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).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Write What You NaNo: You Have My Permission

Welcome to the Write What You NaNo BlogParty! For the next two weeks, guest bloggers will stop by to share their thoughts and experiences with National Novel Writing Month. More information and the schedule of bloggers can be found here.

You Have My Permission

I first heard of National Novel Writing Month in December of 2008, naturally a month too late. I kept the information tucked away in my head and started to think about my book. In late summer of 2009 I was so eager to start my new hobby calling as author that I went to an overnight retreat center nestled in the depths of the Minnesota woods where I plotted to my heart's content. I couldn't wait for Nov 1.

I remember the first time I sat down to write my book. I had returned from Ireland the night before and instead of going to work on Nov 1, I took one more vacation day. This time, I would do NaNo. I brewed a pot of coffee, donned my bathrobe and fuzzy socks, and proceeded to type.

It was garbage.

My MC was supposed to be this independent girl whose adoptive mother had just died. But instead of being relatable, she was just angry. And depressed. Pages upon pages of her sorting the mail, cleaning the counters, drinking her coffee, and not caring about life. I quickly noticed I was using this as an outlet to deal with the emotions from my aunt's death a few years earlier. But then I saw that I tossed every possible emotion into those first thousand words (which have thankfully been scrubbed for something better) and it was the best place to start.

This is why I love NaNoWriMo. It grants me permission to be a terrible writer. It's like when your song comes on the radio and you sing along. No, you're probably not very good (it's okay to admit it, you're among friends), you might not know all the words, and you certainly haven't mastered the high notes, but it doesn't matter. You gave yourself permission to sing because you knew it would make you feel better. You can figure the exact words out later.

Permission was key for me. Permission to dream about fantasy lands, to try chick lit, to try YA or MG, to pretend I was JK Rowling. Or Meg Cabot. Or Janet Evanovich. Or, dare I say it, even Tolkein.

NaNo gives me permission to try something new. My 2009 novel was a YA fantasy and my 2010 novel was a MG adventure book with too many elements of magic/fantasy. My 2011 novel is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that is completely out of my comfort zone. And while plotting for this novel, my brain hatched an idea for a holiday story revolving around a Christmas village, a young brother and sister, some magic, and possibly zombies. I'm not sure which story I should write come Nov 1, but either way, what a beautiful problem to have.

Here's the truth: the first draft isn't going to be good. So what are you afraid of? Get out there and write the crappiest first draft (with all compliments to Anne Lamott and her "Shitty First Draft" chapter) you can.

I give myself permission every November to write even though it's not very good and has gaping plot holes. It's the satisfaction I get from completing my story each year that brings me back for more. And it all began with granting myself permission to dream.

So go on. Give yourself permission. Or ask me. I'll give you permission to write an equally horrible first draft and we can swap notes when December rolls around because I promise you, reading my stuff will make you feel much better about your own...

Happy NaNoing!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Write What You NaNo BlogParty!

The Write What You NaNo BlogParty is finally here! (Yes, I've made up the word BlogParty and I'm okay with it, even though Blogger's spellcheck isn't.)

I'm super excited to host my very first blogparty. And terribly nervous. But more excited, depending on what day you ask.

When I first conjured up this idea (oh, about 10 days ago...), I envisioned two or three guest bloggers crafting a post on NaNo. So I extended a few invites and they graciously agreed. Then the hamster in my brain started running on her wheel. Who else would be willing to help me out? It never hurts to ask, right? Who are some "big fish" in the blogging world?

Guys, the number of guest posters grew to EIGHT! Wow, I love writers. No one had to think about it or get back to me. Nope, everyone jumped right in, eager to help and I've been riding the warm fuzzy train ever since.

I'm excited about these guest posts because it showcases brand new bloggers alongside some blogging "power players." Without further ado, here's the schedule for the next two weeks:

Week One
Oct 24: Yours truly
Oct 25: Alicia Summers
Oct 26: Adrianne Russell
Oct 27: Sarah Ahiers
Oct 28: Claudie A.

Week Two
Oct 31: Me. Again.
Nov 1: Margo Berendsen
Nov 2: Steph Sinkhorn
Nov 3: Sommer Leigh
Nov 4: Alex J. Cavanaugh*

I invite you all to come back over the next two weeks to read what your fellow bloggers/NaNoers have to say about this writing marathon. Of course, you're invited to come back any time, but these next two weeks are going to be a lot of fun.

I hope you all have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday for the Write What You NaNo BlogParty!

*I can't say or type Alex's name without using my best Oprah introduction voice. "I would like to welcome Alex J. Caaaaaaaavanauuuuugggghhh!" Please tell me someone understands because I can't find a video or audio file anywhere.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time's flyin'...

Is it just me, or is there a slight buzz running through the blogging world lately? I can't help but wonder if the collective author/blogger/NaNoer community just looked at their calendars and gasped when they saw Nov 1 right around the corner.

13 days, gang. 13 measly days. Are you ready? Do you feel ready? I won't lie. I'm uber nervous about this year's NaNo.

Me in previous years:
I am SO ready that I am now killing time by putting finishing touches--embellishments, if you will--on my outline. I float around my house with an arrogant air, ready to not only "win" NaNo, but to do so before Thanksgiving. Look at me as I casually fold laundry and glance at the calendar, eager to begin. My smugness is irritating everyone, including me.

Here's my current reality:
  • I leave for a 9-day international trip three weeks from today. 
  • I have a sketchy-at-best outline and my characters are flatter than North Dakota.
  • Theme? What theme? Why do I need one? Says who?
  • (Spoiler alert!) I'm hosting a blogparty for the next TWO WEEKS and while this is all shiny and amazing, it's been cutting into my prep time. Tune in Friday for more information!
  • Laundry, dishes, shopping, stocking, planning, prepping, and sleeping have all been ignored and I'm currently sporting a somewhat put-together zombie professional look here at work.
 So yeah, I'm making this short so I can go get a latte and keep planning. And by planning, I mean creating color-coded to-do lists in Excel.

Click here!
First, if you're doing NaNoWriMo, please go check out Sommer Leigh's blog. She has created a NaNoWriMo Champion linky deal and trust me when I say she does a better job of explaining it than I am doing now. Basically, if you're doing NaNo and you want encouragement, sign up. We'll be in it together.

Second, if you're not familiar with Sarah Ahiers, what's wrong with you go make a new friend. She recently posted a blog about the NaNo 30 Covers in 30 Days contest. Oh yeah, and check out her beautiful cover on her page from last year. Yeah, the snot WON! (Snot said with love and respect, of course). If you want to know how to enter, Sarah spells it all out. Two steps, kids. Two simple steps.

Finally, because I love free books, check out this link to Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. There's a link to Calista Taylor's new book (steampunk romance!), Viridis. Have I mentioned it's FREE? (Because 99 cents is apparently too expensive? Seriously, Trish?)

Okay, off to get caffeine. Tune in Friday for my big blogparty announcement!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm a winner!

Happy Monday, all. Did you have a nice weekend? It was a lovely, albeit slightly blustery, weekend here in MN. Basically this just means I spent all day Sunday raking and bagging leaves (10 bags total) and capped off my efforts with a yummy pot of turkey chili, a horrendous Vikings game, and an early trip to bed.

Right now, I'm planning something for next week and it's going to be big. Epic. So amazing that I'm already kind of freaking myself out, but that's okay. It will all be worth it. All will be revealed in time. But you know how the Muppets would run amok, waving their hands above their heads while screaming AAARRRRGGGGHHHH? Yeah, that's me right now. In a good way. Stay tuned.

On Saturday, I attended the Twin Cities Book Expo. It's in its 11th season but clearly I wasn't paying any attention because this was the first I've heard of it. My writing group met at the ungodly hour of 8:30am for breakfast, then carpooled to the expo.

Some highlights (more to come on these, hopefully soon):
  • A mystery writer's panel including Erin Hart
  • Oodles (and I do mean oodles) of hand outs from small publishers
  • A jolt of creative writing time while shoving a string cheese and chocolate chip muffin down the hatch for lunch. (What diet?)
  • And last, but not least, seeing this guy speak:
Why yes, that is Kevin Sorbo, aka Hercules. And no, thankfully he did NOT wear that ensemble to his talk. 

All jokes aside, I was impressed. I went into the little auditorium unsure of what to expect. Was this going to be some arrogant actor telling us how his life was so hard? 

Well, color me a fool. He was there to promote his new autobiography, "True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal--and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life." You can learn more, here.

Not only was he an articulate and down-to-earth speaker, he was likable. He was funny. And yeah, he's not unattractive, either. :) If the book wasn't so expensive to buy on site and the line so long for an autograph, I would've considered it. Who knew? I'm a closet fangirl!

But Trish, I can hear you asking. What did you win?

Ah, yes. I happily registered for any drawing I could enter since I think the idea of free books is pretty darn cool. Today I had an email from Llewellyn|Midnight Ink|Flux. Looks like I won a set of TRUE GHOST books along with THE GHOST HUNTER'S FIELD GUIDE.

Just in time for Halloween, sweet! Um, maybe here is where I should mention that I really hate to be scared. I'm not sure if these books are the right fit for me, but I did just say I liked free books. I'll try to read a bit of them and report back, but only until I have my first scary dream. Then I'm out.

And sad... I just found out Brian Selznick is speaking around here at 6pm tonight. I have no chance of making it even though I am fascinated (and slightly intimidated) by his new book, Wonderstruck. If you've read this, please let me know what you think. The book is STUNNING and makes me want to read it immediately.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Link insanity

(Right now I'm listening to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on Classical MPR and couldn't be more pleased. What a great tune for a Friday morning!)

For those of you that use Google Reader or some other service to see all the new posts of blogs you're following, what's the "magic number" of unread blogs that stresses you out? For me, it's anything over 300. If I have over 300 unread blog posts, I know I have a serious problem.

That was my deal yesterday so instead of chatting on gchat or playing on Facebook, I simply started reading my unread blogs. And wow--so many interesting posts!

Here are some cool things I read/learned...

Blogging in General

There have been many posts recently discussing blogging in general. Has blogging peaked? Is there blog fatigue? Do you blog for your potential readers or do you blog about the writing process? Or both?

Anne R. Allen's post has great links to some big industry perspectives including Janet Reid, Kristen Lamb, and Nathan Bransford, whose blogs I strongly recommend clicking through to read.

One of the better posts I read on the topic was from Roni Loren over at Fiction Groupie. You can read her awesome response in The Post In Which I Rant About Blogging, Platforms, and the Pressure on Writers. Can I get an AMEN!?

If you're like me, you'll want to arm yourself with a bag of peanut butter M&Ms as you gnash your teeth trying to figure out what to do next. Personally, I really like what Anne Allen said:
"If you're blogging because you like it and you enjoy connecting with other writers and potential readers, then by all means keep it up. And don't listen to marketing experts or worry about your stats."
To wrap up blogging, I also enjoyed (and highly recommend) (and may or may not be guilty of the 3rd point) Sophia Chang's Top 3 Things Well-Meaning Bloggers Do That Drive (Me)Readers Nuts. Word verifications drive me banana crackers, people. I bet they do the same to you.

Character "stuff"

Writing and NaNoWriMo-related posts

  • How to Make Magic Real by Cheryl Reif. Something about this post really resonated with me. It seems so simple, and yet, it isn't (at least for me).
  • To Plot or Not to Plot -- this is an 8-part series on plotting and story structure written by Ingrid over at Ingrid's Notes. Very helpful and easy to follow, possibly because there are pictures. 
  • My friend Zeki (check out her new blog, Unique Ink) pointed me to this Narrative Structure Cheat Sheet by Alexandra Sokoloff over at Murderati. Right click, print.

New Bloggers on the Block
Four writer friends of mine have started new writing/life blogs. If you have a moment, please stop by and share some love!

  • Crit groupper, wine provider, and friend Eromese Joyce has started a new blog called Erojoy's Writer's Block. He latest blog on why we write stemmed from our crit group last week. What a discussion...
  • YA writer and fellow road trip partner in crime, Adrianne Russell has a new blog called The Writer's Republic. And she jumped right into the blogging world--look for her upcoming MonsterFest (hosted by none other than Sommer Leigh at Tell Great Stories) post on Oct 27!
  • I mentioned Unique Ink above, but I'll do it again here... Zeki is a sci-fi/fantasy writer and zombie lover (who I think has a penchant for Steampunk, as well) who is quite possibly the most excited person for NaNo that I know. Read some of her earlier posts for an idea of her world building!
  • Luke Nolby is a fellow critique partner and if he wasn't so dang nice and smart, I'd kinda hate him for being only 20 and already having a story that is ready to query. Luke is currently spending the semester in Africa and blogs about his experiences at This Is Africa.

And finally, because I could always use more hope, Natalie Whipple's post on hope made me happy. Thank you, Natalie, for the authorial warm fuzzy.

And finally, I like to blog, but I don't like the look of my blog. Maybe it's the blue. Maybe it's the font. Maybe it's the layout. I'm not sure. But I do know that I'm open to suggestions and tips! Bear with me over the next few weeks as I try out some new things.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

19 more days!

Holy moses... 19 more days until NaNo!

I've been so busy shopping planning for my IRE trip that my book outline has been lovingly placed on the back burner. And that doesn't bode well for this plotter. I need to have a better idea of what is going to happen and when so I can add in the proper clues and hints and foreshadowing where needed.

(Sidenote: I just love how I made that sound like I've perfected the art of foreshadowing... HA!)

I mentioned in a previous blog that I was trying to do this year's NaNo with Scrivener. So far, that's been working. Last week, I sat down with index cards to order the scenes I've been flirting with. I listed the scene in one sentence and at the bottom of the card I wrote SETS UP: xyz, where I listed what each scene or information revealed.

I then sat down with the cards and laid them out on my desk in a somewhat logical order. A large part of me wanted to pull up a Word doc and begin the outline process there, but I remembered Scrivener had a feature specifically for the index card process called the Cork Board.

I typed up all the cards I had, using the colored tacks to designate if the cards were points of conflict, scene ideas, or questions to consider, first.

Once I got all my cards entered, I kept making new ones. Adding cards was a breeze and I was soon on a roll. I especially enjoyed having a color (green, I think) specifically for questions that I would need to answer or situations I would need to introduce before the next plot point. And if something needed to move? No problem, I simply dragged the card to its new spot in the story.

Scrivener is pretty easy to use, but I am by no means a pro. I'm still fairly confident that I'm only using about 30% of its power, but each time I use it I become more comfortable. 

Next on the to do list? First, find an ending that I'm happy with (though I know I'll likely change it later). Then I need to do some real character development. I might interview them. I might just fill out questionnaires about them. Or I may mine through Margo's now dark Urbanpsychopomp blog or the ever-informative Wicked & Tricksy blog for past posts on how plot your novel before you write it. Like this one. Margo, FTW!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What If?

Well, now I did it. I pulled the trigger on a big trip.

Not just a long weekend, but 9 days alone in Ireland to explore the far reaches of the northwest.

This trip will likely cost a little too much money. And maybe it was a bit reactionary. And yeah, I'm scared as hell that I'm spending all this time and money to go somewhere drastically far away to find something within me and that I might come back as emotionally lost and confused as I am now.

But What If...

What If I go and ignore my fears?
What If I park myself on a rock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean without another soul in sight, and write? Or laugh? Or cry? Or do it all at once?
What If I'm lonely?
What If I need my friends or someone to talk to and share my adventures with?
What If I want to stay and never look back?

What If 9 days in Ireland is exactly what my soul needs to remind myself that once I get out of my own way, anything is possible?

And what if it's awesome?

Okay, yes, I am perhaps a bit too ambitious because this lovely 9 day extravaganza just happens to be in November, when I'm supposed to be furiously writing for my life. But who likes to find a challenge and then up the ante? This girl.

I'm planning on 3 nights in Donegal and another night or two in Sligo/Yeats country. (C'mon, inspiration! Don't fail me now!) The other nights will be on a wing and a prayer, ending wherever the road takes me.

I'm eager to check out the NaNoWriMo threads to see if there are any writing groups in Donegal. I realize it's a stretch, but again--What If?

If anyone know of bloggers or writers on the northwest coast of Ireland, please let me know. I know getting my story written while relaxing on vacation will be a struggle. I'd love to find fellow writers, if only for an afternoon of camaraderie!

In the meantime, it's back to the WIP outline and character sketches. I have 5 weeks from today (holycrapfreakout) to get my story as prepared as possible so when I'm sitting in the airport or kickin' back in my not-so-comfy coach seat in my metal chariot in the sky, I will have my story map ready to tackle.

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