At my office/coffee shop/bookstore, sitting at the computer bar at the side of the room, laptop plugged into an outlet beneath, iced Atzec mocha against the wall where I hope it won’t spill, two industrious critique partners on my right.
I am scrimshanking.
The spell checker says scrimshanking isn’t a word. That’s what it knows.
Scrimshankingis a word, because I saw it on Dictionary.com five minutes ago, just in time to use it.
We are sixteen days into National Novel Writing Month. Writers following the plan are 26, 762 words into their projected 50,000-word novels.
I am 75,000 words behind.
I DO NOT WORK THE NANO WAY.
Someday that will sink in.
It sinks in every year, but someday it will sink in.
NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month–the month* in which participants vow to write a 50,000-word novel–and some of them do–began yesterday.
The goal–if you want to reach 50,000 words and win NaNoWriMo (which from this point on will be called NaNo), you need to write an average of 1667 words a day.
I’ve registered for NaNo–there’s a website–at least three times, maybe four. Unfortunately, every year, as soon as I signed on, I became claustrophobic and began to hyperventilate. Mentally, not physically, but mentally is bad enough. There was something about having to write a novel in a month that made me feel the walls were closing in, as if I had to do something I didn’t want to do, as if someone were forcing me to write that novel in a month. No one was forcing me, but seeming can feel a lot like being.
For example, consider what Hamlet** says to his mother the first time we see them together. He’s been going around wearing customary suits of inky black day after day, and suspiring all over the palace, and although his mother knows he’s grieving for his dead father, she says everybody does that at one time or another, and asks why he seems so much more miserable than others in the same situation.
In other words, this isn’t put on, he’s genuinely perturbed. Of course, there’s more to it than he lets on: After his father died, before the funeral baked meats, like the casseroles and tuna sandwiches the neighbors brought in, had been consumed, his mother went and married her husband’s brother, who doesn’t have much to recommend him. That would make any prince suspire. And Hamlet must be irritated that his mother is so clueless. She asks a silly question, and he sasses her. “Nay, it is; I know not “seems,” is, in modern terms, something like, Well, d’oh.
Anyway, back to NaNo. The mere act of registering gives me a serious case of the fantods.
Hamlet could have addressed his fantods by confronting his mother and his uncle and asking straight out what in the world they thought they were doing, but instead he takes the passive-aggressive route and pretends he’s unhinged.
I, on the other hand, have, every year, faced my dilemma head on: I’ve dropped out. No novel, no problem.
This year, however, I’m confronting it by plowing on through. I shall, and I will, write 50,000 words by November 30. I’ll go from beginning to middle to end, I’ll submit my scrambled manuscript through the NaNo website, and I’ll win.
On the basis of my experience, both past and present, I’ve come up with some helpful hints I’m happy to share:
After you register for NaNo, be proactive. Fill out your profile. You don’t have to use your real name. Title your book. It doesn’t matter what, just name it and record it on the website. Join a community. Then write a synopsis. If you don’t have a plot, wing it. Nobody’s going to read it, and it might end up working out. Complete these steps and you’ll receive badges. I got one for filling out my profile, one for joining my community (I told them where I live), and one for “creating” my novel. I take issue with that creating business, but if it makes them happy to think so…
Badges make you feel better, so award yourself some for personal achievement. I gave myself a Plantser badge, because I usually have to write for a while before my characters tell me what they want to do (flying by the seat of my pants, or pantsing), but then, once things get going, I come up with a rudimentary framework (plotting). Plotter + pantser = Plantser. I also gave myself a Rebel badge to declare myself a NaNo Rebel!, state my belief “that rules are meant to be broken,” and admit that on November 1, I’ll “start writing anything but a brand new novel.” I could not have phrased that better myself. Plantser and Rebel might seem contradictory, but who cares.
Relax. Getting all het up won’t help. By Thanksgiving you’ll be so antsy your family will make you take your plate and eat out on the porch.
Now for the Don’ts:
On November 1, don’t let a podiatrist operate on your foot. It won’t hurt, but it’ll take a chunk out of your day that you should spend working on your novel.
On November 1, don’t have two meetings, even if they promise to be interesting and you want to go. See #1 regarding chunks.
On November 1, when you want to quit, don’t. If you feel the queasies coming on, follow Eloise’s lead: Say, “Pooh pooh to you,”*** and get over it. (Eloise and Hamlet’s mother have a lot in common.)
Don’t schedule the Sisters in Crime chapter newsletter you edit (and write) to post on November 1. Before you post, you’ll have to tweak, and you’ll tweak everything, even things that don’t need tweaking, and you’ll add content, and it’s already too long, and it’ll be 9:00 p. m. before you press Publish.
Don’t download the trial version of Scrivener**** that’s available to every NaNo participant. Even if you’ve used it before, you won’t remember how it works, because it’s big and complicated, and you don’t need it right now anyway, you can get it later, and MS Word is sufficient, and if you have Scrivener, you’ll open it and work out how to color code, and then you’ll spend the rest of November color coding everything from plot points to red herrings to subplots to your cats, if you can figure out how (blue for Ernest’s gray coat, much of which currently adorns my sweats, and rust for William’s elegant cream tabbiness).
On November 2, don’t open your email. Don’t open Facebook. For goodness’ sake, don’t open your blog. Opening your blog will lead to writing a post, any post, because you’ll do everything in your power, even write, to get out of making up 1667 words, which by now have increased to 3334 words because you had surgery and two meetings and a newsletter on November 1. Email might not pose a problem– it depends on how popular you are–but Facebook will take you directly to Candy Crush and you’ll be lost. (Candy Crush Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, and Candy Crush Jelly Saga, all of which you sneered at during the years sanity prevailed.)
There are other d0’s and don’ts, but I’m too tired to remember what they are. Except for the one about getting enough sleep. Last night, I didn’t. A nap is inevitable, but there goes another chunk of writing time.
Anyway, that’s my take on NaNoWriMo. Contrary to the what you’ve read here, I have a positive attitude. I’m going to make it.
Because I want to call myself a winner. I want to experience the satisfaction of a job well done. I want to finish a novel so I can go back to short stories where I belong. I want to be a winner. I want a tee-shirt.
But above all, I want Scrivener. I want Scrivener when I create, plot, organize, research, file, write, revise, prepare a final document. I want to join the legions who say Scrivener is the greatest gift to writers since the eraser. I want the 50% discount on Scrivener that winning will earn me.
But above all else, I want Scrivener so I can color code.
* A man invented NaNoWriMo. We know this because it takes place in November.
** For a quotation, an example, a whatever, go to Hamlet. Hamlet and Mark Twain. Everything you need is there.
*** I think Eloise says “Pooh pooh to you.” Somebody says it.
****Scrivener is a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month.
I’ve now written about 1370 words. Only 1964 to go before midnight and I’ll be caught up. Blog posts don’t normally count, but if your main character participates in NaNoWriMo and writes a blog, they do.
In November, my friend and critique partner Gale Albright presented a NaNoWriMo write-in at the Hutto Public Library, in Hutto, Texas. Nine writers and their laptops gathered to write for four solid hours, supported by snacks and coffee provided by the Library.
Attendance was so robust that I had to scrounge* for a seat when I arrived. Late.
It would be trite to report that both writers and library staff expressed enthusiasm for the project. Nonetheless, that’s what happened, and I can’t pretend it didn’t.
They were so enthusiastic, in fact, that I foresee a future write-in, even without NaNoWriMo to serve as an excuse.
After the write-in, I drove around the city. Originally settled by Germans and Swedes, Hutto still looks like a small town, but it’s changing rapidly. New subdivisions are going up all around.
The older part of town has neat houses and yards,
a charming main street,
and open spaces.
The library is a renovated fire station. A couple of years ago, the reading room was tiny; then a second bay was opened, more than doubling the space and providing room for an enlarged children’s area.
But what sets Hutto apart from other cities worldwide is its legend. You can read the whole story at How the Hippo Came to Hutto, on the Williamson County Historical Commission website, but here’s a summary: In 1915, a circus train stopped in Hutto to pick up passengers and to let workers care for animals. Somehow, a hippo got out of a railcar, headed for a nearby creek, took a dip, found the muddy water to its taste, and, no matter what trainers did to lure it out, refused to cooperate. Legend says the Depot Agent telegraphed two Taylor and Round Rock: STOP TRAINS, HIPPO LOOSE IN HUTTO. Somehow the hippo was returned to its railcar, but amused residents made his story their own. Soon afterward, Hutto School took the hippo as its mascot and the football team became the Hutto Hippos.
Today Hutto is
The largest stands near the Chamber of Commerce building.
A fourth, like the Guard Hippo, enhances its original concrete with an overlay of alabaster.
I wish I had taken more pictures of Hutto’s hippos, but drizzle had turned into rain, and I wanted to get home before rain turned into traffic problems. Suffice it to say there are hippos of every size and color all over town. A local artist can be commissioned to personalize hippos to the owner’s specifications.
Hutto is a pleasant little place. In some ways, it reminds me of my hometown as it was when I was a child.
In short, I think Hutto would be a good place to live.
As they say, three thousand hippos can’t be wrong.
I’ve been working on Molly but haven’t been averaging the 1667 words per day required to reach the target by the end of November.
According to the NaNo stats page, at my current rate, I’ll reach 50,000 words on September 28, 2015.
But there is hope—if I write 2,753 words each and every day for the rest of the month.
Is it possible to write 2,753 words in one day? Of course. Call it a blog post and I’ll write twice that.
Sick of staring at Times New Roman, I switched to Accord SF.
Now MS Word 2007 asserts it independence by saving Accord SF in italics. The italics icon on the toolbar, however, isn’t highlighted, and no amount of clicking or unclicking it affects the text. Nothing affects the text. It’s in italics and it’s going to stay that way.
I think the dysfunction is related to repeated crashing of blog documents several weeks ago. I saved in Accord SF but after each crash reopened to italicized Accord SF. Why italics have leaked over into text documents, I cannot say.
If anyone can shed light on this case, please feel free. In the interim, and probably forever, I’ll be using Open Office, which I like better anyway.
Except for blog posts. I don’t have time or patience to read the OO instructions. And Word blog format is on its best behavior.
They say the secret to winning NaNoWriMo is Never Delete.
That’s not my way. I revise as I go. Like this:
Word word word word word word word Delete delete delete Different word different word different word Word word Delete Different word…
It’s slow, but my OCD feels comfortable with it.
NaNo, however, despises it.
NaNo likes something like the following:
Word word word word Wrong word Right word Word word word word Wrong word Wrong word Wrong word Right word Right word Wrong word…
Which just drives me up the wall.
I saved. Word crashed. I reopened to italics.
What it will look like when it’s published to WordPress I won’t try to predict.
Just once, I would like to live through a day in which I don’t have to eat my words, my hat, or a large portion of crow.
David called from work today to remind me he had an early-afternoon appointment to have a tooth crowned.
I expressed sympathy and headed for HEB for ice cream. Two gallons—Dutch chocolate and coffee—plus a bottle of chocolate sundae sauce.
Some people, aka spoilsports, wet blankets, and killjoys, might call that excessive.
I call it caring, compassion, the willingness of a wife to share her husband’s pain.
To demonstrate that the quality of mercy is not strained, I bought Blue Bell, made at the Little Creamery in Brenham. (“Blue Bell ice cream tastes so good because the cows think Brenham is heaven.”)
Well. You can imagine my pain when David came home and said the dentist had done absolutely nothing. They couldn’t decide which tooth needed treatment. Might be this one, might be that one. Didn’t want to crown the wrong tooth. Best to wait and see.
“But I bought ice cream for dinner,” I said.
I thought he would say, “That’s okay. We’ll eat it anyway.” Anyone who’s seen David eat ice cream would have anticipated that response.
What he said was, “Well, I’ll go back to the dentist eventually.”
At that, the milk of human kindness I’d been sloshing around in all day sort of evaporated. There was no Plan B menu. And my mouth was all set for Blue Bell.
So I ate some. Coffee. With ribbons of chocolate sauce swirled on top.
Now I’m drunk, torn between reeling up the stairs to bed and reeling back into the kitchen for one more bowl.
I don’t know when David will go back for his crown.
It would be a shame to let such lovely ice cream just sit in the freezer and go bad.
NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. That’s my goal for the next four weeks. I will take a shot at writing 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. I’m sure I can write 50,000 words in a month. I’m not sure they will turn out to be a novel, or a near novel, or that they’ll even make sense. But there are worse things to do in November. And there’s plenty of ice cream here in case I need comfort along the way.
1. Writing: Sunday night I received chapter 1 of a 4-part mystery that’s being written by members of the local Sisters in Crime chapter. My job was to write chapter 2. That’s what I did all week–wrote, revised, tweaked just over 1000 words’ worth of mystery. I had a wonderful time, no “writer’s block,” no worries, no cares, just took the situation that had been set up and had fun putting my spin on it.
Isn’t that always the way. If I’d been working on my novel, I’d have spent the week moaning and groaning and suffering over what to do next. In this assignment, I was free to do whatever I wanted (with the knowledge that someone else would have to pick up where I left off, poor thing), and I did it. The mystery will be read to honor (aka roast) a member of the organization. My fun may come back to bite me: I inserted the phrase Barker Black Blenheim Boots, but I have to read my chapter aloud, and I can’t always say that phrase without tripping over my tongue. Too many B’s.
2. Exercise: On Thursday, I exercised in the pool for 11 minutes. I had spent the previous 19 minutes inching into the water. Burned at least 2000 calories just shivering.
3. Sleep: Still a mixed bag. It’s now 11:09, and I would be happy to keep on writing until dawn. A repeat of last night’s Lark Rise to Candleford is on, and at midnight MI5 will begin. It’s a repeat of a repeat. Of a repeat. But well worth keeping an eye on while I write a second post.
On the other hand, if I post and link and then retire, I’ll be in shape to work on Molly tomorrow.
It would be pleasant to have a few hundred Molly words to report on Wednesday.
To see what other AROW80 writers are doing, click here.
My high school English teacher read the Day 7 post, the one in which I wrote that she told students we had important and relevant things to say.
That is the problem with blogging. At some point, you make a remark, a perfectly innocent remark, and the person you remarked about happens across it and reads it and calls you on it. Especially if you link the post to Facebook, and that person is one of your friends.
Anyway, said English teacher (who taught me in grades 8, 10, 11, and 12, so you see what we were both up against) asked whether she really said relevant and important, or whether she said, “Hush up and write.”
I admit it. “Hush up and write” was more her style.
And I really went overboard with relevant. I don’t think anyone I knew said relevant. It was one of those television words, ubiquitous and meaningless. The curriculum wasn’t relevant. School wasn’t relevant.
Relevant isn’t complete in itself. It needs something more. Relevant to what? And in whose opinion?
The 60s didn’t get to my part of Texas until late. And being as contrary then as I am now, I rebelled against the rebellion.
According to my husband, people should never send e-mails they wouldn’t want Ted Koppel to read on the air. David is correct. That goes for Facebook and blogs and all media, I’m sure.
Although I agree with his policy, however, I don’t follow it. Anyone who has read this blog knows that.
My one hope is that any potential employer who googles me and reads my work understands self-deprecating humor.
In other words, I’m neither as dumb nor as ditsy as I portray myself. Fiction is fiction and fact is fact, and in between there is irony.
If hired, I will be on time, work through breaks and lunch and do overtime, meet deadlines, take a personal interest in my work, and play well with others. I will spell correctly and use the serial comma. And I will not write about you on my blog.
I’ve been thinking about starting every post with that paragraph. Especially the post about my hereditary tendency to burn toast.
Although I write about my flaws, or pseudo-flaws, I am a private person. I want to choose what I tell and when and to whom. I don’t appreciate Facebook’s rabid desire to help me extend my social circle. I really really don’t appreciate Facebook’s sharing my information and not telling me, or making it difficult for me to lock down information I don’t want to share with people I don’t know.
There are days when I would like to close the account completely–as if that were possible, given FB’s determination not to delete it–but I’m in too deep. Closing out of FB would be like disconnecting both the telephone and the television. I don’t use either appliance very often, but giving them up would put me completely out of the loop.
No more pictures of Kenna wearing her little pink hat and grinning.
No more surprise messages from students I haven’t seen in years.
I’ve had the good fortune to “connect” with two women I first knew when they students. They were back-to-back winners of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, Young Adult Division. One has signed a book contract with a publisher. The other recently signed with an agent.
When their books come out, I’ll be jumping up and down.
I hope the high school from which they graduated will honor them by inviting them back to speak to current students. I hope the elementary and middle schools do the same.
I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.
Let me say that again.
I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.
Not for the writers’ sake, but for the sake of children who need to see that telling stories is important, that publishing a book is an event to be celebrated, that kids who once sat in those same classrooms grew up to be writers.
That’s about 400 words short of today’s goal. I might write more before midnight.
I might go to bed asap.
I’m posting when I should be working on the novel (or sleeping) because last night, in an excess of enthusiasm, I yielded to impulse and registered for NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month. The goal is to post every day. I’ve tried it a couple of times and always bailed out before the end of the month. But this is the first time I’ve participated in November, which is the official month. Bloggers who post every day between now and November 30 are eligible for a prize.
I don’t know what the prize is, nor do I care. It isn’t about the prize. It never is. When I take a cardiac stress test, I stay on the treadmill longer than I have to. With the doctor saying, “You can stop now if you want to,” and my legs turning to rubber, I keep right on walking.
It also isn’t about good sense.
NaBloPoMo has a website, and I could post there as well as here. If I wanted to stay awake long enough to do it.
This morning I dropped in on Facebook and How Many Pages Did You Write Today? was passing the word about the MiniWriMo. It works on the same principle as NaNoWriMo, but instead of shooting for 50,000 words this month, its participants shoot for 250 words a day–one page. That I thought I could do.
So that’s what’s going on.
I’ll as many words I can (at least 250) for the novel, and I’ll post here, every day in November.
I’ve spent the past week writing and rewriting a post about attending the Texas Book Festival. No matter how many times I revised it, it sounded dull and complaining. Actually, it sounded worse than complaining, but if I use the word I have in mind, I would be crossing a line drawn in the sand years ago by both my grandmother and Emily Post, a Rubicon of sorts, and then who knows what might happen to my personal lexicon. It’s a slippery slope.
Suffice it to say the day was HOT and we got the last space in the parking garage, on the eighth level, and then found the elevator out of order. On the plus side, I visited with Sisters in Crime members Russ Hall and Sylvia Dickey Smith and got an autographed copy of Sylvia’s latest novel, A War of Her Own. On the minus side, Russ and Sylvia thought it was just as HOT as I did. They’d been inside that tent for two days as opposed to my two minutes. After taking a couple of pictures, I suggested that David get the car and pick me up. He did. He reported he climbed fourteen flights of eight steps each. I thanked him and turned the AC up to gale force. We ended at the Magnolia, where David got his omelet.
It still sounds like complaining.
I’ve signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month–which begins November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight on November 30. Write-ins are planned all over the Austin area at coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. The Writers’ League of Texas will hold a lock-down (or maybe a lock-in) one night from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. I’ll go to write-ins but not the lock-down. I get claustrophobic thinking about being locked down, even metaphorically. It sounds too much like getting an MRI. It also sounds a lot like graduate school. Been there, done that.
Modified Rapture! I just checked the WLT Facebook page to find the date of the lock-down and instead found the sentence I wrote last Sunday at the TBF. On my way out, I picked up a prompt at the Writers’ League table, sat on the curb and wrote the rest of the sentence, then tossed it into the fishbowl. And voila! There it appears, among the Top 10. It’s #8. The honor is not on a par with publication of a book, of course, but it’ll do quite nicely for the time being.
To prepare for November 1, I’m reading No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel, by Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo. He offers many valuable suggestions for surviving the month. One, however, should be excised before the book goes into another printing, namely the section headed “Eating Your Way to 50,000 Words,” which includes the sentence, “Allowing yourself loads of restaurant meals, sugary treats, and exotic beverages is the best way to keep your spirits high during the exhausting mental acrobatic routines you’ll be pulling off next month as you write.”
Restaurant meals and exotic beverages might work, but if I want to keep my spirits high, I’ll stay away from sugar. Last week is proof. Again. After a period of abstinence from white stuff, I ate a slice of bread, and in five days I was tripping down the primrose path arm-in-arm with a jar of red plum jam. It was not coincidence that the day after my rendezvous with said jam jar, I decided I should make a bonfire of all my pages, destroy my files, and give up writing altogether.
Lacking the energy to do all that, I took the pledge one more time, ate meat and green stuff, and the next day was back at the laptop.
My advice to anyone trying to do anything in thirty days: stay off the sugar and most of its relatives.
I have decades of experience in this area. With every paper I wrote in grad school, I put on five pounds and then spent several weeks taking it off. Sometimes losing it took longer. I carried Lord Tennyson around for months.
To Mr. Baty’s credit, the photo on the back cover of his book suggests that he’s never had a problem with sugar. If he were told of its poisonous properties, he might add a footnote saying readers should consult their medical professionals before eating their way to 50,000 words.
It’s after 2:00 a.m., and I swore Saturday morning that I would be in bed before midnight. I need to end this post but can’t figure out how to do that. Possibly because the post has no point. Probably because it’s after 2:00 a.m.