NaNoWriMo is over for another year

Participating in NaNoWriMo in 2014 was so different from the first time I did it in 2005. For one thing, in 2005, I was still working full time. For another, my computer didn’t attempt to electrocute me this year. And although I was working alone, I occasionally clicked into a Facebook group page for NaNoWriMo participants to remind myself that I had plenty of company in Cyberspace.

And this year, I managed to write 52,539 words in 25 days before deciding to call it quits. In 2013, I gave up halfway through the month and wrote only 10,000 words. Guess I had a lot of other things to keep me busy in November 2013. Now I have to focus on revising my NaNoWriMo project and getting back to blogging on a semi-regular basis.

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On a short hiatus

Taking a break from blogging while participating in NaNoWriMo 2014. Back soon.

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More freebies and me

I don’t have a lot of time for recreational reading. I generally choose short novels that I can finish in two or three hours.

Lately, I’ve found most of my reading material on Amazon. I have a limited book budget, so I shamelessly download freebies. Most of them are the works of Indie authors I’ve never heard of. Others were written by Indie authors whose novels I previously enjoyed reading. And a few of them were written by established novelists who sometimes offer their earlier books free on Amazon.

I’ve been happy with about one third of my freebie finds. Another one third of the books are okay, but I probably won’t read them again. That leaves one third that I don’t particularly like or don’t like at all.

Sometimes I’ll download a novel and lose interest in it after reading a couple of chapters. The freebies I abandon usually have too many confusing points of view. Or they have chapters that seem to go on forever and involve too much “tell,” too little “show,” and a lot of “as you know, Bob” dialogue.

And most of the freebies I’ve enjoyed reading are not, um, great literature. I usually check out the reviews before deciding to download a book. Oddly enough, the majority of them have a few five star reviews (perhaps thanks to friends and relatives). However, they usually also have several negative reviews, e.g., story was all over the place, too many typos, editor should have been fired, this is mindless entertainment.

I confess that I’m not looking for great literature. I’m looking for something to keep me entertained for a while. Because the books are free, I’m rarely swayed by negative reviews. If the story seems interesting, I’ll take a chance and download the freebie. I have nothing to lose, except the time it takes to read the book. And if it turns out to be really bad, I can just press delete.

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Another Grammar Nazi on patrol

I recently finished reading Love Letters, a novel written by Debbie Macomber. Ms. Macomber is a popular, prolific writer who has sold about 170 million copies of her books worldwide.

Generally, I enjoy reading her contemporary relationship novels. However, I found this particular novel annoying. My annoyance had nothing to do with the story or with Ms. Macomber’s writing style.

Another library patron, a budding Grammar Nazi (BGN) who read the book before I did, apparently decided the novel needed further editing. Using a blue pen, she, because I’m pretty sure it was a she, crossed out all the were verbs that Ms. Macomber used correctly in the subjunctive mood and wrote was above them.

Most of the statements were of the if I were variety. Others were simply wishful thinking on the part of a character. As any sixth grader should know, subjunctive mood is used when making a statement about something that is contrary to fact. For example (no, not in the novel): If Spot were a dinosaur . . . or I wish Spot were a dinosaur. But Spot isn’t a dinosaur. She’s a monitor lizard.

After I finished reading the novel, I was left wondering where and when BGN learned English grammar.

I’m sure Debbie Macomber would have wondered, too.

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Confessions of a fourth-grade (wannabe) novelist

I’ve always been a writer.

Well, ever since that morning in the fourth grade when I lost interest in a mixed fractions lesson. By recess, I had completed a story about my dolls’ sibling rivalry. For the next few weeks, I often did some creative writing during arithmetic class. Mostly, I made up stories about the adventures of my cat. In one scenario, Tippy accompanied a friend and me on a trip to Rome where he solved a theft at a museum. (Did I mention that I had a rather bizarre imagination back then?)

As a nine-year-old during the Early Jurassic Period, I led a rather sheltered life. I knew next to nothing about World War II. So, of course, I set a story during World War II. The protagonists were identical twins who had amnesia. They were incarcerated in a prison in East Westphalia, wherever that is.

I have no idea why I dreamed up that scenario. (See last sentence in the second paragraph.) I must have watched some sort of television documentary about the war, or perhaps I read an article about it in one of my dad’s National Geographic magazines. I cringe whenever I think of that story; it seems so not PC today.

My fledgling fourth-grade writing career ended abruptly when Mom and Dad saw the D in arithmetic written in red on my report card. My parents strongly suggested that I put my writing aspirations on hold until I graduated from high school.

Did I? What do you think?

 

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Freebies and me

For a very long time, I limited most of my recreational reading to books written by my favorite authors. I won’t mention who they are because there are so many of them. And all of them have been established writers for what seems like eons. Once in a while, I would read a book by a new author, but only once in a while. Snobbish? Maybe just a bit.

Between 2002 and 2010, I spent way too much money on mass market and trade paperback books. Eventually, I acquired so many books that I ran out of space to store them. This annoyed Other Half. So, with his, ahem, encouragement, I sorted through my collection and, shedding a tear or two, packed up at least a third of the books and hauled them to the library.

Then I bought a Nook eReader. Of course, I could download eBooks only from Barnes and Noble, but that was okay. Until 2012.

That’s when, I discovered BookBub, an eBook daily deal site. I decided to broaden my eHorizons, so to speak, and check out the eFreebies offered by Amazon. I didn’t want to buy a Kindle, so I did the next best thing. I downloaded the Kindle app to my PC. Many downloaded books later, I realized that I disliked reading full-length books on a computer.

Being a sort of frugal person, I still wanted those freebies. Downloading free eBooks allowed me to expand my electronic library without exceeding my (more than frugal) monthly book budget. Or buying more bookshelves.

At the beginning of 2013, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. Since then, I’ve downloaded more than 500 (yes, really) eBooks. And yes, probably more than three-fourths of them are freebies. That does seem a little excessive. But I think I did mention my limited monthly book budget.

The books I bought usually cost $.99. However, I bought maybe twenty-five for $2.99 each, and I confess that I paid as much as $11.99 for five or six books. Those five or six were just-published books written by some of my very favorite authors.

The majority of the freebies are mysteries or romances written by indie authors who self-published their works. Some of the books are great reads that were well-edited. Some of them could have been great reads if they had been better edited. Most of them are just-okay reads that I suspect were edited by the author’s mother, husband, or best friend.

Sadly, too many are not-so-okay reads that actually should have had a plot and a few other things, including editing. And I hate to write that about any book because I know how much time, effort, and hope for success goes into writing a novel. However, those not-so-okay reads are books I won’t keep on the Kindle permanently.

But this time, when I decide to purge my book collection, I will just press delete.

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Critiquing nine-year-old me

I’m going through essays, stories, and college term papers I wrote years ago, trying to figure out which ones I should keep and which ones I should toss.

My juvenile attempt at writing flash fiction is posted below. The story probably was my first graded creative writing assignment. I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. I thought I had written a great story. I was so disappointed when the teacher returned it to me with a grade of 70 penned in red ink at the bottom of the paper. However, in hindsight, I can understand the reason for my low grade.

Why My Cat Doesn’t Like Snow

I have a cat. Her name is tippy. tippy dossn’t like snow. one day Tippy was one her Homemade leash, and the rover [neighbor’s dog] was on his leash. tippy’s leash was made with string and two ice skate starps. Tippy went along just rigt for a minute. Then she went head over heels into a snow pile. She got out dripping wet becuse ther was sulsh on the outher side of the pile. From that time on, tippy does not like snow.

Although this is a very short story, the text should have been broken into a few paragraphs. And I guess I was daydreaming during spelling lessons. I also seem to have had problems with apostrophes and capitalization.

This story has a weak plot. Actually, it has no plot (hey, I was nine years old). Maybe I should have given a little more thought to the story line. For example: Rover chases Tippy up a tree. Afraid to climb down, the cat holes up in the tree for hours. I call the fire department to come rescue Tippy.

As the story stands now, Rover is a distraction. He’s simply a “walk-on,” and his presence doesn’t add anything to the work. His role should have been cut.

Finally, Tippy, as portrayed in the story is sort of an, um, imposter. I actually did have a cat named Tippy. And Tippy actually was a male cat. As a child, I led a sheltered life. I hadn’t a clue as to how to tell a Mom Cat from a Tom Cat.

[Note: Yes, this story definitely is fiction. Tippy had a nasty attitude. There is no way anyone could have put a leash on that cat.]

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Camp NaNoWriMo progress or lack thereof

I’m participating in the July Camp NaNoWriMo challenge. My goal is to write 10,000 words of a non-fiction project by July 31. As of today, I’ve written approximately 2,500 words. That probably seems like a lot of words to some people, but not to me.

The project isn’t going as smoothly as I thought it would. I have an explanation, not an excuse, as to the reasons why. For one thing, sometimes real life gets in the way of good intentions. For another, sometimes everyone needs a break from the regular routine.

I was out of the house doing errands on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Then I stayed up much too late last night reading a book that I’d planned to download to my Kindle, but fortunately found at the library. After I finally put the book aside, I was distracted by a, um, nearby disturbance. So I didn’t get a lot of sleep, and I’m dragging today.

I’m behind on everything, including paying attention to my other writing projects, completing household chores, and ironing T-shirts. And today, I discovered another recently published mystery novel that I must, of course, download and read immediately (yes, yet another needed break from the regular routine).

[Sigh]

But I’m thinking positive. After all, it’s only the second week of July. I have more than enough time to write those last 7,500 words.

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Grammar Nazi as a perfectionist

When I looked at my own saved version of a recent blog post, I discovered I had omitted the second l from the word will. Omigosh! Did that get by me? Had I actually published that post with a typo included? I quickly accessed my blog. Whew, apparently, I had hit spell check before hitting publish.

Although my mini-essays are far from the most earth-shaking prose floating around in cyberspace, I like to think they are well written. Among other things, that means they should be free of grammar and spelling errors.

Why?

My background (just explaining, not bragging).

I have a B.A. in English, and I was an English/writing tutor during my last two semesters. I have had essays, articles, and anecdotal material published in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts (and have actually been paid for some of that work). I have been blogging, albeit sporadically, since somewhere around 2005. And, for several years, I was employed as an editor at an international brick and mortar organization.

And finally, I do have a proclivity for pointing out other people’s grammar and spelling mistakes.

So I think my posts really do have to be grammatically correct. Because of this, it seems to take me forever to complete a 250- to 500-word blog post. I’m always trying to find a better way to say something. I probably spend too much time revising and editing my own work. And I always seem to end up running way too many spell checks.

Do I always achieve my self-imposed standard of perfection? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. And when I don’t, readers let me know about it.

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Grammar Nazi in retreat

I recently confessed that, in the past, I sometimes have morphed into a Grammar Nazi. I’ve commented on grammar and spelling errors I’ve found when reading comments and status updates on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s instinctive. I’m an editor.

However, I also think that most people who make mistakes when posting online actually do have good grammar and spelling skills. Most likely, they make mistakes because they are posting comments or status updates on their office computers (during breaks), cell phones (when stopped at a red light), or tablets (during lunch at the Coyote Café), and they are posting in a hurry with no time to proofread.

I’ve learned the hard way that people generally don’t appreciate my calling attention to their temporary lapses in using correct grammar and spelling. Those individuals often accuse me of being persnickety and judgmental. And their responses in retaliation to my comments occasionally have been more than a tad nasty.

Hey, I only was trying to help.

However, in an effort to avoid the flame throwers, I will attempt to cease and desist.

I solemnly swear on a stack of dictionaries that, from now on, I will try my best to not (oops, split another infinitive) point out grammar and spelling errors on an individual’s Facebook newsfeed. But (yes, there is a but) there will be exceptions.

From now on, I will hold my “cyber tongue,” so to speak, and not mention any errors I find, unless an error could be embarrassing to the poster. For example, if I spot an update or comment where the l has been omitted from the word public, I might mention it.

Then again, maybe not.

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