Day 3 of NaNoWrMo…

NaNo3
It's NaNoWriMo Month!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

In fact, here's Tip #3, for Saturday, November 3rd…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

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NaNoWriMo Tip #11: Reach out to other authors. Here’s how.

author-group

I got a very sweet email from a reader once, who asked if I could go to an online post where her sister had written a book, read it, and give her encouragement.

I have a sister. If I weren't already published, I could see her wanting to help me in this way.

I had to decline, for several reasons: I had a pending deadline to meet with my editor, and a book launch. When under deadline, I have to keep my head down, and doing my own plotting and scheming.

In fact, I shouldn't even be writing this post, but it touched me so much that one sister would reach out to a perfect stranger to help another.

There are other reasons published authors decline. For example, if they followed through on every request they got to the same question, they would never be writing at all. Others decline for legal reasons: they never want someone coming back and saying, “She used my plot!”

So did Shakespeare, and he's been dead for four hundred years. Go figure.

If she — or you — are  serious about her writing, that is, if you see writing fiction more as a craft (and possibly a livelihood) than a hobby, you should immediately join (or at least go to a first couple of meetings of) one of the many writers organization that nurture aspiring writers, such as Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America.

Here's the beauty part; you have to write in these genres in order to join.

There are local chapters all over the country (and in RWA, they even have national online chapters for specific genres, such as YA, Paranormal, Regency, etc).

By doing so, you will learn from others the ins and outs of the craft (plotting, dialogue, voice, etc.) as well as the “business” end: how to team up with a lit agent, who will put you in front of an editor who “gets” your voice ; or how to self-publish, if you are anxious to see it out in the world in a shorter time frame. (Going the agent to editor to pub date could take two years or more, on average).

These organizations have guest speakers who are published authors who share with you their own bumps in the road on their journeys to publication. You'll take workshops. You'll listen to literary agents explain their end of the business.

And if they sell what you write, you can give them your elevator pitch. Who knows, it may be a match made in heaven.

This, my friend, is an aspiring writer's life.

(A published author's life is a whole OTHER post. But not for today. Like I said, I've gotta keep my head down. As if.)

Within a writers' group, she'll make friends with other writers, both published and aspiring, who may be looking for “critique partners:”  others who will read it and give advice on where she can strengthen a plot point, or her dialogue.

In other words, an ongoing support group.

Almost every published author I know (including me) has found some success in this route, so I want to pass it forward.

My very own RWA Chapter, in San Francisco, actually put together a book for aspiring writers. Writing Romance: The Ultimate Guide on Craft, Creation and Industry Connections, is filled with insightful essays of life in the trenches. You should check it out. In fact, you'll find an essay or two from me in there.

I've also written a slew of creative writing tips in celebration of last year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you don't have time to go this route, perfectly understandable. I wish you luck on your own road  to publication. I'm just hoping to pass along a shortcut in an industry which is changing so rapidly that you need a hovercraft to get to your destination: publishing novels, and being successful at it.

Warp speed, writer!

— Josie

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Read yesterday's tip…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest:  Have you psyched yourself out about writing? If so, can you now psyche yourself UUP, and START writing? 

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

My NaNoWriMo Tips: You can read them here, in order…

RockBottom RemaindersEvery day through November, I've been supporting those participating in National Novel Writing Month by launching posts on creative writing tips (usually by 12 noon PDT) that will help them reach their goal: writing 50,000 words in their novel.

Here are their links:

Tip #1: Treat writing a if it is your career.

Tip #2: Outline the plot of your story.

Tip #3: Don't give up!

Tip #4: Meet your word count first; then edit.

 

Enjoy,

Josie



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NaNoWriMo Tip #7: Chapter doesn’t work? Fix it in “post.”

Microphone ready to present at a book store

Both my husband and I have broadcast backgrounds. One very important lesson we learned in those previous gigs serves us well when we're editing text articles or, in the case of National Novel Writing Month, novels:

Should you feel something isn't working on your project, you can always fix it later.

Broadcast producers can always rely on post-production: the time spent in the production booth, editing the footage shot or recorded for the project. If, while shooting the segment, what you're getting on camera runs too long (exposition; needless scenes, etc), or the subject stutters or talks too much (dialogue) — you rarely say “Cut” and start over. Instead, you'd wait until you were in the studio and saw the raw footage to determine which scenes needed to be trimmed.

The same goes for your manuscript. You job over the next few weeks is to put the story on the page. Afterward, you'll go through it page by page, chapter by chapter. If something reads false, go ahead and chop and dice it, until it reads to your satisfaction.

This won't happen in second draft either. You'll go through several drafts before you're truly pleased with your work.

Even after it sells to a publishing house (YES IT WILL SELL; YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT) you'll get notes back from your editor on how a scene or character should be tweaked. Then it will go through copy edits, where someone with a better grasp than you of grammar and syntax will take a shot at it, as well.

Because when it's ready for its public debut, your readers deserve the best story possible.

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READ YESTERDAY'S  TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: How many times do you read a chapter before you write the next one?

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #5: Show, don’t tell.

whos-afraid-of-virginia-woolf

Because your goal each day of National Novel Writing Month is a word count, it's very easy to fall into a common trap: writing long passages of narration or exposition.

In other words, telling your readers, either via a narrator or the omnipotent third person, what is happening to your characters.

Do yourself a favor and FIGHT this temptation.

Why? Because what you're doing is “telling,” not “showing,” your readers.

Instead, craft your scenes with dialogue. It is much more interesting to your readers to have your characters talk to each other.

No doubt, narration or exposition is also important: for adding atmosphere, for setting up your scenes, for describing where the scenes take place, or how the characters look or feel.

And it utilizes takes more words than dialogue.

But if your characters don't verbalize their thoughts to each other, they aren't interacting normally.

For the majority of us, telepathy isn't an option: all the more reason your characters need to open their mouths to express their feelings.

If you're having a hard time moving from tell to show, pretend you're writing a play. What dialogue would you add to each scene?

Snappy dialogue. Snarky asides. Anger. Heartfelt revelations. All of these expressed emotions make scenes come alive, and make your readers laugh with — or more importantly, fall in love with — your characters.

This NaNoWriMo first draft may not be on par with Arthur Miller or Edward Albee or William Shakespeare, but it will go a long way to being completed if it engages readers.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? Certainly not you!

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HERE'S YESTERDAY'S TIP…

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NaNoWriMo Tip #3: Don’t give up.

Alien
Despite the fact that it is only Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month, I'm willing to bet that, before the clock strikes midnight tonight, one-tenth of everyone who began with high hopes of meeting their writing goals each day will have missed today's deadline…

And by tomorrow evening, they will have completely given up the ghost on the ideal of writing their book.

Don't let that person be you.

The only one who can defeat you from finishing your novel, then pitching it to an agent who sees its merit and wants to present it to publishers is YOU.

Yes, you heard me: you are your Boogie Man.

Your voice is the one whispering those niggling doubts that anyone will love your characters as much as you do.

No one taunts you more about your quirky sentence structure.

Only you think that your dialogue sucks, and that your plot has nowhere to go.

Do you see a pattern here?

Defeat comes from within.

Well, guess what? So does faith.

If you don't believe wholeheartedly in your book, no agent will, either.

If an agent never sees it, neither will any pub house editor.

And The Book That Never Was will be your greatest personal defeat.

It doesn't have to be.

Writing a book is not easy. Drawing from deep within that fantasy world within your brain and pouring it all out on (digital) paper is a skill that is honed one sentence at a time, and many drafts later.

In time, you will weave those sentences into the tapestry of your great story: one with tightly-woven plot threads that will awe all who have the chance to read it: first your critique partners, then the right agent, then an editor who is just excited about it as you —

And finally, a legion of fans, all of whom will be hungry to read your next book.

My first novel was sold as part of a two-book deal. When I broke this wonderful news to my sister, she was very excited for me, for all of about twenty seconds. Then, in a hushed voice, she asked: “But–they can't make you write another one…can they?”

Make me? Write another book?

Hell yeah, twist my arm…

Because it's what I do.

Whether anyone else believes I can do it or not, I write.

Hey, trust me: I have my own Boogie Man.

He fills me with doubts that the muse will some day kick me to the curb.

He tries to convince me that I'll lose my ability to tweak some real-life situation into a great “what if.”

And that, one day, I'll just not care; that I will give up the need to write, to practice my art.

His stale breath has been wheedling doubts in my ear through three agents, four pub houses, and at least a dozen unsold manuscripts.

In fact, he was there last night, taunting me about a book proposal that went out just yesterday. He wants me to believe that it will be laughed out of every publishing house it's been sent to…

Well, he's wrong.

I may not have a magic force field to keep him out of my life, but I have a silver bullet that stops him dead in his tracks, every time:

I believe in my book.

Just like I've believed in all my books, even when others didn't.

I've now got a body of work to prove it. My books have found avid, appreciative audiences.

Yours will, too.

How about you?  Do you believe in your story, your characters, about your vision of a life as a writer?

Then start writing it. Again.

Put those words down on the page. Set a daily goal for yourself, and meet it. Trust me, you won't be writing REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM over and over.

To paraphase Winston Groom, author of  Forrest Gump, writing is a bowl of cherries.

Now, in a paraphrasical mashup of Mr. Groom and Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather:

Drop the Boogie Man. Take the bowl of cherries.

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Here's yesterday's  Tip #2…

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— Josie