"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo – The End Is In Sight

Only three days left in the National Novel Writing Month. I hope you had more luck with your project than I did with mine.
I had really high hopes for my MS at the midpoint - after some really encouraging words from friends and readers. – See my last update: http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/11/nanowrimo-gone-wild.html
I was really excited about steaming ahead through the holidays and possibly finishing early. Unfortunately, the flu my daughters came home with and shared knocked us all out for the last two weeks.
Now, as I’m regaining strength and some coherency to my thoughts, I discover I’ve somehow managed to lose most of my story. Yes, I still have some scenes, notes and a partial outline. However, after losing two weeks and thousands of words, the joy for my story is missing as well.
Oh, well. Maybe I’ll get back to the story later. Maybe NaNoWriMo will go better for me next year, but November does not seem to be a good month for my family. At least there was no hospital stay this year: http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/10/ready-set-write.html
How are you doing on your MS? Best of luck to everyone racing for the finish line!

Friday, November 23, 2012

HOW TO WRITE… By Ian Fleming

The original title of Mr. Fleming’s article is “How to Write a Thriller” but I find his words apt to any style of writing. This author of the Bond series and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” certainly recognized the rewards of writing. I hope you enjoy this article and remember the rewards you find in writing and reading. (Note: this is an excerpt. For the full article see: here. )

People often ask me, "How do you manage to think of that? What an extraordinary (or sometimes extraordinarily dirty) mind you must have." I certainly have got vivid powers of imagination, but I don't think there is anything very odd about that.

We are all fed fairy stories and adventure stories and ghost stories for the first 20 years of our lives, and the only difference between me and perhaps you is that my imagination earns me money. But, to revert to my first book, CASINO ROYALE, there are strong incidents in the book which are all based on fact. I extracted them from my wartime memories of the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain and a heroine, and there was the book.

The line between fact and fantasy is a very narrow one. I think I could trace most of the central incidents in my books to some real happenings.

We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller. You must know thrilling things before you can write about them. Imagination alone isn't enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.

Having assimilated all this encouraging advice, your heart will nevertheless quail at the physical effort involved in writing even a thriller. I warmly sympathise with you. I too, am lazy. My heart sinks when I contemplate the two or three hundred virgin sheets of foolscap I have to besmirch with more or less well chosen words in order to produce a 60,000 word book.

One of the essentials is to create a vacuum in my life which can only be satisfactorily filled by some form of creative work - whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, composing or just building a boat. To give my hands something to do, I decided one day to damned well sit down and write a book.

The therapy was successful. And while I still do a certain amount of writing in the midst of my London Life, it is on my annual visits to Jamaica that all my books have been written.

But, failing a hideaway such as I possess, I can recommend hotel bedrooms as far removed from your usual "life" as possible. Your anonymity in these drab surroundings and your lack of friends and distractions will create a vacuum which should force you into a writing mood and, if your pocket is shallow, into a mood which will also make you write fast and with application. I do it all on the typewriter, using six fingers. The act of typing is far less exhausting than the act of writing, and you end up with a more or less clean manuscript.

The next essential is to keep strictly to a routine. I write for about three hours in the morning and I do another hour's work between six and seven in the evening. At the end of this I reward myself by numbering the pages and putting them away in a spring-back folder. The whole of this four hours of daily work is devoted to writing narrative.

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. By following my formula, you write 2,000 words a day and you aren't disgusted with them until the book is finished, which will be in about six weeks.

I don't even pause from writing to choose the right word or to verify spelling or a fact. All this can be done when your book is finished.

When my book is completed I spend about a week going through it and correcting the most glaring errors and rewriting passages. I then have it properly typed with chapter headings and all the rest of the trimmings. I then go through it again, have the worst pages retyped and send it off to my publisher.

They are a sharp-eyed bunch at Jonathan Cape and, apart from commenting on the book as a whole, they make detailed suggestions which I either embody or discard. Then the final typescript goes to the printer and in due course the galley or page proofs are there and you can go over them with a fresh eye. Then the book is published and you start getting letters from people saying that Vent Vert is made by Balmain and not by Dior, that the Orient Express has vacuum and not hydraulic brakes, and that you have mousseline sauce and not Bearnaise with asparagus.

Such mistakes are really nobody's fault except the author's, and they make him blush furiously when he sees them in print. But the majority of the public does not mind them or, worse, does not even notice them, and it is a dig at the author's vanity to realise how quickly the reader's eye skips across the words which it has taken him so many months to try to arrange in the right sequence.

But what, after all these labours, are the rewards of writing and, in my case, of writing thrillers?

First of all, they are financial. You don't make a great deal of money from royalties and translation rights and so forth and, unless you are very industrious and successful, you could only just about live on these profits, but if you sell the serial rights and the film rights, you do very well. Above all, being a successful writer is a good life. You don't have to work at it all the time and you carry your office around in your head. And you are far more aware of the world around you.

Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living, though you might not think so to look at most human beings, is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product of writing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving and Awards

Bayou Writers Contest Winners, from left to right: Chris Baldauf, Marsha Kushner, Sylvia Ney, Angie Dilmore, Marcia Dutton, Beth Savoie, Beverly Martin and Linda Todd.

Bayou Writers hosted several writing contests this summer and I placed in two categories! I won first place in nonfiction and second place in fiction. Several of my friends were fortunate enough to place in those categories as well as poetry. Congratulations to all the winners! For more details, you can read here.

It's the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. I'll be spending the next week with family, friends, and finishing several projects. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful holiday full of good times.

For some fun reading, here are ten reasons I'm thankful to be a writer.

What will you be doing this week?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo Gone Wild

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month and following the daily word count, then you should have approximately 25,000 words by Friday.
I’m doing well on my word count (about 28,000), but not on the story itself. Even though I started with a rough outline and plot ideas, my characters are not cooperating. They are all fighting for center stage. They want their own story. What started out as one book idea now seems to be three slammed together.
I’m torn as to whether I should continue the tale or let it split into three different ones as the characters want. If I split it, I may have enough for three novellas, but probably not full length books. However, if I keep going as I am, I’m not sure I’ll do them justice.
Has this ever happened to you? Thoughts, suggestions, tips? How is your NaNoWriMo project progressing?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Joys of a Great Conference

Today I enjoyed great speakers, friends and fellowship at the Bayou Writers Group ninth annual writing conference. Below are a few photos I took.

Our speakers were D.B. Grady - Master of Ceremonies - http://dbgrady.com/Hope Clark - Funds for Writer and author of Lowcountry Bribe http://chopeclark.com/Jessica Ferguson published in both fiction and nonfiction: http://jessyferguson.blogspot.com/Dr. Stella Nesanovich Poetry http://www.nesanovich.com/Linda Yezak – Writer and Editor http://lindayezak.com/Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy Folktelling and poetry http://www.monalisasaloy.com/Welcome.html, and Brooks Sherman – Literary agent. You can find him on Twitter at @byobrooks.

Have you ever been to a writer's conference? Some of them can be pretty expensive (as in a couple thousand dollars), but there are always some reasonable ones as well. For example, ours (BWG) only costs @ $30 if you register early enough and $50 at the door. http://www.bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/p/bwg-conference-schedule-for-november-10.html

The Jambalaya conference in Houma, Louisiana in the spring will be @ $30 and there are A LOT of writers/agents/editors etc. here: https://www.facebook.com/jambalayawriters

Here are a few FREE conferences: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/08/free-writers-conferences.html  and  http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/08/free-muse-online-writers-conference.html

So how do you know if a conference is right for you? Research who will be speaking at them and if they have anything to offer in your areas of interest.  Start planning to treat yourself to at least one conference in 2013. Here are a few other conference lists to get you started:

The American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference
Christian Writers Conferences
Mt. Herman Christian Writers Conference
Mystery Conferences
Poets and Writers Conferences
Romance Writers Conference
Writers Conferences - Newpages
Writers Conferences - Shawguides

What have been some of your favorite conferences?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four Great Coming-of-Age Novels

by Melanie Foster
I've come across a myriad of books and novels in my life that have had a significant, lasting impact on me. What's more interesting is that many of the most memorable books I've ever read were ones I discovered during my young-adult years in college. Indeed, the four or so years of college is the perfect time for readers to start exploring numerous genres they can continue reading throughout their twenties, thirties, and so forth. In fact, as the mother of two college students, I always make sure my kids have a good book in their hands so they can become proficient, savvy readers.
Below are four novels, I think, would be of interest to the college generation. Inevitably, this post leaves out many great novels that are worthy of attention. With that said, if you feel I've overlooked an important one, please leave a comment and let me know what I've omitted and why it's a great read for college students.
1)  This Side of Paradise - Written in 1920 by well-known American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, "This Side of Paradise" takes place at Princeton University and is themed around several young adults who must deal with the perils of World-War I in a time of extreme and inevitable change in the United States. For any young adult who has had to face a grown-up experience much too young, this book will definitely resonate. I read "This Side of Paradise" during my college days, and I often revisit its beautifully written passages. If you're a fan of "The Great Gatsby," then you'll definitely appreciate "This Side of Paradise."
2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Before it was a film, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" was a young-adult book by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay for Rent. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a beautiful yet haunting story about a shy teenager named Charlie who is beginning the freshman year of high school shortly after his best friend commits suicide. At the start of school, Charlie meets two quirky seniors, Patrick and Samantha, who open Charlie's eyes up to the joys, perils, and difficulties of growing up. This book is about the importance of savoring life's every moment and being as much alive as possible within each of these passing moments.
3) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is by Junt Diaz, a world-famous writer whose bestsellers include "This is How You Lose Her" and "Drown." "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" is about a young man named Oscar, an intelligent, gifted child from the Dominican Republic who grows up in a ghetto New Jersey neighborhood.  As Oscar grows into a young man, he becomes an overweight nerd and drifts into desperation, devoted to fitting in with the rest of society. The story is told through the eyes of Oscar, his poor mother, his pessimistic sister, and his aging grandmother. It's a witty, addictive read that highlights those painful, yet inevitable, coming-of-age years.
4) The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite writers of all time. Her most successful novel, "The Interpreter of Maladies," won a Pulitzer Prize and has been credited as one of our generation's best novels. Although I adore "The Interpreter of Maladies," I think "The Namesake" is Lahiri's greatest work of art. "The Namesake" is a about the Ganguli family, an immigrant family from Calcutta, India that is adjusting to numerous cultural transformations and differences after coming to America. The book's opening introduces us to Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, a married couple that settles in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has a son named Gogol Ganguli, who must adjust to life as a first-generation immigrant in with Indian-born, Indian-raised parents. Lahiri creates a powerful sympathy for Gogol, who severely struggles with being a first-generation immigrant. Through Lahiri, we uncover the power of family names and cultural traditions and how they have a tendency of defining who we will become. It's a great read for any foreign-exchange student who is leaving the comforts of home for the first time and exploring unchartered territory.
These are just some of the many books that would be beneficial reads to college students. Feel free to utilize the comments section to let me know other books I've left out.

Melanie Foster is a guest post writer and professional blogger who writes about all things academia for onlinephdprograms.com and other education-related websites. When Melanie's not writing, she's reading great novels and books. Please leave your questions and comments for Melanie below.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Then There Were Five

In case you haven’t heard, the Big 6 are now the Big 5. Last weekend Random House and Penguin announced a merger.
Supposedly, these two major players in the book publishing industry have teamed up in order to better keep up with trends and offer more options to new writers. I believe the actual wording on the merger was to “better take on emerging markets and the digital publishing era.”
Penguin Random House, as it will be called by late 2013 when the two companies are scheduled to officially merge, will include all of the publishing divisions and imprints of the two companies in the U.S. and several other countries around the world. Until then, it’s business as usual for the two companies.
Still curious what this merger means for you? Agent Richard Curtis has one opinion and so does The Passive Voice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Future's So Bright...

It's been a while since I've bragged on myself or a fellow author, so today you get both!

The November issue of Southern Writers magazine features my interview of Sci-fi author Alex J. Cavanaugh, better known to some of you as “Ninja Captain Alex,” founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and co-host of the popular “A to Z April Blogging Challenge".

You can order a digital or a print version of this magazine. While a bit expensive at 10.99 (plus shipping) per print issue or one year (six issues) for 49.99 (plus shipping), this magazine is printed in beautiful and high quality. The digital version is a bit cheaper.

Side note: Today marks the first day of National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo). I'll be joining writers from all around the world as we attempt to reach the 50,000 word mark before December 1. Best of luck to everyone in their writing endeavors!

What are you working to complete or publish?