The Writers Circle: Seasons

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Do you have a favorite time of year to write? Is it easier for you to feel creative at some points during the year than others?  Do you have a favorite time of year in which you set your stories?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Write Now Prompt for October 17, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The old coffee machine started to brew its daily pot of coffee, but sputtered, popped and stopped before completing the task.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Tiny Bursts of Inspiration

As the kickoff of NaNoWriMo approaches, it’s a good idea to get warmed up. The same way you’d warm up your leg muscles before running, you need to make sure your creative muscles are ready for the task.

Toward that end, I thought it might be helpful to point out the tiny writing prompts that we share on our Facebook Page. Maybe you aren’t aware of them–and judging by the statistics, you aren’t. 5 days each week we post a prompt that’s designed to give you the spark for a very short burst of creative writing.

Most days you could respond to the prompt in 5 minutes or less, but there’s no reason you can’t stretch it into a longer bout of writing. These prompts have been going on for a while–there’s more than 450 already–and they’ll keep going up 5 days a week (no Tuesdays or Fridays, because on those days we put up prompts on this blog) through this year’s NaNoWriMo and beyond.

Here are a few examples of the Micro Writing Prompts. Check our Facebook Page for hundreds more.

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The Bumble Bee

 shari_post_20141015It isn’t supposed to be able to fly, you know. The bumble bee isn’t built with the correct anatomical construction for flight, but try telling that to a jail-striped insect lusting after pretty flowers between bouts of breathtaking aerodynamic displays. Of course it’s just a worker bee after all, motivated but sexless, doing its robo-job on behalf of the hive, all glory to Her Royal Highness, the Queen.

We can learn a lot from the busy bee, industry and work ethic being at the top of the list. Butcher, baker, or writer, you can’t beat the bee for getting the job done. I’m not fussy about who claims the title writer for themselves. Published writer or wanna be, (I’m in the latter category, sigh,) as long as you write, keyboard nib to virtual page, you’re a writer to me. I’ve written five books, two for children, three for adults, with more story ideas in the chute, awaiting their place in the computer files. Not a claim for commendation, but not a candidate for sloth either.

I read so many articles about getting over writer’s block, way too much time and space wasted wondering why so much is written about how we can make ourselves do what we all claim we love to do – write. Frankly, my dears, the only caveat I see about calling oneself a writer is staking the claim and then standing back to wall, describing bricks as the Big Block. I live in California, earthquake country – I know that a brick wall falls incredibly fast. Ambition matters less than motivation which matters less than inspiration which is always fleeting and subject to bouts of fancy and antsy. What counts is work. I don’t care if you do NaNoWriMo or prefer flash fiction or need a prompt to get your juices out of the blender – you must write. Standing in line for your Bucky Brew and thinking about the next line you plan write to as soon as you fire up the laptop counts for Good Idea, (as when Mom says, “What a Good Idea, Sweetie, now eat your broccoli.”) but writing only happens when it’s a hard wired commitment. Damn the broccoli. Fire up. Write.

Here’s a strategy: Don’t count. I work with children who crab and fuss about the number of words they’re supposed to write. “I can’t think of any more. Is this enough?” they ask. I ask them if what they’ve written completes their article and states all they mean to express in the best possible language. Most want to return to the formula of the number of required words; it’s a benchmark they can measure. Staring at word count and trying to get to a target guarantees frustration as the optimal number remains elusive. What? Only 125 words? But I need yadda yadda amount! You might as well start at the dictionary, list its words, stop at an arbitrary number, and stake your flag on that territory, page 329, done! The effect will be much the same, with the same blah value and impact. Those kids who simply write, getting their thoughts on the page, telling everything they know, do better of course. Grammar and spelling aside, that which issues from their hearts tumbles into something worth reading. So don’t count. Just write.

I began my first adult book with no clear goal in mind other than to tell the story that had been beached in my brain like a ship in the sand. It wasn’t going anywhere until the tide rolled in and took it out to sea – er, until I sat at the computer and wrote the story. I figured at first that I’d be lucky to get to about 50,000 words to tell the story, (I wasn’t doing NaNo; 50,000 just seemed like a good number) but a funny thing happened on the way to that market – I went way past 50,000 and found myself up in the hundreds of thousands. (Shall we draw a number line to see what that looks like? Oooo, big!) Required some serious editing.

I’d written like the bumble bee that flies, completely unaware of the dynamics needed for success. I wrote because I had a story I wanted passionately to tell, peopled with characters who’d been living rent free in my head and needed digs of their own, and a story arc that was about to explode if I didn’t get it down on paper. (OK, it’s a computer, but the old fashioned image of me as writer working at my worn wooden desk, scribbling words from a leaky pen is more visually appealing than me in front of my white/black computer screen, my tush broadening with each paragraph. As my Mom actually says, “You know it, girl.”)

Here’s another strategy: Write what you love. If you don’t love that bad boy, that unlikely plot, that trampy vixen, that innocent Everyman with the droopy eyes, how are you gonna wanna write them into being? How you gonna make your reader wanna read what you wrote if you don’t love your story? Don’t fuss over genre or blockbuster tomes, worrying that you don’t want to write ___________ (here you may fill in the blank of whatever genre is most popular at this moment or any author currently on the best seller list.) Stop jingling the change in your pocket. Wrap your fingers around a pen. Plant a kiss on your story, hug your keyboard, and write what’s in your heart, cads and all. The first novel I wrote? It wasn’t a hot genre in 2012 when I entered it into ABNA, yet it placed within the top 250 books. That placement was heady confirmation for my story but my blue ribbon came when I wrote the final word a few months before.

Success is simple. No matter the designated label or projected numerical outcome, whether writing in November, February, or July, it’s all the same. Don’t count words. Write what you love.

And if you’re still wondering how that tubby bee does in fact fly – because we’re all successful empirical scientists and we know he does – he flaps harder. Just like we should.

 

Write Now Prompt for October 14, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

The woman in the black dress was not who she claimed to be.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Looking for Balance

BalanceI’m not sure I’ve ever heard NaNoWriMo (in the running for the clumsiest acronym ever) spoken aloud. But each year from October 1 through December 7 (or so) it’s nearly impossible to be part of the online writing community without wading, hip-deep, into the NaNo fray.

Will you or won’t you? Does it work, or is it just a gimmick?

I’m a bit of a NaNo moderate. I see the appeal, and I see the usefulness, but I’ve never felt it’s the right tool for me. I’ve never been able to focus on word counts as a way of motivation. Rather, I’m the type to play around with different sparks of inspiration, accepting the fact that some days I’ll write 11 words and some days I’ll write 11,000. I’ve done NaNo 3 times, officially, and won all 3 (unless you don’t count the time where I did 4 small projects to make up my 50k. And I’ve done smaller scale NaNo once or twice–where I set a smaller goal, and don’t officially participate.

I’ve never used much of what I’ve written, but the Decembers that have followed my NaNos have been very productive. But then, that’s what Nano’s about…finding what works for you to get yourself writing.

This year, I’ve not yet decided if I’ll participate at all. I have a rather big event happening on NaNoWriMo Eve, and while I won’t say what that event is, I’ll be travelling for the first 9 days of NaNo on a vacation that traditionally comes right after this event. Combine that with the normal November holidays, and I’ll lose half the month. So 50k, is nothing more than a dream.

And to any of you, looking at your crowded November calendar, who say, There is just no way

That’s OK!

Personally I’ve never heard or felt any peer pressure to join NaNo, but I’ve always felt self-pressure. Like I’m selling out my writing dreams if I don’t do it. Even as I write this post I feel like I’m making excuses.

Trust me–down that path, madness lies.

So I bargain with myself. When I return from vacation, I will try to write 25k through November. But I will not sign up, and I will not obsessively check my word counts.

I also won’t beat myself up for not joining. And if I miss my goal, I won’t beat myself up over that, either.

No NaNoWriMo is OK.

There’s always December.

Write Now Prompt for October 10, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

He’d been down this road a million times but something just wasn’t right about it today.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.

Using NaNoWriMo to Kickstart a Novel

I’m the newest member of the Today’s Author team. I live in Tucson, AZ where the weather is shifting to my favorite time of year- when I can read a book in my backyard without bursting into flames.

I thought by way of introduction, I’d share my own experiences with NaNoWriMo, since that’s what’s on everyone’s mind lately. For more of the nitty-gritty, check out my bio.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in years past and it has always been a great experience. I used to do it as a “NaNoRebel”, but I’ve heard they loosened the rules.

The stated goal – writing 50,000 words in 30 days – was never what I was after. I enjoy the community aspect. It really helps to feel like we’re all in this together. The NaNoWriMo site has forums you can chat in for moral support and it holds write-ins at libraries and coffee shops around the country.

Each day, you add your word count on the site and a little progress bar fills. They tell you how many words to write each day to stay on target. It’s easy to get obsessed with daily word count achievements and I tried to resist this. For me, the point was to set aside time to write every single day, to make it a priority.

I’m an edit-as-you-go writer and I’m okay with that. A lot of people participate in NaNoWriMo to learn how to turn their inner editor off, but that wasn’t my goal. When I found myself trying too hard to meet my daily word count – all the scenes in the book were fast paced dialogue – I forced myself to take a break. This usually happened during the third week.

I’m not participating this year because I’ve recently finished the book I started in NaNoWriMo last year. I used that month to really kickstart the process. You can too!

What is NaNoWriMo and 11 Reasons You Might Want to Join

nanowrimoDo you hear that? A mix of jungle drums and Jaws music, equal parts menace and madness? It starts every October, in your fingers as a tingle, travels up your arms, into your belly, and washes over your five senses like hot lava from Krakatoa.You try to fight it, act like there’s nothing wrong, but that only makes it worse. It’s as contagious as typhoid, as addictive as smoking, and as lethal to your well-planned life as a canyon wildfire. Your brain becomes a suggestion box rather than the finely-tuned instrument that speeds you through your day like the Tokyo bullet train. Now, everything is weighed against writing.

“I’ll go to the movies if I write a thousand more words…”

If it was a pet, it’d be a coral snake. If it was a vacation, it would be hell.

It’s called NaNoWriMo. Every November, over 300,000 people join together online with a personal goal of each writing a 50,000-word novel in one month.It has been variously called “worse than a rampant computer virus” and “better than a long walk without a shadow”. It has either the charm of a dirty needle or the excitement of a new love. Once you catch the bug, nothing can cure you. Luckily, it ends November 30th at midnight. Then, you can breathe without gasping, eat without shoveling, and talk without typing.

On November 1st, it’s an invasion and your body has been well and truly snatched. All you can think about is writing.

It doesn’t matter if you work as a retail clerk or the CEO of a billion dollar company. No one is exempt and no doctor can make it go away. In fact, the only cure is to write–scribble, type, claw, bleed–until you’ve beaten back that thirst, drowned it in words, filled your soul with a new story. Only then can you put down your pencil and move away from the notebook.

As frightening as this sounds, there are reasons you might want to participate:

  1. The act of writing lessens the sense of panic that you will never get your plot figured out.
  2. It keeps you out of therapy.
  3. If your characters have the depth of a stick figure (I stole that line from my friend, Marla Miller‘s Deadly Little Secrets–great book, btw), take a month to fix them.
  4. How hard can it be to write? Hemingway did it. Anonymous did it. A bunch of authors do it who aren’t even alive anymore (I won’t name names).
  5. Coffee helps. Anything that goes with coffee is worth doing.
  6. You can skip the house cleaning. You won’t have time.
  7. There’s a certain peace to knowing what you’ll be doing for a month.
  8. There’s a beauty to being able to turn hope to despair, idealists into Machievellians, all with the clack of computer keys and a few thousand well-chosen words
  9. You don’t have to write a prize-winning book. You just have to write 50,000 words. How hard can that be?
  10. There are hundreds of reason why your mother is right–you are the best writer on the planet–but finishing your novel isn’t one of them. NaNoWriMo will make you finish your novel.
  11. Remember the last time you read a really bad book, and knew like you know bow ties should all be clip-ons that you could do better than that published author? Here’s your chance.

Inspired? Ready? Here is Chuck Wendig’s list of 25 things you should know before starting. And how about BloggingPro‘s reasons why you should write it on WordPress (that’s a tough sell).

More on NaNoWriMo:

23 Reasons I’m NOT Doing NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo — Oh No


Jacqui Murray is the author of dozens of books (on technology in education) as well as the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

Follow me.

Write Now Prompt for October 7, 2014

Write_Now_Plane

At Today’s Author, our first goal is to get you (and us) to write. Write Now is our own collection of prompts to help you do that. With Write Now we’re not talking about writing, or trying to teach anyone how to write. Write Now is all about putting pen to paper.

Today’s Prompt:

She’d never imagined she’d be up on stage holding a press conference.

Now_Write_Plane

How to play along with our Writing Prompts

  1. Write in any format or style you wish: short story, poem, script – whatever you like.
  2. Write for at least 5 minutes. There is no time limit – write for as long as you wish!
  3. Editing is not required, though we do recommend that you run a spell check at least.
  4. Post your work to your blog and include a link back here so your readers can find other writer’s work, too.
  5. Come back here and provide a link to your work on the Write Now! prompt for which it was written.
  6. Read other authors’ posts and leave constructive comments.

Important Note: When you post a draft of your work online, it may be difficult to find a publisher who will accept it, as many see an online document as being previously published. It may also be ineligible to be submitted for certain writing competitions. Always check publisher’s and competition guidelines before using a draft you put online.