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Nanowrimo 2019: Writing Commitments vs. Life

nanowrimo2019When I was a lot younger, someone I admired once snidely commented that I did a lot of things and then asked if I was good at any of them.  It was a gut punch, and I believe that he intended it that way.

But that was long ago, and had he asked me that today, I would have said I was good at all of them. I then would have turned the question on him, complete with the raised-eyebrow-who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are-little-minion look.

Throughout the past couple of years I’ve added to the things I’m good at. I’ve taken classes, perfected techniques, and clobbered goals over the head. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes you strike out, and sometimes you hit it out of the park. What I’ve always thought mattered is that you have the courage to swing.

In honour of Nanowrimo this year, I came out swinging.  I set goals, joined an accountability group, pulled my first novel out of the dark corner of my hard drive, and prepped my characters to write a full outline of my third novel. Oh yes, I had goals. Very, lofty goals. I even took time off to dedicate to writing.

And then my man popped the question, and I said yes.

Very exciting for a gal who has been single for the better part of 20 years. A swath of emotion flung doors open in my psyche that I thought didn’t keep anything worthwhile behind them any more. There’s been a lot of processing of the trauma I came from, worked through, and gratitude. Oh, so much gratitude.

I’m planning a wedding!!! And it’s going to be joyous. If you don’t know me, I will share this with you; my first wedding ripped open a wound that ran deep down through generations of physical and psychological abuse in all of their insidious forms.  It’s like I can finally wave good-bye to all of those things. The pattern has been shattered – picture me flexing my muscles and smiling….

Nanowimo-what?!

Oh yah.

So this week if I’m gonna do Nano, I have to come out swinging.  (I’m counting these words toward my first day of word counting BTW) I’ve adjusted my goals after having successfully re-read my novel from last year again. There is depth to add, secondary characters to develop, and a sub-plot that’s waiting to be birthed.

The real commitment to Nanowrimo is to commit despite whatever else life might throw at us.  (413 words).

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Nanowrimo As Sport: 2019 Prep

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Nanowrimo is upon us. Well, it’s upon me, and I like to think that we’re all in this together, even though I know it’s just me and my cats. Well, at least one of the cats. The other one doesn’t give a shit.

I’m alway mid-novel when the inspiration for the next one comes, and it’s always different. No formula, no easy way to plot it, just a story and characters that poke their heads out from behind the curtain of my overactive imagination and dance naked across the stage, strategically covering their most interesting bits.

I have yet to hear the countdown of my editing wrestling match with my novel from last year, but I’m planning a giant flying pile driver from the top rope to finally stun that thing into submission. Yes, it’s starting to feel like an opponent, and I’m not about to let it pin my creative shoulders to the mat.

It sounds aggressive, but I have to be. With enthusiastic characters waiting in the wings, I don’t have time to mess around with it any more. I need to make friends with my new folks. The ones that seem kinda normal, but lead extraordinary lives.

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My next novel is about choice, surrender vs. giving up, contentment vs. greed, and the different ways in which passion manifests as we stride through mid-life. I hope that you will see yourself in my every-woman characters, laugh, cry (maybe not so much), and gasp at the ending.

To all of my fellow Nanowrimo authors, I hope that your prep time is as lush with new character creations as mine is.

 

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How Being a Gen-Xer Benefits Janu-Edit

Janu-Edit is a month long edit-fest, and I’m totally into it. Hell, my generation of 90’s coffee slurping pseudo-BA-educated, blazer and scarf wearing peers practically set us all up with the perfect place to write and edit.

I’m into Janu-Edit  because I have a brand spanking new first draft of a novel that needs some…tweaking before I send it out for real editing.  By someone who hasn’t lived through the hundreds of pages agonizingly trying to squeeze out an outline without getting lost in the novelists world that characters create in their head.

My favourite place to write has always, hands down, been a busy corner of one of many Starbucks locations tucked safely inside of a Chapters or Indigo. With so much condescending talk about Millennials, we’ve forgotten about my generation – the Gen-Xers. We are the reason that pretentious, over-priced coffee houses who allow you to sit and use their space for free (other than buying the coffee and mass produced pastry), exist.

For the past number of weeks I have been bound to the house, hours out are a precious commodity, and as my time as a caregiver comes to an end, I feel the need for a change of scenery, for a uplifting events, and kindred exchanges of friendship.

Today I escaped to begin the arduous process of picking through my first draft. During a ‘happy new year’ phone call to a jaded pal, she proclaimed that her new year’s eve inspired  the conclusion that, as she so delicately phrased it, “all men are shit.” Quite a conclusion to clear the path for a fresh, new year.

Don’t worry darlings, I didn’t forget where I was going with this post. I wrote the last two paragraphs to tell you this;

My coffee shop escapes are a rich resource for character development.

Once I settle in connected to power, wifi, and caffeine, I generally can sit for hours, only getting up and purchasing the obligatory coffee every hour or so in order not to become a parasite. While perched at my window seat (my favourite place to write, sip and observe), my gaze followed a middle-aged man who strolled in through Starbucks and went straight for the magazine rack.

Would this man be aware of my friend let’s say, eyeballing him with abject hatred, because he was a man? The grey hair on his head was balding. He sported  undone work boots, blue jeans (clean, and in a traditional dad cut that left all manner of physique to the imagination), and an orange construction coat with the reflective yellow X on the back.

This isn’t the kind of guy who buys six dollar coffee. And he certainly wasn’t the type of man who automatically strolls over to the copy of Birds and Blooms on the magazine rack. Not if you’re thinking in stereotypes. Stereotypes alone can only get a writer so far, and then you need real character. You see, real people (just like characters) have all sorts of quirks and habits that need to be worked out, and often times these quirks come out only as authors write them into situations where they are interacting with other characters, or even more interestingly, with only themselves.

Pausing to look up at the world that’s going on in that little microcosm of a literary coffee shop inspires character, and the coffee caffeinates. Coffee culture has always been alive and well throughout the world, bringing friends together and demanding space to generate ideas. In my little corner of Canada, Gen-Xers breathed new life into the coffee shops that are home to so many artists and writers.

sweater and scarfThis month I’m on a roll, feeling right at home curled up in my stereotypical cozy sweater and scarf, sipping a latte, or herbal tea, and looking very serious about what I’m working on.  Janu-Edit doesn’t stand a chance against this stereotype, I just hope my quirks don’t get in the way.

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What did you win? ~ What didn’t I?

do what you loveYah, last year I jumped on the speeding wagon of NaNoWriMo and fell off almost immediately.

This year I won. I won!!!

What did you win?

I actually completed the first draft of my novel. Which leaves me with over 200 pages of crap to edit during the next few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m going to be the next J.K. Rowling. But I do think I’ll be a hell of a lot more interesting, joyful and fulfilled than a lot of people my age who have no other hobbies than gossiping, bitching and the occasional hangover.

Hobbies, interests, and stepping out into the world to be exposed to new ideas and different people helps to make us better people, or at the very least more engaged.  Apathy after all is really not just the biggest sin against humanity, but it’s boring as hell. I daresay it’s even found lingering as the cord that connects the seven deadliest of sins.

So I met the goal of NaNoWriMo, got out to meet other writers in my community, and managed to inspire myself to think more intensely about the art and craft of storytelling. Which in turn turned me toward book reviews, essays and text books. And of course that led me to reading  new books, articles and interviews by authors of very different ilks.

The win of NaNoWriMo is not simply the word count or the first draft, it’s actually keeping people engaged with a world bigger than just themselves.  A world that ever more seems to be frightening, contentious and less likely to change just because we care.

If you’re not a writer, this definitely won’t be your thing, but you may find it via a few words on the page. If not, I beg of you to find it somewhere. Find something that makes you happy, interact with other people even more knowledgeable and passionate as you are, and  make a difference in your little corner of the planet. Create your pocket of joy and goodness so that it spreads and connects to another. The world will thank you.

 

 

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NaNoWriMo Eve

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It’s official. I’m a NaNoWriMo Geek.

I’m into it for my second year, and I’m trying to find new and exciting ways to both be at my keyboard, and avoiding it all at the same time. There’s something about banging out a novel that heightens that feeling of being alive. You know, living on the edge of greatness.

The edge is as close as I’ve ever gotten.

Today, on a self-proclaimed writing day, as I drove through the city to run the time-sucking errands that every amateur writer fitfully completes so that they can feel less guilty about sitting down to write, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I have always been afraid of my own success. I mean, after all, I’m good at a lot of things, I just fizzle out half way through. I get bored.

Novel writing can be much the same. Momentum is key.

Finishing a chapter with nothing else to write, or no ideas is like seeing your partner naked for the first time in the harsh, full light of day. Not so great when you’re over 40. With no ideas to spur you on, your novel becomes the anatomical equivalent of a mottled, slightly hairy, saggy scrotum and a flat ass bent over trying to pull up it’s pants.

As Hemingway once said, always leave something unwritten. It’s easier to get up in the morning and start writing if you have left something unsaid.

And so it is with me; less writing until I’m drained, and more writing, leaving something unsaid for the next day.

Wish me luck folks. May this novel be the equivalent of a young lover as seen through  the bottom of a glass of champers and the haze of candlelight.

 

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Writer’s Block:When The Characters Hide

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Is it just me or has the world gone mad? Seriously, our politics has become our entertainment, and our entertainers have become politicians. Sadly, this little role-playing swap has left us without leaders, and a lot of Instagram-twitter-social-media-armchair activists.

I find myself wishing that I could write something as completely insane as our political stage, and the characters of the day.

It’s a rare morning here. I got to sleep in. The kind of sleeping in that I enjoy most; no rush, writing and a long walk in the sun the only things on my list before I head out on a road trip to see my kiddo, my mumster, and listen to an inspiring woman lecture about fearless business strategy.

But let’s get back to the sleeping in. My favourite part of sleeping in is the sensuality of waking; the comforting weight of my duvet, warm against my back, the cool sheet against my foot, letting it slide  out from under the covers, the sun streaming through the window, and just as wonderful, the memories I choose to call to mind (thank you gentlemen)…ah-hem

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And then there’s the writing.  When I finally manage to pull myself away from the indulgence of my cloud-bed, the first stop is the kitchen, where I habitually turn on CBC radio, and fill the kettle and putter while the water heats.  Back to our circus of

politicians, the terrible state of the world and my partner shouting my to-do list from where he’s putting the final touches on his scramble out the door. He already knows I’m not in the mood to take on someone else’s priorities, so eventually he stops yammering, races by, gives me a kiss and leaves.

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With my hot tea, and the late winter sun shining down on me at my writing desk, I wonder how I lost my stride. Where did my characters hide? Those wonderfully complex people who came alive for a hundred pages or so seem to have disappeared when domesticity and my ‘real job’ wore me down.

Maybe if I tempt them, they will come back and speak to me again; A few lines of inspired poetry,  my go-to writing prompts, a new muse, some quiet time in the tropics….