28 Oct Episode 181 #NaWhateverWriMo
Maybe you’re drafting a novel, maybe you’re not. Either way, we vote for seizing on the community energy generated by NaNo and getting some work done.
The magic of NaNoWriMo isn’t in the number of words or the length of time or even the month of November. It’s in the community seizing this time—when we could so easily heave a giant sigh and say oh, well, November, it’s practically December, might as well give up—and instead bestowing upon it this extra energy, turning it into a holiday of our very own. We’re all for writing a 50K word novel (and there’s much advice in this episode on prepping for just that) but we’re also in favor of creating your own National Whatever Write Month. Pick your poison, name your deadline and join us in taking back November.
Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, a preview of the #WritersTopFive that will be dropping into #AmWriting supporter inboxes on Monday, October 21, 2019: Top 5 Ways to Tame the Internet Distraction Beast. Support the podcast you love AND get weekly #WriterTopFives with actionable advice you can use for just $7 a month.
As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode.
To support the podcast and help it stay free, subscribe to our weekly #WritersTopFive email.
LINKS FROM THE PODCAST
Jennie Nash method for finding your thru line and your roadmap for writing useful words (because we’ve all written our way to finding the story, and we don’t particularly recommend it): The Inside Outline Download (formerly known as the Two-Tier, but don’t worry, this is it.)
Character development resources:
Episode 180 #CharacterEnneagramRabbitHole
The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma, Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
#AmReading (Watching, Listening)
KJ: The Lager Queen of Minnesota, J. Ryan Stradal
Jess: Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, Peggy Orenstein
Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, which does not look like this in October but soon will. Sigh.
This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.
If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.
KJ: 00:02 Writing people, this episode of #AmWriting is about setting yourself up for NaNoWriMo success no matter what spin you’re putting on it. We love NaNoWriMo because it takes a month when it’s easy to slack off—hello, holiday season!—and turns it into a month when much of the writing community is settling in to push harder, whether it’s the classic draft your novel NaNo, or whether you’re creating a book proposal, editing an existing work, drafting a memoir or applying yourself fresh to anything else. If you’re going for classic write-a-draft-of-your-novel in a month NaNoWriMo, you’ll want to sign up for Author Accelerators’s free 7 day jump-start-your-book email series. Truly, the five exercises they send you, from a one-sentence logline to your back-of-the-book copy, and the advice on getting those done really helps to set you up for success. I go back to those exercises again and again to see what I’ve promised the reader, and what I’ve promised myself. Sign up at https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting. Is it recording?
Jess: 01:16 Now it’s recording.
KJ: 01:17 Yay.
Jess: 01:18 Go ahead.
KJ: 01:18 This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don’t remember what I was supposed to be doing.
Jess: 01:23 Alright, let’s start over.
KJ: 01:23 Awkward pause, I’m going to rustle some papers.
Jess: 01:26 Okay.
KJ: 01:27 Now one, two, three. Hey, I’m KJ Dell’Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWritingHashtag is our podcast, it is your podcast about writing all the things – fiction, nonfiction, proposals, emails, pitches, and in short, this is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done.
Jess: 01:57 I’m Jess Lahey. I am one of your co-hosts. I’m the author of the Gift of Failure and a new book coming out in 2021 about preventing substance abuse in kids and just finishing up, packing up, and turning it into a package for my deadline. Yay.
Sarina: 02:18 And I’m Sarina Bowen, the author of 30-odd romance novels and the latest one is called Moonlighter.
KJ: 02:25 I am, as previously stated, KJ Dell’Antonia, author of How To Be a Happier Parent as well as a novel coming out in June of next year. Cannot wait to share a cover with everybody, but that is still a little bit away. And I want to remind everyone that if you want to hear a little bit more from us, you can sign up for our weekly emails in which we will basically shoot you out the podcast, along with all of the links, and a little bit of a transcript, and everything you could possibly need to know about every episode. So, you can sign up for that at amwritingpodcast.com.
Jess: 03:06 And the place where you find all the good things,
KJ: 03:09 All the good things.
Jess: 03:11 What are we talking about today?
KJ: 03:12 Oh, we are talking about like the super obvious, elephant in the room topic for all writers in October, which is are you doing NaNoWriMo? And if so, how?
Jess: 03:24 And what?
KJ: 03:26 Yeah, and what? Exactly. So you guys know I love NaNo, but I’ve only managed to do it, like straight up NaNo once, which was in 2017 and it’s actually eventually the draft that turned into the novel that’s coming out next year. So, every other year I’ve sort of taken November and that energy that is just afoot in the writing community and thrown my own style at it. Like, I did some variation of something or another for my How To Be a Happier Parent book. And this year, I’m figuring out, I’m drafting, so it’s gonna be National Novel Writing Month for me. But it’s not the whole novel, I mean I’ve already written part of it. It would be silly to abandon that. So, my topic for today for us is sort of Nah, whatever, WriMo. National whatever write month. Cause I think it’s so cool. November is a month you could easily just toss, right? Cause it’s November, holidays are on the way. There’s no way you can do a lot of writing this month, right? And once you’ve tossed November, December just might as well, yeah, we’ll just start again in January. And come on. If you do this right, if you let the community encourage you, by January, you could have a whole book or you can have nothing. Those are your choices, whole book or nothing.
Jess: 04:50 NaNoWriMo has always been a really sentimental time for me because this is something I did with my students from very early on when NaNoWriMo first started. And it was a process that I started before the month began and we would go through this whole process of why it’s fun to let go, what are the parameters for this essay, and how does it need to look in all the various drafts, and just start to write. And some of my fondest memories of teaching are there was a morning when one of my students came in. It was like day two of NaNoWriMo and she came into school and she looked at me and her eyes were just huge and she said, ‘I felt like I fell into a book. Like I was a part of it and I’ve never experienced that before.’ And I think for kids, especially, we tend to tell them, ‘You have to write, and here’s your rubric, and it has to look like this, and don’t forget that the topic statements have to support the thesis statement, blah, blah blah. And for students to see that first experience of them falling into a book and becoming a part of it, as they just sort of let it pour out of them – that’s always been what November has been about for me. Whether it’s experiencing it myself or just sort of checking in every once in awhile with the vibe, like through Twitter or everyone talking about it online. There’s just a really cool vibe about November and NaNoWriMo. It’s great, I really love it.
KJ: 06:17 Of course, ironically, one of the things we’re about to tell listeners is don’t just sit down and start writing.
Jess: 06:23 Yeah, and I’m talking about kids. I mean, we went through a whole planning process actually with the kids. NaNoWriMo, and I don’t know if they still do it, but there’s a junior version of it and they have a whole workbook that prepares kids for it. You actually plan your characters, there’s worksheets, it’s really well done. If it still exists, we’ll put it in the show notes because it’s a really great resource for kids. And of course, kids aren’t writing 50,000 words. They’re setting their own goal. And when we did it, there was also a community online where you could register your class and the kids would log their progress every day and they’d have these little meters, and sometimes they’d get into competitions with each other and they’d come in and they’d say, ‘I saw that you logged another 3000 words yesterday. Yay, you.’ It was a really great process that NaNoWriMo actually was pretty thoughtful about, in terms of preparing kids. So, no, it was not just sitting down and writing, even for my students.
KJ: 07:18 I’m pretty sure that’s still there. Sarina, have you ever used NaNoWriMo to put together a book? I mean, it’s write at your speed, right?
Sarina: 07:25 Yeah, I have actually. The first time I completed it was for a novel that is currently in a drawer. You know, this one really probably deserves to come out, but I’ve been a little busy. But the weird thing about this is that I wrote this piece of women’s fiction and I was kind of down on women’s fiction because my one attempt had failed, but I wrote this NaNo piece and I like it. But there was a couple of characters in there, like a father and a daughter who had been estranged for 17 years. And so on like December 4th, I was sitting in my child’s violin class as one does, like not paying attention. And I thought, you know, that dad and that girl, that’s a really good story. So that idea, sitting there after writing 50,000 words became my book The Accidentals.
Jess: 08:25 One of my favorite books of yours. I love that book. I love that relationship. I love those characters.
Sarina: 08:31 Well, thank you. And so that’s both a fun little story, but also a cautionary tale about maybe I could’ve gotten to that story first and understood its power if I had been a little more thoughtful about my NaNo project.
KJ: 08:49 That is kind of why we are doing this today, as opposed to on October 31st. Which is just to take some time and give a little thought to what can you do with this community push this month? You know, if you wanna write 1600 words, how can you make it a good 1600 words, that is a useful 1600 words. And on the other hand, if you wanna just use the energy, then I think what matters is just to try to just push yourself a little more. Cause that’s kinda what NaNo is about. I mean, we have the thousand words a day that I’m doing right now. And I know, Sarina, you’re trying to do 1200, but I’m just coming back at a thousand words strong. But 1600 is a lot more, so I feel like whatever project you’re working on, or whatever thing you’re working on, now’s a really good time to take a look at it and go, ‘Well, how can I just give that just a little bit more? How can I put together like a group of people that encourage me to just really get to something I can call an end in November?
Jess: 10:06 One thing I would love to do today, if it’s at all possible, is to talk about – I’m in a weird position where I can’t do a ton of advanced planning because I think this project finishing up this book and a work/vacation trip that I have right after it’s due, will put me up into the end of the month. So I have a couple of possible things that I would be willing to share on the podcast that I could possibly work on. And I would love to sort of, if we have time today, to brainstorm what might make the most sense.
KJ: 10:40 Ooh, what should Jess do next? This is a great topic, I love this. Alright, well let’s start there and then we’ll talk about trying to set ourselves up right. What do you got?
Jess: 10:54 Me? The Jess stuff? Oh, I get to go first? Okay. So I have three things. I have a YA novel that I started a long time ago, actually during NaNoWriMo. I have a first chapter that I love and characters that I love, and some things I’ve thought about over time and Sarina’s actually even read an early version of this chapter and I feel like I need to finish that book for myself. I feel like I need to see that through, it’s a very sort of personal thing for me and I have no idea what will become of it. But I think that will be something I regret if I don’t finish. So I have that. And then I also have these essays sitting there that are really important also that I would like to continue working on to some eventual possible essay collection. And then I have an idea for another research-based book and that I’m totally not ready to talk about yet, but that I’m sort of excited about doing the proposal process of working out my ideas for that proposal.
KJ: 12:02 And what you have also is the possibility of your edits dropping on you at any time and somewhat randomly.
Jess: 12:09 But here’s the thing, right? Because of, and we’ve talked about this a little bit, my original publication date was going to be next fall. The election is pushing that until the spring of the following year. So my official pub date is now in spring of 2021 and edits – I have plenty of time. I think for my sanity on this project, I would like to get a little bit of mental distance from the book. And November might be a fantastic gap in which to do that. In fact, I heard from my editor that she might not even get to look at the rest of the book until the end of November, anyway. So that gives me a really nice buffer to put this book away and do what Stephen King talks about, which is that put it in a drawer until it starts to feel a little bit like an artifact and you can look at it a little more objectively.
KJ: 13:02 Oh, I love that you’re going to get that time.
Jess: 13:04 I’m really excited about that, too. So I think it might be wise for me to not work on edits for just a little bit, just a short period of time, just enough time to work on something else and focus on just that one thing.
KJ: 13:16 Okay, we like this plan.
Jess: 13:18 So thoughts? So we have those three things. Book proposal, essays, novel. The problem with the novel thing is I don’t have time to plan really before I’d have to start on that.
Sarina: 13:32 Well of course, I want you to write the novel. But it’s not just that I really like YA novels and I enjoyed reading the beginning of it, but also because I honestly feel that novels lend themselves more constructively to this kind of attention.
Jess: 13:52 That’s true.
Sarina: 13:53 I feel that essays may be a little more challenging. Although, you could use the ability to move from one to another in a helpful way, like if you get stuck on one essay. I can just picture myself flipping around a lot, though.
Jess: 14:13 Well, and you have heard me say that these essays, these sort of creative nonfiction, is where I really get a buzz. So I do really enjoy and get to do a deep dive in when I’m in. So, there’s that.
KJ: 14:24 I guess a nice thing about NaNo for what we’re talking about, is that the specific idea of NaNoWriMo is you’ve come out of the month with a 50,000 word novel draft. But it’s not a daily goal. I described it as a daily goal, but if you’re gonna get to 50,000 words, you’ve got to write 1,600, well 1200 words a day. But you don’t have to. So you’re saying, well I don’t have time to plan. Well first of all, you’ve got some stuff written, so you’ve got some things in your head. You know, you could sit down and create an inside outline, you could do some work (even in the beginning of November) and maybe what you say is ‘Well mine NaNo for this book, because I’ve already got X, is another 30,000 words plus the outline or…
Jess: 15:20 I’m glad you said that because I was thinking in terms of its old name (the name Jenny used to call that outline and I couldn’t remember the new name, so I’m really glad you said it) I was actually thinking that spending deep time on that inside outline might be just the perfect way to start the month and then jump in. I don’t know. I wish Jenny was on this. I thought about that. Oh, well. I will do some more thinking about it. I think I know what Jenny’s answer would be – Jenny’s answer would be spend very careful time on your inside outline before you willy nilly go off writing your novel, because as you found out, you can spend a lot of time and words and effort writing something that isn’t right. And why do that if you can spend some time really organizing it on the front end first?
KJ: 16:13 Very true, but you also want to take advantage of the energy of having the project. So I think if you go into it with your defined version of what you want it to look like and if it is both realistic and yet a push, that’s ideal.
Sarina: 16:34 You could also structure this in a way that accommodates your need to spend time doing some side writing for this book. So you could count those words, you could count the words that you spend on your outline. And when I outline and I was doing this last night, actually. I had a horrible long day of returning emails and so much conflict and just the worst Monday ever. And then I went to take a kid to a music lesson. I guess that’s a theme today. And I was walking around the track at the Lebanon High School in the dark with my phone recording me talking about what had to happen next in this book. And I swear to God, I’ve written like seven outlines for this book already, but I really just needed to walk around that track in circles and say, ‘And then this happens, and then this happens, and then that happens.’ And then I got home and sort of blurted all of this outline stuff out of the application, which is called Otter.ai, into a document. And there were 2,000…
KJ: 17:42 Side note – supporters can find Otter.ai in an upcoming top five for writers, top five resources for dictating your work. Just throwing that out there.
Sarina: 17:54 Good footnote. But, so what sometimes happens when I get 2,000 words of outline is that when I’m tapping away, trying to give myself all of the good stuff that I’ve been thinking about, I accidentally write partial scenes.
Jess: 18:12 Oh, interesting.
KJ: 18:13 Yeah, or just lines. I totally agree with you. Cause I’ll be like, ‘And he says dah dah, dah. And she says dah, dah, dah, dah. And then they did…’ And the dah, dah, dahs do make it into the book.
Sarina: 18:27 Yes. So there’s no reason to sort of hold your outline hostage. You can be outlining and writing a novel in the same hour.
Jess: 18:39 You’re so smart. No, I love this, this is really great. Especially since one of the byproducts of having kept my butt in the chair and being a good little writer doobie is that I am so remarkably out of shape. And so one of the tasks for me in November is taking more walks,, doing more hiking and getting out more. And so using something like my phone to dictate some and do what you’re talking about actually would be a really good way to keep that going.
KJ: 19:10 I feel like this is practically a take back November movement. It’s like y’all are claiming that November is the time when we’re supposed to start holiday shopping, and marinating things, and putting pie dough in pie dough containers. November is actually, especially the first part, a really great time of when things tend to – like the fall routine tends to be set, whether it’s your personal routine, or a work routine, or a family routine. And it tends to just kind of keep going. There aren’t concerts and all of the early fall stuff has fallen away and so early November can be super productive. And then you take that energy and you just get up early, and ignore your whole family, and make it keep going through that beginning of the holidays.
Jess: 20:12 I do have to say that there won’t be a lot of ignoring my family simply because I already did that. In this last month, my husband has been the grocery getter, the laundry doer, the dog taker carer of her. I mean, they’ve done everything and I have been so absent. And so one of the things I’m really looking forward to in November is spending more time with my family, getting to know my family again. It’ll be lovely, they’ve grown since I saw them last. I think this is really helpful actually. I think I have sort of a mental game plan and I think it’s the novel, and I think it’s doing what Sarina’s talking about with the outlining, and sort of thinking about scenes. I’ve changed some of the characters. Actually one of them I changed at Sarina’s behest. I have a friendship that is now I think more of a romance and so that’s a great idea. I’m happy with that. That sounds like a great plan for November.
KJ: 21:10 Well, so Sarina, I love that you’re pulling together pieces for a new novel. It’s kind of where I am, but I think you’re more strongly there. So let’s talk about what we can put together now in October, if we’re on top of it or at the beginning of November, whatever works, to try to help make the words that we’re going to write in November actual usable words instead of just the words that you have to sort of you know, vomit past in order to get to the real book.
Sarina: 21:41 Okay. Well, you know that we love to talk about resources. And at the top of our resources list, of course, we’re gonna put Jennie Nash’s outlining as one of our gold standard ways to get into writing a book. So that goes right at the top of the page.
KJ: 21:59 And we also have last week’s discussion of character enneagrams. So if anybody missed that go back, because this is one of the ways we’re thinking about our characters anew and afresh. So that’s another good one. I’ll put that on the list.
Sarina: 22:16 So this is an outline right here and Roman numeral one is the Jennie Nash method of understanding the point of your book and finding the through line so that the things that happen are connected by cause and effect. And then Roman numeral two is different kinds of character-based plotting. So enneagrams is a great resource, so that’s letter a. Letter b is perhaps something like the emotional wounds thesaurus that we talk about sometimes; understanding what’s driving your characters and what stuff in their icky background is scaring them. Which also leads into that book I talked about a couple episodes, which is now getting some play in our Facebook group. Like a couple people have said they’re reading Take Off Your Pants, which is about character-based plot outlining. And then of course we have to reserve a Roman numeral at the bottom of this outline for classic plot, hero-based plotting. I’ve said before that it’s slightly frustrating to me that that hero-based plotting is tricky in romance. But we do have a resource to share. We were sent this deck of cards called the Fabula Deck and I believe there’s 28 of them at fabuladeck.com. Oh, it’s 40 cards, sorry. And the first ones in the deck are my favorite. So it’s the hero’s steps. So card number one literally says ‘The ordinary world. Who is the hero? What is his world like at the beginning?’ And if you’re plotting something like high fantasy or Star Wars or something with a defined hero going on a journey or an adventure, this would be just invaluable. And step number two is the call to action. And step number three is anxiety of the call. And so these cards are just like little roadmap.
KJ: 24:25 Is it a 40 step road map or is it like the first 10 cards are a roadmap and the next ones are…
Sarina: 24:32 Well there’s 14 hero steps, which is a nice structure. And then there’s character cards and some readers’ steps. So there’s a few different frameworks in the deck.
KJ: 24:45 Wait a minute. I need us to take a step back and just talk about like what is this deck? Is this like that spinny plot wheel that somebody came up with in you know, the 1800’s or you know, spin the wheel and figure out what your next step a stranger arrives next at you. You know…
Sarina: 25:04 Well, I think it’s more like a Joseph Campbell hero’s journey. Actually on their website they use a cute example where they’ve plotted The Matrix movie against the first few cards in the deck. So, for the ordinary world card, the first step of the hero’s journey, their sticky note says, ‘A hacker doubts his reality.’ And then card number two, which is the call to action, is that he follows the white rabbit and they kind of demonstrate the way that a lot of classical action stories that we’ve come to enjoy, follow this path in the way that they’ve laid it out.
KJ: 25:53 It’s just a fun structural way I guess to have the cards out there. That’s kind of a fun twist.
Sarina: 26:01 It is a fun twist.
Jess: 26:02 The whole Joseph Campbell thing is something my students used to love to do. It was one of our favorite things as we’d plot out like Star Wars, The Matrix, The Lion King according to all the different parts with the Joseph Campbell stuff. It’s super fun. I love that stuff.
KJ: 26:17 Well isn’t it funny how movies lend themselves so much better to this? It’s because when you really look at a movie, they’re so bald because all of the stuff that takes words in a novel comes into your brain in a different way in a movie. You know, the description of the person’s office, and the description of what the person looks like, and the description of the person’s movement. I mean when you peel all that back, you’re left with post it notes that say things like, ‘Hacker doubts his reality.’ It’s kind of amazing. And that’s kind of going back to the Inside Outline, right? You’re trying to get just those post it notes and for some reason it’s so hard, like I feel like I need 20 post it notes.
Jess: 27:04 One of the things we would also do is the kids would come in and I would ask them to sort of just start shouting out some of their favorite books, or series, or whatever. And then the challenge would be, can we plot this book? You know, isn’t this interesting how we can – and then they would get this look in their eye, like all of a sudden order had been established in their universe. And it was really sort of satisfying to be able to say, ‘Oh my gosh, look at this. This thing has a trajectory with these common plot points or common milestones and we can do that with this book and we can do it with this book.’ It’s just this really nice moment when they go, ‘Oh, look at the universe make sense all of a sudden.’ It was great.
KJ: 27:46 So what else is in the cards? Like what is in the cards for us?
Sarina: 27:53 Well, you’re going to have to flip through all of the hero’s steps, but we get to a death, which does not need to be literal at a resurrection. And then the cards also give you a few other ways to look at your story, like how the reader is experiencing it. So I actually find the first half of the deck to be the most useful with the hero’s journey. Because if you’re going to cut out a card, or if you don’t know what goes on that card, then it’s a hole that you need to acknowledge and confront.
KJ: 28:33 Yeah. So if you’re getting ready for your NaNo and you can lay out those cards or some version of those cards, you can find a lot of different sort of stories structure…it’s kind of all over the place. It’s that book The Idea that I’ve talked about before, there’s lots of places to see the hero’s journey stretched out, but it sounds like this is a super fun and practical way to do it. But anyway, if you don’t have that death or the hero resists the journey kind of thing then yeah, you’re missing something. There’s something that people need to see happen that hasn’t happened. And you can fulfill these expectations in a bazillion different ways, but if you don’t fulfill them, you tend to sort of end up with people going, ‘Wait a minute,’ or maybe just not reading at all. I have a terrible time with it, though, I have to say. With the journey plotting. I do remember like writing down in huge letters (because you were talking about how something needs to die. Like that’s kind of the – well, there’s all kinds of names for that, the all is lost moment is my favorite) And I wrote in capital letters about my new book, that a person metaphorically dies. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, I found it.’ But I don’t know. I guess I just get caught up in all that stuff I was saying you don’t even see in a movie. It’s really hard to just lay down the post its and be like, ‘This happens, and then this happens, and then this happens.’ And it’s harder than it thinks.
Jess: 30:43 Plenty of people would argue that if you’re coming at it from the perspective of, I need to have all these plot points in my book, then you’re going about it backwards and you’re losing the freshness or the lifeblood of your novel. I mean, it’s not like Virgil went out and said, ‘Okay, gotta go get me some Joseph Campbell before I can write the Aeneid.’
KJ: 31:06 I’m really not Virgil and yeah, I get you, but I think that what at least tends to happen for me is that I have a giant messy thing in my head with all of those things in it. And what I am doing is more in and along the…gosh, can we just reference…we should just call this the podcast in which we reference Stephen King’s On Writing constantly, but…
Jess: 31:31 Well, we do it all the time.
KJ: 31:32 Yeah, exactly. We’ll just change the name of the podcast. No the part where you’re excavating the dinosaur, right? So it’s finding it, I’m digging for the post its. It’s not like I’m artificially creating the post its. It’s that they’re buried in a pile of other paper, and magazine clippings, and pictures of people, and cards, and goodness knows what.
KJ: 31:57 So yeah, I have a hard time digging out the important post it I think is what I’m saying. So even going back and revising my book that’s coming out next year, there were definitely moments of like, ‘I know this thing is in here, like this turning point, but I really need to peel away the 16 descriptions of what the character is doing and whose hand she’s holding or whatever in that minute so that people can see that.’ So, you know, do it ahead of time and I guess we think we’re hoping we’ll be ahead of the game, right?
Jess: 32:30 Right.
Sarina: 32:30 Yeah. And I will acknowledge that some of my best books have the best dark moments for sure.
Speaker 4: 32:42 So, even though I sort of fight it the way that you’re describing, it’s totally worthwhile to continue prodding yourself mercilessly…
KJ: 32:53 Until you find that really dark moment. Yeah.
Sarina: 32:56 Right. And I will say that, you know how I like to fill up the extra spots in my sticker calendar with quotes? I had one in September that I wrote down because I think it’s true with a but at the end. So it’s an E.L. Doctorow quote like this, ‘”Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
KJ: 33:24 But.
Sarina: 33:25 But, I acknowledge that the wisdom here (and he’s right), but I have written a lot of novels just looking at the headlights and I’m squinty and tired. And I have really given myself the task of making 2020 the year of the outline because when I have recently had better outlines, I just feel better about my life.
KJ: 33:50 Well, and to kind of stretch poor E.L. Doctorow’s metaphor out, you do need to know where you’re going. I mean, yeah, it’s like driving at night, but it’s best to drive at night with the idea that you’re going to get to Concord, as opposed to the thought that you’re just going to go out and drive at night. So we’re just trying to find a few points on the map here because goodness knows that I am perpetually lost.
Sarina: 34:22 The last time we drove at night we almost killed a bunny.
KJ: 34:30 Yeah. So you want to be careful with that stuff. It’s dangerous, that’s what I’m saying. Alright, well I think this is our way of saying let’s all figure out what our own NaWhateverWriMo is, what’s yours going to be Sarina? What’s your goal for set for November? I know you’ve got one.
Speaker 4: 34:49 Yeah. So my issue with actually ever doing NaNoWriMo is that I can’t give wholly one month to one project reliably. So I’ll be putting the finishing touches on one thing, and then getting back to some other things, so it’s going to be a mixed bag. But I’m going to finish up a novel called Heartland in my True North series. And that is my big goal for the next five weeks for sure.
KJ: 35:16 Yeah, that’s mine basically too. Except I think I should probably not call my novel Heartland cause that would just be weird. So I’m trying to finish up the novel that I am working on, which has lots, and lots, and lots of bits written but definitely needs a full….If I can get it done by the end of November, I better get it done by the end of November. It’s exactly the kind of goal I’m talking about. It’s a push. It’s a stretch. But, I can do it. So that’s going to be fun. And I probably do need 50,000 words, although we all know that my problem is more words, too many words, not too few words. In fact, today’s goal was: ‘Write the thousand words and then delete enough words to get the chapter I was working on back below 3000 words.’ Cause that’s my new rule, no chapters over 3000 words. So it was like, ‘Yes to a thousand words. No, we’re just going to delete, but it all counted.’ We’ve given Jess her task.
Jess: 36:22 Yeah. Well, and it’s going to be really weird jumping back into that because for awhile there I was on that I’m going to let myself pull a Diana Gabaldon, which apparently she does not always write in a linear fashion. She’ll just write whatever strikes her when she picks up in the morning and then she’ll have these random scenes that she then has to string together. So I did that for a while, so I don’t even know what’s in that file now. It’s going to be so weird. It’s going to be crazy.
KJ: 36:53 Alright. Well, anybody read anything worthy of note?
Jess: 37:02 Well, my thing though is (I’m going to do something really obnoxious and I’m going to apologize ahead of time) but I have these advanced copies of books that have been sitting on the side of my desk and I’ve been begging for extra time on them, but I’ve been asked to read them for various reasons. And so I’m taking them with me on vacation next week. And I started two of them. And I’m not only do I have (spoiler here) I have KJ’s book and Sarina’s next book on my iPad. I get to read those and I am so excited. I was saying, I feel like such a wealthy person going off with these two books on my iPad.
KJ: 37:40 Nobody is going to believe anything you say about either of these books. It’s like having our mothers say they’re wonderful.
Jess: 37:48 Absolutely not. But I also have three advanced copies by three authors I really like. And one of them is Peggy Orenstein. She wrote this fantastic book called Girls and Sex and her new book Boys and Sex is coming out in January. And I have been skimming through it and I already love it. I have an advanced copy of Madeline Levine’s new book. Madeline Levine wrote Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well and her new book is called Ready Or Not, and I’m really excited to read that. And then I have another book by Christine Carter who wrote a book called The Sweet Spot. And I know her because we did a talk one time together in California about middle school and her new book is called The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction. And so I have five books to take on vacation with me that I’m excited to read. So this is going to be a big reading week for me. I’m so, so excited. And two of these, like I said, I’ve already started to dive into and I already like. But I haven’t touched your book or Sarina’s book, I’m keeping those for vacation.
KJ: 38:57 Well, I read one book. I don’t have a stack, I only have one, but I really liked it. I finished The Lager Queen of Minnesota. Sarina, I bought this at Print when we were in Portland. Remember I was sort of wandering around with this stack of books and I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want any of these.’ And then all of a sudden I was like, ‘But I’m going to go back for that one. I’ve been eyeing that one.’ The author is J. Ryan Stradal and I loved this book. It’s really good. It’s got a lot of different points of view and Oh, when we were talking about enneagram and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s this character in it that’s a total, I think it was six, but I don’t remember.’ Anyway, lots of different points of view. A really good story, people that you really want to hear more from. Some of them you don’t get to hear more from, because it’s got all these points of view, but it comes full circle in this really cool, unexpected, yet satisfying way. And we all know that’s exactly what you want. So this is definitely a recommend for me. It’s also a lovely cross between literary and commercial. It sits right on that line that I like, which is smart, but commercial, I don’t know where people have mentally filed it, but I enjoyed it. I also wanted to throw out there that I bought a book by Jojo Moyes (who is great, like you know Me Before You, and all that) so I bought a book that I was like, ‘This looks different, and it feels different, and I bet this is one of her really early books.’ And it was, it’s The Peacock Emporium or something like that. And when I finally managed to look at the pub date, cause I just didn’t when I bought it, it’s 2004. And I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish it because there’s a really long windup before the pitch is all I’m saying. I’m like a quarter of the way through the book and I don’t think these are even the main characters yet. But you can kind of see where she’s going. And it’s fun to read an earlier book by somebody who has gotten so good at it.
Jess: 41:22 This was a conversation I had with my kids last night. My son was listening to some music and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been listening to the same musician for the longest time and I can just see the trajectory.’ And I said, ‘That’s what’s really fun for me when I find an author I like, and then going back and reading some of their early works.’ Or following someone like David Sedaris and seeing the bridge between some of his early stuff and then what we both agreed was his best book, which is Calypso (his most recent one). I love seeing that progress. It’s really cool.
KJ: 41:54 Yeah, it’s fun and it’s just encouraging because I definitely feel like I’m growing from book to book and I know you guys do, too. So it’s nice to see it. It’s nice to see it out in the wild.
Jess: 42:06 Since you mentioned it, I want to make sure we give a proper shout out to Print. Those of you who have been listening for a long time might remember we were there once. We recorded our interview with Richard Russo at Print. It was not the quietest background ever, but it is a fantastic bookstore. And the reason we were there interviewing is that Richard Russo’s daughter is the owner of Print Bookstore and it is a beautiful, wonderful, bookstore that I adore in Portland.
KJ: 42:38 So let’s call that the Fave Indie Bookstore for the week. Alright, that’s our week.
Jess: 42:55 We have a game plan, people. We have a game plan for November.
KJ: 43:01 Said it at the beginning of the episode, saying it again now. Head over to amwritingpodcast.com, sign up to get our emails. We also do supporter emails every week, top five for writers. There’s one, I think it actually already rolled out, that’s top five reasons to do your own NaNoWriMo, which has got some of what we talked in this episode and a bunch of other stuff cause I just wrote it. Yeah, so head over, sign up for that. You’ll get emails whenever we drop an episode. You have the option of getting the top fives, which are fantastic. Some great stuff coming up. And that is it. And of course, as always, if you’re having fun with us, review us, help other people to find us. We love that. We want to talk to as many of our fellow writers as we possibly can.
Jess: 43:52 And until next week, everyone, keep your button, the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.