Challenge Completed = Change

When I accepted my son’s challenge to participate in the NaNoWriMo, I had no idea where that experience would lead me. For years I wrote stories for children. I’m a good storyteller and it was an easy way to entertain kids. The challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was outside of anything I had ever attempted.

That first night I began writing my first adult fiction. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. It seemed like the story told itself. By end of the thirty days my first novel was written. A few years later it became Canyon Riddle, my first published work.

Today, I received notification my fourth novel, Mystery on Cherry Ridge, is being released. I am excited about this book and hope the readers enjoy the story.

But if you had told me ten years ago, I would be writing adult fiction I would have laughed in your face. Now I know that writing adult fiction is a lot of fun with fewer limitations than writing children’s stories.

If you have any desire to write, I challenge you to sign up and participate in the Nation Novel Writing Month. You will be busy writing the entire month of November and with the holidays it will seem like too much to attempt. For me, at the end of the day I lock myself in my office with hot tea and chocolate, and then write no matter how busy the day or how late the hour, I write for at least an hour. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage you to find your inspiration, location, and the time that works for you.

Go ahead and accept the challenge. It could change your life in ways that will surprise you.

Not a Winner, What Happens Now?

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This is the first year in five years I have not completed the NaNoWriMo challenge. Lots of reasons for it, but the biggest reason is I am traveling and couldn’t coordinate everything to find the time to complete the challenge.

On December 1, the sun came up and things continued on. I’m not crying or feeling sad for failing to complete my goal. I am glad for the experience and what I learned about myself.

The NaNoWriMo group sent me a very encouraging email at the end of the competition. This encouragement is typical of the NaNoWriMo community.

What is next? I will continue working on the story with the reality check that traveling takes a lot of my time and energy.

Book 3 via NaNoWriMo

winnerAfter the announcement that Coyote Vengeance, my second book with Texas Ranger Scott Durham, was available for Kindle, I got a question, “Is there going to be a third?” That sounds like a simple question, and the simple answer is yes. However, the book is in my head.

Over the past few months this third book has been forming in my head. The characters talk to me sometimes when I’m sleeping and at other times, like when I’m cooking – not good if there is fire or a sharp knife being used at the time. The characters are very demanding of my time. They have outlined a story for me but haven’t given me the complete storyline. One of the characters had the audacity to tell me to get to work before I forget all the good stuff they have been whispering.

The getting to work will start next week. This is the story that I will write during the NaNoWriMo.

I have participated in four other NaNoWriMo challenges, and have been a winner each time. Winners write at least 50,000 words in thirty days, the month of November. This crazy time fits my writing style, which is take a semblance of a story idea and run with it. For thirty days, I let the characters talk all they want, typing as quickly as I can to keep up with the story. When there are pauses, I push the characters to do something mundane to see what happens. The story writes itself – not ready for publication – but the story is done.

This free-flow of ideas to form a story is not always the best way to write. You can end up with some very awkward situations, i.e. a fight scene where your hero punches himself, or two or more descriptions of a character. But like I said, the story completed for NaNoWriMo is not ready for publication. All those silly inconsistencies are part of the editing and rewrite that takes a raw story and makes it ready for the public.

To become an author, you first must a have a story. NaNoWriMo is a good vehicle to help encourage you to write the story. So, my challenge to you is sign up for NaNoWriMo, lay in the snacks and caffeinated drinks, and write. Write 50,000 words and you are Winner, even if you never look at the story again.

Got to go buy a large quantity of tea (sorry I don’t drink coffee) and an even larger supply of chocolate. Good luck to all of you who will be joining me for the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Growth is Not Comfortable

Schemeekly Path“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Unknown.

Be honest for a moment, you prefer to be in your comfort zone. We all do. Where is your comfort zone? It is the place, the activity, the time when you feel you can relax and handle whatever comes your way.

This zone is many things – security, reaffirming, peaceful, etc. – but what it isn’t is growth. When we accept (or are pushed) a new challenge, we grow. This growth is uncomfortable, it can challenge your perceptions and causes you to wonder if you are up to handling the task or wonder why you accepted it.

The growth process is scary; it is much easier to stay in the comfort zone where you know what is going to happen. But once you start the process it can be exhilarating. The thought you don’t know what is going to happen, that you are changing the way you think and act, trying new things, and the admiration others share with you for being so brave. Wow! It’s like a “Superman” high.

When you finally complete the task, you find several things. First, you aren’t the same.  Whether it was a good or bad experience, you are changed by it. Second, you have confidence that you can handle the task, and it can become part of your comfort zone.

A couple of times when I got out of my zone were entering the NaNoWriMo and publishing my book Canyon Riddle. The scary part of the NaNoWriMo was the question of whether or not I could write 50,000 words in 30 days. I found I can. Canyon Riddle is a novel for adults (or at least not a young child). I am comfortable writing children stories, Bible studies, and such but a novel for adults? That was scary. But since then I have written three more adult stories, and I know that I can do it again.

One of my latest growth opportunities is I am learning to knit. That may not sound scary to anyone but at my age (I remember when the Beach Boys were young) learning a new skill that you have spent most of your life avoiding, is not easy and certainly is not in my wheelhouse. But as I knit, purl, and unravel over and over, I see small glimpses that I can do this, and my comfort zone is expanding.

Every time I step into an unknown situation, I grow. Not all the experiences are pleasant, but I do learn from them. Where there is an unpleasant outcome, I try not to repeat it. That is also growth.

So the next time opportunity presents itself to take on something new, give it a whirl. Keep those brain cells active and grow your comfort zone.

How I Won NaNoWriMo 2015

nano-2015-winner-badge-large-squareNaNoWriMo is officially over for 2015. How did you do? Me? I wrote over 52,000 words during the month of November but didn’t finish the story until December 2.

The experience this year was very different than previous years. The common thread was the push to write every day. The reality was I wrote fewer days but wrote more each day. And I didn’t feel anxious about not writing every day. No nagging feelings that I shouldn’t be out with friends when I need to write a thousand words. Not sure why this change but I believe it has to do with my confidence that I could write enough words to be a “Winner.” This was the fourth year for me to participate in NaNoWriMo.

In previous years I had a lot of uncertainty about having enough words to meet the goal. My writing style is a “pantser.” I don’t outline, write a story brief, or anything that organized. I set down with the roughest of ideas for the start of a story and then I write. Characters grow as the story progresses and when I reach a point that I’m not sure what is going to happen next, I have one of the characters do something. It may be something as small as calling a friend to talk, or taking a walk, or looking through a photo album. From this action, I create a situation of what happens, what they learn, etc. and then work the story from this new information.

The ending of the story came as a surprise to me. I was writing but didn’t know how to end the story. As I wrote about what was learned through a phone call one of the characters made, the ending just appeared. And it’s a great ending! (No false modesty here.)

Thanks NaNoWriMo for helping me develop as a writer.

Crazy Writing Time

Writing Work AreaJust about half way thru NaNoWriMo and things are going well.

I am spending a big portion of my evenings shut up in a room with a computer where I write like a crazy person. Pouring out ideas, creating characters, talking aloud to the walls, and crafting a plot or two while watching the word count increase.

The words flow from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, but I fear I’m missing words during the transfer process. At the end of the month, I will stand with my arms raised high and shout “Winner!” and then it will be time to cry over the words.

Now, is the time to toss caution to the wind and be brave and daring – to attempt plot lines that loosely hold the story together, to write a scene that you’re not sure is believable even in your pretend world, and to leave all the adverbs and passive sentences.

But maybe I should cut back on the amount of caffeine I’m ingesting and try getting a little more sleep.

NaNoWriMo Preparations

For the past 3 years, I have participated in the NaNoWriMo. It has been great fun and way to get me focused on putting the story floating in my head on “paper.” Starting NaNoWriMo for the first time I had many questions including could I write that many words that fast? But my first year’s NaNoWriMo story, Canyon Riddle, has been published. Yeah, I’m a fan of NaNoWriMo.

I am beginning my preparations for my month long hiatus.  Preparations include:

  • Putting a few rough notes together from all the random thoughts that keep me awake at night.
  • Translating the random thoughts that were written in the middle of the night.
  • A trip to the story’s location to refresh my memory of the place and to give me a weekend away.
  • Prepare research notes on some key (or obscure) ideas that will be (or not) incorporated into the story.
  • Make sure I have a good supply of tea, caffeinated soft drinks, and lots of water.
  • Computer area cleaned and reference materials organized.
  • Tissues for those emotional moments in the story or a runny nose from a cold.
  • Extra vitamins to keep me a little healthier since I won’t be sleeping much.
  • NaNoWriMo account activated and resetting of my password, which I have forgotten.
  • Write notes and place in strategic locations to remind me to be very nice to my best supporter, my husband, who has to put up with being abandoned for the month.

But the most important thing is the Halloween candy selection. The month of November is for NaNoWriMo. So it follows that all the leftover Halloween candy will be part of my sustenance, inspiration, and morale booster for the month. I am not very picky about candy, but there are some that I prefer and I need to make sure there is plenty leftover.  Of course, I will hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters that come to my door and I will be generous (after all I have a reputation to uphold). Having an abundant supply of my preferred candies will help ensure there are leftovers for a month of creative thoughts.

If you haven’t participated in the NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to try it. Consider my preparation list as a starting point for your writing adventure.