Oct
2009

No Plot? No Problem! Chapters Three – Eight

Wow, what the heck have I been doing that I haven’t blogged about NPNP for a while?

Work.

So, here we go. When we last left our novelist-to-be, she was rallying the troops for support, agonizing over the idea that she can write a novel in 55 hours, but realistically thinking that 1667 words per day might be do-able.

On to the next piece. Chapter Three offers tips on places to write – and how to write in those places. For example, if one can’t afford the chalet in Paris, then, writing at home might be the next best thing. But those distractions. Oh, those distractions. The solution? Isolate oneself from the temptations. Some people write better in coffee shops – lots of outlets, no one sneers at you if you hang out for 2, 5, 10 hours a day, and there’s quiet background music.

Other viable places (because people have done it): libraries, bookstores, the gym, pubs and bars, cheap motel rooms. What these places offer that home and trendy coffee shops might not: quirk, interesting people. (Although, you might find that at home, too.)

Chapter Four asks us to look at what we like in novels (our Magna Carta I) and what we don’t (our Magna Carta II). For example, I like zingy language and short zippy chapters. I dislike a lot of boring prose and having the protagonist be an orphan (overdone much!). These are gentle reminders of what we find interesting and what might help us plod through our novel without too much pain.

A quick reminder from Chapter Four (in Patti-esque language): if you write, the plot will come.

Chapters Five – Eight are about the four weeks of NaNoWriMo. The highs, the lows, the madness, the frustration, the giddiness.

Week One is the honeymoon phase. Life is great, the novel is great, and this is a great idea. Write as much as possible to get a “bank” of word count ready.

Week Two is the slam of reality. Life is trying to wiggle back in. The elusive 1667 words per day seems impossible. This is when we tend to give up – like the whine of a 10-year old kiddo, we exclaim: “it’s tooooooo haaaaaard.” We tend to lose word count this week – building up a debt.

Week Three finds us at a less-than-optimal word count (we should have 35,000 at the end of week 3). However, this is when we find our groove-thang again and can let ‘er rip! Have fun. Let the words flow, even if they make no sense, don’t move the plot, or describe a gnat in excruciating detail. The goal is 50,000 words, not the Great American Novel (at least not yet).

Week Four can be exhaustive. The holidays are here (Turkey Day) and family obligations may take over. Or our bodies are physically exhausted and sore and we’re cranky. Use eye drops, walk around, stretch, get away from the keyboard or pen and paper – you can collapse and sleep for days on end at the end of the month.

Then CELEBRATE!!! Baty recommends champagne or beer. I recommend whatever makes you happy – and perhaps something you have been neglecting these past few weeks. Take the kids to the zoo, eat a brownie, go for a run, see friends, see relatives, heck, go see a movie. The world went on without you – join it again.

And thank those who supported you. Let them know that you’re back – and that the editing process won’t be as bad as this month was. And get them on board for next time. There will be another NaNoWriMo. And another. And another after that.

Tomorrow (or some semblance thereof) I will finish up Baty’s book with Chapter Nine – what to do with your novel after you’ve “won” NaNoWriMo.

Oct
2009

Reading and Writing (NaNoWriMo Pt 2 and Waiting)

Another productive morning.

I decided to carve out a few hours each morning Tuesday – Thursday for reading and writing. And this is Day Two of that endeavour.

It’s going well. I have been productive each day – and feel as though I am getting things accomplished. Then, I reward myself with The Sopranos on A&E at 11.

No Plot? No Problem Chapter Two

In Chapter Two of Chris Baty’s 50,000-ish word book, he speaks about time – the management and mismanagement of time. In this, he challenges us to spend a few minutes writing down each activity that we have worked on throughout the day (bathing, eating, working, playing on the computer, etc) and to write down how much time we have spent on each.

We then look at our day’s activities in three categories:

  1. The required activities
  2. The highly desired activities
  3. The forgo-able activities

and figure out how much time we have spent TOTAL on the forgo-able activities. This is where we find time to write our 30-day, 50,000-word novel.

It’s up to each of us what to decide what are our forgo-able activities. For some, it might be time with family. For others it might be computer games. And for another, it might be activities that can be pawned off on someone else, like laundry or mowing the lawn.

Then, we use that time to write our 1,667 words per day.

Additionally, in this chapter, Baty writes about using friends and families as tools to keep up motivated. For some, it could mean asking people to nudge/push/shove us into our word count. For others, it might mean shame-filled incentives such as declaring yourself a 50,000-word god or goddess and having to adhere to that for fear of ridicule. And again, for others, that could mean setting up bets or monetary “punishments” for not reaching that 50,000-word goal (Baty suggests that if we fail to reach 50,000 words, we contribute a substantial amount of money to an organization we abhor to keep ourselves on task).

For me? That ever-achievable illustrious novel-writing career and the independence that offers is enough to keep me on track. I make that promise here and now. For fear of ridicule and fun-making.

Waiting by Ha Jin, Part Two

What a delicious book. Another 100 pages into the book, I am no less enthralled by it than I was at the beginning. The more words I read, the more deeply I find myself in the story and the more intrigued by the characters I become. I don’t know the ending – I have a few guesses – but the introduction to the novel promises struggles and difficulties along the way. Does Lin Kong successfully divorce his wife, Shuyu? Do he and Manna Wu stay together? And if so, are they happy? The journey is fun.

(spoiler alert) As an example, toward the end of the second part, Manna is violently raped by a former-officer and friend of Lin . This plot twist was not surprising to me as I expected this (plot-wise, I didn’t feel as though her much-discussed virginity would remain intact throughout the novel and Lin and her chaste relationship).

However, I was not disappointed by this plot “twist.” I was pulled into this piece of the story as much as I have been by every other plot point to date. It was done well, with grace, enough violence to jar me, but not so much that I feel that it is used for shock value.

However, the “repercussions” of the rape are jarring. Manna’s apologies to Lin about putting herself into that situation and losing her virginity is are unsettling. His reaction (wonderfully out of character) is surprising. And the reactions of Manna’s colleagues and friends are abhorrent, yet feel correct for the place, the time, and the political environment.

I look forward to the remaining pages with glee. I can’t wait until tomorrow to finish the book. Ha Jin has put together a wonderful piece of literature. I hope the last 1/3 of the book does not disappoint.

Oct
2009

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Part One

Well, this year, I have decided to take NaNoWriMo seriously. I have participated twice – sporadically – and have never won. To tell the truth, I haven’t even come close to the 50,000 word “win.”

So, this year, I am going to work on my mid-grade novel. I have the entire thing skeletonized – characters are mostly fleshed out, the major plot points are expressed, and the temporary title (Freak Squad: Wraith For It) has been chosen.

I have a decent computer. And a word processing program.

I have my official Camp NaNoWriMo t-shirt.

I have my No Plot? No Problem book handy-dandy. I’ve finished the prologue and chapter one. And I am taking the advice to heart:

  1. drink lots of coffee,
  2. embrace “exuberant imperfection,”
  3. take breaks from the computer (body as well as eye-ball),
  4. stay busy with life as normal and write in those “in between times,”
  5. write with a group that will hold me accountable, and
  6. aim for those 1667 words per day – even on the hard days (and there will be hard days).

And I have hatched a plan to read a chapter a day for the next 8 days.

Now? To write. Oh wait, I have another 12 days until it starts!!

Waiting by Ha Jin

So, in the meantime, I am enjoying reading Waiting by Ha Jin – which I am reading for my book group on Sunday. It’s absolutely delicious. I made it through the first 1/3 of the book and I absorbed it. To the point where I am, the book takes place in the 1960 – 1980s, during the Communist Party’s strongest influence in China. It is one man’s story about how he defines his life, living, and responsibilities – to family and country. I look forward to the next 1/3, which I will read tomorrow, most likely.

Oct
2009

Life is busy(-er) again

The time has come for all good persons to get back to work. And that would be me.

I was a little nervous about going back to work – especially after this last summer, but I managed to process through it and place some understanding into the mix. And (voila!) no worries.

My hours have been cut, but that’s all right. I can use the extra time to write. 1.5 hours doesn’t really seem worth it gas-wise, but I love love love the kiddos! And my job, so 1.5 hours is okay with me. I might volunteer those days, but we’ll see. It depends on how much of my own stuff I have to do.

Fall is here – and I’m loving it. The leaves are turning and its nearly sweater-wearing time. I’m almost at goal for Weight Watchers (about 1 pound to go) and I’m buying new jeans and bras on Friday. Good times. I hate jeans and bra shopping. YUCK! But it’s necessary. I’m practically disappearing in my current jeans and I haven’t had a proper bra sizing in decades (who knew?). And where am I going? The Pepto Bismol Pink Puke Place – Victoria’s Secret. Duuuuuuuuuuuude could they make it more pink? Egads.

How are things in your neck of the woods?