MJ is a writer and writing consultant devoted to her muse and to helping other writers gain confidence, overcome obstacles, and unleash the story within. She offers multiple services on her platform, mjpankey.com, and creates helpful content for writers on her youtube channel.
You stare out at the world around you. Fifty years ago, the landscape looked much different, felt different. You recall a conversation you had with someone yesterday about it, and if you look closely, you can still see traces of the world that once was. You think about what has changed, the decisions that led to this, and wonder. Was it worth it?
-What year is it? -Was the character alive fifty years ago? -What has changed? -What does the landscape look like now? -Colors? Sounds? Smells? -How does the character feel? -Is this earth or another planet?
Ready for an exhausting month? Day 1 begins today!
NaNoWriMo is a special time of year for writers. Daily word counts at least 1700 words! Hours devoted just to writing! Sound like a writers paradise?
It usually doesn’t quite go down that way.
NaNoWriMo can be a very rewarding time of the year for writers. The writing community is always super energized, and truly motivating and inspiring for me. It is why I formed Augusta Writer’s Critique Group and why I have chosen to devote more of my time and energy to writing and writers.
Although you will find many friends and colleagues in the writing community to cheer you on, family members and friends who don’t write may not understand why you’re suddenly not responding to their texts, passing on grabbing coffee or lunch, or shutting yourself up in a room all by yourself at night. So I recommend letting family and friends know that you’re going to be prioritizing your writing this month if you are planning to participate.
There may be some people who say that if you’re not officially signed up on the NaNoWriMo website and planning to write a new novel that you’re not really participating, or you’re not participating “correctly”.
Ignore those people.
NaNoWriMo is about prioritizing your writing to achieve the goals that have been on your “if I just had a month to myself” list for the last year (or longer). I cannot reiterate enough that just making time every day, even 10 minutes, is imbuing the spirit of NaNoWriMo.
So whether you’re a beginner writer wanting to start a new novel for the first time, a seasoned NaNo’er with a detailed plan and a library of lessons learned to help keep you on track, or if you’re like me, and you’re planning to edit the novel you wrote last year; NaNoWriMo is that time of the year where you can find someone to embark on this journey with you, and together create something truly magical.
Everyday for the month of November, I will be live streaming from my youtube channel for 10 minutes. I would love for you to share your writing journey with me in the comments everyday, and join me in devoting 10 minutes a day to writing. Check out my video below for more information.
Outlander. But better. Oh and it has magic. So way better.
This book follows the story of Neve, who lives in present day Portland Oregon, and William Butler Yeats, who lives in 19th century Ireland. Connected from a past life, they are reunited through magical forces, and must figure out how to stop the evil trying to take over Ireland, rediscovering themselves, and each other, along the way.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, especially given that this is book 3 in the Faery Rehistory series, and I haven’t read the first two. But I was very pleasantly surprised by how engaged I was. I did not feel lost even once.
The main characters had very unique voices, which was refreshing, with excellent insertions of pop culture references (including Outlander) that were both humerous and situationally appropriate. I almost always knew who was speaking and was able to forge a relationship with these characters because of how well I came to know them through their consistent dialogue and behaviors.
Since this was book 3, I was expecting a lot of exposition. While there was some, it was done in a way that kept the story interesting, and revealed just enough that was relevant to this story, and nothing that wasn’t. And there weren’t pages and pages of it at the beginning, only 3 or 4 paragraphs scattered throughout 316 pages, introduced only when necessary for the current plot. So well done on this. Too many series books just rehash info from previous books that have nothing to do with the current narrative, and it’s very amateur. Fisher was expert here.
The magic was also very natural. This book explored reincarnation, Irish gods and goddesses and folklore, the poet William Butler Yeats (which I was skeptical about, but wrongly so), with a very intriguing and suspenseful build up to both the romantic encounter and the “big battle” at the end. Unlike some books, Fisher devoted about 60-80 pages to the climax, so I didn’t feel cheated at all. Her use of time travel was also very strategically done.
And the sex scenes…
Graphic and tasteful. Not overdone. Definitely not cringy like others I’ve read. They were also well placed in the story.
This book was a great read, and I’ll be adding book 1 and 2 to my reading list in the future and watching for more books by this very talented author. Sharon Lynn’s Fisher’s book The Warrior Poet from Blackstone Publishing, hits bookshelves on 12 October, and I highly recommend it!
The edge of the platform begins at the tip of your toes. You stare down into a seemingly endless abyss. There’s a roaring sound in your ears. Goosebumps raise on your arms, and your heart races faster and faster. This is it. This is the moment. This is the moment your life changes forever.
-What is the platform you’re standing on? -Where is it? -What is in the abyss? -What is the roaring sound? -Is there anyone else there? -Is this a literal scene or a metaphorical one? -What happens next?
Nanowrimo. Just hearing the word makes me wince. National November Writing Month is the most exhausting month of the year for many writers. Why? Because 50,000 words in one month is a LOT. That’s 1,666 words a day on average.
But wait MJ, you may say, I can pump out 1,666 words easy in a sit down!
But can you do it everyday for a whole month?
Now, some people can, and many people do, and they do it successfully. For myself, when I tried doing it last year I managed to get in 32,000 words by the end of November. And gurl was it ROUGH. I actually decided to go ahead and keep up the pace through December, determined to finish my novel by the end of 2020. And I did it! Accomplishing a total of 56,000 words if memory serves.
And I’ve scarce touched my manuscript since. Why?
I have had 0 willpower to start revising that manuscript. I have spoken with others who managed to complete Nano and their stories are often similar: They managed to complete a book, but haven’t touched it since due to various “life” things that take precedence over a relationship with the novel that left them feeling exhausted, used, and undervalued after putting so much effort and investment into it.
In many cases, as in mine, the draft is just way too rough and the revision process ahead too overwhelming to really know where to begin. The technical debt we accumulate during that month in our frenzy to “just keep going” so we can “finish it” more often than not leads to many scenes, plots, and sometimes whole endings, that are completely unsalvageable. And so the “finished novel” is laid aside for “when I have time to revise (or rewrite) it.” Which is never.
And then for everyone who didn’t actually finish a novel or accomplish 50,000 words, we feel like failures, equally as exhausted as the person who did finish, but without a complete manuscript to show for it, and often the feeling that writing a novel is just too much work altogether. And so writing as a whole is put on the back burner.
So how do we fix this problem? How do we, as writers, proactively stop ourselves from forging an unhealthy relationship with our future novel and our writing practice as a whole? How do we come out of Nano feeling proud of what we accomplished; that our time and energy was well spent; and that the draft in our hands is actually something worth revising?
Think about Nanowrimo differently.
Word count is nice, but who cares about word count if at the end of it all you want nothing to do with that novel ever again and you’re surrounded by mounds of dirty clothes, crusted dishes, and neglected family and friends who are seriously contemplating a formal intervention?
Rather than word count, rather than completing a (trash) novel, focus simply on writing every day. Let this be your goal for Nanowrimo.
But MJ, that’s a no brainer. I was already planning to write everyday.
Is it though?
Let’s think about it. November is also the time when family and friends are gathering for Thanksgiving, travelling, cooking, buying Christmas presents, etc. For college students, November is when research papers and projects are starting to loom and stress us out. There’s a lot of days that are prone to 0 word counts. So let’s really be real about what our expectations are.
Do this instead:
If you are planning on participating in Nanowrimo this month, make a plan right now to devote at least 10 minutes to writing every single day of November. Clearly, this is not enough time to write 1,666 words. Get it in your head that it’s not about the word count. It’s about making writing a daily habit, practicing writing, and keeping your story present in your mind everyday. 10 minutes doesn’t have to be the stopping place, but make it where you start every day.
10 minutes is easy enough to fit in among all the business happening in November, so stop worrying about how much time you need to carve to write 1,666 words. That’s overwhelming just by itself.
Make sure you have Google docs or some other writing program on your phone, and get to writing during a bathroom break. You’ll be staring at your phone screen anyway, might as well be writing.
And if you’re not able to get to it again that day, you will still have accomplished your goal of 10 minutes. Still made progress. Still made writing a priority.
At the end of Nanowrimo, your story will have progressed, and your writing become a manageable and sustainable routine that you can carry forward beyond November.
For more on this, check out my youtube video by clicking the play button below.
The fourth and final children’s book in the the Little Library of Greek Myths went down without a hitch. My son even said that he wanted to read it again another night. A clear success.
As with the other three books in this series, the artwork was attention grabbing for a child, and the story was straightforward and a good length for a bedtime story.
The Adventures of Odysseus took us through Odysseus’ more popular exploits, and made them more child friendly as well (hitting the cyclops in the eye versus stabbing him for example). I thought Sonia Corvaglia did a great job on this one, choosing the most engaging and interesting stories from Odysseus’ wide birth of narrative to retell.
And my son wants to read it again, which is a major win. I also enjoyed this book, and I definitely recommend this one for your children’s library.
Theseus and The Minotaur, by Sonia Elisabetta Corvaglia and illustrated by Anna Lang is part of the Little Library of Greek Myths published by Starry Forest Books and will be available for purchase on 21 September 2021.
This is the third book in this series that I have read to my son Dante for a bedtime story and there is one more left to go. Like the other two, the artwork is excellent for this age range; colorful, fun, and straightforward, and the pictures clearly depict what is going on in the story.
Like Hercules, the story length was perfect for a bedtime story–right in between “I feel cheated if we don’t read another story” and “I’m bored.”
Also like Hercules, this children’s adaptation stuck pretty closely to the original Greek myth about Theseus and the Minotaur, and tamed it down by having Theseus capture the Minotaur and tie it up so it couldn’t hurt anyone else versus slaying it outright. I think this was a good move for a children’s version.
My son seemed to enjoy this book. There were significantly fewer interruptions from him as I read than when I read Zeus. However, I don’t think this story provided much that he could relate to as a child, and he seemed more interested in swiping his finger across my phone screen to turn the page than listening to the story. Although, he did ask a few questions about things that were happening in the story so I know he was paying attention, which is success in my opinion.
Despite that, when I asked him if he wanted to read it again, he said no. However, last night he wanted to read another story “like the one we read yesterday” so I’m chalking his comment about not wanting to read it again largely up to the fact that reading it on my phone doesn’t allow a child to see the whole picture, literally only one half of it, which definitely detracts from storytelling experience. I honestly think having a physical copy would have made the difference for Dante.
I would recommend this book for your children’s library. The story of Theseus is a classic and Sonia Elisabetta did a great job making this one kid friendly, and Anna Lang’s art was really great. I want to especially applaud Anna Lang for not only making the artwork kid friendly in appearance, but also selecting a color scheme that imitates the ancient murals and paintings from ancient Greece, it really imbues this collection with a classical essence.
Zeus, by Sonia Elisabetta Corvaglia and illustrated by Anna Lang is part of the Little Library of Greek Myths published by Starry Forest Books and will be available for purchase on 21 September 2021.
This is the second book in this series that I’ve read to my son Dante at bedtime. Like the first, Hercules (which you can find my review of here), the bright colors and artwork are really kid friendly and engaging.
Zeus follows a few exploits of the Greek god Zeus and discusses some of his relationships with the other gods, painting a friendly picture of Mount Olympus that successfully avoids any major moral conflicts. So no awkward “Why is he stealing? Stealing is bad” questions from my son this time.
Almost none of the stories were accurate to the Greek myths about Zeus, which wasn’t too problematic for me because the real Zeus (rapist, kidnapper, adulterer, murderer) is really not someone that should be a role model for kids, so taking liberties with his stories in a children’s book I can accept and encourage.
Despite this though, I’m disappointed in this book.
This kid friendly version of Zeus was not very engaging for myself or my son. It was a really generic rendering of a god who just throws thunderbolts.
I would have liked to see retellings that are a bit more relateable to kids. Zeus interacting with his children: how he helped Hercules along his trials, or gave permission to Hermes to help Odysseus escape Calypso, gave Artemis her silver bow, or teamed up with Athena to resolve a conflict, for example.
A retelling about how Zeus viewed the gods squabbling over the Trojan war could have been interesting. A story about the three brothers divvying up rule over heaven, ocean, and underworld would have presented an opportunity to show kids how siblings can reach a compromise when all of them want the same thing. Any of those stories could have been relatable, engaging, and enlightening for a kid.
What I really can’t get behind though, is the exorbitant amount of words on each page. The stories, in addition to being generic, were really long. My son kept interrupting me to show me his toes or tell me some random thing that happened at daycare. The Hercules book did a good job in keeping the story interesting with few enough words on each page that they could be read quickly the page turned to a new picture to keep kids interested. Zeus though, not so much.
I personally would not recommend this book, but it might be worth getting for the sake of having a full collection of Little Library of Greek Myths. It does reveal a little bit about the hierarchy of the gods and introduces Zeus as their leader, which is pretty integral to understanding Greek mythology. So the book is not without its merits. Perhaps a child older than 4 would enjoy it more and maybe be able to read it themselves.
This book is available for purchase along with Hercules and two others which I will also review in the coming days. So stay tuned!