Thinking #NaNoWriMo? Think again.

Sunday, November 1st 2015 • Advice, Writing

Tomorrow, National Novel Writing Month will descend on us all and Twitter will explode with posts, word counts, and increasing cries of panic as the month progresses. Thousands will rise to the call to write a novel in the month by rushing to their computers and notebooks. Success stories will be pointed to as models. Message boards will be flooded with pleas to read scenes or identify the source of writer’s block (which doesn’t really exist).

It’s a time for creativity to flourish and some of the world’s future bestsellers will be written this month. You’ve probably already signed up for the NaNoWriMo e-mails and are ready to start. But before you do, please consider the following before you begin that new novel.

1. You are joining a community, not barreling into one.
The writing community is, by and large, a welcoming one. Many writers are eager to cheer each other on and offer guidance. Many forums exist to provide feedback on titles, scenes, and more. Feel free to join these communities, but please remember that it is a two-way street. Don’t show up asking for critiques and then disappear. Comment on writing blog posts, send encouraging messages to the #amwriting tag on Twitter, and offer your feedback when you have something to say. The more you participate, the more likely you are to learn something that you can apply to your own projects.

2. Being an author is a job, not a hobby.
I’ve seen it said by agents, authors, and editors that nothing irks them more than to hear someone say that they’ll write that novel “when they get around to it.” Authors pay rent with their books. They put in hours to plan and write the book in the same way that others clock in to work. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t write a book if you don’t see writing as a career. Writers come from all different paths and walks of life. However, I am saying that you should respect the fact that writing a book is a job unto itself and should be treated like one. Don’t expect this to be easy. It won’t be.

3. No one will respect your writing time unless you do.
Friends, family members, and co-workers will not take kindly to the “I need to write” excuse, or at least not right away. You need to communicate that what you’re undertaking is valuable and that you won’t break your writing time for dinner dates, errands, or anything else. You may need to go clock in at a coffee shop for this message to be clear, especially if you have roommates.

4. Consider an outline or some form of planning first.
Some people like to develop the plot as they go, but I am not one of those people. Having an outline helps me stay focused and speeds my writing along. Consider using the first few days of NaNoWriMo to write out an outline (even a brief sketch) so that the rest of the month will go smoother. Even answering a few questions about what your character wants and what stands in his or her way will go a long way to developing your story.

5. It’s okay if you don’t finish the entire novel.
Aim as high as you want. 40,000 words or 60,000 words. Maybe even 80,000 words. Set goals, do the math for how many words you need to write in a day, and be ambitious. But if December 1 rolls around and you don’t have a completed book, don’t fret. Just keep writing. Remember that setting up a routine takes time, and half a book is easier to finish than no book at all.

6. Don’t query your novel in December or January.
This is the most important point on this list. Agents are inundated with queries in December because writers have just finished up NaNoWriMo books. They’re expecting the books (and the writers who wrote them) to be unpolished. They’re expecting writers who completed minimal research on their guidelines and are new to the game. So, wait. Better yet, put the finished book in a drawer for all of December. Come to it with fresh eyes on January 1 and edit the hell out of it. Then, give the book to beta readers and let them tear it apart. Edit again in February. Then, maybe, if you’re ready, send out a few queries in March. See if you get some bites. Edit again. Repeat until you find success.

In short: use NaNoWriMo to make the best book you can. Set goals and guidelines. Be respectful of the writing community. And above all, write the damn book.

Why I Write YA

Sunday, September 13th 2015 • Advice, Writing

On nearly every panel I’ve ever participated in, there’s a question that bubbles to the surface about why or how I write young adult. Some people assume that, as a teacher, it’s natural to write about YA because I’m plugged into the young adult world. It’s true that I do pull snippets of my teaching life, but it’s usually logistical stuff like scheduling or how a school day would run. Mostly, my experience from writing young adult is pulled from my own teenage experience and my own experience now as an adult human being. It comes from observation and eavesdropping and reading young adult stories and watching young adult films and a basic empathy and understanding for that horrifying time that we call adolescence. But above all, I believe that I write young adult literature because I have a deep and profound respect for young adults and their varied and incredible lives.

Many people want to write young adult because it seems easier than writing literary fiction or science fiction or some form of adult fiction. Young adults are easy to understand, right? They all have the same problems (relationships, school, relationships, school, school, school). They do the same things (study, party, ditch, party, make out, drugs). They want the same things (acceptance). They go through the same emotional wheelhouse (fear, sadness, anger). I mean, the books write themselves, right?

Wrong. (Continue Reading…)

5 Myths about Literary Agents (And How I Got Mine)

Sunday, June 28th 2015 • Advice, Querying, Writing

Greetings, wonderful people! I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am now officially represented by literary agent Logan Garrison of The Gernert Company. I cannot wait to start on this next phase of my author career and get my new novel out there. This has been a long journey of querying, revising, crying, querying, revising, celebrating, crying, and more revising. For those of you unfamiliar with what I mean by querying, allow me to give you a brief window into the querying process and how one goes about getting a literary agent.

Step 1. Write and polish book.
Step 2. Research potential literary agents.
Step 3. Query these agents by sending them an e-mail or letter about your book.
Step 4. Wait for rejection or requests for more pages to come back.
Step 5. Wait some more.

After these first five steps, the process gets ever murkier. Some agents may send you notes after they read the full manuscript. If these notes resonate, you can make these changes. If they don’t, you keep querying. Finally, if someone loves your manuscript, they will e-mail or call you and offer to represent you. This is the part where you scream and dance and make your landlord run over to see if everything’s okay.

Now, before you jump into this process, there are some myths that I would like to dispel. Keep in mind that these are all based on my personal experience, and I’m sure that there are some agents out there that people would say these myths are absolutely true of. I can only speak for myself and my own querying experience.

Myth #1. Literary agents hate writers.

There is this vision of the literary agent as some kind of evil gatekeeper. They sit between you and Publishing Castle, glaring and throwing rotten fruit at writers that approach. Try to give them your manuscript and they will tear it apart and tell you that they wouldn’t dream of reading this kind of garbage. Or, worse yet, they will just ignore you and stand between you and Publishing Castle without any explanation. Poke them or nudge them, and they’ll stand resolute against you.

This vision is simply not true. (Continue Reading…)

5 Reasons Why You Need a Writing Community

Tuesday, February 17th 2015 • Advice, Writing

Taken from WillWriteForChocolate.com

WillWriteForChocolate.com

As a Creative Writing major in college, I had a writing community built in. I would show up to my two or three (or sometimes four) writing classes a day, freshly printed drafts in hand, and pass them out for workshopping. There was structure for the feedback we received: sometimes, peers had to write comments on the drafts, or they were graded for telling us the positives and negatives during class. It was fluid, varied based on our different professors, but it was always there, that community. That community that made sure that, at the end of the day, I had written something. And more than that, people read it, and then they told me all about how they felt.

I cannot stress enough how important something like this is for a writer, and how much better it makes your writing. I also cannot tell you how hard it can be to find and keep this community, but let’s get to that next time. For now, let me tell you five reasons why you need a writing community.

Reason #1: Writing is not a solitary job.
No matter what you have been told, writing is not something that you do alone. You do not disappear into a coffee shop, hammer on your keyboard for five hours, and produce a perfect draft. Beyond that, when it gets to publishing, you will never be able to avoid people (whether you want to or not). There will be someone telling you to put more conflict here, to take out the description here, to hack off a chapter or two. Even if you go the self-publishing route and you do the cover, the editing, the formatting, and everything else by yourself, there will still be that last part. You know, the one where someone reads your work. A writing community helps make sure that you’re ready for those parts where other people get involved. They’ll save you by telling you that you named one of the characters two different things. They’ll tell you that the pace is too fast, or maybe they’ll tell you that it’s not fast enough. They’ll point out plot points that you weren’t following. It helps because, even if you don’t take the feedback, you’ll at least make every decision knowingly. If someone says they find your protagonist unlikable in a review, you can be confident knowing that you knew that, that you intended that. It will make all the difference.

Reason #2: Writers understand you.
Imagine that you’re out to dinner, listening to your friend’s story, when suddenly, you hear it. Someone having a hissed argument right next to you, and you know that it’s just the right dialogue for your story. If you’re like me, your hand’s itching to grab the notebook in your purse to write it down. If you’re with another writer, there’s no question. That notebook’s out before they finish their sentence, no apologies needed. It’s the beauty that comes with befriending other writers: they get that there’s no pause button on life, and when you see a great writing opportunity, you need to take it.

Reason #3: They know all of the great writing places (coffee shops, museums, and secret hideaways).
There are no exceptions to this rule. My writing friends have introduced me to some truly incredible spots.

Reason #4: They care more about your characters than you do.
It makes all the difference. In the past, I’ve felt beaten up by a draft, and then I walked into a critique group where people were asking about my characters. They wanted to know if I’d worked on a specific scene, or if I’d fixed my villain issue. Hearing that concern, or hearing that people wanted me to finish something, was enough to keep me writing.

Reason #5: This is a hard business, and you need friends.
It’s true. We face so much rejections as writers, and we face it at every stage. Ideas might be off, or a chapter might not work, or our favorite agent might turn down our best project. That’s when you need other writers to lift you up and to tell you to just write 200 more words. Then 500 more. Then, before you know it, you’ve written the entire draft.

Happy writing!

V

© 2013 Veronica Bane. All Rights Reserved.