Saturday, November 29, 2008

NaNo and Post Thanksgiving

After two days of not writing, I wrote about 1200 words this morning. I wrote a scene with Faith's grandmother. And is that grandmother angry! Or resentful. Or something else bugging her. Apparently, the grandmother blames Faith for Faith's mother leaving the family. At least that's what Faith thinks. Not really sure if that's what is happening, but I'm letting it be, for now.

I may not make it to 30K, for my personal end of NaNo. However, I did get to one ending of the novel. With much to develop and research in the coming months. And I'm happy about that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NaNo and Thanksgiving Prep...

NaNo continues despite my list of holiday cooking preps to do. Chinese sausage, check. Sweet rice, check. Soak dried mushrooms...

These past couple of days, my main character Faith, makes some realizations. Realizations that I know she has not earned yet. She's close to epiphany-land, but the epiphany feels shallow and contrived. It's where I think she is heading. And I hope, with revisions, it will change and deepen.

My 3rd semester advisor, Uma Krishnaswami, once told me that my MC must earn his/her keep, her reasons behind her actions, her big moment. Uma must have said it in a much more eloquent way, but I can't find her exact wording at the moment. "Earn your ghost" is another phrase which comes to mind.

But it shows me where I need to dig deeper, fill the well, develop the character and ultimately, the story. Because, after all, I'm just trying to get to the NaNo end.

Can't wait to dig... next month and beyond.
And after I make sticky rice for Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Keeping up my word count and installing new doors do not mix. No, no, no. Wrote very little the last two days due to saws sawing, hammers banging and stucco busting. Oh, but it was sure fun to try.

I'm so close to 20K, all I have to do is sneeze and my word count should change. I'll keep trying for moments during the day, hankie in hand, and see if I can come up with a sentence or two... or three. A paragraph would be killer.

Ran into a slight wall with the story, but I plan to plow forward, despite the ever growing hole I'm digging myself into.

Dig away. Achoo!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaNo Slow Go

Oh my, today was rough. Decided to rewrite yesterday's conversation between my MC and her art teacher, instead of an art contest judge. I liked that much better, but there were so many holes that I was unable to move forward. I also wrote a lot of notes to myself, which I counted toward my total word court. Don't delete, remember?

My resistance reminded me of what my VCFA 2nd semester advisor, Sharon Darrow, once told me: when I'm unable to write a scene, I'm not ready to write it yet, I'm not there emotionally, physically, mentally-- everything! And she's right. (Those VCFA advisors, I tell you, always popping up in your head.)

Mentally, I'm thinking of home improvement projects literally knocking on my door tomorrow;
Physically, I want to leave my chair and refill my coffee cup.
Emotionally, I'm not ready for my MC to have any kind of epiphany. Way too early.

That's okay.

Tomorrow, maybe I'll go back, even though I'm supposed to go forward with NaNo, and I'll try one of those scenes that I want to fill. I'm sure the NaNo police won't arrest me!

Words written today: 1123

My total word count should update to a little over 18K. That's closer to 20K, right? Soon. Very soon.

Ha, I sound like Grandmother Moccasin, the thousand-year-old snake in Kathi Appelt's THE UNDERNEATH, who hisses, "SSoooooooon!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaNo Continued...

Started off slow, but gained momentum in the second hour of writing.

Was going to stop at 1200 words or so, but decided to write a conversation between two people. In the middle of it, I thought I wanted the conversation to be between the main character (MC) and another character. But I kept writing it the way it was.

Leave it alone for now! Just get to the end of the conversation.

So, 1733 words today!

Didn't write at all during the weekend, but glad for the break.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Yesterday, I wrote more words than I ever have in one day: 1670!

I kept resisting this one secondary character, but I let him in. Anything to get my word count moving. Just get to my quota, keep typing, do not leave the chair... Most of the scene was a big tell-all fest. I had envisioned this scene for a long time, and it is filled with holes. But that's for later. For now, I got it down and I have an idea of where the main character is going. At least for now.

You can see my ongoing total above.

For a middle grade novel, I'm shooting for 30K words, but who knows, maybe I'll write more. Maybe I'll write 50K and win NaNo.

National Novel Writing Month

I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, NaNo for even shorter. The goal is to write a 1st draft of a novel, at 50K words. That's about 1666 or so words a day. The NaNo folks stress quantity over quality, at least for this month. Next month will be spent revising and filling up all of those lovely and deep dark holes. The aim is to get that 1st draft down on paper, and outta your head.

My goal is to write a 1st draft of my middle grade novel that I started in my 4th semester with Rita Williams-Garcia. I'm aiming for 30-35K words. That's about 1000 or so words per day. That's a lot for me. I usually write 500 words or less, or most days this year, zero!

Some freelance work fell through for November, so I signed up, not really knowing if I could pull off 1000 words/day. I jumped, and I'm glad I did.

After one week behind me, I've realized how freeing this process has been. When I was at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and writing for my packets, my 20-40 pages of creative work, my ego got in the way. I wrote, re-wrote, and re-wrote again. You're supposed to do that, but I worried about what my advisor would think; I worried whether my work was workshop-critique-worthy… I let all those "worries" get in the way, and so wrote very slowly.

After I graduated, with no deadlines looming, I wrote even slower.

NaNo says not to delete any words. Fine. The writing comes out clunky, chunky, holey-moley, and just plain bad. All rules of grammar and show vs. tell are broken. And that's great. The words are on the page, finally, to tinker with later. For now, just write. I'm getting out of the way. Move, I tell myself. Move!

And I did. I've been averaging 1000-1450 words/day. I didn't know I could do that.

NaNo also sends out these pep talks from authors. I received one from Katherine Paterson, author of BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA, JACOB HAVE I LOVED and many other classic novels for young people. I've been fortunate to have met Katherine in San Francisco during USF's Reading the World Conference, and at Vermont College of Fine Arts where Katherine is on the board of trustees. She attended our graduation in January 2008. So I felt like she was speaking right to me. This paragraph I love and keep it nearby, all highlighted. Katherine wrote:

"I aim always to get to the end of the first draft even though all the time I'm telling myself that I'm writing nothing but garbage that no one on earth would ever want to read, especially me. But I tell myself that this poor little attempt, this garbage, deserves a chance. Just as our beautiful dog Annie, who was the runt of her litter, grew into the most beautiful, loving dog anyone would want, so there may be hope, even for this pitiful mess of words I'm accumulating. So I say to myself: Don't read back too far, don't try to start rewriting, just get to the end."

Give garbage a chance. Just get to the end. Off to do so.