Random Post of Awesomeness: Braggin on a Buddy and…Me!

Hey guys! I just got the great news that I won a copy of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander over at Tracy Edward Wymer’s blog.

While I’m thrilled about winning the book, it’s going to an important cause: Getting kids to read!

Tracy’s whole contest was geared toward getting it into the hands of kids. You had to comment and tell what kid you would give the book to (after you’d finished reading it, of course). Well, my husband is switching gears from teaching high school to teaching middle school. First, I’m going to read this intriguing story. (See Tracy’s review here.) Then Shane’ll read it. Then it’s off into the hands of a passle o’ 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

We’ll probably grab a few more copies along the way….

So, cheers to me. Cheers to Tracy for having such a great idea. Cheers to writer Chris Rylander. And cheers to the students who will benefit.

Yet Another NaNo Commenter

For all you NaNo folks out there – stop reading this and get to writing! And good luck.

But I do want to talk about NaNo for a second, because I think it serves a fantastic purpose: getting people to write. It wakes up those muscles that some writers need to get to it. Then it also drives the writers who are stuck to just get something on paper that can be fixed later.

After doing a few word-writing races this year, and after a few discussions with my writerly fellows, I’ve concluded that getting stuff down is, indeed, incredibly important. It’s satisfying to see paper accumulate. Trees be damned!

But…and you do hear the but, don’t you?…if you are looking to improve your writing and you already write consistently (not necessarily every day, I mean, we do have lives, or some of us do, maybe) then I would consider skipping NaNo.

Why? Because the mindless plopping down of words – which is the definition of NaNo, to get those words down whether or not they are very coherent – only helps you if you’re not putting words down already. So, if you’re not putting words down, stop reading this and get to work. You won’t get that coveted NaNo blog patch otherwise.

For those of us working on a larger project prior to NaNo, and who are moving the words along: Step 1 accomplished.

The next part is considering how those words work. Sure, you want to outrun your inner editor/heckler but throwing words at a page, and hoping they stick, is no way to learn how to write better. The real way to outrun those inner editors/hecklers is to write any-friggin-way, and get better at the writing. Then there’s more confidence, which leads you to work on writing better, which leads to more confidence, which leads to better writing, and so on and so on.

NaNo doesn’t allow you to take that into consideration, that’s not its purpose. If you’re already writing and moving along at a steady clip, then I say keep that clip, don’t sweat the word count, and focus on what you are doing. Changing pace or schedule because it’s a celebratory word-smith month could actually stall you, distract you, and/or make you think you’re working too slow. As long as you’re writing, just keep going.

If you’re not writing, then stop reading this and do the NaNo challenge. 50K(words) to you.

Contest, Alexie, and Others

First off, a big ole congrats to Julia — the Boudreau Birthday Bash Contest winner. It’s kind of crushing to know that I was so close to her word count and bathroom construction took over that last day. (I’m sorry, I love writing, but I love my bathroom too…and you don’t know what you have until you can’t use it anymore, right?)

Next off, I went to hear Sherman Alexie speak as part of the All Pueblo Reads program. And I have a huge author crush on the Mentor. I’m going to go see him again, because he’s making one last presentation at the college before heading off to home (or where ever else he may be needed), and I’ll give you the overall impression in a little while.

But, before I go off to presentation-land, the question of questions came up as I was hanging out with John, Ali, and Ali’s +1 after the Alexie reading. Namely: if you could ask your favorite author one question, what would it be? And, conversely, as an author, what quesiton would you most like to be asked?

The Typing vs Handwriting Thingy

Normally, I’m a handwriter. But, after my last word count contest bobber where John kicked my tail, I figured something out: For writing contests, one should not handwrite everything and then try to type it in. Turns out, when you try to do that, you just wind up writing twice the words — but the words are the same because you’re writing them twice. Yes, this seems an obvious thing, but like so many other obvious things, I’m learning on the job.

For this go-round of Boudreau’s I determined that I would write via typing. I haven’t done a first draft like this in a long time. But you know what? I’m enjoying it. I’ve found that I can type four pages worth of words (read: 1000) in about 45 minutes on the computer vs. handwriting.

This seemed an odd thing to me, because I handwrite a lot faster than I type. But when I write by hand I was only hitting about three pages an hour, and handwritten pages just don’t have as many words when they’re typed up.

Then I came across an old Prevention article about overeating. There was an experiment conducted where one group was given a tube of Pringles. There was a second group who was also given a tube of Pringles — only this tube had every 7th Pringle colored red. Turns out, the group with the red Pringles stopped eating much, much earlier than the group with regular Pringles.

Why?

The researchers decided that the colored Pringles caught the eater’s attention and therefore drew said attention to the fact that they were eating. Every time a red chip popped up and interrupted their thought process (even subconciously) it made them aware that they were eating.

What does this have to do with handwriting actually being slower in my case?

The page turning.

I was handwriting in a notebook. Notebooks have pages that you have to stop and turn, unlike computers where you can just keep going and going and going without thinking about it. Each time I stopped to turn the page I became aware that I was writing. And I thought I was doing a lot of it…until I flipped back a page or two and realized that I’d only done a couple pages (maybe 400 words). It felt like I was going soooo slow, because the pages distracted me and made me think I was doing enough, when in fact I was doing too little.

Maybe colored Pringles and page turning are good for weightloss, but I don’t my book to be lightweight. I want some heft to that sucker. I can trim it down later if I need to.

I’ve decided for the next few months to do only writing on the computer (hee hee, it helps that I have a new one too) and I’ll just see how much paperweight I can gain.

Here’s to overeating!

Words, Words, Words

It’s such a shame that the word count contest only counts for one project — since the profs seemed to have teamed up and assigned terms papers all in this last week.

Blech.

Picking Prizes

My ultimate grand prize for the Nathan Bransford contest was one of the following:
1. A query critiqe
2. A partial critique
3. A 10-minute phone conversation/dish session

They’re all tempting prospects. But!

  • My query is getting results at the moment, so I’m not feeling inclined to send it in unless I’m actually query-ing. Plus, I don’t think the particular novel that I’m shopping around right now is something that he’d dig. I could be wrong, but still.
  • The 10-minute conversation was especially tempting because I have a couple off-beat projects that I’d like his opinion on. One being a serial killer poetry book, but he doesn’t rep poetry so I don’t know how much he could talk about that. Another being the round story project put together by UGWP–I’d like to know how one goes about trying to sell a group project.

Still, I went with the partial critique for 2 reasons.

The first is that Bransford is a writer–having a writer’s feedback is always, always welcome. Plus, being an agent as well, he’s read a lot. So he’s a very experienced reader as well. That’s gotta count for something.

The second is that there was some debate about the prologue….You know who you are….Having him read it could either clear the water, or muddy them a bit. We’ll see how that goes. Plus, I think my writing is strongest in the La Llorona story and, well, he’s an agent.

Yay! I finished a book today!

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Finally, something to review on Goodreads.

I’m also pretty close to finishing up my re-read of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, our current mentor of the month. Last time I read this book, I was thirteen. Around my birthday. Which is June 12. For those of you who don’t know–Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929. This makes her (or would have made her) exactly 50 years older than myself. Let me tell you, reading that she started her diary on a day very close in age to when I began reading it was a creepy, surreal, life-defining moment. In a way I think she’s always been an inspiration.

Today, she inspired me again. Please check out the following passage, from page 250 of the Definitive Edition, edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler:
“A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humerous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but…it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.”–Anne Frank

I sat there and about cried because, quite frankly (no pun intended!), the need of a writer was so clear. Writers need encouragement. They need readers. They need someone to know that what they have to say counts for something. And not only that our words count, but that our words are good. Creative. Refreshing. Emotionally relevent. So what do we do? We join writer’s groups, we make our ever-suffering families read works-in-progress, and

we enter contests.

Like I just did. Nathan Bransford, literary agent, author, and blogger extraordinaire, is hosting a first-paragraph contest on his blog. There’s almost 2,000 entries. I mean, that’s holy-moly-Batman-! kinda numbers. And I entered, hoping like the other almost 1,999 entrants that someone will like what I wrote.

Here’s the thing though:

You cannot base the assumption of your talent on a contest. You cannot. I repeat. You cannot. And, hell, let’s face it. Even if you made a million trillion dollars and won all the awards there was to be won and even if your mother loves it–a real writer, the one that sits down and writes and creates worlds and characters and magic, would alway say that “…it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.”

However, should you like to throw your writerly hat in the ring, here’s the link:
The 3rd-Sort-of-Annual-Stupendously-Ultimate-First-Paragraph-Challenge