Monday, December 1, 2014

How I won NANOWRIMO 2014 and A medium Announcement

Just Call Me Dragon Slayer

Or in this year's case, evil-pious-human-sacrificing-lying-clan-leader-slayer. For the second year in a row, I've managed the daunting task of writing over 50k words in 30 days. I slid into the winner's circle like a baseball player sometimes does a base bag, bleeding and limping a little.

Even though I beat the plot monster for the second time this year, it feels different for a number of reasons. Some were positive and some negative, but ultimately I accomplished the goal.

The Weird Stuff

Rather than writing an entire novel, I wrote the second half of one and the first half of another in a series. This was not my original plan but it did help me move the plot along. It also has me conflicted. Should I pause the completion of the second novel to edit and rewrite the finished first one? So many interviews and articles I read say that series are great but in order to sell it, you have to sell the first book first. How much effort should I put into this second book?

Aside from the dilemma mentioned above, I also have reservations about how well I really know my characters and if I've kept them consistent enough for the second novel. It almost hurt to writ the 20k words of the second novel because I had no idea how the third POV character would respond to the situations I dropped him in.

I've always, always, always been a pantser and a linear writer. This time, I couldn't begin to tell you how much brainstorming and mental scene rewriting I did before committing it to my word doc. I also skipped several scenes  due to my uncertainty in one of my POV characters. I gotta admit, I still didn't like it. Guess this solidifies my drafting style for me. I can't rush all that glorious imperfection.


The Great Mess

One thing I truly enjoyed, and told several local writerly friends, is that the creative process was fantastic. I'd spent so much time rewriting and editing and submitting all summer, I'd lost my spark for the reason I write at all. I LOVE IT! Nanowrimo gave me that back.

It also reminded me of what I was capable of and pushed the envelope for me. Last year, my full focus was on Nanowrimo (with the exception of Thanksgiving). This year, I also has some serious personal stress going on and was freelancing part-time. I kept reminding myself that I was actually writing MORE then 50k because I was selling 3-6 articles per week in addition.

It is within the good stuff that I must apologize to my personal blog readers. November was a complete negligent month where this blog was concerned. But now, I'm back!

A major high-five to all the National Novel Writing Month Winners! You've shown you have what it takes and I'm proud to be among you!

A Medium Announcement Among Some BIG Ones

When I started to write this blog and reflected on all the awesome sauce that has happened in my writerly circles this month, I realized that my announcement might actually only be a medium announcement. Before we get to that, some major kudos are in order.

Kendra Young and Nikki Roberti
These two very good friends of mine have given word that they are both, in fact, agented!!!! I couldn't be more happy for them and I wanted to tell everyone!
(Plus, this totally gives me hope for one day being in their shoes.) 

Now, My Medium Announcement:

The Query Helper is striking next week! If you've participated in NANO this year (and even if you haven't) take a stab at a query letter for your shiny new chunk of writing. Then keep your eye out on my blog, twitter, and facebook pages for the notice to submit. I'm going to help out five people.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A bit of fun: 8 Terrible Titles

I volunteered to take part in a fun blog hop where essentially I just flip through my current manuscript and the first place my cursor lands, I need to take the phrase and that’s a new faux title for my book. Thanks Nikki Roberti for the amusement during my writing break. (Check out her hilarious post here.)

This sounds so fun, and I need a break from the carpoltunnel marathan I just cranked out to catch up on my #nanowrimo goal. So here are 8 TERRIBLE replacement titles for both ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS and SAMANA'S FLAIR.

  1. What a Great Idea
  2. Could have done
  3. My Heart could have Leapt (Wow, passive much?)
  4. Nolly Point Trail (an important part of the setting!)
  5. VFW Pancake Breakfast
  6. In the Crick So Long
  7. Tear the Motor Apart
  8. Blackness Below Me
  1. Flicked Sacred Water
  2. She Now Remembered
  3. Deepening the Lines
  4. Crawled Backward
  5. Some Mysterious Thing (Okay this one wins!)
  6. Not a Sunset Went By
  7. Smothering Weight
  8. Chewing Some Rabbit Meat
Which one do you like? Who else wants to play? Comment below please!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Liebster Award: 10 Questions about my Work-in-Progress

About a week ago, I was tagged by Nikki Roberti for the Liebster Award. (click her name to see her 10 W.I.P answers!) I have to answer her ten questions about my novel and then tag some more people and give them 10 questions. Since my National Novel Writing Month project is fresh in my mind, I thought I'd give you all a little teaser taste of it. This is SAMANA'S FLAIR, a young adult fantasy novel with multiple view points.

1) How did you come up with your WIP’s title?

I had my MC's name picked out in the old story this novel stemmed from. When I decided to give the magical marks a special name and came up with flair, the novel's title fell into place.

2) What motivates you to write?

Not sure how to answer this. I write to escape, to create something bigger and better than myself and my life. A way to connect with others that is very unique. I strive for that kind of writing, and it motivates me to keep going, even when walls of adversity stand before me.

3) Do you find yourself putting past experiences in your book? Give an example!

Yes, yes, yes! Although in this particular novel, I've used more of things I've seen or explored in the setting than interpersonal, emotional experiences. An example: I've been in cliff dwellings of the southwestern U.S. several times in my life, and they inspired the setting for this novel series.

4) What is your main character’s biggest obstacle?

Oh goodness. Um, um, um, probably herself. She's so wrapped up in finding her place in the world that she's got a blurred and bias worldview.

5) What is your crutch word that you always have to go back and delete because you use it too many times?

It's a toss up between "that" and "and". My writing mentor would say "that" takes the prize.

6) Who is your author role model and why?

I'm not sure I have one. There are so many authors I admire, but I pay more attention to their writing then to them as a person. Is that bad? Should I be more aware? Maybe, but all the pretty words!

7) What happens in your favorite scene from your WIP?

Oh good question. I love a deep character and an arc that makes the reader question their initial judgement of a character. Though its sort of sinister, the scene where my antagonist plays out his piousness in a ritual is one of my favorites so far. He feels incredibly real, with all the confliction emotion of the evil he's done and how badly he wants his God's favor.

8) Please share a favorite line from your manuscript!

So many choices! Should I give you flirtatious banter or dubious threats or internal wonderment?
I'll give you two:

  • The cycle of madness would continue, and it would ride on the currents of her shame.
  • A hare-fast fog crept and swirled around her, soaking her, snarling her in restricting cloth like an unwanted cocoon.

9) Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?
Yep! I'm writing the second half of SAMANA'S FLAIR, and starting the second book in series, working title: A SOUL AND A SONG. But I'm toying with another title for it as well.

 10) What advice do you have for other authors?
 Get out of your own way and feed yourself positive thoughts. When you are positive, you leave the doors of creativity and possibility open. By staying positive even when the muse went out to lunch, you're just taking a moment of respite. In this way, you'll never move backwards.

Now to pass the baton! I'm going to tag Kendra Young as well as some recent NANO sprint buddies MK England, Siolta Saillie, Kelly Loy Gilbert, Katherine Lock, and Ida. (If you don't have a blog, I'd be more than happy to host your post here on my blog.)

And for your 10 questions, we're going to dive into the amazing story you're writing!! I want to know all about it:
  1. Is this W.I.P your nano project and did you start it prior to November 1st?
  2. What is the name and personality of your MC?
  3. What makes your book unique in its age/genre market?
  4. What do you love most about your story?
  5. What area of the plot are you very sure will need some serious editing hours?
  6. Who is your favorite character in your novel?
  7. What is/are your crutch word(s)?
  8. Did you purposely put a bit of your personality into one of your charcters, and if so which one?
  9. What part, if any, of your setting is perfectly clear in your mind?
  10.  What is the biggest obstacle of your MC?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall 1st Page Critique Blog Hop

A special thank you to Michelle Hauck for putting on this fun blog hop! And also to anyone that critiques the first 249 words on my National Novel Writing Month project SAMANA'S FLAIR.  

YA Fantasy

The gentle tug of fingers raked through Samana’s black hair. She let out a breath, glancing around the dim adobe room, and soaked in the melody filling it. What once was somebody’s thatch-roofed pueblo now embraced her and Dimirez.

The haunting song faded into the shadows, and Samana turned to her Wanderer-sister.

“Do you have to stop?”

Dimirez’s cheeks bunched as she smiled. “Singing or brushing your hair?”

“Both.” Samana gathered her locks over one shoulder and began to braid them. “Your songs are so beautiful, especially the one you sing all the time. No wonder your flair came in as birds.”

Dimirez touched her chest, where a swirling trio of birds cascaded down from her shoulder in black lines. Then she fastened Samana’s braid with a leather tie. “Music beckons the soul from its darkest places.”

“Where did you hear that?” Samana asked.

Dimirez paused. “I don’t remember, but I wish I could. It was a long time ago, before I was dropped at the North Chawe house with a few other children.”

Samana nodded repeatedly, as though that could somehow shake away their family-less status.

“But look at us now!” Dimirez swept from their place on a pile of empty cloth sacks. “We finally have a place to call our own! If I can keep finding places to sing for trade, we can make a life here. All we have to do is avoid getting snatched up and sent to the mines for a little while.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#NANO2014 Series: Tips on Defeating Your Low Word Counts

It's that time of year again. You know, when millions of writers talk themselves into writing insanity, in a group. Yes, National Novel Writing Month is alive and roaring again. We are five days into the craziness. My twitter feed is jam packed with a combination of positive and negative posts. Everything from conversations with our word counts (come on admit it!) to word count shout outs to self defeating mumbles.

It's these downer posts I'm addressing here. Or rather, the reasons behind them. For the most part, each of these negative posts fall into one of two categories. Either the writer is struggling to cling to the shreds of the inspirational plot that lead them to participate. Or, like me, time availabilty is against them.

I wanted to give a few tips on how to deal with either of these situations.

Wrestle the Muse Tip - Identify the Stop Sign

If your #NANO word count is suffering from a lack of direction, you might consider stepping back from your word count and doing some novel related studying. What is it about your word count that is resisting being written? If it's a character, consider writing a short paragraph about that/those character(s). See my antagonist interview here for more ideas on questions to consider. If it's a lack of action or movement in the plot, consider drawing a timeline or writing out a short synopsis. (I'm eyeballing you, pantsers! Just try it, don't fight it!)

Also, don't forget that the amazing organizers of NANO have a virtual write-in planned in about 2 hours! It includes some prompts and sprints designed to get those keys clicking! Check it out here.

Wrestle the Clock Tip - Prioritize

If you're like me, you are racing the clock or trying like mad to make writing time fit into the 24 hours you have to get the word count entered on your profile. Last night, after complaining to my husband, who barely heard me over his latest Netflix venture, I realized the only real problem I had was how I chose to prioritize my time. If I wanted to make sure I won NANO, I needed to write every day. That is the bottom line. So I could either resist sleep and hope I made it each evening or I could write first thing in the morning. I made the decision to stick with evening writing. That meant removing dish washing and T.V. time from my nights. The dishes can be done earlier in the day and my daughter can help. I'm okay with that.

The choice to write is yours and yours alone. Make a list of what you are doing each day, and line out one or two activities you can give up for 25 days to focus on this much bigger goal. I'm behind you 100%, and I can confidently say that last year this worked for me as well. I won NANO and that novel has gotten some serious industry attention. Don't give up on your novel, just give up on the things that may be sucking the time out of it's potential.

Are you battling the muse or the clock? I'd love to hear your battle story in the comments below!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laramie Writer's Group Topic: Antagonist's Interview

Last night's Laramie's Writers Group was so much fun! As we've geared up for National Novel Writing Month, we've been discussing in-depth story, plot, and character development methods. Last night's topic was the best yet in my option, and I was so happy that it helped Margo not only with a character's motivation, but also his personality.

This Antagonist's Interview is courtesy of's February 2011 Cover Story: A Pyramid Approach to Novel-Writing. Hopefully, it can help some of my fellow #NANO writers as they prepare for next month's 50K word venture.

"Antagonists are typically underwritten characters. Who wants to spend time with the bad guy? I do, because a well-written, believable and sympathetic antagonist spells the difference between a toss-away novel and a cinematic novel. Imagine you are your antagonist's biographer. Interview him or her, creating a character page from the answers.

  • What's your name? Nickname?
  • Anyone ever tell you that you look like someone famous?
  • Of all your qualities, which are you most proud of? Where do you think you acquired this talent?
  • What do people seem to like the least about you? How does it make you feel?
  • Which habit of yours would you most like to change?
  • If someone looked in your bathroom garbage right now, what would they find?
  • What scent do you enjoy the most and what does it remind you of?
  • If you could go back in time and change one day of your life, what day would it be and why?
  • What three goals do you want to accomplish int he next year? What challenges do you have to overcome to reach them?
  • Whom do you love most in this world and why?
  • What scares you?
If you can coax your antagonist into answering these questions, you'll be well on your way to creating a character readers can relate to who is nonetheless a damaged human being. This will create an incredibly interesting conflict when he or she crosses paths with your protagonist."

I'd love to see some bits of your antagonists in the comments below, so please share some if you like!

I may be a little absent (even more than usual) through November, as I too am participating in NANO, but be sure to keep an eye out for some editing advice posts in early December, as well as a few query helper giveaways just in time for the contests coming up in December, January, and February.

Stay warm and write on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Will Dom and I be the #noQs twitter party poopers?

Once again, I've thrown Dom into a contest ring with the hope of getting him in front of just the right agent or editor. Of course, we've done some traditional querying and am awaiting to hear some Pitch Madness requesters' responses. But I adore Michelle Hauck and she's worked hard for years on contests, including "Nightmare on Query Street." Plus, I know she has a secret crush on Dom. (Which really only lessens my chances since she can't pick favorites).

Even though I'm excited to participate, I have a problem. There is a very good chance my main character and I will be the poopers of the twitter party all week while we await the coveted spots and agent round if we get that far. Here's the twitter party line up:

10.15.2014 (Submission Day!): Title of your book and the time you emailed it.

10.16.2014: If I knocked on your MC's front door on Halloween, would I get a trick or a treat?

10.17.2014: What is your MC going to be for Halloween?

10.18.2014: Your MC goes on a haunted hayride. What would make him/her scream the loudest?

10.19.2014: If your MC could pull one prank on Halloween and not get caught, what would it be?

10.20.2014: What would your antagonist do for Halloween? 

10.21.2014: What scary setting will your MC be in on Halloween? Will they be hiding under a bed or prancing around a graveyard?

 10.22.2014: What is your MC's favorite scary movie or would they watch a scary movie?

But you see, both Dom and I, and our families, don't celebrate Halloween.

In Dom's case, it's a religious thing. His parents don't want him or his brother participating in something that they feel is detrimental to his spiritual well-being. He's already naughty and a trickster. There's no point in encouraging him.

As for me and my house, it's a mix of things that leads us not into participation. We made the decision as a family a few years ago. Yes, its implications can run against the grain of our belief in God and against the devil (a whole book can be written about how it is or is not, and its been done over and over and over again). But for us, the big push came when we realized how much it was feeding our children's attitudes of selfishness and entitlement. Nope, not going to let that happen. So we just stay home together and enjoy each other's company. Also, I am a wimp. I can't even turn on the T.V. this time of year. The commercials for the movies that will play soon give me nightmares.

So I guess I will just have to answer the above questions as best I can and hope it's not a repeat of "He doesn't participate."

Regardless, I still love this contest and will be favoriting all the answers!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Welcome Guest Blogger Jenny and her main character!

Hi everyone! First off, thanks for letting me play here Emily. I now request that your readers proceed to yell at me on twitter @jennyleeSD about getting me to get my own blog. I probably won’t listen, but you know, you can always tell yourself you tried. J

And even though I’m blogless, Michelle Beahm wanted me to reveal a little about my main character in my newest novel, an as of yet unnamed NA Magical Realism project code name “Discovery,” via the All About My Main Character Blog Hop. So here I go:

1)     What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

And here’s where I complicate things: you get to meet two characters today! My latest WIP features dual-POV and I can’t pick between college juniors Greer Russo and Carey Nelson because they’re both the best or the worst depending on who you ask. Both fictional, but Greer has the luck (she’d call it misfortune) of becoming infamous. That’s sort of historical.

2)     When is the story set?

Present day, on a small liberal arts campus, somewhere in the mid-West. If you know me, you can guess at what real life college campus (and town) I’ve borrowed as a map for this novel.

3)     What should we know about him/her?

At twenty-four, Carey is older than most juniors. But that’s because when he was five, he had a hemispherectomy and while the brain is an awesome thing and for children bounces back, the recovery took a couple years of his life. Now he’s caught up with his peers, mostly. He’s pre-med, but because of his weakened right side, he knows he’ll never be a surgeon. General practice or research is where it’s at.

Greer’s putting her life back together again. That is, she’s dead. Some creep ran her down in a blue pick up truck on the first Thursday of the semester and now she’s trying to figure out how she provoked him. The only problem is she can’t remember her life before that night. And when she starts finding pieces of the puzzle, even Greer is willing to admit that the chick she used to be was kinda messed up.

4)     What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Death messes up Greer’s life. Greer messes up Carey’s life.

Since Carey’s the only person who can see Greer—heck, he can feel her—he’s sort of obligated to help her out, right? Oh and back when Carey was in the hospital brain surgery recovery ward, he made friends with another patient, a girl who like Greer, shouldn’t have still been corporeal. As Carey and Greer dig around their small college town, they start uncovering more and more of Greer’s former life and the nasty stuff she was involved in.

5)     What is the personal goal of the character?

Greer: figure out who the heck she was, and if that has anything to do with who she’s becoming.

Carey: dig himself out of the mini-depression he’s been submersed in lately. You know, do everything that needs to get done, go to class, do homework, score that internship, eat right, sleep eight hours a night… that kind of stuff.

6)     Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

I’m usually super tight lipped about my WIP. I have no idea why I agreed to do this. Normally saying, “I’m blogfree” gets me out of talking about my process. But this time Michelle and Emily teamed up to best me!

I’m calling it Project Code Name: Discovery because: 1) I’m a discovery writer and will discover the title eventually, and 2) it’s sort of about discovering things about yourself. It’s way on the nose, but it fits. For now.

7)     When can we expect the book to be published?

Let me ask my Magic Eight Ball. Hmm, reply hazy, try again. Ha! I’m funny!

Fun fact: You won’t ever see this novel published under my legal name. This is pseudonym stuff, so you, lucky readers might be the only people in the world who can put two and two together and come up with my name. Crap, I just say this on the internet. Another brilliant plan foiled!

For realsies though, I’m 44,531 words into what I expect is a 70,000 word manuscript. I draft quickly; I revise at a decent pace too when grad school life allows. So I expect that I will be ready to query this beast in February 2015 (I just made that date up 100%). After that… well, if the Magic Eight ball couldn’t help us out, Game of Thrones certainly can: Jon Snow knows nothing.

And here we go—I’m out! Now, I’m nominating Jodie Andrefski to wow us with her wit.