Mother of Teens: Why I’m Scared of Ramen

In sixth grade I was in middle school, living in a suburb of Chicago, eleven-years-old, and from my self-centered point of view my world was falling apart.

My dad had moved out as part of my parent’s ongoing divorce. My mother had a brain aneurysm. Between the aneurysm and the treatments her memory was limited, and her temper mercurial. There was no way to predict what was going to happen next.

School was my refuge. I’d been moved to classes for advanced students in third grade, and for the past three years my classmates had been a second family to me. We had shared memories, inside jokes, and a surety that comes from knowing you’re spending the day with twenty of your best friends. My classmates were my saving grace. While things were falling apart at home they were the ones making sure I passed class.

When we exchanged homework for in-class grading, my friends made sure I only missed a few problems… even when the page was empty. When I couldn’t get a ride to the library, my friends photocopied notes for me so I could finish projects at lunch. When I needed a safe place, my friends were there.

But, despite their best efforts, I was on the fast track for failing all my classes. My grades were abysmal. I was getting help from my math teacher, a sweet blonde woman who made math interesting. Every day I’d hurry through lunch, then go to her class to work on assignments while she ate lunch. Every day she had ramen, usually just the broth.

I was a self-centered and unthinking child. I wasn’t aware of food prices, or why someone would choose to eat ramen every day. I just knew it was what she preferred. And I knew she looked sickly.

Since my mother had fallen ill I was hyper-aware of illness. It scared me. Illness didn’t destroy a body, it changed people. I watched my teacher for changes, but never saw anything. She was simply an enthusiastic teacher with pale skin, feathered blonde hair, and dark circles under her eyes that she hid with makeup.

We continued in that fashion for several months. I’d scarf down a sandwich, run to her class, and work on homework while she sipped ramen broth and helped me focus.

In March, we moved out of state to live with my grandmother while the divorce was finalized and our home sold.

In April, my teacher died of starvation. She’d been deathly ill, but no one had notice the warning signs. She died of anorexia, because of her fear of food and a fear of her own body.

A few years later, I’d caught the disease. I don’t believe I ever thought of myself as fat, but the word was thrown around. Women aren’t allowed to be fat. We’re not allowed to be thin, either. Western society has a very distinct image of what a woman should look like and if a lady doesn’t fit that image than she’s ugly. And “ugly” was a very familiar word.

My mom worked two to three jobs at a time, trying to make ends meet. I struggled to fit in at my new school. Fashion was something that happened to other people. I made do with clothes purchased before the divorce, and the occasional hand-me-down. At sixteen I still wasn’t five-foot tall and I might have weighed 100 pounds sopping wet.

Now, I would have been the perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but this was the late 90s in an era of grunge, plaid, and no pixies (I feel a bit cheated, honestly). My hand-me-downs were loose jeans and faded t-shirts, no bubble vests from A&E, no brightly colored socks from Hot Topics (oh! but I wanted them!). Everything I owned was over-sized with the hope I would one day grow into them. So I was fat. Because my clothes were loose. And I was ugly. And I was an outcast.

And I didn’t mean to be anorexic. It was a bad habit I fell into. I wasn’t starving myself, just skipping meals, or eating less than a full meal. No big deal. I was busy. Sometimes I just… forgot.

Until the day I smelled ramen cooking. Not at home, but in the newspaper office of the high school where I hid during my down time. I liked to sleep under the big conference table on an abandoned bean bag chair. One of the teachers was cooking ramen for lunch. The smell twisted my stomach, and I realized just how close I’d been to following in my teacher’s footsteps. I’d let the voices get to me.

To this day I hate ramen. I never ate in college. It’s end-of-the-world food, and there will be a zombie apocalypse before I sit down to enjoy a bowl of ramen noodles. But it’s the only food I allow myself to hate.

The voices of negativity are persuasive. The slope down into depression and self-abuse is slippery, a slow slide down into the pit. There are still days I slip. There are still days the voices of negativity win.

There are two lessons I take away from ramen noodles. One, killing yourself doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts everyone around you. Two, hating something only gives it power over you, what we hate controls us.

Why’d I write this post today? I have no idea. Maybe just to get it off my chest. Maybe to explain to my friends why I’m scared of ramen (scary noodles!). Maybe because it can help someone else. Or maybe just because I never got to say goodbye to a wonderful woman who was there during on of the darkest periods of my life and I always wonder if I’d just noticed, if I hadn’t been quite so self-centered, if she would still be alive today.

Here’s to you, Miss B., and the lesson your never meant to teach.

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD by Lexie Dunne

lexie-dunne_-savetheworld-coverIn the third book of Lexie Dunne’s sensational Superheroes Anonymous series, Hostage Girl returns one last time to save the world.
Gail Godwin—once so famous for being kidnapped by supervillains, the media still calls her Hostage Girl—is done with superheroes and their shadowy schemes. She’s got a cute boyfriend, a great roommate, and she’s even returned to her old job. For the first time in years, life is exactly what she wants it to be.

But when a figure from her past resurfaces, he brings with him a plague that changes the game for every superhero and villain out there. Now Gail must team up with both friend and foe to help save the world she thought she had left behind.

$3.99
Amazon | HarperCollins | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | Kobo
PREVIEW

lexie-dunne_author-photoLexie Dunne is a life-long winner of the coveted trophy for participation and author of the SUPERHEROES ANONYMOUS series. By day a mild-mannered technical writer and by night a writer of masked crusaders, she hails from St. Louis, home of the world’s largest croquet game piece. HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD is available from HarperCollins on November 1, 2016 . Follow her on Twitter @DunneWriting.

Impulse Buy Books of the Week: The Defenders of Love series by Carolyn LaRoche

WitnessProtectionebook

I rarely feature box sets on the Impulse Buy, but this is worth the triple-shot. All three Defenders of Love books are on sale for a limited time. Three full novels, each for 99¢ on Amazon for a limited time. Get them while they’re hot!

WITNESS PROTECTION: Someone wants NYPD detective Angelina Ferrara dead…again. Following her heart instead of her mind landed her in Witness Protection. Can she trust it and handsome detective Logan James to keep her alive this time?

HOMELAND SECURITY: All Katie McCoy wanted was a quiet Friday evening, a frozen pizza and a pair of comfy pajamas. Damn her stupid ex-fiance to hell for the armed men that stormed her apartment and dragged her off on a matter of “national security”. Wearing those comfy pajamas and nothing else, she wasn’t at all prepared for the interrogation that awaited her…or the man with the questions.

 BORDER PATROL: He’s running away from a broken heart…For Keegan James, his career meant everything. Until he let his heart get in the way of his good sense. Oh, she was thinking about the future too—with another man. So, he did what any jilted lover would do and left the FBI to move to the beach to join the Border Patrol. He bought an old farm in need of a ton of work—or a total tear down. Unfortunately for him, the entire property is under investigation by the DEA for drug trafficking and the agent on the case thinks he’s involved. What’s worse? She’s smart, sex and good with a gun.

All on sale for $0.99
WITNESS PROTECTION
| HOMELAND SECURITY |  BORDER PATROL

Carolyn LaRoche_ Defenders of Love

 

Carolyn LaRoche_Author PicCarolyn LaRoche grew up in snow country but fled the cold and ice several years ago. She now lives near the beach with her husband, their two boys, two finicky cats and one old dog. When she is not at the baseball field cheering on big hits and home runs, she is busy teaching science to unwilling teenagers.

Facebook | Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

 

 

Sustainable Extra-Solar Living – Apex Predators and More! (repost)

Continuing last week’s post on sustainable living, definitions and why they pertain to writing.

Biomass Majority

Why you need these: This is my own term for all the creatures that fall in the center of the food web in an ecosystem. They aren’t at the bottom, but they aren’t at the top. They are the links that keep the ecosystem working. These are the things big enough to eat, but small enough that they won’t eat you. The prey animals, really. You need them on a sustainable planet unless your characters are living off of rations or algae byproducts.

Possible Plot Points: Creatures falling into the Biomass Majority will probably figure into your culture’s trade as an import/export. Trade is always a good source of conflict. Dig a little deeper, pull an HG Wells, and make your character a member of the Biomass Majority, suddenly they are an import/export AND a food! That should keep the pace up!

Apex Predators
Why you need these: In most cases, the characters you deal with are the Apex Predators on the planet. One way or another, they are at the top of the food chain. Even if your characters aren’t the top carnivore, someone needs to be. Without apex predators to keep populations in check you wind up with over-population, disease, famine, and wide-spread death. Trust the biologists, we know of what we speak, it’s better for a few members of the Biomass Majority to die than for all of them to die slowly because there are no apex predators.

Possible Plot Points: You have seen Jurassic Park, haven’t you? Apex Predator 1 meet Apex Predator 2, there are some very successful movies based on this concept. Any imbalance in the predator-prey relationship is risky. Good for conflict, bad for characters. :o) The ascension of a new Apex species would make for a good book, as would the view from the falling species.

Rare Species
Why you need them: Anything limited is valuable. We haven’t started discussing imports, exports, and incomes but rare species figure into the wealth of the planet. From an ecologists stand point, rare species are indicator species. The fewer there are of a given species, the more small changes affect their population.

Possible Plot Points: You will only get away with this in science fiction, but introduce the concept of Indicator Species but having characters mention that there are fewer frogs this year, or pygmy hippos, or hyper-intelligent shades of the color blue. You can use these creatures to foreshadow. You can also make them the object of a quest or obsession. Or the main characters could be the rare species. You’re only limited by your imagination.

 

 

Next Week: Fuel and Energy

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: THE GUILD CONSPIRACY by Brooke Johnson and the CLOCKWORK series by Beth Cato

Brooke Johnson_THE GUILD CONSPIRACY coverIn the face of impossible odds, can one girl stem the tides of war?

It has been six months since clockwork engineer Petra Wade destroyed an automaton designed for battle, narrowly escaping with her life. But her troubles are far from over. Her partner on the project, Emmerich Goss, has been sent away to France, and his father, Julian, is still determined that a war machine will be built. Forced to create a new device, Petra subtly sabotages the design in the hopes of delaying the war, but sabotage like this isn’t just risky: it’s treason. And with a soldier, Braith, assigned to watch her every move, it may not be long before Julian finds out what she’s done.

Now she just has to survive long enough to find another way to stop the war before her sabotage is discovered and she’s sentenced to hang for crimes against the empire. But Julian’s plans go far deeper than she ever realized … war is on the horizon, and it will take everything Petra has to stop it in this fast-paced, thrilling sequel to The Brass Giant.   

$2.99
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | HarperCollins

Brooke Johnson_ press kit author photo

 

BROOKE JOHNSON is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous. You can find her on Twitter @brookenomicon.

Website

 

 

Clockwork Sale 2016

 

 

Beth Cato_ ClockworkCrown_331x500

Raised in far northern Caskentia, Octavia was orphaned at age twelve when a Waster airship crashed atop her village. She has been plagued ever since by memories of fire and the screams of blood and death that her attuned ears could hear.

Soon after, she was taken in by Miss Percival and trained as a medician at an academy for girls with an aptitude for healing magic. Octavia excelled–perhaps too much. Her connection to the Lady and her Tree isolated her from her peers, and eventually, Miss Percival as well. Her formative years were spent working in medical wards at the front line of Caskentia’s most recent conflict with the Waste.

Octavia is now twenty-two. Armistice has been declared. She is yet another mouth to feed at the academy. It’s time for her to set out on her own as a business-woman, but this is not be a relaxing jaunt by airship to her new employer.

All she wants is a place to call home.

All she needs right now is to stay alive.

This week only, you can pick up both CLOCKWORK DAGGER and CLOCKWORK CROWN for less than $5. Two novels, five dollars. It’s a bargain you won’t want to miss. 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Books-A-Million | Poisoned Pen | Changing Hands | Mysterious Galaxy

BethCato_DeepestPoison500x330 (2)

Beth resides in Buckeye, Arizona, on the outskirts of Phoenix. Her family includes my husband Jason, son Nicholas, and elder-cat Porom. She’s originally from Hanford, California. If she wears ruby slippers and taps her heels three times, that’s where she goes by default. Her literary agent is Rebecca Strauss of DeFiore and Company.

Website | Twitter

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration

Let’s practice a little visualization…

You sit down in front of your computer on November 4th with 6,000 words written and the plan to write Chapter 3. You have your notes and your outlines. This is the perfect time of your writing day, and everything is how you need it to be to be the best writer you can be (which is a lot of be’s). You take a deep breath, open the manuscript, and stare.

What the heck should you write?

Nothing comes to mind. Your creativity has flat-lined. You start to panic about making your word count for the day? What are you going to do?

I’ll tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to close that document and go get yourself a heavy dose of inspiration. Like a shot of adrenaline, these pre-packed doses of inspiration will fire up your creativity and get you writing in no time.

Exercise 1: Make A Mood Board
– Hit Tumblr, Deviant Art, and Instagram to find images that remind you of your character. Since you’ll be using other people’s art be respectful and keep it for personal use, not promotion. I have a Deviant Art folder just for setting inspiration.
– If you won’t have access to the internet while writing consider saving your mood board images on a page that let’s you rearrange them, like PowerPoint or OneNote.

Exercise 2: Make A Playlist
– You can make one for the book, or one for each POV character, or even mood playlists that help you set the tone for each scene.
– Either buy the music legally, or set up a Spotify or Pandora playlist.
– If you get stuck during NaNo crank up the music and stare at your mood board for five minutes.

Exercise 3: Make An Inspiration List
– Think of what books, movies, or TV shows inspired you. Keep them handy for NaNo.
– If you’re stuck beyond reason, retreat from your writing area and get inspired. Part of an author’s job is to read. Read widely. Read frequently. Read everything. The more you read, the better your writing gets, and it’s better to sacrifice an hour of writing time to a good book than to whining on Twitter about how you suck at writing. Trust me on this one.

Exercise 4: RED ALERT!
– If all else fails, and nothing is working, know when to pull the plug.
– I’m not saying quit NaNo, but know when to call it a day. There are going to be times you simply can’t write. Emotionally or physically you are drained and your brain is gray goo between your ears. Beating yourself up about isn’t going to help. In fact, repeatedly telling yourself that you can’t write will hurt you.
– Plan a non-writing activity that fires up your creativity. I like to go for a Zombie Run. Maybe you like to cook, or paint, or play football, or wash dishes by hand. Go do that thing.
– Forgive yourself, and plan on forgiving yourself for missed days. Remember, the 50,000 words is only a way of keeping score, it isn’t the actual goal of NaNoWriMo. The goal of NaNo is to make good writing habits. Understanding that there are non-writing days is a good habit. Hating yourself for missing a writing day is a bad habit.
– Don’t form bad habits.

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 6: Set The Stage 

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist

What makes a hero a HERO?

Some people like to think a hero is born special, a Chosen One with a destiny written in the stars. Some people think the hero is simply the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Maybe they’re both right.

Either way, when you’re writing a book, your Protagonist needs to be more than a character that actions happen around. A hero who only reacts to situations isn’t very fun to read about. A hero who could be removed entirely from the book without changing it in the slightest is even worse.

So, before you decide if the color of your hero’s eyes, let’s figure out what your hero’s strengths and flaws are. Shining blue eyes like icy tarns won’t get your hero out of a dungeon, but lock picking skills, charm, and magic will.

Exercise 1: What are your hero’s weaknesses?
– There’s a special name for a protagonist with no flaws: Gary Stu (or Mary Sue if the protagonist is female). A flawless hero sounds fun, and most authors start with one because they’re easy to write, but they don’t make for good books.
– Clumsiness, not realizing everyone thinks they’re beautiful, and crying at random times do not counts as weaknesses. Red hair is not a weakness. Being born rich and charitable is not a weakness. Get those ideas right out of your head.
– The hero’s weaknesses will change over the course of the book, and they should relate in some way to what the character wants. If they want to win a battle, they’ll should start out without weapons training.
– Make a list of 5-10 weaknesses your character could have.

Exercise 2: What are your hero’s strengths?
– This comes second because part of the hero’s character arc will be turning weaknesses into strengths. The weakling learns to fight, the timid child learns to speak with strength, ect ect ect.
– It is absolutely crucial that one of your character’s strengths, learned or otherwise, is the key to solving all the problems in the book. The protagonist is a hero because they are the only person who can make everything better.
– If you’re writing about a group than only with the group working in harmony can the villain be defeated.
– Make a list of 3-5 strengths. They don’t need to have all of these in the opening chapter, or even the first book of the series, but decide what strength they’ll have. You’ll need it for setting up the plot twists later.

Exercise 3: When will your hero learn these things?
– Tell yourself the back story for the hero. It may never be part of the text, but you need to know these things.
– Where was the hero born? What was their childhood like? When did they learn these things that help them save the world?

Exercise 4: What is your hero’s personality?
– What gets this person up in the morning? What’s the drive behind all they do?
– Don’t know? Try taking the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test for your character.
– Ask a lot of questions. The 100 Questions list is a bit long to do for every character, but give it to your primary protagonist and keep it for reference during NaNoWriMo.

Exercise 5: What is the One Thing?
– Every person has one thing. One line they won’t cross. One thing they won’t do. One thing they can’t lose and stay sane.
– If your character has a line they won’t cross, the climax of the book needs to push the hero until they think they must cross this line or fail. It’s up to you whether they cross over, or find another way,
– If the protagonist has one thing they can’t lose, threaten it. Take it away. Ruin that thing. It’s up to you whether the hero will triumph or the loss, realize the One Thing wasn’t that important, or recover their lost Precious in time.

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 6: Set The Stage 

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist

Oh, the antagonist.

There are people who say the hero (or protagonist) defines the book. It’s certainly the hero that people remember. Frodo will not be forgotten. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker were role models for a generation. Harry Potter? He was such a famous protagonist they didn’t even need to put a title on his last movie poster. Everyone knew about The Boy Who Loved.

But what are these protagonists without an antagonist?

Frodo without the dark lord’s ring is just a hobbit who stayed home. Han Solo would have had a quiet smuggling career, no wife, and no best friend if it weren’t for Darth Vader. Harry Potter would have grown up in a normal wizarding household, gone to Hogwarts, and had an uneventful seven years (possibly being a bully) if it weren’t for Voldemort.

Without an antagonist, you don’t have a plot.

Without an antagonist, you don’t have a book.

Day 3: Creating The Perfect Antagonist
I subscribe to the Three Villains Theory of writing. It’s entirely possible I made the theory up (or renamed it – I’m not sure), but it works! With the right three villains you can write any novel with confidence and ease.

Exercise 1: The Immediate Villain
– Who is the bad guy on page one? A teacher assigning homework over the holidays? A bullying uncle or aunt? A boss who won’t let you leave work early? Who is the bad guy causing trouble on the first page?
– This person may or may not be important to the overall book.
– This person may die before the end of chapter one (possibly in a way that frames the hero for murder).
– This person could become the love interest if you’re using an Enemies-To-Lovers trope.
– Describe this character in detail. What do they want? Why are they bad? What are their goals?

Exercise 2: The Intermediate Villain
– This is the one who takes up the bulk of the narrative for your book. In the first Harry Potter this would be Snape: obnoxious, rude, bullying, but as it turns out, not such a bad guy in the end.
– The intermediate villain can also be a series of thugs sent by the Big Bad to cause trouble. Especially in a quest story. In The Hobbit movies Azog is the Intermediate Villain, always nipping at Thorin’s heels but not doing a bulk of the damage.
– Define this character. What do they want? Why do they do what they do? How do they interact with the hero?
– Give the Intermediate Villain a win. While the hero can defeat (or avoid) the first villain succesfully the Intermediate Villain should give the hero trouble. Round about the middle of your novel the villain should have a definite win. They get the magic thing first, they kill someone the hero tried to save, they get the girl, they win the big game. Whatever. Plan on giving your villain a win. It adds complexity to the narrative and raises the stakes. Also? It’s usually an easy scene to write because you can beat your hero up as much as you want.

Exercise 3: The Big Bad
– This is the villain that’s secretly controlling things from behind the scenes, the betrayer who has been secretly working against the hero the whole time. Dark Vader. Voldemort. Sauron.
– In a series, you may not see this person until the end of the series (think Kate’s dad in the MAGIC BITES series by Ilona Andrews). The best part about this kind of antagonist is it invites readers to reread so they can catch the earlier clues. You really can save this villain for the very end, or at least the last 1/3 of the book.
– They usually appear around the hero’s Moment Of Despair, when the hero has lost all hope, friends, support, and belief in themself.
– This is the villain that defines the hero. Because the hero looks up from the mud and blood and despair and say, “I cannot let you do this. I cannot let you win even if I lose everything.” The decision to fight this villain when all hope is lost, at great personal sacrifice, is what makes an ordinary person a hero. And because the hero is coming from such a low point, beaten and fragile, their victory is all the more sweet in the end.
– Describe this character? When will they appear? What are they like? What do they do? Why are they the villain?

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 6: Set The Stage 

 

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Plotting

Got a plot?

If you’ve completed the exercises from Day 1 of NaNo boot camp (and you may not have because some of them are multi-day projects – don’t stress it) then you know how you write. Step two for planning a successful NaNoWriMo is finding a plot.

NaNoWriMo attracts all different kinds of authors. Some of you have the idea already there, you know the book, you just need that last push to give writing a try. Others are on deadlines and are using NaNoWriMo to get a rough draft out of the way. And then there are people who really want to write but don’t know where to start. This day is for you.

Day 2: Find a Plot
The plot is what your story is about. It’s how the characters move from Point A to Point Z and all the choices they make in between. If you’re a literature major (or have spent time around them) you’ve heard about climaxes and construction and probably snowflakes. Those are all wonderful things but useless when you’re staring at a blank page thinking about lunch instead of prose. Here’s how to make that blank page a masterpiece…

Exercise 1: What’s on your bookshelf?
–  Look at the books you read and love. What do you love about them? What are the similarities between them? Do you read a specific genre or theme?
– If you have nowhere else to start, this is a great place. Look at your shelves and what you love, and envision the book that fits in, but isn’t there yet.
– Two very important things to remember here: one – all writer are readers, two – all books are derivative. There is no such thing as a truly original plot, all stories have their genetic roots in other books, and that’s part of the reason we like them. Looking to your favorite books will give you an idea of what you love.

Exercise 2: What movies do you watch?
– Think of your favorite movies and shows. Do yo1u see a theme? Is there a kind of character you love watching? Great!
– Imagine a character who takes traits from each of your favorite TV characters. What do they act like? Where would they live?

Exercise 3: Make a List of 25 Things That Could Happen
– Go wild! Pick a genre and write down twenty-five things that could happen within that universe, cliche to cray-cray.

Exercise 4: Let the idea sit for a week.
– You aren’t forgetting it, you’re letting the idea mature. If you come up with an idea for one of the plots, by all means take note!
– A good story idea is the one that still excites you a week after you think of it. Anything that loses it’s energy after a few days won’t keep you writing through the tough parts, or editing for years after that. Look at all your options and see what you still love on Monday.

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 6: Set The Stage 

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Base Line

The best way to fail is to not prepare.

You think you’re going to start NaNoWriMo November 1st with no preparation, no practice, and no prior thought? Well, honey, that’s just setting yourself up for failure.

No worries, though. I am a certified* NaNoWriMo Boot Camp instructor. Every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of October we will meet right here to put you through your paces and make sure you’re in fighting shape for NaNoWriMo.

Day 1: Establish A Baseline

The number one mistake of new NaNoWriMo participants is assuming that they will find the time to get their writing done. Worse, there is a tendency to woefully underestimate how much time it will take to write the daily word count.

Free time does not magically appear. A gap in the space-time continuum won’t open up between your favorite TV shows allowing you to write 1666 words in under three minutes. Like everything else in life, you need to plan ahead. You need to make time in your schedule for writing.

This is where the second mistake comes in, and it’s a common mistake for newbies and seasoned NaNoWriMo authors, they schedule the wrong amount of time, for the wrong time of day, for the wrong days of the week.

That’s why the first day of boot camp is devoted to getting a baseline and figuring out your writing schedule.

Exercise 1: Set a timer for ten minutes, sit down, and write. 
– Repeat three times (or more if you like)
– Average your word count to get an idea of how many words you can write in ten minutes. Don’t worry if the number seems low. You’ll be faster by the end of NaNoWriMo.

Exercise 2: Set aside three hours and write until you can’t any more.
– The goal here isn’t to write for three hours straight (good job if you can, though). This exercise measures your natural writing rhythm. Can you focus for fifteen minutes? Forty? Ninety?
– There is no wrong answer.
– Do three sets of writing at your natural writing pace. Figure the average. This is your Writing Pace Word Count.

Exercise 3: Look at a calendar of November and decide what days you will actually be writing.
– In a perfect world you’d write all 30 days, but realistically it’s not going to happen. You’re going to have days where work, school, family, or health prevents you from writing.
– Pencil in your writing days. Now, divide 50,000 by the number of days you intend to write. This is your Daily Word Count Goal.
– Divide your Daily Word Count Goal by your Writing Pace Word Count. This is the number of writing sprints you’ll need to do for each writing day in November.

EXAMPLE: Julie wants to write 50,000 words in November. She has 5 days she can’t write, and she can write 500 words in 15 minutes.
50,000/25 = 2000 (daily word count goal)
2000/500 = 4
Julie will need to schedule 4 writing sprint so of 15 minutes each to hit her daily word count goal. 

Exercise 4: What do you need to write?
– Very few people can sit down in any environment and write without problems. If you’re one of those lucky people, bask in the glow of your own awesomeness and skip this exercise. If you’re not, no worries.
– Over the next week take notes about what was going on around you on the days you write best.
Do you work better at a desktop or on the couch using a laptop?
Do you like music or silence?
Will any noise work, or do you need a specific playlist?
What time of day do you feel the most creative?
Do you write better in pjs or dressed up for work?
Do you need a snack?
Do you need some water?

NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 1: Establish a Baseline
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 2: Finding a Plot
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 3: The Antagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 4: The Protagonist
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 5: Motivation and Inspiration
NaNoWriMo Boot Camp Day 6: Set The Stage