5 Reasons to Do NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is only a few weeks away, and the body of participants is diverse as always; returning champions, first timers of all ages who are just a bit more nervous than excited, and tentative writers like me who are giving the 50,000 word mad dash a go after an exhaustive sprint years earlier.

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My first experience with NaNo was a lot like exercising. I felt great about the idea of it, reached a peak during it, but then plateaued and afterwards, collapsed in a pool of sweat and tears with a mess of a project that made me question why any sane human being would ever subject themselves to such absurdity.

But this year I’m ready. I’ll be suited up, more familiar with the territory and have packed plenty of water and Band-Aids to patch myself up when I  inevitably stumble and fall.  And some granola bars. In the words of Dwight Schrute, “If you wanna win you gotta fuel like a winner!”

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I’ve been thinking a lot about NaNoWriMo the past few days, and decided to put this little list together of 5 reasons why you should take the plunge and get yourself signed up in time for the kickoff November 1st.

1. You Can Make Writing a Daily Habit

If you’re like me when it comes to writing, you are filled with scenes, ideas and quips from characters every single day, but they rarely make it onto paper. You grow frustrated with how long it’s taking your novel to progress, and for some reason just can’t keep your promise to yourself to write every single day.

NaNo will help you change that. You’ll have a goal in mind, a fun little meter to fill up with each word and a reason to be accountable. And after a month straight of finding ways to work writing into your schedule at random intervals, you’ll have laid the foundations of a very healthy creative habit.

2. Meet Writer Friends

The writing community on Twitter, which you can find via hashtags like #amwriting, are filled with awesome people who want to encourage one another in their creative endeavours. Many of them will be participating in NaNo, so you’ll have comrades during this uphill battle. There are also forums, in-person meetups and plenty of other online discussions regarding NaNo that will help you meet some great people, find some awesome projects and form friendships that’ll inspire you to keep going.

3. Learn to Stop Hating Everything You Write

When we’re sitting in front of our computers, it’s easy to nitpick every fine detail and compare our work to our favourite authors’, our friends or even just our past work. The beauty of NaNoWriMo that sounds like an editor’s nightmare is the fact you can’t obsess over the small details. This is freewriting on crack. You’ll be so focused on reaching that 50,000 word goal by the end of the month that after a few days, you’ll be ploughing through those paragraphs with glorious, reckless abandon.

4. You’ll Become a Better Improviser

Ever see cartoons or TV shows where a character pounds away furiously at a typewriter and just seems to have all their greatest ideas come from nowhere? NaNoWriMo can turn you into one of those stupendous lunatics. Freewriting so much will train you to ignore that inner-critic. The one that tells you something is unrealistic,  impossible or just plain stupid. You’ll hit a few bumps in the road, but halfway through NaNo, you’ll be able to advance a plot in your head just by typing, not hours upon hours of self-deprecating outlining.

5. There’s Nothing Else Like It

No other writing community has such a large impact on writers worldwide. NaNoWrio is even implemented in schools, spanning across the board from elementary to high school students. It fosters self-acceptance, imagination, and artistic expression in a way that leaves a mark. Even if you don’t reach your 50k, you’ll have committed to your work in a way that proves how much you love your craft. It’s an achievement regardless of the outcome that will leave you with a newfound sense of capability and confidence (which you’ll definitely need during the post-NaNo editing process.)

And besides, if you don’t make your 50,000 words this time around, there’s always next year.

Coming Soon – WITHIN

I am currently working on my fourth novel, a mystery horror called Within, that I would really love to share with you all.

Fans of American Horror Story and Supernatural will feel right at home in Rockport, the sleepy Massachusetts town haunted by a local legend called The Darkness. Luna Carlisle has returned to her childhood home to find the truth, but she’s about to discover some things are better left in the dark.

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Marvel Mondays: Black Widow

Natalia “Natasha” Romanova, code name Black Widow. She’s a KGB-trained assassin, a former enemy but now member of the Avengers and a love interest of Bucky Barnes, the Winter Solider. Natasha has gone from a secret spy adversary to an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to a defender of the entire globe as part of the Avengers, and even the founder of a superteam called The Champions. She is a prime example of the complex and powerful roles assigned to women in comics that signified a transition of society’s perception of the female figure as a whole. She continues to serve as a role model for girls and women alike that deviated from the starlets and vapid beauty icons idolised by the media.

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Portrayed by Scarlett Johannson in the Marvel movies, Black Widow is a character I took a strong liking to upon discovering the layers beneath her indifferent attitude, a delicate mixture of wants and fears that emit a vulnerability and courage that could arguably be described as one in the same.

Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2.

Fan Art Spotlight: 

widow banner by LOPEZMICHAEL
Black Widow by LOPEZMICHAEL
The Black Widow by SirWendigo
Widow by alicexz
Black Widow by Blueberry-Cat

Awake My Soul: Why to Write When You Hate It Most

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There are some days where you will stare at a blinking cursor on a blank page and want to hurl your computer out the window. You’ll reach a roadblock in what you thought was an incredible idea, one you so passionately recounted to your friends and built up in your head. The world was so vibrant in your mind, the plot flowing like a crystal stream into an endless oasis of depth and imagination. But then a gear jammed, and you don’t know what you’re doing. You can’t stand your characters, you can’t describe anything nearly half as beautifully as your favourite authors, and quite frankly, you’re 99 percent certain you suck at this whole writing business.

You hate your work. You hate your story. And that’s exactly why now is the perfect time to tell it.

I went through a period last year where I did not write. I couldn’t get anything out, I hated every start to my novel that I tried. It all felt so contrived and empty. I could not translate the souls in my head to words, and so they lingered. And I languished. For a year, I lived through their stories, felt their pain, felt them grow, but not a single instance was recorded in a way that would help me down the line. I grew to feel unconfident and uninspired, and soon I just stopped opening Microsoft Word altogether.

Even the great excerpts I wrote in journals frustrated me, because I couldn’t figure out how to string them together into a story. And it was the biggest mistake of my life.

When you hate what you write, you are at an advantage. You can only improve from here. If everything that spews from your brain is complete rubbish, collect as much of it as you can. What you’ll be left with is a junk-yard of catharsis, and within it will lie scraps of ideas and characters that you can take, polish and repurpose into new life.

Stop comparing yourself to other stories you read. Those published novels went through drafts upon drafts of revision. And their author is not you.  Your brain is what came up with that mess, and you have to believe that it knows how to make sense of it all too.

All words written in truth and sincerity are poetry. It doesn’t matter if you are short and to the point, or you have a knack for weaving tapestries of prose into descriptions that take on lives of their own.

For this reason, you must be brave enough to stand up and write on when you can’t bear the thought. Tell yourself, “You’re write. This is terrible.” And then keep going. On, and on and on. Lady GaGa once encouraged her fans by saying, “Honour your vomit.”

Hate your work. Let it sicken you. Turn the page into a battlefield. Take a rest. Return a few days later, patched up, and sift through the wreckage for survivors. They will be there. They might be buried, marred and bruised. But they’re waiting for you.

Save them. They’ll love you for it.

Scream Queens – Review

Fans of American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy have long-awaited the September 22 debut of his latest anthology series, Scream Queens. While many may have gone in expecting a more serious, macabre storyline based on Murphy’s previous scripts, all were left with a surprise in the form of the show that merges humour, gore and mystery into what is a shameless satirical address of our generation – and our horror movies.

Image: Fox promo photo for Scream Queens

The first season kicks off with a series of murders taking place at a sorority, with Emma Roberts taking the lead role as Queen Bee Chanel. Roberts also played mean girl Madison in the third season of American Horror Story, and it’s like a flashback watching her reprise such a similar character. Her and her horde of minions, whom she not-so-lovingly refers to as Chanel 1 – 5, run Kappa Kappa Tau, and aren’t thrilled when the dean, who has had it out for the sorority since her own days as a student, decides that anyone will be allowed to pledge.

Chanel in the Scream Queens pilot.

Enter Grace, the second main character who is, like the rest of the cast, a caricature of today’s youth. While Chanel is the narcissistic, delusional rich girl, Grace is the stereotypical small-towner who fights for justice wherever she sees fit and has no problem disregarding things that are mainstream such as the “white girl pumpkin spice lattes,” and thus solidifying herself as one of the most conventional people in the room at any given moment.

The show sees a slew of other stereotypes among its cast, from the coffee shop and school journalist who is just a little hostile towards Chanel, who happens to be his ex, and a literally deaf die-hard Taylor-Swift fan, the saucy and down-to-earth Southern girl who you can’t ever imaging actually wanting to be in a sorority in the first place, and the obligatory ditzy but sensitive sidekick to Chanel, played by pop diva Ariana Grande. Nick Jonas stars as the gay best friend of Chanel’s boyfriend, Chad, who loves to constantly reference how hot he is. Other topics poked at throughout the duration of the show include ridiculous Starbucks orders and generation’s addiction to technology (all played out during a hilarious scene featuring Grande and the masked killer.)

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Original image credited to Fox.

I went into Scream Queens unsure what to expect. It could either take itself too seriously and fail miserably, or be so nonchalant that you didn’t find any reason to invest in the storyline. While the latter is applicable in some sense, the show is best described as a combination between the slasher Scream flicks and Mean Girls. The fashion is sensational, reminiscent of 90s hits such as The Heathers and Clueless. Think cropped sweaters, white leather boots and power blue skirt and jacket ensembles.

Featuring all of the classic horror movie close-ups and dry humour, Scream Queens tackles the absurdity of our generation and doesn’t try to make us invest in its characters, but instead focuses on the satirical script, well-placed moments of gore and an intriguing mystery that provides both laugh-out-loud entertainment and Hollywood slasher-style murder scenes, though it does have a distinct tone that will most likely repel some viewers as intensely as it will hook others. I’m happy to say that I’m part of the latter.

Overall rating: 8/10