I am from the South—and right now, I am in the South—so from time to time, I write about football.
Unless you live in a cave, under a rock, surrounded by molten lava that messes up your Wifi connection and prevents you from logging onto Facebook, you know this past Saturday night’s Iron Bowl will go down in college football history, legend, and lore.
This post isn’t about the rivalry between Auburn and Alabama. I wrote about that once before, on the Working Stiffs blog, contemplating the poisoning of the trees at Toomer’s Corner, and how obsession can turn criminal. It’s not about karma or hubris or getting cocky, although it could be. It’s not even about bad decisions. I teach a workshop for writers called Decisions, Decisions, the crux of which is that every mystery novel is a series of bad decisions.
Saturday night’s Iron Bowl left me with two takeaways. One was new. Another was a reminder of something I know.
The new takeaway? Auburn football fans have a battle cry: War Eagle. The etymology of this phrase is murky, so maybe that is a post for another day, but when an Auburn fan says, “War Eagle!” that means it’s time to rally up.
The reminder takeaway? Every second counts.
In about an hour, I leave for a two week residency at an artist colony in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This will be my second time at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. When I was here in February of 2012, we had a few days of snow, and I was charmed by the countryside covered in white, the horses kept warm by their blankets, the view outside the window of my studio, which I called The Ark.
This year, I don’t expect to get snow, but that’s all right. I’ve been awarded two weeks in a private studio, with no meals to prepare, no outside duties to perform, and nothing to do but write.
It’s great. It’s also terrifying. A residency is a gift. A gift is not to be wasted. Already, mixed in with my excitement and anticipation, I feel trepidation. What if I can’t write as much as I plan to write? What if what I write should be scrapped? What if I choke? What if I waste my time?
This, surely, is how the Auburn football team felt Saturday night at the start of the Iron Bowl.
I drove from Delaware yesterday to Charlottesville-where I am now-down US29. US29 is known as the Seminole Trail in some places and Lee Highway in others. Its official name, designated by the Virginia General Assembly, is the “29th Infantry Division Memorial Highway” to honor one of the Virginia Army units that landed on Omaha Beach, in Normandy, on D-Day. The highway goes from the border of North Carolina to the Potomac River.
There’s a strong sense of place driving down US29. At stop lights, signs are posted on the roadside so you can read about Civil War sites while you wait for red to turn green. There are churches advertising Cowboy Church services, and wineries offering tours and tastings. There are bales of hay decorated like Santa Claus and, inexplicably to me, statues of cows in the middle of fields mingling with the real beasts.
I love Virginia. I’ve been to Manassas and Monticello. Both of those places are maintained as national treasures, but they also live on in words, in the Declaration of Independence and in the many novels about the Civil War. Words keep history alive.
This, of all places, seems like a good place to adopt a battle cry, and to remember something I already know: Every second counts.
The pressure is on, so off I go, with my newly adopted mantra: War Eagle!
How did you become a book editor? What are some common mistakes? How do authors react to professional critiques?
These are some questions author Jane Eyre Haseldine asked in this interview, Profiles in Publishing: Insights from An Independent Book Editor.
Jane is a former crime reporter, columnist, newspaper editor, and speechwriter for a governor. She lives in Southern California, but previously lived in Boston, San Francisco, New York, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Michigan, Louisiana, and a few other places in-between. You can find her on Twitter at @JaneEyre77
She’s also written a thriller called Synchronicity set in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing
Last night I presented a program at the Havre de Grace Public Library, part of their Writing A Novel: You Can Do It series. Below is information from that talk.
Today, October 1, means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is 31 days away. What can you do in advance to make sure you can focus on the 50,000 word goal ahead of you? Below are some questions to ponder in October.
YOU, The Writer
What physical or personal needs do you need to meet before Nov 1?
What can you do in advance?
What activities will you need to delay or put aside?
What activities help you write?
What prevents you from writing?
Can you give up TV, Facebook, movies for the month?
Do you have a plan for daily needs (meals, exercise?
Do you need to enlist outside support?
Will you need to change your sleep schedule?
Do you need/have a writing partner?
What is your most creative time of day?
Is it practical to work then?
Where do you work best?
Do you have a physical place only for writing?
Can you set one up for this month?
Will you work alone, join others, or both?
Do you have a general idea in mind for your story?
Do you have a daily word count goal?
Do you have a writing buddy to hold you accountable?
Can you write around your job schedule?
How will NaNoWriMo impact your job performance?
How will your job impact NaNoWriMo?
Is your employer aware you are undertaking NaNoWriMo?
Can you say no to extra work, overtime, travel?
YOUR FAMILY and FRIENDS
Is your family on board with your commitment to NaNoWriMo?
Can you assign extra duties/chores for this month?
Can you establish a daily “Do Not Disturb, I’m Writing” time?
Can you enlist help from family or friends with meals, childcare, carpool?
Do you know how to use a crock pot and/or order a pizza?
Will you need to take time off to enjoy Thanksgiving?
Will your friends understand if you can’t meet for lunch?
Do you have an end-of-NaNo celebration planned?
How can you use MATH to be successful at NaNoWriMo?
The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in the month of November. To be successful, I believe you should write every day, but how much?
If you write every day, for 30 days, that’s a daily word count of 1,667.
If you take off Thanksgiving to watch parades, the daily word count becomes 1,725.
If you take off Thanksgiving and Sundays, the daily word count becomes 2,000.
If you need to work primarily on weekends (9 days), the daily word count is 5,555.
How many days do you plan to write? Divide 50,000 by the number of writing days, and you have your daily word count.
Think about your life and how NaNoWriMo will affect it on these levels. Do you need to create a writing nest in your home? Learn to DVR your TV shows and freeze some meatloaf meals? Would hooking up with a writing buddy keep you honest? Practice turning off that inner editor and critic, because in November, she needs to Go Away.
More to come on this topic as November approaches.
Writing A Novel: You Can Do It!
This four-part series being offered at the Havre de Grace (MD) Public Library reaches out to the brave folks participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Each session will address a specific topic to help writers prepare for the intense writing experience ahead:
Session 1 (Sept 16) – Intro to NaNoWriMo and What Makes a Good Novel?
Presented by Lauren Carr
Session 2 (Sept 30) – How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing
Presented by Ramona DeFelice Long
Session 3 (Oct 7) – Settings, Dialogue & Mind Games
Presented by Laura Fox
Session 4 (Oct 21) – Beginnings, Middles & Ends
Presented by Ramona DeFelice Long
All sessions are on Monday evenings, at 6:30 p.m. Registration is required. To register, call 410-939-6700 and/or visit the Harford County Public Library website.
Upcoming Courses and Workshops
Interview Your Story Workshop
Where: Online via Yahoo Groups
Writing A Novel: You Can Do It! series
Monday, Sept. 16: Session One, Intro to NaNoWriMo presented by Lauren Carr
Monday, Sept. 30: Session Two, Preparing for a Month of Intensive Writing, presented by Ramona Long
Monday, Oct. 7: Session Three, Settings, Dialogue & Mind Games, presented by Lauren Fox
Scene Writing Workshop
When: Sunday October 13, 2013 – Saturday October 26, 2013 (2 weeks)
Where: Online via Yahoo Groups
- What is a scene?
- What should a scene accomplish?
- What are different types of scenes?
- How do scenes move a story?
- How do scenes work as set pieces?
- How do you write an effective scene?
- How do you insert subtext into scenes?