Why NaNoWriMo – Deadline Or No Deadline?

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.

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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!

Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.

How to Write a Synopsis for Your Next Big Project: A Synopsis

A fallen ego maniac, I had the idea that because I am so old and have written for so long that I must know how to do what I do every day – WRITE — and be pretty good at it.  hahaha Teachers think that, you know. In our defense, we have to or the kids would eat us alive. Frankly, we spend our whole careers learning to teach writing, so we should know something. But the truth is…

BOV 2013 Purple 5

After tackling one new writing project after another….

  1. First a blog, (I’m still learning new things every day.)
  2. I braved a NaNoWriMo novel.
  3. Carol convinced me to take a children’s story class, and I wrote several (almost ready) children’s picture book stories.
  4. Then a local history book for Arcadia Publishing Co.
  5. Now back to my novel.

SFW misc Benches 2

…I admit there are a few many things that  I don’t know. (duh!) Now I’m checking first with other experts to see what they say.  Writing a Synopsis is a link to a Writer’s Digest page – links to several articles about how to write a synopsis. Here is a synopsis of my favorite by Beth Anderson.

Does your writing meander?
Does your writing meander? Writing a synopsis ill help.

Seven  Sentence Synopsis

  1. Write a sentence that tells what your book or article is about, and names the major characters.
  2. Explain the beginning in one sentence.
  3. The third sentence tells the end of the book. Don’t pull any punches here. Spit it out. The boy gets the girl. The gorilla dies. The tooth fairy drops all the children’s teeth into magic water, and they change into dentures.
  4. Write a sentence about each major point of action in the story, and put those between step two and three.

That’s it. Step one, done.

Step Two – Write a One Page Synopsis

  1. Use your same opening sentence, then describe the beginning in a paragraph.
  2. Write two or three paragraphs describing the major points of action.
  3. Finish with a short paragraph about the end of the book.  Again, you don’t try to trick any readers here. A synopsis is to sell your book to a busy agent.

Step Three – Write a Three Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Tell, don’t show!

Step Four – Write a Six Page Synopsis

Add more action points and obstacles. Add secondary characters. Make sure the road-blocks get more obstacally as the plot thickens. Characters never come out unscathed until the end of the book where they emerge scratched and smiling, prize in hand, and not a hair out-of-place.

Step Five – Write a Twelve Page Synopsis

By the time you add more obstacles and action points, your book is finished. All that remains is to add the dialogue and describe the setting. The best part is you know how it’s going to end.  Those pesky characters can’t sneak up on you and write their own script. Oops. They can?  Yep, these experts say they can, so watch out.  However, you have it pretty much in control.

No David's nose

Practicing Descriptive Writing Here – Brain Fog? – No, Real Fog!

It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.

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If you can get away from it, fog is beautiful. This week Debbie Simorte, my Girls on Fire editor, asked me how the weather in Visalia could be sunny and foggy at the same time, like that was a Kansas City impossibility. When I drove to Los Angeles this weekend for a meeting, I had to drive almost to Tejon Pass before I found an example of what sunny fog looked like. Visalia had no sun that day, only fog. The freeway, I5 South, split the fog in half as it curled up for a nap against the mountains north of the Grapevine.

fog5

As I drove south, the light haze on east side of the freeway foretold of the clear skies awaiting me in Los Angeles. The beauty of the graduated fading fog enticed me off the freeway long enough to snap these pictures before I continued on my trip. I didn’t move much from one spot as I rotated from east to west to capture the entire scene for you.

My favorite feathering of fog

My favorite feathering of fog

Tinkerbell should be in this picture somewhere sprinkling magical fairy dust in the mountain canyons. It seemed unreal to me.

fog3 The arc of fog needed a rainbow marking its border, but none appeared. It remained stark white. Fog tried to bar the sun from entering the valley.  At about two in the afternoon the sun tried to burn a hole in the clouds as it had already done on the east side of the freeway. I couldn’t stay to see if it succeeded.
I

 

 

Not a dense fog
Not a dense fog

I stood behind the tree and tried to shoot up at the sun, but the effect didn’t please me.

foggy night
foggy night

I left the meeting at 4:29 PM the next day in a rush to get over the Grapevine while it was still light. Dropping into the Central Valley, the fog greeted me. It probably had never left. At at night fog no longer felt benign. I took this picture through my dirty windshield as I ripped through the fog approaching Bakersfield, I must have plowed the clouds away. On a closer inspection microdrops of dust on my windshield remained as a calling card of the fleeing mist. I look straight ahead. I could see clearly now. When I looked to my left, there it was. It hovered just off the freeway at a gas station ready to pounce on me again. Once Bakersfield’s lights no longer protected my car and me from the fog, the sky dropped puffs of translucent cotton air onto the road. My car became a vacuum cleaner sucking in white dust bunnies. The stronger the suction, the thicker the fog became. By the time I turned off the freeway onto a country road, I could see only three lines ahead of me. A car passed me going the other direction. I counted to six as I watched him in my rearview mirror, and poof, he was gone. Fog turned the roads I know so well into a strangers.

For those of you who have never experienced Valley fog, this is a taste of what the natives call “Tule fog.” How do you describe the fog in your area?

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

 

Social Mediadizing Social Media: Three Tricks That Didn’t Work – Exactly As Planned

I consider blogging social media. Yet we need to use social media for people to notice our social media. Today I experimented with social mediadizing my social media. I don’t know how it will go, but here’s what I did.

blogging

1. I edited my WP page about blogging and added a page, “Marketing Your Blog.”

2. I googled hashtags for Twitter because people told me to include # hashtags after the messages so that they go to more people. Google found several blogs that had already done the work of finding hashtags for authors, bloggers, photographers, editors… I cut and pasted some hashtags onto my new WP page and credited the blogs. Easy peasy.

hashtag tweeting3. Then I told my twitter world all about my new page on WordPress that will help me to market my blog using hashtags. At the end of the link to my tweet, I copied several of the recommended hashtags.  Hold on. I’m going to check my page views. Be right back… I’m back. (… means pause)

twiddle my thumbs

So far no one has noticed my new page, not one click, hashtag or no hashtag.  But my Twitter account buzzed all day. I got 2 new followers, 1 person retweeted a post, two people wrote their own description and referred their followers to my post, and 6 people liked it. That was pretty amazing to me.  Thank you Twitter friends. 🙂

While I’ve Twittered, I ignored my FB fan page, and I’ve lost one poor soul from my likes. Fell off my wall, like Humpty Dumpty and is probably lying in a broken gooey heap at the bottom of the internet somewhere dark and ignored.

Humpty Dumpty

Social media is like juggling. I get one media up in the air, and the others crash down on my head. It amazes me how many followers some of my Twitter-happy experts have. Into the K’s.

followers
Really? Remember the 1960s ads that promised that you could make $5,000 from home without a high school education just by licking envelopes? I think I sent in a few envelopes when I was 10.

One tweeter published 200 more tweets than I did over the couple of years we’d both been tweeting, but listen to this – He had about 43K followers and I have 415. So I asked myself, am I tweeting too much? The less you tweet the better you feel, so don’t tweet yourself at every meal?

One self-proclaimed twitter expert said, “Tweet your posts two times a day because people might miss them otherwise.”

follow me

But If I do that I’ll end up with twice as many tweets as that 43K guy and have 418 followers, and he will tweet maybe two times and have 86K followers. (Not that I care, really, I think it is an interesting phenomenon.)

cat, pet, writing, blogging

This is pretty boring to most of you, but elementary teachers birdwalk.

writing description.
writing description.

Yesterday, when I wrote the description of the house that I thought I asked you to describe, I obsessed about the angle of the downward slope of the roof.  I drew it on a piece of paper, then I asked Vince to estimate it. Then I measured it with a protractor. He was right, 3 degrees.

Now does anyone honestly care that my fictitious character, Sarah Clay’s house in Girls on Fire has a roof that slopes from east to west by 3 degrees? I doubt it, but I probably spent 10 minutes trying to figure it out.

fingers crossed

By the way. it turned out that the way I posted my pictures yesterday some of you Ralph thought I needed a description of this girl with her fingers crossed. He came up with some creative descriptions.

retirement
Brandi Jo Newman, another person who stole Another Day’s picture and photoshopped her out of it. 😦

Tell me what you did this weekend.  I hope you did something more useful yesterday than I did.

And how do you mediaize your social media?

Thanks for the pictures, Google.