Preptober// What is NaNoWriMo?

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I realized about halfway through my last preptober post that I hadn’t really explained exactly what NaNoWriMo is. So just in case you have just stumbled upon this post and have absolutely idea what it is, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that encourages writers to stop procrastinating and just write the first draft of their novel. The idea is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. There is a website where you can get involved with the official community, where I personally have made so many amazing friends.

So a traditional NaNo is considered to be a month where you write a 50,000-word novel, but there are rebels out there that don’t like writing novels (like me!) There are people that write poetry, screenplays, multiple short stories, blog posts, business-related writing, and even consider their freelance writing to be writing for NaNo. Last year I counted any blog post I wrote into my word count because I was so busy and it was either write 2000+ words for my story or write a couple blog posts a week. It all ended up working out in the end, but personally, I feel like rebelling from the tradition of novel writing can actually be more difficult sometimes. It’s hard to keep track of word counts, especially if you don’t use Scrivener.

50,000 words can definitely seem taunting! Especially if it’s your first time participating but it’s important to not get overwhelmed or discouraged. Try not to fall behind too much and if that number scares you, just break it down into sprint sized numbers.

50,000 words in one month

Overall, NaNoWriMo can definitely be stressful, especially if you are already a super busy person, or writing for a living, but it has the most amazing and supportive community that thrives on motivating others to meet their writing goals. So if you stay on top of your goal with these little baby steps of 417 words, 4 times a day, I have no doubt in my mind that you will be able to win this year. It’s not too late to start planning now.

If you do sign up to participate, feel free to add me to your buddy list, my username is MazieBones.

Let me know if this has peaked your interest! I’d love to know if my post has inspired someone to start the challenge!
mazie bones

Preptober// Planner, Pantser…Plantser?

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I am super excited to be starting my first Preptober series on this blog! In the past, I have done guest posts and other Preptober publications, and this month I’m going to be gathering some of those posts to put here. I’ve been an ML in my region for 3 years now (I’m going to write a post about this), this will be my 4th and during my time in this position, I have loved observing and learning for tons of different kinds of writers. So as a first post I decided it might be beneficial to discuss one of the most used, and most confused set of terms in all of NaNoWriMo: Pantser, Planner, and Plantser. 

 

pantsher_badgeA pantser is a writer that goes into NaNoWrimo with absolutely nothing. No preparation, no planning, no outlines, and sometimes even no idea what they are going to write. They write as they go and that’s what they prefer.
I have tried to pants it before, and though I still won, it was the most stressful experience ever, and I don’t think my personality type benefits from that kind of lack of preparation.

planner_badge
A planner is a writer that will stay up all night thinking about their novels, they will outline, and plan and plan and basically craft their novel into a math equation! (This is me by the way) Some people just need the blueprints. Planners are organized, a lot of the ones I know have binders of notes in categories for their novels. If you write fantasy, planning is your best friend, in my opinion.

 

plantser-badgeAnd here is the new one! THE HYBRID PLANTSER!
This writer is a happy medium of both living in the moment and living in a premeditated preparation plan. Not obsessively planned out but not ill-prepared, these writers tend to be cool and collected and they kind of just go with the flow. Many that I have seen in my region end up writing completely different novels than they thought they were going to, and that’s totally fine with them!

Overall, it doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are, just as long as you write and keep true to what makes you comfortable! I will tell you this though! Find a mixed group of wrimo types to write with! You should not just pick a writing community of wrimos that are all planners if you are a planner! The variety will actually save your life during November and it will keep everything super interesting for you. There will be less of a chance of you getting stuck in that mid-month RUT! Which is going to be another post in this month’s series!

I hope this helped, let me know in the comments below what kind of wrimo you are!

mazie bones

Prep-Tember // Podcasts for Writers

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I think I have mentioned before that I have been on a bit of a podcast rampage lately. Now that I’m working from home, I’m here a lot more, and as much as I talk to my cats, they never really respond so while my partner is at work, background noise is definitely needed. Sometimes it’s old episodes of The OC, sometimes its Spotify, but most of the time it’s a podcast. Though not all of my podcasts are great for writing too, some of my favourite ones are gaming or RPG podcasts, a lot of the ones I subscribe to are specifically for writers. So in this post I’ll be talking about my favourite podcasts to listen to while I’m writing, or if I need to get inspired to write.

Writing Excuses: 
“a fast-paced, educational podcast for writers, by writers. It airs weekly, with new episodes appearing each Sunday evening at around 6pm Eastern Time. Episodes vary in length from fifteen to twenty-five minutes, but are usually less than twenty minutes long. The tagline, “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart” isn’t super accurate, time-wise, but it’s a haiku so we’re keeping it.”

Welcome to Nightvale:
Now this isn’t a writer’s podcast but it’s a super interesting concept and I find the episodes really inspiring.

“WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.”

The Smarter Artist:
” Author entrepreneurs Sean Platt, David Wright, and Johnny B. Truant answer questions, offer quick tips, and deliver keen insight to help creative people who want to make a good living off of their hard work. In just a few minutes a day, we promise to help you get smarter faster.”

The Self-Publishing Podcast:
” Want to publish and sell more books? Want to get your writing into the world without contending with agents, publishers, or the other gatekeepers in traditional publishing? There’s never been a better time to make money as a writer — to take your books directly to readers and be in charge of your own business rather than jumping through hoops to please the Powers that Be. Full time authors Johnny B. Truant, David Wright, and Sean Platt (owners of the 2M+ words-per-year indie publishing company Sterling & Stone) explore everything related to getting your writing published… and making money doing it… in today’s new DIY digital publishing frontier. This isn’t artsy talk — it’s “authorpreneurial” business strategy that turns self-publishing from sideline into a rewarding career.”

Authorpreneur’s Almanac:
” Authors and innovators Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant reveal the inner workings of indie publishing company Sterling & Stone, in a real time look at what works, what doesn’t, and what they learn along the way.”

Writership:
“We help fiction writers master self-editing skills, and we offer editing services to turn good stories into great ones that are well told and polished.
Our adventures are fueled by a passion to make authors proud of their writing and the legacy they’re building.”

Grammar Girl:
“Your friendly guide to the world of grammar, punctuation, usage, and fun developments in the English language.”

Sell More Books Show:
“The Sell More Books Show is a weekly podcast focusing on helping new and experienced authors stay up-to-date with the latest self-publishing and indie news, tools and book selling/marketing strategies.”

The Worried Writer:
” Most writers I know create their work despite being worried, anxious or distracted. You are amongst friends!

The podcast is stuffed with advice to help you overcome self doubt, fear and procrastination. We all struggle with these things, but there are tools and techniques that can transform your writing life.”

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert:
” Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert returns for the second season of her hit podcast MAGIC LESSONS, ready to help another batch of aspiring artists overcome their fears and create more joyfully. This year’s guest experts include Neil Gaiman, Gary Shteyngart, Amy Purdy, Michael Ian Black, Brandon Stanton, Martha Beck, and Glennon Doyle Melton.”

Hopefully, this post helps you find a few podcasts that will help you get inspired. Are there any awesome podcasts that I didn’t list here that I should check out! Leave your favourites in the comments below.

mazie bones

Prep-Tember// Why I Use Scrivener

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Today I want to talk about the application/word processor that has changed my writing career: Scrivener. I have been using Scrivener for over 4 years now and I am a huge advocate. In all of my writing ventures, be it creative or freelance, this is the processor of choice. If I mention my writer’s notebook, I’m usually referring to my ongoing creative binder in Scrivener, which is kind of top secret but maybe someday I’ll clean it up and do a post on it!

So here are some of my favourite features and some of the main reasons I use it so religiously.

Name Generate:
I love this feature so much! I didn’t mention it in the Character Names post I made yesterday because I wanted to save it for this one, but the Name Generator is definitely an awesome tool that helps broaden the horizon beyond all the way you can find names that I shared yesterday.

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Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 11.40.38 AMThe Organization Tools:
I adore the fact that you can go to bulletin board mode and see all of your cue cards laid out. If any of you have followed me over from my old blog, you will know that I was an avid user of the cue card method of brainstorming and organizing, and having this feature helps me save a lot of paper. I also love the folder systems, and that there is an option to change icons on folders and files for better organization.

 

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Statistics:
When it comes to writing for work or during NaNoWriMo, I am very goal driven. I have a bit of an obsession with constantly tracking my progress and setting new goals, and that is just how I get some of my best work done. Having these statistic tools and daily targets is a huge reason that I love this program so much. It’s like every day can be a NaNoWriMo day.

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Editing Tools:
All of the tools in this drop bar have proven to be so helpful to me when it comes to writing. in the Writing Tools tab, it lets you check online dictionaries and thesauruses, which I frequently find myself searching for. There are also dictation tools, which are super useful, and special characters in case you find yourself creating a new secret language.

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All in all, I think that the program speaks for itself. I personally can’t live without it and think it is seriously life changing for writers of all sorts so it’s definitely worth trying the free trial to see if it works for you. There are so many other features to explore that I haven’t shared in this article, that you might find life-changing. Check out this link (not sponsored) to get your free trial today!

What word processor do you use and why? Is it your ride or die or are you looking for something new? How do you organize with it? Thanks for reading!

mazie bones

Prep-Tember // Character Names

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Character names can be one of the most daunting parts of writing novels, at least in my opinion. Committing to a character name is kind of like naming a child or a pet. It’s a name that you are going to have to hear and write and say a whole lot so it really has to work, and it has to fit the character. So in this post, I’m going to be talking about some of the ways that I find names for my characters!

Surnames:
I find its always easy to start with a surname so that I can make sure that the first names sound better with it. Though surnames aren’t the most used name, it’s still important to have that name picked to add depth to your characters and to allow possible growth with family trees and what not. The first step I take to find a surname is I grab a phone book and start flipping through the pages. Whenever a last name pops out at me I flag the page or add it to my ongoing collection of names in my writer’s notebook.

Read Everything:
Remember that every name is a possibility, and therefore, everything you read that contains names, holds possibilities for character names. Read the newspaper, read old books or comics, read an atlas, or an encyclopedia or maybe even branch out and look for unlikely names. For example, if you’re writing a fantasy book, look up old names, or take a basic name and spell it differently. For example, Mazie could be spelt Maezy.

RPG Character Creation Generators:
I have a background in Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and I love using those generators to create character names, especially for short stories or fantasy pieces.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to make sure the name fits your story and your character. If it doesn’t fit you’ll start to notice sooner while you’re writing that the name is just not working. I personally start to realize it when I get to the second chapter and I start cringing or rolling my eyes every time I have to write it down.

I hope that this post kind of gives you a bit of insight or at least a couple ideas on how you can find the right names for your characters! If this post helped you at all please put some of your favourite names in the comments below! I’d love to hear some of your best character names, or even what genre you enjoy writing the most!

mazie bones


 

Prep-tember // Word Sprinting

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Today I want to talk to you about a little thing that could save your novel’s life, it has certainly saved some of my writing projects. In my first year of NaNoWriMo, maybe 5 or 6 years ago I discovered the pure magic that is THE WORD SPRINT!

Word sprints originated in the Wrimo Community on Twitter and have been helping people reach their word counts ever since. A word sprint is when you sprint and write as much as you can in a set time! For example some people warm up in short intervals like 5 or 10 minute sprints. Personally I find my best word counts in 20 minute or 30 minute intervals. It’s not only invigorating to get so much work done in such a short period of time but it also just tells you a lot about yourself as a writer! I had no idea I could write 1000 words in 20 minutes until I sat down and sprinted it.

So right about now, you might be wondering, “How do I find a sprint?”
EASY! There are all kinds of hashtags put in place all year round but also mainly centred around NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNo that make public sprints super easy to find. Some of the best ones I’ve found are the following:

#getwordies
#wordsprint
#1k1h
#writingsprint
#nanosprint
#nanowrimo
#writeclub

I hope this helps you out with catching your word counts. Since I discovered how well word sprints worked for me, I’ve been using them for everything. I sprint my blog posts, I sprint my freelance work, I basically sprint everything. Something that has really helped with perfecting my sprint is keeping track of my sprint times/words written average. Having these numbers recorded can help me know how long I need to sprint for to get a project done. For example, if I know I have to write 500 words for a client, and my average is 500 words over 30 minutes or 250 over 10 minutes, I know that I should break up my sprints into two 10 minute intervals to get my project done. 

That could just be me over complicating something so simple and easy, but it’s what works best for me.

Do you work well under pressure? Have you tried a word sprint before or do you plan on trying it now? If you have any favourite sprinters or favourite hashtags for word sprints, share them in the comments below!

mazie bones

 

 

Prep-tember//Asking Why

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I’m super excited about this post, as its the first post to kick off my Preptember Writers Series! This topic has been one that I’ve been pondering for a while now and it all kind of started on our car ride home from vacation. For a while now, my partner and I have been kind of jokingly pulling together this plot of a book that neither of us planned on writing. I want to say that this ongoing joke started in the beginning of our relationship and it’s just been growing and getting more and more ridiculous the more we brought it up. But when we embarked on our 7 hour drive home from Magnetawan we eventually ran out of road trip games to play and we slowly transitioned into talking about our plot idea but in a more serious manner.

The longer we drove, the more real the story seemed; it became something kind of possible, and kind of awesome. So we have kind of decided to collaborate this idea. He isn’t a writer, so I’ll be doing all of that, but his skill with plotting and storyline is kind of remarkable. It really is a gift. Which is kind of what inspired me to write this post about asking yourself or your characters “Why?”

As we went on developing our story, I kept asking him different questions, but most of them were starting with “Why?” Why are they fighting? Why do they need to get there? Why are they running? Why is she alone? Why a giraffe? 

Whenever I asked why I was worried that he would get defensive of his story, I was worried that asking why would seem like I was challenging the ideas, but that wasn’t the case. Whenever we asked why we opened up the floor for some of the best reasoning and discussions. The other questions worked but none of them produced conversation like our “Why” questions. I think that asking why is a question that challenges a plot, and as long as it’s yourself or your beta-readers challenging your plot, I think it’s fine. you should be able to defend your plot, but more importantly, you shouldn’t have to.

So as a way to avoid having to answer questions later, answer questions now, while you’re writing, or before you even open that new idea.

What I wish we did was record that discussion, because we would have had 2 hours of the purest plot details and background information that we could possibly get and we might not ever have those true and blatant answers ever again, which is fine, we’ll get there eventually, but it was such an amazing conversation.

Another thing that I learned about myself as a writer while discussing this plot with Drew, was that having a partner or friend to sound board off of, or having someone to ask or answers questions with is SO helpful. If you have a friend that you can confide in and trust your ideas with, I would definitely recommend having a little Q&A!

 


What is your favourite question to ask yourself or your characters? Do you find asking questions helps you develop your plots, or does it take the fun out of it for you?

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more Prep-tember posts in the future,

mazie bones

 

Prep-tember Writing Series

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First off I’d like to thank everyone for their patience! I went away on vacation without scheduling anything so it’s been a couple seconds since my last post here. I’m going to be talking about that vacation a bit more extensively in another post in the future but during the 6 hour drive home I came to the realization that NaNoWriMo is only 2 months away and had a little bit of an existential crisis.

After sound boarding some ideas I think I have finally picked the project that I’m going to focus on for NaNo this year so it’s time to plan and prep for November. If you aren’t sure what NaNoWriMo is, the coles notes are as follows: National Novel Writing Month is a world wide event where writers and creatives set a goal of writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November! There is a huge community online, as well as regional groups! I’m actually a Municipal Liaison for my region, which is why I’m planning this early on. It quickly becomes a pretty high-stress event about half way through if you start coming up short on your word count goals, or if you hit a road block with your ideas, which is why I always take the precautions of planning ahead, with extensive outlines and other borderline crazy safety measures.

I’ll share more NaNoWriMo specific information in October, or should I say Prep-tober, but for now we’re going to keep it simple. I have pulled together a list of post topics for a new Writers Series. I did one of these one my old blog, and I think that it would be really interesting to bring something similar to this one. So I hereby declare next month to be Prep-tember, a writing (in general) series.

Some topics you can expect are:

  • Questions to ask yourself when brainstorming a plot
  • Programs I use for novel building
  • Programs or apps I use for productivity
  • Best writer podcasts
  • Different efficiency methods for writers

The more I sit down and plan for this series, the more excited I get to start publishing these posts. Which leads me to my next exciting piece of news.

I plan on posting every weekday in September. Since November is approaching quickly, I need to get myself into the habit of writing more, and if possible every day, so I’m hoping that this can act as a little warm up for me. Not all of the posts are going to be a part of this prep-tember series as I have a few other series ideas in the works. I’m super excited to see if I can do it!

If you have any ideas for Prep-tember topics or any other blog posts you’d like to see from me, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below!

As always, thanks for reading,
mazie bones

Why I left Fiverr.com

Fiverr

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A lot of people have reached out to me over the past couple months asking me for advice or about my experiences with Fiverr.com. I haven’t talked about Fiverr on this blog before because I haven’t used that platform for a little over 3 years now, so bringing it up now feels a bit strange but it’s apparent that a lot of people are looking for ways to get into the freelance world, and so I might as well weigh in with my opinions now while they are semi-relevant.

For those of you who don’t know what Fiverr is, its a website where creators can sells their services for $5. Eventually your gig price can increase based on levels and packages but we aren’t really going to talk about that today. You can find writers, editors, advertisers, artists and even tarot readers on the site selling their services to people looking for cheap solutions. A lot of companies use the site to outsource or delegate small task jobs so that they can focus on what’s more important. This all sounds pretty straight-forward but what they don’t really advertise is the amount of complete BS that you get to deal with as a seller.

So today I’m going to break down my experience on Fiverr into a few cute little categories:

Authenticity:

When you start looking for sellers, you will see their ratings. Most of the ones you’ll see first are the 100% or 99% positive ratings. So naturally you’ll gravitate towards one of those experienced sellers. But what no one tells you is that most of those top sellers have their own fake buyer accounts so that they can buy things from themselves to influence their positive reviews.

Another thing that no one seems to discuss is that some sellers will have fake buyer accounts and will buy from their competitors just so that they can leave negative reviews. Unfortunately this is pretty detrimental as Fiverr doesn’t have a way to get rid of negative reviews once they have soiled your account. You’re just stuck with that awful new percentage. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but that rating percentage is basically your Fiverr livelihood.

Growth:

When you create your account as a seller you are quickly told that you are by no means allowed to discuss moving a buyer/seller relationship from the site to your personal emails or communications. Any talk of exchanging emails or contact info for off site communication is flagged, filtered and can ultimately lead to a ban. (Fiverr is known to ban top sellers and not pay them their earnings without warning, but I can’t actually talk about that since it never happened to me.)

This protocol makes it basically impossible to grow any kind of real freelance relationship with your buyer, and voids any chance of making them a client. Which feels a little backwards to me. I understand that Fiverr is just trying to keep their money, and that it isn’t a place for building client relationships, but it definitely has the potential to start some real job opportunities; its unfortunate that they are so insecure about losing their buyers, and their cut of each gig, which leads us to the next point.
Self Worth:

When I started using Fiverr, I was a full time journalism student, working part time and I was just looking for a few little gigs here and there mainly for experience but also for a couple extra dollars. I didn’t really mind that they were taking 20% of every job I did, or that I had to wait almost 15 days to see the money I earned from each job. I didn’t mind that I was selling my skills for so little because I was making money elsewhere, and it wasn’t really contributing to my survival. For people looking to use Fiverr because they read an article about “how you can work from home by selling on Fiverr”, or they’ve seen income reports of people that use Fiverr, please please please don’t quit your day job yet.

I used Fiverr for about a year and had only brought in approx $2000 on the site by the time I decided it wasn’t for me. Thats roughly $166 a month, which is by no means survivable, unless you’re living with your parents still, then it could actually be kind of feasible I guess. I remember frequently asking, “Is this really what freelancing is going to be like?” and “is this really what I want to do from now on?” It was one of the most thankless experiences of my career to date, but it did give me a bunch of work for my portfolio, an array of different gigs, and so much experience in dealing with bad clients that I think I might actually be a professional at freelance damage control.
Abusive Buyers:

Lastly I want to discuss what I think is the worst problem on Fiverr: The Buyers. I believe I had around 300 gigs by the time I quit and I would honestly say at least 100 of them turned out to be super negative experiences. Whether it was them hiring me on to do their job and then doubling the work once they had me locked in, or just the disgusting number of buyers that hired me for writing gigs but then asked me to send them pictures of myself instead, I just ended up getting fed up with the amount of abuse I had to endure from those entitled buyers that thought their $5 was worth $25.

All in all, I understand why people use the site. Its easy, its money, and its a free platform, and I agree that it is a good way to gain experience in both selling your services but also in just working with different kinds of clients. But if you are a licensed professional, or have your degree in something, don’t touch this site. Just put down the sign up and back away slowly. I’m so happy that I took the leap and decided to go the freelance route for my writing career, and I’m also super glad I dropped Fiverr when I did.

I hope this post wasn’t too negative, I don’t want to make posts like this a regular thing, I would much rather keep this a mainly positive place, but I thought it might be okay to share my opinions and experiences with those who are interested.

Thank you so much for reading this post, if you enjoy my content and feel like supporting me in my (*cough cough caffeine addiction*) writing endeavours, I now have that that cute “Buy me a coffee” button that all those cute bloggers have! Feel free to check it out! I’m eventually going to add some kind of incentive or perk (haha get it? PERK!) for those beautiful people that donate. But for now I can thank Heather from The Sassy Mal on etsy, and Christian from Cjej.me

mazie bones