NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and this year it is the first time that I’m attempting the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve been able to clock up to 13,000 words in the last 11 days, so I’m on my way. But for the inspiring writer, the major challenge is not the completion of a jumble of words, but to assemble the words into a meaningful flow of literature— something that someone would want to read. Staking in the proposed novels on the NaNoWriMo website has given me that repugnant feeling that we are all a giant ocean of hopelessly optimistic novices tossing pollen out onto the wings of destiny hoping that one of the 250,000 participates will strike upon a really brilliant idea. While although it may seem hopeless, and everyone one I meet is somewhat reluctant to emit they every tried NaNoWriMo (and typically failed or the novel remains unpublished), the idea is grand and simple: go out there and write! And writing, just the practice of it is good. Getting into the habit of writing each day, of enjoying the expression of your wildest fantasy splashed onto the page, without a care if it will ever be read. This is the act of writing for only the sanity of writing. So what if it has no purpose. If it entertains only your old worn eyeballs and sack of brains, then so be it. For writing fiction is fun. That is why I do it. You can read about my working novel here.
Yes, I’m still alive, and despite the disappointments of being one of the many
thousands millions of self-published authors out there in the universe who are currently pitching their book. I’m completely and humbly grateful for the less then dozen sales that I’ve made. Yes, I priced my 300-page length ebook at $1, but only seven of you have been tempted to read it, and I know who most of those people are. Thanks Mom! So is there a way to break-out and earn any money writing fiction? Sadly, this day and age I have to say not a chance. There is just a huge over-flow of books, “print on demand” has made it so that any book can be printed whenever, so all those dusty manuscripts that previously hid in the closets, and never saw the light of day, are right next to your book (with a nice cover and book description). Which makes selling your book impossible, there is just a flood of supply, which overwhelmed the little demand there is with readers. I’m overcome by the numbers, when I go to look for something to read, it is hard to pick good verses bad books. Anymore I just head to my library, rather than download anything to my kindle. If I return it on time, then I don’t even have to pay a late fine. Despite the failure of creating sales, I still enjoy the process of writing. And the wrapping myself up in a story that I become so invested in makes life a lot more interesting. So after launching my book, and having that empty time that I no longer invest into writing left me a little depressed. I wrote a few short stories, and have been trying to get them published in any format, rejections are standard, and I don’t really care to keep submitting them. Isn’t there something better I could do with these stories? ……
I might need to return with something much more amazing…
Writing is a daily exercise. Some days you just don’t feel like doing it, others you are too tired. Sometimes you don’t have anything interesting to add. However, what makes writing so interesting is that by reading someone’s words you are transported into their mind and thoughts. Reading words is a weird form of telepathy. Words are important, and reading more so. I love escaping the world in a good book, and I hope you enjoying reading my novel and little words I’ve assembled for pleasure and interesting thought.
If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, and think it is some strange pagan God, check out Nathan Bransford’s blog.
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/10/nanowrimo-resources.html. He gives you the low down on the contest to write a novel during the month of November.
Yes, I thought about it… um it would be great to have a novel written in a month. But a good novel, a really good novel in a month, impossible! So while I watch friends begin the quest to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I sit here and think about how I wish I had the time, and more so the story ready to go into overdrive, but I don’t. Maybe I will do a blog entry for each of those 30 days, and that might be manageable. Its not like many people are going to be reading this anyway, and I can spend time in the quizzical fashion. Don’t have to worry to much about editing and grammar.
(I am happy to note that I got my first spam comment on my blog, its like the internet has finally taken notice of me!)
On this dark and rainy morning, I sit at my desk and contemplate the majesty of great thinking and brilliance in the governance of science. We have learned about the universe. I hope you allow me to delude you into reading further. Blogs entries are burnt in the quick skim and equally deluged through the movement of that hideous scroll button on the right of the screen. I hope you do not roll your pointer across it, but only if to read some more. Do so in the pace duly serviced for the elegance of great works of literary works. Now, as I have your full attention, and the clear certainty that you have gotten this far onto the page, without clicking impiously away from this very screen you find yourself on, I hope to speak to you about the grandeur of what we know, of the greatness of our understanding, and the cosmic portions of that knowledge. Yes, indeed it is amazing how we have delved into fabric of the universe, peered at the nucleus of atoms and the farthest reaches of our universe, at stars distant and galaxies spinning a million light years away. The little spaceship we call Earth, flying through the vast empty space of the universe, spinning swiftly around an average star, and rarely encountering anything but flakes of asteroids and meteorites as they grapple with the gravity of the sun. Yes, on this raining day, sitting in my darkened office at a desk, I ponder such strange notions, and just hope that you do as well. Now, be off and surf away on the thin carpet of electronic knowledge we call the internet.
When I write, I think about verbs. The verb in each sentence is where the action plays out, and when you are fighting to keep your reader glued to your novel or story, you must have amazing verbs. Great writers use great verbs. I often wondered if just with a list of verbs chosen by an author from an individual paragraph, you could determine the author. I picked some random authors I had on my bookshelf, and just listed all the verbs that appear in a random paragraph of their work. See if you can match each list of verbs with the correct author.
Authors: Barbara Kingsolver, Stieg Larsson (translation), Stephenie Meyer, James Rollins, Mark Twain, Sadie Smith, Philip Pullman, J.R.R. Tolkien
Author #1 (Watched, Saw, Leaping, Scampering, Saw, Following, Carrying, Was, Saw, Snapped, Stopped, Leaped, Saw, Were)
Notice that many of the verbs are leaping, following, carrying and the repetition of the verb saw.
Author #2 (Was, Striking, Can, Was, Shot, Was, Saw, Were, Had, Was, Had, Was, Spotted, Spotted, Spotted, Push, See, Had, Picked, Recognized, Were)
This author kept simple verbs, but used three verbs of spotted to draw attention to these three sentences, but notice it was generic in the variation of verbs.
Author #3 (Woke, Astonished, Went, Shaking, Beaming, Smiling, Congratulating, Saying, Destined, Went, Acting, Ran, See, Flock, Began, Verify, Write, Dashing, Applied, Delivered, Loafing, Smirking, Rubbed, Enlarged, Hoped, Believed, Spread)
This author compared to #2 was grand in the wide range of verbs.
Author #4 (Acquired, Expected, Was, Summing, Stating, Made, Becoming, Viewed, Popping, Ran, Gave, Interviewed, Was)
This author used more direct verbs, no repeating or complex play, a very formal style.
Author #5 (Unwrapped, Traveled, Nestled, Appeared, Dressed, Cradled, Played, Played, Stepped, Said, Smiled, Began, Stood, Turned, Dancing, Moves, Stood, Swaying, Began, Itching, Held, Moved, Moved, Moved, Shuffling, Looking, Scratching)
Just a list of verbs by this author gives you a good sense of what is happening in the story, the awkwardness of a dance.
Author #6 (Climbed, Steaming, Toweled, Hung, Left, Stood, Was, Was, Turned, Study, Reminded, Was)
A much more simple writing style, nothing repeated except was, keeping it simple.
Author #7 (Speak, Was, Seen, Seen, Made, Knew, Was, Had, Was, Lost, Was, Whispered, Gave, Crumpled, Felt, Was, Groaned, Irritated, Wanted, Was)
This author tended to used a lot of was, and very direct simple verbs.
Author #8 (Shut, Held, Came, Hung, Piled, Grew, Advanced, Encumbered, Avoided, Turned, Began, Pour, Were, Was, Rose, Forced, Seemed, Beginning, Went)
A good diversity of verbs, focused on the subject matter.
O.K. think you know who wrote each group of verbs?
Here is the key:
Author # 1 = Philip Pullman
Author # 2 = Sadie Smith
Author # 3 = Mark Twain
Author # 4 = Stieg Larsson (translation)
Author # 5 = Barbara Kingsolver
Author # 6 = James Rollins
Author # 7 = Stephenie Meyer
Author # 8 = J.R.R. Tolkien
I hope that I convinced you of the power that verbs have over a sentence. You can make a great deal of stylistic changes to your writing if you focus just on the verbs. Higher quality writers use more diverse verb choices and pattern their verbs in unusual ways. Verbs keep the reader reading.
As I was finishing my book, I begin to troll around for publishers and agents. It was something I have done sporadically over the years, happily imagining I would be able to publish and receive adoring fame overnight if I just found the right publishing or agent willing to go out on a limb for me. But as the years rolled on, and as my writing improved, more and more doors opened to get a book published using various means. As I got to the end, I realized after many nights reading agent blogs, seeing inquires mount and mount, and exactly what publishers were looking for. I woke up to the fact that I was not going to find publisher or agent. My novel was too unique.
So, I thought back to those friends, who had written and published a novel. Each did it a different way, and none were wrong.
The first friend had found an agent, published his novel, and generated the most sells. However, as he worked on writing his subsequent novels his agent and publisher took more control over what he wrote. While he made money from his work, he had to be very observant over what his publisher and agent expected of him. This relationship made writing more of a guessing game, because let’s face it, it is impossible to predict what people will read. He never quit his day job, but made some money. Often writing for hire, rather than writing for pleasure.
The second friend found a nice small publisher willing to publish his work. No agent was needed. Yet, he had to sell and market his own work. It was a unique work, written about what he found interesting, and was difficult to pigeon-hole into any genre. He designed the cover even! He gave his novel to friends to read and indie book stores to sell, and tried to create buzz. He made very little money, but people read his books and were impressed that he was a writer.
The third friend wrote a great novel, after many years and sought out an agent and publisher. He got a great offer to publish his book, but it fell after he sought out a better offer from another publisher. The manuscript fell into the cracks, and was not published. For many years it sat around collecting dust, and he decided to self-publish the book. He had total control of the cover, and marketing the book. He made very little money, but people read his book, and it was no longer collecting dust on his desk.
When I thought about which path to take, I was not thinking about just making money, but producing a novel that I would want to read. I wanted to publish the novel so that people would enjoy it. So I self-published the book, stuck the kindle version with the lowest price, and hope that people will discover the book and read it. Check it out for yourself for only 99 cents…(link to my amazing novel)
If you’re like me you have never heard of the young Thomas Chatterton, but he has influenced the giants of romantic literature. William Wordsworth wrote that he was a marvelous boy, John Keats dedicated Endymion to him, even Percy Shelley ranked him high among his favorite authors. For a boy who committed suicide at seventeen, it is remarkable that he would lead such an amazing literary life after his early death.
In my novel, Chronologica, I mention the incredible story of Chatterton, but here on my blog I will tell you a little more. Chatterton was born on Novermber 10th 1752 in Bristol England. Shortly after he was born his father died, leaving his young mother to raise him, with a number of sisters. Chatterton loved reading, especially the ancient luminary works of medieval and renaissance poets; Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and other literature he could find provided for the backdrop of his rich poetry. His room looked out over St. Mary Redcliffe a Gothic styled Anglican parish church.
In my novel, I used Chatterton simply to prove a point about forgeries and how they can trick even the best scholars, but neglected to pontificate on his true genius.
My favorite poem by Chatterton is the “Romance of the Knight” or The Romaunte of the Knyghte by John de Bergham. It is a romantic tale of a ruffian knight, who attacks a fair damsel in distress, but is killed by a virtuous knight. Here is the poem, as he translated it from his fake forgeries of medieval text.
THE ROMANCE OF THE KNIGHT
The pleasing sweets of spring and summer past,
The falling leaf flies in the sultry blast,
The fields resign their spangling orbs of gold,
The wrinkled grass its silver joys unfold
Mantling from every hill the ravish’d sight.
The yellow flag uprears its spotted head,
Hanging regardant o’er its wat’ry bed;
The worthy knight ascends his foaming steed,
Of size uncommon, and no common breed.
His sword of giant make hangs from his belt,
Whose piercing edge his daring foes had felt.
To seek for glory and renown he goes
To scatter death among his trembling foes;
Unnerv’d by fear they trembled at his stroke;
So cutting blasts shake the tall mountain oak.
Down in a dark and solitary vale
Where the curst screech-owl sings her fatal tale,
Where copse and brambles interwoven lie,
Where trees intwinning arch the azure sky,
Thither the fate-mark’d champion bent his way,
By purling streams to lose the heat of day,
A sudden cry assaults his list’ning ear,
His soul’s too noble to admit of fear.—
The cry re-echos, with his bounding steed,
He gropes the way from whence the cries proceed.
The arching trees above obscur’d the light
Here ‘twas all evening, there eternal night.
And now the rustling leaves and strengthened cry
Bespeaks the cause of the confusion nigh;
Through the thick brake the astonish’d champion sees
A weeping damsel bending on her knees;
A ruffian knight would force her to the ground,
But still some small resisting strength she found.
(Women and cats, if you compulsion use,
The pleasure which they die for will refuse.)
The campion thus; Desist, discourteous knight,
Why dost thou shamefully misuse thy mighte.
With eye contemptuous thus the knight replies,
Begone! Whoever dares my fury dies.
Down to the ground the champion’s gauntlet flew,
I dare thy fury, and I’ll prove it too.
Like two fierce mountain boars enraged they fly,
The prancing steeds make Echo rend the sky,
Like a fierce tempest is the bloody fight,
Dead from his lofty steed falls the proud ruffian knight.
The victor, sadly pleas’d, accosts the dame,
I will convey you hence to whence you came.
With look of gratitude the fair replied
Content, I in your virtue may confide.
But, said the fair, as mournful she survey’d
The breathless corse upon the meadow laid,
May all thy sins from heaven forgiveness find!
May not thy body’s crimes affect thy mind!
This virtuous style of Chatterton is not like those old works that he tried to emulate, but a modern romantic notion of chivalrous knights rescuing damsels in distress. Great stuff that would belong in any modern novel or film of today, and Chatterton created all this while pretending to be copying the medieval text of fictitious writers of the past.
One of my favorite quotes of Chatterton, and one that has just as much meaning as today, as when it was written 250 years ago.
“When raving in the lunacy of ink, I catch the pen and publish what I think.”
Want to learn more about Thomas Chatterton (Read Chronologica) and check out these links:
I just reviewed the proof for my new novel, and getting excited that it will soon be available.