End of 2020

Finally! Its the end of this year. We will all be glad to see it go.

There are so many things that I could reflect on about this past year but I really want to try to focus on the positive. That’s not to say that I haven’t had really rough days like everyone else. I tend to feel things deeply and have had times of fears and tears. Yet there is always something positive. This year we just needed to look harder.

I worked on my novel steadily until just before Thanksgiving. That is a huge accomplishment for me and I’m very happy with the work I got done. I finished two complete drafts. Then in November I realized that I have a huge flaw in the story and need to fix it. With the holidays coming and after working on it nonstop for the year, I realized that for the first time since NaNoWriMo 2019 that I didn’t have the energy or the drive to work on it. I also felt that I’ve been looking at it so closely for so long that I didn’t have a good perspective on it anymore. So I’ve taken a break. Which has been a good thing because just last week I finally have an idea of how to fix the problem. I think I came up with this idea because even though I wasn’t physically writing, I was still mulling over the story. So now I’m debating about working on it or just giving it to beta readers and see what they have to say about it first and then dive in again. I’m leaning that way because I’m sure they will find things I don’t see and then I can tackle it all at once with renewed energy.

I discovered that working on this book has been a wonderful escape from the world this year and that has been a gift.

Surprisingly there have been some good things from this year.

-To know that I need to get outside and enjoy nature more. I got to do quite a bit of camping this year which was really a sanity saver for me. It was amazing to see how many people have discovered camping this year because it was one of the few things we can do safely. I have never seen the campgrounds as full as they were this year. And most of the places I went did a fantastic job of keeping people safe.

-This year gave us more time to focus on things that make us happy at home. For me that’s organizing more, digging out old hobbies and projects and working on them. Really focusing on my home.

-I discovered that there are good things about wearing masks; like you don’t need to worry about pimples, stray whiskers or food in your teeth.

-I have learned so many new programs and apps for both work and home. Who knew we would become such experts at video chatting with people? That we would need to think about things like lighting, sound and background noise. How cute has it been to see all the cats and dogs peeking at everyone? Or one of my favorites was the disembodied arm that appeared to float behind one person in their virtual background?

-I appreciate what is important to me more than ever, like family and friends, and to never take any of them for granted.

-To be caring and considerate to others because everyone has different comfort levels. And on top of that despite how much time we have been dealing with this virus, we still have good days and bad days which I for one, never expected to still be happening.

-To respect each other.

-To always be as kind as we can be.

Now that this year is at an end, I think we can all agree that it has been full of learning opportunities. I remember thinking before the year began how interesting it would be to live in the year 2020. 20/20 is perfect eyesight. I thought it would be a good year to focus on clarity. Who knew that we would be forced into seeing things we never wanted to see? But I think in many ways it’s been a year of clarity. As a world we have all learned to see many things clearly, whether we wanted to or not. But I also think it has been an amazing opportunity to look with open eyes at what is really important in our lives. Not just individually but as a world.

Hindsight is 20/20. Time will tell how true that is.

I wish you all a good 2021. I wish everyone good health, good family and friends. I wish continued growth and happiness for all of us.

Happy New Year!

Catching Up

I haven’t posted for a while for a number of reasons. Some are good reasons and some not so good reasons which I’m sure you have heard more than enough about. So I won’t dwell on that!

I’ve been working on the story I started during NaNoWriMo and since I’ve been at home, I’m making good progress on it. I decided to use the Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 as an added incentive to keep going. I’m woefully behind but it’s working. They don’t have it set up to record by time, which is what I’m doing since it’s revision but they posted a neat conversion chart and I’m using that to keep track of what I’m doing.

I had set myself a deadline to get the first full revision done by the end of July and I should make that deadline if I stay disciplined. I admit that some days are easier to concentrate than others. So I just roll with it.

There were a few major scenes and plot points that I knew loosely while writing that first crazy draft in November. I’ve pretty much figured out the entire story and now just need to put it all together. I’m treating it like a giant puzzle and mystery. Where to put key parts that I hadn’t included in the original first draft and how to weave it all together so the entire story matches how I imagine it to be. Sounds easy. Ha!

I’ve also gotten to know the characters better. Their history and backstories. They’re becoming real people. There are still details that need to become clearer but now they each seem to have unique personalities.

I also find it fascinating how much the story has changed from my first vision of it. It now only resembles the original in a basic way. The focus has changed and grown. Very exciting. This is one of my favorite things about writing fiction.

The first draft was written by scene and/or chapter, each in its own file. I find it easier to revise and focus on little pieces at a time. It’s much less intimidating. Now I’m looking forward to making it all one long story.

I have handwritten notes and have added lots of comments in the files themselves. I use the comment feature which makes any notes stand out and easy to find and work on. If you haven’t tried that, I highly recommend it! I make notes to go back and fix something or add a detail later as I go along so I don’t get bogged down and distracted. So lots of work to do and I’m still motivated and excited by this project.

I hope you are all writing and creating. It helps make this crazy time just a little easier to deal with when you can make something to call your own.

I would love to hear what you are working on whether it’s writing, drawing, sewing or anything else you are making. Whatever you are doing, take good care of yourself and hang in there.

Writing by Hand Versus Typing

How do you write? Do you run to your computer and type as fast as you can to get it all out? Or when an idea comes to you do you need to write it by hand?

When talking to other writers there is a mixture but most of us write our first words by hand. Only after that first draft is on paper will many of us then transcribe it onto the computer.

There seems to be something more organic about physically forming the letters and words using a pen or pencil and putting them onto paper.

Yet we seem to have no problem typing words for blogs, emails and tweets. Why is that?

Is it a matter of ‘serious’ writing versus the more conversational, less important quick communications of today’s social media?

Maybe we consider the social media words more temporary and our fiction, poetry and memoirs more permanent and lasting?

Pensieve

You know when you have so many thoughts bottled up in your head that you feel overwhelmed and scattered? You have a hard time concentrating and sleeping? Trying to focus on one thing at a time becomes a challenge and eventually you feel edgy and cranky?

Me too.

So the first time I read about a Pensieve in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire I wished that it was real.

Definition:

A Pensieve is a wide and shallow dish made of metal or stone, often elaborately decorated or inlaid with precious stones, and carrying powerful and complex enchantments. Pensieves are rare, because only the most advanced wizards ever use them, and because the majority of wizardkind is afraid of doing so.

https://www.wizardingworld.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/pensieve

At times, when one’s head is so full of thoughts that one cannot hear oneself think, it is useful to be able to take some of those thoughts and literally set them aside. The practiced Wizard can extract a thought from his head and store it in a phial or in the Pensieve for another time. If it is in the Pensieve, it is possible to stir the thoughts stored there together and look for patterns. It appears that the wizard has the choice of extracting an entire memory, leaving no trace of it in his head, as Professor Snape does in Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix or extracting a copy of a memory, retaining the original, as Professor Slughorn does in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It is also apparently possible to edit these extracted memories, though it is a difficult task and one which is often not done well. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Muggles%27_Guide_to_Harry_Potter/Magic/Pensieve

How wonderful would it be to have a device in which to place thoughts and memories? Those many early mornings when you wake from a deep sleep and stay awake because of all the thoughts fighting for your attention at 3:00AM? How wonderful would it be to take those and place them safely in a Pensieve to look at or take care of later?

After giving this some thought (at 4:00AM) I realized that we have a few ways to deal with those things here in the real world. Nothing as cool as a Pensieve though.

Lists: When I need to remember something I make a list. I am a list person! I have shopping lists and to-do lists. I have main lists and sub-lists. It has become a running joke about me but I’m okay with that. Lists help me relax because as long as I have put something on a list I don’t have to worry about remembering it. I get it out of my head. I can look at that list at anytime, secure in knowing that I haven’t lost that thought.

The Reminder app on my phone is the digital version of lists and I use it constantly. I love that I can write what I want to remember and then select a date and time to get it done by. Wonderful! Any time I hear myself saying that I have to remember to do something, it goes in that app.

Writing/Journals: Writing in my journal works too. I always have too much to say and think about. Writing it all out is a great relief. And I’m sure my family and friends appreciate not having to listen to me endlessly.

Trusted Friends/Family: My favorite way of dealing with too many things on my mind is to spend time with a trusted friend or family member sharing our many ideas. Spending sometimes hours with both of us, or all of us, talking. Each person listens carefully to the others and each gets to talk. As long as it doesn’t turn into a toxic and negative discussion that feeds on itself. That isn’t healthy for anyone. But positive discussions and helpful ideas are wonderful.

After using any of these methods of getting too much clutter out of my brain leaves me feeling calm and focused again.

A friend who knows my love of the Harry Potter universe and who knows me well enough to know that I wish a Pensieve was

real, gave me one.

It’s fun to figure out ways to make the real world a little more magical.   

Pensieve Case

Open case

Revision

I’m working on revising my NaNoWriMo story and that’s taking most of my writing time which is great.

How am I revising/editing?

The following is generally how I’ve been going about this next draft and hopefully it’s making my first draft better and that’s the goal.

  • I’ve been working on fleshing out my characters. I see them clearly in my imagination but I have to make sure a reader can see them too.
  • I have some places to fill in that I skipped in the mad rush of that first draft. I’m writing entire new scenes for those areas. This seems easier now that I see where the story is going more clearly.
  • I saved each scene in its own folder and I’m going through those one at a time. Eventually I’m hoping they will each be a chapter. And I like having each one in its own folder so as this book takes shape I can rearrange easily if I need to. At first I had just numbered them as I wrote but now I’m adding chapter titles so I have an idea of what is going on in each one. This makes it easier to remember what happened when.
  • I’m updating and creating a synopsis as I go. This helps me keep an eye on the story as a whole and will be a better tool for me once this first revision is done. This will help making a short description of the story when it’s done. The chapter titles really help here.
  • When I find things I need to know more about I let myself get on the internet and look things up. That can be a huge time dump so I’m careful about doing that. I like doing this when I’m too tired to actually write. At least I feel like I’m still working on the story but in a different way.

The more I read about revision the more I see that everyone does what works for them. I like picking up techniques that appeal to me.

I also see that a lot of people don’t like this part of the writing process. I like it. To me the hard part is getting a completed first draft done. Revising is adding all the fun parts and the details that make the story come alive. It’s like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

I read books, blogs and writing forums to pick up ideas. But again I have to be careful not to spend all my writing time doing that. I need to stick to the actual writing.

Do you have any favorite tools or suggestions about revision that you would like to share? I would love to hear your ideas.

Keep writing!

Confidence?

Now that the holidays are over I’ve been getting back into writing regularly. I’ve set myself a weekly goal of four hours for working on the story I wrote during NaNoWriMo. I’ve been happily adding and deleting words, doing some research about various aspects of the story and trying to piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a long way from being done but I’m enjoying the challenge of getting there.

At the same time I’m usually reading two or three books at a time. Its just what I do. There are times when the books I read are enjoyable or good enough. And then there are books that take my breath away with the beauty of the writing, the cleverness of the plot or with characters so real that they feel like friends.

Those amazing books are the trouble. Why? Because those are the books that make me question my own ability to write. I start questioning myself. I could never come up with a plot twist that surprising or clever. Are my characters like cardboard compared to the fully fleshed out people I’ve just read about? My descriptions are pretty good but to make someone stop and reread them just to experience the beauty of the words? That’s a lot of pressure!

These feelings of inadequacy have been creeping around the edges of my mind lately and at least this time I’m recognizing them before they get out of control and I stop trying. I don’t want to lose the momentum I’ve built up while working on this story.

This time I keep reminding myself that I wrote this story for me. That it’s totally self-indulgent and the challenge of putting it together and getting to know the characters and their motivations is fun. That this is play and not to be taken too seriously.

So far this is working. Mostly because it isn’t anywhere near ready for anybody else to read it which is good if it keeps me going. It may never be ready for anyone else to read and that’s okay too.

Do you experience this?

I would love to hear how you keep that devious voice of inadequacy at bay.

NaNoWriMo 2019 Done!

I won!

I’m as surprised as anyone. Was it easy? Definitely not. Was it worth it? I think so. I have a very rough, very messy first draft of a complete story.

I’ve learned a lot.

I learned that I can’t write for more than an hour or hour and a half at a time before I need a break. Not only physically but mentally. I found that I would get that far and my thoughts just stopped organizing themselves in a coherent way. And despite all the action taking place in my head, my body let me know loud and clear that we are meant to move and move a lot. Also, writing in different locations with slightly different body positions makes a world difference. I don’t mean you have to go somewhere else, but just moving from the desk to the couch or even standing at the kitchen counter was good.

I discovered that despite having a pretty clear idea of how the story was going to go, I ran into a few bumps along the way. So I skipped ahead when I got stuck and that worked well. I also have a notebook full of notes and computer files full of comments or highlighted areas to easily find places that I need to go back to.

I did not give in to the temptation of researching online! I know from past experience that turns into a huge time dump. As soon as I saw how quickly I got behind if I didn’t meet my daily word count I realized I did not have time to do any of that.

I wrote every day. A couple of those days were just handwritten notes or a few hundred words. I felt if I skipped even one day it would be too easy to lose the momentum I had going. That meant I had to write a lot on a day off to catch up. On those days I wrote for a while, got things done and then went back and wrote some more. The neat thing about that was keeping the story in my head and when I sat back down to write, it usually flowed easily because I had planned the next scene in my head.

The story and characters really took on a life of their own during the third week. And that is when writing fiction is the most fun for me.

Overall, it worked great for me.

Everything I’m reading is saying to let the story sit for at least a couple of weeks but I’m not sure that will work for me. I think I’ll still play with it to keep it alive. I feel like I just found the real voice of the story and I don’t want to lose that. I definitely won’t work anywhere near the pace I just did. Now I can enjoy messing around with it.

Will I do this again? Probably if I have a large story that needs to get written. This method forced me to get it out as fast as I could and not overthink things.

Also, the writing community is great. Knowing that so many other people were doing the same thing at the same time is energizing.

If you participated, how did you do? I think even if you didn’t get to the crazy word count goal, if you got more writing done than you usually would, then you won.

Keep on creating!

NaNoWriMo Day 17

Day 17

This was a tough week, no doubt. I fell behind on my word counts and boy does that add up fast! So this is just a quick check-in to let you know I’m still writing. Today I reached slightly more than the halfway point.

This week I jumped around a bit in the writing timeline. I got stuck at one point and jumped ahead to keep the words going.

Today I did more out of order writing but  the story is falling into place nicely now. That is in big part to help I got from the Young Writers Group. I asked them to help me brainstorm what could happen after giving them a very brief synopsis of the story and they came through! There were some laughs because some of the ideas were really out there but all of a sudden one of the ideas was good and everyone kept adding on to it. I was typing like crazy to keep up. So a huge thanks to that group!

Another thing that’s helping me is a book that I bought. It’s the No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty who started this whole crazy thing. The book is funny and but also very helpful.

As of today, day 17, my word count is 25,709!

If you are participating, how are you doing?

And again, if you have any tips to share, I’ll take them.

Keep on writing!

NaNoWriMo Day 9

I’m writing this nine days into the NaNoWriMo challenge and so far so good.

I started with intentions of keeping notes about how I was doing day by day but I haven’t had time. I did do that for the first couple of days and here is what I wrote then:

November 1: I was off work so I devoted a lot of time to getting my project started. But I haven’t written anything this length seriously for a long time. I won’t lie; the first hour I wrote pretty quickly but it was just crap. I took a break and gave it some thought. I needed to get in my main character’s mind and get out of my own way. Stop overthinking it and just write a scene.

And that’s what I did for the second hour. And it just flowed and it worked and I almost doubled the required daily word count that I need to finish this. I ended on a very upbeat note.

I jotted a few notes about the next scene/chapter for the next day.

November 2: I worked all day so I couldn’t do any writing until after dinner. But in a way that was good since I had time to think about the next scene and where I wanted it to go. I wrote for a little more than an hour and got down 1486 words.

This scene will now tie in with some writing I had done a long time ago. This is the first time I will see if I can tie this new idea with the old one and make it all work.

After that first day most have been pretty much the same once I got going.

Is it easy? No. I’ve figured out that I do well for about an hour and then I need to stop and regroup my thoughts. It’s a learning process.

Is it any good? Ha! I’ll see when I’m done if any of it is good but I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m just trying to get the whole story down.

Are there sacrifices being made to do this? Absolutely. But most of those sacrifices are not that important. I really don’t miss watching TV in the evenings. I will admit that I’m missing my video game play time more than I should!

I did give up going to friends’ house today to catch up on my word count since I had fallen a little behind the last couple of days. It’s difficult to get much writing done after a full day at work. It was hard to not go and laugh with good friends. When I explained why, they were supportive. They are the best.

More than anything I’m mostly surprised at my determination to do this at all, let alone actually do it. For some reason, right now, this means a lot to me. 

Also, this week I had the second meeting of the Young Writers Group at work. There are four young ladies who are participating and we had a gentleman who came as well. I don’t think he realized it was for young people but he was more than welcome and I think he had a good time. Everyone is welcome to support each others’ writing. All together there were six of us sitting around the table comparing how we write, what we write and giving each other tips.

One of the reasons I enjoy the company of teens is because they have so much energy. And this group is no exception. Three of them were typing away at their stories while the rest of us talked but also adding their comments to the conversation. Amazing to be able to multitask like that!

After about a half hour, we decided to use the rest of the time to write. What is it that is so energizing about sitting in a room full of people being creative? It’s wonderful.

And my word count so far? 15,908

Not too shabby.

How are you doing?

And if you have done this before, do you have any advice?

Good luck to all! Keep writing!

NaNoWriMo 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019

nanowrimo

Guess what I’m going to try for the first time?

I believe we are given signs when we choose to look for them. And I had a series of signs within a couple of days in September that were steering me in the direction to try and do NaNoWriMo. Here is what it is all about: https://nanowrimo.org/

I’ve had a story kicking around in my head that won’t go away for an embarrassingly long time but I’ve been stuck on how to move the story forward.

So when one of my favorite bloggers, Lillian Csernica wrote a post about prepping for NaNoWriMo, I saw that as my first sign and I was intrigued. Then I had one of those conversations which instantly sparked a solution to my plot problem and I immediately knew of a way to continue the story. Next I came across a book that grabbed my attention noticing that it was very similar to the story I wanted to tell but also saw how my story could be different and unique. And finally, someone at work mentioned that we should try doing NaNoWriMo as a program at the library. All of these things happened within a few days of each other. I was getting the message. It was time to write and work on that story again.

Most of the programs I run are for middle school age kids and teens. I love working with teens and we never have enough programs for that age group. It’s notoriously hard to keep a teen program going because young adults have very busy lives. I have had a couple of teens ask if we could do a writing program. So I’m going to try doing a NaNoWriMo Young Writers program. We will have a prep meeting. Then we’ll have weekly programs through the month of November and then a wrap up one the first week of December. So it’s a short time commitment which hopefully will appeal to everyone. The program is good for the library and selfishly, I’m hoping it will push me into serious writing mode again.

Since I haven’t done NaNoWriMo before, I’m researching it and am getting more excited about trying to do this. If I can get some teens to do this I’m hoping our enthusiasm will keep us going and we can figure it out together.

I just registered on the NaNoWriMo site for myself. And if the teens who come to our prep group want to do the Young Writers program officially, I will register there as an educator so we can set up a virtual classroom. If they don’t want to do it online, we will set our own goals and cheer each other on.

I am committing myself to this goal. That way if I want to avoid being horribly embarrassed and shamed by everyone who knows I will undertake this event, then I need to complete it. And for those of you who plan on not letting me get away with failing, according to the NaNoWriMo statistics, there is only a 17 percent success rate for completing this task which is kind of sobering. Even if I don’t make the 50,000 word goal, I will be writing and that is a good thing.

Right now I’m reading the incredibly helpful and funny book called No Plot? No Problem! written by the founder of this annual event, Chris Baty. Lots of good information in this book. I’m getting familiar with the NaNoWriMo site now so I don’t waste time figuring it out in November.

I’m also making notes about the story I want to write. I’m not really a plotter but this way I’ll have a loose guide to where I want the story to go. I’m making scene titles and have to restrain from working on the scenes now.

So wish me luck! And hold me accountable. I don’t like commitments so this is a stretch for me. Pushing our comfort zones is what makes life interesting, right?

Oh, and if you have participated in NaNoWriMo and have any tips for me, please share them. I need all the help I can get.

If you want to show support with kind words and encouragement, I would love that too.

If you are participating I wish you good luck and good writing.