A NaNoWriMo Update (Without An Original Post)

It’s almost the end of 2019 which has personally been both an amazing and terrible year. It’s going to end in a way I could have never expected, but not without National Novel Writing Month happening all around me, so I’ve decided for better or worse to take it on yet again. Someday I need to write a post about my love/hate feelings for the concept, but for now, here’s an update on how I’m getting along with it.

First of all, their new website is all fucky, but I realize that I can use it for free, so I really can’t complain all that much. It’s just kind of annoying that the kinks weren’t worked out sooner and it was basically launched along with NaNo this year so users are having trouble with it along with trying to write 50k words in 30 days. Like I said, it’s free (unless you count the advertising), so I really should not complain, but I was having trouble remembering if I’ve ever won a NaNo. Like a real one, during November. I know I won camp once, but that’s not as “real,” ya know? And looking that info up on the site is nowhere near as intuitive as it used to be, and when I found it, it was definitely wrong, so I used my own website which…wow, right?

It doesn’t matter though; every attempt is its own and should be treated as a singular thing. The fact I’ve triumphed and failed in the past isn’t really telling of what will happen now since I’m a different person than I was during all of those past attempts. I would say I’m determined to win this year, but really I’m just determined to do it and survive.

I’m about 4000 words behind schedule, and we’re just past the halfway point. I’m at 25,931 words as of this posting. It’s doable still, and one good day will rocket me ahead of schedule, but it’s sort of funny to think: 50k words does not a novel make. I’m fairly certain my story will take closer to 80k to be properly told, so I’ll be writing into December either way. The good news is my individual 15 minute sprints are seeing more words per sprint than I used to average, proving that writing, in some ways, is a skill you cultivate through practice.

I’m still excited about the story I’m currently working on which is great news for day 18, and I’m more “free” with my writing too–that is to say, I’m sort of just going for it and worrying less about it sounding perfect or making total sense right now. The Korinniad was written more strictly, and I still made some major changes in my first edit, so I know I can’t insulate from that happening. When I jump into a chapter knowing where it should go, but not entirely sure how to get there, I sort of just force myself to write it, knowing I can change it later, and I’ve actually managed to produce some stuff I really like that I wouldn’t have probably come up with otherwise. There’s some trash too, no doubt, but the garbage pickup later will be worth the metal scraps I can trade in for a few nickels.

Which reminds me, after a long discussion with Husband, I’ve decided to self publish The Korinniad in 2020! She still needs an edit, a beta read, and a cover (and I guess an advertising plan too, ha), but I think I can get those things done in the first quarter of the year. I’ve self published in the past, so I know the technical process, but this time I’m throwing my real name on it, so it really needs to be good.

But back to NaNo. It’s happening. And maybe–MAYBE–this book will be on my future Amazon author page along with The Korinniad before 2021.

Dedicate

A subtitle for today’s blog could be “Planning for Brainstorm February,” but I gotta stay on this month’s brand, and dedicate actually works out. I dedicated today’s practice, as Adriene asked us to, to “my work.” It was meant to be a person or a thing that wasn’t ourselves to prove how self love and care isn’t selfish, which I 100% agree with, but I wonder if choosing my writing really is selfish. I reasoned that I’d like to write for other people, I want to bring joy to others, but am I capable of that? Is it not just selfish but self aggrandizing to think that’s where this all will lead? I dunno, but that’s what I did.

I’m at least an ancillary believer in putting things out into the universe to make them come true, so I’ve formed a writing plan for the next month and for the whole year. I even wrote it down in my bujo. Woah.

One of my 2019 goals is to complete three new first drafts. I did like half to two thirds that last year, so I know it’s possible with some proper planning. Currently NaNo is traditionally in November and camp runs in July, so I’ll be observing these for two of my drafts. I was pumped to find out the NaNo people actually run two camps, but bummed to see they’re in April and July. July and November are four months apart, but April isn’t equally spaced like the others, so I’m creating my own little NaNo event in March instead so my drafts will be equally spaced, leaving my three full months between writing sessions for editing of last year’s and this year’s drafts and, if I’m so inclined, other new writing projects.

If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that a well-thought-out, specifically designed plot will help me reach my word goals. That is not to say the plot cannot change as my characters reveal themselves through the story, but when I find myself in times of trouble, my methodic plot comes to me, speaking words of wisdom: “just do this shit right here, you already wrote it down, Jesus.” So to get to that point, I’m dedicating February to plotting. For the rest of this week I’m tying up my SAT loose ends, then come Monday the 4th I’m following this schedule:

  • Monday – Story one’s premise, general outline, character sheets, and how I see the story ending
  • Tuesday – Plot act one
  • Wednesday – Plot act two
  • Thursday – Plot act three
  • Friday – Fill in plot holes, flesh out any parts that were skipped
  • Saturday/Sunday – General clean up

Rinse and repeat for three weeks until three plots are written, then use the last four days in February to pick which one I’d like to work on in March and to fix anything up that needs to be done before jumping in. Maybe this seems lofty, but I have about five different stories rolling around in my brain already to choose from for this process, and I have many of the characters and events thought out and even written down in some instances, so I’m not going in completely blind.

I don’t really write in “acts,” but I can generally feel where they fall in my work. Acts one and three, or the beginning and the end, are typically 25 to 50% of the whole thing while act two, or the middle, is at least half if not more of the story. It’s the alternative meat product in my vegetarian sandwich. So I’m not too sure I’ll have “equal” work for the middle of the week, but then again I’ve never worked like this before. I guess we’ll see at the end of February if it works out at all.

Power

Today, I have the power to stay on task. I mean, I had the power to stay in those standing splits the whole time and do shiva squats, so I could probably conquer the galaxy if I put my mind and brawn to it today. But we’ll save becoming Supreme Leader of the Universe for another day.

I’m also writing about pirates and an invisible ship today. Sort of like Jack Sparrow meets old school Wonder Woman. Except there’s also dragons. And I’m getting lots of chores done, and planning a tofu fried rice for dinner with leftover hibachi that’s going to be killer. Oh! And I did my February bujo spread and a little planning for the upcoming month. God damn I’m on a roll!

In other, not as great news, I was looking at my credit score and found some discrepancies. 1) A debt that I’m completely unaware of and 2) Two hard inquiries for the same pull. Both are pissing me off, but while I can dispute the debt, I can’t dispute the inquiries using the bureau’s online system, so I’m going to have to call them which I’m sure will be a shitshow. I think it’s utter bullshit that these companies, which are completely private and seem to be held to absolutely no standard and are wrong so frequently. (Seriously, you NEED to watch that whole video in the link.) A very smart friend encouraged me to sign up for Credit Karma a while back, and I am so glad I did. But I’m going to drop the anger, and focus on fixing it.

January is almost over which means I need to soon take a step back and evaluate what habits have been working for me this month and what has not. Specifically, I need to look for a method for tracking habits related to writing that goes beyond sprints and word counts because February is going to be brainstorming and plotting heavy, but I don’t know how to track those things exactly. I’m thinking the best way may be to just set minor goals throughout the month because it’s hard to track progress when brainstorming isn’t exactly tangible. I might write a thousand words about two or three scenes one day, then I might write a hundred words but get down a third of the plot, so it’s a little wibbly wobbly. If you have suggestions, I am so hardcore open to them! And hopefully if I figure something out, I’ll share them here.

I also need to figure out how I’m going to blog going forward. I think I’m going to end January with more views than I’ve ever gotten in one month, so daily blogging is tempting, but I know it’s not sustainable, and that’s the key to any habit or change: sustainability. Also, the content isn’t the quality I’d like to hit. I like utilizing quantity for productivity–and that really does work for me–but we love a quality queen, right?

Joyful

Man, this is necessary after yesterday’s big ole downer of a post.

But listen, I do have something to be joyful about. (I mean, I actually have hundreds of things to be joyful about, but this one specific thing is just the cat’s pajamas to me right now.)

I FINISHED A BOOK. Reading, that is. I finished reading an entire book. Wow.

So yeah, I get that that is not a big accomplishment, especially for someone who touts themselves as a writer. In fact, reading is an absolute necessity to be a writer–that’s what all the other writers say anyway–but my problem has always been getting part way through and wanting to go write myself and not picking the book back up. I decided I was changing the habit in 2019, and so far it’s going great.

I finished The Color Of Magic last night and even started Equal Rites before going to bed. I’m often afraid of stealing from the things I’m reading when I write, so I used to chose to read books way outside of the genre I was writing in, but I’m writing a comedic fantasy now, and I’m reading them as well, and this seems to be going a lot better than I expected. I could never write like Terry Pratchett, he’s legitimately just too fucking good for me to worry about copying.

I’m also pretty joyful about how much stronger I’m getting from yoga. I lost quite a bit of strength from being so sedentary in the last few months, but it’s quick to come back. My planks are pretty rad now, and I’m holding poses in ways I wasn’t able to before. Progress.

Courage

Today we flew! Crow, or bakasana, is one of my favorite poses mostly because when I first saw Adriene demonstrate it and then turn to the camera and expected me, at home, to do it too, I was like “WTF, you want me to do that? But I’m a beginner!” But after a surprisingly short time I actually found that I could do it. Not well, mind you, and still today I am super shaky and fall over quite a bit, but it’s a posture I’ve gotten better at exponentially and, seriously, is there a better family of birds than the corvid? No.

This year, I’m getting more organized, which is something I say every year, but this year I bought something I’ve been kinda pining after for a while: a bullet journal. But let me be absolutely clear: I do not intend on doing the whole like key for tasks thing, moving them forward and backward and basically any of the actual bullet things. I just want a pretty notebook that I draw calendars and doodles in. And look at the start I’ve gotten to:

Just a note: I searched on Pinterest for examples of cute doodles and things, so none of those images are original from my head, but I did freehand them all. I used to draw and doodle quite a lot, but it’s been ages, so I needed a kick-start.

I actually just got the journal today, so I’m starting to fill it out in the middle of January which is making me feel some misplaced–but predictable–stress, but I’m determined to back fill the month! I had another planner that I got in November and used in December as a sort of test, but the paper is SO THIN that everything bleeds through. It was also a ringed binder where one can add more sheets to which I thought was a great idea for someone like me who would inevitably rip mistakes out and have ideas and want to add new things in, but it’s just too bulky–I couldn’t take it on our trip at Christmas, and I was bummed out about that because I wanted to take some notes while we were gone, so I think the portability of this notebook will be key.

Ultimately I want to use this to track my habits, especially writing, and keep track of appointments, but mostly as a sort of journal where I can mark down special things that happened. Less for thoughts and feelings and more for recording activities and, well, I guess my thoughts and feelings about those. I just want, at the end of the year, a lovely little book that sort of encapsulates 2019. So many little things happen to us and then they’re gone, especially, I think, in a world where we take so many photos but almost never print them out or even look at them again. We live through our lenses just to record moments we won’t revisit, and I want to find a way to circumvent that. Now that we have a printer, I think I’ll actually print out some photos and add them to my journal through the year too. So I guess it will be a sort of scrapbook too.

I don’t know if recording life is particularly courageous, but putting it out there that I’m starting this will, hopefully, hold me to keeping up with it.

Foundation

Today was, as I texted my mother, the worst day of the year…so far. I fell asleep last night with a little ache in my noggin and woke up with an almost blinding pain rattling around my brain. Husband brought me two naproxen (which I’ve been avoiding in lieu of acetaminophen, but this was bad, my dudes), and I forced myself back to sleep (or “back asleep” as I typically say but have been advised is WRONG by Husband). Upon waking again later my head felt even worse, but we had an appointment with a roofer today to fix a hole (fuck off, nature!), and I needed to get up and do something.

So something I did, as in I cleaned the whole house. My plan was to get up, do yoga first thing, go for a short walk, then do a quick clean of everything including laundry and dishes and then break my fast before my noontime appointment, but I knew I wouldn’t make it through yoga or a walk feeling like my brain was fighting to be on the other side of my skull, so instead I meandered through the house at the pace of a centenarian, moving things back to their rightful places, loading laundry, washing dishes, folding laundry, scooping cat poop, and generally making the house feel livable.

The headache didn’t ease up, even after laying in darkness for a bit, and not even after some Costco pizza! (I feel betrayed, is pizza not supposed to heal all wounds??) So when we got back from the store, I decided, it’s now or never, I gotta get on the mat, it’s only day two for crying out loud, and I’m not going to let my own head stop me!

I don’t remember when my head stopped hurting, but by the time I was in shavasana, I forgot I’d even had a headache to begin with. I’m fairly certain it was Adriene’s sweet, sweet voice, so the list of cure-alls (cure-mosts?) is as follows:

  • Costco food court pizza
  • Adriene Mischler telling you to kiss your sweet knee

I also had a bit of a breakthrough with my story today (even with the headache), and resolved a number of issues I was having all at once. This came on the heels of cleaning up and getting moving, and I think that’s my foundation: getting back to what is proven to work for me which is basically walking around the house, keeping my hands busy with tasks, and talking to myself about imaginary people and scenarios. It’s hard to get back on track after the holidays when your schedule is non existent and all of November and December feel like that, but we’re back now, we’re good, and it’s time to go.

Post NaNo Wrap Up And Planning For 2019

Well, so much for Blogmas!

Actually, I didn’t plan on doing Blogmas, so I’m not behind or anything, but I would like to post regularly on here again. I need to find a way to do so that isn’t as severe as every day, but not as wanting as every week.

I have been writing, though, just finishing up my NaNo work. I got about 10k more words in the last week, but I wasn’t as prolific as I wanted to be. It’s easiest to blame Husband being ridiculously sick, but it ultimately comes down to my own laziness. I did get to just about the end of the story. I have maybe three more chapters to go, but I’m leaving those to be done after the first edit/rewrite because I feel like once this is edited, there’s going to be some major plot doctoring/character changes that would significantly change this last set of scenes, so I’m just leaving the very ending open to whatever happens in the future.

Here’s a look at last week’s writing schedule finishing up The Omega (title likely to be changed):

It’s lackluster, I admit, but like every time I have a dip in my prolificness, it’s due to the outline not being well fleshed out! I reached just over 60k words total in this book’s first draft, which isn’t bad, and I’m guessing the final drafts will be somewhere around 70k and maybe 40 chapters (my goal is actually shorter chapters than I normally write as I’m looking to web-publish and I’ve read that due to the average shorter attention span, shorter chapters are the way to reader’s hearts which is hard for my normally verbose self).

So where do I go from here? Well, first The Omega needs to stew, so the file is being put away for at least a month. Before it gets completely shelved, I’m doing two things: writing out the skeleton, and consolidating my first draft notes.

The Skeleton — This is a new-to-me thing which is basically a bare bones (hence “skeleton,” get it?), post-draft/reverse outline. I’ve been keeping up with it as I go every few chapters and just finished it up today. It basically looks like this:

  1. Single sentence recap of the chapter
    • Important specific thing that may have happened
    • Other important specific thing that may have happened
      • Clarifying thing relating to character or story development if necessary

The numbers on the list relate to chapters, so I have as many header bullets as chapters, and up to three sub bullets each, but hopefully less. I want this to be incredibly brief, unlike the outline I create before writing, because the point of this will be to help me edit later (when did that happen? who was there?), and to help me see if too much or two little is going on in a chapter (I’ve already marked a few chapters that will need to be broken into two), or where I can successfully add or remove information or additional chapters.

First Draft Notes — These are major issues I encountered as I went. I wrote most of them in comments on the actual document using Google Docs, though some I listed on my skeleton. What I’m doing now is just quickly rewriting them at the head of my skeleton so they’re all in one document as their own little list. This way, when I go to do my edit, I can look over the issues I know I already have and be figuring out how to resolve them as I do a future read-through.

For instance, in the last third of the book, I reference and use telepathy pretty heavily. It’s not a major element earlier; however, I feel like it should be established and some ground rules should be laid for it early on so it doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere later. Right now it feels like I’m using it as is convenient for the plot, but there have always been rules, I just haven’t framed them in any way for the reader, so I can see it feeling stupid and plot-holy later. This is something that, if I know about it as an issue when I do my first read-through, I can identify where I should be putting this information.

Beyond these two things, I’m hanging up my hat on phase one of The Omega project, which means tomorrow I enter phase two of the She’s All Thaumaturgy project! I have to say, I so badly miss this band of characters. While The Omega‘s characters are darker and broody (and that can be really self-indulgent and its own kinda fun to write), these guys were goofy as all hell and so much fun! I have so many ideas for that book, my heart is so full!

I’m going to try and follow Chris Fox’s editing technique, but I know VERY little about it right now, so tomorrow morning I’ll be watching his How To Edit videos and put that process to work first thing. December is going to be so busy.

NaNoWriMo 2018 – Winning!

Well, shit, you guys, it finally happened. I’ve been a member of the NaNo website for almost a decade, I used the site to track for the past three years (though I competed more often than that), and finally, last night, I became a winner for the first time in the month of November. I did it!

Of course, the story is not complete, and I didn’t exactly stay on the schedule I’d hoped to, but I got 50k words on the page in 30 days. I DID THE THING!

I had some failures along the way, chiefly among them that I didn’t write every single day. I really did make an effort, even during busy days early in the month, I pulled out the computer and typed up a handful of words if for no other reason than to keep up the habit. Those hundred or so words were not particularly good, and they didn’t even pad the count, but they were a reminder of work to be done, and honestly they made me feel a sense of accomplishment. But I failed that on the first day of vacation! I wanted to hit 50k by the 20th because I knew I’d fall behind while in Ohio, but I fell behind ahead of schedule, so ya know, here we are.

But where we are is winning, so yeay! You can see I dropped back down to 15 minute sprints. Quantitatively, they’re more efficient, and they feel better, so I think I’ll continue this going forward.

Which brings me to where I take this which is through to the first week in December where I’ll just continue sprinting like it’s November to wrap up this story. I have the end plotted out (not as tightly as I’d like, but enough to get me there). When I finally get “the end” on the page, I’m going to finish up my skeleton (a very brief breakdown of the overall story by chapter) and make a short list of the issues I marked for myself to resolve in editing (currently they’re in the form of comments on the story document in Google Docs). This way, when I go to edit in a month or so, I’ll have my tools at the ready, and I won’t have to do a review before I review, if that makes sense.

My plan is the finish this up by December 7th (and if I can bang out 10k words over that time I’m fairly certain I’ll get there), then I’m going to binge Chris Fox’s editing videos before pulling She’s All Thaumaturgy out of hibernation to edit. This will be the first time I’m looking at the story since I wrote the first draft sprint-style back in July, so I’m nervous but excited. I expect it to be trash, but workable trash. That story isn’t complete, so after editing what I have (about 70% complete), I’ll pick up first-drafting the rest of it. I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go, but it’s the best I’ve got for now. I do think She’s All Thaumaturgy (title most likely to be changed) might just be the first book I ever query out to agents, so I get a little twitterpated when I think about it. Hopefully the prose and the story live up to my expectations.

I also bought a boatload of organizational things to keep myself on some kind of track going forward. I’ll probably blog about my planning goals sometime in December as I work through how I want to use these things. I love that false sense of having your life together that holding a planner in your hands gives you. I looked down at all my sticky pads and colored markers and I just said to myself, “Damn, future me, you are fucking organized. I cannot wait to be you, bitch!”

So yeah, NaNoWriMo 2018 has been one of my biggest successes ever, and it feels surreal. I mean, I’m happy about it, but I can barely believe it. What I can believe is how hard I fell behind on Vacancy and blogging in general. This is why I need to get organized: so shit doesn’t slip away from me! But on the flip side, things slipped away in favor of something good, not fucking off, not getting sad, not a fruitless endeavor, but a real project that–despite calling my “Embarrassing” project which is still true–I’m confident I’ll be self publishing possibly here before the end of 2019. And the world needs more stories, even if they are about vampires.

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!

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!