Hello November!

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I updated this blog.  Wow.  I did not intend for October to get away from me like that!

The Midwest Writer’s Workshop Manuscript Makeover session was wonderful!  Terry Faherty is an outstanding teacher.  He made many helpful suggestions for everyone in the session, and found a way to make us all feel encouraged about our writing.  It was a terrific session and we wound up going longer than scheduled because he was willing to keep going and none of us were eager to leave!  I came out of the session feeling good about the possibilities in my manuscript and ready to work on it.

My 5k was slow, but I had a lot of fun anyway.  I got to run with a co-worker, who was doing her first 5k.  We got lots of high-fives from Charlie Cardinal (races with mascots > races without mascots).  My co-worker’s daughter ran the 1 mile race with a friend and we had a lot of fun cheering them on to the finish line!  There we all are after our races, hanging out with Charlie.

Chase Charlie after race

The culminating event for October was attending the 21st Magna Cum Murder conference!  Magna is a mystery writers/readers/fans conference.  It’s organized by Kathryn Kennison, the director of the EB and Bertha C Ball Center at Ball State University.  The conference started out as a small event, meant to help connect the community to the university (Cum Murder is a play on Cum Laude).  The conference rapidly grew and these days we have guests from all across the country as well as internationally.  There are several people who have attended every single Magna, and it’s terrific to be part of something which inspires that sort of loyalty.  There are always new people each year as well, and it doesn’t take long for them to recognize how special this conference is.  No matter if we’re meeting for the first time or we’ve seen each other many years, it always feels like you’re getting to talk with old friends at Magna.  I had an amazing time at the conference but, as I’ve been asked to do the wrap-up write-up for the official newsletter, Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence (how we do love our plays on words), I’ll limit myself here for the moment.

Technically Saturday was the last day of October, but we had one more October-ish event which didn’t take place until today.  My husband and I went to the EB and Bertha C. Ball Center this morning to give a talk on Haunted East Central Indiana.  We shared stories we’ve collected over the years, as well as evidence we’ve caught on investigations, with an attentive audience of about fifty people!  We had a grand time sharing our stories and hearing a few from our audience as well.

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Now that the October fun is over, it’s time to buckle down for November!  I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (you can see my word count in the right hand column).  All the lingering October excitement has put me a bit behind, but I hope to catch up soon and be able to finish my 50k by November 30th!  I’ll also be taking my first knitting lesson tomorrow morning.  There’s another 5k coming up as well, plus Thanksgiving!  All in all, November is looking to be as busy as October!  I hope it will be just as much fun!

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Heading to Camp!

Camp NaNoWriMo that is! That’s right – you don’t have to wait for November to do NaNoWriMo. The great folks at the Office of Letters and Light offer Camp NaNoWriMo as well. This year there are camping sessions in April and July. Camp is a bit different than November’s NaNoWriMo. For one thing, you choose your word-count goal. Want to do 50,000? Go ahead. Want to do less (or more) than that? That’s fine too. You decide! The other thing that’s different is that at camp there are cabins. A cabin is a group of fellow writers. You can create your own cabin or join one with friends, or be randomly assigned to a cabin (or, if cabins aren’t your thing, you can go it alone).

I’m very excited to be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this April. I’m using the camp to complete my first draft of my current manuscript, tentatively titled Ghostly Witness. I’ve set my word-count goal at 30,000 and I think that’s realistic both to complete in April and complete the first draft. I’m also excited to be part of the Cabin of Creative Misfits, started by Natasha Raulerson. We’ve got different genres and different word-count goals, but that doesn’t matter.  We’re all in this together.  I’m looking forward to getting to know my bunk-mates, cheering folks on, and seeing all of us succeed! I’ve seen some of my bunk-mates descriptions of their novels and I want to read them all! It’s going to be a good Camp!

Writing Chapter 2, Magna Cum Murder, and to NaNo or not to NaNo

Got a lot on my mind, if the title of this post doesn’t give that away!

First, after my lovely chapter 1 of my current ms, I’ve sputtered and faltered and am still struggling with chapter 2.  I was feeling uber-frustrated about it all, until it just hit me that chapter 1 was kind of that way too.  I wrote and re-wrote and re-re-wrote that thing, trying to make it awesome before turning it in for critiquing.  And guess what then?  I re-re-re-wrote the blasted thing, using the critique information to make it better.  I’m really pleased with it now, but that’s not the point.  The point is that I had a similar experience with that first chapter.  Lots of reworking of things, lots of re-writing, lots of stuff moved to the scratch pad file.  I have a couple of options here.  I can charge forward with stuff I’m less than pleased about or I can accept that there may be a good deal of struggle with this particular manuscript.  I think a good deal of the struggle comes from the fact that I’ve had this story in my head and heart for so many years, waiting for me to be “ready” to write it out.  I’m hugely psyched out about wanting to do it justice and about finally getting it written.  I need to learn to take a deep breath, let off the pressure, and just see where the writing goes (and silence the history major in me who says “but events have to be in sequence because one impacts the next”).

Magna Cum Murder begins on Friday, October 24th, in Indianapolis.  It has been my privilege to volunteer at this conference for the past 12 years or so.  A few years ago my husband joined me as a volunteer, and not long after that we started giving a panel each year.  Our first was discussing local haunts.  After that year we evolved to giving one on ghost-hunting in real life.  We’ve had a good reception for that each year.  I’m very excited about doing the panel again this year because we have some new stuff to share with people from some recent investigations.  It’s exciting stuff and it opens up good avenues for discussion and education as well.

I am also anticipating November and NaNoWriMo.  I don’t have a solid idea for a NaNo project yet, but that’s one thing I’m not worrying over.  If no new project idea springs forth, I can be a NaNo rebel and use the month to get 50,000 words down on an existing project.  In fact, I’m strongly inclined in that direction.  Maybe it will be the kick in the pants I need to stop sweating every word in the current project and just get something down.  After all, you can’t do a second draft until you’ve completed a first draft.

On the subject of NaNo, a snarky piece from a website I won’t name (because they disgust me and I won’t drive traffic to them) was going around last week.  I’d seen it before but it still made me angry.  Basically the writer felt that we NaNoers should skip attempting to write a novel and spend our time reading because a) we’d only wind up creating crap anyway and b) apparently anyone ambitious enough to attempt to write a novel is not someone who reads.  I really wanted to go slap this sour grapes person.  Clearly she’s never been brave enough to attempt NaNoWriMo.  She doesn’t create – she criticizes.  So here’s what I say to anyone who’s thinking of trying NaNoWriMo:
Maybe your manuscript will suck.  Maybe you’ll hate it and chuck it in the bin as soon as the month is over.  But you will gain something from the experience of creating it.  You will learn something about yourself (even if it’s only how much caffeine you can handle at one time) and that will be valuable to you, whether you continue writing or not.  Don’t let the negative Nancys of the world (even those in your head) chase you off.  Give it a chance, give yourself a chance.  It is worth it and so are you.

Revision Phase 2 – Still Loading

I’m supposed to be on to Phase 2 in my revision – fixing typos and then re-reading, looking for things to add, change, or delete.  Instead I’m doing nothing with my manuscript.  I’ve been reading a lot, and dealing with a lot at work, and my manuscript is languishing as a result.

It’s partly a time issue.  It’s partly a reluctance to get started issue.  I have this neat little plan, but I am finding this whole process very intimidating.  I feel like the manuscript is worth working on – it’s not one of those horrible oh-my-god-put-it-in-a-drawer-and-pretend-it-never-happened ones.  It’s got potential.

So, how am I going to get myself past this intimidated state and on to phase 2?  I think I’m going to try the just do it method.  Tomorrow I will spend my lunch hour fixing the typos and then reprint the manuscript.  Then, on Saturday, after breakfast, I’ll make myself a nice cup of coffee and settle in with the manuscript and a notebook (or my laptop) to start reading again and making notes.

Revision: On to Phase 2

I finished my first read-through of my manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2013.  I noted typos, some grammatical glitches, and a few repetitive word choices which need changed.  I am pleased to say that, while the manuscript needs work, I found it very readable.  That pleases me.

Next up is Phase 2.  Phase 2 is to do another read-through, noting things which I feel need changed/fixed.  Are there scenes which need added?  Deleted?  Revamped?  Many things occurred to me on this first read-through but I resisted pursuing them.  I wanted to get all the way through before I started changing anything.  I did start on some notes after I finished the read-through today.

At present, I believe I have a character who needs punched up and a plot thread which was left dangling.  I suspect I will be adding more scenes, and possibly chapters, in rewrite.  I am excited to start on Phase 2.

Revision Has Begun: Phase 1

I completed a manuscript for NaNoWriMo 2013.  It was not the story I started out planning to write, but at the last moment (literally on the drive to work the morning of November 1st) a different idea came to me and I ran with it.  It was a lot of fun, with a little agony mixed in near the end, writing this story and I was pleased to both hit my 50k target by November 30th (by writing 8,000 some words on November 30th) and to finish the manuscript earlier this month.

Now I am reading over that first manuscript.  This time through I am limiting myself to just marking out typos and grammatical errors (and the occasional overuse of a word here or there).  The next pass is when I start looking for things to keep, things to cut, and things to change.  It is proving a bit of a struggle to stick with my just read it plan.  I want to start making notes on change this, delete this, what the heck were you thinking here? but I’m making myself stick to the plan.  So far.

When you do NaNoWriMo, your goal is to get 50,000 words by November 30th.  So you turn off the inner editor and, when in doubt, tell yourself “just go with it – you can fix it later.”  I have arrived at later and I find that I have some continuity errors to work on.  These may entail deleting bits, or writing new bits, or a mix of both.  Rather than finding this frustrating, I’m finding it kind of exciting.  I’ve never really done a proper revision of a manuscript before, so this should prove an educational experience!  Educational experiences are good, right?

We’ll see if my excitement stays and my frustration does not emerge as I continue this process.  And I’ll keep reminding myself that I am learning, and I do like to learn!

Plans and Plans

Lately I’ve been feeling like a failure at this whole writing business.  I have a story I’m supposed to be working on.  I even have an outline this time (a first for me).  Yet when it comes time to actually work on it, my brain takes a vacation.  It’s out the door doing whatever else it can think of, other than putting out words.  It’s driving me crazy!

Now, I know this feeling-like-a-failure thing is a bit ridiculous.  After all, I just completed the manuscript for my 2012 NaNoWriMo project.  I hit my 50k before the November 30th deadline but this time I was determined to actually complete the manuscript.  I plugged on and I managed to do just that near the end of January.  I’ve set that story aside for the time being, partly because by the time I finished I was thoroughly sick of it and partly because I wanted to work on this new idea that’s not going anywhere.  I know there is a lot of work to be done on that story.  I’ve already got notes on some things I think I should change.  It may be that I’ll go back and determine that it’s not worth working on again.  But regardless, I did complete it and that is an accomplishment.  It’s most certainly not a failure.

In the meantime, the unfinished manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2010 is beckoning to me, telling me maybe it’s time I took another look.  This was a story I’d wanted to write for years, and I used NaNoWriMo to get myself going on it.  Unfortunately, in my quest to get the elusive 50k, I focused too much on the mundane day-to-day stuff in the story and not enough on moving forward in the plot.  That’s the major thing I’d like to correct when I start work on it again.  I’m keeping notes for myself as ideas occur to me as I prepare for a rewrite.  Perhaps this will be my Camp NaNoWriMo project this summer.

So, clearly the whole failure thing is just an over-reaction.  It may be that having the outline is holding me back.  I’ve always been more of a “pantser” than a “planner” when it comes to writing (though not in any other aspect of life).  I start with an idea that we’re going to go from a to e but I don’t really know where b, c, or d will fall on this route.  Having a much more detailed plan for the story is at once reassuring and hampering.  Working with it will be a learning experience, as all of my writing projects have been before.  I am looking forward to learning!