Preparatory Workshop - Todd Hogan - 2013-09-28

Photos from the event


Warrenville Public Library

With thanks to Jen Moore (Jen.E.Moore), Warrenville Public Library Librarian. She shared this information about upcoming events at the WPL: Register

  • Oct 7, Monday, 7 pm, Two Brother's Tap House: Books on Tap (talk about books, drink beer)
  • Oct 10, Thursday, 7 pm, Zentangle - coordinated doodling with pen on paper
  • Oct 17, two programs in the afternoon 2 pm Bingo, 7 pm Soups and Stews (chef with samples)

Hit the Ground Writing: Preparation for NaNoWriMo November 2013

  • Todd Hogan
  • Ref: nanowrimo_prep_workshop_todd_hogan_130928.ppt
  • Attorney, Writer, Editor
  • How to get psyched up for NaNoWriMo: the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days
  • How to prepare for it, attitude for it, hurdles, how to maintain enthusiasm for the entire 30 days
  • Thanks to the Writing Journey (sponsoring the program)
  • Each Saturday from now until November there will be other programs
    • Oct 5: 1 pm, Characters are Story (Katherine Lato): BS in Math and Philosophy; MS in Computer Science; Municipal Liaison; written at least 5 books; active on critiquecircle. Opening paragraphs, character development, dialogue and editing.
    • Oct 12: 1 pm, Story Structure (Roger Lubeck): 30 years of consulting services experience, PhD in Experimental Psychology; spends 50% of his time in California (member of a writing group there). Three Act Play, 7 act tv structure, writing without a plot, ...
    • Oct 19: 1 pm, Frank Dahlman: Keeping your readers engaged. How to write scenes, use of tension and pace, plot points, how to use emotion. Frank is a teacher of writing, head of the English department in the school where he teaches.
    • Oct 26: 11:45 am, Naperville Municipal Center pot-luck kick-off party for NaNoWriMo; opportunity to sit down and get ready for the sprint. Come meet other writers.
  • cards for questions?

30 days :: 50K words

  • Picture of a toad that tried to swallow a bat (bit off more than it could chew); spat out the bat which then flew away.

A brief Introduction to NaNoWriMo

  • NewMexicoKid - Tim Yao
  • Ref: File:Nanowrimo brief intro 2013.ppt
  • - online community and references; this is where you create your login and profile; this is where you set your home to USA::Illinois::Naperville; and this is where you update your wordcount (you write offline however you like), ensuring you finish your novel between November 1st and the end of November 30th
  • - this is where you can find information about the plethora of local events; we're a friendly community--just ask for help
  • - the Journey is the year-round writing group associated with our NaNoWriMo region. We have four self-published short story anthologies with more in the wings, lots of social and writing-related Paths for folks to follow (a cafeteria-style writing group). There are no dues.
  • Every workshop attendee gets an idea ring.

NaNoWriMo Experience

  • Okay to have doubts. Is it possible to do it?
  • Understand the challenge (a big goal you want in your life) and make a decision.
  • Setting the goal: when will you write? What will you write about? What tools will you use?
  • Take action. Daily habit of writing is a wonderful experience. What I found was, the more frequently I wrote, the more I wrote and the better organized I was in how I used my time. Went to the gym more frequently. I exceeded my goal and am looking forward to the next November.
  • Scott Thoreau was a trial lawyer: said being a trial lawyer was helpful to being a writer. Trial is a problem of narration; the lawyer tries to shape the story to get it across to the audience.


  • Aristotle: Art is concerned with bringing something into existence which may or may not exist. Art is concerned with production, not with action. We're committed to producing something worthwhile.
  • Cynthia Ozick. I wish I had written more. I wish I had been more prolific. I wish I had less fear of writing, more self-ocnfidence, less terror of it. Award winning writer (including three O'Henry awards, National Book Critics Circle best novel award, and many more). And she is someone who wishes she could write more. What held her back? She lacked self-confidence and had a terror to do more. You're not alone; it is something you can overcome.


  • Close your eyes and think back onto your favorite reading space, where you imagine yourself when you're reading. Think back to a book you really loved. How did you feel about that book? What made it so enjoyable?
  • Go back even further, to when you first began loving to read. What are your favorite books from back then? Favorite characters? What appealed to you? Plot? Place? The era? The time? The ideas they brought up? The clever word play? The humor? Was there one book that made you want to become a writer when you thought back?
  • When I was much younger, I enjoyed reading and came across Crime and Punishment. I had never experienced what I experienced with that book--how it put me into the mind of another person, someone who was justifying killing his landlady and killing her daughter. It was an amazing display of what literature could do.
  • For 3-5 minutes, talk to each other about a book that was special to you. Share.
  • Discussion
  • This enthusiasm talking about stories is what you want to bring to your stories. And you can do it. Every one of you can do it.
  • Harlen Coben. Guilt is the thing that relaly drives me. Everyday that I'm not writing I hear a mother's voice in my head: "Why aren't you writing that book?"

What does a writer do?

  • Read
  • Get ideas.
  • Plan (outlining, let those ideas incubate within your mind and go forward)
  • Write -- produce something tangible
  • Review and measure what you've written to improve it
  • Improve (by talking to others, experimenting)
  • Donate (time and energy and experience when you help a younger writer, critique someone else's work)
  • Publish (sell, make money)
  • Promote your work
    • Mark Twain promoted himself as a promotional writer--that look continues. Tom Wolfe borrowed the white suit look.
    • How do you want to be perceived as a writer? How do you want to project you are competent and creative?

Getting Ideas

  • What do I want to write about for 50,000 words
  • Where do ideas come from?
  • When starting out, you need pencil and paper (that's all you really need). Fran Liebowitz only uses yellow paper and pencil to write her stories.
  • A friend of mine that is now a NYT Best Selling Author (chicklit) worked in a clothing store starting out, would write her stories in the stacks 15 minutes at a time on a pad of paper with pencil.
  • When blocked, don't be afraid to go back to the basics.


  • Pens, markers, pencils (many colors)
  • Binders, notebooks, notecards, artist's paper, columnar paper (used otherwise by accountants; used to track where the characters are each day)
  • Paper clips, rubber bands, post-it notes (all sizes)
  • computers, notpads, printers, internet connection
  • kitchen timer helps (enter the 15 minutes you want to write), stopwatch, clock


  • Word-processing (Word, vim, Pages, Google docs)
  • Scrivener writing bundle -- good for outlining in one place, moving chapters around easily ** half price last year if you won
  • yWriter (similar to Scrivener but not as feature-full)
  • Kabikaboo
  • mindex (useful for family trees) - mind mapping
  • XMind - free mindmapping software
  • Also see
  • Thomas Edison: Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

What you don't need (Tools)

  • Eraser
  • Delete Key
  • Internal Editor
  • There are some editors with the delete key disabled.
  • Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi. People who find their lives meaningful usually have a goal that is challenging enough to take up all their energies, a goal that can give significance to their lives. -- if you want success, decide what goals you want to have meaning in your life; by hitting that goal, you can say you are a successful person.

The goal

  • 50,000 words in 30 days = 1666 words / day plus 1 extra word
  • about 100 manuscript pages
  • If you write 50K words, you win NaNo; NaNo doesn't care if you've written a saleable novel. There are others that write ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy": the Shining). Jack Torrence may have been a murderous psychopath. But he qualified to win. And you can do it to. (laughter)
  • You will end up with a first draft of a novel, even if it is abhorrent. You have to give yourself permission to write that terrible, awful first draft. It's okay.

Strategy to reach the goal?

  • Instead of 1,666 words / day, write 2,000 words per day. The result is 60,000 words or 50,000 words plus five days off. :-)
  • As you set that goal of writing each day, you develop that first draft. It will follow IF you have the habit of showing up every day to write. Don't wait--show up. Your first draft will follow right after that.
  • Allows for slippage.
  • Q: What happens if you have 10 pages already written?
    • A: You can add it in afterwards; think of it as pre section
    • A: If you've written 5000 words, when you get to 50,000, add them. Their criteria is 50K; your criteria is a finished story. Don't just win at NaNo; get the story that you want. But don't cheat when competing in NaNo.

Getting Ideas

mood02.jpg - Calvin and Hobbes

  • Do you have an idea for your project yet?
  • No, I'm waiting for inspiration.
  • You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
  • What's mood is that?
  • Last minute panic!

The right mood

  • Find a space/place/desk where you want to write.
  • Candles (atmosphere) - when I light a candle, I see the flame burning whether I am writing or not; so how can I waste the candle's light?
  • Music / playlists - I have one I call "Inspirational"; with the internet, you can get music from all over the world. Jazz/classical music from a station in France.
    • Put the song on repeat when it makes you think of something.
    • Character music.
    • Would recommend
  • Good luck charms - builds self-confidence; coins, statues, magic pen. Pick out something to be your lucky charm. Baseball players use charms.
  • The Time. Decide when you want to write. It becomes a Time to be your Time.
  • Dave Barry: I write for a couple of hours every day, even if I only get a couple of sentences. I put in that time. You do that every day, and inspiration will come along. I don't allow myslef not to keep trying. It's not fun, but if you wait until you want to write, you'll never do it.
  • From the workshop participants: Music, writing hat, when I put my kids to bed, trance music, Mac Freedom (turn off the internet for an hour), leave the house and live in Caribou Cafe.

The Right Mood

  • Time to write
    • when
    • how long
    • different times for different days
  • Manage time.

Time Management

  • Finding time: Cartoon: forget it, Josh--neither of us has the time-management sills for a sordid affair.
  • Space-time continuum -- time is like a closet (you have a finite amount of space in your closet)--only so much stuff will fit in the closet. You have to pick and choose what to put in the closet. Understand the size/scope of the closet.
  • Look at the hours you are awake.
  • Measure out for Monday through Sunday. That's the scope of your closet.
  • What do you have to put in there? Work. Bears Game. Exercise. Church. Visit Mom. The rest of the time is available for you if you plan.
  • 2000 words a day = 1000 words/hour for two hours a day or 250 words every 15 minutes (use the timer). This is doable. 250 words / 15 minutes for 8 periods.
  • Plan out where you put your time (can differ by day); double up some days and leave another day free; you'll be happier if you set times for you to write.
  • Ann Patchett: Writers are people who desperately need habits to fill up their days.
  • It can become something of an automatic crutch (nice)! Easier than recreating what you want to do each day.

Where do stories live?

  • They begin when you overhear a conversation or when you watch children playing or see a picture or hear music or see a sunset or an ocean view--something strikes a chord with you. See something on television that intrigues you. Think about the people you've met--they can become sources of ideas for you. Movies that you've seen that stay with you. Some aspect may be something you want to explore. Books you've read, characters you've encountered.
  • Once you have those pieces of your experience, stories live in your imagination and dreams, in your memories, in the River of Your Subconsciousness.
  • There is a dark, opaque place where these things reside: your subconscious. It is in this river where you look for your stories. This is where your muse will take you.
  • Muses are willing to help you; you can wake up in the morning or be taking a walk; your muse has done some exploration in the river of your subconsciousness.
  • When you're writing your 50,000 words, you're dredging in that river. Don't be surprised if that stuff is awful, ugly, disgusting. Not everything you dredge up will be useful. You can't sculpt or carve marble unless you have the stuff to work with (to break away to find the golden nuggets). As a writer, you strive to find those pieces of truth--these fuel what you do.
  • In each of us there are these nuggets; I encourage you to try to discover these and bring them forward in your 50,000 words.

Hurdles to overcome

  • Self-doubt-- you think: I'm too old. I'm too young. Too inexperienced. I've got nothing to say. To defeat this, I remember the story from the Bible about the people who worked in the vineyard; the owner hired workers in the first hour of the morning; then three hours later, hired others; even until the last hour, hired more workers and brought them in. When it came time to pay them, they lined up and the ones who were first were angry because the ones who arrived last were paid the full wage of the day. The story to me means: no matter what time you get involved in this process, you will get the full measure of success when you put in the work. Even if you work the last years of your life, you can be as successful as others working in the same period.
  • Time: I don't have enough time to write. Readjust your writing schedule, look at your time closet. Be honest with yourself--recommit to your writing schedule and the habit of writing. Remember: your goal is 50,000 words in 30 days to get a rough first draft.
  • Goal too great; more to say than just 50,000 words. Look at what you've written--are you telling too much back story? Too much plot? Too many characters? Don't give up--you have momentum, even if you get into the first part; you can write the others later.
    • write sketchier scnees, focus on a skeleton that you can do in 50,000 words; you can expand the story later when you're editing (makes editing more fun when you can write as you're editing).
    • sometimes writing through it helps, even if you're going to rip it out later.
    • write the ending--then you see what you're aiming at
    • trust your Muse. Listen to her--you may be surprised at what she tells you.
  • Urge to edit: making it better now. Remember: you have 30 days to get things done. Only so many hours. Give up on the edit key, brush that internal editor off your shoulder and move forward. Think about Aristotle's idea of production. You have 11 months after November to edit.
  • Lost: Where is this going? Sometimes you've written yourself into several different directions. How do you pull things back? Being lost is one of the greatest things that can happen to you; what happens after you're lost is SURPRISE--don't you love it as a reader when you're surprised? Something will excite you as a reader. That's when you should be open to something new in what you've created. You want surprise in your writing. You can discover things in what you've done.
  • Writer's block: regain your enthusiasm for this project. Look at what you have left. Break it down. Sometimes writer's block occurs because you willfully are trying to go in a direction your Muse doesn't like. Don't be surprise if you find you're at the end of your rope. Sometimes you wake up the next day with a new idea of what to do next.


  • Write to a timer
  • Meditate--think about things besides writing. Clear your mind. Be open to new ideas. Listen to what your Muse is telling you.
  • Take a walk
  • Attend write-ins--you're in a community of people going like mad writing different things
  • Take photographs. Go someplace you think your characters live. Take photographs and see what you see through the eye of a camera.
  • Compose a soundtrack for your novel. Figure out what is the soundtrack of your novel. Stimulate creativity in yourself.
  • Magazine pictures
  • Draw / paint / color - scenes from your story
  • Write backwards
    • Share with other people; ask for their ideas (Plot doctoring forum or regional forum)
    • Look at your character's life to think logically what they should do
    • A playwriter would speak about surgeon's block
    • Write crappy for NaNo
  • No rule says you have to start the beginning and end at the beginning. Bridges aren't made that way--you might end up someplace that's marshy. It isn't unusual to start at both sides and meet in the middle. Scaffolding lines can be very useful--sketchy things. Working towards the climax.
    • Railroads met in the middle.

November 28th

  • If you've followed your schedule, you've already won NaNoWriMo; but you might not have finished your first draft. Get to the end, even if it is a sketchy end. It's okay to sketch it out to get to the first draft.
  • It's okay to take some of your writing habit into December, but it is probably better for you to rest.
  • Brenda Ueland. Know that it is good to work. Work with love and think of liking it when yo udo it. It is easy and interesting. It is a privilege. There is nothing hard about it but your anxious vanity and fear of failure.
  • David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.


  • Relax, sit back, enjoy. Think about the type of writing that first excited you. Think that you're writing that fiction. You're writing at your most creative, most powerful. In the most successful and imaginative and lyrical way you can. Out there is a public that is urging you to finish your novel so it can devour what you're writing. They're lining up outside the bookstores to pick up your book. The critics are clamoring to read your work. Your publisher wants the number of your Swiss bank account: royalties and advances to deliver to you. And even your mother is proud of you.
  • The thing to consider: What would I write if I knew I couldn't fail. What would you write? What kind of story would you write?

Maintaining enthusiasm

  • Dream, like Love, Is Both a Noun and an Action Word. - you have to make it real, you have to breathe life into it.

October Prep

  • What are things you can do?
  • Map your time, plan out how you will fit what you will do in November into your time closet.
  • Start assembling your tools.
  • Brainstorm / Cultivate / Incubate your ideas -- write backstory on characters, flesh out your plot
  • Re-read your favorite authors and stories and see if you can learn something from them. Analyze how your favorite authors did it.
  • James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) - a drifter ocmes into a California roadside cafe and falls hard for the ravishing wife of the owner of the place. It is 106 pages long (about 50,000 words) but is on the 100 best novels of the 20th Century, the thousand novels you must read before you die, it's been made into a film eight times (thought to be too risque for US--a very sensuous novel), made into a movie in the US twice, Russian stage play, an opera. Even short works can be important. After Frank and Cora fall in love so hard they decide to kill Cora's husband... this is a hook and an important plot point.
    • Mechanically: figure out what the halfway point of the story is. The 25% first plot point, 75% second plot point. Hook, Climax.
    • I was surprised to discover the first plot point turned on the relationship between Frank and Cora: could they trust each other?
    • Turning point: dealt with the relationship between these two people (50% midpoint)
    • The novel was less about the murder and more about the people and whether they could trust each other.
    • crime-romance genre
  • Read a writing book for inspiration or technique
  • Flesh out backstories or the ideas you've got; if you do that before November, you won't be tempted to do it in November
  • Design the playlists you want to listen to in November
  • A. S. Byatt, of Possession: It was as if the novel was already written, floating in the air, on a network of electrons. I could hear it talking to itself. I sensed that if I would sit and listen, it would come through, all ready. -- the important thing is that she listened. It's the time at your sacred writing spot where you listen.
  • Know you're not alone. You don't have to be stuck writing all by yourself.


  • Next prep sessions
  • Kick-off Pot Luck Lunch - bring your favorite meal to share; lots of good fun. Last time to breathe easily.
  • Tom Clancy: Success is a Finished Book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself not less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world.


  • Q: What do I do if I have a written first draft of a novel (written outside NaNo)? Should I edit it while I am writing my NaNo novel?
    • You should wait to edit it in January (after you've completed your NaNo novel). Trying to edit while you are writing NaNo would likely be too difficult (can't turn off your internal editor).