Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Posts Tagged ‘novel writing

Benefit by doing things that others give up on.

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fortune cookie

Benefit by doing things that others give up on.

That’s what my fortune cookie said last Friday at the grand opening of Co.Lab Duluth. I thought it was fitting, because I was finishing my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo, and am working toward finishing the rewrite of my novel. I’ve been working on this project since November, and there have been many temptations to give up on it. It took a long time to get a little bit of writing done at Co.Lab’s grand opening, though, because the grand opening events were so fun! We got there in time for the breakfast buffet, and stayed for lunch and the happy hour at the end of the day. I’m really excited to have a CoWorking space here in Duluth. I love the concept and hope to someday make money independently so that I can justify paying for a spot there! Preferably writing novels, of course 🙂

2012-07-04 20.32.03

Kayaking: one reason I love Duluth.

This is how we watched fireworks on Wednesday. We’ve talked about doing this since we met, because Chris had done it before. We just never got a chance. This year, we finally did it. The fireworks in Duluth are set off from a barge in the bay and it can be quite challenging to find a good spot that isn’t crowded that also has accessible parking. Plus, kayaking + fireworks = gorgeous. We put in from a beach on Park Point before it got dark, and then chilled out in the water, paddling around until it was fireworks time. Seeing the city from the water, the sun setting behind the hill, floating on the water, was just perfect. Now I want to go kayaking every day.

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Camp NaNoWriMo Finished Successfully!

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Duluth Flood, Vermilion Rd 6

Camp NaNoWriMo Finsihed!

Yesterday was the last day of Camp NaNoWriMo for June, and I finished my 50,000 words! Woo hoo! I am far from finished with my revision. In fact, I was forced to rethink my whole story and go back to the beginning and take it in a whole new direction. I’ve only got about 20,000 words of this “new” story, but that’s okay.

Things I changed:

  • I took it from three point of view characters down to one.
  • My main character stays in town. I’d created this great city for her to live in, then had her leave it in the first couple chapters of the story.
  • I added dragons.
  • I changed my system of magic back to one that I’ve imagined for a story all along.
  • There are a lot of other changes, of course, but one thing I like is that I know what the ending is going to be. Well, I know the main idea of the ending. And that means I know where I’m going, so the rest of the story will make more sense.

    News Around Here

    I haven’t kept to my blog schedule very well the last couple weeks and I blame it partly on NaNoWriMo and partly on the fact that I started working with a new summer program AND I started tutoring a neighbor. My summer has been busier than I thought it was going to be. Getting used to the new routine, losing the battle against napping on hot summer afternoons, and trying to write 1,667 words of fiction a day have consumed me.

    Oh, and also, we had a flood. Our city is on a hill, so nobody really took flash flood warnings very seriously. Well, the thing about being on a hill, in a city by a great lake, is that there are a lot of streams, creeks, and rivers going to the lake. And they all swelled up and washed away everything in their path. My neighborhood lucked out and didn’t get any damage, but just blocks away our local creek jumped onto the street and washed away all the clay under the pavement and made a street look like an earthquake had hit it. It was a bizarre day. Click here to see my Flickr photo set of pictures and videos I took around my neighborhood that day.

    Written by nikkinbird

    July 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Camp NaNoWriMo Progress, Summer, and Vegetable Garden!

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    2012-06-10 10.24.29

    Camp NaNoWriMo Progress

    For about one day, I was caught up on my novel. I really was. I even had, like, 200 extra words. On Friday that all went out the window. See, Chris is working in Minneapolis full time, so he’s only home on the weekends. That means that, whenever he’s here, the regular schedule I’ve so diligently put myself on gets thrown out in favor of doing fun things together or catching up on house and yard things together. And I’m totally all right with this. Our summer is short here in Duluth, so we have to enjoy each moment of it that we get. I have a week off now, so I will catch up. Plus, sometimes the thing that Chris and I decide to do together is go to a coffee shop and work on our respective projects. So then I do get more writing done those times when he’s here.

    Tashi enjoys when we let him hang out in the yard with us, too. His favorite activities are getting pet while basking in the sun and exploring. He is not an outside cat, but we let him come outside supervised for short periods of time. When we don’t let him out, we sometimes have the pleasure of listening to him yowl at us in the windowsill for 15 minute stretches of time.

    What I like about summer, when it’s not too hot, is that I can do everything outside. I’m sitting in the shade right now on the deck, looking out into the yard and admiring my freshly planted vegetable garden. While I enjoyed my coffee after breakfast this morning, I knitted on the pair of socks I’ve been working on for Chris forever! It’s taken so long because for a while I was having weird pain spasms all up and down my left arm and wrist, so I thought it was a good idea not to do the things that caused them, like knitting. It was sad, but I think it’s had a good rest now and is over.

    Vegetable Garden

    Yesterday we worked outside for ten hours! We got up early enough to be at the farmer’s market when it opened at 7am, a first for us. My attempt at starting plants indoors failed again this year, so we relied on the farmer’s market for some great plants to get our garden going. The $25 investment in seedlings will be well worth all the vegetables we get later!

    This is our second year wtih our magnificent raised bed garden. Last summer I planted 13 tomato plants way too close to each other, and they EXPLODED all over the garden and flopped over the pepper plants and stole the sun from them. Add to that, we’d planted late because of the time it took to build the garden and get the dirt, so we had a LOT of green tomatoes in September. I have high hopes for this year–I was more moderate with my 6 nicely spaced tomato plants, but I may have crammed some other things in there tight. What I did, though, was intersperse different kinds of plants together. So I planted onions and lettuce in the spaces between the peppers, and I put snap pea and pole bean seeds practically everywhere because they put nitrogen back in the soil, which helps the other plants grow.

    I’m going to take pictures of the garden as it grows. Here is Day 1.

    The big plants in the foreground are the pepper plants. We have 2 jalapeño plants, 1 banana pepper, 1 hungarian hot wax pepper, 1 green bell pepper, and 2 others that I don’t know the name of that Chris’s mom gave us. On the back row are the tomato plants. 2 big slicing tomatoes and 4 cherry tomato plants. I love love love cherry tomatoes, especially straight off the vine.

    The big trellis behind the tomato plants will be for snap peas and pole beans. The section of green fencing on the inside of the garden has zucchini seeds planted under it, and I plan to tie them up and grow them vertically. I haven’t got them in much space, so it’ll be an experiment. I won’t cry if it doesn’t work.

    On the zucchini side of the garden, the little green spikes you can see are leeks. I planted a few rows of them and had so many left over that I planted them in every extra space I could. I did the same thing with the onions on the pepper side of the garden. Both deter pests with their oniony smell, so I’m hoping the random scattering will be good. I was really excited to see, when I pulled the onion seedlings apart, that many were already forming tiny little bulbs! Onions are one of my favorite vegetables, so I will be really excited if they’re successful in my garden.

    2012-06-10 10.22.20
    2012-06-10 10.22.58 2012-06-10 10.23.12 2012-06-10 10.20.46

    Short Stories and Knitting Socks

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    UntitledThe chalkboard at Caribou Coffee had this awesome chalk drawing. If you don’t get it, check out this post at Hyperbole and a Half

    Short Stories and Knitting Socks

    In my last post, I talked about my handknit sweaters, and how my learning process with knitting sweaters can inform my learning process with writing fiction. If I can compare writing my novel to knitting a sweater, then I can also compare short stories to socks.

    Sweaters are long term projects that tend to sit at the background of everything you do. Just like I remember that I took that unfinished sweater to Turkey and Argentina, I will remember that I wrote this novel the year I got married, the year I also taught NaNoWriMo as an afterschool class, and the year we went to London on our honeymoon.

    If I remember the sweaters I knit at certain times, I will also remember the socks. Unlike sweaters, socks don’t take so long. They are more portable, more palatable, and they involve less risk. They can be a nice break from larger knitting projects, and are easier to do while watching TV. Some of those things can be true for short stories, too. They take less time, it’s easier to see the whole picture, and it takes less time to see the finished result and be rewarded with that sense of satisfaction.

    I’ve written a couple of rough drafts of short stories in the last week or so. One is backstory for my novel, another is completely unrelated. On days when I just can’t fathom slogging through another few pages of my novel, I can relax by going back to devil-may-care rough draft writing on some short stories. Since they take less time, it can feel good to finish a story. I also feel that I get a chance to work on technique and style in the short stories, because I can get to the final stages of editing faster than I will with the novel.

    I think it’s a good thing to take breaks from big projects for awhile, even if it’s only for an hour or two a day. My brain can use a change of pace. A good way to get a lot of work done is to vary the kinds of work I’m doing. Editing and writing a rough draft are two different processes, so when editing wears me down, I can work on a rough draft. When I’m burnt out on fiction for the day, I can work on a blog post. It can help me be more productive than if I were to sit down and try to work on my novel for five hours straight. Not that I usually have five hours straight of writing time, but for me, even one hour of focus on a single task can be difficult sometimes.

    Much like typing with a fat cat on your lap can be difficult.
    Untitled

    Writing a Novel and Handknit Sweaters

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    Maybe I shouldn’t keep comparing writing to knitting, but since they are two of my favorite things to do, it seems natural to me. I also think it can be valuable to look at how we acquire skills. Some tendencies and habits can carry over from one type of pursuit to another.

    The first sweater I ever knit for myself, I ripped out and used the yarn for a different sweater. That second sweater, I never got buttons for, the sleeves were a slightly awkward length, and I sewed together sloppily. I think I also made up my own way to do a hood instead of looking up hood construction somewhere else. It wasn’t polished and I didn’t wear it much before I accidentally washed it (100% wool) in the washing machine, and I wasn’t too sad that it felted a bit.

    UntitledI never finished my third sweater, but it had lots of potential. That’s it in the picture here. That sweater was an ambitious sweater. Knit on tiny needles and with tiny yarn, it took a long time to complete. It came with me on a college orchestra trip to Turkey, and on my semester studying abroad in Argentina. On one of the dusty bus rides through the mountains in Argentina, knitting away on the second sleeve, I lost my stitch marker. I no longer had any idea how many repeats I had done of the sleeve increases. Yes, I was that close to finishing that sweater, and I let a little thing like losing my place in the pattern stop me from finishing it. It’s been hanging in my closet since, the second sleeve in its own little bag in my knitting bin in the basement.

    My fourth sweater has been my most wearable, though it’s still not perfect. My fifth is the same, except that the first time I knit it, it was way too big and I ripped the whole thing out and completely reknit it.

    Now, what about my novel? Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged about the revision of my novel. Things are not working out, the plot isn’t lining up (I’m not even sure I have a plot!), it just feels like it stinks. Often, I will hear a quote from an author about their first novel, saying that it wasn’t so good, they were glad it never got published, or anything like that. I think my first novel is going to be like that. I almost feel a little bad blogging about all of my novel progress, when I strongly suspect I will never be sharing this particular novel with anybody. Maybe I shouldn’t think of it like that, but that’s my suspicion and it’s not really helping to motivate me to finish this revision.

    One way I am managing to stay encouraged is to think about those sweaters. Just because I had to rip out my first sweater didn’t stop me from knitting. I didn’t think, “Wow, that sweater turned out really horrible, so I probably shouldn’t ever try to knit again.” Instead, I took the yarn I’d used and knit a whole new sweater out of it. And then I went on to knit other sweaters, none perfect yet, but all improved. So, even if my novel doesn’t turn out as perfect as I’d hoped, I’m learning as I go, and my next project will be better for having written this one.

    I do promise, that even though I’m having misgivings about this novel, that I will continue with it through at least this revision! I am determined to do that, because I know that I will learn from it, and be more ready for the next novel. Now back to work!

    The Privilege of Teaching Afterschool Classes

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    Or: Why I know I could never be a teacher.

    I don’t know how teachers do it. “It,” specifically meaning, be a teacher and a parent at the same time. I come home after working with other people’s kids all day and all I want is to lay around and be a blob. I don’t want to do chores, any cooking more complicated than spaghetti, or any extra work.

    I do consider myself lucky to have the privilege to teach afterschool classes. They get to be fun. The kids want to learn about the topic (they signed up for the class, right?) I get to go with the flow and do stuff based on what the kids want to do.

    Novel Writing sounds like this crazy ambitious class for 2-5th graders, right? It sounds impressive, but I have to say I completely winged it today. I didn’t prepare at all. I made it up as I went, really. It worked, though, because I’ve gotten good at this. Spread out in the halls and write descriptions of stuff without saying what it is. Return to the group and read your description so they can guess what the thing is! Now, free time to write your novel! Oh, you’re getting stuck? Let’s get back together as a group and discuss why you get stuck and what strategies you use to get unstuck!

    And you know what? They had some pretty good ideas about how to get unstuck from a stuck place in writing. I love that in this class I get to have the kids give so much of their own input. I love telling them, “Do what works for you. Here’s some advice, but in the end, it’s all about what works for you.”

    I also love that I’m still doing the Novel Writing Class, which I’d originally based around NaNoWriMo for the month of November and had planned to end in December with the end of the first afterschool session. I had to repeat it because all of the kids begged me to. I had them do evaluations and they asked for more writing time, to have the class on more than one day per week, and more chances to share and workshop.

    Good quote from today, after I the kids said they didn’t really care to have free time for writing but I made them do it anyway:
    “It’s weird, I never want to start writing, but once I do, I don’t want to stop!”

    What a great coincidence. As I was drafting this post, I came across this article posted on Twitter by NaNoWriMo: Do You Write With Your Students? It’s semi-related to what I was writing in this post, and I like it.

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