Tag: nanowrimo

Writing Exercise #1: Character Development

I’ve recently joined a local writing group. We start most of the bi-weekly meetings with a quick writing exercise. This week’s task was to select a random picture from a stack, imagine that the person was in front of us, and write his or her backstory. I’ve been thinking about my characters for NaNoWriMo, and so I decided to write about one of them.

shortline

Houston Jones sits across from me, his gaze darting around the diner.

“Want a drink?” I ask, hoping to calm him down.

He shakes his head. His hands, at first clasped tightly in his lap, clutch the edge of his chair, then drum a beat on the table.

“So…” I prompt him.

“It’s tough, ya know?” My expression must say clearly that I don’t know. “Being here. All this.” His hand sweeps at the patrons, the tables, the whole city.

“You need a job.” No sense wasting time. His agitation is only increasing, and I don’t know what will happen when he reaches his breaking point.

“We didn’t have cell phones. The internet. Think about that. You wanna meet up with someone, you call from a payphone. Plan ahead. Now everything is available, immediately. People ain’t planning no more. They’re in such a hurry, but they ain’t got nothing to hurry to. I learned, the last thirty years, there’s never nothing to hurry to.”

He takes a deep breath, as if to go on, but remains silent. His chest heaves slightly, like he’s been running, and maybe he has, only it’s his thoughts been running for the last thirty years he was locked up, and now they’re out but the world has changed and maybe he’s right; where do you run to?

“I need that job. No more running. I lost thirty years. I ain’t got no time to waste being like this.”

“It’s working in a garage, hauling scrap, general maintenance. Think you can do that okay?”

He laughs, a biting sound that hurts my heart. “I ain’t got much choice.”

shortline

This book will be about five people coming together in the face of tragedy. I’m toying with the idea of making it twenty-five short stories, almost like episodes of a sitcom, that are loosely linked and come together with the equivalent of a season finale. Thoughts?

NaNo’s over – now what?

This year I got involved in the local NaNoWriMo group, which we’ve decided to keep going throughout the year. While I didn’t come close to finishing, many people hit the 50k mark and were wondering what the next step is. I recently presented the following information; hopefully you’ll find it useful too.

NaNo’s Over – Now What?

 Before you even think about publishing…

  1. Self-edit your manuscript.
    • Length – is it long enough according to industry standards?
    • Show vs. tell – if your book were a movie, would you rely on the actors or voiceovers to convey emotions and plot points? (BUT you don’t need every detail)
    • Plot, subplots, and themes – identify these and make sure that everything in your story relates to them. Take out or rewrite scenes and characters that don’t fit
  1. Beta readers
    • Find someone who will give you constructive feedback on what works and what doesn’t in regard to theme, characters, plot, etc.
    • NOTE: your mom/significant other/best friend will generally not be objective or specific.
  1. Revise.
  2. Repeat steps #1-3, as many times as necessary.
  3. Line edits (no point until you have a well-written manuscript)
    • Grammar, I-bombs, filter words, repetition, etc.
    • Consider hiring an editor because spell check is not enough!
  1. Publish!

 Publishing

  • Generally selling exclusive first rights
    • Not published elsewhere – non-password protected sites Google/anyone can access (your website)
    • Generally less than 10% public is okay – snippets, 1st chapter
  • No matter what option, you’ll be doing the majority of the marketing
  • Options
  1. Self-publishing
    • You do all the work (or hire someone) but maintain all control.
    • $ = as much as you want to spend
    • Smashwords, Book Baby, Kindle, Createspace, Lulu, etc
  1. Vanity
    • You pay someone to publish your book on their terms
    • $ = generally thousands of dollars, plus you pay inflated rates for your own books
    • Tate, Publish America, generally any company that solicits you
  1. Traditional
    • Someone does all the work and pays you (flat rate or royalties; advance)
    • $ = generally nothing but depends on contract
    • Two types:
      1. Big Five – generally 15% royalties, need an agent
      2. Indie/small press – higher royalties (30-50%), don’t need an agent
    • Querying process:
      1. Find an agent who does your genre or a small press. Pay attention to books/authors you like to see who they use. Follow industry people’s blogs and on Twitter.
      2. Send a query exactly as instructed – 200-word blurb, first x pages or chapters.
      3. Repeat ad nauseum – expect dozens of rejections/nonresponses.
  1. Hybrid
    • Mix of self-publishing and traditional
    • Whatever works for you – varies from writer to writer, story to story

Author Platform

  • Essential no matter how you publish
  • Relationships, not advertising – do NOT spam!
  • Polite to follow back but don’t feel obligated to become king/queen of [platform] – better to have engaged, interested followers than high numbers.
  • Best engagement – ask questions people can answer, then respond
  • Social media
  1. Twitter
    1. Follow people you find interesting – agents, writers, celebs, etc
    2. Try to tweet at least once a day – something interesting, not necessarily always about writing
    3. All about engagement – retweets, favorites, responding
    4. 140 characters
    5. Hashtags to get noticed: #amwriting, #amediting, #amreading; be creative
  2. Facebook
    1. Author page – people can like it, can’t see their info; easy to separate from personal
    2. Author account – friends with fans, can see their info and they see yours; technically not allowed to have 2 accounts
    3. Easier to have conversations
    4. FB limits who sees your page posts unless you pay; 10x more views for FBTwitter than TwitterFacebook, so try to use 140 character posts
  3. Not as popular (yet?)
    1. Google +
    2. Pinterest
    3. Goodreads
  • Website
    • Essential central spot to send people who may not be on FB, Twitter, etc.
    • Consider buying your own domain – looks more professional
    • Layout
      • Main page
      • Bio – same for everywhere (long and short versions) + 1 pic for everywhere
      • Novel/stories – titles, novel summaries, covers, publication dates, links to full text or place to buy
      • Contact info – form/email address, mailing list, social media links
      • Blog
        • If you have one, update regularly: daily, weekly, monthly, whatever works for you
        • Blogger, Weebly, Wix, WordPress.com (free but limited customization), WordPress.org (on your own host; more flexibility)

If you’ve published, is there anything you’d like to add to this? If you’re an aspiring author, is there anything you need clarification on? Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo WhyNoMeNo

It’s November, which means that thousands upon thousands of people are sitting down to write a 50,000 word novel as part of NaNoWriMo.

It also means that thousands upon thousands of people are sitting in front of their computers, eying their word counts, and thinking, “Crap, it’s only day seven and I’m how far behind?”

I’m in that second group.

I started off strong. I went to a local write-in on the first day. I sat at a table where a fellow writer took away another NaNo’er’s phone to minimize distractions and may have threatened to disconnect my internet connection. I hit my word count. Days 2, 3, and 4, I hit my word count.

But then on day 5, I came home from my evening class with a migraine/mild diabetic reaction to too much flan, and a bug bite that I had an allergic reaction too (funny story; it’s called Skeeter Syndrome, and it means bites swell up into itchy 3″ in diameter welts). I tried to write, but ended up just going to bed, at 9:00, and sleeping it all off. I planned to catch up today, but between an unexpected trip to the mechanic’s (headlight went out this morning) and my son’s 7th birthday party tonight, I didn’t have time for it.

I’m hoping to catch up soon, but this weekend I’m headed out of town, which means not much writing will get done Friday, Saturday, and possibly Sunday.

And then I have a 20-page policy analysis paper due in a couple weeks, followed by an 8-page paper on my family’s ethnic integration in America. And a book launch in less than a month.

It’s not going to be pretty this month.

If you’re doing NaNo, how’s your progress coming along?

Genre hopping

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is to stay within the same genre. Many authors have no problem with this – they write all sci-fi, or thrillers, or romance. Me, I’m all over the place. My novel due out in December 2013, The Lone Wolf, is women’s fiction. My next one, A Handful of Wishes (tentatively scheduled to be released in December 2014), is magical realism. The one I wrote for NaNo last year, On the Other Side (aiming for December 2015), is steampunk. A short story collection I want to publish in the next year or so, Between Light and Dark, is a mix of horror and romance. The collection I hope to have out soon, The Futility of Loving a Soldier, is contemporary.

Fortunately my publisher, Evolved Publishing, is okay with my eclectic stories and novels. And I know many writers use a pen name when branching out to something new.

Part of the problem, however, is marketing to the right audience. If someone enjoys my horror stories like “Tim and Sara,” there’s no guarantee they’ll like my women’s fiction novel. Steampunk fans might not enjoy contemporary stories.

If you write in multiple genres, how do you deal with this? And as a reader, how do you feel about a writer hopping through different genres?

Resolutions: 2012 review and 2013 goals

2012

Last year, I set some goals for myself.

  1. Get an agent (which means stop picking at my novel and just send it out already).
  2. Finish my already-started novel, A Handful of Wishes.
  3. Have at least fifteen stories out on submission at any given time – currently I’m at nine.
  4. Get in shape, and then stay in shape.
  5. Learn how to neatly and nicely-looking lattice a pie.
  6. Date a rockstar (doesn’t matter who).

I’ve revisited them throughout the year, and now I’ll do the final wrap-up.

  1. I haven’t gotten an agent yet, but I did send out a bunch of queries.
  2. I didn’t finish A Handful of Wishes, but I did finish a novel for NaNoWriMo (although it’s only about 50,000 words right now and needs a ton of work).
  3. I never made the fifteen-story mark for submissions; I think the most I ever had out was twelve.  However, I had eleven acceptances this year, which really depleted my stock (not a bad thing!).
  4. I got a gym membership over the summer, but I haven’t been using it as much as I’d like.  Working a temp job really through me off; I refuse to work out if there are more than about seven people at the gym, which means going after work wasn’t an option (I prefer about 10 am).
  5. Most of my kitchen stuff, like most of the rest of my stuff, is currently in storage, so I didn’t make any pies this year, let along lattice them.
  6. The closest I came was seeing a guy from the local band Three Years Hollow at the gas station.  This band is awesome, by the way, if you like heavy alt rock bands like Breaking Benjamin or Chevelle.

2013
Before making my resolutions for the new year, I read a post over at Write It Sideways about how to effectively set goals.  The author suggests using SMART goals – goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (at least that’s how we defined them at the school where I last taught).  So, for example, rather than saying I want to read more, I should make my goal to read 100 books this year – it’s specific, measurable, attainable, and within a certain time frame.

With that in mind – and possibly overlooking the relevancy component – here are my goals for 2013.

  1. Publish my novel, The Lone Wolf.  I’m going to try the small press route, and I’ve already identified several potential publishers to query.
  2. Average a short story acceptance each month, with the majority of them in paying markets.  I’m really proud of my acceptance rate, but I’ve reached the point that I’d like to be compensated for my stories.  While pro markets would be ideal, token would meet this goal as well.
  3. Put out a short story collection.  I have three in the works, with about half the stories written for two of them.
  4. Get another novel ready to query – either 2012’s NaNoWriMo novel, or the one I’ve been working on for a couple years, A Handful of Wishes.
  5. Read 100 books this year.  That’s the goal I set for myself last year, and while I was making great progress for the first half of the year, I fell off at the end and only read 79.  I only include books I finish in this list.  I’ll hopefully be in grad school part time starting this summer, and hopefully working full time, so this will be a challenge, but I think I can do it.
  6. Kayak the entire length of the Hennepin Canal.  It’s about 100 miles, I think, and requires quite a bit of portage, but it’s definitely doable.  Assuming I get a job so I can buy a kayak, that is.
Mouth of the Hennepin Canal, taken October 2012

What are your goals for 2013?

Six Sentence Sunday 12/30 #sixsunday

Today’s six are from this year’s NaNo novel.

Eric, one of the MC’s, has fallen in love with Mariella.  She’s engaged to another guy, Dennis, but Eric decides to reveal his feelings anyways.  Decide having feelings for him too, Mariella quickly turns him down and lists the reasons she loves Dennis.

Her words hit Eric in the stomach. He’s smart and funny too, and takes care of Mariella; hasn’t he shown that, time and again? But this last bit – he can’t compete. He’s not a good man, not like Dennis is.

“I’m sorry,” she says as she takes a step towards him, fingers twitching at her side. “There’s no point in wondering what might have been, because it is what it is.”

Post a link to your six sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Six Sentence Sunday website

I won #NaNoWriMo 2012!

November held many distractions:  temp job (supposed to be 1-2 weeks, starting in October; I just finished with it yesterday – 8.5 weeks later), real-job searching, and epic flea battle.  It started slow, with a lack of interest in my novel combined with a ton of ideas for new short stories.  It ended with many nearly sleepless nights and 50,006 words of crap.  And this:

Fortunately I’d roughly plotted out the whole thing, and as I wrote, I figured out more – double agents, Tesla knockoffs, and magic mirrors.  It’s a rough draft, of course, but I think I can smooth it out into something worth reading.

My main takeaway from NaNoWriMo this year is to not procrastinate as severely next year.  That last week sucked; I was writing nonstop, mostly to get words down without thinking of character development or subplots, and that part will definitely need to be heavily revised, which means I’ve created more work for myself.  But at least I finished, right?

If you did NaNo, how’d it go? Did you learn anything about yourself or the writing process this year?

Six Sentence Sunday 12/2 #sixsunday

Another six from my NaNoWriMo novel (more about NaNo to come later this week).

Eric is eating lunch at a sidewalk cafe when Mariella walks into the street – and oncoming traffic.  He leaps up and pushes her out of the way.  They crash to the pavement, with her landing on top of him.

The woman stays on him for a brief moment and Eric focuses on how her body feels against his; the contours of her legs through her skirt, the warmth of her cheek beside his, and he wants to kiss her.

She pulls herself up from him, brushing herself off.

Eric scrambles to his feet. He wants to ask her if she’s okay, if she’s single, if she’ll offer him a kiss in thanks, but instead he says, “What were you thinking, walking into traffic like that? You could’ve been hurt.”

She turns to him, piercing him with an icy gray stare and says, “I’m fine, thank you for asking.”

Post a link to your six sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Six Sentence Sunday website.    

Six Sentence Sunday 11/25 #sixsunday

Today’s six are from my NaNoWriMo novel, which I still have every intention of finishing despite the fact that I still have about 46,000 words to go by midnight Friday.

I’m skipping scenes as I write, trying to get the materialized ones down first.  This one comes towards the end.  Eric, one of the main characters, has fallen in love with Mariella and makes a move on her, which she rejects.

“But the feeling’s there, right, and you would keep kissing me, if you didn’t have him?” Eric can’t bring himself to say her fiance’s name.

“But I do have him,” Mariella says as she shakes loose his hand, pulling away from him and wrapping her arms around her body. He feels so protective of her right now, wants to kiss away the tears he’s caused her, and it takes all his restraint to stay where he is.

“What is it about him?” Eric asks. “Why is he so special that he gets to have you?”

Post a link to your six sentences blog entry, or join the fun at the Six Sentence Sunday website.   

Finding a theme

It’s thirteen days into NaNoWriMo, and I’m stuck at just under 3000 words (I should be near 25,000 by now).

Part of it is because I’m just so busy: stupid job that allows no time for writing, trying to get to the gym a few times a week, searching and applying for jobs, helping my brother with the GED, and beginning my application for grad school.

But I realized today that a big reason for my procrastination is that my story has no overarching theme.  Right now, it’s just a steampunk mystery thriller.

My other two novels both had universal themes.  The Lone Wolf is a story of love and betrayal, forgiveness and redemption.  A Handful of Wishes has two themes: growth over a lifetime following Kolberg’s stages of moral development, and the destructive power of pride, through the genie Paribanu’s story.

When I write short stories, I don’t focus on theme; I just write, and usually something emerges.  Then it’s picked up on by critiquers, and I develop it more deeply during edits.

But my novels are different.  I need a deeper purpose while writing.  My NaNo novel has nothing, and until I figure out its message, I don’t know how far I can get.

Do you prefer books with meaningful themes, or do you want a story to be just a story?  For the writers out there, do you try to put a theme in your works?  And once it’s there, do you try to develop it more deeply, or do you keep it subtle/barely noticeable?

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