Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo Is Here Again

What's NaNoWriMo? If you're a writer, you probably already know. If you don't know, it's that insane time of year when writers around the world sit down at whatever they use to write, be it desktop, laptop, tablet, all-in-one, typewriter, or good old pen or pencil and paper, and whack out 50,000 words between 12:00 AM November first and Midnight November 30th. Or at least make the attempt.

It's that time of year when you sit down to write and tell your Inner Editor to take a hike! That's right: no editing allowed! Don't stop for misspelled words, awkward sentences, poor construction, better ideas, name changes for characters, or anything else that may tempt you to slow down or stop.

Here's a little ditty set to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It" to sing along and stop your Inner Editor from slowing you down.

If you edit as you go, you stop the flow.
If you edit as you go, you stop the flow.
Tell your brain to keep on going
And the words will keep on flowing.
If you edit as you go, you stop the flow.

I know. It's silly. But if it helps, then my work here is done. 

Which is good, because I still have 49,898 words to go.

Happy NaNoWriMo, everybody!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Setting Writing Goals

Every November, a month of literary madness ensues, in which would-be and actual novelists attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That this is doable has been more than proven by thousands of writers, me included. Some people can write 50,000 words in a week or less. Those who write the required number of words win the coveted NaNoWriMo "Winner" badge to post on their websites, blogs, Facebook, etc. It's a goal with an incentive: bragging rights.

Still, that's just once a year. What about the rest of the months? What do you do when there's no NaNoWriMo to spur you onward? And what if you didn't actually write The End on your November opus?

NaNoWriMo gives you a goal. You aim for 50,000 words in a month. Having that goal is what makes it doable for some people.

What we as writers need to do is set writing goals for ourselves when it isn't November (or if we aren't WriMos). With NaNo, the goal is set for us. If we aren't used to setting goals for ourselves, deciding what to set can be a challenge. Here are a few guidelines to help you in setting your goals.
Javascript Modern Clock by filtre
Courtesy of Open Clip Art Library

  • Your goal should not overwhelm you.
    • Don't set something so impossibly high that you'd have to be a superhero to accomplish it. Very few people can write 50,000 words in a day, for example. I know of one prolific author who actually can write 30,000 words a day, and in two or three days, he has another finished novel. He's amazing. Not everyone can do that. If you can, great! Set that goal and stick to it. If not, don't beat yourself up. You are unique!
  • Your goal should be challenging enough to keep you interested.
    • If you set a ridiculously low goal, you may either write that number of words in a day and then quit (bad when the story is coming together well), or you may think that you can skip several days. Neither is good for you. Set your goal high enough that you can accomplish it, but not so low that you get bored.
  • Find a group of like-minded writers and share goals with them.
    • Writing groups are a good place to start, either online or in person. Be sure it's not the kind of group that's going to pick you apart. You need to be encouraged, not discouraged. And be sure you encourage the others in the group to reach their goals!
  • Decide whether you can write every single day, or if you should write on a five- or six-day schedule.
    • Be realistic. Only you know how many hours of writing time you can squeeze into a week. 
    • Be sure to make allowances for emergencies. Having a small notebook with paper and a pen can help when you're called away from your computer suddenly. (I've written in hospital waiting rooms this way.) You can always transcribe what you've written into your document later.
  • Set a realistic time goal.
    • I finally set my mind to write one hour every day. While circumstances sometimes interfere, having this goal makes me sit down and open the work in progress. I've gotten more done since I set the One Hour Goal than at any other time except for NaNoWriMo. Some days I've only managed a few words (generally because I'm rereading to get the feel of where I left off), but other days I've written a couple of thousand words. That's a great feeling!
    • If your time is so limited that you can't do one consecutive hour, set a timer for fifteen minutes, or whatever you can squeeze into your schedule.
  • Consistency is the key to accomplishing your goals.
    • Once you've set them, stick to them. Don't let everyday problems distract you. (Yes, if the kids are trying to tell you something important, make sure they aren't injured, but then get right back to work.) 
    • If you're consistent, you'll be writing "The End" before you know it! Then you can start the next work while you put the first one aside to cool. (This is important so that when you reread it, you can do so dispassionately, the way an editor would. Otherwise, you'll either think it's perfect and dare anyone to change a single word, or else you'll think it's horrible and want to delete the file! Don't do it!!!!)
  • Remember, back up all your documents. You can e-mail it to yourself at the end of every writing session. That way, you'll be able to retrieve it in case of disaster.
Goals are not the enemy. Used properly, they can be one of your very best friends!

What are your writing goals? Please feel free to share them with me! We'll cheer each other on!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: DOCTOR TO THE RESCUE by Cheryl Wyatt

New this month in her Eagle Point Emergency series is Cheryl Wyatt's Doctor to the Rescue. Like all her books, this one features engaging characters and an intriguing plot.

Dr. Ian Shupe has returned home from a combat mission to become the head anesthesiologist at Eagle Point Emergency. His new mission: create a safe and loving home for the young daughter who believes he cares nothing for her. Raising Tia as a single dad would be hard enough if she knew and loved him already, but the mother who abandoned her for a boyfriend has kept all Ian's communications from her.

Bri Landis has problems of her own. She has a long repair list and a short time with which to repay a mortgage on Eagle Point's main tourist attraction: a Lodge and cabins set on many pristine lakeside acres. Without the help she is loathe to accept, the loan shark company will repossess the property and turn it into lakeside condos.

Worse yet, Bri and Ian have a tempestuous history. She considers him cold and heartless, while he thinks of her as the pesky sister of his friend Caleb, who is currently deployed overseas.

Cheryl weaves what might be an ordinary tale of love and romance into so much more. She delves deep into Ian and Bri's personalities and shows us why they feel and react the way they do.  Not only that, she gives us insight into Tia's reactions, and makes us love a small girl who hunts for fairies in the garden.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Just saw a report on the "Momtrepreneurs," Mommy bloggers who are sharing their insights on products and mom "how to's" and making a living at it. I wonder whether there's a place in the blogosphere for "writerpreneurs..."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fun With Google Maps

Researching ancient Assyria for a historical novel I'm writing. I had no idea that ancient Nineveh was in the vicinity of the modern city of Mosul, Iraq. Thank you, Google Maps!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

More Commonly Confused Words

On my website, I have a page dedicated to Commonly Confused Words. Finding them in novels I read helps me realize just how often writers don't understand what words mean. They may hear a word and, having no idea how it  is spelled, not realize that the wrong spelling totally changes the meaning of the sentence. Whatever they intend to communicate is lost.

A good example is the accolade, shouted as an encouragement, especially in Parliament in days long ago: "Hear, hear!" Written out properly, you can see it means, "Listen, listen!" (Meaning: This person has said something worthwhile with which I agree.) For the past few years, however, I've increasingly seen it written: "Here, here!" as in, "Present, present!" (Pronounced PREZ-ent, not pree-ZENT.) That, as you can see, has quite a different meaning, and renders the encouragement, at least in written form, meaningless. (Implication: The person has said something, and I'm in the same location.)

In a novel I'm currently reading (title and author omitted to protect the innocent, namely me!), I came across a word confusion I hadn't previously encountered. The protagonist discovered flecks of paint in a suspicious place. The author (who writes a very entertaining story, by the way) consistently refers to the flecks of paint as specs. "Specs" is a fairly recent word, being an abbreviation of specifications. The singular is spec, from specification. For writers, on spec is short for on speculation, which means you're writing something hoping an editor will buy it for a magazine. (The opposite of on spec is on assignment.)

What the author meant was that there were specks of paint, tiny little flecks of color that weren't where they were supposed to be. Instead, I thought of the qualities of the paint, not the size.

When we as writers use the wrong word, either through our mistake or (Heaven forbid!) our editor's, we run the risk of losing readers. While this author has not lost me, because the story is in a contemporary setting and it's otherwise so well written, had it been set before the 1960s, I'd have put it aside in a heartbeat. Spec in that case would not only have been a confused word but an anachronism. (See my last post.) Loyal readers are worth their weight in gold, now more than at any other time in history. So many other options are available to potential readers--film, TV, internet, etc.--that we want to do all we can to encourage them to read our stories. Taking the time to find the right word may not seem like much, but words are the tools of our craft. Using them correctly is the mark of a master craftsman.

What are your favorite (or least favorite) confused words?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tackling Anachronisms

As a reader, I love entering the past. Letting go of the modern world, losing myself in whatever time frame the book is set--what a delight! I can completely forget the complexities and annoyances of the twenty-first century, unless----
-------SCREECH! CRASH!---------
I'm suddenly catapulted out of the past by an anachronism.

What's an anachronism, you ask? From the Greek ana not and chron time, an anachronism is a reference to some word, object, character or the like that doesn't belong in the story's time-frame. It can be something simple, like referring to the hero's cell phone, when the hero is living in 1977, or having a totally fashion-conscious heroine of an 1880 romance wearing a bustle.

Eliminating anachronisms from writing can be tricky. Half the time they sneak in without our even realizing it. Sometimes our proofreaders don't catch them. The editors can miss them. In fact, we may never know we've used one until the first letters from readers arrive. And readers can be really irate!

Some I've run across lately include using the honorific Ms. in historical novels before the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Ms. first came into more common usage. Finding a heroine referred to as Ms. Smith in a book set in the early 1900s throws me right out of the book. That's not to say I won't go back and read it, anyway, especially if I like the characters and the plot, but it makes it harder for me to let go and enjoy it the way I would if the heroine were Miss Smith before her marriage and Mrs. Jones afterward. (Or whatever the surnames are. You get the point.)

Honorifics should be easy. Something a little trickier is wildlife. I'm currently reading a mystery novel in a series set during the American Civil War (AKA the War Between the States). One of the two main protagonists was in a graveyard when she was startled by a flock of starlings. She wasn't as startled as I was! The first mating pair of European Starlings was brought to the United States by some misguided soul in 1891 or thereabouts, some thirty years after the novel was set. Now if the author had had the protagonist startled by a murder of crows, I wouldn't have put the book aside until I recovered from the experience.

Sometimes anachronisms are the result of our forgetfulness. We simply don't think about whether or not something was available or invented by a certain time, and even doing basic research may not reveal it to us. What can we do about it? Read books that were written in the time period, if available. (Obviously, it's harder to get hold of a novel written in Old Norse or ancient Greek.) Check into wildlife books, flora as well as fauna. (I still smile when I think about the American Robin in the 1960s movie "Mary Poppins." That isn't truly an anachronism, but a related faux pas.) If you can find them, read wildlife books from the time frame in which you are interested. Over time, migration patterns and nesting areas can change. Species that are extinct now may have once been prevalent, like the American Passenger Pigeon.

Technology is another bugbear. Yes, there were clocks in the Middle Ages. No, they did not have minute hands. And forget about second hands! Different parts of the world developed at their own pace. You might find steel swords in one part of the world and iron swords in a neighboring kingdom.

Hey, nobody ever said writing historicals was a walk in the park! It's a challenge, but if you're up to it, you may find it a truly rewarding one.

It isn't always easy to research the past on the internet, but it can be your first stop...on your way to the library!