Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NaNo Experiences

November is creeping up rather quickly. With it comes the ever-popular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It's a free contest for all authors. The challenge is to write 50k words of a novel during the month of November. The prizes are... Okay, there are no prizes, but there are some pictures you can post on your blogs and websites proclaiming you as a NaNo winner. :)

I heard of NaNo through another aspiring author last year, only a few days before November. I thought, "Why not?" and jumped in with both feet. A crazy month later, I had about 55k words written. Winner!

Despite the chaos, I really enjoyed the experience. Like everyone else, my life tends to be crazy busy. This was a good way for me to focus on the creative aspects only of writing for an entire month. I ignored editing and revising and just wrote. Every day. It was fun.

I then returned to my regularly scheduled programming - revising and editing my other ms. I don't know if I'll ever polish up the NaNo novel. It's in another genre, and I think I'd like to stick with the mystery angle right now.

How many of you aspiring authors have NaNoed? Any of you planning on joining in the fun this year?

Published authors: Did you NaNo before you signed that agent? Was it worth it? Did any of your NaNo novels ever get published? I'd love to hear your stories!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Book Week

It's Banned Book Week in the US. In Canada, we have a similar week in February: "Freedom to Read" week.

Now, if you want to stir up a group of writers, this is the topic! I think all writers will jump up and down, waving their hands in the air, desperately striving for their turn to speak. Banning books is a scary thought.

It always brings me back to high school and Farenheit 451. Our teacher introduced us to many great books back then, but I think this one was my fave. Such an amazing book. The image of the fire hose as a snake (python I think) as it ate the books has always stayed with me. As has the message of the book. Powerful stuff.

In Canada, or at least in my city, we don't have much fuss about banning books. The only rumour I remember hearing was when Harry Potter first stormed onto the scene. Other communities were talking about banning it. Being teachers, we all ran out to buy copies. Several of us read the book to our students as soon as we'd finished it ourselves. Not exactly what the people ranting about the book envisioned I'm sure. :)

So, are books ever banned in your communities? Do you have to fight for the right to read freely? Do your kids get exposed to all kinds of books and genres, or are some things suppressed?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Star Trek & Agatha Christie?

"The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes." - Agatha Christie

Don't you just love Agatha Christie? She's one of my all-time favourite authors. I also love this quote of hers. I have such a hard time imagining dear Dame Agatha doing dishes!

It got me to thinking about where I plot my books. I've never had an easy time falling asleep. Even as a kid, there were too many things running through my head for sleep to come easily.

And then I encountered Star Trek (the original series) in one of its rerun seasons. I started plotting out new stories as I waited for sleep to arrive. The series struck a deep chord within me - all of those thinly-veiled morality tales filled with excitement, new species and adventure. For years I plotted out new stories before bed. Never wrote one of them down, but lived through them night after night instead.

Now, I plot out my novels before I sleep. I watch the characters play out a variety of scenes, test out the emotional impact of their words and actions, watch them to see which scenes need to get written down and which need to stay in almost-dreamland.

Where do you plot out your writing? Do you have a set time or place that sends you directly into that creative mode?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mood Music

There's a Diana Krall concert on TV tonight. For me, that's about as good as it gets for mood music. She's got a great jazzy sound, and a gorgeous smoky voice. Beautiful stuff. I know the writing will flow just a little bit easier tonight.

Music affects my writing. Jazz is generally best for me - although I like a wide variety of music. I usually put my iTunes on shuffle when I'm writing, so I get a variety of styles and artists. Sometimes it blends into background noise, sometimes I find myself typing in beat. My kids have noticed that whether I can tell you what song is on or not, my toes always keep the rhythm. :)

How about you? Does music affect your writing? Do you even like writing with music on? I go a little squirrelly with total silence, but I know some people like it. What's your preference?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Gypsy in Me

It’s been a long time since I was an elementary school student. Back then we were rarely allowed to write. When we did write, we were always given a writing prompt. Not many other instructions, just, “remember to use paragraphs and proper spelling.” Thankfully, times have changed a lot since then!

Anyway, one prompt was something along the lines of, “I was walking in a forest...”

My little brain decided I could hear gypsy music in my story. Now, I was a blonde, blue-eyed, middle class, naive little ten-year-old. This story was all of a page long (handwritten - way before computers). In it, I followed the gypsy music and soon saw fire glowing. As I crept closer, the music intensified in both volume and emotion. It was sad, so sad. As I neared the clearing, I saw the old man playing his violin while his caravan burned. I knew his wife had died, and he was burning the physical objects so he could keep the memories.

Sappy, overwritten, overly-dramatic drivel. And all in one page :)

But, it was a powerful enough attempt for me to remember all these years later. In fact, I can still see the scene perefectly in my mind's eye. Probably one of the first signs I’d need to write. Which of your childhood stories have stayed with you?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who's Your Hero?

"The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example."
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Like many women, my dad was my first hero, my first example of what it takes to be a man.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My dad continues to be a powerful, positive focus in my life, even though he died several years ago. My dad was a strong man, with a very low tolerance for laziness, stupidity and baloney. He kept his word. Always. You knew where you stood with dad, whether you liked it or not.

My dad wasn’t always popular at his job. He was a stickler for rules and for always doing your best work. He was promoted into a position of authority at a very young age. Some of the older folks weren’t impressed with taking orders from a young ‘un – although I’m sure they had much more interesting names for him! At his funeral, it was really touching to hear from these older men how they’d disliked or hated him at the beginning, but how he’d earned their respect and their trust. More good memories to add to my many personal ones.

The heroes in my novels tend to follow in at least one set of my dad’s footsteps. Sometimes more. But never so many that it’s a bit creepy :) They’re all strong, all men of their word.

So, how about you? Who’s your real-life hero? Does he show up in your work?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Agent Query

All aspiring authors need to check out this site! It’s an amazing resource for all aspects of writing. I first stumbled across this site when I finally decided it was time to get a little more serious about my writing. I think I’ve always written, but it was always just for me. For fun.

Agent Query has it all. There is great advice for everything from writing the dreaded query letter and synopsis to finding an agent. Their database of agent information is truly incredible and very user friendly.

Agent Query Connect is a free forum for writers. There are well over 100 discussion groups to help you out. The most popular is the Query Critique forum. Writers at all stages of their careers help each other to create the best queries possible. Other groups focus on first pages, first chapters, agent updates, writing tips, and so much more. There are also several critique groups focusing on various genres.

Check it out using the link on the side. You won’t regret it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Character Names

I am currently letting ideas for my next ms run around in my head. It’s an exciting time – a fresh story building, new characters to meet, crazy new villains and plots.

The heritage of the characters is going to be an integral part of this story. I’ve got folks of Scottish, Chippewa and Comanche heritage interacting this time. It should be an interesting plot, with the clues for solving the major dilemma coming from pieces of the characters’ cultures.

Coming up with names for the characters is always fun. Thankfully, the Internet exists, and I don’t have to rely on only my small city’s resources for information! There are some really great names from these cultures. Ayasha, Nocona, Migisi, Nokomis, and Keezheekoni are a few of my faves. Gorgeous, aren’t they? I can’t wait to see who will show up in my ms!

Where do you go for your character names? Internet, real life, books? I’d love to hear some stories of how you find identities for your characters.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to School!

It's September again! Where did that summer go?

I have a great classroom full of kids this year, and I'm glad to be back at it (Yes, I LOVE my job!), but...

Now I'm back to the struggle of finding the time to write, to work on the dreaded query, to do agent research, to send out those queries, to read the agent blogs, to twitter, to visit blogs of friends, to blog myself. And to breathe. Oh, yeah, I have a family and house to take care of too. Did someone say sleep? Not a chance :)

I tend to check out blogs while I'm getting supper ready, or just after, and then focus on the writing much later on in the evening. Too much multi-tasking required earlier!

What about you? When do you squeeze in the time? What's the best time of day for you to find your focus?