28 December 2008

Back from Festivities, Still Writing

My holiday break from blogging was a bit more extended than I expected.  Hubby's family was in town from Chicago, so I was happily spending time with them and not writing.

To be honest, I needed the bit of a break, and now that I've had it, I'm going to be glad to get back to my regular schedule just in time for the New Year.  I've been working on CSW's 2009 business plan, and I'm excited about the new year, and what it's sure to bring.

Have you been thinking about your New Year's Resolutions?  I have.  I've also been thinking about what things I'll be glad to see go with 2008.  Are you leaving anything behind with this year?

20 December 2008

Writing Warm-Up

Spend 20 minutes writing a scene that involves two old friends unexpectedly meeting in a store.  Have them each shopping for an item that reveals something about their present situations.

Erin and Linda both drove ten minutes away from their hometown the first night of their reunion weekend to go to the Berry Brothers' General Store to pick up a few things.  They drove separately, of course, not realizing the other was on the same road at the same time, headed to the same store.  Neither woman wanted to run into any of the fellow alumni who were probably out buying cases of beer and bags of tortilla chips to share on the two floors of the local hotel that night.

It had only been five years since they'd walked across the stage with about seventy other high school seniors, accepting their diplomas, and preparing for the next stages of their lives.

Erin knew not much would have changed since graduation, and wasn't sure why she'd decided to attend the reunion.  She'd left her hometown for a reason, and for the four years she spent on the beautiful West coast, she was sure she would never return.  And yet, she was stopping at the single stop light to allow a single car to pass the intersection in front of her before proceeding down the main street and out of town.  She turned on the radio in her rental car, and a local talk station blared.  Erin turned off the radio.

Linda also knew not much would have changed since graduation, but she'd also stayed in touch with many of her fellow classmates in the past five years.  She was proud of graduating from beauty school, and had fared better than many of those she'd graduated with.  When the reunion invitation came in the mail, she was happy to RSVP right away, and was looking forward to seeing what everyone else hadn't done with their lives.  She waved at her neighbor, smiling broadly, who was walking along the main street, headed to his favorite bar for the night.

Berry Brothers' General Store was in a town as small as the one Erin and Linda had just fled, but being a rival town, was one rarely frequented by the Tiger alumni.  They knew they could get in and out quickly.

Both women spent several minutes perusing the aisles after filling their baskets with the few things they needed.  They were both in the produce section, nearing the lettuce, when they, quite literally, bumped into each other.  Both baskets fell from their hands, the contents spilling.

"Oh, excuse me," Linda said automatically, bending down to start picking things up.

"My fault," Erin said.  She, too, stooped down.

Linda looked at the other woman, and after a moment, realized who she was.  "Erin Colley?" she asked.

"Yes..." Erin looked at Linda.  "Oh, my gosh!  Linda Foreman?"

"Yes!  Well, it's Davis, now."

"You married Henry?"

Linda nodded.  "Oh, my God!  I didn't think I'd see anyone I knew here tonight!"

"Me, either!  That's actually why I came!"  They laughed.

They chatted a little as they finished picking things up.  Linda handed Erin a home pregnancy test, and Erin handed Linda an ice pack.  They smiled, pretending not to notice the items they passed back and forth and chatted about married life, careers, and life after Tiger football.

"It was nice seeing you," Erin said as they reached the checkout lanes.  "Will you be at brunch tomorrow?"

"Definitely," Linda answered.  "Henry will be there, too, of course."

"Good!  You'll meet my fiance."

"Great!"  There was an awkward moment.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Erin said, extending a hand.  Linda took it, and Erin saw the edge of a bruise under her sleeve before Linda pulled back.

"See you tomorrow."

18 December 2008

Call for Annoying Phrases

Last week, I posted Oxford's Top Ten Annoying Phrases List, and after adding a few annoying phrases of my own, asked you to think of your own annoying phrases you'd add to the list.

I got some good reader responses, and have decided to compile the 2008 Coffee-Stained Annoying Phrases List.  I'll already be including the comments from the previous post, and if you want to add any other phrases that irk you, feel free to comment on this post, and I'll post the list just before Christmas.

So think about those words and phrases that irritate you and share them!

Tantalizing Warm-Ups

There's a great collection of warm-up writing exercises in the January issue of The Writer magazine.  

The sets come from Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston (2008).  These warm-ups have me intrigued enough to run out and purchase this book!

I'd like to share a set with you that I'll be working through in my writing journal over the holidays.

Spend 20 minutes writing a scene that involves:
  • Two old friends unexpectedly meeting in a store.  Have them each shopping for an item that reveals something about their present situations.
  • An adult child trying to convince his or her 50-something mother not to adopt a baby.
  • Two lovers arguing about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
  • A computer disk.
  • An odd neighbor.
  • A man in a tuxedo walking barefoot on the side of the road.
  • An email sent to the wrong person.
  • A FedEx package.
  • An abandoned warehouse.
  • An annoying relative.
  • A discussion between a young couple standing beside a U-Haul in front of an old-age home.
  • A motel key.
I'll be posting these scenes on my blog as I write them.  If you feel inclined to try one of these exercises, please email it to me, and I'll happily post it on the blog, along with a generous plug for your own blog!

Happy scribbling!

16 December 2008

We've Relocated!

Coffee-Stained Writing is now enjoying a bit more work space in the same temperate geographical region.

Now that I'm getting settled (and still going through boxes to find the things I need), I feel like I'll have a much better set-up for what I need to do as the year draws to a close.

Next year is going to be quite exciting, and I can't wait to reveal some of what's going to be happening!

12 December 2008

Your Friendly Neighborhood...Ironman?

I know my blog usually focuses on things of a writerly nature with a sprinkling of caffeinated sweetness for good measure, but when I saw this, I decided to take a step in the Sunday Sensational Science direction to share this with you.

Since I'm not really science-y, I'll just let the video speak for itself.  Enjoy!

P.S. I want one.

10 December 2008

Oxford's Top 10 Annoying Phrases

For those who have been dying to know, the Top Ten List of Annoying Phrases has, in fact, been compiled by Oxford researchers.  (How many of these phrases have you used recently?)  The list is as follows:
  1. At the end of the day
  2. Fairly unique
  3. I personally
  4. At this moment in time
  5. With all due respect
  6. Absolutely
  7. It's a nightmare
  8. Shouldn't of
  9. 24/7
  10. It's not rocket science
There are several I could easily add to this illustrious list:
  • The use of "literally" to add emphasis (ex. "I literally died of shock!")
  • The use of "decimate" to mean "completely destroy" (ex. "I decimated that keg!")
  • The verbalization of "lol," "lmao," or any variation thereof
  • The use of "actually" in that incredibly patronizing way people so often use it (ex. "Actually, the pilgrims were not as strict as people think...")
What would you add?

08 December 2008

Holidays and Stress

Every year, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and even news shows run specials about how to deal with the stress of the holidays.  They offer good advice for every day people dealing with financial strain, familial drama, and how-am-I-going-to-stick-to-my-diet worries.  They give tips on how to save money, how to keep the peace with family, and what foods you can eat without worrying about fitting into your New Year's dress the next week.

However, they tend to overlook the additional stresses that just so happen to come with being a writer during the holidays, particularly if that writer uses writing as a livelihood as some of us do.  ::raises hand::

One of the beauties of freelance writing is that we can (usually) work from anywhere.  That means we can take a vacation and still be able to meet deadlines.  It's wonderful, in theory, but it also means we don't really get time off unless we're willing and able to not get paid for it.  So when the holidays roll around, you may not be able to take off a few days to spend with the family that's in town, which adds considerably to the stress that already exists.  (For advice on balancing writing and the holidays, check out my post from last month.)

One of the major stresses for (freelance) writers is the realization that if we don't write, we don't get paid.  So it's very tempting to write through the holidays to be able to have a little extra income available.  However, you run the risk of being more stressed with a crazy holiday schedule than you would if you took a few days off.

One solution to this is to plan ahead for taking a few days off.  See if you can get extra work between Thanksgiving and Christmas (or earlier) to make up for income you may lose at the end of December.  It may be a great time to pick up extra hours, as well, since other writers may be visiting friends and family, or scaling back their workload for the holidays.

Another source of stress for writers can be organizing financial records for the end of the year.  Self-employment can be a little crazy during tax season, and it's important to have everything organized to make the process a little easier.

To help keep yourself from worrying too much about your financial records during the holidays, try getting as much done early as possible, then working on it a little each day for the rest of the year.  I, for example, have an expandable file folder and each pocket is one day of the week.  I put the receipts in the folder, and then when I update my accounts ledger once a week, I initial and date the receipt, then move it to a set of file folders marked with the months of the year.  Staying organized is one way to help keep stress to a minimum.

There is always some stress that comes with holidays, especially if you're hosting or visiting friends or family.*  But if you plan ahead, take it little by little, and remember that you're really supposed to be having fun, you can have a happy holiday season, stress-free!

*NOTE: This isn't a comment about drama; it's a comment about how stressful it can be to keep a group of people happy.

05 December 2008

"How do you feel about the new words in the dictionary?" "Meh."

One of the beautiful things about the English language (and others, I'm sure) is its ability to adapt as society and culture change and develop.

Words no longer used have become considered "antiquated" or have been eliminated from common usage (think: "archiloquy," "skybosh," "stafador" ), while other words have been added as they've emerged (think: "computer," "Internet," "cable").

That said, I'd like to draw to your attention a few words that have been added to the dictionary.

Rachael Ray, the current darling of cooking, has popularized the "word" EVOO, which stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (though this acronym is not a Rachael Ray original and has been used world-wide by cooks to shorten the ingredient).  It was announced in 2006 that EVOO would be added to the Oxford American College Dictionary.

Some of you may remember that, way back in 2001, a catchphrase popularized by TV's dysfunctional family, The Simpsons, was added.  "D'oh!" (originally scripted as "(annoyed grunt)") first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001 without the apostrophe (the word with the apostrophe is a trademark of 20th century Fox).  The word is an expression of frustration, pain, realization at having done something stupid, or other similar uses.  Though Homer Simpson is best known for using the word, it has also been used by numerous other Simpsons characters.

That leads me to another Simpsons-esque addition: "meh."  This word, an expression of apathy or boredom, has been added to the Collins English Dictionary this year.  According to the Yahoo! article on the dictionary addition:

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

The dictionary's compilers said the word originated in North America, spread through the Internet and was now entering British spoken English.

This is yet another example of the ever-changing nature of the English language.  These slang words--originating on TV, no less--are now in the dictionary and firmly in people's vocabulary.

I'm curious about additional words that may be included in dictionaries in the future.  After all, there are many, many famous people who have coined words and phrases that are used in common language now.  And I find myself adding "y" or "ly" to many words to make them a little more descriptive: writer-y, caffeine-y, etc.  Even whole words, such as literista (like stylista, but for literature), have emerged from my brain.  Will they someday be within the pages of the dictionary?

What words do you think should (or should not) be included?

02 December 2008

From Foliage to Flakes: a Writing Review of Fall 2008

This fall has been an interesting one.  It was my first full season as a full time writer, and I was able to concentrate my full attention on the business.

I spent a good deal of time tweaking my work schedule.  Being a new full time writer, I had to figure out what works for me, and work my writing projects into it.  At some points I felt better writing early in the morning, and at other points I felt better writing late at night.  I think, though, that I've figured out a pretty good schedule for me.

I've also spent some time building industry contacts (aka building my client base).  When I started writing full time, I didn't have any clients and applied for gigs as I saw ads for them.  At the beginning, I had some leads here and there, but nothing that really panned out.  Beginning in September, though, things started picking up, and now I feel much more confident about my skills as a writer, as well as my contacts.  As the days and weeks progressed, I found myself with busier and busier weeks, and with more things popping up during the week.

I'm happy to say that things are going well, and I have great hopes for the future.  As the year ends I'll be getting my financial records in order for tax season, and writing my 2009 business plan.  Then I'll be ready to start 2009 with specific goals, some wonderful clients, and a cozy office in central Florida!

Have fun with your snow, everyone else!  I'll be the one writing by the pool if you want to send me anything for Christmas.

01 December 2008

Winter Reading List

I've been falling behind in my reading lately.  November was a very busy month, and while December will probably be crazy-busy, too, I'm going to try and get back to my reading list and get caught up to where I want to be.  Here are the books on my list for winter (in no particular order):

Final NaNo Word Count


Writing Goals for December

We're coming to the end of the year, and there's a lot I want to do before 2009 is ushered in and I start a whole new list of things to do.  Here's (some of) what I want to accomplish in my writing life this month.
  • Go back to working on the coffee house book, which was on hold for November.
  • Continue writing articles for clients and (hopefully) increase the number of articles written each week.
  • Connect with at least one new client.
  • Set CSW goals for 2009 and write 2009 business plan.
  • Organize CSW finances in preparation for tax season.

28 November 2008

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Four

We're coming to the end now.  Today is the last Friday of the month, and by midnight on Sunday, we'll have written 50,000 words in 30 days.

Some people have finished, others are nearly there.  And still others, not unlike myself, have  ways to go before that beautiful, intimidating word count bar turns purple.

I am...behind.  And yet, I'm encouraged.  It is moments like these, when all seems lost, that I find some strength I didn't know I had and pound out the words until I hit and exceed 50,000 words.  I've done it before, and I'll do it again.

Here's the deal.  We're at the end of the month, but it's Thanksgiving week, and there are still almost three full days before the alarm goes off and time is up.  And two of those days are Saturday and Sunday, which gives most of us two days work-free during which family and friends can be ignored, large pots of strong coffee can be brewed, and novels can be written.

This is the time to pull out all the stops.  Write out contractions, use the word "and" instead of commas, break compound words into two words.  Do whatever it takes to push that word count higher.

You may have been struggling with plot or characterization lately.  You may have been dreading opening that word document and staring at the screen for hours.  And though your word count has been creeping upward, it's only been creeping.

Take heart.  There is time.  And this is the time you'll become a super-human writer.  You'll start typing, perhaps slowly, and before you know it, you'll pause for a much-needed sip of coffee, check your word count, and holy crap I'm almost done! will happen.  It will.  It always does.

You can hit 50,000 words.  Just keep plugging away.  There's still time, and lots of words to be written, and the NaNo victory is within you.

Just a couple of days left, then we'll all head over to the Cantina for several shots of tequila, political snark, and a break, with 50,000 words proudly behind us!


25 November 2008

Stare at Screen. Type Your Name. Delete Your Name. Repeat.

I've been doing a lot of little articles for a variety of clients lately.  The topics have ranged from eliminating anxiety from your life to designer handbag replicas to coffee (my favorite topic EVAH) and even one on animal welfare activists vs. animal rights activists.  Most of the articles have been right around 500 words, so they haven't taken that long to write, and I've been able to do them easily.

I have a set of ten short articles due this week.  So I opened the word document for the first article with the intention of writing it quickly, maybe doing a few of the other articles, then working on NaNo this afternoon.

Apparently, writing so much so fast lately has tapped me out.  I got nothin'.  I've been trying to start this article for about twenty minutes, and it's just not working.

I love NaNo because it reminds me of all I love about writing.  But this is my first year doing NaNo as a full time writer, and  under-estimated the exact amount of writing I'd be doing this month.


22 November 2008

Coffee? Good. Roast beef? Good. Coffee roast beef? Mmmmmm....!

I have a dear friend and foodie who always has great recipes that I often try the next week in my own kitchen, much to the satisfaction of Hubby.

I can't wait to try this one!

If you like coffee, try it.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The photo is directly from Frazzoo's blog post about the recipe (linked above), and she has all the copyrights to it.  Don't take her photo because she's my friend.  If you do, I'll punch you in the throat.

21 November 2008

Need an Extra Boost?

Dana has written a pep talk over at En Tequila Es Verdad, which includes Neil Gaiman's pep talk from last year.  If my words of wisdom aren't quite enough, head over to the Cantina for an extra pat on the back, a shot of tequila, and a fresh pen.

Dana tells us:
We've got only nine days, but that includes two weekends. Some of us even have a four-day weekend coming up. [...] We'll catch up at Christmas. This holiday, we write.

We can do this thing.

Ten thousand word weekends are possible. I've done them. Chuck the Inner Editor out the window and just get typing. Run through the tape. Push through the pain. Do that, and you'll win.

Stop worrying. Take a deep breath. Start typing.

Don't stop.

You'll get there.

Happy scribbling!

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Three

So Week Three just kind of flew by, didn't it?  And for all my last week, and for all the energy with which I entered the week, it kind of fizzled on me, and I got a little stuck at 21,000 words.

So as I watched the tequila-laced updates of my dear friend and heart sister Dana, my happiness at her increasing word count, I was a little jealous, and found myself getting discouraged at my own stagnant word count.  My freelance calendar suddenly filled up, so after pounding out article after article on various topics, I needed a break from Microsoft Word for a bit.  And before I knew it, it was time for bed or time to work again, and my NaNo dreams were fading away.

When I started the month I had the ambitious goal of writing two novels this year.  That ain't happenin'.  I started out well, but my work schedule has changed, so I'll have to try next year to do that.  Now I'd just like to finish one novel.

It's the end of Week Three, Thanksgiving is around the corner, and I'm about 14,000 words behind.  But here's the kicker.

I still think I can finish.

I know.  Crazy, right?  But I think I can, and here's why.
  • I did it last year.
  • Last year, I wrote more than 50,000 words in less than a week.
  • I'm starting the last week with 21,000 words already committed to paper.  That's a great start.
  • Even though Thanksgiving is this week, it'll be a quiet Thanksgiving, so I'll have more time to myself than I originally thought.
  • I have friends who don't think it can be done, and I'm damned determined to prove them wrong.
  • I'm an Irish Taurus.
Week Four is beginning.  This is it.  If you're on target, you're at around 35,000 words, and well into the downhill of your novel.  One of the days this week you'll finish a thought, check your word count, and it'll be over 50,000 words.  I will, too.

This week is what NaNoWriMo is all about.  We can do it.  After all, we're WriMos!

Happy scribbling!

19 November 2008

Reading, Writing, and the Blog

Any writer will tell you that reading is as important to the craft as anything else.  Writers are readers.  They read for pleasure.  They read to learn.  They read to support their fellow writers.

I read blogs.  No, not just mine, but I read the blogs of friends, fellow writers, and interesting blogs I happen upon in the vast pool of distraction that is the Interwebs.  Blogger's new little gadget that allows me to easily follow blogs on my Dashboard has been a wonderful addition to my daily web-surfing.  Instead of spending twenty minutes typing in the different web addresses of the blogs I read into my Internet window, I can just look at my Dashboard and open the blogs that have new entries.  I love it!

As I've been adding to my I-read-this-blog list, I've been thinking about what kinds of blogs draw me in and make me check them regularly.  (I don't comment on people's blogs as much as I should, and I'm working on that, but believe me: I read your blogs.  So keep writing!)  There are a few reasons I might add a blog to my Dashboard following thingy.

It might be a fun, unique blog that makes me smile.  A great example of this is Cake Wrecks.  In this blog, Jen posts pictures of professionally made cakes gone wrong with accompanying snarky comments and corny jokes.  I've never seen a blog like it, and even though I'm not a foodie (or a cake-ie) I love seeing the wrecktacular creations Jen posts each day.  Especially when it's broken up with masterpieces like these.  Cake Wrecks gives me a dose of fun each day, so I keep going back.

I might also add a blog to my Dashboard if it's one that gives me advice I can use.  I recently discovered the blog of literary agent Nathan Bransford.  His blog, too, makes me laugh, but I've bookmarked many of his posts because of the great insider advice he gives about the publishing industry with a much more neighborly approach than other blogs I've read.  He even has said on his blog that if you're not sure whether he'll like your work or not, send it anyway.  That's my kind of agent!  Mr. Bransford's is a blog I've also recommended to fellow writers to give them good information for getting started or how to keep going or what to do next.  The information I get from his posts has already been incredibly helpful, which has earned him a place on my Dashboard.

As I mentioned, I also regularly read blogs by friends and fellow writers.  I have a bit of a wacky schedule, so reading blogs is sometimes a good way for me to keep in touch with friends.  It's no excuse for lack of emails or phone calls, but it gives me a little information from time to time as to how they're doing, that they're still around, and reminds me to call or email once in a while.  As for fellow writers, well...any blog that offers political and religious snark and tequila is okay by me.

How do bloggers get on your Dashboard?

17 November 2008

Balancing Writing and the Holidays

Thanksgiving is next week (for those who celebrate it in the U.S., that is).  And for those of us participating in the chaos of NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving is not just a time of the celebration of food with family and friends, but a day (or more) away from adding to the word count.  Add to this the complications of planning and/or hosting the November feast, and Thanksgiving could mean much more time away from the scribbling during the end of the month when time is vital to reaching that 50,000-word goal.

So what do you do when the holidays roll around and you have deadlines and word count goals?  Balance is, of course, the key in such situations.  You can, in fact, make time for family/friends and writing during the holidays.  It just takes a little creative scheduling and determination to accomplish your goals.

Plan ahead.  Because I know I'll be busy through Thanksgiving weekend (and probably on Wednesday, as well), I'm trying to get extra writing done this week so in case I don't get any writing done until after Thanksgiving, I'll at least have boosted my word count this week so I won't be faced with writing 30,000 words in the last few days of November.  If you write even an extra 500 words (that's about two pages double-spaced) each day this week, you'll be in a better position to not write on Thursday and Friday next week.  This is probably your best tool in balancing writing with the holidays.  The more you get done ahead of time, the more you can enjoy your holiday without worrying about looming deadlines or making your NaNo word count.

Remember: there will be down time.  Even families who want to do a lot together when they visit will need a little time away from the chaos to relax.  During those times, pick up a pad and paper--or sneak away to your computer--and get a little scribbling done.  Even if it's just an hour, you can add to your word count without taking away from family time.  Just be sure to use your down time wisely to keep on top of your writing during the holidays.

Keep a notepad and pen by your bed.  I try to keep pen and paper in my nightstand regardless of what month it is, but during November, I make sure I have a small notebook or notepad and a pen handy for when I go to bed.  Even after a long day with family/friends, I don't fall asleep right away, and the time I have before falling asleep I can use to get a little writing done.  This works in the mornings, as well.  Try getting up an hour or two before everyone else to get some writing done before breakfast.  It'll be nice and quiet, and boosting your word count is a great way to start your day!

Above all, go with the flow.  You may not be able to add to your word count during the holidays.  That's okay.  When the family says goodbye and your friends go home, the writing will still be there.  If you're in the middle of a great scene and you get interrupted because Nana wants help making noodles from scratch, make a couple of notes to help you remember where you are and go make noodles.  Family comes first, and you never know what great scenes may arise from conversations during the holidays!

Enjoy the time you have next week with family and friends.  Relax, do a little scribbling, have some turkey.  And I'll see you on the other side.

Happy scribbling!

16 November 2008

Write or Die!

So I've been receiving updates in my inbox for the Orlando regional forum on the NaNoWriMo site.  Earlier today I got a nice little message about an application to encourage distractable writers to keep writing.

I know lots of writers are distractable.  I find myself jumping to Blogger when I should be scribbling, and I know I'm not the only one.  But I just may try this application if I feel like I can't stay on track.

Here's how it works.  You set your word count goal and your time goal, then select a mode.  A text box opens that tracks your time and word count.  In gentle mode, if you stop writing, a little pop up comes up to remind you that you haven't met your word count goal.  In normal mode, an annoying song plays.  In kamikaze mode you get a little more incentive to keep writing.  Your text starts deleting itself, word by word, until it's gone, or until you start writing again.  I don't know about you, but that would encourage me to keep writing!

Here's the YouTube video demonstration of the application:

Pretty cool, eh?

15 November 2008

Check This Out

This is a great step in writing education.

I wish more schools did this.

NaNo Update

Well, I hit 20,000 words last night, and I'm on my way to 21,000.  Hooray!

My week was not as productive as I would've liked, but I'm hoping Week Three will be much better for me.  This will be the week that helps me get caught up, I think.  I got a lot of work done this past week, so I should be able to scribble like mad.  By the end of the week I hope to be ahead in my word count.

As I've said before, I hate going into the week of Thanksgiving behind in my word count, so I'll step it up this week and get where I want to be so I'm not feeling overwhelmed for Thanksgiving.

How's your word count?

14 November 2008

NaNo Pep Talk: End of Week Two

So how's the writing going?  What's your word count?  Mine's a touch under 20,000.  According to the NaNo formula, you should be at 23,338.  I don't know about you, but Week Two is always a slow week for me.

Week One is crazy--since it's the beginning of the month, I usually write like crazy and get way ahead.  Then, during Week Two, I get a little complacent, relying on behind ahead to carry me through the week.  And when the week is over, I realize I'm behind where I should be, and the month is half over.  Fortunately, Week Three is a good week for writing.

The "honeymoon" of NaNo is over now, you're right around 20,000 words: almost halfway there!  And you've got a mini-deadline looming: Thanksgiving.

The reason Week Three is such a key week for me is because I refuse to head into the week of Thanksgiving behind in my word count.  Usually, Thanksgiving means at least two days that I get very little (or no) writing done, and I can't afford to fall behind at the end like that.  So it's time to push through!

50,000 words is quite a large goal.  Do you break it down into little goals?  You're almost to 20,000 (or past it, even), and 25,000 words is in sight.  That's halfway to your goal!  If you hit 25,000 words tomorrow, you'll be right on track for hitting 50,000 by the end of the month.  But with the halfway mark may come a niggling doubt in the back of your mind.  You may be tempted to go back through what you've written to check for clarity, cohesiveness, plot-hole plugging.  I urge you with all that I am:


If you step away from the end of your document for even a moment to fix something, you'll fall victim to that haughty bitch, your Inner Editor.  She'll pull you into the Land of Red Ink, and you'll spend the rest of the month fixing what you've written instead of pushing ahead to add to it.  And that's not what this month is about.  You know it, I know it, and even though she wants you to edit, she knows it, too.  Don't give in to her siren song.  Let her call to you all she wants, but keep writing forward, keep adding to your story, to the characters, to the dialogue, and let March worry about your Inner Editor.

I know it's overwhelming.  The month is half over, but there's still half the month left to use to write.  Just get to the next round number, whether it be 25,000, 15,000, or even 5,000.  Just get to the next round number in your word count.  And when you hit it, pat yourself on the back, and just keep writing.  Get to the next round number in your word count.  And when you hit 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 words, keep writing.

You can hit 50,000 words before the end of the month.  I know you can.  And I can, too.

This Week Three.  This is the time to write.  Let the Muse beat the crap out of your Inner Editor for a little while, and just keep writing.

50,000 words, baby!  We're halfway there!

12 November 2008

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Hubby and I watched Girl with a Pearl Earring last night.  Well...I watched.  Hubby slept.  I read the book on which it was based earlier this year and enjoyed it quite a bit.  (If you haven't read or seen it, I recommend reading first, as there are a few things left out of the movie that make the story a little richer.)

As I watched, I was struck by the way the movie portrayed  Vermeer's (played by Colin Firth) inspiration for paintings.  In one scene, he walks into his studio and Griet (played by Scarlet Johansson) is washing the windows.  He sees her with one hand on the glass and the other on the table, and sees a scene he wants to capture on canvas.

It reminds me of the writing process.  I have had moments like that.  I see someone standing at a bus stop or in the mall and a character unfolds.  Or I walk through a park and suddenly see a setting for an intimate conversation between two characters.  Sometimes writing is like that.  You're walking along, living your life, and the inspiration materializes before you.

It's not always like that, of course.  Sometimes writing is a bitch, and you have to pull characters from your fingertips.  But it's those quiet moments when you suddenly see what you've been missing or hear a bit of dialogue that fits seamlessly into a scene that are the moments that are immortalized.  After all, it's much more glamorous to get the inspiration that way because, as Kay Eiffel says in her immortalization (see previous link), "...like anything worth writing, it [comes] inexplicably and without method."

As writers, I think we want to believe that the best written moments are revealed to us when we're gazing out windows or walking in the mall or coming home from buying cigarettes and seeing an apple roll onto the street.  (You didn't get that one, either?  Seriously, watch this movie.)  We want the craft to be wrapped in mysterious inspiration.  We want our art to be the product of whispers from the muse.  We want the craft to be glamorous.

Not every writing moment is standing on a desk, thinking about leaping off buildings.  Enjoy those moments, but don't discount the words that are pulled from us, sculpted, painted, glazed.  Because whether we walk into a room and see the maid standing in the perfect pose, waiting to be painted, or we spend hours tapping away until the right words appear, we still write.

11 November 2008

How to Take a Freelance Vacation

When I began writing full time, one of the things I was looking forward to was being able to travel to Illinois to visit my family and friends without having to take vacation days from work.  I don't have to think about how many days I have saved up, or if my vacation would even get approved.  As a freelance writer who works almost exclusively online, I have the ability to bring work with me, so I can keep working on vacation as long as there's Wi-Fi somewhere.

Some see this as a downfall for working from home.  After all, if you can write anywhere, you can write anywhere.  You're never really on vacation if you're working on vacation, right?

Yes and no.

There are ways for freelance writers to keep working and still take a vacation.

One way to take a freelance vacation is to plan it as a traditional vacation.  Let your clients know you'll be away from the office for a set amount of time, and plan projects around your vacation.  Let them know where you'll be in case of an emergency, as you would your employer in a traditional job, but let them know you'll be on vacation (or out of town or however you want to word it).  Of course the disadvantage to this is that you aren't working on vacation.  The loss of income during the vacation may not be a possibility for you.

Another way to take a freelance vacation is to lighten your work load while you're gone.  Let your clients know you'll have limited time for projects because you'll be out of town, and cut back to, say, half-time while you're on vacation.  This method works well in balancing spending time with family and friends while still generating an income during vacation.  I don't know about you, but if I have a busy day with family and friends on vacation, I often want to return to my hotel room after dinner and relax a little bit.  That relaxing time could be used for work time.

Finally, you could maintain your work schedule and simply move your self to your vacation spot.  This method obviously limits the amount of time you spend with family and friends while on vacation, but it doesn't affect your income during the vacation.
Of course, there are variations among these three suggestions, and you can find your own balance between work and vacation.  The point I'd like to make is that despite freelance writers being able to work anywhere, we don't have to work everywhere.  Writing is work just like any 9-to-5 job, and just as cubicle jockeys need to take time away, freelance writers do, too.  Just because we work in slippers doesn't mean we don't work.  In the same way we can work anywhere, when your office is in your home, it's quite a bit easier to keep the office open, even after putting in ten or twelve hours in a day.

So don't be afraid to make plans and slip away for a weekend or a week or however long you need to recharge yourself, reconnect with family and friends, and remember why you're working as hard as you do every day.

Photo 1 by NP

10 November 2008

What's Important to You?

This is a little exercise from Dana over at En Tequila Es Verdad.  She may not have intended it to be a meme, but who would I be if I didn't make it one, eh, Dana?  (Bwahahahaha!)  So you know how these things work.  Copy the text, link the original post (Dana, not me), and substitute your own list of ten items.  Post it, let us know, and see what happens.

If you and I sat down and made lists of things that are important to us, there would be a lot of duplicate items. Why don't we try an exercise? Take a pen and paper right now, and list out ten things that are important to you. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Ready? Here's mine, in no particular order of importance:

  1. My husband
  2. My spiritual path/Nature
  3. Writing
  4. Family (which includes my fur babies)
  5. Friends
  6. Learning and sharing what I've learned with others
  7. Seeking equality
  8. Breaking down stereotypes
  9. Trying new things
  10. Coffee

How many things do we have in common? Probably quite a few. If we got into specifics, we'd probably notice quite a few differences in the details, some of them superficial, some of them more serious. But there's enough there to work with, isn't there?
I won't tag anyone for this, as those I tag may just kill me, but I invite you to make your own list and post it on your own blog.  If you do, please let me know, as well as letting Dana know.

I think we could get some very interesting conversations going with these lists, and that's what Dana wants, after all.

07 November 2008

Coffee-Stained Pep Talk: Week One

We are at the end of the first week of NaNoWriMo, and word counts should be at around 11,669 for those adhering to the 1,667 words per day model.  If you're not there, don't worry.  It's only the end of week one, and there was a considerable distraction on Tuesday.

Many who participate in NaNo refer to this first week as the "honeymoon."  Being the first week of writing, many are excited, and are sure that if they keep pushing through (which they surely will), they'll exceed the 50,000-word goal in no time.  And why wouldn't they keep writing more than 2,000 words a day?  After all, it's NaNo, and their ideas are so brilliant, writing will be a breeze!

Well, tomorrow (Saturday) marks the first day of week two.  And I hate to bring you down, but things are going to change during week two.  Maybe you'll have a busy day so you'll only get 1,500 or 1,000 or 500 words.  Maybe you'll look at what you've already written and decide it's not really working as the beginning of a novel.  Maybe you'll think you can just take a few minutes to edit what you've written before you move on to new writing.  No matter how it happens, you'll probably find that you'll slow a little.  You'll find yourself dragging to get to 15,000 words.  And you may look at the task ahead and regret ever clicking on that blue logo on the right side of my blog.

I'm here to tell you not to give up.

You may think 50,000 words in 30 days is impossible, but it's not.  All it takes is the willpower to sit down in front of your computer (or notebook) and keep writing.  All it takes is the desire to finish.

Chris Baty and the group of friends who decided ten years ago to challenge themselves to write a full-length novel in 30 days did it because they were tired of waiting for the right time to write a novel.  Well, guess what.  Now is the time.  If you've gotten to 11,669 words, you're right on target.  If you've gotten to 10,000 words, you're well on your way.  If you've even written 5,000 words in the first week, you're writing a novel!  So why do you think now, after this first glorious week of writing, that you can't do it?

Part of this experience is to teach writers to quash their Inner Editor for a bit.  There will be time for editing, but this month is for writing.  And hard as it may be to write, unhindered by the superfluous apostrophes, glaring plotholes, or lack of contractions to help you make word count, it's important to remember that this month is not about writing the next great American novel, it's about simply writing a novel.

So keep writing.  Keep writing.  Keep writing.

You'll get there.  I believe in you.  Take a little time each day to work on your NaNo novel.  And little by little your word count will climb.  Before you know it, you'll be within sight of 20,000 words.  After that, you'll hit 25,000, and you'll realize you're halfway there.  Keep writing after that because you'll eventually hit 50,000 words.

And when you do, I'll be here, and we'll both head over to the Cantina for a drink.

Happy scribbling!

NP (13,000 words and counting)

05 November 2008

Michael Crichton Dies at 66

Best-selling author Michael Crichton, best known for Jurassic Park and ER, died suddenly to cancer yesterday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer.

He will be missed.

02 November 2008

What Have You Done Instead of Writing?

Recently I posted a list of things to do when you should be writing.  It was meant as something fun in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  I would like to repost that list, in its entirety, indicating things I have done since November 1st by bolding them.  Enjoy!
  • Read En Tequila Es Verdad for your daily dose of a "fountain of liberal rage."
  • Check your email.
  • Make and drink a pot of coffee.
  • Rewrite your to do list with nicer handwriting.
  • Better yet, you should do it in Microsoft Word, then print it out.
  • Add to your to do list.
  • Make sure your books are still alphabetized by author's last name.
  • Visit the forums for NaNoWriMo.
  • Update your status on Facebook to say "NP is not scribbling."
  • Vacuum the living room.
  • Play fetch with the cat (yes, one of my cats plays fetch).
  • Make Thanksgiving plans.
  • Read.
  • Rework your NaNo outline.
  • Adjust the font and margins of your NaNo novel.
  • Play the Expert level of Minesweeper until you can win twice in a row.
  • Do some early Christmas shopping online.
  • Print out your NaNo outline to put in a folder since you're trying to be more organized.
  • Check your word count.
  • Watch Law & Order to get character ideas. (Don't worry about what time it is; L&O is always on somewhere.)
  • See if any of your NaNo buddies are on AIM.
  • Do some laundry.
  • Gaze out the window.
  • Stare at a wall.
  • Look for writerly Christmas gifts online that you might want.
  • Start a NaNo scrapbook to document your life in November.
  • Go through your story and find ways to pad the word count (omitting contractions, changing all hyphens to spaces, lengthening lists like this one, adding mundane details that border on purple prose, etc.)
  • Take a quick little nap to recharge yourself.
  • Check the time to see how much more writing time you have.
  • Watch the cat sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Play Mahjong Solitaire.
  • Fill out an email survey and email it to everyone in your address book.
  • Add page numbers to your story.
  • Take the page numbers out.
  • Add a title page.
  • Add an Acknowledgements page.
  • Add an "About the Author" page.
  • Create an interview that could be included in the paperback edition.
  • Come up with lists for your blog.
Okay, now that that's done, I guess I'll get back to writing.


I'm NaNoing.

31 October 2008

Formal Friday

Today, instead of sporting formal attire for Formal Friday, I decided to wear my NaNo "uniform" to show my support for all the other writers out there who will start scribbling furiously beginning at midnight.  You can see a NaNo flyer in the background (with the orange triangle), and I have two more NaNo flyers in the upper right corner of the picture.

In case you were wondering, this is my interrupted-while-writing look.

Samhain Brings New Year for Some, Scribbling for Others

I'd like to begin by apologizing for my unexplained absence the past couple of days.  Wednesday was my husband's birthday, and in the morning when we went over to his parents' house to let out the dogs (in-laws are out of town until this evening), we discovered that Smoke, who was adopted with his sister when they were puppies about sixteen years ago, had passed away in the night.  It has been a very difficult couple of days.  I felt very close to Smoke, and it was hard to say goodbye, especially since Hubby and I had to take Smoke's body to the animal hospital to be taken care of until Hubby's family can say goodbye.

Tomorrow, when my husband's family goes to the animal hospital, will be another difficult day.  So I think I'll hole myself up in my office space for the next few days.  After all, I do have reason to.

Today is Halloween, or Samhain (the Witches' New Year) for those more Pagan-minded, and there's something omninous looming on the horizon that has more than 100,000 people sitting at the edges of their seats, fingers poised, trembling, over keyboards.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen.  At midnight tonight, writers across the world will tell trick or treaters to shove off so they can try to get a good start on the first day's 2,000 word count goal.  I may go to bed soon and try to stay up all night to scribble.  (Okay...maybe not.)

I can hardly believe it's been a year since I scribbled for NaNo.  Last year I had the first week of November off, so I was able to finish my novel then.  This year will be a bit different, but I am taking on the ambitious goal of completing two novels in the allotted 30 days.  

I think it will actually work to my advantage, though.  When I feel stuck, I can switch to the other novel and keep working.  I've adjusted my word count goals already (4,000 words a day during the week and 6,000 words a day on the weekends), and I'm finalizing my writing schedule for the month.

I've stocked up on coffee beans for the month, I have lots of Dr. Pepper, and Hubby knows he's pretty much on his own until December 2nd (I'll need the first to recover.).

I'm as ready as I'm going to be, so now I'm just waiting for the clock.

28 October 2008

Now I know how she feels....

One of my dear pleasures when it comes to the wonderful world of blogging is getting the opportunity to tag my dear friend Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad with memes and watching her swear and fume and then, inevitably, fill out the meme.  And since I'm generally the one who finds the memes before her, I'm often able to tag her before she realizes there's something afoot.

Today, however, in a plot twist befitting the few days before NaNoWriMo, DANA HAS TAGGED ME!!  And, to express exactly how much she loves me, I'm the only person she's tagged instead of the six indicated by the rules of the meme.  Whatever, Dana.

In the spirit of getting got, I'll happily fulfill my being-tagged obligations.  Enjoy!

Here are the rules for the game.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
And so here we go.

Random thing about myself #1: I first started writing my coffee house book as a NaNo book the first year I participated, but decided to stop writing it that year and worked on something else instead.

Random thing about myself #2: My dream is to retire to a residential cruise ship and spend retirement cruising all over the world.  Ah, it'd be so amazing!

Random thing about myself #3: While Hubby peruses the electronics section of Target, drooling, I do the same over at Home Office.

Random thing about myself #4: My favorite meal of all time is corned beef & cabbage in the slow cooker.  Delish!

Random thing about myself #5: I only buy purses that are at least large enough to carry a paperback book.

Random thing about myself #6: I've had chicken pox twice.

I tag the following friends who may or may not enjoy said tagging:
  1. Angie of Adventures in Home Cooking
  2. Kell of Welcome to Earth
  3. PC of The Big Stick
  4. Audrey of Witness Protection (my newest follower)
  5. Liz of A Good Idea at the Time
  6. Laura Elizabeth of Diary of a Dreamer

My NaNo Goals

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000-word novel (with 50,000 being the minimum, of course) in 30 days.  And in addition to this, some people set additional goals (two novels or 500,000 words or whatever else they decide to do).

My immediate goal for the month is to "win" by writing at least 50,000 words.  However, since I'm working from home this year, I have quite a bit more time, so I'm going to try and (brace yourself) write two novels this year.

I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor.

I read a little Q&A on the NaNo website about Kerry McFee, NaNo-Overachiever.  Last year, she wrote over 400,000 words in November.  If a woman who has a traditional job can write that much in 30 days, there's no reason I can't write 100,000 words or so in the same amount of time.  After all, that's only about 3,000 words a day.  No problem!  Most writers write about 2,000 words a day every day, so adding an extra 1,000 words in November shouldn't be a problem, should it?

Granted, I don't have an outline for novel #2 for November, but that's okay.  I have an idea and two days to write an outline.

NaNoWriMo is about pushing yourself to do something you never thought you could.  At first, I pushed myself simply to finish a novel.  Now I'm pushing myself to finish two.  Who knows what I'll be able to accomplish next year?

27 October 2008

The Truth About Socks: navel-gazing in language shaded lavendar*

Of late, my task list--often writ on a yellow legal pad in black, felt tip marker--has been slightly shorter in length than that of task lists past.  At first, it was a cause for worrisome caution.  For a flitting moment of doubt, I wondered if my exotic, romantic life of writing all day in much the same way as the prosists of old whose fingers, stained with ink, devoted their lives to the beauty of the written word, and sharing said word with all who would come to their fountain of ideas to drink deeply.  It had been, indeed, a difficult decision (to say the least, if I may be so bold as to speak simply) to take leave of the traditional job that once bound me by the wrists and ankles to the world whose steady paychecks and benefits of health insurance and retirement have earned it the titles "safe" and "real."

There seems to be an upswing now, as my canary backgrounded task list seems to be lengthening, line by line, and I find myself spending more and more of my day watching the golden orb crossing the sky from behind my desk, the only tan kissing my skin from the electronic glow of my laptop.  It is a feeling unmatched to know that putting pen to paper--or fingers to keys, as is the case in this technological day and age--is a skill you possess and is desired by others from you in particular.  My heart was lifted at the need to devote more of my time to Microsoft Word, but this morning, as I stood at my black stove turning eggs, milk, and cheese to a protein-rich meal fit for the start of my day, I took a moment or two to look around me.  At this moment, my eyes free from the chains--happy though they be--that kept me from being shown the harsh truth that was underlying in what was my life these many days.

In addition to being distanced from the beauty of autumn in Orlando, Florida, which is one of the things that, until recently, was all that kept me from feeling the effects of being confined to a desk day after day with no contact outside of the three friendly felines whose companionship breathes life into our home and my husband, best friend, life partner, whose support and encouragement is the foundation of what will be the success of my career, as a direct result of the sharp black words etched hurriedly on my task list, I've come to a revelation that the task list written on white paper in blue ink--those tasks that pertain not to the life literary, but to the realm of home and hearth, such as the cleaning and organizational tasks (vacuuming, dishes, laundry, bills) that keep the home ready for any in-law that would suddenly stop by to say hello.  And it was these tasks, those I was letting slip by, unnoticed, while my fingers danced over the keys of my laptop keyboard hour after hour, day after day, that would prove to be my undoing this day.

With my laptop firmly closed, its power off, I saw the interior of the apartment not from the peripheral of my vision in between paragraphs, but in the full light of morning, with no distractions keeping me from realizing that, in my negligence of household chores during the days that writing took priority, they had, for the most part, been left undone, perhaps in the hopes some brownie would sneak into the apartment as we slept and turn the apartment from what it was into a home clean enough to be mistaken for a model apartment shown to prospective residents to give them an idea of the size and space of an apartment only seen as lines of a floor plan in a glossy brochure handed out by the chipper staff of the Leasing Office.

Regardless of several looming deadlines, hovering over me as a black cloud hovers over those who have walked under ladders or broken mirrors, I was forced from that moment to keep my office, inasmuch as it is an office, closed for the morning to allow myself the leave to rectify the situation.  I knew not if the disheveled apartment was a result of my dedication to the craft or the ability to visualize blinders on either side of my creative eyes to blot out all except the task at hand, but it was a situation I could no longer leave to the efforts of the brownies, who were surely, by this point, overwhelmed so that they would use their efforts more wisely in another home in which the primary care-giver to the household tasks spent time on those tasks rather than frivolous writing exercises and articles.

I deemed the laundry my first undertaking once my breakfast--eggs, milk, and cheese, if you remember--was safely installed in my stomach and the dishes in the sink to await such time as I put them in the dishwasher to be cleaned and sanitized, so I sorted the clothes in various hampers in the bedroom into piles according to color and directions for washing machine use.  As I did so, I made the startling discovery that the white athletic socks belonging to none other than the love of my life--my darling husband--were in quite a state of disrepair.  Many of these socks he wore every day sported holes in the toes or heels, the elastic ankles had been stretched so that the sock did not so much stay in place, but fell around his ankles as he moved about his business, and the bottoms of these cotton foot warmers were no longer white, but instead a revolting shade of grayish-brown indicating they'd not been washed often enough, and were now ready to be cut into dusting rags, or thrown into the waste bin completely, being exchanged for a freshly-purchased pair.

So, in a spontaneous effort toward multi-tasking, I started to separate some of these poor, worn-out socks who wanted nothing more than to be relieved of their duties, out of the white clothing pile that would be washed, and into a separate pile known to me as the pile of items to be disposed of and never seen again.  And it was during this textile act of the mundane that my darling and aforementioned husband, who to this point had had minimal interest in the workings of the laundry beyond asking the current location of whatever favorite shirt he sought for in vain within the unkempt drawers of the dresser, wandered into the living room area of the apartment and, upon noting my segregation of his beloved socks, asked why they were in a pile separate from the other white clothing to be washed.

I explained to him that these socks, though they served him well for a great deal of time, were no longer fit for service, and would enjoy spending their days in the Sock Retirement Village, commonly referred to as the garbage dump, where they would, being cotton, be eventually returned to the earth from whence they came; I assured him there would be new, bright white cotton socks to replace those that would be leaving our home, but my husband, much to my surprise, did not accept this news of the relieving of duty of his socks with as much grace as I expected.  Instead, he began to explain, calmly, of course, for my husband has learned that when there is something he wishes to win from me, his explanations must be calm and clear for me to be convinced, that these socks were not ready to be honorably discharged from his feet, but had a great deal of "wear left in them," and he fully intended to continue using these socks he described as comfortable.

I tried valiantly to convince him that he was being cruel not only to the socks by forcing them to continue to be stretched and washed and pulled and, when our three darling felines feel particularly playful, snagged, but he was being cruel to me in forcing me to continue to wash these poor socks that were being held together by the threadbare elastic left in them that was less elastic and more thread from being stretched so much by use.

It was another fifteen minutes, a full twenty-five percent of the face of a clock, before I, in a fit of frustration and being told these socks were still of use to a man who wasn't the one who washed them every day, took the pile of to-be-thrown-out socks from their waiting space on the living room floor and threw them into the garbage can, knowing full well my husband would not attempt to retrieve them from the depths of the white, plastic pit of breakfast crumbs and junk mail.

We stared at each other for a long moment, the air between us thick with the stubbornness we both possessed that often led us to moments not unlike the one we were sharing at that long moment.  After a moment, my husband turned and retreated to his computer, not a word spoken.

I went back to sorting clothes in various hampers in the bedroom into piles according to color and directions for washing machine use.

*I decided to get all this out of my system before November 1st.

26 October 2008

Things To Do When You Should Be Writing

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, which begins on Saturday (Eek!), I've decided to get a little bit of a head start on my procrastination to-do list for November.

Lately, I've found myself doing a number of things instead of scribbling (having a light workload got me into some bad habits), so it's time to compile that procrastination list.  That way, when I really need it next month, I'll have it easily on hand.

So here, in no particular order, are things you can do when you should be writing.  (Feel free to add your own in the comments, of course.)
  • Read En Tequila Es Verdad for your daily dose of a "fountain of liberal rage."
  • Check your email.
  • Make and drink a pot of coffee.
  • Rewrite your to do list with nicer handwriting.
  • Better yet, you should do it in Microsoft Word, then print it out.
  • Add to your to do list.
  • Make sure your books are still alphabetized by author's last name.
  • Visit the forums for NaNoWriMo.
  • Update your status on Facebook to say "NP is not scribbling."
  • Vacuum the living room.
  • Play fetch with the cat (yes, one of my cats plays fetch).
  • Make Thanksgiving plans.
  • Read.
  • Rework your NaNo outline.
  • Adjust the font and margins of your NaNo novel.
  • Play the Expert level of Minesweeper until you win twice in a row.*
  • Do some early Christmas shopping online.
  • Print your NaNo outline to put in a folder since you're trying to be more organized.
  • Check your word count.
  • Watch Law & Order to get character ideas.  (Don't worry about what day or time it is; L&O is always on somewhere.)
  • See if any of your NaNo buddies are on AIM.
  • Do some laundry.
  • Gaze out the window.
  • Stare at a wall.
  • Look for writerly Christmas gifts online that you might want.
  • Start a NaNo scrapbook to document your life in November.
  • Go through your story and find ways to pad the word count (omitting contractions, changing all hyphens to spaces, lengthening lists like this one, adding mundane details that border on purple prose, etc.).
  • Take a quick little nap to recharge yourself.
  • Check the time to see how much more writing time you have.
  • Watch the cat sleep.
  • Blog.
  • Play Mahjong Solitaire.
  • Fill out an email survey and email it to everyone in your address book.
  • Add page numbers to your story.
  • Take the page numbers out.
  • Add a title page.
  • Add an Acknowledgements page.
  • Add an "About the Author" page.
  • Create an interview that could be included in the paperback edition.
  • Come up with lists for your blog.
*NOTE: Do this at your own risk. I once spent three hours playing Minesweeper trying to accomplish this goal.


Be sure to check out the newest Carnival, hosted by Thoughts in a Haystack!  

This month's carnival is quite creative, so enjoy!

24 October 2008

"Prose is like hair. It improves with a good combing."

At least, that's what Jasper Fforde says.

I think combing is a great analogy for editing and revising.  When you comb hair, you work out the kinks, smooth it, and make it beautiful.  Combing prose is the same idea.  When you comb your prose, you work out the kinks, smooth it, and make it beautiful.  And so, it's a necessary process.

To be honest, editing/revising is not one of my favorite processes in the writing realm.  When I've been working with a piece for a long time, I become connected to it, so editing can be difficult.  (How can I slash out an entire scene I spent so much time crafting?)  So I've had to create some methods to take some of the prickly out of editing and revising.

The first thing I do when I start editing something is to read it all the way through without making any changes.  That way I can refresh my memory of the story, and by reading it from beginning to end without interruption, I can get a better feeling for the flow of the story since I jump around a lot when I write.

The next thing I do is go through the piece again and only correct grammar/punctuation.  This is so I don't let superfluous apostrophes or improper tense slip me up when I'm reading for flow, character, and plot.

Finally, the third reading is for everything else.  Did I remember to change the character's name every time?  Does something sound awkward the way it's worded?  Should I add more detail in the setting description in this scene?  This is the time I take notes in the margins, cross things out, move things, and jot scene rewritings on the backs of the pages.

Once I've gone through the piece a third time I sit down at my computer and start making changes.  Even if I think a change isn't quite right, I go with my first instinct and change it.  This is an important step for me because there have been many times I've changed something and in the retyping I changed it again, only to change it back when I reread the piece.  Once the changes are made, I print a new copy and the process begins all over again.

Some people may think this process sounds quite tedious.  At times it is, but by separating the readings that way, I keep myself from having to think about everything all at once.  Instead, I can focus on one task at a time and put all my energy into that task.  That keeps me from feeling overwhelmed as I work through a piece.

What's your revision process?

23 October 2008

Journaling in the Life of a Writer

In addition to the blogopalooza that is The Coffee-Stained Writer, I keep a pen and paper journal IRL.*  I've found it to be an effective tool in my personal life, as well as my writing life.

In fact, I have more than one pen-and-paper journal.

One is for my personal life.  This is the journal that isn't shown to anyone else, and is usually kept out of sight to keep tempting eyes from prying.  In it I keep a record of my life.  I use it to work out situations, vent, worry, meditate, and whatever else comes to mind that I feel I need to share with...well...myself.  By committing these things to paper, in ink, I feel more confident about working out problems and situations.  When I'm angry or frustrated, journaling helps me center myself and calm down to better deal with whatever is causing the anger or frustration.  Personal journaling is a therapeutic practice for me, and there are days it's almost all that gets me through to the next crisis.

The other is for my writing life.  Sometimes I use it to write about how writing is impacting my personal life, but usually, I use it to make character notes, remind myself of writing tasks that need to be done, and keep a record of my writing life through notes and scribblings.  This is the journal I keep in my handbag so when the Muse strikes, I'm ready to jot down whatever scraps of a story come to mind before they go flitting away again.  If I think of someone who might be a good character, or I see a house that would be great for a setting, I make notes to myself so I can refer back to it later and remember what I was thinking.  This journal is usually a mess, and would be difficult for someone else to decipher without knowing my short-hand.  I go through these journals a bit quicker, usually, because I write in it more often than once a day or once every couple of days.  Keeping a writing journal gives me the opportunity to take notes or think through revisions when I'm away from my computer, and not worry about grammar or complete sentences.  I can just take notes.

Journaling is a way for writers to write outside the formality of creating stories/articles/whatever.  It's a place writers don't have to worry about editing or reworking and can just let their thoughts be put to paper.  It's a place to log ideas that may never materialize, bits of dialogue that can be used later, or whatever else you want to remember but for which you don't have an immediate home.

Even if you don't keep a personal journal, I strongly recommend you keep a writing journal.  It gives you a place to keep all your thoughts together, making it much easier to work when you sit down to scribble.  And, for those who are destined for greatness, it gives the scholars something to pore over and study years and years and years from now.  (And if you want scholars to talk about your journals even more, invent a short-hand they have to decipher.)

Happy journaling!

*IRL=in real life; learn the lingo, n00bs.