NaNoWriMo Prep from a Pragmatist. Yep, that’d be me.

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NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday, and I’m using this week to prepare for it. The 50,000 word count for a singular work will be on top of my writing, which includes some editing and spec work this month as well. Knowing that my plate is going to be full (and then some) means that I have to plan in advance for an insanely busy next couple of weeks. I’ve been through this kind of writing crunch before, which means I know I can do it again.

Here’s some of the steps I take to plan for an insane month. Your mileage will vary, as your living arrangements and family life might be different than mine.

1.) Remove or reduce day-to-day decisions. What I wear, what I’m going to eat, when I need to pay bills, chores…these are some of the examples of day-to-day decisions that take up headspace. When I’m slammed, I do a lot of meal planning/crock pot recipes and set out my clothes the night before. Yes, this means I am wearing pants(1) this month. Though I work from home, these types of decisions can impact both my health and productivity, so planning these things ahead of time means I don’t have to think about it. Mind you, this includes household maintenance tasks like chores and laundry as well, which means I have to communicate and sort out responsibilities with my partner. I might use my Sunrise app as reminders, or program my alarm at the same time every day, too.

2.) Eliminate distractions(2). You’ll probably notice that I’ll either be on social media a lot less, or at certain times. I’ve got a dual monitor along with my phone, and I’ve been playing around with how and when I post. For this month, I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do, because maintaining it isn’t a huge priority for me for promotional purposes. However, there are other distractions that might occur. E-mails, phone calls, doorbells ringing… One of the digital solutions I use, is to schedule times when I respond and send out e-mails. I’ll sometimes be clear about when I expect to respond if a decision is required, too, because there is a tendency to expect one right away even when it’s not pressing. Of course, in some cases it is, but managing expectations for communication can go a long way to save time. I cannot stress the importance of sending clear e-mails enough, and I feel it is an art form. In addition to these tips, I’m shutting off my phone, wifi, as well as my second monitor.

3.) Plan downtime. This often gets missed, but it is hugely important. Often, I see people scheduling what they’re doing on the calendar. It is equally as important to schedule when you’re not doing anything, or when you need to take a break. This might include coffee and drinks with friends, or it might be to watch a movie or make dinner. I am also not going to sit for hours and hours at a time, because this isn’t healthy. Instead, I’m going to set up a schedule for the first week and then adjust from there. It also means, however, that I am planning for some flexibility and additional options for downtime than I might normally. Examples of mini-breaks range from origami to playing Tetris to taking a walk outside or stretching.

4.) Manage noise and song selections. Okay, so I’ve often mentioned how focused I am on sound. I have a pair of noise-canceling headphones, but I also have instrumental playlists set up on Pandora and my iTunes account. The other thing I do, when I’m in a heavy production month, is eliminate the amount of media that has words in them or, alternately, new words. I’ve listened to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radioplay a thousand times, for example, and it fades into the background for me. One app and browser that replicates coffee shop noise is Coffitivity, but honestly? Video game soundtracks are fantastic to listen to, because the compositions are interesting and I don’t visualize a scene

5.) Say No to Research. The story that I’m writing for this doesn’t require any research, other than a few questions that I’m clearing up ahead of time. Even if I did need to do some research… That rabbit hole can wait. It is a time sink to click on links and read more information, and while a normal (e.g. non-insane) work day might allow for a certain percentage of reading, a high word count month does not for me. Mind you, a high word count month is not sustainable all the time for obvious reasons, including the physical strain it can take on your hands and wrists, but cutting down on the time I’d normally spend reading means I’ll be a lot more focused on my manuscripts.

6.) Devise a Two-Month Business Plan. This is basic business planning 101 for me. By putting together a two month business plan, instead of a 30 day writing plan, I’m thinking above and beyond NaNoWriMo. Now, for me this is completely necessary. My plans incorporate smaller projects and larger initiatives that I am writing for other people and pursuing on spec. However, I am not just thinking about November, because if I focus solely on this month, then I’ll be completely unprepared for December. This technique circles back to eliminating distractions, and it means that I’ve got a foundation to work from the following month. I don’t expect to be married to next month’s business plan, mind you, but it removes any overlap so I don’t miss anything.

7.) Factor in Flexibility. Things are going to go wrong. I might run out of mac and cheese. I might get suckered into a doorstop novel. Brain might revolt and ooze out of my head. It could snow. Anyway, my point is that there a lot of things that might go wrong, and factoring in a disaster recovery plan for me helps keeps words flowing. However, there’s always that chance that I have to stop, and I need to know that’s okay. I got really sick one year, and that pretty much ended my ability to keep writing because I had medicine head for two weeks. I can still write, mind you, just not as much nor as good. I picked it back up after NaNoWriMo was over, so I still finished my initial goals, even if it took me a little longer.

8.) Outline, List, and Plot. When I know what I’m writing, I tend to write faster. Even if I don’t adhere to every aspect of an outline, coming up with a bucket of potential “up the stakes” possibilities, motivations, etc. and having that handy ahead of time is hugely useful for writing. Thus, I’ve explored possible options for this particular story by capturing them in a list of words I can leverage while I’m writing, or to further brainstorm and use those as a jumping off point. It’s a little bit like plotting, but it’s less tied to the specific story structure and more focused on aspects of a character or a scene. If I got REALLY crazy, I might put together word lists, but that sort of thing usually happens after for me, during the revision process as I refine.

…and that’s it! Those are some of the things I am doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo. To the word mines! With a large, bloody axe!

(1) Not wearing pants is so overrated. I keep this regulated to casual Fridays or slothy Sundays.
(2) My agency will be doing a month long series of posts, including an article from me about your writing workspace. I’ll be sharing more information as we proceed.

    Mood: La la la!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Thar be coffee
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Um. Sorry, yo.
    In My Ears: Beats for Studying playlist on Pandora
    Game Last Played: Diablo III
    Book Last Read: Um… Well, I’m starting Howl’s Moving Castle.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time
    Latest Artistic Project: STILL EDITING.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.


On the Dreaded Topic of Self-Promotion

Firefly Avatar

I am in the process of taking a much needed mental break in the midst of lots and lots of editing. Having a fantastic time, really, but because I don’t have anything “big” that’ll be released until next year, I thought it was a good time to revisit my goals and topics related to my career. One of them is about marketing and promoting both myself and my work.

So here’s the part where I get all real and gritty with you. I hate telling you all the reasons why I’m awesome and why you should invest in any project I’ve been a part of, simply because “I” did it. I would much, much, much rather show you why you might be interested, than command you to buy my books. This, I feel, is an important distinction because it really comes down to a matter of trust for me. You are the reader, and you are the reason why I’m writing. (Doubly so if you’re a fan of a license I’m working on!) Thus, I feel it’s my job to pour every ounce of passion that I have, that excitement I don’t know how to shut off, into everything I do because I feel I need to earn your dollars and your support. I’m guessing this partly comes from the way I buy books. I’m not someone who has ever bought a book because it’s popular. I might get a book from the library, mind you, but when it comes to dollar signs I feel that every one of them is a vote. I feel that every time you star a book or review it or talk about it or recommend it — that’s another way to vote.

The lessons I learned this year, however, forced me to rethink this philosophy. (Or, I should say… This is what I’m currently going with.) I cannot ensure that every person who comments actually reads the entire contents of the books I work on, nor will I make every fan happy. I found that obsessing about the comments and reviews is a path to madness and procrastination. That way is shut. It was also not easy for me to realize that often, fandom isn’t related to the specific details of things like which character wore what and when. It’s about the emotional connection to the story, the characters, and who you/me were at the time. Sometimes, fans are reacting to an actor who was in the movie, or the angst toward what a director did, and that’s got nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of how a project is put together. Often, however, authors don’t have control over every step in the process for the production of a book, comic, or game. I do my part, and then I watch it fly away into the ether, until it becomes a real live book–and fans don’t necessarily care about logistics, because reminding people that the production of any show, book, game, etc. has business mechanisms in place robs those beautiful things of their glamour. This did break my heart a little bit, because I’ve always been a DIY’er to varying degrees. Yes, now I know that there are fans who may have loved something I did, but will never get around to connecting with me or writing reviews. Now I do!

I would love/kill/sacrifice my mac-and-cheese addiction for the illusion of control over what happens after a book is released. The brutal honest truth is that I have none. Yes, marketing can help boost visibility and get people interested in a book. Certainly, self-promotion can benefit this, too. That? That I can control. How then, do I talk about me being “me” without wandering around dazed and confused even though there are no mind-altering substances in my system? Or, to put it another way, how do I talk about me being “me”, other than what I’ve already been doing to encourage you to check out my work?

Oh, I’ve heard the mantras. Fortune favors the bold. Fake it until you become it. I’m going to let you in on a not-so-big secret. I suck at being fake, and I have my own way of doing things. You took the stickers off your Rubik’s Cube? I had a screwdriver, took it apart, and reassembled it. The need for me to “pretend” has gone the way of the stegosaurus, unless I am specifically tying an appearance to a performance on stage or at a con. It is boring, uninteresting, and a waste of my time (and yours) to pretend to be one person in this one instance and another somewhere else. I can be polite and professional, but the vast majority of the time? I’m just me with all my quirks and oddities.

Okay, applying this to Firefly… I am scared to death of being funny when talking about The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse. My normal state is sarcastic, mind you, and this setting is a breeze to write for because of that. Why, if someone were to invite me to write for the comic, I’d… Yeah, okay. Not going there. Anyway! Sometimes My Big Fat MouthTM likes to crack a joke before my brain has the opportunity to catch up. I’m not even kidding. Offensive? Um… There’s been a few instances where I may have potentially said the wrong thing at the worst possible time…

You get the picture.

Here, though, I feel that being funny about the language used in the show is both inappropriate and disrespectful to Joss Whedon and his team, Fox, and my publisher. My role as a language analyst is after the completion of the work, and I felt that this meant I had a responsibility to look as deep as I could into the subject matter. I feel that if I’m being a smart ass, I’m sending a message to you that I didn’t take this project seriously — and I can assure you that is most definitely not the case. It’s the exact opposite, in fact, and I can guarantee that my editor feels the same way about her contribution. This, too, is me being me. It’s just a serious flavor of what I have to offer you as a writer. Even though I am thrilled to be a part of this setting again, I don’t want to F-bomb it up. I love Firefly. Always have. I am proud to be a part of the ‘Verse, and it is my wish that you’ll take a chance on this book when it was released because of that, too.

I better end this post today before I wax even more philosophical. I really don’t know if I’ll ever figure out this self-promotion thing, and I have no clue how to even go about asking you to help me boost the signal. I’ve been doing that, it just hasn’t been consistent and pushy, ’cause that’s annoying. Still, I often feel like my time is better spent writing All The ThingsTM than talking about writing them, but I know that’s not always a good approach. I guess only time will tell.

    Mood: I’m having a bad hair day. Ergo, crabby.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um… Yeah, well ixnay on the okecay erozay?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: HAH HAH HAH
    In My Ears: That would be Pandora, of the Nightmare Before Christmas variety.
    Game Last Played: Diablo III
    Book Last Read: SON OF A… I forgot the title. Again.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time
    Latest Artistic Project: Can’t think. Editing.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.


Read a Preview of Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling



Hello dear Readers! Jaym Gates and I are hard at work wrapping up the cover design, initial Table of Contents, and the submission guidelines for our upcoming anthology titled Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling for Apex Book Company. We’ll be launching a Kickstarter for this anthology, and I’ll be sharing more details about that soon.

Today, I wanted to share with you a preview of what this anthology is all about. Maurice Broaddus has written a story titled “Super Duper Fly” which appears in the October 2015 issue of Apex Magazine. Follow the link and you can read it on the company website!

In his own words, Maurice talks about the trope he wanted to tackle and why.

THE MAGICAL NEGRO—It’s easy to believe that this trope came from a good place or at least rose out of benign neglect. After all, a white writer is “writing what they know” or appealing to their target demographic, which is typically people like them, but they want a more diverse world. So the easy solution is to put an “other” at a critical place in their hero’s journey to help them along. The Magical Negro is one such other (see also: Magical Native American, Magical Asian, etc). One sees The Magical Negro in such movies as Ghost, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Family Man, and Bruce Almighty. Or in an unusual amount of Stephen King novels/movie adaptations such as The Stand, The Talisman (written with Peter Straub), The Shining, and the ultimate ode to The Magical Negro, The Green Mile.- Maurice Broaddus

In the upcoming Upside Down, you will find tropes and clichés that writers chose to tackle and examine through the lends of their stories. These range from race-based tropes like the Magical Negro to others grounded in genre, like the City Planet. Our submission guidelines, which will be posted shortly, will include a wish list of the types of tropes and clichés we’d like to see. This will help us ensure we’ve got a good mix of stories that’ll cover a broad range of tropes for the reader.

Hope you’re as excited about this collection as I am!

Revised Cover and Title for the Firefly Dictionary

Firefly Dictionary_CVR front new copy

The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse has a revised cover and a fabulous new title! I’m happy to share this with you today. Huge thanks to my editor at Titan Books for giving me the chance to update you with the revised cover. Spring 2016 can’t come soon enough!

Welcome to Apple and Pen Pr0n

Go on... Take a Bite...

My week ended with: “So, what do you think about getting an iPhone?” For the first time in forever and a day, I have acquired an Apple product that is not music-related, and I feel…strange. When I turned my iPhone 6 on for the first time, it was if millions of droids suddenly cried out before falling silent, and thousands of windows were smashed–and it was my fault. It’s been years since I’ve dealt with anything Apple-related, and I’m slowly but surely being indoctrinated into the cult of Apple. I’m not sure if there’s a theme song (there should be), but I’m also determined to save up for a new compy(1) because of the experience.

It’s not about the marketing, for me. It’s not about being hip or cool–’cause I’m gonna shimmy my way, regardless. It’s more intuitive to my needs, but there are a few things I haven’t quite figured out yet. For example, I’m religious about using the WiFi, and I’m not sure if I have to completely close an app by swiping multiple times to get out of an article or not. When I reopen an app, it opens to right where I left off, so I’m not certain if it’s still running in the background or not. I also haven’t determined how in browser apps, like Pinterest(2), work on the phone. There’s a few apps that do weird things like not clicking through to the next screen, but I think that’s more app-specific than Apple’s fault. Plus, I’d really like to know what’s being stored on the phone versus what’s in the cloud. All of the music in my iTunes account wouldn’t fit on my iPhone, so I have to assume some of it is in the cloud, for example. Not sure!

Haven’t found any games quite yet, but I know I’ll need something. That’s lower on the priority list, though. The photos are definitely better, and the images are a lot more fun to play around with. I like the easy way I can clean up fields and whatnot as well. Plus? Super mega bonus? Automatic snooze feature, which is great. More than this, though, is the fact that apps actually work on the iPhone. I feel that there’s something to be said for where developers are putting the bulk of their efforts. I like the droid, I really do, but app usage is better and having the ability to auto-sync with iTunes makes it a lot easier to use the music I have. And, let’s face it, the covers are a lot better. I wound up getting a wallet-style that is working out pretty well.

A thing of wondermentWith the euphoria of new tech, however, comes the lament of old tech. Namely, a eulogy for a pen dying. I found a new one that writes fantastically well. It’s the EnerGel Tradio .07mm by Pentel. Quick-drying? Yes. Less bleed on characters? Yep. It writes really smooth, which allows me to write fast. The only thing I don’t like about it, is I wish it had a gel cushion around the handle given how much handwriting I’ve been doing lately. I’ve tried many pens in the Pentel family, and for whatever reason this one is better than the usual suspects like their large selection of retractable pens. Aye, well here’s the rub and reason for my angst: it lasted for approximately 30 pages college-ruled pages’ worth of handwriting. I can get refills for it, as I’ve just learned, but am still in that conflicted emotional state that comes from: “I discovered a new pen I like! Annnnnnnnnd I’m going to burn through several of these, aren’t I?” It really is a fabulous pen, though, and the violet color is amazeballs. It just sucks I’m having ink drainage issues. Phooey.(3)

So yes, highs and lows exacerbated by fall organization and projects this weekend. Nope, no drama. Welcome to life in Mundania! Where the water’s fine and the screeching is down to a minimum.

(1) Just in case my compy is listening… Forget what I said. M’kay? I’ll feed you more energon cubes. Promise.
(2) Yep, Pinterest. It is great for being inspired to make art, but I’m also checking out other, more productivity-focused apps, like Trello, to sort things out. Need to sync it with my PC, though.
(3) Hello Mercury. Why you gotta be spinning all backwards-like?(a)

(a) If this were true, then Mercury is one sick bastard 365 days of the year.(i)

(i) Did I just sub-sub footnote myself? I think I did. Oh, hell.

    Mood: It’s Monday. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Managed and I hate myself for it.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Eh, enough.
    In My Ears: Royals cover by The Vitamin String Quartet
    Game Last Played: Mah Jongg Solitaire
    Book Last Read: I really should look the title up. My memory is used up in favor of editing this Book That Won’t DieTM.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Once Upon a Time
    Latest Artistic Project: Planning a calligraphy illustration thingy. It’s technical.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.





Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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