Did you participate in the National Novel Writing Month
(NaNoWriMo)? For those of you who are not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo, or as it
is sometimes affectionately referred to: NaNo, is the annual event for writers
everywhere to band together for the month of November and crank out 50,000
For most of us, writing output at that level requires intense
amounts of sacrifice for anything non-writing related. This list of neglected
items could include cooking, laundry, dishes, TV, exercise and even sleep. No
task is too small nor too big to go on the do-it-after-NaNo-list.
For my first NaNo in 2012, I aspired to write like the girl on
the right, surrounded by nutritious, low-calorie fruits and snacks, but I ended
up with something closer to the girl on the left. The NaNo advice gods preached
take-out food and microwavable meals to make it through the month. Another NaNo
guru advocated enlisting the help of family members to take over meal
preparation. Since the only family member in the Siefert apartment other than
myself is Hoppy, my miniature pincher, I interpreted NaNo as the green light I
needed to indulge my every fast food, pizza ordering and take-out desire I had.
The end result was reminiscent of the dreaded Freshman 15. To
be clear, I didn’t gain the entire 15 pounds in one month but over the course
of both November and December. December brought great feelings of pride and
accomplishment from winning NaNoWriMo the month prior so I decided to keep the
party going with more of the same: lots of sitting around with my laptop, tons
of rich, can’t-put-it-down food and little to no sleep. Not only did I feel
productive and prolific, I had the word count to prove it. Unfortunately, I
also had the extra weight, unbuttonable pants and double chin to show for it.
It took me over a year to take off what only took two months
to put on. This is pretty typical of weight gain/loss. If you remember the guy
from Super Size Me who gained 20 pounds from eating McDonald’s every day for an
entire month, he also had to work for over a year to take off the weight. And
that was with the help of his vegan, yoga-loving girlfriend to guide him. It
If you too
suffer from the NaNo 15, the NaNo 5 or some positive numbered derivation
thereof, here are some tips to take it off:
1. Get 8 hours of sleep – Lack of
sleep increases your cortisol levels, thereby increasing your appetite and
encouraging your body to retain fat.
2. Surround your writing area with
only fruits + veggies – They pack a lot of nutrients, live enzymes and fiber
creating a fuller feeling of satisfaction and take up space that would
otherwise have been used for chips, crackers or cookies. And “I can’t stop
eating this raw broccoli,” said no one, ever.
3. Invest in access to fun cardio classes – This could be a
gym membership, subscription to streaming fitness videos like the Daily Burn, a
set of Beachbody DVDs or a fitness app on your phone. Make it easy and make it
something you’ll enjoy.
I still love the idea of NaNo but now I’m a reformed NaNo
Rebel. Yes, there’s actually a section in the NaNo forums dedicated to those
who don said moniker. My new mantra is pretty simple: Fitness first, words
second. If I don’t have time to workout and eat right, then I don’t have time
I’m not as prolific as I was before but I’m also much happier
and healthier. For more fitness based
tips for writers, go to www.fitandwordygirl.com.♥
You may not be familiar with
the term “modal verb” but we use them every day. In fact, I’ve just used one in
the prior sentence.
Modal verbs are auxiliary
(“helper”) verbs used to modify the main verb in a sentence, and to express
modalities such as obligation, ability, permission and possibility. Though not
an exhaustive list, here are a few common examples:
Can– ability – “I can write grammatically correct
May– permission or possibility – “May I please have
another piece of pie?” “He may be able to help you with that.”
Must– obligation – “You must complete the form in order to
receive a refund.”
Should– obligation or advice – “One should
always be polite when asking a favor.” “You really should read this novel; I
think you’ll like it.”
Would– request – “Would you please wait in
line until you are called?”
Modals are not conjugated the
way primary verbs are. For example, you don’t add an “s” in the third person
singular. “They run; he runs,” but not “They can; he cans.”
Words such as “would” can also
be used conditionally, such as in the following example.
“Would you please pass the
salt?” The implied condition to passing the salt is that the passer is willing
to oblige. People often say, “Can you pass the salt?” to convey the same idea,
but “you can” literally means “you are able to.” Of course, I am able to pass
the salt but perhaps I don’t wish to. If you are asking for a favor, even a
small one such as passing a condiment, “would” is more polite than “can.” You
don’t want to imply that the favor will be granted, only that you would like it
Similarly, one should not
substitute “can” for “may” when asking permission. “Can I borrow that book when
you are finished reading it?” Well, of course, you are able to borrow it, but
that doesn’t mean I’m going to lend it to you. It is much nicer (and more
accurate) to say, “May I borrow that book?”
E-mails, text messages, tweets
and other abbreviated forms of communication are notorious for misstatements of
this kind. Therefore, please be so kind as to take a few extra seconds to write
“may” or “would,” and help make the cyber world, as well as the material one, a
more courteous place. ♥
Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes
historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor's degree in English, and
speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.
first historical romance, I wrote the manuscript using Word and stored most of
my research in a manila folder. Whenever I needed to find a quick fact – for
example, a drawing of a dress my heroine might wear to a ball – I had to
rummage through a fairly large stack of papers. More often than not I’d get
sidetracked and lose my train of thought (not difficult to do!).
So when an
author friend mentioned that the writing software Scrivener was on sale just as
I was formulating the plot of my second historical, Stages of Desire, I
figured I’d check it out.
Now, I am
no techno-whiz, and the thought of learning a new program was daunting. But I’d
read so many writers and journalists rave online about Scrivener, I figured
there was something to it. Two years and two books later, the benefits far
outweigh any reservations I might have had.
Scrivener, each book is saved as a “project.” On the left hand side of the
screen is a list of icons you’ve created for that project. Some are chapters or
scenes, others might be folders called “Research,” “Characters” or “Locations,”
where you can store Word docs, templates, photos, or whatever else you might
need. To the right of that is a split screen.
I type my
latest scene on the top screen. When I need to find a photo of a castle that I
wanted to use as a place setting, or I can’t recall a minor character’s name, I
simply click on the bottom screen, then on the pertinent folder or document.
Shazam: the photo or my list of characters is right in front of me. No
rummaging, no searching, instant answers.
websites can be saved in folders. My hero in Stages of Desire is working
on a cure for malaria during the course of the book, and whenever I needed to
check out the “history of malaria” website for a quick fact, I could access it
without switching to a web browser and covering up the page I was working on.
When the manuscript is ready to be sent out, hit the “Compile” command
and it pops up as a Word doc on your desktop, formatted exactly how you like
it. I followed the tutorial when I first got it (which has a witty, fun tone to
it), and then played around until I felt comfortable.
nothing is perfect, and Scrivener does have its quirks. The spell check feature
isn’t as good as Word at catching minor typos like double spaces, so I always
check again after it’s been compiled into a Word doc. The upside? I can write
fast and accurately and editing is a breeze, with easy access to every scene
and chapter without having to scroll through a long Word document.
your writing to the next level and check out Scrivener. You can try it free for
30 days before committing. More info at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php. Happy writing!♥
Fiona Kirk writes historical
fiction under the pen name Julia Tagan. A journalist by training, she enjoys
weaving actual events and notorious individuals into her historical romances.
Her Regency romance, STAGES OF DESIRE, released January 5. For more info, visit
www.juliatagan.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/julia.taganand Twitter @juliatagan.
I have about two different lengths I write at: 3,000 words and 70,000 words.
While my co-author and I have sold pieces at both of those lengths, we’ve
learned quickly that being able to produce stories at a lot of other lengths is
also valuable, not just in terms of creating material to submit to publishers
but in terms of creating stories that can act as a gateway into our other work.
ways, at 12,000 words Evergreen is
the story my co-author and I never meant to write. It’s set between the first
and second books in our LGBT romance series, and it focuses on the relationship
between secondary and tertiary characters. It’s also not a length that’s
natural for us as writers.
of how Evergreen will
ultimately succeed for us has to do with writing at that length we hadn’t
previously explored. With 12,000 words we found enough room to show character
and conflict in a way that hopefully makes readers want to know more, while
also giving them a very clear HEA.
learning to write at different lengths has come from two things: My background
in journalism and my love of television. Journalism teaches me that there’s
always a simpler way to say something if I need to save a few words or
sentences. Television teaches me that story structure varies by show length. In
the U.S., a half-hour network comedy is 22 minutes when you account for
commercials. A cable comedy without commercials will often run a little longer.
A 27-minute show without a commercial break has a very different structure than
a 22-minute show with several. These stylistic differences become even more
pronounced when you look at hour-long and movie-length programming.
To write a
shorter mid-series story that would also stand alone, Erin and I quickly
realized we’d have to write a “monster of the week” episode designed to fall
between season 1 (that is, book 1) and season 2 (book 2, which is out in
January) of our series. Once we understood the story’s function and structure
in terms of the television we’d been watching our whole lives, it became much
easier to figure out what needed to be told and how. It also became easier to
understand what pieces of the story we’d have to hold back for another
For writers who want to branch out from their natural storytelling
lengths, there is no quick answer. Like anything in writing, sometimes you just
have to hammer at it until it works. But the mental exercise of imagining your
stories (and other people’s) in different formats helps build the muscles that
can have you writing -- and selling -- at different lengths.♥
Racheline Maltese co-writes
the Love in Los Angeles LGBT romance series with Erin McRae. Set in the film
and television industry, the books Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves
(January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015)) are available from Torquere
Press. Their May/December "gay for you" novella Midsummer will be
released Summer 2015 by Dreamspinner Press. You can also find their work in
Best Gay Romance 2015 edited by Felice Picano and published by Cleis Press.