Friday, October 31, 2014

November - The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (For Writers)

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I'm working hard to get ready. I'm deep cleaning the house, stocking the pantry, and baking up a storm. By the end of today, there should be enough breakfast muffins in the freezer to get my family though November. Why all this holiday-like craziness?Because starting November 1st, I will be joining the global community of NaNoWriMo. It's a month long marathon of writing. The goal is to write 50,000 words (roughly 200 pages) of a novel in one month. 

It's a lot fun - in the way that a cross country race is fun - it's both exhausting and exhilarating. I will be too busy to wash the floors or bake chocolate-oatmeal cookies. But I will love nearly every minute. Even the ones where I’m pulling my hair out in frustration. I love it because I get a lot of work done and some of my best plot twists have come out of a NaNo month.
Here’s why NaNoing is helpful:

1) Loss of Perfectionism. Be honest. How often do you stop moving forward on your book because you didn’t like how a sentence came out? How many times have you revisited CHAPTER ONE because you just know if you get this chapter right, the rest of the story will be easier? During NaNoWriMo, there isn’t time to stress about word choice. In fact, words and phrases like, thing-a-ma-bob and that-part-of-a-plant-that-bees-land-on-and-I-just-can’t-remember-because-of-ALL-THE- COFFEE! will turn up in your novel. And that’s okay. Because you’re going to revise. The point is, after the first few days and you start falling behind, you’re going to push past your perfectionism. You will have no choice but to let your creativity go and write the story. 

2) A Boost In Creativity. Guess what happens when you lose your perfectionism? You have more freedom to create. You take more chances. Characters will start doing things and saying things that you weren’t planning on. Your story may even veer off course a little. But this is good. You are exploring with your characters - learning about them and their world. Even if an unexpected scene doesn’t end up in the final draft, you’ve still learned something about your characters and your story. Or maybe, you get lucky. Maybe you keep a gesture, or a bit of dialogue. Or perhaps the plot takes a sudden turn that makes you sit back in your seat, throw your arms up into the air as you yell, “YES!!!” Just - try not to do that if you’re writing at a coffee shop. Writing quickly forces your creativity to work overtime. You will make wrong turns. But you will also make the right ones  - turns you may not have made if you were drafting more carefully.

3) The Community. NaNoWriMo has a lot of ways to connect with other writers. You can join other NaNo writers in your region, find friends that you already know (use the Writing Buddies menu), or find new friends through your current friends (use the Buddy Of menu). Follow NaNoWriMo on Twitter - they offer writing sprints (see how many words you can get in an hour), and lots of inspiration, as well as reminders. NaNoWriMo also hosts forums with great writing tips. It’s a good place to go when you’re stuck.

4) NaNo Rebels. There are many of us, (including me this year) that are not able to draft a new novel right now. No matter how much we want to. For me, I have revisions to complete. But that shouldn’t mean that I have to miss out on the challenge and being part of the NaNoWriMo community. So, I’m going NaNo rebel. Revising is a thousand times slower than drafting so I don’t expect to hit 50,000. But as long as I meet my goal, I’ll consider it a win. 

If you write and November suddenly sounds like the most wonderful time of the year, follow this link here to NaNoWriMo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Confessions of a Comfort Book Junkie

It’s true. I’m a comfort book junkie. It’s a old habit of mine, and I’m sad to say that I’ve given up hope that I’ll ever reform. Of course I love reading new books, but I can’t resist the lure of my favorites. I reread them. And reread them again. And… yet again. Some books I love so much, I reread them until the pages turn yellow and fall out.

I know this is not an ideal way to live - and I admit that I’m jealous of people who read 50+ new books a year. They explore many new worlds, new authors, and new voices. But do I change my reading pattern? Sure. For a week or two. But I always relapse. I return to my favorites for a few days - or months. Maybe it’s raining outside and I’m frustrated with my work - that makes it a perfect day to pick up RUIN AND RISING again. Or maybe I’m a little under the weather and I want a story I know I love, like Christina Baker Kline’s ORPHAN TRAIN. 

Whatever the excuse, I return to my favorites again and again - either until I’ve gotten my fill of the story, or until the book breaks apart. Of course, when that happens, I empty out the coin jar and run to the bookstore for another copy. 

Books I’ve read to pieces:
1) ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series, by L.M. Montgomery
2) EMILY OF NEW MOON series, by L.M. Montgomery
3) HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE,              by J.K. Rowling
4) THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, by Barbara Kingsolver
5) GOOD NIGHT MR. TOM, by Michelle Magorian
6) GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell
7) NEW MOON, by Stephenie Meyer 

Books most likely to fall apart within the next five years:
1) A NORTHERN LIGHT, by Jennifer Donnelly
3) PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, by Jane Austen
4) SHADOW AND BONE series, by Leigh Bardugo
5) ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline

Of course, there are other books I love enough to be on the endangered list, but they seem to have really strong bindings and can take the abuse. And I am not kind. I leave them open and upside down. I dog ear favorite pages and annotate key passages. I use pens as bookmarks. I even lend these books to my children. 

 There are a few perks to my addiction - I don’t have as many library fines and I suppose I don’t spend as much at the bookstore (although my husband begs to differ). I re-re-reread for enjoyment, but it also cements the author’s voice into my head. I know his or her word choices and how the author bring his or her characters to life. It allows me pick up on subtle foreshadowing I’ve missed the first or second time through. If I’m stuck in my own work and need an example of a similar scene, I know these books well enough that I can quicikly find the right passage. 

I’ll always wish I read more widely. But the joy I’ve gained and things I’ve learned have made me glad to be a comfort book junkie.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The 777 Challenge!

There's a new challenge going around the internet. Don't worry, there's no ice water involved and best of all, this one's free! You won't have to donate a hundred bucks to NaNoWriMo if you don't do it, or ten dollars if you do. But, of course, they'd love your donations anyway. The challenge is to post 7 lines from your WIP. These lines must be from the 7th page, starting 7 lines down. I've read quite a few entries - it's inspiring and fun to see what other people are working on.

My entry is from my MG work-in-progress, titled: WINGLESS, WANDLESS, AND HOPLESSLY HUMAN. It's about a fairy godmother in training who longs for a human life of adventure... and maybe a little romance. But when she is banished from the fairy world, she soon discovers that life as a human isn't what she expected. How is she supposed to escape from trolls, battle dragons, and win the love of a prince without magic?

Here's my 777:

“Liar,” she hissed in my ear. She turned and smiled at Rose. “I’m so glad I’m with you today.

 Both of you,” she said, although when she looked at me, her nose and mouth twitched with distaste. 

“You’re so sweet,” Rose said.

“Like ogre breath,” I muttered. Rose elbowed me in the ribs.  

Lavender’s lips curled into her syrupy-sweet smile. “Is that soot on your dress, Helenium?” 

“It’s Healy,” I said. I looked down and sure enough, there was a large smudge of ash just 

above the hem of my yellow dress. I tried to brush it off, but my hands made the mark larger. 

Thank you Paul Adams, for challenging me. I've been thinking of starting a blog and this is the perfect way to kick it off. Now... who to challenge next...