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And NaNo which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It starts on November 1st. But what exactly is it? I’ll let the folks over at their About page explain:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

A great way to kick start the inner author and put the inner editor on ice, at least for a month. Depending on your past writing experience (as well as daily time allotments) 50K words may seem to little or too much. But the idea is to write, just write.

This year’s entry will be a Dark (Age) Fantasy, although like many works in this sub-genre it flirts with historical accuracy (it actually pinches it in the bum and gives it the old bedroom eyes, but still).

So what are you waiting for? Gear up for NaNo ’09 and make this year the year of writing dangerously.

And now for a bit of Nostromo for your enjoyment:


NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner, well OK, three months away. Still not too early to start the preparations.

As you probably guessed from my last few posts, I’ve been knee deep in world building, title writing and research. All of that leading to the NaNo kickoff on November 1st. I enjoyed last year NaNo (my first) although the stress was unbearable. Cranking 50K words in 30 days is not easy, especially when you have never done anything like that before.

In fact this blog was born out of last years efforts and will served as the platform for this years enterprise.

So are you ready for your NaNo 09?

Mine will be Age of Iron (working title) and to inspire me (and all those NaNo overachievers out there) here is a video for you.  Enjoy:

Some writers write without titles. Titles seem something you slap on your manuscript after the fact. As you have guessed (by the title of this post) I don’t work that way.

Well, usually….

But not this time.

My current WIP is going well, as in, I’m writing it, but it doesn’t have a tittle. I really don’t know what exactly this WIP is. Among the possibilities are:

  • A novel. A single manuscript from beginning to end.
  • A short story. It begins and ends as one.
  • A short story collection/serial.
  • A (gasp) book trilogy.
  • The seed of a NaNo.

Whatever it is (or will be) it has not title.

OK, I have a title, of sorts.

Age of Iron

An alternate history/fantasy “work” based on the European Dark Ages (500 CE-1000 CE).

But…it sounds so generic, so much of a ripoff. Yes, I know, you can’t copyright titles, but still, doesn’t feel right.

I done the research.

I’m working on the world building.

I have a good idea of the general plot points.

It feels like a gone diving without checking how much air is in my tanks. I’m all for discovery writing but I need a clear starting point just in case I get lost. That navigational point that allows me to navigate the unknown waters of imagination. A beacon in the dark night of creation. Up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.

So, what am I to do?

And because you actually read through an entire post full of wangst here is a video to make all better:


That’s right! I just finished the first draft of SuD.  I wrote the words -THE END- which is a monstrous lie, of course. This is just the beginning. I have to transcribe two thirds of the book to the black electronic box sitting on my bedroom floor. And my inner editor is nagging me to start ripping it apart,

“Oh just look at the plot holes, the inconsistencies, the bland language, the….”


Where was I….

Now I’ll take a break of a day or two and one-pass my other manuscript. But at the very least I can say I have now two full novels under my belt. And that is not something to be taken lightly. After a short break I’ll get back to it, but for now I will bask in the glow of this achievement.

And now for a video that expresses exactly how I feel:


To finish the first draft of SuD. The final battle approaches and with it all my hopes and fears that this monster born out of a simple NaNo will retain some coherence after I’m done with it. I already know that it has a few plot holes that must be fixed, which I will get to them when I transcribe said first draft from legal pad to the computer screen.  I’ll try and do that while at the same time doing a one shot method revision of my first WIP and marshaling my strengths to tackle my first movie script (I ain’t nothing if not ambitious!)

So where are you in the endless cycle of writing, editing and revision?

While you come up with an answer here is a bit of Afro-Samurai for you, in keeping with this WIP themes of cool swords, kick ass action and mucho bloodletting.



Stealing an idea from Amy I present to you a teaser from my current project. And yes, the character name sounds familiar, but I borrowed it from a wiki.

You can read more about SuD here:


Trinity Dance Club, Boston,  Massachusetts, U.S, November 16, 01:34hrs

Blue flames warmed her hands as she danced to the music. She bent and twisted to the electronic rhythm.  The motes of light burned afterimages into the retinas of surrounding onlookers.  Senses, dulled by sound and intoxicating substances, could not see the truth behind the images.  She didn’t care. As the tempo changed so did the color of the flames, from cool blue to a furious red and then to bright white. The girl extended her arms, palms outward. The motes jumped from her hands and broke into smaller flames swirling around her like disembodied candlelight.

The lights on the dance floor went out. The music slowed down  to a slow somber tone. The beats matched the palpitations of the crowd. The only source of illumination came from the pinpoints of light around the girl. They glowed a faint orange and pulsed to the beat.

Inside his booth, the DJ smiled as he slowed the music an unnerving crawl. Then he punched up the volume and switched on the giant screens surrounding the dance floor.  Geometric shapes moved in sync with the heightened beat. The flames spun faster around the girl as her body gyrated to the pulsating music. The mix reached a crescendo and then transitioned to another song.

Her eyes opened, flashing an intense amber, while the fires evaporated. Applause broke around her. She smiled and made her way to the bar. The bartender handed her a frosty bottle of water and winked at her.  Amy thought that Mario was cute but he went through girlfriends far to fast for her taste. Sure, she found it hard not to melt when he flashed those pearly whites firmly anchored on those incredible dimples but so did half the girls at the bar even those who planned to go home with their girlfriends.

But he was not on the many tonight or for that matter any time in the foreseeable future. They hooked up in the past and he performance to date was nothing to complain about. He certainly played the strong silent type well. But he was looking for the girl he could bring home to Mama and she was not it.

Poor kid! Talk about looking in the wrong place.

If some other girl wanted to sit at the end of bar waiting for his shift to be over, nursing her free drinks and guarding her man from the pack, that was not her problem.  Her front pant pocket vibrated. She pulled the cell phone out and looked at the screen.

Briefing- D.C. 08:00hrs sharp

P.S. Business Attire- Mason

So much for sleeping in on a Saturday. Amy waved goodbye to Mario on her way out the front door. She didn’t bother with a coat even though the snow fell thick and heavy around her.  She put the hood up to protect her hair from the falling flakes. As she walked back to her apartment she left steaming puddles in the ankle deep snow.

*Local Time


If you wondered what song she was dancing too, here it is.


Writer’s block comes in many forms, none more weird that finding yourself with the strange combination of too many ideas and too little focus. That was my problem going forward with the current WIP. The characters seemed to go places that had nothing to do with the main plot. This situation was made possible by the fact that I chose to write the story using a multiple-person third point of view.

The main benefit of use of this method is that I can paint a wide canvass, loaded with characters that gives the narrative a global scope plus an insight into the villains mind. In fact the story starts with a close third person POV of one of the villains. The main character doesn’t appear on stage until the second chapter.

But after awhile my mind filled with interesting scenes such as a trip to the Himalayas, a fight a top a aerial tramway/gondola lift, and an attack at a guerrilla jungle base. All of them very exiting sequences (except for the last one, it involved fighting a demon that had Mr. Fantastic like powers). All of these scenarios are exciting and fun to write but they do not, did not contribute to story in anyway since they were no segue logical from one scene to the next.

So how do you corral these disparate point of views so that they move the story forward?

  1. You may have multiple characters, but keep in mind who the main and/or principal characters are. He/She or they are the ones tasks with carrying the weight of the narrative. Therefore the bulk of the scenes should be from their POV.
  2. Keep in mind the specific reason for the shift. You may use the shift to show what the villain is thinking or the aftermath of the heroes actions. But remember that those scenes must dovetail into the main narrative and tie in with principal plotline(s).
  3. The transitions should be natural and logical. Don’t leave your reader hanging, finish the scene at an appropriate moment. Again, these scenes must segue into the main body of the narrative. Think in terms of action-reaction or exposition through “showing”.
  4. Any scene where the MC is not present should always push the action forward in one way or another. I had one large chapter with several characters narrating their experiences in recent wars. But at the end these flashbacks served to explain (hopefully by “showing” and not “telling”) the events at the very end of the chapter and push the plot toward a new location.

Apply these rules ruthlessly and you will see your kitty cats fall in line. Sure they will hiss and scratch, but in the end they will behave. Mine did!

P.S. Of  course if that doesn’t work, a pack of puppies will get the job done!


Dwarfs, Elves,  Vampires, oh my! On a recent post (and many more after that) on the NaNo forums the subject of “cuddly” vampires (a la Twilight) came up. The poster said that he didn’t like the recent fad of turning vampires from monstrous blood suckers to tortured goth heroes. I responded that the vampires in my NaNo project were anything but “cuddly”.  If anything they are conniving, manipulative, psychopaths driven by a demonic urge to rape, murder and destroy.  As far from the romantic (in the modern sense of the word,  one which would cause the likes of  Lord Byron, Tennyson or Blake to spit if they heard what passes for romantic these days) vision of the tortured yet irresistibly attractive vampire heroically fighting the urge to drink virgin blood while dating the only virgin left in town as you can get.

This got me thinking about the endless parade of writers that from the beginning of time felt compelled to take familiar character types (the stoic Dwarf, the ethereal Elf or the Vampiric blood sucking terrors of the night) and change them in some way. Of course these archetypes are variations on earlier forms defined by modern writers such as Stoker and Tolkien. The idea behind the manipulation is to take the familiar and turn into something new (if not unique). Problem is that you can only make so many changes before you end up with something unrecognizable and lose whatever advantage the use of the original gave you in the first place.

I don’t frown on the practice as I have done a bit of archetype twisting in my day (about a month or so back). Yet it pains me when I see author after author fail so miserably at it. While the author might think that his improvements are “cool” the end results are trite, cosmetic and downright disappointing. The reader is left wondering why the author engaged in the exercise in the first place. So I came up with a few tips that will (hopefully) help my fellow nascent writers to avoid the obstacles on the road from the familiar to the memorable.

First a few questions. Honest answers to these questions will yield the best results:

  1. Why did you choose a particular archetype?
  2. Do you know/understand the history behind the archetype?
  3. Are you changing the archetype for purely arbitrary reasons,  that is, you think it would be cool to have rhinos on submarines?
  4. Or have you always hated the archetype in question and think you can do better?
  5. Is there more to the these changes than simply creating a anti-archetype? Are you doing this because you’re in a contrarian  mood?
  6. What is the role of the archetype in the story; accidental, background, or central to the narrative?
  7. Would your narrative goals be better served by abandoning the archetype all together?

Like I said before, familiarity is what drives many an author to choose a given archetype. This is especially true of modern fantasy and science fiction books, in all their variations. Both the author and the reader know the archetype and feel comfortable with it.  No need to create an entire elven language (unless you’re Tolkien) or describe how a vampire’s gaze overwhelms it’s victims senses. Just drop the dwarfs down the nearest mine shaft and concentrate on writing that exciting battle scene where the stalwart defenders of the underground realm battle the incoming goblinoid hordes. But we already read Lord of the Rings (OK, I saw the movies, tried reading the Hobbit and fell asleep on the their page)  so we want something more than the fall of  Moria. So the author introduces a few changes into the dwarf archetype. His dwarfs are not the dour hammer swingers of Tolkien’s lore but singing sensations to rival he likes of Elvis (Costello or Crespo). The attacking goblins go from an unorganized rabble to a disciplined army that fights for duty and honor.

But in order for these changes to stick an understanding of the archetypes in question is a must. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of western European mythology, but understanding the history behind the myth will help you preserve enough of the archetype so that it remains recognizable to the reader.

Questions 3-5 deal with the particular reasons for the changes in a given archetype. Many a writer makes cosmetic changes based on what their DMs allowed on the gaming table while playing D&D. They go for what they think would be “cool”.  But just reversing the archetype role or characteristics is not good enough. Doing things just to be contrarian or different is  a waste of time. Might as well slap a goatee on the character’s chin and call it a day.

Which brings us to question #6, the role of the archetype in your story. Cosmetic changes are great, if you are coding a video game. A player will notice something out of the ordinary, gawk at it for a second or two and be on his way to kill the boss monster. Same thing in your book if its something that lies at the bottom of page 267 where a secondary character explains why the main character should never go to beyond the Impassable Peaks of Doom (which we know that the MC will, in fact pass with some difficulty). Things change as the archetype(s) inch their way to center stage. Without a solid explanation the reader is apt to question why is the handsome yet ravenous vampire zipping from frozen packets of goat’s blood instead of dinning on warm blood of his seventeen year old date with the body of a SI swimsuit edition cover girl. Solid answers to questions 1-5 will (hopefully) prevent the local bookstore from shipping back boxes of your latest offering to the publisher.  You need reasons why the character does not fit the mold, answers that go beyond “Well I think vampires are seriously misunderstood creatures”. These reasons should have a direct connection to the story so that it lends depth to the character and through him to the narrative.

Last but not least, could you do better without relying on the archetype? Creating a new alien race that does not read like a Vulcan on steroids is hard, yet if the changes are drastic enough as to erase the fundamentals of an archetype, I suggest you abandon it all together. Go with something else. Something that fits your vision and the needs of the story. A knight that uses a gun is not really a knight, he is a gunfighter. Go with that instead.

I hope that the above helps you in some way. I can’t wait to read how the goblins barely won the battle against the singing dwarfs yet earned their respect by their honorable behavior in battle.

Until then….

The NaNo Winner is ME!

The NaNo Winner is ME!

That’s right! I just crossed the finished line with 50,019 words. I have to confess that I did cheat a bit (just a bit!). I did the old “pad the manuscript with song lyrics” trick. Underhanded I know. But these where not random lyrics. Mine fit the story. Of course this is my first time and the story is heavy on action, shallow on character development. Its also supposed to be the first of a trilogy (of novellas, why not). Maybe I’ll go back and hack the hell out of it and hope it reaches a decent agent/publisher. Will see. But for now, allow me to savor the moment!

Oh and see you all next year!


That’s right. Only 8 days left and I haven’t even reached 30,000 words. It is still possible that I could reach 50,000 by Sunday at midnight , if I write about 4,000 words a day for the next 7 days straight. That is a big if. I have the story, long enough for at least 60k to 70k words and the first part of a trilogy (or one 150k to 250k book).  Even if I don’t make it, I enjoyed the neurosis that is NaNo and will certainly finish this book and try to do it next year. Count on it!