Start Your Engines! NaNoWriMo is upon us!

Somewhere between the spooky sights of Halloween and the warm comfort of Thanksgiving lies an insanity that only writers understand. That insanity is National Novel Writing Month also known as NaNoWriMo. Many writers ride their October candy binge into the deep void, fingers itching against their keyboards on the eve of October 31st as they strive to complete a 50k rough draft in a single month. For thirty days houses go uncleaned, phones go unanswered, and writers survive off a steady diet of caffeine and hot pockets as they tirelessly write… and write… and write.  Madness usually overtakes you around the third week and the uncontrollable giggling starts on the fourth. I won’t get into the lengthy one-sided conversations in an empty room by week five.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for three years now and despite the groggy nights and gnashing of teeth, I look forward to it each time. It gives me an entire month of being focused on my story and puts me in a almost zen state as the words fly out from my fingertips. If you are deadline oriented person like myself and want to get into an everyday writing habit, it’s a great start. Honestly, NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone. It can be pretty stressful if you don’t like pressure. I know many writers who just don’t enjoy it like I do. But if you thrive under time crunches, this is a great exercise.

If this is your first time at the NaNo rodeo, here are some tips that helped me survive the November insanity:

  • Designate some writing time. An hour at least. After work is when I do mine, but if you’re an early riser, maybe an hour in the morning will do you good.
  • Find a NaNo buddy. Find two! Find eight! Get yourself a crowd of folks who you can cheer on and can cheer on you. That community will be your life’s blood while you scramble for your daily word count.
  • Word sprints are the best. My monthly writers group already have our coffee shop NaNo sprint planned. If you can’t do one in person, do a sprint online with your Facebook friends.
  • Don’t feel discouraged. Even if you don’t hit your 50k goal, even if you only wrote one sentence, you still wrote! And that is to be celebrated!

Are you a NaNoWriMo writer? Share some of your tips in the comments!

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October Meeting Roundup + Good News!

Last Saturday, we held our October meeting, where Carolyn Jewel came to speak to us about the ins and outs of self-publishing, discussing everything from business strategies to technical tips. After experiencing many years of traditional publication, Jewel is now enjoying a great deal of success with her self-published book. In her presentations, she shared several pieces of advice on how to position yourself for success, which apply to writers in both spheres of the publishing world, including:

  • Know who you are. Identify your strengths and your weaknesses, and use them to your advantage.
  • Define your goals, and keep your eyes on them at all times.
  • Always have a strategy – how are you going to get from point A to point B?

While Jewel pointed out the importance of recognizing that the same strategy doesn’t work for everyone, she did share some of the approaches that worked for her. For example, once she set a goal to increase her writing revenue, she went about it by giving away a book for free. That free book helped her secure new readers, who then went on to buy other books she had on the market. Jewel has applied similar strategies using boxed sets and short stories.

The afternoon portion of our program was dedicated to technical advice – and with a day job as a data architect, Jewel had a lot of it to share. One of the most enlightening pieces of information she shared was a how-to guide for evergreening, which is relevant to those of us that self-publish e-books which include links to other downloads. Additionally, she spoke about ways in which to optimize your author website to improve performance, protect from hackers, and prioritize your results in search engines. Some methods to achieve this include:

  • Adding secure hosting to your site.
  • Making your site mobile responsive.
  • Favoring practicality and convention over “cuteness” when designing your site.
  • Installing both Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

Whether self-published or pursuing the traditional route, every author came away from this meeting with some tidbit of useful information.

Our Member of the Month award was given to Michele Barber, for all of the hard work she does in greeting guests at the door of each and every monthly meeting. Without her, we’d never know who was in attendance!

MOM_October2015

Tameri Etherton (l.) with Member of the Month, Michele Barber.

As usual, our members had an abundance of Good News to share!

  • Mary Galusha will be participating in the Ramona Library Local Author’s Day on October 24th from 10-3PM.
  • Sarah Richmond sold a historical mystery romance to The Wild Rose Press.
  • Barbara Garren registered her paranormal romance Infinite Potential for the San Diego Public Library Local Author program in November.
  • Cynthia Diamond’s second book, Valkyrie’s Spear is out now.
  • Tessa McFionn released Spirit Bound on October 16th.
  • Susan Burns sent in several requests, including an erotic novella to Evernight, the first book in a steampunk series to Curiosity Quills, and a request for Samhain.
  • Regan Walker won the RONE Award in the Medieval category for The Red Wolf’s Prize. She also released book two, Rogue Knight.
  • Kimberly Field will have an essay on kindness published in a book for charity.
  • Cheryl Pitones, Eleanor Nystrom, and Kristin Rockaway all collected their Orange Rose finalist pins at the Orange County Birthday Bash. Kristin placed second overall in the contest.
  • Demi Hungerford self-published her third anthology, Bowman’s Inn – Autumn.
  • Kitty Bucholtz made PAN.

Next month, we’ve got a real treat lined up: our literacy event, complete with our amazing basket raffle and the even more amazing speaker, Kristan Higgins! You won’t want to miss it.

Upcoming Classes for November!

Speaking from experience, I have nothing but praise for the classes offered through RWASD. Through them I’ve learned not only tricks of the craft but also about the writing business in general, things you wouldn’t learn in an average classroom. For an up and coming novice like myself, these resources have been a gold mind!

Many of them are taught by our own members. We also reach out and find a wide variety of instructors to give you a diverse selection of topics to choose from. Here are a few wonderful classes coming up for November. Sign up today!

Please register at http://rwasd.com/training/index.html for the classes listed below.

Pacing Pride vs. Pacing Robbers

Without proper pace, your stories can sag, drag or just fade away. Proper pace depends on knowing how to make your reader anticipate the next scene, and when to give your reader a moment to take a breath. The workshop will cover in-depth details about the pitfalls of pacing and how to avoid having their pace robbed by certain writing techniques. Participants will learn specific ways to perk up the pace of their novels through grammar styles, setting mood and tone, managing conflict and using point of view subjectively. Includes practical exercises and personalized feedback on participants’ works in progress.

Date: November 229, 2015

Instructor: Kat Duncan

Cost:  San Diego RWA Chapter members: $20 Non-members: $25

Bio: Kat Duncan is a creation extremist who is doing her best to identify human creativity and free it from captivity, one student at a time. As a young child, Kat once tried to confess the telling of her stories to her parish priest because she thought they fit the definition the nuns gave for telling a lie. With her lies fully sanctioned and blessed by church authorities, Kat writes stories to entertain and enlighten. She is a Fulbright Scholar who spent a year in West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Kat has a Master’s Degree in Education and over a dozen years of experience teaching students from elementary through college and beyond. Her stories span a range from realistic historicals to quirky suspense. Webpage: http://katduncanwriting.com Blog: http://storygrannies.blogspot.com.

Character Psychology

What makes your characters the people they are? (Besides you, the author.) Personality-building tools include their birth order, mind-body-heart types and Jungian choices — see how each of those contribute to a character who will naturally come into conflict with your hero, heroine and/or villain, and how to resolve those conflicts or make them even worse!

Date: November 1627th, 2015

Instructor: Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Cost:  San Diego RWA Chapter members: $15 Non-members: $20

Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell loves teaching writers about issues that draw on her background as a therapist (and a novelist who beat out Nora Roberts for RT’s “Best Special Edition of the Year”). She’s taught classes at WriterUniv.com and live from London to Los Angeles, about creating characters for naturally intriguing plots. Website:  BookLaurie.com

The Courage to Keep On Writing

Writers live interesting lives. We toil in solitude, sometimes for weeks on end, churning out words, perfecting our prose, and trying our darnedest to persevere in the face of rejection (after rejection, after rejection…) in pursuit of publication. Our lives can sometimes seem like endless stretches of self-doubt and emotional struggle, punctuated by short-lived – but euphorically high – moments of triumph. Sometimes, it can be hard to slog through those long stretches; when you’re not getting any positive feedback or signs of encouragement, how do you find the courage to keep going?

Personally, I always look for the answer in a book. When I start to feel low or panicky, when I’m faced with a daunting task or a looming deadline, when I get a bad critique or rejection letter, I’ll turn to that shelf mounted just above my desk, the one that’s loaded with books I find to be particularly inspiring. And I crack the spine and turn the pages until I’m feeling good again.

The crazy thing is, it works every time.

Here are just a few of the books that never fail to pick me up when I’m feeling down:

  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. This might be a considered a classic by writers and creators everywhere. It’s a quick read by Stephen Pressfield, and focuses on methods writers (and all artists) can use to fight back against all those nasty negatives that prevent you from creating your best work – forces Pressfield refers to as “resistance.”
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. This is a new addition to my shelf. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, released this self-help guide in September, which is structured very similarly to The War of Art. Written like a letter from your own personal writing coach, Gilbert draws on her own experiences – both as struggling rejected writer and wildly successful celebrity — and whittles creativity down to its essential elements, which is basically: showing up, doing the work, and not allowing your fear to make any decisions for you. (For an abbreviated version, you can also check out her TED talk.)
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “That sounds awfully rigid and business-oriented.” But my favorite part of this best-selling book is where I define my core values, goals, and personal mission statement. I wrote these years ago, and whenever I need to remind myself of what it is I want from life, I read through them and feel reenergized. This is also a handy method for determining what deserves priority and attention in my life, and what merely serves as a distraction from what’s most important to me: namely, my writing.
  • Old Favorites. Reading my all-time favorite books in this genre remind me of why I embarked on this journey in the first place. Some of mine include:
    • The Queen of Babble series, by Meg Cabot
    • Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie
    • Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin
    • Basically anything by Kristan Higgins (who, coincidentally, will be our guest at the November literacy event!)

Hopefully, you found something worthwhile on this list that might help you in your hour of personal writing-related despair. What about you? What are some of your favorite books that inspire you to keep on writing?

Meet The Chapter Mates: Kathy Aarons

K. Aarons photo (1)
Kathy is a lover of cozy mysteries and has a passion for educating the youth in the craft of writing. Lets find out more about her!
Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What do you write?
I’m Kathy Krevat and I write the Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the pen name Kathy Aarons. It’s a cozy mystery series by Berkley Prime Crime that features chocolatier Michelle Serrano and bookstore owner Erica Russell. First in the series was the nationally bestselling Death is Like a Box of Chocolates. Truffled to Death came out in June, and Behind Chocolate Bars comes out March 1, 2016.
In addition to writing, I’m an advocate for arts education for youth. I’m vice president of the board of directors for Playwrights Project, a wonderful nonprofit that has a small staff and a huge impact. Its mission is to advance literacy, creativity, and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions. I also volunteer for the CCA Writers Conference, the only free writing conference for high school students in the country. It’s an amazing day filled with workshops by authors, including NYT bestsellers, journalists, playwrights, songwriters, and other writing professionals.
 
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I enjoyed writing in high school and college, and went into marketing and public relations when I graduated. Other than a short story I once wrote when I was a teen that made my mom cry, I didn’t start writing fiction – unless you count ad copy — until my youngest daughter was four and in preschool five mornings a week. Perhaps then I thought I was a writer, but that was because I didn’t yet know what I didn’t know.
What does RWASD mean to you?
I would not be published if it wasn’t for RWASD. I wouldn’t even be on the same planet! When I joined RWASD a million years ago, I was floundering around, not understanding what it took to write a story. That was the year they focused on the basics, so every month there was a morning and afternoon workshop on some aspect of plot, setting, characters, etc. I was amazed how much knowledge was being shared. I wrote down everything the speakers were saying because I hadn’t heard it before. I’d look around wondering why everyone else wasn’t writing this good stuff down. Later I realized that they were further along the writing path than I was.
I bought all of the writing craft books speakers recommended and ever so slowly, got better at writing. I learned about the publishing side at RWASD as well. Like many people do, I sent my work out before it was ready, but that was a learning experience too.
And I found my amazing critique group – the “Denny’s Chicks,” Barrie Summy and Kelly Hayes – through RWASD. We met at the RWASD Boot Camp in 2004 and have been together ever since.
 What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your journey to becoming a writer?
Being disciplined enough to sit down and write which is combined with a lot of anxiety about writing. I’ve finally learned that the only thing that will overcome it is to do the work and the worry eventually passes.
 What attracted you to the genre you write? Why does it speak to you?
I fell in love with Janet Evanovich which inspired me to write my first complete book, PTA Meetings Are Murder. I have a humorous voice and like writing that moment when humor lifts a serious or emotional scene. And I like when justice is done, which always happens at the end of a cozy mystery. I also enjoy revisiting a cast of fun and quirky characters – whether reading or writing.
What to you love best about writing? 
It’s rare, but that moment when what you envision in your head actually ends up on the page.
Love Scenes. Steamy or sweet? Why?
I read almost everything, but I write sweet. While there is often romance in cozies, and there are two romance subplots in my books, love scenes are generally off the page. I’m actually quite terrible at writing sex scenes. There was one in my PTA book and my critique group had to keep asking for “just a few more lines.”
Who’s a writer you would do backflips to meet and why?
J. K. Rowling. She’s a genius and an amazing human being.
If you could go back 20 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Stop screwing around and start writing seriously. And lose weight – it gets so much harder with age!
 Tell us about your latest novel! 
In Truffled to Death, two best friends sell books and bonbons—and solve crimes—in this 9780425267240_large_Truffled_to_Deathmystery from the author of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates

Hoping to sweeten sales for their shop, Chocolates and Chapters, Michelle and Erica host a reception highlighting a new museum display of ancient Mayan pottery curated by Erica’s former mentor, Professor Addison Moody. The evening has a few hiccups, but the ladies soon smooth things over with ample servings of wine and chocolate.Yet with the sweet comes the bitter. The very next day, the antiquities from the reception are discovered missing. The professor accuses Erica of having sticky fingers, claiming she wants revenge on him. And she’s only in more trouble after he’s found stabbed to death with one of the artifacts. Now Michelle must help Erica track down the real killer before someone else finds themselves in less than mint condition…

Before you go, any advice to give to the new writers out there?
Keep writing! I started writing fiction when my youngest daughter was four and my first book came out two weeks after she left for college.
When people said it showed that I was persistent, it didn’t feel right. I wasoccasionally persistent, and that was what worked for me.
So keep reading, learning and writing!