Time to Hunker Down


Hercules – Largest Liger
Guinness World Records 2012
Photo Credit: Jamers Ellerker/GuinnessWorld Records
Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

People ask how I’ve written, edited and published books/projects in short time-spans in the past.  The answer is: focus.

How each of us focuses is going to be different.  For some, that focus comes through forcing oneself to sit down everyday with a goal, not “allowing” themselves to get up until that goal is reached.  For others, that focus comes through getting alone in a quiet atmosphere with nothing but a computer, warm yellow lamp, scented candles and a goal.  Yet others must sit with earphones, a cup of tea and an hourly goal before getting up for a break.

I’m a mixed writing animal.  Kind of like a liger, I guess.  I take elements from visual learners, linear thinkers and caffeine amped-up college students, and fitness freaks.  Combined with my own special breed of…me.

And it’s time to hunker down and get focused.  For me, that means the following:

  • Stop watching t.v./movies
  • Focus the playlist to the type of music my fictional band would produce
  • Light up the Christmas lights and candles (ambiance makes all the difference for me)
  • Heat up the teapot
  • Pull out the dumbbells
  • Stay off of Facebook
  • Take breaks from writing with music books
  • Take breaks from writing with my guitar
  • Re-read the prior 3 chapters to the current one
  • Daily re-read the song list of my fictional band
  • Regularly review the “to do” list for the book (things to add or change as the book is revised)

Many of these things have exceptions (such t.v./movies–if they are in the right era or mood of the book I’m writing, that’s a perfectly relaxation activity for a break between writing stints), but for the most part, I have to stick to this list if I want to finish my book completely by my May 17 publication date.

How do you focus for your writing projects?


Manuscript for "Nobody's Girl"

Manuscript for “Nobody’s Girl”


Since I have finished NaNoWriMo, it’s time to get to back to the book I’m still intending to be ready for publication this year…  Thought I’d share my basic steps for it now.  I’ll expand on the stages as I go through them with the book I’m editing now.  It’s the process I used to edit my book last year, and it worked well.  So, here we go!

  1. Rough draft
  2. Initial read-through
  3. Highlight modifiers and dialogue
  4. Cut out as many modifiers as necessary
  5. Break up into scenes
  6. Read each scene independently–asking “does this move the story forward”?, “is this scene complete as is?”, “is this scene well written,” etc.
  7. Remove unnecessary scenes
  8. Add missing information/scenes
  9. Second read through
  10. Build dialogue/internalization from narrated stuff
  11. Third read through
  12. Fourth read through
  13. Submit to proof-readers
  14. Fifth read through
  15. Take comments from readers and edit as needed
  16. My own proof-reading
  17. Final read through aloud with corrections


Just Jade Inspired–NaNoWriMo 2013



Using music to allow for inspiration is only one of the components for writing.  At least when you’re me.  I also love to create book covers, edit photos and just look at places, faces and other images that reflect the heart of the story I’m writing.  And since most of “Just Jade” is taking place in Europe, I’m wandering back in time through my own adventures in Europe, looking at photos, and letting those images evoke memories and emotions.



If you’ve got some images from your story’s location as you work on your NaNoWriMo novel for 2013, I recommend looking through them.  Or go to Wikipedia and look some up.  Or google images search.  Or Pinterest.



I experienced many adventures during the various times I have gone to Europe, and I have loved all of those memories, even the sad or scary ones.  So, here are a few of the edited images from the journeys I’ve taken through Europe, as Jade is inspired to take life.



11 Steps to Trimming the Fat on Your Obese Manuscript

Mystic Prose from "Forever My Song"

Mystic Prose from “Forever My Song”

My latest manuscript, my NaNoWriMo novel, “Forever My Song” was a rough draft outline of 80,000+ words.  With 71 chapters.  That’s a bit much for a non-epic novel.  Sadly.  And I’ve been stuck for weeks on this one…been trying desperately to make some progress, and though “writer’s block” has not been the issue, finding the next place to go with the manuscript has been because of feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of it.  Well, last night, I managed to figure out what my problem was (as you guessed by the number of chapters), I had too much info in this for one book, one story, one set of characters.

“But I can’t cut that!  It’s too important!”  Yeah, yeah.  You’ve heard that in your own head as you’ve edited, too, haven’t you?  “Well, tough toe-nails, Juanita!  Cut it anyway!”  And that’s what I did.  I sat down with the original 71 chapter outline and this is what I did.

  1. I turned off my emotions…and separated myself from my beautiful characters–this step is key, my friends!
  2. I examined which current characters were necessary for the story, and which weren’t (I’m sorry Davy!  I promise you will find a home in some other novel.)
  3. Then I cut the chapters that focused on the no longer existent characters
  4. And merged the info from the chapters still needed from those chapters with other chapters
  5. Then I created 3 different documents containing the outline, each one identical at this stage
  6. Next, I cut the fluffy chapters out of outline #1
  7. After that, I squished several other chapters together in outline #2
  8. And then, I trimmed 2-3 other chapters in outline #3
  9. Then I reviewed what I had done in each outline, and created a fourth outline from these
  10. Then, I cut more fluff by chopping out more chapters that didn’t actually move the plot forward
  11. Then I went back and reviewed the original outline to make sure I hadn’t cut anything actually vital to the story

And I ended up with only 49 chapters of the original 71 (that’s 22 chapters cut!).

Trimming the fat in a manuscript feels a bit like cutting out the chub on your waistline: you sweat a bit, and it hurts, takes dedication and requires some encouragement and lots of time.  This whole process took me about two hours, after making the outline itself took me about four hours.  Of course, as I continue writing, I will have more fat to trim.  But that’s okay.  At least now I can move forward with the writing.  But, if your next book project is morbidly obese like mine was, it’s time to wake up and get to the gym for the first session.  And then the second, and third and fourth and fifth…

More of Mystic Prose from "Forever My Song"

More of Mystic Prose from “Forever My Song”

“Lucy in the Sky…”

Today, I did a fun thing while running.  And it gave me a great idea for future runs that will help my writing.  On Tribesports.com, I took a challenge called “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (yes, based on the Beatlessong), to go out and daydream/fantasize something fun and/or silly while out on my run.  So, I did.  And I decided to go back to my childhood, and daydreamed about something my dad and I used to together for fun.  I put myself into the character of the storyline of our “game,” and suddenly, I was a teenager again, and having a total blast on my run, even though I hadn’t even wanted to go running today!

When I came back from my run, I started to write out the silly little adventure going on inside my head.  But then, I stopped myself.  “I should make this into a short story…No, better yet, use this to flesh out that book idea Dad had before he died that I’ve been wanting to write in his honor ever since his passing…”  And, bam!  A great idea for making my workouts more fun, as well as even more productive.  I’m going to become “Lucy” whenever I’m able to on my runs outdoors…  Pick a story, pick a character NOT narrating the book, and put myself in his or her shoes, and see the world from that POV for a mile or two…how does he/she take in what I’m seeing with my actual eyes?  In what way would Joey respond differently to the environment than Jamie would?  How would Tina Cantrell see this running route I’m on?  Would she even be out there?  What kind of conversation would she be holding with herself or a running buddy?

This could be useful.  Not only in creating more ideas for my books, scenes for scripts or short stories, but in motivation for getting me out there running more often!  Love it!

What about you?  Got any fun ways you create ideas or explore your characters’ worlds?  How do you combine your loves to create one productive, fun activity?

NaNoWriMo Day 29/30: Validating the Novel



All right my friends, today is the day.  The final day of NaNoWriMo 2012.  Many have finished their 50,000 words, some long since, some just last night.  And there are many who have given up or “stalled” as one friend put it, days ago.  For those whom have finished, I congratulate you!  What a wonderful achievement!  There’s nothing like that “accomplished” feeling, right?  Especially with something you really enjoy.  And for those who are so close but not there yet…push!  You can do it!  That finish line is so close!  As for those whom have stalled, I still hope you will make an effort today to put in some more words, even if you’re convinced you cannot finish.  But, if you’re only several thousand away, you might do it yet…  I wrote 10,000 words this month in less than 4 hours one day…you could do the same!  (Here’s my post on how I did it…maybe it can be of some help to you!)

In honor of the ending of this fantastic month of writing abandon, I will press forward in my own draft, despite being well over the minimum word count to win NaNoWriMo.  I never did finish the draft, and never hit that key event/changing point in the story.  So, that’s my goal today…to end the month on the high note with reaching that turning point in the novel “Mistress of the World.”

And this is how I’ll do it.

  • Set the lighting to the right mood (scented candles glowing, a warm yellow-colored lamp lit without harsh flourescent lights, and just sunlight softly coming in through the window)
  • Have a giant mug of lovely tea to drink
  • Have lots of water available for sipping throughout the process
  • No internet while writing
  • Take a few, short, energetic breaks (doing some squats and high knees) between words, as well as some t.v. breaks to chill and stop thinking during
  • Play the perfect playlist to lead to that key moment of the novel (this will be some classic early 80s/late 70s rock, since the novel takes place in that era)

Oh, and something very important: don’t forget to validate your novel before the deadline hits!

NaNoWriMo Day 24: Get That Heart Pounding!

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of my favorite scenes in my book, “Nobody’s Girl” is the scene that makes my heart pound every time I read it…and I already know what’s going on and how the book ends.  But the reason I love it is because it does make my heart pound.  I love the moments when what I read takes over my mental/emotional process, and I lose myself in the story.  I have no control over my reactions…I cry, I weep, I blush, I whimper, I cringe, I laugh or even snort.  I can smell, feel, taste, see and hear the sounds and sights and textures of the scenes.  I can feel that hand of the imaginary character wiping the tears from my cheek or see that tanned fist handing me a tissue.  I can dance to the rhythm of Jack’s drums, feel the humming throb of Jamie’s bass guitar, hear the wah-wah pedal of Joey’s guitar whining away while Jeff’s keyboard sings to me.

And you know what?  Those kinds of scenes are my favorites in other people’s books, too.  So it’s not just bias.

If you’re still working away at your NaNoWriMo novel right now, I challenge you to make the next thousand words really count.  Tell your readers every smell, every touch, every sound and sight, every flavor in the scene.  Is that harmonious tinkling of the Bell Miner bird blending with the cries of the Magpies as they swoop down, sending your hair into your face as they attack you because it’s springtime and they’re nuts?  Is that maple syrup on the pancakes in the diner just across the Canadian border as sweet and sticky as she remembers from childhood when her daddy used to take her for breakfast every Saturday for their daddy-daughter date, back before he lost his arm in war and started stinking like a Scottish distillery?  Can your hero really smell the milky spit-up on his shirt and feel the plush red blanket in which his newborn son is wrapped, only two hours after his wife gave birth to him in an elevator when they got trapped by a maniac?  Does your heart stop when your protagonist’s cable car screeches toward a gap in the universe that didn’t exist three hours earlier?

A NaNo draft probably isn’t going to do all that (Kudos to you if yours does!), but you should have an idea for at least a few scenes where you might be able to really add some flavor and life to provoke actual physical reactions (crying, sweating, heart-rate changes, flushing, etc.) from your readers.  Keep your final days of drafting it out interesting by aiming for that!  Besides, going into that much detail will add heaps to your word count anyway.