Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions (aka NYRs)

This time every year, people start thinking about their New Year's Resolutions (aka NYRs).  Some seriously ponder the idea and try to come up with deep, introspective thoughts about how they can improve their personal well being, and others simple recycle the same old list from the previous year.  And a LOT of people fall off the wagon and give up before February 1 rolls around.

I believe that the typical understanding of NYRs have people predisposed to fail, since it's practically impossible to maintain a whole bunch of life changes simultaneously.  I take a different approach to NYRs - I look at them as goals to work on over the following year and accomplish by December 31 of the new year.  So instead of saying, "I'm going to eat healthy and work out 60 minutes every day," I could say, "I'm going to lose 60# by December 31."  Then I'd look at my end goal and break it down into more realistic, manageable chunks.  That way, if you fall off the wagon on February 1, no big deal - you can just get back on it the next day!

You can't handle EVERY NYR this way, but it certainly helps with some of them.

Like everyone else, I've been thinking about my NYRs.  Here are a few that I've come up with:
  1. Publish at least 52 blog posts by December 31, 2012 (that's at least 1/week).  I don't think that all (or even most) of these posts will be about writing, or books, or grad school.  I honestly don't think that process is interesting enough to write about that frequently, at least not to me.  And if I come up with more posts than that, then great - but I don't want to over-commit and predispose myself to failure.
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel.  Which novel, I didn't specify - I'm crafty that way.  I thought about saying, "Write every day," but again, I think that leaves me predestined to fail.
  3. Submit at least six different stories to twelve different journals.  I thought about saying, "Sell at least X stories," but again this might condemn me to failure, only because my success in that would depend on forces outside myself.  NYRs are about the self, not external validation.
  4. Be more punctual.  I'm always tardy, and that's disrespectful of other people in my life and makes me look unorganized.  This is the one item that can't be quantified as of December 31 - I'll just have to do better!
What NYRs do you have lined up for 2012?  For another interesting blog post on resolutions, see the Time Management Ninja.  I love his blog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Beware The Hawk

No, not me ... I'm talking about my friend A.J. O'Connell, who I had the privilege of meeting at the 2011 AWP Conference.  She's not a hawk, and you don't have to be wary of her.  She's quite nice, actually.  She recently finished her MFA at Fairfield University, and she has an ebook coming out in January titled Beware the Hawk.  It's a novella about ... well, I can't describe it since I haven't read it yet, but she talks about it here.

I'm really excited for her and can't wait to read her book, and I hope that you will/are too!  You can learn more about A.J. by reading her blog, The Garrett, or following her Twitter feed, @ann_oconnell.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: The Last Town on Earth

The Last Town on Earth
Author: Thomas Mullen
Paperback: 432 pages
Published: July 31, 2007

The Last Town on Earth tells the story of a secluded mill town in the Pacific northwest, and the ensuing events when the town decides to quarantine itself against the Spanish flu pandemic of 1917-1918.  Mullen does a wonderful job of weaving the three archetypal conflicts: man vs. man, man vs. the machine (society), and man vs. nature.  He does so in an unexpected way, with a wide cast of well-developed characters.  The story initially revolves around Philip, the adopted son on the mill's owner, but it becomes quickly apparent that while he continues as the main protagonist, this is not just his story; the town is really the main character, and all the people that play a role here are the supporting cast.  Ultimately, Mullen does leave a few plot lines unresolved, but for the most part this is a finely written, engaging book.  I couldn't put it down.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

November Is Upon Us ...

So, It's that time of year again ... it's almost time for NaNoWriMo. November is only a few days away, and I am determined to do NaNo again this year ... despite the fact that:
  1. I have no idea what I'm going to write
  2. My last two attempts were thwarted by my perfectionist nature and my desire to write something GOOD
  3. I am a horrible procrastinator
Every year, I think that I am going to write something brilliant.  Without intending to toot my own horn, I must say this:  I am a very fast writer.  I write with a laptop - which is sacrilege to a number of my fellow M.A. students - but I edit/revise with a pen, simply because my brain runs too fast.  A pen simply cannot keep up with what's going on in my head, and I've only gotten faster as my typing skills have improved over the years.

(Aside: are you a writer, and you want to be able to type faster?  Get an office job in which you are deluged by emails, all of which need to be answered pronto.  Your typing skills will naturally improve in short order.)

I bring this up to demonstrate a point.  I can easily type 50K words in 30 days.  I've been known to write entire short stories (16-20 pp.) over the course of a day or evening, and they usually come out pretty decent.  Requiring revising, of course, but the structure and the story is there and it's readable.

But for some reason, the idea of a novel in 30 days leaves me stymied.  I did succeed once, in 2009, but only just barely and not without (I think) damaging the nerve cells in my wrists.  And I was only able to do that because my husband was pushing me to finish, and I didn't want to deal with him giving me a hard time for the rest of the year if I didn't.

My problem is that I start out with these grandiose ideas of my Great American Novel, and everything is going to be fabulous and magical ... until I start writing, and I begin thinking, "This is such a piece of crap. I'm a better writer than this. What the hell am I doing?"

I fail to remember every time that every writer's first draft is crap. I forget, I get discouraged and I give up.  I just need to remember that the first draft is SUPPOSED to be terrible, that the real craft, the real art comes with the revision.  ANYONE can write a novel in 30 days if they spend enough time at the keyboard, but it's a writer who can take that steaming pile of crap and make it beautiful.

So my region's NaNo kick-off party is this afternoon.  I was supposed to drive up north to see my sister and niece, but the snow (WTF? In OCTOBER?) put an end to that, which means I get to go to my kick-off party! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo, Anyone?

If you're a writer (or maybe if you know someone who is a writer, you've probably heard about something called NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, that stands for National Novel Writing Month, aka November, during which thousands (millions?) of writers across the globe scramble to write 50K words in a month. It's exhilarating, it's exhausting, and it's triumphant when you actually cross that 50K finish line.

This year, the folks over at NaNoWriMo are trying something new, and it's called Camp NaNoWriMo - essentially the same thing, but in the months of July and August for those who can't do a novel in November, those who can't wait for November, and those who are just gluttons for punishment.

If you want to get involved and give it a try, it's not too late - it's only the 6th of August. (I'm participating, and I haven't written a damn word yet, and I'm procrastinating right now by writing this blog post.) So click the link above and sign up!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So You Want To Write a Novel

Thanks to David Kazzie for putting together this awesome video ... everybody thinks that it's so easy to be a successful writer! David posted his video as a guest blogger on Pimp My Novel yesterday, and I thought it was so fantastic that I had to share!

You can read David Kazzie's humor blog at

And thanks to Eric at Pimp My Novel for allowing David to share!