Order From Chaos: A NaNo Tradition

So I took a touch of time off this week. I was caught up on words (ahead by the NaNoWriMo standards) and I needed a break. This is one of the best tidbits of advice I can give to people new to the marathon. If you are stumbling after a 4k or 5k day, take a break. Let the batteries recharge. Not everyone has to, but you might. I sure as hell know when I have to.

Alas, poor Horseman. He was a dick, Horatio.

Alas, poor Horseman. He was a dick, Horatio.

If you are up to date on the show Sleepy Hollow (and if you aren’t you should be), you will recognize the title of the blog from there. The Freemasons from the show use the phrase with Ichabod. If you aren’t up to date, that’s not really a spoiler, now is it? But that would be the first instance of Order From Chaos this week. The direct relation of it to the show.

Pulling the title from the show refers back to the opening of this blog. No matter how hectic the month gets, make sure to take care of your physical and mental health. Take a night off, cook a good meal instead of eating from a fast food place or coffee shop. Decompress over some television. Play a game. Do something not related to NaNo. Trust me, it will help keep you sane. Well, sane for us, anyhow.

The next is the practice of NaNoWriMo. I bring this up due to the discussion from a podcast I was recently listening to. (That helps keep sanity during the dayjob.) Discussion was revolved around if NaNo was a good thing. Key focus (from what I was hearing) was brought to sit around the idea of “doing the work” for writing a book. It isn’t done in a month. And 50,000 words isn’t even a full novel.

Yes, this is their actual sign...

Yes, this is their actual sign…

I write all year long. There are breaks here and there, but I am always working on something. Even if it is research exercises or writing reviews. During the rest of the year I am not spending most of my time in coffee shops though. Other than November, if I am having problems getting going in the morning, I may skip the coffee shop that morning. Breathe deep people… I still go through the drive through. I am an addict after all. But the reality is I am always writing, editing and reading. I’m working towards the goal of becoming a published writer. After that the goal is full time writer.

During the month of November though, I throw it back to the Chaos. I release the Order and go full bore. This means write ins. It means going to the west side, Verona, even Oregon (the city, not the state) for events. I plan the launch party, most of the time more. This year it was the marathon day as well as the Night of Writing Dangerously. And I keep an eye out for those that don’t just want to spill 50,000 words onto a page. I keep an eye out for those who want to take it further.

Throw it back to the Chaos that spawned this ride, but still work Order into that Chaos. And hopefully motivate some folks that they can take it to the next step. In a way it seems that my goal isn’t to make it over that wall. My goal is to haul ass of everyone on my team over that wall. Or at least as far as we can get over it.

Bub would totally rock the pit!

Bub would totally rock the pit!

And my final call for Order From Chaos, as these things go in threes. At least they do for me. The final one falls to the story I am writing. It was one of three options. I chose between them due to a random post from Carina Press. Their “what our editors want” post for the year. One of the editors from their house that I have met posted she was looking for books on psychics. One of my plot ideas involved young people (18-25 year olds) developing mental abilities and the problems it would cause them. Drawbacks from those wonderful powers. Sort of like in Hollow Man how Kevin Bacon started going nuts from being invisible for prolonged periods of time.

Picking your plot based off a random tweet. You can get more Chaos than that, right?

More so than that, was the specifics of the plot. My protagonist is a clairvoyant. As far as he can tell though, seeing the future is very limited. Just a short distance out (a few seconds) and only directly around him. Still pretty hard core, but with limited potential. Without an Xavier’s School for the Gifted or such, he figures out how to train these abilities on his own. Namely, training in mixed martial arts.

There’s only so long you can hide that kind of an ability in the ring though, so to cut loose he goes to concerts and plays in the mosh pits. A sick drive in him pushed him to test himself by diving in and trying to touch side to side in the pit. Once he is satisfied with his exercise, he cuts loose and lets himself go into the pit fully. Handing himself over to the Chaos to make up for his life being all Order. Namely him being in complete control of everything.

Too bad for him his author is a bastard and will throw him totally in the deep end. Seriously. I’m actually having to work in finding an ending that isn’t totally horrible for the poor guy.

Full Disclosure: I don’t count blog post words into my NaNoWriMo total. Too bad, that’d be an extra thousand words. More if you count my reviews. ūüėČ

Gearing Up To NaNoWriMo

FootlooseOkay November, let’s dance. And that was my Kevin Bacon pop culture reference for the post. You can’t see it, but trust me… I’m doing a little dance in my chair. Which makes this a two-fer as I am also giving a nod to one of Craig Ferguson’s new things. You know, something old, something new… both are borrowed.

Right, stay on target.

November is coming up fast. In my world that means a number of things. First and foremost is the NaNoWriMo is looming. No offense to TeslaCon and Deer Season (one of which I am gearing up for as well), or to the newly started GameHole Con. Really, I won’t be ignoring you this month. But honestly, NaNoWriMo is my focus. It has been for a several years. And as such, I am starting my first prep post for the big day.

Of course once I am on the front line and taking fire, these will start to drop in frequency. But for now, I am working on preparing. Partially because I am at TeslaCon from Halloween Night until that Sunday. With at least one or two visits to GameHole Con for the OddCon Suite Party. And I will still be getting in my 2k a day.

Coming up next week, we are looking at doing a pair of NaNoWriMo Prep Parties. Kind of a meet and greet for people and a way for writers to get their minds in the right place. Maybe do some plotting. At least come up with a character or two. I’ll post once we confirm place and time here, but you can find them in the Madison regional forum on the NaNoWriMo site. Which you should be on if you are participating.

For now, I give you this rough outline of what you should consider for your prep. With less time on hand, my plan is to plot the novel roughly. Flying by the seat of my pants works best when I have time to screw things up and stumble. There will be no stumble time in 2013. Last summer I started concentrating on key scenes. The ones I knew I had to have. Got stuck? Go on to the next scene… you can stitch them together later in edits. Especially if you only have 50k of first draft done.

Last month I found this off a blog or post that I forgot where it came from. This is far more general than my list of scenes method, but more linear. I intend to set up this framework and tape the SOB up on my bookcase until the month is over. Maybe a copy on my iPad. And in my folder. You get the idea. Steal it from me if this will help you, as I have stolen it as well.

Identify Your Scenes

  1. The Inciting Incident. This scene dramatizes the call to action, the event that propels your protagonist into the story.
  2. End of Act I. A second high-conflict scene usually occurs at the end of Act 1, or about a quarter of the way through the story. This is the “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment where your protagonist realizes the totality of the challenge she faces and discovers that there is no going back.
  3. Midpoint. A third high-conflict scene falls somewhere near the middle of the story. This is the point where things look bleakest for your protagonist. It may appear that there is no way out, that the antagonist is just too powerful, that it is probably wisest to run rather than stand and fight.
  4. End of Act II. A fourth high-conflict point usually occurs at the end of Act II, about three quarters of the way through the story. Your protagonist has decided to fight (really, how could she do anything else), and this is a major test. The stakes are high (but not yet the highest), and propel the story on to its inevitable conclusion.
  5. Climax. The last high-conflict scene is comes near the end of the book. This is the battle of all battles, the decisive moment that determines whether your protagonist gets what she wants badly, or not.

If you are in the Madison area, I’ll see you out and about doing public authorin’ throughout the month. I’ll be the scruffy looking old guy with the Neil Gaiman’s Gazebo sign.

The Plot Starts Here

This weekend brings two things to my life. The first being the opening of Festa Italia, the Italian Community Festival for Madison, Wisconsin. That means a long weekend of serving beers, sausages, pasta dinners and driving Nonna from the fair grounds out to your parking space in the golf cart. If you’re local, come on out and see me there. Lots of great food and you can learn something about the history of downtown Madison.

The other is the start of the first of two NaNoWriMo summer camps. Specifically the one that I’m taking donations for in a pledge page to benefit the Young Writers Program. See the Camp NaNoWriMo tab up there? That’s the one. Remember that anyone who pledges at least $5 gets an electronic copy of the book after I publish it. Pledge more and I’ll name a character after you. Pledge even more and they may live to the end of the book.

As nobody has pledged to change the genre that I am writing I am leaning towards leaving it as an Urban Fantasy/Horror story. With two days left to prepare, I took my precious little writing time this morning and used it to start plotting. Additionally, with the rather steep amount of “maul a friend” requests and naming of characters, I am left with a large number of victims. That means I need to be ready for what is going to cause such a sharp amount of destruction in our fair city.

At WisCon this past weekend, I attended a panel on Addiction in Science Fiction. Mainly due to the fact that one of my favorite series of all time, The Downside Series by Stacia Kane, deals with that issue quite a bit. If you have not read them, you really need to. All of the books are incredible. Anyhow, in that panel the moderator (also a nurse at a burn unit in California) brought up the designer¬†synthetic¬†drugs called “bath salts.” Over the past weekend there have been a rash of violent episodes that are being related to the drug. The Miami story of the naked guy biting off the face of another naked guy. A New Jersey man that stabbed himself repeatedly and then threw intestines at the police. A California UFC fighter who cut the heart out of another man and throwing it in a fire. (Admittedly¬†the last one was mushrooms and not bath salts, but still.)

This gave me the idea for a starting point for the mystery. A ground zero for the attacks that would bring all these characters together. So a blending of pledges (characters), monsters (genre) and current events into one fluid story. I even had thoughts to some “DVD Extras” sort of features to offer on the blog. I’m still working on the specifics, but there you have it.

A special thanks goes out to the people who have currently pledged for the charity.

  • Kimberly Gonzalez – a local editor that was the first pledge for a character naming
  • Michele Bardsley – a romance author who is excited to see her character die in a most honorable and gruesome way. (Check out her books if you like paranormal romance by the way.)
  • Jean Staral – who pledged under “maul a friend” to have a local romance author mauled. (Still waiting for confirmation from her.)
  • Linda Schmalz – another local member of the romance writers group who pledged to have a character named after her son.
  • Jesi Lea Ryan – a local author (and member of my critique group) who pledged for 3 “maul a friends” including her husband, her boss and one person as yet to be named.
  • R. Scott Steele – another member of my critique group as well as my gaming group who is pledging to have another of the people from our gaming group (Paul) mauled by a monster.

Character names and further plot points will be updated every night or two. Mornings are getting wholly dedicated to getting in the 2000+ words I need for the day. Keep checking back for all sorts of DVD Extras. Hell, there may even be a “Blooper Reel.”