Welcome to the place where I rant, rave and discuss books, writing, the town of Cobourg Ontario and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions:

I’m sure most or at least some of you are sick of the holidays and the holiday posts. I’ve refrained from posting many, or any, but this subject has been haunting me for days.

What is a New Year’s resolution? Well, it’s no more than a promise we make to ourselves for improvement.

But why, oh why, do people make New Year’s resolutions? It’s my opinion that there are two factors here:

#1 – Somehow in the deep bowels of our minds, we see New Year’s as a fresh start, and we want to begin that fresh start on the right path. (That’s the obvious one)

#2 – (And maybe not quite so obvious to everyone) is that leading up to the new year is a stressful time, when all schedules are thrown to hell and our worlds are chaotic. That’s right, The Holidays! They can wreak havoc on our good habits and switch our goals from inside to out. What can start as simply, “I don’t have time for this right now, I’ll deal with it after the holidays,” can turn into a form of beating yourself over the head with a frying pan for not getting any of your usual business attended to. (Exercise, eating well, working, cleaning, staying in touch with friends, volunteering your time, ad nauseum.) In effect, all of these little slips can easily snowball into a New Year’s Resolution.

I’ve looked up quite a few stats on New Year’s Resolutions, and I’ve got to say, it’s not pretty folks. The numbers appear to be stacked against all resolutioners. But let’s ignore the half-empty glass for now and focus on how to do it right. I’ll admit I’m no expert on getting my goals accomplished, but a sneak peek at what it feels like, visited me with my accomplishment of NaNoWriMo this year. And it feels GOOD.

So how is it done? Let’s look at what the experts say:

#1 – Write a list of what you want to achieve. Sounds easy right? Think again… this takes time. And if you have any bit of philosopher inside you like I do, the question can be more intimidating than a grimacing twelve-foot giant with small-man syndrome.

#2 – Ok so let’s assume you’ve got your goals all written down. Some may be simple, some a little more complex. Now it’s time to use that other side of your brain and figure out how to achieve those goals realistically. Be Specific! Saying: “I’m going to eat better,” is not specific. Learning how to eat better, then applying those goals, that’s specific. REMEMBER: A resolution is not a wish, you can’t resolve to lose 20 pounds in a week and think that by making it a resolution it will automatically happen. Re-look at that list, make sure it’s realistic and alter what is not. Then research where necessary to find out HOW to reach those goals – then, you guessed it, more lists.

#3 - So now we’ve got the basic list of what we want to achieve, and with a bit of work and some research, we have a realistic list of ways to get what we want. Now get even more specific. Timeline it. Realistically. If you did your research in step two, you already have an idea of when and where and what you can do to achieve your goals. So now is the time to timeline it. Here’s an example:

Step #1 - Resolution: I want to read a book a month for the year of 2012.

Step#2 – Research: I want to read these specific books. I can afford them or I can make it to the library to get them. There are 500 pages in the first book, that’s between 16 and 17 pages a day.

Step#3 – I must read 16 to 17 pages a day, that’ll take me 25 minutes a day. I can sneak that in on my lunch hour with time to spare, or, if I get too busy at lunch, I can read for 25 minutes after dinner before doing the dishes. (You get the idea). (Write it down, that’s right, list it.) Now add: I will go to the bookstore/Library on December 29th between 1pm and 2pm to get the first book. I will go the bookstore/Library on January 30th to get the second book. (I know it sounds redundant and like unnecessary listing, but do it anyway.)

Step#4 – Reward yourself. If you’ve done the above, you now have a journal of sorts, whether you planned to or not. Write in a reward system for a goal you’ve achieved, heck reward yourself for getting through the list!

Here are some FREE online tools you can use:


Good luck and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - A Book Review

Pillars of the Earth

It took me… oh a few months to read it, and I believe I wrote one or two blogs about it while I was reading it, but last month during NaNoWriMo, I finally finished Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. What a ride!

An epic tale to say the very least. This novel is brilliant and spans over a lifetime. Some parts made me cringe, some made me cry and some made me WHOOP and cheer. From the very first line “The small boys came early to the hanging.” You know you’re in for a ride. (I actually used that first line as a prompt in the Thursday version of the Prompt-and-Share, and the results were unforgettable.)

The characters in this novel are so fleshed out that you think about them on a regular basis. I had a personal connection with the building aspects of the storyline because my honey is a stonemason, so it did add that extra touch.

If you haven’t read it yet, this is a great novel to get you through the cold winter.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Top ten list of things I learned from participating and winning

Top 10 things I learned by winning NaNoWriMo

That's right, on my first attempt, I managed to write over 50,000 words in one month.
No plotting, no planning, no character developing, just pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard) and voila, done. (okay, a little less on the voila and a little more on the sweating like a small business owner on audit day)
So now I will share with you what I've learned from this experience.

#1 - Life doesn't seem to care one smidgen that you've planned to devote an entire month to writing, and if the powers-that-be do in fact care, they show it by putting as many obstacles in your way as possible. Despite all of that, I did it.

#2 - When I write by the seat of my pants, it's crap. I wouldn't even read this story - there's nothing to it. The characters are weak, the storyline is all over the place and the writing gives a bad name to writing. It plays out kind of like a soap opera. But I did it.

#3 - Character Development is apparently my forte, according to Drew Nicholson. This does not work if you don't plot your characters BEFORE you write your story. When I don’t develop my characters ahead of time, they wind up as one-dimensional as a paper cut-out. Regardless, I did it.

#4 - Telling people "Hey I wrote a novel in a month. Oh no, no, no, I'm not going to publish it, it's crap. But I wrote a novel in month!" will have them look at you like you escaped from an insane asylum. Or perhaps just think that you are plain stupid. But I did it.

#5 - Putting your good sense aside, and writing even though you know you could dry your words out to fertilize the lawn, is quite difficult for a perfectionist. But I did it.

#6 – Waiting until the last day, then writing 10k+ words thus producing a red and swollen blister on your wrist is probably not the best way to go… But I did it.

#7 – All those tips and rules and tricks you read about in those “how to” writing books completely disappear when the actual writing starts. I believe that when I re-read those books now, the information will stick far better with the NaNo experience under my belt… but during the first process, it was hell. Regardless… I did it.

#8 – For those who pester me, that I never finish what I start, (specifically, my own conscience) Screw you! I did it.

#9 – I’m in awe of the creative things that come out of my head when I’ve got to get those words down. At times it was downright scary, but I did it.

#10 – Winning NaNoWriMo does not make you an amazing author, it does not mean you have mastered the art, it does not give you the next great internationally renowned novel, it does not mean you will be famously published one day – but it’s a step in the right direction, and I did it!

A huge Congratulations to all of you who DID IT too 