Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

Can you believe we’re already into the second week of October? With the current edit, I’ve been neglecting this blog (The original deadline for edit completion was the end of February. Then the end of July. Then the end of September. You know how that goes…) Because I’m armpit deep into rewrites, I  haven’t given much thought to NaNoWriMo this year, even though I plan on participating.

Some of my best work comes out of NaNo. No, really. There’s something about a forced program that really makes one productive. It could be the whips and chains on the wall. And Dr. Wicked running on my laptop helps, too.

NaNoWriMo forced me to complete both Virtually Yours (a love story in thirty days) and Virtually Yours Forever (a wedding in thirty days). Both books were relatively easy for the NaNo challenge. I had characters that I knew intimately (much, much easier for the second book). I had story lines for each character, and an end result in mind.

I’m a pantser, and I detest writing outlines with a passion reserved for my other dislike (squirrels), but it helps to have a plan. While waiting for October to whiz by quickly, why not take a few minutes of time to sketch out your NaNoWriMo strategy. These seem to work for me:

1. Devise your story. This means you must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It doesn’t have to make sense, so don’t worry about that. Just remember this mantra: a person you like wants something very badly and is having a terrible time obtaining the goal.

2. Figure out your basic characters. You don’t need an entire cast, but start out with one or two people. Antagonist? Protagonist? You can fold in other secondary characters later. You’ll want to write down names, ages, what they look like, and a few basic personality traits. BASIC, remember? Save the rest for the real rewrite on December 1.

3. Choose a setting and become familiar with it. My settings tend to be places I’ve been or lived in. Virtually Yours started out as an online venture. If you are writing fantasy, you’ll have a harder job. I personally don’t get how some writers devise elaborate other worlds (I still think the Three Acre Wood was out of the ordinary) but hey, go with your talent.

4. If you have time, work on a schedule. You’ll have to somehow spew forth at least 1,667 words per day during the month of November, and unless you’re a magician or are retired with all the time in the world, finding time is going to be an issue. (It is for me.) Just remember: It can be done!

Once NaNoWriMo begins, just write. Don’t worry about back story, don’t concern yourself with spelling, edits, don’t even think about grammar. Just start writing, and don’t stop. You might want to carry a notebook like I do. Sometimes you can’t get to a computer, but inspiration will hit you where you can write things down for later.

Look to other participants for help, with strategies or just to commiserate. There’s no such thing as having too many writerly friends, and most writers make great cheerleaders.

If you would like to follow me on my NaNo journey, you can find me here.

Review Watching: Dangerous Waters, Don’t Go Near

I keep my Twitter-feed open while I work at my day job. You never know what might pop up. Most Tweets are mundane (like my own regarding my craving for horseradish), some are hilarious (Texts from Last Night, or my daughter’s arcane musings as a hipster in San Francisco), but mostly I use Twitter as a writing reference. Lots of good articles on these Internets, you know.

Oh. And I *discreetly* stalk agents and authors.

So this Tweet recently pops up. Truer words have never been spoken.

Amy Boggs@notjustanyboggs 7m A reminder not to respond to reviews. Once your book leaves your hands, it’s no longer solely yours. You can’t control how readers react.

Thinking about reviews is a timely subject. While on my quick trip to Colorado, I finished two novels, one by an author-friend, the other a random novel I picked up at Barnes and Noble, one with a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge on the cover. (I’m such a sucker for these covers. Authors should slap a photo of the Golden Gate on every cover, no matter what the genre, and I’d buy the book. Yeah. Math for Dummies with a photo of the Bridge on it-priceless.)

Once home from my voyage, I did the Goodreads thing and logged that I’d read the books and also gave my reviews. I rarely have time for words, but I make use of the star ratings. While there, I scrolled down to read the reviews of other readers.

Okay, so I’m clueless, or perhaps just too busy to peruse the entirety of the Goodreads web site. Or maybe I never noticed that readers were writing such comprehensive reviews. Tons of readers, dozens of reviews.

Each book had both huge fans who wrote glowingly of great story lines and meaningful social situations, and those non-fans who panned the book in question, saying that the characters were shallow or the proof-reading was flawed, or something else didn’t appeal. Blah, blah, blah. While it’s interesting to read what others think, their opinions will not sway my opinion of the author or the book.

(It’s actually amusing. Like reading the comment section of the Huff-Po Political Page.)

In fact, I have purchased books because they’ve gotten bad reviews. Largest case in point: Fifty Shades of Gray, although I’ve also purchased other books simply because someone else hated it. I guess I need to see for myself. Besides, every book is worth something, even if it’s horribly written. The author obviously put in time, effort, and energy into producing a novel. To me, even a self-published e-book is worth a spin, if you have the time to read it.

I know my own book and my past articles have reviews. I’ve read them, but I don’t take them to heart. Like Ms. Boggs says, once your work leaves your hands, it’s no longer your baby. It’s sprouted wings and belongs to the masses. If every sharp word from a reviewer causes a pang, perhaps you should consider a different calling than writing. As authors, you certainly don’t want to get dragged into a shouting match with a person who has penned a bad review on your baby. Smile, take a deep breath, and walk away. Silence is golden.

That’s my wise word to the author. For readers, I would weigh each book review carefully. What appeals to one person might not appeal to you, and vice versa. Don’t judge a book by its review.

Watching reviews is like watching the white waters of a swollen river. It might be pretty, but you don’t want to go near. If you’re a writer, write something else; if you’re a reader, pick up a book.

 

Nothing Could Be More Perfect Than This Stolen Post

This lovely missive was in my email inbox today, from Michael Larsen of the San Francisco Writers Conference. The sentiments expressed are perfect not only for writers, but for anyone who wishes to live a more perfect life.

Thank you, Michael, for keeping it real, and see you in February. 🙂

A Wish List for Perfect Days

In memory of my brother Ray,

a San Francisco Writers Conference benefactor, who had many of them.

 

If your days were perfect, what would they be like?

Your list will be different, but it might include:

Inside

  • having harmonious personal and professional goals that motivate you to do whatever it takes to achieve them
  • putting short-term goals in the service of long-term achievements with enduring value
  • living as simply as possible, as if every day were your last
  • knowing what enough is and earning it with daily effort
  • loving what you do so much you don’t notice time
  • balancing

–desire and necessity

–giving and having

–time and money

–thought and feeling

–comfort and the need to create and serve

–serving others and yourself

–sitting and moving

–screen time and the rest of your life

–work, home, and leisure

–ownership and access

–sound and silence

–planning, flexibility, and spontaneity

–imbalances created by the need to focus on an activity

–yin and yang 

In the World

  • filling your days with challenges that inspire your creativity
  • seeing opportunities in change, problems, and the unexpected
  • earning and enjoying the respect, admiration, friendship, and support of everyone you know
  • expressing gratitude through giving and service
  • having time and money to devote to the people, ideas, projects, and organizations you’re passionate about
  • learning about what excites you and what you need to know
  • laughing and making others laugh
  • making decisions, knowing that that money, technology, and other forms of power are useful tools but destructive masters
  • meeting your responsibilities as a citizen of a neighborhood, city, state, country, and the world
  • transforming anger about problems into positive action
  • needing no contact with the legal, medical, or corporate world, government, or large institutions, except to try to improve them
  • being able to work anywhere
  • helping strangers who can’t help you
  • celebrating your achievements

At Home

  • waking early, after an uninterrupted night’s sleep, next to your beloved, knowing the best way to use the day and eager to start it
  • having a home that has charm, character, and a garden, and that  is filled with love, light, color, art, music, and books, and that enlightens, entertains, and inspires everyone who enters
  • spending time with a family that is a source of love, renewal, encouragement, and wisdom
  • loving and needing the joys of domesticity but not letting them lessen your courage, discipline, and determination to pursue the dreams you were born to fulfill
  • sharing simple, varied, beautiful, colorful, delicious, nutritious, locally produced food
  • having a spiritual practice that brings you peace of mind
  • being at peace with your significance in 400 billion galaxies
  • living in a place that’s safe, good for raising children and provides privacy, diversity, a sense of community, natural beauty, a creative environment, access to culture and kindred spirits, local and independent sources of products and services, effective schools and government, full employment, freedom from want, a climate without extremes, planned growth that enhances the quality of life, community involvement, and the freedom to live as you wish
  • renewing your sense of wonder at the beauty and grandeur of nature
  • reading books you love without being disturbed, with Bach or Mozart providing the  soundtrack
  • working in your garden growing the fruits, vegetables, and flowers
  • using only what you need and minimizing waste
  • exercising your mind and body
  • understanding the value of people, information, and experiences and giving them the attention they deserve
  • having patience with others and yourself
  • being debt-free and saving for the future you want
  • experiencing no form of marketing
  • doing all you can as well as you can and expressing your gratitude for the day
  • making love as if it were the first time and the last
  • renewing yourself with sleep that begins the moment you snuggle your beloved

What makes a day perfect is subjective, but unlike this list, it’s likely to be simple. May every day be as close to perfect as you can make it. Like a rose, you were born to bloom. Now is the time to start doing whatever is best for you and becoming who you were born to be. As Anne Frank wrote: “It is never too late to start doing the right thing.”

Please feel free to share this list. I hope it inspires you and those you love to make a list and share it. This list will always be a work in progress, and I’d like to learn from yours. Many thanks for your time.

Michael Larsen

Regrets and Resolutions: A Writer’s End of Year

I honestly don’t understand how some published authors are so prolific. Especially mind boggling are those who have small children, businesses or day jobs, health problems, and the like. My life (especially the last few months) is at times so chaotic, it’s sweet relief to fall into bed at night. As a result, writing as taken a definite back seat.

Yet I try to squeeze out some writing time on a regular basis. I could be doing other things, like being more productive in my business(es) (totally boring), working out (uber boring), or maintaining my house and yard (not so boring, but time consuming). I could promote my writing more, but I’d feel like a huckster on a street corner peddling apples. Plus I’m too laid back (i.e. lazy) to do real promotion. I’m an artist: you either love my work, or you don’t. No hard feelings.

If I have one writing regret of 2012, it’s that I haven’t written MORE. Unfortunately, life threw me a couple of obstacles this year, and precious time was taken up by other more pressing matters. Maybe I was hoping the Mayans were right and I’d have no qualms about my absenteeism if I didn’t wake up on the 22nd.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The sun came up the next day.

2013 is starting early for me. Like TODAY.  My writing resolutions are as such:

1. Write more. I know. I say this all the time, but I need self-flagellation on a regular basis. Perhaps I should pencil that in on my calendar? While I’m throwing that idea on the fire, perhaps blogging more would be a good idea too.

2. Write more carefully. (Excuse my probably bad sentence.) Use what I’ve learned over the last few years to prevent writing mistakes before they happen. That way I won’t have such a heavy burden when it comes time to…

3. Edit more carefully. I’ve been working on Finding Cadence since 2007. I’m on my sixth edit, and I’m amazed to find errors and awkward phrasing even now. While I’m not exactly pleased as punch with Virtually Yours, the book served a purpose, mainly to remind me that editing never ends.

4. Study more. I love the Savvy Authors web site. So far, I’ve taken two classes and found them to be most helpful. The support and feedback are wonderful.

5. Network more. While I don’t write genre romance (my work does have romantic elements) I belong to the RWA and the Greater Detroit RWA and I’m a terrible member. I need to attend more meetings. I might need to branch out and find a serious critique group.

6. And finally, finish all of the half-baked projects I have hidden on my hard drive. I’ve got excellent ideas and compelling stories, but they won’t finish themselves. Time is short; I am old. I really need to start writing as fast as I can. After all, if someone with children under the age of 5 can do it, I should be able to.

For writers, writing is life. It’s the air we breathe. We have to channel our imagination somewhere, or we turn into tortured souls.

Leaving now to find my source of oxygen.