Posted tagged ‘National NOvel Writing Month’

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) Off the Computer – Writing by hand…errr… (Pearl!)

November 20, 2012

It can be hard to write in a notebook, once you’ve gotten used to a computer.

But it really can be done if you put your mind to it,

and sink in your teeth.


I am reposting these pictures from a prior Nanowrimo when my dog Pearl was a bit younger and a lot more helpful.  

I am, in fact, writing my novel by paw (errr… hand.)   At the moment, however, I can hardly imagine transcribing it – first, because my vision is pretty bad, and secondly because the story is so slow!   Oddly, I know where it is supposed to go, but it does not want to go there very rapidly.  I worry this is also fall-out from writing poetry – poems- mine anyway – tend to get involved with the moment, memory, reflection – not so much with, you know, chase scenes.

And then there’s Pearl’s refusal to help out!  At seventeen and a half, she’s not very involved in chase scenes either.  Agh.

Nanowrimo Begins – No More Excuses! I mean, Yes, An Excuse!

November 1, 2011


Today is November 1, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, a/k/a Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo is a very fun program for people who want to kickstart their writing.  It provides three very important elements for the struggling writer: a deadline, a community, and, most importantly perhaps, an excuse.

By “excuse”, I mean a reason to give novel writing priority, as in “oh I’m so sorry, I can’t possibly cook the turkey–I have to finish my nanowrimo!”

I have participated in Nanowrimo a few times.  (Luckily, my daughters are great cooks.)  And actually, amazingly, I am about to publish a book that was first written in a month of November.  It is called Nose Dive, and like Nanowrimo itself, it’s a lot of fun. (More on this as the book comes out!)

However, I have also accumulated a number of unfinished manuscripts.

This Nanowrimo month, I am hoping to finish at least one of those.

In order to do this extensive rewriting–which is frankly kind of painful–I really have to force myself to focus, which should mean cutting down on the blogging.  (A relief no doubt to subscribers.)  I’ll probably still post some short things for the communal sites, like dVerse Poets Pub. (You see, I’m already waffling.)  But I really am going to try to force myself to focus on my bigger projects.

Thanks for any good wishes coming my way!  And thanks so much for past support.


 PS – if you are from dVerse Poets Pub, the link I posted for Open Link night can be found here.

Nanowrimo Up…. Date? (Made It Through Thanksgiving)

November 28, 2010


So, what time is it?

What day is it again?

Some day at the end of November.

Thanks have been given without unpleasant incident.  Even as I say that, my ever gloomy mind comes up with mishaps and disappointments that loomed large a couple of days ago (a child who couldn’t make it, a parent who fell en route to a video call).  Even so, the holiday came and went with no regret for never having mastered the Heimlich maneuver, and with a fair amount of tap and other dancing.   That has to count as a win.

Speaking of “winning,” I amassed today the 50,000 word count for “victory” in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month.)  I cannot pretend to have written a novel,  but only a relatively large number of words.  This may account for the lack of ebullience, I feel today (whatever day it is).

Still, I have learned something important this Nanowrimo month:  that I, that you, that probably almost all of us, have a lot more free time and imagination than we generally think we do.

My gloomy side chimes in: ‘yes, and possibly we have a lot less time than we think as well.’    (Darn you, gloomy side!)

So, what time was that again?  Time to get going.


Nanowrimo Update – Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Nanowrimo Participant At Thanksgiving (And Pearl)

Finally, a free day (well, putting aside chopping, cooking, washing dishes, socializing and trying to get some air!)

What I truly mean is that I am getting down to the wire with my Nanowrimo novel and I should focus today on upping the old word count.

(Nanowrimo, if you are new to this notion, is National Novel Writing Month–a time when would-be novelists/masochists devote themselves to their dream activity.  Sort of.)

The problem is that I suddenly can’t summon the will.

Is it Writers’ Block crashing down? The other side of the ManicD equation?  Simple fatigue?

Is it the fact that I find myself in the middle of a family gathering, with an expectation that I will do something other than work on my computer?

Is the old September NYT crossword at my side really so fascinating?

All of the above is true.

But, oddly, the main cause of my current withdrawal is a kind of success.  As I wrote a couple of days ago, I finally discovered the connection between the disparate characters in my nanowrimo novel, a connection that has some kind of emotional “rightness” (if not, resolution.)

This connection has taken the manuscript (the potential manuscript) to a whole different level.

All of this is good (I guess), but also daunting.   Suddenly, the proposed novel does not feel so much like a what-comes-next game, a free-fall through the unconscious, but a project.  Something that could be worthwhile if I could just devote about a year or more to it.

The coincidence of Thanksgiving brings me to the only helpful response I can come up with:  isn’t the human mind amazing?  All those nooks and crannies where stories, characters,types, lurk.   I readily admit that mine are all stolen–from life, reading, the heard, experienced; only somewhere in this dreamlike process of making one’s self write madly, a mishmash has occurred, a regrouping.

I don’t know if I will have the luck or drive or year (or so) that it will take to actually write the novel that started through this rather random exercise.   It’s another huge leap of faith to think that anyone will read it!   Still, something to be thankful for.

Nanowrimo Update – The Saving Sidelong Glance – Tips For the Headlong

November 23, 2010

What's Going On There?

Like Pearl, I have great faith in the sidelong glance.

When her legs are working, she uses it mid-charge, mid-frolic.  It’s a feint.  She darts to one side and then another, then absolutely stops, her gaze fixed at an intense angle away, then whoosh, starts up again in what seems (to her, at least) an unanticipated direction.

When the legs are stiff, there’s the more passive sidelong glance.  This one that comes from the apparently resting Pearl, the glance that secretly watches the kitchen, always always always on the look-out for the opening of the fridge door, and then, for that distinctive swoop of cheese.

What I’m talking about here are ideas.  How to get them when novelling, especially when doing headlong unplanned novelling; when in other words, you are stalled.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a bit stuck in my “novel”; the bi-furcated plot refusing to “unfurcate,”  my two sets of characters on separate, unfeeling, trajectories–never, it seemed, would the twain meet.

And then, finally, yesterday having just passed through the old Helmsley building trying to shut out the sounds of UPS’s morphed version of “That’s Amore”, having just congratulated myself on my maturity for not checking my email when walking–I glanced it: the connection–closer than Kevin Bacon–and more importantly, with emotional heft.

I kept walking, not really daring to think–well, of course, I was thinking furiously–like Pearl darting around, but all the time also trying to keep my peripheral mental vision clear.

Sidelong ideas creep over the edges of consciousness unexpectedly,  the “eureka” moment often surprisingly off-point.


  1. If you want an idea to swoop down, you have to leave an open runway, that is, a brain that is not actively digitalized.
  2. When I don’t want to just wait for an idea to just swoop down, I find it helpful to think of random images of characters, and especially, dialogue.  Yes, I do go through repeated plot possibilities, but these can have a very arbitrary feel.  I am more successful (or at least excited), when I just let myself hear characters talk.   Amazingly, all kinds of flashes of people and dialogue will arrive, which are somehow “writeable” even if I don’t know yet exactly how they will fit in.
  3. It is also helpful to give characters certain physical and vocal characteristics based on people I know, even if the characters are not really like these people.  (They grow farther and farther away as the story progresses.)
  4. The sidelong doesn’t really like the “headlong” – either the rush of the intensely driven, or the overly-cerebral.   Try to be a little less pragmatic with your characters; let them have a little space, wasted time.  (Don’t tell them you may cut all of that.)

Nanowrimo Update: Adrift

November 22, 2010


Another  busy work week begins and my Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) novel is seriously adrift.  Fulfilling the word count (50,000) by the end of November will likely be possible.   As any follower of this blog has probably guessed, I’m pretty good at quickly typing words.

Getting the story right, getting A story,is more difficult.

On my last update, I complained about the plot problem of arranging for  “California Girl” (who was not truly from California but has been staying in LA) to meet up with my other crew of characters traveling through Nevada.

Everything was happening too slowly.   The Nevada crew was not getting to LA fast enough to have their crisis there.

The bigger issue is that I haven’t been sure of the connection between the two sets of characters  even as I’ve danced between the two stories, writing them in one manuscript, in typical Gemini indecisiveness.  (Sorry, to you decisive Geminis.)

What to do?  I couldn’t just leave California Girl eating corn dogs on Venice Beach.

After a long walk below a clear sky, it became clear to me that California Girl was just going to have to be in Nevada; and since I couldn’t think of a reason for her to run off there, she’d have to be there all along; be, in other words, “Nevada Girl” right from the start.

(At least, I thought this had become clear.  The sky is a bit cloudy today.)

In the meantime, my Nevada crew has also stalled.   I am at the point of writing endless dialogue, thoughts, internal connections–something that would be Woolfian if I did it better–even as they race to an ambulance!

Maybe it’s a good thing I have to get back to other work today.

If these characters can’t make up their mind where they are or what they are doing, let them just stew for a while!  See if I care!  (Ah….good question.)

Nanowrimo Update: The Quandary of the Corn Dog

November 21, 2010

Corn Dog?

Agh!  Everything changes.

Especially when you are writing a novel in a month.

Which brings me to being a Gemini (the sign of the twins, twins encapsulated in a single person).  I do not particularly believe in astrology as a means of foretelling the future–at least not since the big stock market crash in 2007 which was totally NOT foreseen by Jonathan Cainer.   Nonetheless, I have always found myself to be an absolute down-to-the-bone Gemini:  quick, shallow, communicative, changeable, inveterately bi-tasking.

The propensity to do two things at once is reflected consistently in my fiction writing.  Almost every manuscript I’ve ever written, whether for children or adults, tends to be told in two voices, the perspective of two characters.  I can’t somehow stick to one track; as a result, I’ve grown to like the kind of interchange that two different points of view, or even stories, provides.

But when you are writing a novel without much of a plan, and with limited imagination, this kind of structure can be a problem.  In my current nanowrimo manuscript, for example, one of my two subplots has become quite a bit more compelling than the other.  I just haven’t quite gotten the gist of the other one yet:  who are these people?  What are they doing with each other?

They started out in a suburban house in Sherman Oaks, California (part of LA).  The swimming pool went green; one decided to leave, the other tied her to a chair.  She has escaped now to a motel in Venice Beach.

But this move to Venice Beach really is too early in terms of the other subplot–that’s the crew traveling through Nevada, troubled by modern art (among other things.)

So what now?  While California girl is in Venice, she has to DO something.  She can’t just sit there awaiting the arrival of characters she’s never even met!  And, btw, I realized today, she is also  going to need a whole different past, and a whole different vocation, a basic remodeling.

So, once more, now what?  Do I just forget about California girl for a while, give up my typical back and forth, and focus on the guys in Nevada?  Do I go back and re-write California girl’s whole first half, move everything forward (or backward)?    This makes a certain sense, but would probably require me to give up whatever unconscious structure has happened in the initial writing.

Alternatively, do I come up with something new and exciting for California Girl to do right now?  At the moment, all I’ve been able to come up with is the eating of corn dogs.

(In case, you don’t know, these are hot dogs on a stick, dipped into corn meal, deep fried.)

Not somehow enough.

Nanowrimo Update (Pearl Anxious For Computer Credit)

November 20, 2010

Pearl (Not In A Chair) Urging Me Back To Computer

Hey, Guys!   Don’t think just because I’m not posting about it much that I’m not working on my Nanowrimo (National Writing Month) novel.

I am!

The problem is that, during the work week, I find it much easier to write the manuscript by hand.  This is going to be a big problem as the end of the month approaches and I need to upload my 50,000 words onto the Nanowrimo website to get credit.  (Remember–this project is not about writing a novel draft in a month, it’s about getting credit for writing the draft!  What’s the point if you are not some kind of “winner?”)

Whether I’ll get everything typed in time, I have to say that I am enjoying the process.

The novel involves two sub-plots–one of which is unfolding in Nevada right now, the other in Southern California.  The plots are supposed to blend together at some point, but each has gotten more and more delayed and unrelated to the other.  The people traveling in Nevada, for example, seem ready to have their plot’s crisis right there.  The girl in California has already been through a kind of crisis, without even knowledge of her Nevada brethren (who aren’t, of course, actually from Nevada but New York.)

Getting out of Nevada has taken so long that I’m probably going to skip Las Vegas completely.  (This is kind of dumb as Las Vegas and its environs are the only parts of Nevada I have even a vague sense of.)

And Bill, the character that California girl has just ditched, seemingly permanently, is one of the more colorful characters in the book.  (He tied California girl, who is not in fact from California, in a chair, then to a chair.  I won’t say what she did back.)

Hopefully, this weekend, Pearl and I can get back to the computer version.  (Pearl acts like she’s noncompetitive, but it’s really just a pose.)

Nanowrimo (Back on the Computer!)

November 16, 2010

Eyes still a little sore, but back on the computer (also on the elephant)

Back to typing my Nanowrimo novel on the computer rather than only writing in a notebook.  This is a tremendous relief.

A kind of obstacle had formed in my brain–that I could not go back to writing the novel on the computer until I had typed up the forty or fifty pages I had scribbled in my notebook.  But this morning, I finally got myself back to writing on the computer again, simply picking up from my handwritten portion.

Don’t get me wrong.  I very much like notebooks.  Ink has a unique flow.

Ink has a unique flow.

But typing up a very scribbled draft that you don’t have time to edit is pretty stomach-churning.  (Maybe “sickening” is a better word–”churn” has drama; robotic typing is dull dull dull.)

The problem is that an exercise like National Novel Writing Month requires stamina.  This stamina rarely comes simply from discipline.  (Otherwise, you’d probably be the kind of person who puts all their focus on their day job.)

At least a part of the stamina is maintained by faith–faith in one’s self, but, more importantly, faith that the activity is somehow fun.

The invention, the engagement, usually qualifies.  Typing words you have already written, in contrast, is like watching a video of yourself at a party at which you were more than a teeny bit over-exuberant.  (Or worse, completely spiritless.)    Either way, it’s way better the first time around.

Nanowrimo – Week 2 – Coasting Through the Bogs (Baths)

November 9, 2010

Would-be Coasting (Notice Book Is Read Rather Than Written)

Nanowrimo organizers warn that the second week of Nanowrimo is especially hard, the exuberance of the first week draining, the adrenalin of the oncoming finish not quite kicking in.

I figured these warnings didn’t apply to me;  after all. my first week wasn’t exactly exuberant.  No, now that I finally had my story, I would coast.

But when I got home from work last night, I had all kinds of non-coasting activities to attend do.

An idea for a blog!  Sure, I wasn’t going to actually write one, but get Pearl to help me.  That shouldn’t take long.  (Ahem.)

Then, well, I should really keep on exercising.  Since country music figures in the novel, I’d dance!  To Dolly Parton!  (Downloading some was a snap.)

OMG–look at you, Pearl!   Yes, it’s a bit cold tonight, but it’s not getting warmer.

Bathwater was run.  No point in a bath without a trim.

Then (I’m not completely heartless) came an hour of holding a shivering Pearl in a down parker next to a heater.

It was getting very late now, and I realized that the time for coasting was sliding down a very slippery slope.)

I would take my notebook into the bath.  (This is one of the best features of sore computer eyes.)

Oops, had to clean the tub.

Okay, so, I told myself, if you are not going to coast, you can at least be workmanlike.  (It’s true that maybe the bath is not the most workmanlike writing studio, but I did have an extra towel handy.)

I set down to writing the scene I had in mind.  Only the country music had put a bunch of other scenes in my mind.  Scenes from further along.

I set down to writing the scene that was supposed to come next.  Only I just couldn’t bear to write that scene–a kind of dinner party–and jumped straight to the after-party late night confrontation between an ancillary villain and one of my female protagonists.  I was going to fit some good (ancillary) character to help her out, not because I felt the young woman needed to be helped so much but because I had a great idea for a snipy kind of line that one of these ancillary characters might use against the villain.  (It involved the Dia Foundation!)

And finally set pen to page.  Only, as I wrote the scene, the dialogue was incredibly sweet, too sweet for the villain.

A couple pages in, I converted him to to one of my male protagonists. an important good guy.   (Who, unfortunately, would not refer to Dia.)

Oh well.

In the meantime, Pearl parked under the down parka, having had enough of Week 2.

And it's only Monday!