It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.This month, Mary E. Thompson is here to inspire us with some thoughts on why we write. Which for those of you who are striving to write 50,000 words this month, may feel like an extremely timely question. Take it away, Mary!
~ By Mary E. Thompson
Eight months ago a friend of mine released her first book. Leading up to the release, she did a countdown to release day on social media, shared it with everyone she knew, and was crazy excited. Three months later, sales were dismal. Recognition wasn’t there. She was discouraged.
Another friend took on a second job because her writing income wasn’t what she hoped for.
Yet another friend waited months to hear back from a submission only to get rejected.
None are new stories. Most authors start out the same way. No one knows who you are. No one is interested in your books. You pour yourself into a book and get a horrible review that rips the book, and your heart, to shreds.
So why do we do it? Why do we keep writing, keep pushing through in a career that may never be much more than a hobby? Why don’t we walk away and do something with more stability? A higher chance of success?
I think there are two reasons we keep going. Maybe only one of them drives you. Maybe it’s both. I’m guessing it’s both.
You know, without a doubt, that you have a book inside you that is going to make it all worthwhile.
We all want that elusive mega-success that seems to come so easily to some. We all want our book to be the next breakout story. The one that has movie producers and readers knocking down our door. We want the bestseller list and the raving fans that make every book bigger than our wildest dreams.
And we’re creative people. We have some crazy dreams.
If you don’t have faith in your own storytelling abilities, you’re going to give up. You know you’re good. You keep writing and learning and writing some more. Your books get better. Writing gets easier. You gain more recognition. You know it’s all going to pay off.
You have faith.
You truly have no choice. You’ve tried something else. Maybe you had a different career before. Or you have a second one now. Maybe writing was something you’ve always wanted to do.
No matter what, you’ve thought about walking away. Giving it all up and doing something else.
But you just can’t.
There are stories inside you. Stories that are demanding you tell them. Stories that you have to get out. It doesn’t matter if you have a million fans or one, you have to tell your stories.
How could we not do it?
Readers flock to romance. Everyone wants love. Romance novels make us believe anything can happen when love gets involved. Your best friend’s cute older brother will want you. The hot guy from your favorite coffee shop asks you out. Your sexy boss is pining for you. Anything is possible.
Is it any wonder we simply can’t stop writing our stories? Helping people fall in love? Pushing them to their limits only to shove them a little further to help them find that one person we all want to find? We can’t stop writing any more than our fans can stop reading. And that is a beautiful love story!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning. Her 26th release comes out November 29. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
~ By Brenda Margriet
Note: On Wednesday, we posted an alternate view of National Novel Writing Month.
I am currently not writing. It doesn't feel good, but I am trying not to beat myself up about it. So with NaNoWriMo going full swing and many of my online writer friends posting amazing word counts I just want to say:
Shut up already!
Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. But for those of us (and I know you're out there!) who aren't doing NaNoWriMo for whatever reason, here's some encouragement on getting through the month and beyond.
Live your life
Yes, in order to be a better writer, to finish a book, to make a sale, you have to write. But you also have to read books you love, discover new authors. You have to watch the world go by, study people in a coffee shop, spend time enjoying your surroundings.
All these things colour your words, and can often get ignored while under the pressure of hitting a deadline or daily word count. Use this down time to experience life, to store up feelings and sensations and observations so that the next time you are writing in a white heat, you have them to draw on.
Keep writing – even when you can't
I may not be working on my next romance, but I am still writing. I'm doing this blog post, as well as blogging weekly on my own site. I'm lucky enough that my day job also involves creative writing to a certain extent, so I am working there. I am networking with other writers on Facebook through Messenger, which is also writing.
It's not, you say?
Well, think of it as a writing dialogue exercise. Study the patterns of the people you are messaging with. How does what they write "sound" different than what you write? How can you use that once you are again putting words on paper?
This too shall pass
Unless you're dealing with a true crisis of faith in your writing, remind yourself of all the times this has happened before. 'Fess up – you know it has. My first book took more than ten years to finish. I certainly wasn't writing every day during that time, and yet I GOT IT DONE!
Since publishing that book in October 2012, I have completed five more manuscripts and published two (soon to be three) of them. When I consider the ten-plus years MOUNTAIN FIRE took to complete, that's a furious pace for me.
During that time, I've also taken on a fairly stressful management level day job, helped three children grow to adulthood, and been generally busy. Maybe the last few weeks has simply been my brain telling me it needs a break.
Remember who you are and where you came from
I think part of the worry and frustration for me, personally, is I feel like I am wasting precious moments of writing time. I usually work on my novels for about 1.5 hours a day, maybe slightly more on weekends. With such a limited amount of time to write, any day I don't use that time makes me feel like I am falling deeper into writing "debt."
Yet even when I am writing full steam ahead, my daily quota is only 500 words. It's a total I find reasonably easy to achieve even on a bad day, and if I don't it is also reasonably easy to catch up. Would I love to have a higher number? Sure! Would it do any good? Probably not. I have to stop comparing myself to those writers who have published 30, 40, even 50 books since the self-publishing craze caught on. They are who they are – I am who I am. I am not a risk taker.
I need the stability of a regular paycheck. Maybe someday that will be from writing. But until it is, I need to accept my limitations and work within them.
How do you deal with not writing? Do you have a daily quota? If you do, do you find yourself wishing you could do more, no matter what it is? How are you planning to survive NaNoWriMo?
Brenda Margriet writes contemporary romances with heroes you'd meet at the grocery store. And by that she means real-life men – sexy, smart and looking for the love of their life. Her heroines are bold, savvy and determined to accept nothing less than the man they deserve.
A voracious reader since she was old enough to hold a book, Brenda's idea of the perfect holiday involves a comfortable chair near the water (ocean, lake or pool will do), a glass of wine, and a full-loaded e-reader.
She lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband (as well as various funny and furry pets) and has three adult children. Find out more about Brenda on her website www.brendamargriet.com
1. Anyone Can Do ItIn fact, hundreds of thousands of people do. Never written a novel? Doesn't matter. Are you a best-selling author like Sara Gruen? You can throw you hat into the ring, too! It's an event for anyone who wants to celebrate story.
2. I'm a PlotterAs somebody who leans more to the plotting side of the pantser / plotter spectrum, I should possibly run screaming from the idea of writing so freely for thirty days of "literary abandon." But here's the thing. Left to my own devices, I could spend years plotting and crafting my opening scene into a perfectly formatted, error-free, work of art. In other words, without the pressure, I'd get nowhere. I do plot my NaNo novels, and I so wish that my apartment was as crazily organized as my Scrivener documents. Because I plot, I can jump around from scene to scene. NaNo doesn't let me get stuck. NaNo forces me to move forward and not get hung up on details.
3. I Adore the CommunityWhen I began NaNo'ing, I lived in Manhattan. I was able to surround myself with hundreds of other crazy but brave local writers. Before I moved to Jerusalem, I checked the NaNo site to make sure there was a Jerusalem region. There was! During my first November in Israel, we were dealing with rocket fire from Gaza. At the time, the NaNo community was small. But I couldn't have been more grateful. Writing, especially in the company others, was a huge distraction and comfort. Last year, our local community grew. We even wrote on a boat. Best of all, thanks to social media and podcasts, the entire world can be your community.
4. Living in the Word of StoryDuring NaNo, I live and breathe my story. When I'm not writing, I listen to my story playlist as often as I can, which makes it almost impossible to escape my world. My desktop is my story collage (example here). Yes, life happens in November. I teach, I take care of the dogs, etc. Though I truly wish I could, I don't write full-time. November is my chance to make my story my #1 priority.
5. The AccomplishmentI'll never forget the moment I won my first NaNoWriMo. I was sitting on my couch with my computer on my lap. When I reached 50K, I went into shock. It took effort not to cry. I'd never written fiction, and suddenly, I had my own novel, in my favorite genre. The only reason I'd participated in the first place was that one of my favorite authors, Lani Diane Rich, had podcasted about it. That year, she won too. My favorite author and I had accomplished the exact same thing at the same time. How freaking cool is that? (Read our NaNo themed interview with her here.) If you can write a novel in a month, there's very little you can't do. Try it, and I promise that you'll feel like a superhero.
A Whole Month AheadIt's only Day 2, and I'm already tired. Luckily, we've had our first of three write - ins this week. I have no doubt that my fellow wrimos will help me stay on track. Want to learn more about NaNoWriMo? We have a whole archive and tips, tricks and resources to help you. It's not too late to dive into the maddness. The chapter is here to help and support you. Good luck, and write - on! (Add me to your NaNo buddy list!) * Are you participating in NaNo? If so, 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 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 Mary E. Thompson
Writing a novel in a month can seem like a daunting task. 50,000 words? I’d like that many zeroes in my bank account just as much as I’d like them in my WIP, but sadly, both have far fewer zeroes.
Getting the zeroes in my WIP is much easier than my bank account though, and by the end of November, I’ll have my 50,000 words. I’ve never done it before, but this year, I know I’ll succeed. I can write 50,000 words in a month, I’ve done it before, and with these simple tips, you can do it too!
Make a Plan
Nope, I’m not going to try to make you pantsers out there plotters. Knowing what you’re going to write ahead of time is a good idea, but don’t change your process when you’re trying to bump up your production.
The plan I’m talking about is figuring out how many words you need to get on a page each day. Breaking it down into smaller chunks can help. If you intend to write each of the thirty days of NaNo, you’ll need to write 1,667 words daily. If you’re like me, you won’t write all those days. There’s weekends, there’s Thanksgiving if you’re in the US, and don’t forget Black Friday and Veteran’s Day - a no school day for my kids which means a no work day for me.
When I add that all up, I’m left with 18 writing days for the month. That pushes my daily word count up to 2,778. It’s a lot, but it’s very doable for me. Especially since I know going in what I need to accomplish.
Find a Friend, or a Few
NaNo is a community. We’re all there cheering each other on. There’s no competition because you winning doesn’t mean I lose. We can all win together. Because of that, everyone is very encouraging. Add friends to your list of Writing Buddies and let out your inner cheerleader to encourage others. They’ll encourage you right back!
You can also join RWA’s Word Wars! There are a bunch of chapters participating in the challenge, some offering prizes for members with the most words written. If you like a little spark of competition, Word Wars might be just the thing you need!
To keep you going during the month, you can also go to a local Write In. Authors from your area will get together through the month and sit and write. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet others in your area and feel the connection to others who love what you love. Writing!
Enjoy the Process
Writing is a fun, exciting job. NaNoWriMo shouldn’t change that. If you don’t win NaNo, it’s not the end of the world. Things come up, and stories don’t always work out, but if you stress yourself out about the process, it’s not going to be something you’ll find enjoyable. And let’s face it, when he kisses her the first time, you should be enjoying it as much as she is!
When November 1 rolls around, be ready to go. Whether you’re old school or a rebel, you can get your 50,000 words on the page. And hey, maybe you’ll get that $50,000 one day too!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and is kicking off NaNo with her 25th release on November 1. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.
All the write-ins organised during the month helped me to get my novel written. Writing is usually such a solitary activity, and sharing the experience with others who are attempting the same thing at the same time provides much needed encouragement. I particularly enjoyed our day on a boat in the port of Jaffa, five of us typing away as the boat gently bobbed on the waves. By chance, my characters were looking out at the same Mediterranean Sea, but further north, on a similar sunny day. In short, my fourth NaNoWriMo was by far the best I've experienced.
We met in cozy coffee shops, Israel's most legendary literary cafe, and a rustic high tech work hub. But the most amazing space of all was a boat docked in one of the most ancient ports on earth - Jaffa. I'd already finished my draft. Being on the boat in great company, surrounded by history and gently rocked by waves I closed my eyes and typed three pages inspired by a mystical Jewish concept of the Bible, using the concept of the horizon to create a modern commentary for my story. It was a truly creative highlight of the entire month.
Point is, if you feel you’re in a rut and are suffering from writer’s block, do something completely out of the ordinary. I continued the scenes I wrote that day and made it to the 50K word finish line the next morning. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity! Has a change of scenery ever helped you with your writing? Tell us about it in the comments! Happy Writing! :-) 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. Visit her at http://melinakantor.com. She has been an avid NaNoWriMo participant since 2007, and this year was one of the municipal liaisons for the Jerusalem region.
There was a moment during NaNoWriMo that stands out for me. I was sitting on the aft deck of the boat in the Jaffa Port, from where real and fictional characters have arrived and left: Napoleon, Ramses, Neptune, Jonah. I was typing away, lost in the creation of the daily 1667 words, when I looked up at the water, the light, the light on the water - and I thought wow! I got here. This is all I have ever wanted. I am writing a book. Bonus: I am writing a book on a boat. Although there was water flowing beneath me, I know support and encouragement of our group that gave me the ground to make this commitment to myself and my gift. Sigh. Bliss.
~ Our Wonderful Host, Margot
~ By Erin O’BrienA note from Melissa / Melina: I first met Erin during my first NaNoWriMo in 2007. Until I moved to Jerusalem in 2012, she was my ML (Municipal Liaison). I was very lucky to have her encouragement and the write-ins were fantastic. I'm an ML now, for the first time, and in my application I mentioned that she was a great role model. So, I thought I'd repost some of her wonderful advice for those of us facing the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The moral of the story? Write in packs!
Suggested October To-Do List:1. Listen to podcasts. This episode of The Journeyman Writer is all about figuring out your writing process and making your process work for you. Yes, there's mention of NaNo. 2. Have no clue what you're going to write about? Here are some tips for waking up your muses:
- Draw a random Apples to Apples card or use a random word generator and write a scene that includes the specific word.
- Download an app with famous quotes and use the quotes as prompts.
- Use a tarot card deck or tarot card app to build your protagonist.
- Visit our archive of writing prompts and do some writing exercises.
Er. . . NaNo, uh what?!? ~ By Melina Kantor Hey! It’s almost here! There’s only about a week to go before thousands of fearless writers down multiple gallons of coffee, strap themselves to their computers or writing implements of choice and attempt the impossible. I’m so excited about it I can barely sit [...]
~ By Abigail OwenAh, NaNoWriMo! That month when loony writers attempt to complete a 50,000 word novel, beginning to end in just 30 days. What makes this endeavor even crazier is the fact that the Thanksgiving holiday strikes right when you’re in the homestretch. This is my second year of participating [...]
~ By Heather MilesIt’s November! Writers all over the country, and the world, for that matter, know that we are upon the month where writers push their limits. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Few people actually complete the 50,000 words that are considered a winning word count, but sign up [...]
~ By Shelly Bell Last November, I participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days or 1,667 per day. For many, this may sound daunting, especially for those who are at the beginning of their writing career and for those who’ve [...]
~ By Leigh Duvan 5 months ago I decided to pursue writing fiction on a professional level to fulfill a lifelong dream. My genre: Contemporary Romance. I found my way to our RWA chapter after a 15 year break from membership and a first writing attempt. My career took over and my love or writing continued [...]
~ By Erin O’Brien When I explain the concept of National Novel Writing Month to people, I’m often met with one of two reactions, either “Wow, cool,” or “Why would you do that?” The why is easy enough to answer on the surface. I came to NaNoWriMo as someone who had been poking at stories [...]