Thursday, November 7, 2013

Links for Writers, Mac and Cheese for Everyone

This post is a salute to the writers participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I’m not, alas, one of them. (For me, a good week’s output is is 6,000 words on the work in progress. I know, I know, for some of you, that represents a day’s effort. )

One of my favorite bloggers on writing is British author Matt Haig. In a recent post, he shares what he’s learned over twelve years as a published author. Number 11 speaks to me: “We like stories because time moves us forward, when what we want to do is move sideways. We want to live every possible life, not just ours. Stories are how we can window shop other possible lives without committing to them. They teach us everything.”

As you gulp coffee to fuel your NaNo-inspired writing frenzy, think about the post you’ll write when you’ve been published for twelve years.

Haig’s number 19, though, worries me: Being published makes you paranoid. Bookshops stop being bookshops and start being ‘Writers Doing Better Than Me Shops’.” Oh, no-o-o-o! Let’s not lose our love of bookstores. To ensure we don’t, here’s a GIF-happy list of reasons we love bookstores. (NaNo writers will be able to visit a bookstore on December 1. On that happy day, you will order a latte, sink into a comfortable chair, and congratulate yourself on jumpstarting a novel and maybe a career.)

Before the month’s over, NaNoers will curse the work in progress many times. That’s normal, so push past self-doubt. Next month, before you settle in to revise, read agent Joelle Delbourgo’s post on common reasons editors turn downfiction manuscripts. Your December task is to make sure your revised novel doesn’t give editors a reason to say no. 

Sadly, the laundry doesn’t do itself during NaNo, the day job’s demands continue, and someone has to vacuum. To add insult to injury, kids expect dinner to appear on the table sometime between five and nine p.m. Every night.

Here’s an easy and quick recipe to the rescue.  A friend gave it to me the year our kids were peddling jars of salsa as a Future Farmers of America fundraiser. (Turns out Texans are picky about salsa, and most families already have several jars of their favorite kinds in their pantries.) We FFA parents ended up buying a dozen or so jars apiece and needed ways to use it up. I’ve since learned this recipe in famous in some circles. Here goes:

Salsa Mac and Cheese with Beef

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)
16 ounces salsa (Me, I like salsa with a chipotle kick and medium heat. If you have picky eaters, try a mild salsa. If you like it hot, go for the fieriest salsa you can find.)
2 cups water
7 ounces elbow macaroni
I-2 cups cheddar, grated. (It’s NaNo, for pity’s sake. Buy a bag of already grated cheese. If you’re a Velveeta fan, cube a quarter pound of it.)

1.) Brown meat in large skillet. Drain.
2.) Add salsa and water. Bring to boil.
3.) Stir in macaroni.
4.) Reduce heat; cover. Simmer 8-10 minutes, or until macaroni is tender.
5.) Stir in cheese until melted.

Serves four to six

Happy writing and eating!


Jennette Marie Powell said...

This sounds like homemade Hamburger Helper, which my husband loves! I bet it'll be good with ground venison, too. I'm doing NaNo, and I'll definitely try this when it's my turn to cook!

btw, 6,000 words/week is not too shabby! That's my week during non-Nano drafting.

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Hi Pat. I'm not a NaNo writer either. I just cannot find that much time each day, with a full-time job, a very long commute, an aging parent who's quite often very demanding of my time. But, I admire those who do it. It's a great way to jump start that next book.

I'm more of a sit-all-day-for-one-entire-day kind of writer. I'm a binge writer. I'll sit for 10-12 hours all in one sitting (with bathroom breaks of course) and then I might not get back to it for days. But, that's how I roll and it works for me.

Great post to encourage those involved in the NaNo process.

And, I give the Mac & Cheese recipe a try. Sounds good.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Your average week is my good week. I suspect the ability to time travel isn't your only superpower.

About the mac and cheese recipe: a lot is riding on your choice of salsa since it flavors the mix. Choose well.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi Patricia/Jansen,
The ability to sit and write for ten to twelve hours counts as a superpower in my book. You and Jennette make me feel like a slacker.

There are a lot of approaches to get the work done. The important thing is for each of us to find what works for us.

I struggle with beginnings of chapters and scenes. Once I have the beginning down, though, I make progress.

If I could wave a magic wand and take away your daily commute, I would. I'll bet, though, you brainstorm while driving.

Karen McFarland said...

Me, do Nano? Moi? I don't think so. That is for my energetic writing pals. So I'm right with you there Pat. Although your word count is nothing to sneeze at. I think it's a good pace. And you're writing quality, not quantity. There's something to be said about that. Perhaps not as much work on the back end, eh?

Now about the Mac and Cheese. You Texans like to pick it up a notch and add beef and salsa. Sounds like a great, quick meal for winter. Yummy! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

What, exactly, constitutes "publishing" a book?

This is not a trick question. I have a former colleague who wrote an expose about the company we worked for. He had a publisher print the book (he financed it, I assume) and he has 100 copies in his garage and occasionally he shares the book with someone he really trusts. He tells me he published a book - I think he had a book printed which is not the same thing as being published. Maybe I'm being a stickler here.

By the way, the receipe was something similar to some melange that my mother used to make when we were growing up. She called it American Chop Suey. No idea where that name came from!

- Patrick

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Karen,
My goal is quality, but that might be because I don't have enough brainpower for quantity. Seriously, I only seem capable of a few ideas per day.

"Perhaps not as much work on the back end, eh?" Um, Karen, are you saying this post makes my butt look big?

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patrick,
The popularity of e-readers has given a big boost to digital books (and vice versa). Nowadays, most writers who reject the traditional-publishing route opt to "self-publish", that is, make their novels, exposes, or how-to books available as e-books and for sale at Amazon and other e-book outlets. That's not to say self-publishers don't shell out money. Typically, they'll hire a developmental editor, a proof-reader, and someone to format their work for e-publication. Although the authors will have initial expenses, they will keep the lion's share of what they earn via sales. Of course sub-par books won't sell well, and well-written books that are not marketed well might not sell, either. Any writer, whether self-published or trad published has to be committed to marketing his/her work. The fact your former colleague only shares his book with people he trusts tells me he's got control issues (and may have had an axe to grind with his former employer.). Once a book is published, it's in the wild. Authors need strangers to pick up their books, get excited about them, and pass the word.

Your former colleague may have used a vanity press. If so, he's free to say he's published. You, of course, are free to think, "he's printed." I've read excellent self-published books and know of self-pubbed books only the author's mother could love.

The rule of thumb is that monies should flow to the writer. Self-pubbed authors have many initial expenses. Afterwards, most royalties should flow to them. Traditionally pubbed writers generally have no initial expenses. Their publishers bear the editing, proofing, cover art, and some marketing costs. In exchange, the author may or may not get an advance and gets a smaller (sometimes much smaller) share of royalties.

I turned your simple question into a term paper. What's more, I could go on and on but will stop now.

Coleen Patrick said...

You had me at mac and cheese!!! :) That is of course my son's absolute fave meal, so I make it once a week.