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  • January 22, 2020 9:49 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.

     --- William Faulkner

    https://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/a-conversation-with-middlesex-author-jeffrey-eugenides/allWe've heard this advice over and over. I know, at some point, reading became another item on my checklist. Sure, we try to read within the genre we prefer to write, but eeking out time to read when some of us struggle to find time to write can be a chore.

    Read outside your genre.

    How many of us have heard this piece of advice? I know I had to the point it became just another item on my checklist. But then, I started to think about it a little deeper. Why are we told to do this? "To strengthen your skills. To look at how other authors use the same story elements."

    All good things, sure. Do I walk over to the westerns and pick something up? Where should I start?

    Reading with purpose helps you decide where to look and what to pick up.

    Look at your writing to help you decide. What areas of your manuscript need some sprucing up?

    How's your pacing? Too fast? Pick up a classic of nearly any genre to slow down on the foggy moors. Not fast enough? Thrillers are known for slamming their foot on the gas and asking, "what brakes?".

    Is your setting falling flat? Check out fantasy and sci-fi to add a little bit of wonder and flare. Stilted prose? Grab some poetry. Too wordy? Snatch up a short story. Are your characters doing the 2-D two-step? Literary fiction dives so deep into the character that it makes submarines jealous.

    Historical fiction, young adult, romance, mystery, horror--each area has strengths and weaknesses. So, when you decide what to read, read for those.

    Don't limit yourself to the fiction section to read outside your genre.

    Read a history book. Read a language manual. Read about business practices, knitting, and humor. (Seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up a humor book, we all need a laugh.)

    Biographies could inspire your next character. History could reveal a new setting or an intriguing artifact to base a plot around. Can you kill someone with knitting needles? Also, who isn't a fan of witty banter?

    Business executives need a lot of creative thinking to stay ahead in their fields, and they are exponentially more productive than I am, that's for sure. 

    Heck, even an SAT prep book can give you a plethora of random facts and a nice jolt to your vocabulary.

    Now go a little farther.

    Don't think you need to stop with just reading outside your genre. Every art has something to offer and views the world differently than we do.

    Movies are known for their dialogue. Actors take characterization to crazy levels that frequently make the news. Artists see the world in colors and lines, musicians in notes and rhythms, and chefs in flavors and textures.

    JC Lynne pulls headlines for stories as well. The Esau Continuum

    A Book That Started with Pictures

    April J Moore discovered a box of photos that inspired a true crime tale. Folsom's 93

    Jeffrey Eugenides And Tiresias

    Jim Campain chooses history to frame his stories. Mysterious Miss Snoddy.





       By Miranda Birt






    Miranda Birt frequently pretends to know what she’s doing; sometimes it even turns out to be true. She went and got a massage degree, dropped out of traditional college a few times, and owned a small business. After a lot of work and heartbreak, she decided none of it was for her and started over yet again.

    Now she spends much of her time at a day job in an attempt to fund her writing habits. Also, to pay down her student loans. Oh, and bills. Because, you know, important things.

    Miranda is currently working on a fantasy novel along with puzzling out how exactly one goes about writing these “short” stories.


  • January 17, 2020 9:38 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    Like many people, I love crossword puzzles. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it would be possible to make a living as a cruciverbalist, a crossword puzzle maker, so I did some digging to find out.

    The short answer is: No.

    But, a person could make a little extra money on the side and have a whole lot of fun in the process. Here’s how to get started:


    Know the Rules

    Like everything else in the writing world, there are rules:

    Use a standard grid size: 15x15, 17x17, 19x19, 21x21, or 23x23.

    Your puzzle must have rotational symmetry, that is, whether you hold the puzzle right side up or upside down, the black spaces will be in the exact same pattern.

    All characters must be used both horizontally and vertically.

    No one or two-letter answers. Use three-letter solutions sparingly.


    Isn't the symmetry beautiful?


    It’s all about the theme.

    Creating a crossword puzzle is like writing a sonnet. There are rigid rules, but within the accepted framework, you can write anything you want. The best cruciverbalists start with a theme. Figure out your theme entries first, then fill your grid in with shorter words.

    A reliable technique is to have matching pairs of theme answers that can be placed symmetrically in the grid to satisfy rule number 2 above. For example, if your theme was the NCW conference, matching answers could be HANNAH (6) and AGENTS (6), two six-letter words.


    You can use www.crosswordhobbyist.com to create your own puzzles.


    Once you’ve got the answers, now write the questions. The thing that makes a cruciverbalist stand out from the crowd is the humorous way that she or he writes the clues.

    Be clever! For example, for the answer “Thanksgiving,” you could write the question “November holiday.” Or you could be smart and write something like “eating pumpkin pie after this meal is worth putting up with your weird cousin Micky.”


    How do I sell my puzzle?

    Lots of newspapers and magazines have crossword puzzles and are potential clients. The larger ones might have in-house crossword compilers, but they still buy puzzles from freelancers.

    Some puzzle agencies write crossword puzzles for selling to the publishing industry, such as Clarity Media and Tribune Content Agency.


    Let's talk about money

    The money you earn if your crossword is published depends upon the publication. For example, puzzles sold to The New York Times will make you more than other places for publication. A weekday puzzle for The New York Times will earn you $200, but the coveted Sunday puzzle is worth $1000.

    The prices at other newspapers or magazines vary from $50 to $200 for 15x15 puzzles and from $150 to $300 for 21x21 puzzles. You can find submission instructions for American publications at http://www.cruciverb.com/ (look on the left for Publisher Specifications).

    If you want to make money as a writer, sometimes you’ve got to think outside of the box. If you like crossword puzzles, try making one!


    How Do You Make a Living, Puzzle Maker?

    The New York Times Crossword: History, Facts, and Puzzle Answers

    Crossword Puzzle Maker Career





    By Ronda Simmons

  • January 09, 2020 10:01 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    Happy New Year. If you make resolutions, you probably have a writing goal. It’s officially deep enough into January for you to question that goal. You may even be wondering whether or not you should write.

    Years ago, I took a Bob Ross painting class, having been assured that anyone could paint a picture worthy of hanging on the wall. I followed the instructor’s directions for over two hours, and at first, my painting looked all right (in a bought-it-from-the-dime-store sort of way).

     

    Happy Little Clouds.


    Near the end of the class, we had to add a bird to our skyscapes. My brush made an involuntary swoop, and for a moment, dinosaurs were reborn in the form of a one-winged pterodactyl. Horrified, I started to laugh. The instructor, who did not understand how close I was to tears, said, “Well, at least you have a sense of humor.”

     

    Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim to doubt yourself. 
                                                                                   --- Alan Alda       


    I also play guitar and sing. I have a lovely custom, Fender Stratocaster, but I can’t play a clean chord. As for singing, imagine Bob Dylan gargling barbed wire.

     

    My son Ryan likes to sew and draw. He’s a good cook. But the Thunderbolt of the Gods did not gift him with great artistic skill. A mutual friend of ours is job-searching, hoping to find something more emotionally satisfying. Ryan said, “I think even a dream job turns into a j-o-b after a while. If you want to be happy, you have to find other things to do.”


     

    The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.

                                                                            --- George Bernard Shaw


    What this wise young man has discovered is the pure joy of art for art’s sake. He pursues different arts and crafts because it’s a fun way to build a life.

     

    Did your New Year writing resolutions include success benchmarks? Mine did, until my discussion with Ryan. Instead, I’ve listed projects that I’d like to pursue solely out of enjoyment.

     

    Tying this back to writing, some lucky souls derive deep, spiritual satisfaction from telling a story, whether or not the tale finds print.

     

    In fact, writing is a beautiful pursuit at which to fail:

    ·     No one is going to look at your flash drive and shake their head in amused dismay (like friends look at my Fender Strat) because writing is inexpensive. How much does a Big Chief tablet cost?

    ·     Writing is quiet. I don’t have to wait for the house to empty to write. (Turning on my amplifier is a different matter.)

    ·     Writing doesn’t smell. I know some artists love turpentine and linseed oil. Weirdos.

    ·     Writers don’t have to share their work. If a cook makes dinner in a forest, did he really cook? Truth is, some things weren’t meant to be read (or tasted). I don’t make spaghetti anymore, and I have several novels that will never be read by anyone.

    ·     Even a lousy writer can get away with murder. Ask the characters based on people you know who met an untimely end in your stories.

     

    It is a wine and SIP class.


    Every few months, I go to one of the wine-and-paint places. Two of my paintings hang in the entryway of my house. (The rest ended up in a landfill.) And I keep playing that Fender, and once in a great while, I sit back and think, wow! That didn’t suck!

     

    Titled "Hideous" by Brian Kaufman. (JC thinks it needs to be renamed.)


    If goals and expectations and despair have coalesced for you this January, take heart. Success is a small, relatively unimportant part of the formula. Write because you love it. Write because art can make your soul smile.


    Paint And Wine Parties

    Writing And Painting

    Paint Versus Prose





       By Brian Kaufman

  • January 02, 2020 10:44 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    It’s a new year. I’m trying to get excited about it. Just as I was trying to get into the spirit of the season, including gift-giving, house decorating, quality time with friends and family, overeating, celebrating, and planning for the year to come.


    NaNoWriMo is over. Inspiration was sapped for the remainder of the year. You know how it goes. But for me, the holiday season comes with a lot of work travel and time with non-writers who look at me when I mention my passion for writing fiction as they would a platypus in a tank.


    I’m a curiosity crossed with wonder.


    “Why would you spend countless hours writing a book when you could be watching Breaking Bad?” 


    You know you've watched some.


    But what I’ve gotten lately is this: “They put out a lot of Hallmark movies during the holidays. You should try writing one. I hear they pay up to $30,000.”


    Even Baby Yoda thinks that is whack. (Yes, TWB editor is obsessed with the BY. Deal with it.)


    Huh?



    “It's not really what I write. My stuff is about murder and mayhem. I doubt the networks want something like that for a feel-good holiday story. People suck, animals suffer, and children die.”

    “Oh, so your stories are more like Agatha Christie?”

    “Um, no, not really.”

    They pause, and reframe the suggestion, thinking maybe I misunderstood their good intentions. “So, you think you might try writing for the Hallmark Channel? Can’t be that hard.” They lower their voices and whisper conspiratorially, “You could quit your job and fly to Hollywood. It could be on TV next Christmas.”

    It made me think. I write what I write. You write what you write. Because that’s what we enjoy. But maybe Hallmark would be interested in altering its successful formula.


    A new New Year goal?


    There might be an audience for a family who takes their beloved cat on a road trip to visit Grandma.  The cat jumps out of the car and disappears into the desert. The family goes to visit Grandma because she owns an Ayurvedic Clinic. They hope to heal their volatile marriage and cure their child, who has contracted a new strain of the bubonic plague.


    The cat ends up bunking down in a barn owned by a single woman who loves being by herself. The cat finds its talent for ridding the barn of mice and rats. Thus preventing more children from catching the plague so they can go on living another year to celebrate Christmas with their loving families who thinks Pop Tarts are real breakfast food and sweatpants that say “Juicy” all over the butt are fine to wear out in public.


    Too bitter? Just enough grit? Hey, the cat lives.


    Hallmark might be keen on such a story. I’ll get right on that. After all, they pay $30,000.


    What it's like to write for Hallmark.

    Writing for Hallmark

    How to Get Published with Hallmark




    By Eleanor Shelton  

  • December 27, 2019 9:27 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    My December blog post tradition of re-writing a holiday classic from a writer’s perspective was a no-brainer this year. Deepest thanks to Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary for inspiring this reimagining. And apologies to Mr. Haven Gillespie who wrote the original. 


    Agent Claus is Coming to Town 


     Forget cookies and milk, bring on the whisky! That sleigh is cold.



    Oh! You better revise, 

    I don’t mean to pry, 

    You better format, 

    I’m telling you why 

    Agent Claus is coming to town 

     

    She’s reading your pitch, 

    She’s checking your comps, 

    She’ll get you a deal, whatever you want. 

    Agent Claus is coming to town 

     

    She sees you when you’re working, 

    She knows when you don’t write. 

    She knows when you procrastinate,

    So get your word count done tonight!


    Because why miss a chance at one more baby Yoda? What child is this?


    So . . . You better revise, 

    I don’t mean to pry, 

    You better format, 

    I’m telling you why 

    Agent Claus is coming to town 

     

    Little contracts, and little rewrites. 

    Revisey-vise-vise and working-all-night. 

    Agent Claus is coming to town. 

     

    Book launch parties, all about you, 

    Dust jackets, bios and book signings, too. 

    Agent Claus is coming to town. 


    The folks in your critique group 

    Will have a writing sprint, 

    They’re going to get their first drafts done, 

    To see who is first in print. 

     

    Ohh… You better revise, 

    I don’t mean to pry, 

    You better format, 

    I’m telling you why 

    Agent Claus is coming to town! 



    Meet The Agents Who Will Decline Your Novel

    8 Myths about Agents

    What Do Those Rejection Letters Mean


         



        By Ronda Simmons

  • December 20, 2019 9:11 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)
    Writing for family is slightly different than writing about family. Writing about family may involve dysfunction. And that is a tricky matter, requiring honesty, compassion, and a thick skin. As well as a willingness to be abjured. I’m talking about telling the sort of stories that are recalled at family gatherings. The endearing moments that make up a family’s story are worth preserving and sharing.


    I give occasional seminars on self-publishing options. The very first thing I discuss is the writer’s purpose in writing. Not everyone sits down to a keyboard with a best-seller as their driving motivation.


    For some, telling the one story they’ve carried inside and then seeing it in print is enough. Some want part-time income. Others want to build a writing career. And for some writers, writing for their family is enough.

     

    Sometime after my father’s parents died, he and his sister decided to put together a book called Memories of Walt and Hazel. Dad wrote some essays. My aunt Bunny wrote some essays and poems. They gathered photos and made a book that has been a cherished keepsake.




    Along the way, they made great choices, and mentioning those choices might help anyone who is similarly inclined.

     

    First, the book is not organized chronologically. My father’s essays were topical. The order in which they were placed reminded me of an old Monty Python line, “And now, for something completely different.”


    He bookended the content by opening with a family tree, followed by his own earliest childhood memories. He closed with three essays written by grandchildren. This loose (but logical) organization removed the tyranny of a fixed timeline, replaced by a casual, conversational approach.


     

    IF YOU CANNOT GET RID OF THE FAMILY SKELETON, YOU MAY AS WELL MAKE IT DANCE. ~GEORGE BERNARD SHAW


    My father’s essays were short, 300-700 words, each with a theme. Are You an Individual? These addressed my family’s quirks in a way that made them seem heroic (even when silly). What Do You Believe, and Why? These recounted family dinner discussions, where the only two sins were not having an opinion or having one without evidence.

     

    After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations. ~Oscar Wilde


    Some of my father’s pieces were serious (A Depression Diet), and some were hilariously irreverent (Are You Saved?). If you compile a list of topics, look for a range of subjects and tones.

     

    The writing is straight forward. My father wrote just like he talked. His voice lives in Memories of Walt and Hazel. If you tackle a project like this, try to sound like yourself. Don’t think you have to be flowery or literary. Be you.

     

    My father’s essays took up more than half the book. Of course, there were plenty of other contributors. A memoir of this type has plenty of room for additional contributors.

     

    Finally, my father and aunt added pieces of Walt and Hazel’s actual voices. Hazel wrote in a journal, and Walt was a published poet. A taste of each was a marvelous addition to the book.

     

    Suppose you wrote your family’s stories? What topics would you cover? A great way to start is to compile a list of stories/topics/events that might deserve an article about the length of a blog entry.


    We, humans, differentiate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom by our words. Writing about family captures the past in a way nothing else can, providing a framework and context for understanding. Your audience will be small but appreciative. We live in a print-on-demand world with plenty of low-cost options for putting a physical book into the hands of your loved ones.


    A noble motivation for writing indeed!


       


         By Brian Kaufman




    Family History Books You Can't Put Down

    Family Stories through Cooking

    Powerful Family Histories

  • December 11, 2019 2:33 PM | JC Lynne (Administrator)

    For many of us, reading in public can trigger a case of the nerves. Our hands shake, our voice wavers, and we may not be able to make eye contact with the audience. But when we hear that applause or finger snaps of approval, we know we have done something momentous—we've grown as writers.




    Feels like the First Time

    Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Public House offers live mike events for writers and poets to share their work. Last month was Kaitlyn Garza's first time reading before an audience. 


    Kaitlyn said, "I definitely was thinking about it for the entire time I was here, debating . . . I have really bad anxiety, so it was definitely nerve-wracking. But lately, I've been trying to do more in life. So, I decided to just push myself, and I raised my hand and immediately regretted it, but there was no going back." 


    The audience loved Kaitlyn's poem, and the emcee asked her to read it a second time. Kaitlyn added: "I think what made me decide to do it here was I could just tell the energy in here was a safe space to [read]."


    Heal and Be Heard



    I asked Ryan Lanham, who runs a writing group for veterans, what encouragement he would offer those who are new to sharing their work.

    "I would tell them just to give it a shot. I come from a place where I was never a writer, so I get it. I can have that conversation with them.

    The thing that really stands out to me is our Vietnam era vets that come in. Most of them were silenced the moment they got off the plane . . . They stuffed these stories, some of them for fifty years . . . For some, just the act of writing is the first time they've purged this stuff and had any kind of catharsis. 

    And then sharing it in our writing group, sometimes that's the first time anybody has ever witnessed their story."


    Summoning Courage


    Kelly Sabota O'Donnell, the author of The Hidden Sword, has numerous readings under her belt. Kelly said, "Each time I do a reading, I actually learn from that, and I can refine what I'm trying to project out . . . I'm learning from other people when I'm here, too."

    When I confessed I hadn't intended to read but decided to go for it, Lanham offered me powerful encouragement. "See! That's an act of courage. And each time we do that we can inspire courage too."

    The more a person practices reading in public, the fewer nerves tend to affect them. Lanham now prefers to use his phone, instead of paper, because the audience can see the paper shaking. 

    "What's nice about these events is no one person is on the mike for too long. Even if I get up and read a piece that's really dark and true to my experience, there's always another person that will come up and change the channel a bit."

    In upcoming months, our Rise contributors will be presented with opportunities to read their work out loud. We hope you will dig deep, summon courage, combat your nerves, and step up to the mike. We'll cheer you on.


    Spoken Word Prep

    Successful Author Readings

    Tips for Authors



    By Laura Mahal

  • December 05, 2019 9:20 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    Another Thanksgiving is behind us, and the season for tinsel, sleigh bells, and more overeating is upon us. For many of us, it is also the time to revisit holiday specials. Spool up those annual classics that we can recite by rote at any given moment.




    Do you ever sit back and think, “I could write one of these”? Why haven’t I penned a holiday classic? Well, you’re in luck. Today on the Writing Bug, we’re talking about all the story elements you need to create the ultimate holiday classic.



    -I don’t care if you are the lead character, you are THIS close to the naughty list, pal!


    Holiday protagonists generally have a dour view on life.



    Holiday stories feature flawed or even downright villainous heroes in need of some redemption. Whether their hearts are two sizes too small, they’re weighed down by all the commercialism, or they’re trapped in Bedford Falls, they can’t seem to get into that holiday spirit. What’s worse? They are surrounded by people who brimming with the stuff. And they can’t stand it!



    If all the Whos in Whoville aren’t singing their weird Dahoo Dores song, then well-intentioned relatives are inviting us to family get-togethers. People will be brimming with holiday spirit and holiday spirits. And they’ll be having fun dancing cartoonish dances to Schroeder’s toy piano that makes sounds no toy piano should be able to make. All that joy and merrymaking is enough to drive anyone to the Island of Misfit Toys.


    With a few notable exceptions (I’m looking at you, Mr. Potter), there are no actual villains in a holiday story. At worst, someone might call your protagonist a blockhead. Since an antagonist’s role is to thwart the hero, and the hero of our story is on a cold-hearted path to self-destruction, holiday antagonists can be relatively harmless.


    Maybe they’re the spirits of Christmas what-have-you or irrepressibly jubilant Whos. Or perhaps they are angels working an angle or someone trying to save the town.  The point is somebody is going to have to stop the train wreck before it runs right off the warm and fuzzy tracks.


    Give Hope and Joy more gritty determination than Bruce Willis in Die Hard.


    In the face of brutal humbuggery, the prospect of life without a Red Ryder BB gun, and a glowing genetic nasal affliction, Hope and Joy will win the day. They will stare all those impossible odds right in the eyes and say, “Yippie ki-yay, Santa’s helper!”


    They will chisel through the stoniest hearts, sing joyous songs without so much as a can of Who-hash to eat, and shine like a red beacon through the foggiest night.

    The power of this force will make hearts grow three sizes too big or inspire crotchety old misers to purchase prize turkeys for families in need. Or somehow it will put pine needles on sad little trees that didn’t have them before.  And when they’re done with that, Hope and Joy will saunter away from an explosion without looking back.



    Oh, and don’t forget the voice of innocence.


    May the Frost Be with You. (You knew we were going there, right? It's friggin Baby YODA!)


    Whether it’s Tiny Tim, Zuzu Bailey, or Cindy Lou Who, you need an adorable tiny person to give us a line we’ll quote for the ages. Make sure it’s sweet enough to require readers to schedule an appointment with their dentists, while also sufficiently cute to look good on a cross-stitch pattern with snowmen and reindeer.



    And that’s it! There is your holiday special. Quick note: while I pulled examples from the unmistakable Christmas holiday stories, there is no saying you couldn’t write about any of the cozy, wintry holidays. As Jack Skellington and Jack Frost could attest.



    The rest is up to you. Good luck, and God bless us, everyone.



    Best Holiday Films

    Who Needs Hallmark?

    Hallmark Holiday Movie Plot Generator







    By David E. Sharp


  • November 21, 2019 9:39 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    Writing is a solitary endeavor. That simple truth comes with attending problems. Writing in a vacuum, glued to your story, it’s hard to maintain professional balance. I recommend writing groups, one of which has been instrumental in any publishing success I’ve had.


    But the benefits of a critique group don’t extend to your home office or writing cubby. The writing process itself requires some moderation, and the more focused and maniacal you are about your craft, the more likely you’d benefit from the help of a “writing partner.”


     

    Fintan, JC's Whipping Boy.


    Who's A Good Boy?!


    Gus is my 14-year-old Dachshund. When I write, he’s there with me, sitting on my right foot. I don’t have to tell him I’m working. He sees me flip open the laptop and gets into position. There’s a comfort in that.


    “No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” – Christopher Morley


    Relaxed, I’m better able to focus. But his contribution goes beyond quiet companionship. I want to tell you what he taught me about writing.

     

    Did you ever search for the right way to say something only to have your sentence hijacked with fluff language or preposition overload? One technique I use is to answer the question, “What am I trying to say here?” in a straight-forward style.


    I turn to Gus and make my case with plain words. Having explained myself (or discovered I had no idea what I was trying to say), I rewrite the sentence (or delete it).

     

    “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck


    Speaking of speaking out loud, I have argued in favor of reading prose out loud during the editing process. Guess who gets to hear my story? Unlike my wife (who has been known to suffer from a glazed look in the eyes when listening to extended passages), Gus is an avid listener. Better still, he’s not judgmental, so I can focus on being my own critic.

     

    The dog needs an occasional break, of course. So does this writer. Rather than force my words with a marathon writing session, I step away from the computer and take Gus for hourly walks.


    The writing process doesn’t stop when I’m out on the road. Some of my best lines come while hiking. When I return, my fingers seem fresher, and the work begins to flow again.

     

    We live in the mountains. My nearest neighbor is a fifteen-minute walk away. Gus can explore nature without a leash. Early on, I discovered that he will not be rushed. He wanders, sniffing, and doing his business at his own pace. As a novelist, I appreciate a smell-the-roses approach that pays off in a fully-formed fictional world. 

     

    More, I’ve been taken with the things that he notices. A piece of granite with mica flecks. A deer’s hoof print. A wildflower, halfway up the hill. Tiny details that make the walk—or the novel. Our hikes remind me of the virtues of pacing and patience that apply directly to writing long-form.


    “They [dogs] never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.” – Jerome K. Jerome

    Breaking my writing time into chunks, like breaking a novel into manageable scenes without rushing, is an excellent way to build a novel-length story. The headlong rush of a NaNoWriMo tale is another. Gus and I prefer the less-hurried approach.

     

    My Civil War novel, Dread Tribunal of Last Resort, comes out next July in hardback (Five Star Publishing/Cengage). I began work on the book twenty years ago. Epic historical novels require research, some form of an outline, and above all, patience.


    I stopped and started the project a dozen times before settling on an approach that worked—cans of diet soda, an office full of reference books, and a dog on my foot. Thanks, Gus!

    Writers And Dogs

    Famous Writers with Their Dogs

    The Writer's Dog

     



    By Brian Kaufman 


  • November 07, 2019 10:13 AM | JC Lynne (Administrator)


    We're seven days into November, and for many writers, that means they are doggedly working National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  In case you are one of those intrepid sprinters who have committed to producing at least 50,000 words by the end of the month, this isn't a blog about how to write a novel in thirty days.  Technically, twenty-three days. 


    For those unaware of the significance of these thirty days, many a novel will be written with lots of blood, sweat, tears, angst, and jubilation.






    Many grand sentences have been conceived in mere moments. And stunning plot twists and ingenious characterization tactics can be employed to produce dancing prose. But NaNoWriMo is about words. Getting the words to the page.


    For you first timers, there are things to keep in mind when you type the 50,000th word. 

     

    It may be good, but it’s unlikely to be great.

    Depending on the genre you are writing, you will have finished a goodly portion of a novel. That’s awesome! You may need to tamper your excitement after your initial celebratory lap. You might be eager to query agents and find representation for your masterpiece. DON’T DO IT!

    According to Fuse Literary Agency, their agents dread their December 1st email inbox. And they aren’t the only ones. Fuse has gone so far now as to close their submissions for the entire month of December, why? NaNoWriMo fever.

    “NaNoWriMo excitement leads to euphoric querying. Alas, it also leads to obligatory rejections, and neither party wants that. It’s a waste of your time and the agents’. 

    ---Fuse Literary Agency

    Please don’t query agents the minute NaNoWriMo ends. You may have loads of good stuff, a coherent story, and unique characters, however, it’s probably not ready for prime time. Put that book away for a couple of weeks. Ring in the holiday season however you celebrate. 


    Resist the urge to shoot that manuscript off to an agent. It's a rough draft. Maybe your beginning is tight and perhaps your ending is fresh. Much like brownies, the middles . . . maybe not so much.

     

    Committing to 1667 words a day for thirty days (that adds up to 50,000ish words) is a lot. At the end of the first week, you’ve skewered your opening first chapters with a saber. Over the next couple of weeks, your inspiration may start to wane. 50,000 words is work. This is where you need your enthusiasm more than ever! But your fervor has gone to the vet and been snipped. Now what?


    Kristin Owens, who teaches a Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo classes, has seen it all. “The hardest part for most writers is finding the motivation to keep at it. Here’s where you need writing friends. Not just friends but WRITING friends. Because they get it. All of it."


    No splainin necessary. Find a critique group, a write-in, local writing organization (most of my writer friends I found through NCW) to connect. Writing is a crazy lonely gig, don’t make it any harder by suffering alone,” she advises.

     

    Don’t forget, you have a life.


    You’ve signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and you’ve connected with some other NaNoWriMo inmates. You now have a mentor who is encouraging you to get your daily words done. But don’t neglect your children, spouses, pets, day job, and friends. Remember, NaNoWriMo is just thirty days. Come December 1st, the frenzy is over. Make sure you still have a real life when you emerge.


    Avoid burnout.


    Take breaks. Step outside for fresh air. Venture into the world periodically, so you get inspiration for your writing. More importantly, you may have a partner who you need to live with for years to come and friends who will buy your book. Don’t be so focused on your novel in progress that your wife/husband/friends are gone when you look up from your computer.

     

    Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

     

    Or as my mother said frequently, "Comparisons are odious." Did your mother ever tell you that? Of course it’s true, but we're human, you can’t help it. No matter how many words you write someone in your NaNoWriMo circle will have more. That’s OK. The idea is to provide a kick-in-the-pants to get your story down in black and white.


    So at the end of the month, ideally, you have around 50,000 words? Now you have to take a hard look. Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Are there characters that have wants, needs, and obstacles? Do your scenes move the plot forward? 


    It's of no matter if someone in your group wrote 125,000 words or 50,000 words. The revision must happen regardless. You may be faced with some difficult choices, but getting started won't be one of them. You did it! You wrote all of the words!

     

    Two years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, and it has made me more productive than ever. In order to get my word count in, I had to get up early before any other work had to start. Now, I get up every morning by 5 am to write. I built the habit during those thirty days.


    You may have created the seeds of a best seller. Or something you may have to sit on for a little while longer before it's cooked. The bottomline is you have established your ability to write most of a novel beginning to end. Use NaNoWriMo as a fantastic springboard towards a rewarding writing life. Just please don’t let all those words go right to your head.

     

    For more information about NaNoWriMo visit https://www.nanowrimo.org/Resist

    14 NaNoWriMo Novels That Have Been Published.

    NaNoWriMo Hangover: 8 Steps to Recovery


       


      By Eleanor Shelton



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