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

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