Sunday Morning Thoughts As Week Two Begins

It’s Week Two.  Reality has started to set in.  We get a look at our schedule and think, was I nuts?  Am I even on the right track?

Keep going.

But I’m not a novelist! I’m not even a NaNoist.  How was I kidding?  This is silly.  I don’t even know where my story is going!

Keep going.

  • But Thanksgiving is coming.
  • I have kids and I can’t concentrate with them underfoot.  I’ll be a bad parent!
  • I’m too busy at work.
  • I’m not a novelist.
  • This is goofy.  Fifty thousand words of what?
  • Is this any good?
  • Will it sell?
  • Who am I kidding?

Keep going.

The secret to NaNo, if there is a secret, is that the way to write a novel is to write a novel.  The only way to do that, is to put words in front of each other until you’re ready to type “the end.”

NaNo teaches us to experiment.

The idea of a rough draft is just that: it’s rough.  It’s not perfect.  It’s not something we will run out and slap up on the internet.  No secret cabal is out to take your baby novel and throw it to the wolves of harsh critique.  This is a draft.  A draft is supposed to be rough.

You can’t edit what you ain’t writ.

In order to get to the final draft, you have to have a draft to edit.  You can’t have a draft to edit unless you write one.  So tell your inner critic you’ll buy them bourbon, or chocolate, or whatever bribe works, but right now, you’re writing.

Keep going.

One thing I hear a lot of around now is, “where are we supposed to be?”  I ask, “What do you mean?” “Number!  How many words am I supposed to have?”

Ignore the number and keep going.

Staring at the number is like trying to lose weight while living on a scale.  It doesn’t work.  It just makes us nuts.  Don’t worry about word count.  Don’t even worry about NaNo.  Just make a play-date with you and your baby novel.  Spend time with it.  Name it.  Sing a lullaby to it.  “Baby, you and me are gonna go places | Oh the places we’ll go | Baby, just you and me and a keyboard makes three | Baby you’re comin’ home with me!” ~la la la~

How do you get to the finish line?

Keep going.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

SEALED BY FIRE, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
Book 2, EMERALD KEEP
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Guest Post: ChiWriMo Member, Shannon Kelsey – and a Challenge to NaNoWriMotown!

Poem

by Shannon Kelsey

Do you hear the Wrimos type?
Writing the words of their novels?
It is the click clack of the keyboards
That will not lose to Detroit!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the pounding of the keys
There is a war about to end
When Chicago wins!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and write with me?
Within your active mind
Is there a world you long to write?

Then join in the fight
That will drop all Detroit to their knees!

Do you hear the Wrimos type?
Writing the words of their novels?
It is the click clack of the keyboards
That will not lose to Detroit!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the pounding of the keys
There is a war about to end
When Chicago wins!

Will you write all you can write
So that our word count ma advance?
Some will plot and some will plan
Or write by the seat of their pants
Chicago get writing
So Detroit cannot stand a chance!

Do you hear the Wrimos type?
Writing the words of their novels?
It is the click clack of the keyboards
That will not lose to Detroit!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the pounding of the keys
There is a war about to end
When Chicago wins!!

Why NaNoWriMo Works

I’m a terrible writer.

I’m not saying that I have bad grammar, poor spelling, or inadequate technical skills. They beat a lot of that out of you in college. I actually have a fairly decent vocabulary, and some of the stuff I’ve written has even been called “interesting.”

No, I’m a terrible writer for one reason: I am inconsistent.

Throughout the year, I make promises to myself about my writing goals. They start out reasonable, but as life makes other plans, they get loftier and loftier, perhaps in an attempt to assuage my guilt at neglecting them in the first place.

As the days roll on and I get done perhaps one fifth of the writing I planned to do, I grow disappointed in myself, my poor time management, and my lack of commitment.

Somehow, all of that changes in November.

I’m still nowhere near perfect (I wrote 158 words yesterday… 158 words), but I’ve reached a point where I cross the 50,000 word threshold in November more often than not, and even have managed to finish some of the projects after the month is over.

In November, suddenly, I Can Do It. It’s not that time somehow mystically appears. I’m busier than ever. But instead of fodder for previously essential naps and chores, open blocks of time in my schedule become prime writing time. Words flow (sometimes haltingly, but they still flow) from my brain to my fingers more readily. And even if I miss par for a few days, rather than viewing it as a life-shattering failure that sends me into a shame spiral, I take it in stride, promise I’ll keep going tomorrow, and then follow through on that promise.

Finally, it occurred to me to ask…. WHY!? What’s the difference? Can I bottle it and keep it with me after November is over, so that I can keep going throughout the year? Here are the answers I’ve been able to come up with so far:

1) Deadlines.

This is elementary, but it bears repeating. Deadlines are a key to productivity. Keep one, and you’ll have a better and better chance of keeping more in the future. And deadlines shouldn’t be arbitrary. Why do you have to meet this deadline? What concrete, immediate reason do you have for picking your particular deadline?

With NaNoWriMo, all of that is built in already – we have a deadline, and we’re a community working together toward that deadline. The structure is created for you, and all you have to do is plug in and buy in. Speaking of community, that leads me to the next reason…

2) Peer Pressure.

We might also call this “community” or just plain “having company.” Whatever you want to think of it as, consider this: while you are plodding away in November, doing what you need to do to get the words on the page, a tiny part of your brain takes comfort in knowing that there are literally thousands of other people across the globe, toiling away just like you.

The lucky thing about NaNo? You have access to those people throughout November, through the NaNoWriMo.org website and various other community things we have as Wrimos (Facebook groups, chats, and even the occasional in-person write-in).

You might view these folks as friendly competitors (“haha, I totally clobbered you in that word war!”) or as essential allies (“OMG that character name you gave me IS PERFECT”) or just as kindred spirits (“[…sharing knowing, exhausted, highly-caffeinated looks across a cozy library nook…]”), but whatever it is, knowing they are alongside you in this crazy endeavor somehow spurs you forward.

Think of it as having a writing workout buddy.

3) Wow Factor/”Crap now I really have to do this”

I love telling non-writers that I’m doing NaNoWriMo. It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s a conversation topic, and it always gets a reaction. “You’re doing what, now?”

Fortunately/unfortunately, it also leads to the inevitable question:

“So, how’s that novel coming along?”

And, as the month progresses:

“Heh, so I bet you gave that novel thing up by now, huh?”

And then, in December:

“Did you ever finish that novel?”

And I love the looks of surprise as I pass each hurdle.

Having those little comments and check-ins pushes me forward, because I don’t want to experience the shame of having to admit I failed. Sometimes it’s a guilt-trip that reminds me I need to get cracking, and sometimes that’s just what I need.

What about you? Do you struggle with writing each day outside of NaNoWriMo? Why do YOU think NaNoWriMo works?

Special Guest: ChiWriMo Member, Aly Grauer, and Her New NaNo Novel!

I’m so pleased to share with you, Dear Wrimo, the success of one of our very own ChiWrimo, Alyson Grauer. Her NaNo novel On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is available from Amazon.  Aly will be at Geek Bar Chicago this Saturday, November 7th; check it out and register to attend on the Facebook event page.  Aly answered some interview questions for me; read on!

CWM:  What was your inspiration for this book and the main characters?

AG:  As an actor, I often delve into the history and given circumstances of characters and stories within plays. I imagine the memories and the in between moments you don’t see onstage, and I wonderwhat would be different if the play was set in another place or time. When I started writing Sound & Wonder, I had just re-read The Tempest and found it complex and confusing; Shakespeare presented it as this commedia dell’arte influenced comedy but in the play itself you can see how dark the emotional lives of the characters can be and how dire the circumstances are that bring them all together this way. I wanted to explore those circumstances by giving the story and characters lives of their own beyond (but including) what Shakespeare wrote. I didn’t want to re-do it or overwrite it, I just wanted to explore a parallel trajectory. A world just slightly to one side of our own, with familiar things in it, but its own history and magic and scope.

CWG:  Where is your story set and why is this setting exciting/sexy?

AG: Sound & Wonder was challenging for setting. I knew exactly how it would need to be: their equivalent of Italy, and an island somewhere in the Mediterranean. But how do you do steampunk on a barely habitable uncivilized island? My solution was not to make the island itself steampunk, but allow the characters to interact with the environment in a steampunk sort of way. Mira is quite the engineer and architect, and although the island is something of a prison to her, she studies it, annotates it, manipulates it like a scholar or scientist would. My editor Jess and I half-jokingly called it “islandpunk”. The island is so cool – it has a variable landscape and even after living there for twelve years, Mira is still surprised by things that crop up… You may notice too that each set of characters experiences and describes slightly different views and terrains on the island – that was intentional.

CWG:  What’s the story behind your book’s title?

AG:  This title was the working title when I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2012. searched and searched for a line from the play that would work as a title but nothing satisfied me. When I sold the book to Xchyler Publishing we briefly tossed around the idea of changing it, but it just stuck. Sometimes titles just stick. To me, the title is about the island of course, which is in some ways a character as well as the setting, but it also unintentionally echoes “sound and fury,” which is not only Faulkner but Shakespeare as well (a line from Macbeth). Dante is sometimes more like Macbeth than Prospero, to me. So it’s a happy coincidence.

CWG:  What subgenres do you write in and who are you published with?

AG:  Steampunk, fantasy, spec fic, sci-fi, etc. I have two short stories and this novel through Xchyler Publishing, and two short stories through Imagine That Studios — the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences’ Tales From The Archives anthologies.

CWG:  Plotter or Pantser?

AG:  Both. I was a pantser for a loooong time (and happily so) but editing Sound and Wonder was a lot of work, and some of my other projects have taught me that Plotting/outlining/preparation can be super important depending on the story.

Author Bio:

Alyson Grauer is a storyteller in multiple mediums, her two primary canvases being the stage and the page. On stage, she is often seen in the Chicago area, primarily at Piccolo Theatre, Plan 9 Burlesque, and the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Her non-fiction work has been published in the “Journal for Perinatal Education” for Lamaze International. Her short fiction can be found in Tales from the Archives (Volume 2) for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and in two anthologies from XchylerPublishing, Mechanized Masterpieces: A SteampunkAnthology, and Legends and Lore: an Anthology of Mythic Prorportions.

On The Isle of Sound and Wonder

Blurb: All but alone, wild but resourceful, Mira dreams of life beyond the shores of her mystical island. Isolated by her father, a dark sorcerer bent on vengeance, she has only his servants, an air spirit and a misshapen cast-off, to share her company. When Dante conjures a terrible storm to wash ashore his mortal enemies, Mira must chose between her loyalties to her father and what she knows is right.

Sail the skies and soar the seas surrounding this Isle of Sound and Wonder as Alyson Grauer masterfully retells William Shakespeare’s classic, The Tempest, bedecked in the trappings of Steampunk.

NaNo – Years I’ve Won, Years I’ve Lost – A Retrospective

I’ve been doing NaNo for a few years now (six) and I’ve won a few times (four).  I don’t consider the two years where I didn’t hit goal to be “losses.”  If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s to keep writing.  All words count during NaNo.

We learn from the years we win NaNo.

The years where we make it across the finish line teach us that hard work pays off and that we can do it, we can write the first draft of a novel.  We also learn that non-writers don’t understand.  “So, you’ve written fifty thousand words.  Yeah, but are they any good?” is said with a sly kind of smile, as though the questioner thinks they’ve delivered a witty comeback to our, “I won NaNo!”  They haven’t.  The point is, it’s a rough draft.  It’s not supposed to be polished.

We learn from the years we don’t win NaNo.

Sometimes, we learn more from the years we don’t hit the mark than the years we do.  One of the years I didn’t win, it was because I had a huge family gathering to attend over Thanksgiving.  I figured I could bang out the remaining ten thousand words in the two days when I got back, a Monday and a Tuesday.  I had time after work both evenings and even wrote it into my calendar.

Then work happened.

I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I worked for a very toxic boss (for whom I thankfully no longer work) and he made those two days into a walking hell.  By the time I left the office, near tears each evening, I didn’t want to do anything, much less touch my fledgling novel.  Disappointed and discouraged, I watched midnight on the 30th come and go and never got my winner’s badge that year.

An odd thing happened, though.  The next year, I came out of the gate so strong that I would have bowled over anything standing in my way.  I had found a new job, was on my way to becoming a “real” author (meaning I had a publishing contract), and I felt like I finally knew what I was doing.  When I crossed that finish line, it felt differently than before.  This time, I was aware of the struggle it took to get there.

I realized my NaNo “failure” wasn’t a failure at all.

We talk a lot about how NaNo teaches us to write a draft of a novel.  What is less talked-about is the fact that NaNo teaches us how to fit writing into our lives – and I have yet to meet someone whose life isn’t already full of all the things.

Writing is a difficult pursuit because it’s, in essence, solitary.  Humans by nature are social animals, be they extroverts or introverts.  Sure, the appearance of socializing looks different for different people, but we all need human contact.  We need to create support systems around ourselves that sustain and nurture us, and we need to limit toxic inputs in order to sustain our creativity.

So yeah, in a way, NaNo helped me quit that toxic job.  I didn’t do it immediately, and I had some bumps along the road between then and now.  But overall, it made me stronger – and a better writer.

And that’s my “key takeaway” as they say in business.  (And the language crafters among you, Dear Reader, are cringing at my use of jargon.)  Keep writing.  Let writing be a part of your life, and don’t let other things that are lower on the priority list get in its way. Of course family is important, and if you work a job outside the home then you need to continue to do so.  But evaluate the things on which you spend your time, and the people with whom you spend it – do they support you and your goals?

If not, maybe it’s time to reconsider what the priorities are and recommit to getting to fifty thousand.

We can DO this.

Write on!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

SEALED BY FIRE, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
Book 2, EMERALD KEEP
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Guest Post: ChiWriMo Member, Charles Ott

Writing “Green” Fiction

By Charles Ott

Admittedly, writing fiction is pretty much an environmentally-friendly, low-carbon-impact activity. The biggest source of writers’ airborne carbon emissions probably comes from the intestinal effects of all those unhealthy snacks we eat while writing.

Still, there’s something to be said for being frugal. “Use it up,” as your grandparents knew, “make it last, wear it out.” (I’m a Boomer, and my parents and grandparents lived through the Depression. I remember being in awe, as a kid, when my grandmother drank the pickle juice out of the bottle after all the pickles were gone, rather than let it go to waste.)

So here’s the frugality part: are you wasting characters? Are you making the best use of the minor characters you create for one scene? At first glance, it seems inevitable: if you wrote in a cool bartender for the saloon scene, he seems to be stuck behind the bar and can’t get out into any of your other chapters. The interesting surgeon stays in the hospital scene, the trash-talking sports reporter stays in the locker room (shame on her!), the gang bosses’ punk tough guy says a few menacing words and then fades into the woodwork.

But if you’re having a tough time plotting, consider moving those characters out of their little boxes and into a place where they can interact with your main characters. Surgeons like to knock back a couple of shots sometimes. Could the surgeon show up in the saloon scene? Does the bartender know him as a regular? What would they say to each other when they see your main characters (a) having an important, emotional discussion that reveals information about the story background background, or (b) smashing chairs over each others’ heads as they brawl, or (c) wondering if seeing the surgeon as a regular at the saloon has any relationship to that failed operation on Aunt Beth?

If you liked a minor character in one scene, it might be that that character would light up another scene by appearing unexpectedly. It might be that a minor character might turn into a major character if you will only give him or her a chance. And besides, your minor character already has a name, an appearance and a couple of lines of dialogue to define her personality. What more could you ask for?

One contrarian note to my fellow science-fiction writers: I don’t care how many damn episodes of Star Trek you’ve watched, the captain of a capital ship does not go gallivanting off to have adventures. He stays on his ship pretty much until it returns to home port, if he doesn’t fancy being hauled by the scruff of his neck before the Admiral. Other, more expendable members of the crew get to have all the possibly lethal fun. Ask any Navy veteran about this.

The upshot is, it’s interesting to put an interesting character out-of-position. Try it, and you might just save, if not the Earth, at least your storyline.

 

Check out Charles’ novel, The Floor of the World, available from Amazon.

Are you the next Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author?

To kick off the season, here is a guest blog post from the Chicago Public Libraries!

Dear Self-published Authors,
We think you’re awesome.

Love,

Illinois Librarians

No really, we do!

In fact, there’s a group of us here in Illinois who have made it our mission to seek out and promote the best self-published adult fiction written by Illinois authors; we call this the Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author Project.  We’re just beginning our third year and we can’t wait to see what the unsung self-published authors of Illinois have for us this year.

So how does this work?

Between October 12, 2015 and January 4, 2016 we will accept entries of self-published adult fiction from Illinois authors.  A rigorous judging process follows.  Librarian judges narrow the field down to 10-15 semifinalists in the first round.  A second round of judging brings us down to our three finalists, and our winner is announced at a media event held during National Library Week in April 2016.

And how do we “make you famous?”

Here’s how that happened for our 2014 award-winner, Joanne Zienty, author of The Things We Save.  The Soon to be Famous™ committee members, all library marketers, collaborated on a series of events to promote Joanne and her book that included appearances at twenty-six different libraries, visits to  five private book clubs, interviews on WGN and WDCB radio, and participation in three conference/literary fest events.  Print articles in the Chicago Tribune, ILA Reporter, Daily Herald, numerous local papers and School Library Journal as well as online publicity from Booklist Online, Forbes, various library/publishing related blogs and the “Soon to be Famous” website also contributed to the spotlight focused on Joanne, her novel, and the whole issue of the relationship between self-publishers and librarians.

And what did this do for her book sales?

The Things We Save was available on Amazon and through other channels for two years before Joanne won the contest. Nine months after the award, she had sold seven time more print versions of the book than were sold during the previous two years–a 600 % increase!  E-book sales through Amazon Kindle jumped almost 375% over the previous two years.  Finally, through Smashwords e-book channels, she sold 15 times as many e-books than she did before the recognition of Soon to Be Famous.

Oh, and libraries?

Straight from the author’s mouth: “Wallowing in self-absorption, I googled my book.  To my astonishment, I discovered my novel had been added to the collection of the public library in Bangor, Maine.  I don’t know a single soul in Bangor, Maine.  But somehow, some way, some librarian deemed my book shelf-worthy.” That Bangor librarian is not alone.  At this writing, Joanne Zienty’s novel is part of the collections of 126 libraries–108 in Illinois, and 18 libraries in 12 other states from Maine to California.

The 2015 Soon to be Famous™ winner Michael Alan Peck, author of The Commons  Book I: The Journeyman, is now in the midst of a full schedule of library appearances, and has also been interviewed on WGN radio.

This could be you!

Self-publishing is big, big business.  Take a look at these numbers compiled by AuthorEarnings.com:

  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on Amazon.com are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on Amazon.com are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on Amazon.com are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on Amazon.com while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%.

No librarian would dream of ignoring 33% of titles sold on Amazon, but without a new way of discovering and evaluating all the new works not included in the traditional journals, librarians are in danger of doing just that.

Help us get the word out that there is a lot of unrecognized literary talent in the self-publishing world.  Enter the Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author competition.  Librarians are waiting to read your story!

For complete information about the contest and the project, visit http://soontobefamous.info.

What To Do In the Off-Season

Welcome to the dreaded February, the month when sub-zero temperatures attack and there’s no NaNo to sustain us.  Whatever shall we do?

For those of you playing the home game, WE WRITE! (Seriously, you didn’t see that one coming???)

All kidding aside, the off months are tough because we don’t have the collective sturm und drang of thousands of participants, pounding away at their keyboards with their hats askew, banging out 50,000 words or more of their novel.

Don’t despair, Dear Chiwrimo!  We have resources!

First, there are two mid-year events called Camp NaNo – one in April, and one in July.  We even have write-ins planned for both, one on April 11th, and one on July 18th.  The links jump you to our Facebook event pages.

Which is a nice segue into my next resource, our Facebook group.  (Like how I did that, all transitiony and stuff?)  Our little Facebook group has grown to over 800 members!  (Thank you, you awesome Chiwrimos, you!)  If you haven’t joined yet, what are you waiting for?  Visit today and join the conversation – there’s humor, and impromptu writeins, and ideas, and support – everything a growing writer needs to take on the New York Times Bestseller List!

We also have a Twitter stream, @Chiwrimo.  If you like brief, and you like it in 140 characters or less, then this is your oyster.

And finally, drum roll please – I found the A-Z Blog Challenge last year while poking around on NaNoWriMo.org (you know, world headquarters?) for ideas on what to do next.  It’s a month-long challenge where writers post a blog a day for every day except Sunday, and the only stipulation is you must follow the alphabet theme – so, day 1 is A, day 2 is B, and so on.  If this sounds fun, point your browser over there – 2015 signups are now open.  Be sure to link to your blog in the comments here so we can track our local writers and support each other.

Write on!

 

– 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
 
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, an All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
**Coming Soon!** Watch for Book 3, CAT’S CRADLE, out Summer 2015!
The Persis Chronicles:
Book 1 EMERALD FIRE
**Coming Soon!** Watch for Book 2, EMERALD KEEP, out April 2015! 
The Keepsake Tour begins March 8th. 
 
Other Fun Stuff:
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora 
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

If You Didn’t “Win” NaNo, Don’t Despair. It Doesn’t Mean You’ve “Failed”

I’ve met many people who tell me, “Oh, I failed NaNo. I only got 13,000 words.”

I know writers who would give their eye teeth to have written 13,000 words, 8,000 words, or even just words! Just because you didn’t hit that magic number of 50,000, doesn’t mean you should pack up your keyboard and throw away your word processing software. It doesn’t mean you should go back to Twitter, home of the brief. It just means it’s time to regroup and see where you are. Here are some truths:

1. Writing takes practice. This means, the more you do it, the better you get.

2. Babe Ruth, the baseball player often quoted for his number of home runs, also held a record for strikeouts – the point being, the more times you’re at bat, the more chances of getting a home run. Show up at the page, day in and day out, and you will achieve the goals you set for yourself.

3. You had the courage to start. Don’t underestimate that. Big things come from small things. Give yourself props for having the courage to take a chance and begin something.

4. Now that you’ve tried it, you don’t have to begin from scratch. Yes, you will write new words. But that’s not what I mean. Now you know what NaNo’s all about. This information is power. Maybe you can go into next year with some prep-work ahead of time. Maybe you can spend the next year learning to plot, or develop characters, or fart around with some story communities and see how others do it.

Above all, keep at it. The words you wrote in November are new words that never before saw the light of day. If it weren’t for you, they wouldn’t exist. And that, truly, is magical.

So rest on that, writer. You did it. You started.

And that means, dear writer, that you ARE a writer.

You are a writer.

You ARE a writer.

So go write!

Write on!

 

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 6 events, 4 wins
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  - E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup

So I Have a Novel Draft. Now What?

Now I have a novel draft. What do I do?

November is over and some of us feel a sense of let-down; like the intensity is gone and we don’t know what to do next. If this is you, you’re not alone. So what do you do, now that you have this baby novel manuscript? What do you DO with it?

Here are a few thoughts about life after NaNo:

You’ve developed a habit of writing. Keep it going. Just because NaNo is over, keep the discipline alive by working on a new idea. Whether your goal, like Hemingway’s, is to write 500 words a day, or Julia Cameron’s 1,000 words a day, keep working on something and use that discipline to change your life for the better.

Some people joke that December is for editing. Others really mean it and dive head-first into their NaNo novel, only to emerge shell-shocked. How can things be this disconnected? This frenzied? This chaotic?

Be gentle. If this is your first time writing a complete rough draft, you need to remember what an accomplishment that is. No one writes the great American novel on the first pass. Even the pros edit. So as you’re looking at this nascent novel, let’s take a step back and have a cup of soothing tea.

First, look at your draft with gentleness. Don’t start cutting and burning large swaths of this savanna. For one thing, years from now, it will matter to you what your first draft looked like. Of course your final product will look different than the rough draft. But just as there’s only ever one first kiss, there’s only ever one first draft. Safeguard it and save it with a new title, something like “Novel title, First draft.” Put that somewhere safe.

It should go without saying, BACKUP YOUR FILES.

No, really. If you haven’t done a backup in the last seven days, stop reading and go do that now. You can come back to read after you’ve finished.

Next, set your manuscript aside for a couple weeks. Experts recommend going away from a piece and coming back to it later, after it’s had a chance to breathe a bit. You’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes.

Consider rewriting from scratch, not just tweaking the existing piece. Author and instructor Josip Novakovich advocates exactly this technique in his book, Fiction Writer’s Workshop. Retell the story, from scratch, and see how much differently it comes off the keyboard or pen the second time around. Now you know the shape of the story, the twists and turns of your plot, and how to get to the ending.

A word of caution. Some writers assume that they need another pair of eyes on their work pretty much right after they write it. Some authors even recommend that. “Have another person read and critique your work,” they say. “It’ll make you a better writer.” That’s hogwash.  Practice is what makes you a better writer. Learning good techniques makes you a better writer. Not all critique groups will teach you those two things – good skills and how to edit – so view critique groups with caution. Do the people you’re sharing your work with know how to handle a first draft? Do they read and like your genre? Are they interested in helping you get, and stay, on the page; or is it a thinly veiled arena for competition and one-ups-manship? Use caution when sharing your work with other people. Even well-meaning friends can derail us, and strangers have no investment in our future. Don’t assume that just because someone offers to critique your work, that they are qualified to do so.

That said, it’s worth finding some trusted beta readers and critique partners (sometimes called in the community betas and CPs). You can poke around online at some of the online writing communities, look around the boards, and check out Meetup for some in-person groups in your area. My suggestion is, however, don’t submit your work immediately. Go to the group a few times, listen to how the critiques are done, before you give your baby manuscript to them for review. If you sense something is off, trust that sense and don’t assume “writers should just take it with a grain of salt.” That’s not true. We are sensitive creatures, and that sensitivity is what makes us effective writers. We must respect that sensitivity and not allow others to trample us in the name of literary excellence. Many a newbie writer has been silenced this way. Don’t let it happen to you.

If you haven’t read No Plot, No Problem, by NaNoWriMo’s founder Chris Baty, now is the time. Now that you’ve had a taste of NaNo and the madness of writing for 30 days and nights of literary abandon, go to the horse’s mouth to see what – and how – it all began.

Above all, realize that you’ve done something few people ever accomplish: you have in your hot little hands the first draft of a novel. This is the beginning of great things!

 

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 6 events, 4 wins
National Novel Writing Month: NaNoWriMo | ChiWriMo | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  - E.E. Cummings

**New** SEALED BY FIRE is available from LooseId LLC. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Chicagoland Shifters series:
Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:
**Coming Soon!** Watch for EMERALD KEEP from Torquere Books, out April 2015!
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.
My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Taurus and Taurus (NSFW) | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter | Meetup