Needed: Social Reality Manager

NaNoWriMo2016So… my social reality manager quit.

I’m a Figment. I’m not real. I have to have a real person to interact with reality for me. I’ve had the same person since the very beginning.  Unfortunately, she up and quit on me due to what she called “the stresses of the job”.

This means I’m now limited in how I can interact with my beloved fanbase. Apparently Facebook frowns on unreal people using their service, so I no longer have a Facebook presence. Twitter and Google appear to me more forgiving, so I’ll continue to use Twitter when I remember to and, perhaps, I may get around to using Google+ more.

However, if you’re used to finding me on Facebook, you may want to either start checking here occasionally or to follow me on Twitter (@Zanzibar7writer) or Google+ (Zanzibar 7 Schwarznegger). Updates will still be posted to both sites.

Thanks. Back to working on NaNo prep now. Less than one week to go.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Step Three, Plotting Characters


I’m going to get to the character part, but first I’m going to take a quick side step. What have you not prepped for that has nothing to do with writing in November?

  • You have told family and friends that you will not be socializing unless it’s at a write-in
  • You have told family and friends you can manage fifteen minutes of socializing at a time IF they bring food and caffeine
  • You have stocked up on foodstuffs, either freezer meals, pre-made dinners, cash for eating out, or family/friends bribery
  • You are prepared to do one very good, deep housecleaning on the week of November 1st and then to just to touch-ups during breaks for an entire month
  • You have shunted laundry duty to the spousal unit, children, or paid person. Or parental unit. Barring that, you have figured out how to do laundry between sprints.
  • You know how to ninja write at the table while socializing during Thanksgiving.
  • You already purchased Christmas presents (or you can deal with the “after Thanksgiving” rush)
  • You figured out how to write on your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, and (if necessary) regular paper and will be carrying as many items of mass wordage on you as possible at all times.

Okay, now that we’re past all that, let’s talk character stuff.

There are, largely, two types of people when it comes to characters: there are those who write plot-driven stories and the characters are revealed by how they interact with the plot or there are those who write character-driven stories and the plot is revealed by how the characters would naturally behave in a situation. My theory is that plotters tend to be the former and pantsers tend to be the latter, but it’s not a hard and fast line.

If you are the former, you may not need to do a lot of character set-up ahead of time (which amuses me, since these are the plotters). Names. Rough character sheet. The rest will come to you.

If you are the latter, you may have detailed character sheets for each person who shows up in your novel. You may know more about your MC than a good stalker, maybe more than a good diary.

I have to admit, I’m a plot-driven writer. I learn about characters as I write, rather than making them up ahead of time. So I can’t help much with character development. But here are some sheets for those of you who like to have a handle on your characters before you write the first word.

However you choose to get to know your characters, at least get a name list and rough description list ahead of time.

Really. You’ll thank me later. Or send chocolate. Or books. Money would be fine. But… I’ll settle for thanks.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Step Two, Developing the Plot


You can go into NaNoWriMo cold, with nothing. You can. I can’t. I break out in a cold sweat thinking about staring at that screen, knowing I have to write a minimum of 1,667 words that day, hoping something will come to me.

No, thanks. I’m going into NaNo prepped. Those of you hardy souls who do not, I salute you. From far away. With a full CDC virus-protection suit on, just in case the insanity is contagious.

Instead, I’ll be doing some exercises over the next few weeks to get my stories into a rough sort of shape. Note that I’m not a hardcore planner. I only get the map set up. I let the story determine where I travel on that map.

Yesterday, if you did your homework, you came up with a number of potential plots. Now you need to spend some time developing them into a working thesis, so to speak. Or type. Or… whatever. Let’s move along.

There are lots of ways to do this. One is just to take the general idea and plug it into various genres and see what it gives you.

Idea: Husband and wife are traveling 2000 miles to get to ailing mother’s house

Yeah, it’s kind of vague. That’s okay. This is where the brainstorming comes in.

  • Romance: Husband and wife, marriage on the rocks, need to travel cross-country to get to ailing mother-of-wife’s house. Wife can’t fly due to some illness (do research). Husband begrudgingly drives. Fighting happens, which leads to talking about their problems, which leads to making up, which leads to romance repaired by the time they get to granny’s house. (Yeah, I’m not going to step into the romance field any time soon. Relax.)
  • Fantasy: Husband and wife start on the journey to mother-of-whoever’s house. They decide to drive for reasons (brainstorm). On the way there, they pass through a portal and find themselves in a fantasy land where they have to battle monsters and still travel (although via horseback) to get to the castle in order to complete the journey and head back home. Since I write humor/fantasy, I’d throw in a yellow knobold (check to verify name) to assist them and… well, something else. This isn’t my story, so I’m saving the plot energy for the real thing. You get the idea, though.
  • Horror: Husband and wife start on journey because mother-of needs a kidney/ liver/ blood transfusion and wife is a rare match (research blood typing and donations). Wife has fear of flying, so they drive. They stop one night at a hotel. Freaky scariness ensues. I can’t even write about writing about it, because horror is scary and I don’t have anyone here to hold me after I’m traumatized. But… horror.
  • SF: H & W start on a spaceship to mother-of. Spaceship has issues. AI systems go haywire. Must get there. Blah blah.

You get it, right?

Notice there’s no outlining. There’s really no plotting, you scaredy-cat pantsers. There’s just a little bit of a map of where the story could go.

Go. Take one of your ideas from yesterday (or all of them) and just plug them into various genres. Go mainstream and figure out something literary. One-up EL James and do erotica. Make it an action-adventure ala Romancing the Stone. Whatever you do… go make a story map.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Step One, The Plot


Alright, you’re set for the realities of NaNo. It’s hard. You should be ready. But you still don’t have a story.

I’ve known some writers to say that any writer who doesn’t have a plot isn’t a writer, but sometimes they’re just not trained in what they need to know to find plots. Because, you see, the plots are out there. They’re evil little bunnies with vicious teeth and sharp claws, and they… ahem. Sorry. Anyway, you just have to learn to look for the plot bunnies. Because they’re everywhere. Everywhere.

Okay, took a few minutes to get out of the hug-me jacket, but I’m back. Let’s get to specifics.

You can start with story prompts, but that’s so… generic. So if you want story prompts, you might want to go look at another blog. I’m going to try to teach you how to find plot ideas yourself.

  1. Go watch people. Every person has a story.  No, you shouldn’t go up to total strangers and pepper them with questions. You’ll get some interesting responses, but it’s hard to promote your novel from jail. Instead, make up their stories. Who are they? How did they get here?
  2. Listen to music. The tune, the title, the lyrics– any of those can spawn a story. Don’t plagiarize, but do use inspiration.
  3. Read some good books. Again, totally not promoting plagiarizing, but good writing builds on other writing? Don’t believe me? Go check out Shakespeare.
  4. Watch television. You may even be able to publish fanfiction on Amazon Kindle Worlds. Just (again) don’t try to publish something that you’ve borrowed from elsewhere.
  5. Brainstorm with other writers (or just other people). Write down everything, however absurd. Then harvest what you can use. Except organs. We frown on organ harvesting. So does the law.
  6. Look at artwork. What’s the story behind the picture? Can you make it into more than a story? Is it an entire book?
  7. Go for a run/ exercise of your choice. Exercise produces the good hormones that stimulate creativity.
  8. Keep a journal, diary, or a stack of sticky notes (I’m a fan of the stack of sticky notes). Write down every creative idea you ever have. All of them. Ruffle through them occasionally and see if something inspires you.

Go. Get thee some paper and a writing instrument (or clay and stylus) and start sketching out ideas. Do not stop until you have at least five, however crazy you think they are.

We’ll get to developing ideas in the next post. For now, just get them.

Shoo! Go write.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Prepping for THOSE Days


I don’t feel like adulting today. In fact, I don’t feel like humaning. Maybe cat or dragoning. I could maybe deal with that.

Here’s the thing: you will have a day like this during NaNo. Either the weather will be too nice and you’ll want to go out or the weather will be too bad and you’ll want to stay in (but curled up with a book) or the computer won’t work right or you won’t feel right or your characters won’t be talking to you or you’re just having a bad day…

Yeah, it happens.

One thing I do appreciate about NaNoWriMo is that it teaches you to write when you don’t feel like it. Getting behind on 1,667 words/day is a big deal if you do it a few times. Trust me. I have the 10k makeup days to prove it.  If you have depression, family events (Thanksgiving, anyone?), or other things come up, though, you may have to deal with making up for those days.

Prep for them ahead of time and you’ll deal with them better.

  1. Know what you’re going to write about. Sometimes it helps to jot a note about where the story is going before you stop for the night. Then you have something to give you a little push the next day when you won’t be in the same zone.
  2. Give yourself permission to just write for 30 minutes. Sometimes this means you’ll only get in 250 words (or less) for the day, but that’s 250 words you didn’t have before. Sometimes, though, it means that you get started writing and you go ahead and hit that 1,667 words before you realize it.
  3. Download some word crawls to get you motivated. While I find that they actually slow down my writing speed, they are great for getting things going, so if you can’t find motivation any other way, use one of them. There’s the list on the NaNoWriMo boards here and a bunch of popular ones archived by Wikiwrimo here.

Let’s say you do get behind. What are some things you can do to catch up?

  1. Plan a longer writing day on one of your days off. I plan these from the very beginning, because I prefer to get ahead. At some point, I know I’ll need it.
  2. Give up something to write. Yes, I know it’s big TV season, but you probably have a DVR or Hulu or something. You can watch your shows when NaNo season is over.
  3. Tempt yourself with a reward. We’re partial to chocolate, but that leads to needing more workout time, so you may want to change it up. New shoes. Tickets to a music/ sporting/ art event. Getting to watch one of those shows we just talked about.
  4. Pull a random writing prompt and throw it in there. Since I like to publish what I write with the minimum amount of editing, this doesn’t work for me, but it might for you. Don’t worry about continuity. Write about Uncle Joe at the Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and later you can replace it with dinosaurs invading your four-course fantasy meal.
  5. Add a little more to your word counts for the next few days. Yeah, 1,667 is a lot of words, but, really, you can make it up. Add 330-ish words a day for a week and you have it pretty much taken care of (that’s an even 2k words, for those of you who don’t math).

So, there you have it. Now you’re prepared for those days when you don’t feel like dealing– and I managed to adult a little today after all.

NaNoWriMo Prep: What You Need to Know


Yesterday, I started my yearly discussion about NaNo Prep. But maybe you’re really new to all this, so I dropped you into a discussion where the wind-speed of a laden RPG was mixed in a MOOC with OMG results and everything was pretty FUBAR. (That’s “funnied up beyond all recognition”, for those who don’t humor.)

So, baby steps.

What is NaNoWriMo?
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and it happens in November every year. It started back in 1999, in July. I guess they hadn’t capitalized on the fun of the “No” in both “novel” and “November” yet. They fixed that by the next year and threw in some “rules” (which people still break every year and call themselves “rebels”). If you haven’t read their history, you really should. It reminds me that big things start small, sometimes have a few really stinky poopy diapers, get a rebellious teenager phase, and then grow up (hopefully) into something we can be proud of. It also remind me why Figments shouldn’t be parents.

NaNoWriMo is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means they went from twelve people just having fun to being, you know, real. Sounds like a success story for a Figment.

Why Should I Care About NaNoWriMo?
Even if you never try writing a novel (and, hey, I’m never going to knit a darn thing, so I’m not pushing), you should care about NaNo because it produces great works of fiction. And books by me.

I do 90% of my preliminary writing during NaNo events. Then I spend the rest of the year doing rewriting, editing, publishing, and whining. A little cheesing.

Also, NaNoWriMo supports great literacy projects, like the Young Writers Program. And some not-literary things like throwing out word vomit for a month. It’s a balancing act. With Viking hats.

If I Don’t Write, What Can I Do About NaNo?
Well, you could donate to my fundraiser. Or you can just send me coffee and sugary goodness to fuel my journey.

If I Do Write, What Can I Do About NaNo?
Go sign up! Join me in the crazy adventure, keep me up to date on your progress, and share the crazy. Then follow along here as I (hopefully), help inspire you with some prep ideas and other moments of insanity. Or, you know, just share insanity. We love company.

So who’s with me? Let’s storm the castle!



The Wicked Witch of Whatever

Cover Reveal: The Wicked Witch of Whatever AND New Contest!

The Wicked Witch of WhateverYes, it’s that time. Another cover has reared its not-so-ugly head and is ready to be revealed to the world. I give you The Wicked Witch of Whatever.

This YA paranormal/ urban fantasy (still trying to figure out that exact niche) is set at Cawdor High School for the (Magical) Arts. I don’t have a blurb yet. Are you nuts? I’m still rewriting. What if I rewrite something that gives me the perfect blurb? All you need to know is that Macbeth meets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead meets me. And maybe a heavy dose of teen pop culture thrown in for seasoning.

The Wicked Witch of Whatever is slated to be released on Halloween, which is my favorite holiday of the year. When else can I get away with dressing like one of my own characters without someone questioning my sanity?

In honor of its release, I’m throwing a little picture party. Dress up like your favorite INDIE character for Halloween, snap a photo, and send it to me. Seven lucky winners will win an ebook copy of The Wicked Witch of Whatever. Three lucky winners will get to have a character named after them in an upcoming book. One really lucky winner will get a copy of the paperback.

Where should you send it? I’m so many places:

  • Comment here (that’s in case you got lost along the way)
  • Comment on my page on Facebook
  • Post it on Twitter and tag me: @Zanzibar7Writer
  • Put it up on your Instagram and either inbox it to me or tag me. I’m still new to Instagram, so I’m assuming it can be done. (@Zanzibar7Writer)
  • If you’re feeling really shy, email it to me directly at

The fine print (but I’ll keep it large enough to read because I’m nice like that):

  • Contest is open from now until November 7, 2016
  • Since I haven’t read every indie book out there, please identify the character, book, and author for your costume
  • Yeah, it does have to be an indie book character. Sorry. Must uphold some standards.
  • Kissing up and using one of my characters won’t improve your chances, but I might like you better.
  • Winners will be announced via all platforms on November 11th. It’s NaNo month. I may be a little busy.

Any questions?

Where’s Zanzibar? (Tricky Graphic Not Included),


My dear readers, my deepest apologies for leaving you high and dry without any blog entries for a while. I’ve taken this “become a Real Person” thing to an extreme and have not only been working a regular “day job to pay the bills”, but have also encountered Illness and Surprise Events. While such things are very useful for content of writing, they are less useful for the practice of writing. Or for blogging, Twittering (er, tweeting) or Facebooking.

Mea culpa.

I have been incredibly busy in the background, though. The Annals of Bobian did well in the Indie Summer Book Awards, although it was edged out at the end by someone who probably has a Real Life already and is better adjusted to it. Alright, it was edged out of the top five. It was still an honor to be nominated and I will be part of an event tomorrow (9/16) for authors who were nominated. Come visit me here at 6pm Pacific Time!

Many of you may know that I started out in NaNoWriMo. After all, I was a product of NaNo and my Figments books are, to one degree or another, largely about the NaNo process. I was further honored to be asked to write an article on how to write the absurd for the NaNoWriMo blog. It was apparently a hit and made their “NaNo 3” list. You can see it here, in case you missed it.

Finally, I’m very hard at work on the rewrites for The Wicked Witch of Whatever and will be doing a cover reveal next week. I’m quite thrilled with how readable this is turning out to be. At least, I think it’s readable. I could currently be on a Writer’s High. The “it sucks and I should just become a peat moss salesman” period is, undoubtedly, coming.

Thank you for sticking with me. I look forward to being better about blogging again as soon as I get down this Life thing.

How do you deal with a Real Life job and writing?




My Words Are on Vacation

Chess Board - TwitterI have no words.

I have a theory that the more real I become, the harder words become to find. How do normal people write? How unreal do you have to be for words to flow like sunshine down the side of an ice floe?

I’m not sure, but I think this reality thing is way overrated.

I got a day job. It was part of an experiment to see if I could become Real. The day job, however, has now consumed my life and, in effect, become my reality. This is no way to be real. I come home too tired to write and my creativity is sucked down a drain with dirty dishwater.

And I have no words.

Sometimes I still think clever thoughts. I still have a moment when I ignore the pressing in of the “must do” list and just bask in the warmth of a moment of clarity and vision. Then an alarm beeps or a break ends and the moment runs away, as flighty as a skittish deer in a forest.

And it takes my words.

How do I set aside a space for this side of me, for the me that is fragile and nebulous and vital and so much more real than reality itself? How do I protect it from bone-numbing weariness and apathy? How do I not just binge-watch hours of television and comment on every item on social media because it’s easier?

And find my words?

I don’t have the answer yet but, because I am awesomesauce in Figment form, I will have an answer. I will even share my answer with you.

I just need words.

Maybe tomorrow. Today, an alarm is going off and it’s time to play dwarf (I choose to be Happy, even though I feel like Grumpy or Sleepy) and hi-ho off to the mines. Maybe I’ll find a jewel while I work.

Maybe I’ll find words.

Your Life Main Character,,


We’ve all heard the saying (if you haven’t, lie to me; I don’t mind): be the main character in your story. I think maybe it’s brought us a profound sense of deserving to be the main character… and has also led us to believe that being anything but the main character is somehow less.

I’ve decided I’m not the main character in my story. Why would I want to be, anyway? Some of my very favorite characters of all time were not main characters: Sam Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, Catwoman from Batman,

So why the fight to be the main character?

Maybe it’s because the current societal mindset is one of entitlement. You are entitled to be rich! famous! happy! blahblahblah!

We’re not entitled to anything.

I watched the movie Joy this weekend (largely because I wanted to watch the lovely J-Law; don’t judge). One quote stood out to me:

Don’t ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. The world doesn’t owe you a thing.
– Joy

This rang so true to me that I’ve been holding onto it for days now. The world doesn’t owe me anything. It doesn’t owe me wealth. If I want money, I need to go out and work for it. Different people will have different kinds of work, but, still, I shouldn’t go around expecting to win the lottery. Not that Figments can, because we aren’t human, but I digress.

I shouldn’t go around expecting I have the right to fame (or infamy). I have to work at connections and, because I’m a bit of an introverted Figment on occasion, I have to step outside my comfort zone if I want it. Reality TV (which is really just books that were rejected for a ludicrous plot) has taught us we deserve our fifteen minutes of fame. If I earn any fame at all, I want to have earned it.

Thomas Jefferson said:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

Read that last part carefully. We’re not entitled to happiness. We’re entitled to the pursuit of it. We’re not even entitled to good health, merely life. We are entitled to live, be free to make our mistakes, and do our best to carve out a little bit of happiness with what we’ve been granted.

And that’s all.

We’re not entitled to be the main character.

This does tie into writing. I never go into a book discussion planning to talk about my own books. Yes, this means that I miss a chance for my elevator pitch, but why would I pitch my own book when there are others out there that I enjoy reading?

It’s counter-intuitive, but I really hope there’s someone out there who will pitch my books, because I’m too busy being a supporting character in someone else’s story to worry about starring in mine. People like R.R. Virdi, who wrote Grave Beginnings and Grave Measures and has simply blown me away with his talent. People like Jeffrey Cook and Lee French, who are on a road trip right now, selling books all over the United States… and whose books deserve to be all over the United States. People like Renee Jean, who spends more of her time promoting others and working on anthologies for charity than she does pushing her own books.

I want to be their Sam Gamgee… but maybe with less hairy feet.

How about you?