Friday, December 6, 2013

Celebrating NaNoWriMo

by Becky Martinez

 For some reason every year for the past five years I have sat down during the month of November and attempted to write a 50-thousand word novel.  It’s all part of the fun of National November Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. For thirty days I plug away at a book or two to see how many words I can possibly write.  Most of those years I’ve actually made it to the 50-thousand threshold.  (See my Writing Corner on Monday for why I love to do it and how those NaNo deadlines can help you to keep the writing process going and how to keep the word count flowing, even past November.

You’ll notice I didn’t celebrate until a week later. That’s because I think I was all written out when I finished last Friday, November 29. (Yes! I got through a day early).
But today I am celebrating that accomplishment. Tomorrow I will pick up the book I wrote and start in on the process of editing. It will take some work, because some of those scenes need to be moved around and some need to be fixed and there is lots of research I need to check.

But as I’ve often heard Nora Roberts and other prolific writers say, you can’t edit what you haven’t written, and a blank page cannot be edited.  That is one of the joys of NaNoWriMo. It frees up the imagination so that you are just writing down whatever pops into your head.
Many times I’ll come back to the words and find out that I had a really good scene going. It just needs some cleaning up. Other times I’ll discover plot twists I might not have known about if I hadn’t allowed my brain and my characters to carry me off in some crazy direction.

So for now I am celebrating the brain-freedom for writing provided by NaNoWriMo. Oh, and also those 50-thousand-plus words!
For December, I am going to celebrate my good fortune in finishing 50-thousand words by helping other writers. Please join me at The Help Desk at Savvy Authors. Along with several other writers and writing teachers I will be donating my time to answering questions and looking through your material. Click on the Workshops and Classes and look for the sessions for Becky Martinez. I'll be there all next week to answer your questions and provide you with help.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Celebrating why we Write

Writing conferences are always stimulating for me and I am a big fan of smaller conferences where the smaller venue gives writers a better chance to talk and to visit with the headline authors who are giving workshops. Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Tony Hillerman Writer's Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a smaller conference with several hundred writers and would be writers in attendance. What a great experience!  I only attended for one day, but it was so jam packed with information, I came home with my head spinning.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the day was hearing from the "the father of Rambo," David Morrell, but action-packed military thrillers were not on his agenda for that day. He discussed his latest book,  Murder as a Fine Art, which is historical mystery, but still packs plenty of action. As part of that discussion he provided a fine lesson in writing and being a writer. He told us there should be one of three reasons for writing and none of them had anything to do with making money or simply chasing the market place, which so many aspiring writers do.

The three reasons can be very fulfilling to any writer, even if you don't get sold or make millions:

1. Write for yourself. This had to do with having a story you want to tell, something you want to impart to others. He has written plenty of thrillers, but he wanted to try something different so he turned to Victorian England for his latest book. It was a personal choice that spurred him, and he says you as a writer should look for those sort of personal decisions.  Look for what you want to write or experiment with and go for it.

2.  Write to learn something.  If you want to do research on something, or if you want to explore a topic, what better way to do that than to do research and then write about it. He is well known for his well-researched books and just from the way he described the work he put into Murder, it was obvious he wanted to learn something about the period, the people and the setting in Victorian London.  He urged us to look for something we want to know and then to learn about it and write about it.

3.  Write to express a part of yourself. This can be a good way of letting go of the past, or searching for the future or digging deep inside of yourself to say things you might not be able to say in another way. I've always felt that writing can help a person (me) express things I might not otherwise do. Want to tell off a nasty boss? Kill him off in your mystery.  Wish there were things you had said to an old boyfriend? Put them into a romantic scene.  Wish you had been stronger in a certain situation or wish you had just broken down and cried your eyes out?  Let your characters do it in a book. All the emotion can be useful when you're writing a story. 

All three made perfect sense as he discussed how he had started researching his book from one angle, as research on writer Thomas de  Quincey, a friend of Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth who was known for writing Confession of an English Opium Eater.  de Quincey was an influence on writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But the more research he did, the more he found himself going in a different direction until in the end he pulled in de Quincey's daughter as one of his main characters, telling the story from her eyes, using her perspective.

But what struck me was his willingness to stop and talk to everyone and to provide advice to writers of all ages. When I stopped in the book store he was talking writing to a group of young people.  Earlier he had been very willing to discuss with me and a friend why he finds short story writing so difficult, but why he likes to do it. She was expressing a concern about attempting to write a short story and his advice was, "go for it." I'll be writing more on what he had to say about short story writing in a future blog.

In fact I'll be writing more about the entire day.  But at the end of the day the main thing I kept thinking about was Morrell's comments. Write for yourself. Make that your goal and you won't be disappointed if the sales aren't there or if the reviews are bad. Know at the end of the day you've learned something and you've improved and pleased yourself. I went home ready to write!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Celebrating Books … of all Kinds

by Becky Martinez (writing as Rebecca Grace)

Today I am celebrating the arrival of my latest book in print, but I also have a sad confession to make.  I am a bookaholic.

There is nothing quite like seeing your book in print, and even though I enjoyed the release of my novella, Shadows from the Past, as an e-book last year, I was even happier last month when my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, announced they would be releasing it in print. Yesterday the print copies came and it was great to finally hold it in my hands, even though it was already on my Kindle, Nook and Ipad.

Oh, yes, I have all three and I use them all.
See, books have always been a great joy to me. They’ve been my constant companion since I was very young. I may be writing them now, but I have been a fan of books and reading from the moment I learned to read. I always seemed to have a book available or around me. In those days we lived on a farm and I can remember checking books out from the Bookmobile that visited my rural school. I remember going into town on Saturday for groceries and sitting at a little table that was set aside at the front of the store with lots of books and I spent the entire visit there. 
My mother also introduced us to the library around that time and from then on, wherever we lived, she got a library card and we paid weekly visits to the nearest library. Imagine my surprise years later when I was driving down a street in Carpinteria, California, and recognized a small building on a corner. It the old library we visited back in the 50s.

I am still an avid reader, and I am thrilled to be able to enjoy them in so many different ways. I now have bookcases full of books, as well as dozens on my Ipad, Nook and Kindle. But I’ve also become a real fan of audio books, even if my sister doesn’t consider listening to them as reading a book.
They became a real necessity 15 years ago when I worked in Los Angeles and had a house in Las Vegas. While I had always been a fan of Sue Grafton and read everything from A is for Alibi all the way up through M is for Malice at the time, I listened to them all as I made those long drives every weekend.  I listened to most of the John Sandford books I'd already read too, and discovered Harlan Coben on audio on a trip to the Northwest. Then I fell in love with the books of Robert Crais on audio and had to listen to all of them. And don’t even get me started on Stephen King.  Just don’t make the mistake of listening to something like The Shining while driving through the back roads in the Colorado mountains or Desperation, while making the drive from Las Vegas to Phoenix in the middle of the night.

And now I find myself with a real predicament.  I’m not only buying the audio book version, but since I don’t drive as much as I used to, I must also get the actual book as well so I can keep reading between driving. And I’ve been known to also get the Kindle or Nook version for when I’m travelling or when I'm in a rush to start reading a favorite author immediately. Yes, the sad truth is I have audio, hardback or paperback and e-book versions of the same book in some cases.  

So today I am celebrating books… in all sizes and every way we can get them. While I love the audio books and the electronic books, I will always have room for another one in print.

 Just don’t give me another option.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Celebrating Writers

By Becky Martinez

Writing conferences can be invigorating. I recently just returned from Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I always come home from gatherings like this feeling like I can hardly wait to sit down at the keyboard and get to work.  To me, a writing conference is a wonderful way to rejuvenate yourself.


The answer is simple.  It's always fun to meet other writers -- like best selling author Craig Johnson.
And it's not only fun to listen to the processes some of the others writers use, but it always interesting to hear their publishing success stories. And who wouldn’t want to listen to an award-winning, best-selling suspense writer like Laura Lippman talk about why she thinks women writers deserve more credit for their work?  That discussion was inspiring on many levels. 

For instance she noted that the book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” deserves every bit as much acclaim as “Catcher in the Rye.” That was a book many young girls still read and can relate to. She’s right. It stands out as one of those books that inspired many young women. She says it was the book that made her want to be a writer, and I’ll bet it inspired a good many other young writers as well.

It was also interesting to listen to Craig Johnson, who has reached a high level of success with his Longmire mystery series. It features longtime lawman Walt Longmire who keeps law and order in a Wyoming county. The series is being made into a television drama series by A&E. He told us about starting to research his series many years ago, talking to a sheriff about his story idea. Ten years later the sheriff came up to him and asked him how the story was going. Well, he hadn’t finished it. But he did. He went back and began writing and eventually was able to finish and get his work published.

Ten years!
But some writers take longer, as many published authors will attest to. How many writers start out and then shove their book in a drawer and never come back to it? But how many do come back? And how many eventually succeed? Those kind of stories are inspirational. You don’t fail if you keep trying. Perseverance and hard work and continued drive can often make the difference in whether you succeed eventually.

I started out writing as a teenager and it took years before I considered trying the publishing world. When I did, I was immediately sent several rejections. I still have them. What bothers me most about those rejections is what they said and what I didn’t understand at the time. The editors liked the story. They even said they might look at my work again, but it needed work. All I saw was the part that said they didn’t want this story. I put it away and it’s still in a drawer somewhere.

Years later I tried again. This time when I got a rejection, I read it more carefully. It said my work lacked polish. That was some of what the other editor said. She kept questioning my POV – I didn’t know what POV was. But this time around, I was determined to find out what “lacked polish” meant. I went to a writing group. I went to writing classes, and I kept writing.

This time I was much more determined. And eventually it happened. I got short stories published and eventually a novel.

My success has not reached that of Craig Johnson or Laura Lippman, but my determination is there and I won’t quit writing this time. And I heard similar stories from other writers at the conference as well. We’re not best sellers – yet – but we’ve got stories to tell and we’re going to tell them. And sell them!