Tag: creative writing

Why Nanowrimo is Important

nanowrimo1Recently I got turned on to an old but rather grumpy piece by Laura Miller in Salon.com where she rails against the Nanowrimo project.  According to her it is simply flooding the world with ‘crappy novels’ and that the “the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading are being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing”

My response to that is ‘wah, wah, wah, wah’.  Some people find a reason to complain about everything.  A friend of mine recently posted an article in the New York Times about the number of cupcake stores were depressing the writer as she rode the subway home from work.  I can think of a lot of worse sites that were probably along that subway route in years passed most starting with the letter x in it.  It’s cupcakes people.  I don’t understand how that can possibly offend anyone!

The rest of Miller’s article advocates reading novels over writing them and she claims there is a ‘shortage of readers out there’.  Perhaps this is true with men but I can’t think of a single adult woman that I know who doesn’t read for pleasure on occasion.  Maybe they don’t read the highfalutin depressing snob-books I’m sure Miss Miller is a fan of but they read.

And since when did writing and reading become mutually exclusive concepts?  I am confident that most of the people who dedicate a month to  nanowrimo are spending a great deal of the year dedicated to reading.  (She claims that people often say to her ‘Oh, I don’t have time to read. I’m just concentrating on my writing.’  I don’t know who she is spending time with because I can’t think of a single writer, or even blogger for that matter, that does not have a book they are currently reading.)

So let me just give a few defenses for why Nanowrimo is a good idea.

1. Nanowrimo gets you to finish an entire story.  Most people when they begin to write get caught up in the details of a character or story arc and then either abandon the project or become frustrated and don’t move on to other details that might come more quickly.  There is value in producing an entire book instead of pieces of a plot that you think might be fun someday.  Even this year on a book I’m not thrilled with I will have a finished story and that is certainly worth more than a bunch of starts scribbled down and set aside.

2. Nanowrimo gets you to write every day.  Some of us are super self-motivated and can exercise every day with out a team, sing for the pure love of music, and write diligently on our own.  Some of us are also like me and days go by without doing any of those things, even though I love them.  There is something about having a goal outside of myself whether it be an open water swim, a voice recital or nanowrimo that makes me work hard every day.  Scripture says “the natural man is an enemy to God” and I think that can go for writing, reading, swimming or anything else.  Human nature is lazy or maybe that’s just me…

3. Nanowrimo gets you in touch with others stories.  In just the 2 years I have done nanowrimo I have made a lot of friends and enjoyed reading their stories.  This includes a writing group, blogging/twitter friends, and local writers.  I attended a writers conference in April that was both engaging and enriching and none of that would have happened without nanowrimo, so at the worst I made new friends and had a lot of fun and isn’t that what a hobby should do? I don’t see why Nanowrimo is any more hurtful than fishing, scrapbooking, embroidery or any other kind of hobby.  I am sorry if editors have to read more ‘crappy novels’ because of Nanowrimo (a point Miller belabors. Poor, sad editors).  That’s your job. I make spreadsheets all day and that’s not very exciting. Deal.

4. Nanowrimo helps the writer think about their own story.  Are they telling the right story in his or her life?  This was especially true for me last year as I used my life for the inspiration of my book.  However, even this year there have been moments in my characters story arcs that have made me think about how I balance my time, what kind of friend I am, and how I can make Christmas more special.  I just don’t see how that kind of introspection can be bad?

5. Nanowrimo allows me to finish something. This kind of goes along with #1 but I want to make a slightly different point.  In my life, and the life of most adults, we do the same thing over and over again.  That is certainly true with accounting and parenting and most other jobs I can think of.  Even a really creative job like painting or sculpting in the end boils down to a certain routine repeated each day.  I remember when I was in college and I would look at the syllabus and think ‘how am I ever going to do all of that’ and then the end of the semester would come and I had done it, and done pretty well at it.  I almost never get that sensation any more and Nanowrimo gives that to me, and I think that is important.

So keep writing my friends and people like Laura Miller may think you are a narcissist but in the words of the king of narcissism, keep writing:

“Creating – that is the great salvation from suffering.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

5 Years of Blogging


Quick post.  I promise I will update on day 2 of the amazing LDS Storymakers Writing Conference but I got the notice that today makes 5 years as a WordPress blogger.  5 years!

In that time I have written 608 posts in 63 categories and 2,057 comments (wished more 😦  ),  260,547 views, most popular categories are health, happiness, arts and entertainment and family.  My strabismus posts, movie reviews and general health posts have been the most popular.

My first post was written on May 12, 2008 was entitled The Freedom of Joblessness.

In the post I spoke about how not having a career and being unemployed felt quite liberating.  For once I had no answer to the question ‘What do you do?’  I had been so unhappy in my job that the removing the ‘DO’ had been one of the most empowering experiences of my life.   My thoughts at the time were ““I would rather be doing nothing than doing something I hate”.

Its true.  I would rather be doing nothing than something I hate.

I then add:

“In the meantime I am enjoying my life and looking forward to the next adventure.”

That’s the great thing about blogging is it gives a platform to process all the madness of life.  It allows me to tell my story! How powerful is that!  Now the documentation of the human experience does not have to be limited to the memoir and biographer.  I have tried my best to tell my story as honestly as I can and I’ve learned that people are amazingly supportive and good-hearted.

Some of my personal favorite entries over the years have been


















There are so many.  My most controversial one was probably on teens and reading.

I know that is a barrage of links but checks some of them out.  Remember writing is new if it new to you.

From the beginning of putting pen to paper I knew if I was going to engage in a public journal, it would have to be just that.  The real me, no fog, no illusions.  I have shared with you my pains, anxieties, discouragements but also the successes, loves, and moments of glee.  I am confident a man could come to know the real me from simply reading words. Isn’t that what great writing should do anyway?

On one of my first posts I spoke about happiness:

“It is such an empowering thing to know that we have a say in our happiness. We are not just lifeless blobs that respond to stimuli. We can decide to follow the Lord, sacrificing our egos and desires; thereby, creating happiness both currently as we serve and in the eternities. It reminds me of a quote I have from President Kimball (I had it on my wall when I had a wall!)

“Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within. It must be earned. It cannot be purchased with money; it cannot be taken for nothing”

Happiness is a state of mind and for 5 years I’ve had a state of mind of the Smilingldsgirl.  Yes, it has been tough but I’ve always known that smile was inside me.  I never lost hope and my confidence in my Heavenly Father.  God knows my heart and loves me.   I started this blog at a time of great hope and new beginnings.   All I knew is I had escaped a black cloud and felt set free. Since then I have always carried that freedom in my pocket as a reminder to never go back there again. Never allow myself to experience sustained misery again.

The blog has been a big key in ensuring the success of my journey.   Again, it has allowed me to share MY unique story with all of you, my faithful readers.  I am so grateful.


FAITH is power, LOYALTY is essential, LOVE is pure,  and HAPPINESS goes a long way towards HOPE

If you haven’t gathered I really love my blog.  Thank you all for reading. Have there been any posts you enjoyed?  Please post in comments section!  Sure love ya!

PS in the words of Nora Ephron- “I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”

NaNoWriMo: What are you going to do now?


So today is the last day for NaNoWriMo and I want to say congratulations to all the Winners out there!  What an accomplishment!  What a grand thing to be able to collectively say we wrote a lot of books!  Think of the creative output, the characters examined, the worlds created.  Its awesome!

As everyone knows I wrote a little book about my experiences quitting my job, with some romance thrown in, but a lot of real life.  I found it to be an incredibly empowering experience and I can’t believe that all of that came out of me. You can read excerpts from the book at a couple different posts See: https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/?s=nanowrimo

I’ know I have written a somewhat silly book and I may read it 5 NaNo’s from now and think it is total amateur but it is a start and I’m proud of it.  I’m proud of finishing something I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m looking forward to next year and what I can write about.  Plus, I will have the whole year to work on this book making it as good as it can be.

Now a lot of people have asked me in the last few days ‘So what now?’ and then followed by ‘Do you want to get it published?’.    The answer is I have NO IDEA! None, nada, nilch.   If you had asked me 2 months ago if I could write a novel in 30 days I would have said you were crazy, especially these 30 days building a house and all, but then I did it and love what came out, fluffy as it might be.  I have no idea what my potential is for writing. No clue.  I just don’t know.

I do know that I am going to work on it and edit it and see where things go.  It’s a silly story and I have no expectations of it going anywhere but I’ve gotten some positive feedback from friends and bloggers who have read it (thanks btw!). The important thing is that I enjoy working with this story so who cares who reads it if its making me happy.

So there you go.  I promise that I won’t give up on the book.  That I will keep working and will eventually bind it at kinkos or some place like that (Shannon Hale told me once at a book signing to bind your first book.  Don’t just toss it out!).  Those are commitments I can keep and are within my control.

That’s all I know and I will look forward to next NaNoWriMo and the year after that, and year after that.

Double NaNoWriMo!

So  after a quick depressing post this morning, I thought I’d add a quick exciting post.  I haven’t updated on my NaNoWriMo progress as much as I would have thought because I’ve been a little bit embarrassed by my writing output.  I didn’t want anyone to think I was bragging or that I was working any harder than another NaNo writer.    Believe it or not, I’m almost done with my book!   I have 4611 words left! There are about 3 chapters left in the story so I think I will go over the 50k.

The words just flew off of me and I guess since it was based on my story that made it easier to arrive at plot and characters.  It has been a moving experience to write about the events of a hard time in my life and to create a fictional character out of myself.  Only depressing thing is in my book I marry someone who looks like Paul Rudd.  Sadly, that will probably not happen in real life…

The book that I’ve written so far is a chick lit type romance novel about a girl who hates her job and meets a great guy along the way who helps her deal with her icy manager.  Along the way there are revelations, frustrations and a panic attack (which I was so proud of writing).  I actually think the romance is pretty good especially for a girl like me who has had so little experience.

Well, since I have finished so quickly I will definitely have time to edit the heck out of it and make it great (or as great as it could be) and submit it. (Which I’m not sure exactly how submit it but I want to?).

I really like my book and I’m actually kind of sad to see it get completed.  Its something I’ve been thinking about for so long that its weird to have it done.  But what if it is not done…(obviously editing and rewriting not done but I’m just talking about finishing NaNo)

Anyway,   I was talking to my trainer Ben yesterday about the story and he said ‘you shouldn’t add too much fiction because your story alone is super compelling’.  It made me think. I wonder if there is enough in my actual life to create a compelling story without all the romance and fiction?  I’d like to think my life is interesting enough to tell a compelling story. Would be pretty depressing if it isn’t.

So the idea struck me- why don’t I do 2 versions of this story.  One will be the romanticized, lighter fiction version, and one will be the real, nitty-gritty version of how it actually happened.  I will probably only be able to show that version to a select few as it may be too real but the idea of writing it excites me!  I’ve practically done that version already here on this blog but never in a concise story format.  I can use a lot of what I’ve already written as inspiration for the real-life novel but I’m starting from scratch.  It’s going to be awesome!

I’m shocked at how much I like to write fiction.  I’ve always been a good paper writer and essayist but have not attempted fiction writing in my adult life.  And never in a million years did I think I could write 50k in just over one week.  Wowzers….

So to 2 versions of the same book!  And yes, I’m crazy but I love it!!  Which one do you think will be better?

Creativity vs Convention

My brain is fried from entering accounting all day but I have something on my mind I wanted to explore.

Here it is-

I’ve always respected refreshing, unique stories.  Not necessarily fantasy but just out of the ordinary enough to make me think.  That’s why I loved A Girl Named Zippy and The Book Thief.  That’s why I like Juno, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Inception etc.

Then why I am writing such a conventional story? And worse off its my life and probably the most dramatic thing that’s ever happened to me. Quitting my job…What does that say about my life? Kind of depressing when you think about it. Sigh…

But I also love convention.  I love a good Hallmark movie, a Sophie Kinsella book, Anne of Green Gables, sitcoms, The Help, Edenbrooke, reality tv, and a good rom com.  Sometimes I wonder if that means I’m not as much of an intellectual as I like to pretend? This worries me.

Do any of you struggle with these types of feelings?

The one thing I know I care about regardless of creativity or convention is strong characters.  A Nora Ephron movie may seem conventional to most but I love her characters and snappy dialogue.  Perhaps why I tend to not like fantasy/dystopian novels is they tend to get so caught up in setting and atmosphere that the characters and dialogue get lost.  Like a George Lucas movie, all fluff and no heart.

So, how do I make this character one I would want to read despite convention?  That seems easy enough given the character is ME but I don’t know about that? What makes my story unique? I’m not begging for compliments here just exploring.  Having never tried I am SURE it will be harder than I can imagine.  Its perhaps a little tricky as well to create the character I was then and not the person I am now.  The change will not feel real if I already know all the answers.

I love in You’ve Got Mail how Meg Ryan’s character deals with losing her store and how it makes her this different person.  That’s the kind of thing I’d like to tap into when sharing my story but keep it light like that movie.  I know that’s a high standard but you have to keep something in mind for tone.

Maybe I will be surprised at how interesting I am? You never know it could be easier to capture this story than I think.  I’ve just had that gut feeling that this is important for me to write for some reason.  It’s just getting that character right.

Convention vs creativity?

Hmmmm.  What do you all think?


Preparing to Write My Story

NaNoWriMo coming up!

So as many of you know I am going to participate in the National Novel Writing Month challenge in which you must write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days of November.  It is something I have wanted to do for many years and believe me this year had a lot of excuses but I just decided to go for it anyway.    My twitter friend Abby and I have made a pact we would both finish or we have to do a polar bear plunge!  That’s motivation for you!

My story is one I’ve wanted to put to paper for some time.  It is based on my experiences in 2007 when I took the great leap of faith and quit my job.  I have written about that moment greatly on my blog but have always felt it had the inherent drama necessary for a good book- something along the lines of Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisenberg.

I will be adding a romance to the story which will be a lot of fun considering I’m a bit of an amateur in that department.  Hopefully I’ve seen enough romantic movies to make it believable.

A couple of challenges I have run into as I’ve outlined my piece.

1. How religious should I make the character?  Since it is my story it is hard to imagine not making the character religious.  My faith was a huge reason I took the leap of faith.  I knew for sure from God that it was the right thing to do.  Without that reassurance I may not have been so brave.   Not that it is going to be published by any means but I want my story to be as accessible as possible.  It seems so rare in modern literature that there is a character who is Christian without it being a ‘christian novel’.

2. How many characters to develop?  Well, I have 5 siblings, 2 parents, lots of friends etc but it seems too much so I’m tempted to make her an only child but maybe one or 2 sisters wouldn’t be too much to follow.  I also am morphing 2 of my former roommates personalities, Emily and Camille, into one roommate for the character.  You don’t want to make it too cluttered but also want to have enough drama for 50,000 words.

3.  The other challenge is to make a pretty dark time in my life real without making the character seem unlikable.  I was very unhappy at that time, even depressed, and I want to show that without having the character seem whining and annoying (which I’m sure I was at this time. Sorry friends). I’ve been thinking about Drop Dead Diva and how they take some tough things the character has been through (like dieing!) and still help it feel light and funny.  The whole reason that show works is because the characters are all so likeable.  The plots are kind of stupid but we don’t care because we like Jane so much.  I hope I can pull off that kind of likability while showing a relatable version of the workplace.

Tone is going to be a challenging thing to maintain in this story.  With panic attacks, anxiety and a lot of unhappiness I will have to work to keep the chicklit tone but I think it will be all the better for it.  (If you look at most chick lit it involves some kind of sadness, usually at the beginning, like a death, divorce, break up, infertility etc).  Wouldn’t it be the greatest thing if someone , someday read my story and thought- I’ve been there, I’ve dealt with that, let’s see how she does.  That ‘d be awesome!

4. Character names?  Because this is coming from real life I am having a hard time picturing the characters as anything else but their real names.  I’m using those for now but eventually I will have to give them different names because they are not accurate portrayals just inspired by true characters.   My sister had some good suggestions for choosing names.  Do you out there in cyberspace have any suggestions?

I’m really excited about writing my book.  I wish I could get started now.  I read my outline to my sister Anna and she liked it.  Hurray!  I am sure I will write a lot of it in the first week and then cool down a bit after that but it helps when you can type 120 words per minute touch type.

It will be so exciting when I get my certificate and it says ‘you have written a novel in a month’.  I will frame it!

I love a good deadline and challenge.  Makes me very happy.

So, who wants to read my book once it is done?  I might let a select few…

Think the whole process is a waste of time? (heard that from some) Check out this article with some reasons why to do NaNoWriMo