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Entries in nonfiction (4)


Chuck Wendig's NaNoWriMo prep school

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo to those in the Kno) is still three weeks away but suddenly everyone's talking about it. I'm getting almost-daily emails from the NaNoWriPeeps themselves, and Chuck Wendig would like you to know that you're going to want to spend these three weeks getting buff in the brain:


If you are not yet putting words down daily, you need to flex them penmonkey muscles, so that, come November, you can pop open your word processor and say, “TWO TICKETS TO THE PEN SHOW,” which will earn you weird looks because:

a) you’re saying this to the cat and b) are pen shows even a real thing?


You need to work out. You need to exercise.

You must practice writing every day.

And build on the quantity of words you put down.

Start with 100.

And add a 100 more words every day until you’re approaching 2000 per day.

Doesn’t matter what you write, though I’d advise you keep it in the “fiction” category — fiction writing is a discipline all its own, I find.

Build that muscle. Gain momentum.

Read the rest here!

Good advice, no? You certainly could start with my weekly prompts for inspiration, including (but not limited to) Week 31.

As for me, I think I will take another Don Quixote tilt at the NaNoWindMill, but (as per my revelation/resolution) I'll be writing (or attempting to write) a novel-length piece of either nonfiction or drama. Drama! 

How about you? I know this is soon, and kinda awkward, but, uh, well... will you be my NaNoWriFriend this year?


Don't write what you don't love to write

So... I think I've realized something. I mentioned before about how I'm trying to write the first book of an eventual fantasy epic series? Well, I've been doing that, and have plodded my way almost to the end of chapter 1. Only 2,503 words in something like two weeks. Very slow going, but I want to be a Real Writer and so I have perservered. 

A few nights ago, however, I was at the library after work. I had every intention of gaining some ground on this book I have told myself I'm going to write. Instead, for two and a half hours, I did every possible thing except writing: I stared at my note pad forlornly, I got up and browsed the stacks, I tried to get three stars on two different levels of Angry Birds Star Wars, I stared at my notepad morosely, I started to fall asleep, and finally I pulled out the Kindle and began re-reading Rachel Aaron's 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. This book is great and I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested giving their writing process an oil change. 

But this passage in particular struck me:

One of the hardest things I've had to learn as a writer is that while virtually any story can be a good book if done correctly, not every story should. It's possible to have an amazing idea and still lack the interest necessary to polish it to publication level shine. I can not tell you the number of books I've plotted, written 30K words in, and then abandoned because I simply could not stand to look at them another second. Every single one of these ideas looked great on paper, and maybe in another author's hands they could have been golden, but in the end I just didn't care enough to push through.


Even if you're not selling your stories yet, your writing time is precious, often gained at the expense of other worthwhile activities. Don't waste it on a book you don't love.

Get the book here. It's only $0.99 on Amazon right now and you can read it on your computer if you don't have an e-reader. It's short but revelatory. Just how I like 'em.

Anyway, while reading the passage above something began to dawn on me: I don't know that I have ever enjoyed writing fiction!

Like everyone else, I came to writing as a reader first. Lord of the Rings and the Dragonlance Chronicles probably saved my life in middle school. Later, it was Shadowrun and the Belgariad series... the point is, I loved fantasy and science ficiton. I wanted to become a writer to write exactly these kind of books, and then in college genre fiction was kind of beaten out of me, and now, almost ten years later, I've finally returned to what brought me here in the first place.

Except... I don't wanna. Through this blog, I've discovered that I really enjoy (and am possibly even talented at) nonfiction. I've also rediscovered playwrighting and have had some success with that. But I can't think of a single instance where I really enjoyed the process of writing prose fiction. I've turned procrastination into a master art form these post-college years, and I'm beginning to wonder now if a large part of that was my resistance to writing something it wasn't in my heart to write.

I do recognize that things worth doing are sometimes difficult, and that, when starting out, you have to allow yourself to suck for awhile and just do the work anyway, but I understand now that this isn't an aversion to hard work or a self-defeating fear of what might happen when I really tryit's a lack of interest. Maybe it's okay for me to read these books I enjoyed so much, but to be a writer who writes something else entirely?

So I'm putting the book down, and I'm focusing instead on my nonfiction and playwrighting, which comes much more easily to me and brings me such joy. 

How about you? Had any trajectory-altering revelations lately?


Does this make me "Amazon official"? 

From writer and editor James H. Duncan:

Author Pages: I’ve used CreateSpace/Amazon to publish a collection of poetry, and I plan to use them to publish my upcoming collection of short stories, but I had no idea that they allow any author—no matter who has published the book—to create and modify an author page at Amazon.com. You can even link blogs and twitter accounts to the page. It’s like having a second website for free. Might have been common knowledge before, but it was cool news to me, and I thank Jon Fine, the director of Author and Publisher Relations for Amazon, for that great tip.

Read the rest here!

Well. I also did not know this. I've been the author of several nonfiction titles for a few years now, and never once did it occur to me to register with Amazon and claim them all as mine.

We'll just have to fix that...


Reflections on Week Ten

[Read the completed story here!]

This one was shockingly not at all difficult for me. Is it that Microfiction Week detonated all my blocks and barriers, or did Dean Wesley Smith's advice inspire me to better discipline, or both? Whatever the case, I seem to have a much easier time with nonfiction than I do with fiction. Writing Week Five's story (once I knew what to write) was also a great experience. 

I drafted this a bit differently than the others: probably for the first time ever, I put no pressure on myself for this thing to make sense. In my half-hour each morning I would just try to capture a few moments or feelings I remember having during my year as an adjunct college professor. These little scenes were in no order whatsoever, and I didn't have any idea how each of them (or any) would fit into a larger narrative. (In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott advises trying to describe only what you could see in a one-inch by one-inch picture frame. Without realizing this at the time, it's pretty much what I was doing here.)

Once I had over 2,000 words, I printed it off and cut each vignette into a separate strip of paper. Then I launched a hostile takeover of the kitchen table, as can be seen below:

[Yesthose scissors are pink.]

I know I've read a few times that this is a great way to revise a story, but of course I've always been too much of a procrastinating perfectionist control freak to actually give it a try. I'm glad I didI was pretty easily able to group the slips by chronological sequence and emotional throughline. Several of them didn't fit anywhere, and that too was quickly apparent. And some others were created in revision to bridge gaps. 

I'm pretty happy with the end result, but kind of sad that I had to stop. I didn't touch at all on all the plagiarism (unintentionial and the other kind) I encountered, or the challenge of teaching non-native English speakers something I barely understood myself. At some point down the road, once I have some distance, I'll probably revisit this piece and expand it, maybe even submit it somewhere. 

Anyway, give it a read and tell me what you think!