A String of 30 Lights

book art

book art

Over on my friend’s blog, she’s talking about NaNoWriMo. I left her a comment at Cathy Brockman’s blog. You’ll find my comment below,  only expanded because sometimes, I have a lot to say about a specific thing.

This is what Cathy asked: When you are choosing a book, how important is the title to you?

I know that was the main point of her post,  but my mind went in a different direction because you know, one idea leads to another, then another, then you have a chain and pretty soon  it’s like a string of Christmas lights. She started off her post by discussing the difference  between a plotter and a pantser. This is what fueled the ignition, that started the  train moving.

I am a plotanser. I’ve used both methods in the past. The first time I did NANO in 2011, I totally pantsed it. Just off the top of my head, all I had to work with was an initial scene that a conversation with my eldest daughter had sparked about a dragon complex, hoarding gold. The light bulb went off, the writing frenzy began, and I exceeded the word count by a LOT. I mean a LOT. The goal is 50000 words,  I hit somewhere in the 90000 range.  However, I had to throw out a bulk portion of that wordage because it didn’t progress the story. It helped me to get to know my characters, it helped to understand their world, and it helped me in the practice of writing. It is painful to cut out large chunks of what you ‘have written’. It was discouraging. The next time, I plotted. I plotted to the nth detail. No deviations. I had a map and I had a destination but somewhere along the line, the thrill of writing the story, letting it unfold was lost in completely planning it and that story still sits unfinished.

Now, I use a skeletal structure plot with key points, which allows me to be creative. That’s what works for me. Let me expound for a moment.

I try to  think through my story using the 3 Act method. Of course, I can’t just follow that so I end up with a four act  method.

Act 1 – Establish the character, show the MC in their before life. This is how they are now.  There is something missing that they need to change. At the end of the first act is the inciting incident that launches the story.

Act 2 A – the MC tries to deal with inciting incident in their old ways and fail, something has to change. they fumble, meet with failure, get frustrated, angry,  and  by midpoint – MC has a false sense of comfort because they  think they can handle it but can’t. This is the point that they come face to face with the fact that change must happen.

Act 2B – things get worse. Consequences to the not changing are happening. They feel the squeeze. The only thing that makes us change is force. How is the MC handling that force? Emotional overload, stress overload. Change is forced.

Act 3 – They are either resolved to change or fight it every step of the way then reluctantly changing. If they have made the change then they overcome.  If they have not then they ultimately fail. Happy ending? OR Noir?

Think about it. Next time you sit down and watch a movie,  or  a tv show, test  it against the above.

From this I develop my skeletal outline breaking out into chapters.  Each chapter is a point that progresses the story.  Within a chapter may be multiple scenes that occur. On the current WIP I had 18 chapters. I broke these chapters down to 30 points, following Lazette’s method  for her 30 points of light! My points aren’t as laser focused as hers. I’ve made it my own.

For Valkyrie’s Curse: Trial of Aegir, the second book in my Valkyrie’s series, here’s a brief look at Act 1.

Act 1

  • Chapter 1
  1. Glowing Amber
  2. Super Hero Dreams
  • Chapter 2
  1. Playing Catch Up
  2. Discovering the gifts
  • Chapter 3
  1. Recurring dreams of paradise/Giant snake
  • Chapter 4
  1. Relationships
  2. Aella’s map
  • Chapter 5
  1. Atlantis

Keypoints that give me  a prompt for the day,  that keep me on track for the story, and  point in the general direction of the end. For the most part,  it works. But  sometimes I end up spending more time on one point than simply covering that point. For November 2nd, I wrote a volume of words to open the scene and set the stage, before I ever got to point one. Stage setting is important as well.

And in all of that,  I never did get to the point that Cathy asked about covers.  As to purchasing books –  I’ll buy a book if I like the title and conversely won’t buy a book if the title sounds lame.  As to my own books,  sometimes the title comes easily, other times I toil over them.  While revising my next to be released book Valkyrie’s Curse, I was inspired to expand it. It has now blossomed into a  7 part series. I’m using nano to get the first draft down for book 2 of that series. I toiled over the titles for quite some time on this, aggravating my close circle of friends until they were sick of me. While I was lamenting, trying to be oh so clever with titles one of those friends made a suggestion that was absolutely Brilliant.

I latched on to that puppy with both hands!

By the way,  the recipes will continue tomorrow.  I’m feeling rather ill today, and the idea of food pictures is . . .  even writing it made my stomach lurch.

Write on my friends, write on!






NaNoWriMo Prep – The Countdown is On!

It’s Thursday, that means that my post on Eclectic Bard Books is up here.  Go have a gander after reading this post.

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. For those new to it,  it stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka  November, aka 30 days of literary abandon where you write a 50000 word novel in  month.  That  boils down to an average of 1667 words per day, every day, for 30 days. 

This will be my 5th year for doing NANO.  I’ve won some,  and lost some.  But really,  any words down are a win right?  I may not have won the NANO title,  but I won in making my writing a priority.  I won in practicing my craft.  I won in connecting with an amazing group of authors! Speaking of, . . .  a friend of mine posted something in the Nano group online and I asked her if she would mind sharing it with my readers. 

Sharing her words of wisdom,  Lazette Gifford  speaks from the voice of experience.  I shared with you last year  for Nano prep her advice on outlining.  I have been following her plan and it makes the writing so much simpler,  so there isn’t a lot of time spent staring at the screen wondering what next.  You can review that HERE on last year’s post – Tic-Toc nano o’clock.  


Let’s talk a little about doing NaNo the original way.

Back when NaNo started, the goal was to prepare everything (if you prepared at all) and begin on November 1.  A lot of people don’t see the sense in waiting when they get excited about their story and they leap in early.  That’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but I have to tell you . . . you’re missing out on some of the fun.

If you wait, there is an entirely different feel to NaNo.  No matter where you are in the world, as the clock ticks closer to 12:00 AM November 1, there are people sitting, just like you, watching the time inch closer to the start of NaNo.  The feeling of thousands of people preparing to write their first word just as you are preparing is something you will not get anywhere else.  There is no other intellectual challenge in the world like NaNo, and waiting with all the others for that moment when we all reach the GO GO GO stage is incredibly fun.  There are chat rooms all over the internet where you can sit in with others as they get going.   And even if you can’t start at midnight, you will find others who are joining in about the same time as you and rushing to get their 1667 words for the day (or more if that’s what you enjoy).

Over in Forward Motion we have a NaNo Chatroom where people gather, especially as the first hour nears.  This is usually fun for the US group.  The East Coast starts, Central joins in, Mountain a bit later, the West Coast — and finally even Hawaii if we have anyone that year.  Many of us stay as long as we can to see at least the group after us get going.  We come back often over the next month to continue to cheer each other on.

Zaphod -

Zaphod – one of Lazette’s furbaby.

The final word count for November isn’t as important as two other aspects.  First is to have fun.  NaNo is not anything to get upset about if you don’t do well. Second is to learn something about you and writing.  That might be that you don’t like the way you approach writing for NaNo and never want to do it again. That’s all right- NaNo is not for everyone and it certainly isn’t required for you to become a published author.

You might find out that you need at least a little plan to stay on target.  This is really helpful if you intend to submit to a traditional publisher.  If they like your work, chances are very good that they’ll want something more and you will be on a deadline to complete the work.  Learning to work to a deadline before one is forced on you will do wonders for your career.

I’m preparing for the November 1 starting line.  I might not be there at midnight, but I will still enjoy the feeling of joining all the others in that month-long intellectual sprint of writing madness.

So whatever you do, be sure you enjoy taking part!


image001 (1)

Lazette Gifford is a prolific author, photographer, and sometimes cover artist who lives in the wilds of Nebraska with her husband, several cats and a small but entirely useless dog.  She writes every day and has done so for decades, and soon will be working on her 100th novel.

After several years in the small press publishing world, Zette has moved to the exciting life of an Indie published author, with several novels and short stories released and often well-reviewed.  You can find links to her work on her personal website at: http://lazette.net

A collection of novels written during NaNoWriMo can be found here:


I”m excited  to do NaNo again, there is just something about the atmosphere . . . and the volume of words on virtual paper whether I reach 50000 or not.  

Remember,  go read Eclectic Bard Books HERE.

Write on my friends,  write on!



Tick Tock – NaNo O’clock!

I thought this bit of nano advice was  intersting and could really help  novices and seasoned alike.  In order to  put this method into practice though I will have to expand my index cards from 13 to 30.  Therefore I am off, and I leave you in the hands of my guest – Lazette Gifford!


Welcome to the madness.

In my part of the world, November used to be a quiet month known for holidays, family and the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere.  That’s no longer true for a lot of people.  Some people have been preparing for months and still aren’t ready for the fated 12:01 AM on November 1, 2014; the closer we get to that time, the more crazy they (okay, we) become.  The shoppers of Black Friday have nothing on the rush of writers to their computers, tablets or paper as NaNo begins.

I am about to enter my fourteenth run at the November NaNoWriMo fun.  What makes a person leap into this insanity for so many years in a row?  It’s fun. No really, it is.  Once you get over the idea that there is a ‘fail’ component, then you can join in without the unnecessary angst.  There is absolutely nothing like the joy of knowing you are taking part in an intellectual marathon, and that there are thousands of others, all around the world, are leaping into the creative chaos with you.

But what if you don’t reach 50K?

If you reached a word count higher than you would normally get, then good for you — you win.   If you didn’t reach that fabled 50,000 word mark, it is not the end of the world, the end of your writing career or anything else dire and unforgiveable.  Not reaching the goal might mean this kind of ‘fun’ is not the nudge you need, or it might mean you aren’t ready for it this year.  Just remember that these are only words and this is only one month out of the year.

Me?  I’ve reached 50k and more every year, but that’s because I write every day (even outside of NaNo) and I love the creation of stories.  I’m also not afraid to make mistakes in the writing since I know I’ll be editing later.  I’ve done some novels as a panster, some with short outlines and some with every long, complicated outlines.  The trick is to find what works for you and what works for this particular book.  The approach often changes with different novels.  I will say, though, that writing is not easy — not for me or anyone else.  Some aspects may come easier for some people, but in the end, writing is about hard work, editing, facing your creativity and you shortcomings and pushing on through.

During NaNo, there are two things that can help even a pantser.  One is to write down thirty events that happen in your story.  This gives you one subject to write about every day.  These have to be fairly big events in order to get the 1667 words a day you will need.  ‘Jane has a party’ will work while ‘Jane decides to wear the blue dress to the party’ is going to have a far harder time.  There are a lot of possibilities with ‘has a party’ that you can expand on.  Choosing the dress is a much smaller field to work from and might be harder to expand.

Once you get your words for the day, look at your next 30 day entry and try writing out a list of five smaller steps that will happen for the next day’s writing.  If you write 350 words for each of those steps, you’ll easily make your word count.  Some will go over and some under that number of words, but it will give you a little nudge so that you aren’t stuck with the dreaded ‘What happens next?’ problem.  These are kind of like little cue cards to keep you going.

How long it takes you to write those words is going to vary from day-to-day, depending on how much time you have and how ready you are to write.  There are days when I have several hours free and write like a madman — but mostly because it’s fun.  There are other days when I have to fit the words between work and other obligations.  Being freelance and working from home is a bonus because if I am waiting for a work-related email I can sneak a few paragraphs in.  Generally, I do better in long stretches, though.  I love the feel of dropping into a story world and living there for a while.

You must remember one important fact, though:  This is a first draft marathon.  The story will need editing later.  Even if you edit as you go (a bad habit for NaNo), you will still have to go over it at least one more time before you consider submission or publication.  The best thing you can do is plan to put the novel aside for weeks, even months, before you look at it again.  This will allow you to stop seeing what you expect to be there.  You can also try your luck at finding beta readers to go over the work, but the more you learn to do for yourself, the better your first drafts will become.

That work is for the future, though.  In November all you need do is throw yourself into your story and have fun.  Go write the story you want to tell.  You may not get it right the first time, but that doesn’t matter.  We have the joy of first drafts.  Nothing has to be perfect the first time we write it.

Have fun!


Author Bio:

Lazette is an avid writer as well as the owner of Forward Motion for Writers (www.fmwriters.com) and the owner/editor of Vision: A Resource for Writers (www.visionforwriters.com).

It’s possible she spends too much time with writers.

And cats.

You can connect with her on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lazette.gifford

Joyously Prolific Blog: http://zette.blogspot.com/

And if you are interested in the books written in previous NaNo’s and now published, they are on a special page at Smashwords:


Lazette NaNo Bookssmall



























Lazette Gifford, Author – www.lazette.net

Editor, Vision: A Resource for Writers – www.visionforwriters.com

Owner, Forward Motion for Writers – www.fmwriters.com


Science fiction, fantasy, young adult mystery novels and more!