April Is Coming: NaPoWriMo & A to Z Challenge & Me

Close-up of daffodils

Life Lessons: Always Learning

These last couple months, I have learned a few things about myself:

1. Joining the YMCA is a good way to pay money to inspire me to stay home and write.

2. In the Fall and Winter, I write stories that will eventually be called for on Dark Markets.

3. When Winter is over, I suddenly want to finish all my stories and send them out to get homes and readers. Guess that’s how I sow (I have plans to sew) my oats, so to speak.

4. I am good at physical (better than my self-imposed) deadlines, but I might as well stop telling myself I’ll start months ahead when I know the work gets done in the final week. It’s not procrastinating; I’m a thinker and I think better while doing other things.

5. And most pertinent to this post: I either blog once a day or once a month and there is very little in between.

Conclusion: I’m creative and like to be in the now of the creative process. I’m not a planner. Thus, starting my day with a blog challenge that includes creative writing is the most reliable way to get content here for you to read (Instead of, say, spending my time making klecksography–magnetic poetry with inkblot illustration–and posting it to twitter: My Klecksography Twitter Moment).

National Poetry Writing Month

With this in mind, I was happy to remember that April is NaPoWriMo – National (Global) Poetry Writing Month. It came to my attention when I did OctPoWriMo last fall. Since I enjoyed writing daily poems and continued to enjoy writing daily poetry through November and December, I am looking forward to doing it again.

Last Fall was an intense re-introduction to poetry for me. It started with the CalArts Poetry Workshop with Douglas KearneyI took (free) through coursera.org. The readings, examples, videos and assignments opened my eyes and inspired me to look for more poetry challenges. October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo) created by Morgan Dragonwillow( @MorganDragonwillow) was my first daily challenge and introduced me to a plethora of poetry forms.

After October, I wanted more, so even during the intense writing challenge that is NaNoWriMo, I joined another poetry challenge. Writer’s Digest offered the PAD (poem-a-day) Chapbook Challenge. I used the prompts and wrote poems from my characters’ points of view (mostly my MC) and it enhanced my NaNoWriMo experience.

When that challenge ended, I put together my first poetry Chapbook and entered it in the contest, but I wanted to continue and end the year strong, so I did the MoSt Poetry New Year challenge which offered prompts through the new year and part of January.

 

The Book

Journal: Carnet PAPERBLANKS modèle Nocturnelle Ultra 180x230mm – ligné by paperblanks

For Christmas, my sweetie got me the most beautiful hard-cover journal. I love the textured, embossed, old-world style with metal clasps and two attached ribbon bookmarks. To me, it is more than an everyday-morning-pages-stream-of-consciousness journal, or even a notes-for-my novel journal. So after writing in it for the first two days of 2018, I stopped. I thought I would use it for daily poetry, but I’ve been neglecting the daily poetry.  This beautiful journal will be one of my tools during the fabulous challenge that is April.

A to Z Challenge

When I joined Thursday evening’s #StoryDam chat, I was proud to announce that I had signed up for April’s National Poetry Writing Month, but then the second question of the evening was if anyone had signed up for April’s A to Z Challenge. The A to Z challenge is a challenge for bloggers to blog daily about a topic or topics starting with the letter A on April 1st and following each day (except for the following Sundays) with consecutive letters of the alphabet.

Now, I will admit, I had completely forgotten that April was also the month for this blogging challenge, but I quickly realized that it shouldn’t be too hard to combine the two. Since I am new to each of these challenges, this will be an experiment, but I see it being fun. I’m thinking for the A to Z challenge, I will challenge myself to a new word starting with the letter of the day. Then I will use that word in my NaPoWriMo poem.

I also want to continue my Craft Book Reviews. I’ve had a couple Jack Bickham books lined up for this week, but I guess you’ll get those on Monday. The letter B. I’ve also been enjoying a couple of John Dufresne books, so I’ll have to hurry and get those reviews ready for “D” day which will be next Thursday. Depending on how this goes, those may be all the Craft Book Reviews for April because I got excited and requested books by all four living Nobel Prize winning poets (before Bob Dylan; I already read his book Tarantula) from my local library and downloaded some e-books as well.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep you coming back to Experience Writing in April, I am going to see Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life speak. I hope I have a ton of writer wisdom to share after that!

Happy Reading and Writing!

See You Tomorrow.

 

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#NaNoWriMo Day 5: The Refusal and the First Week Sunday Summary

Day 5
Word count: 9,270 words
Word count goal: 10,000 words
Mapping the Hero’s Journey: The Refusal
Save The Cat: Debate

Today, I dove into my surreal images folder on Pinterest. Today my character will be convincing himself that his ordinary life is better than the call to adventure. He’ll be considering the structure he has created that constitutes his home and relationships.

Plotting with Tarot

Today’s Hero’s Journey reading is The Refusal. The center card is The Refusal card, the one to the left is your MC’s biggest fear about the Call to Adventure. The card to the right the responsibilities that can’t be abandoned. It is why he can’t refuse.

The refusal.jpg

Page Of Cups – Deep personal relationships

Six of Cups Upside-Down – represents a relationship you’ve had since very young or a soulmate connection

King of Wands Upside-Down – Inspired creativity

My interpretation – This reading makes sense for my Main Character. He does not want to answer the call because he wants to stay home with his family and enjoy his retirement. The Six of Cups in the reverse position represents his fear of hurting or losing these relationships. The King of Wands in the reverse represents his daily responsibilities to others, not wandering into creative solutions, but the repetitive and expected behaviors that create trust in these relationships. His refusal has to do with maintaining what is expected of him, but he will have to respond to the call of adventure to maintain this daily life and protect his relationships.

Ask Your Character

  • What words of wisdom would you like to pass on?
  • Is there something you’ve always wanted to know, but never asked?
  • Is there something you’ve never told anyone, but want to?

Word Of The Day

eldritch: adj. eerie, other worldly, weird, spooky

8 Action Verbs:

acquired          built          continued          earned

grouped          litigated          produced            shaped

Poem prompt

Write a Constanza about doubt.

Threats to Fear

I sit and ponder deepest doubt
To lose the ones that I hold dear
For them to turn from me, my fear

I protect them, day in day out
If I should go who will fix things
Resist decay and loss time brings

And who will tend the little sprout
A stranger’s hand won’t be the same
A different voice his rage to tame

What if the soil dries up from drought
Wells of wishes not to be found
Who will tend the fertile ground

Too far away to hear the shout
I will not know when dangers near
Impossible these threats to clear

I linger here and ponder doubt
But know I have no choice to stay
I hope my heart will know the way

Awesome Sentence Challenge

noun (or noun phrase) + verb (or verb phrase)
Write a page full of two word sentences. Try to convey as much information as possible with only two words by using specific nouns and strong, active verbs.

Today’s Simple Task

Think of your favorite scene from any movie or TV show. What makes it so great? Try to incorporate its strengths into a scene you write today.

Warm-up Exercise

Have your MC write his or her will or manifesto.

Recommended Word Crawl

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy crawl.

Sunday Summary

This was a short week. Hard to believe we’ve only been at this since Wednesday. How’s it going so far?  I hope everyone got a good start, but if you didn’t, there is no time like the present. Grab a prompt and write a scene.

Have you found any of these prompts particularly helpful? Is there something you would like me to add? What do you think of plotting with the Tarot?

For me, I’m finding that doing the reading and writing my daily poem, get me focused on the day’s scene(s). They help me focus on the characters I’ll be writing about, really diving into their feelings and motivations. Then, when I open up my story and start writing, the words flow. I feel more prepared and organized than I have in the past.

This week, in The Hero’s Journey, we’ll be hitting The Inciting Incident and heading into Act II. We’ll meet mentors, allies and enemies. Exciting! So many fun things to explore.

I hope you’ll continue to join me in 2017’s National Novel Writing Month adventure.

Happy Reading and Writing!

NaNoWriMo Tools

Novel in 30 Days Worksheet Index

The Character Name Generator

Mood Fuse

Cliche Finder

Free Writing Workbook

Random number generator

Virtual dice & coin flip

Pound-O-Dice

Waterproof PVC Playing Cards Set Pure Color Black Poker Card Classic Magic Tricks Tool ,54pcs/Deck

Oxford Extreme Index Cards, 3 x 5 Inches, Assorted Colors, 100 per pack (04736)

Post-it Super Sticky Notes, 3 x 3 Inches (Blue Monster)

Carving Through Writer’s Block: Guest post from author Christopher Bailey

3 Ways to Conquer Writer’s Block

Bad guy on a boatIt’s a simple two-word phrase that can make a writer’s blood turn cold; writer’s block. It is the dreaded barrier against creative flow that every author struggles with from time to time. There are a number of causes of this mental road block, and a number of theories on how to cure it.

In an effort to give my fellow writer a leg up and over that wall of resistance, here are the three biggest things I’ve found, and my own personal variants, that have helped me past my creative constipation. No doubt you’ve all heard much of this before, so I’m going to throw my own spin on them and tell you exactly what variants work best for me. Experimentation is key to finding your own magical keys to open the writer’s block door, so by all means try out your own variations. We’re creative people by nature, after all, right?

Clear Your Mind

Easier said than done, I know. We live in a world where we’re all drowning in the pressures of our lives. Jobs, family, social obligations, finances, the list could go on for pages. It all results in the same issue however; stress and mental exhaustion. These are two of the biggest killers of creative flow.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to push such things from your mind, however temporarily. Anything that helps you to rest and restore your mental clarity will work here. A few suggestions are meditation, take a nap, go for a walk, enjoy a break filled with your favorite, oft-neglected pastime. The drawback of course, is that all of these things take time.

For me, meditation is my go-to cure for mental mud when I sit down to write. It doesn’t villain meditatestake long. Even a ten minute meditation with emphasis on mental clarity works wonders. That ten minutes will often buy me so much more productivity over the course of my writing session that it makes up for itself six-fold. It does take time, but the payoff is well worth it. It’s also nice that you can do this at any time during your writing when you stall out.

Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe steadily. No, the lotus position is not required. Count your breaths, but only up to five. Focus on breathing smoothly and evenly, and when you reach five breaths, start over at one. This helps to keep your mind on the breathing.

It will be obvious if you’ve lost focus, since you’ll count higher than five. Don’t get frustrated, just calmly refocus on the breathing and start over at one. Any meditative master, which I am not, will tell you that meditation takes practice like any other skill.

Handy tip: don’t set any kind of timer if the alarm will be loud and jarring. Most phones have a gentle alarm feature. Startling yourself out a calm meditation can send you spinning right back into a tailspin of frustrated, foggy thinking.

Remove Distractions

bad guy at the pianoOf course, some distractions are inevitable. If you’re a stay-at-home parent you’re unavoidably going to have to deal with child-oriented distractions on a regular basis, for example. Often, there are many distractions we may not even realize are problematic until they’re removed. The point is, when you’re trying to overcome writer’s block, eliminating all possible distractions makes a huge difference.

For me, having a designated space to write in is a tremendous help. It can be a special chair with your laptop, a writer’s nook, or even a home office. Find some place that is as quiet and calm as possible, as free from distractions as possible. And for crying out loud, turn off your phone. Texts and Candy Crush notifications will not help your writing!

Handy tip: If you’re going to play music in the background, experiment with styles. You might be surprised what you find is most beneficial to your writing flow. I tried classical, which I love, and my writing stalled out constantly. I tried soft rock, and I found none of my scenes held any real intensity. I switched to industrial metal, and suddenly even my love scenes had more impact and power. Go figure.

Can’t Write? Just write.

Okay, I get it. This seems counter-intuitive. Despite how odd it sounds, many writers will Bad guy walking a dogtell you that the best way to get past a creative speed bump is to power past it. Some will tell you to just keep writing in your current project. I don’t encourage this, personally.

You want your work to be the best possible, and forcing your way through a tough patch can often lead to sections in your finished piece that are the literary equivalent of binge-eating a gallon of mint-chocolate chip ice cream to get over a bad breakup. It might get the job done, but it certainly isn’t healthy and the end result is guaranteed not to be pretty.

Many writers suggest free writing, the practice of opening a blank page and just beginning to write whatever comes to mind, cohesive and coherent or not. I spent a lot of time working with this method, and it works passably well for me. It is not, however, what has been the cure-all for my own creative blocks, though it may work great for you and I do encourage giving it a whirl.

Handy tip:

Ready for my personal favorite trick? Here we go!

I write random, unrelated back stories for my antagonists. Often totally unrelated to my current story or why my villains are, well, villains.

Villain in the gardenJust little things, like psycho cop’s bachelor party, or evil galactic dictator’s childhood trip to the pet store. This practice always takes me to unexpected depths in my anti-heroes, and allows me to see and understand my malevolent friends a little better. This is not only good for the depth of my bad guys, but fun writing practice. Simple, right? I get stuck, I open a new document and write a fun little back story for a much-maligned character.

The crazy part is that every single time I’ve done this, I’ve had a random inspiration on my main story. I suspect this works on the same principle as the theory that we have our best problem-solving ideas when we’re not thinking about the problem at all. For whatever reason, it works absolute magic for me!

Keep Trying!

Whatever works for you, or doesn’t, keep trying! Don’t give up, and if you have to walk away for a time, do it. But come back to it soon. No art form is improved without practice, and writing is no exception. Don’t let yourself get discouraged or frustrated. Just clear your thoughts, remove distractions, and just write.

Happy writing!

 

picture of author Christopher BaileyChristopher Bailey lives in Seattle with his incredible wife and daughter, eagerly expecting their second child. A lover of literature from an early age, he began writing short stories in the third grade for a school assignment and has never looked back. Having worked professionally with children and teens for many years, he has developed a particular fondness for young adult fiction, which is where he now focuses his writing in the hopes of helping a few more children learn to love the written word.

Hey readers! Want to meet Christopher Bailey in person?

Chris has a full schedule of fun events he’ll be at this fall. Want to pick his brain in person, or tell him how much you loved this post and his author interview? Stop on by and say hi.

Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma, WA, Nov 5th-6th
https://www.facebook.com/events/1321988751163825/

Silver Bells Christmas Bazaar in Puyallup, WA, Nov 19th
https://www.facebook.com/events/912423608864757/

Victorian Country Christmas in Puyallup, WA, Nov 30th – Dec 4th
(Disregard dates on the banner, they haven’t updated from last year!)
https://www.facebook.com/AVictorianCountryChristmas/posts

 

He’ll be signing autographs at all three. He hopes to see you there!

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPER

If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest and can’t make it to any of the above events to get your copy of his new book Whisper signed, don’t worry. Chris is having a Goodreads Giveaway for 5 autographed copies.

Finishing – Making a Picture Book

Gator McBumpypants and Herman in the shady placeContinuing with my theme of finishing what I begin, I’ve been spending most of my time finishing the picture book I started in January. At the moment, I sit in the 24 hour waiting period of review from Create Space (Amazon) before I can get to work on my ebook. While I wait, I thought I’d give you some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

1. PATIENCE– Be patient and multi-task. Unlike what the rate of celebrity picture book publications might make you think, making a picture book is hard and incredibly time consuming. You have to love your idea and see it through while you work on two, three or four other things. The pictures for my book, influenced the story, which then influenced the pictures I took. Over time my ability to photograph my story improved which made me take more illustrative pictures. If I had rushed the process, my characters wouldn’t have had time to come alive.

2. Make your book  for a child who wants it (can be you).  I think it would have taken much longer to finish, or maybe I wouldn’t have finished at all, without my niece wanting her finished copy. She gave me perceptive feedback on my pictures and shared the pictures with her younger cousin, telling the story in her own way, which was the best feedback ever (though I’m still a little confused where some of her story fit with the pictures).

3. Know your Tools – If patience and inspiration weren’t so important, I would have put this first. It is my own fault this keeps taking so long. Sometimes when I work this hard, it seems like the majority of Western Society instantly found ways to buy all of the newest technology, and left me out. It took every tool I had to make my picture book, including gifts from every loved one since 2006. But I did it, so I want to share the things that hung me up. I started being frustrated by the difference between what I saw on the screen (RGB) and what my printer printed (CMYK). I spent a lot of time trying to make my Microsoft laptop video card adjust to match the printed images, but that was awful. I have a Mac with Photoshop CS. I got everything I needed from Photoshop CS and learned what I needed from youtube videos. I have many specific pointers based on specific technical issues, but I will save them for when my book is successfully printed.

4. A Book Is Forever – I started this project with the idea that I wanted to see what the pictures of my stuffed animals exploring my world would look like. Now, I’ve made a children’s picture book and I realize I have to take responsibility for my creation. As I face the final stages of self publishing and prepare to release it into the world, I hear my nagging inner voice say Are You Ready? Are you doing your best?

Just last week my mom called saying she found a box of children’s books in my old room. I think, but don’t trust, I put them there on purpose long ago. She wanted to know if I’d mind if she give them to my niece and nephews. I loved the idea. I pictured paperbacks of the Ramona series and some Judy Blume. I remembered reading the entire series of the Rescuers mice on an airplane and Ralph the motorcycle mouse at camp. But then I also saw me reading Dickens, Jaws and A Clockwork Orange. I raided  Dad’s desk to find real books to read. I wasn’t allowed in Dad’s den, and I didn’t sleep so well. I convinced Mom to look through the box, just in case. She found Ramona books and Ralph on his Motorcycle. Talking about them made me want those books back. Maybe when the kids are done reading them, they’ll let me borrow a few. I hope my efforts bring similar joyful reading experiences as the books in that box brought me.