Writing Insanity

November. National Novel Writing Month. It’s a brotherhood of insane writers, pounding out 1,700 words per day for thirty days.
Since I’m rather unsure if I am meant to be a novelist, I may be a rebel again this year.
In 2014 I wrote that path. It netted four short stories, one of which I fleshed out into a 70,000-word novel.
A novel I pitched to three agents this past summer. All of them said the same things:

  • Women’s fiction must be at least 80,000 words and closer to 100,000 is better
  • The stakes need to be upped for at least one of the characters

All that to tell me I needed to rethink the story and add another 10,000 words at least.
But it hasn’t called to me.
However, I’ve planned and plotted a follow-up novel starring the youngest woman from that story. I could write that story in November.
Or I could write the next novella or two for the Christian romance “series” set in Sweet Grove, Texas.
After all, my debut in that Kindle World will be here in two weeks.


I’m hoping readers will be panting for the next installment, a story featuring minor characters from this first one.

What about doing something fun?

I’ve been jotting ideas for another fantasy novel for several months. I want to tackle the idea of a realm that exists outside of time encroaching on a world that exists inside the restrictions and constructions of time.

My thought is to have the mentor figure and the villain brothers who live in the timeless realm. They’re competing (as brothers do) and have gotten caught up in trying to trip each other up…by planting prophecies and information along the timeline in the world where time exists.
The story could include elemental magic with atypical sources.

But I really don’t have a story for it. Just a ton of vague ideas. And that’s NOT the best way to be a winner during National Novel Writing Month.
With the release coming up on the 15th and the content edits for REALITY EVER AFTER due on the 13th, I’m not certain I’ll have the focus for NaNoWriMo.

But how can I NOT do it? I’ve done it for three years and won every time. It’s such a morale booster.

Sure, it’s a little bit crazy, too. Especially when I only have three days per week to get my words written. And I’d want to finish by November 22 because we’re heading to the Oregon coast to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my sister.

If I’m not finished, the story will be hanging over my head the entire time.

Part of me wants to write something “just for fun” and another part of me knows I need to stop procrastinating and get stories down on paper.

What’s your advice? What would you do?

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What makes some people love to read?

love2readbooks

Considering the fact that I want more people to read my blog, I’m certain I don’t read enough other blogs and post comments as much as I should. This reciprocity is one of the best ways to get people to visit and comment on my blog. So they say.

There are a few blogs that I simply adore and I read them faithfully. I don’t always comment – unless they spark a thought in me that must be expressed. One such blog, written by Jami Gold, caused me to think deeply for several hours and days. Read it here.

In short, she discussed how she lost her love for reading because of the way the subject was addressed I school. Since I’ve heard similar things from my students, I know she’s not an anomaly. How can we address this very real problem in our society?

Not promoting a love for reading is only one of many problems in the public school system. In recent years, the press to interest students in math and science has overwhelmed the classroom, thanks to media attention. The truth is, a student won’t be able to access the information in any subject if they can’t read.

Arguably, the ability to read is not the same beast as the desire to read. They are the same species, though. If I want to read, I will learn to do it. If I can’t read, I certainly won’t have any interest in doing it.

Jami shared how a school system in her area asked all students to read or skim a list of books for their upcoming school year. At the beginning of the year, the students choose their four favorites from the eight or ten they read. During the year, they will analyze their chose books in small discussion groups with other students who also chose that book.

This is a great plan, in that it eliminates the aspect of being forced to read a book that holds no interest for you. Everyone responds better when they feel they participated in choosing their outcomes, as well. Small group discussions are an excellent way to discuss elements of literature like plot, theme, characterization and symbolism.

Every plan has drawbacks. The one I see in this case is that many students will NOT read or skim the books. When the time arrives for them to select their books, they’ll find out what their friends are choosing and pick that.

When the time for discussion comes, they may still not have read the book and will just be faking their way through in order to complete whatever the larger, graded assignment might be for the book.

I think back to what made me love reading. I learned to read before kindergarten, sitting beside my mom while my sister read her books from school aloud (she’s two years older). Mom loved reading and invested in library cards or us at an early age. One night every few weeks, we headed to the public library and picked out something to read.

The idea of NOT reading didn’t even occur to me. Reading was the social norm in my home. Even my non-communicative dad read a pile of Zane Grey westerns. While my husband’s family parked in front of the TV, we were in different chairs reading. It might have been nicer to be interacting socially (we did play tons of games but my dad’s volatile moods limited how often that would happen for the four of us).

What about today? I know that I can just look at my sister’s kids and my kids and draw a conclusion.

My sister Connie did the whole library card thing with her three children. The main reason for this was because she home-schooled them; thus the only access they had to a library was when she took them. All three of her kids enjoy reading and will read for pleasure. Sure, they love playing video games, too, but it isn’t an either/or decision. I’ve bought books for them on many occasions – at their request.

On the flip side, my boys are a 50/50 split. I read aloud to them when they were preschool-aged and until they became involved in too many other activities (my oldest was fourth or fifth grade). First, it was the Chronicles of Narnia and then the first three Harry Potter books. I let them choose, but most of the time they were happy to listen to whatever I chose for them.

We didn’t go to the public library. They brought home Scholastic book order forms and I purchased them what they wanted. My oldest son loved fantasy. My youngest son wanted the newest book of world records. Can you guess which one loves to read? Although he still has to be invested in the characters before he will choose it on his own. He has read five or six series and I’m trying to hook him up with some adult fantasy now.

Is the library the difference? I’m not so sure. I failed to mention that my sister didn’t have regular TV. They bought DVDs of series and movies, but the push toward prime time viewing didn’t exist in their home. My sons are not totally sold on watching TV either, but they do view things online.

I think the establishment of normal is the answer.

I’m not pointing fingers here, but my husband doesn’t read books. In our nearly 26 years together, I recall him reading exactly one fiction book: Jurassic Park. He reads manuals and texts to gain certification in his field. Since he teaches at church, he reads the Bible and commentaries.

Read for pleasure? He camps in front of the TV for his recreational entertainment. It’s not unusual to find us sitting together on the couch. I have my iPad and am reading a book on my Kindle app. He’s sprawled against the pillows flipping between a police show, some so-called sitcom or a car program.

In my sister’s case, all five of them spent time reading.

I know my scope of study is pretty limited. I think the shared genetics adds an interesting twist.

I read to escape. I still can go on a vicarious vacation through reading fiction. Perhaps my children have nothing to run away from and that’s why they don’t dive into books like I do.

I’m not a scientist. I am a writer. Writers need readers. This idea that reading fiction has no value deflates my career possibilities. Especially if teenagers buy into it since I’ve written a fantasy series with that age group in mind.

What’s your take on this subject? Do you think family pattern or school dictate in the case of liking or hating to read?

Dual-Purpose Novel

Reading thrills me. Books invite me in, feed my linguistic genius and hold me hostage until the last page.

It would be nice to be able to truly revel in the beautiful language Harper Lee uses in To Kill a Mockingbird, but I’ve got another novel (or three) to read before the month is out.

Considering the limited number of hours in my day (and my physical need for sleep), I hatched a brilliant plan. For one class this term, I had to select a prize-winning book to use for all the assignments. (This week I wrote a press release for it). In my other class, I needed to select a novel that had some theme related to loss of innocence written by an American author.

After a quick perusal of the Pulitzer Prize winners’ listing from the past ten years, I settled on a title. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2011. It sounded like the author used ingenuity in the construction of the novel, so I hopped over to Amazon and purchased it.

With a kleptomaniac and a washed-up music producer mentioned in the description, I knew Egan’s book would fit in the loss of innocence category. Score! I just reduced my required reading by one book.

If you haven’t read (or seen or heard of) Egan’s novel, I have to tell you she breaks every rule ever penned about point of view. Additionally, I’m still wondering if the book should be considered literature since I’m having a hard time identifying basic elements, like plot, antagonist and protagonist.

Do you think I made the right choice by getting a novel that could serve a dual purpose? If you’ve read Egan’s books, I would love to hear your insights about it.