Things are hard this summer…

This summer for NaNoWriMo camp I jumped in like I always do – ready and willing to put a 50,000-or-more word novel on the page within a span of 30 working days.

I knew that there would be plenty of distractions, but, that never stopped me before.

Diligently, day in and day out, I’ve added to my work, now on the 24th, I’m up to 40,000 words.

Sure, I have another writing project underway. plus work at the University two days a week. and the summer graduate practicum to get through, and my Bridge to Story clients, and this blog. Who doesn’t pile their plate a bit high from time to time?

Some of my distractions were trivial

Koko’s constant demand for attention










Some were a bit more mundane

An average week's To-do's

An average week’s To-do’s








– the finding the time for it all (the volunteer work, and the twice weekly meetings, plus the token house work).

It’s not all the other work that’s distracting me it’s the distractions to all the other work.

I’d rather being creating full time all day long. If I were living my life in the pursuit of creativity coaching, writing fiction, and creating instructional software 20 hours a day I’d not feel distracted at all.

As I often like to say,

“If these things were video games, I’d be up playing them for free at 2:00 in the morning .”

So, in spite of this writing statistic of being at 40,000 words on the 24th, I feel let down this June. Can’t quite put my finger on it. It might simply be exhaustion (See ‘mundane’ figure above).

Whatever it is, I’ll not let these distractions take the place of quality writing; when and how I can get that on the page.

I am committed. Or perhaps I should be, because I don’t intend on stopping even when the 30th rolls around.

Some novices begin Nano writing with worlds of their own, some like to dabble in fan-fiction.

In either case, when it comes time to edit, there’s often a denseness to their writing. A bit too many words than are really needed for conveying scenes, especially when it comes to writing action.

Now for Camp NaNo, the more words the merrier. But we’re not always going to be doing a NaNo event.

Any tense situation, emotional, or physical can use words to their best advantage by cutting a lot of them out of a first draft.  Read the rest of this entry »

CampNaNo 2012 Badge

Every NaNoWriMo participant knows that word count is King during the months of April June, August and November. And the higher  those per day’s stats are, the better chance you have for winning at month’s end.

But once the 30th rolls around, if you’re a dead serious writer, you’ll want to take a breather, and then take a new look at your work and trim it down into publishable shape.

And a Post-event word diet is what will be called for.

Here’s an excerpt from my in-progress How-to book for novices on How to Write Fiction:

The Better Verb Choice Editing Tool

Where are you using your verbs– in Narration, Setting, & Dialogue?  How are they used– alone or often coupled with adverbs? What type of verbs are you using– ones found by searching a thesaurus or synonym list?

How much of your page is covered with yellow after you run a Find word & Replace w/ the word highlighted step, looking for state of being verbs: am, are, became, been, being, is, could, did, do, does, had, has, should, was, were, would be?

Here are three samples of the editing process using a single 113-word paragraph. First Draft:

Christina had stepped on her bathroom scale. She was in her towel, just out of her morning shower. She weighed 185 pounds. But instead of seeing her weight she just saw two of the numbers that would be good for her next lotto ticket. She would be rich with those numbers. She could choose 18 and 5, she decided as she dried off after showering. That meant she had three other numbers to find. She uses Avon lotion to moisturize with. And her towel had dropped as she did her leg. As she does the other leg she thinks maybe she’ll use the number 19 too. Like she had done the last time.

It’s almost like this example could fit into a written book report, by a student stating what had happened in the chapter they had just read.

That was draft one – now look at Draft Two.

There were many action-less verbs to consider changing. Some were left alone, some removed, and some were switched for slightly better verbs. The writer didn’t even have to go to a thesaurus for the newer verbs to get her paragraph to work better.

Christina stepped on her bathroom scale, in her towel, just out of her morning shower. She weighed 185 pounds. But instead of seeing her weight she thought two of the numbers that seemed good for her next lotto ticket. She could be rich with those numbers. She chooses 18 and 5, deciding as she dried off after showering. That meant she needed to find three other numbers.  She uses Avon lotion to moisturize with, her towel dropped as she rubbed her leg. As she lotions the other leg she thinks maybe she’ll use the number 19 too. Like she did the last time.

Results: 103 words, and a bit more visual showing of the girl’s morning, still not a total revision.

And now to a final draft.

The word count is not changed at all, (it remained at 103 words). But what a change to the writing. This is no book report now.

The scale reads 185.

“Cool.” Christina nods, her damp hand against the wall to steady herself and her bath towel pressed tight against her middle so she can see the jiggling numbers. “There’s two, 18, and 5. Cool, just three more to find, and I’m rich.” She steps off the scale, sets her leg up on the rim of the tub, squirting pale yellow Avon lotion along the length of her shin. Her towel drops away and the remaining patches of dampness tingle on the back of her thighs and neck, making her skin prick up. “Maybe 19 again?” she asks her cat.

The How

This is what a search for better verbs can lead you toward:

Verbs used in first draft (19 verb forms– more than half are state-of-being):

had stepped, was, weighed, seeing, saw, would be, would be, could choose, decided, dried, had, uses, moisturize, had dropped, did, does, thinks, use, had done.

Verbs used in 2nd draft (17 verb forms – more verbs aren’t always the goal):

stepped, weighed, seeing, thought, seemed, could be, chooses, deciding, dried, needed, uses, moisturize, dropped, rubbed, lotions, thinks, use, did.

Verbs used in final draft (16 verb forms):

reads, nods, steady herself, pressed, can see , jiggling, steps, sets, squirting, drops away, remaining, tingle, making, prick, asks.

Your paragraph on a word-diet lost 10 words. (Yea!) Now consider the type of edits that happened between Draft Two and the Final.

It’s all about verb choices and moving from reporting in your writing into showing the scene on the page.

Because the novice’s biggest problem isn’t that these state of being verbs are being used; it’s that they are often used instead of a better verb.

And without the better verb choices, writing slips out of scene and into a distance-tinged narration.  There is a space between the reader and the narration (telling the reader about things). All we get is a report of what is happening.

Let’s hear from you in the comments section- are you planing a word-diet once NaNo is done?

Page 115

June 6, 2012

CampNaNo Blog Post #3, Day Five

Night is now descending on day five of thirty, and I’m up to the 10K level now (+/-).

Camp NaNoWriMo 2012


And here’s a snippet of the word-smithing:

” In her dreams he’s a carved stone angel, forever young. His architect’s carved him: round of cheek & infant whorl of hair. Lanie dreams him toppling off a brownstone cornice’s lip, backlit, a furious sun so intense it’s explosion glare brings her warning screams to a well lit room. “

I like it. It feels good. Read the rest of this entry »

CampNaNo Blog Post #2, Day Three

On day three of the 30 day challenge that is June ‘s Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made my word count jump up to 7,819 words.

Along the way I’ve added two new sub-plots that will feed the overall story and brought in a group of five characters I had no idea would show up. But there they are on my pages, all getting along with each other (or not) and it seems they knew they’d be there even if I didn’t realize it.

Fewer lines, Sharper image

It’s a tricky thing, letting go long enough to let the intuitive stuff happen, you still have to keep hold; to be the craftsperson along with the dreamer, and judge what is dross and what’s gold.

I’m trying to craft something that’s able to express longing and regret – but in real time, not with any dramatics, flourishes, or formula stylings of most popular fiction. I told someone recently that real life writing is the best way to explain what I meant when I said I write literary fiction. They thought on that and then asked, “Like Lifetime TV?” So it’s a more elusive thing to quantify than you can imagine.

And speaking of an elusive thing to quantify, Let’s talk about Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow’s novel in epic poem form.

I wish I could teach a literature course around this book. Toby Barlow’s found some hard truths about life and love to weave into this story. I hope I can do so well in mine. He’s managed to couch these elements in new-angled phrases. They are , for a lack of words to use­–unexpected in their perfect aim. Barlow’s a master at bringing in that ‘real life ’ by focusing in on such out of the way details. The ones that draw the sharpest visceral images; with the least words to show us these harder truths. There’s nothing TV (in that lowest common viewer way) about his writing at all.

If you have his hardback 2008 first edition from Harper Collins, go to page 85. Look at the three lines of text prior to the start of the XIX sequence.

2 sentences. 25 words. Only 7 of those bother being two syllables long.

Terse. Yet, ending with these simple lines brings to life one of those harder truths the minor character Bone is feeling.

NaNo Campers – If you’re someone who’s trying for a deadly serious run this month, consider taking any two lines you want to have the most impact with – and bringing them down to that equation of  2 sentences. 25 words. See what you can do with your truths, pare them down to the sharpest of lines.

Boy I hope my novel can do truth telling this well.

If you’re NaNo’ing this June, or you’ve read Sharp Teeth – feel free to comment. I’d love to discuss things.

[Snappy Title Here]

June 2, 2012

CampNaNo Blog Post #1, June 1st

I wrote 5,125 words on Friday, day one of Camp NaNoWriMo, the event brought to you by those stupendous folks at the Office of Letters & Light.

Here’s my Camp Stats/Writer Info/Excerpt link, in case you want to follow along this month and cheer me on. I’ll be blogging every other day, unless impossible to do so.

I did a lot of reading in the Spring this year. Because once Camp NaNoWriMo started for June and August, I knew the time would be short for such luxuries. But I did get a chance to re-read a book that has me entranced. And I find it’s informed my Camp Nano experience like no other book ever has.

Read the rest of this entry »