Writing is Hard. Why Do We Do It?

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!

MaryEThompson~ 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.

Faith

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 computer-pc-workplace-home-office-159760want 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.

Compelled

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.

Surviving NaNoWriMo When You’re Not Writing

brendamargriet~  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

Why I’m a Wrimo – My Top 5 Reasons

melissa~ By Melina Kantor Note: On Friday, we'll be posting another point of view about participating in NaNoWriMo. Everyone has a different process, Only you know what works best for you.  So come back Friday, and see what you think.  Apologies to all of my Facebook friends, friends in general, and everyone who has to put up with me in November. Since 2007, National Novel Writing Month has made the entire month of November the highlight of my entire year. And I let everyone know it. My Facebook cover photo is from the NaNo site, and my profile photo is of me in my NaNo hoodie holding a NaNo mug that reads, "CAN'T TALK, NOVELING." nanocover2 I post my word count publically every night. I'm one of the Municipal Liaisons for Jerusalem, and my local wrimos hear from me A LOT. I know. It's insanely ridiculous. Why would an event in which I nearly kill myself to get 50,000 words written in thirty days make me so hyper, giddy and otherwise filled with joy? Here are my top 5 reasons for participating in NaNo:

1. Anyone Can Do It

In 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 Plotter

As 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 Community

When 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 Story

During 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 Accomplishment

I'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 Ahead

14908217_10208977905298378_127976547929272390_nIt'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

Three Simple Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

MaryEThompson~ 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 crw-oct-nano-pic-1-smallyou’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

crw-oct-nano-pic-2-smallNaNo 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

crw-oct-nano-pic-3-smallWriting 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.

Wrimos on a Boat!

melissa~ By Melina Kantor  When it comes to NaNoWriMo, I'm known for being. . . enthusiastic. I start getting excited in October, if not sooner. In November, I walk around with my NaNo tote bag and my NaNo hoodie. Yup. I take it that seriously. The month long noveling frenzy has been a huge part of my life since November 2007, which is when I wrote my very first novel. This year, NaNoWriMo was extra special. It's my fourth NaNo in Jerusalem, and because of all the participation we had this year, it was the first time the community even began to compare to what I remember from New York (though our small but mighty group was always great). Honestly, I couldn't have asked to be part of a nicer, more giving, enthusiastic group of writers. IMG_1863But, come Day 29, I was losing steam. I was a day and a half behind, and not feeling very well. I'd plotted my novel, but I'd gone through most of my plot and was too tired to figure out what else to add. Lucky for me, that was the day one of my fellow Wrimos invited us to write on her boat in the Jaffa Port. Even luckier for me, I didn't cancel even though I woke up feeling awful. (A huge shout out to the group for being so very patient with me.) As soon a we got out of the car and immediately smelled the sea, I knew it was going to be an experience I'd never forget. Read on for highlights. 1. It felt great to be out of the intensity of Jerusalem, and in a place I’d only been to once (yup, that's a collage of the setting of my story on the screen).

IMG_1864 IMG_1866 IMG_1869

2. I put my hero and heroine on a boat, and then I made my heroine seasick. Since I was feeling really seasick myself, after not feeling well to begin with, it wasn’t a stretch. In fact, I was so dizzy I swore that the ramp onto the boat was moving. Rationally, I know it wasn’t, but to me it was spinning all over the place. Turns out, my character has similar reactions to boats. Who knew? (Again, a shout out to our host for being so patient.) But, all that upped my word count. [caption id="attachment_6474" align="aligncenter" width="240"]IMG_1873 See that ramp?[/caption] 3. There was a lot of laughter. A typo like this  on a menu and a bunch of writers? Hysterical. [caption id="attachment_6498" align="aligncenter" width="300"]12310673_10153606790620033_2665680747230837325_n Emotional Cheese. . .[/caption] 4. I saw how close I was to the setting of my book (my family's village in Crete)! Thanks for pointing that out, Victoria!

IMG_1880 IMG_1882

5. How can you not be inspired in such a gorgeous place? (Note the "Jaffa Oranges.") [gallery ids="6486,6487,6488,6489,6491,6492,6493,6496,6497"] 6. The company was fabulous! Every time one of us reached a milestone, like 1,000 new words, we cheered. If we had a plot issue, we voiced it. I won't lie. Friendly peer pressure also helps. Here’s some of what some of the other "boat writers" had to say:
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.

~ Miriam

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.

~ Victoria

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

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. 

The 5 Stages of NaNoWriMo

Me~ By Abigail Owen I have found in my NaNowWriMo experience that, much like the stages of grief, there are 5 stages of writing a book in one month. In fact, similar to grief, you may even cycle through these a few times by the end. Let's review-- Stage 1 - Enthusiasm Writing a book in one month sounds so exciting...before you get started. Even if you've done this before, you enter into the endeavor with a certain amount of optimism and even enthusiasm. I mean, how cool is it that in just 30 short days you will have a completed manuscript? The days before November 1st, you're even itching to start. Can't wait to get your teeth into this book! You even wake early on the first day and have five pages complete before breakfast. Writing is awesome! Stage 2 - Complications You started out with a bang. Those first fifty pages flew. Each day you thought, "This isn't that hard. Why don't I write a book in a month every time? I am totally going to finish this manuscript early!" And then... life happens along with...dun, dun, dun...the slow down. Only a handful of writers can keep that early pace, and more power to 'em. But for the rest of us, there's this thing called life which includes day jobs, kids, finances, errands, friends, family, and, in November, Thanksgiving. What started out as flying turns into a battle for every paragraph. You've been writing for an hour, check your progress, and... Wait. That can't be right! Only two paragraphs? And it's midnight now. What happened to five pages before breakfast? Stage 3 - Bargaining You're getting your word count every day. Barely. In fact, maybe you decided to skip a day or two. Perhaps your brain needed a break to get back on track. This is when you start to bargain with yourself... I got off to such a great start, I can get by with 3 pages a day and still get close. Or...Maybe I'll just switch books. I really have been wanting to write this other project over here. Or...There's always next year, right? But you don't give in to the doubts in your head, or the weariness with the project and the pace. It has to get better. Right? Stage 4 - Depression We've all be there. Probably with every book we write. You hit that point where your internal thoughts sound something along the lines of: I'm never going to get this done. Or...I might as well quit. Or...I am the worst writer ever, and this is the worst book in existence. Or...Why did I sign up for this anyway? But we're too far in to quit now. Besides which, by this point we've told everyone we know about how we're going to finish a book in November. What's more, our friends and family and support groups are all there to cheer us on. And we think, "I guess I'll slog this out." Keep pushing, the next stage is write around the corner (pun intended)! Stage 5 - Acceptance & Anticipation You hit that point where the end is in sight. Only a few more days and a few (or twenty) thousand more words and you've done it. Finished a book in a month. Like the marathoner who kept just a tiny bit in reserve to pick up the pace at the end, you get your second wind and the words start flying a gain. That spark you started the month with returns, only now you're closer to the end. You know there will be MAJOR revisions after all is said and done. You know that the hard work of 2nd drafts and editing is upon you. But the bones of your story are there. And now you're ahead of schedule because, usually, it takes a LOT longer to get that first draft on paper than just 1 month. Just know that there is an end in sight. Finally, the day will come when you finish. You type that 50,000th word and your hands shoot into the air. Wahoo!!! And your family is grateful because you've been nonexistent for 30 days. And you are filled with pride at your accomplishment. You look back on your NaNoWriMo experience, high on endorphins, and think, "That wasn't so bad. I think I'll do this again next year." To all you NaNoWriMo contenders in 2015...best of luck. I think you're pretty awesome for even signing up. Keep pushing. I hope to see you at the finish line! I would love to hear from you, and even offer some words of encouragement if needed. So tell me, which stage are you in at the moment? Award-winning author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado, and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe. Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.

NaNoWriMo: An ML’s Perspective [REPOST]

~ By Erin O’Brien

A 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! 
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 for a long time but, unless you count the overwrought scribblings of a seventeen year old, I’d never finished a novel. But I knew I liked writing fiction, so I thought, What the heck? This seems like a fun writing challenge! I think a lot of aspiring writers are kind of in the same boat. They want to write, but they don’t. They have ideas, but never commit them to paper. They talk a lot about the craft, but never flex their muscles. That’s understandable to a point. We live busy lives. We have obligations to work, to family, to friends. It’s hard to find the time. Nora Roberts once said, “You don’t find time to write. You make time.” This is maybe the greatest piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard. Because you won’t accomplish anything unless you make the time. NaNoWriMo forces you to make time to write, because the only way you’re going to come close to meeting the goal is to set aside at least a little time every day of the month to write. So that’s the why. Kind of. A funny thing happened the first year I participated. I logged onto the forums one day and noticed that people in my region were self-organizing meet ups. I had just moved to New York a few months before and was looking for some social outlets. How serendipitous that other novel writers wanted to get together, too! We met that first time in mid-October, at a cafe in the West Village (that, sadly, no longer exists) and I wound up meeting an amazing group of people, some of whom I still count among my friends. (That was in 2002, back in the early days. I loved the experience so much that the next year, I volunteered to be a municipal liaison. That means that I, with a small team of others, plan public events here in my home town of New York City and act as a cheerleader and question answerer and cat herder… I wear many hats. It’s hard work sometimes, but it’s also a ridiculous amount of fun.) One of the weird things about NaNoWriMo is that, by virtue of it being something that many people are participating in at the same time, it brings people together. Writing is such a solitary activity, so it was a strange and unexpected experience to meet all these other writers, and even to sit in the same room as them while we all typed away at our laptops. I took an informal survey of some municipal liaisons in other cities, and one universal truth seems to have emerged: NaNoWriMo participants who attend events have a greater rate of success than those who don’t. Maybe it’s the extra encouragement from other writers. Maybe it’s the support and camaraderie. Maybe it’s peer pressure. Maybe it’s the word sprints (that’s when we set a timer and everyone writes as much as they can before the buzzer). All I know is that going out to a write-in and participating in this strange community of writers is a good thing and can help push you over the finish line. In the more than ten years that NaNoWriMo has been around, it’s gotten some negative feedback, too. All those writers banging on their keyboards! Writing 50,000 words in a month is crazy! Those novels can’t possibly be any good! Well, they aren’t. That’s an important element of the challenge, in fact. The point is not to write well. The point is to just write. The point is to finally get that idea you’ve been kicking around committed to paper. The point is to write without looking back, to get that novel written. The point is to make the raw material. You make it good after November. (Take note, writers. Finishing a novel is a tremendous accomplishment and there should be much back patting and throwing of confetti. But you wrote a raw novel in November. Before you do anything with it, let it sit for a few days, a week, a month. Revel in your victory over time and writer’s block. Have a glass of wine, eat a slice of cake, do whatever you do that makes you feel good. Then go back and reread your novel. Revise it. Revise like the wind! Because what you just wrote? It ain’t gonna be good. That’s what revisions are for. Please don’t subject overworked, underpaid publishing professionals to your raw manuscript. Nobody’s first draft is perfect, and you are not an exception. But your novel can be delightful, wonderful, fantastic, the stuff of legend and bestseller lists! Most definitely it can. If you take the time to revise.) So that’s the challenge in a nutshell. You ready to give it a shot? Erin O’Brien is a writer/editor in New York City. In her spare time, she writes romance novels under a pseudonym (a few of them have even been published!). She’s a NYC municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo and an annoying overachiever. She blogs sometimes at http://fshk.tumblr.com

NaNoWriMo Interview With Lani Diane / Lucy March [REPOST]

Hello Readers, It's Melissa / Melina here. With NaNoWriMo approaching, I thought it would be fun to repost this interview with Lani Diane Rich. I also want to mention that Lani has created a wonderful community of writers at Storywonk. If you're looking for a group to get you through NaNo, head on over there and check it out! (You may notice the references to chick lit. That's because this was first posted back when we were the "chick lit" chapter.) ~ Interview By Melina Kantor It’s an absolute honor to have Lani Diane Rich (aka Lucy March) as a guest today! In addition to being the author of a bunch of fabulous chick lit and contemporary romance novels, she’s a born teacher. Through her podcasts, online classes, and blog, she’s been a mentor and an inspiration to countless writers. Until the day I heard Lani talk about NaNoWriMo on an episode of Will Write for Wine, it hadn’t ever occurred to me that I’d write a novel. That was in 2007. Now, it's 2015, and I'm still doing NaNo. I couldn’t be more grateful. Today, Lani’s here to share some of her insights on chick lit, NaNoWriMo, and being a writer: Welcome Lani! You were the first previously unpublished author to have a NaNoWriMo book published, right? What a claim to fame! What made you decide to participate in NaNoWriMo?
Yes, I am, and I’m so proud of it. Not necessarily because of the publishing, but because Nano is such an incredible experience, and I think it’s valuable for every writer to at least try it, because the opportunity to write and be social comes along so rarely. Well, once a year. :)
Was Time Off For Good Behavior a book you’d been planning to write, or did you just sit down on November 1st and start writing?
It was actually Halloween night when I decided to do it! I’d heard a lot of people in my online writer’s group talking about Nano, but I had no idea what it was. Then, on Halloween, a girlfriend had called me and told me about the time she got blown up in a gas explosion, and when she went to testify against the gas company, their lawyers tried to convince the judge that she deliberately blew the building up. She stood up in the courtroom and got in that lawyer’s face, and almost got thrown out. I had a sudden strike of inspiration, asked her if she minded my using her story to start a book, and I joined Nano that night. I had no idea what I was going to write; it just came out.
We’re especially proud of the fact that your first NaNo book was chick lit. What made you decide to write chick lit? Were you a fan of the genre before you started writing novels?
Well, here’s the thing about chick lit, and genre in general – it’s a function of marketing, more than the writing. Any first-person story with a spunky heroine was labeled “chick lit” because it was a hot market at the time. I’ve always been a fan of funny women’s fiction, so yes, I loved chick lit. But it wasn’t my intention to write to any particular genre; I just wrote the story that came naturally to me.
What’s the difference between writing a book during NaNoWriMo and writing under “normal circumstances?”
Nano has the unique party atmosphere to it. During that first Nano, about seven or eight of us would gather every night and do word sprints to get our words down, and it was so much fun!But there’s more than that. It’s my strong belief that there are two elements to the work of any skilled writer; one is the magic that makes that story uniquely theirs, and the other is the craft that allows that magic to fly. We tend to focus on the craft, on the things we’re doing wrong or that we can improve – structure, characterization, dialogue, weeding out adverbs and infodump – because it’s something we can put our backs up against. And don’t get me wrong; I love craft. Craft is essential to making your book the best it can be. But that kind of inner critic can kill the magic, the ephemeral wonders that just come to you, those qualities of voice and sentence structure and storytelling that are not about anything you can learn, but just who you are as a writer. It’s the magic that makes a novel great, and it’s also the magic that terrifies the writer, because we can’t identify it or control it or point to it and say, “That’s it.” It is much easier to identify an adverb than it is to know what it is that makes your magic tick.Nano makes you work at such a pace that outrun that inner critic giving you crap about your craft, and you start to just revel in the magic. And let me tell you something – give me a choice between a perfectly crafted book with no magic and a book that’s full of magic but is riddled with adverbs and infodump, and I’ll choose the latter every day of the week and twice on Sundays.But, give me a book that’s full of magic and wonderfully crafted… now that’s an author I’ll follow to the ends of the earth.I’m sorry – did I answer your question?
What’s your revision process like? Does it change from book to book? I’ve developed a standard process for all three phases of a story – discovery (pre-writing, when the world just comes to you and you indulge whatever flights of fancy you wish), writing (the wild Nano rush where you go so fast you outpace your inner editor) and revision (post-writing, in which I go through the magic I’ve created and apply my craft so other people can read it without going, “Huh?”) Right now, after ten books, I’ve got it down to a process that really works for me, and it’s what I teach in my Storywonk classes. That said, yes, it varies from book to book. Wish You Were Here, I did nine months of discovery while finishing my other book, planned out all my anchor scenes (the big, important ones) and pantsed the rest in 28 days of Nano, and had almost no editing to do on the back end. That was glorious. In contrast, A Little Night Magic, my first Lucy March book, has been on my back for three years. I’m just finishing it now. So, yes, I have a process for every stage of writing, but every book is still different. It demands its own tweaks and adjustments to the standard process, and I give it. In a perfect world, it’s six weeks of discovery, six weeks of writing, six weeks of revision, and off to the editor. Someday, I hope to actually achieve that. :) You’re doing NaNo again this year, right? How’s it coming? Well… I had intended to do Nano. My revisions for A Little Night Magic are taking a tad longer than I’d hoped, but the project I wanted to do for Nano is my part of a collaboration I’m doing withJennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart, and it’s only 30k words, give or take. So I’m hoping to be able to jump in for the back half of Nano. I try, whenever possible, to coordinate my writing schedule around Nano; when I can write a book during Nano, with all that energy and enthusiasm coming from everyone, it’s the absolute best. What motivates you to keep writing? What gets you to sit down at the computer and give it all you’ve got?
I’m ashamed to say… what motivates me most of the time is that I’ve signed a contract, and if I don’t write, I’ll have to give the money back. But what motivates me to stay in this business instead of getting a job with a reliable schedule and paycheck is that I love telling stories. There are those moments when you fall into the manuscript like Alice down the rabbit hole, and hours go by and it feels like seconds… that’s when you know you’re doing what you should be doing. It’s wonderful, and it’s because of that that I keep doing it.That said, getting myself to sit down and just do it can be tough. I’ve found two programs (sadly, currently only available for Mac, although I’m pretty sure there are analogous programs out there) that have helped a great deal. One is Scrivener by Literature and Latte. This is a fabulous program that allows me to easily write out of sequence so I can write the scene that inspires me that day, rather than slogging through chronologically. I find that the energy I get out of writing the scenes I’m really excited about fuel me through the rest of the book. It’s totally not cheating.(I’m not familiar with the program personally, but I’m told that Writer’s Cafe is similar to Scrivener; I’ve heard nothing but great things, but haven’t used it myself.)The other is a program called Vitamin-R, made by Publicspace, and it divides your work into little slices of time. So, for instance, I may be completely intimidated by a revision of the whole book, but if I create a slice of time – say, fifteen minutes – in which my goal is to fix just one scene, I can do that. I start with that, program it in, and at the end of the fifteen minutes, I can choose to take a break, or move into the next goal. Setting tiny goals and timing myself gives me that sense of accomplishment that you don’t often get with big projects like novels. And by working for 15 minutes at a time, I can slowly scratch my way through a project that seems daunting. Before I know it, I’ve done a good load of work. It’s wonderful.I’ve personally requested to both of these companies that they make Windows and Linux versions so that my students can buy them; most people are still on Windows, and it’s a crime that this fabulous software isn’t available to absolutely everyone. So if you’re on Windows, and you want this software – write to them! And tell them Lani sent you!
I’ve heard some rumors that you’re shifting genres a bit. I’ve also heard something about magic waffles, which, by the way, sound delicious. Care to tell us more?
Well, the waffles themselves aren’t magic, but… yes, I’m writing a book tentatively titled A Little Night Magic, which I’m writing for St. Martin’s Press as Lucy March. It’s about a small town waffle waitress who discovers she has rare magical powers. It’s been an uphill climb, definitely, but I’m pretty happy with the final product. The first chapter can be found here.
Last but not least: What do you think about the wide spread belief that chick lit is dead? I touched on this a little before, and I know y’all are going to throw things at me, but here’s the thing: chick lit isn’t chick lit. It’s a marketing label slapped on funny, first-person women’s fiction. It’s just what you call it. You can’t call yourself chick lit anymore, because people who don’t understand what it means will turn up their noses, but it doesn’t matter. Pardon my cynicism, but when you send it to an agent or an editor, just call it something else.There will always be space on the shelf (or, as it’s going, in the e-reader) for great stories, and you can write great stories in funny, first person style and find a market for them. So, yes, you can’t call it chick lit anymore because the people who market will shy away from that. But funny, smart women’s fiction will never be “dead.” Great stories will always be relevant, and will always have a place in the market. Write great stories in whatever style you want to write them, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you’re writing is “dead,” because anyone who says that about any genre is just wrong. Great stories in any style will always prevail. Naysayers are people who don’t understand that in the end, it’s always about story. Tell a great one, and you’ve got no worries. Thanks so much for having me over here! It’s been fun!
Thank you Lani! We hope you’ll come back and visit us again! :-) Learn more about Lani, her writing, and her classes by visiting lanidianerich.com, lucymarch.com and storywonk.com.

NaNoWriMo Prep and Tools

nano_15_poster_mainHappy almost NaNoWriMo from your friendly neighborhood blog! Last week, we posted a bit of an intro to NaNo with some inspiration. As promised, we're back with a list of resources and tools to help you get ready for the huge month. Of course, this list is only the tip of the iceberg and not everything on this list will work for everyone. So please, leave a comment and let us know what works for you. Enjoy the rest of your October and get as much sleep as you can! :-)

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: 3. The NaNo site has lots of tips for prep. 4. Don't isolate yourself. Talk to fellow Wrimos and, of course, your fellow chapter members about your story. 5. Read, watch TV, and watch movies. You have an excuse! Interacting with story sets off alarm bells for your muses. Even one tiny line of dialogue could generate the best story idea ever. Good luck, everyone! And we'll be back regularly to cheer you on.    

NaNoWriMo Countdown!

nano_15_poster_mainHappy October, Everyone! It's less than a month until National Novel Writing Month! Is that good news? Bad news? Scary news? All of the above? Don't worry. We've got your back. To kick off NaNo season, here are just a few posts about the month long exercise in caffeine and insanity. Not sure what NaNoWriMo is? The first post is an explanation. Want more? Here's the entire archive. If you haven't done NaNo before, what are you waiting for? Sign up now! If you'd like to write a post about NaNo, whether you've experienced it or not, be in touch. We'll be back soon with a list of resources that will help you survive the thirty days. Have fun! :-)
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 Owen

Ah, 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 Miles

It’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 [...]