Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tense and Tension and Night Circuses

I was talking to a writer-friend this past weekend who also recently read The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I loved this book and I'm 99% sure I would have loved it whenever I read it, but I do think I looked at it slightly differently as a writer. Writers often notice things readers don't.

The book is written all in present tense. Mostly in omniscient third person present tense, except for a few sections in 2nd person. But I'm pretty sure all of it is in present tense. (I don't have the book with me and I'm out of town, so I can't check.)

The present tense was a problem for the other writer I was talking to because the events in the book are happening in the past not the present so she didn't think using present tense made sense. She also said that although she couldn't stop turning the pages, she didn't end up caring about the characters or thinking about them much after finishing, and she thought present tense was to blame.

I thought for this for a while after our conversation and instead of e-mailing her with my opinions, I'll just post them here. :)

First, clearly not every book is going to speak to every reader. It's subjective. And full disclosure: I've written 3 books in first person present tense, including the ones I'm working on now. And I have a partially completed manuscript in 3rd person present tense. So I'm not totally unbiased here. :)

But I would assert that a lot of the tension and the rapid pace of The Night Circus comes from the author's use of the present tense. I don't think it would be as creepy or fascinating or as immediate in past tense. Present tense can make you feel as if you're watching a scene unfold. (Rather than hearing someone tell you about something they saw in the past.) I think present tense can pick a reader up and swoop her into a scene, even if that scene is in the past. I do assert that the present tense was responsible for creating tension in that book and it would have been flat in past tense.

I think that the omniscient viewpoint is a more likely culprit for the detachment she felt. In hindsight, I felt detached from the characters too. We're never fully in any characters' POV, so we never fully feel any of their emotions. Now I'm not meaning for a second to argue that this was a "mistake" or "bad choice" on the part of the author -- just a different one. I think in this particular book, the omniscient viewpoint had the advantage of creating mystery and allowing the author to show many, many points of view, but the disadvantage of emotional detachment. It worked for me. I also liked how it clouded things or kept the reader from immediately seeing which characters were the most important. Experienced readers know that when a character gets a POV they're going to be important for some reason or a major player. But in a book where virtually every characters' thoughts are disclosed, there's almost another layer of mystery to figure out who's important and who's not or why I'm being told about a little boy sent on a dare, or a German clock maker.

I also loved how the description of each circus tent/act was done in 2nd person, (but also present tense, I think. Again, I don't have the book on me.) These short 1-2 page chapters are scattered throughout the book and are presented almost as if the circus itself had written them as ad copy to entice people to visit. Or more likely as if one of the rêveurs (avid night circus fans) had written about his or her experiences. eg. You walk through a curtain and.... (I'm not quoting. Just giving the idea.) PS. This trailer was clearly done based on an old cover.... I kind of like this first cover better, but maybe they didn't think men would pick it up? UPDATE: It's the UK cover... Here's a link to an interview with Erin Morgenstern I just stumbled onto at Writer Unboxed. BTW. Erin and I are at the same literary agency which freaks me out to no end.

All of this also got me thinking about how and if a writer using present tense might use different techniques depending on whether she's writing in first or second or third person... In first person present, I'm of the opinion that you need to keep description of scenery and action simple and minimalistic or the reader will no longer be "in the moment" or believe that events are unfolding in real time. But in third person, I think you have slightly more leeway--especially when it's omniscient--but still, during scenes with action, I'm pretty sure she kept her sentences clean and clear and easy to parse. There's a ton of vivid description in this book, but I suspect not during actual action scenes. I see myself reading this book again to study it. :)

I have heard some people say they do not ever enjoy reading in present tense, but usually this comes from other writers and I suspect some English majors who were told by their professors that it was infantile to write in present tense. (A reviewer "informed" me that I was using an infantile style when my first person present tense women's fiction manuscript was in that Amazon Breakout Novel competition a few years back.)

Does present tense bother you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So I've been thinking a lot about structure lately and how I'm a little tired of the fact that every book I write starts at the beginning and goes to the end, over and over and over again. Beginning, middle end. Beginning, middle, end. Beginningmiddleend.

I've read two books recently whose structures blew me away. Sister by Rosamund Lupton (I think I've mentioned it before) and Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian. They both mess around with the timeline. Starting at one point, hopping into the past, coming back to the present until both timelines meet up and then charging into the present/future. They were both awesome.

I had also been watching the first few seasons of Damages with my niece. The writers for that show also used a structure where you're in the present and then hopping into the past and then back to the present until the timelines merge near the end and pull you along to the conclusion.

We just started season 3, though, and they're even a little more ambitious with the timeline. There's the past then a mid point and then the present and frankly, I'm confused. They got too ambitious with their fancy storytelling technique and it's all gotten muddy.

I really want to try to do something more in my next book (not the one I'm writing now, I'm too committed to how that one works, but the one after that assuming there is one after that), but the idea of biting off more than I can chew is scary.

Have you seen that before where the writer or writers go too far in a book or a movie or a television show? Where they get too ambitious and instead of being intriguing, it's muddy and confusing?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy American Thanksgiving...

This will be a short post as I'm traveling. Just wishing everyone who is celebrating today a happy T-Day.

My sister is already panicking that she doesn't have a big enough bird so we are off to the store to see what can be done.

We're thinking of using a rotisserie chicken and just mixing it in with the turkey. I mean really, who is going to notice!

Anyway to echo what Eileen and Maureen said... ditto about being thankful for good friends.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Like Eileen, I too am very thankful for this blog and my great friends. (She said it so well, I'm simply going to say, "Ditto.") I'm grateful that I finally discovered (admitted?) what I wanted to do with my life and I'm thankful for all of you for keeping me going and not letting me quit the many times the going has gotten decidedly rough.

To give credit where credit's most due... I am especially thankful for Sinead. She was the first of this group whom I met and her determination and talent and encouragement inspired me to keep writing  past just taking a class. Then she introduced me to Molly and the rest is history so to speak.

I'm also feeling grateful for my family and my health. Breast cancer claimed another of my cousins this week, way too young. She never even had the chance to be middle aged and that's just not fair. But I'm thankful to have known her.

I'm also always grateful for the many turkeys and pumpkins and cranberries and their contribution to Thanksgiving dinners -- even though I had mine back in October. ;)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I'm going to keep this short. I have a house full of relatives and more arriving by the day. We're having 25 for dinner on Thursday and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to seat them all and we still haven't practiced getting my mother in and out of the van we rented to squire her around for the week. I wanted to make sure this was said, though.

I'm very thankful for this blog. I'm thankful for a place to put down the random thoughts I have each week about writing and to be able to do it in a community who understands what I'm talking about and why I want to talk about it. I'm thankful for the support. I'm thankful for the way you all make me laugh and think and stretch.

For those of you celebrating this week, have a safe and wonderful holiday. Hugs to you all.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Standing up for our rights or career suicide

One of the websites I love to read on a regular basis is Dear Author . Great website, thoughtful reviews, and always interesting information on publishing in general.

This week they had a brief article on an author suing her publisher for including promotional materials for other author's books at the back of her book. There was nothing in her contract against cross-promotional material, but she felt it went against the terms of her contract and because of this she has refused to hand in the third book in her three book deal.

There are lawyers involved, it's gotten ugly and for anyone interested, check out Dear Author's midday links for the details. Me, I read it and my immediate thought was this author is shooting themselves in the foot. Every other publisher will find out about this and would anyone agree to publish and author who had sued their publisher over something as common as cross-promotion. For more examples of this, see almost every Harlequin paperback.

I admire this author's self-confidence, her ability to speak out for something she thinks is wrong. I do think this is career suicide, but as writers, going through the critique process, through submitting to agents and editors, getting reviewed, there are so many ways our egos can be battered and I'm jealous of any author who can maintain their confidence through all of that.

Authors that will wait for the perfect agent rather than leaping at the first agent to offer representation, or can wait for the big deal rather than just accepting publication, the authors that believe inherently they are worth better treatment. Because I know I'm not that author and I wish I were.

Anyone think the above author was right in her stance? Would you have done the same?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Weekend That Changed My Life...

Sounds dramatic no? But I really believe it to be true. At least my writing life. We’ll see in ten years or so if I’m right. But as Molly posted on Monday I was in Toronto this past weekend and it was awesome. A weekend of good food, good friends, beer and wine, book talk and let’s not forget Friday Night Lights.

But the game changer for me was the brainstorming session. I had never been part of a critique group before. For many reasons. I often tell people who ask me about my writing that I’m the least creative person I know. I write simply because I like to control things. So the idea of a group talking about my idea or changing my idea… I thought, no.

And then there was this element of … if you accept help does it make it less your idea? I’m not great at accepting any kind of help and writing help in particular seemed like a foreign concept.

But then I did it. I told everyone my idea and they all listened (thank you for listening) and it was like watching someone with a Rubix Cube. All the pieces of my story were still there, but with a few twists this way and another few twists that way and what might have been a story that only had 3 sides of all the same color now was a completely finished cube.

I was stunned and amazed. And thrilled. Then Molly did her magic with the high concept stuff and bammo – I felt like I had this great high concept pitch married with a fully cohesive plot.

Now sure – I have to do some more work. The annoying business of actually writing the book. But I will forever be sold on the idea that it is not only okay, but downright smart, to pitch your book to other smart writers and let them find the holes you just can’t see.

You don’t have to use every idea – for instance my hero is not going to be German – sorry Molly! But it’s not even like that really matters. Just throwing things out there made me think about things I hadn’t thought of before.

I’m sold. And I absolutely want to do this again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Talent vs. Skill

I feel as if I've done a post on this topic before, but the previous one was more about whether or not you can learn to be a writer... Hmmm.. when was that? (I found it. A post I did on my other blog in 2006 about whether writing is a talent or a skill. I guess a five year gap is enough time to revisit. ;)

Something recently drew this concept to mind again--and it was partly Stephanie commenting last weekend that she was now paying more attention to craft than she used to. And I'd already thinking about talent vs. skill.

A few weeks ago, I was walking through a bookstore with the fabulous Debbie Ohi and we stumbled on a woman doing a signing and we listened to a small chunk of her presentation. From what we could gather, her book was a cookbook, but also had personal stories about the recipes and some cartoon-type illustrations. Someone in the audience complimented the illustrations and asked her about them.

The author was a tad shy about her drawings and said she wasn't an artist or an illustrator by any sense of the imagination, but she'd shown them to the publisher and they wanted to include them. She also showed them to an artist friend at the time, to ask her opinion (should I really let them publish these?) and the artist replied something like: you don't have much skill, but you definitely have talent. That made me nod.

I think you can go a long way in many creative pursuits relying solely on talent, but at some point, when the going gets tough, or when something isn't working, or when you want to push yourself to do something different or better, or when you need to continue to produce more and more books, faster and faster, it sure helps to have developed some skill. :)

What do you think? Do you rely more on talent or skill when you write? Which is more important?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sometimes I Hate Romance

Most of the time I love love. Young couples smooching on the street make me stop and smile. I often applaud when the couple finally kisses in the movie or the TV show. I get all swoony when one of my friends' husbands steps up to the plate and surprises her with jewelry or a trip or anything that makes her feel fabulous.

So when do I hate romance? Apparently when it's in a commercial. Those "Every Kiss Begins with K" commercials that will be playing nonstop from now to Christmas make me want to puke. Honestly, does that dude think it will really help unpack all those boxes to give her a necklace? Forget the diamonds, man. Start putting together some shelves!

Truth be known, I also despite those Jared commercials and the Zales commercials and I've been known to turn the car radio off the second I hear Tom Shane's voice, so maybe it's just jewelry commercials that set my teeth on edge. Perhaps not, though, because there's a few perfume commercials that make me want to scream as well.

Maybe it's just the start of my usual hatred of all things holiday starting up because of the commercials. Or perhaps I'm becoming prematurely curmudgeonly.

Is there any place where you hate to see romance? Or is it good for you wherever you find it?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Figuring out High Concept

Big moment for some of the drunk writers - namely, me. For years when people have talked about High Concept, I have mocked them behind thier backs largely because I have no CLUE what high concept actually means. Is it JAWS meets LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE? What if we write straight up contemporary romance - where's the high concept in that? Don't I need zombies or post-apocolyptic drama to be high concept?

And, and this is ugly, I have always believed that the books I have adored you can not whiddle down to one line that manages to encapsulate all the tension, drama and nuisance of the character and conflict I love. Because I love those books, and emulate those authors, I thought my books were so damn special one line wouldn't do it.

I know, such a dummy.

Anyway, I had a slow-burning ah-ha moment after Lori Wilde's talk at the TRW meeting a few months ago, and in talking with Maureen and Sinead about the ideas they are working on and the rejections that they've gotten.

High concept doesn't encapsulate the book - it encapsulates the idea. It sells the idea. Shines it up to an irresistable gloss. The book is another thing entirely! (not really, but for this discussion, yeah it kind of is). And yes I think a contemporary romance needs a high concept line most of all. We've got to figure out why this book is different and get it out there.

I don't know about you guys, but after I've written a book, I could not come up with the high concept line to save my life. I'm all bogged down in the 100,000 words of nuance and conflict and backstory and mommy issues. In fact, as an aside, I could not come up with a high concept line on a book that I've written a proposal for.

But this weekend, Stephanie came to town to be a big timmer up at the Harlequin office and we got to do some brainstorming. Steph, Sinead and Maureen were all at the very beginning of brainstorming, they had some ideas, some plot and a character - all very fluid. But we decided for each of these ideas the brainstorming wouldn't be finished without coming up with this line...and HOLY SHIT! I am not kidding you, in all my years of writing and brainstorming - nothing has ever lit a spark under us like this. It wasn't just enthusiasm for the ideas - all of us wanted to pitch these books. We were excited about the part of the publishing process that every hates - submitting.

And the really amazing power of a great high concept line is that it shows the whole book. The world, the character, the external conflict, the twist - and if you choose the words right, you can even get tone and voice in there too.

It's freaking magic! Not kidding.

Friday, November 11, 2011

When are you fully committed?

It's time for a new idea and I truly don't know what to write. Brainstorming is my favourite part of this writing process, and at this point, everything is on the table. I'm committed to absolutely nothing, not even genre, so I'm really going where my best idea takes me.

I like to plan in advance, have a strong sense of the major plot points, but usually I jump into a book too soon, a mistake I'm hoping not to repeat.

So my usual process is, I brainstorm a general plot, the beginning, the end, the internal and external conflicts and then, when I should be thinking more of developing the relationships between the characters or how the character arc plays out, I get impatient to start and I write the first chapter and go from there. Once the first chapter is written, I'm pretty much committed to the idea and I rarely back off from there.

I know people, who are committed to the idea almost from it's inception, and others who can write three chapters and still back away from an idea.

But by the time I start the first chapter, I'm so excited about the prospect of the story that I get caught up. It's nice, it's a place for me that has little doubt, and that's about the only part of the writing process that lacks doubt.

Anyone gotten farther into a book and turned to another idea?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Building a Platform

I'm participating in a mentorship program through one of my online writers groups and my "grasshopper" recently asked me this question:

When did you start building your platform? Can you identify the major steps to take? What made a real difference?  

In answering her, I thought I'd just make it into a blog post.

First... I actually don't think it's essential for fiction writers to build a platform before they're published. I know or know of lots of very successful authors who had zero online presence prior to their first sale. A platform will not get you published in fiction unless it's a really awesome one. And wearing these shoes wouldn't count as an awesome platform for fiction, unless your name is Snooki or Lauren Conrad or Tyra Banks.

That said, I am someone who started to build a platform before I sold.

I used to be very active on several writers loops. I did this more to learn about writing and the industry, and to share what I'd learned with others, than to build a platform per se... but I did develop a fairly significant network of writer friends both via loops and via blogging. 

The keys with blogging are at least two fold. First, make your content interesting. And second leave meaningful comments on other people's blogs in the hopes that you'll gain readership either from those individuals or their readers. Or maybe that they'll link to your blog from their blog. It can be a lot of work to do both of those things consistently, so I only recommend this for someone who enjoys it and has time. Also, you have to be careful not to say something that will paint you in a negative light.

And I don’t think that either of those venues are as active as they used to be. More people are now on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

I was a pretty early adopter of MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and Google+, but I don’t think it’s essential to do these things professionally before you’ve got a publishing contract. The trick is, unless you have really great content on those venues, why would anyone you don't already know follow you before you have a book out? It’s tricky. And is there any point in building up huge numbers of Facebook friends who are mostly interested in either hitting on you via skeevy messages, or asking you to buy them a cow for Farmville? (Asks the girl with 3800 Facebook friends. Do what I say, not what I do.)

Here's my twitter page if you're not already following me there. :)

Some people do social networking extremely well, but I don’t think it’s essential if it’s not something you enjoy. It's easy to get started on these social networking sites, and the main "tricky" thing for a writer is deciding whether to separate your personal identity from your writer identity. If I could turn back time three or four years, I would have set up Facebook differently for sure. Not that I really could have done it the way I wish I'd done it, because it's changed so much.... 

If you're starting on Facebook now, it's a good idea to set up a Page. But again, why would anyone "like" your page before you have a book? So, it's really just preparation and I wouldn't spend a lot of time trying to coerce people into liking your page. You'll just alienate them. Once you have a book out, they will come. ;) Especially if you have links for them to "like" you on your website and in various other places. :-)

My Facebook Page:

And here's a like button for Molly's new Facebook Page:

There are lots of great resources with advice on using social networking but I think the bottom line is be genuine. Be yourself. And again, be careful you don't tweet or post anything you might later regret. What you post online stays there forever. Minimize drunk tweeting. ;) Especially from an iPhone with autocorrect!

In terms of building a platform, one step I would advise writers to take before they sell is to buy the domain name(s) for whatever author name(s) they plan hope to use. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than realizing you can’t get “” when you want it. I reserved my website name in about 2003 and launched my website and blog after I got my first agent (in 2006) when I thought I was about to sell. I didn't get my first book contract until 2009. If I could turn back time, I’m not certain I would have put as much time/thought/money into my website. I do love the look of my site. My designer was very talented and really “got” me and my writing that I shared with her. Problem is, I ended up published in a different genre than I was writing at the time and while my website fits me as a person, I’m not sure it fits my current work... And I'll definitely need a new design with the books I have coming out starting next year (that I still can't talk about...)

One clear advantage I saw to blogging when I started, was that before I had a blog, when you googled my name most of the top hits weren’t me. After I’d been actively blogging for just a few months, and other writers had linked to my blog, suddenly most google hits for my name were actually about me and not some other person named Maureen McGowan. But again... that didn't get me published. I just thought it was cool.

If you know you’re going to use a pseudonym, then by all means start to create an identity online under that name, but know that things might not turn out as you plan. Maybe your publisher won’t let you use the pseudonym of your choice. Maybe you’ll change your mind by the time you’re published. Maybe you’ll end up in a different genre than the identity you’ve built up... 

All this said, I think unpublished writers should concentrate more on their writing and honing their craft than worrying about a platform. Platforms are only essential for non-fiction writers. For fiction writers they're just a bonus, not a necessity and won't get your novel published unless your platform is that you're a cast member of a big reality TV show. If you enjoy social networking and have time, by all means. But make writing your first priority until you have a contract. An agent or editor won’t sign you or publish your novel because you have a gazillion facebook friends or a pretty website. In fact, unless they already love your book, they won’t even check to see.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Cutting the Squirrel

No. It's not a euphemism for something dirty. Trust me. I double-checked on Urban Dictionary. It might, however, be my new Cutting One's Darlings equivalent.

I had a lovely chat with my adorable and way-too-perceptive-for-her-age editor about my WIP. I'd had a chat back with another editor at Ace when we went to contract for the book. She'd really had only one real objection. It had to do with the squirrel.

I hate squirrels. I'm terrified of them and I'm pretty convinced they're out to get me. They're constantly dashing out across the bike path trying to knock me off my bike. I know people think they're cute, but they attack children, set cars on fire, cause car accidents and may even be involved in espionage.

It was one of those happy writing accidents when I was researching Norse mythology for my third Messenger novel and stumbled across Ratatoskr. He's supposed to be quite the gossip and I figured he could help me get information from one place to another and would also help me work through some of Squirrel issues. I mean, isn't one of the points of writing fiction to basically get cheap therapy?

Alas, I must cut Ratatoskr. Apparently, he doesn't "resonate." Also, I already have crows and some oxen in the book and my editor felt like it was turning into a something like a Disney movie gone terribly wrong. I don't think it will be terribly hard to fill the plot holes his disappearance will make, but I have to admit I'm a little bummed to leave him. I mean, just because he didn't resonate in a synopsis doesn't mean that he won't resonate just fine in the actual book. Sadly, he won't have the chance. I must cut the squirrel.

Have you had to cut any personal squirrels?

Monday, November 07, 2011


Well, here they are my first single title covers from Bantam! I've never had the naked guy cover before and while initially it threw me for a loop - I have to say I've grown fond of his abs. Very very fond. And I think you will too. So: Can't Buy Me Love

I love the look on the woman's face behind the model. She's the perfect representation of my heroine: Tara Jean Sweet.

And my personal favorite of the two, the cover for CAN'T HURRY LOVE not because we see MORE of his chest, but I love the cowboy hat and the fact that his shirt is wrinkled? I adore it. I really do. Not to perfect, just perfect enough, sort of like the hero: down on his luck cowboy Eli Turnbull.

Let me know wht you think!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Vampire Diaries and the surprise plot revelation

Welcome to my ongoing fascination with the Vampire Diaries. It's pretty much the only show in the week that I watch in real time, and if I have to PVR it, I do a back up recording at another just in case my PVR screws up. Because you miss a show in this series and you miss a lot. They somehow manage to keep it moving at that pace, without losing the central relationships either.

And this week was no exception. They surprised me (pleasantly) twice with revelations I didn't see coming, but made absolute sense within the framework of the story and the plot, and more importantly the revelations made the external plot tighter and added some lovely character drama to all of it. Essentially, they kept it all within one family and did it brilliantly.

Lovely surprises happen when you write, really lovely twists and turns, but I'm still a big believer that the important twists, (like the big bad also being the big daddy) is usually something that takes some advance thought. I do some of this, but I never feel as though I do enough, and the Vampire Diaries, on a weekly basis, is convincing me to to do more advance plotting before I ever type a word.

Because it's not just the plot twists, it's the time they take with the central relationships. They seem to understand that because they have so much external plot keeping everything moving along, they can really take their time and develop relationships slowly, build to them and trust the viewer will follow along. And I'm in, and for the first time since the show began, they have two male leads that are fascinating.
Damon and Stefan, because one walks the edge of the line and the other has to be all or nothing, and the show is more about their relationship than it is about the romance between Elena and Stefan which was never that interesting to begin with and the writers seem to understand that as well.

And just finished the Night Circus and it's amazing... loved it, every page.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Girl... She's weird but I like her

Okay so is anyone watching this show? This is the Zoey Deschanel show on Fox. When I watched the first episode I thought… I don’t know. I watched the second and wondered… do I like her or is she just weird?

I watched the third show and I thought she’s weird… but I like her.

This isn’t some show where some actress is trying to be quirky and cute but going over the top and failing at either. This is either a) Zoey is weird and she’s playing herself or b) Zoey is doing very well as an actress playing a weird girl.

Now the impact of this is sometimes she’s adorable. But sometimes she’s so weird it’s uncomfortable and I love that. We’re not going for the “semblance” of a character. We’re going for a real person who could be like this. I have a friend who shares many characteristics so maybe that’s why I can see the real through the weird.

But you’ve got a guy who played in Europe League Basketball who is trying to figure out who he is. You have the “player” who thinks he’s great with the ladies but is desperately insecure. You have the lead guy who will eventually be the romantic foil to Zoey and does a great job playing her straight man and you have her with these guys just being herself. Last night she brought out a “feeling stick.” When the main guy broke it (predictable) she pulled out of her purse a smaller similar stick. She called her travel size feeling stick. (Totally cute and funny.)

I think it’s a great show. It’s grown up. It doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to go and I just love that either the writers or Zoey are not trying to sugar coat her. TV does that so often. They don’t give me real characters they give me –character-lite.

We should always strive in movies, TV and books to go full monty. Will it put some people off – sure. Will everyone watch this show – probably not. But at least they’re going for it and in going for it they might find success.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Happy November!

Those of you who are writers probably know what November is. Sure, there's that big American holiday near the end of the month, but writers who really know how to party know November as the month of insanity, aka NaNoWriMo.

According to the NaNo site I've been a member for seven years and that sounds about right. I've even donated money to them (they're a not for profit) and bought a few of their t-shirts (to wear to the gym). I like NaNo so much that I've signed up this year, even though I just finished a first draft and my goal is to complete a second draft in November. But I might use the progress meter anyway. It's not cheating. ;) I won't apply to "win".

The idea, is that everyone who participates starts writing a novel on November 1st, and finishes their first draft of said novel, at least 50,000 words, by November 30th. If you accomplish that, you are deemed a "winner". It started in 1999 with 21 writers in the San Francisco Bay area, and last year there were over 200,000 participants all over the world. (I would have guessed more... but that's what their site says.)

The rules state that you can't have started the book before November 1st and that you must finish a first draft by November 30th. That is, you can't just write 50K of an ongoing WIP, or a 50K start of a new book... So while I have written 50K most Novembers, I haven't applied to "win" very often because it's rare that my timing works out that I can start something new in November.

But I have a special place in my heart for NaNo. The first "longer" book I wrote; that is, the first novel that wasn't targeted for one of the shorter Harlequin lines, I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2004. That book still might not be published, but it did land me my first agent and won a lot of awards and more importantly, it was the book that made me think I could actually be an author.

I also wrote most of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior during NaNo 2009. Yes, I kind of cheated that year. I had a December 31st deadline for that book and so started it as soon as I knew I had the contract, on or about October 20th, and I finished the first draft before the end of November. But I definitely wrote more than 50,000 words of that book in November. I wrote the bulk of during NaNo and swear competing on word counts with a few of my extextremely prolific erotica writer friends mates really spurred me on. (If she wrote 4,000 words today, so can I!)

And so Nano is inidrectly responsible for my first agent and my first published book. On different books.

What about you? Do you NaNo? Do you like to write fast first drafts or take your time to get it right?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Very Drunk Writer

I am in San Francisco with the fabulous and gorgeous Serena Robar. She's in town for a conference and I am hanging out with her, doing some writing, doing some shopping and tossing back some drinks.

I had a lovely hangover run on the Embarcadero (where were you, Molly?) and then had total sticker shock at Bloomingdale's. Thank God for Macy's and the 40% off rack where Serena found me the perfect dress for an upcoming event. Then tonight it was dinner at Zingari's and off for an end of the evening cocktail at the Redwood Room. Where we took this awesome photo in the fabulous giant chair in the lobby:

In case you can't tell, I had a Manhattan which had LOT of bourbon in it. I am not, sadly, feeling brilliant, but am quite content. Wish you all had been there drinking with us!
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