Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!

This is our goodie basket, all ready for the little ghosts and goblins and pirates and Mantrackers (saw a kid going to school dressed as him, I'm sure). This year, we're trying something different - lots of what used to be "penny candy" instead of the usual getting-smaller-every-year chocolate bars, although we have some of those, too. How long has it been since I've had SweetTarts? Too long!

I also did something a little different for decor, inspired by fabric I found at Fabricland for less than $5 a meter. I made a Hallowe'en door curtain.

We'll be carving a pumpkin, of course. That isn't nearly as fun when you don't have little kiddies to "help," though.

And may I just add that I find pumpkin-carving templates an abomination? I'd much rather see a poorly-carved but hand-done pumpkin any day. Or the obviously-done-by-young-children headstones made out of plain cardboard that are decorating a neighbor's yard, bearing names like "R.U. Scared." That gave me one of the biggest smiles of the week.


Friday, October 29, 2010

20 Day Writing challenge - end of Week One

I made my goal - and a little bit more! Yeah!

Today's details:

A.M. - wrote form 9:42 - 10:37, 9 pages, 1331 words. I also went back a page and did some minor revisions, because I realized there should be more conflict at the end of the previous scene. I deleted 113 words and added 107.

Broke for lunch, treadmill, making chili for the weekend and some craft work

P.M. - wrote from 3:06 - 3:30, 2 pages, 530 words. Why so little? Maybe it was getting up so early yesterday, or two days on the treadmill, but this afternoon, I was bushed! Nevertheless, I did write and here are the week's totals:

54 pages (goal was 50), 11,259 words.

I didn't start with a word count goal this week. However, I believe I'll add that to the rest of the 20 Day Challenge, so it will be 10 pages a day, for a total of 50/week, and a weekly word goal of over 10,000 words.

If you've been noting how much time I've spent at the computer this week, I imagine a lot of you are thinking, "Huh? Is that all?"

Yep. Because here's the thing: I've learned the hard way that if I push it, especially with a first draft, my brain eventually freezes. Or my imagination just kinda goes on strike. However I describe it, it means writing becomes a real chore, and that's not good.

Also, a first draft can be more mentally draining than any subsequent draft. Even with an outline, I'm making constant decisions and I'm also feeling my way along in terms of the characters, who I don't know really, really well yet. Also, while I may not be sitting at the computer for a long time, I'm doing a lot of thinking about the story at other times.

Oh, and bonus - doing the dishes by hand isn't onerous at all. I point out again I'm just talking dishes for two here, but I'm actually enjoying not having to empty the dishwasher.

So, that's one week down, three to go!

Here I am outside our hotel in a suburb of Rome.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

20 Day Writing Challenge: Day Four

It's amazing what one can accomplish if one's day begins at 5 a.m. That was the case for me today. Not that I planned to wake up that early. One of the cats woke me up by leaping from the tall dresser onto the bed. Then deciding I would make a nice soft place to sleep.

However, it meant I did get a lot accomplished, although I also took time to watch most of Tremors - while on the treadmill, though!

The details:

A.M. - wrote from 9:05 - 10:01, 6 pages, 1394 words. I don't start work before 9 because of newspaper reading with hubby and Breakfast Television. What can I say? I like the early morning City TV crew.

P.M. (after lunch, Tremors and treadmill) - wrote from 2:20 - 3:05, 6 more pages, 1145 words, for a daily total of 2,539 words.

Total page count so far: 47
Total word count to date: 9,398

I also started my third craft project. The first is nearing completion, the second is going faster than I thought, so I took the time to start a third.

It's Margaret in Assissi!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

20 Day Writing Challenge - good day to have some wiggle room

As I expected, getting ahead of my goal paid off. I didn't get as much time on the computer today as I have the past two days. I did make my ten pages, but barely, and eight of those were in the morning.

Here are the details:

A.M. - wrote from 9:30 to 10:09, did four pages and took a break to make notes for next bit and get a coffee, wrote again from 10:30 to 10:54, for another four pages that included a surprise plot development. I mean it was a surprise to me, too, as I hadn't planned it. Love it when that happens!

In the afternoon, I walked up to the local thrift store and scored a vintage Pyrex bowl of a design I've never seen before (I'll post a picture another time), another interesting glass bowl and a big basket for the Hallowe'en candy. Then I raked leaves and did some work on a craft project. I certainly made my 10,000 step goal and then some.

Then it was early dinner, as my husband is off to a basketball game with our son, so I didn't get to the computer until 6:14. However, as I'd been raking and making dinner and working on a craft project, I realized I'd made things much too easy for my characters, so my work was in the form of minor revising to add more conflict, which came out to two more pages or 403 words. I stopped at 6:36 because I still have dishes to do (still doing them by hand) and company's coming, but then I made more notes, because I've realized I have to make some significant changes to the plot for the next three chapters. Specifically, I'm ditching something that was kind of cliched anyway, and going for more emotional conflict instead.

Total page count for the first three days of my 20-Day Writing Challenge: 35
Word Count: 6,859

Here I am waving in Urbino.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

20 Day Writing Challenge - still going strong!

Another good day for my Writing Challenge! Best of all, I made it through the wedding night scene. I freely admit those sorts of scenes are the most difficult for me to write, because they require a delicate balance between the characters' physical and emotional activity.

I also made my walking goal today of over 10,000 steps. I did that yesterday, too, so whoo hoo. Although I did cave and buy some mini-Tootsies, which are now way back in an upper cupboard.

Here are the details:

A.M. - wrote from 9:42 to 10:43, 8 pages, 1647 words (also took a short coffee break in there, to get a coffee and think about the story for a bit)

P.M. - wrote from 2:51 to 3:34, 4 pages, for a total of 12 for the day and 2535 words. That makes my total page count 25 to date, and word count 5,236. So I'm five pages ahead of my goal. Yeah!

Toughest part of the challenge so far? Not checking the Television Without Pity Hoarders forums before starting to write. A main reason I watch the show is for the TWoP forums afterward.

ETA: I forgot to mention that instead of writing two scenes today, all twelve pages were one scene. I may have to forget the idea of doing two five-page scenes a day and just see what happens.

Here I am on the battlements of San Marino.

Monday, October 25, 2010

20 Day Writing Challenge - off to a good start!

I made my goal and then some today, which feels great. It's always nice to have a little "wiggle room" in case there are days something comes up and I don't meet my goal.

Here are the details.

A.M. - started at 9:30, wrote until 10:10, 8 pages, 1646 words

P.M. - started at 1:53, wrote until 2:33, 5 pages (for a daily total of 13)

Total word count for the day: 2701

I also made notes, did the dishes twice, voted in the municipal election and went for a walk.

So, I'm off to a great start! And I'm pleased with what I've written so far.

Here I am in Venice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prepping for OctNoWriMo, aka the 20-Day Writing Challenge

Another look at my calendar has made me alter my plans for OctNoWriMo a little (already!). I now realize I won't be home on Nov. 19, which was to be the final day of my OctNoWriMo challenge. So, because being a writer often means you have to roll with the punches or otherwise adapt, I'm changing the nature of my writing challenge a bit. Instead of thinking in terms of weeks (writing two scenes a day, or ten pages, for five days a week for four weeks), I'm calling it a 20-Day Writing Challenge - same number of days, but with the acknowledgment that I won't be able to take three entire weekends off. No matter. I'm good with twenty days.

That's the thing about a self-imposed writing challenge - you can alter it. And you can make it comfortably doable, as I have, or you can make it a little more challenging by upping the ante. If you're comfortable writing ten pages a day, aim for twelve or fifteen. However, this depends on your reaction to failure. If it's really going to bother you if you don't make a goal on a particular day, even if it's a self-imposed goal, maybe you should go with the comfortable challenge. I do because I get my butt in the chair and the thrill of accomplishment without making myself feel bad if I fail (even if failure in this case is only in my own mind).

Regardless of how one divides the time, to accept a writing challenge, even or perhaps particularly, one that is self-imposed, requires some preparation. How much depends on your own life and comfort level. Here is mine:

I'm getting my house in order this weekend - cleaning, tidying, doing the laundry, so I can get by with minimal chores during the week. I'm clearing off my desk, so that all that will be on it is the basics: file with notes, laptop, pens, paper, lamp.

I've written scene outlines for the first five days, and have more basic outlines for where I'll be going for the next three. I've decided that when I take a major break (either on weekends or other days off) I'll print and reread what I've written up to that point from either the start of the challenge or the last break. I will make notes, but I will NOT go back and revise, because this is the heart of NaNoWriMo and my own challenge for me - not to see how much I can produce, but to turn off my inner editor. Nevertheless, I may realize I've headed down the wrong path, or have otherwise made an error, and I should make notes on how to fix that before proceeding. If I can't figure out immediately how to fix it, I'll just note that I've got a problem and carry on with the next part of the challenge as if the problem has indeed been fixed.

OR I may decide I do need to do some rewriting before I carry on. No matter. If I must rewrite a scene, I'll consider it part of my page count for that day. After all, I'm making up my own rules here, and sometimes you really can't proceed until you've taken care of an issue in the story, or you wind up even farther off course later.

I've selected character names. This may sound simple, but it may not necessarily be so. I have to feel good about a name, that it's adequate and sounds right. It's especially important for the main characters, but I feel the same way about secondary characters, too.

Today I'll be opening up files and setting up chapters. No big deal, but should save a bit of time every day.

One thing I should add: As always, I will be making short notes after I finish each scene before proceeding to the next one. They may be about minor changes/revisions to make later, or about the next scene.

I see the weather may curtail my walking goal. If the weather's inclement, I'll use the treadmill instead.

And I'm going to try a couple of new things. I'm going to try reading through my notes for the next day's scenes before falling asleep. I know some authors do this when they have a problem to work out with their story or characters. I want to see if it helps me with the next day's work.

And I'm going to go back to washing dishes by hand for the duration of the challenge. Why? Because I used to get some good ideas doing that sort of menial task. (I point out that's dishes for two - not nearly the same work as dishes for a family of three, four or more.)

So, there it is. My goal is to write two five-page scenes for twenty days without major revising, ending on Nov. 18. By the end of the challenge, I should have 200 pages, more than enough to have a good start on my writing project.

Of course, as is usually the way, having set out a plan and as noted above, life has already conspired against me. I feel a cold coming on. But hey, if I have to spend a day doing nothing more than sitting on a couch wrapped in an afghan, sipping tea and wiping my nose, well, I've planned for that, too, with the breaks.

Oh, and as a bit of fun, I'll also be posting pictures from our trip to Italy last year. Every place we went, I had my husband take a picture of me waving, so when I blog about the daily goal (met or missed), I'll include one of my waving pictures. The first is from the Coliseum in Rome.

See you tomorrow for the first report of my 20-Day Writing Challenge.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

OctNoWriMo, or Adapting When Necessary

I've blogged about participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. National Novel Writing Month is, basically, a way to make a writer get his or her butt in the chair and write a novel in a month. I consider it a great way to jump-start a project, and since I'm at a good place to do that, I decided to participate in an unofficial way. being what it is, November is starting to get booked up already. (And I must say, I suspect November was chosen as National Novel Writing Month by a man. Or somebody who isn't American. Because while I'm not an American, I'm sure for many American women, November is the Month of Preparation for Thanksgiving, so not a lot of spare time. But I digress.)

Since November is getting busy, I've decided to start NaNoWriMo early, making my own OctNoWriMo. My goal is to write 2 five-page scenes a day for four weeks. Unlike official NaNoWriMo calculations, I am not going by word count. I'd rather think in terms of scenes. If a scene is over five pages, then I'll go with ten pages for the day.

A couple of things to note:

I'm not including weekends. I may choose to write on a weekend, or I may do laundry, etc. Or I may find I need to rethink my outline, or do some research. And a break day may turn out to be Wed. instead of Sat. Basically, I'm allowing myself a two-day break. Again, this isn't the way official NaNo works, but if there's one thing I've learned in my career, it's that I don't have to do things the way everybody else does.

I have a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks. That means I have tidying up to do before she comes, but not the heavy lifting. Believe me, I appreciate this.

I don't have school-age kids at home. (Sigh.)

I'm including time to exercise and cook dinner in my schedule, which will hopefully look something like this:

read the papers (I read two a day)
check (brief) outline, write one scene
check email, tweet progress
go for walk (or go for walk, then lunch, depending on when I finish the scene)
write second scene
check email, tweet, blog progress
make dinner
the rest of the evening is mine to enjoy

We'll see how this goes, but if all goes well, I should be well on my way with a project by the middle of November. Of course there will have to be revisions, but I think most writers will agree the real grunt work is the first draft.

Stay tuned for daily progress reports, starting Monday.

ETA: I'll be blogging about my preparations for OctNoWriMo tomorrow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reticence in the digital age

I hear a lot in the media about the lack and/or loss of privacy in this age of social networking. To be sure, more and more people seem unable to do anything without telling everybody they know and complete strangers about it. I was occasionally distracted at the So You Think You Can Dance show by the woman texting beside me.

However, I suspect there may be more than a few people who have had a reaction I've had to all this information overload, at least in terms of what I share about my career and what I'm working on. I'm much more reticent now about that sort of thing now than in the past because you just never know where that information might wind up.

Of course, there's always been a certain amount of risk if you shared information with others, but whereas before it might get passed from one person to another over a long period of time, now it can be emailed, posted and tweeted.

Frankly, that kinda gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not that I think folks are that terribly interested in what I'm up to, but still, better safe than sorry.

So while social networking has made me more accessible and approachable on a personal level, on a professional one, it's made me play my cards much closer to my vest.

What I learned from Alex Wong

I was at the live So You Think You Can Dance touring show the other night. Aside from enjoying the dancing, which was great, one thing really struck me.

If you're not a fan of the show, you may not know who Alex Wong is. He's a ballet dancer who was doing really well, clearly a favorite, who unfortunately suffered a major injury and was forced to leave the show. He was such a fan fav, however, that they (rightly) included a tape of one of his most popular dances from the show, a hip-hop number featuring Alex and another primarily hip-hop dancer who goes by the name of Twitch.

So here was this classically trained dancer doing something really foreign, and yet...he was absolutely fantastic.

And as I sat in the audience and watched the tape on the big screen, I realized why.

The man absolutely throws himself, body and soul, into what he's doing.

Alex Wong gets out of his own way.

There is no sense that he is thinking about anything other than the dance - not himself, not the audience, just the character and the dance.

As a writer, this is something I need to do, too. Silence the inner editor and especially the inner critic. Just throw myself into the writing and let myself go.

Or, to put it another way...get outta my mind!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's wrong with being alone?

Yet again, I read another article about boomers and retirement that said, basically, you ought to have lots of friends as you age. I get the basis for this, but what if you're used to spending chunks of time alone? What if you like it that way?

I am not exactly an introvert, or the shy, retiring type. However, I also like spending time alone. I've been this way since childhood, when I could happily spend hours reading.

And I don't think I'm the only person who finds the company of some people much more stressful than being by myself. There have been times when I thought living in a cave somewhere would be bliss.

Some people thought I was going to totally freak out when my kids moved out. I can't say I like the empty nest; I do miss them, particularly in the evening. But it's not as if I wasn't used to the silence and solitude of an empty house. I've been working in an otherwise empty house, in silence, for many years now.

In a nutshell, I like silence and solitude.

I like seeing my friends and family, too, and as I said, I do get what all this talk of a social network when you're aging is about and why it's good. But I'm happy spending time with just me, myself and I, and I don't think that's going to change.

Nor, do I think, should it.

Speaking of being alone, here's a video of the waves on the beach I took the last time I was there. All by myself.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back from the beach

We were very fortunate to have wonderfully warm weather for our long weekend. I was back at the cottage, enjoying the weather, working on the garden (the crab grass has taken serious hold, so I'll be doing more crab grass eradication in the spring) and cooking a turkey. Mmmm...turkey....

Now it's time to get back to work. I have some tentative projects I need to think about, and I'm planning on participating in National Novel-Writing Month. Not officially, though. That's a little too much pressure. I do need some (a deadline), but I'd rather just be my own task-master. Before I get started, I want an outline, or two, if I decide to go with a couple of shorter projects instead of the first, very rough draft of a novel.

But before I get into the work, here's a picture I took early last Sunday morning. I saw the beautiful clouds and hurried to the beach to get a better look.