Category Archives: free writing

Winning NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2011 is over. Finally! I’m so happy to say that I wrote more than 50,000 words in the month of November. What did I win? The privilege of posting the winner badge on my page. I can also buy a winner a t-shirt. But I gained so much more than that.

I turned off my internal editor for an entire month. Her name is Mrs. Peabody and she’s loud and mean. (Do I sound like a nutcase for having named her?) She’s the reason it can sometimes take me two hours to write one paragraph only to delete it the next day. Without Mrs. Peabody, I worked faster and there were several days when I wrote 1,000 words in an hour.

I have a few more chapters to write before I reach The End of my NaNo manuscript. The 50,110 words I do have are rough, but I’m not stuck at the end of Chapter One, unable to move forward with my story. I have 165 pages for Mrs. Peabody to edit. I wish she’d be more gentle in her criticism, but she’s pretty good at her job.

She’s been on vacation for a month, so I’m hoping that she’ll come back to work with a better attitude. If she doesn’t, at least now I know how to shut her up. I’ll just give her more vacation time.

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Filed under editing, free writing, Manuscript, NaNoWriMo, novels, Writing

Derailed

I have a writing routine that works for me… most of the time. Usually, my free writing warm-ups followed by kitchen timer sessions keep me on track. I even have a workable plan in place to keep a light writing schedule while I travel. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way, and all of my routines are derailed.

My biggest obstacle to a productive day is illness. Whether I’m recovering from surgery or simply have the flu, when I’m sick, I can’t write.

Insomnia isn’t my friend either. If I can’t sleep at night, I nod off during the day when I’m trying to work. There’s nothing like a full page of the letter S to make me feel like a ninny.

I’m blessed with an easygoing husband and wonderful friends, but the occasional argument can throw me for a loop. I replay conversations in my head, wondering what went wrong, and most of the time, I wind up feeling guilty. I find it very hard to concentrate on anything until I feel steady in the relationship again.

Lately, though, my problem has been the house. Unexpected repairs and issues have kept me so busy that I haven’t had the time or energy to write. I got so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t find the motivation to write a To Do list, much less work on a short story or my novel.

Then I realized that it’s almost November, which is National Novel Writing Month.

I’m going to be busy this year and I hadn’t planned to participate in NaNoWriMo this time around. I need a jump-start, though, and I need it now. If I wait for a quieter time, it will be spring before I pick up the threads of my routine. So I signed up.

That means I have the rest of October to finish plotting and planning my project. Then on November first, I’ll dive into the first draft of my new novel. The goal is to write 50,000 words by November 30th. It’s not an easy challenge, but I’ve done it before and I know I can do it this year. Finally, I’m excited about writing again.

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Are you planning to join the fun?

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Filed under Creativity, free writing, NaNoWriMo, Writing

Point of View

My “new” novel is one that I wrote during National Novel Writing Month a few years ago. (It was a great experience. If you’re considering trying NaNoWriMo this year, I highly recommend it.)

I wrote that story based on characters I first met in the pages of my notebook. I’ve been working with my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo draft and with notebook entries about these characters who have been running around in my head for a while. We’re old friends by now.

Before I start my next draft, I want to solidify the plot so I won’t wind up without one like I did with my last novel. I’ve been focusing on creating conflict and drama. So far, I have a villain, a mystery and I’m toying with a love interest for my main character, Jenny. I know how the story starts, how it ends and, although I’m still working on the middle, I’m making progress. I’m almost ready to dive into the next verson of the manuscript.

What I haven’t figured out yet is what point of view to use. A few of my freewriting exercises have been in first person, but it usually feels more natural to me to write in third. Until last week, I thought I’d be writing this draft entirely from Jenny’s point of view. Now, I’m not so sure.

The more I work on this novel, the more I feel like the secondary characters have interesting tales to tell. Jenny is still my heroine, but the story is beginning to feel like an ensemble piece.

I’ve been told that if a scene isn’t working, try writing it from another character’s point of view. I’ve also read that the best point of view character in each scene is the one with the most to lose. If I confine myself to Jenny’s point of view, I’ll lose that flexibility, but if I use multiple points of view, I run the risk of diluting Jenny’s story.

As a reader, I don’t have a preference for first or third person. I enjoy stories with one narrator as well as stories that shift point of view from character to character. What about you? When you read, do you have a preference? Any pet peeves? I’d love to hear your thoughts on point of view.

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Filed under free writing, Manuscript, novels, Plot, Writing

Free Writing

The Vista al Valle Trail in Warner Springs is only 3 miles, but the elevation gain is 1100 feet and our time was limited, so we decided to take a short nature walk out and back instead of making the full circuit.  We had our trail map and a guide describing the terrain and the views we would see.

At marker one, though, there was a fork in the trail and we weren’t sure which route to take.  We chose the widest of the paths and we set off.  We never saw another trail marker.

Eventually, we reached a dead-end and we had to retrace our steps back to the trailhead. I don’t know what we missed by taking the “wrong” route, but I do know what we gained.  As we walked quietly, listening to bird songs and the rustle of small animals moving in the dried grass along the trail, we heard the unmistakable sound of water  tumbling over rocks.  Just off the path, we found a shallow stream.

There aren’t many creeks that run in San Diego County in mid-July, but we were lucky enough to discover one with a small waterfall that was just barely visible through the trees upstream.

As I work on my new novel, I’m starting first by drawing a map of the plot.  I want to plan my route with scenes that will keep the story moving forward and that will encourage a reader to turn the page.  I want to decide on my final destination before I begin writing.

I wouldn’t be comfortable striking out into the back country with no knowledge of the landmarks to guide me safely along the trail and I don’t want to write my novel blindly with no idea of where I want the story to go.  At the same time, I have to be open to wrong turns and unexpected vistas.  I may think I know what will happen in a scene, but when I pick up my pen, I have to be willing to let my imagination take a detour.

With free writing, if I let myself, I follow a fresh path every time I use a prompt or idea.  So maybe today I’ll write a scene and veer off in a direction that I didn’t envision when I first plotted my story.  Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll open with the same image and then try another approach.  It might lead me to a dead-end, or maybe it will be a shortcut to the place I want to end up.  I can wander through my story until I find the route that works best.  My pen might run out of ink with all of these detours, but I won’t get sunburned or rub blisters on my heels.  Still, I just might find a hidden waterfall.

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Filed under free writing, Hiking, Plot, Writing