Tag Archives: publishing

NaNoWriMo Prep: Intimidation Factor and How I’ve Never Finished a Novel

This past Saturday was a “kick off” party for NaNoWriMo in my area. It wasn’t kicking off into writing, but it served as a party for a lot of us to get to know the others who will be writing in November. It’s where you learn about everyone’s goals, how long they’ve been participating, what they hope to accomplish, how many novels they’ve finished, and where you eat cookie cake and mingle and talk about what a book might be about based on its cover.

It was also where I got incredibly intimidated by a lot of the people I came in contact with.

“I feel so unoriginal,” I told Friend as I was on my way out. “They have so many ideas. All of them are so creative.”

A few had even been published. One had brought in two of her own books to be raffled off, and she acted like it was nothing. Nonchalant. (“Don’t pick that book, I wrote that one eight years ago, the other one is much better.”)

My mind boggled. I felt so small within the group. In comparison to those who had books published, those who had even finished things, I have been staring at three NaNoWriMo projects that haven’t reached the finish line yet, though one is dangerously close. The other two I want to start all the way at the beginning again and re-write.

“Have you gotten published yet?” Was a big question around the room, and one a lot of people could answer quickly, whether it was out of hopefulness or because they’d actually done it.

But to me, the answer was the same. They had something ready to publish. The one woman had said she’d done a bunch of research for it. The one who had two books, she had gotten a contract by putting one book out for an open call (I think that’s what they called it).

I felt– I feel– like a kid in a sea of adults, like this is just something I’m playing at still.

I started to think about it, though. That’s me in a room full of writers, maybe about 20 or so, give or take about five or ten. There’s an entire world out there filled with writers. How many people are even participating in NaNoWriMo? There’s got to be at least ten times more than that all over the world, every one of them having ideas and creativity and imagination that they want to let loose for the rest of the world to see.

What the fuck am I worried about? I’m one of those thousands, if not millions, of people. Whether I know what I’m doing or not shouldn’t matter right now, and on the other side, it is perfectly okay for someone else to be published, to know what they’re writing, and to do it well. Because it can happen, and it does, every day.

It’s back to my competitiveness. Back to my Type A personality, which tells me that I need to be the best forever.

But on the other hand… Isn’t it awesome to be in the middle of something like that? To be around people who are so creatively charged that you aren’t the only person in the room who has wild, crazy ideas that are all over the place, it’s another way of fitting in. It’s belonging. It’s finding your group.

It’s a common bond that brings us all together, no matter what our color, size, gender, etc.

They aren’t there to intimidate, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, because it’s still a ridiculously rough path for anyone who decides to take it. Those who publish, those who finish, are there to inspire, because for as many who have, there are just as many who have trouble finishing anything large (slowly raises hand).

So I’m going to try and embrace it, instead of letting it make me feel smaller. Because god dammit, just because I haven’t finished something yet doesn’t mean I won’t.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

“Angels, Demons, and the Writer”– Laurell K. Hamilton

Related to Sunday’s post about having a small voice and getting discouraged, this blog post just came out from Laurell K. Hamilton. Something I needed to see, and wanted to share, for those of us who have demons that like lurking around and telling us it’s pointless.

http://www.laurellkhamilton.org/angels-demons-and-the-writer/ (direct link)

-The Novice Wordsmith

The Tiniest Voice

“What’s the difference between showing only me something, and showing a bunch of people on a different website?” Friend asked, a few days ago, after I’d had an upset about my writing not being viewed or liked on a bigger platform.

“If I show you, you give me feedback,” I told him. “You read it. When I put it somewhere else, it’s likely to be ignored, and largely, it does.”

If you recall this post, about putting your writing out in the wild, I had just started to get back into a couple of writing blogs somewhere. I have always been sort of cocky about my writing when it’s up against others, thinking that it’s more than decent and that people would like it. So, getting little to no traffic made me feel self conscious, and discouraged.

It comes with a well known frustration for me, of wanting to make some change, do something, and being unable to have much of an influence at all because my voice is so small that it doesn’t reach anywhere. Like talking to myself in a large house and expecting someone in the basement to be interested in my murmurings they can barely hear. Letting out something you’re proud of and it gets sidestepped, no one says a thing, no one manages to look that way at all, and then suddenly you’re deciding to stop and move on to something that doesn’t make you feel like a failure.

Friend’s answer to me, though, was that I shouldn’t be writing for anyone but myself, which is echoed in a year-old post I made. That, in the end, I need to like what I write. The only person that matters when I write something is me. If I enjoy it, nothing should stop me– screw everyone else; if they don’t care for it, fine.

Sometimes it just gets harder to hold onto the sentiment. It’s harder to be okay with just that, especially if you’re looking seriously into getting published. For me, I write because I enjoy it, but I also want to know that other people like it as well. It helps me keep going if I have an audience.

So far, my only consistent audience is a handful of people here, and Friend.

I can write for myself, I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now robustly and I’ve enjoyed it from the beginning. When people get involved, though, it’s a slippery slope for me, and one I’m not entirely sure I like walking down, because even if I do some incredible things, it goes unwatched, unseen. It’s an empty course that you’re going on your own. Or you’re shouting out in the middle of a canyon that no one else occupies with you.

Unexpected frustration came from an infographic I saw, which was supposed to be inspirational. Rich and famous people, innovators, authors, who dropped out of high school or college and made a more than comfortable living, and when they made their money. I get that the message was, “You can do anything,” and “nothing should get you down,” but not everyone can reach that level, especially depending on the country you live in. More often than not, it’s going to be a huge struggle, and no one is guaranteed millions, or even any recognition.

Recognition is another huge chunk of my issue. My little existential crisis. No matter what I say in my life, how many people are even going to remember, or care? What mark am I going to make on the world?

For my writing, I don’t know. I’d like to publish. I’d like to see my work flourish, but I’m not sure it’ll even get very far.

The real understanding, I think, comes from seeing that and doing it anyway. You enjoy it, don’t let anything take the joy out of it for you. Don’t let people ruin it. No one else matters in this world. When everything goes to shit, those random strangers who liked your work aren’t going to do anything for you.

But the partner who supported you through it all, the mother or father or guardian or whoever, who was encouraging you when you were crawling through muck and upset, they will.

Even if my novels tank, no matter what kind of mark I make, as long as I enjoy the process and putting things together, writing it all out. It’s harder to block out, when you learn more about publishing and what will garner the numbers you want, tailoring to a group of people instead of how you see things.

It still gets to me that Stieg Larsson was dead by the time his books were published, and with a different set of names than he originally intended in the first place. He was so adamant about keeping the first book as “Men Who Hate Women,” and the publishers didn’t care for it, so it got changed.

But that’s how it goes, isn’t it? When you see or want one thing, and then you have to do another because it’s better for the audience, to get the numbers.

These two things just feel at great odds. If I ever get to the publishing point, I’m not sure what I’ll do. And, hey, it’s not like I have much knowledge of it, it could be a different beast than I’m imagining, but hearing about it during dentist visits and what I see from others.

Maybe I’ll just stick to writing for myself and Friend, and you lot. Things are much easier that way, and there’s less people to worry about pleasing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Make a Habit of It

I have this website tracked down on my Websites for Wordsmiths page, but I wanted to shine some light on it in a blog post because why not?

One of the oldest ideas to motivate yourself to get something done is incentive. You do a chore, you reward yourself, it’s a good balance that helps you keep going. Some things are harder to follow that idea with, maybe you aren’t able to track it, you lose sight of it, you give up, and it falls off the way side.

If you are the kind of person who needs something to keep your progress and hold you accountable for getting tasks and chores done, work projects, exercise, etc, Habit RPG might be one of the best things you can invest any time in.

Located here, Habit RPG allows you to enter in whatever you need help with keeping track of or staying on top of, in the form of an RPG (hence the name).  You build your avatar, to look however you want it to, and earn XP (experience points) by checking off habits, dailies and to-dos, as well as money! By level 10, you can pick a class, and buy specific equipment for it.

Equipment is in a category of “rewards”, which you can add to for even more incentive. Want to buy that gorgeous dress you saw while shopping? Put it down in the rewards, and set the amount to reach for you to get it.

If you’re game and incentive minded, it’s an incredible tool. Some personalities and people may not take to it as well as others, but if it works for you, milk it for all it’s worth!

Another site I wanted to touch on was Lit Reactor. I’ve posted a few things from there before, but hadn’t really taken the time to search through the website and see the content.

Litreactor.com is dedicated to writers and writing, fit with online classes, workshops, and the ability to put your own work up and read the work of others, as well as achievements and a community of writers to slink into. No doubt that it is a sort of haven, where you can see articles written by all sorts of authors on basic subjects like grammar, or something more complex, like what you put your hero through.

Litreactor also happens to have smashing suggestions and ways to get your work published, where to reach out and who is looking for authors.

Of course, this is only just a skim off the top of what it all contains, it’s bursting with all sorts of possibilities. I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t get into it sooner…

Either way, both websites are incredible tools, and especially writers. On the old topic of resolutions, Habits can be instrumental in helping you achieve what you’ve put yourself up to. LitReactor can too, if your resolution is to get more involved in the writing community, to find ways of improving your writing, and to get a move on with publishing some of your work.

I hope that you will at least give them both a look!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Feedback and Other Bits

As I was writing the entry “Preparation,” I paused, just as I was about to type in a question to those who read the blog. I stopped and went into something else instead, because the last time I tried a question, I didn’t get an answer back.

Of course, that was at the beginning of the blog. So I think I want to try again.

The point of this blog, in a lot of ways, is to learn. Not just for me to help teach people what I’ve learned, but to learn from everyone else, from the readers, from their insight and experience and apply it as needed. This blog may belong to me, but I want it to sprawl with information and different testimonies about certain ideas and thoughts, I want there to be more than just my touch.

Which is why I have a guest writer, and I wouldn’t mind having more. I’m admittedly a little nervous about reaching out for it, though, because I’m not sure what to expect or what kind of guidelines to set, but I am interested in more opinions and more of the blog being inspired by the people who love it.

I wanted to use now to thank everyone who does keep coming back for more, to see what I (and Friend) have to say. It helps me put more into this every day that I write for it. ❤

I sometimes struggle with my own confidence about what I say. I don’t want to lead anyone astray, but the worry gets to me enough that it’s caused me to trash a few posts. I have been writing for years, but I’m still learning. Eventually, I’ll get into the process of publishing and be able to share my experience and thoughts with that, but after seeing others tackling the subject before me, I get skittish and feel under prepared.

Then there’s that maybe I should post less. I drew up a prompt sheet when I made this blog, and even while I keep adding to it, I’ve done just about everything on it. Like writing, though, I suppose I can never really run out of ideas.

So, feedback, what do you think? More posting, less posting, is there a topic you want me to cover in specific? Is there something I should go back over because I wasn’t clear enough? And, since I didn’t get to ask it before, what are you plans for November? How do you prepare, if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo?

I look forward to hearing back from you!

-The Novice Wordsmith

“How to be a Writer”

If I could strike out the title, I would. Every effing word of it. Excuse my language, let me explain.

Last night, I was looking for a workout to do, so that I could get my exercise in. If you’re fickle and like change in your daily routine, this website is best for you: it’s all free, there’s programs and different individual workouts, challenges, nutrition, and even running programs.

So I’m paging through her stuff… And then I find something that says, “How to become a runner.”

Let’s get one thing straight: if you want to be anything, all you need to do is start. Want to be a runner? Run. You don’t need a damn guide on how to become one. It’s a starting point, there should be no explanation needed!

Okay. Taking a step back and breathing. This is me getting sore about the subject.

I understand that some people want to know what’s necessary if you want to get serious and start training. With writing, there are certain things you need to keep in mind and execute to be able to get published, to be more serious about getting your work out there, to having your name float around by the water cooler.

If the basic is that you want to write, you don’t need a guide, you don’t need a professional telling you what to do, you don’t need even me to say anything. You just go for it! That’s all it takes.

I’ve wanted to be a serious runner for years now. You know how I started? I pulled on my sweats and went running. I put my shoes on and I tied my hair back and I went for it. I’ve spent days and weeks before, not doing anything because I injured myself or I was too nervous or I wasn’t motivated enough, and then finally, I was done just sitting around. I wanted to run for thirty minutes without having or needing to stop. I got a fire in my shoes and went.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Do you want to get published, or do you just want to write, for yourself, to become like JD Salinger who got famous and then went into recluse status?

This isn’t about anyone else but you. This is what you want, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I’ve had HUGE struggles, but I still feel like I’m only just beginning on this road. It’s going to take time and effort and patience and you’re going to have to slave away sometimes. If that’s not what you want, then don’t feel pressured or obligated to do it anyway.

I will admit that the post she made about becoming a runner is well done. It covers the basics, obviously, and gives you an overview of what to expect and how to start out.

But the only real criteria here is that you start. Run. Write. Do what your heart sings for. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not or that you can’t be for one reason or another. If you like it, and you do it, it’s what you are. The only determining factor of you being anything else, is you.

-The Novice Wordsmith