October 31, 2017

Review: Turtles All the Way Down + Giveaway

GIVEAWAY CLOSED! Thank you to everyone who entered!

Enter below to win!

Giveaway runs until November 3rd at 9:59 PM EST

If winner does not respond within 48 hours, a runner-up will be chosen.

The Word Nerd's TAtWD Giveaway

October 27, 2017

Is NaNoWriMo for you?

It’s almost November again and you know what that means!

It’s time for National Novel Writing Month. (Put those Christmas trees away, we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet.)
Ah yes, November, when hordes of writers decide that writing fifty thousand words in thirty days sounds like a smart idea.
I can’t tell you whether or not subjecting yourself to such extreme pressure is a good idea, but I can tell you that it’s doable. I’ve done. I’ll be doing it again.
Some of you are nodding and mentally yelling, “Yes! You go, girl!”
Some of you are side-eyeing me and thinking, “That’s all well and good for you, Margaret, but I’m not sure that NaNo is for me.”
You are right to be skeptical. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.
For example, there are people out there who have no interests in books whatsoever. It’s safe to say that NaNoWriMo is not for them. (I also highly doubt that they’re reading this blog.)
Then, there are the people out there who love books but think that writing one sounds like a huge hassle. NaNoWriMo isn’t for them either. Writing a book is a hundred times harder than reading one--it’s a gift and a curse. Be glad you can read without feeling the need to absorb every trick of the craft an author uses.
But some of you out there that have a story inside you.
Maybe the idea came to you a week ago.
Maybe you’ve been carrying it for years, building the world in your head as you plunk away at your day job.
Maybe you’ve even tried to start that story a time or two, but there have always been bigger things to worry about. Your computer fritzes and the transmission in your car starts making funny noises and you have to take care of that before you can even think about writing a book.
But you still have that idea.
NaNoWriMo is for you, my friend.
That story inside you? That’s worth something.
But only if you sit down and write it.
If you are anything like me, your brain just came up with some excuse for why you can’t possibly participate in NaNo this year. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to provide you with some ammo to throw back at that Negative Nancy in your head...
Excuse #1
Writing fifty thousand words in thirty days is an impossible goal.
Actually, it’s not. I know we’re all more comfortable working with words, but let me break some numbers down for you. To write fifty thousand words during the month of November, all you need is a little under 1,700 words a day. That’s not even a full college essay! Trust me, writing a novel is much more fun. And I’m betting once you into your story, you’ll realize you need more than fifty thousand words to tell it.
Excuse #2
I haven’t had a chance to plan out my novel yet.
Sounds like it’s time to make a plan then. Grab the nearest piece of paper and start jotting down plot points. Or forgo planning entirely. Some writers are plotters--they need at least a rough outline from Point A to Point Q or X or Z. Some writers prefer to fly by the seat of their pants the whole way. Some writers do a mix of both. November is the perfect time for experimenting. If you discover that plotting isn’t for you, the plan can always be thrown out the window (let’s be real, it usually is at some point anyways). If trying to wing it just confuses you, then take some time to create an outline.
Excuse #3
I couldn’t possibly find the time to write.
Maybe it seems that way, nut in my experience, writing time doesn’t just appear because you want to write. You have to make the time. And sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Try cutting out TV. Or going out on the weekends. Sit down with your spouse or kids or parents and negotiate so that you have extra time this month to write. Look at your calendar and see if you can’t trim out something. Search for downtime you could turn into writing time. Little bits of time add up fast.
Excuse #4
But I REALLY don’t have the time
There are some very legitimate things that rank higher than writing on your priorities list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap some of the benefits of NaNoWriMo. The biggest one is that NaNo gets you started. If really aren’t in a place to do a traditional NaNo, change it up. Halve the word count goal or eschew word count altogether and try for a certain number of hours or days of writing per week.
Excuse #5
I have another project I should be working on instead.
Yes, technically the goal is to write fifty thousand words during the month of November. But no one is going to shake their finger at you if you happen to use it as a month of hyperfocus for a project you’re already working on. That’s exactly what I’m doing this year. Instead of working on a shiny new project, I will be editing my current novel. Getting this story into shape so I can start querying agents next year is my number one priority this November.

Every year, I say the same thing: make November work for you. Whatever that means. The important part of this endeavor isn’t writing all fifty thousand words. The important part is just writing. As Louis L’Amour once said, “The does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” It’s time to turn the faucet on.

I’ll be focusing on NaNoWriMo for all of November, so if you’ll be WriMo’ing with me make sure you subscribe. For those of you not worrying about all that craziness, you should stick around too. A lot of what I’ll be talking about can be applied all year long.

Let me know down in the comments if you’re participating--or thinking about participating--this year. I’d love you know if you’re a NaNo veteran or newbie and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have!

October 25, 2017

Image source: Pixbay http://bit.ly/1KShYbJ

"I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers all done." 
-Steven Wright

Procrastiwrite- verb, the art of working everything but what you're supposed to be writing. 

Happy Writer Wednesday, everyone.

October 21, 2017

Writing is a journey

A year or so ago, I unearthed a collection of short stories I wrote in middle school.

It’s in one of those plastic portfolios. The cover consists of a black and white clipart Xeroxed onto colored paper—purple of course—and my modest Lisa Frank sticker collection decorates it.
The earliest piece, simply dated “1998”, is a recollection of the time three-year-old me accidentally dialed 911 (I was practicing, okay?). 

It also includes what may be my earliest foray into fan fiction—three installments of Imaginary Me’s adventures with her TY Beanie Babies come to life. 

There’s an essay written in various shades of neon gel pen on notebook paper. Several stories were written on my mom’s old typewriter (one of the fancy 80s models that took floppy disks and involved a tiny screen full of glowing green text). One was written on the computer that my father, brother, and I purchased at Best Buy at some unholy hour on a chilly, November morning. 

The paper is yellowed. The ideas are innocent. And the typos abound.

I honestly haven’t read past the first few sentences of the first story. I don’t remember if anyone proofread these stories, but oh boy, do they need it. Aside from the typos and the stilted dialogue, I used so many synonyms for "said" in the first paragraph that Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way would blush.

About year or so before I found that gem, I pulled out a story from my college days because I wanted to rewrite it into something publishable. The premise is solid, but the word count is that of a novella, it is reliant on clich├ęs, and a cardboard cutout has more character than my male lead. My current project did not have to work hard to commandeer my attention. Someday, it’ll be time to dig that sucker back out again and change it from the cringe-worthy mess that it is and into the story I know it’s meant to be. But not just yet.

It’s my expert opinion that my writing has improved since I wrote that little novella. And I’m definitely much better than I was when I was twelve. (Although, maybe I should see if there's a market for new and improved Beanie Baby adventures.)

Every story I've written has made me a better writer. Yes, even the fan fiction. My second attempt at a novel was loads better than my first. My current work in progress is even better than that. Even the current draft of this book is better than the first draft.

It’s easy to get mired in distance between the writer you and the writer you want to be. It's easy to forget that with every project you start, with every bad sentence you write, with every mediocre sentence you revise, you learn something. If you’re serious about learning and growing as a writer, you’re always searching for ways to make your story just a little bit better. You’re always learning.

Writing isn’t a destination.

There isn’t some magical point where you will be the best writer you will ever be. (And thank goodness for that!)

Writing is a journey.

Writing is exploring. It's seeing things differently. It's figuring out when to use one word instead of two.

And it’s figuring out when two words paint the picture better than one.

I don’t know how many thousands of words exist between those first creative writing exercises and my current novel, but I know that all those words helped me get to be the writer I am today.

And it’s what will help me become the writer I will be tomorrow.

What about you? What does your writing journey look like? Did you start young or is it something you picked up at a later age?


October 13, 2017

Why be a writer?

Anybody that knows a writer knows that writing is no easy job.

Sometimes, in fact, it’s several jobs.

First, there is the reality that writing doesn't pay all (or any) of the bills for most of us. Many writers (myself included) have to work a day job and hope they have enough brain juice when they get home to squeak out more of that work-in-progress.

Plus in this social media-saturated age, you quickly learn that just writing the book (or article) isn't enough anymore. Creating connections on Facebook, Twitter, etc. has become a huge part of writing. You have to be able to market your work as well as write it.

And, of course, any writer lucky enough to be published has gone through endless cycles of revision and rejection on their journey from agent to publisher to the bookstore.

For every moment a writer believes they understand their story, there's a moment where they feel like they're trying to play the bagpipes for the first time while riding a unicycle. For every fan who loves your work, there is someone who will shred your work like a cat shreds a roll of toilet paper. For every word that makes it into the latest draft, there are several wallowing in the depths of your trash bin.

Writing is hard and it doesn't get any easier with practice. Every story is a new puzzle to solve with new flaws and new complications.

So why do it?

Why put all that work into something that may never even make it off your computer?

Why be a writer at all?

Well, after some thought, I came up with…

5 Reasons To Be A Writer:

  • You love putting together the perfect sentence. As a writer, you will put together many, many imperfect sentences. Sentences so bad, you hang your head in shame in the middle of Starbucks and cry. But, if you put any effort into writing at all, you will write some good, and even a few great, sentences. And then there will be that one sentence. The sentence that evokes a setting or thought or character so well you could frame it. Because it is the greatest sentence you have written to date.
  • You have that one idea that you wish you could read. It’s that idea you got while reading or watching TV or walking down the street and, suddenly, you wish you had that book in your hands. Well, if you write it, you can read it. Maybe somebody has already had a similar idea, but don’t let that stop you. Every person brings unique experiences to their writing. No two writers use the same idea the same way.
  • You love being surprised by your characters. Any writer will swear on a stack of Bibles (or the holy book of their choice) that the minute a scene starts the characters take on a life of their own. The character who was only supposed to be a background character becomes vital to the plot. The character you thought was only a party animal actually possesses a heart of gold. The shy character unable to speak up for herself finds her spine when someone else's life is on the line. In reality, your characters only get to do what you let them do, but in that moment, they feel real.
  • You like seeing the world from other points of view. Good actors and good writers have one thing in common: they put themselves in their characters' shoes...and their readers' shoes. That's an awful lot of shoes to fill. But it's also incredibly rewarding. Life is never boring when you become someone new every time to you sit down at the computer.
  • You can't see yourself doing anything else. At the end of the day, despite the ever-growing pile of rejection letters (or bad reviews if you're published), despite the number of times you spend staring at a blank screen waiting for your brain to work, despite all the time and trouble that your readers will never even glimpse, there is nothing else you'd rather do. Because that moment, when you are in the zone and the words are flowing and you can practically reach out and touch the world you're creating, that moment is worth struggling through all the rest of it. At the end of the day, we don't write for the paycheck. We write because we love writing. It's just not worth it otherwise.

Those are a few of the reasons that I came up with for why I love being a writer.

Did any of those reasons resonate with you? Can you think of few more? Drop down in the comments and let me know.

Until next time, word nerds.


Image: sensitive noise / obvious 2 by Milo Milosevic, CC BY 2.0

October 6, 2017


Welcome, new friends, to my blog.

I’m Margaret, your friendly internet word nerd.

I'm a writer in the midst of the fifth draft of her novel. I'm a book lover who wants more people to flail over her favorite books with.
Most importantly, I'm someone who loves connecting with people about those things. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to find and connect with other writers who encourage me and help me stay on track, even when the going gets hard. I'd like to give back. I want this to be a place for other writers like me. Writers still learning their craft. Writers still finding their voice. Writers wondering if all that work is really worth it.

I hope I'll make you laugh. I hope I'll make you think. I hope I'll help you keep plugging away at that work in progress.

On this blog, I will share my journey to finishing and publishing my novel. You will probably read at least one post griping about how hard writing is. Information that I've gathered over the years will be shared. And you will definitely get a front row seat to me flailing over books (and maybe doing a bit of ranting too).

I will talk about my writing and what I’ve learned and how my favorite authors inspire me every day. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing a bit about myself and then, in November, we dive into the good stuff—starting with my favorite part of the month, NaNoWriMo.

Feel free to drop down in the comments at any time and ask questions or leave your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you. And check out my About Me page for other places to find more wordy, nerdy goodness.

So now you know a little bit about me. I'd love to know more about you. Scroll down to where it says "Enter your comment..." and introduce yourself. I'd love to know a little bit about how you found me and what you like to read (or write).

Until next time, word nerds.