Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group - December 2014

Anna Nordeman

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for December 2014

This is my twentieth post for IWSG.

I am starting to write this ahead of time already on 23rd November and pre-scheduling it. As November is drawing to a close, I have two main topics: a short review of yet another helpful book for wannabee writers, Les Edgerton's, Hooked, write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, and I would like to share a few words about how I fared with NaNoWriMo this year.

First, Hooked.  With a title like that, it does make you curious. This is all about hooking in readers like fish! The bait is how your book begins. Or as Les Edgerton puts it: 'The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings'.

Les has included many catchy beginnings to novels and stories to illustrate what he means about writing a good 'hook'. For example:

My uncle Roland Zerbs lives in LaPorte, Missouri, where I grew up. He's known locally as the Fish Man.
From Sherwood Kiraly's Diminished Capacity

When Edward Carney said good-bye to his wife, Percey, he never thought it would be the last time he'd see her.
From Jeffery Deaver's The Coffin Dancer

My mother died at the moment I was born, and so far my whole life there was nothing standing between me and eternity; at my back was always a bleak, black wind.
From Jamaica Kincaid's 'Xuela'

He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town. From Les Edgerton's own story, 'The Bad Part of Town'

Another problem that Les Edgerton addresses is, after you have written your amazing opening line, what do you do with back-story, flashbacks and descriptions? Story structures aren't what they used to be.

There is also a chapter with a list of no-nos for beginning writers to avoid: Never open a story with a dream, a buzzing alarm clock or with dialogue.

Les Edgerton has his own webpage:


And now to an update on my NaNoWritMo-participation:

This is what my NaNo-November looked like: I think I am beginning to really hate NaNo.

I only reached 12222 words.

I got off to a late start, but did well a few days in the middle of the month and then realised that I could never make it in time, and lost interest in even trying, around Thursday 20th November.

What happened? I did have an outline or scene-cards, but there were still a lot of holes in the plot. I needed time to think it through and not just write gibberish to get the word count up, only to have to cut it away later on. 

I hate NaNo. I hate NaNo. I hate NaNo.

No. NaNo. It's Not fun to Not win NaNo. 

I don't care what anyone writes in those pep-talk-NaNo-letters. I think trying to write your novel for NaNo can even damage it. You can loose interest in your ideas because of the time press. It can kill your imagination. It can drench your flame of burning interest. It can make you write worse than if you took it at a calmer pace.

I still think it is better (at least better for me) to write at a slower pace and know that what I write means something to the whole of the novel. There is a great risk that you just 'stuff' your text with silly writing that you know in your heart does not lend anything to the story. 

And having to edit unnecessarily, afterwards, is just giving yourself extra work. All that time spent on pulling the text apart and in order to start over. 

Luckily, I wrote my story in little chunks of scenes that can be easily moved around in another order, if I decide that the plot needs that. (Thank you, Roz Morris, for that!)

All of this said, I still don't want NaNo to cease to exist. NaNo can help you to get started. I still think that it is basically a good challenge, and a friendly and supportive writing-community, that puts the focus on the importance of writing. It does teach you about using your time wisely. The set up and the little widgets all show you that each day's work can bring you closer to your goal. It encourages good work habits. A writer needs to write, every day.

I am sure that NaNo could work well for some young people or others who have more free time, who don't have to think about looking for work or have two children to raise alone or a troll for an ex-husband who makes life sour on a regular basis. 

I think the little calender shown above could be a good tool for year-round use. I wish I could use the counter over a longer period of time. It might help me find a working stride.  (Or I can just write down the word count every day on PAPER! I used to do that when I worked with commercial art.)

I think it is important to learn how to get the work done, and to be able to calculate how much time you need to write a longer text.

I think it is easier to calculate translation work than it is original writings. I have heard lectures of translators talking about how they calculate their work, by word count or pages. And my translation work does go faster. I don't have to worry about story structure, just the tone of the text and the meaning of words.

Since August I have been working on a translation and working well. I was almost halfway through my novel when NaNo started. But I didn't think that I could work on another author's novel in translation for NaNo. Maybe I could have.

For now, I've put my own original novel aside, and have returned to my translation work. (I have translated 20 chapters of an other author during the period, September-October and a bit into November. So I have indeed been writing and thinking about the use of words during this time.)

I'm glad that I discovered Roz Morris' Nail-Your-Novel-books last year. Thanks to Roz, I think I will be able to rescue my NaNo-novel when I get back to it (this coming summer).

If you want to read more about Roz Morris' Nail-Your-Novel how-to-books please click here.

My warmest congratulations to yoghurtelf (Trisha F. of WORD + STUFF) for winning. Shes been at it for 12 years, so she must know how to do it.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:

 Alex J. Cavanaugh

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group for 5th November 2014

Anna Nordeman

IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group for November 2014

This is my ninteenth post for IWSG. Please read my 'news blurbs' after my main topic:
My main topic:

As I have mentioned earlier, I am so pleased to have discovered Roz Morris' how-to-write books (the Nail Your Novel-series), but am still open to reading other advice-for-writers-books.

And when I noticed words of praise for Roz Morris' book by author Lisa Cron, I figured if she likes Roz Morris' ideas, maybe she has some good ideas of her own. My instincts proved to be right. I have almost finished reading Lisa Cron's how-to-write book, Wired for Story, The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. It is a joy to read.

It sticks holes in many myths about writing and basically explains why stories are essential to our survival as human beings. Telling stories is one of the things that makes us different from other species; it makes us human, even more than our opposing thumbs. Why? Because our brains are 'wired' for story, we think better in terms of story; we need to have an emotional connection when learning; we need to see a pattern and to follow a logical cause-and-effect reasoning. Stories make us sit up and pay attention to important information that could save our lives. Good stories help us to think about how we could solve problems in the future, by letting us see examples of what can go wrong for other people -- without us being in any real danger ourselves.

According to Lisa Cron, if you want to be a successful author (whose work people actually read), telling a good story is more important than writing well. Many books to help author-wannabees, concentrate on grammar usage and correct metaphors, but don't explain what a good story really is. 

A key phrase in Lisa Cron's book is "information on a need-to-know basis". Our brains cannot retain more information than just four thoughts at a time. You shouldn't pack your novel with a lot of unnecessary information that takes the reader away from the main story and does not have anything to do with the protagonist or the problems that the protagonist must deal with or solve. Lisa Cron uses brain research and examples from literature and films to helps us understand how to tell a good story. (See pages 220ff.)

Lisa Cron's book, Wired for Story, lives up to its message. It is thought-provoking as well as thoroughly entertaining and fun to read; a non-fiction work that is a page-turner.

Examples of new light on old myths about writing from Lisa Cron's book:

MYTH: "Show, Don't Tell" is Literal --
Don't tell Me John is Sad, Show Him Crying
REALITY: "Show, Don't Tell" is Figurative --
Don't Tell Me John is Sad, Show Me Why He's Sad


MYTH: Writers Are Rebels Who Were Born to Break the Rules
REALITY: Successful Writers Follow the Damn Rules

The End

News blurbs:

*  November means NaNoWriMo for many of us writer-wannabees. Last year (2013), I did not even attempt to use NaNoWriMo to write a novel. This spring I started writing notes on index cards using Roz Morris' suggested methods (Read about Roz' how-to write-books here.) This year, thanks to Roz, I do have an outline to follow, so my chances are slightly better. But I still have the problem of looking for a part-time job and listing new items for my shops. Plus two school-aged children to rear. If time could be purchased in a jar, I would probably be cuing up to the counter to buy it.

My son, Erik, Maria (friend) & my daughter, Elisabet


*  Halloween came and went in a swoosh. If you are curious about how my children, Erik and Elisabet (12 and 10 years of age) celebrated this curiously foreign holiday here in Sweden, take a look at the photos here. We had everything but candy-corn, which I miss, and I didn't bother with a pumpkin-jack-o-lantern, even though tiny pumpkins are sold here too.

Daughter and Father

*  November first was my dear sweet father's birthday. He would have been 97 years old. I think of him often, especially when I read and write. I wish that I could talk to him about the books I read or the films that I see. He might have liked the Downton Abbey-series, that I only recently discovered on Since he was born in 1917, it covers a period (1912 to 1924) that he loved. Daddy was very much interested in WWI and its impact upon society; how it changed the way people lived and thought. 
Daddy loved England. He was sent there when he was drafted into the US army during WWII. He was impressed with land itself, and the ordinary English people. He loved the culture and traditions. And he was seeing them at a time when they were perhaps not at their best. Or maybe they were. Maybe World War II brought out the best in them, or at least in some of them. Of all of the organisations to help soldiers, a long way from home, he thought that the Salvation Army in England did the best job. This is my little tribute to my father's memory and to all of you wonderful people in the UK.

Best wishes,

First Commenter:
Book Lover

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