Tag: NaNoWriMo

writing motivation

Strength in Numbers

You would think that writing is a fairly solitary endeavor. One person, sitting at a computer – or typewriter, or notebook – creating a new world and new characters. Authors don’t need people around to distract them – do they?

On a whim, I participated in National Novel Writing Month back in 2017, just to see if I could reach that 50,000 word goal in thirty days. It was fun and challenging and I loved every minute of it. By the end of November I had surpassed the word count goal and “won” NaNoWriMo – but that wasn’t the best thing I gained from the experience.

During that time, I attended a number of write-ins where NaNoWriMo participants in the area gathered at a specified location. The municipal liaison, Mary, set timers and challenged each writer to put down as many words as possible. She was encouraging and funny, teasing those she knew and cheering every single writer who showed up.

I needed that.

It was immediately obvious that there was something motivating about being in a room with other creatives. Is there an aura about writers that wafts into the air and encircles everyone nearby, merging with and energizing the other writers in the room? I don’t have any idea, but I sure dig that visual.

What I do know, however, is that this camaraderie between authors is an essential component to my own creativity. I was heartbroken when November ended and I no longer had a reason to meet up with these people – or to write. I hadn’t finished my story but I couldn’t make myself sit down and get to the end.

That is, until I found out about Camp NaNoWriMo.

I gathered my own group, organizing meet-ups throughout the month of April and again in July. We shared our story ideas, asked each other for advice or how to get out of a sticky scene. Over the spring and summer, I not only finished my story but added more than another 90,000 words! Unfortunately, now I am faced with editing that story down to a manageable length.

It’s harder than it sounds…

Now I meet with a group to write every week and I consider these people my good friends, even outside of writing. I continue to plan and organize writing groups for Camps and I find great joy in encouraging others to believe in themselves and in their writing – to an obnoxious extent. When I go more than a week without a writing group, my creativity and my mood suffer. Writing with other creatives helps to keep me motivated and boosts my creativity.

There is definitely strength in numbers.

What creative boost have you discovered that surprised you? Do you prefer to write alone or with other people? Comment below and let me know what keeps you on your creative path!

novel editing, manuscript editing, query writing

Behind the Scenes: Editing Week 7

Since this is my first foray into editing my own novel I really had no idea how challenging it would be. I’m still plugging along, but it’s not the blazing trail of triumph I had been hoping for.

One good thing – I don’t hate my story.

I did when I first started, but now I feel a bit more hopeful. At the beginning I was staring down 163,000 words. Well, after seven weeks I am thrilled to tell you that I have pared it down to 147,000. Yikes.

An upcoming workshop I’ll be attending offers professional query letter or partial manuscript critiques, as well as face-to-face pitch options with a variety of agents in attendance. While there will be one agent there that I think would be a good fit for me, I am miles away from being ready for that. Instead, I chose to have both the first ten pages of my manuscript and a query letter critiqued.

That’s some scary stuff.

Preparing the ten pages was, honestly, pretty fun. I rewrote the entire first scene, adding in some dialogue to show what a jerk one of the central characters is. When I shared the new lines with my husband he was sufficiently offended by the passive-aggressive insults, so I think I got my point across.

However, it took me a good three days to write the query letter. Condensing a full novel into roughly 300 words designed to pique the agent’s interest enough to want to read the whole story is HARD. I almost gave up several times, but I had already plunked down some money for this service.

Plus, writing is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

Editing has turned out to be more enjoyable than I was expecting. I thought that I would either sob more frequently or chuck the whole thing in a fire long before now. My goal is to finish up around 100,000 words total – fewer, if possible. There are some scenes that I know are unnecessary and should simply be deleted and there are others that can be rewritten much more efficiently. The trick is determining which is which.

I know this is my own story but I can’t wait to see the finished product! The plan is to have it ready to query by the beginning of summer. Then I need to start editing my NaNoWriMo novel from last fall and have THAT ready to query before November.

And then I’ll start the process all over again.

How do you keep yourself accountable to your editing timetable? What has been the most challenging aspect of editing? I’d love to hear from you – comment below!

 

Behind The Scenes: Editing Week 1

Every author I have spoken with decries editing as the worst part of writing a novel. They pour their blood, sweat, and tears into writing for weeks (NaNoers) or months (normal people), creating stunning images and weaving fantastical tales with their words. Then they are asked to take this beautiful thing they love and ruthlessly slash and burn until it’s barely recognizable.

Yep. That’s where I am right now.

This is my first time editing a novel. I wrote one years ago, I got feedback on it, then promptly put it on a literal shelf and haven’t looked at it again. The daunting task at hand is to pare down my monstrous 163,000-word giant baby into an entertaining and coherent story. I started editing earlier this week and I have to admit it’s slow going.

I’ve edited 10% so far and am 0% confident that I’ve made it better.

In an attempt to be impartial during editing, I haven’t looked at this project since July or August. This story has been simmering out of sight since then. I wrote another novel in the intervening months (Okay, practically wrote another novel…) but I think I’m still too close to this one and am struggling to edit it objectively.

These are my words and I love them all dearly.

And boy howdy, do I LOVE my words! I pack words into a sentence like I’m padding a fragile item for shipment on a jackhammer. Apparently I find it necessary to describe every single movement from action to action – saying, turning, walking, looking – and I blame my third grade teacher, Mr. Holman, and his “peanut butter and jelly sandwich instructions” exercise. *More information available on request.

And those pesky adverbs, so reviled by Stephen King and many other writers, seem to have multiplied while I wasn’t looking! That makes it marginally easier to make cuts. I’ve had to re-write some clumsy scenes and I’ve deleted others entirely, so maybe I’m not fully in love with ALL the words. Thus far I haven’t chucked my computer out of the window, burst into tears, or curled up into a ball in the corner. Maybe that ambitious end-of-January deadline could happen!

Now, if I could only find my focus…

What editing techniques do you find most helpful? How many rounds of edits do you go through before handing your work off to beta readers? Drop your advice, suggestions, and discussion points below!

 

Writing, what a difference a year makes, take a chance, take the chance, push yourself, leave your comfort zone

What a Difference a Year Makes

My second NaNoWriMo has come and gone. I have to admit I’m feeling a little bit of a let down. There was always something to do, someone to talk to or meet up with, daily goals on the line. I find myself having to rein in my enthusiasm and not barrage my writing group with random thoughts and observations. Everyone has a life to get back to, especially as we drive straight into the mouth of the holiday season. We’ve set aside family time and other obligations for a month and we all need to return to a sense of normalcy – if any of us remember what that looks like.

This was a different experience for me than last year. My first NaNo in 2017 consisted of forcing myself to attend events, to actually talk to people, to not give up on trying to reach that 50,000-word pinnacle. The local writing group I joined is made up of people who have been participating for more than a decade and who have a considerable shared history. That was a little daunting, and even more so for someone who faces a bit of social anxiety. Last year I challenged myself not only to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but to attend events and engage with people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.

Is it too much to say that was a life-changing decision?

Sounds dramatic, I will readily admit. But I can’t deny that I have changed. A little background: I am very good at avoidance. Making plans with people I genuinely enjoy and then panicking at the last second and canceling said plans is almost an Olympic sport for me. It’s not intentional. As the reality of personal interaction and imagined judgement loom on the horizon, I become filled with dread. So throw in something intensely intimate like writing and that anxiety goes nuclear.

I talked myself into showing up at write-ins and attending informational meetings throughout the following year. Then a strange thing began to happen: I didn’t have to force myself anymore and I started instigating meet-ups. I led two month-long Camp NaNo groups, holding online and in-person writing events, spouting annoying encouraging platitudes throughout each Camp.

Honestly, I don’t know how the participants were able to stomach me.

From there, I started looking at writing as more than a little hobby to keep me busy and started thinking my writing might have worth outside of my own mind. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me. I am firmly entrenched in the “fake it ’til you make it” school of self-esteem. But I found that the more I wrote and the more I spent time with like-minded creatives, the more I valued what I – what WE – have to offer.

NaNoWriMo 2018 was a fantastic experience for me. I now have a group of people I consider friends that I hope to continue to meet up with for writing – or just for fun. In 2017 I scraped across the finish line with barely over 52,000 words. It took me from November through the end of July just to finish writing that project. This year? I hit 50,000 on the 14th, ended the month with a decent word count of 91,065, and “The End” is on the horizon within the next week or two.

What a difference a year makes.

Putting yourself out there and taking chances can be pretty terrifying. But there are also some astounding rewards to be gained from taking a chance. I highly recommend it.

What goals do you want to reach but have been too scared to attempt? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone recently with surprising results? Share your story below!

Join Me On A Short Story Writing Adventure!

Recently I was introduced to a writers’ sharing website called Channillo. Here, you can post poetry, essays, nonfiction articles, short stories, and a variety of other written platforms. Readers pay a small monthly fee for unlimited access to content and can subscribe to a writer’s channel or follow one or more of their posted series.

This is a beautiful thing, especially for a fairly green author like me.

Most authors have a particular genre. I, on the other hand, am kind of all over the place these days. My current work in progress is a fantasy story. The previous one was a romantic thriller. I recently had a suspenseful short ghost story, “Return To Me,” published in a Halloween anthology. My particular writing niche hasn’t revealed itself quite yet – but I hope this little endeavor will change that!

Through the short story structure of Channillo, I will have an opportunity to try my hand at all the genres that appeal to me. I can produce bite-sized morsels of whatever strikes my fancy each week and serve it up to people who love to read. No matter if I’m feeling like a Disney princess or like a patient who flew over the cuckoo’s nest, I don’t have to commit myself to an entire novel in one style and end up hating my creation in the end. Yay!

Throughout this adventure, I will be posting snippets of whatever I’m working on, whether it’s a short story or part of a NaNo project or something entirely new. If you’re curious about “Return To Me” it can be found in the Halloween anthology, Chills Down Your Spine, or on my new Channillo channel.

I invite you to follow along, make suggestions, and hopefully enjoy some interesting and entertaining writing in the process!

NaNoWriMo, novel writing

…And So the Writing Journey Begins!

November has rolled back around, and I am bursting with ideas and creativity!

And terror.

Last year, on a whim, I decided to join NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with the goal of writing a 50,000-word story, just to see if I could. It’s a daunting task for anyone and can be exceptionally challenging for someone just starting out. Through my writing journey last November and over the course of the year I learned a few things about myself.

I am far more goal-oriented than I could have guessed. The burning need to meet daily word goals, to stay on track to reach the winning word count on time, shocked me. I would get up early or stay up faaaar too late just to make sure the words were there. Having a deadline and a bar to clear was exceptionally motivating!

Being in a room full of other writers helps me work harder and reach farther into my own creative stores. THAT was a surprise, too. I had always considered myself a pretty solitary writer. Even now I prefer to put in my headphones and lose myself in whatever music fits the mood of the scene I’m working on. I feel more creative when I’m surrounded by creatives.

One of the most shocking revelations, though, was that I was more motivated and encouraged in my writing when I was encouraging others in theirs. By shining a light for writers who had hit a wall or were struggling with self-worth I was able to grow faith in myself and my writing. You know the saying, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”? Not only did I lose nothing, I gained a confidence and a joy I hadn’t possessed in a long time.

Last year was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo and I had very little idea of what to expect. I went into it with a plan, with character biographies and a plot outline, but I wasn’t prepared for the welcoming spirit of the Central Iowa writing community. Somehow, I stumbled into a gaggle of supportive, fun, interesting and encouraging fellow authors. I now consider them my friends as well as writing buddies, and I am convinced that joining NaNoWriMo was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have found my tribe in this group of intrepid writers.

Throughout November I invite you to join me on my writing journey as I share my NaNo experience with you. Ask me questions, make comments, and engage with me in this endeavor to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days!

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