inspiration

How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

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How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

 

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon I thought now would be a great time to talk about how I come up with a Novel Idea. Get it. ;)  If you were wanting to participate in NaNoWriMo or simply wanting to start writing fiction in general but don’t know where to start I hope this helps! With the disclaimer that what works for me may not work for you. Feel free to take away what you like from my methods.

 

Step 1: Story Concept.

It always starts here for me. It usually comes to me randomly when I’m driving somewhere or while I’m in the shower. You know, doing mindless stuff, like when I’m at work.  It’s the question that drives us. “What if?”  For example: What if your planet was destroyed? What if you found out you were royalty? What if you lost something so valuable you would do anything to get it back?  

From here I start answering the question and other questions that it incites.  Almost like reverse engineering a story. What if your planet was destroyed? Well that tells me you must not have been on that planet. Why weren't you on the plant? (Maybe you’re an astronaut or you were vacationing on Neptune.) How were you not on the planet? (Mission to repair spacey type telescope or Space cruise liner.) Who destroyed the planet? (Natural disaster or pissed alien race.) Why was the planet destroyed? (Maybe those aliens were having a really bad week.) How will you now survive?

Keep the Q and A going. Keep what you like and toss what you don’t. Eventually a story concept will emerge and even a very, very rough outline.

 

Step 2: Characters.

Sometimes my concept and my characters come to me at the same time, sometimes they don’t. After you have your concept you can ask yourself; what kind of person would be in this situation?  How do they handle the situation? Are they funny? Are they serious?

There are hundreds of Character building lists on line. So I’m not going to get too crazy in depth with this section. Basically I flesh out my main Character then ask; who is their support system? Family? Best friend? Significant other? Then I have my secondary characters.  

Then time for what might be the most fun part. Who is making my hero’s life harder? My protagonist! Everyone loves a good bad guy these days.

 

Step 3: Building a Strong Outline.

So the world of writers boils down to two types of writers. Planners and Pantsers. I’m, (if you couldn’t already tell) a planner. Pantsers like to make it up as they go. Don’t get me wrong making it up as you go can be freeing but… every time I have tried this it’s like looking up to find out you're in the middle of a field miles from anything. Where’s my plot? It’s just not for me. So planner that I am, I start working an outline.

The setup: In which I do just that, introduce my character, tell ya a bit about their life. Right before a change it all.

The Trigger: Which is the event that sets the story in motion. (Boom your planet gets destroyed!)

The Midpoint: Now you throw rocks at your character. (Plot point rocks that is) Conflict, conflict, conflict!

Rising acting: Time to start solving some of your small problems and giving your character much bigger ones. All leading up to…..

The Climax: When your story reaches its crescendo. It all gets as bad as it can get and then you figure out how to fix it.

The Resolution: Where this all ends up after the conflict is over.

That’s all crazy overly simplified but that’s how I start simple. From these simple points we can build them into a lot-o-plot!

 

Step 4: Conflict!

After my outline I have to work out what the conflicts will be. I generally like things to be easy so I have to push myself to make life harder for my Characters. Sure the overall conflict of my story is there, but I have to work to figure out what rocks I will throw at my hero.

 

Step 5: Resolution.

The resolution, as I previously mentioned, is where everything ends up when the conflict is over. I’m going to so real and tell you this is my weakness. It’s always the hardest part for me. Nothing like having a story with no idea how you want to end. I usually come up with 3-7 options and stare at them for un undetermined amount of time.

So my advice to you and myself is this. Come up with lots of options. Stare at them for an undetermined amount of time. Then start the process of elimination. Cut the ones you know you don’t like. Cut anything that’s overly cliché. Till you’re left with only the top contenders. If you still don’t know, this is the time having a writer friend can really come in handy. They really don’t have to be a writer but having someone to bounce ideas off of can help you in your decision making process. Who knows, something they say might even inspire you to have a totally different ending than you thought. I’m, of course, not saying take someone else's idea. I’m just saying you don’t have to be alone.

And remember if at the end of your story you blame aliens in a story that had nothing to do with aliens till that point or you end it with a variation of “and then they woke up.” expect your readers to find you and punch you in the throat.

 

After those 5 Steps it’s all about putting in the work. Choosing to work on your story and write instead of watching Netflix or browsing Pinterest. Honestly this is really and truly the hardest part. Coming up with the ideas can but so exciting and invigorating that when the time to write comes it’s a snooze fest. Writing is a rollercoaster. The downs come very suddenly and the ups can be a long arduous climb. But at the end you have an amazing experience to look back on and hopefully a first draft.   

Protector of the Night

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Inspired by an illustration you might have seen…

Protector of the Night

By Jamie Burns

 

I was born of no Father and no Mother. However, I am one of many brothers. Forged and created in the hellfire of oppression, sent across the sea to serve. I have served my current Master for eight long years, and his father before him. I was hand chosen by my Master’s great-grandfather to serve their family with unwavering loyalty and courage.

It falls to me, to protect the Master in his most vulnerable state. In the long nights when the sun falls and darkness is the ever present threat. I patrol the realm for all atrocities that might attempt to befall my young Master. I alone, in the hours before the sun returns its protective light to our world, am solely responsible for his life.

My Master’s predecessor had all manner of threat come to him in the night. Years I spent sleeplessly watching over him. It wasn’t uncommon for a threat to show its horrible face. They would look out from their hiding places hoping it get a clear shot at the Master, instead they would find me. The rage and fire of feverish protection glinting from my eyes. I protected my first master with every stitch I had. Threats arriving once a month, sometimes more, attempting to disturb him.

When he passed my services on to his only son I promised that I would serve my new Master with the same ferocity and love that I had him. I had no idea that my job would become so much more treacherous.

As I grew to know my new Master he showed me even more kindness and thankfulness than his father before him. He was a generous Master beyond what I could have imagined. I grew to love him like a king and would willingly lay down my life for him if the situation were to arrive.

The young Master had more foes than his father. Some weeks I would face a threat every night. Enemies would silently slink into his quarters in a haze of mist, Monsters would quake the ground as they approached hoping to get close enough to swallow the Master up. Every one of them seeing my grizzly face between them and the Master.

When threats from without weren't present threats from within often haunted him. His own inner consciousness often playing cruel tricks, sending nightmarish scenes to his mind's eye.  He would wake in a cold sweat screaming for relief. When he woke I was always there. There to reassure him that those things were unreal or had not come to pass. His family was safe; no evil had befallen them. No nightshade was present. I was there to protect him and he could rest assured.

Years passed and my watches were always busy. My Master grew, and together we forged a bond like steel. Over time the legend of the protected Master grew and threats diminished. His mind eased, becoming less likely to turn on him. But when his mind betrayed him I was there. He would find me on watch, constantly vigilant.  

I am proud to serve the house of my master. I look forward to my days in service of his son as I have served him and his father before. For I am the protector of the night, the guardian of slumber, vanquisher of monsters, and dispeller of fear. For I am a Teddy Bear.

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I wish I knew who to credit for this illustration alas I do not. Sorry.

Things I’m Doing When I Should be Writing!

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Things I’m doing when I should be Writing!

  • Napping
  • Watching Battlestar Galactica
  • Reading books (Written by people much more talented than me.)
  • Pinning tattoos I’ll never get on Pinterest.
  • Pinning EVERYTHING on Pinterest.
  • Forcing my dog to cuddle me. (Love me!)
  • Fantasizing about my dream job.
  • Napping
  • Working over time at my real job. (Gross)
  • Staring at my computer screen blankly.
  • Looking up random greek mythology.
  • Daydreaming myself into adventures instead of my characters.
  • Wondering how my brain got so disorganized (Who's in charge here?!)
  • Napping  

                 So it looks like I need to try harder to schedule my writing time. I should also start going to bed sooner apparently. With my new work schedule it’s safe to say I have been a bit thrown off my writing game. Not to worry I’ll be making a comeback, just need to focus more. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but so are a lot of things I have done. Fiction Friday will be a day late. I know, Friday is right there in the title, sorry. Sometimes life is exhausting.

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 9

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 8

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 9

By Jamie Burns

It was early Christmas morning, I woke up feeling awful and promptly ran to the bathroom to throw up. I felt a hand rub my back and then put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck. I expected to look back and see my mom but it was Nathan. I was only seven years old but then again so was he. When I was feeling ok to move he helped me to the living room, he put me on the couch, gave me a blanket, turned on the Christmas tree lights and made me a cup of tea. We sat there looking at the twinkle lights of the tree, some blinking slowly on and off, others steady. I drifted in and out of sleep. Nathan all the while sitting beside me making sure I didn’t need more tea or a bucket if I had another bout of sickness. Two hours later when my parents woke up they asked why we hadn't woken them and I remember saying “Nathan took care of me.” That’s all I can remember from that particular Christmas.

I hadn't thought of that in over sixteen years. As we sped in the Lamplight toward the rendezvous point the words stuck in my head. “Nathan took care of me.” Throughout primary school, high school and well into flight school Nathan took care of me. I helped him with homework, studying and even would cover for him with mom and dad on occasion. It was what we did. We took care of each other and I was determined to keep the tradition alive.

I landed the Lamplight a few miles from the rendezvous point. Clara and Lu both walked on to the bridge. Lu was dressed in some of Clara’s clothes and they had pumped up the volume on Lu’s blond hair. “Alright, this is the best spot.” I said to Clara and headed to the back of the ship expecting her to follow. When I realized she hadn't I turned back around. Clara and Lu faced each other awkwardly. Clara held out a hand, “Thank you for your help.”

Lu took Clara’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “You’re sure it’s worth all this?” She asked.

Clara said nothing just gave her head one firm nod.

Clara and I walked to the back of the ship, she opened the hatch to the cold air outside. We both looked out then at each other. “Remember watch your back at all times. She’s going to be a lot heavier than the Lamplight so don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to push her around, just get her in the air and head to the place Lu setup.” I told her.

“It’s gonna work.” Clara said it as if she was trying to convince both of us.

I dropped the hard tone in my voice, allowing myself to be genuine and vulnerable for a moment. “Please just be careful Clara, I don’t want to have to come save you too, but I will if I have to.” I gave her a weak smile but it was all I could muster. Clara pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll get him back.” With that she turned and set off.

I closed the hatch and the moment it was sealed the Lamplight rose back into the air.  On the bridge I found Lu at the helm, looking confident and at ease.

“No wonder they could never catch you.” I said as I sat in the co-pilots seat. Lu just smiled and pulled back on the helm sending us higher into the gray clouds.

We arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes ahead of the dead line. How we managed that  seemed like an act of God or a lot of happy accidents all in a row. Either way I was grateful. Instead of landing the Lamplight in the spot that had been clearly left open for us it dipped low and I tossed the rope over the edge of the hatch and slid down to the ground. Once my feet had touched I raised my hands showing I was unarmed and the Lamplight quickly gained in altitude again. I walked to toward the crowd.

Turned out the rendezvous was yet another shipyard, but this one had far more security and was much busier than the one we had been in earlier that day. The ships in this yard didn’t look like the junk that was in the other shipyards.  Here they were larger, well built, with weapons, no rust and some I would even call shinny. It felt more like a showroom than a shipyard. I recognized the ship the crowd was gathered around. The last time I saw her she was flying away from the planet Cierra with the Thestrious flying away beside her as I could only watch from the ground.

Hands still up I kept walking toward the crowed. Some of the men had their guns raised while others looked on relaxed, in the middle of them was Cryton. He was wide in the shoulders and seemed fit for a man that looked like he was in his late forties.  All the others seemed to look to him for cues on what to do next. It made me wonder how bad a man you have to be to have others fear you on a planet like Exodus. I pushed the thought down because it made me more nervous than I liked. Cryton on the video had seemed charismatic and likeable for a kidnapper. That's what made me so nervous about him. He was a kind of bad man made worse by his good lies. Not that I didn’t have a lie or two up my sleeve.

“Well there she is boys, the little sister.” Cryton called out. With a flick of his finger the men with guns advanced towards me.

I watched as they encircled me. “Yep that’s me… where’s my brother?”

“Oh he’s close by.” Cryton said, him and his men chuckling at that. I instinctively took a step back.  Cryton eyes narrowed in on me, “What’s your little gal pal doing up there? Tell her to land.”

I had to laugh at this one. “So you can kill all three of us and keep the ship. I don’t think so.”

“You know I could just shoot that match box out of the sky if I wanted to.” He was getting more frustrated.

“I’m sure you could, but you don’t want to.”

He paused and let out a breath. “No, I don’t but if you’re up to something fishy I might just change my mind.”

“Where is Nathan?” I asked again.

He looked back toward his ship and waved to the men waiting there. A moment later two men dragged Nathan down the dock and dropped him next to Cryton. Nathan slowly stood to his feet, I was sure he couldn't see much with his face swollen to it’s current size.  I called to him. “Nathan it’s ok I’m here.” I walk a bit closer to get a better look at him. The sound of my voice didn’t put him at easy. If anything it seemed to make him angry.

“April? Why? I told you guys to leave.” He was scared and angry and I didn’t really blame him. He forced his eyes open and looked right to where I was standing. “Why can’t you ever listen to me?”

“Alright now little sis you tell blondie to put her ass on the ground now.” Cryton demanded.

“Give me Nathan, then she’ll land in the distance. You’ll let us go while you head to your new ship.” I called out sounding as confident and forceful as possible.

Cryton stared at me for a moment in shock, I guess at my demands. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he looked around. His men nervously looking back at him. He started to laugh, the men looked at each other, and started to laugh as well. Though it was clear they weren't sure why.

“I don’t think you understand little sis, this is not a negotiation.” He said then he pulled his gun from his holster and turned Nathan toward him. I knew I was to far away but I still lunged forward, Cryton pressed the barrel against Nathan’s shoulder and pulled the trigger.

I could have sworn that I felt that bullet. I felt the shockwave flow through my body and weaken my knees. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized everyone was looking up. In the distance behind Cryton’s ship was a plume of black smoke. The massive explosion had socked all of us. I saw Nathan lying motionless on the ground my heart sank and I looked  back to the plume of smoke now lit by the fire that burn beneath it. My face must have been white as a sheet as I wondered where Clara was.

May's Marvelous Manuscript Monday

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May Progress Report

 

May is over in just a few days and my current word count is just south of 35,000 words! That means I am almost to my 40,000 word halfway point. When I say it that way I feel kinda like a badass. I’m also FINALLY done with my first person to third person point of view conversion which I should have finished doing around a month ago. So when I say it like that I feel, not so accomplished, but I’m not gonna let it get me down.

I’m also on track with my book reading goals. Man am I crushing it! So far 2016 might end up being my most gratifying year to date, when it comes to personal growth and accomplishment. We still have half the year to go but I’m confident it’s only going to get better. You might have noticed my good mood and that’s probably heavily influenced by the fact I don’t have to go back to my day job for another week. Yippy! The rest of my week will be filled with reading, writing, and the less enjoyable yard work. (It’ll be worth it, I repeat to myself over and over.)  I’m hoping to get another 5,000 words on my manuscript to get me to that 40,000 word halfway point. The only thing that keeps distracting me… my own ideas.

It’s hard to focus on just one story when your brain is constantly coming up with new ones. Other than my current manuscript, which will be the first in a three book series, I have three other unrelated story concept I am itching to put on paper. One post apocalyptic adventure of rescue, one science fiction and fantasy fusion tale and one romance turned grim murder mystery. If only I could write them as fast as I come up with them. My brain is starting to feel a little overheated just thinking about it all.

One goal at a time is what I’ll be sticking to. Finish my current work in progress by November 1st. If I can finish early then I can start working on another story. In fact maybe that will act as more motivation. Or maybe Bilbo said it best and I’ll end up feeling thin, stretched, like butter scraped over to much bread. We shall see, as it stands I’m feeling good about the coming June.

 

Also if you're interested in what I'm reading now or have been reading and how I feel about it, the best way to find out is to check out my Instagram account. @jamie_scifiohmy It's also a good place to see the most beautiful, sweetest, and smartest black lab that ever existed.  You've been warned.

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Getting to know a Character

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Getting to Know a Character

Anyone that has even read a book or watched a movie can not deny one thing. We all like characters. We might not all like the same characters but we are all there for the same reason, we are interested in the characters. Whether you’re a villain loving hero hater (i.e. Siths, Death Eaters, Hydra members) or you’re the kind of person that roots for the home team (i.e. Avengers, Jedi Order, Justice League, or any protagonist hero really) .  We all want to know more about characters and how things turn out for them. We can all agree this is true, if you don’t, Well you’re lying mister.

We want to know the characters, then once we do they can often become like old friends to us. It’s the reason we always buy the next book in the series, reread old favorites, re-watch movies and binge watch season after season on netflix, it’s the characters. Getting to know characters is the best, when reading and writing.

If you love a character in a book you are totally invested in them by the end of that book. You get to know them as if they were a living breathing person. In fact sometimes we know them  better that we know real people.  Gasp! Because we have spent the time getting to know them because some awesome author spent the time to make that character.

As a writer knowing your character makes it easier to write in “their voice”.

“Their voice” meaning how or what they might say. It doesn't have to be words it can be just a reaction or a look. Knowing your character means knowing their personality and how they handle situations. Making it easy to believe that they are the ones reacting or speaking, not you as the writer. That’s the goal right? I know it’s my goal.

Loving your character can really help you when you’re writing. I always get excited when I know I’ll be writing a scene where one of them gets to be cheeky, clever or funny. It’s what drives me. The parts of the book that come along and tell you who the character is, these are pretty much the best parts. With every reaction and statement the writer is helping determine who that character is to the reader. That’s a lot of power as a writer. 

This is why short stories are hard for me, because it gives you so little time to get to know everyone. That’s probably why I have yet to write a Fiction Friday that I didn’t plan a continuation to in my head. Sorry it’s just too difficult.

Whether you're writing your hero or your villain make them their own person, everyone reacts differently to different situations. A book that is full of people with the same personality sounds really boring. I love my cast of character and I hope readers will too.

Forest of Imagination

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By Jamie Burns

 

I always loved my grandmother’s house. It was down a long dirt road that passed fields with horses and usually grazing deer. Past the fields was the forest filled with tall strong pine and oak trees. Then tucked at the base of a beautiful mountain range was my Grandmother's house. A small simple A-frame home with tall windows all along its front.

The time I spent there as a kid always felt warm, cozy, inviting, all the things you expect from your Grandmother. As I look back now the place felt like magic, not just because of the house but because of the forest it sat in. It had everything, heavily wooded forests and brief openings into golden fields of tall grass. A creek that ran along the back achers, and a spring of clear water that flowed right from the side of the hill in the backyard. There were walking trails all over the property, my brother and I would race down one in particular to a large group of rocks that we liked to climb on. My brother would always win, since he was four years older than me and two feet taller, I never did gain the advantage.

My time there was filled with skinned knees and sticker bushes, but also things like baked cookies and picnics. It was a place for pretend and wonder, a place where all things were possible. My imagination would tell me that fairies or giants lived in those woods and they liked it when I came to visit. I would be a warrior, a princess, an explorer, I could be stranded on an island, in a tomb, or even on another planet. The perfect canvas for my adventurous mind.

As an adult I know that a place like that was the best gift I could have ever had as a child. I wish I could somehow give that kind of gift  to everyone.

I told myself that it was impossible. So the next best thing I could do was sit down and write. If you don’t have a place to explore and imagine, or you’re feeling like you imagination is too tired, feel free to use mine.   Copyright: 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

No NaNoWriMo for me.

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No Camp Nanowrimo for Me

April is Camp Nanowrimo month. If you don’t know what this is, here’s a quick summary. A community of writers band together via the internet and support each other with the goal of each writer finishing an entire writing project start to finish with in the month of April. This is the spring Nanowrimo the sister to the original Nanowrimo that happens in the fall during National Novel Writing Month in November. See what they did there National Novel Writing Month, Nanowrimo, so clever.

I love the whole concept of Nanowrimo. I have even participated in the 2011 November Nanowrimo, and I failed miserably. Not even making it through half of my project. What an embarrassment. But I still think it’s a great idea and the support everyone brings each other is a wonderful help to motivate you through the monumental task of writing an enter book in one month.

However, I will not be participating in this April’s Nanowrimo and here's why. I know I will fail again. That’s not me not having the confidence or dedication, I just know I won’t have the time needed to get it done. I wish I did but with the full time job, my commitment to this blog, oh and of course it’s that time of year when we need to start up the yard work again, so it’s out of the realm of possibilities, the hours just aren't there.

I’m sticking to my plan, finish the first draft of my book by November 1st. That will set me up so I can then participate in the November Nanowrimo, yay! I already have a project in mind for that (Insert maniacal hand wringing here). I like to think this plan will simply help drive me in my goal to finish my first draft.

To all who are participating in this month's Nanowrimo, you’re awesome! You show that book who's boss! If you’ve never heard of Nanowrimo but it sounds like something you would be interested in, you can head over to https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in to get more information and sign up, it’s not too late.  I mean it’s a little late, but never too late to start living your dreams. Have an awesome April, writers!

Endor

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Sorry there was no Fiction Friday this week. (Shame on me). But I have a great excuse! My husband and I spent this week on the Forest Moon of Endor.

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If you’ve never been, I highly suggest going. It’s an amazing forest that has otherworldly vibrant colors and is one of the most beautiful places I have even been.

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It’s the perfect spot of camping, hiking, and Ewok sighting. But the Ewoks must be in hibernation or something because we didn’t see any. :( 

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We had an amazing time.We completed a 12 mile hike,

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had a boss campsite,

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roasted marshmallows, and all that other camping goodness. It was a great trip and was totally worth vacationing off planet! ;)

When Inspiration Hits

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When Inspiration Hits! I had a stroke of inspiration this last week! Unfortunately (in a way) it was not about my current WIP (Work in Progress). It was a totally different story, that lay itself out before me and said. “Jamie, you better write me down now before I leave you.” So… I did.

I spent more than a few hours of my time plotting and outlining a totally new projects. Which in turn took more than a few hours, away from my current project. I even started writing a chapter of the new project, it ended up feeling like a forward. I’m not a big fan of forwards. So that fact brought me to my senses. Right out of the gate it didn’t have the flow I was looking for. I realized trying to figure out a whole new story style and flow was not what I needed right now.  Plus I was conflicted about taking any time out of my already full writing schedule for something new. I’m already bouncing back and forth between my manuscript and my blog. So the idea of starting another thing sounds like lunacy. I’m not sure how other people manage it.

But I’m happy I took the time to outline the new idea. I firmly believe that one should always write down a good idea the moment they have it. It’s an awful feeling, try to remember something later and only mildly grasping what it was, usually totally forgetting the part that made it great. Inspiration can hit anytime and we should take advantage of it. It helps me feel like it offsets the times I’m sitting in front of my computer drooling not knowing what to write next.

As far as a manuscript update I’m still on track. But the “inspiration” did slow me down. I’m at about 20,000 words, give or take a few hundred. Shooting for 25,000 words by the end of March, so 11 days. (Oh My)  We shall see about that.