Frank’s 100th Post Extravaganza!

Dino image: http://clipartist.net/2011/11/11/

Well, holy crap. Welcome, All Ye Friends of Frank, to the 100th Post Extravaganza.

What will this extravaganza entail, you ask?

That’s an excellent question. And I’m going to be really honest with you, [insert your name here], I don’t really know. I’m going to make it up as I go.

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The Camp NaNo Loser

I’d looked forward to Camp NaNoWriMo. Since 2009, I have loved writing my way through November, learning about myself as a writer and creating this text that, for better or worse, comes from me and is born of my own imagination. When I heard they’d be holding summer sessions in July and August this year, I signed up for the August camp and got ready to write.

It’s worth noting that I’ve reached the 50,000 mark (the word count required to “win” NaNoWriMo) in November 2009 and November 2010. In both cases, my novel was far from finished, but I had a tremendous start. Really, you’d be hard-pressed to find a novel of substance that’s only 50,000 words. I finished the first draft of my 2009 work in June 2010, and I continue to work on my 2010 work-in-progress now. So August seemed like a great time to get back into it and cross the final finish line.

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So…About That Novel.

You know that feeling when it’s like a parasite gets in your head and you feel like you need to do everything humanly possible to keep yourself busy? If you stop for even the shortest time, that parasite starts nibbling away at your brain, causing everything to unravel. I’m convinced it attacks reason first.

I’ve been doing a lot to keep that parasite at bay, and it’s got a lot of reasons to keep creeping up on me. Sometimes I deal with multiple parasites. In an effort to keep myself busy lately, I’ve continued to read everything from blogs to books, thrown myself headlong into learning something about the business world, committed myself to networking for professional purposes (after, of course, figuring out what I want to be), and started really learning about social media.

I’ve also taken up knitting and maintaining a Facebook page for my dogs. When things get really bad, I’ll have conversations with my fish, Richard Marx. I zone out with Netflix. I’m way too into The Real Housewives of NJ.

And sometimes, even after all of that, the parasite just keeps on keepin’ on.

The parasite is, I think, the reason I’ve become so incredibly passionate about writing lately. It’s not that I didn’t love writing before. I always have, and that’s how I’ve identified. There’s just something very different about my relationship with writing right now. It’s more extensive, going beyond just the creative.

And everything beyond the creative has kept me away from the novel for a while. Six months, to be exact.

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Second Novel: Turns Out, Not So Easy.

It’s not yet been a year since I experienced the pure joy of having pushed myself through finishing my first novel. I remember well what it felt like, and the Daria dvds that I bought myself as a reward sit on the chair next to me right now as a reminder. (By the way, if you want to know what I’m like in person, just watch Daria. We are so nearly one and the same.)

Earlier this evening as I was doing a mental re-cap of all of the things I’ve been juggling lately (freelance blogging, father in and out and in and out of the hospital, very sick dog, job search, remembering to feed the fish and change his water, personal relationships, health issues, a new medication schedule, exercise, sanity, just to name a few) I didn’t forget to chastise myself for not having made time to sit down and write a new blog post this week. I didn’t forget, either, to berate myself for letting another week go by in which I just didn’t get around to working on my novel. I feel awful about it. I really do. I’m at the point now where I think I might just be scared of how out-of-shape I am in my own novel. It’s been too long.

I saw something on Twitter tonight, re-posted by one of the many writerly accounts that I follow. It asked something to the effect of “Is the second novel easier?” And though I am exhausted and was just about to stand up and fall back into my bed, I knew that I had to stay and give a written answer to that, and that it had to be right here. Behold: my blog topic for the week!

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NaNoWriMo 2010: Who’s a Champ? I am!

I get it. It’s December 9th and NaNoWriMo ended over a week ago. I should have posted this then, but my immune system seems hell-bent on taking me down before Christmas. You will forgive my belated post on the matter, I hope!

When I wrote about NaNoWriMo before, I talked about how I hit the ground running. I followed that up by talking about how I survived a long weekend away and managed to write quite a bit. So here’s how it all turned out. Continue reading

Writing My Way Out of the Black Hole of Death

I get cabin fever. I get cabin fever so badly sometimes that I think I will legitimately go absolutely crazy sitting in Central PA, bored out of my mind. Because of that, I try to get out of here as often as possible, but it doesn’t always work that way. I went for four months without leaving and I almost didn’t make it.

Okay, I’m being a little bit dramatic.

But seriously, I’m bored.

This past weekend, I spent a very long weekend out of town for my birthday. I got to see most of my friends and some of my family all in one place. I had people to talk to and things to do. It was a great weekend and I had a lot of fun.

And then I had to come home.

I have this problem: every time I leave home, no matter where I go, I get into one hell of a wretched mood when I come back. I get depressed because I miss my friends. I get frustrated that I live so far away from pretty much all of them. Then I get discouraged because I can’t find a job. It’s totally worth getting out of here any time I can, but dear Lord does it suck for about a week after I get back.

In my last post, I said that I hoped I’d be able to maintain my writing momentum while I was out of town, and I did. I actually added over 7000 words, so I was quite pleased with my … discipline? Well, anyway, I was happy about it. My NaNoWriMo word count stayed above the suggested word count every day, but as I wasn’t writing quite as much as I would have been at home (mostly because I was actually doing stuff for a change), I was only up by about a thousand words when I got home on Tuesday. Continue reading

Editing Woes and the Run-Up To NaNoWriMo ’10

At first I didn’t care about it. It was to be a one-and-done deal.

Then I cared a little more. Two. That’s it.

Now I’m seriously considering a third round of edits to my NaNoWriMo ’09 novel, not because I feel like this book is moving anywhere toward a publishable realm, but because as I’m working my way through writing the second draft (which I expect to grow nearly 50 pages from the first draft), I keep telling myself there are things that I will focus on next time through. I’m finding that, at least for me, focusing on one or two specific trouble areas (showing vs. telling, say) is what I’m going to need to do. I’ve been able to fix some of the show vs. tell problem spots, but certainly not all of them. This round of edits has been about organizing and clarifying. It’s about getting things where I want them to be (and moving things around, which I talked about in a recent post) and then working on more fine-tuning.

My pacing was pretty good. The past few weeks, however, have slowed me down considerably as I’ve had a number of engagements and obligations and other things to keep me abnormally busy. My goal since January has been to have the first/second edits (in my mind they’re different, but to some people they’d be the same) completed by the end of October – ideally well before the end of October – so that I could put it aside and move on to my next NaNo project.

But alas.

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Getting My Editing Groove On

Being that I never really took my writing all that seriously before (at least, not when I was old enough to *actually* take it seriously. Sixth grade doesn’t count), I didn’t really have a method in place for editing. In college, my idea of editing creative writing was to take all the copies of my work that were given back to me in workshops, go through, and make a few changes. I really didn’t put a lot of time and effort into it. I attribute this to many things, and as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of it had to do with losing that spark (on account of being a busy college student and also coming to despise the egomaniac who was teaching the majority of my fiction classes). I never went back through and took a good look at what I’d written because I never cared much about most of it. I only really remember a handful of pieces.

The whole time I was writing my NaNoWriMo novel, I didn’t think about editing. My goal was just to get to 50,000 words. Once I made it there, my goal became to actually finish writing it. I was a little unsure for a while, but when it became clear that I was going to finish writing it, I started thinking about editing. I guess my pattern of decision-making has been kind of linear in that respect. I ended up leading myself right into a process of editing that I hadn’t considered, but it’s working out really well for me. It’s forcing me to not only go back through my work, but to interact with it, as well. Continue reading

Someone’s Writing Again (Hint: It’s Me)

I told you last week that I’d be back with new posts about writing. Lucky for you, I make good on my promises. I have this post to write now, and another one already working its way to the front of my brain. Look for it in a day or so.

A while back, I got all excited because I finished my novel. To be more exact, I finished the first draft of it. I had and continue to have the best of intentions regarding the editing process, but despite my initial enthusiasm and the purple editing pens that I love, I have a hard time getting myself to actually actively edit. I’ll go on editing sprints that span a few days, and then nothing for weeks. I just haven’t been able to find my stride with it. I had it printed and bound because I can’t edit directly on a computer screen. I need to flip back and forth between physical pages and put sticky notes all through it. I like being able to see what I’m changing. It’s helping me develop an eye for my own work, which is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s helping me gain more confidence in myself as a writer. It’s helping me understand Craft (with a capital C).

It’s making me hate my novel.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about this. He told me that he and other writers he’s talked to experience this. As they revise, they hate it less. I’m hoping this happens for me, because I’m starting to fear that I’m going to abandon my beloved novel. As soon as I write that, I know I won’t do it because I don’t typically quit that easily. I will whine and complain and bitch and moan about it to anyone who will listen. I’ll shed tears. And then I’ll stand up with Beyonce and keep on survivin’. Continue reading

In the Books: On Finishing My Novel

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. I think you’ll understand why, though.

I was sitting here thinking about how I have trouble finishing things, but then it occurred to me that it’s not really true. I can think of fewer than five books that I’ve never finished and don’t intend to. Even when they’re really bad or boring, I try to slog my way through them. I tried to quit softball after 6th grade when I should have been moving up from pigtail to ponytail league. I was afraid that it was going to be more difficult and I’d look stupid. About a quarter of the way into that first summer, I told myself to suck it up and go back to practice, so I did, and I played until I was getting ready to leave for college. I waited a whole year of being unhappy at my first real-world job before I quit that, and I agonized so long over my decision to quit calculus in college that I missed the drop/add deadline and took a voluntary F. And when I say I agonized over that decision, I mean that I found myself in the Dean of Students’ office nearly in tears.

So I guess I don’t quit well. Continue reading