If it’s broke, fix it!

I’m struggling with my NaNo word count. I’m way behind, and see no breakthroughs ahead that will bring me up to speed.

I hate this book.

I love the plot idea and the small bits of events I have planned. But there’s nothing tying them together . . . I need more subplots and segues. I’m just jumping from scene to scene. The characters are flat (the nice guys are just NICE and the bad guys are just SLEAZY). They’re all one dimensional.

I started writing novels in 1994. I never outlined, I didn’t plot . . . I did do some extensive character development, however. But I started writing with one goal: to get A and B together, or A to meet B – there was always an end result in mind. In the process, my characters spoke to me. They went places I never expected. Yes, I edited a lot. I cut hundreds of pages from the final stories. But I could also crank out as many as 50 pages in a day. I was driven.

But my writing has taken a turn. I’ve since taught high school English and become a grammar-nazi. God forbid I should misplace a comma. And in the evolution of all this, I’ve lost my emotion. My heart. My guts. Like the talented violin player who is technically gifted, but her playing has no heart, neither does my writing have any heart.

And that is heart-breaking to me. It makes me want to quit. To give up this dream of writing books I’ve had since first grade.

I complained to my daughter-in-law about this problem last night—how I used to be able to write by the seat of my pants and miracles happened. The one book I tried to plot took me ten years to write. The other four took just a few weeks each.

She said,

“You’ve changed. You’re not the same person you were 18 years ago. So you need to change how you write.”

CARAMBA! Is this a teachable moment? An epiphany?

I need to change how I write.

I understand this is a defining moment for me and my writing. If I can embrace this notion, maybe I’ll get my writing mojo back.

And maybe I can finish NaNo this year.

Why Would You Do This?

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Why would anyone subject themselves to the torture of writing 50,000 words in 30 days? That’s approximately 6 – 7 double-spaced pages per day. Every day. For one month.

  1. If you’re not someone who enjoys writing, you wouldn’t.
  2. If you don’t have a story burning inside you that needs to be told, you wouldn’t.
  3. If you’ve never thought, “Gee, I can write better than (insert name of famous author here),” you wouldn’t.
  4. If you’ve never said, “Someday I’m going to write a novel,” you wouldn’t.

But if you’ve ever thought any of these, then you just might decide this is the year to give it a shot.

I’ve done all of those things, however, so why am I doing it? Because I feel like my writing has gone flat. My goal for NaNoWriMo is to let myself go…allow myself to put crap on the page– (because save for a few bursts of brilliance, which there will be, there will be lots of crap)– shut down my inner editor and let loose.

The “powers” of NaNo (that would be the veterans) say I’ll want to quit. Week 2 is the hardest, they claim. Don’t give up–just keep writing. That’s what I hope to do.

This will be fun. I keep telling myself that. If I make it, what a sense of accomplishment I’ll have!

Life is all about challenges. And that’s why I’m doing this.

Stop Writing! Just STOP!

I’m new to this world of blogging, and it’s fun. I’m finding other writers with views similar and dissimilar to my own, and I can always learn something or broaden my outlook by reading them. I focus primarily on blogs about writing and all its extraneous offshoots. But it’s overwhelming to sort through thousands of posts to find the good ones.

This morning I did. A relevant post, well-written, good information, so I started reading, and reading…and reading… Then I noticed the word count – over 1500 words. So I stopped. Now I can’t find that post to look at it again. That’s too bad, because it was interesting.

As writers, nothing is more important to us than our words, but we need to be aware that not all our words are important to everyone else. Sometimes we need to just stop. Right where we are.

A friend asked me to read her 4-page synopsis yesterday – she had to cut it in half. It’s a young adult paranormal, which I don’t read, so maybe that made me more objective, or maybe I’m just ignorant of the genre (which I am), but I brutally slashed it (I hope she’s still speaking to me). I felt like there was a good bit of it, that while important in the story, was not necessarily important in describing the story.

The sad truth is, we live in an I-want-it-now culture, full of text messages, snippets and sidebars. Either we don’t have time, or don’t want to take the time. Something else out there awaits us.

So, in that vein, whatever you write, edit it! Keep it short. To the point. On your blog, if you hit 300 words, cut it or see if you can divide it into two posts. But above all, just STO-

http://www.j-learning.org/present_it/page/writing_and_editing_a_blog/

http://www.copyblogger.com/edit-your-writing/

http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-revise-edit-and-proofread-your-writing/

You got that idea from where??

One of the most frequent questions any author will hear is “Where do you get your ideas?” And while the specifics of their answers will vary, the theme for all is the same: Life.

Every conversation you hear, event you see (small or significant), tidbit you read, experience you have… all of these can spark an idea. It depends on your interests, your background, your thoughts and emotions. And like the tiniest sapling, it will flourish and grow until it forms a mighty oak.
(Okay, that was a really bad analogy, but I liked this image I found. Which serves to prove my point about inspiration. I didn’t say all of it had to be good.)

During an adult-ed creative writing class at Jacksonville University, one of my fellow students wrote a descriptive passage about the area that was so beautiful, I thought “I can do that!” and wrote a novel based on a nearby town. I’ve also found story ideas in letters to Dear Abby, snippets of overheard conversations, and even from well-meaning friends who said, “You should write about…” I’ve written novels involving hitchhiking (yes, I did that), house renovation (I’m still doing that), and spouse trading (I didn’t do that, but I probably felt like it once or twice).

Oddly, if you read those books today, you probably couldn’t find any of those inspiring moments in them, because they evolved and changed in the process. But one thing all successful writers will tell you, you have to get the words on paper. We all know the person who “is going to write a book someday”, but it can’t happen unless the words hit the paper.

So if you are an aspiring writer, start listening, reading, paying attention. You never know what might spark that next idea. And for my reader friends, the next time you read a novel and think, “I wonder where that idea came from?”, well… you just never know.

For more thoughts on where writers get ideas, check out these links: Where Do Authors Get Story Ideas? and Where Do Writers Find Their Ideas?  Meanwhile, share your thoughts! Where did your best idea come from?