Fear of the Week

Hey Friends,

Just wanted to give a quick update on my own private NaNoWriMo. I made the last goal so I’m at 20,000 words. The way I’ve been doing it is a hybrid method. That is, I’m not writing every day because that doesn’t work with my schedule. Instead, I’ve set aside a week where the writing is the number one priority and gotten 10K words. Then I had to stop and make up all the things I didn’t get done. Then I did another week of 10K words. I’m about to start on my third week.

One of the things that some of you might say is, “Lame. The whole point is to write every day until you get 50K. Taking breaks isn’t NaNoWriMo. You’re a cheater and I don’t care about you.”

Okay. That’s a little harsh, but fine and fair. And, this is my version. Whether or not I’m doing it wrong, I have learned that there is a specific fear associated with each week of writing.

Also, to come back to that whole “lame bit” here are some of the things I’ve done the past two weeks to make up, catch up, and try to triage to prepare for next week long sprint:

One Times: I finished my Christmas Letters. (Now are you getting how overwhelmed I am?)  My daughter Evelyn participated as a cancer survivor in the “Pantene Beautiful Lengths” experience by cutting the ponytails of students donating their hair to be made into free wigs for cancer patients. Dog had to go to vet to get nails clipped, and fresh orders of heartworm preventative and flea/tick meds. Lime disease is terrible in Maryland. Son had to go to orthodontist. He needs braces.  I went to Baltimore for critique group at the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Had several stories come in from The Potomac Review that I need to read and get responses back to editor. I called my senators about the cuts to the EPA.

Regular: Post office, bank, drycleaner, grocery store, laundry for six people, I wrote my bills, went through mail I hadn’t looked at in over a week, and then the sports. This is the overlapping of winter and spring sports. My son is regular basketball, all-star basketball, lacrosse. My oldest daughter finished her volunteer hours at the horse stable and then started Track and Field (which is EVERY DAY that I have to pick her up from school). My little ones finished science club but still have gymnastics. They also have birthday parties to attend on the weekends. I wasn’t teaching as many classes this week, but I had to finish the session with all the attending paperwork to be filed and moved around.

Now that I’ve been nice and defensive, let me throw away all the little sticky notes that I write my daily to-do lists on and tell you about FEAR.

The first week fear is: DO I HAVE A NOVEL IN ME? That is, you’ve thought of a premise, you’ve got a hook and a setting and some characters, but do you have enough for 85K words? You kinda know what’s going to happen, but what if it all happens too quickly and this is only a short story?

The only way to get through this fear is to try it. Take a deep breath and keep asking “what if.” What if my character wants A, but then B happens? What if my character chooses to do something stupid when someone else has A and doesn’t appreciate it? What if my character gets A, but realizes she wanted B?

The second week fear: THIS ISN’T INTERESTING. I’ve got too many characters, too many pets, the conflict isn’t threatening enough. All my sentences are subject-verb-direct object with no variety so that EVEN MY SENTENCES ARE BORING.

That’s okay. I’ve read NaNoWriMo pep talks. The authors all say the same thing. You can’t edit something that you haven’t gotten out of your head. You must get something onto the paper and then you can change it around. Also, this writing is so fresh that you are not a reliable indicator of whether there is an engrossing story. You’ll need beta readers and TIME.

As I’m getting ready for my third week (tomorrow is an elementary half-day so kids are getting home as I’m getting home from teaching yoga and my son has three basketball games Saturday because they are in a tournament and I teach Sunday School on Sunday morning, but after that. Monday, March 6th)…

I have another fear: THIS ISN’T WORTH IT  All those things I listed above that I had to get done so that I could write something that no one is ever going to want to read. My premise is stupid, my characters forgettable. I’m stressed and irritable because I have no time and it’s all going to be forgotten, recycled, a waste of paper.

Maybe I’ll have some insight after I make it through this writing week. But, this one seems to be the hardest to fight because I KNOW I’m out of balance. My day, each day, is scheduled down to ten minute intervals and that is not how I want to live. I’m nervous when practice schedules don’t come in ahead of time because I am constantly doing logistics. I’m short with the kids when they want to play instead of sticking to the schedule. I live in the minivan and dread dinner because I didn’t have time to make anything that they’ll all eat. The situation makes me very unhappy.

My guess is this is where the author says he or she had to dig deep and have confidence that the novel will help other people, that the story will connect and resonate with others.

I don’t know. We should have an answer by March 13th.





Short Cuts

Hello peoples,

It has been one week since I started my own private NaNoWriMo. I made word count! 10,550 = 7 days times 1,500 words.

So, YAY! But also. Wow. Because it wasn’t just work to get this first week done, it was a lot of shortcuts that aren’t sustainable. I pretty much look like a zombie with a frownie face, not-chic pony tail, and burning eyes. Instead of brains, though, I want sleep. I want to sleep so much that my eyes burn when I wake up in the morning and I need two cups of tea before I can even stop yawning long enough to make a third. I’ve been cheating on making my kids’ lunches and telling them to buy instead. I should change the music for my fitness class. My dog is absolutely bored with being walked up and down the street because I haven’t had time to take him to the park. He retaliated by chewing up one of my yoga CDs. I have no social life. I have unreturned text messages, three post-Christmas cards still to send out, and forget seeing any of my friends in person. Overall, there’s no sense of balance. I’m running from one activity to the next, just smearing across the surface instead of really checking things.

So, I need to adjust. I’m leaving for AWP (writing conference held in Washington DC this year) on Friday. I’m setting aside my speed writing until I return on Sunday. That way I can get my household squared away before I leave and, most importantly, I mentally prepare for the conference. There’s no use going if I haven’t looked at the panels, discussions, and activities. I want to go to get energized about writing. I want to learn something new. All I can think about right now is crashing on the hotel bed and sleeping before my roommates get there and potentially try to get me to actually attend the conference.

From Sunday the 12th through Saturday the 18th I will write another 10,500 words.

Anyone else going to AWP? Seen any good panels I should check out? Anyone else sludging through first drafts right now?





There’s a writerly phenom in the month of November in which authors attempt the mad feat of writing 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30th.  A marathon for writers, if you will.  This year I’ve decided to give it a go.  I’d say ‘try,’ but Yoda says there is no try.  The race hasn’t even started and I’m already freaking out.  You need to write 1,666 words each day to meet the goal.


Time without kids:    Schools are closed on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  That means, I’m starting out 6,664 words behind.  Monday is a hospital day.  My daughter finished chemo right before her 5th birthday, but we still have to drive down for an exam and labs to make sure the leukemia cells aren’t growing again.    If all goes well, I can drop her off at school later and have an hour before my middle schooler gets home. There is, of course, no writing between the first bus home and the last ‘lights out.’  After that my husband, whom I haven’t seen all day, and I try to grab an hour together before bed.

Not a good track (get it, you run around a track… sorry) record:  Years ago.  Back in the day or whatever, I was somehow talked into one of those 3-mile race things where everyone wears a shirt and you run and the money helps something.  I hate running, but it seemed like something an average person could do and I’m average.  My friend Thuy and I ran on the treadmill a couple times at the gym together beforehand, all was good.  Then, I got there. So many people.  And loud.  I started to get anxious.  And then suddenly the people were running and I felt they were chasing me like the bulls in Spain and I was trying to get out of the way and then I was on the side and my friend Thuy looked back at me and I told her to SAVE HERSELF.   I don’t really remember what happened after that.

Another time, or maybe the same one, I was sitting on the grass before or after that running part with other people on my team, and maybe they worked with me or I worked with them?  And I was there, minding my own business, and a bird flew by and dropped a load on me (what IS that black dot in the middle of the white?).  My husband, except he wasn’t my husband yet, I just thought he was cute and really smart, gave me his shirt.  He had on another one.  So, that was nice.

Thus, my marathon experience consists of freaking out at the very beginning and getting pooped on.

Technical Issues:  The other day I downloaded a free trial of Scrivener.  I thought it might be fun to try something new and keep myself psyched for this marathon.  Some writers swear by the program as a way to organize first and second drafts.  But, and I know this is surprising, I somehow messed up the download and it splattered all over my desktop with an icon for each little part of the program.  And then I didn’t get all the way through the tutorial.

I have my account set up at the NaNoWriMo website.  I’m pretty sure my id is TasteofSherri, but I’m still concerned I’ve not quite got a handle on the badges and forums and such.


Priority: Wanting to write 50.000 words has forced me to put WRITING EVERY VIABLE DAY in the first priority slot starting Nov. 1st.   My ideal way to write is to have the kids gone and NO OTHER pending duties.   I know.  I’m fickle and easily distracted.  I get it.  Even knowing that a repair man could knock on my door between a given time period makes it difficult for me to concentrate.  High-strung?  ADD?  *Shrug* It is what it is.  So, I’ve been trying to clear my schedule.  I turned in my FITNESS BUDGET to the rec council late last night.  It was the third time due to mathematical errors, but who’s counting.  Hopefully not me or we’ll have to do it again.

(NOTE: I’ve been reading lately as a precursor to the marathon.  I haven’t been writing because I’m trying to do THINGS and get them marked off the list.  I’ve noticed, and it’s been pointed out to me, that I’ve been talking to myself quite a bit.  So, there you go.  If I don’t write and get it out of my head, I talk to imaginary people and real people think I’m weird).

Also, my son’s birthday party is tomorrow.  This would be less of a big deal if he didn’t want a FOOD FIGHT (or if I hadn’t said ‘yes’).  We have 11 cans of silly string and pie crusts and 15 cans of spray whip cream. Water guns that we’ll fill with colored water. Possibly water balloons if it is warm enough.  I still have to buy his last present and then wrap them and bake the cupcakes.  I would like to relax and have fun with it, enjoy helping the kids get their costumes on for trick-or-treating, but I’m worried that I’ve forgotten something.

Clean up after kids are in bed on Thursday, October 31st and be all ready to meet November and focus on my writing!

Submerge in the Story: I guess most people are beginning a new novel?  I’m actually working on a story I started years ago.  The first part is being published as a short story in  Abyss and Apex.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I’m expanding it into a novel.  I’m really having trouble getting momentum.  My critique group likes what they’ve seen, but it’s been grueling trying to eke out each new section.  I’m currently at 21,000 words — that’s the first quarter where you set up the novel — and if I got to 50K words by the end of November, I’d only have the ending to write (another 20K).  I could have this to beta readers by the end of the year.  That’s HUGE incentive.

New Project:  I’ve *finished* sending out my query letter for my Post-Firestorm novel.  I’ve had some full and some partial requests.  It could be weeks before agents get back to me.  I’m not sure of the next step if I don’t go with an agent.  Small press vs. self-publishing.  NaNoWriMo is going to take over my mind so I don’t have to think about any of that for a month.  I will be deep into a new world of dreams and fears, guilt and betrayal.

Community:  I spend a lot of time alone and its hard to keep writing.  I LOVE my monthly critique group, but it’s hard to sustain the excitement and energy when I’m back home and there are more mundane things to do.  I’m hoping this month of virtual interaction will make me feel more connected.

I’ve rambled WAY too much here.  Maybe another symptom of not writing lately?

Let me know if you’re doing NaNoWriMO or look me up there.

Happy Halloween!!!!