It’s a long way to go (but it’s worth it)

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When our first daughter was married she went to live in the Yukon. It seemed very far away from our Vancouver Island home, and the next summer when we drove there to visit, we discovered indeed it was — some  2500 kilometres away. Yukon is in the northwestern corner of Canada. It’s sparsely populated, is the home of Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, as well as the world’s largest non-polar icefield (Kluane). The terrain is mostly boreal forest.

Where we drove, the climate was considered to be subarctic and for a time as we made our way over the ‘Top of the World’ Highway between Yukon and Alaska, we were in the tundra. I would never have broken off any of the plant life to bring home, but near the roadside I found this tiny three inch twisted bit of branch with dried miniature leaves. I still have it thirty years later.

Yukon Root

(To enlarge, click on photo)

I caught my first view of the Northern Lights in the Yukon, and heard my first wolf howl. All of the Yukon scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, but that Top of the World Highway was spectacular. It’s not my photography, but this video will give you a brief taste of what we saw.

The vast wilderness was almost overwhelming. We could drive for an hour and never see another vehicle, person or building. Reaching our destination was an exercise in faith. But it was so very worth it.

There is a writing analogy here. This is November 1st and many writers are undertaking NaNoWriMo — the quest for 50,000 words in thirty days. For novelists who find that total daunting, the journey is one of faith. Yes, it’s a long distance, but if there’s no start made, there’s no destination reached. We have to make the commitment, step on the accelerator, and be prepared for a wild ride.

I won’t be working from scratch this November, but have a revision I need to finish, and it’s a challenge. NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to hunker down and focus on making my words better. What’s your goal for November?

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“The freshness, the freedom, the farness…”
[Robert Service]

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It’s coming: a new month… a new season… a time of preparation

Yesterday was the last Sunday of the church year. Next Sunday we begin again. Advent – advenio, “to come to” – is a four week period when we prepare for the coming of the Christ. We prepare for his birth at Christmas, his coming into our lives, and his eventual Second Coming.

For many, this preparation also means getting organized for the December 25th celebration… gift purchases, food preparation, home decoration. My hubby has put up outside Christmas lights already, although he won’t turn them on until this weekend. I can hardly wait! I love the special holiday lights that sparkle through December nights. But none of them can equal the glory of God’s light.

This was sunrise a couple weeks ago while we were at our Cariboo cabin.

I began my NaNoWriMo month of writing there, pulling out my laptop every morning soon after dawn when the men left for their day of hunting. Without my usual daily distractions I accumulated words in excess of the daily average and returned home to post over 18,000 words on Day #10. Since then… well, let’s just say I haven’t quite maintained that average.

November 30th, and its conclusion of NaNoWriMo, is creeping steadily closer. I may or may not complete 50,000 words by then, but I will have made significant progress on the first draft of a new novel. I will be ready to change my focus from intense writing to a more normal pace which will give me time to also concentrate on Advent.

I love all the different preparations that will come with the new month. The house will have evergreen boughs and twinkling lights, and the fragrance of sugar cookies and shortbread. There will be family and friends visiting, special music playing, and wrapped presents under a tree. I hope there will be a little snow, too, although I know better than to count on it.

And there will also be time — time to ponder the coming miracle of God’s personal Christmas gift to the world, to me. Oh, the wonder of it!

What’s your favourite part of this season of preparation?

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All Hallows’ Eve

Some say All Hallows’ Eve has Christian roots, while others suggest they are Pagan. Either way, it would be hard to convince our little ones that there is anything but carved pumpkins, candy and costumes associated with their Hallowe’en traditions. As they traipse from door to door I doubt many of them  even know about the feast of All Saints.

But the children do feast… on candied apples and carmel popcorn, and a great assortment of calorie-laden goodies. (My scale will vouch for just how calorie-laden they are, too, after I indulge in the annual consumption of the leftovers!) We rarely have many youngsters find their way to our door, but that never deters me from buying a good supply (always of my favourite sweets) to have on hand “just in case” this year is the exception. I mean, it would never do not to have an adequate supply if more than the usual six arrived on my doorstep, now would it?

Tonight at midnight will mark the kick-off of the annual NaNoWriMo writing endeavour — November’s “thirty days and nights of literary abandon” in which I will once again join hundreds of thousands of other equally-crazy participants around the world as we scribble our way to the first draft of a 50,000 word novel.

It will also mark the start of another blogging hiatus for me, as I concentrate not only on my NaNo commitment but also on readying another manuscript for submission. I’ll return to posting here on November 12th. The scale will no doubt tattle about what I ate during my absence to keep my writing muse cooperative, but I don’t aim to discuss the numbers at all! Especially if trick-or-treaters are scarce around here tonight.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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Only a week until NaNoWriMo!

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Eep! November is only a week away and everyone’s talking about NaNoWriMo – the thirty-day writing marathon that I’m trying desperately to ignore. If you’re out of the loop, it’s NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, and it involves writing a complete 50,000-word novel during the month of November.

It began as a lark in 1999 with twenty-one “overcaffeinated yahoos” in the San Francisco Bay area, and year by year has exploded into a worldwide online event that in 2010 involved 200,500 participants. The story of how it happened is found here.

It’s a tortuous, and exhilarating run of madness, and it works. If your writing needs a kick-start and you’re willing to make a commitment to write at least 1,667 words a day, without editing (because there’s no time to edit – you do that when November is over), it’s great motivation.

I’ve participated four of the past five years, but this year my enthusiasm has waned before November even arrives. I have other writing on the go and want to stay focused on it. There may be 1,667 words written in a day, or there may not be. There may be more on some days, but at the moment I don’t want to be conscious of having to log in and report the numbers. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.

How about you? Will you be taking part in NaNoWriMo? What would be its advantages or disadvantages for you?

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Now What? Life After NaNoWriMo


Around the world red-eyed wrimos are looking at the numbers in awe and whispering, “I contributed words to that total.” Then they look down at their NaNo manuscript with despair and groan, “But it’s all crap!”

 

Yup, that’s the curse of taking part in NaNoWriMo. Participants worldwide wrote a total of 2,872,682,109 words in November but many of them will disappear in December with a stroke of the delete key as frantic revisions get underway. After all, we wouldn’t want anyone to peer over our shoulder and see the caliber of writing that we threw onto the page in our November 1,667-words-a-day sprint.

 

Mind you, some wrote novels just for the sake of saying they wrote a novel, regardless of its quality, and they’ve already put it aside, not caring to write again until next November. But for many of us there was always the intent to carry on after November 30th and revise and refine the nucleus of a worthwhile story. We’ll take time to reflect on it, and then we’ll go back to work and start chiseling away the rough stuff to find the gems within. That’s when the real work begins.

The NaNoWriMo website has a page with tips and tidbits on the post-NaNo experience, and there’s a forum called “December and Beyond” for those who want to continue sharing the journey known as NaNo afterlife.

 

Me? First I have to clean grungy bathrooms, search out coffee-stained clothes to launder, check back shelves in the fridge for furry green stuff, and generally try to catch up on all the chores that were ignored during November. Oh, yes, and maybe get some sleep and start some Christmas baking.

 

In between I’ll be back at the keyboard. I only wrote 33,286 words last month. I have a novel to finish.

What are you working on during December?

Progress of sorts…

 

One week today and it’s all over. NaNoWriMo, that is. The writing won’t be, I can guarantee that. Even if I finish this novel, there’s another simmering on the back burner, its aroma wafting through my words, teasing and tantalizing. A writer is never finished writing.

My NaNo progress has been slow so far this month. Despite writing every day, the word count continues to fall below the needed daily average. At this rate I certainly won’t make the 50,000 by month’s end, but I’m not so inclined to toss verbiage onto a page just for the sake of racing to “The End” this time.  I’m conscious of a needy protagonist that deserves more focused attention, a storyline that will wander if given half a chance, and several sneaky adjectives and adverbs just waiting to slip in from the margin if I don’t take the time to find stronger alternatives.

So it’s a slow and steady approach right now, which is why I qualify for this “Progress Badge” offered by Merit Badger… “for getting just the tiniest bit closer to where you want to be, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever make it all the way there.”

 

How about you? NaNoWriMo projects aside, are you a dash-to-the-end kind of writer or more of a slow-and-steady sort? Can you regularly chalk up 3,000-word days, or do you have to stop and ponder a lot? What kind of writer are you?

Distractions


You know how it is. Good intentions get you started and then distractions interrupt. You hold out against them for a while, but eventually you figure, hey, just give in and get them out of your system.

Wednesday it was the outdoors beckoning. Welcome sunshine urged us outside. DH decided to put up the Christmas lights and I couldn’t resist a bit of long-overdue fall gardening followed by a wander down to the marsh.

Thursday morning was for Remembering, while the afternoon was for baking. In our family November 11th is also the traditional day for baking Christmas fruitcakes. You just can’t ignore a tradition.

Christmas fruit cakes

Even when I settle down to write, distractions come peering in the window, begging for attention.

Raccoon at the window

So, you see, it’s easy to rationalize why my NaNoWriMo efforts aren’t staying quite in line with the daily average required. I should be in excess of 21,600 words as I start in to write again this morning. My 17,800 fall considerably short of that.

It’s those darned distractions.

Are you a disciplined writer and make your daily word count goal without any excuses, or do distractions sometimes de-rail you? What kind of distractions tempt you the most?

#amwriting and #nanowrimo

There’s a lot being said about social networking these days – some of it good, and some not so much. I crept into the blogging world a couple years ago to initiate my internet visibility, and since then have discovered many wonderful online friends.

Then I was coaxed into the world of Facebook, mostly to keep in touch with family and close friends, although now writing connections are also among my ‘friends’ there.

During the recent SiWC conference, everywhere I looked people were texting and tweeting, and meeting and greeting ‘peeps’ they knew from online but had never met in person. Tweet-ups happened all weekend long and by the time I returned home, I found myself venturing into Twitter territory, too, just to stay in touch with my new conference friends.

During this month of frenzied NaNoWriMo writing, I’m spending a lot of time squirreled away by myself, and yet I’m not alone.  As I work on my computer there’s a whole community of similarly occupied people out there. And occasionally I take a break to check in. The bits of encouragement tacked on at the end of this post were snippets from Twitter that came in during just one brief period. When I need inspiration or motivation there’s always someone ready to provide it. Now that definitely is something positive to say about social networking!

Question for you: What social networking opportunities do you take part in? Have they been mostly positive experiences for you, or have they had some negative aspects?

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  • Managed to write 3600 words for #NaNoWriMo today. Pretty happy w/that. Puts my total @ 6925. Not bad for 4 days work – I think. #amwriting
  • I didn’t quite hit 2K but I did write 1775 words. That makes 3902 so far today. 5K here I come. #amwriting #NaNoWriMo
  • ooohh keep it up #vancowrimo We are presently #18 for highest overall word count. #2 in Canada behind Toronto by 500K words.
  • After spending most of the day preparing to move tomorrow, I #amwriting for a bit before bed.
  • I’m going to finish chapter 3 tonight. #amwriting
  • I’m back and feeling better. My head still hurts but not as bad. Time for #nanowrimo I #amwriting again! Woooo! :3
  • Didn’t realize I broke 10K on my WIP. Up to 11,875. That gives me a little more #amwriting motivation for tonight…
  • 3067 words! Goal for the day met, spanked and sent on its way. Yes, I’m still writing. #amwriting #nanowrimo
  • Today is over in 30 min so word count for today is 3290 #nanowrimo #amwriting I shall write on, for tomorrow…
  • I think I just wrote at least 1000 words of new stuff. Shows what I can do when focused. Wrote most of it on the kitchen bench. #amwriting
  • When a Wrimo reaches quota, an angel gets her wings. Or something like that. 10261/50k #nanowrimo #amwriting
  • #amwriting Getting TONS done tonight. Not sure where the inspiration is coming from, but I’m not going to ask questions.
  • 15k. Still going! #NaNoWriMo #amwriting
  • Nudging 12,000 words but some o’ them ain’t pretty! How y’all going? #NaNo #amwriting #shutupandwrite.
  • Awesome job!! RT @Xxxxxy: 8,161 words today — personal best. 31,163 words total. #nano #amwriting #amgoingtobed
  • @Xyyyz Glad you reminded me. Guess the only rule for #Nano is to keep writing even when the muse is silent. #amwriting

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How many? You’ve got to be kidding!

As of last night, only four days into NaNoWriMo, the total collective word count wrenched from 185,587 word-weary brains is an incredible 417,497,927. We won’t discuss the quality of those words. Some will be little better than gibberish, although some — mine included, of course :) — are creating a legitimate novel.

Not everyone sees the point in this thirty-day exercise. The web has been a-twitter (oops, sorry about that) over a post at Salon.com by Laura Miller suggesting we shouldn’t bother to write; it’s just a waste of time and energy.

Carolyn Kellogg of the LA Times took her to task with a searing rebuttal, calling the article “at best wrongheaded, and at worst, smallhearted.”

Then Michael Bourret at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management added a blog post about it yesterday. He says, “I think the communal aspect of NaNoWriMo is fantastic–being held accountable is important. If participating means more butt-in-chair time, then I approve. For authors, I think it can be a great exercise, one through which you can learn new techniques and strategies that can be employed long after the month has passed.”

He does side with Ms. Miller on one point, however, and it’s well made. “If you want to write, read. Reading is absolutely the first, most important step to becoming a writer. And while I have a feeling that many people participating in NaNoWriMo are readers–and probably big readers at that–there are plenty of people who aspire to write books, and even attempt to write them, that don’t read.”

So, my question for all you writers is, whether you’re Wrimos or not, what are you reading right now — not what’s on your TBR pile, but what’s open on your coffee table (or better still, your lap) at this moment?

(I’m reading James Scott Bell’s THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS and Gina Holmes’ CROSSING OCEANS. And for any of you who care to know, my contribution to the collection of NaNo words as of Thursday midnight is 4,009. Not exactly a huge achievement yet, but I’m working to improve it.)

At this moment, though, I’m neither reading nor writing. I’m falling asleep as my fingers tap away at the keyboard, so I think I’ll have to call it a night. (Can one call it a night if it’s actually morning?)

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Three, Two, One, Go! NaNoWriMo’s Underway

This is it! On Canada’s west coast NaNoWriMo 2010 is now underway and I’m settling in for thirty days of… what? Sore butt, aching back, callused fingertips and strained eyes. Yeah, I know it doesn’t sound like much fun, but I’m stoked to thrash my way through the first very rough draft of the novel that’s been playing in my head like a theatre marquee.

I’ll continue to blog regularly but I think I can safely say you can expect much shorter posts during November. In lieu of my wordiness maybe you’ll take time to tell me what’s on your mind.

But first, while I’m writing myself blind I’d like to think you’re writing, too, and I’m curious about something. What’s the logline of your current w.i.p.? Let’s hear it… no more than two sentences. :)