Archives for category: Writing

NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in 30 days

Only 12 days left!

Here are my stats:

Total Words Written: 34,104

Words Remaining: 15,896

Now for a much needed day off.

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Pencil Photography by d o l f i
Pencil Photography, a photo by d o l f i on Flickr.

My mother complimented one of my recent blog posts. She said I expressed myself well through my writing.

I believe it went something like, “You have a way with words when you’re writing that you don’t have when you speak. You should stick with writing.”

OK, she didn’t exactly say it like that, although I like to imagine that she did, because it’s funnier. However, we continued to have a conversation along those lines, where that sentiment was expressed and then agreed with.

I stumble when talking. I say the wrong things. I can be rude, abrasive and often, just odd. But the moment I begin writing, I am transformed. It is almost as if my brain was not wired for speaking. Perhaps I should sew my lips shut, to permanently remove the temptation to open my mouth.

Frequently, when trying to express my opinion or teach some idea, I find myself saying the dreaded, “Does that make sense?” The moment I say it, I want to run and hide and never open my mouth again. I know if I’m saying that, then what I actually wanted to say, the clear, concise statement of profound truth, is lost somewhere in my brain. Bouncing around like a pinball, trying to hit the sweet spot that will declare me a winner.

I wondered if this was a common affliction with writers. I did a quick internet search, hoping to find a support group or some scientific explanation (other than poor social skills) for my malady. Unfortunately nobody is concerned enough with this issue to actually support or study it. (Which is probably a good thing. I would much rather the scientists spent their time on important things like Cancer, Autism and identifying the cause of the hypnic jerk.) But, I did find this brilliant essay by Arthur Krystal in the New York Times on this very subject. I felt validated and understood.

If you’re too lazy to read that essay or even click on the link, here is my favorite gem:

“So the next time you hear a writer on the radio or catch him on the tube or watch him on the monitor or find yourself sitting next to him at dinner, remember he isn’t the author of the books you admire; he’s just someone visiting the world outside his study or office or wherever the hell he writes. Don’t expect him to know the customs of the country, and try to forgive his trespasses when they occur.”

If you want to know me, don’t talk to me, read what I write.

One of my biggest struggles as a writer is balancing my life between the two worlds I’m currently inhabiting; the world of my manuscript and world that I’m actually living in.

When I am in the real world, there are times when inspiration strikes and I am stuck standing in line at the store, walking the dogs, or reassembling a toy (for the 12th time). I began carrying a notebook around years ago so that I could simply write a note to remind myself of the dialogue, character, or plot device when I had time later to give it my full attention. That solves only one part of problem though. I am always slightly distracted and never fully present. No matter what I am doing, I’m gathering information and creating. Which means, if you know me, or simply pass me on the street, you’ve probably influenced me or inspired me in some way. But that seems to be small consolation when you realize that when I look at you I may just be seeing past you, to something else. I struggle with this aspect of myself because one of the qualities that I find to be most valuable (in myself and others) is sincerity. How can you be sincere when you aren’t completely present?

When I’m writing, I can tune out the world going on around me. Simply because when I am completely immersed in my story, the real world ceases to exist, at least for a little while. When I finally emerge from my work I am sometimes shivering from the low thermostat setting of the early morning or late evening, aching from sitting on a hard chair in an unhealthy slumped position, or disoriented from being gone, the way it sometimes feels when waking up from a vivid dream. But that intense immersion takes time and effort. Time that, as the mother of a toddler, is difficult to find. I’m guessing that’s true for most writers, just insert your life situation in place of “as the mother of a toddler.” I get up at 5am every morning hoping to have a couple of hours to write. It feels as if I am laying on my back, staring up at a guillotine, waiting for it to fall . . . “Mommy! I’m awake now!” It’s extremely distracting.

Most days it isn’t an issue because I’m completely invested in my actual life; but lately with NaNoWriMo and a deadline, of sorts, hanging over my head, I find it to be a daily struggle. The ultimate question is, if I am between two worlds and rarely ever entirely in one, does that mean I’m failing in both?  Do other writers struggle with this? If you do, tell me where the “off” button is.  Please!

I keep reminding myself, it’s only for 17 more days.

November 11 NaNoWriMo word count: 1,650

November 12 NaNoWriMo word count: 3,248 (it’s a record!)

November 13 NaNoWriMo word count: 0

Total NaNoWriMo Word Count: 21,925

Also, I need recommendations for books to read.  Got anything for me?

I am surrounded by writers who are publishing novels for the first time. OK, not surrounded, but there are two. My father, Michael Roueche, who published Beyond the Wood on Kindle earlier this year (it will be out in Hardback soon). I have read his book and highly recommend it (you can see my review on Amazon.) My brother-in-law, Dan Haring, who I’ve mentioned before. I haven’t read his book, Oldsoul, but I am looking forward to it. (Maybe he’ll let me read it early so I can give him a glowing review!  If it’s deserved, of course.) Not to mention my friend, Jason Hardy, who is a published author many times over and intimidates me because even his flyers announcing Turkey Bowl touch football games are incredibly clever.  Check out his Kindle short story about a Ghost Hunter here.  (To me it’s reminiscent of Mark Twain and it left me wondering over a few questions I’ve been meaning to ask him.)

Because of this publishing frenzy, I find myself drawn into discussions about the business side of writing more often than I would like. Suggestions to join Twitter (and rejoin Facebook), networking, agents, cover art, marketing campaigns . . . are regular conversation topics. And I don’t like it.

When I started writing “seriously” a few years ago, I did it because I’d just finished reading a book that I really loved and I just couldn’t find anything amazing to follow it up with. Then I had an idea, so I started writing. And I really liked it. No, I loved it. I wasn’t writing with an endgame in mind. I thought maybe someday I would publish. But that’s not why I started writing and that’s not why I continue.

After feeling unsettled by one of these business oriented conversations, I thought of a specific scene from the movie About a Boy. If you don’t already know, About a Boy was actually a book by Nick Hornby, first. I haven’t read the book in years and as the movie and the book diverge a bit (there is a remarkable lack of Kurt Cobain in the movie), I’m not sure if this particular conversation takes place in the book or not, so I’m quoting the movie. To set the scene, the adolescent, Marcus, is about to educate the immature man-child, Will, in the nature of what a meaningful relationship is.

Marcus: What’s the difference between a girl who’s your friend and a girlfriend?

Will: Well, I don’t know – do you want to touch her?

Marcus: Is that so important?

Will: Yeah, Marcus.  You’ve heard about sex, right?  It is kind of a big deal.

Marcus: I know, I’m not stupid.  I just can’t believe there’s nothing more to it.  I mean, like, I wanna be with her more.  I wanna be with her all the time.  And I want to tell her things I don’t even tell you or Mum.  And I don’t want her to have another boyfriend.  I suppose if I could have all those things, I wouldn’t really mind if I could touch her or not.

This scene is exactly how I feel about my manuscript and writing in general. Is the touching, or publishing in my case, so important? I write for myself. I write for the love of writing. I write because I have a story inside of me that wants to be told. I write to entertain anyone unfortunate enough to have me thrust my unpolished manuscript on them. I do it for the love of the art, even if I am not the greatest artist. Would I like to be published? Absolutely. But, if I can feel fulfilled, if I can write my story, if I could share it with many people who adore it, I wouldn’t mind if I was published for a meager sum of money or not.  (But, maybe, if I have to rely on writing as my livelihood one day I’ll feel differently.)

In case you’re wondering, NaNoWriMo is going well.

November 6 NaNoWriMo word count: 0

November 7 NaNoWriMo word count: 2, 046

November 8 NaNoWriMo word count: 2,009

November 9 NaNoWriMo word count: 2,733

TOTAL WORD COUNT: 15,100

About a year ago my Book Club read, The Book Thief.  It’s one of my favorite books.  (If you haven’t read it, you should, you might like it.) During our discussion of the book I mentioned that in Australia, where the author Marcus Zusak lives, the book was released as an Adult fiction novel, but in the US, it was released in the Young Adult genre.  My friend, Vanessa, who is from Vienna, turned to me and said, “What is Young Adult?  We don’t have that in Europe.”

I fumbled badly through my attempted explanation.  I was completely caught off guard.  No Young Adult genre?  Does such a world exist?

For Vanessa, here is better explanation.  Young Adult novels are generally identified by the protagonist being an adolescent and according to wikipedia, “The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character.”  YA books are written about teenagers (generally) navigating the world from a teenager’s perspective.  A Young Adult novel can also be classified by any other literary genre: science fiction, fantasy, romance, etc.

The Book Thief (and Vanessa’s comment) made me realize that if a book is written well and truly of value, then the age of the reader will not matter.  The Young Adult label is simply a marketing tool.  It allows publishers to reach the audience they believe a certain book will appeal to.  And, more importantly, it allows teenagers to walk into a library or a bookstore and go to a section filled with books about people like them, dealing with problems like their own.

When I have created stories, they have always been classifiable as Young Adult.  For a long time, it was because I was an adolescent and I was writing from the only perspective I was capable of.  But, I am no longer a young adult and this continues to be the perspective I write from.  And here are my reasons why:

Reason # 1:  I fell in love with reading when I was an adolescent. During middle school I remember reading an entire book every single day for several months on end (perhaps the entire school year).  Removing myself from reality was my way of coping with the black hole of social navigating during that awkward transition when I was “coming of age.” The writers and their characters were my best friends.  I want to be that writer for someone.

Reason #2:  Because teenagers haven’t decided who they’re going to be yet.  (Which is actually a theme I discuss a little bit in my manuscript.) A well written book can impact the rest of their life, for good or bad. They’re still willing to learn. They’re more willing and open than adults to try different things. I don’t have the lofty goal of changing anybody’s life. I just like a willing audience.  Teenagers like music that sounds good to them and books that speak to them, regardless of the genre classification.  Adults aren’t like that.  We are comfortable and complacent.  We are ready to tell anyone willing to listen what exactly we don’t like about something.  I don’t think I’m clever or brave enough to write for such a unforgiving audience.

Reason #3: Because my characters come into my mind fully formed, as if they are actual living people.  My protagonist climbed into the passenger seat of my car one day as I was driving down the road.  She is a teenager.  Nothing I can do about that.  She just is.

November 3 NaNoWriMo Word Count: 0 (Sometimes I need a break, OK?)

November 4 NaNoWriMo Word Count: 1930

November 5 NaNoWriMo Word Count:  2229

Total words so far: 8312

I received some helpful feedback on word count yesterday.  Apparently my goal of 139, 722 words (approximately  500+ published pages) is just too long and most publishers (if not all) just won’t want to touch it, for a variety of reasons, here is the link I was referred to.

The person who offered this helpful information was worried I would be discouraged.  I am not.

Here’s the thing, not everything I write is gold.  I know, I’m shocked and appalled too.  Quite a bit of it is rubbish, actually. The battle to be a writer begins with a blank page and some days it’s all I can do to fill that blank page.  But, once I do, creating something useable is easy.  Some of my original 89,722 word count is really terrible.  But, I don’t delete it because it has important details I need to work into another part of my story.  Details that I may just forget about if they aren’t taunting me from their less than comfortable home.

When I’m finished, I imagine my manuscript will be closer to 100,000 words long.

For my 50,000 words in 30 days challenge I have to average 1,667 words a day.

So far, so good.  I wrote 2,014 words yesterday.

So, now I have a question for you.  Should I post an excerpt of my writing?  My fear is that I am the novelist version of one of those hopefuls trying out on American Idol who truly believes that they are an amazing singer, when they obviously aren’t.  But, if that’s the case, I probably wouldn’t believe criticism anyway, so I have nothing to lose.

I’m not a “Me! Me! Me!” kind of person.  The fewer personal things people know about me, the better.  Think introvert. Extreme introvert.

If you know me, think you know me or are curious about why I am so very strange sometimes, this article in The Atlantic,Caring for Your Introvert, elaborates my inner workings better than I ever could.

But, I realize to succeed as a writer, you have to put your work and yourself out into the world.  So I decided to start this blog.

In April of 2007 an idea for a story came to me.  I wrote it on a sticky note.  Then I had another idea, so I had to get more sticky notes.  Then a notebook.  Then another one.  When I started writing, I felt like myself for the first time, like I was finally doing what I was born to do.  I shared the idea with some friends and family, they smiled and nodded, not able to keep up with the barrage and complexity of my storyline and many ideas.  I could barely keep up myself.  I was writing not to achieve anything, just to simply give life to my ideas.  I jokingly told myself I would finish my novel in 5 years.  I wanted to take my time and enjoy the process.

5 years approaches.  April 2012.

And suddenly it feels like everything is falling into place and pushing me to finish what was at once an idea, then a short story, a novel, and now a trilogy.  Ideas have been flooding my mind, I’ve been working like I’ve never worked before and just yesterday I was talking to another writer I know (who just happens to be my brother-in-law) , Dan Haring (his first novel is due to be published in that all-important month for me, April 2012) and he mentioned something that set my mind on fire.  He asked me if I’d heard of National Novel Writing Month and the challenge to write 50,000 words by the end of November.  (I had not, but I have since educated myself.)

I thought, 50,000 words, I can do that.

I spent last night feverishly editing my manuscript to have an accurate word count to add the 50,000 words to.

My manuscript is 89,722 words.

It needs to be 139, 722 words by November 30th.

And so it begins.

This is my struggle and adventure.  If you’re interested, I’ll share it with you.