Friday, November 13, 2015

#NaNoWriMo #First50Words Contest!

Hey NaNoWriMo-ers!

Jerusha Rodgers from Rabid Bader Editing here, and I have a couple big things to let you in on!

First things first: Joni Rodgers and I put together a #NaNoWriMo book bundle just for you guys. It's Joni's book FIRST YOU WRITE: The Worst Way to Become an Almost Famous Author & the Best Advice I Got While Doing It, which is a hilarious and poignant book of essays that contain fantastic writing advice. There's even some pro tips from our League of Extraordinary Authors pals. It's also got my title, YOUR TITLE HERE: How To Craft a Killer Nonfiction Book Proposal, a step-by-step guide. Although it was written with (obviously) nonfiction book proposals in mind, it shows writers how to set out a clear path for their book complete with a deadline and marketing strategy. It's kind of like a mad lib for self-publishing, so if you're serious about taking your NaNoWriMo writing to the next level, this is for you.

This book bundle is a limited-time deal available only through Amazon for the next 90 days, so don't wait to grab it (or add it to your Christmas list if that's more your style)!

On to the contest: We loved the response we got when we ran a #First50Words contest a few years ago, and we wanted to bring that back--with a twist.

We want you to send us the first 50 words of your NaNoWriMo manuscript between now and November 30th.

On December 4th, I'll announce the six winners and five Honorable Mentions on Box Octo along with their 50 words!

One first place winner will receive 3 hours of editing from me.

Two second place winners will receive 2 hours of editing from me.

Three third place winners will receive 1 hour of editing from me.

Five Honorable Mentions will receive a free book bundle!

All six winners' edits will be accompanied by a letter that talks about how these edits can be extended throughout the work to improve it and why those changes elevate the work. They'll also receive a free copy of our book bundle to help them further their writing journey.

Come December 1st, you'll be one of two things: A) Ready to set your work aside and let it marinate for a bit before you edit, or B) On fire to get going on the next step and not lose your momentum. Both of these are good responses. And whatever you choose, I'll be right here to help. Editing is an incredibly important stage in writing because it asks you to look at your work and decide not what to take away but what to keep. What drives the story forward? What words earn their space on the page? Where can you reveal things more cleanly or deliver information more vividly? Did your character 'say' something or did they 'cackle' it? Is a particular passage process or product? Having an objective eye can be helpful in early editing phases and is, I think, necessary in the later ones (Our brains know how something is supposed to sound/what something should say, so often our eyes skip over mistakes that a less familiar eye would catch easily.). I'll be posting periodically throughout December on different topics in editing, so whenever you're ready for that next step, you'll have a helping hand with an eagle eye.

Boring Contest Rules That You Still Need to Read:
-Entries submitted in the comment section will not be considered (feel free to post 'em down there, but be sure you email us with the proper info so we can include you in the contest!)
-Email should have the subject line: #First50Words [name] [working title]
-Email body should include only your working title, genre, and your first 50 words
-Contest ends at 11:59pm central time on November 30th.
-You do NOT need to have a finished manuscript (but you DO need to know where the story is going)
-Please only submit your 2015 NaNoWriMo writing. This is totally on the honor system, but Santa sees what you're doing, so don't end up on the naughty list.
-Winners will be contacted via email on Dec. 4th with their place and asked to provide the following:
     -Manuscript in MS Word (edits and comments will only be done in Track Changes)
     -Short (no more than one page) synopsis of your story
-If a winner does not provide the manuscript and synopsis by December 11th, they forfeit their prize (editing hours and critique letter)
-Editing hours will be done during the month of December and returned to winner before December 31st at 11:59pm

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Taking on the #NaNoWriMo challenge? Thinky thoughts and helpful resources

Every year when people start talking about Nanowrimo, I have the same mixed feelings. I love the idea of National Novel Writing Month, which encourages aspiring authors to bite the bullet and blitz out a 50K word manuscript in 30 days, but it does bring out the angry little editor in me when people talk about submitting that NaNoWriMo ms to agents or slamming it up on Amazon without proper care and feeding.

From the NaNoWriMo web site:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Here's what I love about this endeavor:

Writers learn by writing. I truly believe there is no other way to learn how to write a novel. Just do it. Yeah, baby. I applaud that approach in writing and in life. I'm up for just about anything that includes "seat-of-the-pants" in the instruction manual.

Daily ass-to-chair application is the foundation of the writing life. Thirty days of due diligence is probably going to entrench the work ethic -- or at least the habit -- and train family and friends to honor writing space and work hours.

The process is demysticated. Yes, I made that up. It's a hybrid of "domesticated" and "made un-mysterious". It takes talent and hard work to write a novel, but it's not magik or brain surgery or nuclear physics. (That said, nuclear physicists and brain surgeons usually have to hire ghost writers for their books.)

On the other hand...

Not "everyone who's thought fleetingly of writing a novel" is a novelist. 
Whenever I hear that old "everyone has a book in them" axe, I can't help but point out: Everyone has a spleen in them, too, but it takes a particular skill set to get it out, and only in rare circumstances is it a good idea to display it on a shelf.

I have fleeting thoughts of pole dancing. I have the basic physical requirements and innate sense of rhythm it takes to pole dance. I have the wherewithal to purchase necessary technology and could probably muster the will to practice pole dancing daily for 30 days, but imagining that's all it takes is an insult to dedicated professional pole dancers who work courageously and sacrifice a lot to make that their livelihood.

I think "painstaking craft" is a good thing.
We need to designate December through April as NitNoEdPro (Nitpicking Novel Editing Process), because the product of the 30-day effort is a rough draft, not a novel. There's a vast difference. That first draft is a major accomplishment. It's a huge step forward, but it's only the first of several huge steps to actually producing a finished book.

Hemingway famously said, "The first draft of anything is shit."

Even if you're way more brilliant than Hemingway, and you manage to hatch golden, ready-to-pub words on the first pass, 50K words is a pretty slender manuscript. Just barely over the novella threshold. Celebrate it as a solid foundation and settle in to flog that thing with a solid structural / developmental edits -- using self-honest self-editing methods or feedback from qualified beta readers -- followed by a competent line edit and a thorough copyediting scrub before you send it off to agents or pull the trigger to self-pub.

It takes a lot of hard work -- and a lot of that pesky obsessing over quality -- to take a rough draft to the bookshelf in a way that honors the story, showcases your talent and respects the reader's time.

Bottom line: NaNoWriMo is a fantastic writing exercise. Go for that 50K! It's a great accomplishment if you see the challenge through. I can definitely see it sparking the beginning of a writing career or breathing life into an aspiring writer who's lost hope. Participants are bound to discover some things about their unique creative process. That said...

I do hope one of those discoveries is that it takes a lot more than 30 days to be a novelist.

If you've decided to rise to the Nanowrimo challenge:
Here's a helpful series from Alexandra Sokoloff's blog.
Here's a little book about my own writing/publishing adventures.
And here's a competent, trustworthy line and copy editor.

And remember the words of Frank Capra: "Do not compromise, for only the valiant can create."

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Hilarious #HoustonProp1 polling moment = not so funny the morning after election

Here's me in a ladies room. Welcome, deviants!
Voting early in Houston’s bond election last week, my husband and I ran the gauntlet of electioneers outside our polling place, including two guys who held up cap-shouting yard signs: “NO MEN IN THE WOMEN’S BATHROOM! VOTE NO ON PROP 1!”

Skewing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) as the “Bathroom Ordinance” was the latest ultra-conservative pitch for preserving their sacred right to hate on LGBT folks. The ordinance in no way authorizes men to use the ladies room. None of this is about the ladies room. Or the men’s room. It’s about the straw man’s room.

One of the guys said to me, “We appreciate your vote, ma’am. We’re working to keep you safe!”

“Who’ll keep us safe from the bigots?” I said. He gave me a grin and a big thumbs up, not understanding.

I waited in line, cast my ballot to support HERO and headed out to meet Gary in the parking lot. As I came down the sidewalk, the same guy said, “Thanks for voting, ma’am. We’re standing up for your rights!”

I’m not usually one to mix it up like this, but... condensed version:

Me: You’re standing up for my rights to use the men’s room?

Him: (looking confused) Well, no. Because you’re a woman.

Standing my full five-eleven to his five-six or so, I spoke in the lowest alto I could muster.

Me: That’s right. I’m a woman. And the fact that I was born with a penis doesn’t mean I wasn’t born a woman.

Him: You… nah-uh. You do not have a penis.

Me: Not anymore. But that’s really none of your business.

The second guy laughed nervously and said, “C’mon. She’s jerking you’re chain.” But that first guy—fish in a barrel. He instantly went to code orange.

Him: You’re not a woman. You’re a pervert!

Me: A minute ago I was “ma’am” and you were ready to defend me.

Him: If you were a woman, you’d have bigger breasts. Look at you! You’re almost as flat as I am.

Me: So now I'm required to have large breasts to use the women’s room? What's the minimum cup size? What if I’m a woman who’s had a mastectomy? Or what if I’m just a hippie chick who doesn’t wear a bra? How do you plan to enforce this policy if you can’t tell the difference?

Him: God can tell the difference!

Me: So God is supposed to monitor the ladies room? Like he doesn’t have enough to do?

Him: If you’ve got a penis—

Me: That would definitely come as a surprise to the guy standing over there. (I indicated Gary, off-sides laughing his head off.) Especially since he watched me give birth to his babies.

Him: You did not have a baby if you—if you had a penis… if you were born... that’s… yeah, you’re real hilarious, lady. You’re sick! You want men in your bathroom with you!

Me: Right. I want men in the women’s bathroom. That’s really what this is about. And yes, I am fairly flat-chested. But I could get bigger breasts installed if I wanted to, and you’ll always be a dumbass.

I flipped him off as we roared out of the parking lot with the top down, and I laughed so hard, Gary had to rush me to the nearest ladies room. I thought it was hilarious. But this morning I saw two things that made it a lot less amusing:

Thing One was the election result. Houston, the first major city in the USA to elect a lesbian mayor, resoundingly defeated an ordinance whose sole purpose was to recognize the right of all our citizens to live in our city free from discrimination and hate.

Thing Two was this story about a young woman who, in the opinion of a very stupid restaurant security guard, didn’t look womanly enough to use the women’s bathroom. The moral certitude and self-congratulation of the people who humiliated and physically hurt her is chilling. That’s a real issue. Unlike the trumped up (and Trumped up) issues ultra-conservative factions are “protecting” us from. Meanwhile, who’s protecting us from them?

The “Bathroom Ordinance” mentality is not about anything you’re doing wrong. It’s not even about who you are. It’s about who some stranger *thinks* you are. And some people think anyone who doesn’t fit the standard gender template is to be hated and feared.

I wish I had a dime for every time I was called “sir” when I was in chemo. Perfectly understandable. I have the height of a supermodel, but I’m not stacked like one. I was bald as a grapefruit. My skin was too sensitive for any kind of makeup, and because I was in misery, I dressed for comfort, frequently wearing Gary’s oversized shirts with baggy cargo pants. I was aware of some stink-eye glances, but I was never genuinely afraid to use the ladies room. I wouldn't feel that way today.

I am not for a moment co-opting the disenfranchisement experienced by people who actually are trans or cisgender. I'm saying the promotion of ignorance and hate forces all of us to live in a city that is less generous, welcoming and intelligent than it should be.

I’m profoundly disappointed in you, Houston. But I still love you. And I know you can do better.

Thanks to the fabulous Annise Parker for spearheading the HERO effort and for all the great good she’s done for Houston during her time as our mayor. She will be sorely missed.


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