Saturday, November 24, 2012

NaNoWriMo Advice

Each #nanowrimo, I write like a maniac. And I'm always rushing to finish on 11/30. But not this year.

102% written, 7 days to go


The amazing thing is that it should read "102%, 10 days" because I finished my 50k on November 20th. 10 whole days early. SHUT. UP.

Here is what I learned this year that I didn't realize before:
  • The story REALLY MATTERS. When I wrote what I thought I should write, I struggled. But this year, I picked a story that I wanted to write, and it was so much easier. 
  • Outlines rock. I started with a shell, but I took time to revise the outline as I went so that each session had a goal. Maybe this doesn't match with the "literary abandon" theme from nanowrimo, but it worked for me.
  • Momentum can make a big difference. I had one day when I wrote over 7k. That felt amazing. But it also meant I sat in my chair typing for hours and hours. I wrote after the kids went to school, after they got home from school, while I worked on dinner, after dinner, and as the kids got ready for bed. It was a long day, and I only did that once, but it really got me through the heart of the story and into a new section.
  • Supporters make it work. I've done this for a few years now, so my husband knows not to expect a full house cleaning before Thanksgiving. The kids know that I'll be working on my next book for most of the month. Their support and encouragement help me to keep going. And I know not to schedule too many outside meetings, get-togethers or other distractions so that I can focus.
  • Ignore the 1,667 goal for each day. When I used that number as my daily goal, I inevitably fell behind, then forced myself to write gibberish the last few days to catch up. Ignore it. Double it. If you know you have a big conflict, vacation, or family visitors for Thanksgiving, then triple it. That way, on those days when you must have a zero, you won't feel defeated. You'll have the strength to keep going. It made a big difference for me this year.
Don't get me wrong - what I wrote still needs a lot of work. And I'm sure that grand total of words will go way down as I edit the crap and make it smooth and readable. But to have the book here, in my computer and ready to mold, feels wonderful.

So thank you, Office of Letters and Light, for making NaNoWriMo a tradition in my house. I plan to make my donation now to keep this worthwhile and inspirational group going next year. If you've participated this year, I know they'd appreciate it if you would do the same.

One last piece of advice - DON'T PANIC if you aren't finished. There are still seven days to go, and that is more time than you realize. Thanksgiving is over and there is a whole week of November remaining. Shopping and holiday prep can wait until December 1. Just keep typing...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6

I'm taking time out of #nanowrimo to vote today - you should, too. Go #vote. I have taken my kids with me every year so they can see the process, stand in line, look at the pamphlets that we get handed on our way in the door. I think it's important for them to feel like they are a part of the process, even if they can't cast their own votes for president until the 2020 election.
{source}
Now back to NaNoWriMo - I'm on a roll this year! I don't know why, but I'm over 15,000 already - my fastest start ever! That probably means I'll slow down this weekend and rush to catch up next week, but that's OK. I feel like I'm finally back, and it feels great. My fingers are a little sore after a long session, but I'm enjoying it.

The biggest challenge I have is to get the words out before the kids get home from school. I feel such relief when I do because then I can focus on them and dinner and homework for the rest of the day. Yesterday that was not the case, but I still managed to hit my personal goal before bed time.

And I have to say that the family is very supportive again this year. Maybe it's because I've been doing it for a few years, but everyone understands when I say I need to take some time to finish a section or hit a certain word count. A little support goes a long way...

That said, I hope you have a great writing day, whether you get that one perfect sentence down, or you crush it and hit 5,000+ for the day. (I haven't done that yet, by the way, but I hope to on a crazy-good day. Yesterday came close.)

Happy writing and voting!


Friday, November 2, 2012

#NaNoWriMo Day One

Congrats to everyone who started NaNoWriMo yesterday! It feels so good to be back.

My first day went well. I had a number of errands to run, so desk time was not as long as I had hoped. I still managed to squeeze 1,778 words out by midnight, so a decent start.

One thing I did before writing was organize my desk. It wasn't too cluttered, but I tend to pile things around myself until I am buried, so I wanted to start fresh for the new book. Here is what it looked like before:
Desk before

Not too bad. Post-its were a little out of control, as were the cords connected to my Kindle, so I had to tame those. I bought a nice candle, a container for my post-its, and rearranged a little. After about 5 minutes of clean up, here is what I had:

Desk after

Much better.



I need that space to the right of my laptop for note-taking and snacks - not going to pretend that I don't have a bowl of yummies next to me for those moments when the fingers don't know what to do next. I love that the candle has two wicks - they dance together as the wind blows outside and the draft comes through the windows.

Oh, and that red rectangle is my speaker - Jambox by Jawbone. It was a birthday present and I love it. It connects via Bluetooth to my phone and fills the office with the sounds of Pandora as I type.

So that's it. I am up to 1,299 words so far today, but I'd love to hit 3,000. I like having a buffer, knowing that there will be days when I can't sit at my desk for more than 10 words.

What other things make NaNoWriMo days fun and productive for you?


Monday, October 22, 2012

NaNoWriMo Playlist, Part One

There's nothing worse than writing a scary, dark scene full of agony and having "Call Me Maybe" pop up on Pandora.

Not that there's anything wrong with "Call Me Maybe." It is a bit overplayed, but I still get a kick out of watching my daughter sing along in the car. (My son, too, but he'll deny it if you ask him.) And it is catchy - no denying that.
Call Me Maybe (Remixes) - EP, Carly Rae Jepsen

But I prefer to stay in that darker mood while I write. To be honest, I tune out and don't even realize what is playing most of the time. But certain songs break through to me and make me listen. Here are some of my current favs, the ones that will be on my NaNoWriMo playlist for sure.

"Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy
So you're gone and I'm haunted
And I bet you are just fine
Did I make it that easy to walk
Right in and out of my life?

"Lovely" by Sara Haze
I feel lovely
Just the way that I am...
I need that to be enough for you
Cause it's enough for me...
Am I supposed to give up everything I am
Just to make you happy
I thought I was the one you always wanted me to be

  "Night Minds" by Missy Higgins
You were blessed by a different kind of inner view: it's all magnified.
The highs would make you fly, and the lows make you want to die.
And I was once there, hanging from that very ledge where you are standing.
So I know
I know
I know,
It's easier to let go.  



"A Drop In The Ocean" by Ron Pope
A drop in the ocean
A change in the weather
I was praying that you and me might end up together
It's like wishing for rain as I stand in the desert
But I'm holding you closer than most 'cause you are my heaven
You are my heaven  


This is just the beginning, of course. But if you're looking for something new, these are worth a listen. Any others I should consider?

Monday, October 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012

It's time to do finger exercises, stock up on coffee and find some new music. I need to start #NaNoWriMo training.


Each November, I try to write. And write. Until I finish 50,000 words.

Last year I failed, big time.

This year I plan to spend more time writing and less time thinking about writing.

I plan to get up early, wrap myself in the blanket my grandmother crocheted for me, grab a cup of coffee, and write for an hour before anyone else wakes up.

I plan to keep going even when I think it's crap.

I plan to try ever-so-hard to avoid editing.

I plan to type until my fingers feel stiff and my right wrist burns from rubbing on the tape keeping my laptop together.

Sweet.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Change of heart

Wanting to do something and actually doing it are separated by one thing: the heart to keep going.

I've tried and tried to get back to writing, to work on my books, to keep going. But I had lost heart.


When I published The Prophecy, I gained and lost.  I had lost the drive, the desire, to put myself out there again, to try. I wanted this journey as "author" to be smooth, successful and perfect. I wanted it to be fabulous. And fun.

But it wasn't. Nothing specific stole my heart. It was a slow seeping sensation, compounded by my fear of failure. Fear of being just another writer. Fear of people hating my second book, or worse - thinking it mediocre. And it got easier and easier to make excuses for why I wasn't writing. The kids. Work. Summer. Life.

I had coffee with a dear friend yesterday, and she reminded me of something very important. "We need to create," she said. "We must. It's who we are."

She's right. I must. And so I do.

I am happy to report that I am finally moving forward again. I am getting excited. I am getting up early, before the sun and the kids, to write and edit and plot.

And my heart is changing. It's beating faster. It's pumping when I get to a good part. It's coming back, and I didn't realize until today how much I had missed it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Make it true

I did something rather foolish yesterday. I ordered our holiday cards - the ones we send to friends and family to stay in touch.

{source}
Why is that foolish? you may ask.

Well, I chose a design that allowed for some text about the year we've had. I included a bullet about my son getting braces, my daughter learning to knit, and my second book release.

That's right. I announced my second book release on my holiday cards. That book that I haven't finished editing yet.

I'd better make it true.

I am close, don't get me wrong. But I'm not quite there. Now I have more of an incentive to get there.

One of the worst things for me to do, in my non-writer life, is to disappoint someone. To promise and not deliver. It's my trademark. I will come through, no matter what.

Except - I didn't. And it bothers me. It bothers me that it has been so long since I thought I'd have the second book out. It bothers me that I couldn't deliver. Never mind that my time frame was absurd - I should have figured out a way. I need to be that person who gets it done as a writer as well as in my other life.

So now that I have a true deadline, I will make it happen.

I apologize to those of you who have waited faithfully. And I thank you for hanging in there with me.

Good things come to those who wait...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wishing the day away

I spent yesterday morning recovering. Or that's what I told myself. I needed a break, so I sat down with a cup of coffee and my iPad and spent some time reading, watching, listening and playing.

photo by J Kendrick


What a mistake.

As I played, I thought about all of the things I could do with the day that had nothing to do with schedules or meetings. I could edit my second book, work on my new book, design a new cover, start the book video layout, and on an on. I created a wish list a mile long - I wish I had enough time to work on these things I love. This thought bounced around my head the whole morning. I wish, I wish, I wish.

When I surfaced and looked at the clock, I realized I needed to get out of the house in 20 minutes. 

I had wasted my free time.

Now, there is a part of me that denies that - the part of me that believes I needed to tune out any productive thoughts so that I could recover from a burst of activity that had started in August and has yet to let up.

But I know better.

I only wasted a couple of hours, but I could have done some editing on my second book instead of shopping the Kindle store. I might have gotten a great first draft of a cover finished instead of looking up when Downton Abbey's new season starts. (January 6, 2013, if you're curious.)  I could have searched for the style of music I have in mind for the book video instead of creating a new channel on Pandora.

So what did I learn from this?

I need to shift how I think about my time. No, I don't need to be productive all of the time. But would a 30 minute tune-out been enough to get me back on track? Probably. I could have still worked on my book to do list. And I should have, because that is what I love. Even though it is work, it recharges me and makes me smile. My attitude for the rest of the day would have been one of happy accomplishment, and I wouldn't have had that feeling that time escaped me just as I was trying to control it and use it to make me feel better.

In the end, I did what I thought I should do to recharge while ignoring what I really needed. Did it help? Not so much. Lesson learned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Still growing

Gardening has been an unexpected pleasure this summer. Yesterday's harvest of 30 tomatoes brought lovely red color to the kitchen.

Writing is back on track, finally. I tend to look to the summer as the "time to get it done" when it is more like the "time to feel guilty that it isn't done." I'll need to revisit this post next May when I try once again to plan major projects for the summer months. It just isn't realistic when there are adventures to take.

I hope you enjoy these last days of summer vacation. I know I will.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Three

Three. Days. Left. That's it. I only have three more days until the kids are here and not in school.

I've tried to come up with some ways to keep us all sane and entertained that do not include having the tv and computer on all day. Some are chore-like and boring, but some seem fun, even to me.


I gave my kids a challenge as we finish the last few days of school: pick a project that will take until the end of June to finish. It can be anything creative like building something, making a movie, writing a book, painting, drawing, etc. You get the point. Tonight at dinner they are to present their list of things they need to get this project started. And then every day starting with their first day off, they are to spend two hours working on it (at least).

My hope is that they will be so inspired by their freedom to create that they will spend more than two hours working on it each day - thus giving me more time to write each day. And I hope that they will enjoy the project so much that they will think even BIGGER for July - they'll have a whole month to complete something new. I'll keep you posted as we go along.

Uh oh - I hear the printer starting. Time to see what they have in mind...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Music by Raeya (@RaeyaMusic)

I may be listening to Jessie's Girl () as I type this, but I'm always looking for new music to add to my writing playlists. Here is the newest one to make my list:

Little Miss Understood by Raeya

I love this song! I even added it to my workout playlist, and I smile when I hear it. It's available on iTunes, and it's worth the download.

I must admit a personal connection to the song. I worked with Raeya's mom at a certain department store, and she updated me about Raeya's career in between customers. I was so thrilled to hear that her first single had been released, and I bought it that same day.

So check out Little Miss Understood! You can follow her on Twitter at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Twenty

20 school days.  
That's all I have until the kids are here for the summer and my quiet hours of solitude are a memory.

I'm trying to come up with a new strategy for summer. I want to fit in all of the fun and relaxation that I can, but I also want to keep up with my writing and editing time. Oh, and then there's that pesky laundry/cleaning/cooking that needs to be done. If I come up with any mind-blowing strategies, I'll let you know. And if you have any suggestion, let me know. I'll take any help I can get!


Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a Date!

I'm going to be out and about with copies of my book - I hope you'll visit me. I'll be at the Mt. Lebanon Library Local Author Forum:

Wednesday, April 11
7 - 9 PM
Meeting Room A

Since this is my first one of these, I'm not sure what to expect, but I know it's going to be fun. If you'd like to read about my fellow panelists, you can visit the library website at http://www.mtlebanonlibrary.org/programs and search for the events on April 11th. I'll be signing books, giving away little goodies and answering questions. So bring a friend - hey, bring two!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday to Lucie!


I am having a great day as I enjoy this gorgeous spring weather. And I'm excited because Lucie's second book is getting better and better each day! Stay tuned...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Lucie

Don't buy my book. Really. Don't do it. It's been a year since I published it, and the new one is so close to being ready. I know I've been saying that for almost a year, but it will be worth the wait. I'm releasing a new version of The Prophecy and debuting The Chapel at the same time, in the same volume. Can't wait!

On another note, I hit a real crossroads this week. I have been lucky to be able to make choices and do things that I enjoy and that also fit (more or less) into the family schedule. I haven't always been able to balance everything perfectly, but who does? And then a job opportunity appeared that seemed to be exactly what I wanted. More control, more responsibility, more money. But more time. Much more time. Time away from home, time that I don't have to give.

I let it go.

Not officially, but in my mind, I know that this is not the right opportunity for me. It would take me so far away from writing, so far away from the vision I have for where I want my life to go. It is tempting, but it is not right. Not now. Maybe not ever.

Is is strange then that I feel a little sadness over this decision? I'm not sure. I was already ramping up in my mind to go for it, to persuade the powers-that-be to give me the job. And now I have to sit back and see who else gets it. Weird feeling. Probably because I'm not used to sitting and watching.

So I'm still here, and I'll be here more often now. And that's a good thing.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Expectations

I was supposed to be a millionaire by now. That's how it works, right? You publish your book, people love it, you write more and more and more, and the royalty checks start flowing. The next thing you know, Oprah is coming out of her semi-retirement because she just has to tell the world that your brilliant book is an instant classic, and suddenly you have an agent and a publicist and maybe even (gasp) a stylist....

Here we are, almost a year after I published The Prophecy, and I'm not rich. Royalty checks have trickled here and there. Oprah hasn't called. I have to pick out my own clothes and do my own hair and makeup. And I still haven't gotten the second book in my series out the door.

At first I thought I could publish Book Two last April, but it wasn't ready. In September? Nope - didn't have enough time over the summer to proofread. Then surely by October, right? Spare time was virtually impossible to find this fall. At least by December?... Well, enough excuses. We all know that didn't happen.

The real core of the problem was that I lost it. I lost the desire to dream about Lucie, to relive her conflicts, to plan her escapes, to get the book out the door. I think when I published last February, I expected my writing would get easier. I didn't really expect to get rich (well, maybe a little), but I did think that the words for the rest of the series would just flow and the books would be brilliant and not need much editing. Not. Even. Close.

The words were harder to find because the tone had to be right. The voice had to be the same. The tension had to be even. Anyone who has read a sequel that didn't quite match the first book knows exactly what I mean. You may not know it when you're reading, but you don't feel the same. The second book doesn't take you to the same place you went with the first, and it just feels off.

As I struggled to get The Chapel to that point of flowing smoothly out of The Prophecy, I realized that to do it right, I needed more of me than I had to give. I just couldn't force it - it wouldn't read right. I was using the same tired verbs, the tension was weak, the story seemed strained. So I put it away and told myself that tomorrow would be better. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. And here we are, months later, and I have barely touched it. Heck, I've hardly thought about it.

But something happened to me this week. I noticed a strange pull towards my notes. I found myself opening the document and starting to read through it again. I made some small edits on the first page, and they felt good. I set some goals for daily word counts and I think I might actually be able to stick to it for more than one day.

It all comes back to my expectations. When I first published, I read about other authors who were pumping out book after book, sometimes four or five a year, and I thought that was what I should do, too. I should be able to dedicate that much time and brain power to doing what I love, and it should be fun and easy and fabulous. But I'm not those authors. I think in my mad rush to be like them, I ran too hot and burned out a bit.

So I'm going back to the beginning, back to the reason that I started this in the first place - because I love the character of Lucie and I want her to have fabulous adventures that I can share. I want to write because I love the journey, not just the destination. I don't know how long it will take, but I'll let you know how it's going. And as for Oprah - well, only time will tell...

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Goals

Guilty thoughts have been dancing through my head this holiday season. There's never enough time to get it all done.

"I should..."

"I need to..."

"Just a minute..."

And when the list does not get crossed off, the guilty thoughts start to circle. They are slow at first, seeming to be sympathetic. But then they get faster and more insistent.

"You should have..."

"Why didn't you..."

"You don't need to sleep..."

So my one and only resolution for this January is to stop listening to that voice. I need to tune out the guilt and give myself a break.

Ahhh - I'm feeling better already...