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The Before I Die Project

28 Jan

Photos By Subtext Projects

“[Artist Candy Chang] transformed a wall of [Dallas based East/West] Galleries into a giant chalkboard stenciled with the phrase, “Before I die I want to _____.” People can use chalk to write on the wall and remember what is important to them. This project is also about sharing and discovering the hopes and aspirations of the people around you. In addition to the gallery show, Before I Die is being installed on neglected buildings in New Orleans in hopes of improving both our physical environment and our individual well-being while understanding our neighbors in a different and enlightening way.”


I came across the above fascinating art installation today.  And I love that it’s being installed on neglected buildings in New Orleans.  I kinda wish I had one on my wall, for myself, for my friends and family… it’s such an intensely connecting concept.  I kind of think it’s appropriate that the proclamations are made in chalk as well.  I like knowing it’s okay to change my mind about what’s important, but I don’t have to.  I wonder if I could fill up an entire wall myself?

Here’s a few things I think I’d scratch out:

  • Before I die I want to touch someone’s heart and mind with my writing.
  • Before I die I want to watch my nephews and niece grow up.
  • Before I die I want to visit India.
  • Before I die I want to take care of those that have taken care of me.
  • Before I die I want to read thousands and thousands more books.
  • Before I die I want to eat pancakes at the White House.

Yah, OK, so that last one might be a stretch. (Unless the Obama’s are actively looking for brunch guests, in which case, do put me down)  It still sounds like fun!  The truth is there are probably thousands of things I could put on my wall.  Big and small, simple and outlandish. I’ve never been short on dreams.  The real question for me is not, WHAT do I want to do before I die, but HOW do I make those things happen.  I’m afraid that wall might look a bit more messy.  My plans are never step by step, this leads to that.  Life intervenes, and we skip ahead and fall backwards and jump to another wall altogether, all the while scribbling notes in the margins and wondering if this is really what we want after all.  For me, the messiness of the process is part of the joy of life.

But now I’m curious…what would be on your wall?


Writing Goals: Tracking and Accountability

17 Jan

We’ve been talking about writing goals for the past couple days.  I just wanted to finish up by giving you some details on how I’ll be keeping track and keeping accountable for my goals.  There are a ton of different tools out there for keeping track of writing.  I’ve tried most of them.  These are the ones I’ll be using for this challenge.



Since this is the main program I use to both organize and actually pen my writing, I’ll be taking advantage of their built in tools, though a bit basic, they are helpful.  I can set a goal for the day and keep track of my session, daily and total word-counts.

Write Track

Writetrack is a calendar and so much more.  I can enter in the time period and my word-count goal and it will tell me how much to write every day.  It also includes the ability to schedule days off, and will auto update as I write to show my new goal each day.  I also have the ability to adjust things as I go along if I decide once I’m further in that 100,000 words isn’t the perfect goal for this project.  After all, the real goal is THE END.  I also have the opportunity, like in NaNo, to write ahead.  In other words to write 4000 words in one day and reduce my daily target for the remaining days, etc.  And for all those jonesing for the NaNo experience, this free online program comes chock full of all kinds of customizable charts and graphs.  It’s also a built-in record of my writing.  I’ve set the project (The Big Finish Spring 2011) to start Feb 1st (to give me a chance to finish up some plotting and outlining) and run for 3 months.  So, if you want in….that’s the timeframe.


I’ll be adding a word-count tracker to the sidebar here on the blog. That way you can know on any given day the progress I’m making.  But part of the deal is that I’ll also be reporting on here.  Every week I’ll be giving a short and sweet little report on my progress, success, failures, embarrassments and all, so that you can cheer me on or play along.

I also have some ideas in mind for The Editing Game, which will start May 1st, but I’ll tell you about that when we get a bit closer to the event.

Please let me know if you have questions, suggestions or want to play along!

Oh, and Happy Monday!


2011 Writing Goals & (sigh) Schedule (Part 2)

15 Jan

Yesterday I shared my writing goals for 2011.  Today, as promised I’m going to get into the details of my plan for this year.

Six Days a Week

Instead of saying I will sit down and write from x to y o’clock every day without fail, I’m going to try something a little different.  First of all.  I get one day off a week.  If I take it early in the week, it’s gone, used up.  If I don’t use it….it does not carry over to the next week.  Days when I am out-of-town on vacation, etc are not required, (after all, it is a vacation) but writing is certainly encouraged on those days.  Usually I find that when I’m in a different environment writing flows out of me like crazy, so I’m not too worried about this little loophole. The other six days of the week will be word count days.

Words not Time Served

It doesn’t work for me to say I have to write for an hour.  I ramble around aimlessly and write about my mother’s dog or my neighbor’s car but never quite get around to the task at hand. The thing is another 50,000 words over the next 3 months (adjusting for days off) only works out to just under 700 words a day.  Piece of cake for a babbler like me.  But 700 words a day of work on my first draft.  Not side-stories, not back-stories, not essays about my life or my love of Jane Eyre,  or Jake Gyllenhaal, not blogging, not journaling, just plugging along and getting it done.

The Starting Gate & Restrictions

It’s the starting every day that is really the hard part.  Once I start, I get into a rhythm and it’s kinda bliss.  So to instigate the starting I’ve installed an internet filter.  Yup.  Myself is getting tough here.  No internet, no checking emails or blogging until the work is done for the day.  No twitter, no Facebook, no funny pictures of cats in hats (okay really folks, the cat pictures I can do without).  But also no procrastination via the umbrella of “research” ( i.e. downloading pictures of how each of my characters has styled his hair and chosen to wear for the day or casting and re-casting with hollywood celebrities, or even looking up maps of Paris or articles on scientific theories on climate manipulation or brain development.)  Nope.  Verboten.  All of that stuff has to wait until the writing is done.  And for a gal without TV, that leaves – well –  cleaning the house or doing laundry or re-organizing my bookshelves again.  I’m not gonna say that reading is off the list, because quite frankly at this point I could stand to spend some more time doing that as well, but as far as the interworld.  I’m dead until the work is done.

Yes. Please. I mean, what’s a challenge without fabulous prizes?
Ok. Obviously getting my interworld and blogosphere back on is a reward in and of itself.  The writing is a reward in and of itself once I get going, but I’m talking about something a little more tangible here.  Something a bit more fun and focused.  I’ll be finalizing these rewards with my “sponsors” *cough*  Mom, Dad, *cough* but for now they stand as such:

Every 1 week of meeting goals = a book from BookSwap & Saturday coffee @ bookstore.
Every consecutive 3 weeks of meeting goals = A massage certificate.

Consecutive 6 weeks of meeting goals = Sexy Writer’s Salon Day (hair cut & color, mani, pedi)

The whole enchilada (a full 3 months of  meeting my writing goals) A new Car! (uh, no?) I’m going to Disneyland! (er..apparently not.)  Ok the grand prize isn’t quite ready to be revealed at this point but I can say this.  It has something to do with BEA 2011 in New York. *squee*

But that’s not all…

Word Count Rewards:
8000 words in a week = $15 Starbucks or AMC gift card
The 75,000 word  mark = $50 Amazon gift card
The 100,000 word mark = $100 gift card of choice
The END = $200 gift card of choice


You didn’t think it was going to be THAT easy, did you?

3 days in a row of no writing =  3 hours of housecleaning for my sponsors.

6 days in a row of no writing =  6 hours of babysitting for sponsors.  (Not really much of a punishment for me, since I love it, but I know it helps them out and that’s the point)

10 days of no writing = completion of embarrassing feat chosen at random from entries submitted by sponsors, friends and followers.

15 days in a row of no writing = sign up and complete a 5k

(note: these are cumulative, so failing to write at all during the 3 month period dooms me to 6 5k’s in 2011) wow.  But the fifteen day period also would include having failed at the 3 and 6 day marks as well, so those punishments would be in effect also.

Competitions, Dares & Challenges

Here’s where it gets fun for you.  Want to play along?  You can.  I have prizes set aside for those that play the game with me.  Or propose a challenge or dare and we’ll settle on terms.  I’ll also be setting up a few mini challenges along the way and inviting people to play along.  If you want to hear about the challenges first and the prizes available, simply subscribe to my blog or follow me on twitter and you will be the first to know.  Hint: my challenger prizes include everything from free books, signed ARC’s , gift cards, movie passes, spa days, and even a BEA registration!  Warning: challengers also face consequences for failure…so if you are looking for motivation, stay tuned to find out more.  Want to suggest a dare or challenge?  Want to sponsor me or my challengers?  Leave a comment or head over to the Aurel & Bex page and send me a message.

That gets us through the rough draft stage of this thing.  Tune in tomorrow for the editing game, accountability and some fun tips and tricks I’ll be using for keeping and  staying on track  in 2011.

2011 Writing Goals & (sigh) Schedule (Part 1)

15 Jan

“A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. ”
~Annie Dillard

This series of posts probably should have happened about oh….14 days ago…. but I’ve been really giving it some careful consideration before committing to this.


First of all the big rocks…

1) My main goal is to have my novel ready to send out by the year’s end.

Since January is halfway gone, that gives me 11 months to:

a) Finish the second (half?) of the first draft.
b) Edit, edit, edit, critique, edit, critique, repeat as necessary.  I’d like to have 6-9 months for this portion of the process.
c) I also need to start somewhere near the end point preparing my query, researching agents and narrowing it down to my top choices.

Considerations: Possible travel during which I can pretty much guarantee no work will get done.  NaNo again this November. Work. School.

I’m currently  sitting at around 55,000 words on the rough draft.  I’ve backtracked from NaNo and started to try to work out some plot problems before I move forward and as a result I’ve lost that momentum.  And, I have to admit, just as much, the confidence that came from sitting down and pumping out 2000 words most days.  I’m feeling like the whole thing is a mess right now and I don’t know where I’m going with it, but I think for now, it’s just something I need to write through.

I expect (and want) the editing process to be long and detailed.  Yes, I’m a perfectionist.  But, I also just think it’s sound advice for new novelists.  I absolutely loved this post by fellow Phoenician and YA novelist Aprilynne Pike.  Every word of it.  Including the part about giving it everything you can for 6 months, sending it out, and moving on.  I certainly have plenty of other stories to write.  And yes, spending a year on a project and not having it sell may sound like a hard pill to swallow, but spending a lifetime half-way committed to something and never succeeded is a much bigger problem.  And like I’ve said before, this is my novel-writing school.  As much as I love this story and these characters, I can’t allow sentimentality to something that doesn’t even exist become my guiding force here.  I would love for it to sell of course, but I don’t expect it.  I’ll still be thrilled for the experience of having completed the entire process and what I’ve learned from it that simply can’t be taught in a book or even a classroom.

Be on the lookout for wise insights from me this time next year.  As of now, I’m mostly nervous and anxious to get things underway. And confused. There’s plenty o’ confused running round in my head about now.

So rounding things off to 8 months of editing….that gives me 3  months tops to finish this rough draft.  So perfectly doable.  IF I stick to a schedule. Which has not happened thus far for the singular reason that I’ve failed to make one.  Or refused to, more precisely.  I suppose it’s because then I have something else to be accountable to myself for.  And I happen to know that Myself can be harsh and unforgiving in the accountability department. Let’s just say it’s a touchy subject for me and my natural tendency is to avoid responsibility so that there’s no chance of messing up and letting anyone down.

I’m learning how to push through that, but ya know that little devil in the cartoons that sits on your shoulder telling you all the reasons why you should join the dark side? Well mine is named Mac, he’s round and obnoxious (and quite frankly could use a shower and a shave), and at this moment he’s shouting things like: “Seriously, all you are going to do is set yourself up for failure, you really think you need another failure now?” and “Come on.  A schedule? You.”  He then falls off my shoulder in a fit of cruel laughter which doesn’t stop even when he hits his head on the tile floor.  You get the picture.

Unfortunately the lack of schedule hasn’t worked out for me so well thus far, so we are going to give it a try.  With a twist.  Prizes, punishments, competitions and shameful dares all come into play.  Wanna know more and maybe even play along?  Ahh lads and lassies, of course you do…. tune in tomorrow for Part 2  and all the gory thrilling details.

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