Michille: NaNo Not So Much

NaNoWriMo is no more. My word count was abysmal. But I’m not counting it as an abysmal failure. I started writing again. I started thinking about story again. Characters started talking to me again. That hasn’t happened for a while – several in the win column. Plus, I found some new sources of inspiration – some video series’, some blogs, etc.

One of the things I found when I was noodling around was screenwriting. It started out as some folks who do the Hallmark movies. I watched two of those and found surprising inspiration. I know Hallmark movies, and some that are now showing up on other networks, are very formulaic, but they also have to tell a story in a very compact format. So when the folks in the videos were explaining the process and the key turning points and the character goals and arcs, it took what I know about writing books and reframed in a way that stimulated my imagination and creativity.

The night before last, when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep – which is a very common occurrence – movie scenes for my very first manuscript started running through my head – which is a very uncommon occurrence. Another in the win column. Last night, when I woke in the middle, the opening couple of scenes for the next two manuscripts ran through my head. Hmmm. This is worth exploring. Of course, that will be after my 12-14 hour workday load lessens. Regular grants + pandemic grants = AAAHHH!!!

So although I didn’t get a NaNo win, I got several other wins, so I’m calling it a win in general. How about you? Did you have any November wins?

Michille: NaNo at Day 12

National Novel Writing Month began on Sunday, November 1. I haven’t hit my word count on any day, but I have been writing. It is, however, more words than I’ve gotten on the page in a long time, so it was still sort of successful. As I’ve said before, I would love to hit the 50,000-word target, but I am more interested in hitting the write-every-day target. You’re seeing this post for the first time on the 12th, but I am writing in on the 11th. Therefore, the write-every-day target was hit for the first eleven days. Yeah me!

I had 40 ideas of things to write and two of them gave me 1,700 word scenes. Tuesday’s idea didn’t yield enough words and that coupled with a lack of time to tackle another idea had me missing the word-count. I can’t change the day job, the house can’t fall down, I felt the family could use some dinner, and various other stuff that limited my time and that will happen again so I’m not planning to focus a whole lot of energy on changing that. But I can change the quantity and quality of ideas in my pipeline so I can get more words on the page faster. I took to the Internet for more motivation and ideas.

There are a lot of websites that have NaNo advice. Suggestions like write every day, don’t edit, or write the last scenes first to change things up. One of the tips I came across is “don’t sweat the roadblocks.” If you get stuck, just skip to the next scene. I do this all the time. If I can’t figure how to get out of the scene I’m in, I’ll stop that one and go on. That was one of the reasons I didn’t get more than 659 words written on Tuesday. I got to a point and couldn’t figure out where the scene was headed. Writing sprints is another suggestions, but I still have to have a scene idea in order to do that. Continue reading

Jilly: Sara Sartagne–Joining the Writing Community

What a week! How are your stress levels? As I described last Sunday, I’ve been boosting my mood with comfort reads. When you can’t control the real world, it’s uplifting to take a break in an imaginary one where you know things will turn out just right.

Real-life feelgood stories are even better pick-me-ups than fictional ones, so when my English author friend Sara Sartagne offered to write about her experience as a debut author, I grabbed the chance to share a heartening slice of writing life.

Here’s Sara:

Birthday flowers from a fellow author

Jilly wrote last week about the importance of community and alongside making me yearn to pick up a Georgette Heyer again, it’s made me reflect that, even outside the novels, the writer ‘tribe’ itself is a warm, welcoming one. This blog – Eight Ladies Writing – is a perfect example of a community that gives Jilly the warm and fuzzies, as she calls it. It’s kind, strong and successful. And it’s real.

Like many rookie self-publishers, I made a lot of wrong choices for my first book. Launching on a Sunday. Not double-double-double checking the manuscript for typos and errors (at the time, I couldn’t afford a proofreader) before sending to Josie, who formatted for me. Who formatted it several times. My poor cover designer suffered from my vacillations over type, figures, look and feel – God, I couldn’t even settle on a colour first time around.

But what I learned, through that bumpy first release, was that other writers can be incredibly generous with their time and advice. A number of people were in attendance at the birthing of my first book, patting me on the back, virtually passing me sweet tea and biscuits and cheering me on. They also happened to be all women, which might be to do with my genre (women’s fiction with a healthy dose of romance) but I also think that this is the kind of thing that women do– support each other.

My list of supporters is long, but starts with fairytale writer JA Clement, who I met more than two years ago in a café outside St James’ Park tube. I took two pages of notes as she bombarded me with a host of names (BookBub, KDP, Canva, Scrivener…). In the following years, she’s been around to answer hundreds of questions about the whole process.

The list also includes Jess Ryder, psychological thriller writer (check out The Ex Wife, it’s brilliant). She’s been my developmental partner, helping me patch plot holes you could drive a bus through. Jess was also the calm voice on the phone after I received a particularly curt rejection from an agent who had asked to see a manuscript. I had high hopes of the query, and the book, a stand alone called The Visitor, was very close to my heart.

I had just got off the train at Leeds station; I eagerly read the email from the agent, felt my heart break, and burst into tears. I dragged my suitcase around Leeds snivelling and sobbing for forty-five minutes while Jess consoled and reassured me and gently kicked my arse. Yes, I could write, no, I’d obviously caught the agent on a bad day, it probably wasn’t her genre, she said what? – well, that was just wrong. It was just one agent, and again, I could write, and what’s more Jess was going to make sure I bloody did.

Then there’s your own Jilly Wood, who has read many more books than I have, and who gently suggested I read Goal, Motivation, Conflict to tighten my writing and save myself time and pain in editing. Her advice is something I’ve come to depend on (sorry, Jilly!) and there’s almost no question about the romance genre I can’t ask her and get a sensible, thoughtful response. Her review of my book on this blog was part of a series of events which increased my sales beyond my loyal mates and reluctant family and sent my page reads soaring.

Last but not least by any means, are the authors who have reviewed me on Amazon – constructive, insightful and generous.

As with all good things, it gets better when you pass it on, and with that in mind, I’m going to be writing alongside another author friend for NaNoWriMo. Well, NaNoWriMo Lite as we’re calling it. If we both keep each other up to the mark – as I’m pretty sure we will – that will be at least 15,000 words for the next WIP.

So here’s to community – in fiction and real life. Who’s helped you in books? And helped you in the flesh – or as near to flesh as we get these days?

*****

About Sara Sartagne

Having wanted to be a journalist when she was a teenager, Sara actually ended up on the dark side, in PR. From there, it was a short skip to writing for pleasure, and from there to drafting her first book, The Garden Plot. This is the first novel in a romance series where gardens feature in a BIG way – she inherited green fingers from her wonderful grandmother and gardening is a passion.

Sara recently moved from London to York and is loving the open skies and the green fields. And a HUGE garden! Although not a country girl, she’s discovered the joys of no streetlights, septic tanks and ordering logs. Going from an underground tube or bus every three minutes, bus timetables in a small Yorkshire town have been a bit of a shock.

Sara loves being a writer although it’s not her only job – yet. She’s keeping her fingers firmly crossed. The second book in the English Garden Romance series – Love in a Mist – was released in October 2020.

She loves hearing from readers who have thoughts about her books and characters – and even about gardening! – so please visit http://www.sarasartagne.com (good for news and freebies!) or make contact on Twitter – @Sarasartagneauthor

Michaeline: NaNoWriMo Weekend #1 (2020)

The cover from a pulp magazine featuring a lady fortuneteller, a pale smoky vision in distress, and a young man looking seriously and dreamily up as if thinking his own thoughts. TEXT: UNCANNY, SPOOKY, CREEPY, TALES. March Ghost Stories. The MAN with the FOUR ARMS. The PSYCHIC DETECTIVE. MUMMY NUMBER 249.
My Project Cover, via Wikimedia Commons. If I run out of ideas, “The Man with the Four Arms” could be the next story I write. 25 cents!

It’s a very weird NaNovember weekend if you are an American citizen or care about one. I feel like the race could be decided at any minute . . . but I also feel that we won’t really hear any significant news until Monday.

I’m going to go with that last feeling – it allows me to get some writing done for more than 15 minutes at a time. At any rate, being cautiously optimistic is doing wonders for my motivation, while the tension is producing some deliciously weird effects in my writing.

As I mentioned in the post title, it’s the first weekend of National Novel Writing Month, which has become a bit of a misnomer. The game started in 1999 with freelancer Chris Baty and a few of his friends who decided they’d like to try and write A Great American Novel, or at least a novel, in 30 days. By 2000, the game was international, according to Wikipedia, with 140 participants.

The website also started in 2000. I’m a nine-time player (including this year) and one-time winner, although “winner” is also misleading. Finishing a story makes you a winner in my book. I am also a multi-time “cheater” – the basic rules Baty set out was that the novel must be new, must not be co-authored, and has to be submitted in time to verify the 50,000 word count.

Sometimes I followed those rules; other times I tried working on second drafts as a “NaNo Rebel” (officially recognized on the website, too, as a rebel). I do have to admit, I never won (and never even completed a story) the times I tried working on a second draft. Only with fresh, new material did I complete a new story . . . usually coming in at around 40,000 words and with a fairly good through-line for my plot.

This year, though, NaNo has gotten very casual with the rules, and I fully approve! Your “novel” has been rebranded as a

Continue reading

Michille: NaNo Fast Approaching

With NaNoWriMo fast approaching, I am trying to plan out a new story so I have lots of writing fodder to meet the 1,667 words-per-day goal. Just looking at that number doesn’t seem that hard to do, but I’ve done NaNo a couple times. Did it once to finish a manuscript that I now has just sat. Another time, I got to 35,000. This time I want to start a new one.

In a very timely fashion, I got an email recently about screen plays and another from the Save the Cat lady. I thought, awesome, I’ll take those mini courses for motivation and to foment ideas. Then life interrupted and nothing happened. Now, NaNo starts on Sunday and I don’t have lots of fodder or creative juices flowing.

But there is still time and I would really like to do it this year so I’m going to do those two mini courses between now and Saturday (I swear). And I’ll come up with the basics: a main character and a problem facing that character. Then write down the scene ideas for the character and the problem. This is often how I start. Although, I tend to start more the main character’s goal, and then have difficulty with the conflict lock. I don’t usually do a full plot outline in the early stages (could be why I have a conflict lock problem). I tend to just start writing and then have to do the outline later when I’m figuring out where I am and where I’m going.

Here is a quote from author Ken Follett describing his process: “I rewrite the outline – and this may happen several times. Typically there will be a first draft outline, a second draft outline and a final outline, so it would twice go through the process of being shown to a number of people. The whole process of coming up with idea, fleshing it out, doing the research, drafting the outline and rewriting the outline comes to about a year all told. There are quite often a couple of false starts within this. I may spend a month working on an idea before I realize that it isn’t going to work and abandon it. But after this whole process, I’m ready to write the first draft.”

Looks like Follett is a planner/plotter, too. Where are all the pantsers? Are any of you folks getting ready to NaNo?

Michille: National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month. For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” It starts on November 1 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Participants attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in that timeframe. I’ve tried it before and was successful once, almost successful once, and an abysmal failure several times.

So how does it work? The NaNo-er signs up and completes a profile, decides what to write, selects a “home region” (used for stats on the website and offers the potential to meet with others in your area for writing time or inspiration), and starts writing on November 1. During the month, stay tuned to the NaNo website to upload word count and check on others’ progress. Although, you can just do it on your own without the website.

The manuscript I was working on during the McD program was born one November. I only made it to 35,000, but it was a good start. My successful NaNo was the next one in that series (all of which are currently languishing). One of the things NaNo does for me is mostly a head game, but when I’ve done it in the past, it was a license to write absolute schlock. The goal is word count, not quality. There are a lot of helps during the month: pep talks from authors, badges, word-count helpers, etc. If I were more competitive, that would be a help, too.

One thing I’m going to try this year for prep/motivation is to listen to the best RWA sessions from the past couple of years. I’m going to start with Michael Hauge, hoping to get some motivation and story ideas out of the sessions. In person, they always get me super excited. Listening isn’t exactly the same, but here’s hoping.

I’m starting a new story. I have no idea what that story is, but hey, I have 2 weeks to figure that out. So 50,000 words on the page that I can then edit into usable stuff for a story that isn’t in my head. At this point, I’ve done so little writing (read: none) in ages that if I get any words on the page, it will be a success.

Are any of you planning to NaNo? What are your reasons to do or not to do? What are you hoping to get out of it?

Michaeline: A Tarot Spread for a NaNo Writing Prompt

Nine card spread of tarot cards, explained in text

This is the Smith-Waite Tarot Deck (Centennial Edition) in a tin. It’s a very traditional deck full of tarot symbols. (Image by E.M. Duskova)

I created a tarot spread to help spark a new story for National Novel Writing Month, and I thought I’d share it with you. The spread is quite simple. The left side represents my protagonist, the right side my antagonist, and the bottom concerns the plot point.

Layout:

2    5

1    4

3    6

7 8 9

1. This is the heroine of my story. The seven of cups suggest many choices. The Waite-Smith Little White Book contains the keywords of: fairy favors, imagination, through a looking glass. Also, with that many cups, I thought my heroine might be a bartender. And because my imagination is a little perverse, I thought a tee-total bartender would be a lot of fun to write.
2. This card represents her goal, or the overlying theme of her existence. Bad news, censure or conflict are the key words for the eight of swords. She’s bound by a lot of different ties. (To be honest, this is a difficult card to work with in the position of “goalz!” It suggests a heroine with no agency – which is a constant problem with my work!)
3. This card represents her motivations, or the underlying theme of her existence. The wheel of fortune’s key words are Continue reading

Elizabeth: NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

My Knight in Shinning Armor is doing his best to keep me writing.

As I write this post, it is Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month.  According to my trusty calculator, that means that everyone who is playing along should have somewhere around 8,335 words on the page.

How’s that working out for you?

I am just wrapping up a 5-day weekend.  When I scheduled this time off from my day job months ago, I had visions of long productive hours of writing and a substantial word count.

You’d think I’d have learned by now.

For some odd reason, the more time I have, the less time I actually spend writing.  On the plus side, I got a tremendous amount of other things done during my time off, clearing the way for great bounds of productivity in the coming days.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading

Michille: Planning a Novel and NaNoWriMo

NaNoWith NaNoWriMo fast approaching (as in TOMORROW), I am trying to nail down my approach for this year. I’m not writing, I’m editing. I plan to work on my story scene by scene for 1 1/2 hours per day. But for those of you planning on doing the real deal, which is 1,667 words-per-day,  I’m sharing a page I found a while ago on a site I visit regularly: Creative Writing Now.

The subject of the post is “How to plan a novel.” Nancy (not sure who Nancy is exactly but there is a video of her explaining her approach) starts off with the basics: set a writing schedule, come up with an idea, a main character, a problem facing that character, etc. Then write down the scene ideas for the character and the problem. This is often how I start. Although, I tend to start more the main character’s goal, and then have difficulty with the conflict lock. Nancy goes on into a description of a plot outline. I don’t usually get this far in the early stages. I tend to just start writing and then have to do the outline later when I’m figuring out where I am and where I’m going. Continue reading

Michille: Unusual Strategy for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoAs the title of this blog post suggests, I plan to have an unusual strategy for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo), which commences on November 1. The typical NaNo goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s about 1,667 words per day. I am taking a different approach this year and working on the words I got on the page last year and trying to incorporate them into the overall manuscript.

I started with a skeletal story of about 40,000 words that was my master’s thesis. Then last November wrote 50,000 more words to flesh it out. I wrote the first 40k in a coherent order and the NaNo 50k in random scenes. Right after NaNo ended, I made excellent progress on inserting scenes where they should go and re-figuring the plot to make some other stuff fit. In working so diligently through November and probably through about January/February, I made great headway.

And then Life interrupted. As I’m sure at least one or two of you have experienced that, I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say work stalled and then I got so far out of the story that I could never get myself motivated to get back into it. I’m going to use NaNo to hopefully get back in my story. Continue reading