Monthly Archives: October 2014

NaNoWriMo Prep: Give Yourself Positive Reinforcement

B.F Skinner is the famous psychologist that introduced the Law of Effect-Reinforcement that tells us that behaviors that are reinforced are repeated, while behaviors that are not reinforced tend to fade. This brought about a study in positive reinforcement, the belief that if you positively reinforce a behavior, it will be repeated. B.F. Skinner proved this to be true in rats and many years later, we know this to be true in humans as well.

NaNoWriMo is just days away and soon, thousands of writers will be attempting to repeat the same behavior: write for thirty consecutive days in order to reach a 50,000 word goal. This task will be a challenge and focus and motivation are key. An incredibly helpful way to increase your motivation and keep your writing drive alive is through positive reinforcement. It may sound simple, but setting smaller goals and rewarding yourself along the way will increase your chances of completing your overall goal of 50,000 words.

Before November 1, consider a positive reinforcement plan. For example, you could make a plan to reward yourself for every 10,000 words that you write. Not only does this break your large goal into smaller, more manageable goals, but it will also give you that motivation to keep writing. For every 10,000 words,  you could buy yourself a nice coffee or take yourself to lunch. When you finally hit that 50,000 word goal, you could treat yourself to something bigger like a movie or a nice dinner. Whatever your reward is, it’ll keep your morale higher than if you weren’t to reward yourself at all.

Rewards do not have to be material items either. Even if you are on a budget, you can still give yourself positive reinforcement. For example, for every 10,000 word mark that you reach, promise yourself a couple of episodes of your favorite television show that have been sitting on your DVR. When you hit your 50,000 word goal, you could give yourself one lazy day of not doing anything as a reward for working so hard during NaNoWriMo.These rewards cost no extra money, but they are still something to look forward to as you trudge towards the finish line.

Remember, if you don’t set up your positive reinforcement plan now, the only reward that you will have is 50,000 words at the end of November. Although it will be incredibly satisfying, it will be tough to get there without any other little boosts along the way. Science has proven that rewards and positive reinforcement improve productivity, so why not treat yourself? You will deserve it and it will definitely help.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo and have positive reinforcement ideas, please share them in the comments! If you are interested in signing up for NaNoWriMo, click here.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in NaNoWriMo this year! I hope that my NaNoWriMo Prep series has been helpful and I will continue writing NaNoWriMo posts throughout the month of November!

Until next week,

Debbie

Book Review: Joyland

joylandTitle: Joyland
Author: Stephen King
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Rating: 4.5/5

Joyland is a gripping thriller about 21-year-old Devin Jones, who recounts his summer working at a North Carolina amusement park that has a paranormal legacy. Upon securing his summer job, Devin soon learns of the murder of Linda Gray that occurred on a haunted Joyland attraction called the Horror House. As Devin tries to piece together the mysterious murder of Linda Gray, a fortune teller tells him of a boy and a girl who will come into his life. Soon enough, Devin encounters both of these children, one of which has an extraordinary talent. With the help of his friend Erin and Mike Ross, the little boy with an otherworldly gift, Devin discovers Linda Gray’s killer and is changed forever by his summer at Joyland.

Although Steven King is most famous for his horror novels, this novel is far from scary. In fact, it’s just as much of a coming of age story as it is a thriller. Devin goes through heartbreak, a summer job, worries about how he will pay for college, meets new friends, and struggles to decide what he wants to do with his future. I never felt like the paranormal elements were taking over the human elements in this story and I really appreciated that. I’m not the biggest fan of the horror genre, so this had just enough eeriness to keep me on my toes, but it certainly didn’t keep me up at night.

I really enjoyed the narrator’s voice in this novel. The dialect was very nostalgic, without any modern slang, and I really liked how it stayed true to its 1973 time period. The entire novel is actually told from the perspective of Devin Jones when he is a 60-year-old man, looking back on the summer that changed his life. Although I didn’t mind it being told from an older Devin’s perspective, I could have done without 60-year-old Devin flashing back and forth between 1973 and present day. I enjoyed the story of Joyland so much, I didn’t want to leave it. I also enjoyed “the Talk” that King introduces the reader to, which is the slang that the carnies used at Joyland.

I think that Joyland was layered wonderfully with different subplots and I think King did an incredible job of linking them all together. I loved the world of Joyland and Devin’s experiences with Mike and Annie Ross, who live in a beachfront Victorian home outside of Joyland. His friendships with Erin and Tom seemed so genuine and I enjoyed the cast of characters that King created. Every character seemed to have a purpose, from the girl who broke Devin’s heart to the perpetually angry Eddie Parks. The ending was very satisfying and I felt I felt like it was the perfect way to end the book.

If you have read Joyland, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Joyland on Amazon, please click here.

NaNoWriMo Prep: Let People Know Your Goal

The thought of letting other people know that you are going to participate in NaNoWriMo might feel strange. Up until now, you might have kept your plotting, researching, and outlining to yourself. You’ve been in your own little bubble when it comes to NaNoWriMo and letting others in might be daunting. However, it can be deeply beneficial to let the people that are closest to you know the challenge that you are about to tackle.

When you tell someone about a goal, you are adding a new layer of accountability. As of right now, you may be doing NaNoWriMo for yourself. If you are the only one who knows about it, you will be the only one affected if you aren’t able to complete your 50,000 words. However, if you’ve told a handful of people that you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you add that accountability factor. These people will know your goal and know when you are supposed to be finished by, making the November 30 deadline seem more concrete. If you begin to slack off, they will be there to help you refocus and get back on track. You will also feel more motivated to complete your 50,000 words on time because you won’t want to disappoint those who are cheering you on.

Although you will be adding accountability to your goal, you will also be building yourself a support system. Some of the people you tell might not be writers and they may think that NaNoWriMo is an unattainable goal. Some of the people may have an interest in writing and find it fascinating. Regardless of how they personally feel about writing, they care about you and will be cheering you on until you hit 50,000 words. For those of you who do have that friend or family member who is interested in writing, you have someone who you can bounce ideas off of if you get stuck in the middle of the month. They can just simply listen to you ramble until you reach an idea, or they can help you brainstorm new ideas. Either way, the people in your support system will help keep you sane through November.

Finally, telling the people around you will help explain your sudden hermit-like habits once November comes. If your family knows that you’re writing 1,667 words every day, they might try their best to demand less of your time during the holidays (yes, you will have to write on Thanksgiving). Although this won’t get you out of household chores, your family will be more understanding if they see you sneaking off to your room every now and again. By giving your friends a heads-up about NaNoWriMo, they won’t put as much pressure on you to go out and do things. They won’t bother you as much over that unanswered text message or missed phone call if they know that you’re constantly typing away at the keyboard. Letting them know about NaNoWriMo will prepare them for your anti-social behavior and you can assure them that everything will be back to normal on December 1.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo and have started telling people close to you about it, please share in the comments! If you are interested in signing up for NaNoWriMo, click here.

Until next week,

Debbie

NaNoWriMo Prep: Research Now, Not in November

I think that the word “research” can have somewhat of a negative connotation when it comes to preparing for a novel. The average writer may envision themselves stuck inside of a library, buried by academic books about whatever they’re going to write about. Another fear could be spending hours online, reading articles from credible databases. Although you will need to educate yourself to an extent, there is more to researching than just brushing up on facts. In order to have a complex and layered story, a writer needs to take a lot of time to do immersive research for their novel. I believe that a writer should start doing their research immediately after they decide who and what they plan to write about.

Depending on what genre you are writing in, you will have certain expectations and genre norms that your readers will expect you to meet. For example, if you are writing a romance, there has to be some sort of conflict between the couple. Nobody wants to read a story about a couple who never bicker, never have problems, and go throughout their days peacefully. That is not how romance novels are written because that would be boring. You must know your genre before you begin to write and that’s where a different type of research comes in. You should read books that are in your chosen genre in order to learn what type of expectations a reader will have. If you want to write a murder mystery, you may want to watch crime movies or television shows in order to visualize how criminal investigations are depicted. Immersing yourself within your chosen genre will help you prepare and become more educated on what you plan to write. Reading or watching different genre pieces can be quite time consuming, so it is best to start now. You may gain inspiration through your research and you will decrease the amount of work you will have in November.

The amount of additional research you may need will be based upon what genre you end up choosing. If you decide to write a historical novel based in the World War II era, you will need to immerse yourself into the history of World War II. You can read firsthand accounts of World War II veterans, read history books, or visit museums with World War II exhibits to really learn about the culture and history in that time period. The writer who writes this novel will obviously need to do more research than a writer who writes a contemporary novel about a teenager in high school. Regardless of the complexity of the story, a writer should always do some research.

I think one of the worst things a writer can do is skip the research. A reader can really tell if a novel is well researched or if it isn’t. As a writer, you have created the world so you should know everything about it. If there is even a single setting or factual inaccuracy, you will lose credibility with your reader. If you have chosen to write about a town that you don’t live in, make sure you know that town like a native. A writer should never assume something to be true and write a possible inaccuracy. If your novel is based in reality, your story must be built on facts. The only way to obtain those facts is through research.

It will be incredibly difficult to get into the groove of writing if you are stressing out about the details during November. Since NaNoWriMo does demand so much time, you do not want to have to worry about spending more time researching your novel than actually writing it. Doing your research now will decrease your stress levels and will give you more time to write once NaNoWriMo begins.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo or have some different suggestions on doing research, please share them in the comments! If you are interested in signing up for NaNoWriMo, click here.

Book Review: The Moonlight Palace

moonlightpalaceTitle: The Moonlight Palace
Author: Liz Rosenberg
Release Date: October 1, 2014
Rating: 3/5

The Moonlight Palace is a historical novel that takes place in 1920’s Singapore. It focuses on the life of Agnes Hussein, who is the last direct descendent of Sultan Hussein Shah of Jahore. She lives in the decrepit Kampong Glam Palace with her eclectic family and those who pay rent to live there. When outside forces threaten the Hussein claim to the Kampong Glam Palace, Agnes tries to save her family and her home in this coming-of-age story.

I enjoyed the imagery that Rosenberg brought to this story. I have never been to Singapore but I felt like the descriptions really took me there. I think the setting was beautifully established throughout the novel. I also thought that she brought in an interesting cast of characters. I just wish she would have done a little bit more with them.

I thought that the pacing was a bit slow in this novel. The first two chapters of this novel were simply info dumps, resulting in a slow start. I never felt any suspense while reading this novel and was never flipping through the pages to see what would happen next. I could put the book down at any time and not feel any sort of anticipation of reading it again. That being said, the ending comes to an incredibly abrupt halt. Agnes goes through the entire book wanting to save the Kampong Glam Palace and in the last bit of the book, she completely changes her mind. Agnes trusts a man named Adrian from the Singapore City Building and Preservation Department to look into preserving the palace if the Hussein family were to leave it. The novel ends with Agnes finding the original deed, which is the last thing she would need to leave Kampong Glam Palace in Adrian’s hands. I honestly didn’t feel any closure with this ending and felt like it wasn’t complete. Rosenberg never tells the reader what happens to Agnes, the family, or the palace.

Although I disliked the pacing, I think I disliked the constant slew of love interests for Agnes even more. Agnes is seventeen years old and she somehow has three different men express romantic interest in her throughout the story. I felt like Rosenberg was trying to build Agnes into a strong female character, but the reliance on men negated her strength. Agnes gets a job and talks about saving the Kampong Glam Palace throughout the entire book, but ends up letting an eventual love interest settle the palace affairs in the end. I think she would have been more interesting if she wasn’t constantly thinking of or depending upon the different men that she encountered.

All in all, The Moonlight Palace was a quick and easy read, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. It was much slower paced than I had expected and although I did like the characters, I think that the story was quite slow at times.

If you have read The Moonlight Palace, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view The Moonlight Palace on Amazon, please click here.