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NaNoWriMo Advice

Here we are nearly 1/2 of the way through NaNoWriMo. I’ve given advice in the past and you can read about it here.img_3379

Mostly I just want to cheer you on and say, “Look how awesome you are! You’re writing a book-shaped thing! Keep it up!”

November is an awful month to try and write a book. This month was especially bad. The election was super distracting and for many like myself, it derailed their motivation. I’m currently at 7,411. Ideally we should all be hovering at 15k if we’re writing 1,667 a day. This brings me my first piece of advice:

SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITE

Words don’t count if they aren’t on the page. The only way you’re going to catch up is to put your butt in the chair and go at it. There’s no magic solution. Just start typing or writing.

What works for me might not work for you. I know this draft will be COMPLETE AND UTTER SHIT and I try my damnedest not to self-edit. Characters change names. I change POV and tense. When I get stuck I write dialogue and make my characters talk it out. Or I write kissing scenes. I open windows and doors whenever I can. My current WIP now features a high school radio station, fake Buzzfeed quizes, some Clueless fan-fic, Settlers of Catan and now Scientology. It’s one giant WTF gif. This draft is a SHITSHOW and I love it.

The only other piece of advice I’ll give (Please note I’m a 5x winner of NaNoWriMo so I’m totally qualified to give such advice):

DON’T COMPARE THIS FIRST DRAFT TO THE LAST BOOK YOU READ

There are many drafts between your NaNoWriMo book and what you see in a bookstore. If you do you will become paralyzed with fear and self-doubt and you will never finish your book. Fun fact: My novel Secret Heart was a NaNoWriMo novel. It took almost four years of drafts to get it right. I completely rewrote it from scratch twice. It went through self-edits, beta readers, my agent, publishers (one had me revise and resubmit), more self-edits, and a copy editor before it was published.

STOP OVERTHINKING AND START WRITING. Don’t forget to have fun. Even if you never look at it again you can say you once wrote a novel. If anything it’ll give you bragging writes at boring dinner party.

But seriously, IF I CAN DO IT, YOU CAN DO IT.

You’re amazeballs. I’m proud of you.

*add me as a NaNoWriMo buddy: nanowrimo.org/participants/drdspice

 

 

 

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NaNoWriMo Tips for 2013

I’ll keep this short because if you’re like me, you’re behind on your NaNoWriMo word count goals and it hasn’t even been a week.  Instead of writing, you’re sitting in front of a space heater, eating an almond “ice cream” sandwich while watching The Wire.

Wait, you’re not? Okay, it’s just me.

Hopefully you’re cruising along in your manuscript, throwing down words like they were gang signs (I need to turn off the The Wire). But if you aren’t, here are a few important things to remember:

1) No one said your book has to be good. All of my previous NaNoWriMo projects were a sh*tstorm of suck. Only  last year’s story rose from the ashes after several rewrites and is now a shiny, pretty thing in the hands of my agent. 

2) WEDD (Write Every Damned Day). Even if it’s 400 words before work, or 500 words on your lunch break, or you 1667 words after your household has fallen asleep. By writing a tiny bit each day, you’ll slowly chip away at that 50k goal without killing yourself.  It’s much easier (for me) to look at what I can do in 15, 30, or 60 minutes and call it a day rather than fret about how I can squeeze out 6k and still do laundry/ buy groceries/ go to hot yoga/ eat food other than leftover Halloween candy.

Besides, by WEDD, you’re cultivating writerly habits that will help you succeed later in life if you choose to be a writer.

 

No one said NaNoWriMo was easy (if they did, they’re lying), but it’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It’s putting words down on a page and walking away. Stop overthinking it.

Get back to work! (or watching The Wire. I won’t judge).

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Fact: Writing a Book is Not Like Running A Marathon

I’m just gonna come straight out and say it: writing is hard.

You know what else is hard? Running a marathon.

There are similarities to both pursuits. They both take time and energy and stamina. They both are mostly solo activities, at least during “training.” They both come with bragging rights. Both endeavors will bleed your body and wallet dry.

I ran a marathon once, the Boston Marathon in 2008. It was terrible and awesome and something I’ll never do again. I’ll save you the time from Googling how “fast” I ran it and just tell you it took 5 hours and 35 long minutes.

As of this week, I’ve finished six manuscripts (one romance, five YA). I’ve been working on “Secret Heart,” a coming-of-age/coming out/ rom-com centered around an Unprom (Think Dawson’s Creek meets a teenage version of Kissing Jessica Stein), off and on since November. It was my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel and after letting it sit on my hard drive for two months, I saved the beginning and end chapters and chucked the rest out the window. It felt good to do that. I had zero expectations for it, especially since it’s unlike anything I’ve done. But I had a hell of a time writing it.

You know what I didn’t have hell of a time doing? Running a marathon.

Let’s face it. I’m a slow runner and a fast writer. I’m okay with that. Besides, I’ve earned a hell of a lot more money writing then I ever earned by not winning a race.

Anyone can train and run a marathon (except Boston. You have to qualify for that or run for charity like I did). Not everyone can write a book. Yeah, there’s talk around the cheese table at parties where someone says, “I could write a novel. It’s not that hard.”

Newsflash: Writing a novel is F-ing hard. Getting it published is even harder. Getting people to actually buy and read your book is hardest.

But damn if it isn’t rewarding.

The high I get from finishing a draft of a novel lasts longer than a runner’s high ever did. Also, writing doesn’t give me blisters or make it hard to walk up a flight of stairs.

Training for a marathon takes a few months, maybe more if you’re out of shape. Writing takes YEARS. There is no “training program” for writers like there are for marathoners. It doesn’t take fancy shoes and jelly beans with electrolytes. It takes sitting your ass in the chair and writing draft after draft until it stops being shitty and starts getting real.

The sad truth is, you don’t get a medal when you finish a book. There’s no silver blanket, no bagel and no banana. You don’t even get to wear a t-shirt that says “I did it.”

But writers aren’t like runners. We’re not in it for the glory. We’re in it to maybe change people’s lives. I’m okay with that.

I will never win a marathon, but every time I finish a manuscript, I WIN.

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Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award begins next week

This is a PSA for all of the aspiring YA and adult writers out their on the interwebs. Mark your calendars, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) begins next Monday, January 14th. 

If you’ve got a 50k-150k word novel on your hard drive (perhaps from NaNoWriMo?) this might be your ticket. You’d be a fool not to try because the prizes are AMAZEBALLS. One Grand Prize winner will receive a publishing contract with an advance of $50,000, and four First Prize winners will each receive a publishing contract with an advance of $15,000. All of this is through Amazon’s publishing portal CreateSpace.

Did I mention that there are five categories this year? General Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror and Young Adult Fiction.

Now is the time to prep. Amazon gives you a great list, including these tidbits:

1) Prepare a strong pitch. More than a summary, your pitch should highlight your concept, protagonist, setting and writing style—all the elements that make your story unique. 

2) Stay within the word-count limits — pitch, up to 300 words; excerpt, 3,000 to 5,000 words; manuscript, 50,000 to 150,000 words.

3) View the official contest rules.

 

This could be your big ticket. Just don’t forget the little people in your life when you’re rolling around in 50k cash money.

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My 2013 Writing Resolutions

Happy New Year and welcome to 2013!

I love the beginnings of things, especially January. I love to make lists of things I want to accomplish (and change) and then not follow through because I got too damn lazy.

But that’s not gonna happen this year. This year I’m sharing my goals/ resolutions with the world to help hold myself accountable.

 

1. Write every day. For reals. It does not have to be your WIP, but a journal, a short story, or even a letter. You just need to put a pen to paper or finger to keyboard to keep on track.

2Stop comparing other writer’s successes with my failures (or successes). Because this doesn’t need to be explained.

3. Practice healthy writing habits. Do yoga. Go for walks. Hula Hoop during brainstorming sessions. Ban cookies from the writing cave.

4Say only nice things. Because you need to make a better effort to be positive. This is not to sayyou won’t think really snarky things, you just won’t say them (out loud).

5. Write two new short stories and send out for publication. Because you fell in love with flash fiction years ago, and after a long hiatus, you wrote your first short story in years last spring and by fall it was published. That needs to happen again.

6. Enter contests. Because you’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe a few bucks.

7. Do NaNoWriMo again in November. Because it works.

8. Work on only one project at a time. Because more than one is killing your brain.

 

What are your writing resolutions?

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The importance of keeping a journal

I’m not good at keeping track of things. Nor am I good at saving my stuff. I’m not a hoarder, I’m a purger. But somehow, after countless moves and new cities and well, life in general, I still have all of my childhood journals.

Well, not all. There are a few that disappeared along the way (probably for the the better), but I still have 17 of them document my transformation from a dorky sixth grader to crazy-ass teenager to dorky adulthood.  You may have seen some on Mortification  Mondays (some being more mortifying than others) or even the stuff I showcase on Bad Poetry Friday.

I don’t know who bought me my first journal nor why I started keeping one. Certainly I had nothing to say except about what boy I liked, but I’d like to thank Past Danielle for doing that. Why? Because rereading these embarrassing crushes and confessions brings me back to my young adult self. I can easily tap into that teen angst and despair just by rereading an entry. I can either cry tears of laughter (the underwear story) or remember a painful memory I had managed to bury (a future post).  They provide inspiration and motivation.

A lot of writers, particularly YA, kept journals. I think the most vocal about it has been Meg Cabot who went on the create the crazy popular Princess Diaries. Perhaps the secret to her prolific career is right there in those middle school notebooks.

If you didn’t keep a journal as a teen, you’re not screwed. There’s still time to keep one now. Or to go back and write down memories and feelings because you never know when they might come in handy. These days I don’t keep a journal like I used to. Twitter and Facebook had replaced that need to document mundane details on paper, but I still carry one around now. I use to write  down ideas or bits of dialogue that might come in handy, or books to read or my to-do list. Each new manuscript has a book that corresponds to what my life was like at that time of writing it. It’s a great resource even if the only person who can decipher anything in it is me.

Did you keep a journal as a teen?

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What to do now that NaNoWriMo is over: A 12 Step Program for Writers

First of all congrats to all who finished NaNoWriMo last Friday, or anyone who has recently finished writing their (first) novel.

You’re probably asking yourself, “What do I now that I’ve finished my first novel?” Here is my time-tested post-novel writing survival guide.

NOTE: Do not skip ahead to step 12 until you are absolutely ready. Revision takes time, people!

Step 1: Happy Dance. The worst is over.

My beautiful picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Panic. The worst is still to come.

Step 3: Sleep for 16 hours

My beautiful picture

 

Step 4: Take a shower. Wash that first draft filth from your body.

 

Step 5: Take a walk to help combat “writer’s butt.”

 

Step 6:  Call/ text/ email everyone you’ve been ignoring. As

sure them that no, you aren’t dead but you did just finish a novel.

Step 7:  Once the adrenaline high has worn off (it’ll last anywhere from 1 day to 1 year) think about revising.

Step 8: Freak out over revising that shitty draft.

Step 9: Put your butt in the  chair and revise that shitty draft.

Step 10: Do steps 1-9 until your book looks sparkly. Then send it to a beta reader or critique partner for input.

Step 11: Revise again.

Step 12: Draft a sexy query and send it to your favorite agent (more on this in the future).

 

Ta da! And you’re done.

Did I leave anything out?

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NaNoWriMo Week 1 Check In & 2009 NaNoWriMo Excerpt

Hello, Lovelies.

I hope Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is treating you well and that you’ve made your word count goals and have pretty much made this novel your bitch.

If you are following the word count daily goal, you “should” be at 11,669 words. I’ll be honest. I am already behind. I skipped a day, and am juggling three projects at once, including two revisions. I’m a little overwhelmed here, but that’s okay. I know I’ll hit my 50k goal by November 30th as I really need pressure to get that kind of output.

As promised, I’ve included the beginning of my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel,THE LAWYER AND THE LIBRARIAN, a romance about a roller derby librarian with a kidnapped dog who falls hard for her lawyer. I wrote this back when I thought I could write adult romance. I thought it was brilliant. Everyone else thought it was shit. Then I discovered that I like writing YA better (though I still read adult romance).

I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve and further embarrassing myself to prove to you that you’re supposed to have a shitty first draft and it’s okay that it sucks. Look at mine, this is seriously awful. I’m sure whatever you’re writing in better than this, so cheer up. You got this!

The Lawyer and the Librarian

The first time they met, Lola Gibson kicked Evan Crane out of the library for talking on his cell phone.  The thought “frigid bitch” entered his mind as the library door shut behind him.

In Lola’s defense she as having a really rough week.  Her German Shepard Bacon had gone missing and Kyle Peters, her orthodontist boyfriend of three years had left her for the mother of one of his patients.  It was so cliché it was funny.  So Lola had no patience for the guy talking on his cell phone in the silent room in the law library.  Despite the fact the library was in the basement of the courthouse downtown and most of the patrons were hurried and gruff lawyers, Lola loved her job.  For the most part she was patient with people.  She had given the guy in the pale gray business suit the benefit of the doubt and put her finger to her full pink lips and shushed him once because he was the cutest guy to walk into silent hall all day.  She was surprised he even had reception in the basement, most of the time her phone didn’t even work down there.

When he ignored her polite attempt to get him to notice the “no cell phone” sign and end his call, she marched in her new pink and black plaid kitten heels over to the table he was sitting at and said not so quietly, “Sir, this is a quiet area and you’re disrupting the patrons,.  I’m going to have to ask you to please leave.”

Evan gave the petite blonde woman in a tight pencil skirt, tall heels, and black reading glasses a look that said, “fuck off” as he shut his phone off and gathered his notebooks into his black messenger bag.  So what if it was a “quiet room.”  The room was completely empty and it was the end of the day.  There was no way he could have been disturbing anyone.

As he left he reflected on how when he first walked into the law library at the courthouse an hour ago and saw the librarian furiously typing away on her computer in the corner of the room he had considered asking her for a post work drink at his favorite Irish pub down the block.  She was absolutely beautiful with her black glasses perched at the end of her nose, her pale blond hair tied into a haphazard bun, and a scowl on her luscious lips.  It didn’t hurt that her white fitted shirt clung to her breasts in such a way that all he could think about was what she’d look like with her shirt unbuttoned and hair down as she straddled him on top of her big oak desk.

Now that image was replaced with one of an Ice Queen.  He doubted that this frigid bitch hadn’t had a lover in years and he felt sorry for whatever bastard ended up with her.
——————————-

See what I mean? Now it’s your turn! Tell me, how is your novel progressing?

Note: Yes, I did name my dog after my character.

Stay tuned next week for an excerpt of my shitty first YA Novel, THE GOOD GIRL.

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NaNoWriMo Advice Part 2

On the eve of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d give you a few last words of wisdom. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

6.  If possible, write at the same time/place everyday.

You’re more apt to stick with it and complete your manuscript if you have a routine (this is true for any new habit, including exercise). Maybe you get up an hour earlier and knock out 1k before work. Maybe you type on your lunch break. Maybe you wait until you’ve put your kids to bed and have poured a giant glass of wine before you pound out 1667 on your PC.

7. It doesn’t matter when you write, just write. 

I know, this is opposite of what I just said, but not all the rules will work for all people. November is a busy month. Squeeze writing in when you can: while you wait at the doctor (because they are never on time), on your Thanksgiving flight home to see your grandma, or while dinner is cooking. Ten minutes here, twenty there, and you’ll eventually meet your goal.

8. Carry a notebook with you. 

I am for serious on this. Hell, you should do this all the time, not just during November. You never know when a bit of dialogue/ an idea for a scene/ a new supervillain might hit you. You don’t want to be stuck in a boring-ass budget meeting and then lose your awesome idea for a fistfight between a zombie and a dolphin. Hours later when you sit down at your desk you’ll be banging your ahead against a wall because you forgot. Also, writing down what strangers are doing and saying is super creepy and gives you legit crazy writer cred.

9. Tell everyone you know that you’re participating.

This will serve several purposes:

1) It will impress the hell out of everyone

2) It’ll hold you accountable. After all, you don’t want to look like the asshat who didn’t finish their NaNoWriMo Novel after they bragged about it on Facebook. Your friends will mock you.

10. Embrace the shittiness of that first draft.

My Twitter pal Ksenia has a whole post about why first drafts don’t suck.  I will tell you that unless you’re Stephen King, your NaNoWriMo novel will resemble a flaming pile of horse shit in places. DO NOT FREAK OUT. This is normal. There will be good parts that you will use and bad parts that will make you vomit in your mouth, especially if this is your first novel.  The point of NaNoWriMo is to get that damn novel on paper. You can spend the next 11 month or 11 years revising the hell out of it. True story: Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus started out as a NaNoWriMo novel and then she revised it a billion times (slight exaggeration on my part) but you get the point.

 

Congratulations! You are now ready to start NaNoWriMo. Don’t worry my pets, I won’t abandon you. Go ahead and make me your writing buddy on nanowrimo.org (My alias is DRDSpice). I’ll also check in with you each Wednesday and share the first 500 words of my previous three NaNoWriMo novels (and the beginning on this years on Week 4) so you can see some truly shitty first drafts. And rather than a rejection playlist on Saturday’s, I’ll upload some inspirational anthems to get you moving toward your 50k goal.

Happy writing, friends!

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NaNoWriMo Advice Part 1

As promised, here is my (unsolicited) advice for how you can survive NaNaWriMo next week.

1. Come up with an idea you can follow through on.

This is not the time to try and invent the next Hunger Games, because frankly, you won’t. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I won’t even write the next HG. Instead, focus on something you know. Draw from your past. Read your old journals. Maybe you had a really terrible high school experience-write about that. Maybe you’re an expert on dolphins- make that a part of your plot and your main character saves a beached dolphin. Maybe you read a shit ton of mysteries or romances- so write a damn mystery or romance. They both follow a basic formula. Or write a short story a day if a novel seems like too much work.

2. Meet your word count every day or as much as possible to keep stress minimal.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Danielle, I don’t even know what I’m writing about.” Let me tell you a secret: most of the time, neither do I. I just let the story take me where it wants. I’m merely the vehicle, the words are my driver. Just point and steer and you’ll have something.  It’s only 1667 words a day. You can probably crank that out in two hours. Tivo Grey’ Anatomy and watch it only after you meet your word count. Otherwise it’ll be November 29th and you have 40,ooo words left to write and you’re giving yourself a panic attack.

3. If you miss a day or two, don’t sweat it.

1 day =1667 words

2 days = 3334 words

3 days =5001

I once missed six days in a row and then had several days where I managed to write over 5,000 words. Believe me, it’s possible, just break it down into manageable chunks.  I know some people who just aim for 2,000 words a day just in case the miss a day a week (or decide to take a day off).

4. When in doubt use dialogue.

Dialogue picks up the pace of the story. It’s also an easy way to cram in a lot of words in a short amount of time. If you’re stuck, make your characters talk it out. You can add filler later if need be.  Last year I was stuck and staring at my laptop while my dad and husband were taking tequila shots and watching a college football game. At that point in my story my protagonist was having Thanksgiving dinner with her boyfriend’s family and they were watching football. As my dad and dear husband yelled at the TV, I began to write what they were saying into my novel. Suddenly my characters were yelling at refs and arguing about the calls. Now I know nothing about football, but it was hilarious because they (my family) had no idea (at first) that I was stealing borrowing their words. That night I totally hit my word count.

5. Borrow from your life.

This ties into #1. Since you’re writing about what you know, feel free to borrow things from your life. In last year’s novel, my characters went skinny dipping at night in a pool only to discover there was a snake in the pool (that happened to me). Also, as I mentioned before, my dog Mae West was having seizures and being diagnosed with epilepsy. Since my brain was already full of vet visits and dog drama, I worked that into my story.

Come back next Wednesday for tips #6-10.

Become my writing buddy on Nanowrimo.org. Find me under DRDSpice.

Go ahead and tack on your NaNoWiMo advice here, too.

 

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