Tag Archives: journalism

NaNoWriMo Day #18: Cracking the 40,000 word mark

For those of you who are wondering if/when you’ll ever see a short blog post in Jackson’s Journal, this is for you.

National Novel Writing Month is almost two-thirds finished. I’m now just under 10,000 words from reaching the 50,000-word goal, which I expect to hit Thanksgiving night. Even then the story will be far from over. I think it will take 60,000 to complete the arc and the story “spine.” After 60,000, give or take a few hundred, I’ll take a breather and then embark on polishing the first draft. It might be mid- to late-January when that’s ready. I know many of you are anxious to read “Dixieland.”

I’m going to say now I think it will be worth the wait. I’m really proud of this story, and I can’t wait to share it. Be patient.

UPDATE: I received the Journalism Award Friday night from the Exercise Tiger National Commemorative Foundation. I walked past 89-year-old David Troyer on the way to and from accepting the award. That was an indescribable honor, because HE is the living embodiment of heroism, sacrifice and bravery. Mr. Troyer is one of the few living survivors of Exercise Tiger, which was followed five weeks later by D-Day, where Mr. Troyer was in the first wave that landed on Omaha Beach. His introduction included this: “David Troyer fought in five different campaigns against Hitler’s army.”

And there he was. Living history, my friends. Not a commemorative stone or a name in a history book, but a living member of The Greatest Generation.

He deserved more than the many awards and the multiple standing ovations that he received on Friday. He deserves and has earned the admiration of every American. Here’s the story I wrote in April  that included a brief interview with this incredible man.

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Filed under "Dixieland", A reporter's life, Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month 2012, World War II

NaNoWriMo Day #10: The joy of creating

Word count through the first 10 days of National Novel Writing Month: 26,159. Just over halfway to the “winning” goal of 50,000 words. And it occurs to me — as I’ve suspected all along — that 50,000 words will not tell the entire story of “Dixieland.” At this rate I’m on pace to hit 50K on Nov. 19, two weeks from Monday, and that’s the goal that I have now adopted. I’ll need to do that if I’m going to meet or exceed the 64,000 mark I hit in 2011 with “Chasing The Devil.” (Which, sadly, is still unfinished, yet it’s waiting patiently, like a loyal puppy, for some loving attention. Soon. It will be soon.)

Today I encountered that chaos that typically comes much sooner than this. My chronology has come unraveled, and I’m no longer writing in order in keeping with my chapters and outline. Part B requires me to go back to Part A to plug in some foreshadowing, which creates another layer for a major character, which means making sure Part F connects the dots from A, B, and D, but waiting to connect C and E later.

This is where I discover parts of the story that I didn’t know were there. My main character didn’t just show up in central Kentucky and start working for the Silverdale Sentinel, as my outline notes. (Silly outline. You tease, you). No, my main female protagonist, Edna Mae Ferguson, showed up for her first day of work for Carl Smith Stenographer Contracting Company (yeah, pretty lame, but it works for now), only to find out that he’s got something else in mind. The local newspaper publisher called for a stenographer, so crotchety old Carl Smith, who calls publisher Steven Kennedy a “muckraker,” instead sends Edna Mae, hoping the young, unproven steno might cause the publisher some grief, and hoping to get out of paying Edna Mae a $20 sign-on fee and a booklet of coupons for bologna sandwiches from Ore Run Grocery.

(When you think of crotchety old Carl Smith, think “Ed Asner as Lou Grant.” Hey, it’s okay to embrace a stereotype or two).

Until two hours ago, Carl Smith had never crossed my mind. In fact, there’s an entire staff of stenographers in the office at the poorly named company, and one of them — don’t know who just yet — will reappear later as an advocate. Or, in keeping with the perpetual fiction writing mantra of conflict-rising tension-resolution-more conflict again, this still unnamed, uncreated character could be a mini protagonist of sorts.

I love this!

With that in mind, I’m going to share here a post that I made today on the Columbia NaNoWriMo forum in response to another WriMo who lamented that she was falling behind in her word count. Not suprisingly, she is discouraged. Even if she does not complete the 50,000 words in 30 days, however, she found solace in this: “I am writing again.”

Here was my response, and it’s meant for all my fellow WriMos, whether we are on a crazy, blistering pace to finish ahead of schedule or on a slow, cumbersome trek, still waiting to shift from first to fifth gear.

“I am writing again.”

Those words inspired ME. Thank you. Because I know that feeling.

My wife and I were in Hobby Lobby and Michael’s this evening looking for something unrelated to writing, but when I see all those blank canvasses and all the writing, art, coloring, stenciling, etc. materials I really get pumped, because I imagine the sheer glee that someone experiences when they turn those blank canvasses and sheets into beauty.

That’s what WE do. This computer screen is our blank canvass. And any time you’ve written, you’ve done something with that canvass. Is it a Picasso or a Monet? Of course not. Is it Hemingway, Faulkner, Steven King, Michael Crichton? Nope. But we’ve created, and we do it for ourselves first and foremost, because we must. It’s in our DNA somewhere. And the more we do it, the better we get, and the more we realize that the greatest joy isn’t simply staring at the masterpiece, but the process of creating it.

Carry on, my friend. You are CREATING!

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NaNoWriMo Day #8: Letters to and from lovers

Today’s report on my National Novel Writing Month project, Dixieland, which is now at 19,511 words. My protagonist couple Alvie and Edna Mae Ferguson are separated by Alvie’s World War II deployment with the Army Air Corp. He will become a POW. But I didn’t settle until today on how to depict his war experience. Tell me what you think.

Up until the first letter he writes from Stalag Luft I after being taken prisoner of war, his entire war experience is told in the letters he writes to Edna Mae. I thought it would be different, a unique approach, to tell more of their backstory — courtship, early life, etc. — in those letters. The setting for Alvie will shift to the German POW camp for the last two months of his time there, but until then the reader won’t “see” through Alvie’s eyes — only through his letters to his young bride.

This approach also presents a challenge for me to write Edna Mae’s letters to Alvie. After all, I’m not a 26-year-old woman who pines for her husband. (Talk about writing outside the lines here).

The excerpt I’m providing below is Alvie’s first letter from the POW camp, and it includes a glimpse into my creative process. As I write, I make notes to myself (see italics). The notes remind me that I’m foreshadowing, adding to earlier (so far unwritten) references, and making sure to bring some things to resolution, where the reader will say, “Aha! I remember that from back in Chapter Whatever when Alvie mentioned he was bringing his nephew a souvenir.”

As always: unedited. Tell me what you think.

______

My dearest Edna Mae,

You probably know by now that I’m a guest of the German army and we are very well cared for. I couldn’t eat better if I was made of cornbread. (THIS IS A SURE TIP-OFF THAT HE IS NOT EATING WELL. Earlier in the story, I’ll have Alvie make a reference to a meal that one of Edna Mae’s sisters made. Her sis will say, “Well, Alvie Ferguson, I’ll swannie. I believe you must be made of cornbread.” To which Alvie will whisper to Edna Mae, “If I was made of cornbread, I’d just soak this stuff up. Wouldn’t have to taste it then.” I’LL HAVE HIM MAKE ANOTHER “if I was made of cornbread” statement in reference to uncooked or spoiled food.)

I feel your prayers and I know it won’t be long before we’re staring at the same moon together, not continents apart. Tell my Billy that I’ve got him a souvenir. (IT’S THE SHRAPNEL lodged in his arm). Tell your folks hi. I’ve never loved you more. Your Alvie.”

EDNA MAE’S LETTER to Alvie after learning he’s alive:

Sweet, handsome Alvie, my Superman,

I’m writing this without even knowing where I shall send it, but if I don’t write these words now I’ll quite likely come unhinged. You’re alive! My darling, I weep and shout in both sadness and joy. The WAAC sisters teach us and insist that we keep our chins up and not show a sign of sadness or weakness, but I just can’t do it right now. So I might not send this. I do not desire to bring you low; just thinking of any of my words souring your handsome countenance is unbearable, but you can always see right through the platitudes. You know my heart, and that is why this separation is so powerfully unbearable.

My love, you have the most resourceful ways of taking care of yourself and bringing your thoughts to happy, gay times. I know how you care for and love your chums, and how they so look up to you and rely on your strength. Yet I cannot wait another second for you to let yourself be weak in my arms, and let me take care of you.

I simply cannot pretend with you. I truly know there was much more you wanted and needed to tell me. I am sure I have the motor mechanics in my brain well enough to build an engine, yet I now must learn how to build the fuselage and the wings. Yes, my love, if it takes me the rest of my years, if you are not here, I will build that airplane myself and come and get you.  And if you return before I put in the last rivet, then you can fly our little airplane and show me something – anything away from the memory of these last months – where we can soar past this time.

You know I’m just silly. Do not fret over thinking that I am assembling a little airplane.

But if I could, my love, if I could …

It will soon be one year since your deployment. Perhaps our separation will end quite soon. I pray for you, my love. I still keep one side of the bed unslept and ready for you. And now that I lock that door, I cannot wait to lock us inside our nest. Oh, how I miss you, my Alvie.

I will stay strong. There is so much to tell you about my adventure to Kentucky and the tales of working at that little newspaper. I feel that I have become a woman in the truest sense of the word. Perhaps someday you and I will move away from here and start our own little newspaper. That would be grand!

I must sip some hot tea and say my prayers before I retire. Your caress, your strong shoulders, your mischievous grin and the boyish pranks that you play are always, forever on my mind. And in my heart.

Your bride, Edna Mae

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