of writers are taking on the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo),
writing 50,000 words of a single novel in the 30 days of November. This annual
challenge has helped a lot of people jump start a new project or finish one
that’s been languishing. To meet the challenge, authors have to force
themselves to draft their story quickly.
some tips to help with fast drafting:
* Have a
place to start.
* Have a
place to end.
* Have some
general idea of how you might get from point 1 to 2.
worry if the ending changes
fuss over the details.
* Do NOT
worry about craft.
* Focus on
you’re not writing, mull over the next scene.
* Just keep
typing / writing.
re-read enough to get back into the story for fresh writing.
finally, HAVE FUN!!
to everyone who’s attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge! Happy writing. May your
muse cooperate to make it an exciting and fun month of fast drafting. With a
little effort, you’ll have a book—or most of a book—finished come December 1st.♥
Isabo Kelly is the award-winning author of science
fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance stories. Her latest release, Warrior’s
Dawn (Fire and Tears #3), benefited greatly from the progressive outline. For
more on Isabo and her books, visit her at www.isabokelly.com, friend her on
Facebook www.facebook.com/IsaboKelly , or follow her on Twitter @IsaboKelly.
This October, I was
privileged to read from my book THE SILENCE OF THE STARS to a standing-room-only
crowd at the legendary Stonewall Inn.
The bar itself is kind
of a dive, to be honest, and always has been, but its significance in the
history of the LGBT rights movement cannot be denied. This was the site, after
all, of the famous riots that gave rise to the modern LGBT rights movement. So
when I was offered the opportunity to read from my gay romance there, I jumped
at it. But that’s kind of just a fun beside the point.
So readings. There seem
to be some truths universally acknowledged about them. Pretty much everyone
asked me if I was nervous or dreading it. I think that’s kind of expected now,
huh? Writers are reclusive introverts, right? Now we’re asked to get on a stage
in front of a room full of people? The horror!
Well, no. I will admit,
the very first time I ever read, I was so nervous, my hands shook through most
of it. But my fear was more of screwing up because I’m a perfectionist, not so
much a fear of public speaking per se. Since then? It’s not so bad. It’s kind
of fun, actually.
Here’s the thing,
though: I’m no stranger to standing in front of people and talking. I was on
debate teams in high school and college, and later taught debate classes. So I
learned at a young age to improvise speeches in front of judges with score
sheets. Reading published text is nothing in comparison. Also, as a violinist,
I’ve had to play solos and do recitals, and I swear, nothing is more
nerve-wracking. I’m the sort of musician who would rather be in an orchestra,
to blend in.
So for this reading, in
which I was reading from a book I’ve read from before, I wasn’t really nervous.
I did have a brief moment of panic when I realized the lights in my face were
so bright I couldn’t see the audience and I wondered if one of my friends had
made it back from the bathroom in time, and also if a T. rex had been coming at
me, I would not have noticed, and that made it a little tricky to breathe for a
second. I tend to zone out when I’m reading, though. That’s an old debate
trick, actually; if you read without thinking about what you’re reading, you’re
less likely to stumble, so I kind of go into autopilot when I’ve got text in
front of me to read aloud. (I circle words that I mean to emphasize in my hard
copy—also an old debate trick—so my brain knows what to do there, too.)
Anyway. My point is that
readings, while not exactly no sweat, are not too traumatic for me, so I like
to do them, just like I like doing conferences because I like talking to
people. It’s kind of a manner of framing. I find that so much advice to authors
is “how to survive this…” as if attending a conference were walking into a war
The thing with any kind
of promotion be it in person or online, is that if you’re doing something you
actively hate doing, it’s going to be clear to everyone. If reading in front of
people is unbearable, it’s not the right promotional opportunity for you.
Readings can be great. I’ve bought books at events like Lady Jane’s Salon by authors
I was unfamiliar with before-hand because the reading knocked my socks off.
If reading in front of
people is not one of your strengths, there are many other avenues for promotion.
I’m not exactly saying, “Don’t do it!” There are ways to triumph over nerves at
a reading. Practicing helps a lot. But if, for example, you’re the sort of
author who is socially phobic enough to spend most of a conference in your
hotel room, you’re probably not getting the most bang for your buck. No offense
to those with social anxiety, which is a real issue a lot of people face, but
if you have to put yourself through trauma for the sake of promoting a book? It
might be time to find another promotional avenue.
I like doing promotion
in person and am less good at the Internet. I update my blog and Twitter
sporadically and rarely post to Facebook. (I actively hate Facebook, in fact.)
Your mileage may vary. If you’re better at online promotion, that is certainly
a most excellent way to meet readers, without even changing out of your
pajamas. If getting near social media gives you hives, there are other
avenues—maybe a long-form blog is something you’re better suited for. Maybe you
want to reach readers with a newsletter. But online, too, the same advice
applies: if social media is something you have to survive, it’s probably not
the best medium for you.
I think of it this way.
I don’t just want to survive. I want to thrive as an author and businesswoman.
That means, in order to conquer the promotional mountain, I pick things I’m
good at doing. I play to my strengths. I like Twitter and think it’s fun, so I
put the bulk of my social media energy there; likewise, if you’re a Facebook
addict, parlay that into book promotion. I’m not the best at posting to my blog
regularly, but I am great at conferences and I love doing panels and readings.
Pick something you like and are good at, and promotion will feel
like less of a slog.
Doing promotional work
you like will also help you keep the message upbeat and positive. You want to
celebrate your work, not give the impression you’re pushing your book on the
unwilling masses. I think we, and women in particular, tend to feel like we
should be quiet and not crowing about our achievements too much.
There’s also a tendency
to go negative, especially online when you can’t see the faces of the people
you’re talking to. But hey, you wrote a book! That’s awesome. And there are
people out there who want to read it. So find effective ways to tell them about
Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an
unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction
editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball.
She’s currently serving as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT
romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit
her at www.katemcmurray.com.
“To comma, or not to comma,
that is the question!”
You will, I pray, excuse the ghastly usage in the above
subtitle. The word “comma” is, of course, not a verb and should never be used
as one. It is merely my poor attempt at wit, in the hope of grabbing your
attention. Now that I have it, let us get on to the subject at hand.
One of the most common confusions about the use of commas
is in a series. Consider the following sentences:
• The bride’s attendants included her sister,
sister-in-law, cousin, and best friend.
• The bride’s attendants included her sister,
sister-in-law, cousin and best friend.
The difference is the comma after the word “cousin.”
Which sentence is correct? The answer is they both are.
When the last comma comes after the penultimate item in a
series, it is known as an Oxford comma. Generally, newspapers and magazines
omit the Oxford comma, whereas fiction and non-fiction books do not. This is
not a hard and fast rule, however, and writers may choose either style, as long
as they are consistent.
There are some instances where the Oxford comma is
desirable, regardless of one’s usual preference. It may be necessary to avoid
confusion such as in the following example:
• The menu choices were salmon, lobster, fish and chips,
Here, the final comma makes it clear that fish and chips
is one dish, not two.
Another source of confusion is whether to use a comma
before a coordinating conjunction that combines two independent clauses.
Independent clauses are phrases that can stand alone as complete sentences.
Coordinating conjunctions include “and,” “or,” “but,” and “so.”
Generally, longer sentences combining independent clauses
include the comma, while shorter ones do not:
• Benedict raised his hand to answer the question, but
the teacher chose to ignore him.
• Julian laughed but Anna wept.
Often, comma use is indicated when a pause would
naturally occur in a sentence. Read it carefully, and see if you can detect a
pause. If a reader would need to take a breath, then a comma may be appropriate.
In certain types of sentences there is a definitive rule on comma use, but in
the case of coordinating conjunctions you may use your own judgment. (I will
discuss subordinating conjunctions in a future column, as space here does not
permit it.) Grammar is as much an art as
a science, and grammarians sometimes vehemently disagree, much to the
bewilderment of writers. Though most grammar rules are not open to opinion, we
writers must navigate the murky waters between the ambiguous and the absolute.♥
Lisbeth Eng works as a
Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical
romance by night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and speaks a
smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.
It’s that time of
year!!! National Novel Writing Month, or more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo,
Last year popped my
NaNoWriMo cherry and this year? I am SO excited to get this book done. Also, I
have a deadline looming and this is the perfect kick in the ass I’ll need. You
see, November is a notoriously busy month for me. And I’ve been in a bit of a
writer’s slump lately. Hopefully, this is just the kick in the pants I need. In
preparation, I’ve been researching tips to make November as successful as
possible. Here is what I’ve compiled:
By creating an outline
(however you find it easiest to do so) will help on those days you find it
difficult to write. Thwarting writer’s block is tough, but the more prepared
you are for what you will be working on each day, the more successful each day
2) Don’t Edit.
The whole idea of
NaNoWriMo is quantity not quality. For this month, don’t revise. Don’t edit.
Just keep writing. If November is National Novel WRITING Month, then December
should be considered National Novel EDITING Month.
3) Create a comfortable
Have a specific area set
up that is just for you and your laptop. Keep it tidy. Make it
inspired–whatever that means for you. For me, I have an inspiration board I
like to reference. For my husband, he likes a minimalist environment. Determine
what you need to be the most successful.
4) Set your goals.
overwrite. In order to make it to the 50k in the month of November, you need to
write 1,666 words every day. Because I know I will need to take a couple of
days off, I plan on setting myself a goal of 2,000 words a day at least 5 days
a week. Then, the goal on top of the goal is to exceed the initial goal.
5) Set aside the time of
day that best works for you. Then stick to your schedule.
For many, writing in the
early morning is ideal for them. Waking up at 5am and writing until 7am when
the kiddos need to wake for school is ideal. For me, I’m a night owl. My ideal
writing time is either during the day (after lunch), or midnight – 2am.
6) Form or join a
community of other writers participating.
Self explanatory, right?
Writers are known for holing themselves up in their office with one dim light
and a pot of coffee. But having a support group of sorts for this type of
competition is key.
7) Set rewards for
Little rewards along the
way are motivating. Offering yourself a hot chocolate for meeting your daily
goal. Or buying that cute dress in the shop window you've passed each day when
you meet the weekly goal. Keep yourself motivated. Keep yourself going.
8) Assemble your
writer’s block first aid kit.
This could mean a lot.
It could be a physical kit or a virtual kit. Your physical kit could (in
theory) contain a dictionary, a thesaurus, story dice, cute pens and pencils,
assorted paper, number dice, baby naming books (for character names), your
outline, a couple of current magazines, creativity card deck, and a stress
ball. Your virtual kit could contain: Pinterest, a timer, Scrivener, etc. This
year, I’ve put together a jar of Popsicle sticks. Written on these sticks are
random sentences for when I don’t know how to start. I grab a stick at random
and begin to get the creativity flowing. It’s also a fun challenge!
Despite the crazy busy
November month and your day job and holiday shopping–find time to read and be
inspired by other people’s words.
10) Turn off your
Trust me and just do it.
Right now, I should be working on my novel….but here I am dicking around on
11) Write your scenes
out of order.
This is one of those
tricks I always say that I’ll try and I never do. I’m a very sequentially
motivated writer, so the idea of writing a scene that comes later in the book
first gives me heart palpitations. But I understand the sentiment behind it and
it’s worth a try on those slump days!
So, that’s it! I’ll see
you on the flip side (otherwise known as December)!♥
Katana Collins is best known for writing steam-your-glasses romances.
Between navigating life as a small business owner, a first-time homeowner, and
a newlywed, Kat is in a constant state of “OHMYGODINEEDCOFFEENOW.” She is the
author of the Soul Stripper trilogy, Wicked Exposure, and the graphic novel,
Cafe Racer, co-written with Sean Murphy. She and her comic book artist husband
commute back and forth as they please between Brooklyn, NY and Portland, ME
with their ever-growing family of rescue animals. She can usually be found
hunched over her laptop in a cafe, guzzling gallons of coffee, and wearing
fabulous (albeit sometimes impractical) shoes.