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Finally! We Have a Launch!
Roundhead Reunion on September 22nd in Darlington PA
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

NaNoWriMo

News of the Day--True Confessions about My Past and My Future

What is in the Past?
 
Yep! I finished the April Camp NaNoWriMo writing challenge with room to spare. My goal was 30,000 words in 30 days. When their validator engine looked at my accumulated scribblings, they came up with 40,322 words total. Their counter is off? I can’t add? I’m not sure which is which, but I’ll take my “WINNER” badge and run away before they change their minds.
 
As for the future of the novel I’ve been working on, I now have a total of 65,777 words out of a finished guesstimate of 100,000. So I’m two-thirds finished and on the home stretch. However, it’s time for a cooling off period. I haven’t been planning to release “Henrietta’s Legacy” until sometime in late fall or the early new year, so I can afford to let it marinate in its own juices for a while. Then I’ll go back and try to figure out a logical conclusion.
 
And what lies in the future?

I’ll be putting a new twist on an old book. Many of you have read “Beyond All Price.” It has been my all-time best-seller and is still going strong. I just sold two paper copies last week. Ever since the book came out in 2010, several descendants of the Roundheads Regiment have been helping me look for a good picture of Nellie. All I’ve ever seen is a tiny wrinkled group photo. 
 
We’ve known she had a formal portrait picture taken. We know the name of the photographer, along with where it was taken and when it was taken. There is even newspaper evidence; the photographer announced that he had taken her picture for a carte de visite (a calling card). There are probably thousands of those Civil War souvenirs around, but no one had seen one that belonged to Nellie Chase - - - UNTIL LAST WEEK!
 
Yes, the lost Nellie photo really exists, and she is lovely. She even signed this particular card on the back, so we have evidence of her handwriting as well. I’ve now spent several days talking to people—the wonderful Civil War re-enactor who has done much of my research, the gentleman who found the card and purchased it for his private collection, the talented graphic designer who does all my book covers, and the good folks at CreateSpace. We all agree—it’s time for a second edition of “Beyond All Price.”
 
The original book is getting a careful line edit, something I did not do eight years ago. The chapters will undoubtedly undergo some revisions—not of content but of organization. I hope to add several more illustrations—not just Nellie’s carte de visite, but some maps and photos of important people and locations. And, of course, Nellie’s formal portrait will now grace the cover of the book, so you can all meet her.
 
My new goal? To have “Beyond All Price, 2 ed, revised," available for purchase by the second week in September. There’s a reunion for descendants of the Roundhead Regiment scheduled for that weekend. I’d like the attendees to be the first to see the woman who took care of their ancestors during the first year of the Civil War.

If you’re looking for me, that’s what I will be doing for the next four months. I can always use cheerleaders.
 
 
 

 

She's Gone and Done It Again!

Yes, I have done it. I’ve signed up for another marathon writing session at Camp NaNoWriMo. I know! Every time I do this, I say “Never Again.” But when writing drags, this is one of the best ways I know to get back in the author groove. This year, I have started writing the sequel to last year’s novel, Henrietta’s Journal: A Life of Compromise. The new book moves ahead  twenty five years to 1861 and the beginnings of the Civil War. I’m about 30,000 words into what will probably be a 110,000-word novel. I won’t come close to finishing it in April, but I’m hoping to add another 30,000 words so that I can say the first draft is over half-way finished.

Can I do 1000 words a day? Sure! Easy, provided I manage to get the seat of my pants into the seat of the chair every day.  But that is the problem, of course. It is spring, and my office is hot and stuffy. There are other things I'd rather be doing, like planting tomatoes. I am covering some unfamiliar territory, so I need research breaks.  A friend wants to meet for lunch. You've heard the excuses before, and you'll hear them again. But somehow, I am determined to make myself do this.  And if all the silliness and hype of NaNoWriMo helps me do it, GREAT!

As March comes to an end, I’ll go to the grocery store to stock up on Hershey's Kisses, which will become my rewards.  I’ll lay in a supply of frozen lunch entrees so that I won't be tempted to go off on some wild cooking spree in the middle of my writing day. I’ve already checked the house and replenished supplies of toilet paper, kleenex, bottled water, toothpaste, cat food, stamps, printer cartridges, sticky notes, and colored pens. I am not taking any chances on being lured away by a desperate need for one of life's essential elements.

I’ve cleaned the house (well, most of it!), tossed out some penicillin-producing left-overs, and paid all the bills. I pulled the weeds and dead blossoms off my little row of front porch planters and poured this month's supply of baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water down the drains to make sure they don’t clog up on me. I’ve tackled my writing office, blowing away the month's accumulation of cat fur, emptying the trash, picking up cat toys, finding all my vital reference books, and bringing my new April calendar up to date with the deadlines I have set myself.

What else do I need before the marathon starts? I have a Camp NaNoWriMo shirt in the closet, just waiting for the big starting date. The NaNoWriMo camp counselors randomly assign participants to writers' cabins, but this year, I’ve joined a private cabin made up of other successful writers and FaceBook friends.  I am eager to get to know more about my cabin mates.  These are the people to whom I will report each day as we strive to see who could get the most done.  

So I’m ready, I think, Bring on the campfires!

Turning an Idea into a Business

Chapter 3: Building your Platform
Here, Stuart Little, the anthropomorphic mouse who found himself living in a human family, offers suggestions on how to make new friends. If you’ve ever wondered how you would ever sell a book out there in the big world where no one has ever heard of you, Stuart Little has the answers. He walks us through the secrets of using social media, blogging, and fellow writers to open those scary closed doors.

Chapter 4: Choosing Your Software
Do you remember Aesop’s Fable about the Country Mouse and the City Mouse? This chapter takes us step by step through descriptions of some of the software programs that make life easier for an independent writer—and some of the alternatives that the Second Mouse has discovered to be faulty. The lesson to be learned? Look carefully before you choose.

Chapter 5: The First Draft
This cautionary tale uses two of the mice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to destroy the myth that you can write a book in a single try. The Second Mouse provides examples of what happened when she experimented with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  We explore the difference between Pantsers and Planners. And then we find out why producing (and then discarding) a first draft is a painful but necessary first step in learning to write a book.


The Second Mouse Goes Digital: Self-Publishing Comes of Age

Author Carolyn Schriber takes a closer look at recent self-publishing innovations that have opened the gates to mainstream book publication. Pre-Orders available now, with Kindle release date: Wednesday, November 15.



I Can Feel It Coming. . .

Camp NaNoWriMo is almost here ! Just two more days before we hit the keyboards.  And I'm almost ready. My camp shirt hangs in the closet. My Scrivener files are set up with a chapter-by chapter tentative outline, character sketches, a few pictures that show the period, a historical timeline, and a collection of articles on relevant historical events. The opening chapters are written (in first draft form). Now I'm looking ahead, hoping to complete the 50,000 to 70,000 words it will take to finish an early draft of this manuscript. Will I do it? Who knows? But I'm going to try. I've been at this business long enough to know that nothing works as well as just applying seat of pants to computer chair.

But besides the novel about antebellum Charleston, I have a new idea bouncing around in my head this morning, and I'm thinking -- ever the optimist, she is! -- that I can accomplish both at once.  Here's what's cooking around the campfire.

One of the interesting highlights of doing the April or June Camp NaNoWriMo experience is the casual atmosphere. Participants write, but they also toast some imaginary marshmallows and exchange scary stories with the other campers. The program assigns us to "cabins," in which we get to know ten or twelve other campers. I asked to be assigned to a cabin with other writers of historical fiction, and then, hopeful to the end, to people who were close to my own age. The last time I did this, my cabin contained some thirteen-year-olds who got homesick or bored and disappeared after only a few days.  My match-ups this year are much better, although it's hard to find other writers in their late 70s. So my cabin holds mostly those who want to write historical novels. We have three or four other retired women, several in their mid to late thirties, and a few who won't talk about their age (maybe that's a give-away!) Four of us have already published; the others are still newbies.

And we have our own little bulletin board where we can share ideas, doubts, questions, and mutually-helpful ideas. Several of our newcomers have already expressed some anxiety about two areas -- not knowing what to write and wondering about the possibilities of self-publishing. i think, perhaps, I can be of help in both areas. 

I'm going to limit my cabin bulletin board postings to tips on writing and publishing. We're limited to 600 characters, so these will be short. However, I can link them to longer posts on each topic here on this blog. And who knows? Maybe by the end of the month, I'll also have a good start on that updated second edition of "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese" that I've been thinking about and promising for a couple of years.

Can I finish the first draft of a novel in thirty days? Sure i can! Can I  do two of them at once? That remains to be seen.


My Love-Hate Relationship with NaNoWriMo

I first met the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) folks back in 2011, when I was struggling with plans to write a biographical novel about the Yankee missionaries who went to South Carolina during the Civil War to serve a huge population of abandoned slaves. I had too many stories, too many characters, too many crises, and not nearly enough satisfactory conclusions. 

The NaNoWriMo instructions were clear: just sit down and write. Quit thinking and over-thinking. That comes later. Just write, as quickly and as much as you can. Take the month of November--30 days--and write at least 1667 words every day. At the end of the month you'll have written 50,000 words. That's almost enough for a novel. If you complete the task, NaNoWriMo will reward your win by printing your completed manuscript in paperback format so you can see your work in print. Then you'll know where to go from there.

I took them at their word and worked myself into exhaustion for a month. I did it and the result was a 176-page book called "Gideon's Ladies."  IT WAS AWFUL! But I learned. When I looked at my raw writing in print I saw every flaw. But I could also see where I had gone wrong and what I needed to do to correct it. So with an awful example before me, i started over, asked myself the right questions, and eventually published "The Road to Frogmore," a much improved version. (And by the way, CreateSpace still keeps that original manuscript in their listing of my works, although it is not available for sale.) 

As my writing methods changed, so did NaNoWriMo. They added smaller versions of their contests in April and July, These "Camp" experiences were more like writing retreats. Authors joined others in cabins, where they were more or less matched with others writing the same sorts of materials. The program kept tract of each author's progress but added the combined word counts for each cabin. Cabin-mates could chat with each other, talk about writing problems, or ask for help. Writers were also allowed to set their own word-count goals, which took some of the pressure off. 

After my first experience, I had decided that a November writing month was not for me. I had too many distractions that month--travel plans, Thanksgiving, meeting commitments. April and July suited me much better. I wrote a major portion of "Damned Yankee" in April 2013 and a finalizing section of Yankee Reconstructed in July 2015. But each time, I then swore off ever doing another NaNoWriMo marathon. I didn't need that kind of motivation any more, I told myself.

Flash forward to November 2016. My African-American genealogist friend decided to try NaNoWriMo for herself. Me? I was ready to start my next ambitious project--all on my own. And the results? My brilliant friend finished early with a blazing total of 74,450 words. Me? Well, as of today, after 130 days of planning, thinking, dreaming, and scribbling, I have written 11,525 words. 

I'll save you the trouble of doing the math.  That's 77 words a day. At this rate, I'll be working on this #$%^&  book for 1559 more days, with a completion date scheduled for sometime in May, 2021. Clearly, I need to stop hating NaNoWriMo and get back in that regimen.

Yes, I'm committed--again! Starting April 1--and the irony of April Fool's Day is not lost on me!--I'll be showing up for Sasquatch Camp 2017--where we will pursue the impossible and hope to find some bright ideas. I've even ordered the camp shirt.