“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” said Rain. She wished they could go back to just sitting in the quiet, not saying anything.
Will stood, fists clenched at his sides before he visibly relaxed, and let his arms hang loosely. Rain expected him to come and sit beside her, or look at her, or say something. Instead, he turned on his heel and walked away into the late afternoon shadows, leaving her sitting there alone on a cool concrete bench in his dead mother’s garden.
At 40,000 words, the rough draft of this novel is about half way through my plot outline. Hmmm. May need to trim a bit. I usually write short and then add. I’m not good at math, but even I know at this rate the story would be way too long.
Last month I took advantage of nanowrimo fever to try and keep up the momentum I established a few weeks earlier after reading Finish by Jon Acuff. One of his suggestions was to cut your goals in half, so at half done I feel pretty good about my progress. Except when I don’t feel good about it. Ha! Do you ever beat yourself up for not being as good, as fast, or as brilliant as someone else?
This morning I told my daughter I was a bit sad and depressed for no apparent reason. I wondered if it was because I wasn’t cranking out the high word counts I saw others producing.
Obviously, I was feeling a little sorry for myself and enjoying some sour grapes when I said, “Other people are getting to be all fabulous because they won nanowrimo and here I am still poking along.”
She said, “But you’re already fabulous, mama.”
We laughed. So much for whining about not winning. I guess maybe I don’t need to “win” at everything. As long as I stay fabulous.
Time for me to quit belly aching and get back to work on this novel.
Stay fabulous, y’all!
By the way, what do you think of the new mini book break reviews I’ve been posting? Do you like them?
“Mother,” Rain said, “did you really grow up here?”
Rain knew the answer to the question, but wanted to feel her mother out. She wanted to ask her mother what was she thinking and when could they leave, but it was better to not approach the topic directly. You had to take your time. Mother could be skittish and ornery, especially when her back was pushed up against the wall of unrealized hopes and tattered dreams.
“Yes, I did,” said Mother, letting the sheet she was spreading on the daybed fly out with a snap. It caught the air and bellowed before settling onto the mattress. She had chosen to stay in what Aunt Linda called the sunroom, an old converted porch now walled in, the open end graced with windows all along the backside.
“I have history here. So do you.”
If there was one thing that Mother had plenty of, it was history. Rain was a little too acquainted with particular chapters of Mother’s history, or at least her version of it, which seemed to be subject to varying interpretations and in a constant state of revision. History was not Rain’s favorite subject.
“How long do you think we’ll stay here? We need to find a place before school starts.” In case her mother forgot, she added, “And where you can get a job.”
Mother wouldn’t stay long in this kind of place. That was stone cold fact. It was much too tame and boring. It was no wonder she had wanted to get out, and the small shabbiness of the town also explained why she had never brought them back here.
“Why did you bring us here?” The question popped out before Rain could stop herself.
“I wanted to show you where I came from.”
“That shouldn’t take long.”
Mother laughed and snatched up a crocheted throw pillow, bopping Rain on the head with it. Rain grabbed it and returned the favor. Before long they were squealing and jumping on the bed in a full out pillow fight. They tussled and rolled, laughing until, exhausted and happy as puppies in a pile, they flopped back onto the bed, arms entwined. Doran Bea favored Mother in looks, but Rain could always make Mother smile, at least for a little while. Sometimes a little was enough. Sometimes it was all you were going to get.
Rain listened to the quiet of the house, and to their breathing, until the two separate exhalations matched up.
Her mother said, “I know what you’re doing.”
Rain kept her focus on the ceiling joists above her head. A string of spider webs clung to a crossbeam, and bits of dust were caught up in the construction, the edges of the sticky gossamer creation lose and floating.
“You don’t have to try so hard. You know I love you, right?”
The automatic, expected response tumbled from Rain’s lips, reassurance her Mother wanted to hear. “I know,” she said. “I love you, too.”
There was not the slightest doubt that her mother loved her. She told her so every day. But then, Mother always gave her love away easily.
Taking advantage of nanowrimo fever, I am busily working away on a brand new book, the third in a series. So far, I am liking this one. A while back I started a new and productive writing routine that seems to be working for me. Perhaps the atmosphere in the writer community will help me keep the daily practices I have established over the last several weeks. It can’t hurt, right?
Before I started on book three November 1st, I finally finished the rough (very rough) draft of my second book.
It was a tough one, but I did it. The subject matter was hard for me to write about but I am glad I did. It feels good to finish.
I sped up my writing quite a bit after I read Finish by Jon Acuff. I did a Book Break review of Finish here.
I read some good advice about dictation and realized I have not been doing it wrong and that freed me up tremendously. Tech still frustrates me from time to time, but that’s part of the package.
You might have noticed a few changes to the blog. I’ve been enjoying Instagram, and decided to post my instareviews here as well under the title of Book Break. My super awesome technically gifted son did that magic code writing thing so it does it automatically, if I remember to tag it properly. Tell me what you think. I love the nifty little coffee cups he put in the titles. I will try to post the longer book reviews from time to time, but needed to streamline things and spend more time writing.
Any changes in your life lately? Have any tips on how to succeed and make it to finished?
While I wait to hear back after submitting my first book proposal, I’ve been working hard on a second book for the series. I did a character interview for this second novel some time back. Skimming through the materials, I got that little heart squeeze of emotion. Here’s a peek into what my character had to say about herself.
“You are only as good as your last failure. I hate fake, but sometimes, a lot of times, I am that fake person. Most of the time. I don’t know any other way to be. If I wasn’t what they wanted, then no one would be happy with me.”
My heart already hurts!
I am, once again, crying as I write a book draft.
I use my phone and dictate my stories, quirky though my iphone is at recording, because it is small and portable. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can do at the moment. I still struggle with writing by dictation. On the rare days that I find typing physically comfortable, words flow with ease. Am I the only writer who thinks through their fingers?
I am planning a series of three novels. They are not a continuation of one single story, but stand alone as individual stories of friends.The teen characters from my first young adult novel make an appearance in this second book. As the teens grow, paths diverge. For a time.
This second novel is a story about friendship, deep struggles, and learning to love yourself. This story is particularly difficult to write. My MC battles an eating disorder and poor body image, echoes of my own teenage years.
I got a pleasant surprise as I worked on filling out the plot for the second book. A character walked on for a bit part and took over the third book in the series! I love it when characters decide to show up almost fully developed. It only becomes a problem when they take over the whole story, but that’s another blog post.
Originally, I planned for the third novel to be the story of my aspie boy character’s foray into romance. Then his girlfriend came on stage and made the story her own. It’s the same story, but told from the girl’s perspective. Having a boyfriend with asperger’s makes her already complicated life, shall we say, interesting. Only the barest of a skeleton for the third book in the series exists so far, but it’s coming along nicely considering I’m not even supposed to be working on book three yet.
The day to day difficulty lies with the project I’m supposed to be working on. Isn’t that always the way? But I am committed and slogging away. The stories must be told and cried over, even if I’m the only one to shed a tear.
P.S. The first book dealt with the grief of losing a parent while navigating the ups and downs of the teen world. The family dynamic including a teenager with high functioning autism added to the story line. I cried buckets.
Are you working on any projects? What characters make you cry?
I was ready. My book was finished, revised, and edited. My book coach encouraged me to go to this year’s writers’ conference and make an agent appointment, so I did.
I bought shoes, got a bad haircut, and actually ironed clothes. This was serious.
Months in advance, I did the research and prepared myself to meet a literary agent or publisher. I wrote a one sheet, printed my first four chapters in correct format, and had lists of questions to ask for the ‘extra’ time left over after my pitch. After reading about the available choices, I listed three, understanding I would get one of them. Since I registered early, I would probably get the first one I listed. In case I didn’t, I continued to read online a bit about each person so I could easily bring up topics to chit chat about. Pleased, I realized I had plenty of conversation fodder. I had this.
Then I got there.
Things were going well at first. Arriving early, I had plenty of time to spare. I felt fine, if tired. Sleep had eluded me, but no worries. Instead of sleeping, I listened to relaxing music and did deep breathing to Paul Cardall’s Be Calm. Who needs sleep? I’d faced bigger challenges on less sleep and succeeded. I could probably even get a blog post out of this experience like other writers do, sharing wisdom I garnered from the meeting.
Finding out I had three appointments threw me for a sec, but no problem. I had planned to meet with anyone, remember? I was prepared.
Another poor soul who was waiting to pitch her book looked as if she were about to come unglued. I felt bad for her. I traded business cards with the other writers in the waiting area. We reassured each other that we would be fine. This wasn’t so tough.
My name was called. Even though I had done my homework, I did not recognize the agent I was directed to. After a few seconds, it became apparent this was the one person in the room who I did not have an appointment with that day. No problem. We exchanged pleasantries and exited the room. It turns out I had been confused with another Donna. No big, I didn’t miss anything because I was early.
My actual turn came. I floundered at the beginning, but I was sure to find my footing soon, right?
My brain emptied itself, thoughts completely scattered. My hands flopped around on the table as if I could gather those thoughts back somehow, but every coherent speck of intelligence was gone. Poof. I was tongue-tied, stammering. This from the lady who talks to people in the checkout line and has long conversations with telemarketers.
The agent was exceedingly gracious and kind.
I did not throw up or cry. I did not dump hot coffee on her. So that was good. As a friend told me, the encounter probably wasn’t as bad as a sharp stick to the eye.
I don’t know why I was so anxious, unless it was because my little subconscious was screaming, “This may be a pivotal moment and the next ten minutes is likely to have an impact on your ability to deliver the message God has given you to share with the world of suffering children and the timer is running right over there, numbers flying by.”
Now, I realize this was overly dramatic, but it was my subconscious whispering. It’s hard to reason with such a thing. Realistic Donna understands that my ability, or lack of, in any given situation is not capable of derailing God’s plan. I am simply not big enough to have that kind of impact. To place such importance on self displays an arrogant lack of trust and faith.
I made it through this rite of passage. No one was injured. And she asked to see my work. Maybe she will like it. All I can do now is wait and see.
In the meantime, I plan to trust in the process knowing it will all work out while I happily dig into my next project.
All writers know first drafts are less than perfect. In fact, they are usually awful. Crappy first drafts are par for the course.
At Walmart one day I was shopping with my son. I saw a Smiling Pile of Poo Bank. Jokingly, I said, “When I finish the rough draft for my novel I should treat myself by buying this to hold all the money I earn when I’m a famous author.”
He took it off the shelf and put it in the buggy. “I’m buying it for you.”
“No, no,” I said. “I have to finish the draft first.”
“You will,” he said.
“What if I don’t?”
It gave me the warm fuzzies to think he had faith in me. The guy must believe I could write a novel if he parted with cash to purchase such a thing.
I’m not really sure if having this bank represents earnings I will make selling books. Perhaps, being empty, it better represents all the money I have spent attempting to learn the craft of novel writing.
The Pile of Poo sat in a central place. I saw it every day. We all saw it every day. If I had been good and worked on my novel, the face smiled encouragingly at me. On the other hand, on days I could have written but didn’t, I swear that pile of poo mocked me with its big, round bugeyes and sly, silly grin. Plus, now my son was invested, having bought that pile of poo for me. He is a grown man, but he is still my kid. If he had enough faith in me to buy a ceramic bank with his own money, I had to be worthy of that pile of poo.
It was about this time last year when I heard back from an agent. My full manuscript had been requested, but in the end was turned down. I wasn’t entirely sure what the issue was, so I hired book coach Sarah Hamer to help me.
Here we are many months later with about 40,000 words added to the story. Many of these words were written 500 at a time as I kept to my daily minimum goal. Over time I did pick up speed, learning to use speech to text and making adjustments to current challenges.
New characters walked onto the stage, and the plot is better. I decided to change from Middle Grade to Young Adult, and hopefully corrected any major story flaws.
Finally, my draft is finished! You know what that means. Now I get to begin re-writing and editing.
And my Smiling Pile of Poo will be here to encourage me every step of the way.
Oh, and by the way, one of my other boys bought me this lovely first draft notebook, trusting I have another story in me waiting to be written.
It’s wonderful to have supportive kids, even if they give me lots of crap, I mean poo.
I’ve been fairly good at keeping my goal of writing every day. This has been a challenge. Adjustments were necessary.
The physical act of writing became too much. I have always been a person who thinks through my fingers, so to speak, which made writing fiction using speech to text challenging. It made me want to pull my hair out. To solve this problem I decided to switch gears for a bit.
There are times when you have to take a step back. To leave projects undone goes against my nature. It was hard for me to abandon my fiction long enough to figure out the best way to get words on paper, but it had to be done.
Over the summer I “wrote” the rough draft for a non-fiction book using my iPhone. There are oh-so-many bits of hard won knowledge I would like to impart to my children, or my children’s children, so I decided to make a record of my thoughts on education and homeschooling. This helped get me into the groove of transcribing thoughts without a keyboard or pen. It felt unnatural to write fiction using this method. Using verbal skills to give motherly advice was not an issue. I’m sure the kids will come to appreciate all those nuggets of wisdom someday.
Once the nonfiction project was drafted, I returned to novel writing and found speech to text a little more cooperative. It is still awkward and tedious, but I’m getting better at it. Practice makes perfect, or if not perfect, at least manageable. If only it would transcribe purposeful dictation as well as it records my frustrated, unladylike utterances.
And y’all, I have met new writing buddies! In any difficult journey, finding people who support you, believe in you, and cheer you on helps keep you focused on your calling. Go visit Linda and Rachel on their blogs and tell them “hey” from me.
I’ve found a couple of other writers who I hope to spend time with soon, sharing stories and sugar laden, caffeinated treats. I need my crit partners! Producing a marketable work takes support and help from many fronts, at least it does for this girl.
My writing coach, Sarah Hamer, has been wonderfully patient with me. I appreciate her guidance and support dearly. If you need a little help with writing projects, check out her site here.
It’s time to start considering the editing process, and with that in mind I am trying to outfit my writing space. I purchased an anti-fatigue mat to use with my standing computer desk. My standing desk is an IKEA computer desk we found on craigslist and adapted. I went by Office Depot and tried out the line of Serta computer chairs and was happy to find a comfortable chair. They even have a couple made for shorter people like me!
My eldest found a cool adjustable desk. Smartdesk moves from sitting to standing with the push of a button. It is on the wish list.
Now all I have to do is finish the last twelve chapters of the rough draft for the current rewrite of Nina’s story and I will be ready to begin edits. Right after I get some new glasses.
Today I am guest hosting Literacy Musing Mondays Linkup. Do you have a link to share? Book reviews, writing, anything literacy related is welcome. Please share with us!
How has literacy impacted your life? This is one of my answers.
I’d heard it often enough, and I knew it to be true. Words have power. A good speaker can motivate, a book open your mind to new possibilities, an essay expand your horizons. Even a small word of encouragement can keep one on course. I knew it and I believed it.
I used words to try and talk to people. I asked and informed, explained and requested understanding. It was frustrating. Then I wrote a story. I wrote a story about my child’s day. I had no intention of having it published or really doing anything with it. I need to make it clear that this was no earth shattering prose. It was only a simple, every day essay. The kind you would see on a mom blog.
I tucked my essay into my Bible study book. I don’t remember why the leader asked if anyone had anything to share, but I felt that nudge in my spirit. I ignored it. Speaking out was not my thing. She asked again. No one knew I had that sheet of paper in my book, about my frustration, or my writing. Then she asked again. By this time, people were looking around. I couldn’t read it out loud myself, so I handed it to her and asked her to read for me.
People cried. More than that, my son’s world changed because the story, a plain little story about a little boy who liked things all boys like, had drawn others into his world. So they made room for him in theirs.
There are journeys impossible to fathom unless you walk them, and battles only understood from an altered perspective. Story lets the reader experience connection. Our point of view shifts. Suddenly we can see something we never saw before. Perception becomes clear. Truth is revealed.
Words and story can open hearts. Words can build community. Sometimes, words can simply make a little boy feel accepted.
And the whole world changes.
Now it is time to linkup to Literacy Musing Mondays. This link up is for all bloggers who love to write anything literacy related such as essays about the love of reading and/or writing, book reviews, or posts about fun literacy activities. All family-friendly posts are welcome. 😉
Carolyn features some sweet books about bears. I love all of her selections! You don’t want to miss this one either. Plus, it really is worth it to visit Carolyn’s fun site!
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You will have until Saturdays at 12 p.m. now to link up! So come back often.
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I have had fair success at getting words on the current WIP flowing. Not all of those words are kept, mind you. But then that is the nature of a first draft.
“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”Joyce Carol Oates
Committed to writing a certain amount on my novel in progress every day, I have decided to pretend this forced vacating of my home is a writer’s retreat. This fantasy would probably be easier to maintain if I had not brought my family, including our new puppy, along with me.
Tip #1 Don’t bring your kids or a puppy.
There are also the constant interruptions of new information about the home repairs which tend to get me sidetracked. The ongoing saga is a twisted version of a never ending story, reminding me of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.
Along the way to the discovery of where the moisture is coming from we found no leaks, but we did find out the home has what was referred to as “the pipe of the future” otherwise known as polybutylene pipe. This particular kind of pipe is no longer used because it is destined to fail. Check your pipes, peeps.
During the new water line installation, I was informed the hot water heater has been leaking. No word on the water damage from that yet.
After numerous consultations, it has been determined that the constant water collecting under the sinks is probably from condensation. This may be due to the vapor barrier being compromised when a neighbor’s dog got under the home. Or it could be because of improper site prep. They are working on it.
Tip #2 Leave your home problems at home and don’t answer calls.
Other issues will be dealt with as the summer progresses. The good news is, no mold in the walls as far as we can tell with mold kits and this handy snaking camera.
Tip # 3 Don’t give up writing no matter what.
“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.” Red Smith
For the last few weeks I have been displaced, my thoughts scattered by events and summer schedules. On top of all the chaos that is typical of the Stone Clan, I have not been feeling all that great.
Some days it is a challenge to write. Most days lately. But it’s not like I can NOT write. It is what I do.
But boy, doesn’t life intervene? I need to refocus on my goal and make the necessary adaptations.
I may have mentioned accountability before, but in the past I joined a group whose members are dedicated to write at least 500 words every day. Every. Single. Day.
For me, that means a minimum of 500 words on my novel draft in progress, no matter what.
I’m struggling with this. I know many people find it easy to write the first draft, but not me. I am primarily using voice to text on an old HP tablet. I have been informed on numerous occasions it is so old it’s obsolete, but I feel a certain kinship with it. It took forever for it to learn to translate my accent into recognizable English and it still makes mistakes.
I also tend to forget what it was I was saying if my device doesn’t translate well the first time. When I go back to read a section of indecipherable text regularly leaves me puzzled as to what I originally meant to write. For a time, I wondered if I needed to plot more to solve that issue, but I don’t want to over plot.
It is harder for me to write fiction using speech to text than to write blog posts, emails, or letters with it. Have you found this to be true for you?
And then there is the obstacle of my own self. In my first middle grade novel, I could write the main character, Nina straight out of the chute. She is plain looking, snarky, emotional, and has a quirky family. My new MC, Trish, is different. She is a blonde ballerina who always tries to be the good girl. Hmmmm. We do share some issues. I will get past her looks and personality to dig them out. I may not be a ballerina, but I am exceedingly persistent and will find the real Trish under all those blonde locks.
I may have to let some things slide a bit, what with the current craziness, work on the book, house stuff, and taking care of the family. But my 500 daily words on the novel in progress is one of my anchors. I know this is what I am called to do.
What’s your calling? How are you managing to answer that call while juggling life?
I am a girl in need of a plan. My middle grade book requires a second in the series. I have most of my characters, my theme, setting, and I know the message I want to convey. It’s time to plot the story.
Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of Plotting always looked interesting. I thought I’d give it a try. My previous approach had been to use massive amounts of note cards and tape them to the walls, shuffling and adding to them periodically. This worked fine, but it seemed a bit random and tedious to me.
Many writers have been helped by plotting with The Snowflake Method. The method has been so popular and worked for so many that now you can buy Snowflake Pro software or his book How To Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method but he still provides the original article free of charge. (Thank you, Randy Ingermanson!)
From the get go he says to take what you can use and don’t worry about the rest, but something in me wants to follow lists. I want to know the plan.
I have looked at his directions before. I usually got bogged down about halfway through reading and would give up before I started. Since then I have learned that for me, with some projects, I need to just go ahead and jump in. It’s hard because I tend to want all the details ironed out before I commit. If I can’t see the end I don’t like starting down that path.
I got through steps one to four with no trouble. It was fun and easy. Then, when I started on the next step, parts of story began to pop into my head so I started making a list of scenes before they got away. Randy Ingermanson suggests using a spreadsheet for your list of scenes, but I started the list in the same document I was putting everything else in. I didn’t want to forget what I needed to write while trying to figure out a spreadsheet. I was already out of order with the Snowflake Method instructions anyway.
So far I have a decent direction for the story, more than I had when I started writing the first book in my series. This method helped me figure out holes before I started writing the novel, even if I made adjustments to the system early on.
I’m not sure if I will be able to go back and pick up with the rest of The Snowflake Method from where I’m at right now with this book. I will try The Snowflake Method again, though, of that I am sure.
Will my plot work out even though I’m deviating from my originally intended mode? Probably. Would it work better or easier if I follow directions? I don’t know. Did I ruin it? I don’t think so.
Just Write, Create, Jump In
The point is, I am writing my own story. I got a jump start from suggestions and tools, but it’s okay if I take another route. I know I will make it to the end.
Life is like that. Don’t be scared to be a little creative with the format and structure of approaches as long as you stay true to the course. You are not going to ruin it.
It’s your story. You know how to tell it.
P. S. The Paper Snowflake Ballerina
The directions for the snowflake ballerina in the picture can be found at krokotak, but there is no printable template for the skirt. There are pictures. I eyeballed the designs and took a stab at it and it worked fine. You can’t let a little thing like a missing template stop you.
Did this encourage you? Please share it! Have you made adjustments to a plan recently? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.