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!),


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?




Step Away from the Wi-fi

Photo by Vasile Cotovanu (flickr CreativeCommons)
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about social networking addiction. You can see it here. At the end of the post I announced there would be a Part 2—more about social networking addiction. But then a funny thing happened. 
I got busy writing. I started writing more and turning off the Internet more. I made a personal decision that when my husband is home or when I’m away from the computer, I won’t check my phone (unless one of our kids calls or texts). Do you know the average person checks his or her cell phone for messages, emails, etc., every ten minutes?

To be honest, I wasn’t even going to write this follow up post (and I felt pretty guilty about it—I said I would write it, and I don’t like reneging on my word). Then something happened to prompt me to write this second part. I was at Target yesterday, and round about when I was in the shampoo aisle, I heard a voice that sounded like a TV show host or a how-to-show host. After a few minutes of hearing it I got curious, figuring it must be a new Target demo or something. But when I turned down the next aisle, all I saw was a little girl (about three years old) in a cart being pushed by her grandma.

And the voice? It was coming from an iPhone the little girl was holding—she was watching videos on youtube (I assumed), glued to the tube, while she was in Target spending time with her grandmother. And here’s what really bothered me. They weren’t interacting at all. Now, lest you think I am being too harsh, that the poor grandma was just distracting the little girl for a few seconds while she picked out a toothpaste. You would be wrong. I kept seeing the two in and out of the same aisles I was in for about fifteen minutes—and only once did I hear them interact—when the little girl said “Look at this, Grandma.” In her only defense, the grandma did look.

I know a little girl watching youtube videos instead of chatting with her grandma at Target is not exactly like a writer being addicted to social networking (nor is it the worst thing in the world, I realize that). But it reminded me once again that sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing. It reinforced my desire to disconnect more, to stop looking at my phone (or email or Twitter) every ten minutes, to focus on real life at least as much as I focus on online life.

But what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not quite as easy as it might seem. As writers, we spend a lot of time alone, we’re very contemplative and introspective by nature. We don’t all have our grandmas to chat with like that lucky little girl did. And so—even though I know my online “presence” sometimes does interfere with writing—I won’t give up on it completely.

Still, I had to do something. I considered all the great techniques other writers use—left in comments on my first post about social networking addiction, things like: scheduling tweets and posts ahead of time, tweeting and blogging less frequently, slowing down Facebook postings, increasing other non-writing creative endeavors, unplug from the Internet for certain times of day, work outside the house (like at a coffee shop), restrict Twitter to specific times of day and for limited amounts of time, “disappear” (for more prolonged periods) to get writing done, turn off the computer and get away from it, don’t get online after work hours or on the weekends, take a “digital sabbatical,” cut down on the impulse to “check social media nonstop,” step back while the kids are home for summer vacation, don’t get a smart phone.

So last week I started a new routine. When I’m working on my WIP, I turn off the wi-fi. At first I noticed I would still scroll down to check email—I was amazed at how often I tried to check (maybe every ten minutes, go figure)! But after a few days I stopped trying. I remembered that it was writing time. My word count shot up. I started writing at least double what I had been prior to the Internet chill.

Another interesting thing happened, too. It’s easier for me to manage my time in general. I don’t feel as pulled to do a million things at once. In short I’m more focused—which in turn allows me to get even more control over my writing life. And that hopefully will lead me even further down the path to my goal of being a published author.

What about you? Since you read my first post, have you done anything differently to manage your online time? Are you, like I am, trying to limit your iPhone/smart phone time?



# MillionWordChallenge

Writing challenges—that’s all I seem to think, read, and even write about lately. And, apparently, I’m all about the challenge.

When I started this blog, my daily goal was to write 900 words a day (not counting blogging). Last week I was discouraged to realize that I had fallen (very) far short of that goal. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure (which for some impossible-to-understand-even-to-me reason I seem to need to do in this blog), since I started blogging, I have written approximately in the neighborhood of around about 4,235 words—okay, really it was 4,125. In a little under seven weeks. 45 days. Which is about approximately somewhere in the neighborhood of a measly 91.67 words per day….or almost, kind of, about one-third of a page. At this rate I figure, if I change my goal to writing a novella, I could finish a first draft (based on a low word count, according to wikipedia, of 17,500 words) in about 190 days.

I have to do something. But what I ask myself? Then I notice: a writing challenge on Twitter. Once I opened my eyes to them, they were suddenly everywhere!

  • Then, I read about another challenge on Making “Baby Grand.” On her blog last week, Dina Santorelli invited readers along for the ride, fast and furious, as she writes 1,000 words a day. It took me a day to consider, but then I decided: I’m so there. I’m in. In a month I could just about finish my WIP!

  • Then yesterday, I stumbled on the 10,000 word a day challenge on the blog Fear of Writing—yes 10,000 words in a day: about 28 pages. Do-able? Hey, it’s a challenge! Sure, why not!?

  • Finally, I considered the kahuna of challenges: November Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) during which—apparently—I will experience “30 days and nights of literary abandon,” so it says at the top of their website. By then, after all the other challenges, I’ll be on Novel #2, maybe even #3, right? It’ll be old hat.

And you know what, I’m doing them all! The #1KWordChallenge every Thursday and the 1000 words-a-day everyday starting April 1st and the 10,000 word challenge this Thursday AND Saturday, and NaNoWriMo, too.

Plus, I’m upping the ante: I’m issuing my own challenge. That’s right. It’s the million-word challenge in 24 hours. That’s fourteen books in a day. Go big or go home, that’s what I say. You in?



p.s. How do you motivate yourself to write? Do challenges help you, like they do me? Does blogging slow your other writing down?