Rosemary Contest Winner for Petals and Runes!

I just got back from the 2017 RWA contest. It was AWESOME! I got to meet so many people I only know from the internet. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I learned SO much. The RITA awards and Golden Heart awards were so inspiring. The post-RITA dance party was a blast. And…possibly the best part: I’m coming home a winner in the speculative category for the YA RWA Rosemary Contest for my YA fantasy novel “Petals and Runes!”

All that awesome had to be counterbalanced with some less than awesome stuff… for example, I killed my phone. It died via the dreaded infinite boot loop on Thursday morning, leaving me with no social media or ability to text/call anyone for the remaining three days of the conference. Then, my flight was delayed by six hours coming home last night. But, even those inconveniences couldn’t put a dent in how much fun I had at the conference.

10/10 I would totally do this again. Already looking forward to next year!

#NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously

Yes, I am completely aware that it’s mid-July, and there are four more months until NaNoWriMo and The NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. That doesn’t dampen my excitement one bit.

I’ve already set up my donation page to attend this year’s event. If you can attend, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the most fun writing events I’ve attended, and I look forward to it every year.

Even if you’re not a writer or not able to attend this year, I’m hoping that you might consider a donation to support the NaNoWriMo organization (and my fundraising campaign).

If you’ve already donated, THANK YOU! Your name has been added to my “reward” list. I haven’t figured out what the reward is going to be yet, but stay tuned. I’ll make sure it’s awesome.

I know there are countless worthy causes out there hoping to get their hands on your charitable donation budget. Here’s why I encourage you to make (even a very small) donation to NaNoWriMo:

  • NaNoWriMo does inspiration like nobody else. It’s so inspiring that it’s been the catalyst to me writing 4 novels during past Novembers. With the magic and inspiration of NaNoWriMo 2017, I plan to do it again.
  • The money from donations is used to provide children and adults the encouragement, structure, and inspiration they need to achieve their creative potential.
  • Proceeds from the event will fund National Novel Writing Month’s free creative writing programs in hundreds of schools and communities around the world. For an example of what that looks like in action, watch this video:

So please, if you like my blog and want to support my writing while also supporting an excellent organization, click through to my donation page and consider a $5 or $10 donation. Anything helps. My goal is to reach $275 raised by the end of July. So, help me out? Pretty please?

In which I gush about @MadcapRetreats

It’s been a month since I attended Madcap Retreats Creating Worlds workshop with Tessa Gratton and Roshani Chokshi. I’ve been working on this post on and off since then, trying to find just the right words to explain how much I loved this writing retreat and how much I love the people I met there. Mostly, when I try to put my feelings about this experience into words, I just end up gushing and flailing and making incoherent noises that don’t translate well into a blog post. But here goes…

Back in November, I applied to attend both their Creating Worlds workshop and their Writing Cross Culturally workshop. When I got the email that I’d been accepted, I actually started crying. I’m not even kidding. I was so excited to be attending that I think I emailed them back to accept my spot almost immediately.

I ended up getting accepted to both. Unfortunately, I could only attend one workshop due to budget and vacation constraints. So, I picked the Creating Worlds workshop. It was a little smaller, and I admit that I was a little intimidated about the idea of being in a house with 60 people I didn’t know.

As the anticipation built, I started getting really nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I knew a couple of people from Twitter who had attended previously, but they hadn’t said much about it. About a month before the workshop, I connected with a handful of people who would be attending and we chatted about what to bring and coordinated on rides from the airport. A lot of people who were attending with me had already been to one of these workshops. I took that as a good sign. I should have realized then that this was going to be a world-changer for me.

I’m here to report, Madcap Retreats exceeded my expectations in every single way.

My perch for soaking up all the #MadcapRT awesomeness… #amworldbuilding #amwriting #writerlife

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I attempted to try to make a list of all of the awesome things about this retreat. I’m sure I’ll forget something, but here are 10 things I loved about this Madcap Retreat:

  1. Natalie and Tessa — Any list of things to love about Madcap has to start with these two, but especially with Natalie. Natalie Parker is the organizer of everything and mastermind behind Madcap. Tessa Gratton is an excellent teacher and rabid social justice pixie in the very best and most inspiring way. I have to admit, of everyone on this faculty list, I knew the least about these two going in. What a travesty! How did I not already know about these two amazing individuals?
  2. The faculty — The other authors who were there to offer their knowledge were also fantastic. Roshani Chokshi is kind, generous, and can take the most boring story detail and make it magical. Dhonielle Clayton is a really fun, tiny, fierce human packed full will a wealth of publishing knowledge. Tara Hudson and Julie Murphy, who also joined us for a couple days, were generous with their industry knowledge, really fun to hang out with, and so encouraging.
  3. The writers I met — A few of the attendees already had agents and/or published books. Most of us did not. We got to hear a lot about the novels everyone was working on, and there was not a single one that I wasn’t excited about reading. Every single one of them sounded fantastic, and I wished they were available to read right now. The level of talent attending was both inspiring and a little intimidating (in a good way). I made new friends, and I got to talk about writing with writers in real life. Making writer friends over Twitter is great, but hanging out with writer friends in person is the best.
  4. The content — The workshop I attended was focused around “Creating Worlds,” something I thought I knew a thing or two about before I got on that plane to Florida. World-building is one of my absolute favorite things about writing sci-fi and fantasy and something I usually get compliments on from CPs and beta readers. But, this workshop gave me so many more things to think about! I took so many notes and got so many ideas. Seriously, I left feeling like I’ve only been scratching the surface of what’s possible, but ready to dive in to improve all the worlds I’ve created.
  5. The location — So, I associate Florida with the absolute worst sunburn I ever got in my life. Plus, Orange Beach is not the easiest place to get to from San Francisco. But, it turns out that Orange Beach is not actually located in Florida. It’s technically in Alabama. And, hey! This location was AWESOME. Excellent house. Right on the beach. Wildlife just outside (cranes, dolphins, elusive beach mice). Spectacular sunrises and sunsets, both somehow magically happening over the ocean. Warm weather. It was basically the best. I would do it all over again next weekend if I could, even though it meant spending nearly an entire day in transit both directions. That’s how good it was. (more location photos in this photo album)
  6. The format — We had three pretty intense days, but they were broken up in a way that gave you time to absorb what you were learning, or decompress if you needed a break. We got started around 9am and went pretty much straight through until noon with a few 10 minute breaks. Then we had about an hour for lunch. Then we had another session after lunch. Then a big break in the afternoon. After dinner, there was a “fireside chat” (optional) in the evening. I got up at about 6:30 every morning because that’s actually “sleeping in” for me, and I love watching the sunrise over the ocean. And I stayed up way past my usual bedtime, going to sleep around midnight every night. I could have gone to bed earlier or slept in later, but I didn’t want to miss a moment, and I liked working on the world-building exercises we were learning first thing in the morning when the house was quiet. It was intense and a little exhausting, but totally worth it.
  7. The new writing tools — Holy 9-box convert, Batman! There were several writing exercises that I am definitely adding to my prep work for all my novels, but this character/plot arc tool was one of two things that really helped me figure out what needed revising in the novel I brought to work on at this workshop. The other enlightening thing happened as a side-effect from a writing exercise in Tessa’s class. I’ll talk more about that one in a future post. For now I’ll just say, I’ve taken writing classes and read a fair amount of writing craft books, and I still learned so many mind-blowingly useful new things.
  8. Learning from #OwnVoices — As anyone who’s been paying any attention to YA “book Twitter” knows, it is very easy to mess things up when you’re creating worlds, be they contemporary or fantasy. I am always trying to educate myself about this stuff because I know enough to know there’s always so much more to learn. That’s one of the reasons why I signed up for this workshop in the first place. Learning from #OwnVoices faculty and fellow workshop participants helped me flag a few new potential blind spots and feel a little more articulate about some of the things I’d already figured out on my own.
  9. The food — Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much here. Basically, I assumed they’d have some, and I’m not a particularly picky eater. So, I assumed I’d eat some. I was fairly certain I wouldn’t starve. Oh how wrong I was. I think I came home several pounds heavier than I left. Natalie did most of the cooking, and everything was fantastic. Plus, the kitchen was basically in the same space as the presentation area. So, the delicious food smells meant I was always hungry. There were also a ton of snacks that I normally never eat. I made bad food choices. I regret nothing. 🙂
  10. Talking about my novel with other writers — This was possibly the one thing I didn’t even consider before attending but now don’t know how I managed to function without. Critique groups, my usual outlet for talking IRL with other writers, are usually for absorbing feedback about whatever section of work you submitted. Brainstorming and talking through your plot issues with other writers is a whole different beast, and I loved it! At first it was really strange talking about my novel out loud like I would talk about the plot and/or characters of any published book. But, talking through it with this group during the 9-Box exercise, and during my 1:1 critique session with Tessa and Roshani, was SO HELPFUL! I have no idea how I’ve functioned so long without having a writing buddy to brainstorm with IRL.

Bottom line: I can’t recommend Madcap Retreats highly enough. If you’re serious about writing and on the fence about attending one of these workshops, go. Apply and go. You won’t regret it.

One last sunrise walk on the beach before heading home… #MadcapRT

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This photo makes me a little sad. I miss my new writer friends and am already thinking about when I’m going to do this again. I will definitely be back.

Year in Review: 2016 Goals Recap

I didn’t accomplish all my goals this year. But, in Googley thinking (external perspective on what I mean by that here), that’s actually a good thing. It means I’m pushing myself. I feel pretty good about everything I accomplished this year. Not great. But pretty good. This sort of felt like one of those years where you work your butt off and don’t really see very much progress, but it’s all really important work that will pay off later. At least, that’s how I hope this turns out…

These were my 2016 (non-work-related) goals:

  • Swimming <– Total Score: 67%
    • swim at least 215 days out of the year (compared to 207 days in 2015) <– Score: 86%… I only swam 184 days out of the year
    • swim at least 400 miles (660k yards) total (compared to ~386 miles in 2015) <–Score: 94%… I ended the year with 374 miles total
    • drop time in my top five events, ideally trying for the following SCY goal times: <– Score: 20%…  I didn’t really race SCY this year, but I did race LCM Nationals and placed 9th in the Nation in 200m breast
      • 2:47.59 in 200 breast (current best = 2:51.65)
      • 1:17.89 in 100 breast (current best = 1:18.62)
      • 36.9 in 50 breast (current best = 37.75)
      • 2:55.36 in 200 fly (current best = 3:03.87)
      • 5:43.8 in 400 IM (current best = 5:59.11)
  • Writing <– Total Score: 83%
    • Finish my 2013 and 2014 NaNoWriMo drafts (both currently just over 50k words and about 60% done) <– Score: 50%… I should have revised this because plans changed when I got in to P2P and spent the first 4 months of this year working on “TLE” instead
    • Polish my 2015 NaNoWriMo first draft <– Score: 100%
    • Participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 as Marin County Municipal Liaison and write 50k new words in Nov <– Score: 100%
  • Reading <– Total Score: 70%
    • 50 books total (~1 per week) <– Score: 100%
    • Keep track of how many books I’m reading against the 2016 “Read Harder” challenge list <– Score: 100%… note how this does not say I needed to finish the challenge… 🙂
    • Read mostly books I already own and try to get my  to-read shelf (books I own but haven’t read yet) on Goodreads to less than 60 books (this list currently contains more than 100 books… ) <–Score: 0… Massive fail. I added at least as many books as I read this year… 
    • Write at least one blog post per week about what I’m reading and why (with photos) <– Score: 80%… I posted nearly 60 posts this year, which is more than one per week, on average. Not all of them were about what I was reading, but the vast majority of them were, and I did at least do a monthly review post through September.

Overall Score = 73%

I’m still working on goals for 2017. I am trying to make sure that I’m making them flexible, but specific enough that they keep me focused on what’s most important. For example, it’s unlikely you’ll see another “swim 400 miles” or specific goal times for races in 2017. I already know that competing isn’t going to be my priority next year, and not just because I’m now at the top of my age bracket. But more on that in a future post… For now, I’m just going to celebrate all I managed to accomplish this year, on top of working a pretty intense and demanding job with a ridiculous commute.

My #NaNoWriMo month in review

Well… I did it!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner

Through sheer force of will and determination, I made it to 50k. On the days I wrote, I wrote like the wind. By the end of the month I was easily averaging over 1k words per hour. But there were days in there where I just couldn’t write, and it had nothing to do with the story.

Even though almost everything seemed to be conspiring against me to throw roadblocks in my way, I pushed through. Because, when it came down to it, I had been looking forward to NaNoWriMo all year. I freaking love NaNoWriMo. I know its not for everyone, but it works really well for me. I wasn’t about to let the election and everything else take my November novel writing tradition away from me. Sheer stubbornness does come in handy some times.

So, I made it to 50k and I did it one day early. I still have probably about 30k to go in order to finish the first draft of this novel, but for once I’m not coming out of the month drained. I’m invigorated and pumped to keep going. Right now I’m planning on writing ~1k per day through December so I can have this first draft done before the end of the year.

So, I suppose I could tell you a little about my novel now. Nothing too specific, yet. I am still working on it, after all, and I don’t like talking about projects before the first draft is done. But, basically, it’s a space opera influenced by a Jane Austen novel and by basically all my favorite sci-fi novels and movies. I don’t have any ideas for a title yet. I’ve given it the working title of “Sparks” because that’s the hero’s nickname for the heroine.

I know that’s not much to go on, but stick around. Assuming I finish with the first draft as planned, I’ll probably be looking for beta readers who are available in January/February. And, before I (officially) ask for beta readers, I’ll at least have a blurb written so people can learn more about the story before signing up to read and provide feedback. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll likely focus on fun post through the end of the year, including my usual “best of” posts, my year end summary, and my goals for next year. If you know of an Instagram photo challenge, or a book blogger challenge that you think I might like, let me know in the comments.

Happy Holidays!

#NaNoWriMo mid-point update

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For those curious about my NaNoWriMo progress, we’re halfway through the month, and (as of this writing) I have just over 27k words. That puts me slightly ahead of the “peanut butter” schedule (1667 words/day). But, I’m about 10k behind the “reverse NaNo” schedule I’d intended to follow.

I had been doing really well on the reverse NaNo program, hitting most of my daily word count goals and catching back up if I missed the mark for a day. Then the election happened, and I couldn’t write. Last week was a rough week for writing. I wrote about 5400 words total last week and most of those were on Saturday and Sunday.

But, (knock on wood) I seem to be back on track now. I probably won’t hit my goal of finishing at the Night of Writing Dangerously coming up on Sunday. But I *might* be able to hit 50k before Thanksgiving. Even if I don’t, I’m still in a way better position at this point than I was last year — after which, I took a massive nose dive and had to claw my way to a win. I’m just hoping this post doesn’t jinx me like last year’s mid-point post did.

Regardless of when I hit 50k, I won’t be able to stop there. Right now, I’ve only written about a third of what I’ve outlined. I’m still building to the big drama at the mid-point. If I do the math, that puts the forecasted length of this book at 80k words, which sounds about right.

Which reminds me… I should really stop wasting word count on blog posts and get back to the word mines… 🙂

Happy Writing!

#NaNoWriMo reverse word count tracker, #BuJo style

In order to write 50k words in November, the standard practice is to divide 50,000 by 30 days and give yourself a daily word count goal of ~1667 words per day.

This year, I think I’m going to try something a little different… It’s called “Reverse NaNo,” and it looks like this:

The idea is to capitalize on initial early excitement and momentum and get ahead of your word count early. I really like this idea for a number of reasons. So, I created a word count tracker in my notebook, and I’m going to give it a try. If all goes well, I might even be done with my 50k words before the Thanksgiving holiday! Another added bonus is that, if I stick to this plan and meet these word count goals, I might have a real shot at ringing that bell at the Night of Writing Dangerously.

You see, if you finish your 50k words during the event, you get to go to the front of the ballroom and ring this very loud bell. Everyone cheers for you. It’s pretty awesome. I was nowhere near 50k last year during NoWD, and I had no idea about this particular tradition. This year, I’m going to be ready.

Oh, and yeah… That picture of my notebook is also revealing my weak attempt at trying out the whole Bullet Journal craze… I’m trying to decide if I like this free-form planner concept, or if I want to continue my tradition of buying (and only sort-of using) my usual weekly planner from Moleskine…

So far, I haven’t quite figured out a format that works quite right. Of course, my weekly planner isn’t perfect either, and I do like the flexibility that the “BuJo” method offers. I’ve got a couple months left to mess around with both options before I have to decide if I need to buy a 2017 planner. So, we’ll see.

Do you use a bullet journal? What resources did you find most helpful when you were very first getting started?

#WriterTag responses and more #NaNoWriMo prep

I saw this tag on Jenna Moreci‘s vlog and thought the questions also worked well for a NaNoWriMo prep blog post.

WRITER TAG QUESTIONS:

  1. What do you eat or drink while writing? I drink green tea and lots of it. When I’m in a rush or feeling lazy, I drink Stash organic green tea in bags that I buy in bulk. Or, I drink loose leaf in my teapot if I’m feeling fancy. As for snacks, I haven’t quite figured out how to snack and write at the same time since both things require using my hands. I find that if I’m snacking, I’m not typing. So, I save the snacking for rewards. Recently, I’ve discovered that I really like plain popcorn with just salt as a writing break reward. I also reward myself with dark chocolate. In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’m making sure that I’m fully stocked up on all my favorites.
  2. What do you listen to while writing? I prefer to listen to music with no words when I write. Classical music is okay, but I prefer movie score soundtracks or electronic music. For soundtracks, I love the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack, and I just discovered the Children of Dune soundtrack. Both of these are “comfort food” movies for me, which means they work great as soundtracks for highly emotional scenes. As for electronic music, I like dubstep. I have a tendency to enjoy the bro-iest and most intense stuff (Knife Party/Pendulum, Skrillex, and deadmau5, as examples). The beat is motivating for typing fast, and I can tune out the words because they’re kind of repetitive. For this type of thing I like Amazon Music’s playlists. Devastating Dubstep Drops is usually pretty good for the intense stuff, and Electronic Beats for Work is good when I don’t want a lot of lyrics. In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’ve made sure that all these go-to soundtracks and playlists are available on my phone and on my laptop when they are both in “off-line” mode. If you’re wondering why I need them available when I’m off-line, see my response to the next question…
  3. What is your biggest distraction while you’re writing? THE INTERNET! Seriously. I have to turn off the wi-fi on my laptop and put my phone on “do not disturb” so it doesn’t beep if I get a message. During the month of November, I’ll probably only be online when I’m at work, or as a reward if I happen to be killing my word count goals and tracking ahead of schedule.
  4. What is the worst thing that has happened to you while writing? My computer went nuts one time and started deleting a chunk of text I’d just edited. It was like the delete key got stuck or something. I couldn’t stop it and had to just close Scrivener and restart it. Luckily, I had back-ups of the file. I’m usually pretty good about back-ups. I haven’t decided on my back-up strategy for NaNoWriMo this year. I’ll probably export the compiled doc from Scrivener and save it in multiple places before I go to bed each writing day. Or, I may post chapters to Google Docs so I can share them with some of my “alpha readers” to get feedback as I’m writing. Or both. You can never have too many back-ups.
  5. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you while writing? I finished a novel. And then I did it again. And then I did it one more time. Finishing a novel (even though it just means you have a pile of editing to look forward to), is such a rush. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
  6. Who do you communicate with while you’re writing? When I have a new idea for a novel I don’t really talk about it in detail with anyone, even my husband, even critique partners. In the early stages of an idea it always feels so tentative, like if I say too much the idea will just fizzle and go away. Or, sometimes the idea is so big and vague I don’t really have words to describe what I want to do, it’s just a feeling or an image in my head. If I try to explain anything to anyone at that stage, I’ll just sound like a crazy person. I’m most comfortable talking about what I’m working on when I’m about half to two-thirds done with the first draft. At that point I’m committed and I have a pretty good idea what I’m doing. So, after I finish my 50k words for NaNoWriMo, I’ll be happy to tell you more about my project. Until then, you’ll just have to wait. 🙂
  7. What is your secret to success and your biggest writing flaw? Secret to success is definitely discipline combined with persistence, two skills I learned from competitive swimming and coxing crew. My biggest writing flaw is neglecting character development in favor of plot and world-building. Oh, and beginnings. I hate trying to write amazing first chapters, and first sentences are the absolute worst. One of the reasons NaNoWriMo works so well for me is because it’s all about discipline combined with persistence. And I give myself the freedom to write a completely crappy beginning because I know I can always make it better later.
  8. What is your inspiration? What makes you productive? I’m inspired by professional writers like Victoria Schwab, John Scalzi, and Courtney Milan. Even though they’ve each reached some level of success, they haven’t lost their hustle. They treat their writing career like a business and they still write great books. They inspire me. This is super dorky, but when I was in the middle of editing during Pitch to Publication earlier this year, my husband printed out a copy of one of Victoria Schwab’s photos of her desk (for that day). It’s basically just a table with a laptop, a cup of tea, a notebook, and some headphones. But, it’s become my visual reminder that those writers are just like me. They put on their pants one leg at a time the same way we all do. They put their butts in their seats and their hands on the keyboard and write the words. To quote Victoria Schwab, “One word at a time. One page at a time. One scene at a time. One chapter at a time. One book at a time.” That’s how it’s done, and that’s going to be my NaNoWriMo mantra.
  9. What is one thing that you do or that other writers do that is super annoying? Compare myself to others. I’m competitive. I try to find healthy ways to compete (like in the pool, for example). But when I’m beating myself up because I don’t think I’ve been as productive as I “should be,” I have an annoying tendency to start comparing myself to others. I’ve gotten better at catching myself doing this, taking a huge step back (and usually off the internet), and focusing my eyes on my own paper. When I’m producing new words (like during NaNoWriMo), this isn’t a problem. When I’m stuck (aka, not writing), it’s easy to find myself falling into the competitive death spiral.
  10. Are you willing to share something you’ve written? Oh, sure. Why not. In celebration of NaNoWriMo, I’ll post an excerpt from my very first NaNoWriMo novel (un-edited) for your reading pleasure. This is from 2007, and it’s the first time I’ve opened this file in almost that many years. The novel is pretty bad. But because you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward. So, I’ve posted a (somewhat) embarrassing excerpt on my NaNoWriMo author dashboard. You can read it here.

Before I sign off, thanks to Jenna Moreci (who I don’t know, but is another writer who inspires me) for the idea for this post. You can watch her answer these same questions in the video below.

If there are any other writers out there reading this blog, I’d love to hear your responses! Post a link to your blog post (or vlog post) in the comments if you do a response to the “writer tag.”

NaNoWriMo Prep Time

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Hooray! NaNoWriMo is just 22 days away! I love the space theme this year, and it’s especially fitting because the story I’m planning to write is a relationship driven sci-fi novel that takes place (mostly) on Mars.

I’m psyched to start writing, but I can’t officially start until November 1st. In the meantime, I’ve been working on novel prep. For those of you who are curious, I thought I’d share a little about what I’m doing.

First, a caveat — every time I do this, my process is a little different. Last year, for example, I mostly worked from a rough outline and a beat sheet and did minimal prep work. In previous years, I did even less prep work. Back in 2013, I completely pantsed my novel with no outline or prep work. Going into November the year after that, I think I knew exactly one scene that I wanted to write, but that scene didn’t take place until nearly two thirds of the way through the novel. So, I wrote down some “way points” that would get me to that scene. Then I started writing and pantsed my way from point to point until I ultimately got to that scene.

What I’m saying is, there are a lot of different ways to “win” NaNoWriMo, and there is no “right way.” Do what works for you.

This year, I’m trying to take a little more time and be a little more organized with my prep, mostly because the story I want to write is a little more complicated than what I’ve done in the past. I’m attempting a “re-telling,” but I want it to feel like an entirely new story while still being true to the emotional and plot beats of the original.

I’ve started by thinking about which story elements I’ll be including in my novel (primarily Relationship with sides of Wonder, Drama, Issue, and Ensemble, I think). Now I’m working on fleshing out each of the four story building blocks:

  1. Character
  2. Plot
  3. Setting
  4. Conflict

My characters and my plot are both drawn from the original story. How they differ from the original will depend a lot on the setting I’m planning. So, I’m starting with world-building. Once I’ve got the world figured out, I can tweak my characters and my plot to fit seamlessly into my world. In the process, I’ll be adding a whole new layer of conflict that didn’t exist in the original story.

So far, I’ve mostly been doing research for my world, but it’s getting to the point now where I think research is really just a procrastination excuse because I’m not exactly sure *how* I want to organize my world-building. I’ve been searching for writing tools that might help, but I think this may work best if I just start free-writing my thoughts in a notebook the way I’ve always done. I’ve built five completely different worlds for the five novels I’ve written, so far. I’ve never used any writing tools for world-building before, and world-building has always been an area of strength for me. So, I’m pretty sure I’m completely over-thinking this part.

Once I tackle the world-building, the characters and plot will be much easier. I already have good tools for these areas. I’ll probably use character sheets to define each of the main characters’ motivations, objectives, sensibilities, etc. Then I’ll map out my emotional and plot beats and modify them to fit the setting. After all that, conflict *should* be pretty obvious, but I may just make some more specific notes on that so I don’t forget what I’d originally planned once I start writing.

For the record, I’m just getting started, and it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing, even though this will be my 6th time writing a first draft of a novel. Perhaps this first draft thing never gets any easier… What’s keeping me motivated is my vision for this story and the knowledge that, if I can make this work, it’s going to be awesome.

Now it’s time to stop procrastinating and dive into world-building.

Oh! But, before I go… I’m only $38 away from hitting my fundraising goal to support the non-profit that runs NaNoWriMo, plus many other excellent creative writing programs for children and adults. If you haven’t already donated, please have a look at my fundraising page and consider a donation.

For those who have donated: Thank you for supporting me in my novel-writing quest, and for helping National Novel Writing Month create a more engaged and inspiring world. You’re awesome!

September in Review

September did not exactly go as planned. This is the first time in a long time that’s happened. I’d created some fairly ambitious goals for September, and I accomplished ~3/5, barely.

You may not be able to tell from this blog, but I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard this year. It’s gone beyond “burning the candle at both ends.” Between work stuff, writing stuff, and personal stuff (swimming, reading, social, etc.), it feels like I’ve cut the candle into a bunch of smaller pieces so I could burn each of those at both ends. As a result, this month I may finally have snapped.

Mid-month, I decided to dial it way back and re-set my expectations about what I want to accomplish for the rest of this year. More on that (maybe) in a future blog post. This one is just meant to be a September wrap-up.

Let’s recap each of my goals (since I posted them for ya’ll to see…)…

1. SWIM at least 4 x 3300 yards per week

This would have resulted in ~52.8k yards swum in September. I actually ended up swimming 15 days for a total of 53k yards. So, I did okay on the yardage, but 15 days isn’t quite 4x per week. Still, I’m considering this one accomplished, but just barely.

2. READ at least 1 book per week on average

There were four weeks plus three days in September, and I read three novels, one short non-fiction book, one comic trade, and one “quarterly almanac” of short stories and book/movie reviews. So, I’m calling this one accomplished as well, but also just barely.

Here’s what I read this month (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

September2016

 

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Kindle, pre-order) — Supposedly this is VES in her “YA” mode. It’s the first of her “YA” books I’ve read. That said, it didn’t really feel much more “YA” than her Shades of Magic series. This may have something to do with the fact that it had that gritty almost-real-world feel to the world-building, plus the dark complexity around what makes someone a hero vs. a villian that Vicious did. So, yeah. I loved it and want more, please.
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) — This book is like if you took the anthropological world building of an Ursula Le Guin book and crossed it with the TV show Firefly. I had a few small quibbles with parts of this book when I thought about it critically (see my Goodreads review for more on this, if you’re curious). But, overall, I loved it and I can’t wait to read more stories set in this world. Apparently, there is a new one coming out in October! Woo hoo!
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (Kindle, library) — Book two in the series, and it ends on a massive cliff-hanger. Most of this story takes place around VES’s equivalent of the “tri-wizard tournament” in Harry Potter. In the process, we get to know our main characters better, and we learn a little more about magic in this world. I’m looking forward to the final book in this series, and I’m bummed that I have to wait until next year for its release. NOTE: my Goodreads review contains spoilers. Don’t click on the link above if you don’t want to be spoiled.
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates (trade paper) — I know nothing about Black Panther except that he was in the latest Captain America movie. I do know that I really like Mr. Coates’s writing (I took note of his articles in The Atlantic and started following him long before Between the World and Me). This comic was really dense and satisfying because of that. There is definitely a much more complex story building here than I feel like you usually get in most Marvel comics. This feels more like volume one of Bitch Planet or The Wicked & The Divine than any of the recent X-Men volumes I’ve been consuming. This is a good thing. Our superhero stories could use more depth.
  • Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World by  Rian Van Der Merwe (Safari Books Online) — I’ve been thinking about my day-job a lot and realizing more and more that what I really want is to get closer to the engineering side of the world. I should have been a software engineer. I may still, someday, become a software engineer. But, in the meantime, I wanted to learn a little more about the difference between Program Managers and Product Managers. This book did a great job explaining what makes a great Product Manager and what great Product Managers do to ship great products. Highly recommend this one if you are considering becoming a Product Manager.
  • The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: June 2016 edited by The Book Smugglers (Kindle) — This collection had a “superhero” theme. It included some excellent reviews for some books I want to read and some superhero movies (one I saw and one I skipped). Plus, there were a few short stories and essays. All were very good, a few were fantastic. The only hang-up I had was the copy editing. For some reason there were a ton of copy edit errors in my Kindle version.

3. NaNoWriMo Prep

Well, I picked which project I’m going to work on. But I didn’t write a plot synopsis for any of the ideas I was considering. So, I should maybe just get partial credit for this goal. I’m pretty excited about this idea though… and I’m excited to dive into prep and research in October. It feels good to be back in “creation” mode again after months and months and months of editing.

I’ve also been working hard on getting my region ready for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been scheduling write-ins and the kick-off and TGIO parties. I’m working on prizes and prep sessions. I’ve already hit my first fundraising goal, and now I’m trying to see if I can raise a little more so I can bring a guest. I’m probably completely over-committing, but I’d rather start strong and see how it goes. I think I can make it work. It’s just a month. How bad could it be? (Famous last words…)

4. Re-read “Falling” and decide next steps

I didn’t even try to do this. I had too much else going on and decided that I didn’t want to try to push another project through before NaNoWriMo starts. I decided that I needed a break. So, all non-NaNoWriMo writing projects are officially on hold until January.

5. “Good clean living…” (no sweets, no alcohol except for one “cheat day” per week)

Yeah…. this did not happen. I bailed on this one pretty early. I don’t know what I was thinking. September is my husband’s birthday month, and if he was eating pie and drinking a beer, I certainly wasn’t going to just sit there and watch him! Plus, I had no real solid motivating factor here to keep me on the wagon. It’s not like I’m trying to lose weight or anything. This activity is best reserved for January as a post-holiday “cleanse” of sorts.

Oh, and this wasn’t exactly in my goals, but I totally bailed on that Instagram challenge (#IGAuthorLifeSept) that I said I was going to do in September.

Still, for a month where nothing seemed to be going as planned, I got the important stuff done. And, I definitely learned my lesson. Sometimes you just need a month to relax and re-group. I’m making a note of this and mentally scheduling December as my next “relax and re-group” month. After NaNoWriMo, I have a feeling I’ll need it!