Thursday, November 26, 2009

Backup, Backup, BACKUP!

I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened. Every November, every NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month),  someone I know tells me they lost ALL OF THEIR WORK. Yes, that’s right. Their computer crashed, or they  didn’t have a backup, or something, but they lost their entire novel!

Do you want this to happen to you?

Of course you don’t. But it could, and you should be aware of the possibility.

Yeah, I know. We’ve all been told the horror stories of losing your work. But it doesn’t hit you until it hits you.

For me, that was a few days ago. I was working late into the night, trying to make my word count. I did, I posted it, and I went to bed. It wasn’t until the next morning that I discovered that all of my work from the previous night was gone.

Now, it wasn’t my whole novel that was missing. It was just one night’s work. But that didn’t matter because I proceeded to freak OUT!

One of the things going for me is that I make backups two or three times a night. Especially if it’s a heavy writing night. And this particular night, I was in luck. A previous version had everything I was missing. But the lesson is just as pertinent. Make backups of your novel! Heck, make backups of everything!

Being a computer guy, the rule of thumb is this. You don’t make backups of the things you can afford to recreate. So the question is, can you afford to recreate your novel?

I’m betting no.

So what’s that mean to you? I’ll tell you. Put those flash drives into action and save your novel off once in a while; probably every day, maybe more frequent than that. I have 3 or 4 flash drives and I rotate them, just so I don’t inadvertently over-write a good copy with a bad copy.

But whatever you do, do something! Anything is better than nothing, and if you have a snafu, like I did, any backup is better than no backup!


~ Doug McIntire

You can find out more about this author and his writing at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Word Counter

As promised, another trick up my sleeve for clean editing. This one takes care of pesky repeated words. These are SO hard to recognize in your own writing, so easy in your critique partners'. But, for the ones they miss--or if you aren't fortunate enough to have a crit group--there's Word Counter. It tallies occurrences of all the words in the text you paste into it. It will process 19-20,000 words, but I think it's more useful, and faster, to give it a chapter or two at a time. Over 20,000, and internal errors occur.

There is a promise (enticement?) of being able to load a document in the future. The present options are to exclude or include small words, such as "the" and "it"; to list 25, 50, 100, or 200 overused words; and there's a beta version and an original version. The beta version will look for base words that you've added "ed" or "ing" to, as an example.

For fun, you can submit prose to see if it contains political leanings. Or you can look at the Smugopedia blog and post something opinionated.

Try it out and see what it Have fun!

PS. You can even do this on another screen while you're furiously typing NaNo words. Maybe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jumping the NaNoWriMo Shark

I loved Happy Days. Fonzie was my favorite character, and I still use his catchphrase "Sit on it." When I saw the now legendary "Jump the Shark" episode, I thought it was awesome. True, I was eight at the time, and maybe I didn't understand that the writers were struggling with where to go with the series, but I saw nothing wrong with a guy wearing a black leather jacket jumping his motorcycle over a shark.

Okay, now I kind of see what people made such a fuss about. It's trite, contrived, and just plain silly. But being a NaNoWriMo participant, I get it. That's because NaNo allows you to jump the shark without worry of ridicule. If you're stuck in the story, unsure where to go, it's fine to "jump the shark" by killing off your main character or having them doing something totally outrageous things to get to the next chapter. Unlike the writers of Happy Days , you can always fix it later.

In my current NaNo novel, I've managed to switch protagonist completely because I got bored with mine. The story began in 1596 England and is now currently taking place in present day Louisiana. I started out with magic mirrors and ended up with voodoo priestesses who like to fool around with Greek gods.

How will the story end? Does it matter? Nah. Not to me anyway. NaNo is one long writing exercise with multiple opportunities to try things you might not normally do in telling a story. The only thing that really matters is reaching the finishing line with your 50,000 words.

So I say, "Jump that shark, baby."

Have fun doing it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have a few tools in my kit that I'd like to share. I love these things! The one for today is ReadPlease. It reads my manuscript to me! There's no better way, other than this one eagle-eyed woman I know, to catch all your little typos and mistakes. I let ReadPlease read my stuff while I have the document open on the computer. When I hear it saying something like "He gave her all of his the potatoes," I alt-tab over to ReadPlease, pause it, fix my boo-boo in Word, then go back and let it start again.

I downloaded it free and now's a cute little icon on my desktop. Looks like a green-shaded desk lamp. When I click on it, a little box pops up. On the right are places to adjust the speed, font, and choose which voice you want. The free version comes with four voices, two men and two women. (They don't seem to like it, but it's fun to click on their faces.) At the top, the Tools tab will let you set all sorts of things I've never bothered with, such as pauses between paragraphs, and custom pronunciations. There's even a setting for Low Vision colors under Vision Impaired.

All you do to get started, once you've downloaded it (I'll give you the site at the end of this), is paste your text into the window. You can paste any type of text, from anywhere. At least I haven't encountered any limitations on this. There are instructions in the window, but after you read them you can delete them. They'll be there next time you open it. You can paste about 3000 words at a time. Don't worry if you've tried to do too many; it'll just cut off when it's full.

After you paste your text, click Play and open up your document, either on paper or on your screen, whichever works better for you.

The free download is available at A digital version is available for $49.95, but I'm not sure what I'd do with that. Tweak it, maybe? There are other interesting things on the site if you want to poke around.

The free version, 2003, works fine for me. Let me know if you try this and like it.

PS. I'll share another one next week.

PPS. Better not try this if you're in the middle of doing NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

National Novel Writing Month - Week One in Review

The first week of the National Novel Writing Month is now behind us. For many of us, that meant frantic writing to try to meet our word count. This is the fourth year that I've participated in NaNoWriMo. I've succeeded each of the prior years. But this year, I fell into the age-old NaNoWriMo trap. On about the third day, I realized that what I was writing was crap. It didn't inspire me. It didn't encourage me. I didn't write. And I fell behind.

It wasn't until yesterday that I figured out the trap I’d fallen into. I forgot the essence of NaNoWriMo, which is to write; nothing but write; and to write like the wind. I wasn’t writing. I was complaining about how much my story sucked. Of course it sucked. I was putting it down on paper for the first time. Anyone’s first draft sucks. Some of ours more than others, but it’s called a first draft for a reason. And that reason is it sucks!

Boy, I want to re-emphasize that; it sucks. It Sucks. IT SUCKS.

Don’t get me wrong. You might have a great story there. And you might even have a lot of gems within your writing that you're really proud of. That's wonderful, and I do too. You might also have a lot that needs to be fixed. There's nothing wrong with that. I do too. This is NaNoWriMo, the time when the goal is not to write a perfect novel, but just to write a novel. Period. If you thought you would write a perfect novel, then you were wrong.

And that was the trap I fell into. I wanted it to be perfect. Okay, maybe I just wanted it to be good. It wasn't. Or at least I didn't think it was. But looking back on it, maybe it is. It’s at least adequate. And the goal is not perfection. So by day seven, I remembered that it wasn't about writing a perfect novel, it was about writing a novel. And that's what I'm trying to do. If I want a perfect novel, I'll have to edit.

And so will you. Don't try to write the perfect novel. Try to write a novel. That's what this month is about. Write it now; worry about editing it later.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How's NaNo Going?

For anyone doing NaNoWriMo, how's it going? I kept up beautifully for three whole days. But now I'm behind by about 700 words. That means I have to write 2367 to get even today. Probably not gonna happen!

But, if you're having trouble meeting your goal, here are some tips, thanks to our CenTex group's brainstorming session Monday (when we were supposed to be writing).

Have a character who repeats everything said to him or her.

Use him or her instead of him. Or her. Use that a lot.

Do not use incomplete sentences. Insert the whole subject, verb thing, always, at all times.

Never use contractions, spell everything out.

Use several small words wherever you can instead of one big one.

Describe everything fully. I know, this is bad writing, but you can take it out later. After you've fulfilled your goal. Oops. I mean: You can do this after you have fulfilled your writing goal and after you have met your word count. (See how much better that is?)

Any other ideas on padding--I mean reaching the word count?