Sunday, November 29, 2009


This was kind of a strange Thanksgiving for me. There was so much to be grateful for--time spent with my husband's extended family, my grandmother's 80th birthday, great food and good company. But there were things about it that were hard too. We stayed in a house without Internet access (for 5 days) and we were all sleep deprived and cranky most of the trip. I LOVE our family, but it's hard having the kids away from their beds for so long.

Then Saturday morning we received word that my cousin died in a hiking accident the day before. It's been a difficult couple days.

I've been trying to think of something to blog about today, but I feel drained. I'll try to be back to blogging Wednesday.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, or regular week (for those of you in other countries). :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Being Thankful

This will be my one and only post until next Monday, because we've got a week full of family and food ahead. So HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you U.S. dwellers, and happy awesome normal week to all of you in other countries!

First I just wanted to draw attention to the supporters/followers box in the corner. Notice something cool? That's right! Over the weekend several lovely new people decided to follow the blog and now I have 100 friends! So, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who read and/or follow the blog. I am pretty sure I've made more friends in the last 2 1/2 months than I made in the previous 5 years. You guys are awesome, and it's been a pleasure to get to know you. I hope to know you better in the months ahead.

Now onto my thankfulness story...

Saturday we went to my parents house and my sister asked if my husband and I would like to go to the philharmonic. I find instrumental music a little boring usually (wait, hold your tomatoes!), but my husband wanted to go and my parents offered to babysit so we went (I can't pass up free babysitting). Once we were out I kind of wanted to ditch the concert and go see New Moon instead, but I couldn't convince my husband that a night of vampires and werewolves would be more fun than a night of violins and flutes, so we went to the philharmonic as planned.

It was kind of AMAZING. The music was fantastic--truly beautiful and inspiring-- and the time we spent there was the most productive writing time I've had in months, even though I didn't actually do any writing.

I've been a little stuck with my NaNo novel (again) and I couldn't see where I wanted to go with the plot. Sitting in that auditorium with Tchaikovsky's music making me smarter, it all became clear. I knew how to deal with all of the things with which I'd been struggling (character motivations, plot, conflict--even specific scenes).

So I am so thankful for my sister who gave us the tickets, my parents who watched the kids, my husband who made me go, and Tchaikovsky who wrote incredible music that people have enjoyed for 150 years. I think I'm going to start listening to it all the time.

So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deep Down I'm a Hopeless Romantic

I can't write a story without a little romance. There I said it. Even though I write for the middle grade, every single one of my novels has some sort of love story.

My main characters are eleven-years-old, so their romances are pretty tame (hands brushing, eye-contact, TALKING to each other--that sort of stuff). But when the project is all done that's the stuff I like best.

When I was a kid I only liked to read books that had some romantic element, although I hated, and still dislike, stories that took the romance to gag-inducing levels (i.e. "I love you so much I'd die without you" sort of stuff).

In high school and college I suppressed my romantic inclinations. I'd never been "in love" so I kind of doubted that the whole "in love" thing existed. I figured if I ever got married I'd just marry someone who was a good friend and we'd be happy enough.

Then, my junior year in college, I met my husband. We were good friends for a few months. Then one night he invited me to go to an Italian poetry reading. I agreed, because hey, who doesn't like Italian poetry? Plus there would be food (free food is always a good thing in college).

I couldn't understand very much Italian--I'd only taken one semester. My husband spoke fluently (he'd lived in Italy for a few years). Most of the participants read poems from books, but he'd written his own.

He looked right at me as he recited it. After a few lines people looked over their shoulders at me and chuckled. I had no idea what he was saying. The only things I'd gleaned from my semester of Italian were food and clothing vocabulary and easy verbs, but I knew it was about me. When he was done he blushed and that was one of the many moments that made me think I could fall in love with him.

He didn't tell me what it said in English until we officially started dating a few weeks later. It was a love poem, and though he's no writer, it was very sweet.

Today is his 29th birthday and I have to say I am even more in love with him today than I was when I married him seven years ago.

So now that you've had a look at my sappy, sappy self, tell me this: Is there a love story in your novel? Can any book be complete without a little romance?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Better Every Day

Do you ever open up one of your manuscripts from a few years ago (or a few months ago), and cringe at it's awfulness. I do.

I had no idea how to write when I started two years ago. It was just something I wanted to try. Since then writing has become a passion but, even though I'm passionate about it, some days I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing.

On days when I doubt myself I take a look at one of those old manuscripts and smile at how far I've come. The stuff I'm writing now will be better than the stuff I wrote six months ago and that makes me happy.

Do you feel like you're getting better? Those of you who've written for a long time, do you still feel like you're progressing?

15,000 on my NaNo story. It's a good start!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Trying to Quit and Failing

Last week I decided to trunk my NaNoWriMo manuscript and work on something else. Quitting was the smart thing to do. I struggled to put words on the page. I didn't love it anymore (or so I thought).

On Monday I didn't write anything. On Tuesday I tried to start something new. I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday snuggling on the couch with sick kids (actually I spent most of Monday and Tuesday doing this too). And then Friday I opened up my week-old NaNo manuscript and guess what...

It was funny. I loved the characters. The writing was terrible (of course), but I could see potential, so I sat down and wrote 1000 words.

I have given up on trying to "win" NaNoWriMo--50,000 words in a month just doesn't work for me--but I've decided to keep going with the story.

I think I quit because I got discouraged with the middle. The middle is the hardest part for me to write. The beginning is easy (at least the first draft) and the end is fun, but the middle is hard. Stuff has to happen to propel the story from point A to point Z, but that stuff isn't always clear (or if it is clear it isn't always interesting).

Do you have a hard time with middles? Do you have any tricks to keep things moving forward?

(I've been a bad blogger lately. In an effort to regain consistency, I'm planning to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Friends with a New Blogger!

I've received a few blog awards lately and I just wanted to say THANK YOU! My mommy memory is almost non-existent so I can't remember who gave me awards or what they were (and since my organizational skills are nearly as bad as my memory, I didn't write them down like I should have). But just know that if you gave me an award, it made my day. Thank you.

I want to pass along some of the kindness so I thought I'd tell you about a few writers I've discovered who are new (or at least a little newer than me) to the blogging world:

Mary's blog has made me laugh and cry. That's about the highest praise I can give.

Cammie's attempting to revise her first novel in less than a year. Her insight into the writing and revision process is unique and interesting.

This funny and sometimes random new blog is well worth a visit.

All of them are fun reads. Go check them out and make a new blogger friend.

And thanks to all who read and comment here. I appreciate all of you more than I can express!

Question for today: Have you ever met one of your blogger friends in person?

(I haven't, but I plan to when my critique group girls, Megan, Marie and Karen, and I go to SCBWI in NY in January! Will any of you be there?)

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNo Killed My Story

Not really. My story is dead, but I don't think I can blame NaNo completely. I came to a realization over the weekend, while I was contemplating writing 12,500 more words this week, that perhaps this writing style just doesn't work for me. The breakneck pace made me dread writing, and my writing time is supposed to be fun (it's my outlet).

Writing-dread combined with my need to plan ahead and my outline that failed miserably (more about this in a later post), made me doubt my sanity in continuing on the NaNo journey. My daughter came down with the flu today (don't worry, it's the pukey kind--not the swine flu), my house is in shambles, and I have an new story idea that doesn't make me cringe when I think about writing it.

So this is the deal: I am not quitting, I am shifting my focus from one project to another, and I'm loosening my self-inflicted word count requirements so I can write less now and more when I have healthy children and a moderately clean house. I'm still going to shoot for 50,000 words this month (I'm at 13,000 now), but I'm not going to feel bad if life gets in the way and I only get 13,500.

Last week was interesting. I think I could continue writing at that pace if I had a project I believed in, but this one just wasn't it. It's possible that it will be "the one" in the future, but not right now. So, I'll chalk this little adventure up as an enlightening experiment and move on to bigger and better things. To all you NaNoers who are still going strong with your original projects: I salute you. May your stories be wonderful, and may all your wildest dreams come true. To the rest of you: I'm sure your sanity is in better shape than mine.

Have you ever quit a manuscript ten thousand words in? Have you ever gone back and made it fun again? (Please say yes!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quality or Quantity?

I went to a NaNo event for my region last night. It was... interesting.

One of the most eye opening exercises for me was this thing they do called a "Word War." Everyone was supposed to write as many words as they could in 10 minutes. I thought I wrote pretty fast--I put down 271 words in the allotted time. Those 271 words were not as good as my normal first draft words (which if you'll recall, aren't very good to start with)--they were rushed. I didn't have time to think through what I was going to write or how the dialogue should flow and apparently I really need that time to think things through.

So get this--almost every other person at the write in did over 700 words (700 words in 10 minutes!) and one woman did over 1000! While I am in awe of these people's typing skills, the exercise made me realize why agents plead with authors not to submit NaNo novels. What kind of quality does this sort of writing encourage?

It takes me about 3 hours to write my daily 2500 words, and those are pretty crumby first draft words. I can't imagine how much more they would stink if I wrote them in 25 minutes.

Sure, there's revision, but how much can revision help if the first draft is terrible--if the story isn't well thought out? Is this NaNo business really a good thing? Maybe there should be a month where we encourage people to write good stuff instead of 50,000 words of crap?

Wow, that was quite the little rant. I really don't have a problem with NaNo if it gives people the push they need to get a novel done. I've been having fun with my own manuscript, despite the daily word goal. But I don't like the idea of writing a lot of words just so I can say I "won." I'll feel like a winner if I get a usable first draft out of the experience--something I can revise (for 3-6 months) and be proud of, even if I don't make it to 50,000.

Does this quantity over quality style of writing worry any of the rest of you? Am I crazy? Anyone planning to query novels in December along with thousands of rushed NaNo manuscripts? Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Greetings from the NaNo Trenches

I really shouldn't be blogging today, but I've made a few discoveries during my first few days of NaNoWriMo that I wanted to share with you.

1. First drafts are not good.

You probably all realize this, but it's been a while since I've written more than a few chapters of a first draft (and those few chapters I've edited to death so they aren't as stinky as a real first draft).

2. This first draft (though terrible) is better than my previous first drafts.

I've actually learned some things in the last year. YAY! I'm using more active verbs and fewer dialogue tags, the dialogue is better, and even the voice feels stronger and fresher.

3. It hasn't been that hard to meet my writing goals everyday.

Granted we're only on the third day (and I'm only writing on weekdays--2500 words a day--so it's technically only day 2 for me) but I'm starting to think that my "I don't have enough time to write" complaint doesn't hold much water. I may not have enough time to blog, read blogs, AND write everyday, but I definitely have time to write ten pages and read a few blogs (and mow the lawn, do laundry, feed and clothe my children, run to the library, wash dishes, clean the kitchen, and read 80 pages of Scott Westerfeld's LEVIATHAN--which is so good by the way). I don't know where all this time was before, but I'm glad it showed up for November.

It's been an interesting couple of days. I just hope I can keep this pace up throughout the month.

Have you discovered anything interesting about your writing lately?

NaNo Progress: 5112 words