Today is Halloween. A quirky holiday with history. Children parading the streets in their costumes, siblings and parents chatting as they trail behind them. "Trick or treat," is the chorus ringing through front porches. Candy exchanges hands. Mischievous, but joyful. Known around the world.
But tomorrow marks the beginning of a time equally as renowned to writers: NaNoWriMo. In other words, November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants, anywhere from beginner to seasoned writers, are tasked with the goal of writing 50,000 words in a months time, due on the final day at 11:59PM. For November, this means roughly 1,666.666 words a day for 30 days straight.
For a frame of reference, Stephen King disclosed in his novel "On Writing" that he writes 2,000 words a day. Every day. As there are four weeks in the average month, this equates to 60,000 words total. He is a professional writer. This is not to say that NaNoWriMo's goals are impossible. Rather, it is to shed light on the accomplishment that achieving this standard is, especially when most of the participants are in school, are employed, or have families.
This is the 18th year of NaNoWriMo. Started in 1999, NaNoWriMo has come a long way. Now, there are seven steps to the process:
There is more than a process, though. Participants can track their progress, access pep talks and support from previous winners and published authors as well as online resources (such as word count helpers), and meet fellow writers online and in person through the different forums that each region offers.
My first post was about communities, and NaNoWriMo embodies that on a global scale. The annual competition (more with yourself, and Life, rather than others) fosters an encouragement and attitude not dissimilar to Thomas the Trains' "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!"
And on that note: I know you can.
Please, share your thoughts with us below! Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What project are you working on? Is this your first year? If not, do you have any advice for others? And if there is any writerly topic or subject you would like to see discussed, please don't be shy!
While rushing to class on the University of Cincinnati's campus today - piping hot bagel in hand, already running late - the universe aligned. In the midst of working out a poetry/photography project via Facebook Messenger with the extraordinary model Luna Eclipse, I stumbled upon a trio of girls stretching to fill in outlined flowers on a canvas taped to TUC's wall. In that contemplative moment, one foot out the door, lightning struck. Hard.
Last week, I touched on how big and scary the Writing World is, like the Big Bad Wolf from Red Riding Hood. I spoke about writing communities, groups, and friends. However, when I gazed at those girls and realized what I was speaking to Luna about, I realized that I had failed to mention the beauty of collaboration: working with someone else to achieve something greater than yourself. Luna Eclipse, Aubree to me, is a young woman that I have been friends with for more than six years. Upon seeing a few samples of my work through my Facebook writer's page, she reached out to me, hoping to use some of my pieces as captions to her posts.
I jumped at the chance. Why? Because as a young, hopeful writer, opportunities are everything. Not only is working with Aubree an exciting and creatively-fulfilling process, but it also allows both of us to support each other in what we love.
Art is intimate. To begin with, most writers keep their work to themselves. It's personal. Part of them. Sometimes, it takes time before they branch out. Sometimes, they do immediately. Other times, they never do. Aubree and I have both stepped out of our bubbles to pursue what we love, and I am thrilled to share even a small amount of our journey's together.
On a less emotional note, collaboration also equals: exposure, exposure, exposure. Of course, exposure can be good, and exposure can be bad. When an opportunity presents itself, always weigh the options. In my case, having known Aubree for years and watched her since the start of her career, I know her. I know what she stands for. I know where she would like to go. To be. Sometimes, you might not have such a close relationship or complete understanding of the opportunity that springs in front of you.
So, ask questions. Get to know the chance like a friend. Or, a friend's friend, where you know just enough about them to introduce them to someone else. Think about what they can do for you, but more importantly, what you can do for them. Consider how much of a commitment the project is. Discover their goals and aspirations. Dig deep inside yourself, and contemplate: Is this a good fit for me? For them?
But don't let an opportunity pass you by just because you don't know enough about it, or because of the things you've heard. People will surprise you.
Please, share your thoughts with us below! Is there an opportunity you were glad you took? Regretted that you didn't? And if there is any writerly topic or subject you wish to see discussed, don't be shy!
The World of Writing is a big, scary place. There are more "rules to follow" than "rules to break." Articles are posted online every day, from reputable organizations like Writer's Digest, all the way down to personal blogs or websites. How To books clog up your Amazon feed; you do not know which ones to buy, which ones you need. There is a sea of places to begin - agents, literary journals, literary magazines, and presses or publishers marvelously made to order (small to medium to large, oh my!) - often, one does not know where to start. Where to begin to wade through the slush, rather than be the slush.
My goal in this column is to create a space where writers - of any kind and caliber - can discuss a variety of topics and, hopefully, take something with them. We all have our start somewhere: the back of English class, in the confines of our bedroom, deep online in the World Wide Internet. There are so many places to begin, but few tell you where to go from there. Why? Every journey is different. Unique to that writer. Sometimes, telling your story sparks something in someone. Sometimes, it doesn't. Sometimes, they feel just as lost as before they asked you, "How did you do it? How did you get started?"
The song, "With a Little Help from My Friends," by The Beatles comes to mind. For me, I began writing in the unusual, pimply sixth grade. What a wonderful time to be a writer: already so full of pre-teenage angst. I wrote in my notebook first, but then, I found a little corner online called Quizazz - now, called Quotev - where I read and read and read. But one day, I wasn't so happy with what I was reading, and decided to post something I might enjoy, that others might enjoy.
Looking back, the pieces I wrote during that time were not good (OK, you caught me, they were absolutely terrible), but I gained something so much more precious than just my start: I learned the value of a writing community. Quizazz was not the only website out there that fostered writers; there was also: Quizlet, Inkpop (now shut down), FictionPress, Scribofile, and many others. Today, the largest and most successful one that comes to mind is Wattpad. They started much the same as the others, with low members and minimal quality stories. Now, I see polished versions of the drafts I used to see online perched on actual shelves at Barnes and Noble or Target. Amazing.
Whether publishing is your goal or not, a writing community - or group - can be beneficial. I found a space within Quizazz when I was young and knew nothing. Members of the website gave me feedback and encouraged me to continue writing; it was almost like a fiction workshop, though often, not as detailed. Nowadays, although I am still a member of Quotev, I am no longer active on the website like I used to be. I am a member of three different writing groups through Facebook - two exclusive, one not - and know, cherish, rather, the value of perspectives. A well of advice - experience - to drink from. Sometimes, these people can help you figure out your next step.
When you read your own writing, you see it as you intended it, but when others read your writing, they see it for what it is. What is on the page is what the reader gets. If you hope to publish, when you send your work out there, you will not be hovering over your audience explaining that, "Oh, this sentence actually shows how..." or "Well, what it really means is..." Again: what they see is what they get. Those books on the Best Sellers list? They aren't first drafts. Far from it, in fact. Those works took others' eyes, took shaping, re-configuring, editing upon editing upon finally rewriting the damn thing. But without another set of eyes - another perspective - that piece might not have become the work of art is it regarded as.
Writing groups and communities are a tremendous help. They can help amateur and seasoned writers see something within their work they did not realize was there. I know, many times, this has been the case for myself. I am forever thankful for the push, the fostering, and the confidence that Quizazz equipped me with. In a way, it was like a crutch on the bad days - because we all have them - that made continuing on, plowing forward, into the World of Writing, that much easier.
Please, share your experience with writing groups or communities with everyone in the comments below! What worked for you? What didn't? And if there is any writerly topic or subject you would like to see discussed, please don't be shy!
As an ambitious, twenty-something writer, I have recently learned the value of opportunity.
I can trace the beginning of my career - of which I am still very much in the beginning of - to Sinclair Community College. In my final year there, I read three of my poems at their Liberal Arts, Communications, and Social Sciences Career Fair in early November of 2015. I'd say this is about the same as dipping your toes in a ice-cold pool. I got my first, true taste of the World of Writing.
Fast forward to 2016, and the opportunities arrive.
I jumped at the chance to work at Sinclair's Writing Center that January, and in late March, I was nominated four times for Sinclair's upcoming Spectrum Awards. Essentially, the Spectrum Awards honors student writers. In April, I won four awards (formal poetry, short story, a mock query package, and became the 2016 recipient of their Legacy Award for an English Major), read a poetry piece to a full room, gave an improvised speech, and met with several professors and the Chair of the English department after the fact.
It was absolutely wonderful.
Later that month, I was also a "keynote" of sorts for a Student Showcase. I have a pretty, little event itinerary with my name inside. My name is spelled wrong, but the fact that I'm listed is what counts.
I left Sinclair and the Writing Center that spring. Summer was a whirl-wind of packing, writing, and research. This fall, I moved and began a new adventure at the University of Cincinnati.
And here, the opportunities are almost overwhelming.
Between following a plethora of writers, blogs, and literary journals on various social media, my new college has been forwarding undergraduate journal submission openings. So far, I have submitted to each one sent my way, and used those to check out previously published writers in order to look into other publishing opportunities.
I also joined my year's Facebook group, which seldom posts anything writerly. However, when they do, it is gold. Right now, I am in the midst of discussing an opportunity that could very well be a game-changer for me in terms of adding more experience to my resume before graduating.
I've visited on-campus writing groups and attended readings at the wonderfully massive, university library. I have also kept an eye on the different contest and submission opportunities on Poets & Writers.
Why am I saying all this?
Truly, it probably sounds ostentatious, but this is my blog, and I can only speak from my experience. I believe the best way to get yourself out there is to immerse yourself in the World of Writing. To network. To query. To submit.
Be an opportunist.
Of course, I also believe that you shouldn't send your work out until it's ready, which is the equivalent of saying when you - as a writer, not a person - is ready.
That is another story for another post.
But until then, until a writer is ready to send their soul out into the world, they can hone their craft as they map out the World of Writing so that, when they are ready, they have the resources and the know-how to succeed.
Meet people. Go to events. Read. Write. Build your platform.
The opportunities are endless, and they will be there when you are ready to seize them.