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The Secret to NaNoWriMo

October 24, 2014

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoHello everyone! Hope you’re all doing good today!

I’m sure most of you know what NaNoWriMo is, but for those that have just heard of it, it’s National Novel Writing Month. It’s a wonderful event that happens every year where writers of all skill sets come together to write 50k in 30 days every November. The best thing about NaNo is meeting other authors and hearing their stories, tips, and tricks for “winning” and writing their novel. Just like any walk of life, each person has a plan or routine they follow that works for them.

For some, it’s staying up on caffeine for four days straight and writing all 50k words in the first week, while others like to stick to the daily word count goal. It’s also the time of year you’ll see advice from everyone on how to prepare, execute, and cross the finish line. All of it is great advice, but typical of my way of thinking, I’m delving deeper.

One of the biggest things you’ll hear or discover about NaNoWriMo is it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Like all things, it helps to come into it prepared, but for some it’s more fun to see what shakes loose as we pants our way through it.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a pantser. I don’t get along with outlines at all. Personally, I love them and wished I could use them as they’re fantastic tools, but my characters tend to do the talking so it’s easier for me to shut up and write their adventure. The best I’ve managed to follow an outline so far is I once kept one line or idea from a two page outline. What can I say? I love to do things the hard way.

Participant-2014-Square-ButtonThe thing about NaNoWriMo I learned early on is that you can be as prepared as possible and still stumble. While the “official” goal is to write 50k, the underlying goal is to write as much as you can. It’s about creating and establishing the habit of writing every day, or as much as you can depending on what life throws at you. If you finish your book and it’s not 50k, that’s all right. Work on another project if you like. It happened to me last year (or in one of the Camps, I can’t remember which) and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not every book is going to be 50, 60, 95, or 115k. it’s just the way it works sometimes.

Remember what I said about stumbling despite being prepared? Sounds a little on the weird side, right? That’s the thing. You need a certain tenacity and dedication to continue writing throughout the challenge.

Here’s where I get all Yoda-ish. I look at the challenge as a battle of attrition. During NaNo, I’ve found it’s best to write every day even if it’s only a few words whether we feel like it or not. It becomes harder and harder after the first week or two for those not used to it. Throw in the countless issues of the real world like pets, jobs, and family and things can look bleak. That’s when the tenacity comes to play. For all my fellow sports nuts out there, think of it as a gut check. Even if it’s only a sentence or paragraph you write, it’s more than you had before, right? Any progress is good, so try to continue pushing as much as you can.

That brings me to another awesome part of NaNoWriMo: The Write-ins. Whether you’re online or have your fellow NaNos near you to meet up, it’s a great opportunity to discuss any problems you may have with your plot or characters. It’s something we all go through at some point and it’s amazing how someone may have an idea that’s so simple it’s freaking awesome and just like that you’re writing away again. I’ve been blessed to have found some of the greatest people through NaNoWriMo that I can’t imagine what my writing career would be like without them.

In the end, NaNoWriMo is about you getting the most out of the experience you can while accomplishing something you though you may never have done. The best advice I can offer is be tenacious and enjoy the ride. Who knows? You may just surprise yourself.

What you’re missing

October 23, 2014

Today is the first day of the Florida Writers Conference experience, as Marie Bostwick is talking about how to complete your project–A to Z: Concept to Completion. As part of that talk, this happened…

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That’s right, it says Bimbo, Grandma in a rocking chair, grumpy old man. I have confirmed with Marie that they aren’t the premise for her next book. (They’re actually examples of characters that might be flat.) But you never know at this conference. That could also be a writing prompt.

When a top-selling author talks to you about how to complete your project, that’s the type of thing you want to listen to.

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Marie and her audience

You can still be part of the fun. Just show up at the Orlando Marriott Lake Mary and pay at registration. The full conference is $375 for members ($430 if you aren’t, but you get a one-year membership).

Come on down!

 

Creative Efficiency and Rubber Bands

October 20, 2014

By Anne Hawkinson

Anne Hawkinson - PhotoThink big, think small.  Imagine the entire story, but don’t forget the smallest of details.  Sometimes my mind feels like a rubber band, stretching to its outer limit while remaining stationary and focused.  As a writer, I have to be able to do both.

The first draft of my story is complete in all of its pathetic glory.  It’s not very good – there are huge gaps and lots of unanswered questions.  It was hard not to go back and edit, because I like to correct what is wrong before moving ahead (in my life and in my writing).  But the goal was to get the entire story out of my head and down on paper.  I achieved that.  It felt good.  Really good.  And as I pawed through the pathetic, I found a lot of good bits, unearthing nuggets to a really good story.

I needed to wrestle my first draft into a manageable document for the second.  While trying to do this, I tried out several ways of re-writing the story and making it better than the first draft.  I discovered that plotting is my weak spot – I have great scenes and present wonderful scenarios, but don’t always have the story going where it should, or I send my characters down a dead end road into oblivion.  My patient, dedicated writing coach/editor and I agonized through the process over the course of several meetings and that’s where my own Divide and Conquer method was born.

I love how it works.  Creative efficiency.  For example, it eliminates the time and effort spent writing a five-page scene that ends up going nowhere and has to be trashed.  It works for me because I like efficiency (yes creative minds can be efficient and organized) and it helps me bring order, bit by bit, to my chaotic, first draft as it morphs into the second.

First, we used the plot clock to organize the story into the four major quadrants (for my genre – middle grade, about 50 pages each) and labeled them accordingly.  Then, I went back and outlined each scene (15-20) of the first quadrant (some were pared down, some were merged, and some were eliminated so you have to write extras).  After review and revision, it is “good to go.”  Quadrant One:  Done! But not “done done.”(Final edits will take place once the entire second draft is complete.)  So, done for now.  Since I already wrote the story once (the reward for getting it out of head and onto paper), it was a matter of keeping the good bits and re-writing the rest.  Sounds easy, but it’s not.  But it was easier than going back and starting over from scratch.

On to Quadrant Two.  More scene outlining, and meeting with my coach/editor.  Some scenes will be dropped, some need enhancement, and there will be new ones to create.

Back to the stretching rubber band.  At the same time I’m focusing on the Second Quadrant, I have to plot out the entire search process for my main character and her two friends from the time they begin, where they go, and where the answer to the riddle is hidden (vital plot points to the entire story).  I’m grateful for a fresh, flexible rubber band, because a loud snap in the wee hours of the morning would be bad.

Missed the Deadline to Register for the Annual Florida Writers Conference? Relax!

October 19, 2014

Okay, you were waiting to see how your schedule shook out. Or you procrastinated. Bottom line: if you recently hopped onto the FWA website to register for the 2014 Annual Florida Writers Conference, “Stars of Florida Writers,” you found the item—poof!—gone from the shopping cart! Ditto, signups for faculty interviews.

No worries. You may register onsite. Simply arrive a little early (say, 45 minutes) to allow us time to process your paperwork and create your conference badge. The Registration Desk is open Friday 6am-6pm, Saturday 7am-5pm, and Sunday 7am-9am.

We take cash, checks, or credit cards but not American Express. Limited interview appointments are available, so after you register at the Registration Desk, you may wish to move directly to the Interview Desk to make your appointments with faculty. Interviews are booked first-come, first-served. Also, big news! Currently, RPLA Banquet guest tickets are now open to all, so if you would like to bring a guest, please sign him or her up.

There are a bazillion new things this year—too many to recap here—but you may want to make note of the Twitter contest. Pure fun, no work: just tweet a status update, picture, or anything else related to the conference and include the tag #FWA2014, and you’ll have a chance to win a free mini-conference registration.

Twitter Contest4C

See you at the annual conference!

“Stars of Florida Writers”

Annual Conference

October 23-26

$375 for the entire weekend, which is from Friday to Sunday with all meals included. ($35 additional for Thursday evening workshops)

Register now Single-day registration is available. For 101 pages of ultra-useful details, check the conference program. Questions? Contact ConferenceMarketing@FloridaWriters.net.

On Marketing

October 17, 2014

If you’ve been following the Florida Writers group on Facebook, you might have seen a little discussion about book promos. I promised that I would talk a bit about how this strategy might not be the most effective, and what can be done.

You might have seen me talk a little about marketing online before. One of my favorite people for info on marketing online is Rachel Thompson, who advocates a soft-sell approach I couldn’t agree more with. This approach is based on building relationships with people as opposed to sharing a string of book links.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying never share your book link. We are, after all, authors who are trying to make a living selling our work. I loved how Rachel broke the problem down, though, in regards to groups: People are sending their book links to groups filled with writers who are doing the same. Why is this a problem? Well, the main one I can see is the posts get little-to-no action. I very rarely ever see a LIKE or a comment on these posts, or a share. Another issue I see (and what has happened with me and others I know) is people go blind to the posts after a time.

I get the temptation. After all, we writers are all readers too! Still, there is a method I think would be even better, one that I have seen people use to great effectiveness: marketing to groups specifically for promos/readers. Why is this a good idea? Because people are going to these groups because they are looking for new books as opposed to a lot of other places where people might be going to get advice, discuss topics that affect writers, and other similar things.

After doing all the reading online and thinking on ways to connect, here are my favorite ways to promote:

  • Joining groups for readers/promo/your genre. A quick Facebook search turns up  quite a few of them.
  • Posting interesting facts about the topics you write about. For example, I write a lot of paranormal/new age stories, so I share information/ask questions about crystals, meditation, reincarnation, ghosts, favorite paranormal shows, and so on.
  • Sharing quotes/videos/lyrics that relate to your topics or inspired your writing. Here is one of those tweets:

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  • Retweeting others who have similar interests/genres. I get more action for these and question tweets that almost anything else.
  • Chatting people up and asking them questions. It connects me with followers and is my way of showing I care about what they say. And let me tell you, some of these people are hilarious! I put my favorites in different twitter lists so I can easily follow them.

Now that I’ve said all that, what is another way to make the book promo thing more effective in groups, besides the obvious part of joining reader/promo groups? Here are a few:

  • Share each other’s stuff, especially those who are in the same genre as you. Your fans might like similar works by other writers.
  • Switch guest blogs/interviews with fellow writers.
  • Have a radio show/podcast? Offer people the chance to be on it!
  • Trade beta reads/ARCs. Advance reviews help spread the word about a work. You might also get some valuable feedback from betas that can improve your book!

These are just a few of the ways writers can both promote their work while connecting with others and building relationships. Do you have any you have used? If so, what? Do you have favorite groups you post in?

Exercise Wednesday: You. Next week. What happens?

October 15, 2014

Today’s exercise is more of a preparation for the conference, if you’re going. (And you should. It’s the best conference in the history of writer’s conferences.)

If you have an interview booked with a publisher or agent, it’s probably going to be nervous-making for you, right up to the time you hit your stride with him or her.

Today’s exercise isn’t so much a writing exercise as a visualization exercise. What’s going to happen when you sit down across the table from that person and how are you going to respond? What will you say for your pitch? What will they ask in return? What will your response be?

If you’ve never been there, it’s a scary prospect. If you’ve done it before…it’s probably still a scary prospect. After all, you’ve done all this work on this story with these people who’ve been in your head forever. It’s important for you.

That’s why it’s useful to think it through.

Uhh, this is a writing exercise…

Yes. Yes, it is. And the feelings you’ll have during that time are transferable to other times of great nervousness. So write the scene–or a similar one.

Time limit: 40 minutes

Ebook or Paperback?

October 13, 2014

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoGood morning everyone! I thought I’d start this week off with a fun discussion topic: Which do you like better? E-books or paperbacks?

To be honest, I love them both. The kindle (or Nook or whatever device you prefer) allows us to carry around hundreds of books in our pockets. The convenience they offer is second to none as you can read a PDF from your computer on your device as well. What’s not to love about that?

The one bad thing is when you purchase an e-book, you are really only buying the right to “borrow” the book. This became obvious after a recent article cycled around the internet about Amazon preventing a person from accessing the library she paid for. Even this, depending on your point of view, isn’t necessarily a bad thing as some sites like Smashwords lets you download the books as a PDF, which can be saved on your computer indefinitely. It’s all about our preference.

Speaking of preference, while I love my kindle and e-books, I will always love the physical books. Nothing compares to holding a book in your hand. The feel of the cover and pages, the sound of you turning them, and even the smell is so awesome. That’s right folks, I’m a book sniffer. Now don’t worry, I don’t do that to library books or books I don’t buy. If I do buy them, I will sniff to my heart’s content. The only thing close to the smell of a new book is fresh-cut grass, at least in my opinion.

Of course, the downside is having enough space to put the books. Anytime we go into the library or thrift store, I go right to the books being sold. Nearly every time I turn to my wife with an armload of books and a goofy, crap-eating smile on my face. Her response? “We don’t have room.”

Now, I know she’s right, but I refuse to give up my books without a fight, or some pouting if needed. Needless to say, I lose just about every time. What can I say? I’m a book junkie. Lol

What’s your preference? Do you like one over the other or any format in general?

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