Nimrod, NaNoWriMo, and November #WriteMotivation

Happy Halloween!

In other news, yay for alliteration!

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw me yammering on about the Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers all day Saturday.

This is the first time I’ve been to Nimrod, and I went for one major reason: Gail Carriger was one of the featured speakers. And I’m a little bit of a fan.

I enjoyed the hell out of her workshop (about Gothic tropes in steampunk) and she had one of my favorite quotes from the entire conference during the very first panel of the day:

“Loving failure is a really good skill to develop as an author.”

Considering the conference was about the balance of risk and skill with writing, I found it appropriate. Because, let’s face it, once you start sending stuff out, you are (more than likely) going to become intimately acquainted with failure and rejection.

Not to mention, this totally happened:

Timeless - Autographed

Yes, overall, it was a good day. 😀

November #Writemotivation Goals

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Header image and thumbnail photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yes, November is another #WriteMotivation month, which coincides nicely with so many of us doing NaNoWriMo. If you’d like extra incentive for completing NaNo — or just want more people to cheer you on — check out #WriteMotivation. It’s a great group.

If you’re doing NaNo, add me as a buddy! You can get to my profile by clicking on that shiny ML icon in the sidebar.

I have all of two goals for the month:

1. Finish freelance articles by November 12.

2. Write 50,000 words on the NaNo novel.
Why yes, it is going to be the crazy Star Wars/Twilight/Fifty Shades fanfic-parody-Frankenstein thing mentioned originally in this post. I have no idea how it will turn out, other than horrible, but it will be epically FUN to write.

And now, I’m going to wander off and pretend NaNo doesn’t start tomorrow. (Or really, tonight, since I’ll start writing at midnight!)

The Critic Rocks the Ozarks

Let’s see, how many trips and writing conferences can I cram into the last month before NaNoWriMo?

If you guessed “at least three and two, respectively,” then congratulations! You win a prize!

Beer!

You get a beer!

The first weekend of October was my 10-year high school reunion, which was held in a haunted conference center out in BFE. (I did not actually find out that the conference center was haunted until that evening, when a friend of mine who used to work there told me all the stories. I was alternately freaked and sad that we didn’t get to do a ghost tour.)

It was wonderful to see so many people I hadn’t seen since graduation and see a few more I’d only met through Facebook pictures. Even though it had been a decade, there were times it felt like we’d just been gone for a long weekend and were back at school again.

To my knowledge, none of my classmates became hitmen, and I don’t think we had to foil any assassination attempts or hide bodies at the high school.

Oh well. There’s always the 15-year.

This past weekend, I headed over to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for the Ozark Creative Writers Conference (along with a few other people). It’s a relatively inexpensive, small conference that nevertheless manages to get some great editors, agents, and writers as speakers. Plus, Eureka Springs is a great little tourist town with some excellent shopping, restaurants, and sightseeing.

This year, the featured speakers were Cherry Weiner, a literary agent, and Daniela Rapp, an editor with St. Martin’s. They had a lot of fantastic information, and listening to the two of them together was absolutely HYSTERICAL. (Seriously, I would pay money to watch The Cherry & Daniela Show on a regular basis.)

OCW is also the contest I entered back in August. Two of my stories placed: “Benny’s Bedtime Adventure,” which won second place at the Tulsa Library contest earlier this year, got second honorable mention in its category, and “Don’t Tell” got third honorable mention.

Lissa also placed twice, with her poem “Tanka 42” taking second honorable mention and another poem, “Dragonfly,” taking second place in the nature poetry category.

Beer!

Cheers!

If you’re in this part of the country and you’re looking for a conference that isn’t going to make your bank account scream in agony, OCW and OWFI (which is Oklahoma City every May) both give you some great bang for your buck.

My big “it’s not really a #WriteMotivation goal-check month but oh well I’m going to set one anyway” goal for this month was getting my Buzz articles finished as early as possible.

Because of travel, I didn’t get them done by October 13, as I’d hoped, but I got them all finished and submitted by October 16, which is just three days off. That still works, right?

Beer!

More beer!

Now I get a breather from that for a week while I work on other stuff. Like editing. And NaNo plotting. And finishing up the 8 billion reviews I have sitting on my computer. (I actually have a Word doc called “Holy Shit Reviews.” No, I am not kidding.)

Meanwhile, I’ve got my sister-in-law’s baby shower this weekend and the Nimrod conference at the University of Tulsa the weekend after, as well as a pre-NaNo plotting session (which should be a ton of fun!).

And then it’s November!

Beer!

Now it’s a coping mechanism.

How’s October treating you? If you’re doing NaNo, are you ready for it?

Beer picture by Bernt Rostad

Ten Things I Learned at the 2012 OWFI Conference

OWFI has a special place in my heart, since it was the very first writing conference I ever attended ten years ago. This year was the first year I was able to go since 2007, and it was just as I remembered — perhaps even a little more fun.

Trying to condense all the awesomeness of two solid days of writing-related sessions and seminars into a single post is a Herculean task, but here are ten things I picked up from the conference this year.

10) Twitter has a follow limit, or: no, Critic, you don’t know everything about social media.

Normally, social media panels at writing conferences are fairly basic, since most people are coming at it from a beginner’s standpoint. As the popularity of social media sites has grown, though, it seems organizers have gradually started adding in more advanced information.

The social media panel at the OWFI conference this year had a number of gems and interesting ideas, and answered some questions I’d had for a few years. (Example: When do I need to create a Facebook page for me as a writer, especially since I have no book?)

Even though I’m familiar with how Facebook and Twitter work from a business standpoint, I’ve not spent the same amount of time using them from a writing standpoint. The basics are the same, but there’s different protocol for using social media sites for clients, for me personally, and for me as a writer.

Also, seriously: Twitter has a follow limit. Who knew? (People other than me, thankfully.)

9) A synopsis doesn’t have to be double-spaced.

When I saw they’d knocked the novel categories in the OWFI contest down to 25 pages from 45 pages in years past, I nearly had a heart attack. I spent an entire day editing my synopsis, paring it down to three pages, and at least another week reading and rereading it, slicing out every unnecessary word I could find. I didn’t want to waste any of the precious 25 pages on that synopsis if I didn’t have to.

Then, as I was sitting in the atrium waiting to go in to my first pitch session, I started talking to the lady next to me, who also happened to be the OWFI contest chair for this year. Turns out, your synopsis doesn’t have to be double-spaced.

My synopsis: 3 pages double-spaced, a page and a half single-spaced.

Something to remember for next year, right?

8) Writing conferences are chockfull of interesting people.

You meet all kinds of people from all walks of life, all of whom write in dozens of different genres. I talked to a former history teacher who writes thrillers and a woman who has a middle grade novel set in 1932 Ukraine. I met people who write fantasy and sci-fi and mysteries and young adult and middle grade and memoirs. Instead of “What do you do?”, the first question anybody asks is “What do you write?”

Plus, I got to meet people that I’d previously only seen online, or that Rebekah had previously only seen online. It was great to finally put faces to screen names, which brings me to my next point:

7) KT Hanna is even more adorable in real life than on Twitter.

Not even joking here, y’all.

6) If ever you think “I need to get this out of the way so I can get to the good part,” really rethink that part.

If I had a nickel for every time that thought passed through my head (especially during NaNo), I could go to the movies every weekend for the rest of the summer. “If I just get past THIS, I can get to the river monster/demon fight/city riot/admission of Twu Wuv.”

As you might suspect, that’s not the best way to write. If that’s what you’re thinking while you’re writing it, that’s most definitely what readers will think while they’re reading it.

This particular nugget came from a session on genre fiction done by Melissa Frain, an editor from Tor. On a related note, she mentioned that 99% of the submissions she receives have a prologue. Most of the time, people added the prologue because the first chapter “isn’t exciting enough.” Her response? “Think about the problems with that.”

5) Read your genre.

So you know what’s been done before and where you fit into the market.

4) Don’t read your genre.

So you DON’T know what’s been done before, and therefore can’t emulate anybody else.

3) After two days at a writing conference, you walk away with about 15 new books you need to read.

Here’s what’s been added to my list, either books or authors:

Anna Dressed in Blood
Jim Butcher
Kristen Cashore
Charlaine Harris
The Jeff Herman Guide to Literary Agents
The Glamour of Grammar
Bird by Bird

2) Never fall in love with your first draft.

When our keynote speaker, Steven James, was giving his talk at the Friday night banquet, this was the first piece of advice he had. While it’s something I knew, logically (kill your darlings!), it’s something that I’ve faced time and again as I’ve plowed through my edits on the 2006 NaNo novel.

It seems like every editing pass has me chucking something in the bin from the first draft. Entire scenes that I thought were oh-so-important have ended up on the cutting room floor because they don’t add anything to the story or characters or push the plot along. They’ve been replaced with scenes that I’m excited to write (See #6!).

(Related note: I went back and actually read the first draft of this story a few weeks ago. Let’s just say I’ve improved since then.)

1) Be yourself. Nobody else will.

Steven James also told a story about Rabbi Zusia, who had a dream that terrified him. He faced the angels and learned what question they would ask him at the end of his life. It wouldn’t be “Zusia, why weren’t you Moses, leading your people out of Egypt?” or “Zusia, why weren’t you Joshua, leading your people to the Promised Land?”

The question was: “Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?”

A few days later, I was talking to Jessica and having a momentary freak-out because there is NO WAY my stuff is as good as Terry Brooks or Robert Jordan or George R. R. Martin, so why am I even bothering? (Raise your hand if you’ve never had that “there’s no way I’m good enough” moment. Congratulations, you’re an android.)

After listening to me for a moment, Jess turned to me and said just one thing: “Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?”

Yes, THAT was when it clicked.

At the end of the day, nobody wants you to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien. We’ve already got them. You need to be you.

Nobody’s ever seen the world the way you have. Nobody has the stories that you do. And in the end, that’s the question you’ll be asked: “Why weren’t you you?”