NaNoWriMo ’17 Week #2 – Getting (and Staying) Ahead

Hey, y’all!

I just wanted to check in really quick and tell you guys about how my novel’s going.

Short answer: great! Long answer: a little harder than last week, but still going really well.

And what I mean by that is this: I’ve reached 30,000 words early. And I’m SO excited about that, because of the fact that it puts me about 7,000+ words ahead. But with 30k comes the question: where are the rest of these words going to come from? Do I barrel towards the end of the plot and hope that my word count follows, or do I need to build on story elements that I’ve already established and bolster my word count that way? I guess these are questions that I have to answer as these days go on and the last half of the month rolls in.

But the good news is I’ve been getting tons of good writing done this week. I’ve learned I can truly write anywhere to some extent. AND I’ve loved writing at my local library (no surprise there).

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Onward to Week 3!

NaNoWriMo ’17 Week #1 – All Over the New England States

Hey hey!

So, Week One of National Novel Writing Month is over. I can barely believe it, but it’s been the best ride and I can’t wait to tell y’all about it.

For starters, I started NaNoWriMo on the road from Portland, Maine to Bennington, Vermont, while on family vacation. We would have stayed longer, but Maine had to deal with the aftermath of a windstorm that shut off power for days, so we couldn’t stay where we originally intended.

But this diversion to Vermont was the very best for two reasons: one, there was the best writing spot just at the top of the stairs nestled right next to a bookshelf.

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Two, I had so much time to write. So much so that I was able to write at least 2,100 words a day (and 4,200 on Double Up Day on the 4th! But those 4,200 words were a doozy for sure).

 

After Vermont, we ventured into Boston, one of my favorite cities in the whole wide world. I adore this city; I have since I was in high school, and it’s become more and more familiar to me. And certain parts of it are my favorite.

It’s there that I got to do one of the coolest things EVER, and it was the highlight of my week…

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…I wrote part of my novel at the Boston Public Library.

I. LOVE. This. Building. I wrote 1,667 words in the reading room on the 7th (adding to the 1,000 I’d already written in the car from Bennington).

And here’s the part that I think is really cool (and, bear with me, I’m about to get a little deep). I am writing a retelling of The Little Mermaid. I won’t explain plot or even reveal the title yet (because I need to give y’all SOMETHING to look forward to, right? 😉), but I will say that the scene and chapter I wrote had to do with my mermaid protagonist getting her legs. In that moment, writing in a building so epic and historic that it’s almost more of a museum, I felt like I’d truly gotten my “author legs” writing in such an awesome space. It’s something I won’t forget.

Welp, that was Week 1! Stay tuned for next week’s update. Have an awesome day!

My Latest Project – #NaNoWriMo 2017

Hey, y’all! 🙂

How have you been? I haven’t talked to you guys in awhile. Things have been going well with me lately. I’m just chilling in Vermont, working on my novel…

Oh? What’s that? You didn’t hear? I’m writing my debut novel for NaNoWriMo this year! (And yes, I’m a poet who didn’t know it 😉)

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Anyway, yes, I am partaking in National Novel Writing Month for technically the second time. I tried it in college, but to no avail, because the life of a student is hectic, to say the least. But then, after going down the short story anthology route (I did a post on this on my lifestyle blog here), and after going down the self-publishing route (which I explain here), I finally decided to go for it. It’s finally time.

If you want to know more about NaNoWriMo, check out their website.

I am super excited for the novel I’m writing. As of this post, I’m over 5k in words, so I’m over target. I’m hoping I can keep this streak up throughout the month…and I feel like I can.

Which leads me to the next thing I want to talk to you about: I will be posting NaNoWriMo updates weekly here on my website! (cue cheer track)

These may be pretty quick updates as, hey, I’m working on a book, but I still want to keep you in the loop of how my writing is going. Will I share excerpts? Probably not, BUT I know some of y’all are curious about my writing process, and even how NaNoWriMo works (read: fast-paced insanity in the best way), so I figured these little posts will help you decide if you, dear reader, want to give NaNoWriMo a shot.

In short, this novel will, after revisions and editing, be published in 2018. Please stay tuned for the details.

I can’t wait for y’all to come along with me on this amazing journey! 😄

How I Use Video Games as Writing Inspiration

I get my writing ideas from a lot of places: usually from experience first, but then there’s Pinterest, movies, books, and so much more.

But one place that may seem a bit unconventional is the video game.

Video games have been a huge part of my life since childhood, from the kiddie PC games I played when I was tiny, to classic Nintendo, to the epic RPGs that I’ve played recently. And, actually, they make awesome places for writing inspiration. Here’s why.

Sprawling Worlds

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Some of my all-time favorite video games have amazing, sprawling worlds that are just begging you to explore them. Open-world video games like Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Xenoblade Chronicles X are so much fun for me because their main emphasis is exploring the large worlds they’re set in, spending time with them and getting to know them. It’s like “The Lion King”: everything the light touches (or everything you can see from a distance) is yours.

I’ll admit that as a writer, settings are my weakness. I’ve always tended to focus on characters and plot more because – let’s face it – they’re important to keeping readers invested in the story, and they’re in the figurative foreground, while the setting winds up being the literal and figurative background. But one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read is that you should treat your setting like a character. Get to know it well. Your characters will be in these settings a lot, so the better you know them, the easier it will be to transport your readers to the worlds of your making.

World-Building and Exposition

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Along those same lines, world-building and exposition are just as important, but they need to be handled with great care.

Exposition is an important tool for world-building; however, it’s important to handle exposition correctly.

As much as I love Xenoblade Chronicles X, one weakness it has is that the action is sometimes broken by cutscenes as long as twenty minutes dedicated to exposition: mainly, the characters literally standing in a circle talking about what’s about to happen next. That gets old, and if I can skip those cutscenes, I will. Or I’ll be snacking on Nitro Taki’s through them, at least.

“Show, don’t tell” is a great way to build your world. Also, don’t be afraid to use characters and their actions and dialogue to explain what’s going on. Just make sure you keep things going and keep the action moving steadily to keep your readers engaged still.

Plucky Protagonists You’ll Love Sticking With to the End

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I love, love, love Luigi’s Mansion. Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. series was always my favorite character growing up – and still is – because no one paid that much attention to him; he was original in comparison to the very nice, but frankly “vanilla” characters of Mario, Princess Peach, etc.

Eventually, he got his own series of games where he embarked on “Ghostbusters”-esque adventures of his own, and I was hooked. I loved that he wasn’t a perfect character; his defining character trait at that point was that he was easily spooked by pretty much any creepy-crawly or ghost that dared to say “hi.” But I think that’s why he was so relatable, and why I wanted to root for him so badly. He wasn’t cowardly; he faced ghosts in spite of his fears. In fact, one defining character trait in the game is that he whistles the game’s theme song as he cleans out the mansion riddled with ghosts.

Write characters like that, guys. Give them defining traits, but don’t be afraid to give them original quirks that make them stand out and memorable to the reader. And, most of all, make them relatable and easy to root for.

Concise Plots that Make Sense

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Consider the plot of Super Mario Bros.: A princess is captured. A plucky plumber must save her from a turtle monster and his many, many minions. After countless (failed) attempts, he finally saves her in the end. And they all live happily ever after.

Yes, that plot is insanely simple, but it works. The trope of the daring prince saving his princess from the dragon may be an old one, but there’s a reason why it’s repeated here. And there’s a reason why that trope is repeated over and over in not just that series of video games, but also literature and movies. It works. It’s a story that can be played with and altered, while still having that same root of good-versus-evil.

It’s okay for your plot to be simple at it’s core: if your character just has a conflict or two to get through or a goal to achieve, and that’s it, that’s okay. That can be the backbone of an amazing story. In short, if you keep the backbone of your story simple, then add flourishes, it will be a much easier story to write and a much more gripping story to read.

Want to pin to Pinterest for later? Go for it! 🙂

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I hope you guys liked this post! This was a really, really fun one for me to write. 🙂 Have you ever used video games for inspiration before? Let’s talk in the comments!

(Also, all video game art is copyright to their respective owners)

How I Got Started in Self-Publishing (Using Amazon!)

The story of how I got into self-publishing is long and vast, and it probably spans a few volumes and can’t just be contained in one blog post…

Nah, it’s not that long. Let me tell you all about it.

It started as simply as when I freelance-edited a project back in February to March of this year. It was a short story that I really enjoyed reading. When it was finally done, I received a copy of it as a thank-you gift. When I looked at the copy, I noticed that it was published in the USA…and I also noticed that it was through Amazon.

The gears started turning then.

I have to give credit to my mom. She was the one who initially suggested I self-publish, saying that one of her good friends (who had previously published traditionally and felt like she lost control of her work) had gone that route and wouldn’t ever go back. So, in short, I went for it.

I’d had a short story called “Turn the Town” in my head for awhile. It originally started as a writing challenge for myself, and it eventually progressed into a pretty substantial shorter short-story, but it was a story I was extremely proud of.

When I decided to self-publish my work, I decided to do it through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. I designed the cover from scratch (to avoid janky copyright stuff right out of the gate), and after uploading my manuscript…

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…on April 20, 2017, I published my very first work to Amazon.

So, would I recommend self-publishing to get your name out there as a writer? Yes. And would I do it again? Absolutely.

And do it again I did. (I don’t even know if that’s correct grammar, but we’re rolling with it.)

I self-published my second short story, “The Pirate College,” on August 15th, 2017.

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So, what’s next?

I intend to keep self-publishing for right now. I love the ease of use on Amazon KDP, and I love how much control I have over my own content. All you do is upload your own manuscript, upload or create your cover, set your own price, and presto. You’re self-published, FOR FREE.

Plus, you can distribute paperback copies of your work (provided they’re long enough to meet their minimum), which is amazing. Being able to hold a copy of my work in my hands will always and forever be surreal to me.

I also self-edit (don’t worry, I have a group of beta readers for feedback), and I design my own covers using art that’s available for commercial use/my own work.

I’m just thankful that I went this route, and I’m thankful to God for giving me the talent to write in the first place. 🙂

To buy any of my work on Amazon, click here.

Hey, I’m Savannah Cottrell!

Well, here we are. This is the start of a new chapter. All books start with new chapters, right?

Welcome to savannahcottrellauthor.com. This is my “author website.” Man, it feels good to write that.

I’ve been a lifestyle blogger for the past three (going on four) years, so I’ve been around this internet block for awhile now. That being said, I was ready for something more for my dedicated author space. I wanted a dedicated spot on the internet to show my work that was different than your typical lifestyle blog.

That’s why this site is here.

As of my writing this post, I’ve published two short stories to Amazon via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: “Turn the Town” and “The Pirate College.” If you want more information (including purchase links), click the “Short Stories” tab in the menu.

I’m so excited to have this platform to share my work with you guys, and I wanted this platform to reflect that, first and foremost. But, most of all, I’m so excited to share my writing adventures with you. 🙂