Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 5

10 things to do while on a one-week break from 'novelling':

  1. Write down as many ideas for picture books as possible so as to be never tempted to 'novel' again.
  2. Call everyone who might have thought I've been trapped under something heavy for the past four weeks.
  3. Pick up a month's worth of dog poop in the yard.
  4. Christmas shop.
  5. Read by daylight.
  6. Cut my children's toenails.
  7. Cut my dog's toenails.
  8. Cut my toenails.
  9. Blog.
  10. Count the days to Draft 4.
Five more sleeps!

Zamboni Love

You know you're a kid when...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


When I told my Swiss friends that we'd been skating twice already, their response was, "Deja? Ah, les vraies Canadiennes."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Draft 3 - The Tally

Draft 3 Complete!
22Nov -16,510 Words
19 Nov - 11,433
15 Nov - 9590
13 Nov - 7891
12 Nov - 6788
07 Nov - 5796
03 Nov - 4471
01 Nov - 3348
31 Oct - 3292
30 Sept- 1949
1 Sept - 0

Blogging My Novel: Week 4

I made it--Draft 3 is done and a month ahead of schedule.

What got me there so fast? A jolt of NaNoWriMo enthusiasm combined with a healthy dose of resignation--there was no avoiding Draft 4.

Trying to write a perfect third draft was getting me nowhere. My average monthly word count for September and October was a whopping 1600 words and I assure you they were far from perfection. By permitting myself to write tripe, I actually got something salvageable on the page, which is a hell of a lot better than what I was working with on September 1.

1600 Words? Pah! That's a mornings' work at most.

So how does one celebrate a not-so-shitty third draft? This writer headed to her favourite sandwicherie for a B.L.T. --heavy on the B-- followed by a veritable chocolate chip cookie and cappuccino. (I concede some work is required on the reward system associated with this method, but it was the best I could do given the time available.)

So now it's on to the inevitable Draft 4. I suppose I'll have to resign myself to Draft 5 before I start...

That may take a week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Something Real

I am blow-drying Emma the Brave's hair when she turns to me and says, "Mommy, why can't you be a hairdresser?"

I jiggle the dryer with professional flourish. "I suppose I could be a hairdresser if I wanted to be."

Emma's lip protrudes ever so slightly. "Everybody else's mommy is something except mine."

I stop the dryer and kneel down. I consider naming off all the other stay-at-home parents I know, but don't. "You know Mommy writes stories. And before I had you and Mighty Mouse I was a physiotherapist."

"But something real," she says with an emphatic stomp.

I tickle her tummy until her pout gives way to giggles all the while assuring her that being a writer and therapist are something real. I don't argue the realities of motherhood--it's clear that option has been eliminated.

With hair dried, I brush two sets of teeth then herd my pint-sized pair upstairs to read a chapter from The Faraway Tree before bed.

Twenty minutes later, with lullabies sung and sips of water dispensed, I slip back down. Supper dishes still clutter the kitchen table, two report cards beg to be signed, and a load of pink laundry is calling my name. I neglect them all to spend forty minutes stranded on an uncharted tropical island in the South Pacific.

'Something real' can wait.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Home Stretch

It's not easy parenting on one's own. For two weeks--less a measly 15 hours--I've been the sole counsellor, confidante, curator and cook to the two most singly-minded little girls I know.

"Only six sleeps until Daddy comes home," I tell them. I write a big '6' in the top right-hand corner of the chalk board in the kitchen. They think it's for them.

It's not that things run that much more smoothly when the Captain's around. In fact, it's quite the opposite: dinners run late, laundry baskets overflow, and the garbage mysteriously never makes it to the curb.

But in the palm of our imprecision lies the faith that together we will make it through.

Six more sleeps.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 3

Just over two years ago I gave in to my closet 'arts major' tendencies and enrolled in an introductory English course through Athabasca University. Having spent most of my undergraduate career in envy of my English major roommate, I was ready to sink my teeth into the literary greats over endless cups of tea and the odd electronic correspondence. It would be great. I could read fiction by daylight and not feel guilty for I was a student!

Well, needless to say, the course was not the literary mecca I had envisioned. There was one helluva lot more work involved than sipping orange pekoe over Dickens, for one. In the end I came away with a great appreciation for the authors we studied and an equally large inferiority complex. Lucky for you, dear reader, it didn't last long.

So how do the masters do it? How do they suck us in page after page, keep us awake long after our intended bedtime, and breath life into completely fictional characters and places? The answer far exceeds what can be included in any one blog entry. All I know is that it is far easier to analyze brilliant prose than to write it and analysis is no walk in the park either.

So it's back to the page for me. Who knows? By Draft 6 I could be a master in the making.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 2

So, what was so wrong with Draft 2?

It lacked what I believe any story worth it's salt must contain: a cohesive story thread. A well told story is carefully woven. Every character, scene, and description carries the reader toward an inevitable--yet not predictable--conclusion. Free-written over 19 sessions, Draft 2 had detail, dialogue and drama, but the story's ending had very little to do with where it began. In fact, a truly relevant beginning had yet to be written.

Enter my dubious 'inner editor'--what if it can't be written? Is it possible to write a story backward and have it not come across as contrived? Do I even want to bother?

This is when I wished I was working with a one thousand word manuscript rather than one closer to twenty and shoved the offending masterpiece in a drawer for the summer.

With a few months perspective I can now appreciate the role of Draft 2: it helped me discover the character whose story I was trying to tell. How was I to know that her story would be somewhat different than the one I had planned?

Almost 6,000 words into Draft 3 even I can see that my story is more cohesive-- it's just not pretty. I guess 'pretty' will have to wait for Draft 4.

My best NaNoWriMo wishes to you all.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 1

In honour of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I am going to devote one blog a week to my middle grade novel. I figure there is nothing like the risk of public ridicule to keep my right pinkie in check.

My novel celebrated it's first birthday this past Monday. A year ago, during what was supposed to be a short story weekend workshop, I produced a sketchy first draft of what I was afraid to call novel. (Let's face it--I still roll my eyes when I say the word.) Granted, three days on the Mediterranean sans husband and kids was bound to be prolific, but 12 characters, 10 partially written scenes, and almost 3000 words was far more than I'd ever anticipated.

Determined to give 'novelling' a chance, I subjected myself to my own version of NaNoWriMo last February. I wrote 19 days that month, about an hour each day, with an average daily word count of just under 900. For moral support, I included my invaluable writers' group, the Birkenstocks, in my plan, promising them multiple quarts of imported Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream when I'd finished. 17,000 words later we gorged on Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cherry Garcia, and Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream until our teeth ached. I'd done it--I'd written a novel.

Now what?

As advised by Chris Baty, author of No Plot, No Problem and founder of NaNoWriMo, I let it sit. A month later, I picked it up and read it.

No word of a lie--it was a disaster. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

So now I'm trying to make something from the wreckage and it's not going so well. Here's hoping an electronic line in the sand will get me to the finish line:

Draft 3 by January 1, 2008 or bust!