Saturday, October 28, 2017

Have a fun Halloween

Next week Halloween will be celebrated by both children and adults with decorations, parties and trick or treating. It can be helpful in some ways to writers and readers, both of whom need a good imagination. Writers need imagination to create new worlds and make what is happening in them believable, and readers to enter and believe those worlds.

It’s a great time for horror writers and suspense writers since you never know who or what might pop out on the other side of that bush?

There are plenty of scary corn mazes, hayrides and other spooky events. Cemeteries and old houses seem much more sinister during the cooler, dark nights near Halloween. Since it is part of Autumn, homes are decorated with pumpkins (and Jack-o’-lanterns), corn stalks and scarecrows.

 I have received decorative ideas and recipes from Pinterest. A friend posted the recipe and picture of a cauldron cheese ball on Facebook (it looks delicious) and there are oodles of suggestions for making snacks for children look festive. And of, course there is pumpkin everything.

Halloween is a fun time for children who don’t question why they can’t be a superhero, werewolf, ghost, ballerina or witch. They think only the right clothes and maybe makeup are needed.

My daughter loved Halloween and her costumes as a child included Raggedy Ann, a butterfly, and grave robber. My son was a cowboy, robot (with blinking lights) and Superman.

Some of our costumes were purchased, but most were homemade. Some difficulties were caused by their desire to be authentic.

A few costumes I think we used bent hangers to have my daughter’s hair look like Pippi Longstocking. She and a friend found their own threadbare clothes and made a lightweight coffin which they carried between them when they were grave robbers.

Superman was not a problem at first since my son had the pajamas and even a cape, but as he was ready to go out, he insisted that superman had to have dark hair. Resourceful Mom used black shoe polish smeared over his thick hair. It was dark and it wasn’t flyaway. However, it was hard to remove.

Some people think months ahead of time about their costume while others buy or make one that day. My daughter usually had her costume plans made by August. Her son went as a turtle for his first Halloween children’s party and was a wolf this year. She said she was making the decision these early years because he would probably choose to be a superhero when he is old enough to choose.

The festivities have been part of the recognition of the end of the harvest season. The basics of Halloween also are thought to date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. People would light bonfires and wear costumes that supposedly would ward off ghosts. Around the 8th century, All Hallows' Day was officially switched to 1 November, the same date as the Celtic Samhain, at the request of Pope Gregory IV. All Hallows’ Day was a special day to honor all saints.

The evening before later became known as All Hallow’s Eve. Later it was called Halloween.

Let your imaginations soar as you are surrounded by fairies, unicorns, superheroes and creatures of the night.

Don’t forget to leave your lights on for the trick or treaters, or make sure they are off if you don’t want to be bothered or won’t be home.

Have a Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 20, 2017

NaNoWriMo Hints

November is important for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, but for writers it is important also for National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo.

Those who attempt the 50,000 words in 30 days, find it challenging to write an average of 1,667 words every day of the month. When there is an opportunity to type more than that, take advantage of it. This challenge is exhausting, but also fun and productive.

Writers in Carroll County, MD gathered
together in Taneytown for a 2016

If you want to try NaNoWriMo this year, you can start planning ahead of time, writing a rough outline, deciding on who your main characters will be, your setting, time frame and main plot. It is also time to do any research that might be necessary for your proposed book. Additional research can wait.

Some writers say you should know your theme before you start writing. Others swear it doesn’t matter. It will develop later as you write.

Do not start actually writing the book until November 1.

Some of my friends, don’t register at the NaNoWriMo site, but still try to write the 50,000 words, because it still challenges them. Some want to continue a story they had already started.

I think it helps if you register, even if you don’t complete the challenge. This gives you a firm commitment. Also, you will be sent motivating messages and hints from famous writers. You do not have to write your novel on their site. I never have. I just update my count periodically. Information about your novel, word counts, etc. can be posted on the NaNoWriMo website at

You just have to post your story on the NaNoWriMo website at the end, so the 50,000 words can be verified. If you don't succeed, you still have that much of a story ready to go, probably a lot more than you normally write.

Don’t worry if your story starts to change as you write. That is all part of the process, the purpose is to just write, as much and as fast as you can. As you write quickly, the story flows. There is time for editing later.

If things changed a lot, you can choose which version you like best or which best fits the action and theme of your novel.

This practice of intense writing is critical to becoming productive writers. It also can help you find your voice. Since you do not change your words constantly, but writing what you are thinking, you can improve upon it later.

Some books I recommended in the past about writing rapidly include:

  • Book in a Month, the fool-proof system for writing a novel in 30 days, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.
  • If you want a little more time, there is The Extreme Novelist, The No-Time-to-Write Method for Drafting Your Novel in 8 Weeks. She promises “Out of chaos will come beautiful order and an amazing book. But first you have to write rough.
  • No Plot? No Problem!, A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing A Novel in 30 Days was written by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. He started the program in 1999 with 21 people. By 2004 it was up to 25,000 participants and in 2014 it increased to 325,142 participants. In 2016 the number of people taking part increased to 445,179.
At the end of November, you can have a rough draft of a novel. That is a huge accomplishment. Even if you don’t write 50,000 words, you have the start of a book. After the 30 days, take a break. Let life get back to normal before you start editing.

If you don’t like to be too isolated you could attend some Write-ins. They are held at various locations, times and places during the month, such as at libraries and coffee shops. It is a way for writers to stay in contact with each other, socialize and get more writing done then they possibly would have alone.

I have written other blogs about this month for writers. You can check out:

·         11/27/16          Writing a Book In a Month or Two
·         10/21/15          NaNoWriMo 15, No Plot? No Problem!
·         11/13/12          NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. This and similar programs that stress output offer us a chance to push yourself. No one is going to criticize you if you do not finish.

I reached the goal three out of six times. One book is almost ready for publication, except for some final editing. Another is more than half finished with a rough outline of the rest of it. I may return to some of the others in the future, as time permits. Each effort has helped me learn to write faster.

By December 1, you will have tried something new and have something tangible for your efforts. Remember, these are your words, your thoughts. Write and have fun.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hints for writers from Wojo

“Ideas are everywhere,” comedian and author Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski, told a group of writers recently. Sometimes it feels like you have nothing to say. It’s time to ignite your writing.

She discussed where she gets ideas and gave a list of hints that can help. “You can use the same hints for fiction and non-fiction and business,” she said.

“Jot down notes, Write it down, you will not remember it,” she said. “Organize your way. Find out what works for you. Otherwise you won’t keep doing it.”

Other hints included:

  • Keep a notebook handy, whatever type works for you. Often something is there to stir your imagination.
  • Look for happenings in your daily life.
  • Maybe have an idea buddy. Someone you trust.
  • Listen and talk to people.
  • Do random searches.
  • Think journals, collections.
  • Write down what she calls fabulous realities. Why is there only one shoe in the road?
  • Use word mapping.
  • Watch social media for ideas and trends.
  • Don’t worry about keeping ideas for a long time.
  • Regain your childlike sense of wonder.

“So many ideas are out there” she said. You have to be alert and keep track of what catches your attention. Above are only some of the hints she gave.
Rebecca Colletti and Wojo 

Michelle Wojciechowski is author of the award winning book, Next Time I Move, They'll Carry Me Out in a Box. She is a freelance writer and her works have appeared in magazines, such as Parade, Reader's Digest, Maryland Life, Family Circle and numerous others magazines, including some scientific and historic magazines.
She performs stand-up comedy and is on the faculty of the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshops. She also writes a blog, Wojo’s world where life is always funny.
You can find out more information about Wojo through her Facebook page, @wojosworldfan page/ or at wojciechowski/ and twitter@themichelewojo.