Jennifer Walker » Jennifer Gets Bloggy

Let’s Get Laffn!

 

Two years ago, I was chatting with a friend of mine, and we were talking about how we, like so many people, take part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year, but then many of those books just languish on our hard drives. Either they stopped at 50,000 words and didn’t finish the story, or the book needs editing, or it just needs that final polish and a query letter written so it can be submitted to agents and publishers. I decided we needed a month just for finishing those babies up and getting one step closer to being published, and Let’s All Finally Finish a Novel (LAFFN) was born.

 

The challenge was originally meant to run in January and July, but some writers have taken it on in other months that were more convenient for them or when they just really needed to get a novel finished. January is rolling around again in just a few days, so we’re gearing up to do it again. Remember, the idea here is not to write a whole novel from scratch (like NaNoWriMo), but rather, take a novel you’ve already started and commit to FINISHING it by the end of January.

 

This can mean one of three things:

 

1) Pick up a novel you’ve started writing and actually finish writing the rough draft to the conclusion of the story.

 

2) Take a completed rough draft and rewrite/edit it.

 

3) Take a prepared second draft and perfect it and polish it so it’s ready for submission, and write your query letter and synopsis (I realize it’s not the same as writing one, but some people might need this, and the whole point is to get people moving forward, right?)

 

If you have another measure of success, as long as it’s in some way related to getting a book published, you are welcome at LAFFN!

 

So… find a way to measure your successes… a goal meter, percentage of project, etc.

 

It’s not about things being ‘equal’ for everyone, or to be a competition. It’s about a personal goal and challenge to ourselves. It’s about finishing something you started, and for some of us, that’s really hard. It’s about taking that next step toward being a published author. As with any challenge, it will be easier and harder for different folks. YOU decide!

 

It’s just a few days ’til LAFFN Jan12. What’s your goal? We have a forum for it on the Accentuate Writers forum (http://accentuatewriters.com/forumdisplay.php?fid=89) so we can all cheer each other on. Please register for the forum and post to tell us what your personal challenge is.

 

My goal: finish the second sequel to Bubba Goes National, titled Bubba Gives Wings. I wrote 50k words of it during NaNo last year, so I probably have about 10-20k to go. That’s just 646 words per day at the most. Cake! I’ve been preparing for it for the past week by reading what I wrote last year and editing as I go so I know right where I’m at when it’s time to start writing on January 1.

 

Let’s Get LAFFN!

 

NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day: Go to Write-ins

If you get involved with your local NaNoWriMo region (you can find them on the NaNo site), you might find that people in your area get together for write-ins. These are fun gatherings where everyone takes their laptops and works on their novel while in the company of others. People might bring snacks to share or brown bag it. The point is just to have some company while you write, as well as to motivate you. They might have word wars, which is where you race to see who can write the most in a 10 minute (or whatever) period. It all encourages you to write, write, write!

I know, you’re shy. I am, too. Many writers are. We’re quiet introverts who keep to ourselves. Now that you know that, you don’t have to feel shy about going to a write-in with strangers, because they all have the same problem! In my region (Sacramento, CA), everyone is very welcoming and we always have a good time. Our Municipal Liaisons do a great job of fostering a fun and welcoming atmosphere.

If you don’t have any such happenings in your area, see what you can start! Even if it’s just you and one crazy, like-minded friend bent on writing an entire 50,000 novel in one month, the two of you can sit at a cafe and cheer each other on.

NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day: Play games with your word count

Just a quick NaNoWriMo tip tonight, because it’s 12:14 and I just met my word count for the day and I’m falling asleep!

I like to play a little game with my word count that helps motivate me to write more. I try not to take a break or let myself get distracted until I’ve reach a word count that’s a round number, usually in increments of 100. In other words, if I’m at 14,337 and I really want some mac & cheese, I’m not allowed to get up and make it until I get to 14,400. What often ends up happening is that I get to 14,400 and I’m on a roll, so I keep typing to finish my thought…and then I’m so close to 14,500 that I might as well do just a little more and get there. When it seems like I’m not going to make my word count, I look at how much I have left for the night and say, “OK, I only have 700 words left. Maybe if I can get 400 in, I’ll be able to make up the rest tomorrow.” But I keep playing my little “just a little more” game and the next thing I know, I’m looking at passing my goal for the day.

That’s it. Give it a try!

NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day: It’s Ok if it sucks.

One of my favorite NaNoWriMo sayings: Embrace the Suck! You’re probably thinking around this time that your novel sucks, and it’s boring, and no one will ever want to read it. Of course it sucks. You’re writing a whole novel in the month of November. How good could it be? That doesn’t mean you should quit, though.

Don’t quit!!! Keep writing. Last year, I was convinced my novel was the worst ever, but I stuck with it and the story got much better. Ask Michy and Greg…I bitched all month about how I hated my story, it was stupid and boring and not nearly as good as the outline promised. I still haven’t finished that book, but at least most of it is done and I can always go back and spruce it up. And I will.

In point of fact, I’m going to have to go at this year’s novel with a machete when I edit it, because it needs to be much funnier than it is. But, it’s so much easier to edit something that’s already written and make it better than it is to start from scratch! I’m also a little worried about meeting word count. I’m running out of ideas. I also don’t know how this thing is going to finish. In general, I’m pretty worried. I could just finish it wherever it’s going to finish and then make up the word count by finishing another book (like last year’s, which is sooo lonely), but then I’ll be stuck with a story that’s too long to be a short and too short to be a novel. Plus, I really want this to be the start of a series of novels, so it kind of needs to go ahead and flesh out. That’s the nice thing about middle grade fiction–it can be short.

Where was I? What was the point of my post? Oh, right. Keep going. Embrace the suck. Don’t worry if you don’t know where the story is going or how you’re going to get your characters out of this mess, or how you’re going to solve the murder, or even how it’s going to end. Figure out what the next scene is, and write it. Then, figure out another scene and write that. The next thing you know, it’s November 30th and you have a completed novel on your hard drive.

Now, go write!

NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day

I had promised to come back and give some tips for winning at NaNoWriMo, and here it is the 7th and I haven’t done it yet! My tip for today is time management.

Most of us have something that we allow to steal time from us…Bejeweled, television, skyping/texting, staring at the news feed on facebook, etc. etc. etc. Depending on how fast you type, you should be able to get your 1,667 words done in about two hours if you focus. I’m pretty fast, so I can do it in an hour and a half IF I focus and IF I know what I’m writing about. If I’m running out of ideas, like I am today, it takes more like three hours.

In any case, set aside time every day for NaNo, even if it’s only half an hour. If you can’t finish your daily word count, you can make up for it another day…but even if you only get 300 words in, that’s 300 words closer to your goal and less you have to make up. If you’re tempted to zone out to television or facebook or whatever your guilty pleasure is, write instead. Skip the movies  this month and save them for December when you’re sick of writing and need a break. Tell friends to lay off and give you some time so you can get your novel written. They’ll understand…it’s only a month! You can do anything for a month.

I generally have NaNo time at the end of the day, after I’ve dealt with all my other responsibilities. I also feel more creative at night. In the morning, my brain is too slow. Other people do better right after they wake up. Find your own rhythm.

The most important thing here is to make the commitment and just do it. You can do it!

NaNoWriMo 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 is here! In case you’re not familiar, this is a challenge where people all over the world pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Yes, your reaction is correct: Oh, my. It’s a lot of work and sacrifice, and it’s not easy, but it’s also a lot of fun. And, hey, you finally get that novel written you’ve been thinking about all year!

Once again, I have no business participating because I have too much work to do. Once again, I’m going to do it anyway, because I just can’t stand NOT participating. Every year, I have some reason why I can’t finish. Every year, I do it anyway.  Check it out:

2007: Didn’t find out about it until November 7th. Signed up, got to work, and finished the entire novel at 63k words. (Flying Leaps, my women’s fiction, now in editing)

2008: Got a case of tendinitis in my elbows and wrists halfway through. Had to take a week off to rest. Finished on time at 50k words. (Bubba to the Rescue, now published)

2009: Was working 10 hours a day as a groom for a horse trainer. Also had writing work on the side. Couldn’t work on NaNo at all several days of the month. Finished on time at 50k words. (Another book in the Bubba series as yet unfinished or titled)

2010: Was working all hours trying to support myself with writing work, just like this year. Couldn’t work on NaNo at all several days of the month. Finished on time at 50k words. I think i was on 25k at the end of the third week, so that last week was really, really hairy. (Bubba Gives Wings, book three of the Bubba books and needs to be finished)

My point? You can ALWAYS make excuses. You have work to do. Thanksgiving is this month. You have to start your Christmas shopping. There’s always a reason why you can’t or shouldn’t do NaNo. So what? Do it anyway. Maybe you’ll finish, maybe you won’t. Even if you don’t, you’ll have a start on that novel and you’ll be further along than if you didn’t do it. If you finish, great! Imagine the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you type in that 50,000th word…it’s priceless, really. I cried last year.

I write fast, so I can reach my daily goal of 1,667 words in an hour and a half to two hours. when I have time, I do more and try to get to 2,000 for those days when I can’t write as much. I’ll try to pop in and post some tips for success.

If you’re on board, welcome, and good for you! Best of luck…you can do it!

 

The trouble with adverbs

Sometimes people follow grammar rules they were taught in school, or rules they think they remember from school, without really thinking about them or understand them. I think it’s important to not only learn the rules, but understand them as well, because then you know when to break them and when not to. Today I’m going to talk about adverbs.

Some people will tell you that adverbs are bad and you should never use them. It’s not so much that–sometimes they have their place. However, when you use an adverb, you’re missing an opportunity to tell a story.

“So there,” she said menacingly.

You could say menacingly, but it’s a little flat. It makes the story more interesting if you show it to us. Maybe she draws her eyebrows together, lowers her voice, moves close to her opponent until they are nearly touching noses, and pronounces slowly and evenly, “So there.”

Yes, it’s more economical to just say “menacingly” rather than writing out all that garbage, but ask yourself: what is the point of what you’re writing? To efficiently tell the story as fast as possible, or to evoke imagery in the reader’s mind so they find themselves deeply involved in the story?

THAT is the whole point of show vs. tell. Adverbs tell. Imagery shows. By taking a few lines, or sometimes just a few words, to show the reader how a person is speaking or acting, your story becomes much more interesting. You plant images in the reader’s head so it’s like a movie playing while they read. THAT is your goal as a writer, not to simply list a chronology of events. That imagery can then get your reader to feel a visceral reaction. Get goosebumps to raise on their arms. Get their heart to quicken its pace. Make them bite their lip in anxiety for the characters.

That doesn’t mean you should never, ever use adverbs, of course. Use them judiciously, and make sure you aren’t missing an opportunity to grab your reader and drag them kicking and screaming into the story.

Book signings are…

I’m typing this on my iPhone on a beautiful hillside, waiting for an event to start where I will sign books. My table is all set up, so all I have to do is wait for the masses…a good time to update my blog!

Book signings are interesting things. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s just me, all alone at a table, assaulting everyone who walks by to tell them about my book. Sometimes it’s a big event with other authors or even assorted vendors, like today. Today’s event is the Grace Foundation’s annual poker ride and safety day, and I’m donating a porTion of my sales to the foundation.

Book signings are amusing. People think that because you wrote a book, you must be rich and famous. They ask me things like if I’ve been on Oprah. When I say no, they tell me I should, like it’s this great advice and they can’t believe I haven’t thought of it. It’s also amusing to watch people who are completely disinterested. They either studiously avoid your eye or politely listen to your spiel and then struggle to find an excuse not to buy. It’s OK, really. You don’t have to feel obligated!

Book signings are humbling. On the one hand, you feel like you’re begging people to buy your books. On the other, you’ll have people show up just to meet you in person or tell you they loved your book. That is totally awesome. When I tell someone what my book is about and they tear up because it brings back memories, that is very cool.

Book signings are inspiring. Even though I generally don’t sell a ton of books, every sale bolsters my confidence and reminds me why I do this…that I CAN do this. Every person I give my spiel to brings me one closer to getting a yes, because it’s all about numbers. Keep asking, and eventually I’ll get the sale.

Finally, book signings are fun. I almost always meet interesting people. Today, I get to look out on the grassy hills dotted with horses and cows while I do my thing. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Between starting this post and finishing it, I’ve already sold a book. Here’s hoping to send a few more copies to new homes where they will hopefully be read and loved!

The importance of picking the right editor

I cannot stress enough the importance of picking the right editor to help you with your manuscript, whether you are self publishing or getting ready to submit to traditional publishers. I have seen a lot of books that were supposedly professionally edited, but the editing was sub-par. In most of these cases, the basic grammar and punctuation is fine and there are no misspelled words, but there is so much more to editing a book than that. A good developmental editor will help you flesh out the story so it comes alive for your reader, make sure dialogue sounds natural, identify plot holes and inconsistencies, and make sure the story flows well. A good copy editor will not only pick up on basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, but they will identify things that don’t belong in fiction, like using present tense words in a past tense work (i.e., now or yesterday), over-use of passive or weak writing (a common problem is gerunds–”he was walking” instead of “he walked”, which is stronger), etc.

Some people are under the impression that developmental editors are evil creatures who are out to ruin your book and suck every ounce of your essence out of it. Completely untrue. While there are bad developmental editors like there are bad everything, a good one will work with you to maintain your vision for the book while making it better. All editors should maintain your voice when they edit you. However, if an editor is telling you something in your book isn’t working, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion, but it deserves some serious thought…they are looking at your book from the viewpoint of the reader, and not everything that makes perfect sense in the writer’s head comes across the way they expect.

When you have a traditional publisher, this is all done free of charge for you, although I think you have the best chances of getting your first book published when it’s already in good shape when you submit it–others disagree with that, but I’d rather put my best foot forward and make a good impression from the start. Anyway, many of the very small presses do not have quality editors, and they make a lot of the mistakes I pointed out above. If you are considering submitting to a small press, you should look at one or two (or more) of the books that house has published and see how the editing is. If it sucks, move on to another press (or at least hire your own editor). After all, you want your book to be the best it can be, right? You can do this by either buying them, looking for excerpts on Amazon or the author’s or publisher’s website, or looking for reviews online.

Elements of the Soul on tour!

Two of my short stories, The Fire and The Assignment, were published in the anthology Elements of the Soul from Twin Trinity Media. Now, the book is going on tour with Walker Author Tours! Check out the tour page for dates so you can read reviews and author interviews.Purchase a copy today–it’s a great collection!