Lessons from the #daily250yeg challenge

The month of May saw the Edmonton NaNoWriMo group and I participating in a fun challenge, could we pen 250 words/day on our manuscripts? It was great practice for the upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge in November, and given everything else going on in the world, a welcome external reason to ignore reality and delve into a world of my imagination.

Coming out of the challenge, here are my takeaways.

  1. For me, writing can feel like running a marathon in blazing hot weather, on a path full of trip wire and pot holes, and having unknown forces chuck water balloons at me from their hidden spots in the trees. Writing is hard and lonely and a grind. Surrounding myself with other people who were consciously setting aside time to write was a wonderful encouragement. When it comes to starting and completing writing projects, for me, being in a network of like-minded individuals is an incentive and a source of energy.
  2. It’s not always possible to write every day (at least for me). By writing, I mean putting words down on a work in progress. Somedays were devoted to edits, some to allergies, some to the unexpected occurrences of everyday life. However, I found that knowing I had words to write kept a part of my brain processing my story. While I may not always have been able to put down words, I found them waiting for me when I returned to the project.
  3. The act of creation is more than writing. It’s keeping a space inside myself that’s dedicated to my story and not allowing anything other than the story to inhabit that area.
  4. It was okay to step back for moments of self-care. Yes, writing is about consistency and accepting the grind. But it’s also about being kind to myself in the moments I needed it. Writing, to me, should feel like a challenge. It should feel like the pleasant burn of my muscles stretching and strengthening. It should never feel like a punishment.
  5. Because I knew there would be days I couldn’t write, on the days that I could, I did my best to go beyond the 250 words. I banked the extra, depositing them in my mental bank account for future withdrawal. Not only was it helpful in terms of riding the momentum, but it also took away the guilt on the days that self-care was a priority.
  6. Sometimes, a lot of times, the writing wasn’t pleasant, both in execution and the words that fell to the page. I had to remind myself that sometimes I have to write the wrong thing to get to the right words. Like they said, “You can fix a bad page but you can’t fix a blank page.”

 

I Value Canadian Stories VoicEd Radio – Resources

 

Resources/Tips for Writing & Story-Telling

How real life inspires novels (novel insight: Across the Floor)

How real life can inspire fiction (novel insight: Guardian)

Creating character & writing the unlikable protagonist (novel insight: Guardian)

Deciding genre when writing a novel (novel insight: Guardian)

The Busy Writer’s Guide to Outlining

Writing character (novel insight: The Retribution Series/Burned)

Writing 3D Characters

Writing intertwined stories (novel insight: The Retribution Series/Burned)

Writing Realistic/Contemporary Fiction (novel insight: In the Key of Nira Ghani)

Strengthen Your Descriptive Core

Motivation/Encouragement for Finishing Your Story (novel insight: In the Key of Nira Ghani)

Books Mentioned

Rock & Roll Literacy – Sigmund Brouwer

Story – Robert McKee

How to Write a Damn Good Novel (Series) – James N. Frey

Resources for Educators

Online Readings

Lark Holds the Key

At Dock’s End

In the Key of Nira Ghani

 

Student Q & A 

What inspired me to become an author

My writing process

Where do I get my story ideas

Questions about my life; working as a writer

Questions about the life of an author

Questions and Answers with In the Key of Nira Ghani

 

Resources/Tips for Writing & Story-Telling

How real life inspires novels (novel insight: Across the Floor)

How real life can inspire fiction (novel insight: Guardian)

Creating character & writing the unlikable protagonist (novel insight: Guardian)

Deciding genre when writing a novel (novel insight: Guardian)

The Busy Writer’s Guide to Outlining

Writing character (novel insight: The Retribution Series/Burned)

Writing 3D Characters

Writing intertwined stories (novel insight: The Retribution Series/Burned)

Writing Realistic/Contemporary Fiction (novel insight: In the Key of Nira Ghani)

Strengthen Your Descriptive Core

Motivation/Encouragement for Finishing Your Story (novel insight: In the Key of Nira Ghani)

 

Examples & Excerpts of Natasha’s works

Billy Vale (Grade 2+, ages 7 and up) – mystery

True Grime (Grade 4+, ages 10 and up) – urban fantasy

At Dock’s End (Grade 5+, ages 10 and up)) – historical mystery

In My Skin (Grade 5+, ages 10 and up) – creative non-fiction

Seeing Mary (Grade 4+, ages 9 and up) – ghost story

When I Grow Up (Grade 6+, ages 11 and up) – creative non-fiction/postcard

 

Teacher Guides for Natasha’s Novels

Lark Holds the Key

Lark and the Diamond Caper

Lark Takes a Bow

The Not So Secret Case Files of Billy Vale, P.I.

Across the Floor

Burned

Terminate

Sleight of Hand

 

Book Trailers and Reading Audience

Lark Holds the Key – Ages 5+

Lark and the Diamond Caper – Ages 5+

The Not So Secret Case Files of Billy Vale, P.I. – Ages 9+

At Dock’s End – Ages 9+

Sleight of Hand – Ages 9+

True Grime – Ages 9+

Retribution series video – Ages 11+

Burned trailer video – Ages 11+

Terminate trailer video – Ages 11+

Book trailer for Gatekeeper – Ages 12+

Book trailer for Guardian – Ages 12+

Book trailer for Game’s End – Ages 12+

 

In Author Words Interview Series

Kenneth T. Williams (playwright)

S.G. Wong (novelist (adult)

Karen Spafford Fitz (children’s/YA author)

Sigmund Brouwer (children’s/YA, adult author)

Marty Chan (children’s/YA author, screenwriter)

Caitlin Crawshaw (journalist, visual artist)

Kate A. Boorman (YA author)

Kathy Jessup (storyteller)

Judith Graves (YA author, illustrator)

Tyler Enfield (children’s/YA author)

Forest Friday Follow-Up

Thank you, again (and AGAIN!) for joining me for Forest Friday. What a great way to start the weekend. 🙂

I wanted to give you some visuals on what we talked about.

PLOT SNAKE
First, this is what a plot snake might look like: Red is in her room AND THEN her mom comes & tells her Granny’s sick AND THEN Mom asks Red to take some food to Granny…I keep “and then’ing” myself until the only “and then” left is “AND THEN it ends.”

Things I like about this method:

  1. It gives me a chance to see where possible plot holes are.
  2. It gives me a chance to see the plot in one go
  3. It gives me a chance to plot (because plot = ACTION. What are the characters doing? Am I changing up their locations? Giving them new obstacles?)
  4. It gives me a chance to see how long the story is (I try for 30-45 points for a full length).

MC + G + O = C
I like this formula because I can see my MC’s goals and from there, I can figure out the trouble to throw in their direction. I also like it because I can tweak their flaws (what are their personality hiccups that will stop them from taking the chance or asking for help).

ANOTHER OPTION
This one I really like as well because it reminds me that my character has a fear they must acknowledge. In reminding myself of this, I can tweak their goals/obstacles, and the situations (i.e. plot) I create.

OTHER FOLLOW-UP – PUBLISHING
To my peeps who were asking about publishing, make sure (!!) you do your research. Just because someone says they’re an agent or publisher doesn’t mean they are, nor does it mean they’ll be good to work with. The industry can attract toxic people who will want to take advantage of a person’s dreams and goals, so make sure you DO YOUR RESEARCH & HOMEWORK. Join writer’s groups, check writer’s forums, and add websites like Writer Beware and Query Tracker to your roster (they’re a great resource for finding agents/publishers & seeing what other artists’ experiences have been like).

Thanks for the fun morning, friends. Have a great spring break for those of you heading out, and a great weekend to the rest!

 

PS
The app I use for white-noise is called Rain Rain Sleep Sounds (it has a blue water drop as its logo.)

The Secret Wise Writers Know

That sometimes you begin a project, not because you’re inspired to write or because you’re going to write something great or even that you’re excited about the idea, but because you know the art of writing is in the act of writing. Sometime—most times—in order for us to be good writers, we have to be willing to be bad writers. So, for anyone out there who needs to hear it, don’t worry if you don’t have all the plot points, don’t worry if the character is stereotypical, don’t worry if your writing is painfully bad. Just get it out of your brain and get it on the page.  

7 Days of Edits…

…on a manuscript 2.5 years in the making (but, hey, who’s counting?)

I have to say that when going from page 1-300, again and again for seven days (but, hey, who’s counting), it is WILDLY satisfying to be able to take a quick break, do another task, and get that satisfying high of being able to check the item off the To Do list!!

You know you’re Albertan…

Ha! You know you’re an Alberta baby when you look at yesterday’s high temperature (-39), compare it to today’s (-33), and celebrate that “Oh, yes! It’s warming up!”

Lord of the Ringing in the New Year

We’ve had a family tradition of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy ever since we saw the Fellowship of the Rings in 2001.

And I have to say, watching Gandalf the Grey throw off his cloak and reveal himself to be Gandalf the White is all the Glow-Up inspiration I need for 2020.

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