Monday, December 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tips Series (#3): The Aftermath - NaNoWriMo is over, so what did you learn?

Writing a novel is a process. As a writer, you learn by trial, error and practice, what works best for you. During NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I think most people who attempt the 50,000 word feat find out a few facts about themselves as a writer, including but not limited to the five facts below:


1. How much you can truly do when you push and believe in yourself. 

This is my third time participating and winning NaNo. Although I have never not written 50,000 words, I still am amazed I can do it in one month. Every time it's like discovering I have a secret superpower when I challenge myself.


2. If you attended write-ins, you learned when you write surrounded by like-minded individuals, it helps your spirit. 

You also might have learned during writing downtime, when you were socializing; what other people were writing, useful tips for completing NaNo or you met lots of cool people.

3. You learned what kind of writer you want to be. 

Plotter or panser or a little of both? Writing during NaNo is the first dump of your idea whether you've plotted or not. When you start going back through that novel this is when you'll figure out what will work best for you in the future. This is where you'll figure out what type of writer you want to be.

4. You have been convinced you need writing in your life. Right? 

I had been seriously writing since 2010 and found NaNoWriMo in 2013 but still the idea of a novel writing month made me want to be a writer. To actually make a career out of it. Now with 2016 approaching I am finally in a place after three years of NaNo to query my novels.


5. You realize writing takes time. In the upcoming year make it your duty to carve out that time. 

Think about how an hour of focused time got your word count up. Set aside time and make the most of it. Writing is time getting to know yourself and exploring what's bubbling and brewing inside that imaginative head of yours. The stages of writing (idea, plotting, drafting, editing, critique, etc.) can be brutal and take time. Once you start shaping a story, the best feeling is to see it through, to continue reshaping it until the story shines. 

Last note: Unless you are 5,000 words and below from finishing your novel, put your novel away. Take the rest of December and maybe some of January to look around you and enjoy life. November was crazy and whatever you accomplished, it was more words than you had before you started. So give yourself a break. And
don't pitch your book on #pitmad or query agents. A book written in thirty days will never be polished so wait to show it to the world. Please. 


Here are some great revision links that might help you when you are ready to revise:

Happy Writing and Revising!

Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tips Series (#2): Getting Through - Tips for Winning and Reaching a High Word Count

      10 Sure-Fire Tips to Surviving November
1. Write every day. Make writing a priority. Set aside time where no one is allowed to disturb you. No one. Put on a writing hat if you have to.
2. Try timed writing exercises. Turn off inner editor and write for 10, 15, 20, 30+ minutes without stopping.
3. Write nonlinearly. Write in whatever order you feel like to keep your creativity fueled.
4. Reward yourself. Buy a gift that makes you happy but is fairly cheap as a reward for reaching goals: chocolate, a cheap book, favorite drink, take out, a new clothing under $15, a mug, etc.
5. Go to write-ins/events. Register and then set home region. Check calendar for events, host own event, if you’re inclined. Writing in a supportive community is helpful in keeping motivated and building relationships. Don't let shame and being behind stop you from writing. Remember whatever word count you end with is more than you started with.
6. Engage in social media. NaNoWriMo has accounts on Twitter and Youtube. They offer timed exercises, prompts and encouragement. You can also be social with a network of people from all over the world trying to reach same goal. (Twitter: @NaNoWordSprints AND @NaNoWriMo, YouTube channel “National Novel Writing Month”).
7. Just say no! Say no to distractions, including extra requests from work, family and friends. This month is about you. Get ahead in order to be off on weekends or on Thanksgiving weekend. 8. Three clicks, that's it! Unless you're on social media to engage or up your word count, research is the only other reason to be online while writing. Click three times to find an answer and stop. Stop!

9. Don’t stop your flow, write a note. Highlight, bold, underline, change font color, etc., when you need more info/research for a scene/concept so you aren't distracted by having to stop your writing flow.
10. Push past burnout. NaNo is 30/365 days which is 8.219% of your year. Remind yourself this in order to reach the ultimate goal. This feat is like running a marathon. Ask for extra help and consideration from those depending on you.

Stay tuned for last NaNoWriMo related blog post: "The Aftermath". The other two blogs in my NaNoWriMo Tips Series are "Plotting" AND "Getting Through".

Thursday, October 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo Tips Series (#1): Plotting

I will tell you firsthand I'm not sure how people make it to 50,000 words without outlining a novel first. Yes "pansers" I'm talking to you and humbly bowing down at the same time. Don't get me wrong, if you can pants your way through NaNo then by all means do what works. But if you'd like to change your method, even a little bit and plot beforehand, then read on.

NaNoWriMo runs during the extremely hectic month of November in which we all are particularly busy with the holiday season and our lives so of course it's hard to fathom carving out any time to write, let alone writing 50,000 words. That's why before NaNo starts I plot a lot so I can skip around to different scenes when I'm under the gun to write a daily word count. It's been my experience, after winning both years I tried, that if I have a scene to write, I can keep pushing toward the 50,000 word count with enthusiasm. Resource: Writers Digest offers these plotting resources.
Getting Un-Stuck
My fear is getting stuck. I feel like if I get stuck then I won't reach my word count. I don't want to have to come up with ideas under pressure. Fleshing out ideas is no problem but coming up with new ones is a brain overload for me. I have enough stress and pressure in my normal life especially during November. Tangent: Why November, I wonder. It's like the semi-but-not-really-calm-before the storm of holiday season.  
Ways to Get Un-Stuck
Make readers care about your characters and believe they are real, with flaws. This should be done in your first few chapters. Ask yourself what's at stake, what will happen if the characters or main character doesn't solve the problem. If you don't make us care and set the stakes, this may be why you find it hard to keep on going with these characters.

Create an inciting incident (conflict that begins action of the story) and a big enough problem to keep the story going. This incident and problem have to keep snowballing, branching out (tumbling), growing (inevitably getting worse) for the conflict to rise and persist. Your characters will then make decisions and act, learn, grow and overcome these obstacles set for them. If none of this happens, frankly you have a boring book that needs revising and forethought.
All these points can be accomplished through Writers Digest plotting exercises and Jami Gold's Worksheets for Writers before starting to write so there's a clear idea of what the book is about and where plot will go. "Pansers" don't be dissuaded, most "plotters" use outlines as a guideline not a bible and you should too. (Jami Gold offers Scrivener templates too.)
The Plan to get ready for NaNoWriMo:
1. Come up with an idea then plot the main action first. The beginning, middle and end. I usually go further and plot every scene with a scene goal written in a few sentences. I know this is hard for most so just having a beginning, middle and end is a great start. Resources: Alicia Rasley has a great blog post on Outlining Your Novel in Thirty Minutes that can help get you going. Also a beat sheet* from Jami Gold can help. (Jami Gold offers Scrivener templates too.)
2. If your novel will take place in a different world/time than the present then start imagining how that world functions. This is going to help sell your story, making the world believable. Resource: Plotting Your Sci-Fi Novel by NowNovel

3. I look at the characters at a superficial and basic level. What do they look like and wear, how do they talk. Then what are their goals and motivations, how will moving through the plot change them?  Resources: Character Worksheet by Jody Hedlund, Character Development Worksheet by Writer's Craft and Creating Well-Developed Characters from NaNoWriMo Youth Program notebook are three great resources.

I always say the easiest part about writing is writing the first draft. The rough draft. In the rough draft, I've outlined and plotted the story and proceeded to dump all I have on paper. I let the characters speak to me. Ideas, scenes and dialogue come from everywhere; while sleeping, showering, out with friends, sitting at a stop light, listening, talking, observing and basically living. Just talking about it makes my blood rise and my palms sweat. So let life speak to you. Whether or not you reach 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo is totally up to you. It can be done if you put writing and yourself first. 

Stay tuned for additional NaNoWriMo related blog posts. Planned blogs in the NaNoWriMo Tips Series are "Getting Through" AND "The Aftermath".

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Answered A Rant with a Rant but Maybe it will Help Someone Else on Writing a Sequel to an Unpublished Novel

Found you through twitter and decided to answer since I think I have a lot to say on this subject. Not sure if this will help because this is equally a personal rant for me. I am a quick writer who is unpublished. From 2010 to 2015, I have written 7 books plus a prequel and plan on writing about *4 novels and a novella and revising 2 novels this year (I know, crazy!). Writing is my passion and I truly believe one day I will make it. I have so many different stories to tell and mostly they are in the YA genre but regardless they itch to be written and shared.

First I have a few questions, have you had the book professionally edited more than once? Have you revised to the best of your abilities? Have you had beta readers and critiques? Have you tried entering contests with it? I ask these questions because your completed draft should be the best you can make it and these things definitely help contribute. Agents and publishers want a polished manuscript even though they polish it more. I don’t bother querying unless I have done most of what I asked you. You have to put your best foot forward. My editor told me that the first book needs to be polished before writing a sequel and I agree although I did not do it this way because I met her after I’d written more books in the series. The way I did it will cause me more work in the end because now as I am going back and revising the first book to perfection, the subsequent books will have to be rewritten as well. But let me tell you I am glad I wrote them so they are out of my head.

So my advice from experience is if you have to write it, write it but realize that you should put your focus on perfecting the first book until you feel you can’t do anything more. Perfecting means using others (editors, critique partners, beta readers, contests, coaches etc.) to make the novel the best you can. The same editor also told me that you have to sell the first book or there will be no sequel so keep that in mind too. In my case, I wrote the sequels as a rookie mistake but I am not upset I wrote them, I had to get them out. When I do sell the first book I can use them as a blueprint for the series. On a side note, many author and agent blogs state that the first novel might not sell but the second or third or eighth novel in a different series might, so keep on writing. So why don’t you do both. Write the sequel you’re dying to write and then write the new book and another book and another. Continous writing is the key to becoming a better writer!

*The bold portion I left off my response in Justine Ashford's blog.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writing Conferences & California Writing Retreats

My writing journey has been a slow train of many stops. First it was building my confidence up and just writing. This meant I was no longer thinking about writing or saying I was planning to write a novel, it actually meant I had to write. Pen to paper and fingers to keyboard.

Then I was aimed at getting better at writing (which I will always strive for) so I wrote, I read, I wrote, I read, I researched and I worked with editors and others who could help me hone my craft. This is a repetitive cycle. I have worked with 3 editors from 2012-2015 and have had many beta readers who have helped me along the way. I believe I can learn from anyone; a blogger, an agent, an editor, a writer, a reader, a published author - so I try to meet and network with people who hold these titles.

I also started Nanowrimo in 2013 & continued in 2014. I am proud to say that I have reached the 50,000 word goal each November. Through NaNo I have learned to push past the days I don't want to write in order to reach my goals. I don't believe in writing blocks but I do believe in lazy days. Some say NaNo is about quantity not quality but I am a quality girl and most of my first drafts are good enough to keep at least 70% of what I've written. I believe this is due to heavy outlining beforehand which ensures I structure the story before even writing one sentence. I am not a procrastinator and I also hate to waste time, two traits that have come in handy when writing multiple books and keeping myself busy.

Next stop on the train was entering contests with my more polished manuscripts. I entered over 20 in 2014 and placed as a finalist in 3 with one book. I will only enter a few in 2015. I found this was a great way to network and get my books critiqued by established authors and agents. In some cases people have found their agents and publishers this way.

This year I plan on completing one of these two stops:

1. Attend my first conference.
I scoured the internet for a list of writer conferences and picked the one that was most affordable that offered good workshops, guests and speakers and agents. For me, for 2015 that ended up being the Writing Conference on Creative Writing at Pacific which I attended at the end of May. Hopefully in years to come I can go to the RWA Conference, the DFW Writers Conference and the SF Writers Conference.

2. Attend a writer's retreat/workshop.
Community of Writer's at Squaw Valley, is in July and is a week long workshop. Novels are critiqued in a group setting in addition to one-on-one conferences. There is also staff readings and panel discussions on editing and publishing. This is more for improving writing vs. finding an agents. There is financial aide if needed, the cost is $1,075 plus cost of housing and food. I applied for this one in 2015 but there is a selection process that is very competitive and apparently only 39% of people who applied were invited to attend.
Monterey Writer's Retreats cost between $1300-$1800 depending on lodging and food. Author-agents are available for 4 hours each morning to group and then in one-on-one sessions. In the application they want you to list your goals and they promise to "work with you to make it happen."
The Big Sur Writing Workshop runs in March and December and costs around $800 for the full program and runs 3 days. The cost includes room and board, meeting with critique groups, faculty members and a query/pitch and synopsis help.
Women Writing in Redwoods is in March and they state: "You will learn about writing, agenting, publishing, promotion, and how to build your career from four experienced teachers." It costs about $500 and runs Thursday through Sunday.
The Linda Sivertsen Carmel by the Sea runs week long retreats in February, April, June, September and November and is kept at 4-6 participants for a more intimate time. But I don't think I'll ever do this one because it is 8,000! That's a car...

I am excited for the future to keep improving my writing skills, networking and one day soon I look forward to being a published author!

Friday, March 13, 2015

#PitMad on Twitter

It's been a little while since I blogged. Glad to be able to write a post again.

I participated in #PitMad for the first time on twitter this week (March 11, 2015) and it was an invigorating experience. I was able to network and found some cool published and unpublished authors who were tweeting like crazy with me. I also got a link to a cool blog and I gained a few followers and followed people as well.

I think at the core #PitMad is about networking with peers. It is also helps to lift the veil that exists between authors and publisher/agent. In #PitMad, aspiring authors searching for agents and publishers tweet in 140 characters or less their book pitch using #PitMad and a short hashtag for their genre. If an agent wants to see more they favorite a tweet. Then the author sends (if they want) their query based on an agent's submission guidelines.

Now you can send most agents (those who aren't closed to queries) and a select few publishers your query on your own of course but it's nice to find an agent who actually invites you to query them and who might be remotely interested in your novel.

The twitter feed for #PitMad goes so fast it's like the computer code in the Matrix. Getting retweeted by fellow tweeters helps keep your tweet alive in the feed since you are only allowed to tweet twice every hour during the running time of the event. You have to structure tweets differently in the same hour I believe because it won't let you retweet an existing tweet.

Finding an agent has many different routes as does the road to getting published. Most people scour the internet looking for agents nowadays. Either they research books and or authors they like or agents that accept their genre. Those that blindly send to agents or publishers without researching or having a polished novel are bound to fail. Others enter contests hoping they make it to the final round where agents will look at their books. Some find agents at conferences, workshops or writing retreats. Some get a lucky break with an established indie publisher while a select few brave it alone and self publish.

Gone is the time of mailing query letters or buying literary agent listing books to finger through like the yellow pages. Agents are easy to find and contact but that doesn't mean they are your friends, mentors or cheerleaders, they are people who have a job to fulfill and bills to pay. They only represent books and authors they believe in.

So all in all, I would say #PitMad was worth it even though I did not get a bite from an agent. I had a good time tweeting, networking and seeing the never ending novels that are yet to be published. There is an astounding amount of creativity in the world!

Thank you Brenda Drake for thinking of such a clever online event! I will be participating again.