It’s November 30th. For most of us, there are still hours left in today to get those last words in, but if you’re anything like me you know that 20,000 you have left to reach 50,000 isn’t going to appear in one day. So, I want to leave you with some happy words, even if you’re like me and didn’t accomplish that goal.

This isn’t the first year I’ve “lost” NaNo. I’ve been doing NaNo almost every year since 2002, and nine years later I’ve only “won” twice. Not the kind of high percentage one wants to see, but over the course of “winning” and “losing” I’ve realized losing is not an apt term. You see, I wrote roughly 30,000 words in the month of November. That’s more than I wrote in the months of September and October combined. It also averages out to 1k/day which is pretty decent. Did I do what I set out to do? No. Did I fail completely? No.

So, here are a few important things to remember when you’re beating yourself up about “losing” or “failing” or whatever other negative word you’re hurling at yourself.

1. Do NOT beat yourself up. Did I do the absolute best I could in November? No. I didn’t. There were times when I checked Twitter or Pinterest instead of writing. There were days I let other people distract me from writing altogether. BUT there were times I resisted the urge to procrastinate, and I got words down. Words I didn’t have before. WIN.

2. You did something this month many people TALK about doing, but never actually do: you began to write a book. So many people think they could write a book. Then they use excuses like they don’t have the time or the right idea, or this, that, or the other. You, regardless of how far you got, put an idea into formation. You wrote a beginning. You created characters and plot and conflict, and many people are either incapable or unwilling to donate the time or energy towards doing any of those things.

3. Most importantly you wrote. If you wrote 1 word or 49,000 words, you wrote. You are that much further than you were on November 1st. You should never, ever belittle forward progress. Even if they’re crappy words (like mine), even if you end up tossing half of them out, even if you change everything, you got to where you are on December 1st by writing. Regardless of how much or how little, you are NOT a failure.

If you achieved your NaNo or FiMyFuNo goals, congratulations! You deserve a pat on the back and lots of cookies. If you didn’t make it, you’re no less worthy of that pat on the back. You did something. And that’s more than some people can say.

Nicole

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Yesterday was a dark, dark day. There was rain. There was lethargy. And there was malware. This is a cautionary tale.

Monday’s suck as a rule, but the Monday after a holiday presents a whole new level of suckage. Of course, I face a post-holiday Monday with my usual Pollyanna attitude. Yeah! Time to eat better, get back to exercising and writing. And while some post-holiday Mondays end up productive, most tank…hard. (Those Mondays you’ll find me under a blanket on the couch watching a romantic comedy and eating junk food.)

Yesterday started off like any other post-holiday Monday. I had big plans…HUGE! After all, I FiMyFuNo’d my way to the end of my manuscript, leaving three measly chapters to write. If I pushed, I could make my goal. I woke, ate an apple and a handful of almonds, did two miles on the treadmill while watching Kyle Chandler, showered and then sat at my desk where I scored some Cyber Monday deals (all good so far). I posted Tari’s blog entry and shopped some more when suddenly an error message popped up, claiming I had critical hard drive issues. Listen, you DON’T tell a writer who is a half-assed backer-upper that she has hard drive issues unless you want panic to ensue. So I did what they told me to do. I scanned my system with their nifty looking “System Fix,” and yep, you guessed it…it was the wrong thing to do.

Fortunately, I didn’t buy the full version, which required a credit card number. (Nice, huh?) But I didn’t have time to celebrate my savvy. My computer was hijacked. Dozens of official looking popups warned me of my hard drive’s impending doom. Worse, files disappeared. Entire programs no longer showed up when I clicked “All Programs.” Seemingly, my writing was gone.

I do backup. I have a stick in the F drive that I save to when I remember (once a week or so). I also save to Dropbox when I remember, which is even less frequent than a week or so. So while I knew I had some of my writing, the most recent—and in the middle of drama, seemingly most important—chapters weren’t there. Oddly enough, I didn’t panic. I used my iPad to research this “System Fix” infection, and I got to work.

Hours and hours later with my computer still hostage, I panicked. I waited for my husband to come home before I really lost it. He walked in, and I assaulted him with techy words. Rootkit. Malware. I poured wine and continued the assault. Full system scans. Logs. TDSS. I drank wine and my words returned to normal. I’ve lost everything!

He kissed me soundly on the forehead, told me to order pizza and sat in my red velvet desk chair. A couple hours later, my writing reappeared. (Not magically…it was totally him. I was on the right track, but I was tired and too close to the situation to think straight so many hours into the event. It’s not a man vs. woman thing. It’s not about being rescued…oh fine. Yes, he rescued me and my files, and I am so not ashamed.)

Last night as we watched Drew Brees manhandle the Giants (and I ran yet another malware scan…just to be sure), we pondered the where of this infection. I have updated antivirus. I am careful not to visit seedy sites (no, ManCandyMonday sites do not count as seedy). But somehow I wandered into the malware spider’s sticky web. Would you believe that somewhere could have been Google images? *nods*

Go ahead and read more about how thousands of images are infected with malware. (You better do it before you procrastinate by playing around with image searches to populate your site, blog or Pinterest account. It’s a scary cyber world out there, people. And as writers, we’ve got a lot to lose. (While you’re reading, I’ll be scanning AGAIN for malware…and shopping for a Mac.)

Elley

I promised to tell you all about the presentation Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore gave on Deep Editing at the November 20 meeting of LARARWA. Yes, between the Torrential Downpour and car trouble…then car trouble, Torrential Downpour, lunch and shopping, followed by more car trouble, Torrential Downpour, long scary drive on surface streets from The Valley through Los Angeles with more shopping, power outage, still car trouble, and Torrential Downpour as we drove home to San Pedro, which was falling into the ocean (this really happened)…there was actually a meeting. (Wow, I think I just condensed my entire post from last Wednesday into one very, very long run on sentence! Who knew?)

Anyway, Jennifer Miller is an editor with Samhain, who also writes under the name Jennifer Haymore. She relates to both sides of the process. As an editor, she reads, rejects and acquires submissions and as an author she pours out her heart, receives edits and has the same goals and dreams that most of us who put pen to paper have, to tell a story and have it read.

I’m sure that what you really want to know is what makes an editor who is also a published author reject a manuscript. According to Jennifer, sometimes it’s as simple as, she can only acquire so many manuscripts. Today she may be looking for a sci-fi thriller and your manuscript is a steampunk paranormal with a touch of romance, so even though she loved your story and your style, she sends you a rejection letter.

But, what if she is looking for a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, and your manuscript, a steampunk paranormal with romantic elements, comes to the top of the pile? She reads your query and moves on to your story, but what does your story have to have to get the call?

The first thing is pretty basic. We all know that we need to hook the reader in the first few lines if we want them to continue reading. An editor needs to be hooked in the first few sentences as well, and there are a number of things she will be looking for. At the top of Jennifer’s list are believability and characterization.

Is your story believable and logical? The reader must believe it, or at least believe that it’s possible in the world you created. Is your world building believable? Is it solid? Does it make sense? And your characters must be believable.

Beyond believable, your characters must be relatable. They don’t have to be likeable, but the reader must be able to relate to them. Characters should have clear goals, motivation and conflict. And, of course, avoid cliches. If there are cliches in your characterization (this goes for plot as well) you need to have a good twist to the cliché.

One of the things Jennifer advised, which I am going to take a hard look at today in my manuscript, is don’t be afraid of the word “said.” I’m pretty sure I avoid this word, and when author Kara Lennox critiqued my manuscript, one of her notes was “you need to work on dialogue attribution-the technical aspect…people don’t “laugh” dialogue. Woops, I was avoiding the word said.

Jennifer packed her hour-long presentation with advice on deep editing, shallow editing and some technique tricks that can enhance a writer’s work. I’ll continue my rewrites with a much better educated eye. If you get a chance to hear Jennifer Miller/Jennifer Haymore speak, don’t miss it! She is intelligent, informative and entertaining. Even hunky hubby, Paul, who is not a writer, enjoyed her presentation. He will also be reading my work with a much more educated eye.

So what about you? Are you confident that your story is believable and your characters relatable? Who would you drive through a Torrential Downpour to hear speak? (I really don’t recommend stormy travel…stay home where it’s hopefully safe and dry.)

Oh…and by the way, after last week’s Torrential Downpour (did I mention it was also freezing cold?) yesterday, it was sunny and beautiful with record breaking high temperatures. It was in the 80’s, even here along the coast…and of course, we stayed home.

Tari

Giving More Thanks

November 25, 2011

Yes, Thanksgiving is over, but if you’re anything like my family you celebrate Thanksgiving all weekend long. We kind of have to if we want to include everyone, you see. Every year I have been married to my husband (and most of the years we were together before that) my husband has always had to work on Thanksgiving. And I don’t mean a few hours, or long after everyone has gone to sleep. I mean a twelve-hour shift for the entire Thanksgiving day.

So, yesterday as my son and I spent the day with my Mom and sisters, I was reminded to be grateful for the people that give up their holidays every year regardless of what time stores open on Black Friday, etc. Police officers, nurses, doctors, hospital staff, firefighters, and I’m sure more civil servants who routinely have to miss holidays with their families to help others (Military, who not only miss part of the holiday, but miss the entire holiday in foreign places).

It should be no surprise that many of these professions are represented heavily in romance.

Nicole

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

Tari, Nicole and I are celebrating Thanksgiving today. We know many of you live in other countries where today is just another workday. No matter where you are or what you are doing, know that we are thankful for your support, interaction and friendship. Writing is a lonely business without people like you.

Elley

Writing & the Holidays

November 22, 2011

I can’t believe we’re nearing the end of November and entering the holiday season. I’ve already put up outside Christmas lights, bought some presents, and the next few days will be full of cooking and eating. The next weeks will continue with baking, buying, wrapping, decorating. With a little one around, this means that most of that has to happen during nap time. Nap time is usually writing time.

Houston, we have a problem.

This is the first December in years where I am not working outside the home. So, you’d think I’d have like all this extra not-working time, right? But, the truth is, I rarely wrote those Decembers that I worked. Also, having an almost two-year-old running around and the whole being six months pregnant thing takes up a lot of time. Sleep is a hot commodity so my former life of all-nighters isn’t an option. I have some concerns about my writing time this December. Where will it fit in, if anywhere?

So, I’m wondering, in the midst of this busy holiday season, how do you stay on track with your writing? Do you budget words per day and sacrifice whatever to get them? Do you cut yourself some slack in some area of your life? Do you have a magic pill I can take to be super efficient and awesome, and will you send one to me? Please share your holiday writing secrets!

Nicole

I crave organization, but I’m not very good at it. I own an oversized desk, a customized closet, a “smart” kitchen, a “smart” phone, calendars, datebooks and “an ap for that,” but I’m still a mess. Is it any wonder that my writing suffers the same fate?

At Disney, we used Outlook calendars, emails, texts, IMs, content management systems, conference calls, in-person meetings, Google docs and high-tech secretive thingys to keep everyone on task and organized. While never the Queen of Multi-tasking Task Mastery, I came damn close and was incredibly competent. But then I quit. The day I packed up my laptop, printer, software and security fob, I apparently packed up all organizational knowhow, leaving me right where I started from.

And where’s that? Messed up.

You might not know it by looking at the photo, but those are notes for two different stories. Nice, huh? The calendar is supposed to help me keep my heroine’s days and weeks in order, but I wasn’t happy with the timeframe, so I changed it. Now when I look at the calendar, I have to remind myself everything is opposite. I’ve lost more sticky tabs then I can count, and I can’t remember what was on the lost ones to even make new ones. I can’t take it anymore, so I’m doing something about it.

I researched some pricey and not-so-pricey writer software. I looked at dry erase boards and wall calendars. In the end, I settled on something I already owned but didn’t know how to use. Microsoft OneNote 2010. Here’s how it works:

After sitting through the tutorial, I decided this software that came installed on my new-ish laptop and allows me to make e-notebooks was the way to go. Each document is named for the manuscript and includes “notebook” pages (identified along the top by tabs) for a calendar (which I brilliantly and laboriously copied, cut and pasted from another document), character sketches, plot and random notes (scribbles).

I got particularly fancy with the last tab, “Submission History.” You guessed it. That’s where I’m going chart the journey of this manuscript once it’s complete. (I have never tracked a manuscript, because I submit like a sloth moves for pure entertainment—rarely, if ever. [I promise to change this.])

It looks pretty fancy, doesn’t it? But is it working? So far. I write with the notebook open and I’m referencing it and adding to it daily. I also feel more capable. The only thing missing is a conference call or Skype meeting now and then to make sure I’m staying on task. Any volunteers? 😉

Seriously, how do you stay organized while writing?

Elley

I actually wrote my post yesterday, but things have been changing quickly in my writing life, and I woke up this morning with new things to say, so I’ll save today’s original post for another day.

Although I did very little writing this week, almost everything I did was “writerish.” (Okay spell check, I know writerish isn’t a word, but I’m using it anyway, thank you.) So I had several lunches, spent time with other writers, talked about writing, read about writing, read my own writing and as sometimes happens, I’ve learned things this week and even perhaps developed a little more confidence.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that The Number One Most Important Thing a writer can do is to sit that butt down and actually write, but I’ve found that having generous and talented mentors and studying your craft is important as well.

Lately, I spend most of my time glued to a chair in front of my computer. If it wasn’t for my internet friends and the occasional knock on the door by my husband or sons to see if I’m still alive, I’d call it solitary confinement. I love writing, and I actually enjoy being alone, so this isn’t difficult for me to do. In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to get me out to socialize. (Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten how to socialize.)

This week however has been very social. One of my friends commented that when she read my Facebook status I sounded like one of the “ladies who lunch.” It was true.

On Monday I had lunch with Guyla Greenley, a friend from Wyoming and an inspirational writer. We met nine years ago at our children’s school, but it was writing that we bonded over. The truth is we didn’t talk much about writing on Monday, just caught up on friend things…but we are both writers, so it counts!

On Tuesday, I had lunch with my very dear friend who is a college English teacher, Cindy. She’s been kind enough to read and do some editing for me. My mechanics are not always perfect as you may have noticed, but you are all so polite and never point it out. Hugs to all of you for being so kind. Anyway, we did talk writing, and discussed my POV problems and some comma issues that I might or might not admit to having…and the general consensus was that I should probably enroll in her English 101 class next semester…although, I’m happy that she’s willing to read and edit regardless of my student status.

Okay, Wednesday was lunch with Mom, Stepdad and Aunt…the only writer talk there was, when am I going to be published, rich and famous so that they have something to brag about? Love you all, and…I’ll let you know.

Yesterday, I had lunch with the lovely and very talented Rebecca Forster. Rebecca is the author of numerous legal thrillers and teaches at UCLA Writers Program. I’d met her previously at writing functions and have always been impressed with how warm she is and how willing she is to share her knowledge and experience with aspiring writers. Yesterday the main topic of conversation was e-publishing and the exciting new opportunities it offers to writers. And Rebecca knows what she’s talking about with the success of her Witness series. I learned more in that one lunch meeting than I could have learned in months on my own.

I spent the evening NaNo writing…sort of…with several writer’s from OCCRWA, including Kara Lennox (I’ve already expounded on her critique help) and Louisa Bacio whose new book was released today. (Be sure to check it out!)

The generosity and mentoring of these published writers…and English teachers… makes each of us a better writer.

Oh, and did I mention that when I woke up this morning and checked my e-mail there was a message from RWA National saying that my PRO status has been approved, which means more mentoring and resources that I can access.

So my point today is…yes, WRITING is the number one thing a writer needs to do, but networking, making writing friends is important too…and maybe doing some sharing and giving of our own, after all it is the season!

Well, no lunches planned today, so I better get to work on my manuscript. Would love to hear about the writers and others, who have made a difference in your writing. Hope you’ll share!

Finding Your Middle

November 17, 2011

A few weeks ago I bookmarked this page from the ever useful BookEnds Literary Agency blog. In this post, Jessica talks about an intern who was guilty of over-editing, a common mistake among young editors. This post really resonated with me as a writer, because I think we do the same thing.

When I first decided that getting published wasn’t some pipe dream, I had no fear. Mainly, because I didn’t know what to fear. I didn’t know about word counts or the difference between category and single title. I didn’t know a query from a synopsis. I went in very blind. As I began to research through publisher, agent, and other writer’s websites, I began to see there was a lot I didn’t know. Still, I was of the mindset… what’s the worst that can happen?

My expectations were low, but as I learned more my expectations got higher. Getting published seemed more attainable. My first serious submission resulted in a revise and resubmit. I was so totally “in.”

Except I wasn’t, and a year’s worth of rejections and learning curves followed. Eventually that “what’s the worst that can happen?” turned into “I don’t know if I can stand another rejection.” The more I learned, the more I realized I had left to learn, and it put a serious damper on my writing. Not just because I was afraid, but because I was overthinking, overediting, overcriticizing.

Every choice I made in a WIP I wondered if an agent or editor would find it appealing. Every character, setting, premise I wondered if it would sell in the current market. I second guessed my instincts, my characters, their motivation, their goals, their happily ever afters. I was too critical with what I had written. These are not bad things in and of themselves. If we look at writing as a business, we have to think about audience, saleability. If we want a good story, a good romance, we have to look at goal and motivation. But it can go too far. If it’s impeding your ability to write, if it makes you question every word, every idea, every scene, then I am of the belief that you’ve fallen out of that middle good place where you can judge things objectively.

I was in this place late this summer, despite signing a contract with The Wild Rose Press at the end of September. I didn’t write any new words in September or October. I was overanalyzing every step of every WIP, and even signing a contract, my first, didn’t alleviate that overactive editor in my brain.

I’m not sure I’ve totally gotten back to my middle ground, but I’ve begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Writing every day helps (even when you don’t want to), having a CP who will talk you off the ledge really helps, but in the end I’ve learned that I just have to tell that over-editor to shut up.

Does your over-editor ever take over? Do you have any methods for coping?

Hello everyone!

*waves excitedly*

Elley and Tari have kindly allowed me to high jack their blog today to celebrate the release of my debut novel Lure of the Blood and I thought I would share a little about my inspirations for this tale.

When I was originally featured here back in June this novel was very much a work in progress. I read lots of paranormal stories, but I had never attempted to write one and this story didn’t start out as paranormal. It was supposed to be another erotic novella. I had recently completed one and really enjoyed the shorter length, so thought I would try my hand at another short. The idea popped into my head one night as I went to sleep. I wrote the intro to the first chapter and posted it to my critique group with a, “This just came to me. What do you think?”

I was told in no uncertain terms to keep writing, so I did. 🙂

The UCW girls, as my critique group are known, are a huge encouragement. So many of my stories would not have been written were it not for them. Lure of the Blood is no exception.

I should add here that I am a complete panster. Even when I have a vague idea of a plot, my characters grab me by the throat and take me away on a tangent. This novel is a prime example.

My original idea was sparked by a magazine article I’d read whilst waiting for my eldest son to have an MRI scan for a tumour in his jaw. This was November last year. He’s made a full recovery since, after an operation to have the mass drained. Not surprisingly the idea was put to one side at the time.

What was the article about, you might ask? Well, it was about university students financing their degrees by lap dancing. Apparently there is a growing trend for this here in the UK. So my writer’s brain thought – oooh, there is a story in there somewhere.

So, when I went to sleep that night, many months later, this gem of an idea resurfaced, and my heroine Marnie was born. She finances her Law degree by dancing in a lap dancing club. And there is a mysterious stranger watching her from the shadows. Whilst writing, this stranger announced that he was in fact a vampire, so began my hunt for suitable visual inspiration. I don’t know about you, but words come so much more easily when I have a picture in front of me.

So the yummy Ion Somerhalder proved to be just the right inspiration for Lucas de Tourneau.

 

Sorted, so we had Marnie and Lucas and hang on, what about her boss? Ion grumbled away in the background until I went searching for some more inspiration for him. Actually that grumbling should have warned me…

I found the inspiration I needed in the form of Jason Statham.


This picture was perfect for the scene I had in mind, where Ion drives Marnie home in his truck. It was then that Ion announced he was a shifter and he didn’t stop growling in my ear until I did exactly what he wanted me to do. This very insistent alpha wolf muscled in on Lucas and Marnie and the story took a completely different turn to the one I had anticipated.

Such is the joy of being a panster. Always a thrill and maddeningly opinionated characters who do not do as they’re told, ever.

*grin*

Lure of the Blood took several more surprising twists and turns the more I wrote. The short went out of the window and I ended up with a 50K novel.

So, there you have it, a little insight into my maddeningly chaotic writing process.

Lure of the Blood is available through Evernight Publishing.

I shall leave you with a little excerpt of that ride in Ion’s truck, where everything changes:

 

Marnie scooted into a corner of the pickup truck, the minute her boss had handed her up into the cab, and let out the breath she hadn’t been aware of holding. When his hands had connected with her waist, the heat of his skin had burned through her clothes, his earthy scent invading her. She could have sworn his pupils had turned into catlike slits. She must be imagining things; clearly, she had hit her head too hard last night, and she had a lump the size of a football on the back of her head to prove it. Sure enough, glancing across at him now, he seemed perfectly normal to her. Perhaps it was simply the fact of seeing him in broad daylight for the first time––that had to be it. This was the closest she had ever been to him; in fact, he had never touched her before. He didn’t seem to touch anyone.

Heat crept into her cheeks when he turned to study her, one eyebrow raised in a silent question at her blatant appraisal. Way to go, girl; caught ogling your boss.

“You ok? I’ll have you home in no time.”

The cautious smile lighting up his craggy features at her tentative nod made her toes curl under. Good lord, he was gorgeous when he smiled. Close cropped hair, coupled with the stubble on a strong jaw and his intense expression gave him a mean, sexy look. How come she had never noticed before? This was her boss, for pity’s sake. It was bad enough lusting after mysterious strangers, let alone him. What the hell was wrong with her?

Instead of letting her imagination run away with her, she ought to be concerned why she couldn’t remember a thing about last night. Well, remember nothing but a pair of compelling moss-green eyes and a gravelly, accented voice in her ear and then just darkness. Gah, it was so bloody frustrating.

Ion’s low, growled curse registered at the same time as the pickup stopped abruptly and white-hot pain shot up from her bruised ribs, the seatbelt locking her in place. She couldn’t stop the agonised moan escaping.

“Shit, are you ok? That kid came out of nowhere.”

Ion’s hands were seemingly everywhere, unbuckling her seatbelt, running one hand over her sides, whilst the other checked her head with infinite care.

“Did you bump your head again? Are you hurt anywhere else?”

Marnie lost herself in the intense gaze of steely blue-grey eyes for a second, before the pain in her ribs made her flinch and Ion’s hands froze. “Your ribs? Let me see.”

“It’s nothing much, really.” Marnie tried in vain to slap his hand away, only to have her chin caught in an iron grip, forcing her to look at him. Her heart beat a bit faster at the concern she saw in his face.

“Let me be the judge of that,” and before she could say or do anything, his large hands had tugged her top up, his low whistle at what he saw causing his hot breath to skitter across her face. His hands started a slow exploration of her rib cage and her breath hitched when his fingers skimmed the underside of her breasts, awareness of the man in front of her causing heat to rise in her cheeks.

Get a grip, girl; he is only checking you over to make sure you’re ok.

His hands stilled at her indrawn breath, his gaze flickering to her face for an instant. Marnie’s mortification increased tenfold at the inscrutable expression on his face, the small muscle ticking in his jaw the only indication he was aware of her reaction.

“I don’t think anything is broken, but we ought to get you checked out by a doc anyway to be on the safe side.” His voice had dropped an octave and Marnie’s stomach dropped right with it.

“I…I don’t need a doctor, you said nothing is broken. I’ll get over it. Besides, he would ask too many questions I couldn’t answer.”

With one last searching look Ion shifted the truck into gear and moved off again.

Lure of the Blood by Doris O'Connor
Blurb:

Marnie’s decision to finance her law degree by pole dancing awakens her latent sexuality and the mysterious stranger lurking in the shadows sends her libido into overdrive. Attacked on her way home, she wakes up the next morning covered in bruises and with no recollection of what happened. The newspapers are full of a suspected animal attack and Marnie finds herself in her very own twilight zone.

Realizing her sexy lurker is a vampire is bad enough, but her boss is the alpha wolf of a pack of shifters? Torn between her attraction to both men and surrounded by danger, she has a decision to make, that will change her life forever.

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