Camp NanoWriMo 2017!

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For anybody who doesn’t know, I’ve spent the last month doing Camp NanoWriMo. Now, most people know about NaNoWriMo. It takes place in the month of November and writers, or people who want to try something new sign, up to write 50,000 words of one novel in a month.

Camp Nano is a bit different. The writers who join up can set their own word count, hours worked, or even pages edited. It doesn’t have to be spent working on one thing either. And it takes place in April and July.

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I decided to work on my new YA Fantasy novel, Never Say Never. For a look at what the project is about, you can check out its project page on the Camp NaNo site.  Things came up, and I ended up devoting about 35,000 words of my word count to the new novel, about 10,000 to a new first chapter for The Order of the Key, and about 5,000 to a new project called Not Just A Headache–a letter to my teenage self about how to cope with migraines that I wrote for an anthology I’m hoping to be accepted into.

I’m gonna go ahead and toot my own horn here. This month of writing came with a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away for two weeks, a surprise trip to the emergency room (I’m okay, I promise), and both medical and emotional ups and downs for other people I hold dear. To say I’m tired would be putting it lightly.

But I’m not going to stop working, because I’m crazy. And also, a life without writing for me, is no life, so I’ll persist. 😉 For the next couple of months, I will continue working on this book, continue querying the one before, and clean up my outline for the new book, which my writing this month made irrelevant in some places. In the meantime, I’ll find space for some blog posts and social media, because I always do.

Then…I’ll be back to Camp Nano in July.

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me on this incredible journey.

~Justine

 

 

 

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!

 

I Have A Publishing Contract: Week 1

You may have noticed that last week, I made a little announcement. Okay, not a little announcement. A FREAKIN’ BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. The Order of the Key, my literary BABY, has been contracted for publication. The below is a stream of consciousness whackadoo commentary of my first week post-announcement. Hey, I promised you all I’d chronicle my writing journey. So…here goes.

Note: I’m neurotic.

Day 1: I made my announcement. Everyone was super excited for me, and I am too!  I have grabbed the elusive brass ring. I spent my day on the phone and internet chatting with people who wanted to know all about it and what comes next and I’m super excited to share. If there’s anything I have on this journey, it is a damn good support system. One of the people I talked to is my content editor. She told me that book 1 should be out in August and that she’d be sending me my first round of edits soon. Then she said this: “In the meantime, start Book 2.” And reality struck. I have always written on my own schedule. Now I’ll have to write on someone else’s. WELP.

Day 2: The Distinguished Press family is incredible. They are fun and a little weird and we have all kinds of private conversations at our private clubhouse and there is a lot of fun and silly jokes. I have entered a world where I can share my weird writer thoughts with the entire room and nobody gets twitchy, which is true pretty much only when I have a precious few friends in my presence.

Day 3: Returning to my day job made me realize something. I have a lot to do. The below is an actual transcript excerpt of a Google Hangout with one of my best friends, Allegra.

 

Me: Currently, I am:

1) Writing Book 2 of the Series
2) Writing a romantic comedy
3) Maintaining my blog
4) Contributing to another blog
5) Participating in a reading challenge
6) Beta-reading Ismael’s book
7) Beta-reading Louis’ book
8) Being a mommy
9) Being a wife
10) Being a person

Allegra: Don’t forget your day job.

Me: Ha! I totally did! I am currently laughing at myself, but it’s that hysterical, maniacal laughter that comes right before you have a breakdown.

 

That’s right – I’m writing two books at once because I never finished my NaNoWriMo project and I don’t want to take a break from it, because I feel like somewhere in the process of EDIT-WRITE-EDIT-WRITE for Keys & Guardians, I will lose the romantic comedy and never get it back. So I’m holding onto it until it is done. I have about 5 chapters left. But…yikes.

Day 4: Snowed in for a blizzard that turned out not to be such a big deal after all. Spent all afternoon writing Book 2 and discovered this thing isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. With six months away from Order, I assumed getting back in would be difficult. It is not. Chapter 1 DOWN.

Day 5: I have realized that people are going to read my book. Seems silly, doesn’t it? But it’s weird! Strange, completely random thoughts have started passing through my head. That gruesome death scene…the sex talk…

You probably have to know me personally to get this one, but I’m a very…smiley/sunshiney person. I seem very innocent and sweet when you meet me. I don’t like to disrupt this image because, frankly, it’s a nice way to be viewed, and that is a significant and true part of who I am. But…not always. This part of me, the darker side, the things that come out in these stories – putting them out on the page makes me feel…vulnerable, I guess?

So, there are some people who say, “I can’t wait to read your book!” And I say, “Yes, I really want you to.” And what I’m really saying is, “Yes, I really want you to and please don’t see me differently once you do.”

Because it’s all just fiction. JUST fiction. At least mostly.

Day 6: I have discovered that I am NOT good at explaining my book when people ask me about it. Okay, let’s be real. I already knew that from the Writer’s Conference adventure. I thought I would be better at this once I knew I was getting published, but when asked by my very excited boss-at-my-day-job what my book was about, I clammed up so badly that when I got to my desk, my buddies at work ribbed me for ten minutes. Here’s a hint. Starting your description of your book with, “Hee hee, it’s weird.” is probably not good. Do better next time, Justine. I am going to have to come up with a pre-packaged answer for this.

Day 7: I got to participate in my first writing event with Distinguished Press. It was a day long online party celebrating the January release of Mirror Reformed, the conclusion of K.G. Stutts’ Mirror Series and containing games, music, contests, and author spotlights. I even got to host an hour and discuss Order and the rest of the Keys & Guardians series. It was a great time and definitely got me feeling even more like a welcome part of this family. To check out the release party and learn more about the spotlight authors, click here.

All in all, it has been an amazing first week on this new journey. I can’t say I’m going to have something to write every week of this. Chances are, I’ll just be battening down the hatches and getting work done. But I can say that I intend to share this journey with you all. After all, what good is a writer without her readers?

Happy Writing!

2014 Year In Review

Happy New Year!  I hope you can look back at last year with happiness in your heart, and look forward to a year filled with new and interesting possibilities.

2014 has been a bit crazy for me, personally. I’ve faced some trials, some family illnesses, some coping with awful life things from my past. I’ve also made new friends, solidified old relationships, and adopted to the new rigors of having a school-aged child. It can be a lot, but every year is a gem in its own way. We have been blessed. Our family continues to float on.

As this year kicks into gear, it is easy to look back and think of all of the things you didn’t get to do, or the things you have yet to do – which is why it is so important for us to take a second to examine what has been accomplished in this bygone year. So, that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to look at what I’ve accomplished in 2014 and discuss where I’d like to go in 2015.

Writing Steps in 2014

  • Last year, I was celebrating the publication of one of my first short story. This year, I am celebrating the publication of three new stories! My writing life has absolutely been blessed this year. Forward momentum for the win! Tunneling, which also happened to be my first piece of flash fiction, One Percent, which I mentioned in my 2013 year in review as a story that I struggled with rewriting, and Choosing to Stand Still, which was the first short story I brought before the writing critique group I was just joining at the end of last year, all found permanent homes and made me a proud mama.
  • I went to my first writing convention, the Writer’s Digest Conference 2014, and did my first ever pitch session. Chronicled in a two part blog post in August, I got to pursue this particular first in time with my son’s 5th birthday weekend, which left me in an insane tizzy. Though two out of three of my pitch requests ended in rejection, and one is still pending, I still count this as a victory on two fronts. I had never gone out into the world to discuss one of my books before. I very rarely went out into the world and declared myself a writer. That weekend, I got to do that, and not only that, but I got to prove to myself that, while it may tire me out, I can be a mother, and a writer, and have a day job, without everything falling apart. This was the first test.
  • Not only did I start pitching The Order of the Key in person, but I also started to send out query letters to agents, enter twitter contests, and just generally get my first full length novel out into the world. This was a huge step, as a writer can sit in edit, rinse, repeat hell forever if allowed.
  • While I have read my work publicly in the past, I read my work for the first time, professionally, this year. It was a great time, only slightly nerve wracking and helped quite a bit by the presence of several incredible people at my side while I geared up. I will say, that one of the ways I have been very lucky, and there are many, is that I have an intensely supportive and loving group of people that would follow my writing and me anywhere and the feeling is mutual. These are the moments when you see that in living color – whether it’s the people who watch my son for me while I go and participate in writing related activities, the people who listen to me practice read, the people who ask me about my work, or the people who come out and attend readings – I have an awesome group of people surrounding me.
  • This year I wrote my first guest blog post, about writing superstitions. I enjoyed putting it together. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know a bit about fellow YA Fantasy writer Scarlett Van Dijk’s work.
  • I completed another round of NaNoWriMo! Which means I’m over halfway through my rewrite of Legally Insane. It is almost complete and I am excited about it. It’s an oddly sweet little story about a girl who hallucinates, and I can’t wait to finish it and get it to you guys so you can read it.
  • I wrote a fanfic, my first in a long time, on a totally different topic than usual. It was, as most fanfic is to me, an experiment in writing a different kind of voice than I’m used to. I enjoyed it.
  • I  wrote yet another short story prequel to my Keys and Guardians series, titled “Love is Sacrifice”. I’m not sure if I can do anything with it as a stand alone (I have the first, “Fuel and Fire”, out for submissions as mentioned below) but I am getting the feeling there will definitely be some kind of anthology one day.

Plans for 2015

  • I’ve got two short stories out in the world waiting to be published by somebody. I am hoping they find placement out there somewhere. They also happen to be my two favorite short stories, which makes their prolonged lack of publication particularly sad.  I’m hoping 2015 will find them a home.
  • The Order of the Key is still out in limbo with a couple of agents and publishers. I am hoping that by the end of 2015 I will know the fate of the Keys and Guardians series. Hopefully, much sooner than that.
  • I definitely want to finish Legally Insane and complete the edit on the book by the end of 2015.
  • If The Order of the Key is picked up for publication, my NaNoWriMo book for next year will be Book 2, The Lost Key. If it is not, and I’m still figuring it out or still in the process of editing Book 1, I will be going forward with The Broken Hearts Club, my ironically (and possibly temporarily) titled story about the continued tale of Tunneling. I still have a couple of characters to really figure out from that story, so we’ll see.
  • I’m taking on a reading challenge for 2015 to get me to read more and different books (in case you noticed that list from last week was a little…Kelley Armstrong heavy…). I will be tracking that, to some extent, here.
  • Just more. Of everything. I’d love to look into more networking opportunities. I’d love to take more classes. I’d love to try some more new experiences that I can maybe use in my writing. I’d love to travel a bit. I’d love to do another reading. I’d love to do more guest blog posts. I’d love to have people do guest posts on my blog. I’d love to grow as a writer. And I can’t wait to start doing it.

2014 was an amazing year. I published one story when 2014 began. By the end of 2014, I’ve published four. I don’t want to lose this momentum. So here’s to another wonderful year of getting out there and being a writer.

And here’s to another wonderful year of you pursuing your dreams!  What have you accomplished in 2014? What do you have planned for 2015? Post it in the comments below.

 

Dragon Slayed! NaNoWriMo completed!

Winner-2014-Web-BannerI have never understood why National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, for short, is in November. I don’t know about everyone else, but November almost always ends up being one of the busiest months of the year. My best friend, Joy’s, birthday is that month. My little sister, Megan’s, birthday is at the beginning of December, and we usually end up either prepping or actually doing something for her birthday at the end of November. There is Thanksgiving and the lead up preparations for that. There is Christmas shopping and preparations for my birthday. Basically, a lot of preparing for things and doing things. This year, in particular, was bad.

Which is, of course, why I committed myself to write 50,000 words in a month. Because WHAT BETTER MONTH, REALLY?

This month, I chose to work on Legally Insane, a romantic comedy idea I have been spinning around for a long time now. About 18 months ago, I wrote it. It was 150,000 words long. The romance genre generally tops out between 80-90,000 word, so it was pretty much too long for ANY kind of book. Almost too long for epic fantasy. So, I spent nearly a year culling and trimming. Then I spent six months thinking. What could go? What should go? What wasn’t really necessary for the theme? What was only in there because my heart couldn’t bear to let it go?

I talked to Ismael, hubby and beta reader extraordinaire. His main critique was that, while he would follow the characters anywhere, the will-they/won’t-they got a little too thick at times, and at points, it could be unbelievable that the leads hadn’t just decided they would. It made the whole thing feel bloated. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is why you need another set of eyes to see your work. I dove into the original, dug in deeply, and came out with a new outline.

My new outline had several changes. Gone were dead weight characters that dragged down the plot. I deleted the D and E storyline I didn’t even realize I’d been trying to tell. I cut six months off of the story timeline, which meant things had to happen faster and with greater weight and that I didn’t need much “and then time passed” filler. I combined scenes, moved scenes around. I even shifted the theme slightly.

I had a brand new story to tell. So, NaNoWriMo it was.

I’ve done this before and wrote about it. The first time out, writing was the struggle. How could I possibly crank out 1,670 words every day? It seemed like so much.

This time, despite a few “crap, with that character gone this scene makes ZERO sense” moments, writing the book was easy. Having time to write the book was another thing entirely. When I had a cup beneath, I could open the tap and let it flow. But cups were few and far between. At least within the confines of my normal sleep pattern.

So, I wrote late into the night and then woke up at 5:30 AM to do it all over again. I. Am. TIRED. Sooooooo tired.

NaNoWriMo-2014-Winner-Certificate copyBut here I am. On November 1st, I knew what my first three chapters would contain. That was it. I was terrified when I started to write because I had only partially thought through my outline (I built the infrastructure on those good days where I found a lot of time.) I loved my characters and I knew them. That was all I had right away. On December 1st, I am writing Chapter 14 of a ridiculous romantic comedy that has actually made me giggle a few times in public. That’s 50,000 original words (not counting bits of dialog I pulled from the original). I still have a third of the story to go, but I’m at the part of every book which I have termed “Shit Meets Fan” (poetic, I know). This is the part where things pick up to a frenetic pace and all of the plot strings tie together in a knot as we build to the climax. And, for me, this is the part where things start to feel like building a Lego set, like the directions are there for me and all I need to do is construct. The best is yet to come.

So, that’s what I have been doing for the last month. What have you been up to? Post in the comments below.

And if you’d like to read about the beautiful uncertainty that comes with your first NaNo, check out my good friend Louis Santiago at his blog, The House of Error. He kept an online journal of all thirty days that captured the frantic pace of the challenge in posts that are both clever and poignant.

See you on the 15th, when I recap the books I whirred through in 2014.

Internet with Friends! And Other Relevant Links…

Welcome to the summer of Pieces of the Puzzle!  This is a little update on what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been reading all summer long.

– I joined the July edition of CampNanoWriMo and managed to write twice my projected word count!  If you are looking to sign up for the next National Novel Writing Month, check it out, here.

– I have spoken my Urban Fantasy, Order of the Key, and my Romantic Comedy, Legally Insane, on this blog before.  The first drafts of both of these novels are now complete.  It’s time to start throwing myself into edits and start outlining my next novels!

– It’s been awhile, but I’ve written a review!  Check out my review of Man of Steel here.

– If you’re interested in following my life in picture format, follow me on Instagram. My username is @justine_manzano.

– My little sister, another writer, has started a blog.  Check it out here!

– Zoraida Cordova is a talented Young Adult writer who writes about merpeople.  She also just happens to be my friend and was once my college classmate in two writing classes.  I just finished the second book in her Vicious Deep trilogy, The Savage Blue, and it left me scrambling for more!  Check out my review for the first book of the series here.  And, seriously, READ THIS SERIES.  If you like fantasy and adventure, you’ll like this.

– Working on edits to your stories like I am?  Check out these great tips to get rid of repetitive statements.

– Here’s another great article about editing.  Check out novelist Patricia Gussin’s list of things to look for in each reread of your novel.

– One of my favorite fandom influences, Joss Whedon, discussed his top ten writing tips here.  They are mostly geared towards screenplay writing, but there is much information to be gleaned from the article.

– Getting together your fiction query letter?  I will be, very soon.  So here is a link to one that works, with a very nice analysis of why.

Okay, that’s all for this month.  Check out my next post in two weeks, where I discuss the debate of writing vs. income.  Take care all!

April Activities

I have had a very crazy month, and now that we have reached the end of it, I would love to catch you up on some of the things I have either been participating in, doing, reading or learning in the month of April.  While my March around the Web post last month was more random wanderings than anything else, this month’s is much more about what I, personally, have been up to.  Enjoy!

  • As of today’s word count, I have completed Camp NaNoWriMo, with 55,997 words, which is just insane.  This month was different than my first adventure with NaNo as there was also the battle of the illnesses going on at my house, family and friends in the hospital (all of whom are doing well and recovering, by the way) and life just getting in the way at every turn.  But I did it!  I won NaNoWriMo!  Again!   I’m contemplating whether or not I will participate in the next camp in July.  I’m not sure if I can handle doing it again so soon especially with my wedding anniversary falling in that month and my son Logan’s birthday on August 1st.  We will see.
  • Also contributing to this month’s “How the hell am I going to WriMo?” question has been the fact that I have a cool new side gig!  I’m working as a reader for Sucker Literary as they go through entries for the 3rd issue of their Young Adult Literary Magazine and I have been having a great time doing it.  If you want to learn more about Sucker Literary, you can either visit their page on WordPress (linked above), like their Facebook pagefollow their Tumblr blog, follow @SuckerLitMag on twitter, or, you know, do them all!
  • By the way, if you have a twitter and want to check out my account, which includes  quotes from my works in progress, writing information, fangirl things and everyday life stuff, you can follow my twitter account @justine_manzano.
  • As an unabashed feminist, this article brought up a bit of an odd feeling within me.  Can somebody learn to write in another gender by following these rules?  What do you think?  I feel like the idea that “Women tend to sympathize and share experiences rather than give advice,” seems like a ridiculous generalization to me, and statements like those abound in this Writer’s Digest article.
  • In this vein, check out my mini-rant entitled “On Daycare and Gender Roles” that can be found on the blog where I post the non-writing related stuff that I participate in (such as fandom things or political and social observations) on Tumblr.
  • Do you know how to write a synopsis of your novel for submission to agents and publishers?  This article at Writer Unboxed has some great tips that got me excited to start working on mine.
  • Ever read through a literary magazine and start to snore?  J. Robert Lennon thinks he knows why.

And finally,

  • Every day, the flow of a story dies due to word repetition.  Writer’s Digest tells you how you can help, here.

I hope you enjoyed my mixture of news and cool things from around the web.  I’ll be back in two weeks to discuss why it’s not so bad to be a little jealous of the success of others.  Until then, keep writing, keep reading and keep being!