NaNoWriMo Fail…Life Win


The sunrise over Salem Harbor

Sunrise over Salem Harbor

This year’s National Novel Writing Month goes down as a fail…in word count, anyway. In fact, I wrote fewer words in November than I have in any month this year.

But I see the month as a personal success. Big time. Here’s why.

In early November I attended the Writer Unboxed Unconference. I learned from the greats: Don Maass, Lisa Cron, Kathryn Craft, and Anne Greenwood Brown (to name a few). See my post at Writer Unboxed about one tiny part of what I learned. I made progress on my WIP in ways I’m still unraveling. I met writer friends I’d to date met only online or talked to on the phone: most notably Therese Walsh, my fearless and amazing editor at WU; Kim Bullock, my wonderful fellow assistant editor; Kathryn Craft and Vaughn Roycroft and John Kelley and Mike Swift and Jo Eberhardt and Rebeca Schiller and Chris Blake and Heather Webb and Keith Cronin and Tonia Marie Harris and Jeannine Thibodeau and Bernadette Phipps-Lincke…so many…writers on WU I’ve known for years. But what surprised me most was the friends I made that I’d never met online. Wonderful and loving writers all, now amazing friends for life. I could go on and on because “the UnCon” was truly a life-changing event for me, at least in part because as an introvert, I was afraid to go (almost didn’t)…but I challenged my fear…and I did it.

Later in the month, I went to Virginia to see my son and his wonderful girlfriend. While in Charlottesville, my son and I went to Monticello, where we had an amazing tour with one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had anywhere, which of course inspired more story ideas; we read and wrote a lot together (they are both studying for big exams); and we ate a lot of good food. It was a marvelous trip. And…to make the trip, I challenged my fear of flying…I was only slightly terrified, but I did it.

Finally, November is a win because I am reinvigorated in my story. I am looking at it in new ways and realizing how close I am to the (very rough draft) end. I’m hitting December with a positive attitude about writing and life—and that’s bound to translate into a winning December and coming year in word count and in happiness.

How can I ask for any better result from a NaNoWriMo fail?

How was your month? How are you feeling about your writing (and life) as you head into December and the new year? 

Pushing Through

Happy trails, Fella, wish I could be there to watch you run one more time!

Happy trails, Fella. Wish I could be there to watch you run one more time…

I’m somewhere in the middle. 28,481 words down, 21,519 to go (for NaNoWriMo). Of course to reach a rough draft of the complete novel, I’ve got a lot more than that to write. 

If last week was the highpoint of this month-long intensive writing, this week I definitely hit a low. Because this week I remembered. Sometimes writing is hard. Really hard. I hit a patch that didn’t come easily and I wondered: is the story really going anywhere? Worse. Is it (any of it) really worth it? Even worse: writing this makes me too sad or I just can’t let go enough to “go there.”

This week I hit one of lowest points I can remember in my fiction writing experience. Partly because life got in the way. That’s a funny way to describe writing, isn’t it? Sometimes when things go easily and flow (and I’m loving the feeling), I think writing is my life, but it’s really not. This week I had some emotional turmoil (I won’t go into it), and it made me think about giving up. Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse, they did.

We said good-bye to our beloved Abby dog yesterday. She was my daughter’s puppy, but I spent a lot of time with her. Okay. All the time. As a writer, I spend long (sometimes lonely) hours at the dining room table. But I wasn’t. Abby was always there with me.

But lately, Abby slept all the time. She could barely make it across the kitchen without her legs buckling. Robbed of freedom of movement by crippling arthritis, doomed by genetics, Abby wasn’t the most active dog in the world for the past few years—she couldn’t be—but she soldiered on through the pain she lived with daily, never complaining, always ready for a run through her favorite dog park, Twin Brook, albeit more and more slowly. Always sweet and stalwart, steadfast and kind (can a dog be kind?). She was without a doubt the best dog I’d ever met. My soul dog I called her.

I thought about quitting NaNoWriMo after we had to have Abby put down (yes, it was our final decision, one more way we had to take care of her, to help her escape her failing body—which is the only way I could think of it). MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I were with her at the end, as was her beloved Dr. Renee (if you have a great veterinarian who’s also a good friend, you know how impossibly important that person becomes in your life). We all cried.

Abby leaves a hole in my heart the size of a galaxy, and this morning I feel like I’m in a black hole, but I’m writing. I will finish this book despite my crushing sadness. I will finish this book despite the many things that feel out of my control in my life right now that are struggling mightily to control my ability to write. I will finish this book because writing is my salvation. It’s what wakes me up in the morning, keeps me going in the middle of the day, and gives me dreams and hope at night.

I will push through.

Why I Love NaNo More Today than Yesterday


Yesterday’s sky as I drove to the coffee shop to write

I learned something new about myself and my writing today—something I’m not sure I’d ever have learned if it weren’t for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Okay, I know there are split camps on NaNoWriMo. In fact, you might either love it or hate it. Think it’s a great thing or the dumbest idea on earth. Writing a novel in a month? Why would you (or I for that matter) want to do such a thing? By the way, that used to be my opinion…so hear me out.

Truth is that up until last year (when I finished a draft of a novel during NaNo) I thought it was (a) pretty stupid, (b) pointless, and (c) defeated the entire point of writing (writing well, that is). I used to think that something good—especially something creative—couldn’t be forced. That is, that it really had to be done in its own time, at its own pace—fast or slow.

But now I wonder. Here’s the thing. This morning I wrote a scene I never ever thought of for my novel in progress (I’m a plotter by nature, most of the time, with occasional smatterings of pantser). The scene came out fast and furious, and when I looked up I’d spent not quite an hour writing almost 2000 words. But that’s not what surprised me. I tend to write very quickly (for first drafts). It was the actual scene that was different: the writing style and certainly the content, much different than I’d ever written or considered writing (for this novel or any other fiction project).

After I finished, I remembered having this experience with a scene I wrote during last NaNoWriMo—last year. It was a scene about an LSD trip, a wild car race up into the California foothills in a semi-stolen car, a young afraid woman desperately trying to understand and make sense of a young man’s actions and feelings. It’s a scene in the novel I’m currently querying (that I wrote last year during NaNo). It’s a story that has gone through many revisions since the first draft—and will most likely go through additional revisions because it’s a story worth working on. (The novel was named a semi-finalist in the 2014 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition.)

The important takeaway for me is that the scene I wrote last year and the scene I wrote today taught me something important about myself and about NaNoWriMo. It’s not only that I can force myself to write. The first time out of the gate with NaNo, I figured out that I can force myself into the creative zone, the writing zone, pretty much any time I want to. I’m guessing that most writers who write fiction on a regular schedule know this, but here’s the new thing I learned today.

That sometimes I can actually write more creatively when I push myself. Even—and maybe especially—when I’m not “in the mood.” That sometimes, something very creative and very different comes out. A piece of writing that I love, a piece of writing that I’m proud of.

Just one of the reasons I love NaNoWriMo a lot more today than yesterday.

Can you force yourself into the creative zone? Do you write differently—maybe even more creatively sometimes—when you aren’t in the mood?


Do You Believe in Magic?


Back to the coffee shop… more magic!

It’s all coming back to me. Two days into NaNoWriMo and the drama has begun. And it’s not all about the writing. I’m beginning to think NaNo (or birthing a first draft of a novel) is a bit like birthing a baby. You forget all the bad parts—the physical pain, the fears and the feelings it can’t be done, the fear that something will go wrong, the sleepless nights, the anguish of worry—or maybe you’d never be willing to do it again.

Last year I “won” NaNo. That is, I wrote 50,000 words during the month of November: National Novel Writing Month. Actually, to be technically accurate, I wrote more than 50,000 words. And I finished the first draft of a novel.

Last year I also wrote four blogs about my NaNo drama. In one, I detailed how I decided (somewhat spur of the moment) to commit to NaNo. In one I recounted my injury that I was afraid might sideline me from finishing (I shut my hand in the car door)—well actually MEH (My Engineer Husband) typed that one for me. In one I recounted certain NaNo truths (and lies). And in a final one, I talked about how I won.

Today I reread those four blogs. Believe it or not, I’d forgotten all about them—except the one that talked about winning! I forgot I slammed my hand in the car door. I forgot it was a last minute decision. I even forgot how much fun it was. It kind of went by in a whirlwind to be honest.

Yesterday after my first writing session (I wrote only 782 words—and I knew that to finish the 50K I’d need to average about 1600 a day), I was discouraged. I felt pretty sure that my idea wasn’t a very good one. Then this morning I got up early. I made a pot of coffee and started writing. Before I knew it I’d written a thousand words. Then two thousand. The idea still didn’t feel like the best one I’d ever had, but I was inhabiting the world, I was seeing the scenes in my mind. I’d even identified a song that was emblematic of the story. (It wasn’t  one of the ones from my last post. It’s “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay. It’s now on endless loop while I write. Yesterday I heard it on the radio in the car and I had to turn it off—I started to feel my eyes drift closed, started to feel a writing trance coming on…no, really.)

And there’s more. That drama. It’s all falling into place. Like magic.


I forgot when I got up that it was Daylight Savings. In fact, last night I accidentally set my clock ahead instead of back. So did I wake up two hours early?

I made coffee.

I wrote my words (2695 this morning).

I went into the kitchen and a spaghetti squash fell off the counter onto my little toe (as MEH said, “a squash squashed your toe.”

The first snow of the season started to fall.

After I posted a snowy pic on Instagram, I started thinking more about the novel I’m calling TYAAD.

More pieces fell into place, and I fell a little more in love.


What are you doing for the month of November? Do you believe in magic? I do.



p.s. if you’re doing NaNo, too, let’s be buddies! I’m Julia.M.Martin!!

Saturday Six

Here’s what’s happening this week in my world…keep reading for how to enter a giveaway for an ITunes gift card!

1. Fact or Fiction? Today I’m on Writer Unboxed with a post called Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction about three things that got me thinking about whether men have an edge over women in the publishing and writing world. Here’s the beginning:

 Lest you think I’m a ‘man-hating feminist,’ let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention…

A huge thank you to my wonderful daughter for taking time (on very, extremely short notice) from her busy job to give me her insight and help in editing this piece.

2. Diary of the Fall. This week I also had my first post on the Great New Books blog! I wrote about Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. It’s about three generations of diarists, and it’s an interesting book on many levels—for me it was most interesting in its structure: nonlinear in nature and very short chapters. I hope you’ll take a look at the post, here’s an excerpt.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with nonlinear stories—in fact I’ve been searching them out. That’s how I stumbled onto Diary of the Fall written by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

This story of three generations of men—all diarists—is told through the eyes of a single narrator: a forty-something (unnamed) man, who relives and retells the story of a dangerous prank he and other Jewish thirteen-year-olds at an elite school in Brazil play on their one non-Jewish classmate, João. At João’s thirteenth birthday party, the boys decide as a group to drop João during a ceremonial “13-bumps” tradition, and João is seriously injured in “the fall.”

3. That giveaway. I’m putting together a new play list for the WIP I’ll write during NaNoWriMo. If anyone can guess what I’m writing about based on this playlist, you’ll win a $10 gift card from ITunes. Here’s a screenshot of the songs I’m listening to in repeat while I’m in planning mode.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 6.42.20 AM

click to enlarge

Not that this will necessarily help you with your guess, but my favorite song so far is “Cool Kids” by EchoSmith. (I never was one of the cool kids, by the way, maybe that’s why.) Seriously, leave a comment and if you guess correctly (or even close!), I’ll send you that gift card.

4. It just goes on and on. We’re still in the midst of one of the most prolonged and beautiful falls I can remember. In fact, we’re just about “at peak.” The colors are dazzling and distracting and stunning…I can’t think of enough descriptors, so how about another photo?


This sugar maple next to a neighbor’s house is what I’m talking about…dazzling right?

5. King Tide. I missed the lunar eclipse but caught the “King Tide,” the year’s highest astronomical tide, and it was something. I stood on the tiny piece of remaining shore on Cousins Island Beach and let the water wash over my sandaled feet. Yes, it’s still been that warm here…in Maine…in October. It’s amazing and wonderful.


This is all that was left of the beach during King Tide!

6. Can’t break the habit! MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I gave up cable TV a few years ago—actually right around when I first started blogging. Now, instead, we binge watch TV. (No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, except that we no longer have a cable TV bill.) We’ve gone through Rescue Me, The Guardian, The Mentalist, Castle, The Mindy Project, and now we’re about to wind up Chuck. Any suggestions on what we should start next would be greatly appreciated. Clearly we like an eclectic mix but tend to like quirky and shows that have (at least some) humor and a lot of mystery.

How are things in your corner of the world? What are you writing and watching and listening to? Don’t forget to guess what my new WIP is about, and you could win that ITunes gift card.



On Starting Again, Again


Because wouldn’t you rather look at this amazing sunrise than a blank screen?

The blank page (er, screen)…

It’s staring me in the face these days.

That’s not entirely true. My alter-ego, mystery-writing self J.M. Maison is busy at work on the next book in The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series (it will be done soon).

But me? Myself? I?

I’m starting over, again. The wheels are churning. I have an idea, several, they’re coming together (I wrote about it here on Writer Unboxed last month…about cooking an idea). I’m hoping this: that I’ll finish the mysterious first draft, then just in time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November) the pieces will have fallen into place for the next novel.

That’s what happened last year. NaNo was a big success for me (you can read my husband’s funny post about it here). I wrote the first draft of a novel (I’m now querying). I love the exciting wind-in-my-hair feeling I got from NaNo. And I think I’m going to do it again.

Okay, that’s all today—I’m off to write. Have a great day everyone!

What about you? Have you ever NaNo-ed? Did you like it? Or not so much?



My Writing Process: blog tour

photo copy

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” Zora Neale Thurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

I’m not sure how, but all of a sudden it’s the beginning of June. It seemed like forever to get here, but now the sun is shining, boats are in the water, the lilacs are in full bloom, and our garden is a weed patch waiting for tending.

Meanwhile, there’s writing to tend to as well, and I’d like to thank my friend Jamie Miles for inviting me to participate in the “My Writing Process” blog tour. With a million things going on, I’m not sure I’d have gotten around to blogging this week at all. So thank you Jamie! If you haven’t visited Jamie’s wonderful blog, you should go take a look—she’s one of my favorites: lots of humor and life observations and full of heart. Well worth the read!

What are you working on?

I’m finishing up the ninth draft of my latest novel—I call it near-historical fiction coming of age. The seed of the idea came from a real life experience you can read about in another blog post. A teenage girl falls in love with a young man who is about to leave to serve in the Vietnam War, and after he deploys, she learns about and forms ideas about the war based on interactions with four other young men in her life. I wrote the first draft of this novel during NaNoWriMo last year.

I am also working on my next novel idea. It’s about an adrenaline junkie—so I’m challenging my fears by doing some of the things that I’ll write about in the book.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

This is a tough question because most of what I write is cross-genre. I’ve written mystery that has elements of women’s fiction (I self published Desired to Deathas J.M. Maison). I’ve written historical fiction that is combined with magical realism (I’m querying this novel); and my current novel is near-historical fiction (1960s), but it is also coming of age with elements of literary fiction.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m almost always drawn to stories of loss and change and themes of home, probably at least partly because I moved around a lot as a kid. I’m also the product of a broken family: my father walked out when I was only two years old. I often write about family and parental problems that I believe have a profound effect on children for their whole life long. Hence (regardless of their age) many of my characters are trying to figure out how to cope with the hands dealt them in childhood. I also tend to address topics that produce fear for me in my life (for instance writing about an adrenaline junkie or being forced to say good-bye to a friend or lover forever). These explorations help me make sense of my own life, fears, and limitations, while at the same time helping to distract me and make me feel less alone with my problems and fears. My stories also always include at least one love story—I love to write about love and relationships—often the foundation of life’s greatest joys and biggest heartaches.

How does your writing process work?

This is an interesting question because my process seems to be constantly evolving. It used to be that I’d always write a (pretty detailed) outline prior to starting to write. Then with my last WIP, I started writing and wrote about two or three chapters before I even started to outline—then I outlined the entire book. With my current WIP, I didn’t outline at all before I started to write and after I was finished with the first draft, I pulled the entire book apart, outlined it, and restructured it.

The one thing that hasn’t changed in all my outlining and writing process changes is that when I’m writing a first draft, I write every day. I like to write first thing in the morning, but I can write anytime. I think the reason NaNoWriMo worked so well for me is that I usually write fast and hard. During first draft, I’ll write between 1000 and 7000 words a day. I almost always go into “the writer’s zone,” and I barely notice what’s going on around me. When I’m in the zone I can write anywhere. In the past two years, I’ve come to realize that I can force myself into the zone with music related (in my mind only) to the story I’m writing. Ever since then, I’ve created a playlist for every WIP, and for the hour or so leading up to writing I’ll listen to the music, and I also listen to the music (but don’t really hear) while I write.  As I write, I become completely and totally immersed in the world I create.

Next week…

I’ve invited my blogging friend Jackie Cangro to participate in “My Writing Process.” Jackie and I met several years ago via Twitter and/or mutual blogging friends (I can’t remember exactly how)—you know how these things go. I absolutely love Jackie’s posts. She always delivers something entertaining but thought provoking, too, and I love her writing style. I also enjoy hearing stories and updates about her amazing dog Reggie.

What’s up with you this early summer? Writing? Vacationing? I’d love to hear!




Magenta is the New Red

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That’s it: the InkJoy 500 RT!

These days you’ll find me in revision and editing mode. The manuscript I (almost) finished during NaNoWriMo is now just about at first draft stage. I’m doing a read through, and while I do I have my favorite editing pen close at hand: a magenta PaperMate InkJoy 500 RT. No, this is not an endorsement nor an advertisement, and I’m not being paid a penny for saying what I’m about to say.

Still, I’ll say it. I’ve always been a red-pen kind of writer (I can thank Professor Drechsel for this: Newswriting 101). In fact, editing with a red pen was one of my regular habits—like writing at one particular table in one particular coffee shop, listening to the same set of songs prior to and during writing, and wearing a special pair of socks while writing (okay that last one is untrue, but rule of three and all…).

Anyway, last Christmas my son’s lovely girlfriend gave me a pack of PaperMate InkJoy 500 RT pens (assorted colors), and I got particularly attached to said magenta pen. Not to be mistaken for the InkJoy 550 or 100, mind you—something that came up when I tried to replace my favorite pen and I accidentally bought the 100s (this is when I also found out that the RT stands for retractable, thank you kind Staples associate for this key piece of information).

But why was I in need of replacing my favorite pen, you might ask. No, it didn’t run out of ink. I actually left it somewhere quite on purpose, in a particular circumstance. I’m not trying to be overly mysterious or dramatic here, just trying to pique your curiosity enough that you’ll head over to read the whole story on Writer Unboxed… let me add that it involves Nathaniel Hawthorne, probably my favorite author of all time.

Please head over to Writer Unboxed and read: I Left My Heart At Authors Ridge!





Lost in the story



Yesterday I finished. 50,000+ words since November 1st: “WINNER”

That’s what flashed on the screen after I uploaded my words to the site. But the truth is, I won the battle but not the war. (Can you tell I’ve been submerged in a novel that takes place during wartime?) I haven’t typed THE END. I’ve got my NaNo words, but I’m not done with first draft and then I GET TO edit and revise.

And I’m pretty happy about that. Because I’m lost in my story.

I can’t stop thinking about Pat and Marin and Jason and Jimmy and Mrs. Murphy and Ray and Tyler (if that’s the name that sticks). I dreamed about them last night. I wake up early to rush to the computer. I mean early. Some days in the middle of November, my eyes flew open a little before four and no matter what I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I’d get up and write. This morning was slightly better. I slept in until 4:15. (You get the point.)

And I’ve been annoyed and antsy if I can’t write. And agitated.

I don’t know how long the finishing of the first draft will take. Or the revisions after that. I do know that I’ve read a lot of blogs lately that point the fingers at NaNo-ers (like me!). I’ve been surprised. Some have been judgmental. Saying that “no one should write a novel in a month.” Because it won’t be good, that it will degrade the overall quality of what’s out there to read. I don’t know about that. I know that some novels that are well regarded (like The Night Circus, Wool, and Water for Elephants for example) got their start as NaNo novels. And I even read a great post about other (longer ago) writers who wrote speedy fast even before NaNo was around–and their novels are still well regarded. Bradbury, Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson. You can read about them here, it’s pretty cool. I also know that we all write in our own way, our own time.

And I know this, too. NaNoWriMo worked for me. And I’m happy about where it took me. Lost in my story, excited to write (and revise) more. I felt stalled out before I started this month, and my goal was to get writing again, and I did. Some of the results of my experiment truly surprised me, too. As I was writing, some of what I wrote seemed forced and like it wouldn’t “sound right” after I finished, but my fears were unfounded. Some parts I barely remember writing, and that’s always a good sign to me that I entered the writing zone. That surprises me, too (and makes me happy): that I can force the zone.

I can thank NaNoWriMo for that. For helping me bring back the magic and for helping me get lost in my story again. I’m thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving (and happy writing!),


From the NaNoWriMo Sidelines

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For the first time ever, MEH (My Engineer Husband) is typing this post for me. You may wonder why… so I’ll tell you. The thing is, I’m not that into sports—and I don’t think know I’ve never written a blog about sports. But if you thought about NaNoWriMo as a sport (stay with me here) then you could think of this blog post as my very first one about sports. Except it’s technically not about sports. It’s about sports injuries. And being on the injured reserved list….and having a pinch writer…if NaNoWriMo was a sport, and I was the injured player.

By now you’re probably wondering where this is going.

As I wrote in last week’s post, I was going gangbusters with NaNo. By early today, in fact, I was scheduled (by the NaNoWriMo website itself) to finish my 50,000 words by November 28th. That was after I wrote 2,000 words this morning, bringing my grand total to 28,907 words since November 1st. Bringing my total WIP to just shy of 53,000 words.

I admit I was getting a little cocky. I thought I had it all sewn up. The win was in my column (or is it corner?). Okay, there’s a reason I haven’t written about sports.

Here’s how it went down. MEH and I made a team decision to run to the health food store to buy…well, I can’t tell you what we were buying because it’s a present for my daughter and she might read this post. Anyway, we had a frustrating trip to the health food store, with some guy stopping in front of us at every turn, with no regard for the rules of the game. I even said “excuse me” a few times when I was trying to pass, but he blocked me every time.

Finally, after paying, we were on our way. I expressed my frustration to MEH who said: “you mean the guy with the blue shirt… yeah, he was in my way all the time too, so annoying.” We got in our car—MEH in the driver’s seat, me in the passenger’s, and as I did something out of the corner of my eye made me turn, flinch, choke, and I noticed a car pulling sharply into the parking place next to ours. I pulled my door closed suddenly, afraid he might hit the car door.

And that’s when it happened: I slammed three of my fingers into the top of the car door as I pulled it closed. OUCH. It’s been a few years since I’ve done anything like that, and let me tell you, it hurt like HELL. I cried, I admit it, and it took me more than a few seconds to tell MEH what happened. When I did, I cradled my injured hand and cried:


Okay, that’s a lie. The first thing out of my mouth was: “D*** S*** F***,” repeat (but I didn’t really say asterisk of course). I’m pretty sure I’d have made a hockey player proud. Although I really did cry. A lot.

When I was finished crying and cursing about Mr. Blue Shirt—who let’s face it was the cause of the problem, not that I’m a sore loser or anything, MEH (being the champ he is) said, “I’ll type for you.”

Then we drove home where—lucky for me—my son was visiting and he (being 3/4 of a doctor and all) examined my fingers and assured me that rest, ice, and Advil was the best treatment. “Rest?” I asked. And that’s when I did cry out “NaNoWriMo” and when my son said “NaNo-what?” And MEH told me again he’d be my pinch-writer.

I took the Advil and promised I’d wait to type until morning, when all would once again be good in NaNoWriMo land.

And that, dear reader, is why MEH is typing this post for me. Which is a good thing because he’s a lot more into sports than I am.

Have you every had a writing related injury that forced you to take a break (or find a pinch writer)?




NaNo Truths

From Flickr's Creative Commons by Monda@NoTelling

From Flickr’s Creative Commons by Monda@NoTelling

One week and two days of NaNoWriMo, and here’s how it’s going.

I’ve put my butt in the chair everyday and written until my eyeballs were falling out of my head. To help me accomplish this, I’ve been drinking copious amounts of black coffee in the morning (well, at all times of day, really) and I’ve started smoking (cigarettes). I’ve stopped cooking—can’t be bothered, really, and all we’ve eaten is Cheetos and brownies. I’ve told everyone I see at the coffee shop that “yeah, that’s right, I’m ‘doing NaNo,’ this year, and it’s awesome.” Everyone I’ve told has been struck speechless. I thought about taking LSD and driving up a windy mountain road with a teenage hostage, but thought the better of it. At night, I’ve exchanged the coffee for shots of Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey and write more… I’ve written over 13K words.

The truth…

I’ve been drinking copious amounts of black coffee in the morning (well, at all times of day, really) I used to use milk in my coffee, but I started drinking black coffee last month because I’m lactose intolerant. I drink only one cup of coffee, first thing in the morning, or it keeps me up at night.

…and I’ve started smoking (cigarettes). Nope.

I’ve put my butt in the chair everyday and written until my eyeballs were falling out of my head.I’ve written for at most four hours each day and one day only three. In truth there were two days I wrote nothing at all.

I’ve stopped cooking—can’t be bothered, really, and all we’ve eaten is Cheetos andbrownies. Truth is, I cooked every night and even made a new recipe: quinoa pilaf with almonds and cranberries. It was delicious. I did bake brownies, too. I wanted to eat Cheetos but I resisted.

At night, I’ve exchanged the coffee for shots of Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey and write more… This is untrue. I did have a quarter of a glass of wine with the quinoa pilaf (I’m a lightweight). The Bushmill’s is a nod to Denis Leary’s Rescue Me (one of my favorite TV shows). The truth is that every night we ate brownies and watched movies: dumb, scary, and ones that were supposed to be funny. My favorites: Loopers (which also terrified me) and Beyond the Pines. Admissions was a disappointment.

I’ve told everyone I see at the coffee shop that “yeah, that’s right, I’m ‘doing NaNo,’ this year, and it’s awesome.” I’ve only been to the coffee shop once and I spoke to one person who I didn’t mention NaNoWriMo to. I did mention it to several people I ran into when I went to get new tires and at the grocery store and also in casual conversation at Trader Joe’s. No one had ever heard of it… “Nano, huh?” (and then they really were struck speechless)

I thought about taking LSD and driving up a windy mountain road with a teenage hostage, but thought the better of it. This is actually somewhat true—well not me—I wrote about a guy who took LSD and drove up a windy foothills road with a teenage girl he was in love with. This was my favorite moment of NaNoWriMo so far, actually, because it was one of the days that I really did make myself write because it was NaNo, and I never envisioned this particular character doing these particular things, but it came to me in a flash, and it will most definitely stay in the book.

I’ve written over 13K words. YES! According to the NaNoWriMo website, at my rate I’ll finish (my 50,000 words) in early December, and I’m thrilled. Prior to NaNo I wasn’t writing anything, and now I’m writing (almost) everyday. Better yet, I’m fully engaged and in love with the story. It’s all I see in my head, all day long, even when I’m not writing, and once that happens I know I’m in the zone.

Will I do it again? I’m not sure, but this year NaNo was the way to go, and that’s the truth.

What are some truths (and lies) about your week? Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going?




Rising From the Ashes of the Phoenix


The Phoenix by Philip Pryke (Flickr Commons)

My life and writing schedule have been in a bit of a chaotic mess lately. After MEH (My Engineer Husband) lost his job, and I stopped going to the coffee shop every morning to write, I stopped writing. Well, I wrote a couple of blogs, some blog comments, a handful of tweets, maybe 500 words a week of fiction. But for four weeks I felt like I was at a standstill. I drank coffee with MEH every morning, we chatted, I helped him look for jobs to apply to, I ironed his shirts, I gardened and cleaned the yard, I looked at the fall leaves…in short I puttered. No, worse. I floundered. I foundered too. (I get those words mixed up a lot but this time I looked them up, and both are true.)

Then came November. And NaNoWriMo. On October 31st I told MEH I was going for it. Thing is, I’m about 25,000 words into the current WIP, and I just made a mental breakthrough of sorts—I finally figured out the structure the book will take. November 1st I wrote about 400 words and then the power went out. We went to a coffee shop in town, but not the one I used to go to every day. We had to charge our computers, we told ourselves, but the truth is we were both floundering. MEH had gotten bad news about a job he’d applied to, “a sure thing,” the headhunter told him. And I—well, I was foundering.

I talked to the barista; “S” is a writer, too, working on an MFA. She and I talk writing and books whenever I go to that particular coffee shop. I told her I was thinking I was going for the NaNo. “NaNo?” S asked. “OH! NaNo! She pointed over to the coffee shop bulletin board: front and center and practically the only thing on the board, in large cut out letters was an announcement about the National Novel Writing Month. She wasn’t familiar with it until she saw the board, she said.

“Yeah, I’m going for it,” I said laughing nervously and looking over my shoulder at my computer next to MEH. I went back and wrote another 400 (or so) words.

The next day was Saturday. And I wasn’t so sure. Would I write? Was my resolve flagging? After all, I hadn’t really written much anyway. November 2nd and I was behind—at least in my own mind. 800 or so words of 50,000 hardly seemed to constitute a real start. I read some blogs, wrote some comments (do those count, by the way? I’m not wondering, it’s MEH—he asked), then I came to Lisa Kramer’s blog (Woman Wielding Words) and she was writing about NaNo…that she was doing it. I left a noncommittal comment, something about using NaNo for motivation (not admitting what I’d told S and MEH, that I was doing it), and left it at that. Later that day I went back to see if Lisa responded—she had. She suggested I should go for it, for the camaraderie…I thought about writing back and saying I was. But then I thought about the 800 words… the road ahead. My chaotic life.

Fast forward to this morning, way too early. In bed. Daylight savings gets me every time, and I woke up at 4:00 a.m. for good. I did what anyone would do… checked my Bloglovin feed and started reading blogs on my iPhone. I know, it’s a bad thing, but I do it.

The first one I read was the Debutante Ball. News flashes… one of them was an announcement by Natalia Sylvester, that she was going for it, at the last minute she’d decided to do NaNo. If I wasn’t fully awake yet, that woke me. #NaNoWriMo and #WordMarathon, she said. Check in, she said. I thought about my 800 words (I didn’t write at all over the weekend), I thought about the chaos in my life, but more, I thought about writing and how much I missed it, how much I loved the thought of checking in everyday with Lisa and with Natalia and with the other 267,777 people who have signed up, and I decided it’s just what I need.

I’m in.

How about you? Are you in? Have you ever done NaNo? Have you ever floundered (or foundered)? What did you do about it? Find me on Twitter @wordsxo, checking in at #NaNoWriMo and #WordMarathon.