I know it sounds obvious, but there are so many other activities that are connected to writing, they can sometimes distract us.
Planning is good, but don’t forget to write.
Reading is excellent, but don’t forget to write.
Blogging and social media posting are important, but don’t forget to write.
Yes, this is for you, but mostly for me.
I’ve been working hard on book 2 in my MG (middle grade) series, but now that the first draft is done, I’m looking at my copy of “Nathan Bransford’s novel outline spreadsheet”, my braid from my Laurie Schnebly class, my character notes, and my revision notes.
This is all good, but I need to break out of planning mode and get back to writing. Before I’m done today, I’m planning to write for thirty minutes and focus on a new subplot.
Writing is a skill and like all skills, it gets better with practice and understanding. My friend Jackie McMurray (who is retired) takes a lot of writing classes and she talks to me about them all the time. I don’t have a lot of time to take extra classes, so I glean what I can from her, nod and smile. But then, she told me that one of her favorite teachers, Laurie Schnebly was offering a free Saturday morning class. One short class and no homework.
She offered “Creating that Fatal Flaw using enneagram types” on zoom. I was able to join in my pajamas while still in bed. And I discovered what Jackie was raving about. This woman can speak clearly and concisely about fiction writing. I learned so much in just three hours!
And then, I won a free class. Wow! I took “Your Plot/Character/Story Braid” and after 10 weeks, I had an outline for my next book.
Here’s the best part- all of the lectures are delivered by email. So you read the information when you have time and do the homework. If you get your homework in on time, she reads it and gives you feedback. Very clear, experienced, excellent feedback. Amazing! No zoom, no classes to schedule around. This is just what I needed.
I hope and pray that your 2022 is off to a fresh start.
I typed shart instead of start- oops! 🙂
My 2022 writing life is going most excellently. I set a goal to really write daily and found the time in the morning between 6-6:30 am. I’m already at work by that time and alone in my classroom. I don’t allow myself to look at email or news and I just write. In January, I was able to write a 10,000 word “zero” draft of book 2 in my middle grade series.
I call it a zero draft to give myself full authority to just write and not worry too much about it. The first draft is really the first revision.
But, I’m pretty happy with this draft because I had it fully planned!
I took a class (Laurie Schnebly’s braiding) in August online and was able to plan the plot and character.
I can’t explain how good this feels!
Now I’m braiding the 3rd book in the series and then will revise book 2.
Right now, I’m at a writing retreat in Kona with Laurie Schnebly, Jackie McMurray and 6 other writer ladies.
Starting in 2020, I began taking my reading more seriously. I’ve always been a reader, but I got serious about reading in specific genres and tracking books read at Goodreads.com.
If you are reading this and aren’t my friend on Goodreads, please find me there as Kristin Noelle Wolfgang. I’d love to see what you are reading!
I read 4 main genre.
Christian/Memoir, Middle Grade, Jodi Picoult and Writing Craft.
I read three Christian Memoirs.
How (not) to Save the World by Hosanna Wong, Never Let Go by Mac and Mary Owen and Still in Beta by Paul Pippen. The first two are traditionally published and Still in Beta was self published. The first two I recommend whole heartedly. Two of the best Christian Memoirs I’ve read and I’ve read about 12. Still in Beta has a great testimony but it needs editing and revision. Like some self pubs, it needs some professional work but could be a great book.
I read ten Middle Grade novels, five that are Newbery Award or Newbery Honor winners. All of these I read with my fifth graders, both in whole class read aloud and in small groups.
Since I write Middle Grade, I love that I can read these books for my vocation as well as my avocation. The kids really love these books as well. Since we have to wear masks for COVID, I use CDs of the books to save my voice. The kids love this too. The professional actors do different voices, there’s background music, and more.
Here’s the list: Newberry’s: Maniac Magee (Spinelli), Holes (Sacher), Rules (Lord), Bridge to Terabithia (Paterson), Hatchet (Paulsen), All five quite amazing in their own right. Bridge is my favorite to read. Maniac and Holes also are great movies that are fun to watch with the kids after reading the books. Rules is very relatable for kids. Maniac most overtly deals with race issues. Hatchet has a ton of sequels and kids just fall in love with Gary Paulsen and his writing style.
Speaking of Gary Paulsen, I noticed that he was releasing a few books this year and did some research on him. I discovered he was eighty and wondered if he was trying to release any and all of his books in case he died soon. I read My Life in Dogs (I already had a few of the chapters that he released as individual mini books) and Gone to the Woods. As soon as I finished Gone to the Woods and the day after our class finished reading Hatchet, dear Mr. Paulsen passed away. In class, we read a few chapters of my Life in Dogs to memorialize him.
I highly recommend My Life in Dogs, but Gone to the Woods would mean the most to die hard Paulsen fans.
I also read the Junior Version of Call of the Wild (London), Tracker (Paulsen), There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom (Sacher), There’s a Tarantula in My Purse (Craighead George).
Note that any books by these authors are also quite awesome. I hope the kids will recognize and read these authors in the future.
Then there’s Jodi Picoult. I’ve read that she strongly dislikes the label of “Women’s Fiction” and I agree. There isn’t men’s fiction, is there? Just because a woman wrote it, why does that matter? Why are we dividing genre by gender? So I’m making her genre her own. Especially since she is so amazing, she can have her own shelf. I discovered her in 2020 when I read Leaving Time and Small Great Things. This is also around when I discovered Audible. Oh, books read aloud to me while I walk or do stuff around the house! This is the secret to meeting my 30 book goal. Love it!!
So, after reading those two of Jodi’s books in 2020, I jumped right into 2021 and read 6 of Picoult’s finest this year. I started with the Book of Two Ways, Second Glance, The Song of the Humpback Whale, Plain Truth, Lone Wolf. And I finished with Wish You Were Here, her ode to Covid that rocked my world.
Alright, there’s a few more slots on my list. I didn’t read much about the craft of writing this year, but I read and used my Emotional Wound Thesaurus (Ackerman and Peglosi) more than ever, both in my writing and in teaching about writing. Oh, and I used it to study what Picoult did in Wish You Were Here. I also read Structuring Your Novel by Weiland. Great help in writing!
I read and reviewed Wanted: A Groom for Christmas for my friend and writing partner, Jacquolyn Mcmurray. This is a light hearted sweet romance that will bring you to the islands. Check it out!
I also read Promised Amish Bride (Perry), because why not? Amish, romance, fun.
I can’t forget the amazing Paul Theroux. I read Under the Wave at Waimea, a great novel about the surf culture on the North Shore of O’ahu (where Theroux currently lives.) I love this book, but beware of listening to it read aloud. I can’t imagine how this happened, but the reader, Jim Meskimen, read the Hawaiian words terribly. This is a big deal and I have no idea why it wasn’t corrected, but it wasn’t. So, if that bothers you or if you don’t know Hawaiian pronunciation, don’t listen to this version.
I also read On the Plain of Snakes, A Mexican Journey, a travel narrative of late 70ish Paul driving a car around Mexico meeting people and talking to them. Incredible. And the Audible version has great Spanish pronunciation.
Let’s see, what else?
Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah- loved it. Great characters. I want to read more of her work.
The Bible. I’m always reading this, but last year I joined a group and we’re reading through it together chapter by chapter. Not completed yet though.
The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (Mengestu). I read this at the request of Natalie Goldberg when I took her online 8 week class. I love her. I enjoyed the book although it is a bit outside of my favorite zone. The descriptions of Dupont Circle in Washington DC are beautiful and haunting though.
The Welcoming by Nora Roberts. This is what I consider Romantic Suspense. It was fun to listen to, exciting and romantic. The lead male is named Roman Dewinter. How sexy.
Red Sky Over Hawaii by Ackerman. This beautifully told story is set in the town of Volcano where I live. I listened to it with my daughter on long drives on the island. We both gained a new understanding of World War Two and its effect on the islanders. But it is also romantic and very enjoyable. I want to read her four other books!
And that makes 30 books read!
Did you read any of these books? Which is your favorite?
From the archives: originally written March 2020. I’m so happy to be on this side of the pandemic. Things are still rough in some places, but I can’t help but feel like we’re on the way out of this.
“Embrace the squiggly line”. This is a line my husband has adopted. My daughter even made it into a painting that’s been posted on our fridge since December. What he means by this is that our lives are not going to be the staight rising story line we’d like. There will be ups and there will be downs. Intead of fussing and fighting against the changes that life brings, embrace them! Give the worries to God and move on.
That advice seems even more important this month. Very quickly things are changing. It seems best to cancel everything and try to flatten the curve of the outbreak.
At work: Two weeks ago our very visionary charter school director asked us to prepare to teach by remote. Last Friday, she told us to send home the packets and sent an email to the families. Today, the Dept of Education in Hawai’i announced our Spring Break (this week) will be two weeks rather than one for students, but teachers will return after one week to figure out what to do. We’re already on that path and I feel pretty prepared to “go remote” even with Kindergartners. The other Kindergarten teacher and I will make a Kindergarten youtube channel to complement the paper packets we sent home Friday.
At home: My family and I are hunkering down and not going anywhere. I tell them that we must protect my mother in law and cousin’s health by not bringing anything home to them. Well, I should say, I will be hunkering down with them starting tonight, since I’ve been writing at my writing partner’s house since Friday night.
Writing: What a great time to be a writer! I have one book in revisions and the other in development. My author facebook and this blog may get more attention than then have in years! Did you know Frankenstein was written during the “Year without a Summer” after the Tambora eruption of 1816? This is a great time to stay home and do art.
I know it’s an anxious time. People are anxious about the virus and the changes that are quickly happening around us. What my writing partner and I are noticing is that when we cancel an upcoming event based on our needs, the other participants are thankful. We can control our own actions and embrace the squiggly line. That’s a choice we have.