NaNo 2014 Update – heading toward the finish line

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It’s been an interesting three weeks, and lots of words written. As of yesterday, the 20th day, I was homing in on the 39,000 word mark and feeling darn good about it. One day I even cranked out five words short of 4000 words. Amazing! But my average has been around 2000/day, which has put me about five days ahead of the target schedule.

I’ve also learned some new tricks to “keep” in mind.

Keep a Chapter Diary

This has been a big twitter hit, having been retweeted lots of times. It’s saved me trying to find the right place in a rather long manuscript and will also serve to help any restructuring I’ll need to do later. In a separate document called a Chapter Diary, each time I start a new chapter or a new scene, I record the main action in the scene, the characters involved, bits of relevant location, and any questions that arise. Sometimes I’ll bold the words to pop out for my attention when I go back to it later.

Keep a list of characters, places and cars

I’ve pretty much always done this, but in this case, it’s critical. As I’m writing, new people and places associated with them or plot points appear out of nowhere, like the student librarian and ‘geekgirl’ in yesterday’s scene. They may have no place in the story later, but if I’m in search of a possible expansion or need a foil, why not? They get names, if it’s natural for the character to interact with them that way. I have a feeling Nance and Clair will appear again in some fashion.

The places and cars things are useful for when they come up again, too. Nothing worse that Aunt Maude driving a tripped up Corvette in one scene then struggling around in her clapped out Cortina later in the book. If your mind is like mine, this set of notes is invaluable. I refer to this list of people and places a lot, especially for last names, spellings, and appearance. Same with places. I’m trying to keep the street references manageable, but I’m still recording them on the list, as well as the locations like buildings and stores that the characters frequent: workplaces, restaurants, etc.

Keep a list of emerging questions

Since I’m a pantser, writing without a net, the story emerges as the characters experience it. Sometimes their actions pose questions that will need to be answered at some point to satisfy the reader. They can also lead to interesting story twists. In the case of this story, I’m still not sure whose blood was found in the house that I didn’t know that Shawna was going to find on the cat’s paws. So I left it hanging in the story and wrote myself a note in my Chapter Diary (see above) that this needs to be used somehow. The crime scene folks need to tell the detectives who will need to tell the person whose house was vandalised.

Keep a copy of the Manuscript and Chapter Diary somewhere other than your main drive – e.g. Offsite.

Last year I emailed a copy of my work to a friend each time I added to it. This time I’m only saving an extra copy in a cloud storage (and obviously in local backup which I do occasionally). If my computer dies before the end of the month, I’ll be able to retrieve the files and keep going until things are repaired or replaced.

Seriously, “write what you know” means something different than on the surface

I was a bit stuck yesterday, so I incorporated something that I was actually doing at the time – updating my laptop operating system. I could easily put in a real description of the process as if the character was doing the same thing I was, including a bit of frustration. It adds reality to the story and provides something that readers can relate to, making the character more believable.

“Write what you know” is often taken to mean “don’t take chances”. I disagree. I think writing is all about taking chances, but being confident enough to convince your reader that you know what you’re talking about. When in doubt: research. Which is what I did when I needed to know what sort of sedative would be given to a patient going hysterical in a hospital setting. I’ve never been hysterical in a hospital or received a sedative, so I had to go find out the answer. It was necessary for the story. So now I know the answer.

And now, I must get on with the 2000 words for today. The Finish Line beckons!

Nano Update = Week 1

Pacing, it’s all about the pacing.

Day six and I’m feeling pretty good, averaging 2000 words/day, full of surprises of plot twists and turns.

Yes, I had notes and ideas to work from, but even so, right out of the gate on day one, these characters took off on a ride of their own. An attack on Vanessa in the parking lot? Really? What am I supposed to do with that? This book is supposed to be about Shawna.

Besides pacing, it’s also all about the words. Today I crossed the 12,000 mark, which feels pretty good. Yesterday, I thought I wasn’t going to hit the target. Surprise, I did. Today, I had the same sensation, but two hours later, I’d made it. Not sure how good the plot lines are, or if I’m filling in enough of the character background from book 1 without being unnecessarily repetitive, but it’s words on the screen and in the file. Today, I even stayed in one character’s point of view. Usually, I have to shift at least once to get enough juice. Today was all Shawna. Poor thing has had a few shockers already. Today was about Harley and Randy’s baby.

Tomorrow, I’ll shift to Alan, trying to figure out what went wrong – again. Is he really cut out for the dating life? Is he right to pursue a classmate? An older classmate at that?

Question about pacing again: If the writer feels the pacing is right in the creation, does that transfer to the reader? Or are they different things? I don’t have a clue. Feel free to leave a comment. Maybe you have clue.

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow

Some of you know I’m a pantser (write by the seat of your pants – very little to no planning – ‘free writing’). I’m in a slightly different head space with my Nano project this time.

Last year I decided on October 31 to have a go. No idea what I was going to write. Sat down at the keyboard and let her rip. Ended up with the book, On A Life’s Edge.

This year, I’m writing a sequel. Also I’m itching to get started. Guess what: I’ve sort of done a plan to fill in the time before Saturday. I say ‘sort of’ because I have
- chosen a set of characters from book 1,
- decided who the MC (Shawna), nemesis and hero are,
- jotted a few scenes that I can throw in
- gone back to book 1 to figure out how old the kids are now, what their development stages are, birthdays (important milestones for children)
- thought about what the existing and new locations will be,
- jotted down how the characters from book 1 will change in the sequel, and
- considered which loose ends from book 1 the readers may have questions about that can be answered in this one.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written a sequel and my memory isn’t exactly as sharp as it used to be. For example, I spent time searching book 1 to be sure of hair colours for characters. That’s something I hadn’t recorded when writing book 1. Note to self: keep more character notes when writing any characters/location the first time.

Anyone else finding their writing approach different this time? Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you approach a project differently if it’s a sequel or part of a series?

Discuss.

Book Review: The Gray and Guilty Sea

The Gray and Guilty Sea: An Oregon Coast Mystery (Garrison Gage, #1)The Gray and Guilty Sea: An Oregon Coast Mystery by Scott William Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this. Garrison Gage, former NY private investigator, finds himself caught up in a mystery around a dead girl washed up on the beach near his house. The town is full of interesting seedy suspicious characters to choose from. The police chief isn’t sure there has been a murder. Gage is.

This is the first in a series. I look forward to reading the next.

View all my reviews

Recording with a basic Kogan PVR model KGNFSTBVAA

I have a ‘new’ old Kogan PVR from a friend because my Supernet recorder ‘broke’ again. This Kogan one is a model KGNFSTBVAA – which presumably stands for Kogan F? Set-Top Box (VAA??). It requires an external memory device such as a memory stick or external harddrive. It is a single HD tuner, so nothing flash on this inexpensive model.

The manual leaves a lot to be desired. It is available from the some old Manuals websites if you look around.

The reason for this post is that I searched for over an hour on the internet to find out why I couldn’t record using the timer. To save others some grief, I thought I’d put up the solution, which was simple once I realised it was there.

- Timer Service. There is a selection of Channel or Record. Change to record. Otherwise, the system just turns itself on and you can watch the broadcast. The Channel option is handy if you’re watching something to fill in time and just want to switch to a program you really want to watch. NOT so good for recording.

So the steps are:

  1. EPG
  2. Pick the channel where the program will appear
  3. Arrow through until you find the program on the listings
  4. Press the green button to open the timer
  5. choose if this is once or daily with the arrows
  6. **set the timer service to RECORD**
  7. If your stations tend to run over the appointed times, adjust the start/end time for the recording so you don’t miss the ending (happens to me ALL the time)
  8. Save

I am recording my first timed session right now on an 8Gb memory stick. I want to find out how much data space 1 hour of recording takes up before I go buy any more memory.

Hope this does others some good if you get a ‘hand me down’ gadget. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward using the manual for set-up. Even the menus are relatively fine without the manual.

New project – On A Life’s …

It’s nearly time for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – November 2014. I’m chomping at the bit to get started, taking notes, thinking about —– Shawna Charity and what happens next to her after On A Life’s Edge.

[Spoiler alert -- if you haven't read the book, you may want to stop now, go get a copy, read it and come back later.]

Continue reading

Cover of Lost Anchors

Lost Anchors — It’s live on Amazon

It’s here!

Dead or alive? Michael’s missing — in the middle of Melbourne. Julia is hysterical. Michelle just wants Daddy. Can psychiatrist Sadhu Singh and Detective Taylor Franke find him?

Lost Anchors, by JJ KirstenCover of Lost Anchors
(pen name for JL Whitaker, Taran Roberts, and Justus H Lewis PhD)

In Kindle and Print. Samples available.

If you read, please leave a review at your retailer. Tell your friends!

It’s Almost Ready… Lost Anchors, by JJ Kirsten

I’ve spent the past week pulling all the pieces together for Lost Anchors. The cover is done, the proofing is done, and the ISBN is assigned, so there’s no backing out now.

Counting down to the release date. I’m excited!!

Cover of Lost AnchorsOn a drizzly, windy, winter day, Julia Stewart loses someone in the middle of Melbourne – her banker husband, Michael Stewart. Or has she? In a desperate phone call to her long-time counsellor, psychiatrist Dr. Sadhu Singh, Julia pleads for help. When Julia reports her fears to the police, Detective Taylor Franke joins the hunt for the missing Michael.

As far as family friends and Michael’s co-workers know, the relationship has been a relatively happy one, raising daughter Michelle, spending time sailing, planning a trip to visit Michael’s family in Scotland. Of course, there was Julia’s breakdown a few years earlier, as well as Michael’s mysterious ‘men’s business’ meetings upstairs at The Anchor Cafe, his long unexplained mid-week lunches, and the stash of unlikely garments locked in his office file cabinet. Could he have run off with Michelle’s trust account? Did he have a lover? What about the refuelled family boat in the harbour? No one in their circle has seen him for a week. That doesn’t match Julia’s fuzzy stories – at all.

Over the course of the next five days, Dr. Singh and Detective Franke work to answer the question Julia needs them to answer: Where’s Michael? What they eventually find, they could not have imagined.

Next book coming soon — Lost Anchors

Lost Anchors

by JJ Kirsten

NOAA Ocean Explorer: NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer: Gulf of Mexico

(Coming soon)

I’ve been putting the final touches on a new book, and I’m excited for a number of reasons. I hope you will be, too.

Lost Anchors is a mystery, but not your normal run of the mill mystery where someone is killed at the outset and the rest of the time police run around accusing people of being the culprit only to find it was the second person they interviewed who really knocked the guy off. I’m sure we’ve all played that game, taking bets on who in the first few scenes ‘did it’.

Lost Anchors is a missing person mystery. Our central character, Julia Stewart, has mislaid her husband in the middle of Melbourne Australia, a city of over three and a half million people, on a winter Friday afternoon. Julia is distraught and turns to her friend and psychiatrist, Dr. Sadhu Singh, to help her cope and to find the missing Michael. Then there’s Detective Taylor Franke, a crusty middle-aged divorced copper, who knew Julia from an earlier time, when her parents were killed in a train crossing accident. Franke gets drawn into Julia’s current problems and sets off to find out what has happened to Mr. Stewart, while Dr. Singh tries to keep Julia from diving off the deep end. Has he scarpered on the family yacht with his dominatrix? Is he really a dodgy investment banker who is stealing from his clients? Or is there something darker in this couple’s past that has come to a head?

I’ve enjoyed working on this project, in its beginning stages and now in preparing it to see the light of day. Here’s why.

This book was a co-writing project with two other extraordinary women – Taran Roberts and Dr. Justus Lewis, hence the pen name, JJ Kirsten. Continue reading