Friday, December 02, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Nov. 28 Edition

Goal 3. Generate New Short Work/Programs. Planning an essay submission. At breakfast yesterday came up with a revision for it.
Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding.

Goal 6. Generate New Work. This is where my big work went this week, thank goodness. I now have ideas for fifteen chapters, some more developed than others. Had a couple of brilliant ideas this morning while on a walk and even got them written up. Had another idea while I was sewing. Seriously, if you can get deeply enough into a project, the ideas keep coming.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Everyman...Or Boy...Comes Through Again

Max, our main character in Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan, perceives himself as extremely unexceptional. Yet when he becomes the victim of a group prank pulled by the secret Chaos Club, he calls on his extensive knowledge of  caper movies and uses it to pull together a team to uncover the identities of those who victimized him.

Don't Get Caught reminded me of The Lottery by Beth Goobie, another book with a secret high school group holding characters hostage. But while The Lottery is dark and grim, Don't Get Caught is a clever, witty, caper story. Reading the two of them one after the other would be a good exercise in how the same material can be handled in different ways.

Interesting bit of contrast between Don't Get Caught and a number of other YA books that involve some kind of adversity teens are dealing with, bullying, say, a librarian from hell, or being victimized by pranksters. The adults in many of these books are invisible. All of them. Teachers, parents, everybody. They are either conveniently out of the way, uncaring, or clueless. This is done, no doubt, to get rid of grown-ups, so the teenagers can become the actors in the story. However, it doesn't seem realistic.

In Don't Get Caught, we have a different situation. The adults show up. They're caring. They are just unable to do anything to help their kids with bullies, librarians from hell, and pranksters. I think that's probably very realistic. The truth is adults are powerless to help their kids in many situations. That's actually a much harsher reality than taking Mom and Dad out of the picture because of marital problems or work.

Don't Get Caught's ending hints at the possibility of a sequel. I would read that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Will Extensive Planning Speed Up Writing?

First off, I'd like to report that I have a family member who made the 50,000 word point with his NaNoWriMo project this past weekend. He figures he needs to write 30 percent more to finish the story, because, guess what? Fifty-thousand words isn't necessarily a complete story. But he hit his word goal with days to spare.

Now, I didn't have a word goal, you will recall. I was working with material from my 2004 NaNoWri Mo attempt. What I was "hoping to have by the end of November is not a completed draft, but the prep work so that I can write a draft in the future." And, no, I'm not quite there. But I do have a lot more on this project than I had on November 1.

No Excuses. Instead Here's How I Used My Time.

Some time management writers claim that a "Done List" is as important, or more so, than a "To Do List." So what did I actually get done this month?

Before Wading
  • Waded through twelve years of notes I'd made and clippings I'd been saving relating to this story. I thought I had them organized and would be able to discard most, but something happened last week that leaves me uncertain and now I'm clinging to them a little longer.
  • Finished rereading Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock, which I'd been thinking of in relation to a writing project for years, years I tell you, and in relation to this project for a while. I was disappointed, decided I couldn't use it after all, and then swung back and thought maybe I could.
  • Came up with a specific setting for the story. The 2004 manuscript had nothing at all in terms
    After Wading
    of setting.
  • Came up with stronger characterizations for Lori and Margo, my two main characters, and a reason for their relationship.
  • As a result of all the wading through that paperwork, I stumbled upon something that led to a crisis to drop in Lori and Margo's laps.
  • Came up with a narrative voice related to Sunshine Sketches (see above).
  • Began arranging eight chapters, with material from 2004 redistributed and notes for things that could still happen at each spot 
  • I have an ending for this story, something I don't think I've ever had for a writing project at this point. 
  • I have a theme for this story, something I know I've never had for a writing project at this point.


No Excuses. Here's How I'm Going To Use My Time

December is a ridiculous time to get much done, particularly for people who don't have a job that involves a structured schedule with a supervisor to report to. Personal lives gush right into professional lives. So I'm going to use whatever writing time I have over the next month to continue tinkering with this project, with a goal of finishing some kind of an outline by New Year's Eve. Like an ending, an outline is something I've never had before starting writing. And that, lads and lasses, I'm hoping will make a difference in the time it takes me to write my first draft.

A "To Do" List is still useful for some people, particularly when you expect you won't have as much time as you'd like. Mine looks like this:

  • Finish the initial planning of chapters. I'm thinking there could be as many as twenty-one. Or, you know, not.
  • Use the blueprinting plan to develop those chapters.
  • Plan the changes that need to occur for each chapter.
  • Plan scenes within chapters, particularly their relation to action, character, or theme.

If this goes on until the end of December, I'll have worked a couple of months on the planning for this project. (Though, not really, since holidays, family issues, and a new obsession with following pre- and post-election coverage have been very distracting so far. Oops. Those are excuses.) Will this have an impact on my time when I'm actually ready to write?

Dun, dun, duuuuuuh.                                                                                                                

Monday, November 28, 2016

December Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have a big event halfway through next month that has nothing to do with Christmas. In case you're sick of the holiday by the 16th.

Thurs., Dec. 1, Rob Wilder, Westport Public Library, Westport 7:00 PM

Wed., Dec. 7, Nancy Tafuri, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:00 to 6:00 PM 

Thurs., Dec. 8, Martha Seif Simpson, Barnes & Noble, Milford 6:00 PM Literacy Volunteers of Southern Connecticut event.

Fri., Dec. 9, Janet Tashjian, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 4:30 PM

Sun., Dec. 11, Anika Denise, Bank Square Books, Mystic 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Sun., Dec. 11, Clare Pernice, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield 1:00 PM

Tues., Dec. 13, Neal Shusterman, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 6:30 PM

Wed., Dec. 14, Neal Shusterman, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford 7:00 PM

Fri., Dec. 16, Susan Hood, Patricia Reilly Giff, Lizzy Rockwell and Anne Rockwell, Deborah Freedman, Karlin Gray, Rosemary Wells, Tracy Porosoff Newman, Jennifer Thermes, Ann Haywood Leal, Michaela Maccoll, Elise Broach, Susan Ross, Tony Abbott, Christina Pakkala, and Nora Baskin with editor Christy Ottaviano and Connie Rochman, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield So You Want to Write a Children's Book 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Registration required. Free

Friday, November 25, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail. Nov. 21 Edition.

I baked a cookie pie, a rosemary pear crumble pie, a gluton free pear crisp, up-and-down biscuits, Reese Cup sandwich cookies, and around three dozen wholewheat rolls.

Oh, wait. What did I do related to my goals and objectives...

Two blog posts and some plotting on the NaNoWriMo project. Also, I had two spectacular ideas for that story. Both of them while I was riding in the car, as it turns out. And today I got some character work done, including beginning voice work. 

Things could have been a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#NativeReads For Native American Heritage Month

The First Nations Development Institute partnered with Debbie Reese, Ph.D. (NambĂ© Pueblo), who researches  the ways in which Native Americans are represented in children's books, to create the Native American Children’s Literature Recommended Reading List – with the goal of encouraging a “national read” of five books under the #NativeReads hashtag. This is a part of observing Native American Heritage Month 2016, which is November.

Yes, we're more than halfway through November. I apologize for being late with this.

If it's too late for you to take part, you can still take a look at the reading list for titles you could read at any time.  I've just created a #NativeReads Tweetdeck column, so I can see what people are reading for this initiative.

Time Management Tuesday: A Different Writing Prep Method That Could Help Manage Writing Time

Last spring while at the NESCBWI Conference I attended a workshop called Blueprinting Your Novel or Short Story with keynote Wendy Mass. This workshop described a way of coming up with chapter ideas and then developing them. It involved generating material with who, what, when, where, why questions in a very structured way and getting this material together before you start writing.

Once again, know as much about your story as possible before you start writing, because that's how you write fast. Writing fast is a great way of getting the most out of your time during National Novel Writing Month.

What's Significant About This?


There are two well-known story generation plans that I've seen discussed on-line and in books. I saw the second one used in a workshop:
  1. The Hero's Story, which, personally, I find mind-numbingly elaborate. Seriously, my eyes are glazing over as I type this. Plus I wonder if it is more of a way of creating a formula than creating a story.
  2. "Give your character something to want, then don't let him/her have it." Or "Give your character a problem, then put up obstacles to him/her solving it." This definitely seems more of a formula to me than a way of generating a story. Also, whenever I hear this advice, I think, Ah...want what? And what problem? Where is that supposed to come from?
The "blueprinting" Wendy described last spring sounds as if it involves using ideas you already have to create a plot and then a whole story. You have the opportunity to create something unique that doesn't follow a pattern. And after I've tried it with the project I'm developing this month, I'll let you know if it does what I think it will.

The Twilight Zone Connection

The blueprint Wendy describes in her workshop, which is very well done, was developed from a book called  How to Write a Book on Anything in Two Weeks or Less! by Allen Deever and Ellie Deever. The book appears to have been published originally in 1993, and is now only available in an e-book edition. A search for the authors turns up more how-to writing manuals and some freelance-type articles, also from around 1993. It's not much of an exaggeration to describe How to Write a Book and its authors as obscure. 

I read the e-book edition, which probably wasn't the best format. The book has a lot of directions to move ahead to this chapter or that, which I find awkward with an e-book. Additionally, stylistically the writing has what I'm going to call a Trumpian tone. "Prolific author-in-the-making, be advised that you are about to break new ground in the field of writing." "What's contained in this book is completely new technology and new philosophies concerning the production of great stories in the shortest time possible, which is a technology that has never been been available to potential writers." "Consider this book to be your own personal story consultant. It does everything you would ever want a consultant to do and at a fraction of the cost."  There's pages and pages of this stuff. The authors go on at some length about the positive things their book, the one you are reading, will do for you. They don't actually say, "It's going to be great," but there's definitely that kind of vibe. Additionally, there are some elaborate and nitpicky sections I skipped.

But then there's this material that I haven't seen before, that no one, except for Wendy Mass, is talking about. It's as if these people may have been on to something somewhere in that book, and then it got lost. What if they had created a fantastic writing program but couldn't convey it to others? And their book went out of print? And everybody embraced the Hero's Journey?

We're talking Twilight Zone territory here.

In a few months (Not two weeks as the book's title promises, because I don't do anything in two weeks), I'll come back to this subject, once I've tried using the system myself. No matter how it turns out for me, if you see that Wendy is running this workshop at a writers' conference, attending would be a good use of time. 


Sunday, November 20, 2016

#Readukkah Is Coming

The Association of Jewish Libraries and the Jewish Book Council are sponsoring the second annual reading challenge for readers of all ages, #Readukkah, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 8. There are a number of ways to share your reading. "By sharing your #Readukkah reviews, your participation in this reading challenge helps spread the word about worthwhile titles, bringing them to the attention of more readers and supporting the publication of Jewish books!"

In May the Cybils site ran List Fun: Cybils Books of Jewish Interest. YA books featuring Jewish characters is an older piecefrom another site.

I'm going to read an adult book, The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro and following #Readukkah next month.

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Did You Do This Week, Gail? Nov. 14 Edition

Goal 1. Adhere to Goals and Objectives. Election carrying on is carrying on. Seriously, I am wasting time every morning checking news sites before I get out of bed to see what's been happening. I've been e-mailing family members and on the phone related to a crisis in another state. And next week we have an out-of-state guest in the area and a major holiday. But I did adhere to a couple of goals these last few days.

Goal 5. Community Building/General Marketing/Branding

  • Denim post, even though it was Nov. 13. Because I particularly liked it.
  • Promoted Denim to Google+ and Facebook
  • Picture Book post
  • Promoted picture book post to Google+, Google+ community, Facebook community, Twitter, and Goodreads
  • Time Management Post
  • Promoted TMT post to Facebook, Google+, Google+ community, and Twitter
  • Call for CCLC
  • Began work on CCLC
  • Goodreads blog post on denim. Because I like it that much.
  • Rated a few books at Goodreads that I haven't covered here yet.

Goal 6. Generate New Work. NaNoWriMo. Still going through those clippings and notes I've collected over 12 years. Have some plot ideas as well as an ending, which is totally different for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Avoid My NaNoWriMo Mistake

Last week I described the major mistake I made before beginning National Novel Writing Month in 2004. "I did not know what I was going to write before I got started." More specifically, I did not know my story.

Pause here for a definition of story. I use Rust Hill's definition of a short story in Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular as my understanding of story, itself. "Something happens to somebody." In 2004, I didn't know what was going to happen or even to whom it was going to happen. ( I was dealing with two characters.) Thus I didn't know what I was going to write about on November 1.

This, by the way, is why I'm not making a traditional NaNoWriMo effort this month. I didn't have time leading in to do the prep work that would have led me to coming up with something happening to somebody and knowing what I was going to write about.

Using The Elements Of Fiction To Create Your Story

Back in 2013, I did a series of posts for The Weekend Writer feature of this blog on finding your story, so I'm going to direct you to many of those. But, in brief, spending time developing the elements of your story can help you create the whole thing. Know your story, know what you're going to write.

This is particularly helpful for organic writers (pantsers) who have trouble isolating plot and working on it by itself. We need to work with the story as a whole organism.
Slide from school presentation

Setting. Consider your setting, which involves both place and time. Why is this helpful? Because certain things can happen in some places and times and not in others. That NaNoWriMo work of mine from 2004 has no setting whatsoever. I didn't use it at all.

Voice. How your character(s) sound can help define their attitudes and personalities, and that will help determine how they will respond to what happens to them and what they may do.
Yeah, another school slide

Character. Focusing on a character can be helpful in coming up with a story for obvious reasons. Something happens to somebody, right? Who this person is will help determine what s/he can/will do. I am not a big fan of giving a main character something to want. I prefer giving them a goal, something to do. Then you can create objectives for that goal, the things the character must do to reach it. Those objectives can become plot points and scenes.

Theme. Many writers say they aren't aware of their themes until they've finished a work. However, if you know it, it can be helpful in creating the story itself. Not sure what to do with a particular scene? Think about how you can make it support your theme. 

Yes, I talk about all this at schools.
Disturbance to Your Character's World. Remember, a story is about something that happens to somebody. We're not just talking a climactic moment here, the last battle scene, the declaration of love, the capture of the bad guy. Something happens to get the character involved in your story, to get him/her started down the road. The aliens land. Mr. Darcy moves to town. A body is found. In children's books, it's often the beginning of the school year, the end of the school year, the start of a trip, a new kid on the street, a parental death or remarriage. It's a jolt to the character's world at the beginning of the story and every thing is pretty much a response to that.

Now You Can Start Thinking Plot. I always say work on an actual plot last, after you've thought about all these other things. All the other things can be very helpful in creating the plot, the series of events that make up the story.

Doing all the above work before starting to write, will mean you know a lot about your story. That's going to make writing easier and faster, whether you're doing National Novel Writing Month or just writing any time of the year.

Faster. That's about time.

But There's More We Can Try

Earlier this year I took a workshop that suggested some new-to-me pre-writing work. Next week I'll touch on that.