NaNoWriMo & the Power of Positive Peer Pressure

Nano Crest

Guest Post by Eldon Hughes

P to the 4th power? P-Diddlying? Whatever.

It’s what doing NaNoWriMo successfully is all about, taking advantage of the power of positive peer pressure.

Every year since 1999 a growing horde of strangers and friends get together in groups, online and face to face, all over the world. At the end of the month, many of them will claim the prize — the title of Author of a book more than 50,000 words long.

NaNo crestYears ago I was the first Municipal Liaison for the (Southern) Illinois – Elsewhere group. Yeah, “Elsewhere.” That was my second NaNo. I ML’d a couple more years and then passed it on to others who lived closer to the neighborhood. I’ve won every year I’ve attempted NaNo (7-8? times.) If you’re interested, you can read one of my NaNo Novels, Willie & Frank, here. Even better, you can get Dust to Dust, Book Two of the Poison and Wine Series, here.  It was written over a NaNo. Some would suggest that that’s cheating, since it was written by two people.  I would point out that the first draft, written during NaNo, topped 100K.

Sometimes NaNoing involved being cheered on by and cheering on others. Sometimes it was challenging myself against people online. Sometimes it was sitting, face to face, in a room full of people just as enchanted by the magic of words as I am. People who share our particular brand of crazy.   I can tell you that about half of Willie & Frank came from dares or challenges that year’s local NaNo group gave me.

Rounding the numbers, last year 690,000 people announced their own start in the novel attempt. 310,000 of them reported crossing the 50,000 word mark. Less than half is about normal. My guess is, some of those who didn’t make it started the month more in love with the idea of being a writer than they were with words. (We’ve all met folks that.) My bet? Most of the rest, who didn’t finish, didn’t take advantage of the power of positive peer pressure.

You can find the nearest NaNo Groups to you, on the NaNo website. Not every group is right for every writer. If there are several, find the one that works for you. Some of them are more motivated by the word wars than the words themselves. Some are more interested in chatting and talking about the writing they are doing when they aren’t together than actually writing at the gatherings. Some are a smile, a wave and a “how many words have you got?” Then they are heads down over keyboards or paper and pen, back at the writing. — A quiet acknowledgement of the shared madness, if you will.

None of those are wrong, per se. But which one is right for you? Maybe you aren’t a face to face kind of person. I hope you will at least try it and find out first, but maybe your group is on Facebook? Or Twitter? Or the NaNo site?

If there’s not a group anywhere near you? Start your own.  NaNo prefers that their Municipal Liaisons be past NaNo Winners. They also prefer that they apply for this unpaid, volunteer position by July.  But they love to hear from motivated writers who want to volunteer.

For that matter, go rogue. Go wild.  If you’re writing in the middle of nowhere, like I am these days, slap up some “contact me” cards at any area coffee shop, library, craft shops or anywhere used books are sold. Basically, the kinds of places you like. You’re a writer, makes sense other writers like those places, too, yeah? Make a few like minded contacts and shazam, you’re in a group of writers.  Just remember, even if we all share the “writer crazy”– we still aren’t all the same.  What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa.  Remember, NaNoWriMo is about writing, not editing. So, no critics allowed. Just muses and writers.  Find the group that motivates your writing. The group you feel good about encouraging.

Then go write.

One bit of repeat here — NO EDITING. Save editing until next year. Literally, next year. November is for writing. Write with abandon. Write hard. Write.

And, when you cross the 50K mark? Come back here, to the comments, and crow about it! Shout it from a rooftop. Tell strangers. A lovely writer friend of mine put the period to the sentence where she crossed 50K and then stood on her chair, waved her arms like wings and sang like an angel. The whole room cheered and applauded. We were in a Barnes & Noble at the time. It was hysterical, it was beautiful, it was glorious. She deserved glorious.  So will you. Because you will have earned it, and no one can ever take it away from you. Go. Write. I’ll meet you back here in November.

Eldon Hughes
“Williebee” (NaNo & AW)
@Williebee
www.ifoundaknife.com

 

P. N. Elrod Offers Critique

Picture of P. N. Elrod's dog Fuzzy.
P. N. Elrod’s dog Fuzzy.

That’s right, P. N. Elrod the multi-talented author of The Vampire Files urban fantasy series (among many other books and genres) is offering critiques.

This isn’t something she does lightly, and this is a rare opportunity to have a sample of your writing critiqued by a pro.

Elrod is offering critiques to help pay the bills for her miracle dog Fuzzy; that’s Fuzzy in the picture. Fuzzy’s medical bills are in the triple digits. P. N. Elrod is offering critiques to help pay them down.

Here are P. N. Elrod’s terms for a critique.  They’re reasonable, and yes, affordable for even the frugal. She’s also put up some items—Doctor Who Goodies, and original cover art painting—for sale in P. N. Elrod’s Garage Sale (scroll all the way to the bottom to read Fuzzy’s story).

Even if it’s not for you, if you have writerly friends who might benefit from the knowledge of a working writing professional, please spread the word!

Improv Writing

Welcome, AWers! Are you looking for a terrific way to inspire your imagination and make writing fresh and fun again? This week’s guest post by Eldon Hughes offers a creative approach that’s worked for him, maybe it’ll give you a fresh path to follow, as well! — Mac

Guest Post by Eldon Hughes

Improv writing.

Does it work?  I hope so.  C. H. Valentino and I have written two books, so far, this way.

The first one, Poison and Wine, came out in March and is available from the usual online places. Amazon – Nook (print and iBooks coming soon.)

It wasn’t planned that way. It was just a writing exercise that became a story and then grew a world of its own. But isn’t that how the best stories work?

“It’s like taking your imagination ice skating, or inviting someone else’s brain out on a playdate.”

Along the way we get exercise in active reading, active writing voice, scene setting and effective description from within the character’s points of view (because we want our partner to understand, without saying it out right, where we think the story might be going.)

So, here’s the premise. I’m going to ask you three questions, or maybe five, or maybe just one.  I’m going to pull the questions “out of thin air.”  They might be core character questions, or wild tangents:

  1. Good or Evil?
  2. Male or Female?
  3. What’s in your pocket?
  4. Painter or cook?
  5. Himalayas or Salton Sea?

You’re going to do the same thing for me.  The answers are a kick off point for our new characters.  There are NO wrong answers.  How we answer, and how we choose to interpret and act on those answers is up to us.

Then pick a place in the world. It helps if we both have at least a little bit of familiarity with it, or quick fingers and an understanding of how to use an internet search engine like Google.

It also helps if we can literally be on the same page.  And, we can. Google Drive (including Docs) is free for personal use, as well as for non-profits and schools.  Sign up for a free Gmail account and you have Google Docs. (Along with a lot of other really cool free tools.)

One of us creates a document, uses the blue “Share” button (you’ll see it) to share that document with the other, by email address.  We both open the document, and where ever we are online, we’re typing on the same page, at the same time.  The game, dear writer, is afoot.

You write your character. I’ll write mine.  Somewhere in the first couple of graphs they are going to meet, interact, conflict, compete, maybe even come together around a central theme.  It’s up to us and our skill as writers.

Most of the same basic rules apply as in acting improvs:

  • “Yes, and” — If you write, “Have you seen my elephant?” I accept the existence of an elephant, whether in view or not.  The response might be, “Yes, and he was quite tasty, thank you”  or a more complex version of the rule — the “no, but” — “No, have you seen my mouse?”  (I accept your elephant and imply there may be a fable happening just out of sight.)
  •  “Drive the scene toward the story” — I don’t remember who said it first, but every line either moves the story along or reveals something about the character.
  •  “You look better when both writers look good.” When we’re both writing well, the story gets better as well.
  •  “Don’t ask open ended (obvious) questions,” instead let the descriptions and the character’s words and actions reveal who they are and what they are up to.

One more thing? No quitting. Set a time limit or a word count as a goal and write until “the bell rings.”  “Writers write, right?”

Eldon Hughes is a writer, storyteller and education technologist.  His website is www.ifoundaknife.com.

One Publisher’s Journey

Guest Post by Benjamin LeRoy

I’ve been a steady lurker on the Absolute Write forums since 2005. Every now and again I jump into a thread if I feel like there’s something I can contribute. Most of the time, though my impulse is to get involved when a new publishing company gets called to the carpet, I resist the urge. Because even though as a community we have a sense of wanting to correct people who are either intentionally deceitful or willfully ignorant, we know how they tend to respond, and we know it isn’t worth the effort.

Having started two independent publishing companies since 2000 (first Bleak House Books, then Tyrus Books in 2009), I’d like to think I’ve gained some perspective on what it means to run a small press in an ever changing publishing landscape. I also know that many of those lessons had to come through trial and error and that I couldn’t have understood where I was going wrong until I got there.

What’s the old saying? “It’s not what you don’t know that will kill you, it’s what you don’t know you don’t know.”

That. Or something like it.

One caveat that is frequently issued during the discussion of new publishers is, “Wait a year or two and see if they’re still around.”

Because anybody can get an idea to start a publishing company on Monday and hang a shingle on Tuesday, it’s important to understand that there are a lot of unqualified people claiming to be something they aren’t—at least aren’t in the way that an author needs them to be.

Many times when these new publishers are asked what they bring to the table, they make a half-hearted and ill-informed pronouncement that “New York publishing is broken. Big Six publishers don’t take chances on unknown authors. That’s why I started an independent publishing house!” A string of gibberish buzzwords usually follow. “We care about our authors,” etc.

There’s an effort to establish a war between the Big Six and Independent Publishers. (For clarity’s sake, I’m using “independent publisher” in its longer understood definition, and not as a synonym for an “indie author.”)

The problem with Fly By Night Publishing jumping into the fray of an imaginary war between the Big Six and Independent Publishers is that it, on some level, bunches all Independent Publishers together in some monolithic block. That there is some unifying agent among them. That the independent publisher that’s been around for decades is on near equal footing as the guy who started his company with no experience this morning.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Getting into publishing requires very little. There are no tests to take. You can file incorporation papers for less than $100, put up a website for even less. Creating a viable publishing program that gets respect from the industry and the attention of readers is another matter entirely.

This is the story of how I got to where I am (and I am still a relative unknown in the greater scheme of the publishing world). It shows that for all of the nice talk about “dreams,” there has to be a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and luck to make dreams come true.

And when they do come true—it’s kinda awesome.

Benjamin LeRoy, Publisher
Tyrus Books
You can follow Tyrus Books on Twitter!

 

link: http://heydeadguy.typepad.com/heydeadguy/2013/03/the-persistence-of-roots-and-vines-1.html

A Month of Letters


Hugo Award-winning author and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal started a delightful challenge, during a month-long hiatus from the Internet in 2010, to correspond with her via letter. That has grown to become A Month of Letters, which runs for the whole of February. During the next month, I and the other 6,000 people who’ve signed up to participate will be writing letters, post cards, and doing other creative things and dropping them into the mail.

I love to write longhand — the feel of the paper beneath my fingers, the consideration that goes into inscribing each character — and this gives me a wonderful reason to do so. That’s where you come in. I’m looking for more people to write to — the more the merrier. If you would like to receive a genuine, hand-written letter from yours truly, send me your address. Email me, message me on Twitter or Facebook, or use my contact form.

This is an opportunity to rekindle friendships and make new ones, without the limitations of Twitter or the haste of email. Let’s write!

________________

Adam Israel is a talented writer and a longtime member of AW. He blogs at http://www.adamisrael.com, and you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re too shy to write a letter to Adam, but you want to write a letter to someone who really needs one? Maybe you could write a Letter to Noah. — Mac

Thrillerfest 2013!

Dive Into The World of Thrillers at THRILLERFEST

Guest Post, by Alma Katsu 

If you write commercial fiction and are looking for a great writing conference, I recommend you check out the International Thriller Writers (ITW) annual event, ThrillerFest. It’s a four-day extravaganza held every year in early July in New York City, close to the publishing industry to ensure participation by editors and agents as well as lots of published authors. If you’re looking for a way to become part of the mystery and thriller genre, you might find that this is the conference you’ve been waiting for.

There are two things that most writers want when they’re at the pre-publication stage: advice on how to make their stories better, and opportunities to meet the editors and literary agents who will make their dreams come true. Craftfest and Agentfest, part of Thrillerfest, are designed to fill those needs.

At Craftfest, you’ll attend sessions on the craft of writing commercial fiction, taught by bestselling authors and some of the top editors in the field. There aren’t many conferences where you’ll learn about dramatic structure or characterization from Lee Child, John Sandford, Steve Berry, or acclaimed agent Donald Maass. While the line-up of presenters changes from year to year  at Craftfest, you’ll find that every instructor at is of the same high caliber.

There are typically over 50 agents at Agentfest to take your pitches. You can see some of the agents who’ve attended in the past here: if you’re looking to pitch to the top agents representing mystery, thriller and suspense, this is where you’ll find them all in one place. And if you’ve never pitched before, don’t worry, there’s a workshop beforehand to teach you the ropes.

At Thrillerfest, you’ll get two days of multiple tracks of panels and spotlight interviews with the biggest names in the field, all designed to teach you about the business of writing commercial fiction. You’ll find panels with some of the most respected editors from the Big Six Publishers: Neil Nyren, senior vice-president and publisher of Putnam, and Mark Tavani, senior editor at Ballantine Books, have been speakers in past years. There are also workshops on related subjects—everything from martial arts to the espionage business—taught by experts.

One of the best things about Thrillerfest is that you get the opportunity to network with authors of all levels of experience—from long-time bestsellers to novices. At my first Thrillerfest, imagine my surprise when I was joined at breakfast by Erica Spindler and Heather Graham! That’s one of the most amazing things about Thrillerfest: everyone is approachable and open.

And while the opportunity to meet big name authors in your genre is a pretty compelling reason to attend, an even better one is that at Thrillerfest you have the chance to meet writers just like you who will likely go on to be your ally in the industry throughout your career—and I can attest to that myself. I met legal thriller writer Allison Leotta when we sat next to each other on stage for the 2011 Debut Author class and today we’re best buds, calling each other for advice and appearing at events together.

As a matter of fact, that’s why I volunteered to write this guest post for ITW: I’ve gotten a lot from Thrillerfest over the years and I wanted to give something back by spreading the word. If you’ve been looking for a writer’s conference that will open doors for you, you might want to read about a few of Thrillerfest’s success stories:

  • Boyd Morrison, author of THE ROSWELL CONSPIRACY, THE CATALYST, ROGUE WAVE and THE VAULT (Pocket Books)

Are you ready to find out more? Click on the links above to go to the Thrillerfest website; you’ll find everything you need. And if you come to Thrillerfest in July, make sure to look for me and say hello!

Alma Katsu is the author of THE TAKER and THE RECKONING, paranormal thrillers published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. THE TAKER was an ALA Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 and has rights that have been sold in 15 languages. 

Looking for a 2013 Writing Workshop?

I just got this press release, so I thought I’d pass it along to all of you.

ODYSSEY WRITING WORKSHOP ANNOUNCES ITS 18th SUMMER SESSION

About Odyssey
Since its founding in 1996, Odyssey has become one of the most respected workshops in the fantasy, science fiction, and horror writing community. Odyssey is for developing writers whose work is approaching publication quality and for published writers who want to improve their work. The six-week workshop combines advanced lectures, exercises, extensive writing, and in-depth feedback on student manuscripts. Top authors, editors, and agents have served as guest lecturers, including George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Robert J. Sawyer, Ben Bova, Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Hand, Jeff VanderMeer, Donald Maass, Sheila Williams, Shawna McCarthy, Carrie Vaughn, and Dan Simmons. Fifty-eight percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication.

The program is held every summer on Saint Anselm College‘s beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Saint Anselm is one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country, dedicated to excellence in education, and its campus provides a peaceful setting and state-of-the-art facilities for Odyssey students. College credit is available upon request.

Jeanne Cavelos, Odyssey’s director and primary instructor, is a best-selling author and a former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won the World Fantasy Award for her work. As an editor, Cavelos gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers. She provides students with detailed, concrete, constructive critiques of their work. Cavelos said, “I’ve worked with many different writers, and I know that each writer thinks and works differently. We limit attendance at Odyssey to sixteen, so I can become deeply familiar with the work of each student and provide assessments of strengths and weaknesses. I work individually with each student, helping each to find the best writing process for him, suggesting specific tools to target weaknesses, and charting progress over the six weeks.” Her critiques average over 1,200 words, and her handwritten line edits on manuscripts are extensive.

Odyssey class time is split between workshopping sessions and lectures. An advanced, comprehensive curriculum covers the elements of fiction writing in depth. While feedback reveals the weaknesses in students’ manuscripts, lectures teach the tools and techniques necessary to strengthen them.

The workshop runs from June 10 to July 19, 2013. Class meets for four hours in the morning, five days a week. Students spend about eight hours more per day writing and critiquing each other’s work. Prospective students, aged eighteen and up, apply from all over the world. The early action application deadline is JANUARY 31, and the regular admission deadline is APRIL 8. Tuition is $1,920, and housing is $790 for a double room in a campus apartment and $1,580 for a single room.

This year, Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $1,920 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go.

Meet Our 2013 Writer-in-Residence
Odyssey’s 2013 writer-in-residence, Nancy Holder, is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of adult, young adult, middle grade, and early reader work, both fiction and nonfiction. She has sold approximately 80 novels and 200 short stories, comic books, and essays in various genres. She has taught creative writing classes at the University of California at San Diego, the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference, and other conferences and colleges, and has been on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing for seven years.

Other Guest Lecturers
Lecturers for the 2013 workshop include some of the best teachers in the field: award-winning authors Holly Black, Patricia Bray, Adam-Troy Castro, and Jack Ketchum; and the two-time Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, Sheila Williams.

Odyssey Graduates
Graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop have been published in the top fiction magazines and by the top book publishers in the field. Their stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Weird Tales, Lightspeed, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Clarkesworld. Some of the recent novels published by Odyssey graduates are Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn, published by Tor Books; Lies & Omens: A Shadows Inquiries Novel by Lyn Benedict, published by Ace Books; Spellcrossed by Barbara Ashford, published by DAW; Silver by Rhiannon Held, published by Tor Books; and Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes, published by Roc Books.

Comments from the Class of 2012
“I learned more in six weeks at Odyssey than I did in three years in an MFA program.” – Jessie Robie

“Jeanne is the most thorough and hard-working instructor I’ve ever met. Odyssey has changed me as a writer. I can’t imagine a finer education or experience.” – James Khan

“I was afraid Odyssey would change my writing and take away what made it mine and unique, but I was so wrong. At Odyssey, I developed a sense of control over those gut feelings I used to have—when I sensed something was off but just could not figure out what it was. . . . Odyssey is like a writer paradise. You might not want to change when you get here, but you will. Later, you won’t want to leave, but when you do, you leave with a purpose.” – Jessica May Lin

Other Odyssey Resources and Services
The Odyssey Web site, www.odysseyworkshop.org, offers many resources for writers, including online classes, a critique service, free podcasts, writing and publishing tips, and a monthly blog. Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the Web site, phone (603) 673-6234, or e-mail jcavelos@sff.net.

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