Sunday, November 10, 2013

ROW80 Sunday: NaNo and Polar Bears . . .

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo and I'm chunking right along -- at least until today.  My commitment is to write 500 words a day. Surprise! One day I topped 1,000, really amazing for me. Most days I doubled  my ordinary output of 250 words. For 6 days of NaNo this week, over 3,000 words (not counting today).

But yesterday we attended Disney on Ice, a three-hour flamboyant retelling of classic fairy tales with several thousand folks shepherding little girls in Ariel, Snow White, and Cinderella costumes. By the time we got home, we were exhausted. This morning, I was not able to write at all.

For NaNoWriMo, I'm working on a draft for Rivers of Stone. Book One is set in the 1840s at York Factory in Manitoba, Canada. In today's chapter, Catriona, our intrepid heroine in disguise as a young boy, goes snow goose hunting on James Bay and befriends two Cree brothers.

Somehow polar bears crept into the story. They are stealth hunters, I learned, along with several other fascinating facts. The polar bear is a ferocious hunter, preferring (thank goodness) seal to human. They are quite hungry in October when the ice first begins to form in Hudson's Bay and splay out on the ice, looking for the airholes of seals.

I found several several videos of polar bears playing with dogs and hunting. Looking at Youtube was a very helpful research tool because these videos give me a clear sense of SETTING, scale, colors, moods. Even discovering that Churchill -- and York Factory -- are both above the treeline is quite helpful, even if it's not quite what I imagined when I began this story. Forests will have to wait until Cat heads west. Can you tell that active procrastination has taken over? Here's one of the polar bear videos from youtube.

What I've learned from NaNo so far. 

  • Simply writing to a specific (and larger) word goal surprises me. Am I more accountable? 
  • The largest output on a single day was spent on plotting (something I did not do before NaNo), but I now have a clearer sense of the story, its main characters, and, most particularly, their relationships.
  • Not every day is easy.
  • The more I know about my characters, the more complicated their interactions are. And they surprise me! 
  • Dialogue and setting help me unbundle what my characters are like because I begin to understand what they face and how they react.
  • I hate conflict. But making my characters get angry was fun!

My other challenge this week: Trying to decide on a good cover. Final revisions are on schedule, and I've been working on covers for Standing Stones this week. Here are two more for a little feedback, if you are so inclined. I'd love to put something a little more dramatic on the cover, but so far my technical skills and budget have not led me to find that "knock-me-out" image.

Which of these two do you prefer? Why? Which one would you be most likely to pick up?

This draft cover features a picture I took of a fisherman's croft
in Kirbuster, the Orkneys, Scotland
so no worries about copyright.

This cover features a picture of Dunskey Castle,
Scotland from The Commons at WikiMedia,
again no worries about copyright.
ROW80 Goals for the coming week: Hope to keep this simple as my babysitting schedule is tight.

WRITING. 500 words a day x 7 days on Rivers of Stone. 4 Chapters a day on Standing Stones. I'm behind on beta reads x2 and hope to finish these by Thanksgiving. Make final preparations for presentation on Egypt, which includes at least 2 blog posts this week. I did, for the first time, sketch out a schedule for posting on my three blogs at least once each week.

RESEARCH. Only when I'm stuck with any writing goal. Reading 3 books just now.

COMMUNITY/OTHER. Read at least 15 posts for ROW80 and Poets on the Page. Attend one NaNoWriMo f2f this Monday night. Quilt on Thursday with my quilting group. For sanity's sake, clean up my office and get the laundry done.

May your week go well!

If you are a writer, why not jump in on ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 Days?


  1. I think the one of the fisherman's croft is much more dramatic and intriguing BUT --Only if you change the layout of the lettering--title, author, etc. Maybe put Standing Stones on one line across the top--above the fish--(or maybe two lines, flush left, still not right over the fish images). Down below, UNDER the main part of the image--starting where "Beth Camp" is now--a line for Book 1; another line for author's name...etc. But as the layout is at present, the second cover design works better--clearer image--since the lettering deosn;t mask the important parts of the image--but not as mysterious. (Note: I have some background in lettering//calligraphy/graphic design--) I think your fisherman's croft photo is a knock-me-out image (whether or not absolutely perfect for this particular story is something only you know), but it's pretty much lost & neutralized under all that type. You don't need huge lettering/type--just clarity and good contrast.

  2. Wow! Thank you for your very specific feedback on how to more effectively use fonts and layout for title, author & Book 1. Your comments send me right back to the drawing board. Most folks have said they prefer the fisherman's croft photo, which makes me happy as that's the one I took myself! Thank you again!

  3. I'm tending to favor the first book cover. It stands out as unusual compared to the other.

    Great lessons from NaNo--yeah... for some it's about the wordcount. For me, like you, if seems, Beth, it's about what I learn about myself and my 'world'. And I LOVE your concept of active procrastination. The polar bear info is neat. I love looking at the animals. I don't think I'd like to meet one though.

  4. I also have experience in design, did all my own covers, and I agree completely with Musickstudio. Number one is more interesting but way too busy. I like Monotype Corsiva, but it seems to flowery for the Book One line. Your type should be tighter. If you use two lines they should almost be touching. You're wasting a lot of space. I'd work on the composition and make the type stand out over the line of fish. The way you have it, nothing really takes precedence. Good luck.

    1. Thank you, Polly (and again Musickstudio), for sharing your graphic design expertise. I agree with you. The crofter cottage image pulls at my heart, but even with changes you two recommended, all of my other readers (I polled my quilting group) prefer Dunskey Castle. This is really a learning experience, and I'll probably waver until the book goes to press -- virtually!


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