Yep – NaNoWriMo Fail

nanowrimo-failYessiree — that’s me. A big ol’ smoking NaNoWriMo fail. I mean I tried–I really did. But I’m just not a verbal vomit type of writer. I’m deliberate. I ponder on a point. I edit, And re-edit. And edit again. That’s what I seem to do best–editing. Can’t stop myself. I just keep going back and forth until I get it right. And I eventually do. I have been published, so there is documented proof. But I just can’t keep writing until my fingers bleed and there’s pus crusting up my eyelashes. And apparently I’m not the only one. I found this on the Oxford Dictionaries blog about other ways to fuck up, so I know I’m not alone.  I feel so much better now.

1) Discover a television show you really have to binge watch

‘TV is a great way to learn about crafting dialogue,’ you say to yourself, planning to make detailed notes while watching a modern classic like The Wire or The West Wing. Eighteen hours later, you’re watching the finale of America’s Next Top Model with gummy sweets stuck to your face and empty bottles of wine littering the floor. Yes, great writing can happen on TV – but maybe ration the scenes you want to observe.

2) Get too calculator-happy

To reach that target of 50,000 words in November, you have to write 1,666 words per day. Oh, and another 2/3 of a word on top of that. My first step was working that out, then calculating how many words I could write per hour, how many words I would want to erase per hour, how many words were in the average paragraph, how many words were in the average sentence, and whether I had enough milk for all the cups of tea I’d need. I was exhausted before a word was written.

3) Use literally everything as a reason to cancel

‘I’m a busy, cool, important person,’ I mused, sitting alone in my room and wondering if ‘new BuzzFeed quiz’ was an event worth noting in my diary. My life was definitely too hectic to fit in anything like writing. Yes, sure, cancel if you’re going to your BFF’s birthday party or undergoing emergency surgery, but reasons for cancelling probably shouldn’t include online quizzes, trying out a new recipe, or staring blankly at a wall.

4) Get too obsessed with greatness

I recall the day (aged about 24) when I realized that it was unlikely I’d ever be a child prodigy. I’ve come to terms with that crushing blow, more or less, but I’m still apt to wander along my bookshelves past Austen, Dickens, and Woolf, and get despondent about the fact that my name won’t go down in the annals of history as one of the All Time Greats. That’s ok: there are plenty of other authors out there too.

5) Get overly absorbed, engrossed, occupied, and buried in a thesaurus

Nobody likes the same word several times in a paragraph – well, unless you’re Britney Spears singing ‘Womanizer’, of course – but you can save the finer points of synonym-hunting for later in the process. I got so bogged down in finding a synonym for ‘once’ that I never got as far as ‘upon a time’.

6) Do all the research

While some research is a good thing, too much research is dangerous. While some have the mind for this sort of prodigious content digestion and distillation, most of us don’t. So whether you are deep in a Wikipedia spiral reading about mathematical paradoxes (and plotting the metaphorical significance thereof) or lost in the dusty stacks of your local library cracking open dusty tomes (there might be a reason that book hasn’t been opened in decades), be careful not to get too lost, or you’ll never get anything down on the page at all.

7) Get down with doubt.

Doubt sure feels like your friend at times! The friend who lazes next to your keyboard and tells you to cut that word … oh, and that one also … and maybe that entire character? Really, that whole page/scene/chapter is garbage – far better to just start all over again. Maybe a novel isn’t the best venue for this idea? Maybe a play, or a movie script, or a poem, or a — Eh, you get the picture. (Picture! What about a photo essay?!)

8) Not hitting CTRL + S every five minutes.

Nothing kills the mood like a spectacularly written – and spectacularly unsaved – paragraph. If you’re clever enough to be using a cloud-based document editor, then, well, good for you. I wasn’t.

  • The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

Thanksgiving? Seriously? At least there’s pie

blogger-image-727342139Tomorrow’s  Thanksgiving, but also the kickoff to what’s euphemistically referred to as the “Holidays.” All over the U.S., porches, front doors, topiary and gutters will be stripped of all evidence of the traditional “harvest” icons, ie, mums, hay bales, dried corn and cornstalks, as well as those apple-cheeked smiling scarecrows (and quite frankly, their sun-toasted perkiness does scare me), to be summarily replaced with dangling icicle lights, revolving reindeer, inflatable Sno-Dome elves on Merry-Go-Rounds, and other assorted yard horrors that symbolize the high-water mark of tackiness until we ring in the New Year. As for me, I’ll save my Yule celebrations until around the 24 of next month to focus on the holiday at hand, ie, family, friends, turkey and pumpkin pie, maybe even giving a thanks or two I’m still highbrow enough to cringe at the sight of Santa on a Harley.

So that’s it. No soapbox, no bitching on the obvious, just full-frontal indulgence and Pepcid post pumpkin-pie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and you have my permission to suspend NaNoWriMo for one day. As if you needed an excuse.


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The mindset of a writer, the morning after

trump-family-portraitSo the election’s over and Donald J. Trump won, even though at this writing, it’s looking like Hillary Clinton,  may come out winning the  popular vote, much like fellow Dem Al Gore in 2000.  All over the Blue States people are clutching their heads and wailing, and I must admit I lost some sleep last night too, staying up late to watch the returns and laying awake wide-eyed, contemplating what it all means. The end of the two-party system? The return to institutionalized racism? The acceleration of global warming? Another stock market convulsion? The collapse of democracy and the world economy?

The improbable has suddenly become possible. How could a country that has elected someone as elegantly intelligent and steadfast as Barack Obama spin a one-hundred-eighty and end up with someone as bombastic and narcissistic as the thin-skinned Trump? You ask me, it was inevitable.

Hello–American and French Revolutions. Hello–American Civil War. Hello–Brexit. People pushed down, can only take so much pressure.  It’s not that I agree with the method, but Trump is only a symptom, not the disease. There is a real income inequality in not only this nation, but in all of Western Civilization, and the Middle Class, once the shining symbol of our economic affluence, has contracted to the point of breaking.  Like a bridge without suspension, its collapsed under its own weight.

But like Barack Obama said last night, “the sun will rise in the morning.” But it’s a cloudy day in New Jersey, and a little while it started to rain. Still, I’m not losing hope. Not completely, that is. Being a bit of an optimist, I’m trying to remain so.  The comedians will have at least four years of good material. Alec Baldwin must be especially happy.  The Republicans won’t have the Dems to blame anything on now, and they’ll have to perform. Here in New Jersey, we have a new governor to elect next year. Perhaps we’ll get the chance sooner if Christie finds a place with the new administration. (Fingers crossed.)

As for me, I have a new book to write. I’ve been zipping right along with NaNoWriMo, making great word count, and the ideas have just been flowing.  It’s set in Atlantic City in 1983, back when the new casinos were rising, back when The Donald had two of them and Ivana was doing the decorating.  If anything, the A.C. of then and the A.C. of now makes great copy, and being a veteran of the casino scene of yore, I have some of my own truths to tell. You see, with distance come clarity and back then, as with now, once you sift through all the noise, the flotsam and jetsam, the hyperbole and the shouting you can get at the truth. Things always get clearer in the light of day, after the sun rises in the morning.