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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1500 words a day or 15 kilometres on my bike

Maeve Binchy sets goals and deadlines and then either rewards herself or pusnishes herself accordingly.  Sounds a little masochistic to me but yesterday, I told myself it was either 1500 words or 15 km.  

Guess who on her bike after her second cup of coffee this morning. 

On the bright side, I woke up with a storyline and ideas for characters and a plot for my book writing course.  I spent a few hours before cycling jotting down ideas in a spiral notebook and chapter ideas on index cards.  

After cycling, I went for a visit at my friend, Hélène's, and asked for a pen and paper. I had actually heard a tree fall while cycling through the trail in the forest and saw two falcons fly off as I was searching for the fallen tree. Then, I started getting all sorts of ideas for the novel. I wish that I'd brought my mp3 player so that I could record all of my thoughts.  I managed to jot down most of my ideas, I hope, as we chatted and had breakfast together with her daughter and son-in-law.

Actual wordcount today so far? Zero, but I may not punish myself since I jotted down some fabulous ideas.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

1500 words written this morning

After procrastinating a bit, I unplugged my laptop, brought it out to the veranda and made myself write until the battery flashed that it needed charging. 

I picked my stack of index cards and flipped through them to see what needed writing from my roughly sketched out plan for my novel. I finished writing a chapter that I had started over a week ago. 

This afternoon, I grabbed a kid's novel, The Penderwick's by Jeanne Birdsall, and reread or rather skimmed it while writing key points from each chapter and shallow character studies.  I'm also going to be starting to write a kid's novel, my second attempt, but this time I feel that I have a bit more direction since taking courses with the Institute of Children's Literature. 

I'm currently reading Louise Rennison's On the Bright Side, I'm Now The Girlfriend of a Sex God. Laugh out loud funny!

Writing goals

I’m an avid reader and my tastes are pretty eclectic. I enjoy reading novels by Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Khaled Hosseini, James Patterson, Anne George, Haywood Smith, Robert B. Parker, Nelson Demille, Paul Theroux, and the list could go on. 

I also enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies of all kinds, travel writing, collections of short stories (especially by women British, Scottish and Irish authors for some strange reason), educational blogs, writers’ blogs, interesting articles bounced around through my network of contacts on Twitter, and anything that tickles my curiosity.

Why did I decide to pursue writing more seriously?

I guess that because I love reading so much,  I finally figured that maybe I could possibly be able to write. Sometimes, after relating something that happened to me, people would say that I should write about some of my experiences. I’m not exactly the kind of person who would want to bare her soul to the world. 

Authors like Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy who write seemingly simple, everyday life stories which connect with people made me wonder if I could write simple stories with appealing characters and enough of a plot that someone might actually want to read and possibly enjoy.

I didn’t send any of my short stories or articles to magazines after my first course with the Institute of Children's Literature last year. I’m not sure why. I enjoy writing and revising more than I enjoy the idea of selling the goods. I think I knew that what I really wanted to attack was a novel. 

Last winter, I read that by writing around 1600 words a day, you could write a novel in something like 100 days so I started to write about 1600 words a day on days that I sat down to write. What came out of me was not a children’s novel, nor would I classify it as a young adult novel either. The protagonist is well into her 40's. 

I’m hovering around 80 pages or 20 000 words. I decided to aim to write about 500 pages and chop it down to around 300, hopefully removing the most dreadful parts. If I could convince someone to publish it someday when I’ve polished it all up, well, that would be awesome and well worth a feast with my friends.

I started trying to write a kids’ novel in the early 2000’s before I had ever taken a writing class.  That was a couple of imploded laptops ago and I think that all I have left are some notes in a spiral notebook and on 3" by 5" index cards. These notes could be a start or I could start from scratch.

 I’d like to write a humourous, contemporary novel about a bunch of kids and their adventures in a small village with miles and miles of forested hills surrounded by lakes, streams and rivers. I’d like to develop the characters so that different kids could identify with at least one of the cast. I know that I won’t want to write about magic, witchcraft, vampires or fairies. 

If I let myself believe that I could get my act together and really accomplish something, I’d really like to be able to write novels reminiscent of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Louis Sachar’s There’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom (never mind ever writing anything like Holes!!!), The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatly Snyder or Michael Morpugo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom or Kaspar, Prince of cats  or a young adult novel like Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, or Brian Doyle's  Easy Street (but set in the present).

Ultimatly, I’d like to write the kind of books that my students would enjoy reading. I enjoy writing in English so I’d have to translate them into French because 99% of my students are francophone.

So here I am blogging again this morning instead of...well you know how it goes if you're reading this. Maybe both you and I should get off the net and work on the books that have been caged in our brains just begging to be set free.

You go on ahead, I'll catch up after my next cup o' coffee.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My blog on writing

So I decided that I wanted to pursue writing. That means that I'll have to write more than I do now, write more than talk about writing, write more than dream about writing, and write when I don't feel like writing.

I've taken the Magazine writing for Children's Magazines course  offered by the Institute of Children's Literature and learned a lot even though I never sent off any fiction or articles to magazines for publication. I haven't even entered any contests. I read somewhere this year that contests were not good for the creative soul or something that led me to believe that. I'm basically slothful and any excuse is good enough for me.

During March break, I read that if you write something like 1663 words a day that you could write a novel in 100 days. I started writing a novel. It is coming out as an adult novel, not racy, but the protagonist is in her 40's. Work and life have gotten in the way of writing as I suspect it does for a lot of would be authors but I've managed to plunk out 20 000 words or 81 pages so far.

After having written a few chapters, I realized that writing down a bit of a plan would be wise. I wanted to make a sort of road map or guide that I could follow without being overly strict with myself. I allow myself to go down sidestreets and country roads while continuing to travel in the general direction of my plan.

I put down general ideas for the chapters on 30 some odd 3" by 5" index cards. I used index cards because I can flip through them and rearrange them if needed. When I first did this, I layed them out on a big bed all around me so that I could get a visual of the story which flows through 2 timelines. I didn't want to get lost.

When I sit down and write, I whip out my index cards and follow what needs to be written. It has helped me from suffering from the blank page syndrome so far.

I've created a setting which I love and characters which I enjoy. Last night, I read that everyone in a story wants something. I love that. My next exercise will be to go over my character studies and figure out want everyone wants. It seems pretty clear to me where my protagonist is headed but I need to find motivation for my other characters.

I registered for a book writing course with the Institute of Children's Literature because I love kid's lit. I teach middle grades and I'd love to write the kinds of books my students would love to read. I have 2 years to finish a kids' lit novel and get into a revised and publishable shape.

So here I am blogging about writing instead of writing this morning. That's just as bad as talking about writing. Time for another coffee while my partner is still asleep. I need to get out my index cards and plonk away at my keyboard.