Movies about writing and writers

A few posts ago, I discussed the amount of actual time it might take to write a book in 30 days, which is what all the WriMos started doing yesterday, presumably with a stack of candy (it WAS just after Halloween, after all).  In that posting, I suggested that if you forgo ALL personal time (or, more accurately, squeeze ALL personal time into 5 hours/day, including eating), you still have 5 hours a day to devote to writing your book if you work 8 hours a day and sleep 6 hours a day.   If you actually spent 100% of those 5 hours each day for 30 days doing nothing but writing constantly and consistently, you would only need to type 7 words a minute to write 50,000 in 30 days.

But no one writes that way.  You’ll need to take some breaks to recharge. It’s a good thing you type faster than 7 words a minute, isn’t it?  So what can you do for relaxation that doesn’t take you TOO far from the laptop (just in case inspiration strikes)?

You can watch movies about writing and writers.  There are a lot of them.  Not surprisingly, many movies are about screenwriters (hmm, I wonder why), but there are also quite a few movies (some better than others) about book writers, poets, playwrights, etc.  So, in no particular order (well, except for the first one, which seems appropriate since we’re all about to artistically “suffer” writing 50,000 words in 30 days, AND since NaNoWriMo kicked-off on Halloween at midnight), are 25 movies about writers that you can watch when your fingers need a break during National Novel Writing Month. Add them to your NetFlix queue today.

1. Misery

2. Chinese Coffee

3. House by the River

4. Prick Up Your Ears

5. The Player

6. Barton Fink

7. Midnight in Paris

8. Deconstructing Harry

9. Wonder Boys

10. Another Woman

11. The Squid and the Whale

12. Capote

13. Numb

14. Starting Out in the Evening

15. Shadows in the Sun

16. The Ghost Writer

17. Beautiful Kate

18. The World According to Garp

19. Zorba the Greek

20. Listen Up Philip

21. The Tenants

22. Stuck in Love

23. Finding Forester

24. Sideways

25. Adaptation

Okay, okay…. you didn’t think I was going to forget one more, did you?   The Shining

I’m sure there are many others, but as they say,  “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”  So have fun while you’re writing! Who knows? Some of the movies above may just inspire you (or at least explain why some writers are cra-azy!)

DAILY STATS UPDATE for November 1, 2014

Yesterday was fun! It was the first time I got to actually work on the book I’ve been blogging about for nearly a month, and the first time I got to put some words to paper, and then enter my word count into the NaNoWriMo site.  Contrary to my own advice, I didn’t quite reach 3000 words the first day out, but that’s okay. And, it’s even BETTER for the WriMo’s I’m mentoring because it offers up an opportunity:  I challenge you to stay AHEAD of me.  Each day I will post my previous daily stats on this blog and as long as you write MORE words than I do, you’ll be pacing yourself well (assuming, of course, that I will be pacing myself well, so the pressure is on!).

Average Per Day 2192
Words Written Today 2192
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written 2192
Words Remaining 47,808
Current Day 1
Days Remaining 30
At this rate, you’ll finish Nov 23
Words/Day to finish on time 1,594

I’m assuming the “Days Remaining” stat still says 30 because I updated my word count at noon, mountain time, on November 1.  That last stat is the benefit to writing MORE words than the required 1666 per day. Every time you write MORE than the required average, your NEW required daily average decreases.  Talk about a psychological boost!

National Novel Writing Month kicks off today

My last several posts have all been leading to this day, when the 2014 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) officially kicks off.  For the next 30 days, approximately 500,000 participants from around the globe will be striving to accomplish the same thing: To write 50,000 words of a book before the stroke of midnight on November 30th.  That’s 1,666.6 words each day. We’ll be cheering each other on in local “Write-ins” around the country and world; we will be helping and commiserating online through the NaNoWriMo website and its forums; and we will be updating our daily word counts through their website as we each try to complete this amazing accomplishment.

For each “book” that you submit to NaNoWriMo (although it’s not really a book yet, since you haven’t written it — it’s a book idea), NaNoWriMo provides you with a “Stat” page on its website. Right now, before I’ve written a word, it looks like this:


As you update your daily word counts, the table on the left will recalculate your averages while the line and bar graphs on the right will (I’m assuming) show you where you (and perhaps your local community) are compared with other NaNoWriMo participants.

Okay, it’s time to start writing. Each day I will post my own personal table stats as they are updated, so right now it looks like this:

Average Per Day Not started yet
Words Written Today Not started yet
Target Word Count 50,000
Target ~ Words/Day 1,667
Total Words Written Not started yet
Words Remaining 50,000
Current Day Not started yet
Days Remaining Not started yet
At this rate, you’ll finish
Words/Day to finish on time 1,666

Tomorrow I’ll update with new stats, along with my daily “Mentor” postings for other WriMos.



Beginning National Novel Writing Month with a BANG

Happy Halloween.

Tonight at midnight marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, when approximately half a million people from around the world will attempt to compose 50,000 words of their books before the end of November. I am joining them, as I write my dark comedy/thriller, Idle Hands.

And today I’m going to offer 3 suggestions about a way to not only survive, but thrive, as you cope with the next 30 days, which promises to tax your mind as well as your body.

TIP #1 Begin strong

And by that I mean,  take advantage of this first day, when you are going to be the most vigorous, the most pepped-up, the most anxious and excited, to tackle this adventure.  For those of you I’m “virtually” mentoring through the NaNoWriMo site on this blog, and for others who have stumbled across this blog as you prepare for this journey, here is my suggestion for day #1:  Write AT LEAST 3,200 words.

Why? Because if you begin with 3200 words on November 1, you can begin a countdown that allows you to write LESS words on each day that follows.  There is a psychological advantage to approaching each day of writing knowing that you are allowed to write fewer words than you did the day before.  So if you start with 3200 words on November 1, and write at least 3100 words on November 2, and 3000 words on November 3, and 29o0 words on November 4… and so on and so forth… you can “reward” yourself each day by writing 100 words fewer than the day before, and cross the finish line on November 30th with the word count total you seek.  Are you allowed to write more each day? Of course, and you should! There’s nothing wrong with crossing the 50,000 word finish line early. In fact, NaNoWriMo allows you to “declare” your 50,000 word count and begin the confirmation process as early as November 20th.

TIP #2 Write every day

When you are feeling inspired and motivated, it’s “easy” to write.  It’s more difficult when you approach your keyboard with trepidation or even fear.  But my suggestion is to combat that fear or trepidation head-on and be sure to write AT LEAST 1000 words EACH AND EVERY DAY, even if you really, really don’t want to.

Why?  Because skipping even one day puts you in a hole.  On the next day, not only do you have to write THAT day’s word count, but yesterday’s, as well.  It’s easy to see how completely skipping even ONE day can start to build an astronomical hole from which you cannot escape.  Don’t fall into that hole.  Write at least 1,000 words each and every day (unless, of course, you’re religiously following my advice in TIP #1 above and have earned the right to write less in the latter half of the month due to your impressive diligence in the first half).    Some days you might write 2,000, and some days, hopefully, even more.  But there may come a day or two in the course of the next 30 days when you absolutely, positively, don’t want to write one single word.  And on THOSE days,  be sure to write anyway.  You don’t want to find yourself too far “behind.” It’s very, VERY, difficult to catch up.

TIP #3 Write a treatment for your whole book on November 1

Since Day 1 is the day I have taxed you with writing at least 3200 words (of course MORE would be better!), and since Day 1 is the day you should feel the MOST inspired, and the most excited, Day 1 is the day to take advantage of your reckless muse and push “her” for all she’s worth.  Leverage this by writing a treatment or short story, that condenses your entire book into 3500-5000 words.

Why? By doing this, not only do you get all the important elements on paper (you know, the beginning, the middle, and the end), but you make your entire book seem more “real” since it is written down.  You suddenly have a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and, more importantly, you’ve harnessed your muse to bust through the 3,000-5,000 word count barrier in a single day, which gives you some latitude for the rest of the month.  And, with your whole book condensed into a short story, you have an outline for the rest of the month…

Start your engines everyone.  National Novel Writing Month is almost under way!

Pacing yourself to write a book in 30 days

Yesterday I posted the 9-block pacing/plotting device I’m using to write my novel, Idle Hands, in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month between November 1 – November 30.  Here it is again as a reminder:


Today I’m going to discuss the notes on the outside of the box, and in many of the corners of the boxes. For instances, you will notice above the top-left box it says 3.5 Days, 7000 words, 10 pages (if you can read my handwriting).  I wrote that same thing over all three top boxes. And then in the remaining boxes I wrote simply 7,000 words.

My goal is for each “block” to have approximately 7,000 words.  By writing this word-goal on each block of my visual outline, I am constantly reminded of (and motivated by) this word count goal.  For me, writing 7,000 words seems much more achievable than writing 50,000, so by dividing my novel into 9 “bite-size” chunks, the task of writing an entire book in 30 days doesn’t seem so astronomical.  It will also help keep me focused, and on pace, to complete all 9 blocks in 30 days.

That is why I also wrote “3.5 Days” in every box (where I had room).  This tells me that I should spend no more than 4 days on the characters and plot within each block.  I am well aware that writing a novel in 30 days will (if I’m lucky) only present me with a first draft, and one which will require a fair amount of revision and editing.  But, why not make that first draft as complete, compelling, and well-paced as possible?  If I’m 4-5 days in and still on Block #1, this “calendar” will remind me to skip to Block #2. Sure, I may have to go back and fill in some blanks (so to speak) during my 2nd draft, but that’s okay. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words of a book down on paper, so you have a huge first step toward a complete 1st draft of a book. Sounds easy, right?

So all I have to do is write 10 pages (at 8.5 x 11) every 3.5 days, which is approximately 7000 words. And if I do that consistently, in 31.5 days I’ll have a 90 page book of about 60,000-65,000 words.

That’s good news!  That’s 10,000-15,000 MORE words than I need to write to “win” NaNoWriMo. It’s especially good news since November only has 30 days, not 31.5.  I’ll need to be sure I’m a little ahead of the average.

The “STATS” screen on the NaNoWriMo site suggests a daily goal of 1,667 words (more on that tomorrow).  I’m shooting for a daily goal of 2,000 words.  I’m doing this for two reasons. 1) 50,000 words is short for an adult novel so I want my first draft to be longer, and 2) If I start with a higher word count average at the beginning, I’ll have a little more latitude toward the end of the month when I might be burned out (and when Thanksgiving happens; I doubt I’ll want to write when I’m full of tryptophan).

So if I have to write 2,000 words a day, how much time do I need to devote to this adventure?  Well, I have a job and a family, and I will need to eat and sleep, so let’s begin by removing time from each of those requirements in a day to find out how much time I have left.  For most of us, we work 8-10 hours a day.  If there are 24 hours to begin with, removing 8 leaves us with 16 hours. Let’s say during the course of November we’re going to sleep only 6 hours a day (might be less than the national average, but those average people aren’t writing a book in a month, now, are they?).

So that leaves us with 10 hours in a day.  Does 5 hours sound fair for rush hour, eating, family, exercise, and all the daily minutiae we all take part in?  For November, it’ll have to be.  And that leaves 5 hours to write.  Each day.

Composing 2000 words in 5 hours equates to an average words/per hour typing rate of 400.  That equates to a words/minute average typing rate of 6.6, rounded to 7.

ANYBODY can type 7 words a minute, even if you’re a glutton for punishment and planning on texting your novel into a mobile phone or using one of those virtual keyboards on your iPad.

By determining your words-per-minute typing speed, you can see how close you are to this 7 words-per-minute requirement to spend 5 hours a day typing your book.  This link takes you to a words-per-minute typing test:

I just found that link on the internet, and I just took the test myself:


So by determining your typing speed, and the amount of time it will take you to write your daily goal of 1667-2000 (or more if you’re inclined), that tells you how many hours each day on average you need to commit to working on your book during NaNoWriMo in order to complete 50,000 words in 30 days.

And that’s what those “November 1, November 2, November 3….” words are all about in each box of my 9-block outline.  That gives me something to check-off, or scratch out… It gives me a daily exercise to complete so I can feel as if I have accomplished a milestone for that day.  Once I reach my word count milestone on November 1, you can bet I will be scratching that “Nov 1” line from my outline… Call it catharsis. Call it motivational. Call it what you will. Find what works for you, and incorporate it into your daily routine during November…

Start your engines… it’s about to begin…

Donate to NaNoWriMo

The last and final Participation Badge for 2014 NaNoWriMo is the “Donation Badge” and in order to earn it you need to make a charitable donation to NaNoWriMo, which is a worthwhile cause.  According to the NaNoWriMo website…

…when you donate to National Novel Writing Month, you help bring free creative writing programs to nearly 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 200 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 650 libraries, and 600 NaNoWriMo regions every year.

You not only support people’s novel writing dreams, you help transform people into creators who see new possibilities in the world—and act on them. You spark a creative revolution.

“Storytelling is a powerful act. Stories have the mysterious power to widen hearts and change minds. The psyche is never quite the same after receiving a story,” says author Mitali Perkins in NaNo’s 2013 Annual Report.

Your donation spawns NaNoWriMo’s unique brand of transformative magic.

NaNoWriMo relies on individual donations to pay for things such as web hosting costs, pep talks, Come Write In resources, and classroom kits to help turn people into writing wizards.

Nearly half of our income comes from individual donations. We need to raise approximately $1.3 million in 2014 to put on NaNoWriMo and our other programs. Please donate and help us today.


On October 20th, NaNoWriMo had secured $581,736 in donations.  A week later they had $615, 215.  So leading into November 1, they earned $33,479 in one week. I wonder if their donations speed up or slow down after November 1… I guess we’ll find out.  Yesterday I donated to the cause, and here’s a list of all the “stuff” I get as a result:


  • The 2013 NaNoWriMo Webinar Double Pack including both donor-only webinars from earlier this year, the Book Doctors’ “Make Editing Fun: How to Enjoy Revision” and Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of Artisanal Publishing”
  • A coupon good for pie with NaNoWriMo Director of Programs Chris Angotti and Executive Director Grant Faulkner. You have to come to Berkeley to redeem it, but come on—this is good pie. Also, the coupon is fully transferable!
  • An option to have your novel featured online in NaNoWriMo’s Mighty Catalyst Bookstore.
  • A year-long print and digital subscription to The Sun, a unique monthly magazine of essays, interviews, short stories, poems, and photographs. Writing from The Sun has won the Pushcart Prize, been featured on National Public Radio, and appeared in Best American Essays and Best American Short Stories!
  • The 2014 “Boundless Novel” poster designed by Elizabeth Doyle
  • A starry “Halo for Your Wrist”!
  • A “Novelist’s Little Helpers” sticker set, which includes three (3) 3” by 3” round stickers each instilled with a bit of writer-ly magic to help you reach 50K.
  • Your very own magical NaNo Wizard bookmark signed with thanks by our Director of Programs Chris Angotti and Executive Director Grant Faulkner
  • A donor halo on your NaNoWriMo author profile
  • A listing on the NaNoWriMo Brought To You By page
  • A coupon code for 30% off plus free shipping from our friends at Chronicle Books
  • A coupon for a free Structure class from StoryWonk ($10 retail value)


So now that I’ve collected all the Participation Badges, it’s on to the Writing Badges, which I can start to earn starting on November 1…


As a NaNoWriMo mentor, I recommend to all participants of NaNoWriMo that you spend the days leading up to November 1 earning all YOUR Participation Badges, one right after the other, as I did.  You’ll feel more committed to the cause, and that can only help as you begin taxing your mind and your fingers to churn out 50,000 words in 30 days.




Two New Badges at NaNoWriMo

As of today I’ve earned all-but-one of the “Participation Badges” at NaNoWriMo. Over the weekend I earned the “Buddy Badge” by inviting two of the local moderators to be my buddy. I’m still waiting for our EVP at Outskirts Press to join me on NaNoWriMo as well and then I’ll have one more buddy.


In fact, I will hopefully have lots of buddies in the coming days because I also posted on one of the forums, which was a requirement to earn the second to last Participation Badge.  There is a forum channel called “Mentors Looking for Newbies”  where “experienced” WriMo’s offer to help neophytes.  It’s probably a little presumptious to offer to be a mentor since I’m new to NaNoWriMo this year, too (as a writer, at least), but, what the heck!  So I posted an invitation to other WriMos for me to be a “virtual mentor” through this blog. In the days leading up to November 1 I will start to thoroughly detail the planning and plotting I’ve conducted for my comedy/thriller “Idle Hands” and perhaps other WriMos can glean some suggestions or tips from those postings. Then throughout November I will post about my progress, and pass along some suggestions and tips and inspiration along the way.

So, in essence, in addition to committing to write 50,000 words in 30 days for my novel, I guess I’ve just committed to writing a whole bunch more than that just for my blog. Hmm… who knows? Maybe I’ll turn THIS content into a book, too…  Writing TWO different books during NaNoWriMo?  Now, that’s insane!

T-Minus 5 days!

How does Outskirts Press compare with other NaNoWriMo sponsorship deals?

Even though NaNoWriMo said they were full this year in terms of sponsors, that doesn’t mean Outskirts Press can’t offer a great promotion to WriMo’s (and everyone else, too). In fact, as discussed yesterday, this month we’re offering a FREE CUSTOM COVER for anybody who publishes their NaNoWriMo book with us, provided they begin their publishing process before Halloween and enter the promotion code when they start.  In fact, you don’t even need to participate in NaNoWriMo to take advantage of this great deal, which offers a savings of $299 (and better yet, ensures your book DOESN’T look like you cranked it out in a month!).

That made me wonder how our “unofficial” sponsorship deal at Outskirts Press compared with the “official” sponsorship deals on the NaNoWriMo page. So, let’s have a look at the top 5 (us plus the first four listed on the NaNoWriMo sponsorship page).

Company Giveaway Approximate Value
Outskirts Press Free Custom Cover $299
Competitor C Two free paperback copies of your book $20
Competitor B One free paperback copy of your book $10
Competitor S 50% Discount on software license $20
Competitor F 40% Discount on distribution package $120

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days isn’t easy.  Self-publishing it should be. Have us do it for you at Outskirts Press (and get a free custom cover in the process). Click here now.

Get a free custom cover for your novel

As I continue this 2-month series about my participation in this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where you are tasked with writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November), I’m detailing both my online efforts on the NaNoWriMo site and (will soon) be detailing the planning steps I’m taking with the details of my book so I can hit the ground running on November 1.   There are already several “Write-Ins” announced for November 1 in areas throughout the country (and I’m sure, world), including several in the Denver, Colorado area.  I’ll discuss those in the coming days.

But today I will discuss the NaNoWriMo offer for a free custom cover for your book.  When you complete their online form (which is an easy proposition that requires submitting a 750 word synopsis of your book, your title, your author name, and your email address), you enter into a drawing to receive a free custom-designed cover by a cover designer for the book you are writing in NaNoWriMo.  Hundreds of thousands of writers participate in NaNoWriMo every year and they are giving away 30 covers, so your odds aren’t great — but there’s no reason not to apply.  I did — I took my synopsis that I posted a few days ago and shortened it even further to arrive upon 750 words, and then submitted it. I even chose the “be surprised” option by declining to submit my email address to be notified.   If you haven’t yet entered this drawing, you may do so from the Forums of the NaNoWriMo site.

Somehow, I have a feeling I’m not going to be one of the chosen few, and not just because the odds are approximately 10,000 to 1.


Forget those odds! The good news is that if you choose to publish your NaNoWriMo book with Outskirts Press, you are GUARANTEED to get a free custom cover for your book.  Just enter the promotion code COVEROCT14 with your Diamond book package before the end of October, and we’ll hold that promotion for you until your book is finished at the end of November and ready to publish in December. You can see samples of custom covers all along the right hand side of this blog, or if you prefer to see the 100 most recent ones, simply scroll through our online bookstore.

All the details of the FREE CUSTOM COVER promotion are available by clicking here.

Announcing IDLE HANDS to NaNoWriMo

The next “Badge” I received on NaNoWriMo was a Writing Badge, rewarded for announcing my novel on the site. I chose the Event date, which is November 2014. I provided the novel title: Idle Hands

Next it asked for the Novel Genre and provided 18 choices ranging from Adventure to Young Adult.  Idle Hands is a dark comedy-thriller, but that wasn’t a category, so I simply chose “thriller/suspense.”

coverNext it asked me to upload a cover .jpg for the book (see, I knew that would come in handy).

It asked for a short synopsis next.  I have a short three-page “treatment” that delves into the relationship between the three main characters, the two turning points, the two twists, and the climax, but that sounds too long to be defined as a “short synopsis” so I cut excerpts from it and arrived at this as a synopsis for Idle Hands:

“Brad is a Jewish entrepreneur who is approaching 40, unmarried, and lacking confidence in spite of his success with an internet matchmaking service he founded and programmed (initially to simply help with his own dating woes).  And before he knew it, it became successful and he became a millionaire. But it wasn’t enough. And on the cusp of a full-blown mid-life crisis, Brad meets Fenderson Quinn, a charismatic and unpredictable 27 year-old millionaire who sold his own company for $750 million dollars when he was 25.  Neither Brad nor Fender have to work, and with too much money and too much time on their hands, their devil-may-care attitude leads to a fast friendship punctuated by an ever-increasing sense of danger that culminates in murder, mayhem, and malevolence.”

Next it asked for a novel excerpt, which seemed odd since I haven’t written it  yet (aren’t we supposed to wait until November 1, NaNoWriMo?). So I left that blank and will fill it in later, after I’ve written my first word count (no reason to start early when it doesn’t officially count, right)?

Then I clicked “Save” and BOOM, collected my first Writing Badge: You’ve Got a Novel.

The next badges are Adding a Writing Buddy and Updating Your Word Count, and since it looks like that second one needs to wait until November also, I’ll be looking for a buddy.

Our Executive VP at Outskirts Press is participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo, too, so I’ll be adding Kelly to get my next badge.

Are you a “Planner” or a “Pantser” ?

I received a clever email from NaNoWriMo (well, actually, from the point of view of my unwritten book) inviting me, on behalf of unwritten books everywhere, to write my book this November.  It suggested that Step One in preparing for National Novel Writing Month is to DECIDE to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve already decided that.  Then, the email provided a link to a “Prep” page on the NaNoWriMo site which provided a series of steps leading up to November 1.  Step One is making the commitment to participate. Check.  Step Two is asking yourself whether you are a “planner” or a “pantser.”

According to NaNoWriMo, you are a “planner” if

1. You believe in rigorous preparation.

2. You’ll spend the months before November carefully fleshing out characters, building worlds, and plotting your story.

3. On November 1, you’ll have an outline—or at least lots of helpful notes.

 And, on the other hand, you are a “pantser” if

1. You believe in hardcore spontaneity.

2. You’ll spend the months before November stocking up on inspiration and mayyybe a vague idea or two (if you’re ambitious).

3. On November 1, you’ll have a blank document and your imagination.

It would be interesting to see if NaNoWriMo actually had statistics on the success rates of “planners” vs “pantsers” — in other words, which category is comprised of the most people who have successfully written 50,000 words? Perhaps my guess is based only upon the fact that I’m clearly a “Planner” but I would wager a guess that, statistically speaking, there are more “winners” in the “planner” category.  Being a planner suggests other character traits that will come in handy when trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days, namely organization, dedication, and commitment.  While the NaNoWriMo site says “We think both are equally valid” they clearly don’t, because in the very next paragraph they eschew the very essence of being a “pantser” by saying, “And even if you’re a pantser, we recommend reading through the links below… You never know what might inspire you.”  A pantser wouldn’t do that — that sounds like preparation and planning.

I have already done a lot of planning for my book, Idle Hands, and in the coming days I’ll share those plans here so those of you who are planning on joining me on this writing adventure can see what a “planner” does to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  And I’ll also continue filling out my author profile by collecting more badges…

T-Minus 10 days until NaNoWriMo kicks off….