I am not going to post on my blog this month

November is the month of Crime Bake and Thanksgiving. I am doing a public reading on Saturday at the Hockessin Art & Book Fair and offering a workshop at the Bear Library on November 19 for teens interested in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.   My brother is coming to visit, and I need to plan a birthday party for my husband. It is also National Novel Writing Month. Why does all the fun stuff happen in November?

Last week, my writing pal and NaNoWriMo buddy Judy Clemens used an homage to Dr. Seuss to share some inspiration.  Today–one day before November–I’m following up with my own stab of Seussyness as the pressure of writing 1,667 words a day begins to mount.

I am not going to post on my blog this month

Not going to give out advice

I’ve already said all I have to say

Why nag you by saying it twice?

Not going to bug you about dialogue tags

Or how to make your opening strong

Not going to discuss the revision drag

Or the ways that mysteries go wrong.

I don’t want to be a Grammar Nazi

Or Marian the Librarian, either

For now I need to write my own stuff

So pardon me while I take a breather.

I’m not going to post on blog my this month

Except for a reminder or two

I’m starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow

And there’s only so much I can do.

I’ll be scrambling to introduce my protagonist

While making my word count goals

I must avoid my habit of meandering

And battle those frustrating plot holes.

So I’ll be absent from this blog of mine

For the entire month of November

But if you forget a writing rule

My How To Collection might help you remember.

Best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo warriors–and to all writers who get down words every day.

 

NaNoWriMo #4: Inspiration from Judy Clemens

There are many wonderful people in the many different writing communities. No matter your genre or tribe–mystery, romance, YA, fantasy, creative nonfiction, children’s, women’s fiction–in each, there are special people who bring a particular kind of brightness to the group. My guest today, Judy Clemens, is one of those bright light types of people. She was my NaNoWriMo writing buddy last year, and while I didn’t make the 50K goal, she did. She cheered me along the way. Being Judy’s buddy feels like winning.

Judy Clemens-7-croppedI have asked Judy to pop in today and spread some of her encouragement. She’s a NaNoWriMo veteran, a respected and well-published writer, a much beloved Sisters in Crime sister, and she can bake! Here’s what Judy has to say about National Novel Writing Month:

 

50,000 words

30 days

1667 words each of those days

Countless hours of writing

Fewer hours of sleep

Looking ahead to this crazy month puts me in mind of the old adage: You can do anything for a month. (Or a week, or a day, or an hour…)

It also makes me think of a NaNo version of Green Eggs and Ham:

I can write on a couch.

I can write at my desk.

I can write on a laptop.

I can write on my bed.

I can write late at night,

Or early in the morn.

With the house all still,

Or the television on.

I can write by myself

Or in the midst of a crowd.

With my surroundings quiet,

Or even very loud (well, up to a point).

I can write in a house,

I can write in a shop.

I can write with energy,

I can write till I drop.

I can do it, you see,

Because NaNo’s for me.

And at the end of the days

I’ll have the words,

I’ll be free!

NaNoWriMo is a glorious, exhausting, fun, dreadful, inspirational, harrowing, and ultimately satisfying experience.

There will be days that will feel like flying, and you write over and beyond the 1667.

There will be days when you can’t write a word (from exhaustion or simply for life reasons – they happen to everyone!).

There will be days you have to write more than your allotted 1667 in order to catch up.

There will be days you push and groan and scrabble your way to exactly 1667, checking your word count after each sentence.

And there will be days when you surprise yourself by how swiftly to reach your goal.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. But do not despair! You will find reserves within you that you didn’t know you had. And in the meantime, remember these NaNoWriMo hacks to help you through your day:

  • You don’t have to write the 1667 words all at once. Write 200 here, 300 there, and you will get to your goal before you know it.
  • Sequestering yourself is only one option – you can also hang out in the living room with your family if they want to watch TV or play video games or whatever. If they are doing that and you are writing, you are still together!
  • There are twenty-four hours in a day. You can write during any of them.
  • If you get stuck with your story, think outside the box. Write a character description, a dialogue between a couple of characters that (you think!) has nothing to do with your plot, or describe the setting of your story. Those words all count, and you may learn something important!
  • Suppress your inner editor. This is not going to be a perfect draft. Accept that and move on.
  • Find a writing buddy on the NaNo web site or on Twitter or a writer you already know, and help each other through. It really does wonders to have a cheerleader and someone to whom you are accountable!

Finally, remember…THIS IS NOT LIFE OR DEATH. This is for fun. This is to further your career. This is to do something you may have only dreamed of. Don’t let it become a burden. Let it fill you with joy.

Happy writing!

tag you're deadJudy Clemens is the author of the Anthony- and Agatha-nominated Stella Crown series, the Grim Reaper mysteries, and the stand-alone LOST SONS. She also writes YA fiction as J.C. Lane, and was a 2017 Agatha- and Anthony nominee for TAG, YOU’RE DEAD, a YA thriller. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime and an Equity stage manager, besides being a soccer mom and wife and the baker of most things chocolate. You can learn more about Judy at

 http://www.jclanebooks.com

http://www.judyclemens.com

Twitter: @judyclemens1

Facebook: judyclemensauthor

 

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

write-here-every-dayNovember 1 is four weeks away. If you’re a writer, you know what that means: the clock is ticking toward NaNoWriMo. Continue reading

Why Writing is Like Childbirth

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgIf  you’ve ever given birth, you’ve probably heard the old saw that women forget the pain of childbirth. The concept is simple. A new mother forgets because, if she remembered the contractions and the pushing and the panting, she’d never do it again.

What I remember about childbirth is sitting on the edge of my bed chanting to myself, “Don’t forget. Don’t do this again.” Continue reading

Living in the Active Voice

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgLast night, after several months of absences, I attended the Open Mic offered by my town’s arts alliance. I did not read. I don’t always have short pieces to share, but that’s okay, because listeners are as welcomed as participants. Readers shared poetry and spoken word, short prose pieces, some novel excerpts, a music duo, and a haiku plus bongos performance. You never know what will happen at an Open Mic, and that’s the fun of it. Continue reading

The Trouble with Being

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgMy last post of 2016 was about patience. This post is about another word: being.

You’ve seen the memes:

 Be the change. Be the ball. Just be.

The first – be the change – means embracing activism with action.  Be the change can mean marching on Washington on Saturday. Be the change can mean bringing your own cloth bags to the grocery store. Be the change can mean volunteering at a shelter or running in a charity 5K. Be the change can mean speaking up when a person is bullied about their race, religion, sexual orientation, or appearance. Be the change can mean adopting a rescue animal.

I get the concept of “be the change.” You, yourself, do something that exhibits how you want the world to act or be. Easy peasy.

“Be the ball” means action + desire. I don’t use a lot of sports metaphors, but I understand this one. If you want to be a champion swimmer, “be the ball” means practicing every day until you hit your best. Michael Phelps is the ball. For a wannabe writer, “be the ball” means writing without quitting, despite rejection, outside obstacles, and personal insecurities. JK Rowling is the ball.

“Be the ball” means doing the thing you love, embracing your desires, living the life you wish for. I understand this one, too.

Which brings us to “Just be.”

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“Just be” means to slow down. Listen. Feel. Observe. I think that’s what it means, anyway. To be honest, I’m not sure.

I practice being the change in my own relatively small ways, and I work hard at being the ball. But to just be—isn’t that, like, doing nothing?

“Just be” is difficult for people like me who long ago bought into the lure of multi-tasking. “Be the change” and “be the ball” are doing phrases. I can do things. Often, I can do three things at once. I can juggle, delegate, and prioritize. I know how to save time because….

 Time is precious! Don’t waste time! Time is of the essence! Time is fleeting!

These phrases are directly oppositional to the concept of taking time off, taking time for yourself, taking time to just be.

In writing, there’s a plot device called a ticking clock. It is used to give a character a deadline. A fictional ticking clock can mean a bomb will go off if it’s not diffused before the seconds wind down, or a loved one will die if not rescued before a hatch opens and they drop into the ocean.

Ticking clocks are useful in fiction because it ramps up the tension, adds stakes, etc. A ticking clock in real life means making deadlines. My job is ruled by deadlines, and it works, but it’s also tiring. One of my resolutions for 2017 is to do one thing at a time.

This is why “just be” sounds attractive–but despite my resolution, just “being” remains elusive.

So, my friends, how about some help? Who has this “just be” thing mastered? Would you share your wisdom on how to ignore the ticking clock and slow down, listen, feel, observe? I would be most grateful.

Virtual Clean Your Office Day

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On Friday of this week, millions of people around the world will bond in a joint cause: to clean their  home offices. Okay, maybe not millions. More like a dozen. Or half dozen. Six of my friends, plus me.

To reboot, on Friday, at least seven people will virtually join me in tackling the horror of paper piles, book stacks, business receipts, dead ink pens, and whatever (Food? Fungus? New strain of rotavirus?) that is turning the bottom of my mouse purple. Continue reading

Coming Events and Workshops

2016-fall-eventsOne of the perks of being awarded a fellowship is the opportunity to offer free public readings and workshops. (And you have funds set aside for promotional postcards!)

The following are my coming events for October and November, 2016. Some require registration, but all are open to the public. Continue reading

The Merry Month of Self-Myths

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgI attended a food truck party this past weekend, an event to support the local arts alliance where I participate in open mics, enjoy exhibits and classes and, this summer, will offer a multi-week course on novel writing.

The party was a smashing success. Despite the drippy skies, we arrived (late) to a parking lot full of students, art patrons, and locals patiently standing in loooong lines to the food trucks. The atmosphere was upbeat. A musician sang. Dogs wagged their tails. Children played around the tents. Even the lights of the firetruck closing off the street seemed festive. It was as much a community block party as it was a fundraiser. Continue reading

The Sacred Writing Time Pledge, 2016

On New Year’s Day of 2012, I created the Sacred Writing Time Pledge. The Pledge was born in response to a writing group colleague who bemoaned her lack of organization, willpower, family cooperation, and other reasons (aka excuses) that prevented her from being the steady, daily, productive writer she wanted to be. Continue reading