NaNoWriMo? No, NaNoTyPo!


I have wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for many years. I even actually started, once, five years ago, but life interfered. Between health issues, financial issues, and my teaching career, November has never been the month to launch into a 50,000 word rough draft.


What I love about NaNoWriMo

  • I love the opportunity it provides to focus intensely on writing a work of fiction. “Look, I made a commitment,” translates to “Yes! I get to spend every day in the month of November crafting fiction!”
  • I love how it establishes an overall goal that can be broken into segments to be completed over the full thirty days of November.
  • I love that participants get to emerge in December with a hefty chunk of work completed.

Why I’m Not Participating in NaNoWriMo

I know many people manage to work full-time and complete NaNoWriMo; however, between health issues and my job, I know it would not be wise to push myself to do so.

Also, I have been engaged in the process of doing a major revision on a novel. The revisions are now done. However, because I truly am a more effective reviser when I do it, pencil on manuscript page, I am now slogging through entering all the changes. I want to be done; I need to be done (because I stopped in the middle of drafting two other novels to do the revision, and I am eager to get back to them.

My Solution? NaNoTyPo

  • I have counted up how many pages of revisions still need to be entered.
  • I have counted up both weekdays and weekends remaining in November.
  • I have assigned a page count of revisions entered for the remaining days of the month.

Twirl three times on your toes.
Presto change-o
Here she goooooes!

I have my very own writing related, segmented, limited time for completion challenge.

And when I’m done? My revised novel can go back on submission, and I can finish writing those other two drafts. (And will I ever, in the future draft two new novels at the same time? Not if memory and sanity remain with me.)

How About You?

Are you feeling just a little bit left out because NaNoWriMo wasn’t in the cards for you this year?

What kind of November challenge can you devise for yourself that will bring satisfaction. I’d love to hear about it. Maybe it will inspire some of us in setting a unique November 2017 challenge for ourselves.

Or maybe, just maybe…November 2017 will be my month to NaNoWriMo!


Writing Blues: Just Open a Vein…

writing-bluesA year and a half ago, I tripped over the edge of the sidewalk, sailed through the air, and crash landed on my head. No, I did not bleed all over; this is not that kind of post. However, my little experiment in aviation resulted in a concussion. So where does the bleeding come in?

Resilience, or Lack Thereof

Post-concussion recovery is a far more serious thing than I ever dream it would be, even right after the concussion. My doctor told me it would take at least a year to fully recover. I thought she was exaggerating, so I would not get impatient. She wasn’t. I have only begun to feel like myself this last month.

What does this have to do with opening a vein?

This weekend I attended a writing retreat.

When asked how it is possible to be a daily columnist, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith is credited with saying, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

I need to bleed a little. This is the first writing conference since my fall where I have attended every session, even the evening ones. (See above–I thought I was back to my old self) However, by Saturday, after my one-on-one consultation, I felt weepy; after the Saturday night party, I felt achingly lonely; and by the end of the retreat I found myself wondering why I’ve even tried this ‘writing thing’ (for XX years, might I add, working mostly on novels the whole time). I cried all the home, most of the afternoon, and at church that night.

It is so heartbreaking to work so long toward a dream and not have it come true (“Yet”–thank you, Gretchen).


A good night’s sleep, some time with God, and a quiet house have helped restore some perspective.

Recovering from a concussion takes a long time. Just because I don’t have daily headaches doesn’t mean I am fully recovered. I think the dark stormy weather, sleeping in a strange bed, getting up too early, learning, and being around constant conversation and auditory stimuli was just too much for my post-concussion brain.

And the frustration with lack of publication? I just have to get real with myself.

Reality Number 1: Writing something new is so much more fun than trying to sell what you wrote. I don’t struggle with writer’s block; I struggle with submission block. It doesn’t matter that I have 8 full novels, not to mention at least 6 picture book manuscripts, and scads of poetry lolling around in my file drawers, if I don’t focus more attention on trying to find publishing homes for them, they will never find their way into readers’ hands.

Reality Number 2: I have not been stagnant as a writer. Through reading and professional events, I have never stopped learning and building my skills. That’s not something to be ashamed of.

Reality Number 3: I am a published author. So my novels aren’t there yet. I have had five folktale retellings published in Cricket Magazine, most of them serialized. This is a publication I have greatly respected and admired, long before my stories found a home there.

Reality Number 4: I know God has plans for my life, “plans to prosper” me “and not to harm” me, “plans to give” me “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Should I give up on writing? It is a question I have asked myself, and God, many times over the years, and every time I do, I wake up with fresh, exciting story ideas, and seem to encounter more around every corner.

“Can I give up writing?” should be the real question. I don’t think I can. It is the way my brain processes life. Even as I teen, I recognized that my best thinking was done with pen and paper rather than just letting the thoughts and feelings trundle round and around in my own mind. It’s as true now as it was then–only I often use a keyboard instead.

I have tried not writing. (Actually I was driven to it by professional responsibilities when I was teaching Language Arts full-time.) I was one sad soul, and the ideas never stopped coming. Talk about frustration!


So, vein opened, commitment renewed, what will I do?

I will be more patient with my traumatized brain, I will write, and I will get more serious about submissions. A literate lifestyle is still the life for me.

How About You?

  • Have you encountered roadblocks in building your literate lifestyle?
  • Have you ever had to be more patient with yourself than you are inclined be?
  • How do you pick yourself up and keep on going when life gets you down?

*art background: Depositphotos_13525625_original

Creative? Or Just Really Weird

crazy little personDo you ever wonder if you are just really weird? I do. I talk to myself, disagree with myself, and disobey myself on a daily basis. I make up silly little ditties. If I’m alone and in a particularly good mood I might even sing them.

And then there are those characters who start conversations in my head at the most inconvenient times–in the shower, when I’m trying to fall asleep, when I’m hiking or out on a walk, or when I’m driving in a hurry because I’m running late and I can’t catch a red light for the life of me so I can jot down my latest inspiration.

I confess, I also have odd habits. I love to drive through puddles and watch the water fly–although I never splash people. I rotate my clothing, selecting each day’s outfit from the “front” of the rack in my closet and putting it away at the “back.” I don’t like to touch most things–but I’ve got a good excuse for that–terrible eczema on my fingers. I am way too old to be as addicted to Bejewelled as I am. (It is my favorite use for my phone.) I eat precisely six pistachios, eight grapes, and one fiber bar for breakfast every workday morning. However, I don’t need any rituals for writing. I can write just about anywhere.

Am I crazy or creative? What’s inside my head would never “fit in” the regular work-a-day world, and I can’t live constantly in my “normal” persona without feeling like I’ve lost what is best and brightest about life.

Don’t worry, though. I’m functional. (Except I hate to cook. Alas for my poor husband. However, he is a fabulous cook.)

The trouble is, if I’m not reading or pinning or crafting, I’d just about always rather be writing. It is the carefully carved out fiction writing time in my life that makes my heart sing.

What about you? Are you creative? Are you a little bit weird? What makes your heart sing? Please share. You’re in good company here.

Fortune Cookie Writing Prompt: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt # 83

searchFridays used to always be “Play With Your Words” days here at Literate Lives, where I regularly featured writing prompts to get you, your kids, or your students writing.

My husband has found a new “signature” dish at our favorite, local Chinese restaurant, and so my little stack of fortune cookie slips has begun stacking up.

This week I offer a choice of two prompts. You may want to think of them as journaling prompts, get-to-know-your-character prompts, or story starter prompts. Whichever way you tackle them, have fun, and feel free to share the results as a comment.

  1. “You will be making changes before settling satisfactorily.” What kinds of changes? What, for you or your character is the definition of “satisfactorily”?
  2. “You will be called upon to celebrate some good news.” Hmmm. Whose good news? Do you or your character want to celebrate it? Why or why not?

Have fun. Happy writing!

What are Your Intentions for What Remains of Christmas Break?

Mantle 2This year was one of my best Christmases ever! My parents came up from California. My son, his “orphaned” friend, my daughter and her husband, and my three granddaughters celebrated with us. The house got cleaned and decorated. I was even able to bake gingerbread and decorate sugar cookies with my daughter and granddaughters, not to mention support my daughter in her first ever ornament party for the girls. There was time for fun, for fellowship, for worship, and even a little creativity. Just how I like my Christmases.

Now, with a week remaining of Christmas break, what are my intentions? I am committed to finishing the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, so in the new year I can commence the submission process. I have a little over 100 pages to go. Friday and Saturday I was able to carefully do a double round of revisions through thirty pages.

What are my objectives? Eliminating thought and dialogue tags to create a deeply immersed third person point of view, getting rid of any lingering “telling” and working in the appropriate degree of “showing,” and last, just generally tightening everything up.

I want to commit to daily updates here, and yet I don’t. However, I have written this and I am posting it. Therefore, count me accountable.

Hooray, The Swallow’s Spring Read-Through, Done!


Yesterday I finished my revision of The Swallow’s Spring.

I had needed to read through it because I discovered the formatting was not correct for electronic submissions, and I wanted to make sure, once I’d redone the formatting, everything had landed where it ought.

Also, I met an agent last summer who was interested in the novel but recommended I revise one more time before I submit. So I did.

I am excited about the finished novel, and even more excited that soon it will be able to fly out from my nest. All that’s left to do is key in the chapter changes.  (I revise best on paper, in pencil). By March, this swallow should be winging her way into the publishing marketplace!

What kind of revision journey are you on, and how do you revise best?

A Scene, A Conflict, A Train: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #45

Write a scene that ends with the words:

“The train roared on into the night.”

Your scene can have any characters, any setting, any conflict you want to imagine. When you are done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment one another on the vividness of the setting, and the level of tension and conflict, both in action and thought.

Proud of what you’ve done? Then please share your scene as comment. I would love to read it.

NaNoWriMo: The 2011 Challenge

This summer, I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. What’s NaNoWriMo? It’s both an oraganization that promotes and the actual act of taking part in National Write a Novel in a Month month.

Up until just a week or so ago, I was VERY excited. I planned to write the rough draft of a novel for which I’ve been gathering ideas for several years. (Maybe more than several?) Recently, say the last two years, I’ve been living in Revision World, focusing on revisioning and preparing for submissions novels I had previously been content to stuff in drawers so I could just write another one. But this November, I decided, I would let myself write something new.

Then a funny thing happened. Week by week, day by day, as November 1 has approached—Day 1 of NaNoWriMo— frantic thoughts flash through my mind. “Am I ready? I haven’t developed the character of my protagonist yet! I haven’t done enough world-building! I haven’t made a map—a massively time-killing, awfully fun activity! Yikes! Just one week to go!”

Now here I sit, less than 1 week to go and I’m wondering, “Can I do it? Do I have enough ideas? Can I do a good job?”

Why do I keep forgetting that I usually write my rough drafts in four to six weeks? Why should I feel troubled that I might not get it done by the end of November? Do I have some kind of vindictive boss standing over me with a whip? Have I ever not finished a novel I started and believed in?

Silly, silly me.

I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo, but a good friend has reminded me quality writing is not quantity of pages finished in x amount of time. Can I write my rough draft in a month? Maybe.

Do I need to beat myself up is I don’t? Nope.

First and foremost I need to serve the story. If I can finish my rough draft in a month, great. If I don’t, it’s not like I can’t keep working on it December 1 and any day I wish thereafter.

Thus, I am at last ready to embark on the writing adventure of NaNoWriMo, and the only thing that matters is that I stay true to my vision for the novel and enjoy the journey.

What about you? Anyone out there going to try their hand at NaNoWriMo?

Tell Me a Good Dog Story: Play With Your Words Art Prompt #7

What’s this pair up to, and who are their furry friends?

Write a story about these dogs. It can be from the dogs’ point of view, an owner’s point of view, their toys’ point of view, or anyone else’s.

When done, share what you’ve written with your writing partners. Compliment the strengths in one another’s writing. Share what you enjoyed most about the story. And please, share your story as comment. Who knows? You may inspire someone else to give it a try.

Preschool Literacy:

Show your preschooler the picture of the dogs on your computer screen.

Ask your child to tell you a story about them. Help him to get started if he needs it. Type out the story as she dictates it. When you are done, read back what he or she has said, pointing to the words on the screen as you say them to reinforce the one to one correspondence between written and spoke word.

For fun, print out the picture and the story and post them somewhere others can enjoy them.

This picture was featured in the Martha Stewart Pets/PetSmart ad in the October 2011 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Agent Quest Part 1

I attended the Willamette Writers Conference last weekend. Wow, what a three days! I was told by a fellow attendee that this is the largest writers conference on the west coast. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but the dense, rich selection of activities surely made it the best cheesecake of a general conference I have ever attended.

As I have posted in the past, I am at that stage in my writing career when it is time to find an agent, and this conference had an entire ballroom full of agents—agents for screenwriters and every genre of writing you can imagine.

However, in addition to opportunities to pitch agents there were workshops, a minimum of 7 new-every-time offered four times throughout the day. And there were some time slots where I wished I had the magical ability to attend as many as three. I could have happily just attended workshops all weekend and felt I’d got my money’s worth.

However, I had committed to this conference as the first step in my agent quest. Therefore, appointments with agents had to take precedence over even the most enthralling workshops.

I met with six agents, and pitched a seventh after she had finished teaching a workshop on young adult literature. All seven invited me to submit pages (ranging from 10 to fifty, although one asked for the complete manuscript. (Don’t get too excited for me, however, because she asked everyone in the group pitch to send the whole thing. She said that was just her style.)

There were two ways to pitch: one-on-one appointments and group pitches.

A one-on-one was just like it sounds—you and the agent. There’s just enough time to deliver your pitch (the equivalent of the blurb on the back of a book) and answer the agent’s follow-up questions, and maybe ask a few of your own. People were pretty worked up before going to these, but honestly, all the agents I talked to were pretty nice. They were at the conference because they wanted to meet authors and find good stories they would like to rep.

The group pitch seated us around a table with about six writers and our chosen agent. Each of us had the opportunity to make our short, blurby pitch. Sometimes the agent gave feedback immediately, sometimes he or she waited and responded after hearing everyone. These took a little longer (twenty minutes out of workshop time, instead of ten :-( ) However, it was useful to listen as others pitched and determine what they did well (to imitate) or poorly (to avoid).

In addition to attending workshops and pitching agents, there were lunchtime speakers, and you could go for manuscript and film critiques, pitch practice, book signings, massages—for those who need to have the stress kneaded out of them, and an awards banquet.

I came home exhausted—satisfied, but exhausted. I’ve mailed out my pages to each agent as requested. Now its time to thoroughly research the agents for round two, which begins next Monday. Look out Oregon Christian Writers Conference, because here I come.