Monday, June 30, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line

I did it! I have already spewed out almost all of the words that reside in my head onto my keyboard today in order to cross the 50,000 word finish line, so I'll be brief. Just wanted to share my excitement. I'm really grateful to the New Zealanders over at Kiwi Writers for letting this eager American participate in their challenge. This year a total of 2,635,755 words were written collectively by 143 participants. Sharing my daily progress and knowing there was a whole group of other writing hopefuls clattering away at their keyboards in the winter weather of the southern hemisphere helped me immensely in getting to my daily word goals. As did lemon-lime Gatorade, piles of Oreo cookies and the unfailing support and encouragement from my wonderful husband.

Here's the button with my final word count below:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book Review: Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert

Stern Men Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert

My review

Here is fair warning: If you are looking for a book to fill the hole left by Eat, Pray, Love, reading Stern Men is like trying to shove a square lobster trap into that round hole. It doesn't quite fit the bill.

I really wanted to like this book. After reading Eat, Pray, Love last summer I was eager to read some of Elizabeth Gilbert's earlier works so my first pick was Gilbert's first novel, Stern Men set on two fictional islands off the coast of Maine. I thought it would be a pretty sure bet that I would love almost anything the Elizabeth Gilbert set down on paper, a bet I was disappointed to lose with myself with my mixed feelings on her debut novel.

What this book does well:

You can almost smell the salt air and you can definitely feel the boredom and the generations of animosity between the people of Fort Niles and Courne Haven Islands. Gilbert knows how to paint a gritty and lively picture of the backdrop for her heroine Ruth and the cast of characters around her.

Where it falters:

Descriptions of the history of the islands and the families living there seem to go on for days. They overwhelm the brief pockets of action in the story. It plot ekes forward at a painfully slow pace.

When I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert speak last year at the Book Group Expo in San Jose she cited Charles Dickens as one of her favorite authors and a big influence on her work. His influence was apparent in her stylistic choices for Stern Men. If you like sweeping prose descriptions that go on for fistfulls of pages filling you in on on every detail of backstory, this book may win you over. However, if you are looking forward to something actually happening, you might want to settle in and get comfortable because you might have to wait for a while.

The book does seem to pick up and redeem itself in the last 40 - 50 pages or so, Elizabeth Gilbert's confident and original voice that I'd been waiting for seemed to resurface and shine through to bring the story home.

View all my reviews.

Monday, June 23, 2008

50,000 Words

All right, I’m outing myself today. This month I have been committed to some serious writing, just not in this blog. I was feeling a little tentative (and like I might throw up) about mentioning it before I began. I had some serious doubts and some days when they completely paralyzed me – what if I discovered it was just too hard? What if it was too cumbersome? Too soul sucking? I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to rise to the occasion, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try to find out.

So… for the past 21 days I have been pounding away at the keyboard participating in a little something called SoCNoC (Southern Cross Novel Challenge), New Zealand’s answer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but taking place in June, which happened to be in a more convenient month for me.

The challenge: write a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel in 30 days and live to tell about it.

The idea is not to edit as you go – quantity trumps quality in this round, the editing starts when July rolls around. Well, here I am in week 4 of my challenge and as of today I have written 36,002 words (that’s 63 pages single spaced!) of my required 50,00.

I’ve always harbored the secret desire to write a book. If I don’t at least try, I’ll never know if I can do. And wouldn’t that be a worse failure? (That’s what I try to tell myself every time I’m so sick of writing and just want to quit.)

I let my writing drift off into the background while I let the business of growing up and finding my way in the world take precedence during my college years and beyond. When I did that, I forfeited all of that prime sucking time in my youth that usually needs to come before the brief flashes of brilliance start showing up in the vast haystack of words that I produce. So now is as good a time as any to jump in the mud to

So, like the Camino de Santiago that I am writing about, this month has been a formidable challenge. I am walking out into the wilderness not knowing what to expect. I have a lot more clothes to choose from this time around, but the goal I want to achieve is the same, get to the finish line no matter what obstacles jump in my way.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted – 50, 000 words, June 30, I can see you in the distance.
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