Ever wanted to write a book? Join NaNoWriMo.

nanowrimoIn one month’s time, half a million of the bravest and craziest people from around the world will participate in what is quite possibly the greatest writing event in the history of mankind: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Most of these people aren’t professional writers. They’re just average folks of questionable sanity who thought it might be fun to write a book.

Each year, NaNoWriMo participants commit to writing 50,000 words of fiction between 12:01am on November 1st and midnight November 30th. I’ll save you the math: that’s about 1667 words per day.

Those who achieve this goal will be bestowed with the glorious title of “Winner,” which comes complete with a neat little certificate and bragging rights.

But of course, that’s not the real prize. When you wake up a Winner on December 1st with a writing-induced hangover, you’ll be able to look at the novel you’ve written. It might not be finished, it’ll be probably filled with typos, there’ll be plot holes you can fly a space ship through. But you know what? None of that will matter. Because that will be your book.

YOUR GODDAMN BOOK.

It came out of your head, and it’s down on paper now because you worked your ass off to put it there.

Some of you are probably reading this, saying, “So what? What’s the big deal? Why would anyone want to put themselves through that?”

But I think there’s a few people reading this right now who have always wanted to write a novel. Maybe you never got around to it. Maybe you were worried it wouldn’t be good enough. Maybe you were afraid of looking like an idiot. Maybe you thought you could never be that creative. Maybe you just didn’t have the time.

If that sounds like you, I’m here to tell you to do NaNoWriMo.

Maybe you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo before, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. If you’re even the tiniest bit interested in this crazy challenge, I strongly urge you to head over to nanowrimo.org and have a look around. There’s no catch. No cost. It’s a personal challenge, with hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals around the world doing the same thing alongside you.

I did NaNo for the first time in 2010. Until then, I’d written a few short stories and started a couple of novels, but I’d never finished any. I always lost the enthusiasm for the book, or real life got in the way and I never ended up finishing it.

Then I did NaNoWriMo. This stupid challenge gave me the focus I needed to sit down every day and put words down on the page until the novel was completed. I had work and university to deal with, but I carved out time to write whenever I could.

I passed 50,000 words by the end of the third week and went on to write another 10,000 words and finish the novel before the month ended.

The book was silly and not that great. But that didn’t matter. I saw that I could actually finish something as long as a novel. And I now knew that even though it got tough sometimes, I could push through and reach the end. Which, really, is the biggest part of being a novelist.

If I hadn’t done NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’d be a writer today. I’d still think about writing, and I’d come up with cool ideas. I’d write a couple of chapters here and there. But I wouldn’t have the perseverance to actually turn those ideas and chapters into full novels.

It’s been a few years since I officially did NaNoWriMo. And I think it’s about time I went back to my roots and did it again.

In a week or two I’ll talk a little bit about what I’m planning to work on this November. But for now, I just want to offer some encouragement to anyone out there thinking about it. Head to the site, sign up, have a browse around the forums, and make a commitment to yourself.

You can do it. You know you want to.

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FAQ for first-time novelists:

Q – I don’t understand. What do I get if I write 50,000 words in a month?

A – The adulation of your peers and the knowledge that you worked hard to bring a new story into the world.

Q – That’s it?

A – What more could you want?

Q – How long is 50,000 words anyway?

A – This site has a great list of word counts of famous novels. 50,000 words is pretty short for a full novel, especially in some genres like sci fi and fantasy. That’s a good thing. You don’t have to write some huge doorstopper to win. 50,000 words is achievable. And that’s the key to this entire thing. It can be done. I know. I’ve done it.

Q – What if I don’t have time to write 1667 words a day?

A – Here’s the thing: you’re never going to have time to write 1667 words a day. I know you’re busy. But if you want to write, you have to make time. Let your friends know that you’ll be a little less available this November. Take a notebook wherever you go and write out a couple of paragraphs when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Lock yourself in the bathroom with your laptop and feign constipation. Wake up early, go to bed late. Eschew basic cleanliness and forsake loved ones to carve out a few minutes here, an hour there.

I’ll have more tips on this later. Just don’t let “I’m too busy” be your excuse.

(Note: Do not skip exams, job interviews, or urgent medical treatment to write your novel. It’s not that important, seriously.)

Q – What if I try and I don’t make it to 50,000 words? I don’t want to be a failure.

A – I’m going to let you in on another secret. If you write even one more word during NaNoWriMo than you would have normally, you’re a winner. Maybe you won’t be a “Winner” by the definition of the Official Rules. But remember, this is a personal challenge. The only way you can fail is if you don’t try.

If you “only” write 30,000 words, fantastic! That’s a great achievement. If you write 3000 words, good job! That’s 3000 more words of fiction than most people write in their entire lives. Whatever you do, just write!

Q – But I don’t have an idea!

A – Ideas are cheap. You’ve got a whole month to come up with something. I’ll have some more tips on that later in the month. But don’t worry about that yet.

Q – I don’t know how to write a story!

A – Have you ever read a book? Seen a movie? Watched TV? Then you’ve got the gist of it. Humans are a species of storytellers and story consumers. Once upon a time we sat around the fire in our loincloths and told each other stories about the mammoth that got away. We spend our entire lives immersed in stories. Sure, telling a story is a craft, and like any craft you get better with practice. But you have an innate understanding of story. And if you never try to write one, how will you ever learn?

Q – What if I put in all this effort and the book ends up being shit?

A – Put all thoughts of quality out of your head right now. Right fucking now. That’s your inner editor talking. And from now until the time you finish your book, he is your enemy. He will try to trip you up every step of the way. He will tell you you’re not good enough to write a book. He’ll laugh at you when you can’t find the right words. He’ll compare your novel with your favourite books and he’ll tell you point-by-point why your work will never match up to those greats.

Fuck. That. Guy. Kick him in the teeth and leave him bleeding in the corner. He wants you to quit. Do not let him win. This isn’t about quality. This is about sitting down and writing. Because nothing is more worthless than a book that doesn’t exist.

Q – All right, all right. But say I finish the book. What then?

A – That’s up to you. Maybe that’ll be enough for you. Maybe you’ll just smile to yourself and know that you can now say “I wrote a novel.” Even if you go no further than that, you will have gained a new appreciation for how stories are created. You’ll be able to read your favourite authors with new eyes. You’ll be able to see how they constructed their characters and their plots. That’s worth the price of admission alone.

Or maybe once you’ve finished that first novel, once you know you can do it, you’ll go on to write more. Maybe you’ll share your book with your friends and family, or maybe you’ll hone your craft and go in search of a wider audience.

Once November’s over, I’ll have a few more tips on what to do with your fresh new novel. But that’s something to worry about later. For now, the important thing is to get that first book on paper.

Q – Okay, maybe I’m a little bit interested. Now what?

A – Head over to nanowrimo.org and sign up. It doesn’t cost a cent (although they do have a donation drive later on in November if you’d like to support them). Then tell everyone who will listen what you’re planning to do with your November.

Be aware that most people will look at you like you’re crazy. That’s okay. They probably enjoy weird stuff too, like pickling vegetables or watching tennis. But it might help explain why you haven’t showered in three days or why you keep zoning out in the middle of conversations to think about some new plot twist.

And maybe, if you’re very lucky, one or two of the people you tell will light up and say something like “I always wanted to write a novel.” That’s your chance. Grab them and browbeat them until they sign up as well. Like starting a new exercise regime, doing NaNoWriMo is a lot easier if you’ve got someone else to make sure you’re on track.

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All right, that’s enough from me. Over the course of October and November I’m going to be sharing some more tips, shouting encouragement, and talking about what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo.

Until then, stay awesome everyone.

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Book Gems on Kobo Writing Life

My hardboiled urban fantasy, The Man Who Crossed Worlds, just got a mention on the latest Kobo Writing Life blog post, courtesy of the brilliant Maria Schneider of Bear Mountain Books.

Check the link if you’re looking for some more fantastic fantasy or mystery reads.

http://kobowritinglife.com/2014/05/23/book-gems/

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Godzilla 2014 – My Thoughts

First up, my thanks to eBookSoda, who are featuring Mayday today. They’re a great little readers’ site like BookBub where they send you ebook recommendations tailored to your taste. www.ebooksoda.com. Check them out if you’re after some cheap books!

Now, onto my thoughts about Godzilla 2014. Minor spoilers ahead!

godzilla posterOh man. It’s been a long time since there was a movie to split the kaiju fanbase like Godzilla 2014. For some people, it was the big budget version of the King of the Monsters they’d always wanted to see. For others, well…

Let me get this out of the way up front. I didn’t dislike Godzilla. It had a lot going for it. I was getting hyped just from the awesome credit sequence at the beginning. We’re treated to a montage of nuclear testing around Bikini Atoll, with the clear implication that they weren’t tests at all. The score is fantastic during this opening, really getting you in the mood for what promises to be a dark, ominous monster movie, a true successor to the original 1954 Gojira.

The first act follows Bryan Cranston’s character as the mystery is built and the tension rises. There’s something out there, something bad, and it’s not clear whether anyone is going to be able to stop it. Bryan Cranston’ acting is amazing as usual. As the mystery builds, it looks like Cranston is going to have to team up with Ken Watanabe’s character, a scientist dedicated to studying creatures like Godzilla, to uncover the truth behind the MUTOs, a pair of monsters from prehistoric times that feed on nuclear energy. I was pumped.

And then at the end of the first act, the movie dies. Bryan Cranston drops out of the story and we’re left following his son, Lieutenant Bland of the US Navy. All Lt Bland wants is to get back to Mrs (Dr) Bland and Little Boy Bland so they can reform their perfect nuclear family. But in the meantime, Lt Bland stumbles around, somehow falling into every military operation that has anything to do with the monsters because apparently no one else in the entire US military knows anything about the nukes they’ve decided to deploy against the MUTOs.

Occasionally the movie flicks back to Ken Watanabe, who it turns out only exists to tearfully deliver lines of exposition and wisdom that aren’t nearly as profound as the movie seems to think they are. Other times, we go to Mrs and Little Boy Bland as they sit there wringing their hands, asking “Where’s Lt Bland? Why isn’t he here yet?”

And it goes on like that for almost the entire second act. An hour where these characters are not developed at all, an hour where we’re expected to care about these characters when the film has done nothing to earn it.

But what about the monsters? So what if the human characters are dull. This is a Godzilla movie, goddamnit! Where does the King come into it? Don’t we get to see the monsters? Don’t we get to see Godzilla duking it out with his foes? Don’t we get to watch buildings topple around the puny humans?

Sure. Sometimes. For a few seconds. Before the camera cuts away to Mrs and Little Boy Bland watching TV. Not just once, but again and again. For most of the movie, it just teases us, giving us a glimpse of the monsters before cutting away again.

And therein lies the movie’s problem. I totally get what they were trying to do. A slow build to a final, massive reveal is a great way to build tension. If it’s done right. If we become invested in the human characters. If we’re not dragged away from the interesting parts to focus on characters who have no character traits except “wife” or “soldier man”.

The original 1954 Gojira did a fantastic job of this. Godzilla only appears for a relatively short period of the film’s total running time. But his shadow hangs over the whole movie. The human characters are actually interesting. Consider Dr Serizawa, a scientist who has developed a weapon that might be Japan’s only defence against Godzilla, but who fears that weapon might be even more devastating than the atomic bomb if the world learns of its existence. That’s a character I can get behind.

And the most frustrating thing is that Godzilla 2014 nearly had that. Bryan Cranston’s character, an obsessive, guilt-ridden truth-searcher, was interesting. He had a clear arc. He had perfectly valid reasons to become involved with the monsters and let us share in both the human drama and the monster action. He should have been the main character. By teaming him up with Watanabe’s character, we could have a couple of truly great actors in truly great roles to make a truly great movie.

But instead, Cranston’s character is tossed aside and barely mentioned again after the first act. All we’re left with is Lt Bland, who along with his military chums manages to achieve almost nothing of value in the entire movie. I’m not kidding about that. We spend all this time following the military as they make dumb decision after dumb decision, none of which have any effect whatsoever on the film’s conclusion. Lieutenant Bland spends most of the second half of the movie trying to clean up the military’s mistakes while they sit around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for Godzilla to show up and save them. Godzilla becomes relegated to little more than a convenient deus ex machina who exists only to beat up the MUTOs at the end.

Even Godzilla seems to know that. After the humans fail to do anything once again, Godzilla finally sighs, drags himself out of the ocean, and solves the problem that the humans were too inept to deal with. But it takes so long to get there that by the time we actually see the monster action in the last ten minutes or so of the film, the movie had nearly lost me. And that’s a shame, because that last action is very good. It’s everything a Godzilla fan could want out of a final battle (as brief as it was). But I don’t know that it’s enough to save the movie.

I know it sounds like I’m being really harsh. But I didn’t hate this movie. I just feel like it was so close to being so much better. I know a lot of people enjoyed it, and more power to them. I’m just disappointed that I wasn’t able to love it as much as I hoped I would.

I sincerely hope the movie does well enough that a sequel is made. I love that kaiju are finally making their way back into the public consciousness of the West. I just hope that they can take a few lessons from Godzilla 2014 and deliver an even better sequel, one that understands what it’s trying to do, one that doesn’t cave to the pressure to have Mr Generic Military Man and his nuclear family as the main characters, one that strives to create characters we can be interested in.

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MAYDAY: A KAIJU THRILLER is now available!

Mayday 3dI’m very excited to announce that my hardboiled/giant monster mashup novel, Mayday: A Kaiju Thriller, is now available! If you’re excited about the new Godzilla movie, this is the book for you. It’s available right now in ebook forms on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Smashwords. Barnes and Noble are dragging their feet, but it should be up there within a few days. Now available at Barnes & Noble as well! And if you prefer to read in paper, the paperback is also available on Amazon.

As a special thank you to all you fantastic folks, the ebook version of Mayday is only $0.99/£0.77 (or equivalent) at all of the above outlets for the next week. So get in quick and grab your copy before it goes back to the full price of $4.99.

I’d really appreciate it if you could help me spread the word about Mayday. Tell a friend, write a review, or post a link on Facebook. Anything you could do to help would be fantastic.

You guys are the best. Happy reading, everyone!

 

Get the ebook:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KAOOKVG

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KAOOKVG

Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00KAOOKVG

Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00KAOOKVG

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/mayday-a-kaiju-thriller

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayday-chris-strange/1119494725?ean=9781497427006&isbn=9781497427006

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id875714356

Smashwords (all formats): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/437705

 

Get the paperback:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mayday-Kaiju-Thriller-Chris-Strange/dp/1497427002/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mayday-Kaiju-Thriller-Chris-Strange/dp/1497427002/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mayday-chris-strange/1119494725?ean=9781497427006&isbn=9781497427006

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Mayday-Chris-Strange/9781497427006

 

WE WON THE WAR, BUT CAN WE SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

Nineteen years ago, the Maydays attacked. Five colossal monsters rose from the earth and laid waste to cities around the globe, pushing humanity to the brink of extinction.

Now those monsters are our slaves, fighting each other for our amusement in brutal matches broadcast across the world, courtesy of the Volkov Media Corporation.

A MONSTER LIES DEAD.

Maydays have proven themselves indestructible. So when a Mayday is found dead with no cause and no witnesses, Volkov’s staff detective Jay Escobar is tasked with uncovering the truth before it can cripple the company.

THE MAYDAYS WILL RISE AGAIN.

This is the case that will make Escobar’s career. But the investigation soon spirals wildly out of control. As he races to solve the case before it’s too late, Escobar discovers that the Mayday’s death is only the first step in a plot that will see humanity plunged back into an unwinnable war.

And he’ll be at ground zero when it begins.

MAYDAY is a genre-bending mash-up of hardboiled crime fiction and Japanese kaiju cinema. Sam Spade meets Godzilla in a gripping mystery of monstrous proportions.

Available Now

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MAYDAY: A KAIJU THRILLER is coming May 16th 2014!

Mayday 3d

My giant monster/hardboiled detective mashup novel is about to be released! Get hyped!

For the first week or so, MAYDAY will be heavily discounted–my way of saying thanks to all you awesome folks. If you don’t want to miss the special price, sign up for my New Release Email List and I’ll send you an email as soon as the book is available.

Want a Free Review Copy of MAYDAY?

If you’ve ever reviewed one of my books before, either on your blog, a dedicated review site, Goodreads, or a storefront like Amazon, I’d love to give you a free review e-copy of MAYDAY. Just email me at chrisstrangeauthor@gmail.com and let me know you want a review copy.

If you’ve been meaning to leave a review for one of my books and haven’t gotten around to it, you can post one any time before the end of May and I’ll still be delighted to send you a review copy of MAYDAY. It doesn’t matter whether the review is positive or negative, so just be honest!

 

Now with all that out of the way, here’s the blurb for MAYDAY:

WE WON THE WAR, BUT CAN WE SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

Nineteen years ago, the Maydays attacked. Five colossal monsters rose from the earth and laid waste to cities around the globe, pushing humanity to the brink of extinction.

Now those monsters are our slaves, fighting each other for our amusement in brutal matches broadcast across the world, courtesy of the Volkov Media Corporation.

A MONSTER LIES DEAD.

Maydays have proven themselves indestructible. So when a Mayday is found dead with no cause and no witnesses, Volkov’s staff detective Jay Escobar is tasked with uncovering the truth before it can cripple the company.

THE MAYDAYS WILL RISE AGAIN.

This is the case that will make Escobar’s career. But the investigation soon spirals wildly out of control. As he races to solve the case before it’s too late, Escobar discovers that the Mayday’s death is only the first step in a plot that will see humanity plunged back into an unwinnable war.

And he’ll be at ground zero when it begins.

MAYDAY is a genre-bending mash-up of hardboiled crime fiction and Japanese kaiju cinema. Sam Spade meets Godzilla in a gripping mystery of monstrous proportions.

COMING MAY 16th 2014

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