Monday, December 19, 2011

The Great Road Trip Audio Book Collection

Hi, gang.

First, thank you. I started this blog back in April for the A-Z challenge and figured it would be a minor miracle if I kept it through the summer. Lo and behold, here I am. There is so much yet to learn and many more mistakes to make, but if you're reading this, it means you decided to come along for the ride. So I thank you.

Second, this will be my last post before the holidays. I have a few days to get my act together before I leave and when I return, I am sequestering myself and finishing my NaNo story. I might have a blog in there somewhere, but I'll be back in business for certain after the New Year. It's okay to cry. :)

Oh! Speaking of crying (sorry, this is a TOTAL tangent), I had my first writerly moment the other day: I cried while writing a scene. 

Has that ever happened to you before? I wasn't sure if I should walk away from something that so clearly upset me, or if I should mine those tears and emotions for literary gold. I stayed in the "cry zone" for about 10 minutes before I had to end the scene. It was strange and amazing and somehow reassuring all at the same time.

Back to the holidays...

I hit the road on Thursday for an 11-hour road trip down to southern Illinois. This year's trek will be quite enjoyable with my stash of audio books. Check 'em out!

  1. Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
  2. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
  3. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
  4. Feed, M.T. Anderson

Any recommendations of other amazing audio books? Please let me know as I'm always looking for more, though I prefer books that are no longer than ~7 hrs. The librarian told me Friday that the new Stephen King audio book had something like 35 discs. Seriously? Who will listen to that? Um, no thank you. 7-8 hrs is my limit before I tune out and stop caring.

And finally, for your viewing enjoyment, a young TL Conway family photo. Did anyone else's dad make you look somewhere else OTHER than the camera for family pictures? Every time I see this, I crack up. Maybe it's the matching outfits for my mom and I, or my brother's prep school casual pose, or knowing the curses my dad would mutter when he realized he (again!) set the camera too low and it cut off the top of his head. I'm not sure. But right now, I miss my dad, so I'm sharing this with you.

Happy holidays, blogging world. 
I wish you happy family memories, safe travels, and smiles. 
See you in 2012.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing group vs Critique group

How does your writing group work?
Okay, blogosphere. I have a question for you.

Last winter, I met with three other writers every two weeks. We met for approx two hours to discuss the writing we handed out at the previous meeting. By the end of April, we read each others NaNos and had some great conversations about things that worked vs things we found confusing.

It looks like we will meet this winter to again swap NaNo chapters (Caveat: this is purely to enjoy the stories and get used to reading and commenting. We realize they are nowhere near "final" stages.), but I have heard requests for more substance to these meetings.

One request is for dedicated writing time. Another is for someone to bring a "lesson" of sorts for each meeting. I feel the group's hunger to learn more and I absolutely applaud it.


As the ad hoc "leader" of our group, I feel conflicted. Reading, sharing, and learning through experience is one thing. But preparing lessons, incorporating free writes, readings, and scene rewrites? This feels a bit much for a 2 hour group.

And the nagging question in my head that I continue to to ignore because I don't know how to deal with is: have our needs and expectations outgrown our group?

The success of last year's group was due largely in part to four people all making the same commitment. This year, one person's work schedule has dramatically changed, another has just returned from a semester abroad and likely hasn't written anything, and I feel like I'm ready to put my 2011 NaNo on the back burner so I can get to my 2010 story. But all the while, no one wants to break up the group.

Ignoring our schedules for a moment, those of you who participate in writing groups, how do you manage writing time versus critique/discussion time? Is it possible to incorporate both, or should they be two separate meetings?

I would love to hear how any of you approach writing/crit groups.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Special Thursday surprise: guest post

I know, I don't normally post on Thursdays. But, this is a special circumstance.

See, my blog mentor/guru friend, Sommer Leigh, invited me to write a guest post on editing on her blog, Tell Great Stories.

Please hop over and check it out! Look, I have cupcakes--they're even Red Velvet! (Play along; bribery always works!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Last January, author Beth Revis's debut book, Across the Universe hit shelves. Twelve months later, yours truly finally encountered the perfect storm: no current books to finish, no NaNo deadline, no life/work/travel deadlines, and most importantly--no wait list from the library! 

I was finally able to read this book and since some of you asked for my thoughts, here you go: My very first book review!

Title/Author: Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Date Published: January 11, 2011
Pages: 398
Genre: YA science fiction/fantasy

Here's the synopsis as taken from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Okay, so let's get to business.

1. Artwork
I have purchased books before simply on the cover design and this book gave me the same feeling. I find the cover art simply stunning. I've been trying to figure out if it's the space image, the colors used, or the two faces that make this cover really sing and I'm not sure. Maybe it's because the purple and pink colors of the cosmos remind me of my Mac's desktop picture or maybe it's because I just love space. Also, the two faces remind me a bit of Swati Avasthi's Split, another cover I really enjoyed.

2. The science
As suggested by the synopsis above, one of the main characters is placed in a cryogenic state. The book begins at this point, introducing the reader to the experience. Revis shows us Amy's mother going through the process first, followed by her father. These chapters were beautifully written and I felt they did a great job of conveying both fear and bravery.

I thought the author did a wonderful job of bringing in enough futuristic science to make the plot line plausible, but without overwhelming the readers. We learn of more advanced technology further in the story such as an inner ear communications system and a floppy-disk meets tablet meets flimsy screen kind of concoction. I'm not doing it justice, but some characters had access to a futuristic tablet which also seemed to fit nicely with the advanced technology on the ship.

Other technologies such as the screens in the Recorder Hall and the water system were also very nicely established. One of the beautiful things about this book was understanding how some of these inventions aren't that far out of our reach, for better or for worse.

3. POV
I will be very honest--at first, I didn't like the two main characters told from a first person present perspective. One character in a FPP perspective is tricky for me, but two felt too confusing at first.


When I was in a reading groove, the POVs didn't bother me. And when I finished the book, it dawned on me that this was actually a very smart decision. Revis gives her readers two characters stuck on a ship in the middle of space and does a great job of carrying the feeling of claustrophobia all the way through the book. So when I finished, I realized the POV only enhanced that panic feeling. For the reader, there really is no place to escape. You're stuck on the ship with Elder and Amy. There's no hope for freedom for anyone.

4. Understanding Godspeed
So, speaking of the ship, Godspeed is pretty amazing, but I struggled to understand the size. How was it big enough to hold approx 2,000 people AND have farming lands? Since I'm a more visual learner, I couldn't create a mental layout of the ship. It wasn't until I finished the book and was looking around on the author's website that I found a ship schematic. Duh! Why didn't I think to go to the book's page, first? I will absolutely head back to the layout (you can find it all here!) when the next book, A Million Suns comes out.

5. Few minor hiccups
I stopped to re-read only two passages for clarification. One minor example was that at one point, a character is able to bypass a locking system to enter a hatch. I thought it was strange he could do this on a ship so tightly controlled by thumbprint access, but it wasn't a big enough deal to really worry about it. I was too busy reading and flipping to the next page, eager to figure out what happened and frankly, I'd rather be excited about the next page then worry about a locking system.

6. Final thoughts
Beth Revis has done a very nice job of managing her brand. Her website and book site blend seamlessly together and they dovetail directly into the artistic themes of her books. Furthermore, the author actively interacts with her readers through her Tumblr and Twitter feeds, which makes her feel "real" (as opposed to the Mythical Magical Author I see her as in my head!).

I also really liked how the author tied up some loose ends, but left the readers with more questions. It was a nice "cliffhanger" that made me think of future ramifications on the ship based on Elder's decisions. The only downside is that I have to wait a few more weeks to read the next installment as A Million Suns isn't released until January 10, 2012.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My holiday request to you

I don't want to use my blog for a social message, but I feel like I need to get this out. To tell this story just in case you might be able to relate and help someone. This is longer than I'd like; my apologies in advance.

I live in a very blue collar neighborhood outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. It's the kind of place where not everyone speaks the same language, but everyone looks out for each other. Your neighbors help you haul furniture, other neighbors help fix your roof, and other neighbors plow your sidewalk and/or driveway simply because they like to fire up their snowblower. (Yes, all of these neighborly situations have happened to me and I am eternally grateful.)

One neighbor, a Korean War vet--we'll call him L, helps everyone almost to the point of being TOO nice. So two years ago, when the woman down the street broke her leg and needed someone to take her oldest daughter to the food store, L stepped in, happy to help.

I watched this summer as the oldest daughter continued to use L for rides at all hours of the day. He took her downtown with her friends, he put her on his cell phone plan, and he even "borrowed" her money, thinking he would get it back.

When I asked my other neighbor about it, she advised I not get involved. "What if she slices your tires or throws rocks through your windows?" she asked. I was appalled that A) she thinks our neighborhood is THAT bad, and B) that she thought I'd care. I have insurance. Go ahead, smash my windows. I need new ones anyway. Bring it on, 16 year old punk. I'm not afraid of you....

A few weeks ago, L told me the whole story. When he recently tried to put an end to giving money, the daughter and her friends bullied him and pushed him down on the sidewalk. He continued to give her money out of fear.

Guys, this girl lives ON MY BLOCK. Oh, hell no. My hackles go up just THINKING about what I would've done if I had seen a 16-yr old girl push down a 75+yr old man!

L told me how over the past year, he hocked his gold Shriner's ring and sold his old pick up, along with any other valuables he had, and took a loan against his house. As a result of giving this girl so much money, he was unable to pay for his property taxes, food, gas, or dog food.

Today, I took L a loaf of banana bread and a tin of holiday cookies, something I do every year to say thanks for all the snowblowing he does. He stood in his doorway and cried as he told me he finally had some money to put toward his property taxes. He told me how the local sheriff personally calls him every week or two just to make sure he's okay.

So why am I telling all of you about this?

I have a simple holiday request that stands year-round:  If you have any reason to believe that someone you care about or an elderly member of your community is in need of help, or is being swindled or bullied, do something.

It doesn't have to be anything drastic. Call your local police station and ask for a wellness check. Or look online. I know my county has a confidential line specifically set up for calls related to elder abuse.

Knowing this girl in our neighborhood took advantage of L, an innocent older man, makes me livid. L now has a restraining order against her and hasn't had any problems in the past month or so. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this is behind us.

If you've read this far, thank you. I promise to be back on Wed with something a bit more writerly-related and less depressing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Five--Dr. Who, gaming systems, and more!

(Thanks to Jessica Love for the Friday Five idea. You can check out her blog here!)

I spent an hour last night putting together my blog for today and when I logged on this morning--it wasn't there. This results in me being both sad and incredibly annoyed.

I don't have an hour to give to this today, unfortunately, but there were questions I really wanted answered! So here's a significantly reduced recap. Unfortunately, without all the pics I had loaded last night.

1. How to do Dr. Who
I would really like to start watching this series, but it's been on for ages and I'm not sure where to start. I'd hate for you to recommend the beginning as that gives me almost 20 years of shows, right? Is there a safe place for a newbie to jump right in?

2. Xbox360 vs PS3
I have an incredible urge to buy a gaming system. I've never owned one so I'm not sure where to start. Is it really just a matter of preference, like Mac vs PC? I really just want to play Lara Croft games. I'm not sure why, but they look like so much fun. So I ask my gaming friends--is one really "better" than the other?

3. Across the Universe
Last night, before Blogger at my blog post (nope, I'm not bitter--why do you ask?), I finished Beth Revis' Across the Universe. I'm not sure if a book review blog is really necessary since it's been out for almost a year, but I will say this: I really wish I had known about the ship schematics on the book's website. That would have made it much easier to understand the various levels. Oh well, at least I know about it now and can use it for A Million Suns, which comes out Jan 10, 2012!

Maybe I will do a review/what I learned from the book. We'll see. There is a lot to say about it, most of it very good...

4. To catch a Book Thief
Advice, please. I loaned my copy of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, easily one of my top 5 books EVER, to my boss many months ago. He read it, loved it, and passed it on to his wife. She started it, put it down, and... well, I don't know what happened. See, it's been almost a year and I haven't gotten it back yet. How do you ask someone--your boss--for your book back?

Wow, that sounds really lame. I should just ask him. But I have this God-awful Minnesota Nice complex and keep telling myself, "He'll return it when they're done reading it. Be patient."

5. I've been thinking...
Between reading of friends' successes with WriteOnCon and watching the agent feeding frenzy over at the Bakers Dozen earlier this week, it's put me in a rather introspective mood, which has resulted in me making a calendar of sorts. It's like a switch was flipped in my brain and I'm starting to think seriously about how to polish my story. Oh, the amount of editing and fixing and work that would need to happen absolutely makes my brain hurt, but I think this one story really has the potential. As in, it will be worth the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears that have to go in.

I don't know what this means, exactly. For now, it means that I'm taking myself a bit more seriously than I was a week ago. I guess this is my small step toward a big dream.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 in books. And 2012.

(Totally off-topic, but were any of you following along on the Baker's Dozen agent request frenzy over at Miss Snark's First Victim? SO FASCINATING. If you want to know more, check out the blog! Anyway, on to my post...)

Hi, my name is Tricia/TL. And I have a confession to make. (Here's where you say, "Hi, Trish.")

I did a horrible job of reading books this year. *hands over I wanna be a writer card* I know, I know. That's like rule number one: Writers read other writers. This is super important and I had great intentions, I really did. Look up there, do you see the link for my 2011 books read? Check it out. I was golden back in winter/spring!

But then the snow melted and the pavement called. Instead of reading or writing, I was running. I was playing. I met with my crit group. I soaked up sunshine like it was my last summer on Earth. I got out of my house. I tried new things, met new people. But didn't really pick up a book for a solid three or four months and when I did, it was Game of Freakin' Thrones! *head desk*

This is why Caitlin Nicoll's 2012 reading challenge over at Logically is perfect for me! Caitlin is challenging everyone (yes, that includes YOU!) to either a Science Fiction challenge (read about it here) or Fantasy challenge (read about that one here).

Um, Cait? HOW IS A GIRL TO CHOOSE? I thought 30 books this year would be a great goal, just over 2 books a month. Should be completely doable. However, in order to improve upon my dismal track record in either category, I'm signing up for 15 in each one.

So, for the Sci Fi challenge, I'm signing up as an Alien Cyborg (awesome. You shall now refer to me as Six). And for the Fantasy challenge, I'm signing up as a Vampire Slayer (my new official name is now Buffy Six. I win the internet.).

We can sign up with a Goodreads account but I'm going to hold off on that. For now. You see, if I introduce one more form of social networking into my life, my head will explode. Or I will be laid off. Or both. I'm still getting a hang of Twitter. And when I say "getting a hang of," you know I mean "obsessively playing," right?

How about you? What are your reading goals for 2012? Are you participating in any reading challenges? Any books you know off the top of your head that you *have to* read next year? Please share your recommendations!

Monday, December 5, 2011

So now what?

I'm experiencing a post-Ireland, post-Thanksgiving, post-mom visit, post-NaNo hangover. Anyone else in the same boat?

As promised (to myself), I had a beautiful weekend. I caught up on some shows, started reading Beth Revis' Across the Universe, picked out and hauled in BY MYSELF my very own Christmas tree, fixed my garage door, shoveled, and baked two banana breads. I also made Watergate salad. Why didn't anyone tell me how delicious pistachio pudding, cool whip, marshmallows, and pineapple were? OMG!

Unfortunately, I also paid $200 for the honor of someone to come and fix my washing machine. You'd think for $200 they'd at least make it look like a significant fix. Nope, he walked in with a small, plastic bag no more than 2x3 inches. Though on principle I refuse to go to my local hardware store to verify, my gut tells me the piece was $5 or $7 bucks and I got hosed.

Anyway, all of that has nothing to do with writing. To be honest, I'm not sure what writing project to work on next. My NaNo story still needs an ending and I really do want to know what happens to my characters. (Yes I'm a plotter and yes, there's a quasi-outline, but I've been going off script lately.) And I have plans to swap NaNos with my writing group in January, so I really do need to polish it before then.

On the other hand, I have my 2010 NaNo that I'm really eager to pick up. It has been waiting patiently in the back of my mind through all of November and now that we're into a new month, it's getting a little insistent. The book is a middle grade adventure story that I think could be really amazing with some more dedication on my behalf. A lot more.

Decisions, decisions. I would also like to take a bit of a breather from writing and actually read, but reading hasn't really been the same for me ever since I started taking my writing more seriously. Has this happened to anyone else? And if so, how'd you get around it? Because I have a TON of books that I want to read!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend and if you have any advice for my post-November hangover, I'm all ears!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Victory lap

Why, hello Purple Bar of Winner Goodness. How lovely to see you again! Yes peeps, it's official. I just staged the biggest comeback in TL Conway Nano history. How big of a comeback? Well, to give you an idea, I returned from Ireland on Nov 14 with 23,000 words and my mom staying for a week. 

Fast forward through Thanksgiving weekend, and I managed to squeak out a couple thousand words, but it wasn't until Monday night (as in, 11/28) that I actually sat down and dented the word count.

And I finally validated my novel, all 50,046 words, around 8:30pm on November 30th. Talk about waiting 'til the last minute, right? It wouldn't have been possible without my Twitter/Bransforum buddies. Hugs to all of you.

So, the story still needs an ending. Actually, it needs to have the first third hacked off before I get to the ending, but that will come later.

For now, I'm going to do fun things. I have the best weekend planned! In no apparent order, I'm picking up a whole slew of books from the library, catching up on all my shows online, snuggling with the dog, going for a run, and setting up my Christmas tree. It will be perfect.

Okay, off to relax and reward myself with totally-unnecessary-yet-oh-so-delicious ice cream. I will be back soon with a post on movies and tv shows but let me leave you with this:

I saw The Muppet movie over the weekend and am totally in love.

Every year when I set up my Christmas tree, I watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. Whenever I'm having a bad day, I pull up Muppet clips on YouTube. Words cannot describe how much I adore the Muppets. So if you love me, you will get me the original Muppet Show DVDs for Christmas. Just sayin... you know, in case you didn't know what to get me. :)

Okay, NOW I'm off to have ice cream.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick check in from Ireland

Hello! First and foremost, my apologies for any typos. The European keyboard is a bit tricky and I'm running short on time to change any mistakes. I'm getting a hang of it though...

Some of you may know/recall that I was on the fence about this trip. I was excited to go, but felt that somewhere along the way, I lost my reason or my purpose for coming here. Why Ireland, specifically?

It all hit me yesterday as I walked into a pub. But let me back up. I landed yesterday morning, picked up the rental car, said a quick prayer, and hit the road. Driving in America while exhausted is scary. Driving in a foreign country (other side of the road, other side of the car) while exhausted is down right stupid. Thankfully, I made it to Westport, Ireland in one piece. As did the car.

My friend is a musician in the area and he had a gig at a local pub last night. I was excited to stop in and hear them. He is an incredibly talented guitarist and plays with a charming older Irish man who plays the flute/whistle, a lady from Transylvania who plays the fiddle (and to say "she plays the fiddle" is a gross understatement, but right now I'm drawing a blank for better terms), and a local gent who plays the drum. (There's an official Irish term for the drum that I'll find later but for now, excuse my laziness.)

I began my night at a different pub for 2 pints before heading to where my friend was playing. I walked into their pub just as I heard the familiar sound of one of my favorite tunes. Goosebumps immediately popped up on my arms and I sat down, mesmerized by the talent of these 4 musicians. Right there, in that moment, I realized I was exactly where I needed to be. I was at the right place at the right time--for once--in the Universe. It was perfect.

But then, here's the kicker and the reason why I travel...

A husband/wife duo from Florida is in town. They're a pretty well-known group in the folk music circuit and everyone's pretty excited to hear them play tonight. But last night, they were simply there to listen, get over the jet lag, and enjoy.

I was introduced to them both as I was somewhat "with the band." Mike and Maggie were incredibly nice and happy to talk to anyone about anything. So over a pint (and a possible cig outside...) Mike and I had a few minutes to chat about the flute/whistle player, Oclan (pronounced Ulcan, as in Vulcan). I mentioned how Oclan had such an impression on me that I named one of my characters after him.

Mike: "Oh, really? A character?"
Me: (sheepishly) "Yeah, I'm a writer."

Boom. Just like that and I admitted it. But wait...

Mike: "Me, too. I published a book a few years ago and am working on another one."
Me: O_O "Oh, really?! Tell me more!"

Thankfully Mike wasn't playing last night because he and I were too busy talking about books, the publishing industry, blogs, Twitter, writing advice, everything. Never before have I wished I had a writing "business" card. I told him my experience with blogging and Twitter and he shared with me tips and tricks he's picked up along the way and advice he usually gives out at writing conferences.

Twice in one night I sat in a pub with a goofy grin on my face thinking to myself, "Is this really my life?" The amazing music, the nicest people, and a published author who wants to swap stories/help me out?

Who knows what the rest of my trip will bring. But last night, I was exactly where I needed to be.

(Here's the quick info I found on Mike McKinney's book, A Thousand Bridges.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NaNo update and a little thing called vacation

So, nano'ers, how's it going? How do you feel now eight days into the month? How's the word count coming along?

I won't lie, my word count is crazy high. I pulled something like 17K+ words out of my brain from Friday night through Sunday. It was intense and awesome and so much fun. And my brain is still in recovery mode. I left my MC just as she was kidnapped and for now, that's a good place to leave her since I'm not too sure how she's getting out. I guess I'll figure that out later.

I really do believe the only way I was able to push out 17K words over the weekend was through Twitter. I've had an account for a while but never really knew what to do or how to use it. You can even ask Sommer Leigh. I had to email her to figure out hashtags because I wasn't quite sure if I was going to use them right or not. Now, I simply don't care. I have writer friends. I can reach them. They can reach me. And we challenged each other. A lot.

I never in a million years thought I'd say this, but I don't know how I would've done this without Twitter. Gah! I'm becoming one of those people! Sorry, friends!

Anyway, I should be participating in a word sprint right now, but have I mentioned my brain is mush? Yeah, NaNo and pounds of M&Ms will do that to a girl. Plus there's a little thing called "OhmygodI'mgoingtoIreland" vacation to stress over.

So this is where I leave you, but only for a few days. I have to take off my blogging hat and focus instead on reaching my 50K goal and enjoying the heck out of my vacation. I should be back online around Thanksgiving. I do believe this will be a good time for me to share some things I'm thankful for and ways in which I realize I am truly blessed.

So this is not goodbye. Instead, it's more of a "I'll see you in a few weeks" announcement. Unless, of course, I blog before then.

Happy NaNoing to all who are participating. And a special thank you, again, to my phenomenal guest bloggers the past two weeks. Your posts were excellent and I am now officially indebted.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Alex J. Cavanaugh

Sniff...sniff... It's here. The final post for my Write What You NaNo BlogParty. I hope you all had fun these past two weeks, reading your fellow blogger/NaNoers' trials and tribulations when it comes to NaNo. But oh, boy! Did I save a great one for last or what?! I'm pleased as punch to welcome quite possibly the internet's nicest guy, Alex J. Cavanaugh to the blog! Alex is here as the poster child (next to Steph Sinkhorn) for the yet-to-be-created "NaNo Novels DO Get Published" campaign that I just invented. Welcome, Alex!

NaNo Novels Can Rock!

There are those that believe a NaNo manuscript can’t be good - that it’s merely practice and not a marketable idea. After all, it’s rushed. It’s sloppy. It probably goes in a million different directions. It couldn’t possibly form a coherent novel.

Well, I’m here to tell you not only is a NaNo manuscript salvageable, but it just might rock!

Let’s consider some of the strikes against it.

Yes, if you’re writing on the fly, a NaNo story can wander all over the map. En route, you might have a stroke of genius though. Of course, I am a big believer in forming a plan and outline before beginning. Just something to give you direction and a target to hit.

Now, the speed at which you have to compete a NaNo work is actually a good thing. There’s no time for editing, so you just write. (And there’s hardly even time for writer’s block!) You’re working on it every day, so the storyline remains fresh in your mind. The intense focus is like a fire under your seat, fueling enthusiasm and determination. You get it done!

I won’t argue that the end result is a mess. But, all first drafts are far from perfect, right? And the cleanup process includes the same steps - rewriters, edits, critiques, rewrites, edits, test readers, more edits…

It might require a little more effort than normal, but don’t let anyone tell you a novel written during NaNo can only suck.

You know why I believe NaNo novels can rock?

Because on February 28, 2012, my second novel, CassaFire, will be released by Dancing Lemur Press, LLC. And you know when I wrote it? Last year during NaNo 2010.

Take that naysayers!

This is Ninja Captain Alex telling you that your NaNo manuscript can rock.

Now, get to writing!

 Alex J. Cavanaugh is known online as Ninja Captain Alex. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. An avid blogger, he hosts blogfests, other authors, and the Insecure Writer’s support Group. His first book, CassaStar, was released October 2010, and the sequel, CassaFire, comes out February 28, 2011.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Sommer Leigh

Seriously, where's the gif of a Muppets character running around waving their hands in the air? Because right now, I need one to sum up my life that is NaNo and vacation prep. Thankfully, my friend Sommer Leigh from the amazing and informative blog, Tell Great Stories, has put aside her massive reading pile (she is a judge for the Cybils, you know), and has stepped in for today's NaNo post. Thanks, Sommer!

There is a mythology wrapped around NaNoWriMo, made partially of exaggerated truths, self-perpetuating experiences, and straight up lies. These mythologies plug into the Hollywood version of our truer, writerly selves hunched over typewriters, banging out the suffering of our generation made vivid and accountable by our ability to spin a yarn. The mythology is seductive, for better and for worse.

Within every human being is an innate, primal desire to create. Individuals create different things, from knitted sweaters to babies, from gardens to stories. We strain toward the manifestation of our fears, for that’s what it really is, in a strange effort to conquer them. The sweaters fight off cold, the babies ward off death, the gardens conquer famine and  stories…stories battle silence and memory and time. We ache to create something of ourselves. Something permanent and physical when the march of time renders everything else so aged and impermanent.

But we are also tragic about making time for ourselves and putting our happiness before all the other nagging things.  Creating things takes time, so we never get around to it. We don’t make time or not enough of it and so the need to create goes on and on unsatisfied until we’re sick from it. If we all weren’t jonesing for a hit by the time November rolled around, the breakneck speed of NaNoWriMo might destroy us.

That’s why when NaNoWriMo is on the tip of everyone’s tongue and the stars are in everyone’s eyes, I fall in love with the infectious passion all over again. The reason I love NaNoWriMo is because it is the one month of the whole year where we give ourselves permission to make writing a priority.

In November we take time off work, we ignore the laundry, the dinner, the kids. It’s the one time of the year where we put ourselves first and everything else is told to get the hell lost, see you in December, buh-bye.

Last year I bought paper plates and plastic silverware and swore off doing dishes for a month.

November is a sort of freedom writers relish, a mecca for exploring the one dream we hold private in our hearts and bracket with heavy sighs because we’d really love to write a book someday when we have more time, that magical time in our future when we will be less busy, less media consumed. When we’ll give ourselves permission to chase such an indulgent dream.

For most people, that magic day doesn’t exist. Those people have created their own road blocks, cemented the bricks, planted the mines, strung the barbed wire. They’ll never cross it. They’ll never even try.

November though, November is a special occasion, an event that happens once a year when we’re willing to work shortcuts into our lives and let episodes of our favorite tv shows pile up. Creating something, something impossible like 50,000 words of a novel, seems extraordinary and attainable for a short window of time.

Like a magic door at the back of a wardrobe, the secret entrance to the labyrinth – the mythology of NaNoWriMo and November is like that.

Sommer Leigh blogs at Tell Great Stories ( and is a moderator for Nathan Bransford’s writer forums ( ). She’s currently working on a YA sci-fi about superheroes and villains, airships and mad scientists.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Steph Sinkhorn

Y'all have heard the big news, right? The news about today's superstar blogger and newly-agented-author-of-mythic-proportions, right? No? Then please allow me this SUPER proud moment to introduce to you Steph Sinkhorn! And if you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading her blog from last week where she shares her good news (and may or may not make my eyes water), then GET OVER THERE! After you read this post, of course...

A (Maybe) Genius’ Tips for NaNo

You probably just started writing your NaNovel for this month. Congratulations! Do you know how many people talk about writing a book, about having all these ideas, but they never put pen to paper (or cursor to screen)? A LOT. A LOT OF PEOPLE. So good for you for undertaking the big, scary task that is creating a novel.

I’m a big proponent of NaNoWriMo for just this reason – it gets people to write. There are so many different paths to becoming an author, but there’s only one 100% irrefutable fact: if you want to be a writer, YOU MUST WRITE. There are no tricks or shortcuts for getting around it. So many people have issues with scheduling that essential writing time, and NaNo gives them just the kick in the butt they need to take the plunge.

I’m not a ten-year NaNo veteran like some other folks – my first attempt was in 2007 – but I have won the challenge. Today I’ll be sharing with you my tips for getting those 50,000 little words down on the page.

- As our dear blog hostess told you on the very first day of this blogfest, IT IS OKAY TO SUCK. In fact, you are SUPPOSED to suck. Sucking is how we eventually get better. Do not let the fact that you’re not writing Hemingway-level prose right out of the gate discourage you. NaNo is about quantity, not quality. Quality comes later.

- Don’t edit as you go or you’ll never finish. Remember that “quality comes later” thing? Yeah.

- Write the way that works for you, but remember that playing catch-up can be brutal. If you work best in 12,000 word bursts over the weekend, go for it. If you want to write daily, aim for 1700 words a day. Aiming for 2000-2500 words a day will give you some breathing room to take a day or two off if you need it.

- Pick a schedule and stick to it as best you can. Really. That might mean getting up an hour earlier or missing your evening television, but it’s best to get into a regular writing habit. When it feels like part of your routine, you can hardly believe you didn’t make time for it before.

- Does competition inspire you or discourage you? If you’re someone who loves a friendly race, check other word counts and see if you can beat them. If seeing someone pulling ahead of you makes you feel like a loser, then avoid looking at anyone else’s word count. Move at your own pace.

- If you need a few quick “cheats” to beef up your count, here are a few ideas: don’t (do not) use contractions, allow your characters to go on random info-dumps, insert a complex dream sequence, have someone break into song and sing the entire thing, or bring in an unexpected element and have all the characters express their surprised thoughts. Very wordily.

- Writer’s Block does not exist. I repeat, Writer’s Block does not exist. You are always in control of your words. If you’ve written yourself into a corner, break yourself out. Don’t worry about leaving gaping plot holes or “cheating” your way out of a situation. The important thing is getting the story out however you have to.

- When you hit 50K, pour yourself a drink (or have a treat, if you’re not the drinking sort). You’ve earned it. Why? Because you’re amazing and you WROTE A BOOK.

Now comes the obligatory part where I remind you that finishing a novel draft is a HUGE accomplishment, but it’s not the end of the road. That sucker probably needs at least three more months of work (AT LEAST) before it should be let out into the world. But that’s for later. For now, rejoice in your awesomeness!

NaNo is a for-fun exercise, but that doesn’t mean the things that come out of it are useless. You learn from every word you put down. And hey, in that shitty first draft, there may be a kernel of gold. I should know… my current manuscript started as a messy, no good, terrible NaNo draft. And now, two years later, it’s good. And it’s going places.

Good luck, writers!

S.E. Sinkhorn is a YA author who blogs at Maybe Genius ( Her YA Steampunk novel, THE TICK-TOCK HEARTS, started its life as a NaNo draft and just took the next big step into Agentland - she signed with literary agent Michelle Andelman last week. To get the full scoop, visit her blog! You can also follow her on Twitter: @sesinkhorn.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Margo Berendsen

OMG, everyone--Happy NaNo Day! If you're taking a break from furiously typing, welcome! If you're procrastinating on actually starting, welcome! If you have no idea what NaNo is, welcome! You get the idea. Today's special guest blogger is Margo Berendsen, a new blog friend I met through Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign. Welcome, Margo!

I love all the buzz about NaNoWriMo that I've been seeing on different blogs this year. Lots of people considering trying it, or talking about their plans, or sharing advice on how to come out of it with a workable manuscript.

But I'm just here to gush about it. Like GUSH. (Hold on to your keyboards, the gush will hit full volume in the next paragraph). I realize NaNo isn't for everyone. It has its issues. Starting with its name. Really, NaNoWriMo is a weird name, even if you shorten it to NaNo or lengthen it to its full National Novel Writing Month. People look at you like you are a alien with purple acne when you try to explain it. And yes, it's a lot of work. And yes, it has a shady reputation among “serious” writers because it's a free-for-all, no rules and no editing kind of thing, disable your back-button and delete-button kind of thing, let your characters-take-over kind of thing.

<begin crazy gushing>
And that is why I love it. Because there are no rules! You can write a crappy sentence, or a crappy paragraph, or page, or  even a chapter and it's okay. Really, it is! Don't let the naysayers tell you otherwise. Because sometimes your imagination just needs to go completely off the leash and run wild.

Even with pre-planning and outlining and all that, it is still absolutely amazing and thrilling what kinds of ideas pop off the page when you are racing to meet your word count and discarding all the urges to edit in order to make it. OMG did I just write that? That's so cool! Where did that come from? It's 1:00 am and I'm exhausted and thinking like a slug and I think my fingers must have just evolved their own brain to have come with that!

...and totally worth all the other less excited exclamations such as that was so lame! what a sorry cliche that was! I am SUCH a lazy writer! and I'm totally skipping the transition here and the description there and going straight to the next fun part!

NaNo is an idea rush for me. My characters come alive and drag me off to strange places and fascinating circumstances that I probably would be afraid to get into myself.  Settings come alive and add new layers to my plot. There’s something about the intensity of the month, the looming deadline, the progressing status bars of your NaNo-buddies and your own bar creeping and straining to keep up – it’s a pressure cooker that produces a surprising idea-stew.

<realistic moment within gush>'s not all neon gravy. There are days where duty calls and there's no time to write until 11pm and then the words come slower than a cat when you call it and then they fit together about as well as herd of cats (really, I like cats, don't get me wrong) and you keep waiting for that idea rush to come and it doesn't. You just feel like giving up.

But. But!!!! You're addicted to that idea rush. So you go to (seriously, check it out if you haven’t already) and you stagger through another 500 words with an extra dose of chocolate and maybe even an intravenous drip of chocolate or caffeine or both.
</end realistic moment>

<continue gush>
And then it happens again. The rush. The flood of words that make you smile and glance around to make sure no one is close enough to hear you giggle. As much as I love chocolate, I don't think it’s the trigger. I think it's just the perseverance. The not giving up.
<gush not ending until December 1st>

Margo Berendsen blogs at Writing At High Altitude, where she muses on all things writing-related, including her delusion that writing at 7200 ft in Laramie, Wyoming gives her an edge. She loves history, faith, maps, and mythical creatures, which all end up in her writing somehow. For NaNoWriMo 2011 she's taking on her first science fiction project. You can find her and friend her (please!) as "berendsen70" on

Monday, October 31, 2011

Write What You NaNo: Calm Before The Storm

First, Happy Halloween! Second, welcome to the last week of the Write What You NaNo BlogParty! This week, I am excited to introduce another four amazing guest bloggers appearing Tuesday through Friday: Margo Berendsen, Steph Sinkhorn, Sommer Leigh, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. I hope you come back to check out their posts!

Can you feel it? There's a slight disturbance in the air, a low pressure system sweeping across the globe. It's the calm before the storm. The NaNoWriMo storm. (dun dun DUN!)

Sorry for the cheesy dramatics, but I can't control myself. The panic is setting in and I'm stressing out. I got zero accomplished on my NaNo To Do list this weekend, so yeah... panic.

In a nutshell, here's how my weekend went: My neighbor stopped by on Saturday asking if I needed help fixing something on my house. I knew I needed help and hiring a roofer would cost over a thousand dollars. So, I accepted the offer.

Alas, nothing goes as smoothly as anticipated, so our afternoon project turned into a two-day ordeal. Two days of me watching him, trying to help even though it was a one person job. I realized this was how my friends and family must feel during NaNo. They stand there, watching from afar, cheering me on, offering support, but not really knowing what else to do or say while I type as fast as my fingers can go.

I was grateful for my neighbor's help so I did what my mom would do: I baked him a banana bread. Actually, I baked two. One for him and one for me. Suddenly, this week and month ahead didn't look so bad. I have an army of friends and family who are excited to watch me embark on this journey. My home project is done. I have a vacation coming up in nine days. And I have a banana bread to enjoy while I type.

So bring it on, NaNo. Give me your best shot. I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

(Programming note: So yeah, NaNo's here. After this week's blogparty ends, my blog posting schedule will be reduced as I try to juggle the blog, my story, my trip to Ireland, my mom's two week visit, and Thanksgiving. As soon as I have it figured out, you will be the first to know. Thanks in advance for your patience!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Claudie A.

It's official: we've gone international! I'd like to welcome Claudie A, representing North Minnesota Canada on the blog (fans clap wildly). Along with hosting a pretty amazing Olympics, Canada also has Claudie, a fellow spec fiction writer and NaNoer. But Claudie has something the rest of us don't.... the title of Municipal Liaison!

The Truth About Municipal Liaisons
Municipal Liaisons are vampires. All they do is sit on their asses and tell their region "hey, let's meet there at six". Once they show up, they leech all their enthusiasm and creativity, and fuel their own writing with it. Why do you think I overachieve every year since I'm a ML? That's why.

Wait, what's that you're saying? It isn't Halloween yet? Oh, my mistake.

Please, don't be scared of your MLs. A Municipal Liaison's relationship isn't a host-parasite one. It's more along the lines of mutualism. You see, regions need MLs to thrive, but we MLs also need awesome Wrimos to survive. Without a region to support us, we'd sit alone at a café with a blinding yellow shirt and a sign for others.

A ML's job is half cheerleading, half cat-herding. While we put a lot of time and energy into organising the meets, the Kick Off and the Thank God it's Over Party, I don't think that's where a ML shows his true worth. You could organise all these things and still kinda suck. Because there is one very essential thing to remember as a ML, and if you forget it, you miss the point.

The cheerleading part. A Municipal Liaison's job is to be upbeat, positive and optimist. Yes there are rough parts. Yes, people fall behind. Yes, you could fail NaNo. But you won't. Every Wrimo has the strength, the imagination and the determination required to reach the 50,000. This isn't about people being better or faster than others. This is about you, and the truth is? You have it in you.

I'm here to make you see it. Every trick in the book is allowed. Shiny stickers, forced word wars, sit-ins at your house to make sure you aren't procrastinating over the internet – everything. But as long as I'm around, three things will happen.

NaNoWriMo will be crazy fun. NaNoWriMo will be a community adventure. NaNoWriMo will be possible.

That's why I ML. I believe in my Wrimos, and I believe in this challenge.

Three days left!

Claudie A is a proud 3rd year ML (now co-ML) for Quebec City and has won NaNoWriMo every year since 2008 (when she started). Out of November, Claudie is a sci-fi and fantasy writer and a biochemist. She posts weekly experiments at The Novel Experiment and posts every Tuesday at Wicked & Tricksy, a collective blog for spec fic writers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Sarah Ahiers

Hello, friends! I welcome you to Day 4 of the NaNo blogparty. Here to share with us her NaNo words of wisdom and love is a new blogging friend and fellow Minnesotan, Sarah Ahiers. And Sarah, for what it's worth, I'm glad you and NaNo found each other!

In Which I Thank NaNo

I’d heard of NaNo for years. But I’d never actually paid much attention to it. I don’t know why. I think it was just outside of my scope. But in 2009, things changed.

6 months earlier I discovered writing and agent blogs. Yes, I was a bit slow on the uptake. Up till that point I had read mostly dog and pet blogs. It had never occurred to me that there were blogs for agents and writers and stuff.

Once I started reading them, I was hooked. You see, I had been sitting in a writing rut. I hadn’t written anything new in about 2 years. There were multiple reasons why, a long commute, a change in job, not being in love with my current novel. You know the drill. I had even reached the point where I was wondering if I even wanted to be a writer anymore. I mean, if I couldn’t finish the one lousy novel I had been working on for years, clearly I wasn’t cut out for it.

But then, I heard about NaNo again. Write a novel in a month? Could I accomplish that? I mean, I had no idea if 50K in 30 days was something that would even be doable for me. I had no idea how many words were in any of my previous work, and I had no idea how long it would take me to pump out the 1667 words a day to hit the NaNo winning goal.

But. Yes, the wonderful “but”. This was a chance for me to take a break from the current MS (and by take a break, I really meant, allow myself permission to start something new. Because clearly I had been in a break from the MS for a long time, I just hadn’t admitted it to myself). I had plenty of ideas on the backburner just waiting for a chance. And NaNo was going to be it.

So, in November 2009, I officially became a writer again. NaNo showed me that I could write every day without having to sacrifice other things in my life. NaNo showed me that I could write 1667 a day in less than an hour. Hell, NaNo showed me that I could write 8k in one sitting, if I was really in the groove.

Mostly, though, NaNo showed me that it’s OK to set something aside if it’s not working anymore. It’s ok to start something new, to branch out. Instead of just drowning silently beside the stone of a broken MS.

What about you? Are you ready to give NaNo a try?

Sarah Ahiers was a winner in 2009 and 2010 NaNoWriMo and was also selected as a 30 Covers in 30 Days winner during the 2010 NaNoWriMo. She will be participating in 2011 NaNo under screen name Falen1 and would love to be your pal (because seeing other writers’ word count creep above hers is extremely “motivating” for her).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Adrianne Russell

I am pleased to present author, blogger, music playlist superstar, and friend, Adrianne Russell to the blog! With a great ear for YA voice and a passion for writing, Adrianne is approaching NaNo this year with a lofty goal. Read on!

The Audacity of NaNoWriMo

November 2011 marks my fourth foray into the wild and wacky world of National Novel Writing Month, so Tricia's request to write a guest post about that very subject is perfectly timed. In just a matter of days, I willingly jump into a gaping abyss of word counts, write-ins and pep talks as I push toward my goal of 100,000 words.  What's that you say? Winning NaNoWriMo only requires 50,000 words? That's true. But this year I have a different plan.

First, some backstory:  Sick of abandoning New Year's Resolutions by the second week of January, I decided to make commitments instead, goals that could range from down-to-earth to pie-in-the-sky as long as I took measurable steps to achieve them. In 2010, I knocked 16 of 20 commitments off the list, including finding the perfect shade of lipstick, publishing my first freelance article and buying a smoking-hot party dress. 

Consistently achieving goals reframes everything. You develop a kick-ass "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" mentality (sincere apologies to Puff Daddy & Mase) except you don't need shiny suits, explosions and fish-eye lenses to tell the world how much you rock; it just shows. 

I carried that feeling into 2011, dubbing it the Year of Calculated Risks. No more living in fear, hiding behind everything I thought was safe and secure. Every personal and professional choice serves to reclaim a sense of hope I haven't experienced since I was a kid, that unshakeable belief that I can do anything and try anything and if I fail, there's no harm in trying again.  

When I activated my supreme procrastination planner skills a few weeks ago, I wondered how I could embiggen this year's NaNoWriMo. Finish in three weeks instead of four? Type one-handed? Write entirely in iambic pentameter? Suddenly it hit me: 100,000 words flashed in my brain like it was framed in neon. I was terrified, then excited, then nauseous, then resolute: I can do this.

Just like that, my childhood fearlessness returned with a vengeance. There is no equivocating on this: prolific or not, celebrated or not, published or not, I’m a writer. It’s all I’ve ever been and all I’ve ever wanted to do. If I don’t raise the bar, I’ll never improve. If I don’t push myself, I’ll never know what I’m capable of.

So yeah, NaNoWriMo, I see your challenge and raise you 50%. Double or nothing.

Adrianne Russell lives and writes in the Midwestern United States.  She had to look up iambic pentameter to write this post.  You can visit her at The Writers Republic ( or follow her @writersrepublic ( on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Write What You NaNo guest blogger: Alicia Summers

I'd like to welcome my friend, fellow NaNoer and compulsive planner extraordinaire, Alicia Summers to the blog! Alicia just entered the blogging world a few weeks ago (you can access her blog through the link below) and I encourage you to check it out if only to get an idea of how planners do world building!

NaNoWriMo from a Planner’s Perspective: I’m Not Neurotic, I’m Organized.

A five-subject notebook lies open to a page covered in carefully written, bulleted notes.  Not a single word is scratched out.  In the margins, the bullets are numbered and, in precise strokes, highlighted in blue, green, or orange.  A discarded pen waits nearby as a cool afternoon breeze flirts with the pages through the open window.  On a couch nearby, a writer snores – but in a dainty, lady-like way.  This writer, unlike so many of her friends, is a planner.  This writer is also me.

What I have described above is a pretty common Saturday or Sunday afternoon for me in October, or as I call it: The Month Before NaNo.  I really do have a five subject notebook filled with carefully written notes – none of which are crossed out and all of which are highlighted and numbered so that I can relate them to each other.  I often nap on afternoons when I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how I want something to unfold and, yes, I really do snore.

As a planner, most people expect that I have it all figured out.  I tell them about my thoughts and ideas and character descriptions and others marvel at how detailed I am.  That is, until I tell them about my notebook… the one filled with detailed notes – all highlighted and numbered.  That’s when I cross the line and enter neurotic land.  Even other planners think I’m a little neurotic – though I know there must be a few out there who are just as detail oriented as I am (if not more so!).

I am not neurotic; I’m organized.

For a pantser (or even a less organized planner), I can see how my detailed notes would seem neurotic.  But contrary to my organizational tendencies, I don’t think in a linear pattern. One moment I could be contemplating the physics of a spaceship and the next I’ll end up describing my character’s key flaw – because somehow it relates to the spaceship.  That somehow probably won’t be a straight path, either.  It’s a giant, obstacle-filled, pot-hole ridden road that twists and turns.  And it may be raining on that road, and there may be a military force standing in the middle.  And maybe a dragon, just for good measure.

You’d think that being a non-linear thinker with ideas that plop into my lap from Somewhere Magical, organization would not exactly be my forte.  But pantsing it makes me nervous. Even now, though I have a notebook filled with information and my Scrivener document all set up, because NaNoWriMo is just days away I feel nervous – I’m worried that I haven’t prepared enough.

I maintain that I am simply organized, though I admit, there is such a thing as too organized, and you can’t plan for everything.  However, there are a few things that you can and probably should do to plan, just to make your life easier during NaNo.

1: Have an Idea.
No, seriously.  Writing is a challenging enough task as it is, but if you don’t have a general idea about what you’re going to write, it’s just going to be that much more difficult.  I always start out my planning with an idea – it might not be fully formed, but it has the ability to do two things: create interesting characters and develop an interesting plot.

2: Write out an Outline.
It doesn’t even have to be detailed – just a simple point a, point b, point c will do.  At least you’ll have an idea of where you should be heading.  It can also help save you from tons of editing later.  That scene with the dragon that you threw into the middle to bolster your word count but has nothing to do with your plot? Yeah, that can go.

3: Describe your Main Characters.
Again, they don’t even have to be detailed descriptions.  Something simple like: red hair, blue eyes, likes chimichangas.  It does help if you explain their motivations and their internal and external conflicts.  I find this makes it easy to reference when I’m trying to figure out what their next move is.  If your character is motivated by their fear of another character and yet they mysteriously strike up a friendship with that person in chapter two, why would they do such a thing?  Knowing your characters motives & conflicts can help you decide on that so your readers aren’t confused – maybe they are still afraid of that person and the fear still drives them, but they had to strike up a friendship due to an external conflict.

4: Do your research.
It might seem boring and mundane, but research can make or break a book.  Writing about something that you don’t understand without researching it will only make you seem incompetent.  No offense.  I am not a surgeon, but if I were to write about a surgery I would be sure I knew at least the basic terminology so my story would seem convincing.  Sure, you can always research it and correct the facts after you’re done with Nano, but that’s just creating more work for yourself!  If you’re writing about something that you don’t have intimate knowledge of, I highly recommend learning the basics.

5: Figure out your first sentence.
This might seem silly, but it’s immensely helpful… at least for me.  One of my biggest challenges is actually starting the novel. Just what tone do I want to set?  How do I want to get people involved?  How do I want to make everyone love my lead characters just as much as I do?  Staring at a blank white page on a computer screen with a blinking cursor does not help my creative juices flow, either.  So I always take a few pieces of paper, think about my plot, characters and setting and write out as many simple, one-line sentences as I can fit on the pages.  After a week or two I go back and evaluate them and decide if I want to use any of them as my first sentence, or if I should write more.  It’s so much easier to write if I know where I’m starting.

To my fellow planners: loosen your grip.  Expand your horizons.  Try something out of your comfort zone.  NaNo is meant to be an exploration of your writing craft so you should do just that – explore.
To the pantsers:  Planning is not your enemy – it can be helpful and nonrestrictive if you let it.  Your realm is scary and dark and slippery to me, but somehow you find your way.  Planning – even just a little, tiny bit – could upgrade your writing shoes to non-slip.

Regardless of the method, we are all writers determined to accomplish a goal: to write 50,000 words in one month – or less!  I applaud you, fellow ‘Wrimo’s, regardless of your means, and I raise my glass to you!  Stay shiny, one and all!

A question for you…
Are you a planner or a pantser or somewhere in between?  Will you be branching out this year or sticking with a tried and true method?  How do you prepare before NaNo?

Alicia Summers (NaNo screen name: Go.Zeki) is a writer and a dreamer, a reader and a retired ghost hunter.  She loves Firefly and science fiction and is not ashamed to admit she watches Star Trek and attends comic-cons.  She has two black cats and a picture of a llama.  She blogs often ( and drinks coffee when no one is looking.  She also does not usually talk about herself in the third person (except for this paragraph, of course).
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