Day 12

Another late post. Busy day today. But it was a good writing morning for day 12 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

It didn’t start out so well. I got up, planted myself in front of the computer, wrote a sentence, and thought, “I have no idea where I’m going with this scene.” I’m still in that squishy middle that I’ve been trying to clean up and streamline, and I’m working on a new scene that will bring together the first half of the novel with the second half. (I messed up a bit in the first draft, so skipped ahead and wrote to the end figuring I’d fix it in the revision, i.e. now.)

What to do when you don’t know what to do? Well, after proscrastinating with the Internet for about 30 minutes (I know, I know), I started thinking about the problem and realized that, writing for an hour or two every morning — a very early, mind-numbing hour or two — I’m not able to clearly get the big picture of my whole story in my head. Without seeing the two parts that have to be joined clearly, it’s difficult to see how to weave scenes that will join them.

So, I thought of what The Unnameables author Ellen Booraem said in her comment on this blog the other day, and picked up a notebook and a pen. I wasn’t looking for stream-of-conscience kind of inspiration, but something more structured. So, I modified what Ellen had suggested and wrote out a kind of timeline between the last major plot point to the current scene.

Bingo! Even though six chapters had passed, I realized it was only a couple days in the time of the story, and not enough time for what needed to happen. Plus, I was better able to see location placement, which also helped with the flow of the story. The next scenes popped into my head clear as day, the end of the last one nicely blending with the second half of the story. That’s it! I’ve got it. I now know what to do. All I have to do now is write it… but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Sunday, to be exact. That’s right. No writing for me tomorrow, at least not this kind. But I have an excellent excuse: I’ll be attending the Brazos Valley SCBWI 2008 Conference: Connections & Craft, Writing for Children and Young Adults. Up around 5am to drive there for the day-long conference. I’ll also be getting my first critique at a conference, and I’m very excited.

I’ve written about conferences and other writing events before, but once again, I can’t stress enough how useful they are. Even if you hear advice you’ve heard before (and chances are you’ll gain at least one, but probably more nuggets you haven’t heard before), conferences a) reaffirm that advice and b) give you time with fellow writers, hearing their stories and getting plenty of opportunities to get fired up and inspired.

I won’t be blogging tomorrow, but Sunday, I’ll let you know how it went. And hopefully, I’ll also get that next scene done.

How’s your writing coming?

Write On!

Day 11

Late late post today, as I worked late in my day job and almost forgot to check in. But the good news is that my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month is progressing fine. My novel revision is still going well, slowly, but well. I’m figuring out this middle part bit by bit, trying some different things and seeing what works best. Why is the middle so hard?

The best news is that there’s something different about Day By Day Writer. Yesterday, my wonderful husband designed a new banner for the top, a new identity for this blog. There’s something so inspiring about a lone tree just waiting for you to sit under it and write. A tree also features prominently in my novel, and I know Jamie had that in mind when he designed it. Thanks, baby. I love it and I love you.

Day 10

These days seem to be flying by. I can’t believe it’s already day 10 of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

Another late night (they’re going to be the death of me — or my writing; no, not my writing), but I still got up at the usual time and sleepily wrote. It was a little slow going (through eyes that really just wanted to shut again), but the momentum I picked up yesterday in my problem scene carried through to today. I actually realized that yesterday I had left out one important part of the scene, so I fixed that and started to move forward until I realized that I’m at the point where I have to write some completely new scenes to fix the plotting problems I had run into during my first draft. I knew this day would come. I feel kind of like I’m doing a puzzle, fitting together all these story elements so they flow in the most exciting and entertaining way, while also keeping the story clear for young readers. I’ll need a good working brain for that one, but I did figure out some of it this morning. How do you work out if your story is flowing ok? Charts? Storyboards? Or just a really good memory?

Outside of my writing, I wanted to make note of two comments my blog received yesterday. First, congratulations to Tricia, who is participating in NaNoWriMo and has already reached 31,000 words, more than half of her 50,000 goal. Great news! Well done and keep it up.

Second, thanks to Ellen Booraem, author of the great new book The Unnameables, who posted a comment giving me a great writer’s block tip that she uses. You can find it here, but basically, she said that when she’s struggling, she opens a new document and writes stream-of-conscience style in the viewpoint of her character. She says she always finds out some new character points or plot points. Thanks for sharing, Ellen.

Anyone else got tips to share?

Write On!

Day 8

It has been more than a week in my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month. Yay!

Got up early and spent about two hours in front of the computer. I can’t report that I got that much done, I’m afraid, but I was there, fingers poised over keys and occasionally pressing them.

Today I jumped back on the novel. With my potential solution in my head thanks to my driving yesterday, I hoped that I’d whip out the scene in no time. Unfortunately, my head is still in blocked mode as far as this scene goes. I decided to start the scene from scratch in a new Word document and paste into the novel when it’s done, thinking the change would cleanse my mind. Not so much. I wrote the start of the scene about five times. Finally, about 30 minutes before it was time to stop, I got a rhythm going, and I hope to continue that tomorrow.

This block has been so weird. It’s just about this one scene, because the new story has been flowing fine.

What do you do to fix blocks? Any tips?

I also wanted to link over to agent Nathan Bransford’s blog post from today, called Tough Times and the Publishing Industry Stimulus Package. In it, he gives a run down on the current state of the publishing industry, and as you can guess, it’s not all good news. But the part I wanted to talk about was the part where he says “BUY NEW BOOKS.”

Like him, I understand that we don’t always have the money to spend on new books. Used books still have the same words, and libraries are even cheaper: free. But buying a new book is the only way to help authors and publishing houses stay in business, and if we want to have a future career in publishing, we need to support authors and publishing houses.

Especially new authors, because we want publishing houses to continue to take chances on new authors. That is, afterall, what we want to be. As Nathan Bransford says, publishing houses decide whether to continue to publish an author’s work based on sales of their previous books. So, signing that one contract with a publishing house doesn’t mean you’ll now have a long career as a novelist. If that first book doesn’t do well, you’ll have a tough time selling another one.

I’m currently reading The Unnameables, by Ellen Booraem, a first-time author repped by KT Literary. I actually found out about the book on the blog of KT Literary’s Kate Schafer. It’s a great book, and I’m whipping through it — which is incredible for me, because I read very slowly; it’s a curse. I bought the book along with Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, which Atheneum Books’ Emma Dryden talked about in a seminar in the 2007 SCBWI summer conference and I’ve been itchy to try ever since. Peter Pan will be my next read.

For us writers, reading is next to writing as the best way to improve our skills. And reading what’s new in your field helps you to also keep up with what’s going on in the industry. So go to the bookstore — any bookstore but support independents as much as you can — and buy some books, as much as your wallet will allow, of course.

Also, promote books to those around you. Christmas is coming up, so consider books as gifts before anything else. You might just make a new reader.

Ok, off my soapbox now. I really would like to know any getting out of writer’s block tips if you’ve got them.

Write On! and Read On!

Day 7

Slow going today. Between staying up late (or should I say early) playing Rock Band last night and getting up early to walk our dog and go to Mass, I felt tired practically all day. I didn’t get my writing in this morning, but I did get some in this evening. It’s not as much as I would have liked for my unofficial participation of NaNoWriMo, but it’s something.

The best writing I did today was actually in the car when I was driving home from church. The fact that I hadn’t written yet was weighing on my mind, and I started to think about the two projects I’m working on, the new story and the revision of my novel. The new story has been moving along swimmingly, but I feel a little guilty about putting the novel revision on the back-burner. So, I started to think about the scene I’ve been having problems with, trying to dissect it to find a solution. Sometimes the best solutions come when I’m driving.

I started with the question: What needs to happen in this chapter for the story? Answer: the introduction of a new character who will take on more importance later. That already happens in the chapter in its current form. So the next question was: How can I make this introduction more interesting and exciting? Well, that’s the question I haven’t been able to answer, or I’d have already found the solution.

So, it made me think of another question: Based on the role the character will play later in the book, is there something in this introductory chapter that can hint at what’s to come? That’s when my creativity started to turn and ideas started to form. I could hear my protagonist talking again, describing what was happening and what he was thinking and feeling. I think I might have found my solution.

Later, when I did write, I didn’t jump on that chapter. I wanted to, but I knew it would still be a lot of work, even if I now have a direction, so my tiredness won and I chose the easier project right now, the new story, which flowed fine.

It feels good when the words are flowing and it’s easy to be seduced by the new story because it’s going well. But we mustn’t give up on the older stories that have hit a snag. We have to continue to work through the problem, and a solution will come.

Right now, I’m torn between the new story and the novel. The new story has now hit the point up to which I had planned, so the rest is a mystery. It’ll be fun to explore, but I also need to continue to revise the novel. The end is closer than I think.

Tomorrow, I will try to go back to the novel to fix this one chapter so I can start moving faster through the rest of the revision. But I will still be thinking of the new story, and if the creativity isn’t jumping on the novel, maybe I’ll bring the new story back to the front burner for a little longer. We’ll see. Either way, I’ll be writing.

Write On!

Day 6

It’s day 6 in my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month and all is still going well. I wrote another three and a half pages today on the new story I’ve been working on. The character is still bopping around and the words are flowing. It was a little slow going when I first started this morning, but I think that’s just because I overslept and felt tired.

I read some other blog posts of NaNoWriMo participants — official ones, I think — this morning, and I feel like I’m cheating a bit, hence the UNofficial participation. Official participants are sweating over word counts and I just have to make sure I put fingers to keys every day. To write 50,000 words in 30 days (as official NaNoWriMo participants are challenged to do), you’d have to get down 1,667 words a day. I did only 1,074 this morning, so I’d be way behind.

Of course, my unofficial participation began because I was revising my novel and hadn’t planned to jump onto a new project, and I couldn’t figure out a way to do good word counts for revising.

I might not be stacking up 1,667 words a day, but I do feel good to be writing every day. Of course, if I had officially participated in NaNoWriMo (if I had had the courage), by the end of the year I might have had two novels to pitch to editors and agents. Next year!

How’s your writing going?

Write On!

Day 5

Getting my post in earlier today. Woke up early and got a good hour of writing in, another four pages for the new story.

But now, the story is starting to come together. I still haven’t reached the point in the story that I had originally envisioned. But, as I was writing today, more of the story began to flesh itself out in my head. Possible ideas for where the story might go. Oooh, that reminds me, I must type them into notes so I don’t forget.

No solution yet on my novel scene, but I can feel it brewing.

So far so good on Day 5 of my unofficial participation of National Novel Writing Month.

Write On!

Day 4

Again checking in late in the day, but again reporting about an hour of writing this morning, as part of my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month.

I stuck with the new story this morning, and again the words flowed out. It’s strange; I approach it every morning with trepidation because I know that I don’t have a full plan worked out for the story. I didn’t even have the character fleshed out, not even a name. But, so far, the story is pouring out of me. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be a short story or something bigger. We’ll see. For now, I’m just exploring and it’s fun.

Surprises are the way the character is shaping himself, showing me who he is. His backstory keeps popping up, and I just write it down. I almost feel as though I’m taking dictation rather than writing.

Another surprise is that both that character and my novel are playing around in my head. The new story has definitely boosted my creativity. My muse is strutting around inside my brain and doesn’t seem to mind which story he/she focuses on. In the car today, I found myself inside my new character’s head, seeing the world through his eyes and it was fun. But then later, I found myself inside my novel character’s head.

It’s a good sign the my novel character is popping up. He hasn’t provided a solution to the scene just yet, but the fact that he’s visiting, breaking into my thoughts, lets me know he’s ready to talk — he just has to figure out what he wants to say. That’s ok. I’ll give him some time.

And in the meantime, the new character is proving to be very fun.

How’s your writing going?

Write On!

Day 3

Checking in a little late today, but I can report for my National Novel Writing Month goals that I got up and wrote for about an hour this morning.

The good news is that the words were flowing, but not with my novel edit. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I started a new story today, a kernel of an idea I had while gardening this weekend. As I’m kind of stuck in my current novel scene, I jumped into this new idea to give me a creative jolt, and it worked — at least for the new story. I hope that after writing this story for a few days, maybe a week, I’ll be able to jump back into the novel filled with inspiration and ways to fix the scene. We’ll see.

In the meantime, it’s fun to explore this new character, see where he’s going, what he’s thinking. I usually prefer to work with the story already laid out, but as my husband was excited about the idea and I didn’t have the whole story figured out, I decided to jump in anyway. So far — granted, just one hour this morning — it has been a lot of fun just writing whatever comes to mind, heading toward a goal, but with what happens after that goal a complete mystery.

I’m going to stick with this new story for the next few days, until either I get stuck or I figure out the novel scene I’m having problems with.

I haven’t worked on two fictional projects at the same time before, but I know a lot of writers do. M. Night Shyamalan wrote The Sixth Sense in the evenings while he wrote his paying gig, Stuart Little, during the day. So, it’ll be an interesting challenge. I only hope I can do as well.

Do you work on more than one fictional story at the same time? If so, do they have to be really different, like Sixth Sense and Stuart Little? I’ll let you know how my experiment goes.

What are you working on?

Write On!