Magna Cum Murder XX

The twentieth Magna Cum Murder conference took place this past weekend, October 24-26th.  I was fortunate enough to be there, and I had a great time.  If you’re a fan of crime fiction or think you want to write your own, I can’t recommend this conference highly enough.  It is a wonderful gathering of authors, fans, and writers.

On Friday my husband and I gave a panel on ghost hunting in real life.  We had a great turn-out for what was the first panel of the conference and we had some great questions at the end.  We were approached by people all weekend who wanted to share their own ghost stories with us, which was great fun.  This was my thirteenth year volunteering at Magna and my fourth or fifth year doing a panel.  I still get geeked out when an author comes up to tell me he or she enjoyed our panel!

There were many great panels to attend at Magna, as there are every year.  I can’t do them justice in a re-cap here, but there was one comment made by one of the authors which really stuck with me and that I want to share.  He was on a panel called “The Clark Kents” and each of the writers had a “day job.”  They were discussing how they balanced that day job with their writing.  Several authors were early morning writers, another tries to use his lunch hour (but can’t get his boss to leave him alone – oh how I can relate!), and others worked later in the day.  One of the authors, a morning person, jumped in to point out that there is no magical formula for a writing schedule – we each need to pick out what works for us. That really struck me.  So often it feels like we are asking authors about their writing schedule because we are hoping to find a magic formula for writing.  This author I admire works on this schedule so if I imitate him, I’ll be able to succeed too.  But the fact is, there is no magic formula.  Morning work might work great for several of the authors I admire, but that doesn’t mean it will for me.  I am not a morning person and I never have been (from birth, folks – I was born at 3 in the afternoon).  Instead of trying to imitate someone else’s writing schedule, I need to find one which works for me.  We all do.  So by all means, ask the authors you admire about the schedule you use, maybe even give it a try, but don’t feel like you’ll never make it if you don’t follow their schedule.  In the end the goal of your asking and experimenting should be to find what works best for you.

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Writing Chapter 2, Magna Cum Murder, and to NaNo or not to NaNo

Got a lot on my mind, if the title of this post doesn’t give that away!

First, after my lovely chapter 1 of my current ms, I’ve sputtered and faltered and am still struggling with chapter 2.  I was feeling uber-frustrated about it all, until it just hit me that chapter 1 was kind of that way too.  I wrote and re-wrote and re-re-wrote that thing, trying to make it awesome before turning it in for critiquing.  And guess what then?  I re-re-re-wrote the blasted thing, using the critique information to make it better.  I’m really pleased with it now, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I had a similar experience with that first chapter.  Lots of reworking of things, lots of re-writing, lots of stuff moved to the scratch pad file.  I have a couple of options here.  I can charge forward with stuff I’m less than pleased about or I can accept that there may be a good deal of struggle with this particular manuscript.  I think a good deal of the struggle comes from the fact that I’ve had this story in my head and heart for so many years, waiting for me to be “ready” to write it out.  I’m hugely psyched out about wanting to do it justice and about finally getting it written.  I need to learn to take a deep breath, let off the pressure, and just see where the writing goes (and silence the history major in me who says “but events have to be in sequence because one impacts the next”).

Magna Cum Murder begins on Friday, October 24th, in Indianapolis.  It has been my privilege to volunteer at this conference for the past 12 years or so.  A few years ago my husband joined me as a volunteer, and not long after that we started giving a panel each year.  Our first was discussing local haunts.  After that year we evolved to giving one on ghost-hunting in real life.  We’ve had a good reception for that each year.  I’m very excited about doing the panel again this year because we have some new stuff to share with people from some recent investigations.  It’s exciting stuff and it opens up good avenues for discussion and education as well.

I am also anticipating November and NaNoWriMo.  I don’t have a solid idea for a NaNo project yet, but that’s one thing I’m not worrying over.  If no new project idea springs forth, I can be a NaNo rebel and use the month to get 50,000 words down on an existing project.  In fact, I’m strongly inclined in that direction.  Maybe it will be the kick in the pants I need to stop sweating every word in the current project and just get something down.  After all, you can’t do a second draft until you’ve completed a first draft.

On the subject of NaNo, a snarky piece from a website I won’t name (because they disgust me and I won’t drive traffic to them) was going around last week.  I’d seen it before but it still made me angry.  Basically the writer felt that we NaNoers should skip attempting to write a novel and spend our time reading because a) we’d only wind up creating crap anyway and b) apparently anyone ambitious enough to attempt to write a novel is not someone who reads.  I really wanted to go slap this sour grapes person.  Clearly she’s never been brave enough to attempt NaNoWriMo.  She doesn’t create – she criticizes.  So here’s what I say to anyone who’s thinking of trying NaNoWriMo:
Maybe your manuscript will suck.  Maybe you’ll hate it and chuck it in the bin as soon as the month is over.  But you will gain something from the experience of creating it.  You will learn something about yourself (even if it’s only how much caffeine you can handle at one time) and that will be valuable to you, whether you continue writing or not.  Don’t let the negative Nancys of the world (even those in your head) chase you off.  Give it a chance, give yourself a chance.  It is worth it and so are you.