Writing about writing

Posts tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’

Writing without a Net

Over the many years I have been writing, most of it has been for personal use only–journaling, participation in NaNoWriMo without any intentions of doing anything with my novel, blogging, or for school purposes (as an English Instructor, it’s impossible not to write). I have never feared my writing–what I write, how I write, the physical presentation of what I write, and so on. I have always written mostly for myself and in a manner that pleases me, myself, and I–since I had no intentions of publishing anything I wrote.

But in recent months (ok, years), I’ve determined to finish my memoir and publish it. (Still vacillating between self-publishing and going the traditional route.) In doing research on memoirs and the publication of memoirs (because that’s what we’re supposed to do before publishing, right? research the genre to see what else is available?), I have discovered that the memoir genre is wide open for methods in presentations. The memoir genre is currently hot in the world of reading as is evidenced by the fact that we can’t really do a search of any kind on a subject without running across a memoir on that subject.

The good news is that means that my memoir fits right in with the current demand. The bad news is that so many people are writing and publishing their memoirs. That means then that I have to find a way to write my memoir in such a way as to make it stand out from the rest, to make it similar enough to other memoirs so I don’t scare away potential readers, but different enough so that readers don’t toss it aside with a groan because it’s “just another memoir.”

I feel fairly confident that I have found a way to put my memoir together in such a way as to be just different enough to be cutting edge and just similar enough that readers will be glad to pick it up to read.

One idea I have about my memoir that is very different from other memoirs is that I would like to include or publish alongside my memoir a Bible Study. This is where I’m thrown for a loop. While I have read and completed many Bible Studies over the years, I have never even thought of let alone attempted to write one. As I have begun researching how to write (put together) a Bible Study for publication, I have discovered that there is NO information on “how to write [and publish] a Bible Study.” There are dozens if not hundreds of books, websites, etc. about how to write and publish a memoir (or just about any other genre you can name or imagine), but there is NOTHING on writing/putting together a Bible Study!

Considering the fact that I am writing in unchartered territory, I was hoping for at least a little guidance in writing a Bible Study–as I have had over the years when writing fiction or basic non-fiction. But there is NOTHING. At least not anything that I have found at this point.

I have come to the conclusion then that there are no rules or guidelines that are expected to be followed when it comes to writing a Bible Study. I’m sure there are some because obviously writing a Bible Study involves using the Bible itself and must be faith-based, but are there rules or guidelines regarding the expected translation? Are there guidelines regarding physical appearance on the page?

What makes things even more interesting, if you will allow me to use that term, is that I want to write a JOURNALING Bible Study and maybe even include pictures to color!!!! Are there any rules or guidelines regarding journaling Bible Studies or including pictures to color in a Bible Study??

The good news is that no two Bible Studies that I have ever done have ever been exactly the same style or set-up (except those that are published by the same group or organization, but even within the group, the set-up is unique to each). The bad news is that means that I have to “invent” my own style or set-up.

The good news is that this means that I GET to “invent” my own style or set-up for my JOURNALING BIBLE STUDY/Memoir!!!!

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Butt in chair

As a writing instructor as well as a writer-wanna-be, I have read and taught more times than I am able to count about the importance of “butt-in-chair” when it comes to writing. The most basic answer to the question “how do I write?” is for the would-be writer to sit down and write–whether it be by hand or digitally doesn’t matter. What matters is putting the butt in a chair and writing.

Period.

Ha!

Haha!

Hahaha!

Yeah. Right.

If only it were that easy.

Because, see, here’s the problem: the moment I put my butt in my chair to write, I think about the hundred other things that I need to be doing–the 100 things that honestly have priority over writing–except during NaNoWriMo (November). At the top of that list of important projects is the grading that always needs to be done. If you teach, then you know that even before you finish grading one assignment, another is already waiting behind it to be graded.

And if grading isn’t the top priority, then prep work is. Any good teacher knows that even when we have assignments that we recycle, assignments are constantly being improved upon or simply changing based on class personality or needs. Which means, then, that even seasoned teachers such as myself are always doing prep work.

Since my son is currently a teenager, he no longer needs to live in mommy’s pocket, but yet because he is an only child, he loves having my undivided attention. That means that my son–my family–more often than not takes priority over my writing.

With all that being said, though, I have this desperate need deep in my very soul to write. I love to write. I love to journal. I love to write for my blogs. I have participated in NaNo for more than 10 years, off and on, and won at least half of those years. I love writing letters. I even enjoy writing up assignments for my classes.

So while I do have to prioritize because that is simply the way life goes, writing is and always will be lurking just below whatever item is at the very top of my list of priorities…which means that I will always find a way and time to put my butt in my chair and write–even if that means writing for no more than half an hour!

The Write Stuff Club

First of all, I can’t believe I haven’t written in this blog for so long!!

Secondly, since I last wrote in this blog, my school has started a creative writing club and I am one of the advisors for it! The best part is that just about every faculty member in our department is an advisor; that way we can spread the love around and no one faculty member is obligated to be at every single meeting or responsible for everything club related.

As a new club, we have a fairly low membership so far, but we are gaining recognition and membership with each passing day. In fact, just today, we had someone stop by to tell us he wants to be in the club! We are confident that our club will only continue to grow as more and more people find out we are even on campus

The first big thing that we did as a club was invite an author to our campus. Originally, we had thought we would have her come just to our club meeting, but the more we talked, the more we wanted her to come so anyone across campus  could come hear her speak. Angela Pisel came to our campus on Wednesday, January 25 and shared her writing process with a room full of folks eager to absorb any and everything Angela wanted to teach us!

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By the way, if you haven’t had a chance yet to read her book, it’s called With Love from the Inside and it is AMAZING!!!

Last November our club also participated in NaNoWriMo. Most everyone in our club who participated won–reached his/her 50,000 word goal.

As a writer myself, I am thrilled to my very soul that we have FINALLY gotten a creative writing club on campus. We have talked about it ever since I first started here more than seventeen years ago, but we’ve never done anything about it….until now!

Check us out! The Write Stuff Club

Writer’s Software: To Use or Not to Use

It is my biggest dream in life, right now, to finish and publish my memoir. I wrote the draft several years ago and have worked on it off and on since. I have found it difficult to keep up with what I’ve written and what I haven’t written as well as in finding a particular section–quickly–while using Word and/or Google Docs. Both programs are easy to navigate and certainly great to use as a writer. The best part about Google Docs is that it automatically saves and I can access it wherever I am as long as I have internet access.

But the struggle to revise such a long document is real. As you know if you have participated in NaNoWriMo any time over the last several years, NaNo winners often receive some awesome goodies that participants do not. One of those goodies is 50% programs like Scrivener or FastPencil and the like. These companies also make their software available for a free trial for November for all NaNo participants.

I did try Scrivener one year during NaNo, but I found it very distracting during the first draft stage, so I quit using it and never looked back. Since the whole concept of NaNo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days with no revision, software like the ones mentioned were clunky and kept me from simply writing. What about you? Do you prefer to use writing software such as Scrivener when writing the first draft, especially when participating in NaNo?

Now that I have a really solid draft of my Memoir complete, I am finding it very difficult to use Word or Google Docs as I revise. When I want to find a particular passage/section in my book, I find it difficult to navigate approximately 80 pages of a single-spaced document. I can do a search, obviously, for what I am looking for and that does help. I am thankful for such features in your basic writing programs.

But when it comes to the serious revisions such as seeing at a glance the chapters and overall content, Word and Google Docs are not helpful at all. But software like Scrivener is fantastic in that area. I can view all my chapters at once either in outline form, as part of my Binder, or on a digital cork board. I can move chapters or sections around with a flick of my mouse rather than having to highlight and drag whole sections, possibly losing the whole section or putting it in the wrong place because of the sensitivity of the mouse. (Know what I mean?)

In Scrivener, I can also use a split screen right there in the program so I can compare sections. I don’t have to open two separate windows and place them side-by-side or one on top of the other on my screen. Scrivener does that for me.

Scrivener also easily formats my book when I am finished. It creates the title page, keeps a running total of my overall word count, adds chapter titles as well as chapter breaks, and so on and so forth.

I have only just started using Scrivener as part of my revision process. I like what I see and what I have used so far. There is a lot to the program, though, and I am finding myself feeling at a bit of a loss since I am not familiar with the program. It is fairly self-explanatory but there are some cool features that a newbie won’t know without either playing with the program or having someone else show him/her.

So what about you? Have you tried software like Scrivener or Fastpencil? What do you think of such programs? Why? Do you prefer Word or Google Docs? What are some positives/negatives about each of the various programs–to you?

I really am curious to know what you think…..

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NaNoWriMo 2015–Halfway There

Today is the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo. How is it going, Friends? So far, I have been able to stay on track in spite of my computer crashing. It has been frustrating, I must say. I was ready to throw it through a window, but somehow or another, I have managed to hold myself together and move forward. We had a computer that I had bought my son that he was not using, so at least I only lost a day of writing–easy to make up.

I am actually enjoying the story I am working on. It took me several days to get to that place. When the month started, I had no idea what I even wanted to write about. I had no story, no topic idea. Nothing! My mind was a blank page and I had no words to fill it. I spent the first several days of the month just writing about “things” that were on my mind.

Yes, I am counting those words for NaNo! I wrote them during the month of November, so they count!

But then I remembered a story I had started earlier this year and inspiration struck! Now I making great headway and I can hardly wait each day to sit down and work on my story! Because of the problems with my computer, though, I find myself not wanting to write much more beyond my word count for the day. Normally I would keep going once I would get to my word count. But not the past several days.

So here I am, with a few fellow NaNo-ers at Barnes & Noble, doing my best to write and not chat!

And hoping and praying that the back-up computer I am using will continue working for as long as I need it this afternoon.

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I’m still writing…

It’s been a few months since I posted to this blog, but rest assured, I’ve been busy writing the whole time–just not on the blog!  I’ve gone back to writing in a physical journal by hand rather than writing in my e-journal (PenZu) mostly which means that I’m just not on the computer as often throughout the days as I am when I write online.  I know….I know…excuses only satisfy the person who makes them!

Anyway, since the last time I posted here, I’ve also helped edit a manuscript for a previous student.  I am so proud of her!  Back when she was my student, she participated in NaNo for extra credit.  She went so far as to publish her novel!  Since then, she’s written two sequels–publishing one and the 2nd is the one she’s currently editing in preparation for publication very soon.  She is such an inspiration to me.

Here I’m the teacher.  I’m the one who encouraged her to participate in NaNoWriMo.  I’ve participated in NaNo almost every year since 2004.  I’ve won most years, but lost a few years (mostly when I had severe health issues and was in the hospital). And here’s this young woman who has not only participated in NaNo the past several years and won, but she’s also published two of three novels in a series (with the 3rd coming very soon)!  And I’m just sitting on my manuscript, twiddling my thumbs.  Pathetic.

So I’m MAKING the time over the next few weeks to edit my manuscript and get it out for the masses.  It doesn’t matter if anyone buys and/or reads it.  What matters is that I follow my heart and finish what I started! I have a story to in me and it must be told.

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My serial-killing teacher story

Before I say anything, I want to say that I have not given up on my serial-killing teacher story.  I have not worked on it for a long time, though.

Anyway….a week or so ago, a couple of friends and I were chatting about blog entries and my serial-killing teacher story came up.  As we were talking, I found myself laughing my gut out as I talked about some of the killings in the story and just how funny the story is, in general.  They asked me why I haven’t finished it if I enjoyed writing it so much–and because they said they would actually read it.

I had no real answer for them beyond the simple fact that I just haven’t gone back to it since I wrote the original draft.  It needs a lot of cleaning up; I did a lot of things in the story just because I needed the word count for NaNoWriMo and because some friends wanted me to include them in my story.  But it shouldn’t be too terribly complex to revise it because the essence of the story is there and it’s actually pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Of the handful of people of have read at least parts of it, they have also agreed that it’s good.

I know that it’s at least funny even if it isn’t any good!

Even if I never publish the story, i do think that it is important for me to finish the story.  I honestly and truly did have a lot of fun writing it and I continue to have a lot of fun talking about it.  Serial killing is NOT a funny topic, but if ARSENIC AND OLD LACE can make it comedic, I don’t see why I can’t give it a shot!

So my point here is that I am going to go back and work on it this summer and see what happens with it.  I think it’s important for all of us to finish something we start–that we enjoy working on!!

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