Monthly Archives: October 2012

Last Minute NaNo Planning

Good morning, NaNo superstars.

How are you all feeling? Excited? Charged up? Filled with words you’ve been bottling up until now?

Tomorrow sees the start of NaNoWriMo, and I’m still jealous that I won’t be doing it with you guys. This being-sensible things it not working for me right now. But so it goes.

I’m sure that by now you’ve got your month/novel planned out and ready to start. For those of you don’t, even for you those who have everything sorted, I have one or two questions for you:

Do you know what you’re writing?

Do you have a firm grip on the genre you’re writing? I ask this because I don’t want you hitting the 20k mark and suddenly panic that what you’re writing isn’t working, or it’s morphed into something you didn’t expect/see coming at all. I know this is only the first draft, and things can be changed/fixed in rewrites, but why make extra work when it isn’t necessary?

Do you have a firm grasp on the story you want to write? Do you know where you’re going?

For pantsers this can be tricky. I’m the biggest pantser ever. I tried plotting last year and ended up almost not finishing the novel.  Even though I don’t plot, I do have a general idea of where I’m going. I have a beginning, middle, and end. The rest I leave up to the characters and where what they do take me. The most plotting I can do is to fill out a beat sheet. Vaguely. So, pantser, do you have a general idea of what has to happen, or are you going in completely blind?

Plotter, do you have your chapters planned out? Do you have them summarized? Have you done your research, and have your events mapped? I don’t even know why I’m asking this. Of course you do. Plotters are organized like that.

Do your characters have motivation?

As important as plot is to a story, motivation is just as essential. I don’t want to read a story where the character does things just because they can. There has to be a reason. An author once said that every single character in your story should have motivation, even if it’s just the man having a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper at the coffee shop where your MC work. Even the woman your MC brushes shoulders with as she runs away from who’s chasing her. What is your characters’ motivation?

Do you have your setting in place?

I’ve had a full rejected simply because the editor couldn’t get a decent grip on my setting, so I know how important it is. Setting is an entire character on its own, and I think we sometimes forget how important a role it plays in the stories we tell. We take it for granted. Do you have a clear view of where your story takes place? You can have so much fun with this, get your characters into a lot more trouble by using the setting.

That’s all I’m throwing at you right now. Those are the big things. The smaller ones you can figure out as you go. There’s still a few hours left for you to figure out the last few details to try and make this writing month as painless as possible.

From all of us here at Hugs and Chocolate, we want to wish you the best of luck with November’s writing endeavors. We can’t wait to hear how you’re getting along. We’ll have check ins, so look out for that. We want to know how you guys are doing.

Happy writing.
Update: With 8 hours to go(for me and my futureness) I’ve changed my mind and decided to do NaNo. Because there’s nothing like a hint of madness to start the month of November with.


Posted by on October 31, 2012 in NaNoWriMo, Writing


NaNoWriMo Prep: Signing Up and Participating

Hey Writers! Just a few more days until National Novel Writing Month begins. You’re participating, aren’t you? Glad to hear that! Time to stock up on coffee, gummy bears, chocolate, frozen dinners and pajama pants. Got that covered? Great! Oh, you haven’t actually signed up yet? Well, let’s fix that.

I know it’s a big step–officially putting your name on the website–but if you’d like claim your goodies when you hit that 50,000 word mark, it is necessary. Plus, you get access to all kinds of fun things like the forum and your own personal profile to add your author and book information. Let’s take a minute to run through the three most important things to do on the NaNo website.

  1. Signing Up. It’s even easier than signing up for a new email account. Go to the Sign Up page and enter a username, an email and a password. DO NOT skip your time zone. This is very important as it will lock you out before your correct time on the final day if you don’t have it set to your time zone. Click “Sign Up” and wait for your confirmation email! You’re in the club!
  2. Set Your Home Region. It’s not impossible but it is a lot less likely that you will make it to your goal without support. Visit the Forum if you’re unable to meet up with other Wrimos in person. If you are able to meet in person, go to NaNo Near You > Find Your Region and search for your state. You can then narrow it down to your city and join a region. Now you will be notified about Write-Ins in your area.
  3. Change Your Time Zone. You heard me right. Not only do we have Thanksgiving to combat with (look for my upcoming post on that), but we also have the Daylight Savings Time roll back on November 4th. Because of this, you will need to update your time zone on that day, again, to insure you are given all the time you need to get those last words in.

Once you sign up, be sure to add me as a buddy and follow NaNoWriMo on twitter for updates and word sprints.

I’ll see you on the other side of sanity!


Posted by on October 29, 2012 in NaNoWriMo


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Even if You’re not Doing NaNoWriMo: A Challenge

It’s almost November, and for many writers, the beginning of a month filled with too much caffeine, frozen pizza, and questionable hygiene. That’s right–NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never joined in the madness, you may want to look into it. But, just like everything else in life, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay.

One thing I really love about NaNo is the sense of community and excitement. Those two things alone are so inspiring. And let’s face it, there’s something comforting about knowing there are other writers out there who are working toward the same immediate goal as you.

Some writers use the month of November to edit instead of draft. Some use it to finish a manuscript they’ve been holding on to for a long time, but have never gotten around to finishing. What I’m getting at is, even if you don’t want to participate in NaNo, I encourage you to use the 30 days to do something with your writing. Take advantage of the NaNo atmosphere and energy. Thousands of people do NaNo each year–make them your accountability partners for a month.

I have some hefty goals for the month of November. I plan on finishing my revisions on my YA horror novel and hopefully drafting another novel. We’ll see how much I get done, but I’m hopeful 🙂

What are your goals for the month of November?


A NaNo Tip & The Dreaded Synopsis (or how I tackle it)

By D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This is my face when I sit down to write a synopsis and query letter. (Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA)

Our topic for next month is, naturally, NaNoWriMo. Since my first post will only be in the second week, I’d thought I’d sneak in my one piece of advice for NaNo before I tackle today’s subject.

My advice is pretty simple:  Get as much written in the first few days/week of NaNo as possible.  I say this because you’ll be all fired up and full of ideas and words that have to be written. The more you get written in the first few days, the less you’ll need to make your daily target. It’ll also be a big help for when something comes up like a family emergency or thanks giving. Even if you just add an extra 100 – 200 words, it’ll make a difference. Instead of aiming for 1 777 words, you’ll now have 1 500 to write. It’ll feel much more attainable.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk a bit about the synopsis.  This past weekend I found myself with the dreaded task of writing the synopsis for a novel that I want to start querying next month. I say dreaded because it’s inconceivable to me to have to condense all that is my 83 000 word novel into one page. ONE PAGE! The injustice of it all! How can anybody expect me to narrow down all the twists and turns, the character development and angst to just one page?

But just like the even-more-dreaded query, the synopsis is a necessary evil and we suffer through it because we love our stories and want to give them the best opportunity to get out into the world.

Unlike my pantsing ways, I can’t just sit down and write a synopsis by simply thinking about the story and what happens. I’m paranoid that I’d miss something important, even though I know the novel from back to front.  So here’s what I do.

Chapter summaries. I take a weekend, start at the beginning of the novel, and work my way through the entire novel, summarizing the chapters as I go. At the end I have four pages of what happens in the story, chronologically correct. Following that I remove the chapter headings, put everything together, and voila. A very rough first draft.

After that I print out the four pages, take a red pen, and torture that draft until I’ve gotten it whittled down to at least two pages. By the time this is done, I’m a crying, blubbering mess. This is where my next not-so-secret weapon comes in. A CP with a ruthless nature when it comes to cutting what she like to call the fat. Said CP will help me narrow down my synopsis to one page filled with things that make sense.

Now, I know this method doesn’t work for everybody. Just this week I saw one lady suggesting to another the chapter summary method. Lady two said that she’d tried it before and it didn’t work for her. There’s a different method she uses, something about filling out a form, and I’m curious to know how it works, though I know I won’t ever use it.

Dear reader, for the sake of lady two of those not using the chapter summary method to compose a synopsis, share some tips for writing the best synopsis possible. I’m sure all of you have a secret or two to share with the rest of us.


Posted by on October 24, 2012 in NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized, Writing


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NaNoWriMo = Draft Zero

November is just around the corner and after four years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, even the change in weather has my nerves buzzing with anticipation, like my internal editor is well-prepared for her yearly vacation. In my excitement, I can’t help asking every writer I know if he or she is participating. Misery loves company. 😉 I’m getting a lot of mixed responses–some are die hards like me who are raring to go, some are participating but aren’t sure if they can do it, while others think it’s just crazy and don’t feel they could get anything out of it. For every one of them, I have one piece of advice: you’ve got to take NaNoWriMo for what it is.

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, says what you write in November should be looked at as “Draft Zero,” and as someone who has completed the challenge four times and turned two of those into full novels, I completely agree. Here’s what I mean…

Which Glasses Are You Wearing?

There are three general ways people look at writing 50,000 words in a month:

  1. NaNoWriMo is the ticket to publication. Well…it might be the first step to publication but there will be a lot of work to be done once the month is over, so don’t plan on submitting your first draft to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition. Writing so quickly doesn’t leave any time for editing so there will be enough typos to make your English teacher blush. It will be choppy. There will be holes where you don’t have time to research details. In short, know that NaNo only gets your feet wet.
  2. What’s the point in writing a bunch of trash? Let me tell you a little secret about how I write–I throw A LOT away. Sometimes an entire draft. It doesn’t mean all that writing was meaningless. I can brainstorm and plot and outline with the best of them but I don’t truly know my characters until I just start writing. NaNo is about getting out of my head and getting into the story. I don’t see any waste in that.
  3. There is no other event that brings writers of all types from all over the world together working toward the same incredible goal. There is no better way to set your critical mind aside. There is no better way to create a daily writing habit. There is no better way to set a challenge and prove to yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

So what does Draft Zero mean? It means you might not use everything you write but you might just find some incredible lines, paragraphs and characters you never would have discovered inside yourself if you hadn’t let your walls down. Most importantly, it means you will certainly know your story better than you ever thought you could–what’s working, what isn’t, what needs to be added, changed, cut. And then you’re prepared to write a real first draft that, with hard work, will be structurally sound. It seems like a lot of work but we all do this same process in different ways. NaNo simply speeds it up, and in a lot of cases, pushes people past all the internal obstacles that are holding them back.

Don’t Be Afraid to Write

I’m not saying everyone has to do National Novel Writing Month, or even should. Everyone has their own way of writing. What I’m saying is, don’t make excuses to not write. You don’t have to write 50,000 words in November but you do have to write. Stop looking at the word count goal as all or nothing. If you sign up for NaNo, just write every day. See where it goes. See where the excitement and community leads you. Writing only 25,000 words isn’t a failure. Compare that to how many words you’ve written this month.

But truth be told, NaNoWriMo isn’t really about the word count goal at all. It’s about letting go of all worries of what may or may not be. It’s about free falling into your creative mind. It’s about discovering the beauty in your story, your words, your writing.

Visit my blog for more Tips for a Successful NaNoWriMo.


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Writing the Dark Stories

“I believe these stories exist because sometimes we need to create unreal monsters and bogies to stand in for all the things we feel in our real lives….That truth is monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.”

~ Stephen King, from the 2001 Introduction to The Shining

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” 

~Edgar Allan Poe 

I love this time of year not only for Halloween, but the gloom and wind chafed by all the brilliant autumn colors. Dark juxtaposes light for a brief time, then days shorten and we celebrate with costumes and candy. I’ve long been drawn to dark stories and poetry, and these are the things I write.

We all know paranormal, horror,and urban fantasy dominate the market.Some say these books flood the market; I believe readership for these types of stories will always exist, but that’s another post. Earlier this week, Rebecca celebrated some of the best horror novels and anthologies in this post. Many members of my writing tribe author the same types of stories. Why does this demand continue to exist? Why do we read them or pay money to see the horror movies, or the tragic love stories?

Is it, as Stephen King, or even Edgar Allan Poe, suggests, because we harbor these things within us?

Yes, I believe so.

Even a good love story, or comedy, requires a counterpoint between light and dark. One antonym for darkness is illumination. We want to do more than survive, we seek enlightenment. And there’s the balance- the theme- of many of the stories we read and tell to each other.

King also suggests we need these stories to save us. When I staggered through some of the harder times in my life, reading Dean Koontz and Anne Rice reminded me how weird and beautiful live is- even during the unpretty parts. When I shivered, my heart raced, or I cried for a favorite character, I experienced a much-needed emotional release. I compare this to our love for music. From Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera to popular progressive rock band Tool, millions find catharsis in someone else’s song, or story.

Any good story I’ve read- and this is my opinion- contains some element of darkness, as most tell a love story as well. This creates much-needed tension and conflict. Otherwise, dull Pollyannas and mundane resolutions would crowd the literary landscape. Our stories should be at least as complex, if not more so, as our inner lives. We all harbor secrets, doubts, fears, regrets, or anger. Not that we let these things govern our lives, but we should spill them, along with a little blood, onto the page.

Are you drawn to stories with darker elements in them? When writing, how deep do you dig into your psyche? Do you feel that these types of stories or music provides catharsis?

* Artwork is Courtyard with Lunatics by Goya (1794)


Posted by on October 19, 2012 in What We Write


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What’s So Good About Goodreads Anyway? Part 1: Using Goodreads as a Reader

I don’t know about you, but most of my Twitter, Facebook, and other social media connections revolve around other writers. I’m sure I’m not alone. 99% of the friend requests I get come from other writers. We share a common passion and that’s what brings us together. I LOVE my writer friends. We challenge each other, support one another, and keep each other sane. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They are each integral to getting through rewrite hell and on the road to publication. But what do you do when the book is finished? Promoting to the same circle that helped you on your journey is futile. As much as they might love you and your book, other writers are not your primary audience. It’s time to connect with readers. REAL readers.

‘But writers ARE readers,’ you cry. Yes, we are, but we’re also busy getting our own books out there, being critique partners, bloggers, publicists, editors, social media guru’s, ect. Let’s be honest. How many of us have as much time to read for pleasure as we used to? I know I don’t. I still read every night, but instead of a book a week, I’m now lucky if I get through a book a month. I study books, looking for what’s working, what’s not. Books have unconsciously become more of a learning tool instead of something that relaxes me. These days, a book has to be exceptional to make me forget I’m a writer. I am no longer an average reader and average readers are the ones that will want to read your books.

So how do I find my audience? The good news is it’s easy to connect with average readers. Most of you have heard of it and I know a lot of you already have accounts, but are you using Goodreads to its full potential? In my opinion, you should all but forget Twitter and Facebook in your search for an audience. If you want to connect with real readers, you need to go to them, and let me tell you, the real readers are on Goodreads.

Now, before you start preparing your marketing blitz, stop. I said Goodreads is where you go to CONNECT with readers. It is not where you go to sell your book. It’s not a spamfest or a place to drop your book title or cover in every conversation. It is true social media built around a common love of reading. To make Goodreads work for you, you have to be prepared to participate in conversation. If you love books, this shouldn’t be hard.  On Goodreads, you should always be a reader first and a writer second. And you know what, it’s so much fun!

What’s so great about GR?

1)      It’s an amazing research tool. Seriously, this is the best place to go to find out what readers in your genre are reading, what they like, what they don’t, and why.

2)      Helps you keep the pulse of what’s going on in the market. Forget what industry professionals say, it’s all about readers. They drive the market. Why wouldn’t you want to find out what they’re saying? Use GR to find what real readers think about current books.

3)      It’s fun and brings the joy of reading back. Nobody cares about market trends, editing, agents, or the publishing industry. Readers care about stories and their love of the written word and it’s refreshing to stop being a writer for a while and to be a reader again.

4)      Groups, games, finding new authors and books, making new friends.

Tips for adding books:

1)      You can add books you’ve read by either typing the name of the book or the author in the search bar, or you can download the GR app for your smartphone. This allows you to scan the barcode on all the books on your real bookshelf and it will automatically add it to your GR shelf. How cool is that?

2)       As you add books, GR will give you the option to rate and review each book. I didn’t have time to write reviews for every book, but rating is easy and only takes seconds. You can also add the dates you started and finished each book. I didn’t bother with this for my older books, but started using this feature for everything I read going forward. It’s a great way to keep track of what I’ve read and when I’ve read it.

3)      You can also re-order the books on your virtual shelf anyway you like. Do you like to keep your genres separate? You can add shelves and title them anything you wish.

4)      Once you’ve added books you’ve already read, you can start adding books you want to read. This is a great feature to keep track of books you’re interested in. Again, type the title or author into the search list and add to you ‘to read’ shelf.

Tips on adding friends:

1)      Obviously you want to start with people you already know, but don’t limit yourself.

2)      Look at your friend’s lists. You’ll be able to compare books with each person on their list. If you see someone who reads a lot of the same books as you do, send them a friends request.

3)      Mention that you noticed they like George RR Martin or that you have a lot of books in common. This helps make the connection more personal.

4)      Add people that you see participating in the same conversations as you do.

Tips on joining groups:

1)      Join some groups that read in the genres you’re interested in.

2)      Click the ‘groups’ link and type in your interest into the search bar.

3)      Once you found a group that looks good to you, join it. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself and start adding to the conversation. Some groups will have a special folder for authors to add their book titles, but they don’t tolerate spam in any other discussions.

4)      Games. This is a quick and fun way to get to know others. Most groups have a few games they play. You’ll see them listed as a discussion. Be sure to read the rules before you play. J

5)      Group reads are popular. Most groups I’m a part of will choose a book to read for the month. You don’t have to participate, but it’s another great way to connect with readers.

Tips for joining conversations:

1)      GR will display ongoing conversations about books you’ve added to your bookshelf on the left hand side of your homepage. If a conversation looks interesting, join it. This is another great way to start making friends and adding to your friends list.

I know I’ve focused on how to use Goodreads from a reader’s perspective, but I feel that’s the first step to connecting with your audience. As an author, Goodreads has some amazing tools and I’ll be talking about the GR author platform, using Listopia to gain exposure, creating events, linking your blog, and more. Join me for part 2:Using Goodreads as an Author on the 7th of November.

Do you use Goodreads? I would love to hear about your experiences.


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