NaNoWriMo Prep – Non-Gazebo Edition

This is the first in my “get your ass ready” series of posts for my own benefit. Listing out what I personally need as a writer. You can attempt to follow my example, but results may vary. Or as I hear often enough in writing conferences to make it mantra… damn near dogma…

This is what works for ME. Find what works for you and run with it.

Bug-Out-Bag-homeThe first step in preparing a NaNoWriMo Survival Kit is pretty similar to setting up a Bug Out Bag for the zombie apocalypse. Identify what you need and start gathering them together. At one point all the stuff for my BOB rested in a single place. That only lasts for so long. Stuff migrates in Casa de Zombie. Usually not by my doing. Sometimes, but not usually.

There are two quotes that I have yet to get stitched onto my shoulder bag that I use for NaNo. Both form the Double Rainbow that is the theme of my writing experience in either NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo. They are…

You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s Fucking Gazebo.


Writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla. You’re not done until the gorilla’s done.

One was made PG in final edits (though the URL is still R), and the other is a quote from Craig Ferguson on novel writing. I am not PG, and I don’t choose who inspires me. So you get what you get.

neils-gazeboAs such, the two quotes present a dichotomy of sorts. Primarily, the act of preparing a Public Authorin’ Kit in itself is the definition of the gazebo. But at the same time is essential (for me) to succeed in the program. At least it isn’t building an actual gazebo. In additional, no matter what the challenge states, 50,000 words isn’t a full novel in my genre. Meaning that even once I hit that goal, “the gorilla isn’t finished.”

My plan is to get a nice bag set up with at least the gorilla quote after my first real sale. As I have a short story out there on submission, this could happen soon. But I won’t be holding my breath. For this year, I have my bag set out and ready to be stocked. I’ll be doing that this weekend since Halloween is pretty full this year.

After the pre-NaNo meet ups this week (also known as the Plotting Party), I’ll have an idea what I am writing. That means I will be able to load a playlist of music that will outline my story. Likely including the anthems for both the hero and the villain. Hell, in at least one of the ideas I am dancing with, those anthems may be the same songs.

I’m going out on a limb and will predict that the playlist for this project will contain at least one song from Wayland, one from Bobaflex, and probably one from Halestorm. In This Moment is a coin toss. Most of their music really needs a specific story or character to fit in. I’ve also been collecting up a lot of Nonpoint and Otep thanks to the influence of Biatch from the morning show. I may thank her by showing up at the station with donuts Halloween morning in my zombie clown getup.

So Step 1 is setting up the playlist, purchasing the music (if needed) and loading my iPod.  This is the kicking off point for all of my writing projects. At least the novel length ones. Poems and short stories are another issue entirely.

What music are you setting your story to? Or are you the kind of writer that needs quiet? Maybe experiment with it this NaNo.

Sparked Image Thanks to @ChazztheJazz

For those of you not familiar with the YouTube guy known as “chazzthejazz” in most social networks (or Charles St. Micheal in his actual videos), he is a rather irreverent east coast actor. And while he leans more to the right as opposed to my left of center leanings, I get his sense of humor. Quite often it is obscenely off color, but then again… so am I. Follow along, it’s a windy road. Use the buddy system. Hold hands if you need to.

He has a schedule of events, one day being “Drinking and Smoking”, a video where he drinks, smokes (vapors) and talks about whatever strikes his fancy. This past week there was one where he was talking music and bands. Though he was part of a Queen cover band at one point, he told a story about a friend doing music in LA in the 80’s. If you want to get it straight from the tap, I’ll embed the video here. It is just under 30 minutes though.

For those looking to get straight to the point, in the mid 80’s, even though there were bands in every bar on the strip, you could step into any pawn shop on Sunset Blvd. and see the most amazing vintage guitars hanging on the wall. So, in theory, you could get a hell of a deal on a really sweet guitar. But that wasn’t it.

Each piece hanging on the wall represented the corpse of someone’s dead dreams. They came out to LA to break into music and were left with selling their piece to be able to eat, get home… so they could live. It hit me pretty strong considering the story of one of my favorite bands, Wayland. It had some parallels.

They had gone out to LA and were told they were a midwest band. They needed to tour. To play the midwest. They needed to live where their home was, the heart of their music. So they did. Phill’s white guitar didn’t wind up on the wall somewhere the memorial to the death of a dream.

manuscriptsWhy do I bring this up? Musicians aren’t the only one facing this. I was in a meeting with an editor here in town. His office is the attic of a three story house. And, as you would expect from an editor, the attic is filled with books, more books, a couple desks… some more books. You get the idea. I sat at one desk and he sat at the other. We talked over a length of bookshelves that held manuscripts. Two of them stood out to me. The name written on the page that bound them together catching my attention.

It really pressed upon me on the drive home. The well-known and prolific author whose name was on those manuscripts died recently. The man was gone from the world, but there his story sat, awaiting revisions. Awaiting print. They may decide to release it as is, it may get a polishing by someone else to ready for final release. The holder of his estate (his widow) may choose to leave it unreleased.

The thought of the last novel of this great writer potentially being unreleased reminded me of that Les Paul hanging on the wall of a pawn shop in LA. The final display of a lost dream. Though in this scenario, it isn’t the dream of the artist that is potentially lost and gone from the world, but the dreams of the readers that would be inspired by the last telling of a tale this man would ever do.

Of anything in the last couple years, this is the most motivating. I can think my writing is crap. If nothing else I need to have someone else tell me that. Because even if my stories fit a niche market and I need to self publish to get them out in the world, I’m fine with that. The idea that someone’s day could be lightened by the story of me doing horrible, horrible things to my main character, but it wasn’t… seems like a loss to me. A loss for both of us.

The music of Wayland, Halestorm, Bobaflex and others inspires a lot from my stories. They drive them. Their art fueling mine. What if somewhere, some kid would feel the same connection to something I write? That seems like the best reason ever to keep going. Doesn’t it?

Having problems staying focused? Unsure if the effort and time put into this art is worth it? Consider the potential loss to the other person and what potential to create they may lose by not having that inspiration. Sit your ass in the chair and write.

Stop planning. No more outlining. You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s fucking gazebo* (unless you are Kelly McCullough). Sit your ass down and write. I have heard the first million words you write are shit. Best to get them out of the way early.

*with compliments to Doyce Testerman on the quote

In Which Zombie Joe Contemplates Summer Camp

Really the point is in which I wonder to myself when summer camp became such a chore. I knew taking on the new roles would tax my time. At the same time, I am loving what I am doing and really getting in some solid reading time. The real slap in the face came in two spots, both of which hurt in their own way. And so I quote The 40 Year Old Virgin;

“That sign had two sides, and the both hurt… equally.”

The first came in the form of an email letting me know that Camp NaNoWriMo was gearing up. Granted it started earlier this year than last, but I have final edits and a cover to produce before I can get ecopies to people. The fates seem to be conspiring against me, but this afforded me the opportunity to kick my ass into gear. So I am going rogue and doing a final edit of Under the Hood this time around. It also didn’t hurt that the cover of Ben Dukes latest album has him looking damn near exactly as I had pictured the main character in Under the Hood.

Past that, I was talking to my son about plans for the future. In leading the conversation the direction of balance of responsibilities, it dawned on me. While I was getting some solid reading and reviewing in, I was causing an imbalance in my writing. A major one. It was like the tarp was lifted off the huge hole that was left in my day – I needed to get back to writing every day. Even if it was just a little bit.

So here we are. The cover has been lifted and placed back over my plans to build a gazebo like Neil Gaiman. Mornings are starting earlier again, giving more time for work in the morning before going to… well… work. I have also been getting into the mood for old fashioned NaNo-style write-ins for the afternoons. Even if it’s just me sitting in a coffee shop pouring over edits, critiques for my writing group, or reviews/blurbs for the various sites I am posting to. Provided I get them in early enough.

My next step is to clean up my library. Not because it is my gazebo, but because I need a place in the condo I can be comfortable enough to write in so that I have some time at home with my family. Even on the nights my wife isn’t home, I’m sure the dog would love the company. And the excuse to beg for food while I eat dinner.

Anyone else doing Camp NaNoWriMo? What are y’all working on?

Opening the Scene

Writing Totem at The VictoryWell honestly I’m not sure this will be the opening scene. In fact, I’m not even sure about the title. The tentative title of Under the Hood pertains to a piece from the first story in this setting I wrote a while back. It has since gone through revisions that took that reference out. This means either putting it back or bringing out the other layers to the title. You know, like an onion. Or an ogre.

As I said before, I’m writing this as a series of scenes or vignettes. The will be the stories of a bunch of people tied together and brought to bear under the main story of two protagonists. Therefore my “opening scene” (or the one I labeled “Scene 1.1” in my project file) takes place where I started writing it. The Victory, my local coffee shop in Madison. It is my wifi-devoid sanctuary where I can go to write without the distraction of my house, my dog and the Internet. It was also the scene of several current events headlines this past year. All of which I am pouring into this story.

As this is also my writing spot, my version of Neil Gaiman’s gazebo if you will, I will post up some photos of the location as well. You can get photos of the infamous rock-through-the-window scene on their own web site. While this place is definitely not for everyone, it has an atmosphere to it that I find invigorating. The only difficulty I ever find in writing there is that sometimes the music playing in the store system doesn’t match my scene. I fix that with an iPod and a playlist. This also allows me a unique view of the people around me without the benefit of hearing what’s going on. You notice much different things that way.

If you’re in the Madison area and want to get a look at one of the scenes from the story, check this place out. Be warned the store is cash only. There is an ATM at a gas station less than a block away, but having cash on hand is something I’ve just gotten used to. To quote Patrick, the owner of the Victory, “It’s not that we don’t believe in credit, it’s just that we don’t believe you should pay for it.” And yes, he has offered to let people pay next time if they don’t have cash on them.

Say what you will about Madison, its politics or the current landscape of the state, but its places like The Victory that make me want to stay here. And places this close to me I feel the strange need to put in to stories and mess them right the hell up. Luckily for me Patrick seems to have the same messed up sense of humor I do and loves the idea of The Victory being in the story.

So, welcome to Scene 1.1 – The Victory from my Camp NaNoWriMo story, Under the Hood. (Tentative title)

Day 16: Past Half Way Point

This weekend was a killer. Between the fatigue and my attending Murder and Mayhem in Muskego I lost quite a bit of time. I am looking forward to having off this next week so that I can catch back up. It also doesn’t help that during all that driving back and forth to Muskego I came up with a breakthrough on a more comedic twist for a story. Same monsters as my horror, but with a dark comedy element. And of course it sounds more fun to write than what I am doing now.

Last night went well and I have high hopes for tonight. Which is good as tomorrow is another D&D Encounters night at Misty Mountain. Here are my totals from this morning…

As of 8:00…

  • starting word count: ~18000
  • ending word count: 18336
  • caffeine consumed: 1 non-fat vanilla latte
  • insanity level: medium-high
  • fatigue level: medium
  • victims killed to date: 1 old hunter, every truck at deer camp, likely another hunter (we shall see…), 1 wolf just being a wolf
  • deer harvested: 4, 1 eaten by monster, more likely but not listed in prose
  • gazebos: 1 (I let FB have some attention this morning)

This is not Neil Gaiman’s Gazebo

Hi, my name is Zombie Joe and I am a NaNoWriMo.

At this point hopefully at least half of the three people reading this have recited “Hi, Joe,” at least in the internal monologue, picturing uncomfortable chairs in some dingy community center with the smell of stale donuts and burnt coffee coming from the back of the room. You know, over from that folding table with the particle board chipping at the sides with that construction paper pumpkin centerpiece – to make it seem more festive.

And by this point all three of you are like shouting aloud to your monitors, “What the hell does this have to do with Neil Gaiman’s gazebo?” Welcome to the blunderbuss that are my thought patterns every November. Now in case you have not seen it yet, you might want to check out Doyce Testerman’s blog on You Do not Need Neil Gaiman’s Gazebo – it’s really quite good. If you are too lazy (or like me have not finished your first cup of coffee for the day) then here is the general idea:

Anything that causes you to procrastinate and draws time away from writing is the same as building Neil Gaiman’s gazebo. And – while awesome – you fellow aspiring author – do NOT need Neil Gaiman’s gazebo.

I suppose there’s a reason that this comes on the day that it has. My first attempt at NaNoWriMo failed due to my uncle passing away. I was the driver from Wisconsin to Butler, Pennsylvania for my parents, an aunt and I believe my sister. eleven and a half hours there (thanks to getting lost in the middle of fucking nowhere Pennsylvania) and ten and a half hours back. I tried writing between the various family responsibilities, the only thing I managed to do was place one of my cousin’s kids in the story as a victim in effigy for giving me crap about how beat up my cell phone was. Once back, my mind was filled with thoughts of how I both hated and admired military funerals at the same time. All of this shortly after Veteran’s Day and smack in the middle of crunch time for NaNoWriMo. That was not my gazebo.

This year my obstacles are a bit more spread out. There are more of them, but they are more things that are under my control. More of the problems I am facing I can eliminate through force of will alone. That’s assuming that I can identify them.

A friend invited me out to sushi tonight. I love sushi and am not asked out very often for it. I don’t suggest it as my wife doesn’t like sushi. One of the people in my critique group was invited as well. This would be my gazebo. I am going to need to contact them today and let my friend know to definitely let me know next time, but I am to far behind in my word count to come out. It is to easy to say I can catch up on Sunday, even though I am going to Murder and Mayhem in Muskego this weekend.

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego is not my gazebo. It is a chance for me to sit in on panels and talk about writing, mysteries and have conversations like, “Well, the funniest autopsy I ever saw was…”* Also it gives me a chance to get my book signed by Kat Richardson, who I haven’t seen since Romantic Times this year. This event will make me feel more connected to the writing community and likely get me wound up enough that I’ll have to write before going to bed.

Running D&D Wednesday Night Encounters over at Misty Mountain (a game store owned by a friend of mine) is totally my gazebo. Steve, I’m sorry, but your store is totally a gazebo. That said, I am not going to ask someone else to take over running it for the month. It is two hours of my week and it allows me to keep in touch with some friends I normally wouldn’t. So while it is a gazebo, I am not going to be leaving it any time soon.

The Sunday Night gaming group is my gazebo. Even though we switched to Gamma World this month instead of D&D (as Gamma World is easier for me to prep), I still make a batch of cupcakes before the game which takes up a chunk of my Sunday. Of course this is the only time I see most of those friends and while the game is my gazebo, my friends are not. But that leads into another one…

Walking Dead is my gazebo. I mean come on, my online name is Zombie Joe. Way to many of my friends actually call me Zombie Joe in real life. At Wizard World Texas I was introduced to everyone as Zombie Joe. There’s really no way I am not watching this show. I’ve already picked out the piece of Adler art I would like to buy if I sell a story for a big enough payday. This show is entrancing and is totally my gazebo. And my wife thinks my gazebo is gross but still watches it with me.

NaNoWriMo Write Ins. This one might ruffle a few feathers in the local “Nano Community,” but the write-ins are my gazebo. Thought they don’t have to be. If I am doing word wars with people or bouncing ideas off of someone to get it clear in my head where these characters think they’re going, it is not my gazebo. If I am just casually doing “public authoring” around others doing the same, I can have problems staying focused and my word count suffers. So – while it is a small gazebo – the write-in can turn into my gazebo.

The Resolution

Here I sit in Cool Beans, the coffee shop near my condo – my literal gazebo as this is where I come to write. In front of the gas fireplace I sit in my Polynesian-looking shirt I bought before Romantic Times this year, my Marvel heroes shirt under it peeking out from the open overshirt, and I am clearing my mind of these non-story thoughts that are clogging up my brain. Easier than working through the death of someone close, but still something that needs to happen for the story to continue.

Family and Friends are not my gazebo as they are my support system that keeps me writing. If I have to pay for this with a game of Gamma World or two, then so be it. Of course that doesn’t mean I can justify sushi tonight – no matter how much I want to.

Of course I still haven’t determined what I’m going to do about deer hunting this year. I am writing about it, but I’m not feeling it in my bones like I usually do. Of course I have nearly the full week off and could really use getting out into the woods. Hunting doesn’t have to be my gazebo,but if I do it the whole week that will take up all of the vacation time I am using for catching up. I might have to limit myself to opening weekend again – or decide to write any time I’m not sitting with a loaded weapon in my hand.

And finally, before leaving the condo this morning, I grabbed a piece of poster board from my gaming supplies and brought it with me to make a NaNoWriMo sign for going to the write-ins. I am seriously considering adding “this is not a gazebo” to the sign as a signal for sitting near me will mean word wars. Don’t worry, I’m not doing slapbets this year. And yes, I do realize that this is the act of scavenging the materials from one gazebo to build another one.

Humor me, everyone has their own process.

Wrapping up I am noticing that I have put down almost 1400 words and none of them have been in my story. All of them have been about one gazebo or another – either physical or mental construct. 1400 words and I am still behind in my word count, but my path is more clear than it has been all month. 1400 words and 26 of them were gazebo. Shit, 27.



[*denotes an actual lunchtime conversation at a writers conference]