Answering Nova Day

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


I’m calling today’s Free-For-All Friday installment “Answering Nova Day” because this strikes me as a fun thing to do.

Nova left a comment on my Monday Thoughts post. This comment consisted of a couple of questions that continue a couple of thoughts and are worthy of free-for-all-ing on this soggy Friday.

On the topic of outlining, Nova asked, You know I’m going to write an outline for the next novel, but if it’s anything like what I did the last time I don’t look at it after it’s written and I change the story quite a lot…What’s your non-outlining plan?

Funny you should ask, Nova, because I’ve been thinking about that lately. And I confess:

I love index cards. I’m the index card queen. I’m also the brainstorming and character analysis queen. So, after catching a whiff of something  — could be an image like two people walking down a lane (last novel) — I chase the whiff down with said brainstorming and character analyses until I’ve got a semblance of an idea.

(My question always is: How do people come up with their ideas? I have to torture them to get them to reveal themselves! What about you?)

The character analyses are the big thing for me. And if you believe that character is plot and plot, character, then you’re probably not surprised that plot points arise out of the analyses.

This is where index cards come in. I jot every scene idea onto its own card. Also, every scrap of dialogue that floats into my head, every what-if possibility, everything. I end up with way more cards than I use. I shuffle through them as I write the first draft, adding to their number, setting aside those that become moot or simply too silly to use, and so on.

I usually stop writing the first draft (last time it was at around page 120) to take stock of what I have. By then, I have a way better idea of the story. If I remember rightly, last time I did this, I spent many weeks analyzing and revising to sinc up the material with what I now knew to be true for the story. (That said, the first draft is still a mess.)

I do wish I had a better process. I would love to be a person for whom the one-sentence what-if? idea and subsequent outlining came easily…

And next, regarding deadlines, Nova asked, What’s your next self-imposed deadline?

Once again, funny you should ask, Nova, because yesterday I decided that my next self-imposed deadline is, ta-da:

Finish revising the older novel I’ve been working on and send it to my agent in January. I’m even going to call her to let her know this — that’s really putting the flame under my tookis, isn’t it?

My Father’s Lesson

cannonbeach11Yes, I’m procrastinating.

I submit a sunshine picture because two days of constant rain and gray ended — for now. Today brings blue — actual blue! — sky, sunlight reflecting through fluffed clouds, and aspen leaves lit-up gold. I’ll get the dog out for a real walk because her excess energy led her into the litter box — and out came the kitty rocas (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, as my friend Bruce likes to say) all over the carpet. Nice waking up to that. Gag. What is it with dogs and poop?


I’m about to start the task I mentioned yesterday. I feel fine (not so sick). Why do I resist settling down to story-development work? It challenges me in a way I don’t like, perhaps because it’s such an organized act. First drafts, revisions: okay; but this? Anyone out there who can relate?

I’d let the task go except that the few times I’ve thought before writing (hehe) proved helpful. In the end, it’s a skill I need to practise. That’s what it comes down to…Have got to keep practising and improving on all writing fronts, even the fronts I don’t prefer (to put it nicely).

This reminds me of my father (and here I go, procrastinating further — what a shock). He owned restaurants. During college breaks I worked at one of them. It got so that he let me call in the payroll every other week, which was a heinous job. In fact, much of my father’s day was spent at tasks that appeared deathly dull, even painful at times.

So I asked him, “How can you stand doing all this stuff?”

He said, “Even the best jobs come with the parts we don’t like. We do them because there’s a bigger picture. That’s the way it is.”

(My father was a pragmatic man.)

That was a huge learning lesson for me. One of the best. In one casual moment, I learned that we gotta suck it up sometimes, even when we love what we do. I remember him when I’m trying to settle down to writing tasks that don’t thrill me. Like now!

Opening the Notebook

Over the weekend I accomplished a crucial writing task. It wasn’t ground-shaking, yet it was everything.

Yesterday was one of those relaxed harvest-time Sundays, the kind that lulls me into feeling like I’ll live forever. I hit the farmer’s market and, because dogs aren’t allowed, donated a couple of bucks to a homeless man’s cause in exchange for his dogsitting skills. His “Hooters” t-shirt cracked me up.

I bought kale in hopes that I’d figure out how to season it. I also didn’t know how to prepare fresh tuna, but I purchased a fish steak and asked for an easy cooking tip from the fishmonger (is that word allowed these days?): Marinate for many hours in one part olive oil, two parts soy sauce, and fresh lime juice to taste; then bake.

I also bought my zukes and my various berries. Nothing much on my mind, but I felt my new Record notebook waiting for me in the car.

Then, hungry, I sat around an outdoor cafe with a nonfat latte and a veggie scramble. (I appear to be a healthy eater, don’t I? Don’t be fooled.)

I loitered at this outdoor cafe with dog sunbathing at my feet for longer than usual because I’d brought my new Record notebook with me. I opened that notebook and here is what I wrote:

1. I entitled the notebook “Novel #5 Development Notebook”.

2. I dated the first pristine page and announced to myself, to my inner creative, to the universe — take your pick — my intentions to develop a new novel idea.

3. I noted my initial idea for this new novel, which isn’t an idea so much as a vague sense of direction and one cool, conflict-inciting fact about my protagonist.

4. I listed first steps, which are about reading and research and general exploring for now.

That’s it. Like I said, this task was everything. I officially opened up my brain to the new story idea. I hope it doesn’t keep me waiting!

P.S. The tuna turned out yummy. The kale remains mysterious — any suggestions out there?