Where I live in the mountains of Panama, the only change of season we see is from rainy to dry. This begins to take place in November. There’s a shift in the wind and the town braces itself for the Fiestas Patrias (Panama’s Independence Days). Strings of small plastic flags crisscross the streets and flap with a smacking sound as if applauding you whenever you drive beneath them. Grey clouds hover above the town as barjareque, (not quite rain, but heavier than mist) falls on the tourists and marching bands, covering them with a sparkling layer of microscopic droplets.
November also signals National Novel Writing Month, which I first participated in 2012. I had been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and the only thing that forced me to get a book started and finished was NaNoWriMo.
I completed my first ever book, surprising myself and triggering an addiction to finishing books ever since. Now when the winds of November change and I hear the echoes of the marching bands practicing for the Independence Day parades, I feel like a horse at the starting gate ready to race to my word count with all the other bucking writers.
I think anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month start to look forward to it as a yearly tradition. It’s something to get excited about, and you are not alone in your enthusiasm and anxiety. You can connect with other writers who are on the same crazy train. NaNoWriMo helps to stop the usual procrastinating and put writing first for a whole month.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to participate in the last few years. My job consists of mostly writing now and my creative juices and tolerance for sitting at the computer are wiped out by the time I finish my work for the day. I’m often traveling during this time for the holidays, which makes it difficult to scurry off to some quiet place to write.
I also don’t allow myself to participate because have to stop piling up manuscripts. It’s becoming a problem. I wrote three novels in a mad dash and they are still left rumpled up and tossed aside like piles of dirty laundry on the floor. I have no business writing more Nano novels until I clean these up, right?
But I wonder… just because I wrote them, does that mean they should be published? Is it worth salvaging them? These were my first practice novels, before The Sick Series, when I had no idea what I was doing. Hell, I don’t even know if I should’ve released Sick on the world. I can just leave these drafts in some dark corner of my Dropbox and begin something with my new writing experience. Jack Kerouac’s debut novel was lost until 2011, and thank god it was because it was deemed sophomoric and might have barred him from the literary world.
I’ve been obsessed with tragic love stories since I first read Romeo and Juliet. I guess all of us are afraid of happiness because we know it will never last forever, so we don’t want our characters living happily ever after either.
Here is a contest from Shonda Brock for all those who love to write about doomed lovers. Submit your best 690 words on CURSED LOVE for a chance to win $100 and publicity on Shonda’s blog and social media profiles.
Be sure to check the rules before writing and entering your submission … and good luck!
- Contest is open to all amateur and professional writers.
- Piece can me now more than a year old.
- Piece can not have won any other contests.
- Entrants must be 18 years or older.
- All genres are welcome excluding erotica and those with extremely graphic scenes, fetish themes, and/or overly-explicit language. Such entries will be disqualified at the discretion of the judges.
- Contest begins 10/30/2017. Entries will close on 2/14/2018.
- Winner will be announced 3/14/2018.
- Top five entries will be published on Shonda Brock’s websites and social media profiles.
- Winner will receive a VISA gift card in the amount of $100. If winner is outside North America, they will be given the equivalent in an Amazon eGift card.
Check out Storgy Literary Magazine’s latest short story competition. Entries will be judged by Diane Cook, former producer NPR’s This American Life and of author of Man V. Nature. This competition is open-genre and based on the theme, Exit Earth. I’m sure many of you will have fun with this theme. The grand prize is £1000, so get to writing!
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in.
But don’t despair.
Pick up your pen.
Bulldoze the borders.
The STORGY Short Story Competition is here! We need you!
I’m not sure who really said this. I’ve seen it attributed to Cesar A. Cruz and Bansky. Either way, it’s exactly what I believe art (especially writing) should do.
What do you think?
Check out this really exciting writing contest from Shonda Brock. No entry fee and a $100 prize!
Why I Wrote Sick – Dreams often set the tone for my day. I have vivid dreams that feel just as real as the fact that I’m siting here writing this blog. They form a vapor around me as I go about my normal life – whispers, impressions, and lingering emotions. I’ve always had the ability to overlay fantasy over reality (or the other way around), and I try not to box-in my perception. I think our human brains have room to grow if we let them, and I keep my idea of reality is very loosely defined (Carlos Castaneda and psychedelic drug use could have a part in this). Sometimes this swirling imagery makes me anxious because I feel like I don’t have anything solid to hold onto. But, most of the time it’s wonderful to experience life on so many levels.
My dreams and impressions are especially important to my writing. John Branch, the character in SICK, I met in this way. He didn’t have a name yet in the dream, but he was a beautiful and manic version of a young John Lithgow. I hadn’t seen John Lithgow movie in years! So I’m not sure why suddenly my brain conjured him up as this sick man. It still cracks me up to this day, but John Lithgow is perfect for him. Anyway, I wasn’t myself in the dream either. I was another woman, his wife, and I was a shorter, more grounded and level-headed sort of person. I was a person with faith in God.
I remember the dream house with the same familiarity as my own real home, but this place was decrepit and neglected. I had difficulty getting around the clutter and mess everywhere. The silent white light of autumn glowed from the windows. The wooden floors creaked as I approached the bed. My husband lay there limp and motionless; a smell was diffused into the air by the warmth of his body. It was pungent from the dried blood, antiseptic, and medicine, but also sweet and overripe from his clammy skin, his healing wounds, and his sickly breath. I remember that most from the dream, my husband’s smell. It fills my nose right now as I write this. His broken leg was in a cast; the rest of his body was covered in bruises. The soiled sheets clung to him, incubating him. If you’ve ever been around a very ill or badly hurt person, you will know that sickly smell of a healing or dying body.
He then asked me for pain medication, a shot of Demerol. I remember that although he looked anemic and weak, there was an underlying menace that made me uneasy. I sensed that behind his sweet requests, he was mocking me. I was a little bit resentful and a little bit fearful at the same time. It was just a flash of negative emotion, and then my reason blotted it out.
I felt foolish and guilty for thinking about him in that way. I was a good wife, and this was my husband, whom I had been with for years. We knew each other inside and out, didn’t we? And he loved me, and I loved him. No matter how much of a burden he was, I would take care of him forever. I gave him his shot, and smoothed the damp hair from his forehead.
The dream continued and I viewed the whole story to a shocking and revolting end. When I woke up, I just couldn’t shake it off. His watery-eyed stare. And my fear. The eerie fog of it snuck up on me for weeks. The experience clawed at me and wouldn’t let go.
I entertained the thought of writing it down. “Oh, yeah. Maybe I should write that as a book one day.” It wasn’t really my style, or so I thought. I never wrote anything like it before, but the scene just wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I researched the medical condition I was treating in the dream and discovered John Branch’s situation was real. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I had to write it.
So, I never set out to write a creepy suspense. I didn’t invent the plot or the characters. It was all handed to me by my subconscious. That’s the story behind SICK. Strange, but true.
Have you ever had a dream that just wouldn’t let you go?
Do you write or create from ideas based on dreams?
What role do dreams play in your waking life?
I’m happy to say my dream experiment worked out.
SICK is getting great reviews!
PS: Part II is in revisions and coming very soon. Stay tuned!
…and what has been written cannot be unwritten.
Since I started writing a few years ago, I discovered a peculiar phenomenon – I’m often shocked at what happens when these fingertips hit the keys.
I know many writers plot out every scene ahead of time. I thought that would be my way of putting a novel together. I am obsessed with efficiency and order in my daily life. However, I’ve found that I can’t adhere to any structure when writing. I suppose that’s why it’s so exhilarating and therapeutic for me. I get to let the messy, intuitive side out to play.
I’ve just finished Part II of the SICK series that my readers voted for. I had planned to finish it sooner, speed-publishing it like the first book, but I was delayed by my own aversion to the manuscript. Yes, I freaked myself out with my own writing. SICKER has become sicker than I ever wanted it to be.