31 October 2011

On NaNoWriMo Eve (Day -1, 0 Words)

Here I sit, on the eve of another National Novel Writing Month, full of anticipation, eager to begin, and curious to see what's going to come out of the next thirty days.

This is my third consecutive year of this adventure and I'm starting to feel a bit like a seasoned veteran. I know a bit more of what to expect, I know that I can do it, and I'm thrilled to get started. I am practically sitting on my hands to keep myself from beginning early.

I've been thinking a great deal about why it is that NaNoWriMo works for me. I've talked to many other writers who say it just won't work for them. For me, I've always worked well with goals and deadlines. I like the thrill of procrastination...up to a point. In college, I was never one of those who was literally printing off a paper on the way to class (back in the day when you didn't just email or post your assignments). I would finish the night before, usually by about 10pm so I could get to sleep sometime between midnight and 1am. In the morning I'd give it one last read through, make a few corrections, then print it out on my way to breakfast.

NaNoWriMo is that crunch creative period of the year for me. I have the daily goals to reach (1,666 is the average word count to reach the 50,000 word goal) and a community of writers and friends cheering me on throughout the month. I love spending the month intensely working on a project and then I love spending the rest of the year fleshing it out.

This year's NaNoWriMo is going to be a different sort of challenge. The past two years I've begun fresh, brand new projects with zero preparation. No outline, just a basic idea of who the characters are. I've let each day shape the story. This year, I'm continuing the story of Jezebel and Holden, two very good friends who find each other at a pivotal point in their lives. I've realized over the past 12 months that their story is far from over. There's a whole other book waiting for me to write. In the end, through the process of editing, the two projects may end up being one book, but as I've mentioned so many times before, these characters, and this project, mean a great deal to me and I'm not ready to let them go. I need to find out what happens next.

So instead of starting with a clean slate, I have an entire cast of characters and their histories to contend with. It feels liberating and constricting all at the same time.

This November I have a few things I'm doing different. First, I have a full calendar of social and artistic adventures scheduled. In the past, I'll admit, I've been a bit of a recluse, reluctant to commit myself to social obligations. This November I have breakfasts, lunches, dinners, concerts, and other events all lined up. I've also got 10 work free days in a row, ending with a lovely weekend at one of my favorite places in the entire world, the Sylvia Beach Hotel.

As in years past, I will keep a (mostly) daily blog. It helps me focus, holds me accountable to you (my readers and Facebook friends), and gives me something to look back on when the experience is over. I will also post photos with each blog and a few lines from a song that struck me on that day.

Your comments, likes, etc., inspire me and keep me going in more ways than most of you probably realize. I encourage you to keep up the good work.

Thanks for supporting me as another NaNoWriMo begins!

"That morning the sky gave me a look, so I left while you were sleeping--that's all it took. And I chalked a line south down the coast, going where my thirst was open for the things that I don't know; going where I wasn't paying for the hurt I owe."
                                      from Blind Pilot's song Half Moon

29 October 2011


For the majority of these past few weeks (whilst I've not been updating my blog) I have been struck down with a nasty cold/flu. When I went to see the doctor, he described it as being, "Not bronchitis or pneumonia...yet." Yet?! What does that mean?!

One of the side effects that happened because of this nasty virus was that I lost my voice. Completely. For four days I couldn't form words with sound. I could whisper a bit, but I couldn't talk. At all. This was the first time in my life I've ever experienced what that was like. I literally had to text in sick to work.

I couldn't help but begin to think a lot about words and how we interact with each other through speech. The day I tried to whisper my way through work, I was shocked by how many people began whispering back to me. Eventually they'd ask, "Why are we whispering?"

Most of my writing in high school and early college took the form of poetry. I remember that for me the most daunting part of writing fiction was the dialogue. I didn't know how to begin the framework, let alone how to capture speech and translate it into story.

Truth is, dialogue can be really hard to write. Sometimes, the ebb and flow of conversation will come easy for me, but for the most part, it's still hard. And the framework, the he saids, she saids of it all still require a great deal of effort.

Conversations are unpredictable in real life and I believe they should also be somewhat unpredictable in writing as well. As a person, if I ask someone a question, I (usually) don't have a clear idea of how exactly they're going to answer. As a writer, I've got to both ask the questions and come up with the fresh answers. Some days, I think that may remain one of my greatest struggles as a writer.

Being without speech, it made me think a great deal about dialogue and about communication. One of my favorite things to do, especially at restaurants, is to observe and listen to other people's conversations. This drives my husband absolutely crazy, but I can't help myself. I'm curious. I like to wonder about their history, what brought these (2,3,4) people together for a meal. Not being able to use my own words, really made it clear how much we really do rely on our words. Even home alone, with only the dog and the bird, I didn't realize how much I still vocalize until I lost that ability.

It's a quiet world without words.

The whole experience really made me think about how I use words, how I waste words, how to make words count. I'm interested to see what that will mean for my NaNoWriMo project this year...

Only two more NaNoWriMo free days left...

15 October 2011

Approximately one year ago, we gave up our  DVR and cable television. At first, I'll admit, I was a bit devastated. I had grown to love the convenience of having everything available to watch when I wanted it. But my husband convinced me it would be a good idea, and that there were many alternatives to keep up with the few programs that I actually did watch.

It was the best thing for me. I still got to watch the shows that I really wanted to see (like the Daily Show, Fringe, and The Colbert Report), but I stopped wasting time on things that didn't really matter.

I wrote more than ever and I read more than I had in a long time. After the initial adjustment, I found that I didn't even miss it at all.

Fast forward to this past June. We decided to go ahead and add cable back just for the summer so we could resume our True Blood nights with our friends. We went all out, adding not only HBO, but also the package that would allow us BBC America...which turned out to be quite the disappointment as it wasn't available in HD (until the last week) and basically was a glorified SyFy channel showing Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek TNG, and the X-Files. Occasionally there was an episode of Doctor Who or Top Gear thrown in for good measure.

Other than our Sunday evening social gatherings, neither my husband or I found ourselves appreciating the expanded television offerings. We had successfully weaned ourselves from having that "need" in our lives.

But then, this past week, I was reminded how wonderful television is when you're home sick and can't read and can't sleep and all you want is something to distract you from how miserable you feel. For me, this was also the day that our cable was disconnected, irony of ironies.

Then I remembered Netflix and Hulu+, and realized how much the internet has truly changed television.

I'm of the age where I can remember a time before the internet. Right now my life is divided pretty equally between time with and time without the internet. I wonder if one day I'll be an old person telling my great-nieces and great-nephews about the days when you had to be home in order to watch a television show at a set day and time.

And sometimes I wonder about what will come next.

10 October 2011

21 days and counting...

Earlier this evening I finished my first critical reading of my manuscript. Armed with a pen and a highlighter, I've spent the last couple weeks working through the hundreds of pages I wrote between November and June. I was delighted at some of what I found and embarrassed by other parts.

But more than anything, I am super excited to see what comes next. If you're the single other person out there who's read this manuscript, I know you know what I mean.

The story ends without ending.

In other words, it's not over yet. I knew very early on that in order to tell the story that I wanted to tell, it was going to take a great many words and a grand number of pages. As I drew close to where the story ends, I realized that I might even want to break it up into companion pieces and so I decided to end it where it ends and that in November I'd either begin writing a completely separate sequel, or I'd write a second half that would end up being integrated with last year's NaNoWriMo project.

Is it cheating? Maybe. But since this isn't a competition for anyone other than myself, I feel like the rules can be flexible enough to suit my purposes. The point for me is the focused writing. I love being able to spend an entire month surrounded by a community of other crazy people who are committed to writing 50,000 words in 30 days (or less). It motivates me. It inspires me.

There are 21 more days until the kickoff of National Novel Writing Month 2011. That's 21 days I have to wait to find out how this story will end.

How will I bide the time? I have a few playlists to make. One of the main characters is an obsessive maker of playlists and I have some...research to do to get ready for this next chapter.

I also have a lot of edits to put into the existing manuscript...but that's not nearly as much fun.

Where I'm looking forward to spending a lovely weekend during this year's NaNoWriMo!

05 October 2011


Yesterday I reached the halfway point of editing the first rough draft of my manuscript. I flew through some 50 pages and didn't even notice as the hours of my day off disappeared. I got to work through a few of my personal favorite scenes and was delighted to find I still enjoyed them. But these were all just preludes to my absolute favorite part of my book. That is still yet to come.

This morning I got up early (after the best night of sleep I've had in more than a week!), made a pot of coffee and a bagel, and settled into the library to finish the book I've been reading for the last few days. Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star is a fabulous tale of a modern day Jack the Ripper terrorizing London and has quite a few interesting twists. It's been a long, long time since a book has freaked me out. Reading last night in the wind and the rain, all alone, I honestly started to hear noises that gave me the goose bump raising creeps.

I still have a few hours before it's time to go to work and the only thing I've wanted to do is continue working through my manuscript. This is so different for me, as I've never been a fan of the editing process. Something is clearly different about this and I can safely say that I have never been more passionate about making this piece of work the best that I possibly can. There is a long road ahead of me, but I want to see what's at the end of it. Sometimes it's the anticipation of what's to come that carries us onward.

This is true in life, this is true in books.

There is a line in my tale that one of the characters says to another and it goes, "I won't lie, I've kissed a lot of girls, but you're the first girl where the kissing ended up being better than the anticipation of the kiss."

Right now, for me, it's the anticipation of what's to come next in this story of friendship, love, family, and loneliness, that keeps me wanting to get to the next page and then the one after that. In the end, I hope the story, like that kiss, ends up being better than the anticipation of it

01 October 2011

Banned Books Week (September 25th-October 1st, 2011)

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame." Oscar Wilde
As Banned Books Week draws to a close I am left in a state of emotional unrest. In other words, I'm pissed off.

I love books. I have no idea what would happen to me if written words were taken away. Last night I was doing some research on banned books on the American Library Association's website and this morning I woke up at 5:28am frustrated and upset. There were two sets of statistics posted that stuck in my head.

The first:

And the second:

Most banned books are challenged by parents for being sexually explicit. I've read most of these books. I've talked to librarians and teachers about the books their parents want pulled from my shelves. Here is what bothers me the most. Human sexuality is at the core of our experience. Without sexuality, none of us would be here (okay, maybe just the majority of us). If parents would just talk to their kids about issues surrounding sex rather than just banning the books that might help them understand sex and make smart decisions, things would be better. Just because a book has sex in it, doesn't mean it glorifies sex, encourages kids to have sex, or causes deviant behaviors.

I remember reading an article in which (one of my absolute favorite authors) John Green discusses the sex in his book Looking for Alaska. He says it best in his YouTube video discussing a movement by parents to get his book out of schools so I'm just going to let you watch it yourself...

I could go on for hours about why I think everyone should be able to read what they want to read, but for now, I think I've said what I needed to say.

Now go out and celebrate by picking up a banned book. It shouldn't be hard, most of the good ones have been banned at one point or another (including A Wrinkle in Time, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, A Prayer for Owen Meany and on and on...)