in a few words

Back from a Thanksgiving trip to Florida, which was truly wonderful. We had nearly a week with my younger sister's family, and it was full of laughter and cooking and fun.

Now I'm back, and thinking about the last month of 2009 (augh!!!), about writing, about knitting. But my brain's running pretty slow, so none of my thoughts are coherent, except for this tiny announcement:

Yeah. That feels good.

Even better, it was actually finished before we left, so I was free to focus on making some truly extraordinary food (!!!) with my sisters. Which is a pretty good way to spend Thanksgiving week.

More to come, after a bit of recovery...


why my fingers are sore.

41,830 words total at the end of my writing day.

Which means, I've added something like 8500 words.

And that's without coffee. Not one single drop today, aren't we astonished? (I am completely astonished.)

... This means that I am totally going to finish Nanowrimo before Friday.

... And it also means that I can barely think of one more sentence for this post. So it's going to stop right here.


round up the usual muses

[He] was, by her watchfulness, most abundantly supplied with coffee and muffin. -- Jane Austen

Nanowrimo is going so much better this week! I'm at 33,324 words (up from Saturday's 23,812!), and I'm really glad I didn't give up on it. Really glad. These characters are so much fun...

So, will I be done before Friday? ... No. No, I won't. But I'll get as far as I can, and then splice little moments of writing into my Week of Craziness. And hopefully, it will be enough to reach 50K before the thirtieth?

Is this the triumph of hope over experience? Quite likely, but I'm still going to try.

Meanwhile, this is what makes the writing good this week:

1. There has been homemade crancherry pie. Pie always helps. That's worth repeating, so say it out loud with me: Pie always helps.

2. As does coffee. A lot more coffee! I learned my lesson Saturday night, and have been well-caffeinated since. French press coffee with pie? Yes. Starbucks' new caramel brulee latte? Absolutely.
(YUM, by the way. Burnt sugar in my coffee? Yes, please! I can write for hours with such encouragement...)
3. And then there's knitting. Hooray, once more, for knitting. I grab the outline for my next few scenes, and then I pull out the latest scarf and start knitting away. My mind starts stirring around the next bits of the book, and then characters start talking and things begin to fall into place.
Knitting and daydreaming. It's a beautiful thing.
(On that note: we're hoping to open our Etsy store on December 1!! More news to come on that one, so stay tuned.)
4. Most definitely, long chats with my writing partner... who also happens to be my mom. So we compare notes at meal times, when we both stumble out of our writing stupors and compare our progress. So much easier to marathon a novel when you have someone to run alongside!
5. And then there's the weather. There's something about the gloom-and-doom of these rainy, soggy, flooding sort of days. The sky is near enough to touch, and my room is cold. So I peck away at my keyboard, swathed in afghans and legwarmers. Perfect weather to stay inside and create a dynamic world of crazy characters and the trouble they get into.
16,676 words to go... By Friday, right? Maybe?
How much coffee do we have?


oh, the difference a mocha makes...

A true story, just in case you didn't believe me about my serious (serious!) need for coffee.

Me, before drinking a Kaldi's white chocolate soy latte:

What was I thinking, signing up for Nanowrimo this year? I mean, 50,000 words in a month? Who does that? Honestly, who does that? It's insane. And it's going to wreck this novel idea, too.

(Sigh. Check word count again, sullenly.)

And it's a shame to wreck a good novel idea. At least, I used to like it. Not so sure now. Are these characters even human any more? They seem to say "instead" a lot.

(Check word count again. Stare at the word count. Blink a few times.)

That's it. I think I'm going to quit. I'm allowed to quit, I didn't pay anyone for this, no one can make me finish. It's not like it's "failure," either, if I stop Nanowrimo. I mean, honestly. It's Nanowrimo. Nobody dies if I don't finish.

And maybe this year, it was a mistake. This November's pretty busy. Crazy busy. A dumb idea, really, to write fifty thousand words in such a busy month.

Yeah, it was a mistake. I can say that. I'm allowed to make mistakes, right?

It was a mistake. I'm going to quit. I'll just--tell everyone. Hey. I'm quitting. Who needs it.



Me, after drinking a Kaldi's white chocolate soy latte:

What a beautiful evening. This is seriously a fabulous evening!! Gorgeous.

Oh, I love my desk. This is a wonderful desk.

And here are all my characters again. HI, CHARACTERS! I love you alllll. And I love writing about you. You say the best things. You make me laugh. All this stuff about feet is truly witty.

Look, I've just revised my schedule. This is how I'm going to complete Nanowrimo on time. Why haven't I thought of it in these terms before? Look at that plan! It looks so EASY! So much fun!

I love this!

I love writing! I love my novel! I love Nanowrimo! Woo hoo!!

And now I'm going to get some more words in, and talk really fast to everyone in my family, and then clean my room, and maybe finish knitting this scarf, and then add a few more lines to this novel...


I wasn't kidding. Coffee is a vital part of my writing strategy. Always.


the craziness of mid-november.

We eat what we find and slurp coffee from anything that is sturdier than coffee. ... This is because we are in the middle. And in the middle, things are rough. -- Maureen Johnson, Nanowrimo pep talk
Here I am, middle of November, middle of Nanowrimo. Blinking at this screen with burning eyes. Somehow to page 67 of my Nano manuscript--hooray! 19,785 words. And I've slinked away from my Word document to check the Nanowrimo web site again and to read the latest pep talk. (A very encouraging one, by Maureen Johnson. I love pep talks. They make me happy. They also give me a Nano-approved break from working.)
And soon I'll slink back, and add a few more thousand words before grabbing the latest scarf-in-progress. I've been either a word-generating or scarf-generating fiend this month...
But I'm starting to get worried about Nanowrimo. I'm nearly at the word count that the site says I should have at this point (21,667), but there's something that I know that the site does not: I'm trying to finish this draft before next Friday. Because starting next Friday afternoon, my life becomes very pleasantly crazy for about a week.
And there won't be much writing. In fact, I highly doubt there will be any.
So, the question is: can I crank out the remaining 30,215 words in one week flat??
Second question: does this still count as a break? (Not exactly, no.)
Hmm. Well, I'm still going to try. I have a little arsenal of techniques that have seen me through my first 67 pages... maybe they'll carry me through the end? Even if that end has to be in a week?
And just in case anyone reading this is also Nano-ing and word-desperate, I'll share.
My Top Nanowrimo Strategies
1. Use the word instead. Use it a lot.
2. Discuss every character's feet in detail. Great detail. (I don't know why I'm obsessed with feet this year. It never really came up before. But I'm just brimming with toenail detail that seems urgently necessary to the draft...)
3. Use every adverb and adjective you can think of. Gratuitously. Cover every descriptive angle you can.
4. Give characters four-word names, and use their complete names often.
5. Reward yourself with chocolate and coffee as many times as you can.
6. Doodle. (I always feel so profound when I'm doodling. No idea why.)
7. Go back and reread what you've written. Everyone from Nanowrimo will tell you absolutely do not go back and reread, but I do it all the time, and find it a great help. Why? Because when I go back, I add more insteads, more feet detail, more adverbs, and more names.
8. And then I get more chocolate.
There. That's just what I needed to remember.
I can so take those 30,000 words. Bring them on. I'm going to find myself a bit more chocolate, and then off I go.
Cheers and good luck, fellow writers!!


cranberries, you delight me

Made cranberry syrup last night from scratch, thanks to the gorgeous Apples for Jam cookbook. We poured it on french toast. I love french toast. I could marry french toast.

And because this is my favorite season, and because I'm finally healthy again, and because the warm cranberries just smelled so incredible... um, here are a bunch of pictures, just to inspire. (Like I need an excuse?)


if you like baby pictures...

... then go peek at my other blog for a couple shots of Draft Three. Because it's just so cute.

And enormous.


and our little (d)raft reaches the shore.

Anyone who has written a book knows that it's impossible to write a book. -- Ed Gaffney

You probably heard it, didn't you? That burst of fireworks last night? The cheers, the shrieks, the gleeful laughter? (Also, incidentally, an inability to string together many words to express said delight...) So you already know: I finished writing Draft Three of This Immense Novel of Mine.

Finished. Writing. Draft Three.

(You also probably heard a loud popping sound yesterday afternoon, and another such sound two nights ago... kind of like a transformer blowing up? That was just the cramping of my brain as I coaxed another few thousand words out of it... Pay that no mind.)

It took a rush of 14,000 words added in two days (ack!), but it's done.

And I am thrilled. Even if it has reduced my vocabulary to words like Ack.

Today, then, I'm floating around the house. Burning out toner cartridges trying to print the entire draft. (Our poor printer rolled over with its feet in the air after 201 pages... Send flowers. Or more toner. Both are appreciated.)

I spent the morning doing a kind of "closing ceremonies." Meticulously reformatting it, scrolling through all those chapters, adjusting the margins. It's the kind of work that isn't efficient or even necessary, but I linger over it just the same. It's like watching the year 2009 go by again, like flipping through a photo album of the past months.

No one else would see the same things, looking at these words. But I can tell how the year has left its mark on my characters, just as it has on me. My protagonist's voice is different at the beginning of the book--the things she said in February, versus how she sounds now, as the leaves are falling, at the end of her long, long journey.

I recognize the paragraphs I wrote in parks, the sentences I scribbled on road trips. There are the chapters I wrote in a fit of inspiration at 1 a.m. in March, and this is the character I created during an emotionally dreary week in May. These are the lines that made me laugh; there are the words that made me wince.

Buried in the paragraphs are also little notes to myself: cheerful, encouraging things like "that plunking noise was your reader falling off her chair, sound asleep, or, possibly, bored to death. please rewrite."

Or desperately modest things, like: "yes, it's really true, you are a genius and this dialogue is BRILLIANT. Do cross "Go," do collect $200."
Ah. It's the little things that keep me going...
I spent most of the year saying, "Why is it taking so long to write this draft!" But now, now that it's done, I can't believe it. I really can't.

Just the same, it's time for a little break for the novel and for me. All my characters are sitting around the break room, eating nachos and swapping stories. (Why are they eating nachos? I have no idea. I just do what they ask, and they wanted tortillas and cheese.) And as they compare salsas and critique the guacamole, I'll be researching for their next draft. Thinking about where Draft #4 will take us. Making bigger plans.

Oh, and tackling Nanowrimo. It must mean I am a sick, sick little person, but Nanowrimo feels like a break this year. I'm using it more for play, since I won't be writing on my main novel, but a new idea. And even though I'm trying to get all 50,000 words in before the 21st (and a trip to Florida), it still sounds like fun. New characters! New plot twists! New setting!

New craziness! Sheer craziness.