Staying Sane as a Debut Writer

Laura ThrenthamDo As I Say, and Not As I Do.

~ By Laura Trentham 

I imagine every book has its own challenges, but your debut book is a special breed. Not only is it the first time you’re sending your words out for the masses to read, but it’s an unknown. Expectations are sometimes far from reality. I pinged a special group of women for input—the Golden Heart class of 2014, the Dreamweavers. If you’re every lucky enough to final in the Golden Heart, you come to understand these other women are kind of like your graduating class. All of you final as unpublished authors, but a huge percentage go on to publish. Here are a few things to keep in mind as a newly published author:

1. Do not stalk Goodreads for reviews This was especially difficult for me as my book hit NetGalley six weeks or so before my release date. You veer from elation to despair depending on what the reviewer thought. And, as many times as you tell yourself, it’s out of my hands or I know not everyone will love it. It stinks when someone actually, really doesn’t like it. I’d liken Goodreads to a form of torture.

** This does get easier with each release. Your skin gets tougher and bad reviews get easier to brush off.

2. Do not follow your Amazon ranking like a stock price I poached this advice from my GH sister Julie Mulhern who heard it on an RWA conference recording. Amazon is crazy, y’all. Rankings change hourly, and with the introduction of Amazon Unlimited, can jump around like a rabbit on crack. 3. Temper your expectations Unless you’re an anomaly, you are not going to be a bestseller. You will not be in Amazon’s top 100 or even 1000. Heck, you’ll be doing great to crack the 10,000. My expectations were too high, and when I didn’t reach them, it messed with my head in a very negative way. I started to doubt myself. My productivity went down. I was distracted and unhappy and anxious when I should have been celebrating a release.

gray catThis is where other writers can really support you. They can pat you on the back and tell you what you’re feeling is normal.

4. Publicity is never-ending  This can be terrifying or comforting depending on where you fall. Especially for a debut book, you can feel a little like a lost chick looking for someone to herd you along. Your publisher may be very supportive (setting up reviews/blog tours, etc.) or not at all, leaving you to hire a town yeoman to announce your book release.

The positive here is realizing that not everything hinges on having the most fantabulous release day ever. You can book blog tour a month or year later. Like my GH sister Nan Dixon says, a sale is a sale no matter when it happens.

5. Do not compare yourself to other writers This was mentioned by two other awesome writers, Erika Kelly and Amy Patrick. It’s hard to put on your blinders and focus on your path. Your path is not going to be like anyone else’s path, but if you keep to your path and put one foot in front of another, I truly believe you’ll reach the goals you set for yourself. And, those goals will be different for every other writer.

So what can you do to make your debut a success? If you write a great book and put it out there, it will find readers. Will it be the day or month or even year you release it? Maybe not…maybe readers will find that book after you release your third or fourth or tenth book. The key to making your debut a success is to make sure your debut is not your only book.

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Visit her at www.LauraTrentham.com or connect on Twitter at @LauraTrentham or on Facebook or Pinterest.

Reentry and Giving Yourself a Break

Melina Kantor~ By Melina Kantor

We hear it all the time.

BICHOK.

Want to be a writer? Write.  Writers write every day.  And of course, all of that is true. But I've got to confess something. I just finished a first draft of a story. I sat my butt down and put my hands on the keyboard for several hours for 29 days and won NaNoWriMo. For a month, my dogs were neglected. My refrigerator was empty. My nice gel manicure slowly peeled off, leaving me with broken nails. I was exhausted. And people were talking about starting revisions on December 1st. Ha! You know what I said to that?

"Uh, no. Don’t do that." (And not because those overachievers were making me look bad.) 

Now, before you read my advice, I’ll give the standard spiel about how what works for one writer (me) may not work for you (hi!), and to always take writing advice with a grain of salt.

The next phase of your noveling process is of course up to you, but here’s my humble yet very strong opinion.

Author Lani Diane Rich, the first previously unpublished author to publish a book written during NaNo, advises waiting six weeks before starting the revision process. She compares those six weeks to letting bread dough rise. 

Why? Well, any form of a writing marathon lacks one thing that your stories desperately need.

Time.

She's right. Trying to work with dough before it has risen enough is really, really a pain. The final product may be good enough, but probably dense and kind of chewy and just not right. But if you wait, forming a nice, neat loaf (or braid) is much less painful, and the final product is much more pleasant to eat.

Candle, hot drink, glasses, blanketThe same goes for your stories. When you finish a first draft, give your eyes, your brains, and your bodies a well-deserved break and put those stories away. When you come back to a draft after six weeks (or whenever is good for you), you’ll weave the “dough” you formed into a tight, neat story that’ll be smoother for you and your readers.

That said, if you let your dough rise too long, you can end up with an airy mess that’s almost impossible to work with. 

It’s okay to step away from your story. Use the time to think about your novel, make collages, use pictures from IMDB to “cast” your novel, and listen to your playlist. If you miss writing, write something completely different from what you normally write, like an essay or short story.

Feed your muse by reading and watching TV and movies.

Even if you don’t do any writing-related tasks for a while, your story will stay in your brain, taking care of itself. (Think of your story as a stew and your brain as a slow cooker).

Meanwhile, see your friends and family. Give your pets some love. Curl up under a blanket. Drink tea. Go out and do things that make you happy. Get that manicure. And get some sleep. Don't feel guilty. Don't compare yourself to other writers who are still at their keyboards. You just wrote a novel. At the moment, you have nothing to prove. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You know that when you go back to your story, you'll be mentally and physically stronger, ready for an efficient and hopefully quick revision battle.

One more thing. As you face "reentry" into the real world, don't forget about your accomplishments. Use that feeling of pride to fuel everything you've got going on. 

Enjoy the ride! Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels.  In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem.  You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.

About Characterization. . .

~ By Mellanie Szereto

I love stories with three-dimensional characters, both main and secondary. They draw me into the story, and I'm invested in their journeys. What makes a fully developed character?

Characterization.

Yes, the reader should have a general idea of the character's physical traits, but I don't necessarily mean a specific height, weight, eye color, and hair color rundown. Unless he/she is being described for a police report, these characteristics should be worked in without making the description obvious.

Just as important as what the character looks like is how her life experience has influenced who she is, how she interacts with others, her mannerisms, etc.—personality traits. They help readers get a better sense of who the character is and why. Some examples:

The hero might crack his knuckles as he watches the heroine talk and laugh with a guy he doesn't know. Rather than saying he's worried or nervous he might have competition for her attention, the action shows his nervousness and anxiety. It can be a habit he's trying to break.

four people next to each other (heads and feet not visible)If the heroine grew up in a bad neighborhood, she might use a swagger and nasty attitude to cover her fears. Give her a smart mouth and great dialogue but vulnerable internal dialogue to turn her into a sympathetic character. Make a secondary character memorable by making that great aunt feisty and outspoken, or the shy little sister can have a gift with abused animals. The little things your characters do and say give the reader deeper insight into their strengths and weaknesses. They encourage a deeper connection and make the reader more invested in the story. Remember that showing is more effective than telling. Make your readers love (or hate) your characters by making them real.

* What are your tips for characterization? *

When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.

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Tips for Proofreading Your Manuscript

Liz Dempsey~ By Liz Dempsey

Well done to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, no matter how far into the process you made it. If you managed to get a whole book drafted, then you’re now at the stage of revising your work—either for a second draft, or in order to send it to your editor. Here are some tips to help you see your manuscript with fresh eyes and catch those embarrassing mistakes we all make. Bear in mind that proofreading your own work can be challenging. Your over-familiarity with your story may mean that you tend to skim over the words when reading it. Many errors can be overlooked, as you often read what you meant to write, rather than what you actually wrote. 

In saying that, if you work out a system based on the guidelines below, you’ll catch a lot of the mistakes that inevitably slip into your work. Just remember that proofing your own work isn’t a substitute for using a professional editor and proofreader. But if you follow these steps before handing your manuscript over to them, you will be presenting them with a more polished piece that requires much less work. This can mean savings for you, as their charges will be lower.

So here are some tips to get you on the right track with proofreading. I hope you find them helpful.

  • It’s hard to proofread a manuscript that you’ve just finished. Put your writing aside for a while—a few hours, or even a few days—to allow yourself to look at it with fresh eyes. Alternatively, give it to a trusted friend. Someone reading the manuscript for the first time is more likely to spot mistakes.
  • Try reading it in a different medium. If you’ve become used to reading it on your computer screen, print it out, or send it to an e-reader. Then you’ll be looking at your manuscript in a different way.
  • Altering the layout and look of your manuscript, changing font size, spacing, or style of the text, can trick your brain into thinking it’s seeing an unfamiliar document, which can give you a different perspective on your writing.
  • Find a quiet place where you can concentrate and avoid interruptions or distractions.
  • Take frequent breaks. Your concentration will start to wane if you try to proofread your entire manuscript in one sitting.
  • Know your weaknesses (perhaps keep a list). If you have certain errors you know you often tend to make, take extra care to search for these. Use the search function to look for the most obvious mistakes you’re likely to make.
  • Read slowly, and read every single word. Try reading out loud, or have your computer read it to you using a text-to-speech converter.
  • Don’t rely on spelling and grammar checkers. They are handy tools, but they miss many issues. They do serve a purpose, but it’s important that you recognize their limitations.
  • Proofread for only one thing at a time. It’s easier to catch punctuation and spelling mistakes if you aren’t checking for grammar errors at the same time.  Edit the big stuff first, the small stuff second. Make the big changes and adjustments to your story, and then check the spelling and sentence structure afterwards. Check the formatting last of all.
  • Highlight every punctuation mark. As you do this, ask yourself if the punctuation is correct.
  • Read your manuscript backwards. This technique is helpful for checking spelling. Because content, punctuation, and grammar won’t make any sense, your focus will be entirely on the spelling of each word.
  • Keep style guides, reference books, and dictionaries close at hand to check as you go.  If you’re unsure of something, or if it looks wrong but you’re not sure why, check it by looking it up.
  • Don’t edit and proofread forever. This is an important stage, but it’s one you need to get through reasonably quickly. Do the best job you can to make your manuscript presentable, then hand it over to a professional editor and proofreader, whose job it is to make your work even better.

Good luck with your edits. I hope you get a wonderful book out of your NaNoWriMo experience. Feel free to contact me if you need any more advice, or if you’d like me to assist you with editing or proofreading your manuscript.

Liz Dempsey (The Error Eliminator)

My name is Liz. I am a single mother of one wonderful daughter. I work part-time in education administration, and in my spare time I love to read! As a self-confessed perfectionist, I pay attention to detail and I take great pride in my ability to spot mistakes in the books that I read. I have many years of experience working on fiction and corporate writing. Although I’m based in New Zealand, I am comfortable working with US/UK/AU/NZ spelling and grammar. If you would like to work with me, please get in touch with a sample of your work for a free quote.

Giving Up

Laura Threntham~ By Laura Trentham 

I was discussing TV shows with my hubby the other night. He wanted me to binge watch a show with him. I told him I did not have time to pick up another show. His response? “You have the time; it’s just not a priority.”

Well…he’s right.

My free time is limited these days, and I’ve cut back on certain things. I went from stay-at-home mom with plenty of time to volunteer at the school and watch TV to a full time writer on deadline while trying to do all the a stay-at-home mom stuff like making dinner (These small humans running around my house require constant feeding!) Things have changed, priorities have shifted, and it’s a work in progress. One thing I’ve had to work hard at not letting fall off my list is my relationship with my hubby. It’s honestly been difficult to find the right balance.

Here are some things I’ve had to cut back on or cut out of my life entirely:

  1. Morning television. It was nice knowing you, Kelly Ripa. Maybe we’ll catch up over the holidays.
  2. Volunteering. I know the greatest joy we get in life is giving back. And, I’ve done a lot of it over the past few years. From helping to run a local Mom’s Club to organizing our PTA Carnival to corralling eighty kids for an afterschool Lego Club. Someday, I’ll dip my toes into something worthwhile, but right now, I’vebacked off from volunteer commitments to focus on something else that gives me joy. Writing. Do I feel guilty? A little, but I’ll get over it.
  3. Cleaning. I’m not going to claim to have been a neat freak even before getting the writing bug. But, my family never had to dig through the pile of clean, unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor for a pair of undies. I can say with ~95% confidence you will not leave my house with a food-borne illness. However, if you are allergic to dog or cat hair, you’d better bring a bottle of Benadryl and/or an inhaler.
  4. Reading. I know this seems counter-intuitive. Most writing advice tells you to read, read, read in order to be a better writer. And, I do agree…to some extent. I AM reading for huge chunks of my day. But, I’m reading/editing my writing or reading/CP’ing for other writers. I’m also hesitant to read in the genre I’m writing, and these days I’m writing both contemporaries and historical romances. I’ve read interviews from Big Time authors who don’t read in their genre either, so I feel justified. I’m mostly afraid I’ll subconsciously transfer something. But, I’m a member of a kick-butt book club, and I always read our selection. Usually something highbrow and literary and depressing.
  5. Exercising. This is one area where I’m searching for balance. Mommy no likey the writer’s muffin-top I’ve cultivated, and as I am over forty now, it’s proving more difficult to control the expansion. But, I have a difficult time leaving my writing for a workout if I haven’t reached my word count goal for the day.
  6. Socializing. My days of gossiping in the PTA room or grabbing coffee or heading out for girl’s nights are on the wane. Besides my book club ladies and my local writing friends, who I see on a regular basis, there are only a handful of people that I call on a regular basis. I’m still close to a group of college girlfriends, and we get together a couple of weekends a year and email regularly. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t have time to expand my base of friends. Don’t I sound terribly unfriendly?
  7. Sleep. I think we’re all in this dozy boat, right? I’m either going to bed late to spend time with my hubby and/or getting up early to write before the kids wake up for school. The result is a deficit. Lack of sleep makes me very grumpy. So, back to Number 6…maybe you don’t want to be my friend anyway

* What about you guys? Anything you’ve given up to pursue writing or another dream? *

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Visit her at www.LauraTrentham.com or connect on Twitter at @LauraTrentham or on Facebook or Pinterest.

Writing Sprints Make a Difference

Leigh Duvan~ By Leigh Duvan When you hear the word Sprint your first reaction might be to think of Olympic Runners or Track & Field Events - you know like the 100-meter dash. Sprinting is associated with “going fast” and the actual verb definition is: run at full speed over a short distance. Today we’re going to take the sprint to another level - a writing level. A few years back when I started writing “for real”, I came across a group of writers who would “sprint” together. The more I learned about writing sprints, the more I fell in love with them. I found they fit my tight schedule well: 30 minutes here, 45 minutes there, and if I was lucky a full hour tucked away at Starbucks. What I found even better than sprinting alone was sprinting with others because I have always done better with someone to “run” with giving me some accountability. It was harder to talk myself out of writing when someone was waiting for me to start a sprint or report my word count. Writing can be lonely. We may find writing buddies, beta readers, critique partners and such over time, but the reality is, it is usually just the individual writer and their trusty computer or notepad. Clever writers will add sprints to their arsenal for word count and connection. Setting Up A Writing Sprint A writing sprint is simple to organize. Find a friend or two and commit to writing together at a specific time. For example in the Romance Writers Sprinting Group that race horseI run on Facebook, we have writers from all over the world. Someone will make a post saying “Hey anybody around to do a 30 or 45 minute sprint this morning?” Then a time gets picked to start and off they go. Sprints usually start on the : 00, :15, :30, :45 and increments go for 30, 45 or 60 minutes. When the time is complete, participants come back and report word counts. Sometimes we might have 2 people sprinting together, sometimes we’ll have a larger group. It’s all flexible and depends on who is around. At the end everyone who participated has moved their MS forward. And that’s a great feeling! Note: If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you can use this tool for personal or group sprints. It'll even give you prompts! Also be sure to follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter where you can participate in sprints happening around the clock.  Benefits of a Being a Regular Sprinter  I find the habit of sprinting to be valuable especially when you can do them with others. Sprinting with others is not a competitive thing. It is more of a social thing. A virtual cheering squad. Let’s face it, any new words written puts you ahead of where you were before you started.I find it gratifying to be part of the process of helping writers moving towards their finished chapter or manuscripts - it’s fun! Sprinting also helps you become a faster writer. When I started writing I was slow, painstakingly slow. Over time I became faster and now in an hour I can do anywhere from 800 to 1000 words as long as I know where I’m going with the story. Whether you’re at 200 words or 1,000 words an hour know that getting the words on paper as quickly as possible helps build your writing habit. And writing consistently helps you get faster too. Every day I look forward to a 30 or 60 minute sprint. And on the days that I don't get the chance to do them I don't feel bad about it. But I do miss them, which is part of building that daily writing habit. If you're a part-time writer, like me, this is a great way to connect with other writers and make friends. It's also a great way to find encouragement for what you're doing. Even if you only sprint three or four days out of seven you're still getting words on paper and honing your skills, which is the important piece of the puzzle Remember: you can do anything for a short burst of time. This helps you make writing a priority. Maybe you work a job, maybe you have family responsibilities, maybe that particular day is just completely cray cray. And you think, “I can’t write today.” Instead, you shift your mind and to say to the world, “Gimme 30 minutes” then I’ll make dinner. And you go get some words on the paper. I find that writing sprints help the creative process because one you have a short focused and you have to be ready to sit at the computer no distractions and get out whatever comes in that time period. Sprints keep you IN your book. If you’re interested, check out my Romance Writer's Sprinting Group May the words come to you swiftly and easily and may all of your writing dreams come true! Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.

Writer’s Block

~ By Mellanie Szereto

What happens when an author’s creativity slows to a tickle or stops altogether? Besides PANIC, Writer’s Block is the most common term for the condition. What are the causes? What’s the cure?

Lots of issues can lead to writer’s block, but one of the most frequent causes is burnout. Authors tend to write every day, usually eight or more hours a day and close to three hundred sixty-five days a year. A few days away can recharge the brain and allow the mind to focus on something else. Writing inspiration often comes from observing—people, nature, etc. Think of the time spent on “vacation” as research.

Stress is another major factor in abandonment by the muse. Unfortunately, it’s often a fact of life—but exercise can combat the effects of stress, leading to a relaxed mind and free-flowing thoughts. Diet, which may be affected by stress, can also affect mood and health, which in turn can cause stress. Break the cycle. Physical wellbeing can improve the state of the mind. Since writers tend to lead sedentary lives, proper diet and exercise can make a substantial difference in reducing writer’s block as well improving stress levels and general health.

Lack of sleep and some medications can also affect the ability to focus on a story. Note taking and in-depth plotting can be helpful aids in dealing with medication-related concentration problems. Better sleep habits or daily naps may make a difference with sleep deprivation and/or insomnia-related writing issues.

woman at computer Possibly the most frustrating of all causes is the story itself. Oftentimes, the author’s subconscious mind notices problems with the story before the author does. Logic lapses, plot issues, and inconsistent characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Does the story start in the right place? Is each scene written in the most effective POV? Setting aside the manuscript for several days reduces familiarity, and mistakes are more easily spotted on a read-through. A critique partner or beta reader can also help in these instances. Fix the issues, and the story will likely begin flowing again.

Lack of confidence is another creativity killer. Some writers need to complete multiple drafts of a single manuscript before it’s ready for editing. Others edit as they go. No matter the process, writing should be as enjoyable as it is hard. Perfection isn’t the immediate goal. A finished manuscript comes first. Edits and feedback follow to improve the story and/or the craft.

Take a deep breath, give the muse a boot in the behind, and WRITE!

* What do you do when writer's block hits? Share your tips in the comments! *

When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.

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NaNoWriMo – Why You Win Even When You Lose

Leigh Duvan~ By Leigh Duvan

There are only a few days left to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2017.

You may still be on the fence about NaNo or thinking there’s no way you can win, so why bother even doing it. Today I’m going to tell you in Nike form to JUST DO IT! Sign up! Unless you’re going to be hiding under a rock for the month of November, there’s no reason not to be a participant. I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s the sign up link: https://nanowrimo.org/

Now, before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. I've participated in NaNo four times over the course of the last four years. And in that time I've only officially won ONE TIME - yep, once. That very first year. It wasn’t easy and life was crazier than crazy - my strategy then was to panster my way through my book and lock myself in a room at home or coffee shop for hours at a time on weekends to make up for weekdays I didn’t write. But dagnabit, I’m competitive and HAD to win. I HAD to hit 50,000 new words. Even if they were crappy. And many were. I used every trick in the book - first and last names of characters, fully writing contractions out. Writing a useless scene I knew I would cut. You name it, I did it. I WON and had something in MS format to work with at the end of the month. Did I mention it was my first year taking writing as a profession seriously...so yah, I HAD to win!

With the goal of NaNo being to create habits and get it done because consistency leads to achievement. I had to have a plan - even for a Panster. Here’s how I did it:

I added padding in for the days I knew I wouldn't be able to write 1,667 words, like the days work would be insane and for those days around Thanksgiving where I knew family and friends would take up my time. What that meant was that on another day I would need more time to get three, four, or five thousand words in (remember that locked room?).

I made sure my family was supportive and knew that mommy needed some alone time, and hubby was on deck to handle the basics for an hour or two or five when needed. But this post ISN’t about winning NaNo. This post is about being a winner whether you officially win NaNo or not. You see, the second year I participated, I only wrote25,000 words over 30 days. By NaNoWriMo standards, I LOST.  I was a BIG LOSER. I had two business trips that month for 4-5 days each and Thanksgiving. I barely had time to breathe much less write and I felt terrible. Here’s when reality hit me - for someone who didn’t have time to write consistently 25,000 NEW words was an incredible amount in a month. That’s a good ⅓ of a book. Most people don’t write a ⅓ of a book in a quarter or year much less a month. That’s a WIN.

Now if you are used to writing one, two, three or four thousand words a day and you’re consistent you go get that book out there and I can’t wait to read it. Use NaNo the way you need to for you which is different and a separate post.

If you get a few hundred words a day or maybe you get a couple thousand words over the course of a week or two or a month then Nano is the jumpstart that you need to get consistency under your belt. That’s why you want to be a participant. Back to my story of year two and those 25,000 words that I wrote.  I was technically a “BIG LOSER” yet I had a strong mindset so I turned things around on myself.  I was really a winner in my book because I had 25,000 new words to be able to edit and adjust and do something with. More than I started with on November 1st. That’s SOMETHING to celebrate and as writer’s we need to celebrate the wins. Sure I didn’t get the sponsor prizes, but new words on the page to edit meant so much more to me.

Year three was a complete bust. I wrote something like 3,000 words in the month. I was working a day job for 70 hours a week and had all the kid and family duties as hubby was traveling too. My house was cray cray. There was no way any writing was going to be done much less 1,667 a day. This had nothing to do with mindset. This was reality. I didn’t have to to think much less write.

Basically I signed up and didn't fully participate. I don’t count that as a win or lose.  But I realized that it was a time that I probably should not have even put the stress of NaNo on my plate. Year Four I didn't do Nano. I didn't sign up. I didn't plan to do it. I just let it go and pass me by because I was in the same boat as year three.

Now in my fifth year as a committed writer I am signed up for NaNo and what I realized is that when I get started on November 1st - no matter what I write, as long as I write, I am starting and finishing a winner. And I will admit I’m only working about 50 hours a week and there are no business trips coming up. So, there IS less external pressure. There is definitely a time to be a realist versus an optimist ;-)

I’ve decided, this time around, I'm a winner whether I get 10 words a day, 100 words a day or the magical 1,667 a day. If I win by their standards of 50,000 words - I get some prizes, Yay Me.  And yes, that’s what I’m going for this time. The “Official Win”. However, if I get 20,000 new words for the month I STILL win and so do my readers.  That's the beauty of mindset. Mindset helps you be the winner. Your mindset is where it's at. How you think about the experience will guide your experience.

I'm going into it and I want you to go into it thinking about the fact that you are a winner as long as you get words toward your story done and you begin to create some pattern of consistency.

Maybe in those 30 days you can only write four days a week. But if those four days a week yield words and you're consistent you're a winner. Or maybe you can only write on the weekends but you crank out five to six thousand words on the weekend. You're a winner.

Maybe you write every other day and that becomes your pattern. If you come out at the end with more words than you started with YOU ARE A WINNER.  I want you to remember that. Whether you “officially” win or lose NaNo if you get new words on paper you win and your readers will too.

Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.  

What Does It All Mean?

The Confusing World of Editing and Proofreading

Liz Dempsey~ By Liz Dempsey

For the new writer, understanding the function of the professionals involved in the process of readying your book for market, and the terminology used by the editing and proofreading world, can be daunting. It doesn’t help that often the same job comes with several different titles. To help you get your head around it all and decide which type of editor and proofreader you need, here is a quick guide.

Editor—Content/Developmental/Substantive/Story

These are all pretty much the same thing. This type of editor will help you sort out the book as a whole. They will look at details such as plot, character arc, structure, and genre points. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your story and characters as a whole, then this is the person you need. If you sign a contract with a publishing house, this is also the function of the editor you will have assigned to you.

Editor—Stylistic/Line

A line editor will look at the way you use language to communicate your story to your reader. Their job is not to comb through your book looking for technical errors. They are looking at the creative content, writing style, pacing and language used at the sentence and paragraph level. They will check whether your language is clear, fluid, and enjoyable to read, and whether the words you’ve chosen convey a clear message, or are clichés and broad generalizations. If you want to ensure your story reads as well as it possibly can, in terms of language used and writing style, this is the editor you need.

Editor—Copy/Sub-Editor

This type of editor isn’t concerned with the overall story, character development or whether your book fits within the publishing house’s genres. This editor is concerned with flaws on a very technical level. They are interested in things such as appropriate word usage, consistency within the manuscript concerning story details andcharacter attributes, paragraphing and word choice, grammatical mistakes, spelling consistency, fact checking and general random mistakes. They will often make a style sheet for your work to ensure consistency. If you’re looking for someone with an eye for detail, who will take note of everything, including the colour of your characters’ hair and eyes and the spelling of your town’s name, to ensure they remain the same throughout your book, this is the editor for you.

Proofreader

A proofreader will read the final draft of your manuscript, after it has been through an editor. They will look at it with an eye towards grammatical correctness, consistent and correct spelling, spotting typos, accuracy in headings/footnotes/chapter and page numbers, and checking layout to ensure there are no extra gaps/lines or formatting errors. A proofreader is often the last person to look over your manuscript before it goes into mass production.

Typo checker

This person provides the extra service of reading your book in the same format as your reader, usually on an e-reader (such as a Kindle). A typo checker isn’t concerned with stylistic consistency or correct grammar. All they are looking for are mistakes, such as spelling errors and typos—the things that will jump out at a reader as incorrect when they read your finished work. They provide a final polish to ensure your book is as ready for your readers as it can possibly be.

What type of professional involvement you want in your work is up to you. You should go with what you are most comfortable using, what you feel your work most needs, and what your budget allows. The work I do mainly falls into the copy-editing, proofreading and typo checking categories.

I find that most writers, once they are happy with their overall storyline and comfortable with their style and use of language, work best with a Copy-Editor and then, as a final check, a read-through by a Typo Checker. With a bit of negotiation, a good Copy-Editor will be willing, and able, to catch most of the things that a proofreader would, but you will get more feedback for your money.

I hope this clarifies the process somewhat and helps you to choose the type of professional you need to work with to ensure you produce your best book possible. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Liz Dempsey (The Error Eliminator)

My name is Liz. I am a single mother of one wonderful daughter. I work part-time in education administration, and in my spare time I love to read! As a self-confessed perfectionist, I pay attention to detail and I take great pride in my ability to spot mistakes in the books that I read. I have many years of experience working on fiction and corporate writing. Although I’m based in New Zealand, I am comfortable working with US/UK/AU/NZ spelling and grammar. If you would like to work with me, please get in touch with a sample of your work for a free quote.

GMC, Wonder Woman, and Unlocking Your NaNoWriMo Story

Melina KantorWow, okay. So NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins exactly a week from today. Have you figured out your plot? Eh, don't worry, neither have I. Besides, as they say, "no plot, no problem." Right? NaNo is the time to write with "literary abandon," forget the rules, and just write. Right? Well. . .

The Problem

Personally, I can't do that. I can not handle not knowing what I'm going to write, and even though I've been successfully NaNo'ing since 2007, I have yet to learn how to let loose and "just write." And if try to do so without any mental preparation and just one idea to cling to, the struggle gets very real. But I've got a trick. (It's likely review for many of you, so feel free to chime in and expand on this awfully simplistic overview.)

The Trick

The trick is simple. Put all your thoughts and ideas about your novel aside. Write them down if you must, and then get them out of your head. And then, focus on three things:
  • Goal
  • Motivation
  • Conflict
Otherwise known as GMC. Figuring out your protagonist's GMC is like having a key that unlocks your story. Because your protagonist is working towards something, you'll find that she isn't wandering around aimlessly and spending a lot of time in deep thought. Because of her goal, your story will propel itself forward. Which means you'll reduce the amount of time spent in front of your computer spinning your wheels and suffering. Let's discuss. (We'll use Wonder Woman / Diana as an example because it's a movie familiar to many and her GMC is crystal clear.) Goal
  • What does your character want?
Diana's goal is to leave Themyscira, go out into the world, and kill Ares, the God of War. Motivation: 
  • Why does your protagonist want what she wants?
Diana wants to put an end to the suffering war brings, which makes sense because her culture and upbringing have taught her to value peace. Not to mention that she believes her island is in danger and she wants to protect her home and the people she loves. High stakes, no? Conflict:  Why can't your character have what she wants? At first, Diana's mother is against the idea of her daughter fighting Ares. Then she has to deal with Steve, her antagonist, who has a conflicting goal. And then she has to pass through a war zone to get to Ares. And poof! Right there, Diana's GMC has given us a basic but pretty solid story.

A Bit of Vocabulary

It's much easier to figure out your character's GMC if you truly understand the following terms and how they relate to each other: Protagonist: A character who has a goal and wants something (a McGuffin). Antagonist: A character who wants to stop your protagonist from reaching his or her goal thus creating conflict, but isn't necessarily a "bad guy." (A grown-up who stops a toddler from running into the street after a ball isn't being mean or bad, but is preventing the toddler from reaching the ball. Diana's mother and Steve are antagonists, but aren't necessarily bad.) Villain: Well, you know... But just to clarify. . . please note that your antagonist and villain can be the same character. But if they're not, like in the case of Wonder Woman, don't forget that your antagonist is really the one who has the biggest impact when it comes to moving your story forward. If you want to get really creative, your protagonist can be your villain, like Dr. Horrible. McGuffin: What your protagonist wants (her goal). It can be a bag of pretzels or it can be world peace. It doesn't matter, as long as she truly wants something, and for a good reason (motivation).

Get to Work

Here's a chart I give my elementary school students. No, you don't have to color (though it would probably thrill your muses). I hope it'll help you over the next week and through November and beyond. If you start your noveling process by figuring out GMC, the details and specifics of your story will work themselves out along the way. I promise. [One more tip: Give your protagonist a taste of what she wants and take it away. Or give her what she wants and make her hate it.] For more info on GMC, listen to this fantastic episode of How Story Works.

* Who are the protagonists, antagonists, and villains in your favorite stories? Why?*

Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels.  In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem.  You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.