Latina, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Music, Strong Women, Writing

Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo

I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.
I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.

 

Like thousands of other writers across the globe, I did a BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys) for 30 days.

Instead of being a complete pantser (writing by the seat of my pantalones), as I have in the past, I did a half and half of pantser and plotter. Like having one leg into my jeans.

The plotter part consisted of character exploration by journaling, creation of a Pinterest storyboard, and created a logline and premise for the story.

After 30 days, I have a story in a first draft mess which finishes around the 3/4 point. Which means I’ll need 15,000-20,000 more words to complete this New Adult story. 

What helped me to write faster was what I learned in a free online workshop from the University of Iowa’s How Writer’s Write Fiction Course. This is a combination of video, reading, and quizzes, which you can take for credit or no credit.

If you take the course for credit there are writing assignments and peer reviews. A certificate of completion is available for $50 if you meet all the requirements. The course is well worth your time.

An exercise I found helpful to start my NaNo writing was to ask my characters questions and write the answers out in longhand in my journal:

1-Who am I?

2- Who do I love? Who or what do I hate?

3-What do I want the most?

4-Who or what do I fear?

My story has three generations of Mexican American women so I needed to explore all of them through these questions.

There are hundreds of character sketch templates available, but I found that these questions opened my mind up to think about emotional issues, not just physical characteristics.

I used most of the answers in the character exploration to type onto my first pages. (Yes, I counted the words for NaNo). This was helpful so I could re-read what I wrote and stay in character.

The other motivator I used, for the first time, was music. Since the main character has just gone through a broken engagement at 22 years old (many moons past for me) I listened to music from Lana Del Rey and Adele.

One of the locations in the novel is Oaxaca, Mexico where the main character visits a curandera (traditional Mexican healer). I selected some indigenous music to help me when I wrote scenes about walking the pyramids of Monte Albán and listened to music by Lila Downs for cafe scenes.

Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico
Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico

I wish I had printed out my Pinterest storyboard since I found myself going back to the photos every time I sat down to write (distracting and time-consuming). The colors, people, foods, and objects helped to center me as I wrote.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, as for any of my next novels, preparation is the key: premise, concept, logline for the story. Explore the characters through journaling. Listen to music for help to create the setting. Create a storyboard of interesting colorful photos to stimulate the eye. And find a consistent time to BICHOK.

Share your writing tips. So how did you NaNo this year?

 

 

Books, Inspiration, life lessons, Strong Women, Wisdom

8 Life Lessons from Women Writers

On Character by Joan Didion, photo by Buzzfeed
On Character by Joan Didion, photo by Buzzfeed

 

Joan Didion looks way cool in that Corvette. Reminds me of me, back in the late 70’s, in my blue metal flaked Chevy Malibu. But back to the life lessons.

In my section of the Southern California coast the marine mist appears in the early evening and grays over the landscape. This becomes a perfect time for reflecting on the day and writing in my journal.

Today I cleaned out one bookshelf and selected 25 books to donate to the library. The first 10 books were an easy choice, the last 15 much harder. A short task took a few hours. Any reader knows how you can get lost in a book, even if you’ve read it before.

I flipped through pages, reread paragraphs, remembered characters, and debated whether the book made it into the donation box. Many times I pulled a book out and put it back on the shelf.

At the end of the book donation I wrote down a few life lessons that made their way into my heart again.

One of the books was from Joan Didion. Here are seven more life lessons from other women writers:

 

1. Kindness can be a lifesaver.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop…Naomi S. Nye

2. Always be true to yourself.

“When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are…” Sandra Cisneros

3-Heal your wounds. You have more strength, more resilience, and more inner wisdom than you think you do. You’ll get through it, survive and thrive. 

 

“Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise…” Maya Angelou

4–Leave the past in the past.

“Remember the past, but don’t get lost back there. Celebrate the blessings of the past in the present, but remember to live today. Today is built on the past and tomorrow is evolving from both the past and the present. The future? Quien sabe? (who knows)” Denise Chavez

5-Age is a number and an attitude.

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

 

6. Solitude can be valuable. It’s all in your perspective.

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where I renew my springs that never dry up. ~Pearl Buck

 

7. You can begin again.

Joyce Meyer
Joyce Meyer

Only one of the books that contain the above quotes made it into the donation box. Can you guess which one? Where do you find your life lessons?

 

 

Encouragement, Faith, Family, Strength, Stress

When Stress Gets To You

Depression, weariness, exhaustion
Gettyimages.com

If I could choose 10 days to give back to time, I’d choose the last ten.

Between my usual six month cancer checkup (to see if I’m still in remission or not),  a relationship ending, and my brother in critical care and suffering from ICU Delirium, the stresses of my life cut through any desire to do much, including writing more than a few words.

What do you do when life rides so heavy on you that you don’t want to get out of bed?

I jotted down bits and pieces of words in my bedside journal. Sometimes it was a curse word, other days I don’t remember what I wrote until I looked back.

This is what my journal said one day:

I think we’re on the brink of change, like a jeep tottering over a cliff in an action movie. Will it fall or won’t it. Will we be saved or crash and burn? I pray and pray. I show up in life. I try to write, read, concentrate, but all I want to do is cry. 

On that day I prayed continuously for my brother to progress. And then I rested and cried.

Another day my journal reminded me to take time out, be grateful, meditate, pray, take it easy. And I tried to do that.

I’m well acquainted with the valleys of life, but for the last few days it’s been particularly hard. Perhaps, it’s because I feel I’ve been hit on three sides; too many whammies at once.

It’s getting the gumption, the ganas as we say in Spanish, to move forward that eluded me.

But, I know things will get better, and I thank God I am still in remission and my brother is slowing progressing. It really is one hour at a time, then one day at a time, for a while.

Today, while returning home from the hospital, I opened my Bible scriptures app (yes, there’s an app for that):

Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…-Matthew 11:28

I smiled at that. And then I put in my earbuds and listened to meditation music on my cell phone, while my sister drove us home. Among the soothing music a gentle voice said:

Put away the ghosts of the past, the worry about the future, and stay in the here and now. Stay in the present moment. Surrender.

Again, I felt comforted. I am encouraged.

These small acts have made a big difference. In my heart, I feel the ganas returning.

Thank you for listening.