NaNoWriMo: Week 1

November 1 began the writing adventure that is National Novel Writing Month. This year’s theme is “The World Needs Your Novel.” This month I’ll be posting on Monday about my experience the previous week.

Many people over the years have told me that one day they would like to write a novel. I’d been writing for years before I heard about NaNo in 2004, and accepted the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Sound daunting? It is.

This year is my twelfth year participating, and my eleventh year as a Municipal Liaison (the fancy title for those of us who organize local Kick Off parties, weekly Write-Ins, and TGIO parties). Does this help me each year? Yes and no.

Yes, because having done it before I know I can do it again.

No, because each new story is a new adventure in plot, characters, dialogue, setting, theme, and all the other things that go into crafting a compelling read.

Each year I’ve been able to count on having 28 or 29 good writing days in the month. This year I’ll be visiting family (including a new baby!) for Thanksgiving weekend, and I really have only 25 good writing days. Instead of a daily word count goal of 1,667 to reach 50,000 in 30 days, my daily word count is 2,000 words per day.

The first week has gone really well. My word count after the first 7 days was 15,000+ words, so I am where I need to be to get to 50,000 by Thanksgiving. 

The first week is historically easy. The story that you’ve been thinking about for the past few months (or weeks, or days) comes gushing out once November 1 kicks off the month-long writing challenge. It doesn’t need to be coherent, and at this point it isn’t. Writing is rewriting, and that’s what December is for. November is for getting the draft done.

I’m working through my story idea, and although I’ve outlined roughly, once I start working the details I see where the gaps are, what I need to fill in, and who else needs to die (I’m writing a murder mystery). Past events, current events, and my personal life all affect what I’m writing about, and how I write it.

I write an outline with the beginning and end of each act and the midpoint. I include days of the week, so that I don’t have characters reacting on Friday to something that happens Saturday. I print out this rough outline, and pin it to the corkboard in front of my desk. 

This keeps me going when I run dry. I can look at the outline and see what dramatic action needs to occur against the backdrop of solving the mystery. Sometimes I write scenes out of order, when I have one fleshed out and I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Sometimes I write in circles, trying to find the kernel of the story. I’ve found that keeping my fingers typing on the keyboard, even if it doesn’t seem to be part of the story at the time, can lead to breakthroughs that I might not have gotten to if I had stopped writing for the day. 

When I’m on a roll, I keep going. Having words in the bank, so to speak, makes up for the days I either don’t have enough time to write my 2,000 words, or for the days when the story isn’t coming no matter what tricks I use to tease the muse out from her hiding place.

The good news: I’m on pace. The bad news: My back, hands, and neck ache. Sitting in a chair for as long as I have been, writing as much as 5,000 words in a day, takes a toll. 

I remind myself to stay hydrated, which benefits me in two ways. I function best when I drink about 80 ounces of water a day. When I drink 80 ounces a day, I am getting up at regular intervals and take the opportunity to walk around, shaking out my hands, and stretch out my back.

Week 1 is done.

Week 2 begins.

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers: WE’D RATHER BE #WRITING #COOKBOOK

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers: WE’D RATHER BE #WRITING #COOKBOOK: Last year I had an idea for a cookbook featuring my fellow authors. The result was Bake, Love, Write: 105 AuthorsShare Dessert Recipes an…



Stop by Lois Winston’s blog and read about her inspiration for We’d Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips. Proceeds will be donated to No Kid Hungry.

Candy Cane Reindeer

Usually on Thursday I post a recipe. Today I’m mixing it up and posting the directions to make these sweet Candy Cane Reindeer. They’re a perfect place card holder at a party, incorporate beautifully into the ribbon wrapping a package, or just hanging out as these guys are!

They are featured in “Dying for Holiday Tea,” one of the novellas in the anthology in Happy Homicides: Thirteen Cozy Holiday Mysteries.

Candy Cane Reindeer

Makes 1

1 Candy Cane, wrapped 
1 Brown pipe cleaner
2 eyes, size (or proportional to candy cane)
1 Pompom nose, brown or red
Glue (I use Tacky Glue)

Holding the candy cane, wrap the pipe cleaner around the curve and twist. Bend the long ends to make antlers.

Put a dab of glue on the front of the short end of the candy cane to make a nose. Put two smaller dabs of glue above the nose, for the eyes. 

Lay the candy cane down until the glue dries.

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This is one of the crafts included in the free bonus pdf file of recipes and crafts for Happy Homicides: Thirteen Cozy Holiday Mysteries. My novella, “Dying for Holiday Tea,” is included in this anthology written by thirteen authors.

Writing Fiction: Ideas Ripped From The Headlines

Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Some TV shows, such as Law & Order, have episodes that are ripped from the headlines. What exactly does that mean?

For me, it’s a merging of an idea I had (What if …?) with something I read or hear about. This past weekend, I saw two articles that crystallized a couple of ideas I’ve had in the back of my mind.

Friday: The Vero News is delivered, and the first headline I see says “Accused slayer of Diana Duve fears dying in prison.” I am very familiar with this case, both because it was a local crime and because Diana’s death was one of four within a 24-hour period on the Treasure Coast.

This article, focused on the killer, had a sentence that pissed me off. Taken from videotaped jailhouse visits, he talks about his grief over losing Diana and how much he misses her, and how he fears dying in prison. 

Boo-f***ing-hoo. This is not a case where law enforcement believes he did it but can’t prove it. This is a case where he’s seen on video getting into a cab near the vehicle she was found in. Local law enforcement has indicted him for first degree murder and the death penalty will be pursued. Indian River County is waiting their turn to prosecute him for this crime, because he is currently in jail in Broward County. They have charged him with violation of probation from an aggravated stalking charge, and are looking at possibly a charge for manual strangulation after looking more deeply into his past.

Saturday: People magazine has an article about Timmothy Pitzen, missing since May 2011. His parents dropped him off at school, his mother returned shortly after and took him with her, and several days later she had killed herself and Timmothy had disappeared.The title of the article is “A Mother’s Chilling Vow ‘You Will Never Find Him‘.” 

I read this article, and thought about what the story might be, from both the father’s and the mother’s perspective. 

I’ve been involved with SafeSpace for several years. Domestic violence has been an issue I’ve felt strongly about for 30 years. My experience and knowledge informs how I process everything. Knowing more details about one situation and nothing more than what I read in the article about the other combine in my mind.

Reading these two articles, so closely together, flipped a switch in my imagination. What if … coalesced into a more fully formed story idea, with characters, situations, and a rough plot. I can use the headline, and make up my own story. There might be similarities to the actual stories, but only in the sense that similar crimes have similar circumstances. My characters aren’t any of the real people in these two articles, but constructs to further a story.

Writers get their ideas from everywhere, and nowhere. Ideas are in the ether, and we just need to be open to receiving them.

Post a comment – I’d love to hear what you think.