Tag Archives: writing

The Unique Panic of NaNoWriMo

I always panic a little every Halloween. Not for the typical reasons of haunted houses, spooky costumes, or ghoulish frights. I am panicking because it is Nano Eve, the night before the crazy month-long novel-writing marathon kicks off. I am panicking because the challenge seems insurmountable. It seems that way every year.

This year my particular panic is related to time. Or perhaps that’s misleading – it’s really more of a question of energy. I am still recovering from a bout of bronchitis which zapped almost all of October for me. Being sick stole all the time and energy I had reserved for actually outlining my novel and putting together character sketches. Instead of creating, I spent most of the month sleeping. In addition, I started a part-time job that I’m still quite new at and I will be starting a full-time job within a week. So while time (or lack thereof) is definitely a valid factor, I have always been pretty good at squirreling away little pockets of time to get my writing done. But after what could be 60 hour work weeks, I’m afraid I won’t have much of a brain left to do the mentally taxing work of plotting, characterization, and ya know, putting words together in coherent sentences.

My First Nano

I still count my first Nanowrimo as my best – partly because the whole experience felt so new and liberating. It was a whole different attitude toward writing than I had previously held. I used to slave away quietly by myself, agonizing over word choices and plot points. Back then I was more prolific than I am now – maybe the world hadn’t beaten the spirit out of me yet. Writing was a very serious business to me, to be undertaken seriously and to have serious feelings about. I was introduced to Nanowrimo in college by my good friend Megan. She knew that I loved to write, yet I’d been experiencing a block for a long time. She encouraged me to try it. I protested that it was impossible. She said, “Just try it.”

It was the Nanowrimo of legends, I’m telling you:  I came up with a premise the night before, and I flew totally by the seat of my pants. I think it was the first time I had ever tried “pantsing” – the Nanowrimo term that refers to just making up the story as you go along with no outline to guide you. I can see why some people are die-hard pantsers – it’s pretty thrilling if you can pull it off. Somehow, by November 30, I had dragged myself through 50,000 words. I guess in some way, I am still chasing that thrill because I keep returning to Nanowrimo year after year, hoping to recapture some of that magic.

How I’m Going to Get Through This Month

I don’t think I could do this crazy month-long ride without the support of the writing community. Nanowrimo is, after all, the unifying force that brought our local group together all those years ago. I keep coming back to Nano because it’s so inspiring. I love to hear other author’s war stories, to see them emerge triumphant on the other side clutching all the words they cranked out. I love hearing that Nano has helped them to write more words than all the other months. I love being able to complain about parts of the noveling process with people who have been through the same emotional slog. If you have never been part of a writing group, it is a hard feeling to describe. It feels validating.

During my first Nano, the door to the online writing community really opened up to me. I had been reading some author blogs quite regularly, but it always felt like a rather small pool and the mode was experts (published authors) teaching the beginner (me). But Nano was different. There are forums and group chats. You could find a writing buddy halfway across the world – some nocturnal wrimos like being able to chat with someone in a different time zone. And everyone was in the same boat for the most part – we’re all just trying to write as much as we can in a short amount of time and not get discouraged along the way. I love that there is a different forum for each stage on the Nanowrimo website. Whether you are racing along with the Overachievers (we have a couple of those) or lamenting the first 10k (you know I have been there), there is always someone right alongside of you.

Of course our local in-person write-ins are always a fun time. There is something about having an excuse to get out of my house that really motivates me to get work done. It’s hard for me to write at home these days – too many distractions – so I look forward to our many write-ins at different libraries and local restaurants. Hearing the tippity-tap of everyone’s fingers flying across the keys also gives me a competitive streak – I feel like I am not doing enough if my fingers are not tippity-tapping too. All the official write-ins are on the calendar, but members can always propose unofficial meet-ups any time during the month and see if anybody is up to join.

I love how inclusive Nanowrimo is. There is no punishment if you don’t win. No one strips you of the title of “author” or flogs you for not meeting your word count. You can write about whatever you want. There’s no pressure to publish at the end. I feel that Peowrimos is especially inclusive, because we are just happy if you wrote more words this month – whether it’s fiction, poetry, whatever! The word count doesn’t actually matter. It’s the fact that you put forth the effort to do something that’s important to you.

With all that said, the only way I’m gonna get through Nano this year is to commit. To dig deep, grit my teeth, and discipline myself to write. Nanowrimo is like a crucible in that way – there’s no time to wallow in self-doubt when you have a deadline to hit. I have always been pretty motivated by deadlines, even if they are just self-imposed and made up. So I hereby announce with the publication of this blog post, I am going to try my hardest to win this year.

Are you committing to Nano?

A lot of writers don’t like Nano because they feel constricted, pressured, or rushed. I see it as more of convenient shorthand – a quick way to say, “I’m making my writing a priority this month with a bunch of buddies.” It’s a quick way to let other writers know that you’re a little crazy, you may need a lot of support, and that you are choosing your writing first over all the other things you could be doing this month.

If you want to be my online buddy, you can find me on the NaNoWriMo.org website as natfee.

And if you’re wondering whether I’m going to use this blog post toward my word count:  you bet I am.

To Camp or Not to Camp: NaNo is the Answer

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I knocked over one of those ever present piles of ‘to read’ books that decorate my house. The one that caught my attention was a beautiful little Jane Austen 5 year journal. It seemed that even before I knew I was a writer my family and friends must have thought I was because there are several, mostly empty versions scattered about my house. But this journal was special, a graduation present from a former English class friend; it celebrated my lifelong dream of finishing college. The fact that it took me nearly 40 years to reach that goal made it all the more precious.

The book flipped open to January 12th, 2014 and the short note read, “Went to my first writers’ workshop. Interesting people. Next meeting Feb.9th.” I was hooked. My friend Natalie accompanied me and we met some great people and learned so much. For a couple months I took notes, learned, and talked with writers who had taken the next step in story writing, rather than story thinking.

When March rolled around, the talk began to center on Camp, which of course many of us newbies thinks actually concerns marshmallows, sleeping bags, and mosquitoes. I had heard the term NaNoWriMo thrown about – National Novel Writing Month – but knew the process of spewing out 50,000 words in one month was not daunting as much as impossible. The longest thing I had written so far was a term paper on Eowyn from Lord of the Rings, and it was something under 4,000 words.

The idea of Camp, I was told, was to set your own limit and write what you wanted. The amount could be as low as 10,000 with the sky as the limit. I balked and my co-writers persisted. “It’s fun!” “You can do it!” “You could win!” Win? The competitive side of me reared its ugly head. To think I could win at anything was the final draw.

I signed up nervously, setting my goal at 10,000 words and got to know the website. The best thing for me was the graphs. Not only did it show me how I was doing for the month, but it let me know exactly how many words I needed to finish per day to stay on target and finish by the end of the month. The idea that I only needed to write 323 words per day was doable. The first week went fine. I was averaging around 350 a day and some days a bit more. I made it through the honeymoon stage, but then, as it must, life interfered and I missed a day. With a real effort I brought the numbers back up and surged on.

Sailing along at just over 400, I was so excited. But then my ideas stalled. What was I doing? What ever had made me think I could do this? I wasn’t a real writer. I would never win at this rate. I was doomed to be a ‘wannabe’ for the rest of my life. Reality TV would become my life. (My mind actually works like that sometimes). I drove my family crazy. How could I back out gracefully?

Finally I talked with the other writers, many who had had their own doubts at one time. They encouraged me to stop self-editing and let the words flow unheeded. Editing is for later. Enjoy the creative process. Later you can delete and add and punctuate. It made all of the difference. The competition was back on and I was ready. Each day I worked to increase my word count and as I did my story was running onto the page and making me laugh (lucky for me, it was a comedy). I was so far ahead that a single missed day did not end the race. I could see the finish line and the end of my story careening to a spectacular climax! Actually, it was more like an ‘aha’ moment, as I tend to write comedic mysteries, but I was very pleased. So pleased, I forgot about winning, forgot about whether it was good enough, forgot to think what others would think and just enjoyed. And in so doing I won.

Epilogue – Because, don’t all good stories have one? I finished my first story at around 12,000 words and went on to sign up for my second camp in July. Pledging 15,000, I finished at 20,000. When November rolled around I was ready for the challenge. I finished one day early with a grand total of 51,000 words. I had won again. After much editing and fixing, and the help of my friend Natalie, I compiled my stories and released my first book, Murder in the Library, a cozy mystery collection of three short stories, all because of my first attempt at Camp. My advice? Do it. Make it happen. Open up and let your words out. Enjoy. And even if your word count doesn’t meet your expectations, you still will have won.

How to Use Project Management Skills as an Author

Project management is a valued resource in the business world, but can it help you with creative endeavors like writing a novel? Of course! Employing project management skills will help you beat writer’s block to get to the end of that elusive novel, short story, or set of poems you’ve been meaning to finish. If you plan to self-publish, project planning will be an invaluable skill set, especially with your marketing efforts. Take your next writing project from the realm of abstract into concrete actions and steps.

What is a Project?

According to the Project Management Institute, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” It has a defined beginning and ending with dates. It usually has about five stages:

  1. Initiating
    1. Define the Scope
  2. Planning
    1. Calculate time & costs
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring / Controlling
    1. Milestones
  5. Closing
    1. Lessons Learned
    2. Celebrate Success

Nanowrimo is, at heart, a basic project. The scope is to write 50,000 words. There is a deadline (Nov 30) and a defined time frame (30 days). It outlines steps to get there (write 1,667 words a day). There are milestones and celebrations along the way. At the end of the project, you (hopefully) have a deliverable of a 50k manuscript. We’ll use Nanowrimo as an example as we walk through the basics of project management.

INITIATING

Scope

Everyone’s idea of success is different. What are your writing goals? Publication (either traditional or through self-publishing) is a nice clear end goal, but it’s not for everyone. Maybe your idea of success is writing more. Give it a concrete number, like 25,000 words a month or 100,000 words a year. Even if your only goal is to have fun while writing, write down a concrete goal of dedicating 15 hours a week to writing so that you can have more fun.

To revisit our Nanowrimo project, the scope is already set for you, but you can redefine the scope (for example:  write 75,000 words instead of 50,000). It’s also an important part of the process to write it down and tell your friends that you are committing to the goal.

It’s helpful at this stage to identify who can help you reach your goal. Do you need an accountability partner? Who can you ask for advice when you get stuck? Who will give you moral support as you strive to achieve your goals?

PLANNING

Identify obstacles that may delay or prevent you from reaching your deadline. In November, you might list Thanksgiving, holiday travel, or prior commitments. How will you overcome those obstacles to meet your deadline on time? If you are a freelancer, this is an important step that will help you meet deadlines for stickler editors.

Identify other risks that might keep you from your goals. Are you a Facebook junkie who can’t resist checking your feed? Maybe you need to find a place without Wi-Fi so that you can get some work done. Do you struggle to write at home because you just end up doing laundry and napping? Schedule time at a place like a coffee shop or library to put in some solid writing hours.

Calculate time and costs

It’s easy to lose the discipline of Nanowrimo in the off months. Nano gave me the opportunity to calculate a rough WPH (words per hour). That’s a valuable stat to me. It’s easy to lose track of what I’ve accomplished when I’m sitting at a computer all day. But now I know that if I put in a good 4 hours, I’ll get at least 4,000 words.

If you plan to self-publish, you will also need to factor in time for editing, beta reading, formatting / design, and marketing events. If you are going the traditional publishing route, your timeline will not be entirely in your control, but you will have additional tasks like writing query letters, sending manuscripts, or searching for the right agent and/or publishers.

Create a schedule when you will write, or perform other tasks related to editing and selling. Having a date on the calendar will help you stay on track throughout the project timeline. Peowrimos has a calendar of events during Nanowrimo and (less frequent) events in the off months. This helps me to plan time to actually write, or at least seek advice from other local authors. If you identified any risks in the previous step, be sure to add any pertinent details to your schedule.

Calculating your costs comes into play after you’ve put in the work of writing. When it’s time to market and sell your creation, you will need to determine how much money you are willing to put up for marketing costs.

EXECUTION

Execution is where the real work gets done. You’ve made a plan, and now it’s time to work the plan. This is when you write.

During Nanowrimo, the Peowrimos have several write-ins and meetups to help you execute. My favorite event is the Write-A-Thon:  an all-day marathon where we bring snacks and write as much as we can in 12 hours.

MONITORING & CONTROLLING

Milestones

Milestones are markers of achievement. Their purpose is to show how you are advancing to your goal. Milestones make it easy to digest your progress. Are you way behind on meeting milestones? Do you still have a lot of milestones to reach before you’re done? Assess and figure out a way to get back up to speed.

The Nanowrimo website has a great tool for monitoring your word count progress (the bar graph is seriously addicting). If you are a Scrivener user, that program also has some great tools for meeting your session goals.

Milestones are built into the Nanowrimo site graphs and the new badges you can earn – you can see milestones for 10,000, 25,000, and 40,000. You can also set your own milestones for different parts of the story – you just introduced the villain, you finished the first act, you are writing the dark night of the soul for your main character, etc.

CLOSING

Lessons Learned

This step is where you evaluate the project with 20/20 hindsight. What went well? What didn’t? Where did you struggle? How can you take this knowledge into your next writing project to make it more successful?

For example, if you created a schedule in the previous step but missed a lot of your writing dates, analyze why that happened. Maybe you had a lot of unforeseen emergencies that took precedence, or maybe you let your emotions dictate your schedule and chose to do other things instead. If it’s the latter, you are learning where the priorities fall in your life and you need to decide if writing will be a higher priority for next time.

Take time to evaluate how the project went and use it to create a better process for the future. Formalizing this process, especially by writing out the lessons you learned, will help you retain it for next time.

Celebrating Success

At the end of Nanowrimo, we have a TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) Party. This is a valuable way to celebrate success at the end of a marathon writing project. You can also celebrate your first major book deal with a publisher, the launch of your self-published novel, or a new clip for your portfolio in a magazine or online journal. Whatever your success is, make a point to celebrate it.

Project management skills will help you to become a more successful writer, no many what your goals are. You can employ these disciplined techniques to get more writing done without sucking all the fun out of it.

process improvement for writers

Cross-posted from my blog, barbrude.wordpress.com.

If there is one thing I learned from writing Demonspine, it’s that I don’t actually have a process yet.

It’d be easy to fall into the trap of thinking I did. I mean, I’ve been writing for six years, almost seven now. I’ve logged a lot of novels (lost count somewhere, which is fine because most of them don’t deserve to see the light of day anyway), and I’ve learned some stuff… right?

Well, yeah. There’s a lot more to learn, too. Not just fiction techniques and storytelling and words, but how to better use my time. How to spend less time spinning my wheels.

Because that was my downfall with Demonspine, and the reason it took 18 months to release it after Angelhide. To give you an idea of how much time I wasted, I actually had 90% of the first Demonspine draft done at Angelhide’s 2014 release and it still took me 18 months.

Granted, most of those months weren’t writing. They couldn’t be. I don’t quite remember what all I did then (other than a couple NaNoWriMo projects) but it wasn’t working hard on my next novel like I knew I should be doing. And I could play the ‘but but toddler’ card, but let’s be honest–it wasn’t his fault.

These hard lessons in self-awareness and procrastination have come at a cost–my time.

I can’t be alone in this. But I have some good news. There are a couple of things I’ve found that really improve my process, that help the writing go smoother and be more fun. And when it’s more fun, I suddenly ‘find the time.’ (And some days I still have to make the time–that will never change).

Without further ado, a list!

5 Process Improvement Tips

  1. Journaling. This one still surprises me. For the longest time, I compartmentalized journaling as that thing other writers do to daydream and that’s cool but that’s not me.Except it is.There’s a lot of junk in my head and it’s amazing what getting some of that junk out can do. Sometimes it’s writerly junk, I can’t do it, this is awful, why did I think I could write? but other times it’s health. I couldn’t sleep last night and now staying awake hurts. I’ll make a deal with myself–one more cup of caffeine for a serious attempt to finish this scene.

    I would have thought that allowing myself to whine in notebook form would create a storm of negativity that I can’t get out of, but the reverse is true. The junk comes out, it gets acknowledged, and it gets solved. This is soooo especially true for the writerly junk because once I get the words I’m so bad at this out they just stare at me until I keep going–I feel this way because I’ve stalled in a scene and I’ll feel better as soon as I fix it.

    After a page of working through ‘it’ (whatever it is at the moment) I usually have a pretty good writing day.

  2. Goal-Setting. This one seems super obvious, but every week that I don’t set goals is a week I get next-to-nothing done. What’s been working the best for me lately is plotting out the entire week, keeping in mind my other obligations like work and family. The big mistake I made at the beginning of September was I didn’t account for my family coming up over Labor Day weekend. Naturally I fell behind, but instead of whining it out in my journal and moving on, I stagnated. I didn’t set goals again until last week. Thankfully, my long-term schedule for Heaven’s Most Wanted hasn’t been fatally compromised–I built in a little fudge factor for getting the first draft done. Now that fudge is gone (I still want more chocolate), but I can do this.
  3. Aspire higher. Normally I cringe when other writers say they are aspiring writers or aspiring authors (author is a person who has written, so are you seriously aspiring to have written? Please, no). Stop aspiring and start writing! Your future writer self will thank you.But… I look at my greatest time sinks in writing. Combat and high-danger scenes take me so much longer to write than fun banter. For a long time I just accepted that as part of my writing self. It’s ‘how it is’. Except, it’s not! Writing to a halt became a self-fulfilling prophecy. It takes longer because I expect it to. Oh, here comes another of those scenes, gonna spend a week on that and hate every minute…

    This attitude is completely unprofessional. I aspire to be professional, to treat writing like the career I want to have. A professional doesn’t accept this kind of junk and gunk. A professional asks, how can I improve this process?

    I read a writing book on conflict. I wrote in my journal and learned that the reason I don’t enjoy writing these scenes isn’t the scenes itself–it’s because of the time sink I’ve made them into. The self-fulfilling prophecy of doom has come full circle.

    I made a list of ways I can work more professionally, and the most pivotal is this one:

  4. Prewriting. How many times have I started a scene and got 25%, 57%, 83% into it, only to realize I’m going approximately half a word an hour and I don’t like where I ended up.Whenever I take a page from Rachel Aaron’s playbook (the ultimate process improvement guide) and pre-write each scene before I get started, everything goes so much smoother. In fact, the difference is so extreme that some of my fastest, funnest scenes come out when I block each and every beat out before I actually write it.

    It’s like plotting to the extreme. First I ramble through concerns and questions I have about the scene–what’s really at stake here? What disaster is looming? Is there enough conflict? Is this an interesting location? It’s amazing how often asking a question, not just in my head but putting it on the screen or paper, gives me the answer.

    From there, I take that overarching idea and block it out. It’s tempting at this point to just start writing, but then I slow down again. I gotta keep it simple, even if that means making the beats ridiculous and the dialog unpunctuated. In fact, keeping it that raw keeps the flow.

    And once that’s done, it feels like no work at all to clean it up. I’m happier with what I wrote, it took me less time and anguish, and I still have energy to tackle the next scene. What’s not to love?

  5. Intrinsic motivation. The thing about writing and art in general is that no one cares if you do it. Oh, we say we do. We ask how it’s going and give a thumb’s up when you tell us you’re plugging along.But at the end of the day, the only person who can finish that draft is me. No amount of external pressure will make that happen (I’ve heard a contract deadline helps, but I’d still argue there’s strong intrinsic motivation propelling a writer to meet said deadline). Intrinsic motivation is the key–finding yours is a personal thing.

    I’m still looking for mine. Sometimes I remind myself where I want to be in a five years. I think about what my life would be like without writing. Almost always, I ask myself why the story I’m writing is important to write right now, more important than all the other things I could be writing. That’s usually a good jumpstart.

    How do you improve your writing process?

self-pub seminar II now ready for signups!

I’m pleased to announce the Self-Publishing Seminar I hosted earlier this month was a success. We had a great turnout and covered a lot of ground.

Of course, there was a lot of ground we couldn’t cover. Three hours is just not enough to dig deep! Because I had to gloss over cover art, book packaging, and social media in the first seminar, I’ve scheduled another on September 12th, same time, same place. We’ll delve into promotion and all sorts of post-press ‘I hit publish, what now?’ kind of stuff. A lot of it is new territory for me, too, so I’m trying new methods and doing tons of research to make sure I’m ready for some great discussions.

If you missed the first seminar, don’t worry! I haven’t set a date yet, but I’ll be hosting that one again sometime this winter (when it’s too cold to be doing anything but reading and writing, anyway!). So keep writing, and we can hit the ground running in 2016 with the workshop that helps you choose service providers, format your book, and get published.

PS Self-Publishing II: Book Packaging, Social Media, Promotion, and Author Branding is by registration only and there’s only one spot left. Please sign up ASAP if you want to come, or put yourself on the waiting list.

Happy writing!

book review: the art of empathy

The Art of Empathy: A Training Course in Life’s Most Essential Skill by Karla McLaren

I know, I know–you’re probably wondering how a psychology book founds its way onto my reviews of writing books.

But here’s the thing I love about psychology and sociology books. They teach us about ourselves and others, and isn’t that like one gigantic, never-ending character study?

In short: yes.

Empathy, argues the passionate author McLaren, is the sum of your emotional intelligence expressed in myriad ways. All our emotions are gifts to guide us through social interactions and everything else in life–anger to warn us that our boundaries have been violated, shame to warn us to avoid confrontation, fear heightens our senses to protect us. These emotions, and our skills in dealing with them, are key to our survival and to resolving conflict.

I enjoyed this book. The language is accessible and assumes nothing of the reader, save a desire to learn. It handles tough relationships with a gentle, caring hand, and offers emotional honesty. Like I said, it’s a self-help book for people who want to handle their emotions better, but all throughout I saw great information for writers. I have another tool in my toolkit and a new lens to focus my people-watching–the gifts of our most basic emotions, and how everyone deals with them.

Verdict: check it out from the library!

story prep workshop

I had a great time at yesterday’s workshop, WriMos!

In case you missed it, we talked about a lot of ways to plan and prep your story, because NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. Here are some links we shared, plus a few more, because I love arming you with resources:

Candy Bar Scenes — Holly Lisle’s website is a treasure trove of writing inspiration and information.
Snowflake Method — Advancedfictionwriting.com has novel design down to a science, or close to it as you can get. This method is great for plotters.
Scene and Sequel, MRUs — Advancedfictionwriting.com has another great article for how to structure scenes, both large- and small-scale.
Story Engineering Beat Sheet — Storyfix.com has some great resources for story planning as well as this beat sheet.
Jami Gold’s Website — all the fill-in spreadsheets and plotting devices you could dream of, and then some.

NaNoWrimo YWP Novelist Handbook — ignore the fact that these are for kids. No, really. There is some great advice in these pages, as well as some awesome printouts.
Scrivener NaNoWriMO 2014 Free Trial — Scrivener is offering a free trial of their writing software for this year’s NaNo, from now until December 7th. If you win, you get a coupon for 50% off.
Sacred Cow of Publishing: Writing is Hard — deanwesleysmith.com tackles the myth that writing is hard.
Sacred Cow of Publishing: Writing Fast is Bad — deanwesleysmith.com tackles the myth that writing speed = writing quality.

We’re about to get very busy, WriMos. November is coming–we are ready with write-ins, workshops, and a write-a-thon. Check our calendar at nanowrimo.org or on the calendar button at the top of this page. I can’t wait to see you there.

Happy Writing!

prep your story

I am absolutely not going to panic that we have a month and 4 days left before NaNoWriMo. Nope, nope, nope, not gonna do it.

Instead of panicking, I’m going to talk story prep. We’re hosting a workshop on October 12th, but in the meantime, here’s a link I’ve found helpful in planning stories, from Storyfix.com: The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool (that fits on one page).

There’s a lot of balls for a planner to juggle. But one thing I’ve found is that if I can nail down the first plot point and set my character down the path of emotional growth and give them proper agency, then the rest of it comes together.

A few things to remember about the first plot point:

  • this is the moment your character commits to the story
  • there is no going back
  • it should be the protagonist’s choice, not coerced
  • it should show a shift in the protagonist’s emotions or thinking, for better or worse, a willingness to change or a realization that change must happen
  • the first plot point bridges the gap between part 1 and part 2 (of a 4-part story), in which the character goes from setup to response
  • plan this big moment between 20%-25% into your story

Don’t let first plot points scare you. They can be high-stakes or low-key, from betting the farm to admitting to yourself that yes, maybe the house is actually haunted. Both of these moments require a response–now the the farm is at stake, the wager (and work) begins. Once you admit the house is haunted, you have do something–either prove there are no ghosts, move out, call in a priest, or learn to play nice with your ethereal cohabitants.

In fact, your protagonist might have to do all those things, but first, they have to admit those strange sounds at night aren’t just mice in the wall boards. That’s the power of the first plot point.