And So It Begins


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

And So It Begins

By Nandy Ekle

November first. The madness launched twenty-one hours ago (from where I sit on the globe). The crazy, hilarious, maddening self-punishing NaNoWriMo began. For the next 29 days, I will perform all my daily tasks while breathing, eating, living in the dream world of my newest work in progress. I have 29 days to write the 50,000 words it will take to put the story down on the paper of my word processor.

I have not finished a NaNoWriMo yet, and this year I am actually starting a little behind the eight ball. The story I am writing began as a tiny seed in my brain about twenty years ago, so you’d think I’d have the whole thing worked out by now. Since deciding the time has come to commit to my young character, I have discovered several things I didn’t notice about her before.

So this morning, as I wrote the first words of her tale, an entirely new element of my character popped up. This new discovery is something that will take some research because I know nothing about cheerleading. I wrote a status on facebook asking for help from some of my friends with cheerleading children. I googled cheerleading stunts and found tons of information. However, since I have such a limited amount of time, I will simply write the highlights of my character’s activities.

Another thing I realized as I started this story is my limited knowledge about colleges around the country. So when the place came to name a famous college, I simply put in brackets {large college far away}.

The point is, in a mad dash to get words that make any kind of sense at all down on paper, the research does not have to be immediate. Simply put a note in your manuscript and you’ll remember to look it up later when speed is not the issue.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

 

NANO NANO


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

NANO NANO

By Nandy Ekle

It’s almost here! I can feel it in the air and smell it everywhere I go. There are whispers of excitement all over the world! Writers everywhere are gearing up, tucking in, researching, outlining, planning, reading, listening to music, dancing, whatever else they do to get ready for National Novel Writing Month.

November has been deemed National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, also affectionately known as NaNo. And what a month of adventures this has come to be. For thirty days a writer is encouraged to live totally inside their story. If you join the website, which, by the way, is absolutely free, you can register as a writer and meet thousands of other writers, make new writer friends, and converse about writing things twenty-four hours a day. But that’s only a small part of NaNo.

The goal of every November is to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. This actually can be done with a lot of discipline, commitment, perseverance and support from those around you. Yes, the 40-hour a week job still has to be done so you can buy groceries and soap to do the laundry that also still has to be done. But the rest of your waking hours, and some of your sleeping hours, will go into the story you have been waiting all year to put down on paper during this adventurous month.

The rules are simple. Write a novel of at least 50,000 words. It must be a brand new piece of work, meaning not one single word of the story has been written before. You are allowed to research and outline before you begin, but not actually start the story. And believe me, you will want to do as much research before November first as you can so that the rest of your time will be for writing.

It’s a very fun, challenging and exciting month. The work you produce will in no way be publishable, but it will be a novel-length manuscript giving you something to build on. The NaNo site even has a list of published books that were written as NaNo books.

Go to  http://www.nanowrimo.org to register. Look around and search for Nandy Ekle. I’ll need all the support I can get!

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

By the Book


Outtakes 27

 By the Book

I admit to being a stickler for rules. If I’m told “no exceptions”, I don’t ask. If my manager says an hour of overtime per day, I rearrange my schedule. If my assignment is due on Friday, I’ll have it done by Thursday at the latest. I find I land in trouble when I don’t read and follow the rules. Case in point; I didn’t read the rules on a slot machine and cheated myself out of money.

I’m not a big gambler, but sometimes I enjoy playing the slots or a little Black Jack. Recently, three of my sisters and I drove to Wichita Falls, Texas, to celebrate our older sister’s birthday. Part of the celebration was a trip over the border to a small casino in Oklahoma. The place is not big enough for Craps, Black Jack, or Roulette. Their staple is slot machines. I sat down at a penny or nickel machine, loaded it with a twenty dollar bill, and hit spin. Had I read the “about this game” information, I would have realized I won a bonus round on my first spin. I kept racking up points until I did not make the minimum for the round. Instead of cashing out, I played off the bonus credits. I did have a nice sum when I cashed out, but had I read the information, I would have made more money.

The same goes for submitting your work to an agent or editor. Agents and editors are truly busy people. They cannot read every manuscript, so an author must do their homework and make the submission shine. Check the website for submission guidelines. Keep in mind, these are not suggestions, they are actual rules to follow when sending your work. Some agents or editors will request a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters. Check for the length for the synopsis. The agent may want a maximum of three pages, or perhaps one page. Please do not send ten pages. You will not be read. If the guidelines say three chapters, do not send the entire manuscript.  Make sure you spell the name correctly. Check for the genres the agency represents. Whatever you do, do not submit your erotica to a Christian publishing house.

There are some basics to follow. Standard font and type style is Times New Roman or Courier New 12 pt. Script is impossible to read, and fancy fonts are not professional. Use a good quality bond paper. White only! I’ve disqualified contest entries because the submission was received on gray or baby blue paper. Margins should be one inch all around, and the type should be on one side only. Use black ink. Pink or purple may be your favorite colors, but editors will not appreciate your creativity.  Double space your manuscript. Do not include your photograph, your child’s picture, or a puppy photo. The agent will not be impressed. Proof read. Proof read. Proof read.  Ask a friend to proof read the submission for you.

Remember, writing is a business, and rules must be followed. Want to know more about writing for the editor? Check out the Panhandle Professional Writers’ website at pandhandleprowriters.org for information regarding the Frontiers in Writing Let’s Write Weekend, June 29-30, 2012 in Amarillo, Texas. Hilary Sares, former acquiring editor for a New York publishing house, will present workshops on meeting editors’ expectations. Y’all come. We’d sure like to meet you.

Cait Collins

Ambushed


Ambushed

I’m fortunate to have four of my five sisters living here in Amarillo. Once the repairs were completed, they came over to help me move the furniture into place and make the place a home. Sister #5 has a flair for interior decorating and she’s not shy about letting you know she doesn’t like your ideas. I spent time drawing room layouts to scale just to make sure everything would fit and she didn’t like it. When I left the living room, Number 5 rearranged a section to her taste. Then she started on my office.

Now don’t get me wrong. I appreciate her efforts. I’m not the best designer, and she has good ideas. I’d even admit I like her placements better, but I don’t want to give her a big head. Still, she could have asked about moving the television and chair instead of greeting my return with the finished product. Honestly, the room looks great, so I will overlook the ambush.

As writers, we need to be open to a different perspective on our work. Face it we are too close to the piece to always be objective. “My mother loves it,” is not a critique. Mother loves you and will gush over your story. You need unbiased reader or a critique group. I’m have both. My reader is honest but fair, and I have the best critique group around. These folks allow me the chance to step back and take a critical look at my project. Have I left out vital information? Does the current scene contradict a previous scene? Are my characters always acting appropriately? Often they are correct in their assessments, but they are never cruel and always willing to discuss their suggestions. We do not always agree, but I have fresh ideas and the opportunity to accept or reject their viewpoints. They respect me and my talent, and in turn, I respect them.

Not all readers or critique groups are good. Unfortunately, some writers are more focused on “rip it apart” instead of “can we help make it better”. Look for writers with personalities compatible with yours. You want and need support and advice, not slash and burn. Remember, you are not married to your group. If it’s not working out, you can and should walk. Do not give up on finding the individual or team to help you be your very best. Better to receive criticism from people who care about you and your manuscript than be ambushed by an agent or editor.

Cait Collins