Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 30: I Did It!

Something not to put on my list of things I almost did:

NaBloPoMo 2009.

Thanks for reading - it's been fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 29: Letting Go

Okay, well, I didn't write my 50,000 word novel this month. Not by a long shot.

But I did write 17,000 words, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Actually, a lot of those words I had already written before NaNoWriMo, so maybe it was actually something to sneeze at.


Lessons learned:

1) They tell you to start with a fresh, new novel for a reason. Writers have way too much invested in a project they keep making attempts at for years and years to write with the total crazy literary abandon necessary for NaNoWriMo. This is the second (and last) time for this particular mistake.

2) The Internal Editor needs to be locked up - and stay locked up - for the whole month. Every time I let her out, even just for a few minutes, it set me back - sometimes significantly.

3) Reading, especially good stuff, has to be off limits for the month. I read The Hunger Games in 3 days so I could get it in before November, because I knew it would mess me up if I tried to read it while writing my own YA novel. So what did I go and do? I read its sequel, Catching Fire, in the middle of November. When I finished it, my I.E. convinced me that I would never write anything even in the neighborhood - make that on the same planet - of how good it was. Final nail in the coffin of my YA novel. Oh well...

I'm not going to beat myself up over it. For now, I'll file it away with all the other cool things I almost did.

Like almost finishing my PhD.

(What would my beloved, deceased therapist have to say about that statement, I wonder? Somewhere, she's chuckling right now...)

And there's always next year. Maybe a novel for grown-ups for a change, as I mentioned before. If I have the guts (or a pseudonym!) to do it.

On the other hand, if there's still nothing but Vampire books on the YA shelf a year from now, I just may have to try this genre again.

For the kids.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 28: In NJ Again

We had a great day with family and friends at our new niece & nephew's Christening party. Not a lot of writing done, but a good time nonetheless.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day 27: Just Pix

Ethan: Best birthday ever.

Sigh... here we go again.

Awesome group of tweens.

Thanksgiving / Black Friday fun

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

Takeout is not an option.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 25: Thankful All Year

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The one day of the year that we're supposed to look around and take stock of all the blessings we have in our lives and remember to be thankful for them.

I'm way ahead of the game.

Several months ago, I bought a pretty spiral notebook and started writing in it. Every day. Several times per day. Line after line, page after page, I list all the things for which I am happy and grateful.

It's a powerful mood elevator / sustainer.

Some days I only write a few lines, others I can write a page or more. It doesn't matter if it's something I've already written; there are many repeats. But if I'm feeling grateful for it at that particular moment, it goes down in the notebook.

I initially thought that, if I was having a rough day or starting to feel depressed, I could pick it up and read it and feel better. But honestly, I haven't had to because just writing a few things in it has always done the trick.

So today, in honor of Thanksgiving, I'll share a few:

A husband who gives me a reason to laugh just about every day.

A teen who challenges me to be the best parent I can be.

A tween who is deep and perceptive and loves to read.

A little guy who is generous with hugs and loaded with silliness.

Healthy and supportive parents who live nearby.

My warm and loving in-law family.

My wonderful friend who got me out of the house last night for bonding and recharging :-)

These two and their little brother.

All of the wonderful Mommy friends who touch my life, in person and online / onphone.

Martial arts classes and the work they have done on my body and mind.

Our sweet dog who happily puts up with so much.



Planning adventures.

Freedom to structure my day (and the kids' education) the way I want.

Looking and feeling better than I have since... ever.

The new jeans - they still fit!

Just a sample - I could go on, but the little guy's about to turn on the TV so I should wrap it up.

Last night, my friend brought up the idea of a book for writing nice things about each kid as a way to encourage Kyle's reading. They do have gratitude journals of their own, but I've never done something like this, where I (or anyone, really) can write nice things to them. It's such a great idea - I'm starting them today.

Happy Thanksgiving - all year long.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 24: Rainy Days and Schoolwork

What a dreary day.

I really shouldn't complain - we've been pretty lucky with weather this month, and we probably do need the rain.

But it's Just. So. Dreary.

I've been trapped in the house with unwilling homeschoolers all day. The older one got an essay written, but the younger one took - I kid you not - 5 hours to get one page of math and one page of sentences done.

He dropped pencils. He spilled water. He doodled all over his paper. He went to the bathroom - 50 times. He kept finding me, approaching with his arms outstretched, asking for a "huggie break?" I could only scowl at him and send him back to his chair, promising hugs when he got his sentences done. Eventually, I got frustrated and yelled at him.

This is not how I want homeschooling to be. Something needs to change.

Maybe he's not ready for this much work, or maybe he just needs me sitting there next to him, cheering after every word he writes and every math problem he does. I go back and forth, between what my gut tells me he really needs (less pressure, more maturity) and what the world begins to expect from you at almost 7.

It's easy to say, "Let them go at their own pace," when that pace is faster than average, like his brothers' were. It's quite something else in this case. It's not as if he isn't smart - he's extremely creative and clever and has a great vocabulary and a sophisticated sense of humor. But he can't be bothered with reading, writing, or math. He has only a mild interest in history, art, or music. He does like science - can I build a whole curriculum from that one interest? By the third child, you'd think it would be easy, but I've never had to make these kinds of accommodations before.

At least I'll have Thanksgiving break to think it over. I'm tapped out for today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 23: New Jeans!

I haven't seen the show Flash Forward or the film 2012, but I get the impression that themes regarding making the most of the time you have and examining the path you're on are emerging in mainstream culture. And not just among us 40-something women. So I'm not going to interpret the underwhelming response to the bucket list question as a lack of interest in the topic, just a lack of readers and / or willingness to answer such a personal question.

So be it.

I have new jeans!

How exciting is this? I am officially down to my grad-school / working summers at high-adventure camp / hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, spelunking, scuba diving weight. Without dieting.

And no, Mom, I don't have an eating disorder. I'm just doing martial arts and eating good food. Drinking water and seltzer (and coffee). Treating myself in other ways. Listening to more music and less news. I think French Women Don't Get Fat made a big impression on me when I read it 3 months ago. The lesson I learned there was, enjoy life and you won't feel the need to overeat.

Just deciding to enjoy life a bit more has been good in itself - the weight loss was simply a pleasant side effect.

But it sure felt great putting on those new jeans!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 22: Planning for Next Year

Okay, so this year, this story just didn't work out. Feeling okay with moving on with my life sans regrets on this one.

Thinking ahead to a fresh new story for next year. One for grown-ups this time.

To tell you the truth, the main reason I wanted to write for kids is that I was afraid that if I wrote something not for kids, my kids would read it anyway, and, well, that might be embarrassing.

But that's actually assuming a lot. I researched and wrote about a quarter of the material in this book and they haven't bothered to read it. Why should I worry about them reading some book that isn't even written for them?

So, moving ahead to an idea for a grown-up book.

Question for all 3 of the people who actually read this: if the world were to actually end in 2012, (not that I believe it will, of course - if the Mayans were so smart, where the heck are they all now?) what's on your bucket list? What will you be really pissed if you die without having accomplished or experienced in your life?

I'm not talking about expensive vacations or anything like that - just goals for yourself, things to experience with your friends / kids, elements missing in your marriage / relationships, etc.

It's a good mid-life crisis question, isn't it?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 21: A Breakthrough!

They were right about Week 3 - this is when the magic really starts to happen.

I finally came up with a premise for a novel that doesn't completely suck.

I don't think I'll try writing it in the next 10 days, though.

And if I do write it, you're not allowed to read it.

Even if it's Amazing and goes to #1 on the Bestseller List and I win awards and make a gajillion dollars from it. I'll buy you something nice or take you on a trip or something, but you're still not allowed to read it.

Or see the movie they make from it.

[insert evil grin here]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 20: Walk in the Woods

It was an angsty and dismal week, but at least it ended on a good note.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 19: What a Crummy Day!

A perfect day to sit inside, all warm and cozy, and write and write.


Have I given up? Looks more and more like it. Life is just getting in the way.

It's not that I'm all that busy - I actually have a lot of time on my hands that I could be using more productively.

It's my mind that keeps wandering.

My heart just isn't all that into it, and it isn't all that satisfying when I do it. I find myself actively avoiding it more and more, in almost a spirit of rebellion.

Battling the other I.E.s for control makes the fight with the literary one seem trivial in comparison.

Going to kick and punch things now at martial arts. That always seems to help.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 18: I Don't Want to Talk About It

I predicted there would be angst this month and I was right.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 17: Happy Birthday, Michael

Okay, so it was really yesterday.

But I realize that now he's 14 and having Mom write stuff about you and post it on the internet isn't nearly as cool when you're 14 as when you're 11.

Of course, writing a cool tribute to his 11 year old brother and ignoring him wouldn't have been cool either. He was here first, after all.

I really did give this a lot of thought.

So I'll compromise and make this quick.

Michael is intense. There is never a dull moment when he's around.

He is smart, handsome, athletic.

He truly shines in a room full of adults. We get loads of compliments about his intelligence, sense of humor, manners, and maturity.

He questions with boldness. Everything. This will be a wonderful trait once it isn't us he's questioning and challenging, but my main reason for homeschooling him all those years was, after all, to teach him to think for himself. The fact that it comes back to bite me so often shouldn't have been a surprise.

Little known fact about Michael: he's an excellent cook and has been for years. And not just following a recipe, but knowing how to tinker with it to make it even better.

Okay, I've already said too much.

Happy birthday, big guy - you also rock very much!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day 16: Stalled out at 17,000

I can't stand this story any more.

I.E. insisted on taking a look, and she hates it too.

I think she's got the P.M.S. - she's crabbier than usual.

My options at this point: 1) Quit completely and walk away from the whole thing, 2) Start fresh with something that might not so totally suck, or 3) Grit my teeth for the next 14 days and try to finish this.

I don't really want to quit, and I don't think I have time to start fresh again. There are bits and pieces of this that I like - mainly the newer stuff - but mixing it with the older stuff has muddied it. Like that yucky color you get when you mix too many other colors in with your paint. Which is probably why they tell you to start NaNoWriMo with a clean slate.

Reading good YA fiction over the weekend didn't help, either. I thought it would inspire me, and in that respect, I was right. But it inspired me to write something good, not the dreck I'm currently writing.

I need to meditate on where I want this to go and decide if it's still worth the effort.
The good news: All the angst over this has made NaBloPoMo a breeze.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 15: Back to Work!

I will write tonight. I will write tonight. I will write tonight.

As soon as I finish Catching Fire.

Funny how reading the Twilight books made me feel like a really good writer and these books make me feel like I'll never be that good.

Both YA series are fun and exciting, but these are just written better, IMHO.

I'm comforting myself with the reminder that this is just an exercise to help me get over the fear of actually finishing something. It really doesn't have to be good.


But, if after I.E. gets her mitts on it, it is really good, I'd like to get it published, just so that there will be something other than Vampire books on the YA shelf at the bookstore.

'Cause other than Hunger Games, that's pretty much all there is, and that's just sad.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 14: In NJ

Spent the day in NJ for the niece's birthday. Had a great time, but didn't get to write.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 13: Another Day Off?

I can see what they mean about Week 2 woes. I really have no idea about what I want to have happen in my story. I think I need a night off to think about it.

I took the afternoon off too, and spent it at the park with my favorite two bloggers :

Wishing for a fraction of the talent they have...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 12: Editing

I know, I know. I'm not supposed to edit until January.

But I had to let the Internal Editor out just for a little while to make some sense out of it all. After combining the two drafts, my word count went way up, but all the redundancy was making it confusing.

She took care of it. My word count has dropped significantly, but at least it's coherent now. I'm pretty confident I can get the count back up provided the time to do it today. The creative juices are flowing.

I've spent quite a bit of time this month pondering the role of the I.E. in my writing, and all the other I.E.s in the other parts of my life. I could go on for quite a bit about it, and it probably wouldn't matter because no one reads this anyway, but again, a detailed analysis should probably wait.

Maybe it's just a mid-life crisis. Turning 40 and all. I don't know.

I'm also approaching my first belt test. Taking the writing seriously this month. Tweaking my approach to homeschooling and to parenting. I'm stretching beyond my perceived limits in all kinds of new ways and it feels really good.

But it's not always comfortable.

Today's lesson deserves some consideration, though. As much as I'd like to throw all the I.E.s out and just say whatever I'm thinking and do whatever I want to do, the I.E.s who stop me from doing that do serve a purpose and I do need them sometimes in order to prevent my life from becoming as chaotic as my novel.

Determining how much of a role I want to give them, and how much power they will have over me is the current challenge. There's a fine line between allowing I.E.s to hold you back from any kind of growth or change and allowing them to help, like a careful pruning, the growth to proceed in the optimal direction.

My Deep Thought for the day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 11: Happy Birthday!

Another day of not much writing (yet, anyway) - but for a good reason.

Today is Ethan's 11th birthday!

Yes, Ethan came into the world 11 years ago today, through a beautiful natural birth attended by his father, brother and grandparents. We were all there to welcome him and it was an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Except for Michael, who was about to turn 3. All he remembers was the grape juice and crackers he got to eat at the hospital. And cutting the umbilical cord.

It's just as well.

Anyway, Ethan was a sweet and gentle baby, a constantly thwarted and tormented toddler, and is now a wise and loyal friend and playmate. His kindergarten teacher was the first to describe him as an "Old Soul" - having wisdom and perspective beyond his years. We think she hit the nail on the head.

Despite the abuse he took from his older brother, he would be right there to protect him when I really reached the tipping point and was about to resort to less-than-optimal parenting techniques. He was also the one to give me a hug and say, "You're a good Mommy," when I was crying and at the end of my parenting rope.

He chooses to surround himself with only the best of the best when it comes to friends, and his closest friendships go back 6 years or more. He is an empathetic listener, a patient and considerate playmate, and a creative and funny pal. Rarely have we had to intervene in a dispute between him and a friend - because he does choose such nice kids and because he's a nice kid himself.

His dedication to martial arts is inspiring. He is hard-working and humble, and well-liked at the Dojang. It is rare to see a kid his age work with this kind of steady discipline, but he is there 5 days per week, sometimes twice, and sometimes for 2 hours or more. He volunteers to help with the lower classes. He also practices at home.

He's a good homeschool student. He doesn't always like to do schoolwork, but at least when he's avoiding it, he's doing something productive with his time. He's a voracious reader (love that!) and he has no problem spending hours on end with his little brother, building and creating and coming up with wacky scenarios for their characters. When I finally do make him come and do his schoolwork, he does his best and does not complain. (Usually.)

We are so blessed to have such a stable and responsible influence in our sometimes chaotic home.

Happy birthday to my dear, dear, middle son.

You totally rock.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 10: Let's Talk About Something Else For a Change!

I will write my 1,667 words today. I promise.

But I really don't feel like blogging about it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Day 9: Working Hard!

Week Two of NaNoWriMo is supposed to be the hardest. This is the point at which we've introduced our characters, established the setting, and are ready to dive into the meat of the plot - only to find ourselves floundering around, not sure where we want it to go. Questions and confusion begin to build, as does the frustration.

The NaNoWriMo gurus say to just plow ahead anyway. Get the words on the screen and don't worry if they're good or not. They assure us that the answers will come if we don't give up, and before we know it, Week Two will be over.

Week Three is when the real fun begins.

I'm looking forward to that - enough to do as I'm told and continue to write my 1,667 words each day, keeping the Internal Editor locked up, of course.

She's getting used to life in the Kennel, I think. Also, she's fairly comfortable with the fact that she's already spent ample time with all but the newest material, and any editing of the new stuff will require her to start at the beginning and re-read the whole thing - which would take an entire writing session at this point. So she's more content to wait until the end of the month to tinker.

As for the other Internal Editors I'm working to shed - maybe I'll delve more into that next month in a series on turning 40. First things first.

Okay, back to work. I have another hour without kids - I need to make the most of it if I want tonight off.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Day 8: Sunday is Supposed to be a Day of Rest, Right?

It was about 70 degrees today. Hmmm... sitting inside on the computer, or hiking on the Appalachian Trail?

It was such a difficult choice!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Day 7: An Amazing Surge Forward!

15,363 words! I'm two days ahead of schedule!

It's a Miracle!

Okay, maybe it's not really a miracle.

Maybe I cheated a little.

NaNoWriMo recommends that you use the month to write a new book, not finish one you've already been working on. So I took the story I started working on 4 years ago and started it over, in 1st person instead of 3rd, thinking maybe a fresh approach would work out better.

It was not working out better. In fact, I was feeling increasingly limited. And frustrated.

I took yesterday off completely. When I got back today, I heard the Inner Editor's muffled voice calling me from the Kennel.

It sounded something like, "The old draft was better!"

Or it could have been, "The bold giraffe will get her!"

Considering there are no giraffes in my story, bold or otherwise, I went with my initial hunch and uploaded my old 3rd person draft. Of course I.E. likes it; she's been doing nothing but editing those same 5 chapters for years now.

She's still not coming out of the Kennel. Even if she was right.


On the upside, my word count jumped from 6,715 to 15,363 in a split second. Also, now I can get back to moving my story forward instead of continuing to be mired in the beginning stuff. And now that I'm ahead instead of behind, I'm not feeling so miserable about the process.

This is much better.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Day 5: They're Consipiring Against Me!

Even the dog is trying to keep me from writing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Day 4: The Serious Angst Sets In

Well, my count was supposed to be 6700 or so by the end of today, and I'm at a mere 4500 at 11:45 p.m. Now I'm going to be playing catch-up, which is not a game I like.

The scary thing is, I was not busy today. I had nothing to do today but write. My homeschoolers were even writing. I had to try really hard to avoid writing the way I did today.

I cleaned things that didn't need to be cleaned. Messed around on Facebook. Read a thousand old emails.

The only productive thing I did today was go to martial arts class, where at least I had a healthy outlet for my frustrations.

And I typed up my six-year-old's story, which was much better than mine. The Adventures of Old Papa Gator and Old Papa Residue will be appearing in book stores in the near future. Ethan read it out loud to him and we were all laughing so hard we were crying.

Maybe this was just a bad day and things will go better tomorrow. But if it still feels like this in a few days, I'm giving up.

At least the Yankees won. The Savage men will come home very happy.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Day 3: First Stumbles

Today I had the first "Oh, crap, now what?" moment. Seriously awkward silence. My characters have no idea what to say to each other. They've been frozen this way for almost 24 hours now and still haven't thought of anything to say. I need to go help them now.

They might be underage, but I think that if I have a beer, it might help break the ice a bit.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Day 2: Escape of the Inner Editor!

I can't believe it.

Sometime during the night, the dreaded Inner Editor must have become bored looking for typos in the newspaper and nitpicking the plot inconsistencies of TV shows in the Inner Editor Kennel, and she escaped!

Boy, was she pissed.

She was waiting for me when I woke up. I made some coffee, gathered my writing totems, sat down at the computer and there she was, arms folded, foot tapping.

I can see why my psychology students (and my homeschoolers) feared her so much. She immediately went to work on my draft, adding and deleting, putting little comments in brackets - things like [SLOW THIS DOWN - it's like a speeding train!!!!!] with capital letters and exclamation points, while I sat and pouted.

Now I can see why it is so important to keep these things locked up. I spent 2 hours working and increased my word count by a mere 251.

Sure, I listened to her - she's right, she's always right. And she did fix some serious suckiness.

But I sent her back to the Kennel with a stack of trashy novels and told her I didn't want to see her again until she was done with them.

She left, muttering something about how all of those trashy novels were Published and mine wasn't and probably never would be.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Day 1: 1797 Words

Not a bad start. It took about 2 hours to exceed my daily goal of 1,667 words. Granted, a lot of this was just introductory / background stuff, and fairly easy compared with dialogue and conflict and suspense, but it flowed and felt comfortable and fun, and was not at all frustrating.

In addition to the email pep-talks and video encouragement on the NaNoWriMo website, No Plot? No Problem! has a chapter for each of the four weeks of NaNoWriMo. In the Week 1 chapter, which I read immediately before starting, I was challenged to do something I knew would be very hard for me.

It actually says in the book, "I'll need to confiscate your Inner Editor."

The Inner Editor is described as "The doubting, self-critical voice that we all inherited around puberty as an unfortunate door prize for surviving childhood...happiest when it's tsk-tsking our shortcomings and weaving our past blunders into a rich tapestry of personal failure."

Mine is HUGE.

But I agreed to turn her over for a four week stay in the NaNoWriMo Inner Editor Kennel so that I might write my first draft "in a high-velocity, take-no-prisoners, anything-goes style that would absolutely horrify" her.

And that's exactly what I did, at least on my first day. I have not gone back to read over what I have written. I have not changed a word here and a sentence there. I have respected a strict No Tinker Zone throughout the evening.

And the first 1797 words were practically effortless.

Were they crap? Maybe. But that's for my I.E. to decide, once I let her out.

IF I let her out.

Sending her packing felt really good. It makes me wonder what other Inner Editors are lurking about in my psyche that I could purge.

Dangerous, dangerous stuff...