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1. The Mobile Author, Part Seven: Managing Your Writing Life

Today,  I'll end the series with some tips for using your mobile office to help you manage your writing life. These ideas can help you work better so you can achieve your writing goals.

Make It a Habit

One common problem for those of us who try to work writing in with our busy lives is making the time to write. Unfortunately, nobody has made an app yet that adds a couple hours to the day or makes our day jobs go away or extends the kids' nap time. However, there is a class of apps that enforces good habits and helps to break bad habits. These can be used to remind us to write, and to check our progress against our goals.

Apps like HabitBull (Android, free) and Way of Life (iOS, free for three habits, $3.99 for more) let you set goals. These apps can be configured with whatever parameters you want. Use them to cut down your soda intake, or to spend more time doing something you love, like writing. For example, if you want to write three days a week, you can set a habit reminder that asks you every day if you have written. You wouldn't want to disappoint your tablet, right?

 The Habit Editor in HabitBull

In addition to yes/no goals like whether you wrote today, you can set number-based goals. Want to write 1,000 words a day? Set that up as a habit, then set a reminder each night that asks you how many words you wrote. 

Each habit app is a little different, so look for one that will suit your goals. 

Keeping Focused

To meet your goals, you need to stay focused.

One simple use for your tablet or, especially, your phone, whether you're mobile or stuck at the office is a timer. A timer can you keep you focused. Make a goal to write for a solid hour without checking Facebook or email or grabbing another root beer float at your favorite cafe, then set a timer and don't stop writing until it goes off.

There are tons of timer apps, and they all do what a timer does, so really it probably doesn't matter which one you use. Two I like on Android are Timers4Me+ and Timely Alarm Clock. Both support multiple timers, alarms, and include a stopwatch. Again, I'm not sure what to recommend for your iPad or iPhone, but it really doesn't matter much. A timer is a timer. You can make it pretty, give it fancy options, or whatever, but in the end, it keeps track of time and lets you know when time is up.

Track Your Progress

Anybody who has learned about goal-setting has learned that an important part of meeting your objectives is to make your goals measurable. The apps I've mentioned so far will help you do that. But another way to measure your goals is to track your progress.

The Writeometer app for Android helps you meet your goals. It includes a timer and a writing log, and gives you rewards (guavas) if you meet your goals. For every writing project, you can set your total word count goal and your daily writing goal, and you can set a deadline date. Then, you can set reminders to kick you in the pants. By gamifying your goal tracking, Writeometer keeps you more engaged, and helps you feel good when you accomplish what you set out to do.

Writeometer log

If your goals are fairly basic, such as writing 50,000 words in November, you might like an app like NaNoProgress, also for Android. The concept is simple: enter your wordcount for each session and the app displays a bar showing your progress toward 50,000 words.

Those apps are great for Android users, but what about authors who use an iPad or iPhone? They have options as well, such as Word Tracker. I didn't find anything quite as fancy or fun as Writometer, but all you need, really, is a place to enter your goals and measure your progress.

 Keep a Journal

Finally, many Utah writers come from a background where keeping a journal is encouraged. A writing journal (see "The Writer's Journal," a post on this blog from way back in 2009), helps you be accountable to yourself, and helps you vent those natural writing insecurities so they don't build up inside you. You can track your objectives, note ideas and problems that need to be fixed, and remind yourself where your next session is supposed to start. 

Writeometer includes simple journaling functionality, and the app stores include tons of journal apps. You can use one of those, or you can use the note apps or writing apps we've already talked about in this series. You don't need anything fancy. The only thing you need is something you like writing in so you are motivated to keep your journal.

And So...

There you have it, pretty much everything you need for the well-equipped mobile office. By choosing the approach that works best for you at each step of the writing process, you can easily break the chains of a desk and write wherever inspiration hits you best. Or, if you still do most of your writing in your office (I call my home office my Schreibwinkel), you have everything you need if an idea strikes while you are on the road. Your writing comes from your own brilliant mind, so doesn't it just make sense to have your office wherever that mind of yours happens to be? Even if you prefer the routine of writing in the same place every day, sometimes the best cure for writer's block is a simple change of scenery. If your computer screen becomes the intimidating monster that sucks your creative juices, get away from it for a while.

I hope you have enjoyed this series, and that it helps you to be more productive. The key to writing, it is said, is putting your butt in the chair. But nobody says it always has to be the same chair in the same place. It's 2014. You don't have to lash yourself to a desk anymore. Enjoy your freedom and let the words flow wherever they come to you.

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2. An A+ for Alphasmart

Hi, Everyone. I'm still in the middle of moving, renovating, revising . . . The middle space seems to be a very hazy place to be right now, finding me longing for the end, wondering how I ever got into this mess in the first place, and discovering my mind has gone utterly blank when it comes to writing blog posts. Which is why I'm going to go back to the alphabet for some inspiration.

When I first signed up for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I didn't know what my theme would be. I thought I would concentrate on the business of writing, when I suddenly found myself drawn to my lovely keeper books, and all my pages and pages of brainstormed writing ideas went into my filing cabinet. That is, until today--

So . . . starting with the top of my list and another "A" topic, we have: I love my Alphasmart!

In case you've never heard of the NEO Alphasmart, it's a super-portable, super-basic word processor that's the closest thing I know to writing by hand without running out of ink or developing writer's cramp. 

I bought mine in 2008 after I attended a Land of Enchantment Romance Authors meeting and saw another member using hers to take notes. When I learned that you could simply download your typed text from the Alphasmart into any program such as Word, or simply into the body of an email for revision and professional formatting, I knew it was exactly what I needed for NaNoWriMo. 

Since then, I haven't looked back. Sadly, the company is no longer producing this basic model (although there are plenty of used Alphas out there) but the good news is they have come out with an upgrade, the NEO Dana, that seems to have all kinds of nifty features. That said, I'm still a big fan of the original, and Alpha and I (Teddy, too) have been on hundreds of exciting literary adventures together.

There's something about writing on my Alphasmart that keeps me focused like nothing else other than my fountain pen can. Maybe it's the size (small), the color (drab), or the fact that all I can really do on it is write that makes it so addictive. I can't use it to make phone calls, or to surf the Internet, or even snap a few pics. It's a baby dinosaur--and it's one of the most amazing things I've ever owned. 

My top reasons for being such a fan (and what will take me to the upgraded Dana if "Alphasmarty" should drop dead one awful day) are:
  1. It's so lightweight--2 lbs. 
  2. Has a full keyboard, and with a "tilt"to it just like a typewriter. Very comfortable for my wrists and fingers.
  3. I don't know about the Dana, but the beauty of the Alphasmart is it's designed for writing. Editing is kind of a secondary function. Of course, you CAN run a spell-check, cut and paste lines and paragraphs to new positions, find buzz words, etc., use an in-built thesaurus, and completely clean up your manuscript if that's what you really, really want to do. But why bother? That something for when you download your writing into your computer.
  4. And you can very easily download your work into your PC or laptop--approximately 50,000 words at a time! That's nearly a whole NaNoWriMo manuscript.
  5. The power is close to immortal. All it takes are three AA batteries which then last 700 hours. That is a very, very long time to write before you need to change to new ones. 
  6. It goes wherever you can take it. Want to write your novel in the middle of the rain forest or atop an ice floe? No problem. Just bring three AA batteries in case you're going to be there for a year or two.
Tip of the Day: Having a favorite tool for creativity can be an important part of the process and ritual of settling down to work. For me, my Alphasmart is the tool that does that best; just taking it out of its carrying case puts me in the mind-space of knowing it's "time to write."

What about you? If you own an Alphasmart, I'd love to hear how you use it. Or if you have some other cherished writing tool, drop me a line and let me know what it is. Thanks for visiting, and I wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend. See you next week.

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3. Grammarly Writing Group Publishes NaNoWriMo Novel

grammarlyLast November a group of team members at Grammarly, the online site dedicated to proofreading, wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month.

This week the group published their book The Lonely Wish-Giver: A Grammo WriMo Novel on Amazon. The eBook is available for $.99 and all of the proceeds will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The book was written by around 300 writers from 27 countries. They called the project #GrammoWriMo. Collectively, the team wrote 130,927 unedited words, almost three times the goal of the challenge’s 50,000 words. Follow this link to read our interview with the group about their experience writing as a team.


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4. M is for Masquerade in Venice

My favorite romance novel, Masquerade in Venice, written by Velda Johnston, copyright 1973,  is a keeper because it inspired me to join up and write my first NaNoWriMo manuscript. I still have that draft, and one day I might even clean it up and submit it somewhere, but for now it's fine "resting" in my filing cabinet. I'm not a romance writer, but it's nice to dream.

I first came across this sweet and lovely book one winter when I had the flu but was just well enough to go to the library for some much-needed reading material. I'd been in bed for days and had been too sick to read anyway, but I was at the point where the only thing I had energy for was reading, so off to the library I went. Except when I got there, nothing appealed to me. 

Rows and rows of new books and all I could say was, "Bleh." Then I saw an old-fashioned, plain blue "library bound" copy of Masquerade in Venice and knew this was exactly what I wanted. I took it home, read it, and loved every word. Then I had to give it back. (The big problem with library books, in my opinion!) A few months later, I wanted to read it again, and when I went to the library--it wasn't there! No one knew what had happened to it--it was gone. Stolen, lost, vanished into the ether. It no longer existed. Time passed and something worse happened: I forgot both the name of the author as well as the title, so I couldn't even buy a copy. I gave up.

Then one fortuitous day at a writer's group meeting, the group was holding a second-hand book sale, and bingo, there it was in paperback: Masquerade in Venice. My book! Mine, mine, mine. The original price printed on the cover was $1.25 and I got it for .25 cents. Good deal? You bet.

It had been a few years since I'd read it, and it was a joy to re-read. Then a good friend suggested we sign up for NaNoWriMo and I thought, if I could write a book like Masquerade in Venice, that would be time well-spent. And it was, even if the one thing I learned was that I'm not a romance writer. Which is okay. We can't write in every genre, but it's good to explore, learn, and discover what is, and is not, our true calling. The key is to have the courage to take the journey: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Seeing Masquerade in Venice on my keeper shelf reminds me of that maxim every day. 

How about you? What book(s) keep you on the journey? Let me know, and I'll see you tomorrow with the letter "N."

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5. Last Week of #NaNoWriMo 2013; Let's Get This Manuscript Finished

Here we are, the last week of NaNoWriMo! And yes, I know you'd rather go to Paris for the weekend, me too. But we need to get these manuscripts finished, so Paris will have to wait for a little while.

I don't know about you, but my word count isn't looking so great right now, something I want to change by Monday at the latest. To achieve that goal, I'm going to try something brand new: 10,000 words in one day! Yes, 10K, really. I'm all signed up to participate tomorrow 11-23-13 in a fun website writing party hosted by my Twitter friend Milli Thornton at @fearofwriting: 10kdayforwriters.com.

I only learned about Milli's site a couple of days ago, and just in the nick of time. In fact, the discovery was so fortuitous that I'm still reeling from one of those "how did that happen?" moments.

But despite my best intentions to write those 10K words, I also know that if I'm going to stay motivated I'll need some trusty writing prompts. Last night I brainstormed a list of 25; please feel free to borrow, steal, or add to the list by leaving a comment or two. All suggestions will be most welcome!

My 10K Prompt List:
  1. Write about my characters' goals: why are they so important?
  2. Write back story--lots of back story!
  3. Write a character's first memory and make it essential to a present scene.
  4. Describe my main character's place of work and how that influences the plot.
  5. Various characters' neighbors: what do they really think?
  6. Have one of the characters stuck in an elevator--with the villain.
  7. A mysterious package arrives: why and what's in it? How does this change everything?
  8. A death in the family.
  9. An invitation my main character can't refuse.
  10. Write about a recurring dream.
  11. Phobias--assign one to a secondary character and use it to keep them from helping my main character.
  12. Car trouble. At the very worst time possible.
  13. Illness. Ditto as above.
  14. Somebody witnesses a crime.
  15. And then is framed for it!
  16. A big lie and the unexpected consequences.
  17. Hobbies--pick one and make it important to the plot.
  18. An overheard conversation--and what happens because of it.
  19. A stolen identity.
  20. One of the characters finds (fill in the blank) and is devastated.
  21. Something observed in a window.
  22. A favorite item is broken. What, why, what happens because of it?
  23. A sudden storm.
  24. A creepy prophecy--that comes true.
  25. The three very worst outcomes that can happen if my characters don't reach their goals, and then have them happen.
So come on, join us on Saturday--I think you can even wear your pajamas all day, just as long as you promise to write.

Tip of the Day: In case you can't sign up for this Saturday's 10K session, be sure to check out 10kdayforwriters.com anyway for one of their future writing sessions; they're held twice a month regardless of NaNoWriMo or similar events. Whichever day you choose, 10K in one day will surely help you reach THE END, a very good place to be.

1 Comments on Last Week of #NaNoWriMo 2013; Let's Get This Manuscript Finished, last added: 11/25/2013
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6. NaNoWriMo 2013; Lost in the Woods

Yesterday I was ready to give up on NaNoWriMo, as in seriously QUIT. Why, why was I torturing myself to write these stupid 50,000 words? Am I so devoid of writing projects that I have to take on a task that wasn't even fun?

Fortunately, that was yesterday. Today I'm feeling a whole lot more positive and ready to keep going. The secret was in realizing several things:
  • First, nobody is making me do this. Nobody. There is no contract or deadline awaiting me with dire consequences if I don't write. I've won enough previous NaNoWriMo certificates to know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I have nothing to prove here.
  • If I don't reach the 50K mark, so what? I'll have 10 or 20K extra manuscript words to work with that I didn't have before November 1. And that's a good thing.
  • Lastly, I was taking my manuscript way too seriously. Demanding that it make perfect sense--right now. That all my characters be fully developed and action-oriented, intent on weaving their way through a brilliant plot line that was simply amazing, full of shocking twists and turns with a stunning conclusion. Except NaNoWriMo doesn't work like that, at least not most of the time. (Note to self: neither does any first draft. Sigh.) Asking that it do so was setting myself up for instant failure.

So here's what I did to beat the NaNoWriMo blues: I decided to be willing to get lost in the woods. Crazy plot line? Just follow where it does go, and if I don't like it, write "stuff happens here" and carry on writing a new and more interesting scene. Characters I can't stand? Get rid of them--send them to China or off on safari where they get eaten by lions. Bored with the whole process? Write about things that interest me, not what I think is "supposed" to go in the manuscript because I want it to fit a particular genre or style.

I'm not going to quit. How about you?

Tip of the Day:  One of my favorite ways to infuse any flagging manuscript with new life is to grab a handful of writing prompts from old magazines. Article titles and headlines are perfect. Get your scissors and start cutting; throw what you find in a jar and then pick one for every new page you start. Here's a sampling from my current collection: "Warm Kebabs for a Cool City." "The Human Face Behind the Makeup." "Last Stand in the Serengeti." (Uh-oh, I guess those lions really did get my unlikeable characters . . . ") Good luck; happy writing!

1 Comments on NaNoWriMo 2013; Lost in the Woods, last added: 11/14/2013
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7. NaNoWriMo Tip #5: Develop Your Novel’s Plot

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

Our fifth tip is simple: Develop Your Novel’s Plot. Develop a plot outline that establishes how the story will get from point A to point Z. Make a checklist and add detours. MIT has a great collection of plot exercises specifically designed for different kinds of tales ranging from adventure and pursuit to forbidden love and discovery designed to help you develop your plot.

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8. Heroes and Heroines

Just in time for NaNoWriMo: How well do you know your characters? By now you might be familiar with their physical features, their taste in evening clothes, and what they like to eat for breakfast, but what about their personality quirks and motivations?

One of my favorite writing how-to books to help uncover more about my characters' inner worlds and psyches is one by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders:

Originally written for screenwriters, The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes is a great tool for all writers, poets too, I can imagine! Based on the idea that there are 16 character "types" common to all fiction and mythology, the book is a great one to read just for fun as well as for research.

The other day I thought it would be interesting to re-examine where and how the three heroines from my published novels fit into the various categories. I also used the templates to evaluate the Pinterest boards I had created for these books: What kind of pins could I add to each? I started with:

The Great Scarab Scam

See The Great Scarab Scam Pinterest Board!

The Great Scarab Scam is my Egyptian mystery for young readers 8-12 years, so obviously there isn't the conventional male-female interaction you might find in a book for older readers. However, my  main character, eleven-year-old Lydia Hartley, definitely falls into the category of "The Spunky Kid," and not just because of her age. Her other traits and story difficulties include:
  • She's stuck between two brothers--one a little bit older and one quite a bit younger.  Although neither of her brothers are particularly "heroic" 
  • She's a reader--and even enjoys doing homework!
  • She's fiercely loyal to her father, a university professor and archaeologist.
  • Loves history, especially ancient Egyptian history.
  • She's curious about the world around her, but can be shy in social situations.
  • She's brave, but a little reckless too.
  • And she's very motivated when it comes to helping others. 

Better Than Perfect

See the Better Than Perfect Pinterest Board!

My Young Adult novel set in New Zealand, Better Than Perfect, follows fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Haddon when she is sent from London to live with her wealthy relatives in Auckland. Elizabeth falls into "The Waif" category.  She's:
  • Lonely
  • Unwanted
  • The "poor relation"
  • Insecure
  • Smart, but without direction
  • Prone to envy, especially when she continually has to make do with second best
  • And she has a serious crush on an unconventional "bad boy."
And although Elizabeth does manage to find her true north and come to grips with real life in the course of the story, she does so with all the handicaps of a victim and lost child.


See the Overtaken Pinterest Board!

Written for an adult audience, Overtaken includes some of my most complex characters, especially my heroine of Sara Bergsen.  I had a bit of trouble discerning exactly which archetype she truly was, but in the end I decided she was "The Librarian."
  • She's essentially a loner.
  • Her chosen career as a portrait artist reflects her powers of observation and love of order. Abstract painting doesn't interest her in the least.
  • Her wardrobe, at least in the beginning of the book, consists of practical pieces in black and gray--great for work!
  • And this girl does loves work. She's disciplined and dedicated to deadlines.
  • At the same time she takes risks because she is confident in her own ability to succeed.
  • She's a reader--which has also led her to believe in the possibility of a happy ending.
One of Sara's main challenges is to confront and understand the three men in her life: a Warrior, a Lost Soul, and a Charmer.

Tip of the Day: The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines is an excellent reference for any stage of your manuscript, even your published stories. For your WIP's see where your characters match up to the suggested archetypes, and pay particular attention to the sections on how they all work (or don't work) together. For your published manuscripts, you can still use the book to help describe your characters in your marketing material. You may be surprised at what you find!

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9. NaNoWriMo Tip #4: Establish a Setting

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

Our fourth tip is simple: Establish a Setting. Think about where your story takes place and what role it will play in your novel. Is it just a background or does it play a role in your story? Describe details about the place that the story takes place. Is it a city? Is it a house? Is it an office building? What kind of paint is on the walls? Is there a garden? Make a list of everything that you can see in your setting. You can refer to these details throughout the writing process. When you do incorporate setting into your story, be sure to introduce it in a way that is natural to your writing.

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10. Time Management Tuesday: What Can You Do With A Month?

This is National Novel Writing Month, which I'm not taking part in this year, though I did back in 2004 when I said...wait for it...wait for it..." I see this as an opportunity to force me to structure my time better." (I'm telling you, the time thing has always hung over my head.) However, I did just finish a month-long writing unit with the May Day folks. I didn't finish a novel during that time, though we don't try to in that group. We try to use these month long "set asides," as I sometimes call them, to generate some work or do something specific.

The Original Plan

As I'm sure you all recall, I planned to do four things:
    1. Sprint at least five days a week
    2. Generate two pages of material as many days of the week as possible
    3. Allow the two pages of new material to include new scene planning, if need be
    4. Learn to do what I'm going to call skim writing, meaning I'm going to try not to stop to get obsessive about perfecting factual bits, names, etc. I want to leave ______ or bold placeholders, which I hope will help me move ahead generating material that will provide the solutions for those blank spaces and placeholders that I can then go back and correct. I get bogged down much, much too often with those types of things for my taste.
    That may have been too many objectives for a one-month writing goal, but I did pretty well with the first two, and made an effort, at least, with the third and fourth ones.

    The Best Results

    1. Sprinting, or doing a quick, intense writing session, has been great, and I'm hoping it is becoming part of my writing process. I've been doing a twenty minute sprint in the midst of my workout period because I've been walking outside for a half an hour after whatever else I do in the morning. The sprint comes before the walk, and walking after the sprint can often lead to breakout experiences related to the work done during the sprint. Just this morning, for example, I realized while out in the street that I needed to change the house one of my main characters lives in in order to make it do more to define him.
    2. I started a new book, which I haven't done in a year or so. I'm three and a half chapters in as a result of the October set aside, and didn't get further, even though I'd started before October, because a lot of my new work involved rewriting chapters one and two.

    What Next?

     I can't continue working on this project several hours a day because I'm preparing to attend a master class retreat in less than two weeks, and that involves another, completed novel that I need to bring myself back up to speed on. But part of what you gain from working intently on a writing project, as we did last month, is the involvement with the world of the book. That's particularly important for organic writers like myself who don't have a plot outline to anchor us and bring us back to that world, if we've been away. Even with an overall, big picture idea of what's going to happen, a lot of our plot evolves as we're working, as we're deeply into the project. Walk away and when you come back you'll find yourself having to make a big effort to figure out where you were going with this thing.

    What I'm trying to do to prevent that is continue with those sprints. I'm doing what I call "mummy sprints" (the book was originally about a mummy; not so much now) as many days of the week as I can. No, I'm not suggesting I'm going to write a book in twenty minutes a day, though I imagine a person far more patient than I am could. What I'm hoping to do is to stay in this project mentally so that when I can get back to it, maybe at the end of this month, I can simply continue working.

    And, yes, I should have finished chapter four by then.

    Regarding NaNoWriMo

    Speaking of NaNoWriMo, as I was in my first sentence, oddly enough, I got some ideas just this past Saturday for my 2004 NaNoWriMo project, which I've barely touched since then. I'm trying to get some notes down on that.

    And Facebook Friend Kimberly Sabatini is doing NaNoWriMo this year and has shared a little news of how she's doing. I'm hoping to hear more about how she's using this time.


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    11. Writig resolutions

    In his post yesterday, Scott asked who does resolutions.

    Maybe I’m an old fashioned kind of guy, but I like making New Year’s resolutions. The start of a new year is a time to reflect on what has been accomplished the last twelve months and how things could be improved. It’s a new beginning on the same old life. A fresh start is a chance to break old habits and establish new ones.

    Not that I stick to them.  Sometimes they are out of here as fast as the Christmas tree waiting on the pick-up curb. A stroke of genius on December 31 can become a hazy memory on New Year’s Day. Some may make it a few weeks out. That new gym membership gets used for a couple of weeks but by March is a waste of money. Good intentions. Lousy follow-through.

    After failing consistently for the last umpteen New Years, I’m becoming an expert at making resolutions. General, overall goals seem better than specific, time-dated ones. For example, if I resolve to exercise daily, then I give up on it after the first day I miss, usually around Jan. 3rd or 5th. When I tell myself to walk three or four times a week and fit in a yoga class here and there, I am more successful.

    A few years back I took stock of things and resolved to write that book that had been on the brain for twenty years. Look where I am now. I thought I had talent and could write and made a rough draft. A friend suggested WYFIR. I learned there’s a difference between talent and writing skill. Six years later and I’m still learning the craft.

    So, be it resolved:
    -of course the usual: end to world hunger, lose twenty pounds, fast car, etc., etc.
    -and the more doable goals: garage cleaned by 2018, think about what I'm eating once in a while, and what-not.

    My Writing Resolutions for 2013
    1. Finish revising project A by the end January.
    2. Research agents and editors, find the best fit for my manuscript, create a killer query, and turn off writer mode and switch to salesperson.
    3. Get Project A signed on with an agent or publisher. (Out of my hands. I know. Had to throw it in.)
    4. Figure out project B. That is my new NaNoWriMo story and it is far from finished.
    5. Attend a writing conference. I’m going to WIFYR again this year; that is a given. I’ll make it two conferences then. I did Cheryl Klein’s plot class in November. Nothing better to inspire writing than a workshop on the craft.
    6. Stay connected with my critiquers. You guys are great.
    7. Write daily. I do best with a 60-minute a day goal. Some days it doesn’t happen, but the goal itself keeps me there even on those days when you can’t squeeze in an hour.
    8. Read daily. Someone once said that reading counts as writing time. Though most people my age read adult fiction, we children’s writers tend to go for something aimed at younger audiences. There are a lot of excellent children’s stories out there and reading them makes your own better.
    9. Establish an online presence. Publishers want to know the writer is doing what they can to promote their book.

    All this and yet balance it out with the rest of my life. Oh, and one more. I resolve to have my Saturday posts finished by Friday evenings.

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    12. Telling yourself

    I’m still working on a story I began in November. Most people called it quits on November 30, but for me I’m still on NaNoWriMo, about day 120.

    Writing in NaNo style is kind of fun. The goal is to slap down a story rough draft in thirty days. You just write. You send the internal editor out of the room and just write. I’ve had a problem shutting that guy up so ignoring him was a joy of NaNo.

    My normal style is to obsess over every little sentence. I can’t move on to chapter two until chapter one is perfect. It was so freeing in November to let the story just flow, with a note here or there on how to fix it during the next draft. My problem was I didn’t have it roughed out in my head so at times I wrote aimlessly, going around in circles. But when I had direction, it was liberating to lay the story down in a quick fashion.

    Now I am trying to finish that first draft, the first 50,00 words for NaNo and again, I fall back into old habits of obsession over perfection. My critique group pointed out the problem and said to return to NaNo style. I’ve done that, but internal editor man still manages to pop up, even though I’ve told him to leave me alone.

    A couple inspirational posts have appeared on this blog. Julie Daines commented that the first chapter can never be perfected until the entire story is complete. That makes a lot of sense. You need a beginning and it can have direction. But there’s no need to fixate on it when it’s going to change anyway to accommodate the path it takes.

    Scott Rhoades had a great post last week with his truth about first drafts. “Books don't escape the mind fully fledged and ready to fly,” he said. That brilliant idea in your head can look so flawed in the first draft. No matter how ugly that first attempt is, the writer must persevere and tell the story, then come back and make the repairs.

    Scott offered a quote from Terry Pratchett that echoed what my critique group said. "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story." I like that little line and it has carried me all week long. You may have a general idea of the plot and the characters who live it, but you really don’t know the story for sure until you tell it to yourself.

    So I’m telling myself a story. Maybe one of these days I’ll finish my NaNo project.

    1 Comments on Telling yourself, last added: 3/5/2013
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    13. Write a Novel This Spring with NaNoWriMo

    Want to write a novel in April? You should take the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in April or July.

    National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November, but the Office of Letters and Light (the nonprofit behind NaNoWriMo and the Young Writers Program) wanted to give writers an alternative time for the writing challenge. Here are some of the new features:

    The Word-Count Archery Range: Maybe, for whatever reason, 50K just wasn’t the right fit for you. Thankfully, you can now adjust your targets and take aim at a word-count goal anywhere from 10K to 999,999. … Your Camp Cabin: Do you need silence to concentrate on writing your novel? Or do you find flashes of genius in the chatter of your fellow cabinmates? Choose your bunkmates based on age, shared genre, similar word-count goal, activity level, or by name! … The Arts and Crafts Tent: We’ve got some beautiful web badges ready for you to trumpet your participation at Camp.

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    14. Camp NaNoWriMo Starts Next Week

    Want to write a novel in April? You should take the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge next week.

    National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November, but the organizers created the online camp to give writers an alternative time for the writing challenge. Here are some of the new features:

    The Word-Count Archery Range: Maybe, for whatever reason, 50K just wasn’t the right fit for you. Thankfully, you can now adjust your targets and take aim at a word-count goal anywhere from 10K to 999,999. …Your Camp Cabin: Do you need silence to concentrate on writing your novel? Or do you find flashes of genius in the chatter of your fellow cabinmates? Choose your bunkmates based on age, shared genre, similar word-count goal, activity level, or by name! … The Arts and Crafts Tent: We’ve got some beautiful web badges ready for you to trumpet your participation at Camp.


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    15. 90 Writing Tools in a Single Post

    Are you going to take the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge this month? To help GalleyCat writers with the challenge, we’ve rounded up three year’s worth of writing advice in a single post.

    National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November, but the organizers created the online camp to give writers an alternative time for the writing challenge. Every year, we publish daily links to writing tools and tips during the NaNoWriMo challenge in November.

    We’ve collected the individual posts below–the advice will work all year round.


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    16. What Can You Do in a Month?


    Yesterday was the last day of National Poetry Month and I'm missing it already.

    To close out the month I wrote a new poem, made a tiny origami kimono, and sprayed fixative on one more mixed-media illustration (above) for "30 Days of Kimono." I'm far from finished with this particular project, but right now it's Happy May Day and a brand new month of writing, this time back to my screenplay for 31 days. No rest for the writer!

    I like working on month-by-month projects. I think it all started with my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Ever since then (gosh, what's it been? 8 years?) I've found that dedicating an entire month to a solid project is a serious way to get things done, mainly because:
    1. I can focus. For one month, nothing else is quite as important as the work I've chosen to concentrate on. This doesn't mean I abandon my other writing and art projects; they just don't take center stage for a few weeks.
    2. I don't have to think too hard about the month's structure or schedule--usually someone else has decided for me what the month will entail. A good example is my current decision to go with screenwriting this month. I saw a notice for a Facebook group planning to write screenplays in May. It sounded too good to pass up.
    3. Even allowing for spontaneity, like finding this FB screenplay group only a couple of days ago, I can still plan out my year in advance. Working with a calendar helps to accomplish my yearly goals.
    4. And I do get A LOT accomplished!
    5. Signing up for a month of writing is the perfect reason to say "no" to potentially time-wasting activities and energy drains.
    6. Month-size chunks of creativity make big projects do-able.
    7. They are also great motivators (e.g. "Just five more days until I don't have to work on this horrible manuscript ever again . . .")
    8. It's a good excuse to give yourself a special present or reward when the month is finished (no cheating allowed!).
    9. You can use the month to complete a single project . . .
    10. Or you can  take several months for the different aspects and stages of a longer project, e.g., a month for a first draft, a month for extra research, a month for editing, etc.
    11. If you stick to a month-by-month plan, you will actually get where you want to go!
    12. And you'll never wake up in the morning wondering what on earth you will tackle or write about that day.
    Don't think you have to restrict yourself to "just writing" either. How about giving yourself  a month to explore a new art technique? Or to take photographs of a favorite subject? Or perhaps you want to set aside some time to plan out your creative life with a month-long vision quest and accompanying goal map.

    One of my favorite parts of working on projects-by-the-month is that they're often group-oriented. Whether it's just a small bunch of Facebook friends, or an undertaking as huge as NaNoWriMo, everybody gets the chance to be part of a movement much bigger and friendlier than hours of writing alone. The support and inspiration from working alongside other writers is invaluable and highly recommended.

    So what are your plans for the month? Leave a comment and let me know--maybe it's something we can work on together.

    Tip of the Day: Make a chart listing the current and next 6 months of the year. Assign either an established project to each month, such as NaNoWriMo in November, or create your own, e.g. "July is Edit My Novel Month. August is Market to Magazines Month." See what fits you and your writing and then stick to your given plan.

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    17. The Next Big Thing Meme

    The fabulous Lori M. Lee tagged me for this one! I'm going to cheat a bit and tell you about both my about-to-be-published book and my WIP, because ERMAHGERD, guys, I'm so excited for both of them. Okay? Okay.

    (Side note: those of you who have added my book on Goodreads, THANK YOU, but that isn't the official Goodreads page. My publisher didn't make it. And whoever did mixed me up with another author, so...yeah. Not me. I'll let you guys know when there's a book to add--it'll be around the time that I get to share my title with all of you!)


    Still can't tell! But I CAN tell you that I submitted it as FOR EVERY LIFE, which is a reference to Newton's Third Law of Motion, and I CAN tell you that the title of my WIP is MEMENTO MORI, which is Latin for "remember you will die." Mori is also the name of my protagonist (who's dying. Shocker, huh?)




    UNTITLED (we'll just call it that for now--isn't it easier?) actually began as two short stories--one about an abandoned imaginary friend, and one about a girl who tries to commit suicide. UNTITLED is their lovechild. I'm not sure where the ideas for the two original short stories came from, but I knew there was a connection between them and I knew I wanted to develop that connection into a full-length novel.

    MEMENTO, on the other hand, has been sitting in the back of my mind for...a year? Two? I don't remember where the idea came from, or when I got it, but I remember thinking, "I have to write this story. I have to." 


    UNTITLED is YA contemporary with a touch of magical realism. MEMENTO is YA contemporary with a touch of ice cream (or a lot of ice cream).


    Something about UNTITLED: there are no descriptions of the character's appearances. None. I want people to be able to see themselves in Liz and Kennie and Julia. I want them to be able to see their friends. I want the characters to be anyone, everyone. So no actors :)

    As for MEMENTO....I don't know I'm just really bad with actors and stuff okay LEAVE ME ALONE


    UNTITLED is about a girl who tries to end her short and catastrophic attempt at life, told from the perspective of her abandoned imaginary friend.

    MEMENTO MORI is about a girl with half an immune system, a boy with half of his muscles, a cat named Schrödinger, and the road trip they take to solve the paradox of life.


    UNTITLED is coming out in fall of 2014 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. MEMENTO MORI is not currently under contract.


    I wrote the first draft of UNTITLED during NaNoWriMo 2012--so, a month. I'm actually super proud of that, mostly because November was a rough month for me, and I was under word count the entire time. I managed to pound out something like 13K in the last two days. Then I revised for about two months, and it sold the following February.

    As for MEMENTO...well. I've been drafting for the last four months or so, and I have about another 15K to go.



    MEMENTO: Hmmm....I'm not sure. My CP says it reminds him a bit of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, except, you know, far less AMAZEBALLS.


    "Isn't this basically the same as question #2?"

    Lori's answer, which I'm seconding. 


    UNTITLED is told by an imaginary friend, which opened up these incredible options for the story. The story is actually told in a non-linear fashion--there are three main times: a countdown from seven days before Liz crashes her car, a countdown of the hour before Liz crashes her car, and the day after Liz crashes her car. And there's a chapter with eleven words. I love that chapter.

    In MEMENTO, Mori has written letters to the dead for as long as she can remember, and the book is actually her last notebook of letters. Among the addressees: Maurice Sendak, Gregory Peck, Nannerl Mozart, Georgiana Cavendish, and, of course, Schrödinger. I really love playing around with narration (have you noticed?)

    I'm tagging fellow Greenwillow author Chessie Zappia, whose book ASK AGAIN LATER sounds totally amazefrackingballs and Mark O'Brien, because he's working on this new MS that I want everyone to be excited about. Take it away, guys!

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    18. Nominate Your NaNoWriMo Novel for a Free Book Cover

    30daysNational Novel Writing Month will start in November, and you can now nominate your project (or your favorite NaNoWriMo project) to receive a free book cover.

    The writing marathon has opened its 30 Covers, 30 Days nomination thread, matching 30 writers with 30 cover designers.

    The designers “will create a work of art based on a NaNo-novel synopsis,” revealing one new cover every day in November–just like the Mar’s Run cover embedded above.


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    19. 3 Reasons to NaNoWriMo

    Now available! Prewriting for the Common Core

    Are you ready to write 50,000 words in one month flat?
    I am.
    For the first time, I will be participating in NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.


    Why this year? Here are 3 good reasons.

    • Timing. My work schedule has some lag time about now and it’s convenient. That is, I want a new novel done some time next year and by banging out 50,000 words now, I’ll have a rough draft next summer instead of start from scratch. I can’t spend more than a month right now.
    On the other hand, I do have other projects scheduled and I don’t have more than a month to spend on a new project. And I want to maximize my time and effort. Pouring out a full draft in a month sounds exciting.Because this is going to work really well (do you hear my optimism?), I will also be in better shape next year, when I have time to return to this story. I’ll have a draft, and revisions will be faster for the work done this year.
  • Trust the process. Learning to trust the process must be a life-long project for writers. Because this writer is having to do that over and over this year. So, instead of fighting the process, I’ve decided to embrace the writing process for the month of November.
  • Taking creative risks. Writing a novel is always a risk. In novel revision retreats, I have people walk around and congratulate each other on writing a full draft of a novel. It’s an amazing accomplishment. Each time I start a new novel, I am very aware of the risk, that this novel may be one that lands in a file drawer, or that I will abandon it and not finish. And yet, to be creative means to take risks, to reach for something new and different, and to go where “no one has gone before.” If I’m not taking risks in my work, then I’m going nowhere. But risks are scary and uncomfortable. NaNoWriMo is a contained risk: I only have to write 50,000 words and it’s only for a month. It’s risky, sure. But there’s support, others to follow, inspiration and there’s a definite end to it. I am very glad there will be an end to the month of NaNoWriMo.
  • Of course, getting ready for this, I’ve been reviewing my book, START YOUR NOVEL. I need to take my own advice!

    Are you NaNoWriMoing? (How’s that for turning an acronym into a verb?)
    Any words of encouragement for me?

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    20. NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

    It’s just a few days until November, and you know what that means: National Novel Writing Month, better known ’round these parts as NaNoWriMo, is near. Have you always wanted to write a novel? We know some of you have been waiting all year for this month! For those of …

    14 Comments on NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?, last added: 10/28/2013
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    21. Happily Ever After--Write Your Ending First

    Ready for NaNoWriMo? Here's a tip to make the next month easy on your time, planning, and imagination: Write your ending first.

    Writing the end of my novels and short stories before I write my first page is a trick I've been using for years, and I love it. It's especially helpful for someone like me because I've never really been either a total pantster (someone who freewrites her way through a manuscript as opposed to persnickety planning), or an obsessive outliner. I've always preferred a combination of the two. 

    For instance, I like to know who my characters are and what makes them tick in advance of writing a full manuscript, but to get there I still have to freewrite what those traits and motivations are going to be. If I have a pre-written ending that tells me where my characters will be on the last page, complete with dialogue and action, I'll know exactly what they need to do, be, and feel to reach that point. 

    Writing my last three to  five pages first has saved me a lot of worry. Here's why:

    1.  Writing your ending first gives you a life raft to swim toward. You will always know where you're supposed to go, giving your scenes a sense of forward movement.

    2.  When somebody (like an editor) asks what your WIP is about, you will instinctively know the answer based on the tone and mood of your ending.

    3.  Many writers (like me) love to write back story, but so often we're told "no back story allowed!" I think this is because so often back story is inserted into the wrong places where it slows the plot down. However, if you have to write your story backwards to explain how you reached your ending, you get to write all the "back story" you can think of--and it's always in the right place because it IS your story!

    4.  Writing "The End" first means that technically at least, your manuscript is finished; a nifty psychological ploy to keep you from feeling overwhelmed on the blah-days when it seems your book is going nowhere fast.

    5.  Which creates confidence--you know in advance that your story has a strong and satisfying conclusion. No more unfinished manuscripts piling up in your filing cabinet, no more excuses for not sending out those query letters!

    Tip of the Day: Even if you have no intention of participating in National Novel Writing Month this year, take some time on Friday November 1 to sit down and write the last five pages of either a new work, or something you've already started. The first time I tried this exercise was with a novella I was playing around with just for fun. What I discovered from writing that final scene before I'd even written Chapter Two completely turned the book around from being a superficial light comedy to a serious story about aging and accepting mistakes with grace. Wow--who'd of thunk it? Happy Nanowrimo-ing!

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    22. NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Establish a Writing Schedule

    nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched today as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

    To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering one piece of NaNoWriMo advice every day this month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.


    Our first tip is simple: establish your writing schedule. Whether you are spending 12 hours a day writing from 9-9 or simply dedicating an hour a day to your novel, we recommend that you carve out time in your schedule to dedicate to the project and stay committed to that time frame every day. Even if you aren’t quite in the mood, sit down at your computer during the allotted time and see what you can come up with.


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    23. NaNoWriMo Writing Tip #2: Create an Outline

    nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

    To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

    Our second tip is simple: Create an Outline. It might seem basic, but outlining what you plan to write in advance of writing the actual prose is an excellent way to organize your ideas into a cohesive story structure. Lay out the basic framework for the story and use this to guide you on your way. You may find that the outline changes during the process, but having this simple organizing tool in place will help you remember where you are going with your story.

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    24. Chris Baty, Founder of NaNoWriMo: “Anyone Can Write A Book”


    Chris Baty started a writing movement by accident. At the time, he figured it was just another one of his bad ideas and convinced five of his friends to join him in writing a book. Today, there are more than 226,000 participants signed up for NaNoWriMo, hoping to crank out a novel before the month’s end. Here, he discusses the catalyst for his success, what he’d like his legacy to be and why he believes anyone can be a writer:

    The NaNoWriMo concept kind of suggests that anyone can write a book. Do you think this is true?
    Oh my god, yeah. And I think everybody can write dozens of novels. You look back to the time when we were kids, and if you gave me a stick that I could make into a toy, I was basically good for seven hours. We were all so imaginative at a young age, just sort of running amuck in our imaginations and pretending. All of that is still in us. When we hit puberty, we start to do this thing where we ask, “Am I good at this?” We’re looking around and we’re seeing other people who are better than us at these things. That’s when we start to shut down those parts of ourselves.

    For more on NaNoWriMo and Baty’s tips for novel-writing success, read: Hey, How’d You Start A Fiction-Writing Revolution, Chris Baty, Founder Of NaNoWriMo?

    – Aneya Fernando

    The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.

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    25. NaNoWriMo Tip #3: Create a Character Outline

    nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) launched last week as writers around the globe try to write a 50,000-word novel draft in a single month.

    To help the GalleyCat readers taking this challenge, we will be offering NaNoWriMo advice throughout the month. Last year, 341,375 participants wrote a novel in 30 days through the NaNoWriMo program. The writing marathon has generated more than 250 traditionally published novels, according to the organizers.

    Our third tip is simple: Create a Character Outline. Write out a detailed description of who your main characters are. Create detailed interview questions to help you really flush out who these people are. Where do they live? Where are they from? What do they look like? How old are they? What do they like to eat? What do they drink? How do they dress? What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What are their best memories? What are their worst memories? What is their relationship like with their family? What are they afraid of? What are their dreams? Who are they married to? Asking these kinds of questions will help you have a better understanding of who your characters are when it comes time to put them in the story.

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