Have you hit THE wall?

By Debby J.

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I know that every time week 2 rolls around I start to get down on myself. I hate the week 2 blues during NaNoWriMo. This is what I always find to be the most challenging week and I believe this is typically when you see a noticeable drop off in word count updates, participation, and enthusiasm. I know that personally, this is the week I see a marked decline in the number of people attending write-ins and I can’t help but wonder what I could do differently as your Municipal Liaison to support you during this week.

The problem is, I’m in the exact same boat as you. I find myself hating my plot. Or maybe I’ve written myself into a corner. Or I realize that all my carefully planned plans have been derailed and I can see the gaping caverns that are also called plot holes. It’s hard to see the finish line when you know you’ve got to hurdle the grand canyon of plot holes, right?

So, what can you do? What should you do? I know many people will throw in the towel. I’ve done it before. You’ll make the excuse of “the writing was bad” or “I don’t have time” or “I’m too far behind.” And that’s okay. The fact is, you’ve made it farther then most people. But what if you want to finish? What if you don’t want the excuses to be the reason you quit? I’m sure there are a lot of you reading this post, wondering what you can do to make it through? Continue reading »

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Winning NaNo with Children

By Debby J.

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I was kind of stumped for words. Well, not with my novel. But yeah, with that too. I was trying to think of a short and sweet blog post I could write that might reveal a little bit about me, your Municipal Liaison but also have information you might find helpful. I am sitting here, at 11pm in my bedroom while my kid snores loudly beside me. She is only one year old but she sounds like a freight train. I’ve hit my word count for the day and really should be trying to get ahead but instead I’m penning this for your reading pleasure.

I was catching up with a fellow ML in our top secret chat room and it got me thinking about NaNoWriMo and how people do it with children. See, WitchyRobyn has been doing NaNoWriMo for way longer than me and was there in the chat room my first year. She is in charge of the Elsewhere Region of Louisiana and if I recall correctly, she was super pregnant and was running most of her write-ins virtually. So, seeing her again in the chat room this evening made me think, “Man, I would have loved to have some hints about how to win NaNoWriMo with a kid before I even thought about a kid.”

I asked for her advice, and she said, “Be sure to let everyone in your life know what you’re doing. People are more likely to help out and watch the kids for a couple of hours if they realize how much this challenge means to you. My girls are turning 1 and 2 this month and the help I get from my husband is invaluable to my success. In the future, as I continue with both writing and MLing, I want my girls to see that any challenge can be met despite the obstacles. Also, I would suggest looking at co-ops with other wrimos with kids in your area. Arrange playdates with them to split the load and give everyone a little bit of writing time while the children entertain themselves for a bit. Don’t discount the creativity gained from looking at the world through your child’s eyes. Get on the floor with them, play with them, and worlds can open up.”

Pennblade from the Massachusetts Southbridge/Sturbridge Region says: “To always have fun. I told that to my son. Writing is a journey, not a chore. Enjoy the ride. You’ll never know where you’ll end up.”

Rachel Sanford from the Arkansas Fayetteville/NWA Region says: “I have a 2 year old son. I try to let him do his own thing during November and let him be as independent as he wishes. I also keep in mind that things happen and to just go with them. There are days you aren’t going to meet your goals, but nap time and bed time are invaluable times for writing.”

AuroraLee from the Canadian Annapolis Valley Region says: “If kids are old enough, get them to write with you. A great way to let them explore their own creativity? (disclaimer: I don’t have kids)” Continue reading »

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Week 1 Pep Talk

By Debby J.

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November is here! Are you guys ready to write those novels? The great news is, you are reading this and I doubt you need much pep to get your fingers flying. Week 1 is always the “easiest” week in NaNoWriMo for those who come prepared with at least a plot, or character, or setting, or something. For those who are hyper organized and have outlines and infographics galore, the first week is also pretty straight forward. This year, I need all the pep I can get because I’m coming into this thing with absolutely nothing. I can’t seem to get the microscope of my author’s vision to zoom into the lives of my characters. I’m stuck. I have no clue as to what I’m doing.

Would you believe me if I said this is how every November begins for me? I have a vague sense of “something” happening in some world I created in my mind. I usually start my novels for NaNoWriMo by describing the world in excruciating detail. It’s really painful to read because the minutiae is minutiae. But by starting about a million miles away from the action I can hone in on the important things happening. I see the big picture and slowly the focus comes and I suddenly have a character, a conflict, a scene, a something to work with.

So, if you are like me, then you may have nothing. But if you have even one thing to start writing about, even if it isn’t very good, you have the makings of your novel. To give you a taste of what my NaNo first days are like, here are the beginnings of my past NaNos.

  • 2008: Alison looked at her watch and sighed loudly. This was not the time nor the place. She was already running late for her doctor’s appointment and the bus was running even later.
  • 2009: It was the most baffling thing that came ashore. The sun was setting and the sky was clouded over and there it was. I squinted my eyes, not really believing that something like that was on the shore, but there is was. As I approached it, it became clearer, the features more distinct. I bent over and scooped it up, sand slipping between my fingers. I wiped my hands on my pants and tossed the object from one had to the other, getting a sense of its weight.
  • 2010: I remember everything about the day I left my home. My sister and brother each held a hand as my parents trailed behind us. We were headed to the convent where it seemed I was destined to spend my life. At least when I was seven it seemed like my destiny. Alisa was stoic. Her blue eyes looked straight forward and she almost seemed to tug at me, pulling me along faster then I really wanted to go. Alexander seemed to be a counterweight, dragging his feet as if to keep me from going away. And I just walked. Since the day I was born, I knew that just as Alisa was destined to inherit the family business and Alexander was destined for the military and, essentially politics, so I was destined for religion. It was the way things were done in Kyria.
  • 2011: Margie looked at the man and tried not to laugh. He was wearing a giraffe costume and looked absolutely ridiculous. She had requested a clown, not a giraffe. Or any animal for that matter. She smiled politely at the man and shook her head a little bit, her short brown hair swaying against her neck.
  • 2012: Taylor looked out at the ocean as her father’s ship flew away. He was only home for a few weeks at a time but Taylor loved the time she got to spend with him. He was a merchant by trade but was very well to do. He was one of the few individuals authorized to cross the border between Leylandia and Technologia. While considered a citizen of Technologia, he carried the precious steam technology through the sky and over to their rival nation. The two countries were as different as children from different parents. Technologia was a sprawling country that had mountains surrounding three sides and long coast that gave them port access. In the center of the country were forests. The country was not afflicted with deserts or tundra. The rich land lead Technologia to develop into a nation that was very technological. Their primary export was the steam technology that had come from all of the resources.
  • 2013: The black, pearlescent sand clung to her milky, pale skin. She flexed her fingers and toes and looked at the world around her. It was vastly different yet very familiar and similar to the world she came from. Lush green trees rose high up in the distance and even farther beyond were hillocks and mountains. The sky above was navy blue with spots that glimmered in the distance. Two giant orbs floated in the sky – one seemed to sit right on the horizon, a blue disc that reflected light. The other was smaller and high in the sky. It also did not seem to emit any light of its own. It was reddish in color and seemed to be pockmarked where the blue orb was smooth. 

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Kick Off Party Notes

By Debby J.

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Howdy, Fort Writerdale!

Just wanted to make sure I put a post up detailing what you missed out on by not attending the awesome party, part 1. Fortunately, there is a part 2 that you are all welcome to attend and I hope you will RSVP!

We had a wonderful guest speaker present. Barbara Levenson is a published author who writes fiction with a specific interest in mystery. She started by asking everyone their experiences with writing (specifically asking about our experiences with writing, publication, and workshops or critique groups). Here is a quick list of the things she spoke about:

  • “If you want to write, get your butt in the chair, sit and write.”
  • Many people will start to write, but will get stuck and quit and never go back. It is better to put the writing away for a few days when you are stuck and go back to it.
  • The more your write, the better you write.
  • Her experiences started when she was young and she would tell stories and write plays for her friends to act out. Into adulthood, she started writing more technical writing because of her career but after taking a class she realized she also really wanted to write fiction.
  • She said that any experience or course is very beneficial and will get you writing.
  • She encouraged everyone to join a writing group and attend seminars. Seminars are great because you can pitch ideas, but even better you can talk about writing with people who are also writers.
  • She talked about her experiences with publishing and said that no matter what, to make sure you protect your rights. The Author’s Guild has lawyers on retainer who can help with your contracts if you are member.
  • She actually bought back the rights to her novels because she was unhappy with what the publishers were doing (or not doing!).
  • Barbara also said that stories can be character-driven or plot-driven. She said that with NaNoWriMo it is likely the stories we write will be plot-driven since 50k words is not a good amount to really develop the characters.
  • She personally doesn’t outline because generally speaking she knows what major things have to happen (even if the how is vague) and knows the final outcome.
  • She knows these things because she spends a lot of time thinking (mostly when ironing and baking).
  • She said a complete work that is 50k words long is more like a novella than a novel.
  • There are no rules to writing. However, you still need to establish your point of view (POV).
  • Your POV should not change from one paragraph to another or even in the middle of a chapter.
  • She strongly encouraged we avoid the use of adjectives and adverbs.
  • We did a short writing activity. We wrote a paragraph without using adjectives or adverbs. The prompt was “He looked at the river and saw something he couldn’t explain.”
  • My paragraph: Juan looked at the river. A breeze caressed the river; ripples crossed the service as Juan stared. A fish leaped from the water and landed on the river bank. While he watched, another fish floundered out. And another. Juan looked to the sky filled with sunshine and clouds. A comet hung high beside the moon. Today was going to be something special.
  • She spent some time talking about showing and telling. It is better to show and you can use dialogue to show things. If you want to show with a scene, then use action words.
  • Dialogue makes your characters real.

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Prep Workshop by Debby Jensen – October 2014

By Debby J.

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I wanted to include some notes from the brainstorming session we did on Sunday, October 18. We had an amazing 15 people who up, both current WriMos as well as people who heard about the event through the library. Hope to see even more next time! Without further ado, here are the notes.

Part 1 – Introduction

  • introduced myself (Debby Jensen)
  • explained what NaNoWriMo is
  • three parts of plot (that we will also cover today in depth)
    • conflict
    • character
    • setting

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