Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dinosaur Noir, or How I Survived NaNoWriMo 2013

As I write this, I look back over the past year since I really cracked down on becoming a full time author, and I realize how all that proverbial cracking had really started with last year's NaNoWriMo.

For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo (short for the National Novel Writing Month) is that special time of year when all of the wannabe writers, authors and creative types begin oozing out of the woodwork to produce their art, and even stranger, start communicating with one another like an actual real community.

Writing isn't easy.

Trust me.

If it was, I'd probably have a myriad of novels out instead of just the one I wrote for last year's NaNoWriMo. And writing 50,000 words within the confines of 30 days can be a frightening concept if you let it get to you.

And it will get to you on some days. And that is completely normal.

Getting those 1,666 words out every day has to become an exercise to you, if only for that month. Every day you fall behind you will regret it more and more as the daily word counts rise.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King talks about how he rarely does more than 2k words a day of writing. So, by that math, at the end of that month, King will have accumulated about 60,000 words, and by the end of the year, 720, 000 words.

Now, not everyone who writes is a full time author. But for the month of November, you get to challenge yourself to live like one.

By writing that word count, you're living the life style of a full timer when you do NaNoWriMo, even if you're jamming those words in between the hours of 1am and 3am. Ray Bradbury used to type up his stories on breaks, and Terry Pratchett used to pencil in his Discworld ideas while working away at a factory.

It's up to you in the end to reach your goal, but there is an entire community of people attempting that very same goal, and many of them are willing to lend and hand when one is needed.

So, here are my TOP FIVE recommendations on HOW TO SURVIVE NANOWRIMO:


I know some of you writers out there have set systems in place as far as how you go about putting words to paper, and that some of you find a thrill in discovering your story and characters as you go along pulling inspiration from the ether. But in my case, I find when I tend to look to the ether, I end up wandering around it for days on end and wake up with little to no words written that week, and 30 days does not give me a lot of time for 'dillydallying.'

To avoid this, I now outline my novels. It was with NaNoWriMo that I really first attempted what some writers call 'Beats', meaning small synopsis style notes for every scene in the book. From these notes I was able to expand upon the scenes, and from there transform these expanded notes into prose.

Experiment with different outlining methods! Remember, this is a 30 day challenge, so to sit back and hope that the muse will guide you through it, to me anyways, is a very risky notion.


This is a part of the outlining phase, but I thought it deserved its own attention. Knowing your ending is crucial to knowing your book in general. I'm a big believer in the 7 Act Story Structure, where you start with your ending and from there fill in the obvious counterbalances to create a interesting arc.

Let's say I'm writing Harry Potter this year for NaNoWriMo. I got this idea where a kid becomes a wizard and grows up to defeat the Dark Lord of All Evil. Starting from that ending, I can logically deduce that the best way to dramatically have contrast to the story arc would be to have my Kid Character at the beginning of the story to have an awful life since he's the Hero in the end.

The ending is the opposite of the beginning, so why not start taking that more literally when you attempt writing?

It's much easier to write your beginning if you know your ending than is to write your ending without knowing what it is.


This is a pretty obvious one, but one that people don't always follow. Writers are, in general, overly empathic, caffeine-riddled hypochondriacs even on a good day. We're wired for love, pain and noticing the little things about life that some look past.

With that in mind, try to eat healthily and to get as much sleep as you can during these 30 days. Avoid sugary foods and anything that does your body a disservice. I'm not saying go on a diet; if anything I'm saying the opposite of that.

Keep eating. Just eat the good stuff, and as much of it as you want. Do a juice cleanse, start adding more fruits and vegetables into your meals, stop buying the junk food.

Don't look at it like it's a diet, because diets are the worst idea in the world. Healthy eating has to be a regular thing that you take control over, and in the times when the stress is high (YA KNOW, LIKE WHEN YOU'RE WRITING A GODDAMNED BOOK IN 30 DAYS), you're not doing yourself any favors by throwing saturated fats and GMOs into your system.

So find the best way to eat healthier for you and your budget! Take a few extra minutes a day to plan your meals.

The body is a machine, and like any other, will run more efficiently with the proper fuel.


This. One. I. Cannot. Stress. Enough.

Writing that perfect sentence can be laborious, and its easy to become dissatisfied if you're having one of those days where each word that comes out seems worse than the last. But believe me, it is much easier in the long run to keep writing, maintain that word count, and then edit down the line than it is to edit as you go.

Turn that censor off, and keep writing. Remember, this is a writing challenge, and not an editing challenge.


Remember that part where I said writing isn't easy? Guess what. Nothing's changed. It still isn't.

So on top of outlining, knowing your ending, staying healthy and not self editing as you write, what's the best advice I can give you when you're faced with the daunting task of coming up with a novel in 30 days?

Write something you enjoy. Think about what you like to read, and better yet, what your friends like to read. Try to come up with a concept that is as fun for you to write as it would be for someone else to read.

Some people say that inspiration comes from pain, and this can be true, but in my mind, a happy writer can write dark just as easy as light when the words come naturally.

So my best advice on top of everything I've said is it to have fun with it. Get the most out of the experience as you possibly can. Shoot for the heavens and don't be upset if you come up short. Even if you fly into the sun like Icarus, you'll be writing more this November that you will have in past years.

Last year I started writing Dinosaur Noir: The Curse of the Diamond Heart, a book about a six-and-a-half-foot-tall lizard private detective.


Because it's fun. Not just for me, but for the people who I've told about it. There's something about the concept that resonates with people, whether it makes them laugh or just flat out interests them. It was this feedback from people that really prompted me to take this silly concept seriously, and from there I knew my path.

So after finishing the 50k for NaNoWriMo, I upped the word count to 70k. I decided then to send it out to beta readers, and a couple months later, after receiving amazing feedback, I added another 11k to the novel, finishing it at 81k in total.

From there, I hired the wonderful editor Jason Whited (, designed a cover, and uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing.

So, as an extra treat for those doing NaNoWriMo this year, I've made The Curse of the Diamond Heart, the book I wrote for last year's NaNo, FREE until midnight tonight.

Here's the link if you want a copy:

So that's my story. That's how I beat NaNoWriMo 2013, and how I plan to beat it this year. If you find any of my advice or words inspirational or useful, send me an email or comment below! Here's to another great NaNo month and another 50k written.

I'm off to write Dinosaur Noir 2! Good luck everyone! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Through Laughter & Tears: Remembering Robin Williams

It's taken me almost a day to be able to think properly enough to formulate what I ached to say about all of this. So here's hoping I don't ramble too much.

Yesterday I was having a bad day. After being away from my writing for far too long, I came back to my desk and was quick to sense 'The Fear', as it ticked away in the back of my brain like a bug I can't squash.

The Fear, in my own personal case, has always been strongest when I fail to live up to my own expectations. My mind begins to twist every good thing that I have going for myself into things I should be embarrassed by. I begin doubting my choices, my worth, and my value.

My usual word count of at least 2,000 words a day was cut down to a mere 200. Instead of outlining future projects that I had been excited about beginning, I sat back and debated whether any of them were any good at all; consistently focusing on the negative for no reason other than to perpetuate my own frustration.

I eventually submitted to the Fear, and stopped thinking about writing. I turned to the internet for numbing entertainment, anything that my stuck-on-pessimistic mindframe would be able to absorb/ignore.

And it was then that I heard the news of Robin Williams' passing.

It's sad that it took the death of someone so precious to the world to bring me out of my funk, but it really was like being kicked in the groin.

I found myself crying. Full on 'get out the buckets' crying.

Like most of the world, I never personally knew or met Robin Williams. So why is it that his death has impacted me so?

I could go on forever about how the man's career and personality directly influenced me. As a kid I dreamed of being able to do what he did. Not acting or doing stand up. I'm talking about making people smile, making them laugh. What is a greater gift than laughter? This concept alone is what I've always striven towards, whether it be through art, music, film or writing.

I could talk about how as a child I would watch Hook multiple times in a row, and how as an adult I've done the same (To live would be a great adventure).

I could talk about how every time I see Robin Williams cry in a film I start to cry as well.

I could go on about how much this man meant to me personally, as a complete stranger from a different country, but it wasn't for any of my own personal reasons that I was so upset by his passing.

What impacted me the most was the idea that this man, this embodiment of energy and happiness and love, a person who was adored the whole world over by a multitude of generations, still was a man who carried his demons.

It frightened, and humbled me to think that even Robin Williams could let his worries and fears get to him that drastically; that he still suffered in his daily life despite how many people loved and cared about him.

It dawned upon me that depression/anxiety/whatever you want to call it, is not something that just goes away when life decides to tip the scales in your favor. You can become a household name, make money doing the thing that you love, earn the respect of your peers and colleagues, and yet it will be never enough to satisfy 'The Fear'.

I push myself to the point of insanity every day-- every ounce of it self induced. I rarely ever feel that I'm living up to my fullest potential because of this pressure I put on myself. And as much I know that's something won't go away, I know also that I can't give up the fight. 'The Fear' will always try to bring me down, but its up to me to push back against it.

It saddens me to think that Robin Williams had fought the battle so dearly for so long. It is well understood in the world of comedy that most humor comes from a dark place, and obviously with Williams it was no exception. It was from that pain that such electricity and love was able to come out of his performances. He took that negativity and turned into something positive that made the world around smile. He made us laugh.

Someone on Twitter elegantly posted, "You never know another man's burden until he puts it down and you feel the ground shake."

In Robin Williams' case, I would say the world has indeed felt it.

Yesterday we lost one of the world's greatest comedic minds and a truly genuine person.

Know that he didn't lose his battle to depression, and that there are no losers in this war.

Know that whatever problems you face in your life, whatever they may be, are temporary, and need no permanent solutions.

Know that love is always there just around the corner, and that laughter is the best medicine.

Know that you're not alone in this, and there will always be people ready and willing to help and support you through the hard times.

Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863 

Rest in peace, you sweet, sweet man. Your laughter touched thousands, your smile brought out those in others. Thank you for everything you gave us, I know you gave it all.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Writers Vs. Storytellers: The Great Debate

I've had some time the past few days to do some thinking. During that time I've been debating to myself, friends, and colleagues some of the major issues in publishing and indie writing that a lot of upcoming authors are facing.

One of these main discussions was the tough to crack debate over difference between Writers and Storytellers.

When authors first sit down to start their next project, a slew of possibilities opens up with the creation of that fresh blank Word document. Where the ideas come from is often irrelevant; it is within human nature that the concept of storytelling and prose comes from, and it doesn't take an award-winning writer to come up with a great story to tell around a campfire that captivates each of the campers no matter what age.

So, if everyone in the world has the potential to be a storyteller, what is the true definition of a writer?

I've had the time to think about and have come up with this:

Anyone can be a part-time story teller, but not everyone can be a full-time writer.

Coming up with fantastical worlds, great characters and dialogue-- these things do not make a writer.

These qualities make you human. 

What really defines an author or writer is the fact that once you have come up with an amazing concept and world, you actually take the needed time to get it down on paper. The point where your story has been told and the text has filled the page to the point of completion, THAT is when you are a writer.

Neil Gaiman described writing as being as easy as typing one word after another, and also that hard.

Since we all from our daily experiences and histories have enough to draw upon to create amazing stories, it takes a different kind of person to actually translate those ideas into something concrete that you can hold in your hand. Telling a story and writing a book are universally different things, though the two can often be mistaken.

"I wish I had your job. You just sit around and come up with ideas all day."

Wrong. If I got paid simply for pitching concepts so other authors could go off and write them, I'd probably be doing a hell of a lot better financially. The only place this kind of thing happens is in Hollywood, where writers are treated as replaceable hand-monkeys without the silly hats.

So ultimately, writing is not storytelling as much as the two are intertwined. You cannot be a great writer without being a great storyteller, BUT being a great storyteller does not make you a writer and vice versa.

What all aspiring writers face is the point where they figure out if they are a real writer, or just a great storyteller. The sooner that person figures that out, the sooner they'll either crack down and get writing that book, or shelve it forever and find a new hobby, because that's all it really was.

But I'm not saying there is no hope, nor am I saying that being a writer is an exclusive club open only to those that follow a specific guideline that I will post later. That's just silly.

What I'm saying is that you need to differentiate passion and work.

If you're a writer, that is your job. 

Don't like to work? Don't be a writer. 

If you simply have your head in the clouds, dreaming of dragons and rocket ships with big titted ladies riding dinosaurs with machine gun heads, and have no real drive to get that idea out to the world one word at time?

You're a storyteller, and a strange one at that.

The best way to turn this whole concept upside down is when you actually DO realize you have the balls to be an author and want to go about it in the correct manner. The best way to go about creating fiction or non-fiction is to write what you know and what you know people will love.

Think about your favorite television shows, music, and movies. Even if whatever project isn't a blockbuster smash, it still has that small and loyal cult following behind it.


Because people are storytellers, and what do storytellers love most?


So bear that in mind when deciding your next project. No matter what, someone is going to love your book. It might be lost amidst the swelling market, and there may be some who hate it, but in the end you will find exposure one reader at a time.

Building that fanbase is as easy as making friends. If you are not a friendly person or a good friend, best of luck trying to get people to like you, let alone buy from you.

In a world where everyone can be a storyteller, authors need to realize that all readers have the potential to be storytellers themselves. With that in mind, writers need to understand they can't get away with putting out a sub-par project.

Readers know shit storytelling as much as an author would. Authors are not the the authority over what is good, nor are the editors or publishers. The readers are. The worldwide circle of storytellers keep us in line.

So the next time you sit down to start writing, remember to keep your readers at the same level as you. As a writer, you are at the mercy of your readers and reviewers. Give them what you would want to receive yourself, tell the story you want to hear.

Or else, some other storyteller will call you on your bullshit, and you'll know your true failing.