Shelley Widhalm

Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

A blogger’s 2015 reflections

In Blogging, The Writing Life, Why Blog?, Why I Write on December 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

Surgery-Cast3The end of the year is a time for reflection about the past year and setting goals for what’s next.

The goals don’t have to be the intimidating New Year’s resolutions that initially generate excitement, but may fizzle out after a month or two when the change requires just that: change.

When it comes to writing, adding a resolution or a new goal to your writing schedule can liven things up, generate excitement and offer up some inspiration. This can provide a fresh start and a way to redo those things that aren’t working, such as trying to write three days a week but only getting to it once or writing so many words a session and facing writer’s block.

My writing goals for 2016 include doing National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, again in November with the aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I did NaNoWriMo in 2013 and again in 2015.

I plan to edit the novel I nearly finished, “The Heat of Trouble.”

And I plan to write more short stories and look for an agent for a couple of my completed manuscripts.

Over the past year, I wrote a novel and edited a couple of others, plus I blogged nearly every week about the writing process. I’ve been blogging for four years about the different elements of writing, types of writing and the writer’s life. I wrote about writing inspiration and motivation, the habits of successful writers and the revision process, explaining about what I love (and sometimes don’t love so much) about writing.

As I blogged, I found I haven’t generated much of an audience for my writing about writing, but I did gain a better understanding of what’s involved and how to apply it to my own writing. That’s because I could review and see things slightly differently than before by putting my thoughts into a weekly format.

In 2016, I will continue to blog about writing but may take a different approach or introduce new topics. At this point, I’m not sure.

It’s likely I won’t be blogging in January during my recovery from a surgery to my left hand. The surgery was Dec. 11, and I wrote ahead for the remainder of the year and posted the blogs to align with each Sunday, my regular blogging day.

I will return in February—after about two months of single-hand activities limited to my right hand—with a fresh perspective and hopefully some goals in how I want to approach my blog and my writing life

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Writing discipline during the holidays

In On Being a Writer, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Tips on December 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

Writing during the holidays can be a bit of a challenge.

Maybe you just finished November’s National Novel Writing Month of daily writing toward a completed manuscript, tiring yourself out at the fast work it requires, or you face a packed schedule of holiday-related parties, activities and chores.

Yet, you want to write and keep the momentum going. But writing, no matter if you’re extra busy or have a routine schedule, takes discipline, motivation and a willingness to write at odd times.

To get serious about writing, you may have to treat it like a job.

Here are some ways to do just that:

  • Buy a planner (even in old-fashioned paper form) and a new calendar to mark out goals for the year and schedule in specific writing days.
  • Write daily, or at least a couple of times a week, selecting a specific time or place to write; i.e. keep office hours.
  • Clock in the hours you write, both for accountability and to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.
  • Write for five or 10 minutes, using a notebook that you always have with you. Those minutes will add up.
  • Stick to a schedule, but allow for risk and freedom and for imagination and play, so that writing remains fun.
  • Write a writing action plan or goals for the year and check in every few weeks to mark your progress.
  • Take a writer’s retreat, even if it’s in your hometown, setting aside a weekend to focus on writing (maybe as a reward for surviving the holidays or just before everything gets busy).

Writing can be a reward once you get started as you see what you’ve accomplished from getting words down, while also being able to engage in the holiday fun.

Final reflections on the 2015 NaNoWriMo

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Reflections on Writing, The Writing Life on December 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

I continued working on my novel past the Nov. 30 deadline for National Novel Writing Month.

I liked the discipline of aiming to write 1,667 words a day toward a 50,000-word goal. I liked marking my progress, seeing the results and knowing I was part of something larger—a community of writers trying to write fast and get that novel started or going.

I worked on my novel, “The Heat of Trouble,” as if NaNoWriMo were a six-week deal of daily word counts, because I wanted to finish it prior to my Dec. 11 surgery on my left hand. I had a looming deadline of finishing the book, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to type (at least two-handed) for seven weeks due do doctor’s orders.

When I started NaNoWriMo on Nov. 2 (not the 1st for me), I was at 34,000 words. I wrote 51,000 words during November, and now am at 100,436 words and still have a couple more scenes to write.

In other words, my book’s a tad too long.

According to Chuck Sambuchino at the Writer’s Digest , a novel can be 80,000 to 99,999 words “to be safe,” but anything over 110,000 words is too long or below 70,000 is too short. A novel 100,000 to 109,999 words might be too long but would probably be all right.

So, is my novel all right?

Generally, I try to write in the 75,000-to-90,000-word range, but this novel was a pantser with little planning, the approach I usually don’t take. My plot strings became a little entangled, and the characters took on larger roles or new characters showed up, most of it without my planning and as little surprises.

As I wrote, I realized I liked the pantser approach, because my self-editor went away and I just let the characters take over, with one thing leading to the next. I wasn’t looking far ahead for the outcomes, but let the book unfold as it wanted to (at least I think that’s what happened).

Taking this approach, I kept piling on the words. During the first week of December, I worked on my novel nearly every day, averaging 2,000-plus words each day and totaled 9,100 words for the week. I wrote 7 ½ hours, about three hours less than what I was doing during NaNoWriMo. I guess I needed that daily goal to push me even more, but at least I wrote a little.

The second week, I wrote 4,100 words and only could write for two days and didn’t finish my novel. This will give me something to look forward to when I recover.

NaNoWriMo reflections

In National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Discipline on December 6, 2015 at 12:52 am

I actually can’t believe I did it: I reached the NaNoWriMo finish line.

I wrote 50,000 words in a month when I’d been hesitant about signing up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, at the beginning of November. I’d been a third of the way into my current novel project, “The Heat of Trouble,” and now am nearly done. I suspect I’ll finish in a week or two.

Most of the month, I remained behind on my word count and even took a week off from work and caught up and got ahead, but just for one day. When I returned to work, I immediately fell behind again and remained there, and I questioned whether or not I should continue.

I then figured I started, so I finished.

During the last full week of NaNoWriMo, I cleared my schedule as much as I could and wrote six of the seven days, focusing on catching up. I did this by upping my word count from 1,667 a day to 2,000 or 2,500 or even 3,300 one of the days. I also told myself that I didn’t have to do this every day, just for a week.

Yes, I love to write, but there’s balance of work, play and hobbies.

By the end of the week on Nov. 28, I reached 45,939 words, short by 737 words to keep on pace. I had two days left, so I knew I could do it. I made a file for my NaNoWriMo writing and found I’d edited out 602 words, though I hadn’t done much editing, so that meant 300 more words of writing for each day.

On Sunday, Nov. 29, I wrote 4,819 words in three-and-a-half hours, my record for the month. That brought me to 50,758 words, but then with the shortfall, I ended up with 50,138 words.

And I finished one day early.

I finished! Yeah for me.

But I kept going on Monday, just because I wanted to wrap up my book before Christmas. I wrote 1,562 words in an hour, bringing my NaNoWriMo total to 51,700 words.

More yeah. Double yeah.