NaNoWriMo Fever

Have you ever heard of Nanowrimo ? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place each November. Participants in this free event challenge themselves to write 50,000 words during the month of November. 

Nanowrimo is an excellent event for a number of reasons: 

*You have an excuse to say “I have to go write.” 
*You have an excuse to say “no” to things you’d rather not do. 
*You’re forced to turn off your inner editor, in order to meet your word-count goals. This may be just the thing you need to move forward in your story, instead of re-editing the same first five pages. 
*You are part of an international group of writers who are all sweating over their keyboards at the same time. 
*If you finish 50K, you receive a handsome winner’s certificate. 
*Even if you don’t finish (and 80% of participants do not), you’ll still have more writing accomplished than you would have otherwise. 
    Don’t write fiction? Don’t let that stop you. There’s a “Nano Rebel” group on the Nanowrimo forums just for those who write non-fiction, or poetry, or engage in song-writing. 

    So, in honor of Nanowrimo, starting November 1st, I’ve collected some helpful links to get you through the month. There are many more on the Nanowrimo Forum page .

    Helpful Books

    Here's a free ebook on everything you need for Nanowrimo. It has a “character generator”, which helps you randomly invent new characters, as needed. Also has a timeline chart, map page, and list of ways to combat writer’s block. 

    Another free ebook I found is called Nano for the New and the Insane , by Lazette Gifford. It includes tips on breaking down your daily allotment of words into manageable chunks. 

    Interested in getting your kids or your students in on the fun? Nanowrimo has a Young Writer's Program just for them. Kids pick their own word-count goal to shoot for. Also on the site are three excellent (and free!) ebooks to help kids plan their novels (one each for elementary, middle school and high school). Don't tell your kids, but adults will glean lots of good information from the high school workbook.

    Here is a field guide to help you get started in Nanowrimo (or figure out if you even want to).

    Two Free Contests

    If you sign up for Nanowrimo and you write YA, send your first 250 words to this contest for a chance to win a one-on-one pitch session with YA literary agent Regina Brooks . This is a free contest. 
    Have you ever wondered what your current novel’s cover would look like? Never mind that you haven’t written past page one. Any writer who signs up for Nanowrimo, and posts a title and synopsis on their author profile, is entered for a chance at one of thirty book covers , created by a professional graphic designer . 

    Other Good Stuff

    While the Nanowrimo site has an active forum where you can communicate with other “wrimos” in regional, genre, or age-specific categories,  you may want a more specific group. Search the groups at Yahoo for Nanowrimo groups. You’ll find groups for homeschool writers, regional groups, even a group for writers who love playing the Sims!

    Want to keep track of your word count and see how far you’ve come? Nano’s website has several word-count widgets to help you out. Alternately, do a search for Nanowrimo + word count, to find dozens more.

    But I Can't Do It Now!

    So, you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 28 relatives, haven’t done a lick of Christmas shopping, and work full-time? Besides the fact that many Nanowrimo participants do all this and more, this may not be the month for you.

    Thankfully, there are similar events spread throughout the year. Check out this list of other events. 

    You might write 50K in November, then continue the story with another 50K in the Janowrimo .  Take some time off in February, then gear up to edit your 100K in March during NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month).  

    I’ll admit, no one can participate in everything, but hopefully you'll be motivated to pick one of the events and get writing.

    Don’t worry if you have no idea what you might write. The majority of participants are in exactly the same boat.

    What are you waiting for? Sign up here , and post a comment below if you do. And look me up as a “writing buddy”. I’m profile number 550371. 

    Interview with John Palmerlee

    John has graciously agreed to be my first interview "victim". I will admit that I am not skilled at interviews, so I truly appreciate some practice. Here goes:

    Tell us a few things about yourself: age (if you want), kids, your homeschool, where you live, etc.

    I'm turning 54 this month, more than half has been with my wife Robin. That amazes me, and helps me realize how important she is in my life... aside from growing and birthing Ellen (17) and Michael (14). 

    I have done computer work from our Santa Rosa home for a long time now, so I'm staying involved with family life. Ellen began homeschooling (independent study) during her sophomore year. Michael seems to enjoy public education.

    What spurred you to begin writing?

    I think it started way back, when a teacher encouraged the "creative" in creative writing. My favorite assignment was writing a story from a random magazine picture. 

    Most of my life, when philosophical concepts fit together I had to write them down, else they got lost forever. Now they all wait in a file folder for some kind of release. I think having them sit there is like a support system for when I'm writing. I notice they leak back out when the time is right... when they need expression in a story. 

    I love to write from simple beginnings, creating as I go. My novel started soon after Ellen was born... from a phrase that just popped into my head. I've been working on it ever since. Now all the years of thoughts get some fresh air.

    Tell us about what you write: genre, any publishing credits

    I've published two articles - nonfiction - one educational and one about a personal experience. My favorite is fiction - usually futuristic (I'll admit - it's easier to write when I can make everything up). 

    I've completed the first draft of a novel and am working on a revision based on feedback from an inner circle of readers. Next, I'll decide about publishing and start some formal editing.

    When on earth do you find time to write?

    That's why it took 17 years :-). Not really - It came in spurts, we took 2 weeks each summer to vacation in Oregon, and I always took a computer and some backup disks. This was my most productive time. Some years, I found a way to write almost every day just a little, sometimes late at night when it was quiet. 

    In the last 4 years, the pace quickened. Ellen started studying ways to get more out of her time, by bringing things with her to read, study, knit... wherever she went. She made a suggestion one evening that I take my laptop along to her dance class, and write in the car while I wait for her. I liked it. Saved gas, and time... and gave me a break perfectly suited to writing. So I took the hour and a half each week and made some great progress. Her idea became a theme for both of us, her as a homeschooler and me as a writer.

    Do you have any time management tips or organizational ideas to share?

    Simple things like... I use a laptop so I can move it around with me easily, and always have a spare battery. The laptop has to be pleasant to work with, so for me that means it's a Mac. 

    I've got to have something to write ideas onto in the car and at my desk - so I love stickies. I prefer to review my work in the printed form, so a laser printer keeps costs down and makes a good looking copy. My book got into readers hands simply because I had a copy innocently waiting.

    What are your main avenues of improving your writing: writing books, blogs, coursework, conferences, critique group, etc.

    Getting others to read my work makes a difference, both for improvement and encouragement. Knowing copies are being read keeps my attention on the revision work. I've been fairly chicken about getting feedback, so this process helped break that ice. I haven't braved the critique group thing yet, but want to.

    Thank you so much, John. It's amazing that no matter how busy we are, there are "wasted" moments in the day that can be captured. And you've got a novel to show for it!

    There are hundreds more ideas for squeezing drops of writing time out of our days. If you've got one, leave a comment.

    Links of the Week #2

    Every writer needs other people, no matter how much they enjoy tapping away at the keyboard, accompanied only by their cat. This week's links focus on ways to keep connected with other writers.

    The Writer's View 2
    If you don't have the money or the time to get to a writer's conference very often, Then The Writer's View 2 is for you. This group is for beginning and intermediate Christian writers eager to hone their craft.

    A panel of published authors and editors post two questions per week, inviting members to chime in on the varied topics, which cover craft, marketing and other important subjects. One of the group members is Cecil Murphy, the co-author of the best-selling  90 Minutes in Heaven  Reading the weekly posts is similar to attending two writing conference workshops each week.

    Two recent topics of discussion have been "How would you launch your book?" and "Dos and don'ts for approaching editors and agents". There are between 150 and 300 replies each month.

    To join, go here. You will have to apply, sending in a little information about yourself and a short writing sample. Because the 800-member group is so active, select the daily digest option, rather than individual emails.

    If you are a published author, you are invited to join The Writer's View 1 .

    Young Adult Writers
    Christian YA Writers Group 1 is an online critique group for writers of Christian young adult fiction. It's a small group, and each member is expected to complete one critique each week. Several members are published writers, and you will receive excellent critiques on your short stories or novel chapters. Writing courses are also offered through this free group.

    Those members who demonstrate improved skill in writing and critiquing will be invited to join Group 2--a more advanced level critique group.

    For Speculative Fiction
    The Critters Workshop is a long-running online critique group "for serious writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror". Members are expected to do at least one critique per week, in exchange for the opportunity to receive dozens of critiques on your own work when you've reached the top of the queue.

    You get to choose which story (or stories) to critique from a list of several dozen. Each is marked with the genre and title, so if horror isn't to your liking, you can pick from the other genres. Critiques of 200 words or more get uploaded on the site.

    Critters is free to use, although if you don't critique often enough, your own stories get pushed to the bottom of the queue. Just a note: this is not a Christian critique group. You'll find stories of all flavors here, however those with potentially offensive material are marked as such.

    Next Time
    The next Links of the Week will highlight my favorite agent blogs. If you've got some of your own, let me know.

    Links of the Week #1

    The internet is a huge world, populated with excellent content. But mixed in there is lots of worthless junk. I love it when someone has already found websites that would have taken me months to discover.

    Here are a few of the many resources I've found. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I may highlight some of them in future posts.

    Julie Hood is my hero. Check out her Organized Writer website for some amazing freebies. She's got a free writing calendar to download, so you can keep track of deadlines and goals. If you sign up for her newsletter, you get the free "Sidetracked Writer's Planner". This is a 30-page document with excellent organizational forms for you to copy and assemble into a binder. A couple of examples:

    1. Projects Index- Keep track of the different projects you are working on.
    2. Clips Index- One sheet to keep track of all your clips (articles that you've published).
    3. Clips Detail Sheet- One sheet for each clip where you can record who it was sold to, and any reprints sold.
    4. Submission Tracker- If you are submitting articles, many magazines take a long time to get back to you (one of mine took nine months!). Don't forget about any submissions with this form.
    5. Query Index- Similar to the Submission Tracker, but to keep a list of who you've queried, and when.
    6. Income and Expense Record- This is very important if you are needing financial information for tax purposes.
      Julie has links to many other articles and resources. Spend a little time there--it's worth your while.

      Freelance Writing
      Hope Clark has done alot of the legwork for you. She's got links to contests (especially free or low-cost ones), freelance writing opportunities, and grants and residences for writers. Check out her Funds for Writers website, sign up for her excellent newsletters
      (one for larger markets, one for smaller markets, and one for markets that publish children 18 and under).
      Hope's blog also has daily contests that she has come across. This post is an excellent summary of some of the quickest ways to make money freelancing.

      Writers do a great deal of searching online. Why not get something out of it? SwagBucks is a Google-based search engine, and they award you "swagbucks" for using their site. You can even download a toolbar to make searching easier.

      Here's how it works if you're unfamiliar with SwagBucks: click on the SwagBucks link at the upper left corner of this page. There is a quick and free registration page. Then, just search as usual. At least 50% of the time, you'll earn a "buck"; sometimes several. If you have friends that you invite, you'll also earn a "buck" each time they do.

      You can save up your "bucks" for prizes from the SwagStore. I usually save up to 45 bucks, then swap them for a $5 Amazon gift card. When I've collected $25 worth of gift cards, I buy a couple of books and get free shipping.

      A couple of pros and cons for SwagBucks: On the pro side, the search results only show about four pages, which is about all you usually look at anyway. On the con side, if you're looking for a map or images, you'll want to just use Google, or another search engine. But all in all, a great way to snag some free writing books.

      Do you need a website, but don't have the money to hire a webmaster? Check out Joomla . This is a site that allows you to make your own, with easy-to-use software. Note: Joomla does not support the Mac (boo-hoo!), so if I find something similar that does, I'll let you know.

      Come back tomorrow for some more links to excellent resources!

      Pre-Pubbed Tuesday

      Each Tuesday, I plan to interview a pre-published homeschool mom. I'll also be lining up some published homeschool moms for Thursday posts. Since I'm pre-pubbed, and most of you don't know me, I'll start with myself.

      Tell us a few things about yourself: age, kids, where you live, etc.
      I'm a 44-year-old mom of 5. My oldest is my grown foster-son, who is 36. I have four teenagers at home. One is graduated and working on college credits, and I homeschool the other three in grades 7, 9, and 10. My husband and I have been married for 22 years. He's a schoolteacher (as am I, though my class size is much smaller these days!). We're originally from the East Coast (I was born and raised in Brooklyn), but we've lived in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for 14 years.

      What do you write?
      Fiction is what I love the most. It's also not easy to make any money at it, so I also do freelance writing. I work for a site called Elance where I freelance and ghostwrite. Even though it's not fiction, any kind of writing is good practice.

      How did you get started?
      Writing was a huge part of my life in middle and high school. I had some wonderful teachers who encouraged me, along with my parents. However, I had no idea that I could ever actually write a whole book. I thought authors had these complete ideas birthed in their brains, and all the rest of us could hope for was coming up with a few short stories.

      Life intervened. I turned 42 and had middle and high schoolers of my own who loved to write. As I researched how to encourage them, I rediscovered how passionate I am about writing stories. An idea came to me (not fully formed), and over time it evolved into a complete idea that I eventually finished at 100,000 words.

      When on earth do you find time to write?
      I'd rather write than do most anything else. Unfortunately, my family would also like to eat.

      Then of course, there's homeschooling.

      During the 15 weeks I worked on my first novel, I did little else. The kids, anxious to read the next installment, practically locked me in my room.

      "Don't worry, we'll do our assignments. And the dishes. And fix dinner."

      Did I tell you I have great kids?

      As wonderful as it was to write, mainly uninterrupted, I needed some balance. So now, I try to get up before everyone to edit my novel. Once we've covered the subjects they need me for, I can sit down and do my work for Elance. And sometimes, if my sweetheart is watching a game, I can do some more in the evenings.

      If I'm cooking, driving, hanging laundry, or anthing else (relatively mindless), then I'm planning a scene or pondering a new story idea. I carry a notebook in my purse so I don't have to resort to scribbling ideas on toilet paper.

      Waking up and falling asleep are my best thinking times. I keep a spiral and pen by my bed, and have become quite adept at writing in the dark (fairly) legibly. One time, however, I wrote an entire page of ideas on a page that had already been written on. Oops.

      I don't know if I could have accomplished much writing when my kids were small. We'll soon have some interviews with moms who are doing just that, and hopefully learn their secrets. Hopefully one of these days, that mom will be you!

      The Master Plan

      Since no one wants to waste their time on a blog just about me, I'll give you an idea what to expect if you drop by.

      I'm lining up weekly interviews with homeschooling moms who are published or pre-published. The idea is to encourage all writing homeschool moms that there is time (somewhere) in their day or week (or month!) to write. If you are a mom who is willing to be interviewed (even though you don't have all the answers), contact me through my profile.

      It's amazing how much information is out there on writing. I just typed in "writing" on Google, and there are 337,000,000 results! Of course, most of those links would be useless to you.

      In the past two years, I've found quite a few sites that have been very helpful. I'm all about frugality, so if I can learn something for free, I'm a happy mom.

      My plan is to post a series of links every Wednesday. I'll have links to helpful writers groups, critique groups, contests, freelance writing opportunities, free ebooks, the best blogs, and books to read.

      Don't Forget the Kids
      Even though we're trying to write, we want to encourage our kids to do the same. I'll post ideas for getting your kids excited about writing, and include some fun writing prompts. I'll also highlight writing curriculum for homeschoolers.

      Tip of the Week
      Each week, check back for a new creative way to make time to write. Some may not work for your situation, but they'll hopefully inspire you to find a few minutes in your week.

      Writing Samples
      As the blog gains some readers, I'd love to post a "writing sample of the week" from aspiring homeschool writer moms. It's a great way to get some exposure and feedback. If you'd like to submit a sample, contact me through my profile.

      It Begins . . .

      In a Land Far, Far Away
      Once up on a time, there was a girl who loved to write. Her teachers encouraged her, and she thought it would be wonderful to write a book someday. Then she went to college, got married, and had four children in 5 years. Writing took a backseat.

      Her children developed multiple chronic health problems. She began homeschooling, helping with a single-parent support group, and volunteering in MOPS. Besides writing the MOPS newsletter, she barely wrote more than her signature when doing the bills.

      Many Years Pass
      Years later, when her children became teenagers, they expressed an interest in writing. The mom began to research the best ways to help them become better authors. In the process, she practiced some of what she learned, the better to help her children.

      Lo and behold, the mom rediscovered how much fun she had writing! This was different from scrapbooking or sewing or cooking, which while fun, were also really done for the family. What a novelty--an enjoyable activity for pure pleasure.

      The mom also discovered that encouraging other writing moms (and writing teens) energized her in the same way. She found so many helpful sites and groups on the internet, that she decided to share the wealth with other moms. 

      But her sneakiest reason for finding other writing moms was to answer her own burning question: how do other homeschooling moms find(or make) any time to write, except for-- writing while the rice boils? 


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