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

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Charting Your Characters for NaNoWriMo

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So, what do you really need to know in order to write a good character? There’s the basics –

  1. Height
  2. Build
  3. Hair color
  4. Eye color
  5. Temperament
  6. Job
  7. Hobbies
  8. Skills

Then there’s getting down to the nitty gritty.  I just picked up Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran and I’ve been enjoying the entries on the various authors tremendously. (I admit I’ve been skipping around instead of reading straight through.) Terry McMillan has an interesting way of creating characters. Years ago she picked up a job application for McDonald’s and fills it out for every single character in her books.  She goes further though. “I create a five-page profile for every one of my characters so I know everything about them: what size shoes they wear, if their hair is dyed, if they bounce checks, have allergies, what they hate about themselves, what they wish they could change, if they pay their bills on time.”

Now, maybe this isn’t completely necessary but I can sure see the benefit.  I’ve always been something of a “method” writer, getting inside the character and writing from the inside out.  I need to know whether my character would really do the things that I’m writing for them.  Will it ring true for the reader?  I figure if I know my character inside out, I can put them in a situation and I will know what they will do, how they think and how they will react.

I found a great job application out of Alaska at http://www.jobs.state.ak.us/forms/genapp.pdf  It asks the generic questions but in a way that gives you a broad idea of your character and lets you infer some interesting things.  For instance, if someone is willing, or even prefers, to work the graveyard shift – why?  Hmmm. Who would your character contact for references?  How about in an emergency?

4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone by Barbara Ann Kipfer offers some very specific questions that you could ask your character.  I think it’s a great book for a writer to have, but I don’t think I could possibly answer each one for all of my characters.  She does break it down into some good categories.  Some of these questions are hers and some are mine, but more are hers than mine.

Childhood & School

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. Where did you go to school?
  3. What is your saddest memory? (And a bow to Humans of New York)
  4. Do you have any siblings?  Did you get along with them?
  5. In what organizations and extracurricular activities did you participate?
  6. Did you have any serious accidents or illnesses as a child?

Family & Friends

  1. Did you have any pets as a child?
  2. As a child, were you closer to your mother or your father?
  3. What is your ancestry and ethnic background?
  4. What was your parents’ relationship like?
  5. Did you like school?
  6. Did you have a favorite teacher or subject?

Fun & Sport

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. Do you participate in any organized activity?
  3. What do you do for fun?
  4. What do you think is funny?
  5. What sports do you like to watch?
  6. Do you dance?

Habits

  1. Do you get up on the weekend or sleep in?
  2. Where do you eat dinner?
  3. Is your house neat and/or clean, or is it messy and/or dirty?
  4. What are your vices?
  5. Are you careful or careless with money?
  6. Which pant leg do you put on first?

Love & Sex

  1. Do you have a significant other?
  2. Do you believe in love at first sight?
  3. Do you believe in marriage?
  4. What sexual position do you favor?
  5. Who was your first love?
  6. Tell me about your first kiss?

Outlook

  1. Are you a pessimist, an optimist or a realist?
  2. Do you like or dislike change?
  3. What are five things you are grateful for?
  4. What worries you the most?
  5. Do you have goals for your future?
  6. What is “success” to you?

Politics

  1. What political party, if any, do you align yourself with?
  2. Are you pro-choice or pro-life?  Why?
  3. Do you believe in the death penalty?
  4. Do you think we should have national healthcare?
  5. What do you think of marriage equality?
  6. What does the term “feminism” mean to you?

Spirituality

  1. Were you brought up in a religious tradition?
  2. Do you identify with a particular religion now?
  3. Do you believe in ghosts?
  4. What does “evil” mean?
  5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people?
  6. Do you believe in destiny or choice?

Work

  1. What was your first real job?
  2. What do you do for a living?
  3. Do you like what you do?
  4. Do you think you’re a hard worker or lazy?  What would your boss say?
  5. If you had to change careers, what would you do?
  6. How many hours do you work each week?

How do you build your characters?

Organizing a NaNoWriMo Novel The Jim Butcher Way

Open_book_01.svg

Okay, first of all, do you know who Jim Butcher is? He writes this fantastic series of urban fantasy books based around a wizard named Harry Blackstone Dresden in modern day Chicago. If it sounds interesting, there’s already something like 12 books in the series. Check him out at your local library or on Amazon. Here’s Jim Butcher’s Amazon page.  

Okay, he also writes another series called Codex Alera and I’m sure the writing is just as fine but I haven’t read it so I can’t say I love it, like I can the Harry Dresden series. They are fun, fast-paced action but also really good writing and he always hits me with something deep somewhere along the way. Love it!

Anyway, he also wrote a a LiveJournal where he shared information on writing. I’ve been looking at distilling it down to steps I can use to plan my novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.)

Here’s what I came up with. If it looks interesting, check out Butcher’s LiveJournal for more in-depth and better explanation. Be warned, it goes backward. You have to scroll to the bottom to the see the first entry then work up. 

Some of these were good reminders for me but some were new ideas that make good sense, like the Stimulus-Response Transactions.

  •  Conflict should exist in one form or another in every single scene. 
  • All of your characters need to have a goal
  • Use “Stimulus-Response Transactions.” Something happens to your character and he/she reacts. If you reverse that, it can confuse the reader so don’t do it unless you are very confident.
  • Write in either first or third person, especially if you’re just starting out. It keeps things much simpler.
  • Choose your point of view character based on who has the most to lose.

Write a Story Skeleton description of the main plot of your book in two sentences.

“*WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?”

Characters

What is (or what makes) an interesting character?

  • Exaggerate a feature – physical, mental or emotional.
  • Give them an interesting position, whether it is a social, geographic, intellectual or moral.
  • Introduce your character with a solid Characteristic Entry Action that is typical of who and what he is.
  • Make sure they act believably.
  • Make your character a whole, full person by showing his or her emotions, reactions and decisions.

I love the idea of Tags and Traits. It can help make your character unique if you pick the right combination and it helps solidify the character in the reader’s mind.

  • Tags are a few specific words you use to describe your character, and as much as possible, only your character.
  • Traits are unique items like a prop.

The Big Middle seems to be Butcher’s way of thinking of the climax. If it’s different, I’m not sure how. Maybe it just arrives earlier. (If somebody has a different understanding of this, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.) Basically, Butcher recommends creating a great big dramatic event for the end of the middle of the book which will lead directly to the homestretch.

The organization of scenes the way he explained it makes a lot of sense to me and really helps in plotting and organizing a story. They have to include –

Scenes

  • Point of View Character
  • Goal
  • Conflict (scene question)
  • Setback (scene answer)
  • Possible scene answers include
  • Yes! (but that gets you no where so) –
  • Yes, but..
  • No, and furthermore!

Sequels

Sequels are what happens after a scene. A character reacts emotionally, then thinks about it logically, considers possible outcomes to actions he could take and makes a decision. It’s simple and this is how people react to events so it keeps the reader moving forward quickly.

A Story Climax is the answer to the story question. It should include –

  • Isolation – friends can’t help him now.
  • Confrontation – obviously, with the antagonist.
  • Dark Moment – Confrontation did not go well.
  • Choice – between something good and something really bad.
  • Dramatic Reversal – poetic justice.
  • Resolution – keep it short.

Organization – The Basics

  • Write down your protagonist, his tags and traits, and how you intend to introduce him.
  • Ditto, but for the main opposition.
  • Create a story arc on paper or somewhere and fill in the opening scene, the big middle at the top and the climax on the right.
  • Fill in any scenes that you have in mind.
  • Add in phrases describing scenes that lead your character from one to the next.
  • Do Story Arches for all of your subplots.
  • Profile every significant character on his own sheet,
  • Outline scenes and sequels.
  • Repeat until climax.

As I said, this is the basics, Butcher’s (very entertaining) LiveJournal is something like 47 pages long and remember, this is one way to do it. Maybe it looks good to you, or maybe parts of it do. Take what works and leave the rest.

Happy Novel Planning!

Dispiriting critiques – throw a writing dog a bone, would ya?

A bad critique can be dispiriting.

I started out really happy with what I found when I went back to look at my draft of Biomalware.  I know it needs a lot of work.  I’m sure it’s going to change over time, but I think I’ve got the bones of a really good story.  Maybe it’s too early to be submitting it to a competition but the deadline is next week and I don’t want to wait a year.

I’m submitting the first fifty pages and a summary to the James Jones Fellowship contest.  The award is to “honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into modern culture.”   I think my novel falls into that.

There may be even more competition this year because I saw it in Writer’s Digest, so I’m sure a whole lot of other people did too.  Now, I may not have a chance in hell but I’m submitting whatever I’ve got at the end of the month because if I don’t submit, there’s absolutely NO chance I’ll win, place or at least receive an honorable mention.   (I say at least but it sounds pretty damn good to me.)

So, I did a quick edit and sent it out to my writer’s group and a friend, hoping for feedback to help me clean it up and focus it.  I received a couple quick responses that made some suggestions but were generally favorable.

Then, last night, one of the group ripped into it.

For the love of God, if you’re critiquing someone’s work, find one or two things that you liked about it.  Don’t just hammer them with everything you see wrong!  It’s guaranteed to put the writer on the defensive and it’s just not nice.

Now, he gave me some good notes and some that I totally disagree with.  It’s my book so I get to decide what to take and what to leave.

But there’s a weight when someone rips apart your story that way.  It drags you down.  You waste energy and time fighting out from under it.

Now I have to somehow overcome this malaise.  Right now I just want a nap and a piece of cake.  I’m not going to have either though.  I’m going to get through my work day, do what I need to at home (which will probably take most of the evening) and eke out some time to work on my book.

Maybe some good music will help.

Back into the Book

Once again, post NaNoWriMo letdown has cut down my writing output.  It’s been nearly a month and I’ve written nary a word. 

This seems to happen every time I write a huge amount every day for a month.  My brain blanks out on writing and I delve into more visual and tactile creative pursuits, only coming back to the writing after a month or more. 

What have I been doing in the meantime?  Well, mostly crocheting a baby blanket, going to work and taking care of my daughter.  Oh, and watching some really enjoyable episodes of the newer Doctor Who.  (Pssst, Netflix is evil.)

We had a great writer’s group meeting Thursday night and I was all revved up to edit and get back to work on my manuscript but yesterday came and went without me so much as opening the document.  Instead we got groceries, I cooked, sorted baby clothes and did a bunch of other things. 

So, I am publically stating my goal.  I will, by October 25th, have a finished manuscript to hand out to my writer’s group.  It may not be perfect but it will be as good as I can get it in that time. 

Today is September 22nd but I’m working this weekend and probably won’t get a chance to work on it until Monday so that gives me almost exactly a month.  Monday will be about excising the bits I don’t feel fit and making a map of what I have yet to do.  Then I will get down to work. 

To mis-quote Edison, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

Giving and Receiving Feedback or Critiques

I facilitate a writer’s group as part of my job as a librarian, a very enjoyable part that I’m grateful to have.  It has helped keep me thinking about my writing when other things in life were intent on distracting me.  The wonderful, and difficult thing, about writing groups is the ability to share your writing with others and receive feedback.

It is immensely helpful to a writer trying to improve their work to hear what other people think and heard about a piece of writing.  (It’s also wonderful for the author to get to hear someone else read it out loud.  Is that really what I wrote?)  It can also be terribly difficult to hear the suggestions for improvement for something you’ve already put so much time and effort into.  The most important thing that I think people giving or receiving feedback/critiques need to remember is that it is the writer’s story.

For the writer receiving feedback, it can be disheartening to have people tear apart your writing.  I think it’s a good idea not to share a piece of writing until you have a clear vision of what you want it to be.  Then you can listen to the feedback, decide what applies and discard the rest.

This past week at our writer’s group I was both the person giving feedback to another and on the receiving end of feedback.

I admit I was slightly annoyed by the feedback I received.  It was based on a short free write that I had done a couple weeks before and shared, something we do at the beginning of every group to put us in the right frame of mind.  The person giving me feedback knew that it was part of a novel I was working on and proceeded to tell me how I should develop the story, in detail.  He forgot that it was my story.  He was developing a different story in his mind based on my initial free write but it wasn’t my story.  He was trying to help but it wasn’t help I had asked for, wanted or that was useful.  I politely said that the work had developed far beyond what I had done in the free write, by about 40,000 words, and that I would be sharing it with the group soon.   I could tell he wasn’t happy with that but I remembered that it was my story and held firm.

Another author shared a short story that we gave feedback on.  We tried to be specific and helpful but it seemed to me that she was feeling a little overwhelmed by what we gave her.  Afterward I reminded her of the caveat to take what is useful and discard the rest because it is her story, but it also reminded me of a technique for writer’s workshop that I learned when I was taking my English degree.

The idea is simply to tell the author two things you liked about the work and give them two things that you think could be improved upon.  Because we often only give feedback once in our group, due to time constraints and deadlines, the second half of the advice, which is predicated on the writer working on their story and bringing it back to the group, often doesn’t quite work.  We need to give all our notes in one sitting.  But the first part of the advice is still applicable.

No matter how problematic a piece of writing is, you can almost always find two things to complement the author on.  This helps cushion the blows they are about to receive with the critique.  It gives them something to cling to before you throw the other comments at them.  It’s a good practice, a kind one, that helps make it easier for the author to really hear the critical comments instead of curling up into a defensive ball.

I intend to remind the group, and myself, of it before the next meeting.

The Writing Future is Becoming Clearer

I spent a large part of my free time in August (which is minimal at best ) drafting my novel, Biomalware, for Camp NaNoWriMo.  It was a challenge, painful at times, depressing and exhilarating.  I suffered from a bit of writer’s block in the “great swampy middle” as Jim Butcher calls it, and had to rush toward the end.  I didn’t really think I’d complete the story arc but somehow it came together.  It’s exciting to be this far along with it after only a month. 

I started with a short story about a man, a widowed single dad, who takes his two year old daughter to the doctor’s because she seems to get sick most of the time after eating.  The doctor diagnoses a new form of IBS but the nurse slips him a note suggesting that something else is happening.  It turns out that a new line of genetically modified food is making her sick.  As I worked on the book, unexpected events suggested themselves.  We had a natural gas explosion that destroyed a house in town and it fit into my story perfectly.  It also turned out that making people sick was not all the food was doing.

There’s a lot to do yet though.  I’ve completed the story arc but it’s pretty skimpy in a lot of places.  Before I started, I was planning to add another 50,000 words to the novel in September to finish it but now I think I’ll focus on editing and rewriting to add material.  (I still have a little research to do in order to make sure it all makes sense.)  I hope to end up closer to 80,000 words. 

In October, I’ll hand the novel off to my writer’s group for feedback, hoping they’ll have time.  That should help me focus it a little better, and maybe expand more.  I’ll also recruit some other beta readers from family and friends to give me feedback.

November gets a little tricky.  I’ll still have a editing to do but I’d like to finish Devolution for National Novel Writing Month in November.  I started that some time ago and have released two parts of it on Yahoo! Voices.  Planning for that will also fill some of my writing time in October.

I have the first agent picked out to submit Biomalware to and I plan to submit in December.  It was kind of funny, I knew what agency I wanted to submit to and the latest Writer’s Digest had a list of twenty-five agents accepting new work.  Two of them were from this agency and one listed science fiction. 

Today I’m hoping to take out all the portions of the manuscript that I knew I didn’t want to keep but left in to reach my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo.  I’ll take them out and put them in a separate document so that I still have them to refer to, and in case I decide I do want some portion of them.

It’s turning into an exciting year for writing.  The future I envision, of writing for a living, just seems to become more clear as I work.

 

Advancing Confidently Into a Novel

Last week I attended a talk and poetry reading by Michael Czarnecki, a poet and publisher in upstate New York.  He mentioned a quote that had always affected him deeply and it made a deep impression on me as well.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I’ve taken that quote and put it on a photo I took of giant hay bales in a field, ready to be taken to the barn, then made that my desktop background so that it encourages me every time I open my laptoop.  I think it’s a good principle to labor under when trying to write a novel for publication.  An early American version of “If you build it, they will come.” (Field of Dreams

I write for the joy of creating the story, but that joy is multiplied when it’s shared with other people who appreciate it.

(Incidentally, Michael’s house burned down about a month ago.  There’s an Indigogo fundraiser to help them re-build. They lived very simply, with no running water or grid electricity, so the house wasn’t insured. They really need help rebuilding. Any contribution would be very appreciated. More info via the link Raise the Roof for the Czarnecki’s.  Of course, there are writerly perks for contributing.)

Less than a week away from the end of Camp NaNoWriMo and August, writing has slowed down significantly.  I can see an end in sight, I’ve actually written the last few lines of the book already, but getting there has shifted into slow motion.  There’s going to be a whole lot of re-writing and adding to this book in September.  My writer’s group helped this past Thursday night with ideas and letting me talk through my plot.  (I can’t recommend joining a writer’s group enough.  The right one can absolutely tap you into a well of creative energy.)

I also have a plan that’s helping to keep me going.  I’ll get the first 50,000 words of Biomalware done in August with CampNaNoWriMo, then in September I’ll re-write and add to the novel.  Then a quick edit and pass it out to my writer’s group.  Put it away in October and wait for the group to give me feedback.  Edit again at the end of October, and start submitting.  Ideally, I’d like to have my first rejection by the end of the year.

Okay, that’s a fib, I’d REALLY like to have an acceptance from the first agent I submit it to but that seems so much like reaching for the stars that I’m scared to hope for it.  I’m willing to go the distance for this book.  I’ll keep submitting until I run out of agents that I want to submit to, then I’ll submit to editors and when I run out of those, I’ll self-publish.  One way or another, this book will be available for people to purchase.  I’d rather for it to be sooner rather than later.  (I’d also like a movie deal because I think it’s that type of book, just to to put that out there to the Universe.  *winkwink*)

In the meantime, I’ll write another piece, or two or three, of the book I started serializing on Yahoo!, Devolution.  I’d love to finish writing that one in November with NaNoWriMo.  I think it has a lot of potential too.

There’s always something more that I want to write and I can’t help believing that if I keep plugging away I’ll eventually reach my goal of writing for a living.  Of course, working smart can help make that path a little smoother but when I can’t do that, I’ll just stop the hell out of the weeds.

Camp NaNoWriMo, or Have I Gone INSANE?

Okay, so it’s day 10 of Camp NaNoWriMo and I feel a little like I’ve been in the desert with no water for too long.  I stayed up until 12:30 this morning because I just couldn’t stand to go to bed until I’d finished my word count for the day.

Of course, I wasn’t content to just shoot for the 50,000 words in one month.  Oh, nooo.  I set myself the goal of 2,000 words per day because I figured I could do it.  I can and I am but is it worth it?  I hope so.

I’m also doing this while working full time, commuting an hour each way to work and taking care of a 2 year old toddler.  Yup, I’m insane.

The thing is, I just want so badly to finish a novel again.  I can’t wait to hold a wrotten first draft in my hands because I know how I’m going to set about turning into gold.  The thing is, it isn’t all wrotten.  I’m pretty happy with a lot of the writing I’ve been doing so far.  It has felt almost… inspired.

I haven’t done 2,000 words every single day but I’ve managed to make it up the next day when I didn’t.  Strange things have happened that fit into my novel, like a gas explosion, for heaven’s sake!  Right across the river!

Everywhere I turn, there are things that apply to my story, people that I have pulled character traits from.

It’s a marathon, there’s no doubt about it, but it sure feels great.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can set a little more leisurely pace to get where I want to go, but I’m enjoying this ride, right now, just fine.

Camp NaNoWriMo and getting started –

Well, I wasn’t sure I was ready to start this novel.  I wrote the short story, Biomalware, months ago and my writer’s group proclaimed it “the one.”  They felt I should turn it into a novel.  I thought about it for a while and decided they were right so I started mulling over how to do that.  I got some character sheets, setting sheets and scene sheets from The Writer’s Craft web site and… they sat there.  I made up my mind to start writing the novel as part of Camp NaNoWriMo in June, and I got about six hundred words, give or take.  That was as far as I got.  Don’t ask me why.

Then, recently, I had a dream.  In my dream, I was sitting at a computer at work, doing something.  I realized that if I just started writing the novel, it would come and it would sell.  So, in my dream, I took out a tissue and blew my nose.  Then I opened a blank document and wrote, “She took out a tissue and blew her nose.”  (Thankfully, what I’m writing is not a chronicle of my life right now.) 

When I woke up, I decided to start writing with Camp NaNoWriMo in August.  “This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.” (Douglas Adams)  I prepared a little bit but on August 1st, I opened up a blank document, brought over the first three sentences of what I had previously written and just started. 

It was grueling at first.  I didn’t feel inspired.  I worried the whole venture would have to go this way, slogging my way through bit by bit.  But then I reminded myself about what Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, had said about how the novel takes on a life of it’s own.  So I stuck with it hoping that, after a week, the novel would take off and things would get a bit easier. 

I made it through day one, then day two.  I tried to keep going over what I’d written so far and the story as I knew it so my mind would work on it when I had nothing else to think about.  And a funny thing happened at the end of day two.  I had more story to tell.  I couldn’t go to sleep until I scribbled a few paragraphs down.  Then I woke up this morning and my brain had more to say about it.  Something is happening here, folks.  I’m beginning to live in my story, and it feels wonderful.

(By the way, synchronicity is a strange thing.  I just went to the NaNoWriMo web site to look for Chris Baty’s name because I couldn’t remember it and found there was a post Nano pep talk from Audrey Niffenegger that I had never read last year.  Since I just started listening to Her Fearful Symmetry in the car last night, I read it.  Quite nice.  But I won’t tell you what it said because you should have signed up for NaNoWriMo last year so you could get the pep talk and read it for yourself!)

Anyway, looking forward to lunch so I can write some more.  I’m hoping that one of these days my characters are going to surprise me and do something really interesting.  If not, I’ll just have to add it in the re-write.

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