaton's Law. You may not recognize someone who could help you out in some small way so it's best to take the attitude that everyone can be of some service.


SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE OF LIKE MINDS (IN TERMS OF CREATIVITY) WILL MAKE YOU BETTER. This is an absolute truth. Even if it's only that you'll recognize that you might be ahead of the people you're around. Then you'll find a new group of people and realize that you're all at roughly the same level and that you can help each other quite a bit. Learn how to critique honestly without being personal. Develop a thick skin and be able to hear an honest critique without taking it personally. Adjust how you say things that others don't want to hear but need to in order to improve. You'll find that it gets easier to critique new members of your group.

A word about the group: it may not be an organized thing like the Confabulator Cafe. You may have to find that group by building it yourself. Do it. It's worth the time. Just be aware of potential likeminds when you're meeting people. A caveat, though: don't be pushy. Others may not be ready to be part of a group. It's okay. Stay in touch. Also: don't overextend yourself. You'll go down in flames too quickly if you try to do too much. If you can get together for coffee or a Google hangout, do that first. It takes time to build good chemistry as a group. Be patient.


LIFE HAPPENS. DEAL WITH IT AND FIND TIME TO BE A WRITER ANYWAY. Seems obvious, doesn't it? The biggest thing anyone who's creative has to do is manage Time. None of us are Time Lords (well, I'm not anyway) and we can't just slow things down in order to find time to do what makes us happy or drives us or whatever it is inside you that makes you want to do this. You have to treat your creative endeavors as a sideline, a second job, your own business. Whatever metaphor works for you. You have to schedule your attention. That's what makes NaNoWriMo so important. If you can write 50,000 words in a month, you can plan to write 50,000 words over three months. Or however many more you want.

Look, it's simple: set a goal and meet it.

No, really. It's that easy. Determine for yourself that your goal has to be met and then find the time to do it. Give up one TV show, one trip to the coffee shop, thirty minutes of sleep at the beginning of your day or the end or one party a week. If you want to be a successful creative person you have to work at it. This is the theme that we started with, right?

2012 has been a fantastic year for me. Personally devastating and gratifying at different points during the year. Highs and lows are part of being human. Once you understand that and decide that neither will defeat you or blind you from doing good work. Keep pushing yourself and you'll get better.

The old saw goes that the one that gets published is the one who didn't give up.

That's me. I'm not giving up.

Ever.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Here's a reminder that there are Free Stories collected on this page here for you to link out to and peruse when you have some time.

The latest link is to my current Confabulator Cafe/Straeon Manor story - A Delicate Man.

Of course the title came from Fiona Apple's brilliant debut single Criminal. But the twists and turns of the story were probably more inspired by H.P. Lovecraft than anyone else. Certainly the ending owes Howard quite a debt. 

I am stricken with the realization that I have written a good deal more horror or suspense than I previously thought. I think of myself as a science fiction writer, but there's some dark stuff inside and it's working out in these little tales. Dark Fantasy, maybe, rather than horror. I dunno, you tell me.

So if you're feeling the need to read some interesting stories for free in the odd moments over today and tomorrow or any time, really, click here. I'd be grateful if you'd let me know what you think, too.

Merry Christmas! See you on Friday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Holiday Film List

Today's my Dad's birthday. I write because he built me a drawing table when I was a teenager. I know that seems incongruous but it's the truth. I wanted to be an artist as a kid and he crafted this table (which I still have) out of PVC pipe and a nice wood top. It's lightweight and the top detaches which has always made it easy to move. I drew my first comics attempts on it in the mid-80s and then mini comics on that table in the early 2000s. When I found I didn't have what it took to be a writer/artist, I just started writing. Dad is a genius when it comes to building things. You should see the kitchen cabinets he made for Mom.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad! Here's a song for you:


***


It's that time of year when the wife and I settle in with a bowl of popcorn, maybe a martini, and watch holiday films. We celebrate Christmas and for the first time (for me) I'll be able to see the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, which makes me extremely happy. Anyway, here's the list of movies we watch every year in no particular order.


  • The Ref - Dennis Leary, Kevin Spacey, and Judy Davis together made one of the funniest Christmas movies ever. I mean ever. Spacey and Davis are a couple on the edge of divorce and therapy isn't doing them one bit of good. She tells stories at dinner parties that embarrass him and he's upset at her for resenting the 'help' they took from his mother. Both yearn for more than they have and their son is a --- well his military school commander (the wonderful wonderful J.K. Simmons) calls him "demon seed". Leary's a cat burglar who is trapped in town and take everyone hostage. Hijinks ensue. Santa Claus and Leary's assistant, Murray, are just small parts of a terrific ensemble cast that includes Christine Baranski and Glynnis Johns. If you haven't seen it I don't know if we can be friends.
  • Donovan's Reef - John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, and Elizabeth Allen make the family holiday squabble even more entertaining in this John Ford-directed film. There are fistfights, waterskiing, subterfuges, and a silly gag with a slot machine, too. This is really light comedy and just a ton of fun to watch every year.
  • The Family Stone is a tearjerker in the best way. Sarah Jessica Parker, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes, and Luke Wilson are all part of one of the most familiar, most dysfunctional and idealistic families ever committed to film. You know these people, at least I do, and they're endearing and maddening at the same time with all their foibles and expectations. Mulroney brings Parker home to meet the family because he wants his mother's ring to ask Parker to marry him. He thinks he's in love. She thinks she's in love. Turns out that the one who instructs them all about love is the lovable loser Wilson. Once the hijinks are done you'll hurt with them and understand the depth of the love in that family. 
  • Hidalgo - Viggo Mortenson stars with Omar Sharif (!) in a truly epic horse race story. If you're a fan of big action and thrills, you'll love this film. One thing you have to remember here is that it's based on a true story, not the entire truth. I'm sure there are problems with some facts but it's damned entertaining and requires your attention.
  • The English Patient - Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas (along with Juliet Binoche and Colin Firth) make a love story so strong that you can't resist. It's beautifully shot in the desert, too, and the Christmas party scene is especially memorable. You know all the rest, I'm sure.

Last year we watched the Swedish versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books (all three of them) one after the other. Not sure if we'll do that again this year but I'm kind of hoping for that. Love Actually is a candidate for annual viewing after this year, too. We've hit it a couple of times on HBO and it's one of my favorites.

All right, last post before the holiday, this one. I'm taking Monday off to do family things but I'll be back next Wednesday.

***

But before I go, don't forget to click over to The Confabulator Cafe today to read my newest FREE short story: A Delicate Man. It's set in the year 2037 at the Cafe's house, Straeon Manor. Everyone's stories this week are related to the holiday and so is mine, but there's some really strange stuff going on in the house. You'll have to read it to find out. 

Let me know what you think will you? And tell me what holiday films you watch every year. I might need some new stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Don't Worry Post

The cats lay in wait for me on the bookshelves. Jeez, I can't
get a break. They also don't believe how hard I'm working
since I don't bring them crunchies to eat.
It's been busy here around the house. I've been reading frantically for two friends, offering critiques and working like a demon. Tuesday I wrote 2000 words on a story that will appear Friday at The Confabulator Cafe. I can't tell you why there was such a burst of creativity but there was and I'm not questioning it.

I've got the novel out for comments again and I'm working to get ahead on blog posts again. By Saturday I should be back on track.

And the holidays are coming up again.

Damn.

Then there's the winter storm that's possibly bearing down on us for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Sleet turning into snow sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Still, it's a great time of year. I'm going to have some time off, get to open some presents and there'll be plenty of drinks to drink and movies to watch. Food to eat, too.

Yeah, I can't complain.

Once I'm caught up, I'm gonna get back to the novel. This year's novel, I mean. There's some serious editing to be done before I dive back into writing the rest of the middle and then the end. However I know exactly what's going to happen so it should be a cakewalk to finish. I'm aiming at the end of January.

So - don't worry that you didn't hear from me earlier this week. I'm just staying busy. You should be, too, right? Because you're writing and so am I.

Oh. Yeah. I've got some reading to do. Lethem and Baciagalupi. What are you all reading over the holidays? Anything?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Being a Writer

Being a writer means universes clash on our Christmas
tree every year. 

A little while back I told you that I self-identified with being a writer. Part of that revelation has come from writing every week (mostly) for the Confabulator Cafe. I'm over there again this week writing a bit about gifts for writers. It's not as entertaining as Chuck Wendig's article earlier this week, but maybe it'll help you decide what to get for the writer in your life.

All this introduction to say that I'm really enjoying being a writer. I finished another draft of the novel and I'm writing a short story (which I really have to get back to after I write this) and I'm reading a couple of things for other writers. 

I enjoy the critique process. That's probably masochistic, but I want to know what's wrong with my stories so that I can make them better. When I critique what I look at is possibilities. Is this going to happen? What if it does? 

The difference in choices is what makes writers different. Recently a conversation brought up Stephen King's Desperation and Richard Bachman's The Regulators. (You of course know that King and Bachman are the same guy.) The basis of each story was the same but it certainly highlighted the different voices and the different choices writers can make if given the same topic to write on. That's further reinforced by how each of us at the Cafe approach our flash fictions (and next week we return to Straeon Manor!) and how each of us look at the topic of gifting. 

In the case of the books I mentioned, it's the difference between horror and terror. No one can write horror quite like King. And no one can writer terror like King does when he's using Bachman's voice. (For the record I much preferred The Regulators to Desperation. The Regulators terrified me. It was brilliant.) This is also what makes King such a fantastic writer that he can write with two distinct voices. Yes there are quite a few similarities and it's obvious now that they're the same person but if you didn't know you might just say they shared sensibilities.

So when I'm critiquing a work for a friend, I'm looking at those sensibilities and trying to figure out why those choices were made, how I might have made them differently. That's how I'm learning to be a writer. By the same token getting critiques back always shows me the same thing in reverse. 

The possibilities are intoxicating and enlightening. Sometimes I'll think what would this person do in this case? and then I explore that option. Sometimes I use what I come up with and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I'll like the outcome of that thinking but go back and wonder how I get to the same conclusion along a different road. 

Like I said, being a writer is pretty cool. Reading something by a friend or someone as well-known as King teaches me something I didn't know before. Do you know a writer and need a gift for them? Books. Always books. 

Tak.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I've Learned: Editing

I used to edit on paper with anything red I could
find. Nowadays I can do it on the computer
though I still have a lot of red pencils around.
Image from here.
Yesterday I finished the (by my count) 5th draft of this novel I wrote last year. Actually it's about draft 3.5 but because I did some things halfway, I'm counting it as 5. Along the way I've learned quite a bit. Here's a partial list:

'A LITTLE' GOES A LONG WAY
It seemed like every time I turned around I was having people do things 'a little'. Nodding a little, smiling a little, shaking a little, stepping back a little. I know it happened because I was avoiding the -ly adverbs and in particular 'slightly' but it got waaaaaay out of hand. There were as multiple instances in every single chapter of the book. More than a dozen in one case. Those puppies were gone every time I caught 'em. I found them because 'little' is a weak word. So is 'nice' and 'very' and so many others. Not all of them but the vast majority took a flying hike.

SUPERPASSIVE BLACK HOLE
I've made no secret that I had a problem with passivity in the verbiage. In a given chapter of roughly 5000 words there might have been 50 - 60 passive phrases that had to be retooled. Most of them were of the garden variety [to be verb] combined with a gerund. "Was going" happened to be the biggest offender. "Was wearing" came a close second and in almost every case I could change the offending verb phrase to 'wore' or 'went' or - well, you get the picture. I'll tell you that fixing passive verbs over the course of more than 100,000 words teaches you a lesson that should stay ingrained. I'm really hoping this will improve the first drafts of everything going forward. Only time will tell.

Now, that said, I left the passive verbs in the dialogue. That's how people talk. We aren't machines or even necessarily well-versed in the rules of proper English. We have color in how we talk and we say what we think and what's on our minds and we say it badly. So, passive stayed in the dialogue.

PATIENCE IS REALLY WHAT IT TAKES
Since I've edited this manuscript I don't know how many times (3.5 or 5 depending on how you count) I've tweaked a lot of things that I missed in every draft prior. It surprised me how much I didn't catch on the initial tries, how many plot things were just laying there waiting for me to notice them, how many sentences needed improvement in POV or just plain clarity. One shouldn't rush editing these things, I guess.

I'M PRETTY GOOD AT AVOIDING THE -LY ADVERBS.
Again if the average chapter was 5000 words, there were usually only a dozen or so of the offending -ly adverbs. I think I've pretty much conquered that aspect of my writing. Level up!

INDEFINITE PRONOUNS CAUSE A HELL OF A LOT OF TROUBLE.
Start a sentence with 'it' and you're done for. That one word makes your sentence so weak it can't even fold a piece of paper. Awful. Stop doing that. Easy to spot, too, and littered all across the landscape of this manuscript. Something that has to be fixed as I didn't pick it up until a little over halfway through.

***

That's what I learned this go-round. Well, not all of it, but that's the largest part of my education at the moment and I thought I'd share. Maybe someone will get some use out of it. Let me know if you do, will you?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Bit of Critical Thinking

The amount of training and education
that goes into this moment is enormous
and the result of asking questions. Right?
Photo by NASA via Wikipedia.
Being a writer means asking Why?

A writer asks why? every day and more than just once or twice. More than a dozen times, too. If it's not in mind all the time, then you're not a real writer.

It's true. If you don't wonder about things then you're not curious enough to explore. And exploring is what writers do. Whether you're Pitfall Harry or Indiana Jones, you should have a sense of curiosity that drives you to wonder why things are they way they are. Why that formation? Why those colors? Why so many iterations? Why? Why? Why?

So -  a quick formula:

observation + curiosity = potential story

But dig deeper. Once you've asked why you have to keep asking why like you're a child talking to your parent. Avoid the whiny tone of voice but I think you probably get my meaning. You remember what that was like, don't you? You understand now that you're a parent - or maybe just older - that you weren't always trying to play a game by asking why; sometimes you were genuinely curious.

That curiosity is trained out of us as we go through school. School prepares us for what is known, trains us to be active participants in society in accepted ways. It's a good thing for us to be aware of the social contract and to understand that's the basis for how to interact. What we didn't get in school as often is the training on how to go beyond the teachings. It's the rare instructor that prepares students for the unknown. It's the rare teacher that asks students to think critically. That's education. What we get in public school and beyond is training though it's called education. Certainly you're being taught, being prepared for the everyday things that everyone knows about now, but how about what might be coming up?

Ever had someone ask you how you come up with your ideas? Ever thought about how you come up with your ideas? Ever thought about being a visionary?

Warren Ellis said a long time ago that part of his job is to stare off into the distance and think about what's next. That's exactly what being a writer is. It's also the definition of a visionary. And it's easier than anyone thinks it is, but it's easier by far to let someone else do the thinking for you. Swimming along in the stream with all the other fish and never wondering about anything except who did what to whom or just watching the other fish play is boring. I've never been one to just go along with everyone else. I've always asked questions.

And like that child who keeps asking why? over and over and over I am very unsatisfied with "because I said so". Aren't you? It implies there are things I'm not supposed to ask about, that I'm simply to accept because an elder tells me to.

No.

It's not in my nature to simply accept things. Like everyone I will on occasion give up if the fight to find out more doesn't seem to be worth my time. That doesn't mean I don't stop thinking about it. I'll try to figure out all the angles and then approach the problem from a new position. I'll keep asking why? because it's important. Don't ever think I'll be satisfied with "because" or "that's just the way it is" or "it's always been that way".

Those three responses are reasons to write stories. To explore what could be, what might happen, if things observed were to change.

When you're thinking of yourself as a writer and someone asks you where you get your ideas, what can you say? You have to assess whether the interrogator is asking a serious question or just making conversation. Will that person be satisfied with "I just make stuff up" or will you be able to have a serious discourse on the subject? When someone asks you "how are you?" is he asking because he cares or just to be polite? It's up to you to decide, isn't it? How do you decide?

Training tells you to respond with "I'm fine, how are you?" because it's polite and you're on autopilot. Education will provide you with the critical ability to decide whether that person gives a damn and how to formulate a response appropriate to the relationship and their apparent curiosity. Most times I'll come to the the trained response but sometimes you do run into someone who is asking a genuine question and not just being polite.

Be prepared for that.

Or don't. It's up to you to decide. If you're a writer, you're already thinking about a lot of things. Look ahead. Be that visionary. Don't accept answers that amount to "because I told you so". Think for yourself and encourage others to do it. Keep asking why. Remember what it was like to wonder about things and know that it's okay to ask questions. It's okay to be curious.

And be a writer.

Friday, December 07, 2012

A Bit Forward

Hey writers, don't stop writing - go forward
and keep at it. You'll write crap and you'll
write brilliance and if you're lucky most
everything you write will fall in the middle.
Over at The Confabulator Cafe today I'm talking about how NaNoWriMo went for me. I'm really pleased with what I've learned by participating over the last five years and I know I've definitely upped my game. I'm getting what I need from it. Go ahead, see what I had to say about it. The rest of this'll wait.

Hm? Hello again. Great. Thanks for coming back.

So now that we've looked back at last month, I'm all about going forward. I'm still developing my plan for next year as I'm swamped in editing this book. It's going well, just now that I have some definite things to work on (damn the passive voiced me) I have to finish it. Then send it back off and cross my fingers.

Once that's out the door, I'm going back to edit the novel I've written so far for passive voice so I can hammer home not to continue writing things like "was going" in the narrative. It's okay to have passive verbiage in dialogue with characters who talk that way but eliminating that stuff in the narrative (unless it's first person POV) makes the story better. Trust me. After I've gotten that accomplished I'll get back to writing.

But I've got a short to write for the Cafe and some blog posts here and there to stay ahead of. December's shaping up to be JUST as busy as November was.

And that's a lot of what I learned from five years of NaNo: it doesn't end. Being a writer is an ongoing concern. It's every day, every week, every month. On Wednesday a friend Tweeted that one should "never give up" and I replied "only long enough to sleep".

I think that's probably pretty good advice. Because, after all, the way to getting published is never giving up. It's writing every day.

Now I've got to get back to it. See you next week.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An Interlude

Hi.

Today's a little different because I'm busy editing. (That's a helluva lot of work, by the way. More about that another time.)

Anyway, what I'm here to tell you (besides that I'm editing) is about a book called Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. It's a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching story about two women who meet and have a life. Sometimes together, sometimes apart. As a comic book, it stands out for being self-published by the writer/artist but also because the art itself is excellent: people are drawn as people and not cartoons or superheroes. Yes, the art is cartoony (much the same way some manga art is) but still it's refreshing and realistic in ways only comic book art can be.

While the story is also sometimes manipulative (what good story isn't, though?) there's a terrific payoff in the end.

I'll also tell you that it's one of a handful of titles that has made me cry as I read it. (One of the others is The Death of Superman. Again, another story for another time.)

So, go check it out. It's on Comixology, it's on Amazon, there's even a great entry on it on Wikipedia.

I'll be reading the entire series over the Christmas holiday. For the seventh time. (Or is it the eighth? I don't remember. Could be a dozen or more, anyway, too.)


Monday, December 03, 2012

Self-Identifying

The elements of me being a writer; but only
at home.
This is tangentially related to the end of NaNoWriMo, but I'll have a postgame report about that which'll run on Friday at The Confabulator Cafe. This is foremost in mind right now.

Up until this spring I always identified myself as a manager of people through my job. I was always that first (after being a father and a husband) and a writer after that. In my life I've been a lot of things and before I was a manager I was cook and a musician and an artist and a kid. When I changed jobs, it helped me understand something about myself: I'm a writer before I'm a manager. Really and truly.

So, me: father, husband, writer, manager.

This is a huge shift personally. Don't get me wrong, my job is terribly important to me but it's not the third group I belong to now, it's the fourth. This reflects my confidence in my abilities as a writer, I suppose, and the fact that the new day job is so much less stressful than the previous one. I wasn't unhappy there, I was stressed out way more than I thought. Leaving that job helped me put some things in perspective. Spending a good deal of my summer working on the novel and making plans for more writing solidified it, too, I suppose.

I suppose it's a bit of a risk to say this in public like this, but it may be that it's not, too. I mean when I'm at work I give everything all my attention. I make sure the job is getting done and a little more, too. The difference is that at home, I don't think about my job any more. I don't worry about or plan for things to happen in certain ways. The job stays at the job and home stays at home.

I don't know, really, where I wanted to go with this but I thought it was important to say out loud because there may come a time when you self-identify with something different than what you always have. You should know that it happens.

I'm not sure I want this to post, looking it over. Not that anything would happen with the day job, it's not that kind of place. Being a writer is important to me. If I win the lottery (fat chance!) that's what I'll do - be a full-time writer of stories.

Until then, I'll go to my day job and do the best I can every day and give 100% all the time. When I'm there I'll be there. But I won't take it home. Not like I did before.

We'll see if my writing improves (or my output) with this shift.

Friday, November 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo: What's Next

Congratulations on winning
NaNoWriMo. Congratulation
on trying in the first place.
The last day of November means it's also the last day of NaNoWriMo. Did you write 50,000 words in 30 days? Or more? Is your novel finished?

And by finished, I mean, do you have a hot mess of a Zero Draft? By that I mean you've written something that's really just story-spew splattered all over the place, that needs some loving attention to make it a proper story. You have to decide what your next step is and you're tired from all the late nights, the caffeine and sugar-fueled writing sessions and maybe you're not thinking straight about what you've accomplished. Maybe you should ask yourself:

What do you want to do with it?

That's a question you'll hear a lot if you share that you've been noveling with anyone who isn't. Actually you may hear things like How many novels have you published? and Is it any good? just as often. That can be frustrating.

But let's explore What do you want to do with it?

Some people (I know a few) write during NaNoWriMo for pure pleasure. The challenge, the camaraderie, and pure fun of creating. They have no intention of publishing. I know someone who's burned a manuscript after logging it for a win on the NaNo site. If this describes you, more power to you. Writing is a hobby for you and you enjoy it and the heck with anyone who thinks that's crazy. You're my kind of people. I want to hear your stories.

But if you want to get this story published, or if getting published is your goal, then what next? Here's some advice:


  1. Read what you've written. The best thing you can do is know what you've done. Let it sit for a while once you're done writing then pull it out and give it a read. Prepare to wince at empty characters, gaping plot holes, and maybe some bizarre stream-of-consciousness weirdness. It's okay.
  2. If you like what you've written, do a quick revision for spelling, basic sentence structure, fleshing out characters who could conceivably fill some of those gaping plot holes. Do this in a month, like you'd do NaNoWriMo. This is the kind of thing you do with your child before sending them to school. You're ensuring their hair is combed, teeth brushed, and shoes tied before heading out the door.
  3. Once that's done, ask someone whose opinion you trust to read your story. It has to be someone who'll tell you if what you've written is crap just as easily as if they'd tell you it's brilliant. You also have to be prepared to hear the things about your novel that aren't good. Don't give it to someone if you don't want to know the bad along with the good.
  4. When give your trusted reader(s) the book, give them a list of questions you want answered: How does it read? Is the dialogue natural? Am I head-hopping to change POV? Is there too much violence? Too much sex? Not enough? Don't give a long list of questions, maybe ten or so is enough. What you really want to know is whether or not the story is worth your time to revise. Could it be better? is a great question to ask immediately followed by How?
  5. When you get comments back from your reader(s) say Thank You. That may be the most important part of the entire process. The people providing you feedback are giving you their time, you can afford to be gracious even if they tell you what you don't want to hear. 

Finally, don't get frustrated if it takes you a long time to get a draft you feel is presentable. There are a lot of stories about how long it takes to write a decent draft. One of the most famous is Harper Lee taking a year to write a draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, then taking two and a half more years to do the revisions and get it in front of the public. Not everyone is Piers Anthony or Stephen King. Even those guys aren't producing like they did early in their careers any more. Don't put unrealistic expectations on yourself.

What you've done, by writing a novel in a month or a little longer, is AMAZING. Bask in that for a while. When you decide what you want to do with the book - whether revise it or burn it - it's your decision. Do not let anyone's jealousy (I wish I could write a book) bring you down. You did it. You took the steps necessary to chase a dream.

No one can take that away from you.

If you're not quite done, keep writing. If your story is told, give yourself a pat on the back. You're awesome. Now - 

What's next?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Some Bad Habits

Five years of NaNoWriMo-ing
bad habits are sure to be hard
to overcome. I'm going to need
help.
Oh, NaNoWriMo, I love you a lot. I am faithful to you these last five years. I participate, I finish, I donate, I help my region kick some serious ass in achieving word counts.

But you have helped me develop some terrible habits. Overuse of "like", "just", "back", and "a little" and endlessly repeating actions like "turned", "nodded", "smiled", and "walked" along with word-droppings of adverbs ending in -ly are the least of my worries. Those things are easy to fix and obvious upon rereading any work.

Plot holes are also easy to fix during a revision pass. Where did that character go? He was there at the beginning of a scene and then didn't show up again until the middle of the next chapter? Crap. Let's go back and get him in the background at least.

The worst offense I commit during NaNo is writing in the passive voice.

Gah.

I did it again. That sentence up above. That (to be verb)...(gerund) bit. You see? It's the part where I say  "is writing". I have failed to recognize that particular mistake more often than not.

Being a largely self-taught writer carries a lot of baggage. Missing things like that and "he was there" are some serious obstacles in improving my writing.

I'm not going to preach to you about Passive Voice; I'm not an expert and it's something I'm struggling with. I will note that you should seek resources that will inform you of what to look for. Then it's up to you to practice (like I've been) to get better at first recognizing it then doing your best to eliminate from your storytelling.

I will mention that I think Passive Voice has a place in dialogue. People talk that way. Right? They use adverbs inappropriately, too. As for all the passive verbiage in this here blog, I'll point out that it's my dialogue with you, the readers, so perhaps I can be forgiven these minor offenses.

But they don't belong in my fiction. Setting a goal for next year's NaNo right now to do a better job of eliminating the passive stuff and still making my word count.

I'll have to spend the year practicing. Starting with a revision to that one sentence above:

Writing in passive voice is the worst offense I commit during NaNoWriMo.

See the difference?

Gah.


Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo: It's Official

I haven't written any words on the novel since last Wednesday.

That said, on Sunday I validated my novel (so far) and lo and behold, look:


This means that I'm officially
a five-time winner of National
Novel Writing Month. 
I took Thursday (Thanksgiving) off and then I ended up taking Friday to look around the web for some tools that would help me learn how to not write so many damned passive-voiced sentences.  I started trying to revise last year's novel because I have a reason to. But I got frustrated and ended up playing Wii golf longer than I should have. Then I had a movie from Netflix I needed to watch and by the time I realized what time it was, I didn't have any interest in doing anything.

But then later Saturday something clicked and I was able to really dig in and get to editing. And let me tell you that it's not just identifying the passive voice, it's changing how you think about saying what you want to say. Several sentences came out completely except for perhaps a clause or a phrase that became conjoined with a sentence that ended up being better. Let me say that again: the sentence ended up being better.


Reading through a 6,000-word chapter and identifying no less than 40 instances of passive voice is discouraging. But it's satisfying beyond reason to read back through that chapter and see how improved it is. It's time-consuming, too.

So I got off-track and distracted from writing and ended up editing instead. How does this relate to NaNoWriMo?

If I learn to avoid writing the passive voice sentences now, when I'm ready to get back in and finish the book (while I'm waiting to hear back when the book goes out on submission again) I'll have less time editing later. AND a better chance for acceptance.

I'm glad I've kept my streak alive, I couldn't have done it without the support of my writer's group and most importantly the love and support of my wife who is getting used to being a NaNo widow and now maybe an editing widow. 

In the end it's about telling good stories and realizing what it takes to get there. I'm on the road and I can see the exit up ahead. Thank you all for sticking with me so far. I promise the ride gets better from here on out.

Friday, November 23, 2012

NaNoWriMo: The First Finish Line

NaNoWriMo
I don't get to validate my
novel until the 25th or so and
after that I get the cool winner
badges. And goodies.
On Wednesday night I crossed the 50,000 word mark for NaNoWriMo, exactly at the same point as I did in the month last year and ahead of the previous years.

I ended up taking Thanksgiving off. Only wrote a hundred words but I ate turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and drank the new beaujolais. Capped off the evening with martinis, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving tv special and a nice retrospective on Michael Jackson's BAD.

Over at the Confabulator Cafe today, there's a brief note about the accomplishment and what I'm thinking about doing next.

If you don't feel like clicking over to the Cafe, here's what I'm planning:


  1. Keep writing 2000 words a day until the novel is finished. It's a nicer, less frenetic pace and when I did it last year I still had a few big days. 2K is the minimum I'm shooting for.
  2. Also begin the revision process on last year's novel so I can resubmit it before the end of the calendar year. It sounds easy, but editing passive sentences into active ones is what has to happen. 
  3. Take some down time.
So mornings will be for editing and evenings for writing for the next few weeks. With any luck I'll finish up in the middle of December on both projects and be able to enjoy the year-end holidays a little more. Celebrate a little more I hope.

Anyway, I'm writing. Updates to follow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I'm Thankful For

Almost our national bird, folks. You can see why. Turkeys
and Thanksgiving are good together. The birds, I mean.
It's that time of year when we all should sit back and take a few minutes to think about what's been good this year.

First, I'm really thankful to have a great day job that I like. I'm learning a lot of new things, meeting a lot of great new people and THE BENEFITS are the best I've ever had in my career. There's so much art around the campus it's just silly. Everywhere, there's art. It makes me happy walking across the campus (that sometimes reminds me of the original MYST island) where I can see so many things that appeal to my inner artist. I'm in a really good place where I'm meant to be.

Second, I'm absolutely thankful for my wife's and my family's support of me this year. It may have been tested in interesting and unprecedented ways but it's all come through in the end and we're all better off this year than last year. Not that last year was bad, don't take that the wrong way. Every year the goal is to be better than last year and that tradition has continued. My wife, in particular during the month of November, is the best and allows me to write every chance I get. She's used to it now but the new job (with a new, sometimes erratic schedule) has complicated the process. Still, it's been a struggle and we're all adapting. I love her and everyone who's here for me so much.

This is inclusive of everyone who I saw over the summer and fall, who I ran into in the real world and online. Everyone who was so friendly and believed in me, old friends and new. I can't verbalize how thankful I am for everyone who told me "you're going to be fine"; you were all correct and whatever you saw in me that allowed you to say it, I appreciate it.

Next, I have a great group of friends in my writing group. I'm thankful for ALL my friends who have all contributed to my writing in some way, but this group is special. I told you about them earlier this year and I'm reminding you of them now. I wouldn't be writing as much or as well without them.

Lastly, I'm glad of things that make me laugh and forget (for a few minutes) all the crap that piles up and threatens to overwhelm. Every year I point you this video that is possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen. I'm doing that again this year and I also give you the link to my post last year on the video which offers a little more. Just a little.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Anyway, back to writing. Updates when I can.


Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Unconscious

Interesting things happen when you tap the Muse, enter the Zone, and just start writing without a definite roadmap of your plot. Last year I found the story I wrote confronting prejudice and racism, topics I had no idea I wanted or needed to write about.

It's notable that I was surprised that the topics bubbled to the surface and that such strong feelings on the part of my main character stormed around the page like they did. I've always wondered if writers who say "it's the character talking not me" weren't full of it, but it's true that the characters will inform the writer - as much as possible - of how they feel and why they feel it.

Now my characters don't really speak to me. As a matter of fact interviewing characters is something I've never had any luck with. I have to know what they're made of, to be sure, but not knowing what they think about every little thing hasn't been important as I've been writing. I like discovering things about them as I'm writing rather than planning them out.

And I suppose as a reader you'd rather see how characters react to situations rather than me tell you what they're thinking, right?

That's the unconscious part of my writing. Using my experiences in the world to inform how characters react and then figuring out why later on.

Anyway, busy writing. Updates to follow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Want to Give Up?

NaNoWriMo does it to me every
year somewhere in the middle.
This year seems worse but it
probably isn't. 
We're past the halfway point of NaNoWriMo and I'm confronting this old, familiar feeling of wanting to give up.

Actually what's happened is the middle of my story has sucked away the enthusiasm I had for the beginning and still have for the end. My characters are stuck in a seemingly insurmountable trap and I'm having trouble figuring out how to get them out of it so I can move the plot forward again. It can't be obvious, it can't be contrived, it can't be cliche, it can't be this and it can't be that.

Bah.

I need to jump them ahead on the board and get the action going again. There are plenty of obstacles ahead and the ones they've got in front of them now are minor compared to what's coming.

But how do I get them there?

Stop worrying, drop in an at least plausible solution and move them above ground again. They're changing, that's good. They're resourceful and have power behind them, that's good. What's happened is that they're whining. It's too much and that's bad.

What's really happening is that I'm concerning myself with sentence variety, passive verb tenses, and keeping one focused POV. The first two things are easily fixable and the second less so but still fixable. I should just start writing and keep going, right?

The middle's not going to beat me. No, sir.

Anyway. Back to writing. More updates as they come. Keep watch on the Death Bar on the right column for progress.

Monday, November 12, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Excercise


Man, I don't get enough exercise while I'm writing during NaNoWriMo. I doubt anyone really does.

But it's important. I recommend getting up and walking around every forty-five minutes or so. Yeah, I know you're in the zone and breaking that to take a walk seems counterintuitive. 

It makes sense, though. 

For me, when I'm working - writing - I have to move around. If the weather's okay, I may take a walk around the block. Just ten or fifteen minutes to lubricate the body so the mind can work faster. If it's crap outside I'll walk from room to room, or at least stand up and talk to whoever's in the house for a bit and go wash my face or something.

What I want to avoid is just being a sitter, static, while I'm writing. If I'm moving around there's more likely to be movement in the story. Weird but true. 

Ritualize it if you must, go for a jog or head off to the gym, but exercise every day while you're writing in addition to getting up every forty-five. Get your blood pumping. That really helps you think.

Really.

Don't take my word for it though. Ask your doctor when you get sick and have to go see him next time. He'll tell you, too.

Anyway, busy writing. Updates to follow.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Halfway!


NaNoWriMo participants are called 'WriMos' which
baffles me. Shouldn't we be called 'NoWris'? Novel Writers
makes a lot more sense than Writer Months, don't you think?


Last night I passed the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo only ten days into the month.

Yikes. That means that I'm on track to write 75,000 words in 30 days. Right now I have some doubts as to whether or not I'll be able to make that target and that's okay. I've never written this fast before and I'm just kind of marveling that I'm able to put together the time in order to log one word after another into anything that's at all coherent.

I mean, here's proof:
I love the green bar but the orange is damn attractive
up there, too. I use Scrivener as my word processing
program. 

Well, not proof of coherency but proof of one word after another, I guess.

Don't be confused by the 100,000 word target on the top line there. That's the target for the entire novel. I'm hoping to hit that target by the end of December. If I can continue on this pace (and as I noted I don't expect to but it's possible) I should finish the draft of this novel on or about December 5th. We'll see. Even that would be ahead of schedule from last year.

What's the key?

Not worrying that this initial draft - the Zero Draft - isn't perfect. This is just a treatment, really. The real work will be in the editing. That's what'll happen after the first of the year, the cleaning up of the hot mess of a novel. That's JENGA.

Still, it'll be done.

You want some advice on writing a novel? Okay, here's some advice that you'll get from just about any author you ask:

First: Know the beginning of your story - the inciting incident. Know the bits that establish the world of your story as normal and the things that cause the character to be drawn into the action of the story. If you have an image that starts the novel off, even better. This might constitute up to 25% of your story, no matter whether it's a short story or a novel. This is essential.

Second: Know the ending of your story. Who lives, who dies, who is fundamentally changed by the events of the story. Maybe the last 20% of the tale. Better still, if you can visualize the final scene or image you'll know what to drop in when you're stuck in the middle.

Look, I've gotta get back to writing. When I feel like I can come up for air again I'll talk a little about the process of discovery in the middle.

Friday, November 09, 2012

In Case You Were Wondering

I'm still alive and still okay. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. As of this morning I'm nearly halfway to the 50,000 word goal for the month.

Having a lot of fun with it, too. The process of discovery in writing - despite planning and plotting out the novel pretty extensively - is the most exciting. It's like a songwriter finding a chord that inspires a melody unlike any he's ever played before.

I'm pretty juiced.

Anyway, I'm over at the Cafe today talking about some NaNo particulars. Check it out, willya?

Also, here's a screencap of some of the titles of the scenes in my book. More to come.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Election

Taking a break from writing to put together a few thoughts for the politicians going to and returning to Washington about the re-election of Mr. Obama as President of the United States of America:


  • Those who worked SO hard to make Mr. Obama a one-term president have wasted their time. You have only served to further polarize the nation and make things worse. It's time to stop being obstructionist, stubborn and surly. It's time to reach out and find what common ground there is between us. 
  • I know it hurts for your guy to lose. I know it. I'm not here to rub salt in your wounds. Let's sit down with a glass and some time and talk about what we can start to agree on. I can wait until next week to give you some time to recover, but after that it's up to you come around. Be big about the loss and do that. You'll garner more respect from everyone by doing so, too.
  • You may not respect the man personally, but you have to respect the office. Mr. Obama is the President and you all need to start acting like it. When you want to get in his face and point your finger at him; when you call him a liar during the State of the Union; when you vow to defeat every single initiative he proposes; when you call a large part of the electorate lazy and beggars - you will lose. Respect the President. He's supposed to be working for every American. Don't limit the office. Your guy might win in the next round and need people to respect him (or her). Pay it forward.
  • And finally, tone it down. Believe your beliefs but stop trying to ram them down everyone else's throats. It's dumb and it doesn't serve you well at all. It's way past time to bring reason back to Capitol Hill and back into the front of the electorate's mind. You all are leaders and this election is your mandate to lead. Don't tell us what we want to hear, say what we have to do. Inspire us, represent us and do your jobs. That's how you will be re-elected.
This goes not just for Republicans but for Democrats, too. Ladies and gentlemen you were sent to Washington to do a job for your constituents. Listen to them. Come back home every once in a while very often and set up shop in a diner or a coffee shop and just listen to the people you represent. Even the ones who probably won't vote for you. Win their respect by being a leader. Stop pandering for money to get re-elected. Spending time with your constituents is time well-spent and better spent.

Too long we've gone without leadership at the state and federal levels. Without leadership that cannot work and play well with others. Not in all areas, to be sure, but across a wide spectrum. It's unacceptable and you are supposed to be grown ups. 

In the end, let's be people who care about people. It's not that hard. I know you can do it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

NaNoWriMo: Fuel

Sugar. Coffee. Soda. Whisky. Carbs. Pecans. Water. Walnuts. Raisins. Ice cream.

Potato chips.

Every one of these things is in my diet for NaNoWriMo and I'll eat while I'm writing. Well, snack anyway. And that's not good but it's a fact of how I work.

Coffee's in the morning and early in the evening. Not too much later. If I'm out at a write in I hope it's a place that has a chai I can get hot. Spiced chai, not that vanilla-sweetened crap. I like sugar in forms of candy bars, scones (with carbs!), and sweet pastries. I forgot to mention crackers. I like crackers: saltines, cheezits, club crackers, et al. Sometimes there's cheese to go along with.

Soda's in the afternoons if I'm writing at home. Water is good anytime, especially late.

Whisky. Ah, whisky. That's an evening drink. Not to excess because I have to stay coherent, even for the Zero Draft, but one or two. Occasionally one or both of them are a double, but that's when the evening's going well and I'm going to be up later.

About halfway through the month of November I realize I should really be eating healthier while I'm in the throes of writing and that's when I'll pick up some pecans or walnuts at the store and some more raisins. (It's a requirement there be raisins in the house during oatmeal season here at Greengate, anyway, but there's an extra supply on hand for novel writing month.) Ice cream usually takes the form of ice cream sandwiches or some other novelty. Something (theoretically) portion-controlled.

So there's some insight into what's consumed here during the frenzy. Hope it's enlightened you.

Busy writing. Updates to follow.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Busy Writing (It's NaNoWriMo After All)

Four years playing, four years
'winning'. Wish me luck.
It's the second day of NaNoWriMo and I'm writing. Last night I took part in a fun event at the local library with my cohorts in my writer's group and the Cafe. I've got a post about what the month will look like from my POV over there today and that's likely the last coherent thing I'll type online until sometime after Thanksgiving.

So, following are the remarks I intended to make at the library. I suspect I went a little off-script and I think there was a video camera rolling while we all spoke. We'll reconcile the two (or not) when it's time. There is a bit of news buried in the text, too. (UPDATE: It wasn't nearly as formal as I prepared for and I leave the text below as indicative of what I actually said. When the video is available I'll link to it. Also, there was an incredible class of sixth-graders there that blew me away with their story ideas. Their teacher (Mrs. Barbour?) is 'making' them write novels. This is soooo cool. You should have been there.)

Anyway, here they are. Updates on wordcounts and story problems as I can. See you on the other side.


Hello

Please forgive the pseudo-confessional nature of this talk but NaNoWriMo is the best thing that’s happened to me in terms of being a writer. I’ve found a community of like-minded, creative individuals and my stories have gotten better and better every year I’ve been a part of it.

My name is Jason and I’m a serial NaNoer. 2012 is my fifth year and I’ve officially ‘won’ every time I’ve participated. My first two novels were complete stories. The first was right at 50,000 words and the second a little over 60,000. The third novel was incomplete but clocked in at 60,000 words, too.

Last year’s novel is the exception. I wrote 60,000 words in November but the story wasn’t done. I kept writing. And I kept writing. Finally I finished the novel around the middle of December. At a little over 90,000 words the book was the longest single work I’d written and I kept thinking it was the best, too.

I let it sit for a while, got some very positive feedback that was encouraging and finally got around to editing it. Recently I sent the book to a publisher and got a great note back asking for some changes and to resubmit it.

I’m telling you this story so that if your goal is to get published NaNo is your first step, If this is your first NaNo welcome. If it’s not, welcome back. All month long, remember that NaNoWriMo is a process, a way to learn how to write – a means to an end rather than an end itself. A ‘revise and resubmit’ note is the result of four years of telling big stories and writing constantly.

Don’t worry about how good or not good your story is this month. Worry about putting your main character in some kind of predicament that must be overcome. Worry about the ending and how to get there. Worry about how much coffee it will take to fuel that kind of writing.

And come to the write-ins.

This community of writers will push you to get there. The sound of a dozen or more writers tapping madly away at their keyboards during a word sprint is oddly comforting and weirdly inspiring. (I’ll take the adverbs ending in –ly out later.) You’ll laugh with us and cringe at bad jokes. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll feel part of the group, this community of friends who just happen to be writers.

If you can’t make the write-ins, visit the forums. I exhort you to become part of this community. You’ll do more.

Feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the forums. Check in with us on Twitter and at the Facebook group. In December and January, come to the meetings. You won’t believe how your writing will change and grow. I bet you’ll keep coming back.

I bet you’ll become a serial NaNoer, too.