NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month. By the time you see this post, I will have committed to writing a novel in the month of November. While I didn’t fully commit on their site, or to finishing my draft completely, I did decide to challenge myself and make some changes in my writing habits. NaNoWriMo is a grueling process and is not for the faint of heart. Here is what I learned about myself during the process, and I have to say, a couple of them surprised me.
Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month isn’t for everyone, and for the last few years, I fought against participating in NaNoWriMo because I felt the stress would be too high. I am happy to admit I was wrong, and that challenging myself to stick to a regular schedule, started me on a path of a wonderful new habit. I look forward to producing more books and continuing to keep my Muse happy in the future!
NaNoWriMo 2019…here I come! - DH (original post on www.saraybooksllc.com)
Author: Judy Bobrow
Published: September 23, 2015
This is a book about Carrying On. It tells the story of four families who Carried On through health, sickness, loss, upheaval, change and challenge. In their travels through life, the luggage they carried was filled with their genes, the things they had been taught, and their own unique experiences. Part of the same family tree, they lived their lives Carrying On the values of those who had come before them and, by example, taught them to those who followed.
To learn more about the author, click here!
By: D.A. Henneman
Perhaps I shouldn't be so
Rough on myself and
Overly demanding of my time
Clearly I should be working on my book but the
Reality of it is ... I'm really not
Able to focus on one thing at a time.
Sometimes demands fight for my
Time and most often they win.
In those moments I throw my hands in defeat and do
As I sit with my own thoughts, staring at a blank sheet
The realization that I will need to work twice-as-hard later kicks in and
I am pained that I have wasted yet another afternoon
On menial tasks that keep me from working on the
Novel once again. I suppose there is always tomorrow.
I always thought that if you wanted to help readers see what you are thinking and feeling, adjectives are what you need, the more the better. But in a recent New York Times Sunday magazine, Sam Anderson, in his column “New Sentences,” shows us how verbs can be even more descriptive.
“The past sleds behind him,” is a sentence Anderson uses as an example. It is taken from Christine Schutt’s “Pore Hollywood: and Other stories.” (Grove Press, 2018, Page 96). Schutt is the author of two previous collections and three novels, including the National Book Award finalist “Florida.” Here is what Anderson says about this sentence:
“What an excellent verb: “sleds.” What a weirdly specific way to visualize time. In just five quick words, this sentence converts the entire history of everything – the whole past – from its usual state of formless abstraction (an energy field, a tidal wave, a void) into something fabulously active and small: a kid on a toboggan, scraping and sliding behind you, bumping over little hills, cheeks red from the cold, pompom bouncing yarnily on top of a winter hat The past becomes perky and alive and attentive, always on your heels, even as you trek perpetually forward.
“As a livelong mope, I tend to imagine the past very differently – as fundamentally huge and sad. It is a kind of ocean, always running backward toward low tide, receding, draining away from me, and I stand stuck on the edge of its shore, knowing that it contains everything I have ever known – my father and mother, the old maple tree, a black dog and an orange cat, my grandmother’s terrifying clock – but all of that is under the surface now, suspended in the water that rushes away from me, and I will never be able to enter it, will never recover what has sunk, and it causes me real pain. All of the water that happens to be inside of me, the cellular plasma, keens for all of that other water leaving, because it knows there will be no high tide.
“But language is a powerful thing. Change an image, and so much changes with it. The past can be a broom closet stuffed with receipts. The past can be a heron hunting the frog of the now. The past can be Bigfoot – a legendary thing, blurry, possibly real and possibly not, swinging its arms through precisely the forest you are not currently in. Or the past can be a sled. Just turn around and look.”
Makes me want to play more in the verb playground! JB
Author: Linda Grischy
Genre: How-to, Non-Fiction
Published: May 28, 2014
Are you currently a landlord or considering rental property for extra income? If so, you'll want to read this book -- Avoid making costly mistakes! Learn the easy way: through the mishaps of Real Landlords. This book is fun and entertaining yet packed with useful insight!
For more on the author, click here!
Author: Madelyn March
Genre: Women's Fiction, Inspiration
Published: May 13, 2015
Darkness is growing within Anna Montagna and she can’t control it. She’s hurt someone that she loves. She fears that mental illness is descending upon her, like it did her mother, except her mother never hurt anyone. Scared and alone, Anna flees to small-town Mikamaw in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to save her family from the monster that she has become. Anna hopes to find anonymity and solitude in Mikamaw, but instead finds a slightly-psychic friend, nosy locals, and the healing nature of the landscape. Despite the hundreds of miles Anna travels to escape her past, it continues to haunt her. She tries to drown her life’s regrets in alcohol and deep water, but they always resurface. When her husband and best friend find her in Mikamaw, she must decide whether to confront the past or turn and keep running.
For more on the author, click here!
Why can’t I seem to get out of my own way?” is the question Cheston Knapp asks in his recent book of autobiographical essays, Up Up Down Down. The question caught my eye in a review of the book in the February 25 Book Review section of The New York Times, by writer and comedian Michael Ian Black.
Knapp’s question is one we can all ask ourselves as we struggle to solve life’s complexities. Our habits of thinking, the places our minds go when nobody is looking, our hardwired perceptions of our own abilities – they all get in the way from time-to-time. But for Knapp, who is struggling to move forward from aspiring reader and writer to literary reader and writer, the question is asked in the context of his writing life.
Like Knapp, I am constantly trying to “get out of my own way” when I write. Instead trusting that how I see something deserves to be taken seriously, and that I am the best person to express what I am feeling and seeing, I find myself struggling with my own insecurity. The voice in my head is saying, “Who do you think you are? Yours is not an authentic voice. When they read what you’ve written they will see that you’re not a ‘real writer.’”
The voice in my head often stops me from sitting down to write at all or changes my writing voice to one that is someone else’s. It suggests that maybe my descriptions need expanding. Perhaps a sprinkling of metaphors would be a good idea. How about searching the thesaurus for more impressive word choices? Valid suggestions all but at some point, perhaps, I should just let my own voice come through. Although not perfect, it is authentic and honest and – mine.
As I consider Knapp’s question, I am paying close attention to what critic Black, managing editor of the Portland Oregon-based literary magazine, Tin House, says.
He advises Knapp to take a deep breath, swallow his insecurities and trust in his already excellent writing voice. In short, drop the question mark and simply get on with getting “out of his own way.”
Sounds like good advice! I think I’ll give it a try myself. JB
I’ve been hearing that publishers don’t like prefaces to novels. They say those are just a note to the author, not the reader. But I’ve lately read a couple of novels that were published with a preface. So I asked myself, why? The Kitchen House opens with a preface in which we see a woman hanging from a tree. The novel then tells us how that came about. That preface does a little work in giving the reader a sort of mystery: who, why, etc? Rules of Civility (Amor Towles, Penguin, 2012) is a far better novel that opens with a preface. I’m looking at it carefully to see why.
It opens with a date: October 4, 1966. So it does that little task, and we meet the narrator, an upper middle class Manhattan editor and her husband. Then we’re told that the scene is the opening of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, the opening of a show called, Many Are Called, “portraits” the narrator says, taken by Walker Evans, taken surreptitiously on the subway in New York City, during the depression years. Evans had a camera up his sleeve, and took pictures of the people sitting directly opposite him on the subway, without their ever knowing they were being photographed. (If you have time, stop here and think about the epigraph, a quotation from Matthew 22:8 to 14, where Christ does some parable ending with “many are called, but few are chosen.” So far I haven’t figured that out, so I asked my local library to get the Evans book, Many Are Called. Still haven’t figured it out. The epilogue of the novel is titled “few are chosen.”)
The preface goes on to a little discussion of the nature of society these days, that is, 1966: too much drinking, for one thing. But it focuses on the role of the US in the world now that World War II has decimated our competition and the Russians don’t seem to be much of a threat. Then the preface narrows down to Manhattan and to the exhibit of photographs taken back in the thirties. Depression and flappers.
And the narrator begins her personal history, her own life during the depression. She imagines that the exhibit might be quite a revelation for the younger people there, but for her it brings up old ghosts, and one old ghost in particular: there are two portraits of a man one surmises was once a romantic attachment. The first they see shows him “ill shaven in a threadbare coat” underweight, but bright eyed and addressing the world. Vibrant and naive. The second one they see shows the same man well dressed, filled out, handsome, sure of himself. Perhaps a little world-weary. But. The second picture they see is actually the younger version of the man. This is not about a young man finding himself. It’s about a man losing himself. Or is it? The novel will be not about the rise, but rather about the fall, of Tinker Grey. Or not.
The narrator alludes to Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which you may remember is a poem about the moral bankruptcy of Edwardian England: “time enough to murder and create—or at least, to have warranted the dropping of a question on your plate.” In the context the question appears to be the question of what has happened in her past. And the question on her plate is the question of what happened then, not just the events, but what did they mean?
And the allusion suggests at least some moral decay as a theme for the novel. I note that near the end of the novel the narrator again alludes to Prufrock, “There will be time for a hundred indecisions, for a hundred visions and revisions.” The novel is bookended with Prufrock. (“And in the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo” ---the poem, like this preface, is set in a high society art gallery.) And the structure of the novel is rather well described there: a hundred visions and revisions. This is not a novel with a strong plot, where the protagonist confronts an evil and vanquishes that evil in the final scene. What it does is give us the narrator’s vision of each character, and then at least one revision, in some cases several revisions, none of them really conclusive. Ultimately they are visions and revisions of society in New York City. Think The Great Gatsby, and also, Edith Wharton (House of Mirth, specifically).
And the theme of the portraits is carried out through the book, with some of Evans’ portraits introducing sections, as if the novel, too, is an exhibition of a series of portraits.
The cultural density of the novel is impressive. And the writing is masterly. Like so many other writers today, Towles manages at least one simile, usually rather epigrammatic, per page. They are extended similes that account for much of the texture of the prose, and often for the cultural density that causes me to hear so much more per line. There are whole metaphoric paragraphs where the energy is concentrated like a black hole: but these emit a lazer light.
So. What does this preface do? It sets up a world context for the novel, and a social context, takes us into the depression through the eyes of a celebrated, photographer, who actually lived outside the novel, and lets us know that the novel will be very literary, by which I mean it locates itself in the literary world, takes up the questions our best literature explores, and then finally narrows down to the business of what happened to one particular man during the thirties, as seen from the point of view of one specific woman.
This preface is rich enough to be a novel in itself. It is a guide to reading the novel, raises all the themes the novel will work out. Is it really necessary? Would the novel succeed without it? Could this not have been handled as Chapter 1? Perhaps. In any case, I am grateful for the heads up. The novel is very rich and I love spending time with it. SQ
Genre: Non-Fiction, Marketing
Review by: D.A. Henneman
Fabulous! Wish I would have found this book months ago! The 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge is one of the best investments I have made for my business to date. It walked me through each day’s “assignment,” explaining not only what I should be doing, but why. Rachel’s voice is easy to read and supportive, but holds a high level of expectation. In order to be a success, you must do the work…I was all in!
What I found most helpful as a beginner is that she explained her points with visuals, and provided links to all of the references she made. I highly recommend following the links on time appropriate topics, they give you amazing insight! I was happy to see that I had many of the tools in place she suggested, but still gained a ton of direction to bring my author platform to the next level. This is a great reference for any writer’s toolbox, and would be effective for anyone conducting business online. I highly recommend the challenge for anyone just starting out. You won’t regret taking it!
‘Thanks for Writing it all Down’
That was a message from my granddaughter after she received the family history I wrote. I couldn’t have asked for a better response. After all, the primary audience for Carrying On was my grandchildren--Anna, Jacob, Sheldon and Eliana.
I had decided to write Carrying On because it occurred to me that when I became a grandmother, I also became the keeper of the family stories--the only one in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives who could answer the questions--the who, what, where and when of people they had never met but who they were connected to by an unbroken line of shared genes and relationships represented by the family tree.
I began with the idea that I wanted to find that moment in time when my parents and grandparents, and my husband’s parents and grandparents, became who they were. But I quickly realized that there is so much more to what we become than can be identified by any one moment. There is what is going on in the world, the family dynamic, the genetic configuration, the life experiences, and more. What a challenge! How could I possibly write about all of that in one little book?
After letting possible approaches percolate in my head for a while, I did what often works for me ¾some words of wisdom I learned in a photography class: “Isolate and simplify.” In this case I isolated what it was I wanted to convey to my grandchildren--that they had come from a family defined by the way they Carried On, through health, sickness, loss, upheaval and the many challenges of a world that was constantly changing and shaping their lives. And what was the simplest, most effective way for me to get that message across to children whose ages ranged from 8 to 20?
“Just tell the stories,” I said to myself. After all, that’s what we writers do, isn’t it?. We are storytellers--artists really--who draw pictures of people, events, conflict, resolution and mystery, not with paint on canvas, but with words on paper. I began mining my memory for the stories that had been told to me. I asked others what they remembered. I went to Ancestry.com for the hard facts: Dates of births and deaths, nationalities, residences, occupations, talents, travels, connections. I spent endless hours going through pictures, letters, clippings and cards that had been packed away in boxes and envelopes for years.
Then I wrote, and wrote, and revised and revised, and worried over telling it just right. The Muse Crew, my treasured writing group, took me by the hand, encouraging me and prodding me to dig deeper. At the suggestion of an editor, who reminded me that my grandchildren might be even more curious about my life than they would be about the lives of people they had never met, I added a section about myself. I wondered when I would know that it was finished.
Then, miraculously, one day I woke up to a finished book. I had done what I wanted to do. I had brought my ancestors to life for a younger generation, with the hope that they would someday use my book as a starting place to continue the story. Then a funny thing happened.
I realized that in “writing it all down” for my grandchildren, I had gained a new understanding and appreciation for my family. They weren’t famous in the larger world. They hadn’t invented anything, performed on any stage, written any best sellers or were written about by anyone else. What they did was live productive, thoughtful, honest, committed, creative lives, carrying on through many challenges and, for the most part, providing a positive example for those who followed. There is no doubt that understanding their lives has enriched my own. So Anna, Jacob, Sheldon and Eliana, I’m glad I wrote it all down too!
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