Camp NaNo — Who’s Going?

Writers know about NaNoWriMo — National Novel-Writing Month. Most of us have probably participated in the event at least once, maybe twice, or maybe we have the month permanently marked in red on our calendars. But what about Camp NaNo?

CampfireIt seems a little odd that it’s Camp NaNo, not Camp Write-a-novel-in-July, but I guess that would be a bit confusing. We’re comfortable with NaNo, and we all know what it means, right? Right.

Camp NaNo is a little different from the original 50,000 word writing challenge that happens every year in November. At Camp NaNo, things are a bit looser, a bit more relaxed. It’s a fun, make-your-own rules writing event.

Don’t feel up to doing a complete novel? Set your own word count goal.

Want to use the time to work on a draft you’ve already begun? Sure. No problem.

I love Camp NaNo because it’s exciting to meet new authors, get a few stirring pep talks, and read the posts in the forum. I love the creative atmosphere that surrounds Camp NaNo.

I hope you’ll sign up and join me.








Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

Every year as Christmas draws nigh, I begin hearing that old stand-by, “My Favorite Things”. Maybe you don’t recognize the title, but I’m sure you know the words:

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…


Yes, these were a few of the “favorite things” included in the Rogers and Hammerstein song from The Sound of Music.  Even though the musical isn’t really about Christmas, the song has become irrevocably associated with the winter holiday and has been included on dozens of Christmas albums.

It’s also about this time each year that I begin compiling my own list of “favorite things” — related to writing. I do it as part of my annual routine for National Novel-Writing Month.

Why? Or, more to the point, why bother? After all, I know what I like and don’t like…don’t I?

Well, yes. And, no.

More than once, in the flurry of writing excitement, I’ve been tempted to throw in ideas, events, or characters who don’t really fit with who I am as a writer. That’s what it’s really all about, you see. It’s not just a list of likes and dislikes, but a way of stepping back and taking an objective look at who I am as a writer. What I’ve discovered as I make my lists  — there are actually two of them — has helped me define myself and my particular little “niche” in the romance-writing world.

Knowing who I am as a writer has helped me develop a clearer understanding of what I’m striving to accomplish, a greater awareness of why I write historical romance, and a better focus on how to connect with readers.

It also keeps me on track in my stories. Even though I may wander a bit off the path, I know if I go too far astray, I’ll become uncomfortable. Writing will cease to be a pleasure and will feel instead like a dreaded chore.

Because I know my “favorite things”, I no longer waste time developing plot lines that I won’t enjoy writing, or creating characters who won’t hold my interest for the time required to tell their stories. Knowing what I like and don’t like makes me a better writer, I think. It certainly makes my writing time more effective.

Here’s a sample of things I like:

  • I like “fish out of water” stories where characters are thrust into unfamiliar situations.
  • I like stories of mistaken identity or misunderstood intentions
  • I like stories set in rural areas with a “down-home” feeling

A few of the things I don’t like include:

  • Heroines who are so perfect they’ve never made a mistake in their lives.
  • Heroines who are total victims, suffering one calamity after another.
  • Excessive violence.

I could go on and on with these two lists, but my likes and dislikes aren’t important here. What’s important is that you, as a writer, develop your own awareness of your favorite things…and your not-so-favorite things.

Maybe you like raindrops on roses and maybe whiskers on kittens really do tickle your fancy. Sounds like sweet romance to me.

Maybe you’re more inclined to follow those wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. If so, maybe you’re more into adventure than love.

Maybe it’s that brown paper package tied up with string that appeals to you. And maybe it’s because your like the mystery of it and can’t wait to unwrap it to see what’s inside.

Our favorite things — both in real life and in the world of writing — do provide clues to who we are as authors, and the sooner we realize who we are and what we most love to do and write, the sooner we find the true joy and satisfaction that comes in telling out stories.

So, what do you like to read about? What do you like to write? What turns your off while reading? What don’t you want to include in your stories?

The more we know… well, you know the adage.

Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh, My!

Everybody has seen The Wizard of Oz. At least once. Probably a dozen times or more. And everybody probably recognizes at once those words:

Lions and tigers and bears…oh, my!

Writers have new fears to worry about!












As I sat down to write this post, those words and that familiar rhythmic melody began pounding through my head. But the words soon changed. I wasn’t worrying about lions, tigers, or bears, but thinking instead of brands, concepts, and bios!  Oh, my!

Writers today have an overwhelming array of things to worry about. We can’t write one book then move on to the next. We need to promote our work, make the rounds on social media sites, and actively participate in author and reader loops.

It’s frightening.

Almost every day it seems that some new site is popping up forcing writers to learn new technologies, develop different marketing strategies, and spend more time on-line and less time doing what we do best: writing stories for readers to enjoy.

We need websites, Facebook pages, blogs, and Twitter. There’s Rafflecopter for giveaways, and for choosing winners. I haven’t figured out Triberr, I’m still a bit confused about Tumblr, and why would anybody really care where I am with Four Square? And what about blog radio? Yikes!

We need swag — stuff we all get, or stuff we all give.  I’m not really sure what it means, but it translates into business cards, bookmarks, tote bags, and other promotional items, which, of course, means more money out of our pockets, but it’s worth it, isn’t it, if it helps us gain visibility and get our names “out there” — wherever “out there” is.

There are dozens of helpful “coaches” who — for a fee — will tell us exactly how to handle book promotions, how to develop our online image, how to create a ‘brand”. We’re not writers, really. We’re products to be packaged, marketed, and hopefully, sold to consumers eager to figuratively eat us up.

Amidst all this clamor and confusion, there is a little common sense to be found. While much of the advice touted on the internet is redundant, ridiculous, impractical, or worthless, some does have value.

  • Read what you can; accept what makes sense to you.
  • Don’t try being everywhere, doing everything.
  • Make writing your first priority. If you have nothing to offer, there’s no need to promote yourself.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

The most important aspect, I think — and this applies whether we’re talking about writing, socializing, promoting, or anything else in life — is having a solid understanding of who we are and what we’re doing.

Every year, as November approaches, I prepare for the annual writing event known as “National Novel Writing Month” — NaNo for short. Chris Baty, the founder of the event, wrote a handy little guidebook for participants. In No Plot? No Problem, he suggests making a Magna Carta for writing. I do this religiously each year.

  • List 10 things you like in books you read.
  • List 10 things you hate in books you read.

By doing this, you can get a good look at who you are as a reader, which is, ultimately, who you need to be as a writer. Makes sense, don’t you think?

It’s only when we figure out who we are and what stories we have to tell that we can successfully maneuver our way through the online forests and overcome the fears of our own “lions and tigers and bears”.   Oh, my!