Preptober, Abbreviated

The year got away from me, as it did with many of us, and so I found myself on the 15th wondering when it had become October.  The weather in the area was unseasonably warm, so I just kind of kept the summer going in my head, only to be blindsided by Autumn mid-month.  It wasn’t so much the seasonal change that bothered me, it was the fact that I wasn’t focused as I should have be

I forgot about Preptober.

Preptober is where you get ready for NaNoWriMo.  If you think I sound like a crazy person, read the next section.  If you know what I’m talking about, skip ahead one.

NaNoWriMo (NaNo) stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  The goal, though the website, is to pen 50k words in a month, leaving you a “winner” with a little bookie-book at the end of it.  It’s fun and pushes you to write.  “Preptober” is the month of October, when you prepare for NaNo.

Anyway, I did it in 2019 and ended up a winner, with a nice little novella.  Then in 2020 the world stopped, so I figured no problem!  I went hard in planning during October and was raring to go on the 1st of the month.  Alas, on the 8th I broke my finger, and dashed all dreams of getting a book out of it.  This year, I shall try again.

But I haven’t touched my outlines.

I’m so behind.  I have a workbook that helps me prepare and I have two weeks of exercises to look over.  On the up side, it’s the same project I worked on last year so much of it is already done, but I need to familiarize myself with everything again.  I have to get my head back in the book, so to speak.

I suppose the key to it all is to not stress myself out.  For instance, just thinking to myself that I already have so much more prepared for this novel than I did for the last when I started it makes me feel at ease.  I have a game plan; a script to work from.  It will make everything that much easier. 

So, for the next two weeks, I will be reacquainting myself with my book, and bonding with my characters, and dreaming of my settings.  Then, on Monday, November 1st, I will tap tap tap away on my keyboard, and hope I don’t smash my finger in a folding chair again.

Happy Preptober.

Stuck in the Mud

Three weeks post-surgery, and I am trying very hard to get back into the swing of things.  I have been out fishing with Mark, and caught my first one of the year: a very tiny trout.  Mark caught a gobi, which is an invasive species that we typically throw to the seagulls.  Tiny fish in both cases, but still…first of the year.  I have also decided to take up hiking with Kevin, and am hoping to start that next week as I am going to be able to return to mostly full activity.  I still can’t lift or bend, but I can walk as far as my legs will carry me.  And then, there’s the writing…

I’m so stuck, in every aspect.

My novel, my baby, the one that’s going to make me that Netflix money someday, is stalled.  I simply cannot envision the final scene of part one.  I almost think I am sabotaging myself, because maybe I don’t want that part of the story to end.  I keep reminding myself that I will come back to it in edits, and be able to add all sorts of details I didn’t have in the first draft.  I tell myself that once part one is done, I can move on to part two, where the action really ramps up.  This both excites and terrifies me.  I haven’t written anything like this before, with murder and gunfights and secret plots.  My last novel (well, novella,) was a simple tale about a woman with depression.  That’s my wheelhouse.  The current WIP, though…that’s a whole different ballgame.

Meanwhile I am discouraged with my poetry.  It hasn’t been coming as smoothly as it usually does, and I haven’t received an acceptance in a while.  Sales are down on my chapbook, although I am quite happy to report that you can now purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage at Dog Ears Bookstore on Abbott Rd. in South Buffalo, my favorite tiny bookshop.  This all happened right before I got sick, so I wasn’t able to celebrate it much.  And then there is Me and Jesus, which is stalled.  I have emailed the publisher and am waiting to hear back.   Finally, (Un)Requited, which is out at a few places and I am patiently waiting to hear back from someone.  I feel like it isn’t going to happen, though.

Of course, I felt that way with A Lovely Wreckage, too. 

I am sitting in my office and forcing myself to peck out some words because my blog is already a day late.  I am kicking myself for that, but also reminding myself that while I do feel stuck, I am writing, even if its just in here twice a week.  It’s like an exercise.  It’s going to the gym, but for your brain.

Pretty soon I can eat food again.  I miss it, I do, but not as much now as I did that first week.  In a few months, I can eat whatever I want.  In a few months, I can lift and bend again.

In the meantime, I shall drink my protein shakes and write in my blog and hope that the inspiration for a poem or chapter strikes, because I am ready, finally.  My health seems to be at a place where I can get back to work on my projects, and I am very excited about that.

Of course, I am also very, very stuck.

Sickness and Writing

So, this time, I didn’t update on Monday because I was sick.  It was an easy ER trip, though.  The doc knew about my condition, so he did a quick exam and then gave me my meds and sent me to wait in a recliner until they kicked in and knocked me out.  A nurse came and asked if I was ready to go and I said no, because I still felt nauseous and probably couldn’t walk.  Then another half hour or so passed and the nurse was back, and I felt confident enough to be on my way. 

I got home and went to sleep.  I woke up around 430pm, and my sister brought me Gatorade.  Then I went back to sleep, and woke up around 7.  Then I went back to sleep at 9 and woke at 1230am. Which is why now, at 3am, I am writing my blog.

I didn’t have much to say.  I was just going to write about writer’s block.  I suffered a short-term case during the past few weeks, as evidenced by my lack of output.  But yesterday, I reworked the ending of part one of my WIP.  I introduced a character, small but important, who explains a few things that need to be known to my MC’s (main characters.)  The MC’s are on a major Caribbean island after living their life on a significantly smaller one with few people, no cars or big buildings, and relative quiet.  I was struggling with a scene, where I’m getting them off their rowboat and onto the island, and I obsessed over it for a week.  I know I should have moved on and come back to it, but it was the final scene of part one and I just had to finish it.  So, I brainstormed with Mark.

Mark is great for this, as he is not a writer, but he does have a vivid imagination.  He’s not much of a reader either, so I am kind of telling him the story as I go, which is also helpful.  But sometimes I get stuck and I go to him, and we spend half an hour or so going over my ideas.  He likes to give suggestions of where the story should go, and sometimes they are good.  A lot of times they aren’t applicable to what I’ve already got going on, in which case I say a simple “no,” and we move on.  He never gets mad if I shoot down his idea.  He knows this is my thing.

Anyway, we brainstormed, and out popped a character that the MC’s know as “the man with the hat,” but whom I secretly named Bernie after my sister and her youthful affinity for bucket hats.  (Photo below.)

This gentleman explains to my MC’s some very basic information that they need on the island, and points them in the right direction in their quest.  It’s probably a frowned upon trope, but I don’t care.  I needed it to get to where I had to be.  Plus…this is just a first draft. 

So, I am back on the writing train, and I am working hard on my WIP and hoping more ideas come to me soon for my blog, because I can’t write about the same things all the time…sickness and writing.  I mean I’m a pro at both, but I just need new topics.

But, I got past the part of my book where I was stuck.  I completed part one, at over 20k words.  That is certainly something to celebrate.

My sister, age 3.

The Magic

All of last year, I planned for November: NaNoWriMo.  I was ready to go on Halloween, itching to start the writing process.  Then, I got sick.  Then, I broke my finger.  Then, nothing got accomplished.

This was followed by Christmastime, which was busy even with a pandemic, and also, I had a brace on my pinky until New Year’s.  So, it is only now that I am sitting down to rekindle my love affair with words.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can go on the website each time you write and update your word count.  It keeps me on track very nicely…accountably is key during a first draft, in my opinion.  I could still use the site for this, but I choose not to, because I write in MS Word and there’s a little tally right in the bottom left corner of how I’m doing.  And the truth of the matter is that this book is NOT the little guy I wrote in 2019.  I am over 11k right now, and I have only just started chapter 4 of what appears to be 20, so we’re looking at an easy 60k on the rough draft.  I only easily wrote about 48k on the last book, and then pulled a couple thousand more out of the air in the second go-over.  Your average literary fiction book is around 70k.  I think that’s where this will fall.

Since it has no title, I refer to it either as my WIP (work in progress,) or The Ten.  See, it started out in my brain in 2002 with ten characters who would band together and topple a dictatorship by staging a coup.  In 2016, I started to see striking comparisons to my book and reality of the United States, so I abandoned it because I wanted to be neither plagiarizer nor prophet.  Of course, last week, I was watching the news and a dark laughter bubbled out of me as I thought “Didn’t I write this before?”

Anyway, I trashed the plot, but I kept the characters.  I knew them so well, as well as I know myself, and when you’re a writer and you’ve got something so well-developed, you’ve got to save it for something good.

About a year ago, I decided The Ten would be my next big project.  There’s a lot of thinking involved in writing, so I spent several months contemplating new plots and situations I could put the characters I had into.  Eventually, I came up with a scaled down version of the original plot, something made-up and workable and not happening in real time on CNN.  Then, I started the prep work: outlines, character bios, act breakdowns, chapter breakdowns, scene breakdowns, etc.  And research research research: many thanks and good wishes to the Twitter folks who have helped me out with descriptions of the Bahamas or explaining to me how long it would take to row to an island 30 miles away, and why you wouldn’t be able to see that island because of the curvature of the Earth (things I learned yesterday.)  Also, I know more about guns now than I ever intended.  It was a year of research and thinking and planning.

Now is the year of writing.

I was afraid that there would be big gaps in my writing, that I wouldn’t be able to sit down every day and do it the way I did during NaNo ‘19.  Turns out, once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I want to know what happens as much as a reader, and I’m only going to find out if I write it…if that makes sense.  Because all the planning in the world doesn’t prepare you for the magic.

The magic is when you are writing and you are no longer in the room with yourself, as Stephen would say.  It’s when you can’t believe that you wrote the words you’re reading back.  It’s the little character details that you didn’t know you knew, or the tiny ways you describe the sunlight.  It’s the part of the writing that surprises the writer, and it’s the best part…seriously.  It’s like a drug-powerful and addictive and makes you feel like you can do anything. 

So, I will finish this blog and I will go read some submissions, and rest my finger, so I can drop another thousand words into the WIP later.  I don’t have the accountability mechanism that I had before, but I will of course use my blog as a vehicle to hold myself up to my standards, as I have done in the past.

And perhaps, even to catch the magic.

Words About Words

Literally the only thing on my mind today is writing.  So, I’m going to write about that.

There are three main things I work on daily.  One is my blog…I may not type it up until Monday or Thursday morning but I am thinking about it all week long.  I try to come up with a topic early so I can ponder it on non-blog days and have it ready to go when it’s time.  The problem lately is that I haven’t got much to say.  Sometimes 45 or someone does something utterly crazy and I want to write about that…though I often deter myself because I don’t want to give that man any more time in the spotlight than he deserves. Sometimes I will have a tale to tell about my weekend or the kiddos or Hubs.  Sometimes I will think about writing about my fishing expeditions, as I learn how to master the craft.  Most of the time, though, I have so many thoughts that it is hard to choose just one.

The second thing I contend with on a daily basis is my novel.  I will admit I have not touched it since December, and really need to get on that.  It’s in its 4th draft.  I sent it to some folks to read but haven’t really gotten any feedback.  I am thinking screw it…just do another edit.  Add some stuff that you’ve made notes on in the past few months. Take out what you feel weird about.  Hope it’s still long enough, and then go find yourself a publisher!

Publishing, to me, is a slightly less daunting task than it was 2 months ago.  I know a novel is a whole other situation compared to a poetry collection, but I have a very “I did it before, I can do it again” mentality going. 

Finally, there’s poetry, my first true love. 

I haven’t written one in weeks.  Not for lack of trying, it’s just that I am not feeling that poetic inspiration right now.  Most of my daily poetry work has to do with hyping my book on Twitter and begging people to leave reviews.  My book, I hope, is doing well…three 5-star reviews in a month, which is nice.  I get my report at the beginning of July, and am realizing I’m more excited to see how many copies I sold than to get my check.  I just want my work out there.  Money is a secondary gift. 

Oh, but I did have FIVE poems published this week and you should definitely check them out here.

Anyhoo, next to my desk there is a table.  On that table is something my dad made me:  my first paycheck, framed, with the book cover in the background.  My final proof sits next to it.  I look at these items and remind myself that I can do this.  I have always had the talent, and now I have the drive, also.  My first collection is about how mental health has affected me over the past twenty years.  But the biggest thing it did was shut down my writing: long stretches of block due to meds that worked wrong…and that ever present voice whispering “You’re just not good enough.”

Now, I have slayed those demons, and while their injured voices still appear from time to time, I know I am stronger than they are, now.  The proof is in the proof.

Anyway, happy Monday.  And happy writing, to all those struggling with thier pens right now.  You can do it, too.