I’m retiring and consolidating a bunch of blogs/domains this month and I thought I’d add a few old posts from a blog written in 2008 here before I delete them.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
This month is the annual novel writing month. If you have never heard of it before, visit the National Novel Writing Month website. I have had friends and relatives who have taken part in the past, I was curious to find out what it was about. So, here I go!
My novel is in the Mystery/Suspense category. The tentative title is “A Possibility of Murder.” I choose to do a mystery because I love reading mysteries and I’m very familiar with most of the most famous authors in this genre.
After a week of meeting my writing targets and feeling quite good about this whole NaNoWriMo process, I had a bad day yesterday. You see, a bunch of negative information flowed in from a number of different sources, all on the same day.
First, I attended a meeting of the library committee for our school. This is the first year the school is open and they don’t have a library yet. We are working hard to get one going and have fundraisers planned to buy books and book shelves. One item on the agenda was deciding on lists of books to purchase once we have some funds. Jan, our chair, mentioned she had read that for libraries with limited budgets, it is best to buy fiction and avoid nonfiction. The idea is that children now use the Internet for all their nonfiction research.
I have to admit I was devastated. My son and I use the nonfiction section of our local libraries almost exclusively. We rarely read fiction from the library, although I do buy fiction. That’s because we usually have nonfiction projects that interest us for a short time. We read every book in the library on that subject, and then another project comes up and we get out books on another topic.
Back to using the Internet, sure there are some fantastic sites, but you are just as likely to get sites that are just links to other sites, sites full of urban myths, or sites that people fill with junk just to have fun. I want my son to be able to pick up a well-researched, insightful book and have confidence in the information it contains.
But that is only the start of the negativity that flowed. I opened my e-mail and there was my daily dose of one of my favorite blogs “On Living By Learning.” Guess what the thesis was? To Blog or Not to Blog in the Microblog Era. She quoted people who stated we should kill our blogs because blogs are out of date. Sandra, the author of On Living By Learning blog, said that blogs still have a place in the world and listed some reasonable ideas why this is the case. However, it was still disturbing to me, because I love blogging and feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of it. How much can you communicate on Twitter? I find that form of writing is for people with the attention span of a fruit fly. My depression deepened.
Now comes the best part. Next I opened an electronic newsletter I receive for writers. At this point I need something to cheer me up. Nope, more bad news. The featured article is a link to this blog post: 5 Reasons why you don’t need to write a book, although the link actually says 5 reasons why you should not write a book. Can you believe it? Such cheery thoughts as “You’ll make more money working at a fast food restaurant.” The good news is that she’s not anti-blog. She says that if you write a good blog you might get a book deal out of that.
I am not superhuman. To have that much negativity about writing books all hit, wham, on one day was totally disheartening. I only did about 400 words on my novel.
But you know what? I got some hope, from a very unlikely place. My sister had given me a subscription to Oprah magazine. After making sure the homework was done and the dishes were at least off the table, I opened it up. There were articles about writers, by writers and even a list of favorite books. People still do appreciate books. People do still read something besides Twitter. And you know what I realized? Some people will write about anything to get some attention on the Internet.
So, I’m still going for it.
Read a book today!
The Beauty of Writing
Writing this novel has really opened by my eyes to how the process of writing works. I compare it with a painting. I guess I always thought that when you wrote you sketched out the design, maybe lightly or even just had the design in your head. Then you started to write, and it was like a fully finished beautiful painting would be revealed with each stroke you added. You would work from left to right and when you were done the entire painting would be revealed.
What I have discovered, however, is that it is more like a real painting process. You draw the sketch, and then you revise it. Then you put down the bottom layer, revise again, add some color, change your mind, try some of this over there. At least for this novel, for me, I’m adding washes and layers of color over previous layers. It is an exciting process, nothing like I expected.
Read something today!
A Sense of Place
The experts say that a good mystery novel should have a strong sense of place. I can think of several examples of novels where this is true, like the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I always want to have a relaxing cup of red bush (rooibos) tea after I read those books, which are set in Botswana.
I have a horrible confession to make now. I don’t have a clue where to place my mystery novel. Yikes! I have 9,000 words and I haven’t decided yet. How can this be? Worse yet, how long can I go on like this?
I think the problem is that I don’t feel roots to a place myself. I grew up in Upstate New York. I have traveled a lot, and now have ended up in Arizona. I love the East, but I feel disconnected from it. When I go back, I have the eerie feeling I’m revisiting the past. I am also not confident that I can recreate somewhere I only visit now and then.
But I also don’t feel like I have roots where I am living now. I don’t have the love for and understanding of this area that someone who grew up here would have.
So right now my poor characters are living in generic town, USA. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I only have a few weeks to solve this problem.
And oh yes, thanks for reading this.
What Writing a Book is Like
I just came across an interesting quote from Leonard Cohen about his book Beautiful Losers in Gayle’s Blog. (Gayle runs Changing Hands, a wonderful indie bookstore in Tempe, Arizona.)
Because the quote very hard to find on the blog, I’m going to copy part of it here:
“Beautiful Losers was written outside, on a table set among the rocks, weeds and daisies, behind my house on Hydra, an island in the Aegean Sea. I lived there many years ago. It was a blazing hot summer. I never covered my head. What you have in your hands is more of a sunstroke than a book.”
How Do You Find The Time?
A friend asked my how I am finding the time to write a novel. Because I have asked this question myself before, I will try to figure out an answer. I have a disclaimer though: what works for me one week probably isn’t going to work for me the next week, let alone work for anyone else.
Some people might say, “she’s a stay-at-home mom, what else does she have to do?” Sorry, I’m afraid stay-at-home mom’s are just as busy as everyone else, although most days it seems we just don’t get any pay or any respect.
Right now I am finding the time to write by condensing my housework and errands into a few very intense bursts. I make meals and clean the dishes at the same time. Before I started writing, I would have waited until after I dropped my son off at school to put the dishes into the dishwasher. Now they are dropped in as I make breakfast. I am moving fast and furiously. My son doesn’t seem to notice the difference.
Two other things I have done is not jump up when the phone rings. I have been letting the machine catch it and then picking up if I want, using the phone next to my computer. I have also tried to cut back on time spent on e-mail, although my husband started complaining that I wasn’t responding to him, so I had to pick that back up a little.
I am also finding that writing creates its own niches. Instead of creating more work for myself with this project and that project, I am simply writing. For the time being, that is enough. I am afraid though, that someday soon the projects are going to loudly demand attention and I’ll have to stop writing so much. Until they do, I’ll write.
And now back to NaNo.
Now that I’ve passed the 1/3 way mark (16,667 words), it feels like I’ve moved into the second trimester of a pregnancy. The initial excitement and adrenalin rush have mostly worn off, and the big event is still a long way away. I’m starting to feel some discomfort, both literally and figuratively (I need to rest my hands when I finish this). Now it is time to become quietly introspective.
I found this painted lady butterfly this morning. It’s beauty inspired me to keep writing.
May you find inspiration today, too.
New Writing Buddy
Everyone in my family had Veteran’s Day off yesterday. Not much writing happened, but we did spend a great morning at the Desert Botanical Garden taking a walk and checking out the Dale Chichuly exhibit that is being built. The garden is expecting the exhibit to be so popular that after next week you’ll have to make reservations to get in, even with a membership card. We wanted to beat the rush.
On the way home, we stopped by the pet food megastore to get some pet supplies. My son led us over to the cat rescue area and before we knew it we were bringing home a six month old kitten. Must have been sunstroke from being in the sun all morning.
Actually, we have been being visited by a stray yellow cat over the last few weeks. I think he (my husband calls him Mooch) whetted our appetite for a new cat, but we weren’t sure whether he was a true stray or just a neighbor’s cat who likes our cat food better. We didn’t feel we should capture Mooch if he did belong to someone else, so we got a kitten of our own. Make sense? Nah, it didn’t to me either.
Our new kitten kept me up all night last night, so my NaNo writing has taken some interesting turns today. Ah, that’s what editing is for, right?
Do you have a writing/reading buddy?
How is it going?
The muse has left the building, I’m really struggling. But I guess that is how everyone feels about this point. So I will struggle on. I need to get 30,000 words by tomorrow night if I’m going to have a realistic chance of finishing by the end of the month. Instead of flowing out in streams, the words are now trickling. The ideas aren’t bad, they just don’t amount to many words.
Appreciate an author today!
NaNo Draws to a Close
November 30, 2008
National Novel Writing Month is almost officially over and I didn’t get to the 50,000 words needed to be declared a winner. My son and I both got sick last Friday and I didn’t write another word until yesterday afternoon. By then I was in such a big hole, I knew I could never finish. C’est la vie.
Because I didn’t finish a 50,000 word novel in one month, it is easy to assume that I failed. But I don’t think I failed at all. I learned a lot from this experience.
I learned I can write a couple of thousand fairly coherent words in a couple of hours. This is a huge discovery for me.
I learned that moms are incredibly important people, and when they are distracted and too busy to perform their normal duties, things can fall apart fast.
Never, never, never adopt a kitten in the middle of NaNo month. 🙂
Writing is a wonderful, difficult and mysterious process. Some of the things that came flowing out onto the page from my subconscious astounded me.
The NaNo sages who said don’t edit your work until December were right, but I didn’t follow their advice. Now I wish I had. I found out that as soon as I started the left-brain/logical editing process, my right brain/creative side got squirrelly.
Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the rainbows.
Appreciate a writer today!