Friday, November 11, 2011

Looking Back To Move Ahead

 I didn’t write any words on Thursday because frankly, I was stuck.

 I had written to the point where my characters meet each other again after twenty years and a full life. The next section seemed too difficult, considering the fact that I didn’t have a firm grasp on my hero’s personality. 

I decided that I would have to go back and read the manuscript that I had written before. Using the search feature, I looked for his name: Caldwell. I found some interesting things. The man I had been calling Caldwell as his first name and had made up a last name because I didn’t believe I’d ever given him one in the first book, actually turned out to be named Brandon Caldwell. Except later in the book when he magically became Erich Caldwell.

That’s how it goes with NaNoWriMo – once I get going, I don’t like to stop, so many times I end up with different names, eye and hair colors changing, and a wide variety of symbols in place of things or places. @@@@find name of estate for this family or &&&& research foods that would have been served at a country dance, etc. You get the idea.

The most frustrating for me, is that by the time I get to 50,000 words, it is usually around Thanksgiving and I am ready to take a well deserved rest. I send in my manuscript to verify my word count and print off my award certificate. Then I put the story out of my head.

Unfortunately, 50,000 words is a little short for the stories I write. I naturally tend to wrap my stories up between 65,000 and 75,000 depending on the depth and layers in the plot. Which leads to the frustrating part. 

Several months after nano, I usually start thinking that I’d like to read that story that I wrote back in November.

So, I read, and I even amaze myself that clever words and well formed sentences and fully developed scenes have resulted from writing like a mad woman for thirty days. I live again through the character’s eyes, the story that came from my heart.

Then I get to the 50,000 mark and the story ends. At least the words end. The story does not.

I know at the time I was writing, I knew the planned ending, but months later, sometimes it’s hard to piece it together.

So, this year, I’m going to try to keep writing until I’ve finished the story even if it is an extra ten thousand words or more. I’ll be happy with 50,000, but I’ll be happier with a completed draft.

I just have to remember that Miranda deserves her HEA in this book, just as much as she did in the first one.

My goal for today was to pass the 20,000 mark and make that little stats line go above the goal line. I did that by writing 5230 words to get to 20,040.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Taking a Day to Think

Okay, this may seem crazy, but I took a day off yesterday. Right in the middle of NaNoWriMo, I took a day off and did absolutely no writing on my project.

Unfortunately, I didn't do it on purpose, and it didn't feel like a day off. What I did do was put it off and put it off and feel guilty until I just decided to go to bed without writing or blogging or reporting. Not good.

I woke up tired on Friday. And I stayed tired all day, which explains the paragraph above.

In the middle of the night, I had a dream that I was running through a campground full of Amish families having picnics. The dream dictionary says that the Amish represent my desire for a simpler life. Yes, that's true. The running represents my determination and motivation to succeed and signals that I will rise above and meet my goals. True again. And the picnic baskets indicate an opportunity to share my ideas and opinions with others. Well, of course it does?

I'm thinking I should have just stayed in bed all day yesterday and dreamed. It would have been more useful.

Anyway, I'm back to work. 2025 words today. Not quite 3000, but I am still a solid 1200 ahead of where I need to be for nano and my story is going well. I'm getting close to my first turning point and then the excitement really begins.

Until then . . . I'll to try to figure out how they got that meaning for a picnic basket . . .

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Word About Outlining

I'm a by the seat of my pants writer. I have a vague idea of where the story will go and I head toward the happily ever after (usually) and let whatever happens happen.

I think this might be why I haven't sold a book manuscript yet. That, and the fact that I haven't sent anything to an editor for quite some time. I'll just say, I'm working up to it.

Deep into the next scene in my book, I started thinking that I wasn't sure where I was going. Surrounded by ideas and  afraid some of them might be lost, I spent the rest of my nano time writing out my story in short form. I was able to work through the important turning points and motivations needed to make this a salable book.

I feel better about now going back and expanding each of those sections into scenes and chapters.

This outlining stuff isn't so bad. And I didn't use one roman numeral . . .

Today's count 2503.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Procrastination = Desperation

Ever noticed how many things you can find to do when you have something you're supposed to be doing, but are avoiding?

Laundry, filing, finances, dusting (I never dust), cooking, writing in my journal, spider solitaire, reading other people's posts, watching Modern Family, and on and on. These are just a few of the things I did today to avoid nanowrimo.

Why? Why do I sabotage myself when I'm supposed to be doing something I WANT to do?

It will take someone smarter than me and with some kind of degree to figure out that mystery . . .

At 8:30 p.m., desperation kicked in. I've made a commitment. I have to report to Nano before midnight. I have to report to ANWA. And She Writes. I need to post on two different blogs. I need to have something to report!

So, I resorted to a little trick I learned from the FlyLady. (Google her) Here's my trick. 15 minutes. That's it. 15 minutes.

I sit and think for a bit, getting the next scene in my head. I set my timer for 15 minutes, then I let the scene play out like a movie in my mind while I type what I see, until the timer goes off. As fast as I can type.

Sounds crazy, but it works. If I end in the middle of a scene, I might just record my word count, set the timer again and do another sprint. I did four in a row with these results: 483, 465, 427, and 417. That's 1792 words in an hour. I'm not sure I could do that normally. It's the urgency of racing the timer that gets me moving. (That and dialogue - lots of dialogue)

I've found that this works well, especially in the beginning of a book because long passages of characters talking and reacting to each other, is a great way for me to get to know them. Usually, I discover that, like me, my characters talk too much.

But that's another blog post.

I still have 7 more 15 minutes left before midnight. I think I'll try for at least a couple of more before I report.

I made my goal plus a little - a very little. 3001 words today. My total is now 5010. Wow. It's a good thing that regency family had twelve kids and I named them all ... Goodnight.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Story So Far . . .

A few years ago, I started NaNoWriMo with no idea what I was going to write. On Halloween night, I finally wrote out 30 life questions (heavy things about marriage, children, death, taxes, you know) on strips of paper, folded them and threw them in bowl. Each day, I read a question and then tried to write a 2000 word chapter from that prompt.

On the fifth day, I don't remember the question, but as I got into my story, I realized that this was the beginning of what would be my nano project. When I finished, I had my first regency romance, Miranda's Heart. And it wasn't a bad story, either. I let go of all of the things I needed to research and just put myself in Austen mode. It was probably the most fun, I've ever had writing a story.

My story took my hero Miranda through a broken romance, to meeting and befriending three brothers who moved in nearby. Through much fun and quite a bit of sorrow, she eventually marries the middle brother. Happily Ever After, right?
Well, I thought so, but this year, I again had no idea what to write. I'd just spent the last 5 months mostly on the couch, unable to write or even read much. After having my thyroid removed and along with it, the cancer it contained, I knew that my celebration had to be writing a book. But it had to be a fun book.

So, I hit on the idea of another regency. And so, the plot for Miranda's Daughter started to form in my brain.

Today, I got a late start, but finally during my writing group at the library, I started on the story. Unfortunately, I wrote the first book on my desk top computer - at home. Today, I was away from home and on my laptop (with lack of preparation) and did not remember the love interest's name, or even Miranda's last name or her husband's. After, the tenth time of typing in "what's his name" and giving up on finding a suitable name for his son (I just started calling him Reggie), I stopped at just over a thousand words.

Tonight, though, I was able to get a little more into the story and start seeing where it was going. The love interest's name is Caldwell and Reggie became Oliver. The conflict is developing nicely. I'm having fun.

My goal was 3000 words each day, but today I'm settling for 2009. It feels good to have my brain back and to be writing again. I'll catch you up on the story tomorrow.

Until then . . .

Monday, October 31, 2011


Here it is, October 31st, a very scary day for some of us . . . specifically, those of us who participate in Nanowrimo (which to those who don't know) is National Novel Writing Month.

Every year, writers (most, a bit crazy), in the month of November, starting at the hour of midnight, begin pounding out words at an average of 1,666 per day. At that rate, and by adding 20 more words somewhere along the way, we each write a 50,000 word book, in a month. All the frendzy ends at midnight on November 30th.

There are some secrets to success. First, a writer has to tie the internal editor to a pipe in the corner of the basement and write like every word is golden. And keep writing, day after day. The first days are easy -- the words flow, the story opens and blossoms and then the turning point and the exciting moment that changes the story . . . and then somewhere around the middle of the month, we stumble. Words escape us. Fear grips us. We can't plot to save our lives. We get behind in our word count and think we will never catch up.

But somehow, we do. Or at least many of us do. We fight on, through the pain, even if we spend paragraphs describing the ruffle on our characters sleeve or write insane dialogue that will never make it through the final edit of the book, but help us find hidden sides of our hero. Or maybe we just find barely concealed cracks in our own personalities. When you're in that deep, it's hard to tell what's sort of real and what's really real.

It's a couple of hours until midnight. I have a title for my story. That's about it. My hero doesn't have a name yet. I'm not much of an outliner, although I do have a bit of a plan, thanks to Larry Brooks. I have a vague idea where this regency romance is headed, but the fun will be the shady areas between here and there.

Scary? Yeah. Ghosts and goblins are nothing compared to beginning Nano.

At least I have bite sized chocolate trick or treats to get me through the month. But do I have enough? Let's see, if I start at twelve, write until five, and cover my hair with a hat, the Halloween candy should be on clearance by the time I get to Walmart. Sleep? Who needs sleep?

I'll be blogging about my adventures - here & on She Writes. Feel free to peek in occasionally and if I write something good, I might share it. And that just might be the scariest thing of all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken For dinner

I remember hearing a talk years ago where the speaker said that he couldn't do something he was asked to do because they were having chicken for dinner. Confused, the other person asked what that had to do with his request. The speaker responded, "One excuse is as good as another."

I don't know why I remember that, because, most of me doesn't agree with it. Maybe that's why it stuck.

So, here's my reason for missing 4 months of blogging. It will be for you to decide if it's a "chicken for dinner" excuse.

At the end of June, this year, I wrote a perfectly nice little post about Anne of Green Gables. My parents had just returned from PEI and brought me a statuette of Anne for my writing desk. I even included pictures!

Unfortunately, when I tried to post, Blogger was down. I tried the next morning before I was to leave for a family reunion in Idaho, still couldn't post, and decided to do it when I got back. (our reunion place did not have internet)

I had a lot of fun at the reunion, but after the six hour drive home and unloading the car, I fell into a deep fatigue. Actually, it was like I hit a wall with my energy. This is hard to understand if you've never experienced it.

I've been tired before - after carrying my 3-year old from one end of the National Mall in D.C., to the other for a whole day, yeah. And after 4 days of non stop Disney World activity, of course. But this was different.

My up and down, on and off health problems decided that they would no longer be ignored. I spent 90%  of the next 4 months on the couch. I can't even express how bad daytime television stinks and I was too tired to hold a book and couldn't stay awake to concentrate on one anyway.

I was lucky enough to find a great doctor, who figured out that my thyroid was going nuts. It took many tests  (I can never just be textbook, for some reason) but I was finally sent to a surgeon and two weeks ago had my thyroid removed. That's a story for another day, but I'll just say that I felt better immediately. I know, pain pills can do that to you, but, I could tell, even under their influence that I felt better.

A week later, a trip back to Billings for my post op appointment revealed that the pathologist had found a small amount of cancer cells in each lobe of the thyroid. My husband remarked later that I was awfully calm when the doctor told me I had cancer. I responded that it was because it was out of me. If they had found that out before the surgery, I would have been a basket case.

Another trip to Billings this week to meet with my endocrinologist assured me that I don't need to have any more treatment for the cancer, that they believe it was contained, and that I just need an ultrasound scan in a year. Good news!

So now, I'm off light duty, which means I can pour my own milk from a gallon jug, and unfortunately, lift laundry baskets, push vacuum cleaners, and drive. Oh well, it's been an interesting four months.

Just before the surgery, I had written in my journal that if I could have an improvement on 2 things, I would accept that as a great success. Those two things were the fatigue and the brain fog. If you've never experienced brain fog, imagine that your head is full of cotton balls and nothing can get through. You can't think clearly, remember anything, or make yourself do much.

So, my surgery was a success. The fatigue is gone. I'm tired off and on, because of healing or over doing it in a day (Disney style), but no debilitating fatigue. The brain fog is also gone. I actually finish sentences now. I can think clearly. My teenage son doesn't have to remind me that I need nouns to go with my verbs.

I have months to go while my medicine is adjusted, (You can't live without thyroid hormone) but I feel so much better and know that as the medicine takes effect, other symptoms will disappear. It's sort of like Christmas came early for me this year.

And to celebrate? I'm going to participate in Nanowrimo, starting November 1st. Writing a novel in 30 days is just what the doctor ordered. Well, what he doesn't know I attribute to him . . .

And if you think I'm a little crazy-then you'd be right. It was my thyroid they removed, after all, not my personality.

It's nice to be back and I'll be keeping you posted about my nano progress. I promise. No excuses!