Four Common Misconceptions About NaNoWriMo

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-Square.jpgHey all! I’ve been a little absent from blog posts this month, and here’s why! I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, where I am working on Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key! To learn more about NaNo, keep reading. I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule in December. 

As I am writing this blog, it is November 23rd and I have written 35,645 words toward my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in a month. In case you don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo is an event in which every November, people try their damnedest to write a novel in 30 days. Every year, over 300,000 participants sign up. It’s not easy, but it is possible. At my current word count, I am just a little behind, but still keeping a good pace to finish the 50,000 in time. But many people don’t like the idea of NaNoWriMo. There are reasons for and against, but today I’m here to discuss what I consider to be misconceptions about the event.

The rush for a word count wins out over creatively good books. Here’s the thing. A ton of the people who join up for Nano have never written a book before in their lives, and they are certainly not writers. For them, this is a fun mission, a chance to try something they’ve never tried before. Maybe some of these people will find out they’re writers. Maybe some of them will write one sentence over and over again, and it will be about cheese. This won’t harm anyone, unless Madame Gouda decides to publish her magnum opus on the wondrous dairy product.

For writers, however, Nano is capable of teaching us another lesson. How to create a habit. It won’t make us any more or less creative. If we’re practicing writers, the hope is that we already have that tool, and if we don’t there may be no saving us. What it does teach, instead, is to write a certain amount every day, consistently. It teaches to shut down the voice in our heads that tells us to stop. We can’t slow down because something in the back of our minds says this idea might be stupid. We have to push through it because we have a word count. We’ll fix it later. And it teaches us to think outside of the box to make our plot, even the less well thought out parts, work.

NaNoWriMo creates terrible books. Maybe. NaNoWriMo probably creates terrible first drafts for some. But first drafts are not and never have been books. And if you think your first draft is publishable…I probably don’t want to read it. The Order of the Key is coming out in early 2016. I don’t even know how many drafts I did of The Order of the Key. I literally lost count. I know it’s more than five. More than five. And that was before my editor even got it. So, yes, if you’re handing in your first draft, it’s probably terrible…but you don’t get a seventh draft unless you’ve gotten a first draft down. Nano is good for that.

50,000 words is barely a book, so you don’t write a novel in a month. Well, for one thing, 50,000 words can make one hell of a first draft. Last year, one of my best friends, Louis Santiago, wrote an amazing novel in 50,000 words. Did it need development and a little expansion? Sure. But it was a damn good start. But most people will take a little more than 50,000 words to write a full novel.

It may take you another month to finish the other 30,000 words that might be in your novel. It might take you another year or two of editing. That’s okay. The point is to motivate you to create, not to motivate you to create a document ready to be sent to the printer for publication. You’ll get there. But nobody should expect it to be this month.

Nobody is buying as many books as are made regularly, so there’s no place for your stupid book idea. I read this article back in 2010 when it was published. It is still circulating, and it still pisses me off. This is a stupid article. Why? Because it determines that there is a finite amount of creativity allowed in the world, and if you discover some long hidden talent, then you’re wasting the space of so-called REAL artists who already knew about their talent. You’re knocking true writers off the bookshelves.

WRONG. NO WAY. There will always be plenty of space out there for you and other people to write books. Your book will be unique. And even if it’s not – even if you’re book is literally Twilight with witches and mermaids instead of vampires and werewolves, what difference does it make?Creation can be for others to observe, or it can be for the creator. We are allowed to tap into our creativity in whatever way we choose.

So, if you want to write a novel during NaNoWriMo, write one. If you don’t, don’t. But definitely don’t let yourself become swayed by these misconceptions. Now…maybe I should go back to writing my novel. Until next time!

 

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The 777 Challenge

Kristin D. Van Risseghem tagged me to share seven lines from the seventh page of a work in progress. Naturally, I chose The Order of the Key. 🙂

I may have gone a tad over 7 lines, just because I’m a sucker for a decent ending. Also, just so you know – they just fought some creatures. Happy reading!


“Any more?” Kyp’s breath rattled from his lungs.

I really hoped he wasn’t depending on me to give the final all clear. “I think we’re good.”

He groaned and let himself slide to the ground, using the wall for support. “Just a minute. We’ll rest for a minute, then I’ll take you back home before more come.”

“Uh-huh.” I plopped down beside him. The concrete was surprisingly cold. Now that nothing was trying to kill me, the adrenaline seemed to be wearing off, and my legs were starting to shake.

He winced. “Pretty sure I broke all of my ribs. Are you okay?”

I looked down at my legs. While they were blood covered, the wounds were mostly healed. “Huh. Must not have been as bad as I thought.”

Kyp shook his head. “Jaina didn’t tell you anything, did she?”


Now I’ll tag 7 other authors to play this game:

Ismael Manzano
Jaromy Henry
Gage Greenwood

Megan Manzano
Kayla Rivera
Sharon Platz
Louis Santiago

Writing at a Write-In

 

IMG_0791Last summer, me, my husband, Ismael, his sister, Megan, and our friend Louis Santiago agreed that we would try to do some more writerly activities to try to boost our creativity. In some cases, it would be actually writing related. In others it would be some sort of research activity. The problem was making it work. We each had our work schedules. Ismael and I would have to find a babysitter for Logan. We would have to make this happen on dates we could actually make it to and that took awhile. Until March 13th, to be exact. As it turned out, when we finally found an activity, Megan couldn’t make it, due to a sudden school assignment fiasco. So it ended up just being me, Ismael, and Louis, on this particular mission.

Our first assignment? The Gotham Writers Write-In! In the beginning, nothing about this assignment went right. Aside from Megan having to drop out the day before, the trains we each had to take to arrive at the location on time, were behaving horribly. Louis was supposed to meet me at my job while Ismael was supposed to meet us at the location. After several minutes of Louis and I frantically calling and texting each other in an effort to communicate how we were going to handle the fact that he was trapped in the subway (which, for you non-New Yorkers, barely has any kind of cell phone reception), we decided that we would all meet at the location.

When I get out of the train and call Ismael to see where he is, he asks me if there is anything he had to bring.

“Did you bring paper? A pen?” I asked.

“No, I thought they probably give that to us. Don’t they?” Ismael asked.

“I can not [expletive deleted] believe you wouldn’t bring something to WRITE ON to a WRITE IN.” I was very stressed out about running late. Also…if you transcribed most of my life, there would be a lot of deleted expletives.

We rushed off to Duane Reade to buy a pad and pens for Ismael. When we finally met up with Louis, we all headed upstairs and guess what was waiting for us at the sign in table? Yes, you guessed right! We each got our own pen and pad. And maybe, just maybe, I’m a bit of an idiot.

No matter (or rather, no matter to me. My husband would go on to bring this up once every fifteen minutes or so, each time in it’s own hilarious way, which I certainly earned). The three of us headed to our seats, surrounded by other authors. At first it was very quiet. Except for the three of us, of course. We were chattering quite heartily. Then the teacher, Hasanthika Sisisena, a short story writer, entered the room and provided us with our prompt by writing it on the whiteboard in front of us.

 

THE BET

 

We had fifteen minutes to write on the topic, but I got NOTHING. I finally started to get some germ of an idea, continuing off the idea for my flash fiction, Tunneling, with Grayson’s friends betting on when he would fall back off the wagon. I didn’t like it as I was writing it. The characters seemed crass and cruel and I had already decided that, should I decide to continue that story, I would handle it delicately and with compassion. This felt like wasted writing time. I glanced over at Louis, who was writing on his tablet, just in time for his tablet’s word processor to crash. That’s what real wasted writing time looks like.

When it was finally time to break, I felt like I was in Calculus class again, praying nobody called on me to speak. Thankfully, reading aloud was voluntary here and the writers who did choose to share their work were all rather talented and fun. It was amazing how quickly we were sucked into the scenes they created.

After a few readers shared, we got up for some wine, cheese, snacks, and conversation. Once the wine started flowing, the hearts having already been bared, the writers became much more chatty. Even us. Ismael struck up a conversation on self-publishing with the writers beside him, while Louis and I chatted with a writer about the joys and sorrows (and mostly SORROWS) of revising. By the time we were called to order again, we were reluctant to end our conversations.

The next prompt?

CHARM

 

This, I could do. I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology. It is supposed to take place within the world of my Keys & Guardians series, so I crossed the theme of that anthology with the prompt and what I came up with can be found below.

*****

The trees in the forest behind the Estate had long since lost their leaves, bare branches pointing into the sky like long, bony fingers, blocking the view of the stars blinking in the night sky. My cheeks hurt, my fingers numb with the cold.

The crunch of Drew’s boots on the dry, frozen ground alerted me to his presence. He had found me.

“Gana, what are you doing?” Sometimes, he said things with a laugh on the end, even when he wasn’t joking. Sometimes, he said things like that when his words were most grave.

What was I doing? I didn’t know. I was lying, flat on my back, on the cold hard ground, my arms crossed over my notebook, the real reason he was out here. Not to spend time with me. To learn what I had learned.

“I’m lying on the ground.” I stated flatly.

He grinned, and it was adorable, and I brought my head up and back down, smacking it against the cold floor.

“We can sit by the tree, if you want.” He danced around me, trying to make me laugh. I was more little sister than anything. That’s why he played the goofball for me.

I glanced at the tree – the one my older sister, Jacklyn, and her awful boyfriend, Kyp, met near. God only knew what happened by that tree.

“Nah, I’m good.”

He laughed, that hoarse little laugh of his and it almost brought the feeling back to my fingertips. It was like he knew what I was thinking. When I didn’t laugh with him, he knelt down in front of me. “You know it’s cold outside. We could talk about this some other time.”

“I’m not cold.” Either my nose just grew or that was frostbite setting in.

“No? Then what’s wrong?” He frowned and sat down on the frigid ground beside me. His ass didn’t even touch the ground before he was right back up on his feet with a yelp. “Shit that’s cold! What’s wrong with you?” Little laugh at the end of every sentence.

“I wish I was more like Jacklyn.”

“Like…athletic?”

“Like her. Fun. Interesting.”

Drew punched me in the arm, all sibling love. “Nah kid. You’ve got your own brand of charm.”

Well, I supposed I’d have to take what I could get.

*****

Once we completed the second prompt, we read again. While the first time around, the group of us remained silent, this time, Ismael was the first to speak up. Emboldened by the strong reaction to his work and possibly by the wine (it doesn’t take much), I spoke up next and also received an uplifting reaction. Louis sat this one out, not particularly inspired by either of the prompts. This is bound to happen with any event like this, because prompts either trigger something or they don’t, and even when they do, it’s way more likely to be an odd little rambling thing you can’t get a handle on then an actual story seed.

When dismissed, we headed out of the building, joking with some of the other writers about how the fact that we would likely never see each other again helped make us more comfortable with sharing with each other. As our group split off from the rest, we discussed the changed experience of Ismael being able to share something in the fantasy genre with the group without having the strange reactions we sometimes encountered when sharing our work in college.

The conversation of the change in paradigm and the joy of having friends with shared interests followed us to dinner and all the way back home. The first adventure of our writing crew was a marked success.

 

Fall into News and Links!

The puns that start off these link/news collection posts are really starting to get awful. I’ll admit that. Hell, I’ll own that.

News, In Case You Missed It

My short story, “Choosing to Stand Still” has been published at The Holiday Cafe!

My reading of “Tunneling” is on video. Check out one of these two links:
Link 1
Link 2

Please check out my guest post on YA Fantasy writer Scarlett Van Dijk’s blog. The post discusses the superstitions of writers and the way they slow us down.

I may or may not have written a fanfic. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.

Friends of the Blog

My little sister, Megan Manzano, got published again! Check out her creepy piece of sci fi flash fiction!

By this point, my character blog hop was a while ago, but if you missed the different steps in my section, you can start with Hannah R. Goodman’s post. Hannah is the creator of Sucker Literary and she writes YA novels. Check out her blog post introducing her character, Maddie. Hannah tagged me, which led to me tagging others.

Check out their entries below to meet a bevy of new and interesting characters!
Scarlett Van Dijk
Kay Kauffman
Kimberly McKenzie
Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Fantasy writer, fellow geek, and good friend of mine, Louis Santiago takes on sexism in nerddom in a two part series that is honest, a bit sad, and oh so true.

Part 1
Part 2

Info

Just finished reading Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro. It is a very good book and is very informative regarding the writing life. However, I found I disagreed with huge chunks of it which, I suppose, goes to show that every writer’s experience is very different. Either way, the book was an interesting read.

Links

Lucienne Diver is a literary agent at The Knight Agency and I love this blog post she posted about how to tell if your manuscript is Young Adult or if it falls into another closely related category. I particularly love her view on why so many adults love YA.

Grammar lesson: How do you use each other and one another?

So you want to write about medieval fighting sword and are having trouble with the terminology? This video will help you.

While I search for an agent, I have come across many different types. Those I have submitted to have been open, with full communication, as I have chosen them for this reason. However, there are some interactions that can be…frustrating. Check out this wonderful tongue-in-cheek article containing the dos and don’ts of being an agent.

Summer Linkin’

It’s that time again! This time I have a collection of news and links in three distinct categories. Post in the comments if you find something particularly enlightening or if you have fun links of your own! I love new discoveries.

News!

If you haven’t already seen this posted a zillion times at my social networking sites, my short story “One Percent” got published! Check it out here

You can find my review of the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness here

My flash fiction piece, “Tunneling,” has been chosen to be read at a public reading at the New York Public Library on September 24th. More details will follow!

Friends of the Blog!

As many of you already know from this post, I tend to be quite the little social justice warrior. Because of this, I need to share a new blog I have discovered. An examination of race and ignorance, “The Influence of Ignorance” speaks from a privileged point of view, about discrimination in our supposedly more enlightened age.

What can George Lucas teach you about editing? Actually, quite a lot. Check out my buddy Louis Santiago’s blog post

I completely forgot that this existed. When discussing my writing, I stumbled upon this short piece of non-fiction written by my father, John Minners. I had to include this because I was kind of blown away. I think I just figured out where the drive for writing that me and my siblings have came from. 

Informative Gems!

What is the difference between “Awhile” and “A while”? Check this out here

Get confused when you hear people discuss narrative and exposition? Have a little bit of trouble telling the difference? Check this blog post out

As I finish up my final edits to Order and begin considering shopping out my manuscript to agents, this article has been very helpful! 

That’s all for now!  Stay tuned for my post at the end of the month, where I talk about my somewhat insane addiction to technology. 

Marching On

Hi all!  This past month has involved a crazy string of rewrites and attempts to compile the complete submission packet I will be using for The Order of the Key.  I am hoping to start shopping it out to agents by June, so the next few months I’m going to be in prep mode.  That doesn’t mean you won’t continue to get regular offerings from me, just that they might be more revision and promotion related than anything else.  Or, that they might be collections of links like this one! Check out these great links, some of which are connected to me in some way, and some are here because I thought you might find them interesting.  Enjoy!

– Check out my review for Shards & Ashes, a collection of YA dystopian short stories, at G-Pop.net.

– I recently reconnected with an old high school friend who is also a fantasy writer, and the two of us have been trading emails, discussing all of the aspects of storytelling.  We’ve had a blast doing it, and hit upon a funny discovery – our blogs are like siblings. So, if you like my blog style, check out Louis Santiago’s blog here.

– I always say that writing has made me a weirdo.  Apparently, I am not alone in these thoughts.  Check out K.M. Weiland’s guest post at The Master’s Artist.

– Check out this great collection of 7 big whoppers writers make in their manuscript and read it before you begin any round of edits.  It will help you catch some oopsies.

– And here are some more mistakes that will help you come revision time, from the same blog.

– Not only is this article completely hilarious, but it’s informative too!  Check out 14 Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask Literary Agents.

This is a nice checklist to have if it’s agent querying time for you.

– Are you a book writing bad ass?  Here’s seven reasons why writing that book makes you awesome.

– I’ll admit, I’m bad with a semi-colon.  I never know how to use it correctly, even though I intellectually understand where it should go; it never feels right.  I tend to subscribe to Kurt Vonnegut’s view, which eschews the use of them, as mentioned in the article I’m about to refer to you, which explains how you should use them, if you’re going to do so.

– What does your character want?  What do they need?  How do these things interact with each other?  This blog post said it way better than I could have.

– This is so relevant.  Working at Sucker Literary taught me so many things, and this blog, about what you can learn working for a lit mag, lays it all out in black and white.

– Speaking of Sucker, get ready for Sucker Literary Volume 3, which will be released on various platforms on April 15th.  So keep your eyes peeled!