Latina, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Music, Strong Women, Writing

Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo

I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.
I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.


Like thousands of other writers across the globe, I did a BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys) for 30 days.

Instead of being a complete pantser (writing by the seat of my pantalones), as I have in the past, I did a half and half of pantser and plotter. Like having one leg into my jeans.

The plotter part consisted of character exploration by journaling, creation of a Pinterest storyboard, and created a logline and premise for the story.

After 30 days, I have a story in a first draft mess which finishes around the 3/4 point. Which means I’ll need 15,000-20,000 more words to complete this New Adult story. 

What helped me to write faster was what I learned in a free online workshop from the University of Iowa’s How Writer’s Write Fiction Course. This is a combination of video, reading, and quizzes, which you can take for credit or no credit.

If you take the course for credit there are writing assignments and peer reviews. A certificate of completion is available for $50 if you meet all the requirements. The course is well worth your time.

An exercise I found helpful to start my NaNo writing was to ask my characters questions and write the answers out in longhand in my journal:

1-Who am I?

2- Who do I love? Who or what do I hate?

3-What do I want the most?

4-Who or what do I fear?

My story has three generations of Mexican American women so I needed to explore all of them through these questions.

There are hundreds of character sketch templates available, but I found that these questions opened my mind up to think about emotional issues, not just physical characteristics.

I used most of the answers in the character exploration to type onto my first pages. (Yes, I counted the words for NaNo). This was helpful so I could re-read what I wrote and stay in character.

The other motivator I used, for the first time, was music. Since the main character has just gone through a broken engagement at 22 years old (many moons past for me) I listened to music from Lana Del Rey and Adele.

One of the locations in the novel is Oaxaca, Mexico where the main character visits a curandera (traditional Mexican healer). I selected some indigenous music to help me when I wrote scenes about walking the pyramids of Monte Albán and listened to music by Lila Downs for cafe scenes.

Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico
Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico

I wish I had printed out my Pinterest storyboard since I found myself going back to the photos every time I sat down to write (distracting and time-consuming). The colors, people, foods, and objects helped to center me as I wrote.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, as for any of my next novels, preparation is the key: premise, concept, logline for the story. Explore the characters through journaling. Listen to music for help to create the setting. Create a storyboard of interesting colorful photos to stimulate the eye. And find a consistent time to BICHOK.

Share your writing tips. So how did you NaNo this year?



Healing, Latino culture, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Comics, Writing

Who Really Uses NaNoWriMo?



Who writes 50,000 words in 30 days during November?

Crazy writers. Passionate writers. Driven writers.

Writers who have trouble keeping their butt in the chair and hands on the keys use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a last ditch effort to focus.

Completion rather than perfection is the goal.

We wait, crunked up on leftover trick or treat candy, swigging an energy drink, ready for the clock to strike midnight.

Who are these crazy people pushing their pens, tapping their computer keys at 12 a.m on Halloween night?

We are the Nano’s, peculiar writer beings who believe we can write 50,000 words in 30 days, November 1st to November 30th.

Really, we do believe.

This year I’m actually adding to last year’s draft. The working title for this New Adult novel is La Curandera*. Here’s my logline and a description:

Three generations of women, three broken hearts, one love potion.

Violet Romero is just as ambitious as her father, the city mayor. She has a five and ten-year plan to become the young politician who will change the world. That’s the strategy until her fiancé dumps her for her best friend and she spirals into depression, dropping out of her master’s program. Now she’s on the verge of losing her summer internship at the state capitol.

When she finds a job at a shop that specializes in cures, spells, and potions, run by two curanderas, she decides to take matters into her own hands and concoct her own remedy. But when Violet’s love potion causes her ex-fiancé to fall in love with her mother, and her grandmother’s 70-year-old love interest falls for Violet instead, she has to make things right again. She must travel to Mexico to seek a 100-year-old curandera who possibly has the cure if Violet can accomplish a vision quest.

I’m using this photo as inspiration to write:

The Healing Arts of Mexico by German Rubio
The Healing Arts of Mexico by German Rubio

I have my storyboard up on Pinterest for more inspiration.

So this writer will use the next 30 days to complete the story because I am driven, passionate and crazy about writing.

This means much less time on social media and no blogging for 30 days (unless there is a blogging emergency).

See you next month. Happy November!

*Curandera: Traditional healer who uses centuries-old herbal remedies for a variety of ailments. A spiritual element is also part of the healing. Usually, the healers are generational and native people of Mexico, Central, and South America.


Encouragement, NaNoWriMo, Nathan Bransford, Writing

How About that NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month 2014
National Novel Writing Month 2014

So, who’s taking up the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November?

Me, me, me—I have my hand up—I’m working on a novel about three generations of women, three broken hearts and one love potion that goes awry.

Yes, I know, it’s going to be a busy month, with Thanksgiving coming up and Black Friday shopping, but what about having some fun before all that starts?

Are you in?

Yes! Keep reading.

Here’s a few “How’s” and a “Why” to challenge yourself during National Novel Writing Month.

How about putting those novel ideas, the ones you’ve had for months or years, down on the computer screen?

How about resuscitating that shelved 5,000 word piece you started?

How about building a daily habit of writing—at least for 30 days?

How about going crazy and letting your fingers fly over the keyboard without self-editing judgement?

Why write alone? Follow other Nano’s, write in community, and find some writing buddies.

Here’s what you get:

  1. Pep talks from Veronica Roth, Chuck Wendig, Kami Garcia and others.
  2. Five tips from Nathan Bransford on How To Get Started and other advice.
  3. Self satisfaction that you completed a challenge and a badge graphic to prove it.
  4. Sponsor discounts on some great deals from Createspace, Scrivener (word processing/project management), and other stuff.
  5. Cool web graphics for your social media.
  6. A first draft—sh*tty or otherwise— of a novel (at least 50k of a novel, just 10K more to go).
  7. Something to show for November other than a turkey.
  8. The ire of Nano haters. Ignore them and just write. Don’t look back.
  9. Proof that you can commit to writing for 30 days.
  10. The incentive to make new goals for your first draft: rewrite, revise, rinse, repeat.

Here’s what you don’t get:

  1. You do not get to send your first draft to an agent, publisher, or make it into an E-book.

Go through the process, see numero #10, to make your novel viable for beta readers, editors, agents, or submit for an E-book.

Good luck to those of you who take up the challenge.

See you at #NaNoWriMo2014.

Write On!

Betty and Veronica, Elena Aitken, Health, Margin Call, Muppet Movie, NaNoWriMo, Tamales, Tierra

Decompressing after NaNoWriMo

 It’s been five days since NaNoWriMo ended on November 30th. I’ve been decompressing ever since. Caught up with my reading and now I can recycle the two foot stack of LA Times. I’m doing that to avoid reading my NNWM manuscript. It’s not finished yet and thankfully it didn’t have to be to meet the 30 day challenge. That’s next weeks project.

In the last few days I did ‘me’ things: watched two movies, read a book, went to the Tamale Festival to hear Tierra play (a late 70’s band), and attended church service. I also did my mom things like laundry, housework, referee the young adults who act like toddlers sometimes and do minimal dish washing. I hate washing dishes. 

The Muppets was the first movie that I watched. I don’t have little ones any more but I like Kermie and Miss (or is it Ms.) Piggy. As much as I wanted to like the movie, it just wasn’t happening, the Muppet magic, I mean. It was like reading a book by one of your favorite writers and it turns out to be a dud, it missed the mark somehow. I can’t put my finger on it. The music was as good, the puppetry great, I loved Amy Adams singing and character. It seemed saccharin in some places and I think most of those places involved Jason Segel and the villian. It wasn’t the actors, it was the material-I think.

The movie “Margin Call,” is one of those underrated, gone in a couple of weeks, movies. The cast is great and  so is the story line. It tells the story of a long day in the life of a Wall Street firm, kind of like Lehman Brothers, trying to survive in the fall of 2008. It’s very well written, a fast paced thriller, and lesson on Wall Street economics all in one movie. As much as I enjoyed the movie I kept reflecting on why Zacary Quinto didn’t get his brows tweezed before the movie. You may remember him from Star Trek. Excellent actor.

After two movies I had to stay home and read a book. So I fired up the Kindle, Fire, that is and perused the free Kindle books. I have to tell you I found a winner in Betty and Veronica by Elena Aitken. See the sidebar for the book cover jacket. Yes, it’s free and it’s well written. The story’s tale illustrates the best in  female friendship  and how it grows through the bad times. It’s funny, touching, and realistic. The downside: it’s a short story, but it’s FREE on Kindle. If you don’t own a Kindle you can download it onto your iPhone or Kindle for PC here (did I say for FREE?)

I braved the cold and joined some friends at the fourth annual Tamale Festival. I had a good chicken and green salsa one, but I have to say, my family makes them better. The chile had it all: spice, heat, flavor, but not overwhelming. The chicken: moist, flavorful, and lots of it. The masa (that’s the cornmeal around it) was the downfall. Too much masa makes for a thick tamale but covers up the good stuff in the middle. Lots of vendors make a tamale with a lot of masa. 

There is an art to making masa and spreading it on the corn husks (ojas) just right, not too thick not too thin. But I’ll save that for another week. My family makes tamales every Christmas, sometimes at Easter if my mom has the ‘antojo.’ That means when she’s ‘jonesing’ for a tamale.

Tierra came on late. An hour late. Did I mention it was cold, brrr, cold? And the wind kicked up. My wool jacket, scarf, and boots were not enough to keep me warm on my foldout chair, without Mexican or Irish coffee, in my hands. When they finally came on the crowd, and me, quickly became disappointed. They talked and talked and then had technical difficulty and on and on. Ten minutes later they played “Memories,” not one of their best but decent. When they got into disco we all went out and danced, mostly to keep our legs from locking up. After that more blah-blah, then Mustang Sally, which isn’t one of their songs, then a cumbia (more dancing for warmth), then more blah-blah. Our group had it and we departed for the first hot thing we could find, which was champurrado (Mexican hot drink with cornmeal). Blah, the vendor had watered it down. Little chocolate, lots of cornmeal-not a good combo. It was like watery grits. 

Anyways, the weekends over and so is my decompression time. It’s on to the real work now. I need to go jot down scenes on index cards for the ending to my MS (that’s manuscript, not mess). 

PS> Service was as great as it always is, our Pastor can preach a message. Now here’s the ‘but,’ my less than stellar experiences with parts of my weekend mimicked the service’s music. But I must remember it’s the message that counts.