NaNoWriMo 2011 – Day 14

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Ugh! This week has been a writing struggle for me. Each year, I try to push the word-count at the beginning of the month so, come the end of the month, I get to relax guilt-free around Thanksgiving and birthday time. I turn my head to the fact that there is nearly a week post-Thanksgiving to make that 50,000-word goal. I like to keep up the sprinting. If I fail for even one day, I fall into an oh-well state. So this week I flipped around like a fish out of water, moaning and complaining that I ought to be writing, but I so didn’t want to be, and knowing that nearly every word I wrote was going to be deleted, anyway. But I think I’ve found my way back not only to water, but can swim in deeper water. This past week I tried the trick of throwing in odd things into the story, when it finally occurred to me that the main character was the one I was actually struggling with. I had the plot down, but the motivation was floundering. (<– word choice to remotely relate to the fish illustration) So… I’m over that awful week, and on the next awful, I mean exiting, week.

One other interesting thing happening this week:

In THE ARTIST’S WAY course, the author talks about staying open to serendipitous things which feed your creativity. As a Christian, I just figure God’s in charge of my life and makes it chuck-full of surprises. BUT I tried to stay open about this, anyway. So this week in my mitten knittin’ class (one of my character’s knit, and I figured I’d betten learn how to knit more than scarves myself), I discovered one of my fellow students is a Civil War re-enactor. HEY! One of my two WIP s takes place during the Civil War! And then, when I told her I was writing a historical fiction in that time period, she offered to read it for historical accuracy. I didn’t even ask. How very cool is that?

So… keep up your writing, you WriMoers, and everyone, keep your eyes opened to interesting serendipitous things happening around you.

Eve of November — NaNoWriMo, NaPiBoIdMo, Halloween, and more

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November’s a crazy month for challenges. What to dress up for for Halloween. When to buy the candy so I don’t eat it all before October 31.( Granted, October is a month earlier, or just a second earlier if you stay up for the midnight hour.) Then comes All Saint’s Day, Thanksgiving, a family birthday, and writing a novel in a month.

Thirteen years ago, Chris Baty came up with NaNoWriMo as a novel-writing challenge with his friends — to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. His challenge has blossomed to thousands (millions?) of participants. Last November, Tara Lazar started NaPiBoIdMo for coming up with one picture book idea a day throughout the month. I already started a notebook for this year’s NaPiBoIdMo. I know there’s also a challenge for illustrators. And how many others?

I would like to add my 2 cents here about word-count for NaNoWriMo. Being inspired to write ANY amount new for this challenge is a hip-hip-hurrah. My son wrote 5,000 words on his first novel last year, but it was 5,000 more than he’d written before.

One published writing friend (waves to Shutta) is adapting NaNoWriMo to write 30,000, as that is the average word-count for a middle grade book. But for me, I need the full 50,000 words for a book, for under pressure, I end up writing lots of junk (i.e., in marathon writing challenges like this, I don’t edit as I type), so I MUST go over that 30,000 to get any good stuff down.

Last year during NaNoWriMo, I was a winner, i.e., made it to the 50,000 words. (My first year was OHMANWHAT’SGOINGON!) Through the next two months, I sliced out all the non-essentials — backstory, biographies, scenes which didn’t forward the plot, etc. — to come up with a whopping 3,000 words of actual story, but it was an excellent skeleton. By May the story was up to 51,000 and ready for a major revision, which I considered my first revision. So, 30,000 is a reasonable and attainable goal for a MG for November. But for me, I need those extra 20,000 words to make a 30,000 word book. (Ah, the wonders of rewrites and revisions!)

Good luck to each of you taking up November challenges. (And don’t forget to hug your family members from time to time.)

Now… do I get any change back from my 2 cents?

An Evening With Author Jonathan Rand

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Jonathan Rand is a very funny man. Last evening the prolific children’s author  of Michigan Chillers and American Thrillers and many other books, spoke here in Battle Creek, brought to us by our friendly public library.

The auditorium was crowded with elementary-aged children. Jonathan kept them/us entertained and involved (e.g., “THIS is how you do the Spooky Laugh”), all the while encouraging children/me to write and to read. The hour passed in a blink. I wondered if anyone would say that about my presentations.

I found it interesting that last night Jonathan didn’t bring up that he self-publishes. But for someone who has sold over four million books, even after traditional publishing houses approached him, he has decided to stick with self-publication. He is a prolific author who writes every day and gets out to schools (126 during this year) and runs a summer writing camp for kids.

Now off to read a new Thriller bought last night. (Wha-ha-ha!)

Pine Ridge 20/20 Special Tonight

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I don’t normally support watching news reports, but I lived in South Dakota, taught Lakota Sioux, and my heart goes out to them and their wonderful sense of family. Watching the video clip promoting the show tonight, I was reminded of one day while I was teaching art (there were no art teachers at our school), I put on an Indian music CD for them to listen to while they worked. When my first graders heard it, heads immediately popped up from their projects. They sat motionless for a moment, listening. Then, three girls jumped out of their seats, went to the back of the room, and started dancing. By the time the 30 minute CD was done, about half the boys and all the girls, including me, were at the back of the room dancing and laughing. It was a good teaching day.

Writing Encouragement

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What is it about writers that we often would rather be alone than in a group of strangers? I’m that way.

Today, I spent 40 minutes in the Secretary of State office, renewing my driver’s license. I took my Morning Pages notebook, my journal, and extra paper to hand-write ideas for my WIP. I ended up talking. Some of you who know me may be saying, “Well, duh!”

When I looked up from my Morning Pages to think, the white man across from me in his 50’s asked me, “Are you writing a letter? It sure is a long one.” I replied, “No. They’re my Morning Pages. I write two a day to clear the clutter so I can do some productive writing later.”

The black woman sitting one seat away from me said, “I used to do that. But I did it every night, not in the morning.” I agreed that was a good time to do it, so you could fall asleep without the day’s clutter. She said she still has hers from years ago. I encouraged her to pick it up again.

Then the man picked up on my writing comment, and said he wanted to write a poem for his 11-year-old daughter. I told him, “So do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You have permission to write junk. If you set a small goal, like to write two lines a day, you’ll be surprised at the things you can come up with.”

He then said he wanted to write her love letters, to give to her on her wedding day — to which the woman next to me and I both agreed it would make a lovely gift, also to let his daughter know that he loved her through all the rebellious teen-years. The woman sitting a few seats over with her 16-year-old nephew chuckled  at that. I’m guessing she could relate to the teen comment. I suggested he buy a nice journal and write the letters in the journal, and then he could gift wrap that. Something lit up in the guy. I could tell he appreciated the suggestion.

My number was called — number 13. Also, I was getting my license renewed on the 13th. So I asked if I could only pay $13. The clerk laughed, but said no.

By the time I left the building, I had a page and a half done in my Morning Pages, a clipped-old and a papered-temporary driver’s licenses, and I chatted with people on the way out, wishing them to have a good day.

Forty minutes among strangers. Instead of my personal writing, I had encouraged at least two of them to do writing on their own. It was a good morning.

Reconstruction Update

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My goal was to move back into our bedroom by the Hobbits’ birthday (today). It is a goal which may actually happen. My husband and I have not spent the night in bed together here since the May storm. Our bedroom furniture is in the livingroom, the mattress and boxsprings upright against the wall, and we get dressed in the living room. It will seem odd to actually sleep in our bedroom, in one bed, and get dressed in the bedroom. I have come to take daily changes in stride.

I am taking an on-line course from the book, THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. It is to bring out your inner creativity. This week, one of our assignments is to list ten changes we would like to make. Suggestions were new shoes, a new bedspread, take a new class, etc. From May 29 on, every day has been filled with change.  We still have eight dumpsters in the neighborhood, and I’ve heard that one elderly neighbor passed away from the stress of being displaced. His house was split by the trees and was unlivable. It remains so. It’s true that he was elderly, but everyone in the neighborhood knows the stress of this catastrophe-recovery and how long and lingering it is. As I type this, I hear a chainsaw in the wooded lot next to us, a circular saw and hammering from another house, and some sort of drill on the other side of our house, a drill which sounds each time like a giant is clearing his nose.

Last Friday, we got new blinds installed in the master bedroom. Yesterday, while the tree removal guys took down two of our damaged trees, I spent the day finishing up preparing the master bedroom — staining the rest of the floorboards and door and closet to match what our contractor did to two floorboards; I painted the bed headboard, and painted the three air vents. Today I wiped plaster dust from the top level of the closet. Tonight I may just sleep once again with my husband. We’ll probably lay awake all night long.

What has all this to do with writing? Life. I journal. I remember. Someday you may see these things, these feelings, in a story or dozen. Or maybe some writing friends will read this and understand a portion of what it’s like to go through a catastrophe, and just how long it takes to recover.

My challenge to you is to write about what is going around you right now. It may not be construction noises, but listen and see and smell and feel, then write.

eBook Stealing — a Stealing Scam

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They may not be stealing eBooks, but the owners of the aforementioned website are indeed stealing.

Here’s “the rest of the story:” After paying your $4.99 trial membership fee (by credit card), they automatically sign you up for a full year’s membership for $69, but then when you try to download any of these too-good-to-be-true free books and movies, none of them download.

A friend of a friend is a member of some piracy “police” — MUSO, a piracy monitoring company — who told her 
“most download sites that charge a fee up front are scams. I can’t say all, of course. We need to stay vigilant. But the ones you really want to watch out for are free sites like megaupload.com and rapidshare.com. ”

So my running around like Chicken Little was all for naught… or was it? It got me thinking about theft, and how so many people feel it is okay (as long as they aren’t caught). People don’t consider stealing morally wrong (or they wouldn’t be doing it; or is that too logical?). 

Certain cultures consider lying and trickery as heroic virtues, as portrayed through their folk tales. Are we becoming a society of income tax evaders, and I-don’t-know-why-I-looted-when-I-don’t-even-want-this, and royalties theft which are our new hero characters?  Just wondering if this is truly what the majority of our population thinks and/or does.

Re: Too-Good-To-Be-True sites. They are. So, be careful. First, ascertain the facts, then act, not react.

Author Interview — Miriam Jones Bradley

My third interview this week is with children’s author Miriam Jones Bradley.

Sandy: Your characters seem very alive. Where do you come up with your ideas for
your characters?

Miriam: My characters are a combination and mutation of siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, and enemies. Mostly
friends. Because my first book was based heavily on experiences my siblings, cousins, and I had at our Grandparent’s ranch, the characters ended up being a combination of all of us. I tried really hard not to make anyone too recognizable as any one person since I want my friends and family to like me.
Smile
Some characters are directly from real people. The Grandma in the book is definitely my Grandma. Sometimes I will see someone somewhere and they will make an impression which I file away and they pop into my book.   

Sandy: For today’s writers, creativity is only part of the game. Can you address
some things you have done on the business side (marketing, publicity,
booksignings, etc.)?

Miriam: I have done book signings (I don’t sit behind the table, I stand in front of it and catch people walking by. I give
them a business card and tell them why I am there. If they act interested I keep talking. I have been to fairs and book conventions. I have developed a power point presentation and been in schools talking about the writing process and selling books. I have been on the radio and TV. On radio interview was arranged by my publisher, the others I arranged. I have had newspaper and newsletter articles written about my books. Generally, if you let people know about it they want to write something. I have a blog, a website,  and a facebook page. I have
passed out flyers online and in person. I sent out a LOT of postcards which I didn’t find very effective. I tell everyone I know about it, and even some people I don’t know! I had a friend once who talked someone at the next table in the restaurant into buying a book. . . Smile Smile

 

Sandy: Where is your favorite place to be creative?

Miriam: In a group discussion with my nieces and nephews. . . they have great plot ideas and I get the child’s perspective. I always get my best ideas when brainstorming with someone. I write best at home because I can putter between scenes. I have the cleanest house when I am writing. . .

Sandy: What three recommendations do you have for other writers?

Miriam: Join a writers group that encourages writing and publishing, one that challenges you. Listen to the advice of others but don’t let it get in the way of your dreams. Read a lot and write as much as you can.

Website/ Blog links:

www.doublecousins.net

www.doublecousins.wordpress.com

www.miriamjonesbradley.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/DoubleCousinsMysteries

 

Random Acts of Publicity– Jacqueline McMahon

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Continuing in the three days of Darcy’s Random Acts of Publicity, I interviewed adult thrill writer Jacqueline McMahon.

Sandy: You are such a nice person. Where do you get your ideas for such creepy villains?

Jacqueline: Well thank you for the compliment and I’m glad you don’t think I’m the role model for my villains. It’s weird but I have molded Mel Hanson, my first villain, partially after someone I once knew who had a real dark side hidden under what most people thought was an outgoing, wonderful person. I also try to think of what would scare me in a villain and use that to add more characteristics. But the other side of my villain is to find a reason for the behavior. I don’t think villains are as scary when they are just mean to be mean. I wanted just a touch of vulnerability in Mel. The reader may never feel sorry for him but they will perhaps understand how he could get the way he is now.

Sandy: For today’s writers, creativity is only part of the game. Can you address some things you have done on the business side (marketing, publicity, booksignings, etc.)?

Jacqueline: This is definitely the harder part of the writing business, at least for me. I’d much rather spend long hours inside my book world with my characters than trying to figure out how to market myself. That being said though, I have done a lot of reading and researching on this topic and have utilized several ways to get myself known and also to publicize my book.

ONLINE:

Facebook page for my writing

Blog posts about my book, the genre (suspense), publishing tips etc.

Asking colleagues to write reviews or allow me to post their comments after reading the book

Sent out a mass email to friends/family/colleagues/business contact etc. advertising my book.

Added my book to a bunch of sites including Goodreads, The Book Marketing Network, Linkedin, Red Room (where the writers are). My book is also available at the publisher’s website (Red Rose Publishing), on Bookstrand, Allromancebooks.com, Amazon (kindle store) and some other ebook sites.

Wrote a press release and published it online.

Sent a press release to local papers.

PHYSICALLY:

I did an e-book signing event at the local public library (burned copies of my ebook and some extras like bios of my heroine and villain, the first chapter of the sequel, my bio and all the places where my ebook can be bought). I offered some prizes (made mugs/bags/journals with my book cover on them at Cafe Press) and also had a huge cake with the cover of my book printed on the top. That event was very successful and I could autograph the CD copies for everyone.

Set up a table at different local events, again with CD copies of my ebook, and sold them that way.

I am booked to speak at a retired teacher’s sorority meeting, a book club and for a church group.

Took several copies of my ebook on CD to a local writers’ club meeting and sold a few copies there as well.

Did an interview with a local arts & culture magazine

Sandy: Your book is very successful as an ebook. How did you decide to publish in this venue and would you recommend it to others?

Jacqueline: I hadn’t given ebook versus print book any thought until I was propelled into the whole digital publishing world. I pitched my book to a publisher, who asked to read the full manuscript. They offered me a contract. Initially, they publish new authors in ebook format first. Books that sell well eventually get into trade paperback print form as well. I’m currently waiting to get the book into print, which I believe will open it up to yet another audience. Although many people are moving toward ebooks and ebook readers, just as many, maybe more, still like the feel of a real book in their hands.

The whole ebook technology means that more new authors can have a shot at being published (and I don’t mean self-published). Smaller publishers can invest in ebooks without the same cost as the print run, therefore likely being able to publish more works and perhaps take a chance on a new writer where the bigger, traditional publishers may not.

I think everybody should decide for themselves whether they want to go the ebook route or the print route

Sandy: Where is your favorite place to be creative?

Jacqueline: Although I’m faster at my desktop (downstairs in the dining room where it’s bright from my bay window), when I need to think and create, I head for my second floor bedroom. It’s painted a burgundy color with beautiful white wooden trims and a white ceiling. I have twinkle lights all around the ceiling. My wooden bookcases and cupboards are in there as well. The whole room is so warm and rich feeling and also so comforting and welcoming. I find myself capable of my best creativity in there. And believe it or not, my best creativity comes in the form of using pen and paper. I have tons of different hard and soft cover notebooks that I use, often keeping one of each project. I plotted an entire suspense novel (my 3rd) in an entire afternoon in that room.

Sandy: What three recommendations do you have for other writers?

Jacqueline: Don’t jump the gun. Make sure your work is the best it can be before querying or subbing it anywhere. (I can’t stress this enough)

Be prepared for rejection. It’s inevitable and it can happen over and over. It’s what you learn from the rejections that can help you succeed as a writer

Find a group of writing colleagues that you trust and who are on the same path to publication. Make sure they are as serious as you are. Without my critique group, I’d never have gotten this far. I respect their opinions and their comments and continue to learn so much from them.

Website & Blog links:

http://dramaquill.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jacqueline-McMahons-Writing/115755788486062

http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?products_id=649