New Fav TV Series – Time Team

Alright. I know I am four years (or 24 years) behind the times here. But I only recently discovered a marvelous British documentary series called “Time Team”. I’m sure it is marvelous to anyone interested in history, especially British history. The show aired from January of 1994 to September of 2014, but with my recent discovery of it, it has shot up to be my new favorite TV series. Each episode has professional archaeologists who go to various locations on a three-day dig (although some of the sites are on-going digs). The totally fun part of it is that “Baldrick” (from Blackadder, a Brit comedy from the 1980’s; aka actor Tony Robinson) is the narrator.

This week on Episode 51 of “Time Team” I learned for the first time about Doggerland. This was a land mass between Scotland and Denmark and the Netherlands before England-Scotland-Whales became an island. The fertile and populated Doggerland was flooded first by a tsunami about 6,000 BC, followed soon after by rising ocean levels from the last glacial retreat of the Ice Age.

Hearing about Doggerland for the first time made me feel like it was a fantasy world, only it was real. It also made me feel stupid for never having heard of it before. And, oh, but what a lovely diversion I have from NaNoWriMo.

I’m a little behind in my word count (of the 50,000 word goal for the month), but I seriously hope to finish my next War Unicorn novel by then, at least the rough draft of it, at least if I can be disciplined to write and not be glued to “Time Team”!

NaNoWriMo Prep and Promoting Books

This is the last day before NaNoWriMo 2018. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, although it’s gone international now, and encourages adult writers to produce 50,000 words on a new story in the 30 days of November. This will be my 10th year participating.

Personally, November is a horrible month to choose for pounding out 50K raw words (rough draft). There are holidays and family visits and company coming for 1/4 of the time and dear hubby’s birthday and, of course, one less day than half of the months of the year. Yet! What a writing challenge.

I used to cheat to get in my 50K, or about 17,000 words per day, and counted any writing, including letters and journaling pages. I don’t do that now. At least I try to focus on the one and only story I’m working on. O, discipline. It is so hard for me!

For my NaNoWriMo preparation, I have the characters already known to me (from three previous books in the series), but I’ve written out plot scenes on 3″ x 5″ cards and rubberbanded them into three acts. I’m all set to TAM (Type Away Madly). O, discipline. I feel the most prepared this year for NaNoWriMo than I have any previous year.

Besides focusing on NaNoWriMo, I had professional author photos taken for the first time yesterday. After ten books, I thought it was time for this. I normally hate being on “that side” of the camera, but it was so much fun–all outdoors, naturally. And my photographer, Dena Haas, is amazing. I can’t wait to see the results, and to share them.

I also have ongoing book promotion and marketing to keep on top of. SCBWI is featuring kids’ books published in 2018. I’m supposed to promote not only mine, but help others out as well by promoting theirs. It started last week and goes through November. I figured I’d let the wave of enthusiasm flow over me, and then in a week or so, when people fade out of promoting, I’ll get in there to market and promote some, all while writing 1,700 words a day and loving spending time with my family.

You writers: write. You readers: support your authors and buy their books, and review them, too. Come on, November. I’m ready for you.

 

Blabber File – Raw Writing

From mid-November into the first week of January is the hardest time for me to find time to write. (Exception: visiting family or vacations) Why, oh, why does NaNoWriMo fall in this time? But any time is a good time for fellow writers to give each other a push, even busy times.

Yesterday our company left. Today I’m doing a ton of laundry and also setting up Christmas decorations. YET, this morning, I found time to do some precious raw writing – that is, rough draft blabbering –  on my WIP story. It felt incredibly good! Maybe that’s one of the reasons I write. When I’m thinking about the story, or typing madly away on it, knowing that about 3/4 of the stuff I think or write will be deleted, I get so excited about the story and the characters.

I actually look forward in January to looking over this (unfinished) WIP and chopping away pages and pages. Mind you, I don’t feel those deleted words were a waste of effort. Sometimes going off-track frees my brain to be thinking outside my box (story outline), and often very strange and wonderful things happen.

So I hope you are blabbering away, doing your raw writing, knowing that soon the bad will be tossed and the good, kept.

Keep on writing.

Survivalist Skills, Research, NaNoWriMo

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a day learning how to skin a rabbit and tan its hide. Yesterday I spent most of the morning learning about saltpeter – mining and leaching and how to turn it into explosives. The paranoid part of me worries that these survivalist skills will be noted by concerned government watchdogs. The winning part of me knows I need to know these skills if I am to write about them. Write what you know.

Now I must admit that I never actually skinned a rabbit, and I never actually mined for potassium nitrate, and I really ought to have been putting more words in my NaNoWriMo project, but I spent hours on the internet doing research – for my WIP (story). My story takes place in a pre-electricity fantasy world. There are cities, of course, and fortresses, and an agrarian culture, but what if I stuck my characters not in the city, nor working on a farm, which I have? The in between wilderness is where they need to survive, so I spend my days with bloodied and charcoaled hands, but not in reality as would be much, much better, but only in research. I do know the ultra-soft feel of rabbit fur and leather against my cheek, and I have walked through a saltpeter mine in Mammoth Cave, so I’m not flying completely blind on what I research or write about.

Writing Tip: Write what you know, but also prepare to spend many more hours in research for even the briefest reference in your book.

Now, back to writing for NaNoWriMo – I’m at a sloppy 15K now. (Whoo-hoo.) Only 35,000 more words to go by November 30th. Keep on writing!

 

NaNoWriMo 2015 is on it’s way to a keyboard near you

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past six years. NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month, offered each November. I just signed up once again to do this remarkable-and-stress-filled month-long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s approximately 1,700 words each day of November.

Because I completed the rough draft of two of my books (The Town That Disappeared and War Unicorn) through WriMos of the past, and because I have an awesome and encouraging critique group who are also participating, I dive in once again.

I remember standing on the edge of the deep end of pools, dipping my foot in the water, affirming it was colder than the air temperature, and still taking in a deep breath and diving in. I know if I were to instead, go to the shallow end and walk to chest-deep water before going under, it would take me ten times longer to finally submerge and start to swim.

So it is with writing (for me). I appreciate the writing challenge. It both terrifies me (because I’ve done it before), and pushes me to satisfactory conclusions.

With The Town That Disappeared, I struggled. I’d thought about writing this story for four years before I used NaNoWriMo to force me to pound the words out on a keyboard. That month, I added rambling thoughts about the book, about the characters, about my frustration. I also included some of the writing challenges. I counted all those in the word-count to make it to the 50,000 word goal by November 30. In January of the following year, I deleted all the blabber and cut back the story to the essential. That was 3,000 very good words. Over the next few months, I revised and rewrote and built it back up to 27,000 to be the middle grade historical fiction it is. But I could never have gotten there without the NaNoWriMo push.

So I challenge you, too, to take the plunge, and join NaNoWriMo. When you do, I am “sandycarl.” We can be writing buddies and encourage each other in this writing adventure.

How To Write When There Are Others Around, Part II — Some Solutions

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The problem: How to not be distracted when others are around, distracting you from writing.

The solution: I’m really not that vain to say there are solutions, but just hints of what might help you be less distracted. That being said, here are a few things which come to mind or which I’ve heard at writers conferences or in books or networking in general. But first a few general good writing habits:

1) Have the priority-attitude of actual writing time be important to you.

2) Take up the Book-in-a-Week phrases: BIC, HOK, TAM. (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard, Typing Away Madly)

3) If you have difficulty writing a whole novel in one sitting, do as Anne Lamott suggested in her book on writing, BIRD BY BIRD — break the task into smaller units. You don’t need to (nor can you) write a novel in a day, but you can write a page a day.

4) Have a writing space which you only use for writing — no reading, no emails, just plain ole writing.

5) Take breaks. Do mini exercises for your neck, arms, fingers, legs, backside, etc.

On to suggestions to limit or deal with external distractions of other people:

a. If you have young children, tell them when you have your writing cap on (get an actually cap specifically for this purpose), that you can’t be interrupted except in cases of emergency. I used to define “emergency” to my students as fire, blood or vomit, but you may quote your own definitions.

That lovely first suggesting being said, I need to add here that I have always felt that family ALWAYS comes first. The kids are young only once. In my family book, I mostly only wrote when they napped or watched “Sesame Street” or were at school. But by the time they started school, I went back to a paying career with energy sucking emotions which drained any writing enthusiasm. Still, family comes first.

b. Turn off the phone ringer, and refuse to answer your doorbell. Yep: hide and ignore.

c. One writer friend hired a baby sitter twice a week so she could write undistracted by her children.

d. Set a timer for your writing time — even just 15 minutes! This is for both for you and for your family members. Explain you MAY NOT be disturbed until the bell dings. And it’s probably a good idea to keep the timer near you just in case little hands like to play with time.

e. I want to say “shoot the ice cream man,” but I realize that sounds terribly wicked. You see, we have an ice cream truck which is driven S-L-O-W-L-Y through our neighborhood twice a day. Only a couple measures of a familiar child’s tune is played over and over and over again. Also in this category are the industrial strength leaf blowers and professional lawn care people next door. I think for this grouping, a good pair of headphones or ear plugs are in order. I know some people listen to tapes of white noise to filter out the outside distracting noise, but I could just type next to our air conditioner if I wanted that type of noise.

f. Family comes first. When your spouse wanders in and out, and in and out again, remember, family ALWAYS comes first.

Book-In-A-Week Boost

 Literature Blogs

I’m attempting to write every day during June — rather like NaNoWriMo. It’s going about the same as my exercise program — more sporadic than consistent, I’m afraid. I only wrote about 5,000 words last week.

HOWEVER, this month I signed up for Book-in-a-Week (http://book-in-a-week.com) to give myself that accountability shot in the arm I sometimes need.

For Book-in-a-Week, you set a goal of the number of pages you plan on writing during the week (usually the first full week of every month; 250 words = 1 page), and each evening you send in your report. 

My goal for this week is 50 pages. This morning I wrote nearly 11 pages. Pretty good, even if I say so myself. (And, no, Susan, I’m not speaking from being on medication. I really did write almost 11 pages.) My secret goal is to double that, only if I say that out loud, then I may just be making myself accountable.

I’ll write like crazy during June, then revise like crazy for the rest of the summer. Exciting stuff, this writing.

June Writing Challenge

 Literature Blogs

For a while now, I’ve had it in my mind to spend June doing “NaNoWriMo,” i.e., writing a novel during the month of June. So, therein lies my latest writing challenge: write a novel during the month of June.

After experiencing my first NaNoWriMo last November, I realized that most of the words I wrote during that month never made it into my finished project (which is now out to editors). For NaNoWriMo, it seemed mostly to be about the word count (quantity v.s. quality). This was fine, in that it kept me writing every day, or wishing I were writing every day — a discipline I sadly lacked.

Knowing my very odd schedule, I have decided to write a finished story during the month of June. It will be as long as it is, but for my own discipline, I am setting a goal of 10,000 words per week. This morning, I popped out of bed at 5:30, excited it was finally June first, so I could get to writing. I wrote nearly 5,000 words before putting out this challenge. I’m impressed with myself, and so much more left of today. But I’ve had this story bouncing around in my head for a few years now. During this month, I am giving it top priority (unless something unforseen happens).

If you wish to join me in my challenge, let me know so we can support one another.

BIC HOK TAM (The Book-in-a-Week phrases: Butt in Chair; Hands on Keyboard; Typing Away Madly)

Rewrites and Quick Revision Mode

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I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last November. I came up with about 37K words.

By the end of December I had 44K, finishing the story line.

Then started my “quick revision mode,” which means slashing and burning all irrelevant stuff, and building bridges to make a story arch.

The first week of January, I was left with 3K. Yep. That would be three thousand words, down more than 10,000. Permission to write dreck during NaNoWriMo left me with a skeleton at the rewrite stage, but a very nice skeleton.

Now, mid-February, I am up to 23K with three chapters to revise/rewrite.

Seems like my MG novel will be short even for a MG. When I’m “done,” after I sit on it for a while, I’ll get back to it again for some more rewrites and revisions. I hope to have this baby ready to be submitted by spring. That would be the shortest amount of time I ever spent on a book — not by hours, of course, but by days. Because I’m not working full time, I can spend a lot more time writing instead of spreading it out over years. Pretty cool.

The Writer’s Novel Marathon

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This fall I’ve been catching The Biggest Looser on reruns. It’s the first time I’ve watched the show. I was intrigued when a writer friend told me at our October conference that she faithfully watches the show each week and cheers the contestants on. Until that point, I never had the desire to see the show. Perhaps it was expanding my horizons into some new field. Perhaps it was caring about my friend’s health and to encourage her. I saw about half of the episodes, but enough to know the characters well enough. I got angry at the manipulations. The trainers’ yelling upset me. The personalities of the participants intrigued me.

Last night I saw (again, as a rerun on Hulu) episode 12, where the remaining 4 were sent home for 2 months on their own in the real world, and then were informed they had to run a 26 mile marathon, with no training.

Interestingly, I found that their marathon comments paralleled my book-writing, especially during my first NaNoWriMo, but also for any book I write. “I’m going to quit.” “I can’t jog any more ( but I’ll walk)” “I’ve never felt this much pain before.” (crying, almost delirious, but still jogging)

So what kept them going? What made them finish the race instead of giving up? One was determined to do the entire marathon running or jogging. He’d set his own mental goal — to finish, and how to finish — and succeeded. Two needed lots of encouragement from friends and mentors popping in at various mile points. One remained behind, with her partner throughout the show, to encourage him; for through their time on the ranch, he was the one who had constantly encouraged her; now he was the one who needed it.

There have been many times when I’ve wanted to give up on finishing a book. Either I know it’s awful, or it gets several rejections from editors and agents, or I’m distracted and not motivated in the least to write. I suppose part of the reason I tell people I’m a writer (even without book publication) is to hold myself accountable to write, to have people say to me, “So… how’s the book coming?”

I blog this now v.s. working on my NaNo novel, a book I actually like a whole lot, with characters I find very interesting. I’m spending too much time at this here “watering station.” I need to move on keep in the writing marathon.

And, thanks, my friends, for all your encouragements along the way.