KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

NaNoWriMo or NaNoReMo?

With National Novel Writing Month 2013 approaching in three weeks, you may be debating whether or not to participate.

A year ago I faced that same decision. I had a finished novel out for consideration and no new project underway. No enticing characters haunting my subconscious; no nascent story squirming under my skin, no pile of post-its recording quirky details; no overheard conversations lingering like earworms.

So I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

On November 29, 2012, I crossed the 54,000-word mark as I penned the last scene of my new novel. I had to crown myself a winner because there was no way for the folks at NaNoWriMo to track my efforts: a novel handwritten in a series of writer’s notebooks. Strangely, that official recognition meant little to me. After all, I had a writing group, a family, and an exasperated husband, all urging me to finish what I’d started.

Now it’s time to decide again. What’s the best way for me to spend my writing time? Should I sign up for NaNoWriMo and get a new project underway? Or should I return to my 2012 novel and devote the month to serious and disciplined revision? In other words, should November 2013 be National Novel Writing Month? Or National Novel Revising Month?

Here’s a synopsis of my ongoing conversation with self:

Reasons to spend the month revising:

• You’ll lose the soul of your 2012 novel if you abandon it now to start something new. All those threads swimming in your head, waiting to be tied—what of those?

•  You know how to create a revision protocol. You know what to do next. You need a timeline, a scene list, a verb list, and a couple of mentor texts that you study for clues.

•  You’ll be starting the month with SOMETHING rather than NOTHING. Move that second novel along! Finish it and see what you’ve learned! Discipline that mess!

Reasons to spend the month writing:

• You’ll share in the cosmic energy generated by tens of thousands of other working novelists.

• You can take advantage of the fact that Thanksgiving comes late this year. You could pass 50,000 words before it’s time to peel potatoes.

• You’ll make something new, bring an as-yet-to-be created story into being. Get out the glitter glue! Let that mess flourish! As Grant Faulkner said last November in a NaNoWriMo pep talk, “We set the audacious goal of writing a novel, not scrubbing surfaces clean.”

What do you think? How will you spend the month of November?

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Finishing a Novel

We’re about six weeks away from the next installment of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you trying to decide whether to participate? Perhaps you’ve got a great character in mind. Perhaps you’ve already imagined a breathtaking opening scene.

Your problem, as you often confess to your writing friends, is that your life seems to be full of starts but skimpy on finishes. And truth be told, once that breathtaking opening scene is written, you don’t have any idea where you’re going next.

I just finished a novel. While I didn’t finish it in a month, I did reach the end of a draft in just under three years. Considering this is the first novel I’ve finished, I’ve set a world’s record for me. Now I want to figure out what I’ve learned, with the hope of next time beating my personal best.

Narrative arc. If that phrase makes you nervous, take heart. It was important for me to realize that narrative arc was something I could pay attention to after I had a narrative. Instead of predetermining plot, I relied on those aforementioned great characters to lead the way. I put them in contact with one another and watched the scenes unfold one by one, or “bird by bird” if you will.

Write by hand. It sounds practically pathological to suggest greeting something as intense as NaNoWriMo armed with nothing more than your writer’s notebook and favorite pen. However, I found this process useful. I needed to slow my brain so I could envision the scene, hear characters speak, and set it down on paper. Writing by hand let me overhear the undertones of conversations and envision actions. The eventual typing of scenes got tedious at times, but never so tedious that I switched to composing on the computer. The slow paying of attention yielded too large a payoff.

Attend writing classes, writing group meetings, and writing workshops. All  offered ideas that kept me going. The trick is to manipulate any assignment you receive so it meets your needs. For example, if the workshop leader brings a plastic bag filled with paint chips with exotic names (Fire on the Mountain?), imagine the conversation your character might have about that chip and where and how such a scene might fit into your narrative. Does it reveal character? Advance the action? Provide a much-needed concrete detail? Once you’ve got a project going, make writing workshops work for you. I can’t imagine any workshop leader not applauding such a practical and necessary ownership. Check out the opportunities at the Carnegie Center. Writing Practice is a flexible way to push ahead.

Recently one of my students, a retired police officer who is finishing his own book, reminded me of this E.L. Doctorow quotation: “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.”

And pulling into your final destination is every bit as sweet.