Aug 10, 2012

A 90-Day Challenge

I have written three novels. Sounds impressive, right? Not so much. All three were written during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Somehow it feels like they don't count. I wrote each one in only 30 days. How good could they be? I almost completely flew by the seat of my pants. I went in with a few characters, a beginning, a few major plot points, and an inkling of how I thought the story might end.

That was it.

OK, so they weren't horrible, but none of the novels ever came out how I envisioned them. Something was missing. After the first novel I did more research and more plotting. But no matter what I did I ended up somewhat disappointed. The truth? My characters were less than exciting and the plot kind of fizzled out.

I planned on participating in the summer version of NaNoWriMo. I even had done a couple months of research and was just about ready to go when my gut told me not start. Something didn't jive. So I completely scrapped all my research and gave myself sometime to think about it. And I did. The strange thing was that I was OK with it. I thought I'd start to panic, but somehow I knew that if I started writing this novel I would only end up disappointed again. I didn't want to feel that way.

So I'm starting over and I'm doing things differently this time. I've been reading The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt. I know what you're thinking - But Tracy, another novel based on a time frame? Yes and no. Yes, it's encouraging me to complete another novel in 90 days (which is way more time than NaNoWriMo), but this book is way more than that. I've realized that I've been going about this the wrong way. When I sit down to write, I want to write. I want to dive right into the story and see what happens.  But that's my problem. I jump in way too fast. Yes I think about my characters and what motivates them and how they would react in different situations, but how well do I really know them? Watt's book is teaching me to slow down and really think about the story I want to tell. Don't start writing. Heck, don't even lock yourself into a story until you've thought through all the different possibilities. The first 30 days of this challenge is about brainstorming and getting to know your characters.

I'm committing myself to this challenge - to doing things a completely different way. Yesterday was Day One and my assignment was to complete two prompts. I wrote stream-of-conscious and wrote a whole ton of stuff I never would have thought about had I just jumped into plotting.

I've been thinking about maybe giving some of my responses as long as they don't give away too much information. Since very few people actually read this blog, I think I'll be OK. are the prompts and just a couple of my responses:

1) My story is about: a woman who is desperate for someone to understand her even though she doesn't quite understand herself.

2) What I want to express through this story: is a deep sense of loss when you are forced to mourn the person you used to be.

One day down, 89 more to go!

Jul 22, 2012


Dear Griffin,

I never know what I plan to say when I sit down to write your birthday letter. Today is no exception. I did read through the last three letters and noticed a theme - where has the time gone? I wish I had an answer. I am grateful, however, that I have done my best to savor our time together. Going to the museum to run from exhibit to exhibit. Going to the library to sit in the cafe and dine on a cookie and juice. Taking daily walks to the park to see if we can spot the elusive ice cream truck. Running through the hopscotch sprinkler to stay cool on hot summer afternoons. The thing is that we rarely do anything "big," but it's those everyday activities with you that I love so much.

You have been a constant source of joy and laughter...even on some of my darkest days. One look at your sweet face and I forget the stress and anxiety that coursed through my body. When I feel like a bad mom for not making you a better dinner, you turn to me and say, " make the good tacos!" It is then that all is right with the world. You have taught me that sometimes good enough is just fine because it's the giggles, the snuggles, the wiping of tears, the rubbing of your back, the whispers late at night that everything will be OK...that is what matters most.

You have made so many leaps and bounds this past year. You had to make the transition to a new day care with all new kids. It turned out I was the one who had a harder time with that, while you settled in and made new friends. This year also marked the onset of your sense of humor, including your new catch phrase: "I'm just teasing you." You love to tell jokes, though they could use a little work:

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Griffin who?
Griffin loves peanut butter!!!

You have taken after Baba and love to write your own songs - nonsensical and silly, they always make you laugh.

You are an adventurous soul with very little fear. You wandered away from me and got lost in Target. When the security guard found you and asked what you were doing, you simply replied, "I was looking for a watermelon," as if it were the craziest question you had ever been asked. Isn't that what everyone does at Target? Your adventurous spirit has gotten you into trouble as well as some injuries. Trying to prove that you really could fly, you leaped from our bed to a small pile of laundry below the window. You made it, but not before you smashed into the wall, blood flowing from your lip and tears streaming from your eyes.

You are willful and independent and stubborn. You will slap my hand away when I offer help because you want to do things all by yourself. You have run errands with me with your shoes on the wrong feet and your shirt on backwards because you needed to dress yourself. As much as I want to "fix" things, I don't because I know how important it is to you.

You are a sympathetic and empathetic little boy. I hope that never changes. Weeks after I sprained my ankle, you would ask me how it was feeling. You ask me if my ear is all better...and sometimes you ask to see it and then say, "It's so much better Mama!" You have so many feelings and love to tell me about them - usually referring to yourself in the third person: "Griffin is very angry" or "Griffin is sad" and my all-time favorite, "Griffin misses the ice cream truck (even when you're holding your beloved Tweety Bird ice cream and the ice cream truck's brake lights are still visible from our driveway). I am glad you can tell me those things, though. It makes life a little easier.

From the day you were born you have done everything 100 percent. When you cry, you sob. When you laugh, the noise could shake the walls. It's all or nothing with you. I think that will serve you well in life.

I'm writing this in bed and you are sound asleep down the hall in your room, tucked into your race car bed surrounded by stuffed animals and your Transformers (so symbolic of the tough and sweet sides of your personality). Four years ago at this moment, Daddy and I were in the hospital, still in shock that you were about to make your appearance into this world a full two weeks early. 7:04 AM. My life would never be the same.

I mean it when I say "you are my most favorite person in the whole wide world." You are silly and sweet and funny and frustrating, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Of all the things in life count on one
I'll always be behind you son.
He said life is a battle and it ain't even fair
but if you stay up in your saddle,
you're already halfway there

He said stand your ground and don't back down
that's the only way to win.
When life throws a punch son,
you've got it take it on the chin.

~William Elliot Whitmore

I love you, Griffin. I always will.


Feb 8, 2012


I haven't posted to my blog since September. That's a record. It's not one that I'm proud of, but I guess I took an unintentional hiatus. The quick low-down is that I got sick at the end of September - pneumonia. Totally took me off guard. Then it just spiraled out of control and Griffin and I both were non-stop sick from October through the end of November. I even got my first case of pinkeye! Awesome.

I made it through NaNoWriMo (and even finished) and then life put on the brakes. Or maybe life went zooming past me faster than I ever expected. I really don't know which analogy best fits, because in all honesty, it feels like both are happening at once. Step on the gas. Slam on the brakes. Over and over. No wonder why my head throbs so much.

I've wanted to write about what has happened, but I can't...for a number of reasons. First (and this truly is the first time in the history of my blog), I don't need people knowing everything that is going on in my life. I just can't go there. Second, writing about it makes it real. Okay, I know the reality of what is going on, but I can (and do) find ways to focus on other things. Sitting down and writing means tapping into the emotional side - a side that is simply toO raw right now.

So, I have a choice on my hands. I could take an intentional hiatus (disappointing all three of my readers!), or continue to blog and write about everything but what's really on my mind. I haven't decided yet. I loved the freedom from not writing my blog, but at the same time, I missed it. Writing is what I do. It's my outlet.

I'm going to sit and think about it for a bit. I need to see what feels right. But I will be back. Sooner or later, I'll be back to writing...