As we keep our treasured family and friends safe, I consider my blessings: health, home, family, and so many wonderful friends all over the country and around the world. May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
It’s quiet in my writer’s office.
Lights are on, so she must be here. I close the back door to the office and hang up my flannel jacket. From this vantage I can’t see the recliners, but I suspect she’s tucked away in one of them. I have to say, she’s been doing quite well during NaNo.
The trick will be keeping it up once November is over.
“I know you’re here.”
I lean against her desk. As I suspected, she’s sitting in one of the recliners, footrest out, laptop on her lap (go figure!). Today she’s wearing a sweatshirt with a silhouette of a dragon filled with bookshelves that makes the surprisingly accurate claim: Easily distracted by dragons and books. The rest of her wardrobe is the usual sweatpants and god-know-how-many-pairs of socks.
“I’m glad to see you working so diligently, love.”
She leans her head back. “I’ll hit my fifty thousand words, which is good. The worst part is knowing I won’t be done with the story by the end of the month.”
“When has that ever stopped you?” As soon as I said it, a handful of occasions came to mind. “Don’t answer that.”
“Normally I would just keep going until I got to the end of the story. That’s usually another couple weeks,” she says. “This year I have another book to work on. I need to turn it in by the end of March for my writing certificate.”
“Ah, but do you?” I ask, well aware why her writing teacher gave her a specific deadline. Writers like deadlines. It helps them actually finish a project. At least it helps my writer.
“Yes. I’m going to try, anyway. I told my writing teacher I could do it.”
I know she’ll make sure she has her assignment done to turn in by the end of March. She’s gone through two revisions already, so the next one should be easier in a lot of ways. Plot issues have been ironed out by now.
“What about this project, love?” I ask. “You’ve made a lot of progress. And you learned you can make a go of writing scenes without going from the beginning of the story to the end chronologically.”
“This story works well that way,” she says.
“I’m sure the technique will work for other stories.”
She doesn’t look convinced. “Maybe. It works with the dual timelines because the story isn’t told in one long pass. It switches between the past and the present. I’m not sure how that would work with other stories.”
I cross the office to sit in the other recliner. “Think about it. Besides, what is a story? It’s a series of scenes, right?”
“Yes,” she says, “but there are transitions … Which I have to write anyway no matter what technique I use.”
“Bottom line, love, do what works for you for the story. You know I’m always here to help.”
“Not just to loom and give me dirty looks?”
“Har, har.” Though I haven’t had to “loom” for the past few months. I even packed away my fedora and bullwhip. I haven’t had to go full “Indiana Jones” on her for, wow, a long time. Not that I haven’t come close. Sometimes it works for her, sometimes it doesn’t. I have a grumpy dragon I can call on to help when she gets really stubborn.
“I’m here to inspire and encourage you, love. Now, get back to work.”
She sighs, but gets back to writing.
One more week of NaNo. It’s been a good month, but I think I’m going to have to give E a call. I’ll be ready for a pub crawl when this is over. We’ll go Down Under, though. Their pubs will be open. The ones here in the States will likely be closed by then. Besides, I haven’t been home in a while. It’ll be nice break.
Quotas. I suppose it keeps writers on track toward a particular word count goal, but a total word count has nothing to do with how complete a manuscript is.
“Hey, are you really putting those pictures in my post?” my writer asks from her recliner in the corner of her writing office.
“Are you really going to keep writing today, love?”
“Do I get wine and chocolate if I do?”
I narrow my eyes at her. “Do you get wine and chocolate whenever you hit your daily word quota?”
“I get chocolate.”
“You get chocolate anyway because of the pandemic, right?”
“You’re such a spoil-sport. You know what would really be good incentive? The good chocolate. I mean, the really good chocolate, not just the Dove Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramel chocolate. And Moon Man.”
Beer over wine? I suppose, considering she doesn’t spring for the good wine unless it’s an occasion, like her book release or three days alone with her writing. “Get to the end first, love.”
“You’re supposed to show me the prize and then tell me to go for it.”
I lean back in the desk chair. She’s got the foot-rest out on the recliner on the other side of the office, fuzzy slippers, sweatpants–not that she wears anything else while working from home, and her NaNoWriMo sweatshirt. Her hair’s gotten longer, and she substitutes herbal tea these days for coffee in the afternoon.
Cute. In a stay-at-home-while-writing kind of way.
“Admit it. I’m adorable.”
I stare at her until she raises an eyebrow and focuses on her laptop again. I won’t admit it.
Not to her, anyway. She’d bring that up as often as possible, especially when she’s struggling to write, as if it would distract me.
. . . . . . . .
Where was I? Oh, yes, my writer and NaNo. I have to admit I’m impressed with her dedication. She has been hitting the daily quota, but not her quota. Good enough, I guess, though I know she can do better. Has done better in the past.
Now, if she can finish most of the story in the next two weeks, it would be a major accomplishment.
“Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence,” she quips from across the office. “Nice to know my Muse is such a wellspring of reassurance.”
“You know I’m right, love. How many times in the past 15 years with over 15 NaNo sessions, both November and other times, have you actually gotten to the end of the story in 30 days?”
She frowns at me. “Twice. Maybe. But I usually finish two weeks after NaNo ends.”
True enough. “Back to writing, love. I’ll see what I can do about your lager.”
“Make sure you wear a mask, even if you can’t get COVID. At least don’t bring it back to me.”
Hey! *waves* Talk about a crazy week! Fall has returned to the “great white North” with record-setting temps in the 70s this week. Yep, you read that right. The first week of November in MN has temps in the 70s! Makes it almost worth the 6 1/2 inches of snow we got two weeks ago worth it.
And since it’s been so nice, it would be a sin to not take advantage of it, right? Finished cleaning up the garden and went for a run outside. It felt glorious (except for all the dust from the gravel road). We have a couple more days before seasonal temps return (to the tune of around 40-50 degrees F).
Oh, and look who we found hanging out in our grove this week: (NOT a picture of our actual visitor because I take lousy pictures and I do not have a telephoto lens (because I take lousy pictures 🙂 )):
I saw a great horned owl in our grove years ago when we first bought the place, but haven’t seen one since, though I think I might have heard it a few times. This week, hubs got out the binoculars, pointed to some place in the grove, and said “Look.” Yeah. Unless you know ex-act-ly where to look with binoculars, good luck seeing whatever the hell it is the other person is pointing at.
He took me down the driveway (through the grove) so I had a different angle. Sure enough, it was a great horned owl. So cool! That’s one of the best things about our little 8-acre island in the middle of vast farm fields: we get to see all kinds of wildlife. There’s a resident red-tailed hawk and another hawk I’m not sure of, maybe broad-winged or Cooper’s. A pair of wood ducks hangs out every spring on their way to wherever they nest. Saw a possum cross the yard last week, and I’m pretty sure a woodchuck lives in the ruins of the old timber-frame farm house. I’m not going to mention the rabbits. So many rabbits. Ugh.
And back to NaNo, Week 1. I’ve managed to keep up this week. Not my usual 2k words a day, but I’m making the 1667 word quota, with about a hundred words to spare. It was touch and go the first couple days, though.
With the “oh my gawd I cannot deal with election Tuesday” this week, I had a video chat with my Writing Sisters, two of whom are joining me in this crazy NaNo adventure.
And one of them, who is attempting NaNo for the first time, expressed her frustration. “Why did I ever think this was a good idea? I blame you, Julie.”
In some secret, dark part of me, I rubbed my hands together and laughed maniacally. Mwahahahahaha!
In the kinder, brighter part of me, I empathized. NaNo can be pretty intimidating.
She asked how I do it.
This is what I told her:
- The internet is a time-sucking distraction, even when it comes to research. I can pop to the internet to look something up, such as popular boys names in the 1950s, and pretty soon I’ve lost a half-hour of writing time. This year I’m getting serious with my lack of discipline. I turn the internet off (well, not off, hubs would not appreciate that). I started using a program called Freedom.to that will block me from accessing the internet for a period of time. I even splurged for a lifetime membership (which is half-price this month and actually reasonable).
- What about when I have to look something up if I can’t go to the internet? I make an inline note within brackets to remind me, then when I revise, I’ll look it up.
- Don’t go back to revise something you wrote earlier. Chuck that inner editor into a cage, close the door, and put the key into the back of the desk drawer. If I need to revise something or come back to it, I make inline notes again, sometimes like: gawd, this sounds stupid fix it later. 😀
- What about keeping track of details? I have a character “bible” in OneNote, which also includes setting details (I use Karen Wiesner’s worksheets from her First Draft in 30 days book). I also use Scrivener, which lets you keep notes for scenes and stuff. I can keep track of what day it is or whose POV it is that way.
- Music or no music? I actually like to listen to instrumental music along the lines of The Piano Guys, George Winston, David Garrett, the Narada artists, etc. Sometimes I’ll go full nature with thunderstorm or ocean wave soundtracks. It seems to help me corral creative energies.
I did run into a problem in the beginning, though. I like to write out a timeline or series of events for a story (some might call it an outline, but that word seems too rigid to me), then I’ll write the story following the timeline. It’s how I’ve written every other book, and it works, or has worked for me.
I wrote out the timeline for this book over a year ago. I know what happens in the book, but I’m not sure about the transitions. I found myself plodding along from point A to point B at such a slow pace that my usual 2-hr writing session only netted me maybe 500 words.
I’ll never hit 50k in 30 days at that pace.
So I decided to try the method one of my other writing sisters uses. She writes in scenes, and then weaves them together later. It works for her.
Guess what? It’s working for me with this book (hey, after 4 unfinished first drafts, something’s gotta work, right?). I’m getting through the scenes and hitting my word counts. Yay!
We have a couple more days of unseasonably-warm weather, so I’ll be trying to enjoy it while still getting my daily word quota.
Keep on writing!
Okay, I don’t know if someone pissed off Winter, pissed off Autumn, or if someone is trying to outdo the other in “hold my beer” style, but we got almost 7 inches of snow this week. In OCTOBER, mind you. Yes, I do live in Minne-snow-ta, but this was a record-setting event: according to the weather wonks, it’s been 104 YEARS since we had more than 3 inches of snow this early.
Even the Halloween Blizzard of ’91 was, well, on Halloween.
And we’re due for more inches on Sunday (tomorrow).
So, who stole autumn? And damn it, autumn is my favorite!
Granted, any snow we get usually melts if we get it before Turkey Day, but someone must have figured if they’re going to go through all the work of dumping half a foot of snow on us, they’re gonna make sure it doesn’t all melt. High temps for the next couple of days aren’t going to clear freezing.
I mean, 2020 has not been on my “top ten” list of years since the LCC conference in San Diego was cancelled this spring, but I am soooo leaving a 1-star review …
Anyway, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. This year Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor, so the chapters are encouraging their members to participate. I’m coordinating our chapter, so it’ll be interesting for sure.
Still pounding on the revision. And no kitties this week, just heavy wet snow. On the bright side, working from home means I don’t have to worry about driving in the weather!
Hope you all are staying safe with the uptick in the pandemic! Wear your masks, wash your hands, and consider a virtual Thanksgiving.
My Muse is giving me the stink eye, so I gotta go.
Keep writing! And remember, we have a week until NaNo–see you there!