The Beginning, Again

Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so the journey of a story begins with one idea. As of this morning I find myself at the beginning again; it is time to step forward with that one idea that will lead to the journey of writing my third novel.

I’m both excited and apprehensive for this particular journey because while I have plenty of time to plan for NaNoWriMo 2017, I have fewer ideas of where this story should start and where it’s going. As of now there is a cast of characters in my mind and a few situations they find themselves in, but that’s it. 

And that’s okay. One of the most exciting parts of a journey is exploring, and I can’t wait to find what I discover as I wrap up my first series with this third installment. 

How do you approach the start of a new piece? Do you wait until your are brimming with ideas or begin with just a thought or a single scene? Something in between?

– Melinda

The Deadline: A Lesson Learned

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 is the deadline for submitting my manuscript to my writers’ critique group.

I’ve known since the end of the winter that I was in the slot for the August critique, and so months ago I laid out my elaborate timeline: a month dedicated to research followed by two months to write the second draft, with June and July dedicated to polishing the piece before submission. 

So how am I looking three days before the due date? 

Truth be told, I beat the deadline and got it in today! And by it, I mean the first half-of the book that could stand to use a little more research and was not nearly as polished as I would have liked. πŸ˜– (It works out because I was only required to submit as much as I had, not the whole manuscript). πŸ™‚

Here’s the lesson learned: life happens. Bills are due so attendance at the day job is mandatory, friends wish to remain as such so there are gatherings and outings, dinner needs made every night, family matters, and sleep is necessary. It all happens while you are being creative, so even the best and most elaborate plans sometimes fall by the wayside. And that’s okay. Especially when being with a loved one could be for the very last time.

As I write this I am sitting in a room with a very special lady who has known me since the day I was born. She is sleeping so I am pondering. These are likely the very last days I will have to be in her presence.  Three more days of polishing words that I can tinker with later are not nearly as important as spending time with someone who might not be with us tomorrow.

Create the elaborate plans. Work hard, get the work done, and do your best to be professional and make the deadline. But whatever you do, don’t do it at the sacrifice of time you can never get back.

– Melinda

Update: Five Months After

I hit 50,000 words around the 15th during NaNoWriMo 2016. You can imagine my elation at achieveing the goal and still having two weeks to go! A new finish line formed in the distance: complete the entire first draft of the novel. I was set. I was ready. Then I was stopped. 

Stopped by one of those curve balls of life that catches you off-guard and leaves you speechless. 

I fell in love. ☺️

Our friendship of three years laid a foundation that after only a few weeks of talking led us to being a couple. The date was determined before I even had the ring. Two months after he asked me to marry him I became his wife. It’s been a whirlwind, and while my writing has been on hold so I could focus on starting a life with my best friend, I wouldn’t change a moment of the last five months. My writing will be richer for this experience. 

So now that my days have settled into a blessed routine, I take up pen and keyboard once again and continue on the journey of writing the stories that have been tromping around in my mind these last few years. I hope you’ll come along. 

What unforeseen curve balls in life have made your writing richer? 

– Melinda

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 9!

The last day of NaNoWriMo Prep for 2016 is upon us. Buried in a back booth, delicious dinner over and fresh cup of coffee at hand, I plan on scribbling away until closing time. Cue the Traveler’s Notebook.

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But for as much as I plan on utilizing the next few hours for note taking, the most important prep work I’ll do today is the last thing I’ll do today: sleep.

Gone are the days of working a full shift on four hours of sleep. Dead is the romantic notion of burning the midnight oil for the sake of my writing passion. Dark are the bags under my eyes if I don’t hit the covers by 9:30p.m. If I don’t want to have to deal with a manuscript choke full of plot holes, unfinished thoughts, and run-on sentences come December 1, I’m going to have to protect my sleep time just as fiercely as I will my writing time.

Because while my imagination can light up at any time, my brain depends on sleep to think logically. And logic is a vital part of writing an entire novel in a month. (Well, reckless abandon in terms of the clock along with copious amounts of coffee and candy might work for some writers, but I have no desire to return to my early 20s.) πŸ™‚

So I’ll sleep tonight, and tomorrow at 5:00a.m. I’ll be up to begin the maddening, thrilling, fulfilling adventure of writing a novel in a month. Fellow writers, I hope you’ll join in, even if it’s just spending one evening with pen in hand!

Good luck to any participating in NaNoWriMo 2016!

– Melinda

 

 

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 8 of 9

With only two days of prep time left, I’m relieved that the chapter-by-chapter outline is complete! Yesterday afternoon I had a spurt of inspiration that allowed me to be able to fill in the remaining blank lines. That means today’s focus is creating the character list.

Undoubtedly, there are writers who don’t even create a formal list. I am not one of them. Especially for this novel, which is the second in a series. The list for me is vital in remembering how everyone is connected from the first story to this story.

A character list can be as sparse or as detailed as you like. Starting with the main characters, I list name, year they were born, and basic background/backstory information needed to keep character motivation fresh in my mind. I’ll also throw in any physical details of the character that are important but which might be left out in the fury of attempting to write a novel in only thirty days time.

Having this information close at hand while writing aids greatly in keeping all the relationships of the characters straight, and to serve as a reminder of where the characters are coming from at the beginning of the novel. That’s why I create them, and why I would recommend creating a list to other writers.

What about you? If you write, do you create character lists? How detailed do you get?

– Melinda

 

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 7 of 9

georgia

This spot in Georgia was a great place to sit and dream. Natural beauty usually stirs my imagination. Fresh scenes and bits of dialogue seem to float in to my mind like a soft spring breeze. I’m not trying over romanticize the experience; wooded areas are my muse.

As I continue to work on the rough outline of the my intended NaNoWriMo novel, I’m realizing that I may need to take a walk in the woods soon.

The major story elements are there, yet I’m staring at a mostly blank chapter-by-chapter outline. The time to truly worry about lack of scenes and dialogue is the last week of November, but I am trying to fill in the empty lines with at least a little something now, i.e. trying to curtail the possibility of ‘writer’s block.’

So I’m multi-tasking today by taking care of my responsibilities and and letting my imagination run free in the back of my mind so that by Monday I will have a full chapter-by-chapter outline. Even if they aren’t my best ideas. Even if the story isn’t as strong as it could be.

That is, after all, what editing is for. πŸ™‚

What is your muse? Where does inspiration consistently strike you?

– Melinda

 

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 6 of 9

Day 5 was lost in a sea of cookie baking. Like I said in the previous post, the demands of life, even the delicious ones, have a way of sneaking up on ya. I did, however, get something accomplished yesterday which dictates today’s prep work.

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Plot structure. For me, it’s not enough to know what happens in the story I’m about to write; I have to know when it’s going to happen. So I start with the basics.

  • Beginning: the incident that launches the story.
  • Middle: the event that turns everything upside down, leading to…
  • End: the climatic event that brings the story to its conclusion.

From here my left-brain kicks in. I’ll list the chapter numbers in order and mathematically determine where each of these events falls on that list. From there I’ll fill in the rest of the general events of the story, one for each chapter, creating a complete, albeit rough, outline.

It’s what works for me, and I find it very helpful in achieving the goal of 50,000 words in the month of November.

How do you plot? Is there a specific method you’re fond of? Or do you just prefer to wing it? πŸ™‚

– Melinda

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 4 of 9

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Today I plot, but admittedly, distractions abound. Not in the form of groceries, house work, or paying bills. Not even a nice walk in the woods at dusk. No, the distractions for the day are none other than Napoli, Lindor, and company, i.e. the Cleveland Indians.

Having waited 19 years for this World Series appearance, I can’t hardly not watch. Sure, sure, I may need to work on my plot so that I can outline the novel before Tuesday, when the countdown to 50,000 words begins, but…how can you say no to World Series baseball? πŸ™‚

Isn’t that typical of life, though? We have plans to write. We plot and dream and scratch down ideas, and then the groceries, house work, and bills need tending and friends need visiting and woods need walked in and the next thing you know, months have gone by and you’ve hardly written a page. It’s not always big (miracle) distractions like October baseball, but no matter how distracted we get, the key to writing is picking the pen back up and writing.

What are some of your biggest/smallest distractions? How do you overcome them? #RollTribe

– Melinda

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 3 of 9

Then it happens…

eureka

The plot has arrived. Rough and in need of more depth, but it has come with all the essential parts to flesh it out into a full-fledged novel. While there is still a long way to go, eureka is the most apt word to describe how I’m feeling at the moment.

So what am I doing to prepare for NaNoWriMo today? Developing the plot further. πŸ™‚

What moments in writing have caused you to exclaim ‘eureka’?

– Melinda

NaNoWriMo Prep – Day 2 of 9

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Today I am working on the plot of the novel, and I’ve been reading this gem to help with the basics.

Published in 1993 by Writer’s Digest Books, “20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them)” is timely even today. Author Ronald B. Tobias provides some great information and advice regarding plots and their types. His wit is also appreciated, and makes the read very enjoyable. I recommend checking it out.

I’m employing the use of this book because, honestly, I have no idea where the story is going. I only know where it starts, and even then, it’s the image of a lone girl in the middle of a snow laden town that I’m going on. A.K.A. I’m not going on much. But seeing as to how this book is the bridge between my first and third book, I can’t really scrap it, either. πŸ™‚ My hope is that by reading about the general mechanics of plot and the most common types, it’ll spark my imagination on what could happen in the story.

So today I plan and plot and plot and plan. I will continue to do so through the rest of prep time. I will continue to, even, after the first draft is written and before the second draft can be touched. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the story always has a way of surprising you, even if you think you know exactly what is going to happen before you sit down at the keyboard.

How do you plot? Or are you a pantser? If you plan, which resources do you use?

– Melinda