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! 
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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

The Wall

moar cat 2

Week 2. This is the hardest part of NaNoWriMo.  We’ve started, but the end seems so far away.  If your motivation is flagging, this post is for you.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
–Mary Anne Radmacher, American author and artist

We start NaNo for a whole host of reasons.  We want to be writers.  We want to tell a story. We may or may not have a story to tell, but we decide, for many and varied reasons, to give it a shot.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
–Albert Einstein

Then reality sets in.  “What the hell were we thinking, doing this?  We must be nuts/crazy/full of hubris.”  The boomerang of the inner critic’s voice comes back around and smacks us square between the eyes and we wonder who the hell we ever thought we were, trying to write a novel.  After all, what do we have to say?  What made us think we could do this?  After all, all the stories are told already, all the novels written, and the deck is stacked against us.  Besides, the new television shows are on, or there are cats on Facebook to look for.  Anything but sit our butts in a chair and open our manuscript.

A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
–B.F. Skinner

Runners call this The Wall.  It’s sneaky.  The Wall doesn’t hit in the beginning.  No, in the beginning, if we can get started, there’s the momentum of the beginning to sustain us.  We can do it, we think.  After all, look at all these other people who are doing it too.  Why not us?  No, that’s not The Wall.  The Wall comes after the running’s been going on for a while.  No one knows exactly when it will hit, but it will hit.  We hit the equivalent of a solid brick wall that blanks out the horizon and stops us in our tracks.

We want to give up.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
–Confucius

Here’s a couple simple truths, as you’re staring at The Wall:

  1. The Wall is a liar.  It will tell you there’s no use.  There’s no point.  Worse, there’s no Story.
  2. The Wall happens to all writers, at some point in their writing life.  Pros, amateurs, beginners, it doesn’t matter.  The Wall is an equal opportunity phenomenon.
  3. Doubt is the sister to The Wall.  So is the Inner Critic.
  4. The Wall  will try and make us stop writing, stop telling our Story, stop believing that we can do it.
  5. The only cure for The Wall is to write.  One word at a time.  Keep going.

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
–Newt Gingrich

The job description is “writer.”  It’s not “feel good and have fun all the time with the words flowing.”  It’s not “brilliant bestseller, everything produced is worth selling to the highest bidder.”  It’s not “perfect speller and crafter of amazingly perfect prose the first time out the gate.”  A writer is one who writes, that is, puts words in front of each other.  There’s not a lot of glamour in that, or flashing lights, or anything other than us, our pen or keyboard, and Story.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
–Winston Churchill

The way to keep going varies by writer.  Here are some suggestions to try.

  • Interview your characters.  Start with the main character, and ask them questions as though you were hiring them for a job.
  • Make a list of everything in the setting of the scene you’re writing.  If it’s a room, imagine you’re standing at the door and look left, ahead, right, down, up, and immediately behind yourself.  List everything you see.  What color is the paint on the wall? Carpet or hardwood?  Furniture?  What’s on top of the furniture?  Are there pets?  Pet fur?  Pet food?  No pets?  How come?
  • Write a scene of a brand new character coming into that setting for the first time, having just bought the place from your characters.  What do they see?  How do they interact with the place?
  • Kill off one of your characters.  What happens then?  Alternatively, write a sex scene with a character, or have them receive an unexpected and large sum of money.  What happens next?
  • Sit down with your manuscript.  Write or type, “The truth is, …” and finish that thought.

All words count during NaNo.  Write about being stuck.  What’s stopping you?  Why do you feel blocked?  Put it on the page.  Put all of it on the page.  Put 1,667 words of it on the page.

That’s all it is.  Words on a page.  They don’t have to be the best words ever, they just have to be words – they don’t even have to be spelled correctly.  This is a rough draft.  If you want, challenge yourself to write the worst first draft ever in the history of letters.

But above all, write.  You will care, come December, that you kept going.

Trust the words, Dear Writer.  Trust NaNo.  Trust that writing is right.  Trust that you can do it.

Because, you can do it.

Write on.

A. Catherine Noon, co-ML for Chicago Region 2014; 5 events, 3 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

Start Your Engines!

 

Welcome, Wrimos, to NaNoWriMo 2K14!  This is the year to win it!  That’s right, we’re going to write ALL THE WAY to 50,000 words – and we’re gonna have a ball doing it!

But what if you’re a brand new Wrimo?  What if you’ve done it before but don’t quite remember how to get rolling?  Never fear!  ChiWriMo to the rescue!

So first, some definitions.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is every year during the month of November.  To quote from NaNoWriMo HQ itself:  “It’s a seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing, challenging you to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.  Participation is free, and ther eare no prizes or judges.  The reward?  The rough draft of your novel.  Bragging rights.  And so much more.”  So here’s how to get started:

First, visit the main NaNoWriMo website and sign up.  That will get you your username and an account on the international forums.

Second, set your home region.  We’re assuming, since you’re visiting us here, that you’re either part of Chicago’s region, ChiWriMo, or you’re just so dazzled by our magnificence that you decided to stop by for a visit.  ~grin~  We are the Windy City, after all.

Third, contribute to the cause.  NaNoWriMo is completely volunteer-run and we count on each other for the funds to keep all the magnificence going year to year.  Every little bit helps, so please, take a moment and check out our fundraising area.

Fourth, check out the awesomeness that is ChiWriMo!  You’ve done the first part of that, by finding your way here to the website.  But we’re so much more than just this site!  You’ve already seen the forum, so c’mon in and introduce yourself.  If you are looking for a local write-in, or want to host one, this is the place to talk about it.  Here is the October chat and intro thread to get you started!

Fifth, kick off your writing month in style by joining us at the 2014 ChiWriMo Kickoff Party!  We’ll be a Aje Cafe (caution, link has music) on Sunday, October 26th, at 2:00 P.M.  Aje is located at 2942 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60657.

Sixth, keep an eye on the calendar for in person and virtual write-ins throughout the month of November.  The calendar is located right on the main ChiWriMo.org page.

Seventh, extra credit if you join the group!  The Facebook group, that is!  Here’s the link. Please follow us @chiwrimo and use the hashtags #nanowrimo and #chiwrimo.

Eighth, DON’T PANIC!  If you’re completely overwhelmed, all the action takes place on NaNoWriMo.org.  If you get overwhelmed, don’t worry, that’s natural.  Just go back to home base and take a deep breath.  You can do this.

Remember, a good rule of thumb is no internet until you hit your daily word count goal (hint: 1,667 words).  Some days, that will be all you can manage – and that’s okay.  After all, this is YOUR novel, and YOUR NaNo.

You can write it.

GO CHIWRIMO!


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

A. Catherine Noon, one of the Four MLs of ChiWriMo 2K14

ChiWriMo: Website | Facebook | Twitter | NaNoWriMo
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
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