Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to Write and Finish Your Own Novel in 2009

Everyone has a story to tell. I believe that. So, based on that belief, I’m writing to encourage you to tell your story. With today being near the end of February, I’m laying out a plan to help you figure out how to write and finish your very own novel by the end of 2009, roughly 300 days away.

Why, you ask, should I think I can write a novel before the end of the year?

Great question. Last spring at a writer’s festival, I listened to a man speak about how his novel had taken him over ten years to complete. Every fall, the NaNoWriMo phenomenon goes on, or National Novel Writing Month, where writers complete an entire novel in one month. If we take a middle ground somewhere between the two, I’m guessing ten months to complete a novel might be just about right.

Here’s the plan:

Since a full-length novel falls somewhere near 80,000 words, 300 days will provide plenty of time to write at a leisurely pace.

In my experience, writing 500 words per hour is very doable (1000 words per hour is what I normally hear writers assume). With only one hour spent per day (500 words), nearly two novels could be written in the remainder of the year (150,000 words in 300 days). So, if you factor in taking a day off on the weekend and a few days for holidays and sick days, an 80,000 word novel can be written in the remainder of 2009 with extra time to spare. What to do with extra time? Revision and editing are always a great use of time after the novel is done.

Hopefully, by now, I’ve convinced you that you can finish your novel in 2009. But I’m sure you have a couple more reservations. A novel is a big undertaking, after all.

Why write? For me, I’ve found writing to be an amazing cathartic experience, therapeutic in profound ways. I am a better and more complete person by writing. Story is a powerful connector in the world, and there is no better way to engage in story than in your own novel.

When can I find time to write? Easy—the hour watching television or surfing the web. Or the hour before everyone else wakes in the morning. Or the hour when everyone is at school. Or the hour after dinner. Just one hour is all you need.

What do I write? Well, I would start by thinking what it is you like to read, and even reflect on shows you like to watch. Thriller? Chic lit? Literary?

How do I know the proper format, margins, etc? Since many books are devoted to this question, I’ll start by pointing to some I think are very helpful. The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman, The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne, and my personal favorite Stein on Writing by Sol Stein along with his How to Grow a Novel.

See? It can be done.

But in my experience, the ONE THING that will enable or prevent you from finishing your novel in 2009 is … discipline.

The most grueling thing I face in writing each day is just that—writing each day. No matter how comfy the chair I choose, I find it almost impossible to put my bottom in it. No matter how sleek and powerful the computer, I find it tough every day to place my fingers on its keyboard. No matter how simply the clock says it’s time to write, my whole will pushes back and says it’s time to do other things. Writing is hard work.

BUT, if you are one of those adventurous people who says Just Do It … I know without question that you CAN do it.

To close, here are some of the benefits I’ve found from the discipline of writing each day.

1. The biggest advantage to writing each day is that the story stays fresh. The writing flows, and continues to flow day after day by writing (even a little—500 words) each day.

2. Like heading to bed at a similar time each night, writing at a similar time each day can be beneficial. The body knows what to expect. The mind comes ready to write, and the flow is easier.

3. The story becomes a place to look forward to going each day, if just for an hour.

4. The routine lends itself to the others in your life respecting your time to write. Distractions are always plentiful, and my house certainly has a constant list of more things to do, but with a routine hour set aside each day, writing becomes a priority.

Go ahead, start thinking today about your novel, and plan to start. You CAN write and finish your novel in 2009.

Questions or extra thoughts? I’d love to hear them—post in the comments section below. And of course, I’d love to hear about your journey along the way to finishing your novel. You can contact me directly at http://www.jenniferlynking.com/ on the Contact page.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photos from NYC

A posting of photographs from our time in NYC, as seen over Valentine's Day weekend (2009).

The lovely Lady of Liberty stood beautifully on the windy and cold morning we saw her from Battery Park. Venturing across on the ferry would've rendered me toe-less and finger-less from the bitter cold.
An interesting view through the bare trees of the city surrounding the oasis in Central Park.

Knights and their shining armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibits were spectacular, though most of the Museum prohibited photography.
One of my favorite NYC spots, St. Patrick's Cathedral, across Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller's Plaza. On this afternoon, services proceeded as usual ... beautiful!

St. Paul's Chapel (also above). Directly beside the Ground Zero site, and survived. Also, according to the sign in this photo, St. Paul's Chapel is Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use (since 1764), survived The Great Fire of 1776, and hosted George Washington on Inauguration Day. An illustrious site, to say the least. And at the time I took these photos, a church service was just beginning.

The World Trade Center former site, or Ground Zero. Sad. I remember eating in the restaurant at the top of the Towers back in 1991.

Me, standing beside the sculpture that had previously stood beside the World Trade Center. It survived 9-11 and now takes this form. Today, it stands in memorium in Battery Park, with the flame (in the lower right of the photo).

Trinity Church. This photograph cannot replicate the sight and sound and feeling found in Trinity Church. The sounds we heard of the warming-up choral ensemble in red will live forever in my memory. The physical and historical beauty are awe-inspiring.

Here, Trinity Church and its beautiful exterior as it faces Wall Street and the NYSE. At that moment, the bells peeled in all glory of song.

The Federal Hall, with foundations entwined with our country's deepest roots, on Wall Street with George Washington.

The plaque of George Washington mounted to the side of the Federal Hall National Memorial.

Of course, Times Square area.

And last but not least, the tents at Bryant Park (the back side) for New York Fashion Week. The Herve Leger show that went on while we watched apparently had several models take spills on the runway. Swarms of cameras followed celebs in and out of the backstage entrance. Quite interesting. The models looked quite the same as one would expect-- six-foot-plus with crazy heels and four-foot-long toothpick legs to match. Nice to watch, but glad it's not me anymore.

I love being just me, mom, wife, writer, photographer-for-fun, celebrating life.

And I loved our weekend in NYC. Thanks for letting me share some with you. --JK

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York City!

Finally, finally, I am sitting down to write. Actually, I've been writing all week on my second novel, or more accurately, polishing and editing. So, I have been writing ... but finally, I am now to my blog.

We had a wonderful trip to New York City over Valentine's weekend. A GREAT experience all around. We took advantage of some of the recent and abundant deals going for last-minute getaways to NYC-- airfare, hotel, restaurants. Not only did we stay in a very nice hotel, the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Station, but we ate at some of the best restaurants we could imagine. And we booked it all, and made reservations, online.

At a few friends' prodding, I'll briefly explain how we made our choices for where to go.

1) As with our trip to Paris last year, we booked our airline and hotel in a package deal through Travelocity. We compared prices with other sites, and when it all boiled down, Travelocity had an easy deal for what we wanted.
2) Hotel choices for both our trip to NYC and Paris mostly rested on where we wanted to be staying location-wise. Since we've both been to Paris before, we knew the area and where we wanted to spend our time. The same applied for NYC, and we wanted to be near midtown, not flooded by the craziness of Times Square. The Grand Hyatt turned out to be perfect for us.
3) Restaurants are another story entirely-- in NYC there are so many, it's almost impossible to choose. But since the NYC Restaurant Week worked through reservations made through their website, www.nyc.com, which funneled reservations through OpenTable.com, we started there. Other factors included:
a) Ambiance-- the restaurant had to have photographs online, appealing ones that showed a cozy ambiance.
b) Location-- we looked for places that were in a certain area depending on what we thought we'd be doing on that day, for instance, eating dinner after a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
c) Reader Reviews-- the reviews had to be high to consider a place. Of course there are the people who write in reviews of "the lighting was too dim" or something else meaningless in my opinion, but if the majority of the reviews said the service and food were both wonderful, I generally thought them to be true.
d) Price-- for restaurant week, where NYC had a fixed $35/3 course dinner, we chose restaurants that would be a good buy, ones where OpenTable had rated them as $$$$$, or most expensive.
e) Reservation availability-- if OpenTable showed no reservations for, say, 6:00 pm and no reservations available at 7:00 pm, but had a reservation available for 6:30 pm, and met all the above qualifications, then that restaurant was the one to book. We like a bustling atmosphere, not a restaurant that is dead.
So: based on all the above criteria, we found we loved two restaurants in NYC. L'Absinthe on the Upper East side and Town on 56th Street. Each is very different from the other in terms of style and ambiance, but both had outstanding food and impeccable service. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Of course, we did more in NYC than just eat ... and enjoyed seeing the Statue of Liberty (despite the freezing wind), listened in awe at the beautiful church bells from Trinity Church as they peeled down the Wall Street area as we walked through history there, soaked in the beauty of the Met and their special Impressionist exhibit, and watched from the exterior the action going on at the tents at Bryant Park for Fashion Week. All of these could be posts for coming weeks...
We look forward to the next time we make it to NYC. A great experience, with great memories, for sure.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Publicity Dilemma

Some days I admit to being a "gearhead" (the result of my Mechanical engineering degree). Most days, I love to get my technology fix (again, "gearhead"). For almost a year, I've walked around in awe at the sleek and elegant mobile device I've carried in my hand to connect to the world-- my iPhone. Like almost every review I've ever read on the supersmart device, I love my iPhone, too. But while I could go on and on about how I love the apps and the web Safari and the email access and everything else I seemingly need in my life technology-wise, I want to point to something else new and technology-related in my world ... being an author and facing the new world of the internet and the resulting publicity dilemma.

Over the past year, it has been interesting to watch and listen to the buzz flying around the publishing industry about books and the shift toward the digital revolution (or so I'd like to call it). The music industry has been walking through a world of quicksand in their rapid shift toward digital, battling everything from copyrighting to piracy to royalties. Meanwhile, the book publishing world has been standing by on their stacks of books and pages and words in print hoping to survive on the physical side of publishing words-- on paper, old-style-- and not get sucked into the quicksand of digital media, too. But, the inevitable has been happening at an accelerating pace, and the book (and newspaper, and magazine) world has been pulled into the digital vortex, too. Not only do e-readers and digital books seem familiar now, but old-style bookstores and bookshelves now have a different battle to fight-- that same digital revolution. And, of course, swept along in all of this, publishing houses and the books' authors themselves have to find their way through the muck of the web by embracing a new way of doing business and attracting readers--the new publicity dilemma.

Even though this video has been out for quite a few months, one of my writer friends posted the link on Facebook a couple weeks ago and I viewed it for the first time. As an author, I must say that in this new world of everything-internet, even authors have to find a way to plug into the web. Or should I say--especially authors. If you haven't seen this video yet, especially if you're a writer, take a quick watch (it's only about three minutes).

The old formulas of doing physical book tours and book signings are no longer enough. Now we have blogs and social networking sites (Facebook) and blog tours and book videos and Twitter. In another blink or two, we'll have some other must-use digital manner of connecting with readers. And in my mind, that's great. But maybe that's the techie in me talking. Oh-- and the amazing and rewarding ability to connect with people everywhere anytime.

I've been paying attention to this new publicity factor for a while and have two things to note.

1) Internet publicity is revealing. I don't plan to use an example here, but I'm sure you can think up one or two on your own from your own experience. But in my experience, the quest for bigger numbers and larger followings and more publicity often drums up gimmicks-giveaways and copy-and-paste canned question and answers, or, in other words, insincerity. Even through the veneer of a digital screen, source motives can still be seen clearly. Self-promotion is a touchy thing that easily becomes pushy and overbearing. I think consumers are smart. In this digital era, people want something real-- something authentic.

2) Internet publicity can be very well done (when it's authentic). Take, for example, John Mayer. As a musician who also happens to be very tech-savvy, he came up with a grass-roots way to connect with his core fans through his blog. Over the 2008 holidays, he held a holiday cake-baking contest. In exchange for fans sending in photographs of their creative cakes, he chose a few over the course of a month or two, and posted some photographs with his own comments. John also posted photographs of his own cakes he baked. And, to the best cake baker, he sent an autographed guitar as a prize. Click here for the link.

I have many note cards filled with my thoughts on this subject ... and since this posting is long already, I'll save more for next week.

Have a great week ... and a wonderful Valentine's weekend. -JK

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It Just So Happens ...

It just so happens that ... just as Southwest Ohio thought our snow was finally beginning to melt, we are receiving another wallop dose of snowfall. This is what I see out the window right now as I type:

These poor Mourning Doves are getting covered in the matter of one hour or so …

It also just so happens that about three years ago, I heard a retired pastor speak, and his words have had a lasting impression on me. He is known for repeating a particular saying: “In God’s world, nothing just so happens …”

It’s an interesting perspective to think about, I believe. Because if that statement is true, then the chance encounters and other happenings we frequently attribute to luck all have a similar explanation.

The many little things that just so happen … also bring me much joy, like today’s snowfall that helps me hibernate in my writing chair and get closer to finishing my novel, and the encounter with an old friend in the frozen foods aisle at the store. Some of my Just So Happens … happenings involve something bigger, more coincidental, that can’t help but grab my attention. For example, last year, I just so happened to sit beside one of our son’s friend’s mom, and after a while of sharing what we do, by the next week, she happened to help connect me to an opportunity to model for Frontgate. (In case you’re interested in seeing for yourself, click here to see one of the catalog images online--I'm the dark-haired model in the smaller photo below the blonde. Click to toggle.)

Chances are that once we’ve written the “Just so happens …” down, it loses some of its mystery and magic. Something deeply meaningful to me personally is difficult to convey with words on paper (or on the computer screen). But when I go back and think, I realize its meaning again.

There is nothing more exciting to me than to witness the moving hand of God in our world. “Just so happens …” just so happens to be one of those great ways of discovering the deeper wonder of life.

It just so happens for me that I’ve had the chance to work on my second novel during the dumping of snow we had last week. Also, it just so happens that I have a wonderfully romantic husband who has planned a Valentine’s getaway for us to New York City. That weekend also just so happens to be New York Fashion Week. Again, hard to convey in writing, but for me to be able to experience firsthand the action of Fashion Week would be like winning the world’s largest lottery. Strange, maybe, but for me, the runway holds a deep part of my heart. So, as I work on hopefully obtaining a pass to a fashion show or two, I’ll be watching for how things unfold and plan to share with you my “It Just So Happens …”

Please leave a comment below—I’d love to hear your experience with “It Just So Happens …”