NaNo isn’t just for November anymore

My writing group ( is all for writing challenges, such as National Novel Writing Month (, fondly referred to as NaNo.  We’re not particularly crazy about the timing – during the busy month of November.  Last year, we moved it to the winter.  It was such a success, we’re duplicating it.  Between meetings, February 12th to March 12th, we’re challenging each other to write 32K.  A gift certificate is on the line for one of the finishers.  This year, as a fundraiser for our “I Always Wanted to Write a Book” Conference in October, we’re asking for a small entry fee, with a prorated monetary “contribution” for every 1K not written.

I’m very excited about the story I’ll start next month.  I know the purpose of NaNo is flat out, no-holds-barred writing, giving the subconscious a chance to go off on tangents and bring brilliance to the story, but I like to have some structure.  So, I’ve loosely outlined “Ghost Lover” in a way that won’t squelch the creative process.  It’s not quite “pantsing” but it’s a far cry from my usual spreadsheet micro-controlling way of plotting.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • Determine names.  Clare and her sisters Julie and Anna.  The hero is still nameless, but it begins with an “A”due to this complex, illogical naming system I have.
  • Pick the hero and heroine’s occupations that fit the plot.  Clare is a caregiver.  “A” was more difficult, but I asked the muses/destiny/collective consciousness and they came through with a court appointed legal guardian.
  • Do ghost research.  By studying different cultures and case studies, I now have the foundation for my worldbuilding.
  • List the things that “have” to happen.   Clare has to do this, this and this.  “A” has to do this and that.  By writing down the important events in their story, I can put them in rough chronological order, which will give  me logical structure as I’m blowing through 32K in four weeks.
  • Get back in the habit of writing every day.  Whether on the laptop or with a legal pad and pen, I’m starting to dedicate a specific time every day to the writing process.
  • Get a manicure.  Sure, it sounds trite, but I’m going to be spending more time on the keyboard, so a nice manicure (in Senorita Rosalita by Opi) is a self indulgence I’m willing to pay for.

What about you?  Are you starting a new book soon?  What do you do to prepare for it?

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Never give up, never surrender

Movie fans will recognize the above as a quote from “Galaxy Quest.”  I like to think of it as a writer’s credo.

In an industry filled with crushing competition, it’s a difficult road to publication.  Publishing is going through a tumultuous period.  The advent of epublishing has turned everything upside down.  Houses are closing, staff is being cut and authors are suddenly without a place to publish their works.

A tough time, eh?  Might as well give up and forget ever getting your story to a reader, right?

Not so fast.

I’ve always been a big believer of talent winning out.  Send your manuscript out and someone will recognize a good story and the skill it took you to write it.  I’ve seen it over and over.  Talented writers who submit and submit and gnash their teeth and cry with each rejection letter and want to give up.  But they don’t.  They keep sending out query letters, keep writing, and never give up.  And talent wins out.  They get published.

My debut novel, “What Do You Say to a Naked Elf?” was published over five years ago.  Its sequel didn’t sell.  The next book didn’t either.  I took a page out of “Galaxy Quest” and didn’t give up, didn’t surrender.

You know what?  Perseverance pays off.  “Tall, Dark and Slayer” will be released by Champagne Books in January, 2012.

Read an excerpt here.

And never give up.  Your turn is next.

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Planning, planning

You’d think, at this time of the year, I’d be busy planning for Christmas and New Year’s events.  Luckily, we’re planning a low key holiday season, and most of our celebration will not require any more thought than what restaurant to chose.

So what am I planning?  My writing group is hosting a one day conference next fall.  Another member and I have been chasing down a venue and keynote speaker.  You’d be surprised at how hard it is to pull information from hotels.  You’d think they’d have all the information on their websites, as transparent as glass.  But no.  Like a salesman, they want personal contact.  Emails have been flying in and out of my yahoo account, and I’m still missing information from some of them (really?  You can’t tell me how much a buffet breakfast costs?) And don’t think I don’t know about the 20-22% “service fee” and the sales tax that you’ll add to the cost of conference rooms.  Your banquet room costs how much?  But your competitor is giving it to us for free.

Of course, price is only a part of what makes up a great writing conference.  Does it have an inviting lobby?  Clean rooms? An ambiance that matches our group?  And, most importantly, what’s the bar like?

We’ll have a decision soon, after we run it by the rest of the committee.  In the meantime, think about visiting West Michigan in mid-October.  We can’t wait to meet you.

I’ll have more announcements soon.

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