Tag Archives: writing goals

On Writing: Getting Productive

It’s taken me a little while, but I’m finally recovered from my recent four months of nonstop deadlines.

And I’m ready now to plunge back into seriously writing.

I intend for this year to be a really productive year when it comes to my writing. Last night, I came across this post at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog: New World of Publishing: Speed, and I realized the fact that I write so quickly is something to celebrate.

So I’m celebrating! And coupling the celebration with a new intention: I’m going to see how many novels I can get down on paper (metaphorically speaking) this year.

I’ve written about 280,000 words of fiction in the past two years, 180,000 of which came about in spare bits of time, the other 100,000 during NaNoWriMo 2009 and 2010. This year, I will be setting aside longer chunks of time in which to write.

Yes, the 20-minutes-a-day goal did work well for me. I normally get down about 1000 words in a 20 to 30 minute period. But I want to do more than that.

So what could I do if I sat down and wrote for a couple of hours every day? A couple of hours at the very least? That’s the question I’m going to answer this year.

I’m also going to motor through what, in the past, has been a major stumbling block for me: the midpoint of each novel. There are a few things that might help me when I get to this point.

I don’t outline, because I really love sitting down and just writing and seeing what comes. Sitting down, and making things up as I go, works really well to get me to the midway point of a novel. But then I reach the middle, and it gets difficult to make myself sit down and keep writing.

I don’t want to start outlining. I’ve done it before, and it just doesn’t work for me.

So one thing I’m going to try is the method that David Morrell describes in Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft (the updated – and available – version of this book is The Successful Novelist).

I just finished doing a quick reread of this book earlier this week, and this is what I posted to GoodReads:

Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His CraftJust finished a quick reread of this one (I skimmed most of the chapters, but thoroughly read the chapters on getting focused and dealing with writer’s block).

The first time I read this book, I was really taken with Morrell’s idea of a written conversation with yourself about your book idea, rather than an outline or winging it. I’ve never tried his method, but the idea feels as fresh and inviting to me today as it did the last time I read the book.

I am still very taken with this idea of having a written conversation with myself about each book I write. It’s not the same as outlining, but I really feel it will give me the extra guidance I need when I reach the dreaded middle of each WIP.

All you do is sit down, with a new Word file in front of you, and start a conversation with yourself about the idea that you have. You keep yourself writing by asking “So what?” and “Why?”; by doing this, you explore all the avenues open to you, and you also capture in words the very essence of what it is about the idea that excited you in the first case:

Instead of waiting to write until you’ve thought through an idea, why not write as you think? The format is a conversation with yourself … It encourages you to delve below the surfaces of a conventional outline so that a richer book has the potential to be written. It provides a record of the psychological process by which you worked out the story, and thus, if overfamiliarity causes you to lose your enthusiasm for the story, all you need do is reread the document and reacquaint yourself with the chain of thought that made you excited in the first place. Further, it allows you to have a conversation about the story without the risk of your best ideas ending in the air or of your conversation providing a release that takes away the pressure to write, for in this case, the conversation occurs as you write, and the person you’re talking to is your alter ego.

This makes so much sense to me, especially the part about overfamiliarity causing me to lose my enthusiasm for the story. When I reach that dreaded middle of each WIP, if I could find a way to access that initial excitement I had, it would be easy to keep writing.

I know this, because there is another thing that works for me; it’s something I’ve been resisting doing, because I really love writing with absolutely no rereading of what I’ve written, not until I’ve finished the ms and put it aside to mature for a while. When I do this (well, okay, I’ve done it once), I feel like I’m reading the book for the first time (because I am).

But yes, I have succumbed, a few times, to temptation and read through what I’d already written, before I was anywhere near the end. And inevitably, I turn that last page and am so disappointed that I hadn’t written more, because I want to find out what happens. And when I feel like that, it is very very easy to go back to the computer and keep writing.

Of course, there’s one other thing that might work. It could be, if I stuck to my guns and wrote for two or three hours a day, I’d be getting the story down so quickly, there wouldn’t be any time for overfamiliarity to develop and drag me down when I reach the middle.

Hmmm. That’s a thought, there, too!

Making Magic: Appreciation

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(Photo credit)

I am immersed in deadline after deadline right now, and in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a post!) I would have let myself be pulled into a static, drone-like existence, working long hours day after day, late into the night.

No fun, no creativity, no laughter. Just work, work, work.

But I’ve been surrounded by so many creative, fun things, and I realized I don’t have to slip into that drone-like state. I don’t lose my creativity just because I’ve got too many deadlines hanging around.

Yes, I can continue to make magic in my life, even when I’m busy. And that alone inspires me.

So you’ll all be seeing a series of Making Magic posts. Today is Appreciation day, where I look back on the past few weeks and love all that’s gone by – a lot of life happened to me in the space of a few days! – and most importantly, remember there’s more to come, in this moment, and this moment, and this moment.

Because that’s really what life is – it’s filled with moments, and I’m always free to choose to focus on all the happy, glittering, fun moments.

Even when I’m knee deep in an index (or three or five).

Appreciation List

Hayley met Tim Burton yesterday! Hayley’s a member of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Next Wave committee, and as a special treat, TIFF arranged for Burton to meet with the board members for an hour yesterday. Hayley said he was so very down-to-earth, and gave them this very lovely piece of advice: Do a bit of everything. Don’t just focus on being a director. Be lots of different things.

I really loved hearing this – it was such a good reminder that creativity isn’t confined to any one thing. And the more creative I am, the more I get my hands in there, in project after project, the more the creative sparks fly every which way and totally light up my life.

Dinner with Nigella Lawson. Yes, I took time off from work last weekend to have dinner with Nigella Lawson at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I went with my sister, Dawn, and we had such a great time. Nigella was warm and gracious, and during the Q & A, Ward texted me questions, and Dawn asked one of them! (I was too busy texting and tweeting …)

Nigella Lawson

Yes, that’s a terrible picture. I only had my iPhone with me. But luckily my sister had her camera so she has some good pictures, which she says she’ll send to me. On the other hand, I was able to get some great close-up shots while Dawn was busy chatting with Louise Dennys, the publisher of Random House Canada; as an event planner, my sister definitely knows a lot of people (including the chef and the wait staff at the Royal York!).

The night ended with my sister taking me out to Pravda, a vodka bar. I’ll just say here that vodka is not as tasteless as I once thought it was. I’ll also say a sort of thank you to whoever kept putting drinks in front of me all night. Needless to say, I was, um, slightly hung over the next day …

But I had fun!

NaNoWriMo. Okay, so there’s a good chance I’m not going to make my real NaNoWriMo goal. And I’m okay with that, because I’ve had a lot of life happen the past ten days, and it’s been really a lot of fun. I also know that I can do this, I can complete this novel, and the next, and whatever else takes my fancy. And I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo for helping me see this.

I’m going to “win” the regular NaNoWriMo this year. I’m almost at 42,000 words, and there’s still a full week left, so I have no doubts. Yes, I’m deep in Deadline City, and I’ve missed a few days of writing, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it. And I intend to have the first draft completed by the end of this year.

PiBoIdMo. I haven’t been keeping up with PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) the way I’d intended, but I’m still having fun with it. So far I’ve jotted down about 12 ideas, two of which are keepers.

And I’ve learned something very interesting: sitting down with the intention of brainstorming ideas is like exercising a muscle. It’s hard when you first start, but the more you do it, the more creative you get. And the whole process is just so much fun, you realize how much you miss when you don’t exercise that creative muscle.

Husband who cooks. Okay, so he’s pretty committed to being vegan, but my husband cooks the most delicious things, and does not hesitate to whip me up a meat or seafood dish anytime I request.

sushi rolls

Lately he’s mastered the art of sushi rolls, and since he enjoys making them as much as Hayley and I enjoy eating them, we’ve all been in seventh heaven food-wise. And yesterday he made a special set of sushi rolls with smoked salmon in them, which were so delicious.

He’s also been making these samosas that are really delicious. He fills them with a lovely Indian potato mixture and we have them with chutney or plum sauce. And we’ve discovered that our little picky eater will eat these as long as they’re made with a Mac n Cheese filling!

Christmas! I’m really delighted because we got a head start on Christmas this year: we put up the tree and all the decorations on Friday. In years past, we’ve had our “Christmas tree day” right in the middle of my deadlines, and it just isn’t so much fun when you’re doing it as a “break from work”. This time around, we spent the whole day shopping for a few new ornaments, getting the house ready, putting up the tree – we always make a little “tree party” of it, just for us, so we finished up with a viewing of Santa Clause 2, accompanied by sushi rolls and samosas.

iPhone Games. I’ve been letting my Inner Geek have some play time every day. So there’s no way I can write an appreciation list without mentioning all the iPhone games I’ve been having such fun with. They help make work go by faster, because I’ve developed a bit of a reward system: every 45 minutes or so (I usually time it according to the number of pages I’ve indexed), I let myself take an iPhone game break. So I end up feeling like I’m having fun, even though most of the time I’ve been working!

I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, does it? And that is very true. Which is a very good thing indeed.

And now, back to work …

And now that I’ve reminded myself what a fun time I’ve been having, I’m motivated now to tackle this workload. All I have to do is take a deep breath, plunge back in – and remember to keep coming up for air and a little bit more of life.

My Real NaNoWriMo Goal

So it’s still the 6th day of NaNoWriMo, and right now my word count is at 20,381. This is good, but actually not quite where I was hoping to be by today.

This year, I decided on a different NaNoWriMo goal. Rather than aim for 50,000 words, what I’d really like to do is get the first draft of ELEMENTAL completed.

You know how a story idea can stick with you through years and years? That’s ELEMENTAL. And now that I’m finally putting this story into words on a page, I’m finding a real eagerness to just get the story down.

This eagerness is fanned by the fact that I don’t know how the story ends; I’m finding out as I write.

As Stephen King says in On Writing, make it your priority to just get your story down on paper first (I’m paraphrasing here, because, as always seems to happen, every time I want to quote from On Writing, I can’t find the book. Then, when I have no need of it for citation purposes anymore, up it pops – which usually happens to be when I dive in for a re-read …).

I found myself very excited this year as NaNoWriMo approached, and a large part of the excitement came from this desire to finally get the story down. To have a completed first draft.

My goal is to write 4,000 words a day. I met this goal on Days 1 and 2, but fell short on the other four days. Day 6 is not over yet, but I have a work deadline to complete, so I don’t think my word count will change today.

My intention was also to make writing my first priority by getting my writing done first, before doing anything else. I didn’t do this on days one to four, but did manage it yesterday and today. And yes, it’s much easier when I do my writing first!

I hesitated to post about this goal of mine, mainly because I wasn’t sure at all if it would be something I could actually do. Challenges are not fun if I feel they’re insurmountable. Now? Well, yes, I think I can meet this goal. I really do.

Of course, there’ve also been some NaNoWriMo bashing posts going around (most famously, this Salon.com post), but for me, that’s neither here nor there. I’m generally not deterred by the opinions of people who don’t know me.

I’ve always been a fast writer; that’s not going to change just because some people feel that all quickly written works are devoid of merit. All first drafts are rough; that’s the nature of a first draft (unless you’re Isaac Asimov, who often didn’t need to do a second draft).

Getting to the final draft that can be submitted? That’s what revisions are for. And alpha and beta readers. And more revisions.

But first, you’ve got to get the story down. Before you can do any of that, you need that first draft. And this month, that’s my goal.

The Day Before NaNoWriMo Starts

I know. Most people think of October 31 as Halloween. I have a seven-year-old, so you’d think I’d be sitting here thinking about Halloween and taking him out trick-or-treating tonight too.

But no, not me. All I can think is this: today’s the last day before NaNoWriMo starts!

I haven’t done that much prepping, partly because my NaNoWriMo novel (ELEMENTAL) is one that I’ve already started; I’ve written about 10,000 words of it (which won’t, of course, be counted in my November word count!).

I also haven’t prepped much because I’m a pantser, rather than a plotter (other names for this style of writing are discovery writing, and, yes, plunger!)

It’s not that I write blindly without knowing where I’m going; what I tend to do is end each writing session knowing what the next scene or handful of scenes will be, but that’s about it.

In other words, I write like this:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

I’m doing an “unofficial” NaNoWriMo novel as well, which will really take the driving at night in the fog metaphor to a whole new level for me; I’ll be starting a middle grade WIP, FORTUNE, tomorrow. I plan to write this one in long hand, in a non-linear fashion; I’ll just add scenes as they visually come to me. It will definitely be an experiment!

I also have a “secret” goal when it comes to NaNoWriMo this year, only I’m not going to say what it is, because I’m not exactly super confident I’ll be able to meet this goal! But it’s one of the reasons why NaNoWriMo feels so exciting to me this year, even more than it did last year.

Another reason I’m so excited is because I’ve gotten more involved in the online writing community this year; there’s something about the energy of knowing a lot of other writers all playing the same NaNo game in November that’s really motivating.

And I’m also excited about November for a non-NaNoWriMo-related reason. I’ve decided to participate in PiBoIdMo 2010! Yes, that’s right – in addition to Novel Writing Month, November is also Picture Book Ideas Month! The goal? To come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

Yesterday, I even bought a lovely little blank journal to play PiBoIdMo with, so now I’m all set!

So anyway, back to today being the day before NaNoWriMo starts.

Since I expect to be super busy in November, I’m going to relax a bit today. Work a bit on one of my upcoming indexing deadlines (which don’t stop existing because of NaNoWriMo, unfortunately for my time but very fortunate for my pocketbook). And maybe read a cookbook or two (we picked up a couple of new ones yesterday). Not to mention tonight’s trick-or-treating.

Oh, and I’ve been bugging my husband to make this scrumptious sounding Pumpkin Seed Toffee. He was looking for bittersweet chocolate, so I think I might have succeeded!

What are you doing on this day before NaNoWriMo starts? Are you participating this year? Or just planning to have a real blast with Halloween tonight? Or both?

Validation, Plot Lines and A Goal (Of Sorts)

I’ve started working on my fantasy WIP, ELEMENTAL, again. It’s the one I started a while back, and found myself writing not only from two viewpoints, first person and third person, but, somewhat to my horror, in two different tenses, too.

I had put the five scenes I’d written on the backburner, because in my worry about the two different tenses, I felt so much resistance to working on the story anymore.

But last week, I decided to send the scenes to my friend Jules. Jules is a writer and a reader, too; she reads voraciously, and has the same eclectic taste in fiction that I have. She had also recently read a book which had a narrative structure very similar to the one I’ve been playing with – the novel used both first person, present tense and third person, past tense – and she found the narrative structure very uncomfortable to read.

Which made her an ideal reader for the scenes I’d written. So I sent the pages off to her and waited for her critique.

In the meantime, I also had lunch with my daughter, Hayley. Hayley is not much of a reader, which I find somewhat astonishing as she’s a very good writer. I mentioned my WIP to her, she was interested, and I decided to give her my five scenes to read, too.

The results? Jules found the scenes worked well; the switches between the two very different viewpoints worked for her. She didn’t find them jarring the way she’d found the novel she’d read a while back to be jarring.

And Hayley read through my scenes in her thorough, methodical way, and when I asked her about the switch in viewpoint and tense, she said she hadn’t noticed.

Both of them were eager to read more, find out where all my little plot points would take the characters.

Validation! Now that I know the narrative structure isn’t a problem, at least not for two very different readers, my resistance to tackling this WIP has lifted. I tell you, it’s hard to write when in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “yes, but I’ll probably have to rewrite this in a totally different tense sometime down the road.”

So yes, I needed this information, this acceptance.

And ever since then, I’ve been inundated with plot lines. It’s all boiling together in a really epic way, and while I have no clue how all the twists will come together in the end, I want to find out what happens.

Every quiet moment I have, my storylines pop into my head and I learn even more.

It’s the best situation to be in, from a writing perspective.

Which brings me to my sort of goal. The fact is, I’m getting really tired of always being in the same position writing-wise. I’m tired of always wanting to write, but never having written. Of dreaming of writing, but never seriously doing it.

The first draft of NANTUCKET is still sitting there, waiting for me to work on it. And now ELEMENTAL is seriously calling to me, too. It feels like I’ve been in this situation forever, almost.

And so I’ve decided that I will just plunge in and get going. According to a friend of mine who does Chinese face reading and astrology, this year is my year for accomplishing the stuff I want to do. It’s my stellar year – and it ends this coming February, when I’m in for a year of relaxation, ease and delight.

I’m also knee deep in my busy period work-wise; ironically, it’s always when I’m most busy that I get my most serious urges to sit down and write. So I’m going to do that, make the writing a priority and make full use of all this writing energy that deadlines always provoke in me.

By the end of this year? I would love to have the first draft of this current WIP finished and yes, Nantucket finalized and ready to send forth into queryland. That’s my sort-of goal.

The Spam Treasure Trove: Finding the Perfect Name for Your Character

Here’s what’s been happening with me, writing-wise, ever since I wrote last about my latest writing goal to write for at least 15 minutes every day.

I got stuck. And I got stuck not because I wanted to be inspired and wasn’t, and not because I didn’t want to write – I got stuck because the next scenes to be written are from the POV of my other main character and his mentor – and while I can play and replay these scenes in my mind, in full color, with background music and all the right props, there was one thing I really, really needed to know … and didn’t.

Their names.

Because, you see, in those movie clips in my mind, my two characters don’t address each other by name. Which is perfectly natural – I mean, go back to any conversation you’ve had with someone you know well and see how many times you actually say their name in conversation. See what I mean?

But in the non-dialogue portion of my scenes, I’ve got to know their names. It’s kind of essential.

And nothing was coming to me.

So, rather than writing without knowing their names (it just doesn’t work for me), I dug out my copy of Character Naming Sourcebook, by Sherrilyn Kenyon; it’s been very helpful in the past, and I highly recommend getting a copy for your reference shelf.

This is a much better naming reference than a regular baby names book. It’s sorted into lists based on culture and ethnicity, so it’s really wonderful if you know a lot about your characters.

Since I’m a pantser, not a plotter, I don’t usually know my characters that well in the beginning. But I’ve always found it useful to just trust my intuitive powers and throw the book open to a page and see what jumps out at me.

I discovered my main character’s last name fairly quickly, although I still didn’t have a clue as to his first name. The next day, through some very cool bits of serendipity, I realized what his first name was, and even better, WHO he is, which then brought to me some new bits and pieces which will eventually get plugged into my storyline.

His mentor, though, stubbornly stayed nameless (I suspect this is an indication of his overall character). So this morning, I opened up my copy of the Character Naming Sourcebook and did my trusty “flip open to the right page because any page is the right page using this intuitive method”. And I came across this great tip by author Daniel Wallace:

Now I get my names from spam. That’s right: Those pesky unwanted e-mails are really the best place to find a name these days. All I have to do is look into the Deleted items folder of Outlook Express, and there are dozens – no, hundreds – of names, right there in the From field, perfect for any character I might want to write about.

Right now, there are 9501 emails in my junk mail folder. I use Thunderbird, which does a pretty good job of filtering out spam mail into the junk folder. Now, that does sound like a lot of emails, but unfortunately, a lot of spammers out there just aren’t very creative, so there are a lot of From lines that read something like “Free Viagra” and “Try Viagra for Free”.

But there are still enough real names to give this a shot.

Here’s just a small sample of some usable names I found:

Alaina Breann. Valrie Lanell. Karla Golden. Malinda Loretta – I don’t like Loretta for a last name, but Malinda … Malinda would work quite well for one of my minor characters, who’s right now saddled with a similar sounding name that I had grabbed at just so I could keep writing (which is something I do as long as the character is a secondary character).

There seems to be an imbalance of sorts, in that there are far more female names than male (my MC’s mentor is male) but scanning through the folder, I just found a name that has as its first name one I’ve been playing around with for the mentor. More serendipity – the last name goes very well with that first name.

So … success!

Now I’m going to sit down and write.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

Photo credit

Two Beginnings, Two Tenses: My First Four Days of WFMAD

I’m heading into day 5 of my new goal to Write Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD), so I thought I’d post an update.

My stats so far:

Day 1: 27:58 min 520 words
Day 2: 34:54 min 969 words
Day 3: 44:26 min 1089 words
Day 4: 22:13 min 648 words

So, over the past four days I’ve written for two hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds, and have written 3,226 words. (Stats are courtesy of Liquid Story Binder, in case you’re wondering how I figured out the 30 seconds thing.)

I’m also sticking with my intention not to reread any of what I’ve written until I finish the first draft.

Despite this, here’s what I do know. Day 1’s 520 words are already cut – they’re totally out of the picture now – so they don’t really count.

You’ll notice that it took me a long time to get those 520 words down. And then after I finished my writing session, I went to bed not feeling very satisfied with what I’d written.

So on Day 2, I started all over again, with a whole new and very different beginning. Much better. Except … I also changed the tense I was writing in.

Day 1 was written in first person, past tense. Day 2 was first person, present tense.

The present tense seems to be a better fit for the story I’m telling. I already know, too, that when my second MC enters the scene, I’ll be switching to his POV, in third person, to boot. The novel’s going to go back and forth like that.

(This was actually the one thing that had stopped me from starting this WIP in the past  – from the very start, it seemed to me switching from first to third person was the way to go about it, but the whole thing made me very nervous. I would have been far more nervous if I’d known I was also going to do the first person sections in present tense!)

The dicey thing is that I don’t have that much experience writing in the present tense. So this whole thing is quite the challenge for me. And yet, this seems to be the right way to go about it. I’m not writing as fast as I normally do, but what I’m putting down feels pretty good.

Now I just have to work on not leaving the writing until the last thing before bed … I am just so good with excuses when I do that. Luckily, none of the excuses have worked so far, but it’s safer and smarter to get my writing done well before midnight!

How are you doing with your writing or reading goals?

Creative Genius, and the WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day) Challenge

I’m still taken by surprise at how simply making a decision to commit, that intention to be, can garner such quick results.

Yesterday I did some blog hopping, and found a lot of writer blogs, people working on their novels, finding the time to write every day – and I came away so inspired. Inspired, and with a renewed commitment to my own writing practice, which has been sadly out of tune for the past few months.

So this morning, I download my email, and the first thing I see is an email from a writing friend, with a link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and genius.

Now, I’d watched this video last year. I’d enjoyed it, but at the time, it had just been a fun and entertaining talk. This morning, I seem to be in a different space altogether, and everything Gilbert talked about just clicked with me.

I want to access that creative genius she talks about.

Then I logged onto Facebook, and found this post at Write Anything talking about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Write Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD) challenge.

Perfect timing. Just when I decide to commit to my writing practice, along comes a writing challenge that is a good fit with what I already know. Last year I committed to a writing goal of 20 minutes a day, and the result was the first draft of my WIP, NANTUCKET.

As Laurie puts it:

The rules are simple. In fact, they aren’t even rules. They’re more like guidelines, the Pirate Code of Writing.

1. Commit to write for 15 minutes a day for the entire month of August.

2. Just do it.

Here’s what I discovered last year about committing to 20 minutes of writing a day (which works just as well with 15 minutes a day):

  1. None of my excuses for not writing have any power against the 20-minutes-a-day idea. 20 minutes is nothing. I know that. All my writing obstacles know that. I can surely, absolutely, carve 20 minutes out of any day, even the most hectic, deadline-driven day.
  2. It may not seem like a lot of time, but the key is this: you don’t have to stop after the 20 minutes are up. I can’t tell you how many times I’d end up writing for at least an hour, all because I sat down to write for just 20 minutes.
  3. I can accomplish a lot in 20 minutes. On the days I stuck to the 20 or so minutes, I usually ended up with between 700 to 1200 words. Not too shabby for only 20 minutes, right?

These same things apply to a 15 minute a day goal. In fact, number one is strengthened by making it only 15 minutes.

I already know this works. Twenty minutes a day lead me to the completion of the first draft of a WIP. First time ever. It was a huge milestone in my life. Fifteen minutes will lead to similar wonderful writing results. I know it.

I’m ready for a repeat.

What about you? Want to join me and commit to the WFMAD challenge?

Camping … Or Should I Say, Writing and Reading

I’m hurrying to finish up an indexing deadline today, because tomorrow we are off on our camping trip!

I mentioned on Facebook that we are going with every car charger known to man, so hopefully the fact that the site doesn’t have an electrical outlet won’t be particularly bothersome. (I know, I know – electrical devices aren’t exactly roughing it, but I have never been a fan of roughing it).

A Writing Weekend!

My intention is to spend the next four days doing at least some writing. I’m bringing the first draft of my WIP, NANTUCKET, with me, and will be marking it up. I’m also planning to start writing a new WIP of mine, ELLA. (In case you’re wondering, my WIP names tend to be the first name of my MC – yes, very unoriginal, but at least I don’t spend ages agonizing what to call my WIP and can plunge right into the writing!)

The netbook is all charged, plus we bought a car charger in case it dies down, so I won’t have any excuses for not writing. I’m wondering whether the sand and beach environment will have a positive effect on my writing …

Books to Read on the Beach

Of course, a holiday isn’t a holiday without books, right? Since I’ve been pretty busy, I haven’t had much time to pick and choose, and there weren’t any new books that I felt like getting as an ebook (also, Kobo’s iPhone app, which I’ve been using, is kind of tricky – it allows offline reading on the one hand, but on the other hand, it requires Internet access first, before you can start reading (after which, true, you don’t need access), which kind of defeats the whole purpose of “offline reading”, if you ask me. And I’m not sure what kind of reception my phone will have on the shores of Lake Erie.).

So I swooped down to the library (well, not really – it was more like, I quickly scanned the paperbacks while my seven-year-old, Dylan, went through his selection of books, deciding which ones he wanted to take out this week).

Here’s what I’m taking with me:

Some Linwood Barclay books. I’ve been meaning to read Barclay’s novels for a while now. Back when I was still reading newspapers, Barclay’s humor column in the Toronto Star was a favorite of mine. I was pleased to discover a while back that he’s been writing mysteries and thrillers.

Too Close to HomeFear the WorstLone Wolf

Too Close to Home:

In a quiet neighborhood, in the house next door, a family is brutally murdered for no apparent reason. You can’t help thinking, It could have been us. And you start to wonder: What if we’re next?

Promise Falls isn’t the kind of community where families are shot to death in their own homes. But how well did Jim and Ellen Cutter really know their neighbors—or the darker secrets of their small town? They don’t have to look further than their own marriage to know that things aren’t always what they seem. Now the Cutters and their son, Derek, must face the unthinkable: that a murderer isn’t just stalking too close to home…but is inside it already.

Fear the Worst:

Tim Blake is an average guy. He sells cars. He has an ex-wife who’s moved in with another man. It’s not a life without hassles, but nothing will prepare him for when his daughter, Sydney, vanishes into thin air.

At the hotel where she supposedly worked, no one has ever heard of her. Even her closest friends seem to be at a loss. As he retraces Sydney’s steps, Tim discovers that the suburban Connecticut town he always thought of as idyllic is anything but. What he doesn’t know is that his every move is being watched. There are others who want to find Sydney as much as Tim does. And the closer Tim comes to the truth, the closer he comes to every parent’s worst nightmare—and the kind of evil only a parent’s love has a chance in hell of stopping.

Lone Wolf:

Newspaper writer, family man, and reluctant hero Zack Walker has stumbled onto some dicey stories before, but nothing like what he’s about to uncover when a mutilated corpse is found at his father’s lakeside fishing camp. As always, Zack fears the worst. And this time, his paranoid worldview is dead-on.

While the locals attribute the death to a bear attack, Zack suspects something far more ominous—a predator whose weapons include arson, assault, and enough wacko beliefs to fuel a dozen hate groups. Then another body is discovered and a large supply of fertilizer goes missing, evoking memories of the Oklahoma City bombing. But it’s when he learns that his neighbor is a classic Lone Wolf—FBI parlance for a solo fanatic hell-bent on using high body counts to make political statements—that Zack realizes the idyllic town of his childhood is under siege. The fuse is lit to a catastrophe of unimaginable terror. And with time running out, Zack must face off with a madman.

A Stephen Booth Novel. I’ve been meaning to check out British novelist Stephen Booth’s mysteries, so when I saw Black Dog (his debut novel) at the library, I thought it might be a good one to start with.

Black Dog

Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. I saw Red Pyramid last month on a trip to Costco. It looked interesting. I haven’t yet read the Lightning Thief series yet (although I do own the entire set X 2 – don’t ask – and they’re all sitting on my TBR shelves). But I decided to put a request in at the library for Red Pyramid; it just came through, so I’m going to take it with me camping!

Red Pyramid

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe–a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

And of course – Agatha Christie! I also picked up a copy of Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel, as a “just in case” precautionary move; you know, just in case all the above turn out to be not quite my cup of tea. I’ll have something old and familiar to fall back on, right? And there’s something about cozying up to a Miss Marple mystery that fits with toasting marshmallows over an open fire …

At Bertram's Hotel

When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service – and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer.

Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day …

Let’s Not Forget Audio!

And for the drive there and back, my husband and I decided to purchase a headphone splitter so we can both listen to an audiobook on my iPod. Our choices?

Jonathan Kellerman’s Gone, Compulsion and Rage. These are all re-reads for me, but new for my husband.

A handful of BBC radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries. These wonderful two-hour audios are really wonderful; last year I splurged and gifted myself this boxed set of Hercule Poirot’s Greatest Cases, so we have a lot of titles to choose from.

Hercule Poirot's Greatest Cases

I also have a couple of new releases on hand. First up is Janet Evanovitch’s latest Stephanie Plum installment, Sizzling Sixteen. I don’t think I’ll ever read another Plum story in print again, but Lorelei King’s wonderful narrative abilities will keep me listening to each new novel. Evanovitch seems to have stopped with the plotting and/or mystery in her latest books, but she has a talent for a comedic turn of phrase, and with King at the audio helm, I suspect we will enjoy the book just for the dialogue.

And finally, we have the latest Jack Reacher, 61 Hours, by Lee Child. Reacher isn’t really my cup of tea (the only Reacher novel I really enjoyed was the one where it was a team effort – Bad Luck and Trouble – I’m just not really into lone wolf types of novels) but I suspect my husband will enjoy his exploits.

So … I think I’m going to be well-equipped along both the writing and reading front. Just not too sure how I’ll handle the camping end of things!

[TSS] Reading Breaks

I am nearing the end of a very big indexing assignment – it’s been taking up most of my work time for the past two weeks, and I’m scrambling to finish in time for the Tuesday morning deadline.

One thing I’ve been learning about working productively is the value of taking breaks. And since I’ve been missing out on reading, especially this past week, I’ve decided to make all of my breaks today and tomorrow “reading breaks”.

The only thing is, it’s hard to find books that I can easily consume in ten-minute chunks of time!

So I’ve decided on non-fiction and cartoons.

In the line-up:

This is Going to Be Tougher Than We ThoughtNever a Dry Moment, a Baby Blues book by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. I saw this at the library last week and knew it would come in handy. I also plucked This is Going to Be Tougher Than We Thought from my own shelves – the more Baby Blues the merrier.

I love this comic strip; after I had Dylan, I had a bit of the post partum blues, and the Baby Blues collection really helped me out. if you have kids, trust me, read Baby Blues and you’ll be nodding your head in total agreement, and laughing. Hard. And as I hit the last stretch of work on this assignment, I’m definitely going to need some laughter to keep me going!

Writing Down Your SoulWriting Down Your Soul, by Janet Connor. I have been journaling daily for the past month. Some of you may remember my past struggles with committing to journaling (it appears I’ve asked, “Do you keep a journal” twice so far in this blog!).

It turned out the answer to my journaling dilemma was quite easy: one day I realized journaling required me to open up to myself. It was something I used to be reluctant to do, but on that day, I had reached a turning point in my life. And ever since then, it’s been easy.

I make it even easier by slotting it into my morning ritual. So now it’s a full-fledged habit.

I’ve read the first few chapters of Writing Down Your Soul, and it’s been very interesting so far. So I’m eager to take of my break time to dive a little bit more into the book.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 1. I was passing by one of my bookshelves and saw this, so decided to add it to my reading break pile.

It definitely brings back memories; while not exactly the most politically correct of reads, despite the stereotypes, the Tintin adventures are still rollicking good tales.

And I guess one could say these books were my own first introduction to graphic novels, way before they were actually called graphic novels.

How to Be, Do, or Have AnythingHow to Be, Do or Have Anything: A Practical Guide to Creative Empowerment, by Laurence G. Boldt. I’ve had this book for ages; it’s one of the scores of non-fiction books I keep meaning to get around to.

I began dipping into this book the other day, and found it quite inspiring. It gave me a “why haven’t I already read this” moment, which I then answered with, “well, obviously I wasn’t in the right moment at any time in the past and I am now”.

(This happens to me a lot – asking myself this particular question, and yes, holding this kind of internal dialogue.)

Boldt is also the author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, another book I actually did read, which I have kicking around here somewhere as well.

Every Day in TuscanyAnd in case I feel like traveling a bit in my ten-minute breaks today and tomorrow, there’s also Every Day in Tuscany, by Frances Mayes, although I’m slightly afraid to dip into this one, because it might have the power of turning those ten minutes of break time into a much longer break than I intend.

I’ve enjoyed Mayes’ previous books, so I’m definitely looking forward to this one. I have to hurry with it, though, because it’s from the library and there’s a wait list for it, so I have no renewals to fall back on.

I’m wishing I had this one in audio, because it’s a book I might actually be able to listen to while working at the same time.

Bird by BirdAnd last but not least, there’s Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which I’m reading for the writer’s reading group I started up a few weeks ago. This coming week we’ll be reading the “Shitty First Draft” chapter, along with two others, and that chapter is one of my favorites from the book.

I’ve been doing well with my 20-minute daily writing goal (adding it to my morning ritual was obviously the right thing to do), and I think this week’s readings from Bird by Bird will be extremely helpful.

So these are my picks for those ten-minute reading breaks I’m promising myself for today and tomorrow.

Have you read any of these books? I know many of you are fiction readers mostly – what nonfiction books do you have up your sleeves, if any?