NaNoWriMo Write In Events – 5 FAQs

Hands to keyboardWhat is a Write In?

Believe it or not, a Write In is exactly what it sounds like. A group of writers show up at a designated place and time with their laptop (or tablet or pencil & paper) to write. It’s not meant to be a discussion about the craft of writing. It’s not a workshop on how to get published. It’s not a critique group or a marketing session.

A NoNoWriMo Write In is all about massive word count production.

Are you serious? You just sit there and write?

Yes and no. Some writers might show up, plug in earphones and say nothing to anyone for the full 2 hours. And that is OK. Some writers might want to interact more by calling out questions to the group such as “I need plot help, how can I get an elephant into a bathtub?” or “Do ninjas wear shoes?” or “Does anyone know how to turn off the auto-correct on my Word file?” And that is also OK.

The key most important thing is to write, write, write! And then write some more.

That’s all there is to it?

Well, there will be a very brief round of introductions at the start. If enough folks are interested, we may have word sprints where we set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write as fast as possible to see who has the most words when the timer goes off. I may throw out kooky challenges like adding an item/key word to the scene your working on. Examples include “Add a Ninja to your scene” or “Something explodes.” Participation in word sprints and writing challenges is strictly voluntary. If someone is cruising along on their heartwarming knitting romance, they may not care to add a ninja or an explosion. On the other hand, their characters could start discussing how to knit a ninja costume for a beloved grandchild and open a whole new subplot based on Ida Mae’s grandson who is in the hospital suffering from burns. It’s all just silly writing fun, but it could open new plot possibilities.

Why would someone participate in that nonsense?

Some people hate Write In events but I love them. During my first four years of participation in NaNoWriMo, I found the Write In events to be highly motivating. Writing is such a solitary pursuit. It feels good to spend time with others doing the same thing. There is just something so magical about sitting in a room surrounded by the sounds of fingers tip, tap, click, clacking away as fast as possible.

When you listen to music with a fast tempo, you walk faster. When you listen to the cacophony of other productive writers typing fast, you type faster. At least I do.

I want to join a Write In. Is it open to any writer currently working on a manuscript?

Yes! My events will be at two public libraries so they are open to all authors (and aspiring authors) who want to participate. I’m not going to audit the group and/or exclude anyone who has not registered on the NaNoWriMo website (or the Young Writers Program website). That said, I HIGHLY recommend joining the challenge, creating an author profile and a novel. It’s all FREE…and there is something so powerful and motivating about posting word counts online.

Sounds great! When and where can I participate in a Write In?

I’m hosting two write in events in the North Georgia region:

  1. Tuesdays 7:30 – 9:30 PM at the Dawson County Library
  2. Fridays 7:30 – 9:30 PM at the Lumpkin County Library

There are lots of other NaNoWriMo events in North Georgia and all over the world. You can click here to find an event near you.

photo credit: Annette + Powerbook + Teh Interwebz via photopin (license)

November is National Novel Writing Month – Join the Madness!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareWhat do my first published novel and Sara Gruen’s spectacular novel Water For Elephants have in common?

If you guessed anything to do with sales figures, you would be wrong. However, they both started as NaNoWriMo winners.

Unfortunately, 2006 (the year I wrote the first 50,000 words of NSLA, NSFA) was the last time I won the month-long writing challenge. But that is about to change!

I’ve decided to dive head-first into NaNoWriMo this year. Here’s what that means:

  • I’ve signed up (it’s FREE)
  • Updated my author profile (I’m Slayzak)
  • Designed a novel cover on Canva (Also FREE if you use free elements)
  • Started planning a whole new novel (it’s going to be SPOOK-tacular)
  • And volunteered to host 2 weekly Come Write In events in Dahlonega and Dawsonville (GULP!)

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year and are in the North Georgia region, please, please, PLEASE come join one or both of my write in events:

  1. Tuesdays 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM at the Dawson County Library
  2. Fridays 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM at the Lumpkin County Library

Yes, the times are outside of both libraries’ posted hours, but don’t let that scare you away. We’ll be meeting in the Community Rooms at both locations and I’ll have the key to get in.

Participating in NaNoWriMo in another region/state? Or just not interested in working on your novel with a group? Tap me as a writing buddy! I make a great writing buddy. Really, I do. Tap me.

Vizsla! A Love Story – Part One

We’ve welcomed a new Fuzzy into our home and she wants to say hello:

Hi there! I am Wirehaired Vizsla Point of Honor Vizcaya Dallas, but you can call me Afton...or Ashton....or Aston.

Hi there! I am Wirehaired Vizsla Point of Honor Vizcaya Dallas, but you can call me Afton…or Ashton….or Aston.

She’s a 4-year-old spayed female. Her breeder calls her Afton, after Afton Cooper from the original Dallas series, but our lips &/or brains can’t seem to spit out that name on a consistent basis. We seem to be calling her Ashton more often than not, and she responds very well to Ashton. So…yeah. Probably Ashton.

Although her coat is considered undesirable for breeding or showing, her heart is perfect for loving.

That said, she does have a few behavioral issues, including a quirky little phobia related to persons of the male persuasion. It’s not a constant problem, mind you. Just when the scary two-legged male persons move around without her permission….or cough…or, you know, do man things. Apparently, this troublesome phobia has made it difficult to place her in a permanent, forever home. Until now.

The man of THIS household is decent, kind, patient to the core and infinitely gentle with nervous dogs.

Technically, we only have Afton/Ashton for a trial period right now, but I am in love, love, LOVE with this fuzzy love monkey. Michael is slower to declare his feelings, but I believe he is also hopelessly smitten.

In order to fully explain how over-the-moon thrilled I am by this unexpected turn of events, I’ll have to tell you a star-crossed love story from my past….

Once upon a time (almost 20 years ago), I took a job as a full-time dispatcher for the Cruelty Investigations and Animal Rescue unit in a large, metropolitan humane society. (I LIVED Animal Cops before it was a TV show on Animal Planet). Looking back now, it was one of those “best of times, worst of times” experiences but I’m not going to get into all the nitty gritty details from that period of my life. I just want to tell you about one particular case.

(*cue Dragnet theme music*)

It was a sunny, sweltering hot summer day. I received a call from the Airport Police Department. They had an animal cruelty case involving two dogs in a locked car…only one was responsive. The officers on the scene needed a humane officer to take custody of the dogs and advise on the charges to be filed against the owner. It sounded like an ugly situation, so I radioed the officers on duty to get out there as quickly as possible. They returned to the shelter with a deceased Rottweiler and a sweet little bundle of anxiety who looked a lot like this:

Sad Vizsla“It’s a Veeezuuuhluuuh,” Officer Manion told me, squinting at his case notes. “V-I-Z-S-L-A. Hungarian hunting breed.” The refugee in question had her whole body pressed against my leg with her head glued to my lap while I entered her information into our intake computer using my right hand. My left hand couldn’t stop stroking her velvety ears and smoothing the worried wrinkles on her brow. Even as her tail thumped the floor, she continued to cast nervous looks back and forth between me and Manion.

“She’s a very sweet doggie,” Manion said, (Hello, Captain Obvious.) “but she’s had a rough day. If you want, keep her here with you for a while before you put her into a kennel for the night.”

One of the best, most wonderful perks of being a humane society dispatcher is getting to bring some of the rescued pets into the back office for some one-on-one time. I couldn’t afford my own dog at the time, so spending time with these temporary companions was important to me. During the few short weeks she was in our custody, I brought the Vizsla into the office as often as I could. (Notice I have not mentioned her name. That’s because I don’t remember it. We were all enchanted with the word Vizsla and she responded when anyone called her Vizsla, so that was the only name we used during her entire stay.)

Everyone warned me not to get attached to her, but I couldn’t help falling deeply in love our darling Vizsla…even though she could never be MY dog.

This is not a tragedy, at least not for the Vizsla. I feel certain that dog lived a long, happy, healthy life. But after she walked out of our shelter, I never saw her again.

Skip ahead a few years to an all-breed dog show where I was watching the final Best in Show contenders file into the ring. Sitting alone on the cold, cement floor, I suddenly became aware of a gentle warming pressure along my back. Turning my head slowly, I came nose-to-nose with a face that looked a little like this:

Vizsla FaceHer owner/breeder could not stop giggling. “I think she thinks you’re related,” she said. “Your hair…” As she broke into another fit of giggles, I gathered my hair into a side ponytail and draped it over the dog’s head. Back then, I used to color my hair a coppery red that matched the dogs coat. I mean it matched EXACTLY. We sat like that, the Vizsla’s head on my shoulder with my hair falling over her ears while her owner took some pictures and I quizzed her about the personality and temperament of Vizslas.

I walked away from that encounter absolutely convinced that a Vizsla was my dream dog, the perfect companion for me. Energetic, but willing to cuddle for hours. Intelligent and sensitive without being neurotic. Obviously gentle and affectionate. But my lifestyle choices and finances still would not support dog ownership at that time. So it was a dream that I would have to put on hold indefinitely….

[To be continued…]

photo credit: hasensaft via photopin cc & peteaylward via photopin cc

Happy July 4th!!



Writing Weird – Tarot & The Hermit

TarotThere’s a deck of tarot cards near my writing desk at all times. It’s not the usual sort of deck, like the one pictured above (which always makes me think of Jane Seymour as Solitaire in Live and Let Die). My tarot is the Voyager Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck of photo-collage art with images from many cultures and religions.

I don’t keep it here to give readings (though it has made a few appearances at social gatherings with a select group of intimate friends). It’s not here to guide my love life or any financial decisions. I use it to help me write fiction.

Aside from my MacBook, notebooks and pencils, I believe this tarot deck is the most useful tool in my writer’s toolbox. It helps me build multidimensional characters with complex motives and desires. It’s a wonderful tool to play with plot structure and character arc. I have a few other oracle-type decks with some gorgeous artwork, but it is always my well-worn Voyager cards that help me sort out my worst plot problems and/or reignite my relationship with my characters.

To do this, I don’t shuffle and lay out the cards randomly hoping the universe will send a message about my current project. I tend to look through the whole deck, pulling the cards with images that seem to apply to the particular character or plot issue I’m working to resolve. Then I’ll arrange and re-arrange my selections into patterns until something clicks. And something usually clicks pretty quickly.

One Google search for “writer’s tarot” proves that I am not the only author who does this. There’s even a book called Tarot for Writers and Beth Barany has created a Writer’s Tarot Deck. That said, there are probably plenty of people who would think I’m twisted and weird for plotting books with tarot…and maybe they are right.

Speaking of weird…I told you all of the above so I could tell you this next thing.

Sometimes the tarot deck does freaky things. For example, last month the same card kept “jumping” out of the deck over and over. When I pulled the deck out of a desk drawer, the card fell on the floor. Later, while shuffling and sorting through the deck, the same card fell into my lap. It wasn’t one of my favorite images and it didn’t seem to have any relevance to my plotting questions, so I stuck it back into the middle of the deck and set everything aside. Thirty minutes later, Zoey jumped up on my writing desk to make a nuisance of herself while I was trying to write. Frustrated that I refused to quit typing to pet her properly, she deliberately shoved about 1/3 of the tarot deck off my desk. All of the cards landed face down except for one…yep, it was the same *bleep*ing card staring up at me.

The Hermit…

Hermit Type Photo

The Hermit – soul-searching, introspection, inner guidance

Which always makes me think about a certain “strange old hermit” who lived out beyond the Dune Sea (a.k.a Obi-Wan Kenobi). In the traditional tarot images, The Hermit could very well be a mystical Jedi Master…or a wizard…or a monk. It is one of the few traditional tarot images that I prefer over the Voyager version. So I took the time to research the card online.

Now I won’t get into all of the mystical, magical interpretations for this major arcana tarot card (because, honestly, I don’t remember most of what I read). The gist of The Hermit’s message is all about “going into the cave” to meditate, reflect and re-energize. At the time this card kept presenting itself to me, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. The details are unimportant, but I needed to unplug. And it felt like this silly little card with its three appearances in one day was giving me permission to do just that.

So I unplugged from just about everything that wasn’t absolutely essential for one month. And it felt soooooooooooo good!

Here’s the thing. This “going into the cave” routine is another important writer’s tool. For me, it is even more essential than the MacBook or notebooks or writing utensils. I know that all of the marketing wisdom is dead set against this hermit-like behavior. Oh well. Sometimes it is a mental health necessity.

During my month of unplugging we finished moving into our new house and I set up a new writing room. I created a 5 x 4 foot chalkboard (more on that another day), read lots of books, took some online writing tutorials and worked on Snowflake Plotting. Now my writerly batteries feel recharged and ready to go.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

photo credits: ukslim via photopin cc & h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Wil Wheaton on Bullying, Compassion & Being a Nerd

“When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said. It’s not about what you did. It’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad.”

Wil Wheaton, you are a credit to nerds everywhere. I salute you.

Empathy – An Essential Tool in Life & Writing

This video is aimed at professionals in the health care industry, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder for each and every one of us. Fair warning: It makes me cry every time I watch it.

I’m posting this video for two reasons:

  1. The world always needs love…and more empathy!
    • Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if everyone looked at their fellow humans this way. What if that grocery store clerk who seemed rude is actually fighting through a migraine headache? What if that guy who cut you off on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital to hold his newborn for the first time? What if that waiter who messed up your order just learned his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend? Most of the mundane stresses and annoyances that suck the joy out of our daily experiences would pretty much disappear with a liberal dose of empathy.
  2. This video perfectly depicts my favorite way to build fictional characters; it’s how I walk around looking at the world every day.

Which is not to say I’m some omniscient being who casts my eyes upon mere mortals and immediately KNOWS what is happening in their lives. Nope. I make it all up. Walking through life in my little writerly, Walter Mitty-esque bubble, I assign the most outrageous, twisted, heart-wrenching stories from the darkest depths of my imagination to perfect strangers.

Some people might believe this practice to be rather sick and wrong. I believe it’s the perfect way to build a huge arsenal of complex characters.

What do you think? Am I the only one who does this? Or is there anyone else out there who endures a long checkout line by dreaming up weird and wild stories for everyone else in the line?