How long is my Chapter?

While doing NaNoWriMo this year, I found I have become way more involved in the challenge. I blame Twitter and Facebook. Darned social media. It’s taking over the world, I tell ya. But don’t listen to me, I’m just getting old and technologically inferior. Also, I am easily distracted by the new and the shiny.

So since whenever I am not actively writing my novel or directly interacting with my family I tend to be on one of the social networks having a conversation with someone, I have noticed that one of the biggest concerns this year is: How do I know how long my chapters should be? And how do I know when my chapters end and begin?

Fortunately, this month’s issue of The Writer has a little blurb review of a book that seems specifically designed to help with that problem. “Write Your Book Now!” by Gene Perret has the answers. 😉 In it, he explains how to get writing, how to keep writing, and a bunch of the technical stuff like how exactly do you get your chapters in some kind of logical order. He really gets that no one (unless you have super magical powers, which he does not address) writes a book at one sitting. We are all writing our books in pieces and chunks. With this book, he helps us create it and put it all together.

And isn’t that what creation is all about?

(Now, off I go to try to put some more pieces together in my crazy-pants epic fantasy…)


Covering “The Pretender”

While I’m trying desperately to write like crazy, Jackson Browne’s song “The Pretender” came on the radio. Listening to the lyrics, I couldn’t help but hear a woman’s voice singing the same words, but I couldn’t remember who it was. It was driving me mad. No more writing for me until I figured it out.

So I did what every other person does when something is driving them bats. I googled it. (Yes, I’m using it as a verb. 98% of the english-speaking population does, too. I would like to think it’s not because I’m lazy.) Get this: I couldn’t find any other version in the Google search engine using “Who covered Jackson Browne’s The Pretender”. Weird, right? I did find “The Great Pretender” by The Platters and covered by Queen, so that was fun. But not especially helpful.

Eventually, I decided to check Grooveshark. They’re pretty groovy, and they have all kinds of music on their site. Three pages into the song list, I found it:

Saving Jane covers “The Pretender”

I have two of Saving Jane’s albums. Apparently, they’ve only made three. They’re GOOD, though. Despite their having been used in the soundtracks for some TV shows. Nastia Liukin and Danica Patrick use their song “SuperGirl” as their themes.

It’s a little crazy-making. (Enough so that I have used the word “crazy” or its synonyms many, many times in this short little post.) Marti Dodson and her bandmates have a fun sound, whether it’s their acoustic-based, alternative, or countrified music. They have other side-projects ongoing, and keeping up with them–since the search engines can’t seem to find them and Wikipedia is sketch–is difficult at best, but it’s worth it to find them.

Thanks for reading!

Unsung Heroes

This is for my friend, who lost one of his while serving.

So many people do not truly comprehend why we service members and veterans do what we do. They also don’t understand what it feels like to be Right There when someone you love dies. This is for all of my brothers and sisters who have served, and those who are serving.

I love you all. We remember.

Ode to My Ranger

Today, I finished the rough draft (no actual links, need to spell particulars properly, need to tighten to word count specifications, etc.) of an essay on my truck. Hooray, me.

Originally, I thought that 400 words would be plenty to describe the love for my little white truck. Turns out, that isn’t actually the case. I could spend pages and pages explaining ad infinitum why and how much I love my truck. (Looking back at it, I may need some psychological help. Oh well. There are many reasons for why I am so crazy; one more probably won’t hurt.)

When I accepted the assignment to write about my truck, my first thought was along the lines of: “This won’t be too hard. Four hundred words are EASY!” After I spent twenty minutes trying to think up a title (I’m not good with titles; I don’t know why), I thought: “Holy carp! There’s no way I can write 400 words about a truck, of all things! What was I thinking?”

Three days later, I came to the insane realization that 400 words was nowhere near enough to properly explain how much I love my truck, and why my little Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is so awesome.  She has little spots of rust popping up all along the sides of her bed–I blame the now-broken Tonneau cover for that–like acne on a teenager, even though she’s closer to geriatric time for a vehicle. I’ve had to have her transmission rebuilt. She needed her alternator replaced. I had to replace the gasket on her oil pan.

And yet.

CCBB helped me through a disastrous marriage. (Too young, too broke, you know: the usual.) She took me, my books, and five days worth of clothes from Georgia to Maryland after that marriage died. She moved me and my boys halfway across the state when I bought my house–the first piece of property I have ever owned. She helped get my cancer-riddled cat to and from his appointments and helped E. and me pick up his ashes once he had died.

We’ve done a lot of living in this little truck. I hope to do a lot more.

Write or Die

I love Write or Die. It is the most convenient way to break through a tough spot in my writing. …And since this is National Novel Writing Month, I am all about spitting out 450 words in 10 minutes or less. 😉 Writing without over-thinking every little thing is the fastest way for me to figure out what I am going to say. (It also keeps the inner editor and the ‘Angel in the House’ very, very quiet. That is a very nice feeling.)

Also, the ‘consequences’ are hilarious. 😉

Keep writing, keep living!

Reflections on Paradise Lost…or, How I’ll be a Better Reader in 365 days; part 1

I love to read. In that vein, I grabbed up “book smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days” (sic) by Jane Mallison. I do not actually believe that I will magically become a “literary genius” (whatever that may be) within a year, but I thought it would be fun to read through this book, using it as my own special book-club-for-one. If I learn more nifty stuff along the way, so much the better. At any rate, the author will at least point me in the direction of some fun literature–and she provides mini-essays about the works as well, helping my retention of the facts of each book I read.

For this month, I am reading Paradise Lost by John Milton. No, I have no idea how I managed to overlook this book for so long. “Book smart” themes each month of the year toward a type of book. This month, the theme is crime and punishment. (I will read that book next, I promise.) “Wait!” you say? “There is not much about crime and punishment in Paradise Lost.” Oh, but there is. As Paradise Lost is Milton’s epic spin on the story (myth, theology, what-have-you) of “original sin”, it is also Milton’s rumination on the very concepts of crime and punishment. What is evil? What is good? Is desiring knowledge at great cost wrong? I found it hard to start reading this epic, but so far, it has been worth the effort of running down footnotes and thinking up thoughts. Milton focuses not on absolutes of good or evil but on the varying shades of grey that permeate human (and angelic and demonic) actions.

The author, Jane Mallison, recommends that first-time readers of Paradise Lost read approximately one-third of the epic poem: Books One and Two, then Books Nine and Ten, and finally, the last five lines of Book 12 (the final book), so as not to feel completely overwhelmed. Brilliant tactic–Paradise tells an outstanding story, dense with myth, pain, religious study (theology and theosophy). It raises questions about the meanings of good and evil, loss and hope. And it does so via 11,570 lines of blank verse (plus prose-form Arguments, relating background info and setting up the scenes). The waters here are deep, so it is likely best that I use an inner tube the first time through.

[More on Books One and Two, and Nine and Ten plus the last five lines of Book Twelve to follow.]


The other night, my significant other and I were canoodling around with poetic forms. The one we picked up on was the triolet. The triolet is related to the French rondeau (round) poem. It is eight lines of 8-10 syllables each in this form:



a (rhyme with first line)

A (repeat first line)

a (rhyme with first line)

b (rhyme with second line)

A (repeat first)

B (repeat second)

I like the rhythm of this form. It sings in my head. It also forces me to make lines A and B make sense as both a beginning and an end, which I find to be good harmony. Here’s one example I wrote up the other day:

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold,

And icicles on snowbanks gleam in sun.

Cardinals chase the squirrels, feeling bold.

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold.

Trees bow, winds rush on, sun on snow gleams gold.

Wind bites through coats, shrills, leaving much undone.

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold,

And icicles on snowbanks gleam in the sun.

Maybe I will post more later…

A New Writing Brigade

I love to write. I love to write using purple ink pens. Sadly, those nifty purple ink pens tend to be disposable, not reusable. This has inspired much guilt. However, I have recently discovered a way to alleviate this problem, maybe. In lieu of simply tossing away my dinky little pens, I can recycle them!

TerraCycle–an ‘upcycling’ company–partners with Newell Rubbermaid Office Products to re-purpose no-longer-inky pens. (Newell Rubbermaid manufactures the purple pens I have been using as of late. They are the makers of Sharpie, EXPO, and PaperMate products.) Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up at the TerraCycle site to be the leader of the Writing Instrument Brigade (or any of the other Brigades–there are many).

2. Gather empty, unusable pens/markers/etc and partner with a charity/school.

3. Send the writing instruments in to TerraCycle, using the pre-paid shipping labels they provide. TerraCycle then sends $.02 per acceptable writing instrument to the 501(c)(3) organization.

Check out more information, straight from the source:

This is a convenient way to give back. 🙂

My little pen obsession

Yeah, these guys know where they’re going once I’ve run them dry. 😉

NaNoWriMo 2009

Just in case any of you were wondering, yes, I did complete 2009’s National Novel Writing Month.  Hooray!

It was one of the most liberating, frustrating, and enjoyable things I have ever done.  I wrote a novel–beginning to end–in one month, and it turned out rather well.  Yes, I was surprised by that, too.  I took an idea that I got from talking with a friend of mine, and from a tragedy that happened to someone I knew.  It was not an auspicious start to a novel, but it turned into something fascinating, and slightly trippy, and wonderful–despite its mood whiplash.

Also, I tried out a creativity exercise that I had read in Writer’s Digest’s Creativity Workbook.  It came out at the absolute perfect time for me.  I love writing exercises, and I try to do several each week.  This one involved writing down six “To Do” lists for one character, to better flesh out the character.  He turned out to be one of my favorites.

The scary part now is editing.  Lots of typos show up when I have been writing 3000-5000 words per day…

You can find inspiration in all kinds of places…

I read all kinds of blogs and blogger references, and while I was futzing around today, reading through one of my favorite sites, I found this article:

Say what you want to about the man-boy, but he has serious style, and he knows how to tell a story.

I have no idea what it says about me that I started off looking at the link about Inigo Montoya, and then fell into the blog about how Eminem’s writing style and marketing tactics are things to be emulated.

Thanks for reading!