Blogging Contest · Harp · NaNoWriMo

#19 Your Greatest Fan

Ick, sometimes I feel as if I’m my own greatest fan. Which is about as sad and silly as I’m My Own Grandpa.

I’d love it if my hubby were my greatest fan, but when he reads, it’s always non-fiction. I don’t think that harps and romance or faeries and druids will appeal to him. 😉 So, unless I sell a million copies of my books, my writing will look like just a hobby to him.

Having a hobby doesn’t really draw fans.

I suppose my greatest fan depends on which book you’re talking about. So far. For either one, my fans are my mom and step-mom (whom I also call Mom, just to add lovely confusion 😉 ).

My birth-mom has the same taste in reading as I do. She and I enjoy discussing the finer points of The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series. She liked Harp Lessons, but has been really enjoying being my beta reader for The Stone of Kings. When I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with TSOK, we had wonderful brainstorming sessions. That always got the story moving again.

My step-mom is more of a visual artist, but has provided most of the inspiration for both my finished books. She has encouraged my writing throughout my childhood, got me started playing harp, and took me on my first trip to New York City, where she grew up. She and her mom, my Grandma Caroline, told me endless stories of Ireland and what it was like to live there. If you’ve read Harp Lessons, do these things sound familiar? Naturally, Mom has been tickled pink that I’m now a published author.

I know there are those outside of my family who have loved Harp Lessons. But I can’t imagine having many “fans” since I’ve only got one book out there so far. I’m quite happy to have my mothers as my greatest fans. But it’ll be nice to start getting multiple five-star reviews that my fellow author friends (who have great backlists) have.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 17,462

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Guest Posts · NaNoWriMo · Writing

How Do You Prepare To Write 50,000 Words In 30 Days?

Yeah, uh, it was furious writing…yeah. That’s what broke the pencil…certainly not frustration… Image attributed to User: connortk via Wikimedia Commons.

Personally, I’ve been winging it this first time around. I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I’ve asked a super talented writer friend who has some experience behind her how she prepares for NaNoWriMo. Chynna Laird has graciously agreed to share her words of wisdom with me. Take it away Chynna!

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When I started my first novel, I was told by a few publisher and editor friends that it takes about a year to create a ‘publishable’ book. That’s from the first word typed, through the editing process, and finally having it wait for consideration on the top of an Acquisitions Editor’s pile. It can be a long journey. But guess what? You can write a book in less than a year. In fact, I’ve written two novels in less than a month! How, you ask? Dedication, organization, focus and setting small, reasonable goals.

NaNoWriMo gives writers and authors-in-the-waiting a chance to get that story that’s keeping them up at night, out for the world to enjoy. The challenge is that the novel has to be written in a month. Thirty days. Impossible, you say? Difficult, maybe, but nothing is impossible.

I’ve managed to complete two novels during NaNo, both of which have been published (Out Of Sync and Dark Water). Now, I’m the sort of writer who gets an idea, then types like mad for a few weeks and I’m done. So for me, the time frame for NaNo wasn’t a problem. But it kept me more in line because I had to complete a daily word count goal in order to stay on track. I’m not saying it’s easy by any means of the stretch. Like many other writers out there life often gets in the way, interfering with those daily goals. But here are a few tips that might help you make that 50,000 word mark:

Dedication: Like when trying to reach any goal, you have to start with the commitment to do it, which is the easy part. The more difficult part is sticking with it. Attempting to write 50,000 words in such a short period of time is no small task. Just keep reminding yourself that you are doing it not only for the challenge but more because in the end, you’ll have a completed story. And that’s something that many writers haven’t done, even without the time restraint.

Organization: The most important thing I found in participating in NaNo is making sure everything is organized. You need to have your idea, and it’s also a good idea to have a story plan. Next, you figure out your daily word count goal you need to reach in order to stay on track. The daily minimum would be around 1667 words (50000 words/30 days in November). Some days you may be able to write more, some less but if you see that as your bare minimum, you’ll be off to a great start. The final and most important thing is to set aside time to write each day. Again, it may not work for everyone to be able to have the same time to work each day. For those of us with children and other activities, you may have to get up early one day but have to write at night the next. Just be sure to slot some of that time in each day for those 1667 words.

Setting smaller, reasonable goals: As mentioned above, it’s important to have a daily word count goal in order to stay on track. Even the 1667 words may seem overwhelming to some writers. The trick is to know what you can handle on certain days. There may be days where you get ‘stuck’ on a certain scene and be unable to continue. That’s okay! Stop when you feel frustrated, do something else for awhile then go back to it with a clear head. Forcing yourself to go on when the inspiration just isn’t there will only make you want to give up. Do what you can, when you can (even if you have to have a few short writing spots throughout the day rather than one long one) is key.

Focus: One of the main reasons many people drop out of NaNo is because they lose their focus. It could be due to anything from feeling uninspired to write one day to writer’s block. The best way to battle loss of focus is to have a strong support network. Lean on writer friends, find your local NaNoWriMo group, call on family and close friends to cheer you on and keep you going.

These are only a few of the ways to help prepare you for NaNoWriMo. Two other important tips I was given were: a) have your favorite beverage and snack of choice on hand. That goes without saying. And, b) have fun!

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Thanks so much Chynna! I hope I can keep my head clear and follow your advice to meet my goal. 😀

Have you completed NaNoWriMo? What tips do you have? Did you not quite meet your goals? What do you think you could do differently the next time around (because you know you’ve got to try again, right 😉 )?

Harp · Writing

Inspired Again

EUREKA!! Image attributed to Mark Dumont via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s fun to experience the moment when inspiration strikes. Especially when you’ve been stuck.

When I regularly hired out to play harp, I remember one event where, for some reason or other, I had a lot of wait time. I used the time to work on writing Harp Lessons. I was writing the scene where Sarah plays her harp in Central Park for the first time. After I wrote about how she felt while playing Danny Boy, I was compelled to play it again myself.

My next book doesn’t have quite as much harp playing, but there is a bit. After all, Turlough O’Carolan is one of the characters. But by the time I started writing it, I hadn’t practiced harp for over a year because I was too busy with the boys.

Being asked to play for my cousin’s wedding was a wonderful excuse to practice again, but it also helped to get me back in touch with how it feels to actually play. I don’t think one ever really forgets the feelings of effectively striking the strings into a pleasing tune. But the sensation had dulled somewhat until I brought it out again while practicing for the wedding.

Plus, I was stuck in research again.

I’d let my writing fall away for a couple of weeks. Although I knew what I wanted to do with my characters, I wanted a ‘mythological’ way to do it. When I finally found some cool stuff that would work, I sounded like an excited ape.

“Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!”

I’m getting so close to the end! My guess is maybe 2 or 3 more months, then some serious editing. And definitely off to have one of my Irish cousins proof-read it. 😀

What are some fun ways you react to inspriation?

Writing

Learning from puzzles

0415131039I love analogies. Looking at a situation or idea another way helps to understand it better. Sometimes that helps to explain it better too. However, I’m not always crack shot at coming up with a good analogy, so I’ll practice here a bit. And because I’ve learned volumes just by watching my kids…

Last Christmas, my mom got my boys an awesome puzzle game made of blocks. Each side of the blocks makes a new puzzle, so there are six puzzles all together. William, who is four, can put them together himself, but Charlie, who is three needs help.

Charlie and I can sit for 30 minutes together going through each puzzle image. But he likes to take it a step further. After we put it together, I take the puzzle row by row and turn the blocks into a train wall, or firetruck wall, or whatever vehicle we’ve put together. Then, of course, he loves to knock it down.

This is kind of the same way I’ve been learning how to approach my WIP. When I got stuck in 1715 Kells, Ireland, I had to figure out a way to describe what happened there. It’s one thing to know the puzzle pieces of the history (which I struggled to find), and describe what it looked like in that time period. But I needed to take it a step further and show what it could have been like. So, I threw in a couple of violent English soldiers and…well, you’ll have to wait till I’m done.

It’s fun for Charlie to see the motorcycle in the puzzle, but to make it really engaging, he takes that extra step with knocking down the wall. I find history to be fun, but I hope I’ve built a proper “wall” to make my scene in Kells really engaging for my reader.

I know where I want my characters to end up. It’s getting them there and making the journey exciting, that’s the puzzle. But, I love puzzles too. 😀

Do you love puzzles and analogies? What are some of your favorites?

Writing

Switching Plot Gears

It took a lot of practice for me to get the hang of this…

When I was younger and had a lot more time on my hands, I would sometimes spend an entire day reading books. But because I could never quite make up my mind which one to read first, I’d set up a stack of about 5 or 6 on one side of my lap. Then I would read one chapter of each until they were all on the other side of my lap and I’d do the same all over again.

My WIP has been working the same way. I’ve got a timeline going for my characters who are in 1715, and another for the ones who are in 2023. Except for the first few chapters, I’ve been pretty much switching back and forth between the two time periods with each new chapter.

While I’m hoping that doing this helps to build the tension especially if I end the previous chapter with a cliffhanger, I’m wondering if writing this way is stalling my momentum. One author that comes to mind who writes in this manner is Michael Scott of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (which is a fantastic blending of history, mythology and modern adventure, by the way :D). I wonder if he wrote his story lines individually first, then mixed the chapters appropriately or if he wrote it they way I’ve been doing it.

I guess it doesn’t matter too much as long as I get the writing done. I’ve been doing much better since the gluten is out of my system. I figured out what to do with Kells and now am a writing machine lately. Well…as much as I can be with 2 little boys that sometimes make me feel like an overworked waitress. 😉 But yesterday, I got 1300 words in the 4 hours that I’m allowed to have them in the YMCA play center. Yay!

What do you think would work best for you? Would you write each plot line separately until the point that they meet and integrate the chapters appropriately? Or would you switch back and forth like me?

Writing

Just Gotta Laugh

Image attributed to Nemoi

I’ve had writer’s block before, but this is a new one.

I’m stuck. Not because I don’t know where my story is going, but because I don’t have the experience necessary for the next scene. What on earth was the Kells abbey like in 1715? I want to be descriptive but anytime I run a search on it, I come up empty. The Book of Kells dwarfs all other information. lol

On the other hand, when I try to get in contact with tour guides and other family members from over there, I get terrific fuel. I get awesome little “tidbits” that I can add to my story to give it a little more Irish sparkle.

But the one tidbit that I really want…

I know. I’m writing fiction, but I want to pull as much real stuff into it as I can. So how can I get in touch with an expert?

I got to see the Book of Kells when I was in Dublin, but I never got to visit the town of Kells itself. I don’t think that would have made much difference anyway, because from what I can tell, the current church structure was rebuilt in 1778. I can’t even seem to find a layout. *sigh*

What are some strange ways you’ve gotten writers block? How did you overcome it?

Glutened Goal Update: I think I’m finally over the glutening. It’s been difficult to tell because of persistant low fever and sore throats which haven’t responded to antibiotics (and have nothing to do with gluten). But, regardless, I’m feeling much better and am ready to get back into my WIP with the exception of what’s been explained in the above post. 😉