Here we are, the last week of NaNoWriMo! And yes, I know you'd rather go to Paris for the weekend, me too. But we need to get these manuscripts finished, so Paris will have to wait for a little while.
I don't know about you, but my word count isn't looking so great right now, something I want to change by Monday at the latest. To achieve that goal, I'm going to try something brand new: 10,000 words in one day! Yes, 10K, really. I'm all signed up to participate tomorrow 11-23-13 in a fun website writing party hosted by my Twitter friend Milli Thornton at @fearofwriting: 10kdayforwriters.com.
I only learned about Milli's site a couple of days ago, and just in the nick of time. In fact, the discovery was so fortuitous that I'm still reeling from one of those "how did that happen?" moments.
But despite my best intentions to write those 10K words, I also know that if I'm going to stay motivated I'll need some trusty writing prompts. Last night I brainstormed a list of 25; please feel free to borrow, steal, or add to the list by leaving a comment or two. All suggestions will be most welcome!
My 10K Prompt List:
- Write about my characters' goals: why are they so important?
- Write back story--lots of back story!
- Write a character's first memory and make it essential to a present scene.
- Describe my main character's place of work and how that influences the plot.
- Various characters' neighbors: what do they really think?
- Have one of the characters stuck in an elevator--with the villain.
- A mysterious package arrives: why and what's in it? How does this change everything?
- A death in the family.
- An invitation my main character can't refuse.
- Write about a recurring dream.
- Phobias--assign one to a secondary character and use it to keep them from helping my main character.
- Car trouble. At the very worst time possible.
- Illness. Ditto as above.
- Somebody witnesses a crime.
- And then is framed for it!
- A big lie and the unexpected consequences.
- Hobbies--pick one and make it important to the plot.
- An overheard conversation--and what happens because of it.
- A stolen identity.
- One of the characters finds (fill in the blank) and is devastated.
- Something observed in a window.
- A favorite item is broken. What, why, what happens because of it?
- A sudden storm.
- A creepy prophecy--that comes true.
- The three very worst outcomes that can happen if my characters don't reach their goals, and then have them happen.
So come on, join us on Saturday--I think you can even wear your pajamas all day, just as long as you promise to write.
Tip of the Day: In case you can't sign up for this Saturday's 10K session, be sure to check out 10kdayforwriters.com anyway for one of their future writing sessions; they're held twice a month regardless of NaNoWriMo or similar events. Whichever day you choose, 10K in one day will surely help you reach THE END, a very good place to be.
Yesterday I was ready to give up on NaNoWriMo, as in seriously QUIT. Why, why was I torturing myself to write these stupid 50,000 words? Am I so devoid of writing projects that I have to take on a task that wasn't even fun?
Fortunately, that was yesterday. Today I'm feeling a whole lot more positive and ready to keep going. The secret was in realizing several things:
- First, nobody is making me do this. Nobody. There is no contract or deadline awaiting me with dire consequences if I don't write. I've won enough previous NaNoWriMo certificates to know I can write 50,000 words in a month. I have nothing to prove here.
- If I don't reach the 50K mark, so what? I'll have 10 or 20K extra manuscript words to work with that I didn't have before November 1. And that's a good thing.
- Lastly, I was taking my manuscript way too seriously. Demanding that it make perfect sense--right now. That all my characters be fully developed and action-oriented, intent on weaving their way through a brilliant plot line that was simply amazing, full of shocking twists and turns with a stunning conclusion. Except NaNoWriMo doesn't work like that, at least not most of the time. (Note to self: neither does any first draft. Sigh.) Asking that it do so was setting myself up for instant failure.
So here's what I did to beat the NaNoWriMo blues: I decided to be willing to get lost in the woods. Crazy plot line? Just follow where it does go, and if I don't like it, write "stuff happens here" and carry on writing a new and more interesting scene. Characters I can't stand? Get rid of them--send them to China or off on safari where they get eaten by lions. Bored with the whole process? Write about things that interest me, not what I think is "supposed" to go in the manuscript because I want it to fit a particular genre or style.
I'm not going to quit. How about you?
Tip of the Day: One of my favorite ways to infuse any flagging manuscript with new life is to grab a handful of writing prompts from old magazines. Article titles and headlines are perfect. Get your scissors and start cutting; throw what you find in a jar and then pick one for every new page you start. Here's a sampling from my current collection: "Warm Kebabs for a Cool City." "The Human Face Behind the Makeup." "Last Stand in the Serengeti." (Uh-oh, I guess those lions really did get my unlikeable characters . . . ") Good luck; happy writing!
Just in time for NaNoWriMo: How well do you know your characters? By now you might be familiar with their physical features, their taste in evening clothes, and what they like to eat for breakfast, but what about their personality quirks and motivations?
One of my favorite writing how-to books to help uncover more about my characters' inner worlds and psyches is one by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders:Originally written for screenwriters, The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes is a great tool for all writers, poets too, I can imagine! Based on the idea that there are 16 character "types" common to all fiction and mythology, the book is a great one to read just for fun as well as for research.
The other day I thought it would be interesting to re-examine where and how the three heroines from my published novels fit into the various categories. I also used the templates to evaluate the Pinterest boards I had created for these books: What kind of pins could I add to each? I started with:The Great Scarab Scam
See The Great Scarab Scam Pinterest Board!The Great Scarab Scam is my Egyptian mystery for young readers 8-12 years, so obviously there isn't the conventional male-female interaction you might find in a book for older readers. However, my main character, eleven-year-old Lydia Hartley, definitely falls into the category of "The Spunky Kid," and not just because of her age. Her other traits and story difficulties include:
Better Than Perfect
- She's stuck between two brothers--one a little bit older and one quite a bit younger. Although neither of her brothers are particularly "heroic"
- She's a reader--and even enjoys doing homework!
- She's fiercely loyal to her father, a university professor and archaeologist.
- Loves history, especially ancient Egyptian history.
- She's curious about the world around her, but can be shy in social situations.
- She's brave, but a little reckless too.
- And she's very motivated when it comes to helping others.
See the Better Than Perfect Pinterest Board!
My Young Adult novel set in New Zealand, Better Than Perfect, follows fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Haddon when she is sent from London to live with her wealthy relatives in Auckland. Elizabeth falls into "The Waif" category. She's:
And although Elizabeth does manage to find her true north and come to grips with real life in the course of the story, she does so with all the handicaps of a victim and lost child.Overtaken
- The "poor relation"
- Smart, but without direction
- Prone to envy, especially when she continually has to make do with second best
- And she has a serious crush on an unconventional "bad boy."
See the Overtaken Pinterest Board!
Written for an adult audience, Overtaken includes some of my most complex characters, especially my heroine of Sara Bergsen. I had a bit of trouble discerning exactly which archetype she truly was, but in the end I decided she was "The Librarian."
- She's essentially a loner.
- Her chosen career as a portrait artist reflects her powers of observation and love of order. Abstract painting doesn't interest her in the least.
- Her wardrobe, at least in the beginning of the book, consists of practical pieces in black and gray--great for work!
- And this girl does loves work. She's disciplined and dedicated to deadlines.
- At the same time she takes risks because she is confident in her own ability to succeed.
- She's a reader--which has also led her to believe in the possibility of a happy ending.
One of Sara's main challenges is to confront and understand the three men in her life: a Warrior, a Lost Soul, and a Charmer.
Tip of the Day: The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines is an excellent reference for any stage of your manuscript, even your published stories. For your WIP's see where your characters match up to the suggested archetypes, and pay particular attention to the sections on how they all work (or don't work) together. For your published manuscripts, you can still use the book to help describe your characters in your marketing material. You may be surprised at what you find!
You are invited: to my blog's birthday party!
5 years old! It's my blog's birthday on Monday, October 28; I can hardly believe it.
To celebrate I'm having a special giveaway just for my followers (thank you, everyone!).
All you have to do to be eligible is a) follow my blog. Easy-peasy.
And of course, if you'd like to leave a comment that would be lovely too.
I'll be holding a random drawing on Friday, November 1 (the start of NanoWriMo) at 12.00 PM Mountain Time, so that gives you a whole week to sign up and join the fun.
The giveaway prize will consist of books, journal,and pens--just one winner.
Don't miss out :) In the meantime, everybody eat cake . . .
For the last few weeks I've found myself offline much more than usual. I can't help it--where some people suffer from "spring fever" and the inability to stay indoors and concentrate when the first green buds appear on the trees, I have the exact opposite problem: "autumn fever."
It's been that way all of my life, something to do with the turning leaves, cooler days, an Indian Summer wardrobe that pairs sweaters with cotton skirts, Halloween, Nanowrimo . . . my birthday . . . there's nothing about the season I don't love!
And even though it's been a long, long time since my student days, I think autumn brings back a remnant of "back to school" determination and renewal to my psyche--all those great plans to accomplish by next semester! I recently read somewhere that deciding to become a writer is like signing up to do homework for the rest of your life. Too true--which is probably why I'm so interested in creating schedules, routines, and self-imposed deadlines; I don't want to mess up my assignments.
With that theme in mind, I've been busy getting ready for the writer's equivalent of term paper and doctoral thesis rolled into one: revising my next novel. In this respect I've been a little bit like a squirrel hoarding autumn acorns for the winter. Do I have the right supplies? Have I done all my prep? I think so, starting with:
- A complete first draft with a beginning, middle, and end.
- First draft fully edited. (Four red pens hit the dust!) Areas that require new scenes and chapters all marked out for new writing.
- Character names, dates, goals finalized.
- To keep my characters and story events in order, I've created a "manuscript chart" listing my chapters. This was important for me to remember both my timeline and to know exactly which characters appear in these chapters, and why. I've also included a section to remind myself why I even HAVE a particular chapter other than because it's so well written, LOL! I figured this last section could also be helpful for marketing and and editorial response, especially in the case of an editor requiring any kind of further rewriting.
So . . . I'm ready to go! Second draft, here I come. But first, I just have to take one more autumn walk with my journal-sketchbook in hand. These leaves are just too pretty to miss.
Tip of the Day: What projects have you got planned for the winter? What "school supplies" do you need to purchase or make to ensure the work goes smoothly? In my case it was a bigger binder to hold all my revision notes, as well as some new magazine cut-out for those extra sections I need to write. It's good to have everything you need before you begin.
Announcing! The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript now has its own book trailer:I'm excited to have this new development for the book, especially as it's been one of my best sellers over the years, and it's been quite a few years! Some of my favorite memories from the early days of writing the book:
To celebrate the release of my new trailer, The Essential Guide for New Writers is on super-sale at my website. Instead of the usual price of $10.95, the price is now only $5.95, and all USA orders include Free Shipping! What are you waiting for? Get on over and get your copy today!Tip of the Day: I wrote The Essential Guide as a way to express my love of writing. When I sat down to type out my handwritten notes, writing was, and continues to be, my passion. I just love to write--and I wanted to share that joy with other writers. Whatever you feel passionate about is always a good indicator of what you should be working on.
- The idea came to me while I was teaching my first workshop at West Georgia College, now the University of West Georgia.
- I was still in the middle of building my house in the middle of 5 acres of woods and farmland.
- My initial idea was to simply make photocopies of my workshop notes and staple them together. (Whew. Would've been a lot of stapling. Glad I didn't choose that option!)
- And then I realized I could have a complete trade paperback. A revelation in publishing.
- Chapter 3 on "Creative Conflict" was reprinted in a textbook for the Atlanta College of Art. Prior to this I never knew you could sell and get royalties for just a part of your book. The textbook was for the college's class on making videos.
- International sales have been as far away as New Zealand and Singapore.
- I'm proud to say the book has been used in both male and female prison writing programs throughout the country.
- It's also been a featured textbook in several university masters' programs, including the Masters in Professional Writing at Kennesaw State.
- I wrote the entire book in longhand first--still my preferred method!
I'm back: from my Internet holiday and 2 weeks in Barcelona! I'm jet lagged, recovering from a head cold, and surrounded by so many bits and pieces of Barcelona ephemera (ticket stubs, receipts, postcards, museum brochures, postage stamps) that it seems I will be art journaling on the city for the rest of my life. And that's fine with me--I love having a theme that can extend into my pottery, my watercolors, and who knows--maybe even a short story or two.
Our choice of Barcelona started with my husband's wish to see a Moto GP race live, and the Catalunya circuit seemed like a good venue. Put that with my desire of many years to see the Black Madonna of Montserrat, and we thought, hey, let's go!
Our first day was spent settling into our apartment converted from an old palace straight out of a fairy tale. (I still don't know how I got my suitcase up these stairs.)
The view from our living room:
From the bedroom:
From both rooms:
The original (and very high) ceiling in the bedroom:
Next stop was afternoon coffee:
I loved all the architecture of the city, from Gothic to Art Nouveau, and for some reason became obsessed with this particular building we seemed to pass just about every day. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was so full of carving and plants and romantic stonework . . . I wanted to move in and live there forever.
Old world undies (no, I did not shop here):
Seeing Montserrat at last was every bit as thrilling and meaningful as I thought it would be--maybe even more so. Ever since reading China Galland's book, Longing for Darkness, Tara and the Black Madonna I've been intrigued by the history and spirituality connected to the various Black Madonnas throughout the world. Add that to my love for the work of New Mexico artist and writer, Elaine Soto and her own versions of these beautiful icons, there was no way I could go to Barcelona without making the (somewhat scary) ascent up the mountainside to this sacred site.
Montserrat wasn't the only place with a view, however. This picture was taken right from the heart of the city on Montjuic and the steps of the Catalonia art museum:
After several more days of nonstop museums (Picasso, Roman ruins, the Cathedral . . . ) it was great to get out onto the water with a boat trip:
And visit Gaudi's Sagrada Familia:
As well as the Maritime Museum (uh-oh, more museums!):
Here's me at the Aquarium. Husband's instructions: "Smile--there's a shark right over your head!"
Before we left Albuquerque, someone asked me if it wasn't a little unusual to mix motorcycles and Madonnas into one trip. But for me, it seemed the most natural combination in the world--two extremes blended into one perfect whole. It's what I aspire to in my writing, my painting, and well, even my life, I guess!
So on that thought, I'll leave you with another shot of the race (as you can see we were smack in the middle of the Rossi fan club. Good thing they were so focused on their guy they couldn't hear us cheering for Pedrosa.). Yay, Barcelona!
Tip of the Day: Where's your dream vacation? Try starting a "vision board" and special art journal to help get you there. Collect pictures, create your own artwork of the place, and write about the sights you want to see. Not only will you have an excellent source of daily writing and drawing prompts, you might even surprise yourself with a plane ticket.
April is National Poetry Month, and this year I'm celebrating the season with a small poetry/art journal project with a Japanese-inspired theme I'm calling "30 Days of Kimono." The idea came to me when I visited the Albuquerque Art and History Museum with my writer's group several weeks ago. The museum was hosting a special exhibition on Japanese Art Deco, and because I've always been a huge fan of Japanese style, culture, and literature, it seemed like a good time to do something with all that inspiration!Rather than restricting myself to just poetry, I'm using a variety of methods, mediums, and digital sites, including Polyvore, where I made the kimono pictured above, as well as a Pinterest board. To keep all my ideas in one place, I've chosen to use a Moleskine Cahier Kraft blank notebook, which means I can decorate the cover too (still a bit of a work-in-progress...):On the inside I'm writing down my poetry thoughts, found poetry snippets, and sketch ideas for larger paintings:I'm also pasting in drawings made on other types of paper. For instance, the sketch below is made on a Japanese paper I can't describe very well other than to say it's slick on one side, rough on the other (I don't know if it's rice paper--sorry!). I used a pen cut from a piece of bamboo, Black Magic ink, and a little watercolor, then cut it into a kimono-ish shape. The pattern was based on my recent visit to New York and Central Park.One of the most enjoyable parts of this project has been my research; any excuse to go to the library and immerse myself in good books is fine with me. Besides losing myself in several gardening books covering Zen gardens and tea houses, my favorite find was a classic, The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka. Everything you'd ever want to know about the history, making, and wearing of kimono is in this comprehensive little book. And believe me, there is a lot to know about wearing a kimono--about 36 actions just to get into "the thing," (which is all the word "kimono" really means: "a thing to wear") and half of those include hand-sewing, my most detested task on earth. Then of course there's the good behavior required to not crush or ruin the kimono, including never letting your back touch the back of a chair or car seat. Reminds me of when my mother forced me to wear scratchy nylon dotted Swiss on Sundays--don't move! Don't eat! Don't breathe! Which was perfectly expressed in this bit of found poetry I took from various lines of my magazine cut-outs:
Piety, memory, cleanliness,
Tip of the Day: Whether it's National Poetry Month of National Novel Writing Month, why not choose a theme or subject you've always wanted to know more about but never really had the time to explore? Not only could it start an entire new direction for your creativity, but it could also help give you that special edge to stand out from the crowd.