NaNoWriMo 2015 update

Despite all the distractions, like Jackson swallowing the wire from his braces, National Novel Writing Month is going very well. I’m close to 20,000 words and have reached the point in the story where the scene shifts from one place to another, we jump in time a bit, and horses come finally into play. It’s time to draw upon my visit to Franklin in March and pick the brains of riders I know around here.

Jenny leading a horse

It would be misleading to say I like this story more than the first one, but I wager the writing is better. There are rules I’m following, bits of advice I’m following, and I’m careful to make each sentence as important as it needs to be. Though it will need editing for sure, I’m trying to write a story that has little fat to trim.

I’m also on my 50th book for the 50 Book Reading Challenge of 2015, and it’s no coincidence that the 50th book I’m reading is Big Magic by Liz Gilbert. Of course it is, and no, I didn’t plan it this way. Providence continues to weave its quirky web around my writing efforts and I’m thankful for it. Each night I read and each morning I write.

Fingers crossed. Everything forward.

Big Magic for NaNoWriMo

On October 21, in the middle of a crazy busy week, Lesli, Susan, and I met in Nashville to attend an event on Liz Gilbert’s book tour for Big Magic. (Book review coming soon.)

Girls at Flip Burger 2015

The night was an informal discussion between Liz and fellow novelist Ann Patchett. Their conversation centered around creativity – how it manifests and what to do with it.

I was on the verge of tears the entire evening. As I tried to explain to Chuck later, listening to Ann and Liz talk about writing brought me to a place of emotional convergence: fear and doubt smacked right into courage and confidence. Dread faced excitement and anxiety was challenged by calm. It was all too much and not enough at the same time.

Patchett and Gilbert 2015

Our evening in Nashville was providential as it unfolded just prior to National Novel Writing Month and my big push forward on the second novel. The same thing happened in 2013 when Liz was on her Signature of All Things book tour and I had just started NaNoWriMo for the first time. Though some might say the intersection of Liz Gilbert’s book tours and my own novel writing has been a coincidence, I say hogwash. It’s providence. It’s big magic.

It’s only November 2 and we’ve got the whole of the month to go, but when I look at our family calendar, I see that it’s fraught with busy-ness. It will take effort on my part to carve out substantial writing time. NaNoWriMo isn’t about perfecting a manuscript and getting it all right the first time. It’s about transferring the ideas from my brain to my hard drive and harnessing the energy of writers everywhere who are doing the same thing.

The blog won’t be well-attended to this month, but I know you understand. In fact, I’ll just end the post with my favorite quotes from the evening:

writing quotes from Big Magic


Blog Challenge Day 16: Dream Job

What’s my dream job?

I’ll give you ten guesses.

A handful of you have approached me cautiously, carefully, to quietly ask, “How’s your novel going?” When asked, I answer, but I don’t go around talking about the novel because it’s so dear to me, and the whole process of writing a novel and submitting it to agents is like stripping naked and going door-to-door in a neighborhood full of really attractive people, arms out and asking, “So what do you think?”

Thank you for handling me with kid gloves because it’s been a challenging year. I’ve been rejected 38 times. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been rejected 22 times and ignored the other 16.

But let’s be Silver Lining People for a moment and look at the bright side. I’ve had three agents ask for the full manuscript after reading the first three chapters – which is a big deal – and all three of them were from well-known national and international agencies. One agent in particular wrote a lengthy rejection letter that included some inspiring words, like:

“You’re one to watch,” and –

“Many writers have to write that first novel and get it out of the way so they can write the one that will sell,” and –

“Don’t let this discourage you,” and –

“I hope you’ll consider submitting to me again.”

I jumped on the last part and told her I was already at work on a second novel, and when it’s finished, could I send it directly to her? She said absolutely. After a good cry, I resolved that her rejection letter was the best out of the bunch and I was lucky to have captured her attention.

It’s true that I’m working on a second novel and I’m loving it just as much as the first one. The difference between now and then is that I’m not finding (or making?) as much time to work on it. I could sound off a list of excuses, but instead I’ll tell you that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the second time and hope to use the month of November as a catalyst for finishing the story in a timely manner.


So what’s my dream job? Doing exactly what I’m doing now but with a solid shelf of published books in every bookstore and a faithful group of followers who enjoy reading my stories.

Everything forward.

The hot air balloon is deflating.

When my novel writing journey started in November, I was full of hot air. I was ALL IN for writing 50,000 words in a month and had an entire saga of plots in my head ready to pour out on the keyboard. Everything forward, remember? 

Now I’m tired. I’m at 90,000+ words and still have much farther to go. Clearly, I did not store enough fuel to get me to the finish line by tomorrow, which is when the novel is due for class. I’ve already received permission from my professor to turn in what I have, along with an outline for the conclusion. That’s fine. I can do that. Even though it’s not what I prefer.

Part of the problem is that I’m distracted by the holidays. Another part is that the boys and I have been playing catch-up with school. I’m also just plain tired. The story is much longer than I could’ve foreseen, which is good in the long run, but putting such pressure on myself to finish by December 13 has been unrealistic. It’s a personal failure, which haunts me every night while I’m waiting for the Ambien to kick in.

To think that I wouldn’t finish the rough draft by 2014 feels like an even bigger failure, so I’m wondering if a New Year’s Eve goal is more plausible. Minus the week when my family is in for Christmas, I should have plenty of time to write. I’d rather not have an unfinished novel sitting on my shoulders while enrolled in Short Story and Performance Writing next semester.

Plus, there are two books staring at me everyday day – my holiday reading reserve – begging for attention.

Holiday readingIn other news, the boys are itching for Christmas. I’m trying to slow things down, but the calendar keeps turning. At least we’re having wintery weather again. That weird week of Spring threw me off entirely.


Novel Writing and Schizophrenia

In my limited experience, these two things are well-paired.

I hit 60,000 words last night and completed Part Two of what could be a four-part book. I initially thought it would be three parts, but the characters are telling me otherwise. I’ve strayed so far from the outline I wrote four weeks ago that there’s no point in looking at it anymore. The characters are in charge and I’m doing my best to accommodate them. Like everything else I try to control, it has slipped out of my hands.

Last night’s bout of writing is a great example. I was skating along in a chapter, going where I was being led, when the scene suddenly ended. It didn’t end where I originally planned, but the character made it clear that it was time to stop and shift. So I did. (She’s a bit bossy.)

Likewise, my main character surprised me last night with a bold move and I let her roll with it. I couldn’t say no.

In other news, I’m on the verge of completing my last assignment for Literary Theory and I’m thoroughly relieved about it. It was a required class, but it couldn’t have been more out of my realm of interest and ability. You know what’s not well-paired? Novel writing and Literary Theory.

Have you missed the boys? I’ve not forsaken them completely. Here they are, all three of them:

Autumn day at the park

The Wall

I’ve hit it. I knew it was coming and today I ran smack into it with my eyes wide open.

The Wall showed up at 49,975 words. My story is at its midpoint, so this novel has a long way to go. It feels a lot like when I ran a marathon in 2009 and crossed the 13.1 mark after two hours. Theoretically, I could’ve been done at 13.1. I’d already run a few half marathons so that felt like a natural stopping point. But, I’d signed up to do a full marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, and I was only halfway done.

There was the Wall.

It isn’t that I don’t know how the story will continue or even how it will end. It’s that I’m exhausted from juggling everything in the air and trying to write at the same time.

The momentum of writing three thousand words every night after the boys go to bed has waned. Now I want to lay in bed and watch reruns of Mad Men.

The thrill of getting in a few hundred words first thing in the morning has fizzled. Now I want scroll through Pinterest and think about Christmas.

The boys are tired of my absentmindedness too. Are you gonna do school work again tonight? How much longer until you’re done?

That’s a great question.  I’d like to be done right now, tonight, so I can turn my attention to the holidays and wrapping up the boys’ school assignments for the semester. Unfortunately, we’re behind and I’m in over my head.  I feel like the living example of “Women can have it all, just not at the same time.”

For today, I think I’ll lean up against the Wall and take a nap. I might write tonight, but I might not. There are nine days left in November and I’m determined to finish. If anything, I’m only 25 words from hitting 50,ooo. So in that regard, I’m all set.

Word Count with a Ladybug

As of last night, I’ve hit 45,700+ words of the required 50,000. The catch is that I’m only halfway through the plot, so I’m looking at an 80,000-word novel at least. My goal is still to finish by the end of the month, but our creative writing professor has allowed us until December 13 to complete the project. That’s really good news and it means I’m set to accomplish the terms of NaNoWriMo.

In other news, our house is still a haven for ladybugs, particularly in the master bedroom. A few have even wandered out into other areas of the house. Seriously, aren’t they supposed to be gone by now? Or are we just special?

LadybugMajor has been in fits lately. He’s so bored, and I don’t blame him. I’m not running with him as much as I had been this summer and early fall, but frankly, I’m busy. I’m not even running as much as I’d like to, but that’s the deal with November. Major obviously didn’t get the memo.

Hence, he’s chasing his tail wondering when the heck I’ll show him attention again.

Chasing tails

Plotting on a walk

This is our neighborhood. Well, sort of. It’s the space behind our actual neighborhood where I like to walk Major. Recently, it’s been in this space that I’ve created much of novel’s plot. It’s nearly four miles to the end and back, and the time it takes  to circle around depends on whether I’m walking or running, or if Major gets sidetracked by squirrels and curious cows.

East Tennessee is most beautiful right now, so I thought you should see it.    camera_20131107163836374_20131107171647368NaNoWriMo Word Count to date: 20,350 (out of 50,000)