Friday, December 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo Round-Up

Yep, it's all over and I survived. Barely.

Words written: 50,062
Last word written: exist


NaNoWriMo pushed me harder than I thought possible. Of course, much of what I wrote was garbage: unnecessary he saids or she saids, frequently accompanied with an adverb; kind ofs and sort ofs aplenty; and I did succumb to the lure of adding song lyrics. Several times.

But I did NOT use the pre-existing pages I had in the the word count, so I'd still like to pat myself on the back. If not for a job well done, then at least done. Sort of.

I'm about 15 pages from finishing up a rough draft. And that's something that should get a happy dance. The novel is a rambling mess, but I have a clear idea now of the story arc and the characters' voices. Those 15 pages should be a cakewalk. I know I shouldn't lose the momentum, but I'm kind of, sort of sick of the whole thing, she said defensively.

So I'm giving myself a little break from the novel. For how long? I don't really know. Probably not much longer because I find myself rewriting scenes in my head while I'm taking a shower. That's always a good sign.

And for all those Nanoers out there that finished, WOOT to you, too. For those of you who didn't, keep going. And I hope to see you again next year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

3 Things I've Learned From NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Lesson 1: Deadlines are good
I've always found it easier to write when I have a hard and fast deadline looming over me. I'm not saying that I write any better, but I'm much less likely to procrastinate by playing Bejeweled or watching Amazing Wedding Cakes if I know I have to get pages done.

NaNoWriMo has been an excellent kick in the pants for me. Although I'm about 10,000 words behind the pace, I've got about 135 really crappy pages so far. That's about 120 pages more than I had at the beginning of November.

Will I make the magic 50,000 words by the end of November? Doesn't matter. I'm on a trajectory right now that will have me completing my first draft sooner rather than later.

NaNoWriMo Lesson 2: Encouragement is better
I've been posting my word count as my Facebook status each day. The encouragement from friends on good days and bad days (and there have a few zero word count days) has really kept me motivated. Having your own cheering section does wonders for the "I-don't want-to-do-this-anymore" blues.

I also went to my first write-in a few weeks ago. Sitting in a cafe with a bunch of other WriMos while they're clacking on their laptops and chugging coffee was a shared experience that keeps me motivated. Writing is such a lonely occupation that it's good for us to get together and share our paltry word counts, our vague plotlines, our moments of fear and loathing. And there was a 13-year-old girl at the write-in who was participating in her third NaNoWriMo. Not the Young Writers Program where they have to write a certain amount of words based on their grade level (and it's less than 50,000 words). She was doing the adult-sized version. Did I mention it was for the third time? If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.
 
NaNoWriMo Lesson 3: Preparation is best
I deliberately started my novel without an outline, although I'm a diligent outliner when I write scripts. I had an idea where I wanted to start and end, and I figured the middle would work itself out. It's been liberating, for the most part, to just go and write. I've learned things about my characters and gone places with them I probably wouldn't have otherwise.

But I also feel that a lot of what I've written is filler that will be cut in the next draft. I know it's part of the NaNoWriMo ethos to include detailed descriptions of what the character's bedroom looks like or to include an extended flashback of an important scene from her childhood, but I just wrote a scene where my character gets her upper lip waxed for the first time. Slightly comical scene, yes. Important plot or character development, not so much.

I had done some character building before NaNoWriMo started. I created a profile for my main character, but it was a brief one, not as detailed as suggested in The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri (which every writer should read). And I jumped into NaNoWriMo before I created profiles for the other characters. I strongly suspect that if I had done this before NaNoWriMo started, I would be writing scenes with more emotional depth than lip waxing.

But the point is that these are the lessons that I've learned during my very first NaNoWriMo. And, yes, I'll be doing this again because I'm hooked and possibly a little insane. And next time should be far less painful. (Right? Please tell me yes.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo Newbie

I first heard about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago. Since I was in graduate school, it was simply out of the question for me to commit to writing a novel (even a crappy one) in a month. But now I'm footloose and fancy-free (aka unemployed), so I'll be giving NaNoWriMo a go.

Just what is NaNoWriMo? Glad you asked. It's short for National Novel Writing Month, a wacky idea started by a group of writers to kick start their writing mojo. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Since word count was a concern of mine (see last blog entry), NaNoWriMo will give me the impetus I need to get out the vomit draft of my YA novel. I'm a huge believer in the power of the vomit draft. Getting that novel out isn't pretty and it usually stinks, too. But it's done. And then its time to clean up.

NaNoWriMo costs nothing to participate and there is really only one rule. You gotta start from scratch. No reworking old drafts, no finishing works-in-progress. Oops. It's my first NaNoWriMo and I'm breaking the cardinal rule. But I've only got 12 pages of my YA novel so far and I probably will only have 2 or 3 more by the time November rolls around. I figure if I don't count the pages I already have, I'm staying within the spirit of the thing.

Even if I'm cheating, I don't care. I'm doing this to force me into the time management that will produce a novel (even a crappy one) in a month. NaNoWriMo will have served its purpose and I'll have my vomit draft. Because the real goal isn't 50,000 words; it's being one step closer to telling the story I want to share with readers.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Word Count Worries?

I've been writing screenplays for awhile and I've got page count down. Stay around 120 pages for drama features, 90 pages for thrillers, action/adventure, and comedies (romantic or otherwise), 55 for TV drama scripts, 30 for sitcoms. More or less. Preferably less.

But I'm changing my focus to writing kiddy lit, so I was thrilled to see a recent Writer's Digest blog about word count for novels and children's literature. The areas I'm working on now are picture books and a YA novel. The advice given for picture books is under 500 words. There I'm okay. Most of the picture books I've written so far are usually under 200 words. I am writing for the toddler crowd, so there's little need for much plot. What's the conflict in Goodnight Moon? Bunny delays bedtime by saying good night too much. What really counts is how to use those precious few words, building rhythm and a sense of satisfaction at the end.

The YA novel is more complicated. Word count should be between 50,000-69,999 words, which translates into roughly 250-350 pages (feel free to double-check my math). This would be longer than anything I've written, comparable to 2 features, 3 romantic comedies, 5 TV dramas, or 8 sitcoms! Yikes!

I'm trying not to get freaked out by word count and simply tell the story. My first draft, what I like to call the vomit draft, will be exactly long as it needs to be. Just so I get all the ideas out. Just so there are words (any words) on paper. Then I can rewrite, add more characterization, flesh out that subplot, even (gulp!) cut stuff that isn't working. Rewriting is, by far, my favorite part of writing. Don't get me wrong. It is completely agonizing in its own way, but compared to facing the dreaded blank page, rewriting is practically tiptoeing through the tulips.

So, deep breath, think happy thoughts, and don't let the word count scare you. As Alfred E. Neuman would say, "What, Me Worry?"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lists, Lists and More Lists!

Librarians love lists. Summer reading lists, Notable this, Top Ten that ... nothing makes a librarian more blissful than putting together a list that convinces a reader, "Yeah, I want to read THAT!"

So when I saw floating around Facebook a list that was reputedly put together by the BBC, with the dictum that people generally would have read no more than 6 titles, I had to have a look. Well, I had my doubts about the provenance of the list when both "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" and "Hamlet" appeared.

Literary sleuth that I am, I found the real list at the BBC's The Big List. The goal of the BBC was to conduct a poll to find the nation's most beloved books. The large number of children's titles on the list goes to show what an impact children's literature has. The books we read in our youth are more likely to be remembered and loved than the more high-falutin' literature of our adulthood.

All this got me thinking about my 8 year old nephew, Tony. He's at the point where he's becoming a more independent reader, although he still loves to be read to. The books he'll read for the next 4 years (before the teenage years) will most likely be the books he'll treasure for the rest of his life. So what should these books be?

"Aha!" I thought. I'm a librarian. I'll put together a list. The 101 Books Children Should Read Before They Become Teenagers. I'm open to classics, contemporary, graphic novels, wordless books, and picture books for older readers. (I'll save the easy readers and picture books for younger children for my 4 year old niece Alyssa's list.)

Care to help me out? What's your favorite book for ages 8-12?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Boy, I Could Really Go for Some Gooey Dewey

In the midst of a major rewrite of a script, nothing beats putting off revisions like trolling through Facebook. Especially if it involves ice cream.

I found the People for a Library-Themed Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream group on FB and happily joined the cause. One suggested flavor is Gooey Decimal System with marshmallow, book-shaped fudge and Gummi Worms in vanilla ice cream. But I like the name Gooey Dewey better (rhyming names are fun, such as the classic Chunky Monkey), and the flavor needs to have more chocolate. I'm thinking chocolate ice cream with a caramel swirl and fudge chunks.

I humbly submit the flavor Crazy Patron, which would be banana ice cream with crumbled graham crackers and mixed nuts. Just a thought.

So take a moment from your own writing project and see the other flavors submitted. Maybe come up with a few of your own. It's not procrastinating if it you use word play in the naming of the flavor. Consider it a writing prompt!

Monday, May 25, 2009

To Free or Not to Free

YA Author Cory Doctorow is giving away free downloads of his new sci-fi novel, Little Brother. The reviews on Amazon are beyond glowing from such YA titans as Neil Gaiman and Scott Westerfeld. I've downloaded it and am looking forward to the read. BUT ... would you give away your blood, sweat, and royalties so easily?

Doctorow's contention is that obscurity is worse than piracy. Get the book out there, make people aware of it, and book sales will actually increase. It probably helps that the book is, according to reviews, a damn good one. Doctorow covers himself with a Creative Commons license that allows non-commercial sharing. Readers can create fan fic, which is especially important for YA readers, who become invested in the characters and like to continue the story on their own (I certainly wrote my share of comic book fan fic as a teen).

But give away the whole novel? Seriously? Why not just the first three chapters to whet appetites? Would teens' short attention spans stop them from finishing the novel because they have to take the extra step of going to library or bookstore to pick up a copy? I haven't finished writing my own YA novel yet, let alone completed the herculean task of getting it published, so perhaps I'm being too precious about giving it away for free.

Tell me: would you give away your novel (YA or otherwise) for free? Why or why not?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

For Librarians Who Write

Librarians tend to be book-loving, reading-happy, creative-thinking people. These kind of people also tend to be writers. Maybe you've never shared the 5000 page mega-fantasy you've been working on since 9th grade with your co-workers. Maybe you jot off ideas for a "cute meet" in your romcom screenplay when the Reference desk is slow. Maybe you've revised that YA novel so many times that the rural coming-of-age story now involves vampires who go to an exclusive Manhattan prep school and must stop the coming nuclear apocalypse. If so, then this blog is for you.

To give advice and support to other librarian writers who like to tell stories, I'll be sharing my own writing angst, missteps, and occasional good news. Any interesting articles, webpages, blogs, or other miscellany on writing, librarianship, and the world at large will be passed on to you. And please share your own writing angst, missteps, and good news. Because we're in this together, baby.

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