0+3 – novel musings

18:30. A bit lost and uncertain in the forest of the so-called novel. Is it really a novel? Should it exist? Which version of itself? It’s like a spirit waiting to be born. And a mother deciding whether it should be, at this moment.

I didn’t do well on my word count; dedicated time to family affairs this morning instead of writing, which created a few good things: T finished the new kitchen counters; they are of oak, of course; measured and cut and sanded and coated with epoxy, hardened to a glossy shine, the wood grain preserved perhaps forever. Surprising and stunningly beautiful, and at little cost.

Meanwhile I finally painted the side walls pale blue (the back wall had been done already), listening to Lorde; she’s like Lana Del Rey, whose music I also love; but Lorde’s the arch, instead of the angel; or perhaps the arrow instead of the bow.

The kitchen (which is also the living and dining room) is small, for the six of us, but somehow we all fit in it, today quite peacefully, with our various levels of speed. I was a bit slow, a bit entranced by the lyrics, by the blue paint, by the solidity of the wood grain as I later stood on it, to cut my brush along the edges between the ceiling beams.

Later I tried to get my writing rhythm back, but had lost my way, and wondered if a novel would be worthwhile anyway. I missed plain-old blogging, and mourned the fact that I had so many drafts unpublished — even my rant from the other day, I regretted not having sent into the world. It’d made sense then, but not now; it’d been time-sensitive. And yet words were now unsaid to the blogiverse, though they’d burned in me; some part of my psyche not exposed, which made any imagined conversation incomplete; the listener of course does not miss it, perhaps; but the speaker feels self-silenced and thus suppressed.

Finally it was just the writings of fellow bloggers that brought a feeling of worth, to read their words and find the sameness in the difference of our melodies.


* * *

NaNoWriMo, day 3; word count: perhaps about 1400 (bringing total about 7800 I think), but that’s only if I count this post, plus stream-of-thought poetry, and random musings in my journal. Another 50 or so in an Instagram post with writing tips, but I don’t count those; nor emails, nor comments to fellow bloggers, both of which flow the most easily and are the most enjoyable to write.

p.s. The very talented Kim McCrea, who will not be participating in NaNo this year but has written a book, sent me a concise and helpful email the other day, of how to make a basic plot outline. I thought it was perfect. I made a first attempt immediately after receiving it, but found myself revising it in my mind, as my perspectives continually shift.

Kim, I hope you won’t mind my sharing your tips, in case others can benefit:


Kim’s Novel tip:

Orient. Try writing a short summary of the novel.

Situation: the big problem
Protagonist: the heroine, usually
Objective: [e.g. in Gone With the Wind:] save Tara, if you’re Scarlet O’Hara
Opponent: [same story:] the Yankees
Crescendo, climax, problem resolved, or not, but catharsis

[…] Focus.


Read Kim’s recent NaNo post here: http://kimmccrea.com/2019/11/01/nano/ (or WP Reader link: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/59614066/posts/2470319968)

And now it’s off to home movie night with the fam.

How are your projects going, friends? Would love to hear your own process notes or musings… :))


Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. Thank you for reading. ❤︎



16 thoughts on “0+3 – novel musings

  1. I can’t help but be ridiculously pleased that you like Lorde, simply because she is a New Zealander, and I like her too.

    Your novel
    “It’s like a spirit waiting to be born. And a mother deciding whether it should be, at this moment.”
    This alone makes me want to read it. For every such story needs to be told.

    You have such a talent hon, so happy you share it with us xoxoxo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are so kind. :)) Oh I didn’t know she was from NZ! or perhaps I didn’t remember. I remember seeing a documentary or some clip about her back when Royals came out, I was struck by how awesomely young and quiet and private and “normal” she was; yet such powerful music comes out of her… amazing. Have tried to play that song on the guitar but my skills and chords are way too limited. The song is so much about the beat and the spaces between them… Lana Del Rey seems easier to play. Video Games was the one I was obsessed with, when it came out. (And still am, a bit… :))

      Thanks for your lovely words, and for the good read of that haunting last poem you posted 🙏🤩

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lorde is amazing. Isn’t it funny how proud you can be of someone from your own country like somehow you personally have something to do with that talent. I love how she carries herself, so confident and so beautiful. She has an inherent grace and strength that comes out when she sings. Didn’t know you played guitar! A woman of many talents!! 💜💜

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Um, I play guitar rather badly. It’s more of a 3-chord singalong kind of clunky strum thing. But yes I have creativity ADD. :)) Lorde on the other hand… wow. To stand in one’s personal power like that… to own your creative voice, and let that muse inhabit you completely, for that moment in which you’re performing… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHB_ZpbTi30 (Green Light, live on SNL 2017)

          So I’d be proud too, if I were from NZ. :)) As a Canadian I felt that way about The Tragically Hip. (Even though tbh Pearl Jam was more “my vibe” at the time. Just a tad. I was in love with Eddie Vedder hehe.)

          Loved your last email, so much, and I have lot to say in return, as always… :)) hopefully tomorrow. 💖 G’night (or g’day, to you?), and thanks, from France, dear friend, xoxox n


        2. I love my hellos from France, my mind often wanders to you and the details of that – food, culture, language, landscape, buildings, how you ended up there from Canada etc etc. I don’t know that Canadian group but I will look them up. Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder ❤️.

          The world is upside down, friend. I’m now off to bed and you will be up being superwoman 🙃😘 xo

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Gosh you make my heart happy. You’re the superwoman here… and now I imagine a world suspended, a bed upside down hanging from a curve. With a dreamer in it… above the stars. Sweet dreams xoxoxoxo 😘🙏😴😇

          Liked by 1 person

  2. A children’s book writer I crossed paths with advocates summing up a novel you’re writing in a single sentence, which has to include the word “struggles”–as a verb, thanks, not a noun. She had some other details in there that got you to fill in the situation but although I admire the hell out of the exercise I’ve never used it myself so I’ve forgotten them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh that’s a good one… and like you, I greatly admire these plotting tips (and I do take these things in and I think they help shape the paths in the background of my mind). But “struggle” to use as structure, haha, for me anyway. Such a pantser. You’ve written books haven’t you, Ellen? Did you “plot” or “pants” your way through? xo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t plot in advance–it’s bloodless. The closest I ever came was a scrawled page and a half that I wrote when I wanted to quit my job and was thinking about outrageous ways someone could do that. But the story quickly wandered away from my original idea. The character didn’t quit her job, she rode it to fame and disaster.

        Having said that, what using the word “struggle” does is push you away from a passive central character and force you to ask yourself what she or he wants–or more than wants, struggles toward/for/against. And that’s always worthwhile. It also helps if you lose your way. You’ve identified the central spine that everything needs to connect to, so you can look at a scene and ask yourself if it moves the story forward or if it’s just there because, hey, it was snowing when you wrote it and a snow scene looked like a good idea. (I’ve done that, more or less.)

        So I have come back to the question in my head when I’m stuck, and it’s been useful. So when I said I never used it, that’s not completely true. I’ve never used it at the beginning, and I don’t know that I’ve ever sat myself down and wrote out the sentence. But the question’s there, in my head.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks so much for this view into your process…. and yes, I can already see from my own imaginative meanderings over past years (/decades?) how your original story’s plot-line might have switched to that final-draft end.

          I wonder how many of the best books were made by plotting vs pantsing. I know Margaret Atwood talks about writing as though “downhill skiing” in her MasterClass — that how writing feels for me when I’m going with my own natural flow. But I’d have to finish the class, to find out if she also charts a path down the mountain.

          This thing you say about using “struggle” as a verb is really helpful to me, Ellen… even writing that first reply back to you made me realize that.

          Random examples from the flow…
          “She struggled to use her voice; to find self-acceptance…” “He struggled to find friends, at a new school in a tough neighbourhood…” “She struggled to express her full range of motion, in a world that preferred boxed stereotypes…” “He struggled to discover love, in a world that seemed to beat him down…” “They (all?) struggled to connect, in a place that at times felt isolating, and even dangerous.”

          Yes, I think it works well as an idea-generator for sure, and I think it could be great used in tandem with Kim’s summary outline: the “struggled” sentence(s) could be inserted in the “situation” field.

          Regardless of whether I manage to find/decide upon and/or keep a “struggled” sentence and/or summary of my own, for “My Crappy First Novel,” I think I owe you both you and Kim some flowers. ⚘⚘⚘

          xo with much gratitude.

          p.s. just bought one of your books, on Kindle… the most recent one, with all the great reviews… won’t promise I’ll finish it, only because my ADD-reading habits are stupendous. >;D But it already looks wonderfully “you,” from what I saw on the “look inside” feature. Smart, funny and caring.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. That made my day. Thank you.

          And for what it’s worth, you might enjoy reading Natalie Goldberg on writing. She’s a good fit for some people and terrible for others, so if she’s not a good one for you just forget her. But what she offers that I like is permission to write badly, because if you can’t allow yourself that, the flow of words and ideas will close off and you won’t write anything. Or you’ll write less and less and less. She’s anti-editing, and there I part company with her, but for an early draft? Let it be awful. A lot of what you’re doing is exploring the territory, creating the world (okay, mixed metaphor). Some of what you write you’ll throw out later. No problem. Some will turn out to be place holders–indications of where you want to go deeper. That’s useful. I once wrote 80 or so pages and came up with a single sentence that held a spark, but that spark gave me a story that, for the first time in my writing, had real life–one that I’d still stand by today.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. So glad to hear it. :)) That name rings a bell. I think it was recommended to me by a very cool creative writing teacher I once met. I wanted to verify it in my old journal notes but alas, my old journal notes are chaos at the moment. Anyway, I’ll put the book on my list (possibly again).

          I feel the same though, about quantity and giving oneself permission to write crap (hence the working title of my novel ;)).

          I love hearing that your 80 pages gave you just a single sentence, a spark of a story to stand by… I mean, isn’t that the actual heart of writing?! I think it is for me. You’re quite something, Ms. Ellen.

          I might be okay if that’s the end-result of my 50K words this month — one sparky sentence I can stand by. Actually I’d be thrilled.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, this all chimes with me, too!

    re: ‘the novel’. I wonder if I overthink it all? I suspect part of my problem/issue is that I curve toward the notion of ‘perfection’ with my scribblings… and so, stifle & stumble before I even get out the starting block.

    Great Sunday AM read, thanks!

    Ya gotta love The McCrea!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such a lovely comment… thank you Nick… your writing is just beautiful. That Pale Airman piece of yours… tapping on my phone I didn’t know if I could eloquently say enough good things about it, so didn’t comment yet. And yes, The McCrea is a light in the fog for sure. :))

      Liked by 1 person

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