Monthly Archives: October 2013

Writer’s Challenges 2013 or self-distraction


One of the paradoxes of being a writer is that although I enjoy writing and when at times I seem to move into a zone outside my normal reality, I can easily find things to distract me. Is that lint on the carpet or a dead fly? Did I close my dresser drawer? Maybe I need another drink of tea? I’ve heard this not an uncommon phenomena for writers. At times anything is more compelling than sitting before the keyboard and composing.

In spite of this writer’s penchant for self-distraction I am facing some significant challenges for my National Novel Writing Month 2013. (Participants often call it Nano for short. By the way I am not in any way a representative of the event, nor do I speak for it. I’m simply sharing my experiences as one of hundreds of thousands of participants.)

One challenge is: what to write? I know what so different about that? My problem is not that I have no clue as to what I’ll write. I have too many clues. I am writing a science fiction series and have three plots going at the same time. I can continue any one of those OR write one of the back stories. Remember I’ve been kicking around plots in my mind for over forty years! (Good grief am I that old?) I have a day and a half to choose. I will write on November 1st and this challenge will be over.

Let me introduce you to two children I’ll call them Rochelle and David. Rochelle is 4 and a half and David is 9 months. They are my grandchildren. And my wife babysits them during the day. Challenge number two comes because I have taken five vacation days in November to write. But I’ve just taken some vacation days I had to take (or lose them). I spent them playing with Rochelle and David. Get the problem? If I attempt my writing in the comfort of my home these two lovely children will want me to play with them. I can already hear Rochelle say, “Why are you writing a book—again?!” The local library or coffee shop may have to become my place of refuge.

As I write this blog I am on the commuter train in the Chicago area. Last February my company moved my office to a location in downtown Chicago (affectionately called the Loop). My commute now take two and a half hours one way (up from one hour one way). At least one hour each way is on the train where I can write. (Uh oh, must be pounding the keys took hard someone just gave me “the look” as I am on the “quiet car”. I want to say it’s a quiet car not a silent car but that would be rude and noisy). Although I can use the train time to write some I am tired by the time I get home at 6 PM and don’t have much energy. I’ll need to maximize my time on weekends and on those precious five days off.

None of these challenges are unsurmountable, but I will have focus on the goal of fifty thousand words—rather a complete story in my series.

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Put up or shut up; or how I stopped being an apsiring writer

In my early teens I spend all my free time in the local library scouring the shelves for science fiction books. I read everyone I could find and when the library separated the sci fi books into one section I thought life couldn’t get any better. Oh, how I love to escape into different worlds and to see how people faced the challenges of space exploration on the one hand and the demise of civilization on earth on the other hand.

I also thought up my own sci fi stories. I would write, some day. I spent a lot of time dreaming about the characters and the situations they faced. I’d tell anyone who would listen my plots. Most of them, I think, just brushed me off as a wishful dreamer with a vivid imagination. After college and grad school and the started of my family I’d tell my children stories from this reservoir of plots. Other than three handmade children’s stories and one short sci fi story I wrote in the late 1980’s I never ventured to actually put anything in writing.

Along came September 2006. My oldest daughter said that she had participated in a writing contest the prior November and had written a novel. She encouraged me to check into National Novel Writing Month and write one of the stories I’d talked about. I didn’t take her seriously. I though who would be crazy enough to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in, of all months, November! Toward the end of October my wife asked if I’d checked out the writing month. (I suspect now she’d gotten a little impatient with my talking about writing.)

Then it dawned on me. Maybe my wife and daughter had conspired against me. Kindly and politely they had told me to put up or shut up about my wanting to write.

So, I took the plunge, went to the website and wrote 75,000 words on a novel.

That is how this aspiring writer became a writer who—of all things—writes!

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Aspiring Author

Sometimes I say I am an aspiring author, but that is not exactly correct. An aspiring author talks about writing. An author writes.

I write and so am an author. When I refer to myself as an aspiring author I mean I would like to be a published author. Once again that is not exactly correct, as I have had numerous articles published and have self published one book. I’ve also had a historical fiction story published in a writer’s group anthology.

What I mean to say is that I am aspiring to publish my science fiction novels. I have written seven. Once each during November since 2006 under the inspiration of the National Novel Writing Month program ( This November I intended to write number 8! I hope to chronicle my novel writing experience throughout the upcoming month.

What I’d like to accomplish is inspire anyone one who might be an aspiring author to consider the National Novel Writing Month Challenge – write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days -and so transition from the aspiring author to the actual author. At least I’ll share my experiences so you can vicariously experience this challenge.


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