Chasing a Dream: A Year in Review

My little baby blog is closing in on a year. Where has the time gone?

I started this blog for two reasons. One, to begin building a platform for promoting my writing. Eventually. The second reason, and perhaps the most important reason, is to practice and hopefully improve my writing. Becoming a writer has long been a dream of mine, and in starting this blog I made the decision to pursue that dream more aggressively.

I began with a confession of my fears and insecurities. Writing in itself is not a scary endeavor but being a writer is terrifying. Being a writer means sharing one’s soul with the world. It means opening up one’s most vulnerable places to a harsh, cruel world.

Why would I choose to do this? I write because the words call to me. I write for those moments when everything suddenly becomes clear and a story comes to life. I write because those most vulnerable moments can also be the most exciting.

I’m still trying to determine in which direction to take this blog. My focus has been on becoming a better writer. As such, I’ve tried to pursue the things I’m told are what it takes to succeed as a writer. The top things that I need to do is to write and read. So that is what I chose as the focus for my blog. Writing and reading. In a nutshell, it was to be a blog celebrating words.

As I worked to find things to write about I stumbled across this reading challenge. This became the perfect opportunity to begin writing book reviews. With twelve books, it gave me something of a plan for the entire year, the goal being to post a new review each month. I discovered authors I’d never read before, like Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch. And authors I’ve long wanted to read, like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I’m down to the last two books on the list now, and I’m going to need a new challenge for 2017. Any suggestions?

Through the year, there have been times when finding time to read has become challenging. Particularly during the months when there is a NaNoWriMo event going on. In April and July I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. I had some fun sharing bits of what I was working on during those months.

In April I worked on my middle grade novels, The Silver Compass Adventures. I felt like these posts were well received. I’m excited to see more progress on these as well as the sister series, The Golden Locket Adventures. They have been a lot of fun to research, plan and write.

I launched a new project in July, a series of short stories based out of novel world I’m already working on. My goal was to use these stories to explore questions raised in writing the novel. Back stories, histories, legends and the like that would both build on and enhance the novel itself.

I made a promise to my readers that I would publish one of these stories. Since July I have been working to perfect this story into something I could share with you. The process has taken longer than I had hoped, but it is still moving forward. I’ve shared the story with some beta readers, and I received some very insightful feedback on how I might improve it. I am aggressively rewriting this story, and plan to have it ready for publication very soon.

I have also tried my hand at writing about the writing process itself. These posts have been the most difficult for me. I’m still new at this business, and I don’t feel like I have much to offer that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. My favorite of this type of post was where I compared writing to another favorite past time of mine, baking cheesecakes. It was a fun, playful post that I think has brought me closer to my true voice.

While I work on trying to figure out this blogging adventure, a couple of months ago I began responding to the WordPress daily prompts with this post about motherhood. Some days I have nothing to say about the chosen word, other days the word surprises me in where it takes me. I’ve had some fun with these posts, and they have led me to some new connections with other bloggers.

So, in the past few months my fledgling blog has seen a little growth. While I continue to have fun with it, I also continue to struggle with what to write. Finding a balance between my various writing projects and full-time life is an ongoing battle, and likely will continue to be.

What happens next? Next comes November, which is National Novel Writing Month. I will be off the grid for thirty days making the attempt to finish writing a novel. I will be eating, sleeping and breathing words. I plan to get to “the end” after far too many years working on this same novel. I intend to finish it and move on at long last to other novels, other stories.

After that comes December. Christmas. New Year. And this baby blog turns a year old. I need to decide what I’ll do with it next. Because I do plan to do more. I’ll continue reading and writing reviews. I’ll continue my research on my various projects, and I’ll share what I learn.

I’ll write about writing and reading and about life in general. My blog will grow a little more. My writing will improve. I’ll finish more of what I’ve started. Every day is a choice. And today, I choose to chase my dream.

Is It Done Yet? Now? How About Now?

Unfinished.

This is something I unfortunately know more about than I’d like. I’m in the middle of a novel that I’ve been writing since 2010. It’s nearly finished. Sort of. I wrote the first 50,000 words in the frenzy of my first National Novel Writing Month experience.

I then found that after November ended, it was difficult to maintain any sort of writing routine. And impossible to keep up the same frenetic pace of November. I managed to add another 25,000 words, or so, over the course of the next year, but it was extremely slow going.

The next November I started a new novel. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you write a new novel rather than work on one you are already invested in. This is a good idea, and one I typically try to adhere to. However, I now had two unfinished novels clamoring for my attention.

In the years since I began the first novel I found myself bombarded with new, shiny novel ideas. I’ve started a number of projects that remain incomplete. I have completed two novels – an adult sci-fi and a middle-grade adventure – but the original novel remains incomplete.

I haven’t abandoned the novel, and it continues to grow and develop, even when I’m not actively working on it. I made this novel my Camp NaNo project in July 2015 and have added another 50,000 words. However, in the time between first starting this project, and now, new developments have rendered the first half badly in need of rewriting. Like world changing new developments.

Now, despite the conflicting interests of multiple writing projects, I have made this novel my priority. I am more determined than ever to see it through to completion. I’ve already committed to making this my project for this year’s NaNoWriMo (yes, I’m publicly declaring my rebellion!).

I’m committed to finishing this novel. I’d like this to be the November I write “the end.” I’m ready to finish and move on. I’ve got an outline of the first half of the novel that needs to be rewritten. I’m working on character profiles. I have investigated map making software in order to put together a map of my fictional world. All the pieces are in place. It’s time to make this dream a reality.

Manuscript

Now?

The Great Literary Mash-up

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been participating in the Twitter #hashtag game, WIPjoy. Hosted by @simmeringmind, there is a prompt for each day encouraging writers to share about their current work in progress.

WIPjoy_Sept2016

Today’s prompt is this: If you could choose any other book to mash-up with your own, which would it be? I never intended to write an entire blog post on this subject, but in trying to come up with an answer, that’s just exactly what happened.

I’ve honestly never given any thought to this idea – that of mashing up the world I’ve created in my novel with the world created by someone else. I’ve never considered writing fan fiction either. Those worlds, no matter how much I’ve fallen in love with them, belong to someone else.

The more I thought about this question, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that my work is already a mash-up of sorts of everything I’ve ever read, seen or experienced.

I’ve been a reader from a very young age. Some early influences I can remember include the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series. Anything by Roald Dahl or Beverly Cleary. I loved Charlotte’s Web, the Black Stallion books and Where the Red Fern Grows.

At one point I went through a romance phase and I read every Harlequin or similar title I could get my hands on. The particulars of the story didn’t matter – cowboys, cops, surf stars – I read all of them. I read the sweet romances, the intrigue stories, even the “spicy” ones!

I don’t remember for sure when I read my first fantasy novel, but I’m pretty sure it was J. R. R. Tolkein. I was hooked in an instant. Tolkein was quickly followed by others: Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Stephen R. Donaldson, Tad Williams.

There’s been more influences, of course. Suspense and thrillers like John Grisham, Tami Hoag, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich. And classics such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Homer, George Orwell, Mark Twain.

All of these and more have become “mashed up” together in my imagination. This is where my own stories come from.

I can’t deny that the greatest influence has been my background in Christian faith – an influence that began even before my birth. I grew up going to church, reading the Bible and so on. The stories of Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Balaam’s Donkey, the miracles of Jesus. These stories formed the foundation of my imagination.

What then would I “mash up” with my own current novel in progress? I can’t choose just one. I’d have to go with the rich, world-building details of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the exciting suspense of Tami Hoag, the beautiful language of Shakespeare and the simple, outright fun of Janet Evanovich.

And yes, I’ll own my faith too. This is who I am, and I write from this worldview. A worldview that is built on the foundation of faith and that expands with each new book, each new experience. I won’t pretend it’s a complete or perfect worldview. That’s why I keep reading. And writing.

National Novel Writing Month: Lessons Learned & What Happens Now

The idea behind National Novel Writing Month is to engage in a crazy, creative endeavor and complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. This event began in 1999 and has since become an international sensation. If you’ve never checked it out, you should!

I began participating in NaNoWriMo in 2010. I wrote the first 50,000 words of a novel I have yet to fully complete. I have worked on this novel on and off since then, and the word count is currently somewhere around 150,000. I’ve learned a great deal in the intervening years, however, and much of that first 50k needs to be completely rewritten.

One thing I learned is that while there is great energy in writing by the seat of your pants (a.k.a. pantsing), a lot of time can be saved with a little planning before jumping into a novel-length project. Therefore, as November is once again approaching, I find myself working to better prepare myself to write the ending of this long overdue novel.

Currently, I am slogging through extensive character profiles. This is work I’ve actually done previously, but tragically lost in a recent computer failure. Another lesson, hard learned along the way. Back up your work! Do it now, and do it frequently!

I am very close to finishing this novel. My goal now is to complete it this November. In the coming weeks before a new NaNoWriMo event begins, I intend to prepare. I will be ready with characters I know better than I know myself. And I will have a workable outline for finishing this novel.

Are you planning to write this November? How are you preparing? If you’ve done this before, what lessons have you learned?

Novel No. 4 in B Minor

Something happened today as I pondered the WordPress daily prompt, melody. I love music. It’s always been a part of my existence. I wondered what I might write about this word.

I’ve also been pondering the Twitter #hashtag event #WIPjoy that is going on throughout the month of September. It’s hosted by @simmeringmind, and she’s put together a prompt for every day. I’m already two days behind because September sort of snuck up on me. I’ll get caught up though!

WIPjoy_Sept2016

As I pondered these two seemingly separate things on my drive to work this morning they merged into one. I suddenly realized that the novel I’m working on involves a great deal of music. My main character, after all, is a bard. Music is his life.

It occurred to me that this character’s story line is the primary melody of my novel. It is his conflict with the main antagonist that provides the basis for the entire story. At the same time, there are several other supporting characters on both sides of the “good vs. evil” line. These, I decided are the harmonies. They support and compliment the melody line.

I am suddenly excited again about this new revelation I’ve discovered about this novel in progress. This one has been a long time in coming and it deserves to be completed. Let’s make some music!

September, Tent Forts & Pumpkin Cheesecake: New Season, New Goals

I can’t believe it’s September already. Just two weeks ago, we had triple digit temperatures, but now, we have gray skies, rain showers and a bit of a chill in the air. It was downright shivery at work today as the air conditioning must still be in summer mode.

Yes, September has arrived. The leaves are turning and falling. The first day of school is only a week away. My children are sleeping in a make-shift tent on the floor in the living room tonight. And I am staying up late baking a pumpkin cheesecake. Indeed, summer is on her way out.

It’s a new season, it must be time for some new goals. I started this blog back in January without any real clue as to what I hoped to accomplish with it. I intended that it would be a place where I could share my words with others and push myself to do more with my writing. I think I’ve made a good start, but I still don’t really know what this blog should be about.

Writing…

I’ve been sharing my experiences as I work through my writing projects. This has been a bit of a wild ride for me. Exciting, but a little intimidating. In April, I shared some background and research bits on my middle grade novel in progress, The Curse of the Anne Venture. Introducing my three main characters, Mike, Tommy and Elijah was particularly fun.

Then, in July, I began working on fantasy short stories from the world of another novel in progress. I decided I would publish one here on my blog, and asked you to help me decide which one that would be. The process of writing, rewriting, revising and polishing a story for publication has proven to be different than I anticipated. Thus, I am behind on this project. I had hoped to publish the completed story, “Shattered”, on September 3. While I’ve had to rethink this schedule, I still intend to publish this story on the blog. But first, I want to make it the best story possible.

My writing goals this month then are first, to finish the story “Shattered” and have it ready for publication by the end of September. Second, I intend to continue with the book reviews, ideally, one per week. And last, I will continue with the personal essays in response to the WordPress daily prompt as well as any others that might come up.

Reading…

When started this blog I intended to also write book reviews. This is something I’ve never really done before, so it’s been a learning experience. I’m enjoying it more with each book. Participating in the 2016 Reading Challenge has pushed me to expand my reading experiences.

I’ve fallen a little bit behind with this challenge, however so one goal of mine is to catch up on my reading during the month of September. With November (National Novel Writing Month) coming quickly, I’d prefer to get ahead even. But two of the biggest books on the list are still to be read.

Ideally, I will be able to finish at least three books from this list. Currently I’m working on Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, and next up will be Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, followed by Stop That Girl, by Elizabeth McKenzie.

…and Life in General

As I work on expanding the reach of my blog, I decided to try responding to the WordPress daily prompt. A one-word prompt meant only to stimulate ideas, wherever that might take you. I wrote about more random subjects this past month than I would have thought possible.

While I’m enjoying this activity, and my posts seem to be well received, I’m not convinced this is the direction I want to go with my blog. I’ll keep at it for now. I’d like to see how things take shape over the course of the next few months.

My goal then, is to continue to respond to the daily prompts as I’m inspired. When I started this, I didn’t think I could ever find time to write something every day. I’m not there yet, and I don’t intend to push myself that hard. At least for now. I’d like to see at least one post a week, however, and I think that’s very doable!

 

These are my goals for September. It will be a stretch to accomplish all that I want to do, but they are not unreasonable. And there can be no growth without a bit of stretching. It’s a new season, a new start.

What are your goals this fall? Thanks for reading!

Summertime, Ghosts, Campfires & Stories

Today’s word prompt, ghost, was a timely one for me for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been trying to write up a couple of ghost stories to be included in my middle grade novel, The Curse of the Anne Venture. And secondly, I’m preparing for a summer adventure that could involve some ghost stories.

Ghost Stories

My novel, The Curse of the Anne Venture begins with my three adventurers exchanging ghost stories with three girls. It becomes a sort of boy vs. girl contest as they each try to out do the other. I’ve struggled with writing these stories because I’ve never been one to listen to or tell ghost stories. Today, however, I made a little progress.

Because of the nature of the overall story, one of the ghost stories involves a ghost ship. I’ve based this story on the “Flying Dutchman” tale. I’ve done a little research trying to learn more about this story and the characters involved. I learned that there are two real life ship captains from the Dutch East India Company, Bernard Fokke and Hendrik Van der Decken, either of whom could have been the original inspiration for this ghostly legend.

The Flying Dutchman is a fascinating little tale filled with mysterious references to, and sightings of, the ghost ship. My task now is to retell this story as an eleven year old boy might tell it.

My second ghost story is to be told by an eleven year old girl. I went looking for a story she might tell and I decided to try and find one with a local attachment. My adventure novels are based out of a small town not far from where I live, so I began my search there. And I found bits of a story centering around an old, historical building which is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of an old man. I’m still looking into the particulars of this story, but I’m hoping to turn it into something interesting.

Summertime Campfires

The second reason this ghost prompt feels so relevant to me is that I’m preparing at this moment to take my family on a summer adventure. My boys are all excited to go camping, sleep in a tent, swim in a lake, and roast marshmallows over a campfire.

Ghost stories are a campfire tradition for many people, though I suspect there might be more singing around ours than storytelling. But idea of a little spookiness before snuggling into the sleeping bag is a fun one. My children are still quite young, therefore any ghost stories would need to be mild indeed.

I had hoped this morning when I learned of the daily prompt, to be able to actually share my completed ghost stories. I didn’t get them finished, nor did I get much done in the way of preparing for my own family adventure.

However, I did have some fun researching the stories, and I finally feel like I have a real sense of what to write.

Do you have a favorite ghost story? How about a favorite childhood memory of campfire stories? I’d love to hear about it!