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.

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!

Tell Yourself It’s Just a Short Story



Have you ever been overwhelmed by a large writing project? I know I have; especially when I’m working on any long project like a novel. It can be daunting if I think about all the work I have ahead especially when I’m trying to get that first draft done. For me, first drafts are really hard to finish.

I always start a new project full of energy and can’t seem to write or type fast enough. But then I hit that place where I’m not sure how I will ever get it all done. Or that part of the story where I don’t have any idea how I’ll get from one point to another and that brings the whole project to a screeching halt.              

One trick that can work is to treat it like a short story. I tell myself that I need to just get down the major parts or scenes from beginning to end. I ignore the gaping holes that appear. I try not to add too many details. I just push through to the end. When I reach one of those walls where I can’t imagine how to move forward, I’ll make a note  to go back and figure that part out. I just keep writing sketches of scenes knowing I’ll go back and fill in the details later.

If I keep telling myself it’s a short story, sometimes I can get it all out without panicking. And if I keep writing it as fast as I can without giving it too much deep thought I’m surprised when I reach the end. I also know that the end may change. Any of it may change but I work on that later too.

I find that I’ve gotten to know my characters better by the end of that quick draft. I know more about their motivation which makes it easier to fill in those blank places.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I reach the end and realize that I don’t really have a story here. But at least it’s a quick draft and often I can use some part of it. I think I learn from everything I write so it isn’t wasted time.

When it does work, at least I have the bare bones of the story and look forward to going back and filling in the details. For me, that’s the fun part. Getting that first draft done quickly makes the second draft feel like dessert.

What tricks do you use to get that first draft done?

Motivation Folder

I am always on the lookout for motivating and inspiring quotes, tips and advice.

I find reading about how other writers work inspiring. I love essays about writing and the writing life. Stories about perseverance keep me going too. Good tips about the mechanics of writing are helpful.

I subscribe to a couple of writing magazines and find that I’ll mark the pages of articles that I want to go back and read again. If it’s a whole article then I’ll dog-ear the page. I’ve also gotten into the habit of keeping a highlighter with me while I read the magazine and will highlight whatever I want to look at again later.

Sometimes it’s a whole article and sometimes it’s a paragraph, a sentence or a quote that I love. It may be a web address or marketing information. Then I end up putting the magazines in a pile telling myself that I’ll get back to them soon. The next thing I know, I have a few unsightly piles of old magazines taking up space and collecting dust. Does anyone else do this?

I’m trying to stay ahead of this. After all, I don’t want to turn into a hoarder! I try to go through those magazines a few times a year. I turn to the marked pages looking to see what I found so fascinating. I also make it a point not to look at anything else in each issue; otherwise I get sidetracked and never accomplish anything!

I glance at whatever I marked quickly. If I don’t get hooked right away then I decide that I don’t need it. When I do find something worth keeping I tear that page or pages out and recycle the rest of the magazine. It’s amazing how much I can get through this way. No more piles of saved magazines!

I put these saved gems into a folder that I can glance through at any time.

What I find great about doing this is when I find myself unmotivated then I can just pull out my motivation folder and after reading a few pages I feel the inspired to get writing again.

Does anyone else have a motivation folder?

Getting Visual

I have a good imagination but sometimes it really helps with descriptions in my writing to use visual help. In the story I’m working on right now, the house plays an important part of the story. It’s almost a character itself so I want to make sure the reader gets an accurate picture of the house and the land around it. To do this, I need to have an exact picture of it.

I’m using a variety of ways to keep it clear. I’ve drawn a floor plan of the house with the rooms labeled for easy reference so I don’t have a character opening a door to the bedroom one time and then later in the story opening the same door but having it lead to the workroom by accident.

I also search online for pictures that come as close as I can to the house and yard I have imagined. I keep these pictures in a file for easy reference.

English: Farmland, cottage gardens & Loch Ken

English: Farmland, cottage gardens & Loch Ken (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are different important areas on the land where the story takes place so I’ve drawn a map to keep it all straight.

I love reading a book that has maps. It doesn’t need too many details but an overview of where the story is taking place makes it more real.

The trick is to translate this all into words with enough description to give the reader a clear vision to easily follow along without bogging down the story. This is a challenging balancing act.

Personally, I love good description in a story but know that many of today’s readers don’t have the patience to read too many details. They just want the story to keep moving along.

I know many authors use pictures of real people to help describe their characters. Do you use any tools to help you with your descriptive writing?

Hanging on to Writing Time

Pocket watch, savonette-type. Italiano: Orolog...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems no matter what I do, life has ways to pull me away from my writing. Social, family, and work obligations; unexpected happenings, good and bad, all seem to conspire to keep me from writing. So how do I hang on to writing and more importantly, how do I keep my head in a story when real life pulls me from any significant writing time?

One way is to simply make sure I take a few minutes to close my eyes and picture my characters. I try to imagine, if only for a minute, what they may be doing. I try to keep myself in the story periodically throughout the day and let my subconscious work on the details. I think keeping the feeling of the work alive is essential for me.

I work visually. I can see the characters and the setting. So when I can’t sit down and actually write, I work on that vision and concentrate on specific details so I can keep the feeling of the work alive until I get back to my desk. When I have the time to devote to serious writing, those details are all there and ready to pour onto the page.

I always carry some form of a notebook and one of my favorite pens. I’ve found any small, thin notebook handy; one that will fit in a purse or a pocket. That way if a phrase or image pops into my head, I’m ready to jot down a few words or a sentence to jog my memory later and I don’t lose it.

And finally, just writing every day, even if it’s just a sentence or two, somehow keeps the story alive. I find that if I let too many days go by it takes longer and longer to get back into the story I’m working on.

What tips do you to keep the writing going even when life conspires to steal us away from it?

Submission Work

This past year I’ve been working on writing and submitting short stories. I’m always amazed at the work involved in getting the writing out there. Slowly, I’m figuring out ways to streamline this process. I’ve come up with a few ways to make it easier.

First I’ve made a binder that holds all of the guidelines for places to submit to. That way I have it all in one place when I’m getting ready to send a piece of writing out. I can easily check word counts, genres, and refresh my memory of the details each publisher wants included in a submission such as format, biography, cover letter, etc.   

Second, I have a file saved with various biographies about myself. When researching publishers I’ve found that they all have a certain style. Some are very serious and businesslike while others are more lighthearted and humorous. I’ve written a variety of biographies, all of them short, to match the different styles. This makes it easy to include one with only minor tweaking.

Third, I have a file of cover letters. Again, each place has their own preferences so I try to have a few formats of those as well.

Fourth, I need to keep track of the submissions. There are a lot of software programs available out there and just trying to figure all of them out takes time. For now I use two. I found the StoryTracker application for my itouch. I like this because it’s pretty simple and automatically figures out the response date. I also found a program called Sonar3, which is free (you can donate to the programmer if you feel it’s worth it, and so far I do, even though I just started using it) and helps keep everything organized at a glance. These two programs help me keep track of what I have submitted, how long it has been, whether the piece has been accepted or not and so on.

This is a learning process that I am constantly reworking.

How about you? Do you have some tricks of the trade you can share to make things easier for writers? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Writing Update for July

Since I can’t come up with anything poetic or terribly creative today, I’m just going to post an update about what I’m doing with my writing. Hopefully it won’t bore you too much but it helps me keep accountable and stay on track.

In the past week I have written six poems. If you read my previous post, you will see that I have no idea if they are any good but for some reason I had to write them. 

Poetry Books

Poetry Books (Photo credit: chillihead)

I also wrote another entire scene for the longer piece of fiction that I’ve been working on for a while but had been stuck on. The reason I managed to get unstuck was because of a couple of things.

One is that I left it alone for a while to give myself time to ruminate on it. Sometimes if I just let things simmer in the back of my mind, without looking directly at it, I’ll come up with a spark that will get me going again. I wasn’t getting any sparks so unfortunately, I let it sit for longer than I had planned, but in the end this seemed to work out okay.

Second, I went to a virtual conference about teen books for work (it was pretty neat and I have to admit that I geeked out a little! See the link below to find out who was there.) and there were web casts of various authors discussing their books, their writing as well as taking questions from the participants. One of the authors said in his advice about getting un

Smiley face 2

Smiley face 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

stuck with your writing (I really perked up at this since I felt like he was addressing my issue!) was to go back and read what you already have. Often, you will find something there that you may not have paid attention to that will show you where to go next. So that’s what I did and sure enough, I got going again! It feels good to be moving forward on that story again.

What do you do to get unstuck with your writing?

I also forced myself to do some market research. I have a short story that I thought would be a perfect match for a publication I’ve submitted to before, but discovered that they are closed to submissions right now. So, I figured it was time to explore some new places to submit to. And I did. I’ve written before about how much time this takes but it’s a necessary chore to make sure I’m sending my writing to places where it stands a chance of getting published. I don’t want to waste my time or the editors’ time at the other end. That just bogs everyone down.

Does anyone have any tips on making market research easier? Or other great places to find markets?

So that’s my update. I hope you didn’t find it too boring and maybe there was something helpful for you?

Thank you, as always, for reading.



Word Nerd (or is that Geek?)

Cover of "Flip Dictionary"

Cover of Flip Dictionary

I am a word nerd. Or maybe a word geek.

As a writer I often hear the advice to keep it tight, keep it simple and move the story along. But sometimes I love to play with words. For the fun of it I’ll be writing and want to find the perfect word with the perfect definition of what I’m trying to say. Or an unusual word. Or a ridiculously flamboyant word.  I always have a thesaurus and dictionary at hand. But one of my favorite tools for doing this is the Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.

In this book, I look up a boring, everyday word and voila la! There listed are sometimes dozens of other choices to choose from. I forget where I heard about this book but have used it repeatedly because it’s so quick and easy to use.

This is also a great way to increase your vocabulary since some of the listed words are ones that you rarely see and may not be sure of the exact definition. That leads me to look it up in the dictionary. Even if the definition isn’t exactly what I’m looking for, I can file that word away for future reference.

So, yes, I’m a word nerd. (I had originally titled this post as Word Geek and after looking up the definitions in the dictionary, decided that according to that, Nerd is a better word. Then I started reading the associated blog posts that popped up and, well, maybe you can figure it out!) Modern usage of words is constantly evolving as well, so this search for the perfect word can get complicated!

Do you play with words? What do you do to have fun with words? Which word would you use? Geek or nerd?

Remember to have fun!