Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the final countdown

Three days left to November. Last minute preparations. NaNoWriMo is approaching, and for geek writers like me (over 100,000 of us signed up at the www.nanowrimo.org website), this is the MONTH. The challenge: write 50,000 words, or a short novel, in 30 days (about 5 pages a day). Last year I stormed through the first 3 weeks with amazing success, considering that I had 11 month old twin girls to complicate my life; the last week I got sick and fell about 10,000 words short of my goal. So this year I am determined to finish the challenge.

The twins are now 23 months old, does that make the challenge any easier? Not really. They are still pretty demanding. Another disadvantage: this year I'm starting a new book. I will be starting on Chapter 1, with a blank page, and only a few pages of notes to help guide my way. I had hoped to have a scene-by-scene outline by now, and completed character charts for at least 4 of my major characters. I've only finished one chart so far, and I only have the first 4 or 5 scenes roughly outlined. Last year I was starting about half-way through a second version of a novel that I'd already written once, had the new version completely outlined scene-by-scene to the last page, and had spent the last 20 years dreaming about - I knew my characters really well and I knew exactly where I was going.

So, I'm not nearly as prepared this year. In addition I have commitments at work that will surely be obstacles, and a family that I don't want to lose touch with (though I have already warned all my friends). But I am preparing spiritually, which is, for me, a very important step. I attribute my success for three weeks last November (and to ultimately finishing the novel on October 6 of this year) to taking the time each day before writing to spend time with God first. (Give Him your first-fruits, and He will give you the rest). Sometimes I couldn't get started until 9 pm at night, and I was already tired; it was tempting to skip that fiften or thirty minutes with God and just jump right into writing. But I knew if I did that, the words wouldn't come, or the RIGHT words wouldn't come. Or I'd find out later that nothing I wrote that night would work in the story and I'd eventually have to throw it out anyway. I truly believe that sometimes God just gave me the words, simply because I asked Him for them. After my husband and my kids, I believe God has given writing to me as my ministry. He must want me to write, because no matter how busy my life gets that urge to write is still there. That desire to write a story that maybe, someday, someone will read and learn about the personal relationship with God, through Jesus, that is open to everyone.

Have found a link on the NanoWriMo website to David Niall Nelson's "tips for NanoWriMo" http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vdmludGFnZXNvdWwubWFjYWJyZWluay5jb20vY2F0ZWdvcnkvbmFub3dyaW1v that I had fun reading today, and will hopefully motivate me to work more on my outline, tonight!

Monday, October 13, 2008

whip lashes

Skip to the last paragraph if you want to see what why I titled this 'whip lashes'.

So, it's official, I finished the last chapter of my children's novel Last Monday night at 11:30 pm. For the first couple days I fell kind giddy. I kept re-reading the last page of my book and sighing with delight, wow – I really got there! But I also felt kind of lost, like how in the world will I ever be able to switch over to another novel?

With National Novel Writing Month (see nanowrimo.org: this writing challenge is largely the reason why I was finally able to finish my first novel!) coming up in November, I knew I had to decide which book to start next. I have ideas for two sequels but these are still mostly in the “dream” stage and anyway I’d like to get away from writing for children/youth and try something adult.

 I have one book completely plotted out and ready to go, but that one is another fantasy. Also, since I have spent the last two dozen years working on fantasy genre, I really want to try something in the real world, and I really want to write something purposefully Christian, where I don't have to disguise my faith in symbols or allegory. So that leaves one option, an idea I’ve been kicking around for 4 of 5 years that's loosely based on my experience of my first year of marriage and being a step mom. But I have an awful lot of development to do on this book. I have a very basic plot and a couple character sketches, but nothing like the scene-by-scene outline that I had for my first story. It’s awfully nice when you turn on your computer to not be confronted with a blank page, but to have a little paragraph summarizing just what you are supposed to work on for the next two hours. Prevents writer’s block.

So I spent last week really thinking (and a little praying) about which novel to tackle. During break times at a training class down in Boulder, I mulled over the plot and two primary characters (for now, they are Rowen and Sam) then finally, on Friday, took a stab at the first three scenes. And I felt pretty good about them. Okay, so it seems like the word is “go” for this new idea. However I need to outline quite a bit more than just the first three scenes in order to be able to keep up my writing momentum during November. My writing friend, NL, recommended that instead of going off an outline I should just write “out of the mist” and see what happens. I suppose that’s what I’ll have to do if I don’t get much more of an outline done in the next 3 weeks.

At least the beautiful Indian Summer weather will no longer be competing for my attention. It has turned cold and this weekend we got such a vicious wind that it blew almost every leaf off the trees in my neighborhood, turning our beautiful golden autumn into drab brown overnight. But the weekend before I was able to go for another wonderful trail ride with my mom through the autumn hills, so at least fall didn’t get away from me this year, I’ve been blessed with lots of time to soak it all up. Too bad one can’t soak it all up and save it to savor again later, mid-winter!

Last night at church our assistant pastor gave another illustration that I just have to share (see my last blog about speeding tickets for another example). This one was about a mighty King who was known thoughout the land as a King of justice. He was determined to bring justice to every situation in his kingdom and would not tolerate any sort of crime. In fact he would usually administer the punishment – 40 lashes with a whip – himself, and since he was a very strong, powerful man these lashes were a terrible punishment indeed. One day it came to his attention that someone was stealing from his palace. He set his police to find out who the perpetrator was, but for a long time they could not catch the thief. And when they finally did, it came as a terrible shock because the thief was the King’s own mother. All the kingdom began to speculate what the King would do. He was known for His unrelenting justice; but how could he have his own mother whipped? But when the time came, the King did tell his men to tie the old woman to the whipping post. Everyone was horrified. Instead of picking up his whip, the King handed it to someone else and told them to go ahead and administer the 40 lashes. But first, he took of his shirt and wrapped his body around his mother’s so that he would take the brunt of the lashes for her.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Indian summer and speeding tickets

No, I didn't get a speeding ticket. The reference is from our assistant pastor at Laramie Valley Chapel. He gave a great spiritual illustration that I know I'm going to butcher in my attempt to restate it, but here goes anyway:

Suppose you have several speeding tickets in your glove compartment. You’re driving down the street and you pass another cop, but this time you’re actually driving slower than the posted speed limit, so you don’t get pulled over. However, no matter how many times you drive by a police car under the speed limit, it doesn’t take away those speeding tickets from earlier. You don’t accumulate enough “points” by driving responsibly to make those tickets go away; you still have to pay them. Sin is like that. Every time you sin, you have to pay the ticket; being good other times doesn’t make the bad magically go away. The wages of sin is death – the only way to pay those sin tickets is paying them with death. Unless there is someone else who pays for you. Which is exactly what Jesus did for us, by dying for our sins.

Why do they call it Indian summer, anyway? Oh, who cares - it's sunny and in the 70's, and for once we haven't gotten any snow in September. The last two weekends we B. and I have gone on long trail rides up in the hills, when aspens turn golden is absolutely my favorite time of year. I can't get enough of it. It makes me giddy and dreamy at the same time.

The giddy/dreamy part is also because I'm so close to the end of my book (I can't say close to finishing it, because I know I have to go back and fill in some gaps, make lots of revisions, add more voice). Working on the last chapter is almost as hard as working on the first chapter, though. There's all these sub plots that need to get wrapped up, and it's much harder than I thought it would be. One night I finally gave up because what I was writing just wasn't coming out right. Then as soon as I laid down in bed (and it was midnight already, I really needed to get to sleep), my mind kicked in, and I started figuring out how to get everything into the ending in the right order. So then I started to worry that if I fell asleep I'd forget it all, so at 1 am I got up, wrote down some quick notes, and managed to settle my mind down so I could sleep.