Don't Let the Wish Grow Cold

Well, here we are, sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, and waiting for midnight to come for the official start of this year's NaNoWriMo. (If you aren't part of this, but want to make the attempt at writing a novel in a month, it's not too late to sign up at the NaNoWriMo website.)
As with NaNo and any other creative endeavor, a little encouragement goes a long way.

If at all possible, surround yourself with the types of people (family, friends, online acquaintances) that support you. In my experience, even knowing one person is watching your back and wants you to succeed can be a stronger fuel than 100 naysayers you want to prove wrong.

There will always be those who "caution" you against falling flat on your face. These people are quite frankly afraid to see you succeed because trying so hard at something non-standard isn't their bag. I don't know of any artist who hasn't had to overcome some "friendly advice" of people who aren't interested in trying harder than the average.

If you're going to make your dream a reality and you're going to do crazy, off the wall things, like write a novel in a month or make the declaration to achieve something no one else around you has done, then be prepared to shed from your creative living space the "helpful warnings" as well as those who speak them.

When you look back on this month of November, or back on any project you set out to do, you want to see yourself as the person who did. The person who gave their all and completed the task. If you're starting out with NaNo for the first time this year, or if you've tried before and didn't "win," then know that I think this is your year. This is your year to sit back on December 1st and say, "Hot damn, I did it," and glow with an inner light you may not be familiar with.

If you have no one else in your life to support you, know that I support you. Know that you can do this. Be determined to achieve your goals. As the Evil Queen instructs Snow White before biting the apple, "Don't let the wish grow cold."

How are You with Zombies?

In two days it's Halloween and I'm dying (hehe) to talk zombies. I often have projects that I'm currently working on or revising, and then I have projects that are my "back burner" pieces. Without saying too much about the back burner stuff (mostly because I don't want to jinx myself) I have a small book I'm gathering info for that is about zombies.

Now, to be fair, you can't really write anything about zombies until you've established an ideology about them and have some ground rules for how you believe they operate. To me, a zombie wants your brains, flesh, blood and they might groan a lot. That's the basic zombie.

If you read enough zombie tales, however, you learn the rules are more complex. Zombies can't live/exist where it's cold because they would freeze. Zombies can live/exist underwater since they don't require air. Some zombies move fast, some zombies move slow. Some zombies hear very well, while it seems others don't hear a thing, etc.

So, I thought I'd ask you for your thoughts on zombies. If you can't think of anything about them specifically, then tell me what would scare you about them. What's the worst situation to be in? Is a fast or slow zombie scarier? If you were at home and the zombies were gathering outside, what's the first thing you would do?

15 Ways to Make the Most of Snippets of Writing Time

I often wait for that moment when I have the chance to work on fiction. You know the moment, when it's quiet, when I'm fully engaged, when I don't have errands to run? These moments don't come on their own unless you make time for them intentionally. However, there are a million little times that could be better spent and some of us are failing to see them as writing opportunities.

Jeff Goins suggests not writing a lot, but writing often and believes 30 minutes a day is more valuable than a 5 hour stretch once a week. I agree. So, what do you do with those small chunks of time when you may or may not feel immediately in a "writing mode" but you have the sliver of time to write?

If you're at a total loss for ideas, here are fifteen ways to make the most of your snippets of writing time:

Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo 2011

It's the end of October and that can mean only one thing: NaNo is coming.

For those of you who don't know the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words (that's a lot) in the month of November. You "win" the challenge if you hit that goal and you instantly feel equal exhaustion and invigoration at the same time on December 1st. This is my fourth year doing NaNo (I've "won" each time) and I've never been more prepared with a plot and outline than this year.

While I'm normally the mainstream/literary fiction girl, this year I'm leaning into fantasy. The novel, currently titled "Smoke," involves magic, witchcraft, warlocks, curses, love, longing, demons, burning at the stake, and an ancient cat. My hope is that the book is fantasy but reads well even for those who don't normally read about witches or vampires or zombies. (Don't we all love a good zombie?)

If you're doing NaNo, feel free to "buddy" me. I'm under the username "mtelsch" and I'll be writing everyday.

Writing in the Shadow of Depression

I'm going to be brutally honest right now, and not just because I have "something to say," but because I think this needs to be shared aloud.

Last week was pretty shitty for me. I had a bazillion deadlines. I was a giant grouch with a worry addiction. I lost sleep, my appetite, and my sense of self. I went through the wringer and it sucked, plain and simple, suckola, suckaroo, blah, blah, blah. I kept all of this between myself, my husband, and my sister.

I don't want sympathy, a shoulder, or even a lying consolation saying everything is okay.

Don't give me those things.

As writers we have these weeks. They come. They go.

I'm a writer who knows I have suffered in the past (and probably will suffer in the future) with clinical severe depression brought on from traumatic experiences I'll probably never share publicly. Depression is...well...depression. I can recognize that beast's shadow and I can see him coming from a mile away.

Looking Forward to Rejections

So this isn't my official, official Wednesday post, but I wanted to share that I just submitted a guest post for an amazing writing blog I'll tell you all about later. (See how I'm using delayed gratification as a story telling device? I actually just don't want to jinx myself and suddenly be seen as a failure to all of you, but hey, I'm human, so there you go.)
Back to the post! This guest post is about using your rejections as a measure of your success and how your rejections are actually being good to you.

I'm excited about this post in particular because I think there are too many could-have-been writers out there that quit before they really got started and hopefully this will keep some more of us good guys in the ring fighting. I hope you have your rejections ready when I do the "big reveal" to tell you where to read the entire piece. As my daughter used to say when she was little, "so cited!"

Desire to Be the Wind and Write Like a Storm

The subject of how others view you came up the other day. The word someone said about me was "industrious." After I said, "Huh?" she explained that I'm always in the thick of it, writing, submitting, working.

My reply was something along the lines of, "My God, it feels like I'm a scattered mess inside most of the time." I make lists of projects and ideas on slips of paper or spreadsheets just to get them out of my head to keep the mental clutter down. I also have a horrible memory ever since my daughter was born, so writing things down is crucial to juggling multiple projects and plots.

Then it occurred to me that my friend sees the whole, fully formed tornado of me during times when I feel like the wind, tossing tree limbs around and riping roofs off houses in random order. I have learned, however, that as a creative person you have to desire to be the wind and here's why:

The Best Writing Program for All Writers

The world of computer gadgets, programs, and apps is HUGE right now with no signs of slowing down. For writers this means keeping up with trends and streamlining our process under the pressure to crank out bestsellers (we hope) at an alarming rate. “Publish or be forgotten!” the world yells in our faces, and we yell back, “Give me a program to make this easier.”

There are beta products, programs that store research information beside your text, templates that make navigating novels simplified, and meters (God, how I love a good chart) to tell us if we’ve hit our word count for the day, week, or month. But how do we know which program is the best? And what is a good program for a beginning writer or a bestselling author?

The 15 Rules of The Writer’s Code

Just so we're all perfectly clear exactly what is expected of us now that we've decided to be writers.

  1. Don't plagiarize.
  2. Read more than you write.
  3. Read outside your genre.
  4. Make time to write.
  5. Hold yourself accountable for writing.
  6. Be honest with yourself about your writing strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Be honest with others about their writing strengths and weaknesses (if asked).
  8. Provide fair feedback in critiques to receive fair feedback.
  9. Be objective about your work.
  10. Edit your work (more than once) and be willing to make (huge) changes.
  11. Know your voice.
  12. Trust your instincts.
  13. Give back to the writing community.
  14. Don't complain about following your dream.
  15. Support and encourage yourself as much as others.

What rules would you include? Leave your Writer’s Code rules in the comments section below.

Reaching Down Deep to Find Your Motivation

My husband, who is also a writer, has no problem with self-motivation. He wakes, he works, he creates. I on the other hand, need to "get my pilot light lit," as I call it. I need to get up and stand kindling together in a tee pee shape, stuff wads of newspaper inside, and strike wet matches until the fire begins to burn. When the usable material finally catches I'm ready to fuel a bonfire of ideas, stories, essays, novels, non-fiction articles, you name it -- let's burn.

Unfortunately, there are those times when the burning desire to write doesn't make an appearance no matter how much you drag that match across the surface of the box. It needs to be coaxed out of hiding, like a scared cat from a drainage pipe. Try as you may, nothing seems to get Point A (your ass) to Point B (your project). This is when you need to reach down deep.

The All Important "Platform"

The buzz around Ye Ol' Water Cooler these days is "platform." This is a word that's been floating around for a while now in the writing and social media communities, and while I kind of shield my eyes from these things (knowing damn well I shouldn't), it is vitally important if you have any hopes of showing the world who you are. Want to get started?

Reading Notes: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

If there is ever a life or death debate about "world building" in writing it can be resolved with The Night Circus. I've never read a book so rich and full with visual elements without going overboard with description. The feel and texture of this circus and the people involved are spectacular and solid. Thanks to Erin Morgenstern's ability to sprinkle visual information, rather than layer it, the world of The Night Circus comes alive and everything else about the story is enhanced because of it.

The magical element of The Night Circus is captivating and fresh with each trick and new creation and I can picture hundreds of "dreamers" lined up in their red scarves to buy a sequel book or movie ticket. Morgenstern also succeeds beautifully in setting the tale across years and bringing the timelines together expertly at the end. The story is active and present without growing intense, making for a great, quick read even for those who might say they don't read that much.

(Disclaimer: As always, my Reading Notes are reserved for bringing to light and pointing out the strengths and positive aspects of books and their authors. While I have negative opinions, sometimes strong ones, I won't be sharing the negatives of other writers’ published work here because it’s not productive and I'm not in the business of looking like an asshole or burning bridges.)

You're Not Alone, But You Do Have to Work There

It occurred to me how solitary writing is (not a new concept by any means) and how much this can lead to the idea that we're all floating around out here, alone, typing up stories by ourselves.

You should just know: you're not alone.

No, I can't write your shit for you, and you can't write my shit for me, and a critique group can't make something work that isn't working, BUT you're a part of a collection of other alone people who work like you, and that should mean something.

Other writers all over the world sit around: alone. We think up stories by ourselves and draw them out of the air on our own.

(Don't confuse alone with lonely.)

I like to think when I'm by myself typing away that aside from the characters which keep me company during these hours, that there are a lot of other writers also committing themselves to this alone time. As I'm writing and chipping away at a plot, so are a hundred or thousand other writers in that same moment and we're actively creating something in the world that didn't exist before.

We're not alone at all even though we write in different cities, states, or continents, but this is our office; an office for one.

So, when your hair is ripped out and the coffee cup is empty save for the sticky residue ring along the inside, and you can't force characters to move that aren't meant to walk, while we're not there with you, we're all here for you. We're all here -- writing.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.