Thursday, December 20, 2007

National Novel Writing Month…

Let me tell you how I spent November 2007. This story starts in October 2006. George, a friend and fellow writer from Virginia, sent me an email. In it, he challenged me to write a 50,000-word novel in a month… specifically the month of November 2006. It seems November is National Novel Writing Month and sponsors an event where novelists from all over the world write (or attempt to write) a novel in 30 days.

In 2006, I had too much work on my plate and declined, promising George that I’d do it in November 2007. In October 2007, George wrote to remind me to sign up. He added that he was busy working on character sketches, maps of the locale for his novel, and adding specifics to his already-detailed outline. You see, you don’t actually write anything until November, but you can prepare.

While in North Carolina, I had intended to flesh out my outline, but the month of August passed with little progress. Since it was still early in October when George wrote to remind me, I determined I was still okay. After all, I could whip an outline and a few character sketches together in short order, couldn't I?

Well, it wasn’t to be… The last week of November arrived and I had a great title (Behind My Back – An Unauthorized Autobiography) and nothing else. As the days counted down to November 1st, George wrote of his progress at compiling all his background data. I tried to convince myself that he was over-prepared, but I started to panic at the idea of starting to write a novel without a plot in mind.

George's preparation did pay off. He finished at 50,000 words with over a week and a half to spare, and he went on to write another 10,000 while he was waiting for me to catch up. It not only impressed me, but pushed me toward the finish line. No way I was going to quit and let him be the only one to pass the 50,000 word mark. Finally, with two days to spare, I finished at 50,088 words. I sighed in relief.

When I look back on the experience, I know I'll do it again. It was tough to keep going at that pace, but it filled me with energy, and I must admit that it felt good to sit down each morning with my characters to determine what we would do with their lives that day.

I’m starting my outline for next year on January 1st. George knew what he was doing. There is great value in having an outline, maps, and character sketches. But, somehow I suspect that there'll be nothing to compare to this first year when I naively wrote from the heart and any other part of my body that wanted to throw in a word or two.... It was a great adventure., come along and join us next year…you won't regret it.

Here are some stats from this year….

  • Over 90,000 writers throughout the world participated
  • Collectively, we wrote 1,187,931,929 words.

P.S. "Winner" in the decal means that I finished.... And, after you've written 50,000 words in a month, you'll feel like a winner, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Writing / Photography Retreat

Living in Florida, I never have a shortage of photographic subjects. Palm trees, birds, sunrises, and sunsets make each day interesting. The Florida sky alone can occupy my interest full time.

Occasionally, however, I long for new scenery. In August, I rented a house for a month of photographic bliss in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Full of anticipation, I packed my cat and all my camera equipment and headed for the hills (literally).

The house was on the side of Black Mountain. I loved my perch up high in the sky once I got used to the driveway - it was a straight shot to heaven. I had little trouble with it after I learned to hold the steering wheel steady and floor the gas until I reached the house. I also learned that if you brake quickly enough, rarely will you hit the back porch.

Out in the woods and on my own, my schedule was simple... I'd choose a destination the night before. Then, I'd head out before dawn to catch the variations of the changing light. I'd shoot for a couple of hours then return to the house to spend most of the afternoon working my way through the 200 to 300 photos I shot in the morning.

For a photographer, there isn't a better vaccation than that.... See more pictures of Black Mountain in the gallery