Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

More News From NaNo Land

by Lillian Csernica on November 24, 2016




I have just reached the 40,000 word mark.

Six more days. 10,000 more words.

A whole new novel.

And I just received the inspiration that will be a key piece of plotting Book Four.




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Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, historical fiction, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, Writing

News from NaNo Land

by Lillian Csernica on November 13th, 2016


It’s a good thing women are neurologically wired for multitasking. Without that advantage, I would be a smoking pile of rubble right now.


In addition to cranking out seven pages of fresh writing every day on my NaNo novel, I’ve had to edit and polish two short stories. The first weighed in at 3300 words, the second at 5300. Both were due today. I sent them to my editor last night. Go, me!

As if all that wasn’t enough fun, I’ve had brainstorms for at least two new short stories.


This is all good, but it feels like Finals Week. I’ve been downing so much caffeine I’m surprised my arrhythmia hasn’t started up again. The only cure for mental fatigue is getting away from reading and writing for a little while. (I never really thought of grocery shopping as being therapeutic, but today’s trip to the market qualified!)


So this is what the Big Names do all the time. Wow. Let’s hope I can keep this up after the formal end of NaNoWriMo. It’s good to be preoccupied with my writing. That really keeps the depression under control.

Capere keyboard!

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Filed under creativity, Depression, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, publication, steampunk, therapy, travel, Writing

How to Squeeze More Words Out of A Tired Brain

by Lillian Csernica on November 6, 2016


I’m sitting here yawning. Yesterday I left the house at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until around 10 p.m. That means ten and a half hours. I spent three of those hours driving.

When I finally staggered up the stairway to my office and dropped my bags, I realized I had 90 minutes to get the day’s NaNoWriMo quota done. At midnight, that’s it. You’ve either written that day or you haven’t.

You know how your car engine sounds when you turn the key and the engine tries to turn over, but it just won’t catch? Yeah. That’s the sound my brain was making.


I was a bit ahead of the minimum total word count for Day 5, so I was strongly tempted to just let it ride for one day. No no no. I’d signed up for NaNoWriMo, so I’d made the commitment to write every single day in November. Every. Single. Day.

I did cut myself some slack. Make it to the ten thousand word mark, I told myself. Write that much, and you’re off the hook. That meant three pages, or 750 words.

Great. Now what? <sound  of car engine failing to turn over>


At times like this I brainstorm. I write down every horrible thing that I could possibly do to my characters. It doesn’t have to make sense, really, it just has to be possible within the story content already established. If all goes well, inspiration will strike, the engine of my imagination will turn over, and the writing flows.

Want some specific examples of how I torture my characters and get the day’s writing done? I’m happy to share.




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Why Deadlines Are Your Best Friends

by Lillian Csernica on October 24, 2016


Yesterday I kept thinking I need to blog. Gotta blog today. Must write an original blog post.

And then I’d push on with the scene I was writing for my latest short story.

Between writing, research, more writing, and a few breaks to loosen up mind and body, before I knew it midnight was fast approaching.

So here I am today, showered, caffeinated, and making this blog post Item Number One on my To Do list.


I have a story deadline coming up. In fact, for this particular anthology I’m committed to delivering two short stories that relate to each other. I know I absolutely must get these stories written, edited, polished, and delivered before NaNoWriMo  begins. Once the starter gun fires and we race toward the 50,000 word finish line, I want to be focused on pouring all my writing time and energy into my NaNo novel.

People often think deadlines come at the end, when you have to hand in the homework, the article, the novel manuscript. A deadline can also mark the beginning of a project. This is why there’s #NaNoPrep, along with lots of advice on the Internet about everything you need to accomplish before November 1.


Deadlines also create accountability. If you know you’d better have something to read at your next writer’s group meeting, you’re more likely to get it written. Never underestimate the power of potential embarrassment as a motivational tool.

Deadlines keep me organized. Deadlines help me prioritize. Deadlines help me generate the creative pressure that makes the words keep coming. For me, deadlines are the surest protection against writer’s block.



Filed under Blog challenges, creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, steampunk, worry, Writing

Reblog: Plotting your novel like a pantser (writing tips)

(Many thanks to Sarah Zama at The Old Shelter. I’m definitely a planner, but for the first draft of NaNoWriMo, I can really use these tips on being a pantser!)


I’m definitelly a plotter… after I’ve written the first draft. But before I write it, I’m an hopeless pantser. This is how I’m preparing to NaNoWriMo

Source: Plotting your novel like a pantser (writing tips)


Filed under Blog challenges, creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, publication, research, Writing

NaNoWriMo Round 2

by Lillian Csernica on October 12, 2016


Back in 2014, I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words of Garden of Lies, the second book in my Flower Maiden trilogy.

I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016. I hope to get to the 50,000 word mark on the third book of the trilogy. 7 pages a day, every day.

I thumb my nose at the Forces of Chaos that beset me on a daily basis. Come what may, I shall write my daily quota. By December 1, I will have at least half of the first draft of my new novel.

(Then comes the Labor of Hercules known as Editing the Manuscript, but I’ll get to that when the time comes.)

I send my best wishes to everybody else crazy dedicated enough to embrace NaNoWriMo!




Filed under Awards, creativity, Depression, dreams, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, historical fiction, Humor, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, love, marriage, nature, romance, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing

NaNoWriMo Finish Line!

by Lillian Csernica on November 26, 2014




50,156 total word count so far.

Not bad for my first try!


Filed under Awards, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, marriage, romance, Writing

NaNoWriMo Week Three: Time to Hit Turbo!

by Lillian Csernica on November 21, 2014

As of this moment, my official word count is 37,100.  That leaves 12,900 words to be written in the next 9 days.  1433 with a repeating decimal per day and I’ll bring it in by the 30th.  I’ve been writing between 1700 and 2000 per day, so the NaNoWriMo site tells me I’m looking at hitting the finish line on the 27th.  Thanksgiving Day.  Holy cats.

I have to say, I am doing what I really hadn’t thought I could do.  10,000 words per week?  That’s 40 pages, according to standard ms format.  Writing every single day, come hell or high water?  Now that the rainy season has finally arrived, high water is not an impossibility, given that one border of my property is marked by a creek.  As for the hell….  Some days are better than others, some days are worse, but the writing still has to get done, yes?

I must confess that this week I’ve had to push myself harder to get the work done.  November is one of my busier months.  Michael’s name day is Nov. 7th, the Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels.  There are four important birthdays this month, including my father’s on the 18th and John’s on the 23rd.  And then we have Thanksgiving.  This alone involves a complex list of questions and decisions that have to be made and remade every year:

  • Where are we eating?
  • Who is eating with us?
  • What are we eating?  Who can eat what?  What can’t we have due to food allergies, lactose or gluten intolerance, and any possible philosophical or religious conflicts?
  • Do we have enough room?  Where will we put the kids?
  • And then there’s the usual chaos surrounding making sure we have all the cooking utensils, pots, pans, baking necessities and enough matching pieces of everything to set a nice table.

This year, for some reason I’ve decided to get crazy and make some napkin rings.  Curse you, Pinterest!  You have so many pretty pictures, and you make it all sound so easy!  I raided a fabric store today for craft glue, ribbons, and a bizarre variety of buttons.  You know you’ve gone off the deep end when the ladies who work at the store can’t resist asking what you plan to make.  That particular pile of supplies will go toward both napkin rings and Christmas ornaments.  That explanation lowered the Weird Level of my purchases to something that made sense.

And yet I cannot allow myself to be distracted!  No messing around with craft projects until my daily word quota has been written!  One of the big reasons I enjoy making jewelry is because it works parts of my brain that I don’t necessarily use while I’m writing.  I use a different department in the Idea Factory, so to speak.  It also keeps my hands busy while the novel’s characters are having private meetings in the back of my mind.  They’re busy making decisions and mounting conspiracies, so when I go back to the keyboard to have another go at writing, I’ll discover mutiny on the page.  They wanna do what they wanna do.  The great part about NaNoWriMo is I just let my fictional people run wild.  This is like the Dress Rehearsal.  Get it out of your systems now, boys and girls!  That way when we buckle down for Opening Night, we’re ready to put on the professional performance.

Still, it is hard to maintain momentum over this long a haul when I’ve never done it before.  Gotta get there.  Gotta make it to the finish line, if only to give my agent a heart attack when I tell her I’ve already written half of the sequel to Sword Master, Flower Maiden.  It’s important to know how to motivate yourself, right?

Idea Factory

The Idea Factory



Filed under Awards, birthday, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Family, Fiction, Food, Goals, history, Japan, romance, Special needs, Writing

Slaving Away: NaNoWriMo Week Two

by Lillian Csernica on November 11, 2014

Holy cats.  Talk about a marathon.  Every day I have to come up with another 1700 words!  Even when I’m working on a novel, I give myself the weekends off.  Not this month!  It’s “Go big or go home” seven days a week!  So this is how the Big Names do it, at least some of them.  Wow.  I wondered how people could crank out two or three books a year, every year, to keep one or more series going.  This is no job for the faint of heart!




I’m doing my research on the run this month, writing and writing until I hit a spot where I really do need to go find out about kimono colors and layers or exactly when petit fours were invented or when foreign ships first developed trade relations with the Ryukyu Islands.  I have to keep a firm grip on the rudder here, because it’s way too easy to get lost in the Land of Tangential Research.  Thank God for Pinterest.  Reading about historical information is one thing, but I really need to SEE the physical objects I’m writing about.  The board with all the oiran wigs is a treasure trove.  Those women had strong necks.  I’m guessing they also had a lot of headaches.  I have very long hair by today’s standards, down to my hips, and I can’t wear it up for more than an hour or two.  The sheer weight of it gives me a headache.  When I was seven years old, I was tall enough to take showers.  This turned out to be a bad idea.  Once my hair got wet, it weighed more than I did, and I fell over.  Not a good thing to do in the shower.  Mom had to have me lie down on the kitchen counter so she could wash my hair in the kitchen sink.

At this point Tendo and Yuriko are on Okinawa, where Tendo is working in the embassy established by the Satsuma clans, headed by Lord Shimazu.  The rules are different here.  In the world of diplomats, gaijin are the rule rather than the exception.  That doesn’t make life any easier for Yuriko.  The local diplomats’ wives have heard just enough about her and her past to be thinking all kinds of lurid thoughts.  They’re rather bored, so a new face with blue eyes who was raised to be oiran yet married this promising young samurai provides plenty of grist for the gossip mill.  Yuriko is worried about the more serious dangers that might lie beneath the women’s gossip that Tendo is inclined to disregard or ignore completely.  When he is attacked one night by three assassins who make it clear this is no mere street robbery, Tendo realizes Yuriko’s instincts for survival are once again right on the mark.

The NaNoWriMo crew strongly suggest coming up with a playlist for your novel.  I love Kiyoshi Yoshida’s work.  I think I’ll make his “Rising Sun” or “Samurai Rider” the theme song for Tendo, just as I made U2’s “With or Without You” the theme song for Alexandre in Ship of Dreams.  Still looking for Yuriko’s song.  I might go with “Cherry Blossom and Wazawai (Disaster).”   The title certainly fits the poor girl’s life!

Time to go write today’s pages.  Ganbare!

 EDIT: NaNoWriMo Day 11: 19,932 total word count. Today’s total: 2577.



Filed under fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, romance, Writing

Racing the Wind

by Lillian Csernica on November 4, 2014


“Don’t be afraid of opposition; remember, a kite rises against the wind.” — a fortune cookie

Life just seems to get harder, doesn’t it? Just when you think you’ve sorted out one mess, you turn around and see another one ready and waiting. Anybody who’s spent time around little kids knows how this works. No sooner do you get the bedroom tidied up than the little terrors have trashed the living room. Once John was able to walk, we called him “Hurricane John-John.” He had a thing about tabletops. Whatever might be on top of them, whether they were end tables or night stands or the dinner table itself, he would sweep it clear. Lucky for us, this developed a bit at a time, so when he got to the point of clearing the table in one go, we could stay one step ahead and keep anything breakable out of his path. With John, no sooner did we figure out and learn to cope with one behavior pattern than he’d abandon that in favor of something else, like his fascination with water. The winds kept changing, making our kite swoop and dive at times. Adjusting our approach to John’s needs meant making our kite ride those changing winds and keep on rising.

Michael has presented us with more than a few challenges. When your child is in pain and can’t speak, you have to learn how to figure out where it hurts. When Michael reached his mid-teens, his neurologist warned us that the growing self-awareness of that stage might result in bouts of depression as Michael really understood just how limited his life would be. Bad enough I have to fight my depression. To know my son would face a similar struggle just made me break down and cry. Once I dried my tears, and I’ve had to do that several times, I set out to find what might make Michael happy. This is how we discovered he likes to go bowling. This is how we found out how much he loves the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And, as a matter of fact, how much he likes to fly kites with John. If Michael can’t go out into the world, I will find ways to bring the world to him. If nothing else I will sit there and listen to him vocalize as he articulates his anger and frustrations in the only way he can. I have always insisted that all of Michael’s caregivers respect his personhood. It’s very easy for people to treat the person lying in the hospital bed as not really being there mentally. If there’s a decision to be made, we ask Michael for his opinion and interpret it as accurately as we possibly can. I know that depression leaves me feeling powerless. How much more must Michael feel it, when he has no physical control over his personal universe. The more of a sense of control I can give him, the more I can ease his anxieties and lower the intensity of his potential depression.

I had to face something of a personal challenge on Sunday, an event that stirred up a lot of opposition inside me. Michael’s godmother has now been gone for five years. Her husband has since met a woman in the choir where he attends church. Yesterday the two of them got married. When my husband told me we’d been invited to the wedding, I had mixed feelings. I still miss Michael’s godmother very much. Part of me didn’t like the idea of her husband having a new married life inside the house he and Michael’s godmother designed together. I wish him all the happiness in the world. I just have a hard time with goodbyes, and a change this big meant (at least to me) that a little more of my friend’s memory was leaving the world. I realize these thoughts are not grounded in reality. The bride is a wonderful lady who is, as the groom puts it, “the one who brought the smile back to his face.” So I told myself to put aside my selfish thoughts and be there for the groom as he has been there for me and Chris and Michael and John on so many occasions. I had to rise above my own conflicts, just as the kite rises against the wind.

As if my life wasn’t already wall to wall stress, I have taken on another challenge. Participate in NaNoWriMo and you commit to writing fifty thousand words between November 1 and November 30. It averages out to one thousand six hundred sixty-seven words per day. Right now I’m averaging a bit over eighteen hundred per day. I took this challenge on because I see it as a good way to keep me motivated as I write the first draft of the second novel in my Japanese historical trilogy. The NaNoWriMo community is wonderful, very supportive, full of advice and encouragement and camaraderie. I have five writing buddies, two of whom live in Japan and who are also writing in the same time period where my novels are set. This does a lot to soothe the loneliness that’s part of a writer’s lot in life. It’s hard, very hard, to make sure I sit down and get my daily word quota written.  Then I have the pleasure of going to the web site and adding it to my official word count. Last night I won the badge for hitting the five thousand word count.  Tonight I’m facing another six pages, but if I’m lucky and the words start flowing I’ll produce more than that. I have to push against fatigue and anxiety and not knowing what happens next. As I work, my kite takes form, size and shape and color and design. When I’m done, I’ll have a new novel and the sure knowledge that I build strong kites.

To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.

— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


Filed under autism, Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Japan, love, marriage, Self-image, Special needs, Writing