Monday, November 30, 2009


Something amazing happened last night. I was writing on my NaNoWriMo project, and as I compulsively added up my word count (because I had it going in a couple of different Word documents) I realized that my number was coming closer, and closer, and closer to 50,000, and then… something amazing happened. I CROSSED the 50,000 word mark. I was shocked. I didn’t really know what to do. I squealed at my mom and then I rushed to someplace with a phone (because we still have dialup at home) and uploaded my word count, praying that the 20 word padding that I had was enough.

I waited, with bated breath until I saw this wonderful sight:



I started bouncing around the house and then, because it was 11:00 at night, I went to bed, or at least, attempted to go to bed, because I was to excited to stay awake.

Since approximately the second week of NaNoWriMo, I have been behind. I caught up after the second week in one 4,000 word marathon night, but really, other than that, I have been behind, and yet I was still able to finish early. It may have taken an almost 5,000 word day, but that’s okay, because I finished.

During this time I attended 2 Write-Ins, one of which I hosted:

And earned 5 of the 10 NaNoWriMo Merit Badges (NaNo Socializing, Word-Count Padding, Secret Noveling – though it wasn’t really that secret because everyone knew I was doing it, Creative Nonfiction, and 50,000-Word Victory; I kinda’ earned the one for Caffeine Abuse too, which would be number 6, but I had that problem before NaNoWriMo started).

But now I’m done, and it’s back to the real world of writing… editing.


And earned 5 of the 10 NaNoWriMo Merit Badges (NaNo Socializing, Word-Count Padding, Secret Noveling – though it wasn’t really that secret because everyone knew I was doing it, Creative Nonfiction, and 50,000-Word Victory; I kinda’ earned the one for Caffeine Abuse too, which would be number 6, but I had that problem before NaNoWriMo started).

But now I’m done, and it’s back to the real world of writing… editing.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bird by Bird

One of my favorite books on writing is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This great book not only discusses the fundamentals of writing like plot, character, setting, etc. but also other helpful tips for the more advanced writer, such as ways to overcome the voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, ideas for writing groups and what to do during the publication (and pre-publication) process.

One of the important lessons Lamott teaches in Bird by Bird is to break up writing assignments into chunks that are easier deal with. She suggests that you keep a one inch picture frame by your writing desk.

It reminds me that all I have to do is write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bit off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph that sets the story in my hometown, in the late fifties, when the trains were still running. (18)

This lesson is also where the title of the book comes from. She tells the story of when her brother was writing a must-procrastinated paper on birds and he couldn’t figure out how he was going to complete the huge project. His father imparted upon him these words of wisdom that inspire us today. “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird” (19).

Sometimes the immensity of 50,000 words in 30 days is overwhelming, so we should remind ourselves to just take it bird by bird, and keep plowing on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Plot? No Problem!

With November being NaNoWriMo month, I’ve decided that it would be a good opportunity to share some of my favorite books on writing. For this week I’m suggesting a book written specifically for those embarking on the NaNoWriMo adventure. It is entitled No Plot? No Problem! And it’s written by Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month.

I almost feel as though it is cheating to suggest this book because I have not yet finished it yet. But the reason I have not finished it, is one I feel I can justify. The book in broken up into two sections. The first is about preparing for your novel-writing journey. It’s chapters include information on why the month is handled the way it is, ideas on how to find the time to write 50,000 words in 30 days, tricks and incentives to actually getting the job done, and of course ideas for how to get ideas for your novel.

This is the half I have read.

The other half of the book is a week-by-week overview of what to expect and ways to overcome the hardships that you find in each month. I have not read most of this half, but I will justify why: The book told me not to.

For maximum effect, read each of the following four chapters at the beginning of their corresponding weeks. Also, no skipping ahead! Peeking at Week Two’s pep talk while you’re still exploring the exciting terrain of Week One will cause strange and disquieting rifts in the temporal fabric of the universe, and may needlessly jeopardize the lives of everyone on this planet. Be a responsible (and fiendishly creative) global citizen and take the chapters one week at a time. (103)

The last chapter of the book is entitled “I Wrote a Novel. Now what?” and I’m going to assume that it’s about what to do with your finished 50,000 word project, but I haven’t read that chapter yet either (because I do what I’m told).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Montana Rose

Another great new Christian Fiction writer (at least new to me) is Mary Connealy. I recently read her new(er) release Montana Rose the first book in her Montana Marriages series. It is the story of Cassie and Red. Cassie is a young woman who has always been sheltered, but when her husband, a man not well liked in the small Montana town where they live, dies, she finds herself in the middle of a mob, about to be married off to a complete stranger. Red has always admired Cassie from afar, held back by the fact that she was married, but when he sees that she needs his help, he comes to her rescue, marrying her so she doesn’t have to marry any of the rougher men in town, despite the fact that she is pregnant.

As Cassie and Red grow used to one another they begin to fall in love, but things don’t always run smooth for them as other men try to get in the way of their happiness. Can they survive the harshness of the land and the people that inhabit it?

One thing I found really interesting about this book was that it included aspects of life that we almost take for granted today that you don’t frequently find in books with a historical setting.

The first of these is the aspect of the stalker. Cassie has a stalker in the character of Wade.

Wade scuffed his foot against the bedding of pine needles as he waited impatiently for [Red] to go into the house. He was learning their schedule.

Morning chores. Ride out to check the cattle. Noon break. Ride out for slightly longer to check the cattle. Evening chores. Supper. [Red] always stayed inside after supper. Always hurrying, always working. (164,5)

Wade follows Cassie like this on multiple occasions during the book and there are some even scarier moments involving the two of them. It was interesting to see how someone we are so familiar with in contemporary fiction would work in a historical fiction setting.

The second thing is the way women in labor react. We are all familiar with the woman who while in labor screams at her husband, “You’ll never touch me again!” and other such amusing things.

“Don’t touch me,” Cassie snarled.

Red jumped back as surely as if a rattler had attacked him.

Then her voice deepened almost to a growl. “Get your filthy hands off me.”

It was a voice he’d never heard come out of his submissive little wife before.

The minute he backed away, Cassie turned to him and grabbed him around the waist. She buried her face against his chest. “Hold me, please, Red.”

[…]Since she seemed to like her shoulders rubbed, he slid one hand down her back and around to massage her taut belly.

“What are you doing?” She shrieked like he’d tried to push her off a cliff. “Get your hands off me.” She shoved hard at his arm.

Pulling away from her, he stammered, “I’m… I’m sorry. I won’t touch you if you…”

A loud wail broke off at his wretched apology. “You think I’m fat and ugly.” (248,9)

Even in historical novels that include scenes where there is a birth you don’t frequently find this sort of amusing and, from what I understand, realistic demonstration of what birth is like. What makes his even more amusing is that the child is not even Red’s baby, but Cassie’s baby by her first husband.

This book is a great read for other reasons as well. It’s very well written, really amusing, and the characters are ones that you will remember for a long time.

Connealy, Mary. Montana Rose. Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, Inc, 2009.