A Time To Write And A Time To Play

I loved playing with Barbies when I was little, okay, even when I wasn’t so little, but in my defense, I had little sisters so…anyway…moving on.

It was always fun and exciting to pull out my dolls, dress them up, do their hair and act out a story that had been brewing in my head, but I could only do this after all my homework and chores were done. Even if all I wanted to do when I came home from school was get out my ‘Magic Moves’ Barbie doll and pretend that she was traveling to Paris for a modeling shoot, I had to work first and play later –Mom’s rules.

Recently, I realized that Mom’s rules are still ingrained in my brain and for me writing my novel is the adult equivalent of playing ‘Barbies’. I’ve been writing my novel in my head for years. While I’m running, vacuuming, showering or falling asleep, I pull out my main character, dress her up and act out scenes with her. But making time to sit down and write out the scenes has been a struggle because I keep thinking – work now and play later.

There’s just always something more important to do than write my book because writing my book is fun! I feel guilty spending time on my novel when there are chores to be done –Mom’s rules.

Only, wait. I’m the Mom now and I can change the rules. It’s okay to write my book if the laundry isn’t done and the floor needs mopped. I’m an adult now and my characters are real in a way that my Barbies weren’t. My characters can speak and other people can hear them; if I stop thinking of writing as just playing around. My characters have free will and a life of their own. Even if I know exactly what I want my main character to say in a certain scene, she sometimes defies me and says something out of the blue, which fits the scene better. It’s kind of spooky the way she does it.

I don’t want to take the fun out of writing by labeling it ‘work’ but I don’t want to keep shoving it aside as ‘play’. There’s got to be a happy medium; l just need to find it. Until I do, this Mom is making a new rule: write now, work later, and don’t forget to play whenever possible.

A Writer’s Life

Hello fellow Ninjas and Campaigners!

I’m always curious about how others write, especially my favorite authors. What’s their day like? What’s their process? What are their essential tools?

In her book, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Writer, Janet Evanovich gives readers a peek into her writing life, like what’s on her desk –

a Winnie the Pooh clock, a statue of an angry Donald Duck, a Little Lulu bank, a couple diecast cars (I make them go vroom vroom vroom when I’m bored), pens, and Magic Markers, a yellow pad (for catching stray ideas), a phone with cordless headset, and an iPod filled with happy energetic music (How I Write, p. 196).

Knowing what Ms. Evanovich keeps on her desk isn’t going to make me a better writer, but it’s still interesting! Now I want to know about your writing process!

I got the following idea from my friend Dawn @ The Write Soil. She had a post a while ago that I’ve taken and switched up a little. Here’s how it works:

1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Creative Commons Search.

2. Pick one image to represent your answer.

3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab’s Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers. (3 columns, 4 rows)

4. Save.

5. Post the mosaic (with the photo credits provided by the Mosaic Maker) to your blog to share with readers and fellow campaigners or ninjas!

6. Leave a comment here so I can check it out!

The questions:

  1. Where do you write?
  2. What time of day do you write?
  3. What do you snack on when writing?
  4. What do you drink when writing?
  5. What do you do to overcome writer’s block?
  6. What office supply is your best/favorite/most useful tool?
  7. What book do you read for inspiration and/or procrastination?
  8. What music/song do you listen to for inspiration?
  9. What television show/movie do you watch for inspiration and/or procrastination?
  10. What writer inspires you?
  11. What genre do you write?
  12. What celebrity would you say your main character resembles?

If you don’t want to make a mosaic, you can just answer the questions or share images in whatever way you wish!
My Mosaic –

My answers with photo credit:

1. family room, 2. Morning, 3. Twizzlers, 4. Water, 5. Run, 6. index cards, 7. Bible, 8. Billy Joel, 9. Twister, 10. Janet Evanovich, 11. Mystery 12. Ariel Winter (with shorter, lighter hair)

ETA: My answer to number 12 could be misleading so I thought I might explain it better. My genre is mystery. When I typed the word into the photo search the results were a faux Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo and a crocheted dragon magnet apparently named Mystery. I chose Mystery the magnet dragon because I thought he was cute.

Ninja Notes

Number of words written for my WIP (since last update): 0

Yep, a big fat ZERO *insert long sigh here*. I’ve not worked on my novel once since my last update. So much for Ninja discipline! It’s just too easy to let working on my novel fall last on my list of priorities.

(However, I have been a potty-training Ninja! Looks like my little baby will be starting pre-school in September – just one month away! I’m so proud.)

While I’ve not written anything, I have been considering the theme of my novel. “Properly speaking, the theme of a work is not its subject but rather its central idea which may be stated directly or indirectly” (Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms, p.969). In her article on Storyfix, Jessica Flory describes theme in these words:

Theme is as difficult to define as it is to incorporate, but it can be done. When it is, when theme is woven and intertwined in a story so skillfully that it sweeps the reader off their feet and carries them for the ride of their lives.

The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms gives Othello as an example for the theme of jealousy. Jessica uses the theme of courage for an example. As for me, I have an idea of what I want the theme of my novel to be, but believe that the process of writing the novel will ultimately reveal what the theme is.

Hopefully, my characters and the conflict, action and climax of the story will keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats as well as subtly conveying the theme, or message of my novel, which at this point can’t be summed up neatly in one word.

Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” My WIP explores how past events work in the present, how the past lives on in people, places and things. My protagonist has a unique gift that allows her to experience history in the present. Her gift and the mystery she solves ideally will illustrate a theme of respect for land and for people — for God’s creation. At least that’s my loose theme at this point in the novel-writing process. No one, thankfully, can hold me to it.

All I have to do is make my WIP a priority! Thankfully, God has blessed me with the perfect cheerleader/taskmaster in Dawn @ The Write Soil. I only hope she doesn’t scold me too harshly for not turning in my chapter to her on Wednesday when it was due!


Articles I read as I considered the theme of my WIP:

Choosing a Theme for Your Novel

Theme and the Novel Writing Process @ Novel-Writing-Help.com

Ninja Notes

Before I give the stats on my WIP, let’s discuss what this ‘Ninja’ business is all about.

As some of you may or may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. I’ve known about it for years, but have never taken part. November is a crazy busy month for me. Anyway, if you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo before, here’s what the website has to say:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

So what does this have to do with ‘Ninja’ writing? Well for those of us who can’t participate in NaNoWriMo or for those who want to participate in the months besides November, Ali Cross created ‘The Dojo‘ a place for writers to come together and write together with the same type of camaraderie found in NaNoWriMo.

I joined ‘The Dojo‘ because referring to myself as a ‘Ninja’ empowers me to write with gusto, perseverance and attitude. Brianna is weak and often lets her doubts keep her from pursuing her goal of writing a novel. But Ninja Brianna is tough and will kick the butt of anyone or anything that gets in the way of achieving her goals!

So now that you know what being a ‘Ninja’ is all about, here’s where I’m at with my WIP:

  • Number of words written for my WIP this week: 0
  • Number of words written for a non-fiction story to submit for possible publication: 3,000
  • Number of times I’ve considered giving up on writing a novel: ~100 (just an estimate really – saying every second of every day seems like a bit much)
  • Number of times I’ve rededicated myself to writing a novel: (see above)
  • Most helpful, yet discouraging blog post on writing a novel I read this week: Top ten worst beginnings via Scholastic I sincerely appreciate Kate’s advice, but when I got to #4 – Conversation between a character and his/her mother. No idea why this one is popular… my stomach dropped. Yep. That’s exactly how my novel starts. I’m not necessarily convinced that it’s a terrible beginning, but I certainly will be considering optional ways to open my novel. I’m always open to helpful suggestions in other types of writing; a book is no different, even if it feels more personal.
  • As a sign that I should not read more than one editor blog post a week a year, I’ve started affectionately thinking of my novel as, ‘Slushy.’ Have I doomed it already? Or is this a clever tactic to keep the slush pile fairies away? Either way, no more publishing blogs until I’ve actually got Slushy my novel written.

Any other Ninjas out there reading? Why did you join the ‘The Dojo‘? Where are you at in your novel writing?