Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Passed The Finish Line!

I won! No, you don't get a special price when you finish a NaNoWriMo novel. "Winner" pops up on the screen after you paste in your novel and the word calculator verifies that you have indeed written 50,000 words.

My novel about Sam and Stella is done, as a rough draft. I am proud of myself! It was hard work to write a story from beginning to end and flesh it out to 1,700 words every day for a month.

Now I know what it means to have writers block. It hit me hard this last week. I couldn't move the story forward. It was just not cooperating. I was bored and my head was blank. And it didn't help that I was distracted with Thanksgiving. Last Wednesday and Thursday, very few words got typed on the novel. I felt the novel slipping away from me; all of a sudden I had to make up some 3,000 words over the weekend, and in the brain-jammed state I was in, I didn't think it was going to happen.

Fortunately, my daughter came to my rescue. She too has been part of NaNoWriMo, but in the youth writing group. Her goal was 4,000 words, which she past with ease --it was though to be supportive with such a rocket writer living under the same roof! No, just kidding! --I'm very proud and happy that she likes to write. Her finish motivated me to finish my novel.
Whatever it takes, I thought to myself. I can't tell Matilda that I gave up. What kind of role model would I be?
It was just to bite down and start the long road to the finish line.

Finishing is important. If nothing else, it builds endurance to stick something out even when it hurts. My novel about Sam and Stella was just practise for the future. Now I know what it takes and that I can do it. My writing will get better and someday all my skills will converge into a masterpiece. Until then, remember my name!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

To Eat Thanksgiving Turkey, Or Not To Eat...

The radio is always on in my car, and yesterday when I was driving home from work, they were talking about turkeys.
"Did you know that the turkeys we buy in the grocery stores are female?" the radio host said.
I didn't know that, I thought.
"Turkeys are breed to have huge breasts because Americans like white meat. And because of their gi-normous boobs, they can't reproduce normally and have to be artificially inseminated."

Okay, needless to say, I felt less excited about eating Thanksgiving turkey. Why do we have to do weird things to animals? Why can't we just accept them as they are? Market economy is the devil; it must be; why else do agricultural scientists create these freak animals? We should eat brown and white meat! But that's just my opinion. We're a nation of spoiled brats.

The radio host moved on to talk about turkey anatomy.
"Did you know that the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak is called a snood?"
No, I didn't. That's a funny term. And it's a funny looking bird, I thought.
"And the red growths on the throat are called caruncle. When the turkey is upset [??!], or excited during courtship, it turns bright red," the radio voice said.
Once at a zoo, I think I saw lady chimps advertise sexual interest by flashing their red fannies to the male chimps. But I'm probably wrong. I should probably check my facts before I post them here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Have To Stop Trying To Write Perfect

What can I say? I'm just going to admit it. I am the ambitious type. Okay, that was a lie. I'm the overachiever type.

Productivity is important to me. I want to see progress, ideally right away. If I can make a list and check off things I have accomplished, I'm in heaven. A list with check marks gives me concrete proof of my productivity.

This month I haven't felt productive. Even though, it looks like I am going to finish my NaNoWriMo novel: 50,000 words! I wanted more produced. For example, I wanted to write more blog posts. But I didn't find time to do it. Okay, that was a lie. Because, if I wasn't so darn concerned about writing perfect posts, I probably would have had time. I wrote this post in less than fifteen minutes.

My problem isn't time. My problem is perfection. Being a perfectionist and an overachiever is stressful. The bottom line is: I have to give up one or the other. I have to stop beating myself up over less than perfect writing. I have to put this goal at the top of my list! I can't wait for the day when I will be able to cross it off. That day will be worth a big celebration.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week Two Update

Slow and steady wins the race. This is my mantra right now as I am moving towards the mid-point of my NaNoWriMo novel: 25,000 words.

So how does it feel to be a writer? Frustrating. Every day I ask myself: "How do I move this story forward?" I keep getting stuck. My internal editor is constantly there whispering in my ear: "This story isn't going anywhere. It's boring. You can't write. Just give it up." But I'm determined to finish my first bad novel. And then I have to write a second bad novel, a third, and a fourth, and a few more.

A writing guru, I read a while back, wrote that it takes 1 million words to become a good writer. If he's right, I have many more words to go.

Here is an excerpt from Sam and Stella:

“The letter was signed Stella Walker. Do you know anything about this woman?”
Miss Emily stirred her coffee.
“No, not much. She was a young pregnant girl from down south somewhere.” She took a sip. “I believe it was Florida. You're parents were next on the list.”
“Next on the list?”
“Yes. Back then, my church helped a Christian adoption network called The Good Samaritans. There was a waiting list with couples who were interested in adoption. Most of the mothers were teenagers, but some were convicts with long prison sentences.”
“Did they save the records of these adoptions? I mean; is it possible to find my mother?”
“Sure. And all the adoptions were suppose to be open. Unfortunately, you're mom broke her end of that contract. But you have found the picture and the letter. They weren't destroyed. So in a way, you have been informed, just a little late in life.”
“And my birth father?”
“I don't know who he was. It was always trickier with the fathers. The women didn't know, or they lied that they didn't know. There were few names of fathers, as far as I can remember.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNoWriMo Week One Update

What have I learned after one week of NaNoWriMo? That I have mind ghosts. Before this week, I didn't think I could write 1667 words per day. Yes, really! The first couple of days were though. I sat for three or four hours. My butt was sore. I had to take breaks because my legs were falling asleep. But now, at the end of week one, my writing speed has increased. This morning I finished in two hours.

Before this week, I really didn't think I would be so concerned with speed and volume. But when you have to write a lot, there is no time to be concerned with quality. And this is suppose to be a good thing. The NaNo-experts say that quality is put on the back burner during the first draft. I am still struggling with this concept. But then, I have never written a novel. I have to trust the experts.

What else is hard? Not getting stuck! I am happy with my story idea, but it's hard to flesh it out. The first day I wrote like crazy. My fingers were flying on the keyboard. And then the next day, I just sat there. I was completely out of words. But this is normal. That's what I read on the NaNo-forums. They write advice like: "Don't edit! Just keep on writing, even if it's crap."

Also, plot is an issue. Lots of NaNo-writers share on the forum that they're concerned about not having one. But after one week of writing like a maniac and producing crap, it's premature to say. This concern is most likely stirred up but our own internal perfectionist. The one who likes to remind us that we can't spell, and that we have nothing important to say, or that we suck.

One week into NaNoWriMo, I have produces 13,657 words, a quarter novel about Sam and Stella.

Having TroubleTransferring Ideas To Paper?

There are many truths about the writing process that I either discover myself as I struggle with my own writing, or learn about by reading articles, blogs, and books on writing.

Here is one that hit home for me today:
"---Ideas are different than words on paper. The story that is possible for me to tell may be very different from the one I want to tell."

I found this little pearl on Gail Carson Levine's blog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Looking For A Free Writing Software?

A friend from NaNoWriMo told me about a free writer's software program for writing novels. It was called yWriter5.

I downloaded it and tried it out on my NaNoWriMo novel. It has a lot of cool functions. Little boxes where you write down character descriptions, special places to write chapters and scenes descriptions, other places for notes and so on. In short, the program helps a writer organize his or her novel material, to make it easy to overview, and also to find details without having to seek through pages and pages of writing. Many writers use handwritten index cards, or create a story poster boards. This program replaces these. And keeps track of word count!

yWriter5 is a really cool program. And free. And totally up my alley. But after experimenting with it for an afternoon, I went back to writing in my Open Office Writer instead. It's something to be said for simplicity and comfort, a place where I know what I am doing. This doesn't mean I am turning my back on ywriter5. But for now, I'm giving it a rest.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

National Novel Writing Month 2009

It has begun! NaNoWriMo. I am committed to write 50,000 words in a month. This madness started last Sunday, on November 1, and I have already written 5020 words on my novel about Sam and Stella.
Here is my synopsis:
Sam is forty-two years old. His parents just died. While going through their belongings he opens a shoe box and finds a picture inside of a pregnant young woman. Her eyes and smile gives him goose pumps. He sees himself.There is a letter in the box. It has his birth date at the top. A short poem is written on a hospital stationary. At the bottom, it's signed with a name. Stella Walker
Here is an excerpt from Nov. 2:
She [Stella] picked up the letter and felt the texture. It was thin. There could only be one sheet of paper inside. Nothing on the outside reveled why it was sent. Not even a return address. So why did her hands shake? And why did she feel as if she needed to sit down?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rejection Bites!

Last Thursday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal announced the winners of their annual scary story competition. Out of 380 entries, I was not the winner, or the honorable mention for my age group. That's life.

My story was called "Puppies and Candy". It was about a serial killer who was calling to introduce himself, or scare, one of his future victims, a fourteen year old girl. The twist: instead of getting scared, she is happy to get a phone call and begs him to call her again.

At some point, I will polish it some more and send it off to another magazine. This month I am too busy with NaNoWriMo.