How I am Prepping My Life For Nanowrimo

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There is more to Nano prep then just writing outlines and character sketches. Right now I am doing the most important Nano prep I can do: sorting out life in general. If I can do that, then I will set myself up for a good chance at success.

Cleaning House: There isn’t much time in November to take care of the house like you’d usually do. I know if I sit down on November 1st and my house isn’t sorted out it will be a major distraction. I will want to finish cleaning and organizing which is wasted time. This week I started my fall cleaning: the upstairs bedrooms are freshened up, swept and mopped. Most of the downstairs is sorted. For me, as long as my kitchen and bathroom are clean I’m a happy camper. Having any big cleaning done for November helps prevent junk, dishes and laundry from piling up. Nobody wants to deal with that come December.

My office: Not only will a messy house distract me but so will a messy office. I did that room first. My desk is tidy and I can keep notes, snacks and drinks near me. I have a big comfy blanket on the floor so Foxy, our greyhound, can come in and keep me company while I write. Whatever writing space you are using, make sure it is tidy and organized.

Writing Fuel: With Halloween coming I’ll be picking up some extra goodies, especially if they are on sale. You can’t sit and write a novel without chocolate or another form of fuel. If you vise is coffee, pick up some of your fave flavors before November.

Food prep: This one will be easy for me since hubby is leaving for work. Since I will be only cooking for one, leftovers and easy meals will be my best friend in November. I do plan to make a few bigger meals so I can have leftovers for a few days. The last thing I want to do when I come home after work is spending a lot of time cooking and on clean up. I will want to get to my laptop ASAP.

Warning Friends it’s Nano time: Not that I have a super busy social life, but come November I will be posting on FB that it’s Nano, which means hibernation mode. Partly, at least. Pen pal letters will have to wait until December, some coffee dates will have to wait. People who care about you and support you don’t mind waiting a little while for your time.

So, how do you prep for Nano? What other non-writing ways is there to get ready?

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Get Crackin: Preptober

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It dawned on me today that I have yet to even start getting ready for Nanowrimo next month. I had a slight panic attack but seeing as how it’s still early in the month, I relaxed a little.

Everyone has their own way of getting ready. Some are old school like me and write up notes and index cards, while others use programs like Scrivener. (I will get that eventually…she said for the umpteenth time).

Some writers have a full blown manuscript on just their prep alone, with pages of character sketches, maps, plot points, scene break down, etc… While others have little to no idea the day Nano starts. (You people are my heroes…I know people who have had success doing this.  I am not one of those people.)

If you don”t know what your method is, just find what works for you. All writers are different. What works for me might not work for you.

This is what I need to prep this year:

Characters: I am writing in the same universe as my Blood Bonds so I know my charcters well, but there are a couple of new faces. One has introduced himself to me, the other two are being coy and won’t come out of the shadows…yet. Hopefully they will by November 1st.

Setting: Again, same universe so I know the setting well. I will be getting to know it a tad more, but nothing too major.

Plot: Ok, so this is where is gets tricky. Basically I know I want two things in particular to happen…in my head one is a plot and the other is a subplot, but things may go a bit differently. I need to think on my story more. I plan to write some scenes I know I want to happen. I will bring out the index cards and use that method. It’s one of my faves. This will help me figure out plot and give me something to work with come November.

Rewards: Yeah, this is totally on my prep list. I need some sort of treat to fuel me to get a few extra words in. If I hit 25k ahead of schedule, I am having a day off and a Big Mac. I used to use Halloween candy. Like, have a piece after five hundred words or so. But let’s face it, I can’t refrain myself from dippin in the treat bowl. 😉

So, what are you doing to prep for Nano? Do you know what your project is for this year?

 

Writing: That Impostor Feeling

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You know that voice you hear when you’re writing something and it says things like “Omg this is total crap”, “You really should go back and edit this before you write another word” or “This is worst thing ever written”. 

That voice is the inner critic. The voice that makes you doubt your idea, your story or that last sentence you just wrote.

I learned to tune that asshole out a few years ago. My first time taking part in Nanowrimo, to be honest. There wasn’t any time to listen to him. I couldn’t stop and edit because I had to get to that 50k word goal.

Well, now I have a different voice in my ear when I write. It’s the inner critic’s big brother. The voice that makes me feel like I’m an impostor. A fraud.

This goes beyond the inner critic. This isn’t a matter of writing a horrible paragraph. This is the voice that says “Why do you even write at all? Your stories are garbage and there are soooo many great authors out there. Why are you even trying?”

This asshole is hard to tune out. But I’ll do it.

The last few days I feel like I snuck into the the cool kids house party, but nobody has realized I’m there. I came in the back door, been hanging out by the snack table when I am not hiding in the darker corners of the house.

And it’s only a matter of time before I am caught and thrown out.

Last night I went for coffee with a friend of mine, who is also a writer. She has a number of novels published, short stories published and she is a fantastic story teller. The night before we got together for coffee, I was thinking about how prolific she is and how I wished I could have her talent. While having coffee, she told me she wished she was more prolific. And I had to laugh, and I admitted that the night before I wished she was as prolific as she was. It just goes to show, every writer is hard on themselves, for one reason or another.

When you have these self doubts, ignore them. It’s hard at first, trust me. The easy way would be to quit doing what you love. But then the bastard in your ear wins. And who wants that?

My friend shared this article last night, How to Keep Writing even when you feel like a fraud. I found it really helpful.

So, if you have this impostor feeling, don’t give up. I know I won’t.

 

 

A Letter to My 18 Year Old Self: On Writing

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Dear Kid, (cuz yeah, that’s what you still are)

You’re a daydreamer. And good news: that doesn’t stop. Bonus points: it pays off someday. In the not to distant future, you’re gonna get published for the first time. How great is that?!

But here is the thing…you gotta KEEP writing. Even when it is shit. ESPECIALLY when it is shit.

Don’t throw out any of your work. That’s a pain in the heart you can’t get back. Every bit of writing should be kept. Just in case. If anything, you can see how you’ve grown. Or have a good laugh.

Backup EVERYTHING. Anything you save on a laptop, save in other places. Hell, email it to yourself. Because when the time comes and you don’t do that, you will hate yourself. Trust me.

Write more. Put writing at the top of your priority list. Fill those note books with ideas, dreams, scene and plot ideas. Write more short stories. Start those novels. Finish them. Even if it is just ten or twenty minutes a day, write something down.

Read more. Not just fiction. You got that pretty covered. Read books on writing. Blogs on writing. There is lots of great (and not so great) info out there.

And when you get the chance, go to that writers group. Don’t be nervous. Trust me, it’s one of the best things you will ever do.

And last but not least, don’t beat yourself up. When writing isn’t going well or you feel like your idea is stupid, don’t get frustrated. Just keep going Kid. Books and story telling have been in your heart since day 1.

Love,

Your future self

How to Critique a Story When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

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It isn’t always easy to give feedback when an author, friend or otherwise, asks you to be be a beta reader. At least, it isn’t always easy for me.

I’m not used to critiquing. In the beginning, I was crap, no doubt about it. But over the years I have slowly gotten better at it. Between people reading for me and being a beta for others, I have grown better at giving helpful feedback.

Tip 1) It isn’t easy if you feel like you are going to hurt someone’s feelings. Just approach it with tact and know that the author needs your help. Writers can’t approve and grow if everyone keeps telling them “oh I loved your story” with no other input.

Tip 2) Read the story first as a reader. Don’t worry about picking out issues unless something catches your eye. Then read the story again, slower this time, and keeping an eye out for issues with characters, plot and even grammar. Not every beta reader will find every problem. Just do what you can.

Tip 3) Don’t focus on the negative. I try to point out one positive thing for every few points of constructive criticism. Writers need to know what they are doing right, along with the hiccups of their story.

Tip 4) Take notes. As you are reading, jot down what you like, the plot issues, etc…Then later on use these notes to organize your thoughts when giving feedback.

Tip 5) Make sure to let the author know if this is a genre you typically read or not. I know when someone is reading one of my vampire stories, if the supernatural isn’t their thing, then my sights are set low for how much they enjoy it. And that is totally ok. I am looking for issues with pacing, if I have a cardboard character, etc…

I hope this helps. I still don’t feel totally comfortable giving someone feedback, but I do my best. And after all, practice makes perfect. 😉

 

Planning My Story Bible

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What’s a story bible? Something to help keep your universe and characters in order, especially when writing a series or epic fantasy. All your important info at your fingertips for when you need to find the name of your hero’s first cousin or how your magick system works.

I started making one for my Lily and Quinn series, but I have recently decided to start fresh. The biggest problem for me is that I am a total journal junkie, so now I have to figure out what to use for it. (Word docs or something on your comp works too! I just like having something I can hold in my hand.)

I also want to break mine down a bit more then I did originally. Is that what I should do or is that the planner/journal junkie inside of me? Hopefully it will all work out so that the series bible I make will be helpful and not one big mess. 😉

This is how I plan to break mine down. If you have made one, or plan to make one, I would love to hear what other sections you have in yours! 🙂

Characters-A) My writing buddies know I am a huge fan of visual character sketches. I am going to put a photo or two per page of what my characters look like. (I have some from magazines and those I printed). I will also make bullet point notes on physical appearance, so that if I just want to double check on my hero’s eye color, I will open to the first few ages of my notebook and find it.

Characters-B) The character sketch. Bullet points on my characters and notes.  I will be sure to leave extra space. My fictional best friends tell me something new about them on a regular basis.

Timeline- I have four short stories published with this world, and a fifth on the way. Not to mention novels I have started/written. I will have a section to timeline for linking important events, plus bullet points on what happened in each story.

Vampire/supernatural lore- One big thing I had to come up with in my stories are my vampires. What kills them, how a person turns, abilities, etc… On top of that I have other supernatural creatures and a magick system, so I need to have sections devoted to that. I almost wrote myself in a corner once with how the vampire system works in my universe. I don’t want to do that again.

The Bad Guys- Some of my villains have been killed off, while others are still (possibly) at large. Each one of them, dead or alive, will have their own page of notes. Even the dead ones might come back, since I plan to write a prequel or two.

Setting- My universe is pretty much where I live, but with changes. I need to make notes on certain places, such as where characters live, favorite places to go, etc… If my world was in a sci-fi setting or alternate universe, my notes would be way more in depth.

Maps/photos- As with my characters, I like having a visual as well as written notes to look back on for my setting. I will use my own drawn maps for some of it, as well as sections of real world maps.

Notes- A section for other story ideas and things I want to include. This will be in the back section. Sometimes when I am out, I make notes in my phone, or on scraps of paper. I need to keep my ideas together in one spot for a change, so my series bible will be the best spot for them.

Every writer has their own tools, and for me, a series bible will be a valuable tool.

 

Why Every Writer Needs A Writers Group

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No matter if it is an online group or an in-person meeting, being in a writers group can help you out a lot. Joining my group was one of the best things I have ever done. I joined The Story Forge about fifteen years ago.

My group is laid back. We get that life happens and you can’t make it to every meeting or that you can’t get so many chapters written. There are also groups out there with more structure.

A Mixed Bag.  Our group has everyone from those who write for fun and for themselves, as well as published authors who are busy in the writing community. (Writers in schools programs, signings, readings etc…) We bounce around ideas and talk about various topics. We all also have different genres that interest us, from poetry to sci-fi and mainstream. Everyone has something to offer.

Support and Encouragement. I have left more than one meeting feeling inspired and ready to concur my current writing project. And on days I have felt like I want to give up, my friends help me realize that I am being crazy. If one of us is in the middle of something big or crazy, like NaNoWrimo, we encourage each other to keep going. Not every one in our daily life understands what a writer is feeling, but your writing friends always do and are there to back you up or give you a kick in the pants if needed.

You Learn A lot. My writing and editing skills have improved immensely since I started going to The Story Forge.  I also feel more confident when I critique someones work. While I am far from perfect, I enjoy helping others and feel I can help.

Brainstorming. Stuck with a plot? Need advice on a topic? Or maybe you are unsure if killing a character will help or hinder your story? Ask your writing buddies. They will give you feedback that you can mull over and help you figure out where to go next. Sometimes more brains are better than one.

Feedback. Finished a piece and need a second pair of eyes? Odds are someone will offer to read your work for you. The great thing about this is that they may see something you missed. When you read your own work umpteen times, you are going to miss the little things, or a problem you didn’t realized you had.

A Night Out. Writers tend to be solitary. Not always, but I am one of them. When I am not at work or out with friends, my favorite night in is curled up with hubby watching tv or with a book. It’s good to get out and talk with people who share your interests.

 

Where to find a group: Check your local library and ask a librarian. That’s how I learned about The Story Forge. You can also find them online like on Facebook. I belong to online groups as well, but meeting up in person gets you out of the house for an evening out, and you can make real life friends you can meet up with in between times. One of my friends is coming over tomorrow, for a coffee and a mini writing session. When all else fails, start your own! Put up a flyer at a local library or start your own online group.

How I have changed and benefited since joining my group: I have been published four times. (Soon to be a fifth…our group is putting an anthology together and the money made will go to our local library.) I have learned a lot about writing and improved so much. I have made some great friends; one of which was my matron of honor. I have become more confident and learned how to turn my inner critic off.

That’s just my take on it. I love my group so much and think every writer can benefit from having one.

Do you belong to a group? What is your favorite thing about it?