Monday, November 15, 2010

Nano Guest: Cheri Nordstrom

Nano-part2010This month I’ll be hosting several Nanowrimo participants as they chat about their experiences, struggles, elations, and stories.

Today’s guest is Cheri Nordstrom, an ML (municipal liaison) in Illinois. MLs help organize writing events and do what they can to motivate others to push for their goals.

Welcome Cheri!

How Not To Melt

In 2003 I learned about a crazy little contest called NaNoWriMo. A good writer friend of mine signed up and tried very hard to goad me into it too. I just didn't have the time, I explained to her. I was working seventy hours a week, homeschooling our daughter who was in a million different activities and I had two important business trips with my husband that November. We actually had to hire our daughter's former babysitter as a part-time nanny.

Truthfully, when 2004 rolled around, I was just as busy. I was still working more than full time, still homeschooling our busy teenage daughter, still traveling, and still working on revisions from a book I'd been working on for years.

My writer friend signed up for a second NaNoWriMo. Between her nagging and my muses--who wouldn't even let me sleep at night--I decided on October 30, 2004 to throw down the gauntlet too. I was never going to become less busy, and 2004 was just as good of a year as any to jump into National Novel Writing Month.

November was rife with technical, time and health issues. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was several days behind to make the 50,000 word challenge by month's end. My story was going well though. I started the month with no outline, but solid character sketches and a very good idea of where I wanted to go and how I wanted my book to end. I didn't want to give up. My muses wouldn't let me give up.

With only about four days left and fifteen thousand words left to go, I dug in my heels and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Suddenly, the entire story was pulling itself together, and the brilliant ending I had in mind flew out the window, because an even better ending presented itself. I was becoming increasingly excited about my novel, and I knew I was going to make 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th.

I think I rode Cloud #9 for months. I put the novel away until late January 2005. When I pulled it out, I expected it to be really horrible. To my utter shock and amazement, it was much cleaner than the novel I spent four and a half years writing. I think it was at the moment I realized I had much less revision work from my NaNoWriMo novel, that I became hooked.

Every year brings different challenges and issues. I'm on my seventh NaNoWriMo novel and I have completed every one of them--even pitched a couple to agents, so I have some experience with the highs and lows of writing novels kamikaze style. This year, I'm struggling to keep my interest and focus on my novel. It isn't my main characters' fault. They're great, actually, and a lot of fun to write.

Sapphire is a superheroine who emits electricity through her fingertips and toes to fight off the bad guys who are abusing or hurting the children she counsels. An ambitious newspaper reporter is telling us her story, and he's an interesting guy on his own. The story isn't the problem. Sapphire is a school counselor by day, and Electric Blue by night. The monsters she zaps deserve to sizzle. The fight scenes are even fun to write. (She blows out a lot of really cute boots before she learns to control the electricity coming from her feet.) So why am I struggling this year?

I'm melting. Or having a melt-down. I'm not sure which. I'm not the only one in my region this year who is struggling with burn out, melt-downs and lack of focus though. We've talked about it quite a lot during our write-ins. So, I devised a list of helpful ways to avoid melting during NaNoWriMo:

1.    Don’t let little girls named Dorothy throw water on you.
2.    Eat a lot of chocolate or <insert snack of choice>.
3.    Drink a lot of coffee or <insert beverage of choice>.
4.    Take some time out to think about all the things that are going RIGHT in your novel instead of focusing on the negatives. Maybe your main characters have done something surprising, an awesome plot twist appeared like magic, secondary characters are stepping up to the plate to help push your story to its conclusion, your characters are actually interacting with each other, etc.
5.    Celebrate your successes, even if they seem small. Any progress is GOOD progress.
6.    Do something nice for yourself and your muse(s) that doesn’t involve writing. Take them on a field trip to see a movie or a concert, do something else creative, take a bubble bath, buy a NaNoWriMo t-shirt or hoodie. The muses have been working hard for you this month…it’s time to show them a little appreciation!
7.    Take a day or two off from writing if you need to. A good writing session on the weekend should make up for lost time. No NaNo police will come knocking on your door if you haven’t updated your word count, and sometimes the intensity of what you’re writing warrants a mental break away from your characters and storyline.
8.    When intensity is not the factor, but you’ve stalled somehow, keep writing-- even on the days you’re “not feeling it” like you’d like to be. It’s always fascinating to me to see how a bunch of senseless babbling can lead to some powerful dialogue between characters, or a pivotal point that changes everything for the good in your story. Sure, you’re likely to cut a lot of the babbling out in the revision phase, but there will always be a diamond or two in the rough, and it could be the key to get your story flowing again.
9.    Write in different locations. If you usually write in your office or at your dining room table, take your laptop out to your car and write in your driveway! Drive somewhere scenic for inspiration. Take advantage of the nice days and write outside. Find a local write-in, and share the kamikaze spirit with others. Shake it up a little!

Most of all, have fun with your novel. First drafts are all about the creative process and allowing your muses to play. Write on, fair ladies and gentlemen of the pen, write on!

Thanks so much, Cheri! Best of luck with the rest of November and with your submissions!

You can find Cheri and watch her progress on her
Nanowrimo page.

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Margaret West said...

Eating chocolate always works for me lol Welcome to the world of blogging. Fun isn't it!

LK Hunsaker said...

Margaret, chocolate is always a good answer. :-)

Pocket Muse said...

Writing, coffee and better combination in life!

Thanks for the warm welcome. =)

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Margaret, what an exciting adventure! I'm all for a coffee and chocolate when writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. Very inspirational.

aarbaugh said...

Great blog post, Cheri. It's nice to hear from an "old pro". I hear you on the chocolate. A bag of peanut M&Ms ganged up on me today. I heard the Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bars snickering behind my back a few minutes ago.

Kara Hartz said...

Such an uplifting post!
Although I may have to advise some caution on the chocolate front. The first few days of Nov. (post Halloween) I was in a sugar coma that made NaNo-ing tough. Not everyone can handle the chocolate. Start slow and judge your reaction. :)

Pocket Muse said...

Thanks for letting me visit your blog today! I had so much fun. =)

Good to meet everyone--and good point, karabu, about overdosing on chocolate. Too much of a good thing isn't just a fairy tale! ;o)

Happy writing to you all.

Mona Risk said...

Nice blog. I use Coffee and almonds while writing. I've replaced chocolate with almonds long time ago. The problem is I can't eat a handful only. I've become almond-holic. Thanks for the graet advice.

Mona Risk said...

Cheri, I agree with you. When you keep writing every day the thoughts flow without interruption and the words almost type themselves. But I don't like the pressure of Nano. I do my own by tabulating every night the word count and comparing it to the day before. Sometimes, I agree with friends and we report at the end of the week. I wrote a 90,000 words book in four months with this system.

LK Hunsaker said...

Mona! I've switched some of my chocolate habit to almonds, also, and sometimes a mix of nuts. Interesting. I won't give up my chocolate but I do most often make it dark now. ;-)

Every writer has to find whatever system works best for her. Glad you found one that's helping you keep the words rolling!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Sapphire sounds way cool! :)

I love number 1- Don't let little girls named Dorothy throw water on you. LOL

Pocket Muse said...

Thought I'd give a quick status update: I wrote nearly down to the wire, but I did churn out my 7th NaNoWriMo victory! Woot! This novel, by far, has the most revision work though. Not my best year, but I'm not kicking myself too hard because I work full time plus I worked overtime all month.

If you participated and lasted through November 30th--CONGRATULATIONS! You are a winner, whether or not you reached the 50k word goal. You are a double winner if this means you wrote more words during the month of November than you ordinarily would have.

Keep writing! Keep smiling! Keep eating that chocolate! ;o)

LK Hunsaker said...

Amanda, think she was hinting that we get a bit witchy during Nano? Could be. ;-)

Cheri, congrats for pushing through to the end! I was watching your count and rooting for you. :-)

No need in any kicking - doing this with all those hours is amazing! Pat yourself on the back instead.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I know I was getting pretty witchy! :p

Pocket Muse said...

Thanks, Loraine! This was my 2nd biggest Snoopy Dance on November 30th. I don't think anything will ever trump that first NaNo win, but this year was seriously down to the wire, and the muses have been duly compensated with a trip on January 1st to Chicago to see 2 awesome rock bands with my friend, Amy. =) Oh, and chocolate too, OF COURSE!! lol

And the Dorothy bit...haha. You have no idea how much I quibbled with myself to take that one out, because I was afraid no one would "get it." Then I thought...we're pretty much all writers here. Who HASN'T read The Wizard of Oz...or at least read or watched the musical, Wicked!? And, yes, I get a little more witchy in November than usual too. More sensitive, more grouchy, more exhausted...although I was going for cute, and not hinting at anyone else's situation! ;o)

Happy holidays, everyone!!