My One Takeaway From NaNoWriMo #MondayBlog


NaNo winner banner


Another NaNoWriMo is behind me.

Did I learn anything? Were there any takeaways?

Oh, sure. Planning is good. Plotting can be a friend… even to a pantser like me.

Maybe only character-driven writers will understand this, but all the planning and prepping in the world still guarantees you nothing.

I was plodding right along, words flowing like a cool stream, when all of a sudden, my beloved protagonist looks around with the malevolent grin of a serial killer and dumps a plot twist in my lap. (We’re still not speaking.)

Okaaaay. Now what?

I went with it.

The scene I was writing looked nothing like the one I sketched out six weeks ago. But, hey. Words were flowing… from somewhere, so I kept writing—and making notes.

I gave a cursory glance to my journal every morning, wondering if the completed scene would resemble what I’d planned in any way.

It didn’t.

But, I stayed with it, because that is the point of NaNoWriMo. Get the words out of your head and on paper…fifty-thousand of them at least.

I reached the halfway mark and wondered if Hemingway ever struggled like this. Then I realized he drank… and a glass of wine doesn’t sound bad. But should I drink it or give it to my protagonist?

Nah. I’m still not happy with her… the wine is mine.

After one glass of Sweet Red, I understand why Hemingway drank!

It gets you out of your own way. The wall of doubt and fountain of inhibitions fall and you write like you’re on fire.

Or maybe that was just me.

No, I’m not advocating drinking while writing. Our liver is our friend and unlike plots, we can’t get a new one with every manuscript.

But, a writer writes because they have to. It is a deep-seeded need that can only be fulfilled by putting words on paper. Anything else is unacceptable.

If you get hit with a dose of writer’s block, get out of your way. The characters didn’t change and the words remain the same. The problem is you.

Remember why you write.

Remember the freedom you feel.

Remember the sense of accomplishment you feel regardless of if it’s five, five hundred, or five-thousand words you leave on the paper.

It took me a couple of years to “get it” but the NaNoWriMo rule of no editing makes perfect sense. It makes me get out of my own way to just write. Of course, by doing so, I’m also giving my characters free reign, but that’s a completely different blog post.

I’ve spent the first three days of December making notes and moving things around in my MS, however, I’m putting it away until after the holidays. But sometime in January, I’ll have to decipher all those red squiggly lines and double blue lines, and wonder if I was typing in alien code.

And there may or may not be wine involved, because… Hemingway.

 

The Afghan #WritingChallenge


White afghan

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 46
Mid-way through NaNoWriMo2017 — YES! – and this is another unedited excerpt from my project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She smiled standing in her friend’s room. It was one hundred percent Rosie Chastain, appearing light and delicate, but held up by a solid sturdy foundation.

The ninety-year-old high-back rocking chair still sat in the corner. Made from thick oak by Rosie’s Uncle Preston, with pale pink cushions hand-sewn by his wife, Delia, it was Rosie’s special place. Whenever she had to sit and think about something, pray over something or someone, or collect her thoughts after a bad day, Rosie sat in the rocker.

Ana ran her hand over the smooth, glossy wood.

Next to the rocker was a massive nine-drawer dresser. Ana wasn’t sure what tree the dresser’s wood came from, but she remembered hearing workmen swear at the dresser’s weight when Rosie bought new carpeting and it had to be moved.

She opened drawers, not surprised at the order and neatness. Ana walked into the closet and was overwhelmed with memories of Rosie. The scent of the light jasmine and amber cologne Rosie loved was still in the air. Nurse’s uniforms, surgical scrubs, and lab coats took up a full third of the closet. Ana looked through the dress clothes, smiling at her friend’s love of silk.

She walked out of the closet and stood next to the large four-poster bed. Like the dresser, the bed was made from real wood and took four men to move it.

Sitting on the side of the bed, Analeigh buried her face in her hands.

Rosie was gone and now she had to get rid of these precious things.

How?

Jeff told her to leave anything she didn’t want in the house and the auction company would include it in their inventory and sale.

Ana didn’t think she could part with the bedroom furniture. She had no space for it in her modest two-bedroom condo back in Columbus, but these were the pieces Rosie loved and cherished most and they were important to Ana too. She would find premium movers and storage until she made decisions about her future.

Ana reached for her notepad and realized it was on the kitchen counter.

Headed for the kitchen, Ana stopped when she saw something behind the bedroom door. She closed the door to find a dark leather ottoman. It was large and square… and Ana had never seen it before.

Rosie must have bought it after Ana left Corwin.

She knelt for a closer look and saw the tiny brass hinges. Ana raised the ottoman’s lid and clutched her chest with a raspy gasp.

Her eyes filled with tears as she reached into the ottoman to retrieve the treasure.

Sitting on the floor, Ana hugged the one hundred percent Merino wool afghan. She rubbed her chin and cheek against it, incredulous it was still as baby soft as the day she and Rosie completed it.

 ~ ~ ~
Ana made a few bracelets and necklaces, but she never had the patience for jewelry making and working with crystal the way Rosie did. She had no passion for it. When a friend told Rosie about loop knitting and arm knitting, she thought they might be something Ana would enjoy, and it was a creative endeavor.

She was right.

Ana was thrilled when Rosie presented her with the bulky snow-white yarn. She watched the accompanying video four times over two days before she would even consider beginning her project.

On the third day, Rosie laughed as a giddy Ana dumped the first bag of yarn on the dining room table.

A small piece of paper clung to one of the skeins. Ana picked it up and read it. Her mouth gaped open as she backed away from the table.

“What’s wrong, Analeigh?”

Shaking her head, Ana opened her mouth to speak but the words didn’t come.

“Analeigh? What’s wrong, honey? You okay?”

Rosie took a step towards her, but Ana threw up her hands, the slip of paper clutched in her fist.

“You spent almost five-hundred dollars on yarn? For me? Rosie that’s crazy. You have to take it back.”

“Is that what has you so upset? The cost of the yarn?” Rosie waved her off. “The cost is not important, sweetie. The look in your eyes and the smile on your face is what matters. The sense of accomplishment you’ll have at trying something new… being creative, that’s how we grow. Accepting challenges. Now, calm down and let’s get-”

“No, Rosie. You have to take it back.”

“Stop talking nonsense, child. I’ll do no such thing. And haven’t I taught you it is rude to refuse a gift?”

Ana walked over to Rosie, lifted one of her hands and placed the receipt in it.

“Yes, you did, Rosie, but this is too much. I’m not worth it.”

Rage erupted in Rosie and her tawny brown skin glowed as heat suffused her body. She crumpled the receipt in her hand and stalked around the table. Her arms flailed, and her gaze darted around the room.

Analeigh Sellers took a step back, afraid Rosie would send her away and not be her friend anymore.

“I’m sorry, Rosie.”

The wiry old woman rushed to Ana, grabbing and clutching her to her chest.

The teen didn’t understand, but held on, not wanting to be sent away. When Rosie pulled back, Ana saw her face was wet with tears.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?”

She smoothed Ana’s hair down and cupped her cheeks in her hands.

“Some folks think the worst way to hurt a child is physically… beat on them, smack them around. But, sweetie, what’s been done to you is just as bad… worse in some ways.”

“I don’t understand.”

Rosie Chastain tilted her head toward the table.

“Child, if I spent ten-thousand-dollars on that yarn it was worth it to me to see you smile because you are worth it. You are important to me. You matter.”

Ana opened her mouth to argue, but Rosie stopped her.

“You can’t put a price on people, Analeigh, everyone has value. Everyone matters because they are here… alive. There isn’t one of us who is better or more worthy than anyone else. I know that to be true. I’ve seen a lot in almost seventy years on this earth, but I’ve never come across a person who was better than anyone else.”

Pain mixed with the confusion on Ana’s face and she looked away.

Rosie gently turned her head back to see her eyes.

“Child, I could tell you how special and worthy you are all day long, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.”

~ ~ ~

Ana wiped her eyes remembering that day. It took a little more time, but she soon learned to walk with her head held high. Because of Rosie Chastain.

~ ~ ~
For the next three weeks, Ana stopped by after school every afternoon, and she and Rosie worked on the afghan together. Methodically matching loops and rows.

On the last day, Ana locked the final stitch and the women complimented each other as they admired their handiwork.

“We’re pretty good, huh?”

“Child, you could sell this for twice what the yarn cost.”

“No way. I’ll never sell it.”

“Does my old heart good to hear that.”

Rosie ran her hand over the blanket.

“Just a month ago, this was piles of yarn, no shape or form, sitting on the store shelves waiting to be purchased. I bought the yarn and you, Analeigh, studied the process. You decided on a pattern and we worked together, keeping the blanket uniform…no loose ends. And now we have this beautiful creation.”

Ana admired her handiwork until she realized Rosie stopped speaking. She glanced in her direction only to find Rosie’s eyes locked on her.

“This blanket is you, Analeigh.”

Ana’s brow knitted in confusion.

“Your young life here… in this town, was just a pile of loose ends. No one tried to give you structure and guidance. They just grabbed a loose end and pulled. But you’re growing into a beautiful young woman and forging your own structure without anyone’s guidance. You’ve got the pattern, Analeigh, time to make your own creation.”

“If I did any of those things, Rosie, it’s because of you.”

“Oh, no, child. I was the shelter from the storm. We all need one sometimes, and we all act as one. You’ll be someone’s shelter one day too so they can have the opportunity to figure it all out. That’s all I did for you.”

“No, Rosie… it’s not. You gave me structure and guidance. And love. And Rosie you saved my life.”

Ana gathered the ends of the snow-white afghan and placed them in Rosie’s hands.

“That’s why I want you to have this.”

~ ~ ~
Ana closed the lid on the ottoman.
Rosie Chastain broke down in tears that day. Ana knew the spry senior citizen was fond of her, but she’d always felt Rosie acted more out of pity. A sense of dread stayed nestled close to her heart, fearing the day would come Rosie would no longer consider Analeigh worthy of her time.

The bond between the two friends was cemented that day. Ana knew she would leave Corwin and its suffocating judgment behind. Leaving Rosie Chastain wasn’t an option.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017
Image by jdurham

NaNo Diaries: POV #NaNoWriMo2017


Writing Banner


POV (point of view).

It can be a struggle, especially for authors still trying to find their ‘voice’… like me.

First person POV or alternating POVs among lead characters seem to be the standard or preferred. I read them, but I prefer Third Person Close because I like to know what everyone is thinking, not what someone assumes they’re thinking.

I’ve read books where I loved the second lead, all the BFFs, the parents, nosy neighbors… even the antagonist.

But the lead hero/heroine/protagonist?

Just wanted to push them into oncoming traffic.

And this character that I’ve come to loathe gets to tell me their story their way.

Meh.

Flip the script and  I cringe re-reading things I’ve written… the head-hopping is epic. It’s a fine line, and a struggle—writing that person, that character who gets to tell the whole story… as it relates to them.

And, make them interesting, likable, and flawed so at the very least readers won’t want to push them into oncoming traffic.

I give my characters a lot of room to tell their story.

But if I get annoyed… I’ll kill them off myself.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 11 word count – 1885

Total – 21,777 / 50,000

 

Keep Writing!

NaNo Diaries: Week 2 #NaNoWriMo2017


Writing Banner


It’s week two of NaNoWriMo2017.

Confidences are a bit shaky,

Doubt creeps in,

And November 30th looks a LONG way away.

I’m not worried about finishing, I’m just curious what the ‘finished’ product will look like.

The outline has already undergone drastic changes, and all I’ve done is write (and make notes).

The plot has not changed, but alliances, truths, and scenes have.

I’m intrigued! 😀

Time to get to today’s word count. Emotions are about to flare, and evil will drop by.

And I’ll probably change something. 😀

I’m about 4K ahead on word count and was considering slowing down… until a member of my Tucson-Nano group crossed the 51K mark.

Today.

On the NINTH day of the challenge.

mind blown

Day 8 word count -1801

Total – 16262/50000

 

Keep writing!

NaNo Diaries: Changes #NaNoWriMo


Writing Banner


Changes.

Every MS goes through them, especially in the editing phase.

I chatted with an author a couple of years ago who planned every aspect of her book, right down to the dialogue.

Everything.

Other than spelling and grammar, there were no changes.

I was in awe.

I have no clue what a book’s title will be until I reach midpoint in writing… mostly.

But this ultra-author knew in advance what her characters would do and say, plot twists, and the ending.

That’s an amazing superpower to have.

Yet, I don’t think it’s one I want.

As a character-driven writer, the voices in my head trip me up almost daily when I began a new MS.

Saturday, Day 4 of NaNoWriMo, two in-the-moment-characters stole scenes. And they were good.

Yesterday, Day 6 of NaNoWriMo, the protagonist took a walk into existentialism.

Wait, what?

It wasn’t planned, but it fit.

Will it stay? I doubt it.

But it did give me an idea for another WIP.

So, after six days of NaNo, I have nine scenes and 12K+ words written, FIVE pages of CHANGES, and an outline for a new WIP.

Didn’t see that coming.

Maybe it’s a different superpower.

Morpheus_Nano


NaNoWriMo Day 6 word count – 2037

Total – 12503/50000

Keep writing!

Nano Diaries: It Happened Again! #NaNoWriMo2017


Writing Banner


I knew it would happen. It always does, just not quite so early into NaNo.

My prep work included five characters:

The protagonist and her boyfriend,

The protagonist’s mother (the antagonist) and her lover,

The protagonist’s mentor.

There are a handful of tertiary characters necessary to move the story along, but nothing more.

The gruff, veteran chopper pilot was only supposed to give the heroine a ride to the commercial airport, but that was just too easy.

The second she’s in the chopper, I become possessed by a fictional character!

He takes over the scene spouting truths and wisdom which actually helped my heroine. I’m doing the typing, but a character I know nothing about is doing the talking. Weird. But, I let the dialogue stand… for now, and I got her out of that chopper!

She continues on her journey to say goodbye to a friend and confront her past when it all overwhelms her.

Fortunately, there’s a strategically placed tourist stand for her to pull over and collect herself.

The grandmotherly owner, who’s a dead ringer for Betty White, is supposed to ring up the heroine’s purchase…nothing more, when BAM! I’m again possessed by a fictional character!

What the…?

But grandma Betty is good, delivering her own wisdom that actually helps and puts the heroine in the right frame of mind for what’s coming.

It’s times like this I wonder why I bother to plan at all.

I have no idea who will show up next, but why should I? I’m just the writer… the characters are the boss of me.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 4 word count – 3125

Total – 8669/50000

Keep Writing!

#WritingChallenge #Week44


Sacrificial Daughter

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 44
NaNoWriMo lives! This unedited excerpt is from my 2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter.

Thirty minutes passed before Ana Sellers returned Jeff Russell’s call. Expecting a receptionist or machine, she was surprised when Jeff answered the phone.

“Russell and Peters, may I help you?”

“I’m returning a call to Jeff Russell.”

“Analeigh?”

Pulling the phone away from her ear, Ana stared at it, incredulous. He knew her? Sixteen years had passed since the day she left Corwin without looking back.

“You know me?”

You were a year ahead of me in school.”

The name still didn’t ring any bells so she would have to take his word for it.

“I see. And now you’re an attorney in Corwin.?”

“Yes, my cousin, Adam, and I took over the practice from our dads about seven years ago.”

“And… and why d-do you need to speak to me, Jeff? What is the urgency?”

Silence was his response.

“Jeff? Still there?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’ve been looking for you for over two weeks.”

“Please tell me what this is about and why you’ve been looking for me.”

She heard an exhale escape from him, gruff and harsh.

“Analeigh, Rosie Chastain passed away.”

Ana froze. Rosie? Gone? No. No way. She spoke to her dear friend… three weeks ago. Damn it. Rosie said she was coming down with a cold but was looking forward to flying to Georgia in July to see her good friend and surrogate daughter.

Ana pulled at her chest, trying to ease the pain gnawing at her heart.

“W-What happened?”

“Heart failure. She told everyone she had a cold, but it was pneumonia. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to handle it. Rosie had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Three days later, she coded. There was nothing the doctors could do.”

Her dear friend was gone. Ana’s skin prickled with anxiety as she fought to keep grief from overwhelming her.

“Jeff, how did you find me? What made you even look for me?”

“Like I said, it took some time, Analeigh. Rosie didn’t get out much the last few years. The few people she did talk to said she was disgusted with the changes and direction of Corwin.”

Ana knew that was true.

She tried to avoid the subject of Corwin when she and Rosie talked. Ana didn’t need memories of the place flashing through her mind, and Rosie said it decayed into nothing more than a political cesspool. The town’s first families — the Burfords, Foleys, and Lakes held all the offices of power. They treated Corwin like it was their personal kingdom and speaking out against them killed social standing and sometimes worse.

“Rosie had no family, and at the beginning, we thought she had no will. After wading through the legalities, we were able to enter her home. We found her will, drawn up by an attorney over in Spradlin. We also found your name and number, but the number was disconnected.”

Damn it! After a mini-battle with her cell provider over dropped calls and shoddy service, Ana switched carriers… and got a new number… four days after she and Rosie last spoke.

Analeigh didn’t bother to wipe away her tears when she realized by the time she activated her new number… Rosie was already gone.

“Analeigh?”

“I’m here, Jeff. Just trying to take all this in.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Analeigh.”

“It’s alright. I do appreciate the call, Jeff… and thank you.”

“Wait, Analeigh. I didn’t hunt you done just to tell you Rosie was gone. In her will, she left everything to you. Her home and the store.”

The buzzing in Ana’s ears roared over Jeff’s voice. Analeigh Sellers sat there overwhelmed and in shock with a sense of dread taking over.

 

Image from ThinkStock
©Felicia Denise 2017

NaNo Diaries: Distractions #NaNoWriMo


Writing Banner


On any given day, you’re sure to find a post or comment by someone saying they can never find the time to write.

Yes, if you work a fulltime job, have a spouse and children, friends and family, a hobby…any semblance of a LIFE, most days, your time is not your own.

But. Think about it. How many times have you sat down with your device of choice with a task in mind—paying bills, checking test scores, researching a future major purchase, book travel plans, etc.—and found yourself opening your email, checking any or ALL of your social network accounts, watching a video of a sloth eating a grape or taking a quiz to find out which Avenger you’re most like?

Distractions.

You’re not alone. We all have the pretty, shiny object that so easily pulls our attention away from the task at hand.

Pinterest is my downfall.

I can pull up the app in search of a photo of a land mass or mountain range to match a location I’ve written about, and two hours later, I have no photo of my location… but I do have three recipes for Pad Thai, a new pattern for an afghan, fifteen more coffee memes, and a detailed infogram on how to turn empty toilet paper rolls into a decorative Christmas centerpiece.

I am weak and in need of help… and probably intense counseling.

In my last NaNo Diaries post, I mentioned I’d jumped on the AlphaSmart bandwagon. No Internet connection, no wifi—just me and a sturdy little word processor that I purposely use away from all my other devices, including my phone. My adult children hate that.

But there are still times when I need to be online and around all my favorite distractions, and that’s when I use an Internet blocker. I have the paid version of Freedom.to. I can set it for any amount of time I chose, from minutes to hours, and the Internet is gone. Can’t open a browser or app. (Yes, I’ve tried.)

There are quite a few other Internet blocking apps available, but not all have free versions.

Anti-Social (In the process of merging with Freedom.to but love the name!)

Cold Turkey (Free Version Available)

Rescue Time (Free Version Available)

FocusMe

These are great little tools to have to help you block online distractions, but the writing part is still up to you. Sorry.

I started coming down with a head cold yesterday and had to struggle for word count… but I got it! For NaNoWriMo Day 3, I’m at 5544/50000.

Today is NaNoWriMo Double-Up Donation Day. Check it out. Make a donation and double your word count for the day.

I’m going to give it a shot… even though I can’t stop sneezing and my head feels bigger than Wyoming.

Keep Writing!

 

NaNo Diaries: Editing? Nope! #NaNoWriMo


Writing Banner


One of the first things you’ll learn during a NaNoWriMo challenge is do not waste time editing.

We’re told to turn off our inner editor. Bound, gag and toss them into a closet. Send them on vacation. Put your inner edit on IGNORE.

Editing slows you down. While you should be moving on to the next scene or chapter, you stare at what you’ve written and it just isn’t quite… right.

So, you futz around trying to rebuild the world, or block the scene, or build the suspense and an hour later, the page still sucks, you have a total word count of 537, and you just want a drink or your bed…or both!

Save your sanity and sobriety and don’t edit.

True, it’s easier said than done. But, when you think of the time wasted on editing text that will be re-edited several times in the coming weeks and months after NaNoWriMo, self-editing while you write becomes less of a problem.

In most writing programs and apps, the screen can be modified so only a few lines of text are visible at a time. If self-editing is a big problem for you, it would benefit you to investigate how the process works in your particular writing program.

I’m trying something different this year.

A few months ago, I saw several authors post about the Alphasmart, a writing tool used in schools and computer labs in days gone by. They’re no longer in production, but after a bit of research, I found there are still tons of them around, new and refurbished, and the company still supplies and support. #WIN

I ordered one from Amazon and OMG! The sky is blue, birds are singing, and I’m sure I saw a Unicorn walk past my window!

AlphaSmart NEO2

This is not a high tech piece of equipment. It’s strictly for word processing. There is NO way to connect it to the Internet. It holds up to one hundred pages of text. It’s lightweight and has a battery life unrivaled by any device–more than seven hundred hours from three AAA-batteries. (I’ve been using mine daily for over two months and the usage line on the battery meter is so small, I can’t measure it.)

And word count? My word count is rockin’! Only four lines of text are visible (with the font setting I use) so I can’t see my WIP and languish over words already written when I should be writing new words!

For Day 2 of NaNoWriMo, I wrote 1914 new words. I can live with that!

Word count total – 3815/50000.

 

Save

NaNo Diaries #NaNoWriMo


Writing Banner


NaNoWriMo2017… here we go again! Good lord, I think I’m addicted!

Why else would a sane (by most accounts) person put themselves through this?

The adrenaline rush of November 1st morphs into self-doubt by the 15th, and by the 20th when validation begins, NaNoWriMo seems like the stupidest thing to come along since Big Mouth Billy Bass, the singing fish.

And yet, we trip over ourselves to register every year. Gluttons for punishment (like me) even enter the camps in April and July.

But it is SO worth it!

I’ve learned a lot. Writing voice, writing styles, show vs. tell, passive voice… are more than simple phrases authors throw out to sound smart. (Um…I’ll leave that alone.)

These are just some of the elements needed to write an interesting book.

NaNoWriMo also reinforces the point that even pantsers need a plan. (Calm down, pantsers!)

I was a die-hard pantser–and it worked for me for years. But then, I was writing for myself, church bulletins, PTA newsletters, and fanfic.

Pantsing almost worked for during my first NaNoWriMo challenge. But after reaching 38K, I was like, “Uh…I got nothing.”

I learned the benefits of prepping and for this challenge I began in August.

NaNo Prep

While I may not plot out every location, scene or dialogue, I do write an outline, character sketches, and scene outlines.

Does it work for me? To some extent. But after one day, two scenes, five pages and 1901 words, I already have TWO full pages of changes.

On to day two.