Word #38221: eh, close enough.

“This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.”

The important thing is that I’ve got some new drugs that seem to be working (like, legit medications prescribed by my doctor, not tainted utopium), so I should be able to get, well, not back on track. But on a track. Good enough.

So, this NaNo didn’t work out as well as I hoped, but there’s always next year.

Word #17014: it’s not failing, it’s just changing goals.

Okay, so, my new goal for NaNo is 41,514 words. Even though that’s an official NaNoFail, I will consider it a “win” if I hit that total. Look, you can’t blame me for the faults in my stomach lining (Can you?), and something, or actually more like everything, had to give. I’ve reduced my daily targets for this to accommodate the other projects I also have to get done.

Word #13053: I’m still here.

4,808 words yesterday, a bit short of my goal of 5k, but not bad considering the, you know, vomit. I’ll probably come short of 5k again today too, but the rest of the week should be good. Remember when I said there was no chance I would miss my goal of 60k? The universe frowns on the cheeky, people. But I’m hopeful I’ll at least hit the 50k required to officially win NaNo. I have an outline, so theoretically I should be limited only by my typing speed, except there are always parts of the outline that are dumb or just say, like, “They go somewhere and get a thing.”

Word #7575: okay, maybe now I should panic.

All right, now I must admit that I’m far enough off track to be alarmed. But everyone loves an underdog, right? Surely I can do it. Maybe I can do it. We’ll see if I can do it. Perhaps I should mention to my doctor the need for a speedy solution due to NaNo. As for the draft itself, well, it’s drafty, as my drafts tend to be. I know writers who write their books completely and pretty much finally the first time through, making sure they have all the right words in all the right places as they go. I am not that writer.

Word #… um… 5615? Well, crap.

So I’ve been struggling with some health problems for the past month, which I will spare you the details of because “details” mostly means “vomit,” and my NaNo word count is the latest in a line of things to suffer for it. I’m 9,000 words behind pace to hit my goal of 60k. But fear not! It’s only the 7th, and I’ve come back from bigger deficits than this before. In the meanwhile, I’m only 5600 words in and there’s been both sex and violence, so, totally off to a good start.

Your Complete Guide to NaNoWriMo Readiness

Last year, I skipped NaNoWriMo for the first time in twelve years, and I’ll tell you what, it just didn’t feel like fall. So this year I’m back with a vengeance. 60k or… or nothing, because there is no possibility that I will lose. BOOM! And because I’m out of practice, I’m reposting these important NaNo prep tips that I wrote back in 2013.


The debate between plotters and pantsers will be raging, as it does every year, in forums and blogs across the writerverse. People will be vehemently defending the merits of outlining in advance/discovering their novel as they write it, and in many cases judging the other side, even going so far as to declare how “real writers” do it.

I think a lot of time is wasted on this argument that could otherwise be spent on important pre-NaNo activities like shopping for the best price on Fun Size Baby Ruths. The way I see it, you’re probably going to fall naturally into one category or the other, and letting your brain work how it works is more important than how someone else wants to tell you to do it, or how your favorite writer happens to do it. So just figure out which one you are, and be that.

But plotter or pantser, NaNo requires a lot of preparation that has nothing to do with the actual content of your story. There are two reasons you don’t write at this pace year-round. The first is that it’s only suited to first drafts, and if all you ever wrote were first drafts you wouldn’t be getting very far. The second is: you don’t have time.

Well, you don’t have time in November either. That’s why you need to spend time beforehand setting up as many things as you can to run on auto-pilot. Things like:

Soundtrack
You’re going to need a playlist that can, among other things, energize you when you realize how much your novel sucks and don’t see the point in typing another word of it. How big a job this is depends on how much you think your novel will suck, but it never hurts to be on the safe side and get your music in place ahead of time. I like to have theme songs for all my characters, and a theme song for the story itself, and then some theme songs that are just for snacks.

Speaking of snacks
Stocking up on candy and caffeine is of course the top priority, but it can’t be the only one. Some of us have families depending on us for their survival, and all of us have ourselves depending on us for our survival. Take it from someone who’s been there: if week 2 finds you weeping softly in a junk-food-and-takeout-induced stupor, unable to focus enough even to remember your protagonist’s name, or your dog’s name, or your own name, this is bad for your word count. Somewhere along the line you’ll want to mix in something healthy and home-cooked. Something with vegetables.

I use a nifty app called MealBoard to plan my meals in advance and then generate shopping lists for me on the fly. When November 1 hits, I know what’s for dinner all 30 days, I’ve bought as many ingredients ahead as freshness will allow for, and I can get the rest each week with a list generated in the grocery store parking lot, solving plot problems as I walk up and down the aisles rather than thinking about what I need.

Also, NaNoWriMo is just one of the many experiences that can be improved by a slow cooker. Cooking Light has a great list of slow cooker recipes that I go back to again and again. But if even reading a recipe is too time-consuming, that’s fine too. Just throw in a slab of meat and whatever vegetables are in your fridge, add a cup or two of liquid (wine, beer, cider, and stock are all your friends here), shake in whatever spices strike your fancy, and there you are. You can do all that while your morning tea is steeping, and that’s the last time you have to think about your dinner until you’re actually eating it.

Household maintenance
This one is easy: clean really, really well right before Halloween. Then adjust your definition of “clean” for 30 days. If you’ve got a family member or roommate who objects to the new standard, be sure they know where the vacuum is kept.

Oh and by the way, it’s holiday season
If you’re American, maybe you’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner or traveling for the holiday. If you celebrate Christmas, maybe you’ll type your last word only to look up and discover, with much panic, that it’s only 3 weeks away. Plan, book, and buy what you can in October.

And speaking of holidays, Halloween is an important one for NaNo. Have more candy than trick-or-treaters. Apply leftovers to noveling.

So get moving, people. November, much like winter, is coming.


I have a fresh NaNo account this year. Buddy me at jen_rasmussen!

Crook and candy

Crook of the Dead
Look at that spooky cover, just in time for Halloween!

Lydia Trinket is all adventured out for the time being. CROOK OF THE DEAD is now available in both Kindle and paperback editions, completing the trilogy. I’ve got mixed emotions about finishing, because Lydia has been so fun to write. And I’m so appreciative of the emails from folks who’ve also found her fun to read!

As is often the case with new releases, my mailing list subscribers have been enjoying a 99¢ sale on the Kindle edition of Crook. Now that there are less than 24 hours remaining on that special price, I’m letting you fine folks in on it as well. It goes up to $3.99 on Tuesday 10/20, so don’t wait!

GHOST IN THE CANTEEN and PEAK OF THE DEVIL are celebrating Lydia’s sunset ride with Kindle Countdown deals, and are priced at 99¢ all week. It’s a great time of year to get into the series, if you haven’t already.

Speaking of a great time of year, who’s doing NaNo? I sort of am, but I’m cheating. I’m drafting a project right now and can’t sit on it until November 1, so it’ll be partly done by the time NaNo arrives, and the draft will be finished somewhere around mid-month. I may or may not use the latter half of NaNo to play around with something else, depending on how rigorous my revision looks to be.

Either way, I’ve already broken into the Halloween candy. Obviously. I’m kind of into the Three Musketeers this year, which is unusual for me. What’s your position on the best fun-sized candy bar?

Liar liar pantser

First, I lied last week about that being the final book cover. It seems CreateSpace does not work and play well with dark colors, and we’re having to make some compromises. Of course I could just use a different cover for the paperback than the ebook, but I’m leaning toward consistency.

Second, NaNoWriMo starts in, what, ten days? I’ll be pantsing it this year, by necessity rather than choice. I’m a really big planner by nature. I’ve only tried pantsing once before and it was a disaster. It’s okay, I’ve got time built into the workplan for ignoring everything I do during NaNo if I have to. But who knows, maybe it’ll allow some brilliant ideas to spring up from the dark recesses of my brain, where the things lurking are… usually not brilliant.

So, wish me luck, even though I’m a liar? I guess is the point.

September wind-down

Just a week left in September. Time to stow away the Earth, Wind, and Fire and pull out the Danny Elfman. I think that’s not a bad trade. I’ve always felt that October is unequivocally the best month of the year. And not just because of the Halloween treats. Okay, mostly because of the Halloween treats. But also foliage! And fall weather! And the Carolina Renaissance Festival! Although let’s face it, the purpose of the Ren Faire has a lot to do with caramel apples, which just brings us back to treats.

My next newsletter is coming in early October and will include the recipe for the coconut-curry-lentil soup that sustains me for the first half of NaNoWriMo. Whether you participate in NaNo or not, this soup is just the best if you live somewhere that has autumn. Or lentils. Also in that newsletter: the first look at the ebook cover for Ghost in the Canteen, the latest release information, and great mostly-semi-healthy snacks to eat at your desk.

Speaking of NaNo, the site always resets around October 1, so that’s a good time to register, if you haven’t already. If you’re into the November madness and want to be my buddy, I’m hiding there under the very clever alias of jenrasmussen.

Finally, you’ve only got another week to cast your vote in the September poll in the sidebar. Frankly, I’m kind of surprised the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version hasn’t gotten more love, though it’s not my personal favorite. I’m sure the October poll will be something super fun an exciting! Well, mostly sure. I haven’t thought of it yet.

The North remembers that winter is coming in April

Goodness, but April is a busy month, what with the launch of ESO and Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven’t got much to say about either. Yes, the launch is buggy, because that’s what a launch is. The bugs aren’t what matters. What matters is, how many more times am I going to create, delete, and recreate my character because I change my mind about her hair?

As for NaNo, this is my first year at camp. I set my goal at 30k because what I’m doing is really more of an extended outline than actual writing, full of things like: And then she arrives in town. Describe town. And sees the ghost. Describe ghost. But that’s okay. My goal for April is just to get the story straight in my head from beginning to end, work out what my characters would do or how they would react to certain things, and flesh out some scenes if and where I can. I’ll actually write the thing, um, later.

But none of these activities, nor the activities of normal non-April life, can compete with what happens on Sunday:

Game of Thrones is back, and the North remembers, bitches!

Obviously some lemon cakes are in order, at the very least. The ones in A Feast of Ice and Fire are delicious. (I use the traditional recipe because frankly, the modern one looks harder.) If you haven’t got A Feast of Ice and Fire, time is running out to get it before you have to make something icy and/or fiery for Sunday, so you’d better get going on that.

Am also considering making a pie of a certain flavor, even though this isn’t the season for it. That may make no sense to some of you, but the book readers, they know.

Will you be watching? Are you doing anything special for the premiere?