11.21.2016

Of NaNoWriMo and Writing Groups

I’m not really sure if I hit a wall this weekend or not.
All I know is that I smashed my goal to hit the 40,000 work mark. And by ‘smash’ I mean that choked out about 400 words past that 40K wall.

But I’m not going to bore you with just  talk about National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as the hip call it) (or NaNo as the hipper but probably just lazy call it).  If you’re wondering, I fall in to the second parenthetical bubble. Because words.

There were some really cool things that came from the writing event that I attended this weekend. All over the country (nay, world?) there were planned NaNo events coinciding with the theme of “Night of Writing Dangerously.”

Now at this point, you’re probably saying But Todd, you said you weren’t going to bore us with NaNoWriMo talk. 

And no. That’s not quite what I said.  What I said was just.  Meaning that there would be talk about NaNo, which might bore you AND talk about other things you might find equally non-interesting.

But since this is my blog, and since I need to step away from the Dystopia of Sector 23 for a beat or two, I’m choosing to get my words in by dumping them in to this bloggy blog post full of dumpy goodness.

So...this is my 6th year of thinking about participating in National Novel Writing Month...see...too fucking long.

Again, from the top.

I’m not really sure if I hit a wall this weekend or not.

OK. Not so far top.

So, this is my sixth year of thinking about participating in NaNo. And my second year of actually committing words to the cause.

In a weird turn of events, this might be the first year I actually complete NaNo!

Now...I blame the participation last year and this year as well as the probably going to hit my word count goal (and actually finishing a book) to the same thing-Writing Groups.

I happen to be friends with someone who is friends with horror author, C. Bryan Brown (insert amazon link here).  Only, at a barbecue we were both at that she was hosting, she neglected to mention that fact. She just introduced me to Chris.  Chris was funny. A smart ass. And he liked beer. Not sure why I went all past tense there, he still is all of those things.  It wasn’t until Chris was packing up his spawn to leave that I found out he was a published author.

I knew other writers, but a published author was like a unicorn.

He told me of the magical writing group he was part of. Only, in retrospect, he really undersold the balls out of it.  He sent out a couple of emails and told me when and where they were meeting. Something conveniently came up.

Until the time it didn’t. The time I showed up. And realized I was sitting at the table.  A table in Panera on Polaris Parkway with multiple published authors. I was intimidated, awestruck, intimidated, and wondering how the fuck I would fit in.  This emotional plinko happened for a few meetings. Until the meeting that it didn’t.

There was a transition, and I’m not sure when it happened that I became part of the group.

I was in a writer’s group.

With actual writers. Which by proxy probably meant that I was an actual writer, too (But that little bit of self-actualization didn’t occur until almost a year later).

Chris wasn’t just a unicorn. Motherfucker was a ...well....some mythical beast that is actually of two different worlds.

And said unnamed - yet described in such a way that you’ve already picked one out - Chris wasn’t just in the Creative Minds Columbus writer’s group. Nay. He was also in the NCOW group.  North Central Ohio Writers, or North Central Ohio WriMos, depending on which Facebook page you hit first.

Mr. C.Bryan Brown, being the social particulate that he is, decided to host a gathering of local writers in which writers from both groups could meet, eat, and fall in love with each other’s desserts. It was the debut of the now famed eclair cake (and no joke, multiple wedding proposals, but I’m a proper gentleman-I need to be wooed first).

Somehow, from there, I managed to curtail my INFP nature long enough to be somewhat social (demented, and sad, but social nonetheless).  From that, I managed to connect with a few of the Northerners through Facebook.

I made my way to an event in Ashland. And another. Each of the events, I felt mostly like the outsider that was being tolerated because I was Chris’s friend.

Until the day I didn’t feel that way.

And somehow I found that I, too, was one of those unnamed - yet described in such a way that you’ve already picked one out-mythical creatures. Like Chris, I was in two writing groups.

Writing Groups.

If you are interested in ANY way, shape, or form in improving your craft, then the most sound advice I can give you (because clearly I AM in a place to give advice to other writers), you need to get in with a Writing Group.

Different groups have different foci. Meetings/gatherings are at different times, some are online.  There really is a myriad of different groups. I would venture to say that the only way you could not find a group to suit your needs/styles/dessert preferences would be if you just didn’t fucking try.

And that’s where you do yourself a disservice.

I have seen my own writing grow by leaps and bounds.  Because of my Columbus group, I decided to give NaNo a legitimate shot.  And I made a run for it.  Hitting a wall of about 23,000 words. I fell short for many reasons, the main one being I didn't write.

Now, I’m in two groups. the NCOW group is a machine when it comes to NaNo. Almost daily write-ins and events to help keep authors motivated and focused. And there is (way more than enough) fun thrown in the mix that it’s not just show up, write, count words, bang your head against the keyboard.

I would say that there are two reasons that I’m sitting here with 9 days to go in NaNo over the 40K mark with a more than solid prospect of  hitting the word goal and crossing something off my ‘personal goals as a writer.’

  1. I’m writing.   No amount of participation in a writing group is going to count for diddly if you don’t actually write. I mean, it’s kind of a thing you have to do if you want to be a writer--you write.
  2. Involvement in Writing Groups.  


So...and don’t worry, we’ll get back to item number two on our list in a moment.  I just need to spread some gratitude. I am ridiculously lucky when it comes to groups.  I have had very few groups that I have been involved in where the ‘experts’ in said groups weren’t willing to help encourage and grow others. And I soaked that up. I never try to assume I know more than anyone in the group, but if there was something I had a question about, or something I could offer, I did. I am grateful for three groups in particular that have been like a mentorship program to me -  Help Portrait, Creative Minds Columbus, and NCOW.

So, back to Involvement in Writing Groups.  NaNo can make you feel more isolated than you normally might as an author. I don’t have any issues sitting here in Uptown Westerville at a pizza joint with my earbuds in banging away at words. I’m around people, but isolated. There’s something about NaNoWriMo, at least there is/was for me, where the heaviness of trying to hit those word counts can force a kind of isolation or creative hibernation. Like, I want to be social, but fuck, I need to get another 1000 words in before the calendar cycles forward another day.

This is where the writing groups help. At least in my experience.  You’re at an event, a write-in, for example. And everyone there has the same goal--to get some futhermucking words on the page (or screen, or journal, or phone, or whatever medium their soul bleeds upon).  So there’s no need to explain to someone why you’re not talking. Or why, so overcome with emotions that you’re not ready to process, you go downstairs and complete all the word sprints alone sitting on a couch with your words, and your heart laid bare.  I mean..I’m guessing there’s no need to explain something like that, if it were to have happened.

Point is..you still get something of a social interaction with a group of like minded people who sometimes look at you and chant ‘one of us’ in a really creepy British Children’s Television show mascot sort of way.

And it’s awesome.

It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve felt in a long time.  I know that every single person in each of the groups I’m in wants me to succeed. Wants me to just blow the shit out of those publishing charts.

And you know what? I want to same for them.

But more than that, I want for them what they deem their measure of success. If it's the USA Today Bestseller list, I'm in! How can I help?! If it’s 150 people reading a blog post about NaNoWriMo and Writing Groups (this goal might be drawing from real life) or if it’s seeing their books in an airport newstand (again, that’s me)...then the support is there.

The encouragement, tough love, friendship....all of it.  It’s a family. Both of the groups I’m in are. It’s just a really amazing thing.

And I know that I wouldn’t be passing the 42K mark (like I will tonight - with this rebel writing), if it wasn’t for the love and support of my families.

Family-plural.

My bio-fam is always in my corner. Seriously....how motivating is it when your dad tells you to finish your book, hopefully while he’s alive, but if he’s not, at least read it over his grave?  Screw that, I’m gonna have several books done by that point.  And besides, he's having his ashes scattered. That's a lot of damn reading. Ain't nobody got time for that. Best just finish the books while he's alive and let him read them himself.

My friends, who are really my extended family-or at least that’s how I see them on most days-also have by back. And their support reminds me of this constantly.

But it’s the writing groups that not only have my back, but aren’t afraid to give me a  swift gentle kick in the ass if I’m selling myself short or bullshitting as to why I’m not doing something (like...you know...writing).

Here’s a final pro-tip.  Or...well...a tip from me that I’ll still give when I actually am a professional writer.

If you’re dealing with people, keep their heart in mind. Good life-ing and having good relationships fostered in your life comes from approaching the relationships with the other person’s heart in mind.

When it comes to your writing, that has to be from your heart.  I have found that there is a nugget of my true self in everything I’ve written. As such, it’s a piece of my heart.  And that’s a big deal. It’s insanely tough to actually lay your soul bare, bleed it on to the page, bind it up and hand it to someone and wait for their reaction. Like Here, I died a little bit so I could show parts of my soul to you.

So...as a writer, dealing with other writers, remember that.

As a reader...please keep in mind that it’s not always as easy to do the soul-letting a some would have you believe.

And for crapssakes--if you have ANY interest in writing (or you know you’re a writer and feeling lost). Do these two things:

  • Write. every. single. day.  (Even if it’s a list of the shit you really want to write about tomorrow).
  • Find a group of writers who will help you grow and whom you can help grow.


You’ll be amazed at how your craft grows.

Have a wonderful evening my friends.

-A.T.

Speaking of kick ass authors I know, you should check them out.  Here's some friends of mine from each of the groups I'm in and links to their Amazon profiles:

C. Bryan Brown
Monica Corwin
Tim McWhorter
Violet Patterson
William Rayst
Carma Haley Shoemaker

I'll add more to the list and continue to share the amazing works of my friends and fellow tribespersons as I boook-stalk them :-)

4 comments:

Carma Haley Shoemaker said...

You're too awesome and I'm honored that you joined our NCOW group.

Todd S. said...

I'm honored that you all let me in. It's an amazing family that I feel blessed to be a part of!

Booksby Violet said...

Helllllls yeah!! Write that shit and win NaNo!! You've got this!!!

Todd S. said...

I'm almost there. I have a few more chapters to probably go in and fill in. but at this point, the first draft is seriously almost done.

I'm kind of in shock, to be honest.

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