Yes, it’s November

Halloween buzzed by in the blink of an eye, and suddenly it’s November. We had some gorgeous fall colours happening until a windstorm whipped through and removed many of the brighter leaves. Now the first snowfall is waiting in the wings for tonight, suggesting autumn is going to be a short, sweet season.

I’m sad about that. Fall is always my favourite, with many flowers still blooming and not-too-hot-but-still-pleasant days. I console myself by repeating, “But it IS November now.”

Along with November comes NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month. I started participating (albeit half-heartedly) in 2006 and, while I rarely succeed in completing a brand new 50,000-word novel in November’s thirty days, I do use the month to focus on my writing, and am usually happy with what I accomplish.

This year author Denise Jaden is offering WriMos daily emailed encouragement and writing prompts, and critique partner Katherine Wagner has established a Facebook NaNo support group linked to the Golden Ears Writers group.

The purpose is to spur writers on toward their individual goals, and support their efforts because — face it — writing isn’t as easy as some folks might think. Sometimes  words flow, but other times they drip, one excruciatingly slow drop at a time.

Occasionally I attend a write-in — WriMos who gather in one location to provide moral support (and peer pressure!) for each other during a specific period of writing. Ours are usually held in the local branch of our public library — a much quieter location than a Starbucks or cafe. Some writers like the stimulation of a busy location while others (me!) prefer silence and solitude. It stretches my introverted nature to attend write-ins, but I also like to support my fellow writers, so I compromise and go once in a while.

What’s your preference? And are you participating in NaNoWriMo 2017 or other writing-focused endeavour this month? Whatever the case, this is the month for it…because after November comes December, and we all know how much writing we’re likely to get done then!

I’m off to chalk up some words. Happy NaNo-ing!

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Saying goodbye to favourite seasons and characters

Now that the windstorm has died, we’re left with bare branches. I can envision their earlier colour, once burgundy, then scarlet, now strewn as a blanket beneath. The forecast is for frost tonight.

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This is the part of autumn that makes me wistful. I love all the weeks of lingering warmth and glorious colour, and am always reluctant to see them end. Mind you, there have been compensations. We enjoyed a toasty fire in the family room fireplace last night for the first time in months. I’ve also been cuddling into a cozy afghan while writing this week. Oh, and the bins of winter wear came up from the basement recently and I’ve re-discovered my favourite sweaters.

Nevertheless, I hate saying goodbye to what has become familiar and comfortable. I’m SO not an adventurer, at least not in real life. In fiction it’s a different matter. A new season suggests jumping into a new story, and that aspect is always exciting.

But am I the only one who hates to say goodbye to make-believe characters when their story comes to an end? After creating them and spending months being an integral part of their lives, loves, and struggles, it’s hard for me to cut them loose and send them off into the world on their own. I want to follow them.

That has to be why sequels and series are so popular. At least in a sequel I could continue with my favourite characters into their new adventures and conflicts. So far, my stories have all been the stand alone kind, but there’s a growing community of people within them that wants to return. During this month’s NaNoWriMo endeavour, I’m trying to finish another independent novel, but I’m already thinking ahead.

There are whispers on the wind from earlier characters, begging me not to abandon them. Hmm … something familiar to help disperse the chill of the approaching new season. 🙂

~

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven”

[Ecclesiastes 3:1]

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Taking control of the I.E. (again)

As I wander my way through this month’s NaNoWriMo writing, there are days when I would be making better time if I could ignore the whispers that keep reminding me the energy isn’t being well spent — that even when revised, the end result isn’t going to be worth the effort.

This week I remembered a post I wrote back in 2009, and I decided this would be a very good time to pull it out of the archives. I need the reminding, and I hope you’ll find it useful, too.

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Some days the grouch inside me  can turn me into an unpleasant-to-be-around whiner. Those are the days you hear me muttering at the computer screen as if the words thereon are animate: “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see that isn’t what I intended to say at all? Get it right, for Pete’s sake!” The words never answer back. They just sit there and leer at me.

On her original blog, my friend Earlene once talked about the creative “entities” that invade a writer’s mind. When the wrong ones gain control and squelch our dreams, we don’t achieve our goals. In fact, a little of our writing spirit is destroyed every time they even knock at the mind’s door.

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(“Really? You think this garbage is writing?”)

Among such beings is every writer’s voice of doom, the I.E., or Internal Editor—the nagging voice that constantly reminds us we don’t know how to write, everything we’ve written so far is garbage, and the project is destined to be a failure.

So what do we do about it? Most aspiring authors recognize that we all suffer from a form of split personality, where one part of our minds is full of developing characters anxious to take on a life of their own. We welcome them as an important part of our story planning.

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(But I don’t WANT to be whapped!)

It is the negative voices on the other side, the procrastinating urges, and the don’t-write-until-the-concept-is-perfect impulses that we have to recognize and snuff out — whap them smartly with a wet blanket until no embers remain.

Otherwise the tendency will be to hesitate, to falter, to be discouraged. Then our writing ceases and we blame it on Writer’s Block. We wait it out, hoping Ms. Muse will miraculously return to our office, but it rarely happens, or at least not as quickly as we wish.

IMHO, there’s no half measure. Either we take control or we lose it, perhaps to one of those unworthy entities. And truly, I don’t want one of them authoring my books!

(With apologies to my granddaughter for stealing her photos!)

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Another Mañana Morning

While I’m immersed in other Monday morning things like puppy training and NaNoWriMo writing, I hope you won’t mind this 2009 rerun from the archives…

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Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m not a morning person. While I’m thankful for each new day, I waken groggy, slow to acknowledge its presence. I’m always in awe of writers who rise before dawn to snatch hours of quiet creativity before the rest of the world has left their beds.

I think I may have been a mañana kind of person in a previous life – not the “esta mañana” kind but a “hasta mañana”, a let-me-sleep-and-I’ll-see-you-tomorrow sort.

mexicantime234Maybe that’s why I was drawn to Tony Cohan’s book, ON MEXICAN TIME. When Los Angeles novelist Tony Cohan and his artist wife, Masako, visited central Mexico one winter, they fell under the spell of a place where the pace of life is leisurely, the cobblestone streets and sun-splashed plazas are enchanting, and the sights and sounds of daily fiestas fill the air. Awakened to needs they didn’t know they had, they returned to California, sold their house, and cast off for San Miguel de Allende.”

(My friend Joylene Butler has taken to doing something similar. For the second winter in a row she and her hubby have traded their usual northern winter for six months of Mexico’s warmer climate. I call it escaping reality, Joylene. LOL)

Cohan writes of a sensual ambience and a sometimes languorous lifestyle that suits my version of time … at least, my mornings. Eventually my days gather speed as I muster enthusiasm for their upcoming tasks. Coffee helps.

That’s what I need this morning: coffee. Perhaps a cup of one of the excellent organically grown coffees from Mexico. That would do it. Okay, I’m off to fill my favourite mug. 🙂

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A rainy Friday

Sorry, no profound words today. I’m back to writing and using every spare moment to work on my NaNoWriMo project. A gal does what a gal has to do in November. 🙂

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(The ‘Satomi’ Kousa pink dogwood tree in our back garden this week)

He will give the rain for your land in its season,
the early rain and the later rain,
that you may gather in
your grain and your wine and your oil.

[Deuteronomy 11:14]

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Starting another new month, and NaNoWriMo

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There’s nothing realistic about the premise of National Novel Writing Month, i.e., that “the world needs your novel”. No, it doesn’t. It isn’t likely to need the 50,000 words that will spew uncontrolled from the chaos of my less-than-organized mind.

But I need them, and I need NaNoWriMo. I need the discipline to force those words out of my head, onto a page, into a manuscript where they can then be rearranged and revised into something resembling the story I’ve been imagining.

So now that November is here, I’m once again committed to participating in NaNoWriMo for a month of BICHOK (the acronym for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). My name on the NaNo website is Wildwood Gal, if you’re looking for a buddy. I may cheat during this first week because I have a completed manuscript that requires another read-through and minor revisions before I’ll be ready to start something new; but you can be sure I’ll be working on words every day, all month.

What’s your project during this new month? If you’re writing, are you taking part in NaNoWriMo, or do you have a personal goal? 

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Everything Writing

This week my life is all about writing. Oh, I write pretty much every day, but there’s a special focus on it right now.

On Tuesday I joined my daughter, Shari Green, for an evening hosted by the Golden Ears Writers in Maple Ridge. She and her fellow authors Denise Jaden and Dawn Ius Dalton took part in a panel-style workshop on ‘Ideas and Imaginings: Finding and developing story ideas and exploring the world of re-tellings and re-imaginings.’ Such great insights and so many good ideas emerged!

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(Denise Jaden, Dawn Ius Dalton and Shari Green)

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Now Shari and I are at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, a long weekend that is always the highlight of our writing year. For our very introverted souls, it’s both exhilarating and daunting to be a part of the hundreds-large crowd of literary peeps — big name authors and writers of all levels of experience, editors, agents, publishers and screenwriters — and be immersed in everything writing for three (very long) days.

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With several dozen workshops and presenters, keynote speeches, book signings and banquets plus all the hobnobbing in between, it provides a huge dose of information and inspiration, boosts our creativity and rejuvenates our writerly souls. It’s also exhausting!

It will be good preparation for November and the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) marathon  — our zany effort to produce 50,000 words in thirty days.

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With it following a week after the conference, we’re always more than ready to creep into our solitary spaces and start prepping for a month of concentrated writing. Then, with the arrival of November, more times than not, we manage to hammer out a rough draft of a complete novel.

So I guarantee you won’t see much of me around here for the next few weeks — there won’t be a lot of musing and mental meandering time — but I’ll pop in with periodic updates. Let me know what you’re up to, too, and I’ll offer encouragement where I can. Any new projects? Are you finishing old ones, revising, mulling, or deep in tearing-your-hair-out frustrations? Let me know. We can console each other. 🙂

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It Begins Again

For weeks now I’ve muttered about the advertisements on television — you know, the ones that start promoting Christmas shopping before Halloween arrives, and the ones that display brightly decorated homes before our friends in the USA get to celebrate their Thanksgiving. But suddenly Christmas is less than a month away!

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This is the weekend we’ll unpack our nativity scene and direct our thoughts to the new church year that’s just beginning. (Advent is the first season, so this Sunday it will all begin again — Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.)

It’s also the weekend when our family’s Christmas traditions begin to emerge. Besides our Nativity, a miniature ceramic village will be unpacked. It’s a nod to my childlike nostalgia… a fascination with tiny figures in an old-fashioned snowy ‘Currier & Ives’ kind of setting. An evergreen tree will be next, followed during the week by an assortment of decorations accumulated from many different sources.

A friend posted on Facebook this evening that it was snowing at her home on Vancouver Island, and I was instantly envious. I know envy is a sin, but what can I say? Nothing quite beats a bit of drifting snow when it comes to putting me in a let’s-start-getting-ready-for-Christmas mood. A half hour ago I happened to turn on the back deck light (checking for the bear, of course!) and whoa!!! there’s snow here, too — an inch, and it’s coming down steadily!

So I’m all set… ready to begin again this weekend. My NaNoWriMo efforts have run down. (I accumulated 14,000 words… a far cry from the goal of 50,000 but still more than I would have had without the month-long focus.) (UPDATE: Looks like I’m finishing up the month with 19,707 words.) I’ll continue my daily writing, but there will be other priorities during December.

After all, it’s beginning again… “the most wonderful time of the year!”

I’d love it if you would share how your Christmas preparations begin. 🙂

~

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

[John 1:1-5, MSG]

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Fall Snapshots: Wind Whispers

From the time of my childhood, wind and waves have always invigorated me. Put me on a shore somewhere and let me listen to the pounding surf and lift my face to the onshore wind and I come away totally refreshed.

At home the wind isn’t often strong enough to hear. Occasional breezes will flutter the branches in relative silence. Prior to the current cold snap, however, the weather reports included wind warnings, and we had several days of blustery, gusting wind that made our trees sing.

“At home,
I love reaching out into that absolute silence,
when you can hear the owl or the wind.”

Amanda Harlech
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Most days I prefer to write in silence, but if I think a little background music will help, I have a small assortment of CDs from which I select. Many are Dan Gibson‘s Solitudes albums… gentle, relaxing music accompanied by sounds from nature — wind, waves, birds. If you need something energizing, they wouldn’t be a good choice, but when I need distracting from the bustle of everyday, they are perfect.
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I’m always amazed by writers who do their writing in crowded coffee shops. I’m told the background becomes white noise, but I would just get sidetracked by it and start people-watching.
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But the wind is something else. Its whisperings empty my consciousness, leaving my mind ready to be occupied by the lives of my characters. I love the wind — at least, I do until it uproots trees that tumble across hydro lines and leave my computer powerless! So far this fall we’ve been spared that inconvenience. Long may it last. I have writing to do.
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I know I’ve asked the question before, but what’s your preferred accompaniment when writing? Silence, special music, perhaps scented candles or potpourri, or…? 
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Fall Snapshots: Looking for the good stuff

They always seem to arrive before I expect them. When the Northern Flicker made his first autumn appearance here I didn’t have my camera handy. I made a dash for it, but I needn’t have hurried. He hopped onto the railing and waited impatiently.

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He peered up at where he’d last seen the suet and bird feeders seven months ago. How does one explain to a bird that it’s too early in the season to hang his food out… that the bears are still roaming around looking for tasty treats?

His presence was a great photo opp for me, but he soon had me feeling guilty as he moved in closer to scrutinize the usual corner where the suet hook sat empty, just under the eaves.

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His buddy, a male Varied Thrush, arrived on the deck at the same time and stomped around, also peeved at his missing repast. He’s a ground feeder like the Flicker, but during past winters they’d grown accustomed to an occasional domestic supplement. Now they were here looking for a handout of the good stuff once again.

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I finally took pity on both of them and threw a few handfuls of seed on the deck while hubby hung a container of suet. If the bear arrives to chow down, too, I’m going to be frustrated, but there was only so long I could handle the guilt trip these two were dumping on me.

As I watched them enjoying the goodies, I was reminded that I will soon have to do some persistent searching of my own. As I bash out the words of a first draft during this NaNoWriMo writing marathon, I recognize that the underlying story is present, but it’s minus a lot of the good stuff… the rich descriptions, insights into my characters’ motivation, and sensory details, to name some. There is an abundance of weak verbs and supporting adverbs to cull, too, along with a lot of my typical mental meandering.

Once November 30th becomes history it will be time for me to start revising. I’ll have to dig in and search out nuggets to salvage among the drivel. In the meantime, I’m dumping words on the page, a few hundred at a time, and squelching the internal critic that tries to convince me my daily average isn’t half what it should be and I’m pursuing an impossible goal.

Total words to November 13th = 7,786

Are you writing? Are you counting words and making measurable progress, or does that matter to you? Are you focused on finishing a project and gleaning the good stuff later?

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