Christmas Eve Tradition

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12/27/18

I want to share a tradition that my wife and I started a few years back. It’s not writing related, but it is reading related.

We can’t take credit for inventing this tradition. We took it from the Icelanders.

If you haven’t been to Iceland, you should go. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Icelandair serves numerous U.S. cities. If you like water in any form, this is the place for you. There are glaciers, waterfalls, and thermal springs galore. They have great historical sites (Vikings!), outdoor activities (hike to a volcano or on a glacier!), culinary traditions (puffin!), and the usual offbeat cultural experiences (penis museum!). Everyone speaks English, along with at least three other languages, and best of all, it’s not crowded. The island’s population is just over 300,000. Two thirds of that live in the capital, Reykjavik. While the city is fun (Icelanders are staunch night owls), we enjoyed renting a car and driving the ring road.

An Icelandic tradition we discovered was the giving of books on Christmas Eve, known as jólabókaflóð (translated as Yule Book Flood). Everyone unwraps theirs that night, and the family sits around reading until bedtime. Since we are both bibliophiles, my wife and I readily adopted this tradition and have since introduced it to our kids and my in-laws, who routinely spend Christmas with us. Do you want harmony over the holidays? Give someone a book you know they’ll enjoy. Then they have an excuse to ignore you and you them. It’s perfect!

Even if you don’t need or want an excuse to duck the family, spending time together reading during the holidays is sure to put everyone in a festive mood. Of course, this only goes well if whoever selected your book knows what you like. Things might not be copacetic if I got Tom Brady’s The TB12 Method. On the bright side, at least then I could use the classic line: It’s like you don’t even know me!

Let me know in the comments if your family has a holiday tradition built around reading.

Photo credit: I used one of my own this time.

Note: this is post #53, but I decided to give up the numbering system. I used that system initially to prove I could blog once a week for an entire year. Well I did so, mostly. I started blogging last January, but I had so many topics I wanted to write about initially I didn’t stick to my one-a-week formula early on. Still, I made it to 52 and now 53. Happy blogaversary!

Post #52 – Writing Prompts

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12/20/18

Do you use them? Do you shun them?

According to Amazon and a perusal of my local Barnes & Nobel, there are numerous books full of writing prompts. How many would you like? There are books with 300, 400, 642 (oddly specific), and 1000. Or, if you want to go big (because there is no reason to go home), how about a box set of 5000! There are books devoted to just science fiction prompts.  Too limiting? There are books for science fiction and fantasy prompts. Not your thing? There are books with prompts for westerns. Too broad? There is a book with prompts for western romances. Clearly, there is something for everyone.

Don’t want to buy? Searching “writing prompts” in Google returned 183 million hits.  Have at it!

Earlier this year, I came across an interesting take on the writing prompt phenomenon.  A literary publication, The First Line, provides authors with a writing prompt in the form of the first line for every story. As the website puts it, “[e]ach issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line.”

I have mixed feelings about prompts. Part of me feels I shouldn’t need them. I can come up with story ideas on my own, can’t I? That’s ego speaking though. I take story ideas from lots of sources, so why is it cheating to use a supplied prompt?

The other part of me is scared to even look at them for fear I’ll come up with a story idea and feel the pressure to write it. For example, I received an email from The First Line with its list of lines for 2019. Instead of one line per quarter, for the journal’s 20th anniversary, they offer several first lines from past issues for each quarter next year. I made the mistake of clicking through to look at the available prompts. I couldn’t even get through those for the first quarter. After reading almost every first line, a story began to form in my head. I couldn’t take it. I had to look away. I didn’t want all these new stories bouncing around in my head while I’m at work, for starters, and also while I’m still plugging away at the WIP novel.

If I had more time, I might consider going for it and attempt to come up with a story for each first line. Even if several went nowhere, there likely still would be numerous ideas worth fleshing out. Right now, I have plenty to keep me busy. I hope I recall correctly Mike Resnick saying he wrote down story ideas on little pieces of paper, which littered his office. Over the years he accumulated so many, he had no hope of ever writing them all. That’s how I would feel if I attempted this.

I actually wrote a nonfiction piece for The First Line. The market accepts essays discussing the first lines of novels. As soon as I read that, I knew I had to write about the first line in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. So I did. The essay wasn’t accepted by The First Line, but I was pleased when Page & Spine accepted it. You can read it here. Maybe prompts aren’t so bad after all.

Let me know in the comments how you feel about writing prompts. Love ’em or hate ’em?

Photo credit: OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

Post #51 – Prologues and Epilogues

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12/13/18

I’ve read conflicting views on whether a novel needs either or both a prologue and an epilogue.  One sci-fi author I’ve read says every one of his novels has a prologue.  Others say if the start to the story is strong enough, no prologue is necessary.  The same likely could be said about the need for an epilogue. If an ending is written well enough, there is no need.

ProWritingAid had a recent piece on Does Your Story Need an Epilogue? This piece laid out when it is advantageous to include an epilogue, such as there are loose story lines needing wrapping up or new elements are introduced (usually after a time jump) that set up the next book.

A prologue that stays with me until this day is that found at the start of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I hope the consensus is Martin’s writing is good enough to stand on its own without a prologue. Regardless, I think the prologue to A Game of Thrones is perfect. It not only sets up that book but the entire series. Does the book need the prologue in any way? Not really. It does introduce the ultimate villains, but Martin does that later just as well. I think the prologue is perfect because it sets the tone for everything that follows. I’ve always thought the tag line for the series should be: Everyone You Love Dies.

Being a short story author (until NaNoWriMo this year), I never needed a prologue or an epilogue. Then I started writing the first chapter in my novel. I had grand ideas for what to include and thought the chapter would run a couple thousand words. When I finished it, the chapter totaled 595 words; and it didn’t feel like a true chapter. It did feel like a prologue and a good one for introducing a central element of the novel. We’ll see how I feel about it once the first draft is done, but for now, my WIP has a prologue.

When I get to the end, I’ll let you know if there is an epilogue. I hear readers and publishers these days want a series, and an epilogue can help set up the next book. If need be, I have ideas for at least one more book in the universe of my WIP. I just need to finish the WIP to know whether I need an epilogue to bridge the gap. No pressure.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on prologues and epilogues. Always necessary? Story dependent? Or never in this lifetime or the next?

Photo credit: Ramdlon via Pixabay

Post #50 – 2018 NaNoWriMo Recap

12/6/18

Last week, I finished my first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t do too bad, for me. My grand total was 15,616 words written. That’s easily the most I’ve ever written in a month. The least amount of words I wrote in any one day was 110, and the most was 1249. I averaged 520 words a day.

I wrote something every day of the month. That was my biggest achievement. Though I didn’t even get to half of the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal, I’d never written every day for an entire month before.

I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into NaNoWriMo. I knew I wouldn’t make 50,000 words, but I didn’t have a feeling for what progress I could make. I’ve never tried to hammer out that many words on a single project. I’m still not sure I can, but I intend to keep trying. I plan to continue working on my novel, though not every day. It has a ways to go.

I enjoyed the sense of community created by the NaNoWriMo website and community, though I could have participated more. There were numerous write-ins in my area, not to mention the virtual ones online. My writers club even hosted a write-in, but otherwise my only involvement was watching my friend’s (Michelle McBeth) word count surpass, then double, then triple mine. Like me, she has two small distractions at home, so I’m impressed she found the time. She also has done this before, several times. This is her fifth novel. Congrats to her for winning NaNoWriMo 2018! Check out her work here and grab a copy of one of her novels.

At least with my 15,616 word total, I already reached my word goal for the fourth quarter. Everything else written in December will be gravy. That takes the pressure off, especially since I had a light October. I may even forgo trying to write for most of the month and focus more on reading. I’m feeling the need for a recharge. I always can use my morning runs to plot more scenes in the novel and then use the holidays to write when I may have more free time.

Let me know in the comments if you completed NaNoWriMo. If you didn’t, did you reach your goals? Do you plan to continue adding to your WIP?

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pickabay