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I love Autumn. Absolutely love it! Every day there seems to be so much incentive to create, explore, start new projects--and the holidays are some of the best. This month I'm trying #InkTober (haven't skipped a day yet!), and next month will see me celebrating NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again. I've lost count of how many years I've participated in NaNo, but win or lose it's always been a productive experience. So besides the chance to try out new pens, journals, sketchbooks and unfamiliar materials, some of my other reasons for being crazy for Autumn include:
The weather is near-perfect, quite a bit cooler than summer, but here in New Mexico we can still wear T-shirts in the afternoon. As far as I'm concerned, there's no better time of year for sitting outside to read, write, or paint--especially as all the bugs have magically disappeared.
Along with the more comfortable temperatures, the autumn scenery is magnificent. Talk about inspiration! The colors are at their absolute best: amethyst, pomegranate, yellow gold, black plum, pumpkin orange, and every shade in between.
The stores are full of "back to school" sales; the discounts on stationery and other supplies are massive. Buy those gel pens! Grab those glue sticks!
Some of the best new movies and books are released in the fall. (Which can also be something of a distraction when you're trying to fill pages with your own work.) But giving yourself a few hours to read or watch a new movie makes a good reward for meeting your daily word count.
The flavors of autumn are so conducive to story-telling: spicy warm drinks, buttery cakes and cookies. Just don't forget to go for a nice long autumn walk to burn off the calories!
Misty, foggy, rainy, nippy: my favorite books and stories have always contained a Gothic ambience that I like to include in my own writing. I can't think of a better time to write than when you're cocooned inside against the elements.
Shorter days mean less time to be outside playing or lounging in the yard, which means I have a little extra time to write or draw every night before dinner or before going to bed.
Although the weather can be a bit colder in the morning, it's not too cold to get up and still write my morning pages in relative comfort.
There's a sweet sense of harvest in the air, making this a great season to examine and appreciate what you've accomplished in the previous months. If you find there are still some items on your goal-list, the good news is we all still have time to catch up before the New Year.
I don't know about you, but I always think sweaters and socks are just cozier to wear while writing. (Especially my cat ones.)
Bonfires. The other day at my writing group I tried to explain my memories of Guy Fawkes and the 5th of November, but I guess you have to be from a British background to understand "A penny for the Guy" and why English and Commonwealth children commemorate a centuries-old attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. No matter; fire pits, barbecues, and Homecoming and Halloween bonfires are good American traditions, too, and there's nothing nicer than toasting marshmallows or tofu-dogs on a moonlit autumn night.
Travel--consider taking your WIP or sketchbook to a new and/or foreign setting. The fares are lower, hotels have more rooms available, and most tourists are back at work or back in school. The only problem is choosing where to go!
Whatever season you prefer, each one, or all four, can become the cornerstone of your creativity: painting a single scene in four versions of summer, fall, spring, winter; or using seasonal transitions when you're trying to invoke a sense of time, place and character in your manuscript. Even jewelry and ceramic work can reflect the changing seasons: blues and greens for summer, reds and oranges for fall. Each time of year has its own associations, many of them unique to our own memories and tastes. For me, it will always be autumn, hence my new Autumn Pinterest board. Enjoy the scenery! Tip of the Day: How about creating a seasonal sketchbook or journal to record your favorite memories? Try some collage, or use natural elements such as leaves or seashells for printing and stamping. Write or draw on toned paper with colored inks. Make each turn of the year a season to remember.
Hi all, Stephanie here, with my critique partner and fellow pub-crawler, Stacey Lee! Today we are talking about manuscript critiquing.
Stephanie: When I first started writing, I thought revising was proofreading. In fact, I knew so little about revisions I believed that if there were mistakes in my manuscript it was no big deal because that’s what editors are for. Thankfully I outgrew this delusion rather quickly. Unfortunately it took me a much longer time to find solid critique partners and figure out what it means to revise.
So, for any of you who might be in need of a little revision or critiquing guidance, Stacey Lee and I have put together a critique checklist.
We’ve geared this information toward critique partners, but it can also be used as a checklist, if you are revising your own work.
Steph & Stacey’s Critiquing Cheat Sheet
First, if you are working with a critique partner, before you dive into their work always make sure you know what they want help with.
Do they want you to point out every nit-picky detail?
Do they only want big picture help?
Do they actually just want a cheerleader?
Are they looking for big picture help?
Plot (Do you get a sense of what is at stake, of what the MC wants, and what lies in their way?)
Pacing (Is the pacing too slow? Are there scenes that fail to move the story forward, or that feel episodic? Do scenes drag? Do you want to stop reading? Or does it move to fast? Do you feel as if a lot is happening but you don’t feel connected?)
Character (Are the characters flat or cliché? Are they relatable? Memorable? Is the MC a character you want to read about?)
Showing vs. Telling (Most early drafts tell when they should be showing)
Clarity (Mystery is good, confusing is bad)
If the big picture items are good to go, pay attention to:
Descriptions (Is too there much, too little)
Setting (Is there a sense of place? Could this be set in a better place?)
World building (Is the world too vague or confusing? Or are there too many details)
Dialogue (Is the dialogue stilted? Is it easy to read or does it read like an info dump? Does it read like actual conversation? Does it speak for itself or do they rely on adverbs?)
Inner Monologue (Did the writer rely too much on inner dialogue, which tends to be ‘telly,’ rather than showing the scene through dialogue or action?)
Tension/Conflict (Is there tension in every scene? Are there internal and external conflicts?)
If the pages you’re reading are fairly polished, pay attention to the details:
Details (Are there enough details? Too many details? Do their details show things about their main character, supporting characters or the world they’ve created?)
Sentence structure/variance (Are sentences clunky? Are they always the same length, same tone, same rhythm?)
Character voice (Do their characters have distinct voices? Is the voice of their work appropriate for the genre and category?)
Dialogue tags (Can they cut any dialogue tags? Do they need extra dialogue tags? Is it always clear who’s speaking?)
Word choices (Are there any unnecessary words? Are the words they’ve chosen appropriate? Do they have any pet words, or word echoes? Could they use stronger words? )
Passive voice (Can sentences be written in a more ‘active’ voice? Can they get rid of ‘fog bound’ phrases such as “There are,” or “It was,” and/or place weak verbs like ‘is’ or ‘get’ with stronger verbs?)
Stacey: Finally, a good critique partner helps you identify the weak spots. A great one identifies the weak spots, and suggests fixes for them. One of things I appreciate about Stephanie is that she always tries to give me solutions, and even if I don’t ultimately use those solutions, they inevitable unlock other possibilities in my head. Or, we’ll go to our favorite pearl tea place and brainstorm. My brain is her brain and vice versa.
In the comments, let us know if we’ve missed anything in our critique partner checklist. And for those of you in need of a new critique partner, we’re planning on doing a critique partner connection soon, so stay tuned.
Hey PubCrawlers! So, you participated in NaNoWriMo. First, congratulations on what you accomplished, even if you didn’t (technically) finish. That takes a lot of work, a lot of guts, and a lot of stubbornness. So…what’s next? Let me start by telling you what I’ve learned over my years of participation (and also as a literary assistant).
Sometimes the book you’ve written isn’t one you end up loving enough to keep.
It can hurt to write that many words, only to realize it’s not a story we want to show to the world. But it’s okay to feel this way – every word written is important, regardless of what happens after. Even if it stays in a drawer for years, you accomplished something that helped you grow and learn as a writer. Even the most prolific writers learn something new about themselves every time they write.
A lot of us have this tendency to believe that everything we write should be work-shopped and queried and edited and shaped. But I’ll be honest – I have at least two NaNo novels that have never seen the light of day. They’re not great – structure-wise, they fall apart halfway through. The characters are inconsistent. The story is so-so. And I love that I am the only one who has the privilege of reading them and seeing just how far I’ve come.
Getting to know who you are as a writer is never a bad thing – it’s one of my favorite aspects of this contest.
Don’t query the book on December 1st (or even in December, period).
This one comes from the agency side of my experience. Agents get an influx of queries those first few days after NaNo and it’s usually a sign that a writer is querying his/her NaNo draft fresh out of the contest. I get it – finishing a novel is incredibly excited, and lots of us are guilty of querying too early, NaNoWriMo or no. But if you decide to revise the book and query later, querying too soon means rejections, which means you’ve crossed a handful of agents off your query-able list when it comes to that project.
When revising, an outline works wonders, even (or especially, if you’re a pantser) when the draft is already on paper.
When you write 200 pages or more in a matter of weeks, plot lines can get crossed, characters can disappear, motivations can get muddied, and epiphanies can change the entire trajectory of your book. But what can you do? If you want to finish, you have to keep writing. That is, after all, what NaNo is about – disengaging the part of your writing brain that tells you to edit as you go, and getting the words on paper.
When you outline after the fact, you can see where the events you might have missed should go, where the characters who faded away might re-emerge (or that they aren’t needed, period), and where the dead-ends can be smoothed back into roads.
This tends to be the first thing I do with NaNo novels – it’s the easiest way for me to get on track with revision.
Apply what you learned to future projects.
Before finishing my first NaNoWriMo years ago, I had a hard time finishing a novel. I constantly went back on passages I had just written and edited them, making them absolutely perfect. I felt like, if I could just make this chapter perfect, the rest would follow more easily than if I just wrote anything and everything on my mind.
I was…not entirely correct. Because I spent so much time smoothing and perfecting and correcting, I lost sight of the story itself. Writing another chapter became even harder, because suddenly nothing was as perfect as the chapter I’d spent all that time fixing. So I’d spend just as much time fixing the next one. And the next. And the next. Until finally, the process became boring and tedious and I’d give up.
NaNoWriMo gave me the freedom to simply do what I had to do to finish the race. To get the words out. To write “The End”. And I realized that editing and perfecting and smoothing is so much easier and so much more satisfying when you’re doing it to a finished product. Sometimes you end up rewriting half the book. Sometimes you don’t. But until you make that lump of clay, there’s really nothing to shape anyway.
There are whole communities of people who want to write with you.
And you don’t have to stop when NaNo ends. If you have trouble finding beta readers, critique partners, or just other writers to commiserate with, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful place to meet people. In person, in forums, as buddies, whatever. Whatever you’re comfortable with – the set up is tailored for introverts and extroverts and extroverted introverts alike. Going to a write-in can be so helpful – not only do you got words into the draft, you have the opportunity to exchange information with other people looking to hang out with writers.
It’s okay to not finish the race.
Seriously. This year, I ended November with 35,000 words, and I’m more than okay with that. The most important thing is that you’ve challenged yourself as a writer. Challenging yourself is the whole point of the contest – and for some people, that might mean finishing 10,000 words or 120,000 words (yes, I know some people who manage insane word counts and it boggles the mind). Whatever you’ve achieved, that’s exactly what it is – an achievement. Don’t ever worry that you’ve achieved less than someone else – one word written is still one word more than zero.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m intrigued – are there any lessons you’ve learned or wisdom you’ve attained from participating? I know there are a lot more insights than the ones I’ve listed above, and I’d like to hear about them!
This is apparently the Korean drama recommendation episode! This week JJ and Kelly tackle the end of NaNoWriMo. Sort of. We hope. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving! We will be on hiatus next week, but will pick up again in December! Gobble, gobble.
Subscribe to us on iTunes, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. Thanks in advance!
Remember, whether or not you “win” NaNoWriMo this year, be proud of everything you have accomplished! Success isn’t defined solely by word count, and hopefully you’ve taken away some tools and lessons from the experience.
That’s all for this week! We are returning to our old format, wherein we discuss a publishing topic in depth. Leave your suggestions in the comments or email us or ask us on Tumblr! The next episode will be a year end round-up, but 2016 (Already????) is a blank slate, y’all!
This drama is directed by Yoon Sok Ho, who is my mother’s favorite director because he doesn’t resort to Kong-ji, Pat-ji storylines. ↩
Our friends at grammarly.com have sent a helpful list of things to watch for when editing - whether it's your NaNoWriMo novel or anything else. However I've held back on sharing till the end of the month, because I think it's essential that while you're in that first draft and actively creating, you must NOT worry about spelling, commas, or anything else that blocks your flow.
The important thing in your first draft is just to keep writing. Even if you realise you've just used a stereotypical description - 'red as a beet', etc – unless you can come up with a better one immediately, just leave it there for now. If you're truly worried that you won't notice how bad it is, use an asterisk or footnote e.g. 'red as something unusual that fits into the store: ruby? traffic light? fresh blood?'
Then move on. No matter how beautiful a sentence seems as you write it in that first draft - it's highly unlikely that it'll remain in that form in the finished book. So relax, write, and when your story is done and needs tidying and editing, be absolutely rigorous about these five tips.
Good luck to everyone doing not just NaNoWriMo, but taking that brave step of leaping into any new writing!
Congratulations, you have almost finished a full week of writing! As you work on your NaNoWriMo novel, don’t forget what got you into all of this: your love for reading.
Today’s tip is to read a chapter from your favorite book. While this month is about action and not research, it can still help to spend a little bit of time with some really good prose to get you going. Take 15 minutes or so to read a few pages from your favorite book. Listen to the language, think about how the characters are developed and examine how the plot unfolds. These insights can help inspire you as you plug away at your own novel.
This is our fifth NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.
From my Portugal sketchbook: Roman Temple of Diana
ruins in Évora!
Hello, everyone. Anybody signed up for National Novel Writing Month 2015? Me! (Much against my better judgment.) So far, so good--I'm actually enjoying myself, making me wonder what's wrong, LOL. The title of my WIP is The Calling, and I have no idea what it's about, which is fine--writing for the sheer pleasure of writing is really what #Nanowrimo is all about, don't you think?
But before I get back to today's word quota I wanted to take some time to continue sharing my Portugal journey, so here goes:
I ended my last post in the seaside town of Quarteira. From there we headed north and inland to our chosen destination of Évora, billed in our guidebook as a walled medieval World Heritage City and the home to an ancient university. Driving there we went through what our guidebook described as "the golden plains of the Alentejo" (very golden, very desolate, and very beautiful):
passing more castles on our way:
By the time we reached Évora, I couldn't wait to start exploring, the only problem being where to put the car. Spaces were practically non-existent, and nowhere near any hotels. At this point of the trip we didn't even know where the hotels were or where we would stay as we hadn't booked anything in advance. However, after creeping up and down the minuscule winding lanes (never designed for cars) we at last found an approximately 6-inch slot in which to park. Best of all it was right next to the vending machine where you put in lots of money and got a little slip of paper verifying your parking space. Wonderful! Next step was lugging our suitcases toward the local posada, a lovely old former convent now turned into a state-run luxury hotel with, naturally, luxury prices. Like, um, really, really expensive. We weren't sure we wanted to spend so much money, so suitcases still in tow, we headed down the cobbled lanes to where we thought there might be some place to stay, and found this adorable little family-run inn:
I loved the old-world charm (as well as the old-world pricing). After unpacking and freshening up (listening to our neighbors' rooster while they worked in the kitchen and watched a Portuguese soap opera--noisy. but homey and real) we went to see the sights and have a late lunch in the square:
(A shot of our outdoor restaurant under the umbrellas. As usual, I don't know who these people are in the foreground--I tend to just take photos without thinking too much about where I am, and end up with all kinds of strangers tagging along.) After traipsing down more hidden lanes and admiring the architecture, we thought it was time to go check on our car and possibly put more money in the machine. The parking was free at night, but we wanted to be sure we'd paid enough until the cut-off time. We got to our car, and lo and behold, a parking ticket! Bummer! We couldn't read what it said, but I was able to decipher something about the price being 300-500 Euros which made me want to faint on the spot. The police station was right around the corner so we went there with our paper showing we had paid, the time hadn't run out, so why? What? How could they do this to us? The police officer we approached was very nice but he didn't speak English and couldn't explain anything other than saying we hadn't paid. But we did! Honestly, officer, we have the proof! He smiled, shrugged, and told us as best he could we'd have to go to the traffic department in the morning. Ugh. We then spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find where that building would be so we could be there nice and early. We walked, and walked, and walked . . .
No, this wasn't it . . .
Nor these places either . . .
Nope. Couldn't find it. Eventually we decided to just go back to our hotel and collapse. But after about five minutes inside our room my husband got all antsy and said he wanted to move the car to outside the city walls. On his own. He then promptly disappeared, leaving me to fret and invent terrible scenarios of ending up in the Évora dungeons for non-payment of parking fines. Eventually I got so carried away imagining horrible outcomes I think we were being burned at the stake by the time my husband returned and said the car was safely in a public zone outside the city walls. He thought. Doing our best to put it all behind us, I concentrated on the beauty of the evening:
The cathedral view from our window:
Followed by one of our best meals at the luxury hotel for dinner. If we couldn't stay there, we could at least have a wonderful meal:
The chef prepared a special vegetarian leek, cheese, and potato dish for us, complete with a huge selection of breads and olives, Portuguese wine, and of course, a sampling of Port to finish the meal with dessert. Delish! We were the last people to leave, hence the empty tables. Stepping outside, we came right to this amazing sight: the ruined temple floodlit against the dark sky.
The next day after chocolate croissants, fresh orange juice and lattes for breakfast, we set out to deal with THE TICKET. Within minutes we found the traffic department offices set within a gorgeous eighteenth-century building that could easily have doubled as a museum (probably why we had walked past it a dozen times without realizing what it was), and showed the receptionist our ticket. She didn't speak English, so she sent us to a colleague, and guess what: he laughed and said, "Oh, this is only a warning. You were in a government parking spot. It's okay. Just don't park there in the future. Have a nice day!" Whew. No wonder the police department had been so easy to find--we'd poached one of their own spaces. On that high note we decided to leave town while we could. My husband went to get the car, leaving me to wait with our suitcases and to people-watch outside the cathedral.
The horses were nice, but I was glad when my husband finally drove up and we loaded the car, ready to leave for the next stops: the towns of Santerem and Arraiolos--but I'll save those for my next post. In the meantime, Happy Nanowrimo-ing, and "Have a nice day!"
I've been doing NaNoWriMo since 2008. Some years I've been more successful than others. Last year was a struggle but I made it. This year I wasn't sure if it work since I've been on a bit of a major writing dry spell for a year and a half.
I am happy to say that as my first week (Nov 1-8) draws to a close, I've managed to not only write consecutively (Nov, 6-8) but I've been productive, too. I managed at least 1,000 words or more each time that I've written.
We’re a little over a week into National Novel Writing Month, and it seems an excellent time to let a few terrible secrets out of the box. For those curious outsiders, NaNoWriMo is a thirty-day writing challenge to produce a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 pm on November 30th. But when you’re writing, as those who are already knee-deep in their word counts can attest, NaNoWriMo feels more akin to a delicate balancing act undertaken while riding a rollercoaster during an earthquake. Which brings us to the secrets about this wonderfully ludicrous tradition:
1.November is maybe the worst month for this.
Hey! You know that month when you spend weeks preparing to make, to help make, or to coordinate and eat a huge family dinner with several relatives you don’t see any other time of year (and with good reason)? That month when, if you’re in school, your life is reduced to weeks of studying, class reading, and paper-writing, punctuated by moments of sheer panic that you have no idea what you’re doing? That month when the midwinter holidays leer at you from the other side of a calendar-flip as if they know just how unready you are? What do they call that month?
That’s right: NaNoWriMo!
November is packed with end-of-year obligations, distractions, and, frankly, totally legitimate excuses for giving up on trying to writing a whole novel in thirty days. And that, oddly enough, is something like the point. Any month in any year in any stage of your life will be full of distractions and excuses, and waiting for the perfect downtime to start writing will only make you extremely good at waiting. Writing when it is inconvenient, disruptive, and downright impossible is something all writers must do, and November is as good a time as any to learn how.
2. Be prepared to hate everything.
And I mean everything.
The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that informed you of NaNoWriMo’s existence.
The friends, loved ones, strangers, and Google searches that keep distracting you as you try to hit your daily word count.
The word count! (a.k.a. “your new measure of self-worth”)
The English language, which utterly abandons you by Day 10.
Your computer and its terrifying game of “Do you want to save those changes you don’t remember making?”
The need to eat or to sleep.
And of course, almost every word of your NaNo novel. (Except for those one or two perfect sentences — you know the ones I mean.)
Just bear in mind that NaNoWriMo is thirty days of the creative writing process hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity while on fire — feelings (negative and positive) are inevitable. Happily, with NaNoWriMo, you have a supportive, national community of other writers going through the same process. The other good news? A little (or a lot) of emotional turmoil is a sign that you’re invested in your narrative. And investment is the difference between writing it and giving it up.
3.You may not hit 50K words.
But…then what was the point?
You can take it from me, a reasonably together human being who has battled this beast on four different occasions and never won — sometimes you don’t make it to 50,000 words. And that is a beautiful thing.
NaNoWriMo is like sprinting through a marathon — a marathon where your goal is not just to reach a finish line, but to shape something interesting with your footprints as you run. It is a thirty-day challenge to put words and narrative events in some semblance of order, to turn off (or to at least dial down) the internal editor that wants you to keep looking backwards, and perhaps most importantly, to shove past the paralyzing fear of the blank page in front of you. The finish line — that 50,000 word count — is a lovely thing, but you’ll find that reaching it or not reaching it has very little effect on the story that you’ll have actually created.
Remember, remember that in the month of November, NaNoWriMo is exhausting, thrilling, terrifying, entertaining, ridiculous, and amazing. If you’re thinking about participating, try taking a test run during Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July before officially participating in November. And if you’re already participating this year, remember that you’re writing because you want to, which is one of the coolest things you can do with any thirty days.
Beginnings are tough. But if we’d only get started, our marks and words on the page can bootstrap our next moves. Marks and words out there, on the page, feed what in neuroscience is called our brain’s “perception-action” cycle. Through this built-in and biologically fundamental mechanism, we repeatedly act on the world, and then look to see what our actions have wrought in the world.
Half of November has passed which means National Novel Writing Month participants have hit the halfway point with an incredibly daunting writing challenge. Today’s NaNoWriMo Tip comes from a TED-Ed lesson: be confident.
The animated video embedded above offers three tips on how to boost one’s confidence. Over at the TED-Ed website, viewers can access a quiz, a discussion board, and more resources.
This is our eleventh NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.
This week Kelly and JJ discuss digging deep and finding the will to continue with NaNoWriMo. Also, real talk: we talk about bipolar disorder and depression, and the difference between I Don’t Want To and I Can’t.
Subscribe to us on iTunes, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. Thanks in advance!
Here’s the thing, y’all: NaNoWriMo is great for getting words on the page, but also remember to be kind to yourself.
It’s Nov. 20 and you have ten days left of the NaNoWriMo novel writing challenge. If you are having trouble keeping up the momentum, then stop what you are doing and write your ending.
If you spend the weekend writing the end of your book, then you can spend the last week of the challenge connecting the pieces. By writing the ending first, you know where you have to get to and may have a refreshed perspective.
This is our 15th NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. To help GalleyCat readers take on the challenge of writing a draft for a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, we will be offering advice throughout the entire month.