NaNoWriMo: What I did NOT write.

Step back for a moment, and take an objective look at your writing life. Are you failing because you’re simply not writing?  Are you failing because your family keeps you too busy to do your research or editing? Are you failing because you’re weary, depressed, or despondent? ~ Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

My response to Ms. Pawlik-Kienlen’s questions is “all of the above.”

Sigh.

I wrote ONE freakin’ page during NaNoWriMo. That’s it! PA.THE.TIC.

It is not that I did NOT or am NOT writing.

I am.

I am just not writing my “dream book.”

What am I writing? Well, let’s see …

  • Email replies by the 100s
  • Blog posts – and not even many of those!
  • Blog comments – a few
  • Book reviews – a couple
  • PowerPoint presentations – big whoop.
  • Google Chats – mostly to my boss Carolyn  – and her friend Amy, who pops in every once and a while
  • Social networks – Facebook and Buzz status updates
  • Texting – mostly family members, but a few friends and colleagues
  • Notes from meetings and/or presentations
  • Well-wishes in forms of birthday cards or thank you notes, etc.
  • To-do lists
  • Calendar updates
  • Forms – from those required to buy stuff online to work reports
  • Reminders to self, family members, and others who help me survive

What did I do INSTEAD of writing my novel?

  • work, Work, WORK, WORK!
  • Commuting- 100s of hours, but at least I enjoy listening to audio book tapes by the score!
  • Hang out with hubby – which usually means watching more TV than I like to
  • Sleep – about 7 hours a night – absolutely necessary for someone my age!
  • Visit or escort my cute mom here and there – wouldn’t give this up for the WORLD! She is so dang fun to be with.
  • Attend plays (a couple of winners at the Hale Centre) with Mom and sister Connie
  • Worry – SO unproductive!
  • Read – NOT a much as I like! Still enjoying my year of UTAH authors.
  • Attend meetings – mostly work and CHURCH! (Yes, I am a Church Lady!)
  • Shopping – as in groceries or Christmas
  • Surfing the web – research for work, writing (a little), shopping, curiosity
  • Talking on the phone – not much now that I can text
  • Good deeds – like visiting neighbors and other Church Ladies
  • Cooking – a bit
  • Eating – a lot
  • Preparing for and enjoying the holidays, as in Thanksgiving when the whole fam was here and Christmas, as in decorating the house, shopping for and shipping gifts
  • Exploring BOSTON for a week in November! So super FUN!
  • Looking for lost items

I could go on, but I think you get the point! However, as one of my favorite procrastinators Scarlett O’Hara is so often quoted, I add my confirmation ~

After all … tomorrow is another day.

Advertisements

“… about to take that trip again …”

I know what it’s like to write a hard book. Just remember–every book gets to a really hard part … .  Anne Dee and I are both in hard parts of our novels. So–keep in mind that every novel can get really, really crummy.

~ Carol Lynch Williams

I KNOW that I listed several reasons to abandon the novel I started, and some of those reasons were dang good, but then I commented on CLW’s “Danger! Danger!” post. The next thing I know she’s giving me good advice about writing “hard” books, and one line zaps me like a freakin’ cattle prod:

“This is the reason so many people have so many starts and so few finished books. Just a heads up … .”

So, for better or worse, I’m continuing on with this HARD write because IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAT I FINISH IT THAN IF IT’S GOOD!

Does that make sense? I’m thinking it does, because if I don’t finish THIS one, I’m afraid I won’t finish any at all.

I’ve also decided to follow a plan – NOT an outline, but a P.L.A.N. to help work through the “hard”. Here are just a few steps:

  1. Write a synopsis of my WIP – a better one than the one I created at WIFYR. (You see, I misunderstood that assignment and wrote a “blurb” that a prospective author might write for an agent. DuH!)
  2. I already carry around a notebook where I record lots of random things, but now I’m going to dedicate a section to ideas I may discover while living my life that might just work in my “once and future novel.”
  3. Write biographies for my main characters and include the all-important “character arch.”
  4. Learn to write to a timetable – to write SOMETHING everyday – whether it is H.A.R.D. or not.
  5. Whistle, sing, or hum while I work; and this is one of the songs that I’ll whistle, sing, or hum:

Here I go again, I hear those trumpets blow again.

All aglow again , takin’ a chance on [you].

Here I slide again, about to take that ride again.

[Bleary-eyed] again, takin’ a chance on [you].

MUST … schedule … writing novel.

There’s nothing so stressful as not writing. Stop and think about it. If you don’t write, then you’re stressed about wanting to do it and not getting it done. But if you do write, you feel great.

~ Linda Jo Martin

While the debate continues over whether or not to outline the plot before writing that story or novel, scheduling time for putting words, pages, or chapters on paper is a MUST. Isn’t it? For me, IT IS.

Now, figure this one out. I can fit in updates for my 3 (yes, 3) blog sites, but why oh why do I have such a devil of a time fitting in novel writing? As always, I have theories:

  • Novel writing is sCaRY! I continually hold a “worthiness” discussion with myself: Is this story REALLY worth my blood, sweat, tears, and time? Is it worthy of publication? Is there a more worthwhile story I should work on right now? Blah. Blah. Blah.
  • I don’t know where this story is going. So maybe I should outline, create character sketches, etc. But that takes TIME, dang it! But maybe it would save me TIME in the long run. I DON’T KNOW!!!
  • The “novel” MOUNTAIN seems insurmountable. Blogging is like the little hike I took last spring while visiting my grandchildren who live in among the foot hills in Almaden Valley in California. I can do that – I have an idea for a blog entry. I take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to develop it, and then post it. Done. But writing a NOVEL is like tackling EVEREST! AhhhhHHHHHH.
  • I get caught up in “CROSS-TRAINING” – that’s what Ann Dee Ellis calls writing something OTHER than your novel. You know – get the juices flowing, and all that. Well, my blogging juices are jammin’, but that is NOT the real goal here, folks! I CANNOT spend all my time cross-training. I have GOT TO RUN THE GOSH DARN RACE. (Another AhhhHHHH.)

So what should I do? I know I am not the only writer – wannabe or otherwise – who struggles with this. (I just spent time researching the problem at hand and ran across a blog by  Carol Lynch Williams of The Chosen One fame. Carol has a C.O.N.T.R.A.C.T, a house devoid of children, and she’s suffering from AVOIDANCE issues!!!)

Even though I am an educator, I don’t get “summers off,” but I do have a couple of weeks I plan to dedicate to 2 things: 1) Spending time with my grandchildren, and 2) WRITING this blankity, blank novel. (I think that’s the proper priority, by the way.) While I am confident that the first goal will be achieved, that second one worries me.

What do YOU do, dear 5 or 6 readers, to get the job done? Help me out here! Okay? I’M STRESSING!

“No time to wallow in the mire”

“Get an idea. Write. Edit. Sigh, ‘Finally my masterpiece is finished.’ Take a week off. Look at your masterpiece. Exclaim, ‘What was I thinking? This sucks!'”

~ from Kristen’s Guide

I hope I’m feeling this total lack of confidence because I’m tired and because my little PT Cruiser, Cream Puff, is still acting out. Her condition remains undiagnosed, but something is draining her energy – ahhh, she’s just feeling sympathy pains for ME!

Anyway, because I am tired and thinking I am a better blogger than novel writer and will forever travel the blog-o-sphere versus the published authors’ circuit, I’m not going to write much tonight. I won’t mention how I continue to search for my authentic, honest voice or how I wonder if I’ve grown too old for the YA market or how I’m wondering if the workshop will send out rejection e-mails for the 1st page contest so I can add it to my little collection.

No, I won’t take the time to bore you with all that. Instead, I’ll post this gallery of pictures so you can see what good writers look like! (While I wallow in the mire of self-pity!)

“One is the loneliest number you’ll ever do.”

“The writing profession is reeking with this loneliness. All our lives we spend in discoursing with ourselves. . . .”

~ quoted by Fred Hobson in Mencken: A Life, Random House, 1994

Today was the second day of WIFYR workshop. Other than missing my exit because I was thinking of a better lead for a new story thus making me late, the day has been an improvement over the first one. Okay, I knew this going in, but writing is NO LONGER a lonely affair. I kinda wish it was because I could live in a world where I don’t know there are SO MANY aspiring authors! Nor would I know how GOOD those writers are. Nevertheless, what I am gaining from all the experts and NON-experts, I could NOT teach myself.  

Let me tell you that this workshop is organized-PLUS; thus maximizing opportunities to learn.  The day is set up like this:

  • Mornings: Work with Cheri Pray Earl and Rick Walton, two published authors and writing instructors at Brigham Young University and 20 peers who crack me up! (That’s because Cheri and Rick introduced us to SASS that first day!)
  • Afternoons:
    • Plenary Presenters – Authors, editors, agents share tips and ideas. SO helpful! (By the way, PLENARY was a new word to me. I think it is a very cool word. It means, “fully attended or constituted by all entitled to be present.”)
    • Break-out sessions – Participants choose an author, editor, or agents or a panel of these folks who address various topics, concerns, and questions. Very informative.

     

While I knew this workshop provided support for writers, I am still amazed at the amount of sharing, consulting, suggesting, listening, encouraging, inspiring, informing that takes place. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I know authors buddied up in days gone by, but I think that was AFTER writers published. I picture Hemingway partying in Paris with Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald or Carl Sandburg talking shop with Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson. But who did they brainstorm ideas with BEFORE their break? Who did they chat with when their plot lines flat-lined or their characters refused to develop? Maybe there were friends who provided what Hemingway or Fitzgerald needed over drinks, but I’m not sure that turned out in the long run.

Water was the only beverage we received at this confab. That only happened on the first day, and it was a mistake. So no potential authors need worry about ruining their lives because of booze provided by Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers Workshop. I know some were concerned when the conference moved from Brigham Young University to Salt Lake County, but don’t stress;  it’s still a dry environment.

Putting my drinking concerns aside, I found that one of the most helpful AND  scary activities is “work-shopping” participants’ writing. We read our papers while peers followed along. Next, writers listened to praise AND suggestions. It was all professional – civil even, and yet, my stomach clinched tighter and tighter as I watched my golden rod paper work its way to the top. Nervous as I was, I appreciated the feedback and think the suggestions strengthened my paper.

I was also inspired by reading the works of my fellow writers. WoW! What fine writing! Compelling and creative ideas that were fun to read. I also gleaned ideas from my colleagues’ comments to all the writers in the group. Sometimes a suggestion given to Amy or Jared applied to my work as well. I can’t tell you how beneficial this has been for me, and I want to soak up EVERY hint, idea, tip, suggestion,and critique I can. I really want to do this thing!

Dying over dialects, among other crazy things

“Dialect is heard with the eyes.It is one of the most contrived elements of fiction and must be handled well to avoid turning characters into superficial stereotypes.”

~ Patrika Vaughn

I am excited, nervous, happy, terrified, anxious, hesitant, but satisfied that I will be okay. Actually, more than okay. Tomorrow I start the Young Readers Writing and Illustrating Workshop. And while I do have concerns and questions, I feel confident that I will learn much and not be too humiliated.

While part of me wonders why I think I could ever write a book, I take solace in Sara Zarr’s answer as to why she became a writer. She actually offered several reasons: 1) like to write; 2) it’s something an English major can do once he or she graduates; 3) and this one is the BEST one – “when I met other authors and saw that they were people just like me, I decided I could do it.” (Not an exact quotation but I think it conveys the spirit of what she meant.)

On the other hand, I also chatted with an author who shook her head as she related that nearly everybody thinks they can write a book. Maybe most people COULD write a book, but that fact is most DON”T. But there sure are a lot of people who do. Just walk into The King’s English or one of the mega bookstores, and you’ll wonder, “How can I join and compete with ALL THESE WRITERS? Am I crazy to think I can?

So what else is freaking me out? The 5 pages I sent to my session leaders. It needed to be the start of a story/book AND it is supposed to be our best writing. Don’t know about that, but I sent it anyway because it was all I had, AND it needs work, AND I also question my use of dialect.

The first chapter is set in England, and I hear a British accent in my head when I write, but here’s the rub or rubS:

  • Never been to England.
  • Don’t know which accents come from where.
  • My attempt sounds more Irish than English.

So here it is, past midnight. And I decide to research how or if a writer should even try to use dialect in building characters. The advice I learned from Ms. Vaughn (quoted above) and Cameron Michaels is as follows:

  • Use SPARINGLY.
  • Write in standard English – NOT phonetically!
  • Cadence and rhythm suggest the dialect.
  • DON’T use “wanna, shoulda, coulda and oughta”.
  • DO use “wanna, shoulda, coulda and oughta”. (That choice gets mixed reviews.)

Has anyone who stumbles onto this blog ever experimented with writing dialect? What were the results? Stuck with it? Abandoned it? Rewrote story to include Americans without accents?

I’ll let you know what my colleagues and facilitators suggest after they read my characters’ British/Irish dialects. (Gulping. Crossing fingers. Heading for bed.)