Gifts for Writers

Writing. Holidays. Good luck.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What gifts do you recommend giving writers for Christmas?
—Leonard Ankeny, Marquette, Iowa. 

Great question! Folks, you have it easy when shopping for most writers. Most of us plan ahead, think forward, keep things unsuspenseful in general. There are works to be written. Christmastime isn’t a guessing game. Just ask; they’ll tell you. And hey, you’ll be right on the money with what you get for that brooding writer in your life. Isn’t that easy?

1) Notebooks

Boring, but by golly-geeze, they’re effective. It’s a little rude to whip out one’s smartphone or portable and start writing in the middle of something. “Hey, this is church! You should be listening!” But a notebook? Elegant. Sly. It’s gotten me out of the forefront of a few awkward social gatherings. I recommend the products at Moleskine.

2) Restaurant gift cards

Writing and cooking. They’re great, but they’re mutually exclusive. Anytime you hand that writer a potential “Get out of the Kitchen Free” card, you’ve bestowed freedom. Doesn’t freedom taste awesome? Plenty to find at Restaurant.com

3) Caffeine

Since I can’t quite recommend a bevy of intoxicants and hallucinogens, I’ll recommend legal stimulants. There’s always that person who’s going to run a writer ragged with “real-world” issues, chores, and whatnot. Give back by offering goodies that’ll recharge and supercharge that writing mind. Thinkgeek has some awesome novelties in the caffeine arena, and if you’re looking for excellent caffeine supply by way of coffee, Writing All Wrong chooses Camano Island Coffee Roasters.

4) Software

Really? Why not the ol’ parchment and quill? If you want to write for the market of 1612, be my guest. If you want to write for the market of today, perhaps you should ping that writer in your life, see what his keystrokes are going to. Scrivener has a good following, with a decent feature set that aids the planning and organizing as much as it does writing. If you’re into more minimal tools, I’ve found my writing doing most of its work in Pages (Mac-only, which you should be).

5) Time

Talk about the one thing we could all use more of. In writing, time is a premium. Why not cut your writer friend/spouse/significant other some slack? Maybe they can take the night off of Christmas card writing, extraneous partying, and other such things they’re too polite to decline. Anything you can do that gets time back in a writer’s day: that’s a gift indeed.

Plenty of options: go to. It’s what writers want. And writers, feel free to add to the wish list as you see fit.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

NaNoWriMo: Where to Go with your Story?

I had a chance to meet with one of my builders. Building a third home for myself, you see. They’re about a quarter of the way done, but the work’s on hiatus.

“What?” I ask. “You just stopped all of a sudden?”

“Sorry,” say the builders. “We don’t really know where to go from here. Didn’t have plans beforehand.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I do when I don’t know where to go with my story?
—Daphne Roberts, Cleveland

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

Go back in time.

November comes every year (except for back in 1126, 1884, and 1902), so you should have planned ahead. Had an idea? That idea just got spent over your first 8,000 words. You needed more.

Keep going somewhere.

You only think you don’t know where to go. You probably do, but it’s that “finished product” mentality holding you back. If you hit that roadblock after 10,000 words, start writing the last 20,000, come back to patch the road later. If there’s a great patch of dialogue between the werewolf boyfriend and the vamp girlfriend, write that. If you have all these great murder scenes in your head, press that ‘Fast Forward’ button, kill people off, and write ‘em up.

Retrace your steps.

Chances are, since you didn’t plan, you got lost. Whatever it was that got you up to the thousands for words: find it. Your dashing and unflawed protagonist. That inane backstory teeming with minutia that only you will find interesting. The formulaic opening to introduce your cast of characters. You liked writing about something. If you can’t summon the willpower to progress a story, we can worry about that some other time. Not NaNaWriMo time.

Just end it already.

Like it is with finding your way somewhere, you know where you start, and you have an idea of where you’ll be ending. Writing isn’t linear. If your novel doesn’t have an ending yet, well, tough luck. Make one up. If it doesn’t work, pull a page from the prog rock playbook and make it a false ending. The more you write of the end, the easier it will be the get there.

Go somewhere crazy.

You subconsciously reject the outlandish, only because it doesn’t seem to be what your story needs. No, wrong thinking. It’s exactly what your NaNoWriMoManUScript needs. Young adult cyberpunk tech-thriller? Throw in a serial Tyrannosaurus. Zombie apocalypse? Have them start a religion, philosophy, academies. Suburban women’s lit dealing with emotional trial over a husband cheating on a trusted friend? Turn that tryst into a full-blown love octagon. High fantasy epic? You don’t need crazy, just drawn-out backstory, maybe a few extended alchemic footnotes, and maybe a sudden war.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Remember, remember, the month of November 

The writing of novels a lot; 

I write not of knowing, but NaNoWriMo’ing 

An effort made for naught?

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s the easiest thing to write for NaNoWriMo?

—Katelyn Laek, Tigard, Ore.

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

I’ll break it down by genre. I’ve listed levels of difficulty associated with each novel of 50,000 words worth. If you don’t face much challenge with getting the 50k down anymore, feel free to up the grade on this year’s entry.

GAMING THE SYSTEM: Dadaist hypertext, repetitive incantations, uniform texts found in Borgesian libraries, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” abstract language narratives.

ALMOST EASIER TO WRITE THAN READ: YA-fiction, middle-grade fiction, crime, mystery, low-concept Sci-fi, urban fantasy, romance, vampire/zombie anythings, horror, autobiography, fanfiction, time travelogues, erotica, Christian fiction.

AVERAGE FARE, BLAND BUT LABOR-INTENSIVE: High-concept sci-fi, high/low fantasy, (anything)slash, holiday, inspirational, memoir, thrillers, military, biography, cyberpunk, chick lit, Westerns, space opera, war stories, queer fiction, courtroom drama.

MODERATELY TAXING, TAKING IT SERIOUSLY: Historically-accurate romance, romantically-accurate history, alternate-history anything, literary sequels, chiastic narratives, technical fiction, Victorian steampunk, non-Christian religious fiction.

TOUGH BUFF STUFF: Epistolary novels, continual stream-of-consciousness regurgitation, pre-Victorian steampunk, literary fiction, Gothic, saga, New Greek tragedy

TOP-SHELF DIFFICULTY: Christian erotica, Christian queer fiction, fictional literary criticism, prehistoric legal cyber-romance, modern Elizabethan drama, elementary school readers, medical texts, absurdist plays, Apocrypha.

WELL-NIGH IMPOSSIBLE: Preschool readers, ad copy, character sketches, haiku.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).