Lyla Campbell
2009 is going out in style with a full moon shining on New Year's Eve. It's not just a full moon, but a blue moon too, as this is the second full moon of the month. (Is it just me or does that sound like a great beginning for a sci-fi/fantasy novel?)

With the new year and new decade looming just a few days ahead on the horizon, I've got my usual end-of-the-year itch to make some big changes in my life. As you could probably guess from the title of this post, one of my resolutions is to fit more time for writing into my schedule.

Unfortunately, just like most other people out there, my resolve to follow through on my resolutions dries up about two weeks into the new year. However, this year I'm taking a completely different approach. I'm not waiting for the new year to roll around before I start trying to tackle my resolutions. I figured if I gathered some momentum going into 2010, the promises I've made to myself might have a better survival rate.

Of course finding more time to write isn't ever as simple as it sounds. So, I took a step back and asked a question every writer should ask themselves: "What usually prevents me from writing?" For me, the answer is always: A Messy House! Many of you out there may be able to block out the chaos and the clutter, but it drives me to distraction and my productivity plummets. It was by this thought process that landed on my two-fold resolution:

1. Purge house of clutter & get it squeaky clean. Now, with a more low-maintenance domicile:

2. Find more time two write.

I've already put #1 into action. Hoping to get some of that afore mentioned momentum, I came home on Saturday night and started overhauling my bedroom, bathroom, and closet. I'm happy to say 90% of those rooms are finished and I plan to keep truckin' even after I put up this post.

Resolution #2 is very open to interpretation so I decided to give myself the following parameters:
  • Schedule at least 3, writing sessions a week.
  • Each session must be a minimum of 1 hour during the week, 3 hours on the weekend.
  • Blogging only counts for 1 of those writing sessions.
  • Put up more blog posts - 3 or 4 per week.

Hopefully, this will be the next step in turning my writing into something more than just a hobby.

So, what's your biggest road block on the writing highway? And how are you planning on getting around it in 2010?
Lyla Campbell

I wanted to take a moment and say Merry Christmas to everyone out there in the blog-o-sphere.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. It's my favorite because I love decorating the house with evergreens and shiny things, because friends that have moved away come back home during the holidays and because eggnog is readily available in the grocery store, just to name a few reasons.

Back in the day, before cell phones, the interweb, and when my age could still be recorded as a single digit, I would wake up in the middle of the night and sneak into the living room to check out what had been left under the tree. Of course everything was wrapped securely in festive paper. After a few years, I grew adept at guessing what was inside of the box by it's weight, density and the way it sounded when I shook it. Even now I'm still very much a kit ta heart. Although I no longer wake up at 3:00 a.m. to take stock of the swag under the tree, I do still get a little buzz of anticipation on Christmas Eve.

I hope everyone has a bright and joyful holiday!
Lyla Campbell

In real estate, location can do wonders for property value. But can location do the same for your writing? Not where your story takes place, but where you park yourself to do your writing.

This was a phenomenon I began to notice in college and it continued to hold true for my writing during both the '08 and '09 NaNoWriMo. Where I am can make a difference in how productive I am. There are certain places inside my house that are more productive writing locations than others. The three best are 1) At my kitchen table, 2) On my front porch and 3) Sitting on my bed. Note that the living room couch is not on that list. That's where the TV is. If I'm in front of a TV for any significant amount of time, it's inevitable that I will turn that TV on. And of course, if the TV is on, the progress on my word count will grind to a halt. The same holds true with editing. If the TV is on, I'll get uber distracted only rewrite one or two sentences.

I have also discovered that if my work pace is slow, switching locations can do wonders for productivity as well. If the writing locations in my house are being stingy with sharing their creative juju, I'll venture out into the city. One of my many favorite writing locations here in Houston is Empire Cafe. Most importantly they have good coffee. Second, their food is excellent and reasonably priced. And finally the atmosphere in the dining room and on their patio provides an endless stream of inspiration. Thus creating a perfect writing location trifecta! The only down side to this place is the lack of electrical outlets. But if you have good battery life or are working from a hard copy (which I sometimes prefer for editing) access to modern comforts such as plugs are not a necessity. There's also some nostalgia attached to the Empire. Back in high school my friends and I would tell our parents we were going to Barns & Nobel, but instead drive in from the burbs to Empire just for the coffee...yes, the coffee is just that good.

So, at the end of the day, I may have packed up my laptop and notes and towed them with me to multiple different places. But at least I will have (maybe) made some progress.
Lyla Campbell
I've dicided to completly overhaul my plot. After a combination of inspiring works of art in New York and sleeping on it for 17 days now, I'm re-routing the story. All the major characters will be the same, they're just getting rearranged on the game board.

The seeds of change were planted when I was at the museum. Specifically with this painting that was in the 19th and 20th century European Painters wing at the museum in NYC.

The dominating color of this painting was very striking to me and was the first thing that caught my attention. Green is after all one of my favorite hues. But, it was the subject of the paining that planted the seeds of change for my plot. To me impressionism looks like a painted memory. And, this loving mother and father with their child in a setting of the simple life was the perfect childhood memory for my main character to reflect on in the first chapter of my novel.

Getting one litte idea like this always opens up a can of worms. Now I have a completly new road map of the plot in my head. There's almost too much of it to keep straight. Instead of jumping in at the first paragraph and shredding the plot beyond all recognition, I'm going to try to go about this in an organized manner. Before actually touching the manuscript, I've decided to go through the snowflake plot developement method again. Check it out here:

Being an engineer, I'm a fan of any method that involves orginazation using a spreadsheet like this one does. Of course this means I have a lot of work ahead of me. I'm basically going to rewrite my novel, minus a few of the key scenes. But I really do like this story line. It's one that has been floating around in my head for a year or two now. Hopefully this revision process won't pound my love for this plot to a pulp. I want this novel to survive.

Lyla Campbell
During my lunch hour today the thought occurred to me, "What are other writers out there reading?" In my mind I have the image of a bohemian spirit holed up in the dark corner of a coffee shop reading a leather bound diamond in the rough the rest of the population has never heard of. Kind of like that one audiophile friend everyone has who knows about all of the really good, but unheard of bands.

But how does one find the answer to this question? There's got to be someone that compiles lists of stuff like this out there right? The first one that comes to mind is the New York Times Best Seller List ( But this list is based on sales to the general public. So I did a little more digging on the web and googled 'what are authors reading' and I found this website: it has a collection of authors who have signed up on the site and books they have read and rated on their "bookshelf." I was really glad to have stumbled upon this site. Now I can look up some of my favorite authors and see what they are reading.

So what are you reading right now? I'd love to know. Drop me a line in the comments (which should be available to all now) on this post. If you've got any great reading list websites please share those as well!
Lyla Campbell
I'm writing this post on the plane back to Houston. And, I have to say, it was quite the vacation. Overall we spent five days in the city and two in central PA. It was also the best vacation yet, even with the for hour snow delay in H-town. Once in NYC, trying to find free wifi was an adventure. The hotel we stayed at charged $10 a day for internet access, so I passed on that. Then, the first place we tried that advertised free wireless didn't even know the password. When free wifi was finally procured, my battery lasted about as long as a snowball in hell. So, I'm left to post all my vacation shmutz after it's all over.

This was my fourth trip to NYC and I finally made it to the metropolitan Museum of Art. If your planning on going to the city, this is a must see. I was very excited about this visit for two reasons. First, this museum is EPIC. I mean really and truly EPIC. Sure, I know there are museums out there that are epic-er like the Louver or the Hermitage. But, right now traveling to see that level of grandeur is above my tax bracket. Second, when I was in the 5th grade or so, one of the books that we were required to read was "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E. L. Koingsburg. The long and short of the story is a young girl runs away from home with her little brother and holes up in the Met for a while. (If you have kids around the 5th grader age, I highly recommend this read. I enjoyed despite the fact I read it back at an age when one inherently dislikes any required reading. And, I'd read it again today if I could get my hands on a copy. Also, It won the Newbery Award back in 1968.) So, I was very excited about getting to see something 'epic' and a piece of my childhood memories all in one day.

Even if you're not that much of a much of a museum person, there is so much here to see, it's not possible to be disappointed. And, if you're a writer (like me) or an artist, or even someone who enjoys a nice latch-hook rug project every now and then, you are sure to find inspiration within it's walls.

Oh, and I should mention, it's an all day event. We only saw about half of the exhibits and we were there for almost five hours. Here's a little sampling of our day there:

Before you make it into any of the exhibit halls, the museum lobby itself is extremely impressive. The architecture in the lobby alone is massive and jaw dropping. The picture to the left is of the arches that loom over the lobby.

As if wandering through the galleries and seeing some of the most famous works of art wasn't impressive enough, there were entire rooms from Parisian hotels that had been transported and reassembled for display. Unfortunately, this was one of the wings where no photography was allowed. But in the American wing, where the facade of a 19th century Wall St. bank building along with various pieces of NYC landmarks had been put on display was not off limits. The marble floor under the glass roof in this wing was littered with art students and others who fancied themselves artistic sketching all aspects of this exhibit.

The icing on the cake was the Greek and Roman Hall. Here you could go nose to nose in a staring contest with both the Young Hercules and the Bearded Hercules. Or if you preferred a more demure opponent, Aphrodite was there as well. There were almost too many from the ancient pantheon of gods to choose from.

Aside from the museum, there were the obligatory tourist stops we had to make that had not been checked off the list during previous visits. 1. Magnolia Bakery: where, yes the cupcakes were all that was raved about. And 2. Caffe Reggio: the oldest coffee shop in Greenwich Village and the oldest cappuccino in the city. I do admit, it was the most fabulous caffeinated beverage I've ever downed. But, I must warn you that it's a block from NYU and there were a plethora of pretentious collegiates regurgitating what had been spoon fed to them in their last lecture. So, if you decided to check this out should you ever find yourself in New York, caffeinate at your own risk.

Yes, I know, that was a rather short list. But, to be completely honest, most of our time was spent eating, or looking for the place we would have our next meal. If you are a foodie this is unequivocally the town for you. I had the best steak of my life and the downtown local of Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain's restaurant). I had a truly proper creme brule at a place call Thalia. It was wonderful, not some knock-off flan like piece that so many chains try to pass off as dessert. And to top it all off, our last meal in the city was at Cafeteria with (and I swear I'm not exaggerating here) the absolute best mac 'n' cheese on the planet.

Now, after stuffing myself silly for a week with both food and eye candy, it's back to the grind in Houston and...editing.

Next up: A post on re-routing my NaNoWriMo plot and the muse that inspired it. It should be up late tomorrow so check back soon!
Lyla Campbell

I decided to take a bit of a mental break before I jump into my editing plan. I had been really fired up and ready to go. However, there were some speed bumps this weekend that really took a chunk out of my momentum.

First was the nearly 8 hours it took to get from Houston to New York this past Friday. Normally it's a flight that's just a little less than three hours. But, it was snowing in Houston. Yes, you read that right. SNOWING. (See the photographic proof taken in downtown on the way to the air port.) It snowed for quite a few hours and as a result, our plane had to be deiced. To make a long story short, we got to de-board the plane for an hour, only to have to wait for another three hours on the plane sitting on the tarmac to be deiced before we finally took off about 4 and a half hours after our scheduled departure time. Since I got to my hotel well after 10 p.m., I deemed it a lost writing day and instead went down to the hotel and had a drink at the bar.

After that very frustrating day lost almost completely to travel, I decided I needed another day off. (Are you seeing a trend starting to develop here?...Procrastination!) There was a trip to Little Italy for lunch where we ate ourselves stupid on the best Gnocchi, Fettuccine Alfredo and Cannoli ever (no writing). Afterward was an almost painful trip through Chinatown for some of the finest knockoff items in the country (no writing done here either). Usually I enjoy haggling in Chinatown, but the sky was heavily dumping a slushy rain/snow mix and it was very, very, very crowded. I was completely occupied with trying to not get my eyes poked out from a stray umbrella tip instead of being able to enjoy looking at the items in the vendor stalls. After fighting our way through the deadly sea of parapluies to the subway station and back to the hotel, we made plans for dinner. At dinner we ate ourselves even more stupid than we did at lunch and finished it all of with a creme brule trio (nothing that could have even been mistaken for writing at night either). All the while it continued to snow, and snow, and snow even more.

Unfortunately, none of the snow stuck in the city. But, on the way from the city into central PA, the hills and the trees were still covered with the fresh dusting of snow from the night before. (See the above picture, taken somewhere along I-78 in New Jersey) A warm, well heated car was the perfect way to enjoy the winter scenery. I'm very much a tropical person. And while I love the look of snow, I'm not a fan of the cold.

Over the past three days I've gotten bupkus done in the way of editing. However, one thing I noticed during this time is that I haven't had any coffee. I believe that this is scientific proof for why I have not been productive in my editing endeavors. So tomorrow morning, I'm going to begin my daily caffeine regimen again and hopefully make some progress.
Lyla Campbell
Now that NaNoWriMo is over and I crossed the 50k barrier, I'm ready to start the editing process. However, I feel a bit like Wiley Coyote after he just ran off the cliff. I'm hanging out there unsupported, holding up a sign that reads "Help!", only moments before plummeting in to the great abyss.

The problem is, I've got this lump of 50,024 words with plot conflicts, unfinished scenes, awkward dialogue, and lots places where it's nothing more than a steaming pile. I need a plan. Last year I started editing, but didn't finish. I ran out of steam almost immediately. Probably because I jumped in, feet first, at word number 1, with out a plan. This year I am working on a strategy. And I have done a little research on the editing process. And this is what I've got so far:

  1. Smooth out the plot. I want to get a good handle on my story line and make sure it all makes sense before I start tweaking the prose. I don't know what's going to stay and what's going to go right now. So, there's no point to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
  2. Once the plot has been thoroughly hammered out, I'll move onto filling in the unfinished scenes. I jumped around a lot writing this scene, then starting that one during NaNoWriMo. Now I will fill in all those pot holes to create one contiguous rough draft.
  3. This step will make that draft less rough. With a coherent and fleshed out story, I can now work on sculpting the story into something more elegant and artful. Here, I'll go line by line wordsmithing the draft into a novel. Hopefully it will be a novel that someone, somewhere out there, will actually want to read. (Cue the music from "An American Tail")
  4. Wash, rinse, and repeat step 3 over and over and over again. There is always room for improvement.
  5. When I think it's ready...hand it off to someone and have them critique it. I'm already ahead of the game on this one. I joined a local writing/critique group. So, when I've edited the living daylights out of my manuscript, I hope that group can help me get it ready for a possible shot at publishing.

During my planning process I found these websites to be helpful in creating an editing road map:

With all the time afforded me with NaNoWriMo now over, I'll be posting much more frequently. I leave for vacation in NYC tomorrow. And since it isn't a backwater town, I'm sure I will have internet access. So, check back soon for my vacations posts about my writing spot of the day and to see if I stick to my editing plan.

Lyla Campbell
I saw following post in the forums this morning:

Anyone else out there feeling a little lost on the NaNoWriMo Highway? By the end of the day I should only be 1k behind. But now, I feel like my plot is way off track. I've written the scenes in the story I had in my head as the month began. Those ideas kept me steaming full speed ahead and got me just past the halfway point last night. This morning, I woke up fresh out of ideas. Acute NaNo-Panic has set in. I feel like I'm adrift in open waters.

There is a bright side to this. Anything can happen now. I won't be hindered by my preconceived ideas of where the story should go. At least that's what I'm telling myself to boost morale. I remember having this dreaded feeling of where do I take my story now last year as well. And like last year, I will come up with something.

I'm making this a short post since the guilt is starting to set in that I'm writing something that is not part of my novel. Would anybody mind if I counted this blog post in with my word count? I won't tell if you won't.
Lyla Campbell
I'm in the progress of updating the look of my blog. Some things have dissapeared, like my list of followers and the visitor counter...I'm working on getting those widgets back up. Should be all finished early in the weekend.

Hope everyone is having a happy NaNoWriMo so far! Check back soon!
Lyla Campbell
I'm now deep into day four of NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, I didn't get that epic start I was hoping for this year. The choir I sing with had a concert the night of Nov. 1 and I was in desperate need of a nap earlier that afternoon. As a result of a slow start out of the gate, coupled with my word count generator being sluggish on Monday, I've had some major catching up to do. Today I had a revelation of sorts about how writing works best for me when I'm in a time crunch. (NaNoWriMo is a time crunch in and of itself even if you're on schedule with your word count. Being behind like I am right now makes it that much crunchier) So if you're in the same boat as I am, trying to make up for the time you lost while you were just hangin around, shootin dice,.The things I've learned about my writing process may be of help to you as well. Hopefully you can take something away from my lessons learned.

Over the past four days of chasing down the elusive daily word count goal, I've discovered short spurts of writing are more productive for me than one long writing binge. Simply put: I have to pace myself. A previous writing instructor of mine said that one of the best ways to pace yourself is set a timer for 15 minutes (give or take a few), write like a fiend until time is up, then take a break, and start the process all over again. Write, Rinse, and Repeat. This method is especially effective for racking up large word counts on the weekends. If I don't pace myself, I'll burn hot and fast on a Saturday morning, but then in the afternoon, no amount of caffeine will revive my motivation.

If the growth rate of your word count starts to slow down even if you're pacing yourself properly, try skipping to another part of your story. Last year I started in the middle of my story line and jumped around day to day. I wrote on whatever piece tickled my fancy that day. Then I spent the last week of NaNoWriMo 2008 connecting the dots between each portion of the plot to finish out the story arc. Remember! Julie Andrews was wrong. Starting at the beginning isn't necessarily the very best place to start. Write the scene you're just dying to get to, the one that inspired the whole story line in the first place. In that same vein, fight the urge to write in a straight line like we were taught in grated school. Writing about what you're in the mood to write about will help the words flow more easily and make NaNoWriMo less stressful. Writing should feel easy, kind of like a monkey driving a speedboat.

If by some miracle I'm able to meet my word count goal for that day, I go back over what I've written so far and I embellish. One thing I've notice about my first drafts is that they read a lot like a screen play with nothing more than dialogue/inner monologue, emotions paired with that dialogue, and actions of the characters. Honestly my prose are a tad bit on the dry narrative side the first time around. But by going back and elaborating on the way something smells, or how candle light changes the appearance of a room, I take the story from black and white to color. The point is to paint a picture, not just innumerate the events on a time line. In the process of adding-on, DELETE NOTING!!! If you're editing. And editing is not allowed until midnight on Nov. 30th.

Finally, when all else fails, just write something. Write ANYTHING. It doesn't matter how craptastic it is. The NaNoWriMo word count validator will not judge you. Keep that word count coming people!
Lyla Campbell
There are about 48 hours left until the NaNoWriMo chaos begins. Channel your nervous energy into some writing warm up exercises. Priming the word count pump is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing into your story line during November. I suggest starting out with some stream-of-consciousness writing. The way it works: Let your inner monologue flow freely onto the page. Don't stop to think about what you're writing. Write each word down as it pops into your head. Because silencing your inner editor is essential to the NaNoWriMo process, stream-of-consciousness writing will help the words flow without sputtering.

Take it one step further and add some purpose to your writing. Keep the same free flowing frame of mind and funnel that into a story line. Pick a writing prompt and run with it. While filtering through prompts (you can find them all over the internet at sites like this one you might even find some inspiration for your plot.

Check back in on November 1 for my first post during the fray of NaNo!
Lyla Campbell
I’m taking a break from outlining (you could also call it procrastinating) to create the second installation illuminating my quest for NaNoWriMo glory. Hopefully at this point, you’ve decided to become a fellow WriMo too or you’re seriously considering it. To help you on your virgin voyage, you’ll find below a compilation of writing advice I’ve found to be helpful and tools specifically designed for NaNoWriMo I discovered over the last year:

Ok, it’s back to the grind for me. Happy noveling! And be sure to check back in soon!

Lyla Campbell
Just under three weeks to go till NaNoWriMo! Unfortunately, no matter how much coffee I consume, not a single plot bunny is stirring. OK, for those of you who are scratching your head wondering what this strange acronym is and why I'm making odd references to furry rodentia...check out this website:

I would highly encourage anyone that's every had a even a glimmer of an idea of a story to take this opportunity and turn that idea into the novel you've always wanted to write (if you're honest with yourself, you know you've always wanted to pour your heart out into that tome). Yes you can do this!!! Last year I had no idea what I was going to write about on Oct 31. But on Nov. 1, I just started pounding away at the keyboard. I ended up with a complete story arc that was 50,035 words and a major sense of accomplishment.

Now that you've heard my NaNoWriMo plug, back to the slumbering plot bunnies...

At times like these when the cute little bunnies are comatose, I just keep writing. I keep writing even if it's not working on the novel. That's why I created this blog. Partly as a way to keep the creative juices flowing during NaNoWriMo, partly to share writing tips and epiphanies I come across in the process, and partly to promote my writing. So check back in with me as I take another ride on the NaNoWriMo roller coaster!