This week has been rough.
The day job ended up sapping a lot of my attention and energy. There are also a bunch of personal things going on. It has made keeping up on word count difficult. No problem. I thought I would catch up on the three day weekend.
Then I started having problems writing. The words would not flow. Stress, I thought. The harder I pushed, the fewer words I produced. I’ve had this problem before, and I didn’t like what caused it the last time. I showed my outline to a friend, and she pointed out several problems with it that had flown right past me.
Great, I thought. I’m going to have to scrap the 4,800 words already written and start over from scratch.
The good news is that they aren’t words that were ‘wasted.’ The 4,800 words won’t be put into that novella. But they have allowed me to learn some things about the characters, and I know some things that need to change or be fleshed out. With any luck, I’ll be able to write a new outline of about 2000 words.
I’ve done about 4,500 words on other projects, bringing my total written to just over 9100 words. I’m behind, and in theory, I could catch up. I’d have to do around 2,300 words a day. Yeah, it’s not going to be easy, but if I’m careful, I should be able to do it.
If not, I will recalibrate my goal. I really want to have the first draft of this novel knocked out by the end of the month. I don’t have a publication date for it, but the sooner I have it polished and ready to go, the better. I know that I’ll be diving back into Chaos Wolf when I get it back at the end of November. So I need to buckle down, put my fingers to the keyboard, and write.
It’s that time of year. When grumpy creatures disappear into their dens for extended periods of time, only to come out for sustenance. I’m not talking about bears hibernating, but writers participating in NaNoWriMo.
For the last five years, I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo under this name. I’ve been chipping words out of stone. Sometimes it’s soft marble that produces graceful imagery. Other times it’s sharp flint that makes my fingers bleed with each strike on the keyboard. I have sort-of won three of those five years. It is up in the air as to whether I’ll cross the 50,000-word threshold or not during this year. While it’s my goal, because of some dreaded Real Life Problems I am realistic that my count will be closer to 20,000.
Earlier this week I was talking with Steven Mix. His second book in his Zombie Civil Rights series, Deep Cuts From The Edge Of Never, just released on Halloween. I teased him about needing to get to work on the third book. He commented that doing NaNoWriMo “always seems to hurt my soul.”
I paused. I had heard people talk about how they don’t like NaNoWriMo. Most commonly I hear that “professionals” think it encourages “anyone” to write a book and publish it. I hadn’t heard it causing mental anguish before. Curious, I talked with Steve about the why. It turns out that he feels 50,00 words in one month a formidable goal that he can’t reach even under the best of circumstances.
That brought back memories of when I was actively writing fanfic. I learned about NaNoWriMo back in 2010 and thought it also was out of reach. Plus I wasn’t doing ‘real writing.’ It was just fanfic. I wouldn’t be able to create a single 50,000-word story. Then I came across a Livejournal community called MiniWriMo.
The concept is similar to NaNoWriMo. You write every day in November. The difference is you set the goals. When you sign up, you pledge what your daily word goal is, be it ten, one hundred, or one thousand. Some people pledge the full NaNo goal of 1,667. It could be on one project or spread amongst multiple ones. New project? A second draft? Completing something you started? Didn’t matter. Then every day you write and you post your word count. The point? You write something every day. There were badges you won for hitting goals and writing every day of the month, but they weren’t really important in my mind. What was important was that at the end of it, you had more words on a project than when you started.
And this is what I think a lot of people miss about NaNoWriMo. Yes, getting 50,000 words written in 30 days is a challenge. Many of us fail to attain that goal. But the real goal is to get you writing, to get you creating.
So here’s why I say I’ve ‘sort-of won’ those past three NaNoWriMos. I’ve taken that spirit from MiniWriMo and applied that to my writing. But according to the rules of NaNoWriMo, I cheat. I’m working on several different ongoing projects instead of one new novel. I count writing for this blog. I count the word difference if I go back and edit a scene by adding words. My point? I make it fun. Fun doesn’t necessarily mean hitting that 50,000-word count.
So do what you have to that makes it fun. Set up a spreadsheet and track your words count, if you want. Set goals for how much you can write daily. Spread it over a week, a month, a year. If you decide your goal was too easy, change it up. You set the rules. You set the parameter that works for you. The two important things are for you to write and enjoy yourself.
It’s sitting on the street between the entrance to the mobile home park and the closed down movie theater complex. Tall windows and gables covered with gingerbread edging can be glimpsed over ivy-covered walls. Once past the gates, you see well-manicured lawns and gardens. You hear the sound of the tour guides leading people throughout the house, discussing this historical fact or that architectural oddity. It appears to be another well preserved Victorian mansion, perhaps larger than most. Then you notice the bush groomed in the shape of the number thirteen, and things take an eerie turn.
The Winchester Mystery House was originally designed and built by Sarah Winchester. Construction began in 1884. The house was continually built on and modified (according to rumor around the clock) until her death on September 5th, 1922. How did she fund this constant construction?
The source of her money was also the source of her reason to build the mansion. Her husband William Wirt Winchester, the founder of Winchester Repeating Arms, died in 1881, leaving her with income of $1000 a day and fifty percent interest in the company. Seeking solace over his death and the death of their infant daughter, Sarah sought the help of a medium. The medium, claiming to channel her husband, said that she was haunted by all who died by the Winchester rifle. In order to appease the ghosts, she needed to travel to the West and build a home for these wandering spirits. She moved to Santa Clara Valley, purchased a farmhouse, and began construction.
According to the tour of the building, Sarah held nightly seances where she would receive instruction. But because she was receiving blueprints from the beyond didn’t mean that her home didn’t have touches meant for her comfort, such as low rise stairs. Because of severe arthritis, the switchback configuration and one-inch steps to allow her to get from floor to floor. Windows in walls between rooms, and sometimes in the floor itself, allowed her to check on the servants. And just because it was a haunted house didn’t mean that it couldn’t be beautiful. She spared no expense when it came to the paneling, furnishings, and other decorations. There is a Tiffany window that was designed to cast a rainbow of light. Unfortunately, it is installed in a wall where the sun does not shine.
Despite the last seance having been held 90 years ago, the ghosts still have a presence in the building. The idea of a mansion constantly being built took a frightening turn in Stephen King’s Rose Red. Helen Mirren is the star of Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built. It has appeared on shows like The Ghost Hunters and The Ghost Adventures. Every Halloween and Friday the 13th, flashlight tours are offered, where you might see one of the resident ghosts.
It is the house that spirits built, and because of the spirits it still stands.
What could be more adorable than a doll dressed in a sailor suit, clutching a stuffed dog of its own? A doll given to a young boy, who saw him as a best friend? A doll he had long conversations with. A doll he blamed whenever he got into trouble. A doll he moved into his childhood bedroom once he was married?Robert Eugene Otto was gifted a life-sized Steiff doll by his grandfather. Gene christened his doll Robert and soon came to see him as his best friend. Gene would speak about Robert as if he was a real person. Whenever he would get in trouble, he would attempt to shift the blame to Robert. Giggling was heard that didn’t come from Gene. People walking on the street claimed to see a small form moving in the window of Gene’s room when he wasn’t in the house. Eventually, Gene inherited the house he grew up in. He ensconced Robert in their childhood bedroom. There he stayed until Gene’s death in 1974.
The house was purchased by Myrtle Reuter. She also inherited Robert. Visitors would hear the giggles and footsteps coming from Robert’s attic room. His facial expression changed, especially when anyone spoke ill of Gene. Myrtle claimed that he would move around the house, not content to be confined to one room.
Myrtle donated him in 1994 to the Key West Art and Historical Society. Robert resides there in a glass display case. He receives letters, mostly people asking him for forgiveness. You see, the rumor is that Robert curses people who take his picture without first asking permission or people who disrespect him. Cameras and other electronic devices malfunction around him for no apparent reasons.
Is Robert haunted? Does he have the power to curse? Or is he merely the focal point for many urban legends? I don’t know. But if you do go visit him at the museum, ask permission to take his picture before you do. Better safe than sorry.
Ever look at a doll and swear that it was in a different position five minutes ago? Have the sensation that the eyes of the carving you picked up on vacation were staring right at you no matter where you went in the room? Did heavy footsteps in the middle of the night start the same time that you brought home that bargain upright piano at the garage sale? Keep seeing shadows out of the corner of your eye since you inherited great-grandma’s wedding ring? Congratulations! You may now be the proud owner of a possessed possession.
There is a theory among people who study the paranormal that items can be haunted. Energies attach themselves to objects. When the object is moved to a new location, the ghost, demon, or whatever has attached, moves with it. Movies play this up as “cursed object” that brings nothing but bad luck or evil events until it is destroyed by the hero, sending whatever foul spirit inhabiting it back to Hell. But how do people deal with them in real life? There are several options —
- Spiritual cleansing
- Ring it with salt to lock in the spirit to a small area
- Get rid of it, hoping the spirit goes with it
- Bury it
- Submerge it in running water.
- Burn it
Believe it or not, there are people who seek out haunted objects. John Zaffis, aka the Godfather of the Paranormal, has a museum of haunted items he has been given over time. If you’re interested in starting your own collection, you can find items on eBay.
Think carefully before you bring home that knickknack.