Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Harper Voyager’s slew of “How to write” e-books on sale

Harper Voyager has an e-book sale going on now in celebration of NaNoWriMo, which is, for those not in the know, National Novel Writing Month, where professional, intermediate, and just-picked-up-the-pen writers rub shoulders in a month-long event to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. This is the second year that I’ve officially joined in, signed up, and tracked my progress at their website, but I’ve known about NaNo for a lot longer.  You can find me here at NaNo, and it’s really helped this year as I push through the rough draft of book thirteen.

But I mentioned e-books! Yes, Harper Voyager has ten books on writing on sale for a limited time at a reduced price of under two dollars. If you write, you might want to check it out. I’ve long held that even though you can go to school to learn the craft of writing, it still remains one of the few careers that you don’t have to and still be a success if you put the time in and learn what you can from where you can get it. Harper Voyager e-book sale


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Drop back and punt-NaNo style

I’m not very good at sports analogies, but this one seemed appropriate for my progress on the new book.  I am about at page 60 or so where things should be starting to really roll, the story laid out and moving forward–and as I was looking at my three-page synopsis and writing out the day’s dialog to turn into text, I suddenly realized that my plot had evaporated due to little changes along the way.  This is not unusual.  Let me say that again.  This is not unusual.  It happens enough that I’ve learned not to panic, but just get my clipboard back out and solidify some new goals.

Sometimes, the difference between the writer who finishes a book and the one who has five manuscripts going but nothing done–is decided here.  If you’re one of the latter, take heart that this is not an uncommon issue, nor is it a reflection on your writing skills.  It just means that things have changed and you need to take a day or two and jot down a few goals and rebuild a story to address them.  In my case, I had to reassess and define the issue of the entire book, what the end goal was, and what the complication is.  I then had to go back and brainstorm five things my main character has to do in order to get there.  I also used the addition of a new character to push things into high gear, which worked out wonderfully since he complicates and involves everything wonderfully.  But the main point to this post is that plots fall apart.  The professional does not abandon them, but pushes it all back together and finds the new goal, issue, and complications, and continues on.  Today I should make some good progress and be back where I want to be by Thursday.

And, since I was at my clipboard yesterday, getting very little done on the keyboard, I took the time to change a few names.  If I have to stop and remember my main character’s name repeatedly, I know I’ve chosen the wrong one.  Taylor is out, Peri is in.  For now.  I don’t like names ending in a vowel, but there it is.

Also, the voting for the preliminaries is over at Goodreads and we are two days into the semi finals, but I don’t see any change over at the website.  If you’ve not voted for your favorite in each category, maybe it’s not too late?  Goodreads, choice award, favorite book of 2011


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Okay, now it’s Friday

Yay!  Just Yay!  I’m so glad it’s Friday.  I’m thinking of doing a little light holiday shopping this weekend, and to get me in the mood, it decided to snow.   Just a dusting, but it’s pretty to see it on the roofs.  Not all the leaves are down yet, so it feels more like spring.

Yesterday’s work went pretty good.  That tough chapter is still on my desk, but I got ten pages of dialog down, which should translate into 20 pages of text today if I don’t have a lot of interruptions.  My writing style is constantly evolving, but the “trick” of writing down dialog first to keep myself on track and stave off writer’s block is one of the first things that really helped me move my consistency from five pages a day to twelve.  It’s very much like a free-flow exercise where you open yourself up for new ideas while still keeping the backbone of the story.

Basically all I do is spend about ten minutes jotting down in that big white space at the beginning of a chapter the things I want to get done in the next 15 pages or so.  Then I drop down and spend about three paragraphs to set the scene.  After that, I stop writing in sentences and start writing what I can best describe as a very messy “play”.  Because this version of the chapter only lasts a few hours to days, I don’t even bother separating action from dialog.

T     In dark corner office.  Hears a noise, starts to move after it, use motion to describe athletic body, black clothes.
J     From desk.  Stay in my sight, Taylor.
T     grimace.  I can’t do my job from here.
J     I can’t do my job if you’re not in my sight.  I’m almost done.
T     Ten seconds.  Slips out.  Grins.  Moves through dark outer office, noting things.  See security guard.  Looks at watch.  Swears and backs up.
T     Pads over to desk.  We got an early bird.
J     monitor light glowing up on his face.  There’s more here than Sam told us.
T     Well, shut it down for a sec.  He’s checking doors.  Pad back to the door.

It goes on from there, and when I turned it into text, I got about two pages out of those 8 lines because I had to set the scene and some of the plot as well. But one of the most helpful things to come out of setting up a chapter’s action through dialog is that things can change fast, and usually they follow a more logical path than you originally planned out.  For example, yesterday’s chapter was supposed to keep my main character in the dark about what was really going on until the magic happened, whereupon she finally understood what was going on, and then the bad thing happened that the reader knew was going to happen all along.  But when I started putting down dialog, my character got smart faster, figured it out before the magic happened, yelled a lot, got excited, and reacted much more strongly when the magic happened.  The bad thing still happened, but when it did, she was expecting it, which made it even more heartbreaking, and her not stupid, just unlucky and overpowered.

So there it is.  Now I just have to turn my dialog into text, and I will be able to relax and enjoy my weekend.  There will likely still be changes, but it’s like carving a sculpture.  Chunks, to slices, to slivers, to tiny little shavings, and then the sandpaper!



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What do you mean, it’s not Friday yet?

Errrrrrrg, I wish it was Friday.  I’ve got a difficult chapter to get through, and seeing as it’s Thursday, I can’t fudge it and get it only halfway done and think about it all weekend.  I might as well put some real effort into it and actually figure this thing out so it’s in the can by Friday PM.  (Can being film can, not trash can.  I do love my analogies and metaphors.  I like them like kids like candy, use them more than an addict uses a needle, and with as much joy and abandon as a five-year-old dancing.  Sorry, I’ll stop now.)

Costume contest is wrapping up, so if you sent me a photo, it is on the web site.  Don’t see your photo, send it to me again.  However, I did change some of the categories you submitted under, so look around.  :-).  Kim’s A PERFECT BLOOD ARC contest 

Also, the preliminary voting over at Goodreads for the best read of 2011 is just about closed.  Don’t see your favorite pick in the genre line up?  You can add it in at this point.  Next week you can vote in the semi-finals.
Goodreads choice awards

One more thing . . .  I’m going to be going out to Nicola’s in the next few days, so if you want a signed Hollows Insider or Blood Work, give them a call.  They ship world wide.   :-)  Nicola’s–how to contact

And I promised you a picture of my hat.  It finally dried, and I really like it!  I didn’t follow the instructions on it, and knitted it with an inner layer of red.  Next up, slippers . . .


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Good, solid forward movement on the NaNo book yesterday.  I’ve still not caught up to where I should be on the graph, but seeing as I don’t work on weekends and I missed the first three days.  -shrug-  I’ll be there by the end.  And I’m in no hurry.  The story flows as the story goes.

However, one of my writing-rough-draft tips saved my butt yesterday.  When I write rough draft, I make it a practice to never go back into a chapter I’ve finished, even if I want to make major changes.  What I will do is briefly open the file back up and jot down the changes I want to make in that big white space I always leave at the beginning of the chapter, and then proceed onto the next chapter as if I had made those changes.   Hey, I make things up for a living.  It’s easy to pretend.

This novel is no exception, and as I began my dialog for chapter three late yesterday, I found the few notes I penciled in the day before (for changes I wanted to make in chapter one) were now useless.  After moving forward another step, I found I needed bigger things, such as an additional character, I had to change how someone dies, and I found the way to begin the betrayal I’d already planned on, but in a much stronger, faster way.  Had I taken yesterday and worked my original, now useless, changes in, my word count for the day would have been very near zero, and all for nothing as I have since thrown them out for something better.

Even though I have practice doing this, (making notes of what I want to change and then moving on as if I’d done it) it is hard.  I very much like knowing exactly what I’m working with, especially when it comes to emotion.  But I also know that I’m going to be going over this thing three or four more times, bare minimum.  I can fix it then.  Like Anakin Skywalker’s mom says, “Never look back.”  And to that, I would add on, “Until you reach the end and start over.”  And who knows.  I might get into chapter five and discover that the new person I need in chapter one works better if she’s a woman, or someone that Taylor already knows, or should be two people, or that the one guy really didn’t have to die.  No harm, no foul.  Lots of words on the page mean lots more toys to play with.

Happy NaNoing!



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Bits and Pieces

Rough draft is going good on the NaNoWriMo book.  I got most of chapter two done yesterday, but had to stop when I ran into a bedroom scene and it was 5:30–far to late in the day to tackle something like that.  Yep, a sex scene–in chapter two.  Soooooo not like me, but it feels right to have it there, so there it is.  I was aiming for different, and different I got.  I have to say that the entire NaNo experience is really something, and if you are a writer who doesn’t get a lot of encouragement from the people around you, just jump on and try knowing that this is a trial run to see what it’s like.  You don’t have to be the best or keep up with everyone else, just be there and feel the energy.  I’d love to be your writing buddy.  NaNo’s search engines suck, (giving only the first 20 alphabetical responses to any search) so here’s a direct link to find me and “buddy me.” http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/kim-harrison

The UK is busy developing reprints of the entire series, and I’ve got another cover to show you.  These aren’t out yet, but WOW!  I really like them.

And if you’ve not yet voiced your opinion in the preliminary voting atGoodreads, that is still going on for a few more days.  There are some fabulous book there, and I believe you can cast a vote in each category.  Goodreads choice awards 2011  (It takes forever to load because of all the covers.)

I’ll be trying to finish out chapter two and get the dialog down for chapter three today, so my word count won’t show much of a change, but the foundations will be set for me to hammer on Wednesday.  :-)


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NaNoWriMo. How did you do?

I guess the real question is, did you enjoy yourself?  I had fun sharing progress with some of you, and I hope that maybe we encouraged each other just a little.  I know the official NaNoWriMo site is chock full of ways to interact and encourage, and I hope more of you participate next year.

My totals?  I did not make it.  (laugh)  At the end of yesterday, I had taken my last batch of dialog (8 pages) and turned it into 19 pages of prose, which was about six thousand words, bringing my monthly total to 49,092 words.  Whew.  I’m exhausted.  (big grin) 

Now I have to do it again.  If I put a 50,000 word Hollows book on the shelf, you all would yell at me.  I’m thinking I’ll have this done by the start of the Black Sanction Tour.  We’ll see.  I have a goal, and that’s good, and it’s padded with down-time, which is better!

Congratulations to everyone who stated, congratulations to everyone who finished!  It is stretching your skills that makes it fun!!


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Last day to send me your costume pictures

Today, midnight EST is the cut off to send Guy your Halloween pictures.  I’ll have the winners for  you on Monday!  Group winners get signed cover flats, and grand winner gets an ARC of BLACK MAGIC SANCTION!  I’ve got all the pictures up now, so if you don’t see yourself there and you sent me a picture, send it again.  ;-)  Rules and how to submit are at the website.

For those who have been participating in NaNoWriMo, I finally have page count!  If you’ve not been to the drama box recently, I began plotting out the next Hollows book the first of the month.  (explained in previous posts in excruciating detail.)

Yesterday I finally finished my plotting and started actually writing the thing.  Taking my one page of notes on chapter one, I spent the morning writing out the dialog, then in the afternoon, I turned it into prose.  Today I’ll take my one page of notes on chapter two and do the same, and in about three to four months, I’ll have turned my 27 pages of notes into a 500 page manuscript.  I don’t usually keep track of word count, but since I know a lot of you are for NaNoWriMo, I had six pages of dialog/short action (1363 words) and turned it into 12 pages of prose (4182 words)

So what does a page of my dialog look like?  Well, I was going to show you the cover of the next Madison book today, but here’s a page from ODW instead.  This is the beginning of chapter six, page 78 in the mass market, and it’s dialog between Rachel and Marshal as she enters Carew Tower to attend a meeting with a Mr. Domo

pg 78

I write dialog fast, so I just use notations for the character names, and don’t bother with punctuation, even to separate the actual dialog from the action, but since it’s only useful for a couple of hours, I can remember my intent.  And as you might have noticed, I’ve got the date in the header, which is a no-no when you submit, but I like it for my record keeping.  The title is not ODW, either.  Ley Lines don’t say “magic” to the public at large, so no Ley Lines in the finished title.  (I used it in a novella, though.  grin)

The big question some of you might be asking is why?  Why take the time to write out the dialog if you’re only going to rewrite in just a few hours?  For most genres, dialog needs to be fast give and take, especially if you are writing first-person, and this helps keep it quick.  I usually take the first page or so in a chapter to set the scene and Rachel’s mood, but after that, the balance of description vs dialog should be heavy on dialog with one-sentence or one-word reminders of setting and mood.  Work it into the action.  (Sets coffee cup in beam of sun coming into kitchen window says a lot.  Kitchen.  Day.  Breakfast.  Mood–set it down hard or soft.) Use action to the fullest.  

Different genres have different balances, and a gothic romance will have tons more description than an urban fantasy, so don’t necessarily take what I’ve said here as the end-all.  Know your genre.  Take a highligher to your favorite book and see what the author did where.  Find the patterns.

Writing out the dialog first helps me stay on track to what I want to accomplish.  I can choose to put in the description where it needs to be, not right when I think of it, and that makes the process faster.

Today, I’m hoping to get through chapter two.  It’s going to be heavier on description than the first was, but now that the main characters have been introduced, I can do that without tiring the reader or throwing too much at him or her.

Have a great weekend!  See you Monday.  I’m baking this weekend!!



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Character Grid

For those of you who haven’t been to the drama box in a few days, I’m taking the opportunity of NaNoWriMo and me just starting rough draft to detail out my plotting process.  Disclaimer:everyone writes differently, there’s no wrong way to do it.  This is what I’ve come up with over the last ten years or so, and what works for me.  It’s a process that’s still evolving.  Oh, and my word count is still zero.

Yesterday I rewrote my plot to take out the demon plotline and expand two others of crime and love.  It made a much more tidy story and I was able to dig deeper into the relationships instead of skimming over them.  My one page synopsis turned into a 13 page synopsis, casually broken into maybe-chapters.  Today I’m going to begin to break this up into clear chapters so I can better balance the entire work as to pacing, place, and characters.  I don’t want to spend too much time in the church, or be moving from place to place in any given chapter.  My rule is no more than one scene shift per chapter, and try not to stay in any one place for more than two consecutive chapters.  Same thing with characters.  Variety keeps the reader interested and the story moving.  So to better see the patterns that the story is taking and head off any potential problems, I have come up with a character grid.  It’s about the only piece of “software” that I use, and it’s just an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve modified to my needs.  Here’s the one I used for ODW.

Characters are down the side, the locations of the scene are on the top, and the action is at the bottom.  (this is an early version, so it might not dovetail perfectly into the published book) The color shift is an indication of a change in day (which can be seen by the dates) and the chapter numbers are under that.  The Xs are when a character is an a chapter, and sometimes I use an O to indicate that they are in the chapter by way of phone or scrying mirror.  I usually have the month and day the book takes place in across the top, and the sunrise and set and average temps at the bottom, but I recently had a software upgrade, and I lost my headers and footers in Excel.  (sucks big time)

My character grid is how I first realized that Jenks was in almost every chapter in the earlier books, and I’ve become better at getting him out so other characters can shine.  It’s also how I know if I have a character who is needed for a crucial scene, and yet is not introduced anywhere until that scene.  Very bad.  Same thing with the bad guys.  I try to have them show up early, and then at least one more time before the end.  Another rule of thumb is don’t introduce too many characters in the same scene, even if they are returning characters.  I like to have only two at the most, and will break a chapter just to avoid this.

A character grid of some sort is also a great way to make sure that your male to female ratio isn’t wildly out of balance.  Mine usually slant to the male end of the ratio, but since Rachel is female it works out.  Oh, and when you go to rewrite and need to add something that revolves around a character, it’s really easy to go the grid, see where they are, and place your clue instead of spending an hour thumbing through the file and guessing where to put it is.

Tomorrow, after I break this monster into chapters, I’ll let you know what balance issues I encountered and nipped in the bud, but for now, I’ve not a clue as to what problems the manuscript has.  I can’t wait!

P.S. I think the puppies caught something at the borders last week and I’ll be taking them in this afternoon.  They are coughing and wheezing when they get up to do anything.  If they were big dogs, I wouldn’t worry so much, but Aleix is only six pounds.  I’ll let you know.



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Day Two Of The Plotting

Whoa.  I had a great weekend, but I’m feeling it now.  It’s been six weeks since I’ve been able to work in the garden, so now my body is really complaining.  The yard, though, looks great, with about six more inches of rock on the front rock wall and tidy trimmed bushes.  I also put in some tulips for the first time in about twelve years.  I may have been a little aggressive in the bulb count, but there it is.  I really needed the break, and you know I was thinking about the Hollows while I had my face turned to the earth.

Friday was the second day of my plotting out of the next Hollows book, and still no words on the screen, but I’ve plenty of notes, so all you people taking part in NaNoWriMo, be assured that you are way ahead of me.  At this rate, I will be hard pressed to meet your 175 page count by the end of the month.  And I still have a few days of plotting before I can begin.  So what am I spending my time on?

Well . . .  I took my six pages of notes from Thursday and wrote up a free-flowing, one-sentence brainstorming list of “ways to start” and a list of  “ways to end.”  I still don’t have a good way to start the book, and I won’t until I have the end, but my goal is to have in the first five pages the hint of the problem that is settled in the last so to make a full circle.  I’m more successful at this some times than others, but if you break the stories apart, it’s there.  By the way, I found the ending by the time I turned my office light off.  Damn.  This is going to be a fun one to write.  As usual, Guy helped with finding the kicker. 

I then wrote out a handwritten, ten-page summary of the book, starting at the beginning and going all the way to the end, saying who died, who got jailed, and who got pregnant.  No, none of those things happened, but you get the idea.  Some might say it’s a waste of time, but I just saved myself three to six weeks of grief as I realized that my original three plots of demons, love, and crime were taking up too much page count and there were too many characters.  My solution?  Get rid of the demon story line for this book, much as I love it. (It will show up in the next book where it belongs)

After some thought, I realized that the story would work that much better with some new limitations that no-demons engenders.  Now I can expand on the other two story lines and bring in some secondary characters that I’d have had to skimp on.  I’m going to miss Al, but let’s hope it’s absence makes the heart grow fonder rather than out of sight, out of mind. . .   Today, I’ll rewrite my 10 page summary and maybe start on some more detailed chapter outlines to be sure I’ve not forgotten some bit of logic and to nail down the character lineup. 

Halloween contest is still open to submissions, so if you haven’t gotten around to taking your pictures out of your camera, you have time yet to send them to me.  Contest closes Friday, winners announced on Monday. 



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