Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks for the NaNoWriMo Win

The perfect noveling set up
It's the end of November, and I'm feeling like I do every November. Worn out, run down, a little (or a lot) overwhelmed and a just a tetch grouchy, probably due to too much caffeine and staying up too late to write.

I've been putting myself through this every November since 2005, with slowly increasing success. I didn't win for the first four years; I fell short of the 50,000 word minimum every year until 2008. This was probably due to the same writers' block that had stopped me from ever really writing anything, aka "perfectionism." So in 2009 I gave myself an ultimatum: write 50,000 words this year, or never do this again.

But I couldn't help it, the wackiness is addicting. The write-anything-just-get-the-words-out mentality. The complete strangers (and sometimes friends) you write with who throw out a character name or the right turn of phrase when you need one. I was finally able to break through the hangup of "I'm too good of a writer to write a story with bad grammar" and just emptied my brain on paper. (Pun intended.)

Now, I can't imagine a non-noveling November. So with the self-imposed ultimatum, I won in 2009, and I've won every year since. And I'm 12,000 words behind, but I'll win again. (Thanks to having a no-travel Thanksgiving and Black Friday off!)

Of course, the "winning" is arbitrary. What do you win? You win a cheesy certificate that you can type your name in, and it's signed by the NaNoWriMo people. I did win 50% off Scrivener, so that was nice, but when non-noveling friends ask me what the payoff is, I inevitably feel a little silly. It's just the accomplishment. It's a deadline, a reason to put your life on hold and prioritize your big, scary, pie-in-the-sky dreams for awhile. And it's the one time all year where you don't have to worry about grammar and punctuation and spelling and even things like quotation marks and capital letters. Freedom to write, freedom to scribble and scrawl whatever I can think of to continue moving the story forward in whatever way I can.

Finally, after eight years of taking on this crazy challenge, I've figured out that November, for me, is writing the backstory and developing the characters. The plot doesn't have to progress, it almost doesn't matter what happens. If you get stuck, just end the scene and start a new one. All the issues that held me back when I tried to write, such as "transitions" and finding the perfect character or place name, giving up because I didn't know what to do next, and because there were other things I could be doing. All that stuff doesn't really matter in the face of such an intense deadline. And with grit and determination, lots of coffee, and some fabulous writing buddy encouragement, I've managed to win every year since 2009.

So four years of winning means I have four, er, collections of words, loosely gathered under one umbrella of an idea, usually about the same characters from start to end. (And at least three of them end with, "and then the zombie apocalypse happened. The end.") But it doesn't matter what those words say, really. What matters is that I made the commitment and achieved the end result. I wrote every day (or almost). I developed a story idea that I never would have taken the time to write otherwise. Or rather, I took some action on a story idea I would have thought about for years, as I have for several story ideas, but everything else would have gotten in the way of actually writing it. The bottom line though, as Papa Hemingway allegedly declared, "The first draft of anything is s---." So why not just do it in a month and get it over with?

After NaNoWriMo 2012, four years of so-called victory, I finally joined a critique group, and committed to editing one of my stories, providing a chapter a month to other writers. That was hard too, but it's just another side effect of being a writer. If you want to be published, someone is going to have to read your story eventually, and they'll probably tear it all apart anyway. So why not start with some friendly reviews? (More on that in a future blog post.)

At any rate, in the past year, I've realized that editing is really what I like to do; editing is where the story really takes shape, and starts to make sense. Fifty thousand words of world-building and character development is not publishable, sure, but it's a great start to a novel. It has occurred to me that the NaNoWriMo draft--or, as Chuck Wendig calls it, "Draft Zero"--is a lot like making the clay that an artist will sculpt with. The NaNoWriMo words are just a starting point. They're a little rough, not very pretty. They might be falling apart a little, maybe need a little more kneading so they hold together better. But eventually, I'll mold them into a story that somewhat resembles my original concept, although hopefully better, more developed, more organized, and even more fun. (Note: Chuck Wendig is very funny, and very useful, but he uses very naughty language.)

I still have those four unfinished NaNo novels. And they still have promise, and I'd love to revise them eventually too. But for now, I'd better get back to this year's project, still 12,000 words short of a victory. Even if I do fall short with only four days left, my Thanksgiving will consist of noveling instead of football, extra coffee, and giving thanks for chasing big dreams and reaching impossible goals.

Amy Hollinger writes stories for kids and teens. She has been a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group since the beginning, and is currently the President. She blogs at and tweets about writing and miscellany @thegetoutgirl. She is very sorry that these 1000 words won't count towards her NaNo total. GOOD GRIEF WRITE FUTURE NANO BLOG POSTS IN THE SUMMER #NaNoWriMo #notestoself

Monday, November 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Through the Eyes of a Novice

Guest blog by Lisen Minetti

I first heard of NaNoWriMo only a few months ago, when I finally crawled out from underneath my rock wanting to connect with other writers. Before then, writing was just something I loved to do for myself. I rarely shared my stories, or talked about my writing with others. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was an entire month dedicated to novel writing!

However, I viewed the idea of NaNoWriMo with a healthy dose of skepticism at first. The thought that someone – namely me – could write 50,000 words in 30 days seemed like madness! The fact that I was seriously considering participating left me questioning what little sanity I claim to have.

On the one hand, I did have a story floating around in my head, and had just finished work on book one, so I knew I was capable of finishing a manuscript. On the other hand, however, a little voice inside my head kept reminding me that it took the better part of eight months to write that first book; and that my word count of said book was only around 35,000 words. Yet here I was, contemplating challenging myself not only to write 15,000 words beyond that, but to do so in one-eighth of the time.

But I love a challenge. So I signed up for NaNoWriMo in September with all the same feelings as if I were walking into a particularly scary haunted house: fear, trepidation, and a twinge of excitement. I had no idea what to expect and the possibility that I was going to pee my pants and run away screaming half way through was very real.

To my delight, once I entered the world of National Novel Writing Month, excitement began to edge out the fear. Despite my pantster leanings, I started to jot down ideas and notes to help me organize my thoughts for the upcoming project. I wrote out a timeline for characters to follow, knowing this would help as the entire story took place over the space of five days. I created note cards describing the powers my little witch discovered in book one, and all the ones I wanted her to discover in book two. I pitched my story to my cat, who really didn’t care enough to be bothered with it, and also to my husband, who was helpful in ferreting out holes in the plot. And when I finished all my prep work on October 1, I was ready to write!

Unfortunately for me, National Novel Writing Month is November, not October, so my story had to sit. And about a week before November, I realized I wasn’t excited about my story anymore. Panic ensued and I was almost ready to call off the whole thing. I mean, how could I possibly write a story I wasn’t excited about? Well, there’s the rub. I realized that if I only wrote when I was excited about what I was working on, nothing would ever get finished.

So come November 1, I sat down and just started writing. I didn’t stay up until midnight on Halloween; I didn’t get up early to start writing before work. I waited until I got home from work that Friday and made a commitment to sit in front of my computer until something – anything – came out. And eventually it did come. Within the first few hours, the enthusiasm flooded back and in the first three days I wrote over 10,000 words.

By the end of week two – November 14 – I had written close to 30,000 words. There were days when I hated every word I wrote. Nights when I felt like doing anything else other than writing. Times where I wanted to do nothing more than delete whole sections of prose. But I didn’t. I wrote through it. And came out on the other side.

Week three of NaNoWriMo is upon us and I have written nearly 40,000 words. And with a little luck and lot of hard work, I will ‘win’ NaNoWriMo by the end of this weekend, hitting the coveted 50,000 word mark.

On top of that, I blogged nearly every single day. I continued to help my kids with their homework. I haven’t missed any meals, or suffered from an insane lack of sleep. I worked a full forty hour week every week just like always. And I had the flu.

So how did this miracle happen?

It happened because I embraced the spirit of NaNoWriMo at the outset: I sat down and wrote every single day. Writing became part of my daily routine. If I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about plots and character flaws and story lines. During homework time I would imagine how my characters would behave when their mothers’ were helping them study. When I was sick, exhausted and so cold I could barely feel my fingers, I wrote about the misery I felt, which evolved into a new scene I didn’t anticipate at the outset. But it worked.

When I got frustrated at my story or hit a wall, I wrote some more. I turned to my blog creating a “Dear Abby” format to give myself encouragement and vent my frustrations. I made up stupid songs and skits. I was creative in other ways, and soon my story was back on track.

Most importantly I didn’t give up. I kept writing, even when I didn’t want to. I didn’t necessarily add words to my WIP every single day, but I wrote every single day. Something. Anything. Just to keep writing. Because not writing is the only surefire way to ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo.

And if I end up not hitting the 50,000 word count? Well, I am okay with that too. I write middle grade, so my story may not have that many words to it. But even if I don’t hit my word count, I have something to be proud of: A first draft that I didn’t have on October 31 and the knowledge that I didn’t give up. And there’s always next year.

About today's guest blogger:

Lisen Minetti really hates writing bios because she feels stupid talking about herself in the third person. She lives, works and writes outside of Atlantic City with her husband, two kids and an evil cat. Her current WIP is a middle grade series, the Cady Martin Witchsteries:

As if growing up weren't hard enough, twelve year old Cady Martin has to live with a big secret: she's a witch. While she is busy trying to learn her newfound powers and keep her secret from the rest of the world, she also finds that she has a knack for attracting trouble. No matter where she goes, danger seems to follow her - both from this realm and the supernatural realm.

You can connect with Lisen on her blog or on Twitter.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

2013 Fall Writers' Retreat

Post by Sarah Hawkins Miduski

Last Weekend (November 15th-17th) the South Jersey Writers' Group held their 2013 Fall Writers' Retreat.

The retreat took place at the Weisel Hostel, located in Nockamixon State Park, in Quakertown PA; It was a fantastic venue to hold a writers' retreat, as the one hundred year old farm house and beautiful grounds provided a great amount of scope for the imagination.

The retreat was equal parts productivity and relaxation.  Some attendees worked to boost their NaNoWriMo word counts, while others worked on editing and/or other writing projects.

It was a great chance to let the words flow freely onto the page without the interruptions and distractions of normal everyday life.  Plenty of writing was accomplished and it was estimated that at least 40,200 were written during the course of the weekend.

There was also plenty of coffee/tea, snacks and other food consumed, after all writers need to keep up their strength and stamina. There was also time for a s'mores break.

When a difficult part of a story  needed to be mentally worked out or some fresh air was required, the retreat goers headed outside.  The weather turned out to be pleasant with just the right amount of fall nip in the air.  The hotel's grounds and stone bridge trail offered an excellent opportunity to get some exercise while resting overworked fingers.

The fall retreat was wonderful and all of the attendees were able to make some writing progress while relaxing and having fun.

If you are a current group member, keep an eye out for upcoming retreats. If you are not a member, now is the perfect time to sign up and enjoy all of the activities the group has to offer.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SJWG at the Maple Shade Library

Guest blog by Dawn Byrne

A group of writers and readers didn't let the cold weather keep them from meeting on Novmber 13th at the Maple Shade Public Library in Burlington County New Jersey, inside Maple Shade's municipal building at 200 Stiles Ave. Visitors are encouraged to ask for assistance with information, as you can tell by this sign on the wall above the librarian's desk just inside the library.

This was the South Jersey Writers' Group's second visit to the library this year to promote their anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Members of the SJWG are preparing to publish a second Tall Tales anthology within the next year, so look for more local tales to come. The SJWG thanks the Maple Shade Library for inviting us back to speak about writing and publishing.

One audience member shared her sad experience with a publishing company and how the company not only didn't promote and distribute her book after she had paid them, but that she has lost control of her book. Writer Marie Gilbert suggested the importance of being part of a writing community, especially for new writers. The panel also mentioned that information and support from a group, and resources they offer, can help keep writers from becoming prey to dishonest publishers. And, as luck may have it, the SJWG is open for membership until the end of December.

The evening also featured an opportunity for public readings. Our panel read from their works and then opened the floor to the audience. John Farquhar, author of What To Expect When You're Dead, read his short story "Bad Day For Santa" from our highlighted anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Staying with the holiday theme, Dawn Byrne read her short story, "The Christmas Hostage" from the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas. Both authors received laughs for their humorous works as well as applause.

John L. Smith, a retired economics teacher and member of the Juliette Writers' Group, which meets in Moorestown's Barnes & Noble on the third Tuesday of every month (except December), read two of his poems from his self-published book, Food For Thought. His poems, "Dark Satanic Mills" and "Pins In New Shirts" raise empathy and awareness for those forced to work in sweat shops.

Marie Gilbert, who is up for Skelations' Blogger of the Year 2014 (have you voted yet?), answered questions from the audience and spoke about the value social media holds for promoting oneself as a writer. She explained how blogging can create a brand for a writer, showcasing his voice, style, and type of writing for his readers, which can attract multiple reader audiences.

Our cold evening continued to warm up at 8 PM when the discussion switched locations. Some of the panel and audience attended a reception at Dawn Byrne's home. They exchanged mutual conversation that moved from general writing and publishing topics to specific issues.

The South Jersey Writers' Group appreciates the Maple Shade Library, the SJWG panel, and an amazing audience for a memorable evening of the spoken and written word.

About today's guest blogger:

Dawn Byrne, a grandmother, writes inspirational and fictional stories about families from her New Jersey home. She's a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group, facilitates the Juliette Writers' Group, and teaches Sunday School. Dawn strives to leave a small carbon footprint, reads classical literature and has stories featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives: 101 Daily Devotions to Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire You and Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas. Her website is

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Bump the Slump

The following was originally written for the Fear of Writing website back in 2010, and still rings true today. Now that the South Jersey Writers' Group is in the midst of NaNoWriMo, I think this might be a good time to unearth this nugget. Notably, since its writing, I am now on my eleventh year of NaNo-ing, and have finished three times. Enjoy, and be sure to check out FoW for great writing resources and inspiration.

You jumped right into the NaNoWriMo full tilt midnight Halloween night, didn't you? Your fingers raced across your keyboard building worlds, breathing life into characters and tangling them all into intricate plots. You roared ahead past five thousand words, ten thousand words and even twenty thousand words. However as you cooled your creative jets and eased into the next ten thousand something began to happen. Something bad.

You ran out of steam. More specifically, maybe you got bored with your story, maybe the characters no longer appeal to you, maybe you are simply blocked. You have hit the deadly NaNoWriMo mid-month slump. How do you get out of it? Do you just give up? Toss what you have and start again? The answer is simple really. Just shake things up a bit. Or a lot.

An old writing question, used when the author is stuck, comes to mind - what is the worst that can happen? In many cases, and many writers will tell you in all cases, the worst is what must happen for optimal drama and suspense. The wife finds out about not only the husband's infidelities, but also his other identities? Do it. The company goes bankrupt. Do it. The speeding train suddenly loses its brakes. Do it. Superman caught at ground zero of a kryptonite bomb. Yeah, do it. Whatever bad can happen, make it the worst. Characters are defined by what they can and cannot overcome. Do your worst.

Of course there are other ways to spin it, spin being the operative word. Throw a monkey wrench into your story, something wild, something unexpected. Make it fresh for yourself as well as your readers. Think about Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn, think about it hard, and pretend you never saw any previews for it nor knew the surprise twist. It begins as an action thriller about two serial killer brothers on the run, and would have worked beautifully as such, had Rodriguez let it. But then halfway through the film, it almost inexplicably becomes a vampire flick. That turning point, that one, out of the box, crazed moment makes the film. That's what you can do with your NaNoWriMo.

Throw that monkey wrench hard. Surprise your readers. Shock your readers. And, bottom line, get out of that slump and make the writing interesting to you again. Most of all, think out of the box. Is your protagonist boring you? Kill him and find a worthy (or unworthy) replacement. Send your Gothic romance into outer space. Are there zombies in the backyard seen through the window of your kitchen sink drama? Flat tires happen to everyone, and broken down cars can end up anywhere from haunted mansions to mad scientists' labs to that creepy old house from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And where did that dinosaur come from?

Don't laugh. Crossing and blending genre is the state of the literary mainstream these days. Rarely does a book have one single genre. I say Harry Potter, and you say fantasy, but we all know it's really about growing up, and racism, and fascism. What about one of the biggest bestsellers of recent times, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Is it literary? A thriller? A mystery? Heck, arguments could be made for the romance or cyberpunk genres as well. Mix and match, folks, you never know what you will get.

The bottom line is, when you get stuck, think outside the box, shake things up, go wild. Make your NaNoWriMo exciting for yourself, and it will be exciting for the reader. Now keep writing!

About the author: Glenn Walker is the Membership Director of the South Jersey Writers' Group, Associate Editor of Biff Bam Pop!, and a French fry connoisseur. He gets his nerd on at The GAR! Podcast, and dreams of Disney on The Make Mine Magic Podcast. You can read his short story, "Live to Write, Write to Live" in Strange World available here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SJWG Membership Is Open!

Our great new logo by member Shelley Szajner
Welcome Writers!

Are you a writer in the South Jersey area and looking for a group of like-minded individuals for support, discussion, critique, organization, and community? The South Jersey Writers' Group may be for you. Some of what we're about can be found here.

2012's anthology by the SJWG
Now through the end of the year, the South Jersey Writers' Group is open for membership. Memberships in the group are $25.00 per year, discounted for students. This fee helps to pay for our meeting spaces, some events, author speaking engagements, the party at the end of the year, and much more.

Most months we feature the regular meeting that sometimes has speakers, discussions, workshops, and demonstrations, and we also have Write-Ins, Critique Sessions, Blogfests, contests, book signings, field trips, retreats, and open mikes. That's not even mentioning the social aspect of chilling with other writers.

You can pay by attending the main meetings before the end of the year including our main meeting on Thursday, November 21st - our Creativity and the Drive to Write event with speaker Merry Jones. Cash or check accepted by the group organizers.

Or you can simply click on the "Pay Online" button, under "2014 Annual Dues," on the left side of the screen at the South Jersey Writers' Group website. Or, to make things easy, you can just click right here right now. The payment will be taken from your credit card at Amazon Payments.

Amy Hollinger and Jennifer M. Eaton at a SJWG event
If you have already paid, thank you, and we'll see you throughout the year. And if you haven't paid yet, thank you in advance, or thank you for considering the South Jersey Writers Group!

And also apologies for further notices that may come in your email - Meetup doesn't allow us to select just those who haven't paid. If you get one after you've paid, just peruse it for further announcements, but ignore the membership reminder. Sound like a plan?

Also, please check out the website for a full calendar of events, resources, and our discussion boards. All the group details can be found here. We also have a blog, a Facebook page, and Twitter. Join the community!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Do the NaNoWriMo?

The following was originally written for the Fear of Writing website back in 2010, and still rings true today. Now that the South Jersey Writers' Group is in the midst of NaNoWriMo, I think this might be a good time to unearth this nugget. Notably, since its writing, I am now on my eleventh year of NaNo-ing, and have finished three times. Enjoy, and be sure to check out FoW for great writing resources and inspiration.

When I was asked to contribute a guest blog about the NaNoWriMo, I jumped right in, just like the NaNoWriMo, and churned one out - and much like the publishing industry itself, I was told it wasn't a good fit. Good friend and the queen of Fear of Writing Milli Thornton quickly rattled off a few more appropriate topics. Number one was not only why do the NaNoWriMo, but why, like me, why do it eight times in a row.

Well, the answer of course is easy. I'm a masochist. I obviously must be. Why else would I subject myself to this process every November? And why would I keep coming back? Over and beyond the concept that I think all writers are masochists, there is another reason, a much more palatable one - to write.

When you become entrenched in the writing community, you quickly learn there are two kinds of writers. There are writers who work and work and are always on one project or another, and are always in the midst of the words. They are doing it, and if they are lucky, and they have the talent - these are the ones who make it.

The other kind of writer is the talker. Oh yeah, they talk a good game, they know their stuff, but you never really see them at work. Sure, maybe they have one or two finished or unfinished novels in their desk drawer or on disc that have never and/or will never be accepted, or revised, or edited. They're not writers, at least not anymore, they just talk about it.

November's National Novel Writing Month is a dividing line, and a barbed wire barrier. It firstly keeps the workers from becoming talkers, and second, it gives the talkers a chance to redeem themselves and become workers again. The goal, bottom line, of the NaNoWriMo is to make you write. Butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, words on page. Do it.

Now a lot of the workers also have their share of pitfalls in their busy writing lives. Sometimes they get bogged down in one project, so intent on that little world or universe you lose objectivity as its creator. Fresh winds and new ideas not only rejuvenate but give new insight to old ideas. The NaNoWriMo is a fresh wind, in that you must create a whole new novel from scratch. November is one big walk in the park or long cold shower - you know, those getaways that give you the energy to tackle an old project that's been dragging you down.

National Novel Writing Month also provides opportunities to meet other writers. Whether it is making writing buddies or posting on the message boards at the NaNoWriMo website, or actually attending the in-person Write-Ins in your region - it is always good to talk with and network with other writers. If only to compare notes and experiences and even talk about trends in the industry, writing is a solitary endeavor, and it's always good to know you're not alone.

The newness of the NaNoWriMo also keeps you fresh, period. As I indirectly confessed earlier, this is year number eight for me and the NaNoWriMo. I have finished my novel once within the given thirty days, but I have finished the novel started in almost every case. I've edited and revised and submitted those novels as well. And it should most importantly be noted, had it not been for the NaNoWriMo, they never would have been written to begin with.

Imagine that, every November a new manuscript to work on. Some folks work their whole lives to get one manuscript. If that alone isn't enough to get you to do the NaNoWriMo, I don't know what is.

About the author: Glenn Walker is the Membership Director of the South Jersey Writers' Group, Associate Editor of Biff Bam Pop!, and a French fry connoisseur. You can hear him on The GAR! Podcast, The Make Mine Magic Podcast, and see him on The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast. And while he doesn't have any of his own work in it, he wants you to buy and read Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, and, most importantly, contrary to popular belief, he does not flog guest-bloggers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Thoughts on the NaNoWriMo

The following was originally written for the Fear of Writing website back in 2010, and still rings true today. Now that the South Jersey Writers' Group is in the midst of NaNoWriMo, I think this might be a good time to unearth this nugget. Enjoy, and be sure to check out FoW for great writing resources and inspiration.

I love National Novel Writing Month, or the NaNoWriMo, as it's called by most folks. It's a wonderful idea by a terrifically creative young man named Chris Baty. He developed the NaNoWriMo waaay back in 1999 as a way to get folks who want to be writers actually be writers. As he says in his book on the subject, "No Plot? No Problem!", this is for all those people who say they want to write a book someday… well, November first is 'some day.'

For the folks not in the know, November is National Novel Writing Month. For thirty days participants try (and many succeed) to write 50,000 words. And yes, 50k is a relatively low word count for a novel, but it's still over the industry standard for a novel. It all breaks down to roughly 1667 words per day. Other rules include that you can't start until November first, other than planning in your head and maybe outlining, but not one word on the page until start time. This must also be new material, original from your head to the page.

The "No Plot? No Problem!" comes into effect by Chris Baty's concept that you should just write, write anything, write crap even, and that sooner or later you will hit your groove and find your story. I don't necessarily agree, especially with the 'write crap' idea. Any first draft is going to be wonky, hell, it may even be crap - that's why it's a first draft. Even though I'm sure that Stephen King's and probably even Ernest Hemingway's first drafts were crap as well - I don't believe you should set out to write crap, ever.

Baty's theory of writing comes from the idea of pantsing, or writing by the seat of your pants. These are writers who do not use outlines and just go with an idea and see where it goes. This is how I write to some extent, although once I do know where a story is going, I have a target and I work toward it. And I think most folks are like that, not an outliner or a pantser, but a bit of both.

Just write, but write as well as you can. Yes, you can always go back and edit and change and improve the manuscript. But do it after NaNoWriMo November, there is even a NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) in March so you can take a rest in between.

There is also the concept of the NaNoWriMo as a race that bothers me. One year the logo was even that of a track and field runner. As far as I am concerned, this is not a race, and you cannot win it by actually doing the 50k words in the thirty days. You win it by finishing your novel, whether it's under the wire or past it, the act of actually finishing a novel is one of the most fulfilling accomplishments a writer can experience. You have to do it. That's winning.

Taking that concept further, it's not even about word counts or time limits for me when it comes to the NaNoWriMo. It is the discipline. That is the most valuable prize you can come away from November with, the discipline to write. At my Yahoo! Group, Writer Circle, I preach about the Contract for Success, part of which talks about spending an hour of each day trying to write, whether it's actually pumping out words or just staring at a blank computer screen - spend that time trying to write.

It's all about the discipline. And that is what that 1667 words a day during November does to you, it drills the discipline of writing into you. Bottom line, a writer writes. This all goes back to Chris Baty's mantra - you always said you'd write a novel some day, well, it's some day, baby.

Best of luck with your NaNoWriMos, and keep writing, every day.

About the author: Glenn Walker is the Membership Director of the South Jersey Writers' Group, Associate Editor of Biff Bam Pop!, and a podcaster. He currently blogs about pop culture, comic books, videogames, and French fries. Don't hold it against him.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Authors Dawn Byrne and Marie Gilbert at Bogart's

Marie Gilbert, Joanne Costantino, and Dawn Byrne
Dawn Byrne and I always have a great time together when we do the book signings for Tall Tales and Short Stories, an anthology published this past year by the members of the South Jersey Writers' Group. But yesterday’s signing was the most interesting one that we’ve done so far this year. Dawn, Joanne Costantino and I were at Bogart’s Books and Cafe located at 210 North High Street in Millville, NJ, and all three of us had an absolute blast!

Amy, who is the owner, has done such a wonderful job with this bookstore. There is a touch of the bohemian in this quaint little shop that begs you to stay and take your time searching for that special book.

Even the bathroom has character; make sure to ask for the 3D glasses. There are comfortable tables and chairs in Bogart’s for you to rest, sip your hot tea or coffee, page through your purchased book, or listen to music. Check the Upcoming Events page of their website for scheduled entertainment. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of the special inhabitants who live at Bogart’s.

Alaina and Nolan

Yes, Bogart’s has ghosts, and since I attract ghosts, I got to meet 'Andrew' as soon as I entered the shop. He made sure to tell me how happy he is to be living in a bookstore. Amy confirmed that there are a few spirits occupying the building and she and her staff have encountered them on a daily basis. I’ll be going back with my team to do a more thorough investigation.

We sold lots of books and met a lot of nice people; a few who were interested in joining our group. Here is Nolan and Alaina, who bought the first book of the day. Hey, Glenn Walker, we found someone who loves pop culture and French fries and "Doctor Who" as much as you do. He’s a friend of SJWG member Sarah Hawkins-Miduski. Glenn, meet George Scully.

George Scully
After we packed up, we headed over to the Levoy Theatre to check out the NJ HorrorFest that was taking place inside the theater. Imagine our delight when we bumped into, and spoke with, William Katt (from "The Greatest American Hero," the original Carrie, and he coincidentally played a writer in House) in person. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture with Mr. Katt, the famous TV star. Dawn and I were like two giddy schoolgirls and forgot that we had a camera. We giggled the whole way back to the car. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

William Katt
Back to business, our friends at Bogart's need your help to qualify for a grant. Please go to Chase Mission Main Street Grants, type in the zip code for Bogart's: 08332, into the business search box, and then vote for Bogart’s Book Store. You must be logged into Facebook to vote. Thank you!

If you'd like to know what's on the schedule for the South Jersey Writers' Group, please feel free to stop by our website, and the calendar of events there.

And, if you're a writer in the South Jersey area looking for support, camaraderie, and most of all, information about the craft and the business, the South Jersey Writers' Group is open to new memberships through the end of the year. Details on membership and all the gatherings, workshops, and events that the group provides can be found on our website.

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