Give More (#WEverb12)

25: give [CREATE]
What was the best gift you gave someone this year?

I've never been much of a gift-giver. In fact, finding gifts stresses me out and drives me to insanity. For Christmas this year, I pretty much went with gift cards. Except for my parents. This year, my husband and I bought them a Kindle Fire.

Now I am an iPad fan, personally. But that was a little out of my price range to give as a gift. Since I own an iPad, I've not played around with the Kindle Fire much, and trying to figure out the settings on my parents' over the past day is the most I've touched one in my life.

My dad doesn't read a lot of books, nor does he watch movies. But he's a total news junkie (newspapers, news magazines, etc.). My mom, on the other hand, loves movies and TV shows, and loves to read. She also likes to game a bit. So I thought that the Kindle Fire may be just a great gift for them both. I would have loved to have the money to buy them each one, but that was not in our budget this year.

I was a bit worried that neither would want it or use it, etc. And yet, they've been fighting over it since they opened it last night after our Christmas Eve service.

I love it when a gift is immediately used.


Soaking Up the Lessons of 2012 (WEverb Day #18)

Wow, I really got behind in #WEverb12. I could attempt to catch up, or I could ramble on about what's been keeping me from the blog, or just answer today's prompt instead...

Every once in awhile, I mentally hit a brick wall. The past week has been like that for me. I've been so inexplicably exhausted mentally, that I have accomplished nothing. But I've given into my desire for avoiding all adult responsibility with the thought that I am preserving my sanity by doing so.

Anyways, back to today's WEverb prompt: 

18. soak [LISTEN]: What have you soaked in this year? (Baths, sun, ideas?) How did it affect your mentality?

I have been actively seeking to be a better writer this year. Well, I would say, for the past couple of years, that's been my ultimate goal.

At the beginning of 2012, I set a lot of goals (read: New Year's Resolutions) for myself, most of which I didn't meet. Some I did okay on, others were out of my control and others I blatantly gave up on or forgot about (such as being more patient with my anxious dog, or giving up soda). 

In hindsight, they were all good goals to have. But throwing them all at myself at once was perhaps not the correct way to go about it. So over this past year, I've realized that I need to set more reasonable goals at more reasonable pace. 

I've been thinking about resolutions for 2013, and I think what I want to do is set one goal per month for the year. The idea is to accomplish one goal a month, adding a second goal for February after accomplishing one in January. At the end of the year, I'll (hopefully) have accomplished 12 goals, one for each month.

I think if I plan this, my goals will be attainable. Although, I'll have to set goals that can be measured as attainable. I.e. no soda for 30 days, or read 6 books this month, or eat a salad for lunch every day for 30 days, only drink Starbucks 3 times a week, etc.

Instead of setting the goal: read more books this year (which has no real measurable content, since I didn't keep track of how many books I read last year), I want to set a goal of reading 60 books next year (5 books a month!).

I am a goal-oriented person, but when I cannot measure a goal, I cannot tell whether I've obtained it, and I lose interest in it. Also, I think I need to give myself some sort of reward when I obtain my goal...I like getting rewarded. So this should be like a day off of everything, or treating myself to something I've been wanting.

2012 has taught me that I need attainable goals, measurable goals, and rewards for meeting those goals.

So with that in mind, onward to 2013!


The Last Time & A 5-Star Book

Day 12:

I've really struggled coming with an answer for this one. I could say it will be the last year for running a half marathon, but I don't want to commit to that. (The only reason I would say that at all is injury.) 

Then I could suppose that 2012 will be the last full year I'll live in Washington State, but I can't guarantee that, either. So I'm left with random, miscellaneous things. 

Maybe this will be the last year I am an unpublished author? I can only hope.

Day 13: 

Hmm. Another difficult one for me. I've read so much this year, that it's difficult to say which one did the most "speaking."

But after looking back through my Goodreads account, the truth is evident: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, is it. This book influenced me significantly. 

It was a long read, one that required a lot of commitment. Had I not been reading it for a book club, I wouldn't have bothered. But it was so worth the effort. In fact, this is the one book this year on Goodreads that I gave 5/5 stars to. That must indicate something.

The reasons this influenced me are many. Not only for Bonhoeffer's faithfulness to God, and the devotion he showed to God and family throughout his life, or the manner in which Bonhoeffer died, but for the way in which he lived each day. He sought God so fervently, that it inspired me in my own walk with Christ by encouraging me to be more faithful in my quiet time. Not to say that this doesn't continue to be a struggle for me, but reading Bonhoeffer's biography inspired me to achieve more. He was only human, after all, and yet a man of God, who was persecuted for His beliefs, and ultimately died for them.


Losing = Gaining (WEverb Days 10 & 11)

Day 10:
I suppose that good-byes are a part of life. I've never really been much affected by them. I'm one of those independent people who rarely get tearful at good-byes, and rarely miss people when they're gone.

Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and family, but I guess I just don't depend on them for my happiness. 

That can go a few ways, I suppose. But that's not the point of this post. 

The point is, I did have to say good-bye to someone this year. 

And I really miss them.

This was not someone that I've known for a long time, relatively speaking. In fact, she was a new friend, one that I've known for less than a year and a half. 

But you know how it is when you meet someone you connect with instantly? Where you totally get that person? Where you love to meet with them and talk with them because they get you, too? 

Yeah. That was this friend.

I knew that she would not be here for long. She and her husband are missionaries, and they're heading to Africa in six months' time. So I knew, when I entered into this friendship, that she would be moving out of the state in a year or so. But what I didn't know was how much I'd enjoy her company.

Conversations, arguments, laughter, book clubs, Bible studies, game nights. Everything was made sweeter with her presence. And now, everything is just a little bit darker.

I know I'll get to see her again. They have plans to visit the States periodically. But who knows where I'll be at that time? Who knows what will happen? 

Yet on the whole, I'm not sad. I feel honored. I have made a friendship which will span the globe, a friendship that will always remain dear to me, no matter how far apart we are.

Day 11:

Oh, what a question. I suppose I could take this one a couple of ways: "richer/poorer" in the sense of personal growth, or "richer/poorer" in the sense of financial status.

The most obvious: financial.

Honestly? I think that's a wash. 

We've had a lot of financial struggles this year. Ceiling leaks (multiple), personal injuries (multiple), dog injuries (multiple), car expenses (multiple)... Lots and lots of things which, independently, don't make much a fuss, but when taken as a whole, cause an awful lot of grief.

So I'm going to say that I'm richer. 

Not the answer you were expecting? 

Well, allow me to explain.

True riches are never financial. Financial gain is nice and all, but money doesn't solve my problems for me. And it's certainly not what I want to focus my life on. It's personal gain and strength of character which truly enriches your life.

All right, the list I just gave above doesn't really sound like gain. And there are days where I agree with that. 

But then I try to remind myself that trials and tribulations build character. 

Who knows how one will respond to a situation except by experiencing it?

So I can rest assured as 2013 approaches, I am stronger because of the trials of 2012. 

In 2012, I have developed a character which has stood the test of tribulations. 

And so I will enter 2013 with unexpected strength, even if it means more trials are there to welcome me.


Creating Triumph out of Hardships (WEverb Day 9)

Photo source.
9. triumph [CREATE]: How were you challenged by a project or goal this year? What did you learn from it?

This year I have been focused mainly on rewriting my work in progress. It's my first "real" novel. I've always written novels (well, since elementary school), but this was the first (and only) one that I have sought publication for. 

Such a goal, I've found, requires an entirely different mindset in writing.

Before, I wrote for my pleasure, for catharsis. Now, I attempt to write for an audience. In the former, I wrote whatever I fancied. In the latter, I must think of plot, character development, word choice, flow, climaxes, resolutions... I can no longer please only myself, but must make the read satisfying to others as well.

So my goal this year was to finish editing my work in progress and seek representation for it.

In working towards this goal, I have been challenged on a daily basis. Every single time I think I am near completion on this novel, I realize how far I am from it. Part of that is the perfectionist in me, wanting a novel to be "perfect" and pleasing in every way, to every reader. But a much larger part of it is that I am still learning. I began my writing journey many years ago, but only got serious a few years ago. I may have some natural talent, but I also realize how much I can improve. There is so much left to learn, I know I will never know it all.

There have been days this year where I cannot bear to look at this novel because I am convinced I have failed in everything I want to accomplish. I have felt like I have too many threads, my characters aren't likable, I don't know my setting well enough, I cannot convey what I intend, I desperately overwrite a scene, I think the reader will miss the point and so I want to give it all away...

Every possible despairing thought about my novel, I think I've had in 2012.

Moments where I have doubted my writing ability and my chance at success, I've had in 2012.

Months where I am convinced no one but my husband will ever want to read it, I've had in 2012.

Days where I want to give up and get a real job, I've had in 2012.

But by sheer determination, stupidity, stubbornness, willfulness, and an itch to write I must scratch, I have plowed on. 

And, although I am not yet finished with my edits, I can see the end in sight. I have found tools to help me on my path, and I have found critique partners who offer valuable feedback.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And I soldier on towards it, convinced that my goal is attainable, if only because I refuse to give up.


The Rose Among the Thorns (WEverb Day 5)

5. fellowship [HOPE]: What community has engaged you most this year and what did it you get out of your participation?

This year has been a year of significant growth for me as a writer. I credit this to the unprecedented feedback that I've received from the writing community at Writers' Village University

I've been a member of this group for just over a year now, but I was too timid to use the novel writing forums on the website and post my own novel in its entirety (chapter by chapter, that is, not all at once). But this fall, after a year's membership at WVU, I took a deep breath, and posted my first chapter.

Feedback was overall encouraging. And that was something that I think I needed at this point in my writing. Not to say that my posted chapter was perfect--it was far from it. But the feedback I received gave useful, informed suggestions, many of which I could use. And having multiple sets of eyes really does make a difference. I was stunned with what I missed by being so close to my writing.

Like most (if not all) writers, having someone read your work is both what you long for and what you fear the most. The idea that others won't be enchanted by your characters, or what you meant to express so eloquently came out as over-writing...or a million other of your biggest fears cross your mind the moment before you hit "submit." But you must get over that hurdle. Press the button, and give your writing over to fresh eyes.

Photo Source.
Then comes the waiting. Sometimes, you get your answer right away. And usually, it's not nearly as gushy as you want. But if you can bear to look, you find that there are roses among the thorns. And those rose are some of the most fragrant flowers you've ever smelled, because they offer you hope.

You see, interspersed with words that hurt, pointing out your flaws and shortcomings, are the other words. The words that stick with you longer than the prick of a thorn. These words are the sweet fragrance of flattery. 

I've realized this year, that although the thorns hurt and can draw blood, it's the fragrance I remember. It's the people who validate my writing, and in doing so, validate the fact that I can do this. They have become my cheerleaders, and I hope I'm theirs as well.


WEverb12 Day #4

While on Twitter the other day, I found a new challenge to embark upon for December: WEverb12. What this does is offer a verb (with a question) for each day of December that causes you to reflect upon 2012 and look forward to 2013. So without further ado, I'll begin on the day #4 prompt (because I missed the first three).

4. experiment [GROW]: What did you do in 2012 that you had never done before? Will you do it again?

2012 marked the year of my first ever writers' conference.

Over the weekend of 19-21 October, I flew out to Richmond, Virginia and joined a few hundred writers at the James River Writers' 10th Annual Conference.

I have to admit, I was both terrified and excited about attending this conference. I'd never been to any conference before, and I was signed up for two writers' workshops and a five-minute one-on-one pitch with an agent. Yikes!

It was terrifying. But mostly invigorating.

On Friday, I went to the workshops and put myself out there (terrifying) and met other writers (invigorating). On Saturday, I attended classes (invigorating) and a literary award luncheon (somewhat terrifying). On Sunday, I went to more classes (even more invigorating) and pitched my work-in-progress to a real, live agent (absolutely, 100% terrifying), who asked for my first fifty pages (totally 1000% invigorating).

I would do it again. In a heartbeat, I'd do it again.

The things I learned, the people I met...I'd do it a million times again.

In fact, I'm trying to find a writers' conference closer to me to attend in this coming year.


Coping With the Effects of NaNoWrIMo (Or Life After NaNoWriMo)

Let's face it, NaNoWriMo is a stressful time of the year. 

For most people, 50,000 words in 30 days is a nearly unattainable goal. I'm lucky in that I'm a fast typist, and I have the time to sit down and write when I want/need to. Which resulted in me increasing my goal to a more challenging 80,000 words in 30 days this year.I think every stressful period in life needs to be followed by an opportunity to unwind.

Let's look at some of the symptoms (physical, emotional and behavioral) of stress:
  • headaches
  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • lack of motivation and/or focus
  • procrastination (the art of putting things off until later and/or ignoring the issue)
  • evasion (or what I like to call filling up your time with other things to avoid that which is stressing you out)
  • overeating or not eating
  • doing nothing (e.g. vegging out in front of the T.V.)
  • drinking, smoking, other drugs
  • withdrawing from activities
  • blowing up at others over inconsequential issues

This are just some of the effects that stress can have on your life.

I'll be the first to admit it--I felt the stress. I felt the fear as November 30th closed in and I still had 12,000 words to write in three days. This November's word count was a big goal for me, a personal best. I had to bring my A-game and blow away my previous record.

Although I felt the fear, I also felt inspired. I am a goal-oriented person, and I enjoy setting new personal bests. (When I go running and get a new PR for a 10K, there's nothing more encouraging than that for me.) So when I realized I was going to set a new PR, I became obsessed with "stalking" other NaNo-ers' word counts. *ashamed* But I found a buddy of mine who had written just over 92,000 words, and I became determined to beat them.

Thus, I was awake this year when November turned into December, and the NaNoWriMo website cut off my ability to enter my word count at 12:00:00 a.m., December first. Darn it! 

Regardless, I ended the month with 93,464 words. (It should have been 93,511, NaNo!)

Anyways, back to the stress of NaNo. After I entered my final word count (and tried and failed to update it one final time), I promptly turned off my computer and went to bed. I was exhausted. 30 days of madness can (and does) exhaust you.

So December first, I woke about seven hours later (because I can never, ever sleep in), promptly fired up my computer and stared at my NaNo novel with a blank look.

The pressure was gone. I had no words to write. I had no need to write the words. Where was my reward? Where was the purpose?

I still have a few scenes left to write. I wrote 93,511 words and I'm not done. Granted, some of those scenes will be tossed out on their ear, probably entirely, and a solid novel is at least 80,000 words, but I have several thousand words left to write, and NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY.

Conclusions always get me. I've never been good at ending a story. I want it to continue and want to write more meaningless scenes. But what I have left here on my NaNo novel is my conclusion. My climactic scene of...I DON'T KNOW.

I honestly don't know where to end this novel. I have an idea of what's going to happen, the protagonist will reconcile with her inner demons and outer antagonists, but I've no idea how. And I've no idea how to get to that point.


But this post's purpose is getting away from me as I cope with my stress of not knowing what to write by, that's right, procrastinating.

1. My #1 drug of choice for stress is, most definitely, procrastination.

Thus, you could have found me yesterday driving forty-five minutes away to go Christmas shopping, and promptly abandoning that idea when I realized everyone else in the world was also doing their Christmas shopping on the first Sunday in December.

So I reevaluated how I would spend my day, and while completing the final scenes of my NaNo novel was certainly in the back of my mind, I went on to my next coping tactic: evasion.

2. My #2 drug of choice is evasion.

Yes, I returned home...to clean and rearrange my living room.

Huh. Haven't done that in awhile. (So I could, legitimately, make an argument for its necessity...)

Essentially, it boils down to the fact that there was no NaNoing for me yesterday. (Well, I guess it's technically not NaNoing anymore, but simply writing.) I put aside my writing in order to clean house (actually, just one room).

And then, since I was that far into cleaning the house, I decided to catch up on the other tasks which had suffered in November due to NaNo, like the laundry and reading the mail...


Now these were just the two tactics I employed yesterday to avoid completing my NaNo novel. Throughout the month of November, the stress of NaNoWriMo attacked me in other ways. I was afflicted with two migraines, I had significant lack of motivation and/or focus (and spent way too much time on the Internet as a result), I procrastinated, I avoided NaNo by doing other things like walking the dogs or watching T.V., and I think I gained about three or four pounds this past month from obvious overeating and lack of exercise.

So now it's December.

And my NaNo novel is not completed, despite 93,464 words.

I think it's time for me to get in gear and apply some of the things I learned during NaNoWriMo 2012.

Namely, there is no time for writer's block.

So my point is this: stress can have its drawbacks, but stress like NaNoWriMo is a good type of stress. If you set a reasonable goal (for you, not for anyone else, keeping your own personal limitations in mind), then the pressure of having a deadline can be beneficial.

I'm at the point with my NaNo novel where I wish I'd set a higher goal for myself in November and pumped out those final scenes. At least then, I'd have something on the page. Now, I'm faced with combating my own inner demons and completing this novel on sheerly my own willpower.

I may have a lot of self-motivation when it comes to writing (because I love it), and I'll be darned if I let this novel get the best of me, but I also know myself. I know that if I leave this novel and start working on another, I'll get too distracted by that novel and think that I'll forget everything I want to do to that novel and put this novel aside for a looong time.

I don't want to place this novel to the side until it's ready to be rested in its entirety. And I can't do that until the final scenes are written, imperfect though they may be.

So no more procrastination. No more evasion.

NaNo 2012 taught me a few things, and it's time I apply those lessons to real life.

Final word count. That's right. Next year, 100,000 words in 30 days. Yikes.


12 Things I Learned During NaNoWriMo 2012

1. NaNo is not about quality, but quantity.

2. There's no time for writer's block.

3. Coffee only gets you so far.

4. Life WILL get in the way.

5. Setting reasonable goals makes progress seem attainable.

6. Turn off the Internet.

7. Do NOT delete a word. (Just strike thorough it, and it'll still be counted when you validate your novel on November 30th.)

8. Prepare ahead of time.

9. Write now, research later.

10. Do NOT allow yourself to go back and edit.

11. Take notes of changes or ideas that occur to you throughout the month. (You will forget them if you don't.)

12. Never, ever, give up. Even if you're 10,000 words behind on November 30th, a 10,000 day can happen!


NaNoWriMo Day #30

He likes to appear studious.
Every morning, I wake to a certain black cat (named Dante Alighieri) meowing at my bedroom door, acting like he's dying of hunger. When I can take the meows no longer, I climb out of bed, where two dogs are just as eager to get out as he is to get in.

So I take pity on the most pitiful of meowers and lead him downstairs where I feed him. He scarfs his food down like I've never, ever fed him before, and then shoves one of our other cats away from her bowl to steal her food because she's a slower eater and he thinks he's still hungry.

Well, this morning was no different. Except that for the first time ever, Dante ate so fast that he puked up his just-eaten breakfast back into his bowl.

But he was an adorable kitten.
With all the grace of a cat, he'd eaten it again before I could even move to clean it up. (Maybe I should have put a "disgusting" warning on this post.) He then polished off the last bites of his food and moved on to shove the other cat out of the way.

But I started thinking about this incident in light of today being the last day of NaNoWriMo 2012. And I suddenly realized--to my utter dismay--how my writing is so often like my cat's regurgitated breakfast.

I spend a week or a month thoroughly thinking through a project, hoarding all of my ideas and keeping them tight inside me, afraid to mention them even to myself. It's like I'm afraid to put things on paper and somehow commit myself to writing a novel that may be absolute swill.

Then, like my cat, when NaNo rolls around, I puke it all out in the space of 30 days and nights (it takes me a little longer to vomit, apparently).

If I were a cat, I'd be hiding under a box right now, too.
I'll just be hiding under my covers instead.
Like my cat, I immediately want to make it all disappear. But it's not because I find it appetizing, as I can only assume Dante did, but because it feels like some mistake I need to suck back inside me before I fully realize that I am, in fact, NOT a talented writer, and this novel IS rubbish.

So I got to thinking today (in the midst of trying to finish NaNo 2012 strong).

How often do I start a project with such exuberance that I puke up everything about it onto my computer and then immediately (sometimes before I've even finished) want to erase what I've written? How often do I think that 99% of what I've written is not worth the memory on my computer it takes to save it?

I've done this before. Began novels that started strong, and by halfway through the first draft, I realized that my plot was so full of holes, or I hadn't done enough research, that I abandoned it, certain I bit off more than I could chew. I rarely go back to those novels, embarrassed by their victory over me, and allowing my self-doubt to convince me that there was nothing there worth keeping anyways.

I like to call him my little panther...
Cringe-worthy writing, if written by me, I feel is never worth reading. And yet I know I should not feel that way. Because I know that when it comes down to it, there's always something in a piece of writing that could be worth keeping. Even if the grammar is unreadable, the plot full of holes and the characters cliche (case in point for at least two of those: NaNo novel 2011), there could be one sentence or one idea that is perfect. (Okay, maybe not perfect. Maybe just able to be perfected.)

So perhaps this coming year, 2013, I'll dust off one of those old manuscripts or half-manuscripts, and give it a second chance. Or at least a rejuvenated set of eyes.


NaNoWriMo Day #29

Dun dun dun!! 

No, that would not be machine-gun fire, but the sound of victory you hear.

For today, at about noon, I passed the 80K mark. 

That's right, I have completed my goal of pounding out 80,000 words, good or bad, this month. (Mostly bad.)

It's been a long, arduous war filled with at least twenty pots of coffee and probably around 66 hours of typing. The enemy came on strong with everything it could throw at me in November: Thanksgiving, migraines, house guests, sick dogs...

And it's for those reasons that I savor the joys of my victory. It's a powerful feeling to know that you've beaten the demons trying to keep you from your goals. To know that, despite the odds, you can do what you set your mind to. 

It's encouraging to know that I can meet goals which seem daunting. To know that when the tough days come along, I don't give up and surrender to my desire to just climb into bed and sleep until December first.

My NaNo novel may not be a polished draft, and it may never be worth publishing. But I do think there are paragraphs that have promise. Maybe there's just one sentence on one page that is a diamond in the rough. And I'll have to wade through three hundred pages just to find it.

I'm okay with that. Because I know that editing is where you really write a book. That's where threads get untangled, character arcs get properly aligned, gaping plot holes are filled, and sentences are polished.

So I'll be moving on soon from writing to editing. And we'll see if I still feel the same about my NaNo 2012 novel when I emerge from my editing foxhole in the spring.


NaNoWriMo Day #28: Seeking After Perfection

Today took me completely by surprise. So far, I've pumped out 8,570 words. 

Out of these 8,570 words, I'm sure that only about 5% of them will remain when I edit this NaNo novel. But that's not what NaNoWriMo is about. It's about getting the words out, getting them on the page, and not worrying about whether they are perfect, or even passable. 

Quantity, not quality. Definitely not the way I run the rest of my life.

This picture  should say "winner," but I have yet to validate my novel. I'm waiting until the last minute because I have an addiction to updating my word count and like to see it posted on the NaNo site.

The past few scenes of my NaNo novel have been what have pushed me over the "goal" edge towards "above the goal." The characters are continuing to come alive and the scenes are flowing naturally from my fingertips. This means my scenes have gone a lot longer than originally planned, and I have a dozen scenes left to write as I near the end of my 80K goal. (I've always been a long-winded writer, and this novel is no different.)

I can only thank God when my scenes are flowing like this, even if it means I have to cut out multiple scenes when I edit later. And I know that a lot of what I've written will be discarded as imperfect, unwanted material when I enter the editing process.

I've been struck today by just how much easier it is for me to write new scenes than to edit a novel I've already written. To me, the writing process is easy (at least, easier than editing). Just sit down, and type out the words--even if they aren't what you really want the pages to say, you can always fix it later.

It's the "fixing it later" part that I get hung up on. A dozen drafts later, and I still feel it's not perfect. 


That's what I want. 

And yet, that's what I know I can never, ever obtain. 

No matter how many times I revise, no matter how long I stare at the page, I will always, always want to change something. I will always doubt, I will always correct. 

And there will always be someone else who thinks that my sentence, or metaphor, or entire plot, is less than perfect.

So why do I seek perfection when I know it is unattainable?


NaNoWriMo Days #26 & 27

I'm sad that the end of November is upon us. Well, sad and a little shocked to think of how quickly 2012 has flown by. This year has been a whirlwind of writing, distractions, injuries, broken-down cars and travel for me. I'm looking forward to a calmer 2013 (and hoping that it will, indeed, be calmer).

Anyways, yesterday was one of those hectic days of 2012 that I should be accustomed to by now, but still took me by surprise. I don't know where the day went, but I ended up home at 9:30 p.m., having only written a hurried 1539 words. This was less than half of what I needed to meet my goal for the remaining days of November. 

So I woke up this morning determined to redeem myself. And I did. My new goal was just over 4000 words in order to meet my 80K goal this month. So I cemented my butt in my favorite chair at Starbucks and ignored the headache that was constantly pulsing in my temples and upper neck.

I managed to tap out 4060 words before the pain got the best of me. It wasn't just any headache, but a villian of a headache, better known as a migraine. They always get me at the most inopportune days. (I suppose there aren't any good times to get a migraine, but mine always seem to attack when I need focus the most or are most determined to get things done.)

So I ended up returning home, taking much-needed medication and collapsing into bed for two hours with my cat, Dante Alighieri. Nothing like a cuddle with a cat and lying in bed with a jackhammer splitting open your skull on one of the final days of November to cause you to worry about meeting your NaNo goals.

Luckily, I did make today's goal. If I can write 12,000 more words over the next three days, I can meet my self-imposed NaNo goal. That's only 4000 words a day.

Let's hope I have no more migraines, and my 2013 luck is starting early...

Today's word count: 4,569
Total word count: 68,348


NaNoWriMo Day #25

We're really getting down to the wire now, and I've got a lot of words that did not get written today. Somehow, between a trip to the airport and recuperating after the holidays, I wrote less than a thousand words, while my goal was over three thousand. 


Unfortunately, tomorrow is looking to be a busy day as well, so I'll be trying to squeeze in writing between activities and appointments. 

When I know I have a busy day ahead, the day before is often one of my least productive days. A wide-open day I too often waste with little things that seem more like procrastinating than even relaxing. Today, for example, I've caught up on my blog readings and finished reading a book--instead of writing towards my NaNo goal.

Tomorrow's busy day then presents me with a mini-dilemma. I can take the day off from writing, and then need to write 4,440 words each day for four days in a row. Or, I can take my busy day and squeeze in writing time wherever I am and in the middle of whatever I'm doing, in the hopes of chipping away at that goal and attaining 3,552 words for each of the next five days.

Like a lot of people (and writers), I always find that I work better under a little bit of pressure. It forces me to get the words down on the page and gives me more of a deadline to work towards (as if five days hence is not deadline enough at this point to bust out another 17,760 words). 

So I think I choose the former option. I'll be chipping away at my word count tomorrow morning, diligently trying to reach my NaNo 2012 goal of 80K words in 30 days. And on November 30th, I'll validate my novel and be a winner for two years in a row and feel like I've accomplished a marathon.

Today's word count: 785
Total word count: 62,240


NaNoWriMo Day #24

Today was a much needed catchup day for me. After the holidays, where I enjoyed too much food and just the right amount of family and friends, my word count was suffering even more than my diet.

I'm glad to announce that today, my word count is back on track. However my diet is still in dire straits.

Today's word count: 4819
Total word count: 61455


NaNoWriMo Day#22

Happy Thanksgiving! This time of year it is a blessing to sit down with family and friends and enjoy a well-cooked meal. And this year, the turkey was finally as I like it: on the dry side (much to my hubby's chagrin).

Although I did not reach my word count today, I'm not stressed. I wrote just over 1000 words, and am at about 54K total. I've still got some work to do if I want to hit that 80K mark by the end of next week, but I think I can make it happen.

As long as I don't get caught in a tryptophan slumber from all my turkey leftovers....


NaNoWriMo Day#21

I thought I wouldn't get my words written today amidst Thanksgiving prepping, but I managed to get most of them typed. All I needed was a couple of hours sitting down at my desk and focusing to pump them out.

Lesson learned today: take what time you can to focus solely in writing and you can accomplish more than you think.

Happy writing.


NaNoWriMo Day #20

Two years in a row now, my November has been controlled by NaNoWriMo. I sleep, eat and dream of NaNo. The novel I choose to write holds the reins to my life for the entire month.

Well, I've come to the point of the month where I have conquered my demons. I've won.

Today, I passed the 50K mark. 

*insert cheer here*

It's a strangely anti-climactic feeling, knowing that the novel I'm working on is far from complete. 

What really happens at the 50K mark for me is that I have the urge to go back and edit what I've written. There are things I've changed, locations and specific details, which I need to go back and edit. But I know if I begin doing that, I'll stop writing new scenes and will instead focus on making all the scenes I've written up until now as good as I possibly can. The problem with that scenario is that I know as I write new scenes, more things will need to change, and more edits will need to occur. It's a sick cycle, really. A cycle I must postpone starting until at least December first.

So this is the point where I bite my lip and continue typing new material, willfully ignoring the almost unconquerable desire to edit. Instead, I make a note of what needs to be changed, lest I forget somewhere between the caffeine-induced, novel-writing frenzy of November. 

On December first, I'm certain I won't be taking a day off. I'll either be finishing my NaNo novel (word count and deadlines ignored), or I'll be diligently beginning my editing process. 

I guess we'll see which it is in ten short days.


NaNoWriMo Day #19: Backup Your Files

I think this is a good day to remind NaNo novel writers to back up their files if they haven't already done so.

Typically, I'm very punctual about backing up my computer. I'm paranoid about losing files, and schedule a backup at least once a week, more if I've put in a lot of work that week.

But as life gets busy, my fingers are busy typing my NaNo novel, and my mind dreaming up new conflicts for my MC, my computer backups have dwindled to almost zero. 

I own an external hard drive for the sole purpose of backing up my files. Over the years, I have lost too many files to risk losing them again. And when you lose a novel...it's like you've lost a part of your body, your soul. A part that there's no getting back again. Ever. 

I've been writing this novel for 19 days now. This is a novel I couldn't replicate if I tried. When you put a lot out on the page in a short amount of time, it all blurs together, and it's hard to remember the majority of it. Even if I could remember it verbatim, I've been typing this for 19 days. I'd like to not have to use another 19 days to re-accomplish what I've already done.

So don't learn the hard way. Get an external hard drive and back up your computer. It's well worth the investment (and they're affordable). And once you get the external hard drive, use it.


NaNoWriMo Days #17 & 18

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My fingers are sore, my brain is tired, and I constantly feel on the edge of writer's block.

We're past the halfway point now, and my word count is just over 47K. It's hard to believe that there are still twelve days left of NaNo. It seems like it's been going on forever. 

I look back at page one of my NaNo novel, and it already feels so distant. I wrote that page just over two weeks ago, and I cannot remember what's on it without rereading it.

As I get further into my novel, I remain grateful to have chosen to write it in Scrivener. There I can make notes, "outline" via my index cards, and link a selection of text to a prior scene or character card in order to keep key points straight. 

So eighteen days complete now, and I'm reminded of a certain looming Thursday arriving this week. But I'm revitalized by the fact that I'm on track, and I only have to write an average of 2325 words every day until December 1st, and then I'll have completed my 80K goal. 



Huh. It sounded like a lot less in my head.


NaNoWriMo Day #16: Tips for Accomplishing those Daily Goals

Day Sixteen of NaNoWriMo, and thousands of novelists are still going strong. Some have even finished their 50K word goal.

I've had my good days and bad days, and days in between.

There are a couple of things that help me in attaining my goals.

1. Overall word count goal
Scrivener has a nifty tool called "Project Targets" which allows you to set a word goal for your project. I do this, and set the writing deadline option for November 30th. This year, I've set my goal for 80K words. 

You can also declare some days of the week as non-writing days, which I've done for my Saturdays and Sundays (even though I've done some writing on those days, I treat them as vacation-days, so I don't have to write if I can't or just need a thinking day). 

By setting my overall goal and determining my writing days, I know exactly how many words I need to write per day, and I can watch my word count increase until it fills up the bar and I've reached my daily quota.

2. Mini outlines
I've said before that I don't outline, and I don't. But Scrivener has another great tool, which looks a lot like an index card. This is just a section where you summarize the scene you've created in Scrivener. You find the summary spot in the Inspector under the "Notes" section. You can also view all the "index cards" in order, and drag and rearrange them as you like. 

So instead of outlining, I do this, and then I have a rough idea of where I'm writing to, even if it takes me several scenes to get there. In Scrivener, it's easy to add scenes, so I just continue adding and keep the next "outline point" for a later scene.

3. Scene-by-scene word goals
I'm a goal-oriented person, which is probably why NaNo works so well for me.

In Scrivener, there's a way to set a word goal per scene. At the bottom of the screen, there's a round little target icon, and if you click it, you're given the ability to set the word count for the scene. Then there appears next to the target icon a bar which fills up as you write towards your word goal, going from red, to yellow, to green as you reach your goal. I do this for most scenes after I have an idea of what's going to happen in them, so it serves as a *very* rough estimate of wordage.

I like this because I find it nice to have a goal per scene as it helps me know if I'm being too wordy on a section or if it's too short. (If I can only come with 400 words for a scene, I know it's skimpy and I need to add conflict or another character, or consider deleting it.) I also find that when I pay attention to my scene's word count, I subconsciously acknowledge the flow of reading for the audience. This comes more into play later in subsequent drafts and as I'm editing, often trying to be more concise.

4. Sit down and write
There's really nothing else to say but sit down and write. You'll never be a novelist if you don't do this.

NaNo is great for getting my butt in the chair. It creates motivation where there otherwise might be none, and pressure to get it done in a set time period.

So while this may be the way I work, there are endless ways to write a novel out there.

NaNoWriMo Day #15

Yesterday was the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo 2012. 

And after some furious late-night, while-in-bed, typing-on-my-iPad NaNoing, I surpassed the 40K mark. 

*insert cheer here*

That means to "win" NaNo this year, I have only 10K words left to write in the next fifteen days. The highly competitive side of myself rejoices in this, as I will then have "won" both years I've participated. 

However, this 40K mark also means that I've met the halfway mark of my personal, larger goal. And, right on schedule, too. So in order to make my 80K words by November 30th, I must average 2667 words each day. I have scheduled myself a few days off though, so my writing days end up having a goal more like 3500-3600 words.

These are doable chunks for me. I'm accustomed to sitting down for at least an hour, if not two or three at a time and pumping out words or editing a block of what I've written in that time frame.

But for a lot of people, that sounds like a whole lot of words. Which is why my next post will be about the tools I use in Scrivener to get those words written.


NaNoWriMo Day #11 & 12

It's happened. 

Life has, officially, gotten in the way of my writing. 

I'm surprised it took so long, really. But, all in all, I'm still on track for my goals, and I'm above the NaNo goal word count (WC) of 20,004. In fact, I've exceeded it by 10K right now (my current WC is 31,259). 

Still, I've set a higher goal for myself, and that would be writing 80K this month. 

Last year when I competed in NaNoWriMo 2011, it was my first year, and I "won" by completing an entire novel in 30 days, which ended up being around 75K. 

So, because I'm a goal-oriented person, and I like obliterating my personal bests, I decided to best last year's WC by 5,000 words. 

Thus, my unofficial goal this year is 80K. Which means I should be at 32,000 words today.

And I'm not. I'm 750 short. 

That's not bad, considering. It's an amount I could easily make up tomorrow, or the day after. But...if I were to fail on my goal because of a measly 750 words, I'd be awfully upset. 

Not to mention that I know this month is only going to get busier. With family having arrived in town yesterday and not leaving until Sunday, then more family and friends arriving on Tuesday next week, and then Thanksgiving... The next couple of weeks will be even more hectic than these past 12 days have been.

However, one good thing that has come from my not being at a computer is that I have been thinking an awful lot about where I want to go with this novel's plot, and what events I want to set up with this character.

What I've come away with are a couple of plot twists that I think will be good for the state of my NaNo novel.

I'm really not an outliner, but I always write better when I have a vague idea of what may happen in fifty pages. I definitely don't need to know what happens on the next page, or what my next sentence needs to say until I write it, but I do write better when I have a very general idea of where my novel is going. Is she going to meet a boy? Will she find a dead body? 

Really, all I need to know is a final destination, what I'm writing to, and then I can connect the dots. And I come up with these dots by thinking on my non-writing days like yesterday and today.

I've realized those non-writing (or non-editing) days are vital to my writing (or editing) goals. But this a fact which I often lose sight of. I get tunnel vision when I get deeply into writing or editing a novel and work on the novel every single day--to the exclusion of all else. What I find happening is a lack of focus, getting too close to the plot and the characters and the twists I try to throw in, to even consider that they may not be working. 

Yet I struggle with my non-writing days because I feel guilty for not writing. I love to write, and I'm serious about it, so when there are days that I can't write or I don't get the time to write, I feel quite guilty. So I'm slowly starting to realize that non-writing days have value of their own. Those non-writing days can expedite what I accomplish on my writing days, because I get the opportunity to think about what I'll write the next day. 

So I'm going to try not to feel guilty on the days I cannot write--not to excuse myself--but to place greater value on my thoughts.


NaNoWriMo Day #10

Ten days in already. Time definitely flies when there's an agenda.

In fact, life has a way of getting in the way when there's an agenda.

Really, my laziness is my own worst enemy. I'd much rather veg out and not think when I feel overwhelmed by things, and this novel has had a way of overwhelming me. 

Thankfully, there's a Starbucks nearby, and when I go to Starbucks, I get things done.

I'm sure others have similar problems: while at home, no work can be done, but if you go out to a coffee shop or park, you can accomplish great things.

Starbucks is my main work place. I've spent many hours there editing and writing, and observing people. 

Oh, and drinking coffee. We can't forget the coffee during NaNoWriMo.

Day 10 Word count: 29,002
Day 10 Goal: 16,670


NaNoWriMo Day #9

If I weren't doing NaNo right now, I probably would never have written this novel.

It's not that I wouldn't be writing right now, it's just that I would be editing my previous works, preventing myself from committing to anything new.

Instead, I have passed the official half-way mark of 25K words. *insert cheer here*

What I've learned so far: 
It's amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it. 

It's refreshing to not worry about grammar or content or if this scene works or if this character is well-developed enough to write yet, but just to get the words out.

It'll be a rough first draft because of not worrying about the above, but it will have promise. Even if I hate 99% of it, there might be one sentence that stands out, one moment in time where my muse visited me and gave me the right words at the right time. 

It's all of this which I write for. Those moments, those words.


NaNoWriMo Day #8

Oh what a painful day.

This was one of those days where every word seemed difficult to get on the page. On such days, I find myself all too often "telling" instead of "showing." For instance, instead of showing a scene that builds character or introduces a character, or is otherwise plot-advancing and informative, I'll recap the scene and move quickly on to the next.

It's almost like the "recapping" is my daily writing warm-up, and then I get in to telling the actual story, even though the "recapped" scene is necessary or beneficial to the plot.

The problem is, that on these days, I find myself repeatedly lapsing into those telling habits, and when I look back at my day's work, I realize that such telling sections appear most frequently at a scene beginning.

I suppose there's a silver lining in this: when I go back to revise after my NaNoWriMo novel is complete, I have several areas that I can expound on. Also, if I get stuck on one of these next 22 days (which is highly likely considering the state of my plot), I won't have wasted days, as I can return to these scenes and expand them.

In the meantime, I'll continue to cement my bum to my chair and glue my fingers to the keyboard as I plug away towards 50K. 


NaNoWriMo Week #1 Lessons

What have I learned from a week of writing dangerously?

1. My novel's not all bad.

Yesterday I reread a few scenes I'd written since NaNo began, and actually found myself amused by them. I was encouraged by this feeling, and it buoyed my spirits for continuing on my NaNo journey.

Regardless of those warm fuzzies, I've stalled today--but not quit running. Still, I've only made half my word goal. I am a few days ahead in word count, so I'm not too worried about words. 

2. However interesting those opening scenes were, the state of my plot does concern me. 

18K words in, and my plot is struggling for breath. I know I need to dream up some complications, but part of my problem in doing so comes from not really knowing where I want to take these characters, and from still developing my characters and plot in my mind. 

It comes down to this: I'm not sure where this novel is going. I have a few loose ideas, but nothing I'm fully committed to yet, and I'm a little afraid to commit to any one direction at this point.

I say I'm a pantser writer, but I at least like to know who my characters are before I begin. This year I failed to write character bios and histories for any of them. I'm really starting to wince as I get further into my novel and feel the time crunch. I don't have the chance to stop and write those bios now. (Note for next year: write character bios and backstory--no matter what!)

3. There's absolutely no time for writer's block.

That's the great thing about NaNoWriMo. I just have to power through the writer's block and find out what lies ahead on the path, what's inside the pretty little package I've begun unwrapping.

So I keep sitting down before my laptop and typing away, pretending like I know where I'm going with this novel, when in reality, the little I know about it is starting to scare me. 

What if it's not a genre I want to write? What if I aim for one audience and it's actually aimed at another? What if I do it all wrong? What if there's absolutely nothing special and unique about this novel? What do I do when I get to the end of my 50K and think it's all worthless?

Those are the questions that try to keep me up at night. But the answers are why there's a delete key.

No time for questions. Just write.