One Tool for NaNoWriMo

A big shout out today to long-time writer buddy Allison Pang for the release today of the third book in her Abby Sinclair series, A Trace of Moonlight. Makes me all nostalgic because it seems like just a short time ago that I was reading the first chapters of what became the first book, A Brush of Darkness, and giving her feedback.

Also, Carolyn Crane’s Mr. Real is out today! You read all about her cover trials before here.

I know a lot of you are heading into NaNoWriMo, the national novel-writing month, where people attempt to write 50,000 words in November. I don’t really like to do NaNoWriMo, because I find I’m happier if I can create and sustain a more regular writing schedule than a big one-month push. But a lot of people love it – especially the camaraderie and feeling like part of a team.

Me? I love my spreadsheets. And, because I’m sometimes asked, I decided to share a whittled-down version of my Progress Count spreadsheet. (I hope the sharing works – I *think* I uploaded it correctly.) Here it is:

Jeffe Kennedy Progress Count template

I say this is whittled down because my actual workbook has 15 tabs, with various works in progress. So, for template’s sake, I included just Rogue’s Possession, which I just finished drafting, and Ruby, which is underway.

On the first tab, the Overall page, is where I track all the words I do for each week. I recently decided to start tracking by month and year, too, just for grins. However, I just added that last week, so the October count is likely a little short. But it’s a close estimate. The Overall tab also adds in my blog post writing for each day, which I think totally counts. My minimum effort for any week is 7,000 words.

Ruby is the next tab because that’s the one actively underway. I pretty much only work on one thing at a time – unless a deadline interferes. For example, if my editor sends me edits and says “can I have these back  by Tuesday?” or if Agent Pam says “they’d like to see a sample chapter.” And yes, in those cases, I absolutely move that book’s tab into the space of honor.

That’s just how I roll.

Ruby’s tab is still set for yesterday, because I haven’t dug in for today’s wordcount.Rogue’s Possession is empty because it’s done for now.

But feel free to play with this. I have lots of formulas and conditional formatting, because I love to see things turn green. Ask me questions here, if you like, and I’ll try to explain my reasoning.

Happy Word Counts!

Competing for Covers

The cover of Platinum. So much pretty.

(Just in case you missed the cover reveal on Sullivan’s blog over the weekend.)

Covers are a funny thing. They are often the faces of our books – the first impression and lasting image. From the marketing end, the cover is the keystone of all publicity. After all, there’s not that many other visual images to tie to a story, except maybe the author head shot. (And for a lot of us, no one wants to go there. 😉 ) For the readers, covers add to the book’s caché. I know readers who collect bookmarks or cover flats of digital books, just to have the cover to look at.

If you’re a writer working with a publisher, what the cover will be is pretty much out of your hands. Oh, we get input–Carina and Ellora’s Cave have us fill out art fact sheets describing the book, characters, mood, tone, genre and visual hooks. And the marketing teams show the draft cover to us and we can give feedback. They smile, nod and give us the cover they want to.

If you self-publish, the writer becomes her own marketing team. Even if she hires a cover designer, she still has to communicate her concept, what the models should look like, the fonts and colors. It can be grueling, as I recently watched my friend and CP, Carolyn Crane, go through. She wanted the cover for her new book, Mr. Real, to be exactly right and wonderful, going through many iterations to get there.

(I know this because I think I looked at EVERY ONE.)

At any rate, she finally decided on a cover that she loved. Everyone was joyful. Until she found out that another author had received a nearly identical cover from her press – and the book is in the same genre and releasing on the same day. You can read Carolyn’s truly hilarious take on the fiasco here.

What strikes me most about this whole adventure though, is how lovely everyone was about it – especially the other author. We hear a lot of tales about author jealousy, infighting, plagiarizing, attack-sockpuppeting and various other kinds of unpleasantness. People love to pass around those stories. I knew this guy once who loved to complain about how women compete with each other in jealous and mean ways. He’d say “if two guys show up to a party wearing the same clothes, they’ll be friends for life – if two women wear the same dress, they’ll be at each other’s throats.”

Yeah. He was an ass.

But whenever he’d say that, I’d remember something that happened to my mom. The first time she ever volunteered to help organize a charity event, it was the inaugural fundraising ball put on by the American Cancer Society in Denver. She killed herself helping to plan this ball. Tons of work. And she stressed about what to wear. We shopped in EVERY store in Denver for the perfect dress. She visited me in college in St. Louis and we shopped there. We visited my aunt in Chicago and shopped there, too. This was over the course of nearly a year. Finally she found the perfect dress (I think in Chicago) and all was right with the world.

She arrives at the ball early, along with the rest of the committee, to finish setting up and in walks her good friend and another committee member wearing the exact same dress. That she’d bought at an exclusive boutique. Myrtle Rose, my mom’s friend, broke out laughing – I mean, what were the odds? – and said she’d go home and change. My mom protested and MR said, no, she’d been torn between two black dresses and all her make-up and jewelry would stay the same – she’d just shuck on the other dress and be right back.

It was done with the same spirit of friendship and generosity as Carolyn showed – and as the other author, Julianna Stone, showed her. After all, Carolyn was out money and the time she’d already invested in showing off the cover. It was well done of her.

I love a happy ending.

Oh, and speaking of – If you’d like win a 3-chapter, synopsis and query critique from me, you can do it here!