Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NaNo Nesting

Sugar Maples - one of my favorite trees.

Becky is one of my first blogger friends since 2007. She is also doing NaNo this year and recently blogged about something I didn't realize just might be a NaNo phenomenon. It's called...

NaNo Nesting!

Do you suffer from NaNo Nesting? Becky's desk is just so and she even outlined! (Sorry, Becky... I outed you.) It was last NaNo that I wrote my very first outline as well, always believing previously that I was an "organic writer." Organic shorganic. When you are writing fast, you need an outline. You don't want to turn up to your computer and waste precious moments trying to figure out your MC's next motivational turn. But this is not about outlining or organic writing. This is about NESTING and like Becky, I am beginning to feel the pangs of needing to nest...

On my list of preparation for NaNo is cleaning my house if you can believe that or not. I want to wash my floors, dust, organize, recycle, get rid of clutter, do a very thorough vacuum in those nooks and crannies sometimes forgotten....

It's not just about the outline, it's preparing for a life event. Like I am saying to my family, Look, I'm not really going to be available the whole month of November. You may see my body sitting here in front of my computer, but I will only be a figment of your imagination. The house is clean now - keep it that way!

That's not to say I won't drag the vacuum or scrub a toilet or sink for the entire month of November. Ewwww. That would be gross! And it's not to say that I won't be there to share meals with my family, help with homework, or tuck my kids in, BUT...

NaNo is like preparing for a birth, isn't it? Becky's already named hers. Me, I'm still kicking around a few ideas but nothing rolls off the tongue quite right.

...If only there was a baby naming book for books...

Do you nest before beginning a new book or a new draft? When I finish a draft, I always purge my office before beginning a new draft. But NaNo just seems, well, bigger. And so my purging has extended beyong these four walls.
What about you? Do you NaNo nest?

(I wonder if next year part of my nesting preparation will include making meals ahead of time and freezing them.... Now, that's an idea! NaNo 2010, look out! By then, I will have this down to a science.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today I Will...

Today, I was over at Kathy Temean's amazing blog and was touched by inspiration on a day when I really needed a double espresso shot of some. Kathy's the RA for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. We are so lucky, here in NJ, to have her as our fearless leader and awesome cheerleader.

Well, today she was writing about a new book by Jerry and Eileen Spinelli entitled, Today I will. It has inspirational quotes meant to inspire daily writing exercises, ending with a daily promise, Today I will...

I fell in love with the idea of a daily promise.

This made me stop and think. Because so far today, I was wasting it on negative chatter in my head. When I read her blog posting I thought to myself, Now wait a minute! Cut that out! I scolded myself, Would your daily promise be, Today I will beat myself up?

No. Of course it wouldn't. We would never promise ourselves things like that, but I bet there are a few of you out there, like me, who do from time to time, unknowingly, spend the day with the negative voice in your head (No, I am not pschotic). I would even go so far as to say that WE ALL, from time to time, fill our heads with negative chatter and beat ourselves up over things we cannot change - essentially, wasting the day and our time. So, Kathy's blog made me Stop, Drop, and Write my daily promise. (I wonder if you can also write a promise of what you WON'T do).

Here are my promises for today...
  • Today I will write new pages to my WIP.
  • Today I will meditate.
  • Today I will find peace and carry it with me.
  • Today I will thank Flo for talking me off that ledge once again.
  • And I just have to do a NOT one... Today I will NOT allow negative chatter to fill my head.

Truthfully, you're only supposed to have one Today I Will per day, but once you start... it's like eating potato chips...

What's your daily promise for yourself today?

And while I'm here, I thought I'd remind those of you who might be sleeping under a rock or living in a cave....


I am so excited.

My genius husband created this phenomenal Excel spreadsheet for me to keep track of my daily words, total words, percentage done, percentage remaining... It does everything but write the story for me. I think I am going to use NaNo for two things - one for my WIP just to get me to the end - so for that I won't do a 50,000 word challenge because I don't need it. AND either for the revision which I already started OR for a brandy-new story... I can't decide. It's like trying on shoes and making yourself buy only one pair. Impossible!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's the Point?

OK. So, I am a child of the 60s and being a child of the 60s means that I grew up with flower children and hippies. I heard new songs from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones air on the radio. I wore bell bottoms and blue suede shoes. I had a shag haircut (and later a Dorothy Hamill haircut). I wore moccasins as shoes and I had an Indian fringe suede jacket and....

I know what The Point is.

The Point by Harry Nilsson was my favorite record to listen to when I was a kid. I knew all the words by heart and when I got a dog I felt was mine, truly mine, I named her Arrow. Then they made The Point into a cartoon narrated by none other then Ringo Starr. Oh, happy day!

I wanted to share with you, the wisdom of Rock Man and one of my favorite songs, Think About Your Troubles. Whose the boy's voice, you might wonder? Why that's Bobby from the Brady Bunch, of course!

Now what does this have to do with writing for children? What's my Point? Well, my point is two-fold. First, we authors come from a certain time and place. We grew up a certain way. We had certain experiences. And all of these things add up to our perspective on the world. They add up to our voice as a writer and that voice comes out of our MC's mouth.

This brings me to the second point. Our MCs come from a different time and place. S/He grew up in a different way. S/He had different experiences and therefore has a different perspective on the world.

How do we merge the two? My MC would certainly never have heard of Harry Nilsson's The Point. Many of you probably never have. But it shaped me. What shapes my MC? How do I have her voice and my voice? Well, you can disguise your voice as your MC's voice. That's one way to do it. But I think there's another way, a better way.

I like to have an adult in my story. An adult full of wisdom. And some of that wisdom is my wisdom. I can sound like an adult through this adult character and that is where my perspective can be heard.

It's still my MC's story. It's still her voice. And I need to know her perspective. What music shaped her? What philosophies color her world? What music from her generation will stand the test of time (or not). Pretend your MC is your own child. Let them have their own voice, but see if you can get a brush stroke in there every now and again that's yours.

And hey, whatever you do, no goofin' with the bees.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Count Down Begins


Excited? I am. I can't wait. Oh, that reminds me, I need to get my husband to get my Word Count Excel Spreadsheet a little more user friendly for me, though, this year.

Wait! Stop the train! You've never heard of NaNoWriMo? How can that be? Okay, I'll calm down. After all, I had never heard of it until last year either. So, here's what it is... It's a challenge. You like challenges right? Especially writer challenges, right? Well, then. This one's for you!

National Novel Writer's Month, or affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, is held every November. All you have to do is write 50,000 NEW words in one month's time. Oh, just that... WHAT?! I know. It sounds impossible. I felt that way, too. But no sweat. Believe it or not, it's doable. I came very close. I think 46,000 or 48,000 words...

The point of NaNoWriMo is not to worry about quality but to focus on quantity. Sounds backwards, right? The truth is, there's a time and place for everything. Revisions are for quality. In the words of Richard Peck, revisions are where real writers shine.... Okay, that's not a direct quote, but he said something like that at the SCBWI NJ June Conference this year.

Here' how NaNo can help... If you struggle to finish drafts, NaNoWriMo is for you! You don't have to post your new pages every day. I didn't. And don't worry about someone stealing your precious MS. When you do post, you can use the encryption button in Word. It garbles your MS up to nonsense but keeps the word count the same. What you do is you write forward. That's it. Sounds simple, right? But we all know that writing forward is sometimes the hardest thing to do. We want to go back and edit and tweak and find that perfect word to capture that pivotal moment. Again, I say, there is a time and place for everything. When writing an early draft, that is NOT the time to tweak. All you need to do - the hardest thing ever - is to write forward and do not look back.

Over at Rebecca's blog, they are discussing using NaNoWriMo to finish a project or begin a new one. I've been debating this myself lately too. I am on my sixth draft and about to begin the next revision of my WIP. This revision, I hope, is the draft that will be ready to show to agents.

However, I also have several other stories I have been outlining, but have always forced to take the backseat to my current WIP. I am thinking I might use NaNoWriMo to get a first draft done so when I do shop for an agent I will be able to say, here is a polished MS and here is a first draft and outline for another project.

Last year people told me starting a new book is the biggest kind of writer's block you can do to yourself. But I think this depends on where you are in the process of your current WIP. I don't think your should leave a project in the middle. But between drafts... I think it's a good time to get time and distance from your story. In fact, I think time and distance is just what the writer-doctor ordered.

Will you be joining NaNaWriMo this year? Will you start a new project or finish that current one?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A little departure from writing about writing...

This is one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Thanks, Jeanne, for sharing. I hope it inspires you as it inspired me. We are amazing creatures, capable of creating unbelievable things. [For some reason it's very low. You might have to turn your speakers way up to get the full effect.]

Sunday, October 4, 2009

AMAZING! I Wasn't Stricken With a Case of CWFBS!

OK, so... I received a lot of ribbing from our fearless NJ SCBWI leader, Kathy Temean that my recent once a month blogging has got to stop and that I need to resume my once a week-former-blogging-self. It was like she was channeling the spirit of my dead mother, the guilt thicker than molasses... so fine! I get it. Point well taken. I will resume my normal once a week blogging. I promise-ish... Okay, I will do my best. How's that... (I know she is sitting reading this saying, not good enough. A promise is a promise... *sigh*)

Anyway, I am back from the fabulous, the amazing, the all-inspiring Toms River weekend. I cannot say enough about this workshop. But before I go on and on about that... Thank yous are in order.

First, thank you to Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark for putting together this stupendous mentoring weekend. What an amazing opportunity!

Thank you to our wonderful, encouraging, and sweet-as-apple-pie (or lemon squares...) editors, Lisa Yoskowitz from Penguin's Dutton and Eve Adler from Henry Holt . (Who, by the way, I would give anything to have the experience of working with at any point in my career.) Every writer I spoke with said they had such a great critique session and found each editor approachable, friendly, easy to talk to, and full of such insightful comments and suggestions regarding both their MS and the industry in general.

Third, thank you to all the novelists who had the daunting task of reading 180 pages total and offering supportive, yet informative critiques.

Although, I did not read any of the PB manuscripts, I spent some time getting to know this special group of gifted writers as well, and it was a pleasure getting to know all of you (PB writers, novelists, and editors alike).

This is the first time I have come back from a conference/workshop without "Conference/Workshop Furrowed Brow Syndrome," CWFBS for short. Come on ladies, you know what I'm talking about. CWFBS is what happens to writers near the end of the conference/workshop weekend when you've heard such an onslaught of feedback and information, and as if it helps in the process somehow of contemplating all that info in your head, your brow begins to pucker.

This simply did not happen.

Well, it almost happened after Kathy suggested that page 30 (out of a 30-page submission) was really my page 1... So, I almost came down with a serious case of CWFBS on Sunday morning after sleeping on this idea. But once I was in the room full of inspiring writers and editors, I was cured.

Sometimes a serious case of CWFBS occurs when you come home from such a weekend. You walk through the door, relived to be home, happy to see your family and pets, when your grab your briefcase weighted with critiques and reality sets in. UGH! Now you have the arduous task of wading through all the critiques to ponder their suggestions.

But, again, it didn't happen.

Why is that? What sets Toms River apart from the knowledge-filled June Conference or any other great workshops offered through NJ's SCBWI where cases of CWFBS have been known to sweep through the room like a flu epidemic? Why didn't it happen here?

You might think it was the gorgeous fall weather with a kiss from the summer sun. Could be. You might think it was the proximity to the ocean. Maybe. You might think it was just simply getting away for a weekend. Possibly.

I think it was the cast of characters. And not just the ones on our pages. It was a coming together of a diverse group of dedicated women who have made children's book writing/editing their life's work, the relaxed ease of friendship that comes from this commonality which creates a bond among essentially strangers.

When I taught kindergarten, I used to end the school year with the same bulletin board: We started the year as strangers but we ended as the closest of friends. This was true about this weekend.

Photos were taken, hugs were shared, warm words of support were spoken, and the awesome task was understood by all about what it takes to make this dream a reality. And to each of us I raise my proverbial glass and say, To us! To our dreams. To our stories. To our perseverance. I know I will be seeing you on the bookshelves one day! L'Chaim!

Hugs and kisses and wishing you all the best,


PS, Please send me your blog/website links. I would love to add an "in attendance" below. This is what I have so far...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Off to Tom's River

I am very excited. I am off to a writer's workshop weekend at Toms River through NJs SCBWI. My brain is a little scattered right now with all the novels I've been critiquing for peer group. That and I've been up until about 2:00 each night critiquing and preparing. But still, I am very excited.

Toms River is one of the rare occasions where novelists can have 30 pages of their novel read by an editor or agent and sit down to a 45 minute one-on-one! (as opposed to 15 pages for 10 or 15 minutes).

This year Lisa Yoskowitz from Dutton Children's Books and Eve Adler from Henry Holt will be in attendance. I've briefly met them at the June Conference. Both are very approachable and very easy to talk to.

The group attending is very small and our cozy accommodations are in the club house of the Toms River Country Club. I hear it is a very relaxing and education weekend. Have I said how excited I am?

So I am off tomorrow but when I return I will fill you all in on the experience.

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous