Archive for the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ 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!

 

Advertisements

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!

 

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.

 

Day 3   Leave a comment

Plate with various land slugs

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s word is torpid, because sluggish is how I feel after running five kids every which a way after work. You’ve got to be so fast, when you finally get to slow down, the hurt catches up to you.

To be honest, it was like pulling teeth just to keep my head up long enough to write a poem. Meh. The novel and short story can wait another day. Or two. Still 27 days left in the month, no?

NaNoWRiMo, Day 2   Leave a comment

A Chinese buffet restaurant in the U.S.

Image via Wikipedia

The word today was halcyon, a place or state of calm. I free wrote ideas for a poem during lunch at a local Chinese buffet, which was at that hour quite calm and peaceful for me. Those notes evolved into a poem about zodiacs and grandparents.

I did not get to Cain. Due to a sugar crash from pilfered Halloween candy, I just wasn’t able. I plan on getting to it again tomorrow. One problem is, is that the part I’m working on involves a character I’m just not invested in. He’s quite a cliche, a stereotype, so I’m thinking of cutting the whole section, but I’m not sure. Ergo, no action whatsoever taken.

In the works as well this month, continued work on a short story I began a few months ago about a woman divorcing her zombie husband. It’s good, and deserves some face time. So, maybe I’ll get to that tomorrow if I’m still on the fence about Cain’s latest disciple.

Halcyon, it’s a good word. At the very least, use it in a sentence sometime tonight or tomorrow. Find yourself a halcyon of your own to work in. Escape the misanthropes.

NaNoWriMo- Let the Madness Begin!   Leave a comment

Short Story

Image via Wikipedia

There are two months that make the American writer quiver with fear and anticipation, April and November. April is National Poetry Month, and most poets, and not a few people insisting that they are NOT poets, attempt to write a poem a day for all thirty days, scouring the internet for lists of prompts, fellow poets to workshop with, encouraging one another to write just. One. More!!!!!!!!!!

November, as National Novel Writing (Write, Writers?) Month,  or NaNoWriMo to its friends, opens up the floodgates a tad further. In November, the sky is the limit. Not excluding the muse to poetry, many writers use November as the push to get that novel they’ve been dying to write started, or finished, or, (as in my case), started again somewhere in the middle of the beginning. Short stores, flash, and yes, even poetry, are typed, scrawled, scribbled,  or elegantly handwritten in overwrought cursive loops. It doesn’t matter the hows or whys or what, just as long as something, ANYTHING! gets down on paper or drive, one day at a time.

I usually take November off. There’s enough to do with Thanksgiving, Christmas looming. But this year has been pretty productive, publishing wise, and I’ve got a lot of new ideas bottled up, just begging for release. NaWRiMo seems as good an excuse as any.

I’m also studying up for the GRE. If you’ve ever taken it, you know that vocabulary plays a huge part on the verbal section. And so, in the spirit of my Three Dollar Word series, I’m going to take a word a day from the “Hit Parade” lists found in the Princeton Review‘s Cracking the GRE book, and at least write one poem around it. If I’m feeling up to it, I might also incorporate it into a short story, or a work already in progress. At some point during the day, I will post the word I’m using for that day, to help along any other writer out there eager to get something written, but needing a place to start.

Today, the word is Misanthrope. I wrote a poem about a Mr. Misanthrope, and threw the adjective misanthropic into a fresh page of Cain. Go me!

A misanthrope is someone who hates other people. I am not a misanthrope, but I know misanthropes. Oi do I know misanthropes.