NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m gonna do it! After some serious wrestling about what to tackle as my next writing project, I’ve decided to tackle NaNoWriMo again. I did it in 2012 (The Extra Body), I’m going for it again. This year’s effort will be the second misadventure for Reverend Alistair Gibbon, his paramour Fancy Griswold (the former Miss Serpentine Belt), and their cohort of misfits.

If you remember Holy Heists, their first misadventure, they were engaged in “planting” a snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues type church somewhere in the Southern USA. That didn’t turn out too well… but it wasn’t their fault, you see. The stars were aligned against them, or something cosmic like that.

But now they’ve been given another chance. A reverend in Montana heard about their efforts and has hired them to come out and help him establish a church. This story, tentatively entitled Westward Ho! is the story of their travels across America to their next church project.

I’m planning to cap the larger project off with a third part, in which they’re hard at work in Montana. That will end a trilogy of satires about these misguided people. When the three parts are done, I’ll publish them all as a single book. At least, that’s my plan.

Off we go. Westward Ho! y’all!


Ben Bones & The Twin Pistols

I completed the first draft of Ben Bones & The Twin Pistols. The story is resolved, exactly where I wanted to get to. Justice has been served and poor old Ben Bones is shorted once again.

I want to put the book aside for at least a couple of weeks to give the ideas time to settle. That hiatus also gives me time to develop ideas for what to fix in the story and/or the writing, and to figure out where to attack these fixes. I want to “enrich” the story with more description of places, including tactile and aromatic aspects.

Basically what I’m saying is that the story is done, but now it’s time to dig back in and do a whole lot more work to bring the book to its final form.

Meanwhile, NaNoWriMo is here (almost) and I’ve been wanting to do that again this year. The problem is that the projects I have on my list are all bigger than a one month Nano effort. I’ll report back on this later.

Goals and Statistics

I want to be more productive. Honest. I want to be able to churn out stories and books. I really do.

The problem is that even though I take the writing seriously like a real “job,” it’s not like factory work. You can’t just flip a switch and roar through one project and then start another and on and on… without fallow periods.

Writing is an organic and holistic process. I’m not sure what those words might mean to you readers, but to me they mean that the writing process involves periods of “thinking,” worrying over plot details, hours of research, and plain old fallow periods when a writer’s mind continues to solve writing problems in the background while life is lived in the foreground almost “normally.”

An example: I prefer to write first thing in the mornings. I can usually get in several hours before I have to go function in the “real” world. This morning my writing session was interrupted by two friends and a mimosa brunch at a great local restaurant. I returned home and watched Star Trek: Voyager episodes. Great stuff, even though it doesn’t produce any noticeable word count. But the “time off” is needed for the mind to work on its own without being pushed.

I had a great four day writing sprint on my current novel. I cranked out almost 5,000 words over the four days. At approximately 250 words per printed page in the final 6×9 inch book, that comes to 20 pages. If I want to produce a 90,000 word novel, and if all systems are functioning at optimum levels (Star Trek jargon), it should only take me about 2.4 months to complete a first draft. I did a bit of calculation and here’s a table I worked up:

Avg #
Words Per Day

Final Length

Writing Days






















Wow! If I only had the energy, could live without sleep, had a plot, didn’t have to do any research or go out and work for a living… but I don’t. And now, at 73, my time is short and I want to leave a sizeable pile of paper behind me when I leave this earth. My one major regret is that I didn’t take my fiction writing more seriously earlier in life. It looks like I’m going die a famous unknown author. Ha! Joke’s on me.



Coleridge Moments

I hate it when I have a Coleridge Moment. Oh, you want to know what I’m alluding to…

Well, Samuel Coleridge is famous for writing the poem Xanadu, but there are only 3 verses. Why? Coleridge was an opium smoker, and he awoke from an opium dream with 12 complete verses ready to go. He sat down to write them but was interrupted by a knock on the door by somebody who had come to hassle him about some money owed. When he finally got the guy to leave, Xanadu had left too. And that’s why we only have 3 verses.

Last night I had a dream. I dreamed an entire short story, very clever stuff too, all based around a single active verb… but for the life of me, I can’t remember the verb or the story. It’s driving me nuts.

When I was a nature photographer, I learned a hard lesson. I was sleeping in my Blazer at the entrance to the National Bison Range in Moese, Montana and was awakened in the night by the howl of coyotes. When I opened the tailgate to have a look around, the Northern Lights were undulating above me in curtains of emerald green. It was exquisite. I remember saying to myself, “Get up and photograph this.” I didn’t. I went back to sleep and have never seen the lights again in my lifetime.

The lesson? “Don’t ignore a one-time event. Capture it while it’s in front of you or lose it forever.”

It’s the same thing with these nighttime story ideas. Don’t just stay in bed enjoying the story; get up and write it down or lose it forever. I know this. You probably know this too. But being a human (!), I lost this great story idea. I can’t recall a bit of it, not even the verb it centered around.

Three Critical Questions

I’ve solved all your writing problems for you… except that it is for plotting, characterization, scene and setting, clue dispersal, description and dialogue issues… There are other problems that occasionally crop up, but let’s ignore them for the nonce.

I’ve distilled it all down to three critical questions for you to ask and answer at the beginning of any fiction writing project. Please read on to achieve enlightenment.

  1. Whose story is it?

Answer: Who is the story about? There can be more than one person, though there is usually a central character.

There may be more than one story line. This may demand more than one central character, don’t you know. (Writing is such a chore sometimes.)

  1. Who’s telling the story?

Answer: Will one narrator tell the entire story or will various characters take up the tale at different points?

  1. What is at stake for whom?

Answer: This may be your motive.

Who stands to win something (wealth, status, power, etc.), and who stands to lose something.
How hard are they willing to fight to achieve their goals?

Ask and answer these three questions and you will have the skeleton of your story in your hand. Having done that, all you have to do is write the blasted thing.

Hitting a Plot Wall

I’ve been ignoring Ben Bones & The Twin Pistols far too long. It’s pure avoidance. I hit a plot wall a full month ago (meaning that I had no plot in mind when I hit it), and I’ve been feeling guilty about it ever since. I’ve been wrestling with various ideas, but… well, if you’re a writer, you know how it goes.

I’m going to make an assumption here: that every writer comes to a place in a story where there ain’t no way to go and the characters aren’t telling me what to do with or to them. For me, it’s the middle of the story. It’s a point the characters are all on stage just standing around loitering and doing nothing to move the story forward. They can’t even think of what to do next, let alone actually do something.

It doesn’t matter that I had a great start, that I had a clear ending scene in mind, that I knew my characters and their motivations. Nope. None of that matters a bit. I simply have no idea of what happens next.

A while ago I hit on a scheme to shake some ideas loose. It’s called a “Major Events” sheet and it provides me with a snapshot overview of what’s going on. It has various points for me as the writer to keep in mind. The headings on the sheet, with explanations, are as follows:

  • Whose story is it?
    Answer: Who is the story about? There can be more than one person, though there is usually a central character.
  • Who’s telling the story?
    Answer: Will one narrator tell the entire story or will various characters take up the tale at different points?
  • What is at stake for whom?
    Answer: This may be your motive.
    Who stands to win something (wealth, status, power, etc.), and who stands to lose something.
    How hard are they willing to fight to achieve their goals?
  • Need conflict between…
    Answer: This may be your plot.
    There can be more than one conflict. In fact, there’d better be or you will have a lifeless one-dimensional story.
  • Problems for the writer.
    Answer: What obstacles can be placed in the characters’ paths?
  • Problems for the Characters.
    Who does what to whom? Why?
    Who blocks another character’s ambitions? Why? How?
  • Sequence of Events.
    Answer: This is how the plot plays out.
    What scenes are vital to the story? Why?
    Who is in those scenes?
    When does each scene have to appear (early, mid-stream, late)?

I hope this will be useful to someone out there in “radio land.” Write and tell me if these scribblings helped you out.