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An Exciting Novel Update

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Word Count: 23,338.

The first draft of my novel, A Rainbow Above You, is finished!

Now I must embark upon the arduous journey of revision, revision, revision.  But for now, I’m going to bask in the joy that the first draft is DONE!

Screen time, writing time

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I spend much of my work time looking at a computer screen — writing lessons, updating grades, and reading student work submitted online.

Then, for the course I’m taking, I read online articles or type reflective summaries for the books I must read.  I contribute to online discussion boards.

I think this is one reason why it’s so hard to write in my free time.  It’s not that the ideas aren’t there.  I keep a running list of topics for blog posts.  And Bernadette, the main character in my novel, is always in the back of my mind somewhere.  But when I have time to think about writing, some days I just don’t want to haul out the laptop one more time.  I’d rather read a book — one with real pages!  Or play my ukulele.

And yet, I write much more fluidly on a computer than I do by hand.  I can type faster than I can write longhand, and it’s both easier to read and easier to edit, especially when it comes to the novel because so much is already written.  So I’m often torn.

Plus, there are no deadlines.  I have time frames for getting my lessons planned and the kids’ grades updated.  I have due dates for my coursework.  But there is no deadline for blog posts or for my novel.  And that’s kind of nice because I don’t have to feel stressed about it.  But it kind of stinks because sometimes I think I’d be more motivated if I had a deadline.

My neighbor is considering starting up a monthly community newsletter.  She mentioned that maybe she could have me write a short piece of fiction for each issue.  That made me panic just a little, but then I thought it might be good for me.  We’ll see if it happens.

In the meantime, if it’s a long time between blog posts, or if you’re wondering how the novel is coming, just know that the words are in my brain.  Sometimes my fingers itch to get them out.  But my eyes need a break from the screen.

Paralysis

The day yawns ahead of me

each tick of the clock tightening the jaws a smidge more.

So much to do.

I sit, paralyzed, not knowing where to start.

The knot in my stomach twists.

Connecting

I was never the popular girl.  There was a time in middle school when I ran around with five friends:  Amy, Lori, Leeanna, Kristi, and Missy.  But Amy was my best friend. (Except for the times when Leeanna was my best friend.)  Five was always the maximum, and even then, I felt more comfortable with one or two.  Never would you find me happily interacting with dozens of people.

Throughout high school and college, my friend groups swelled and receded, as I assume is part of life.  And never have I thrived on being the center of attention, on being surrounded by people.  Give me my little circle of friends.  Give me one or two individuals with whom I connect.  That’s all I want.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram (and yes, WordPress) — these technologies make it easier to “connect” with a much larger group of people.  Maybe even people I’ve never met and never will meet in real life.  (Hi, strangers!)  Is this connecting?

I’m spending my weekend at a writing conference, and quite a few of the writers (novelists, poets, writers of memoir) have talked about the importance of connecting with others online.  And I get that.  In our modern culture, with so many people attached to their phones and tablets, this is what is expected.  You can’t expect to sell a book (especially a memoir) if no one knows who you are.  You can’t have an audience if you don’t write in a format that an audience wants.  If you don’t write to connect, then why are you writing?

But I like being invisible sometimes.  I don’t wanna put myself out there for the whole world to see.  After all, it’s not real connection, these social media “friendships.”

And yet.

Maybe it is a method that introverts like me (who, if given the opportunity, would stay in my house for weeks on end, meeting with no one) can expand horizons and connect with others while avoiding the overstimulation of people in my face.  Maybe it is a way I can reach out and have a larger impact on my world than I would if I simply remained the hermit I like to be.  Maybe social media serve as a bridge for me to cross the divide between isolation and community.

Even that is uncomfortable for me, and besides that, I don’t really know how I feel about it.

Please comment if you have a thought about this topic.  Maybe you’ll help me figure it out.

Twenty thousand

I had planned to spend the summer writing.  Writing and playing and enjoying the outdoors.  And I did some of that, but I also worked.  I was on hiring committees for two positions at my school, plus I agreed to develop a new teacher induction program.  (The first was volunteer, the second was paid… or at least it’s supposed to be.  I’ve not received any money for it yet.)

Anyway, all that really ate into my summer.  And I didn’t blog, didn’t work on my novel, didn’t spend time every day writing the way I’d planned and hoped to do.

Then, suddenly, the summer was gone.  School began.

And school was crazy.  There are many reasons — not the least of which is that I didn’t have a mental break from it all summer long — but the point is that I did not start the year well.  My awesome assistant principal had to talk me off the proverbial ledge more than once.

But now, the air is crisp with Octoberness.  The leaves are just beginning to think about changing colors.  Walnuts litter the ground, the chickens are going to bed early and sleeping late in the mornings, and Fall Break is here.

A few weeks ago, I was wailing to the husband about something.  The paperwork I had to do, or the essays I needed to grade, or how stressed out some of my students were making me.  And he said, “You’ve got to get away from here for Fall Break.”

So this Friday after school, I hopped into my packed car and made the drive to my parents’ house.  I promised myself that I would spend time writing.  I’d mostly work on my novel, but if there was time, I’d blog, start a short story that is in my head, and work on a one-sheet (kind of like a flyer about myself and my writing) that I’ll take to the writing conference I will be attending later this month.

I’m happy to say that my novel is now over 20,000 words long.

It’s still a bit disorganized (I didn’t write it in chronological order, but rather just as scenes came to me), and there are parts missing still, but wow.  Twenty thousand words.  That’s exciting to me.

While a long three months slipped away between the last time I really worked on my writing to now, I am hopeful that I’ll be able to keep working steadily from now on.  Sure, life happens, but writing makes life better.

Novel Update 5/26/16

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Thirty-one pages.

Questions about the plot.  The plot of the short story I started with seems to be taking a backseat to what I intended to be a subplot.  Perhaps the subplot should become the main plot.  Or maybe I should spend more time working on the main plot so it takes precedence again.

I was recently worried that my main character did not change, but I figured out what she needs to learn.  I was also concerned that she was too perfect — that I didn’t put in any unlikable qualities, which is unrealistic — but I think that I found her flaw (which is also the thing she needs to change.)  I would like to come up with at least one more flaw, I think, but I’m not sure what that will be.

I’ve written a lot of scenes, but they are not yet flowing together as a story.  I am hoping to get on the right track with that this summer.

Unplug

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Social media can thieve away my creativity. I know it does, but some days I don’t have the will power to fight against it. Because looking at Pinterest or checking Facebook is easy. Writing is hard. And if I don’t write, then I won’t write badly, see? It’s easier not to try.

Pathetic, I know. Especially since I’m trying to write a freaking novel.

But that’s the whole problem. I’m trying to write a freaking novel. It is the most challenging writing task I have ever faced. My senior honors thesis in college – the writing project I loathed to the essence of my cells by the time it was finished – was cake in comparison. Because then, I just had to have thoughts about what somebody else wrote.

But now, everything must come from me. The characters, their problems, their joys, their struggles, their triumphs – it all must come from my head and my heart.

That is really hard. It can exhaust me. I have already cried over these characters’ lives. I have lain awake at night thinking about them. And – I thought this was just a writers’ myth – I have been surprised by them. (How can you be surprised by something that comes from your own brain?)

But when my days are crammed with other responsibilities, and when the ideas no longer flow like water, then writing is hard. It is hard to make myself delve into these lives again, especially when I don’t know what else to do with them. When I look into their faces and they just stare blankly back at me. When I search their histories, their minds, their spirits, and come up with nothing. It’s frustrating and discouraging, and while it may not cause blisters on my hands or sweat down my back, it is difficult, demanding work.

But today, I’m logging out of Facebook. I’m shutting off Pinterest. Maybe I’ll write today, or maybe I’ll just let my brain rest and detoxify from social media. Perhaps what my mind requires on this misty, foggy spring afternoon is a nap under a cozy blanket or a walk through the woods.

And if you see me on Facebook today, nudge me in the right direction.