NaNoWriMo Prep and Promoting Books

This is the last day before NaNoWriMo 2018. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, although it’s gone international now, and encourages adult writers to produce 50,000 words on a new story in the 30 days of November. This will be my 10th year participating.

Personally, November is a horrible month to choose for pounding out 50K raw words (rough draft). There are holidays and family visits and company coming for 1/4 of the time and dear hubby’s birthday and, of course, one less day than half of the months of the year. Yet! What a writing challenge.

I used to cheat to get in my 50K, or about 17,000 words per day, and counted any writing, including letters and journaling pages. I don’t do that now. At least I try to focus on the one and only story I’m working on. O, discipline. It is so hard for me!

For my NaNoWriMo preparation, I have the characters already known to me (from three previous books in the series), but I’ve written out plot scenes on 3″ x 5″ cards and rubberbanded them into three acts. I’m all set to TAM (Type Away Madly). O, discipline. I feel the most prepared this year for NaNoWriMo than I have any previous year.

Besides focusing on NaNoWriMo, I had professional author photos taken for the first time yesterday. After ten books, I thought it was time for this. I normally hate being on “that side” of the camera, but it was so much fun–all outdoors, naturally. And my photographer, Dena Haas, is amazing. I can’t wait to see the results, and to share them.

I also have ongoing book promotion and marketing to keep on top of. SCBWI is featuring kids’ books published in 2018. I’m supposed to promote not only mine, but help others out as well by promoting theirs. It started last week and goes through November. I figured I’d let the wave of enthusiasm flow over me, and then in a week or so, when people fade out of promoting, I’ll get in there to market and promote some, all while writing 1,700 words a day and loving spending time with my family.

You writers: write. You readers: support your authors and buy their books, and review them, too. Come on, November. I’m ready for you.

 

Shake Up Your Writing

We have all heard about mixing into our stories unexpected twists and cliff hangers (or “To Be Continued” as the Kdrama “W-Two Worlds” puts it).  Making a list of “What ifs” is another good writing-shaker exercise. I’m sure you know about these, and hope you continue to use them to push your reader further into your story. But by Shake Up Your Writing, I am not talking about any of these good things. I’m talking about turning ninety degrees from what you normally do, and go off on a designated writing tangent.

For instance…

Last spring, a friend invited me to a GoodReads writers group. They have monthly, themed short story contests. I don’t normally write short stories, but I like my friend. She was hosting the contest that month so thought I’d encourage her efforts by joining the group and writing a story for her. Anyone of the 140 members can vote each month. You just can’t vote for your own story. That first month I won first place.

Huh. Did I mention I don’t normally write short stories?

I’ve remained in the group even though I don’t participate each time. The result is that this fall, I will have three of my stories published in two different anthologies. I hadn’t thought about anthologies (or short stories) for a long time. In 2012, two of my short stories were published in an anthology put together by a former writing group (The Black Hills Writers Group). And about five years before that, a non-fiction article got published in another anthology. My WIPs are novels. The present one is a l-o-n-g series. So the DWT (designated writing tangent) of writing short stories has served me well. It has stretched my brain. It has been a lovely distraction so that now I am ready to get back to my poor wandering hero with his war unicorn.

Whether you try your hand at non-fiction, or picture books, or biography, shake up your writing! Then get back to work.

 

Plot Twists from Animal Encounters, Part 3 – SD Black Hills

Plot twist are the unexpected. They are what keep the story interesting. A plot twist happens when a character is heading toward his goal when suddenly something or someone unexpectedly appears and changes that course.

Opportunities for plot twists can be observed in real life. This is a story which happened to my husband when we lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

He had a day off when I did not, so he decided to do some mountain biking in the Hills. (Consider this a character goal.) He drove about 45 minutes from our house, got on his bike, and started on a remote mountain trail. He had  the only car in the two-car parking spot along the side of road near the trailhead, and to his knowledge, the only human on the trail that day. Peaceful. At one point the rocky trail became quite steep, so he got off his bike and walked it upward.

A bit of background: When he was a young teen he had hunted with his father and brothers. He was used to being left alone in the forest and listening to the minutest of wilderness sounds. The slightest scratch on tree bark, the sound of moving stones or the soft crunch on pine needles would make him aware that he was not alone.

Back to grown-up Jeff, alone, walking his mountain bike up the trail…

He heard a quiet sound and stopped. He expected to discover a tree which was creaking or spot a squirrel or chipmunk. Those rodents often stop for a first moment of freeze, and then return to their tree climbing or nut searching. But nothing sounded nor caught his eye Since the scurrying had stopped he continued up the trail. He heard a noise again and turned in that direction, but still saw nothing. He was getting a little disturbed when it sounded a third time. He stopped and determined he would not move again until he could identify what made the noise. It certainly wasn’t from a single tree. Then he saw it. About fifteen feet from him. Cougar eyes peeking from behind a boulder.

Jeff’s first thought was how beautiful the animal was, and so close to him that he could see the individual whiskers. His second thought was that even though his mountain bike was between them, that he, walking alone in the hills was in the process of getting stalked by a wild, maybe hungry, certainly overpowering beast.

With this second realization came action. Jeff spun his bike around, leapt upon it, and raced down the trail towards the car. Rocks and pebbles spun out behind him as he swirled around larger boulders. Riding speedily over the rough terrain made for an awfully lot of ruckus in the normally quiet hills. He only looked back after he’d reached the vehicle and strapped the bike on the carrier in a few seconds record-time before climbing into the safety of the car. But there were no more cougar sighting. He figured the noise and the flying pebbles might have discouraged the feline.

In this real life story, our hero didn’t reach his goal of mountain hiking to the top of the hill on little-used trail. But the reason for him not reaching it makes for a great story and was an adventurous twist. A plot twist. He waited for another time to do that particular trail, and to take with him a traveling companion. The cougar’s goal was foiled once. With more human company along and support, the cougar’s goal would mostly likely fail again. Long live wise heroes!

Now as a writing challenge, go think up some plot twists you can toss in the way of your character.

NaNoWriMo 2015 is on it’s way to a keyboard near you

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past six years. NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month, offered each November. I just signed up once again to do this remarkable-and-stress-filled month-long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s approximately 1,700 words each day of November.

Because I completed the rough draft of two of my books (The Town That Disappeared and War Unicorn) through WriMos of the past, and because I have an awesome and encouraging critique group who are also participating, I dive in once again.

I remember standing on the edge of the deep end of pools, dipping my foot in the water, affirming it was colder than the air temperature, and still taking in a deep breath and diving in. I know if I were to instead, go to the shallow end and walk to chest-deep water before going under, it would take me ten times longer to finally submerge and start to swim.

So it is with writing (for me). I appreciate the writing challenge. It both terrifies me (because I’ve done it before), and pushes me to satisfactory conclusions.

With The Town That Disappeared, I struggled. I’d thought about writing this story for four years before I used NaNoWriMo to force me to pound the words out on a keyboard. That month, I added rambling thoughts about the book, about the characters, about my frustration. I also included some of the writing challenges. I counted all those in the word-count to make it to the 50,000 word goal by November 30. In January of the following year, I deleted all the blabber and cut back the story to the essential. That was 3,000 very good words. Over the next few months, I revised and rewrote and built it back up to 27,000 to be the middle grade historical fiction it is. But I could never have gotten there without the NaNoWriMo push.

So I challenge you, too, to take the plunge, and join NaNoWriMo. When you do, I am “sandycarl.” We can be writing buddies and encourage each other in this writing adventure.

To Blog or Not to Blog — Book Reviews, Helpful Writing Hints, Challenges, or Reflections

A month ago, there was a post about how blogging is fading from social media. I’m guessing it’s the written word v.s. videos. Yet, it seems more and more blogs are created each day. I have noticed that many of the blogs I follow seem to include book reviews, where I use this blog (mostly) to address writing issues, like sharing helpful writing hints about characterization or plot or language, offering writing challenges to stimulate the writer’s soul, and occasionally reflecting on life incidents.

If blogging actually is fading, I cannot tell from my own experience. Perhaps you have thoughts/experiences/gossip on this.

All that said, here is a writing challenge for you:

Describe the early fall day outside your window, right now. Incorporate not only the physical sights, but include each of your senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Reach out and touch? Maybe include taste if you dare. What exactly is your early fall day like outside today? (Okay. I cheated by walking around the house to get these photos, and the lake shot is from across the street; still: early fall.)

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Getting to Know your Character — Items of Importance

The minimalist attitude (lack of accumulated material goods) is a hot topic of late.

This week, I got out my guitar for the first time in months, played it a little, then let it sit outside its case in the livingroom. Each time I passed by, I thought to play it some more. Sometimes I did. Often I didn’t. I used to play it every day, for hours. Priorities change.

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While I paced the house and procrastinated writing, seeing my old guitar setting there got me thinking about past days. There was a time in my twenty’s that I figured I could travel anywhere with just seven items: my toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush, a clean pair of underwear, a book, a sleeping bag, and my guitar, with it all packed into my guitar case (except for the sleeping bag, of course). In fact, I’d often travel like that on weekends.

Later, during my seven and a half week camping honeymoon four decades ago, inside the little Pinto car, besides our clothes in two suitcases, we packed: two tents (one canvas and a nylon one for backpacking); two backpacks; two sleeping bags; mattress pads and pillows; a blow-up raft with life jackets and two collapsible oars; a cooler; a two-burner stove with pots and plates and silverware and a can of white gas; a backpacking stove; two folding stools; two cameras with multiple lenses and heavy tripod; my guitar; and a bunch of dried food, including fourteen jars of peanuts. We used it all–except for some of the peanuts, which are a topic for another post.

1978 Honeymoon

Fast forward to the present. I wondered if I were going away for a weekend, what seven essential items would I take this time? If I were packing for seven weeks away from home today, what items would I make sure we had?

Your turn. A getting to know your character writing challenge:

If your character could only take seven items for an overnight, besides the clothes on his back, what items of importance would they be? If your character traveled for a week (business or vacation), besides the clothes she wore, what would be vital that she pack?

Have fun writing.