NaNo No-No’s

NaNo No-No's

NaNo No-No’s–try say that fast three times!

Last week I listed some must-have’s for NaNoWriMo participants. This week I’m sharing a couple of things you’d do well to steer clear of and a couple of tips.

Stop your inner critic and editor. They seem to be persistent little buggers during NaNoWriMo, and they’re exactly what will stop you from getting your word count in. Stop them as soon as they start, before they have a chance to gain momentum. There will be plenty of time in the “Now What” months of January and February for letting your inner editor take charge when NaNo supports the revision and publishing process. It might not be a bad idea to keep the inner critic away much longer though. Unless s/he can be gentle.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Accept your process. Don’t compare your process, what works for you, with anyone else’s. We are all individual, and writing isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Each person’s process is as unique as the person is. Don’t try to conform to be anyone else. There’s only one you and only you can tell your story. Your way. Do it proudly and with confidence.

Schedule writing time. It’s all too easy to come up with a list of things that just have to be done. And getting those things done becomes the focus, telling yourself that you will get the writing done as soon as your list is complete. But there’s always going to be dishes to do, laundry to be done, toys to pick up, phones and emails to answer, dogs to walk, garbage to take, refrigerators to clean…Make appointments with yourself by scheduling your writing time–in ink so it can’t be erased–in your planner. And stick to it. If you make an appointment with someone, you wouldn’t cancel it because you didn’t think it was important enough to keep. An appointment with yourself is no different. You’re worth it.

Make a playlist. I love to write to music. And matching the genre to the scene I’m writing not only makes me more productive, but it adds depth to that scene. I love using Pandora because I can choose any station at any time. It’s quick, easy, and affordable. (Free, if you don’t mind listening to commercials.)

Reward yourself. When your dog accomplishes a trick, s/he likely gets a treat. Or when your child masters something, you more than likely reward him or her. Reward yourself. Set small goals for yourself throughout the month. Decide ahead of time what the goals will be and what the reward will be when you meet said goals. It will give you just that little extra push to git ‘er done. I’ll pretty much do anything if I can have dark chocolate. Or any kind of chocolate, for that matter. NaNo is no small feat. Looking at it as 50,000 words can be overwhelming if you don’t have smaller goals tucked within.

Absolutely no one loses! If you make it to 50,000 words, good for you! You’re a winner! Your dedication and persistence paid off. But guess what? If you don’t make it to 50,000 words, you’re still a winner! Every word you write is more than you had before the month of November. And every word is one more closer to writing the story that only you can tell. And the world needs your story.

The scariest moment is always just before you start.
—Stephen King

That’s the thing about books, they let you travel without moving your feet.
—Jhumpa Lahiri

 

 

 

The Lure of Bookstores

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Anyone remember B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, or Borders? If you’re a writer, you likely remember all of them well. To authors, brick and mortar bookstores are the equivalent of water to a river.

We all dream of having our books holding space on the shelves. Even before I began to take my writing seriously, I spent endless hours dreaming of that exact thing at one of the bookstores in the city in which I lived for many years. Anyone remember Media Play? It was exactly what it sounds like–a bookstore, a movie store, a music store–all things media. It was a dream!

A couple of weeks ago we were in a town that has a Barnes and Noble bookstore. My husband and I looked at each other, no words needed, and both headed in that direction. I felt like a little girl going into a toy store. The minute I opened the door the smell of books hit me full on and I thought I was about to drool. I paused for a moment and inhaled deeply before proceeding into the store.

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I headed for the coffee shop and ten minutes later stood in awe of all the talent from creatives that surrounded me. Memories of days past, before life became so busy, flooded my mind. At Media Play curled up in one of the chairs with a coffee and a book. At Borders camped out on the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of shelves of books, in author/reader heaven. At the mall, veering off into Waldenbooks, disappearing behind walls of books.

We didn’t stay long (it was close to closing time). But the half hour we were there, the memories, the smell of coffee and books, the sheer joy of it all, was worth far more than what we spent on the numerous books we left with.

When was the last time you were in a brick and mortar bookstore?

You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.
—Jen Campbell

The Bookshop Quote

Making a Difference to Just One

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A while back a friend talked to me about her desire to make a difference in the lives of others by getting her “story” out there. That story consists of almost being murdered by her ex-husband. No one–as in not one–not even the doctors, expected her to survive. But survive she did! She’s truly a miracle. In fact she didn’t only survive, she’s by far one of the most positive, smiling, happy, and grateful people I know. Those who know her are blessed indeed.

During this talk we had, she was somewhat discouraged. She wanted to help so many and felt like she was reaching no one. Writing a book was at the top of her list, but anyone who is an author knows writing a book and getting it out there takes a long time. Because of her generous heart and caring spirit, she wanted to help people now. What she didn’t realize, and what I pointed out to her, is that she was helping people–every single day, and that each one she touches, is so important. She’s a first responder victim’s advocate, offering on-the-scene support to victims of crime. She’s won awards for all that she’s accomplished and does because of what she’s been through, using her experience for good. She speaks to groups of people, letting them know that nothing is too big to be overcome. She motivates, inspires, and brings joy.

Every. Single. Day.

Each of us that had a role in the prosecution of her case has been forever touched by her.

Fast forward nine months:

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I got a message from her the other day that said “Oh my God, you’re Alexandra Benn!” She proceeded to tell me that her therapist lent her two books, one of which was my book that I wrote under a pseudonym, Finding Peace Through Gratitude: The Secret to Healing from Trauma and Finding Joy in Every MomentShe went on to tell me what a difference the book has made in her life and that she didn’t know it was me until she saw my picture on the back. I’d even seen a photo she posted on social media of her chair at the pool with a bottle of water and a copy of the book.

Imagine my joy. I was moved to tears. The advice I’d given her months before came back full circle. And her voicing the difference my book made to her, made a difference to me.

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows I participate in Camp NaNoWriMo every April and July. This particular July, however, I’ve been preoccupied with life–vacation to Minnesota visiting family, chaos relating to my husband’s job, and surgery last week on my heart. Progress on my Camp NaNo project just wasn’t happening. But knowing my words made such an impact on this woman, one person, was all it took to get me back to it with gusto. Will I make my Camp NaNo goal? I don’t know. But I do know that knowing my words make a difference, that they bring me such joy to write–well, my friends, that’s all that matters. That I made a difference to one. Because that one is a woman who is beyond amazing.

And now I’m back off to Camp to keep on keepin’ on, despite reaching my goal or not. Whatever I write is that much more that I didn’t have at the end of June.

I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.
-Mother Teresa

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
-Mother Teresa

Connections

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I did an author reading from my latest book, Shear Murder (Book 4 in the Melanie Hogan mystery series) this past weekend. While it was fun to participate in an author event and hang with other local authors–one of them dear friend Karen Whalen who did an author reading from her new release, Peaches and Creamed, a dinner club murder mystery series–it also left me feeling a little…melancholy.

The event was held at Welcome to the Bookstore, an independent bookstore that has been extremely supportive of independent authors like myself. Welcome to the Bookstore hosted its last event this past Saturday before closing its doors. Like most physical bookstores. This particular bookstore is where I got my start as an author. It was there that I held my very first book signing, met other independent and traditionally published authors, hosted events solo and organized events with other authors. Sometimes people in the community, upon hearing my name, would say, “Hey, I saw your books in the bookstore!” Music to an author’s ears.

Whether it’s books or friendships, it seems we’re losing the physical connection as technology booms. E-books vs physical books. Online shopping vs in-store shopping–including groceries. Text messages vs telephone calls. An extension of that, we have telephone calls vs meeting in person. Facebook vs in person communication. I’m not convinced, however, that convenience isn’t doing more harm than good. It’s enabling people to hide behind a screen instead of getting “out there” and fully connecting with the world.

Trust me when I say there’s no finger-pointing going on here. I’m right there with the “convenience” crowd. I shop for so much of my needs online–with the exception of groceries. I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I want to SEE the produce and other perishables I’m buying. I find it easier and faster to check in with friends and family via text or Facebook rather than pick up the phone or schedule a coffee date. And yet, I’m never as satisfied after a stint on Facebook or text messaging as I am after a coffee date. Nothing quite compares to connecting with friends and family face-to-face.

The bottom line? It’s worth making the effort to slllooowww down in the rat-race of life to support local businesses and nurture relationships. Each day is purely a gift that we have the luxury to savor if we so choose. We never know what the next day may bring. Circumstances change in the blink of an eye.

Today, may you go out and live completely and without abandon. May you recognize each moment for the miracle it is. I challenge you to pick up the phone and call a loved one without hurrying to get off the phone because of something you need to get done. Better yet, I challenge you to call and schedule a coffee or lunch date with a friend. It’s never wasted time to nurture the important relationships in your life.

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They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
— Carl W. Buechner

Simply enjoy life and the great pleasures that come with it. –Karolina Kurkova

 

Book in a Day

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Last week was perhaps one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a long time, in large part due to Crime Victims’ Rights week (more on that next week), causing me to fall a bit behind on my Camp NaNo hourly goal. Nothing I can’t make up, though. And Saturday’s all-day event made it worth it.

Book in a Day, put on by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, was an all-day event in beautiful Golden, CO. Although, to tell the truth, I didn’t get to see beautiful Golden because I was in a conference room all day with nary a window.

But, again, it was worth it.

The event began with Stuart Horwitz, founder of Book Architecture, a firm of independent editors, and Anita Mumm, teaching a class based on Stuart’s latest book, Finish Your Book in Three Drafts. Given how informational and motivational the class was, I would strongly recommend the book.

Following that was lunch with fellow creatives. And there’s nothing that gets a room more fully charged with inspiration than writers brainstorming, sharing information, and networking–with FOOD! 🙂

Tummies and brains fed, we moved into simultaneous afternoon sessions, one on Indie Publishing and one on the path to Traditional Publishing. While I’m an indie author with seven published books, I attended the latter. I really enjoy being an independent author and it was my choice to do so (in fact, I didn’t even consider traditional publishing for a very long time), but with a new series brewing in my head, I’m considering shopping around for an agent. Considering. I’m still undecided. The class was taught by Angie Hodapp of Nelson Literary Agency. Now, let me say that I’ve attended several of Angie’s classes and have never been disappointed. The woman is a genius and knows how to deliver a message. In fact, when I attend the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in May, you can bet I’ll be attending her classes there as well.

The last session? Marketing. I tend to shudder when I say that word. Simply because if there’s one weakness I have in the writing life, it’s marketing.  The session, however, was a treat! Successful, talented, and kind-hearted indie authors (Bernadette Marie, Lisa Manifold, Corinne O’Flynn, Nathan Lowell) and, again, the wonderful Angie Hodapp, shared in an entertaining, informative, attention-keeping manner the ins and outs of what has and has not worked for them. Social Media appears to be the most agreed upon success.

To make it easy to find them, I’ve included the links to their websites. It’s well worth your time to check them out.

 

And now…I’m back off to Camp to begin week three of revising book two, Abby’s Retribution, in my Whispering Pines series. The lanterns are lit, the bonfires are burning, and the campfire conversation is flowing. I think it’s time to break out the s’mores!

 

Ready to Roll

Reenergized & Rejuvenated

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.           —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you ever declared some time off, regardless of what other people think or do? It’s called being true to yourself and is one of the best things you can do for yourself and everyone else in your life.

In the writing world there are numerous beliefs. One widely held belief is that we “must” write every day. Another is that in order to be successful in the blogging world, one “must” adhere to a schedule.

While I believe both are important, I also believe they’re not the most important things. The MOST important is what is true for you. What fits in your life at this precise moment. I say that because our lives are fluid. Needs, priorities, available time, schedules…they all shift depending on the season you’re in at the moment. Heck, sometimes mine shift depending on the day. By trying to live someone else’s success or beliefs will only lead to struggle and burnout.

I took an extended break the past month and am all the better and healthier for it. I didn’t write hardly anything at all on my WIP (work in progress) but that doesn’t mean I left the writing life. Ideas came and went, percolating into bigger ideas that I jotted down. But I didn’t take the time to flesh them out. I simply let them wander aimlessly to see which direction they wanted to go.

I didn’t blog much, but that doesn’t mean I left it. I love the blogging community. It’s a place of online friendships and support that you can’t find anywhere else. And I’ve found peace with the fact that if I don’t blog every week, that’s okay. For me.

I didn’t read any books on the craft but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read and learn. I simply read other things, some for shear enjoyment without any hidden agenda, but in some I loosely noted style and detail.

What I did do is spend time nurturing family bonds. Growing relationships that are golden to me. I spent priceless time with my grandchildren, my grown children, and my extended family. I loved, cherished, enjoyed, and treasured every moment and will continue to do so. Every. Moment. I practiced living in the moment, keeping my mind completely present, rather than distracted by what I “should” be doing. I lived fully, feeding my soul and my spirit.

Because of that time “off”, busting out of routine, my writing life is again ready to roll. I’ve got plans to get my newsletter back on the road (if you’re interested in getting my newsletter, please email me and I’ll add you to my mailing list), I’ve submitted my project for the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo (revising book two in the Whispering Pines mystery, Abby’s Retribution), I’m signed up and ready to learn at the Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference in May, and a new mystery series is in the gestation phase.

By taking a break I didn’t lose any time, I gained it. And I gained so much more!

Do you ever go against what the majority believes to be true in order to be true to yourself?

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. -Henry David Thoreau

Writing Goals

 

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Nowhere does it say goals need to be set in January. In fact, it’s never too late to set goals. After all, today is the first day of the rest of your life. I spent some time this weekend reviewing my writing accomplishments from the past year and made some goals for 2019.

What I did in 2018:

  • Participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July, meeting my goal in both.
  • Participated in NaNoWriMo in November and won by completing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days.
  • Entered into an agreement with a narrator through ACX, making my Melanie Hogan Series available as an audio book. Thus far Shear Madness and Shear Deception are available.
  • Attended the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver in September, spending three days fully immersed in all things writing.
  • Completed the first draft of book two, Abby’s Retribution, in the Whispering Pines mysteries.
  • Completed the first draft of book four, Shear Fear, in the Melanie Hogan mysteries.
  • Had a creative non-fiction essay chosen to be published in an anthology, Colorado’s Emerging Writers (2018).
  • Published book three in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Murder, on New Year’s Eve.

My goals for 2019:

  • Participate once again in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July; and, once again, meeting my goal.
  • Participate once again in NaNoWriMo in November; and, once again, win by meeting the 50,000-word goal. (I have to admit this one gives me a bit of anxiety already.)
  • Attend the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in Ft. Collins, CO in May.
  • Complete the project of finishing books three and four in the Melanie Hogan mysteries, Shear Malice and Shear Murder, in audio.
  • Work on learning and implementing some marketing techniques. I’ve never been comfortable with marketing and it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and just do it.
  • Teach a four to six-week creative writing class to kids ages 12-17. I’ve got the agenda and the location planned. I just need to schedule it.
  • Submit a short story to the Colorado’s Emerging Writers 2019 anthology.
  • Revise, edit, and publish book two in the Whispering Pines mystery.

Whew! I’ve got some work ahead of me. Work that will require cutting down on TV time. Ready! Set! Go!

Do you have any writing goals for 2019? I’d love to hear what they are.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Jim Rohn

Rhonda Blackhurst