Which Works Better for You Deadlines Or No Deadlines?

I don’t know about other writers like you, but I find NaNoWriMo grueling.  I’ve had a birthday, and today is V’s birthday and his son has come to visit.

 

Other minor interruptions-Thanksgiving, a cold, pink eye, a five-day 5,000 mile trip to DE, and  a trip to AZ planned starting the 30th have ground me into pulp trying to finish writing 50,000 cogent words by Nov. 30th. My breakout novel is destined to be pulp fiction reflecting the state of my brain.

pulp-fiction-poster

 

I wanted to keep up with a commentary on my blog with how things were going and what I was learning as I wrote. But guess what? I can’t sit that long. I’ve run out of procrastination hours. I need to write 5,000 words a day to meet my deadline. I can barely snap my fingers on my mouse hand. I’ve gained another three pounds on top of the ten I already had going into the month. My normal sleeping pattern, which is asymmetrical at best, disintegrated in the wake of the NaNoWriMo deadline.

All deadlines fossilize me. The whisper directly into my endocrine system. “You have to get up to go to Kiwanis, Marsha.”

Result  – I blog all night and oversleep on Tuesday morning.

learning, writing, blogging, reading, pets, dog

“You must go to the store today.”

Result – I dither around the house trying to plan my itinerary, deciding which stops to make when I go into Visalia until it’s time for dinner. Then I call Vince to bring home some take-out from Subway.

In the case of NaNoWriMo my back, shoulders and butt tell me to walk away from the computer, take a long, hot bath – or until I have a hot flash –  and head to bed by 8:00 pm This forces Puppy to move off my pillow to the center of the bed. At 10:00 pm my sore body parts scream at Vince to give me a massage. Puppy gives me a respite if he puts enough smelly stuff on me. As soon as he finishes,  she crowds all ten pound between us and pushes with all her might against my back forcing both of us to sleep on the edge of the king-size bed. Then my brain, or Puppy Girl’s pressure against my kidneys, wakes me up at 1:30 am and threatens to kill itself if I don’t go back into the office and sit down at the computer and start writing again.

kalev7

Vince asked my why I had to do this. After all, I’m retired and still young. (though I’m not feeling it today – pink eye in both eyes) I have a whole lifetime to finish, right? Right? Of course he’s right, he usually is – annoyingly so, but then so am I, so why do NaNoWriMo?

Deadlines motivate me. When I wrote Images of America Woodlake, I started from scratch collecting pictures and information about Woodlake. I worked eight or more hours a day to finish by the six month deadline. About half-way through the writing process the publisher wrote me an email, “You’re doing a great job. We’ll give you an extra five books free if you finish in five months.” I ramped up production to get those five extra books – about a hundred-dollar value – so I had more to give away before I had to buy any to give away to all my contributors.

My amateur diagnosis – there is definitely something wrong with my brain. I guess it’s the reporter-brain training I had as a kid that is just now kicking in.

brainfreeze

Motivations like due dates didn’t work on me when I was a kid taking journalism and working on the school paper. Nothing motivated me to finish something that other people besides a teacher would read.  Going public with my thoughts, narrow as they were, petrified me. I feigned illness if the deadline came, and I wasn’t ready – an unpleasant characteristic flaw of mine. No worries If you’ve known me for more than a couple of minutes, then you already knew there were holes in my perfect persona.

After I missed my first real assignment on the high school paper, covering the first football game of the school year by moving to another state 2,400 miles away, I made sure I stuck to more important beats. In my new school I covered the library. I thought nothing exciting happened in the library because I only talked to the librarian, stupid kid. How dumb was that? I just needed to look between the shelves, but that’s another story. The interview and fear exposing myself during the publication process terrified me for six years, and deadlines did not motivate me to do more than get sick.

 

Deadlines and contact with real humans who need me to accomplish something by a specific date still make me sick, but without them my life would be chaos. Dishes would pile up, beds would be unmade. No one would have clean laundry. I might leave the house, and might not. I would spend the day in bed reading one good book after another until my eyes withered into the back of my head. I would eat until I ran out of ice cream, potato chips and protein bars. Oh wait, I’ve just painted a picture of my life now when I do have a deadline.

chaos

The best thing about having a deadline is that it puts an end to something you are driven to do. They validate saying, “It will never be perfect, Marsha. You can stop now. You made it. You got the sticker for your blog. Now go clean your house and fix a nutritious dinner.”

And I do.

What works for you? Deadlines? No Deadlines? Tell me YOUR stories. 🙂

Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, FRIENDS!

Did Kids Really Have Problems Growing Up in the 1970s?

Thank you for responding to my NaNoWriMo title poll. Forty-three percent of you had another idea for a title. yeah!!! Debbie Simorte, a friend and fantastic editor you can find on FB, suggested that since the book is about Jenny more than Wynn (the found puppy), maybe she should be in the title as well. Mama Cormier suggested that the Wynn title and the synopsis makes the story sound too much like Because of Winn-Dixie, another girl rescues and loves doggie book. I checked out on Kindle. Chris from The Story Reading Ape suggested Wynn or Wynn Woods for a title.

Because of YOU the new titles I am considering as of today are Winning Jenny’s Smile or Wynn wins Jenny’s Smile, and maybe  Make Jenny Smile, Wynn.

You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?
You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?

Thank you for participating. Your thoughts help me think about the real purpose and goals of the book. Unfortunately they change as I go along. I’m working on a clearer outline tonight and tomorrow. I used to always write an outline when I wrote, and when I sit down to write a novel, I do just that. Sit down and start writing. What am I thinking????

When I revived my twenty-five-year old novel, I started with a series of great stories that I rewrote to take out the boring, and to go deeper.  I learned that all breakout novels have major personal problems and major national problems. I’m struggling to weave them into the descriptions of funny things that happen along the way, which are not as important as the major stakes, but take up more of my thoughts.

Writing the synopsis helped me solidify my boggy plot, but now I need to go back and make sure that the story moves right along and reconsider which stories help move it and how. I’m asking myself, “Are my problems contributing to the plot or just funny or interesting? What will happen if I don’t solve them?”

As it did during the last NaNoWriMo, my brain gets in the way of my writing. 🙂

If you didn’t get a chance to respond to the poll about your life and opinions in the 1970s here it is again.

Thanks again for all your comments.

 

Where Were You in 1976? Whatever Were You Thinking?

I’m only one inconsequential person who lived through the 70s. Many of you were there, too going through some of the major events of the decade with me with the same or different experiences.

oregon trip 201320130914_1106231R

My new book, A New Home for Wynn,or at least that’s what it is now, is shaping up. My ten-year old heroine starts out on all the wrong feet at her new school in the southern Willamette Valley in a fictitious town named Pine Forest, OR just before the 1976 election.

oregon trip 201320130915_0044168R
This picture is located at the mouth of the Klamath River, where they wrestle still with a salmon issue battling it out water rights with the Central Valley of CA, where I live.

I chose this location because twenty-five years ago I wrote my first boring novel about this little girl (me, of course). I had recently moved from Cottage Grove, OR, so my heart still lived there even though I had moved on. On November 1st I resurrected the book that I wrote during summer vacation of one of my first years of teaching. At the time I wrote this I taught fourth grade. Elementary teachers teach writing like we know what we are talking about. The text-book tells us what to say and do,  and I taught writing to kids. As I judged kids essays and graded their journals, I sometimes (not often) wondered if I was legitimately qualified to do so. I wondered if I could stand the scrutiny of publication. Proudly I finished the book, and put it away. Overwhelmed by the edits I knew needed to follow, I decided not to push for publication, but I cherished the experience, and the work itself.

Twenty-five years later it's on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton! :)
Twenty-five years later it’s on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton! 🙂

I went on about life, but the book remained clipped to my wooden clipboard, its original floppy disks long gone. When NaNoWriMo came up this year, I decided to participate, in spite of the fact I am traveling twice during the month and will be out of commission along the way. I needed something I thought I could rewrite quickly.

WRONG!

And right, because I had the germ for my story, but not the details that will make the book a breakout novel. Yesterday I figured out how to interject the important issue that was part of my book from its inception, but was overshadowed by the girl’s (my) problems with her (my) father — and husband and any other male that  who happened across my path that and rubbed me the wrong way.

Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris' pew in Philadelphia.
Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris’ pew in Philadelphia.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate men! I had the most wonderful grandfather in the world, who looked something like my mother’s cousin Hal, pictured above. He adored me.  So he’s in there, too, you just wouldn’t recognize him as a grandfather because he’s 11 ish. I think Hal adores me too, but he just met me four years ago, but that’s another story I can tell you more about after I see him for the third time in my life tomorrow morning at 9:00 am PA time.

But here’s what’s missing – YOU!  I need opinions from all over the United States and beyond about what you were doing in the 1970s and what you thought about the Endangered Species Act of 1973. My heroine and her grandfather-type friend are assigned reports, debates and all kinds of assignments to involve them in the white spotted owl issues in Oregon at that time. By the way, those issues were not resolved at the time, but they were quite heated.

Palmer's white spotted owl
David A. Palmer, Easton

People all over the country at that time became involved citizens protecting the earth from industrious invaders. What were your experiences?

Click the express yourself link below and share your thoughts with me.  When the book comes out, (and it will – I guarantee it –  my word is my bond) if I use your name or quote you in any way I will send you a free copy as a thank you gift, unless you’d rather have a check for $1,000. You know I’m kidding don’t you? About the check, I mean. I’m hoping it will cost me thousands just mailing copies of the book because so many of you respond!  🙂

Click here to express yourself. 

If you have longer stories, you can reach me at tchistorygal@gmail.com.

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NaNoWriMo Progress

Sometimes I wonder what in the world convinced me that I could or even wanted to write. Yet, here I am at 4:43 in the morning drawn to my computer like a drippy nose to a Kleenex.

Allicks2
This is Allicks, my first husband’s and my first dog who inspired this story.

I originally wrote the book I’m working on now over 25 years ago during summer vacation when I taught fourth grade. The heroine is a ten-year old girl (5th grader) who is basically myself with good qualities added. She finds an abandoned puppy on her way home from school. Her dad hates dogs, and has previously forbidden her from having any pets. You see where this is going, obviously. She takes the puppy home and tries to convince her dad that the dog is worth keeping. What she is really trying to accomplish is to convince her dad, or maybe herself, that she, as well as the dog, is worth keeping. Meanwhile she has someone (or animal) she feels loves her, or more importantly maybe to whom she can outpour the love she has inside of her.

The problem with the original book basically is that although it has some great stories, it’s boring. That may be the problem with most of my writing actually, other than a few minor typos and grammatical errors. I read last night that the basic ingredient that is missing from most novelists’ first drafts is conflict.

Since the book gets its meat from my life there is plenty of conflict to draw from, but I find that I am totally a chicken. I always want the heroine, who is almost always a better rendition of myself to be seen in a good light. That’s not bad. I’ve learned that readers want their characters to be better than life, (I know I do.) so I guess that I’m good there. Where I am a chicken is I hate doing bad things to good characters. Not only that, if something awful does happen to a good character, I’m not sure how to solve the problem. Moreover they have to change, and I’m not sure how to make them do that!

In one scene of the book the heroine gets her first job – to watch her younger brother, who has an emotional or possibly mental problem, we don’t know exactly what yet, while her mom goes to the store. That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But Jake runs off ahead of her and a friend who dropped by the house. I hope you feel the sense of doom approaching here.

He heads down to the creek. Jenny (bossy older sister-me) tells him to stay away from the water. Of course, you know what he is going to do, and he gets in over his ankles in fast running water. I’ve rewritten this chapter at least twice. The most horrible thing I could do to this little boy is to have him be swept away by the creek. Or the heroine could end up in the drink, or her friend could die in the rescue process. Would you do something that drastic? I can’t. I was exhausted just getting him out in one piece, and of course the dog has to help because he’s worthless in the father’s eyes, and what can a dog who is terrified of water do anyway?

This chapter wasn’t even in my first book, and just so you know, it never happened in my life, which is why it probably wasn’t in my first book. Just so you know, I’m a little behind in my word count, and my plot just spun out of control, and we only have 18 days left.

As I write, I’m reading Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I’m on Chapter Six – Plot. I have another blog, a couple actually, and I started a brief review of the book. I probably should finish it before I do my next review. I don’t know, maybe you don’t mind if I work with it step by step.

If you’d like to write to me or correct my grammar I’m at tchistorygal@gmail.com. If you just want to spy on me you can follow me on FB, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. (I actually check those.) If you want to ignore me, I’ll probably never know about it, but go ahead and do it. Otherwise press like on this page, leave me a comment, and make me smile.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? If so how are you doing? I hope well.

Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?