Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Achieving Your Goals

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So, now that you’ve set your goals… you did set your goals, right? Back in this post, I walked you through how to set goals. Hopefully you did your homework, because I’m going to blather on about how to achieve them.

For those who are wondering how I’m qualified to talk on goal-setting and achieving, I read a lot of books. I’m a Figment; we don’t need to eat or sleep much, so I read. I also set a really daunting goal with my last book and achieved it. So… mostly qualified.

My guidance for this section about goal-setting is from Goals! by Brian Tracy. He believes there are twelve steps to set and achieve any goal. Our goal is to publish our NaNo book. Let’s walk through it:

  1. Desire. I know a lot of people say “I want to win at NaNo this year”, but then fail. I’ve failed. Why? Most likely it wasn’t the thing we wanted most. (Occasionally outside stuff interferes, but that still means that outside stuff is what you want most). There’s nothing wrong with wanting other things more; you just have to be aware of it so you can work around it. Priorities. If you want to publish a NaNoWriMo book, nothing is going to stop you (but it might slow you down– and that’s okay).
  2. Belief. If you don’t believe you’re going to publish your book, chances are pretty good you won’t. This is a hard one for Writers and other Artists because we run on self-doubt. You don’t have to beat that to believe you’ll publish. You just have to believe in the next step. Then the next. And so on.
  3. Write it. You should know the power of words. You’re a Writer. Writing down your goal and posting it somewhere prominent will make it more real, more concrete. Keep that goal constantly in front of you.
  4. Starting point. You have to figure where you are coming from. Some of those who do NaNoWriMo have been writing for decades; for some, it’s the first time they’ve really tried to write. Starting points are going to be different for everyone. If you write all the time, then you may just need a quick idea or outline. You’re set. If you haven’t written much, you might need a refresher course in writing, a critique group, extra time, and a Frequent Sipper card from your nearest overpriced coffee chain. Be honest with this step; no one is there to judge you except yourself. You can’t reach your goal if you start at the wrong place.
  5. Motivation. You have to know why you want this. Another thing about NaNo is that it attracts all different sorts of motivations. Some are doing it for bragging rights. Some do it as a bucket list item. Some want to improve as a Writer. Some already are Writers and this helps them crank out the next book. Why are you doing it?
  6. Deadline. You need to set a deadline. Actually, in this case, the deadline has been set for you (thank you, NaNo Royalty). November 30th, come Conductor or high water, you must finish. However, if you want to publish, you’ll need a second deadline. (Really, you’ll need a series of deadlines, but that might be another post.)
  7. Obstacles. Everyone has ’em. Mine is a crazed Conductor chasing me everywhere and messing with my Writer Mojo. Yours may be Work, Lyphe, Family… figure out your obstacles now. Then plan how to overcome them. In The Martian, Mark Watney and NASA often have contingency plans for their contingency plans. You don’t have to be that extreme, but at least have some options. If you get behind, are you going to try to extend your word count every day or catch up in one heroic marathon session? Are you going to start ahead, writing 2000 words per day, so you don’t have to stress over a bad day? Are you planning to skip National Kill Ben Franklin’s Favorite Bird Day (if you’re in the United States) just so you can write?
  8. Skillz. Okay, skills. Spoilsport. What skills or information do you need before you start on this noble goal? It’s getting a little late for taking a writing class before November, but maybe you can do a quick brush-up course. You can start researching publishing avenues. You can make notes on Time Management. I won’t tell the Rabbit you want his job. Maybe you just need information, like how many jurors it takes to push a train off the tracks. Figure out what you need before you start and you’ll go further without mishap.
  9. People. Everyone needs a support center. I have a small, clandestine Writing group in Figmentland. We’re all outlaws, so we rarely meet in public, but we know we’re there for each other. You may have an in-person Writing group or an online group. Either way, get involved. Make some personal connections and find people who will hold you accountable. Some of those people may not even be Writers.
  10. Plan. Now it’s time to put it all together. You have a starting point: starting a book. You have a finishing point: finishing a book (or, for some of us, publishing a book). Now, even you Pantsers, take a moment to plan. Put down the big direction changes. Writing: November 1-30. Goofing off: December 1-31. Editing and Revision: January 1-31. Beta Readers: February 1-28… to March 31. Revision 2: April 1-30.  Editor: May 1-30. Formatting: June 1-30. Publication: July 1.  (Really broad strokes there, but you get the idea.)
  11. Visualize. Remember when we wrote down our Goal? Wait. You didn’t write it down? GO WRITE IT DOWN NOW. Put that goal where you will see it all the time. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Post it next to your bed. Scrawl it on your refrigerator. In fact, put it in all three places. See your goal constantly.
  12. Persevere. Never give up. Ever. Ever. If you “fail” at NaNo this year, keep writing all year. Make it a habit. Next year it will be easier. If you finish NaNo, but never finish the novel, you’re one step closer. Keep taking the next step until you get there and eventually you will be there. The only way you truly fail is if you quit.

Now, go do your homework. The next time I’ll be talking about Writer Platforms. It’s not just a train station.

Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Setting Your Goals

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We’ve been talking about prepping for NaNoWriMo as if you’re going to publish. Okay, I’ve been prepping. The rest of you have been letting the crickets do the talking, which is really awkward, because they never want to be quiet when I’m trying to concentrate. Hopefully you’re still doing the homework. Let’s talk about setting goals and taking names. Mostly goals. You can take names if you want.

Stop for a moment and pretend you have your perfect dream Writer world. Where are you in five years? How many books do you have out? What are you known for?

Unless you have a vision for where you want this writing thing to take you, you probably should still with writing for fun.

Ooh, sorry. Was that harsh? I’ve been told I can be harsh and I’m trying to change that. But, really, if you don’t have a vision, you at least need a guide dog. Let me be your… wait, no. Scratch that. I’ll guide you. No dogs.

I read a lot of books. It’s fun for me, because I can go in and mess with the Figments or Characters, but sometimes I learn things. I read Goals by Brian Tracy and learned a few things about setting goals.

First, keys to goal setting are SMART (+2… no clever acronym for the last two):

  1. Be specific and detailed (S)
  2. Make them measurable (M)
  3. Be amazing (A)
  4. Be realistic (R)
  5. Be time-limited (T)
  6. Be balanced with the rest of your life
  7. Write it down!

First, be specific and detailed. “I’m going to write five books in the next five years.” Great. Are you writing five children’s books? Five non-fiction? Five laundry lists? For me, it’s “I’m going to write a Figments trilogy in the next five years and start a second trilogy.” I have titles for the first three books and a vague idea of the fourth. The fifth is eluding me; I think the Conductor stole it. Still, it’s pretty specific and detailed. You probably want to be even more detailed before you’re done, but this is a starting point.

Second, make them measurable. The very best goals are broken down into steps.  “I want to have book 2 published by April 2016. To do this, I need to write book 2 by December 2015. I need to edit it by the end of January 2016. I need beta Readers by the end of February 2016. When the beta Readers all run away in terror, I’ll need new beta Readers by…” well, you get the idea. Be able to measure your progress along the way.

Third, reach for the stars with your dreams.  It’s better to reach high and fall a little short than it is to reach short and never get anywhere at all.  If you think you can write one book in a year, dream a little bigger and say you’ll have fifty sales in a year.  That does lead to…

Fourth, keep them realistic. Fifty sales in a year is doable if your book is good, you catch the right audience, and you practice some good marketing techniques. (Don’t ask me about those. I’m just here to pump up your dreams.) Saying you want two million sales in the first year… maybe not so much.

Fifth, be time-limited.  In other words, set deadlines for reaching your goals. If you’re ambitious, set a deadline, then add half-again as much time. If you’re a little more cautious, take one-third of the time off your goal. Either way, don’t set a goal without setting a deadline.

Sixth, balance your goals with the rest of your life. I don’t have a life, so I don’t have to do this much (except for hiding from the Conductor), but most human Writers do. Think about family, job, school, finances, health, community and spiritual aspects before your make a crazy commitment. Don’t give up on your dreams; just make sure they work with the things that fuels your reality.

Finally, write your goals down. Lots of people have lofty goals. I have one goal about flying to the top of a mountaintop and yodeling until an avalanche buries six people. Only six. I’m a Writer. We kill things.  Anyway, I don’t write that goal down, so I forget about it sometimes. In fact, if you want to forget about it, that’s perfectly okay. But if you want to remember a goal, write it down and post it somewhere where you’ll see it often.

So, let’s just talk NaNoWriMo. You want to write a novel. No. You want to write 50,000 words. That’s both specific and measurable. You want to write it all in the 30 days in November. That’s time-limited. If you’ve done NaNo before, maybe you want to write more than this and challenge yourself (be amazing); if you haven’t done NaNo before, shoot for the 50k (realistic). Now, balance that goal with the rest of your life. Don’t quit your job, abandon your family, ruin your health, or kill your finances just to get to the 50k. Make plans to fit those other things into your life.

NOW WRITE IT ALL DOWN.  That’s right. If you don’t want to do your own, there is an official NaNoWriMo one on the website.  Just put your goals in writing.  Now post that puppy where you’ll see it daily. Not a real puppy. Your paper. Puppies are better suited for petting and loving.

Aaaaand you’re set. You have a GOAL. Wait. I have a goal. You need to go set yours.

Let me know how it goes.

Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Saving All the Bits

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I’ve heard it a million times: “I have this great idea. I can’t wait until it’s time to write.”

“Did you write it down somewhere?”

“Oh, no. I’ll remember this. It’s good.”

Two days later… “I forgot what it was!”

I have read that the great Stephanos Reyes (known in your world as Stephen King) does not write down his ideas. If they’re good enough, he’ll remember them when it’s time. While I respect his creative genius and his productivity, most of us need to write things down to remember them. Also, if you’re new to this, having little notes to jar your memory may be what gets you to two thousand words that day instead of petering out at fifty.

When I wrote Veneri Verbum, I had little notes on everything everywhere. Okay, my notes were sometimes actual Figments I created, but we’ll work with your world. When you get a great idea, write it down. When you sit to write, put all your great ideas next to you. If you get stuck, pull one of the great ideas. If you have a lot of them, pick the one that works best. If you only have one, toss that baby in there and see what it grows up into.

If you are trying to write two thousand words a day (two hours of work each day or more), you do not want to get stuck staring at a blank screen and drooling on your keyboard. There are enough other reasons to get a Writer into therapy.

Your homework today even if you’re a Pantser is to brainstorm a list of ideas. Don’t write. Don’t plot. Just idea. Give yourself a reserve to pull from in November.


Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Fleshing Out the Characters

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She lay there, a formless mass of bones, muscles, and blood, not yet a real Character. It was his job, as a Writer, to flesh her out. Adding some flesh to cover up the gore would be a good start.

It can be tricky business making the Figments from your imagination into real, flesh-and-blood Characters. There are a lot of ways to go about it, too. I recommend picking one to keep your Characters straight unless you want  to end up with  Tweedledee-Tweedledum confusion.

Pantsing It– Completely

If you think your memory is good enough, just put your Character out there and wing it. No notes. No planning. Don’t blame me if she turns out like Chris in Veneri Verbum and never quite solidifies into a solid Character. Also don’t blame me if she’s homicidal. It’s a lot of stress when you don’t have an Id.

Pantsing It– With Style

If you want to pants it, I recommend making notes. Use notecards, Scrivener, sticky notes, or tattoos, but make notes of every important feature about your Characters.  If he has brown hair in chapter one and red hair in chapter three, a Reader will eventually notice.  Don’t forget to add character traits.

Plotting It

You’ll have to pick your own method. Some people spend more time creating their Characters than I spend writing books. Others, including yours truly, borrow from the gaming world and create a Character sheet with the basics. I’ve even rolled a Character before.

However you decide to do it, be willing to alter your pre-planning, because something you planned won’t work out for that particular Character. As Christopher discovered:

“Didn’t I describe you as slender, too?” He was pretty sure she wasn’t a size two. Maybe a size ten.

“You described me as curvy and sexy,” she grumbled… “There’s nothing wrong with a size ten or any other size.”

… “Did I make you a feminist? I don’t think I’d be very comfortable writing a feminist.”

Your Character will inevitably develop some traits you didn’t plan. Run with it. This is what makes them real.

You only have homework this time if you want to plot your characters. If you do, you have a lot of homework. Get to it.

Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: What About Publicity?

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First, a disclaimer: this is not one of my stronger areas.  I’m a Figment. We don’t have social media. We once burned Writers at the stake (and, accidentally, at the steak). I’m so bad at this that I hired a social reality person.  (Which reminds me that I need to fire her and hire someone else, but that’s not part of this post.)

A lot of first-time writers don’t start publicity for their books until after they’ve published. At the very least, they wait until release week and spam everyone with their excitement. Excitement-flavored potted meat is not nearly as tasty if you’re not the one who created it.

You really need to start setting up your social media before you ever start writing. The real trick, you see, is that social media is about connection, not about potted meat. If you start connecting with people before you get excited about your book, they will get excited with you because you have a connection. If you toss it out there before they know you, you’re a telemarketer. Even telemarketers don’t like telemarketers.

Now that you’re caught up on your homework (you are caught up, right?), here’s your next assignment: get your social media in order.  Lucky for you, I have a handy dandy guide.

  1. Figure out your pen name. You will want to use this across social media, so get it right. Even though I’ve considered changing my name to Sniggly Tanbottom Jr. (it’s shorter), I will stick with Zanzibar because this is who my readers know. Play around with it until you’re happy. Try signing a few autographs, too.
  2. Find a picture of yourself that looks good in thumbnail, in profile pictures, and blown up on a page.  Crop that thing down; no one needs to see Aunt Edna getting drunk in the background. What you want to be left with is a picture that encapsulates you. Think of it as your personal blurb/summary. When people see your picture, do you want them to think: he sure takes a lot of selfies or wish I lived by an industrial waste plant- what inspiration!?  I like people to think about bright colors. I’d stick with a facial or upper body shot if you’re not a Figment.
  3. Figure out what your social media type is.
      • Instagram/ Flickr/ Picasa/ Pinterest: You think a picture is worth a thousand words (might want to consider a career change). You take photos all the time and you love to  doctor them up.  Note: this is good for writers revealing book covers, art, maps, etc.
      • LinkedIn: You want someone to hire you to write. If you don’t, I would update your profile to include “Writer” and leave it at that.
      • Meerkat/ Periscope/ Vimeo/ YouTube: You like to use videos to tell your story or you want to vlog. It’s not an area heavily used by writers, so you could get a lot of mileage out of this one if you’re good at it.
      • Facebook/ Google +: Very similar and very different. Facebook is almost a must for a writer, but Google has better groups.  Play around to see which you like better or use both. I’m all for polysociality.
      • Twitter: If you like to be chatty and very in-the-moment in your social media and if you can compress your thoughts to 140 characters or less, this is for you. Strength is its immediacy.
      • Blogging platform of your choice: Here’s a tip- only blog if you’re going to do it regularly. If you only blog once a month, but you always blog once a month, you won’t disappoint your readers as much as someone (like me) who publishes daily for a couple of weeks and then vanishes. Hey, you’d be quiet, too, if The Conductor was in the next room. Do this if you like to “journal” and you have something to say. There’s nothing worse than a writer who can’t blog well. I assume they can’t write well, either. I also judge books by their covers. It’s fun.
      • Email Media: Works best in conjunction with something else, because no one wants you sending them email they didn’t sign up for.
      • Goodreads: Every Writer should be on Goodreads. It links Writers to Readers. Go on there first as a Reader and get active on message boards. (Another reminder to fire my social reality person.) Set up a Writer page. Do giveaways. I cannot stress the love for Goodreads. Really I can’t. It’s in the restraining order.

You can sign up for any or all of the above, but it’s best to keep it down to one or two to start. If you get comfy and feel like sharing the warm fuzzies, move on to the next one.

4. Set up an identical or near-identical profile on every site you use. Create your user profile once and reuse it. Again, this is a “you” blurb. Be consistent.

5. Start using social media regularly. Be active on groups. Make friends. Make connections.

When you get around to  publishing and start to sell potted meat, everyone will like you and they’ll buy, even if they don’t particularly like potted meat.

Plenty of homework here. Don’t come back until you’ve done it. Okay, come back, but lie to me.  It’s your writing career.


Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: Making a Schedule


I’ve been told many of you have lives outside of Writing. Apparently these involve things like Work, Family, and School. I have none of these things, but I’m going to help you plan for November as if I do.

First, the big secret to winning NaNo is to know what you have to do to win. If you have a job and a family, you know that you need to write fast and hard (even if you don’t write erotica). If you have lots of free time, you may need motivation. My trick would be to plot your life the way you plot a book.  (Pantsers, this even means you.)

1. Figure out your life

Find or make yourself a calendar. November starts on a Sunday this year, which is very helpful. Make four weekly calendars (like above) and one with just two days. You have November.

Now, fill in the things you cannot clear off your schedule. Apparently taking a month off to write is frowned upon at most jobs and places of education, so enter those first. Don’t forget commute time. If you’re not a Figment, you have to travel the slow way.

Next, figure out family and social commitments. Missing your mate’s birthday because of NaNo is a bit short-sighted.  You may still want people to talk to you if you don’t become world-famous.

If you’re not a Figment (and I believe I’m the only Figment Writer who does NaNo), put in time for things like eating and sleeping. Even if you are a Figment, don’t forget to include time for overpriced coffee. Writers need caffeine.

Once you have all the must do of life in there, see if you can cut anything out. Can you write during lunch? How about during your commute (only if you use public transportation, please)?  If you’ve blocked in television shows but you don’t have a lot of free time, you do realise most shows can be saved for later, right? This is NaNo. Make some sacrifices for your art.

2. Figure out how much time you need

Well before November, take the time to do some writing sprints. You either need to know how many words you write per sprint (twenty out of thirty minute chunks) or how long it takes you to write 500 words.

Do math.  Sorry; there’s no way around this one. If you average 500 words in 30 minutes or less, I would just round it to 500. If you do 212, round it down (very important).

You need to write 2000 words per day. Trust me on this. None of this namby-pamby 1,667 words. Yes, that will get you to 50,000, but it won’t finish a book. You’ll have bad days and appreciate me pushing you.

Trust me.

Now, more math. If you write 500 words in 30 minutes and you need 2000 words in a day, you need to write for two hours. Doesn’t have to be two hours straight, but you need two hours. If you write 200 words in 30 minutes, you need five hours. (I recommend typing classes.)

Schedule in your writing time around your existing schedule. If you find a day where you can’t write the full 2000 words, do extra on another day.  If you can’t schedule in enough time no matter what you do, then consider that you may be overbooked in your life and get a life coach. Or just ignore your other obligations for a month. Again, I’m not judging.

That’s all there is to it. You have planned your calendar for NaNoWriMo. Congratulations.
Next time, we’ll work on some little hacks to keep other things from interfering with your writing time.
Now go do your homework.


Publishing a NaNoWriMo Book: How to Prepare for November

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Last year I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). No big deal; according to the site, 325,142 other Writers finished a book in 2014.  However, I wrote in November, edited in December, and published in January.

Most of you aren’t Figments. I believe you have to type or handwrite your words, rather than have them appear on the screen when you think them. But if you’re writing a book with the intention of publishing, there’s some NaNo prep you might want to do now that October is officially here.

1) Solidify your idea

Every pantser, gardener, and booper just cried out in pain. “We don’t plan! We run by the seat of our pants!” (Sounds painful, by the way.) If you’re writing just for fun, yes, pants away. (Please don’t take them off. That’s a verb, not a noun.) However, my studies show that the majority of traditionally published novelists plot to one degree or another. (My studies may or may not be other people’s studies that I’m using as an example.)  J.K. Rowling? Plotter.  Tolkein? Plotter. Even Stephen King, who treats plotting like adjectives, does at least get a good concept of his story ahead of time. Since I disagree with him about beautiful, insightful, useful adjectives, I’ll just treat him as an anomaly.

So, to one degree or another, you need a solid idea before you start November. If you’re writing fantasy or historical, you may want a good map. For science fiction, you may want to research the science. For me, it’s getting point A, a random concept and characters, and point Z. Then I make notes of whatever must happen to get me to point Z. It’s not perfect, but it does keep the story rolling. That’s what’s truly important in November: keeping the story rolling.

But, Z, I don’t even have an idea. Yes, you do. Everyone has ideas. Look out your window. If you don’t have a window, politely borrow one (I don’t advocate stealing). Write down the first person you see. It’s dark out my window, so I wrote “shadow”.  From there, I could write something mainstream about a girl with a phobia about shadows or I could write a Figment made up entirely of the shadows of others. More likely to be the latter for me, but I won’t fault you if you go mainstream.

If you’re still really uncertain, go to a site with writing prompts. No, there aren’t any links here. You’re a big Writer now. Learn to use Google. Searching “writing prompts” will likely be the least-triggering thing you’ll search today.

2) Give yourself a timeline

When I wrote Veneri Verbum, I figured out ahead of time how long I needed for hitting each milestone. The entire novel, by the way, had to be written by November 30th, not just 50k. If you want to be published, you need to do the same. Here’s a tip: however long you think anything past first draft stage will take, double it. This will prevent you from having a matching permanent bald spot on one side where you’ve pulled your hair out trying to meet your impossible deadlines. Not that I mind if you want to match with me, but we should at least get t-shirts or something.

My timeline for 2015 goes something like this:

  • October: plot, outline, and research The Big Con
  • November: write The Big Con (I have it broken down a bit more than this)
  • December: pre-edit The Big Con. There are many who will have an issue with this, but I literally forget what I wrote by the next day. I pre-edit early in the month, then I set the book aside for important festivities like the annual Moan About Snow and Wish for Heat Day.
  • January: re-edit The Big Con, which usually involves a rewrite for me. Then find beta readers. Then bribe beta readers with cookies because I didn’t wait for my beta readers when I wrote Veneri Verbum and it shows.
  • February: plot a new book and make more cookies. Wait on beta readers.
  • March: incorporate all changes from beta readers and re-write book again.  Now proofread or get a good Editor. Since Editors are rather evil in my world, I do this step myself, but I advise others to use someone else for their Editor. You may know one who isn’t evil.
  • April: start formatting. This is a necessary step if you are self-publishing. If you’re not, this is where you send off your book to some nebulous Publisher. If Moses could be left safely in a basket by his parents, I won’t judge you for this.
  • May: submit your book to wherever you like (Kindle, Smashwords, Goodreads, Createspace, Lulu). Some people get a proof copy and re-edit. I like to be as surprised by random typoes and color issues as anyone else.

There you have it. I will never again be publishing my book in less than three months; I can only afford to halve my life expectancy once and that was for the first book.

If you want more tips, I feel like making this into a series. Look for the next part eventually. I’m a little iffy on Time; Figment-time doesn’t work the same as people-time. No more than one week. I think I can manage that.

Go. Do your homework now.