Monday, September 26, 2011

Awesome contest over at K.M. Weiland's

There are some things that are so good you want to share them. This week on K.M. Weiland's site, she's got a great contest going. If you haven't been there already, please stop by and pick up a copy of her new book Outlining Your Novel, available on Kindle, Nook, or in regular book form. It's a very timely release, considering that Nanowrimo is practically upon us. Stop by and join the fun!

: ) Beth

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tips from a writing pro (not me)

I recently won a book from K. M. Weiland, and when I received it in the mail, I noticed it was accompanied by a bonus: a bookmark.

This pleased me, because I use (and lose) many bookmarks. Most are mine of the homemade variety derived from small adhesive notes, but I am open to using "real" bookmarks as well. K. M.'s bookmark put mine to shame, and it had such great advice on it, I wanted to share it with you.

Here are K.M. Weiland's 10 Habits of Successful Authors as found on her bookmark (but minus her extra comments). For more tips on writing and the chance to win (or buy) your own spectacular bookmark, visit her website. She's made it her business to educate writers, in addition to writing her own books, and it's a happy writer who benefits from her generosity.

K.M. Weiland's 10 Habits of Successful Authors (with my thoughts added)

1. Write every day

At first I felt a little condemned by this one until I realized that I do this. I write constantly—it's just not always on my WIP middle grade sci-fi book. I am, however, trying to make sure I work on that every day as well.

2. Complete stories

Most of my stories are completed, but as my kids will tell you, they were frustrated to get to the end of my Nanonovel from two years ago and find out that, although I had typed a tidy 50k, I had failed to include an ending. Oops. I'll have to fix that.

3. Learn the rules

I have learned the rules of writing. I am learning the rules of writing. I will be learning the rules of writing. (Probably for the rest of my life.)

4. Break the rules

Hard for me, since I'm still trying to follow the rules. I'll leave this one to the experts for now and play it safe until I'm more confident as a writer.

5. Create your own inspiration

I find my best inspirations come while I'm daydreaming in the morning before the day gets going. My brain is so engaged during the rest of the day that there's no room left for anything else, sadly.

6. Don't slack on the hard stuff

By this, K. M. meant that you have to do the hard work of writing as well as the fun, creative part. Harder things would include research and editing. She's right. You'll look like a unprofessional yo-yo if you don't take the time to learn your craft so that you can tell a story accurately as well as effectively.

7. Follow your heart, not the market

I hear this a lot, and I suppose it's true. You have to write first for yourself. If it doesn't jive with the market, too bad. You can only write what you have in you to write. (But here's a secret that I believe in: excellent writing makes a place for itself in the market.)

8. Develop a thick skin

No kidding. You're going to have to be teachable. There are over six billion people on this planet. If even half of them liked your work, it would probably be a miracle, but that would still leave over three billion who "rejected" it. Many will be editors and agents who know what they're doing when it comes to the written word. You'll have two choices when criticism comes your way. You can shrivel and collapse over a quart of double chocolate fudge ice cream, or you can listen, consider, and proceed.

9. Set your stories free

When you're done, be done. Enough said.

10. Love what you do

...or find something else to do. Honestly, I can't imagine a person who would write if they didn't love it, because it's a ton of work and a mostly thankless occupation.

So there you have them: K. M.'s top ten habits that will do all that is possible to make you a successful writer. I would only add that you read lots of books in your genre, study writing books continually, go to conferences when you can afford it, and read James Scott Bell's book Plot and Structure. Please understand these are additions to the list, not replacements for K. M.'s top ten. Do those first. Then the others, too.

Happy writing!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finding Eden

"Eden is that old-fashioned house
      we dwell in every day
Without suspecting our abode
      until we drive away."

—Emily Dickinson

I have a friend who makes facebook posts of comical family blurbs, primarily produced by her own son. As I read yet another gem this morning, this time because the young man in question had stuffed his pants with packing peanuts because he liked the way they crunched when he walked, I considered what a wealth of material this mom was sitting on. She's not a writer, as far as I know, but if she was, she would have to look no further than her own house for excellent ideas. As they say, write what you know.

How about you? As a writer, do you sometimes feel like the greener ideas grow on the other side of the fence? Do you need to take a close look at your own life for the unsuspected writing riches that are right under your nose?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When you're so close you can taste it

There are days that I just want to give up, because it's very frustrating to come close to what you deem as success but miss the mark. These are the things that I think about to encourage myself so that I will keep on trying:

• I have a working computer which makes the act of writing easy. Even when I don't feel like it, I need to take advantage of the opportunity I have to write and be grateful for it.

• I've had quite a few personal notes from agents and editors. Even if they don't represent me or buy my work, it's important to realize that it means I'm at least on the right track when a busy publishing professional takes a moment to encourage me.

• Writing is work, but it's also fun. Even if no one ever buys my book, I'm glad that my fourteen-year-old son can't wait for me to complete the next chapter, even in rough draft form.

• I have a circle of writing friends who continually challenge me to improve my writing ability. They cheer for me when I achieve my goals and rally around me when I don't.

• I remember that writers such as Les Edgerton and James Scott Bell have written great books that I can read and reread. I am so thankful that they share their great knowledge so I can learn more about writing instead of having to find things out the hard way.

What do you do to encourage yourself when you have become frustrated on your writing path?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The best advice from writers

I love quotes by authors. Here are four that I like. You've probably heard them already, since you see them making email rounds occasionally, but they all bear repeating.

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." —Agatha Christie 

I think I'll put that one up over my computer during Nanowrimo. I might tweak it a bit though and make it something more along the lines of, "The secret of finishing 50,000 words is getting typing."

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." —Anton Chekhov

What a great way to say, "Show, don't tell." Thank you, Anton Chekhov!

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip." —Elmore Leonard

Honestly, I'll be putting them all in during Nanowrimo, but I'll pull them out later. For that one month, it's all about a frantically typed word count, but I am preparing scene cards to keep myself on something of a course through it. (As an aside, my son came up with the most amazing scene suggestion during our brainstorming session. I can't wait to write it.)

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out." —Author Unknown

Again, an activity for after Nanowrimo, but one that can cause you to tear your hair out if you see a typo after you've sent a query or piece out the door. If your inner editor gets underfoot during the typing frenzy, give her a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico and promise her that she'll get her chance in December.

What are your favorite quotes that you live and write by?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Permission to procrastinate?

In an effort to become a more productive writer (hoping, of course, that it will bleed over into every other area of my life) I've been reading The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen. Today I got to the chapter in which she stated that it's okay to procrastinate a bit while you're writing if you do it productively. Basically, this is her thought process:

• Forcing yourself through tough spots, although highly recommended by most writers, doesn't always work well
• Let yourself procrastinate productively by doing other things that have to be done anyway while your mind works on the writing problems you're facing

I'd like to know if any other writers out there have tried this out. Personally, I've always been of the push-through-and-write-no-matter-what mindset, but I do have days where I just step away and get other work done when I'm thinking about plots, characters, etc. What do you think? Does this have the potential to make you more productive in the long run?

P.S. Only 56 days until Nanowrimo. (No pressure, but the clock is ticking.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nanowrimo, where did you come from?

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is the brainchild of Chris Baty. Thanks to him, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world throw themselves into the abyss of plot, setting, and character for the month of November. Thanksgiving is hardly a thought in the flurry of typing an average of 1666 2/3 words per day in order to finish the entire 50,000 by midnight of the 30th.

If you haven't done this before, you should. It's a wild ride.

The first Nanowrimo didn't take place in November, but in July of 1999. It was a group of 21 friends who got together and churned out inspired fiction (or other stuff) for the fun of it. There were no rules of any kind. Six of them finished. They all celebrated.

Over the years, word of Nanowrimo spread like wildfire. Authors committed to being part of it faster than the volunteers could keep up with it's stunning growth. By the second year they had become international, much to Chris Baty's surprise. By 2001, year three, there were over 5000 participants, and the web site they had set up couldn't cover the volume.

Each year has brought new challenges to the volunteer staff. They have had to ask for donations (Nanowrimo is not for profit) to cover the costs of the materials and system that supports the writing for the year. Still, only a tiny number of participants actually donate to cover costs. To really bring home how it's evolved, you just have to look at the numbers. Last year, the twelfth year of Nanowrimo, 200,500 writers from all over the world were part of it. Of that number, over 37,000 finished their novels by the 30th. Over the years, a few have even revised their works and found publishing houses for them. Wow.

This year I challenge you to take up the torch and carry it through to the end of Nanowrimo. In the words of Walt Disney, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." It may be look impossible on this side, but it really isn't (except in your own mind). With a support team of over 200,000 other writers worldwide, some of whom are in your own neighborhood, you have a better chance of fulfilling your dream to write a novel during Nanowrimo than you would on your own. Now is the time to write your story.

To help prepare, I suggest that you register on the Nanowrimo site to receive pep-talks from the Nano people over the next couple of months. Also, you can follow our blog as we give you a blow-by-blow account of our own Nanowrimo preparation. (I'm thinking about doing a day by day post of my own Nanowrimo progress during the month of November.) It isn't going to be easy, I admit, but you can do this.

Please leave a comment and tell me if the idea of writing a novel in a month intrigues you. Are you considering doing it?