Nikki's Notebook

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

Posts Tagged ‘novel

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.


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

    Can reading writing advice hurt your writing?

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    In this first revision of my novel, I’m changing a lot of things drastically. That means I’m throwing a lot of good writing out the window, but I’m still keeping and altering some scenes. It’s tough, as a writer, to go back and pick out those parts of the scenes I want to keep, and then to notice that the rest of it, the part I’m leaving out, isn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. How did I not notice that when I was first writing it?

    The thing is, I don’t feel like the writing I’m doing now, to replace it, is as good. Is it because I just can’t see it until later? Or is it because I recently read some books about writing and editing fiction, and I’m letting my inner editor have too much reign at this point in the process? I may be worrying too much about using words other than “said” as dialogue tags and stripping my writing of adverbs. This advice is useful, but not if it makes me self-conscious to the point of making my writing sterile and lifeless.

    On the other end of things, I get too frustrated with the advice that tells me to “just do it. Just get words on paper,” and focuses a lot on word counts. I WANT to know more about the editing process and what it looks like to sit down and chisel away at what I’ve already written. Apparently, I just need to know where to apply that advice.

    My conclusion is that writers need to take advice self-consciously. Obviously, anything that causes you anxiety and keeps you from writing is not good. My solution is to take a step back, and give some conscious thought to how I’m following the advice, or whether it would benefit me to follow it. Another solution is to filter the advice and make sure to only apply it to the part of the process I’m in. This can be tricky sometimes, since I’m still exploring my own process and figuring out what works for me. And that’s the thing about advice, too. Writers are all different, and we each need to figure out what works for us.

    On to another note. I have pictures of Week 2 of my garden. Seeds are sprouting, things are growing! I harvested my first pepper, but the plant came with the almost full-grown pepper on it, so I don’t think that counts.

    Here’s a pic of the whole garden. I think it’ll be fun to have a week by week collection of these and watch it get greener and greener overall.
    GardenWeek2 #1

    My zucchini seeds sprouted! I plan to tie them up on the green mesh as they get bigger. I may be a little too late planting them, but we’ll see. Que será, será.
    GardenWeek2 #2

    Baby zucchini closeup. I planted two seeds in each hole in case one didn’t sprout. Sadly, I did pull the second sproutling out of each pair. I hate doing it even though I know thinning is a part of gardening.
    GardenWeek2 #3

    Lettuce sprouts growing in among the peppers! I thinned these, too, after taking pictures.
    GardenWeek2 #4

    Closeup of cute lettuce sprouts.
    GardenWeek2 #5

    Green bell peppers! The peppers were already on the plant when we bought it. Yay for head starts. I’m excited for this one, because last year I bought one before our garden was built and wasn’t able to plant it for about a month. I think we’ll get a lot more peppers this year!
    GardenWeek2 #6

    Big beef tomato flowers.
    GardenWeek2 #7

    I planted snap peas and pole beans near the trellis and next to the tomato plants so they can climb the tomato cages. Last year, our tomatoes got so huge, I’m not super worried about other plants blocking their sun. If the beans and peas grow too fast, I’ll just cut them back. Here’s a pole bean seedling. Cute!
    GardenWeek2 #8

    And, a shot of the tomatoes now, to compare with when they get really big!
    GardenWeek2 #9

    Camp NaNoWriMo, here I come!

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    Well, it’s May already and that means it’s time for me to start preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo for June! I just got an email about all of the camp goodies that are in the store, and I want all of them! Just look at them. I want the poster. And the coffee mug. And the merit badges. And the camp care package. And the tshirt. All so cool!

    Since I am using Camp NaNoWriMo to motivate myself to revise my novel from November, I’m kind of cheating. I’m not starting a brand new novel for the 50,000 word goal. My thought is, though, that things like NaNoWriMo are a tool to help me accomplish what I already want to accomplish anyway. My revision will be an almost complete rewrite as well, so having a word count goal will still be a legitimate way of tracking my progress. And boy, do I ever need the motivation!

    In the past, when I’ve done NaNoWriMo in November, I’ve usually let it sneak up on me. I’ve never outlined, or planned very much ahead of time. This time, I am going to try outlining and some more advance planning. I still think November’s more spontaneous writing helped me–after all, I wouldn’t even know my characters or the world they’re operating in if it weren’t for all that writing! But now I need a clearer roadmap of what they’re doing so that this revision actually will improve the original draft.

    Sponsor me!

    If you support my novel writing efforts, consider sponsoring me at my StayClassy fundraising page! I always try to donate a little bit to the Office of Letters and Light when I do NaNoWriMo, but now I want to try to support them even more! Their resources allowed me to teach NaNoWriMo as an afterschool class and spread the novel writing love to some awesome kids, and the whole program provides encouragement, support, and community to tons of writers all over the world. I love it, and if it sounds cool to you, consider supporting my efforts. Plus, your donations will help guilt me into sticking to my word count goal for the month!

    Written by nikkinbird

    May 9, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Camp NaNoWriMo and Proofreading for Project Gutenberg

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    Alamo crossing her legs :)The internet has so much information and so many things to discover, and it’s always changing. Even with the tons of new things there are to keep track of, there are other things that have been around for a long time, in internet years, and I can’t believe I didn’t know about them earlier! Here are a couple of things I just found out about even though they’ve been going on for years.

    Camp NaNoWriMo

    Did you know there is a summer NaNoWriMo? It’s called Camp NaNoWriMo, and they do it in June AND in August. How did I not know about this until now? They call it “An idyllic writers’ retreat, smack dab in the middle of your crazy life.” Only it’s a virtual retreat. When you sign up, you can choose to be included in a “cabin” with other participants, so you have a built-in support group. I’ve signed up to participate in June, and we’ll see about August.

    I won’t be writing a new novel in June. Instead, I’ll be working on my second draft of the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo in November. It has been tough to motivate myself to revise this novel. I started it completely unplanned in November, so I really had no idea where it was going, and it’s basically going to be a whole new story. I feel a little sad to have put all of that work into it only to rewrite it, but I wouldn’t have these characters, these ideas, the world building, or anything, if I hadn’t written in November. To help myself stick with it, I’ll be attending Camp NaNoWriMo in June so I can set myself a goal and have some accountability in sticking to it. I have to say I adore The Office of Letters and Light for doing all of this every year.

    Proofreading for Project Gutenberg

    Another discovery I made is that Project Gutenberg has a program for volunteer proofreaders to help process the books that are scanned and made into ebooks. As a spelling, grammar, and punctuation nerd, this is a project that appeals to me. I’m good at proofreading! I also like Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg provides free ebooks for books that are in the public domain (i.e. not under copyright anymore). The books are scanned from physical copies and put through OCR software, which recognizes the text. But, the software sometimes gets things wrong, and that’s where proofreaders come in! Click through the Distributed Proofreaders Walkthrough to get an idea of what it’s like to help out this way. I’ve signed up for an account, read the proofreading guidelines, and printed out the guidelines reference sheet. Today I took the proofreading quizzes, which helped me reinforce what I’d learned by reading the proofreading guidelines. Now, I get to proofread my beginner’s pages and get feedback from a mentor!

    The picture above is of Alamo. Just thought I’d include a picture, since I haven’t had a reason for a photo for awhile! We think it’s funny when our pets cross their legs, and I take every opportunity to snap pictures of these poses.

    On reading and taking advice about writing. And frozen yogurt.

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    Today is the first day of Script Frenzy. In the past, I haven’t paid much attention to it, even though I knew it existed. Script Frenzy is the script writing version of NaNoWriMo. This year I was tempted to try something new and learn how to write a script, but I can’t. I’m still doing something new. I’m editing my novel from NaNoWrimo.

    Right now editing my novel is hard. It’s because I’m not so much editing as rewriting. I have a lot of work to do, it’s hard to motivate myself to do it. It’s difficult to go back now and fill in holes, change things to make my ending work, and to find out just how much world building I still have to do. When I am finished, it will have been worth it, because I now have a much clearer idea of what my novel is doing and where it is going. It will be a solid second draft. When I started NaNoWriMo this year, I started from scratch, and the idea of the book evolved as I wrote it, so that the beginning made absolutely no sense in correspondence with the end. It’s almost like I did a giant brainstorm and now I actually have to write the novel.

    I subscribe to a number of writing blogs and follow some people who tweet about writing . There is a lot of good stuff out there, but right now I don’t have the time to pay attention to it. I can’t pay attention to it because I’m not there yet. I can’t read advice about marketing, because I have nothing to market. I read it and I start worrying, start thinking about how hard it would be, how undesirable some things are to me. The same goes for other aspects of it, and treating writing as a business. At some point, I will need to pay attention to that kind of advice, but I can’t now. Right now, all I need is advice that’s going to keep me writing. The only way that any of that other advice is going to help me is if I have something I’ve written that is beautiful and polished and ready to sell. And I don’t have that. I just need to finish editing my novel.

    I’m still leading my Novel Writing class after school, which had been tied in with NaNoWriMo in November but now is just this crazy thing where when I try to lead activities, the kids ask for writing time, but when I give them writing time, the goofy ones distract all the other ones and they just have chat time. A couple of weeks ago, I found a bunch of quotes on writing advice and printed them out. I asked the kids to read through them and circle ones they liked, put question marks next to ones that confused them, and so on.

    I was very surprised by their reactions. Overall, the kids were disdainful, to say the least. “This doesn’t make any sense!” they would cry. “I don’t get it!” One girl would underline all of the masculine pronouns in each quote while shaking her head and saying, “I have a problem with this guy.” I explained that there is no gender-neutral pronoun in English and that writers either have to choose one or the other or constantly use the awkward “he or she,” and “his or her,” but she didn’t buy it. We eventually agreed that more people should choose “she” as their default pronoun anyway. What I learned was that kids are very good at deciding which advice they think is bogus and which they want to follow. I didn’t regret choosing quotes written by adults for adults, because, despite some vocabulary and difficulty handling odd metaphors, these kids get it. Again, I am inspired by the children: ignore most advice. Just write the way you want to, and do what works for you.

    Here are a couple of pictures of the cool yogurt place we went to, Yogurt Lab. According to our friend Jordan, places like these exist in abundance in Chicago, and Minneapolis has had a sad lack of them for years. I like it. You serve yourself your own yogurt out of the soft serve machines, choosing from several flavors, then load up on toppings from the the various toppings bars. I had cookies & cream ice cream, espresso ice cream, with chocolate covered waffle cone chunks, oreos, yogurt chips and sprinkles on top. Delicious! And cool graphic design.



    Written by nikkinbird

    April 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

    How Writing is Like Knitting

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    Last week I started the incredibly daunting task of editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It doesn’t have a title yet. In fact, it probably won’t until I’m forced to give it one. I’m not good at titles. I started it in November, for NaNoWriMo, of course, and finished the first draft on January 28th. I told myself I’d give myself a little break before starting the editing, and boy did I ever. I’m not going to beat myself up about that, though, because I have stayed true to my goal of writing every day, in some form. I worked on some other projects.

    The longer I waited to edit the novel, though, the scarier it got. I thought about all the work left to do and all of the changes I already know I need to make. I thought about how this rough draft is really just a skeleton of what I envision the book eventually being. I thought about how I changed a big part of the premise in the end, so that I have to rewrite things in the beginning so it all makes sense. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m trying not to let it get to me. I need to finish this thing. So I sat down and started applying post-its to my binder.

    That is a picture of the front section of the binder. On the left are notes to myself about things I need to address in the novel as a whole, and on the right are the notes about that section in particular. The picture was taken in the middle of a 2 hour chunk of work time, and those sections have been filled with notes since. Each one of those notes represents a lot of work, and it’s difficult to know where to start.

    To quell my anxiety towards the hugeness of my task, I have reminded myself that writing a novel is like knitting in some ways. If I am knitting a pair of socks, I don’t expect to finish the pair, or even one sock, in an hour or two. In fact, if I only get a couple of inches knitted in an hour, that is to be expected. The socks get finished because of all of the hours, and all of the inches, that get added up until the sock gets finished. The fact that I sit down and knit for a little while, every day, is what gets me socks to wear. In the same way, I must sit down and write, every day, and it will eventually all add up to a finished novel.

    It will, however, probably take a lot longer than a pair of socks. So maybe I should have compared it to a sweater, or a shawl. Here is a picture of the socks I started in mid-February. They were my London knitting.

    Written by nikkinbird

    March 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm

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