Saturday, November 30, 2013

NaNoWriMo: A hot mess first draft

I'll say this about my favorite November exercise, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month: Being done in 50,000 words is far from being done. This year's effort is a hot mess, the sort of mess that makes me think it might be easier to just begin the revision in a couple of weeks with an entirely clean slate.

My validated count for the month was 50,179 words.  Of that, I'll count myself lucky if a third of it actually makes it into the final draft. But the final draft is yet to come. There will be many revisions between now and then.

And that's also the beauty of NaNoWriMo. I discovered a couple of things about my novel as I was writing this month. Chief among them, I kept hopping around, starting a scene here, abandoning it because it wasn't working and starting another scene. My general thinking was along the lines of: "Well, if I go down that path here, then that will pose an issue there."

It finally dawned on me -- today! -- what the problem is. It's not that the scenes don't work. I spent the month trying to make characters do things in places (literally settings) that weren't working. That's when I finally realized that I have a fatal logistical issue in the setting. Finding that out now is much, much better than discovering it down the road, closer to when the manuscript is actually due.

As I write this, there are less than five hours left (East Coast time) for NaNoWriMo 2013. My 50,000 words are done, but the novel is far from complete.

So now the hard work begins. I need to revisit where the protagonists live and work. I need to sort out how a pivotal secondary character is going to play in the overall story arc. I need to brainstorm some better titles than my working one. But mostly, right now, what I need to do is ...


My official word count (as of validation) is 50,179 words. I say as of validation, because since there are a few writing hours left, I'll continue. But right now, this minute, I'm going to jump up and do the happy dance!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Writing Prompt Friday #4

It's Friday! It's Friday!

Did you have a tough week? Thanksgiving with the relatives get you down -- or get you inspired? Well, here are some prompts to propel those story ideas. Have at it.

This week's focus: word prompts. Use the word prompt in your piece or use the word as a theme for your writing. Not sure what to write? Consider a letter to the 16-year-old you, or the 90-year-old you.

Ready? Set. Write!

Word prompt:  Sorrowful

Word prompt:  Fate

Word prompt:  Imperceptible

Word prompt:  Chance

Word prompt:  Disguised


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Yummy Thanksgiving 'dinner'

Ever wonder what Thanksgiving dinner looks like in a newsroom? This is it!  :)

Thankfully, I'm out the door in about an hour and will head to a friend's house for turkey, dressing and the usual trappings of Thanksgiving.

I brought in the lemon cake, the copy desk chief brought the cupcakes and the cheese/salami tray. And one of the editors who is off today just popped in with his kids to leave the newsroom a dozen hot and fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Yes, Mr. Treadmill, I'll be visiting you tonight!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Sharp eyes will spot jigsaw puzzle pieces and know just where this table is located and what that's all about.

Discussion: Permission to write poorly

Each Thursday is a day for reflection and discussion. I'll post a quote or article or link to a piece that is fodder for discussion here in the comments. 
Today's Thursday discussion is about bad writing. You know, that cringe worthy stuff that makes you wonder why you ever thought you could write a short story or get to the end of a novel or draft a play or screenplay.

This quote from best-selling crime writer Lawrence Block is all about giving yourself permission to write that terrible stuff -- no matter what it is.

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”

—Lawrence Block, June 1981


How many people get stuck at the bad part and just give up, not knowing or realizing that the beauty and the perfection comes in the revision? This is one of the reasons I love National Novel Writing Month. The whole purpose is to get that dirty first draft down. Yes, it's a mess. Yes, characters wander on and off stage with no purpose and plot threads peter out like burned matches. Those are all the bones of the story. The craft comes in the revision and the polishing.

That's my two cents' worth. What do you think?


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Word by Word, Paragraph by Paragraph

Writing a novel is like working a jigsaw puzzle. When you begin a puzzle there are lots of pieces, a jumble of confusion. There's a picture on the box that shows you what it's supposed to look like in the end. But there are 1,000 pieces and many of them look the same. So, what do you do?

The answer is simple: just begin. You find one piece that connects to another, and another, and yet another. Before long the jumble of confusion begins to take shape. There may still be a lot of unconnected pieces, but you're a little surer of the direction. Sometimes you'll tryto force a piece in a place where it doesn't belong. But you don't throw away that offending piece. You simply put it aside for later.

So, how do you write a novel? Word by word and paragraph by paragraph.Think of it as a big jigsaw puzzle. With perseverance and determination the picture becomes complete.

Here now is the Day 2 progress on that jigsaw puzzle. It's taking shape ... just like your novel.

The puzzle is taking shape now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stress relief for journalists

How do you relieve stress? For many people, it's taking a walk or exercising or reading a good book. For some writers -- journalists in particular -- it's working a big jigsaw puzzle.

I bought from Barnes & Noble "One hundred penguins and a polar bear," a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle by Kevin Whitlark, and took it to work. Since this week is National Game and Puzzle Week, observed each year during the week of Thanksgiving, I thought that would be appropriate.  My biggest concerns were two-fold: that no one would work on it, and that people would steal the pieces. There's no way to know if pranksters have done or will do the latter, but the former stunned me! This is Day 1 of the puzzle being out, and there's been a constant stream of folks working on it.

There's some serious concentration going on here!

I'm a fan of Monopoly, Scrabble and all sorts of word games and puzzles like fill-ins, crosswords, word search and the like. What games and puzzles do you like to play or work?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Short Story Saturday (Nov. 23, 2013)

Welcome to the second Short Story Saturday. Each week I post prompts for you to create something: a short story, a poem, a journal entry, etc. I won't tell you to do something I don't do. So Short Story Saturday is to share a piece I wrote based on a prompt.

If you've written a piece from one of the Friday prompts, share it in the comments.

Here's another from 2010. This has a lot of promise as something larger. It's not a complete short story, more of a scene that really intrigues me although the prompt initially had me scratching my head wondering where to go with it.

What do you think?

Prompt:  Your character kept the secret in his toolbox
“Calling Clarence”

     From the first, Jamie knew the answer wouldn’t be in the house. Clarence would no more keep his secrets in his home than a crackhead would leave a rock with a friend. That left his car, his locker and his garage. The car she wouldn’t be able to search until he got home from working the double shift he’d signed on for. Jamie suspected the double’s name was LaToya, the counter clerk who worked midnights at the Zippi Mart.
Jamie worked first shift at the plant, and knew she could check his locker for the evidence in the morning. That just left one place for her to begin her search.
She grabbed a Mag-Lite and headed to the garage.
Three hours later, she stood in the middle of the concrete floor and cussed.
She’d looked in the cabinets, under the counter, under and in the workbench, through the shelves and behind the exercise equipment he never used. In the process, she’d found a baggie of high-grade marijuana, a First United credit union envelope with $640 in twenty-dollar bills and a box of condoms in a brand he never used with her.
Calling Clarence everything but a child of God, she stomped back to the house. She dropped the flashlight in the kitchen drawer where it belonged, then headed to the bathroom to shower off the grime, dust and cobwebs of her garage foray.
She turned on the shower and adjusted both the head and the water flow. It always took a minute for the hot water to warm up, so she pulled her shirt over her head. When the fabric cleared she turned to toss it in the hamper.
And there he was -- sitting on the toilet pointing a .22-caliber pistol at her heart.
“Is this what you were looking for?” he asked.
He had one booted foot propped on a toolbox jammed with screwdrivers and wrenches and nails and whatnot.
Jamie didn’t even blink. “How did you get in here?”
A small smile tilted the corner of his mouth. “The same way as always.”
“What do you want?”
“You know what I want?” he said.
She folded her arms across her chest, ignoring the water now pooling at her feet and the shower curtain flapping outside platform.
“Yeah, I know what you want. And guess what, you’re not getting it,” Jamie said.
This time, his smile was amused, sardonic.
He cocked the gun, “Oh, I think I am, Jamie.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Writing Prompt Friday #3

It's Friday. You know what that means! Are you ready for those prompts? Grab your laptop, your pen and paper, your crayons or whatever gets your creativity on.

This week we're looking at description and dialogue. Have fun!

Write a 2-page description of the following:
                A flower in first bloom.

Write a 2-page description of the following:
Darkness falling in your fictional world.

Write a 2-page description of the following:
                Your character viewing a sunrise or sunset

Write a 2-page description of the following:
                A kiss that is not romantic

Write a 2-page description of the following:
A fight or confrontation between two or more characters.

Dialogue: Use part of a conversation overheard in an elevator

Dialogue: Use part of a conversation overheard in Starbucks or coffeehouse

Dialogue:  “You are my guilty pleasure.”

Dialogue: “If I’d known then what I know now.”

Dialogue:  “The best things in life aren’t free.”