writing

Write With Me! A Journey. A Challenge.

Hey, Ink Foxes!

As you might have seen, I’m working on my NaNoWriMo 2018 novel, and trying to bring this mess into a workable state. It’s been a haphazard thing since November, with bits and pieces of the world, magic, and characterization being cobbled together here and there. The holidays in retail always bring me down, but I’m back, and I’m ready.

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PIRATE SELKIE CIVIL WAR (or THE WORST WORKING TITLE IN THE HISTORY OF WORKING TITLES) is a labor of love. It’s magic and pirates and supernatural beings, all crammed into a Scotland-like fantasy land, and I can’t get enough.

That said, I’m imposing a deadline on myself. My goal is to have every single piece of this beauty finished and polished by January 7, 2020. My 35th birthday present to myself will be my query letter.

No good challenge can be completed alone! (Well, I suppose it can, but where’s the fun in that?) The challenge itself is sort of in its infancy. We can establish weekly check-ins and chats. Whatever helps to get through the slog of work that comes with writing a book! (I only say “slog” because I’ve, once again, picked a project that puts me completely out of my depth! Woo!)

We’ve got ten months, so, if you’re interested, pop on over to Inkwell Imaginings  and comment on the post. If you’re not on Facebook, comment and we’ll work on getting you folded into the community somehow. ❤

I’m excited, guys! I’m headed to work on my magic system.

Happy creating!

Kit

writing

NaNoWriMo 2018: Victory

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National Novel Writing Month. Another year. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve done NaNoWriMo every year since 2008, with mixed success, but with consistent enthusiasm. I know you’re expecting a long, exclamation point-ridden post about how amazing it is every year, and how incredible I feel taking part in such a massive creative undertaking, but it’s going to be a little different this time.

I love National Novel Writing Month. I’ve loved all four years I’ve participated as an ML, and the collective effort I’ve been a part of with Inkwell Imaginings and my writing group friends. You are all amazing, and, success/participation or not, I’m so proud of you all for everything you’ve worked on and accomplished in your creative lives! Keeping the socialization aspect of NaNo in the forefront is typically what drives me.

This year was my eleventh year! Eleven! That’s craziness to me. It feels like just last year that Jess and I embarked on NaNo together and took up our ML mantels to rally our central Massachusetts regions to victory. NaNoWriMo is what pulled me out of my badly-written Final Fantasy VIII fan fiction from early high school, and into my badly-written original fiction. It showed me that I was able to imagine more than I ever thought possible. It gave me a reason to exercise my mind and broaden my scope of what I thought belonged on paper. It gave me purpose during the darkening days of New England winter, and the onset of seasonal depression, and warmed me up to something that connected me to other people like me.

NaNoWriMo this year was bitter sweet for me. I’m honestly not even sure why. My second year serving as the Daytona Beach Municipal Liaison brought me to a handful of fantastic people who undertook the challenge, and wound up with more creative content than they started with. I met my 50,000 word goal, and I found a story that has a fair bit of potential. It brought my back my drive and my creativity.

I missed a lot of my old tribe this year, though. Life has put the act of creating on a back burner for so many of us, and it just cements the fact that adulting puts such a demand on time and focus.

So, in the wake of a good NaNo season, I’m going to challenge myself to be more and to do more in my creative life. I’ve purchased two courses on Udemy, hoping to expand my ability to practice, and to add to my accountability. I want to be prolific and work harder and be better. Almost four years after leaving college, I’m gaining my love for creation back, and I need to hang onto that. I need to ride it into the new year and establish new habits now.

Bittersweet, but motivating, I owe NaNoWriMo 2018 the exact thing that brought me to it in the first place: affection for making something new. I’ll be here to push out more and more, and I’ll see National Novel Writing Month in November 2019, ready to lock it down again.

It’s going to take a lot. It’s going to take focus and work, but I’m back. I’m not great at it, but, through and through, I am a writer.

Uncategorized

How I Started a Writing Group

Hey, everyone!

I’ve been asked a common question several times over the course of my group-hopping through NaNoWriMo, Script Frenzy, and a medley of writing local writer gatherings over the years, and I thought I should address it now.

How Do You Start a Writing Group?

Six years ago, my best friend and fellow writer Jessi and I began Inkwell Imaginings, a structured, workshop-based writing group in Southbridge, Massachusetts. I’m sure there are a dozen or so ways to get a writing group started, and there are as many ways to structure or focus your group to create exactly what you’re looking for from it.

Begin

Jessi and I settled down on my bed with notebooks and a vast array of multi-colored highlighters and pens, and started to map out what we wanted from the group.

  • We wanted to invite writers of all skill levels. We’re both huge on encouraging other people to pursue their creative dreams, and we needed this to come through for Inkwell. It had to be clear that everyone was welcome, and diversity of level and genre would be embraced.
  • We wanted to offer a variety of writing workshops to give our members the opportunity to grow. There are plenty of writing groups that don’t offer workshops, and they are typically something to build up to. Jessi has her bachelors in English and I’m pursuing mine in creative writing, so we thought we might give people the opportunity to benefit from what we were learning!
  • We wanted to include critique days. This is what a lot of people are looking for when it comes to a writing group. Unfortunately, when it comes to budding novelists, they need help, as we all do, creating a polished piece of fiction. To allow everyone to have a turn, we had to limit our members to three pages per session. It helps to let them know that they’re free to talk outside of the group and exchange fiction via email or even in person. Networking is important!
  • It’s okay to be social. Inkwell is no longer the workshop machine it used to be. Now, writers just get together in person, or online, and chat about their work, ask advice, and kvetch about their lives. It’s just as beneficial to have a tribe of writers to be social with as it is to treat your group as a class.
  • Name your group! It can be hard, I know. It doesn’t have to be, though. You could just name it after your region or city. Give yourself a cool team name, like in sports or events. No holds barred! Just be sure it’s safe for public listing if you plan to advertise!
  • What’s your focus? Is it genre specific? Social? Structured, like Inkwell? Lay down exactly what you want for your group. If you know what you want, you’ll be less likely to be wishy-washy when you start gathering members!

Bring it to life

  • You need a venue. It can be as simple as a cafe or Panera Bread meeting room. We chose to approach the director of the local library, which happened to be two buildings away from my apartment. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though! Most library personnel are happy to talk with you about reading or writing, as long as you’re respectful.

    We wrote a simple, but professional email and received a response the same day. She was very eager to have us come in for a chat about our writing group. We gathered all of our notes and submitted our proposal. It was approved by the next day, and we were on our way to Inkwell!

  • Create a schedule. Once you have a venue, make sure you create a schedule. Every Friday from 6pm to 8pm, or every Saturday morning from 10am to 1pm, etc. Whatever you feel works for you. People will come, but be firm. Don’t switch it around to fit everyone. If they want to come, if they can come, they will. If not, maybe offer an occasional once-a-month meeting at a different time, but don’t deviate too hard! Consistency is key!
  • Create flyers. Be simple about it. Make sure the name of the group is visible and legible, and you give the name of the venue, as well as an address. I recommend leaving your personal phone number and address off of the flyer! You never know who might be seeing this information! If you want to be contacted by potential members, which is always a good option, set up a free email address for the group with Google or Outlook, and add it to the flyer. These flyers can be left on bulletin boards at Starbucks and most local coffeehouses, Panera’s community board, and on many library boards as long as you obtain approval.
  • Show up for your first meeting! Don’t expect a huge turn out at first. Members will come. Word of mouth will spread. Just be there, be consistent, even if you’re by yourself once in awhile. Use it to get your writing done. Maybe print out a little sign and put it on your table! It helps people to identify you and even encourages people to ask questions.

Running Inkwell was one of the highlights of my writing life, and I would reinstate it again in a heartbeat. Maybe I will when we settle in to somewhere more permanent!

Feel free to contact me with questions about Inkwell or starting your own group. We’d love to have more members online, but I encourage you to find or start your own group in your area!

Battle on!
Kit


starbornHey, guys! I’m looking for feedback on Amity Dawn! If you’re interested in reading and leaving your thoughts, the first five chapters are currently posted on Wattpad.

Have a great day, and happy writing!

Uncategorized

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Hey, everyone!

I spent NaNoWriMo trying to write a story that was entirely within my comfort zone, and I wasn’t feeling it. It felt boring and trite, and I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I wasn’t challenging myself. I wasn’t even feeling my own voice coming through the writing.

I didn’t care about it.

My characters were lifeless. My setting was undeveloped. My conflict was muddled and unclear. But it was fantasy. It was the first genre I had ever loved writing; the first feeling that I actually loved a craft as more than just a hobby. Fantasy was once what defined my writing.

This last novel wasn’t something I felt in my soul anymore, and it broke my heart. Today, I want you do what I didn’t have the foresight to do!

I want you to step out of your comfort zone!

Write Outside of Your Genre

It doesn’t have to be something long. It doesn’t even have to be something you plan to publish or submit. All you need to do is pick a genre you’ve never written before, and give yourself room to breathe.

You can outline it! I’m not a pantser by any stretch of the imagination, and, if you aren’t either, I encourage you to outline to your heart’s content! This isn’t an exercise in off-the-cuff writing, so don’t panic.

Once you decide on the genre you want to test out, find your conflict. Or, if you start with characters, discover who they are and what drives them. However you begin, get yourself started! Don’t be afraid, because this is just an exercise. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even like the process in this new genre!

When I need a refresh period in another genre, I generally choose characters I’m already familiar with. I’ve written romance and feel-good material for my Amity Dawn characters. I jumped into mystery (poorly; I did not enjoy it) with characters from Glass Dragons.

Every new genre brings its own experience, and you can learn from all of them.

Write Something Controversial

Do you have something to say about a current event? DAPL? The election? Ghirardelli vs Lindt?

Fear can often drive us to keep our mouths shut on things we’re afraid will attract conflict. The internet is the perfect place to get chewed up and spit out for having an opinion, but I encourage you to hold your ground! Nothing was ever accomplished by keeping silent.

Once you have your story/blog post/what-have-you written, share it. Share it! Seriously. It can be so empowering to make yourself heard. It gives you a voice and it lets others know that it’s okay to stand with you or against you! It’s okay to feel something!

Overcoming your fear of having a voice by expressing yourself can lead to all sorts of unlocked inspiration. The fear of writing what you mean and writing what you feel is pushed aside, and you can experience a new confidence in your subject matter. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated.

Invite Someone to Read Your Work

It’s scary to open yourself up to criticism, but, remember, criticism teaches us how to improve. We can’t grow if we stay in our own little bubble. Reading, writing, and experiencing new things are all amazing ways to grow as a writer, but it’s allowing others to tell us what’s missing that gives us perspective on our own work.

Allow a beta reader into your Writer Bubble. Let them read your work, praise what’s good, and question what needs attention. We can only see so far into our work. We know what we meant to say in that line that’s awkwardly worded. It doesn’t read awkwardly to us!

Did you use too many commas in that sentence? Did your protagonist just do something totally uncharacteristic? It won’t make us cringe if we read it with writer-eyes. A beta can catch that for you.

It doesn’t mean your novel isn’t your masterpiece. It just means every masterpiece goes through a draft period; a period where it needs tweaking and molding until it resembles the vision in your head. The value of a second set of eyes can be absolutely priceless.

Be Authentically You

I’m not saying you need to incite dissension in your readers. If you’re a professional and quiet person, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things light and encouraging! If you’re a little more abrasive, that’s okay, too. I have a tendency to be that way. I have strong opinions and I like to voice them—not for the sake of argument, but to connect to other people who might feel alone in their views.

Regardless of who you are, what you believe or do for a living, where you find your peace, always be authentically you.

Battle on!
Kit

A-to-ZChallenge, Gumpathon

G is for Gumpathon! #AtoZChallenge

Alright! Back in February 2013, I put together a writing challenge called the Gumpathon! It’s a 30-day challenge, not unlike the NaNoWriMo events, that encourages writers to finish off any drafts they’ve started! If you have a single novel you need to hammer out, just want to throw together a short story anthology, or have a handful of projects that don’t exactly have endings, THE GUMP IS FOR YOU!

But you know what else? I’m expanding it this year. I want to include all creatives in our little Gumpathon. Artists, finish that painting, sculpture, or installation you’ve been working on! Musicians, spin us something beautiful! Crafters, crochet an afghan! Put all of your vacation photos from last year into a scrapbook! Sew that skirt!

So, here’s how it’s going to be. I can provide the writing side of this, but if you think the crafting, arting, etc community should have some guidelines of its own, suggest some! My contact page is above, or you can just post on my Facebook wall! Let’s complete the guidelines so we can make this a yearly tradition, right?

Awesome. So, here are the writing rules:

The Rules:

  1.  Set your own goal and stick to it. No flip-flopping. Pick a word count you want to achieve within the month, and make it happen.
  2.  The write-a-thon starts at midnight on 1 May 2016. To clarify, you shoulduse a novel or project you’ve already started!  You just cannot count anything prior tothe start date.
  3.  All word counts must be reported by 31 May 2016, 11:59:59 PM. You can do this on the Gumpathon Facebook page or the Kit MacConnell Facebook page! We don’t have an actual site for the Gumpathon yet, but that may change in the future.

If anyone has any ideas for rules or even rewards, feel free to pitch them.  And if any non-Gumpers want to be a part of the community, check us out on Facebook: Writers with Gumption!

A-to-ZChallenge

F is for Fellowship #AtoZChallenge

So it’s been a week of change for me and, as such, it’s been hard to keep to a schedule or even keep my head in one place. I haven’t even looked at my writing or editing projects since last weekend. I’m a huge slacker, but we’re settling back in!

I want to talk about fellowship. Not the programs creatives slit throats to get into or that churches sponsor or that are created around evil jewelry.

I’m talking about a bond.

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In all the years I’ve been writing and working and failing and picking myself back up, the one thing I can always count on is the fellowship of other writers and creatives. We’re an odd bunch. We stick together. When something falls through for one of us, you can bet the lot of us will commiserate, shout obscenities, and pour hot coffee down the throats of our fallen comrades.

“It was all out of love, I swear,” she said to the officer taking her statement, as her ‘fallen comrade’ pulled the shock blanket tighter around her shoulders.

It’s all out of love. Nothing creates empathy in other creatives like that very-shared feeling of inadequacy. There’s nothing inadequate about any of us, so long as we’re honing our craft, right? Point is, I would never have made it this far without the people I’ve met along the way. Writers and artists of all types—musicians and painters and poets and novelists—have fueled me just through the interaction I’ve had with them.

Never underestimate the power of a social writers group. Listen. Seriously. Critique groups are awesome, but if you’re not quite there yet, hunt for groups that are social and encouraging. Ones you can ask for help if you need it. Using these social groups to hone your craft—write, draw, paint more—and build your confidence in your chosen specialization(s) can impact you for the better. It can help you get ready for that critique group, to submit to that agent, to jam your resume into the faces of a hundred artsy positions at artsy or not-so-artsy companies!

If you can’t find one, start one! Even online, everyone likes to have someone to complain with, celebrate with, procrastinate create with. If you don’t know how to start one, Pinterest has some great ideas, Facebook groups are awesome, and there are always the NaNoWriMo forums (which is where I’ve enjoyed almost every online writing group I’ve been a part of).

You don’t have to create alone!

Have you ever been a part of a social group for writers or artists? What did you gain from it? What were the drawbacks for you?