When Things Settle Down …

I’ve been having a hard time finding making time to write. For most of July, I had company in town. When they left, I had to catch up on work, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and writing. Since then, there have been special projects, business travel, doctors’ appointments, and Cubs’ games. Monday was Labor Day and next week I’ll be traveling again.

nanowrimologoNaNoWriMo is in November and I really hoped to participate this year. I know now that isn’t in the cards. I need to finish this draft before I invite new characters into my head.

I keep thinking to myself that as soon as things settle down, I’ll be able to focus more time on writing. But yesterday I realized (once again) that things never really do settle down. I have more travel ahead and before long, it’ll be the holiday season. Life actually is craziness.

My goal for the past several months has been 4,000 words per week and mostly I haven’t been making it. I’ve been frustrated that it seems so out of reach. Right now when I sit down to write, I’m writing and editing at the same time to fill holes in the story. Yesterday, my word count was -82 because I moved some things around and edited out duplicate information. I’m sure I wrote new words, too!

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I know I said in my last post that I would continue to strive for 4,000 words a week, but it’s just not realistic right now. Writing for one hour a day is my new goal. It doesn’t seem like a stretch. It seems quite doable. But then, I know there will be days when I can’t write at all. I hope to make that time up over the course of the week.

Wish me luck!

 

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After I successfully completed NaNoWriMo (see more about NaNoWriMo here) by writing 50,000 words in one month, I signed the NaNoWriMo Revision Contract.

I did it!  I, Rhonda Kalkwarf, pledge to edit and revise my manuscript.

I swear to undertake the unluxurious process of editing the first draft of my novel. I understand that this process can be messy and disheartening, but ultimately just as rewarding as writing it all the first time.

I have replaced all creative implements (pens, pencils, keyboards, touchscreens, quills, and hunks of charcoal) at my workspace with destructive ones (erasers, backspace keys, white-out, and comically large mallets). I will refine and chop sentences, paragraphs, and chapters with impartial ferocity.

Above all, I promise to regard my novel with a critical but not cruel eye, for it is a work of my one-and-only imagination and deserves to be made even better.

Because I’ve been very public about this journey, people often ask about my progress. Well, here’s what’s been happening.

After I finished writing in November, I set the manuscript aside for a month. My goal was to be able to look at it with a fresh perspective.

Once I picked it up again, I cut ruthlessly. I took out each scene and character who didn’t advance the plot in some way. It was hard to part with some of those, but I knew it was necessary. My 50,000 words shrank to 42,000. Progress?15279774_s

Since then, I’ve been going through the book and adding depth. After NaNoWriMo, I had a book skeleton. Now I’m in the process of adding the organs, muscles and skin.

I’ve cleaned up scenes I wrote before and I’ve added new scenes when I realized there was more to the story. I’m filling in descriptions of characters and settings. In a previous blog, I described when I played with Point of View. I keep working on the flow of the story to be sure it flows well and will be interesting for a reader to enjoy.

I just passed the halfway point of doing this. When I finish, I’ll go through it again. I’ll probably do it again after that. Before I send it to be professionally edited, I’ll send it out to Beta readers for feedback. It’ll need to be proofread, too.

My goal right now is to have this first pass completed before November 1. I’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo again this year. There are a couple characters who’ve started dancing in my head. We’ll see.
Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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The Scourge of Typos

Last week, I started a new practice. I’m trying to further separate writing and editing into two unique processes. Writing is a right brain activity. Editing is a left brain activity. A quiz on Facebook told me I’m evenly right and left-brained. It must be true then, right? That means I can do both writing and editing. Just not both at once.

keyboardI read this advice when I was preparing for NaNoWriMo. They told me I should just write and not try to assess as I went. I did that. But now I’m challenging myself to go further.

You know those squiggly red lines under words that are misspelled? Well, those drive me crazy. And when I’m typing fast, I make a lot of typos. The first time I typed ‘I’m’ in the sentence above, I typed the I and then a space before the ‘m. I could have let it go and then fixed it when I proofread, but that’s just not comfortable. In fact, it makes me crazy.

When I told my sister (a former English teacher) about my plan, she agreed. She said she used to make her high schoolers type with the monitor covered. Yeah, not gonna happen here!

But the good news to me is I’m getting better at letting the typos slip away as I write. Most times, I wait to correct them until my first read through. Unless, of course, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make out what word I actually meant.

It’s really my typing teacher’s fault. She insisted we look strictly at our copy and not at the keyboard, never at the keyboard. Yep, it’s her fault. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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If you’re new here, you may want to follow this link to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

What Ending?

Coin TossSince I started my book, I wondered what the ending should be. It was approaching hurricane season. There were pirates in the area. The boat was a large one to sail alone. He could have faked his disappearance.

During my NaNoWriMo, I decided on an ending. Recently, I changed it. I decided my first ending was too predictable. I did some research to check credibility and then I changed the ending. (Oh, that we could do that in real life!)

Have you read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes? I just finished it and loved it. CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT HERE. It doesn’t end the way you’d want it to. I thought she’d figure out a way to make the happy ending believable, but she doesn’t. The story is better for it. I’m sure it would make for a lively book club meeting.

I continue to change the novel and add depth. I don’t imagine I’ll make another change this significant. Or maybe I will. If I think the story will be better for it.

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Writing Group

large writing groupA few years ago, I joined a local writing group at the library. There were probably 25 people in the group and I think we met twice a month. After a few visits, I gave up. There were just too many people. We only shared our writing every three or four meeting because there were so many of us. Also, I think it made the members less invested in one another’s work. Lots of criticism, little support.

A couple months ago, I decided to try again. What I really wanted was a writing partner or two or three; no more. I wanted to be part of a small group of people who would work together to support one another in our writing projects. I looked online to see if such a group existed nearby, but found nothing.

I posted inquiries to the Facebook groups for the Chicago Writers Association and the Chicago NaNoWriMo group. I heard from several people, but most wanted to meet at times inconvenient for me. Before long, though, I heard from two people, one from each group, who were interested in the same type of group I was.

small writing groupWe started meeting late last year and I believe we will really hit our stride in the next few months. We are at different points in our books, but we seem to be helpful to one another anyway. We also write from a couple different genres and that’s OK, too.
Being part of a group helps keep me on track. Also, I turn to them for general feedback or help with specific questions. I’m also gaining new resources and learning about marketing.

These people are the first people who have read any part of my book. Sharing it was scary. I know the book needs work. It’s like a skeleton that still needs muscles, organs and skin. I worried they wouldn’t recognize that I know this and think what I had written was lame. However, they were very helpful, generous with suggestions, constructive criticism and praise.

Our next meeting is a week from Wednesday. I’m working now on strengthening another section of the book for their feedback. It still makes me nervous to share, but I know it’s good for me and good for my book.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

 

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Back from Camp

Camp-Winner-2015-Twitter-ProfileCamp ended last night at midnight. Organizers describe Camp NaNoWriMo as “An Idyllic Writers’ Retreat, Smack-Dab in the Middle of Your Crazy Life.” I met the camp goal I set for April which was editing everyday and that makes me a winner! Everyone who meets his or her goal is considered a winner.

This time, the actual work was a little less onerous because the goal was readily achievable. I could do it while living my everyday life. When I was writing 50,000 words last November during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writing became my life.

My next goal is to prepare for a new adventure: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days. The program was created by Janice Hardy as part of her Fiction University, a great web resource for writers.

She created the program for the month of March, but I didn’t learn of it until later in April. That’s OK; I wasn’t ready for it in March. In fact, I’m not ready yet. My goal is to start in mid-July.

The program is designed for novels that are farther along than mine. Fortunately, it will be available until the end of the year. I checked.

Odd, isn’t it? I have a lot of work to do to get my story to the point where I can consider a program to revise it? But I get it.

I read that if I finished 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, I probably wouldn’t even have a first draft for a novel; I’d have a zero draft. Maybe that would be less true for an experienced writer, but it was absolutely the case for me. I want my novel to be 80,000 to 100,000 words. But I don’t need to just add more words; I need to add more story, to craft my zero draft into something other people (besides my mother) will want to read.

My next checkpoint is July 13.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog using the link on the right side of the page.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

Editing is Hard

Editing is hard work!possible cover pix I thought creating the story would be difficult, but once I got into the groove, the writing flowed. Now it seems all I’m doing is throwing out scenes that don’t advance the plot. And I liked some of those scenes a lot!

I don’t actually throw anything away, but the folder called Unused Material keeps growing. At the end of  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I had over 50,000 words. I thought by now my word count would be higher, but it continues to fall.

The work I’ve started with is tightening the story and refining the narrative flow. Hopefully my efforts will result in a leaner and meaner version. I’m thinking of this as diet and exercise to make the book stronger. When I’m satisfied, I will dress the story up with all the compelling descriptions and details I have in mind. The result should be an attractive and appealing novel. That’s my plan!

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I’m Going to Camp!

I’m going to camp next month! Camp NaNoWriMo runs the month of April and it’s sure to be fun. It’s a virtual camp, so I can work in a temperature controlled environment, I don’t have to worry about bugs, and I can still share an evening glass of wine with my husband. I’m going to be assigned to a ‘cabin’ with other writers with similar interests.

I’ve requested placement with others who are also editing their novels. All month, I’ll work with writers who are doing what I’m trying to do. Beyond that, there’s talk about campfires, hikes and getting lost. I’m not really sure what I’ve gotten myself into. But then, that’s not the first time I’ve said this during this journey . . .

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-Banner

November Begins

November 1, it was time to write. I sat down that morning to write my 2,000 words. I stared at the blank screen trying to figure out how to begin. What was I thinking? I arranged and rearranged my desk as panic rose in my throat. I thought about starting a game of Bejeweled or checking Facebook again.

November 1Instead, I took several deep breaths. Then I looked again at the project I had created and read through the preliminary list of scenes I planned. Since I wasn’t sure how to start, I decided to just pick a scene to write, any scene. I just needed to start. I picked the one that seemed the easiest.

I continued that way the whole month of November. Each time I finished a scene, I picked a new one to write. Often, writing one scene would make me realize there was another I needed to add to the list. Sometimes, I wrote something that meant something else had to happen in an earlier scene. If that scene was already written, I’d make a note to make the change later.

I made it a point not to revisit scenes I’d already written except when I needed to be sure the story transition was right. I didn’t go back and edit anything in November. I was trying to write 50,000 words in one month, for goodness sake! I saw no sense in erasing or deleting even one word.

The program made it easy to add and move around scenes and also to make notes about changes to be made during the editing process. I kept the scene list open in front of me on the screen. Unlike some people who like to write on a totally blank screen, I liked having my scene list and document notes right in front of me. It gave me a sense of control and, as the scenes were written, I could see I was accomplishing something.

In the beginning, I was keeping a manual list of words per scene. That got to be a hassle when I started adding more detail into scenes which changed the word count. Then I learned the Scrivener Target tool could track my progress both daily and for the project as a whole. At the end of each day, I charted my word count on the NaNoWriMo website. Watching the line on the word count graph line move up kept me going — along with my determination to succeed (or fear of failure!) It was like any journey; it began with a single step.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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Scheduling Time to Write

As I considered committing to National Novel Writing Month(NaNoWriMo), I knew I had a major obstacle. I planned to be out of town for fifteen days at the beginning of the month and then, a few days after we returned, we would drive ten hours each way to spend Thanksgiving weekend with family. And while I believed I could write while I was gone, I also knew I would be distracted by family, friends, and opportunities to play.

I decided the best way to accomplish my goal was to set higher word count goals for the days when I thought I could accomplish more. 50,000 words works out to 1,667 words per day. I set a goal of 2,000 words for most days knowing that some days I wouldn’t be able to write much at all. For instance, the days I flew to and from California, I really didn’t think I could get much done and set a goal of just 500 words for each. While I was visiting family for Thanksgiving, I planned to write a 1,500 words each day since I knew we would want to do other things. For the last day of November, when we would spend ten hours driving, I set a lowly goal of 250 words. On a day when many writers would be hard at work morning to night to finish, I knew that wasn’t logistically possible for me. Committed or not, I knew I couldn’t write much balancing a laptop on my lap in a moving car.

Daily targetI created this calendar as a visual reminder of my plan. The NaNoWriMo website (nanowrimo.org) has a tool where I would post the number of words I actually wrote each day. I also logged my progress in my planner so I could track the days I was most productive. If I did it again, I would add a cumulative word count on each day of this calendar.

The calendar was a sobering visual of the crazy commitment I had made. I certainly had my work cut out for me in November!

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