Posts Tagged ‘nanowrimo2011’

  “Than indecision brings its own delays, and days are lost lamenting o’er lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


My travel book would include details about my search for Mother Nature in places like the New Hampshire woods where I came across this peaceful creek. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Too Many Unfinished Projects

Writing a first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days has given me confidence for the old-broad writing days that still remain to me. There’s no question that I will write, for doing so is for me the same as breathing. I was fortunate that I found a way as a journalist to do it almost daily and get paid for it for 37 years.

When I retired from the job, however, I never saw myself retiring as a writer. I thought I would continue as a free-lance writer of travel and birding articles.

The Internet changed all that, however. The sources I had, including writing for my own former newspaper, dried up after a couple of years.

Suddenly it was a whole new world out there, and I faced either changing or being satisfied with writing only for myself. But it’s never worked that way for me. I both want to be read and to be paid for my writing as a way of personal validation


The photo of this hippo I took while on my African safari appears in Fodor's recently released "African Safari Guidebook." -- Photo by Pat Bean

The other change in the world of writing has been that self-publication is no longer considered a vanity, as it was during earlier days. In fact, many writing guides and teachers are encouraging wanna-be authors to go this route.

I’m seriously considering the possibility.

My immediate problem, however, is which project should I tackle first. Until NaNo, I failed to complete any major projects that didn’t have a pay-off deadline. The reasons are many, beginning with my own self doubts about a project’s worth. As former NaNo winners predicted, this inner questioning hit during my second week of the novel challenge. Working past it felt great.


The bear at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho -- Photo by Pat Bean

So, with this said, let me explain my options – at least as I see them. Actually, I think I’m writing this blog as a way to get my own head straight.

First, there is the NaNo novel, which my ego says has good possibilities. Ever since I was a teenager reading Nancy Drew, I’ve wanted to write a mystery. The NaNo one is my second. The first is one of those uncompleted projects that never went beyond the first draft.

Then there’s the travel book I’ve already written, which needs a bit of rewriting. It has been read by critics who gave it mostly thumbs up, although all said it needed my voice. I now think I’ve developed my voice.

It would be the quickest project to finish. It’s called “Travels With Maggie.” I said in an earlier hunt for an agent that I thought it would fit nicely on the book shelf between Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and Kuralt’s “On the Road” with a little bit of Tim Cahill thrown in and written with a feminine voice. .

Then there is the African safari travel/picture book that I started and which now begs to be finished.

Then there is a commitment to put together a nature book about Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho, where I spent last summer as a campground host and where I will return again this coming summer.

And finally there is a the memoir that is beginning to demand I write. It would be a story of a high school honor roll student who dropped out of school at 16 to get married and who had four children by the time she was 21, and who went on to become a reporter, city editor and finally associate editor of a 66,000 circulation newspaper. There’s a lot of skeletons, heartache, joys and growing up in between.

I’m giving myself a break until Monday to come up with an answer, after which I’m counting on the discipline of NaNo to help keep me to whatever deadline I set for myself.

I’m leaning toward the travel book as my next project.. What do you think? I really want to know.


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 Winners take time to relish their work, knowing that scaling the mountain is what makes the view from the top so exhilarating.” – Denis Waitley


Yes, I am.

When I submitted my 50,026 words that the word count tool on my Open Office program said I had written, NaNo’s word counter disagreed. It said I only had 49,528 words.

So it was back to the computer for another hour and a half yesterday to insert an extra scene into the first horrible draft of my murder mystery.

But the next time I submitted the novel for verification, the NaNo word counter told me I was a “winner.” And Indeed I felt like one.

While the book, if I choose to go forward with it, needs a lot of work, it is complete and it does have things in it I like. It is the first fiction book I’ve ever written in first person.

While the main character, who is 28 years old, is not me, I realized as I lay in bed last night that I had her wondering where she was going to settle down and find herself. It’s a question that at 72, I’m coming to grips with myself. It felt funny realizing that connection only last night.

The main character’s name is Carnegie Hall, Carny of course for short. Her musician parents played around in a practice room at Carnegie Hall and she was their little souvenir. Nothing of me there. But she inherits a dog that has a lot of similar traits to my canine traveling companion, Maggie. I even named the dog Maggie.

As I wrote I used bits and pieces of people I knew and both their and my own experiences in many instances. I also let my environmental awareness play a role. It’s a book with a Texas Gulf Coast beach setting where a Ridley sea turtle comes to nest and where Carny, an artist, paints shore birds.

I learned many things from this intensive writing experience. And while it would be great if I had learned these things at a younger age, it’s always better late than never.

Of all the many resolutions. I’ve made in my life, most were broken within the first week. This time I stayed true to myself. There’s a lot to be said for finishing a project once started. Besides daily writing, as writers should do, I also learned to say the word “No” to things that interfered with my morning ritual. I already knew from long experience that If I don’t write first thing in the morning, I don’t write.

Thank you NaNo for challenging me. And congratulations to all you other NaNo winners out there. I’d love to hear how you made the journey.

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 “There is nothing to writing. All you need to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

A morning sky in Garden City, Kansas. It was windy Oz kind of day. -- Photo by Pat Bean


NaNoWriMo update … 47,602 word

Of course these days it’s the computer that takes our blood donations, well at least for most of us, I’m assuming.

The home stretch is in sight. So I’m saving my words for the finish. I need a head start because I have a 2 p.m. appointment tomorrow.

Happy writing everybody.

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Turtles on the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong. – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

NaNoWriMo Update … 45,088

I got my ending written today. But not too worry, I have plenty of scenes to add that will bring my book up to 50,000 words. My goal is to do 2,500 words on Monday and 2,500 on Tuesday, and post my book to NaNo on Thursday.

I was worried about getting the ending finished before the deadline. To have it done has taken some of the stress off the last few days. Originally I planned to do 2,000 words a day. By day 15 that plan was already in the garbage, although I was halfway through the book at that point.

When I started, I also knew who was the murderer in my murder mystery. I was surprised when it turned out to be someone else. Another surprise is how much better I felt I was writing toward the end. My characters stopped being as stilted as they were at the beginning.

I don’t know about anybody else out there, but this has been a major learning experience for me. One, I now feel more confident about completing a big project. I feel I’ve written some very bad scenes that will end up in the trash can, and some scenes with lots of possibilities.

So now my biggest worry is that my computer won’t play tricks on me before Thursday, or that we have a big earthquake here in Texas that takes out all the power lines. In other words my worry has shifted outward away from inward. It just wouldn’t seem right not to have something to worry about.

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Elk sculpture at the National Wildlife Art Museum just outside Jackson, Wyoming. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
W. Somerset Maugham

NaNoWriMo Update … 42,529

Good writing day. With only four days to go, no need to say more.

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 “Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” – Agatha Christie


The view out my RV window at Wassamki Springs in Maine. I wanna go back. -- Photo by Pat Bean

NaNoWriMo Update … 40,035 words

First Maggie got the doggie runs. She needed to go out every hour on the hour for the entire night. The consequences of not crawling down from my bed over the cab of my small RV was enough to make sure I kept getting up hour after hour.

So I awoke with very little sleep, and so my writing suffered. My best writing occurs when I am in bed by 10 p.m. and get up and get in front of my computer by 5 or 6 a.m.

Second it was Thanksgiving, and there was family around that needed my attention, or I needed theirs, or whatever. And calls from family far away, and too much eating going on, followed by several games of Settlers, none of which I won.

And so my writing suffered.

Today, with the end of NaNo only five days away, it was back to the keyboard. My decision to demand everyone leave me alone, however, has probably earned me a few black marks in my ledger. It’s the big Christmas decorating-day here at my son’s house in Harker Heights.

My daughter-in-law looked shocked when I refused the call to arms.

The upside, however, is that today I got past the 40,000 word mark. if I write 2,000 words a day for the next five days, I will meet the 50,000-word goal.

What I have going for me is that I think I’ve figured things out in my head on how my story is going to end. And that in my 37 years as a journalist I never missed a deadline.

I’m also thinking that my conclusion might not take the book all the way to 50,000 words, but I’m hoping that’s the case. I have lots of extra scenes in mind to flesh out what is already written. The trick will be to add these scenes without deleting all the unnecessary and redundant words that go into all my first drafts.

It takes much longer to write short than it does long.

So now if you’ll excuse me, I still have writing I can do today. I don’t want to push that deadline beyond my capability.

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Happy Thanksgiving All

Butterflies to chase with my camera -- Photo by Pat Bean

 My following annual list of 100 things I’m thankful for is in no particular order. 

  1. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo
  2. My dog, Maggie
  3. Family, which includes 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 5 (soon to be 6) great-grandchildren.
  4. Friends, both old and new
  5. Purple and pink sunrises
  6. Jack in the Box chocolate milk shakes
  7. Still having a zest for life at 72
  8. Being an American woman who can feel safe traveling the country alone
  9. My new computer, when its working right
  10. The Internet
  11. Mother Nature
  12. Underarm deodorant
  13. Physical therapy that’s taken away the pain in my neck
  14. Scenic hiking trails
  15. The view from atop Angel’s Landing
  16. The rain this week in Texas
  17. Books
  18. My Kindle
  19. My son’s safe return from Afghanistan

    My son's safe return from Afghanistan -- Photo by Pat bean

  20. Pleasant surprises
  21. Audible books
  22. My RV, Gypsy Lee
  23. Comfortable shoes
  24. That I finally visited Yosemite this year
  25. My summer as a campground host at Lake Walcott State Park in Idaho
  26. The double image of a roseate spoonbill in a pond.
  27. A walk on the beach
  28. A challenging game of Settlers
  29. Backroads
  30. The opportunity to learn something new every day
  31. Story Circle Network
  32. Birds in all their variations
  33. Soft blankets
  34. Good coffee heavily laced with cream
  35. Air conditioning in summer and heat in winter
  36. Fresh fallen snow
  37. The achievements of my children and grandchildren
  38. Gardens
  39. Over-sized, soft flannel pajamas
  40. Good memories
  41. My digital pocket camera
  42. WordPress that hosts my daily blog
  43. Good health
  44. My curiosity
  45. Blank journals and my favorite Pentelgel pen

    Autumn reflections -- Photo by Pat Bean

  46. Fresh pineapple
  47. Not knowing what the future holds
  48. Sitting around a campfire with friends
  49. The Rocky Mountains
  50. Butterflies to chase with my camera
  51. Rainbows
  52. Scented candles
  53. That I’m a writer
  54. Quotable quotes
  55. The Audubon Society
  56. My Social Security check
  57. People who don’t litter
  58. Museums and art galleries to visit
  59. A full moon night
  60. Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” recording
  61. Travel books that take me to faraway places
  62. My National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
  63. A good hair cut, for Maggie, too

    My canine traveling companion, Maggie -- Photo by Pat Bean

  64. Dragonflies
  65. An orchid lei
  66. Smiles on people’s faces
  67. Van Gogh paintings
  68. Belly laughs
  69. Sister women
  70. Autumn reflections in a quiet lake
  71. Freshly laundered clothes
  72. Glowing sunsets
  73. Watching a thunder and lightning storm out my RV window
  74. Clean water to drink
  75. A hot bath
  76. National Parks
  77. County fairs
  78. Quiet time alone
  79. Redwood and Live Oak trees
  80. Wildlife sanctuaries
  81. Road trips
  82. Happy children
  83. Holidays with family around me
  84. America, from sea to shining sea
  85. Bright colors
  86. Southern Utah’s red-rock landscape
  87. Discovering a new writer whose books I can’t put down
  88. Having grandchildren who think Nana’s cool
  89. That I can afford, unaffordable health insurance
  90. My 37 years as a journalist
  91. Having too many things I want to do each day
  92. My blog followers
  93. Sun on a cool day, shade on a hot one
  94. A comfortable bed
  95. Warm chocolate chip cookies
  96. A good margarita
  97. Massages
  98. Texas bluebonnets
  99. Polite drivers
  100. And finally my determination to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time.

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NaNoWriMo Update: 35,353 words

Sadly this abandoned ship off Jamaica's coastline reminded me of the state of my NaNo goal the past two days. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I’ve been on sabbatical for two days. 

 I cut short my writing yesterday to spend the day with my granddaughter Jennifer. She’s 28 and a nurse. I spent the day at her house fulfilling her request for Nana’s chicken and rice. My grandkids usually want me to cook it whenever I visit. We visited and watched animated films while it cooked. it was a great day.
Here’s the recipe: From a writer’s perspective
Cook a whole, fat chicken in a pot full of water with salt added to taste until the meat falls off the bones. Cook it on low with a top on the pot. You’ll have about an hour and a half to write while it cooks.
Take the chicken out of the water and put it in a large bowl to cool. Don’t throw out the broth. Write for at least one more hour

Skin and debone the chicken, adding all of the meat (in bite size pieces) back into the pot of broth (make sure there is at least 8 cups of liquid}
Add two cups of uncooked rice, a generous amount of poultry seasoning and pepper to taste.

 Cook on low until rice is done. Here’s about another half hour in which to write. When done, eat and enjoy. 

Today my son bought me a smart  phone for an early Christmas present. He wants to be able to track my location as I travel the country in my RV.

So of course I spent too much time playing on it and not enough time NaNo-ing.

 But if I get in 2,000 words a day for the next eight days, I’ll still meet my goal. And I’ve come too far at this point not to finish.

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 My Favorite Places: Natural Falls


I never pass a waterfall by without snapping a photo. This one is Natural Falls in Oklahoma. -- Photo by Pat Bean


“On plenty of days the writer can write three or four pages, and on plenty of other days he concludes he must throw them away.” – Annie Dillard

NaNoWriMo Update … 34,559

I spent an hour this morning sharpening pencils. That’s what I call doing things like reading e-mails, thinking about what’s for dinner, ordering books from Amazon, reading blogs in search of inspiration, and staring out the window at birds to prolong the moment when I had to look at the blank space on the page where I left off writing the day before.

While I tried to kid myself I was thinking about the writing, I knew that the next line on the page was not going to come together until I faced the computer screen with my fingers on the keyboard. Me, who collects quotes about writing, finds it interesting how many of them are no longer applicable in a literal sense because they refer to pen and paper.

Up until now, my writing has been focused on keeping things going. Now I need to tie up all the loose ends and try to create a conclusion. It’s giving me writer’s block. Aaaagggghhhh!

Perhaps I should follow Babs Hoffman’s advice. “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.”

Her words refer to travel, but seems appropriate for NaNoWriMo as well. I read them this morning as I was ditzing around not writing. I found the quote on Marina Chetner’s Nov. 11 blog, “When a Bolt of Inspiration is Required.”  Thanks Marina.

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 My Favorite Places

What I remember best about staying at Kickapoo State Park in Illinois was the tremendous thunder and rain storm that pounded my RV. It was a marvelous concert and light show. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, ‘My god, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that.’” – Dave Barry

NaNoWriMo update … 32,438 words

I met my writing goal today, but only my slapping my hands and telling myself to get on with the writing and not get into the rewriting – yet.

I haven’t really gotten crazy with my quickie novel, as many have suggested. I think I’ve concentrated too much on trying to get the plot moving along. I know I will need to go back and sass up the characters a bit.

Meanwhile, the dog inherited by the first person protagonist in my mystery has taken on a more major role than I imagined. I think when I would get stuck writing I could always write something about what the dog was doing.

Would you believe I named the dog, Maggie. But she’s a combination of a couple of dogs, and cats, I’ve owned. No she doesn’t talk, but her expressions and mannerisms say it all.

It sure feels good to have my computer back. How’s everybody else coming?

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