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…and I didn’t pull out all of my hair in the process!

Originally, I had this nice, long post about this earlier and then my blog decided to eat it or take it away to the dark blog abyss. What a jerk. Anyways, as a NaNoWriMo finisher, let me try and be your NaNoWriMo coach (self-appointed, of course) and help guide you to the 50k NaNo finish line. Or at least, I’ll try to. 🙂

First off, I should mention that writing is my full-time “job”. I know it’s harder for those who have jobs and families to take care of to fit in a decent writing schedule. My best advice is to try and schedule in at least 60 minutes of writing time. I always tell people not to bother me unless the house is on fire or someone needs to be taken to the hospital. You know, the emergency stuff. Once you have that figured out, write in 15 minute intervals, making sure to take five minute breaks. During those breaks, do whatever you can to rest your brain. Take a walk or relax on the couch. Just make sure it doesn’t last very long. You need to get back to writing as soon as you can. If the internet ends up being a distraction, unplug or disconnect it. I have a bad habit of becoming engrossed with Twitter and blogs, so I had to unplug my internet and hide it while I was writing. Trust me, it helps.

Write down your word count goal of the day. I tried to write at least 2,000 words a day. Sometimes I met it, sometimes I didn’t. There were times when I exceeded it. Put your word count goal near your computer so it’s there for you to see if you’re having a rough time. When you do get to that goal, reward yourself. Go out for some ice cream or coffee with friends. Go out to a nice restaurant or to a movie. It could be something small like watching television (for me, a great motivator was letting myself watch episodes of The Walking Dead. Great show.) No matter what the reward is, just make sure you enjoy it. It’s a great motivator.

This year, I had a better writing support system than the year before. I think it’s important to have a group of people there for you as you try and tackle such an event as this. Go on Twitter and search for #NaNoWriMo and join in on the conversations there. Send messages to writing buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. Talk to your friends and family about your goals and achievements. It’s nice to have people encourage you along the way. If you can, go to a write-in in your area. Unfortunately for myself, I didn’t have any close by. Stupid rural Missouri.

My main advice is to keep writing. Whenever I felt a wall coming up, I just busted right through by not stopping my flow. No matter what, just write. Even if it doesn’t sound that great. Ignore the inner editor we all have (admit it, you have one) and don’t go back to edit what you’ve written. If you’ve written something that sounds horrible, change that font color to white so you can’t see it. I had to do that a couple of times and it really helped me move past from it. This month, it’s all about quantity and not quality. Write in November and edit in December.

As a NaNoWriMo finisher, I know there are some people struggling to get their word counts up there. Just keep in mind that it’s okay not to finish. This month isn’t about “winning”. It’s about finding out who you are as a writer and learning something new about yourself. Just know that you have a NaNoWriMo coach here cheering you on.

Words to remember this month

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We’re only a few short days away from the start of NaNoWriMo. I’ve talked to quite a few people about it who have said basically the same thing: “I’m nervous, scared, and excited.That really sums up the emotions people feel before the start of something like this. When first-timers tell me they’re scared, I try to tell them everyone gets a little nervous before NaNo, no matter how times they’ve done it. It’s sort of natural to feel something like that. It’s a lot of work to write 50,000 words in a month. It takes a lot of dedication and persistence. Those are two things I lacked last year and that’s why I didn’t finish.

If I could give any advice before this month long writing fest starts, I’d say to just relax. Take some deep breaths and clear your head before going into it. Make sure to connect with other NaNoWriMo participants so you know that you’re not alone. That’s something I didn’t do last year. I didn’t talk to anyone who was participating and I felt really alone. When I got stuck, I didn’t have anyone cheering me on. Nobody pushed me when I fell behind. So I really fell behind. Writing buddies are there to not only keep you somewhat accountable for how much you write, but also to encourage and support you. I’ve already “met” some awesome people on Twitter who are also going for it this year, so I don’t plan on making the same mistake!

Think of NaNoWriMo as more of a time where you can write the novel you’ve always wanted to write, but maybe you just didn’t have the time. Or maybe you just couldn’t get yourself to sit down and write it. November can be the time where you put yourself in a chair and start typing away until you get cramps in your fingers (trust me, it happens haha). As writers (and as people), we need to challenge ourselves so we can get better.

On another note, I will be doing a few guest posts these next couple of weeks. I’ll announce each one as they happen. The first one will be on Monday, so make sure to check out the blog, Wrimos FTW!, on that day to read more NaNoWriMo survival tips from me. 🙂  It’s a great blog for anyone who is a NaNoWriMo participant (or maybe knows someone who is one!)

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Someone asked me awhile ago why I wanted to be a writer. They asked me what I wanted to get out of it. Do I get this question a lot? Yes.  I get it all the time. It’s been awhile since I’ve graduated college and really took this writing seriously. People still can’t understand why I want to do it.

I really try to take it all in stride. People around here don’t just become writers. They do other things like farming, nursing, teaching, etc. Writers just don’t come out of this rural county. I don’t like to fit in the mold anyways. I like to do my own thing.

So, this is how I answered that question:

I want to be a writer because I feel like it’s what I am meant to do. I feel we all have a certain purpose in this world and we should do what makes us happy. Writing makes me happy. It’s my therapy.  I’ve said this before but if I can inspire just one person out there in this world then I have succeeded. If I can help just one person then that will bring more joy to me than anything else.

I guess people around here think I’m in it just to become some popular author. If that happens, great, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to inspire people to read, to get wrapped up in a world they may not be familiar with. I want them to meet my characters and feel for them. I want them to become friends.

My stories are only going to strengthen and take on a life of their own. I already have an idea for another book. When that idea hit me, I immediately dropped what I was doing and started writing down notes. I had a full-page by the time I was finished. I have all these ideas running around in my head, it would be a shame not to share them with everyone. 🙂

So, that’s why I want to be a writer. When you have a passion for something, you should always go for it. Stop caring what other people are going to think. You can’t go anywhere if you don’t try.

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As I mentioned yesterday, this is my 100th post on this blog. 🙂  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write about today. It is a special post after all. Do I post some poetry? Do I post another short story? I have done all that already, so that isn’t very special..

I think for this post, I want to celebrate this blog by showing my appreciation to everyone who takes the time to read this. Whether you have been here since the beginning or you have just discovered this blog, I really do appreciate everyone.

I have been writing stories for so long, I can’t imagine doing anything else.  So, after college, I realized that this was the time for me to really pursue my dreams of becoming a published author.  It was time to put it all into action. I had so many stories to share and so many characters for people to meet.

I started this blog to share my experiences about being a “newbie” writer and trying to achieve that dream of mine. I wanted to inspire others to do the same, to never be afraid to go for what you want. I also wanted to connect with other writers and join them on their journeys. I’m so glad that it  has happened for me.

Without the constant support I have received from family and friends (whether it be in real life or in the blogger world), I don’t think I could have managed to keep going. When I hit a slump, you all are willing to pick me up and encourage me to keep going. Thank you for being my “cheerleaders.” You have no idea how much that means to me.

It’s been quite a journey so far and more people are joining me. 🙂 I welcome you all and hope it is as enjoyable for you as it is for me. With my book halfway finished, I really can’t wait for everyone to read it. My goal will be within reach and that is a celebration I cannot wait to have!

So, thank you again for all of the kind words and conversations we have had on this blog. I just appreciate that people come onto this blog and read these words I write.

That is why I’m dedicating this special 100th post to you. This blog isn’t really intended for myself. 🙂

Now, onto 100 more blog posts! I hope to see you all at the 200th post celebration.

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Here is the next part to my short story, Blanket of Ghosts. Let me know what you think so far!

A month later, there was no success from E-harmony. There were a couple matches who seemed like nice guys but they did nothing to spark Lia’s interest. After the third unsuccessful date, Jordan began to get angry and impatient, claiming Lia wasn’t trying hard enough or keeping an open mind.
“You’re still too closed off for anyone to get inside your heart. You need to loosen up. Hey, I know. Travis’s band is playing downtown tomorrow night. You should come. Maybe we could find you a man there. There’s this one guy…”
Lia held up her hand to hush Jordan. They were standing in the middle of her office in her club and didn’t want to lose her cool. But she knew it was coming. “First of all, I am not going to see your boyfriend’s punk band play. Secondly, I’m really not into guys with four-inch Mohawks and covered head to toe in tattoos and piercings.”
Jordan crossed her arms in front of her chest. “They’re good people on the inside, Ophelia Donovan.”
“I know. And your Travis is an amazing guy. Those guys just aren’t my type like they are yours.”
‘Yeah, I know. You like whiney blues musicians who bail out-of-town…”
Lia gave her a look that sent Jordan walking to the door. “Fine, fine. I know when I’m not wanted. But just try harder to be a good date.” Jordan opened the door. “And you know, I still think the best way for you to loosen up is flailing around in a mosh pit but that may just be me.” Jordan winked and left, leaving Lia alone. Finally.
Lia looked around the room and saw all the old memories of that guy who left her alone and broken-hearted. Who left her in such a mess that maybe she was closed off and distant. Jordan was right although Lia didn’t want to admit that out loud. She needed to try harder. After that moment of realization, Lia sat down at her computer and went to her inbox where a message had been sitting in there for a week. A man from the same town wanted to meet her. He was a fire fighter which Lia thought was respectable. He loved Chinese food like her and the outdoors. He even had a nice sounding name. Ryan.  Ryan seemed perfect in every way. Too perfect, Lia thought, which was why his message sat in her inbox with no reply. Until today, Lia thought as she quickly typed up a response. She was going to shed her inhibitions. She was going to forget the guy in her memories.

“I must say you look beautiful.”
Lia looked up from the plate she was staring at and up at her date, Ryan Kingston. Jordan liked his name. She liked everything about him. And she was convinced that since he was a fire fighter, he was ‘smoking hot.’ He was good-looking but was that enough? Lia pushed those nagging thoughts out of her mind and smiled.
Ryan returned the smile. “I’m sorry. Was that too soon of me to say that?”
“Oh, no. Just caught me off guard.”
The dinner went smoothly. Lia listened as Ryan told her about his parents and how he was an only child.  Ryan invited her to take a walk after dinner and after five minutes he slyly put his hand in hers. Lia expected to feel a spark in that moment but slowly disappointed shot through her. There was no spark between her and this wonderful fire fighter.
“You’re quiet,” Ryan said suddenly. “Tell me more about you.”
Lia smiled. “There isn’t much to say. I’ve lived near Memphis all my life. I own a blues club. Music is my passion.”
“Do you perform yourself?” Ryan asked.
“I used to play piano and sing.”
Ryan stopped and motioned for them to sit down on a bench. “And why don’t you now?”
Lia sighed. “Things have changed. I lost that desire to perform a long time ago. Now it’s more watching other perform. So what about you? Do you like being a fire fighter?”
She watched as Ryan’s face lit up. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Helping people is my passion, Lia. My grandpa and dad were fire fighters. My mom was a dispatch. It’s in my blood. When I made the decision to join the crowd, I felt like if I could at least saved one person, I would have done my job. I want to have a stable job so I can hopefully support a family one day. That’s my dream. I’m a family man at heart.”
The rest of the night went by smoothly. Ryan took her home soon after their walk and left her with a kiss on the cheek.
“I hope to see you again, Lia. You seem too much of a beautiful person to walk away from,” Ryan said.
The stars felt like they disappeared from the sky after he said those words. Lia managed to nod her head and smile as he slowly left for his car.  As the night sky became darker, Lia walked into her house and shut the door behind her.

*To be continued in next post….. stay tuned!

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As Harry Potter week continues on this blog, today is going to be a discussion on the meaning behind the Harry Potter books and what they really mean to you.

There have been serious debates (no, really) about what the plot really means and what JK Rowling is trying to get across with these books.  Everyone has their opinions whether they feel it’s all about loyalty, sacrificing yourself for others, love..whatever you may get out of it. Personally, I think it deals with all of those.

You can get so many themes out of these books.  Loyalty and friendship is definitely one of them. Harry has so many supporters who have helped him gain the courage he needed to face the trials he had to face. Without them, I feel he would have given up. He also stuck by his friends by protecting them and making sure they were okay.

It’s hard to really talk about the themes and give examples because I do not want to ruin any of the books for people who haven’t read them. But, I will say that the theme of acceptance comes through in the last book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Harry has accepted his role as “The boy who lived” and what that means.  He has had to accept the fact that he may have to sacrifice himself so others can live a happy life.

My favorite kinds of books are the ones that you are able to notice a theme that makes you sit back and think. How does it apply to me?  What can I do to change the way I see this? These questions help people grow and I think Harry Potter does this.

People argue all the time that the Harry Potter books aren’t quality literature and children shouldn’t read them. They are bad examples of literature, they say. I think they’re wrong. These books are not only entertaining but they hold such strong themes throughout each one. Kids need to see a literary character be brave and stand up for the people he loves. They need to know that even when you may feel alone, you really aren’t. You have people who stand behind you and support you. Some say there are images and situations kids shouldn’t have to read about like death. What I say is kids see that all the time, whether on the television or in movies. Even in real life, kids see these things. These books can help kids see the power of love, friendship, loyalty, and family.

Isn’t that what makes literature so powerful?

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I realized something this morning.  I realized that I have been kind of neglecting my wonderful beta reader lately. It’s not that I haven’t been giving her things to read over.  Maybe it’s that I haven’t been very consistent with doing that since my last bout of writer’s block.

For those of you who don’t know what a beta reader is, let’s see what good ole’ wikipedia.com has to say about it:

A beta reader (also spelled betareader, or shortened to beta) is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described[1] as “a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammar, spelling, characterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.”

Thank you, Wikipedia. That’s a beta reader. I am blessed with an amazing one who gives out the advice I need to hear. Let’s meet my beta reader, shall we? 🙂

Me and Annie

The one on the right? Yeah, that’s Annie.We have been friends  for about eight years now. We first met in high school physical education class. I was a senior and she was a freshman. When I was a freshman, they didn’t require us to take PE that year, so being the non-athletic person I am, I put it off until the last year. This, of course, forced me into a class full of freshman basketball players. I thought I was going to go crazy, but luckily, Annie and a couple of others were there to keep me sane.

Technically, Annie became my beta reader in high school after I finished a novel (that I never really had any interest in publishing). She wanted to read it and since it didn’t bother me, I let her. She printed the whole thing out and after she finished it, she told me she liked it. I still have the novel filed away in my computer documents, so maybe one day, I’ll get it published (with some well needed editing first..)

Why is Annie an amazing beta reader? She is very honest and has a great eye for detail. If something doesn’t sound right, she’s going to let me know.  Not in a way like Critic Boy who bashes everything I write, mind you. Annie is encouraging and is always excited when I send her stuff to read.  That excitement makes me excited to write more for her to go over. Her feedback is always genuine and thoughtful. She’s not out to break me down; she’s out to make me better.

She wants to see me be successful and for others to like this book. I knew she would understand these characters as much as I did. I knew they would speak to her. That’s important for me. I like to send Annie at least two chapters at a time while I’m in the writing process, so I don’t have to go searching for something after I’m finished and end up having to change everything to fit that one thing.  It helps get my writing into gear since I know she’s waiting for more chapters to read. I can’t leave her waiting, you know.

Every writer should have a beta reader they trust. If you have one, what’s your beta reader like?  If you don’t have one, what would your ideal beta reader be like?

Oh, and Annie, expect some more chapters in your e-mail on Friday. 🙂 That’s a promise!  You have witnesses here… ha.

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