NaNoWriMo Countdown

nanowrimoI have less than a week to get ready for this year’s National Novel Writing Month and I am nowhere near ready.

But that’s okay. Really. Because it doesn’t matter if I finish the month with 50,000 words in the bag, and even if by some miracle I do manage to get the word count to”win” I know from experience that most of what I churn out in NaNoWriMo will be complete drivel.

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So why do it? Why agonize, put yourself through that Word Count torture, stay up late and live in the same sweats for  the entire weekend (and more) if most of what you churn out is going to eventually end up in the waste bin anyway?

Because (she says, with a knowing smile) that kernel, hidden in the chaff, may just become something. Something BIG.

The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I only managed to get about 17K on paper for the month. Ninety percent of that wound up in the trash, but the time spent spewing out those wasted words helped the idea form in my mind for what would eventually become my first book. I set the files aside for a couple years after NaNoWriMo, but that initial intense push kept things bouncing around inside my head. The story grew, changed, and fleshed itself out.

When I finally reopened the file, I was ready to write my book. I am not sure that would have happened had I not been through the ordeal that is NaNoWriMo.  Committing a month to focus on your ideas is really what NaNoWriMo is all about.

It’s not about finishing a book; it’s about starting one. 

Whether you have a carefully planned outline, complete with pages of character descriptions and plot point, or just a wacky wonderful idea that has been nagging at the back of your brain, jump in with enthusiasm and write, write, write. Whether you end up with 5K or 50K, you will still benefit.

Here’s what I have taken away from my four previous NaNoWriMo attempts:

  1. You learn how to get your thoughts on paper (ok computer)
  2.  You learn just how much time you need if you are serious about writing, and get in the habit of making that time
  3. Editing while writing the first draft is a bad idea – you should let the ideas come-NaNoWriMo is so short, so intense, you don’t have time to edit so it helps keep you out of edit mode
  4. Some really good book ideas can come from the process
  5. You’ll meet other local writers, future critique partners, and potential friends at the local write-ins

If you have been on the fence, give it a go. DO join local write-ins and NaNoWriMo meet ups. The support and enthusiasm help keep you going when you get bogged down. I’ll be at the Tuckerton Seaport at 6:45 PM for the Nov. 1st kickoff in Southern Ocean County. Hope to see you there, laptop in hand.

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Selling at Art Fairs and Festivals

Well, this weekend I take the plunge to sell my art locally at the High Fliers Art Market on LBI.  I shut my eyes, held my nose, and decided not to stick my toe in the waters. Instead, I am jumping…

Source: Selling at Art Fairs and Festivals

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The Glider

I keep telling you I am a lousy poet (and I am) but for some reason, I have been inspired to write more poetry lately. Today’s inspiration is a painting I have been working on.

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It is called …

 

The Glider

Softly

In the blue silence

She glides past

With grace, majesty

She sails on silent wings

A peaceful creature

She disturbs no one

Coming ashore

In the secrecy of night

Bringing life

To her children.

Their chance is slight

The odds against them

Their days are numbered

In this world

For the sea is dying

And with it,

The Glider.

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Remembering 9-11-2001

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Young boy leaving flowers outside the US embassy in Moscow, 9/11/2001. Courtesy September11news.com

It’s September 11th.

Here at the Jersey shore it is a hot, muggy, end-of-summer sort of day. Nothing exciting, nothing unusual happened here today.

But…

Fifteen years ago, another September 11th started off in a routine, normal way. It ended very differently.

I wasn’t at the shore in those days. I was living in Moscow, Russia, and like many other people around the world, I will never forget the events of that day.

It was late afternoon there. My oldest boy was on a school trip to Finland. My youngest son and I just come home from the Anglo-American School, where I taught first grade. My phone rang as I walked in the door. It was my husband.

“Turn on the TV.”

“What?”

“Turn on the TV. I can’t get on the Internet here. Something has happened. Put on CNN.”

I dropped my bags and raced downstairs to the television. As I waited for the set to come on, I could hear the chaos at my husband’s office in the city. He kept asking, over and over, “Do you have it? What do you see? What are they saying? What. Do. You. See?”

The image on the screen cleared. I saw the first of the twin towers, huge plumes of gray smoke billowing into the blue skies. I stared in disbelief, trying to make sense of the trailer running along the bottom of the screen.

“One of the twin towers is on fire.”

“What else?”

“Wait…”

I took a minute to focus on the broadcast and the horrible truth of what was happening sunk in. I watched, in disbelief as the second tower was struck. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation or hanging up the phone.

Over the next few days, the images and stories coming out of New York were etched into my brain – terrified men and women plummeting from the towers to their deaths, the fires, the towers collapsing to the ground, clouds of dust filling the streets of Manhattan. Later, it was the heart-wrenching stories of last phone calls, the story of the brave passengers of flight 93, heroic sacrifices, miraculous reunions.

Amid so much grief, so much fear, there were also beautiful moments. When I worked in Manhattan in the early 80s, I would never have imagined its citizens, all of them, banding together and working selflessly to provide aid and comfort to all in need. In the days that followed the terror, my heart nearly burst with pride for that wonderful city.

I would like to add that America did not stand alone, either. Leaders and citizens around the world stood by us in prayers and deeds in the aftermath of 9-11. I was forever touched by the outpouring of everyday Russian citizens when a sea of fresh flowers appeared overnight along the red brick walls of the US Embassy in Moscow. They spanned a full city block and then some. Friends from all over the world took the time to check on us and send their condolences for the USA’s loss.

I did not know any of those who perished that day. My family, thankfully, was safe from harm. I will not pretend that I have any understanding of the depth of hurt and pain caused to those who lost loved ones, but like all Americans, I grieved for the victims and their families. I grieved for our nation. We had been naive. It couldn’t happen to us, but it had, and we would never really feel safe again.

There are many remembrances of 9-11 being written and published today, by far better writers than I am, but I wanted to reflect on my own memories of that day because as painful as it is to remember, it is important that we never forget.

 

jill

9-11-2016

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#1stNovelWoes

y3mfnThree weeks ago I was absolutely over the moon because, drum roll please, I had finished the first draft of my first book. A four year project (well, really one year with three years of life getting in the way) that had finally, finally come to its first major milestone – a completed first draft.

I promptly did what any sane person would do. I threw it in a virtual drawer and ignored it for a couple of weeks. I figured letting it ferment would allow me to gain some objectivity in the revision process..

I also had a host of pressing art obligations and a second book idea clamoring to be outlined before NaNoWriMo in November.So, I let it sit. The longer it sat, the less I wanted to delve back into my original manuscript. When I finally reopened the file, my worst fears were realized.

My book sucked. Big time. I wasn’t looking at revisions so much as rewrites. I didn’t really have a working first draft after all.

On the plus side, my experience with my fabulous critique group has sharpened my writing skills. I am more focused, more concise, my word choices are better, my dialogue is sharper –I am a far better writer than I was a year ago.

But now, as I reopen those early chapters, I see just how little I understood about constructing a novel, creating tension, bringing a voice to life and I am finding the revision process daunting, to say the least.

The first day, I sat in front of the computer for thirty minutes before just plain giving up. On day two, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and decided I was going to make this happen come hell or high water.

I started work on the first two chapters. Things were working better but I still didn’t have a master plan. I hated the idea of “wasting” a couple of weeks just planning it all out on little index cards. Still, as I sat down to write each day, a tiny voice kept whispering to me that I was wasting far more time by wandering around  in the forest looking up at the sky, when what I really needed to do was look down and try to find a proper path.

So, here I am, working out a master plan for fixing the issues with my novel. It’s not as bad as I had feared, and the more planning I do, the less intimidating the revisions, which is not to say I won’t have months of work ahead of me, but at least I won’t be walking around in circles. See you on the other side.

 

 

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PitchWars Wishes

This week the PitchWars mentees are going to be announced. Several of my writing friends have submitted to PW. I am living vicariously through their PW journeys this year. I hope to be in their shoes next year.

They are talented writers all, and deserve to find a mentor (and subsequently agents) for their books, but the chances are slim given the number of entries. I wish, with all my heart, that they get chosen, because putting yourself out there is the scariest thing in the world, and I know how much work has gone into their submissions.

I am already planning for next year’s contest, and have no illusions about my chances– they are slim as slim can be–but I wouldn’t trade this opportunity and learning experience for anything.

As I watch and wait and hope with each of you, know that you are talented writers, all. Know that this is only the beginning no matter what happens, and you will gain so much from the experience no matter what the outcome.

 

 

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Favorite Book Quote #1

Today I ran across one of my favorite book quotes of all time. It has stuck with me through the years and I can almost quote it verbatim. It is a beautiful paragraph. It contains the innocence of a child, a celebration of differences, and at the same time, a hopeful promise of unity.

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From Jerry Spinelli’s MANIAC MAGEE…

“Maniac loved the colors of the East End, the people colors. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which to him, was real black.”

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