Category Archives: MacBook Pro

Don’t Ever Stop!

So… This little thing called PitchWars happened. It’s what triggered this particular post, but it’s not what this post is about so I’ll cover it very briefly.

It’s a contest where writers submit their first ~250 words and a Query to the four mentors of their choice and hope to get selected. In short (because I’m rubbish at being brief) I was selected by the Awefantabulous Renee Ahdieh.

Renee is exactly what I want and more importantly need in a mentor. Her feedback has helped me add layers of depth to CROW’S BLOOD that I knew were missing, I just couldn’t see where. I’ve learned some of my pet phrases, identified some comma issues I have, and so much more, and I’ve exterminated them with prejudice.


Seven weeks later, our part in PitchWars wrapped on January 22nd as it went to the Agent Round. The first 250 words were posted with a 35 word pitch (here in case you’re interested), in hopes of Agents commenting and making requests.

It’s those requests that bring me to the point of this post. I had 0 requests. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Let me tell you a bit about how this little writer’s ego works: I’m a brash, cocky, confident bastard. Except when I’m not, which is often. The key is that I try not to let that side show to the world at large too much. The only person who sees that side of me most often (my wife) does a great job of propping me up so I can continue being the confident bastard that I am.

I’d be lying if I said getting zero requests didn’t sting. It cut pretty deep. Those are my words! Right there, with that zero looking me in the eye, I could have quit. Packed it all in and reclaimed my TV and video games. I could have given up the dream and driven my wonderful wife insane.

I could have listened to the mean voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “Zero, that’s how many people give a damn about your words. That’s what they’re worth. That’s what your worth. Give it up. Go home. Loser!

I’ve heard that voice before. That’s the voice that comes around any time I put myself out there, whether I’m public speaking, writing, tweeting, or posting on my blog. I don’t like that voice. I made the decision long ago not to listen to that voice. That voice is an asshole. The things it says aren’t true and are designed to cut us where it hurts the most. That voice is borne of fear.

We all have that voice. The difference between those who go on and those who fold isn’t a matter of skill, or worth, or ego. It’s a matter of will.

So here’s what I have to say, not only to those who didn’t get requests in PitchWars, but to those who have ever queried, or submitted, or done anything that brought around that voice:

Don’t. Ever. Stop.

Do what you love, whether it’s writing, drawing, dancing, singing, building life-size models of X-Wings out of Lego, whatever it is, as long as you love it (and it doesn’t hurt anything).

As for PitchWars… Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I’ve learned so much, and met so many wonderful, dedicated, and helpful people.

Until next time, I’m going to go write and revise, because that’s what I do, and I love doing it.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” – The Bene Gesserit


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Filed under Agent, BookB, Character, Contest, Critique, deadlines, Editor, Ego, family, Feedback, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, MacBook Pro, Motivation, Pitch, Query, Revision, Twitter, Validation

My NaNoWriMo Survival Kit or How I Won and Didn’t Lose My Mind

I promised this at the beginning of the month: A list of the tools and tricks I use to survive (and win, 3 years in a row) NaNoWriMo.

I want to be perfectly clear, I don’t work for any of the following (except perhaps the last), and I don’t make any money off promoting their products. They’re simply things that have become an essential and integral part of being able to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Could I do it without them? Sure. I absolutely could (except again, the last). I won my first year of NaNo using MS Word and nothing else. But I’ve built this arsenal and I intent to continue using it as I work to build and perfect my craft.

So here it is.

Literature & Latte‘s Scrivener and Scapple
I used Scrivener during NaNo last year, in fact I learned Scrivener during NaNo last year. It’s an incredibly robust piece of writing software that I now do 95% of all my writing in (even the technical documents I often write for work).

It has an easy to grasp interface with plenty of places for notes, synopsis, and tags, that all feeds into a neat little corkboard interface you can use to shift scenes about. It’s robust built-in tool-set can be overwhelming if you just dive in and try to use it all at once. Take some time and do the tutorials, and always remember: You don’t have to use EVERY feature. Use what works for you.

Just a note on Scrivener, the Manuscript Target display loses count somehow and will be short on words if you leave it open all the time. Use the “Project=>Project Statistics” count for a closer idea, it will also update the Manuscript Target count.

Scapple is new for me this year (it’s a fairly new product). Where Scrivener is robust and complex, Scapple is stark and simple. It’s a free-form mind-mapping tool that I’ve started to use for outlining (and taking notes at work…). I’m positive I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Scapple can do.

Nuance Mobile‘s Swype for Android with Dragon Dictation
If it weren’t for this software I’m positive I would have lost my mind. I spend ~3 hours a day, 4 days a week commuting from my day job. That’s 12 hours of potential writing time I waste in my car. At the same time, driving is boring, which also makes it one of the best times to have epiphanies about plot points, scenes, and character interactions.

Before using the Dragon Dictation piece of Swype I would do my best to remember all the little ideas I had while driving, and I’d inevitably fail.

That said, Dragon Dictation is FAR from perfect in a car with a great deal of road noise (I drive a 2012 Civic that I’m positive is made out of aluminium foil). Not to mention it might be less than optimal that I’m dealing with a Hidden History/Fantasy story with words that people just don’t use on a daily basis.

Still, even with the clean-up I had to do on what it scratched out for me, it was a great help in not losing my mind.

Mur Lafferty‘s I Should Be Writing NaNoWriMo Specials
I listen to the ISBW Podcast regularly (well, as regularly as Mur gets them out there, but she’s a busy writerly type person, with books coming out and deadlines and whatnot so I harbour no ill will). This year she’s done a series of podcasts dedicated solely to NaNoWriMo. I found them to be a nice break, and at times a good reminder that other people suffer from the same problems and blocks I do while writing.

Clementine Player’s “Rain” Extra.
This one’s a little different. On my Mac I use Clementine Player instead of iTunes, mainly because iTunes doesn’t support FLAC or some of the formats I’ve purchased or ripped music into. I write in a room adjacent to where the rest of my family watches TV, and frankly, I think they’re all going deaf.

Sometimes if I’m writing something challenging where I need to concentrate the sounds from the TV just don’t help. I need something without words to distract me and send me off on tangents. Sometimes that means classical music, instrumental, or even house/club/trance/techno.

Then there are the times where even having something with a regular beat, or discernible patterns causes problems. That’s where the “Rain” feature under “Extras” comes in. It’s a generated thunderstorm, where the thunder and rain patterns are random and non-repeating. It’s perfect.

ZeFrank‘s “An Invocation for Beginnings”
If you ever needed a kick in the pants to get something started, whether it’s the project on the whole, writing a particular scene, or just getting your butt in the chair, Ze’s Invocation is just what the doctor ordered.

I listen to it when I start out. I listen to it when I hit a wall. I listen to it when I just don’t feel like writing. It hasn’t failed me yet.

My Wife
She holds all the loose pieces on that seem ready to fly off at any given moment. Not only does she give me the time (time she loses) to write, she supplies encouragement and support, and most important of all, she sometimes even brings me caffeine!

She tolerates my cranky moods when things are going well. She kicks me in the ass when I whine too much. And she doesn’t make me sleep on the couch if I’m up ’til 1am “just finishing one more paragraph”.

Out of all the things that make winning NaNo possible, she’s the one I couldn’t do it without. Oh… and a word processor, because writing 50,000 words out by hand or on a typewriter would suck.

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Filed under 50K, Learning, MacBook Pro, NaNoWriMo, Real Life™, Scrivener, Word Count

Key(board) Dependencies.

I swore I’d never turn into a “Mac” guy, and as far as I’m concerned I’m still not. The commercials annoy me, the dogmatic love of a product/company/brand despite things like price or functionality or open flexibility always irks me.

When I was given a MacBook Pro (late 2009 15″ model), I grumbled and groaned and whined, “Why can’t I just have a Dell, or an HP”, something that I could install Linux and run Windows or whatever in a Virtual Machine.

Those systems weren’t the “Corporate Standard” and weren’t supported, so they wouldn’t let me purchase one. Here, take your used MacBook Pro and shut up.

So I learned to work on a Mac, while still using a PC at home, and playing games on my HP laptop. See, I was flexible. I could adapt!

Well, adapt I have. I forgot to bring my MacBook power cord home with me from work this evening and it only had 36 minutes of juice left. There was no way I was going to reach 1,667 words in 36 minutes, not coming in cold without time to get my head in the game anyway.

So I despaired. Here I was, falling madly in love with Scrivener and cranking out words, good words, into my book for NaNoWriMo/NaNoFiMo, and I was going to have to use my HP to write for a night, without Scrivener!

Then it clicked. I could grab the Scrivener demo for Windows! I’m saved! I don’t even have to export my draft to a word doc and go back to the “old” and “clunky” way of word processing.

I set things in motion, got Scrivener installed, opened up my draft and got started. Only to find that the keyboard on my HP is INFURIATING to type on. Keys don’t take my input at a tap, I have to PRESS them firmly (F in particular, which is really no fun when your main character’s name is Flynn), and the shift and return keys are all kinds of messed up in their location and size.

Anyway, long story, um, long I guess, I met the minimum word count quota for a single NaNo day in about twice the amount of time it takes me to write 2k words on the keyboard I’m used to and I’m calling it a day.

Does anyone else find they can’t work near as productively if their environment or tools change?

– Grimm

P.S. This blog post took over 15 minutes to write on this keyboard :-/
P.P.S. Give me a keyboard like on my MacBook Pro with any other OS (that supports Scrivener) and I’d be just as happy, so I’m NOT a Mac guy, just a guy who loves his keyboard and hates change.


Filed under BookB, MacBook Pro, NaNoFiMo, NaNoWriMo, Word Count

And then some.

It’s the Saturday before Hallowe’en, time for parties and costumes and mistakenly bedding the wrong kangaroo costume clad spouse at drunken parties.  Good thing I don’t drink or go to parties, and my wife doesn’t dress as a kangaroo (most of the time).

What did I do on the Saturday evening before Hallowe’en?  I bashed out enough words to put this draft of BookB at 50,000 words.  That’s right, I sat in a chair at my kitchen table and played pretend in my head with my fingers flying across the well worn keyboard of my MacBook.

I did it to music of course.  Not the music you’d traditionally get at a Hallowe’en party, tonight it was Radiohead’s In Rainbows, which I bought during their blitz “pay what you want” sale for $8.  It did roll over into Kid A at some point, but I was too engrossed in my own little world to notice.

Speaking of Hallowe’en, or better still All Hallow’s Read, check out yesterday’s blog post for links and information on getting a free audiobook written and narrated by Neil Gaiman while supporting charity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and religiously following Kevin J Anderson’s blog for great tips for any writer, even if they aren’t participating in NaNo.  The goal for NaNo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a worthy goal for any writer who holds down a day job.

They classify 50K words as a novel, and at ~200 manuscript pages (205 with my style setup) I suppose it is.  But having hit that mark a few times now I’m not sure I could fit this novel into such a tight constraint.  Granted, the outline sits around 19,000 words, but I’m a heavy outliner.  I’m shooting for just shy of 100,000 words, and looking at my outline versus what I’ve written, that’s about spot on.

For those of you who follow my blog, or who have randomly jumped around and read that I’ve just entered the Third Act of the draft, you might wonder how I could possibly only be at 50K words.  Well, fear not my friends (and potential enemies looking for weaknesses via my blog), I have a fair number of chapters that still need to be written further back in the draft, and a good number of small re-writes to do.

If you recall (or care to search), I re-jigged the entire outline and dropped a number of viewpoint characters to rein in the story to something a little more manageable and character focused.  I’m still on track to finish the draft by the end of the year, and if I succeed for the second straight year in NaNoWriMo, possibly by the end of November.  Tack on a few months for edits and polish and I could be submitting by February.

Then again, I could be working on the next revision to clean up any major holes I leave this time 🙂

We’ll see soon enough.  Either way, I intend to enjoy the ride more than any possible accidental and mistaken pseudo-marsupial encounters I could be having.

– Grimm

P.S. Kat Ellis retweeted my Blog update announcement on Twitter (cause that’s where you retweet things) and my readership for last night’s blog post tripled!  For any of you who stick around, it’s good to have you.  There will be free explosions for words for all.

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Filed under 50K, BookB, family, MacBook Pro, music, NaNoWriMo, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Twitter, Word Count

A little at a time.

Piece by piece, bit by bit, BookB is coming along.

As promised I went over last night’s work tonight, and luckily it wasn’t complete tripe and got to stay. There were a few rough spots that needed tidied and words that needed added and subtracted, but that sort of stuff is always pretty simple.  Besides, that’s what copy passes are for, and I’m not due for those for another revision or six.

I completed the scene, retouched how the conflict at the end is done, and wrote another scene on after it.  Now, a section of the previous revision that was 4 pages and really really rough, is closer to 40 pages and starting to feel a little more like something readable.

For those not aware, I’m doing my writing on a MacBook Pro lately, I’m not much of a fan of Apple and their products, with their closed eco-systems and “don’t overthink it” mentality.  It’s my work machine, and it certainly serves the needs of a writing machine, mostly because it’s small and quiet, with a decent screen, and a simply wonderful backlit keyboard.  Most importantly, it can’t play any of the games I want to play.  So I get more writing done.

One thing I’ve truly missed (I have Word and Chrome and WinAmp all handy in Mac versions), is the Everchanging Book of Names, which means any time I have to add a new character, or discard an old character and combine them with another etc.  I have a hard time with their damnable names.

I’ve got a system and an etymology set up for names, but in EBoN it was a simple matter of building a rule set and letting it generate something close, which I would then modify to suit my mood.  Now, I have to start from scratch.  Really, I just wanted to whine a bit there.

I’m still enjoying the “work”, even though it’s taking considerably longer than I thought it would, but when you only have an hour or two a night, after your job, family, and kids, all while still neglecting to spend much time with your beloved, it’s simply going to take more time.

I have to live with that.

– Grimm

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Filed under BookB, Character, MacBook Pro, Real Life™, Revision