Sunday, December 5, 2010

Of Nanowrimo 2010

Three things have helped to delay updates to this blog.  Two are Xbox 360 games - Fable 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.  All I will say about them here is that they are great games that make time race by without you realizing it.  Not always a good thing when you're trying to keep up a blog.

The third thing that has taken copious amounts of time is National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as Nanowrimo or Nano.  The premise is a simple one: During the month of November, start a new book, and write the first 50,000 words before midnight November 30th.

That number is not a typo.  Fifty thousand words.  If you do the math, it comes to about 1700 words or 7 pages a day.  That is a lot of words.

I've been participating in Nano since 2004.  I pulled off the 50,000 word count in 2005 and 2006, then went through several years when I didn't even come close.

I vowed 2010 was going to be different.

So what did I do?  And did I make the goal? 

One thing that was very important: I wrote EVERY DAY.  Given that my fiction writing was spotty to the point of non-existent in October, this is a big deal.

Every day in November, I packed up my laptop and headed to my favorite coffee shop where I sat and wrote.  On Saturdays when the coffee shop was closed I went to our local Panera's and wrote there.  But each day found me adding words to the work.

On my worst day I only wrote 581 words.  My best day? 3,345.  Those happened in the same week, by the way, which probably means something funny but I can't think what.

Another thing I did was work off a proposal.  I'd gone to a Marketing Workshop in October and we had to come up with proposals for novels we wanted to write.  A total of five, if I'm remembering correctly.

The one I chose - "Oracle of My Enemy" - was a fantasy proposal.  Reading it over, I felt I'd given myself enough of a foundation with what I'd outlined that I could dive into it headlong and blast out the 50,000 words.

Maybe you can just dive into a novel and chug along.  I need at least a foundation, lest I get to the middle of a novel and find myself lost in the wilderness.  Having the proposal was something for me to lean on when I asked myself, "What happens next?" - but was flexible enough I could change things if they didn't work in the story.

I also am blessed that I have a husband who has at least a glimmer of understanding about what Nano meant to me.  Don saw to it I got out of bed early in the morning so I could get out and get the writing done.  He was understanding that some things, such as exercise and housework, fell by the wayside while I went on this quest.  And he asked me how it was going, cheering me on when the wordcount was good, encouraging me when it wasn't what I wanted it to be.

You can have a writing career without your spouse's support, but let me tell you it's a lot easier when they're behind you all the way.

I typed the 50,000th word on November 28th - two days early.  It was a very emotional moment for me, accomplishing this goal after weeks of struggling with my creative brain.  I'd done it - I'd won Nano.

Was it worth it?  Was it worth pushing myself like I did, for a victory that to many would be merely symbolic?

Well, I now have more than 1/2 a novel (that I'm working on finishing).  I also have some confidence in my creative abilities restored after wondering if my creative brain had broken. 

And I've proven that, if I have to, I can pound out 50,000 words of new fiction in a month.

So yeah, very much worth every minute.

Did you do Nano?  Let me know what your experience was like!  Just leave a comment below...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiivng!!

I hope all my readers have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday! 

Sorry for being so quiet - I blame National Novel Writing Month - but I hope to be posting again soon!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Writing and Learning

Please forgive the two-week silence.  I was away at a writing workshop for 10 days and busy this week resting up and catching up with things on the home front.

The workshop, run by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, was about marketing.  We discussed the state of the current publishing market and ways to better market ourselves and our work.

It was quite interesting.  I got a lot of tools for my writing toolbox and information that is encouraging and exciting at this time.  I even put up my first e-pub - a short story.  You can check it out here if you have a Kindle, and here for other ereaders.

But I want to focus for a moment on writers learning their craft.  Yes, what we do is art, but there are still a lot of things to learn about that art.

When I started taking writing seriously, I could tell a story.  But my craft flaws kept readers from getting to and enjoying the story.  So I had to learn the craft of writing - and learn it well enough it went into my subconscious and came out my fingers.

My craft is a lot better than it was five years ago.  It still needs work - I just put aside a book I was working on because I realized I don't have the skill yet to write it.  I'll try it again next year, and learn more in the meantime.  Learning is an ongoing process - no good writer will say they know it all.

So how do we learn?

  •  Books.  There are some good books about writing out there.  I recommend Stephen King's On Writing to anyone interested in getting serious about the craft.  Look for other books written by successful writers. 

  • Workshops.  A good workshop can help your craft along and speed your improvement.  Conversely, a bad workshop can set you back and teach you stuff that'll slow down any progress.  Do your homework when it comes to workshops.  Find out who's running it, and what their qualifications are.  Ask good writers you know what workshops they would recommend.

  • Practice.  I don't know why we writers shy away from the word practice.  But it's something we need to do.  Use a short story or novel you're working on and practice something - maybe this time it's getting in the 5 senses every two pages, next time you're working on character voice, and another time you're focusing on cliffhangers.  But pick something and work on it.  And realize every word you write can be practice, so write a lot.  The upside?  Sometimes we can sell our practice sessions to an editor.
That's all about learning for now.  Is there a topic in writing you would like me to talk about?  Leave me a comment.  I look forward to hearing from other writers about these things.  Good luck, and don't be afraid to learn!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rules # 4 and 5: You Must Send Out What You Write (and keep sendiing it out)

I hope you've been enjoying these posts of mine.  I don't claim to be the most knowlegable writer on the planet but hopefully there's been some nuggets of wisdom here and there.

I'm combining the last two rules because they are closely related.  Rule #4 states you must send out what you write.  Rule #5 says that when it comes back, you send it right back out the door.

Send out what we write?  To, like, editors?


It takes some courage to send out our work.  We put part of ourselves in what we write.  Sometimes when we give it to someone else to read it feels as if we're sending our baby to school for the first time.  Will they like it?  Hate it?  And what if they reject it?  Doesn't that mean they hated it and us?


Ive sent stories out to dozens of editors.  I have a large collection of rejection slips.  I'm not saying they don't give me a twinge of disappointment at times.

But here's what I've learned - a rejection simply means an editor is not buying your story.

It has nothing to do with you.  It might have nothing to do with the quality of your story.  Stories are rejected for a variety of reasons.  Maybe it didn't fit the idea they had in mind.  Or they just bought something that was similar.  Or any of a number of reasons that have nothing to do with quality.

If you send out a story, the worst thing  that will happen is the editor will reject it.  That's it.  No one dies, your family willl still love you, and you are still a writer.

Sometimes we tie our self-esteem into our stories and their fates.  We can't do this.  If you are going to succeed in the business of writing you are going to hear "no" a lot more often than you will hear "yes."  And the writers who succeed in the business are the ones who persevere through the "no's" to get to the "yes's."

That's why you keep sending out even if it comes back.  So one person didn't want it - how do you know someone else won't?  Everyone is different.That's why you don't give up just because someone doesn't buy it.

I was recently concentrating on fulfilling rule #5 because I'd let a lot of stories pile up at home.  So I made an effort to research markets and shove everything out the door.  The result?  As I type this I have 3 novels sitting on various editor's desks, and  56 short stories (if I'm counting right).

That's a lot of words out there.  I'm hoping that in all that there's a "yes" or two in all that.  If not, I know what to do - keep sending it out!

Okay, so send out, but where?

Here are free two websites that are worth checking out for short story markets:

For novels, consider subscribing to .  It's $20 a month but chock full of information concerning publishers. is another subscription site for both novels and short story publishers.

Do your homework, write your best, and follow the rules!  You do that and you will find yourself a published writer at some point!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rule #3: You Must Not Rewrite (unless to editorial demand)

This is a tough rule for some writers to get their heads around.  Before I weigh in on it, you need to read two very excellent posts on the topic, both on Dean Wesley Smith's blog: here and then here.  Go read them, I'll wait.

Okay, everyone back?  Let's chat about this.

I don't know why people get angry about this.  But apparently they do.  Can someone explain it to me?

Maybe it doesn't bother me because I was blissfully ignorant of this myth for the most part.  I get the reasoning as well.  Writing and rewriting require two different knds of thought processes, and the two of them don't get along.  If you go back over your work with your critical brain running the show, you will probably kill all the special parts of your story.

Remember my tale about the story I wrote that I thought was garbage but everyone else thought was great?  If I had gone back into the story with critical voice, I would've changed all kinds of things.  And I'm willing to bet it wouldn't have been nearly as good as it was.

But does that mean all first drafts are great stories?  Not at all.  The best way to understand it is to think of a manuscript as a tool.  You are using that tool to tell your story that's locked in your brain.

Sometimes the manuscript you write is the wrong kind of tool for the job.  Like using a screwdriver when a hammer is called for.  There's no point in trying to change the screwdriver into a hammer - the right thing to do is to find a hammer.

So if you write a bad manuscript the first time around?  Well, you take the idea and go for the correct tool.  In other words you redraft the story, writing it again from the beginning.  And when you do that you're still working in creative mode, which is the mindset you need to be in when you're writing your fiction.

  But why the editorial exception?  Couple of reasons. For one thing, an editor can give you money for your work, so it pays (pardon the pun) to listen to them.  And an editor knows how to tweak a story to make it sell.

That doesn't mean you have to do all they tell you.  If you disagree with something an editor says, you should think twice about making the change.  But I've found often I'll see an editor's suggestion and think, "hmm...good idea there."  And it makes the story better.

Again, I'd really like to know why some people freak out over this rule.  Maybe a reader can clue me in?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rule #2: You Must Finish What You Write

Please forgive the lateness of this post.  Time got away from me last weekend.  I hope to be more timely in my posts to keep this blog active and up-to-date.

So we've covered the first of Heinlein's rules, you must write (and a good post on that is found here:  Now we come to rule #2: You must finish what you write.

If you're like me, you have a bunch of unfinished stories and novels taking up hard drive space on your computer.  Maybe it's an incomplete manuscript stuffed in a drawer.  But we start stuff, and then we leave it unfinished.  Why?

Sometimes things get unfinished because they need to be torn up and started over.  I once got well into a novel before I realized I was telling it from the wrong character's point of view.  There was no way to fix it, so that manuscript stayed unfinished and I redid the entire novel from scratch.  (I was very unhappy the day I realized I had to do that).

But more often we don't finish something because we run out of steam.  We lose interest in the project.  Or we hit a snag and we feel like we can't finish.

Or we get afraid.

Afraid that what we're writing is garbage.  That it's not good enough.  Our critical brain gets hold of us and hammers us to the point we just let the project die.

We don't trust the process.  We don't trust rule #1, which says "write!"  We don't trust ourselves.

If we want to succeed as writers, we not only need to write, but we need to finish our tales.  Let our creative brain run wild.  The story is in your head - let it out.

"Easy to say, Laura," I can hear you say.  "But how?"

I wish I had a nice and neat formula for you on that.  Truth is, I struggle with this rule just like you do.  Like I said, I have unfinished projects.  But here are a couple of things that might help.

-- If fear is what's holding you back, ignore it.  Finish the story.  Then send it out.

"But it's garbage!" you cry.  Who says?  You?  Writers are the worst judge of their own work.

Let me share a personal example.  I was at a writing workshop one time and assigned to write a short story that was fantasy noir (sounds fun, doesn't it?)

I'd never written noir before.  In fact, I wound up watching "LA Confidential" to get a feel for noir.  When I started the story, I was convinced it was awful.  Because I was under a tight deadline, I made myself finish the story, figuring at least I'd get it turned in finished and on time.  I was prepared to be told it was completely unworkable.

Upshot?  People loved it.  Thought I'd done a great job.

Like I said, we are awful judges of our own work.

-- Decide if a project needs to be restarted from the beginning.  As I said, sometime that happens.  Figure what you've done was a good first try and redraft the story from page one.  But do the redraft - and finish the story.

-- Find tricks to work through snags.  Sometimes we run into project block.  Maybe you need to throw in something wacky to get the story moving along.  Or you need to write a brief outline of the story to see where you are going.  Whatever trick works for you, use it.

And have fun.  I forget to do that sometimes, because writing is my career right now.  But I started it because I enjoy making stuff up.  Go back to that, play with your stories, let your imagination have its way.  You might be surprised at what happens when you do that - you might even finish your stories!

Well, this blog post is finished.  I'm sure it could be better, but it's done.  I hope it helps you.  If you have tips and tricks to share, please do so.  Maybe one of them will help me!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rule #1: You Must Write.

The first rule Robert Heinlein listed is, "you must write."

On the surface, that sounds like a no-brainer.  Writers are people who write, aren't they?  So doesn't it follow that a writer will be putting words on paper (or computer screen)?

Well, maybe, maybe not.  Because we can come up with all kinds of excuses not to write without trying too hard.

We can't write because we don't have time.  Or the muse is on vacation.  Or no one will buy our stuff.  Or we don't feel like it.  Or, or, or...(insert favorite excuse here).

Dean Wesley Smith, a writer who is a friend and mentor, says "if you can be discouraged in this business, you should be."  If you don't want to write, there are plenty of reasons not to.  But if you want to be a writer, you have to figure out how to produce new words on a regular basis.

I'm coming out of a period of time where I struggled with this first rule because anytime I sat down to try to write something I became afraid.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was afraid to write.

I'm not sure why.  I'm starting a new project that is intimidating in the work it will involve.  I'm not sure I can pull it off. That fear has sent me running from the keyboard to even doing housework (which, if you know me, is a pretty drastic thing).

How am I working on it?  Aside from this week, when I've been concentrating on another one of Heinlein's rules, I would make myself sit down at my laptop, and I couldn't get up until I had produced at least 500 words.

I played mind games with myself.  I'd let myself play a game first, sneaking up on the writing.  I made a note of the time I wanted to start writing.  About two minutes before starting, I'd quit the game and gear up to write.  And I stayed put until I got those words written.

I help care for my in laws.  That means, among other things, I don't have a set time to write.  So I look for opportunities.  I've written at all hours of the day.  I've written in bed, at airports, doctor's offices, coffee shops, hotel rooms - and that's just a partial list.  I can't wait for an ideal time to write, because all too often the ideal doesn't show up.

Writing is like any other profession.  If you want it, you can't wait for the time to do it.  You have to make it a priority.  A writer writes.  So do what you have to, but sit down and write.

Oh, and let me mention something else.  500 words doesn't sound like a lot - it's two manuscript pages.  But here's the math: 500 words a day = over 180,000 words, which is the equivalent of two novels.  And I can often bang those words out in twenty minutes to a half hour. 

So write!  Every word brings you closer to your goal.  Next week we'll talk about finishing what we write.

Heinlein's Five Rules of Writing

Many years ago author Robert A. Heinlein put forth five rules of writing.  It is said that if a person follows these rules faithfully, they will succeed as a writer.

The rules are as follows:

1) You must write.
2) You must finish what you write.
3) You must not rewrite, except to editorial demand.
4) You must send out what you write.
5) If it is rejected, you must send it out to another editor.

They sound so simple, don't they?  Yet I don't know any writer who hasn''t struggled with one or more of these steps at some time.  Me?  I've fought every last one of them.  Still am fighting them.

Over the next few weeks I want to touch on each of these steps - how I understand them, why they're harder then they look, and why they work.  I hope it encourages some of you in your writing career and that maybe I'll gain some insight from you as well!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Do writers blog?

I know a lot of them who do, and they are pretty regular at it.  I marvel at their discipline and really want to emulate it.

So, do you have any suggestions on how to blog regularly?  If so, pass them on!

Monday, April 26, 2010

First Page of "The Silent Witness"

So my friend and fellow writer Scott William Carter posted a challenge on Twitter for people to post the first pages of their novels and let others know about it. 

Sounds like a great way to start off this blog here so I've picked the first page of my unpublished novel "The Silent Witness."  Enjoy!


 The little girl wrapped her arms tighter around her legs. Despite the tangled hair in her face and the slats in the closet, she could see and hear everything in the bedroom.

Marcy was screaming and flailing her arms at the man the girl knew, though she hadn’t seen him in a long time. She hadn’t known he was Marcy’s boyfriend. That frightened her. The man was her daddy. And her daddy scared her.

The little girl liked Marcy – at least, as well as she liked anyone. Her momma often left her with Marcy while she went out. Marcy didn’t mind that she didn’t talk. Marcy left her alone. Sometimes she gave her stuff. The child fingered a key that hung on a chain around her neck. Marcy said she could hold that for a while

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3 testing...

Okay, I think the site is good to go.  Let me know how I can improve it!

I want to use this blog to talk about writing - not just what I'm doing, but some general principles of the business and art of writing.  Hopefully, someone just starting will benefit from what I've learned so far, though I don't claim to know it all.

So pour yourself some coffee, have a seat, and let's chat!

Monday, February 22, 2010