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Welcome to the first Monday in November.

Does this resonate with you today?

 

RichardBranson_lawofattraction

 

I’ve been doing exactly this, this year – saying yes to every opportunity – and it’s been a great experience.

 

Why not try it yourself? There’s nothing to lose, but there are new experiences to gain.

 

Make it a great month!

NaNoWriMo – Maybe Next Year

I don't mind adventure on the road, but I like to know where (I think) I'm going.

I don’t mind adventure on the road, but I like to know where (I think) I’m going.

I think 2009 was my first NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. You know, the month of story-driven insanity where intrepid writers try to get 50,000 words out in thirty days. Today at the stroke of midnight, thousands of people sat down to keyboards, laptops, and notebooks and began to chip away at the word count. It’s an experience that is both exhilarating and exhausting. The camaraderie is contagious. Some might say it’s because misery loves company, but I think it’s more that insanity is better shared.

Whether or not to participate in NaNoWriMo is a decision that plagues many writers this time of year. Despite being up to my eyeballs with copywriting deadlines and already overextended with a (fabulous) writing class at Grub Street, I was still tempted. There is something heroic about joining this crusade against the blank page. There is something comforting about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all those other literary legions, valiantly marching towards victory, one word at a time.

But, at the end of the day, I passed on NaNoWriMo this year for the same reason that I reluctantly turned my back on the writing frenzy in 2012: Larry Brooks. I explained my justification for bailing on this literary tradition in the post NaNoWriMo #fail – I Blame You, Larry Brooks. The short version is that I found myself unprepared (as in no outline) and unable to stomach the idea of writing 50,000 without a plan. Once upon a time, I might have just forged ahead anyway. I did, actually, in 2009, write 50,000 words with nary a storyline in sight. I embraced the No Plot, No Problem! spirit of the event 150%.

But, as I’ve learned more about story structure, characterization, context, etc., I find that – for better or worse – I only want to tackle a story if I’ve had the time to get a plan in place. Even for a short story, like the assignment I’m working on today for class, I need to have a roadmap. I don’t need to have every nitty-gritty detail lined up like so many tasks on a To Do list, but I do need a strong understanding of my characters, themes, and a general idea of how (I think) the story is going to develop. It’s okay if things evolve in new directions while I’m working, but I need that starting foundation before I can settle in to crafting actual sentences.

Am I just making excuses? I don’t think so, but I can understand why you might ask the question. At some point, the planning has to stop and the writing must commence. I get that. But, I’ve always found that the writing part goes much more smoothly if I’ve taken the time to do the prep work. Whether I’m writing a blog post, a column, a website, or a business ebook, the writing is much easier if I’ve put the effort into developing solid outlines that address everything from my topic to my theme, consider my audience, and even start to lay out creative elements like structure, presentation, etc.

But, maybe that’s just me.

What’s your take? Planner or Panster? NaNoWriMo Forever or NaNoWriNope?

 

What I’m Writing:

practical sandra

Smile, even when things may not go as you’d planned.

Last Tuesday, my fellow students and Grub Street instructor workshopped my “homework submission” for the Fiction I class I’m taking. I was a little nervous. After all, although I knew everyone would be kind, it’s never easy to be on the hot seat, or – as it’s called in class – “in the box.” On the other hand, there is something undeniably thrilling about having someone read your work. You feel naked, but you also feel heard. I knew that all the flaws and faux pas of my writing were there on the page, but it was worth it to have readers join me inside the world of my story.

I spent some more time last week and this working on further developing the idea and outline for the short story I’m hoping to submit for next Tuesday’s class. Once again, I had set a big, juicy block of writing time aside. That mini writing retreat was scheduled to begin a few minutes ago, but after a Norman Rockwell-worthy Halloween with my daughter, I got a bit of a late start on this post. And, I just learned moments ago that my daughter’s dad has decided to pick her up later than expected. A lot later.

So, once again, my writing window has shrunk down to the size of a porthole.

In the past, I would have railed against this development. I would have slid quickly from disappointed to angry to bitter. I would have written a slightly whiny post about how hard I was fighting for my writing life, and the whole world seemed hell bent on stopping me. In short, I would have pouted.

Not any more. It’s a cold, gray day-after-Halloween. I am just about to curl on on the sofa with my daughter and watch Practical Magic – one of my all-time favorite movies with her for the first time. And, you know what? I’m not just good with that. I’m delighted. Sure, it will curtail my writing for the day, but as important as writing is to me, life is more important. Life is, after all, what fuels the writing. Life is what makes the writing worthwhile.

 

What I’m Reading:

miniature booksAs you might imagine, I didn’t have a ton of time for reading this week, but what I did enjoy were a few short stories and essays. I’m beginning to develop quite an affinity for short form fiction. I’m even starting to get an itch to play around with flash fiction a bit.

In addition to reading the workshop submissions from two fellow students in class (submissions which were, by the way, excellent and so much fun!), I also read a wonderful essay by Jamie Passaro on Full Grown People, and a couple of appropriately spooky 19th century tales by Elia W. Peattie from Short Story Thursdays – The Room of Evil Thoughts and A Child of the Rain.

Though these pieces were short, they were fulfilling. They didn’t provide any sense of closure, something I usually like in a story. Instead, they raised questions and curiosity. They made me wonder what else might have happened. They reached into my writer’s mind and spun the wheels about a bit. That’s a good thing.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin happy let go

Smile and enjoy your day, even if it doesn’t go as you’d planned. Write, read, live. 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Hourglass Photo Credit: chiaralily via Compfight cc
Country Road Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc
Miniature Books Photo Credit: lamont_cranston via Compfight cc

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What was the first thing you ever saved your own money for? Did you end up buying that thing? Was it all you hoped it would be when you finally bought it?

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: The first thing I remember really saving up my money for was my shiny VW black beetle. I bought it for $750. God, I loved that car. It smelled wonderful – like hay and adventures. That thing would go miles and miles on a drop of gas and it gave me the independence I needed at a time in my life when independence was starting to be important. My beetle also impressed upon me the importance of acknowledging that you can’t do it all. I remember not being able to get the gears right in order to move my car up a steep hill and I had to ask a young man in another car to help me. It was humbling, but it also was empowering and taught me to ask for help when I needed it in order to get done what I needed to get done.

My parents ended up selling that car when I was away at college, to this day I still mourn its loss.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: Why is this question stumping me? I didn’t buy a car until I was in my 40’s. (I inherited my first car from my grandmother, and drove it into the ground.) My first computers were all cast offs from different places. The answer that come to mind is my first house. It took forever to save up for the down payment, and then I started looking in my price range, which was another journey into disappointment. But eventually I found a wonderful little fixer upper, and fixed her up. Which was extra saving up, for appliances, new floors, paint jobs. But all well worth it.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: The first thing I remember saving up for is a pair of skis. But I actually saved up for two pairs because my (twin) sister didn’t have skis and what was the point of me having skis if she didn’t? I made good money waiting tables and catering the summer before college so in August of that year Donna and I went ski shopping. We were all ready when ski season came along! We were able to spend a week skiing with friends that winter during winter break. It was bitterly cold but we were out there from the time the lifts opened until the shadows lengthened across the mountain and the lifts were closed as we passed them on our last run of the day. It was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: It was 1 of 2 things – my first 10-speed bicycle or my first boom box — remember those LARGE radios?? I just had to have one for whatever reason. I remember the bicycle the most, making payments on layaway at a local bike shop. And then the day I got it was so thrilling. It was a dark blue ‘boys’ style 10-speed.

I saved up from working in the shoe department at a Woolco’s…if my memory is any help. It was that or a small local grocery store where I cashiered. But I do love having had saved up and purchased the things I wanted. I was quite empowering.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I saved up for my first ten-speed bike when I was sixteen – and then rode it from southwestern Connecticut to southeastern Vermont in four days, with my then thirteen-year old brother and two friends. Both events – buying my own bike and riding it across state lines – were empowering and prophetic. I still love to ride, and now I live in Vermont.

It’s almost November 1st—a thrilling time of year! I love the idea of National Novel Writing Month and I love that the only criteria for winning is to “have written” 50,000 words by November 30th.

Quantity over quality for one month gives you a lot of material to work with for the next eleven months.

I know this and that’s why I’m excited about NaNo—even though I haven’t signed up.

When I look at my life realistically, I know I’m not going to be able to write 50,000 words this November, so I’m not even going to try.

What I am going to do is host a couple of write-ins for those brave souls in my area who make that amazing commitment. While I’m with them, I’ll put aside my regular life and write with them as if I was on my way to 50,000 words.

20,000 words in the month of November would be a win for me. So would 10,000 words.

I’m using the energy and excitement of NaNo to fuel my writing. Just being in the month of November prompts me to do word sprints, to shut off my computer screen so I can’t edit as I write, and to turn off the Internet so I can get some words on the page.

Are you doing NaNo? If yes, congratulations! I’m cheering you on. If no, what are you doing this November with your writing? And I’m still cheering you on!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, physician, mother, and stepmother. I love contributing to this blog because it helps me keep my writing a priority when I know so many others are out there getting the words down on the page! Happy Halloween!

 

 

Stop SignIn my haste to post Planning A Blog, I rushed to find free images to illustrate it and inadvertently used a photograph without permission or credit. I didn’t see the photographer’s name in the link, which is just about the same as running a red light.

A few days after the post was up, the photographer contacted me and sent me a bill for “release from liability of copyright infringement for unauthorised and uncredited” use of his image. I apologized and appealed, to no response. So I’ve paid the fee, and I’m writing this post both to make amends and to warn others not to make the same mistake, even unwittingly.

There are images available to use for little or no cost, and there are images that are owned by their creators. These artists deserve to be credited for their work and have the right to charge for it, and it is up to the user to find out and know. That would be me.

 That said, the world of rights is confusing, and I don’t pretend to know all there is to know by a long shot, but here are some basic things you must know:

  • There are free photos available online through Creative Commons, a non-profit organization “that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.” Creative Commons has rules about attribution and links; follow them.
  • There are images in the public domain (i.e. out of copyright). Wikimedia is a good place to look, but you still have to check each image for its particular rules.
  • There are services that stock Creative Commons photos and automatically upload credit and links to the images. Wylio has been recommended to me. $36 a year for the service is significantly less than paying a fine.
  • There’s lots more to learn. Some of the sites where I found helpful information:

My advice for all bloggers:Image

  • Schedule the time to ask permission and/or to find available images before rushing your post online (i.e. Don’t speed.)
  • Take your own photos.

I’m not the first person in the world this has ever happened to, nor am I likely to be the last. I hope this post will prevent others from using images without permission and help artists receive full credit for their work.

Comments?

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

As part of her practice of Restorative Justice, Deborah Lee Luskin takes full responsibility for her wrongdoing and hopes this helps make amends.

Have you run short of ideas for articles, your blog, or perhaps a client’s blog? Here are four places to look for inspiration and ideas.

Google Alerts – https://www.google.com/alerts

This is a quick and easy-to-use resource for getting ideas. Just enter a search term (1 or more words), hit that ‘Enter’ key, and voila, some ideas will (most likely) show up. You actually don’t even have to hit ‘Enter’, as it’ll start searching on the words as you type them into the search field.

The first random word that popped into my head was ‘applesauce’. Here’s a quick peek at what Google Alerts found:

Applesauce_GoogleAlerts

 

The first reference that came up was under News:

A Walking Dead Halloween party: Long pork and blood orange cake

Communities Digital News
Here at CDN we can’t vouch for that, but if it’s true, applesauce or a cherry sauce would probably be the best condiments to serve with a human roast.

No way I expected that to pop up, but it triggered a short story idea or two.

The next 2 references came from the Web — one was a Facebook post talking about how jarred applesauce may be convenient to purchase, but it’s easy to make your own; the other was a Pinterest reference to Spice Applesauce Cake.

Google Alerts will offer you variety at a minimum and maybe give you just enough to kickstart your ideas again.

Tip: if you set up an account, you can receive summaries of the alerts sent to your e-mail as they happen, daily, or weekly.

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com

You can use Amazon in a similar manner to Google Alerts, in that you type in a search term (or phrase) and then read through the options that pull up. Using applesauce again, here’s what came up:

Applesauce_Amazon

 

At a minimum you’re going to see different brands of applesauce, applesauce for babies, fruit butters, and so much more (that I never thought about in relation to applesauce). And if you start clicking off boxes on the left side of the screen, you’ll narrow your search and have new ideas leaping off the page at you.

The dropdown arrow in the main search box lets you select different departments. I left applesauce in place, then clicked the dropdown and selected the ‘Beauty’ department. Yes, there were items that popped up. 4 GoGo Squeezes, 1 Mott’s, and 1 Kirkland Optifiber. The avenues to travel down for applesauce keep widening, don’t they?

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com (requires an account)

And just for fun, if you have absolutely no ideas whatsoever, why not scroll through the posts you see on Facebook?

With Facebook, you get to eavesdrop on numerous conversations. See what posts are getting a lot of comments and a lot of Likes. Those could be great topic ideas for articles. If a simple Facebook status update can generate a lot of feedback, people will be curious to read more about it.

Where do you go for ideas?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. If anything, she has too many ideas, but when the muse needs a quick boost, there are many places to look for ideas. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Find Your Quiet Place

My quite time view

My quite time view

I love to be alone.

It’s not that I dislike spending time with other people, but I find that solitude grounds me. Quiet time by myself has always been the best way to reboot my system and recharge my batteries. It’s much too easy, in the rumble and buzz of our daily rounds, to let the external noise drown out our own thoughts. When that happens, we feel overwhelmed and unmoored. At least, I do.

And then, a funny thing happens. Instead of stepping out of the fray and back into our own head and heart, we plunge further into the noisy world around us, reaching and grasping for something to bring us home to ourselves. We seek guidance from experts and search out the advice of authorities. We tune into distractions of all kinds, hoping they will help us relax and find our balance again. We assume that the answers are out there somewhere.

But, of course, as Dorothy discovered, the answers are never “out there.” They’re right here.

Solitude helps us untangle ourselves from the rest of the world so we can rediscover our personal truth and reality. This is important for any human being, but nonnegotiable for writers.  Our work, our best work, comes from that place inside us. Though our writing is influenced by the outside world, the core of what we have to offer in our stories springs from our personal well of experience and being. That is where the magic comes from.

Spending time alone gives us the chance to gently or aggressively slough off the layers of otherness. It might hurt. It might be scary. But it will bring you home and it will give you direct access to the source of your stories. I invite you to make solitude part of your writing practice. It’s not easy to carve out even a small pocket of alone time in our over-scheduled world, but it’s worth it.

My private haven of choice is the early morning, before my daughter is awake and before I let the world in through my computer screen. I sit with my journal and a mug of tea. I watch the sun rise, and I do my best to bushwhack my way towards the place inside my mind and heart where the really good stuff is. Some days I can only dance around the perimeter of the forest, but other days I find a narrow track that leads me right to the core. It’s never the same journey twice and never an exercise I regret.

And, I find a lot of stories there, just waiting for me to come into the quiet so I can hear them.

 

What I’m Writing:

sidewalk sproutLast Saturday, I had planned a luxuriously long, uninterrupted block of  writing time during which I hoped to write a story. I was scheduled to submit this yet-to-be-written story to my writing class on Tuesday morning. I had the seed of an idea, and assumed that, with a few solid hours’ work, I would have something suitable for sharing with gentle beta readers.

Oh, a writer’s best-laid plans.

Life intervened, of course, in the form of several, unavoidable distractions that quickly and efficiently consumed several hours of my carefully hoarded time. I had the sensation of watching them evaporate in puffs of white smoke the same way apps disappear off the dock on my MacBook. Though the loss of time was painful, I could have gotten past it and written through the remaining time except for a much bigger problem: my story idea wasn’t fully baked.

I had that seed of an idea, but I hadn’t taken the time to plant it, water it, and help it grow. So, I sat there in front of my blank screen with an inert seed in my hand, and I wondered what to do. I started researching. I started playing with the idea – trying to figure out what I needed to germinate it. I had new ideas. Different ideas. I had questions. Lots and lots of questions.

In the end, I didn’t write a single word.

For class, I dredged up an old piece (the first chapter of a middle grade urban fantasy) and did some editing. At first, I was disappointed that I’d been unable to whip up something new. But then I thought about why I’d been so stumped, and I realized that my stuckness was actually the result of my growth as a writer. I’d learned enough that I couldn’t be satisfied with my half-baked idea. I knew there was something better. Something more worthy of my effort. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about perfection. I was ready to write a shitty first draft. It was about sensing that there was more to my idea than met the eye.

The good news is that I have a second chance to submit a piece in class. And, even better than that, I’ve been nurturing my idea over the past week and I think I’m on to something. I think I’ve started to unravel a new twist that will give me a stronger, more interesting story. I’m so excited and can’t wait for next weekend’s writing time.

 

What I’m Reading:

impossible wolvesThis week hasn’t left much time for reading, but I did gift myself with a story by the writer who is teaching the Grub Street class I’m taking. On her site, Darkness Loves Company, KL Pereira invites readers to “Get Dark” …

Darkness is so much more than the things that lurk–darkness drives our deepest selves, our desires, passions, deviances. It’s the true surrender to the shadow self that lives just inside, in the oldest corners of our bones.

How could I resist such an invitation, especially around the Halloween holiday?

So, I picked out a story called Impossible Wolves. I was able, at the time, to purchase it as a very cool, little chapbook, but it seems to have disappeared off her etsy website now. Still, if you are interested, she has a number of other stories available for perusing on her site.

Pereira’s Fiction I class has done much to not only improve my understanding of the writing craft in general, but also to increase my appreciation for the short story form. The pieces we’ve read in class are fascinating examples of how something that appears simple can, in fact, be dizzyingly and gorgeously complex. There is an undeniable elegance in the shorter forms. The paring down seems to reveal a story that is, in some ways, more pure. I’m rambling, but the point is that sort stories are worth reading.

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin solitude

Here’s to finding your quiet place and having time to spend there communing with the stories inside you. Happy reading. Good writing. See you on the other side.

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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