November Means?

November is an awesome month. I look forward to it every year, and not because of Turkey day and not because it’s fall. Nope! I look forward to it because as soon as the first comes around I have a perfect excuse to avoid all responsibilities, like feeding children and cleaning house.

November means it’s also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and gives the chance to complete a novel-length work (50,000 words) in 30 days.  You can join your local region for write-ins and miscellaneous writing support, or even hook up with your writing buddies and have a friendly competition on who can get to the 50,000 word mark first and/or the fastest. The options are endless.

Writers around the world use this time to kick their inner editors to the curb to push out a frantically written, thrown together novel in 30 days or less.  This is the perfect chance to hone those skills and write something that could be the next best-seller, like Night Circus.

But there’s no pressure.

Just sit back, have fun, and let your muse take control. You may want to have some icepacks on the side though, fingers don’t like the abuse!

A caution to be heeded: NaNoWriMo is very addicting. Side effects include, but are not limited to, sleepless nights, sore fingers, euphoric highs, bankrupt coffee industry, disgruntled children and spouse, dirty house and laundry, sense of immense accomplishment, and others.  Participation in this activity is voluntary and upon sign up, you agree to the pros and cons and will not hold anyone other than yourself accountable for undesirable counter measures taken in order for your attention to be gained by anything other than your novel.

Disclaimer: This is a fun, informative, and slightly fictional post. My children are not harmed or neglected during the month of November and are quite convincing when they want attention from me. The fingers, however, are another story…

Samantha LaFantasie, Featured KWA Writer

Yes, she’ll tell you, her last name really is LaFantasie.  And that’s fitting because Samantha mainly writes fantasy.  Her most recent novel, Heart Song, is an adult fantasy with lots of romance, available via Createspace   and/or Amazon Kindle.  She currently has been working on the first of a series of novellas, Made to Forget, that she hopes to make available this summer.

Samantha LaFantasieSamantha believes that writing fantasy suits her best.  She writes, “I love that there are very little rules to follow when writing fantasy.  It can be as varied as you would like it to be, as fantastical or mundane.”  When asked how writing has impacted her life, Samantha notes, “Each day I remember something from my past that has come about from writing.  From poetry and songwriting from my younger school years to the more serious undertaking of novels in recent years, writing has been my therapy.”  Samantha admits that while she got her reading start on R.L. Stine, she became addicted to fantasy with Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance series.

For advice for new writers, Samantha admonishes that “It doesn’t matter how much or what you write.  Just write.  And don’t pay too much attention to the specific mechanics either.  You’ll find that they change with each person—which also says that there’s no right way to write!”

To read more from Samantha LaFantasie, visit www.samanthalafantasie.com.

Is Book Country Really that Helpful?

For about a year now, I’ve been trying to do this online program for critiquing unpublished work. It’s called Book Country under the label of Penguin. This is a program that promises that you’ll get honest and supportive feedback on your current WIPs and maybe even pick up an agent or publishing contract.

If only it were that easy…

I know I’m not a perfect writer, and I don’t know of anyone who is, especially the well-known names. So I already know that my writing is a process, and it will continue to grow and improve as I continue to write. With that being said, I have noticed some things about the Book Country experience.

The problem that I’ve been having so far is there are a couple of people who, no matter what you do, give a near form response for a critique. These formulaic responses can also borderline on the personal. There’s no time limit to give a review, so it can take weeks and months before I receive feedback.

Another issue is the star system that they have to rate books. You can earn anywhere between one and five stars–one being very rough draft, to five, being publish ready. Many WIPs I have read barely made it passed the three star mark and have gone on to earn agents and publishing contracts. The stars don’t reset when you upload a new draft of your work, and I’ve found that many people have voiced their thoughts of not wanting to spend time on a critique if the WIP is less than three stars.

The star system is flawed and the reviews are heavily subjective.

The idea of this concept is appealing, and it seems like a really good way to get eyes on your work and get help on improving your story. But there is always that fine print to look at.

It has come to my attention through a few reputable sites that some major publishing houses and agents won’t look at your work or be able to work with you if your work has been placed on a site like Book Country. This makes this program geared towards those who are looking into self-publishing. Look carefully through the Terms of Service. For more information regarding this, visit The Passive Voice.

So, is the feedback honest and supportive? Maybe. I suppose. But then it’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle of writing the book to everyone else’s standards than your own. Especially when you get some pretty snarky reviews.

My advice is to join a critique group locally and land a few beta readers. This way, you know you aren’t feeling like you’re in the midst of a competition and belittled by harsh criticism. The people you give your work to are more likely to give you the more supportive side of feedback and tell you how to improve your writing— not insult you. Whereas, Book Country is a glorified program set to bring more traffic to Penguin.

Samantha LaFantasie writes fantasy and is currently working through the revision of her first manuscript, Heartsong.  She’s been a KWA member since 2012 and says, “I love writing. It is therapy for me… I get lost in my writing.” Want to read more from Samantha? Visit her blog.