A Bit of #CampNaNoWriMo Inspiration

Camp NaNoWriMo Pompts

Camping out!

 

First, a little update. It’s been an interesting 11 days of writing for #CampNaNoWriMo. I started out with the idea that I would write one short story a day, no matter how short, on a different prompt. (Witness my last two posts on this blog of prompts gathered from Pinterest.) Instead, I found myself after two or three starts, writing an Urban Fantasy novel that keeps expanding with each prompt.

Everything that I see or think of seems to get applied to this story and the writing is going as fast as I have time for. I am about 6,000 words behind but I have 12,000 to call my own and a lot more ideas for scenes to write. It is positively exhilarating and I don’t know where it’s coming from!

A few things this past 11 days have inspired me. I came across a link to some excerpts from an interview with Chinua Achebe on a writer’s ability to inspire society. You can find it here – http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/07/11/chinua-achebe-meaning-of-life/

Then there are these great sheets of lists that can be applied to your writing from Anika on her DeviantArt page. I’m thinking to use the sheets on Common Character Habits and Character Flaw Reference Sheets to help round out my characters. (Can’t be having those heroes and heroines too perfect!) She also offers a Character Hobby Reference Sheet, Character Fear Reference Sheet, and Character Motivation Sheet.

As usual, my writer’s group last night was both relaxing and inspiring.  I sure need the laughs and I go home fired up to write even when I’m not feeling my best.

I’m not even sure where I came across the information at this point but I have to confess that I never knew Eudora Welty had written a book on writing called, well, On Writing. My sister had given me her autobiography, One Writer’s Beginnings some years ago and I fell in love with it. (I have a strong tendency toward autobiographies by writers.) I went to look for On Writing in our library system and found only one library owned it. I ordered it and it arrived today but, sadly, it has been so heavily underlined and annotated that I don’t think I can read it without my brain exploding!  *grumblegrumblegrumble*

Feeling like procrastinating? If you’re doing #CampNaNoWriMo, how is it going?

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Happy Wizarding, Harry, um, I mean Writing

MamaAndBaby

I feel like I have nothing to say today. My munchkin got me up at 4:30 this morning. I just want a nap. So, I give you a poem I wrote when she was a new baby that seems rather appropriate and a link to a favorite inspiring LiveJournal post from Jim Butcher on The Most Important Thing An Aspiring Writer Needs to Know. May the weekend find you time to write.

A Mother’s Weary Vigil

Just after midnight

small heels beat a Morse code

of defiance into the mattress.

I am not tired.

I will not sleep.

Even though

mere moments before

or perhaps after

chubby cheeks and hands

folded in repose on mama’s lap

angelically spoke of

sweet dreams.

Oh, but what transpires

between the rocker and the crib?

Eyes and mouth pop open,

screams or laughter,

legs kick.

I am not tired!

I will not sleep!

Mama returns to the rocker

her weary vigil to keep.

Writing and Creating Every Day

800px-Blossoming_almond_tree

 

It’s amazing how the time flies! Spring is busting out all over here. I just realized yesterday that it’s been almost FOUR months since I posted! What have I been up to? Quite a lot, I suppose.

The last time I posted was just before I started teaching a workshop at our library called Creativity Unleashed, based on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. (More about that in a minute.)

I’ve been writing whenever possible, a lot of journaling with the Morning Pages, one of the tools from The Artist’s Way. Our writer’s group is going strong and I’ve been meeting with them on Thursday evenings whenever I could.

I worked really hard last fall on a futuristic, after the fall, mythic short story that I submitted to the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest… and got the rejection late winter. Then I turned around and submitted it to the Narrative Magazine… and also got rejected. Need to find somewhere else to submit it because it is a really good story and deserves to be published.

Anyway, I’ve just started reading blogs again and there are a couple posts that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently. One was sent to me by a friend and came out of Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog, inspiring and some good reminders, What I’ve Learned as a Writer. When I read it a couple months ago I realized I had been putting off reading because I didn’t feel I had time for it. Reading this reminded me I need to make time for it if I want to be a good writer.

Then I read one a friend of a friend posted from Chuck Wendig, similar inspiration but with a totally different spin, How To Push Past the Bullshit and Write That Goddamn Novel. (Warning, LOTS of profanity, but well punctuated.)

I can’t vouch for the idea that if you do a full-time job outside the home people will leave you alone to write in your free time, my 4 year old does not follow that logic, but I particularly like where he says, “You can sneeze 350 words.” Now that’s the kind of inspirational writing I can appreciate.

That night I sat down in a chair and wrote 350 words on the ending of my novel while my daughter played before bed time. I think she said something to me a couple times. I caught it and answered but didn’t let it distract me from my purpose. That’s what we need to be doing more of.

Okay, a little bit more about The Creativity Unleashed workshop I’ve just finished teaching.

For the past three months, I’ve been leading a workshop at my library that we called Creativity Unleashed, based on Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Some years ago I picked up this book, read it and put it on my book shelf. Then, when I started getting serious about my writing but couldn’t afford any writing workshops, I decided to do the book as a 12 week workshop at home on my own. It really helped me open up creatively and start writing daily.

One of our group found she could get copies for everyone very cheaply online so we all purchased a copy of the book if we didn’t already have one. The composition of the group was very eclectic and the reasons for being there were just as diverse. The focus was increasing creativity wherever that might be in our lives, whether looking for a new job, writing, quilting, or whatever else it might entail.

Basic Tools

Morning pages, artist dates and weekly exercises are the basis of the Artist’s Way.

Morning Pages are pretty straight forward (and the bane of many a participant.) It is simply three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing as soon as you wake up. When I first started though, it was at 3 in the afternoon. I think the next day was around 2 pm and I worked my way back to mostly 7 am, after I’d been up an hour. I love them! They make me so much more focused for the rest of the day, but even I found it very difficult to get them in towards the end of our workshop when my munchkin had been sick almost continuously for a month and I was suffering severe sleep deprivation.

Cameron says the Artist Date is about filling up the artist’s well with images but our group just set about having fun and took themselves on a huge variety of artist dates. Of course, most of mine tended to have some component of writing but they often included taking in new stories in the form of movies or simply new experiences. I made a practice of checking our local Arts Council calendar for options. One participant brought up the concept of vision boards, where you cut out images from old magazines that appeal to you and I started one on Pinterest. People went to live jazz concerts, beginner bird walks, free movies at the library, and art gallery openings. One week for me it was simply about getting to read a whole mystery novel and another artist date involved cooking up a storm, including honey oat bread, buffalo wing meatballs and coconut pound cake with raspberry sauce.

Weekly exercises run the gamut from writing exercises, like a letter to your future self, to throwing out one piece of old clothing. I admit I did nearly all the exercises when I did this book the first time but then did not pay as close attention to them this time.

If that sounds interesting, I highly recommend you check out the book. I’ll be sharing more about the workshop in the weeks to come.

It’s Friday, go write something. Remember, none of us are promised tomorrow so if you love to write, make some time for it today.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to Unleash Your Creativity!

Thomas Cole

I’m very excited. On Thursday we had the first meeting of a new group at my library that are devoting themselves to doing the 12 week course in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan. I was planning on 12 people but two extra showed up . . . and two more plan to join us yet!

We’re calling it Creativity Unleashed!

There are some people who have done this before, like myself, who are really excited about the possibilities. I did this ten years ago and it helped me get writing every single day, feel more balanced by releasing my anxieties on the page daily and curb that inner censor.

There are also people who have never done it but are creatively inclined and are looking forward to it. Then there are some people who don’t consider themselves creative but they’re willing to give it a chance. I hope it will pleasantly surprise them. I believe we are creating all the time, from a simple list . . .  to a meal . . .  to love letters.

My biggest hope for this workshop is that it will help me work through those last two chapters of Biomalware. Julia says, in the book, that you can’t keep putting down the same complaints in your morning pages without some kind of solutions presenting themselves.

Of course, finding time for three pages of long hand writing every morning can be difficult. She suggests setting your alarm for a half hour early. That sounds good right now.  However, that night, my daughter had a bad night and needed mommy at Midnight, 2 am, 4 am and she got up for the day at 6:55 am. I didn’t get to my morning pages until 3 in the afternoon.  (By then, I had a lot to say.)

The idea, however, is to get your worries and anxieties down on the page in the morning so you can be more productive the rest of the day.  I have no doubt there will be days I manage that and days I don’t. I will take what I can get.

There’s another reason I love doing workshops like this. Teaching someone else something they don’t know makes me feel competent when other areas of my life are making me feel incompetent. It’s very helpful. I sometimes forget I really have something to offer. It’s a good thing to get out of that head space.

I highly recommend this book to anyone out there, and I do mean anyone. You don’t have to be an artist. You could do the workshop on your own or  find some people to do it with you!

Have you ever used The Artist’s Way as a workshop for yourself? Alone or in a group?  How did it help you? Or did it?

Winter Writing Festival Coming Up!

writing-fest-2014-template-copy

Just a quick post because tomorrow is Christmas at my in-laws and I have one day to clean, decorate, do my Christmas baking and wrap presents.  I already have the groceries home and put away, and bread staling to make the Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding but I wanted to blog real quick about a great winter writing festival coming up. (Thankfully, the store had the Hodgson Mills Gingerbread mix prominently displayed so gingerbread cookie making with my munchkin just got easier.)

Anyway, I just read last night about the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival. The great thing about this writing challenge is that you create your own goals. I’m thinking to simply make writing my fiction daily a priority by putting a time requirement, say at least an hour a day. I was thinking a half hour but that doesn’t seem sufficient. Can I manage an hour? I’ll give it some thought.

I have a novel and several short stories that I want to finish but who knows how long that will take? I’d rather say I’ll work on them daily and see how far that gets me.

The festival starts on January 10th and goes through the end of February. There’s even drawings for prizes! Check it out using the link above. Happy Writing!

Reminders to Live Today & 10 Books

398px-Candela_al_buio

 

Last Sunday a former member of my writer’s group stopped by the library.  I knew she had quit her job to write full time and we talked about that a bit.  She said that life was short and she didn’t want to have any regrets. I really understood where she was coming from. Writing is a wonderful pursuit but it is work and trying to write while holding down a full time job out of the home and taking care of a child when you are home leaves little time for anything else.

Then Tuesday night I got the call that a dear friend and surrogate grandmother had passed away.  Wednesday morning I received an email that my uncle had passed. This hasn’t been easy to take. The only writing I’ve done since has been considering why this has been so hard to absorb.

One of my grandmothers passed away when I was eight.  I didn’t really understand what was going on. My grandfather passed when I was 11 and I don’t think I understood it any better. My other grandmother passed when I was 24 and I felt secure in what I knew and believed. I knew I would miss her but I believed that it was her time and she’d gone on to something better.

So why has this week been so hard? I think there are two reasons. One is that I feel less certain about whether our consciousness survives after death. I was once secure in my faith and beliefs but now I’m not so certain. The second is that I’m simply older and feeling closer to that inevitable conclusion of life

So that’s what I’m thinking and writing about this week.  On a lighter note, there’s been a post about ten books that have somehow touched you in some way.  I’ll list some below.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  3. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle
  4. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
  5. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Eleanor Pruitt Stewart
  6. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
  7. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia (really hard to pick one) by C.S. Lewis
  9. The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

These aren’t necessarily my top ten, though some would be on that list. My problem is not in picking ten books that have touched me in some way, but in stopping.  There are far too many.  I add something to my Goodreads book shelf whenever I think of one. What are some of yours?

NaNoWriMo and Cafe Press

Lifeisstrangeandsowewrite

Happy Post Thanksgiving/Last Ditch Effort at NaNoWriMo! I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and you’ve already “won” NaNoWriMo.  I enjoyed my Thanksgiving tremendously with both families this year but, as for NaNoWriMo, I’m still running behind. I am still running though. I have come a long way with this novel and I will finish.  I have today off and a write-in planned for tomorrow.  I know I can do it! Good Luck to all.

In other news, I’ve put my first Café Press selection of items together and they’re on sale today! I had posted this thought on Facebook, in the box above, that “Life is Strange, and so we write.” Several friends liked it and one said, “Bumper Sticker!” I thought, hey, I could do that. So I did a search online to make sure someone else wasn’t already using it. Then I went into Microsoft Publisher and made a text box, typed in the text, chose my font, chose the font size, chose the alignment and decided to put a border around the text. I saved it as a .jpeg and uploaded it to Café Press. They chose which items to place it on, including several types of mugs. I hope somebody out there likes it.  The design is labeled Life is Strange – Write.

One good thing about being forced to write a little slower this month – I’m going to “win” but I won’t be finished and that’s okay because I don’t feel burned out on it. I’ll keep going until it is then I’ll do a basic clean up edit and put it away for a month or so while I work on other things. I want to finish this book and try to sell it but I’m not going to rush it. I also have my second novel ready to be written (first five chapters are already written.) And I actually had an idea pop into my head that may become my third novel.

I don’t even remember what I was doing but I began to wonder what our society would be like if we had grown up around a more nature centered culture. Could we have industrialized under those circumstances?  If we did, what would it look like? Yes, it’s more questions than anything else at this point but it’s an intriguing line of thought for me and I think it may turn into something.

Life IS strange, and so I write. That is the great mystery and fun of it all.

In a NaNoWriMo Rut, or an Outright Ditch?

ForestDitchSeppVei

Okay, so NaNoWriMo is going a bit rough for me this year. I’m around 12,000 words when I should be around 23,000. Chalk it up to a nasty cold for me and the munchkin that is still lingering on.  It’s left me with little inspiration. So, I’ve been thinking of things to help me get back into the game.

  1. Wikipedia random article – Just hit the link and write whatever you find into your story. First time I got a classic rock station in New Jersey and I happened to have my characters about to get into a car. When the ignition turned on a classic rock song blared out of the speakers and a discussion on music ensued.
  2. Cooking or baking – Made a new recipe yesterday I found on Pinterest, easy one bowl cinnamon scones. (Well, the way I made them used one bowl, and I was out of butter so I used olive oil. Then I put maple cream on them. Yum. Here’s the recipe.)
  3. Anything physically repetitive – rocking, washing dishes – I used to get my best thinking done while mowing the lawn with a push mower.
  4. Tell yourself, or someone else, the story out loud, It can help you think through problems and add to the story. Has always worked for me.
  5. Change of scenery – take your laptop out for dinner, lunch or a latte.
  6. Creative break – Watch a good movie or read a story or a few chapters of a good book. It might spark something for you.
  7. Another creative endeavor – I started a little quilted hot pad as a Christmas present (for I know not who yet.) Picking out the fabric, deciding on the design, cutting the fabric and sewing the pieces together by hand all give my mind a break and make me think in a new way.

Any other methods you use to get yourself writing again when things are slow or you’re feeling low? PLEASE, share them in the comments. Thanks!

Inspiration and my Favorite NaNoWriMo Pep Talks!

Marie Lan Nguyen

If you’ve found this page in my blog then you’ve likely already made the decision to join NaNoWriMo and write a novel in November.  (Thank God!  I don’t want to be alone in this!) 

Seriously though, I really believe that everybody has a story to tell.  I’ve met so many people who tell wonderful stories but most have never bothered to put them down in writing, like my father, and it’s really hard to write someone else’s stories down for them.

How you tell that story is up to you. I also very firmly believe in NaNo Rebels – write poetry, a memoir, short stories, a script, whatever you fancy, just write those words down.

For some of us, writing is what we we felt we were always meant to do for the rest of our lives, but that isn’t necessary to NaNoWriMo.  It’s okay if you’re doing this because you want to get your memoir down or just want to give it a try. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, or a right or wrong reason for doing it.

It doesn’t matter whether the manuscript ever sees the light of day, just joining us on this endeavor is going to put you in touch with your creativity in a way you’ve never experienced before. 

There have been quite a few official NaNoWriMo “Pep Talks” over the last six years.  Sadly they are not all created equal.  Some ramble, some need editing, and some have really good advice.  The advice can be useful but when I want a pep talk, I want a PEP talk! I’ve been making a list of my personal favorites.

(2009 was a short list but the two I chose are some of the funniest I’ve read.)

Obviously, the best inspiration comes from reading material that directly relates to your novel in November. For me, I’ll be looking at articles and books, pro and con on GMOs, that inform my fiction. I’ll also be watching movies that are in the same genre I am writing. 

(Where will you glean inspiration from? Please take a minute to comment and share!)

Whether you’re getting ready for Nano and want to procrastinate a bit, are looking for some much needed encouragement or want to bookmark this page to pop back in when you’re two weeks under way and feel like you’re foundering, here they are – my favorite pep talks in all of Nano land.

2007

Author – Neil Gaiman

Favorite line –You don’t know why you started your novel, you no longer remember why you imagined that anyone would want to read it, and you’re pretty sure that even if you finish it it won’t have been worth the time or energy and every time you stop long enough to compare it to the thing that you had in your head when you began—a glittering, brilliant, wonderful novel, in which every word spits fire and burns, a book as good or better than the best book you ever read—it falls so painfully short that you’re pretty sure that it would be a mercy simply to delete the whole thing.” Sounds SO cheerful, doesn’t it?

Link –  http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/neil-gaiman

Author – Sue Grafton

Favorite line –Perhaps you’re suddenly uncertain your immediate family will appreciate your rendition of their annual drunken Christmas antics that result in all those accusations, renunciations, and slamming of doors. “

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/sue-grafton

Author – Sara Gruen 

Favorite line –But today, I am going to jump around and write only the fun bits! I’m going to write about food fights, and disastrous sex, and escaping in-laws, and apes with unlimited credit! “

Linkhttp://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/sara-gruen

2008

 Author – Chris Baty

Favorite Line –November 16: The second half of NaNoWriMo dawns. Writerly confidence builds. Your book comes to life, and characters start doing interesting, unexpected things. Nice. Weird.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/chris-baty-2008

Author – Meg Cabot

Favorite Line –But how long until some other story idea comes along and twitches its enticing little characters at you, and you decide to abandon this new one for it? How many words will you have then?”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/meg-cabot

Author – Janet Fitch

Favorite Line –When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don’t let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. “

Linkhttp://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/janet-fitch

Author – Jonathan Stroud

Favorite Line – “This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/jonathan-stroud

2009

Author – Maureen Johnson

Favorite Line – “What’s nice about NaNoWriMo is that you are traveling with a posse of thousands, all of you making your way over the mountains, through the valleys, across the creeks. You are fighting off the beasties.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/maureen-johnson

Author – Gail Carson Levine

Favorite Line – “My techy friend spent hours tinkering with my computer. She’s assured me that it will combust if I try to reestablish connections to the internet and email. The single thing I’m keeping is my cell phone in case I start to go into cardiac arrest, but the keys are smeared with battery acid, except the 9, the 1, and send. “

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/gail-carson-levine

2010

Author – Chris Baty

Favorite Line – “Incite change. If your story is losing momentum, juice it up by inflicting some major changes on your characters. Crash the spaceship. End the marriage. Buy the monkey. Change is scary because we have to figure out what comes next. But feeling afraid is ten times better than feeling bored, and your book will benefit from your risk-taking.”

Link – http://http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/chris-baty-2010

Author – Lindsey Grant

Favorite Line – “All together, let’s laugh in exultation at our total domination!/ MuahaHAHA!/Now let’s go do some writing.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/lindsey-grant-2010

Author – Holly Black

Favorite Line –There aren’t good books and bad books. There are finished books and books that still need more work. Please don’t let wondering if there’s a market for your book or wondering if the book you’re writing is genius or evidence that you should be heavily medicated get in the way of the writing. “

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/holly-black

Author – Lemony Snicket

Favorite Line – “Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/lemony-snicket

2011

Author – Chris Baty

Favorite Line – “Sadly, the older we get, the harder it is to find time to visit these wild places within. Between school, work, and family, the days just get away from us. There might be an hour of writing here or a few minutes of dreaming there, but it’s usually sandwiched between tasks and errands. The roar of that creative ocean becomes a distant sound that occasionally drifts in through our windows at night, reminding us of a place we once loved, and keep meaning to get back to./ But you know what?/ This November, we’re going to the ocean.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/chris-baty-2011

Author – Rachael Herron

Favorite Line – “Every day I white-knuckled it, and on November 30th, I wrote my 50,006th word. The words The and End were two of those. After a few months of lying in dark rooms recovering, I picked it back up and gave it a real ending. “

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/rachael-herron

Author – Erin Morgenstern

Favorite Line – “I want to mix you each the beverages of your choice, cocktails or sodas or tea or foam-topped espresso drinks that all magically maintain perfect drinking temperature. Bring you truffles or tira misu or chocolate-covered popcorn and give you wrist massages while whispering these encouraging, fortune-cookie bits of wisdom-esque whatnot garnered in my years of NaNo-ing”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/erin-morgenstern

Author – Lani Diane Rich

Favorite Line – “You’re not signing up for this challenge because you want to type a lot in November./ You’re doing it because you have a story to tell, and that’s a big deal.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/lani-diane-rich

2012

Author – Chris Baty

Favorite Line – “…we’ve realized the whole “fair fight” thing was a dumb idea, and partly because we blew all of our harassment budget on yesterday’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to crash every word processor in Manitoba.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/chris-baty-2012

Author – Grant Faulkner

Favorite Line – “It resembles a canvas that a gaggle of preschoolers are fingerpainting on together. Then, while the teacher isn’t looking, the ornery little devils find a box of feathers, glitter, Cheerios, pasta shells, and they toss it all into the mix.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/grant-faulkner

Author – Marissa Meyer

Favorite Line – “The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clichés and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/scott-westerfeld

Author – Scott Westerfeld

Favorite Line – “Make a list of all the varieties of aliens you can come up with. (And if it’s less than 3,000, then THE PEARS ARE LAUGHING AT YOU, MY FRIEND.)”

Link – http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/scott-westerfeld

Creative Writing While Still Planning (or) Planning for a Pantser

David_Malo's_map_of_the_world,_1832

By nature, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter.  (Okay, maybe it’s because I was never taught to plot.) Recently, however, a writing friend looked at one of my story ideas, proceeded to twist it on its head and challenged me to write a short story using the idea of a bridge burning at both ends then suggested a few elements to work in, however I chose.  I thought when I gave him the finished draft that I had gone too far afield of what he had “assigned” me.  He emailed me back quickly and told me, “You nailed it!”

That made me start thinking about how you plot and then work the elements you’ve decided on in, but also have room to make the story whatever it might be.  I have started several short stories since then, and also pulled out several that I started some time ago, but haven’t yet finished ANY of them.  Normally I get started and sometimes I finish and sometimes I get lost along the way.  With the framework that he gave me, I plowed right through writing but wasn’t too stifled.  It was something of a revelation.

How to create that framework to work within on my own? I’ve heard and read lots about outlining and planning but I’ve never really managed to grasp it.  Maybe I’m older and wiser but it’s beginning to make sense to me.  I really enjoyed Chuck Wendig’s post in 2011 on 25 Ways to Plot Plan and Prep Your Story, but I can’t say I was able to apply it that well.  (I think that was my shortcoming, not his post.  I’ve always been that way, I could memorize formulas in math, no problem, but applying them was a whole other quadratic equation.)

I like Wendig’s ideas of “The Vomit Draft” where you just write down everything you can think of and “The Bring Your Flashlight Draft” where you only outline a chapter or scene in advance.  (Is that really plotting?  I guess so.)  Anyway, give his ideas a read.  (He’s hilarious.  Seriously, I now must go read some Chuck Wendig.  However, there is at least one thought that made me say, “Oh, ish.  No, it wasn’t the pants comment, it was before that.)  One of my favorite thoughts, “The key is not to let this – or any planning technique – become an exercise in procrastination.  You plan. Then you do.  That’s the only way this works.”

I’ve been hearing a lot from people about using the Snowflake Method to organize their thoughts about a story.  I’ve looked at it and found the originator’s articles online about how to use it for both novel plotting and short story plotting so I’m going to give it a try and see if it helps me finish these short stories I have started.  I suspect it will.

At the same time, I’ve started turning Jim Butcher’s LiveJournal blog into something that I can hit point by point in plotting out my novel for NaNoWriMo.  He says himself that this is information he learned, not something he came up with, so I plan the distillation once I have it finished.  I figure, if I use the Snowflake method then fill it in just a little more using Butcher’s methodology, the novel is going to be a lot easier come November 1st, as long as I can stay in story space.  I’ve been out of that part of my brain for a week at least and I’m looking for the door back in.

In the meantime, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  It really reminded me of books by Madeline L’Engle that I read when I was growing up, though with a bit more adult content.  There was the same wonderful young main character, the magic and yet the feel of the Time Lords.  I’ve always enjoyed stories with a young protagonist.  I suspect that’s because we’re all a child inside, as he says in the book.  Or as another author put it, we never lose all the ages we’ve been.

Anyway, reading a slightly older collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman now, listening to Anansi Boys in the car, working on applying the Snowflake Method to my short stories in progress, and distilling the LiveJournal entries from Jim Butcher.

Right now I have a story to write and I need some coffee.  I’ve already written one scene last night, two scenes this morning, and I have two more to write then I can start editing and turning it into something that makes sense.  Wish me luck.

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