~ 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.
Vacations. We all love them. Just the sound of the word can bring stress relief. We plan, research, save for and dream about them all year long. And when the time gets near, we go shopping, buy new outfits and struggle to cram them all into our over-stuffed suitcases. No? Just me? Well, moving on, then.
If you’re anything like me, you’re never truly on vacation from writing. I may get away from the norm, but my creative mind is always spinning. Vacations fill me with inspiration for new stories or ideas for my current WIP. More than once, I have come home from a trip with a new story completely plotted from beginning to end, or with a scene written out in beautiful detail that had previously stumped me. One time, I had so many ideas for a new novel I spent the entire three-hour fight home scribbling out plot points and character profiles on a stack of index cards. When we landed, the man next to me commented that he hadn’t seen anyone write that fast or that much in a long time. My cramped hand had to agree.
All those precious vacation moments can affect your writing in two different ways. Itcan affect how you, as the writer, write. Or, you can use those tasty travel tidbits to send your characters on vacay. We’ll explore both ways, but first let’s talk about you, the writer.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture your last vacation. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Can you see yourself there, standing in the middle of a scene worthy of being captured on a picture post card, doing what you love, relaxed and invigorated at the same time? Those are the moments, memories and feelings that can fuel your writing. Here are a few ways you can incorporate them in your writing.
- Seductive Settings. Readers want to be whisked away, and what is a better place to take them than someplace near and dear to your heart? If you don’t want to set your next novel entirely in your last vacation destination, try incorporating elements into whatever setting you do use. A favorite restaurant you tried or a beautiful garden you visited can be great inspirations to add to your settings.
- Capture the Culture. One thing I love doing on vacation is exploring the culture of the place I’m visiting. I love the little nuances that make every place unique. Recently, I was visiting family in the Florida Keys. I love it down there, everyone is a little more relaxed. They have an unofficial shoes-optional policy. It’s not uncommon to spot locals hanging out in Starbucks or running into the grocery store with bare feet. No one is ever in a hurry, unless the fish are biting. Then they can’t get their boats into the Gulf Stream fast enough. Use these little nuances to create deeper, richer, more interesting characters, or to influence how your characters react in different settings.
- Making Memories. Did you come home from your last trip with a crazy story? Use it! My books are full of slightly altered versions of crazy things that happened on vacation, and they are usually the scenes that readers say they love the most. Which scenes, you ask? Nope, not telling. But if you think ‘that could not happen,’ there’s a good chance it probably did. Sometimes our best inspiration comes from things that happen in real life.
- Enriching Experiences. Experiencing new things expands your world knowledge and broadens your understanding which, in turn, can make you a more interesting writer. Consider every new experience you try to be research for a future novel. Sure, you’re not going to use everything you do in your next manuscript, but add it to your memory bank to use when you need it. Even if all you did on vacation was veg by pool with the intention of keeping your step-count as low as possible, that state of ultimate relaxation can be an experience you might want to pull from someday.
Don’t forget that your characters can benefit from travel, too. Having your characters pack their suitcases, or even their overnight bags, can add an interesting element to your story. Consider how sending your characters on a getaway could affect your story:
- Taking them out of their norm can changes their mindset, shift the relationship dynamics, or help them see things differently.
- New experiences can play an important role in your character’s arc. It can be the spark that prompts change.
- A romantic getaway, or a getaway that turns romantic, can be just what your characters need to jump into that relationship. I mean, we do write romance, after all.
I’m going to leave you with a few helpful tips to harvest the most benefits from your travels.
- Take pictures. They can help you remember not just the details of the settings, but the feelings that went along with them.
- Keep a journal to jot down your thoughts.
- Enjoy yourself! The more fun you have, the more experience and memories you have to take home.
So, what do you think? Anyone else ready to book their next vacation? It’s all in the name of research, after all. Happy travels!
Rachel wrote her first novel when she was twelve and entered it into a contest for young author/illustrators. Unfortunately, the judges weren’t impressed with her stick figures. So she dropped the dream of becoming a world famous illustrator and stuck to spinning stories. When she’s not busy working on her latest book, she loves to travel with her family and friends. By far, her favorite destination is the beach, which tends to work its way into most of her stories. In fact, her debut novel, Happily Ever Afters, is about strangers who meet and fall in love while on vacation.
Between trips, you can find her at home in The Woodlands, TX with her wonderful husband, their two adventurous kids and a couple of spirited pets, all of whom share Rachel’s love of the ocean. Well, except the cat and dog. They’re both afraid of water. Find out more about what Rachel has been up to at rachelmageebooks.com.
~ By Rebecca Grace Allen
Let’s be brutally honest here: 2016 totally stunk. As a writer and, well, a human, I struggled on every level. My creativity shuddered to a halt. I hit a massive writers block. My relationships suffered. I gained ten pounds. There were times when I wondered why I was doing this whole writing thing in the first place. Then I remembered, it’s because there are stories bubbling up inside me that I have to tell. Stories that I hope will be timeless, ones that will live on beyond me. And sometimes, to write that kind of timeless tale, I need a little inspiration.
Sometimes I find that inspiration in Shakespeare.
I saw my first live Shakespeare performance when I was 14, in a black box theater in Manhattan. I immediately fell in love—with the language, the costumes, the drama, and how the themes of betrayal, corruption, deception and love still rang true today. In high school English class, I adored reading Hamlet while everyone else rolled their eyes at the iambic pentameter. I became an English major in college, and rushed to enroll in a Shakespeare course, dutifully carrying my 2057 page, coffee-stained Riverside Shakespeare around campus. (I also went to a school where a lot of student-run events took place in a building named Falstaff’s. Eat, drink and be merry, anyone?)
These days, I don’t crack open that old Riverside (which, yes, I still have) all that often, but I do watch movie versions. And I’m still amazed at the timelessness of the stories, the classic romance and angst, and how we continue to make his work relevant by creating modern adaptations of it. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite modern-ish adaptations:
West Side Story (1961)
It’s not modern, but it’s the best variation on Romeo and Juliet in my opinion. (Don’t get me started on the Baz Lurhamn version *shudders*.) The idea of putting those star-crossed lovers from rival families into warring gangs and setting it all to music was just brilliant. As an aside, I once performed in an adaptation called South Shore Story, where the North Shore conservative Jews of Long Island were foes of the South Shore Reformed ones. “I feel frummy, oh so frummy...”
Much Ado About Nothing (1993)
This one isn’t a modern take at all, but rather what I consider a perfect portrayal of exactly what The Bard intended. The performances are perfect—I heart Kenneth Branagh’s “Love meeeee! Why?” Plus it’s got Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington and Robert Sean Leonard.
Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
I’ve always loved this comedy of errors, and the idea of characters falling in love with the wrong characters only to finally end up with the right ones. That’s what romance is made of, right? And with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck, how can you go wrong?
Modern setting, techno music, classic language, and Ethan Hawke. Did I mention Ethan Hawke? Oh, and yeah, Ethan Hawke.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This modern version of the Taming of the Shrew will always be one of my favorites. Classic 90’s. Classic Shakespeare. And Classic *sigh* Heath Ledger.via GIPHY
Now in 2017, I think of myself, and all the rest of us writers, contributing to the collective cannon of literature. It’s a tough time in the world out there, and I know now, more than ever, we creative types have to keep creating. After all, it wasn’t easy in Shakespeare’s time—bear-bating and no indoor plumbing!—and he kept writing. We can keep writing, too.
Rebecca Grace Allen writes sweet, sexy and soul searching romance, emphasis on the sexy! A caffeine addict, gym rat, wife, and fur-mommy, she lives in upstate New York with her husband, two parakeets, and cat with a very unusual foot fetish. Her newest release, TAMING SUGAR, is a modern day, BDSM, Taming of the Shrew, and releases on January 19, 2017.
FoodGreece being Greece, the book naturally has a lot of scenes with food. One of my characters, after having been away from Greece for six years, returns and is served snails. In the original scene, that's it. A relative is cooking snails. But thanks to an actual experience in my cousin's kitchen, the scene now has the added flare of a snail climbing out of the pot.
Then, to my delight, I got my hands on some family recipes, including the recipe for a cake that appears in the opening scene of the second book of the trilogy.
Around the Village
In my fictional world, the village bakery is owned by protagonist Katerina's family.
Here's the real thing, complete with dakos.
On a whim, I decided to tell the real-life baker that I was writing a book about a Cretan bakery and asked if I could look in the back. She gave me a quick tour, but wouldn't allow photos.
Still, I now have a better idea of what I'm writing about.
Then there's the village museum, old church and school where protagonist Evi spends time with Mathaios.
Whenever I pass through the area, I feel like they're going to show up.
(Note the retsina bottles in the museum window. I haven't decided how to work that into the story, but the possibilities are endless.)
Let's not forget the beach. My characters spend a lot of time there, doing yoga, drinking frappe, taking boat rides, swimming, etc.
The DonkeysAll three books revolve around a fictionalized version of a donkey sanctuary that's in the mountains right above the village. While I was writing the drafts, all I had to go on was the sanctuary's Facebook page. But now I can say that I've actually been there and I've fallen in love with the donkeys and the rescue dogs. Because I've learned what it feels like to hug a donkey (they're so dirty and fly-covered, but it's worth it), I must, must, must rewrite a few of the scenes. I also visited the sanctuary's gift shop, which they use for fundraising. Some of my characters paint rocks and knit toy donkeys, and now my descriptions will be more authentic. As an added bonus, on the way home from the sanctuary, I got to visit a farmer who picked fruit for us and introduced us to his animals. My books are already filled with goats (and sheep, “and stuff”), but now I have this experience to draw on. I can't wait!
The BeesThe second book of the trilogy involves complicated scenes involving beekeeping. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the village beekeeper gives workshops and was thrilled to answer my many questions. In Greek, my name means honeybee. Sorry about the silly selfie, but here I am in front of "my name."
The beekeeper is anxiously waiting to read my books, which may have something to do with the fact that I promised to put him in the acknowledgments.
Whatever the reason, I appreciate the pressure.
The PrettyLastly, I'll leave you with some random but pretty village pictures that are rotating as my desktop wallpaper as inspiration.
Now What?I know that most of my writing won't happen here, but I'm thankful that I've got my photos, my souvenirs, and my memories to keep me going once I leave. I've also got YouTube, so I can close my eyes and pretend I'm there. (Cretan music sounds nothing like "Zorba." It's its own genre.) There you have it! Let's give the science fiction and fantasy writers a run for their money. If you need some inspiration, take some time to build your world. Take or find photos (even make a collage), listen to music (even create a playlist), bake (smell and taste are surprisingly powerful), or do whatever it takes to dive head first into your contemporary yet fictional world.
* How do you build your world? Leave a comment and let us know!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 to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com
~ By Liat Behr
Podcasts are a hands-free way to learn new things, especially when you’re on the go. Think of them are your own personal radio show, custom-tailored to both your interests and time-slot. If you aren’t yet listening to them, you should be.
Here are my favorite 4 podcasts that will inspire and motivate every writer.
You don’t necessarily have to be a writer to enjoy this podcast. But you do have to be an artist - or one who embraces a creative life.
This podcast is #1 on my list for writers, because as writers we all know what it is to become stuck; we can’t write, we fill with self-loathing, we feel empty, vapid and don’t believe in our creative abilities.These feelings weigh us down and pull us into a downward vortex from which it seems impossible to extricate ourselves. But it’s Elizabeth Gilbert to the rescue. Through her Magic Lessons podcast, and her interviews with amateur writers, artists and even experts, we’re better able to understand the process of creativity which helps us learn to be more patient with ourselves and ultimately helps us crawl out from the depths of despair and triumph to the pinnacles of our creativity.
The Creative Penn is the inspiring and motivating podcast from author and entrepreneur, Joanna Penn. It sometimes takes time for Joanna to actually start the interview because she very sweetly acknowledges her listeners’ comments on social media - usually Twitter (so, yes, if you enjoy the podcast take the time to let Joanna know - @thecreativepenn). But when Joanna does get to the podcast, it’s sheer value. You will always learn something new. Joanna meets with different guests -authors, entrepreneurs and other creatives, and together they tackle discussions on the writing process, writing techniques, nifty tools, tips and other helpful information that will inspire and motivate you to become more efficient, productive and better writer.
This Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins is another podcast for creatives, not necessarily writers. But it’s definitely a podcast every writer needs to be listening to.
The crux of the podcast is that as creatives our portfolio consists of many different activities. And that to be a successful creative you must consistently create. So you may writing in addition to creating images (if you’re a photographer or graphic designer) and blogging and travelling - or any number of different things that make up your life. Jeff Goins, master blogger and writer chats with creatives to learn how they’re making a living from their life’s portfolio, talks about their passions and struggles. Listening to this podcast you’ll gain insight and perspective into making your work and our world more rich and exciting.
Writing Excuses is the podcast with the most comic tagline - “fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not smart.” The real reason that Writing Excuses is short (a bit longer than 15 minutes but not usually longer than 25) is because listening to this podcast is a great writing excuse - but it’s a short writing excuse to remind you that you took a break from writing only to get back to it with renewed energy. Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler are knowledgeable, intelligent, and entertaining. They do their listeners a great service by discussing different elements of the story - what works and what doesn’t, conducting great interviews, and fielding questions from their audience - but not all at the same time. You can however consistently count on them for a thoughtful and inspiring prompt as well as a book recommendation.
Longform was recommended to me by my friend and columnist Tiffanie Wen. It’s a podcast of compelling conversations with journalists, authors and editors. At times it focuses on reporting experiences, other times it will give you a rich insider’s view of the writing life. Alternating Longform hosts Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky and Evan Ratliff are skilled interviewers. And every single time you finish listening to this podcast, you will walk away feeling fascinated, excited and inspired to keep writing. Because though the writer’s life is not a glamorous one, it is exciting and authentic living that will always lead to surprises.
I know I said 4, but here’s a bonus podcast from Melina (aka Melissa):Lani Diane Rich, is just one of the many podcasts produced by Chipperish Media. Any podcast from Chipperish will spark your imagination, improve your craft, and teach you about story. But How Story Works delivers bite-sized writing tips and answers your burning questions about storytelling in a straight to the point format. Note: While you're checking out Chipperish Media, grab a drink and listen to Will Write for Wine, the podcast that started Lani's podcasting empire. You'll learn as much about craft as you would from graduate school, but you'll laugh your heart out while you're studying. Trust me.