NaNoWriMo-ers – Don’t stop writing!

And so, we’ve come to the end of NaNoWriMo and many of us optimistic writers have failed at the goal to write 50,000 words in one month. ¬†ūüė¶ ¬†Boo, hiss.

Let’s face it, statistically and realistically, a large portion of us were not going to get to that glittering goal of 50,000 words.

“But why?” We all moan.

Because writing is hard, writing is a process, and often, writing requires more than a month’s commitment. ¬†And that’s okay. ¬†It’s completely acceptable not to have completed your goal this month. ¬†The most important takeaway from NaNoWriMo is that you wrote passionately for one month. ¬†Maybe you have an excellent start to your new novel. ¬†Maybe you added meat to the skeletal outline that¬†you created last month. ¬†And maybe, you are one of the few lucky ones that have actually finished a novel this month.

But whatever your accomplishments were this month, don’t stop writing. ¬†Carve out a little bit of time when/where you can to continue to practice your craft and tend to your muses, ¬†that is the most important thing a writer can do for her/himself.

…and you should also make up for all that time ¬†you’ve been missing out on with the regular people in your life. ¬†Because, you know, interactions and relationships are important. ¬†ūüôā

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Review: “It Happened One Autumn”

Ebook review: “It Happened One Autumn,” by Lisa Kleypas

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Ah yes, the historical/regency romantic sub-genre. ¬†I don’t usually read historical romances because the plight of ridiculously beautiful and rich heroines searching the ton for a marriageable viscount can be tiresome. ¬†It was the romance genre that I started with years ago (sneaking books from my mom’s stash in our basement) and the genre that almost turned me off of romance novels completely – if a doe-eyed, empty-headed heroine stomps her foot “prettily” one more time, I’m going to scream.

That said, I do periodically read them. ¬†Why? ¬†I’m a glutton for punishment? ¬†Well, yes. ¬†But also, there are a lot of historical romances available and sometimes, there are books/series that are actually entertaining. ¬†This book is one of the best historical romances that I’ve read in a long time.

It happened one autumn” is the second book in the Wallflower series. ¬†The Wallflowers are a group of girls, that are having trouble finding suitors – one is beautiful and poor, two are loud sisters from America (yay!), and the last is painfully shy. ¬†The girls decide that there is strength in numbers and they band together to find husbands.

It happened one autumn,” follows the older American sister, Lillian Bowman, and our conservative Englishman, Lord Marcus Westcliff. ¬†This book is perhaps my favorite in the series (although I do love “The Devil in Winter” so much it may warrant its own review). ¬†Not only is Lillian boisterous, vivacious, smart, sporty, and fun, she also can curse like a sailor. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Marcus is slightly pompous and a stickler for rules, but is drawn to free-spirited Lillian against his will (oh, how we love it when they try to fight their feelings). ¬†They try to fight their attraction to each other behind a hedge, in the orangery, in a private garden, in the library….and of course, they fail.

My favorite part of this book is actually Lillian’s refusal to marry Marcus. ¬†Ever the strong woman not seen in many novels, she refuses to be bullied into marriage by the hero and also has to deal with some serious in-law issues (hey, who doesn’t?).

I give this book (as well as book #3 and book #4) five out of five stars for refreshing heroines who are bold, lively, and fun, as well as the interesting men they end up with.

NaNoWriMo – Hitting the wall

Writer’s BlockHitting the wall

We’ve just passed the halfway point of NaNoWriMo and if you’re anything like me, you’ve hit a wall (or several) in your quest to write a novel. ¬†Writer’s block happens to everyone and the constraints of NaNoWriMo are there to try to pull you through the worst of your funk. ¬†Though right now, it feels like they’re hog-tying me (and not the fun kind in BDSM novels either).

So, here are some of the tricks that I’ve employed to knock down my walls:

1. ¬†Sleep on it – When I know how I want a scene to go down, but don’t have a detailed map, I’ll close my eyes and try to imagine my characters. ¬†Often, I fall asleep and dream my way through a hard scene. ¬†Sometimes, I wake up with no ideas but am well rested enough to push myself to write through a scene. ¬†Other times, I wake up with nothing to show but drool on my pillow and visions of stranded characters dancing in my head.

2. ¬†Veg out in front of the TV – Okay, I know there are a lot of TV-haters out there and I’m sure most of us watch too much of it. ¬†But there is something to be said for the magical glowing light of the TV and it might serve as inspiration for a new piece – after all, the author of the “Hunger Games” credits the idea to a night of channel surfing.

3. ¬†Human interaction (some participation required :p ) – Hanging out with friends is a great way to unwind, recharge, and sometimes, talk through plot flaws. ¬†If you’re more of the strong/silent type, going out to the store, cafe, bar, or gym will expose you to a wealth of characters and interesting bits of dialogue. ¬†Eavesdropping (oh, you know you already do it), can help you get better at writing tricky bits of dialogue or just be entertaining as hell. ¬†(I know, it’s a little naughty. ¬†But honestly, don’t air out your dirty laundry if you don’t want the rest of us to sniff it.)

4.  Go outside (or at least look out there) РSitting inside and wasting away in front of various electronic devices is making you look like zombie.  There are living things outside, seeing them might wake your brain up.

5.  Do something physical (yes, even that counts) РGo for a walk, run a mile, dance, or whatever.  Getting your heart rate up and your body focused on physical activity can make your brain start firing in new and interesting ways.  Sometimes, I come up with good bits of dialogue while running (although, you should know, I am a terrible runner).

6. ¬†Clean something – If you’ve been participating in a writing marathon, you’ve probably been ignoring other chores to buy some time, like cleaning the bathroom, the floor, your room, or yourself. ¬†You should probably clean those things while you’re thinking about the next scene, especially if you plan on having guests over for Thanksgiving.

7. ¬†Cook something – Maybe you’re just hungry. ¬†My family is part Italian and if I’ve learned anything from Grandma, it’s that you should eat something. ¬†Extra points if you can fit it into your novel.

8. ¬†Read something – All writers begin as readers and should continue to read throughout their endeavors. ¬†If you’ve been writing a lot, are in a rut, and have been neglecting your reading, pick up a book to rediscover the joy of losing yourself in a story. ¬†Escaping into a novel may help to jump-start your own imagination, or at the very least, remind you how magical and important it is to write a good story.

What do you do to get past writer’s block?

Review: “Her Best Worst Mistake”

Ebook Review: ¬†“Her Best Worst Mistake,” By Sarah Mayberry

image My best friend is one of the most well-read people that I know.    Her tastes and knowledge of books are so eclectic, that she can give excellent book recommendations for any genre.  Luckily for me, her guilty pleasure is the romance genre.  She recommended this steamy novel to me, so thanks, girl!

Side note before we get started: ¬†who doesn’t have a small smirk or smile on their face when they look at this cover? ¬†ūüôā

In “Her Best Worst Mistake,” we follow the story of Violet, who can’t seem to stop fighting with her best friend’s man, Martin. ¬†Much to the annoyance of Elizabeth (Violet’s friend), Martin is equally and constantly annoyed with Violet. ¬†Martin seems a bit tight laced, haughty, conservative, and aware of appearances. ¬†Violet is fun, vibrant, and a little wild, and enjoys annoying Martin. ¬†Early in the story, Elizabeth breaks it off with Martin and runs away to Australia. ¬†Martin wrongly assumes that this break-up has been orchestrated by Violet. ¬†Meanwhile, Violet feels really bad for Martin and decides to bring him a peace offering of alcohol that she remembers he likes. ¬†One thing leads to another (as things are wont to do), and soon Violet and Martin find themselves in a heated affair.

Yum. ¬†Let me say that this book is quite steamy (there are so many delicious parts of this novel to enjoy – including a dinner party seduction that was truly awesome). ¬†The author does an excellent job with my favorite sub genre of romantic fiction – the enemies. ¬†Of course, all that hate is born out of a deeper chemistry that they can’t fight…for long. ¬†In addition to a sufficient amount of steam, the characters also grow – sincerely caring for each other and building a real relationship.

I give this romance novel a solid five out of five stars – smart, entertaining, and steamy novel that I highly recommend.

Last side note: ¬†What was my favorite line in this book that had me giggling and blushing? ¬†“I love mangoes.” ¬†Oh my….

NaNoWriMo – Keeping motivation with a writer’s group

Keeping motivation with a writer’s group

Before last year, I had a history of starting novels, writing intensely for awhile, and then, allowing a road block in my novel to derail the entire story. ¬†For all of these projects, I would start off loving my story idea and after a few months of struggling, I would begin to hate the story. ¬†Then my inner critic would take hold – “that would never happen,” I’d lecture my plot twist. ¬†Or I’d write my heroine into a corner. ¬†Facing mounting problems with my stories, I would eventually give up on them and stop writing for long stretches of time.

Last year, I joined a group of writers to get through NaNoWriMo.  We had different interests and wrote under different genres, but even so Рour little group worked well together.  When NaNoWriMo ended, most of us were hooked and continued to meet every Sunday.  Setting aside a time to write every week Рand having a group of people expecting me to show up Рhelped me finish the first draft of my first novel and start a second novel.

There are a lot of people who make up our circles (friends, family, co-workers, random people you see every day). ¬†Not all of these people get the “whole writing thing.” ¬†Some¬†nod their heads with glazed eyes when you talk about your novel ideas. ¬†Some¬†support you and offer to read your finished stuff. ¬†Then there are other writers – the special folk that not only believe that you can write a book, they understand what it takes to get there – can talk you through your worst plot flaws, lackluster characters, and push you through all that lingering self-doubt.

During NaNoWriMo, don’t be afraid to reach out and join a writing group or go to one of NaNoWriMo’s write-ins – they may help you get over the dreaded mid-November blues (when you question your talent and your sanity) and give you the final push when you’re in the home stretch.

Good luck writers, ten days down and still writing! Hope you are too. ¬†ūüôā

NaNoWriMo – humble writer struggling against the numbers

I don’t know about you, but my writing pace is slow. ¬†Now, I can run my mouth off discussing topics on nearly anything, but sit me down to write a novel (outlined or not) and my pace becomes glacial.

Why?

Even when I know where I want to go, can see my character frolicking around in my mind, it still takes forever. ¬†During NaNoWriMo, the total goal word count is 50,000, which makes the daily word count around 1,666 – does anyone else wonder if the triple 6’s allude to demonic writing possession this month?

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No? ¬†Hmm, maybe I’ve been writing too much today.

It’s the number of words a day, demonic or not, that always messes with my head. ¬†Call it performance anxiety (can’t keep my pen up), but logging in X number of words a day is always a struggle for me.

But, a huge part of writing is the struggle – not only of characters, but of the writer too. ¬†That’s why, if ¬†you share the idea of NaNoWriMo with people in your circle, you’re sure to find at least one person who will tell you that they too have an idea for a novel, if only they could get it down on paper. ¬†I think that there is at least one novel in all of us – the trick is to pull it out and put it on paper.

The daily word count (the triple 6’s do go away if you round up to 1,667 words a day) is ultimately your friend in this process. ¬†The struggle to meet it every day and continue on (even when your story gets a little silly, or a little slow) is what will help you finally finish that story that has been rattling around in your brain.

So NaNoWriMo-ers, did you struggle today? ¬†I sure as hell did…

Review: “Instant Attraction”

Ebook Review “Instant Attraction,” by Jill Shalvis

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In “Instant Attraction,” Katie accepts a job as a temporary accountant/office manager for Wilder Adventures in Wishful, California, after surviving a terrible accident and promising herself to be more adventurous. ¬†Wishful is a small mountain town in the middle of Sierras and far from her life in L.A. ¬† Cam, one of the Wilder brothers that owns the company, has returned to Wishful after a long trek around the world. ¬†Cam, like Katie, suffered a terrible accident – except prior to his accident, he was an Olympic level snowboarder and adventurer.

Can Katie’s naive enthusiasm and open personality slip past Cam’s defenses and into his heart? ¬†Can Cam help Katie live her promise to more adventurous and help her get past her accident?

I think it’s safe to say that no one reads romance novels to be surprised at the happy ending, so we all know the answer to those questions. ¬†We do, however, read the novels to see how they get there. ¬†“Instant Attraction” does a nice job of building up the tension between the two characters as well as showing the evolution of their feelings. ¬†She also does a nice job of setting up the rest of the series (there are two more brothers to get through, and they’re all green-eyed, rugged, mountain men).

I was also pleased to see that the heroine was an accountant/numbers person and wears glasses – yay! ¬†There is a serious lack of romantic heroines that are numbers folk – series opportunity…? ¬†Anyone, anyone? ¬†Ah well, I tried.

So, while I was amused by the overall story and a numbers girl heroine, I was somewhat annoyed by the heroine’s ability to nearly kill herself every time she tried something new. ¬†Granted, she was still dealing with the turmoil of surviving a really scary car accident/bridge collapse, but can she do anything by herself without the hero having to rescue her? ¬†Trying out a snowmobile? ¬†Fall into the snow until our strapping man comes to help. ¬†Hanging out with new friends? ¬†Gets helplessly drunk and vomits in hero’s truck. ¬†Angry hike to get away from hero? ¬†Fall off ledge and must be rescued by said hero. ¬†Erg. ¬†Enough already, doing stuff by yourself is sexy too dammit. ¬†We don’t need some hulking hunk to save us from every little thing, even us accident prone ladies. ¬†Sigh. ¬†But at least, despite her numerous failures, she does still try to get out there and do new things.

I give this book three out of five stars.  Pretty entertaining and well-written, but points taken away for overdoing the accident prone thing (and not in a funny way).

Do you NaNoWriMo?

For years now, I have been fighting a battle of wills and words for the marathon known as NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month, for those of you that some how have escaped the many blog posts or articles about this sacred month. ¬†In this month of November (why couldn’t it have been a month with 31 days, I could use one more day), many will struggle to write a first draft of a novel – 50,000 words.

I will not be one of them. ¬†Instead of using the month of November to start a novel, I will use it as a push to finish my novel. ¬†In all of my years of doing NaNoWriMo, I have never “completed” the challenge. ¬†I’ve blamed this on a lot of things – my glacial writing pace, my need to think through scenes before writing them, getting through the dreaded in-between or set up scenes, and of course, second guessing whatever I put down on paper. ¬†While all of those things can make writing difficult, most of the time I’m not able to get to 50,000 words because I let life get in the way or let the number get to my head.

But, I think that misses the whole point of NaNoWriMo Рsetting a whole month aside to write something every day and to make an effort to do something that many are not able to do Рfinish something.

I used to think that having a talent meant that you could be good at something without really trying. ¬†While that might be true for the blessed few, most of us have to struggle through plot problems, characters that surprise you, the need to edit before you finish, and self-doubt. ¬†But it’s the struggle that makes it all worthwhile and the reason that you can be proud of anything that you write this month – whether it be 50,000 words or far less.

Good luck, fellow writers – may your pens be swift and your plots strong. ¬†ūüôā