NaNoWriMo 2010 Struggle

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NaNoWriMo comes in November. So does Thanksgiving and my husband’s birthday. Last year, my first NaNo, I ended up not writing the last six days of the month because of cooking company. (Here is a good sidetrack point about grammar. With a missing comma or word, you may come to the conclusion that I am a cannibal. Not true. I meant that I was doing a lot of cooking, and better than normal cleaning, for company.) Hence, I did not “win” last year. However, I did get a completed novel out of it later, which was, in my opinion, the whole purpose of the NaNoWriMo exercise.

Although I’ve kept up with the daily word count so far this year (1,667 words/day), and have even stashed away some extra words each day, expecting not to be writing around the Thanksgiving period, I found myself sinking into a slump. I was doing well. I am doing well. And yet here I am in a writing depression. What is that about?

And then I open my NaNoWriMo email from my regional leader. She mentioned that Week Two was the hardest week of all. What? Had she come into my house? Into my head? How did she know that? I suppose I should have felt more comforted, knowing other writers were feeling, at this point, the same as I. “No!” I shout. “I am not a groupie. I am an individual writer! I will not be like everyone else. Ha. I’m not depressed any more. There.” And I’m off to write my 1,667+ words.

Face to the Grind — Writing Challenge

 

Grand Traverse Bay

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Face to the grind.. Not quite sure what that means, except that it sounds painful. I’ve got my face to the grind, working on NaNoWriMo this month. It’s not painful, actually; it simply requires discipline. Then again, perhaps that is painful in a sense.

From participating last year, I know the NaNoWriMo group gives ideas periodically for what to write about for the day, in order to add to your word count. Just like never getting bored, I never have trouble thinking up things to write. What I have trouble with is the discipline of writing. Therein lies my writing challenge for you — do some raw writing about this photo I took on a trip up north last week. Set the timer for ten minutes… Ready? Set? Go.

NaNoWriMo Starts Next Week/ Next Month

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I know several people who will be participating this year in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). It is a great writing challenge and discipline. I’ve known about this group since its second year, and now this will be my second year participating. (My user name there is SandyCarl, if anyone wants to buddy me. Don’t forget to send me your UN as well, because it doesn’t automatically reciprocate.)

Last year I was more prepared for it, doing lots of research ahead of time. However, this year, particularly this month, I was working on finishing up a WIP before NaNoWriMo started, so my writing focus has been on that project. I’m afraid my head is still there in those revisions. I hope I can compartmentalize enough to work on two projects at once. I used to do this freely — work on two or more writing projects at once. I would switch when I got bored, or hit a plot block, etc. Lately, though, I’ve been focusing on getting one story ready to completion for submission before working on another.

Does anyone else work on more than one project at a time? Do you find it helpful or distracting? I’ve done it both ways. I’m sure either is a better way. Just keep on writing (and revising and submitting).

Good luck to all NaNoWriMo-ers! On your marks… Get set…

SCBWI-MI Fall Writers Conference, Pt 5

(Two conference speaker summaries today; I happened to have invited both these ladies to the conference.)

Speaker One: On Sunday, October 10, I participated in (listened in on) a group critique time with Tor Senior Editor Susan Chang. She chose five story outlines from the participants and gave each a fifteen minute critique about what worked and what didn’t. Here are the highlights from the five stories. The opening pages need to have action. Every chapter has something moving the plot forward or building the character arc. With more than one plots, each one must escalate the rising arc. A strong story foundation is needed. Shaky or thin plot problems collapse the story. Determine what your foundation is, and then if it is strong or weak. Make your characters believable, and make sure there are links between cause and affect, i.e., why is the character acting like this? Susan mentioned that showing while writing (v.s. telling) makes it more like a movie, and this is a good thing. She recommended the book MAKING GOOD SCRIPTS GREAT

Speaker Two: Amy Lennex, Senior Editor with Sleeping Bear Press in Michigan, spoke about who and what Sleeping Bear Press is, and things they publish. Amy shared with the group the publishing process. After the writer writes a story, and it goes through the revision process to become polished, an editor must love it. The editor takes the manuscript to the editorial group, and they must love it. It then goes to Acquisitions, and they must love it. A projected positive profit and loss statement is developed to determine if accepting this manuscript is a good investment or not. If it is, then a contract is issued, and the story is put on a pub schedule. The last step before publication, is the search for an illustrator. They listen to what booksellers have to say. What age group is this book written for? Will adults as well as children like this book? Is there a need for this subject matter, or has it been done before? Will this book have media attention? (i.e., is it timely?) Amy gave the example of FIRST DOG, which was written before President Obama gave a dog to his girls. The story was written, but since the illustrator didn’t know what kind of dog it was going to be, he left a blank doggie shape on each page, to be “revised” as soon as the dog type was known. Advice from Sleeping Bear Press authors: Love your book and promote it. Love words. Enjoy the process, and write every day. Those who attended the conference were given two colored stickies, one for each editor. It is to go on their submission envelope. Although Tor is open to submissions, Sleeping Bear Press is not. By attending the conference, attendees got a “free look” pass for their manuscript to be looked at by Sleeping Bear. I used up one of my colored stickies already.

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 4

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On Saturday, October 9, 2010, fantasy writer Cinda Chima spoke at the SCBWI-MI Writers Conference on “Engaging a Middle-Grade and Young Adult Reader.” She stressed the importance of drawing the readers in with your first line. She said to open during a change, or with an interesting character, or an interesting setting; to open with humor, or with atmosphere and suspense. She gave several examples of first lines of novels.

Cinda said that writers need to make a promise to the readers about the story in the very beginning, and then keep that promise at the end.

Use conflict and action to keep the readers reading. Story happens when character and conflict collide. She encouraged us to “write cinamatically” with our delivery, like screenwriters.

New world-building slows the pace of a story, so deliver information on a “need to know” basis. To help speed the pace, use dialogue with the scene, use short paragraphs and sentences, and use simple sentence structures.

Cinda suggested printing out your story, then highlighting in different colors the narrative, the action, the dialogue, and “the exciting parts” to see where the story drags.

She spattered her talk with quotes, one from Alfred Hitchcock: “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 3

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At the writers conference a week ago, I was honored to get into Darcy Pattison’s workshop, “Using the Hero’s Journey to Enhance Your Novel.” Darcy is amazing, and so spot-on in her craft of writing suggestions. I highly recommend her books, CDs, or attending her novel revision workshop (which I sincerely hope to do someday).

Darcy based her talk (tweeked to that which only Darcy can do) on THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, by Chistopher Vogler. At the conference, I bought two copies — one for me and one as a gift. This post is paraphrased from Darcy’s talk. Formulas are meant just guides.

The big picture (of your story) is in three Acts: Act One (approx 8 chapters) is the set up; Act Two (approx 16 chapters) is the twists and turns; and Act Three (approx 8 chapters) is the resolution.

Act One Objectives: show the hero in his/her ordinary world, call to adventure, refusal, crossing the threshold.

Act Two Objectives: tests, enemies, allies, approach to inmost cave, supreme ordeal, reward.

Act Three Objectives: the road back, resurrection, and return with elixir.

Darcy used BRIDGE TO TERABITHA for her example throughout the workshop, with some mention of the original STAR WARS. Some of my own  favorite fantasy stories which also follow this “formula” are THE HOBBIT, LOTR, and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. The formula works!

On to work on my own writing. <deep and heavy sigh> Writing is such hard work.

SCBWI-MI Fall 2010 Writing Conference, Pt 2

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On Saturday, October 9, 2010, Susan Chang, Senior Editor at Tor, spoke to our group. This was her second SCBWI conference. There was much she shared in the ninety minutes. This is a brief summary.

Susan continues to be fascinated with the publishing process, after eighteen years in it, the last seven years at Tor. Tom Dorety formed Tor in 1980. In 2002, Starscape was started fo 8-12 year old readers. In 2003, TorTeen was stated for 13-19 year old readers.

Twelve years old is the reader age when science fiction/ fantasy reading starts. This, of course, does not include fantasy of talking animals, etc in picture books.

Not every editor is the right match for a good story.

Agents are looking for you. But… if you query fifty agents and receive all rejects, take a step back. Writing needs to sparkle. Ideas are easy to come up with. Susan added, “I don’t write because it’s too damn hard.”

Good SF/F writing has action and suspense with strong, flawed characters.

Two books she suggested reading are DEAR GENIUS and SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS.

After our primary needs, the need for story is very basic. Book have the ability to change lives.

SCBWI-MI Fall Writers Conference, Part I

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Our SCBWI-Michigan Fall Writers Conference is going on this weekend. I am commuting since it is: 1) close to where I live; 2) cheaper than staying there; (Those reasons should probably be reversed, but I’d sound too cheap if I wrote it out the other way.) and 3) I get to see my husband, and sleep in my own bed, actually sleep during  conference! Nice.

Our speaker for Friday was fantasy author Cinda Chima. She spoke about fantasy. (Surprise.) She directed us to: Why write fantasy? What are the categories of fantasy? And, what is magic? To greatly summarize her talk, she said that the elements of fantasy are character, setting, plot and magic, with magic being why it is fantasy, and the first three elements being the reason why others would want to read your story.

I do enjoy live writing conferences. It has been wonderful (as I anticipated) to see all my writing friends whom I only see at conferences, and some I’ve only known via the internet. I was also able to eat dinner with spot-on author-speaker, Darcy Pattison. Words flow from her mouth like diamonds. I was in a workshop with Darcy several years ago, and have her Novel Metamorphoses book, and get her Fiction Notes. Since I’d invited her to this conference, I didn’t expect anything less than diamonds.

Last night, I also had to privilege to introduce myself to Tor Senior Editor, Susan Chang. I was the one who invited her, too, to the conference, so naturally, I was looking forward to meeting her and listening to her pearls of wisdom. I’d heard many wonderful things about Susan pre-conference. Face-to-face (even for a minute) has been a thousand times better. First impressions are very… impressionable. She is gracious, knowledgable, reasonable, an excellent listener, quite charming, and (I’ve been told) humorous. (No, I am not buttering her up! She truly is quite nice.) I look forward to her talks today and tomorrow.

My guess is that I will not post again about the conference until Monday. Need to focus. On to the writers conference.

Publishing — Fuddy-Duddy Hold Out or Moving On

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Since my previous post on traditional v.s. non-traditional publishing, I’ve had several interesting conversations on this subject, as well as listening in on the WriteOnCon chat with two editors and two agents. One of the agents mentioned one of her client’s had a novella e-book published. Uncertain if she had anything to do with that acceptance or not. Somehow, that a professional traditional person would go through, or at least acknowledge in a positive light, non-traditional means of publication, got me thinking. I suppose my view is being expanded.

I am honestly glad for my successful writing friends who self-publish or go the e-book route. It makes me wonder if I am being an old fuddy-duddy by holding out for a traditional publishing house, or not. In other words, should I move my horse and buggy out of the way for the automobile? (I do so like horse and buggies.)

(Sidenote: Writer friends who have gone the successful e-book route, write books for adults. My research is still out about the success of e-books written for children. Any additional facts?)