Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What writing goals provide

After joining ACFW's NovelTrack challenges in July and October, followed by National Novel Writing Month's 50,000 word challenge, I'm reflecting on what I've learned through these.

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I've walked through the valley of the third week, where I was sure my novel was disgusting and why was I doing this anyway?

If not for NovelTrack, I probably would have.  Here are the stages I've seen so far in NaNo:

Week 1
Excited, sure this was my break-through novel.  I loved the genre, loved the characters, loved the setting.  I logged well over 1700 words a day and the time flew by.

Week 2
 Still excited at seeing the word count rise.  The plot was murky at times but I wrote.  Words on the page, right?  I could clean this thing up in the edit stage.

Week 3
  Why am I doing this again?  I am no writer.  This plot is transparent and disorganized.  Obviously, I shouldn't have chosen this genre.  Could I switch to re-writing the story I wrote last summer?

Week 4
 OK, the plot is smoothing out a bit.  I can see a theme developing and I'd sure hate to leave my characters hanging where I last left them.  I'd better keep writing.

I think these writing challenges teach me to spell better, as in "writing challenge" is spelled "persistent."  So many threads of fiction writing - character development, dialogue, plotting, description, theme - are starting to weave themselves together.  I am learning.

And keeping on writing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New contest

Alison Strobel has a contest going at her blog to support Sandi Rog, who has been diagnosed with cancer just as her debut novel, The Master's Wall, was released.  I posted a report on Sandi's story recently.

Check out Alison's contest here.  And keep praying for Sandi's healing, please.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Want to write faster?

This is my first time to try to ride the rip-roaring bronco called NaNoWriMo.  You've probably heard of it:  write 50,000 in 30 days.  Plot doesn't matter.  Passive sentences?  Ignore them!  Cardboard characters?  Bring them on.

The idea is to experience writing without the internal editor reading over your shoulder.  I'm doing moderately well in that category, sadly enough.  I'm slapping words on the monitor screen, promising to come back later and whip them into shape.  I probably will.

But the best thing I've discovered is that I write fast.  Being me, I timed myself today.  I write about 1200 words an hour.

How did this happen?  Here are some things I've noticed:

I don't sit down without a scene in my mind.
My best brainstorming times are while brushing my teeth and while having problems falling asleep.  Contemplating tomorrow's scene usually brings sleep right away.

But I digress.  The point is that I have some direction before I sit down at my computer.  I use those dull moments (like while showering) to let my brain skitter hither, fetching ideas.

I make mistakes.
And I don't care.  Sometimes the internal editor says, "whoa, that was the third was you've used in this paragraph  Aren't you ashamed?'  But mostly it doesn't and I keep rolling. I'd rather edit than stare at a blank screen.

I have experience.
 For me, working as a reporter on a small weekly newspaper helped shred my perfectionist tendencies.  Although I wanted to lovingly craft every lead paragraph, I did not have time.  I had the basketball stories to write after I finished up with the feature interview I'd done.  And now, unexpectedly, a news story demanded my full attention.  The point of my writing was to communicate clearly, not produce literary excellence.

Experience happens when we write.  Which brings me right back to my first paragraph.  I'm doing NaNoWriMo to get experience.  I am pushing myself to write 20,000 words a month (after NaNo) to get experience.  I'm committing myself to a consistent practice so that I get more and more experience.

Writing is easier when you can write fast.  Maybe these ideas will get your writing going, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Keeping on

As a first-time NaNoWriMo participant this year, I started November with great enthusiasm and lush ideas for my book.  But by last weekend, my energy had fizzled and I was wondering what had happened to all the enthusiasm.

Turns out, this is normal NaNoWriMo behavior.  Many writers, at about the midway point, fade badly.  Their advice:  try a new tactic but don't quit writing.  Make a drastic change in the main character's plans.  Keep going.

So I did.  Today, I faced that blank screen prepared to pound out 1700 bland words.  But I decided to change my POV and write some backstory.  My inner editor screamed but I plowed forward.  In the midst of today's writing, I uncovered a secret among the people that I didn't know before.  This will take some re-writing of earlier scenes but there are secret memories sprinkled throughout the story.

I didn't know.  But I'm glad I didn't stop writing.  NaNoWriMo says, trust the process.  I did, and today it worked.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Help a writer

This request is for a fellow writer.  Please consider this:

Hey all,

This is Daniel DeGarmo with DeWard Publishing Company.

I'm sure all of you are aware of Sandi Rog's latest battle (with cancer - Type A Lymphoma) that just began last week.
As you can imagine, she's devastated, especially considering the timing of all this as her first novel just released last Monday.

Well, considering we are a small publishing company and can pretty much do whatever we want, my business partner and I have agreed to donate an additional $1 per book to a Fund that I'll be setting up this week.
Just so no one thinks we are being shady about the whole deal, this is above and beyond the royalties that Sandi (and her agent) is already incurring with every book sold.

The purpose of this fund is to help out Sandi's family (husband and children) while she is laid up fighting for her life. 

What I need from you is simply spread the word.  For every copy of "The Master's Wall" that is sold (including Kindle) we will donate $1 to this Fund.
I'll also be setting it up so that it can receive regular donations if anyone is interested in just helping out financially.

I hope to have more information to share in the next day or so but at least for now I would ask that you would do whatever you can do direct people to buy Sandi's book.

Sandi has been copied on this email.....Sandi..Please forward this message on to anyone you think would help us out in getting the word out.
The same goes for you if you've received this email.

I want to close by lifting the following prayer up on Sandi's behalf:

Father, I lift my sister before you as her body has been stricken with disease.
You know, O God, that she has used her gifts to glorify You and spread your wonderful message of grace and love.
It is my humble plea that you would bring her healing and complete recovery.  I know You can do this, You are the Great Physician.
Please bring Your Spirit into her home as her husband and children continue to live life without her there.  They need You.
May all that is done bring You glory as our God and Father.
In Jesus' name - AMEN!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.


Daniel DeGarmo
Co-Owner | Business Manager
DeWard Publishing Company, Ltd.
PO Box 6259
Chillicothe, OH  45601

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning from Agatha Christie

After I had decided to try my hand at writing mysteries last summer, I stumbled upon the deal of the week on eBay:  32 mysteries by Agatha Christie for  $18, with shipping ( 56 cents each.  What a deal!)  The books were all paperback and in readable condition. Good enough for me.

So I'm through at least 10 of them by now and still think they're a great deal, although many originally sold for less than 56 cents.  Can we say brittle pages?  Quaint 60's covers?

No matter.  I plowed onward.  Some things I've learned:

  • Christie wrote fascinating puzzles.  I thought I had spied the murderer in one book but she'd fed me the red herring with expertise.
  • The characters in her novels are cardboard and cliched.
  • That does not diminish the charm for me, which is surprising since I write and love character-driven novels.
  • Those old Brits were a rude and argumentative bunch.
  • Which only adds to the charm of the stories, for me.
  • Writing murders is easier than planning a real murder, since the writing can be deleted, changed, and slanted as soon as the author sees a mistake - or new red herring.

This is a hopeless addiction, I have to admit.  The mysteries are brilliantly plotted with creative twists and turns.  I love the surprise at the end, even if I don't care which of the cardboard characters gets the handcuffs this time.  Justice always wins out.

Can I learn to write mysteries?  That was the point of this exercise.

For NaNoWriMo, guess what I'm writing?  Fantasy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christian woman sentenced to death

I've been praying for this Pakistani woman for over a year now, only to learn today that she has been sentenced to death.  Asia Bibi has been in jail for over a year and has two young daughters at home.  I am praying for her and am trying to figure out what other protests can be made.

Here's the information: http://bit.ly/9YThgR

Monday, November 8, 2010

When the plot stops

I'm working on a fantasy novel this month (and probably beyond November and NaNoWriMo) but found that my interest had flagged a little this weekend. What was up with that?

I realized that I had let the plot stumble into a chapter of conversation.  No action, just conversation.  And, even more painful to admit, I had steered that conversation into backstory and an information dump.  No wonder the story was hard going all of a sudden.

So I struck through an entire chapter (hated to just delete all those words.  Maybe some of the conversation will reappear in the middle of a fight scene.... well, I can dream...)  and stuck some more action.  Suddenly we've gone from chit-chat around a fire pit to drama on a falling log.

This revelation is thanks to Jeff Gerke's book, The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction, where he slashed through dry dialogue and other forms of telling, zeroing in on showing us the story.  Dialogue isn't necessarily telling, but mine was and I am moving on to more showing.