The countdown has started

When there is only one day left, one last opportunity to finalize details and get myself ready for a major event, I usually panic! I can be heard muttering, “I don’t want to do this! Why did I ever say I would?”

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I think there’s a quotation somewhere about a character riding off in several directions at once. It’s impossible, you say? Well, let me tell you about fragmenting. When enough pressure builds up, you can expect the container to explode, forcing its fragments to be flung in multiple directions. That is SO what I feel like.

This is NaNoWriMo Eve! Ackkk!

I mentioned NaNoWriMo in last Friday’s post. I presented my lecture at the library that evening and made mention of how this final week should be used for preparations. Did I follow my own advice? Of course not! And now, when Halloween shenanigans wind down at midnight tonight and NaNoWriMo gets underway, I’ll be scrambling. ::sigh:: This is my eighth year; how is it that I end up doing this every time?

Remind me next October that panic attacks aren’t pleasant and I should try to avoid them at all costs.

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you prepared and ready to dive in? (If the second answer is ‘yes’, I don’t want to hear it!)

(I’m NaNoWriMo’s Wildwood Gal,
the one with the glazed expression.
)

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It’s (almost) that time of year again: NaNoWriMo

If you listen carefully you may be able to hear the distant chant starting: “NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo! NANOWRIMO!!!” Yes, word-loving folks are beginning to get fired up about the annual month-long, international writing marathon that is known as National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November, and it arrives on the heels of Halloween … eek! …  just one week from tonight.

The idea is to write a complete novel of at least 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.

I know, I know, it’s insane. The quality of the writing is secondary to the quantity, and that very concept turns off people who consider giving anything but their best is a waste of time. Why write garbage? Why not slow down and make the effort count for something? Truth is, those who want to write a novel but over-think the details, often bog down before they ever get to ‘The End’.

A well-known line in writing circles is, “You can always revise a first draft, but you can’t revise a blank page.” I suggest adopting Nike’s motto: “Just do it!” Devoting November to NaNoWriMo gives us an opportunity to toss ideas out onto a page, and chase them along in front of us until a story is fully formed. Some multi-published authors use NaNoWriMo for this purpose, so who am I to suggest it’s not a valid novel-writing process?

FVRL PosterIn the spirit of encouraging those who have often thought they might like to write a novel but thought they didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the project, I’m presenting a lecture tonight, sponsored by the Maple Ridge Public Library. It’s called “How to Write a Novel in a Month”, and it’s an introduction to NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I’m an introvert and everyone knows I hate public speaking. Yes, I’m already having palpitations and wondering why I agreed to do this. It’s also going to help me kick start my own writing. Very public commitments have a way of motivating me forward — a little like getting a boot in the backside.

If you’re interested in joining me (either at the Library tonight, or in doing NaNoWriMo yourself), or if you have any questions that could use some answers, give me a shout in the comments below.

Oh, and on the NaNoWriMo website you’ll find me writing as Wildwood Gal. Come look me up and offer some sympathy.

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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?

~

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?