Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

2011 Recap from the Woods

This past year has been a bit of a challenge in terms of life choices.  I made some big ones, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

After meeting my amazing agent at a conference, I struggled with three major priorities: full-time mom, full-time preschool owner and full-time writer.  Throwing in my part-time freelance work as a writer and court advocate meant the day was about  twelve hours too short.  Not to mention that my efficiency level suffered in every area–including sleep.  Something had to give, so I sold my preschool.  Which, by the way, I miss more than words can say.

Despite the tough decisions, 2011 had many successes, some personal and some writerly.

  • My kids are much happier with me back at home and able to attend all their events/needs–or is it the taxi service they like so much?
  • DH enjoys eating again before midnight.  Okay, that’s only slightly exaggerated, but a healthy rebalance to say the least.
  • Two of my dear writer friends e-pubbed some amazing novels.  If you haven’t checked out Diary of a Small Fish by Pete Morin or Viridis (and its steamy sequel) by Calista Taylor, I’d recommend these for your newly unwrapped e-reader.
  • Another wonderful writer friend, Sophie Perinot, is awaiting the 2012 spring release of her historical novel The Sister Queens.  I’ve already preordered my copy, and  you can too.  Not to mention a fellow crit partner, and extremely poetic writer, also reeled in a contract for her historical fiction.  I wish Icould tell all, but I can’t spill the beans until she does.
  • Aaaand, in case you missed the buzz, Mindy McGinnis received a huge, two book contract for her YA, Not a Drop to Drink.  I’ve critiqued a few pieces by Mindy (aka BBC) and have to admit I’m thirsty for her debut.  I promise–promise–it will be a splash hit when it reaches the shelves.  This deal came shortly after Jessica Khoury’s news about selling her debut novel–another much-anticipated YA read for me.
  • I read–and conversed with–Sarah Darer Littman.  I must say the author of Want to Go Private? is as sweet as they come.  Her novel is a must read for every human walking this technologically unsafe Earth.  Seriously, if you love a kid, you have one last day to get your name in a drawing for a free copy of this amazing YAContest details found here.
  • In my personal writing news, I’m a site moderator over at AgentQuery Connect–the absolutely BEST writing community on the net–and a contributing member of From The Write Angle, a writing blog by writers of all levels for writers of all levels.  I also wrote my way to another NaNoWriMo victory and partook in the Epic Paranormal Romance Blogvel: The Skeleton Key.
  • Christmas came too fast.  With no snow on the ground and only a few flakes to our fall/winter season, it doesn’t quite feel like the end of the year.  In fact, Eldest golfed yesterday.  Not that I want a repeat of last year and the 27 snow days we had, but come on?  Where’s the white?
  • Oh yeah, and I have a short story coming out in an e-book anthology this spring (details to be announced later), so it’s just one more reason for you to buy a Kindle and enjoy the e-revolution.

All in all, 2011 has been good to me.

How about you?  What wonderful news do you have to share–writing or otherwise–that made 2011 worth every hour? 

P.S. In case you were wondering (and I know you were), Sock Dog came back from training as a full-fledged hunting dog.  She no longer runs the other way from birds and her nose is amazing.  So much so, that the trainer offered to buy her.  If she keeps chowing socks, I just might give him a call!



With 4,500 words to go, I’ll be MIA again today. 

The good news is that I only have to write half the words I did yesterday.  The bad news is that my novel will not be complete.  I’ll have my 50,000 words, but the story won’t be done.  : (

Oh well, I guess I can’t have everything!

Happy writing today.

Writing U-Turn

Yesterday I read a critique by a critter of another writer’s story.  That’s the beauty of critique groups, you not only get to hear what you’re doing wrong/right, you also get to hear what others do wrong/right.

The comment, in a paraphrased nutshell: I like that your MC is doing something instead of running.  Seems like every YA out there now has the Female MC running from the Big Bad.

This comment was a stab to my heart.  I’m currently pumping out words to fill in my NaNovel.  My MC had just exited a corn field and started heading west away from the Big Bad and toward her mother.  Now, in my MC’s defense (the worst word we can use when talking about our writing, btw), she planned to rescue her mother.

It was a plan discussed between her father, herself and her brother.  But then the BIG BAD got really ugly and she took off, leaving behind Brother and Dad.

I read that comment and my MC screeched to a halt.  She turned back around and entered the corn field to retrace her steps and DO something.

What?  I have no feckin’ clue.

Has your writing ever taken an unexpected U-Turn?  If so, how did that work out for you?  What prompted you to change directions?  Were you ultimately happy that you did?

Curious minds want to know.

Treading the Water of Life…

…while the sharks are circling.

I’m 640 words behind on NaNo.   Which means today I have to write about 2,300 words just to get caught up.  Then starts Saturday, just in time for me to don the kneepads for our volleyball tourney and fluff the pillows (read chase off the dust bunnies) for our out-of-town guests.  This wonderful non-writing interlude puts me in line to be 3,333 words behind come Monday morning.

So, I either have to write like heck today and crank out nearly 6,000 words or do so on Monday, because then we get to add another 1,667 words to the NaNoTaskMaster.  Which is like adding a 50 pound weight around my neck and throwing more sharks into the pool.

Life Lesson 1: Stay in the life raft, because beating off sharks with your bare fists while treading water and holding a brick above your head is dang hard.

In other news: I got to help a stranded motorist this morning while wearing my jammie pants, DH’s oversized sweatshirt, DD’s knit slouchy boots and bed head.

Life Lesson 2: Do not drop the boys off at school looking like a freak.  Translated to mean: don’t be a freak, because you never know who might see you.

And speaking of my Little’s, they both threatened to leave me because, “You always make us clean our room.  You like everything to be so clean all the time.  We can’t even go in there except to sleep.  We can’t even play anymore.  What fun is that?  We might as well not even live here.”

Note to y’all: Said cleanliness meant no more eating Halloween candy in their room and throwing the wrappers under their beds and behind the bookshelf.  It also meant putting dirty laundry in the laundry room, not on the floor.  I think I may have been so cruel as to bring up making their beds and putting their minefield of Legos back on the Lego table, though I totally left the dust bunnies out of the equation and said nothing about their overflowing dresser drawers.

Life Lesson 3: I am a mean mom.

Truly I am.  Because I also got roped into a high school joke that almost made my daughter cry last night.  Our quasi new son asked Eldest why he broke up with his girlfriend.  Eldest gleefully played along and said his GF (who would never, ever be naughty) cheated on him.  This was said in front of their mutual friend while they ate pizza at the counter.  It would have been a funny joke on Mutual Friend had it not spread like a bad case of teenage acne.

MF promptly texted his girlfriend who was with DD who texted unsuspecting me who broached Eldest who then had to call GF in case someone at the French party texted her about what a horrible girl she was for cheating on Eldest.

Within five minutes the whole world was crying over the break up.

Which leads me to my final Life Lesson of the Week: Be careful what you say, because bad news travels at the speed of light.

Remember high school?  Enough said.

May your life jacket be buoyant and the sharks few!

Essential Writing Tool: Totems

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner.  Literally.  It’s just seven days north and one day east.  Because, of course, the sun rises in the east and next Tuesday morning will find me glassy-eyed, caffeine injected and doggedly working to get my first 1,667 words done on my newest WIP.

I’m as prepared as I usually am for this crazy writing endeavor.  I have a working title, but no genre.  I know I’ll be penning a young adult novel, but I have no clue what, exactly, it will be about.  I also have my totem.

My writing totems act as mascots.  For instance, in 2007, my NaNoTotem was an elephant.  I had never heard of totems before, and my writing buddies all seemed to have one.  Then one day while shopping, a teeny elephant called to me from the grocery store bin.  Ellie, named after the elephant in my novel, Surviving Serengeti, became my first writing cheerleader.

She hung out on my desk in 2008 while I wrote Losing Time, and I believed she would simply be my official writing totem forever and ever, amen.  Imagine my surprise when a tiny carved bear demanded to join Ellie in 2009 while I penned Whispering Minds.

I found him while visiting our National Monument on a research trip for my YA novel.  I knew I needed a solid Native American perspective and found a wonderful stone carver to share his thoughts with me.  While looking for a book to further my research, I saw this bear.  Not a big deal, except I couldn’t seem to leave without purchasing it.  In Indian culture, the bear represents introspection, something I didn’t realize until much later.  Yet, I couldn’t have deliberately bought a more perfect totem for my psychological thriller than him.

And then the plot bunnies came.  A stuffed marshmallow peep joined Ellie and my bear for NaNo10 when my young MC unwittingly unleashed plot bunnies into her very practical world.  Hopefully, The Mixed-up Manuscripts of Martin Niggle will become the first in a chapter book series.

Hopefully, I will win my cheesy NaNo11 certificate with Haarper.  Writing 50,000 cohesive words in thirty days seems like a stretch, but I thrive off the quick deadline.  It seems to boost my adrenaline and my muse.  Which is good, because as of today, I still know very little about this year’s novel.

A giant (in terms of relative size to the real thing) stuffed E.coli will join the ranks of my NaNoTotems.  He was a Christmas present from my little brother and sister last year.  He hung out on my windowsill as a reminder for my kids to wash their hands.  He’s cute in a creepy kind of way and somehow wheedled his way into my novel.

Thanks to my Big Sis for downloading Germs, Genes and Civilization onto our shared kindle account, I got snookered into reading the history of infectious disease and its impact on society.  Yeah, I know.  Not typical light reading, but a fascinating book and very well written.  I would actually recommend it for any historical fiction writer–whether they write about genes and germs or not.

All of a sudden, the germ of an idea hit and Haarper was born.  So was Coli.

Isn’t he cute?  Aren’t they all?

Do you think I’m weird for having an entire cheerleading section of random objects while I pen my novels?  If so, I assure you, I’m quite normal.  Or at least as normal as many other writers across the globe.  If you don’t believe me, check out this post on Writing Superstitions and Rituals to see just how unsilly my totems are.

Comparatively speaking, of course.

Who cheers you on when you write?  Do you think having someone–anyone/thing–keeping a watchful eye on your progress is motivating or terrifying?  How do you reconcile your fear of not finishing when people actually know you’ve started a new project? 

Curious minds want to know.

NaNoWriMo Writers Wanted: kids and teachers may apply.

My favorite writing season is fall.  I love getting back into school routines after a busy summer.  By mid-October, life has usually settled down, marching band is over and National Novel Writing Month is just gearing up.

If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo and you write fiction, you may want to check it out.  It is the biggest writing contest in the world.  It’s free.  It’s fun, and at the end of a successful season, you get a cheesy winner’s certificate that you can proudly hang on your office wall.  I love it.

So, what is NaNoWriMo?  Simply put, it is writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Across the globe, crazy writers pen their first words after midnight on November 1st and finish with “the end” by midnight on November 30th.

In its thirteenth season, NaNoWriMo connects thousands of writers engaged in a single mission.  Over the years I have met some of the most amazing writing friends a gal could ask for.  I’ve also completed five manuscripts, though last year’s MG novel came in 15,000 words shy of the required word count for me to earn my coveted certificate.

I usually enter November with an idea.  It may be a vague sense of plot, a character that (literally) speaks to me and a title.  One year, I actually researched my basic theme by reading a few books on the subject matter and interviewing someone.  Super smart idea.  But I don’t plot and I don’t outline.  I’m a pantster.  Always have been, always will be.

And that’s okay.  What’s important about writing in general, and NaNoWriMo in particular, is the process of getting a story out of our heads and onto paper.  Editing has no role in the frenzied pace of NaNo.  Purging our thoughts onto the keyboard does.

Which brings me to one of the very best things about NaNoWriMo.  They have a program for young Wrimos designed to be used in the classroom or a library setting.  It targets skills addressed in curriculums.  It offers support and prizes and motivational thingys to get kids excited about writing.

It allows kids to set their own goals and actually use the skills teachers so desperately pound into students’ heads.  It taps into their imaginations and allows their creativity to take a break from the torture of learning mechanics by rote memorization.  Instead, practical application reigns supreme.

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.  And if you’re interested in signing up as a solo writer, please do so here.

If you’re a teacher who thinks outside the box, check out the Young Writer’s Program to see what it can offer the students in your classroom.

And if you have no interest in actually writing yourself, but think the Young Writer’s Program is a great idea, consider donating.  I do.