Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Finding the Blessings Under a Blanket of Snow

 I’ve never been a fan of winter. Give me the summer sun and a pool, lake, or ocean to float in, or heck, even a lawn sprinkler, and I’ll be totally content. A winter wonderland is something I prefer to see in photos. So I’m sure you can imagine how I grumbled at the forecasts of this historic snow event. They’re calling it Snowmageddon? Really?

This morning at daylight 10” of snow covered our world and it was -2 degrees in our little map dot. For our area, that’s a ten-year, or even a twenty-year record. Plus, the forecast calls for a second wave starting tonight. So I decided to pull my blanket tighter and look on the bright side.

First, Gary and I are both in good health and do not need to go out to seek medical care or treatment. At our ages, or at any age actually, this is a blessing.

We were able to go pick up supplies ahead of the first wave, so we have plenty. We are aware that not everyone had the physical ability or the financial ability to stock up, and we are grateful for both.

Additionally, we both have bosses who allowed us to use our own judgement about the roads. We are very blessed in this regard, but I also know it is in part because we both are the type of employee who have not and would not abuse such privilege. We each have some paid time off we can draw from, or worse-case scenario, missing a few day’s pay will not be a catastrophe at this point in our life. There have been points where this was not the case for either of us. Another blessing.

As of now, we still have electricity, and our water hasn’t frozen. Both those things are blessings that many of our friends and neighbors do not have today. Our home is warm and dry, thanks to natural gas heat and insulation. Another blessing.

The only animals we are responsible for these days are sleeping soundly inside with us. We can both remember days of bone-chilling cold spent breaking water and getting hay out for horses or cows. We have the utmost compassion and respect for the caregivers of all farm and ranch animals. We salute you, we pray for you, but we are very glad we are no longer among your ranks.

This weather is record-breaking, and beautiful, and challenging, and could even be deadly. Please exercise caution whether you’re inside or out. And as you enter Snowmageddon 2021, remember to count your blessings. Even if they’re under a foot of snow.


Friday, November 20, 2020

NaNoWriMo Update - I'm a Loser


How Not to Win NaNoWriMo

It’s the first of November and I’m off like a flash. Well, maybe not a flash. More like a puff. a small puff, barely more than a sigh. But the point is, I’m off. I’m writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month.

The fabulous idea that has been buzzing around my head starts to take shape on the screen. After a few days of diligently sitting down every day, I have written myself out of ideas.

I back up and jot some notes. I think seriously about where I want this story to go, then write some more. I write a couple of scenes that are really short stories that might be able to stand alone. I edit what I’ve written, which is a no-no in NaNo.

I catch myself writing backstory. Is that important or am I just trying to fill up pages?

Then, I have a discussion with some fellow writers about some advice we’ve heard over and over and over. Start with action. Hook your reader from the very first paragraph, first sentence if possible.

I haven’t done that. I look at the parameters of a Novel Start contest being sponsored right now by my friends at Scrivenings Press. The contest is for the first five pages of a novel. Hmm.

I re-read my piece, and get to page nine before any real action starts. Well, what if I started there?

It’s mid-November. I should have 50% of a novel, but I don’t. I’m not sure what I have, but I suspect it will never be a novel. So right in the middle of a challenge to reach 50,000 words, which I was going to have to push hard to reach, I’m just scrapping the first twenty percent and starting over.

A few days later, I have the first five pages of a novel, and I think it’s pretty good. I may actually enter it in the Scrivenings Press contest. The prize includes a Novel completion coaching session, which I definitely need.

I don’t know how much of my original story I’ll be able to use in the new version, if any. I’ve spent a few days beating myself up over not completing the 50,000-word challenge. But I have come to the conclusion that I will be happier with writing something good, and resisting the urge to just write words for the sake of the count. I won’t have anything complete by the end of the month, but I’m okay with that.

If you’re stressing about NaNoWriMo, ask yourself if it’s worth it. You might be okay with just writing for the sake of the story rather than the word count. Either way, just write. That's the most important thing, after all.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

NaNoWriMo 2020

 (I originally wrote this post for THE WRITE WAY, the blog on the White County Creative Writers website. If you're interested in writing, definitely check out that website. I have updated it slightly for this year.)

It’s almost November, and that means NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, that’s National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never heard of it, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that there’s an online community of writers who pledge to complete a novel in only thirty days.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
But every year since 1999, thousands have proven that it can be done. The idea started small, but has continued to grow every year. Hundreds of those novels have gone on to be published by traditional publishers, while hundreds more have been self-published.
The goal is a complete first draft, a minimum of 50,000 words in thirty days or less. That’s less than 2,000 words per day. Anyone can enter. There’s no entry fee, and it’s simple to participate.
• Sign up on the website nanowrimo.org
• Describe your novel – title, genre, brief synopsis. (You can be as brief as you want, and you can change the title later.)
• Start writing on November 1.
• Update your word count after each writing session.
• When complete, paste your full text into the online word-count validator. If you have 50,000 or more words, you win! (It’s a tool that merely counts words. No one reads it. The story remains yours to edit or do with as you wish.)
The site contains lots of support, pep talks from publishers and authors, and resources. You can earn achievement badges and connect with other writers who are participating. There are regional groups and some areas form local groups that meet in person.
According to the website, there are more than 798,000 active novelists registered. And almost 400,000 novels have been completed so far since NaNoWriMo began. Now, that doesn't mean that 400,000 novels have been published. As writers, we all know there is still a lot of work to be done after a writer "wins" NaNoWriMo. But I'd rather have a completed first draft than another brightly polished story-start to add to my collection.
Why not give it a try? Grab one of those ideas you have in the back of your mind, sign up, and start writing. Remember, this is a first draft, so don’t waste time editing and polishing. Just tell your story.
What have you got to lose? It's simple and participation is free. And this is 2020, so what else do you have to do? That deadline and daily word-count goal might be just what you need to get that novel out of your head and onto the page.