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.

~

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
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Sign up for JuNoWriMo and Win Prizes
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New Swag for 2013
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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. 🙂

~

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”

NaNoWriMo Featured Author of the Week: Amanda Fanger

Hi there! My name is Amanda Fanger and 2012 is my first NaNoWriMo. A year ago was the first time I had ever heard of National Novel Writing Month. It was just before Thanksgiving that my tongue formed the syllables NaNoWriMo for the first time. I thought it was crazy and I wanted to be a part of it.

The novel I have decided to write is (for now) called Spell Bound, although that title will eventually be changed because, since the story idea was first conceived, I’ve come across other books by the same title.

This story came to me as a series of scenes that kept playing out in my head, over and over. It took me something like five days to write approximately 26,000 words for a very rough, but very complete, first draft when I was in high school. I was so proud of the words I’d labored over to fill my little notebook, but I knew it wasn’t long enough to be a real book. Of course I’d have to write a second draft and flesh it out a bit.

But when I attempted to write that second draft and fix some of the plot holes, the story fell flat. The all-fire passion for the story that had inspired me during that week of insane writing was suddenly gone. It seemed that as I tried to think of ways to overhaul the story, to add more complexity, it only seemed to create more problems. It got to the point where I simply had to put the story away because I was frustrating myself and losing my interest in the story altogether.

While the original manuscript was collecting dust in my desk drawer, the story was far from dormant. It was at the back of my mind, intensifying and building, growing into something of a monster.

And now it wants out.

Some of the simplest elements of the original story are still mostly intact, and a few scenes from the first version are still there, but the overall feeling and scope of the story has changed.

I’ve yet to do an outline of this new version of the story, but I know I’m going to have my hands full with this one. It will be unlike anything I’ve ever written before. The biggest challenge is going to be the world-building and creating a society stepped with conspiracy and corruption.

During NaNo, I hope to complete the new first draft.

Synopsis: Within our world are points that transport magic-bearing individuals to realms where magic governs all. Within each realm is a magician-king who sends trained magician guards into the world to recruit undiscovered magicians into their ranks before the rulers of the other realms do the same.

Most of those brought back never realized they were magicians and have just a trace amount of magic in them. But sometimes a magician is brought back who is more powerful than most. Sometimes that power goes to their head when they are trained to use their magic. And sometimes they decide to overthrow the magical government in a bloody display just because they can.

When one man sends the otherwise peaceful realm of Lisbond into chaos, Seaira is forced to overcome her insecurities about her magic in order to survive. While her only concern is in protecting her son, this timid young woman may be the lone magician capable of stopping the crazed raise to power of the man she loves.

To learn more about Amanda, visit her blog (http://www.amandafanger.blogspot.com/), follow her on Twitter (@amanda_fanger) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/amandafangerwriter).

NaNoWriMo Featured Author of the Week: Veronique Kootstra

As you can probably tell from my name, it hasn’t got an English ring to it. I was born in The Netherlands where I did most of my growing up. At the age of twenty-one, after studying journalism for a year, I could no longer ignore the urge to move to another country for a change of scenery. Skip forward ten years and I’m still living in the same place; Edinburgh, Scotland, which I now call home. It took me few years to get back into writing but quickly came to the conclusion that it is what I love to do most.

Looking for new writing challenges helps me to stay focused and, most importantly, to keep writing, even when it‘s sometimes challenging to combine it with a full-time job. I mainly write quite dark flash fiction with psychological undertones. NaNoWriMo is a great opportunity to start the one thing I have, up to now, found too daunting to even seriously think about. Knowing that other writers all over the world are doing same thing will hopefully spur me on until the end.

The NaNo novel I have planned is based on a flash fiction story titled ‘Lost’ which I wrote a few years ago. It’s a seven hundred word story that is somewhat personal and I’ve always wanted to do something more with it. The dedication it will require still worries me, going from writing very short stories to a novel is quite a big leap but one I’m now ready to take.

I’ve not got a polished synopsis yet or a title I’ve settled on, but I’ll try and tell you about it as best as I can. The main characters in my story are Diane, a fifty-five year old woman who has bipolar disorder, and her twenty-six year old daughter, Alison. The struggle for both of them to accept the disease becomes apparent throughout the story. Both find it difficult to let go of the past and move on. Diane’s psychotic episodes are written in such a way that hopefully the reader comes to understand that the things she experiences are very real to her. Nobody can completely understand what goes on in her head, however it does deserve an equal amount of attention in the story as Alison’s struggle to come to terms with her mother’s illness. Alison gets comfort out of reading the short stories her mother used to write on coloured cards and read to her when she was little. Undoubtedly, the subject matter carries baggage but my aim is show different sides of the disorder and not focus on just the negative. At the heart of the story is a complicated but loving mother-daughter relationship.

Some say write about what you know; others are for embracing the unknown. As this is my first attempt at writing a novel, I’ve decided to go for the ‘know’ option, but as it’s a subject that is very personal to me (my mother suffers from bipolar disorder) this is by no means the easier one. It did cross my mind to leave out the fact it’s partly autobiographical, but this could imply that I’m embarrassed about it and that’s certainly not the case. I feel very strongly about wanting to contribute to reducing the stigma of mental illness. As I’m very aware that I can’t just rely on my own experience, I’ve done as much research as possible beforehand. My aim is create a story that is engaging and real.

I would love to connect with other NaNoWriMo writers, you can find me on twitter @vkootstra or if you want to have a peek at my blog: www.veroniquekootstra.wordpress.com.

NaNoWriMo Featured Author of the Week: Brittany Westerberg

I was the typical “nerd” of the class all throughout elementary, middle and high school. I loved reading. I couldn’t get enough of books. I would read as I walked home from school in our town of 800 people. When I was in the fifth grade, I remember being bored at my uncle’s house over Christmas one year and trying to read Moby Dick, though it was too heavy (in numerous ways) for me back then.

I started writing in a journal when I was in elementary school, and I started writing stories in middle school. My family had this old Apple Macintosh computer from the early 1990s, and it was only good for typing on. I would sit on the arm of our old couch – since there wasn’t really room for a chair in that corner of the basement – and write. I wrote three novels on that computer, in multiple documents, since the word processor that was on there would only deal well with documents that were about 30 pages long.

After I went off to college, I started on a journalism degree, wanting to continue writing somehow in my chosen career. I didn’t think that I could be a novelist or a full-time author. That dream was too far out there. My younger brother, however, didn’t think so. He found those novels I had written on that computer when he was going through it – my family had finally decided to trash it – and thought they were good enough to be published.

At that time, we didn’t know much about publishing, but we started sending queries to publishing companies that accepted new authors. We got a lot of “no” answers at first, though two or three of them were, “We’ve reached our limit of new authors this year, but keep trying! This is worth publishing!” It was heartening to hear.

It didn’t really sink in that my dream of being a published author had come true until I had a real copy of my book in my hands. My first novel, Into Fire, about a teenager named Leora who discovers she can do magic, was published in 2011 by Silver Leaf Books. The second novel in the trilogy, continuing Leora’s journey, is set to be published next year. I’ll be working on the third and final novel during NaNoWriMo. I have the general plot figured out, but the only part I have written is the last chapter. (Yes, for some reason, that came through my brain clearly before the second book was even finished.) My overall goal is to finish it by Christmas, with the majority of it (shooting for more than 50,000 words) being done in November.

My day job is as a marketing coordinator for a manufacturing company and a wife to a wonderful engineer, craftsman and bug-killer. We just recently bought our first house in Sioux Falls, SD. My dream of being a full-time author is still out there, and I’m chasing it.

Find Brittany online:

Her facebook page
Her twitter account: BrWesterberg
Her Goodreads Author page
Her website/blog: brwesterberg.wordpress.com
Her Amazon Author page
Into Fire on Amazon

NaNoWriMo Featured Author of the Week: Alissa Leonard

Hey All! My name is Alissa Leonard. This is only my second year doing NaNo, and this year will be completely different. Well, maybe not completely. Last year I wrote almost 20K in November (which was AMAZING for me), and I’m hoping to do more than 20K this year (yes, that’s pathetic, but I figure ‘more than last time’ is a great goal – while, of course, hoping to reach that elusive 50K by some miracle). I had approximately 10K on the novel before November last year, but I have only the very first scene this year. Well, the first scene and the last scene…it’s the same scene, but cut in half. The rest of the book will flashback four years and follow the story, so really I’ve written the last scene… Or something. That scene is 1,343 words. 🙂

Last year I wrote a YA high/heroic fantasy novel. I actually just finished it in October (the first draft ended up at around 150K). I’m letting it sit this month and jumping into NaNo with a SHINY NEW IDEA, which is not a fantasy novel. That’s kind of odd for me. I typically lean toward fantasy/sci fi, so when this one hit me…well, it was strange that I was so excited about it. I’m actually not sure what I’m going to call it (You Must Really Love Him is my second working title already). I have no idea what kind of novel it would be marketed as (definitely YA, possibly a combination of Literary Fiction and Christian Romance? I’m going to call it Literary Romance, just because I can and no one can call me on it because no one has read it yet).

The idea came to me as I was thinking about my high school experience and wondering what might have happened if I had made different choices than the ones I did (which would, of course, make me a different person). It’s probably as close to autobiographical as I’ll ever get, but it will include so many things I never did or considered. It’s my way of exploring how our choices matter. All of them.

It will explore concepts of faith and relationships and how the choices we make affect everyone around us. My spark was to show a first person POV Christian perspective where the main character’s growth in her understanding of Jesus and the Bible heavily affects the choices she makes and how she interacts with people, and the consequences of those interactions.

I am a discovery writer (pantser, as some people like to call it). That means I don’t have an outline. Some discovery writers are able to do some planning, I am not one of them. I’ve tried. I sit and try to think of what’s going to happen in the scene I’m writing…and nothing. Without my fingers on the keyboard (or sometimes I can brainstorm some with pen and paper) I cannot continue with the story. Perhaps that will change with time? Perhaps I’ll learn tricks or something that will help me overcome that, but it’s not now. I am extremely jealous of all the outliners out there – especially when it comes to NaNo. You see, you can practically WRITE YOUR BOOK before November, I can’t do a thing. Not legally anyway. So, I have a plan. I’m going to sit down in October and brainstorm ideas for scenes. Very general ideas. I’m hoping for general events during high school (dances, parties, birthdays, trips, etc) and things I want to accomplish (two characters discussing a certain topic, this realization, this confession, etc) and hopefully have some sort of framework to hang stuff on come November. Like maybe I can have a discovery writer’s outline somehow. I’m not sure it will work, but I’m going to try it. I would love to be able to do some sort of pre-planning and this book lends itself well to trying this idea out, especially since I am drawing a lot from my own memories. I can sit down and think, “hmmm, what happened to me in high school? How did I respond? How would she respond? How would that change things? For her? For him? etc.” Maybe I can even make it halfway (to 25K) with this approach.

Anyway, I’m super excited about this idea and I can’t wait to begin. I’m on Twitter at @lissajean7 and I have a blog at www.alissaleonard.blogspot.com if you’re interested in checking me out. I write a lot of flash fiction, so you’ll find a lot of that on my blog.

Who’s Doing #NaNoWriMo? We Are!

Howdy gang! I hope you’ve had a great summer and are enjoying the new season. Fall came rushing in on me and I can hardly believe next month is November!

Join Us During November

Anna and I are doing #NaNoWriMo next month and we hope you are, too! If you aren’t signed up yet, go to http://nanowrimo.org and do it now.

We had a heck of a lot of fun last June doing word sprints with you guys. Because of that, we’re bringing it all back during November to help support your NaNoWriMo experience. Follow @junowrimo on Twitter to join in. I’m excited about seeing all my JuNo buddies again.

Remember our word count spreadsheet from June? How cool was it to see  everyone’s daily counts? Did you have as much fun racing with your fellow WriMos as I did? I have good news. We’re bringing it back for NaNoWrimo.

We will have a post letting you know when the new spreadsheet is ready, so stay tuned. We had over a hundred people input their names this June. Let’s see if we can get even more next month. Make sure you’ve created a JuNoWriMo account which will grant you access to the spreadsheet.

The best part about this site is the accountability. NaNoWriMo is a big place and it can be hard to get to know people, but here you’ll find a smaller and tighter community. If you’re new, then welcome aboard! We’re happy to have you with us.

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Are you prepped and ready for what it’s going to take to write a novel in thirty days? October is prewriting month and I encourage you to take advantage of it. Starting NaNoWriMo without a plan isn’t just difficult—it’s setting yourself up for failure. Get the bones of your novel sketched out ahead of time so that when the clock turns midnight on October 31st, you’re armed and ready.

What is prewriting and exactly how do you do it? Aaron Pogue has a great walkthrough of how to get ready to write a novel. This post is the first in the prewriting series. Follow his advice and you’ll be ready for November.

More Tips and Free Stuff

One final thing. I’ve saved the best for last. There’s a great new ebook out there called @WriMo: A 30-day Survival Guide for Writers by Kevin S. Kaiser. I highly recommend it for everyone doing NaNoWriMo. This book is full of motivation to inspire your writing journey. It’s especially useful for making you stick with it in those times you really don’t want to write. I read it and loved it. Even better, all the proceeds of the book are donated to NaNoWriMo which means that buying this book is akin to sending them a donation check.

I’m so excited about this book that I’m going to give away a free copy next week! Come back on Monday for a chance to win!

Related Posts:

Prewriting for JuNoWriMo

Prewriting: the Steps

So Many Choices, So Little Time

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?”