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I was wrong

Friday morning, 38° and sunny
Listening to Whitney, Red Moon

(about my years doing NaNoWriMo)

All this time I’ve been saying 2016 was my ninth NaNoWriMo. I just realized it’s my tenth.

And my lifetime Nanowrimo word count is over 500k.

How did this even happen?

 

*scurries off to correct previous NaNoWriMo posts*

 

Cover image: author’s Nanowrimo stats.

NaNoWriMo Rebel

Tuesday evening, 73° and hazy
Listening to Led Zeppelin, The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair

Why I’m Editing Through NaNoWriMo

I thought quite a lot about how I would approach NaNoWriMo 2016,  and didn’t settle on a decision until late last night. This will be my ninth tenth NaNoWriMo. For the last eight nine years, I’ve written an all-new novel. I’ve gotten skilled enough at NaNo that three of my last four Nano novels are in the queue to get revised, polished and published. You could say I’m a little like a chipmunk writing stories and socking them away like acorns to be feasted on at a later date.

Finding that brand new story and getting most of it committed to paper in just 30 days is part of the beauty of NaNo. But my hang up this year is that I’m already mid-story and going full-steam on a book I deeply believe in. I was torn between setting that aside for an entire month to chase a new story, or using the added pressure of NaNo to finish the story at hand. Continue reading

My NaNoWriMo Dilemma

Monday night, 41° and cloudy
Listening to Hiss Golden Messenger, Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer

NaNoWrimo starts in one week

And oh boy do I have a NaNoWriMo dilemma. November is when I till the soil and plant the seeds of my novels. I’ve won NaNoWriMo every year since my first attempt in 2007.  Don’t hate me. I know how to NaNo and I dig it. I’ve amassed a small arsenal of NaNo novels, several of which I will revise and publish. One of them (originally titled Anything In Between) became the backbone of my first published novel,  State of Love & Trust.

I’m on board with nailing my vicious inner editor into her pine coffin and letting a new story rip.  (Don’t worry. I’ll let her out when it’s time to edit). I have no problem with the magical daily word goal of 1667. That number is painted on the inside of my special NaNo coffee mug I made at a pottery place during the Saginaw Bay Wombats’ kick-off party a few years ago. I’m all about the write-ins, writer friends, word wars, stickers, commitment, and coffee drinks. I love NaNo like Elf loves Christmastime. Continue reading

Rumors of Rock-n-Roll’s Death

have been greatly exaggerated

Tuesday afternoon, 63° and windy
Listening to Night Beats, The New World

If you believe rock n roll is dead, or that there is no good new rock music, or that Justin Beiber, Rhianna or *insert popular, predictable, auto-tuned act here* killed rock n roll, I have seven suggestions for you.

1. Quit complaining about today’s Top 40. Top 40 has largely sucked throughout its history, has only been a trailing indicator of musical trends, and has completely missed countless fantastic acts. For every Space Oddity there were approximately 1,794 Afternoon Delights. If you’re over 35, you do not have enough years left to wait for Top 40 to spoon feed you something great.  Most likely, it won’t.

Yes, 1973 was an exception. So what. You’ve been holding your breath for four decades waiting for that to happen again? Get over it.

Continue reading

A Joy, Not a Job

Wednesday evening, 66° and clear
Father John Misty, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.

The pleasure of writing a novel

The fabulous internet thingy called Medium plopped this hefty blob o’ truth (which certainly pertains to writing  a novel)  into my inbox today: You Can’t Make a Living as a Writer Because Writing isn’t a Job. You should read it, but if you’re not inclined, here’s the upshot.

Writers have day jobs because being a writer isn’t a job. Writing is a thing you can do if you like it! It’s a thing you might get paid for, now and again, if you’re good at it! But it’s not a job. Ester Bloom

I’ve written in one form or another from the time I learned to spell. Ten years ago, I started writing a novel and discovered there is no form of entertainment quite like digging into a character’s head and convincing him to spill his deepest secrets. I write for the sheer joy of it. Falling into the story world feels a lot like falling madly in love. It’s an all-consuming process that leaves you by turns giddy, sentimental, and obsessive.

Writing a novel is also a little like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Every novel consists of thousands of tiny pieces which all fit together. When I open a new jigsaw puzzle box, I’m incredulous that every piece will be there and will fit perfectly with another piece. My husband hates jigsaw puzzles and sees them as 1,000 to 3,000 occasions to be frustrated. But I see them as 1,000 to 3,000 opportunities to say “Yes! This is the piece that fits!”

Stories are like that, except you have to make the pieces fit by shaping them yourself, and sometimes going backward to reshape them through revision.

And then there is what I call puzzle mode. That’s when I’m so deep in the zone that I can reach into the box without looking, pull out a random piece and immediately place it exactly where it fits . This flow happens in writing too: when a whole scene falls together, when a character offers that perfect bit of dialogue, when that minuscule, seemingly random element from six chapters back reappears to reveal its deeper purpose.

Between my general proclivity for writing and an annual commitment to NaNoWriMo, I’ve amassed a modest arsenal of novels on my hard drive.  Last winter, I decided they deserved better than suspended animation in a virtual trunk of inconvenienced megabytes. I committed to pulling them out and revising them for publication one at a time. State of Love & Trust was my first victim. (And if writing a novel is like falling in love, revision and editing are akin to labor and childbirth. Demanding, but so worth it.)

I don’t see writing a novel as a job, but a joy. Success as a writer depends on how you define it. For me, a successful novel is one that others can read and enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a best seller, receive rave literary reviews, be optioned for a movie, or nominated for a literary award. The heartbreaking truth is your novel could be some or all of those things and you still could find yourself broke, frustrated and giving up on writing.

It may be tempting to blame the publishing industry for this state of affairs, but it is what it is. No amount of wishing or complaining is going to change it. The publishing industry works for the publishing industry. If and when it changes, it will do so only for the benefit the publishing industry. That’s no indictment of the publishing industry; the same could be said of any industry.

If you love writing, write. Don’t quit your day job. If your writing is good, put it out there. Don’t wait for the publishing world to validate you unless for some reason you really need their validation. Don’t make your writing dependant on whether you can make a living at it. If you’re writing to chase attention, fame or wealth, well, good luck with that. I’ll just be out on my porch during my non-work hours, drafting, revising, and editing the kinds of novels that I love to read.

I have a full-time job that I love. 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every weekday I’m at the office with a bunch of nice, smart, hardworking people who are formulating, manufacturing, selling and supporting some terrific products. OK, OK, in point of fact it’s a glue factory. But it’s the best damned little glue factory on the Great Lakes. Or the continental US, for that matter. As a bonus, my job involves plenty of writing and editing … about glue. Which is fine with me. Glue and the things people do with it can actually be pretty darned interesting.

Finding the Time

Does working a day job cut into my novel-writing time and energy? Maybe, I guess, if I’m foolish enough to look at it that way. Instead, I see working at my day job as providing the financial means to write whatever I want during my free time. I don’t have to be concerned about whether my books will appeal to a mass market, or coincide with what’s trendy this month, or match my dream agent’s quirky tastes, or a fill a convenient blank spot in my dream publisher’s fiction wish list. My novels aren’t burdened with providing my bread and cheddar because my day job has already put those on the table.

I don’t have dreams of becoming an author. I am an author. I don’t have dreams of “one day writing a book” because I’ve already written several.  Here’s what else I don’t have: time to complain about not having time to write.

I earn money by working diligently at a regular job, then make time for writing by jealously guarding my non-work hours, limiting TV, giving short-shrift to the housework (dirt keeps, but that scene idea might not), and brewing a pot of coffee when I’d prefer a nap. When I get stuck, I walk the dog or fold some laundry. Some of my best story revelations hit me when I’m at the grocery store. When that happens, I make a quick, sometimes macabre note on my phone (******* must die!) and continue on my way.

Writing a novel doesn’t require endless days in an Adirondack chair on a sugar sand beach without another concern on the horizon. Or a tidy cabin in the woods with a crackling birch log fire and snow falling silently on a frozen lake miles from civilization. Or independent wealth. Or retirement. Or generous benefactors making donations via your PayPal link or GoFundMe account. It only requires your willingness to put your butt in a chair and work on a story day after day, week after week, month after month with whatever time you can spare until it’s completed, revised, story edited, line edited and polished.

Keeping my day job keeps my writing a joy.

 

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