Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo 2013: Another Month, Another Book

2013-Winner-Facebook-ProfileAnother NaNoWriMo has finished. I still feel crazy to have gone through with it, but the greater feeling of accomplishment pays off in the end. The resulting book has the working title of Foster, though I’m still brainstorming other options. A mother-daughter drama, the book covers broad themes such as identity, family, and the need to be loved.

This story begins in Spokane, Washington, a mid-size city on the border of Idaho. A 15-year-old girl named Angela comes home to find out she and her mother are about to be evicted from their apartment. Then her mother is arrested for drunk driving, and CPS picks up the girl to take her to foster care. Everything in Angela’s life depends on whether or not her mother, Cynthia, can take care of herself and her daughter. Angela tries to be independent and responsible for her own life, feeling forced to grow up early. But despite her façades, she still waits for her mother to grow up too and be the adult for the sake of their family. If Cynthia doesn’t, Angela may spend the last three years before legal adulthood in foster care, bounced from family to family, house to house, until she can live on her own outside of the state’s guardianship.

“The eviction notice wasn’t a surprise. I was used to moving. I couldn’t remember spending longer than six months in one location. Such a childhood makes it hard to ever feel settled. You have to stay on your toes. One tip: keep everything precious to you in a backpack. Then keep that backpack in your sight at all times. All times. You never know when you might need a quick escape or when you’ll come home to find the locks changed.”


Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Books


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“Find Rest for Your Souls”

When you are unemployed and meeting new people, the hardest question to answer is: “So what do you do?” You know what they are expecting to hear: “I’m a teacher/doctor/lawyer/zookeeper.” But a stigma seems to exist against outright stating your unemployment. It’s as if your new acquaintance who knows nothing about you will hear instead: “I do nothing. I’m a lazy bum who can’t keep a job. I am utterly worthless for productivity and am, in fact, a leech upon society.” You are demoted to joining The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

Being unemployed doesn’t mean I sit on the couch staring at the ceiling every day. I have used the “unexpected vacation” to finally pick up that mental list of things I had wanted to do but had not made time for. The tally continues to grow from invitations I would have declined, opportunities I would have passed up, friends I would have missed seeing, experiences I would have refused–if I still had a full-time job. My time “out of work” has not been wasted.

I have been working, though, even if it isn’t sustainable pay just yet. Every Tuesday morning, I babysit two-year-olds during the women’s Bible study at my church. Caring for small children is a learning experience more valuable for me than the monetary compensation. I’ve also been hired to do freelance work through a couple websites. These jobs are mostly suited for people wanting extra spending money, not anyone who plans on actually living off what they earn. Again, I’m gaining experience more than anything else.

Besides the side jobs, I’ve also decided to pursue my old goal of becoming a published author. I want to write a book and have it read. Up until high school or so, I was convinced that this was my life destiny. J. K. Rowling was my role model. But reality has a habit of destroying dreams. The chances are slim of ever making it on the bestsellers lists, the literary big leagues. Even if I could write eloquent, page-turning books, I had to admit that I lack the stamina and focus to be a full-time author. Talent alone won’t get you far. But with my new free time, I’m giving it a shot, anyway. I’m “living the dream.” NaNoWriMo started yesterday, and with a bit of grace and perseverance, I will have a first draft by the end of the month. It’ll be messy, but it’s a step forward.

“So what do you do?” For now, I’m a freelance writer and editor (even if it doesn’t pay). You could say I’m self-employed and work from home. And the surprising thing is … I like it. You see, it feels like a break. The pressure is off. I don’t have to commute anywhere or spend eight hours in an office. I can focus on other things besides earning a paycheck, things that I would argue are more important.

In professional terms, I am taking a sabbatical. More than anything, I have an insatiable thirst to simply be with God and rest from all the normal concerns of the world. I want to fall into his arms and lie there like a child on her father’s lap. I’ve never been in the habit of having daily time to pray and study the Bible, but the past weeks have helped me start. When I close my bedroom door and have quality time alone with God, I wish I could stay there and ignore the rest of the world. I don’t have to say a word, and neither does he. We just enjoy each other’s company.


I feel a little guilty to admit this desire. I can imagine a jury of peers accusing me of idleness. “Get a real job like the rest of us!” they criticize. If they require scriptural support, Proverbs features plenty of harsh condemnations to “inspire” the slothful.

Yet even Jesus knew the importance of rest. He told his own disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). To the greater masses, he made the famous declaration: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). God formerly disciplined the Israelites when they wouldn’t listen to him and rest. He told them, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isa. 30:15). Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” And, of course, there’s the well-known Psalm 23, which says of God, “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”

This is all straightforward. God wants us to rest. If we don’t, he will make us. Work is good and necessary, but rest is a gift we’d be ridiculous to refuse. Without physical rest, our bodies crumble. It’s easy to see the effects. Our minds and spirits need rest as well, and God tells us to find it in him.


Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Publishers


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NaNoWriMo: The Raw Cut

Is the suspense killing you? I know I promised to update in a week after my last post, but hey, 26,055 words really takes it out of a girl.

Yes, I conquered NaNoWriMo.


After a writing blitz during the last week of November, in which I locked myself in my apartment after work each day and ignored my friends, the book crossed 50,000 words on the evening of November 30th. I had almost four hours to spare before the midnight cutoff. With a relieved sigh, I submitted the completed manuscript to the NaNoWriMo website, confirming my winner status. Then I emerged from my apartment and went to a friend’s Harry Potter party to celebrate.

The feeling of accomplishment floated me along for the next week. My self-esteem enjoyed the boost after all the deriding remarks I kept feeding it up until I finished my book.

At the same time, I felt perfectly content to not write again for a good long while. Even two weeks after finishing, I still look forward to a break from serious, lengthy writing until at least January. I above all don’t want to work on my book. We spent too much intimate time alone, so we’re taking a break. I need the distance to clear my head before I jump into the waist-deep editing that it desperately needs.

Unfortunately, my eager and supporting friends and family now want to read the book. Too many have already asked, “So when do we get to read it?” Thank you for the encouragement, but you don’t want to see a fresh NaNoWriMo book. I don’t even want to read it, and I know what it’s about. No, this one needs severe cutting and stitching before it will be ready for eyes.

That said, I will consent to revealing a raw cut from the middle of my book, if only to increase my motivation to edit and eventually, hopefully–one day–publish the full book. So, without further ado, please enjoy the following excerpt:

Secondhand Lions is one of my favorite movies. With three exceptional actors, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment, and Michael Cain, it was practically a guaranteed winner. I found the DVD on sale for five bucks at Walmart and couldn’t pass it up. The basic plot is a boy, Walter, gets dropped off at the house of his great-uncles, whom he has never met, to stay for the summer. His single mother assures him she will be back in a couple weeks or a month at the most. She encourages him to try, in the meantime, to find the rumored treasure the great-uncles have stashed away.

Walter and his uncles act awkward around each other at first, but they start to bond once Uncle Garth begins to tell Walter stories of war, sword fights, an evil sheik, a princess, and a treasure of gold. In a gripping scene between Walter and his Uncle Hub, who would rather fight than tell stories, the boy asks if his uncle’s stories are true. Growing up with a mother who only lies to him, he desperately wants to believe the fantastic stories of his uncles but doesn’t know if he can.

Uncle Hub says it doesn’t matter whether the stories are true, neither confirming nor denying them. He responds, “If you want to believe in something, believe in it. Just because something isn’t true, that’s no reason why you can’t believe in it.”

He decides to give Walter a small taste of the speech he calls, “What every boy needs to know about being a man,” and the full length of which he had given to many boys and men in his life. As he goes on, he tells Walter, “Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this that love,” and choking up a bit, “true love never dies.” Whether or not those things are true, Uncle Hub says, “A man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

That isn’t an opinion you will hear often. It almost sounds new age and like believing in subjective truth, as if there is no absolute reality. But I think Uncle Hub wasn’t trying to teach Walter to believe in whatever he wanted or what made him happiest. He wasn’t denying that truth is important.

Rather, I take it that he meant there are certain things that we have to hold onto even when life seems to prove it wrong. In the face of opposition and in the middle of battle, we should believe particular principles to carry us through. If we give them up, we will lose everything. When a soldier forgoes hope for victory, he will lose his strength and courage to keep fighting. In a way, he contributes to his own failure by losing faith. So our beliefs affect our lives and may even save them. It matters what we choose to believe.

Some people call religion and spiritual faith a crutch for people who can’t accept reality. I also heard a Christian respond, though I can’t remember who, that Christianity wasn’t just a crutch; it was a full-body stretcher. This Christian fully acknowledged that his faith not only gave him something to lean on, but it completely supported him when he had no strength of his own. Is that an ignorance and denial of truth? Of course. That is, if the faith is based on false beliefs. But trustworthy faith deserves full reliance. If the faith is in truth, then why shouldn’t you use the stretcher? Refusing that support and confidence only reveals cynicism and doubt, not loyalty to objectivity.

Let’s take Christian faith, for example. If there’s nothing reliable in believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, then people are just accepting it to make themselves feel better. It gives them some false hope that makes life seem more meaningful, as if life has purpose. It also eases their minds about death if they can believe that they will go to heaven for an eternity of rest and joy. If Christianity is a lie, then Christians use it as a crutch to be happier, but it simply deludes them so they can escape reality.

On the other hand, suppose there really is something to all this hype about the Bible and Jesus. If salvation and eternal life come only through believing in Jesus, believing God became a man and died to save the world, believing his sacrifice frees you from the punishment for sin, then your only hope is to throw yourself fully into trusting the truth of Christian faith. If you hold back, you’ll be lost. Choosing to not let faith in Jesus carry you will condemn you to eternal death, instead, which we call hell. Yes, faith takes a leap, but it’s a reasonable one if the object of your faith is truth.

You can watch the scene I discuss from Secondhand Lions here. Please leave constructive feedback in the comments if you have some to spare.

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Other thoughts


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One Week to the End

Once again, I must apologize for infrequent, irregular updating. I preferred to use my time spent writing to write for Nanowrimo than my personal blog. If I’m going to form words into sentences, it might as well be for the 50,000-word behemoth, right?

Yet, even neglecting blog posting has not guaranteed Nanowrimo success. I have 23,945 words written so far, leaving 26,055 to finish by next Friday at 11:59 p.m. That means over three weeks were not sufficient for me to make it halfway. Now I have one week to make up the rest and reach my goal.

My biggest hurdle is to find topics to write about. It feels as if I’ve already used most of my thoughts and opinions that I wanted to say. Now I’m drawing blanks. Why is it when you focus on writing originally that, instead, all your writing comes out bland and boring? Wish me luck, and you will hear from me in a week whether I managed to think up 26,055 more words in time.

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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Welcome to National Novel Writing Month

Today is November 2. To most people, this means nothing. For hundreds of thousands, though, it is the second day of NaNoWriMo. They have 28 days left to reach the lofty goal of writing a 50,000-word novel. From scratch.

I have a friend who has taken on this challenge for the past four years. I watched from the sidelines. She struggled through and persevered each year. It never felt as if I would have the dedication to do the same, and what’s the point of starting, if I wouldn’t finish?

But I didn’t used to feel that way. When I was in middle school, I wrote a couple short novels for my own amusement. Only my immediate family had the privilege and honor of reading them. For some time, I imagined I would one day be a full-time, professional author of fiction. J. K. Rowling inspired me. I, too, would have my wildly popular, mass-marketed, world-changing fantasy series.

Now I realize a full day at home, by myself, on my computer, attempting to write for a living, would not be productive and by no means enjoyable. I can see myself breaking down into a frustrated mess, hiding under blankets on the floor to escape the empty Word document on my computer screen. Needless to say, this is not the future I wish for myself.

Rather, it makes me perfectly happy to continue writing in my free time as the fancy strikes me. Then on October 30, I remembered the season had come around yet again to feverishly type into the early hours until a work of art (more or less) emerges. I no longer have homework and studying to steal my sleep, so I thought, why not this year? What could it hurt? Besides my sanity, I mean.

I started last night on my November “novel,” which is actually going to look more like Blue Like Jazz than Harry Potter. That’s the hope, at least. I doubt my experiment will be worthy of a national bestseller or global phenomenon. The book will be a compilation of personal essays, much to do with my experiences as a young Christian woman. A confession of faith, you might say. I mentioned this idea before in my post “Movie Adaptations and the Real-Life Stories.” So far, I’ve written 414 words. This post update will have to cut short, and I’ll work on those 49,586 words left to go.


Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


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