NaNoWriMo 2017 Report - April Summer Camp!
April 2017 marks my 4th (likely) successful NaNo attempt. As of 4/24/17, I am sitting at 42,117 words written of my 50,000 word goal. Overall, I've tried the NaNo contest 5 times now, and I've only lost once. From what I know of most other authors, winning comes scarce and an overwhelming majority of writers fail before they get too far off the ground. So here I plan on breaking down the useful tips and tricks I've developed to ensure my own writing goes along smoothly.
Firstly, here's a look at my chart:
The First Takeaway = I knew I wouldn't have time to write the first weekend of NaNo this year. I had an appellate brief for the KY Supreme Court due that Monday in law school and obviously, that takes precedent over NaNo. One of the keys to staying ahead of the graph is to plan ahead. I knew the weekend would ruin my progress, so I made sure to bust out 9,000 words on day 1. How did I write so much? Well, I have a pretty boring social life... and I outlined before I began writing!! That's a huge step. Don't just sit down and expect literature to fly from your fingers like wine from a golden fountain. That isn't going to happen. Instead, just plan ahead and make a decent outline before you get ready to rock and roll.
The Second Takeaway = I've never had a good cabin. These guys tend to chat a bit which is fun, but they don't write. Competition motivates me far more than it should, and my cabin provided none this year. No one is even close. Some good advice might be to get writers you know to make your own cabin to hold each other accountable.
The Third Takeaway = Even if you get behind, getting ahead isn't that difficult. So many people I've talked to have said they missed a day or a weekend upfront and then quit. Well.. that doesn't work. Look how many days I ended below my goal line? There's a bunch. But guess what? Just going 400 - 600 words over your daily target the next day and the day after that does wonders to make up that lost ground. If you persevere, you'll make up the words.
The Fourth Takeaway = This one is key. I heard a vital piece of advice a couple years ago that has helped my writing tremendously.
"The best way to find the time to sit down and write a novel is to throw your cell phone in the ocean."
That is so true. This is going to sound super obvious and perhaps even a little childish, but removing distractions is the best thing you can do for yourself and your book. Seriously. I leave my phone on the kitchen table when I head into my office to write. But—this comes with a caveat. If you sit down at the trusty keys and nothing flows out for you, don't stare blankly at the screen for 2 hours doing nothing. Give it a solid 15 minutes. If the magic isn't happening by then, just stop. Sitting and brewing on your frustration just makes you hate your novel. That isn't conducive to writing the next best-seller. Come back in an hour or 2 after you hit writer's block and see if things flow better then. Still not feeling it? Go edit one of your chapters. Try to sneak a couple hundred words in while you edit to get the creative juices flowing. Then if it works, it works. If not? Go to bed and tackle it the next day.
The Fifth Takeaway = Here's some advice which has probably doubled my writing speed. Don't stop your day's writing session at the end of a chapter. Never do it that way. Always stop in the middle of a chapter. Think of it like this - if you stop reading mid-chapter on your favorite book, you're going to come back and open the pages pretty soon to finish that chapter. If you stop at a natural conclusion, there's a good chance you never pick up the book again because it isn't on your mind. The same hold true for writing. If you stop a session in the midst of an epic combat scene, you're going to sit down to write again in an hour or 2 and crank out another 2k words. Multiple 1k+ writing sessions per day is the key to NaNoWriMo. Don't try to write 2k every single time you sit at the keyboard. Write in small chunks, but write more often. And always, end your session at an interesting part!
I hope you enjoyed my lessons learned by 5 trips through the National Novel Writing Month gauntlet. If you have advice of your own, leave it in the comments below. Like this post? Sign up for the newsletter to never miss a single one.
Release date should be in the first or second week of April!
So I hate reading poorly written fight scenes in fantasy books. Whenever my characters fight, I try to make it as realistic as possible. Here's how you write a concussion:
Holt caught a glimpse of a flanged mace heading right for the side of head, breaking his momentary confusion and forcing him to fall to the ground to avoid being killed in a single blow. The edge of the mace caught his helmet with a loud crash, instantly disorienting him and replacing all the sounds of battle with a harsh, screeching ring in his ears.
Luckily, his attacker overbalanced in the assault, and Holt wasn’t simply obliterated by a second blow from the fearsome weapon. Clutching his stolen axe like a cane, Holt pulled himself to his feet and tried to steady the spinning world. He felt drunk, overwhelmingly drunk, and a wave of nausea crept into the back of his throat as he failed to get his bearings perfectly straight.
The mace-wielder turned back, a wide grin splayed across his unarmored face. He slapped the head of his weapon in his open palm, and Holt saw a few streaks of blood rub off on the man’s skin.
The captain tore his helm from his head and tossed it aside. The fresh air seemed to calm his roiling stomach, but only by a fraction. When he looked ahead, he could barely focus. Everything was blurry around the edges. The man came forward again, swinging his heavy mace from left to right. Holt raised his axe to block, and the mace head shattered his weapon’s shaft into a hundred splinters.
“Now you die!” the attacker bellowed. The man’s teeth were yellow and jagged, and his breath smelled like vomit.
Holt stifled a chuckle when he realized it was his breath that carried the pungent stench of stomach acid, not his attacker’s. Still spinning helplessly in his own mind, he tumbled back to the ground unarmed, heaving the contents of his gut across the stones at his feet.
The captain fell onto his side with a sullen whimper, waiting for the killing blow to quickly bring an end to his scrambled senses. After a few seconds, he realized it likely wasn’t going to happen.
He wanted to open his eyes, to see what fate had befallen his attacker, but he knew it would be useless. Even with his eyes shut, all he saw was a shifting field of slowly spinning color blotches that made him scream in agony. The screaming brought on another round of painful vomiting, and then everything finally, mercifully, went black.
I had a pretty cool experience today. The tabletop miniatures game I write for invited me up to their factory to sign some rulebooks being mailed out this week which feature stories I've written to help develop the lore of their world. (For more, check out this blog post or you can head over to the short stories tab to read the lore).
Thankfully, the great guys at Iron Wind Metals were kind enough to give me a tour of the place and let me take some cool, behind-the-scenes pictures. Here it is!
And the best part of the whole trip, getting a chance to see my story in the rulebook before it ships!
I hope you enjoyed the Iron Wind Metals factory tour! It was a pretty cool experience I'll always remember.
When you don't get paid in cash...
So a while back I began writing short stories for Ral Partha's Chaos Wars miniatures game. You can check them out here. When I started writing the series of background stories (which has been a ton of fun), I agreed to do it for free. I would get some free publicity, and the minis game would get some cool lore to spice up their world. In my mind, that's a pretty fine deal.
But then I got a package in the mail yesterday.
The fine folks at Iron Wind Metals, the company who makes the Chaos Wars game, sent me an entire army of goblins (always my favorite!) and a couple special edition figures to go with them! That's awesome!
Back in the day, I used to play a decent amount of Warhammer 40,000. I also played a few other miniatures games, so I know how to paint models. I'm not incredibly good at it by any means, but I'm going to paint a couple of these guys and see what happens.
In the meantime, I plan on writing another short story for Ral Partha which uses the awesome spider figure they sent me. Look for that story to go up in a week or so!
So if you read my last blog entry, you know I'm pretty excited about the new magic system I conjured up in the car one day. Well, here's the update:
Shadowlith (still a working title) has officially become my next expected full length release. I'm currently about 30% through writing the novel and I (realistically) hope to finish the first draft by the end of January, 2017. So, to give everyone a little taste, here is an unedited excerpt:
Alster nearly fell to the ground. The shade from the archive, or whatever it truly was, stood in the doorway to the record room, a towering black menace of twisting shadows.
A host of incomprehensible screams poured from Elsey’s mouth as she tried to scramble away. Her feet tangled as she jumped, and she hit the ground hard, but the lantern did not go out. The closest horse kicked at its stall door, rousing some of the other creatures from their sleep.
The shade moved directly over Elsey, filling up almost every inch of the darkness between the lantern’s partial light.
Suddenly exploding in a flurry of action, Alster did the only thing he could think to do. He ripped Alistair’s dagger from his belt and lunged, losing his balance completely. In the small hallway of the stable, his accuracy with the blade was irrelevant. As he fell, Alster gripped the dagger as tightly as he could and simply held it above his head, letting his momentum do the work for him.
Alster didn’t fully understand what he heard when he crashed into the ground. The shade yelled, the voice a mix of shock and pain, and then evaporated, leaving behind a cool mist like a cloud of fog.
As quickly as it had begun, the stable was once again calm, though the horse behind Alster seemed intent on breaking its stall to escape.
When Alster pushed himself up to his knees, he felt something tingle inside his stolen gauntlets. It felt warm and comforting, whatever the sensation was, and Alster found himself grinning from ear to ear. With one hand against the doorframe for balance, Alster stood up fully and brushed the dirt from his clothes.
Mixed with the flickering lantern light, a soft reg glow emanated from the filigree on Alster’s gauntlets. He turned his hands over in wonder, half of his mind expecting some dazzling display of magic and the other half not believing his own eyes.
“Did you see that?” Alster whispered.
Elsey collected herself and righted the lantern, though her body shook with fear.
“I think I killed the shade,” Alster said, never taking his eyes from the gauntlets. After a few more seconds, the red light faded and the gauntlets returned to their mundane state.
Deep in Alster’s chest, he felt something begin to stir. He felt stronger. He felt more alive than he ever had before. His grip on the dagger tightened, and he thought he felt the newfound energy pulse within his very bones.
“I,” Alster began, but he didn’t know how to describe what took place within his ribcage. “I think… I consumed the shade,” he said after a moment.
“I think I drank it,” Alster said. “You know the feeling when it is cold so you drink something warm and the heat spreads from your chest through your whole body?”
Elsey nodded, her eyes wide with some emotion Alster could not pinpoint.
“The dagger killed the shade,” Alster continued. He slide the weapon back into his belt and unclenched his hand, relaxing the muscles of his arm. “When the shade was dead, I drank it,” he concluded.
A new fantasy series?
So I had an idea while driving from Tennessee back to Kentucky this Labor Day. I've been thinking of ways to incorporate new and exciting magic systems into my fantasy writing and well, I might have it figured out.
Here's the pitch: this new fantasy series will surround characters who are 'Shadowliths' - gifted with the ability from birth (or perhaps learned as well) to consciously take the form of their shadow and go about doing things. Fantasy things. I like this magic system for a few reasons. Firstly, it makes an interesting circumstance arise: the caster can only control his / her shadow during the daylight. The night does not provide enough light to make substantial shadows after all. Putting such an ominous feeling magic system into a new fantasy setting where they only have power in the day seems oddly refreshing to me. I'd expect a shadow-based fantasy magic to be more powerful at night, not less.
Secondly, I like the idea of the shadowlith going into a stupor while controlling the shadow. A lot of fantasy worlds (DnD, WoW, etc.) feature absurdly powerful wizards casting spells until they run out of strength, energy, favor, mana, etc. Until their spell power is fully drained, they are basically immortal. I'd love to see casters made incredibly vulnerable by their art. That could be a great twist on a fantasy staple which I have personally never read before.
So did I try it yet? Of course! I've officially begun work on a side-project fantasy book (or maybe novella, who knows?) which I tentatively call: "The Shadowlith" - cheesy title but I'll probably change it.
Maybe I'll have something ready for the publisher in the next 6 months, but it isn't likely. I'd bet this idea won't be fully fleshed out until the fall / winter of 2017.
CHECK OUT THE NEW PAPERBACKS!
New formatting, redesigned interiors, awesome art.
The Goblin Wars Part Three: Rebirth of a God
Through a great stroke of luck, I managed to score the booth next to the fine folks from Iron Wind Metals at CincyCon this year. They make all sorts of cool miniatures games and their flagship line, Chaos Wars, is an awesome fantasy setting complete with goblins, centaurs, undead, wizards, dwarves, orcs, lizardmen, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. After a few hours, I knew I had to make a few stories for them. Every great miniatures game has a rule book full of flavor and backstories for your favorite characters - commonly called 'fluff' - and I am now that writer for Ral Partha's Chaos Wars.
Check out the first two installments of the Chaos Wars "Chronicles of Estria" series:
AUTHOR SWAG - SERIOUS BUSINESS
Everyone needs swag. Authors who attend conventions need LOTS of swag. So what do I take to comicons all around the country? Check it out:
The general set-up looks like this. Market research shows people don't look down, they look across (hence the good cereal is on a top shelf while the generics are down below) so I use a book rack to get my image up to eye level. Also, use a tablecloth! It costs like $6 (Wal-Mart) and looks waaay better than the booth to my right and left. Those dangling white posters are price lists. The image poster is info on my pre-order, which is also seen on the left side. Why have stuff down there? Where I'm standing to take the picture there are a bunch of tables for people to game. Those hanging posters market constantly to people seated at the tables, right at eye level.
My first bookmark. These are good, but not great. The font isn't wonderful. The biggest issue is my lack of website. I didn't have this website at the time, so I had no url to post on my bookmark. I originally ordered 1000 of these for about $50 (UPrinting) and gave them all out in less than a year.
My second bookmark. This one (obviously) promotes my horror novel For We Are Many. Again, it came out before I had this website, so I have no url on it. That's a mistake. Also, it doesn't even say Amazon.com or any other retailer. Oh well. The art is great an the bookmark is striking - it works well enough. I ordered 2000 (about $70) of these bookmarks and have handed about roughly 60% of them in 2 years.
These are the best bookmarks I have. They promo the entire Goblin Wars series and mention Amazon, B&N, and this website. These are the real deal. Striking art, good font (especially color), and all the right info. I ordered 5000 of these for about $100 and have given out maybe 200 in the past 3 weeks since I received them. I plan on giving out all 5000 in 2 years or less.
The business card. Simple, elegant, accessible. Perfect to hand out on the fly since you can't put bookmarks in your wallet. I ordered 3000 of these for about $65 I think.
2" x 2" stickers. These are great to hand out at conventions because people will put them on notebooks, laptops, etc. which serve as free advertisements for my brand. 500 of these cost about $35.
Once you have all your swag under control, check out the Marketing Series for tips and tricks on picking the right conventions and selling!
Have your own author swag? Post it in the comments!
Check it out!
This art is incredible. I'm in love with it already and I haven't even felt it in my hands yet.