We’re All Crazy

It’s getting late. Have you validated yet? No? Are you going to be able to by the end of the month? You’re not sure? Are you letting it get to you? Yes? Don’t. There are only a few days left in the month and then you can relax, for this camp at least.

If you have already validated, congratulations! You did it. You rock.

Well, we all rock just for attempting such a foolish thing. But we never claimed to be sane, did we? I know I didn’t. If you did, what are you doing in camp with the rest of us loonies? Either you are too insane to realize you are insane, or you don’t belong here. Only crazy people need apply for NaNo.

I didn’t offend you, did I? I didn’t think so. You know how writers are with words, at least the written words. We tell it like we see it, even if it does offend anyone. Sometimes, we do it in order to offend. That’s just how we are. The spoken word is another matter entirely. We may or may not be good with that.

What? You’re not good with words? But of course you are. No, not all the words you write will be great. They might not even make sense. But they are words. You have created something. I don’t care if it is a mess. You can clean it up later.

So, let’s get this straight. You were crazy to start this. You were crazy to think you could do it. You are totally insane by this time of the month. You are wondering why you ever did this to yourself? You are ready to get back to the real world , if you even remember what “the real world” is. To you, the people you write about ARE real. You won’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Did I miss anything? I’m sure I dd. There are simply too many possibilities to put them all in one post. There are even too many to get them all in one book. If anyone ever did manage to get them all written down somewhere, someone would come up with another one, and we would need to start all over.

So, now that I have told you how insane you are, it’s time to get back to all that insanity. Your readership awaits.


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My Characters Are Weird

Are you in control of your story, or is it in control of you? Do you tell your characters what to do, or do they just narrate their own stories?

With me, it is a little bit of both. I generally tell the story but, sometimes, the characters don’t like what I am writing and scream at me to change it. I can drag them kicking and screaming into what I want them to do, or I can just follow their lead. My characters have been known to have minds of their own.

What? Those voices in my head aren’t real? You want to send the guys in white coats after me? You think I’m nuts? You mean everyone doesn’t hear those voices?

Go ahead and send those guys with the looney house over. I have some questions for them.  I think one of my characters might be schizophrenic. Or is that me? No. I’m not schizophrenic. It must be them.

The characters with mental problems are fun to write and hard at the same time. They don’t act the way most of society does but, at the same time, I have to make them believable. One of my side characters is looney tunes. I keep changing her, trying to make her fit into one category better. Right now, she is just a plain old wacko.

Even the main characters need to have quirks, or they won’t be believable. Readers are only willing to suspend their disbelief so far. Once that limit has been reached, you have lost that reader forever. Cardboard characters don’t give them much reason to do so.

Are your characters talking to you? Are you listening to them? Are you incorporating their ideas into your story? The rough draft is the perfect place to do that. You can take it out later, if it doesn’t work.

Don’t get so stubborn with your story that you don’t let it take a few twists and turns. Those may be just what the doctor ordered. If they aren’t, you may need another doctor.

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Writing With Hand Pain

Yesterday was the first day to validate. Did you validate? I didn’t.

In fact, I have done very little writing the last few days. I printed out my manuscript, then punched holes in it, so that I could put it in a notebook to see it better. Unfortunately, I strained my thumb. Have you ever tried to write with an injured thumb? Let me tell you, it isn’t fun.

That got me thinking about injuries writers are susceptible to. The main one is probably carpal tunnel, but there are others. My sister had to get carpal tunnel surgery. I hope I don’t ever have to have it. But, I could have a touch of carpal tunnel myself, so the possibility is out there.

The pain in my carpal tendon (muscle?) started when I was writing by hand. That is why I haven’t written by hand in years. It doesn’t hurt as much to type. I wish I could write by hand more. Words seem to flow better when I write them out longhand. Something about typing stifles my creativity.

I wonder what percentage of writers deal with hand pain at some point in their lives. It has to be a much larger percent than in the general population. I also wonder how many give up writing because of the hand pain.

One thing I noticed about not being able to write is how much I missed it. I don’t always write when I am able, but it never affected me the same way. It seems that the very act of not being able to do it made me realize how important it is to me. I’m a writer. I want to be able to write.

I’m curious about how many others out there feel the same way when they can’t write, for whatever reason. Do they miss it? Do they think longingly of the day they will be able to write again?

Thankfully, my hiatus was a short one. I think I might have gone insane if it had lasted much longer.

I know. I know. There is a touch of insanity in every writer. That’s where the creativity flows from. You don’t really think people who plot perfect murders every day are sane, do you? I can assure you, we’re not. But there is no reason to make it worse.

So, go ahead and write. But, if your hand hurts, ice that sucker! You don’t have to be a hero.

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Ten Ways to Tighten Your Writing & Hook the Reader

This lady gives some great tips. Maybe they will help you.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 9.40.52 AM Image via CellarDoorFilms W.A.N.A. Commons

When I used to edit for a living, I earned the moniker The Death Star because I can be a tad ruthless with prose. Today I hope to teach you guys to be a bit ruthless as well. Before we get started, I do have a quick favor to ask. Some of you may know that I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so I’ve taken on our dojo’s blog to see if we can try out new and fun content and am using the moniker Dojo Diva.

I posted about how hard it is to begin and the fears that can ever keep us from starting. The way others try to stop us from doing anything remarkable. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories, so I hope you will stop by and get the discussion going.

Click the word “Comments” and a box should appear…

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Grab an Accountability Partner

My motivation is gone. I don’t feel like doing anything. I need a kick in the rear.

Do you ever feel the same way? Find yourself an accountability partner, or more than one. My cousin dropped me a note asking me to do something to keep her from going all off track on her editing. I offered her a kick in the butt. That was all she needed.

Don’t have someone that will be your accountability partner? Does no one in your cabin hold you accountable? Go to the forums. You are bound to find an accountability partner there, if you really want one. Otherwise, just post in the forums and you will have a lot of people holding you accountable. You will also have a lot of encouragement.

The point is, you don’t have to do this all alone. Oh, the actual writing you have to do alone. But a good support system will work wonders. That is one thing cabins are for. Unfortunately, they don’t always work.

In my cabin, we all know each other, so we feel comfortable asking for a good kick in the rear. And we feel comfortable giving it. We are equally comfortable giving heaps of praise. Often, this is what is needed the most. Sometimes, what is needed is a combination of both.

Are you crying over your characters? Laughing when they make fools of themselves? Cheering them toward the finish line? You are doing it right. You have become connected with the story. You are a writer.

If you haven’t felt this way yet, you will. Just give yourself permission to feel. Your characters will come alive for you, if you let them. They may begin to feel more real than the people around you.

Feel free to give your characters a kick in the rear, if they need it. Hold them accountable to you. They belong to you. You don’t belong to them. You are in charge, even if they try to convince you that you aren’t. The final say is yours. Make sure you hold on to that.

So, grab that accountability partner and take that story by the horns. Or pen. Or computer. Or typewriter. Or whatever. Just grab it and go. There is no time like the present.

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Time For the Second Half

So, here we are, going into the second half of the month. Fingers raw from all the typing, red with all the ink from editing, cramping with every word. Heads aching. Bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. Wondering how we are going to get through another two weeks of this. But look how far you’ve already gotten. Words on the paper or screen that weren’t there at the beginning of the month. Red ink, like blood on the paper, as you splice and dice that story mercilessly.  A gem of a book forming, or being polished. A dream being born.

We are writers! Say it with me. I am a writer! I can write! And I am! Have you remembered to give yourself permission to write crap? If you haven’t, do it now.

The first step is to dump those words that are in your head on to the screen or paper. It’s only later that you begin to make sense of them. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. You have made it this far and you will make it to the end. It doesn’t matter if you don’t reach your goal. You have still accomplished something. That’s more than most people ever do.

Some people say all writers drink coffee while writing. I drink tea. Does this make me any less of a writer? Nope. It just means I don’t drink coffee. Not all writers are the same. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a writer just because you don’t fit their preconceived misconception of what makes a writer.

I just used the term “preconceived misconception” in a sentence. That has been one of my goals for years, but this is the first time there has really been a place for it. I have accomplished a goal. I’m going to celebrate.

Whenever you reach one of your goals, you should celebrate as well. Don’t kill yourself writing. Don’t completely shut yourself off from the world. But don’t give up on your dream, either. You can do it. Believe in yourself. I do.

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The Agony of Revision

Tearing apart your work is never easy. It is like tearing yourself apart. Every word ripped from the story can feel like it is being ripped out of your heart. Yes. I know it’s hard. I know it’s tedious. I also know it has to be done. But my work will never be worth sharing if I don’t.

When I printed my book out this month, my first thought was “I wrote all that?” My second thought was “I have to revise all that?” I think revising and editing can be even harder than getting something on paper the first time. I mean, what if it was better before I started fooling with it?

If you are afraid you will need something, or just can’t bear to let it go, cut and save it in another document. You can visit it from time to time, until you are ready to let it go, or find a place it wants to live. And live is what your work does. It has a life of it’s own. You may be the creator, but the work often dictates where it wants to go.

My first draft of my novel didn’t have a subplot that worked. I had to come up with another one. I came up with a subplot I liked, which involved introducing a new character that wasn’t in the original draft. I was trying to come up with a name for him.

Sam. No. John. No. Jake. No. Doug. No. Peter. No. William. No. Doug. No. I already said that didn’t go with his last name. I couldn’t change that because he was the brother of my main character. I tried again. Larry. No. Tim. No. Doug. I said no! Pat. No. Joe. No. Roy. No. Doug. Okay. Okay. I get it. Your name is Doug. Geez, you don’t have to be so insistent.

That is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say the work dictates. The characters tell you if they are acting out of character. They can tell you what they want to do. They may even name themselves. Go with it. They won’t let you ignore them anyway.

Does it sound like I am insane? I don’t know anyone in this world that is completely sane. Writers, even less. It’s part of the makeup required to succeed as a writer. After all, what sane person thinks they can do it? It’s too much of a long shot. Do something that pays the bills.

That’s why most writers have another job. They have to pay the bills. Very few make it to the point they can make a living by writing. For every J. K. Rowling, you will find a million more writers who could only dream of her success. Don’t aspire to be J. K. Rowling. Aspire to be you. If you don’t do it, who else will?

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Back It Up

Who turned out the lights? No! My words. All those beautiful words. Gone. What to do?

Has this ever happened to you? You are in the middle of something and the power goes off. Whatever you were doing is lost. Or is it?

If you have backed up your work, then no. It is still there. If you haven’t, you are out of luck. It’s gone. All of it.

Luckily, I got into the habit, a while back, of saving my work every few paragraphs. When the power went off tonight, I didn’t lose all of my work.

Yes, I have a backup battery system. Yes, it remained on. No, my computer didn’t. I have no idea why. I will have to figure it out later.

The electricity going off is not the only reason to constantly save your work. Sometimes, the program you are working in crashes. Sometimes, the computer itself crashes. Whatever you haven’t saved is gone, never to be seen again.

Also, it is quite possible you will forget to save your work before shutting the program down. Most of the programs probably will remind you to save first, if you don’t. Some of them might not. It’s too late if you don’t think to save something before shutting everything down.

Constant saving isn’t the only thing you need to do. Every few days, or when you finish a chapter, or when you think it is a good time to do it, back up that copy. Put it on a jump drive. Load it onto cloud or another online backup system. Email it to yourself. Don’t settle for only one backup. You never know when your computer is going to crash for the last time.

I’m not trying to jinx you. I’m just reminding you to be prepared. That power outage will happen. The computer will crash. You will shut down that program without saving. It’s going to happen. You can do things to make sure it isn’t a disaster.

So, when is the last time you backed up that work? I did mine hours before the outage. I had emailed it to myself. I still have it. I lost less than half a sentence because I had hit that save button seconds before everything went down.

If you haven’t already, backup that story. Someday, you will be glad you did.

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Are You Burned Out?

It’s almost two weeks in. Are you burned out yet? If not, you will probably feel that way at some point during the month. Accept it and go on. It’s only a month. You can take a break at the end.

I have dealt with burn out quite often in my writing. Sometimes, taking a day or two off helps tremendously. It is important to remember that you can get through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Have your characters gotten so upset with you that they have quit talking to you? Does it seem like they have deserted you completely? Have a talk with them. Tell them you are not going to accept their attitude. You are in charge and they are not. Let them know you are not giving in to them. Cuss them out, if you want.

Perhaps it isn’t that they have quit talking to you. Perhaps you simply don’t really know who they are, what they like, what their dreams are. In this case, interviewing them might be your best bet. Ask them pointed questions. If the answers lead to more questions, ask them too. Get to know your characters.

Have you backed your characters into a corner because you just don’t feel like dealing with them? Maybe you didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened anyway. What to do? Where do you go from here?

There are three choices. First, you can go back and rewrite part of what you have already written to get past the problem. Second, you can go on and pretend you didn’t write yourself into a jam, and fix it later. This is what you may have to do if you are participating in NaNo. Remember, that first draft is supposed to be a mess.

The last thing you can do is use that as part of the story, and have the story take an unanticipated turn. You might be surprised at how much you like the new twist, if you choose this solution.

Of course, none of these are easy to do. That’s okay. Writing is not supposed to be easy. At least, good writing isn’t. You can write a bunch of nonsense fairly easily. The idea is not to tell a good story the first time. You might not even tell a good story the second time. It may take three or four times before you get it right, constantly tweeking as you go.

Be sure you take a break between the first and second draft, the second and third, etc. You will get burned out if you don’t.

What works for me may not work for you. We are all different. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you. Sometimes, our best ideas come that way.

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What to Say?

Well, here it is, time to write this blog again, and I have no idea what to say. The words have escaped me.

How do you write when you don’t know what to say? Isn’t that what every writer faces from time to time? It makes you wonder where your creativity has gone. At least, it does me.

The good news is that it’s there, somewhere. It is hiding in some dark corner of some darkened room deep within your mind. You might have to follow a maze to get there. Like any good maze, you feel lost and disoriented. How do you find your way out?

You don’t find your way out, You find your way in. The room is in the center of the maze, just waiting for you. Unlike Harry Potter, there are no deadly obstacles in your way. Nothing is going to reach out and grab you. All you have to do is continue on until you reach the center of the maze.

What’s that you ask? What if you find that dark corner within the dark room, only to find out it holds another maze? Go with it. Sooner or later, you will find that inspiration at the end of the maze. All you have to do is refuse to give up.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s not that easy. There are distractions. False turns. Dead ends. The need to sleep. The need to eat. The need to go to the bathroom.

That’s okay. No one is saying not to take care of yourself. Do whatever is necessary to maintain your well-being. Just don’t give up on that story. It’s waiting for you.

So, how did I write this much when I didn’t know what to say? I went with it. I took it where it lead me. This time, it worked. Next time, it might not.

Anyway, it is time for me to log off here and get back to my novel. It isn’t going to edit itself.

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