Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Writing Projects and Reading Lists

Writing, goals, books about writing, books and roses, books and flowers

Three years ago (I can't believe it's been that long, it feels like last year) I participated in NaNoWriMo, or, for the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month. I really didn't have an idea for a plot when I started. There was no plan, no big idea, I just had the time and the goal and so I plunged in. Needless to say, the resulting product was terrible. But I still did it, still got 50,000 words down in somewhat of a story form, and I really enjoyed the process of just having a creative writing project.

This year, I made another goal for myself to tackle a big creative writing project. The difference this time around is that I actually have an idea for something I want to write (less a novel, more a fictionalized memoir type thing). I have no expectations for this being any good, but I'm excited by the idea and excited just to have another project in the works.

I threw around the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo again this year to really make some headway on this project (especially now that I have most of my Ph.D. application stuff done), but here we are eight days into November, and I haven't signed up for an account.

Let's just blame it on the pregnancy (I would say it's nice having an excuse for laziness, but really, I'm anemic and swollen and waddling around with nearly 30% extra body weight and there's just nothing nice about being this exhausted).

That's not to say I haven't started writing, because I have! There are words on the page! Enough words that I figured out my first-person-journal-entry plan for this story was actually kind of terrible, so now I've switched over to a first-person-reflecting-on-the-past kind of voice and it seems to be going much better. So that's progress.

But I've decided to be a little bit generous with myself and not force the pressure of hitting 50,000 words in one month. I still like the 50,000 word goal, but I'm giving myself to the end of the year to hit it (and maybe even beyond, because hey, pregnant).

Anyway, I learned a bunch of things about myself as a writer from the last go around, and one of those things is that whatever I happen to be reading at the time influences the way I write. Knowing that, I started in August with some intentional reading to not only help gear me up for the writing process, but also sort of get me in the right frame of mind for the story I want to tell and the style I want to be writing in. This is not to say that I'm only reading things that are exclusively for my writing project (nope), but a bit of my reading has been more intentional. In case your curious, here's my Writing Project Reading List as it stands to date (I've mentioned some of these in End-of-Month-Round-Up Posts).

Big Magic: Living Beyond Creative Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert - Read this back in August. It was great for just general motivation in tackling a big creative project. I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and on Life by Ann Lammott - A really enjoyable book on the craft of literary writing. I enjoyed her humor and style very much, and still think about some of her practical tidbits.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - I'm writing about adolescent girlhood, and there's probably no greater book about adolescent girlhood than Anne of Green Gables. If I can channel L.M. Montgomery even just a little bit, this project might come close to what I'm envisioning.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner - I've been revisiting this one a chapter at a time, dipping into this one slowly and savoring it over the past couple months. Because honestly, if I could write like one author ever, Wallace Stegner would be it.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard - I'd like to do with people what Dillard does with nature: draw profound insight from the simple miracle of the every day. Not aiming high here at all, am I?

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr - I may not have been as in love with All the Light We Cannot See as the rest of the world was, but I still think Doerr is a beautiful writer, and I'd love to see what he does with the personal/memoir genre. This is on my reading list this month.

The Givenness of Things: Essays by Marilynne Robinson - I'm actually having trouble tracking this one down, because my library doesn't have it. But I loved Gilead and the way Robinson could write a beautiful, literary piece where God and religion and spiritualness played a huge role without actually crossing into "Christian genre" territory. It was masterful, and is sort of what I'm aspiring to do with my own project (although I think I'll probably fail spectacularly). I'd love to read her in nonfiction.

Looking over that, perhaps this list seems a bit eclectic? I'm not sure what this list says about my writing project, or what I'm aiming to do here, but somehow in my head it makes sense. At the very least, there's some good writing in this list, which is what I'm hoping to absorb and emulate (even if I am aiming a bit high). Any other suggestions for good writing models?

Wish me luck!

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