Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

The Writing Book That Helped Me Win NaNoWriMo

Yesterday I discussed my strategy (for lack of a better word) at the kickoff of NaNoWriMo and how ill-prepared I was to write a novel. I was following in the footsteps of King and Bradbury. Silly girl, so out of your league. I had written a novel by the seat of my pants before. Surely, I could do it again. Nope, it wasn’t going to happen, certainly not in the time frame allotted. 

Maybe King and Bradbury didn’t need to plan their stories, but somewhere in those brilliant minds I believe there was a plan, just not documented. For us less talented people, we need guidance, a model and that is just what Larry Brooks provides in his book Story Engineering. I created a model in Excel based on what I learned from the book. I merged it with my timeline, so it’s a little too intricate to share in this post, but I searched the web for a summarized version and found one here.

As you can see, there are certain milestones that should occur at predefined (but not rigidly set) points in the story to increase the dramatic tension and keep the reader engaged. The book goes into a deeper level of detail. If you read it and follow the model you won’t be at a loss about what to write and when. The model provides the structure to set the right pacing and tension for your story. If you deploy one of these milestones too early or too late, you risk losing the reader.

Are you still not sure you need a model? I didn’t think I did either until I hit that wall. Here is what Brooks has to say on the subject of organic writing:

“Many writers just sit down and write without a recipe. A story may or may not emerge, and that lucky writer may or may not be cognizant of the presence of the various structural elements and storytelling presence—the recipe—required.”

“While organic writers are often loath to admit it, the very drafting process they advocate is nothing other than a process of searching for and blueprinting their story, one iteration at a time, until they arrive at a solid sequential structure for it.”

“King’s approach—known as organic writing or, in some circles, pantsing (for seat-of-the-pants storytelling)—may actually work for some, but that’s only if a) you know what you’re doing to the extent that you don’t need to plan out your story; b) you somehow stumble upon the proper structural sequence and intuitively meet all the criteria for the various essential components; and c) you’re willing to complete the inevitable rewrites that come with writing without a story plan.”

“Those published writers who, like King, just start writing their stories from an initial idea do so using an informed sensibility about, and working knowledge of, story architecture. And yet, this is the default approach for nearly every new writer and a startling percentage of established ones, published and non published alike.”

Brooks provided many analogies in his book to emphasize this point. Here are a few:

 Recipe Analogy

“Consider a chef preparing a gourmet dish as an apt analogy for writing a story. First, the chef acquires all the ingredients called for in the recipe. There are basic principles to follow (eggs Benedict, for example, doesn’t fly without eggs, ham, an English muffin, and hollandaise sauce); still, there is room for the chef to play with the recipe to make it his own creation.”

Architecture Analogy

“Just as an engineer relies on an architecturally sound blueprint to build a structure that will bear weight and resist the elements—a vision and a plan based on proven physics and structural dynamics—writers can benefit from approaching the craft of storytelling armed with a keen command of the literary equivalent. It’s unthinkable that an engineer and an architect would meet at the construction site one day and just start digging holes and pouring concrete.

Writing is no different. We build our stories on a foundation of structurally sound principles. But from there we depend on something less definable and teachable to elevate our work. To raise it to something that publishers will buy and readers will consume and embrace.”

Human Body Analogy

“Human beings bring only a handful of facial features to the blueprint of how we look—two eyes, two eyebrows, a nose, a mouth, a pair of cheekbones, and two ears, all pasted onto a somewhat ovular-to-round face. That particular blueprint doesn’t often vary much, either. Interestingly enough, this is about the same number of essential storytelling parts and milestones that each and every story needs to showcase in order to be successful.

Now, consider this: With only these eleven variables to work with, ask yourself how often you see two people who look exactly alike. Where we humans are concerned, the miracle of originality resides in the Creator, who applies an engineering-driven process—eleven variables—to an artistic outcome.”

There are seven billion people on the planet. How often do you see two people who look exactly alike? Yet we all have the same basic structure underneath. His model provides the basic structure of every successful story without limiting the writer’s creativity. Brooks tells us “with some isolated and therefore irrelevant, exceptions, every published novel or produced screenplay delivers on each of the Six Core Competencies described in this model, at least to some degree. Even if the author doesn’t recognize it, or happened to back into them after multiple drafts. And even then, the really successful ones take them to a level of integration that defies definition. That become artful.”

So what are the six core competencies?

  1. Concept-The idea that evolves into a platform for a story.
  2. Character-Every story needs a hero. We don’t need to like him, but we do need to root for him.
  3. Theme-What your story is illuminating about life.
  4. Structure-What happens and in what order.
  5. Scene Execution-A story is a series of scenes with connective tissue and guidelines to make them work.
  6. Writing Voice-The suit of clothes that delivers the story to the reader.

The list only touches the surface of what is covered in the book. Maybe, like me, you had a basic understanding of the core competencies. I’ve read dozens of books on the craft of writing, but this is the first one that provided clarity on how it all worked together. This book will take your understanding of the writing process, story structure, and hopefully your writing, to a higher level.

To learn more about the competencies and how to deploy them properly in your novel, you will need to read the book.



How I Won NaNoWriMo

Yesterday, I discussed my, ahem, “strategy” for NaNoWriMo. Okay, you can stop laughing now. Seriously, stop. It’s embarrassing. Okay, are we done yet? Let’s move on people.

Yeah, it didn’t work out so well for me. But, I did win. See that image in the blue box on the right of my blog? At 50,004 words, I won by a hair.

Here are my daily word count statistics from the NaNoWriMo website:

NaNoWriMo StatsSee how I was churning out words every day, with the exception of my day of “cleaning” out the cobwebs (literally and figuratively) on day seven? I was on a roll. I was going to finish early! Somewhere around mid-month, I scheduled a celebratory wine tour with my husband to take place on November 30th. It would be my reward for winning NaNoWriMo. Presumptuous, I know, but I felt confident {key phrase coming} at that point.

Then I hit a wall and didn’t write anything for four days (the 20th through the 23rd). It felt like I was gasping for my last breath as a writer. On the fourth day I turned to Story Engineering by Larry Brooks for oxygen. Reading his book was like breathing in the fresh air. I had read dozens of books on the craft of writing up to this point, but found the formula for writing a good novel was nonexistent or esoteric at best. You just had to plug away at the keyboard every day and eventually something worthwhile would emerge. Some of these books have been praised by me in posts on this blog (Words of Wisdom on Writing from the King and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury).

Like them, I was a panster. We don’t need no stinking model! Both King and Bradbury professed that there was no magic formula to writing. Here is what they had to say on the subject:

“Plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” Stephen King, On Writing

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I found their books inspiring, stirring to a writer’s soul, and while they provided loads of helpful advice, there was no specific advice about how to write a novel. I didn’t think it existed, until I read Brooks’ book.

After reading the book, I knew exactly what to write next. I came back with a bang on the 24th, but then took time off to celebrate my son’s birthday on the 25th and Thanksgiving with the families on the 28th and 29th.

I woke up early on the 30th and wrote feverishly for a few hours. As I was nearing the 50k mark, I began to imagine that my computer would somehow blow up and the work would be lost forever. Even the copy on the jump drive would somehow magically disappear. Once I noticed that my word count had surpassed 50,000 words, I hastily pasted the story into the NaNoWriMo site and validated my word count. MS Word showed the total word count at 50,048. The NaNoWriMo validation check clocked it at 50,004, just a few words over the required minimum. I had done it. I actually wrote 50,000 words in a month.

This is how I felt:


 Tomorrow, I’ll discuss what I learned from Brook’s masterful book.

A Review of My Strategy for NaNoWriMo

It’s been ten days since the end of NaNoWriMo, and after giving myself some time to digest the process, I’ve decided to share what I learned during those thirty maddening stimulating days of writing. I thought I was prepared to write. Heh. Heh. Heh. {Shakes head} Bless her naive little heart.  

I had a story idea. It’s an idea that’s been with me since 2009. Actually even earlier, but that’s when I first scribbled the idea on a slip of paper. It’s the story I’ve wanted to write, but could never seem to wrap my head around it.

So, the first novel I cut my literary teeth on was a romance. I chose it because the story structure seemed pretty straightforward. In very simple terms, they meet, obstacles tear them apart; they’re reunited, and live happily ever after. Because of this I was never at a loss about what to write and when. I created detailed character descriptions and a timeline that evolved as I was writing, but I didn’t plan ahead. I was a “panster”, an organic writer, in every sense of the word. After I had finished writing the novel, I learned about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat Beat Sheet (more about that in a later post). I plugged my story into the formula and realized I had somehow managed to write a story that followed proper story architecture. Score! Well, not really. There are other issues with it, so the novel is currently collecting cyber dust on my laptop.

But anyway, given that experience, I thought, “Pfft. Plan schman. I got this, man. Besides, developing a plan will hinder the creative process. I’m going to tackle that story.” Here was my strategy {shakes head again}:

  • Develop character profiles.
  • Have a general idea (undocumented) of the story.
  • Write stream of consciousness.
  • If you have trouble with a scene, just write the dialogue and go back in and add the details later.
  • Resist the urge to correct as you go along. Vanquish that inner editor!
  • Don’t worry about how messy the house gets (I failed at this one, though. Read on.)
  • No rules, just write!

Yeah, I think that about sums it up. I’m not sure because guess what, I didn’t write it down {shakes head once more}.

I started to have doubts about my ability to write 50,000 words in one month, but received a Pep Talk   (click on the link to read the post) on the eve of NaNoWriMo that restored my faith. On day one, I bolted out of the starting gates writing 2,729 words, far above the 1,667 daily average to meet the goal by month end. I continued at this pace for the next several days, averaging about 2,400 words per day for the next eighteen days.

There was one rare exception during this time period where I didn’t write a single word. I somehow found it necessary to clean my entire house from top to bottom including cleaning out the refrigerator, the oven, organizing my kids’ closets, and even rearranging the attic (yes, you read that right). But I viewed this as necessary to the creative process. After all, sometimes the best ideas come to me while performing some mundane task like washing the dishes.

The next day I was happily pounding the keys of my laptop again, turning in high daily word counts. I was going to finish early! Ha! This is so easy!

 And then…BAM!

I hit the proverbial wall on day nineteen. I struggled to write one word. I remember I had written a total of eighteen—that’s right, 1-8— words in the first hour. I buried my head in my hands. Oh, the agony! With great effort, I managed to write 545 words that day, but the stuff I wrote was complete shite. For the next four days, I didn’t write one single word (yes, I know that’s redundant, but it’s intentional for dramatic emphasis). I was going to fail.

As a writer, I went from feeling like this:

Meme Best Day Ever 

To this:

Rapunzel Failure Meme 

My poor muse didn’t know what to make of me. Yeah, that’s him sitting beside me, looking utterly frustrated. 

And then I picked up Story Engineering by Larry Brooks {clouds part, angels sing}. Hallelujah! I’d discovered the holy grail on writing. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how I won NaNoWriMo.

Quote of the Week: A Pep Talk for NaNoWriMo Participants

Last night I was regretting my decision to sign up for NaNoWriMo, that’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you who aren’t familiar with the acronym.  It’s an annual event where participants gather online to support each other in writing an entire 50,000 word novel during the month of November. It sounds pretty daunting, doesn’t it? I started to have reservations about my ability to tackle this seemingly insurmountable task. As the doubts started to creep in, I was visited by several writers far wiser than I will ever be.

Me: What was I thinking? How can I possibly write 50,000 words in thirty days? That’s 1,667 words per day, every day!

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

Me: [looks around the room for the source of the spoken words] Who said that?

A miniature Stephen King, standing less than ten inches tall, appears from behind my laptop.

 Me: Okay, I’m a little freaked out now.

Stephen King: I seem to have that effect on people. It probably has something to do with the fact that I write horror novels. [Whispers and taps his temple] They don’t think I’m right in the head! Anyway, “the scariest moment is always just before you start.”

I blink several times, but tiny Stephen simply leans against my laptop screen and folds his arms across his chest.

Stephen King: [picks at his fingernails] Yeah, I’m still here.

Me: I must be hallucinating. I’ve gone mad.

Cornelia Funke: [whispers in my right ear] “So what? All writers are lunatics!”

I jump at the sound of Cornelia’s voice and turn to see her sitting on my shoulder. She grins and waves.

Me: Uh, hello there, tiny…author…on my…shoulder.

She’s right you know. “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

I glance behind me to see E.L. Doctorow sitting on the shelf.

Me: [shakes head] This is not happening. I’m not seeing this.

Franz Kafka: [pokes head out from under the lamp shade] It’s a little Kafkaesque, isn’t it? Ha! I’ve always wanted to use that word.

Me: It’s more than surreal. It’s –it’s. That’s it. I’m going insane.

Franz Kafka: Because you’re not writing. “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

Ray Bradbury: [pops up from inside my coffee cup] “You must stay drunk on writing” –not the crap you’ve got in this mug [wipes hands on shirt] —“so reality cannot destroy you.”

Ernest Hemingway: [scales the side of my desk, strains to pull himself over the edge, walks over to Bradbury, and peeks inside the cup] I’ll drink to that ol’ chap! What does she have in there?   

Me: But I have been writing. Well, at least I was until I started planning for NaNoWriMo. So now I must write 50,000 words in one month. That’s almost an entire book!

George Orwell: [stands on his head on a bookshelf across the room] “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Me: I hadn’t considered demonic possession. I’m likely to suffer nightmares now. Thanks for bringing it up, George. Or shall I call you Eric? And why are you standing on your head, anyway?

George Orwell: “You are noticed more if you stand on your head than if you are right way up.”

Me: O-kay, but how is that going to help me write?

Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” [Sits at my laptop, pulls up the sleeve of his shirt and dramatically mimics slicing his wrist while falling across the keyboard]

Neil Gaiman: [sits on my notepad] Oh, don’t be so dramatic, Ernie.

Ernest Hemingway: Don’t call me Ernie.

Neil Gaiman: Why? Everyone knows you detest your given name.

Ernest Hemingway: Well, that was before Sesame Street. I’d much rather be “associated with the naïve, even foolish hero of Oscar Wilde’s play” than that muppet with a proclivity for rubber duckies.

Stephen King: [sings] Rubber Duckie, you’re the one. You make bath time so much fun.

Ernest Hemingway: Shut it, Stevie.

Stephen King: [giggles]

Me: Have you ever considered that people think of you when they hear the name Ernest?

Ernest Hemingway: [blushes]. Ahem, uh no.

Neil Gaiman: [turns to me] “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”

Stephen King: Gaiman’s right. “When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time,’ and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”

Me: [laughs] You’re always good for a laugh Mr. King. So how do I start a novel if I don’t have an idea of how it might end?  Don’t I need to begin with the end in mind?

Anne Lamott:  “E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

E.L. Doctorow: I did say that didn’t I? Wise man, I must say, wise man.  

Me: Okay, well I’ve written a story, but it’s crap so it’ll probably never get published.

Ernest Hemingway: Not to worry. “The first draft of anything is shit.”

Me: But it’s still crap after several revisions. I became overly descriptive. When I edited that out, and killed my little darlings, I think I murdered the entire manuscript. My writing voice bled out all over the floor.

Stephen King: [sighs] “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Mark Twain: [walks up and slaps Stephen on the back] Stevie boy is right. Just do what I always did. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Ernest Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Me: One sentence, huh? Try about five or ten thousand sentences, Mr. Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway: Well, if you didn’t detest my writing so much, maybe you would have learned something.

Me: Actually, I respect your writing style, I just don’t care for some of your characters all that much.

Mark Twain: [Looks admiringly at Hemingway] “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English―it is the modern way and the best way. [Directs his attention to me] Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them―then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

Me: Humph. Maybe that’s why it took me so damn long to write that first book. But thirty days? It’s unsettling to have that deadline looming out there.

Douglas Adams: [runs across my desk] “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Me: [head – desk] Why am I doing this again?

Philip Pullman: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Me: [feels rejuvenated] I needed that. Can I give you a hug? 

Ursula K. Le Guin: [looks up from my pocket thesaurus] Look, you’re a writer. “A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it.”

Me: I do have an affinity for words. You could call me a logophile, I suppose.

Ursula K. Le Guin: “Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well, they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning the skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”

Me: You had me at “writers.” Please go on.

Anton Chekhov: [sits on a curtain rod, points to the window] “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

Me: [smiles admiringly] Oh, I love that.

Stephen King: I hate to break up the love fest, but you’ve got work to do. “So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day—”

Me: Ahem. Actually, I’ve committed myself to one thousand six-hundred and sixty-seven words a day.

Stephen King: Well you’re screwed. Heh heh. Just kidding. Okay, so you’ve committed yourself to one thousand six-hundred sixty-seven words a day “come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

Me: Oh, I’ve got plenty of story ideas.     

John Steinbeck: [leans on my copy of Grapes of Wrath] “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen,” and then an entire book like this one here.

Me: Tell me about it. Ideas invade my dreams and wake me up in the middle of the night.

Saul Bellow: That’s wonderful. “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”

Me: I can’t sleep until I acknowledge the voices in my head or at least write the idea down.

Maya Angelou: [caresses the tiny bird cage on my shelf] Ain’t that the truth. That’s because “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Me: But I have so many ideas, which one should I write about for NaNo?

Meg Cabot: “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

Toni Morrison: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Sylvia Plath: “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Ray Bradbury: “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.”

Jack London: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Stephen King: Or an axe. All wait and no write make Jack a dull boy. Heh heh. “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”

Neil Gaiman: Well bloody good for you Friedrich. “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”

Alexandre Dumas: “I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.”

Me: [shakes head and sighs deeply] You call this helping? You guys are supposed to be giving me a pep talk.

Neil Gaiman: [looks at me apologetically] Sorry. “Just make good art.”

Me: But how will I know if I’ve created good art? 

Kurt Vonnegut: “If you want to really hurt you parents—”

Me: What? No! How did the subject of my parents enter into this conversation?

Kurt Vonnegut: [ignores me] “And you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”

Me: Huh?

Kurt Vonnegut: “I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

Me: But how can I make good art if I don’t have any formal training in writing? Critics will crucify me.

Ernest Hemingway: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

Neil Gaiman: “I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

Stephen King: “A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”

Me: Okay, I have a plethora of scars and a decent memory. Are there any rules I should follow?

W. Somerset Maugham: I’ve heard “there are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Me:  Well, you’re a lot of help, William.

W. Somerset Maugham: Just Dubya, please.

Me: Dubya? Really? Do you – oh never mind.

Ernest Hemingway: “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

Me: Oh fabulous. So now I need dynamite. Lovely bit of advice there, Ernest.

Ernest Hemingway: [retrieves a bottle from inside his vest and takes a swig] It can drive you to drinking.

Me: Okay, so what should I do if I get writer’s block? I’ve only got thirty, as in 3-0, days, and if I fall behind I’m toast.

Steve Martin: Ah! “Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”

Ernest Hemingway: I frequently had writer’s block. [raises his bottle in a mock toast and winks]

Stephen King: [glares at Hemingway] I get writer’s block too. It sucks. [grabs the bottle from Hemingway and turns it upside down to pour out the remaining contents, but it’s empty]

Ernest Hemingway: [shrugs his shoulders] I did you a favor ol’ chap. Don’t want to wrestle those demons again, do you?  

Stephen King: [ignores Hemingway and directs his attention to me] Here’s what you need to do. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Me: Okay, so I guess I need some privacy. How did all of you get in here, anyway?

Neil Gaiman: “Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”

Me: [glances at each of the tiny inhabitants in my room] Ah, of course. It all makes sense now. A writer inserts a little bit of himself into every book he writes. In that way, a writer becomes immortal because his words live on in the hearts and minds of the readers who relish his words for generations to come.

Neil Gaiman: Precisely.

Stephen King: “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Ernest Hemingway: [pulls another bottle from his vest pocket and passes it to me] Let’s have a drink!

Stephen King: [glares at Hemingway] I wasn’t talking about alcohol, Ernie. It’s a metaphor. I didn’t think I’d have to spell it out for you, Mr. [makes air quotes] “Iceberg Theory.”

Me: [reaches for the bottle] I think I need a drink. A little bravery tonic might help me through this ordeal.  

Kurt Vonnegut: [sighs deeply] “So it goes.”

J.R.R. Tolkien: [intercepts the bottle and looks at me admonishingly] “It’s the job that’s never started that takes longest to finish.” [Smiles] Remember, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Me: [sits down to write] Indeed.

Good luck to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this month! If you want to be my buddy on NaNoWriMo, I’m pretty easy to find. I’m listed as Melissa Janda.

Now, ready, set, WRITE!


ACUBA (Acronyms Commonly Used By Authors)

ACUBA WordleOkay, I just made that one up so don’t commit it to memory. Believe me, there are enough acronyms out there to make your head spin.

When I came across NANOWRIMO, I thought, “Huh? Na-Nu? NaNu?” Episodes of the science fiction sitcom Mork & Mindy came to mind.  Naturally, I wondered if this acronym had something to do with the science fiction genre. I envisioned a conference where science fiction writers came dressed as their favorite book characters. Don’t laugh. It could happen. Lovers of science fiction are a different breed. Ever heard of a Trekkie?

Okay now, don’t get defensive. I’m something of a Trekkie myself. No, I never went to a Star Trek convention but growing up with three brothers (who had control of the remote) I was exposed to it; more than exposed, actually.  I’ve probably seen every episode of the original series and can quote the opening credits.

Unfamiliar acronyms can make you feel like you have entered space: the final frontier. You are certain you have teleported to another planet. Others are communicating with this secret language and you don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. For those new to writing, like me, this is today’s mission: to explore strange new abbreviations, to seek out new words and phrases, to boldly decipher the acronyms we’ve seen before.

ARC: Advanced Reader Copy

BCB: Back Cover Blurb

BIC: But in Chair

BR: beta reader

GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict

CP: critique partner

DNF: Did Not Finish

HEA: Happily Ever After

ICE: Intensity, Conflict, Emotion

MS: Manuscript

NANOWRIMO: National Novel Writing Month

PAN: Published Authors Network

PNR: Paranormal Romance

POV: Point of View

QT: Query Tracker

RS: Romantic Suspense

RWA: Romance Writers of America

SFR: Science Fiction Romance

WIP: Work in Process/Progress

YA: Young Adult

Those are some that come to mind. With the exception of a few obvious ones like WIP (which is a commonly used in the world of accounting) and POV, I had no idea what they stood for when I saw them.

What acronyms have you come across? Are there some you haven’t deciphered yet?

By the way, the volume on my computer mysteriously stopped working after my post on adverbs. I’m certain there is a connection with the Lolly Adverb Shop clip I inserted. I believe my laptop is the culprit. It’s rebelling.

“That’s it. We’re done here; no more sound privileges for you little missy.”