Spring Cleaning: A Chance To Take Stock In What We Have

Spring Cleaning is an annual ritual my family undertakes, literally, once a year. As much as I dislike the enormous chore of deep cleaning the house, it feels good to clear things out, take stock in what we have and what we might repurpose or pass on to someone else who may need it.

This past week, as part of this Spring Cleaning process, I took a look at all of my blog posts. Every single one of them! I discovered some real gems in there once I dusted off the cobwebs and reminded myself what had inspired each post.

I can honestly say I have grown quite a bit as a writer since I first began this blog. One of the nagging thoughts I had during the earliest posts was, “What gives me the right to post anything for other writers?” Another was, “What makes me think I can post anything that another writer may find valuable?”

I have gotten over those feelings of self-doubt over the years, thankfully!

My first posts were basically throw-aways, as I tried to navigate the way WordPress worked for blogging. But then I found something of a focus, and I began to reach out to other authors after reading their books. New relationships were formed as I would interview each one.

And I must say I adore doing interviews. My interview style has developed through the years into something that I take a lot of pride in. I have a lot of confidence in my questioning techniques now, which translates into some very interesting discussions!

Another thing I discovered is that some of my posts now fit into blog series and mini-series. My Writerly Advice topics continue to be great to write about, as well as my NaNo Mini-Series interviews. I can’t wait for next year’s NaNo Mini-Series!

…Which brings me to the biggest discovery during my Blog Spring Cleaning: Flashback Time Machine!

Flashback Time Machine is a series I started, then forgot about. In the series, I write about some literature classics, and come up with questions I would have liked to ask the author if they were still alive today. I enjoyed writing those posts a great deal.

Well, it’s time to resurrect the Flashback Time Machine! In the coming weeks, I will be working on the next installment of that series. I won’t divulge the book or author yet, although I already have the plan in place.

For now, thank you to all of my blog readers and followers! It means the world to me that we can connect in this way. Spring Cleaning can be awesome! Not only did I take stock of the written content on this blog from its earliest posts, but I also took stock in the many views, comments and followers that grew out of it.

If you have a topic for this blog that you would like me to cover, please leave a comment below!

An Interview With My Readers!

On this very blog, I interview a lot of writers and people involved in the publishing process.  But today I’m going to try something different!  Hang onto your hats 🙂

As I work on writing a manuscript, I find that the characters and scenes play out like a movie in my mind.  I’m not sure that is particularly unique to me, but I do think it’s an interesting phenomenon.  As the scenes and conversations go by, not only do I have the visual in mind, but also the soundtrack and sometimes even the score.  Again, not sure if other people experience this, but I suspect they do.  You might think that my being a musician and having all of these ideas, musical and non-musical, in my head as I write, my prose would contain amazing detail and imagery.

It doesn’t.  In fact, I struggle with it sometimes (But I’ll save that for another post!).

For today, though, I’d like to interview you, my readers, about you novel’s soundtrack.  Your novel can be published or not, complete or not.  Those silly details don’t matter for this!   If you would like to take part, and I’d love it if you did, please write your responses to my questions in the comment section.  Include some links, if you want!  Here are the questions:

1.  Does the music you personally listen to influence the books/stories that you write?  If so, can you give us an example?

2.  When you think about your latest completed novel or work in progress, what music comes to mind?  Have you put together a playlist for it?

3.  Do you use specific music to help you “get in the zone” for a writing session?

 

I’ll go ahead and answer first.

1.  I do think that the music I listen to can influence what I write.  For instance, before writing my first novel, Muse’s song Citizen Erased was on constant repeat.  That novel has a definite “Musey” vibe.  A little dark, and introspective.  Here is the lyric video for that tune:

 

 

 

2.  My latest novel is quite different from my first.  I wouldn’t say that I have a full playlist for it, but Bruce Springsteen’s Fire would definitely be on it!

 

 

 

 

3.  I definitely use music for “getting in the zone”.  If I know I only have a certain amount of time to write, I may prep myself by listening to the music that I know can get me ready, mentally, so I can maximize my time.  And sometimes, like I mentioned about my first novel, a song can literally throw me into the zone!

 

So, now it’s your turn!  Tell us about your soundtrack!  I love connecting with my readers 🙂

Thanks for playing along!

 

Completing the Trifecta: A Publishing Chat with Summer Wier, Marketing Director with REUTS Publishing

Summer Wier

All this month, I have been fortunate enough to feature REUTs Publishing’s Behind-The-Scenes talent. Beginning with Editorial Director, Kisa Whipkey, and then with Cover Artist and REUT’s founder, Ashley Ruggirello, we all got an  inside look at the inner workings of a small publisher, following the process from acquisitions to print.

Kisa’s interview can be found here.

Ashley’s interview can be found here.

I highly recommend checking those out, whether you are looking for a publisher or if you’re just plain curious about the process of publishing, like I am.

 

But today is a big day, as I complete my mini-series trifecta interviewing

Summer Wier, Marketing Director for REUTS Publishing!

Susan: It’s so nice to have you with us on my Writer’s Block, Summer! Welcome! Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Do you have a degree in marketing? If not, how did your path lead you to where you are today, career-wise? How did you end up as the Marketing Director at REUTS Publishing?

Summer: Hi, Susan! Thanks for having me. Let’s see, where to start. I have a wide variety of experience under my belt and consider myself a jack-of-all-trades. My educational background includes an accounting degree and an MBA. So while I don’t have marketing degree specifically, it was a focus of both my undergrad and grad degrees. Over the years (I won’t tell you how longs it’s been since I graduated), I’ve had the opportunity to work in various capacities contributing to experience in marketing, graphic design, web development, SEO, sales, contract drafting…you name it. I’m one of those people who isn’t content doing just one thing or specializing in one trade, I want to know how every “part” works and contributes to an organization as a whole. As the Finance and Marketing Director for a chain of retail stores in the DFW area, I’ve had a chance to really understand how essential it is for departments to coordinate efforts in pursuit of success. It’s this perspective and experience that we incorporate at REUTS. We all wear many hats.

I started at REUTS as a Jr. Editor and acquisitions assistant in an effort to gain some experience in the publishing industry. When Founder Ashley Ruggirello put out a call for a Marketing Guru, I responded “I’m your gal!” And the rest is history.

 

Susan: During the acquisitions process at REUTS, I have learned that the four directors chime in on each manuscript. What are the things you look for in a manuscript? On the other hand, are there things that would be red flags to you as the Marketing Director?

Summer:I assess marketability based on things like genre, voice, originality, and complementary titles from our current library and outside sources. Of course a manuscript has to have “that special something” whether in spades or as a glimmer of potential; it really is all about the manuscript. We realize that very few authors have experience doing marketing, or knowing what that really entails, and that’s also where I come in.

As far as red flags go, unoriginal first pages top my list. You’ve probably seen the list of don’ts: waking up from a dream or starting off in a dream, getting ready for school, describing characters using a mirror. I am immediately turned off by those things (unless the execution has original elements or is spectacular). It also makes me wonder if the rest of the manuscript has anything new or unique to offer. Publishing is a tough industry; you have to create something that sets you apart from everyone else. Another red flag can come from the query or even a person’s behavior on social media. I think Ashley mentioned this in her interview, but we stalk people. (YES! We look you up.) It’s hard to visualize working with someone who is less than professional or down-right jerky, no matter how fabulous their work may be.

 

Susan: I asked a similar question to this next one to Ashley Ruggirello recently, but I am curious about your response. When reading a full submission, can you tell early on about its marketability? Are you able to begin formulating a plan for its release strategy from the get-go, or does the “master plan” reveal itself later on?

Summer: First off, I always have a master plan. It includes everything under the sun, but it usually tweaked and honed to each author based on their strengths, time, and budget. But in the early stages, when reading a submission, there are definitely times when I visualize a favorite quote as a teaser or think about how the story would translate into a trailer (more on this later). Bottom line, I definitely have a strategy from the get-go, but nothing is set in stone until I’ve had a heart-to-heart with the author.

 

Susan: That’s awesome about the teaser quotes! I am very interested in this next question. Can you tell us about the path a book takes from the time it is acquired by a publisher until it can be found on the virtual and physical bookstore shelves?

Summer: This is quite the loaded question as it could be answered from many different angles, but since I’m here to talk about marketing, that’s what I’ll focus on. Once we sign an author, each of the departments sends out an initial letter. I put together a “master plan” marketing document that outlines everything an author could do from the very first moments of their contract through release and beyond. From that list we target efforts that the author feels comfortable with and move forward from there. So while an author is simultaneously working with staff on cover design and editing, they’re also laying their part of the groundwork for marketing and promotion. Behind the scenes, I work on promotional materials and press releases, initiate social media strategy, with the help of the extremely talented Tiffany Rose who distributes ARCs, coordinates blog tours, helps with teasers and trailers etc. We start rolling everything out a few weeks before release, and when pub day hits, there’s no holds barred.

 

Susan: During the process of getting a book out into the world, what is the best part, from your perspective?

Summer: Release day is hands-down the most exciting day, and I love seeing an author’s words come to life via teasers and a trailer. It’s great to see all of our efforts come together, and the resulting support and praise for an author’s work on his or her big day is phenomenal!

 

Susan: When I think of marketing a book, I think about all of the things that an author would be doing from their end. What types of things can a Marketing Director do from the publisher’s side to help an author’s manuscript have a successful release?

Summer: Well in the case of many debut authors, I coach and guide author’s efforts from behind-the-scenes. As you can imagine, there’s a wide range of experience (or lack thereof) between authors. Some need a little coddling, others just run with it. But aside from that, and some of this was mentioned above (pushing press releases, distributing ARCs, coordinating blog tours), I coordinate post-release promos, social media content, swag design, potential event outreach, online and print advertisement, and Ashley and I work together fielding film inquiries and vetting other subsidiary rights opportunities. Multiply that by umpteen authors…yea, you get the picture.

 

Susan: What, in your estimation, are the three most important things an author can do to promote their brand and their books? How can an author best prepare for that, especially if the novel is a debut?

Summer: You know the saying, “What goes around, comes around”? That. I truly believe in karma. If you help others in a constructive way, without ulterior motives, without expecting anything in return, others will help you right back. But let’s see…you asked for three things and here are my professional answers: Be organized. Be consistent. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. (And I’m adding a fourth.) Be resilient. Whether debut or not, an author needs to be organized. Keep track of reviewers, fans who reach out to you, guest posts, etc., etc. Reach out as much as possible to those who are interested in being in touch with you. Maintain a routine schedule, whether it’s 30 min twice a week, or 15 min a day. Be willing to try new things. It’s no surprise that many authors are less than excited about doing in-person events, we’re introverts by nature (a lot of us are anyway), but there is no substitute for making personal connections. And lastly, you have to bounce back. Writers deal with negative reviews, poor turnout for an event, pirated materials, and the list goes on and on. It’s okay to be disappointed, sad, angry, but when the sting wears off, you have to get back out there and try again. Just keep swimming.

 

Susan: On the REUTS webpage, there is mention of something called a “street team”. If you could, please tell my readers what that is, and how it can help the author.

Summer: A street team consists of individuals who want to show support and help promote an author’s books, or in our case books from a publisher’s library! They can get behind-the-scenes info or a first peek at news, but really it’s just a group of people who are excited about a book (or books) and want to help get the word out!

 

Susan: You have touched on this a little bit earlier. I have seen some amazingly intriguing book trailers. Is that something that you would do as a Marketing Director? If not, do you feel that creating a book trailer is something that is necessary for a book’s success?

Summer: It makes me so happy to hear you say that! And yes this is something we provide our authors. They can, of course, choose to do something on their own, but we want to make sure that everyone at least has the choice to have a professional trailer for promotion. The fabulous Tiffany Rose and I collaborate and create each trailer, then send it to the author and Sr. Editor Kisa Whipkey and Ashley Ruggirello for feedback. If you haven’t noticed by now, REUTS’ success is highly attributed to teamwork. We’re a well-oiled machine, if I do say so myself. Now is a trailer required? Is it necessary for success? No. There are those who say they aren’t worth the time or expense to create, but from our perspective a good-looking trailer can’t hurt!

 

Susan: As expected, you have provided us with some amazing information. Thank you so much for being here today, Summer!   The answers to these questions are so helpful to aspiring authors, like me. I am grateful to the REUTS family of directors for being so candid with me and my readers! Is there anything else you think my readers would appreciate knowing about marketing their brand or book?

Summer: Thanks for having me! The biggest advice I can give authors is: Don’t think you have to do everything. There are many, many platforms, online and offline options, events, blogs, ad sites etc., etc. Figure out what you can do (without stressing or over-extending yourself) and make it work for you. Mix it up. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail. Every effort is an opportunity to learn something. And keep writing!

 

Summer Wier is an MBA toting accountant, undercover writer, and all around jack-of-all-trades. Link is her debut novel and the first in The Shadow of Light series. She has short stories appearing in Fairly Twisted Tales For A Horribly Ever After and co-authors the Splinter web serial. Summer is the Marketing Director and a member of the acquisitions team at REUTS Publications. When she’s not digging through spreadsheets or playing mom, you can find her reading/writing, cooking, or dreaming of the mountains in Montana.

Connect with Summer on Twitter @summerwier or visit her website at http://www.summerwier.com.

Artistically Speaking: With Cover Artist Ashley Ruggirello

ashley ruggerillo
Ashley Ruggirello is an author, designer and doting wife living in beer and cheese land, WI.
When not lost in the fictional world of Skyrim, she can be found exploring typography, manipulating responsive DIVS, or with pen & paper in hand (figuratively though, as she uses Google Docs much more often), writing her New Adult novels.
She considers herself a designer by nature and writing at heart, though she always wanted to make video game walk-throughs as a child.
Ashley’s favorite color is chartreuse, and she has an undeniable attraction to moss (not of the Kate variety).
For my blog today, I’m thrilled to introduce Ashley Ruggirello.  As founder of REUTS Publications as well as a freelance cover artist, Ashley has enthusiastically agreed to hang out on my Writer’s Block for a bit to talk about her roles in the publishing realm.  Welcome, Ashley!

Ashley Ruggirello: Thank you so much for having me, Susan! I’m excited to share an inside look at what I do, why I do it, and how REUTS differs from others, so thank you for the opportunity 🙂 I hope my ramblings make sense…

Susan: Tell us about your background, and what brought you to become a cover artist and founder of REUTS Publications.

Ashley Ruggirello: To be honest, my educational background is in web design and IT. After I completed my education I entered the advertising industry working for one of the top 25 largest independent advertising agencies, located in Wisconsin. All my design experience is self-taught, if you’d believe it! I’ve been going at it for over ten years now, learning and adapting to the changes in design and business as I go. Being a writer for even longer, starting REUTS in 2012 just seemed like the perfect coupling of my two passions: writing and design.

Susan: I read in another interview you did recently, that you started REUTS Publications out of a personal desire to build a publishing company that filled the gaps of what you felt was missing in the industry.   Have there been any surprises along the way, good, bad or otherwise?

Ashley Ruggirello: There have been a lot of positive surprises and learning lessons throughout the two years of REUTS’s existence, though I have a feeling the negative will be a little more insightful. I think what’s hardest to realize–and avoid–is becoming cynical and jaded toward the publishing industry and author expectations. That’s not to say I hate, or even strongly dislike either, being an author myself I could never, but it’s the conscious effort to–in light of negativity, delays, pestering, etc…–to stay positive. The whole point of REUTS was to be a beacon of light, an escape, if you will, from all the iron clad, locked-tight companies who make up the publishing industry. There’s a lot of talent out there, on both sides of the book, but sometimes it’s easy to forget where you started, and where you’ve come from. That’s something I hope I never lose, no matter how the industry changes. It’s an important part of REUTS, and an important part of who I am.

360: a few positives–the way the community has embraced such a unique, young boutique publishing company such as REUTS has been overwhelming. I still have to pinch myself (or request the pinching be done by our Editorial Director, and one of my best friends, Kisa) because all the love and support is incredible.

It’s also very cool to see a book from start-to-finish. When it’s your own book it’s exciting, but when it’s someone elses and the excitement just seems to jump off your computer screen, it’s nearly impossible to not be happy and excited.

Susan: As a cover artist for REUTS, what is your conceptual process? Do you automatically begin to visualize a cover concept as you read a manuscript for the first time, or do you wait until the end of the manuscript to make a plan?

Ashley Ruggirello: I can’t say I really have one. Each cover design project is unique in its own way, with unique challenges and creative opportunities. To put each book into a boxed process and try to make it work wouldn’t be fair to the author, my inspiration or the book itself. Although I approach each cover design the same way (which I’ll mention more in the next question), the process to follow is completely dependent on the creative direction we agree upon.

To answer your second question, yes! I gather ideas as soon as I start reading, sometimes from the title alone (which I know isn’t fair, but I just can’t help it!) There are many times when discussing a manuscript I’m quick to announce “I CAN’T WAIT TO DESIGN FOR THIS,” usually in all caps, too. That’s one of the factors I judge a manuscript based-upon, though I’ll get to that, later 😉

Susan: How involved can the author be in the cover design process?

Ashley Ruggirello: I’m sure it’s different for other pubs, big or small, but when it comes to REUTS’s cover design process the authors have a say from the get-go. When an author is working with me, each cover design process begins with one simple (albeit broad as all heck) question: What would your ideal cover look like? See; one sentence, only seven words, and it’s meant to encompass so much. How are you supposed to fit–let alone describe–a complete story in one image? That’s the most exciting and most terrifying challenge to cover art and, to be honest, I put that on the author, first. Before I share any of my own ideas I like to see what an author would like, and then further discussing what’s best both for the book and the intended marketing, I work directly with an author to tweak and perfect their brand. That’s what it really is–a brand. Given my background in advertising I’m able to treat it as such and create the author’s best first impression for both themselves and their story.

Susan: I’ve said this before, but REUTS covers are amazing, and in the world of books, the cover can be the most important aspect. For example, I am more likely to pick up a book in a store if the cover grabs me from the shelf. What do you do to keep your cover ideas fresh?

Ashley Ruggirello: Thank you so much 🙂 There’s a lot of self-doubt when creative a new cover, so the positive feedback is always appreciated and is absorbed to my core. I always feel like my designs look like they’ve been designed by me–as if they carry my “signature style” or something–so I’m not sure how fresh they might be considered in the grand scheme of things. I guess if you were to check out the REUTS book page, no two covers look identical, huh? So I must be doing something right 😉 I think it all comes down to spending all day, every day on the computer, and looking at pretty pictures. That’s sort of the broad way to put it, but it’s essentially true; I’m on the computer about fourteen hours of my day, and that leaves me with a lot of time to browse for inspiration. I frequent websites like DeviantArt.com (for all around artistic inspriation), WebCreme.com (for website-based inspration) and Goodreads.com (for book cover inspiration). There are so many different styles and options and directions, it’s easy to get lost in the world of pretty pictures (I know I do on a daily basis).

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is to constantly evolve to something new–don’t do the same thing you did last time, but instead push outside of the box and just see what happens. I’ve found that some of the best experiences/designs/etc… come from stepping outside of your comfort zone. I try to do that as much as possible, even when it comes to cover art.

Susan: Kisa Whipkey, REUTS Editorial Director, commented in our recent interview that when a submission comes in, the editor, marketing specialist and cover artist, chime in to determine the manuscript’s fate. What makes a good submission, from the point of view of the cover artist?

Ashley Ruggirello: I started mentioning it above, and it’s if, while reading, I can visualize a book in my mind’s eye. There’s a level of intuition that comes with working in both acquisitions and the creative department. If I’m struggling to find a central image, or even the beginnings of what might be the cover art, it sets off my Spidey Senses and may not be the best fit in my perspective. In publishing a book there are so many pieces of the puzzle that need to come together–editorial, marketing, cover art, etc…–and if one piece of the puzzle doesn’t fit, you can’t force it.

Susan: You also work as a freelance cover artist. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Does that role differ from your role at REUTS?

Ashley Ruggirello: They don’t differ much, though what I’ve found to be the most challenging is designing for a book I’ve never read. Because I’m a part of the Acquisitions Team at REUTS I read every book we eventually sign. Most of the time I’m designing while I’m reading; picking out scenes, symbols, imagery I can eventually use when it comes to the cover art phase. That’s different as a freelance cover artist because I simply don’t have time to read another full manuscript, so I’m left to design off of a synopsis and the author’s interpretation. Sometimes it’s great! I can create exactly what the author requests. Other times it’s a bit more difficult because we can’t seem to line up the images in both our mind’s eye.

Susan: Do your cover designs have their genesis with pencil and paper, or mouse and screen?   Does it depend on the book?

Ashley Ruggirello: I know a lot of artists begin with a sketch. For web design (my educational background) it’s with a website wireframe. Of course I tend to go against the grain when it comes to design and I absolutely have to just jump right into the creation process. I’ve never been one to sketch, outline, etc… You could say I’m a panster opposed to a planner, in all aspects of life. So after I have even a loose idea of what a cover might look at, I have to just get started messing around in Photoshop. To channel a little bit of Bob Ross, a lot of my designs end up being “happy little accidents;” just me, tinkering in Photoshop to see if something will look good. Most of the time it doesn’t, as any guess-and-check process goes, but when the pieces do come together–it’s magic!

Susan: Is there anything else you would like my readers to know, either about the acquisitions process at REUTS, or about your experiences as a cover artist in general?

Ashley Ruggirello: We try to break free of the industry norm, but in all the good ways. Sure, it takes a lot of time, but dedicating time to each manuscript, to treat each author as a human being, not just the shell that created something, is really important to me, and to REUTS. And it does. It takes a lot of time responding to emails individually, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The moment you become a robot, which is essentially what a form response turns you into, you lose a little bit of your humanity, your compassion, and that’s very hard to gain back.

And then, I think if there’s one thing I could tell someone entering the cover art phase with their artist, it’s to not sweat the small stuff. Most of the time a piece will be rough for many, MANY rounds. If something looks off in round one, and it’s still there by round three, know that your artist is aware of it, and is waiting to put the final polishing touches on once they have your design approval. The reason designers don’t get the polishing done at the start is simple: things change. A lot. It’s more important to get the BIG idea down and then fine tune the details, than create a print-ready cover for each version. It just makes sense! So have no fear, your cover artist is looking out for your best interest. Always. 🙂

 

Thank you so much for having me, Susan! You may not think much of it, but you’re really awesome at interviews, and your questions are inspirational! I appreciate the space to let me go on and on and on about what I do, and I hope others found it useful 🙂

If anyone wants to keep the conversation flowing, I can be found on Twitter (@amRuggs) and like to tweet about memes, cats and booze, sometimes all at once!

Susan: This was a real pleasure, Ashley. I appreciate the time, and I’m sure my readers do, too!

 
Ashley Ruggirello can be found on:

As Ashley suggested, let’s keep the conversation going! Are there other aspects of the publishing world or writing in general that you would like to see here on S.M. Nystoriak’s Writer’s Block? Let me know in the comment section!

Acquisitions and Publishing: Demystified! An Interview with Editor Kisa Whipkey

KisaWhipkeyAccording to Kisa Whipkey’s Twitter blurb, she is a “Fantasy Author | Artist | Freelance Editor | Martial Arts Demo Team Expert | Editorial Director for REUTS Publications”.

As the editorial director for REUTS Publications, she has the opportunity to seek out new books and authors, as well as discover them in her slush pile inbox.

Today I have the pleasure to talk to her about the many hats she wears, and in the process, perhaps we can unravel some of the mystery surrounding what it is like on the “other” side of publishing, from the point of view of an editor.

 

Susan: Welcome, Kisa! First off, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your extremely busy schedule to chat with me on my blog. Following you on Twitter, it is clear how busy you actually are! In my opening, I mentioned all of the hats you wear. It’s quite an interesting array!   Please tell us a little bit about those hats, and how wearing them during your life has led you to be the professional person you are today. Do you layer your hats simultaneously, or does each hat have a specific purpose in your professional life?

Kisa Whipkey: Thanks, Susan! And thank you so much for having me.

Hmm, hats. I suppose it does look like I wear a bunch, but really, I view it as only one, regardless of the medium I choose to work in—storytelling. In fact, when people ask me what I am (writer, artist, editor, etc.), I generally say I’m a storyteller. All of my passions, from art and animation, to writing, to martial arts demos (which are choreographed, costumed routines similar to dance) revolve around one simple mission: to tell a good story. So, on the surface, it may seem like I lead an eclectic and varied life, but really, only the creative forum changes. The foundational skill set stays the same.

How does that culminate into the person I am today? Well, if I’ve learned anything from my various pursuits, it’s that storytelling is definitely my calling. And I think that pursuing it through so many different formats has given me an advantage, an ability to see stories from many different angles, not just the presentation in front of me. I’m sure natural talent plays into it too (or so I’ve been told), but I think my background often helps me figure out the solutions to some of the toughest storytelling problems.

Susan: One of the reasons I began planning this interview stems from a Tweet you posted, about being nervous taking live pitches at a conference. Tell us a little bit about that. Was that conference the first time you had the opportunity to take live pitches? Did anything surprise you during the process? I’d love to know what that was like!

Kisa Whipkey: It was the first time I’ve done that, so it was incredibly nerve-racking. You described me as professional above, but honestly, I feel like the world’s biggest goober in person! (-5 professional points right there for using the word “goober,” haha.) I’m also not keen on crowds usually, so it was terrifying. I felt bad for the authors meeting me, because I think I was just as nervous as they were. But overall, the entire experience was pretty cool. I’m naturally enthusiastic about books and all things storytelling, so it made it easier for me to connect with people and put them at ease. I don’t pretend to be anything special; I’m just me.

I think that was the part that maybe surprised me the most—the way authors regard agents and editors. Like we’re these mystical beings up on our podiums passing judgment. The “us vs. them” mentality. I don’t see myself that way. I’m a person (and a book nerd), just like they are. Am I going to love every pitch that comes my way? No, probably not, but that doesn’t invalidate their work. It just means I’m not the right editor for it.

Susan: This next question reminds me of the old Schoolhouse Rock song about how a bill becomes a law! Many querying writers are mystified by “the slush pile”. What actually happens to queries once they arrive at REUTS Publications? Describe the process a query goes through en route to acceptance for publication. What happens to submissions that don’t automatically make the cut?

Kisa Whipkey: REUTS does things a little differently than other presses, I think. We do our acquisitions via a panel comprised of the four directors, rather than having dedicated (and solo) acquisitions editors. So when we receive a query, it actually goes to all four of us and is read by all. Each of us assesses it from our area of expertise—for example, I weigh in on behalf of the editorial department, outlining the editorial strategy and assessing the amount of work needed prior to publication, the Marketing Director assesses it for its viability in the market, the Creative Director assesses it from a design standpoint, etc. Each of us will cast our vote, and the final decision is based on a majority ruling. That’s why it takes us longer than some places to get through them all—that, and we actually make a point to read every query in its entirety.

Depending on the outcome of that panel decision, we’ll either request the full (and the process starts over again—all four of us read the full manuscripts as well), or we’ll send a rejection. We actually just did a blog post that outlines this process (as well as why it takes so long). You can find it here.

Susan: REUTS is beginning to have quite the collection of authors! Tell us about what kind of timeframe it took for those authors to get from query to publication.

Kisa Whipkey: It varies, honestly. There are so many factors that go into an acquisitions decision that there’s no cut and dry formula for how long it takes. I would love to say that it always takes X amount of weeks or months, but it’s much more fluid than that. Similarly, the time it takes from acceptance to release differs depending on the project and what it needs before publication. We try to keep that process under a year, but it really just depends.

Our stance is that we’d rather do the book justice and invest the time it takes to release a quality product than rush things out the door half-finished. The industry average for traditional publishing is about 2-3 years from the time you sign a contract to the day you see your book on a shelf. We’re faster than that, but it still takes anywhere from 6 months to a year and half.

Susan: Another mystery: What happens to a novel once it is accepted for publication? How does the road to publication continue? Is there another team that takes over? Do you, as editorial director, continue to work with the manuscript?

Kisa Whipkey: We’re still a fairly small staff, so the directors involved in the acquisitions decision are the people who will ultimately work on the books. Summer, our Marketing Director, is the one who works with the author on the marketing strategy, along with her amazing assistant, Tiffany. Ashley handles the cover design herself, and I do actually work on a select number of manuscripts, taking them through all the phases of editorial—structural editing, line editing, and final proofreading. We have four other talented editors as well, though, so I don’t handle all the projects. But I am in charge of making those assignments and overseeing them, so I suppose I’m involved at least a little.

Anyway, you asked what happens once a manuscript is accepted. Well, essentially, we divide and conquer. Editorial usually happens first, since it takes the longest, but while I work on that front, Ashley and Summer work on their sides of the project as well, so that, by the time the release rolls around, everything converges. The departments are autonomous, but we all work closely together to move a project toward release. It’s definitely a team effort.

Susan: REUTS’ books have beautiful covers! Do you personally have a hand in that, or does REUTS have a cover specialist? How does the design of the cover get decided?

Kisa Whipkey: Aren’t they amazing? I love our covers! The brilliant Ashley Ruggirello, REUTS founder and Creative Director, is responsible for all of them, so the credit goes entirely to her. I have very little to do with that process, other than to act as a sounding board if she needs one.

We pride ourselves on being author inclusive, so the cover designs are created with heavy input from the authors themselves. Ashley works closely with them to come up with the best vision for their book and then from there, she crafts the gorgeous gems you see on our digital shelves. You’d have to ask her for more ins and outs of the actual process, but that’s the simplified version. The author hands her a vision, and brilliance ensues.

Susan: Is there anything else you can think of that my readers might find interesting to know about what it’s like on the “other” side of publishing?

Kisa Whipkey: Oh, boy. Let’s see. It’s hard? And not nearly as glamorous as people think? Editors have one of the highest burn-out rates of any profession—if you survive longer than two years, you’re considered hard core. And I can see why. Publishing is hectic, and stressful, and you rarely ever feel like you’re on top of anything. Society tells us that editors sit around reading all day. They don’t; in fact, reading is at the bottom of the list most of the time. What we actually do all day is this: answer the incessant deluge of emails, juggle as many as 6-8 projects in various stages of completion (and yes, that’s simultaneously), answer more queries and questions and status update requests via social media, participate in writing events and give back to the writing community, edit some more, and then maybe, maybe read before we pass out from exhaustion.

So I suppose, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t believe the image society paints of what it’s like to be an editor. It’s not like that at all. And the best thing writers can do to engender better relationships with editors and publishers is to understand that, remember that we’re human too, and show us some consideration. Most of us do this because we love it. It’s not a job that pays exceedingly well, nor is it especially full of glory (most editors are lucky to even get a mention in an acknowledgements page). So why do we do it? Because we love books, we love the people who write books, and we genuinely want to help you bring those books into the world. It’s a job of passion. But even passion has its limits. Respect and appreciation go a long way on either side of the publishing fence. Which is a message you’ll hear from me a lot. Haha.

Susan: Before we end our interview today, I’d love it if you could tell us about some exciting things on the horizon for REUTS Publications.

Kisa Whipkey: It seems like there’s always something exciting in the works for REUTS. We’ve had some fantastic releases recently—Dare to Dream by Carys Jones and Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter—as well as some fabulous ones coming out this month too—Golden by Melinda Michaels and Gambit by C. L. Denault.

We also recently announced a three book deal with author J.M. Frey via Laurie McLean and Fuse Literary that we’re super excited about, along with a two book deal with bestselling author Katie Hamstead, and the sequel to everyone’s favorite uninteresting vampire, Fred (The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes, for those who haven’t met him yet.)

We’re also being featured all month long on Katie Hamstead’s blog, so everyone should go check that out—there will be giveaways and lots of interesting tidbits about the staff and authors. And we’ll be hosting our annual Project REUTSway short story contest later in the year. So yeah, we’re always up to something. Our website is the best place to find out exactly what we’ve got up our sleeves, but we’re also on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to swing by and say hello. We love interacting with people, and I promise we don’t bite. 😉

 

Susan:  Thank you so much for stopping by my Writer’s Block!  Okay, readers, chime in with comments below!  I’d love to hear from you!

Kisa France 2009_2

Kisa Whipkey is a dark fantasy author, a martial arts demo team expert, and a complete sucker for Cadbury Mini-eggs. She’s also the Editorial Director for YA/NA publisher, REUTS Publications. She developed a passion for storytelling at a young age and has pursued that love through animation, writing, video game design and demo teams until finally finding her home in editing. She believes in good storytelling, regardless of medium, and applauds anything featuring a snarky lead character, a complicated narrative structure, and brilliant/uncommon analogies. Currently, she lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest with her husband and plethora of electronics.

Her personal blog–featuring sarcastic commentary on all things storytelling–is located at www.kisawhipkey.com. Or connect with her via Twitter: @kisawhipkey. And, of course, to learn more about REUTS Publications, please visit www.reuts.com.

2014 NaNoWriMo Mini-Series: Plowing Our Way to 50K–Final Round!

nanotoons_2013_dec_01a

Whew! What a busy and crazy month November was. I thrive on the self-imposed deadlines I create for myself, but it’s not always easy to keep things in perspective during NaNoWriMo. As of this moment, I am letting my completed words gel a bit. Maybe that will help bring perspective into focus a bit.

With NaNoWriMo over, this final post is here to serve as a wrap up to our busy writing month. It is my hope that you all might be inspired to try some of the techniques used to plan out or write your next work. So much can be learned from each other!

If you are checking out this mini-series for the first time, the Round One post can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-fr

And Round Two can be found here:  http://wp.me/p35Mk4-fr

Thanks so much for checking in, and following our progress as we went along! And as usual, I’d love for you to chime in with your own NaNo14 experiences.


Susan Nystoriak: In 5 words or less, describe your

month of writing for NaNoWriMo 2014.

dianaDiana Pinguicha: 

I slacked it off.

Ali picAli Carey Billedeaux: 

Absolutely out of control.

Alessa Hinlo profile picAlessa Hinlo:

Waving the white flag.

Margarita polaroidMargarita Montimore:

Effective kick-start for rough draft.

Mary Ann NicholsonMary Ann Nicholson:

Unexpected All Zombie Rock Band.

Alexis Larkin PictureAlexis Larkin:

Sprints + Teething + Pantsing + Pie + Outlining = NaNoWriMo

Shawn PicShawn Thomas Anderson:

Frenetic. Furious. Ferocious. Fabulous. Fun.

Danielle DoolittleDanielle Doolittle:

INSANE. Stressful. Exciting. Fun. Exhilarating.


Susan Nystoriak: Regardless of if you made

the 50K word count goal, were you able to complete

a first draft during NaNo14?

Diana Pinguicha:

No. I didn’t even reach the 50k this year, because I was SO ADDICTED to Dragon Age: Inquisition. I still am. Because, achievements and dragon slaying and ALL THE ROMANCES.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

Nope, not even close. I started from scratch for this baby, and I didn’t make the goal. I’m not too worried though, it was my first shot at historical fiction and that turns out to require WAY more research than I have time for in one month. I’m already a little bit of a crazy-person when it comes to writing (AKA my characters do whatever they want), but the research made it crazier. It was like everything I read in my studies gave me another idea for a direction my story could go. Which was not congruent, as you might imagine, to the plot-finishing thing.

Alessa Hinlo:

I severely underestimated the effect Pitch Wars would have on me. Between finishing revisions, cheering for the participants, and starting to query that novel, I was mentally exhausted. Not the best frame of mind to start a new novel!

Margarita Montimore:

No, but I have 25K words and made good inroads.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

I finished my WIP early but since I started it at 32K, I needed 82K words to Nano. I took some time off of Nano and started to do revisions instead. My word count continued to grow with the revisions, despite monster deletions, and I found myself 10K away from winning Nano. I decided to go for the win by rewriting some scenes from scratch and adding an epilogue. When I found myself 1500 words away with absolutely nothing else to do, I killed my MFC in a massacre and sent her off to join a zombie rock band.

Alexis Larkin:

I made it to 50,000 words. Woot-woot! It is a very rough first draft, though.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

I didn’t finish, but it was a very productive month.  I had some other projects going on. I actually wrote five short stories and still managed to get a strong start on my NaNoWriMo manuscript. I also did some serious plotting and characterization for the manuscript that I started. I bet if I was to add up all the writing counts for the month, I would have hit that goal (or come darn close).

Danielle Doolittle:

Unfortunately, no.


Susan Nystoriak: What’s next for this manuscript?

Are you still finishing up the story? Are you jumping right into editing mode?

Will it be shelved for a bit?

Diana Pinguicha:

Well, since I’m now living in shame because I didn’t finish Nano this year (again, I got addicted to Dragon Age), and my other manuscript needs polishing, Sightless is getting shelved for a bit. Afterwards, I’ll write those last 30k and jump right into editing.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

I’m still writing! Trekking right along!

Alessa Hinlo:

Given how much of a bust this year’s NaNo was, I’m still in the beginning phases. Right now, I’m taking my time to set a strong foundation: doing some research, plotting more thoroughly, and the like.

Margarita Montimore:

I’m getting into the real meat of the story now and will take my time drafting the rest. Hoping to have a rough draft completed by the end of January.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

I’m shipping this MS off to a CP and won’t look at it again until she’s given me her honest opinion. I’ll go back to editing it in January.

Alexis Larkin:

This manuscript is in the drawer, marinating for at least two months. I absolutely plan on rewriting and editing this manuscript to a final, polished draft, but I expect that process to continue throughout the year.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

I’m going to put it in the cupboard for a bit. I love the concept, but I need to work on the characters more. My efforts this month also made me realize that I need to read more magical realism.

Danielle Doolittle:

I’ll be finishing it! I had A LOT of roadblocks this NaNo, mostly personal and mostly stressful so my writing time took a serious hit. But there will be no shelfing because I’m loving this story!


Susan Nystoriak: Now that NaNoWriMo is over,

tell us what you can about your manuscript.

Diana Pinguicha:

Not a lot more than I already have, but since I *have* written a synopsis, I can expand on it.

Sightless is about how the world changes according to the person seeing it. It’s “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” taken in a different direction, and because I wanted someone with a completely fresh perspective, the main character is a blind girl who discovers she can see through other people’s eyes when she inadvertently wakes a boy from a coma by using an unused part of the brain—the psyche.

Problem is, when Aisling brings Reid back, something else comes along with it: A being from the Otherworld, where the souls of the dead go, and wants the two worlds to coexist. It begins to stretch its influence and corrupting the world of the living, and by using her gift of second sight, Aisling and Reid work to find out how it can be stopped and what exactly is the psyche—and how far its power goes.

It doesn’t end well, naturally.

So, second person. Perspective changes. Throw in romance because I can’t live without it.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

It’s historical fiction, set in Venice at the end of its grand history. It spans about 8 years and has some political, cultural, and feminist issues all tied in there. It’s duel POV, framed narrative.

Alessa Hinlo:

A tale of two best friends gone awry.

Margarita Montimore:

It’s about two women who end up at a mysterious island resort where people go to disappear and try to untangle the hotel’s secrets while dealing with their own issues. There will probably be some light paranormal elements to it but I’m trying to avoid making it a straight-up haunted house story.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

It ended up being a romance about the need to feel wanted and loved for who you are. Both the MC and MFC have reasons to wonder throughout whether their attraction is real because of who he is and what she’s done. I’m still working out how to elevator pitch it though.

Alexis Larkin:

THROW OFF THE BOW LINES is a romantic comedy set in some of my favorite places – New York, Italy, and Tanzania.

Shawn Thomas Anderson:

It’s ‘80s magical realism concept based on an event in my life. I wrote a little bit about the true-life event and then took it to a whole new fictional extreme. Sorry this is so vague and secretive, but it’s still such a work in progress. I will say that MTV plays a huge role in the story.

Danielle Doolittle:

Sure! Here’s the brief synopsis I came up with for the story:

Hannah Rowen has a problem: her big brother’s construction business is about to go under and the stubborn man is too proud to ask for help. When Hannah sees a casting call for a new reality game show she knows she’s found the solution to her brother’s problem. The only problem? She’s got to convince Gavin Mitchell, her brother’s best friend, to pretend to be her fiancé.

Gavin hasn’t lived by a lot of rules but one is pretty much etched in stone: Keep his hand’s off Hannah if he values a certain appendage. It was the first and last warning, Rick, his best friend had ever issued nearly fifteen years ago and one he wasn’t about to violate. So when Hannah approaches him about playing her fiancé for a television show he knows he’s found himself in a special kind of hell. Because he’s got a secret: he’s been in love with Hannah for as long as he can remember.

Six weeks and prize of half a million dollars is on the line but one thing’s for certain: there’s not guarantees in The Game of Love.


Susan Nystoriak: Finally, do you have any closing

thoughts about your NaNo 2014 experience,

or with taking part in this mini series?

Diana Pinguicha:

The mini-series was fun, although this year’s NaNo went down the drain. I do have a huge little problem with video games, which is, when I’m addicted to one, I can’t stop until I get it out of my system. It’d have been all fine and dandy if I didn’t work a full-time job, but alas, I needed to be at work from 10-19, and afterwards, I just wanted to play Inquisition and writing got forgotten. So, this years’s NaNo? Not that great. BUT YOU GUYS, NOBODY EXPECTS THE DRAGON AGE INQUISITION.

Also, Cullen was too hot and pretty and I needed to see that porking romance through. NO REGRETS.

And I may or may not be writing secret citrus-y fanfic on the background.

Ali Carey Billedeaux:

I still recommend NaNo, even if you can’t finish it. I love the experience, but it’s more fun when you have a little more time. Reading the forums is a great way to waste time and it’s fun to meet more people. You should always, always, always at least give it a shot. You never know what will happen!

As for this mini series, it’s been fun! I don’t usually keep updates up about how my writing is going and I found that this helped keep me focused, especially at the beginning. Towards the end, of course, no amount of focus could rescue me!

Alessa Hinlo:

Even though my NaNo word count is dismal, I learned a couple important things in November. When I complete a novel, I can’t immediately jump into another. I need time to rest and recharge my batteries. Sure, I could have forced the story to get the words out, but would that have been a productive use of my time? This information is all good to know for future scheduling and deadlines!

Margarita Montimore:

NaNo 2014 was a good experience, but the timing wasn’t conducive for me to completing a draft. There was too much else to do with the novel I completed earlier in the year, from editing to querying to drafting pitches for it, which always took priority (and still are). I also think I do a bit better not having such a massive word count goal hanging over me and taking my time. I’m not one of those people who can churn out four novels a year; I need time for ideas to marinate. Still, I do have about 25% of a new novel drafted and some solid ideas on where I want it to go.

As for taking part in this mini series, it was a pleasure. I enjoyed reading about other writers’ experiences with Nano and could commiserate with some of the common struggles. Life will often try to get in the way, but we keep writing through it.

Mary Ann Nicholson:

The mini-series was a great way to read how other people approach Nano. Nano is an excellent event for allowing writers to build some steam and cheer one another on. I tend to draft fast, so it has helped me kick out two novels quickly. I’ve dragged some of my friends into it kicking and screaming, and though they didn’t make the 50K goal, they still got a lot out of the daily writing. I’m glad I happened to have an idea to work on at the right time.

Alexis Larkin:

I loved participating in the mini-series. Discussing my writing process really helped me frame my goals for NaNoWriMo and come up with new things to try in this project.

As for NaNo 2014, I tried pantsing for the first time on a large-scale project. It was so much fun at first. I flew through the first few chapters pounding out the scenes and enjoying how the characters revealed themselves to me in this process. Then everything fell apart for a few days. I knew generally where the book was going, but without having thought through the specific scenes, I found myself wandering through the story, hunting and pecking for scenes to write. I much prefer to take that free-wheeling approach in the outlining process, putting it all together, and then working off my outline. I ended up outlining on November 15, and am very happy I did. I will leave the pantsing to the pantsers and outline for NaNoWriMo 2015.

Thank you, Susan. The mini-series was a wonderful experience.

Shawn Anderson:

This has been a great forum to talk about the experience. I met some great writers in the process and words went flying every which way. Next year, it’s so on!

Danielle Doolittle:

This series has been so much fun! I know I missed a post due to all the crazy that’s been happening around here but I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts on NaNo. As I said earlier, this NaNo season hasn’t been kind to me but I’m not going to let a few roadblocks get in the way of me finishing this novel.

Until next year!

XoXo


I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for following along!  What did you think of the NaNoWriMo mini-series?

Were you inspired to try some new techniques for your own writing projects?

Comment below 🙂

 

NaNo 2014 Mini-Series: Plowing Our Way To 50K: Round 2!

NaNo 2

Hello!

Last month, I posted round 1 of my NaNo Mini Series interviews. The entire post can he found here: http://wp.me/p35Mk4-fa

One of the things I was most impressed with was everyone’s different approach to NaNoWrimo. All eight participants are NaNo Veterans, so each one of them has been there, and done that. Speaking for myself, I learn something new about planning with every NaNo I do. This year marks my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo.

Today NaNo-ers will give us some insight into their writing lives, now that NaNoWriMo 2014 is in full force. I wonder how things are going?

Let’s find out!

Mid NaNo nanotoon

Susan Nystoriak: First of all, let’s talk about your progress so far. NaNoWriMo says that an average of 1667 words per day will get you to the 50k mark on day thirty. How is your word count going? Are you following the NaNo word count guideline?

dianaDiana Pinguicha: I never follow their guidelines, although I try to write at least their minimum every day. I usually go for 2k every day, because I know some days I’ll come home exhausted from work, and I’ll just have a bite and go straight to bed, so my extra most of the days compensates for when that happens.

Ali picAli Carey Billedeaux: Well, I WAS doing pretty well until yesterday. I am terrible about using work as an excuse not to write. I’m always like “I worked a lot today, I think I deserve to watch TV instead.” Which is, of course, a trap. I fell for it yesterday.

Don’t worry, I’m back on the horse today, word count all caught up and everything!

Alessa Hinlo profile picAlessa Hinlo: Oh god. This is super embarrassing, but it’s a big, fat 0! Hopefully, that’ll change soon, but it’ll take a push to catch up.

Margarita polaroidMargarita Montimore: I was trying to exceed them, and started off great, doing 2K words a day, but then fell behind. As of 11/8 I’m a little over 13K words. Hoping to put in some 2K+ word count days to catch up.

Mary Ann NicholsonMary Ann Nicholson: I don’t follow Nano’s word count guidelines. Some days I write more, some days less. But I plan for it. I planned for 0 words both days of Pitch Wars because I knew I’d be too distracted. But I wrote twice as much the first 2 days of Nano in anticipation. I typically go over the Nano goal by a lot, so I don’t worry about it too much.

Alexis Larkin PictureAlexis Larkin: I am having so much fun writing this book, but failing miserably according to NaNo’s word count guidelines. I’m planning nightly sprints this week to make up some ground. Should be caught up mid-November.

Shawn PicShawn Thomas Anderson: I’m keeping my head above water. Started strong, I’ve been shooting for 2000 words a day, knowing that work days and family obligations could result in lower counts over the weekends. I have had a couple days where I’ve dipped below 1500, but I have a buffer with the 2000 words from other days. I keep my laptop plugged in and charging all the time, so that I can jump in and bang out some words whenever possible. Make the most of every minute!

Susan Nystoriak: In the Round One interview, you all mapped out a plan for attacking this crazy writing month. Have you been able to stick to your plan?

 

Diana Pinguicha: I had a crazy first week of November, so I’m lagging a bit behind than I’d planned—nothing unmanageable, but still, behind. I went to the UK on the first weekend, and wrote a lot on the plane, but between that, work, and studying for an exam on the 8th, it’s been hard.

Ali Carey Billedeaux: I normally try to stick with the progress bar that NaNo gives you. I find that, even if I don’t match the word count perfectly, it’s a close enough estimate to let me swing back and forth a little and still get where I’m going.

If you mean plot-wise, than it’s too soon to tell. So far, things are going to plan, but this is still solidly in the getting-to-know-you part of the book (for the readers and for me!) so my characters are just starting to settle down.

Alessa Hinlo: Alas. I overestimated my ability to write during the first week of November with Pitch Wars going on. But that’s come to a close. My plan will need readjusting, though, given the lost week. I’ll probably drop the short stories and start on the novel straight-on.

Margarita Montimore: Kind of. I prepared detailed notes, character sketches, a 29-chapter outline and even turned the wall of my office into a giant collage to prepare for my Nano novel. I find that I don’t refer to the notes and outline as much as I expected, at least not yet. I completed six chapters of the novel, which vaguely correspond with two in the outline. I have no problem with that; I expect I’ll veer from the outline even more as I keep writing.

Mary Ann Nicholson: I have my spreadsheet with how much I have to write on it based on how much time I expect to have. And I’ve adjusted it down because I need to slow it down. Nano is slowing me down! Ha. I’m adding onto a pre-existing WIP. I’ll probably hit 50K on that one in the next week, but to write 50K new words will be a challenge.

Alexis Larkin: My plan was to use any free time I could find to work on NaNo. I have strayed from that plan to take advantage of a couple of wonderful writing opportunities and to deal with a household issue. On the bright side, I planned to use a visual outline and semi-pants it from there. This plan has worked out really well. I have a few photos set out for each chapter and have had a great time using them as a launching point when I start to write each evening. The pantsing is fun too. Whenever something doesn’t make sense, I just keep writing with a promise to myself to fix it later instead of worrying about fixing the outline right away.

Shawn Thomas Anderson: I’m wildly off my plan! I’m in full-on panster mode—and loving it! We’ll see where it takes me. That internal editor is urging me to go back in an start revising section, but I’ve been successful at fighting him off. FULL SPEED AHEAD!!!

Susan Nystoriak: What can you tell us about your 2014 NaNo project? Give us as much detail as you can at this point. Do you have characters fleshed out? Where is your plot headed? Does your NaNo havae a title yet?

Diana Pinguicha: Sightless was my first novel back in 2011, and it sucked. Since then, I had the opportunity to make a Point&Click game centered on its main theme (see through other people’s eyes, and how the world changes according to the person), and I had to rewrite the story for that. So now, I’m working with the novel to match our prototype.

Ali Carey Billedeaux: It does have a title! Right now, I’m calling it “Drowning City” because it’s about Venice in the late 16th century. I’m having sooo much fun with this, as I’ve never done historical fiction before, but I can safely say that my word count is down because of the amount of surprise research that takes place writing something like this. I did a lot of work before, I swear, but sometimes it feels like I’m starting from scratch!

Alessa Hinlo: I don’t actually like talking about my projects while I’m working on them. You can call it superstition, or you can call it part of my method. I will say that it’s a psychological thriller and tentatively titled THE CORNER GAME.

Margarita Montimore: AVIRA is the name of my novel. I set out to write my take on a haunted house story, set at a remote island resort. Two women end up at Avira, one to work there after a suicide attempt, the other in search of her missing brother. The women begin to unravel the mysteries of the hotel as each also deals with their own personal struggles. As of writing this, one just arrived at the hotel and the other is on her way, so I have a lot of story development ahead of me.

Mary Ann Nicholson: My WIP has a working title, which is Flirting Near Disaster. Not a day goes by I don’t try to think up something better. I think up something better, then check Amazon and curse whoever got to my idea first.

My story is a steamy romance based on a lot of baseless assumptions my MFC makes. Her company is working on something akin to a pheromone perfume, but more scientific, more bio-chemical warfare. Testing it out on herself, she meets my MC, who she assumes is a struggling musician, and the attraction is mutual, powerful and immediate. She only later discovers he’s a newly famous rock star with all the “I’m not worthy” angst that comes with that. Worried he could only like her because of the chemical attraction, she struggles with the ethical dilemma of keeping him through deception or coming clean and possibly losing him.

Alexis Larkin: My romance is (very) tentatively titled THROW OFF THE BOW LINES. I had very broad descriptions for my main characters when I got started—more like job descriptions really—but I’m finding that they’re more complex, well-rounded people the more I write. That probably sounds crazy because I am the one writing them, but I feel these characters are revealing themselves to me in a more organic way compared to my past work. As for the plot, I’m working toward a “happily ever after” ending. Just a matter of figuring out how to get there.

Shawn Thomas Anderson: It’s YA ‘80s magical realism—completely new territory for me. I had my jaw broken and realigned the summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college. It was a time when I was forced to shut up and listen to the world around me, because my jaw was wired shut. This is a fictionalized account of that summer. I graduated high school at the end of the ‘80s, but I chose 1985 for this story.

The MC prides himself in being invisible all the way through high school. No dating. Kind of quiet. Always there in the background. When he has his surgery and his jaw is wired shut, suddenly people take interest in him and he learns things about his friends and family that have been there all along. Everything is changing with the onset of college. He’s learning about his life in the last ten seconds of the game, because he’s leaving in August. There are pain-killer-induced hallucinations, MTV-themed fantasies, pop-culture meltdowns, and narwhals in the swimming pool.

I have two working titles that I’m playing around with: THE WHOLE WORLD WANTS TO KISS YOU WHEN YOUR JAW’S WIRED SHUT or simply, SMASH’D!

I must say, the characters really need further development. So far, my favorite character is the MC’s little sister Cadence (She goes by Cade). She’s bitter and rebellious, and never enters or exits the family home through the door—always through a window, like she’s sneaking out.

Where’s it headed? I’m not completely sure, but three truths are explored along the way: 1. The MC’s family is changing, because he witnesses his parents’ marriage is falling apart. 2. The MC is experiencing self-discovery and a sexual awakening, because everyone wants to (obsessively) be with him (a taste of what could have been). 3. An imminent dive into the great unknown—college!

Susan Nystoriak: I know that for me, life can sometimes get in the way of my writing plans. Have there been any struggles you have faced so far? If so, have you been able to push through?

Diana Pinguicha: Already mentioned that above. Plane trips, work, college, all bearing down on me like a 10 ton weight. Last week, I could barely write a word I was so tired every day. I’d get home, make dinner, take care of the kitties and the dragon, sit on the PC and stare at the screen, unable to put down any words. So I played The Cat Lady for 30 mins and fall asleep during the most wtfuckery scenes you could imagine on a video game.

Most of what I managed to write was during breaks at work, on paper, or during the commute, on my cell. It hasn’t been enough, but the wordcount only matters on day 30, and I’ll push through. I think.

Ali Carey Billedeaux: Life’s been pretty forgiving lately. The big pitfall is the usual one: I have to work up the will to sit down and write.

Luckily, I’m having a lot of fun with my story. So that’s something 🙂

Alessa Hinlo: As I said before, I underestimated just how distracted I would be by Pitch Wars. Don’t get me wrong! This is a good problem to have. But the showcases were very distracting, not just for keeping an eye on my own entry but on everyone else’s! At this point, I have to accept I lost the first week of NaNo and forge on.

Margarita Montimore: Yes and yes. I was fortunate to have the novel I wrote prior to this one selected for Pitch Wars and spent much of last week on a final round of manuscript edits. I tend to get immersed in one project at a time, so it was a challenge to switch between the two while being so damn intense about both. I also recently started querying that same novel, so I spent a lot of last week researching agents and sending them materials. I needed to take a day off from Nano to decompress from the contest and querying, but now I can give Nano my full attention again. A lot of words can be written in twenty-two days…

Mary Ann Nicholson: I work full time, have kids and recently had the distraction of Pitch Wars. I took vacation days off this month so I could focus on writing for entire stretches. One of the great things about Nano are those butt-in-chair days when you’ve written for 4 hours and don’t think you can do anymore. But you write some more and dip into that crazy place that you only get to after you’ve written past sanity. There’s a lot of magic in there. So that’s why I take time off.

Alexis Larkin: I’m solving this problem by making more realistic writing plans. Instead of trying to find lots of little stretches to write during the day, I’m working at night after baby bedtime and on the weekends. I have a lifetime to write and only this brief time to enjoy my daughter’s babyhood. For this very limited time, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. So far so good.

Thank you again, Susan! I enjoyed reading about everyone’s process so much in the first round of your mini-series. Can’t wait to see where everyone is at now. Good luck my fellow NaNos! Write like the wind!

Shawn Thomas Anderson: Oh yeah, big time! Again, keep that laptop charged and handy and just keep writing every moment you can. Now, you are going to think I’m nuts, but I’m also doing a weekly short-story challenge this month and revising on another manuscript. I use a dry erase board to plan and alter my daily writing schedules. I find that new words really make me feel good and propel me forward when I’m doing slow and methodical revisions.

It took me years to complete my first MS. I love the story. It’s a middle-grade fantasy adventure. I’ve been revising it for months. I did NaNoWriMo last year for the first time to prove to myself that I could write something fast and furious. I’m proud to say I did it. And now I’m doing it again!

And that’s it for now! Thank you all so much for your responses to the Round Two questions. We’ll be checking in with you one more time once NaNo14 is finished.

 

Good luck!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Let us know! Please leave us a comment below, and follow us and our progress on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by!

An Interview With Myself: Plowing MY Way to 50K!

Hello!

Next week we’ll be checking in with my NaNo Mini Series participants for round two of the series.  I have been working on my own NaNo project along side them, and thought I’d post about my own progress today.  I’ll admit, the fact that I wrote the questions myself, then answer them below as if I hadn’t, is slightly weird.  🙂  My participants will be answering these same questions next week.

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1.  First of all, let’s talk about your progress so far. NaNoWriMo says that an average of 1667 words per day will get you to the 50k mark on day thirty. How is your word count going? Are you following the NaNo word count guideline?

So far, I have been consistently about 1200 words behind. I love the NaNo word tracker that shows up on their site. Normally I try to stick to that, but so far, I haven’t been able to meet it on a daily basis.

2.  In the Round One interview, you all mapped out a plan for attacking this crazy writing month. Have you been able to stick to your plan?

Heck No! My plan is out the window! I am a music teacher and grades for the first quarter are due around this time, which also means end-of-quarter projects all come in for evaluation at the same timeJ So, I will continue to do what I can for now. I have a feeling that I’ll be able to maintain a better writing pace after next week.

 

3.  What can you tell us about your 2014 NaNo project? Give us as much detail as you can at this point. Do you have characters fleshed out? Where is your plot headed? Does your NaNo have a title yet?

My NaNo’s working title is Misty Dawn and Violet. A link to my synopsis and excerpt can be found here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/flute71/novels/misty-dawn-and-violet. I absolutely love it! It’s a humorous adventure tale. Misty Dawn and Violet are college students and best friends, and they take a spring break vacation to a Wyoming Ranch to find themselves some cowboy’s. The book is a fun and funny account of their experiences along the way.I feel like the characters are pretty well fleshed out, and I have a decent idea where the plot is headed, but anything can, and probably will happen! That’s the fun of the first draft!

4.  I know that for me, life can sometimes get in the way of my writing plans. Have there been any struggles you have faced so far? If so, have you been able to push through? 

As I have mentioned, life has definitely gotten in the way for this year’s NaNo. I am pushing through, and even though I am not quite meeting the goals set by NaNo, every little word counts. When I can write, I do, and I have confidence that it will all work out in the end.

And that’s it for now!  Next week, I will post the progress of everyone else. 

How are you all doing with NaNoWriMo this year?  Leave me a comment below!  See you next time 🙂

NaNo 2014 Mini-series: Plowing Our Way To 50K: Round One!

NaNo 2

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out my blog 2014 NaNo mini-series. Last week I posted the bio’s of my mini-series participants. Please check out who they are here: http://wp.me/p35Mk4-eO

Nanotoon October 20

Today these brave NaNo-ers reveal a little bit more about their backgrounds, and how they plan to take on the frantic writing month of November.  This is a bit of a lengthy post, but I am seriously impressed with what these writers bring to the NaNo table.  Reading these responses has given me some new angles to approach my own writing with.  Maybe it will for you, too!


Is this your first NaNoWriMo, or are you a NaNo veteran?


diana Diana Pinguicha: Veteran!

Ali pic Ali Carey Billedeaux: I’m a Vet!

Alessa Hinlo profile pic Alessa Hinlo: NaNo veteran in the house.

Margarita polaroid Margarita Montimore: This will be my second NaNoWriMo.

Mary Ann Nicholson Mary Ann Nicholson: This will be my second Nano. My first was last year.

Alexis Larkin Picture Alexis Larkin: I am a NaNo veteran, but I didn’t win last year.

Shawn Pic Shawn Thomas Anderson: I guess you could call me a veteran.

Danielle Doolittle Danielle Doolittle: NaNo veteran.


How did your previous NaNoWriMo experiences work out?


Diana Pinguicha: I tried doing NaNo in 2010, but it didn’t work out because I was doing it by myself. On 2011, I had this novel going on, and I convinced myself I’d use NaNo to finish it. I started going to meets, where we talked more than we wrote, met one of my best friends there, had lots of fun, and came home so pumped I finished that year with 87 000 words. I did it again in 2012 and 2013, and while 2012 wasn’t a very good year (51k), 2012 was great, clocking in at around 78k words. This year I’ll be aiming for 80k—at least!

Ali Carey Billedeaux:  I’ve done it, I think, five times (I keep deleting my account, which makes keeping track rather difficult) and I’ve finished it three of those times.

Alessa Hinlo: This will be my seventh NaNo. I’ve had good runs, and I’ve had bad runs. I’ve failed two NaNos. I’ve succeeded at four, but at least one of those resulted in a half-written book I absolutely hated and haven’t looked at since. It happens.

The book I wrote for last year’s NaNo turned out okay though.

Margarita Montimore: My first NaNo experience was in 2004 and I only managed about 20K words (then life got in the way). However, I revisited the work years later and fleshed it out into a manuscript I completed over the summer. It turned out to be the novel that got me into the Pitch Wars finals. I plan to begin querying it later this fall.

Mary Ann Nicholson: Last year was the only Nano I’ve participated in. I took time off work thinking I’d need entire days to keep up with my goals, but I threw myself into it, and when I’d hit my goals early in the day, I tended to keep going. I hit 50k in about 10 days, and my story wasn’t finished, so I pressed on to see how much I could write. I ended up with a palindrome of 127,721 words. I do not recommend this at all.

Alexis Larkin: Last year, I got to about 25,000 words. My mistake was trying to work on novel revisions, two short stories, and a bunch of other things at the same time. Huge Mistake! This year I am clearing the decks and focusing only on my NaNo novel in November.

Shawn Thomas Anderson: I have one year of NaNoWriMo under my belt. I hit the word goal, completed my YA space-opera thriller (I love a good mash-up) and I’m excited about the story I wrote. So hell yeah, I guess that makes me a veteran!

Danielle Doolittle: I’ve actually participated in three NaNos (yikes!). NaNo is intese but I think most of us creative types work best under the pressure. Seriously, I sold two of my three NaNo manuscripts. The third I’m still writing away on because…well I went and had a baby halfway through NaNo last year. 😉


What prompted you to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo?

Was there a story in your head that was just itching to get out into the world?

Maybe you just love the challenge that is NaNo. Tell us about your motivation to participate this year.


Diana Pinguicha: I love NaNo! It’s so much fun to do it every year that when one NaNo ends, I’m already thinking of the next – well, not really, but the thought of not participating is never in my mind. I’m going to use it this year to re-write Sightless, my 2011 NaNo novel, from the ground up to match the game prototype we made for a college course.

Plus, our Lisbon meets are pretty awesome, and I love all of my NaNo friends—online and offline.

Ali Carey Billedeaux: I try to do NaNo every year, so I wouldn’t say anything in particular inspired my joining again this year. That said, I DO have an extremely tentative idea for this year’s project. I’m a bit notorious for switching things up, though, so I will have to try hard to make it stick!

Alessa Hinlo: I’m a Pitch Wars mentee (with the book I wrote for last year’s NaNo, actually) and I’m shamelessly using NaNoWriMo to distract myself during the agent round. I’m waffling between starting a new novel during November or rebelling by writing a collection of short stories. Maybe I’ll do both.

I love participating in NaNo. There’s just so much energy and excitement and joy. These are all good things to bring to writing, and I love surrounding myself with it.

Margarita Montimore: The timing worked out well, since I recently completed one novel and haven’t been able start a new one with the same ease. Since I’m about to begin the querying process, I know I’ll have a lot of waiting ahead of me, so I need a new creative project to keep me busy. I work best to deadlines and completed 40K words of my last novel in a couple of months setting daily writing goals, so I’m looking forward to challenging myself with a something more ambitious.

I’m also excited about connecting with other writers participating in NaNo, sharing writing tips, encouragement, and general chatter. Having a community helps balance out the isolation that comes with being a writer.

As for the story I have in mind, I had one idea I started sketching out, but once I had 4K words, another idea swept in, demanding to be the object of my obsession. Certainly a good problem for a writer to have, I just hope I’m able to follow one of these far enough to create a fleshed out story.

Mary Ann Nicholson: I did not and do not have for sure plans for Nano. I knew I’d do it again regardless, but as it turns out, I did get an idea for a story I’ve already started on. Unless I finish that one, this year will probably be a rebel year for me, since I don’t want to set that WIP aside until it’s done.

Alexis Larkin: I had so much fun with the 3 Day Novel Contest this year that I decided to give NaNo another go. It was such a freeing experience for a plotter like me to write as much as I could in three days following the mini-outline I wrote ahead of time. Looking back on that novella, I can see a real difference in my writing. It has more energy, its more urgent and full of life, than some first drafts that I’ve agonized over. I hope to harness that same kind of energy during this NaNo! My book will be a romance inspired by that trip my husband and I took driving and climbing in a number of African countries.

Shawn Thomas Anderson: My first manuscript, a MG fantasy, took years. Once it was finally in a state that I wanted to share it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could write something really, really fast. NaNoWriMo was the swift kick I needed to push myself, and my writing, to new limits. And you know what, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be—and I love the story.

Danielle Doolittle: Honestly? NaNo comes around right when I need to get my butt in gear. It always helps to get the creative juices flowing. Even if I don’t finish (which I haven’t) I still come out of the even with at least one manuscript and about five others on the back burner. This year I plan on working on a storyline I’ve been putting off for the sake of other projects (read as: sequels). I’m really excited to see where this story goes!


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

We’d love to know what practices you follow to help plot or pants your NaNo novel.


Diana Pinguicha: I try to plot. A month or two before NaNo, I begin “outlining” — which is to say, I write a bunch of bullet points on the novel I’ll be working on and call that my plot. “Aisling is in the hospital. Notices shadows flickering, follows them. She ends up in Reid’s room, where, for the first time in her life, she can see.”

You know, stuff like that. I more or less follow them if they’re working, and if they’re not, I improvise on the spot. If the improv is crap, I move on and write a scene that takes place later—that’s the good thing about plot points. You know where things go even if you write them out of order.

Ali Carey Billedeaux: Pantser! The only thing I stick to (and I mean the ONLY) is that I keep my characters in November. I might change the story (and the plot and the conflict and the plan) but I almost always keep the characters. They are my fuel. They are always the reason I start writing in the first place.

Alessa Hinlo: So I do plan my novels in advance, but they’re not necessarily by “traditional” methods. I use a combination of Pinterest inspiration boards, scene lists, mindmaps, and Spotify playlists. The playlist is the most important piece of the planning process for me, because I’m very particular about choosing songs that fit the themes, characters, and moods in my novels.

With short stories, I begin with an idea (“I’m going to write about an aswang.”) and just go from there.

Margarita Montimore: Panster at heart, but I’m trying to adopt more plotting habits. For my last novel, I had three different timelines to work with, so I created a wall of color-coded Post-Its (and later, a matching spreadsheet) to arrange the different scenes, which helped me with plotting and pacing. My NaNo novel will have at least two narratives, so I’ll probably do something similar, but I’m hoping to have much of the story outlined before I start, instead of writing a bunch of scenes and then piecing them together like a puzzle (in all honesty, that’s probably what’s going to happen anyway).

Right now I’m still in the collecting phase. I have a Word doc to keep track of all setting/character/plot details that come to me as well as a physical notebook for free-writing. When doing general brainstorming, pen and paper often work better for me than my laptop, because it feels more organic and there’s less of a risk I’ll get distracted by the Internet. I also look at scraps of old writing I’ve done, because I have a ton of random story ideas I started and then abandoned, and you never know what might add fuel to the bigger creative fire. In fact, I just stumbled across 6K words I wrote four years ago, which may serve as the seed of my NaNo novel. Lastly, I’m going collect as much research as I can ahead of time (usually I do this as a write since I’m never sure how the story will evolve). The novel I have in mind involves an industry I don’t have much behind-the-scenes knowledge of, so it’ll be important to gather that ahead of time and keep my NaNo days free for writing.

Mary Ann Nicholson: Definite pantser. I have a kernel of an idea. I don’t know if it can be stretched to a full novel, so I start writing it. My abandoned projects folder shames me. My characters start out sketchy and develop as I go, often changing completely once they start to take shape. Somewhere around 20K in, I realize that I’m in trouble, and although I know what my end goal is, I start to need a roadmap. Around that time, I sketch out some kind of an outline. For my current WIP, I went whole hog and wrote an actual outline. I don’t even recognize myself anymore.

Alexis Larkin: Plotter. PLOTTER! I love outlines. I used them in business writing for years so it was natural for me to continue to outline when I made the switch to creative writing. I find they’re especially important in mystery writing to set up clues, suspects, red herrings, etc., but I’m sure you can find wildly successful mystery writers who pants the day away. For this NaNo, I’m taking a hybrid approach. Instead of outlining scene-by-scene, I’m creating a visual outline by chapter using photographs, artifacts, and minimal notes to sketch out the book’s beats. Just enough to know where I’m going and inspire some creativity, but plenty of room to pants and harness that fast-paced NaNo energy. I think this project is particularly suited to a visual outline given that it focuses on travel, but if it works I hope to use it for future projects as well.

Shawn Thomas Anderson: Honestly, I’m plotanster, a total hybrid. Some days I do elaborate character maps and outlines, and once I’m on track, I stray from them and let the story take me where it wants to go. The character maps become guides and the plotting becomes general checkpoints along the way to keep the project moving forward, but I always leave the ending wide open. I know that if I surprise myself, I will surprise the reader.

Danielle Doolittle: Oh, I’m 110% a pantser. I can’t plot to save my life. I never EVER stick to it when I try. Usually when a story idea hits me, when a character comes screaming into my head demanding I tell their story, I sit down and just start.

Here’s the basics of my process:

  • I let the characters drive the direction the manuscript takes and they always surprise me. Seriously, I had a story go waaaaayyyy out in left field. Turned out to be one of the best I’ve written.
  • I don’t try to control where I think the story should go. Just because a hero does something that pisses me off doesn’t mean I should change it because I don’t like it. If it’s true to the character then it’ll feel natural in the arc, their growth, as the story progresses.
  • Coffee: lots and lots of coffee. Seriously. I’ve had stories wake me at three in the morning and not let me go until I’ve blurrily pounded out a chapter.

Turn off my inner editor. It’s tempting to go back over the pages I’ve written but I try and resist. I’ve found it messes with my flow. I try and get the whole story out before going back and looking for misplaced commas or missing words. That’s pretty much it. Nothing magical or no big tips to share (sorry). I just sit in front of the computer and let the words flow. Sometimes it’ll be total crap and I’ll have to go back and delete whole sections (had to do away with a whole chapter once) but sometimes the method of pantsing allows you to get to know your characters better.


How do you plan to pace yourself during the frantic writing month of November?


Diana Pinguicha: So, I have a reputation to uphold as one of the people who gets the highest wordcounts in Lisbon. Not to mention that, in Portugal, we do North vs South word wars, and of course the South always wins (for bragging rights). I have to do my part for the great Southern nation and help them defeat those Northern infidels – so I’ll be doing at least 2k words a day, more if I can. It will probably mean less sleep, but it’s NaNo and it’s a WAR and the people from the North need to be crushed. Plus, we have a dragon now. We have to win, right?

Ali Carey Billedeaux: Don’t do NaNo the way I do! I never pace myself properly. I end up missing days at a time and make it up by writing 10,000 words in a sitting. I’m a terrible role model. But what can I say? Sometimes the words just come.

Alessa Hinlo: Last year, I wrote over 80,000 words during November. This year, I plan to take it easy by comparison. Or I plan to try, anyway. Sometimes I get over-excited about the drafting process and go on a writing binge that results in 12,000 words in one day. Those don’t happen often though.

In general, I try to write every day during NaNo. 500 words or 5,000 words, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s something. In the past, I write steadily during the work week while banking the larger word counts on the weekends and days off. That works best for me, so it’s what I’ll be adopting this year.

Margarita Montimore: Pacing, schmacing. I’m going to sequester myself in my home office and become utterly immersed in the story. While I’ll set a 2k word daily goal for myself, I’m going to try to exceed it as much as possible (I’m actually hoping to get to 60K words for the month). Because of family holiday obligations, I’ll need to have most of the writing done by Thanksgiving, so I’m preparing myself for a very intense 26 days.

I tend to do most of my writing in the afternoons or late at night, but I might try to adopt more of a morning writing routine and see if that helps me be more productive. I also do much of my writing on a treadmill desk, and the physical activity helps me with creative productivity. Like many, I usually write with music playing in the background. Sometimes it’ll be music that sets the mood of what I’m working on or what I imagine the characters would listen to, other times it’s random. There’s also Focus@Will, music channels developed by neuroscientists to help increase concentration. I find those tremendously effective and imagine I’ll be relying on that site a lot to help me complete NaNo.

Mary Ann Nicholson: I actually have a spreadsheet that is automated. I plug in how many hours I think I’ll have to write on any given day, and it spits out how many words I should be able to hit. I later plug in how many words I did write, and I either get a green for reaching my goal (yay!) or red for failure (boo!). I really hate ruining a perfectly green spreadsheet, so that’s plenty motivating for me.

Alexis Larkin: I am determined to make 50,000 words, but as a new mom, I’m also going to give myself a bit of a break. My goal is 6-8 pages a day, but I plan on writing whenever I can get a few minutes, whether that means jotting down a few lines of dialog on the back of my grocery list or writing in sprints after bedtime. The book may look more like a pile than a file on December 1, but that’s what second drafts are for anyway!

Thank you, Susan, for organizing this fantastic mini-series! And good look to my fellow NaNoWriMos – let’s have some fun next month!

                                Susan Nystoriak: Alexis, this has been an amazing process so far! I know we will all stay   motivated and have a great time writing next month!

Shawn Thomas Anderson: My approach is to hit the ground running, fast and furious right out of the gate. Generate as many words as possible in the first week and a half, so if you miss a daily goal, it’s not an OMG-NOW-I-HAVE-TO-CATCH-UP moment. I also used some online groups as further motivation to work on the project daily. #5amwritersgroup on Twitter and The Grind, an online group where writers must send work to an assigned group of other writers DAILY, were helpful—and you meet some wonderful writers when you are in the trenches.

Danielle Doolittle: I like to aim for a chapter a day. I know there’ll be days where that’s a laughable goal. It’s November for goodness sakes, I’m counting on at least one of my kids coming down with something involving mucus. I’m hoping it’ll balance nicely and I won’t be spending the last week pulling 8000 word days and living life as a zombie out to drink all the coffee.


And that’s it for round one. In a week or so, I will be posting Round Two responses. I hope you’ll stay tuned and check out our progress. We are on Twitter using #NanoMiniSeries.

Also, please share this post and leave a comment below. Happy writing!

NaNo 2014 Mini-Series Introductions! “Plowing Our Way To 50K”

NaNo 2

Well, here we go, folks!

I know that November 1st isn’t quite here yet, but today I introduce you all to my team of brave 2014 NaNo-ers, so we can get a sneak peek into who’s who and what’s in store for them during that crazy writing month of November. I will be plowing forth toward my own 50K NaNo goal alongside my fellow writers.

On Twitter, I will be using the hashtag #NaNoMiniSeries for information.

nanotoons_2013_oct_15

Enjoy!

 

diana

I’m Diana (@Pinguicha), and I live in sunny Lisbon, Portugal! (seriously, not kidding, it’s 29ºC atm right now)!

I’m a Computer Engineering student, and I’m currently working on my Master’s Degree in Multimedia Systems, with a specialization in video games. I also work as a consultant and illustrator. I have the two best cats in the world – Sushi and Jubas – and a bearded dragon named Norbert. I love writing (duh) and video games, and I love to marry the two in my projects.

Ali pic

I’m Ali Carey Billedeaux (@acbilledeaux) and I’m from a very obscure town in an equally obscure state (Michigan)

Although I grew up in middle-of-nowhere Michigan (which I LOVED, don’t get me wrong), I’ve also spent a lot of my childhood traveling. Some combination of the craziness inside my head and the utter extraordinariness of the world around me has also been the inspiration and drive for my writing. Well that, and how much I read. There’s a quote somewhere about people who read living a thousand lives. That’s me. I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Oh, and I guess I should mention the normal bio things: I went to Western Michigan University. I graduated with a major in History and do hope, one day, to actually use it to write historical fiction. We’ll see. These days, I work at a bookstore and will soon be flying the friendly skies as a flight attendant!

Alessa Hinlo profile pic

Hi! I’m Alessa Hinlo (@alessahinlo), and I hail from the Washington D.C. area.

I graduated with a degree in biology and work in applied biomedical research for my day job. Although I’ve dabbled in many genres over the years, these days I write thrillers and speculative fiction about dangerous women, found families, and the spaces between. Diversity in fiction is a big interest of mine — not just within the stories told, but also in the voices who tell them. Other than writing, I also practice yoga, garden during the warmer seasons, and like to experiment with new recipes.

Margarita polaroid

Margarita Montimore (@damiella) – born in the former USSR, grew up in Brooklyn, NY; currently living outside Philadelphia.

I received a Creative Writing degree from Emerson College and have worked in both the agent and publishing side of the industry. I also have an in-depth professional background in social media marketing. I’ve published pieces for XOJane.com, Marvel.com, Google’s blog, and maintain a personal blog, The Diary Project. Most recently, I was a 2014 Pitch Wars finalist.

Mary Ann Nicholson

My name is Mary Ann Nicholson (@maryannicholson).

I’m from central Virginia, near Charlottesville.I grew up in many states, regions, countries, attended three colleges, and have an almost PhD in the lucrative field of French literature. I gave all that up for the adventurous life of computer programming, and as such I’ve spent the past ten years like a forest elf, attaining near perfectly translucent skin. I gave novel writing a try years and years ago, attempting some high fantasy. Somewhere around day 1 of Nano, when I thought I was about to dive into a Sci-Fi Dystopian, I discovered a shocking revelation: I’m a writer of romance-driven Women’s Fiction. Please don’t tell my co-workers.

Alexis Larkin Picture

I’m Alexis Larkin. I live in the Great Garden State and on twitter @AlexisTLarkin 🙂

I live with my husband and daughter in northern New Jersey where the sauce is red, the lawns are green, and the spray tans are orange. My first novel—a cozy murder mystery—is set in upstate New York, much like the small town I grew up in. In between, I’ve lived in California, the UK, Missouri (what?!) and spent a few months driving around southern Africa to see as many baby elephants as possible. I’ve had a great time reading and writing short fiction along the way, and I feel like writing short stories, even flash fiction, has really helped focus and streamline my prose. In addition to NaNoWriMo, I love the NYC Midnight contests and the 3 Day Novel Contest.

Shawn Pic

Hello, my name is Shawn Thomas Anderson (@shawntwrites).  I live in northern Vermont (think, a couple wrong turns and missed exits away from Canada).

I’m a young-adult and middle-grade writer. When I’m not crafting fiction, I work as a copywriter and branding specialist. I have a master’s degree in Communications from Emerson College in Boston, and I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the League of Vermont Writers. I live in a far-flung corner of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom, a magical place where moose, bear, and deer wander through your backyard and everyone rocks flannel.

 Danielle Doolittle

Hi! *waves * I’m Danielle Doolittle (@elledoo). I’m from a tiny college town in Northwest Ohio.

I’m a mother of three, wife of one, and writer of love stories ranging from otherworldly YA to steamy contemporary romances. I like to knit and dabble in cover design and I drink far too much coffee (or so they tell me).

And, there we have it.  My 2014 NaNo Mini-Series participants!  Please follow us on Twitter for our progress, and check out the hashtag from time to time.  I hope you enjoy this mini-series, and consider participating in NaNoWriMo this year!

Happy Writing, everyone!