“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


NaNoWriMo – Confidence and Strangeness

Monday, November 28, 2011

Less than 5,000 words to go.  I did that in one Saturday – the last day of November – a couple years ago, so I am heading toward that finish line with confidence.  Not that I can slack off; I am technically behind, but I will make it.

In my writing today, I found out some interesting things about my main character that I didn't know before.  And it came from a very unexpected source too.  Must explore further.  Wish me luck.

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Yet Another NaNoWriMo Update

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I've been slipping behind.  As of this morning I had more than 4,000 words to write in order to be caught up with today's goal word count.  But after spending a good chunk of the day writing – in between seemingly endless laundry, making chili, shaving the cat, and a few therapeutic facebook and blog checks – I wrote 3,429 words today.  That means I am now at 32,449 words which is only 891 words behind.  And I'm okay with that.  I could try to toss a few more words on the page, but my brain is tired.  So I'll give it a rest and jump back in tomorrow. 

Here's to getting ahead in the next few days so I can slack off on Thursday and Friday!

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NaNoWriMo Update

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My word count is at 26,011 as of last night.  That is 661 words short of the target for the 16th day of the month, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  661 words can be made up in less than an hour.

You should see my word count stats over the month so far.  Crazy, I tell ya.  Right on target for a few days, then down to half, then 2000 one day, then down to zero, then 3000, then zero, and then 2000+, 2000+, 2000+.

They say week two is the hardest, and I have never been able to prove them wrong.  Every year it seems that week two is pure drudgery.  So here's to week three being crazy kinds of productive with amazing plot points appearing out of nowhere and twists and turns wiggling their way out of my head (okay, that just sounded gross) and making me a happy writer girl.

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NaNoWriMo Widget

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The word count widgets are now available on the NaNoWriMo website.  Yay!  If you're reading this on my actual blog and not in a reader then you can see it at the top of the page.  Just never you mind that the count is a teensy bit lower than it should be considering we're on day 13.  I'll catch up.


Guess I should go do that then.

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A Letter to Beethoven

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dear Mr. Ludwig van Beethoven,

I want to thank you for writing the heart-rending, soul-searching, hopeful, romantic, reflective piece that is the Moonlight Sonata.  My fingers do not do it justice, but every time I let them float across the keys, following the glorious pattern of notes that your genius so skillfully and expressively arranged, my soul floats away with them.

There have been many great composers over the years, but there is a reason your name is still known all over the world almost 250 years after your birth.  Thank you for sharing your beautiful music with us.

Oh, and I named my cat after you.  I think he kind of looks like you, actually.  What do you think?



European Vacation – Traveling Through France

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

We left Versailles in the early afternoon with a goal to reach a little town on the French side of the France/Germany border by that evening.  The Geek has a co-worker who lives there and we had been invited to visit them for a real French home-cooked meal that evening.
As we drove through France, I was surprised by how much it looked like the American Midwest.  If I hadn't known any better, I would have believed we were driving up I-35 through northern Minnesota.  At least until we saw a sign saying the speed limit was 120.  That was a dead giveaway.

When you drive through the countryside where I live, you see one of two things in the farmers' fields: corn or beans.  I rarely ever see anything else, and whatever is growing in those fields is always green.  So it was a delight to see so many colors growing in the fields of France (and Germany too).  We saw fields and fields of sunflowers like this one.  There were fields at least as big as this one that were completely purple with lavender.  (I'm assuming it was lavender.  It could have been some other purple flowering crop.)  And then there were the vineyards, stretching as far as the eye can see.  They were so beautiful.

Villages like this were everywhere.  They dotted the hillsides one after another.  Some we drove through, and some we saw sitting up on the side of the mountain looking down on life in the valley below.  In Bavaria especially (which I'll post about later) there were farms with fields of crops growing on mountainsides so steep that you would think the rain would wash them right away, and yet they looked healthy.

Here we are entering Niederbronn les Bains, France.  Right on the border of Germany.  Our hosts told us that, in fact, it was once a part of Germany, and a lot of people there speak both languages or even a sort of mix of the two.  The village was quaint and pretty, as were so many similar villages we passed through while we drove.  Believe it or not, this was one of the wider streets we drove on.  There are places where, even though it is technically a two-way street, there is not enough room for two cars to pass through together.

We had a lovely dinner with our hosts that night.  They were so kind and welcoming and prepared a wonderful authentic French meal for us: foie gras to start, followed by the most tender, yummy roast pork in a delicious sauce (They really know how to cook pork there.  It's fantastic.) french fries (They did this as a joke since french fries are more American than French.) and a couple of great desserts from a local bakery.

They spoke English impressively well which was great since the extent of my French is "oui".  They had two children, one a baby and the other the cutest little blond boy, about two or three who chattered away to us in French, clearly telling us the most interesting things, which we, alas, could not understand a word of.

That night we had planned to drive to Germany after dinner, but we ended up staying late, chatting with these wonderful people.  And then it started raining, pouring, gushing, crazy kind of rain.  So with their help, we found a hotel with an available room right in town and stayed there instead.  In the morning, this (above) was the view from our hotel window.  Such a pretty town.

We decided to walk around town a bit that morning to see what we could find for breakfast.  This pretty little church was just down the street from our hotel.

We had found that while the hotels served pretty good breakfasts (usually a buffet of small baguettes, croissants, boiled eggs, cold cuts, cheese, yogurt and fruit), we really enjoyed finding a local pâtisserie and buying a baguette to share for breakfast.  We did that on this particular morning and wandered the village, enjoying the sights while picking bites off the wonderful, crispy, chewy baguette.  Europeans know how to make bread like no bread I have ever tasted in the U.S.

We left France that morning and made our way down to Bavaria.  Next stop: castles!

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Thinking Vs. Writing

Monday, November 07, 2011

Have you ever had one of those moments when you have an epiphany that isn't really an epiphany?  A non-epiphany-epiphany, if you will.  It's not really an epiphany because epiphanies must be profound, life-changing ideas, and this is so obvious that you could have told yourself this when you were five years old, if you would have just listened.

Well, as you may have guessed, I had a non-epiphany-epiphany today.  I've been writing – off and on – for several years.  My first NaNoWriMo in 2005 was when I gave myself permission to admit that I was kind of, sort of, actually going to try this writing thing.  But I've never really let myself pour my heart and soul into it, except for one month a year when NaNo comes around.  The rest of the time I have moments of obsession, but no heart-and-soul-pouring.

So to make up for the time that I don't spend sitting at my laptop and actually typing/writing, I spend lots and lots of time thinking.  I think in the shower, in my Jeep, while I clean the house, when I'm lying awake in bed at some ungodly hour; I think a lot.

And then, on the rare occasion when I get around to sitting down at my laptop with my Scrivener file open, I jot down a few notes on the things I've been thinking about.  But the few notes never amount to nearly as much as I think they will, considering the amount of thinking I've been doing.

You may have heard of BICHOK.  Yeah, that kind of looks like a swear word, but I promise it's not.  Let's say BIC-HOK.  In case you haven't seen this before it stands for "Butt In Chair - Hands On Keyboard".  The idea is that you will never accomplish anything as a writer if you don't glue your butt to your chair and keep your hands in contact with your keyboard for a significant amount of time daily.  That means every. single. day.

I'm really good at sitting in my chair, but if my hands are on my keyboard they are more often browsing my favorite blogs than they are writing.

So my epiphany came this morning when I realized that even though I spend quite a bit of time thinking about whatever I happen to be writing at the time, that time is remarkably unproductive.  Part of that is because when I'm thinking I have to run it over in my head so many times for it to stick, whereas if I am sitting at my keyboard typing it I only have to do it once.  Then it's there for me to go back and mull over later if I really need to, but I don't have to worry about losing it because it's there, on the screen, in black and white, there to stay.

That's one of the joys of NaNoWriMo.  When I'm forced to create actual words every time I write, and when I don't have the time to sit and mull over and over and over the same word or passage or idea, I'm actually more creative.  Ideas flow more freely when my fingers keep moving constantly.  I can always go back and smooth them out later (which leads to another pitfall of mine that I will not discuss now).

There's a scene that I love in the movie "Finding Forrester".  Jamal is sitting across from Forrester, a typewriter in front of each of them, but Jamal is not typing.  Forrester says to him, "No thinking — that comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think."

And that is the joy I'm finding as well as the lesson I'm learning in doing NaNoWriMo this year.  NaNo is always about turning off your inner editor and simply writing, but this year because of my lack of preparation, I feel even more like the words are coming from a place in me that goes beyond thinking.  I'm finding that when my fingers are moving, constantly punching the keys of my MacBook Pro, the words that spill onto the page thrill me more because they are so unexpected.  It's almost like reading a book that someone else wrote.

No matter what the outcome of this year's NaNo novel, the concept of Forrester's "first key to writing" and the real value of BIC-HOK have sunk in a little further than they ever have before, and for me, that is an epiphany.

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NaNo Update

Saturday, November 05, 2011

It's day 5 and I am currently at 7,352 words on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I wanted to put a word count widget on my blog like I usually do, but they don't seem to have them ready this year.  So I'll just keep posting my number here every now and then.

The story is going swimmingly.  Of course, I'm only a mediocre swimmer, so that might not mean what you think it means.  As I mentioned before, I started this story remarkably unprepared.  I am having fun with it, and I do think there is some value in just pounding out a sort of maelstrom of words onto the page whether or not they end up being useable or not in the end.  It gets the blood flowing to the brain, works the literary muscles, and hopefully will make me better able to go back and rewrite/edit past rough drafts later on.  That is assuming I don't wait until those literary muscles shrivel up again before I get started.

On the other hand, maybe I'll finish this and find out it's brilliant and only needs to be polished up and made pretty to become the latest, greatest novel on the shelves.  I'm not really counting on that, but it could happen.


So anyway ... at 1,667 words per day, I need to write a minimum of 983 more words before I go to bed tonight.  Guess I'd better get busy.

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European Vacation – Versailles

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The day we left Paris, we stopped at Versailles before crossing through France on our way to Germany.  The opulence of this place was almost beyond imagination.  Gilt gold, marble, and velvet were everywhere, covering every surface of the walls, floors, and furniture.  No wonder Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake." It would not take many days of living in a place like Versailles to make a person forget that poverty existed outside their doors.

This was taken inside the first set of gates.  The entrance was all paved in cobblestone so bumpy and worn that I wondered if it wasn't the same cobblestone that had been there for hundreds of years.  The palace was huge – Mall of America huge.  And if you look at an aerial view, you'll see that the palace is only a small part of the gigantic estate that is Versailles.

It was raining; not a pouring rain, but a strong, constant drizzle.  Thank goodness it wasn't very cold, but it was very, very wet.  The line was long and we talked about leaving, but I really wanted to see inside.  My Geek was such a sweetie and stood out in that rain with me for at least an hour without a complaint.  (I think I might have to frame this picture and put it on my desk.  He is just so sweet.)

The line (so long it wove back and forth through the courtyard like a giant snake) led us past this inner gate.  The gold gilt shone so brightly, even on a cloudy, rainy day.  Can you imagine this being the entrance to your home?  The fact that people actually lived in this place still amazes me.

We were under some time constraints, so we didn't tour the gardens, even though it had stopped raining by the time we were done touring the inside of the palace.  Here is a photo of them through a window.  They looked so lovely.  If I ever get back there, I'd love to spend some time in those gardens.

Marie Antoinette, possibly the most famous resident of Versailles.

There were paintings everywhere.  In many of the rooms they were paintings of kings and queens who had lived there.  This one seemed to be depictions of Biblical events.

The desk is just one example of the ornate furniture that filled every room in the palace.

A painting of Versailles from overhead, back in the day, as they say.  That roundish area in the center is now a parking lot.

More gold gilt furniture, marble wainscotting, and a touch of velvet-covered walls.  Imagine your house with velvet on every wall like wallpaper, and marble wainscotting in every room.  Incredible.

This chapel was built by Louis XIV.  Apparently he wanted to make the chapel stand taller than any other part of the palace, so it is two stories tall with a vaulted ceiling besides.  The photo on the left is the upper floor which is open in the center to the lower floor shown on the right.

I love the tall, grand windows.  I should have gotten a picture of the ceiling in this room.  Actually, I think I did, but I forgot to Photoshop it and I'm too lazy to go back and do it now.  Anyway, the room itself was at least as big as my entire house, and the ceiling was all one big painting.

The one complaint I would have (other than the standing in the rain part) about touring Versailles is the massive crowds.  Every room was packed so tight with tourists that it was difficult to even take pictures.  In some of the smaller rooms (smaller being a relative term) the crowds were shoulder to shoulder and you were sort of forced to move through in one big mass as you became one with the crowd.  Very uncomfortable.  I think if we ever went again, I would try to find out when the least popular time was to visit and go then.

Another view of the gardens through the windows.  Aren't they pretty?  Can't you just see a queen in her big, poofy, beautiful dress, meandering through with a glass of wine with a pretty ribbon hanging off of it?  Sigh.

The famous "Hall of Mirrors" was just amazing.  Parquet floors, painted and gilt ceilings, crystal chandeliers every few feet, one wall covered in mirrors and the other in windows.  I imagined a room full of ladies and gentlemen dressed in their fancy attire filling this room with light glinting off of every surface.  It must have been an incredible sight to see.

The ceilings in  most of the rooms were covered in paintings depicting various religious scenes or military campaigns.  This one was under restoration.

This was where the royal family dined.  They sat at that table while the courtiers sat on the ottomans in the foreground, watching them. In fact, they had courtiers watching their every move, all day, every day.  Even with all the grandeur and beauty of Versailles, I think I would go crazy living such a public life as that.  (This room was very dark, thus the crappy photo.)

This is the queen's bedchamber.  The gilt railing separated her from the courtiers that were constantly surrounding her.  To the left of this photo was a small door almost hidden in the wall (sorry I didn't get a photo of it) which was the door Marie Antoinette escaped through when the peasants came for her.  (You can see the door in this photo.)

If you ever are in France, I would highly recommend visiting Versailles.  I would not want to live the life that its residents did, but it is a beautiful place to see.

Next up, traveling across France on our way to Germany.

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