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Nanowrimo Pep(?) Talk

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To you brave souls that are doing Nanowrimo this year, I thought I would resurrect my favorite pep talk from five years ago – a year when I was in college and competing with a friend and somehow, despite a full class load, managed to reach 30k. Ah those magical, nostalgic Nanowrimo times.

To all of you other people who are not doing Nanowrimo or don’t even know what it is, disregard this post. Perhaps next time I will write something for the general populace.

Without further ado, a pep talk from Lemony Snicket:

Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your n ovel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket is the author of  A Series of Unfortunate Events.

… you’re welcome.

The Blank Page

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Opened a new Word document to write something – I wasn’t exactly sure what – a scene from one of the stories in my head, most likely. Instead as I stared at the blank document and contemplated on its wonderfulness (yes, I’m a writing nerd 😉 ), this is what came out.

How I love a blank page. The contrast of the marching black letters against the crisp white page.

To open a new document is as if buying a new notebook, to open it and to see nothing. An emptiness that is cheery and greeting, that beckons to me and says – ‘I am your friend. Right now I have no face, but I will become whatever you wish me to become. Write emotions, write a story, write the words inside, and I will accept it all and take onto me to display for only you or for the whole world. There is no right and wrong. There is simply you and your words that you give, and that I receive.’

A new page is to begin again, and brings with it every good emotion twined with beginnings. Excitement, anticipation for what will unfold – yet nervousness and hesitancy as fingers ready. The blank page waits like the bated breath of an audience watching a musician. Like the door of a dove-cage about to swing open, the notes in his mind are about to dive through his fingertips, onto the keys and into the instrument, to soar into the air, filling the emptiness completely. Bringing something new and beautiful.

‘Do not tarry,’ the blank page pleads. ‘Fill me, and if your words are crooked and off-key, do not discourage. I delight to carry your words. If you dislike the evidence of your learning, simply tuck me away to carry them in quiet delight, and bring forth another of my fellows to carry your second try. Just don’t stop trying to perfect the conveyance of the colors and faces and scenes in your mind onto our awaiting white pages. Don’t stop giving us your words, for every one is precious to us.’

Make a blank page feel special today.

Hidden Gems

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When you first become an artist, you’re like that rock. You’re in a raw, unnatural state, with hidden gems inside. You need to dig down deep and find the emeralds tucked away inside you. And that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve found your gems, you have to polish them. It takes a lot of hard work. Oh, and here’s the tricky part. Look at the crack in the geode… You see that big green crystal there? You could spend years polishing that, and it wouldn’t be worth much at all. The smaller crystals are much more valuable. And there may be some even deeper inside that you can’t see.

~Whisper of the Heart

Up-and-Coming Teen Author: Rachel Coker

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I want to be known by people as ‘the girl who, at such a young age, used her talents to glorify God’

-Rachel Coker, Her Journal, Age 13

So at some point while exploring the web of blogs, I chanced upon Rachel Coker and the news of her soon-to-release debut novel Interrupted:  A Life Beyond Words. I was impressed enough that I wanted to spread the word about this author and her coming book, which I am considering… wait for it… BUYING. As in, new. For full price. This is something I never do. Exceptions are books by Donald Miller… and a scattered, very few others. 

InterruptedWhat impressed me? For one, that Rachel wrote the novel when she was 14 years old, sent it out to publishers on a hope, and got accepted. She is now 16 years old and looking towards publishing a second book, after her first one is released in print.

Wow.

I have read books by young, published authors. Heck I hoped to be one of them, when I was little and wrote stories about girls time traveling in driers and playing the piano when blind. But it took only a few moments on Rachel Coker’s blog to convince me that not only is she a great author now, but that she will publish even greater books (and I am going to be in line to read them!).

Maybe that’s presumptuous to say, since I have not yet read her book. Maybe her age has multiplied her accomplishments in my eyes. I’m only 19 myself, and decades of gained wisdom behind me. All I have is my opinion.

And my opinion is that Rachel is a talented writer with an amazing character – keep your eyes on her, folks, because this book is only the beginning. Smile

 

I’m holding back from gushing, because I want you to check out her blog, videos, and book yourself. Click on one of the links below to form your own opinion on Rachel Coker and Interrupted: Life without Words. Don’t forget to come back here and tell me what you think. Winking smile

Read Rachel’s blog

Watch the book trailer for Interrupted

View Interrupted on Amazon

Thoughts

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It’s hard to feel

Like any of my thoughts matter

So many thoughts have already been spoken, and written, and shared

They shape my thoughts

But my thoughts stand alone – they are unique

 

If I could, I would have

A book

With all of my thoughts.

Because I think many things,

But forget almost all

Even the things

I want to remember

 

In heaven, there must be a library

Perhaps somewhere among its shelves, there is a book

With my memories

and thoughts

And I can settle it in my lap, and open it, and remember

 

The joy

and sorrows

Victory is Ours…!

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It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.
– Richard M. DeVos

Hello again, the threshold between November and December. Between a month of constant writing, of Nanowrimo pep talks and competition against my fellow Nano participants, and a month of snow, cookies, sledding, and the wonderful remembrance of our humble King that Christmas brings.

This is a wonderful place to be, standing between two months, looking at the past and the future. 30 days are behind me that were full of getting ahead in word count (not much of that), falling behind and striving to catch up (a LOT of that), despising my plot and my writing and my characters and yet plunging on, determined to tell their story.

This evening my brother, a friend, and I hung out at Tully’s for several hours and one by one, conquered the number 50,000. We had been planning to attend a Nanowrimo write-in but there wasn’t really any Nanowrimo-ers there that we could tell… They must have all attended the large, end of the month Seattle event. Or we were duped by this whole Nanowrimo site and none of the other participants exist – they just wanted to see if some people out there would be dumb enough to actually try to write 50,000 words in one month. They could be laughing at us right now.

Whatever the case, there we were, ready to achieve victory. We crowded all three of our laptops onto one table and effectively distracted each other, laughing, somehow managing to squeeze in writing between the teasing and jokes. My friend had 900 words to write and reached victory first. I could tell at once from her smug smile. 😉 My brother Kevin had about 1,100 words and conquered it in no time with his awesome-ness… and I, I had 2,000 words still to write and took until Tully’s closed to type them all out.

My excuse is that while they were writing, all three of us were concentrating on writing and therefore quiet(er). While I was writing, they were both involved in distracting me. And were effective

But in the end, by 9 o’clock, we all reached 50,000 words and sat there, together, three Nanowrimo winners and just plain epic people.

We reveled in the feeling for but a moment before springing up to let the Tully’s people close…

I am still amazed at my brother’s dedication and hard work. Not once did he fall behind, and thus was an inspiration to his sister that lagged, albeit with seemingly viable excuses.

As for my friend, I am not amazed at all as this is the 3rd year she has won – and beaten me to it. 😉 Oh, Hannah, Hannah…

For all of you other Nanowrimo winners, I applaud you. You have accomplished a great thing. Even if you end up tossing out every word you wrote this month, you learned more about writing. You may have written the beginnings of a great story this November, or you may have written another stepping stone, a learning experience, that you never could have done without when you do come to write your great story. Either way, you have learned something. You set a goal and accomplished it. 🙂 Good on ya, mate.

Now go enjoy December. Rediscover the real world – take a break from your novel. Eat some cookies while you lounge by a fire and watch a Charlie Brown Christmas. Let it encourage you that while your raw, unedited and hastily written novel may be a Charlie Brown tree now, it still looks better than those ugly aluminum trees, and holds a lot of potential.

Au revoir, I am off to rediscover life, aka watch some Psych.

Nanowrimo: To the Finish Line!

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*Sigh* So if you look at the trend over the years I’ve been blogging, I usually post a lot more during Nano, giving you updates on what’s happening, all that… but with the site being fritzy (for me), and all of my creative juices (the few drops that are left) flowing in my novel, I suppose it’s understandable that I’ve scarcely blogged once this month.

I have a lot more appreciation for good writers in this time. When I read something well written, I marvel at the writer’s skill – especially with a well-written novel, where they have to carry out a plot arch and develop characters and keep the reader interested… takes a lot of talent and hard work.

Right now my characters, plot, dialogue – all of it, every aspect of my novel – is stale, boring, and completely doesn’t match what I want this story to look like. As I write boring word after boring word, I tell myself that I am exploring this story. I am figuring out who these characters are, and what I want to add to this story next time around.

And it’s a good thing I’m 19, I suppose, because that increases the probability that this and my last Nano will be rearranged and recreated and polished and polished until I know they are my best. 🙂 How nice it would be to have a story that I know is my best, or at least very close to it.

I am currently about 2,300 words behind – but I’ll catch up. Feels like that’s what I’ve been doing since Day 8. Catch up. 🙂 Ah well, as long as I make that wonderful number 50,ooo before December 1!

No Nanowrimo next year so I can edit. This time I mean it.

Anybody wanna peanut?

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