#NaNoWriMo Yes or No? The Pros and Cons of Participating in National Novel Writing Month

Maria L. Berg writing in her notebook in front of her portrait painted by E. Spencer Matthews entitled Maria Fights the Robot SpidersHave you heard of NaNoWriMo but are not sure what it is? Thought of trying it but wondered if it was worth it? I wrote the first draft of my novel this November and lived to tell.

Imagine: You’ve been dreaming of writing a novel since you were a little kid, but life got in the way. You’ve been mulling your story idea for years. Suddenly, the stars align and you are ready to write your novel. The leaves have turned and begun to fall and you know the holidays are coming. Do you sign up and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month? Will it be worth your time and effort?

This is where I was this October. I told myself, if everything lined up just right, I would do it. I have always been a self-motivated creator, but when it came to getting words on the page, my dream novel, the one I thought about when I dreamed of being an author, wasn’t happening. This year, NaNoWriMo helped me get that story started.

Before I had ever heard of (Inter)National Novel Writing Month (November): I had done research; I had a broad outline of the characters; I had even written a prologue and shared it with my critique group, but the story wasn’t getting written. I don’t know why, but I knew I had to get outside of myself to write this story. Ever feel that way?

I decided I would look into NaNoWriMo.  I wondered why so many people were talking about it.  The goal? To write a rough draft with a beginning, middle and end and at least 50,000 words in one month. It sounded impossible. Did I do it? Was it fun?

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons:

PRO CON
Developed my characters Lost storyline sometimes
Wrote lots of dialogue Didn’t feel like art more like a machine
Approached difficult scenes Paid too much attention to word count
Wrote most words in a day More difficult revision
I now know how much I can write in an hour and in a ten minute sprint My face broke out and my house got dusty
Learned about word crawls
Joined a write-in at a local book store
My inner critic really didn’t like it!

As you can see, the experience was more positive than negative.

One take-away that I will use throughout the year is Word Crawls. Word Crawls are games to motivate writing. Unlike prompts, they do not tell you what to write. The purpose of a crawl is to play a game of how much or how long to write. My friends compared them to D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) in that you choose characters and might roll dice to see what your character does next, but the fun part is you write a story within a story. My favorite was The Walking Dead Crawl. You can take a look at some word crawls at the WikiWriMo

Nation Novel Writing Month 2015 Winner Banner

When I had a fever in the third week, I didn’t think I would make it. Word crawls with my best friend got me through.

So for me, this year, YES, it was worth it. And it was (mostly) fun. If the timing is right and you feel ready, you can write a first draft of a novel in a month! And as a bonus, learn what motivates you and new ways to get words on the page.

Have questions about NaNoWriMo? Please ask in the comments.

Did you participate this year? What do you think? Yes or No?

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

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How To Make Each Query Letter Personal

tulips on tableYou’ve written a hook to draw in the reader. You’ve summarized your story in a paragraph or two. You’ve ended the letter with a bio that makes it clear you are the only person to write your book. You received great feedback from online forums. Your critique group loves it. So it’s time to send your query letter off to all of the agents you selected, right?

Not quite yet.

First, make sure you know the agent’s name and spell it correctly. From everything I’ve read this is every agent’s pet peeve.

Second, you need to find a way to let each agent know why you would like them to represent you.

As you look through your list of agents you are going to query, think about why you chose them and make some notes (For tips on how to choose agents for your short list type Agent Query in the search bar above for previous posts on the subject). You may have chosen some of the agents on your list over another agent in the same agency. What was the deciding factor?

One important way to learn about agents is to read the books they represent. While researching in this way, you may discover that an agent represents an author you admire. If so, this is a great way to personalize your query letter. If you get really lucky, you may find a book the agent represents that is similar to yours in some way. A one to two sentence compare and contrast is the perfect way to show you’ve done your homework.

Another thing to add to your query is how your book fits with what the agent is looking for. Look at the agent’s blog, look for interviews, look for videos from conferences on youtube.com, look at their page on agentquery.com and publishersmarketplace.com to find the kinds of books they want. Mention their specific requests that pertain to your book and then offer your book for consideration.

Finding the right agent is all about patience. You not only want to sell your book and get it into the hands of readers, but you want to create a long-term business relationship with someone who will champion your work. Once you’ve put in the time to decide on the agents you want to query, let them know why you think they are right for you and your book.

Like the rest of us, an agent doesn’t want a bunch of form letters in the mail (email). Let her know that you’ve chosen her based on her merit and your belief that she will find the right home for your book based on her past sales, and you are much more likely to get a response.

Exploring: Kindle Free Downloads – Lots of free books, why not?

Mt. Rainier reflected in Lake TappsSince I’ve been pushing my free kindle download all week, I decided to go explore the free kindle download offerings. I was pleasantly surprised.I now have an eclectic library on my Kindle Cloud Reader. I found children’s picture books. I found books on social media marketing. I found cookbooks. I found an exercise motivation book (which I needed). I found books on speed reading (so I can read all these books really quickly) and of course Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise. Last day, folks. Don’t miss your chance to download it for free!

So with all these fabulous free kindle offerings out there, why aren’t people’s libraries exploding? I have to admit, the kindle cloud reader and library weren’t exactly straight forward to use at first.

When you download a kindle book, it opens in kindle cloud reader while you’re at amazon.com, but when you go back to amazon.com, your kindle cloud reader isn’t on the menu. It is at https://read.amazon.com/. Also, when you search free kindle ebooks in the amazon.com search box, you don’t get the nice selection of kindle ebooks. I finally found them here.

Have fun exploring all the fabulous free books!

Revision: Adding Videos to Your Blog

You can see why I put this under the revision topic, I’m revising my post of Gator McBumpypants’ first movie. Why didn’t I think of this yesterday? So, how did I do it? It was much easier than I thought.

When I clicked on Add Media above my draft’s text box, like I usually do to add pictures, I looked around and in the column on the left I clicked on Insert from URL. In a new tab, I went to the Youtube page for Gator’s video and copied the URL. When I pasted it into the box, TADA!, the video is now playable on my blog. So fun.

Now that Gator McBumpypants and his friend Herman have a youtube page, they wanted to find some fun videos to share. First they subscribed to other children’s books about alligators. Hear are a couple fun book videos:

I tried to change the video sizes so they were about half as big in this post, but assigning height and width in the html didn’t work (I turned off mobile in theme settings as per instructions) Any one know how to change the video size?

This morning I had an idea for other content to add to Gator and Herman’s YouTube page: Alligator crafts! First I thought of origami, but to Herman’s happy surprise, the Pterodactyl origami video was WAY cooler.

The best video for alligator crafts (Gator forgives the artist for saying he drew a crocodile) so far was this one:

One thing I have yet to figure out is how to get the videos I’m following to come up in the right hand column of my video. Does anyone have any advice? I’ve made a favorite videos playlist, I’ve picked out kids book channels to follow, but none of these things are showing up when I play my video. If you’d like to see Gator McBumpypants and friends favorite videos playlist, it is a tab on their YouTube channel here. I’ll keep working on this and update when I figure it out.

While I was searching for fun Pterodactyl kids books, I happened upon this great video and learned something I think I don’t want to know– Pterodactyls Aren’t Dinosaurs!

Of course, I had to immediately do some research and if you wanna listen to Science then hears a link

However, if you wanna keep believin’ hears some info here

I’m not facing facts yet, and I’m not ready to share this with Gator and Herman, so sadly the great video did not get in their favorites, yet.

Another thought on revision– Learn from my mistake. Make sure to pay attention to current events before launching your marketing campaign. Planning my big push the same week as the Ferguson decision, could have been avoided if I was paying attention to current events. I had no idea this could be a factor, but it is what people are talking about and paying attention to (as they should). The story of a cute bumpy stuffed alligator is a bit out of place in that discussion, except for the theme of not being afraid of people different from you. Perhaps that could be part of the discussion with children. That said, when planning a marketing campaign, give yourself enough time to see what else is  happening during your time frame that could eclipse your efforts (again, as it should in my case).

Anyone have other video suggestions for Gator and Herman to add to their YouTube Favorites?

Marketing: A little outside the box.

Gator and Herman's first movie on youtube.com

Gator McBumpypants and Herman’s First Movie is on Gator McBumpypants’ Youtube.com channel.

Since my writing life is completely consumed with promoting Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise this week, I’m jumping off schedule and continuing to talk about promoting your book. I announced my kindle free days everywhere I could think of yesterday, so how do I keep the internet’s attention today?

I stepped away from writing today and explored a couple other art forms. I took some pictures that didn’t get used in the books (book 2 coming soon!) and made a little youtube movie. One of the fun things that you can do with google+ is create a youtube channel. I made one for myself and a separate one called Gator McBumpypants and Friends.

Making the movie in Windows Live Movie Maker was pretty straight forward once I figured out that I could speed up the picture rate by using fractions in the duration box. The hardest part was picking some music since the program didn’t include music editing and just started the music choice from the beginning. Luckily, I have a large library of music I wrote, so I don’t have to infringe on anyone’s copyright.

This first film is just a quick, fun promo. I plan to do more with pages from the book and perhaps reading the first few pages. I’ve seen some really nice book promo videos online. I think video is a great way to get people excited about your book. Check out Michelle R. Eastman’s promo video for The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale. Andy Mulberry did a really nice interview with Michelle R. Eastman on her blog andymulberry.com/blog

I also went over to RedBubble,com and made some Gator McBumpypants merchandise.

Gator McBumpypants baseball shirt from RedBubble.com

What about a fun T-shirt?

Gator McBumpypants tote bag from RedBubble.com

or a lovely tote bag?

A Gator McBumpypants coffee mug from RedBubble.com.

or enjoy your hot beverages with Gator McBumpypants and his friend Herman the baby pterodactyl.

RedBubble is a great site where I’ve set up a portfolio of my photography. They will put my photos on a variety of merchandise including t-shirts, sweatshirts, stickers, cards, pillow covers and the adorable items shown here. All would make great gifts! It is also, yet another social media site with a nice journal entry space where I’ve been letting people know about my kindle free days.

So, to sum up, book promotion doesn’t have to be hitting people over the head with your book and free kindle days announcements, it can be fun promotional art projects that then give you an excuse to go post about them on all your social media sites.

Anyone else found promotional ideas that are a bit outside the box?