How’d NaNoWriMo Go?

I’ve just completed my first NaNoWriMo, which was also my first attempt at writing a novel.  Regulars here know I write picture books and chapter books for early readers.  I never thought I would attempt a novel; but sometime over the last year, an idea for a novel popped into my head and refused to go away.  Having jotted down a few notes and a very rough outline, I decided to take the chilly November plunge this year.  My goal was never the 50K word count.  I’m accustomed to writing in a much shorter form and knew my first draft would come along slowly.  My goal was to carve out a couple of hours from my busy day to devote to writing the novel.  I’m more of a morning person, so that meant getting up at 5 am instead of 5:30 am and cutting out morning TV and/or social media.  I managed to keep my morning devotions in place and not skip my workout, arriving at my desk at 8:30 am.  That gave me about an hour-and-a-half to write before beginning the day job.  As it so happens, several of the doctors I transcribe for have just decided to switch to Dragon rather than having a human being transcribe their gibberish, so my work hours have recently been scaled back.

Unfortunately, NaNoWriMo coincided with a long-planned partly DIY kitchen renovation that couldn’t be put off.  This put a serious dent in my schedule.  All told, I managed to write about 10K words.  I’m pleased, however, with what I have so far.  It’s a solid beginning.

What I found with NaNoWriMo was the motivation I needed to finally start the novel.  It was fun knowing there were other writers out there who were doing the same thing.  I don’t regret giving it a try this year.

However… 

Before the month even had a chance to begin, I received an email from NaNoWriMo offering “NaNoWriMo 2019 Winner” t-shirts for sale, before any of us had posted our first word count.

Participation trophies for everyone!

I realize NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit trying to raise money, but I wish they had just sold “NaNoWriMo 2019 Participant” t-shirts instead.  Allowing anyone and everyone to declare themselves a winner right out of the gate was embarrassing.

I left the official NaNoWriMo Facebook page shortly after the month began because I couldn’t believe the garbage I was seeing.  One writer boasted about how she was going to finish her novel in November and publish it on December 1st.  I cautioned against that and encouraged her to take time to revise and edit.  Then came the flying monkeys, one of which gave me the “Better three hours early than one minute late,” line.  Really?  So, you think that what you’re writing is so earth-shattering that society will crumble if people can’t get their hands on your half-baked novel right away?

I read somewhere that agents and publishers hate December because that’s when all the NaNoWriMo gems hit their inboxes–unpublishable tripe that desperately needed several trips through the editorial sieve.

A pet peeve of mine, and one I’ve discussed here in the past, is the amount of self-published garbage clogging the internet.  The books with thin plots and 2-D characters, full of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.  One of the dangers of self-publishing is that we don’t have the benefit of an agent or editor to help us recognize and smooth out the rough spots.  We’re on our own.  Unfortunately, an awful lot of people don’t take that responsibility seriously.  It’s a terrible stain on the self-publishing community and will continue to prevent us from being taken seriously.  If you hit the magical 50K mark and hit “send” today, you aren’t a serious writer and you have no respect for the craft.  What you are is an egotistical wannabe who likes to call himself/herself an author but who doesn’t want to do the required grunt work to produce a good story.

Then there was post after post asking for help with everything from plot lines to character names.  Someone suggested rolling dice.  Another suggested tarot cards.  How about sitting quietly and giving you novel more thought?  Several people were in a panic because NaNoWriMo was about to begin and they didn’t yet have a story idea. I’ll let you in on a little secret.  If you don’t have an idea for a novel, it’s okay to skip NaNoWriMo.  For far too many people, NaNoWriMo appears to be just another competition.  A social media gimmick.  All you have to do is write 50K words to win.  Whether or not those words are any good seems to be of no consequence at all.

Writing as an art form, a craft, and a profession is suffering.  Even the traditional publishing world isn’t immune to the mediocrity infecting the literary world (did you see the picture book about the dinosaur who pooped Christmas? Yeah.).  As writers, real writers, we need to do better.  We need to stop patting the posers on the head and telling them their collective s**t doesn’t stink.  It stinks to high heaven.

I think the whole 50K word thing needs to be tossed in the circular file.  It’s a terrible idea.  What should matter most during NaNoWriMo is that writers show up regularly and put words to paper that move the plot along.  Anyone can type words.  I can hold down a single key to up my word cooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuunnnnnnttttt.  That’s not writing.  It’s word vomit.  Now, if you hit 50K usable words and intend to spend the next few months revising and rewriting, bravo!  You have enough self respect and respect for the craft to call yourself a writer.

What could be a community of writers spurring one another on to achieve real writing goals is, for far too many people, a sprint toward a meaningless finish line.  Anyone can write badly.  A real writer, a true artist, will take that first draft and work on it until it shines.  That takes time and patience.  It means postponing the gratification of calling yourself a published author.  It means you have to work hard to earn the title.  What you wrote during NaNoWriMo isn’t good enough for publication, not yet.  Put the manuscript away for a few days.  Then, with a red pen in your hand, take the manuscript out and read it aloud.  Does it still sound wonderful?  I doubt it.  If you think it’s good to go, send it to a few beta readers–not your best friend or your mother.  Send it to someone who reads a lot and ask them what they think.  Another pair of eyes is going to find glaring problems you missed because you’re too close to the project.

You will have to revise and rewrite, perhaps many times.  You owe that to the craft and to your readers.  There are no shortcuts to good writing.  There are no 30-day sprints to publication.  Used as a writing tool, NaNoWriMo has great potential.  Used as a means to induce premature manuscript labor, it’s a travesty.

 

Are You NaNoWriMo-ing?

Since I’m taking my first stab at a novel, I thought I’d hitch my wagon to some accountability and try NaNoWriMo this year.

I’m not a “write every day” sort of writer in the sense that I don’t sit down at the keyboard every day.  I spend random moments throughout the day thinking about the WIP but rarely do more than jot down a note or two in my notebook.  My keyboard time is a once-a-week endeavor.  I need to change things up a bit if I ever hope to finish a novel.

I’ve never really had to consider the idea of writing to a word count before.  Picture books aren’t really a word count sort of project.  I’m trying to decide on my writing timeslot for the month.  Lunchtime is out of the question.  I’m knee-deep in medical reports by then and can’t successfully switch to creative mode and back again.  That leaves very early in the morning or after dinner.  My mind is usually pretty fried at the end of the workday, so it looks like early mornings will be it.  I’ll have to get up a little earlier so I don’t have an excuse for skipping either my workout or my writing session.  Setting my alarm for 5 am should do it.  That alone will give me 30 extra minutes a day.  If I start my workout earlier and skip the morning news, I might squeeze in yet another 30 minutes each morning.

Honestly, I’ve always viewed NaNoWriMo with something of a “What’s the point?” kind of attitude.  Nobody can write a novel, start to finish, and have it ready in one month for publication.  That leaves no time for proper revision and editing, and we have far too much of that going on in the self-published world.  But I don’t think that’s the point of the exercise, at least not for me.  What I hope to get out of it is a more consistent writing schedule and a good head start on my first novel.  I also like the sense of community, of writers all over the world cheering one another on.  With only one car between my husband and I, I don’t have the freedom to regularly attend a writing group.  Writers need a certain amount of solitude to write; but too much isolation breeds loneliness, and loneliness dries up the creative juices.

Due to a previously planned kitchen project in the first week of November, I’m going to start in the last week of October, take the first week of November off, and then pick up the rest of the month from there.  Hopefully, I’ll have my new kitchen table by then so I can do my morning writing close to the coffee pot.

I’ll admit, I’m a little geeked about it.

Don’t be lazy, do it yourself!

Great advice. I wholeheartedly agree.

Have We Had Help?

Editor

Writer/editor at work!

For a quarter of a century now, one aspect of my chosen career path has always bothered me…

We all know that writers in publishing house stables are expected to apply all the corrections and plot suggestions that their editors have made. So why should Indies have to suffer this totally illogical practice as well? For many, myself included, we parted company with traditional publishing to get away from this less than satisfactory aspect of the writing game, and the often dictatorial way in which publishers rule over their writers, amongst other things.

I’ve given up counting the number of times I’ve heard fellow Indie’s complain about their editors, and the hard won money they’ve spent on their sometimes dubious services.

If you take the sensible decision to go it alone and self edit, its down to you to find the errors and correct them, as well…

View original post 408 more words

Is Somebody Cooking a Novel?

While I’ve been able to get back on the writing horse since my latest disappointment, it has proved itself to be somewhat of a bucking bronco this time.

After my close encounter with traditional publishing came crashing down around me, an idea for a novel (or maybe a novella) began to form in my mind.  Normally, novel writing just isn’t my thing.  I don’t think I have the patience for it, and years of writing for kids has trained my brain to keep things very short and to the point.  I never thought of myself as having the literary stamina required to write a novel.

So what is this story idea doing in my head?  I suppose it could simply be the result of long-term stress and emotional upheaval finally looking for an exit (as if the erosion in my esophagus weren’t enough).  The plot isn’t fully formed in my head, though as usual I know the last line of the story.  At present, it’s about a woman who returns home to bury her father, clean out her parents’ now empty home, and put it up for sale.  The conflict for my protagonist lies in the fact that her mother was an emotionally abusive monster and her father a weak man who never stood up to her.  Returning home is the last thing she wants to do.

It’s not based on my life, though I’ll be dumpster diving my own memories in order to flesh out my character a bit.  It’s all grist for the mill, right?

Did I tell you there were ghosts involved?  Yeah.  So there’s a bit of the supernatural in the story, as well as the struggle to forgive in the face of injustice and learning to recognize how generational abuse is perpetuated.

Sounds heavy, I know.  It’s also meant to be allegorical.  What happens in the story isn’t meant to be a theological commentary on what happens after death, heavenly reward, or punishment.

So this is brand new territory for me.  I’m still working on the Winthrop Risk sequel, for which my serious sit-down time is reserved (though I’ve admittedly been giving the day job more attention of late).  The basic plot of the novel is still coming to me in small bits of random ideas arriving at inconvenient times that are scribbled in a notebook.  Eventually, it will all coalesce and the first draft will begin.

I’m intrigued by the idea of being able to slow the story down a bit, to indulge in more descriptive language, to give my characters more than a name.  I might be good at it.  I might suck at it.  Who knows?

It’s quite the adventure, isn’t it?

Maybe Next Time…

lambslions

Well, I finally heard from the publisher today.  My manuscript made it through the slush pile and through editing, but the folks in acquisitions decided to pass on it.

I won’t pretend I’m not deeply disappointed.  I’ve been riding this cautiously hopeful wave for months, only to sink right before reaching the shore.  What I want to do most right now is to sit on the porch and watch the grass grow.

I will allow myself a brief period of mourning for what might have been.  I’ll wait until the house is empty and I’ll shed a few tears.  Maybe a lot of tears.  Then I’ll get over it.

In the next couple of days, I’ll change the manuscript back to its original form.  I wasn’t thrilled with the change the editor requested and felt it interrupted the flow of the story.  Changing it was a business decision on my part, not an artistic one.  No doubt, an editor at another publishing house will want different changes anyway.

While I regret the outcome, I appreciate the experience I’ve had.  I received affirmation of my writing skills.  The next time I’m asked to revise a manuscript, I won’t feel quite as panicked as I did the first time, resulting in a headache that didn’t go away until the revision was done.  I can revise on demand.  I also learned that editors aren’t monsters.  I was treated with respect from start to finish.  In spite of the sadness I feel right now, I also feel like I’ve found my professional footing.  This is the business side of writing.  In retrospect, I feel good about the interaction I’ve had with this publisher over the last several months.  In the past, I’ve received a couple of form rejection letters or (for the most part) no response at all.  I guess I would call this progress.  Painful progress.

I believe that in a situation like this, inaction would be a mistake.  I know how easy it would be to just shut down and adopt an “it will never happen for me” attitude.  It will do me no good to sit in a corner, eating worms.  This is probably the point at which many a good writer has given up entirely and silenced their own voice forever.  I’m making a conscious decision not to take that route, though right now I feel like I’m trying to dance in knee-deep mud.

Time to start, once again, looking for publishers and agents accepting unsolicited manuscripts.  Time to finish the sequel to Winthrop Risk, Detective (I’ve decided to keep that series in the self-publishing realm).  Time to open up the purple box and see the story nuggets I’ve buried there.

If I never achieve publication of my picture books, it certainly won’t be because I gave up.  There’s no adventure in surrender.

robinhood

 

Book Review: “A Dread So Deep” by Anita Rodgers

61866505_3292082350817389_3847310353750818816_n

Mysteries seem to bring out the worst in people.  I don’t mean in the reader, but in the characters.  Murder.  Deceit.  Infidelity.  Violence.  Otherwise normal-appearing people who are successful businessmen, loving wives, and doting mothers.  Well-manicured lawns that hug stone walkways leading to magazine-cover-perfect homes.  What evil could possibly exist here?

Well, things aren’t always what they seem, are they?

The latest book by mystery writer Anita Rodgers, A Dread So Deep, leads us up to that lovely front door and into the nightmare that is Christine Logan’s life.

Christine Logan is the pretty wife of a successful contractor, Phillip Logan.  A talented artist who teaches painting to children at a local community center, Christine has often had to use her artistic skills to cover her bruises.  Emotionally abandoned by her abusive husband, she recklessly turns to one of her husband’s young employees for comfort.

Recklessness seems to be the one trait the Logans have in common, as Phillip’s choice of mistress proves.

When Christine becomes pregnant with a child Phillip is certain is not his, he orders Christine to have an abortion.

Will Christine give Phillip what he wants, or will she finally defy him and flee with the man she loves?  Will she be trapped with Phillip forever, or will fate intervene?

When Detective Davis and her partner are called in to investigate what looks like an accidental death, the number of possible suspects and motives for murder tells her there is more to discover.  Much more.

With A Dread So Deep, Anita Rodgers has given us a brisk whodunit with plenty of gnarled paths to keep the reader engaged and wondering what’s next.  We’re even treated to a cameo appearance by Scotti Fitzgerald, the plucky and intrepid protagonist of Anita’s Scotti Fitzgerald Mystery series.

So pull up a beach chair and pour yourself a glass of iced tea.  There’s a murder to solve.

About the author:

Anita Rodgers is no stranger to the mystery genre.  Among her other works, she’s the author of the Scotti Fitzgerald Mystery series and The Dead Dog Trilogy.  Her books are available at https://www.amazon.com/Anita-Rodgers/e/B004N8IWY6.

You can also check out her blog at https://writerchick.wordpress.com.

A self-published children’s book brought down Baltimore’s mayor — Literary Hub

Storyteller’s note:  This story just pisses me off.  Some no talent hack in government made $680,000 selling her self-published books to people in institutions that wouldn’t recognize a good children’s book if it were stapled to their foreheads.  It’s alleged that something fraudulent was going on and the investigation is ongoing.  Putting a self-published book out there with no marketing budget is hard enough, but watching someone else cheat with bad books that are designed to make adults feel good about buying them is enough to induce vomiting.  I hope they throw the book at her.  

“Buy a self-published children’s book” is admittedly not at the top of the list when it comes to ways to gain political influence, and yet that’s the emerging picture in Baltimore, where Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned yesterday after controversy from such a book came to a head. The Baltimore Sun reported in March that the…

via A self-published children’s book brought down Baltimore’s mayor — Literary Hub

Quote

The Paralysis of Waiting

snape

I’m still some weeks away from learning whether or not the publisher will make an offer on my picture book manuscript.

Friday I had to vacuum the dust off the backpack containing my laptop and WIP.

Yeah.

I have the most miserable sense of being in author’s limbo.  It’s nothing like the limbo I was told about as a child, where babies go if they die before they’re christened.  It’s more like the lowest circle of hell.  A terrible place where images of success and failure alternately flash before my eyes–the dream realized vs. the dream dashed.

My sense of identity as a writer has grown stronger over the last couple of years.  It’s no longer simply what I want to be, it’s what I am.  Lately, I find myself slipping back into that insecure place where I’m waiting for a third party to nod in my direction and bestow upon me the coveted title of published author.  Something inside my brain is telling me I have no business sitting down to write before permission is granted.

I hate myself for allowing that to happen.

I have no excuses today.  The inbox for my day job is empty.  I already did the dishes.  I have forced myself into writer mode by dropping this little note of confession to you.  I’m going, at this very moment, to grab the backpack and see where I left off.

Join me.

Not So Fast!

Just got an email from the publisher.  I’ve made it from the slush pile and through the editorial board.  They liked the revision.  The final decision on whether or not to publish will be made at a meeting next month of their sales and marketing team.

One thing I’m learning is that the wheels of the publishing machine move rather slowly but deliberately.

Patience.

I think I’m having an out-of-body experience.

Now What?

Well, the publisher who contacted me said the acquisitions board would meet in late February/early March.

We’re coming to the end of March with no further word from the publisher, so I have to assume they decided not to publish my manuscript.

A dream-crushing experience once again.  How should I, as an author, respond?

I checked their website.  They’re open for submissions once again.  I sent another manuscript.

Stand up.  Dust yourself off.  Get back in the game.

Previous Older Entries