Friday, November 27, 2009

musings on NaNoWriMo

Well peeps, I did it. I wrote 50,196 words in one month. And let me tell you, it's exhilarating. I imagine this is what it would feel like to finish a marathon, only without the chaffing, the pulled muscles, the severed tendons. I kind of know, because I've finished a few half marathons. My thoughts upon finishing a 13 mile race: I will never, NEVER run a full marathon.

I have similar thoughts on participating in NaNoWriMo. I don't think I ever will again. But.


I am so glad that I did it. It forced me to stick with my story, to think about it every day, to have the characters become real people living inside my head who talk to me when I scrub pots and drop off the carpool, to establish a routine that includes time for writing.

On Monday night, after I finished, I made myself a milkshake and took a long, hot bath. So long, in fact, that I fell asleep in the bathtub.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in a sort of word-war-hangover. The thought of turning on the computer made me cringe. I'm okay now. I still have this other silly goal I set to finish a novel in 2009, so even though I wrote all these words, my novel is still incomplete. Only about 1/2 way done. So maybe tomorrow I'll have the mental fortitude to carry on. Until then, I am on a well deserved vacation.

The following describes my internal dialogue for the entire month exactly (unfortunately, in my Nano-induced insanity, I didn't make a note of where this came from):

"What, precisely, is wrong with me? Why did I decide that the best way to spend the month of November would be indoors, strapped to a chair, writing thousands of words a day, alone, friendless, and insane? Why didn't I just agree to come to my desk every day, bang my head on it for a solid ten minutes, and be done with it? That would have been so much faster."

And then here's the response I got from NaNoWriMo upon reaching my goal:

You did it, writer.

Pitted against a merciless deadline and battling hordes of distractions—including the most tempting fall TV season that's been unleashed upon novelists in decades—you kept at it.

Now you've arrived at a place that very few NaNoWriMo participants ever see: The winner's circle. Overhead, the November sky is bursting with fireworks celebrating your victory, and the entire NaNoWriMo staff joins me in applauding your creative achievement.

You did something amazing this month, novelist. We couldn't be prouder.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

writing class: wherein my heart is flayed

Last Wednesday I shared the first 3 pages of my WIP with my writing class. This was a first for me. I wanted to throw up and cry at the same time. I have never been more embarrassed in my life. And I want to rewrite every word as I heard them reading it out loud. My teacher—who I happen to believe is very wise—basically told me that my story is schizophrenic: adult, YA, and middle grade all at once. I agree. He thinks I should focus on making it only middle grade. On this point I still disagree. We'll see.

I knew the story was starting in the wrong place. Who wants to read about someone laying in bed trying to sleep? Not me, not my writing class, and probably not anyone else. At least I have an idea about where the story needs to start now.

And, I am NOT READY to share any more writing in my class for a awhile. Still in the "closed door" phase, I think. Need much, much more practice.

So do you want to know what my writing class said about my first 3 pages? Here you go:

Too much detail for my liking. Takes too long for the story to move.

Not enough detail: I have no idea what is going on.

She acts younger than 17. (noted EIGHT times in the 3 page critique [and yes, I totally agree])

Need a better name for the beach. (The name: Xene Beach. Do you think I need a better name? What does that mean, better? Easier to pronounce? This comment has been haunting me.)

Is Bloom Day a celebration for a girl getting her period? (Note to self: change the name of this day immediately. Tell no one about this. Ever.)

You have down-right lovely sentences. You really are a talented writer. Your writing makes me smile. (This from someone who was 100% complimentary. I think I'll leave her something in my will.)

It's very Goose Girl. (This, I think, was said as a negative critique, but was the only thing that I heard in class that actually didn't make me want to dig my own grave right there in my chair. It's actually the best compliment I've ever gotten for my writing. I wish my class read more kid lit.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

feel the pain

There is this old Dinosaur Jr. song that I used to listen to called Feel the Pain [unrelatedly, it's a song on our Guitar Hero game that I rock at]. The lyrics say:

I feel the pain of everyone.

This happens to me sometimes. Today I am overwhelmed by the pain of everyone else. Maybe it's because I have been writing all day about how sad and lonely my main character is. Maybe it's because I read this obituary here today:

Heroin stole John first from his family, then from his friends, then from all who loved him. Early Thursday morning, heroin stole John from himself. We are so sorry.

Maybe it's because I read this poem at the beginning of the book Fire by Kristin Cashore and thought of my brother Steven:

Dellian Lament
While I was looking the other way your fire went out
Left me with cinders to kick into dust
What a waste of the wonder you were

In my living fire I will keep your scorn and mine
In my living fire I will keep your heartache and mine
At the disgrace of a waste of a life

Maybe it's because right now it seems like nothing ever, anywhere could make up for the waste of a life. If you read this, say a little prayer for anyone you know struggling with addiction. And I'll keep working on my recovery. Feeling this is part of that process. I hope in the end it will be enough.

[And if I have utterly depressed you, don't worry. It won't last. I have funny things planned for my next post involving a J. Crew catalog and captions. But sometimes life is not funny, or pretty, or happily-ever-after and it feels important for me to make a record of that here.]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fiction Friday: Needs

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo has a reputation for being the hardest week. I hope that's true, because this week was a doozy.

If I had no other life, writing would be no problem. But I have a husband who is so needy. He expects me to answer him when he asks me questions and actually have conversations with him when he comes home from work. And then there are the 4 children. Needy, needy. They need lunch money, birthday gifts for friends; they ask what's for dinner; they get sick and need to go to the doctor.

And then they wet beds and poop outside without telling anyone. Then before you know it, every sheet and blanket in the house is waiting in a patient pile by the washer and every mattress is bare. Meanwhile, the rest of your family has tracked poop up and down stairs, hallways, and kitchens. So you spend your writing time looking at people's bum crack cleavage in doctor's offices and lugging your carpet cleaner around your house and thinking you should buy stock in Clorox Wipes.

So, is it really necessary to let you know that I am 4900 words behind? No, I didn't think so. Don't worry. I am plotting the rest of my novel today on index cards and Mr. Coleman is headed to Phoenix until Sunday night. I have a Friday and Saturday night date with a few of my favorite people. I hope someday you get to meet them too. Here are some novel stats:

Number of times I thought seriously about quitting: 26
Ounces of caffeinated beverages consumed: 40
Number of times I called this project "stupid": 2
Insomnia episodes: 2
Topics researched on google: corsets, fjords, Båhus castle, coming-of-age rituals

Nearly every sentence in Part 2 is spoilery, so I'm not sharing much. But this should give you a feel:


I shall not come into the hall with words of fear upon my lips.
The Aesir will welcome me: death comes without lamenting.
The disir summon me home.
Gladly shall I drink ale in the high seat.
The days of my life are ended: I die with a laugh.
-the Krákumál

Someone should have warned me. Perhaps then I would have made less of a fool of myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

See that girl on the left?

That's my little sister Anna. Solid to her core. She's the kind of person whose strength of conviction is contagious. And I love her. (But sometimes I am also a little jealous because she is skinnier than me and eats way more frosting than I do). Happy birthday!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tale—
All is well! All is well!

It happened. It was not a tale of love at first hearing, but I've made an emotional connection to this cd and now I can't stop listening to it. And I'm girding up my loins. And all is well.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fiction Friday

Last night I dreamt that my brother Steven was a zombie and to destroy him we had to tear him into tiny pieces while he was still alive and without him noticing. My first thought upon waking was not ewww, or, I'm so glad that was just a dream. No, my first thought was where's my pen? I've got to write that down.

Today is day 6 of NaNoWriMo and I am still ahead of my goals. This week of writing has been made possible by Micah, who made chicken enchiladas and french bread all by himself. A few stats:

Number of times I thought seriously about quitting: 8
Ounces of caffeinated beverages consumed: 0
Number of times Mr. Coleman called this project "stupid": 2
Topics researched on google: albinism, Krakumal, Gokstad, ship diagram

So, with that, here is an excerpt:

I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes. I wanted to remember every detail from that first trip to Xene Beach. I remember the pale blush of the morning sky, the feel of the shrubs brushing my bare feet, and the sticky coolness of the salty air. I remember Olek from the backside too for all that it matters: his green uniform and straight back, dark head of hair, cross bow slung across his shoulders.

The photo is a shot that I am using as inspiration for my setting. It's the greek island Corfu. Some say it is the most beautiful place in the world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the bark gets 'em every time

During our yard sale a few weeks ago, I gave Casey Anne a 10 minute photography lesson. We ranged over topics like depth of field, aperture and shutter speed, composition, and a mess of other things. It was genius really.

She wanted to enter the photography division of an art contest that her school has. We went out later that day to snap some pictures at the temple. Her theme: Beauty is... I suggested she take a picture of the bark on some of the trees.


Every photo contest I have ever entered, I have won. And I always take a picture of bark.
[Okay. I've only entered one contest. And the total number of contestants was the total number of students in my photography class at Snowflake High School. But I was still the winner, so shut it.]

So, she decided to enter the above photo. And guess what?

She has been selected to move on to the next level. I'm telling you, the bark gets 'em every time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

the spoils

Can you guess which child of mine sorts and lines up his/her candy like an obsessive compulsive? [Hint: This child is the most like me.]

What is your favorite candy? See's aside, my favorite is a toss up between Milk Duds and Kit Kats.

Mr. Coleman took the kiddies trick-or-treating with his friend T.D. and then they went and saw a movie together: Couples Retreat. Do you think I should be worried?

And, I am starting my 50,000 words TODAY!!! I am so excited, I've been having a hard time sleeping. So, even though it's not Friday, I want to start with this little teaser. It's the epigraph I am thinking of using at the beginning:

The sun that sets may rise again
but when our light has sunk into the earth
it is gone forever.

And my working title: Against the Dying Light