A Tiny NaNo Update At 40k Words

This is the letter you get at 40,000 words. It’s incredibly encouraging, for me at least. What’s especially funny though: I dyed my hair purple today for the first time in like four-ish months and the next scene I’m about the embark on literally is an awkward dinner.

The universe has opened up and screamed, “Ashley, finish this novel!”

I’m writing this on Monday night, but I’ll post on Tuesday. I’m hoping that I can poop out a fairly large number of words that day and possibly get another chunk written out in the car on Wednesday? Maybe I’ll even hand write some stuff and type it up that night. Anyway, we’re getting close, Dear Reader!

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NaNoWriMo 2018 – 37,500 Words (75% Complete!)

Yesterday was the 18th, 60% done with the month, and 75% done with NaNo! Well, 3/4 of the way to the 50k word goal, at least. I’m feeling pretty good, very pumped to continuously be ahead of the word count, and super proud for spewing out words every day, even if some days that count is paltry at best. It’s building the habit that’s important right now. I do wonder, though, if when I’m editing I should continue some kind of daily first-draft-type writing and how to balance this kind of work with the more conservative, delete-heavy, stress-out-over-every-word work that editing brings.

So here’s the way the last week looked:

Almost 12,000 words in under a week is very exciting!

I’ve done a little writing this morning, so I’m a smidgen farther than this now, but I am behind my goal of 50k by the 20th, obviously (that would be a miraculous 12k in a day. I mean, not impossible, but not bloody likely). I’m in the hardest part of the book now which is the end bits. I’m just at the edge of the climactic arc (is that a thing?), and tying everything together. I’m really excited about this part in theory because I’ve been imagining it for quite a while, but the specifics are still too vague. Just more evidence that a well-thought-out and tightly constructed outline is the way to go before banging out a first draft.

Bumping up to 20 minute sprints, I’m not seeing the jump in word count that I should be. In fact, I’m doing worse. I averaged 469 words per 15 minute sprints which works out to 31.23 words per minute, but at 20 minute sprints I’m averaging 563 words which works out to a lower 28.15 wpm. It’s very close, and I find myself checking the timer during the 20 minute sprints, worrying I didn’t start it, so they feel longer and are clearly less productive. It may behoove me to jump back down to 15 minute sprints, but I perhaps haven’t given myself enough 20 minute sprints to get into the groove. Technically I’ve only done more than one 20 minute sprint a day twice so far, so I’ll give them a few more days to work themselves out–they deserve that, though I might be done by then!

I’m developing a better voice for my characters now. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go humorous with this story, especially since I opened with a pretty dark scene, and I was trying to set up a world that was full of esoteric magic and walked the veil between life and death, but some of the concepts–like vampires and werewolves–just don’t feel right to me without an injection of self-awareness and whimsy. These characters by no means live in the same world as Vacancy, but their world can’t take itself that seriously. This does mean, though, a lot of editing is ahead of me, and finding a healthy balance between that eerie darkness that I love and recognizing that the word “fireball” is very silly.

And I’m still not sure what to do with this story when it’s edited and done. I contemplated self publishing, but that’s not an alternative to traditional publishing, it’s just a different road with a LOT of work behind it. I may release it by chapter on Wattpad, or maybe even here, or both! I hope that giving away some of my work for free will eventually develop me an audience for the future, but I also struggle with the idea that that devalues one’s work. Case in point: the 99 cent novel. I could write a whole ranty blog about that and still end on the note: I JUST DON’T KNOW.

Anyway, I’m headed back to the giant text file that Google Docs can hardly handle and am very hopeful that I’ll report #winning in a few short days. I’m headed out of state for the holiday soon, so I may get pushed out to the end of November, but I am determined. Happy writing, Dear Reader!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – 25,000 Words (The Halfway Mark!)

First 12,500 words.

Last night I hit 25,000 words, or 25,969 (nice) to be exact! I’m halfway there and though I’m a little bit behind my goal of hitting 50k by the 20th, I think I can still make it (especially if I keep on ignoring Vacancy).

There have been a few weird days, but also some really successful days. Even on the most busy of my days, I still made sure I sat down and banged out these micro-scenes that I was able to expand on afterwards. The habit continues, and I very much don’t want to skip a single day.

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As you can see I haven’t bumped up my sprint length yet, mostly because consistency hasn’t been my strongest suit. I did write in an actual Starbucks for a few hours, but that only garnered me 574 words total so a terrible word/hour rating. I have no idea how people do that. They must get some kind of thrill from being (what they think is) watched. For me, every voice and movement was distracting, and I couldn’t talk to myself as usual, so that’s not going to happen again! Also with someone with a tiny bladder, getting up to pee and leaving your stuff really isn’t an option in public every 15 minutes.

I’ve been writing a lot more in the evenings which works for me, but I don’t prefer it. I’d like to get my words done early in the day so that if I want to write in the evening, it’s just extra. I’ve been in a really terrible sleep cycle lately though, and it’s hella hard to break.

Also as expected, things are getting murky in the middle. I do a lot of second guessing around my characters’ motivations and their actions because I feel like they’re not well defined. A big part of my issue is “is it too soon in this relationship for this thing to happen?” and I think I need to hold a mirror up to myself here: I’m writing these guys so fast that I don’t know them, but they’re getting to know one another better and spending more time together in between the pages, than I am with them over these past 13 days. Does that make sense? Hopefully after putting this draft away for a bit then coming back to it will clear everything up for me.

I’m planning on a three month cycle after this–I hope! A writing, first edit, second edit cycle, working in new drafts every three months. I think that’s reasonable, but everything looks reasonable from the outside. It’s all theoretical now, so I’ll update on how it goes. I don’t even have enough drafts right now to make it happen, so it might be a two month cycle and maybe that makes more sense? How much time between drafts? Between first draft and final draft?

I’m struggling with all this because this strict plotting thing has been such a boon, but has also thrown off everything I thought I knew about writing and my own process. I thought it was intuitive–and don’t get me wrong, I think it largely still is–but if this, this massive thing, is something I’ve been doing so wrong (for myself) all along, what else has been wrong?

I guess November isn’t the time to consider all that anyway, for right now we must write! I’d like to really overachieve today, and half the day’s already gone, so off I go!

NaNoWriMo 2018 – First 12,500 Words

Fucking whoa.

So over the first five days of NaNo, I’ve averaged 2500 words per day (and I got Vacancy out on time, so what the fricking frick?) to get me to 12,554 words at the end of the day yesterday. Can yoU BELIEVE IT?

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Just a note: this story was one I came up with earlier in the year, mostly just for fun–I wasn’t ever sure I’d commit it to paper. I wrote out the first two-ish chapters just to see if it excited me a couple months ago, and it did. That’s those first 2801 words which I’m not including in my NaNo total.

The NaNo goal is 50k in 30 days, but my own personal goal this go around is 50k by the 20th which means I need to average 2500 words a day (check!) because holidays, but also because I know 50k isn’t enough for a complete novel, not this kinda anyway. That isn’t to say this will be some lofty story, it’s just more realistically going to be told in 75k – 85k words as most novels are, and I want to try and get all those words written within the 30 days.

During Camp NaNo I completed 50k words–and I felt great about it–but that was sorely short of the entire story. I lost steam at the end and didn’t finish the first draft while I was in that first draft headspace. I don’t want that to happen again.

But most of my writing is modeled in the same way as Camp NaNo: sprints and tracking all based on a very fleshed out plot. Nothing is set in stone, and this story could snake off into an entirely different direction, but it’s unlikely, and it’s a huge boon to have that outline and the scenes laid out so I can do a short review of what’s next right before starting the timer.

I went back to 10 minute sprints because I didn’t want to wear myself out at the onset (I haven’t done writing this intensively since July), and it worked. I’m up to 15 minutes again, and will probably bump it up to 20 in the next couple days and sail forward on those.

As for the story itself, I’m really into this one, but I’m concerned about character development and how a reader might connect with these guys. That’s probably because they’re not particularly complex right now and some of them–including the most important ones–are a little flat. The characters for my camp novel had bigger personalities and each had at least one overarching trait that made them unique, and if I ever got stuck writing them, I could fall back on that trait. This time the characters are more subtle, but maybe that’s just a fancy way of saying “boring.” That’s my main concern right now: get my love interests to stop being “generic boy and girl” and to start being compelling people who a reader will care about and root for.

But that’s not exactly the point of the first draft, that can come later if I can use this month to feel them out and just get their story down on paper. I find there are still times I second guess myself, but it’s a lot easier this go around to say “fuck it” and just keep slogging through. I know I can fix it later, and in fact I look forward to fixing it later because I really love editing. Some of today’s words are done, but there are still more to do. Keep on writing, everyone!

Why Do You Write?

Chris Fox, who I’ve written about before, posted a video recently asking this question: Why do you write? I love listening to videos and talks when I’m doing chores because it gets me in a creative mood, and this was no exception. It’s short and sweet and motivating.

Like most animals, humans are, I guess, compelled to pass on their genes. That or sex is just pretty nifty and babies are a natural outcome of copulation. Either way, I think it’s pretty natural to want to be remembered after we die. My experience in life has been that I am incredibly forgettable. I mean, the year I was born, my name ~Ashley~ was the second most popular, and still I have been called every other A-name under the sun. The likely hood of me being an Amber, Amy, Alison, Adrian, or Aaliyah is significantly lower than Ashley–AND STILL! I am just not memorable, and it’s been a little hurtful and embarrassing, reminding people of my name, how I know them, and just passively listening to them tell me the same stories over and over because they don’t realize that yes, we’ve met before, you blowhard!

Of course, I shouldn’t care, but it’s made me feel pretty insignificant most of my life (though it’s been less prevalent the older I get), so at least part of why I want to write is so I can leave something behind, something to be remembered by, a way to impact other lives. But I realize as I think over what that would be like, I kind of don’t care if people really remember me anywhere near as much as I just care that they get joy out of my work.

Like Chris mentions in his video, there are approximately two camps of people: the artists and the entertainers. I think I fall much more squarely in the entertainer category. Yes, I want to write good books, and I’d love if someone found a paragraph or a sentence that sounded like beautiful prose to them, but if I can bring someone joy, give them an escape from the drudgery and torment of life (not to be too dramatic, but you know) then I’ll have really felt like I’ve achieved something.

I also just want to see my name on a physical book in a bookstore. Hopefully by the time that happens Barnes and Noble will still be around, but I’d really just love to walk into one and see my name on the shelves, pick up a hard copy, flip through the pages, hold it against my chest and twirl around–you know, the typical things you do with books. I know it’s a very superficial thing, but it will certainly be a marker of “making it.”

And do I want to make money doing this? YES. OF FUCKING COURSE I DO. Will I ever be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling rich off writing? No, I will not be, that just isn’t in the cards–BUT I do think I can pull an upright seven of pentacles on this bitch if I work hard enough.

This is a great time, I think, to ask yourself this question if you’re doing NaNo. You’ve slogged through a few days, maybe you’re super pumped and ahead of schedule, maybe you’re super far behind and suffering from a block, maybe you’re completing the exact amount of words everyday and it’s going just fine, but contemplating your truth can only help you. And it’s not too late to start or to catch up right now. Hell, we were just given an extra hour by the universe and the American government–use those 60 minutes to poop out some words! Even if it’s a manifesto on writing, just do it.

Blogoween Day 32? A Wrap Up

Well that kinda went to pot at the end, didn’t it?

Happy Post-Halloween Depression, everybody!

I hope whatever you did to make yesterday special was awesome. I got up at about 4:30am so that I could do Husband’s makeup for work. I think it was worth it:

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He was a corporate demon with Terms of Service contracts and business cards for Beel Z. Bub. He also had a briefcase that, when opened, lit up with a red light and he played a crackling hellscape on his phone in his pocket throughout the day. If only we could have got smoke to come off him.

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Once he got home he changed into something more casual, just your average demon dad:

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You’ll notice in these shots our house is still messy as fuck. We’ll never be done unpacking.

I was a witch, which is pretty much the same as the other 364 days of the year, I just showed it on the outside:

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I did like a galaxy thing on my face because that never fell out of style with me, but I didn’t get a good picture of it til a lot of it wore off at the end of the night. My eyes are still rimmed in black today because I wear makeup so infrequently, that I have no makeup remover:

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I wanted a cute picture with Rutherford, but he was a vampire for Halloween:

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So now the season is over, and what did I learn from Blogoween? Don’t try and do it while you move! Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun, I think I pooped out at least a couple good posts, and I can carry this momentum on into NaNo for sure! Which starts…RIGHT NOW!

I’ll be tracking just like during Camp NaNo and hopefully get out ahead of myself these first couple days since November promises to be quite busy. Good luck to all you writers, out there!

Blogoween Day 13 – Spooky NaNo Prep

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I don’t think there’s anything particularly spooky about National Novel Writing Month except maybe the bone-crushing fear of taking on such a terrifying task or the horror of putting yourself through a grueling 30 days of writing to reach 50k words. But unless you’re writing horror, or a thriller, or darker paranormal stuff, or real-life scary things, or, well, you get the picture, you’re probably not going to immerse yourself in spookiness for NaNo.

Still, we should discuss since it’s lurking just beyond the horizon of Halloween, aaaaand I need a topic for today.

I’ve written a few (well, more than a few actually) blogs about NaNo in the past:

If you don’t have time for all those, well, I don’t blame you, Dear Reader, but the gist of everything is this: I’ve never hit 50k words during actual NaNoWriMo, but I sure blog a lot about planning to! November 2017 I did manage 30k, and then last July I completed Camp NaNo, and I actually got 50k words done in 31 days! So I have a lot of confidence for this month coming up, and I’ve identified the tools I need to do it.

I hit a slump in August and September, just after wowing myself with 50k words for the first time, but surprisingly it wasn’t because I wore myself out. On the contrary, I was actually more pumped about writing in July and just after than I have been in years–I felt the invincibility that only teenagers in fast cars feel–it’s just that the rest of life got in the way. So near the end of September I formulated a plan:

  • October: Blogoween and catching up with Vacancy
  • November: National Novel Writing Month with a completely new project
  • December: Edit She’s All Thaumaturgy (working title, 2018 Camp NaNo project)

October is meant to be prep month for NaNo-ers, Preptober, I think? So to warm up my creative juices, I decided to blog every day. Sticking to a daily writing/creative task is good practice regardless of if you’re working toward something, honestly, and for me it’s been a way to sort of clear out the cobwebs (ooh, I see we are getting a bit spoopy, huh?)

And of course the other point of Preptober is planning your novel. I’ve learned that I am absolutely not a pantser like I believed for so many years (it was a bit like finding out I was a Hufflepuff and not a Ravenclaw like I thought for so long), but I’ve been torn the last couple weeks on which plot to pick: I have two projects that could neatly fit themselves into the month 1) The Last House on Magic Lane and 2) This One’s Embarrassingly About Vampires and Werewolves. (Neither of these are even working titles, they’re just what I’m calling them for this post, but there is a part of me that kind of wants to be the author who titles her books these things.)

Last House is something I came up with quite a while ago–it’s another story about a charmed place, as I am so wont to do, and has a complex history and soap opera feel to it. In fact, I originally conceived of it as another serial that I wanted to be a long and complex parody of a soap opera, told from many viewpoints spanning a few generations, but I’ve since scaled it back to a one-off. The story does lend itself, though, to a possible trilogy, and might be better served that way, so it may not be the best contender for NaNo. Right now, this book is a collection of scenes and an overall mythology, but a lot of the motives and characters are not neatly defined.

Embarrassing is kind of the total opposite: it’s a much newer idea, the plot is reliant on a much smaller cast moving from pace to place, and it’s absolutely a one-off. The other pro to Embarrassing is that I have the plot and characters almost entirely mapped out; Last House would require significantly more work to get it to the same place. So the choice seems easy, right? Except it’s not because Embarrassing is exactly that: EMBARRASSING. Well, okay, not really, but it falls squarely into young adult paranormal romance territory (I mean, I have it saved in a folder called “Wattpad” on my Google Drive, for goodness sake!), and my fear is that I’ll fall into all the easiest tropes and cheesiest writing if I go with this story. But maybe that’s who I am and I should embrace it? It’s just a first draft, after all, and I can trash it if I want, but I’d really like this to be something I can come back to in a few months (like I will be doing in December) and rework into something publishable.

Then again, maybe Embarrassing, like Blogoween, is exactly what I need right now. Maybe I need to purge these ideas and words from my system. And maybe it will end up being great after all?

I should probably not rush Last House. With only 18 days to go in October (and a LOT of crazy life stuff happening in that short time) I don’t know that I could even successfully plot out where I would want the story to go over the course of a single novel anyway, and I’d ultimately probably feel like I was cheating myself and the story if I cut out all the grandiose plans I had for it. So, I guess that settles it? This One Is Embarrassingly About Vampires and Werewolves it is? Have I talked myself into it?

Well, I guess so. Now to finish fleshing out the plot, and crossing all my appendages that I can shit out enough words in November to make it count!