Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Still Writing

Safety pins waiting for me to decide how I want to baste this project.

Been a little distracted, but the work continues.  What is gratifying is that even if I only manage half a chapter, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming, so I must be on the right track.  When not writing, I’ve been gearing a quilt to completion, having sewn the halves together, fashioned a backing, basting it, and am now in the process of hand-quilting that sandwich.  It’s soothing to do either at the close of day, or early in the morning, as I did this morning, my husband having taken the day off to celebrate his birthday.  While he snoozed, I sewed, the time change tricky for me to acclimate to.  Not that I sleep in much anyways, but….

A longer view…

We went to breakfast, then it was time for me to attempt to wrap up a chapter begun yesterday, interrupted by various taskings.  And quite a bit of thought directed at the church shooting in Texas.  I don’t say much about current events on this blog, yet what happened in Sutherland is hard to write about, for there are many levels of sorrow within my heart.  My prayers go out to the injured and to the families and friends of those killed.

Monday’s word count: 1,083

Today’s word count: 1,473

A Different Style of Writing

Got these blocks sewn over the last few days; I didn’t want Little Miss to pull them off the big quilt wall in what will be her room….

So much for chapters akin to those of previous.  After reading over yesterday’s output, it seems Chapter One didn’t need anything added to it.  And now, a couple thousand words later, Chapter Two is in the can.  Perhaps I need to face that the way I used to write has permanently changed.  It’s not merely breaking a chapter into two or three days’ worth of writing, but shorter chapters, and more of them.

This is the bottom half, which I’ll sew to the top next week, freeing up space on the big wall just in time to design a Christmas quilt, hehehe….

That’s quite an altered method, and I wonder if it will persist, or once I get past the first part of this story, I’ll turn back into my verbose self and….  I won’t know until that time arrives, and in the interim, chores await; Little Miss will be here in time for her afternoon nap, so this abuela needs to prepare the guest room, run to the store, clean the shower, ahem….  I won’t write until next Monday, but that’s fine, because even if these initial chapters are brief, they are written, whew!  Maybe in this book’s Liner Notes I’ll mention how these two stories differ, the one written five years ago as though I had all the time in the world.  Now there’s more filling those hours, but thankfully the writing is adapting, for which I am most grateful.

Today’s word count: 2,236

Beginning Chapter One

An old train track in Alabama, where in 2011 the seeds of this novel were originally sown….

And I’m off….  Well, it might be the second of November, but today I started writing a new book, haven’t done that in ages!  I completed about half a chapter, although the way the scene finished, it could be deemed a finished chapter, however I want to align this novel to its prequel, and those chapters were more of the 3-5K length.  This morning’s work clocked in at just under 2,000 words, which is about my standard these days.  And while that’s nothing to sneeze at, even exceeding the NANO recommended 1,500 wpd (words per day), my previous output was double what I’m currently producing.  Nor will I be writing daily; hopefully I’ll wrap up Chapter One tomorrow, then Little Miss is staying with us for the weekend.  I’ll return to Heaven Lies Where the Heart Is next week, and go from there.

But briefly I want to note how good it feels writing something new-ish; while the characters are familiar, a few new ones will crop up soon.  Mostly I’m pleased for the change of setting, as well as sneaking in a little first person perspective amid the mostly third person narrative.  Why I wrote the prequel in that manner, I simply don’t recall, but Kendall often speaks his mind, inwardly of course, and capturing that present-tense train of thought is a fun addition to the prose.

My hope is that in writing this novel, I’ll return to The Hawk with renewed creativity.  Not that I plan on adding any first person musing to that story, but when I pick it up again, I want the thrill back.  That has been missing for a while, what I noticed over the last week while mentally figuring out this new story.  I wrote some notes for it yesterday, and how fantastic was it to scribble ideas, changing some, further extrapolating others.  That inventive vibe has sorely been missing from my previous WIP, as well as a sense of, ahem, brevity.  Maybe that’s the key notion I want to take back to Eric, Lynne, and the rest.  Let’s move that novel forward, stop shilly-shallying.  Kendall has no time to waste, and truthfully, neither do I.

Today’s word count: 1,940

Ten Years of Writing

I suppose I could have penned this last year, but I rarely consider my final months in Yorkshire in connection with noveling.  That decade-plus figures heavily into my becoming a writer, but the actual work truly blossomed after we returned to California.

It’s funny, pondering the last ten years of my life; authorial dreams had hovered forever, but motherhood left little time to do more than write grocery lists and scattered poems, although….  After my brother died in 1997, I used the written word to make some sense of what at the time seemed utterly baseless.  I suppose that effort is what caught my eldest daughter’s attention, then nearly a decade later she pestered me into participating in National Novel Writing Month.  But again, that initial foray into fiction was just dipping my toes in the water.  2007 is when this whole gig began….

Yesterday at Lil’ Miss’s house; Buttercup observed while I enjoyed another craft associated with this time of year.

When a long-held dream becomes reality, often the thrill isn’t contemplated until the dust settles, which in my case probably didn’t occur until I started publishing independently.  What else was I suppose to do with all these stories which had suddenly spilled as though my hands had been released from behind my back.  In retrospect, a few novels should have remained in my hard drive, ahem, but every book has a reason for being, and I don’t regret releasing them.  While I don’t want this post to focus on the publishing aspect, if not for the rise of indie ebooks, I don’t know where I’d be now.  Suffice to say, I’m extremely grateful to Smashwords in that aspect; thanks Mark Coker and your entire team.

But getting to that point takes an inordinate amount of time spent at one’s computer, also in mulling over plot lines, character qualities, various themes, then somehow coalescing all those elements into cohesive stories.  Which means practice, practice, practice….  Writing requires discipline, as well as an artistic flair, and I am fortunate that meshing those two was fairly uncomplicated.  As kids left for college, I had time to experiment; writing fiction was nothing like poetry or to do lists, but all my pent-up desires exploded and I could easily whip out a rough draft in thirty days.  Now I smile at all those efforts, knowing the harder side of noveling, but I can still remember how a few books ended, some like the Alvin’s Farm series turning from what I’d assumed to be a short story into a six-book saga (shades of The Hawk already in place), to how I wept in my husband’s arms after completing a draft I’ll never publish, reliving my own life in the guise of fictional characters.  That’s occurred more than once, and often I don’t see it until much later.  For me, writing has been a voyage of self-discovery, with love and melodrama on the side.

In 2013, my dad’s battle with cancer went into overdrive, but it coincided with short stories taking my attention.  Then came The Hawk; like I said, Alvin’s Farm prepped me for lengthy tales, but not even my brother’s suicide prepared me for the swing between life and death that followed in 2014 and 2015.  As Dad endured chemotherapy, both of my daughters became pregnant, and this author was either taking road trips to offer assistance or learning how to quilt.  I didn’t abandon the writing, but I certainly couldn’t start anything new, and The Hawk kept expanding, sort of like my family.  The Burrito arrived, Dad passed on, then Lil’ Miss eased that sorrow.  All the while I still found time at my computer, wondering if I was ever going to finish the WIP.  I’m still curious about that, ha ha, but in stepping away from that saga, I feel a new chapter of my writing life is also being inaugurated.  I won’t begin to ponder that, because if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d write over one hundred fifty thousand words for three different stories in thirty days, I’d have called you crazy.

In my first American National Novel Writing Month I went overboard, but within those four weeks, I reveled in what every would-be writer dreams, to finally be spinning yarns.  There was no sense of how those tales might evolve, only the blissful thrill that finally they were being told.  And now, even with books published, that joy still resonates; all day yesterday I was mentally plotting what I’ll start writing this week, from monikers to when Kendall learns the truth about Coach Schlatter….  This novel, Heaven Lies Where the Heart Is, isn’t merely a sequel, but an opportunity to again explore the giddy exuberance that drives this author, liberating my active imagination.  Why I have more plots than sense is a mystery, but no longer are all those lives trapped inside my head.

And that’s a big relief, let me just say.  I’m not one of those who writes every day, or I’m not like that anymore.  But when the mood strikes, I’m ready to get my butt into the chair and see where the prose takes me.  That is where it has to start; setting aside the fear and diving into the unknown.  And I need to remember this too, on the cusp of yet another novel.  It won’t be like what I’ve been struggling with, although it might not be simple.  Yet it is my calling, and I can’t ignore it, even if it feels slightly terrifying.  Ten years ago ignorance was on my side, but now wisdom, and some talent, ease me in front of the monitor, fingers placed upon the keyboard, lives itching to be freed.  I have many tasks up my sleeve, but writing remains, and I hope it always does.  As a new tale unfolds, I will appreciate this gift; while it requires hard work, it is also not of my own doing.  Call it the muse, or for me, more rightly the Spirit, but at the end of the day, these tales are blessings from above.  I’m just the lucky gal who gets to tell them.

Lost in the Wonder of Words

Earlier this week I was feeling supremely unmotivated (aka lazy).  I tried writing a post about it, but couldn’t manage to complete it.  Did a wee bit of writing, but it was like pulling my guts through my nostrils.  And it wasn’t merely writing that suffered; I didn’t want to sew, a great notion of shiftlessness all through me.  I spent yesterday with my eldest and Little Miss, so grateful for a change of scenery, giving me time to contemplate an idea that I didn’t truly wish to consider.  However, after making a firm decision, a weight has been lifted, the spring back in my step.  I’m setting aside The Hawk until sometime in 2018, even if I’m a quarter of the way through the last section of the saga.

Perhaps the magnitude of that announcement can’t be fully expressed within this post, but let’s just say that this time last year I’d hoped to finish that novel, but the writing was derailed by major surgery.  Then 2017 was supposed to be the year for completion, but the conclusion that was Part Twelve turned into Part Thirteen and….  And several chapters into it, I found no burning desire to write.  Um, what?  In years past I could knock a rough draft off in a month, the National Novel Writing Month junkie in me.  But the further I go with The Hawk, the harder it seems to be to wrap it up.  The last time I stopped mid-section was right in the middle of a chapter, but today, thank the Lord, I was able to tie up the chapter that had been haunting me all week, in a manner that truly told me I was doing the right thing in stepping away from this story.  I wasn’t even showered, not done with the morning coffee, but the urge to write was overwhelming.  I’ve left myself with a nice little plot twist, and when I do return to this tale, my hopes are to forge right ahead, finishing this dang novel once and for all.

Currently on the little quilt wall; it’s a busy bunch of florals, but perfect for a baby blanket. Now to get it sewn together.

In the meantime….  Ha ha, of course I have something up my sleeve, which in part has assisted in this rather drastic change of plan.  But getting back to how I used to write might be the answer for my current state of noveling.  Knocking off drafts kept my lively imagination from growing stale.  The writing might have sucked, ahem, but creative energy made up for the lackluster prose.  A few days ago I revisited a novel written at the end of 2012, which I had poked around with for a couple of years after that.  The main reason I never published it was it demands a sequel, and by the time I was ready to tackle that, I was knee-deep in The Hawk.  But I love the characters, and how I wrote it, partially in first person, mostly in third.  And seeing that November and NANO are right around the corner….

While I’m not going to formally participate in National Novel Writing Month, I am going to take the opportunity to try to write 50,000 words (or more, lol) in the next few weeks, or at least up until Lil’ Sis arrives, sometime in December.  That nieta’s impending arrival has been part of my problem with The Hawk, because once she’s here, I won’t get any noveling accomplished for several weeks.  Maybe it’s easier to jump into something definitely more succinct than that behemoth, but it’s also a little intimidating, hoping I can write an 80K story without it turning into 200,000 words.

These Christmasy squares are waiting to be arranged; guess that means I really need to sew up those bright floral prints!

That’s another part of why I need to do something else; I want to write a smaller story.  I haven’t written a normal-length novel in….  Five years, jeez Louise!  Which brings me to what I wish to blog about next, ten years of writing.  But nearly half of that decade has been focused on one novel, and while there is an abundance of characters, themes, and story lines within The Hawk, I’m somewhat weary of those lovely folks.  Basically I need a change of pace, and what better time than on the cusp of NANO?

The post I tried to write a couple of days ago was titled Heeding the Inner Rhythms, and I can’t convey how important that is.  While I am suffering some remorse for not getting The Hawk in the can, more to matter is following my heart.  I knew it this morning as I wrote with abandon, not wanting to leave Marek and Klaudia in a lurch.  But even for how effortlessly that scene unfolded, all those wonderful words emerged due to knowing I was stepping away from them once that chapter was concluded.  Maybe that seems silly; if I’m on a roll, best to stick with the WIP, right?  Yet I know better than to question where I’m being led; so vital is listening to that inward guidance.  Perhaps it appears foolish, but who am I to argue with the Spirit?  My reward for being so attuned was the ease of those paragraphs tumbling from my fingers onto the document.  After weeks of unpleasant mornings in front of my computer, I’m ready to let the words spill.

Not sure if I’ll post my progress, although it might be good just to hold myself accountable.  For now, I’m relieved for the writing which occurred this morning, and greatly anticipating what awaits.  My next ten years as a writer is just around the corner; goodness only knows what will be accomplished, but I’ll tell you, I sure can’t wait to see what emerges, hehehe….

Why I’m a writer….

On this last day of quotes, I didn’t have to look hard for inspiration.  To my left in the writing/sewing grotto is a poster, and while I no longer participate in NaNoWriMo, the notion of fifty K in thirty days brought me to where I am today.  Thank goodness for Chris Baty: There’s a book in you that only you can write.

Ten years ago I had no idea this noveling journey was on the cusp of my horizon; I was living in Yorkshire, England, homeschool three teens, assuming my authorial dreams would merely dwell within my own head; hah!  My eldest twisted my arm only slightly to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, and by the end of November 2006, I had one hundred thousand words which later turned into my first novel.  Other issues swirled amid those words falling on paper; we made the decision to return to America, after over a decade spent in what is still my second home.  But while Britain lives within me via tea and a deeply rooted sense of history, the words began there through an unconsidered manner of writing; just do it.

That’s a quote for another day, because to just do it implies a task in need of completion.  That initial book was plotted out the month before NaNoWriMo began, but the notion of creating fiction had lingered for….  Oh my goodness, as long as I can remember!  So many story ideas were scribbled in notebooks; I like to say I have more plots than sense.  But how to release those lives, histories, drama?  The only manner is to simply write.  Don’t worry you might be telling a tale previously shared.  No one can tell your story in your manner but you.

Why is this notion so necessary?  Partly for all the ways someone else could unravel said yarn, nobody else possesses my experiences, which subtly and not so subtly enrich the story.  Like no two quilts are the same, neither are books, regardless of the subject.  And beyond the mere output of the tale told is the effect upon the storyteller.  My first novel is, ahem, not my strongest, but it ushered in more books, leading to where I sit today, with a behemoth that centers upon a most vital theme, that of trust.  Which takes me back in time ten years, believing that maybe I could crank out fifty thousand words in one month, because there was a book in me that only I could write.  Isn’t that a compelling reason to write that book you’ve always wanted to?  Nobody can do it but you!

Substitute book for whatever burning desire lays within your heart; life is short, no time to shove aside dreams that simply don’t go away.  I was forty when I started my fictional escapades, so age is no factor, well, not for words.  I won’t be training for a marathon, although maybe with The Hawk, I am, ha ha.  But it all began by embracing what is possible, not fretting over would it be good, might it be appreciated.  A new world is waiting to be explored; get writing and find your own yellow brick road.

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for three quotes in three days.

Practicing the craft

So since around 1992, I had story ideas.  At the time, three small children took most of my focus, but even those adorable sprites couldn’t quiet my overactive imagination.  I even managed a script for Beauty College Blues, plunking out an homage to my 1985-86 stint in beauty school, complete with references to Blake and Krystal Carrington (let’s see who can identify those monikers).  But screenwriting wasn’t my forte, plus we were getting ready to move to Britain.  I set aside the fiction, concentrating on motherhood, Yorkshire, homeschooling.  But ideas continued to simmer.

1993; they were my life, but within the gray matter, other ideas were spinning.

1993; they were my life, but within the gray matter, other ideas were spinning.

It took a decade after we landed in the UK for me to start writing.  I will note that after my brother died, I spent a year chronicling that loss, which did end up as a book of sorts, but memoirs aren’t the same as learning to write fiction.  My path on this noveling road began in autumn of 2006 when my eldest mentioned NaNoWriMo.  But that was just a starting point.  The real work began in 2008, after another successful NaNo in November, 2007.  I pumped out over 150K in three stories during those thirty days.  Yes, I could write, but there is so much more to it.

Supposedly Stephen King said a million words were necessary for a writer to get a clue.  Maybe he didn’t say that, or not in that tenor.  But it’s a good rule of thumb; writing takes more than plots and characters.  It requires finesse, dedication, practice.  It needs continual engagement, whether in novels, short stories, essays, journal entries, blog entries; it’s the routine, in part.  It’s also stretching muscles in the brain and hands and heart.  Every writer has their own technique; I found that 50K or bust worked for me, as I’m prolific both with ideas and word counts.  But that’s just how I operate.  Thus, I’ve practiced via rough drafts; I have over forty in the can, but half of those will never see past my hard drive.  Life is short, only so much time to revise.  But the experience garnered from all those tales is immeasurable.  I’ve learned better sentence structure, cleaner prose, tighter plotting.  I still battle passive voice, probably will till the day I die.  I’ve not mastered a thing; writing, like motherhood, is forever a process.  That’s why revisions exist, and why kids grow up and move away.

1999; homeschooling wasn't just books and papers.  Kids home all the time was a gift, even if little writing took place.

1999; homeschooling wasn’t just books and papers. Kids home all the time was a gift, even if little writing took place. Only so many years to pull out the Easy Bake Oven.

Getting down to brass tacks; some of my novels benefit from complicated outlines.  Some aren’t more than characters’ names on a piece of paper.  Playlists are instrumental to every book I’ve written, but occasionally the songs alter during the writing.  I’m a morning person, so nearly all my writing occurs in the morning.  I have pounded out a short story at night, but my husband was gone, and I needed something to keep myself busy (those workaholic tendencies in full swing).  But I just don’t think clearly enough to sustain more than a few days past two or three in the afternoon.  Besides, when I write, I plop out a chapter, which can be anywhere from 2-6K.  Best to do that first thing off the bat, then the rest of my day is free.

For me, the most important technique was establishing the habit.  When I was oh-so-much-younger the idea of writing a book was to sit and toss off some gorgeous prose like I wasn’t doing more than watering the plants.  Hah!  One thing motherhood taught me was the essence of patience.  Homeschooling ingrained the notion of daily mental exercise (I learned maybe as much, if not more, than they did).  Living in the UK reminded me to appreciate what I possessed, be it rain or stunning sunshine.  All those, and many other elements, prepped me for that initial National Novel Writing Month, in which I realized a sweet dream.  But the one-off experience wasn’t enough.  It took well over another year to confirm my heart’s desire.  And to accept the mission, which hasn’t always been a walk in the park.  But like motherhood, homeschooling, and living in another country, I knew writing wasn’t going to be easy upon acceptance.

1999; field trips weren't garden variety.  England was a treasure all its own.

1999 at Byland Abbey; England was a treasure all its own, where the fiction got started.

Yet the rewards, oh my goodness, I wouldn’t trade a single day.  Writing requires great dedication, but the soul of a writer needs that sort of challenge, a fire churning from deep within. Plenty of folks want to write a book; it was my dream for ages.  Making it happen came down to prodding by my eldest, who knew me well enough after all those years of hanging out while education occurred.  It also was the result of that memoir which I finished a year after my brother’s death, a project completed on sheer love and no small amount of grief.  And of course a good butt-kicking from my Saviour who had plans all along.  Some might discount that last piece of the puzzle, but at times it takes something above and beyond the call to further change.  Whatever makes your engines go, use it.  Often writing is fueled not by routine or best intentions, but an inner desire that runs even when the tank is sputtering on fumes.  The resulting sense of accomplishment is euphoric, enough to make me want to do this one more time.

Which led me to indie publishing.  I’ll get to that last slice of the pie next week.