NaNoWriMo: My Writing Plan and Adjusted Goals

Photo taken from deviant art.com

Photo taken from deviant art.com

This will be my first year participating in NaNoWritMo. As I am in the middle of writing my first novel, I am going to use NaNo to punch through to the end of it! I am not a fast writer. I’m constantly worried about getting the facts right, the plot and characters staying consistent and that slows me down, a lot. To get out of this groove, I have set up some rules for myself for Novemeber.

As a writer with an unrelated full-time job, finding time to write can be difficult. When I do sit down to write, its typically only for 2-3 hours. These rules will help me make more time to write than I usually do. A lot of time that I usually spend reading (like my hour-long lunch breaks) I plan to switch to writing time.

My Plan for NaNoWriMo:

October:

  1. Finish the editing of my manuscript so far so I can move forward with confidence
  2. Do a little research on ideas
  3. Create “Facts” list on my story
  4. Write down vague plot plan/ideas

November:be writing

  1. Do not read any books
    1. Unless it is a writing book for prompts/ideas/advice
  2. Write no blog posts (although I do have a few saved up that I will post)
  3. Write every single day
    1. Even if its just 1 paragraph!
    2. Write every day after supper
      1. If I can’t, either wake up early to write or do so before I go to bed
    3. Write on my lunch breaks
    4. Weekends: wake up early to start writing
  4. If my novel plot has me stumped…
    1. Make a list of possible next moves
    2. Write an unrelated scene that might happen in the far future or a past scene I previously skipped
    3. If I get stuck, the quote poetry would be a good prompt
  5. No editing. Period.
  6. Resist going back to check facts of the story. If its not on my facts sheet, make a note and move on
  7. Keep moving forward!

I’m excited and a little nervous for NaNoWriMo. Because of my full-time job and my haunting quality as a slow writer, I’m not expecting to reach the 50,000-word goal. Instead, I have set up my own goals.

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My Goals for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Finish the very-rough first draft of my novel
  2. Create a habit of spending more time writing
  3. Improve my ability to keep writing and letting go of the need to double check and edit my work so often

If I reach the 50,000 words that’s great! But I feel the goals above are more important than a word count and will be things I can carry with me past the month of November.

 

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

Or are you completely winging it? :)

A book that might just change your life… a big little life by Dean Koontz

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A big little life is a story of a dog that loved, inspired, entranced and spread joy to everyone close to her. Just as Trixie, the soulful golden retriever, changed the lives of those that loved her, this book has the power to change the lives of its readers. A big little life is so much more than a story about a dog. It’s a story about life, love, and loss.

This memoir highlights not only the wonders of loving a dog, but the wonders and magic of life itself. It opens the reader’s mind to the beautiful complexities of life and how a dog can help us enjoy the simple pleasures that are always around us. Unconditionally loving a dog and receiving that unconditional love in return can soften the heart and open the mind.

When death takes someone whom you love to the very core, whether family, a friend, or a dog, the pain reflects the joy that came before it. The more you loved that soul during their life, the more painful it will be to say goodbye but never will the pain outweigh the previous bliss. Koontz’s enforces this in the book’s dedication, “…the pain was so great because the joy before it was even greater.”

Koontz’s personality shines through in this novel. Not many books make me laugh out loud (and I am quick to laugh) but this book provided me that pleasure. I fell in love with Trixie. She made me laugh, she made me cry and though I never knew her, I love her because I cherish what she left behind; a better world.

Trixie Koontz

Some will say, “She was only a dog.”

Yes, she was dog, but not only a dog. I am a man, but not only a man. Sentiment is not sentimentality, common sense is not common ignorance, and intuition is not superstition. Living with a recognition of the spiritual dimension of the world not only ensures a happier life but also a more honest intellectual life than if we allow no room for wonder and refuse to acknowledge the mystery of existence.

Trixie Koontz 3

 

**All photos taken from DeanKoontz.com/Trixie 

Science has spoken! Reading a paper book is better than e-reading!

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As an avid reader of paper books (its crazy that I even have to specify that) I love hearing this kind of news! Reading sharpens my mind, pumps up my creativity, as well as calms my mind and body. When I read as a writer, I’m not only enjoying the story but picking it apart, studying it, learning from it, and I believe that works my mind harder than the average readers.

This article by Rachel Grate, published by Mic.com, summarizes a recent study that proved readers of paper books showed better comprehension than readers of e-books. The first paragraph of the article is below, see the full article here. Enjoy!

It’s no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

Do you read paper, e-books, or both? Do you find it more difficult to understand/remember the story when reading e-books?

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot

Writing Prompt based on Grace (eventually)

I hope you enjoy this nonfiction writing prompt based on Grace (eventually) by Anne Lamott.

Think of a situation when you had no choice but to relinquish control. Write about it. In whose hands did you leave the power and why? Were you reluctant to do so? How did you feel and what did you do immediately after?

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After you’ve written about your no-control situation, think about a time you escaped from your daily routine or a busy/stressful day. What did you think about or realize during this time away? Weave this moment into your original piece of writing. How does it affect the mood/theme of the piece? Do you like the changes? Are the moments related? If not, what makes them work well together?

*Please share your writing with me if you complete the prompt! :)

Grace (eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamont

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Anne Lamott has a way of letting her thoughts unravel in a way that initially seems scattered and shallow but by the end you wonder how she could tie together such different ends of a spectrum so seamlessly. Her nonfiction essays in Grace (eventually) are real and relatable. She willing admits she is not a saint yet she faces her challenges head on, drawing from the strength she does have. Like all humans, she slips, but unlike most of us, she shares her mistakes with the world to spread a little hope and strength.

**Check in tomorrow for a writing prompt based on Grace (eventually)!! 

Lamott does not beautify faith or grace. She shows her readers that it is a struggle, a struggle that needs the support from the outside. She draws this strength from her friends, her family, and her religion.

I would not place this collection of essays in the religious section of a bookstore. Lamott expands the parameters of faith. She does not solely discuss religion or even her faith in a higher power that will make everything lovely if only you ask. She talks about faith of all the kinds; faith in oneself, faith in humanity, faith in goodness and internal beauty, faith in one’s support system. It makes me wish that the word “faith” did not have such strong religious connotations, because it really is as vast as you believe it is.

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Recommendation:

I recommend this book to anyone who, like myself, immediately associates the word “faith” with religion. Lamott’s essays expanded the word’s meaning for me and I think it can for you, too. Also, all nonfiction lovers will appreciate the excellent writing and depth of Grace (eventually).

Have you read any nonfiction essays lately?

If that’s out of the ordinary for you, did you like the change?

The chapter that doesn’t quite fit…

I am a writer, said Picasso. I make my own letters.

don't speak but feelI love when a writer, in the midst of a novel, slips in a short chapter or section that although it is relevant to the story, it does not progress the plot in any way but is interesting and often poetic. These stand-alone chapters will have a unique structure, tone, point of view, or something else that sets it apart. They can be used to recapture a reader’s attention during a slow section of the plot or they can reinforce a theme.

Below I have transcribed one such chapter from Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet. Another example of this type of mid-novel poetics is this paragraph from The Storm at the Door by Stephen Merrill Block. Although the topics are consistent with the larger piece, aspects such as the mood or the method of delivery stagger.

The Flame Alphabet is written in first person but as you can see below, this chapter doesn’t elude to a narrator (in first person or otherwise). We have no indication of our character finding or thinking about these quotes and none of the famous names mentioned in the chapter are relevant to the rest of the story. I believe this chapter is present to grow the theme of the book, to inform the reader that our narrator is not the first person to believe language is evil.

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Chapter 35

In his early writing, Thoreau called the alphabet the saddest song. Later in life he would renounce this position and say it produced only dissonant music.

Letters, Montaigne said, are a necessary evil.

But are they? asked Blake, years later. I shall write of the world without them.

I would grow mold on the language, said Pasteur. Except nothing can grow on that cold, dead surface.

Of words Teresa of Avila said, I did not live to erase them all.

They make me sick, said Luther. Yours and yours and yours. Even sometimes my own.

If it can be said, then I am not interested, wrote Schopenhauer.

When told to explain himself, a criminal in Arthur’s court simply pointed at the large embroidered alphabet that hung above the king.

Poets need a new instrument, said Shelley.

If I could take something from the world, said Nietzsche, and take with it event he memory of that thing, so that the world might carry on ever forward with not even the possibility that thing could exist again, it would be the language that sits rotting inside my mouth.

I am a writer, said Picasso. I make my own letters.

Shall I destroy this now, or shall I wait for you to leave the room, said his patron to Kadmos, the reputed inventor of the alphabet.

Kadmos is a fraud, said Wheaton. Said Nestor. Said William James.

Do not read this, warned Plutarch.

Do not read this, warned Cicero.

Do not read this, begged Ovid.

If you value your life.

Bleed a man, and with that vile release spell out his name in the sand, prescribed Hippocrates.

No alphabet but in things, said Williams.

Correction. No alphabet at all.

 

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

 

Photo taken from BarnesandNobles.com

Photo taken from BarnesandNobles.com

Some books are not meant to be picked apart;
some books are simply meant to be enjoyed and shared.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is one of those books. Winner of the Newberry Medal and the British Carnegie Medal, The Graveyard Book is a brilliant story that young and old can both enjoy.

If I did pick this book apart, I would have nothing but great things to say. The characters, the plot, the suspense, the relatability, the dash of fantasy, and the scattered illustrations everything was perfectly simple. There was nothing overpowering or complicated about the book, yet it kept me interested and smiling the entire time. 

Quick Summary

One of the books illustrations of Nobody Owens

One of the books illustrations of Nobody Owens

Although the story was not complicated, it captures Gaiman’s creativity and imagination. The main character is a human boy, named Nobody Owens, who is raised by a group of ghosts. The ghosts were all buried in the graveyard where the story is set and Nobody grows up. The ghosts took him in as a toddler to protect him from a mysterious group of “Jacks” who killed the boy’s entire family and are still trying to find and kill him. Gaiman keeps this dark plot lighthearted and fun, the boy is relatable and the ghosts are charming, always fascinated by their own histories. The writing is straightforward and simple, like most children’s books, but also smooth and poetic. I feel its very important that children’s authors never write down to their audience, that although they may use a simple approach to telling their story, they should never dumb it down, and I felt Gaiman succeeded in that area. The Graveyard Book puts readers in a world that all ages can get lost in.

The Graveyard Book is a 5-star read!

Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Presses

Although the official moto of Minnesota (my home state) is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the Association of Writers and Writers Programs (AWP) has renamed it the Land of 10,000 Presses in its article published this morning. Why? Because “many consider the Twin Cities, with their concentration and variety of publishers, literary organizations, and related businesses, second only to New York City in literary activity.”

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Check out the AWP article here:

Western Great Lakes: Land of 10,000 Presses

Minnesota is book country

As a young writer, exploring all the literary opportunities and events in the Twin Cities area is something I am truly grateful for! And outside the literary community, its a beautiful, friendly state with so much to offer.

A twisted, suspicious plot with a strange, enchanting structure. The Prestige book review

The Prestige by Christopher Priest will have you clueless and confident, astonished and suspicious, charmed and furious, all at the same time.

prestigeSummary

The Prestige is a two-sided story of a pair of feuding magicians in the late 1800’s. The story is told two generations later as their grandchildren read the magicians’ journals. The feud begins when Alfred Borden interrupts a fake séance of Rupert Angier’s, revealing him as a fraud. The event enflames a life-long feud as both magicians rise to popularity. Continuously trying to disrupt one another’s performances, the feud pushes the magicians to the very boundaries of magic, deception, and life itself. As the story encounters many twists and turns, so do the lives of Borden and Angier. 

Structure

Structure Overview

The unique structure was my favorite part of the novel. The magicians’ story is told through their journals and interweaved with the present story of the grandchildren who are now in their 30s. Borden’s journal comes first, covering many years of the feud in a linear fashion. The journal reveals some of Borden’s secrets and provides our first impression of his rival, Angier. After we are told the entire story from Borden’s point of view, the story jumps back to the very beginning and is retold from Angier’s point of view.

Even though the reader is already aware of what is going to happen, Priest does an extraordinary job at exposing new secrets and Angier’s insights to keep the story fresh and exciting. 

Old Story, Fresh Point of View

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As the reader is introduced to Borden first, and is told the story from his POV, one is driven to take his side and believe his view that Angier is a petty, sometimes cruel man who will not let go of a silly, old grudge. But once the narrative changes to Angier’s POV, that belief muddies. The reader becomes aware that every story has two sides, and depending on who tells the story, the “facts” and the attitude behind them changes drastically. There are multiple points in the second retelling of the story that things that initially seemed unreasonably dramatic make sense once both sides of the story is told. Once the story flips to Angier’s point of view, we realize he had strong reasons for acting the cruel way he did. Slowly but surely, Angier becomes the character I wanted to trust and wanted to come out on top of this feud. 

How Priest Keeps an Old Story New

By switching narrators halfway through the novel, Priest pulls out a lot of tricks that need delicate balance. The contrasting personalities of the two men adds interest to the retelling of the story. During each magician’s telling, we must not only learn new, interesting things about the same story but also connect with each narrator at the time of their telling. The deception that magicians live with in order to become successful on the stage is a perfect cover for this structure because in order for a retelling of the same story to be successful, certain secrets must be unknown by each narrator. 

Angier’s story, the second journal, extends past the point where Borden’s journal left off. This is another necessary choice by the author to keep the reader interested and the story moving forward. The novel ends where it began, in present time with the grandchildren of the magicians. Although the grandchildren’s story starts off as a slow way to give context to the journals, it ends with a flash of action that ties the entire novel together in an unexpected twist. 

Recommendation

5 stars! The plot, the characters, the structure, the mystery, the suspense, they all deserve 5 stars. I specifically recommend the book to all writers because unique, creative structures are something every writer should keep in their “tool box.”

prestige movieMovie Adaptation

The Prestige was adapted into a major motion picture in 2006 staring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Although the movie does vary slightly from the book’s plot, it stays true to the major themes of the story. The acting is excellent. The movie and the book are both worth one’s time. If you are a fan of the movie, read the book! It varies enough to keep you interested but you will still enjoy the same main premise.

Writing Prompt: Talk to a Stranger

Earlier this week I was walking my dog when I crossed paths with a stranger on the sidewalk. It was one of those (awkward) moments when my dog was really determined to sniff a particular parcel of grass so I was standing stiff as the man approached me head on. Here’s what happened next:

At first, I thought he was bald but as he came closer I realized his blond hair was cropped very short. His freckles creeped all the way across the top of his head. Although his clothes were clean and neat, they looked well-worn and possible picked up from the Goodwill a few blocks away.

“Shitzu?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“How old?”

“She is thirteen years old,” I said proudly.

“Thirteen, really?” he said. “I would have guessed five or six.”

My dog, Ginger, deciding the new human was more interesting that particular parcel of grass, approached the man.

“May I pet her?” he squatted, revealing a shabby military surplus backpack slung over his shoulders as he held out the back of his hand to my 13-year-old dog I still consider a puppy.

“Uh, of course,” I mumbled, not immediately comprehending what he had asked.

“She’s beautiful.”

My dog has never had much interest in strangers and even less in other dogs. When we pass neighborhood dogs on our walks, their owners reeling in their leashes as the dogs bark, growl and buck on their back legs trying to get a sniff of Ginger, she gives them a quick look of curiosity and continues walking forward. So after a quick sniff of this stranger’s hand, she continues walking down the sidewalk. The man stands as I begin to follow my leash.

“Have an excellent day,” he waves an open palm at waist height.

“You, too.”

And that was that. But what if it wasn’t? What if my dog had instantly fallen in love with this guy and stayed to let him pet her? What would he have said next? What would I? Maybe we had a mutual friend or worked in different departments of the same large company. What if we discovered we lived on the same street and he invited me to a neighborhood BBQ he was having next week? The possibilities were endless and it made my mind spin like a child’s imagination when playing with an unlimited amount of Legos.

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So, here is the writing prompt:Think of an interaction you had with a stranger (or keep this in mind for the next time you do) and continue the conversation beyond the point that it ended.

So here is what could have happened, backing up before the goodbye…

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

“Thank you.”

“Do you live around here?” Ginger leaned into his hand, digging deep below her ear.

“Yes,” I said, almost saying the specific street but deciding against it, “do you?”

“Not really,” he said. “I live a couple miles away but got off the bus early to walk. The bus was stuffy.”

“Mmm, I agree its too beautiful a day to waste.”

He looked up at me from his squatting position—I couldn’t believe my dog was staying with him so long—she rarely lets me scratch her ears this long. His smile was quiet and genuine, showing no teeth. “I’m Jamison,” he said, standing up.

“Weird,” I smiled as I shook his hand, “I’m Tequila.”

After such a quiet smile, his laugh was louder than I expected. It was one of those rare laughs that you only come across a handful of times in your life, the type of laugh that makes everyone within earshot smile and everyone in on the conversation laugh along. And I did.

“In that case, I was thinking about stopping at El Loro on my way home, care to join me for a happy hour margarita, Tequila?”

I laughed again at his casual use of my made-up name.

“I actually have someone waiting for me at home.”

“Ahh, of course. You’re too beautiful and funny to be single.” Normally a comment like that from a stranger would have me running in the other direction, but the way he said it was so cool, and casual. It was not a threat, not even a flirt, but simply a compliment, and he did not pause before he continued, “And in that case, I’m having a get-together at my house on Thursday. Just a few friends and neighbors grilling in my backyard. You and your boyfriend should come, and bring this little girl as well,” he said, reaching down and giving Ginger one last scratch behind the ear. She was ready to go now, pulling on the leash I kept short.

“Oh, well, I can ask my boyfriend if he’s free that night.”

“Perfect,” Jamison said, “I’ll give you my address.” He pulled a small notebook and pen out of the cargo pocket on his shorts and scribbled down his address.

“Thanks,” I said, taking the paper he ripped from the notebook.

“Come anytime after six. I promise it will be really casual—bring drinks if you like—and a big enough crowd not to feel like an outsider. Maybe 30 people.”

“Okay.” I pocketed the paper. “Ready to go, Ginger?” and she galloped forward as I let the leash out. “Nice to meet you.”

“And you as well.”

And we both walked our separate ways, both wondering if we’d see each other on Thursday, or ever again.

ginger

My dog, Ginger

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