November "To Do" List

I can't believe we're almost in November. This year has gone by faster than any other year.  (I'm sure it's my age -- there, I said it...thought I'd save you all some time!)  In two short months we will be in 2010. Where did the last ten months go?

As if I don't have enough on my plate already, I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (click on the link to learn more about it) this year.  That is the main thing on my November "To Do" list.  For those of you who aren't familiar with National November Writing Month, it's actually a huge deal out there in the literary (and internet) world.  It's basically a 30 day marathon for writers to try and get at least 50,000 words written in that designated amount of time.  Not a small feat.  

My reason for doing NaNoWriMo is this: there's another story in my head that has been driving me crazy.  I have a bit of work left to do on I'll Love You Until (Am I procrastinating, you ask?  No. Well maybe a little bit. But not really.), so I figured I'd take advantage of NaNoWriMo (though I doubt I'll make it even close to 50,000 words, but at least this way I can get everything written down and stored in one place).  Plus it's a fun contest and there's a large chance I will meet more writers in my area, so why not try it, right?  The contest rules are simple.  If you reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, you're a winner. Tah-dah!  

Are you all at least a teeny bit curious about the other story I have brewing? (Well even if you aren't, I'm still going to give you the title. But that's it. Unless you offer me chocolate or coffee, in which case, I just might not be able to control myself and hopefully I'll be able to keep from blurting out the ending.  Oh wait -- I don't know the ending yet -- whew! I'm safe!)  It's called "They Don't Make Fur Coats in Camouflage". Quite catchy, don't you think?  (I can totally hear it now, people saying that in coffee shops and book stores and texting "TDMFCIC" on their phones, and then everybody busting up about the awesome inside joke that *yours truly* started and...okay sorry about that... I'm getting a little ahead of myself.) 

So NaNoWriMo is the first item on my agenda.  The second is getting "I'll Love You Until" polished and ready for one last critique before the final editing process.  And then queries! Hopefully the step of querying agents will begin before the first of the year.  That's my goal anyway.

My last "To Do" item is Christmas shopping. I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. Giving to friends, family and others is so fun and exciting.  Having my shopping completely done before the first of December would be awesome. We'll see. 

What is on your November agenda?  How many of you are participating in NaNoWriMo, and if so, what is the reason?  Is it your first time, or are you a pro already?  Is there anyone out there having books published around the end of the year or beginning of next year?  I'm pouring some virtual coffee as I type this and would love to hear what everyone else has on their November plates.  (Well not really, don't try to visualize that because obviously it won't work. I may be a mother of three, but I can't do the impossible.)  So anyway, come on over and spill it! (Your latest news, not your coffee!)  

Please put your hands together for...the introverted author!

I've decided that I'm a performer.  It all makes perfect sense now.  That's why I am scared to death to meet strangers, but I have no problem being in front of strangers if they stay...strangers.

In high school and junior high I loved being in plays.  I sold Avon for years, and had quite a large customer base, if I do say so myself.  I've thrown tons of bridal and baby showers and birthday parties.  Want me to volunteer somewhere? No problem.  Stand in front of a group of people and give a seminar?  I don't think I'd give it a second thought.  All of those things involve meeting mainly large groups of people -- always on my terms.  But tell me I'm going to meet someone new, and even worse, that there's only a few people, and I totally and completely freak out.  Because that makes it personal. Which is scary. Personal and performance are two totally different things.  Keep this in mind as I tell you what happened to me earlier this evening.

For the past month or so, I have been trying to get together with a few local authors that I found via the internet.  I haven't met them yet, though we've been trying to get together for a while.  A few weeks ago one of the authors was nice enough to inform me about a local published author speaking at the library here in town tonight.  She thought going would benefit me, and I did too.

Now let me just say that my normal modus operandi is to plan on something like that up until hours before, and then flake (or freak) out and not go.  That day always ends up being insane (and today was) and I use that to help me feel better about not going.

Today I refused to give in to my usual routine.  I stood in the bathroom all sweaty and stressed tonight after warming up left-overs for dinner (while getting to hear complaints about this or that, not to mention yelling at the kids to "Please leave some for your dad!") and visiting with a friend for a bit.  I tried to start my flat iron a thousand times (no matter how many times I punched the breaker and turned on the iron over and over again -- for some reason, the light wouldn't go on). 

Then I decided to try something different and plugged in my curlers. What-do-ya-know, they worked just fine.  After going to an outlet on the opposite side of the house and testing the flat iron (yes, of course it turned on) I went back into my room and plugged it in again for about the tenth time, and the light lit up immediately. (What the?)

So back to the sweaty and stressed part.  I stood there trying to do my hair.  Curlers? Or flat iron?  Curlers. No...flat iron. Wait....  I finally decided the flat iron would make me less sweaty than the curlers.   After doing my hair and getting dressed (amidst kids coming in and out -- one had a hurt ankle and was crying, another was working on a book report, and the other was bugging the one who was trying to do a book report before finally deciding to tell me the events of her day in great detail and at an even greater decibel) I started doing my makeup.  At that point my brain was screaming "Don't go! Don't go! Don't go!" but I'm so proud of myself -- I ignored it.

I sat outside for a few minutes to cool off and contemplated not going again.  Five minutes after the event was supposed to begin, I got into the car.  (Being on time is never my strong suit anyway.)  I blared my ipod all the way there to get myself pumped. I can do this. I can do this!  I. Can. Do. This.

Parking turned into a small feat for some reason, but after the fourth try I finally parked in the stall correctly (nerves, I'm telling you), and forced myself to get out (Sanitizer? Check!  Cell phone? Check!  Purse? Yes in deedy!) and walk down the long sidewalk to the library's front doors.

One deep breath and I was opening the door.  And of course this huge whoosh of air blew over me as I walked in (air conditioner?  Psycho winds?  Little devil flying over to land on my shoulder and scream "Don't go in!" one more time? I dunno) -- my hair went flying everywhere and all onto my lip gloss.  But I kept walking.  And let me just tell you, my readers -- I'm glad I did.  

If you're wondering what I did next, I really didn't do anything.  I snuck in as discreetly as possible and sat in the back where no one could see me.  Then I listened. I listed to this woman and mother and wife tell her story of queries and refusals and queries and more refusals, and self-publishing when she gave up on the queries, and then I listened to her talk about finding a publisher. And getting a deal.  A five book deal.  

I found myself excited FOR her.  Happy for this person I'd never met.  Excited and proud for this person who'd decided one day to write for fun, who had only a few short years later made a name for herself, able to stand there in our library and say that she had a publisher and an editor and that her next book was coming out in a few months.  

To be honest, it was just downright inspiring.  Not from a "okay I'm totally going to do this and be fine and get a five book deal too" point of view, because I know it's not that easy, and the likelihood of that happening to me as well is very small.  It was more along the lines of inspiring because she did something she loved and had an absolutely wonderful result.

I can't wait to be that person.  At the rate I've been going lately it may be years from now, but I do want to be that person.  Someone who can stand up in front of people and speak/perform in front of a bunch of strangers (which will work out great, because that's what I do well) and my loved ones and say "I am an author!  And I'm published!"  It's going to be awesome.  I can't wait to have my family sitting there in the back of the room, with the same proud smiles on their faces.  

This will happen, my dear readers. In time.  Someone will say, "Put your hands together for Jessica Brooks!".  I will stand there holding the microphone, after the usual insane day, and tell my story.  And hopefully someone else will be inspired.

Great Rules of Writing

We writers try to follow many rules when writing. Some are easy to follow, others take a little bit of reminding every now and then.  Here are a few quotes I enjoy, especially when the process itself tends to bring me down.  When I can sit back and laugh at myself, knowing I'm not the only writer who's been frustrated or had to go back and revise my story over and over, my creative spark is re-ignited once again.

Great Rules of Writing

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire

Writing & Editing

Every writer I know has trouble writing.  ~Joseph Heller

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  ~Arthur Polotnik

If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop.  If I'm trying to write, there appears a barren nothingness.  ~Carrie Latet

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer.  But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.  ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.  ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947

And lastly, my favorite, by Steve Martin --

"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."

What are some quotes or sayings that inspire you to keep going?

Dear Blog...

Dear Blog,

I miss you blog, I really do.
Haven't been on here much, it's true.
I'm just so busy, how 'bout you?
When's my next post? I have no clue.

The thing at the school is keeping me busy.
In fact, these past few days, I've actually felt dizzy!
Everything should calm down by the end of the month.
(I couldn't think of a rhyme, my brain's gone all fizzy.)

Until I can post about my writing once again,
The least I can do is check in now & then.
So here I am, doing fine -- and my writing's been...
Well let's just say that it's been.  

Been waiting, been on the back burner, been lonely, been begging for some attention.  (And I'm obviously out of practice because that poem was atrocious!)  There's a lot going on around here at the moment, but as things pop into my head I'm jotting them down.  One person I've wanted to receive feedback from will finally have time to read/critique my WiP in the next two weeks or so, and then hopefully I will be off and running again, and maybe even finalizing the entire thing. (One can hope.)

I just remembered... I did do one writing-involved thing the other day...I entered Nathan Bransford's contest.  Just for fun.  I can't wait to see who he chooses...most entries were far more interesting than mine;)  (And at the insane rate of contest entries he's receiving, I think it will take him quite a while to read through all of them!)

I miss the time-consuming aura of constantly writing and typing -- and can't wait to get back to that very soon...but I will say, I don't miss the writer's bottom or crooked neck. So until I can post on here again, my readers, I will leave you with a neat poem by Judith Pordon -


Beautiful blank pages 
kiss our 
with backgrounds 
that demand precision. 

Our black letters cross 
on tightrope lines, 
without wavering 
across deep, invisible currents. 

These beautiful blank pages 
are promises of our 
Our gentlest strokes 
of darkness upon light.

You asked, I answered...

To those of you who asked questions after my "Interrogation" post, thank you!  I'm going to jump right into the answers, so without any further ado...

Anita asked if one of my characters is ill.  The answer is no. Not a single ill character in the book. Wow.  They must use a lot of sanitizer.

Candee asked which one of the characters most resembles me and why.  Well, Hallie Barnes, the MC (main character) is definitely the most like me.  She's my age, she has children, and her personality is a bit like mine as well.  I've found that I write best about what I know, and I know a lot about those things! =) She's also different in a few ways as well, the main one being that the big issues she deals with have never happened to me personally.

Betsi wanted to know if the timeline in the book is longer than a year.  And the answer  It's actually just a few months' time.  There's a little bit of backstory which goes back a few years, but the actual time frame only goes through about three seasons.  She also wanted to know if there were any lemurs.  I hadn't thought of that, but there could be a possibility!;)

Bethany asked a question, and I actually spoke about the answer quite a bit in my second post here on blogger. But I'm going to re-tell it anyway.  One night last May, a few weeks before school got out for summer break, I was lying in bed thinking as usual, while trying to fall asleep.  A scene suddenly popped in my mind, where my (now) MC and another person were in the middle of a very awkward situation.  I could see the looks on their faces, understand what was going through my MC's head, and in the next few days things just evolved from there. I had to figure out who rest of the characters were going to be, and once I did that, the story line just sort of began to come together.  Of course, throughout this process a lot has been modified (plot-wise) for flow purposes, but not a thing has changed about the scene that sparked me into writing in the first place.  I've always enjoyed writing, it's definitely one of my strong suits, so there really wasn't a question of "if" I could do it in my mind, it was more like "how" was I going to do it.

What have I learned about myself through this, Sierra?  I think I've learned that though some things end up being harder to do than we initially thought, it doesn't make them not worth doing.  I knew going into this that there would be a lot of hard work, but obviously plots and hooks and showing versus telling and all of the other things we have to incorporate sometimes get in the way of the "dream" part of writing and require a lot of time and effort (as most first time and even seasoned writers would probably agree).  But I know I can do it.  I can follow through, I can work hard and not quit, and I can use any frustrations I have and turn them into inspiration. I've also learned that I have some great friends that I've met via the internet who continue to help me when the going gets tough.

The "what have I learned about what I want in life" question, at this point, is an easy answer.  Along with being a good, involved mother and wife, I want to share this story (and any future stories I write) with others.  I want to entertain my readers -- to make them laugh,  make them cry,  make them not want to put the book down, and I want to hopefully have them sit back after reading the book feeling better to have read it.   And of course I want to be known for my writing, if I'm being honest.  But that option is still quite a ways away.

So there you go, the answers to your questions about my WiP.  And again, thanks so much for asking!