Tag Archives: Writing

NaNo Day 13. Nightmares.

13 Nov

Please just excuse me while I scream.


So, yah. The frustration and anxiety are eating me alive about now. And I’m generally not a fan of being eating alive by anything. That’s just…yuck.

But we are on day 13 of NaNo. Unlucky day 13? I’d like to blame it on superstition and numerology, but honestly…this has been building since before November and has just now hit a pitch that is giving me nightmares and has me sitting here at the computer gasping for fresh air .

Last year was the first year I finished NaNo. It was an amazing experience. I pushed myself past barriers I didn’t know I had, and yes, there was anxiety there too. But I don’t remember it being this bad, although that could be due to the Twizzler induced sugar highs, and the pure thrill of realizing for the first time that I could do this, I could get to 50K.

And I was so proud of myself when I reached that line. I was floating for months after that. Until I realized that I’d been following all the rules of NaNo, i.e. have fun with it, don’t worry because first drafts are supposed to suck, and no one ever needs to see it except for you. I found that strangely comforting during NaNo 2010. Until I reached about day 29, and hurriedly wrote a terribly flimsy ending to my half-told 50K story, and on December 1st realized that my book was heavy on the 50K and very light on actual story. It really went no-where.

My characters spent entire acts just wandering around campus, getting to know their surroundings and the other people in their lives. Which might be fine, for about half a chapter, if they had just awoken from a 10 year coma, but as far as I know they had been conscious throughout the last decade and this went on for the majority of my book. I’d gone into it with an idea for an event that I wanted to have occur, a big, life-changing, world-altering event and wanted to see how these characters dealt with it.

But, I didn’t really know who my characters where or how “The Event” worked, or whether the event was supposed to happen at the beginning, middle or end of my story and so I just wrote whatever came to mind. Sometimes I made up new characters and wrote from their point of view, sometimes I just let them wander through the airport in Paris.

Plot holes abound. And at some point at 3am at a write-in at Denny’s I’m pretty sure I was challenged to have my main character smoke pot. I’m not sure if it was her or I with the awesome inability to withstand peer-pressure, but yep, mid escape for her life and trying to save the world, my character decides to gets high.

But I was determined I was gonna finish this thing. Because, well I have issues with finishings, and it seemed kind of an important step to becoming a published author, so I committed myself to this mess for the forseeable future.

I spent the entire summer studying structure, and learning about plot and all those things they don’t actually teach you in creative writing classes. And became utterly overwhelmed and confused. I found 6 or 7 systems that I sort of liked, none of them completely. And none of them seemed compatible with any other.

Finally, I decided I was going to give this thing a few more months and then box it. I’d give it another shot as my NaNo 11 novel. Keeping some of the characters and the setting, as well as one or two scenes that I had actually liked from round one, but for all intents and purposes starting over and writing it as an entirely new book.

I spent part of September and all of October, trying to build my world and understand my characters and nail down an outline of sorts.

And when November 1st came, I was off and running.

Until about 3 days later when I was just… off.

Everything I had learned over the past year was just screaming in my head: You aren’t doing that right! Whyyyy are your characters so bo-ring? You aren’t supposed to have so much exposition. Show don’t tell! What happened to your inciting incident? Your dialogue is lame! That is so cliche’. Wasn’t there supposed to be a goal in this scene? Ever heard of conflict? Really, you are going to move everything around again? Wait, that character isn’t even supposed to exist! Blah Blah Blah. Voices, screaming at me so loudly that I can hardly even think to type.

And then there’s the outside pressure.

Last year. This was just a fun experiment to see if I could actually do it. Everyone else was in the same boat as me. Some of us failed, some of us succeeded, but we were a family, and we were all feeling the same things, and we cheered each other on and it was amazing, ridiculous fun.

This year, the fun has been eaten by outside expectations. There are the expectations of my family and close friends who know I have been working on this project for an entire year now and are beginning to doubt my sanity in continuing; or, I suspect, that I’m even working on anything at all.

I can understand this even. Writing a book looks so much easier from the outside. You can’t imagine the blood and sweat and tears and unbelievable amounts of time that go into writing one. Especially the first one. When you are still learning how to tame this thing.

I haven’t had the heart to tell them yet that this is probably just a practice novel. That it will likely never see an agent, let alone a publisher or sit proudly on a shelf as proof of the work I have put into it. My niece and nephews don’t get the concept that you can be a writer and not be JK Rowling or Eoin Colfer or Kaleb Nation or Aprilynne Pike. These are the only writers they have for reference and the idea of this book failing to make me into an over-night celebrity and best-seller just doesn’t compute for them. But I have to love them for their child-like faith in me.

There’s the few writer friends I have who know what I’m working on and expect at some point to be able to read this novel, to give feeback or critiques or point me along the next steps on the path. And of course, I adore these people and don’t want to let them down…but I also don’t want to miss out on the place I’m at in my life where I have such wonderful writerly people as these around. People that are better than me, and that I can learn at the feet of. I feel the need to take advantage of my blessings, and to just suck it up and BE a competent writer already!

But, I sit here now, at day 13, and although, I’ve lagged along pretty much at par on my word count, I have no story. Despite my word-building and outlining, this thing is a bigger mess than the first one. I’m realizing that my process is to write a lot of crap to get to the good stuff. Which means that to get a novel of 80k words, just a first draft, I’ll probably end up writing more like 160-200k words. Which means, November 30th is not going to be even close to the end of my sucky, ugly, must-hide-in-a-deep-dark-hole first draft, and I have no idea how long it will be until I have something that I feel ready to share. Do I give it the rest of the time that it needs, or do I make a clean break and start fresh? I really feel the need to see this through to the ugly end, but how can I justify giving that much more time to a project that will go in a drawer.

It’s also intimidating knowing real writers. Either a) They don’t need NaNo. or B) They crank through this NaNo thing like they are slicing through jello. 50k words within the first 3 days, first week, first 2 weeks. Worse yet. They are ready to share these masterpieces while they are still writing them. And they are so NOT sucky first drafts.

This throws my whole notion of what is possible with NaNo, right out the window and I feel like I must not be trying hard enough. But my Neanderthal brain, as hard as I push it, cannot produce anything close to what they can on a first draft. I’m not sure if it can on a 10th draft.

I know, I know. Put the inner editor away, you say. And I can for a while, while I’m writing. It’s when I look up from the page and return to the real world that the pressure starts to build again and I start to ask myself…. can I do this? Can I do this at all? And even if I can do it once… taking years to get it right, that’s when my problems really start, because then I hopefully have an agent and a publisher and am expected to crank this stuff out on a much more regular basis and…. and…. my brain starts to explode.

Anyone else out there stuck in the quicksand with me today?

I’m off to gorge myself on Twizzlers and re-read Mr. Baty’s book about all of this somehow not being a problem.


Stumbling Up the Creative Path.

3 Oct

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Wow. Had this on an auto-play loop for a while this evening.

Because…I know this.  In my head I know it.  But, my heart tends to forget it quite often.  Today procrastination was apparently my favored art-form until a friend posted this on Facebook and it hit a nerve.  In a good way.  It helped release that deep breath that I’d been holding since last week (or possibly preschool?).  The one tied to that ugly knot that tends to grow in the bottom of my stomach when anyone mentions wanting to see what it is I write. Yah that one.  That one has been especially testy since realizing that a substantial requirement for my new writing group is that we actually share what it is we are working on. {Terror}

This little reminder came at an interesting time in regards to my blogging as well. Lately,  I’ve been trying to figure out the point of all this silent screaming in the dark.  I suppose this too I knew all along*.  It’s not just getting things off my chest. It’s not simply putting something out there to see if it gets noticed. It’s certainly not about trying to impress or please anyone but myself.  It’s more about learning as I go and making this whole writing thing a little less scary because I do it every day and I get better at it as I go.  And sometimes I need to just fail and make mistakes and let things be messy.  For me that’s the hardest part.  Being brave enough to let others see those imperfections.  And yes, it’s somewhat about making connections in ways I really don’t anywhere else.  But, above all, it’s really about putting in the work towards becoming the kind of artist that I see in my head.  Because that girl I totally admire and respect, and can’t wait to meet.  So if you see her wandering around out there in the dark… just remind her to take a deep breath… and get back to work.  I promise I’ll thank you someday!

*[Note to self: Install more RAM in brain]

Caught My Eye: Maldives

20 Jan

Sometimes I swear Stumbleupon is my best robot friend.  How do they know me so well? I’m actually not gonna think about that too much, because the answer might scare me just a little.  As it is,  I want to just live in their perfect, totally-gets-me interweb. Today I stumbled upon this page with these oh so amazing factoids and tons of stunning pictures of the Maldives.  (Seriously, go check it out, then come back I won’t hold it against you.)

I admit I am sometimes geographically challenged.  I mean, I had heard of the place, but that was about it.  Now, I’m a little bit amazed by it.  These tiny little islands (Hawaii looks like a full-on continent comparatively) are actually a country?  It got my mind spinning and it seemed like such the perfect place to set a story, something fantastic perhaps?  Of course I think a research trip is definitely in order first.  Can’t be done any other way.  I’m sorry, it just can’t. Roadtrip! Err… Um Canoe Trip!  Who’s in?

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.

Paris in the Air

8 Jan

“Aimons donc, aimons donc! de l’heure fugitive, Hâtons-nous, jouissons; L’homme n’a point de port, le temps n’a point de rive; Il coule, et nous passons!” ~Lamartine

It’s been an oddish day.  I woke up needing to write, and started working on a scene from my novel which happens to be set in Paris, a city that, apart from clichés and a few Audrey Hepburn movies, I really know little about. I’ve always loved the architecture and the language though.  Why is part of my book set there?  Because I thought the aged, romanticism of the city and stunning landmarks would make an interesting contrast to my future teen techie apocalypse.

A bit later, in the middle of cleaning my apartment, I got a ping on my phone featuring a news-story about the Arizona congresswoman who was gunned down this morning in Tucson.  Truly sad and horrifying.  But, I’m a writer, and a new story immediately sprang to mind this time set in a very different Paris.  Paris of World War II.  I jotted down some notes on that, which led my brain to yet another story….which I’m keeping secret because it has nothing to do with Paris, (that I know of) (it does involve Shakespeare and some time travel).

A couple of hours later, completely by chance I stumbled on to this post over at Expatriotgames. It’s a true love story which made me A) want to move somewhere really cool, and B) wonder what happened to that guy I used to crush on when I was 16 and working at Burger King.  Paul Johnson if  you are out there…..I’m still single.  Ha.

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But, it also reminded me of the fact that my parents will be visiting the city later this summer.  I’m “more than I can explain” excited for them (and of course a bit jealous).  But what struck me was the picture of my parents in love in Paris.  Holding hands and walking down the street and eating great food at cafes and just being adorably happy.  Yes, I know it’s a weird thing to think of, but I’ve said it before (maybe not here, so I’ll say it again), I’ve always looked up to my parents for the love they have for each other.  It’s something I’ve never had to question, and yes, part of the reason I’m so picky.  I want love like that in my life someday.  They’ve stood up for and put up with each other more times than I can count and here they are…45 years later (they met in high-school), and even with Dad retired with way too much time on his hands,  and Mom still pretending she doesn’t know what  a budget is – neither of them has shown any signs of jumping ship.  I figure if you don’t have someone who loves you that much, what’s the point? Mom and Dad, I wish you a magical journey in Paris. But no time travel, thanks.

So… like I said Paris is in the air.  Can you feel it? Try listening to French music, or French kissing… it helps.  No?  Well, what’s in the air you are breathing then?


“So let us love, let us love; and the transient hour
Let’s enjoy in a hurry;
Man has no harbor, time no shores;
It flows, we fade merely!” ~Lamartine 



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