JuNoWriMo Featured Author: Margaret McNellis

Meet some of your fellow JuNo WriMos in our Featured Author series each Monday and Wednesday during June.

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Margaret McNellis
Margaret McNellis

I was so excited to find JuNoWriMo last year, even though NaNoWriMo was right around the corner. Unfortunately I won’t be able to participate in NaNo as I usually do because I will be training for my 2nd degree black belt test which will demand much of my free time…so June is really going to be my “write with wild abandon” month!

As for myself, I fell in love with writing fiction during my last semester of college. I started playing around with writing fanfiction but then got frustrated with not having complete creative ownership of the characters I was writing–along with all of the other story elements. I started writing my own stories, which mostly featured zombies as a main element. I didn’t particularly like writing the gory parts, but used the presence of the zombies as a catalyst by which to take a deeper look at the human condition.

In August of 2008, I started taking classes with the Long Ridge Writers Group. 2008 was also my first year participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ve won all years since then except 2009, when I was traveling in Turkey for half of November (though I did make an attempt, and got to about 25K). In 2010 I became an municipal liaison for the CT shoreline region, and remained in that role for three years. I really liked growing the region (we saw 150% growth in those years!) and adding pre-event writing workshops to the schedule.

In 2011 I began taking a course on novel writing with the Long Ridge Writers Group, which gave me the ability to dive into historical fiction, which I’ve fallen in love with (as it fits so nicely with my Art History degree). Since then, I’ve been working mostly in historical fiction, but have been mixing other genres into the mix since historical fiction lends so well to that.

The name of my JuNoWriMo novel is “The Price of Freedom” and it is also historical fiction. The basic synopsis is that it begins with the emigration of James Badcocke circa 1640 from England to Rhode Island, and follows through to his son and the founding of one of Rhode Island’s prominent colonies.

The back story for my book, I think, is pretty interesting. I was doing some genealogical research on my family and learned that, against the belief amongst most in my family, my ancestors did not arrive in the late 19th century–at least not for the first time. I traced my lineage back to the Badcocke/Babcock family, one of the more prominent New England families. I learned that James Badcocke Senior traveled from England to Rhode Island around 1640–and while there are records of him in England and records of him in New England, his name doesn’t exist on any ship manifest.

I decided to write a story based on his passage, on the presumption that he traveled under a pseudonym. From that, I created a fictional account wherein his brother, Sir Richard, forces him to take his family out of England and to the New World, because of a difference in religious beliefs. He learns later that his brother has actually murdered someone and used his disappearance to distract from the scandal of the murder (among other subplots).

I have started work on this novel. I worked on it for NaNo 2012 and while I reached the 50K mark, I estimate it needs at least another 50-100K to be finished, and would like to accomplish at least the 50K during the month of June.

Find Margaret online:

Twitter: @mmcnelliswrites

Facebook page: MMcNellisWrites

Blog: http://mmcnellisblog.com

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3 Keys to a Writer’s Block Free Life

To get you motivated and ready for JuNoWriMo, here’s a post on how to avoid writer’s block by Kevin Kaiser of 1K True Fans. Hold these keys close to you and you’ll sail through June.

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I’ve never met a prolific author who believed in the existence of writer’s block. Not one. And even if it does exist, some have told me, they simply choose not to participate in it.

I was shocked the first time an author said this to me. “Really?” I said.  “You don’t believe in writer’s block? Surely every writer experiences a block at some point. It’s almost a rite of passage for all wordsmiths, a badge of honor that we can commiserate with your friends over a nice latte, right?”

Wrong.

Tell me, why is it that some authors are completely hamstrung by writer’s block while others seem unnaturally prolific and unhampered by the creative equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits?

The difference is in the choices they make, not the traits they possess. It’s in the perceptions they have and how those perceptions shape their actions. I went on a fact finding search among some of the best writers I know and this is what I found.

Want to live a writer’s block-free life? Here’s all you need to know.

 1. Realize that writer’s block is about fear.

Understand this point and you’ll discover that the dragon has no teeth. Think about all of those times when you stared at the blank page or screen, paralyzed. For years this happened to me. And, honestly, it still does sometimes. It’s the closest feeling I’ve ever had to a panic attack.

My revelation came when an author pointed out the cause: All of that stress stems from not knowing what comes next. We’re afraid of choosing the wrong word or writing a cardboard character or fretting over whether or not an Oxford comma is better. Or whether we really aren’t writers…at all. What if I’m a fraud.

Getting on with creativity starts with getting over fear. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s not. Far from it. But that’s the start of it.

 2. Write when you’re uninspired.

Writing is like marriage in some ways. If you base your commitment to it on whether or not you feel like sticking it out, you won’t last very long.  And the most important actions, the ones that have the most meaning and impact, are the ones you take when you least feel like it.

“I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” -Peter DeVries

Ever noticed that no one has “worker’s block”? You can’t phone it in because you’re feeling uninspired. That would never last. It’s the same with writing. No one finds time to do it. They make time. No one who’s successful waits around for the muse to show up. They simply get started.

 3. Get words on the page…even if they’re shitty at first.

Writers are notorious tinkerers. We like pristine words, pristine paragraphs, and pristine pages. I’ve spent hours sometimes tweaking sentences until they’d been completely ruined. We’re (many of us) perfectionists.

There’s a wonderful chapter in Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life entitled “Shitty First Drafts.” I found it on the web and it’s worth taking time to read. That essay singlehandedly freed me (mostly) from my obsession to get it right the first time. It’s too much pressure. I don’t have to and neither do you.

Let me take the pressure off you. You have permission to just get words on the page, even if what you’re putting down is shitty. No one cares. Play. Experiment. Just get words on the page.

I can’t imagine how many stories never saw the light of day because their creators got so hung up on perfection that they quit. I know there’s an idea graveyard full of my stuff, all because I wouldn’t just. Get. It. Down. You can wipe the page clean later, but first just it down.

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Kevin KaiserKevin Kaiser writes and dishes out professional creative wisdom at 1K True Fans. Check out his Facebook page here.

 

 

 

 

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Art by Norvz Austria

Pinterest.

It’s the latest craze on the internet. It can be extremely addictive. Being a visually-oriented person (maybe more than most), I was immediately drawn to join the masses and start creating my own pin boards. Fortunately, unlike many people, I’ve been able to [mostly] keep a rein on myself and pretty strictly regulate my time spent on the site. But it wasn’t until lately that I realized just how valuable a tool Pinterest could be for a writer.
Continue reading “Pinterest for Writers”

Can Distraction Work For You?

As writers we’re always told to make time for writing and to avoid distractions, important advice especially when writing under a deadline–and for JuNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days is one huge looming deadline. But, taking the time to find inspiration is equally important.

Everyone finds inspiration differently.

I think we can agree that most original ideas aren’t developed by locking ourselves in an office, sitting at our computers looking at a blinking cursor. We develop ideas by getting out of our own heads, getting away from the computer and living our lives. Some of us feel we get enough of the outside world with jobs, family obligations, shopping, and the activities of our day to day routines–they certainly do enough to cut into writing time.

live to writeBut does the thought of watching that movie you’ve been dying to see, or just sprawling out on the couch with your favorite drink for mindless TV antics make you cringe in guilt? Your conscience screams, “No distractions when there’s a book to write!” But. . .

Is watching an old Hitchcock movie a distraction from what you’re supposed to be writing, or does it have inspirational merit? For me Hitchcock movies and his TV series have a great way of making me think about things differently. What if I throw in a little taste of the feeling that Hitchcock inspires into my next story? What if, after getting lost in that half hour of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I suddenly have a new insight into my own character’s motivation? Then, the distraction was well worth the time.

There’s a connection between distraction and inspiration.

The best writing tool you have is your brain, and it has its own stubborn and cockamamie way of doing things. How often do you have brilliant ideas while doing mindless tasks–taking a shower or doing the dishes? Or during family time–playing with the kids or watching a movie? Even in the moments that seem like a distraction, our minds continue working in the background, putting the pieces of our fictional worlds together. We may not realize that the process is going on or have any control over it, but that’s when the brilliant ideas develop.

Maybe we shouldn’t think so critically about distractions–we all need a moment to unwind. The important thing is balance. Successful writers need the determination and discipline to know when it’s best to have your butt in the chair writing, and the instinct to know when it’s time to take a break. As you’re trying to rack up those word counts next month, remember to give yourself a moment every now and then to indulge in a distraction without feeling guilty, your mind, body (and story!) will thank you for it.

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Fel WetzigFel Wetzig is a paranormal writer, book blogger, and lover of folklore. After completing an MA in History, she’d had enough of the real world and armed with a fountain pen, she started writing fiction and building a blog, with the Peasants who live in her head. When not wrapped up in fantasy worlds, she’s usually at the day job designing publications, or relaxing with her husband and two erratic ferrets. You can find her at The Peasants Revolt.

 

 

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So You Want To Be A Writer

If you’re thinking of writing your first novel in June but are a little daunted by the prospect, don’t be afraid! Susan Kaye Quinn has some excellent advice for new writers. Keep reading for some great tips on how to be a writer. (Originally posted here.)

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So You Want To Be A Writer …

I often have people ask how to get started in writing. Or perhaps they’ve started a novel, but aren’t sure where to go from there. Or even finished their novel and want to explore publishing. This post is a general guide to help my friends explore writing to see if it’s right for them.

If You’ve Always Wanted to Write A Novel …

…but you haven’t started yet, this section is for you. The most important thing for a beginning writer to do is simply write. Invariably, beginning writers do not believe me. Shouldn’t they take a class? Or read a book on writing? Or possibly make an outline first? After all, they have no idea where to start. The hard answer is that no one knows where to start. They just do it. This is hard to hear, because it’s like wandering out into the dark without a flashlight or a map, much less a GPS. Who on earth would do that? There’s one person that does: a writer. Every time she stares at the blank page, or he takes a leap into an unknown plot twist, the writer forges out into the dark with no idea where they will end up but willing to take the dangerous journey anyway. DO THIS. Take the leap into putting words on the page without caution. It’s the quickest way to find out if you’ve got the mettle to take on such a risky undertaking. A less frightening analogy: suppose you decided that you wanted to run a marathon. You shouldn’t start out by reading about marathons, or signing up for a marathon trainer, or even watching marathons on TV. The first thing you should do is run. Every day. When you’ve built up some stamina, you can start worrying about things like interval training and carbo-loading and even reading books about marathons. But for now, just write.

If You’ve Started a Novel, But Don’t Know How to Finish …

…don’t panic. Writing a novel is a tremendously large undertaking. It’s not something you’ll whip out in a weekend, and the first several novels will likely all be steep learning curves where you start to understand things like voicecraft, and storytelling. There’s a famous saying that you have to write a million bad words before you start writing the good ones. Ira Glass has a delightful video on beginning artists (which includes writers) needing to fight through a large body of work before they can bridge the gap between what they can imagine and what they can produce. So, you have a long road ahead of you: don’t be impatient. But the first (and very important) step is to finish that first novel. I highly encourage writers still working on their first novel to finish it, as in write it all the way to The End. It may be crap. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed to be crap (with tidbits of awesome). Here’s a secret for you: all first drafts are crap. It’s learning how to get the words on the page, then going back and reworking them into something that SHINES that separates the beginners from the less-beginners (because I swear we’re all still learning along the way).

If You’ve Finished a Novel, But Don’t Know What To Do Now …

…you’re not done. Finishing the first draft is a wonderful accomplishment, especially the first time! Pat yourself on the back, have a glass of wine, and decide if that (writing a novel) is something you ever, ever, in your life, want to do again. The answer may be “no” and that’s perfectly acceptable. But if you want to produce something you can be proud to share with others (even possibly beyond your family and friends), you will need to revise. And by revision, I don’t mean checking your punctuation or sentence structure (always good to do as well). I mean, this is where you decide, Am I serious about learning this craft and art of writing, knowing how much work it is? If the answer is “yes” congratulations! You’re a writer! Also, condolences, as you have just picked a life of misery and suffering, I mean, great artistic fulfillment! See my For Writers page with links to all kinds of posts on writerly craft. Seek out other writers in your genre and offer to swap critiques with them (first chapters in the beginning, then progress to swapping whole manuscripts). Listen hard to criticism and treat it as the gift that it is. Begin the slow, unending journey toward improving your craft and your storytelling. Find your Voice. Discover what makes you unique as a writer. And remember this is a journey of discovery of yourself as much as your story. And most importantly: write another novel. Your first novel, no matter how many drafts you put into it, is unlikely to be one you want to publish. Many writers have several novels under their belts before they have something ready to show the world.

If You Think You Want to Publish Your Novel, But Don’t Know Where to Start …

…stop. Do not leap immediately into self-publishing. Ask yourself these Seven Questions before self-publishing and evaluate your Writer’s Mission Statement (don’t have one? Make one). You need to know what your goals are before you publish, in order to have any hope of it being a fulfilling experience for you. See my For Writerspage for links to posts about publishing. There has never been a greater time to be a writer, because of all the choices that writers have, from self-publishing to small publishers to Big Six Publishers. The choices are yours, but it pays to know what you’re after and be well informed before taking the leap into publishing. If you thought being a writer was hard, trust me that being a published writer just makes everything more complicated. And rewarding and awesome, but only if you’ve got realistic and attainable goals in your sights.

Welcome to the wild and wonderful life of being a writer! I hope this post helps, and I’m always open to questions. Paying forward the many, many times that other writers have helped me … well, that’s part of my Writer’s Mission Statement. 🙂

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Susan Kaye QuinnSusan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA SF Mindjack series. Her new Debt Collector serial is her more grown-up SF, which she likes to call future-noir. Susan has a lot of degrees in engineering, which come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mind powers, future dystopias, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. Mostly she plays on Facebook, in awe that she gets make up stuff full-time. You can find her at www.susankayequinn.com.

 

Be Featured on JuNoWriMo.com

Becca J. Campbell
Becca J. Campbell

I’m so glad you’re doing JuNoWriMo with us! June is going to be amazing, and it’s coming soon, so I hope you’re getting ready.

Each year, during JuNoWriMo we highlight a few of our authors. We’re big believers in teamwork and supporting writers. It’s a great way to get to share about yourself and get to know others. I can’t wait to hear about what you’ll be working on in June!

You don’t have to be published or famous to get featured here. You don’t even have to have finished a book yet. This is a chance to share a little about your WIP (or just W, since June isn’t here yet). This year we have only eight spots available, and it’s first-come, first-served. Continue reading “Be Featured on JuNoWriMo.com”

June 2012 Is Over–What’s Next?

After a whirlwind of a month, June is finally over. For some of us the end of the month is met with shouts of joy and relief and for others it’s received with a few tears and sighs of nostalgia. You might be wondering, “What on earth do I do now?”

JuNoWriMo Stats

This was our (Anna’s and my) first year hosting this event, and it was even bigger than we’d anticipated. Was JuNoWriMo 2012 a success? Most definitely! We started spreading the word around April, but even with only a few short months to drum up excitement, we had a great turnout this year. Here’s the breakdown: Continue reading “June 2012 Is Over–What’s Next?”

Featured Author: EM Castellan

E.M. Castellan

My name is EM Castellan and I am a YA Fantasy writer. I live in an English castle, travel extensively, read voraciously, listen to bands few people have heard of and watch too many movies to count. In case you are wondering, I also have a full-time job, so I mostly write at odd hours and drink a lot of tea. I have been writing for years, but during the past year, I have written the first book in my Epic Fantasy trilogy THE DARKLANDS. I will soon start looking for an agent with it, but in the meantime, I want to take a break from that story. Thus, JuNoWriMo is for me the perfect opportunity to put THE DARKLANDS in a drawer for a month and to work on something else. Continue reading “Featured Author: EM Castellan”

Featured Author of the Week: Felicia Kay Wetzig

F.E. Wetzig

Most people know me as Fel Wetzig and I write Paranormal and Suspense, sometimes with bits of drama and romance thrown in as life gets in the way for my “fictional” characters. In High School, after a strange dream in which the characters in my head – calling themselves the peasants – planned a rebellion, I adopted the phrase “The Peasants Revolt” to describe my literary process. I have a Master’s Degree in Public History, and it wasn’t until my last year of college that I realized how much I miss writing fiction. Since then, I’ve finished two novels, and both are in various states of editing. Continue reading “Featured Author of the Week: Felicia Kay Wetzig”