Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sunshine Blogger Award

Time for another delightful tag! This one is from Anna @ Swords and Quills. Thanks ever so much, Anna!

What is your favorite Christmas song?

"See Amid the Winter's Snow," I think. "Of the Father's Love Begotten" is exceedingly beautiful, too. I never heard of either of these until I got to be in a liturgical choir a few years ago. I think they're fairly obscure. You must needs listen to them if you haven't already! They're so, so lovely and reverent, and really made me think about how wonderful it is that God became man for us. (You can't really go wrong with O Holy Night, either. But don't get me started on Christmas songs. There's too many good ones...all the festive memories...it's too hard to pick one!)

What is one book that you have read more than twice?

Treasure Island. It's kinda funny, the first time I read it I didn't like it. (For shame, right?) But when I read it last year, I positively loved it, and read it out loud to my siblings this past October when we went to the Outer Banks. I'll probably end up reading it again sometime this school year, which makes me happy. :)


Read this on vacation to siblings! Oh, it was wonderful. So fun to share. Now we want to write a sequel...:

Who is your favorite character from The Lord of the Rings (book or movies)?

Oh, Sam! Definitely Sam. He's so loyal, so selfless, so simple and good. I've always loved his devotion to Frodo, his appreciation for poetry, his fascination with the elves. He's just...there's something about Sam. He embodies all the down-to-earth simplicity and plain good values of the hobbits, and he has a great love for simple things, like rope and gardening. Yet at the same time he's always yearning for poetry and chivalry and greatness. And he's pretty emotional for a LOTR character -- how many times does he burst into tears in the book?

"There's some good left in this world, Mr Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." - Samwise, Lord of the Rings:

Long story short, Sam Gamgee is my favorite character, not only in The Lord of the Rings, but in all of literature.

(Now, I should mention, I'm very fond of Faramir too. In the book, mind you. They absolutely ruined him in the movie...in my humble and very strong opinion, at least.)

What was your favorite childhood book?

The Narnia books. It took a couple of years for Dad to read those to my brothers and sisters and I, so it was one big long adventure. (Narnia was followed by The Lord of the Rings, which we possibly obsessed over even more...but Narnia was earlier, so it's even more of a childhood thing.)


We've read these to each other and the kids several times.  (Though the movies are a bit disappointing):

If you had to choose between a dragon, a griffin, a phoenix, or a pegasus for a pet, which would you choose? Why?

A pegasus! I've always longed for a horse and I've always wished I could fly, so having a pegasus would solve all my problems in one fell swoop. :)

What is your favorite part about Christmas? Why?

One favorite part about Christmas? Um...all of it? :) Oh, I don't know!! Waking up early in the morning and running down with my siblings to stare greedily at the presents under the tree is so fun. But...but...that sounds utterly materialistic. I also like coming home from Christmas Eve Mass and sitting around the tree with my family. And...and...and...the carols, and the nativity set, and, and, and! It's too hard! I can't pick one favorite part about Christmas!!

What is your favorite book genre?

Oh dear dear me. Well I really like classics. And historical fiction. And fantasy...although I've been noticing that a lot of modern fantasy is too "out there" for my taste. Give me a good cliche fairy tale and I'm happy. :)

What is your weapon of choice? Why?

Well, to tell the truth I can't use any weapon. If I were attacked I'd rely on my piercing scream to summon aid, and try to defend myself with teeth and nails.

If I were to learn to use a weapon just for coolness' sake, it'd probably be a bow and arrow. I've messed around with a bow and makeshift targets in the backyard before, and that was delightful. Every time I got close to hitting my mark I felt like Artemis.

(Which was ridiculous of me. I'm nothing like Artemis, in character or appearance.)


Katniss is talented with a bow. She uses this for hunting to keep her family alive. It is also her weapon of choice in the Hunger Games.:

What is one favorite Christmas memory?

Once a group of friends and I went to a town Christmas celebration thingy, and oh, it was so much fun! We got to ride in a carriage drawn by these huge beautiful draft horses, and we sang Christmas carols in harmony, which resulted in our getting compliments from strangers and the friendship of this really cute group of little girls. Ah! It was so delightful.

How do you react to awkward silence?

Depends. If I'm in the presence of an adult I don't know very well (okay, I'm 18, but there's a big difference in age between me and a real grown-up), I'll be quite likely to just sit there in absolute silence and wonder where to look. If I'm around someone younger than me, I might just start talking stupidly and stubbornly about the first suitable subject that comes to mind. ("So how's school?")

What is one character trait that you value above almost all others?

Goodness.

....That's too broad, isn't it? Well, I suppose a trait doesn't have to be a virtue; I could've said "good looks" if I'd wanted to sound really shallow, couldn't I? So does "goodness" pass?

(Y'know, I'm really liking the way Belle @ Worlds of Ink and Paper answered this one with "chivalry." That about sums everything up.)


Now! I'm supposed to nominate 11 other bloggers, but...I am a recluse when it comes to blogging and all the other bloggers I know have been tagged already, I do believe. Which is simply tragical. (Hopefully I didn't slight anyone by forgetting them. If I did, yell at me in the comments! By the by, is "tragical" a word? Auto-correct says it isn't, but Louisa May Alcott uses it, so who am I to believe?)

But anyway. If I had 11 bloggers to tag, it would now be time to think up 11 questions. But without bloggers....hmmm.

Tell you what! I'll put up eleven questions and anyone who likes may steal this tag, or just answer the questions in the comments if they so desire. Sound good?

Questions:
1. What's the most boring book you've ever read?
2. What's your favorite fruit?
3. How many states/provinces have you been in?
4. What's your dream job?
5. Would you rather travel back in time or forward in time?
6. Would you rather have the power to jump into the television or jump into a book?
7. Name one thing that scares you.
8. Name one thing that you're crazy about that no one else seems to have heard of/be interested in.
9. In which order should the Narnia books be read?
10. Say you're writing a Divine Comedy of your own -- name a couple of fictional characters you would assign to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Let us Ponder


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . Put a bird on it.:

The third day of Christmas. The song is just beginning. We've hardly begun to feel the increasing quickness of the melody, to laugh at the rattled-off list of symbolic but ludicrous gifts, to grow at all weary of the partridge in the pear tree.

The third day of Christmas. The church is still decked in its yuletide finery. The brilliant crimson of the poinsettias clustered close around the altar has not begun to fade. According to the ecclesiastical calendar we are in the first half of the Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord.

The third day of Christmas. Advent has come to fruition, the wait is over; let the rejoicing commence! And yet...

How many people say "Merry Christmas" in the street? How many green and red decorations, so prominent in the city a week ago, are there in the city today? How many radio stations have packed away the Christmas music for another year and gone back to their old everyday songs?

Now that Santa Claus has come and the presents have all been unwrapped, has all that is worth looking forward to in Christmas come and gone?

Presents wrapped under the tree:

In our society, it would seem that we celebrate not one, but two Christmases -- that although December 25th is one day, it is really the crux of two different holidays. For one of these holidays, December 25th marks the end. For the other, it marks only the beginning.

Now, at one time, I believe, these two holidays were one and the same...or maybe one was banished for awhile and is now gradually coming back. One is the Christmas of the world. The other is the Christmas of the Christians.

For the world, "Christmas" begins earlier and earlier each year. It used to be the day after Thanksgiving that the red and green lights came out and the carols tinkled from the radio. Now it is closer to the day after Halloween. Stores peddle Christmas ware before the leaves have fallen. While the Church is draping the altar with expectant purple and lighting the first solemn glow of the Advent candle, Santa Claus is already enthroned on the pedestal of shopping malls and department stores.

Granted, all this early excitement may have something innocent and even good about it, depending on the circumstances. No one can blame a little boy for counting down the days to Christmas beginning in October. And doubtless many a devout Christian wouldn't think of waiting until Christmas to share the Christmas spirit and look forward with love and longing to Christ's birthday. This sort of excitement is understandable in the little boy's case and laudable in that of the adult.

Poinsettias clip art big 700x1087 Christmas:

However, side by side with early Christian enthusiasm walks another kind of excitement -- one that has nothing to do with the first sort and yet may look almost exactly like it. It is not so much an enthusiasm as a frenzy -- a fever, a restless desire not so much for Christmas as for some of the aspects of Christmas. This is the rush of mercantilism, the hectic sickness of greed, the hurry, push, grab of Black Friday. This is the cult that has abducted the jollity and innocence and simplicity of Santa Claus and made him into a cheap idol of avarice. And this, I suspect, is also the movement that is so desperately eager to throw out "Merry Christmas" and replace it with "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings."

This group of people wants, quite literally, to take Christ out of Christmas -- in which case it cannot be Christmas anymore. They like the byproducts or, perhaps more accurately, the natural results of Christmas: peace, goodwill, music, feasting, presents. They don't care for the cause of Christmas, for Christmas itself. They want to replace it with another holiday, one which has nothing to do with religion.
Holiday Sign, Merry Everything Happy Always, Chalkboard Art, Chalk Art, Christmas Decor, Pine Cones, Christmas Art by TheWhiteLime on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/listing/254749919/holiday-sign-merry-everything-happy:

They would probably like to bring back the old pagan feast that the Romans used to celebrate on December 25th. In a way, they have brought it back. All the gift-giving and merrymaking the Romans delighted in, they revel in, too; and they revel, as the Romans did, without a very well-defined purpose. They are slipping back into the old pre-Christian ways, into the ways of paganism.

This festival of the neo-pagans, this "anti-Christmas," ends on December 25th. Why should it go on any longer? Santa Claus has made his rounds. The wrapping paper is all torn away and left in crumpled piles on the living room floor. Already on the third day of Christmas the presents which seemed to brilliant and tantalizing and fulfilling from the far-off land of November have begun to lose their luster. Celebrations go stale. We are tired of singing and dancing and showing goodwill to all. It's wearisome to put on a bright face, and why should we bother now? Santa has not only come, but gone. There's nothing more to look forward to. This last celebration has not satisfied us. We must rush on, on, to the next exciting thing -- to a New Year and work and the grind of daily life, and Valentine's Day in February.

Thus much of the world rushes by with glum faces, the cacophony of Christmas over.

But the rest of the world? The Christians?

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

The true Christians are left in silence, gazing at the manger.

The Reason for the Season.:

For them, Christmas has only just begun.

Other presents fade from the moment they are opened -- yes, even the presents Christians give one another in love, even the gifts from the real un-corrupted Santa Claus. But that's okay. We know it's okay. We have a present that doesn't fade.

The Babe in the manger grows brighter each day. He can't be fully appreciated at first glance. Unlike the other presents, the longer we gaze at Him the more value we see in Him, the more love will kindle in our hearts, the more joy and contentment and peace will flower in our lives.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

One day is not enough to ponder this gift. Tradition has given us twelve. The Church in her generosity has given us until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Maybe the flurry of getting and giving gifts is over. Maybe the malls are empty of decorations. Maybe the radio stations are silent. But a true Christian doesn't need the world to help him celebrate the gift the world can't see. It's up to the Christian to celebrate himself, that his eyes, and then the world's, might gradually be opened.

How shall we celebrate? With music, yes, with songs and dancing. We'll make our own music if the world won't sing for us. But also we will celebrate with silence. We will take the example of Mary, who might fittingly be called the first Christian and who, after the events themselves had unfolded, "pondered all these things in her heart."

Nacimiento:

My friends, my brothers and sisters, let us celebrate. Let us gather round the crib and gaze at the gift our God has given us. Let us ask ourselves what it means that God became man. Let us marvel.

Let us ponder.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Credits: The above post was quite heavily inspired by G. K. Chesterton's book "The Everlasting Man," notably the chapter "The God in the Cave."

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Character Interview! Introducing Pep

Hullo, dear people! I've some pretty exciting news for you today. I'm teaming up with the marvelous Anna Deubell @ A Light From the Shadows in a interview-our-characters-on-each-other's-blogs-thingy. (And that.....was a brilliant way of putting it. That's the official term for this activity now, okay, Anna?)

Basically, Anna's character Carmen is going to interview my character Pep on her blog, and my character Lillian is going to interview her character Chase here at Tanglewebs and Fairy Rings.

At least, I think that's how it works.

Anyway! Before we can host the interviews, we have to have interview questions. And that, of course, is where you come in.

Here's Pep's bio. If you want to read more about her, I did a Beautiful People post on her in September. Ask her as many questions as you like, and we'll get ready to get this interview thingy started!

Pep

Pep:

Pep is a fairy princess -- or rather, the Fairy Princess. As such, she lives with the Fairy Queen in the moss-covered little tree that is the fairy castle. Sometimes it's hard for her to live up to the prim and proper standards of fairy royalty, but she loves the Fairy Queen dearly and tries her best to be a model princess. 

Still....quite often, her fiery, impetuous personality gets the better of her.

Of all things that get under Pep's skin, the Turvies are the worst. She can't bear their rowdy ways or their jeering attitude towards the Fairy Queen. And Pep isn't afraid to punch the Turvy Prince in the nose when she finds him picking on Lillian. That's how the two of them meet.

It's easy to make friends with someone who saves you from the Turvies, so Lillian and Pep get along pretty well...at first. But when she realizes that Lillian believes herself to be a mouse, Pep decides it's her duty to convince her new friend of the truth. And Lillian doesn't want to be convinced; she just wants to be left alone. 

There we go! Do you have any questions for Pep? Fire away! She's a fairly talkative little creature and will be happy to answer pretty much anything. :) And be sure to hop over to Anna's blog to interrogate Chase!


Friday, December 16, 2016

Infinity Dreams Award

Good gracious! Ever so long ago I was tagged for the Infinity Dreams Award by Blue @ To Be a Shennachie. (Which is a beautiful blog, by the way; you should absolutely check it out if you haven't already.) It's high time I finished and posted this post!


Eleven facts about myself:

1. I have a mild obsession with the old western Laramie. Okay....maybe more than a mild obsession...

Robert Fuller & John Smith in Laramie:

2. There are four chickens in my garage right now, being sheltered from the bitter cold. Adorable ones for the most part, although the rooster, Alexander, is a feisty one. I have a love-hate relationship with that dear fellow.

3. I'm very very happy because I just came back from Half Price Books yesterday and got my hands on a copy of The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as Peter Pan. Also several books I plan to give away as Christmas presents, if I can muster up the courage to part with them. :)

4. One of my new favorite books is Enemy Brothers, by Constance Savery. It's quite a marvelous piece of historical fiction which a wonderful friend lent me this past summer.

This is one of those books that makes me want to stroke it lovingly, hold it close to my heart, and never let it go. It was simply beautiful. Dym is one of the best characters I've ever met in all my rambles through Bookland. Dym, Dym, Dym! Oh, Dym.:

5. I despise math. It hurts my brain. Maybe because I never learned my multiplication facts as well as I should have...?

6. Another thing that hurts my brain is Latin, which I'm taking with two younger siblings....but I enjoy that a good deal more than math.

7. Once upon a time a very little version of me found a dead frog squished flat on the road in front of my house. And I decided it would be a fun prank to put that squished frog in the mail box for the mail lady to find.

8. I was fingerprinted the other day! Not because I'm a criminal or anything, but because my family's a registered foster family. And since I'm eighteen, well, I have to be fingerprinted.

9. I'm always discovering words that I've pronounced wrong all my life. Like "vehemence" and "moccasins" and....I still don't think I know how to pronounce those.

10. I like cookie dough better than baked cookies. (Not that that stops me from eating baked cookies.)

11. Even though I don't particularly like the name Richard, I've got four characters named Dick, Ricky, Bobby Dick, and Richard, respectively.... 

Eleven questions answered:

1. What disgusts you?

Sin, the idea of eating eyeballs, snakes, and moldy chicken food. Also Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. 

2. What inspires you?

Saint stories, any beautiful poem about good triumphing over evil (I'm thinking The Battle of Lepanto, by G. K. Chesterton), and any really well-told story about good people doing good things.

3. What’s the last thing that brought tears of joy to your eyes?

Oh goodness. I don't know. Maybe Holy Communion? Or a really good book?

4. Ideal mode of transportation? And when I ask this, I ask this without limits- Model T ford? Horse? Airship? Dragon? Flying carpet?

Now this is a fun question! And my answer is - horse! Horse horse horse horse horse give me a horse please now now now....

Bowan:

Actually a flying unicorn might be even better than a horse. But seriously, why did we ever move to cars? 

5. You somehow gain possession of a time machine (was your answer to #4 the deLorean from Back to the Future, or the TARDIS?) Which time period do you go to first?

This is even better than number 4! I've always wanted a time machine. Actually I'm working on building one right now. (Not.... Unless you count the story I wrote/am working on for NaNo.) 

Hmmm. I'm very glad that significant little word "first" was tacked onto the end of the question, because otherwise I would be sitting here writhing for hours in agony trying to decide which time period I want to dive into. Maybe ancient Rome? Or -- yes, yes, ancient Rome. Specifically right around 320 A.D., when the Martyrs of Sebaste were killed. I want to write a story about them one of these days, and it must needs be researched. Plus it might help with Latin class.

After that I'd probably go to 1930s America, since I've got a story idea set there, too. :) And then....oh, it'd just be too much fun! I want a time machine!

6. Which one fictional character would you like to see in your government?

Oooh! Blue, you ask such awesome questions!!! Well......the first guy who pops to mind is Aragorn, but that's just so obvious. I guess there's a reason it's so obvious. He really would make a great leader. Although, it's hard to imagine him as a president instead of a king, isn't it? How'd about Dym from Enemy Brothers? Just because Dym is so splendid and wonderful and conscientious and brave! I love Dym. :)

7. Which one fictional character would you like to take for coffee?

*perks up like a dog asked to go on a walk* Dym? No, I'd rather he take me for coffee...*blushes* Goodness I'm silly...

Oh dear, I feel like there's some poor, plucky, sweet girl I'm just dying to befriend....but I forget who it is. Let's go with Lucy from Narnia. I just started rereading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and she's such a sweetheart!

Illustration (1998) by Deborah Maze for CSL's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.:

8. Which one fictional character would you like to kick in the pants? (or at least just glare at?)

Marius Pontmercy. Next to Victor Hugo, there is no one involved in Les Miserables I would rather give a talking-to. 

9. Which three historical people do you admire most?

*grinds teeth in agony* Blue! Why must you ask such thought-provoking questions?? Well, I'm going to leave saints out of this, because picking between saints would be impossible. :) Hmmm.....

Well, there's Don Juan of Austria. I don't know much about him as a person but the story of the Battle of Lepanto has always been one of my favorites. So when I think "historical heroes" he's kinda the first guy that pops into my head. Another dashing military figure who fascinates me is the French WWI ace Georges Guynemer, but again, that's more of a childish fancy than a real admiration. Also William Wilberforce, although pretty much everything I know of him comes from the movie Amazing Grace (and who counts movies as solid historical sources? but still).

To put George Washington on this list feels really cliche as an American, but really he's quite my favorite U. S. historical figure. :)

And then there's -- ooh! Was going to say Clotilda (the wife of Clovis, the first Catholic king of the Franks), but then I remembered Isabelle of Spain. Both those queens are pretty awesome.

.....Looking over this list and how I totally disobeyed the limit of three, I think it would've been easier to stick to saints. :)

10. Would you rather have the ability to fly or breathe underwater?

Fly! That's always been a dream of mine.

11. Which animal (real or fictional) reminds you most of yourself?

Hmm. That is quite an original one. I'm going to have to saw a macaw. Not because I'm necessary similar to a macaw in any way, but because I had a dear uncle whose nick-name for me was "Macaw" in front of my real name, which starts with an M. And which....I really might as well tell all of you at this point.... 


The best colour combinations are those that Nature approves! | Wild About Birds Nature Center in Layton, Utah sells everything to do with your backyard birds and also offer tours on the Deseret Ranch, which is home to over 100 species of birds! For more information, go to http://wildaboutbirdsnaturecenter.com or call 801-779-BIRD.:

I don't know which animal I'm most similar to. Maybe a plump Rhode Island Red hen? Or a cat that hates the cold? Or a painfully shy bunny rabbit? Or a daydreaming.....what kind of animal daydreams, anyway? A...lizard? or a cat?

Eleven questions for you: 

I'm afraid it shall be impossible to top Blue's! But I'll give it a try:

1. What's your dream travel destination?
2. If you could choose to change your own name, would you? To what?
3. Would you rather be a giant or an elf?
4. If you could master any language instantly, what would it be?
5. Tell us a little bit about several historical figures/stories you find mesmerizing.
6. If you had to choose a spouse from fiction, who would it be?
7. Say the White Witch is about to cast a spell over your country, but she gives you the choice of which season it shall be eternally. Which one do you choose?
8. What's one thing you hope to accomplish before you die?
9. What's your taste in books like when it comes to reading? Writing?
10. What's your favorite song?
11. What one book would you recommend to any random person on the street?

I tag:
And anyone else who wants to join in the fun!

There we go! That concludes this delightful tag which ought to have been completed long ago. :) What about you? Any questions of Blue's that you'd like to answer in the comments? (They were splendiferous questions, were they not?) 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happy St. Lucy's Day! Scones, Anyone?

It's St. Lucy's feast day today! Yippee!

I've always loved virgin martyrs, and Lucy is one of my especial friends (I took her name in Confirmation, actually).

St. Lucy  Protector of the Eyes:

You can read more about St. Lucy here. Today, I'm going to talk about a Swedish St. Lucy's Day tradition we've adopted in our family. (Sadly, I didn't learn about this tradition because I'm from a Swedish family - we're actually German/French - but from reading the American Girl Kirsten books. I suppose being a bookworm has its benefits, eh?) 

Kirsten's Surprise - 2013:

So! According to Swedish tradition.....according to "Kirsten's Surprise".....the youngest girl in the family wakes up before anyone else, dresses in a white dress, puts a wreath with candles in it on her head, and makes coffee and scones for the whole family, waking them up with a "St. Lucy welcomes you to breakfast." I'm actually the oldest girl in my family, but there's no way I'm letting my younger sisters take over. Also, I've given up on the candles in the hair and I usually let Mom handle the coffee-making. But! Getting up before anyone else and making scones is lots of fun. In case you want to try, here's the scone recipe I use.

(Credits go to Betty Crocker's Cookbook, the New and Revised edition published by Golden Press/New York, printed 1990. The original recipe can be found on page 29, but I've doubled it and made a few small changes.)

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of butter
3 and 1/2 cups of flour
6 tablespoons of sugar
5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup of raisins (the original recipe says currants work, too, but I've never tried that)
8-12 tablespoons of half-and-half (today, we didn't have half-and-half, so I used cream and milk)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make a dry mix of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter. Add eggs, raisins, and half-in-half. (The cookbook says to add "just enough half-and-half so dough leaves side of bowl." I always eyeball it.)

Knead the dough, roll it out, and cut it with a cookie cutter, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. (I got 42 scones out of this recipe.) You don't have to grease the cookie sheet. The original recipe says to brush the scones with egg before baking them, but as my whole family hates eggy-tasting things I always skip that part. Today I brushed them with butter before baking. Not sure if it made much of a difference, but they turned out well. 

Happy St. Lucy's Day, everyone!!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

Hello everyone! You thought I fell off the face of the earth, didn't you? Probably because I did. I fell into the black hole of NaNoWriMo and decided to go on a blogging hiatus without telling anyone. Which was very impolite of me, not?

Anyway! Seeing as how NaNoWriMo was the defining characteristic of last month, I though I might as well do a post on it. Overall, I'm glad I did it. I managed to get past 50,000 words and finish a rough draft of The Time Traveling League.

Now.....it's an incredibly ugly first draft. But my first drafts are always hideous, so that makes little difference to me. :)

I learned lots of things from NaNo, and I'm slightly impatient to make a list of them and share them with you. :)

General Stuff about Being a Writer

1. It's not impossible.

Whenever I read anything about National Novel Writing Month and the wild craziness that November is for some writers, I got the impression that participants spend all their time divided between writing, sleeping, and eating.

In reality that is simply not the case. Writing 2000 words only takes a few hours, tops. I had plenty of time to do schoolwork, hang out with friends and siblings, and fangirl over Laramie. (Have I mentioned Laramie on this blog...? No? Oh, I guess that's a subject for another post.) You just have to prioritize.

Which brings me to point #2:

2. I just have to make the time.

For me, this meant cutting down on computer time. Email was sorely neglected. This blog was sorely neglected. Pinterest -- didn't miss me because Pinterest is like a cat and gets along fine without anyone giving it attention all the time.

But anyway. The point is, if I really want to write, I can find the time.

3. But I can't be a writer 24/7.

Actually this is more like something I started to think about during NaNo rather than something I actually did learn. Ever seen this writing quote?:

this is so true:


Turns out that quote is a bunch of hogwash. G. K. Chesterton would say so, I am 100% sure. (But that, like Laramie, is material for another day.) Writers cannot be always always thinking about writing. They have to take breaks sometimes. They have to be people, not just writers.

There comes a point when I have to close the Word document, leave my characters to themselves, and just let it all go. During the first days of NaNo it was incredibly freeing to think "I've written all I have to today. I'll come back again tomorrow," because then I could give my all to my schoolwork, or doing the dishes, or playing a board game, or walking up and down the driveway.

(Of course, that only lasted for the first day or so. Then I started thinking, "Even if I've made my word quota for today, it can't hurt to get a jump on tomorrow's word count" and then bye-bye to all Chestertonian reflections on how I have to be a person first and a writer second. But at least I started to think about it.)

Specific Stuff about Writing a Book

1. Talking to my characters can help unstuck a scene.

I started to write a post on this in the middle of last month and never got around to finishing it. (Maybe I'll post it later.) A couple of times during NaNo, the scene I was writing would come to a screeching halt. It wasn't that I didn't know what had to happen next - the story was in good shape - I just didn't know what my characters would do in that next second of time. Here, I employed a piece of writing advice I had read somewhere but never used - I started to write a dialogue between myself and my characters asking them what they wanted most in that particular scene. Once I realized what everyone wanted and how badly they wanted it, I was able to use the people with the most clear-cut goals and the most forceful personalities to move things forward.

2. Causing the characters problems solves the writer problems.

Groundbreaking, right? :) Haha, I feel so silly admitting that I never before realized how invaluable conflict is to a story. But really. So often I'll be writing a draft, and a thought will cross my mind, "Oh, this could go wrong..." And for one second I'll consider changing things up and making my characters suffer. But then I think, "No, that'll add another ten pages to the book and I'm impatient to get to the climax!"

But with NaNo - lo and behold! Adding ten pages is a good thing. So...maybe that was part of the reason I followed more of my impulses and actually let my characters have to go to the emergency room for severe burns?

3. It's okay not to have a theme down pat until the end.

I knew I wanted my book to have a specific, powerful theme. I just didn't know what that theme was. To my delight, the climax determined it for me, and from that point out I knew what the story was really supposed to be about. Well...okay, maybe I didn't know what it was really supposed to be about. But I definitely had a better idea. I was reminded of the slogan I've got somewhere in my Pinterest collection,

Writing:

4. Just because a first draft can (and should) be rough doesn't mean I shouldn't put effort into it.

When I was really close to getting my word count done for the month, there was a big temptation to rush through the climax and denouement and conclusion and just worry about getting those last thousand words down. But I decided that I wanted to finish the story in this first draft, not just write a shoddy climax and get the word count down. And it was so, so much more satisfying in the end to have a story that actually made sense, even though it still needed a ton of help.

(Note that I'm not saying my climax isn't shoddy. It is pretty pathetic. But at least I didn't just type out "then they beat the bad guys!...and lived happily ever after the end" and called it a climax the way I've come pretty close to doing before.)

Personal Writing Weaknesses

1. I need to work on developing my main characters. 

This is something I've known about my personal writing for awhile. My protagonists are the most boring creatures in book-land. I tend to think of a story idea and then choose a really bland person (usually a bland and slightly-modified version of me) as my focal character. The people I really care about, the colorful characters I actually have fun with, are the ones who come in and make friends with this dull main character. You can imagine the result.

2. I need to work on developing my bad guys.

My main conflict, like my main character, is usually pretty weak. I guess I have a lot more fun with subplots than I do overarching story plots. Maybe I should write short stories instead of novels. Or romances instead of speculative fiction.

3. I need to work on my world-building rules.

When it comes to magic and science fiction-y stuff, I hate rules. They're way too mathematical for my word-wired brain. I want to write about the beauties and flaws and quirks of my characters' souls, not under which circumstances a time door will work!

The thing is, I have to figure out how the time doors work if I want to write about my characters' souls. Sad but true: writers have to think about things that hurt their brains sometimes.

Fun Music!

Another reason I'm glad I did NaNoWriMo is that, because of The Time Traveling League, I (kind of on accident) discovered some really fun WWI-era songs. K-K-K-Katy, It's A Long Way to Tipperary, and Over There are all delightful - and I even used There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight/Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here in the concluding scene of my story. 'Twas quite perfectly delightful.

All in all, I'm glad I did NaNoWriMo! How about you? Did you learn any valuable lessons from last month (assuming you participated)? What was your favorite thing about it? Your least favorite?