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NaNoWriMo: It’s Here Again! Will You Be Joining In?

NaNoWriMo Participant-2014-Web-Banner

Yup, it’s that time again and I’m ready for it! I wasn’t sure if I could handle NaNo and still work on my novel (The Sword Bearer’s Ascension: Book 4) and get it finished for publication early next year, but I think a specific goal of reaching 50 000 words in 30 days will encourage me to set aside a few hours every day to do both NaNo AND Book 4 and complete them by the end of November. Hey, I’ve never done anything in small measures in my entire life and I’m not about to start now!

The South African Flag

The South African Flag – SA, my first home on this earth.

Moving from South Africa to the UK was utterly exhausting, as you can imagine. Picking up your entire life and dumping it in another country is not for the faint of heart and should not be attempted too often in one’s life. Exhaustion aside, I am thrilled to be here in a country that appreciates fantasy and science fiction authors more than they do in SA. Sad but true. I was told by an agent in SA that the fantasy genre is a difficult sell in our country, local author or not. As it is, there isn’t much room for the arts in any form there unless the community does all the work and finds private funding. Thankfully, there are the handful in each field, including a few corporations, that have the passion to make things happen in the face of ignorance and apathy; our leaders have no idea that without the arts a nation has no soul and will soon die. They are oblivious to the enormous potential of its highly skilled and talented people, of which there are thousands, therefore these struggling artists get no recognition or support from their useless, unaware leaders.

I have many South African author friends and they are doing fantastic things on their own and raising awareness in their field. They love what they do, and despite how hard it is to be an artist in SA they are thriving because they’re doing what they love. They make me proud to be a writer and an artist.

Make time to write every day even if it's just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

Make time to write every day even if it’s just for a few minutes! Feed your soul!

NaNoWriMo is growing in leaps and bounds, and I am proud to be part of it again this year. South Africa did brilliantly last year and I just know they’ll do even better this year. I will always support and encourage them. This year I am thrilled to be part of a huge writing community in the UK that is participating in NaNo. Hello, Kent! This year I am sticking to a scifi novel. As I work on finishing my epic fantasy tetralogy I am looking forward to having new projects to focus on next year, and since I will have two novels – one, a mixed genre of fantasy, scifi, horror, and western from 2012 – and this year’s scifi, along with another horror/scifi short story, I will have lots to keep me busy in 2015.

So tell me, dear Writer, are you participating this year? I would love to hear what you have up your sleeve and which tactics you will be implementing to succeed. Do share. If you need to chat and discuss issues and even your fears of not making the word count goal then let’s chat about it and encourage one another. I wish you luck and word count success by the 30th! I will keep you updated on my own progress right here. Now, go write!

You Never Lose What You Gain – as a Writer or a Dancer

Polina Seminova

Polina Seminova

Yesterday I did a ballet exam for the first time since I was 17. It was an interesting experience, as you can imagine. At 44 one would think a person done with such intense exercises, but I wanted to get fit again and have a goal to work towards for the end of the year, besides finishing Book 4 during NaNoWriMo, of course 🙂 I was just informed that I got the highest mark and a fantastic report, which makes me smile and nod sagely to myself because although I am no longer as subtle or fit as I used to be there is one thing I retained after all this time and that was the technique required to pull off an exam of that level. It’s called muscle-memory, and depending on how good your training was as a kid you never lose that knowledge.

This goes for writing, as well.

It should please you to know that as you constantly learn you become better and better at your craft, never worse. This, of course, depends on whether you develop bad habits and faults and allow them to perpetuate your writing. The same principle applies to ballet. Bad habits are hard to break unless, with steely determination and a lot of hard work, you attack them with the very opposite and completely remove said bad habits and replace them with a good, solid foundation upon which anything is possible to achieve.

Having the right mindset is vital, naturally. You must want it badly enough, and by ‘it’ I mean perfection. I want to be a perfect writer, knowing this is impossible just like being the perfect dancer is impossible – but with regards to both careers I can get pretty close. It is up to me, however, to create an environment in which to work – at home and inside my head – that creates optimal achievement.

Writing Inspiration

I must gain knowledge in order to improve, to achieve, and, ultimately, to succeed and reach the heights I’m aiming for.

As a ballet teacher my goal is to train my dancers to think correctly. I have all the knowledge to turn them into better dancers, but they must want to receive that knowledge and apply it, then make it part of not only their dancing but themselves, for what they learn in the classroom they can use in all aspects of life. Knowledge empowers them to become better dancers and thinkers, and as their teacher I must make sure they understand that knowledge and then show them how to apply it.

As adults we may no longer have tutors to guide and nurture us, but we have learned the responsibility and discipline to make sure we continue our own education to the best of our ability. Even though I received the best training as a dancer there were still things I needed to be be reminded of and become more conscious of again nearly thirty years later. As a writer, I keep learning and reading and gleaning from the experts because I need and want what they have in order to apply it to my work and become better and better. I still need reminders of the details, the intrinsic stuff that makes the whole picture look so much more professional and appealing to my readers. It is my responsibility to keep learning and relearning so that I can keep growing and improving.

The learning never stops! Please remember that!

I’ve spoken before of being willing and open to learn and gain knowledge, and of finding the balance between knowledge and passion – it’s what this blog is really about. Never stop learning and you’ll never stop improving. It’s as simple as that.

I love hearing your thoughts. What are your opinions about continuing your education? Do you feel pretty confident where you are in your career as an author, or are you constantly aware of the need to keep honing your craft with more knowledge?

If you’d like to read other posts on this subject of passion verses knowledge please check out my Archive.

Remember, you can find all my books right here Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

Why Writing is Like Playing Squash

Pen on Paper

I once wrote a post on how writing is like dancing. This is similar, but because that was nearly a year ago I thought I’d replay the topic (pun intended 🙂 ). I think every now and then us writers need to be reminded how much work it takes to keep our craft honed, and if we slack off then our readers can tell. Things get untidy and mushy and squishy instead of remaining sharp, tight, and toned – like every serious writer (athlete) needs to look.

For the last month hubby and I have been playing squash again after an almost five-year break from it, not because we were lazy, it’s just that life got busy – being newlyweds and the like. This week we started again for the second time after having the usual week and a half off when everything shut down between Christmas and New Year, and although I quickly found my rhythm I could tell immediately (being a dancer for nearly forty years I kinda know what my body is telling me by now!) that it wasn’t a good idea to have a break after restarting on such a good note. But, hey, it happened and now I need to refocus and get fit again.

During NaNoWriMo last November I put aside editing The Sword Bearer’s Awakening: Book 3 to write a new novel in a different genre thereby having a complete break from almost three years of solely focusing on my epic fantasy tetralogy. When I started editing Book 3 again it took me a while to find my old rhythm, and for a day or so I got a nervous niggle in the pit of my stomach that I wouldn’t find it. I had to reacquaint myself with my characters and where they were – emotionally – in the story.

But I eventually did it! Whew! When I took a moment to really think about my fears I realised they were unfounded because once I’ve learned how to do something I never forget – like the old adage: You never forget how to ride a bike. But still, my connection to my characters and my emotional attachment to the story had frayed a little, and I made a decision to never break from what I am currently working on again until it is finished.

English: Vlástní foto

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Hubby and I started playing squash again (the first time) the only thing that I struggled with was my fitness level. I remembered how to play and what the rules were, but because of the five-year break I had to refocus my attentions on technique and flow and, of course, how to annihilate my husband! *evil laugh* It took about a week and then things just got smoother and faster for the both of us.

The comparison I’m trying to make with writing is that even though you might have a break from sitting at the computer and bashing out your novel, don’t completely separate yourself from the process of creating with words. Even if this means you keep reading, at least, to keep your mind and technique sharp and even perhaps learn something new from a prolific author.

Like the body, the mind needs to be kept busy in order to function optimally. It will never forget what comes naturally to it and it never forgets what it has learnt, but unless we keep it ‘exercised’ and healthy and feed it what it needs, it will get lazy and ‘fat’ and squishy and grow mental love-handles.

The New Year offers great opportunities to expand our knowledge and creative abilities even more than in 2012. I urge you, dear writer, to keep your mind at its best by feeding it good, wholesome stuff. I recently posted this quote on Facebook. It sums up what I’ve said here and in my previous post.

The Six Golden Rules of Writing

I so look forward to what y’all are creating this year! It’s gonna be a hot one!!

I love hearing from you. Please tell me what you are working on so that I can share and tweet and get excited!

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