NaNoWriMo: Getting Ready Tip No. 4

It's getting closer.  National Novel Writing Month starts in 16 days.  Yikes, yikes, yikes.

There's more and more stuff online to help you NOW.  Right now, as you get ready for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Preparation

Today's tip:  you are not an island.  Go out there and surf around for stuff that will help you get the deal done.

Here's a few places to hit:

1.  The Official National Novel Writing Month Resource Collection

NaNoWriMo has 35 links on its resources page as of today.  Things like "3 Steps to Rev Up Your Writing Momentum," and "Slaying Your First Draft Dragons."

2.  Writers' Digest

Here are 30 tips in one long article.  You don't have to buy their "prep kit."  No, you don't.  Some of this stuff is something that you might want to read if you are getting skeered about NaNoWriMo, as opposed to planning your outline or debating the color of your heroine's hair.

3.  Storist

This is another long article.  It's more about the task at hand than the psychological aspect of NaNoWriMo.  Read this for things like "Finding Your Key Scenes" and "Write a Two Page Outline," as well as "Pack for Your Expedition."

4.  Bustle

Here are your "10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips."  Because you know that you want to read them, even if you are organized and prepared.

5.  Surly Muse

What if you haven't even begun to get ready?  Is it too late?  No, no, no.  Surly Muse is ready to help:  go read "The Hailstorm Approach: Prep for NaNoWriMo in Seven Days or Less."


Passive Voice and the Zombie Rule

For lawyers, writers, and researchers, passive voice can be the right choice.  Or not.

Edits of my work do come back with notations that I've used the passive voice here and there.  

I am not ashamed.  

Sometimes, it's okay.  That's right, folks.  Sometimes, passive voice gets to stay.  

Finding The Passive Voice

Before deciding when and if passive voice is acceptable, you need to find it.  There's a fun grammar hack for ferreting out passive voice in your writing.  

It's called the "zombie rule."

I'm not sure who invented this -- maybe rjohnson, USMC professor --- but it's fun and it's fast.  All you do is stick the phrase "by zombies" after the verb.  If it works, then it's passive voice.

The Zombie Rule: Examples

If the sentence makes sense with zombies, then YIKES you've got passive voice.  Examples:
  • Those dishes have already been washed [by zombies].  (Yep.)
  • The court ruled the statute was [by zombies] unconstitutional.  (Nope.)
  • The rumor didn't spread by itself - it was leaked [by zombies] in social media. (Yep.)
  • SCOTUS released [by zombies] its opinion today.  (Nope.)
For more on the Zombie Rule, check out Snarky Grammar Guide and Grammarly.

Passive Voice Has Its Place

There are times to use passive voice.  I'm not going to discuss them here.  Suffice to say, it's acceptable if it's adding value to your writing.  You know this.  

The University of Wisconsin finds passive voice works when you are:
  • creating an authoritative tone; or
  • emphasizing the action rather than the actor.
Purdue allows passive voice when it is "rhetorically effective." 

The American Bar Association has an article discussing passive voice in legal writing.

(Go to the above sites to read more detail and get more examples.)


Free Public Domain Images: The New York Public Library

Looking for free public domain images for your blog or ebook?  I have a series of posts dedicated to that treasure hunt (check here).

How to Find Free Public Domain Images at NYPL Site

Today, I'm sharing the resource provided by the New York Public Library at their website.  Here's what you do:

1.  go to their site;
2.  enter your search into the white search box in the top right-hand corner -- but don't click it;
3.  click that little tab and you will get the option to search "only public domain."
4.  if you don't choose that option, never fear.  You can also narrow your search to public domain images by clicking in the left sidebar of your search results.

Not For Everyone - But Great for Some

Now, caveat:  these images aren't for everyone and every subject.  If you're a lawyer writing a blog dedicated to death penalty issues (like I co-author with Terry Lenamon), then this isn't a great find.

However, other niche blogs may find some great stuff.

And ebook covers?  There's some really interesting images here to consider.  For those who might want to find public domain images for uploading into Canva, for instance.  (See my post on using Canva for your covers here.)

I found the above image in just a few seconds at the NYPL site.  I like it.  Thurston was amazing, right? 


Templates For Writers

I found something interesting as I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Something that I think will help me in my work, writing all sorts of non-fiction things.  It may help me in my research work, as well.

I am collecting templates for thrillers.  Formulas, outlines, what have you.

Someone suggested these were wacky -- maybe not to be trusted or used.  Thrillers aren't romance novels!  Thrillers are complex; they don't follow a set pattern!

Well, sorry.  I like them.  They help as I draft my outline.  (Yes, I'm working with an outline this year for NaNoWriMo.  No seat-of-the-pants approach this year. Nope.)

Here's the thing:  I'm pondering how formulas and templates apply to writing in all sorts of ways.  From blog posts to speeches. From white papers to in-depth articles and internal company memoranda.

They're everywhere.  This is a good thing.

Formulas and Patterns in Writing: Legal Briefs

I realize writing templates or formulas are not new to me. Lawyers recognize them. They are very much respected in the World of Law.

For instance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shares 295 pages of sample briefs online as well as its three page checklist.

The court's checklist includes:
1) CONTENTS OF BRIEFS (5TH CIR. R. 28.3 reproduced below gives the required contents of a brief.)a) Certificate of interested persons required by 5TH CIR. R. 28.2.1;b) Statement regarding oral argument required by 5TH CIR. R. 28.2.3 (see also FED. R. APP. P. 34(a)(1);c) A table of contents, with page references (see FED. R. APP. P. 28 (a)(2));d) A table of authorities (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(3));e) A jurisdictional statement as required by FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(4)(A) through (D);f) A statement of issues presented for review (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(5));g) A statement of the case (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(6));h) A summary of the argument (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(7));i) The argument, including the applicable standards of review (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8));j) A short conclusion stating the precise relief sought (see FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(9);k) A signature of counsel or a party as required by FED. R. APP. P. 32(d);l) A certificate of service in the form required by FED. R. APP. P. 25;m) A certificate of compliance if required by FED. R. APP. P. 32(a)(7) and 5TH CIR. R. 32.3.
The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are filed with all sorts of requirements.  The Clerk for the Fifth Circuit explains what is needed to meet FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8), the "argument" section of the brief:

This must contain the party’s contentions with respect to the issues presented, and the reasons therefor, and must include citations to relevant authorities, statutes, and page numbers in the record on appeal. Although FED. R. APP. P. 28(a)(8)(B) allows discretion on where to place the standard of review in your brief, this court greatly prefers that your standard of review be “clearly identified in a separate heading before discussion of the issues.” If the issue is failure to admit or exclude evidence, refusal to give a particular jury instruction, or any other ruling for which a party must record an objection to preserve the right of appeal, your brief should identify where in the record on appeal counsel made proper objection and where it was ruled upon. (NOTE: an appellee does not need to state the standard of review unless he or she disagrees with the appellant’s standard);
I have no idea how many briefs, motions, memoranda, etc. I have written as a lawyer.  Hundreds? Thousands?  Dunno.  It's what I did.  Research, write, repeat.  

You?  Where have you found formulas or templates for writing?  

Templates for Thrillers

I've think the following thriller templates are interesting.  Helpful.  Maybe you will, too:

.... And this one is just fun -- The Crime Thriller Plot Generator.  

P.S. NaNoWriMo:  

Need some outlining encouragement?   Go read this Wall Street Journal interview of Jeffrey Deaver, who starts out by explaining that he uses a detailed outline for his thrillers.  Takes him months to build them.  Not that I've got months.  It's NaNoWriMo.  I've got days.  Yikes!


NaNoWriMo 2016: Getting Ready Tip No. 3

It's October 1, 2016 -- thirty days until the beginning of National Novel Writing Month.  This year, I'm going to try and write the first draft of a 50,000 word thriller in 30 days.  Zowie.

It's not like the world stops for NaNoWriMo each year.  Work still has to be done.  The trash still has to be taken out.  Plus, the holiday season is in full swing by mid-November. With it, one of my two favorite holidays of the year:  Thanksgiving!

To meet this deadline, 1666.67 words have to be on paper (or screen) each day.  Every day.  If you don't want to write on Thanksgiving Day, then you need to add those 1666.67 words to another day in the month.

To help keep me on track, I'm working with an outline this year.  I like it. I'm having fun with the planning and after all, fun is the point.

NaNoWriMo Tip No. 3: You Are Going to Make a Big Mistake

Thing I need to remember:  I'm going to make mistakes.  Maybe some big mistakes.  And that cannot stop me because I'm under the gun here.  

If you are taking part in National Novel Writing Month, you are going to make mistakes, too.  We've all got to remember that this is okay.  We're aiming at a first draft.

I love this quote from Teddy Roosevelt (see the image below).  I have this attached to my outline to remind me not to feel like I have to stop if I realize mid-way through the process that I've forgotten my victim was already married back in Omaha or that the one-armed man was left-handed.

And something that really helps me?

Watching The Big Sleep with Bogie and Bacall, in a screenplay by William Faulkner, and reminding myself that no one knows who killed the chauffeur.  Mistakes are made.


I created the above image using Canva's free service and I release it into the public domain.

This file is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use. You can use this picture for any use including commercial purposes without the prior written permission and without fee or obligation.