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That’s a winner! November 29, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Novel-writing month, Writing.
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Actually, I guess I should say I’m a winner – because that’s what this graphic I was able to download once I finished and officially validated my National Novel Writing Month story said!

Yes, I just finished about an hour ago. This is my third year doing NaNoWriMo, my third time winning by completing a novel of at least 50,000 words and my shortest novel yet at 50,500 words. Or, according to the NaNo site’s validator, it’s actually 50,447 words. (How did I lose three words along the way?) Regardless, it’s above 50,000. That was my only goal.

As I wrote two weeks ago, the story is kind of a mess. It didn’t miraculously get better as I wrote more and more. But it was even more fun to research and relive the Cardinals 2006 post-season than it was to look back at September. Now that I’ve done that, I definitely need to go back and watch game seven of the NLCS again, along with all the World Series victories. It was wonderful just to read about them and see the clips still available on the MLB site. (Click here and then click on the score for the game of your choice. You’ll find all the articles about the game plus video highlights.)

I had to finish the story tonight, as I’m headed out of town for a work meeting tomorrow and have a busy rest of the week and weekend ahead. So it likely will be several days before I even think more about the story, which is fine. I need to decompress. And I know I have major, major work ahead once I dive back into it for draft number two.

But, in the meantime, I can feel good about this year’s NaNoWriMo accomplishment. And, truthfully, if you’re at all interested in writing, I’d encourage you to do it next year. Yes, it takes commitment and work. But it can be done, and the end result – plus downloading all the “winner” goodies – is a well earned sense of satisfaction. Plus an actual novel that you wrote.


Halfway there November 15, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Novel-writing month, Writing.

It’s the middle of November, so halfway through National Novel Writing Month. And just tonight I officially reached the halfway point of the required 50,000 words, finishing today with 25,546 words and 88 pages of a Word document.

I am happy with my progress. Things have been busier than I anticipated this month, but that’s life. As for my story, well – it’s a first draft. The scope of what I’m trying to write about is way too broad and needs a much narrower focus. But I can’t really change it at this stage, in this draft. (Yes, there would be some benefits to doing an outline and preparing more for this before the month begins. Oh well, can’t do a thing about that now!)

I like Maggie, who’s trying to figure out what to do with her life as she turns 40 and has had only one successful relationship in her life: the one she has with her baseball team, the Cardinals. She’s smart and a smart-ass and an unhappy lawyer who lives in Chicago instead of her hometown of St. Louis and she loves baseball. And, though it’s not at all autobiographical, she loves Chris Carpenter. It’s taking place in 2006, because I liked the built-in happy ending of that baseball season. Maggie takes the month of September off work and goes to every Cardinals game, starting with her birthday on the 1st. (That’s why she’s a lawyer. I was trying to think of a career where she could make a lot of money to do such a thing. Maybe that’s not realistic either, but it’s a first draft!) Though I’m not writing about every game, only a few, a month plus the playoffs is still far too much to try to really cover.

It’s been interesting to go back and look at those games in September 2006. I’d forgotten how painful things really were during the seven-game losing streak that ended during the last week of the season, where the Cards nearly coughed up a seven-game lead. (Perhaps that’s because I choose to remember only the good, and there was a lot of good once October arrived.) I’ve found two players listed in box scores who I have no recollection of whatsoever: John Nelson and Mike Rose, bit players even by September call-up standards. Aaron Miles makes an appearance in my story, an actual speaking part. (Why? He seemed logical at 4:30 one morning last week.) There’s a major intrusion by a character, Kyle, I wasn’t even planning to have in this story at all – he’s from my “Summer of ’94” story, only obviously older and in a different dynamic when he meets Maggie. (Of course it was at a ballgame.)

I have vague ideas of where this is going. As with most of my stories, I do know by now where it’s going to end. It’s the getting from here to there that always presents the challenge. And, as in past NaNos, I might be skipping chunks of time (to fill in later) just to move the story along.

One thing I do know: I have to finish on Nov. 29, because I’m going out of town for work on Nov. 30. But I would like to be done before then anyway – Nov. 28 is my goal, since it would be nice to finish it on the weekend. I’m doubtful that I will be much beyond 50,000 words this year, but that’s okay. The challenge has been worth it, and I’m looking forward to the end result … so I can start to get a grasp on what this story really should be. There are enough interesting bits in the current wide meanderings that I’m looking forward to diving back into it and shaping it into something much better.

Ready to write October 31, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Novel-writing month, Writing.
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It’s just a couple of hours until Nov. 1 is officially here. If the month didn’t begin on a Monday, perhaps I would stay up and kick of National Novel Writing Month at midnight. However, since I have to work tomorrow, I will mark the start of the month by sleeping … and getting up at 4 a.m. to start writing instead. And I’m definitely excited about it.

Perhaps I haven’t done as much planning as I would like, but perhaps I never would do a lot of planning anyway – at least not a complete outline with chapter summaries written out like I read about on the NaNoWriMo blog here. I’ve continued to jot down notes for my novel (which for now is called “Forty”) and I’ve been thinking about the story a great deal. I have a lot of ideas, even if not all committed to paper or laptop, but am waiting now for the moment to arrive when I  can start officially writing – and keeping track of that number of words.

My first year I aimed for, and reached, a goal of 60,000 words. That seemed easier to remember than the 1,700-whatever words technically needed per day to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. (I’m a writer, not a numbers person.) And 60,000 words is my goal for this year too. A nice, round, slightly overachieving kind of number.

Maybe I should get to bed now, though, because 4 a.m. will come very quickly. And when that alarm goes off, writing time for NaNoWriMo 2010 will officially be here!

It’s almost November … October 28, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Novel-writing month, Writing.

November is just days away, as is the start of National Novel Writing Month. This is my third consecutive NaNoWriMo. There’s something crazy yet fulfilling about taking on the challenge. It’s addictive, especially for the competitive side of me, since I can watch the graph that charts my daily number of words climb up and up. And I love downloading a certificate at the end that tells me I’m a winner.

In 2008, my project was a familiar one: writing another draft of “Summer of ’94,” that novel I’ve written about on this blog many times (and the novel I planned to rewrite again a few months ago, but then didn’t). Creating a new draft of an old project relieved some of the month’s angst – like wondering on Nov. 12 just where this thing is going –  since I already knew where I wanted the story to go.

Last year, I wrote a completely new novel called “What You Want to See.” In doing so, I definitely went through the angst of “what is this story anyway?” but wrote on and finished above the required 50,000 words by Nov. 30. It’s doubtful anything will ever happen with the finished draft. Not that the story didn’t have potential. It was based on a real-life situation, however, and as I re-read the draft and pondered rewriting it, the idea of focusing on that incident in any form seemed more and more unseemly. But writing those 57,395 words was good practice.

Which brings me to 2010. My ideas for this story keep changing, which is fine. I’m not a writer who can meticulously plan and outline a story before beginning anyway. And I keep remembering the words taught to me by Bret Anthony Johnston during a workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival several years ago: the only job of a first draft is to get you to the second draft. That workshop was on character, so I also have been thinking about another of his points: every character has to have a desire. Why this character pays attention to this one thing is the essence of the story.

So I have a character, Maggie, who is about to turn 40. And she loves baseball, especially the St. Louis Cardinals. And … I have a notebook with many different ideas scribbled down from there. Nothing necessarily concrete yet, because I can’t decide exactly what it is that Maggie wants. She is single, so does she not want to be? She maybe is a lawyer (because I wanted her to have her live in St. Louis until she was 25, so it made sense to have her move away after law school), but does she want to do something else? She left St. Louis because her family was upset with her about dumping her fiance because all they had in common was loving the Cardinals and going to games together – her grandparents had season tickets, his parents did. Does she regret that 15 years later? Does her family ever understand her reason for leaving?

Including today, I still have four more days to make some decisions about just what this story is going to be, plus I have some research to do. (What Cardinals player from the late ’70s would be good as her first baseball crush?) How detailed I will be, how many real decisions I will make – who knows? And that’s fine. What I am looking forward to is Monday morning arriving, getting up at 4 a.m. and getting started before I go to work, and then discovering through my writing more of what this story is going to be. During November, it’s easier for me to be those three things Bret says every writer needs to be: stubborn, disciplined and dedicated. (From the lack of my entries on this blog, I’ve not been living those writing traits recently.)

Perhaps it’s crazy, but I love it. And I must, if I’m already eagerly anticipating Monday morning.

If you’re a writer, I highly recommend Bret Anthony Johnston’s book “Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.” He compiled lessons and exercises from a wide range of writers, everyone from Joyce Carol Oates on writing prompts and Elizabeth Strout (another instructor I had at Iowa) on point of view to Tom Robbins on envy and Richard Bausch on character and dialogue. It also includes a great collection of daily writing warm-ups.

Readers should check out Bret’s book of short stories, Corpus Christi. I’ve read them all numerous times, and continue to be blown away by the series of three interconnected stories within it. I first started reading this book on a business trip several years ago. I was so engrossed in the first story of the trilogy, “I See Something You Don’t See,” that I couldn’t wait to finish it – even though our first flight landed in Atlanta and we had a two-hour layover until our next one to Orlando. So I told my coworkers I would catch up with them in a bit because I had to finish reading this story first. And I sat down by the gate we had just entered to finish reading.

Ready to start again August 1, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Novel-writing month, Writing.

Back in late March, I wrote that I was giving up on my novel “Summer of ‘94” after rewriting it several times and still not having it be the story I wanted. At the time, I was sincere and believed that was the correct decision.

Maybe I was wrong.

Since then, I’ve never been able to completely let the story go. That was mostly because of the main character of Sara, but also the antagonist Kyle. One or the other would pop into my head at odd times, causing me to wonder if letting the novel go was the right choice. Several weeks ago I decided I need to start again – to finally get a draft of this novel that I was happy with, instead of all the drafts I’ve done so far that rambled far from my original intent with the story. No other novel or fiction ideas have inspired me to write. This is what keeps returning to my thoughts instead.

So, here I go with “Summer of ’94” version 2.0 (or probably 5.0, this time around!) And because I love the challenge that National Novel Writing Month provides, I’ve decided to have my own novel-writing month starting today. A couple weeks ago, I started flipping through the last draft of the story to see where the problems were but quickly abandoned that. Better to focus on what I want the story to be, instead of what it wasn’t before. So I’ve jotted down several pages of notes and a couple chapter ideas. But, as with my previous two National Novel Writing Month pursuits, I’ll just mostly make it up as I go along!

Also like NaNoWriMo, I am going to keep track of my daily progress. These first few days won’t allow much writing time – I’m going to St. Louis tomorrow for a girls baseball trip with my co-bloggers from Diamond Diaries to see the Cardinals play Monday and Tuesday. But I have the rest of the week off, with the only things on my agenda being to write and to relax. I will have a post here to chart the progress so my biggest writing supporter, my friend Linda, can keep up with how I’m doing like she does with the real NaNoWriMo. (You know I appreciate all you do!)

For now, it’s off to write and see where the story takes me.