French Friday: November Is a Bridge To NaNoWriMo

The first autumn I spent in Paris stays close to my memory.

On Saturdays and Sundays, when I had no classes, I took long walks along unknown streets that carried me from one arrondissement to another.

During these solitary autumnal walks, the bridges (thirty-seven in Paris) that straddle the River Seine and link the left and right banks took literally my breath away. I liked nothing more than crossing the Pont Neuf, the Pont Saint Louis, or my very favorite the Pont Alexandre III.

Soon, autumn deepened and winter drew closer. By November, I hugged my raincoat closer to my body and my scarf tighter around my neck. Below the bridges, the River Seine glistened, a thick grey ribbon, disturbed by the gusts of winds and chilly rains.

Lacking the beauty of early autumn and upcoming winter, November felt, however, essential to transition between these two seasons.

Much time has passed since my footsteps echoed along those Paris bridges, the sound as familiar as the beating of my blood.

Yet, November remains for me a bridge from fall to winter.

This year November will also be my bridge to NaNoWriMo.

In the past, I’ve already participated to the yearly national novel writing event. My middle grade novel Chronicles From Château Moines started over one particular month of November.

Twice, however, I twisted the rules and used the month of November to write stories and picture book manuscripts instead of a novel.

This year, I decided to return to the simple rule that defines NaNoWriMo.

From November 1st to the 30th participants write with the goal to have 50 000 words down by the end of the month. For a YA or adult novel it is likely not enough for a complete first draft, but it is a very good start. When I followed this rule I tried to stick to 2000 words a day but Sundays. NaNoWriMo specifies that the novel should be an entirely new project that has not been started yet, although it’s acceptable to have an outline.

My 2018 project is both new and not outlined.

The only thing I knew before I started yesterday is that it would be another YA novel. I also knew that I wanted to write about two of my favorite things in life: books and baking.

There will still be French elements. Of course!

And it will be set in Maine.

During the month of November, French Friday will recap my week of writing, focusing on inspiration and motivation, and on challenges linked to writing in another language, more than characterization and plot.

I’ve no doubt that I’ll go through many ups and downs as I plow my way through the very first draft of a very new story.

So wish me luck and continue to support me through my already published novels. By the way, I’m happy to see that All the Mountains We Can Climb has received its first 5 stars review. Check it out!

 

P.S. It’s never too late to embark the NaNoWriMo boat. Here is the link to see how it works. 

It is also totally okay to skip the official registration and still write 50 000 words this month.

 

Will you follow the path and get to the Word Count?

 

Of the Benefits of Letting Manuscripts Age

Just when I thought that fall was poking its shy nose, a heat wave has taken California by surprise. In reality September is one of the hottest months in the Golden State.

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When I lived in the San Francisco Bay everyone was looking forward to these few days of real warmth because summer there was cool and windy.

In the Sierra foothills everyone is impatient for a break.

Hot temperatures for us are getting so old.

Talking of old, because I’m spending more time inside, I decided to have a serious look at my old work while finishing the draft of my new novel. During spring cleanup I deleted several useless manuscripts, which I knew held no publishing value. I kept a few and among them one caught my attention.

I wrote this middle grade story over a month, four years ago. I had signed up for Nanowrimo, and although I have a tendency to start many projects at the same time I finished the draft just in time for Thanksgiving.

After the holiday season I revised it, helped by my writing critique group, but didn’t submit it until the year after when I decided to enter the manuscript in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition. There was no middle grade category so I boosted my characters’ age in order to get a shot.

After the winner was announced I received a two-page critique from the jury. The main issue, according to them, was that the story was meant for younger readers than high school teens.

I could only agree since I had at the last minute added a few years to my people only to enter the competition. I knew I was walking a fine line and I did.

Two or even four years aren’t enough to transform a middle grade novel into a YA novel. Even I knew that.

So today I decided to read my entire manuscript with a cool head. If I can say when temperatures soar in the upper 90s.

We all have heard that experienced writers advice novice to let their work sit on the stove for a few months before tasting them.

Since I hadn’t looked at this particular work of mine for three years, I assumed I had waited long enough. By now the story would be more like a stew than a stir-fry.

But would it be like a bottle of wine, which deserves to be put away in order to release its full body?

I am French and know that all wines don’t age well. Some aren’t supposed to age at all. These two tips come from my beloved papa who knew his wine.

Anyway, I was anxious and curious to read my story after such a long time. After all I had just decided to give it a chance, but only based on the critique.

More than a taste, I had to give a hard, honest look at my work before taking a hasted decision.

I must have worked on this story much more than I thought, I told myself with relief when I was halfway through.

Now that my characters are twelve years old again they act their age. The critique I liked best and triggered my desire to reconsider the potential of this novel came from one of the jury members. He appreciated the loving relationship within the different families, especially between siblings. A nice change from most stories, he wrote.

To be honest, when I wrote this story I was also getting a little tired of reading novels with complicated family situations where parents and children hate each other. I wanted to write about loss and peace on a background of healthy family relationships, not picture-like unbelievable relationships, but with boys and girls who care for their sisters and brothers, even for the annoying ones.

At six o’clock when I reached THE END, I was glad I had treated my manuscript like a bottle of Bordeaux. It deserved to age.

And I think it has aged well enough so I can pour a chapter or two to my writing critique members.

If they can bear a second helping, I will get the support I need to seek publication.

Cheers to your own writing!

From a NaNoWriMo Writer

Happy Election Day!

Want a break from the grueling campaign and the probably long decision night?

If you are a writer taking advantage of NaNoWriMo to get a 40 000/50 000 words manuscript by November 30, the task can be daunting.

Besides NaNoWriMo website, full of tips and kind words of encouragement, here is an additional link from Writers Digest. The editors always do a great job at providing valuable information for writers. The daily tips for the NaNoWriMo marathon are just the right kick to keep going.

My husband says NaNoWriMo is sadistic and that I am masochist. Who decided that a writer has to write 2000 words a day anyway? I agree on all three points. But sometimes a deadline is all we need to get a draft. And it always starts with a first draft.

Happy Writing!

Too Many Books

November is almost over.
I love November.
It welcomes, after months of warmth, rainy and crispy days over California.
My birthday is in November and this year I spent it in Moss Landing, one of the prettiest little towns in California.
It is also Thanksgiving month and who doesn’t love pie and sweet potatoes?
The Beaujolais Nouveau arrives in France and I look for the colorful bottles at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
And it is Nanowrimo month, a challenge I took twice.
But this year I’m not very proud of myself. I didn’t reach the finish line.
This isn’t entirely my fault. I had too many books on my nightstand.
A friend of mine told me to read The Help. I trust her judgment and opened the book just to see. Big mistake. I couldn’t put it down. And when I was finished, I couldn’t write anything. That’s how good this book is.
Then I read Palo Alto from James Franco. I’ve lived in Palo Alto for a few years so my husband thought it would interest me and bought it for me. My sixteen year old daughter stole the book to admire the black and white picture of the most handsome American young actors. She gave it back to me because she was studying for her finals. I don’t have her strength of character and finished the collection of short stories. Because of Palo Alto and the memories it brought back each time I read the name of a familiar street or park, I enjoyed reading the book.
My book club is meeting next week and I had to read Post Captain from Patrick O’Brian. I had a hard time to dive into the story because I received the latest Ayelet Waldman for my birthday. Who has been able to put Red Hook Road away?
So tonight I failed Nanowrimo. I should have stopped reading. I would have the draft of a new story by now instead of the embryo of a plot. But aren’t writers readers too?
Besides tomorrow is December 1st. I can always have my own Nanowrimo, right?
If I cancel my trip to the library tomorrow morning.

November 1st

Things to celebrate on November 1st:

A more childish form of Halloween. Yesterday, my two younger children were invited to parties at their friends’ homes. Little ones dressed up in traditional ghost and witch costumes walked along the streets with Mom and Dad.

Nanowrimo. A challenge that will push me to come up with a draft of 50 000 words by the end of the month. I’m both excited and afraid to miss the deadline. Funny since nobody is checking on me.

The Giants won the World Series. I still don’t know baseball rules but I think this victory is a deserved boost for struggling California.

Finished the latest Michel Houellebecq ‘s novel. La Carte et le Territoire is a unique contemporary story set on an unusual background of art. Houellebecq is a favorite for the Goncourt, the prestigious French literary prize awarded this year on November 8th.

Last day of the midterm elections campaign. The outcome must be really important when I think of the last few days’ constant phone calls, the fliers stuffing my mail box and the ugly TV commercials.

November 1st sits between sunny days and cooler nights and marks in California the subtle change from the dry to the rainy season.

Liberating First Draft

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” James Michener

In my dreams I am too. In real life, I love writing the first draft of a story. Especially with a deadline. Last November, I signed up for this crazy event called NanoWrimo. The goal is to write 50 000 words in a month.
Fact is I wrote more than 50 000 words just on time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Then of course I had to start the revision of what Anne Lamott calls the shitty first draft.
I am fully aware of the flaws of my first draft and that the story that will emerge won’t have much to do with the flow of words that poured out of me for a month.
Yet I love my first draft and refuse to give it a bad name or to be snotty and ignore it five or seven drafts later.
A first draft is similar to a downhill hike.
This is as liberating to write without thinking as it is to walk without struggling. Besides, this is trully exciting to click on the word count at the end of the day and to discover with pure joy that yes, today 2000 words have been written.
I have two completed novels and countless picture book manuscripts that are now out either with an agent or an editor and I know that if any of them likes my work enough to take a chance with me, I will have to revise and rewrite and I am up to the challenge.
But earlier this month I was missing a first draft and just couldn’t wait for November. So on May 1st, I started my own NamoWrimo. I couldn’t say no to the moment when my fingers hit the keyboard and open a blank page.
I have now created people I won’t ever meet in real life but if I’m clever will be as alive as any human I know. I have invented backstories for them and concocted plots that if I’m careful with my craft will be believable.
And if I’m determined to sit every day behind my desk and write 2000 words, I will by the end of May have a first draft, full of flaws and mistakes but also full of promise.
But that is another story.

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