Hello November!

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I updated this blog.  Wow.  I did not intend for October to get away from me like that!

The Midwest Writer’s Workshop Manuscript Makeover session was wonderful!  Terry Faherty is an outstanding teacher.  He made many helpful suggestions for everyone in the session, and found a way to make us all feel encouraged about our writing.  It was a terrific session and we wound up going longer than scheduled because he was willing to keep going and none of us were eager to leave!  I came out of the session feeling good about the possibilities in my manuscript and ready to work on it.

My 5k was slow, but I had a lot of fun anyway.  I got to run with a co-worker, who was doing her first 5k.  We got lots of high-fives from Charlie Cardinal (races with mascots > races without mascots).  My co-worker’s daughter ran the 1 mile race with a friend and we had a lot of fun cheering them on to the finish line!  There we all are after our races, hanging out with Charlie.

Chase Charlie after race

The culminating event for October was attending the 21st Magna Cum Murder conference!  Magna is a mystery writers/readers/fans conference.  It’s organized by Kathryn Kennison, the director of the EB and Bertha C Ball Center at Ball State University.  The conference started out as a small event, meant to help connect the community to the university (Cum Murder is a play on Cum Laude).  The conference rapidly grew and these days we have guests from all across the country as well as internationally.  There are several people who have attended every single Magna, and it’s terrific to be part of something which inspires that sort of loyalty.  There are always new people each year as well, and it doesn’t take long for them to recognize how special this conference is.  No matter if we’re meeting for the first time or we’ve seen each other many years, it always feels like you’re getting to talk with old friends at Magna.  I had an amazing time at the conference but, as I’ve been asked to do the wrap-up write-up for the official newsletter, Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence (how we do love our plays on words), I’ll limit myself here for the moment.

Technically Saturday was the last day of October, but we had one more October-ish event which didn’t take place until today.  My husband and I went to the EB and Bertha C. Ball Center this morning to give a talk on Haunted East Central Indiana.  We shared stories we’ve collected over the years, as well as evidence we’ve caught on investigations, with an attentive audience of about fifty people!  We had a grand time sharing our stories and hearing a few from our audience as well.

WP_20151106_002

WP_20151106_003

Now that the October fun is over, it’s time to buckle down for November!  I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (you can see my word count in the right hand column).  All the lingering October excitement has put me a bit behind, but I hope to catch up soon and be able to finish my 50k by November 30th!  I’ll also be taking my first knitting lesson tomorrow morning.  There’s another 5k coming up as well, plus Thanksgiving!  All in all, November is looking to be as busy as October!  I hope it will be just as much fun!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love the month of October.  It means fall – changing leaves, bonfires, football games, Halloween, and Magna Cum Murder!  I am happy we’re here, though I am wondering where the heck the month of September went.

I had a lot of hats to wear in September.  There was the runner hat, as I prepared for and ran my first half-marathon.  There was my historian hat as I gave a talk on Muncie in the Civil War at a local senior center.  And there was my writer hat as I registered for the Midwest Writers Workshop manuscript makeover session on October 10th (and needed to decide on, or create, 10 pages of a manuscript for making over).  It was a busy month, but I’m happy to say I survived it all!  The half was quite the experience, especially since it rained for almost the entire time I was running.  The talk would have been more fun with a larger audience (note to people running/volunteering at senior centers – don’t schedule a talk at the same time as euchre club if you want anyone to attend it), but it was fun to go back through all the research I’d done in preparation.

The worst part of the month was agonizing over the manuscript makeover.  I had a great idea to work with when I registered for the session, but nothing on the page, and I didn’t like any of my other manuscripts.  After weeks of staring at a blank screen and going um as all the words disappeared from my brain I finally managed to get a good start to the manuscript and thus the 10 pages needed for the makeover.  Part of the torture was that I didn’t want to tell my husband anything about the story up front.  He has always been the person I spit-balled ideas with, who helped me to figure out what I was struggling with, but that means he always knows what I’m trying to say before he starts to read.  I wanted to know if I was setting a good hook with my start and if he already knew where the story was going, he couldn’t evaluate that.  I had to keep quiet and fight on my own when all I wanted to do was talk to someone about my idea!  But I persisted and, when he did read my pages, he reacted exactly the way I wanted!  Success!

My October will be busy too, but more fun!  In addition to attending the Manuscript Makeover session on October 10th, I plan on going to a couple Ball State home football games, I’ll be running a 5k, attending a Halloween party, and then – the best comes last – attending Magna Cum Murder October 30th-November 1st!  Somewhere in all of that I’ll keep working on the current manuscript, hopefully armed with some helpful advice from the makeover session.

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.

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.