Category Archives: Inspiration

National Novel Writing Month (November)

As I get ready to begin work on my first novel, I’m realizing how crucial it is to set goals and receive support. And there is no better way to do that than to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which begins on November 1st.

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2009, there were over 165,000 participants. More than 30,000 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

So, to recap:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by the web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Still confused? Just visit the How NaNoWriMo Works page!

So what do you say? Will you join me in completing a novel in one month’s time? If you’re up for the challenge and decide to sign up, make sure to add me as a writing buddy. Username: Sgureghian

So start thinking of some ideas, and write on!

The Accidental Blogger

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After the MFA

Initially, I started this blog as a way to help motivate me during the thesis process of my MFA program. This blog served as a way to keep me writing, even as I struggled with my thesis. Now, over a year later, it continues to serve as my outlet and allows me the opportunity to share my thoughts on writing and to occasionally post some of my projects. I was certain life after the MFA would be easier, but it’s just as difficult, if not more so.

During the MFA, my biggest concern was being able to write and keeping up with assignments. Now, over 8 months after finishing the program, the concern has become finding a permanent teaching job, continue writing, keep getting published, and looking for an agent. Often, I’ve felt like the struggle wasn’t worth it and I was ready to give up. Then, on a good month, I’d be motivated and encouraged and feel on top of the world. It’s definitely an up and down cycle, but the important thing is to keep going and never give up.

During my times of struggle, I turn to the website, After the MFA, which has helped me realize I am not alone. There are so many people out there, with MFAs, who share my same struggles and concerns. The website has helped in motivating me when I’ve needed it most. Realizing I’m not alone in my feelings is the biggest encouragement of all and a boost of strength to help keep me going.

Having a bad day or even a bad week is not the end of the world as long as we can get up and dust ourselves up afterward. This is a great website to get that encouragement, digest it, and keep striving to reach our goals.

Give it a read!

Until next time,

The Accidental Blogger

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The Real Meaning of Words

This was sent to me in an email this morning and it really resonated with me. Today, let us remember all those we’ve loved and lost.

Love

Sorrow

Innocence

Departure

Pain

Respect

Compassion

Friendship

Patience

Rescued

Best Friends

Divine

“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass … it’s about caring and loving your relatives and friends while you can touch and see them, and they are still among us.”

Until next time,

The Accidental Blogger

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Rejecting Rejection in Writing

All writers have gotten rejected at one time for another. It’s not a good feeling. Believe me, I should know. After a very promising start as a writer, the Universe seems to have gotten tired of giving me good luck. The past two months have been especially hard on my writing. Not only have my short stories been rejected by one literary mag after the other, but I’m having a difficult time finding a second teaching job to help pay off my grad school loans.

Having read enough interviews with famous authors, and a book or two on writing, I know rejection is common, and I don’t let it get to me. It’s easier to accept, knowing that Amy Tan, Stephen King, and Janet Finch, three authors I read recently, have also experienced that rejection.

King, in his wonderful On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, wrote that he hammered a nail into the wall when he was younger, and  kept all his rejection slips there, until he reached 100. “When you get to 100, give yourself a pat on the back and go out and celebrate. You’ve arrived.”

Of course, rejections most often come through email now, but it might not be such a bad idea to print those babies out, and use them as encouragement rather than negativity. Use those emails or slips as a reminder to keep trying harder, to keep writing more, and submitting often. Always remember that writing is subjective. Rejection does not mean you’re a bad writer. It just means that specific piece was not right for the magazine/agent/publishing house/literary mag at that particular time. Use rejection as an opportunity to read more, and expand your knowledge of both writing and reading.  Put that manuscript aside and start something new. Explore territories you haven’t before. Read authors you’ve been meaning to, but haven’t. Come back to your piece in about a month and re-read what you have. It’s easier to notice problems when you haven’t glanced at a specific piece in that long. Rewrite what you have. Send it out again. Keep doing it. Keep working. Join a writer’s group if you have to. Take a class at the local Community College. Something will happen. It always does.

It’s important to remember that rejection is not personal. This is key. It does not mean you’re a bad writer or even the particular piece is bad. It just means you have to keep trying. Possibly rewrite. Possibly try another avenue. And through that long and strenuous process, remember that you’re not alone.

William Saroyan, a fellow Armenian, collected a pile of rejection slips thirty inches high- about seven thousand – before he sold his first short story. Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote every day, seven days a week for eight years before selling to a small magazine. They stuck it out, and eventually broke through.

You can too!

As you write, I recommend reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, and as cheesy as it may sound, Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, where published authors detail their own struggles with writing and rejection. You will get loads of encouragement and motivation from these books, I promise.

Until next time,

The Accidental Blogger

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Words of Wisdom for Writers

Richard Rhodes, author or editor of twenty-three books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, always offers great writing advice. When I feel unmotivated, I always look for a quote or two to give me a pick-up and this one certainly did the trick. Hope it’s as inspiring for my readers as it was for me:

If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right do I have to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You’re a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle.

– Richard Rhodes (opening of ‘How to Write’)

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Script for Sale: A Dream is Not Enough

The Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) has a rich history. It was created by industry legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W, Griffith, amongst others,  with the intent of providing assistance to those in the motion picture industry who were in need. In 1921, the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF) was incorporated with Joseph M. Schenck as first president, Pickford as vice president and the Reverend Neal Dodd (who portrayed ministers in more than 300 films) as administrator. The original Board of Trustees included many of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time — Charles Christie, Cecil B. DeMille, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

Today, the Motion Picture & Television Fund Foundation has been established with Jeffrey Katzenberg (The ‘K’ in Dreamworks SKG) as Founding Chairman. The Fund, as it is sometimes known, is limited in its resources, but that doesn’t stop them from providing care to retired industry professionals.

MPTF is also a place where dreams can come true. Just ask resident Ben Resella, who wants to sell his first screenplay. Not an unusual dream, but Ben has already “made it” once in Hollywood. For decades he worked on movie sets as a scenic designer and painter in the Philippines before finding his way into Hollywood. But that never kept him from his dream of writing. Even though he’s never so much as pitched a story to anyone, Ben is determined to try and sell his  screenplay. He will not be denied his chance because it  might be his last one. Ben is 91 years old.

Ben became the subject for Script for Sale, a documentary directed by Marie Tang for MPTF’s Channel 22,  a small operation on The Wasserman Campus with limited resources and equipment. Channel 22 provides original programming for residents of the Fund, and allows them to get involved in the process of bringing the programs to life on their closed-circuit TV station.

Marie Tang with Ben Resella

According to Tang, “Script for Sale was an idea that was inspired by MTV’s Made, a series which took a regular person out of their comfort zone and partnered them with a mentor to help achieve a specific goal. With {Ben}, I saw a 90 year old man who had all the ambitions of most fellow filmmakers my age and it saddened me to think that his dreams were less likely to happen due to the lack of opportunities. Knowing that Ben’s transformation from scenic artist to screenwriter would take time and patience, I thought that Channel 22 could create a program that would help support his goals in a shorter amount of time. Ben’s journey could then be duplicated as a series for other residents who have a very specific goal. Sounds easy! Well, maybe not for a beginning filmmaker and a new television station. With the support of Ben’s family, those involved with Channel 22, and screenwriter Steve Mazur as Ben’s mentor, I started documenting Ben’s drive and ambition.”

As co-producer on the film, I can say that Ben’s journey is a truly inspiring one. Being part of this phenomenal project has been wonderful, because Ben has served as a constant inspiration to me in terms of my own writing. At 91, his passion and determination can rival those of people half his age. His spirit and positive attitude, no matter how tough the journey gets,  can teach that dreams are worth pursuing at any cost, no matter who, or what, stands in the way. His thirst for life, and learning, is definitely contagious. I pass on Ben’s words to my own readers, “A Dream is Not Enough.”

The documentary, which explores a year in Ben’s screenwriting life, will have its world premiere at LA’s Laemmle’s Sunset 5 on Saturday, June 5th, as part of the Dances with Films Festival.

Ben’s life has inspired me, and with this film, it can hopefully continue to inspire others.

For ticketing information and to watch the trailer, please go to www.mptvfund.org/scriptforsale

Until next time…

The Accidental Blogger

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Joyce Carol Oates on Writing Characters

I came across this video of critically acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates discussing how a writer develops realistic characters, using examples from her novel “The Gravedigger’s Daughter.” Although the lecture is about three years old, the information is relevant and Oates can certainly be a terrific inspiration to any writer.

In the novel, a family desperate to escape Nazi Germany settles in upstate New York, where the father is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger an cemetery caretaker. What follows is a tale of unspeakable tragedy, as the gravedigger’s daughter begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of ingenious self-invention and bittersweet triumph – Book Passage

Enjoy!

The Accidental Blogger

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