NaNoWriMo – 2017

It is that time of the month again where I join with other writers to discuss the “dark side” of being a writer. Actually, that might be a bit of a strong term, but it will do for now. On the first Wednesday of every month Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) posts one or two subject questions so we can talk about our doubts and the fears that we have conquered as writers. We can discuss our struggles and triumphs then offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling with their own writing.

This month’s question:

  • Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Let me explain NaNo for the readers who are not familiar. The full term is NaNoWriMo which is short for National Novel Writing Month. During November of every year, writers around the globe sit down to write a novel in thirty days. Sound easy? NOT! The goal is to crank out 50,000 words in a mere thirty days, and if you want one day a week off you have to manage 2,000 everyday of the month. It is, to say the least, an insane challenge.

On to the questions. Do I finish NaNo? I have only participated once before and it kicked my butt out the door by day 10. November is just plain HARD. It is a month when my job intensifies and life just pulls in too many directions. I am trying again this year so I’ll let you know the results. Needless to say, nothing has been published ——

YET.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the November 1 posting of the IWSG, Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Advertisements

Pop’s Story

I recently completed editing my great grandfather’s autobiographical manuscript about his life as a railroad man in the early 1900’s.  It was inspirational to read his words and be a part of something he started to write so long ago. He wrote everything in longhand and, in turn, my great aunt would put the words to the typewriter. Correspondence was by snail mail so each leg of the writing was done over weeks and months rather than the minutes we enjoy in today’s electronic world. There was no spell check, just a dictionary. Errors were erased and retyped, or the page was just pulled out of the typewriter and thrown away.

Research, and his manuscript, have taught me a lot about the railroad business of the early 1900’s. It was a mix of brutality and joy with a little despair mixed in. Grand-“Pop” was a civil engineer who found the lay of the land and supervised the workers to lay the track, and with this unique perspective he wrote about events that happened nearly a hundred twenty years ago. He loved this work that it took him through hostile lands both here and abroad.  He fought swamps and deserts, along with rebels and farmers.  He went so far as to be a founding father of a small town just so a railroad station could be built there. He had moxie.

I am working on my own novel based on some of his stories. I find it challenging to try and put words into his mouth for fear of painting him with the wrong palette. Even after reading and transcribing his memoir, I still worry. To put words in his mouth brings him back down to the human plane when, to me, he is larger than life. I ask myself if he would say something like what I’m writing? How would he look at his men after they berated a Chinese laborer? What did he actually say to them? What would he be thinking as he lay nearly frozen to death in the north woods? How did he get across the muskeg, on foot, so many times?

My great grandfather passed away in the late 40’s. To know him and what he might say is lost to time. I hope that the character I have created for him lives up to him at least a little bit. Only when I join him in the afterlife will I know who he really was. So, until then my imaginings will have to do.

#IWSG – A Writer’s Retreat

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. I just learned about this fun group from Shannon Lawrence, who is a fellow writer and blogger. Just the title of the group screamed that I needed to check it out. This group was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh so writers could virtually gather to express their thoughts about writing. It looks intriguing so I have joined in.

Our co-hosts today are Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner!

The question for this month is: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing? Let’s take a look at these one at a time because each one raises a different set of Pet Peeves for me.

READING: When I read a book that has gone through all of the gyrations to reach publication I have high expectations. My number one issue is misspelled words. I can accept a couple, especially in a manuscript of 100,000 words, but when I see multiple instances of spelling errors my hackles start to raise.

A manuscript goes through the mill before publication, and if an author has done due diligence it would have been seen by the author, spell check, critique groups, beta readers, editors (line and content), publishers, early prints, and then reprints. By the time a book is into the mainstream it should not have spelling errors.

Editing: When I’m editing my own work my pet peeve is that I’m too hard on myself. I do endless comparisons of my work to great writers I aspire to write as well as. I remind myself that they have their creative greatness and I have mine. If I find myself being too hard on me, I set it aside and come back later when I’m not thinking of a Jane Austin novel.

WRITING: In this area I tend to not be too hard on myself. The entire process of writing is, in of itself, a process. Like all writers, I start with an idea then progresses through a vast journey of discovery. When I first started to write I thought, “This will be easy. I just put words to paper and, voila, a book appears.” I laugh at myself. Just getting started was a huge learning curve, and today I continue to learn my craft. If I had to name one thing that is difficult for me it would be to write everyday. Getting in a few days a week is a thrill, and I hope one day life will allow me to write daily.

As a reader, what are your Pet Peeves?

#IWSG

@TheIWSG

Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just purchased the new software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have been working with it for just a short while. Actually, only about an hour. This blog post is the first sizable bit of writing that I have done with it.

I decided to purchase the software mostly because I broke my arm last weekend. Typing with one hand is quite slow and rather annoying. I had been thinking about purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking in order to increase my output as a writer because I felt like my hands kept getting in the way of my thought processes when I’m writing. Then I broke my arm.

It is quite awkward to talk and try to keep track of where my punctuation goes. I am getting the hang of it pretty quick and things seem to be slowly coming together. I will say that this program is quite accurate so far. I haven’t really come across anything that is not working very well. I do go back and double check spelling and punctuation, and things like that, just because I’m not saying them correctly yet. For the most part I’m pretty impressed.

I have the premium version that I purchased on Amazon for about $75. The only drawback was the headset that came with the software didn’t work, and I had to purchase a separate headset with a USB connection.

Since breaking my arm I have a whole new appreciation for anyone who has limited use of a hand. This limitation really brings challenges that you never would think about on a day-to-day basis. Things such as opening a bottle, or putting on your pants, or tying your shoes. I also found that typing is extremely challenging, and things that took me just a few minutes to type now take me twenty. Finding this software has made my life simpler. So, I’m looking forward to continuing the test on this software. I let you know how it all works out.

Leap

During the month of February I joined a group of writers in a writing challenge. The gist of it was to write everyday for the month of February with the end result being that good habits will continue through the rest of the year. Today is the final day of that challenge and for this last day I set a challenge for everyone to write a flash fiction or a short short story using the following 8 words:

  • Leap
  • Jump
  • Fly
  • Year
  • Day
  • Crazy
  • Fun
  • Write

Without further adieu…

Come to the Beach

The breeze off the ocean pulls my hair back out of my eyes. Trying to write on the beach is not always easy, but today I think it’s in my favor. My papers jump and, chased by the gust, I watch a leaf fly across the sand . This year has been much like the leaf. What was it like before? I try to recall. I think I was fun at one time, maybe even a little bit crazy, but those days are past.

I close my binder and take one last look before I leave. The salt fills my nose with a chill and my hair tangles on the buckle of my bag. It is happening again, I can feel it crawl up my spine. I’m going to change someone’s life today. I never know who, nor how, but whenever I get that itchy feeling I know it’s coming.

Once I gave my lottery numbers to someone and they won. I read about a mugging the next day. Another time I stopped to pet a cat along side a road, then it took a leap over the curb. One day I left my shoes at the top of the stairs. He never saw the bottom. Those are the ones that get me. Those are the ones that make this all so unbearable.

Today I will change someone’s life. I have been warned, and so have you. Tomorrow I’ll return to this spot to see the wind chase a new leaf across the sand. Would you like to join me?

Opinion – Harper Lee

With Harper Lee’s death there is already speculation about her writing and if it should have been (or should be) published. There are discussions about the publishing houses and if they preyed on an elderly woman with dementia. Was her state of mind lucid enough to suddenly publish Go Set a Watchman? I do not have an answer to this question, but I do know a little bit about the elderly.

Over the past 5 years I watched my father slowly lose his mental faculties to age related dementia. There were days he was his old self, full of jokes and laughter. Then there were the days he thought he was at his childhood summer home wondering where his brother and sister were. It was his good days that threw me off balance, so much so that I thought he was back and we didn’t have to worry anymore. It was his good days that made all the rest bearable. It was his good days that gave me a false sense of “normal.”

If I had to guess, it may have been during one of those good days (sometimes they last for days and weeks at a time) that Harper Lee was cleverly duped into signing the rights over. Maybe it was a series of good days. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

One thing I feel is true, as a writer, if there is anything I never want published – I’ll destroy any and all copies, forms, ideas, and outlines of said story while I have the mind to do it. “Horrors!” You might say, “What if you change your mind?” If, what I wrote before (and deleted) is good enough, or fills my heart enough to finish, I will find the words again. I will find the story again. Plus, it will probably be much better the second time around.

Harper Lee should have destroyed any manuscripts she really didn’t want published. If she disliked Go Set a Watchman so much, she should have burned it. Why? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as writers to protect our work, because those that prey on the weak and debilitated will pounce the moment we can’t stop them. It is our work and our choice about publication. Period.

Welcome 2016

We just crossed into a new year…are you excited? If you said, “YES!” then I’m with you. I am really looking forward to this year and what secrets it holds.The future is never certain, but I will make the best of it. My plan for 2016 is pretty simple; publish my debut novel The Manx. This book has been in the works for a few years and kept on the back burner while I dug down into the craft of writing. Developing character and story arcs, along with structure and plot are all necessary for developing a good book, but when I started The Manx I knew nothing about writing a book and soon discovered that it needed a little work.

Since its inception (around 2013), I have kept it safely on the shelf just waiting for the day I had enough confidence (and know-how) to pull it back out and dive in. The Manx is coming out to play and its going to be awesome! If you like fairy tales this will be your kind of read. I won’t reveal any more right now, but look to future posts as I introduce you to the Isle of Man and its people, the Manx.

Until then, enjoy the beginnings of this new year. Make your resolutions. Keep them or not. No matter what, make the best of everything that happens this year. It will be the one, and only, time you get to live 2016.