Grief in 40 Words

National Poetry Month begins today and with it, my commitment to write a poem each day of this month.  It’s been a while since I’ve even contemplated any kind of commitment to poetry and only tend to write it as the mood strikes. The last time I set aside time daily for poetry was my last year of high school, during which I composed a poem every day for six consecutive months.  The notebook that contains those poems still sits on my bookshelf as a reminder that I too am capable of seeing a project to fruition.  It’s a much needed reminder for a person who is far better at starting projects than finishing them.

I wrote the first of the month’s poems as I sat at my kitchen table tonight, keeping a watchful eye on dinner as it cooked.  The smell of roasting chicken reminded me of another meal, months ago, with someone who has since been lost to the world. Recalling the simple joy of sharing a meal, I penned a short piece about unraveling the threads that bound me to that person.  It is not a publication worthy piece, but it is is both a beginning and an end, forty words of grief to mark a new beginning.

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Unintended Hiatus – Take Two

If my last post was subtitled “I Ain’t Dead Yet”, it should follow that this post needs to be subtitled “Mostly Dead”.  An obscene amount of time has elapsed since I last posted here… again.  Months should not be allowed to elapse without a thought to one’s blog and yet, here I staring at a gap of more than a year.

I have spent much of that gap not feeling well enough to put pen to paper.  Three days after my last post, life handed me an orchard’s worth of lemons with a cancer diagnosis.  To entertain myself and give myself a distraction from the bumper citrus crop that was 2015, I started creating an ill health version of the 12 Days of Christmas…  12 nurses nursing, 11 IVs dripping, 10 docs a treating, 9 CATs scanning , 8 techs a drawing, 7 labs a testing, 6 MRIs a humming, 5 bed-rest months, 4 surgeries, 3 ultrasounds, 2 skin grafts, and a penicillin allergy.  It’s not the best thing I penned in 2015 but it is the truest of the stories told that year.

Fortunately, 2016 has been kinder and I find myself once again well enough to write on a regular basis.  April’s personal writing challenge will be to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo.  My goal: to write 1,000 words of poetry in 30 days. As if that weren’t motivation enough, I am also taking on the 30 poems in 30 days challenge of NaPoWriMo.  No doubt about it – there will be poetry in April. With any luck, there will also be some blog posts here as well.

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Unintended Hiatus

Let’s subtitle this one “I Ain’t Dead Yet”.  Life can be defined that regularly occurring nuisance that interrupts attempts to create worlds made entirely of words and imaginings.  2014 provided more life than I care to contemplate and many of my side projects have suffered, this blog included.

Finding words in 2014 has proved difficult on all fronts.  My other blogs, while slightly less neglected, still managed to collect dust this year.  National Novel Writing Month proved to be a hollow victory this year.  While the word count was met, the quality of the work plummeted to all new NaNo personal lows.  I celebrated the ‘win’ by shredding the first draft and burning the remnants, after noting the two small workable ideas that it contained.  My word goal of 200,000 became laughable at some point, even with NaNo accounting for a quarter of that total.

Words will be found in 2015, even if it means tracking them down in their hidden lairs and dragging them bodily into the light of day.  I am feeling very fierce about the time lost during the past year and do not want to have a repeat of the last twelve months.  To that end, some goals have been set and some projects lined up for the new year.  My overall goal  consists of writing 250,000 words total in 2015.  To hold myself accountable, I have pledged to write 150,000 of those words as part of Get Your Words Out 2015, which will include fiction, poetry, and public blogs.  The remaining 100,000 words will consist of personal journals, academic writings, and various other non-creative forms for writing.  I ain’t dead yet, but I may be a writing zombie by this time next year.

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January Debrief

There are two facts about January that remain fairly consistent: 1).  It is cold where I live and 2). I read voraciously but write very little during the month.  It’s not a productive time of the year, as I’m still usually recovering from the post NaNo and holiday burnout.  Thus January is my month to read other people’s work while silently cursing every fluffy white flake that falls from the sky.

This year, the weather held true to form with an extra dose of arctic chill just for good measure.  I fell down on the task of reading, however, returning several library books unopened.  I did begin rereading Hesse’s Siddhartha at the beginning of the month.  It remains unfinished on the growing pile of books that I plan to read.  Considering Siddhartha is less than 175 pages and that I am perfectly capable of devouring an entire George R. R. Martin novel over a quiet weekend, this failure to read is pretty substantial.

Where reading failed, writing flourished.  A quick tally of non-fiction comes in at about 5100 words.  The word count for fiction is uncertain, as most of this is still in hand-written form.  However, I can venture an educated guess based on what I normally average per page that would put the count right around 25,000.  Let’s compare this to January of last year.  I believe I have that total fiction word count memorized, as it was a nice round number that starts with z and ends with o.  Non-fiction came in at 1900 words give or take a half-dozen.  So, that’s 31,000 versus 1900 words  from last year.  Suddenly I feel perfectly justified in my failure to read more than a few pages.

We’ll see if the trend holds for February, as that bloody vampire novel is still very much in its infancy.  Sorry, Siddhartha, but enlightenment might just have to wait awhile.

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Character Building

Terrible news, great news, but it’s all one in the same news…  I am still fang-deep in that vampire story that I mentioned in my last post.  The great bit is that I’ve spent a lot of time butt-in-chair, words-on-page.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to re-vamp this story into something that doesn’t involve blood-suckers (obvious pun intended).  So vampires it is.  At least I’ve avoided capes, widows peaks, men dressed in velvet and lace, Elyria-esque females, and sparkly baseball players thus far.  If any of these do make an appearance, it will likely be as punchline to a bad joke.

In spite of my complaints, I am actually enjoying the writing process with this particular story.  The last two larger works that I produced were both done for NaNoWriMo and were excruciating to write.  In looking back, I realize now that neither of the novels had good character development.  Both had male protagonists who seemed to move through life simply because they were both too unmotivated to lay down and die.  Both lacked any real passion about anything, with the possible exception of self-preservation.  Even in that aspect, they were dull and unappealing as day-old dishwater.  There were days that I wanted to take a match to those manuscripts (and probably should have!), because writing them bored me to tears.

Not all of my NaNos have felt as flat as the last two and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s clear that the interesting ones were the stories whose main characters I wanted to know better.  For me, the process of creating a character is like getting to know someone new.  Even though I am technically the one who decides what a character likes and dislikes, what motivates and stresses them, and what ultimately they do and do not do, my favorite characters to write are the one that surprise me.  Characters that I think I know who pull some ace or joker from their sleeve when I’m not expecting it.

The protagonist of this latest work is such a character.  Looking back at the short piece where she originally appeared, she had a lot of potential to join the ranks of the dull main characters described above.  Fortunately, characters sometimes  have a way of telling a writer “No, you’re writing it wrong.  This is not who I am.”  In the case of this female protagonist, it was the other characters who informed me that I wasn’t writing her correctly.  They pointed to little hints that she wasn’t exactly who I had originally created, that what lurked beneath the surface was quite another person entirely.  She has become, in fact, far more interesting and complex than originally envisioned.  Writing her is a joy.  Daily word counts that were agonizing during last  year’s NaNo are flying off my fingers easily now.

I don’t know how long this particular enchantment will last, but I hope that it continues through the duration of the novel.  I’d like to continue to be surprised by this character and what she chooses to do.

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In Which A Little Story Devours My Brain

In an effort to kick-start a more regular pattern of writing, I recently picked up a short but incomplete piece of fiction with the thought of finishing it up.  The story was nothing more than a scene of conflict between two life-long friends as they discovered themselves on different sides of a clash between humans and vampires.  It was not intended to be anything more than a brief piece written for my own entertainment.

As occasionally happens, the story has plans for itself that I did not foresee and the characters have taken on a life of their own.  The single scene has turned into a nearly novel-length plot that is presently threatening to be book one in a series.  From two characters have sprung two armies, complete with internally feuding families.  While I’m thrilled to my toes that writing is currently not just a regular habit, but an outright addiction,  this was not the story I had intended to tell.     Still, the story demands to be written and who am I to question my (slightly deranged) muse?

Check back next week.  By then, I may have my brain back again from the vampires.

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Dusting Off the Cobwebs

Dear Readers,

If you’re still out there, thank you.  It’s been a longer than expected hiatus from posting here and for that, I apologize.  There’s a great quote from Hemingway that goes “In order to write about life first you must live it.”   My only excuse is that I have been far too busy living to post here.  Of course, there is also the fact that I am a hopeless procrastinator and have been putting off any attempts to post here.

Since I last wrote, I’ve completed two NaNoWriMo challenges, neither of which were particularly pleasing to me. Saligia, Inc was finished by the end of November 2012 and unless I can come up with some brilliant ideas for a rewrite, is destined for the rubbish bin.  Last November’s work, The Island of Evernow, was slightly more coherent, but still rambling enough that I haven’t had the heart to revisit it.  I may take up the challenge again this year, but only on the condition that I have a well thought out plot and characters long before the starting gun sounds on November 1st.  I should start now if I’m going to have any hope of making that happen.

My writing plans for 2014 are simply to write  and to do so on a regular basis… daily when possible, no less frequently than weekly.  Two weeks into the new year, I’m happy to report that I have worked daily on a fiction piece, produced a poem, and have managed a few thousand words of non-fiction in the form of blog and journal posts.  I plan to continue that pace for the entire year and yes, I will endeavor to shorten the gap between posts here by at least twelve months.

Write to you soon (really! I mean it.),

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A Brief but Tedious Check In

I do believe that in my last post I was bemoaning my NaNo progress and citing all of the non-writing activities happening this month.  With both Thanksgiving and a road trip to Savannah out of the way, it is time again to focus on that soul-devouring event known as NaNoWriMo.   This year’s novel is being written in waves, going a few days without writing and then attempting to catch up in a single sitting. As of this moment, my word count is hoovering somewhere around the 42,000 mark.  I may actually make it this year.

Failure is Always a Viable Option

The mid-point of November has come and gone without so much as a “Hi, how y’all doin’?” and my NaNo novel for this year is progressing in much the same way.  I woke up this morning and realized that my word count is hovering just around 19,000.  That’s just a bit shy of the 26,666 that would have had me on par through yesterday.  For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, this means I am roughly 8000 words behind.  Excuse me while I go have a scream followed by a little lie-down.

It is not a hopeless situation, at least not yet.  I am happy to say that after a productive morning, the word count is now a bit over 24,000, which puts me only 2666 words behind where I should have ended yesterday.

Of course, we are not going to mention the additional 1667 words that will need to be written today just to stay on par.  Nor will we mention that there is a major holiday coming up that will eat way not only a few pounds of turkey and dressing,  but a good size chunk of writing time. I’m also due to make a trip to Savannah before the end of the month.  While the city inspires me immensely, I find writing on the road next to impossible, particularly when I’ve been officially designated as the official chauffeur and tour guide.   I also won’t mention that the character I’d intended to be the main antagonist has done a complete 360 and turns out not only to be batting for the other side, but is apparently managing the entire damn team.  This could get complicated, I think.

In short, that glimmer at the end of the tunnel may be the oncoming train of a November 30th deadline, rather than the gleam of a shiny new novel.  I’m not giving up yet, though.  In the words of Frost, I have ‘miles to go before I sleep’, not to mention many pages and several chapters and most of a whole damned novel.

 

For My Next Trick…

… I will be pulling a novel out of thin air.

Ah yes, it is that time of year once again during which otherwise sane and rational people attempt the superhuman feat of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  My intent was to begin posting updates at the beginning of the month with all kinds of interesting tidbits about the writing process and how this year’s novel was progressing.

After consulting my calendar, I’ve come to the realization that one-third of the month has already trickled by without  so much as a thought to this blog or my intentions for it.  It would appear that some updates are in order… and here they are in no particular order:

Writing Software

I’ve tossed aside Write Way in favor of Scrivener.  My only real concerns with Write Way were that it wasn’t aesthetically appealing to my eyes and that it didn’t feel particular intuitive as far as how the program flowed or where things were located.  I’m sure that it’s wonderful software, just not quite right for my particular tastes and needs.  So I’m trying Scrivener as my writing platform this year.

My plan was to use Scrivener to outline the novel and organize the character sketches.   These feats were accomplished.  Then I started playing with the idea of using it to actually write the first draft, which brings me to this…

How I’m Writing

I cannot recall if I mentioned this previously, but I am a pen and paper purist kind of gal who has steadfastly refused to play fast and loose with digital platform boys.  Even my blog posts are usually being life as a real world piece of paper complete with scribbles, scratch outs, and red edits.

For expediency sake, I am trying something new this year and forgoing the handwritten first draft in favor of typing it out.  With a average typing speed  of 60 WPM, I’m certain that I can compose much more quickly by typing.  I must admit, though, that I prefer the scratching of pen on paper to the clatter of my keyboard, so I’m afraid that headphones are required if I’m going to survive this experiment.

What I’m Writing

After much waffling, I final made a final decision about which novel to write this month.  The winner is Saligia, Inc.  The other two novels that I’d seriously considered were both giving me difficulties – one had no plot to speak of and the other had some character development issues (as in the characters decided to strike out on their own without me and were up to some strange things).

This year’s novel is a mystery that has, for its backdrop, a lingerie manufacturing company run by the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Each of the sins is embodied by a sister who responsible for a certain aspect of the company.   The novel follows an investigator as he tries to navigate through the various personalities in hopes of finding a missing man.  I think it’s going to be deliciously fun to write.

Progress Report

As of this moment, the official word count is just over 13,000.  I have time set aside later this week for an all day writing marathon, so that should help in the way of getting caught up.  In the meantime, I’m pecking out a few words here and there in between real life obligations.  Speaking of which, I do believe that I have a sweet potato pie that needs to come out of the oven before it becomes a charcoal briquet.
Until next time!