Friday, 29 October 2010

Guest post - Your Writing Journey: Elana Johnson

What do you write? 
I write young adult novels. Sometimes there’s magic, sometimes there’s mind reading, sometimes there’s kissing. Okay, who am I kidding? There’s always kissing!

How long have you been writing? 
I began writing just after Thanksgiving in 2007.

What got you started? 
I’d just experienced something really traumatic in my life. I disappeared inside myself. I lived in grays and passing time. When people would ask me how I was, I couldn’t answer, because it was just another day and I had made it through.

I started writing by penning the story of the first 30 years of my life. All the dark emotion seeped out of me. And naturally, I poured all that angst and loss and darkness into a teenager. Aren’t they just the angstiest?

A Few important lessons you have learned along the way: 
1. Writing is hard.

2. I can do hard things.

3. Publishing a book takes patience.

4. Writing and publishing both take perseverance.

5. The blogging community is extremely supportive and lovely and made of all things worth having.

What priority writing is in your life at the moment? 
Well, writing always comes after job and family. And maybe a few other things. Maybe like 5th? 6th?

Is it a hobby, career, potential career? 
I’m definitely hoping for a career. I also teach in my real life, and I’d love for writing to replace teaching. But teaching provides a steady income, and so far, writing hasn’t done that. But I’m hoping it will. Or rather, I’m working toward that.

Can you see yourself writing for the rest of your life, regardless of financial / popular success? 
I think so. I do believe that a person has to experience some measure of success or they’ll quit. I mean, you can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over. If you want something to change (go from failure to success, for example), you have to change. Do something different. Learn something more. Hit the market at the right time (okay, so you have no control over this). Something.

Anything else you may want to add. 

My debut novel, POSSESSION, comes out next summer from Simon & Schuster. There’s mind reading! Escapes! Cute boys! And kissing, always kissing. J

Thursday, 28 October 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010 - How to Make It To the End Line?

Here is a list of my tips to survive NaNoWriMo when you still have life beside writing. I do NaNoWriMo alongside my day job, so believe me, it's not all sitting at home writing while my butler gives me fresh cup of coffee every hour (Hey, if I am dreaming, I am having a butler.)

These tips may work for you or may not, and if they don't, rest assured there are techniques for you that you just haven't found yet. So let's get cracking...

You have to start. No, I am not being sarcastic. You need to start on November 1st, or if you are as excited and crazy about this as many of us - precisely at 12:01 am. While many people do NaNoWriMo by writing in weekends, or few days a week, or BEST CHANCE OF SUCCESS is by writing every day, even if only a few hundred words. It will also give you confidence to know that you can do it outside November too.

Personally, I set word goals for everyday, but not the same word count. For example, I set highest goal for myself during the weekend, slightly less on Friday because I finish work early, and much much lower on Monday to Thursday because I don't have much time left after work. So set your goals according to your schedule. Even in your busiest day, you have time for 100 words. Yes you do.

Have a plan. If you are not an outliner - that's fine. You don't need to have a detailed outline, but at least spend time thinking about your project, doodling, making a big word cloud - whatever. Have some sort of idea of what you are going to write. I am assuming here that at the end of the month you want to have at least a rough draft of a novel - not just a jumble of 50K words. If you know what you want to write about - even if it's something as basic idea as: Jerry goes on a quest to find the most precious cheese in the world, and Tom is determined to stop him and tries to set up all kinds of ways to kill him on the way. Jerry succeeds, gets the cheese, and Tom goes to the Cat Prison where his punishment is to watch Mouse TV all day, every day. There you go - even for a complete pantser - this is not an outline. It is a brief idea of your story. But it gives you direction. So you are not just sitting there on November 1st, wondering whether you should write about Donald Duck or Jerry - because you know that Donald doesn't belong in Jerry' story.

Play to Your Strengths. Make sure your goal suits your temperament. We are all different people. Some people thrive under pressures and deadlines, and others have a nervous breakdown. Know your strengths and use them. If you write good quality 500 words every day, but will have a writer's block for a year if you cranked out 10K in a day - don't do it. It's more important to enjoy the process than to follow the crowd. Just because some crazy woman decides to do 90K in two weeks, doesn't mean you have to. On the same principle, if you write better while with other people, then join a writing group in your area. If other people are distraction, stay clear of them, lock yourself in your room, and get on with typing.

Regulate your Forum Trolling. Okay, let's face it - one of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it is a group effort. It's fabulous to go into this madness with all the other mad people across the globe. It's fun to see who is writing what, who is doing how many words, and what crazy things people are doing to get through. Forums on NaNo (whether official or any other boards you frequent) are a great temptation, because we also want to keep boasting or complaining about our own progress. This is what I do - and it works for me. Pick 2 or 3 threads that you like the most. Last year, I picked one or two on AW, and Regional Thread on NaNoWriMo board. Do regular posts only on them. This is when you are writing, and need a few moments of distraction or just social contact - use them. But DO NOT browse on any others. The best way to regulate that is to keep your threads open, not the main Forum Index. When you are done with your word count, then you may browse the whole thing through your heart's content. But otherwise, stick to your couple of threads.

Make your priority known. If you have family or social life or whatever obligations - learn to say no to things you don't have to do. And plan in advance for things you do have to do. For example, I placed a large grocery order yesterday online so that at least for next three weeks, I won't need to do more than minimal shopping for basics. That saves me time and hassle. That allows me to come straight home from work and get on with writing. Do your chores in advance, delegate them, or just leave them. The world is not going to end just because you didn't scrub the floors this month. You need to relax where it doesn't matter, so you can focus on meeting your word count.

Have Fun. Yes - this is a MUST. This is an amazing experience. Whether or not you do 50K, you can take a lot out of this process. So enjoy it. If it seems like a constant stress that has you in tears, then perhaps it is not for you. Little bit of stress is fine. After all, we have to push ourselves to broaden our capability, but you should know when it's too much for you. So Have Fun. Enjoy the process. Share your triumphs and your woes, and know that there are thousands of people right alongside you, going through the same thing.

And if you are on NaNoWriMo - find me and say hi :-) My username is Lost Wanderer

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

NaNo 2010 - Bending The Rules AND all about WIP

As most of you are probably aware (at least those on facebook) I've been wondering whether to do NaNo or not, since I was also wondering what direction revisions in my current WIP were going to take.

Well, now all decisions have been made, and you are the first to know :-)

This year, I'll be bending the rules of NaNo. Instead of writing a new project, I'm going to rewrite my current one. It requires a complete rewrite, and here is why:

  1. Change of POV - instead of multiple third person, now it will be first person. That not only means a complete rewrite just because of that - but also because any essential information that was given to the reader during other people's POV while MC was absent, now need to be delivered through MC.
  2. Plot - while main plot remains the same, due to POV change, and just few other ideas, several things change
  3. Character Cutting - I've gotten rid of few of the minor characters, and reassigned new roles to some of the existing characters. As a result, their scenes change.
Of course I haven't come to this decision lightly, since I was actually planning to complete this book by end of October, and start a brand new project for NaNo. I have spent enough time going through my WIP, and I actually did a completely revised outline. But now, I am convinced that this is much better, far closer vision of my book that is in my mind. First person narrative focuses more attention on MC, and as a result makes him more active. Other characters were stealing too much attention through multiple POV and it wasn't suitable for the scope of this book.

There are a few things I still have to sort through in the new outline - again, result of all these changes, so I've decided to make this my NaNo 2010 project.

Because this is not a brand new project, I will be aiming higher than just first draft. So this is my goal:
  • Complete rewrite of the whole draft (current version which is multiple POV stands at just over 98K words. This one should be at least 90K)
  • Clean rewrite. Not just superfast mad race, but as good draft as possible
  • Finish the rewrite by/before 15/11 and start revision
  • Second half of NaNo month should be spent on revision
I love the challenge of NaNo, and participating with so many other writers, so I absolutely did not want to miss that opportunity. And there are times when we just have to do things our way, so I am skipping the rule book, and doing it my way. Goal after all is to accomplish something, and that's what I hope to do.

Looking forward to sharing NaNo experience with many of you again.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series

My introduction to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was through the movie - which I found to be totally not-funny, and a waste of time. So I was put off by bothering with books as well. But recently when I was at a library, I decided to try it, because it is supposed to be one of the SF Masterworks books, which is a pretty decent list. And to my surprise, I really enjoyed it. It was funny, unusual, but more importantly it was an achievement as a writer (I'll come back to that in a minute.)

So I got the second and third book too. And as I am not that great at reviews without spoilers, I will share one paragraph, and if you find it funny, you will enjoy the book. This is from the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. 

Population: None

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not everyone one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divide d by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

To come back to it from a writer's point-of-view. This series is completely unorthodox. It is crazy, full of exposition, and let's not even talk about POV shifts. My point is that all the rules of writing that you have ever been told, are all broken. Except one. It's a great story. 

Terry Jones said in the introduction of the book, "He's (Adams) the only novelist I know who can make ideas a page-turner." 

And  that's the key. This is not a plot driven or even character driven book. I wouldn't know how to define it. It simply is what it is. But it works, because of Douglas Adams' mastery of the writing craft. There may be exposition, but there are no wasted words. Every sentence serves the purpose of the story. Rules are broken but the story works, because it is handled by a writer who knows what he is doing.  

Friday, 22 October 2010

Your Writing Journey: Guest Post - Karin Eider

I'm an owl. I like the night. Nights are quite and peaceful. During these late night hours my brain seems to be the most productive. I'm a bit nervous about that interview thing, so my dear friend Dolly had friendly agreed to do it on my terms.

On a Friday night, about 11 p.m. Dolly enters the door to my private Room of Requirement. It seems to be a library, because of all the book shelves. To your right a huge glass front opens an amazing view over the gardens, but now you can only see the reflections of the room and my desk stuffed with papers, colors and lots of other material for my art (journals). I lead Dolly to the left, where two red, cozy leather armchairs are waiting for us. Because of the inappropriate time I'd ordered a little midnight snack. A big tray full with finger food, fruits and sweets covers the little table between the chairs. It's late October, the perfect excuse to light the fireplace. The flickering flames enlighten the scene magically. The crackle of the wood suits perfectly to the sound of a soft piano in the background. Chopin is playing. I don't know, what Dolly prefers to drink, so I prepared several refreshments. The room is filled with the aromatic smell of fresh coffee, but there's also a decent whiff of wine, which was allowed to breathe in its decanter.

We both sit down, enjoy our late meal. Some light conversation smoothes down my nervousness. But I know it's time to get serious, when Dolly puts her cup of coffee on the table and prepares here pen and paper, I lean back and wait for Dolly to start her questionnaire:

D.G.: "What do you write?"
Ah well, a fully grown author can answer that question straight away. But I'm just a student, who's still matriculated in the big school of writing:

You know, Writing-Kindergarten taught me the basic abilities of writing and reading. In Writing-Primary-School I've discovered that words are more than just plain reading, they are the entrance to whole new worlds. Reaching the level of Writing-High-School marked the beginning of my own writing. Experimenting with words and styles of writing formed my first short stories. Now, I'm a Writing-College-student, who learns about writing-theory, makes her practical writing-exercises, discusses with fellow students and authors about writing-topics. I guess I'm about to graduate. There's a novella called 'Voodoo Island', which is supposed to be my dissertation.

To cut a long story short, with that story in mind, you will find my books in the shelves entitled with 'Adventure' or 'Mystery' or 'Fantasy'.

D.G.: "How long have you been writing?"
The better question would be 'How long have you been telling stories?'. I have that very strong memory, sitting right next to my grandfather, in his car. He'd just picked me up from Kindergarten and I was talking and talking and talking. So eager to tell him the latest news and stories, discussing with him all my important issues. He was so patient with me and I loved it!
Writing simply gave me the opportunity to use another media with the advantage to make my stories a bit more permanent. And, who knows, maybe even eternal.

D.G.: "What got you started?"
It's very obvious, isn't it? Nothing but the desperate need to tell stories.

D.G.: "A Few important lessons you have learned along the way."
For quite a while now I ponder over the question, if destiny and muse are two fancifully, unpredictable women or if goddesses really just move in mysterious ways.

Look, I've been given those fantastic images in my head. Some beautiful become alive in my travel-journals. Some weird find their way into my dream-diary. Some funny just bust out while composing my emails. I also dare to say, that muse was so nice to grant me a quantum talent to bring those images properly to paper.

Alas, I'm still missing this one special thought. That one unique idea, that ignites me to develop an adventurous plot and great heroes and evil villains and passionate woman and exotic places - everything exciting and big enough for a complete book.

I'm frightened that I've maybe already been given this one special thought, but I've literally missed it! That I haven't paid enough attention, haven't noticed it!

So, my advice to myself and everybody else: Pay attention to your senses. Everything you can see, hear, smell, taste or feel could be the sparkle of inspiration. Let these sparkles swirl around your head, transform and develop. Listen to your inner voices. Destiny and muse will let you know, when it's the right time for creativity!

D.G.: "What priority writing is in your life at the moment? Is it a hobby, career, potential career?"
Well, I was not destined to become one of those natural-born-writers, no professional author the caliber of a Stephen King. I'm totally fine with that. Lucky me, I love the job I have already ... or instead. So, this little girl still dreams the writers' fairytale, to have one day that unique idea and write a brilliant book. I don't need to be Germany's Stephenie Meyer ... oh, I won't repulse it ... but I would be happy enough to publish a fine book with good reviews.

Until this miracle happens, I'll keep on writing down the images and voices in my head for my own enjoyment. Now and then, but as regularly as I'm used to do now.

D.G.: "Can you see yourself writing for the rest of your life, regardless of financial / popular success?"
'Can I see myself NOT writing?' I don't think so. Sometimes I feel like a schizophrenic, who has to write down the stories to ban them out of my head. Else it would become very crowded in there!

D.G.: "Anything else you may want to add?"
What could I say, that hasn't been said before? What could I say, that you haven't heard before? 

What could I say, that hasn't been written about?

Even these words have been said before, I just say: Thank you for having me on the show. You've been very gracious with your time and patience. Thank you, Dolly, my dear friend.

Dolly has finished her last question and the silence between us is a friendly one, peaceful. At least, that's how I perceive it. After a while Dolly packs her things and I accompany her to the door. With her gone, my private Room of Requirement slowly vanishes into the dark of the night ... I find myself sitting in front of my computer, it's 2 a.m. in the morning, writing the last few lines to close the door to this other world.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Your Writing Journey: Guest Post - C. R. Ward

What do you write?

I’ve tried my hand at pretty much every kind of writing there is over the years, but I keep coming back to poetry and romance novels. I also do the odd flash fiction story or non-fiction piece just to keep myself honest.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for enjoyment most of my life, and I’ve been writing seriously for about ten years now. And by seriously I mean seriously thinking of submitting it, selling it, and making money with it. :-)

What got you started?

What got me started was Grade 8 Language Arts. Friday was anthology day, where we’d be given a prompt (usually a picture) and we were encouraged to write an original poem or story. We were also given the option of copying a non-original piece if we weren’t feeling creative, but I always managed to come up with something original. Thanks to Mrs. Latchford, I learned to love poetry and creative writing. 

A Few important lessons you have learned along the way

  • Just because you love the way something’s written doesn’t mean it’s good.
  • If you’re going to post a serial, even in draft form, you really need an outline.
  • Welsh poetry forms are not for the faint of heart!
  • All the advice or writing instruction in the world doesn’t equal the simple act of sitting down and just writing.
  • Writing groups can be a great source of inspiration and support.

What priority is writing in your life at the moment?

Writing is a pretty high priority in my life right now, second only to the business I’m starting up. When I’m not working on business stuff, I’m writing. As a matter of fact, my writing will be incorporated into my business, which gives it top priority.

Is it a hobby, career, potential career?

I’d love for writing to be my career. Who wouldn’t? But I’m also realistic enough to understand that very few of us will be able to support ourselves solely through our written work.

Can you see yourself writing for the rest of your life, regardless of financial / popular success?

Most definitely! As long as there’s breath in my body, I’ll be writing.

Anything else you may want to add:

Never give up, never surrender. Yes, I stole that from Galaxy Quest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. If writing is your passion, then don’t let anything stand in your way.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Your Writing Journey: Guest Post - Kaitlyn Hall

What do you write? 
I write mostly YA fiction, with some dabbling in short stories and poetry.

How long have you been writing?

Just this side of forever!  I started out drawing out stories and explaining them in great detail to anyone who would listen.  I was also a very dramatic child, improvising my own stories to my adoring fans (uncles, grandparents, etc).  Then I learned this wondrous art of forming letters to make words that grew into sentences, then get the picture.  That was about age 5.  And I've been going ever since! 

What got you started?

My grandmother encouraged my creativity my whole life.  She taught me how to write before I started school (which, by the way, caused NO END of grief from my peers when I started kindergarten...and never stopped until I was out of High School!!!).  My nana and I were inseparable for most of my life and I owe a lot to her.

A Few important lessons you have learned along the way:
  • Never, never, never, never, NEVER give up.  Distractions, discouragement, writer's block, everything that life throws at you can make you just want to give up and quit.  But I can't give up.  I can't quit.  Writing is my life-blood.  When I stop, my life ceases to have meaning and importance.  It's what I was born to do, whether I make any money at it or not, I will ALWAYS write.  
  • If I am meant to become successful, published, rich and famous, whatever, it will happen in its own good time.  Patience is key.
  • Surrounding yourself with support is vital.  I'm a very emotionally needy person, always looking for reassurance, and having a support system keeps me going.
  • I love, love, love my alphas and betas.  I would not survive without them.
  • Write what you love.  If you don't love your MS, story, poem, article, whatever, it won't love you back.
What priority writing is in your life at the moment?I would love to say that writing is my number one priority in life.  I would love for that to be true.  But having a roof over my head, food in my belly, bills paid, reliable transportation all seem to shove their way to the front of the line.  I work in education, so my schedule is pretty set in stone, but it also means that I have set blocks of free time to devote to writing, and I use them to their full advantage.  Sometimes I spend entire weekends or holiday vacations holed up in a room, typing away madly.  So, I guess the answer to that question is my day job seems to be my number one priority at them moment, but writing comes at a close, close second.

Is it a hobby, career, potential career?

I would say that writing is more than a hobby, but definitely less than a career at the moment.  Most definitely a potential career.  I have to write.  When I don't, I feel like I'm going to burst, characters, poems, story ideas all spinning around in my brain, clamoring for attention.  If I don't write, I really will go mad.  It's not a hobby, because hobbies are optional activities.  Writing is not optional.  But it's not a career, because I've yet to make any money on anything I've written (with the exception of a few writing competitions in school).  So, definitely a potential career.

Can you see yourself writing for the rest of your life, regardless of financial / popular success?

Most definitely.  See the above ramble, so I don't incessantly repeat myself.  ;)

Anything else you may want to add:NaNoWriMo is one of the best exercises in commitment and practice a writer can have.  DO IT!!!  (Shameless NaNo promo (; )
Check out my really cool, if sadly neglected (need. home. internet. access!!!) blog:

Friday, 1 October 2010

Your Writing Journey: Guest Post - Jamie Debree

What do you write?

I write romantic suspense under my name, and erotica under a pen name. I'm also plotting a thriller/horror novel that will be written under another pen name. Gotta have variety.

How long have you been writing?

On and off since high school...seriously for about 2 years or so.

What got you started?

Giving up, actually. I was going through a particularly rough spot with regards to my writing and serious self-confidence issues, and I decided to walk away from writing altogether since I couldn't seem to get my act together and polish anything up to submit. I couldn't stay away though, and decided to just start a web serial on my blog and write purely for fun, with no pressure to publish. Ironically, taking the pressure off opened the gates, so to speak, and I've been writing regularly ever since.

A few important lessons you have learned along the way:

Writing rules are just guidelines. It's good to know what they are, but there's room to wiggle.

A story always benefits from another set of eyes for editing/proofreading.

Different publishing methods all lead to the same result – readers get the story. Options are best left open when it comes to getting your work out to people.

Too much pressure to write for a specific market can kill a story. Better to let it be what it needs to be, and worry about how to get it out after it's done.

What priority writing is in your life at the moment?

Very high – right up there with the day job and the hubby, though Halloween is sort of getting in the way at the moment.

Is it a hobby, career, potential career?

A second job at the moment, and definitely a potential career. With any luck, it will turn into a bonefide career in five years or so.

Can you see yourself writing for the rest of your life, regardless of financial / popular success?

Yep – absolutely. Since I'm self-publishing, my work will always go out no matter how much/little money I make on it, or how successful I am. There are people out there who read/like my work, and that's who I'll keep writing for, no matter how small the audience is.

Anything else you may want to add:

I'm incredibly grateful to be part of the online writing community. The people I've met and connected with have really made a huge difference in not only my motivation, but the quality of my writing and my overall confidence in it. It's an amazing group, and one I hope I can give back even a fraction of what I've gotten out of it.

Thanks for having me, Dolly – this was a really fun interview!

Jamie DeBree
Author of Tempest (romantic suspense)
Available in ebook and paperback from Amazon& other online retailers.