Camp Nanowrimo Check In

Halfway through the month now and time for my second check in. In the last week I wrote two short stories – no where near as impressive as the 30k novella I wrote in the first week but still, I’m happy with it.

The first short was a 4k story about a dream demon. I submitted it to an anthology being put out by Horrified Press (you can find them here on Word Press). I’m still waiting on a reply. I’m nervous, I hate waiting, but the way I figure it is this: it’s been a week and still no rejection so they’re at least considering it, right?

The second short finished at just over 8k (well below the 10k cut off) and was written for an anthology being released by Fox Spirit Books, a small UK press. This is the apocalyptic story I had in mind. Once camp is over I’ll be doing an overview post on that post apocalyptic future I have in mind. The story is written and I’ve edited it and handed it over to my father who has a sharp eye for grammar and general narrative flow. I’m hoping to have it submitted before the end of the month.

So, what’s next? Well, Overhauled and From the Ground Up were nixed by the publisher so I had to find a new project: A 30k romance novella about dirt track race car drivers. I’m about 3k in and I have it all outlined. There were a few slow days there but since I’m at 52k I think I should be able to hit 80k by the end of the month. This novella will probably take me until the 28th to write, and then I’ll have three days to pack before moving into my first house.

I’ll check in one last time when my word count is met. To my fellow campers: KEEP WRITING!!

Signing off …

(PS, has anyone ever counted how many words ALL Nano campers wrote in a single month? I’d love to see how many millions of words were put to paper in a month by a lot of crazy novelists)

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Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway

A friend of mine is having a giveaway! Woot! Free stuff!

Her book is titled “In Liam’s Wake” and is the first of her Toys and Soldiers series. I was one of the privileged beta readers for the manuscript and I fell in love with this book and the whole series.

In Liam’s Wake is an edgy fantasy about a world hidden within our world, one where strange magic and strange technology create a unique culture. The world is rich and dark and full of so many wonderfully realized characters.

Please take a moment to follow the link and enter the contest. 4 copies to be won!

The Way the Muse Turns

Okay, July 8th, just a day over the first week of Nano and what a start to the month it’s been. My original goal was to write 50,000 words in 31 days. The first 30k were to be a romance novella, then a 10k short story, then two 4k shorts (48k) and then 2k on my next romance novella.

Well, my muse has run away with me. I’ve completely abandoned the 4k shorts. I’ve decided they aren’t suitable for the contest I wanted to put them in and I’m not interested in writing them right now. I’ve put the 10k story on the backburner and replaced it with a different 10k short. And I’ve upped my word goal to 80,000 words in 31 days.

So where am I going to make up those last 60k? I’m going to write two more romance novellas. I wrote one back in May. (Off the Market is available on Amazon for about a dollar) and I had planned to write two more, following the MC’s two younger siblings. The publisher didn’t need anything in that sub-genre so I wrote my camp project, Liar Liar, which has just been sent off.

Yeah, you’re reading that right. 30k in 8 days. A new record and the reason I’m upping my word goal to match. With that out of the way I plan to write those two proposed romance novellas and store them until the publisher wants them. Then I’m going to write my short story.

Instead of a short story about a girl in an apocalyptic situation I’m writing one about a dream demon at the beginning of the world. Very excited and looking forward to entering it for consideration in an anthology.

But it’s getting close to bed time for my two little distractions, and I’m rewarding myself with junk food and a movie tonight. Tomorrow my husband is giving me 8 hours to sit at the library and write. And I plan to write 5k on a romance novella and 5k on my short.

I’ll check in at the next milestone!

Signing off…

Camp Nano Schedule

Well, it’s officially July and I’m participating in Camp Nano. Check out www.nanowrimo.org for details on the event.

I will be doing 4 separate projects this month for a total word count of 50,000 words in 31 days. My first project is a romance novella I was contracted to write. It is titled Liar, Liar and the contract requires 30,000 words. When that’s done I have a short story I want to write for a possible anthology about women in “end of the world” scenarios. 5-10k word limit, I’ll be luck to keep it under 10k. The last 10k will be two short stories for another possible anthology. These are titled “Through the Open Door” and “No Place Like Home”. Technically they have to max out at 4k each leaving me 2k short for the month so the last 2k will be jumpstarting my next romance novella – Overhauled.

That’s 1667 words per day with 1667 extra words up for grabs with the extra day (since Nano is only 30 days).

Then, on August 1st I take possession of my new house while trying to maintain a grueling writing schedule, but more on that in August.

Liar, Liar should be complete by July 18th. My end of the world story should be done by the 24th. The two short stories I’ll work on whenever my muse abandons me and I should have them done by the 28th. That leaves 3 days to start Overhauled or catch up whatever isn’t yet finished.

How does a mother of two accomplish something like this? My birthday happens to be in April and for my birthday this year I asked for 1 day a month where I could go to the library for 8 hours to get caught up on my writing. Since I was house hunting in May, and since June was full of Real Estate paperwork and family visits I missed 2 of those work days. So I will be claiming 3 library shifts this month. Three Tuesdays of peace and quiet and no internet connection. I should fly through this.

Also, I work by hand a lot. I keep a 6×9 notebook by my side and as long as my kids aren’t trying to kill each other I write. I can type an average of 40 WPM and max out at 90 WPM so if I’m copying my WPM is higher than if I’m trying to create while I write. That always speeds up the process.

I’m an avid outliner so by July 1st I’ll have all 4 pieces outlined, scene-by-scene which will cut down on the stop and think time and increase available writing time.

Lastly, I won’t be on here as often. Actually, it’s the 27th of June as I type this and schedule it for July 1st release. I’ll try to check in upon the completion of each mini goal and at the end of the month.

Signing off for at least a week …

Life as Distraction, or Inspiration?

So, inspiration and concentration are connected. If we are inspired we write without distractions getting in. If we concentrate we write without distractions getting in. And in conclusion to my last post – couldn’t find any wine, pistachios are impossible to eat while writing because cracking pistachios takes two hands, and music is a God send that tripled my productivity even when I wasted some time watching bits of the movies my son was watching during quiet time.

Sometimes nothing will work. No matter how good the music or tasty the snack or readily available your beverage of choice, be it caffeine or alcohol, there are days when inspiration won’t come and concentration will be impossible.

So now you’re catching up on your blog reader (I appreciate that) and browsing Facebook, posting complaints that you just can’t find the words to complete your next chapter. Maybe your muse is trying to tell you something. A writer writes what they know, we’ve all heard that before, and it applies less to ‘facts’ then to feelings and the human condition. So, maybe, just maybe, if your muse has fled and your story fell flat you need to do some more research into the human condition.

And that’s not as hard as it sounds.

You have a choice to live your life as an inspiration to your writing, or a distraction from your writing. My kids aren’t distraction, they’re inspiration. You will not be able to craft a realistic child character until you watch a few dozen kids racing around the local park. You will not be able to portray the feelings of a parent towards those children until you take your own children (niece/nephew, neighbour’s kid, whatever) to the park for the day, or better yet keep them for a weekend. Need to know something about being terminally ill? Find a local cancer support group. Need to write teenagers? Go to the mall on a Saturday and sit in the food court, or hang out outside the teen clothing store, or sit near a pack of teens in the movie theatre, or find a pack of teens in any of their natural habitats and make notes!

But it can be more simple than that. You’ll over hear things in the supermarket that will inspire some witty dialogue in your next book. You’re mother, ranting on the phone because your father was a moron? You can’t use it word for word but note her tone of voice, her word choice, the intensity of her breathing, the issues that matter to her. (So next time she calls in the middle of writing time pull out a pen and paper and makes notes as you talk to her). Daily experiences that we pass off or pass over as distractions may fuel our muses.

Stories are about people and their emotions. Stories are about life. Writing is a solitary craft, though in some ways social networking sites are changing that. Still, at it’s core, writing is achieved by sitting alone, wrapped up in our own heads, putting words on the paper. We set aside life for those precious hours we have each day to write. But we can burn out that way, run out of interesting characters, witty dialogue, or interesting situations. Living life is the only way we’ll be able to write about it.

Yes, Facebook is a distraction, unless you’ve gone to a writing group on Facebook to get help with something (trust me, I’ve gotten some great pointers from the Nano group on Facebook), so are sites that post meme after meme just to make you smile. Reading the news can be a distraction, but sometimes it can be a source of great inspiration. Dinner with friends or family, an afternoon shopping with a distressed girlfriend, sitting on your front step and watching the neighbours work on their yards while you sip your wine? Yeah, there’s inspiration everywhere. When your muse flees the scene go out and find her some more ideas. She’ll reward you for it.

Signing off …

The Female Experience

Someone on the Nano Facebook group commented that they felt their female characters were androgynous and flat, that they were indiscernible from the males. He’s not the first writer to have these woes on either side of the gender board. When I started writing romance I had the strange task of writing male characters that would be believable and entertaining for a female audience, not a mixed audience. Fortunately I have my husband to help me keep my male characters sounding male, and I get to watch my husband interact with his brothers, a lot, so I get a lot of insight there.

Before I get into the real bulk of this blog entry, that’s my first tip: observe. Don’t know where? Here’s some ideas: a shoe store/department in a large city when they’re having a massive sale on women’s shoes, a bridal shop (you may want to tag along with someone you know, or get to know a staff member first), somewhere where they do nails or hair (tag along, get to know staff, or make an appointment and find out what a pedicure – minus the nail polish – feels like), go to the same coffee shop as your wife/girlfriend on girl’s night and sit across the shop, undercover style, go to ladies’ night at a night club/golf club/or bar. Observe the women there, what do they talk about, what words do they use, what music is playing on the overhead speakers, how are they dressed, what age range do they fall into … For ladies, go to a sports game with your other half or a brother/father/uncle, hang around in the background during the game at home, go to the bar/club/pub/pool hall, etc and watch how men act there, try out a barber shop, and observe.

Okay, the female experience. It’s different for every female, and depends on family structure/stability, cultural backgrounds, country of origin, country of residence, if those two are the same or not, level of education, access to education, religious factors, etc. But for a middle class female in North America growing up in the late 80s, the 90s, and into the new millennium, here are some things you should keep in mind.

I am a firmly middle class female. My parents were never divorced or separated. I am the oldest of two girls. I had a decently close knit extended family while growing up. I was born in 1987 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and lived there until we moved to Bitty Town Manitoba (make up your own one street town and insert here) on 80 acres when I was in the 6th grade. Moved back to civilization in the 9th grade. I went to a private religious school from K-8, then public high school 9-12 and university for 4 years after that.

Okay, that’s my life in a nutshell. Here’s what I experienced: Judgement is the first word that comes to mind. Everyone is judging you and if they’re not you feel like they are. You have to fit in, somewhere – and I never did, not wholly. I was a nothing so I wasn’t a “popular” kid (I’ll do a blog on that later). I wasn’t totally Goth or punk. I wasn’t a band geek, and though I took electronics I barely passed. I didn’t start on the video games until after high school and I sucked at chess. I didn’t smoke anything. I was smart but because of 3 years isolation (living in the boonies and attending school in the city) I missed those formative pop culture years completely and knew nothing about teen actors, music, etc. I knew a little bit about a whole lot of things and never enough about any one thing to belong somewhere. So yeah, I felt judged. I was weird, the odd one out, even among friends.

That has a lasting affect on self esteem and self image. Last night we were going to go to a movie with my siblings-in-law (but babysitting fell through on our end and we couldn’t attend) and I made a comment to my husband that I felt I always had to help get the kids settled and supervised while he got ready and was never afforded the same luxury – I don’t take hours to get ready but I do have to brush my hair (it goes to my tailbone and tangles easily) and often get changed because as a female you cannot wear your comfortable, loaded with pockets, mom clothes to the movies because they are dumpy and frumpy and make your husband feel like he’s the dork.

Well, to make a long story short I was told “I wish you would change before going out, I know you have to dress functionally at home and that’s okay because I know how you look underneath all that but you could dress better when we go out.” and “I know you’re not like my sister (30, not yet married, no kids, runs marathons), and it’s not a fair comparison but men do compare – I don’t because she’s my sister – but other guys are the theatre will look at both of you and compare and I don’t want you to fall short because you’re wearing frumpy clothes” – yeah, it came out a little harsh, and he didn’t mean it like that, and once he had his foot in his mouth he proceeded to chew it off. Still, I went to bed in tears.

We are judged and compared everyday by complete strangers. I catch myself doing it. I try to turn it into a writing exercise (why did I think she was rich? why did I think he was a jerk? what do people do or say to make you jump to conclusions? What about their body language or style?) but I still pass snap judgements on complete strangers. And I know people are doing it to me. And I’m afraid of what they think, I’m afraid of being deemed less important, less beautiful, because I have stretch marks, or because I have little extra money to spare and can’t buy designer clothes.

Emotional. Yes, women can be rational and intelligent, we can be engineers and lawyers and judges, we can be fair and impartial, but we are emotional. Even when my head is saying “what a stupid reason to be mad at your husband” I’m still furious. Even though I know my husband didn’t mean to offend me last night I still went to bed in tears. I don’t know about other women, but I get worked up very quickly – I over think things, imagine the worst, dwell on negative thoughts and negative things people say, and the mistakes I make. I spiral down to almost depressed before being dragged out of it. Somewhere along the way rational thought stops, but at first it’s there, battling with the emotions, and sometimes feeding the negative cycle because you know that you’re being stupid and irrational and you can’t stop.

Women cry. We cry when we read newspaper stories about children getting hurt (deliberate or accident). We cry during movies. We cry over novels. We cry when our pets get hit by cars. And it’s all right. In fact we wish men would cry more. We think it makes you stronger, not weaker. It makes you whole and complete, not pathetic or broken.

Women are prone to sudden changes in their emotional state.

Pregnant women are a whole other kettle of fish. If you know one, spend the weekend with her and encourage her to talk about being pregnant, and to complain about being pregnant. You’ll learn a lot.

Mothers are a strange mix of teacher, taxi driver, servant, chef, laundry service, shopping service, and angry mother bear in protect-the-cub mode. We cry even more when we read or see anything about children being hurt. We want to throw our children under a moving bus but we panic if our sister is half an hour late for dinner (and she happens to have the kids for the day). No, trust me, this happened. My sister and her husband took the kids to the zoo and we met them at the park AT FIVE THIRTY. By the time they showed up at SIX I’d forgotten how nice it was to have an afternoon of quiet to work on my editing contract and all I could think was “where are my babies, why aren’t they here, I don’t want to share them anymore, I want them here, now, please”. Yeah, I was begging with God. I was twisting my wedding ring back and forth. I was pacing the length of the playground checking and rechecking every entrance. I love my children and I love quiet afternoons but in the end, the kids win out, every time, and I’m a selfish introvert.

My kids are awake, and that means I must drop my role as writer and start my role as Mom. This is another part of being a stay-at-home parent of either gender.

Writers, get in touch with the opposite gender in you (your feminine side, or masculine side). Get to know people of the opposite gender. Ask them questions (and if it feels too weird preface it with “I’m a writer and one of my characters is going through ‘x’, can I ask you how you’d deal with it?”) Remember that gender does play a role in forming who we are, but it’s not the only factor.

Signing off …

Casia Schreyer – Freelance Writer and Novelist

I’ve never been good at introducing myself but here goes.

I have been writing for many years, both fiction and non-fiction. This past year I started supplementing my income with freelance writing and editing jobs with the hopes of creating a name for myself and to practice my craft so that one day my novels will be published. Those first few jobs were more practice than creating a name for myself since they were ghostwriting jobs. Not the sort of fiction I’d want my name on anyways. Then I picked up a long term editing job.

Talk about a godsend! I have been working with Albert Everett from Dubai editing his screenplay/novel series, Mountain Paradise. What a wonderful series! Episodes 1-3 have been edited and returned (sadly a laptop mishap has slowed me up on Episode 4 but I get my laptop back today and I hope to have #4 done by the end of summer). I have several other projects from Mr. Everett to edit. It has been a wonderful working relationship (on my end anyways) and I look forward to seeing the novel version of each episode in print.

In April I signed on with Blue Ribbon Books to write 30,000 word romance novellas for digital release. I don’t really read romance novels, I never thought I’d be writing them, and my first one was on digital shelves in May! Off The Market has recieved decent reviews on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com since its release. I am working on my second novel for them, and then I hope to write the two sequels to Off The Market and have them published over the fall and early winter (Overhauled and From The Ground Up are the two sequels; I’m currently writing Liar, Liar).

I have my own works in progress, mainly fantasy and science fiction, novels, novellas, and short stories. I’ll be releasing details of those stories and worlds here as I go. I am a regular participant in NaNoWriMo and can often be found wasting time on their Facebook page instead of writing. I am always on the lookout for a quick freelance job or a long term working relationship.

Personally? I am a happily married mother of two who is taking some time to stay home and raise my kids. I’ll be forced to enter the workforce again this fall as we’ve bought our first house and now have a mortgage. Hopefully I’ll be working a few evenings a week, plus my writing while I’m home with the kids during the day. I collect blank noteboos and brightly coloured yarn. I’m an avid journaller, writer, knitter, and crocheter (so my collections are useful – now tell that to my husband!) and I have a Facebook based business selling custom knit accessories and baby sweaters. You can find me at https://www.facebook.com/#!/schreyerknits – Likes are appreciated and you can order any time. Oh, I also enjoy cooking, which is what I need to do now. Crockpot chicken does need to be ignored for 3 hours, after all.

Signing off …