NaNoWriMo – Plotting vs. Pantsing

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This super cool infographic from Christian Tate features Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, Alison Pick’s Far to Go, and Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English.

Plotting vs. Pantsing

You will hear these two terms thrown around NaNoWriMo possibly more than any actual writing takes place. The great plotting vs. pantsing debate has been raging since there have been stories. If you want to participate in November’s festivities but don’t know how to even go about trying to write a novel in an appropriate amount of time let alone 30 days, here are some options for you to consider.

Plotting

giphyPlotters are people who sit down and really plan out their novel before they start. They have fleshed out characters, story arcs, sub plots, and world building under their belts before they even begin to write. They use their notes like a skeleton and build their novel from the meticulous notes they’ve made.

Plotting your novel necessitates prep time to research, contemplate, and properly plan your novel chapter by chapter. Since NaNoWriMo essentially robs you of any luxurious prep time you might have counted on and demands you devote all waking hours to writing for the next 30 days, plotting becomes difficult, but not impossible.

If you feel you need to have a plan before you can begin writing, here are some tried and true methods favoured by WriMo’s and professional authors alike:

Was all that a little overwhelming? Then you might want to try:

Pantsing

tumblr_inline_mka8h55KHI1qz4rgpAlso known as just winging it. Pantsing involves various degrees of preparedness (usually little to none) and Pantsers may sit down to write without having any of the above mentioned elements like plot, characters, setting or even the vaguest idea about what they want to write. They put fingers to the keyboard and words come out.

There are pros an cons to each method, being a plotter involves having a roadmap to the finish line, but many Pantsers feel that laying out what happens scene by scene leaves no room for spontaneity or creativity in the writing process. Likewise, Plotters feel that people who sit down to embark on a novel with plan but a story in their hearts and the will to write it must be senseless, especially to enter into a month long challenge to write a book.

Plotting and Pantsing are not mutually exclusive, however. Often Pantsers will find their inspiration half way through their work and map out a loose structure for the rest of their novel, while Plotters may find they have written themselves into an inescapable plot hole of doom and find it necessary to throw caution to the wind and abandon their coveted plan. You can use any of these methods in combination with each other.


If you truly don’t know where to start, take inspiration from an author you admire. Brilliant author A.L. Kennedy has collected all of her thoughts about the craft in her book On Writing, as have many other authors.

Check out this great post from the NaNoWriMo Blog about the Plotting/Pantsing Debate, and prepare yourself, whatever method you choose, because NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight.

NaNoWriMo – How to Survive the Month

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The Agreement

Yeah, we’re going to need you to sign this form.

While this seems like a trivial exercise, remember that you are signing a contract with yourself to allow your creativity to flow unhindered for the month of November. You are allowed to produce bad writing, flat characters, uninspired dialogue and any number of potential writing sins. It’s okay, we promise. NaNoWriMo is about quantity over quality, and we are going to hold you to that promise. This contract also reminds you of your looming deadline (November 30th!).

Print this document out, sign it, and post it in your writing space as a daily reminder.

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Preparation

You are going to need some supplies before you set out on this manic journey but first, you are going to have to kiss your loved ones goodbye. You are going to have to cut back on the time you spend out and about with your friends and family. Our solution to this problem is to obviously trick them into participating in NaNo with you; however, this venture is not for the faint of heart so don’t be surprised if they laugh at your proposed November activity.

That doesn’t mean they won’t be useful during the month though! Recruit friends and family to hold you accountable over the month. Humblebrag far and wide that you will have a completed novel in 30 days and in doing so you can bet your loved ones will hold you to that claim. The most common phrase you are going to want them to repeat to you this month is “Shouldn’t you be writing?” – chances are you probably should.

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Tools, or What You Need In Your NaNoWriMo Survival Kit:

Decide how you want to log your words. While there is something romantic about a fountain pen and a roll of parchment or trendy about the travelling typewriter, both are impractical for NaNoWriMo. There are WriMos who choose to use both of those tools, but we recommend a word processor. Choose whatever software you are comfortable with: Word, Pages, Open Office, Scrivener, each have their own pros and cons.

Though we just mocked doing it the old fashioned way, do keep a pen and notebook handy at all times. Inspiration, as a rule, strikes when you are trying to do anything but write. Authors have reported plotting whole chapters in their heads while taking a bath, coming up with the best character while skydiving, or thinking of some majorly epic dialogue while driving. Use whatever tools at your disposal to get those ideas down. Scribble down your ideas on whatever is available, and if your hands are not free, use your phone to record your notes.

You will also need a reference book. Here at Anansi we use The Chicago Manual of Style. You could also use an online reference, or pick up your favourite book and look to it for answers on formatting or style (we recommend Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder).

In his guide to NaNoWriMo, Chris Batty recommends you have a writing totem, and we agree. A writing totem is an item you bring out when it’s time to get down to serious business, and it is the most fun when it is an article of clothing or something you can wear on your person that will not inhibit your ability to write. For example, our marketing intern wears her R2-D2 socks when it’s time to put words to a page. Your totem could be something as simple as socks or as elaborate as a Viking helmet, or a cape, or a wig, as long as it makes you feel powerful and creative like a writer.

You are going to need to eat at some point over the month, and in times of stress you are probably going to want to eat a lot. Take a trip to your local bulk food store and stock up on snacks that are easy to reach for while typing. Prep your veggies ahead of time so you just have to pop to the fridge to be in snack city. Above all try to make meals that will yield a lot of leftovers so that all you have to do is quickly warm up something and spend less time cooking and more time writing.

While we are on the subject of consumables, you are probably going to want to arm yourself with the caffeinated beverage of your choice. Be it coffee, tea, something sugary and carbonated, you will need it in mass quantities.

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Murdering your Inner Editor

One of the most important steps in preparing yourself for the month is plotting the perfect murder. Unfortunately we are going to need you to kill off that nagging voice inside of you that haggles you when your sentences are not perfect or flogs you with self-doubt. This person is your inner editor and it wants to waste your time this month fiddling with sentences or making sure things are grammatically correct. Ain’t nobody got time for that. You have to write 50,000 words in a month, there is no time to continuously go over what you’ve already written and try to beautify it. Press on! So do whatever you have to do to get rid of that little voice for the month (we won’t turn you in we promise); there will be plenty of time to resurrect it in December when it is time to edit.


We’re sorry we didn’t leave you much time to prep this month, but the supplies for NaNoWriMo are not difficult to amass. All you really need is your imagination and a way to write. For more inspiration check out what others include in their survival kits.

In the next blog post we will get into writing methods (plotting vs. pantsing) and which one you should go with this November.

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November is National Novel Writing Month – Take the Challenge!

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November is a month of many events: Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day, a month of moustaches grown aplenty. But no other event is more exciting for those of us up to our elbows in books and pens than National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

This November, House of Anansi is taking the plunge and challenging ourselves to knock out a 50,000 word manuscript in just one month, and we want you to join us!

What Is NaNoWriMo?

Started in 1999 by visionary/madman Chris Batty, NaNoWriMo is a way to challenge yourself to sit down and write the book you think you never have time for. Starting on November 1st, challengers will have the 30 days of November to compile 50,000 words. Sound easy? Well it is and it isn’t…

How Do I Do It?

We know, it sounds crazy. How can anyone expect to write a publishable novel in only 30 days of break-neck, caffeine-fueled writing? But NaNoWriMo isn’t really about that. WriMos (participants) around the world find that forcing themselves to actually sit and put words to a page on this kind of strict deadline allows them to tap into the crazy well of creativity that has always been bubbling just below the surface. The goal is just to write; not edit, not judge, or criticize; write, and see what you can come up with in 30 days. The only stipulation is that you must start from scratch on November 1st. You can bring research or notes with you that you have compiled before hand, however you must not have any words of your actual manuscript written.

1666 Is the Magic Number

In order to arrive at 50,000 words by November 30th, you must write 1666 words a day. Many participants like to use the naive exuberance of the first week to build up a healthy cushion of words before hitting the second week mental block. You are more than welcome to write more than 1666 words per day, in fact it is encouraged and recommended, and in some cases absolutely necessary if you fall behind.


While NaNoWriMo seems like an insane venture in masochism, it is actually quite fun! We’ve heard all manner of excuses, from not having enough time in the day to write, to not having any research or plot. Lucky for you the official motto of NaNoWriMo is “No Plot? No Problem!” – WriMos are encouraged to let their creative imaginations guide them and to not get bogged down in problems that can be fixed during the editing process. Once you start, you will discover that writing is an addicting process and you will find time in the day to do so when you previously thought writing wasn’t possible for you. You will write during your lunch hour, you will write on the train to work, you will write on the toilet, and you will write when you previously would have been spending time with friends and loved ones. NaNoWriMo requires you to sacrifice your free time but rewards you with a life-changing experience of witnessing your own authorly potential.

Over the course of the month, Anansi wants you to take this writing adventure with us. We’ll be helping you along with tips and tricks, motivation from your favourite Anansi authors, Twitter writing parties, and even a few book giveaways!

If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo, we recommend the resources on their official site, and that you join the forums where you will find a community of thousands of other participants around the globe who are supporting each other. For more local support, you can follow the Toronto gathering of  WriMos (@TONANO) using the hashtag #TONANO, or go out to some of their write-ins and get the most out of your NaNoWriMo experience! Also, keep an eye on the Anansi Twitter for the writing events we will be holding online.

Let’s all write a novel, it’s going to be amazing fun!

Three Creepy Reads That Will Make You Sleep With The Lights On

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Halloween is just around the corner, and though horror movies get all the attention this time of year there is nothing like a spooky, gut-wrenching read on Halloween night to make an adult sleep with all the lights on and huddle under the blankets with all their limbs tucked in. I’m talking about the truly disturbing novels, the ones you couldn’t sleep with in your room and would creep downstairs to stow in the freezer overnight, you know, for safety purposes. Here are three of Anansi’s most sinister reads:

 

9781770894679Walt by Russell Wangersky

Walt is a grocery store cleaner who collects the shopping lists people leave in the store and discard without thought. In his fifties, abandoned, he says, by his now-missing wife Mary, Walt is pursued by police detectives unsatisfied with the answers he’s given about her disappearance.

Almost invisible to the people who pass him every day, the grocery lists he collects, written on everything from cancelled cheques to mortgage statements to office stationary, give him a personal hold over those who both ignore him and unwittingly disclose facets of their lives to him.

When a new cold case squad is formed in St. John’s to look into Mary’s disappearance, the detectives begin to realize that Walt may be involved in more than just his wife’s disappearance.

Set in modern-day Newfoundland, after reading Walt, you’ll be sure to never let your shopping list fall to the floor ever again.

 

Die With Me by Elena Forbes9780887842627_HR

Die. Die with me. Be mine forever. That’s what he had said.

When fourteen-year-old Gemma Kramer’s broken body is found on the floor of St. Sebastian’s Church in a quiet London suburb, the official ruling is that she jumped to her death from the organ gallery. But when a witness claims to have seen Gemma kissing a much older man outside shortly beforehand, and a toxicology report reveals traces of a date-rape drug in the girl’s system, a murder investigation is launched.

At the helm is Mark Tartaglia, a stubborn detective known for following his hunches. It’s Tartaglia’s first time in charge, and he walks right into a political minefield as the murder squad turns up three more suspicious deaths — all originally ruled suicides — involving vulnerable young women falling from high places.

Can Tartaglia and his team connect the dots between victims in order to find a serial killer with a chilling predilection for lonely girls and deadly heights?

 

9781770893870_HRWeirdo by Cathi Unsworth

Weirdo is an atmospheric thriller about a teenage girl convicted of murder in a 1980s seaside town and the private investigator who reopens the case to discover that she may not have acted alone . . .

Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of the ritualistic murder of her classmate in a quaint seaside town. It was 1984, a year when teenagers ran wild, dressed in black, stayed out all night, and listened to music that terrified their parents. Rumours of Satanism surrounded Corinne and she was locked up indefinitely, a chilling reminder to the parents of Ernemouth to keep a watchful eye on their children.

Twenty years later, private investigator Sean Ward — whose promising career as a detective with the Metropolitan Police was cut short by a teenager with a gun — reopens the case after new forensic evidence suggests that Corinne didn’t act alone. His investigation uncovers a town full of secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own.

Thug Kitchen – Relax, Of Course There’s Dessert

buckeyes

Now that you’ve experienced a healthy full fledged breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what kind of people would be be if we didn’t top it off with some f*cking dessert? Perfect your skills with this recipe before the holiday season rolls around and everyone will be begging you for the secret to your tiny little bite-sized moments of peanut butter perfection. Share with your friends, bribe your enemies, or do what I do and eat the whole batch yourself.

Crispy Millet and Peanut Butter Buckeyes

No clue what in the fuck a buckeye is? It’s a tasty treat from the Midwest that is supposed to resemble an Ohio buckeye tree nut. Breaking that down even more, it’s basically a peanut butter cup in ball form. Don’t waste any more time trying to understand this shit, just make it.

Makes about 24 buckeyes

1⁄2 teaspoon oil (olive oil, grapeseed, coconut… almost anything is cool here)
1⁄3 cup uncooked millet
2⁄3 cup creamy peanut butter (don’t buy shit that has more than 3 ingredients, OK? Bad fucking news)
¼ cup powdered sugar (Yeah, this is dessert, so relax)
2 tablespoons flour
11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon coconut oil, if needed

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and toss in the millet. Shake the millet around in the pan until it starts to smell toasted and look a little golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Set it aside.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, flour, and vanilla until a thick dough is formed. Fold in the millet and mix until that shit is all in there. Make walnut-size balls with the dough and put them on the baking sheet. You should get about 24. You can lick your fingers here, we won’t snitch. Put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

3. Right before you are about to take out the peanut butter balls, you need to melt that chocolate. (For an easy technique for melting chocolate, see page 182.) When the chocolate looks all smooth, turn off the heat. This whole process should take about 3 minutes.

4. Gently lower a ball into the chocolate using a fork, and spoon the chocolate over the ball to coat all the sides. Traditionally you are supposed to a leave the little spot of peanut butter open at the top, but if you find it easier to just roll all those bitches in the chocolate, don’t fight it. If you’re having trouble doing it, stir in the coconut oil while the chocolate is still hot and it will loosen that bastard up. Drip off the excess chocolate and place the buckeye down on the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the balls. Freeze them on the tray for at least 3 hours before serving. Store in an airtight container and they will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge or freezer. But for real, you will eat them long before then.


9781770894655 We only have one prize pack left to give away! Remember to tag @HouseofAnansi and #ThugKitchen on Twitter or Instagram to get your pic entered in the last draw. Bake these delicious balls by Thursday, October 23rd for your chance to win! Must be a Canadian resident, excluding Quebec.

 

Thug Kitchen – Chili or Soup? Have Both.

rojo

We’ve gone easy on you so far, but this week’s recipe is what delicious vegan cooking is all about. Sure, the difficultly level may be upped, but challenge yourself with this amazing dinner recipe that provides amazing leftovers for the rest of the week. And with Thanksgiving fast approaching, why not impress the f*ck out of your family and bring this dish to dinner, it’s like a big warm hug on a cold ass day. No guts, no glory – not only is this tasty recipe easier than it looks but everyone will be thankful you didn’t bring Tofurky again.

Pozole Rojo

Part soup, part chili, pozole is a hearty dish that you can trick out with a fuckton of toppings.

Makes enough for 6 hungry people, no fucking problem

5 large dried chiles (guajillo, ancho, whateverthefuck kind of big chiles you can find hanging at the end of the spice aisle)

2 cups warm water

1 large onion

5 cloves garlic

1 zucchini

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (yeah, the same shit you use to make brownies)

1 teaspoon olive oil

8 ounces of tempeh

2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari

1 can (29 ounces) hominy (hominy is made by soaking maize kernels in a lime mixture to soften their hulls causing them to swell up. It’s fucking awesome. You can buy hominy already cooked in cans near the beans and salsa at the store, or you can find it dried and cook it yourself like the package says)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

5 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon maple syrup or other liquid sweetener

Juice of 1 lime

Toppings: sliced cabbage, sliced green onions, radishes cut into matchsticks, cilantro, sliced avocado, lime wedges

1. Grab a big pot or griddle and toast the dried chiles on both sides until they get a little bendy and soft, about 2 minutes. Don’t let these fuckers burn. Stay focused. When they are all good, throw them in a bowl with the warm water and let them soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. While that’s going down, chop up the onion, garlic, and zucchini. When the chiles are nice and rehydrated take them out of the water but hold on to the water. Cut off the chile tops, remove the seeds and chop them all up. Throw them in a blender or food processor with the water they were soaked in, the garlic, and cocoa powder, and run it until the chile-garlic paste looks all mashed up with no big chunks left.

3. Heat up the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté that shit for 2 minutes. Grab the tempeh and crumble that fucker right into the pot in dime-and-nickel-sized chunks and sauté until both the onion and tempeh start to brown, about 3 more minutes. Add soy sauce for a little flavor. Next, add the zucchini, hominy, oregano, cumin, and salt. Stir that all together and then add the chile-garlic paste you made earlier. Toss all that around so that everything is well coated and then add the broth. Cover that bastard and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to get all the flavours to combine. Next add the maple syrup and lime juice. Taste that fucker and adjust the spices to the way you want it.

4. Serve hot with your favourite toppings.


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Don’t forget to tag @HouseofAnansi and #ThugKitchen in your tweet or Instagram and send us a pic of your food porn to win one a Thug Kitchen prize pack. Get your submissions in by Thursday, October 16th at 5 pm! Must be a Canadian resident (excluding Quebec) to win.

 

Thug Kitchen – Next Level Lunches

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Now that you have breakfast on lock, we want to take your lunch game to the next level with another recipe from inside Thug Kitchen.

You might think you want that floppy baloney sandwich now, but this lunchtime delight is the recipe that made Sarah MacLachlan, our president and publisher, and Meredith Dees, our lovely editor, realize we all needed Thug Kitchen in our lives. Your mouth isn’t going to know what happened and your digestive system will surely thank you for keeping it healthy and on the reg. No more sad leftover pizza squished up at the bottom of your lunch pail, it’s time to cook something healthy and fulfilling.

Grilled Eggplant with Soba Noodles

Perfect for the middle of summer when basil and eggplant price have hit rock-bottom and you’ve spent all your fucking money on a new fan.

Makes enough for 4 people or just 1 if you want to save this stuff for lunch all week.

EGGPLANT AND MARINADE

1⁄2 cup rice vinegar
1⁄4 cup water
1⁄4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup or other liquid sweetener
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)

NOODLES

8 ounces soba noodles (you can use whole wheat pasta or whatever here, but soba noodles – made of buckwheat flour – taste way fucking better)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1⁄2 cup fresh basil cut into thin ribbons
11⁄2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Mix up everything for the marinade in a glass. Slice the eggplant cross wise into 1⁄4-inch rounds. Place the eggplant in a large pan of some kind and pour the marinade over that shit. Let the eggplant marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour if you’ve got the fucking time.

2. While the eggplant marinates, cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain the noodles and rinse them with cool water so that they aren’t still cooking. Place them in a large bowl and add the toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar. Stir it all up.

3. Bring your grill or grill pan to a medium heat (around 300° to 350°F). Oil the grill grates. When the eggplant is done marinating, grill the eggplant slices (but don’t throw away that marinade) on each side 2 to 3 minutes or until you see some grill marks. If the eggplant begins to look a little dry, take the slices and dip them in or brush them with the remaining marinade and continuing cooking them until done. Eggplant hydration. Boom.

4. When all of the eggplant is done cooking and has cooled slightly, cut it up into 1⁄2-inch squares. Mix together 1⁄2 cup of the leftover marinade and the 3 tablespoons of water. Pour that mess all over the noodles and mix. Toss in the eggplant and basil and mix again. Top with sesame seeds and serve at room temperature or cold.


9781770894655 If you want to enter the contest for a free copy of Thug Kitchen and a badass tote remember to tag both @HouseofAnansi and #ThugKitchen when you tweet or Instagram a pic of your next level lunch. Get your entry in before Thursday, October 9th contest open to Canadian residents only, excluding Quebec.