Camp NaNo Win: An extra-exciting accomplishment

Last month I participated, as I have many times before, in Camp NaNo, which is kind of a spin-off of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, in November.  I like doing Camp because you can set your own goals instead of conforming to the “50,000 word in a month” paradigm of NaNoWriMo.

This April, my goal was to write 10 min a day, or 300 minutes total.  Good news: I managed 400 minutes over the month. So, yay for winning!

Even better news: I finished a complete draft of a novel!

This novel, which I have been calling Ash and Team, is one that I have been working on since NaNoWriMo of 2013.  Six long years. I started this as a practice novel, and I know that actually publishing it would require more research than I have time for currently, so while you will likely never see this story in print (or even in revisions), I still feel really proud of this accomplishment.  It has a beginning, a middle, and an end; it has character development; it has some humor and a magic system; it even has some prose that I really enjoy reading.

The draft is about 44,000 words, which is quite short for a novel, but it is after all a fairy tale retelling.  Also, I tend to severely underwrite in my initial drafts, so if I ever finished it I’m sure it would be a bit longer.

You can read some excerpts from Ash and Team here, and in honor of my first “completed” novel, here’s another brief excerpt from the very (happy) end of the story. Continue reading

Advertisements

It’s National Book Review Month!

Several years ago, SUNY Geneseo created National Book Review Month to “give readers an outlet to bring lesser known works to the forefront.”  This year, NaRMo falls in March, so if you’ve read a book recently (of any genre, including “including children’s books, drama, non-fiction fiction and poetry”), you can go to the NaRMo website and submit a review for publication there.  The only real rule is that the review must be between 100 and 1,000 words, though the website does have some great tips for crafting a review.

NaRMo

Although I’m not a book blogger per se, I’ve been talking about books since the very beginning of this blog seven years ago.  To my mind, there are three main reasons I write reviews of books.

First, to help other readers.  This seems pretty obvious.  Reviews can help people decide whether they want to read a book or not, which is especially useful when they are going to be spending their hard-earned money on it by buying it.  I personally like to read the 2 star reviews of books on Amazon, because those tend to have more specific, useful critiques than the one- or five-star reviews.

Second, to help the authors.  Many independently published authors depend on reviews on blogs as well sites like Goodreads and Amazon to entice new readers.  When a book only has a dozen or so reviews, every one counts.  So every time I read something by an indie author (often one of my blogger friends), I make sure to review it somewhere to give them some free publicity.

Last, to help me.  Part of the reason I started this blog was to have a space for my thoughts on books and other media.  Reviews are sometimes a way for me to process what I read, as well as an outlet for me to share my thoughts.  Like an internet-wide book club or something.  I do try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but sometimes I dive a little further into analysis than a proper review does.  I also like to do brief reviews when I don’t have too much to say about a book.

book data document education
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about reviewing books over seven years.  I can’t even claim that I’m good at it now, and I’m certainly still learning.  Here are a few things I’ve picked up since that first review.

  • Give a picture of the book cover.  Not only does it give your post some visual interest, but it also helps people remember the book better if they come across it again.  Of course I prefer to take a pic of my own copy if possible, but most of the time I just end up using an image of the cover art.
  • A short summary is helpful to give some context of the book.  I’ve been using snippets from Goodreads summaries recently (with attribution of course).
  • I like to review both books that I know many people have read (so I can have a discussion) and also some that I know will be new to readers (so I can convince them all to read it, and then have a discussion).  I also tend to stick to the sci-fi/fantasy genres here on the blog, though I do go outside that occasionally for a special book.
  • For trilogies or series, I will often write only one review for the whole thing (though I often focus on the first book, which helps avoid spoilers).  Since I’m not a book blogger with ARCs or anything, my reviews aren’t usually about current releases, and I’m not sure that anyone wants to read a review of just the third book of a trilogy from five years ago or something.  If you haven’t read the first two already, what’s the point?  And if you have read the first two, but not the third, by now, well, that seems weird, too.

Okay, I’ve babbled long enough.  Do you guys enjoy writing book reviews?  Will you participate in NaRMo this year?  I’m going to try to post a review for NaRMo next week, as I’ve read several books recently.  Have you guys enjoyed reading my reviews?  Even better, have you read any books because I recommended them??

DIY MFA Book Club: My Storytelling Superpower

I’m participating in the DIY MFA Book Club this month, and one of our daily prompts asks us to consider our Storytelling Superpower.

I took the Storytelling Superpower quiz at the DIY MFA site, and after a few quick questions, it told me my result is The Protector.

Screenshot_20190125-114215_Chrome

“Your superpower is writing superheroes!”

This means my characters tend to be self-sacrificing and selfless (even to the point of martyrdom…).  They have a strong sense of duty and “superhuman fortitude.”  They strive to protect the people and things they love.  It gives Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, and Iron Man as examples.

I had never thought of my writing this way!  For the result of a goofy little quiz, it does seem to fit my characters pretty well.

I love superheroes of all kinds.  I see superhero comics as a kind of modern mythology, a reflection of cultural aspirations and values.  Even though I’m drawn to grey characters, I don’t write a lot of them (at least not yet…).  Most of my characters have a Lawful Good bent, which I think mostly goes along with the superhero concept.

My last NaNoWriMo project is a great example of this; it features a healer who’s trying to free the spirit of a goddess (while possibly losing herself in the process), and a gladiator-turned-personal bodyguard who gets sucked into her quest.  They may have different reasons for doing what they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are both Protectors in their own way.

At first, I thought that another NaNoWriMo project, Ash and Team, threw a wrench in this scheme.  However, although the titular characters Ash and Team don’t really fit this superhero mold, the narrator Meg does.  Meg is Team’s older sister and a friend of Ash, a protector to them both. Way back when I started conceptualizing the retelling, it wasn’t until I looked through her perspective that the story really took shape.  She’s really the heart of the story, despite not being the “main” character.

You can take the Storytelling Superpower quiz, too!  Let me know what your result was 🙂  You can also join the DIY MFA book club here or get a copy of the book here.

 

Nanowrimo Tag

If it’s November, that means it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  I love participating in NaNo even though I rarely “win” by writing 50,000 words; it’s just a good excuse to make writing a priority for a month.

This month I’m working toward finishing two drafts I have started, one a YA folklore retelling Ash and Team (read some excerpts here) and one a fantasy adventure The Gladiator and the Goddess that was my first NaNo win.

The tag was created by Seihren the Bookish Witch and I saw it on Darnell’s blog.

1. How many years have you participated in NaNo?

This is my 6th year.  I started in 2013, when I wrote not even 6,000 words.  I finally won in 2016!  I’ve also participated in Camp NaNo during April and July over the years (which I prefer because you have “cabins” and can set your own goals).

2. Are you a planner, pantser, or plantser?

A planner! I outline nearly everything I write, even blog posts. Of course, I don’t know everything ahead of time (there are always twists and surprises in the process), but I usually know what will happen in all the key scenes before I write. For me, the story comes first in my head, and then I interpret it onto the page in writing.

3. If you are a planner/plantser, what are the first story elements that you flesh out?

Whatever plot points happen to have come into my head.  I guess I don’t really do it intentionally at first, I just kind of daydream about the story until I see some scenes and conversations taking shape.

4. NaNo Forums? Do you use them?

Nope. Time spent on the forums is time not spent writing.

5. Writing Buddies? Do you prefer to write socially or alone?

I generally like to be alone but around people; I write in Panera and libraries a lot.  But I find being with other writers does help my productivity.

NaNoWriMo2018

6. Do you diligently write 1,667 words a day, or do you write in spurts?

Definitely spurts. I don’t have time to dedicate every day, and I hate having to stop and start.  Once I get going, I want to keep going.

7. Do you have a writing totem?

No, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe I’ll get one now!

8. Do you go to kick-off, write-in, or wrap-up parties?

Not typically. I did make an effort two years ago to break out of my comfort zone and attend some write-ins. It was really great for my productivity and word count, so hopefully I can find some near me again this year.

9. When writing, are you an analog (handwritten) or digital writer? Does the same apply to when you’re taking notes or brainstorming?

Almost all digital. Even my notes are in Google Docs files. I just like the ease of editing so much.

10. Share your NaNo username (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that others can connect with you on the NaNo site!

Meimei21 (feel free to add me as a writing buddy)

Anybody else writing this month?  How’s it going so far?  Feel free to participate in this tag!

Getting Critiqued

Last week I had a new experience that, as many new experiences are, was both thrilling and terrifying.  No, I did not get to ride a new roller coaster at Cedar Point.  (In fact, due to my interesting condition, I was reduced to the Ferris wheel and Sky Ride this summer.)

No, I’m talking about having someone who is not related to me read my writing.

Several months ago, a fellow blogger was running a Kickstarter to fund her trip to a writer’s conference in Iceland.  One of the perks she offered was a critique of the first chapter of the donor’s WIP.  This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to get some feedback on the draft of a fantasy novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year.

I was so elated when I won NaNo last year, I figured I would be able to channel that energy into a second draft this year.  However, when I started re-reading what I’d written, I really started hating it.  It did not seem at all like the story I’d had in my head.  The prose made me cringe, and the tone was all wrong.  I didn’t want to look at it, much less edit it.

So I figured I should really take this opportunity to get a fresh opinion in the hopes it would give me some direction for where to go next.  I didn’t really end up having any anxiety over it at all.  I already knew there were things wrong with my text, so I was actually eager for someone to tell me what exactly was wrong so I could fix it!

And that’s exactly what happened.  Sara wrote me a nice list of comments with her first impressions, things she was confused about, etc.  The most important comment she gave me was that my very first scene lacked tension.  There was nothing to hook the reader in, and nothing to foreshadow the larger conflicts of the later story.

She also mentioned a lack of visual cues for worldbuilding.  Although I implied a setting based on ancient Rome, I gave no physical descriptions of characters, buildings, etc.

As far as the writing, one of my goals is to re-read some of my favorite historical fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, who is kind of my “model” author for this story as it was heavily inspired by his works.

So this first chapter critique turned out to be a good experience for me.  I definitely feel more inspired and up to the task of revising my story now.  Letting others read your writing is always difficult, but hopefully it will get easier with time and practice.