A-noveling we will go…

It’s that time of year again – only 44 days until the official start of NaNoWriMo 2014. I tried to generate a countdown clock, but WordPress isn’t allowing me to embed the HTML code in either my widgets or this post, so we’ll just have to go old-school and mark our calendars…

To prep or not to prep – Pantsers, Planners and Hybrids

pantsher_badgeSome Wrimos (my term for NaNoWriMo participants) are Pantsers. That is, they don’t usually do a lot of preparation for their National Novel Writing Month adventure. They prefer the adrenaline rush and creative excitement of writing a story as it unfolds, letting the characters guide them and tossing in a plot bunny or two when needed. Or maybe a ninja or two…

They start their noveling month with little more than a vague idea of the story’s arc, fuzzy mental pictures of who might be populating their novel’s world, and a good supply of writer fuel (caffeine and snackage for all-nighters and long noveling weekend days full of word wars and finger cramps). Heck, they might not even have the writer fuel stocked up come 12:01 a.m. their time on November 1, preferring to make a late-night ice cream run over having any sort of plan in place. (If they’re like me, they know better than to stock up in advance because the snackage won’t last until November 1.)

planner_badgeOthers are Planners. They compile lists of characters, timelines for the major plot points, backstories for their MCs (main characters) and perhaps some of the more prominent supporting characters, maps of their settings, etc. They even make book cover mockups as a motivational tool. They have large whiteboards filled with colorful scribblings or corkboards (or walls) plastered with neon Post-it notes to keep track of the events, conflicts and journeys their well-developed characters will encounter.

It’s highly likely that these organizing wizards even have their writer fuel categorized and stored in color-coded boxes: Writer’s Block Destroyers, Rewards for Goals Met, Energy Boosters, etc. They also have a full month’s worth of meals prepped and frozen for themselves and their families, knowing that when a writing marathon beckons, they won’t be leaving their computer for anything short of a house fire or dire bathroom emergency. Extreme Planners might even have Thanksgiving dinner ready to be defrosted and reheated.

Then there are those of us who are hybrids. I call us Plantsers, and to commemorate our unique blend of planning and pantsing, I took the two badges shown above (provided courtesy of NaNoWriMo’s Office Of Letters and Light), and created a mash-up just for us:
Plantser badgeWe have ideas about our stories, perhaps even a rough outline of the main plot arc. We know, generally speaking, how the story is supposed to end. We’ve squirreled away certain little nuggets we want to use - bits of conversation, character quirks and backstory elements, ideas for novelty products we’ve seen in mail order catalogs (sounds odd, I know, but I actually did that in my first novel, Chantal’s Call).

The difference is, our files are all in our heads rather than paper, whiteboards or computer documents. Some of that mental output might actually make it into a more permanent format if, like me, we don’t trust our memories to retain the information. However, in general a Plantser commits less to hard copy than a Planner.

The same goes for the aforementioned writer fuel – a Plantser might know what snackage she wants, but she wisely waits to purchase it until it’s actually needed so that she doesn’t scarf if down in the days leading to November 1. As for meals, she understands the value of a computer break and will either cook, nuke or forage for her dinner at the appropriate time. If she has a family to feed, she might have some options ready for them, but she also has the local pizza joint on speed dial.

Which approach is best?

That’s a trick question. The best approach is the one that works for you.

Planners are blessed with knowing what’s going to happen next because they’ve charted a clear course from Chapter 1 to “The End.” However, if a plot bunny hops into the story’s path or a character hijacks the main plotline, a planner may be stymied by the interruption and end up suffering from analysis paralysis. Assuming, that is, that the planner is deeply devoted (perhaps even married) to the plan.

Pantsers are blessed with the joy of discovery, finding out as they type (or write) what their characters have been up to and learning as they go just what those activities mean in terms of story development. However, when the voices in the pantser’s head go silent, writer’s block looms large and can bring the noveling session to a halt for hours, even days or weeks until a character speaks again.

Plantsers have the best of both worlds. They discover things as they go that weren’t part of the original plan for the story, but they still have a plan to rely on when no one is talking.

I used to be a full-blooded pantser, leaping into a story and running on the momentum of the original idea and a couple of crazy “what if” questions. That’s how I wrote my first novel and its sequel, Brigitte’s Battle. However, I’m finding as I write the third book in the series, Helene’s Hope, that my pantsing ways aren’t serving me as well as they used to. I’m starting to see the value of a basic plan for keeping the writing on track. As I grow in my writing, I’m becoming more of a plantser. And that’s not a bad thing…

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How about you? Are you a planner, pantser or plantser, and what do you like most and least about your approach to writing?

You’re Mavollus Da’ling. Simply Mavollus!

Traci B:

My dear friend, brother in Christ and fellow indie writer made my day with this post…

Originally posted on George's Shorts:

our weddingAs a man in ministry I have seen the effects the media portrayal of the perfect woman has on girls and women today. First as a youth pastor then as a pastor/church planter/revivalist and now as a chaplain and associate pastor. I’ve seen beautiful young and not so young women who have no self-worth because of the models and actresses they see in magazines and on TV and in movies. They try to look like these women, not realizing these women don’t look like that either. Not only have I had to deal with eating disorders but also young girls who want to add to that body part, take away from this one. They think no young man will love them because they don’t look like this girl or that girl, whoever is the hot young actress or model. Even full grown mothers and even grandmothers who want fat sucked…

View original 720 more words

Keep it short

Word cloud of 07-29-14 Tracings blog post

Word cloud of this post, made at Wordle.net

I just read a blog post where all the words were one syllable (but for the word “syllable”, of course). It was done as a test to see if the gal who wrote it could keep all her words that short and still say what she had to in a way that made sense.

It is a real test of one’s skill to use no words but those that short to say what you mean. Most folks use words with two or more sound sets when they talk. They may not have a lot of words in their day to day talk list, but they still have words with more than one sound set. If you don’t think this is true, try it: try to say what you think with no words but those with one sound set.

To speak the truth, it tires my brain to write like this. I have used more words to write this post than I would if I were to use words with two or more sound sets. As you can see in the word cloud of this post, the word “words” was used a lot; that is why it is so big.

My thought: I can’t keep it short if I keep all the words short. It is a cool test of my skill, but one I don’t wish to do more than one time.

What do you think? Can you write more than a thought or two with the use of no words but those of one sound set? Tell me your thoughts.

Information overload

infooverloadEver feel this way? (That’s me, circa 1990, hamming it up during a photo shoot for a column I used to write in a local paper.)

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m in the early stages of launching a freelance business to provide editorial services for self-publishing authors. Since I have no business background, I’m learning everything as I go. Specifically, I’m attending a lot of free webinars and reading numerous blog posts and study guides. I’m also getting a major influx of emails from business and blogging coaches.

I’m glad for all this information and feel fairly sure most of it will be helpful. At the same time, I feel as if all I’m doing lately, in addition to  hunting for a day job, is trying to absorb whatever business pointers and strategies will be effective for my personality, skills and goals.

In addition to the research and study, I’m trying to choose a website hosting service and plan, because as I’ve read, freelance businesses need professional looking websites to establish credibility and reach out to potential clients.

I’ve been researching site launching advice and looking at hosting services for a couple of days now, and I’m a bit overwhelmed at the abundance of choices, both in hosting companies and the plans they offer.

Several blog posts have mentioned particular a well-known site hosting and domain registration service, and while I have no personal problem with said company, I don’t want to support it because of certain advertising choices it has made in the past. That means I need to look elsewhere, but there are a whole world of elsewheres to consider.

So, yes, between all the coaching emails, research side trips and the usual marketing emails from stores (online and B&M) I frequented before my recent job separation, I’m experiencing a mild case of information overload.

Oddly enough, it was one of the emails from a business coach that provided the solution to retaining my sanity.

He suggested I unsubscribe from his mailing list.

Now, I know it was a gambit designed to get me to read the email and then visit his site and perhaps purchase a course, but the pointer itself is what counts in this context.

Why am I feeling overwhelmed? Mostly because of the ridiculous number of emails that flood the inboxes of my two main accounts. I have my reasons for keeping two accounts, so eliminating one of them isn’t feasible. However, I don’t have to put up with all the electronic versions of junk mail offering discounts on this or coupons for that or announcing the latest sale.

So, here’s a decluttering tip:

Before deleting unwanted marketing emails, take a minute to scroll to the bottom and click on the Unsubscribe link.

It may take a few days for the flood to abate, but eventually you’ll spend less time trashing and more time reading the messages that matter to you. Trust me, your eyes and head will thank you.

And if my post notifications are among the items you choose not to receive anymore, I understand. I hope you’ll keep me around though; I enjoy your visits.

What strategies do you use to combat information overload? Please share your tips with us.

Good news! – an update

ribbon2Please forgive my tardiness in making this announcement, as I’ve been busy with trying to find a new day job while learning whatever I can from free webinars about starting and building my own freelance business.  I have good news:

 

I am cancer free and don’t need radiation or chemotherapy treatment!

 

Thank you all for the prayers and good thoughts that were sent my way. Knowing so many people were concerned about my situation was one of the things that kept my spirits up during this challenge. Please keep praying for all who are affected by cancer, and if you are able, perhaps you’ll participate in a fundraiser such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life walks.

 

Moving forward…

Since my mind is now free to concentrate on other matters, I’m working on building a business that will offer freelance editing, proofreading, media kit assembly and other services to self-publishing authors. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the immense amount of information I’ve been trying to absorb, but I’m taking those first small steps to get JTH Publishing Services off the ground.

What is JTH, you ask?  Good question, since those aren’t my initials.

JTH stands for Jumping Through Hoops, which is something every self-publishing author must do in order to get a book to market.  Since I like to hoop dance and my repertoire of moves includes jump-throughs, I couldn’t think of a more perfect name for my endeavor.

I hope to have a website and/or Facebook page up soon, and as I find my way and my voice, I’ll be posting more about what I learn.

If you want to know more and can’t wait for the website, feel free to email me at info@tracibonney.com and include JTH in the subject line. Serious inquiries only, please; spam will be deleted on sight as my email box fills up rather quickly.

 

For now, I’ll leave you with a couple of questions:

  1. Have you ever thought about writing and publishing a book?
  2. What part of the process do you see as the biggest obstacle to making that happen?

I’m looking forward to reading your comments. Have a blessed and healthy day!

Undone

Knitting

Courtesy of blog Little Bluebell

What do you do when life leaves you undone?

I recently found out I have cancer. Type: endometrial adenocarcinoma (uterine cancer). Stage: unknown at this point. Treatment plan: Surgery, followed by possible chemotherapy, depending on the lab results from the post-op analysis of what’s being removed.  Prognosis: optimistic but unknown.

So, what did I do?  Told my parents first, then people I trust to pray for me, then when I knew my surgery date, I made the news public.  I also made an iPod playlist full of uplifting music and found some free ebooks that will nourish my spirit as I deal with this illness.

There’s so much I could say about all of this, about the timing of it, the type of cancer, the prognosis, etc.  But for now, I just want to say this:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
(Psalm 139:13-16, New International Version, emphasis mine)

I know my life, all of it, is in God’s hands.  So when I come undone, I can count on Him to knit the unraveled places back together.

 

Reboot

I’m going through a reboot at the moment, so I thought the blog could use a fresh face too. Like?  It’s “Suits”, a new free theme from WP.  I’m pleased with its clean-cut, minimalist look.

Five days ago, my short-lived career in insurance ended (at least for now).  I’m not sure if that industry is where I want to spend the majority of my waking hours.file3851238794251

I’m thinking about where I want to go from here.  I know this much: I need more than a paycheck and benefits;  I need satisfaction.  I want to be creative, to solve problems in a way that uses my intuitive nature, to do work that I feel matters.  I need to feel like an artist, not a piece of plug-and-play technology.

If I can find a “regular” job that allows me to use my desire to play with photo software and graphics, to write and do page layout (like a newsletter, brochure or web page), and to maybe even take a photo or two occasionally, that would be wonderful.  At the moment, I’m not seeing ads for such jobs online or in the paper.

It may be time to start writing the code for my own programming rather than using the out-of-the-box software required by corporate America.  Maybe, just maybe, I need to do a little life hacking…

Holiday perspective

DSCN0038Merry Christmas!

Yesterday, to get out for a few minutes and do a little walking, I visited some local stores.  Not for Christmas shopping – I had that done and under the tree, except for the impulse purchase gift for my great niece Ashtyn Nicole Reno, who was born two days before my birthday and is just 9 days old today.

No, I was out buying laundry detergent and trying to find Dad a red shirt so he’d have a couple of options for his Christmas wardrobe.

After hitting three stores, I had detergent and a poem-reciting teddy bear tucked away in the Cavalier, but no shirt.  So, I decided to give the local Walmart a look in case Mom overlooked a men’s red shirt in medium when she was there earlier that morning.  Turns out she didn’t; the only ones left were performance fabric shirts that Dad hates.

That’s not the point of this story, though.  I got to Walmart, which was crowded with last-minute shoppers, and parked near a cart return. Locked the car, started strolling up to the store.  On the way I passed a car with an open door.  The people inside were having an argument, and a shrill young female voice was dropping F-bombs every few words.  I shook my head and muttered a sarcastic “Merry Christmas” as I kept walking.

A couple hundred feet away, at the doors, the atmosphere changed completely.  The Salvation Army bell ringer was having church with a man who had just exited the store.  It was like a lighthouse beacon on a stormy night, these two brothers in the Lord talking openly about Jesus, his atoning death on the cross and the grace and mercy of God. People flowed by with lists and purchases and important things to do, ignoring the conversation, and I was struck by the object lesson in it all.

How often do we rush right past the true meaning of Christmas on our way to the under-tree floor fillers?  Maybe it’s time to stop and talk about the Good News of Christmas.  Even if the conversation happens in the Walmart parking lot.

May you all have a safe, blessed and merry Christ-mas Day, and a blessed 2014!

 

Giving thanks

give thanksNOTE: If this seems familiar, it’s because I posted something similar in 2010.  Funny – circumstances changed between posts, but what I wrote then still applies to my life now, three years later (even the part about the Saints!). Thank You, Lord, for bringing me back to this place.

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving, a day to celebrate our blessings and tell God thanks for giving them to us.

This year, even though part of the family is on the road, we’re keeping the tradition of having our biggest meal of the year.  In our house that means the kitchen becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet with two meats and far too many side dishes for five people.  It’s the only time of year we fix enough food at one time to eat the leftovers for a whole week.

This year when I bow my head over the family banquet, I’ll be giving thanks for many things: a steady paycheck and a decent car to transport me there; an intact family whose members actually like each other; good friends and a loving church family; a roof over my head, stable health,  having a winning football team to cheer for (Geaux Saints!); and most of all, my life in Christ which, even after 25 years, is filled with peace and joy in the midst of life’s trials.

In 1996, my Thanksgiving was very different.  I was far from family and home, having gone to South America with my employer, his wife and their granddaughter only 16 days before the holiday.  We were without a turkey or cranberry sauce, and I was living somewhere other than Mississippi for the first time in conscious memory.  I was homesick for my family and feeling lost in a new culture.  My faith that God knew what He was doing in moving me there kept me going, but fighting off self-pity was a daily struggle.

Until we got the office set up I was tutoring the boss’s granddaughter, so to teach her  and remind myself about gratitude, I asked her to tell me the things she was thankful to have.  I took her thoughts and a few of my own, blended them into a poem, and read it as a prayer when we gathered for our Thanksgiving Day dinner.  The main dish wasn’t turkey, and my parents were several thousand miles away, but that poem-prayer helped me have a good holiday with my surrogate family.

Here’s what I wrote – feel free to use or adapt it for your family gathering if you like it:

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

  Oh dear Lord, now we pray
as we gather round today.
We want to say our thanks to You
for all You are and all You do –
for friends and family far and near,
for ones who’ve gone and those still here;
for pets and toys and reading books,
for homes and clothes and food to cook;
for minds to learn what we should know,
for hands to work and feet to go,
for eyes to see and ears to hear,
and voices to sing loud and clear;
for the hearts Your Spirit calls His home
and the Son who died for everyone –
for all You are and all You do,
Oh Lord, we give our thanks to You.
© 1996 Traci Bonney
November 28, 1996