Writer Wednesday: How To Research Your #NaNoWriMo project #amwriting #IARTG

Hello readers and writers! Last week we talked about the three steps to NaNoWriMo success. this week, I thought we’d dive a bit deeper into the first item on the list, research.

Research is just as important to your work as proper grammar. You need to have a working knowledge of what you’re writing about, and you need to integrate concepts seamlessly into your work. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will kick a reader out of a story faster than an obvious error on the author’s part.

Some resist research (I get it, research is hard) and use the excuse of having built a second world, usually in a fantasy or science fiction setting. That’s all well and good–and you get to make up place names and holidays for whatever society you’ve created–but what about those aspects of your world that are common with the one we live in? For example, horses and guns.

People get horses and guns wrong all the time. In the case of horses, I’ve read books where the characters ride for hours or maybe even days, and never stop to rest or feed their horses. They also never remove their tack, never rub them down… Really, the list goes on. These poor fantasy horses are not happy!

Guns are treated just as badly. In one memorable instance, a character loaded their modern automatic weapon by sliding bullets down the barrel, like a Pez dispenser. If only they’d Googled “how to load a gun” and spent the next five minutes reading, they could have avoided that egregious error.

I may know a lot about a little and a little about a lot, but I’m not arrogant or foolish enough to think I know everything. When I incorporate certain elements into my work, I research them. To expand on the examples above, I have very little first hand knowledge of horses, but I have friends and relatives who do. I hit them up for information, and sometimes I score free horseback riding lessons. I know even less about guns, since I’ve never even held one, and I tackle that issue in my own unique way: I don’t write about them. I do, however, have characters who wield swords and other edged weapons, so I’m definitely filling my weapon research quota.

For my upcoming NaNo project, the bulk of the story takes place in County Cork, Ireland. I have been to Ireland, so I do have a feel for the land. In addition to my memories, I’ve subscribed to Irish periodicals, purchased a few maps and travel guides, watched Irish television (hello, Father Ted), and I’ve been learning Irish. I’ve also gotten a few YA titles set in Ireland, but I’m saving them to read in December, after I hit my 50k and before I start editing. My intent is that this low-key immersion in contemporary Irish culture will lend my main character an authentic voice. Even if it doesn’t, I adore all things Irish, and learning is never wasted.

How are you researching for NaNoWriMo? Tell us in the comments!

Learn more about NaNoWriMo (and sign up!) here.

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.

After Karina and her brother, Chris’s, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris—who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism—drinks his way across the British Isles.

In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth- century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.

As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.

Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?

Britt Sullivan, part time model and full time aspiring artist, is sick of living alone in the city…

Taking lame jobs just to make ends meet is leading Britt nowhere, and she knows something has to change. She needs some excitement, and when she meets blue-eyed Midwesterner Sam MacKellar at a photo shoot, she realizes he’s perfect for her in every way—well, except for the fact that he’s gay.

A devastating childhood trauma turned Sam’s whole life into a lie…

Sam came to New York City to escape an existence that had become unbearable, and when his job as a photographer’s assistant leads him to Britt, he realizes he’s finally met someone who sees him as he really is. But plagued by nightmares and trapped by his own deception, he doesn’t know how she can truly be part of his life.

Friendship leads to a passionate encounter and hidden dangers…

Britt comforts Sam though his nightmares, and they begin to explore their mutual attraction, but the tables are turned when Britt faces unwelcome attention from a manipulative art instructor and Sam must come to her defense.

Sam is terrified to reveal the source of his nightmares, sure the truth would shatter his complicated relationship with Britt, but when she suffers an unspeakable trauma of her own, only Sam can help her pick up the pieces.

When Britt learns the magnitude of Sam’s lies, will his reasons and the depth of their feelings be enough to allow her to forgive him? Does she have a future with Sam, or does his deception also include the reality of changing teams?

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Writer Wednesday: Three Steps to #NaNoWriMo Success #IARTG #amwriting

Happy Wednesday, readers and writers! October is just around the corner, which means you have just over thirty days to plan your Halloween costume, and finalize your NaNoWriMo plan of attack.

Plan NaNo now, you ask? Why, it’s still September! Yes, yes it is, but believe me that in order to win NaNo–in other words, write 50,000 over the course of the 30 days in November–you need to plan, plan, and plan some more.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. In fact, two of my currently published novels, Changing Teams and Gallowglass, were both written during NaNo. However, last year’s NaNo was an epic fail on my part, and it was all due to poor planning. I had my story idea, and I’d done a bit of outlining and research, but not nearly enough. It wasn’t long before the story had gone so far off the rails there was no way I could fix it in 30 days. You can read all about that disaster here.

But this year will be different! I’ve done my homework, and I expect that even if I don’t have a finished story by November 30, I will at least have my 50,000 words. Here are the steps I’m taking to stack the deck in my favor:

  1. Research – Then do some more research, ask a librarian for help, and maybe book a trip to visit any real-life locations. Really, you’re not going to get too much information so go all in.
  2. Outline – A nice detailed outline is key. One incorporating the classic three act structure would be ideal, but you want a strong map to follow. Think of it like you’re downloading the newest map software onto your Garmin, as opposed to using a paper map printed in 1952.
  3. Character Profiles – Who’s the protagonist? Antagonist? What do they want? What are the stakes? What will happen if they don’t get what they want? Again, you cannot have too much information.

Next week, I’ll share some of the research I’ve done for my NaNo 2017 masterpiece. Okay, pending masterpiece. In the meantime, click the links below to learn more about my two most successful NaNo projects. Happy reading!

Learn more about NaNoWriMo (and sign up!) here.

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.

After Karina and her brother, Chris’s, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris—who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism—drinks his way across the British Isles.

In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth- century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.

As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.

Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?

Britt Sullivan, part time model and full time aspiring artist, is sick of living alone in the city…

Taking lame jobs just to make ends meet is leading Britt nowhere, and she knows something has to change. She needs some excitement, and when she meets blue-eyed Midwesterner Sam MacKellar at a photo shoot, she realizes he’s perfect for her in every way—well, except for the fact that he’s gay.

A devastating childhood trauma turned Sam’s whole life into a lie…

Sam came to New York City to escape an existence that had become unbearable, and when his job as a photographer’s assistant leads him to Britt, he realizes he’s finally met someone who sees him as he really is. But plagued by nightmares and trapped by his own deception, he doesn’t know how she can truly be part of his life.

Friendship leads to a passionate encounter and hidden dangers…

Britt comforts Sam though his nightmares, and they begin to explore their mutual attraction, but the tables are turned when Britt faces unwelcome attention from a manipulative art instructor and Sam must come to her defense.

Sam is terrified to reveal the source of his nightmares, sure the truth would shatter his complicated relationship with Britt, but when she suffers an unspeakable trauma of her own, only Sam can help her pick up the pieces.

When Britt learns the magnitude of Sam’s lies, will his reasons and the depth of their feelings be enough to allow her to forgive him? Does she have a future with Sam, or does his deception also include the reality of changing teams?

Writer Wednesday – Take Care Of Yourself #WednesdayWisdomForWriters #amwriting #wellness

Recently, I was discussing con crud with a writer friend. What’s con crud, you ask? I assure you, it’s just as gross as it sounds.

This ailment got its vivid name because it tends to pop up among conference and convention goers a few days after the event in question has ended. Typical symptoms include congestion, cough, and a general feeling of malaise. I know, makes you want to sign up for even more conferences, amiright?

For years I thought that con crud was the inevitable result of being packed into a hotel or other public facility, breathing in the same recycled air as hundreds if not thousands of others, subsisting on stale coffee and cookies, and sleeping less than usual. Many anecdotal cures promise to cure the crud, ranging from taking high doses of vitamin C to eating raw garlic. They never worked, at least not for me.

But what if con crud wasn’t inevitable? What if by making a few small changes to my pre-con routine, I could avoid con crud altogether?

This called for science, and its buddy, research. In true mad scientist fashion, I used myself as a test subject.

I put my plan in motion shortly before I attended Necon this past July. During the week leading up to the event, I slept a full eight hours every night, and took at least one nap per day. I doubled my water intake, eliminated alcohol, and made sure to consume vegetables and protein at every meal. Basically, for a week I behaved like a normal healthy person, not my usual overstressed, pretzel-munching, coffee-guzzling self. And guess what?

I didn’t get con crud!

By resting, keeping myself hydrated, and eating as well as I could manage, I got my body into the best condition it could possibly be in BEFORE the con. While at the con I still drank the stale coffee, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough, but I didn’t get con crud. In fact, after four days at Necon I didn’t even have my usual post-con fatigue. In short, I felt great.

So, what does this have to do with writing? Quite a bit, actually. First of all, your creative impulses are a higher level function than talking or moving around or breathing, so when you’re not feeling 100% your body naturally diverts resources and energy to where it’s needed most.  If you imagine your creative process as the top 10% of your energy, you can (probably) visualize what I mean. And have you ever tried writing when you’re sick or tired? It’s not easy.

Therefore, the better shape we keep ourselves in, the better our creative output will be. I’m not saying you should live like a monk, and ingest nothing  but spinach and water and sunlight. Just take the time to take care of yourself, and know your limits. If you have a big event, a deadline looming on the horizon, or are taking part in a writing challenge (ya’ll didn’t think I’d forget to mention NaNoWriMo, did you?) be cognizant of your habits. You’ll never make your word count if you’re too tired to type.

Do you have any tip on avoiding con crud? Tell us in the comments!

I’ll be at Whipowill Stables for their open house on September 18, selling books and playing with horses. Learn more about the event here.

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Writer Wednesday: It’s Time To Talk About NaNoWriMo #writerwednesday #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

Here we are on the last day of August, with summer winding down and the kids returning to school. Right now I’m looking ahead to November, specifically NaNoWriMo.

Knowledge

I’ve written about NaNo before, but here’s a description in a nutshell: You write a first draft of a novel (50,000 words, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day) in 30 days, during the month of November. Hence, National Novel Writing Month = NaNoWriMo. Sounds daunting, right? Actually, it’s totally doable, and I should know. I’ve been participating in NaNo for years, and I always make my word count. My personal best is 66k in 19 days, but there were a few extenuating circumstances there: I didn’t pay my cable bill, and I had no internet for half the month. It was a wonder Facebook survived without me.

Lesson the first: reducing/eliminating distractions has a positive effect on word count.

The other tip I can’t stress enough is getting all of your pre-work out of the way before November 1. What is pre-work? Well, your outline, for one. Also, if your story concept needs any sort of research–be it places, dates, obscure languages–do it now. when November 1 hits you want to hit the ground running, not get bogged down reading semi-factual Wikipedia pages.

Lesson the second: research now, write like the dickens later.

Something else I do to keep me on track is engage a NaNo buddy. Your buddy can help you by critiquing plot points, helping you out when the story hits a rough patch, or just by commiserating and sheering you on. My NaNo buddy this year is Barry *waves* and we’ve already had a few chat sessions to talk about our projects. He’s working on a horror novel with a fricken’ AWESOME concept, and I’m going to cobble together a retelling of Medusa and other Greek myths. Which means that our projects will never, ever be in competition for the same venue. Side benefit!

Lesson the third: get a support group/person/houseplant. There’s no need to go it alone!

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is tough, but any serious writer can make this goal. If you feel like you need a challenge to get yourself back on track, or just want to revel in writing something new, I say give NaNo a go. You might surprise yourself.

afe12-frontOh, and that 66k I wrote in 19 days? It’s a real book – Changing Teams! Check it out here!

 

See that, if I can win NaNo, and get the resulting project published, you can too 🙂

 

Are you planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

#NaNoWriMo : You Never Know What Can Happen

As NaNoWriMo 2015 gears up for its final push, I remember last year’s project and all the things that have happened since. To say that NaNo 2014 was unprecedented is a definite understatement.

Like many writers around the world, I look forward to participating in NaNo every November. (Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Learn more here.) In the past I’ve banged out full-length epic fantasies and short stories featuring everything from zombies to homicidal horses in the 30 day time frame. I didn’t do anything like that for NaNo 2014.

I wrote a series.

Okay, so I didn’t finish the entire series by November 30. But I did finish book one, Changing Teams, in 19 days. In the remaining eleven I outlined the next three books and wrote a tie-in short story. Yeah, this series was happening in a big way.

I plunged ahead into book two, but when I was halfway in I decided it should be book three. Then I switched the protagonists for books two and four and added some backstory to book three, which meant that I needed to make some changes to book one. In essence, I was writing the entire series at once.

This was uncharted territory for me. I’ve written three series in the past—one epic fantasy, two urban fantasies—and I’ve always followed the same formula:

  1. Write book one (meaning the whole process including beta reading, editing, etc.)
  2. Check out the market, determine which agents and publishers are buying works similar to mine
  3. Write query letters, synopses, and submit away
  4. Commence nail biting
  5. If book one is picked up, consider series potential

This time around, instead of waiting for an agent or publisher to express interest in book one, I had the entire series in my back pocket. When I queried Limitless Publishing–who ultimately signed the series–they asked if there were sequels to Changing Teams. My response? “Yes, and they’re all ready to go.”

Is writing an entire series simultaneously hard? You bet it is. But it’s also a relatively simple trick from which I’m already reaping awards. And none of this would have come about without my participation in NaNoWriMo. My take-aways from this are as follows:

  1. NaNoWriMo forces you to think–and write–outside the box
  2. If an idea grabs you, go with it, at least for a little while
  3. Don’t be afraid to do things differently.

As for this year’s NaNo, i’m on track to finish the sequel to a previously unpublished urban fantasy. does this mean I’ll finish another series before I query it? Maybe.

What are your NaNoWriMo success stories? Share in the comments!

Now available

Changing Teams – available now http://amzn.to/1MAlCuE

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