It’s NaNoWriMo Preptime!

NaNoWriMo winner's certificate
My certificate for writing 50,000 words of a novel in November for the writing challenge called NaNoWriMo 2021.

It’s almost time for National Novel Writing Month. I’m on their email list and they’ve begun a six-week NaNoWriMo prep.

Last year was my first attempt at writing a rough draft of a novel during November. I did it!

But what I didn’t do was back up my manuscript. How or why? In any case, my laptop had a hardware issue and most of my files disappeared including my 50,000 word novel!

I called Apple and they tried for days to recover my files on icloud and my hard drive. No luck.

I’ve begun rewriting my novel and changed the point of view from one character to four characters alternating their stories. I’m at about 25,000 words. It’s added depth to the characters rather than viewing them from one perspective.

The emails from NaNoWriMo have motivated me to finish the manuscript. I’ll use their prep weeks to improve what I’ve written so far.

NaNoWriMo is giving me a second chance with this idea! I’m starting today. I don’t have to begin with a new idea. It’s just the push I need to complete this rough draft — again.

Have you tried the NaNoWriMo challenge?

Would you consider doing it this year with me?

Boring words

Bunny staring at me through the window. He has a hole in one ear. I wonder how that happened?

I use boring words in my writing. I’m talking about “interesting,” “great,” “amazing,” and “important.” There are many more. If you google “overused words” you can find article after article of overused words and phrases.

I need better words.

When I write one of these words, I stop and think, what word can I use instead?

I managed to get rid of “very” and “just” — most of the time. Those words are unnecessary.

When I write, I have a choice to include overused words or ones more specific. General words don’t add flavor but make writing flat. Rewriting a sentence to avoid a boring word may improve writing rather than using a thesaurus to find a replacement.

It’s a challenge to avoid overused words. It makes my brain hurt!

What are your thoughts of overused words? What words do you use too often?

My worst typos — ever

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Some of my most embarrassing moments have happened with typos. I’ve been writing professionally since college graduation. I won’t mention exactly how many years that is. But, it’s plenty. Plenty of time to make more than a few mistakes.

ONE

I had a typo on SwimSwam. I left out a number on my tips.

My process begins with a small idea. Then I write a rough sloppy draft. Then I begin to hone it down into something tight and simple — and I number my tips. Along the way I cut out one tip that didn’t seem to fit. But, the story didn’t automatically renumber itself. Making a mistake like that on a busy forum like SwimSwam is decidedly embarrassing. Of course in the comments section the readers pointed it out.

You can read that story HERE: 12 Parent Tips on How to Behave at Practice.

On the bright side, I got a RT by Natalie Coughlin. I was super excited about that, so the story still worked even if it was not perfect.

Natalie Coughlin
Natalie Coughlin

TWO

My second worst typo was in the ’80s. I worked for a PR and advertising firm and I wrote eight newsletters a month, plus three or four press releases daily. It was a busy, intense job. I was in charge of PR for a fundraiser for abused women which was held at a local country club. In my press release that ran just about everywhere — I mistakenly put in my own phone number instead of the club’s to RSVP! There was no taking that one back. I lived through it by hooking up an answering machine. Remember when we used those?

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I felt humiliated though, when my co-workers relentlessly teased me.

THREE

My all-time worst typo was when I had my own PR and advertising business. I had some super-duper clients including the hospital’s cancer center and a local branch of a major Wall Street firm. When the boss at the Wall Street branch was promoted to NYC to corporate headquarters, he still used me for all of his work. I was SO excited! Then I made a typo on his Power Point presentation. It was on the new logo he had me create for the Western Region of the United States of America. Ugh.

He was so angry with me, because I made him look bad in front of the entire Board. I’ll never forgive myself for that one. And he no longer used me. Of course.

I was working with an amazing art director to create the logo for the Western Region. I think it said “Westen.” I didn’t proof read the type on the logo, I was focusing on the design.

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FOUR

Not the worst, but worth mentioning because it happened in recently. All these years later I’m still making typos. In the March issue of our HOA newsletter, I mistyped a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” phone number of a new neighbor. The new person emailed me to let me know.

I assured her I’d correct it in the next issue which went out last week. I lost the document of the last newsletter, which I was going to use as a template because of computer problems. I did have the very first issue somewhat intact, so I worked off of that.

Somehow, in the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” section, I added the new neighbors’ names and double triple checked the phone numbers — but left the address in from the first issue — which was the wrong house!!! Fortunately, the board proofs the newsletter, and we have one ace proofer who caught it before it was printed.

Still, I’m embarrassed about making two typos on the same newcomer’s entry!

The thing with typos is your brain can trick you into seeing what you intended to be there.

My tips to catch typos:

1. Read the piece from the bottom, sentence by sentence.

2. Read it out loud.

3. Put it away for a few days to get a fresh view.

4. Have other people proofread for you.

5. Don’t forget to proofread the title and headers. Numbers, too.

What are your worst typos? What tips do you have to catch them?

Two choices: quit or keep trying

swimmers in a pool
My kids learned perseverance and to never give up from swimming.

Recently I lost an entire manuscript that I failed to back up. I was devastated. My computer was randomly deleting files and the automatic backup I thought was going on — wasn’t.

It’s been a longtime goal of mine to have a book published. I’ve written several manuscripts, but so far the goal has been elusive. When my latest attempt disappeared I was tempted to quit altogether. I’m not getting any younger and maybe I’m wasting my time.

But I got over myself and I am enjoying writing the manuscript with a fresh perspective and new POV.

This incident reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago when I was disappointed and almost quit. Here’s a bit of it:

I got an unfortunate email yesterday. It was from an agent, who was reviewing my mid-grade novel I’ve been working on for years. Long story short, it was a no.

This is a big goal of mine, to get this book published. Finding an agent is one step along the way, and I had glimmers of hope when a couple agents were truly interested and one in particular, wanted eight weeks to take a deep dive.

When my husband consoled me I said, “I have two choices. I can quit or keep going.”

Four times since that email, I ran into messages like someone was placing a big neon sign in front of me with specific directions.

 

Fishing at Big Bear Lake
Dad fishing at Big Bear.

One

Dad shared that he spent almost three hours fishing yesterday. He was ready to give up, but decided to cast one more time in the last few minutes before he was due to return the boat. Yes, he caught a fish!

Two

I was looking at FB and a writer friend posted how lucky she was to find several four-leaf clovers yesterday after hours of looking. She said to never give up. Never!

Three

On Twitter, I saw from bestselling author Brad Thor a book recommendation for #Grit, a book about passion and perseverance. Yes, I’ll order it from Amazon today.

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Four

On SwimSwam.com, an article jumped before my eyes: “6 TIPS TO KEEP YOU CHASING YOUR SWIMMING GOALS WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE GIVING UP,” by Olivier Poirier-Leroy, who writes really good stuff for swimmers that can be used in all aspects of life.

Here was part of his advice to get in touch with your feelings when you started on the journey:

“What are the reasons that I want to achieve this goal? List 2-3 reasons for why this goal is important to you. This is the simplest way to get in touch with your original set of motivations.

How will you feel when you push past the resistance you are feeling now? Think back to the last time you kicked down the wall of resistance that was in front of you. Yeah, that time. How did you feel afterwards? Proud? Like a certified O.G.?

Will you regret giving up a year from now? Imagine yourself a year from now. A year smarter, a year older, and hopefully a year further along. Is “Future You” going to be pumped about you having quit today?”

I got the message loud and clear. I’m not giving up on my goals or dreams. This is all part of the process, and yes there will be some ups and downs. It’s so cliched, but it’s also true.

Update:

I decided to put away the mid-grade novel after I submitted it to an editor who was a speaker for a webinar. For a fee you could get a critique. He gave me the snottiest, most hurtful critique. I’ll admit my feelings were hurt. Perhaps it was more of a reflection of his personality than my writing. I’ve started other projects including the manuscript I’m working on now. In the future I may get the mid-grade novel out and take a fresh look.

Yes, getting a rejection letter and a nasty critique are not great. Quitting on a dream would be worse.

How do you handle disappointment? What goals have your given up on? What goals are you still pursuing?

Honoring Ray Bradbury

In honor of the great Ray Bradbury who died ten years ago in June 2012, I’m reposting this story about what I learned from him:

I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

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That’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter was three months old, and my son was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

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Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from our house and the hotel where he was scheduled to speak at a writer’s conference. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

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How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice all those years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s never too late to start.

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My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius. I’m still striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. 

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

Are you a Ray Bradbury fan? What are your favorite books of his? Who are your favorite authors?

When you wake up happy

Looking out the sliding glass door to the back yard.

For some unknown reason, I woke up feeling very happy. It’s not unusual for me to be in a good mood, but today I feel exceptionally hopeful. I can’t stop smiling.

I’m trying to figure out what makes today different.

• I checked the temperature on my phone and it was in the low 70s. A perfect day for a walk.

• It’s bright and sunny after a few days of dark gray clouds.

• I went to sleep early and slept through the night.

• I have an entire day without a “to do list.”

• I’ve recently spent time with friends and had visits with my kids.

• I’m backing up my files on my new laptop — which by the way — doesn’t mysteriously delete my work.

• I had my home-baked banana nut bread with coffee for breakfast. Maybe it’s the sugar in the banana bread. The recipe is from my mom’s old orange Betty Crocker cookbook. It reminds me of my childhood.

• My rewrite of my manuscript is going well. I’ve decided to tell the story from the four main characters’ points of view rather than from one.

• I’m reading an enjoyable book called “The Optimist’s Daughter” by Eudora Welty.

What little things make you feel positive and encouraged for the day?

One of my favorite spots in the house. I love to sit at the table and look outside. We moved the table and chairs from Palm Springs. It was our kitchen/dining room table for 28 years and continues on in Arizona.

A fresh start

My new laptop

Last week I got my new laptop. My new glasses also came in. I am thrilled to see through glasses without scratches. Such a joy. The optometrist told me that my right eye has gotten a little worse since my cataract surgery pre COVID. But my left eye is the same. I’ve always had trouble with the right eye not being able to focus due to a hole in my retina. I think it’s congenital and I’ve had it checked through the years and it hasn’t gotten any worse. Thank goodness!

Here’s the deal. With my new computer and better vision I have started on draft number two of my manuscript that disappeared off my old laptop. I’ve roughed out a chapter outline and worked on my characters to add more depth. It was a manuscript I wrote for NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month where you write 50,000 of a rough draft in the month of November.

I put off working on rewriting the draft until the new computer came in. Files continued to disappear from my old laptop. I didn’t have the desire or energy to get all worked up if I happened to lose another draft.

Which reminds me. I need to order a new back up drive!

Are you working on any new or old projects that you’re excited about? What are they?

My new glasses without scratches in my line of vision!