Reading & Writing

Writing Exercise: Flamingo

Do you ever get words stuck in your head? I’ve heard it’s a symptom of OCD (though if you look up a full list of OCD symptoms you’ll probably un-diagnose yourself). There was a time in my life when these words plagued me. I’d read the name of a chemical on a shampoo bottle in the morning and it would play over and over and over and over, whenever my mind was quiet.

This morning, for no reason at all, I thought of the word “flamingo.” Flamingo, flamingo, flamingo. And just as it was starting to get annoying I though, “Maybe I could use this.”

So the challenge this week is to write something using a repetitive word. I know it can work when wielded by the right writer–just read something by Robert Lopez and you’ll see what I mean. (Seriously, though, read Robert Lopez anyway. He’s amazing.)

Here’s mine:

Continue reading “Writing Exercise: Flamingo”
Reading & Writing

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt: Skip to the End

IMG_0454You are almost there, you NaNoWriMo-er, you. Just one more day! You will make it to that finish line. You WILL.

But you might be having trouble. You might be exhausted.

Here’s what you’re gonna do. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt: Skip to the End”

Reading & Writing

How to Win NaNoWriMo

blogger-chicken.pngHappy November!

Halloween has come and gone and today, All Saints Day, thousands of writers across the country are firing up their word processors for the first day of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, here’s the gist: to participate in the official NaNoWriMo competition, you go on the website, create an account, and then spend the next 30 days hammering out 50,000 words of fiction. Continue reading “How to Win NaNoWriMo”

Reading & Writing

People, Places, and Other Things That Ruin My Writing

I’m at Starbucks, where I go to escape my caterwauling children and get some time to write. Every Saturday, every Sunday, the same seat in the corner near the electrical outlet unless I’ve had too rough a night with the baby and end up running late. Three Word documents open: the current draft, the previous draft, and something titled “What Happens Next” to keep me on track with the plot. Triple venti mocha today, nonfat with whipped cream. I always splurge when I have a star reward.

There’s a man next to me, one small table between us, typing and typing like he does every Sunday, the clicks coming quickly considering he’s missing several fingers on his left hand. He reminds me of someone from college and I probably look at him more than I should when the work pauses. He wears a blue windbreaker. A stack of books on his table, from a glance: a day planner, a notebook, a Bible. Continue reading “People, Places, and Other Things That Ruin My Writing”

Reading & Writing

I Should Be NaNoWriMo-ing…

It’s November third, which means it’s day three of NaNoWriMo: what you might call a literary event, held every year, in which hundreds (thousands?) of writers sit down for a couple hours a day all November long and try to crank out a novel (or, at least, 50,000 words). It’s a task I’ve tried twice and completed once, both a long, long time ago. The time I “won” (they love their supportive and potentially over-the-top language on the NaNoWriMo site), I never ended up finishing the novel (even if 50,000 words were a full novel draft, which it ain’t, a first draft is not a finished product, I don’t care who you are), though I worked on it for a couple years after that. The novel I eventually did end up completing, which is in my agent’s (and several potential publishers’–eek! wish me luck!) hands at the moment, was the product of maybe five years all together, writing connected stories, figuring out my character, cobbling things together–about as opposite as you can get from the NaNoWriMo model. Because as much as people will tell you to spit out the first draft quickly and then fix it up later, that’s not how I work. New ideas come to me. I reroute and redirect. I comb through the old before I try to untangle the new.

So that’s why I’m NaNoWriMo-ing. Because it’s not me. Because I never work from an outline or spit things out quickly or write without looking back. And I will not cave to all those who would say that’s a bad thing, but I do believe that writers need to keep trying new things. I don’t want to write the same story over and over again, so why should I always write the same way? So this time, I have an outline (at least, through two-thirds of the book–plus a pretty good idea of the ending), and I’m plugging away during my baby’s naps and after the kids are sleeping and whatever stolen moments I need. And I’m already feeling the old urge to polish up the sentences before moving on but I won’t do it. Instead, I’m taking to the internet to publicly remind myself of why I’m doing this and how it is to be done.

That wast three hundred and seventy-nine words. Do they count toward my total?