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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.

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Are You Behind Yet?

Day 2. Are you still keeping up? I’m not. I haven’t even started yet, due to illness. I’ll start tomorrow. I promise I will. Yeah, I know. That’s what they all say. Well, I haven’t lost a NaNo in November yet, and I don’t intend to start this year. There’s still plenty of time to catch up.

Next year, I intend to publish that first NaNo novel. It will never be perfect. I just have to let it go. Will I publish the one from this year? I don’t know. Probably. Just not next year. But I can’t publish it at all if I don’t get it written. That is why NaNo is so important. It forces me to quit procrastinating and get it written.

Yes, I am putting extra pressure on myself with this blog. That is a lot of words to write that won’t count towards my 50,000 goal. I also have a violin blog I do once a week. I have gotten into the habit of writing once a week on my violin blog, but not on anything else. This month will see if I have the stamina for the daily routine, once I get started.

If you’re in the same boat as me, don’t despair. Illness kept me from writing for the first week or so last year, and I still finished. I haven’t had a year when illness hasn’t gotten in the way at some point.

If you need a motivator, do as I did last year. Buy a “winner” shirt and, if you don’t win, you have to donate it to the local ML at the end of the month. I found out I wasn’t willing to give up that shirt.  I’ll be doing the same thing this year, just as soon as my next check comes in.

Just remember. I’m a winner. You’re a winner. We’re all winners. It doesn’t matter if we do 50,000 words or 500. That is that many more than we had at the beginning of the month. I took a chance. You are taking a chance. Many others are too scared to take the chance. That’s why we are all winners. We are talking that first step. The journey has just begun.

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And So It Begins – Again

Ready. Set. Write! Come on, now, I said write. It’s easy. Just put one word down. Then another. And another.

Only it isn’t. The only ones who think it comes easy to writers are those that don’t write. Non-writers don’t realize how much writers agonize over every word. Except in November. In November, we are supposed to just put one word after another on paper without agonizing over it. The agonizing comes later. The story comes now. So, fire that inner editor and write!

If you’re like me, the inner editor refuses to be fired. He is screaming at me the entire month of November. By the end of the month, the editor is about to lose his mind. Also, by the end of the month, a story is down and ready for him to pick it apart.  And pick it apart he does, with gusto.

So, why do we do it? We’re writers, that’s why. The stories are screaming in our heads to get out. November is the month we allow the stories free reign.

I know it’s scary. Staring at a blank page, whether on the computer or on actual paper, is always scary. The biggest hurdle is getting started. Go ahead. Take that first step. Put that first word down. Let your imagination run wild. I’ll be there cheering you on at the finish line. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

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Quinn the Eskimo

The song “Quinn the Eskimo” has been running through my head all day. What can I do when that happens? I have four choices.

1 Sing it out as loud as I can

2 Ignore it

3 Go nuts or

4 Write all about it until it gets tired of me.

I’m a writer, so you know which one I choose. How am I going to write Quinn the Eskimo into a story of a magical tree? Well, why do you think my MC is hearing the tree talk to him and picking a fight with it? Maybe the tree is Quinn. Nah. The tree already has a name. Maybe Quinn the Eskimo will come around offering Frank some relief. Maybe he will hear Quinn talking to him on TV.

There are lots of ways I could go. In this case, the thought of what I could do with him released him from my mind. I didn’t even have to put it on paper. Ah, the joys of a good fantasy. I needed the release.

It wouldn’t have stuck in my storyline anyway. This is the third time I have written the story and I want to get it finished before going off in another direction entirely. That could be another story.

Isn’t it amazing how we can come up with half a dozen story ideas while writing one piece and have a block as soon as we sit down to do them later. I have at least 1,000 ideas that haven’t gone anywhere. They might make a cameo in another story, but they crawl back into a hole and hide until I quit looking for them and move on to the next idea.

I think I hear my MC calling. He is getting tired of holding his dog while standing, with a broken foot, next to a tractor he is about to do the haying with. This should be fun.

Hold on, Frankie, I’m coming!

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Writer’s Block

There it is. A blank piece of paper. A blank screen. Whichever you are using is taunting you. You want to write but all of the words seem to have left your brain. You have writer’s block.

That happens to me almost every time I write. Getting the words on the page is hard. Why does it have to be so hard?

If you’re like me, you do your best writing when you aren’t in front of a computer or don’t have a pen and paper in front of you. Once you are ready to get started, you forget all the great words you wanted to put down. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had something that could translate our thoughts to the computer?

Of course, we would have to be able to decide when we wanted those thoughts to be translated. It could be terrifying if everything we thought went into the computer.

Hmmm. Maybe there is a story in that.

Anyway, back to the point. What was the point? I think the point was that we all suffer from writer’s block from time to time. Someone once told me that to get over writer’s block, you had to write. If you can’t think of anything to write, write that. Just keep writing. Sooner than you think, something will start flowing from your brain. It might not be your best, but you can deal with that in the rewrite.

Usually, this happens to me at the beginning of every NaNo. However, the camps are different. I don’t have to write 50,000 words, so I am not as stressed about it. Also, writing this blog helps get the creative juices going.

And you thought I wrote this for you. Ha!

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Ready, Set, Write!

If you’re anything like me, you are both excited and frightened about the start of Camp NaNo. I am excited that it is here. I have so much I want to do. At the same time, I ask myself “what have I gotten into?” Will I fail this time?

Yes, I am aware that the good folks over at NaNo say that everyone who participates is a winner, but what if you don’t feel like one if you don’t make it? I know I didn’t when I only did 17,000 of 50,000 words for Camp NaNo a couple of years ago. I am very glad I only have to do 10,000 this year. It isn’t quite as frightening.

I have been meaning to do another short story for my short story blog for about a month. Perhaps now, in camp, I can. It is already a couple of weeks overdue. Even that feels like I am failing.

The first year I did NaNo, I was sure I wouldn’t finish. I finished with about 4 days to spare. The second year, I didn’t try. The third year, I finished it on the last day. In fact, the only time I haven’t finished my goal was in the first Camp NaNo I participated in. Yet, I am still frightened every time that this time, I won’t make it.

Why do I put so much pressure on myself? Why does anyone? Why would anyone want to participate in this roller coaster of a ride we call Camp NaNo? Is it fun? Not during the month. At the end, however, when the “winner” badge shows up, it is all worth it. The prizes aren’t bad either.

The best thing about NaNo is the way you feel about yourself when you are through. You have accomplished something. No one can ever take that away from you.

Now, off to the races. It’s NaNo time!

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That’s how I felt when I validated earlier today. I did it and I still have one day to spare. Yay, me. Okay, so I want to brag a little. Anyone who finishes has the right to brag, as well as those who tried and didn’t finish. We all did more than those who didn’t even start. That’s something to brag about. I hereby give anyone who wants to brag permission to do so. Just leave a comment below, and I will post your brag.

I will do one more blog this month and then close it down until the next camp. I want to do some interviews with my characters in the novel I have planned for November that month. What is it, July? I think so. Whatever month it is, I will write another 10,000 words and I will get to know my characters. What are you planning to do?

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The End is Near

I’m not talking about the end of the world. I’m talking about the end of Camp NaNo. Wednesday is the last day, and I’m not ready. I need a few more days to get my word count up. Oh, why didn’t I start earlier?

Does this sound familiar? Who else needs a few more days to get their word count up? Who wouldn’t finish it even if they did have a few more days? Is anyone tempted to revise their word count goal so that they can make it?

My goal is only 10,000, which is the least you can have, so that’s not an option for me. Would I if I could? I don’t know. Maybe. I have changed what I was working on three times this month, before finally deciding on what I was definitely going to do. Did I wait too late?

Everything was going fine until yesterday. I had a day when I simply couldn’t write at all. That wouldn’t be so bad if I had started at the beginning of the month, but I didn’t. It’s a good thing what I am writing doesn’t have to make sense, because it doesn’t.

I know I’m not the only one who starts late, although it sometimes feels like it. Most people who quit start at the beginning of the month and fizzle out. I do just the opposite. I don’t know why. I just do.

I get frustrated when people say you have to write every single day if you want to be a writer. You don’t. You just have to write. Taking a few days off, from time to time, won’t keep a person from being a writer. It seems magnified when it happens during noveling month. I don’t ever write every day of a month. It just isn’t possible for me. My head won’t let me.

I can’t pretend to speak for anyone else. I only know what is true for me. The truth is, I have never once believed I could finish a novel in a month, and I have done it twice now. It wasn’t good. It was filled with a lot of drivel. But it was written.

Now that the month is almost over, I find myself, once again, stressing about finishing.

So why do I do this to myself? I can’t help it. I’m a writer.

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Writing When You Don’t Want To

Some days, I just can’t seem to pull it together. Sure, the end is in sight but, somehow, that makes it worse. I wonder if I am really going to finish on time, or if I will fail this time.

Today has been one of those days. I have written nothing more than a bunch of drivel. Even the drivel I have written hasn’t come easy. Why did I ever tell myself I could do this?

The first November I tried, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it. The second November I was supposed to do it, I got sick and couldn’t. The third year, my mind kept telling me I had done it once, but I would never do it again. I bought a NaNo tee shirt and told myself I had to finish to keep it, or it would go into the area raffle. I managed to keep my tee shirt.

I didn’t manage the first camp I tried, but we still had to write 50,000 words then. This time, my goal is 10,000. That should be a piece of cake, right?

The 16th was the first day I wrote anything, then I didn’t write anything else until the 23rd. Between those two days, I managed to get 1,003 words on the screen. If I wanted to finish, I needed to get started.

The next day, I wrote over 2,500, so I was back in the game. I have now written over 6,000 words. I need less than 1,000 words per day to finish on time.

That doesn’t stop the doubts from popping up. How many times will I have to finish before I believe I can? Will I ever believe?

Writing months are full of ups and downs. Today was a down day. Tomorrow may be an up day. One thing I do know, At the end of the month I will have written more words in my lifetime than I had at the beginning of the month. That is something to be proud of.

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Striving For Imperfection

Let’s face it. Nobody’s perfect and your novel won’t be either. Neither will mine. That is what NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo mean to me. I am learning to strive for imperfection.

Imperfection doesn’t mean the novel is bad. On the contrary, a “perfect” novel would be almost unreadable. Perfection is boring. It is the imperfections that make our stories come to life. It is the little quirks that a character has that makes them interesting. It is the twists and turns that holds the readers attention. A “perfect” book would offer them very little that they want.

Yes, this is what I keep telling myself. Writing months are for learning to make mistakes. They are for learning to embrace our mistakes.  So, why does my inner editor keep yelling at me to clean up that sentence, that paragraph? Doesn’t he know he is supposed to be taking a break this month? Doesn’t he realize that the whole idea is to allow those ideas to flow without that messy little mistake slowing them down? Stopping to clean up my story interrupts the flow. There is a time for that, and it isn’t when I am supposed to be writing.

I imagine my little editor as a red, devil-like creature, with a huge red pen with flames coming out of it and a cruel smile on his face. The image is so funny, it makes me laugh. I can start to work on my story again, at least for a while. That little devil won’t take a hint. He just keeps coming back.

Go away, devil boy. I’m writing. Go torment a poor, college student, who is trying to write that term paper he is dreading. Maybe even that graduate student working on his thesis. I’ll call you when I’m ready. Now, shew. I’m going to write.

Imperfection is easy to achieve. The right imperfection is a bit harder. How do you know when you have achieved the right level of imperfection?

I don’t have the answer, but I will keep writing. Maybe, just maybe, I will know when I achieve it. Or I will just stop and say “I’m done”. Either way, the story will be in my “completed” folder. Now, I just have to start one of those.


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