NaNo’Ers, I’m With You in Spirit

October 28, 2013

Although I usually take one year to “recover” between attempts at NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at November the same way again.

This year, I’m on “recovery,” still working on the novel I pounded out last November (I’ve discovered that novels written in a month take two years to revise). But as November draws nearer, NaNoWriMo is still very much on my mind. On Wednesday night (October 30), I’ll be leading an online chat about NaNoWriMo at New Moon Girls, which is free for members. I’m also leading, “So, You Want to Write a Novel?”, a webinar for girls ages 8-14, in which I’ll share some of my tips for writing and finishing novels.  Girls need not be members of New Moon to attend. The webinar is offered twice — once on November 5 and once on November 7. If there’s a girl in your life who is tackling NaNoWriMo or novel-writing in general, send her my way!

As for me, I’ll be finishing up my Dark Crystal submission in November, while a friend is working on producing one short story a week. May this November find you keeping the winter writing spirit in your own way!


Free Writing Ebook from Scribendi

June 7, 2013

business writingSince early 2009, Scribendi, an online editorial services company, has been one of my most steady freelance clients. The experience of working for them has only improved over the years, as they’ve raised wages and begun offering other juicy incentives for helping out during especially busy times or receiving positive feedback on an order. But perhaps one of the things that has impresses me most about Scribendi is their dedication to improving their clients’ writing. This isn’t an organization that wants to keep clients dependent on their services; it’s one that believes it can be most valuable by guiding clients to become stronger writers on their own … even if that means they might eventually outgrow Scribendi’s services.

Along those lines, Scribendi is currently putting together a series of writing ebooks. Their first one, Effective Business Communication, has just been released. Most of us have probably had days at work where we hit “send” too soon on an email or CC’d the wrong person, causing embarrassment at best or downright humiliation or harsh reprimands at worse. We’ve had days where we’ve stared at a blank screen, inert at the thought of beginning that big report or grant proposal or marketing plan (I’ve had tasks stay on my to-do list for weeks, not because of lack of time, but because of how daunting the blank screen is.) Since most professions require written communication of some sort, this book can be helpful to anyone who has a job or is looking for one. And for a few days, you can download it for free. Enjoy!

My Last Day of One Job, Embarking on Another

May 3, 2013

Yesterday was my last official day as Teen Services Librarian for the Marshall-Lyon County Library. My heart is sort of breaking over it–I loved that job so much, but it was a two-hour commute, one way, once a week. I’m still processing all of that, and might blog about it more extensively, but for now, I’m working on a new writing “job” to help take my mind off it. I’ve started doing the weekly exercises in Sheila Bender’s A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self Discovery. Before embarking on them, she encourages you to “hire” yourself as a journal keeper. I found this exercise very empowering, because it allowed me to reflect upon how freakin’ qualified I am for the job. I definitely encourage other writers to try it. Below are some of my entries from the exercise, consisting of the Job Posting, My Application Letter, and the Interview.

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NaNoWriMo: Week Two

November 12, 2012

I’m finally crawling out from beneath a pile of laundry and trying not to be too dismayed by the fact that only half my to-do list is accomplished and that I haven’t earned a single penny today (except for some residual income from Demand Studios — thanks, Demand!). I’m trying to go easy on myself and remember that it’s always like this when I take a trip and am out of contact with my “real life” for a few days. The good news is, airplanes are a great place for finishing books, and airports with three-hour layovers are a great place for writing them!

I got back last night from the Call To Action conference in Louisville, Kentucky, where I helped organize a panel about Young Adult Catholics and social justice based around Hungering and Thirsting for Justice. The panel went very well, the room was full, and the hour flew by. A few of my “Church Justice Heroes” attended. We sold some books and even signed some autographs. And I took home six more copies of the book for gifts and promotional purposes. I sense a Goodreads giveaway coming on

Of course, it’s still November, so my primary writing commitment remains to NaNoWriMo. I missed two days for the conference, but three-hour layovers on both my travel days helped my word count stay healthy. The experience is not as ecstatic as it was during the first week, however. Rather than making long lists of scene ideas the way I was last week (which I’ve burned through already), I end each writing session hoping I can come up with one more scene to start the next day off with. I told myself that November 15th was the Prince’s deadline for coming on the scene, but I had to bring him on the scene while in an airport on November 8 because plot development ideas were becoming scarce. Hopefully he’ll breathe a bit of new life into that lonely ol’ tower!

Still, there are a few things that have contributed to this year going more smoothly, so far, than my last few years.

  1. I’m doing a retelling of Rapunzel, which means the basic story arc is already there. So that takes the pressure off plot a bit, and makes even a first draft feel a little bit like revision.
  2. Rapunzel seems particularly suited to telling her own story, considering that she probably had a lot of time on her hands being locked in a tower and all. So the story is structured a bit like a journal, and being a veteran journal-keeper myself, I know how messy and tangential they can be. This format works perfectly for NaNoWriMo, since creating a linear story can be eschewed for a more “stream-of-consciousness” one.
  3. I held off on writing anything for a month beforehand, and I’ve had this book percolating for over three years. When November 1 hit, it was ready to start spilling out.

I’ve also found this handy online timer which I’ve been using for my writing sessions (I set it for 45 minutes first, and if I don’t meet my word count by then, for another 15). I have an egg timer, but I can save maybe a whole minute (and bust out about 50 words!) by not walking to the kitchen to get it.

Also, I learned that Chris Baty has these awesome writing posters that my new office will surely want on its walls. Christmas list, anyone?

Alarm Clocks and True Presence

August 13, 2012

Recently, I finished Kathleen Norris’s Acedia and Me: Monks, a Marriage, and A Writer’s Life. In it, she talks briefly about the common excuse people give about not having “time” to write. She dismisses this, claiming that the true artists arrange their life in such a way that they make time for their craft. I have to agree with her, as I think about my younger sister, who always seems to be juggling more than one job, who never gets enough sleep, and who nonetheless manages to prolifically produce art in her garage. It also reminded me of a post I read on She Writes about how beneficial using an egg timer can be in finding/making time to write.

Joanne argues her case well; in particular, I like what she says about imagining that the timer is her “boss” who might stop by any time to make sure she’s working. I’ve found alarm clocks and timers to be incredibly beneficial to my writing, especially during times when quantity is more important than quality (NaNoWriMo, when I’m on the home stretch of a first draft and just want to wrap the darn thing up already). There’s something about the timer that takes the pressure off. I make it about time rather than about talent; I tell myself, “All I have to do is make it to the ding of that timer.” I don’t have to write 1,000 words. I don’t have to write a complete scene. But that time is going to pass no matter what, and even when writing is excruciating, it’s more interesting than staring at a blank screen or out the window for an hour. And what often begins feeling like drudgery quickly becomes so immersive that I jump with surprise when the timer does go off and pulls me back into the world.

There’s one thing Joanne doesn’t cover in her post that, for me, is one of the biggest advantages of using timers and alarm clocks for writing. And that’s that it allows me to be fully present. We live in such an overscheduled world that I think we’re in a constant state of distraction, always wondering in the backs of our minds what time it is; checking the clock can become both a mode of procrastination and an obsession. When I have a timer running, I know someone else is keeping track of that time. I know that when an allotted amount of time has passed, the device will notify me. So time becomes of no concern, and that’s incredibly liberating.

That’s why I use alarm clocks not just for writing, but for almost everything. I set them for when I should be heading out after lunch with a friend, so that I can spend all my time with that friend listening to her and not glancing at my watch. I set them when I’m in danger of squandering a whole afternoon digging through a used book shop. I set them when I’m rewarding myself with half an hour of reading time.

We all get the same amount of hours in the day. But I think we can get more done if we let go of the responsibility of keeping track of every minute of them.

Free the Apostrophe –

May 18, 2012

An infographic about the correct usage of the apostrophe that is more fun than the text link I used the other day.

Free the Apostrophe –

National Poetry Writing Month: Magnetic Poetry

April 27, 2009

Not feeling very intrinsically inspired to write poetry last night, I finally whipped out the magnetic poetry for some help:

National Poetry Writing Month Magnetic Poetry, April 26, 2009

National Poetry Writing Month Magnetic Poetry, April 26, 2009

Poems always look more fun as magnets, but in case that image is too blurry, this is the poem:

This storm is

hard music

to face:

A metal rain hurricane.

Water kisses fire;

naked smoke sizzles,

only teasing

the velvet wildflower

beneath your microscope.

I was up way too late doing this last night; I always forget how LONG it takes to make magnetic poetry, especially since I have a fairly large set. In addition to the official MagPo artist, romance, rock&roll, and erotic sets, I also have a set that came with my magnetic poetry journal and various sets not manufactured by MagPo, including a “faith” set, lots of Valentine’s Day sets, and, my personal favorite, some biology-themed set from my former room-mate. I love having words like “genome” and “DNA” in my repertoire even though it’s hard to find uses for them (you can thank that set for the “microscope” used above). Suffice it to say, these sets can make for some rather . . . interesting magnetic poetry combinations.

If you’re feeling inspired, you can now play with magnetic poetry online. If you make a poem, leave it in the comments!