Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Where has Wine Country Mom been?

It’s been an abnormally busy couple of months lately. You may have noticed by my lack of writing lately, or you may not have. But this blog has been a bit neglected as of late. I have even pulled back on my weekly newspaper articles from this blog, taking a full two months off. But I have a really, really good reason.

You know that book I was writing? Well, it’s done. And it’s published!

Say hello to the new book:

After months of edits and rewrites, and my family enduring me totally checking out during that whole time, I finally reached the point in my book where I could say DONE.

You can read all about my noveling process at my author blog, crissilangwell.com.

Or you can just buy my book, A Symphony of Cicadas at Amazon.

Ooooorrrrrr…..you can get it for FREE through the end of April 3rd if you own a Kindle. After that, however, it’s only $2.99.

So that’s the biggest part of my news. 🙂

But along with that, life just took a really busy turn in general.  DQ moved back home, and we went through a little bit of an adjustment period.  For awhile there, it felt like the whole family was going off the deep end.  In particular, the whole blending family part was feeling really, really impossible.  She came from a house with no rules, entering a house with a lot of rules.  Mr. W was frustrated by her argumentativeness.  DQ was getting frustrated with constantly being nagged.  The whole house was turned upside down as we all shuffled and refound our positions again.  I think we finally, or at least partially, reached the positive side of things.  But it took a few counseling sessions, and a huge dose of patience.  There really wasn’t any one thing to blame, just a lot of changes and adjustments.  However, with things feeling so chaotic, I couldn’t really bring myself to write anything personal – particularly for my bimonthly column.

For a moment, I had toyed with giving up the column completely.  I even wondered if I should finally retire this blog, as well.  I didn’t think I had it in me to share any part of my personal life when my personal life felt so horrible.  But then, something happened.  While I was on my break, a few readers reached out to me to let me know how much they enjoy the column.  I realized that if I gave it up, I would be giving up the best part of my job – the part I loved the most.

So I’m not going away.  And I am keeping my column.  However, I am reducing it to a once a month column.  It will print every first Friday of the month, beginning in May.

As for here, now that the book is written, I’ll try to update more.  However, if you want to be kept up to date, follow me over at crissilangwell.com.

Now go download my book for free!  http://amzn.to/ZwhBLZ

Finishing the novel

You’d think there would be fireworks when you type the two very last words to the novel you’ve been working on every day, the one you’ve lost sleep over as you wake up at 4:30am – even on days you accidentally went to bed after midnight. It’s almost expected that the ceiling to the dining room where the computer sits will suddenly open up and cascade down balloons and confetti upon seeing those two words, interrupting the quiet you’ve tried so hard to maintain in those early hours with explosions and whistles in a celebration that the whole world you’ve created in over 100 typed pages suddenly makes sense, wrapped up in those two tiny words.

The. End.

I wrote them out this morning, tying a bow on the mess I’d created with characters who never asked to be born, but who behaved mostly beautiful in 25 chapters of chaos. I threw them to the wolves, breaking their hearts over and over. But I also promised them it would all make sense in the end, and to just hang around a bit longer to see where I was leading them.

“I have better plans for you than you know,” I promised them, playing god to these imaginary beings that became truly real within the confines of my imagination.

The. End.

There were no balloons, or fireworks, or confetti, or noisy horns. But here’s how it actually happened.

I brought my characters to their breaking point, placing them at the very edge where one wrong step meant certain death (kind of like a Bear Grills episode). And then, just when they were about to fall into the abyss of the situation, I plucked them out with my god-like reflexes, saving them from the depths of hell. Except the gratitude I received was more like a limp handshake, the visions I had of their miraculous recovery coming out in fits and spurts, not exactly translating well on the page. So I just wrote out what I could actually wheeze into typed out thoughts, crossing the finish line with the right amount of words (50,376 for NaNoWriMo, which amounts to 76,657 total words in 167 typed pages) and a promise that it would come out beautiful in the editing process.

At any rate, there it is. The shitty first draft of my novel is done, the bones to my magnificently beautiful final draft in the making. Year 3 of NaNoWriMo is a success.

And maybe I’ll just treat myself to a cupcake to make up for the missing fireworks. 🙂

Haunted by a good thing

Have you ever been on the cusp of some very great things, experiencing life exactly as you’ve always wanted to, only to have it also raise in you an unfounded fear that any wrong step will kill you before you reap the rewards?

I have a secret fear of dying right now.

This all started months ago as I planned my wedding, not sure how I got so lucky that I found someone like Shawn and that he actually wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I became so fearful of dying in a car crash or falling and breaking my neck before the wedding actually happened, I began having nightmares about it. One was so vivid, it became the topic of the novel I’m actually working on now, which I guess is a good thing.

Except I’m still haunted.

This week I was asked to join the Writer’s Guild at work. With the invitation came a promise of job security, decent benefits, an addition to my vacation and sick pay, and a pretty decent pay raise.  It’s just in time, too, because after a wedding we still owe for, Christmas was looking a little grim this year. It answered all my prayers.

Side note: Speaking of prayers, I recently began tithing again, an act of worship I turned away from when the wedding bills were adding up. I got the news about the raise this week, my 2nd week into tithing. Seems I’m always blessed more when I remember the money isn’t mine, but God’s.

Third good thing – the novel. It’s flowing, at times, faster than I can type it. When I stop thinking and just let it happen, the whole thing starts writing itself. I’m at 30,000 words on Day 12, and I love the way it’s going. Waking up at 4am every morning has been effortless so I can type for 3 hours before getting on with the rest of my day. I’m so motivated, I can’t wait to finish writing this so I can start editing last year’s novel and finally get it published.

I’m on fire. My heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest over all the exciting things going on in my life, although it might also be the massive amount of caffeine I’m consuming these days. Life is good.

And I better not die before I’ve gotten my fill of it all!

NaNoWriMo 2012

It’s my favorite time of year – that time when I wake up earlier than anyone should have to naturally, pull out  my laptop, and write furiously on a daily basis, repeating the process until I have achieved enough words to make up the amount in a small novel – 50,000 words.

November is National Novel Writing Month, known to us crazy writers as NaNoWriMo.

It’s my third year taking part in the craziness, and will hopefully be my third year successfully crossing the finish line.  I’ve been anticipating today’s official start for weeks, almost as if it were Christmas.  This morning I even woke up an hour before my alarm in my excitement.  I got up in the dark and got dressed silently so as not to disturb my husband, and began to sneak downstairs.  But it looks like my husband was anticipating today too.  On the other side of the door was my laptop.  Apparently my husband woke up before me in his own anticipation of me waking up way too early (he totally hates it), and wasn’t even in bed at all but on the couch after a restless night of sleep.

Guess I’ll be writing without coffee until I can safely turn the coffee pot on without waking him.  😦

At any rate, here’s to us crazies who are waking up early and staying up late, as well as utilizing lunch breaks and any other free time, taking part in a month of literary abandon as we write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  Good luck to you all.  And remember, you can sleep in December.

P.S.  You can check my progress on the right in the NaNoWriMo widget, and become my writing buddy at nanowrimo.org/en/participants/crissi.

How do I write?

Thanks to the folks at NaNoWriMo (It’s next month, are you ready?), I read this really great article where writers answered questions about their writing styles.  I don’t know about you, but this is something I wonder about all the time. Writing can be such a lonely way of living, the tendency to lock ourselves indoors for long periods of time tremendous (I mean, how many of you even see me in the month of November when I’m doing NaNoWriMo?).  So getting this insight about other authors was totally amusing….and it helped me to see that I wasn’t doing it wrong, or such a freak after all.  If you have a chance, check out the article.  If you have more time, copy and paste the questions in your own blog and answer them.  And if you do answer them, make sure you leave me a comment so I can read up on your writing style too.

P.S.  Joining NaNoWriMo?  Find me HERE, and be my friend.  Let’s write together!

Here’s my answers:

How long do you spend writing each day? 
I wake up every morning an hour before I have to get ready for my real job to write on my novel.  On good writing days, I wake up two hours early and actually get some decent work done.  If I’m feeling really inspired (or it’s NaNoWriMo), I will also spend an hour or two in the evening typing away.  So that’s 2-4 hours for the novel.  That’s not including my job where I write for a newspaper – which would put me more at 8+ hours of writing.

What time of day do you prefer to write?
Morning is my very best time.  It’s when the house is quiet and I am at my most creative.

Do you set yourself a time limit or a word limit? No limits?
Both. If I write less then 1,000 words, I feel like I haven’t accomplished hardly anything.  My happy goal is 2,000.  But some days I only have an hour to write total.  I can usually get out about 800 words in that amount of time if I am super clear on what I want to write.  I try to be kind to myself if I fall short of my word count goal.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and I might be in a bit of funk if I type less than I wanted to.  But at least I try.

Do you write with music on? If so, what music do you like to write to?
Music on, always.  Almost every writer I saw in the interviews I linked to said music was a huge turn-off for them.  But I find it centers me when I am trying to concentrate.  But there are rules.  I try to make the music match what I’m writing to help capture the mood of the piece.  I cannot listen to new music because I’ll try to focus on that instead of what I’m writing.  And when in doubt, music without words (or words I understant) is best.  My current favorite for writing is Sigur Ros, an icelandic group who is brilliant, totally brilliant.  For my last novel (still in rough draft form), Radiohead and Muse were at the top of my playlist.  Currently I am listening to a Coldplay mix on Pandora – the current band playing is the soothing sounds of Nat King Cole serenading me.

How often do you check the Internet? Do you fall into Internet black holes? Or turn off your WiFi completely?
The Internet is both my friend and enemy while I’m typing.  It’s a great resource when I’m trying to research something I’m writing about, or when I need to find new words for description to keep from being bland or repetitive. But the slightest sign of writer’s block?  I’m checking my email or perusing Facebook, looking to see what’s up on Amazon, or getting stuck in a vortex that resulted from one innocent search on cicadas.  If I’m really feeling distracted, I’ll turn off the Wi-Fi.  But most times I just let myself fall a little in the black hole before pulling myself out again.

Are you a basher or a swooper? Kurt Vonnegut characterized writers into these two camps: “Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they’re done they’re done.”
I am mostly a swooper, especially during NaNoWriMo!  When you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you just don’t have time to look at what you’re writing.  This process does two things.  First, it allows me to keep up the motivation while keeping the negative nancies in my head at bay.  If I’m not re-reading what I’ve written, I can continue to believe that it’s utterly fantastic.  And I can happily write till the very end.  But the second thing swooping does is it produces a ton of errors.  Facts in the story change.  A Jack might turn into a John.  Repetitive words and points are a given.  And things are awfully jumbled.  The editing part sucks, which is probably why it’s my biggest hangup when it comes to producing a fully completed novel.  This time, I’m being more of a basher, re-reading what I’ve written when I feel like I’m stuck.  Editing might be a little easier with this one, but the negative nancies are raging hardcore.  I think I prefer swopping to bashing in the novel writing process.

Do you eat when you’re writing?
First novel I ever wrote, I had random snacks at my side at all times.  In one month I gained 10 pounds.  Now I try not to have anything but coffee or water at my side.  But I am guilty of eating my lunch at the keyboard, hence a few wayward crumbs stuck between the keys.

What snacks/drinks do you go to?

What’s your biggest procrastination tool? Or are you a freak who never procrastinates? Freak!
If it’s shiny and catches my eye, it’s my procrastination tool.  Probably Facebook is number one.  My iPhone is number 2 (Bejeweled is awesome for letting me unwind from sticky writing scenarios that just won’t come out right).  And if I have to, I’ll just leave the computer altogether and grab a few deep breaths in the sunshine on my back porch.

How do the people (roommates/partners/children) who live with you fit into or around your writing schedule? 
If I wake up early enough, there’s no problem.  My almost-husband lets me be if he sees me typing away with my headphones in place.  And for the most part, the kids understand that if I’m typing away, especially with my headphones on, I am not to be bothered.  If it is really hard to concentrate while they’re awake, I will just lock myself in my room.  But life is life – kids want to be taken care of, almost-husbands deserve attention, even the kitties need a little love.  So I try to limit novel writing time to early mornings and later evenings.

Do you find yourself tied to the place you’ve grown accustomed to writing? Or can you just pick up and go?
I write best in my own house, though I will pick up my laptop and write in bed, on the couch, at the table, lounging on my back porch….  Sometimes I have typed away in my car while on my lunch break at work.  I’d love to type away at a coffee shop, and I’ve attempted it from time to time.  It’s great for people watching, etc.  But it can also be distracting with so much movement going around me.  However, my last book was written at a spa retreat while sitting in a room filled with people by a fireplace. I got some really awesome writing in that weekend.

Now it’s your turn!  Go. 🙂


What's eating away at you on your bucket list?

The end. They were the 51,418th and 51,419th words I wrote in a long and messy document I had been working on for weeks. And on the 27th day, I typed those words and closed the lid to my laptop, and basked in the revelation that I had successfully accomplished a goal that I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year. And even though I did it 11 months after I made that goal, I had still done it. And it was one of the major things I had planned to accomplish all my life that I could now cross off my bucket list of things to do before I die.

I had written a book.

Sure, the book sucks. It is full of grammar mistakes, too little description in some areas, and too much description in others. There are parts that I need to move from the beginning towards the end of the story, and vice versa. There are other parts that I need to rewrite to change details and add missing pieces. And then there are the parts that I need to just delete – and deny that they ever existed. But it doesn’t matter how bad it is right now. It just matters that I wrote it, and I can actually say, if someone were to ask me, that yes, I have written a book in my life***.

I do not write this to gloat. Ok, maybe a little. But really, I write this because this goal of mine that I accomplished was one that was my anchor for so many years. I’m going to write a book someday. It was always a promise I made to myself, promising that on this “some day” I would fulfill this lifelong dream and get a bunch of words on paper that would equal the same size of a small to large novel that could one day be placed between two hard pieces of material and bound into something called a book. When was this “some day”? Not today, that’s for certain. Today is too scary of a day to get something that huge out of the way. But “some day” was the perfect day to get that done. But when exactly was “some day”??? Doesn’t matter. It only mattered that it wasn’t today.

Yeah, it’s pretty clear that “some day” was turning into “not in this lifetime”.

So November 1st (along with thousands of people who take part in some crazy scheme called NaNoWriMo), I made “some day” today. And I even struck a bargain with God in this one. I told him that I didn’t even care if I gained weight this month, that’s how important it was to fulfill this goal.

Um, sidenote here. Please be careful what you say in prayers. Yes, my goal is done. But I also have a little extra padding from some major sit-itis and impulsive snacking while chained to my laptop.

At any rate, the biggest reason I put this here is because we all have goals in our lives to fulfill. The year is almost over. How far did you get on your New Year’s Resolutions, or any goals that you have set for yourself this year? Have you lost that extra weight you gained from last year? Have you successfully run a whole mile or more without stopping? Have you learned that new language, or signed up for that group you’ve been meaning to join? Have all your photos made it from your computer to glossy prints that are now safe in a photo album ready to be viewed by all your friends and family?

Have you accomplished your goal?

This really rough excuse of a book I just finished was written in a very short amount of time. At the beginning of the month, I saw 50,000 words to write. That is roughly 85 single-spaced typed pages or so, the same size as The Great Gatsby, by Ernest Hemingway. That is a lot for someone who has never written a book before. And that huge number is enough to make someone throw in the towel. But know what isn’t a huge number? 1,667 words, or about 3 pages. That is the minimum I had to write every day to ensure that I could finish this goal in 30 days. And at first it was hard. The story was still working its way out in the beginning, and sometime 1,667 felt a bit large. But know what happened after awhile? The story began to write itself. And some days I ended up with almost 6,000 words. And as the total number grew to 25,000 to 37,000 to 48,000, I suddenly found a second wind inside of me that saw that yes, I could do this. And that is why, on the 27th day, I sat at my computer and typed until those final words could end the goal I had set so many years before.

The end.

So make your “some day” today. Don’t wait.  Make a plan, and stick to it. Envision the finish line.  And then set tiny goals that lead up to fulfilling that major accomplishment.  Make the action of crossing that one item off your bucket list a reality.

As for my goal next year? I see months of revisions in my future.

***No, you cannot read it.  No, it has not been published.  No, a publisher will not be anywhere near it for a very long time, if ever.  I have written a book, but I have not published a book.  One goal at a time.

P.S. Did anyone join me this year in NaNoWriMo? How’d you fare?