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Ready, Set, Write! It’s NaNoWriMo Time, the Race for 50,000 Words

National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

Every year as trick-or-treaters trail home on Halloween to tally their loot, writers around the world flex their fingers in readiness for National Novel Writing Month, better known as Nanowrimo, that begins on November 1st.

This is the month when would-be novelists churn out thousands of words a day with the goal of creating the rough draft of a 50,000-word novel.

National Novel Writing Month was started in July 1999 in SanFrancisco by Chris Baty and 20 of his friends. Although it began as a half-literary fest and half-block party, it has grown into a worldwide explosion of the imagination among 300,000+ aspiring novelists. It is now even a 501(3)(c) nonprofit providing programs such as the Young Writers Program and Camp NaNoWriMo, that empower and encourage vibrant creativity around the world.

If you’ve been longing to write a novel or struggling to finish one, here are some very good reasons to join your fellow novelists during NaNoWriMo.

You are encouraged to go for quantity, not quality.

Here’s your chance to push yourself to turn out that rough draft that every writer must create. At the end of November, you will have a product that will definitely need to be edited and polished before it’s ready for publication, maybe for months later. But won’t it be great to have it done in a month instead of dragging on for years?

Your one-month novel will likely be bad, Actually really, really horrible.

But no one will ever need to see your rough draft.

Let me repeat that.

Write your worst. No one will ever see your rough draft.

What is important is that you will discover that you can create something that
is the same length as a good novel. Maybe, with attention to the elements of novel writing, you COULD turn a feeble attempt into a publishable novel with professional editing and polishing.

Listen to the Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, share the history and give tips.

You get tips and encouragement from published writers, industry leaders, and fellow writers.

  1. Keep up with the NaNoWriMo excitement on Twitter. https://twitter.com/NaNoWriMo
  2. Check out the calendar at http://nanowrimo.org/calendar for this and other exciting events, even virtual write-ins.
  3. Join on Facebook and learn about ways to get ready at https://www.facebook.com/nanowrimo and follow on
  4. Although you may certainly write alone, many NaNoWriMo writers gather in coffee shops, libraries and other public places to work on their novels and enourage each other toward their 50,000 word goal.
  5. There are 926 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guiding in 633 regions on six continents. Once you join, locate your region to see a listing of meeting places and times. Attend the ones that are convenient for you.
  6. In addition to the typical coffee shop meet-ins, my local NaNoWriMo groups will meet on a train, at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and even IKEA. Then there’s our write-a-thon, Night of Writing Dangerously in SanFrancisco.
  7. Get loads of tips and strategies in the http://nanowrimo.org/forums

The volunteer liaisons are wonderfully creative and energetic as they plan events to make it fun to join in. Some have themed dress-ups days and offer prizes.

NaNoWriMo is not a one-trick pony.

They encourage writings year-round. Learn about their many programs at https://www.youtube.com/user/lettersandlightvideo

Not near a group? Join the Virtual Write-In 

Have any NaNoWriMo participants ever published their novels?

Yes! Over 500+ NaNoWriMo participants have published their books.

Here are two you may recognize.

Hugh Howey, author of Wool and Sara Gruen, author of the historical novel Water for Elephants wrote their first drafts at NaNoWriMo.

But for a longer list, check out the traditionally and self-published NaNoWriMo authors at http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos

You don’t have to change your life, just make writing your focus.

Disciplined writers already know they must turn out a certain number of words per day. They do it by making a commitment and fitting it into their daily lives. You can do this too.

There is no pressure. You may track your word count on the NaNoWriMo site, but it’s on the honor system. Even if you don’t make the 50,000-word finish line, you will be happy to enjoy whatever progress you make. Just participating is an achievement.

If you’re ready, learn more and then register, go to http://nanowrimo.org/how-it-works

Tell me in the comments the book idea you plan to work on.

Follow me on Twitter@florabrown

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I update and publish this article each year.

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Hi, I’m Flora Morris Brown, author of this article and 14 books. Learn about my books below and others at amazon.com/author/florabrown

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How to Find Online Writer Support Groups

Writing is by its nature a lonely business. We spend our time organizing ideas and fighting back self-doubt, so getting feedback from others can be helpful. Unfortunately, friends and family are not good candidates for this. They mean well, but we need help from other writers who understand the creative struggle. But where do you start your search for an online writers group?

Brooke McIntyre of Inked Voices got it right in the introduction of her guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Finding a writing group or partner is a lot like dating. There’s an element of searching and an element of matching. You’re looking for people you can share a piece of your creative self with, for people you want to spend time on, for people who can help you become a stronger writer—a tribe or community. So a good fit is important.


A writers’ group is a good fit when members are

  • actively writing on a project, not just in the group to lurk
  • willing to give honest feedback with kindness
  • willing to accept honest feedback
  • able to support their critiques with examples
  • able to see their own weaknesses
  • at varying levels of writing experience

How do you find online writing support groups?

1. Search on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other social media sites using a keyword phrase that represents the kind of groups you seek. Take a screenshot or make a list of your findings. 

When you search on Facebook, you’ll get a list of pages, groups, and more.

Since I was looking for a support group, I could have included “support group” in my search. Instead, I searched for the broader term “nonfiction writers”  so I could get a longer list. I got a list of 50+ groups. In the first group on list, you see how many members there are and how many posts are published a day. Also, note that some groups require you to join an association in order to access their members-only group.

Since I didn’t include “support group” in my search, some on the list may not be support groups at all. It happens, however, that the Writers of Non-fiction is a support group owned by a book coach and ghostwriter.

 

Under the keyword “nonfiction writers” I got this list of 50+ pages.

 

2. Visit the groups that come up with the following questions in mind.

  • What’s the background of the group creator?–Is she/he a published author and active in the field?
  • Does the group have rules?–A set of rules help keep the group on task and discourage drifters. 
  • How many members?–A group with 10,000 members may sound good on the surface, but group engagement is more important than large numbers.
  • How frequent and valuable are the discussions?–You’re only going to get great help in an engaged group where questions, announcements, and answers are posted frequently. Also, be on the look to see if the questions are from varying levels of experience.

3. If groups sound promising, join as many as you wish. Facebook allows you to join up to 6,000 groups.  Once you’ve been approved, you’ll be able to see the discussions. Hover in the groups before participating. You may get a lot of info from answers already shared. Check their archives, videos, and so on to learn from information already posted. If a group doesn’t offer the help you seek, leave.



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How Do You Write a Book Worth Reading?

 

© Can Stock Photo / forsterforest

 

 

This is the most amazing time in history if you want to write a book. Whether you want to write your life story in your own handwriting to be left behind with your will for your family, or if you long to write a fiction book that will be on equal footing with bestsellers, this is your time.

The tools are at your fingertips.

Your biggest barrier is you.

You fear that your writing is not good enough.

Good enough for what, I ask?

Some pretty horrid books were forced upon me in college because somebody had decided they were great literature. I survived to go on and write some pretty horrid stuff myself, some of which a few people bought.

Who decides if a book is worth reading?

The road to writing success is paved with rejections. A few of these are legendary:

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected by more than 100 publishers before they found one who would print their book.  They still had to create demand for the book, working every day for a long time until their idea caught fire.
  • Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lack of ideas.
  • English novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
  • By the time Stephen King was 14, he had received so many rejection slips that they were too heavy for the nail holding them up. He replaced it with a spike.
  • J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers and almost by a 13th publisher, who gave in when his daughter pleaded with him to publish the book.

These authors could have been rejected for many reasons, of course, but it’s clear that at some point their writing was not considered worth reading. And yet, once published, they were deemed worthwhile.

Who decides if a book is worth reading?

Since a publisher takes a substantial financial risk in carrying a book to market, it’s understandable that they get to decide if a book is worth reading. Publishers don’t like taking risks. They are like banks who only want to loan money to people who already have plenty of it.

If a literary agent is being asked to shop your book around to find a willing publisher, it is the agent who quickly decides if she thinks she can convince a publisher to take on your book so that both of them can make money.

But what if the end user, the reader, got to decide what is worth reading. Wouldn’t that be great?

That is exactly where we stand now with blogs, ebooks, and other digital products. Because the reader is free to read these types of writing directly from the author, it is the reader who decides if your work is worth reading.

No one is born a great writer

“Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer’–which is right after being a natural heart surgeon.”
– Maya Angelou

Like learning to play the piano, lining words up to convey our thoughts may come easier to some than others, but we all have to practice, refine and hone our writing skills. Who is to say when our writing is good, good enough or great?

Writing professionally is a lifetime endeavor, in fact. Every time a published author starts a new book, she is at the beginning again, fighting back fear and uncertainty.

Writers don’t have to be great to be worth reading

Changes in publishing have made it possible for anyone to churn out a book. Some may hawk their work directly to readers to find their audience. But every writer ’s goal may not be to please a big audience or to rake in millions.

Take the poems I write every Christmas chronicling the year’s events in my family, for example. My audience is small and they love me. My poems are corny, with forced and awkward ryhme schemes.  And yet, if one of my friends fails to receive his poem in a timely manner, he calls requesting it.

Since greatness is in the mind of the reader, I encourage anyone who wants to write, to read what they enjoy. Then write what they wish. Then rewrite, read some more, and write some more.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”–Toni Morrison

If you intend to make your living from writing or will measure your book’s worth by how many copies are sold, then, by all means, you must become a serious business person and hustle.  But if you want to write your life story or a publish a book, then by no means don’t let anything or anyone stop you.

How do you write a book worth reading?

Write a book you enjoy writing.

How do you decide a book was worth reading? Tell us in Speak Your Mind.

9 Tips for Choosing the Best Title for Your Book

An ad from my local hardware store featured a party cooler for sale. The cooler was pictured filled with ice and canned soda, but printed in parentheses was “Sodas and ice not included.”

What does this have to do with choosing the right title for your book?

Most of us would realize that the ice and soda were intended as a suggested use. This disclaimer was necessary, however, for the clueless folks who would insist that the picture misled them to believe the ice and soda were included.

Just as clearly stating what is being offered or promised is critical in advertising, so is it important in your book title.

Your book title is a billboard, a promise, an agreement to deliver certain content.

How do you choose the right title for your book?

Here are 9 tips that have worked for others.

1. Create one sentence that boldly sums up the contents or main point of your book.

Within that sentence are the keywords that should be in your title or it may be your full title.

When Robert Kiyosaki wrote his book If You Want To Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go To School, a publisher suggested he change his title to The Economics of Education. I’m glad Kiyosaki didn’t listen, aren’t you?

2. While titles cannot be copyrighted, steer clear of emulating popular titles.

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fifty Shades of Grey, and an alphabet mystery series starting with A is for Alibi, have already been done, for example.

Author Randall Hansen must have been ecstatic when sales of his 2009  book, Fire and Fury, spiked. Then he must have realized that Michael Wolff had used the same title for his 2018 book Fire and Furyabout the Trump White House.  Since Hansen’s book is about the allied bombing of Germany from 1942-1945, it is probably not what a lot of buyers were flocking to buy.  That means some buyers will write angry reviews, and that Hansen’s new wealth will soon disappear if folks request refunds.  Yes, the buyers could have paid closer attention to the subtitles and the very different covers, but many don’t.

3. Settle on a working title while you’re writing your book.

By the time you finish your book, however, the right title will likely emerge.

4. Reflect the tone of your message in the title.

If you’re writing a how-to book, you don’t want your title to mislead your readers into thinking it’s a sizzling romantic novel. It may result in sales, but readers will be disappointed and unfulfilled. Readers who feel betrayed can leave nasty reviews, and likely request refunds.

5. Notice the nickname or short name you gave your book while you were writing it.

One of the actors from the sitcom, That 70′s Show, revealed that this was not the original title. It was the nickname the cast gave it during rehearsals. By the time it was ready for launch, the producers decided that the nickname was the right name for the show.

6. Listen to how you respond to questions about your book when you are speaking to groups or your accountability partner.

In an effort to explain the differences in men and women during one of his live presentations, John Gray responded with “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”.

Bingo! He had found the perfect title he had been seeking for his book on relationships.

7. Go for a simple and clear title rather than fail at being clever.

8. Give your book a subtitle, if necessary for clarity.

One book that could have benefitted from a subtitle is How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer.

When Captain Trimmer got tired of running into small boats, he wrote this serious book directed at small boat owners/operators to help them avoid getting into the pathways of big boats which can not always see much less miss hitting them. Unfortunately, many of the 1,226 Amazon reviewers had a lot of fun with this book title. With the original price tag of $75, many of the reviewers may not have actually bought the book, but they couldn’t resist taking aim at that title.

Here are some of the reviews of Trimmer’s book that made me laugh out loud.

  • Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn’t find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.
  • Huge ships have been the bane of my life, so I was very excited when I bought this book. However, Captain Trimmer does not provide the helpful and insightful advice that I had hoped for and I did not feel that this book had any noticeable effect. If anything, I now encounter more huge ships than ever! Would not recommend.
  • After reading this book, I relized [sic] exactly what I was doing wrong everytime I was run over by bardges [sic] on the mighty Mississippi. I always played dead and hoped the boats would go away, like I was taught by a book I read, “How To Survive Bear Attacks.” I guess I thought the lessons taught by that book applied to everything life, but it clearly meant just bears. Now I am surviving the waterways better than a BP oil rig.
  • I give this book five stars because it is by far the best treatise to date regarding the avoidance of huge ships. BUT C’MON, PEOPLE! Did you learn nothing in the sixties? Avoiding huge ships won’t solve the problem. Separate but equal waterways only drives us further apart. It is the lack of understanding between the huge and non-huge vessel communities that lead to well-intentioned but misguided tomes such as this. We must begin a dialogue with our huge brethren. Remember–we are all floating on the same ocean. I have a dream… that one day ALL vessels will be judged not by their tonnage, but by the content of their cargo. Next time a huge vessel approaches, just ask yourself “WWPD?” (What would Popeye do?)
  • WHY NO KINDLE EDITION?????? 
    Given that there is a huge ship bearing down on me RIGHT NOW I am extremely disappointed that I cannot get inst

9. Be outrageous with a risky, even risque title.

  • Shit My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern–a coming-of-age memoir wrapped about his father’s profane, profound and funny sayings
  • Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn–a moving memoir about the troublesome relationship between Nick and his father
  • Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max–a funny book about Tucker’s misadventures. Some criticized it for being too vulgar, but one that didn’t deter its popularity.

Which of these 9 tips will best help you write the perfect title for your book? Tell us in Speak Your Mind below.


Most first-timers have trouble with just getting started on the contents, much less finding the right title. If your dream of writing a book has been stalled by fear or uncertainty, then perhaps you can benefit from my coaching services for aspiring authors. Send me an email to set up a discovery session.


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”~ Maya Angelou


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It’s What You Do AFTER Martin Luther King’s Birthday That Counts


We expect parades, concerts, TV specials and community events on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s National Day of Service.

When I was still teaching, my students looked forward to this and any holiday as time off. But if we want to truly honor King, his birthday should be a day on, not off.

It’s a time for us to show up, not on just one day, but a time to follow his legacy of service everyday. You can get ideas here. 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday was first celebrated as a federal holiday in 1986 after 32 years of campaigning at local and national levels. It later became the national Martin Luther King Day of Service when former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. His most popular “I Have a Dream” speech galvanized the civil rights movement, but my favorite King speech is the Feb. 4, 1968 sermon,  “The Drum Major Instinct”. In it he said

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

If King’s call to serve has a familiar ring, it’s because the same message echoes throughout history.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.’ If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else. Chinese Proverb

The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy 1961 inaugural address

Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve. Marianne Willliamson

Serving others is easy.

You don’t have to go far nor do you need loads of skill or buckets of talent. Connecting with an established charity, church or other community groups can do enormous good and be gratifying for you, even if you work with them only occasionally throughout the year.

In every age group from premature newborns to senior citizens are people longing for conversation, a visit or a touch. Local and global groups can help you find people in one of these groups if you are drawn to serve one of them.

Serving others is accessible.

One neighborhood rallied around to help each other when someone was recovering from illness and needed a hot meal or were unable to drive and needed transportation to medical or other appointments.

Serving others is contagious.

When I owned a gift basket business, the owner of a customized cookie company recognizing that I was new to the business took time from working in her booth at the California Gift Show to sit me down and give me some great marketing advice.

Her spontaneous and generous mentoring inspired me to help other aspiring entrepreneurs through a nationwide network, a newsletter, speaking at gift shows. and presenting workshops at gift basket associations.

Serving others is mutually beneficial.

Research has caught up with ancient wisdom.  Scientific studies and positive psychology have toppled some of the myths we have about what makes us happy. What is consistent among the findings is  we increase our own happiness by expressing gratitude and helping others. If you are curious to find out where you stand on gratitude and assess your level of happiness, take one of the many free questionnaires on Authentic Happiness.

Serving others is most powerful when it extends beyond one day.

Many communities and organizations used the National Day of Service as the kickoff day for extended service. Some groups provide healthy snacks to nearby schools. Philadelphia holds a citywide event where citizens pitch in on various projects. Some health organizations hold events calling attention to health and wellness issues in their community.

King filled a void when he spoke out for justice and freedom. I encourage you to fill a void in the niche you serve and show flair and style in the life you live.

Let the way you earn your living also enable you to serve others.  Even if you are working on a job that is just a temporary stop along the way to your ideal career, give your sincere effort and best service, not just for others, but for yourself as well.

To serve, as King points out, all you need is a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. Thankfully, these things are within everyone’s reach. To tap into them all you have to do is go within, believing that they are yours.

Let the National Martin Luther King Day of Service be a reminder to start your daily activities from your heart and soul, and carry out all your interactions with integrity and joy.

Tell us in Speak Your Mind below how you plan to honor King’s legacy throughout the year.

(Revision of a 2016 post on ColorYourLifeHappy.com/blog.)