NaNoWriMo Prep: Keeping Your Creativity Going All Month

supernatural_001National Novel Writing Month is no joke… it’s an endurance trial for any writer. It’s like running a marathon- not that I’d know what that’s like because fck running. No, really… it’s the same cycle every November. We’re excited, we’re prepared, we’re just positive those word counts will write themselves… lolz. Here, I’ll give you some tips to push through and keep on keeping on… with the help of Sam and Dean Winchester.

 

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This is the easiest part of the month: the starting gate. You’re ready, right? Got an solid plot outlined… or at least a few ideas in your head? Making the most out of this month doesn’t mean you need to have all your ducks in a row- in fact… sometimes it’s better not to. There is a fine middle ground between plotter and pantser where you will find a zen-like center. Don’t stress. This month isn’t about reaching your goal… it’s about fine tuning that great idea and giving it the push it needs. It’s great to be excited! Use that energy and be super pumped… just remember, you need energy for the next thirty days… and in those thirty days, you probably have to deal with your entire family for a weekend.

 

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There is a point in the first two weeks where you might be harboring and nurturing your great idea like baby Groot in his pot, yet the word counts aren’t really meeting your expectations. You might even already be experimenting the dreaded writer’s block. Everything’s shiny, Captain- not to fret… (sorry mixing my fandoms a lot for this one). To avoid or at least lighten this phase prepare yourself:

1. Music- it’s so very important. Maybe not while you’re writing… but certainly during those times when you’re struggling. Think about your characters and their theme songs, or create a soundtrack. For my current novel, and all published novels, I have a play list on Spotify. It’s really a writer’s dream. I pay the 14 bucks a month to not hear ads AND it’s got an app so you can listen to it anywhere. Seriously- I approve of everything Spotify. Make sure you put Heat of the Moment by Asia on that list… amiright?

2. Reading- take a break from your day and read something you enjoy. A new book, an old book or even a magazine article. Whatever you truly enjoy. I will break out my old Fear Street collection and just read a few of those (in an hour). The are super cheesy and tend to spark inspiration just based on their nostalgic awesomeness.

3. Ask a Friend- there’s no doubt you have a BFF who listens to your writing woes. This could be your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend… whomever you trust with your ideas and also inspires you. Let them know what you’re up to- explain NaNoWriMo (I’m sure you already have) and ask them if they’re willing to be your wing man. It’s amazing how much can get worked out when you just voice your plot problems to others. They don’t have to be writers… they just need to listen.

 

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I know that you get to a point where you’re entering your word counts on the NaNoWriMo website and you’re looking at that damn graph on your stats page. It’s not looking great… so you start to worry. Cut it out. No doubt, progress is progress. It doesn’t matter if your word count is 100 or 1,000 the point is you wrote something. If you didn’t write something to progress your novel’s word count- maybe you worked out some ideas about the plot, the characters or you found a great soup recipe on Pinterest… whatever it is… you progressed your day.

Now, if you’ve gone a couple weeks and you’ve only written a few thousand words then, yes, worry a little… I won’t sugar coat it. If your heart is set on finishing NaNoWriMo then you need to start pushing yourself here. Goals are made to be met, and you can set realistic ones for yourself. Personally, I can write a chapter a day if I’m feeling it. My chapters tend to be in the 2500 word range. This is a reasonable goal that pushes yourself. What’s the average word count per day to finish on time? 1667? That’s about 12k words a week. Then you know if you manage to hit 2500 two days out of the week you can lighten your load for whatever days are more stressful. Trust me, 800 word buffers are magic when it comes to week two and three.

 

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Here’s where shit can and will go wrong and your days can seem repetitive as hell. Relax… it’s fine. No one likes a stage four anything… that much is certain. It’s where you’re losing steam, and you want to give up. Don’t. I suggest at this stage you stop thinking about word count and just write. It’s hard to block that weird area of your brain out that just wants to count your words like Rainman… but try. If you’re less worried about your larger goal, and more worried about your character’s lives because you’re turning oddly psychotic at this point-  you’re golden. Now you’re ready to listen to Write Drunk by yours truly.

So suddenly, week three is here and you’re just like:

Yup. I get it. Around this final stretch is when you need to take breaks… or surround yourself by others at write-ins. Something needs to recharge your mental well being. Grab some wine, or coffee (don’t lace it with too much rum) and listen to a mellow and/or happy playlist: my favorite is Your Favorite Coffeehouse and Mood Booster.

You might notice how much of a music fan girl I am. I truly think it’s like that magic sugar you need for your writing caffeine. Don’t forget to dance.

As an alternative to music, try baking. No really. There’s nothing like picking some complex recipe that you’re positive you can make. It’ll definitely look like that picture on Pinterest, right? Then four hours later, your kitchen (and probably your face) is covered with powdered sugar, dry egg white and frosting that doesn’t even taste right. There may or may not be a burning smell emanating form the oven and you might be crying.. not that I speak from personal experience or anything, but there’s nothing quite like epic failing on billionaire cookie bars to remind you what a great writer you are… here, look at all the stuff I can’t make!

 

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I used to think… what kind of sadistic prick picked November to be National Novel Writing Month? Because right when I’m either feeling good about my count or feeling doomed to fail, Thanksgiving comes around. Not only do I have a large family- I have a highly broken up family that all wishes I could come visit. So I can potentially have like eight dinners in four different cities… clearly, I stopped doing this because it’s nuts and hating yourself and everyone around you is what Christmas is for.

Uh, anyway… this end stretch is where you start telling yourself that everything is fine… when it might not be fine. You have to take into account that your time is or might be taken up by outside factors… the last few days are really important for your well being. Because… well… at this point you know whether or not you’re going to win. If you are… fabulous. If you aren’t… don’t trick yourself into quitting. Tell your family about your novel, make it a conversation… tell them about your challenges and triumphs thus far. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear it! If not- get new family members.

 

 

supernatural_007Congratulations, it’s now the end of November… and you feel like Sam Winchester when it was finally Wednesday… (FYI if you haven’t seen Season 3, Episode 11, you’re missing out). Oh wait… November hasn’t even started yet. It’s coming though… just like winter. And you will get through it. For better or worse.

I don’t need to tell you how many resources there are for your writing adventures… so many that it can get overwhelming. Don’t overwhelm yourself. At the end of the day, it’s about your and your novel. This is a month to bond with that novel… go through some major shit with that novel. And when the month is up, you’ll have made progress. That’s what NaNoWriMo is about: progress. It’s about pushing yourself to get something done. Whether that’s 10k words or 100k words (which would be nuts, don’t be that guy), you have move forward with your dream. Feels good… at the starting gate, at the finish line, and all the repetitive days in between.

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What are some of your November writing goals? Feel free to add me as a buddy H E R E.

 

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Book Research Road Trip

writing_wine_logo2Lately, I’ve been plotting out two new books (more on plotting in a later post). If my book isn’t going to be science fiction or fantasy, I want to set it somewhere I’ve been. I’ve never been one for creating “fake” towns- although it’s definitely a good option for some.

Much like Stephen King uses Maine, I have been wanting to use areas of Arizona- despite its bad reputation- there are actually some amazing people and places in the state… a state that is one of the most geographically diverse… there’s low desert, high pine forests and just about everything in between. There are small towns and large cities. I like choosing areas I can research easily- because you should ALWAYS research your setting. You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

So what do you need for a research road trip? Your camera, and a notepad… aside from your necessities like gas money, clothes and a place to stay.

Chances are, you don’t live in your setting. Maybe you did once… like me. I chose to venture to Flagstaff, AZ in the autumn, when and where, I want to set my next book. I went to high school in Flag… and my mother still lives there. But I wanted to refresh my memory. So, I started to plan out a trip. From Vegas to Flagstaff is 240 miles. I talked to my step-dad, who has lived there since 1974 (five years before I was born) and made sure he’d be around to answer questions.

Once I was there, I asked him to drive me around some of the older neighborhoods with really cool craftsman type houses. I had one in mind to write about so I made sure I snapped a few photos of it. Then, more driving around to take photos and notes. This was a three-day process… talking to restaurant owners, people, and just taking in the daily life. This is the fun part! Eat at a local favorite cafe, visit some popular boutiques, and talk to people. I know, strange concept! Enjoy the day life AND the night life.

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Flagstaff is what I call a big-small town. It’s not the ideal “Small Town” with its population of about 60,000 but it’s still very quaint, has a great artist community and lots of history. It’s also one of the most scenic and picturesque areas in Arizona. It’s has a few quirks that are good to know- like almost 40 trains pass through town each day… including Amtrak who will hold up traffic downtown for the duration of loading and unloading passengers.

If you don’t know small details like this… your story may fall flat- and not just to the people who KNOW the area. However, those of you who want to set your books in places far and away… there are still many resources and ways to get the overall feel- and no, I don’t mean go to Wikipedia. Find a friend who has been there- or has lived there. We don’t all have those expense accounts to travel… but the more in-depth your setting is- the more intriguing your book will be. Research can mean spending a bit of money to get that full effect… don’t be afraid to take that extra step and make the most out of your planning.

 

00winerWINE: Naked Grape Pinot Grigio

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Writing on Wine: Author Self Loathing

self_loathing001I’m going to start this series off with something a little more personal. There’s this ritual I’ve gone through once a year for the past five or so… I write a book- or even the draft of a book- I take a deep breath and then start to panic about what I do next. Then, I start to hate myself, and everything I’ve ever written. I’ve come to call it author self-loathing. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t write why this is such a big deal… most of the people in my life think I’m crazy to want to write so much and I’m sure it drives them more than crazy when I go into this fit of despair.

This past month, I finished the third and final installment of the Wasted series… I use the term finish in the LOOSEST of senses because it’s just a second draft, it hasn’t even been okay’d by my publisher, there’s no release date and it needs pretty much all the editing ever… I mean, I may have already come up with a cover concept- so what?

However, I still feel like I ended a story line… the story line. THE series I’ve spent five years writing. Ending a book is a combination of panic, relief, love and hate… it’s a conundrum of feelings that every author has to figure out once it’s written. So… what happens to me once I finish a novel and send it to my editor?

 

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This happens every time. I immediately begin making notes in one of my 10 notebooks about what I did wrong, possible plot holes and characters who need work. I don’t even consider the 100 thousand plus words I wrote and the months it took. I seriously debate writing my editor and telling her to just not bother reading it… wasting not only my time, but the time of close friends I’ve managed to annoy with my plot line discussions. Logical.

 

self_loathing003Finishing a book is kind of like PMSing… suddenly I just want anything and everything deep fried, covered in chocolate, or dripping with cheese to be in my face. I like to call this game the 4000 calorie hatred spiral. I don’t know why this happens- probably because there’s a level of depression associated with the lack of self-confidence in finishing a draft and waiting for your editor to tell you if it sucks or not… or I just want an excuse to tackle half of my dessert board on Pinterest.

 

self_loathing006There’s nothing like a slightly inconvenienced author being forced into a social setting and asked to think about something other than her writing . I used to think this was just me being a bitch, but turns out… a lot of authors I’ve talked to hate dealing with people- especially right after the massive brain energy spent on writing a book. I don’t mean to make spending time with my loved ones and friends sound like a chore… it’s not. In small doses- everything is fine… but throw me into a large gathering or have someone come to me with their own problems and I just want to run away screaming. It’s not because I’m unhappy- I’m actually really stoked that I accomplished something major… and I show it with chronic bitch face.

 

self_loathing007Why, why WHY doesn’t anyone else get what I’m going through? Because… they can’t. No one can- not even other authors. The need to be alone, the compulsive want to over-analyze my own word, the worry, the panic, the sheer anxiety. Sure, this screams therapist… but even she wouldn’t get it! So, I just kind of sit back and glare at everyone… convinced that’s it’s them- not me.

 

self_loathing008Yeah, it happens. That mixture of jealousy, impatience, mild narcissism and borderline crazy isn’t something an author can stop… I get into this place where I feel like:

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I feel like there isn’t much of a place to fit in with a few contract killing lunatics with a pension for wine… then a few will come along and prove me wrong. SEE ALSO: Rebekah Crane. Sometimes I wonder if I’d even be half the author I am without her guidance.

 

self_loathing011I cry… for no reason. My mother used to tell me only to cry when you’re sad, happy or physically hurting. NOT THE CASE HERE. Crying because you’re frustrated is the biggest waste of time and I love doing it. It’s kind of like emotional cutting. It basically solves nothing- it gives me a headache and makes my husband think I’m bat shit cray… but at least he’s in training to deal with it. I call this portion the wedding vow test.

 

self_loathing010What’s this sound like? I’m a shitty writer who needs instant gratification… not all the time, but just now, in this moment when I finished something big. OKAY, NOW WHAT? Give me fame, and fortune… and a swift kick in the CUNextTuesday. Nothing happens overnight, but when you finish a book, it seems like it should. No joke… it’s like I lean back and expect David Bowie- complete in Labyrinth costume- to appear and grant me three wishes for finishing a book that no one is even required to like. When it doesn’t happen… I hate myself. It’s fine. #ITSFINE

 

self_loathing012Write something else: much to the frustration of my husband, I just start writing something else. Bless his heart for putting up with me. He’s really good about supporting my dream, but he will flat out tell me I can’t write all day every day… HA… like hell I can’t. I mean I CAN… I just shouldn’t. For the sake of those closest to me… however, I did celebrate the ending of one series with the start of another. Something different. Different genre, different writing style (kind of) and it made me feel better. It will make me feel better until I finish it. Then… this shit starts all over again…

 

So, now I’ve gone through (yet again) another series of self loathing… and with the help of my friends and family (and watching the Stepford Wives remake)- I’ve made it through. I’m now smiling… because I accomplished stuff. Now, I’ll start obsessing over cover art, changing cover art and re-branding. #ITSFINE In the end, I’ve still written another book.

No wine pairing for this post… however, everyone likes a good Sangria.

Support my writing and buy my first book: ELEGANTLY WASTED

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The Dark Carnival Cover Reveal

Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Pen and Muse for their Dark Carnival short story showcase. The idea came from the super sweet and talented Jolene Haley who decided to hold an open call for scary stories to post during the month of September and October.

This year, PM decided to turn the entire project into an anthology eBook and approached me to design the cover! Today, I can finally reveal my work and tell you a little more about the project and authors… and yes, my short is in the book.

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The air has grown crisp – October is here. With October comes autumn leaves, apple cider, and the siren call of The Dark Carnival. 

Will you answer its call? Will you heed the beckon?

 The doors are opening.

 Will you leave with your life?

In this anthology, several authors and illustrators explore the dark and hidden dangers that lie within a carnival that has come to town. But it is no ordinary carnival. It’s The Dark Carnival.

And when The Dark Carnival comes to town, there’s no promise that anyone can leave…alive.

Edited by: Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, and Jessi Shakarian

Contributors include: Kat Daemon, Kristen Strassel, Julie Hutchings, C. Elizabeth Vescio, Mark Matthews, Brian W. Taylor, Kim Culpepper, Eli Constant, Mari Wells, J. Elizabeth Hill, Nicole R. Taylor, Ashly Nagrant, Kristin Hanson, Calyn Morgan, Tawney Bland, Roselle Kaes, Ken Mooney, Emily McKeon, Bobby Salomons, Ezekiel Conrad, Sheila Hall, Michelle Davis, Lucas Hargis, Vanessa Henderson, Ryan Bartlett, Debra Kristi, Jessi Esparza, T.A. Brock, Ruth Shedwick, Brian LeTendre, Amy Trueblood, Gregory Carrico, Jamie Corrigan, Kate Michael, Tyle Anne Snell, Alicia Audrey, Meghan Schuler, Jamie Adams, Wulf Francu Godgluck, J.C. Michael, Suzy G., Kristin Rivers, and Claire C. Riley.
*Final lineup subject to change

Add it: GOODREADS

 

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