Preparation for writing my own Damn Fine Story

So I’ve decided to do NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) this year and am spending my time before November 1st figuring out characters and outline. It’s intimidating to think about 50k words in 30 days and I’m fully aware my success depends on the very best road map I can create.

I had a cold shock the other day with the realization that my outline was a series of “and then” scenes (one event following another, without an increase in tension). As written, my outline was worthless. I’m not gonna have the luxury of taking breaks to noodle on how to increase conflict in the NaNo draft. I must have built-in conflict before I begin which means I need to link my scenes with “but” and “therefore.” Note: there are many links out there regarding Trey Parker’s explanation regarding “but, therefore”).

Last night I couldn’t sleep and spent hours in the dark thinking about my protagonist and what he’ll be up against in my new book. Tons of ideas bounced around my head (none of which I wrote down) and then I remembered what I’d read in Damn Fine Story (written by Chuck Wendig, profane and big-hearted gift to the writing world). To paraphrase: it doesn’t work to cram a plot onto a character; the characters drive the story.

This morning I reread Damn Fine Story’s chapter two: “Soylent Story: It’s Made Out of People.” And guess what? I’m feeling much better about my upcoming NaNo experience.

Thank you, Chuck!

Today I have a new appreciation for landfills

On Saturday afternoon I dug up lots of perennials and at one point went inside to put a FREE ad on Craigslist. I didn’t hear from anyone and so put the plants in my garage to keep them out of the freezing temps. Someone responded to the ad at midnight saying he wanted the plants. I responded Sunday morning to confirm and ask when he’d pick them up. Hours passed without a response. Then another person wrote to say she wanted the plants, using many exclamation points to convey her enthusiasm!!! She said she’d get them today.

That’s the last I heard from that woman despite the numerous emails I sent asking for confirmation. I just sent a text to the original responder who’d finally responded last night to say he wanted them, asking if he can pick them up today. No answer yet. Meanwhile, the plants are in my driveway and the temperature is dropping again.

Selling stuff on Craigslist results in way fewer problems than giving things away for free. I’m thinking I should’ve charged a few bucks for the plants so that people would’ve been more courteous throughout the process.

Tomorrow is trash day. Maybe I should admit defeat and embrace the landfill, like a good U.S. consumer-citizen.

Today’s special guest

Our guest next to Zippy’s hand for scale.

I spent the afternoon working in the yard in preparation for the winter storm and below-freezing temperatures on the way. I cut back perennials and chopped up greens to add to our two compost tumblers and standing bin. Zippy joined me after his bike ride and made the plants from his vegetable garden compost-ready. As he stood over the bin and chopped up tomato plants, he discovered a guest he’d been dreading all summer: a tomato hornworm.

He showed me and said his friend had told him that hornworms turned into swallowtail butterflies. That didn’t sound right so I checked. In fact, tomato hornworms turn into the five-spotted hawkmoth. Either way, that’s quite the transformation. (I do think it’s kinda too bad the horn gets lost along the way.)

Thankful Thursday: critique partner edition

Last night I met with my critique group (Writing Roosters) which always results in renewed energy and inspiration. What was different about last night’s experience is that I came home with a whole new game plan for my work-in-progress. A kinda scary yet exhilerating plan!

Laura Perdew and I were talking before the others arrived and after describing where I was at in my new project (outlining, figuring out stuff, writing VERY VERY slowly), she suggested I do NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month takes place in November and participants set a goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve never done it before (although back in the glory days of LiveJournal I used to participate in writer Jo Knowles’s modified JoNoWriMo+1.5 which ran September 15-November 30).

Normally, I’m not a proponent of banging out a whole bunch of words in a short time because I know how easily I can get off track. Fast-drafting can also lead to SLOW revising as I struggle to make sense of the “story” I created. However, I think I can get myself set by November 1 so that I have a strong outline and characterization in place before writing this book. I realize that part of the reason for the SLOW writing on this project thus far is due to me second-guessing every other word. I need to give myself permission to get the story down as outlined and then revise from there.

So. Today I’m grateful for my critique partner’s kick in the butt.

I’m in for NaNoWriMo. Anyone else participating this year?

Squirrel for the win!

Zippy and I passed this sculpture on the sidewalk as we walked around the neighborhood with Emma yesterday morning. It’s now 7:15 on Sunday night and I can say with absolute certainty that spotting this cheery little fella was the highlight of a very difficult weekend.

I hope it also brings you a smile.

October in bloom

When I think of October, I picture pumpkins and dried cornstalks. A nip in the air. Ghosts, goblins, and headstones. When I think of October, I do not think of clematis in bloom.

And yet, here we are.

Twofer Tuesday: Zebu edition

Yesterday Zebu had surgery to reconstruct his ACL. We were all rooting for ACL-only intervention because that would mean a mere 10 days on crutches. Alas, while poking around in Zebu’s knee, the surgeon confirmed a couple tears in the meniscus which means Zebu is now on crutches for six weeks. The good news is the surgery went well.

This morning a nice man delivered and set up a Continuous Passive Motion machine that will help Zebu’s circulation and flexibility. He’s supposed to do a minimum of six hours per day. That’s a lot of hours. But as I pointed out: he’s got nothing better to do right now.

I had no idea way back when that basketball could be so incredibly hard on the body. Would it have changed anything? Probably not. Basketball was his passion.

Still. I probably owe an apology to football.

Embracing My Dummy Status

I’ve used the  writing software Scrivener in the past, but haven’t touched it in quite a while which means I’ve forgotten how to navigate it. I was never a pro user and only utilized a small percentage of its capabilities, but even those basic skills have vanished in the mists. So today I’m using Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez to reacquaint myself with the program. (I find the Scrivener manual to be more of a rabbit hole of confusion than a help). This Dummies book isn’t perfect, but I am finding my way and making progress outlining my work-in-progress.

Proof I’m hard at work!

My favorite aspect of Scrivener is the corkboard because I do so much better when I can take in the whole of something. Plus, I can label and color code my index cards! Despite the learning curve that’s always involved when Tracy Meets Software, I’m pretty sure I’m having more fun than Bartelby the Scrivener ever experienced.

Thankful Thursday: the I-can-live-with-myself edition

Image found on Twitter

Today as I witness the privilege of GOP white men in the Supreme Court confirmation hearing I am enraged, disgusted, heartbroken, sickened, and exhausted. Those men know Dr. Christine Blasey Ford spoke the truth. Deep down in their dark, slimy souls they know Kavanaugh is a sexual predator. But they don’t care. Not about women, not about truth or justice. Those men are all about patriarchy, greed, partisanship, and reactive ideology.

So what can I say this Thankful Thursday?  Today I am grateful I’m not a garbage human being.

No implements of destruction

Yesterday I got zero writing done on my work-in-progress. I was enraged and exhausted by news and events. Late last night I fell asleep wondering whether, in the face of relentless misogyny and violence against women, my idea for a middle-grade novel narrated by a boy was what I should pursue. Maybe, I thought, I should abandon that story and instead write a burn-it-all-down book filled with pitchfork-wielding girls.

Well, I’ve spent the last several hours analyzing and fleshing out the beginning outline for my boy-based work-in-progress and have decided it’s a GO. Not only am I moving ahead with this story, I’m kinda excited about the plot lines. My main character won’t be fighting the power structure, but he is a decent human being.

In today’s climate that’s worth a lot.

Post-kidlit conference: weary yet invigorated

I’ve been at the Letters & Lines Conference which is the annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators). I didn’t attend the conference for the past four years and so it was very nice to catch up with old friends while also making new connections. Highlights of the weekend were inspirational keynote speeches by Laurie Halse Anderson who opened the conference and critique partner Claudia Mills who gave the closing speech. Those two women inspired me, challenged me, made me laugh*, and brought me to tears. I’m invigorated and ready to get back to my creative life. Well, probably not today. This introvert is worn out after playing extrovert for so many hours.

But tomorrow? I’m back to my stories.

* I received so many rejections and I earned them the old-fashioned way: by turning in books that sucked. ~ Laurie Halse Anderson

Thankful Thursday: the hello-there-old-friend edition

I just completed five days of a fasting-mimicking diet in which my caloric intake was greatly reduced. I embarked on this deprivation adventure because I’ve been feeling the effects of stress on my body and wanted to give my system a reboot. My sister and her husband have been doing the diet and their experiences convinced me it was worth a try. (Shout-out to my sis for all her guidance!)

Day One wasn’t bad. Day Two was rough. Days Three-Five were not too bad (my foggy brain went away and I was able to resume light exercise/walking).

And today? Day One of my return to normal eating? A happy day, indeed.

Anyone interested in trying this, go here for lots of good information. Also, the Cronometer is an absolute must for calculating calories and percentages of protein, carbs, and fat.

Today  I am exceedingly thankful that I do not have to measure every bit of food that goes in my mouth.