Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Bearded Man Cometh

Today is the final day of both November and NaNoWriMo. I'm heading home tomorrow after a nice week spent in FL with my folks and have a crap ton of things to do in the coming week(s). If you sensed a list rapidly approaching on the horizon, then you were correct. Give yourself a hearty clap on the back and then buckle in for a numbered ride.
  1. I won't be good for much of anything tomorrow after driving 6.5+ hours to get home, but on Monday I need to put fall decorations away so I can dress the house up in all its Christmas finery. And there's a lot of it. I love the holiday, but GODDAMN is it a ton of work. Luckily, I scoured the house before I came down here, so I'll only have to dust before putting out decorations.
  2. Grocery shopping. We have no eggs, no fruit (how will I live!!), no milk (which means no coffee...again, how will I live!!), and no fresh veggies, as I either used them all before we left or brought them with me to FL.
  3. Finish Christmas shopping for my husband so I can get his presents in the mail at least two and a half weeks before they need to be there. Three, if I can manage it. I ordered a bunch of stuff online during Thanksgiving and Black Friday and most of it has shipped. He never provides that great of a list, so I'm mostly winging it. Also, he has to carry all this shit back with him or send it back before he returns in February, so it doesn't make much sense to send tons of stuff. Guess that new puppy will have to wait until next year...
  4. Get Christmas cards written out and sent. This will be done by the end of the week. I have the cards at home (I got about eight boxes last year at 90% off, so I'm set for a few years). I need stamps. So add a post office run to the list.
  5. Shoot our Christmas card photo. I usually do a lovely picture of the kiddo, but we have a better idea for this year. I have a very nice camera I got a few Christmases ago as well as a tripod and remote, so we're going to do something fun that will surprise (and hopefully amuse) our friends and family. I may post it on this blog if it turns out the way we want. But I need to get the appropriate wardrobe items, shoot the picture, and get it printed by the weekend so I can include it in our cards.
  6. Oh, right, I'm a writer, I should probably do some non-holiday stuff just to keep things consistent. I need to start editing the novel I finished in the fall, before NaNoWriMo. I'd like to have it ready for submission in the new year if I don't hear anything positive from the agent who requested the full MS and the few who are still ruminating over my last query letter. The novel needs a good final edit, and it's a productive way to spend the three weeks before I motor back down to FL to spend Christmas with my family.
  7. Edit the short stories I wrote in October and submit them to literary magazines. I had a lot of fun writing these. Hopefully, I can get some printed. I may even write a few new ones.
  8. Make a run to the library. I have three or four books waiting that I'd like to finish before Christmas break.
  9. Take Zoey to the vet. She needs her bordetella booster and 6 months of Trifexis. Should be a fun way to spend 300 dollars. Merry Christmas, Zoey!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Given the holiday combined with the warm and fuzzy feeling I get when hanging out with family, I thought, why not do a list of things for which I'm thankful? Here we go:
  1. My family. This goes without saying, but I'm saying it anyway. It always makes me happy to have the opportunity to hang out with my folks and my kiddo. Wish the husband was here too, but thanks to the wonders of technology, I've been able to chat with him a little even though he's deployed.
  2. My husband. Yes, he's part of my family, but he deserves his own number for several reasons. He's overseas fighting for freedom, bacon, and the American way. And he's also my biggest fan and strongest supporter. He believes in my writing and has suffered through many drafts, disappointments, and long, one-sided conversations about plots, characters, and agent woes. I couldn't have asked for better.
  3. My kiddo. Also part of my family, but she deserves her own number too. She's such a great kid (99.9% of the time, haha) that I often wonder just where in hell she came from. Then she gets snarky and I know she came right from me. Love that kiddo and can't imagine my life without her.
  4. My awesome friends. We're spread out all over the country, but still hang out online just about every day and get together whenever one of us is close. Writing is a lonely business (so is moving every two years when the Army tells us we have to), so it's always nice to see friends and family.
  5. Zoey. Yes, my mastiff, writing buddy, and secret keeper (she's damn good at this last one). Whenever I read whole sections of my WIP out loud, she manages to look super interested and she's quick with a hug. I spend more time with my dog than I do anyone else.
  6. The fact that everyone I care about is still here to celebrate Thanksgiving. We had a serious scare last year with my mom that we can all joke about now that it's 355 days safely behind us, but we weren't laughing last year. It really made me appreciate all the moments I spend with the people in my life who mean so much. You never know when your last moments together will be.
 On that slightly morbid note, I'll wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Enjoy that turkey and pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 25, 2013

To NaNo or Not to NaNo...Haters Gonna Hate

Seems to be a lot of negativity out there about NaNoWriMo, mostly from people not doing it. Lots of folks have a lot to say about how counter it is to the 'artistic process' or how it propagates focusing on 'incorrect' goals--i.e. quantity over quality, word count over plot formation and characterization, the discouragement of brainstorming and research during the writing process. I agree that participants shouldn't beat themselves black and blue over not reaching the magical 50 thousand word goal. It's a random number and some just won't make it, which is perfectly fine. I took part this year for the first time simply to shake up the way I normally write. I had just finished a project and thought, why not? I spent October doing my research and brainstorming and was ready to go come 1st November, or at least as ready as I was going to be. The words came better than I'd expected, but I'm also used to sitting in my home office anywhere between six to nine hours a day and working on various projects. For me, NaNoWriMo was a way to challenge myself to a higher level of productivity. And I wanted to see if I could get from concept to completion in a month.

As for the naysayers, I get the distinct impression that some simply want to rain on the parade of those enjoying their NaNo experience (and, honestly, there will always be fuckers who just want to ruin good things for other people), but others seem worried that participants are taking things to an unhealthy extreme. I agree. Some are. If you don't make it to 50k, just be happy you got something out of the experience. Writing anything is a win. Period. If the challenge shook you up and got you excited to write something every day, all the better. Quantity is the first step on the road to quality. And we all work at different paces and in different ways. The important thing is to work. Lots of writers are forcing their asses into chairs and fingers onto keyboards every day for the first time ever. That's a beautiful thing. And just what the hell is 'the creative process' anyway? Isn't it different for everyone? For me, it mostly involves keeping my ass upstairs in the office where it belongs so I can write, even if I don't feel like it. Some days, I have to hold a knife to my throat just to keep going (and it's no easy feat typing with just the one hand). If NaNoWriMo helps get you into that productive groove, then more power to you. If it's not your bag, that's cool too, just don't devalue it for those getting what they want out of the process. There is no single 'right' way to complete a novel. Your way isn't the Correct way, fyi (note the capital C); it's simply the correct way for you (now note that little c). No reason to preach at those whose writing process allows for an experience like NaNoWriMo. Just keep on keeping on in your own way and let others do the same.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Things have happened over the last few days. Interesting things? Debatable, but we're doing a list anyway, so check it:
  1. I'm visiting my folks for the week of Thanksgiving. It's always strange to come home as an adult, hanging out in the house in which you were once a child (or teen, in my case; we did some wicked traveling while I was growing up--military brats, holla!), and seeing all the changes in town since the last time I visited. It is nice to be in Florida. So warm; like fall doesn't even exist. I'm rocking skirts again, which I haven't done in several weeks. We'll be here for Christmas too, since the hubs is deployed, so more toasty winter weather. Running should be fun on Monday morning. Bye bye 30 degree temperatures...until we meet again...
  2. I finished my novel for NaNoWriMo on the 20th, wrapping up at about 93k. I was able to push through the troublesome denouement by simply letting it come to the tips of my fingers as I chugged along. I have some serious edits to do, of course, but I'm twelve shades of pleased to have written 93 thousand words in twenty days. I love the story I ended up with too; I just need to polish it until it shines like crazy.
  3. Remember those query letters I sent out a few months ago? Well, I've received a torrent of rejections (comes with the territory, yes?), but that was to be expected. Not everyone recognizes genius when they see it. Ha! Anyway, to make the 20th even better than it already was (finishing a novel always makes me giddy), I got a response from an agent wanting to read my full manuscript after checking out the first 15 pages. I did a happy dance, then sent that shit. The agent emailed the next day and my stomach dropped. I thought, gee, that was a lightning fast rejection, but she was just letting me know she'd received my materials. Phew. I live to write another day.
  4. Today was Kiddo's birthday, so we did all the stuff she wanted to do: sunrise walk on the beach (actually, just my dad did this with her while my mom and I slept--I was wiped from the day before: early morning, driving until 10:30, and staying up until 1:30 decorating with streamers and signs for her bday)(not to mention I drove her to school for a drill meet last Saturday at 3:30 a.m., so, I wanted to sleep in), shopping, lunch, ice cream, hitting thrift stores, naps (these are the best!), and dinner at our fav. Mexican restaurant where the birthday girl/boy eats free. It was a very good day and fun to celebrate my kiddo, though I was the one who did all the work oh those many years ago. I guess I have Mother's Day, but labor was really painful. I demand another day.
  5. Started The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes today. From about page two, I was hooked. Can't wait to see if this feeling lasts throughout the life of the book. I hope so.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Dreaded Denouement

The second full week of NaNoWriMo went quite well. Here are the stats:
  • Total words written (11th to 17th November): 24,382
  • Started Monday morning with 50,757 and ended Sunday afternoon with 75,139
  • Averaged 3.4k words a day
So, I'm obviously not going to finish at 75k as I'd hoped, since I got past 80k today, but I am venturing into the final scenes, including the dreaded denouement. I'm still not 100% sure how my MC is going to get out of the trouble she's wandered into. Wandered, hell. She ran into that trouble at a full sprint. A girl after my own heart (if that heart hadn't just gorged on white chocolate M&Ms...this is why I run, people; my love of candy gives me no damned choice). Anyway, I do have the ending, so I can just work from both ends and figure out the middle as I go along. I need to brainstorm, but I was so sure I wouldn't get my 3k in today because of some computer issues (tried to rip CDs, but the computer wasn't recognizing the drive, so I spent well over an hour fiddling with it to no avail; after finishing my work for the day, I restarted it yet again and the drive magically worked. Yes, MAGICALLY, because I don't understand how computers work past, turn on, type, hope for best). So, perhaps some good old fashioned brainstorming tomorrow if I get stuck. If not, I'm rolling forward, come what motherfucking may. I'll fix the plot holes and ridiculousness in the second and third draft (and fourth).

I finished Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Such a great read. Still mulling through it in my head. Lots of extremely tangible characters. Painfully so, almost. After a few moments to mourn the end of that story, as I always do when I get a good one, I started Allegiant. Not sure if I'm loving it quite yet, though I am only 65 pages in. The shift from Tris to Tobias is bothering me because it doesn't seem like two separate POVs but rather one masquerading as two. I don't know. I may get over it. We'll see. I hope to finish before Friday, so I don't have to lug the book down to Florida. I plan to load five books onto the kindle for the break and get through at least three whilst visiting my folks. Maybe even four since the first draft of the NaNo novel will be behind me. But what to read? Oh, the choices...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reading, Writing, Rocking Out

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo and I'm sitting pretty at 68,322 words. I have a moderately clear idea about the very end of the novel, but the second to last act, which will contain the resolution (or denouement, for my former AP English Language/Literature peeps) is still a bit of a mystery, so we'll see how that works out as the weekend's writing rolls along. Might need another brainstorming session after reading over my outline and notes. Kiddo has a drill meet tomorrow, which means I need to get her to school at 4 a.m. (not happy about this, btw), but it also means I'll have the day to write (after going back to bed for at least 2 hours upon returning home...maybe even 3). I'm really trying to lock up the end of the story before Thanksgiving break starts next Friday. I'd like to be free to read a few books and write some short stories while I'm visiting my folks. Just gotta keep plugging along.

In other non-NaNo related news, I recently got in touch with a few established writers (won't mention names, but they are both New York Times bestselling authors) via email. Funnily enough, my deployed husband is the one who drummed up the contacts for me. They visited his base overseas and he just happened to be in the DFAC (dining facility, for you non-military folks) when they came in to eat lunch. They sat at his table and talked about writing, publishing, and my twisty-turny writing career. At the end of the conversation, they both gave my husband their contact information and told him to tell me to get in touch. I jumped at the chance! Not sure what will come of this, but I'm happy to learn whatever I can from successful writers willing to offer advice.

This week, I'm reading Tell the Wolves I'm Home. It's great so far (I'm 74% in--can you tell I'm reading it on the kindle?): the characters, the threading of backstory into the present action, the dynamics of the main character's family. This is the second novel I've read in the last year that starts with the immediate death of a character that I end up wishing was alive throughout the rest of the book. I should finish it tomorrow and then I can finally start Allegiant. I read Divergent and Insurgent over the summer (yes, I'm a sucker for a good YA novel) and they were entertaining. Not earth-shatteringly good, but enjoyable enough that I sped through each book in about a day and a half. I haven't read any spoilers per se, but I do know many people aren't over the moon about the last book in this series. Guess I'll see how it goes.

I haven't done a list in awhile. How disappointing. I'll have to fix that with the next post. Right now, I can barely keep my eyes open...

Monday, November 11, 2013

NaNoWriMo: 50k in 10 Days

Time for a NaNo update. First up: stats.
  •  Total words written for the week (4th to 10 November): 23,092
  • Started on Monday morning with 27,665 words and ended Sunday night with 50,757
I think it's safe to say this was a great week of writing for me. Though my folks were visiting (they left this morning), I still managed to average about 3.2k words every day simply by working from about seven in the morning until around 10, which was great because it left me free to hang out with my family for the rest of the time without feeling like I wasn't working enough. And though I briefly entertained the idea of trying to finish 50k in under a week after the overly abundant word frenzy that was the first 48 hours of NaNoWriMo, I think the situation created by having my parents here (keeping my word count down with a limited amount of work each day) was very beneficial, as it didn't allow me to race too far forward in the story, stumbling into territory before I was really ready. I'm still moving quickly, but I can see the path ahead of me and I've added so much to my outline that will give the finished product dimension (whenever I actually have a finished product; I foresee many serious edits in my future). I'm still going to move steadily from this point on. I did a little over 3k today and want to see the same for the rest of this week and most of the next. I have an updated goal: a finished first draft of about 75k before I leave for my parents' house on the 22nd (or 23rd) for Thanksgiving. That way I can let it sit through the remainder of the holidays and start editing it in the new year. I think that's doable, as it feels like I'm about three quarters of the way through the novel. Keeping it slow will help with some other matters, like researching, which I need to do a ton of tomorrow (over the last 11 days, I've kept a list of things that need some help and there are many). But I love research, so the joke's on, me. Someone.

In other developments, where the hell did the 70 degree weather go? I'm looking at low 30's, high 20's for the rest of the week during my morning runs. Meh! I foresee some fast mile splits...or me frozen facedown in a ditch. One of the two.

And, hey, anyone want to jump on the writing buddy train? Here's my NaNo info just in case: If you hit me up, I'll hit you back.

Friday, November 8, 2013

NaNoWriMo Week 1: Kicking Butt, Making up Names, and Then Taking Them

One week down, three to go. Current word count: 43,575.

The NaNo adventure has been interesting so far, especially with my parents arriving for a visit last Saturday, but I've been able to get about 3k words every morning before hanging out with them for the rest of the day, so the word count has grown steadily throughout the week. I think somewhere around 75k is certainly doable before December 1st. I'm very pleased with the novel's progress so far. I know it will need some serious editing at the end of this Magical Mystery Tour, but the bare bones of the story look good (so far, knock on wood); skin and muscle can always be added, subtracted, and tweaked later. It's strange not editing thoroughly each day, but I've been sneaking little tastes at the beginning of my morning writing sessions, just to appease the inner editor so she will shut the hell up for the rest of day and let me drop rhymes (oh, yes, I went there, what?!). It'll be interesting to see how things go next week after my folks return to their Sunshine State abode and I'm back to writing all day again. I've been getting 3k done in about 3 hours this week. Not sure if I can (or should) maintain that pace for 9 hours. I'm not trying to write the 6th Song of Ice and Fire novel (although it would be nice if someone did)...

In other non-NaNoWriMo related news, I started reading Reality Boy by A.S. King. Not quite sure how I feel about it yet at about 90 pages in, but it's holding my interest, so we'll see. Sometimes a book takes time to grow on me. Other times, I fall right in. Same thing happens when I write too. Luckily for me, I fell right into the NaNo novel, although I still can't clearly visualize the ending. It'll come though. Always does. Just need the main character to show me the way.

End of weekend goal: break 50k. Yup, let's do this.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


So we're three days into the craziness that is NaNoWriMo.

My kiddo took off on a weekend trip on Friday morning, which left me free to write from about 8 o'clock...and boy, did I. My folks are visiting for this entire week and were scheduled to get in early Saturday evening, so I set a goal of trying for 5k on Friday and 5k on Saturday. A good day of writing for me is usually about 3 to 4k words, not including the editing I do on the stuff I wrote the day before. Well, I shattered that shit. Just destroyed my best, most hopeful expectations. I joined the word sprints on writeclub as soon as I sat down in the office and went from 8 a.m. to 7:30 at night without taking more than a 10 minute break. Then I had dinner. Then I got back to writing from 9 to just before midnight. Altogether, I created 15,329 lovely little words. Shocked, pleased, and completely exhausted, I collapsed into bed and snoozed until morning.

The next day, I had some chores to do first thing (making guest beds, taking care of the mastiff, cleaning the guest bathroom kiddo claimed to have already cleaned, but conveniently omitted the tub), but once those were out of the way, I parked it at the desk and jumped in on the very next word sprint. I was hoping to get another 5k words at least, but my parents left Florida two hours later than they planned, so I was actually able to add another 9,788 words, soaring past 25k right as they pulled into the driveway. My goal was to bank some words because of this visit and the Thanksgiving holiday, but I never imagined I'd get this much done in two days. I loved the focus the word sprints pulled out of me and think I'll start to write that way whenever I drop into a slump. I attribute the rest of the word count to the awesomely detailed outline I put together over the last month. It honestly felt a little like cheating. I just worked down my numbered plot points, making notes and tweaking things as I went along. I also gave up on the idea of editing what I wrote the following day pretty much immediately, as I wasn't about to take the time to edit 15k words in one sitting when I had so much other writing to get done.

I figure for the rest of the time my folks are here, I'd be happy with 2 to 3k a day, just so I can spend the rest of the time with them. Today, I got cooking around 7:30 (yay, daylight savings time!) and had about 2.6k done two hours later, so I called it quits and hung out with my parents for the rest of the day (though I did get some great ideas during the afternoon that I scribbled down). After the folks leave, I'll shoot for closer to 4k a day, as my novels are usually about 120k before I pare them down to a more manageable 90 to 100k. A first draft of about 75 to 80k by the end of November would work for me. Holy crap, am I going to have a buttload of editing to do at the end of this...