Posted in NaNoWriMo

Day 2: Half-Assed or Double-Assed?

Ugh. I’m rebelling for NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m even doing that half-assed. I’m revising an existing #shittyfirstdraft and rewriting the mystery to the tune of 50,000 words. Is that half-assing or double-assing? It feels like twice the work. After digging into the first three chapters for eight or nine hours yesterday, my new-word count was a whopping 275. But the first act needs the love and attention like you wouldn’t believe.

I borrowed a comment from a beta reader who imagined a missed opportunity in the second chapter, and used it to reinvent a sort-of blah and pointless character, and give him deeper presence throughout the book. Doing this introduced a rather sinister spin to his relationship to the main character and the victim that will pay off in this book and the next. And maybe the next, because he’s the right age to have been affected by the cold case in book three. It’s just so juicy, I can’t be mad at only logging 275 words in a day.

Also, this is one of the reasons writers get addicted to writing. When we step back and look at the magic we just made with a keyboard and our little gray cells, it’s like a drug. The struggle is real, but so is the euphoria. I’m so excited about weaving this guy and his agenda through the story, I can’t hardly contain myself!

There’s a lot of maudlin crap going on in my writer psyche as well—lots and lots of nasty little downers in a box of reality I hide in my brain, waiting for me and my big, clumsy self-loathing to come along and nudge the lid off.

“What? Only 275 words. What kind of loser pulls together a community of writers to cheer for, pushing and coercing into meeting their goals every day – no excuses! – but can’t get it together to write the bare minimum 1,667 words on the very first day?!? You’re not even a basic bitch; you’re a fraud bitch.”


Oh, but that character! Oh, he’s so delicious. He’s making things tricky and exciting all over again, and giving the story gusto early on. Just by lingering in one place for one minute in chapter two, he reinforces the victim’s bravado and triggers fear and tension in the main character, and then disappears, leaving them to manage their conflict in an awkwardly public way. Their fight draws the attention and emotional investment of another major character—something I have been trying to force for six months! This new situation feels natural and glorious. I have no idea how many words I replaced in those chapters, but I do know the 275 new words represent something magical; I’m only a loser on the goal-tracking spreadsheet.

Today, I penned 2,227 new words revolving around the major character and what he’s going to do about this new-found emotional investment. I have an hour left to scratch out another 832 to catch up to where I “should” be at the end of Day 2 of NaNoWriMo. This shit ain’t easy, but it’s sure as hell an addicting experience.

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Story Slam

Day 1: Cheating On Extraordinary Goals

As I embark on NaNoWriMo, 30 Days of Thanksgiving, and my commitment to finally breathe some life into this blog, I feel like cheating is an inevitability.

For example, I’m kicking off this month of extraordinary goals with a blog post where I give thanks for the lessons of Story Slam about streamlining a complex story into 1,000 words. See? Two birds, one stone; cheating.

To know me is to know verbosity has long been my greatest strength. Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Bite me, Shakespeare. How’s that for brevity? Only, the bard had a point. Verbosity is not a strength when your first mystery novel comes in less than fully formed at 120,000 words.

Yup. I said it. I wrote it. I posted it: One hundred and twenty thousand words. And the mystery part of the damn mystery is not fully formed. Years and years of writing in beautiful, expository circles, and this is where I find myself.

So, my NaNoWriMo goal is to fully form the mystery with 50,000 new words, and eradicate at least 75,000 old ones. I feel okay about this. Finally. Because, writing a new piece every month for Story Slam has given me room to play with brevity. Can I communicate the intricacies of a relationship in three sentences? The history of a town in four? Does the reader care about said history?

Can I trust myself to work well with subtext, and can I trust the reader to get the idea without having to be shown, told, shown again, and told in a whole new way?

Last year, I could not. Today, I can. A 5-minute window for storytelling forces a writer to get to the point, streamline information, and treat the audience with more respect for their intelligence. On top of that, I put pressure on myself to write my piece 24 hours before reading it live—it’s my gig and I make it hard for everyone else to get in, so it just seems fair that I up my own challenge. This has been a good thing, in that it has also forced me to write quickly, practice out loud, and tweak for the highest impact without getting emotionally attached to the content.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to experiment with live crowds to see what lands, what floats, and what flops. For February’s theme, Unrequited, I wrote a creepy pedo story that I’ve since read at Saturday Night Special and LitCrawl SF. I’m telling you, there’s nothing quite like the live reaction to the twist on the back page. It makes me fall in love with storytelling all over again.

And yet, I had zero courage to play with anything from my novel until the last Story Slam of 2017. I stole a scene, three characters, and a sense of dread from my book and wove something deliciously new into being. It disturbed a bunch of people, and now I’m over-the-moon excited to dive into my #shittyfirstdraft and rework the whole damn thing. I’m keeping some of the new stuff, like this bit:

Crispin’s anger burns along the trails and threads of my nervous system, an exquisite joy radiating from his effort, his pleasure still wrapped up in the pain he twists into my very being.

He failed to kill me that night, and now he thinks he can push fresh trauma on me from the grave? Ha! He never knew about me and Naomi. I’ve had a year to get used to the ways and means of the dead, and I’ve always been smarter than he gave me credit for.

I feel like with a little more judicial cheating like this, I can meet my extraordinary goals for November.




Day 18 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Day 18 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving: I’m grateful to be able to live on a small island in a large metropolitan area that has a tight-knit village vibe. I’m sitting here in a local coffee shop, watching our bustling downtown swing into night without blinking, a block over from quiet neighborhoods where it’s still safe to walk any time. I’m so lucky to be part of our up-and-coming cultural heartbeat, and to have the opportunity to know and love a strong percentage of residents who are also all about all of the above. Living here is hella cool.

Alameda Sign 4 NMSCRBL

Day 17 of Thanksgiving:

I don’t care what you say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Facebook. I’m so grateful for the ability to chat right now with a cousin in Australia as he gets his Saturday morning going. I feel like I’m sitting in his kitchen, the warm spring light walking its way across the floor while he makes coffee and we chat about kids and … hold up. He just shooed me out the damn door. Stupid job site he has to get to. But my day has been made and I’m spending the next 20 minutes stalking him and his beautiful wife and kids online. I LOVE Facebook.

FB Australia 4 NMSCRBL

Day 17 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Day 16 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Day 16 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving:

I am a greedy, selfish person. I can’t get enough of other people’s stories, plots, poems, screenplays, ideas, et al. They are just SO DAMN EXCITING!

I am THE luckiest person in the ENTIRE universe — and so incredibly grateful — that I get to be privy to the literary goals, dreams, and creations of so many seriously talented writers.

Lucky Girl 4 NMSCRBL

Day 15 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving:

Staying about an hour ahead of the snow and storms all the way to Reno and back. And crazy 12-hour round-trip road trips for no better reason than the way it’s always a pleasure to ride shotgun up and over the Sierras. I’m so grateful to be able to work on the road for a while, then be forced to stop and enjoy the scenery by a distinct lack of wifi and/or cell service.

Road to Reno 4 NMSCRBL


Day 15 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Day 14 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving

Day 14 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving:

Otto Wright, owner of The Local on Park Street in Alameda. His enthusiasm and generosity make us all feel like old friends when we eat, drink, and write at his establishment.

He has agreed to let me host monthly open mics at his prime downtown location. SQUEEEEE!!!

Stay tuned for our inaugural Local Voices: A Broken Mic on the first Thursday in December.

Local Table 4 NMSCRBL

Day 13 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving:

The office space on Bay Farm Island and the couple who make it possible for me to host write-ins, labs, and workshops there. It has made all the difference in my ability to grow my business as a coach and introvert herder, and to continue to expand the To Live and Write in Alameda writers community.

Office Space 4 NMSCRBL




Day 13 of 30 Days of Thanksgiving