Tag Archives: nanowrimo

It’s almost that time of year again…

Taking on the world, one novel at a time!

Crazy, I know, but super fun and dream-worthy, none-the-less!

In fact, just this morning, I ran across my high school graduation invitation. Our class motto is far more meaningful to me now than it was two and a half decades ago…

I didn’t always dream of writing, but once the bug bit me, I’ve never been able to shake it. NaNo, while crazy and intense, is an amazing annual event that inspires and motivates me. It’s like a runner’s high. Only better because my thighs don’t burn and I don’t have snot running down my face.

Since I started participating in NaNo, I’ve had nearly a dozen short stories, several articles and a novel (with a second one coming out next year) published, as well as edited a short story anthology and served on the acquisitions board for five others. I am firmly wrapped up in the beauty of my dreams.

And the hard work…

Once November hits, I’ll batten down the hatches and come up for coffee, kids and Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what my writing project will be, but I’m actually thinking of something a little lighter this year.

If anyone wants to join me in writing (or attempting to write) 50,000 words in 30 days, I make a great cheerleader. I also make a mean pumpkin cheesecake that I plan to bake for a local write-in. What could be better than good company, beautiful dreams and divine desserts?

Go ahead, click on the National Novel Writing Month icon above and sign up for a unique adventure. If you do, drop a line and let me know what your user name is, so we can get through the month together. If you live close enough, I might even throw in a margarita and homemade guacamole for incentive!

Share your dreams. What motivates you to reach them? Do you ever feel as if your dreams are so wild and crazy they are not worth pursuing? If so, how do you push on despite the devil on your shoulder?

Curious minds want to know.

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National Novel Writing Month Begins

If you see my children panhandling on the street, please feed them and send them home. If they appear dirty and disoriented it’s because I’m ignoring them. Why? Because once again, I have challenged myself to write 50,000 plus words during the next thirty days.

Funny, since I’m not even sure what I’ll be writing about and NaNoWriMo started nearly twelve hours ago. As (if) my muse moves me, I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever done anything so ridiculously challenging? How’d it turn out? Any tips for succeeding in the face of the near impossible?

Curious minds want to know.

Dear Readers and Writers, Got Stories? Want Free Books?

Announcing three Literary Events and what they mean to you.

  1. October 31: Call for Submissions. Short story submissions for the Winter’s Regret anthology must be received by this date. For all you aspiring writers out there, share your story of regret with Elephant’s Bookshelf Press and join other Seasons Series authors. Details can be found here: submission guidelines, while submissions can be sent to anthologies@elephantsbookshelfpress.com.
  2. November 1: Debut Novel Release and Prize Giveaway. This day marks the end of an Epic Ten Day Giveaway. Between now and then, A.T.O’Connor is giving away prizes left and right to celebrate the release of her debut novel, Whispering Minds. Prizes include six novels by fresh new writers, as well as other fun and delicious goodies. Check out her blog by the same name: Whispering Minds.
  3. November 1: The Official Start of NaNo. For those who thrive on crazy deadlines and nearly impossible tasks, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. “What is NaNo?” you ask. National Novel Writing Month is that crazy thirty days where writers eschew all real life responsibilities and pen 50,000 coherent words. Yes, I will be NaNoing again this year, and you can join me. Hop over to NaNoWriMo and sign up now.

And that’s it. Three great things that happen in less than a week.

So, if you write, get your butt in gear. If you read, add to your bookshelves. And if you do neither, there’s no time like the present to start!

Hugs~

NaNoCountDown

With 4,500 words to go, I’ll be MIA again today. 

The good news is that I only have to write half the words I did yesterday.  The bad news is that my novel will not be complete.  I’ll have my 50,000 words, but the story won’t be done.  : (

Oh well, I guess I can’t have everything!

Happy writing today.

Treading the Water of Life…

…while the sharks are circling.

I’m 640 words behind on NaNo.   Which means today I have to write about 2,300 words just to get caught up.  Then starts Saturday, just in time for me to don the kneepads for our volleyball tourney and fluff the pillows (read chase off the dust bunnies) for our out-of-town guests.  This wonderful non-writing interlude puts me in line to be 3,333 words behind come Monday morning.

So, I either have to write like heck today and crank out nearly 6,000 words or do so on Monday, because then we get to add another 1,667 words to the NaNoTaskMaster.  Which is like adding a 50 pound weight around my neck and throwing more sharks into the pool.

Life Lesson 1: Stay in the life raft, because beating off sharks with your bare fists while treading water and holding a brick above your head is dang hard.

In other news: I got to help a stranded motorist this morning while wearing my jammie pants, DH’s oversized sweatshirt, DD’s knit slouchy boots and bed head.

Life Lesson 2: Do not drop the boys off at school looking like a freak.  Translated to mean: don’t be a freak, because you never know who might see you.

And speaking of my Little’s, they both threatened to leave me because, “You always make us clean our room.  You like everything to be so clean all the time.  We can’t even go in there except to sleep.  We can’t even play anymore.  What fun is that?  We might as well not even live here.”

Note to y’all: Said cleanliness meant no more eating Halloween candy in their room and throwing the wrappers under their beds and behind the bookshelf.  It also meant putting dirty laundry in the laundry room, not on the floor.  I think I may have been so cruel as to bring up making their beds and putting their minefield of Legos back on the Lego table, though I totally left the dust bunnies out of the equation and said nothing about their overflowing dresser drawers.

Life Lesson 3: I am a mean mom.

Truly I am.  Because I also got roped into a high school joke that almost made my daughter cry last night.  Our quasi new son asked Eldest why he broke up with his girlfriend.  Eldest gleefully played along and said his GF (who would never, ever be naughty) cheated on him.  This was said in front of their mutual friend while they ate pizza at the counter.  It would have been a funny joke on Mutual Friend had it not spread like a bad case of teenage acne.

MF promptly texted his girlfriend who was with DD who texted unsuspecting me who broached Eldest who then had to call GF in case someone at the French party texted her about what a horrible girl she was for cheating on Eldest.

Within five minutes the whole world was crying over the break up.

Which leads me to my final Life Lesson of the Week: Be careful what you say, because bad news travels at the speed of light.

Remember high school?  Enough said.

May your life jacket be buoyant and the sharks few!

Off Slaying Dragons

…er, words.

Sandwhiched between NaNoDays 1-3 and 5-6, I have to do all the writing I can before heading out of town tonight. This is my only day in Week One of NaNo where real life will let me try to pad my word count for future days when my fingers and keyboard will not be allowed to see each other!

Hugs to all you writers out there. May your steed be fast and your sword be strong!

Essential Writing Tool: Totems

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner.  Literally.  It’s just seven days north and one day east.  Because, of course, the sun rises in the east and next Tuesday morning will find me glassy-eyed, caffeine injected and doggedly working to get my first 1,667 words done on my newest WIP.

I’m as prepared as I usually am for this crazy writing endeavor.  I have a working title, but no genre.  I know I’ll be penning a young adult novel, but I have no clue what, exactly, it will be about.  I also have my totem.

My writing totems act as mascots.  For instance, in 2007, my NaNoTotem was an elephant.  I had never heard of totems before, and my writing buddies all seemed to have one.  Then one day while shopping, a teeny elephant called to me from the grocery store bin.  Ellie, named after the elephant in my novel, Surviving Serengeti, became my first writing cheerleader.

She hung out on my desk in 2008 while I wrote Losing Time, and I believed she would simply be my official writing totem forever and ever, amen.  Imagine my surprise when a tiny carved bear demanded to join Ellie in 2009 while I penned Whispering Minds.

I found him while visiting our National Monument on a research trip for my YA novel.  I knew I needed a solid Native American perspective and found a wonderful stone carver to share his thoughts with me.  While looking for a book to further my research, I saw this bear.  Not a big deal, except I couldn’t seem to leave without purchasing it.  In Indian culture, the bear represents introspection, something I didn’t realize until much later.  Yet, I couldn’t have deliberately bought a more perfect totem for my psychological thriller than him.

And then the plot bunnies came.  A stuffed marshmallow peep joined Ellie and my bear for NaNo10 when my young MC unwittingly unleashed plot bunnies into her very practical world.  Hopefully, The Mixed-up Manuscripts of Martin Niggle will become the first in a chapter book series.

Hopefully, I will win my cheesy NaNo11 certificate with Haarper.  Writing 50,000 cohesive words in thirty days seems like a stretch, but I thrive off the quick deadline.  It seems to boost my adrenaline and my muse.  Which is good, because as of today, I still know very little about this year’s novel.

A giant (in terms of relative size to the real thing) stuffed E.coli will join the ranks of my NaNoTotems.  He was a Christmas present from my little brother and sister last year.  He hung out on my windowsill as a reminder for my kids to wash their hands.  He’s cute in a creepy kind of way and somehow wheedled his way into my novel.

Thanks to my Big Sis for downloading Germs, Genes and Civilization onto our shared kindle account, I got snookered into reading the history of infectious disease and its impact on society.  Yeah, I know.  Not typical light reading, but a fascinating book and very well written.  I would actually recommend it for any historical fiction writer–whether they write about genes and germs or not.

All of a sudden, the germ of an idea hit and Haarper was born.  So was Coli.

Isn’t he cute?  Aren’t they all?

Do you think I’m weird for having an entire cheerleading section of random objects while I pen my novels?  If so, I assure you, I’m quite normal.  Or at least as normal as many other writers across the globe.  If you don’t believe me, check out this post on Writing Superstitions and Rituals to see just how unsilly my totems are.

Comparatively speaking, of course.

Who cheers you on when you write?  Do you think having someone–anyone/thing–keeping a watchful eye on your progress is motivating or terrifying?  How do you reconcile your fear of not finishing when people actually know you’ve started a new project? 

Curious minds want to know.

NaNoWriMo Writers Wanted: kids and teachers may apply.

My favorite writing season is fall.  I love getting back into school routines after a busy summer.  By mid-October, life has usually settled down, marching band is over and National Novel Writing Month is just gearing up.

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo and you write fiction, you may want to check it out.  It is the biggest writing contest in the world.  It’s free.  It’s fun, and at the end of a successful season, you get a cheesy winner’s certificate that you can proudly hang on your office wall.  I love it.

So, what is NaNoWriMo?  Simply put, it is writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Across the globe, crazy writers pen their first words after midnight on November 1st and finish with “the end” by midnight on November 30th.

In its thirteenth season, NaNoWriMo connects thousands of writers engaged in a single mission.  Over the years I have met some of the most amazing writing friends a gal could ask for.  I’ve also completed five manuscripts, though last year’s MG novel came in 15,000 words shy of the required word count for me to earn my coveted certificate.

I usually enter November with an idea.  It may be a vague sense of plot, a character that (literally) speaks to me and a title.  One year, I actually researched my basic theme by reading a few books on the subject matter and interviewing someone.  Super smart idea.  But I don’t plot and I don’t outline.  I’m a pantster.  Always have been, always will be.

And that’s okay.  What’s important about writing in general, and NaNoWriMo in particular, is the process of getting a story out of our heads and onto paper.  Editing has no role in the frenzied pace of NaNo.  Purging our thoughts onto the keyboard does.

Which brings me to one of the very best things about NaNoWriMo.  They have a program for young Wrimos designed to be used in the classroom or a library setting.  It targets skills addressed in curriculums.  It offers support and prizes and motivational thingys to get kids excited about writing.

It allows kids to set their own goals and actually use the skills teachers so desperately pound into students’ heads.  It taps into their imaginations and allows their creativity to take a break from the torture of learning mechanics by rote memorization.  Instead, practical application reigns supreme.

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.  And if you’re interested in signing up as a solo writer, please do so here.

If you’re a teacher who thinks outside the box, check out the Young Writer’s Program to see what it can offer the students in your classroom.

And if you have no interest in actually writing yourself, but think the Young Writer’s Program is a great idea, consider donating.  I do.

Shout Out on a WIP Read-Through

Over the weekend, I read my NaNo09 novel for the first time.  I’ve had good intentions several times and have actually started puttering with the first few pages a time or two.  However, I never really got into it.  I think I was petrified–afraid it would stink worse than a road-kill skunk and terrified that the manuscript was simply too big for me to tackle.

The long weekend, with eight hours of driving time, forced me into it.

And boy am I glad I did!

Whispering Minds is a YA, psychological thriller.  It’s my first complete young adult novel and I was certain it was horrible.  60,124 words of horrible. 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  In fact, I cried over Granny, got a bit squishy inside when my MC cozied up to her best guy friend and had goosebumps raise the hair on my arms while watching a video over my MC’s shoulder.

Not that it was perfect.  Or anything bordering on good, but  it wasn’t a disaster.  It’s definitely clean-up-and-submit material.

And, thanks to some wonderful writer friends, I am ready to edit.  I am no longer scared by the huge word count–which is more than double my longest manuscript to date.  Instead, through critiquing my buddies’ WIPs, I’ve learned to critique my own work, not just edit.

WHAT DID I DO?

  1. Read through the entire thing as if I was reading a novel.
  2. Made notes in the margins.  Not typos or grammar or any of those bothersome things.  Rather, notes on questions, confusions, time line discrepancies and unclear passages. 
  3. Wrote a mini critique like I do for my buddies.  This helped me focus on the issues that needed fixing. 

WHAT DID I LEARN?

  1. That my writing is prone to the same mistakes everyone else makes and that by critiquing it in the same way I do for my friends, I am more apt to see my problems than when I try to edit as I read.
  2. That my characters are as flat as a road-kill skunk.  While I inherently know this is my downfall, I still write rough drafts with pathetic supporting characters.  They need lots o’ work.  But at least now I know where and why. 
  3. That I have major plot holes.  Of course I do.  It was a rough draft.  But this time, I can actually see them laid out in my critique.  I know where I have to spend my time.

WHAT I WON’T DO?

  1. Read it again for quite some time.  I will find my plot holes and fill them in.  I will plump up my characters and tweak timelines. 
  2. Line edit until after another front to back read through.  I will ignore the typos and grammar issues that I typically focus on and once again read for content, not copy.

All in all, this entire novel was a unique experience for me.  While I wrote my first draft, I simply made notes when I got stuck and moved on.  I never reread anything from the day before and simply started with the previous sentence.  I certainly did not edit as I went–which I’ve been known to do so often it inhibits my ability to finish a manuscript.

My shout out is not so much that I actually critiqued my novel, or that I believe it has market potential.  Rather, I’m thrilled to learn that I have, indeed, learned.

I’ve matured as a writer–both in how I write and how I edit.  And that is something worth shouting about!

Can you tell when you’ve grown as a writer?  If so, what did you do differently and how does it affect your approach to your writing journey?

Growing minds want to know!

The Blocks

Mondays fill me with apprehension.  I’m excited to get back in the swing of writing, yet I inevitably come down with a bad case of The Blocks.

I know, it sounds bad.  And it could be if left untreated.  Without proper care and attention, The Blocks spread rapidly and affect a writer’s mental health.  Severe cases can damage the circulatory system and result in a total loss of heart.  If you, or someone you know, may be a victim of The Blocks, seek support immediately.

General Overview

The Blocks is a mental health infliction that causes writers to question the worthiness of their work.  Typically found in aspiring writers, the onset of The Blocks has two common causes. 

  1. Unresolved Writer’s Block: a milder form of The Blocks contained to a specific project. 
  2. Rejection Letter Overload: a mini-depression brought on by the lack of a book contract.

Signs and Symptoms

Typical symptoms include blankly staring at the computer screen.  The writer may sit up suddenly, smile and gently tap their fingers on the keyboard as if preparing to write.  Inevitably, this is followed by slumped shoulders and a long-winded sigh.  Occasionally, the writer will engage in sudden bursts of typing, followed by a compulsive use of the delete button. 

After a few hours of alternating between blank stares and typing outbursts, activities such as internet surfing and solitair may increase to an almost frenzied pace.  Surfing may completely replace typing.  As the days pass and mental health deteriorates, writers affected by The Blocks become Master Fibbers.  They quickly exit computer programs when Significant Others appear and their faces will transform from an I-just-swallowed-the-goldfish look to a ginormous I’m-working-my-tail-off grin.

A sense of paranoia sets in.  Grand conspiracy theories are hatched regarding the publishing industry.  No amount of discussion can persuade a writer affected by The Blocks that editors and agents do not rip writer wannabees to pieces, chew them up and spit them out for pure sport.

 Writers with The Blocks may become lethargic.  Those with severe cases refuse to boot up their computers, and some have been known to spontaneously throw their monitors across the room or burn half-finished manuscripts in fits of mental instability. 

  Treatment

To completely recover from The Blocks, a writer must follow these steps, repeating as necessary, until stability has returned.

  1. Find Support.  Writers groups abound.  Living in the boondocks is no longer an excuse for solitary confinement.  The internet brings like-minded writers to your desk top.  Agent Query is fantabulous.  The SCBWI is the bomb for juvenile lit writers.  Likewise, mystery guilds and romance associations can be found with relative ease.  I found my first group of support buddies through NaNoWriMo.
  2. Meet the Professionals.  A list of my favorite blogging editors and agents can be found on my sidebar.  Find ones you like and log on.  Subscribe to writer’s magazines and attend conferences.  As professionals in the publishing industry, they usually have something…professional…to say.
  3. Hone Your Craft.  Never does the old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” apply more than in the art of writing.  Writing is a mixture of talent, practice and perseverence.  You will not be an overnight success.  You will pay your dues through writing, editing and killing your darlings.  You will join the multitudes who have spent years penning words to find the right flow.  That’s okay.  It’s how we learn.
  4. Take Yourself Seriously.  If you won’t, nobody else will. 

Prognosis

Good.  However, if left untreated, the death of writing dreams may occur.

How do you shake off the writing doldrums?  If you have a tried and true method of getting back in the writing swing, please share it with others who may be suffering from this debilitating disease. 

If you are a current sufferer of The Blocks, take that first step and comment on a writer’s blog.  You may find a supportive friendship you never dreamed possible.

I hope this post finds you dreaming big and will give you the confidence to break through The Blocks and take control of your writing life.

~cat