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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.

Can I just be an Ostrich?

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Life still hasn’t been so kind as to slow down for me – Just got back from a trip to Idaho that took three days – two days constant driving, one day… some more constant driving around land in Idaho. I’m working ALL day Thursday to Saturday and yet trying to figure out how to fit two interviews in…
Nanowrimo is just going to have to wait until next week, when I can hopefully catch up to the right word count. =P
So many blessings in my life right now, but so many things going on it can be rather overwhelming at times.

And yet right now I choose joy, because no matter what happens, I have this as my hope, firm and secure, that I am beloved and belong to God, and He who spoke and created light from the darkness sends His light to shine into my heart. (Heb. 6:19, 1 Jn. 3:1, Rom. 14:8, 2 Cor. 4:6)

“I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

-Martin Luther

NaNoWriMo Novelties [Not 2 B Missed]

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I tried to add a link and WordPress subsequently deleted all of my progress thus far. *sigh* I don’t know why this site is being so glitzy for me right now, but I wish it would cease and desist.

To continue on… 🙂

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo this year {Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month, where all participants start a story from scratch November 1 and typically try reach 50 thousand words by midnight November 30th.}, there are a few things you should be sure to check out.

  • First off, on the main site (www.nanowrimo.org), -> Fun Stuff -> Special Offers, there are writing softwares offered for a discount or for a free trial, only for Nano participants. Scrivener, Storyist, PangurPad, and WriteWay are offered both for the free trial and a discount. Scribendi is offered solely at a discount, with a drawing to win a free novel edit, and Yarny is a helpful, online writing application that is always free.
  • While you’re on that page, be sure to check out the details of CreateSpace’s offer. For several years now, they have rewarded every Nanowrimo winner with the ability to get a free  paperback copy of their novel. This year they are offeringfive free copies. WOW! 🙂 Good motivation to win this year.
  • Also under the Fun Stuff tab, be sure to check out NanoToons. They are drawn by Errol Elumir, a talented cartoonist, songwriter, blogger, and video maker. He’s drawn cartoons for Nanowrimo for a year or two now, but this year he’s producing a lot more. 🙂 They really are hilarious. I check every day for the new one.
  • Off of the Nano site, check out “Month of the Novel” at Month of the Novel LogoYoutube and their website. It’s a brilliant idea, I just wish they would
    update more often than weekly. 🙂 Looking forward to how the story turns out!
I’m sure there are more amazing and awesome things going on right now – with this how many thousands of people signed up for Nanowrimo right now, that’s a lot of creative juices flowing! 😉
Check out these neat things, but don’t them stop your growing word count!

And so it begins…

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Not quite my sentiments

Mine are more like…

“We mustn’t panic, we mustn’t panic… Ahhhhh!”

“Ladies please. let’s not lose our heads!”

“Lose our heads? Ahhh!”

(Chicken Run, for those of you who didn’t catch the quote)

 

In case you are not picking up on all of this, let me explain.

My friend texted me last night asking if I would pleeaasse do Nanowrimo with her. Now since I have a novel from last Nanowrimo that is unfinished and needs a whole lot of editing, my plans were to take this year off. Note: past tense. But she kept asking… and I finally agreed. To my chagrin I actually didn’t hold out that long.

Now it’s a week til Nanowrimo and I am feeling (inwardly) like a chicken with its head cut off. Outwardly I am quite calm, quite serenely composed. Inside different story.

I must admit though, that when I visited the Nano site (newly refurbished, woot woot), it was pleasant and familiar territory. The Nano cartoons have even come back this year, as funny as ever. Once again there are thousands upon thousands of people on that site, ramping up for November and running around with witty, random things. So much concentrated writer-ness on there, it’s crazy.

 

 

Story plot? Non-existent.

 

Ooh boy this is going to be a ride. 🙂

 

P.S. I’m pretty sure my notebook for notes – as many notes as I can take in these next 7 days, that is – will look a lot like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with “the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, friendly letters on the cover.” 🙂

Editing Tips: for those who can’t edit to save their lives (like me!)

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So right now I’m in the process of editing my Nanowrimo novel. (If you’ll remember, back on November 30th I officially reached 50K – having started with nada, goose egg, the big o on November 1st.) *Basks in that sweet feeling of victory again*. My novel is still only about… 3/4, maybe 5/6 of the way done, however, and needs quite a bit of major plotline-tweaking.

Confession: I am not an editor. I always get it right the first time ( 😉 Just kidding!!). Not true, but usually I look at a rough draft and go “Okay, this needs to be changed… but how?”. Editing is not wired very well into my writer-brain.

Soooo, since I’m pretty helpless at editing, what did I do? Decide to post a blog post about how to better edit. Like a person with hydrophobia telling someone else how to swim! I was going through the tips on the Nano site and wanted to share with you the ones that really stood out to me. So, without further adieu, and in no particular order, here they are:

1. (One). Set the book aside, and sit and listen to that inner editor you’ve (tried? successfully?) silenced for so long.  Those “sneaking suspicions” and “gut feelings” about a boring scene, flat character, or cliché conversation are probably right! Write them down. Listen to them. If you want, wait and see if they match up to what other people say if you give your novel out to be critiqued. Now is the time to let your inner editor loose!

2. (Two). Make sure your main character is engaged in the story. Are they just observing, or are they feeling? Are they in the thick – “in the spotlight” (for your reader, in the story they might just be a chimney sweep) – or are they just skimming through? Challenge them. Stretch them. Give them fears that must be conquered or given into. Have them make a bad choice! There are few times the reader is more emotionally “into” the story then when the character is making a bad choice. We’ve all been there. “No, no, don’t do it!” Best way to get a reader hooked. 🙂

3. (Three). Make sure you’re describing with more senses than sight. Your character is smelling, feeling, tasting… so describe it. Bring things to life.

4. (Four). Read your book out loud. Very, very crucial. In my English class, we would form into groups and read aloud our drafts. Ofttimes we would discover awkward phrasing that wasn’t as obvious in black and white letters on paper. Reading aloud to a friend may be more comfortable than reading to empty air. If you prefer solitude, though, hole away in your room, or take a walk to a park and sit at a picnic table. With no one around. (If they do overhear walking by, they won’t be listening anyway. They’ll just think you’re a bit loony, talking to yourself. And hey, you’re a writer. Being labeled as loony comes with the job. 🙂 ) Okay right now the reading outside is not an option for me as it’s 18 degrees, snowing, and cold at my house! 🙂 But the point is – read your book out loud. Oh, and listen.

5. (Five). Don’t revise before you edit. This will save you a lot of time! In other words: move things around. Fix the plot holes. Cut, copy, paste, delete, add. Then edit. Fix the typos. Change the way the words flow. Otherwise you’re going to make a scene sound perfect, then discover deleting it altogether is actually what your story needs.

6. (Six). Make sure to get input from other people. No matter how much you listen to your inner editor, or slave over draft I and then II and then III with red pens, you cannot spot what other people can. Head to Ebay and buy some “thick skin” (cause you can buy anything on Ebay 😉 ). You’re going to need it – as some people will give you fluff that’s no help whatsoever – “Oh I loved it! Great job! Good book!” – and other people will tell you the truth. This part stinks. This part makes no sense whatsoever. And this part was so brilliant you remove it from your book on pain of death. 🙂 If your critique-rs are honest, you’ll be battered down. You’ll be lifted up and find the encouragement you needed to go on, and to make your book even better. Just remember to buy that thick skin – I believe it’s on sale now for $23.99. 😉

Well that’s the end of my advice (inspired from the Nanowrimo “Now What?” tips). Now I’m going to go and… try… to put them into practice. 🙂 So much more difficult to actually edit than to advise people how to edit! But I’m excited because I know no matter how hard or seemingly endless it is, in the end my book’s going to improve. I’m going to like it more. Readers will like it more. That makes me excited. 😀

Nanowrimo: Vanquished by Ulrich

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Started on November 1st with no words whatsoever. Now I have a story over 50,000 words long. All this while turning in papers and homework on time for college classes. And spending time with my family. And (of course) watching the occasional movie, reading the occasional book, and occasionally hanging out with a friend. Occasionally.

I have defeated thou, looming word count asking to be met. Having slain thou, I claim my great victory, take my bow, and revel in the feeling. (hey, gotta enjoy these things when they come cause life just isn’t a bunch of victories 🙂 )

Now I am ready for sleep and more sleep and a good long break from writing and school. 🙂 Hello, December.

Nanowrimo Update: Day 26

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Wow, the 26th day! Only four more days. Fortunately, though, I’ve caught up to my word count for the first time in many days. I now only have about 6,600 more words to write – yikes! I’m drawing fairly near the final battle, but by my guesstimate there’s still at least 12,000 more words until the story’s done.

That’s about all for the update – just wanted to let you know the finish line is drawing very, very near and I’m ready for it. 😀

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

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