Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update

When it came to writing a novel in a month I did everything right this time. I plotted the entire novel just before November 1st.  I super cleaned the house and warned the family of my tendency to day dream during this busy time. I stocked the freezer with easy meals and taught the kids how to cook them. (No judgement people!) I was ready.
My book was about roach people taking over a town. Yes, it turned out to be as stupid as it sounds, but by day eight I tucked myself into bed with almost 15,000 words already finished. Yay me!
On day nine I didn't feel like writing. Day ten was the same, and by day eleven something had to give. I knew it was breaking the rules, but I started writing something different.
The roach people were getting boring, just chasing each other around the laboratory, so I sat at my desk and typed the following words,
"It was a nasty business cleaning up after the dead."
Not a perfect sentence. I'm not in love with the "was" in there and it doesn't paint much of a picture. Even after this first sentence I ramble on quite a bit about cleaning up body parts. It started to get a little bit twisted, and I considered going back to see how those roach people were doing.
In the end I decided to stick with the "cleaning up after the dead" business just to see where it would take me. And guess what? I really like it.
I'm 12, 758 words into it and not bored at all, and I have NaNo to thank for it.
If I hadn't been writing and creating so well for so many days in a row, I would not have been in the zone (cliche). I would not have been able to come up with anything new. My mind would be stuck on roaches, roaches, roaches, and I would have kept on with that book even though I knew it wasn't turning out that well.
It was Maya Angelou who said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
That statement is more true to me today than it was when I Tweeted it a few months ago:)
I have been writing regularly since Camp NaNoWriMo in July and the more I do it, the easier it gets.
So, not to beat a dead horse (cliche), but just keep on writing!
It does get easier if you stick with it.
Now, the big question. Will the books I'm writing get better? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Are We Doing Wrong?

I'm NaNo crazy right now, but I'd like to take a break from my dismal word count to give you a sort of pep talk. At the end of the month of October I met up with some fellow NaNo-ers for a plotting session. It was a fantastic group of writers from all sorts of different backgrounds. (The writing exercise was great and I think I'll do it from now on. You can find it here, at
As we went around the table introducing ourselves everyone got to say how many times they've done NaNoWriMo in the past, and how many times they've won.
For myself, I had a go of it in about 2009 (maybe) and then did Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and of course I'm doing it again now.
What struck me about this group of people was that we were all writing. We were all NaNo-ing, we were all winning, but out of the group of us only one had actually published a book. (Btw the one person was my sister!)
What did that tell me? It told me that we were all doing something very wrong! I went home and was just sick with the feeling that we must just all be making some grave mistake. How could so many NaNo people still be floundering in the unpublished category?
Let's look at the statistics. According to Wikipedia, in 1999, for the first Nano, there were 21 participants, yes, 21.  In 2010 there were over 200,000 participants with a combined total of 2.8 billion words. These numbers don't even take into account those writers that aren't signed up for NaNo, but are still trying for the word count.
There are, of course, some success stories:) Erin Morgenstern and her beautiful book, "The Night Circus", Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants", and there are over 100 traditionally published books that started out as NaNo books.
But if the vast majority of us are just pissing into the wind, so to speak, what are we doing wrong?
And the answer, which I realized late into the night (after three beers and no less than 100 gummy bears) is nothing at all. We're not doing anything wrong.
We're writing! And that's what a writer is supposed to do. Sure we may be guilty of not spending the right amount of time on it, we may still need to read that book on plotting, or join a critique group, but if we are signing up for NaNo and trying like Hell to hit that 50,000 word mark then we're doing exactly what we should be doing.
What's that saying?  Something about it taking one million words before you really find your voice as a writer. So that would be twenty completed NaNoWriMo's. I'd say with three under my belt I'm off to an okay start!
As long as we're writing, and learning, and trying, we are not doing anything wrong. We're doing just what we're supposed to do. We're writing.
Some will gain success faster than others, but unless we quit, we'll all get there eventually.
So keep on writing, keep on Nano-ing, and even if you're on your fourth, fifth or sixth NaNo, and still not published, don't give up.
And if you need even more proof that writer's write...A LOT. Check out Amanda Hocking's post, specifically the info on how many books she's written vs how many she's published.
Amanda Hocking.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Reinvent the Wheel

I spun my wheels for a long time trying to write something that no one had ever read before. The stories never quite worked out how I wanted them to, and then I realized I was on the wrong path anyway!! The thing is, readers are creatures of habit. This is good news for the writer because it means we can use those habits to our benefit.
How do we do this? Simple really.
First, we write within an established genre.
As artists I think we want to write whatever strikes our fancy, and we can, but we'll pay a price if it's "too unique". Writing is a business, after all, and if the publisher can't find a place to market your book it will be difficult to sell. So you can write that chick lit-zombie-space epic, and it might be wonderful. But if your publisher can't find a niche to sell it in, you're not going to make much money on it. Or, you'll be working so hard at the marketing that you won't find time to write that next book.
Next, we should tell our reader's what's going to happen in the novel.
No, really. You want to lead your readers into the story with a certain expectation. Our protagonist is either going to:
a. find the love of her life. Or
b. end the book alone, feeding kibble to a dead cat
You, as the writer, should let your reader's know that these two things could happen and then give them the ending that they want the most.
No, it shouldn't be obvious (your reader loves a tease), but in the end they want the boy to win his fair maiden, or good to win over evil.
(Obviously, the reverse would be true for a tragedy, but even in a tragedy the reader should know things might end badly, even expect it.)
Give the readers what they want, and maybe save the chick lit-zombie-space epic for after you hit the best seller list.
And finally, use the three act structure.
I know, I know, some of you would like to just wing it, and maybe you're a better writer than I am, but the three act structure is a map. It is a tried and true method of story telling. It's been used everywhere from plays, to movies, to books. It works, and it's easy to use. Some people feel like this structure can stifle creativity, but when you're just starting out it's the safest route to a complete story.
Writing is difficult enough. Don't make yourself crazy trying to invent a new story structure. Use the tricks and tools that have worked for other people in the past. Once you've got your readership you can go any which way you want, but in the beginning, use the "tricks of the trade".