Archive for the ‘NaNoWriMo’ Tag

Readers make Writers   Leave a comment

Paul Bunyan and his cradle.

Paul Bunyan and his cradle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

The first piece of advice I give any aspiring writer is to read. A lot. Every day. Read a variety of things, fiction, nonfiction, books, magazines, blogs, whatever you can get a hand on, for at least an hour a day.

 

Why? Because even if the writing isn’t very good, you can learn something from it and become inspired in your own writing. If the sentence structure is poor, if there are misspelt words, if the plot is lacking, you’ll probably sit there and say, “I can do better than that!” Hold on to that thought, and once the hour is done, go for it! Write on the same topic, make it better, make it yours.

 

When the writing is good, take notes. Ask questions of the piece. What makes you enjoy the writing? Try to mimic these techniques. Don’t plagiarize the content. Ever.  Play around with the style and themes, try to build on them and make them your own.

 

And, finally, it’s good to research and read on topics you’d love to write about. This is just as important in fiction and poetry as it is in nonfiction. For example, I never know when I’ll stumble across a new unique word that I can use as a poetry title. I’m currently reading Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s new novel, The Long Earth. In it, one of the characters uses the word tracklements, which are the accompanying foodstuffs used on or around the main course. It’s a fantastic word, and I wrote it down immediately on my vocabulary list.

 

I’m also reading up on the folklore of Michigan and the surrounding areas, especially the tall tales relating to Paul Bunyan. I have an idea of a story deconstructing Paul Bunyan’s myth in light of modern issues such as deforestation and global warming. I’m always looking for folktales I’ve never heard of before, or to learn something new about the ones I thought I knew, both for my own enjoyment and to use as springboards for new short stories.

 

What about you? What are you reading, and how does what you read affect what you write? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Fall Open Mic Night at the MSU Writing Center   Leave a comment

Microphones

The Mics are OPEN!!!!!

 

Last night I attended my first open mic reading with my husband since we moved to Michigan in September. It took place at the MSU Writing Center in Bessey Hall, on the Michigan State University campus.

 

We had been invited to attend by members of our writers’ workshop at the East Lansing Library. The group is also sponsored by the MSU Writing Center, and meets every other Thursday. We were happy to see that, as with the writers’ workshop, we weren’t the oldest people in the room at the Open Mic. The performers included several poets, some musicians, and a story teller or two. There was free pizza and drinks for everyone, and each person that got up to read received a t shirt. There was also a raffle drawing throughout the night. I won a 25 dollar gift card to Schuler Books in Okemos, which was a pleasant surprise.

 

The students were very open and welcoming to two old timers like us. There was a poet who went by the name Logic, about our age, who seemed to be a regular in local writing circles, who had a rapid fire delivery and had everyone laughing and shaking their heads at the way he would spin truth into poetry.

 

Overall, it was a good night out, and the perfect way to start November, fresh and inspired and ready to take on that novel I’ve been attempting to write for a year and a half. It’s been sitting dormant for about six months, so it’s time to get writing again!

 

How are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Any great open mics or writers’ workshops in your area? I’d love to hear about them!

 

3K Down, and No Ending in Sight!   2 comments

Zombie Love Forever

Image by Walt Jabsco via Flickr

Writing during the week is difficult. By the time I get home, get kids, get everyone fed and washed and asleep, there isn’t much drive left. On the weekends, however, even with kids, I get a nice little gap of time to write. Naptime is my time, and I squeeze as much as I can out of it. Today, that squeeze got me over 3ooo words, and 6 pages. I don’t think I’ll have a whole novel at the end of the month, and I haven’t even touched the project I went into NaNo with the first week, but progress has been made, and I’m grateful for the push into longer projects.

Today I introduced new love interests for both of the main characters, creating two separate love triangles. Oooo, tensiony, right? I mean, especially considering two of the four people involved are zombies??? Jane has a best friend as well,  and her favorite pizza is Hawaiian barbecue chicken. The back story is just about wrapped up, and a lot of the action is going to pick up very, very soon. Considering I myself don’t have a clue as to where it all ends, I’m pretty pumped.

Alas, tomorrow the project goes on  the back burner, as I will be in NYC at the Bowery Poetry Club at 4 pm doing a reading. If you’re in the neighborhood, you can come. If you aren’t, you can watch it live. Find more here: http://www.bowerypoetry.com/#Event/85825

Another Day, Another 1000 Words   2 comments

Mr Zombie

Image via Wikipedia

My love affair with zombies continues, everything else is going to have to wait until I figure out where this story is going. When I started it, it was a cute little flash, but then I kept adding more. I still don’t have an ending in mind, I’d always assumed, since there’s a horror element in there, that someone was going to have to die, or get chopped up into itty bitty pieces. Now I’m thinking, maybe they just get through the divorce and go their separate ways.  Both seem feasible right now, but I’m still just enjoying the ride.

Last night I added 1000 words or so, expanding my writing time from 45 minutes to a little over an hour. It was tough to get started, and since it was at the end of the day, I forwent the timer and just watched the clock. It was fun, I introduced hints that there were problems in the marriage even before Max became a zombie, I explored the details of how he became a zombie. I added more zombies.

Thinking about endings, even if you’re not there yet, it can help to brainstorm all the different ways a story could go. You don’t have to commit to just one, but having an idea can help determine which way you’re going to go.  Try brainstorming all the different ways your characters can meet the end of their stories the next time you get stumped. Keep the list handy.

Time Out For NaNoWriMo   Leave a comment

sculpture: a dead man's hand

Day two of timing with the timer, and it worked again. Passed the thousand word mark on the zombie story, still not sure where it’s going to stop, but it’s still a pleasure to write. Putting poetry and Cain on the back burner for now seems to have been the best idea.

Writing is therapy, more than anything. I write because it makes me feel good, like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m hoping that come December 1st, I can keep this momentum going. Writing 45 minutes a day, you never get burnt out. It never becomes a drag.

Of course, what do I know, this is only day two of timed writing?

Good things that came from today’s writing, besides the thousand plus words:

The two main characters now have names, Jane and Max

Max has a job

Zombies prefer to be called the bodily impaired

Whatever you’re writing, or putting off writing today, think about the occupations of your characters. Have you given them one yet? Perhaps it’s something about their jobs, their coworkers, how they got there, that will give you the angle to open your stories up further, get you excited about writing again.

A Sheepish, Triumphant Return to NaNoWriMo   Leave a comment

An old timer

Image by * hiro008 via Flickr

So, I’ve been bad the past week. No writing got done. Zip. Zero. Recovering from the GREs last weekend took longer than I thought, a brain dump of mass proportions. Reading good books helps, but then all my free time is caught up reading, no time left for doing my own writing. One night I was up until 2 am reading Emma Donoghue‘s newest novel, Room, (which, btw, was fantastic!). Read Sara Gruen‘s Ape House, then Water for Elephants. A little sheepish I hadn’t read Elephants back in ’06, when everyone was reading it.Mucking my way through Franzen’s Freedom.

Anyway, what I eventually had to do today to get writing is put myself in time out. I set the timer for 30 minutes, and then told myself I couldn’t do anything but write during those 30 minutes. Of course, about 15 minutes into it, my daughter woke up from her nap with a poop. So I had to get her cleaned up and back to sleep, then added another 15 minutes. I didn’t get a lot of writing done, but I did get another decent page or so for the zombie divorce story. I’m really liking these characters a lot, thinking they may stick around longer than a short story, which is exciting. I didn’t get a poem written, and I didn’t even open up the Cain files, but I’m also writing in a way that doesn’t feel forced, it’s almost a freewrite exercise, but with purpose behind it. It’s a good feeling.

It’s funny, I do NaPoWriMo every year in April, and every year, I don’t have any problem sitting down and writing a poem a day. Perhaps it’s the time of year, more face time with the sun. I think it may also be, with NaPo, there’s a focus and a freedom that’s missing in NaNo. You’re starting fresh each day, you aren’t going back and working on something you stalled on the day before. You’re also not trying to maybe divide yourself between projects.

Whatever the cause for success or failure, I’m going to put myself in timeout again tomorrow. At least thirty minutes, nothing but writing. If you’re having trouble starting, keeping to a schedule, try the timer. It worked for me, and I live with five kids.

 

Catching Up…   2 comments

Students taking a computerized exam

Image by Extra Ketchup via Flickr

Will be hard to do. Taking the GRE, and the extra study time I put in right before it, sucked up all the energy I had to write yesterday. I could tell you about the essays I wrote for that, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Seriously, they might take my grade away if they even knew I was talking to you.  They even made me spit out my own gum, substitute one of their own hard candies, and then throw away the wrapper right in front of them.

I have ideas for words like chicanery and skulduggery, so if you’re needing a prompt to get you through the weekend, there you go.

Good night and good luck. Write on!