Archive for category Writing

Literary Graveyard: Which Cemetery is the Most Literary?

Found this on Twitter. What an interesting article.

I have an inexplicable attraction to cemeteries. It’s weird. Spiritually I know they’re useless–the body is only a vessel for the spirit and the soul. And if I’m going to mourn someone, I’m not going to go visit their final “resting place,” because their spirit never spent any time there while it was in the body, so why would I have any connection to a place they have no connection to? Doesn’t make sense.

But there are people out there that are very committed to gravesites. And I suppose that’s why I like them. Not that think that a cemetery is the **most* appropriate memorial, but it is nice that people take so much time to upkeep and decorate. Shows, in a way, how much someone was missed.

Back to the author topic, I think I may have to design a European tour around famous cemeteries. And then an author cemetery tour. Sweet.

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Getting lazy on the National Parks goal.

Re-discovered my 43 Things today. Fortunately I was able to cross a few things off my list! And there are a few that I really need to revise a bit. Backpacking around Australia is kind of out of the question now, although I’d love to go & visit for a few weeks. And while watching The Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon is a great goal, I really need to just get that one over with and out of the way. (And another 43 Things user made this infinitely easier by revealing that already-synched videos are on YouTube. Fab0.)

The thing that inspired me to come back here was Visit All the National Parks. I’m doing this but very slow about writing. And since I just started reading a book about writing,* I’m inspired to get the parks I’ve already visited blogged and scrapped and out of the way. Have been working on a post about the trip to Assateague Island for a few weeks,  just not had the time to finalize!

So the new goal to do at least part of one trip report each week. Each trip report has 5 parts:

  1. First draft—handwrite on bus (until I get computer!!)
  2. First draft—type
  3. Revise first draft, tag
  4. Pick a few photos, post blog, update National Parks Quest page’
  5. Format & print out a copy for the National Park Passport.

Ok this is on!!! Going to finish all the parks I’ve visited by the end of the year!!! Will still have a bunch more to go but it’s a start.

* YES, I know that reading a book about writing is really just procrastinating from writing, but I’m not equipped to write on the bus exactly. See “Into the Woods with Computer and Coffee.” Working on it.

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Into the woods with computer and coffee

Spent the weekend at French Creek State Park with the South Jersey Writers’ Group on a retreat. We had our first one in November, during the National Novel Writing Month Challenge, and it was awesome to not have internet (specifically, not to have Facebook sucking the life out of me) or any other distractions.

The idea for this retreat was to participate in NaNoEdMo, where participants spend 50 hours in the month of March editing one of their projects. I was on a roll through December, but in early January I lost my laptop. Along with it the notes on the major epiphany I had three days before the end of the month.  (Last backup was November 26. Lesson learned.) Fortunately, half of my novel was written in composition notebooks, so I didn’t lose EVERYTHING. Although I didn’t have much hope for anything useful being able to be found; after I changed the story I had regulated my notebooks to merely backstory. But I brought the two notebooks along anyway, hoping that maybe I’d find or recall some of the inspiration.

I haven’t gotten a new laptop yet, but I lugged along my desktop computer. Yes, I did. Me and my Desktop on vacation

I had just downloaded Scrivener, since NaNoWriMo winners got a 50% off coupon. It’s still in Beta stage, but I wanted to get started and I figured it was a good time to demo. I like it. A lot like yWriter, by Spacejock Software, which I also like, but a few more features (and you can color code, which is how I roll)

After paging through my notebooks to see where I had left off, I discovered that I had the new story summary handwritten in one of the notebooks!! Made my weekend! Uploaded and rearranged it, then spent a good two hours developing the backstory more later on that afternoon. Typed in a few more scenes from the notebooks and wrote one new one, for a really productive weekend overall. Yay.

I never get to work on my fiction, but now I finally have enough direction and setup in a story that I can’t wait to continue. I also wrote out a list of goals and plans for accomplishing the story. Going to try to alternate a blog post with transcribing a scene to writing a new one. We’ll see how long this takes me. But at a previous writers’ group meeting, I set an overall goal to pitch to an agent at the 2012 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. Have a long way to go….

Thanks to Christine for the organizing and the coffee pot, Dawn for the meals, Emily for the inspiration, and Jerri for the chocolate! Hoping to plan another one of these for the summer time, at Atsion by the lake! Although I really hope to have a laptop again by then. The desktop worked fine but it was way too much work! 🙂

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There, it’s public: Goals for my NaNoWriMo novel

I had a writers’ retreat this past weekend, where a few women from my writers’ group rented a cabin in the woods to get away from life and work on their writing. It was a good weekend, and I set down some goals for myself. A few months ago at a writing group Meetup, we wrote down some goals for the year for our writing. I had an overall goal, and now I’m developing them even further. The catch is accountability. Who will yell at me if I don’t do it?? There must be someone…

1. Goals for before summer writers’ retreat:

  • Finish transcribing handwritten notebooks
  • Convert synopsis to full outline for Book 1, at least.
  • Research daVinci boxes (an important part of the story!) and ESP (just as important)
  • Develop the three supporting characters and their roles in the stories.

2. Goal for before November NaNoWriMo retreat

  • Complete all missing scenes from Book 1

3. Goals for before March writers’ retreat (2012)

  • Print out first draft by scene, also print outline and background notes
  • Put into binder to manually edit (dividers)
  • Break out the index cards if needed

4. Deadline: Philadelphia writers’ conference, June 2012 (Pitch to an Agent!)

  • Edit manuscript, type edits
  • Have three people review
  • Rewrite synopsis
  • Write a query letter
  • Get the first three chapters ready to go!

Okay, saving this so I have it in front of me! Clock is ticking…..Since I want to blog too, I’m going to try to alternate one day blogging, one day transcribing, one day on new scenes. Hopefully when I switch jobs this won’t be impossible.

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750 Words at a Time

I loved this. It’s so true! But I’ve sent three emails and have four more to go, finished one blog post and wanted to get this one up there, and I’m sitting here with my eyes half open. How does one do it?? Thanks Krista Magrowski and the South Jersey Writers’ Group for sharing the article!

Blood, Sweat and Words by writetodone.com

In other novel news, I lost my computer. In a very stupid manner, in a train station. So I’ve been very disconnected. And unfortunately, when I finally got the guts to lookup my backup, pretty much the only thing that hadn’t been backed up was the novel. Business plans were there fortunately, and all photos & stuff, and a lot of the Get Out Philly Board of Directors stuff had been emailed back and forth. But the last backup was in September, and at least half a dozen times, I thought “oh I need to backup” but never actually did. Also stupid. And I did send quick backups via email during NaNoWriMo, but the last update was November 26. Which was BEFORE the big brain wave that completely changed the story. And I never sent a final update. Stupid strikes again. Also I’d spent a bit of time transcribing my handwritten words via 750words.com, but unfortunately as of January 1 you can’t access the previous year’s work. So all that time spent in December typing has been lost as well.

Everything is working against this story at the moment, but that’s okay. I like it and it’s calling to me, and I really want to work on it. I feel like I “just need one day” to get it all out, but we all know that day doesn’t come. So, I think 750 words at a time it is. And I’m also going to blog more too, but we’ll just have to see how that works out.

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Patterns in my writing

Finally, I won NaNoWriMo this year. It was a close call, and that makes 2 years out of 6 (batting .300? I’ll take it.) I’m starting to notice similarities between last year (my first year, and one of my first mostly complete stories) and this year as well as processes that seemed to work for me in terms of productivity. Just want to jot them down for future reference, I guess so I can do some research if I end up getting stuck next year.

1. I started pretty much with just two or three characters and the concept. After I wrote a few scenes to see what the characters would be like, I ended up writing a synopsis, or summary, of the scenes that I wanted to write out more completely. It was easier to get the plot flowing as a general overview rather than a minute-by-minute recap. Last year, I started with pretty much the same thing and really wound up lost in backstory and endless “character development” scenes that really took the story nowhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if I’m going to invest 50,000 words and a ridiculous amount of time, it should be more with scenes that will be useful to the story in some way.

2. That being said, even though I had the synopsis to guide me (I would just pick a scene and write it minute-by-minute until it was done), I still ended up overhauling the synopsis a few times. In each one less of what I had written previously fit with the new plot. I suppose that’s part of my creative process though. Regardless of planning sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you want them to. I think it’s more fun to keep things flexible. In the end I don’t mind too much, since I know I’m going to have to have about 10 times as many words before I finish the first draft. (Wow.)

I need to clarify that I lost the first four years I tried this. Last year was my make or break year; if I didn’t win I was going to give up completely. But I won so now I’m screwed. I was also unemployed, which is a terrible way to take on a challenge that you expect to keep up once you are otherwise occupied for 50 or so hours a week. (Don’t discount the travel time!)

On a stranger note, two things happened both this year and last that I’m sure had something to do cosmically with my winning.

1. Near the end of the story, after having muddled in a sea of confusion, dead ends and frustrating nowhere sequences for nearly three weeks, I finally muddled enough that everything became clear, and I knew what direction the story would take. Last year, I had one major breakthrough very near the end, and had to reconstruct not only a few characters as well as more clearly define the ending. It was panic inducing but also gave me the energy I needed to make the goal.

This year, I had two. One was a major character that would completely change the tone of the story. Or so I thought. But she ended up being boring–until I made her the go-fer for the evil nemesis, whose very existence was the second AHA moment I had. Once I figured that out, I hashed out a whole new synopsis–good for nearly 4,000 words– and then all of a sudden it became a children’s book series. I’m still fuzzy on some of the details, especially regarding the ending, but I’ll just muddle on it a little longer–particularly the evil characters– and I’m sure something will happen.

2. I was writing in a public place with less than a week to go, trying futilely to concentrate and/or pull something out of thin air to write about. And then a random stranger walked in, sat down in front of me and fell asleep. Then woke up and walked away. Seriously. Last year was at the Cherry Hill library, when I was at about 40,000 words and three days left. This year, I was in Wegman’s cafe with about 35,000 and a week left. I had the “eureka moment” somewhere around the time when these people appeared. I am convinced each one had something to do with my winning both years, and I’m hoping that sometime near the end of November next year, the same thing will happen and bring with it the same good luck.

Two other good things that helped: meeting up with other writers. Thanks Janice Wilson and the S. Jersey NaNo group for the write-ins. Magical Rainbow Unicorn Horses, Assemble! Also the Municipal Liasons this year were FANTASTIC and totally motivating: three cheers for LadyBard and JamieMoon!

Thanks Julia Hays and Terri Erbacher for this year’s inspirational random plot lines and characters. Excerpts soon, hopefully before the end of the month!

I guess this makes me a “pants-er.” 😀

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So I am a childrens’ writer, it seems

So many people were so encouraging during this year’s 30-day, 50K writing challenge, I thought I’d at least post what it’s about. All of course still pending. 🙂

I thought I had a fairly interesting take on a story for this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. A man whose wife has died from cancer “picks up the pieces of life,” in a sense, and starts dating again and tries to raise his teenage daughters. Actually, it was pretty boring. So for awhile, it turned into a romance, and THAT was even more boring. Then I figured I needed a good plot twist so SOMETHING, ANYTHING would freaking HAPPEN in this boring, boring story. So an illegitimate child of the dead mother came back looking for her. Then it became a bit of a soap opera, and that was extremely painful and awkward. Got stuck at 20,000 words. But I found I was really interested in the three daughters and how they responded to their mother’s death.

Then I thought it might be interesting to have the ghost of the mother come back, and tied in another idea I’d had for a child who could talk to ghosts. That was a little more interesting, but still very Ghost Whisperer kind of blah. And the story was still about the dad, and I’ve been working on the idea for the little girl who talks to ghosts for awhile and I was loath to sacrifice her story to tell that of the boring dad.

Then at about 40,000 words, it all came together. The mom, in the original story, was a teen psychologist and everyone who saw the ghost saw her in a lab coat. I had kind of wanted to connect the girl who talks to ghosts with the concept of “indigo children,” which according to some have “special gifts” and according to others, have ADHD. The original story behind the illegitimate child was that the mom went to France on a research grant, and had a baby that she gave up for adoption while she was over there. It was never clear who the father was. Then boom, like a crazy pharmaceutical experiment,* the ideas between psychological research grant, France and ADD somehow mushed into an evil force behind the research grant. The mother’s benefactor is using the mom’s research (and a few other key scientists’) to find a way to control teenagers and stop them from thinking for themselves. The experiments performed on the teens used powerful medication (yeah, this part I have to work on) and somehow it affected the mom in the story (also that part)….and her children. So, long story longer, over the course of three or four books, the daughters end up with superpowers, solve a series of mysteries left by their mother to stop the illegitimate child from gaining access to her research, then go to France and destroy the evil Benefactor, donate the research to charity, win boyfriends, gain a stepmom when Dad marries his new girlfriend, and then the Zombie Apocalypse happens. The End.

At it’s core, I guess, it’s not very original. But it was fun to plan, fast to summarize–and about three sentences after I changed it to a children’s story, It was SO much more fun and interesting to write. The whole tone changed and became a lot less serious, and I got interested again. Guess this means I’m a children’s writer after all.

PS If you’re wondering when it’s going to be ready to read….not for a long awhile. I’m going to spend December transcribing from my notebooks and fleshing out a few new characters and key scene. Then I’ll save it, archive it, back it up, print a hard copy to look at later….and go back to my very first NaNoWriMo story, which involves time travel, pirates, a crazy old lady with a mysterious dog, and more saving the world. Probably no ghosts, and definitely no science experiments. Ok maybe a ghost or two. Zombies maybe. Have been wanting to work on that story for awhile, but I wanted to get this year’s NaNoWriMo novel out of the way first. Hoping to have this one wrapped up by the end of December and will start on the older story by January, with the goal to be “pitch to an agent” by the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference in June 2012. Then after I’ve revised the crap out of that one, I’ll probably pick this one up again.

*No, the plot was not conceived DURING a crazy pharmaceutical experiment.

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