Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preparations for NaNo Continue

To make sure everything is ready when NaNoWriMo begins, Paige made a checklist so we wouldn't forget anything:

1. defrag computer
2. stock up on caffeine, Fritos, and trail mix
3. notify family: say "goodbye" on Oct. 31 and tell them you'll materialize briefly on Thanksgiving, then disappear again until December 1--or 8--depending how much sleep you need to catch up on
4. notify friends: see #3
5. set "IN-BOX" to vacation mode
6. delegate cooking, laundry, errands, and communication with the outside world to spouse for the month
7. review plot outline, revise plot outline, and pray you don't scrap the outline when the bell tolls twelve
8. October 31 -- pass out candy to Halloween trick-or-treaters; then gather your materials together, gather your courage, sequester yourself with your computer, and be ready to go at 12:01 a.m.

So, let's fasten our seatbelts: it's going to be a wild ride!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A NaNoWriMo Journey - Prologue

This is the tenth year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November, an intrepid group of people (some published writers, some not) of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities, genders, and walks of life subject themselves to the self-imposed discipline of trying to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Notice I did not say a "finished" novel or "publishable" novel. One of the criteria is to banish the internal critic for a month -- perhaps send it on vacation to some tropical isle -- and do one thing and one thing only -- WRITE! What you end up with at midnight on November 30 might be total gibberish, or it just might be a pretty good first draft. The point is, if you want to be a writer and have your work published, you've got do the actual writing. And that's where the discipline of NaNoWriMo comes in. It takes thirty days to form a habit; so if you've been procrastinating and have ideas swimming around in your head, NaNo is a great way to finally get something down on paper -- or into a word processor. At the very least, it'll clear out the brain clutter.

Some people start cold turkey on November first: no plot, no outline, no title, no idea of what to write. Others spend some time in October (or even earlier) deciding on a story to tell, developing character biographies, thinking about setting, and perhaps doing an outline to help keep them on track once the insanity begins. When they sit down at the computer on November 1, they have a title and at least a general idea of who they're writing about and what will happen to them.

My first year of NaNo, I dove in without any preparation -- and won! It felt pretty amazing to set myself such a daunting task and actually complete it. The first draft is still sitting here, waiting to be revised and sent out into the world. Last year, due to a death in the family, I wasn't able to finish NaNo, though I did have five chapters completed, and have been working on that story and like how it's coming along. So, this year, I decided to do some advance prep which included creating an outline of my plot, a list of characters and general facts about them, a word-count calendar, joining some forums (which I'd previously participated in), and pairing up with some writing buddies for mutual encouragement, support, and commiseration. It really helps to have someone to share the struggles and the joys with when you're pretty much isolated from civilization for a solid month, Thanksgiving Day excepted -- or not.

With three days left until the starting gun, I have completed the aforementioned tasks and even managed to introduce a couple of other people to NaNo. And as if trying to write a novel in thirty days wasn't enough pressure, I decided to blog about my 2009 NaNo experience. At this point, I haven't yet officially joined NaBloWriMo (National Blog Writing Month), which coincides with NaNoWriMo and requires daily blogging-- still thinking about that which, I suppose, indicates that I still have a few marbles left; but I am going to TRY (with apologies to Yoda and Mr. Miyagi) to blog every day. We'll see what happens.

I'll be posting daily updates on the process and story, and perhaps other interesting tidbits along the way, as the month progresses. And so, I invite you to come along on this journey. Three days and counting...

Welcome to Creative Muse Journal

My name is Donna B. Russell, and for some time my alter ego, Paige Turner, and I have wanted to create a blog but didn't know where or how to begin. As we were preparing to participate in National Novel Writing Month, Paige suggested that blogging about NaNo would be a great starting point. So, with her help, we will begin this blog by inviting you to share our NaNo journey.

Who are we?

Donna: The writing bug bit me when I was a child. Throughout my school years I wrote poetry, short stories, and plays -- some of which were performed solely within my own classrooms, others (including a Memorial Day pageant) for the whole school and invited guests. In college, I took writing courses as part of my English major; but when I married and became a full-time mom, I put the writing on hold. Then in 1990, I began writing a monthly column called "PetWise" about pets and issues relating to them. With the advent of an "empty nest," I took additional writing courses, and had some poems and a couple of articles published online and in print. I also write devotional material for "Wings of Prayer" ( which I founded in 1999. Then in 2007, I heard about and participated in National Novel Writing Month, which finally helped me take the plunge to try to write a novel. In July 2009, through a quirk of fate, I had the opportunity to copyedit a novel for a published author. With his encouragement, I waded in a little deeper by taking on some additional freelance editing projects while continuing to pursue a writing career.

I am a native and lifelong resident of the Green Mountain State and can't imagine living anywhere else. I tell people my feet are rooted in Vermont soil, and Lake Champlain runs through my veins. I am a former teacher, musician, choir director, speaker, board president, and support chat host. I am also a wife, mother of three talented married children (a son and two daughters) and mother-in-law to their equally-talented spouses, pet parent, writer, committee co-chairman, dreamer, and optimist. For the past twenty years I have lived with the challenges of three chronic illnesses which have helped me to even better appreciate what a precious gift life is.

I live with my husband, David, who is the pastor/director of a church and street ministry, as well as a fine photographer and digital artist. Our nest has never really been empty since we share it with my service dog and our cat, who became "Queen of the castle" when our male cat passed away in August 2009.

Paige: Donna and I met through NaNoWriMo in 2007. There was never any doubt that I would be a mystery writer with a name like Paige Turner. My mother was a huge fan of Patti Paige, so when she married my father, Matt Turner, whose idol was baseball great Satchel Paige, my fate was sealed -- at least as far as my name was concerned. My mother was an avid reader, who also read to me, and taught me that, through books, I could travel to exotic places, have amazing adventures, meet exciting people (and some rather sinister ones, too), and expand my knowledge and horizons without leaving the comforts of home. Then I met Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and knew that I either wanted to grow up to be a detective or a mystery writer. Since writers are less likely to get shot, the choice seemed obvious. I also own and operate the Live Free Bakery, which specializes in products for people with food allergies.

I live with my best friends, Cody and Noah, a pair of beautiful Border Collies, and Higgins the cat who is definitely master of the house. I'm single, and still hoping to find my perfect soul-mate. I also volunteer at our local Humane Society occasionally and am in the process of having Cody and Noah approved as certified therapy dogs.