#NaNoWriMo Day 2 | Catching Up and Finding the Path #Writing

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

So, here we are, back at it a year later, and hopefully you’ve had a successful first day! Getting back into the swing of writing everyday has been bumpy for me so far, but I’m not going to let that get me down. I spent Day 1 re-reading my two-year-old manuscript and getting reacquainted with my plot and characters. Some of them surprise me, as if someone else had written them. Coming back to a manuscript I’ve left for an indefinite amount of time always surprises me.

For the sake of moving quickly, because I have much more ground to cover in Midnight Ladies later this month, I’ve plotted what I think will be the last five or seven scenes that will need to happen in Survival Instinct for the story to be completely told–without any loose ends, anyway–neatly tied up but not necessarily “done.” I don’t normally plot, but I also don’t normally “know” how the story will end.

In this case, because I was watching a lot of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at the time that I started, I had an idea where the story would go. Having just a sentence of who is in the scene and what may or may not happen, how that scene will propel the story, is already making me feel like I’m close to the end. And, I want to be. I don’t like being in my antagonist’s head, and I really want my protagonist to get out. It’s just a matter of getting there.

How was your first day? Will you be able to write on your second?

Words written Day 1: 355 (Paltry, I know. But, I did spend most of the day re-reading, mildly editing the 74 single-spaced pages that already existed.)

Words written Day 2: 1,340

#NaNoWriMo2015 | This Year’s Goal

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

Hello Fellow Writers, Readers, and Annual Novelists!

NaNoWriMo is up and running, and I’m so sad to say that I won’t be starting a new novel this year. I won’t even technically be taking part in NaNoWriMo (or, National Novel Writing Month) as a word-tallying member of the website, that is.

I’m going to be taking part in my own version of NaNoWriMo, which I will handily call NaNoFinMo, or National Novel Finishing Month. In 2012, when I officially began taking part in NaNoWriMo, I actually completed the story I started writing. In 2013 and last year, I only got about 3/4 and 1/2 way through those stories, respectively.

So, for this year’s NaNo goal, I will be taking the first two weeks-ish to finish the serial killer novel I began in 2013 (working title: Survival Instinct) and the last two weeks for the dark lesbian erotica I chronicled last year (working title: Midnight Ladies). Though, I think that “little” collection may take me beyond that amount of time. Maybe Survival Instinct won’t take the full two weeks at the beginning of next month *crosses fingers, partakes in wishful thinking*.

What’s great about this is that I technically don’t have word counts to meet each day, because my overall goal is simply to finish the stories, get a rough draft I can “trunk” until I feel ready to come back and polish them. My plan right now is to chronicle the spectacle adventure as I did last year: so, tune in to the same MeliSwenk channel for the same MeliSwenk fun as you had last year!

You did have fun with me last year, right?

Because I certainly had fun with all of my readers last year. And, I’ll be glad to get back into some regular blogging, too! I have recently cut some of the fat and scored some extra time for networking and general, all-around friend-making.

Looking forward to getting started! Who’s with me? And, what are your writing goals for NaNoWriMo (Or, NaNoFinMo) this year?

Authors Publish | 8 #Quotes about Importance of #Failure with #Writing

Source: Authors Publish/ Issue 110
Source: Authors Publish/ Issue 110

Okay, maybe not so much the importance, but the inevitability of it. You will fail. You may not finish every story you start. It’s okay; there are other stories to tell. And even that partial chapter you punched out about the CEO-zombie attack will help you write the full-length KKK-zombie novel you knock out next month. The important part of failure here is that it teaches you that you can keep on going. Even if the first story you try doesn’t quite meet expectations. You gotta keep trying! These quotes aren’t all Issue 110 has to offer. Check it out, and then subscribe! Authors Publish Newsletter is free and drops right into your inbox; why not?!

T Magazine | The #Writer’s Room

What a delightful little read from the New York Times‘ fashion and pop culture supplement, T Magazine. “The Writer’s Room” explores the unique (if essentially similar) spaces where Tom McCarthy, Rachel Kushner, Paul Muldoon, Adam ThirlwellChinelo OkparantaPeter Carey, and Jonathan Galassi create.

Source: T Magazine / Peter Carey in NYC Apartment Office

A table or other desk-like apparatus, surrounded by mementos, pictures, notes, and other books, items of a writer’s and a reader’s life. Reminders of why we write to begin with, and silent inspiration looking down upon the creator from walls, or up from floors. The space used to create is special to each author, despite their inherent similarities. Not only do we create worlds for others, we ultimately create a space where we feel comfortable enough to do that creating. Nesting, in a special way, for the abstract babes that will eventually grow there.

Having a special room to create is not a new concept, nor was it something Virginia Woolf created out of thin air. Writing is often a wholly isolated action, and if we’re going to spend all that time alone we need to be reminded of the connections we have to humanity, to the world around us. That’s what makes for great writing.

Hopefully, these spaces will inspire you in the construction of your own writing room.

T Magazine | The Writer’s Room.

Reviews | #BetsyLerner Guides #Writers Through the Forest

Source: Amazon.com
Source: Amazon.com

Title: The Forest for the Trees
Author: Betsy Lerner
Year: 2000
Publisher: Riverhead Books

If there’s one thing I can say about Lerner and Trees, buy it. Right now. Don’t bother with the rest of this review, or even the quotes I’ll be highlighting. If you’re a writer who wants to get published, and if you’re a reader who’s in love with authors, you may have found a career path. Just, buy it.

Rather than go into any formal review, which after fourteen years of publication (the links are for the updated, 2010 edition, but I checked out the 2000 edition from the library) there’s sure to be plenty somewhere, I think it would serve better to just share some of Betsy’s advice for writers. She’s got advice for editors, too, and I may share that at a later time. For now, I’m talking to the writers in the audience, because that’s really who Lerner’s audience is: the writers and authors in the crowd.

She loves you–almost as much as I do!–and she would do anything for you, even pull up the curtain on the process of publishing to give you an eye-full and maybe to set you off the high-anxiety calls wondering where your manuscript is and what she thought. But, that very anxiety is met and embraced with warmth, knowledge, and friendship. To say that being an editor like Lerner is the kind of editor I want to be, well, it’s an understatement of the highest order.

So, for the writers, here are the Top 5 writing quotes from The Forest for the Trees:

“But if you dream of having your work stay alive beyond your tenure on earth, if you hope to see it beside the unforgettable voices that are part of our literary diaspora, then you must be fearless in every aspect of your writing, from the syntax to the symbolism.”

Lerner Crush Entertain Move
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Lerner Luck and Sweat
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Lerner Wider Audience
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Lerner Writers Alone
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Authors Publish | 9 Quotes from #Bradbury on #Writing

Source: Issue 96/Authors Publish Magazine
Source: Issue 96/Authors Publish Magazine

This has always been one of my favorite Bradbury quotes. I personally love being a student and going back to school is always in the back of mind as an option, for any reason and any occasion. I only wish it were free, but then I reflect on Mr. Bradbury here. I know I could afford multiple trips to the library every week, and everything I want to learn about is there. Philosophy, Folklore, and, hell, Library Science, is even there. All I have to do is pick up a book! Click the image to see Bradbury’s other eight quotes, you won’t regret it!

Writer’s Digest | #Write Better #Characters

I’ve mentioned in other posts how much I rely on email alerts to keep me “in the loop” of what’s going on, not only in my chosen industry, but in the world as well. While I was at a stopping point in the middle of a project, I saw a pattern emerge across my Writer’s Digest email alerts. Between December 2014 and January 2015, the concept of creating and writing better characters must have been circulating the editorial offices pretty heavily. Brian A. Klems gave us two articles (both guest posts by Les Edgerton and Anne Leigh Parrish) on the topic, and Rachel Scheller provided an excerpt from the revised edition of Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan as a third.

The writing-tip count comes in at 17, Rebecca providing an 11-point list all by herself, leaving Anne and Les a 3-point list a piece. However, each tackles the element of a story’s character from a different angle.

Les Edgerton — This article gives a writer 3 of the best ways to introduce the main character; early on, reminding us that introducing the protagonist efficiently and immediately is a great way to hook the reader. Edgerton suggests keeping physical descriptions to a minimum, characterizing with action, and instilling individuality and depth.

Even though the readers may not need “10 pages of describing hair and eye color, height, weight and all of that kind of mundane detail” the writer may want to explore exactly how their character looks, and they can use and have that information without breaking it down into an RPG character bio right there in the manuscript. I find, in writing that I enjoy, that being able to work this information in creatively is an art and one that leads to fuller, easier-to-visualize prose.

Anne Leigh Parrish — This article gives a writer 3 steps to writing a plausible character, protagonist or supporting. Because there are plenty of things to consider when creating a fictional world, like “setting, plot, pacing, voice, imagery and so on”, it is important to remember that characters are an important part of the plot, too, and if they are weak your story could fall flat.

Keep in mind, a character doesn’t have to be nice, or moral, or a pillar of the community. Decent people with no flaws or vices don’t usually make for the most interesting reading. But nor can a character be all bad, with no redeeming traits. In other words, a character has to possess one essential element: complexity.

Parrish elaborates by stating that you should know what makes your character tick and don’t hide it under a bushel . . . essentially. The reader needs to be able to discern what drives your character, otherwise he or she won’t really be able to connect. Parrish suggests highlighting your character’s motivation, physical description (she agrees with Edgerton, that minimal is best except to highlight what stands out and makes the character unique), and personal idiosyncrasies will make them readable and memorable.

Rebecca McClanahan — In the 11-point list, Rebecca shares with writers the secrets to writing an effective character description. This would probably tie in to that RPG character bio template I linked to above, but, again, not as detailed. Six of the 11 secrets focus on how detailed (or not!) to be when presenting your characters to your readers. The other secrets focus on putting your characters in action, using active language to provide descriptions, and giving them props to show the reader who your character is.

Descriptions and walking the perfect tightrope when writing them seems to be the overarching theme here. You want your readers to connect with your characters and if you stick to the “all-points-bulletin” approach you run the risk of losing your readers to mere boredom.

This is where the axiom, “show; don’t tell” would definitely come into play. Don’t just tell us your character is using a cell phone and communicating. Think about who the character is talking to and how; why is that person trying to contact your character; is your character hiding out and about to be found? Providing context, which is what I think each of these writers is trying to say, is the best way to take your character from two dimensions to three.

#AskTheEditor | What is a #QueryLetter?

One of my favorite aspects of being an editor is conducting research and answering the questions new and established writers often have about the stories they’re writing. I’ve always thought I would be rather good as a reference librarian, if only because I so enjoy answering questions. To the point where I annoy the people who get trapped in the same room with me during any episode of Jeopardy!

For the last couple days (more like decades, really, I’ve known this woman since high school), my friend SuEllen (over at Sunshine Graphics on Facebook) has been exploring taking the plunge and publishing her writing. She’s been following my blog and my post yesterday about IngramSpark got her to point-blank and quite articulately ask me about query letters:

I know this is probably a long way off, but what the fuck is a query letter and would I really need one?

I have mad respect for folks who don’t waste time beating around the proverbial bushes.

My response was something along the lines of

A query letter tells a publisher who you are and about the manuscript you’ve sent or want to send. Put it this way, would you shake the hand of a potential employer?

Her response? (And this is just part of the reason why we’ve been friends since high school . . .)

I’m sure you probably want me to say, “Yes.” But all I really want to know is if he washed his hands first.

But her inquiry and curiosity about the idea and overall worth of a query letter got my brain working on building an advice column of sorts that could help any inquiring, newbie writers out there. So, for this first post I’ll define and link to examples of the perfect Query Letter.

According to Wikipedia, a query letter, “is a formal letter sent to magazine editors, literary agents and sometimes publishing houses or companies. Writers write query letters to propose writing ideas.”

Which is just slightly different from what I told SuEllen originally. I was thinking more along the lines of a cover letter, which is something one usually sends along with a writing submission in order to introduce themselves to the managing or department editor of the journal/anthology/magazine of their choice. However, the query letter can take the same format and tone.

Think of it as a professional introduction,  an opportunity to stand out from the rest of the people submitting stories or story ideas, and a platform for selling your writing idea–from essay to novel. I told SuEllen that I’ve seen stories get tossed without even being read because of an issue on the cover letter. Be sure to do your research and know who you’re sending the letter and manuscript to. Catch an editor on a bad day, and your story might not get read just for spelling the name wrong or having the wrong name in the greeting. Paying close attention to submission guidelines will prevent errors like that, especially when it comes to whom or which department you’re sending your query letter.

Writer’s Digest is always a solid go-to tool and outlet for any kind of writing advice from craft to business-end guidance. And, they won’t steer you wrong here, either. The following articles come from Brian A. Klems‘ “The Writer’s Dig“:

“How to Write the Perfect Query Letter” breaks down a successful query letter one paragraph at a time with an agent’s response to each, explaining the strengths and weaknesses of each–from the greeting to incorporating effective summaries of your work as selling points.

“The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter” for those authors among us who require something closer to a checklist. Klems offers six dos and four don’ts that will give your query letter a leg-up over the competition by being thoughtful and aware of the information you’re sending the agent or editor. He even includes a link to examples of successful query letters.

Did this answer help you? Have any other questions you’d like to ask this editor, use the Submissions page or my email to submit!

Writer.ly | #Publishing a Paperback with #IngramSpark

Abigail Carter at the Writer.ly Community has been gracious enough to share her publishing woes with the world in a generous attempt to make it easier on the rest of us. Though Amazon.com, Kindle, and CreateSpace are pretty ubiquitous to the self-publishing realm, IngramSpark is coming up behind rather quickly. I’ve heard the name tossed around a bit, but this is the first eye-witness experience I’ve seen detailed by an actual author using their system.

From the sounds, it isn’t a slick and smooth process–but, is anything in this business slick and smooth besides the final product? Unlikely. Abigail discusses the design, uploading, and final cost issues of working with IngramSpark and if it was ultimately worth it.

Read the entire article by following the link and enjoy a brief excerpt below.

Publishing a Paperback with IngramSpark – Writer.ly Community.

I decided to publish the paperback version of my book, Remember the Moon with IngramSpark because I felt they had a better ability to distribute my book across a wider range of venues (actual bookstores) than Amazon’s CreateSpace.

At first glance, it seemed like it would be an easy process. Post a pdf of the cover and the interior, upload and voila! Get a proof and you’re off and selling! Of course reality is always more painful.