Sunday, November 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo recipes for success.

Yes, folks, it's November 1st, and you know what that means: It's NaNo time!

For those just joining us, November is National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, a.k.a. NaNo. This thing has morphed into a pretty good-sized event, with thousands of writers around the world taking part. The idea is to write 50,000 words in 30 days -- 1,667 words per day. Fifty thousand words is a novella -- or a really good start on a longer novel.

Now, just because you've spewed 50K words on a virtual page by the end of November, it doesn't mean you can upload it to Amazon immediately. Well, you can, but it's not a good idea. It's a much better idea to consider your NaNo work a first draft -- or, as some writers call it, a zero draft. Let it sit for a few weeks (at least!) -- until January, say -- and then dive into it and start hacking it to pieces. Eventually, with a number of rounds of editing, you'll have something you can be proud to publish.

But the thing is, you can't edit a book until you have a draft. That's the real value of NaNo -- it gives you a reason to write the first (or zero) draft in the first place.

I didn't do NaNo last year, although I did Camp NaNo in the spring, and I've done several of both over the past few years. The last couple of times I did NaNo, I thought I could beat the system by ignoring my book all week, and then writing like mad on weekends. The flaw in that plan, I discovered, is that people want to do stuff with you on weekends, and it made me cranky when I couldn't get my writing time in. So this month, I'm going to try pacing myself a bit better, by aiming for 1,667 words on as many days as I can and writing ahead when I can. I know already that writing ahead will be necessary, as I've managed to schedule myself out of town for not one, but two long weekends this month -- and the first one is next weekend, when I'll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY. (I'm participating in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading Thursday afternoon at 3:00 pm -- if you'll be at the convention, join us!)

Keeping yourself well fed is another thing to consider during NaNo. Novelists do not live by caffeine and junk food alone -- or they shouldn't, anyway -- and cooking from scratch doesn't really take that long. No, really. Stir-fries are ridiculously quick. Here's a basic recipe that I made for dinner tonight, in fact.

  • 1 cup of uncooked rice (brown or white - your choice)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 lb. protein of your choice (beef, chicken, whatever - you could even use tofu, but I've never done it)
  • 1 bag of vaguely Asian-style frozen vegetables (I used Trader Joe's Harvest Hodgepodge)
  • Ginger-garlic sauce (see below)
First, put your rice and water a 3-quart pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for however long the rice bag says. If you have a rice cooker, it's even easier: plug in the cooker, put rice and water in the pot, and hit the start button.

Now, mix up your sauce. I use a half cup of water, about 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch, 2-4 Chinese restaurant packets of soy sauce (so maybe a tablespoon?), and about 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger and granulated garlic. Stir it up in a one-cup glass measuring cup, then taste to see if you need more spices. Once you're happy with the taste, set it aside.

Go write while the rice cooks.

Cut your protein into 1-inch cubes (a little bigger or smaller doesn't matter). Spray the bottom of a wok or large frying pan with cooking spray. Dump in your protein cubes and saute (that means cook over high heat while stirring them around) until the sides are browned, which will take a couple of minutes. Dump in the frozen veggies and saute the whole mess for about a minute. Stir your sauce again, and pour it over the protein and veggies in the pan. Once it's bubbling, let it cook for another minute or so, until the sauce thickens. Serve the stir-fry over the rice. Makes about four servings. 

Now you've had a good dinner (with leftovers for later in the week) and you even got some writing in. Nice job! Now go write some more!

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In other news, A Billion Gods and Goddesses dropped this week at Amazon and Smashwords, and the paperback is out, too. I've been gratified by the response so far; in fact, the book even made it onto Amazon's Hot New Release list in a couple of categories. Thanks very much! You're all my new best friends.

There appears to be a snafu with Smashwords' distribution system to other retailers -- so if you're interested in the epub version, you might want to buy it at Smashwords and sideload it to your device. Let me know if you need directions on sideloading.

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These moments of stir-fried blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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