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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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?

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 Word Choice in Characterization

HPIM1437

NaNoWriMo and Word Choice in Characterization

As I sit here, we are anticipating some winter weather tonight and I am looking forward to it.  There is nothing like sitting inside on a snowy day with a fire in the wood stove and a warm mug in hand to write.

I must confess that I am well behind in my NaNoWriMo word count. The goal is 50,000 by the end of the month and I am just around 25,000. Yes, I am well behind but there is still a chance I can catch up, though it is a small one.

Basically, I would need 25,000 words in eight days. That works out to over 3,000 words per day. Granted, this is the weekend, so I will intersperse writing with everything I do. However, the 3 year old may have some different ideas of how we should spend the day and Daddy will be off hunting a good bit of the time.

Another confession, I have been going off on some mighty big tangents, working on short stories, and just plunking the thoughts down inside my NaNoWriMo document at the end.  It’s not my novel but it is adding to my word count. With my limited writing time, I just can’t afford to ignore the short stories when they show up.

Anyway, I picked up an interesting book on Southern writers and artists yesterday at the library for inspiration. Of course the thing that caught my attention was a well known picture of Eudora Welty on the cover. I leafed through it then listened to the first part of the CD interviews on the way home.  I’ve always enjoyed southern writing, the characters are so vivid, and I love listening to writers and other creative types talk about their craft and world view.  If you’re interested, the book is The Storied South .

Characterization keeps coming up for me this week. Characterization through word choice was a major topic in writer’s group last night. Afterward, as I was sitting down to work on my novel, I wrote the line “I don’t know, but I kinda doubt it.” for my Professor character. As soon as I was close to done typing it, my brain had already edited to read, “I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.” (Yes, contrary to all admonitions to keep writing, I do edit little things like that as I go.) Just a simple word choice can make such a difference in a character and I think I was aware of what I was doing because of the discussion in group.

Then today, I had a library patron ask me what the most commonly used silent letter in English was. He amended that to be British English. Hmmm. That sent me researching only to find out that there is Received Pronunciation, also known as The Queen’s English, and Estuary Pronunciation, which is all the dialects that change every 20 kilometers and is how most people speak. That really gave me some insight on how hard it is to right proper dialect. Having an ear for that must be very difficult. (It also makes me think of the Car Talk guys on PBS radio who could guess where people were calling from a large percentage of the time after just a sentence or two. )

So, the answer?  I didn’t come up with a definitive one. My best guess was that it was e.  I said they’d have to consult a linguist.

What do you think?  Do you have any tricks for bringing your characters to life?  I could use some tips to keep me thinking.

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!

Let the NaNoWriMo Festivities Begin!

2013NaNoWriMoCalendar

Okay, so I’ve been shocked at how much attention my NaNoWriMo calendar has gotten but I’m glad people are enjoying it. I’ve set it as the background on my own laptop, as one poster said he was going to do with it.

Last night I submitted my entry for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.  I wanted to let go of it before I started NaNoWriMo.  To be honest, I was utterly sick of it and ready to be done.  I’ve been editing it and nitpicking for the last two months, but it taught me a lot.  I think one of the failings in my writing has been my lack of follow through in editing to that degree.  I’ve written some good things and I’ve had some good ideas, but to really create something someone is going to want to publish, you have to be willing to go the distance with the editing.  I did that and let the story go. We’ll see how it does in the competition but I’m not going to hold my breath, I’m on to the next thing.

This month is all about creating without editing.  I’m about 2,300 words in and so far it isn’t really flowing, it doesn’t feel inspired.  I have an outline so I’m working with that but trying to remain flexible.  I’m working on a re-imagining of my Biomalware story.  I have two story summaries that are guiding the idea.

“As genetically modified crops take over and biodiversity dwindles, a menacing reality looms.  For half the world’s population these crops aren’t food at all.  They are… Biomalware.”

The other guiding idea is more human centered.

“When Sam’s two-year old daughter, Maddie, becomes sick he must find answers before it’s too late, but can he succeed when the opposition is a huge corporation with the full weight of the U.S. government at it’s disposal?”

Of course, these are just ideas and the story is changing along the way and as I learn more about the topic.  It’s science fiction but also a medical thriller and, of course, there’s a bit of a romance in there too.

And – to kick off NaNoWriMo on the right foot, I received my rejection e-mail from the Sustainable Arts Foundation today.  *sigh* I suppose it doesn’t mean much one way or another – they received over 1,500 applications and only give out half a dozen, with giving concentrated in the San Francisco area.  It was a long shot but I’m glad I did it.  I might try again next time.

Right now I’m licking my wounds and trying to concentrate on NaNoWriMo.  I believe I have a good idea and a good outline if the writing can live up to it.  That comes in time, though.  Right now it’s all about getting the words on the page.

It was definitely heartening to have EIGHT people at the kick-off write-in at my library.  That’s the best turn out I’ve ever had for a write-in.  It was inspiring to look at so many people sitting there just creating.

Happy writing everybody!

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

2013 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Calendar

Here it is folks – a calendar of quotes and inspiration with your daily word count goals for NaNoWriMo.  We’ve still got a month and a half so start day dreaming about what you want to write now!

I’m going to attach the calendar full size but you will probably have to click on it to really see the image clearly.

2013NaNoWriMoCalendar

What do you really NEED to write?

What do you really need to write? This question occurred to me as I was driving home last night. Unfortunately, I hadn’t set up my digital recorder so I pulled off at an exit and got it recording before I drove on.  (It helps me to remember.   Before I had it, I had to just, well…  remember.  It’s a great tool.)

This month is Camp NaNoWriMo again and though I am not participating this month it reminded me about reading Chris Baty’s  No Plot, No Problem.  It’s a really funny and enjoyable book.  He suggests a bunch of things you might want to have handy before you start to write.  There were some physical things like setting up your computer file, treats to reward yourself for keeping going, your favorite drinks, your favorite pens, pencils and notebooks, reference books you might want to refer to our use to jog your mind.  It was mostly things to make you more comfortable and help ease the task.  Some people write character sheets and plot everything out ahead of time.

Then there are intangible things like time, sufficient sleep to be coherent, quiet and space.  But people have done without those time and again.  (Though I do suspect that when people say they got up an hour early before going to work every day to write, they are largely getting sufficient sleep to suit them.)

I personally like a notebook or a bound journal and a really good pen.  I use my laptop a lot.  I have the Scrivener software but I haven’t actually used it, I use OpenOffice.  I have recorded things on my little digital recorder and used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe the dictation.  I use the Internet for research.  I always liked Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference for checking grammar and usage but more often I turn to Internet sources these days when I’m concerned.  All of these are great tools to make writing easier.

I like a sufficient amount of sleep but I find myself creating things at three in the morning while I’m rocking my daughter.  I like a quiet room and time to myself but most of the time I’m writing surrounded with people or at least while taking care of my daughter and being interrupted constantly for attention.

What really got me thinking about this topic was a blog post by a fellow writer.  He said that he had lost most of his vision and would continue writing as long as he could see to do so.

My brain screamed, “Nooooo!”

Thankfully, another writer responded with what I felt – you don’t need your eyesight to write.

It might make it a bit easier but all you really need is your mind.  Everything else is a tool to record what you’ve written and communicate it.  Think about it.  There is a great oral tradition that backs writing – storytelling.  People made up their stories, practiced them and shared them.  If that is all you can ever do then you are WRITING!

The point is we all have obstacles to our writing.  Sometimes they are external and sometimes they are internal, but there is nothing that can keep us from writing if we really want to.

Randy Pausch, in Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, said that “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

So, what do you really need to write?

A Writing Parent – or how in the world did J.K. Rowling do this?

SleepingChild

The munchkin has been up coughing a lot with one cold following shortly after the last this past month and I‘m too tired these days to read a well written and thought-provoking book, let alone write one.  The way I write is to imagine a scene fully then put it down on paper.  Right now?  If I stopped long enough to do that, I’d fall asleep.   Things that would normally inspire me just aren’t.  It takes a major shock, or some serious immersion, to get my brain into gear and make sense of anything.

Here’s the odd thing, a little sleep deprivation can actually help turn off that pesky internal editor.  Yesterday I picked up a simile worksheet and my brain actually started firing some semi-original thoughts.

As dark as midnight in a country room with the shades drawn down.

As dead as the remains of a carcass on the highway that has been run over five hundred times.

As high as a meth addict shooting up with his two year old daughter in the back seat of the car.  (Actually saw that one in the news the other day.)

As tall as the shadow of Abraham Lincoln’s reputation.

As mad as my mother when she found the metal handle of a fly swatter I broke by bending it back and forth, back and forth, even though she’d told me not to do so, and hid under her dresser.  (I should have known she’d clean there.  She cleaned everywhere, relentlessly.)

As blue as the notes of the last jazz song on the closing night of a club.

As nervous as a starving feral cat stealing food from the bowl on the back porch.

Growing like a zucchini when the gardener’s away for the weekend.

Along with the worksheet on simile which, unfortunately, I have no idea where I got, I found a number of other interesting items I saved over the past couple of years.

There were several inspirational pieces.  One was Neil Gaiman’s pep talk from National Novel Writing Month a couple years ago.  He talks about having waded into the writing of a novel and having gone from imagining that “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” to seeing what you’re working on as something “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.”  He talks about simply moving forward, putting one word after another.

Which leads right into a wonderful interview with Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, in the July/August 2013 Writer’s Digest where he gives the most useful metaphor for revision that I’ve ever heard.  He likens it to moving into a new house, dragging all the furniture in.  Once it’s all in, you have to spend the time deciding where everything should go, rearranging it until you find the perfect spot for each item.

Those two things together really create a pretty good framework for the writing process.  You get a great idea and it sounds perfect.  You start writing and the fire burns low, turning into embers that are covered in ash, but you keep writing as your fingers get cold.  Then, you’ve finished a draft and you can put it aside for a bit or start rearranging the bits into something recognizable.  I like it.

There are other wonderful things in the interview – Hosseini talks about how his writing has grown to include more multidimensional characters and he also addresses the crises of confidence and episodes of self-doubt inherent in writing a novel.  It may be one of the most useful things I’ve found in Writer’s Digest recently but I will admit I love memoirs by writers.  I find them often inspirational and instructive.

Another funny item I came across was the editor’s note at the beginning of the Winter 2013 issue of ForeWard Reviews.  Julie Eakin shares a book of historical writer criticisms, Rotten Reviews Redux: A Literary Companion in which Rudyard Kipling is lambasted for not knowing “how to use the English language” by the San Francisco Chronicle and The New Yorker calls Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, “the final blowup of what was once a remarkable, if minor, talent.”  I’m sure there are people today who feel that way about Kipling and Faulkner but the vast majority of readers consider them major talents of the past.  It really helps to drive home the point for a writer that not everyone is going to like your writing, no matter how good you are.  It’s reassuring, in a backward way.

So, where does all that leave me?  I’ve been reading a lot of light stories the past couple weeks to refill the creative well, mainly Jennifer Crusie and Dorothea Benton Frank.  I’m still working on story one of my four short stories.  I’ve gotten little bits on it this past week but it’s been slow going.  I’ve been thinking more and more of how I’m going to attack the research and re-write on the novelization of Biomalware.  It’s still out there but I swear it’s getting closer.  It will be re-written this year.  (Heck, it hasn’t even been a year since I wrote the first draft.)

I just need to maintain my focus and write a little every day.  I’m getting there.  I don’t care how long it takes, and I really can’t foresee how I’ll get there, other than plugging away.  I never imagined a tornado would kick start the renovations on the family farm house that I always wanted to do.  (Seriously, I’ve been planning them since I was about 12 years old.)  Who knows what wild and wonderful, though potentially painful, ways the Universe will move me forward if I just do my part?  Only time will tell.

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