For those of you who might not know November has long since been home to NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. I love the tagline for this: 30 days and nights of literary abandon. The basic principle is that you dedicate an entire month to writing a 50,000 word novel. This would more than likely be a rough draft, one that would require much revision, but think about it, in just 30 days, you could have a book done. It’s kind of an overwhelming thought, but it’s really a lot of fun.

By the time I’d tried NaNo the first time I was already a published author which several books under my belt. I knew my writing process and I knew I could get a book finished. I joined partly for the challenge – most of my rough drafts come in below 50k so I wanted to push my word count, also I was really keen on joining in on the camaraderie. Several other writers in my local RWA chapter participated and we all cheered each other on. It was so fun watching everyone’s daily word count rise.

Many times my deadlines are such that I can’t participate, but this year I can. In fact, I need to in order to meet a deadline. It’s crucial that I get the rough draft done in November so that I can have the revised manuscript turned into my editor by May. And I have to write another book in between that. So like I said, it’s a must that this book get done in November.

In a perfect world I’d spend the month of October plotting that book so come Nov 1st I could hit the ground running. But I’m currently on deadline so I’m trying to finish up the current book all the while hoping my subconscious is working on my NaNo book. Not so sure that’s working. More than likely I’ll have to spend some time getting the first few scenes sketched out so I can jump right in and then plot as I go.

But, you say, 50,000 words in a month is a lot, too much, really. Well, possibly, but you’ll only know if you try. And let’s break that down into more manageable bites, that averages out to about 1,666 words a day, which is really only about 8 pages. Break that down into 2 page increments, so you write 2 pages 4 times a day, you can do that!

So how do you know if NaNoWriMo is right for you? Here’s my list, see if any of these describe you and if so, give NaNo a try!

1. you’ve never finished a book, but really want to. (great way to dedicate yourself to finishing b/c you make a public commitment and people can cheer you on)

2. you normally write romantic suspense, but have a great idea for a Regency historical that won’t leave you alone. (great way to try out a new genre b/c it’s only 1 month of your life!)

3. you write really, really slowly because you get bogged down revising the first half of your book 100 times. (you are struggling with turning off that internal editor OR you’re allowing “perfectionism” to be your excuse)

4. you want to “hang out” with cool writers like me (seriously you’ll get great pep talks from successful writers and see how others are progressing, it’s very motivating & if you have a competitive side, even better!)

5. you have a deadline you’re worried about meeting (let’s face it, by the time December rolls around, it becomes very difficult to write b/c we’re doing holiday stuff, so use November to get that book done!)

So how about it? Are y’all in? Want to join me for some intense writing in November? Think about December first and being able to say you just finished a 50k word book!

So I’ve just wrapped up revisions on A LITTLE BIT WICKED and I’m back to work on A LITTLE BIT SINFUL and I have to admit I’ve been struggling some with these books. But I’ve finally figured out why and that is a good thing. For the last several years I’ve been working on my Legend Hunters books and then I wrote THE SECRETS OF MIA DANVERS and all of those books are big and full of adventure and suspense and mystery in addition to the romance. And then I started the Forbidden Love trilogy for Entangled Scandalous and admittedly I forgot that just because I’m not writing a suspense-heavy historical doesn’t mean my characters don’t still need GMC. It’s kind of an embarrassing lesson, to be honest, because well, I’m fairly well-known for teaching classes on that very issue. About how the GMC should be where the action of your book comes from. I know that. And yet, I still tried to cheat and get away with not doing it and now I’m having to back and fix it – in the first book in revisions and in this current one, post first draft. So let this be a lesson to any of you, no matter where you are in your career, what kind of book you’re writing and how short it is, you still need a solid GMC for your characters to propel your plot!

Also I want to share my tentative release schedule for the next twelve months because I’m so damn excited about it!

A LITTLE BIT WICKED – December 2012

Okay kids, that’s 5 releases over the next year. I’m so very happy to be able to share so many wonderful characters and stories with all of you.

*this a tentative schedule and includes some tentative titles*

I had a discussion recently with a writer friend of mine when she heard me mention my use of plotboards. I don’t use them for every book I write, but they are a great hands-on, visual tool for those times when I need to get in the book, so to speak. But even if I don’t use a plotboard for a book there are key scenes, plot points, that I look for before I start any book. I don’t always know what’s going to happen in these scenes, but I know the book will have them somewhere.

Some of these are pretty standard, and some are just things that I came up with because they make sense to the types of stories I tend to write. Oh, and they don’t necessarily end up going in this order so it’s not really a progression kind of thing. What I like about these is that they have stops on the relationship progression but also the external plot stuff so you can kind of braid it all together or at least begin to. So without further ado, here are my standard plot points.

Inciting incident – this is really just my first meet scene, how do they meet, what’s the circumstances, etc.

Let’s work together – since my characters end up doing something together: solving a case, running from a bad guy, etc. this is that scene where it becomes apparent they’ll be in this together, apparent to the reader, they might not be committed to the “partnership” at this point. But this is one of those key factors for me, I have to figure out what situation can I put them in that will require them to be on the page together. Often.

first kiss – this is self explanatory, and sometimes I plot it out at the beginning because I already know how it’s going to happen, other times like in the book I’m currently working on (A LITTLE BIT SINFUL) I knew that I wanted her to instigate the first kiss, but I wasn’t quite sure how until I got further into the 1st draft.

first love scene – again self explanatory and again I don’t always plot this unless I know specifically where it will happen and why.

midpoint – kind of generic, but really just to remind me that I need something major to happen in the middle of the book, a twist or something. Since I tend to write books with suspense or mystery or adventure subplots, then this usually is a shift with that. It generally has emotional repercussions, but for the most part, this plot point is about the external plot and where its going.

I think I love you – this usually is two separate scenes because both the hero and heroine get one. it’s just that emotional break-through when they realize that this is different, that they’re not just in trouble, the damage has been done, they’re all in. They’re in for a heart-break unless they’re willing to change to get their HEA.

plot point – again generic, but just a reminder to keep things moving. This is often something that leads the characters directly into the BBM. They’ve tried to cheat to get out of having to change, to resist having to deal with their internal garbage and this one last cheat should mark their fate and the reader will know that something big and ugly is about to happen.

BBM – The big black moment – ug! I don’t always know what I’m doing with the big black moment, but I sometimes have a general idea. Like with my upcoming book with Entangled, A LITTLE BIT WICKED, I knew, pretty early on, how I wanted to hang my character out to dry, so to speak, but I couldn’t really figure out the logistics. It actually took me a long time to figure out how to do it, but I made notes and just left it there until I had a clear picture of how to do it. What you want for this scene is to have your heroine/hero’s worst fears realized, you want the external plot to force them to deal with their internal junk.

HEA – happily ever after, won’t really know for sure how to wrap it all up nicely until after I’ve figured out that BBM.

So that’s it. I mean that’s not all there is to my books, but those are the highlights. It’s also worth noting that these are also excellent plot points to use in crafting your synopses because they keep the focus on the main elements of the book and how the external and internal push each other along.

By now I hope y’all have had a time to poke around the new digs. Isn’t it so pretty and fun? There are share buttons on every page if you are so inclined to share any material with your buddies. I’m so excited about my upcoming books that I just wanted a fresh, new look to celebrate.

I’ll also be making more use of this blog. As most you know I blog regularly at the Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills as well as Peanut Butter on the Keyboard, but this, being my personal blog, will be a place I can feature some behind the scenes info, hot off the press info and a brand new feature I’m very excited about. So many of you have contacted me about my articles on the craft of writing, I’m touched that you have found them so helpful. From now on I’ll be doing a (hopefully) weekly feature on Wednesdays called Writerly Wednesdays where I’ll be posting a blog on something writer related.

This week, to launch our first Writerly Wednesday, I’m actually going to recycle an old blog, but there is a good reason for it. I blogged on this revision tool back in 2009 when I was writing Desire Me. This weekend I received revision notes from my editor and it became clear to me that this particular tool would be a perfect way to identify spots to weave in the much-needed expanded subplot. So without further ado, here is my post on on the shrunken manuscript.

(originally posted on the Jaunty Quills, Sept 16, 2009)

About a year ago I stumbled upon a blog that mentioned a revision technique I found very intriguing. It was something I wanted to try then, but wasn’t conducive to the book I was working on so I shelved the idea. But recently when it came time to do revisions for my next book I read up on the process again. It’s my understanding that the concept was developed by a children’s book author and is presented mostly to workshops for other children’s authors. And while the books I write are a tad longer than a picture book I figured the process was worth a try.

Here’s what I did:

Basically you take your manuscript and you shrink it down so that it can be laid out on the floor and all examined at once. I managed to get my 300+ pg manuscript down to 44 shrunken pages. All the text is sort of smushed together so that you can read it enough to see what scene that is, but clearly you wouldn’t want to sit down and read the whole book this way – you’d go blind!

So I sat at the table with my 44pgs of tiny text and got out my highlighters and post-it flags. First I came up with a list of things I wanted to track – like point of view scenes (whose head I’m in in any given scene), action-driven scenes, major plot points, romantic plot points and then I wanted to track where I could add a new subplot I wanted to include. I assigned each of these items either a colored flag or a highlighter and then I went through and marked the entire 44 pgs. It didn’t take more than an hour, I don’t think.

Next I placed all the pages on the floor, 4 rows of paper and I sat back and examined what I saw. Right away I could see areas where I needed to add a more action-driven scene, places where my villain had simply disappeared and long stretches between my romantic plot points. I got out my post-it notes and began tagging the areas with instructions on what to add.

I found places to add that secondary plot line. And as an added bonus, seeing the manuscript shrunk up like that really highlighted the areas where I had too much white space. I’m a dialogue-heavy writer anyways, but seeing all the white space clearly revealed scenes that could benefit from another layer of detail and texture.

Frankly the whole process was pretty darn amazing. And I think if time allows I’ll use this technique on future books as well.

So how about you? Do you have any special tools in your writer’s toolkit that you use on occasion? Do you like to color-coordinate things?

I’ve got a class coming up this next week and it’s probably my most popular class as far as requests for me to teach it. It’s called Making GMC Work for You though it really is an intense study on characters and how they should be driving the action of your books. Here’s the class blurb, the info and even an excerpt from one of the lectures. I hope to see many of you there. Remember in all of my classes I give lots of hands-on feedback specific to your manuscript.

Making GMC Work For You:
You’re familiar with all the basics, but how do you really apply all those acronyms? This workshop will go deep with hands-on assistance to show you how to build your story out of your character’s emotional journeys. We’ll pay special attention to the character growth and how it relates to theme and the developing romance. We’ll break down those the three elements, the goal, the motivation and the conflict, to create 3-dimensional characters with believable character arcs and page-turning plots.

WHEN: Jun 18, 2012 – Jul 1, 2012

COST: $15 for Premium Members/$20 for Basic Members

WHERE: SavvyAuthors

Lecture excerpt…

Now onto goals. Every character needs them. And in romance they generally need both internal and external goals. But asking the question, “what does your character want?” can be like asking a six year old what they want to be when they grow up – a fireman, a veterinarian, a dancer, a teacher, etc. The options are limitless especially when you’re thinking of the large scope of your entire story. There will always be exceptions to the “rules” but let’s, for argument’s sake, say that both your hero and heroine need one main external goal each. Keep in mind that external goals need to be three things: concrete, specific and they must require action in order to be obtained. Subsequently internal goals tend to be more subconscious and less concrete since they are emotional in nature. However, they too require action to obtain them, but action of a different sort. But we’ll get to more detailed explanation of the internal elements later.

One thing I’ve seen over and over again in teaching classes or judging contests is having a character’s goal be to maintain the status quo – I won’t say that this is wrong because there will always be a successful book out there to prove me wrong, but this sort of random goal isn’t concrete and doesn’t require any action. In addition, won’t it be a futile goal when our heroine learns in chapter one that the status quo is gone? This is a popular goal for heroines in historicals where she is expected to marry yet she wants to remain the rebellious girl she’s always been. Riding her horses with her hair whipping in the wind and tending her garden or writing her novels or whatever it is she wants to maintain. But wanting the status quo or to remain independent doesn’t really work, neither are tactile and for our external goal we should strive for something more concrete.