Brain Power

Brain Injury Friendly Way to Socialize: My Article in March 2014 OBIA Review

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My Article in OBIA Review!

Because of my Twitter activities and launching #ABIchat last year, the Communications and Program Assistant at OBIA, the Ontario Brain Injury Association, contacted me about writing an article on social media for their magazine OBIA Review. It’s rather nice to be invited out of the blue to write something, and so I did. Back in January. Just in time for their deadline. And then I promptly forgot all about it.

Forgetting isn’t always a good thing. But in this case  . . . 

Imagine my delighted surprise when the March 2014 issue (PDF) on social media came in my mail, and I opened it up. Actually, I opened it up after someone tweeted out their kudos, and I had to go look what they were talking about. Oh dear, brain injury strikes again. But wow — so cool to see my byline!


NaNoWriMo 2013

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I didn’t think I would do it this year. The novel I had in mind, I couldn’t get researched in time. I had trouble even with desiring to write anything, and I worried that by the time November 1st came around, I’d have some motivation back but nothing to write. And so I, unusually for me, ditched my original idea (for now) and went back to a radio play I’d written for ScriptFrenzy in 2011. All I had to do was go through it and create an outline in my Index Card app. I almost didn’t get that done either! But I did at the last minute and started writing the very first minute of November 1st.

I was off to an auspicious start. It helped that the National Novel Writing Month folks have really amped up the pep talks, Twitter coaching, online sprints, encouraging emails — I mean, we were positively inundated in a really, really good way. But it wasn’t enough. My motivation hadn’t returned, and I found myself reluctant to write. Fortunately, for me, life had dropped out of a maritime blue sky a fellow brain injury survivor who’s a trained life coach who made her mission to cheer me on. Every time I flagged, she was there to discuss the novel, me, NaNoWriMo, whatever, and wind me up again. From her, I received daily ecards, and with her astute questions, I figured out what was wrong with the ending and what I needed it to be. And finally, on the last day, the story came together and wrapped itself up, and suddenly, I was done. Phew.

I blogged occasionally on Google+, as is my wont. Herewith are the posts:

November 1

So I’m off. I don’t normally start NaNoWriMo right at midnight. But I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to write my first novelling words during normal, sane hours of the day, and hey, it’s good to launch with everyone else at the stroke of 12:00am in my time zone! I’d been waiting all Halloween day since I woke up and saw Christmas Island start their first NaNoWriMo word sprint.

So I got 710 words written, went to update my word count, but the spiffy new NaNoWriMo website had moved the word count entry field. Argh! Where’d they put it??!! Oh. Nope they didn’t move it, they reset the time zone to PST. Pesky defaults! All good now.

November 2

Day two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m behind in word count. On the plus side, I wrote more than the daily allotted number today, which bodes well for the next few days, right? 🙂

I’ve introduced a character that was only implied in the radio play, which means he has no name. And my mind was not up to coming up with one on the spot as I wrote in his character. So I called him the “director.” Maybe I should capitalize it, turn it into a noun name. 1,920 words today, 2,640 words so far for “Divorce Times Marriage.”

November 4

I wrote just over 2,000 words today for NaNoWriMo. I’m almost caught up to the daily word count. Almost. 🙂 A lot of dialogue in today’s scene. Yesterday, I was wondering if I had a handle on Cherry’s character because she seemed to be morphing from how she was in my head back when I wrote the original radio play to something different today. Then I realized that I’m adding on a layer rather than changing her outright, making her less of caricature or one-note character. Gerald’s turn will come, I’m sure. But he’s such a strong character in my head, he doesn’t need tweaking. Heh.

November 5

I was almost caught up, and then today, I wrote a short chapter. I began in third person, but luckily had only written a paragraph or two when I remembered that these particular interior scenes are in first person. I went back and edited (a big NaNoWriMo no-no — one must never edit, but I had to in this case!). And once I was in first person, the words come more easily. This is definitely the right point of view for these scenes with Gerald talking to you. 🙂

I’m up to 7,622 words, ahead of some of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies, behind others. Smack in the middle is OK, but it’s more fun when I’m leading the pack. Heh.

November 7

After not writing yesterday, I cracked the 2000-word barrier today. Phew. Still behind in the word count though. I’m not sure I could’ve written anymore. My character did a lot of yelling and then the exhaustion of it overtook her — and me too. #nanowrimo is doing a writing marathon on Saturday. I may join in, for a part anyway, so as to finally, finally get caught up. Been behind since day one!

November 8

Big scene at the shrink’s today in my #nanowrimo novel Divorce Times Marriage. Went a long way to making up for my low word count so far. I’m almost near where I should be — again. Cherry didn’t have much to say during this session; she mostly hid behind her hair. I find having long, or at least not too short, hair comes in handy, but it was hard trying to describe the fall of her hair and how she hid behind it without using “tell” words. Gerald, though, had lots to say. On and on. The shrink’s response was suitably rewarding. I like an active shrink!

A beefy 2,800 words or so today! Over 12,000 words this month so far!!

November 9

Today was NaNoWriMo’s NaNoThon day. I typed 3,727 words and upped my word count above where I’m supposed to be. I was hoping to type more, but I had to catch up on my coursework as well. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to have any other commitments during the novelling month, but I couldn’t resist! Anyway, it was fun being part of this planetary writing marathon while I could join in. It’s a definite keeper of an idea!

November 15

The #nanowrimo week-two-three doldrums officially dragged me down this week. But I saw the Toronto ML’s video in my Google+ feed and clicked on it to watch. You must too! Especially if you’re questioning whether you can write or want to write or if NaNoWriMo is for you. Or you just need a laugh and a non-Rob Ford thing to laugh over. 🙂

So I watched that, opened Scrivener, and got down to the business. And boy, did I write. I blew past all my previous daily word counts. I’m behind again in where I should be, but not as badly as I would’ve been if I’d written what I normally have this month. Phew. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great — the huge swell of support that buoys you up and pushes you along when you hit those discouraging still, windless waters.

November 16

It’s my birthday, and this song keeps playing in my head:

But #nanowrimo comes first! The writing must always come first, isn’t that what they say? Heh. So as the sun shone onto me, I ignored it and typed away on my computer until I reached the halfway point of this month of novelling, although I didn’t know it was the halfway point. I just knew it was the end of today’s chapter and found out I’d passed the 25k mark when I clicked on Project Stats in Scrivener.

I’m getting used to Scrivener. I think I’ve fully transitioned from writing my novels in WordPerfect to writing them in Scrivener. I know there are many features of this software that I don’t use yet, but for distraction-free writing, I got it down pat.

I keep forgetting to change my POV from third person to first when I get to a Gerald-only chapter. Then when it dawns on me, a loud ARRGGHHH fills the room, before I have to go back and tediously replace all the “he”s with “I”s. And that’s when I notice — once again — what a difference it makes which POV I write in when I do a Gerald scene. Gerald’s thoughts and emotions come alive in my mind when I switch to first person in a way that third doesn’t do. Anyway, Gerald’s time is done for the day, and it’s my turn to have some fun (not that Gerald was having fun, oh no, he was in agony).

25,474 words total so far.

November 21

I’ve fallen off the #nanowrimo bandwagon. I blame my metaphysics course, making me think about reality, write about free will. But that’s all done. And after I passed out from the effort, had a pep talk, read a pep talk, looked at Errol’s nanotoon, watched Scrivener go belly up on me, restart it, I finally began writing again. And that’s when I saw I hadn’t quite finished my last chapter. I thought I had, but I hadn’t really, not based on where the plot was going in the radio play I’m basing the novel on. I didn’t want to touch the last chapter. So I made a bit of a switch-up in my structure and added a new chapter. Now the chapter I was going to work on will have to wait until tomorrow.

I wrote almost 1900 words today, exceeding the daily quota but not enough to catch up from three lost days. I need another #nanothon !

November 23

OMG. After three stints of #nanowrimo writing today, after typing up a storm during each stint, I’m 1000 words short of 40k. Argh!! So close. On the other hand, I am on target now. At last!

I’ve begun writing chapters contrasting Cherry and Gerald’s activities that are happening at the same time. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue that. Maybe once more.

November 28

Holy cow. I look up from typing, click Project Statistics in Scrivener, and I’ve passed the 50k mark. How’d that happen? When’d that happen? Well, today, I know, but it seemed like I was forever catching up and then all of a sudden: bam. I won.

I won the word count part (not officially yet though). Now I have to finish my novel. I have another seven chapters to go and three days to write them in. Hoo boy.

November 30

Oh yeah. I did it. I did it! LOL! I just validated my novel and was instantly taken to the NaNoWriMo winner’s page where the “Huzzah!” video played. It’s simple, short, and amazingly uplifting and rewarding to watch that video of people you don’t know personally congratulating you. Whoot!

I made it to 50k and beyond. Even more importantly, I finished the story, and I’m finally feeling that the ending is right. I’ll probably tweak the last few lines, maybe add in more dialogue, but the tone of it, the conclusion of it, at long last works for me. And if it works for me, then hopefully it’ll work for readers too (although I’m not sure when I’ll post it into the searching spotlight of the public, always a nerve-wracking, tricky thing to do).

I wrote the entire novel in Scrivener. It went off in a different direction in the last several chapters from the original radio play I wrote in 2012 during ScriptFrenzy. And for once, I managed to keep updating my outline in the Index Card app as I went (oh, um, I forgot — gotta update the last two chapters and delete a couple…anywhoo). And I found the Scrivener NaNoWriMo obfuscation compile template so that I could quickly and easily validate my manuscript on the NaNoWriMo website.

I’m now done. I’m finding that hard to believe. Wow. Done. Gotta let that sink in.

I’m feeling rather at loose ends, like, what now? Well, celebrate with some chocolate, of course. And then peruse the winner’s page to see what the goodies are. And oh yeah, update my BiblioCrunch annual membership. That is one winner’s goody from last year that more than paid itself out to me. Best one ever!

Official word count: 59,345.

Brain Biofeedback

Biofeedback, Technology, Blogging, and Fatigue

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I'm getting an iPhone. Hopefully, this year; they’re a tad in demand. I made this decision after weeks of building problems and one particularly frustrating set of days. One big problem I have is that I can write on my iPod Touch within the white noise of the subway but cannot post my draft to my blog until I get home because of the lack of free secure WiFi along my routes. Not usually a problem, but these days I’m exhausted by the time I open my front door, and as a result, my blogging has fallen off. With the iPhone, I wouldn’t have to keep updating this post that I draft en route but never post once home, for three weeks now. Not good.

Two weeks in a row, I wrote and then updated:

It really is nice being able to see letters, images, and colours on my iPod sharper after gamma brainwave biofeedback. I just wish the effect would last, and brain fatigue wouldn't turn things blurry.

I was fatigued after last week’s and this week’s session [“last week” and “this week” are now three and two weeks ago], but the training effect on my vision and perception held for awhile. I was aware of my surroundings in the way of how I used to be aware in the periphery while reading or listening to music and I didn't go sailing past my stop while drafting this post on my iPod; it was the second week in a row that I felt able to type while walking (tsk). Didn't do it though!

I was fatigued more than usual afterwards last week because I read for 15 minutes! Holy cow. I usually read for five.

In the usual way of things, I begin my biofeedback session with reading while my Wernicke’s area is being stimulated for 7 minutes, and I end with 5 minutes of reading while I'm connected to the computer via electrodes on the PZ area of my skull, on my thumb for heart, my finger for temperature, and belt for breathing.

I'd asked previously that, since I've begun my metaphysics course, if I could continue reading for a little while after my session was over so as to be under the immediate influence of training sans any deleterious effects of taking the TTC (my trainer alternates clients in different rooms so that while one is getting ready to leave, she can set the next one up, so no worries about holding up the next client). That was to start last week, but since she began to set the next client up as soon as she began the reading screen for me and that turned into 15 minutes, it sort of incorporated my extra reading into my reading biofeedback screen (this week it was as we’d intended; still needed a nap). That turned out better for me because I was receiving auditory feedback during the whole of my philosophy reading. The auditory feedback is like a white noise. As long as the gamma sailboat is chugging along and the busy brain and 16-19Hz sailboats are stalled on their virtual seas, the noise buzzes. That means whenever I heard it, I was producing gamma brainwaves while not falling into rumination or producing beta spindles. I heard it a lot. This was good. Also, my trainer crowed as soon as she saw my results. My muscle tension was low. Well, I said I was sitting still and upright, the biofeedback training position, reading a computer screen, wouldn't it be low like during the three-minute training screens? No! You were reading, she said, as if that explained it. Well, it was hard stuff. I did have to take a break by reading easy stuff, then I was able to return to reading the intro to the philosopher Quine. Still, I was physically still! Maybe, that’s the point: when reading, our bodies unconsciously work out what we’re reading. I don't know. I meant to ask for clarification this week but was consumed by my dying cell phone and iPod Touch (cell battery lasted years longer than the iPod but both decided to tank at same time).

My heart rate was 10 beats per minute lower than the previous week and ten beats lower again this week and so five minutes of writing got it down to the teens as in 118. And this week, five minutes got it down to 109. Relief! I hope this time the effect is permanent and keeps dropping my heart rate to normal territory!!

I did read a few minutes longer last week after she unhooked me from the computer to finish up something. I gulped down some water, demolished my snack bar, and was ready for coffee and food both last week and this. I'm not sure why but I'm much hungrier after my gamma sessions than I have been in a long time. Oh yeah, new location, new brain area being woken up. Well, duh.


The TTC in Time and Space

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My newest novel Time and Space has just launched. When I wrote it in November 2011, I thought I have to get this out fast, otherwise my prediction about the TTC will become obsolete, after all Mayor Rob Ford was voted in a year earlier to build subways. His popularity and speed at beginning to implement what he’d promised was such, I thought for sure that some of those LRT lines would turn into subways. And then when Andy Byford was promoted to CEO and began polishing up the TTC, I became convinced a major rewrite was in my future.

So much for my prediction about my novel’s obsolescence.

Here we are, a year and a half after National Novel Writing Month 2011, when I dreamt up and described the 2411 version of the TTC — which description arose out of my total frustration with the lack of needed subway expansion –  and nothing has changed. This is good for my novel, for it won’t sound outdated. But not so hot for us commuters. While I tried to get my novel published the traditional way and while it also had to wait in line as I worked to get other books out first, Toronto Council indulged in endless back-and-forth debates and TTC coup and counter-coups. It made for compelling viewing for us Torontonians, and I’m sure reporters were salivating at what the next week would bring, but it didn’t create one nm (nanometre) of additional track, designed or real, and it doesn’t help us at all. And that is what I tried to convey.

Sometimes you need to use fiction and hyperbole to drive home a point.

Although I think at this point in time, everyone has done that non-fictionally on social media, around water coolers, waiting for a streetcar, and on and on.

That is the one thing that has changed since 2011. Commuter frustration has become more vocal. Usually, Torontonians are a quiescent lot. A few voices may rise up in dissent, but the majority keep their head down while grumbling to their friends and family. But now, here in 2013, the grumbling has come out into the open. The never-ending scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford may be drowning it out a bit, but with social media offering such an easy outlet for TTC frustration, it has not died down.

Historically, writers have used their novels as pulpits to pound out a social issue message – in an entertaining way. My favourite author has always been Charles Dickens, who was a master at that. I’m not as prolific with words as he is, but I hope that in the way my characters get around town and in how I describe the subway system, the streetcars, the bicycle traffic, and the cars in Time and Space, that I have made it exceedingly clear how much our leaders have failed us and how inadequate the TTC is to the population size.

Time and Space Final Ebook 1256x1910 Shireen Jeejeebhoy 18 May 2013

Time is kidnapped by three boys from the future, then dumped in the future past to die. She finds shelter with a mysterious man whose name is Space, and she must either adapt or find her way home before the boys catch her and dispose of her forever.

“I am reading Time and Space by @ShireenJ and loving it! What a great writer!” – @Mariam_Kobras, 26 May 2013

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords & Kobo


NaNoWriMo 2012

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It was an awesome, draining NaNoWriMo month of writing, studying, reading, and barely any time for posting. Once again, I used my Google+ profile to post on my novel-writing progress during National Novel Writing Month 2012, which for the first time ever did not follow an even course. For your eye-bugging-out pleasure to find out why, herewith are my posts in chronological order:

1 November 2012

NaNoWriMo has begun again. I faced this day with trepidation and emerging excitement. I woke up early this morning. Felt so sleepy. Yet the writing pulled at me. At last, it was time to write another novel.

This one is grim, in a way. Yet as I wrote the last chapter — always I write the last chapter first — I could feel that inevitable optimism? hope? seep through. The last chapter was the same yet different from what I had first envisioned it ten months ago. Yup, the theme, the idea came to me and then soon after I saw how it would end before I saw anything else about this story.

This year, I’m trying Scrivener for the first time. Scrivener provides a NaNoWriMo template, and it has a full screen writing mode where all you see is text, none of that distracting menu stuff. I had gone through the tutorial last month, and this morning decided I would try it. I rather liked it. I particularly liked the fact it gave me the word count automatically. 2015 words today. I wonder if it will give me the total as I write the next chapters? I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. But right now: breakfast! I’m starving!!

2 November 2012

The funny thing about writing is that it takes you when it wants you. I was kind of tired this morning, and then the words for chapter one began to fill my head willy nilly. It didn’t care I wanted to sleep, it was time to write, dammit!

Okay, okay. I knew the general way this chapter would go. I had seen it play out in my mind for months now. Still, some of the details surprised me, like my lead character Simon playing with his peas. The first sentence took me by surprise too. In some ways this kind of writing is both scary and liberating. Scary because you don’t know how much or what you’ll be writing, liberating because you can just let go and let your subconscious do the work with a little conscious work here and there when the words appearing on the computer display don’t look quite right. Another 2000-day: 2,008 words to be precise.

3 November 2012

Boy, my arms and hands ache. For the second day in a row, I typed fast and furious. But the sun is out at last, and it was nice to type in the light and be able to actually see the keyboard. Practicing my touch typing skills is not actually part of my writing plan.

There seems to be a discrepancy between Scrivener’s word count for today and NaNoWriMo’s (once past the first day, you enter the total word count of the manuscript, and NaNoWriMo calculates today’s word count). It’s off by 5 words. I’m not sure how Scrivener calculates the total word count, but I assume it’s not adding up all the chapters then add 5 words just in case. I should probably prepare myself for a slight difference in NaNoWriMo’s word count total at the end of November and Scrivener’s. So far, I’m ahead of where I should be at this point. Total: 5,851 words.

5 November 2012

I seem to be averaging just over 2,000 words per day. This reminds me of when I wrote Lifeliner ( I began with being able to write about 800 words. By the time I’d made my laborious way through the book and revised it, I was able to write about 2,000 words at a time. I have been able to write up to 3,000. But after that I definitely lose track of what I’m writing, where I began and how that led up to where I ended. I check my outline every night and morning to ensure I know what I’m supposed to write for that day. With Lifeliner, I had all these research notes too, so it took some time to condense them down to daily notes that I could get through and remember well enough to write that day’s chapter. Fortunately, I had lived and worked on that subject for years and years, so my memory had been solidified long before my injury, and my brain injury hadn’t kiboshed those memories. Still, it was the details that could hang me up, and I needed to refresh my memory of the details and how all the medical, interview, article stuff hung together for that day’s chapter.

With this book, there isn’t nearly as much research. Not even remotely, thank heaven. More, it’s like an accumulation of experiences, thoughts, observations, and readings on this subject from the time I was in my teens until now have suddenly merged in my sub-conscious and demanded that now’s the time to write.

Depending on who you believe, I either wrote 2,073 (Scrivener) words or 2,076 words (NaNoWriMo, calculated from total to date) today. (I suppose I should beef up my novel description a bit…not ready yet though.)

6 November 2012

Wow. I wrote a lot today. I didn’t think I was writing any more than usual. But I guess I got more into the flow of Simon’s thoughts than I had before, taking me in surprising directions. My arms and hands hurt. I’ve shot past 10k words and even past 12k! Woot! 12,278 words so far.

7 November 2012

I chickened out. I was going to introduce a book, which I did. I was also going to have him read some of the passages “out loud” so to speak, but I didn’t do that part. I don’t think it was just because I’m feeling so drained that the thought of searching for the passages I wanted to quote was too much, it was more because it didn’t feel right. I need the book to be introduced but  its content to be only hinted at, at this point, to let the reader speculate for a little bit. So Act I is done.

8 November 2012

I’ve begun Act II. This chapter went pretty much as I’d outlined it. A few tweaks, and added some foreshadowing. I was surprised how many words I’d typed for such a simple scene. But I don’t think I stretched it out. I’m going to have to write down a list of all the people I’m introducing willy nilly and their occupations before I forget, else I’ll have to spend time I don’t have to go back through the previous chapters to find out their names etc. Almost 2400 words written today; 16,703 total. That total is the number of words I used to write in a chapter before my brain injury, which I did for Lifeliner. Now, I write 2k to 4k per chapter. Oh, how I have changed! And I am so ready for a nap!

9 November 2012

My fingers flew faster than I could keep up with my conscious mind today. My sub-conscious pushed them along until suddenly near the end it stopped and said to my conscious mind: okay, your turn. You finish up. Oh, great, thanks. Stutter, type, pause, type a word, halt, think, think some more, type another word, pause, finally see what it is I need to write. Type it. Don’t like it. Delete (bad NaNoWriMo participant, no deleting!). Try again. Works. Lean back in relief. Under 2000 words today, 18,630 words total.

10 November 2012

Today, for the first time, I got into my book, instead of being solely driven by some urge or my sub-conscious. It was like my conscious mind caught up to my sub-conscious and began to feel engaged not just taken for a speedy ride. I think thinking about my outline, moving chapters around in the Index Card app on my iPad, helped a lot. The new sequence made more sense for where I’m going.

Today also heralded the beginning of poetry in my NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote a couple of haiku. Added a poem I wrote a few years ago. I like things in threes. 🙂 Has a nice feel to it. Although I took my time over some of the prose, putting a bit of a brake on my flying fingers so I could actually engage, funnily enough, the haiku popped out pretty quickly. Time will tell if they’re any good!

Today also saw the most words I’ve written for NaNoWriMo 2012. Didn’t feel like that many words were popping out when I was typing away! 😀 I’ve now passed the 20k word count total mark. Yay!

13 November 2012

Well, I made it. Christ Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month, wrote a pep talk yesterday that so exactly described how it’s going for me (and everyone else!), I burst out laughing. It felt good. For a brief moment. And then it was back to feeling like my characters are like baked potatoes and my prose like a leaden, plodden wannabe. At one point, when I hadn’t even hit a thousand, I ran out of steam. How on earth was I going to fill today’s word count? If I could only get to 900, maybe 1000.

Then salvation. I’d forgotten part two of a conversation. I stuck it in, fleshed out the final scene — as in I put in lots of details to pad that count — well, to be honest, to put off writing the final, final part of the scene. Flipping through the print version of Roget’s helped in that quest too. It’s not like the ending of today’s chapter is particularly awful, it’s just that I’m kind of procrastinating going on with the rest of my day. But I’m done, so I can’t.

I hit the 25k mark yesterday! Woot! I was so flabbergasted, I fell backwards (figuratively speaking) instead of blogging on it. So I’m tell y’all now. One moment I was far away, the next I was past and jogging on to the next milestone. It’s going too fast this month!

15 November 2012

Today’s word count is low, lower than the daily 1,667 you’re supposed to write during NaNoWriMo. But that’s okay. I’m ahead in the total word count and am past the 30k mark; besides which this is a transition chapter.

I was staring at my outline this morning, feeling distinctly unhappy with what was on tap for today. It didn’t feel right. But I couldn’t see the big picture of where I’d begun up to where I was as of yesterday. So I grabbed a piece of paper and drew the line of the plot so far. Suddenly, I saw what should happen today. Totally NOT in my original plot or even idea for this book. I so did not see this coming. But it feels right. It ends one sub-plot line and opens up possibilities for what will happen. I almost feel like the ending has to change. But that ending is firm. Oh sure, little details will need to be tweaked. Nothing else though. Realising that, I know now I can’t go off into pollyanna land, I need to stay true to my vision, of what I want to say. So this chapter is a transition, a sudden 90-degree change in his life, yet he will remain on the same path.

30,943 words to date; 1,326 words written today.

16 November 2012

It’s my birthday today. I’ve written a chapter for NaNoWriMo every birthday since 2009 — that’s what happens when your birthday falls in the middle of a writing frenzy. But it’s been good. Today though, I turn 50 (a pointed reminder of all the losses and time since my brain injury), and I took it out on my poor character. Felt good. 🙂

I had no idea what I wanted to write after I willy nilly changed direction yesterday. Where was he going to go today? I tried to find a quote I’d read. Well, the kobo iOS app no longer has a search feature. Imagine that! An eReader that doesn’t allow you to search the text of a book, even behemoth-sized books when such a feature is de rigeur, you would think. So I went searching elsewhere, knowing that copyrighted books are not completely searchable on the Internet. I found some possible leads on the computer in long ribbons of text that made my brain hurt, and on the iPad, I had a great deal of trouble finding what I wanted. It did not help that mid-search, Windows decided to restart my computer. The little warning hadn’t popped up over the other windows, keeping itself nicely hidden (it does that sometimes). Finally fed up, I opened Scrivener and began banging out my fury. It helped. But I think my solution will be to move the ebooks I need for this book to another eReading app that allows searching. But today I wanted to write not mess about with ebooks and apps. Once you start doing that, your morning is gone and so is the writing time.

2,199 words today; 33,142 words so far.

17 November 2012

I was talking to a couple of people yesterday about the difficulties of writing my dark-but-not-bleak NaNoWriMo novel when I’m in a good mood. A mood, that if it ever falters, is soon lifted again by one of my weekly gamma brainwave biofeedback sessions. I should’ve written this book a couple of years ago when my mood was in the right vein. But then I wasn’t ready to anyway.

The problem isn’t that I can’t write. When I sit down to keyboard, the words flow. The problem is I feel too detached or too positive, and I find the words are going in the wrong direction. And I wonder just how emotive the story is anyway if I’m not feeling it. I can’t use music to create the emotional resonance I need because sound distracts me still. And it’s not an easy mood to get into; any dark mood isn’t if you must do it deliberately. But I need to feel what this guy is feeling so that I can convey it well. And I’m not.

After discussing it, I realised I needed to find the courage to connect to those feelings and then find a way to get out once the chapter was written for the day, otherwise I’d be covering everyone I met in spiderwebs of gloom. I did that this morning as a test, knowing no one would be in mood danger from me today. I wrote way, way more words than I have before, even though the fatigue started to pull at my muscles and shrink my body into my chair. I so, so want a nap. But the funny thing that happened is that I began to see opportunities for humour in a way that I hadn’t before, proving to me that in our darkest moments is when the silliest humour comes out in startling fashion. I don’t think my character will see any humour, but as long as the reader catches glimpses here and there, that’s all right.

36,688 words total. 3,546 words or 3,531 words today, depending on which program you believe.

19 November 2012

My outline and my current thoughts about my NaNoWriMo novel keep crashing into each other then veering away. Today, the setting coincided, but the conversation was completely different from what I had planned originally. That’s what happens when you “kill” off a character, or in this case, dump her. My mood too wasn’t quite up to snuff for this scene, once again, but near the end, I felt like I could feel it. Maybe I’m just doing too much mental work, what with my philosophy course and preparing for the book launch of my newest book Concussion is Brain Injury, for my brain to be able to feel the feelings. It’s not like the part of the brain that controls emotions is fully healed yet anyway. All in all, I’m happy with today’s output.

41,181 words to date; 1,739 today.

(Update: Added a couple more lines of dialogue. The mind doesn’t stop thinking just because one has stopped writing. 🙂 )

21 November 2012

I didn’t write yesterday. I think that’s the first day I’ve missed during  a NaNoWriMo month. I’ve missed days during ScriptFrenzy; but in previous Novembers, I had outlined books with 30 chapters and studiously wrote a chapter every day, no matter what.

This year, I don’t have 30 chapters. I have fewer. I’ve made a humoungous change in plot, some of my chapters will now have to be tossed completely, and I’m zonked from fatigue. I want to take a loooonnnnng nap. Not write. But after one lost day, I told myself it’s like riding a horse — you get off and don’t get right back on, you’re toast. Reading NaNoWriMo sprints on Twitter, seeing tweets from writers diligently writing, helped poke me too. Certainly made me feel like a slacker. So I took my dead muscles, sat myself down, and stared at my outline. Oh, what the heck, I thought. Whatever comes, comes. Another 2,000 words for today. Not bad for a chapter of mainly dialogue.

23 November 2012

NaNoWriMo writing session went well today. I ignored my outline and went with my gut. Let the muse lead, I declared! I was also too cranky (we will refrain from saying why!) to have the patience to ponder my outline and think about what should come next. Luckily, my imagination took control and I went with the flow. The scene unfolded into another scene; even as I thought I had come to the end of the chapter, my fingers continued to type. Cool. I feel much better too. My gamma brainwaves must be cresting on a high. 🙂

46,592 words total. Almost there!

30 November 2012

So OK, I finished two days ago on 28 November 2012, and I didn’t blog about it right then and there! Tsk. My excuse is I wrote for a long, long time for me, suddenly noticed the numbers on the clock, scarfed lunch, and ran out the door. When I returned, I couldn’t believe I’d finished — how could I blog on something unreal? 😛

I had wanted to finish my NaNoWriMo novel on Monday, but life conspired against me. Same again for Tuesday, but come Wednesday morning, I was not going to let anything get in my way. I was oh so close to the 50k mark and the final day of writing was approaching rapidly. If I didn’t watch out, it’d be gone and for the first time since I began writing NaNoWriMo, I’d “lose.” Bad for the ego that.

But first I had to decide what this final chapter for me to write would be on. I had pretty much tossed out the rest of my outline and was all at sea. Realizing thinking was only going to hold me up, I grabbed the edge of an idea, and went for it. I typed furiously, finished, saw the final total word count with relief, then eyeballed the chapter. Oh dear. I was missing something, specifically a transitional chapter before it. I had no time left. But I had to write it, for the words were starting to write themselves in my mind. Oh fine. I’ll create the chapter in Scrivener, but I’ll type it later. Uh uh, decided my fingers. They went crazy on the keyboard. For a short while.

I sat back again. NOW I was finished.

I validated later: 52,999 words for National Novel Writing Month 2012.

I AM A WINNER!!! Woot. Woot. Woot!!!



Camp NaNo: The Final Push

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I got a little antsy last week. First I’d gone into Camp NaNo word count deficit, then I’d recovered and gotten ahead, but then I took a look at this week’s schedule and went Eek! How was I ever going to write and keep up with all that I’d scheduled? There’s a reason you’re supposed to clear your calendar during NaNo month. So I decided: if I was going to finish my romance novel, I was going to have to do it on Saturday, 23 June 2012. It would entail me writing more hours than I  before, and it would entail me fleshing out my story. That was the other problem – I’d pretty much finished my story, but I had thousands of words yet left to write to reach the 50,000 goal.

I had to trust my inner writer, the one I don’t have conscious access to.

And that writer came through. I wrote in several spurts over the day last Saturday with breaks in between. I finished the story and then went back to the beginning to look for plot points or small scenes where the detail could be filled out to add to the story. I didn’t really want to put fluffy filler in (hopefully, I didn’t!). It was painful going, then all of a sudden I realised I was only a couple of hundred words away.

I put all the chapters together in one document and redid the word count.


I was now 1,000 words away. Somewhere, I had lost track of my word count and must’ve doubled … um, quadrupled counted.

I was ready to throw in the towel. But I took a break, a nap, a snack, and suddenly my mind was working again, thinking of details that would be good to add.

I had my thousand. Woot!

But wait. I couldn’t celebrate too soon. My word count was just a smidge over 50,000, and Camp NaNo’s word count validator may not agree with WordPerfect’s word count calculator and decide it was a smidge below. Camp NaNoWriMo hadn’t yet opened its word count validator, and so I saved and waited. Then late last night, I realised I’d forgotten to validate! Oops. If I was officially below, that wouldn’t give me much time to get back to romance writing. I quickly copied and pasted the text.

I won!



“Concussion is Brain Injury” in Editing

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I’ve been blogging on closed head injury, the kind of brain injury I sustained in January 2000, since 2009. Recently, I was prodded rather strongly to write a book on the subject, and so I gathered together my blog posts and along with Greg, came up with a structure for such a book. I asked and received feedback from another person with traumatic brain injury to get the perspective of part of my intended audience, made some changes, rewrote the intro, and rewrote it again. Intros are hard!

And now, finally, the book is being edited.

To be published just in time for the conference being supported by the NHL (National Hockey League) called “Keep Your Edge: Hockey Sports Medicine in 2012” to be held in the Toronto Marriott Hotel, Eaton Centre. On Day Two, the Conference will host a concussion symposium, which my certified athletic therapist will be attending (and how I came to know about the conference). Concussions are front and centre in professional hockey’s injury roll this year. The NFL (National Football League) started recognizing and addressing this serious issue years before the NHL and other Canadian hockey organizations did. But now the issue has snowballed into the public consciousness, and the powers that be are taking it seriously.

However, of far more relevance to the general public – aside from losing their favourite hockey player to head shots and concussions – are the usual causes of brain injury: car crashes and slips and falls. Yet that remains unrecognized by the public. I’m hoping though that the attention being paid to hockey players will spread out to recognition of how non-hockey players are injured and that my book will help shine a light on this huge societal issue, for right now brain injuries (which are what concussions are) are where cancer was before Terry Fox ran his daily marathons and galvanized the public into facing that scourge and the medical community to seriously researching diagnostic techniques and effective treatments.


Going into Camp NaNo Deficit

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It was a tough week, writing wise. I was having trouble with where my teen romance novel was going; worse, I was having trouble with how to navigate the writing life in Canada itself. As many of you may not know, there is anti-female writer and anti-visible minority bias on the part of reviewers (and judges), which journalists in the US and apparently in The National Post too, have brought into the light. Then I got quite behind in my word count as those two forces built up in my head. It was all very discouraging. But I skimmed through a couple of Harlequins — to see how the masters of the genre do it and to get back into the mood — and I spoke to my editor, and all was right again with my novelling. Herewith my last week of Google + posts on my Camp NaNo progress:

June 15

I’m a little behind. Ahem. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so far behind before in a NaNoWriMo event. It’s been a distracting week, though it wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t hit a lull in my novel, felt dissatisfied with how the story and characters were shaping up.

But I had a talk with my editor (not on this novel but on other things), studied a bestselling book in the same category as my novel for how the author had approached the material and, in particular, her writing, and all of a sudden my mind cleared, and I knew what I had to do: go back to the beginning and flesh out the scene much more. Now I know better who my characters are. Note to self: must outline and must fill in character templates. Lesson learned.

June 16

I was about ready to give up on my Camp NaNo novel. It’d been a tough week for writer-me, and it had sucked out all my desire to write. It didn’t help that I wasn’t sure if I was on the right track with this novel, worrying whether it was moving too slowly for the genre.

I decided to read a Harlequin — they are, after all, the best in the romance biz — to see if that would kickstart me, or would at least give me ideas as to the kind of writing style that worked with readers. That didn’t do much to get me going. I then spoke to my editor. Simply having a sympathetic ear about the things that were gnawing at me about being a female, minority writer in Canada and North America (which we know now from evidence not just anecdotally truly is discriminated against by reviewers and contests), turned things around for me. I read another Harlequin to get me in the mood (really, they’re all the same, yet somehow that doesn’t lessen their attraction with readers, and I began to understand why), and I woke up this morning ready to rock and write.

I wrote in three spurts. I promised myself some cheesecake if I completed my first task, which was to revise the chapters I’d already written to change one of the key characters slightly but significantly. Having done that, my novel no longer felt like it was sitting on sand but the solid rock of the right characters. In my next writing stints this afternoon and evening, I wrote new chapters. I haven’t quite got caught up on my word count, but I’m fewer than 600 words behind. Given how far back I was, that’s not bad.

June 17

From a deficit to well ahead, I went in today’s Camp NaNo writing sessions. My fingers hurt, my arms are lines of pain, my shoulders ache. But it was worth it — especially as I got to and past the scene I wasn’t looking forward to writing. It’s a necessary scene but not an easy one. 6,772 words today, for a total of 32,879 words written so far.

Glad that’s over! Now it’s full speed to the climactic ending. 🙂

June 18

Week Two’s Camp NaNo pep talk was on inspiration, or rather how it’s not what gets you through the long slog of the novel writing process. You gotta write whether inspired or not. You can’t wait for that fickle mistress. Today was definitely a day devoid of inspiration and motivation, and it took my schedule and all my willpower to sit my butt in chair and get typing.

Yet somehow, once I put fingers to keyboard, the scene wrote itself. So quickly, I was short a few too many words, and I went back and fleshed out a few descriptions to draw out the emotion. There’s spare writing and then there’s too-efficient writing!

I got another 2k written today, almost up to 35k total.

But how the heck am I going to write another 15k words?!! I’m almost at the end of my story. Hopefully, my fingers will tell me!


Has It Been Eleven Days of Camp NaNo Already?

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My, time flies when you’re novelling or rather dragging your feet as your fingers make futile efforts to type. On the up side, though I fell behind in word count, though I sank into a lull, though I wanted to chuck the whole thing, I only ever missed one day of writing. And I’m pretty much on Camp NaNo word count goal too, as you can see through my Google+ posts I reproduce for you below. Now, if only I could get myself motivated to paste the Camp’s badge on my website …

5 June 2012

Waking up is hard to do. Waking up on a cold June morning to write another chapter, one you have no idea what you’re going to say in, is groaningly difficult. But a blanket around me and a CES device (cranioelectrical stimulation) clipped to my ears, and I’m good to go. Now all I need is content.

No matter how often it happens, it amazes me always that though my mind be blank of ideas, once my fingers are on keyboard, the words start flowing in and flowing out onto the screen. It helps to put myself into the story, not just to think of it as an aloof storyteller, but to be right in there, sitting next to my characters in the canoe or at the kitchen table eating French Toast. Yup, descriptions of food and cooking appear in this novel too. I can’t help it. A character’s gotta eat. 1,692 words today

6 June 2012

I like the target board with an arrow on it, showing where you are on the word count, on the Camp NaNo website. The arrow is finally starting to visibly move on my board. It’s a tiny little bit on the way to pointing to the bull’s eye. A tiny bit is better than no bit, though I thought it’d be more. I think I forgot to enter my word count yesterday. I’m going to have to add it up again. I haven’t been using a spreadsheet like I have in past Novembers. Maybe I should. It’s not so difficult keeping track in the early days, but it’s not even a week, and already I don’t know where I am in the total word count. One of these days, I hope the NaNoWriMo folks will allow you to enter a daily word count and they’d add up the total for you. But then maybe most people type one massive document, while I open a new document for each new chapter or day of writing. 1,892 words today. Don’t know the total! 🙂

Update: I put all my documents together and redid the word count. Up to 10,330 words total! I’m past the big 10k hurdle. Woot!

8 June 2012

Well, I quit.

Actually, I quit yesterday.

Quit writing a novel on my iPad first thing in the morning, that is. It’s not that I couldn’t write — well, ok, it was getting harder and harder to get the ideas to flow — it’s that I’d tire quickly and it was becoming like the end of a torturous race after you’ve hit the wall to finish a chapter. It was also not that fun. I want to enjoy writing this novel. I want to engross myself in these characters. They’re nice characters. Interesting characters. And I wasn’t involving myself enough in them because of my fatigue. It’s hard enough after breakfast and with a cup of coffee at hand; it was becoming impossible before I’d had even a bite.

I suppose writing screenplays on my iPad right after I’ve woken up is easier because they’re shorter, don’t involve internal dialogue, and are all about the visuals (though the radio play I wrote in April was all about the audio). Whereas, books involve every sense. And well, I’m more serious about my books. Screenplays are strictly a creative exercise — plus it’s easier to reach the 100-page mark than the 50,000-word goal of NaNoWriMo.

So today, I filled my demanding stomach, pumped up my brain in caffeine (the coffee and chocolate kinds), and sat down at my computer. It was much easier and faster typing on a solid keyboard than on the iPad, even on the iPad’s Bluetooth keyboard, which is what I usually use when writing a blog post or longer piece. I am still fatigued but more ready. So I guess readiness and sitting up properly, my body telling my brain, pay attention, write and continue to write to the end, is better.

As Ben from Camp NaNoWriMo said in his pep talk, “Take this week to figure out how you write best, and then use those rituals to get yourself moving.” I did, by accident, and I think I’ve figured out how I write novels best. On my computer!

I wrote 2,891 words today. Not enough to get back on track, but a good haul nevertheless!

9 June 2012

I can type more words and type for longer on the computer than on the iPad … or maybe it’s not because of what I’m typing on but when. Being fuelled up with breakfast and coffee makes for a more productive writer, methinks.

I’m caught up to the word count, and I do believe hitting the 16,670-words-by-Sunday-night goal is totally doable now.

After an initial hello from a couple of them, my Camp NaNo cabin mates are pretty silent on the message board, though not in their novelling pursuit, if word counts are anything to go by. Still, one seems to have stopped, and one seems to have not started at all. But such is the NaNoWriMo life. You start, you stop, you don’t start at all, you get going in a hail of words raining down on your keyboard in a mad dash to beat the deadline. I’m hoping, though, that for once, I’ll finish my novel before the last day. I have completed the word count goal before the end, but not the novel itself. I shall need to step up the pace if I’m to do that.

11 June 2012

I’d hit a lull in my novel over the weekend. I thought by spending my Sunday writing time reviewing and fixing some of the character interactions in previous chapters — something I usually do as things change from what I’d envisioned originally the deeper I get into the novel — that that would “reset” me and get me enthused again, get the novel underway again.

But nope.

As I was moping about this morning, I suddenly remembered the NaNoWriMo motto: toss something unexpected in. That’ll work for Camp NaNo too, I thought. Now their suggestions are usually along the lines of flying monkeys and pink possums, but I decided on introducing a couple of characters in a little differently from the usual “Hi! I’m Susie!” variety. I am setting the novel in cottage country after all; there are all sorts of drowning possibilities. It’s amazing how that one little NaNo piece of advice got my fingers flying over the keys. From zero to 2,284 words in less than an hour. Awesome!