Surviving NaNoWriMo ’09

October 31, 2009 at 12:26 PM | Posted in Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

It’s time to NaNo.

Yes, it’s November again – time to attempt the crazy, impossible task of writing a novel in “30 days of literary abandon.”

Alyce has explained the basics of the insanity that is NaNoWriMo here so I won’t repeat what it is to you. Instead, I’m going for tips – and this is from a first time NaNo-er, so I’m learning more every day!

So, the first tip which seems to be the most important is to make sure you write at least 1670 words a day – if you’re going for the 50k goal, that is. If you’re going for 100k then you are mental will need to adjust that figure. Personally, I’m going to attempt to do more than that for if – and let’s face it, probably when – I run out of steam and start panicking.

Secondly, find some people who are also doing NaNo for support. Not necessarily people who you know in real-life – I have yet to convince any of my friends that they should be doing NaNo, and there’s only seven hours ’til kick-off here! – online people are just as good. I have some of my lovely twiftie friends taking part, and have joined my region on the NaNo forums. I’m actually going to a kick-off meet up with the local WriMos tomorrow – which should be exciting! (Obviously, if you decide to do that, remember all the internet safety stuff you’ve been taught. :) ) Support makes you less likely to fail because – well, people will know you’ve failed, and that doesn’t feel too good.

Download a calendar. Even if you just use it for your desktop, I’d get one – there are loads on the artisans section of the forums and on DeviantArt too – and they’re great for motivation. Motivation is key.

Find sites like ‘Write-Or-Die’ – a nifty little website which forces you to write. I’m serious. You may not produce your finest quality work, but this is NaNo – it’s quantity over quality. Go and get scared into writing!

Now my next is just how I feel, and I know people who disagree, but I would suggest not planning. Planning means you have expectations – expectations which may not be fulfilled when trying to write 50k around all the usual school/work/life/other writing commitments. I have a basic idea, but no real plan – I’m seeing where the magic of NaNo takes me.

Last point – plenty of caffeine and chocolate. My chosen source of caffeine is Diet Coke – and I’m stocked up ready :D
Good luck to everyone who’s taking part, I hope you all win – leave a comment here with your tips, and your NaNo username if you’re signed up and want some buddies! I’m NKD on there, and always looking for more friends to motivate me!

Only a few hours to go…get read, get set, NaNo.

Writing What You Don’t Know

October 29, 2009 at 7:46 AM | Posted in Writing | 5 Comments

“Write what you know,” the old adage advises – but what if you have a great idea for a story that centers on something you know nothing about? Should we limit ourselves to our experiences (which are probably rather mundane, considering none of us are really CIA agents or wizards in disguise…that I know of) or risk a gaffe by dabbling in the unknown?

In reality, authors write about what they don’t know all the time. How? By extrapolating from what they do know. Fantasy writers may not know what it would feel like to ride a flying horse, but can approximate the sensation from experiences riding more mundane animals or even flying in airplanes in turbulent weather. In some ways, they (we) have it easy. If no one knows what a yeti smells like, a writer can claim that they give off a rose-like perfume without fear of contradiction.

But what about things other people have experienced, especially those for which an unrealistic depiction might be embarrassing or offensive? What about straight authors writing about gay characters, females writing about males, or someone from one religion writing about a character who is a devote member of another? Or (to bring this post back to the theme of the blog) teens writing about adults (or visa-versa)?

As a girl who writes from the point of view of at least as many males as females from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, I must admit that I sometimes feel conflicted. Am I doing justice to my characters? While I interact with people of every race, gender, age, etc. on a daily basis, I can never know what they are really thinking, feeling, or experiencing. Then again, how can I know if my experience as a 5’ 5.5” American 17-year-old with nerdish tendencies is representative of the experiences of other people who happen to fall into that demographic? Unless I am planning to write an autobiography (not likely), every word I put down on the page will involve some degree of guesswork.

What do you think? Do you ever write from a point of view that differs significantly from your own? Are there any disadvantages or dangers in doing so? Any rewards?


You must be crazy: NaNoWriMo 2009

October 24, 2009 at 12:10 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

NaNoWriMo. The very term strikes excitement into the hearts of many a writer. For many, it’s a chance to let loose, run with the fairies, and write, blissfully unaware of the grammar nazi, editor from hell, and eighth grade English teacher that have – for the time being – been chained to the back of your brain, not to be heard from for an entire month.

Many of us have already begun plotting our entire story out, making up scene charts, drawing characters, and filling out a hundred questions about each of them before November even starts. Some plan to just let their muses take them along for the ride.  It’s the ultimate exercise in write now, edit later. There is only one rule: between 12:01 on the 1st of November and 11:59 on the 30th of November, write 50,000 words. It can be anything: a series of poems, fan fiction, or a plot to take over the world for all the creators care. As long as it resembles Novel format, or something close to Novel format, you can write whatever your caffeine-induced crazy fairy lady tells you to write.

If you haven’t heard of NaNo, where have you been the last few weeks?  Just kidding! Go check out their website at and see what it’s all about. To give a five-second explanation, you basically write a 50,000 word novel in a month. We all see the problem here. Of course the novel isn’t going to be brilliant. You have to write 50,000 words in a month. Now, I don’t know about most writers, but I was once told by a friend of a friend who heard it from a creative writing lecturer that “we only write 500 or so good words a day, everything else is crap until you make it good in the editing process.” She really hit the nail on the head there. NaNo is really a very long writing exercise. You plot, you create, and you write under a time limit, which is a pretty vital skill if we make it to that stage where we have agents going, “You have three months to write a sequel. Ready, set, GO!”

But NaNoWriMo is more than that.  There are some awesome perks to writing a novel under the duress of a 30 day timeline.

  • You get to meet actual writers from your local area. Writers that you can meet for coffee to discuss ideas with in person, and talk about things that are relevant to your area. In my local area, our coordinator has organised four events so far, including all night write-ins at the local bookstore and meet and greets.  Needless to say, you meet people you never thought you would meet – people just as crazy as you are for undertaking the challenge.
  • Your novel might not be half bad. In turn, you may be able to spit shine it up to a respectable publishable level having knocked out a first draft in a month. Even the most dedicated writers don’t usually knock out a first draft in a month. I mean, who can honestly say that their best ideas have come to them after being sleep deprived, hyped up on caffeine and past that threshold where your rational brain waves bye-bye?
  • And finally, thanks to Create Space, Amazon’s self publishing company, anyone who finishes their book has a chance to get a proof copy sent to them free of charge, in paperback form.  (Although they say reasonable postage, so I’m guessing us foreigners will have to chip in something for postage.)  Basically, you get a code, and you don’t have to use it straight away, so after you win you can go back and edit it to your heart’s content and still get a free paperback form of your achievement. Now of course, this deal is to get you into self publishing, which I strongly advise against if you are trying to go the traditional route with other works. But you don’t have to go that far. It’s completely optional.  Just make sure you don’t sign up for an barcode and you’re still a debut author in the eyes of the law.

So now you know the basics of NaNo.

I would like to throw open the floor. What are your NaNo novels about? Are you plotting every scene, or are you going with the flow? What experiences have you had with NaNo? Curious about NaNo?

Good luck!


Character Profiles: The Bimbo

October 22, 2009 at 5:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

We have all come across her. She’s the girl who is always dazed and staring into empty space throughout the lesson. Honestly, I do this too. You probably do, too. But she’s the one who only talks about make-up, boys and the latest episode of The Hills.  Some of you are bound to have her in your novel. She may be the ‘queen bee’ at the high school, the one who can’t keep her paws off your main character’s love interest, or the one who constantly annoys your main characters. She can mean big trouble for your main character, but if you don’t get this character right, she can mean big trouble for you, too.

You don’t want to fall into the trap of making your bimbo a basic stock character.

Stock character: A stock character is a stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. (from Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, stock characters can be useful. It’s easier for your readers to recognize and relate to them. But when the character is as overused as the bimbo, then it’s official: Houston, we have a problem.

Here are your common ‘Bimbo’ traits:

· Being wealthy and/or spoiled

· Repeat the word ‘like’ every 5 seconds

· Twirls locket of hair, and blink repeatedly when asking for a favour

· Face caked in make-up

One of the best things about novel writing is that you can take cliché ideas and turn them on their heads. Take your common bimbo for a second. Maybe she is only pretending to be dumb – and she ends up being a super spy who is at the school trying to investigate the latest kidnapping. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your character. Readers love clichés with interesting quirks and twists. Readers are always looking for something new and refreshing – why miss the opportunity to give that to them?

There are many pros of having the bimbo in your novel. They usually bring a comedic input into the story. Bimbo tends to be in embarrassing, cringe-worthy situations. You can have a lot of fun with the character, especially with dialogue. She may do or say things that will make the reader laugh aloud. Try making your character interesting by giving her an interesting background. Maybe she is who she is because of family problems, or it’s her way of keeping her guard. Have you seen Legally Blonde? By the end of the film, everybody was rooting for her! So making your ‘bimbo’ a likeable character is a huge plus!

However, there are also several cons. Many people are offended by the concept of a ‘bimbo.’ They believe it represents woman terribly and tends to be very degrading. So, once you use this character, you are treading on a fine line. Be careful!

Amna is like totally out!



October 21, 2009 at 6:31 AM | Posted in Beta Reading, Editing, Publishing, Writing | 5 Comments

Publishing, it has been said, is not for the impatient. Writing a novel can take months or years, getting an agent or publisher just as long.

Unfortunately, I am the heir to the throne of impatience (right behind my mom – yes, I blame the genes). All it takes is a well-meaning question from a friend or relative – “How are things going with the book?” – and all my suppressed nervous energy jumps to the surface. The truth is, my novel is progressing quite well – just not in any way that’s easy to measure or describe to non-writers. They don’t care how many words you’ve trimmed or how much better a storyline fits together. They just want to know when they can buy it (even if it hasn’t gone out to editors yet).

As a writer, it’s easy for me to fall into a similar trap. After finishing my latest round of revisions, I was tempted to send them off without having my beta readers look them over – despite the fact that I had made some major changes to the tone of the ending. I managed to resist the urge, but it was enough to remind me that impatience isn’t just an unpleasant state of mind. When we let impatience get the better of us – by rushing revisions, skipping beta readers, or developing carpal tunnel syndrome by pressing “refresh” on our email 40 times a minute while waiting for responses from agents or editors – the quality of our work is what suffers the most.

So how can we best avoid falling into the traps of impatience? I’m not entirely sure yet (as you can tell from this post), and I suspect different techniques will work better for different people. One thing that helps me is having another creative endeavor I can turn to when I start becoming impatient with my primary project – something that is not necessarily intended for publication and lacks the same kind of self-imposed urgency. Another is to read back through my work and remind myself of how much better it has become because of the time I have invested in revising it.

What about you? Do you suffer from writing related impatience? What do you do to avoid falling into its traps?


Because They Smell Good: Why We Fall in Love with Fictional Characters

October 18, 2009 at 4:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 43 Comments

Having just finished re-reading The Hunger Games, I’m currently in love with Gale.

This got me thinking about all the characters I’ve fallen in love with over the years – specifically the male ones. Living in Hicksville as I do, there’s a serious lack of tolerable boys around here. Fictional boys have become my saviours until university.

But it’s gotten to the point that I’m beginning to think real-life boys will never be able to compete with the likes of Gale, Edward, Jacob, and Mr. Darcy – not to mention my own characters and all those delightful Love Interests I’ve seen in the twifties’ snippets.

Just think about it. There are some serious upsides to fictional boys.

1)   They never smell bad, even after trekking through forests and battling evil creatures for several weeks without bathing. They might smell like sweat, but that is a pleasantly masculine smell, not the acrid reek of BO.

2)   Contrarily, they don’t try to drown themselves and everybody in the near vicinity with Axe.

3)   They always look nice. Even if they’re supposedly average looking, or, as in point 1, have been doing things like slogging through sewers and surviving sand storms, they still look perfectly gorgeous in your mind’s eye. They never need to pluck their eyebrows, trim their nose hair, or wax their backs.

4)   They never seem to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in bodily functions. In fact, they may not even have bodily functions. If they do, they must be very discreet about it, because no one ever seems to notice.

5)   On that note, they never ask you to pull their finger.

6)   They don’t scratch themselves in public.

7)   And they don’t burp and ask you to guess what they ate for lunch.

8)   They can carry on intelligent, witty conversations and don’t consistently reply with monosyllabic words.

9)   Their skills are not limited to opening pickle jars and playing WoW for sixteen hours straight.

10)  Some of them sparkle.

Of course, the downside is, being fictional and all, they’re rather intangible and are typically already smitten with someone else anyway. But up here in Hicksville that’s a minor detail, even if we all know I wouldn’t stand a chance against Katniss should the opportunity arise. ;)

And so I ask you, what fictional character(s) have you fallen in love with? Who contradicts something on this list? And what have I forgotten to add?

Off to start reading Catching Fire, now! *excited squeal* Tootaloo!

– Becca Cooper (AKA Elusive)

Happily Ever After?

October 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

And they all lived happily ever after. A single phrase has become synonymous with Disney motion pictures and fairytales alike. I can’t remember a story in my early childhood where the princess wasn’t saved, where she didn’t marry the prince or find whatever enchanted object she was looking for. There is always a cleverly disguised moral, but in the end happily ever after is a given. I suppose when we are young, we don’t want to think about all those details.  Cinderella gets the prince, lives happily ever after… the end… full stop…

Let’s face it: did I, as a child, want to be read to sleep a story of the prince being a pyromaniac or the enchanted crown turning the princess into a toad? Of course not. When I was six, it was happily ever after or else.

But then I started to grow. With that growth came the sad realisation that life didn’t always imitate fairytales, and my book choices reflected that. Generally it was still happily ever after: the bad guy has a convenient exit, and the princess still becomes queen. But by this time it’s hidden. It’s no longer a specific “and they all lived happily ever after.” By now it’s taking the form of life somehow returning to normal, or better than normal. The best friends who were fighting are best friends again.  The lost puppy is returned unharmed.

But by the time we hit the YA range, happily ever after is not a given. Generally something happens to make it seem more real to life.

**SPOILERS AHEAD: In Harry Potter, we got hit with the death of half of the decent characters. In the Hunger Games, Rue dies along with all the other tributes, and in To Kill a Mockingbird – well, we all know what happens there.**

By this time, while we still want a happy ending, we accept that a happy ending does not always come without strings attached.  Not everybody will survive; some conflict will remain unresolved. It is the ultimate metaphor for a teenager’s life. Life isn’t perfect, and we young adult writers know exactly how to capitalise on the fact.

I’ll admit it to you all now. I thrive on the angst, the guilt and the tension as I sit on my bed rushing through the pages hoping for a happily ever after – but not too happy. There has to be a realistic balance.

There are, of course, stories that buck the trend and decide to go with the clearly unhappy ending. As much as the unhappy ending could be the difference between a good book that ends in a warm fuzzy feeling and a great book that has you thinking for hours about why you suddenly don’t have the warm fuzzy feeling, it’s a personal thing, but I find myself hoping for that warm fuzzy feeling.

Back to what I’m actually supposed to write about: writing. I more want to pose the question to you readers out there. How do you feel about happy endings? Do you prefer sad endings? Do you ever think about future reader’s thoughts when you write, or do you write how you feel the story ends?


~ Leasie

The Importance of Beta-ing

October 11, 2009 at 6:25 PM | Posted in Beta Reading | 4 Comments
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Yes, I have a tendency to turn everything into a verb (something I may actually blog about some day!) But this post is all about being a beta reader. So, for the non-AW of you, what is a beta reader? Well, according to the Absolute Write dictionary, it is when:

“You’ve maybe had various individual chapters critiqued and you’ve edited your epic masterpiece to the best of your ability — now it’s time for someone to read the entire novel and see whether it flies. That someone is your beta reader.”

So, beta-reading. Beta-readers are so often invaluable to writers, but what are the pluses about actually do some reading of other people’s works yourself?

Well, there are many. One of these is that you get to read great books for free. AW has some amazingly talented writers, and you get to read their work before anyone else! Another is that you get that warm fuzzy feeling inside – you’ve helped someone! It’s probably pretty good for your karma too – he who betas will be beta’d in return.

I’ve beta-read a few novels, but never seem to have enough time for…well, anything, really. But I decided to find time, and took the brave step of putting down my name on the ‘Willing Beta Readers’ list. If you’re anything like me, you’ll read books and enjoy them, but there will be bits in many of them where you say ‘I would have done that differently,’ or ‘that character would not have reacted like that!’ Beta reading is your chance to point out the bits you feel don’t work quite as well, before the book is published – helping the writer notice things he/she maybe didn’t notice before. A new perspective, if you like.

But beta-reading can benefit you, the writer, too. You get to see what works and what doesn’t. You get to edit someone else’s work, and therefore gain valuable practice in editing your own work (I am a lot better at editing someone else’s work than my own, but hopefully I will improve!) They say good writers read a lot; I think good writers should also beta read. You’re helping someone else and helping yourself and, hell, it’s fun! Definitely a win-win situation. Now, I have some comments for my latest beta-read to finish. =] So, I’ll finish on a question: do you find beta-reading helps you, as a writer?

— Becky/Beckywannacuppateani


October 11, 2009 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

When in the writing business, you’re going to get feedback from a lot of different places. Whether that be in your critique teams, from personal beta readers, agents, editors, even paying customers. People are all going to have an opinion on your work. Maybe they don’t understand something. Maybe they don’t like a character. There’s a way of dealing with it, and I’m going to show you how.

For most of us, the feedback we’ll be getting is from critique teams or personal betas. So you’ve emailed/posted your work and the comments start coming in. Person A doesn’t like your main character. Person B doesn’t understand why something happens even though you think you explained it on page 112 and they should have got it. Person C doesn’t like one chapter but person D loves it.

You’re going to get conflicting feedback all the time. The trick is to try and take on board everything and make it work for YOU and the story. You can’t make a story that’ll please everyone. People have different tastes and styles. What you can do is take the advice that’ll better the story. Maybe if Person B doesn’t understand, you haven’t made it as clear as you thought on page 112. Maybe you could edit that one chapter person D loved so it doesn’t just appeal to a certain type of person.

The worst type of way you can take feedback is to be offended or defensive. Try to refrain from emailing back bolding every feedback point and explaining yourself underneath. It’s not necessary. Also, it’s very easy to feel sorry for yourself and maybe trunk the story altogether if you recieve negative comments. Try not to do this. One day we’ll feel bad about our story, but the next we’ll go back to loving it again. Take the feedback and use it to your advantage. Be thankful. Be gracious. USE IT. Please, please don’t be one of those people who think “no one knows my story like I know my story. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” We could all do with some advice.

However, saying that, it doesn’t mean we need to take EVERYTHING. Maybe someone suggests you putting in a car chase scene in the middle of a romance scene you had going on. If it doesn’t fit in with the themes and style of your work, don’t add it. An action fan is going to want action, so then maybe your romance novel isn’t the one for them. Thank them for their suggestion and use what you can without damaging your work.

Hope that’s helpful.


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