Archive | November, 2009

Whirlwind! (And Pie.)

24 Nov

I should have known better than to expect myself to get any writing done today.  Yesterday was golden, but today?  Today was just as days before long trips always are: a whirlwind of distraction, errands to be run, to-do-list fever.

Yesterday, like I said, went well.  I wrote in three sittings, spread throughout the day.  Some much-needed progress was made, both in plotting and word count.  By the day’s end, I’d completed 2,133 new words¹.

Honestly, I felt particularly victorious with this chunk of words.  I’d been having difficulty figuring out how best to weave the main plot with a couple of subplots, and it finally clicked.  The threads intersected in an organic way that makes total sense; yet again, despite all my planning, my characters surprised me².  Now, the ball has been set in motion for all these brewing conflicts to rear their ugly heads, snarl with a vengeance, and take some painful bites out of my characters.  Then, it will be time for them to figure out how to bandage themselves up and fight back.

So, though I didn’t get any writing done on the novel today, I’m pleased with where I left off.  When we get back from Kansas City, it’ll be time to get my hands dirty once again, and set some serious goals for December.

On that note, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  My access to the Internet may be spotty, so I’m not sure how often I’ll get to post this week.  I’ll definitely be back on Monday, though, if not before.  In the meantime, have a great week.  I’m thankful for you all.

PS: The pie in the picture is one I made for my love.  I tried to make a lattice crust, gave up, re-rolled the dough, and came up with something (in my opinion) even more special.  It was so good.  I love pie.

51,710 down | 21,290 to go

¹Still handwritten.  Still enjoying the change.  Hand has not yet withered into an angry ball of bones, so we’re good.  In fact, hand is not even sore.  (Perhaps it would be if I had abused it today, like I did yesterday).

²Though I’m pretty convinced that surprises like this can only happen because of such detailed planning.  I can only swerve confidently away from my original plan since I know my characters so well.

Sit. Stay. Write.

23 Nov

It’s a new day, a new week, and it’s time to get down to business.

No more getting sucked into marathons of Say Yes to the Dress.  No more allowing myself ‘just two minutes online’ that turn into twenty.  No more ‘that’s good enough for now,’ when I’m fairly certain I could double what I already did.  No curling up in my Snuggie and knitting all day¹, even though my poor throat is a little scratchy and my nose a little stuffy.  

This week’s only a two day work week for me, since we’re leaving Wednesday for Kansas City.  I hope to really dig in on these two days, and not just say, “Oh well…it’s a short week, next week will be a fresh start.”  Because, really?  I have a tendency to gravitate toward fresh starts.

While I’m thinking about catching up and making progress and all those sorts of things, let’s all give some encouragement to Melissa!  Melissa is still pressing on with her NaNo project, on which she caught up by 7,000 words in about a day.  Her subject matter is tough (Hell) so she needs all the support she can get to finish strong.  Click here to read about her awesome catch-up, click here to read about her more recent struggle with her book.  Keep it up, my friend, you can do it!  

All right.  It must take some kind of discipline to catch up by 7,000 words, and I’m inspired by this kind of discipline!  This number isn’t really a sustainable number for everyday purposes², and I’m aiming for more like half that today, but it reminds me that much more is possible if I’ll just stay at the table and keep writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  

In the meantime, watch this ridiculous Snuggie advertisement if you’ve never had the, uh, privilege.  Also, head on over to Melissa’s blog to read all about Blame it on the Weatherman!  And if you’ve done all that, and still want to procrastinate, you could always knit your kitty a sweater.  Just be warned, the kitty will hate you and destroy your decorations.

¹As for the Snuggie, we received two as Christmas presents last year.  Now we can feel warm and look like we’re in some wacky cult at the same time!  Yay!  As for the knitting, well, I’d like to be better at it.  My first project was in sixth grade, where I knitted a turtle-neck sweater for our cat as a Christmas present.  You can imagine how well poor Ginger reacted when I tried to stuff her head through the too-small hole.  (Short answer?  She ran up the Christmas tree.) 

²But for a one- or two- day mini-writing-marathon?  Very nice.

Handwritten

20 Nov

Word Count: 49,577 down | 23,423 to go

PS: If you can’t read the fine print, it’s just a little note about the LOST premier, in which I urge you to set your alarms for the second day of February, as well as give you all permission to weep tears of bittersweetitude.  (Fun pastime of mine: making up words)  Then I try to console all of the weeping by writing, “At least we’ll finally get some answers,” but once I thought about that statement I felt the need to add “Finally.  Hopefully.” to the end.

PPS: I mentioned Merrilee.  Check her out by clicking her name in the sidebar, or click here to see why I’m inspired by her!

Coral? Rose? Raspberry? Fuchsia?

17 Nov

It occured to me, two seconds ago, that writing a novel can feel like planning a wedding.  

When my husband and I planned our wedding, I was absolutely determined not to be one of those brides who gives herself three thousand choices, only to find herself overwhelmed and drained come wedding day.  I headed to Barnes & Noble, purchased a tiny black Moleskin notebook — more compact than an address book, in fact — and vowed anything that won’t fit in here doesn’t need to happen.

Our engagement was one day shy of three months, and the planning went exactly as we hoped.  The secret: having a fiancé who was totally helpful and awesome.  The other secret: simplicity of options, which led to easier choices.

Brides so easily get stressed out when they give themselves a thousand options —
once you decide on pink (which I did not), you then have to choose between coral, rose, raspberry, fuchsia, and on and on and on.  Same with flowers, dresses, music, hairstyle, makeup.  We made quick decisions, rather than traipsing through the list of options spanning from earth to moon.  Everything turned out perfect, and beautiful, and we were able to enjoy the day.

Now.  

Novel-writing and wedding planning — where am I going with this, you ask?  

Writing the second draft, for me, has been all about choices.  I know what I want to happen, but there are so many options at how things happen.  Right now, I’m working out the last third of the novel.  There are a few pieces of information that need to be revealed before the climax, a few decisions my characters need to make, a few more conflicts that need to be had.  Working out how all these things fit together is like piecing together a puzzle, and it takes a mountain of patience.  

For example, there is a pivotal piece of information that’s about to get revealed.  I’m toying with two major options: S tells E the truth directly, which leads to one type of resulting conflict — or — E finds out the truth from someone else, which still leads to conflict.  S telling E the truth directly feels like a better pay-off of their existing tension, but E finding out from someone else fits better with the way the climax needs to play out.  Trying to make the best of both worlds — direct confrontation while maintaining the buildup I have in mind — requires tweaking with the ideas in between.  

Planning our wedding was much easier than writing this book.  

This would have been a more simple task had I limited my options (created fewer characters and a less complex plot), but I did not.  I could always go back and cut out the complexities, but I really like them and am determined to make it work.  How satisfying it will feel to get the details out of the way so the story can shine!  I may have to wallow in a mucky swamp of decisions for a while, but not forever.  Until then, it’s one plodding step at a time, until the plotting is sorted out and my decisions fade to invisible.

When guests go to a gorgeous wedding, they don’t see the infinite pool of choices the bride waded through to come up with the finished product.  No, they see the bride and groom, the love story, the marriage — a ceremony taking place in the context of polished beauty.  I want my novel to be the same.  No one needs to know the story could have happened any other way.  

Back to Real Life

16 Nov

Never do I feel the wrath of Mondays more than when I have just returned from out of town.  Today is no different.

It’s already 2:35pm today, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it.  I woke up early, with the greatest of intentions.  The plan was to absolutely attack my manuscript, make up for the missed days of writing; to write joyfully, with discipline, fueled by sheer motivation (and coffee).  Instead, I caught up on all things blog- and reality-TV-related.  

The weekend was a great one, though.  Visiting my parents and the ranch where they live is sort of like traveling to another world, where work is just a dream and time is endless.  There are no deadlines; analytical thinking happens pretty much only when you are playing a vicious game of Clue¹.  There are cinnamon rolls and a bottomless pot of coffee (which tastes much better now that my mother has learned that two tablespoons of coffee does not an entire pot make).  

It’s beautiful, too.  There are trees, cows, wide open sky — which was pink when I woke up on Saturday — and the color green in abundance.  My dad and I took a long walk around the ranch in the morning, which was so peaceful.  At night, since there are no lights for miles, you can see a gazillion² stars. 

No wonder when I come back, it always takes a day to re-orient myself to life and writing, no matter how motivated I feel.  I hate the feeling of watching hours go by and having nothing productive to show for it, but I’ve learned not to despair over this.  It happens almost every time — after a day of dazed half-attentiveness, I usually come back strong, roaring and ready to go.  

Wow, the music in this coffee shop is terrible.  (FYI.)

Guess I should try to use today’s last couple of hours wisely, huh?  Sigh.  Probably.  Yes, I should at least try to make myself focus on something.  At least now I have a blog post to show for today.  Hopefully I can add something to that (very short) list.  Happy writing to you all!

¹And we do get vicious.  All six of us play, and we are sneaky listeners, making notes of every single question every single person asks/answers…It’s not your average remember-how-we-played-this-when-we-were-six-years-old? game most people think of when they think of Clue.  Nope – we are much more freakishly detail oriented and competitive.  I won, by the way.

²Give or take a few.  Embarrassing story alert: there are so few lights around, on Saturday night, I was seriously concerned about a bright light blinking on the horizon.  To my relief, I was informed that the light was not, as I feared, aliens; nope, it was just your good ol’ AT&T cell phone tower.  Perhaps I’ve been watching too much V.

(Not Quite) Starstruck (But Almost)

13 Nov

Erin McCarley

You may not know who Erin McCarley is, but you should.

Last night, she took the stage (by storm) at a small venue in Dallas, and — whoa — she was SO. GOOD.  Like, way-better-than-we-expected-we’re-so-pleased-we-chose-to-see-her-over-the-competing-Regina-Spektor-concert good.

She’s like this firecracker mix of Fergie and Evangeline Lilly, and from the looks of her, you’d wonder if she’s just another gorgeous pop star whose voice is molded by that ubiquitous chisel known as autotune¹.  But…no.  Her voice is full of depth and texture, her lyrics are substantial, her song-writing and chords are creative.  

The venue wasn’t packed, but we liked it that way because the next time we see her, the secret will be out and we’ll probably have to use binoculars to see from so far away.  Her show, and the opening acts, were laid-back, warm, personal.  She poured out her soul only ten feet away from us, and afterwards, we got to chat with her for a bit.  She was as kind as she was talented, and carried on quite a bit of actual conversation with us.  

On this blog, I usually write about only one of my passions (writing) and leave the other (music) to kind of float along in the background.  Today, though, I feel so inspired to write some music, which is something I haven’t done in a long, long time.  My husband will probably be jumping for joy when he reads that last sentence, because he is Mr. Amazing-Talented-At-Everything-Sweetheart, and has been asking me for a while, “When are we going to play music together again?”

Soon.

Now…can I write a song and meet my 1,500 word writing goal² today?  (Um…that might be too ambitious for one afternoon.)  If you need a break from cleaning, writing, worrying, or anything else that ends with -ing, check out this, this, or this video of Erin McCarley³.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

¹Thanks to you, Andy Hildebrand and all you people at Antares Audio Technologies who created this particular chisel, we live in a world where we are surprised that our famous musicians can actually carry a tune.

²By the way, I didn’t list my word count today, because it hasn’t changed since the last time I posted.  I plan to fix that.

³None of these clips are from the Dallas concert, unfortunately.  All are live performances: #1 is an original song, called “Blue Suitcase;” #2 is a cover of “Dumb Dog” from the musical Annie; #3 is a cover of “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega.  Though all of her originals are fantastic, I included the covers because of their creativity — I mean, really, who covers Annie at a concert?  Plus, the beat-boxing guy on “Tom’s Diner” is pretty awesome.  His name is K.S. Rhoads, and he was one of the opening acts last night.

I Need to Write Like Me.

12 Nov

It’s not that I think I can’t do it; I know I could do it, if I wanted to.  It’s not that I’m afraid — I’m not (anymore).  It’s not that I’m a flake or a quitter; rather, I’m a little too determined for my own good.  It’s not that I think NaNo is a waste of time.  Really.

I’ve just decided it’s not the best use of my time.  Not this year, anyway.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I was on the fence a couple of times about starting NaNo in the first place.  First, I questioned whether NaNo was worth sacrificing my November, sacrificing thirty days of work on my beloved work-in-progress.  Then, I had doubts and fears concerning the subject matter itself.  After that, I took the plunge and jumped into the ice-cold ocean of NaNo madness.

I’m not going to say “I lasted” seven days, because that makes it sound like I ran out of gas, which is not true.  After seven days of intense work, seven days of listening to intuition and going with whatever came, seven days of sacrifice to get the story on the page, I paused.

Words were flowing, characters emerging from closets I didn’t know existed.  So, what happened?

In short, it felt like a book I’d snatch up in a heartbeat from a bookshelf, sink in to read it, be amazed by it, and then feel utterly depressed — though impressed — by what the writer wrote.  What’s the problem with that, you ask?  Isn’t that a good thing?  Well, yes.  But it started to feel like I was writing someone else’s book, trying to be some other author with some look-at-me-mom-I-can-be-a-Deep-and-Important-Thinker-too! subject matter.

Truth is, I care about a wide, wide range of subjects, across the full shallow-to-deep spectrum — I can have equally competent conversations about Tim Gunn, the book of Revelation, Kate Gosselin’s porcupine hair and why it needs to go, why the Starbucks in downtown Shanghai is my favorite, why I buy organic food as much as possible.  I’m an eclectic mix of thoughts and opinions, and I really don’t need to write like someone else.  I need to write like me.

What is me, then?

I’m inspired by the possibility that kids everywhere could learn to read, learn to love to read, on a book that came from my mind.  My huge work-in-progress, my labor of love, fits this goal better than an adult-genre, medical/courtroom/super-serious/tumultuous-torment-laden book.  I’m excited about sending my little heroes on a tough and scary journey, about watching them fail and persevere and eventually (hopefully) succeed.  I’m excited about sticking with a project I’ve spent months of solid devotion on, excited about seeing it through even though it’s kind of larger-than-life right now.  I’m excited about writing this book, the one that oozes with my heart and my mind.  

So that’s what I’m doing.

In the spirit of November, however, I’m not ditching the challenge aspect of things.  Rather, I’m focusing all that effort into finishing my second draft.  My new goal is to average 1,500 words/day until the end of the month.  This number will put me close to, if not at, the end of the novel.  Between a trip to my parents’ house this weekend and then Thanksgiving in Kansas City, it’s still a lofty goal.  I’ve met the 1,500 words each day this week, though, so I’m off to a good start.

Thanks for all your support, you guys — and, to all my NaNo buddies, I’m still planning to support you like crazy!  You guys are rocking the charts, and I’m so proud of you.

45,431 down | 27,569 to go

Footsies, I Tell You!

7 Nov

It’s Saturday!  And, what does any normal person do on a Saturday morning?  Probably not get up at 6:17 in the morning to work on a novel.  I haven’t even had coffee yet, can you believe it?  Believe me, I’ll be crafting a fine espresso beverage as soon as I hit publish on this post.

After hours of focus and diligent typing, I’ve managed to almost catch up to where I need to be.  Yesterday, when I posted last, I was at 7,385 words.  I’m pleased to say I’ve written 3,686 words since then.  Whee!

As fellow writers (and fellow humans), I think you will appreciate this little random story I’m about to tell.  My sister teaches 6th grade creative writing – how fun, right?  Um, apparently not.  This is her first year to teach the subject, after two dreadful years of teaching 7th grade math.  In the small town where she teaches, they require her to test the kids using those Scantron formats — multiple choice tests where kids have to fill in the bubbles to show their answers.  

I was pretty much appalled that for CREATIVE WRITING she had to give multiple choice tests.  What?!  Whatever happened to, say, writing creatively and getting a grade based on your work?  What’s even more appalling are some of the answers to the questions the kids had to answer.  The test was kind of dumbed down, because it was an assessment for my sister to see where she should start teaching them.  Even so: wow.  Listen to this.  

You tell me — when asked what part of speech the word “person” is, how is it freaking possible that more than half the class answered ‘verb?’  And, when asked what the plural of “foot” is, and given the choices A) foots, B) feet, C) feets, or D) footsies, what moron parents and/or teachers taught these children that “footsies” is the right answer?  Fifty-three percent said “footsies,” I tell you!  I’m astonished and perplexed and all those other words that sound so much better when coming out of Tim Gunn’s mouth.

Poor sister.  Poor kids!  She certainly has her work cut out for her.  I’m encouraging her to write Jen Lancaster-style books about all her crazy experiences.  She could probably turn out six different memoirs about her life, and they’d all be captivating and hilarious.  I’m serious.  The first one, which she’s already started, will be called I Make the Peppy Girls Cry, about being a tough (stuck-there-against-her-will) cheerleading sponsor for some catty-bratty junior high girls.  

On that note, in the midst of stressing about word counts or the right way to pace a novel, let’s just be thankful we know what verbs are and that those things with toes (or is it “toesies?”) at the end of them are called feet.  

NaNoMeter: 11,071 down | 38,929 to go

Six

6 Nov

I’m having the strangest urge to knit something, or wash my hair, or run a few miles, or organize my entire home.

Guess NaNoWriMo is getting to me.  

Fear not.  Rather than ditch my writing, I’ve decided to do the sensible thing (sigh) and just sit down and do it.  There will be plenty of time for knitting later.  Like, in December.

I’m giving myself two hours (though I have more than two hours) and a mini-challenge:  write, write a lot, and write well.  According to my nifty little Excel spreadsheet (which was a nifty little piece of justified procrastination), I am currently behind schedule by 2,617 words.  Can I close the gap by 4:00pm?

Maybe.  Maybe not.  At any rate, I should probably try to keep the gap from getting deeper! 

Anyone else feeling the Day Six Drag?  Do you feel an inexplicable desire to slip on some pajama pants, watch something mindless like the Hannah Montana movie, and whip up your own version of butterbeer?  Do you wish you could go all Hermione Granger on your NaNo project, and with one flick of your wand and an incantation of Manuscripto Write-Yourself-O, get some words to magically appear in your novel?

Oh.  Maybe that’s just me.

NaNoMeter: 7,385 down | 42,615 to go

A Cornucopia of Strange References Here: Warning.

5 Nov

This morning, at 5:30am, I awoke with one thought:  what do you call those little metal things you stick into a hand-mixer?  You know, those detachable tools that do the actual mixing?  Turns out, the answer is pretty obvious – they’re called blades – but in the darkness and in my still-half-asleepedness, blades sounded too sharp and harsh.

It’s November 5th, and I’m a full day behind on my NaNo goals, despite my best intentions.  So, I woke up determined to spend as much as possible of this day playing the catch-up game (in other words, write at least 3200 words).  Hence, the thought about mixer blades, completely random though it is.  The image of the blades spinning in place, never colliding with each other, rotating in perfect harmony¹ – well, for some strange reason, I felt urged to pray for myself to have creativity and clear vision that work together as well as hand-mixer blades².  That’s the only way I’ll meet – and, hopefully, exceed – today’s goal.  Broken mixer blades equal chocolate cake batter that’s lumpy and uneven, and I have a feeling a clash of creativity and mental acuity leads to the same kind of writing.

So, now that we have that out of the way: my word count isn’t dreadful, but it will be if I miss another day.  

That said, I’m totally loving writing this book.  Interesting images and scenes keep popping up from nowhere, and I’m discovering a lot of new things about these characters.  Like I wrote the other day, I’m surprised to find I like them so much.  I want to describe how I feel, but I think J.C. Hart said it perfectly in her November 5 post:

I’m spending a lot of time not even consciously considering the next steps it will take. I’m sure that it’s all simmering below the surface, but it’s lovely that I don’t have to spend time deliberating over what will happen next. I’ve got complete faith in myself, and in the story.

Which is a really strange but beautiful place to be in. Maybe it means I’ve finally hit a point in my writing where I can trust myself enough to loosen the reins a little.

Yes.  This is exactly how I feel.  I know the direction the story is about to take, but right now I’m letting myself sink fully into each scene as it happens, not worrying too much about the specifics of what’s next.  It is nice to have some idea of what comes next, though, because it helps me write more layered scenes and dialogue.  J.C. is right, it is a strange and beautiful place to be.

I told my husband yesterday how much I’m enjoying my characters, right before I told him I felt sorry for them – they have no idea what’s about to happen to them, and their pretty little worlds are going to get completely obliterated by unfortunate circumstances.  It might get ugly, but I’m twiddling my fingers like the scheming puppeteer that I am³.

Happy writing today!  How are you doing with your goals this week?  …And I don’t just mean word-count-goals, I mean the substance of those words — how is your story shaping up?  Surprises, no surprises?  Obstacles?  Do share, even if you’re not partaking in the madness of November.

(PS: Wow.  After re-reading this post, I am curious to see what will come out in my novel today.  Just saying.  Not often you read about mixer blades, wedding singing, scheming puppeteers, and goatherds in the same post.)

NaNoMeter: 4920 down / 45,080 to go

¹Fun Side Note:  Writing perfect harmony brought back laughable flashbacks of singing in a wedding one time.  The florist for my wedding recruited my husband and me – two weeks before her wedding – to sing a duet in her wedding ceremony.  The song was full of horribly cheesetastic lyrics such as “He made the sun, he made the moon | to harmonize in perfect tune | one can’t move without the other, they just have to be together | And that is how I know it’s true – you’re for me, and I’m for you…”  Since we were engaged at the time, we kept getting asked if we were going to sing this song TO EACH OTHER in our wedding.  It was hard enough keeping a straight face while singing the thing, and near impossible to keep a straight face (and be polite) when answering, “No freakin’ way.  Ever.”

²Except at 5:30am it looked more like, “I pray for creativity and clear vision that work together as well as those little metal thingies that you stick in a hand mixer when you make chocolate cake.”  Eloquent, right?    

³When I use the term scheming puppeteer, do you also get images of Julie Andrews singing “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd” with the Von Trapp family?  No?  Oh.  That must just be me.  I’m soooooo menacing, with these instincts that lead me directly from scheming to yodeling in less than a heartbeat.  Oy.

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