Tag: writing

How I do NaNoWriMo: One woman’s reflection of the process.

This morning, I was like, hey! When is National Novel READING Month, but I was informed by my kids that NaNoReMO is a year long affair. However, NationalToday.com states that in 2003, the National Book Foundation recognized October as National Book Month. We missed it this year, readers. Mark your calendars though, because we will be doing it to the extreme next year!

We are on day seven of celebrating the month designated in the writing world as National Novel Writing Month.

I wanted to address three things that my excitement in the previous post didn’t allow.

  1. I am not a National Novel Writing Month Master. In the past, I avoided it because I was not in a position to put myself into a 50k surplus of words. The first time that I entered NaNoWriMo was last year, and I was successful only because I trained.

I have spent years writing, building my literary muscles, and learning strategies that have made me relatively successful in meeting goals that I set in place. I also have a work environment that promotes writing, and I have amazing coworkers and mentors who are continually checking in on me. I have a relaxed home life with no expectations that consume all of my time. I am one of the blessed.

I also have a kickass kitty editor:

2. I was asked the other day, if your main objective is to just get 50,000 words in a month, aren’t they going to be really crappy? For example, you could just blather on about the blue sky, or well maybe it was more gray but at either rate something that made your character think it was about too to rain, which thus altered their mood and made the whole day seem pretty blahworthy? <~ in other words, wouldn’t you just be putting words on a page, and not really have accomplished much if you’re going to revise them out?

I agree that sounds like a waste, and I’m not going to claim that people don’t do that. However, I would say to give me more credit than that. I am as equally likely to put an excess amount of words into my drafts even when I’m not tracking them, not because I’m a bad writer, but because I know that my main goal in creating a draft is getting words on a page. My focus is on my ideas, or what I’m visualizing, which can change as I gain more clarity through the act of writing. I embrace the sloppiness and redundancy of my drafts no matter what time of year.

Despite my bravado in the previous paragraph, I was curious, so I looked back at a rough draft of a piece that I had started in September. It was a short story, still kind of crappy and needing a lot of revision. In this piece, I did what I’d like to call a very skeletal telling of the situation. The plot was moving on, but there was no real description of anything. There was also a lot of dialogue that felt awkward (Do people still say Greetings?). Then, I looked at what I had written on the first day of Nano. My first day of NaNo work was superior to the short story. But it wasn’t because I was focused on getting words out and spending more of my time writing, I credit the fact that I did more prep work for my NaNo project. For the NaNo project, I had spent October detailing things so I had a clearer picture, and because I had a clearer picture, it was easier to bring the words out. I don’t really know the characters in my September short story yet, so sometimes they became stiff as I was writing about them. As such, I would say that NaNo is not affecting my ability to write efficiently, plotting is. And it’s not to say that my September piece won’t eventually be on the same level, it just means I took a different approach to get there.

3. My biggest secret to the NaNoWriMo experience is that I don’t write all day, nor do I write in large spans of time. Never have, even as an academic writer, and to me, an hour is too long. During NaNo, there has not been a day so far that I haven’t been able to sit down and do some level of ninja writing sprints. In these sprints, I don’t look at 50k, I look at 500 words. I’m just going to commit to sitting wherever I am at, watching my characters, and seeing how they interact with each other… for 500 words. Sometimes it takes ten minutes, others 20-40 minutes, but after that, I am off to do something else.

I don’t make it a habit to be consumed with writing so that I become burned out. You will never catch me trying to sit down for more than 40 minutes to write, and this is a model that I celebrate throughout the year. The only thing that has changed during NaNo is how many times that will I sit down and sprint throughout the day. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t go over 500 words; I have on several occasions, if I am in the zone. I just don’t expect it.

I also don’t do any writing after 7 p.m. unless I am at work on Thursdays.  I embrace the me time during these hours, but again, I have a schedule and support network that allows me to do this. Not everyone has that luxury.

I am really curious to see what every one else’s tricks to NaNoWriMo are. What tricks do you find successful that I can add to my toolbox?

Or what are your reasons for not attempting NaNo? It’s not for every writer, and these reasons are just valuable.  

National Novel Writing 2019 Edition

Forget Halloween and dressing up for candy, it’s time to talk about my favorite time of year:

National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo is an organization that collaborates with writers and helps them receive resources, thus allowing them to reach success within their projects. I’m a long time fan, and have blogged about it numerous times in the past.

This year’s project is a bit tricky:

My mother asked me to write a romance Navy-Sealesque type story for her birthday. She’s big into these type of books, which have quite a huge range to choose from. I got about one chapter done before scrapping it. Commission writing is hard, especially when you’re not getting paid for it, but the idea I had in mind stuck with me. Then, I had a genius idea to synthesize it with a previous story that I also scrapped. Throw in another romantic duo and BAM, an idea is ready to spring forth into fruition!  It’s unlike anything that I have written before, and definitely not like the romance books my mom reads, but I’m excited to see how it all comes together.

This is the first time that I have done some serious prepping for my upcoming project. I created an index: character profiles, histories of each country involved, and all the socio-political issues being faced. I’m quite proud of myself!

I also created a log to accompany me around, which was great in helping me strategize when I can write. In theory, 1667 a day seems doable, until you run into a day where you have only 3 hours free. As a result, my daily count ranges from 500-3,000 a day to make sure that I can maximize my free days and not stress about the days that aren’t. If I keep on track, I will have no trouble reaching the hefty 50,000 goal.

However, there lies the one catch to this whole process. To get to 50,000 words in a 30 day window, I have to be really focused, especially since I am a turtle writer. One missed 3,000 day will instantly derail me. And I have a lot of distractions to contend with. I have a new writing buddy, who is only seven weeks and eager to have my attention at all times. I have work, which often exhausts me because it comes with a huge mental load. I have a family and their numerous activities. NaNoWriMo is a serious test of perseverance.

And if that were not enough, I like to take NaNoWriMo to the extreme. On top of writing, I will be reading The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. When I saw this for sale in a scholarship bookfair event on campus, I knew that it would be perfect for November.

For audio pleasure this month, I will be listening to You Do You by Sarah Knight. It’s not about writing, which I try to stick to each year, but I felt like this had the right energy to keep things in perspective. Plus, her Tedx Talk puts me in the right mood to be reminded of how valuable my time is, and to spend it wisely. There’s no extra f*cks during National Novel Writing Month!

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo?

Do You Have to Read to Be a Great Writer?

This has come up often in my various online writing groups:

There’s a writer, new to the world of compiling stories in a text based format. Like me, they want to be the next Ms. J.K. Rowling…

They have a manuscript ready for review and are eager to either workshop or jump straight into finding the agent that will make their dreams come true.

The only catch: they haven’t read a book in years, and this really doesn’t sit well with a lot of other writers. “How can you not love reading?” the other writers ask. The non-readers become pariahs in a community that was meant to support them.

In their defense, aren’t writing and reading separate activities with one being passive and the other active?

To me, it’s ok that that non-reading writers do not read; I’m not out to manage anyone else’s time, but I’m wondering if writers can become great if they don’t.

I tried to do some research.

I put “Famous authors who don’t like to read,” into Google, but I only found various sites telling me that this idea doesn’t exist. In order to write you MUST read! Article after article says it, so it must be true. On the other hand, there are some Reddit threads of people thinking it’s ok for writers to not read.

There’s an article from Salon; however, that I found interesting. It attributed a growing list of writers not reading to our culture:

Or maybe the bolder point is that craft is of little interest to certain want-to-be writers. In our 15-megabytes of fame culture that favors quantities — friends, followers, number of comments — over quality this might be what it all comes down to, because if you can be recognized and rewarded as a writer without being much of a reader, guess what, most people will not try to read James Joyce.

Is it fair to say that all non-reading writers are just out for the fame? Sure, especially when a lot of reading writers are doing it for the same reasons.

I will openly admit that I have not had a huge amount of sales, but I have two shrines in various workplaces with my books on display. Whether these people have read my work or not, they know I have tangible books out there in the world that people are reading, thus identifying me as a writer. The books don’t have to be good for this to be part of my identity; they just have to exist. I love identifying as a writer and that others identify me as one.

To conclude, my research didn’t really answer my question on whether you have to read to be a great writer.

If anything, it led to more.

Despite respecting the non-reading writers, I haven’t lost hope in converting them into avid readers. Sometimes we just need to be introduced to a new perspective.

Here is my response to the top three reasons that I’ve been told why writers don’t read:

There’s never enough time:

That’s a valid point no matter what a person is trying to accomplish. There are only 24 hours in a day. Other than a serious dedication to time management, it’s hard to find a solution to this universal problem. Do you really have zero time to read, or do you not want to invest your time on it? Even 10 minutes a day is better than 0. I learned that philosophy from Hal Eldrod’s Miracle Morning.

In 10 minutes a day, maybe you could get a book read every few months. That puts you leagues ahead of fellow non-readers!

Which leads to the next reason also involving time: It takes away from writing time.

This is also legitimate. I read less when I’m writing, and write less when I’m reading, but I’m still always doing both within my day. When I was going for my B.A. in Creative Writing, I had already developed a deep link between reading and writing (which is probably why I am super judgmental in regards to writers needing to read). It was necessary to budget time for writing because it was part of my degree program, but I didn’t have the same level of eustress to manage reading. As such, I mentally converted reading time into an “Independent Study.” Every class that I enrolled within I found a book to correlate with it. For example, when I took a non-fiction workshop, I read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. With this philosophy, I made reading a priority, thus furthering my inability to separate reading from writing.

But ugh.. sometimes reading isn’t pleasurable, which is fair, especially if you were forced to read texts like the Scarlet Letter in high school. Writing and reading; however, are like muscles. They need to be exercised and diving into extreme sports, like 1000 pages of The Stand by Steven King, can cause serious brain fatigue. Ease into it, grasshopper!  If you aren’t swallowing novels like they’re tic tacs, that’s ok. There are some amazing short stories out there, like Donald Barthelme’s “The School.” They can give you the same satisfaction as reading novels. There’s a yearly anthology that I love called The Best American Short Stories, which has some of our best contemporary authors compiled together just for you! A couple of pages a day can introduce you to great writers.

Now that I have addressed the reasons non-reading writers don’t want to read during their writing journey, here’s three reasons why I think you should:

Passion is hard to keep consistent when you’re writing. My first official novel took 2 years to complete from start to finish. It took J.R.R. Tolken twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings. If you are curious about other turtle paced writers check out this article: 7 Novels That Took Their Authors Years To Write (To Make You Feel Better About Not Finishing NaNoWriMo). Reading keeps you invested in the project even after your writing bug has disappeared. Additionally, it shows you that if books like those listed on the worst books can get published, it means your book can get published, too! <~ although hopefully it doesn’t show up on the worst books list.

Like I’ve said before, I’m a big time book pusher. When I’m talking about my book, I’m also pushing other books. “Oh you liked mine? Check out this one next!” This allows me to move beyond my one and done book and be a wealth of information for my readers, which keeps them coming back! It lets them see that I am just like them! I care about my readers, and I know they’ll appreciate my recommendations. Bonus points if they have recommendations for me! In the independent book selling market, this level of connection with readers is crucial.

I learned a lot from my creative writing classes, but none of the education really sunk in until I saw it in practical application. Reading immerses you into various techniques and styles, allowing you as a writer to better develop your own. By reading books, I learned about flow of ideas, how better it is to show vs. tell, and where to insert physical description. I also learned to reflect on my responses to what I was reading and utilize these to project the same responses for my audience. As such, reading has made me a better writer. Beta reading has made me an even better writer.

At the end of the day, if you’re a writer who doesn’t like to read, you probably didn’t read this post (totally ok; it kind of lost my attention at the end as well). If you did, you just read like 1000+ words, so you can now say you’re a reader. Kudos!

Am I saying that you have to be reader to write, nope, but I am saying that if you want to be a GREAT, you should.

If you have any recommendations of books that turned you from a non-reader into a reader, please share them in the comments. I’d love to see what books brought others to the reader side.  

Camp NaNoWriMo Is Back!

If you have never heard of CampNaNoWrimo, I have written about it before in other blog posts, but the gist is that for the month of July writers set goals and hold each other accountable via intimate forum based groups.

It’s my understanding that NaNo time is supposed to be spent drafting and the off time revising/planning. I suppose that’s a good process, but I’m still revising the 50,000 words I wrote in November, not including all the new extra 30,000+ from April’s CampNaNoWrimo. I’m a slow revisionist, very meticulous in my ability to procrastinate revising, and so it’s not in my best interest to devote July to drafting more words.

As such, this Camp NaNoWriMo I am going to embrace the art of the red pen!

I don’t actually own a red pen, so a red highlighter will have to do…

There will be many surgical cuts, padding where needed and sometimes complete overwrites. It will be hard to capture word count, which is the conventional progress tracking system of fellow Nanoers.

With my trusty stopwatch app on my phone, I will be tracking hours. My goal is to dedicate one hundred hours to the revision process, essentially turning my goal into a part time summer job. Or should it be considered an internship, as I am not really getting paid?

I will also be reviewing the audio book English Grammar Bootcamp from my favorite linguist, Anne Curzan. This series is great, and I gush about it at least once a day at work. I like to pair my writing process with good literature like it’s a fine wine.

Good luck to my fellow NaNo peeps!

I’m Going to Camp!!!

Camp NaNoWriMo is only a few short days away, and I’m excited!

For those not in the know, Camp NanoWrimo is the love child of NanoWriMo, a time away from the vigorous expectation of the elder namesake and it’s 50,000 words within a single month of craziness.

My story idea is a new one that I’ve been developing: a child not too school savvy who has fallen in love with only one book of his life, and it ends with a cliffhanger. The need to find the sequel to the book is strong, but it seems the author never got around to making it! What’s a kid to do? Give up?! Obviously, the answer is no!

One of my favorite features of the Camp experience is that YOU, the amazing writer with a million other responsibilities, get to make your own manageable goal. Forget the NaNoWriMo box; create your own!

This month I will try to write 30,000, which is about 30,000 more than I wrote for the month of February.

Ok I lied, I spent some time writing poetry.

But drafting stories is a mixture of feeling almost godlike to being reduced to a mere mortal within the same breath.

It’s not good for the blood pressure some days.

Which is why the second unique feature of CampNanoWrimo is so valuable: bunkmates! In a forum-based discussion group, you are paired with various people (or create your own cabin) to have a support group.

So far my bunkmates are ready for action!

Anyone else participating in CampNaNoWriMo this year?

My Support Crew

Friday is almost here, which means that Children of the Planes will be released into the world!

To celebrate, I would like to spotlight those who supported me during the composing stages of this piece:

My husband who is my biggest creative cheerleader and proudly serves his country. Without him making the choices that he has made, there wouldn’t have been any need to write a book about coping with deployment.

My kids deserve the biggest shout out. They pushed me to create this story, brainstormed ideas with me, and were my beta readers. I may have been a bit crazy at times trying to form ideas or asking a million questions, but they took it like champs. Seriously, this book should have their names on it too.

My mother for her motherly intuition to know that I’d be a published author someday.

Aunt Mo for being the first Allaire family writing trailblazer. Check out her own published series at mjallaire.com.

The Shenanigans Crew for always being there, reading my work when I needed a set of grown up eyes, and for celebrating my successes like they were your own.

Joan and Kelli, the other lady leaders of our little crew. You are my village. Their kids are like my very own, hence why they appear within this book.

The Gabriele family for letting me burrow in the corner to write while the children took karate classes. Sometimes that was the only time in the day I was able to write.

Miss Julie for taking the time to help revise this story. I can be a hot mess of a writer. If you don’t see the hot mess, it’s because Julie caught it.

Last, but not least, there were many more who have supported my journey, friends and family who were excited when I shared news about my progress or have promised to purchase the book. I can’t thank you all enough for being part of my original fan base!

The Writer’s Blessing and Happy New Years!

2018 was an incredible year for me.

I became a champion of both CampNaNoWrimo and NaNoWrimo.

I started this website to promote my work.
I created a Twitter platform and have 880 followers.

I graduated with a B.A.  in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.

I earned the Lavender Award for my championship of LGBTQ inclusivity on the college campus I work for.

And I completed my Women’s Study certificate.

I finished the Children of the Planes novel and completed the rough draft of its sequel.

Finally, I became a published author.

All humble bragging aside, what great feats did you all accomplish this year? What goes have you set for yourself for 2019?

Ode to My Love, Coffee

Dear World,

I have a secret.

I know what my Christmas gift from my son is.

I had commented during a poetry segment in his Language Arts course that I thought he was an amazing poet and that he should think about continuing on with the art form after the course was over.

He is now in the working stages of creating me a book of his poetry!!!

To commemorate my son’s future as a poet, I am releasing, via my blog, a poem that I have written. It is featured in Scholarly Creative Writing, so if you’ve already purchased my book, it isn’t new (sorry).

The End…..

Thus concludes National Novel Writing Month, and with it the Nanowrimo challenge.

If you remember, I was taking National Novel Writing Month TO THE EXTREME!

Some were able to make it to champion status.

Others didn’t, but they have more words than when theystarted, and I hope they continue to bring their ideas to fruition.

The most important lesson that this month taught me as a writer,is the need for discipline. That seems an ironic concept, as I trained in the martial arts for a few years, especially with the mindset that what you learn on the mats transcends into your every day lives.  

Even if you don’t have a game plan for the writing, you have to have a game plan of when and what you’ll be working on each day or it won’t work. And if your schedule is as crazy as mine is, you really do need to pencil in times to write.

Writing is also like a muscle. You can likely finish a 10k without a training, but it won’t happen in the same time frame than someone who has been training for the big day. I was only successful because I have been working out almost every day… on writing. Don’t think I can actually run a 10k or anything.

I let the Stackskill thing go to the wayside. Again, from the martial arts, I was conditioned to believe that you must always go back to the fundamentals if you want to succeed, but these fundamentals diverted from my time to get to work. I felt like I was stuck in a lecture that, although brief, I couldn’t get out of.

I have about an hour left of Steven King’s On Writing. I’ve enjoyed it some extent,but I can see now why he claims he will never be able to break out of that Suspenseful Literature like he wanted to a few years back. His views on writing are the makings of the own box that he put himself into, but his insights are something that all writers should go through so that they can make conscious choices about their writing.

How was everyone else’s National Novel Writing Month?

And when is National Novel READING Month?