Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Rewriting…still

I’ve been working for a full year now and still haven’t finished the second draft of my UF book. Let’s just say it’s been a steep learning curve, and various crap happened throughout the year that didn’t make it any easier.

But – and there is a silver lining here – I’ve learned a lot. Just like a first draft, you kinda have to figure out a process for second and later drafts by doing it. Otherwise you’re flailing and wasting time and letting the voice of doubt sink its claws deeper into you….

I know, I’ve been there. I still flail, waste time, and want to burn the scene I’m trying to fix at least once a week. I don’t, though. I cut the words, re-write them over and over if I have to, until they make more sense.

Surely drafts three and on will be much, much easier.

 

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Assuming this guy lets me have some peace at the desk!

 

In any case, I’m sure there are tons of you out there looking at your NaNo or some other WIP first draft, positively cringing (or crying) from all the problems you see. Good news! NaNoEdMo is coming up in less than two weeks! Like NaNoWriMo, there’s a community undertaking the journey with you of trying to fix those words. Instead of 50,000 words, the goal is 50 hours of editing. That’s a little over 1.5 hours per day. Sounds totally do-able, right? Head on over to the website and sign up!

Having said that, I really, really don’t suggest diving in without some kind of plan.By that I mean jumping in feet first without looking over the first draft, thinking about what needs to change, characters that need to be moved, making notes, etc. It’s overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is what I tried:

  • Let the book sit (hopefully you’ve let it rest for a few weeks, if not a month, since finishing the draft)
  • Highlighted sections in different colors based on what changes were needed (green for setting, orange for plot, etc.)
  • Wrote each scene on a notecard
  • Made an outline for what actually happens in the first draft (even if you went by an outline while writing, it may be good to make this just to catch any differences that cropped up by accident)
  • Made an outline for draft two based on what needed to be moved/changed
  • Came up with an arbitrary date to finish the draft

 

What actually worked:

  • Outlines — these have made the biggest improvement, I think. Every time I changed something or got feedback from an alpha reader/critique partner, I readjusted the outline and was able to stay on track much better.
  • Scene cards — these helped to an extent. They’re nice if you want to lay them all out and see what happens when you move pieces around, but for me, there was too much information on them. My scenes were too big, so about a quarter through I stopped using them as my guideline.
  • Alpha/Beta reader — to be fair I didn’t have a reader/crit partner until about halfway through the year, but I highly recommend having someone read the revised/rewritten chapters as you get through one.

 

What didn’t work:

  • Highlighting the first draft — there was simply too much that needed to be reworked. Since it’s first person POV and the main character didn’t cooperate very well in the first draft, a lot of it couldn’t be salvaged word-for-word.
  • Word/scene goals/timeline — hahahaha. I have broken pretty much every one of these I made. I underestimated how long it would take to rewrite everything, because my brain isn’t in first-draft-vomit-mode. It’s in make-everything-pretty mode. Luckily I’m not on a contracted deadline so I can take as much time as you want.
    • If it takes you a day to fix 50 – 100 – 1000 words, THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to try to do a scene a day.

 

I also read quite a number of articles on rewriting, editing, the second draft, etc. Many, many of them will be much more helpful than me, both in terms of process and motivation/inspiration. The edit caves are deep, dark, and full of hidden bears that will gobble you up if they get the chance… take a torch and a shotgun with you:

 

Chuck Wendig has three good write ups about editing/rewriting/second drafts. Hopefully you get a kick out of the profanity as much as I do.

Susan Dennard has a treasure trove of writing posts, from planning a draft to fixing one.

Delilah Dawson, whom you should follow on Twitter, often takes questions and runs through scenarios like starting a short story or what her process is for revisions. Might be a little difficult to find the edit/revision posts but worth a look.

NaNoEdMo has a ton of posts from previous years to go back through. One of my favorites is this one by Julie Hutchings.

 

You can also look up Rachel Aaron (Bach), Kristin Lamb, and Holly Lisle to fill your brain with more revision gooey-ness. There are so, so many others too.

Catch you all at NaNoEdMo!

 

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Over the middle and through the words…

March is halfway over now, which by association also means I’m on the downward part of the NaNoEdMo hill. In 17 days I’ve rewritten around 6 scenes. I say around because the final fight isn’t cut into neat sections.

Six-ish scenes in almost 28 hours of work.

It doesn’t look like a lot when you compare the numbers, but it is. I’m rewriting pretty much every chapter in this draft. And if I’m going to rewrite a chapter to fix voice, I might as well widen the stroke to fix other major issues. Plot beats and structure are being hit too. The foundations for setting, world, and secondary characters are getting reinforced.

When I *tried* to start revising in February and wanted to bang my head on the keyboard, two of my friends suggested to try approaching it as another first draft. I had no idea what they meant at the time.  Now I do: give myself permission to write complete shit, AGAIN.

The funny thing, though, is that it’s less shitty the second time around. Maybe it’s been given a pat on the back and upgraded to crappy. I’m still way over-writing scenes and struggling to find the POV heroine’s voice, but there’s a bit of light poking holes in the angry revision cloud of doom.

Obviously I’m not going to finish draft two within 22 more hours of work. Or even by the end of the month. If I can find a revision process, and lowering the amount of time it takes to rewrite a scene or chapter, I’ll be ecstatic.

 

I actually decided to update my writing schedule a.k.a. goals. Clearly I am crazy because, again, I’ve only rewritten 6 out of god knows how many scenes for this freakin book. This is what I’m talking about:

 

  • March thru April (…June): finish draft 2 of UF #1, send to betas; write query, synopsis, and pitches for Twitter
    • April 23 – 24 = DFWCon (not planning to pitch or consult w/ any agent)
  • June thru July: outline & flesh out DF idea
    • June 9 = Pitmad for UF  #1
    • June ?? = SFFPit for UF #1
  • July: Draft DF book for CampNaNo
    • start prepping PitchWars submission
  • August thru September: complete draft 3 of UF #1; work on query, synopsis, blurb, etc.
    • August 3 = PitchWars subs open (!)
  • September thru October: complete draft 3 of UF #1  if not finished, send to CPs/NTSFW; additional plotting/planning for UF #2
    • PitchWars revisions (if picked)
  • November: finish draft of UF #2 for NaNoWriMo; work on query, synopsis, Twitter pitches, etc. for UF #1
  • December: finish draft of DF; work on draft 4 for UF #1
    • December 1 = Pitmad for UF #1
    • December ? = SFFPit for UF #1

 

So yeah. Wouldn’t that be nice if all those things got done? I’d probably hate myself next Feb. with all the revisions I’d have to look forward to. But it’d be so worth it.

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Ready, set, NaNoWri- , er, NaNoEdMo

*Crawls out of first draft slag.*

Suffice to say neither January nor February went according to the revision plan, but that’s the good thing about being an unpublished, un-contracted writer – you determine the deadline. If you need more time to fix the story, or talk yourself off the “All these words are complete shit” cliff about fifty times, you have it.

Finding a revision process that works for me has been the most frustrating thing. I’ve littered my desk with scene cards, post-its, notebooks, and craft books. I still don’t know if any of that will do any good, but hey, at least I’ve got a more cohesive, concise outline! I’ll just have to throw myself off the deep end and figure out what works. Much like drafting.

And to help kick me into the pool’s edge, NaNoEdMo begins tomorrow! It’s similar to NaNoWriMo, only it’s for editing/revising rather than drafting, and the goal is 50 hours rather than 50,000 words. Granted, 50 hours doesn’t sound like a lot… until you’re staring down the barrel of a character who won’t cooperate. Now, I’m not very good at making and sticking to my own writing goals, but NaNo’s have always worked for me. So thank heavens NaNoEdMo has a similar suggested structure. Just a touch over 1.5 hours a day for 31 days will get you to 50 hours. Substantial rewrites, grammar/spelling errors, and the like all count as acceptable “edits” for the event.

If you’d like to join me in revision nightmares funtimes, you can sign up at http://nanoedmo.com/ .
** If you have problems registering, contact the Webmaster (see Contact Us page) and he can help set you up.

 

See you all after the first breakdown! Har har har….

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Crimson Peak / Writing Epiphany

I was going to review Crimson Peak… until fellow DFWCon-er Rachel put up this post. She hits every point I could’ve possibly hoped to make, then adds a frigate full of sad-eyed kittens. Take for example –

I’d like to draw your attention to one other point that I didn’t notice until my second viewing, but when I did, it broke my damn heart. At the beginning, when Thomas takes Edith to the party and convinces her to dance with him, he says: “I’ve always closed my eyes to things that make me uncomfortable. It makes them easier.” Consider that for a moment in light of the abuse the man’s faced at the hands of his sister. And then consider the two times we see him in a sexual situation, with Edith he had his eyes open, and for all the animalistic sounds we hear leading to when he’s caught in the act with Lucille, he doesn’t.

I. Can’t. Even.  *Looks at Thomas Sharpe and mourns.* Damn you, Hiddleston, look what you’ve done to us!

Long story short – I loved the movie. Loved. The moth-eaten manse of Crimson Peak is creepy, yet stunning. Creaks and groans, red clay oozing from the walls, corridors framed with dagger-like protrusions. At first the spirits act like the trailers want you to believe – on the periphery, meant to scare or harm Edith. Which is a shame, because I spent way too much time (like a lot of people, I suspect) waiting for when the ghosts would do more, instead of absorbing the character turmoil on the screen.

Thomas, Lucille, and Edith, it turns out, are exactly what I needed to understand why my current WIP felt off.

(Okay, you got me. It was mostly Thomas.)

Up until this October, I had the worst time with my story’s MC (main character). From day one she’s felt more like a canvas I splattered with attributes and shallow feelings than a genuine human. I tried character questionnaires, and uncovered the parts of her back story pertinent to the story to no avail. It always seemed like my answers were forced on her. She makes it through each plot point, but there are times when I can’t tell if it’s because of her agency or my authorial hand pushing her through them.

Added to this was the sense that I needed to make the story darker somehow, and not knowing how to go about it.

Cue Thomas and Lucille, characters extraordinaire. The slow reveal of wicked things they’ve done to survive, glimpsing where those dark roots took hold and how they flourished to an eventual, likely unavoidable, fall. Their back story amounts to little more than breadcrumbs, but we don’t need to be shown more – their habits, motivations, and actions can easily be traced down that rabbit hole. Therein lay my answer, and also, the realization how desensitized I (and maybe we, as a nation) have become in our little bubble known as America.

I mean, how fucked up is that my mind went to some kind of magic event/apocalypse or making the world dystopic just to send the story on a darker path? There’s so much violence and hate in the world as it is… without any magic or other supernatural bullshit involved. People end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Each day is a tragedy for somebody, whether it’s a car accident caused by a drunk driver or a kid accidentally suffocating him/her self trying to do some new fad stunt to fit in.

Needless to say, the events around the world since I started this post 1.5 months ago reinforce part 1 of the epiphany – the source material or “inspiration” needed to darken my fictional world already exists. I don’t need to make something else up when people are far too cruel to one another already.

For part 2 – as will happen with epiphanies, I can’t really put into words -why- it clicked on a character level. All I know is that after seeing Crimson Peak, I understand my MC. She isn’t just a skeleton. She’s not whole either, but she feels much more real and separate from my own self now than she ever did. Once I started seeing her as a person, shaped by her past, present, and her goals for the future, she started answering the questions I had for her. She is more cohesive in my mind, more apparent (I think) in the narrative. The choices made in regards to obstacles (plot) feel more like what she would do and less like me pushing her in the right direction.

Granted, all of this came about after I finished up the 1st draft of book one. So I’ve been putting this newfound insight to practice for book two (my 2015 NaNoWriMo project), but this also means extensive edits for book 1.

*Sighs. Buys all the coffee.*

 

If there is one moment in Crimson Peak where, I think, the epiphany on creating whole and real characters took hold, it would be when Thomas has to break Edith’s heart. It’s a cliché moment – he crushes her romantic ideals for the two of them so her father won’t reveal Thomas’s secret – but then veers from the stereotype. Thomas asks her what she knows of love and goes on to berate her overly optimistic, childish view of it, yet it’s almost like he’s speaking to himself. Like he’s afraid of the spark Edith ignited in him – warm, bright, the promise of acting in his own interests. This is a completely alien concept compared to the love Lucille has shown. And as much as he fears Edith finding out their secret, he’s more afraid of the change she offers. She rattles his core foundations. Doesn’t Lucille know what’s best? Hasn’t she protected him all this time?

His emotions aren’t just stemming from having to break Edith’s heart, but because he knows the bleak course he will return to without having her in his life.

 

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NaNoWriMo – Week One

So it’s that time of year again. No, not the time of pumpkin spice everything and Uggs, but for NaNoWriMo. (For more info on NaNo, you can go here.) This is my second year participating, and I am loving it. Of course, I decided to do this year a bit differently by actually prepping in October. Said prepping led to accepting that I’ve done a piss-poor job on the world-building side of this project from the get go. The remedy will be an ongoing process that will require numerous edits and drafts to fix. Book one is a serious problem child, but it’s on the back burner for now.

What is this year’s NaNo project? Why, it’s book two of my urban fantasy series project. I started book one in last year’s NaNo, and finished up the draft just a couple months ago. I think I’ll be able to get book two drafted in a shorter span, though we’ll see how that goes when I dive back into revisions of book one.

Anyway, so far take #2 of NaNo has been a fun experience. The world and characters are starting to make more sense. I’ve been very adamant about my writing time, and it’s paid off (except for yesterday, thanks to a trip to an Irish pub and general exhaustion). I reached my highest daily words written today – 4588! Having NaNo start on a Sunday -Daylight Savings to boot – also paid dividends; I stayed up til midnight, got some words in, then continued on in the later afternoon, to the tune of 2500+ words for opening day.

Not going to lie, ending up with 4 – 6.5 hours a sleep several nights on end isn’t easy. But late at night is the best time for consistent writing that I’ve found. Until I can make a new pattern that results in similar productivity earlier in the day, it’ll stay that way.

 

Some things that have helped make this first week a success:

  1. better understanding of the MC and world I’m trying to make. (This ties into my Crimson Peak review/epiphany post that is still in-progress)
  2. a short list of scenes I know I want in the book, or at least want to write
  3. new music thanks to Spotify (spurred on by Delilah Dawson’s post on finding new music; I too had the same issue with using Pandora, but no longer!)
  4. asking a friend to give me an idea what to write and ditching it, but coming up with a plausible alternative that spider webbed outward
  5. coffee
  6. jotting down ideas, or at least thinking about the story every day (especially at work)

 

Short of the pre-NaNo meet and greet that was held by our local chapter a couple weeks ago, I haven’t gone to any write-ins. It makes me feel pressured – to be funny or charismatic, to write something off the top of my head. It’s an odd feeling and I don’t know how to tell my brain to stop, so I’ve just stayed home. Even though the cats bite my toes and plop in my lap to mess with my earbuds, the writing space finally feels like my zone. I’m in my groove. Characters are working. Things are breaking. The story is stitching itself together like a hodge-podge quilt.  That’s not to say I don’t get out and socialize with other writers, but that it takes me a long time to feel comfortable. And the more people you throw in that pot, the longer it’s going to take me to reach that point. Maybe towards week three or four I’ll try a write-in, but at the moment it just feels like a bad idea to divert from the pattern and expect the results will be less than stellar.

 

Anyway, week one tally: 15123 words. I’m ahead of NaNo’s goal by one day, and have been toying with the idea of trying to get to 60k instead of 50k by the end. It’s a stretch, I think, but would only take a bit over 2k / day to reach it. Hard, yes; do-able, I think so. Just have to keep writing with reckless abandon.

Its all going to be crap when it’s over, but there will be nuggets in there somewhere, too.

 

Are any of you out there doing NaNoWriMo? How’s it going? What are your steps to success, or, what do you feel like is pulling you down? Need any musical inspiration? I’m all ears, let me hear what’s going on with ya!

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Finished (first) draft stats

Draft one/book one of the UF project is done. It’s not perfect; the plot has little tears in its seams, and the main character continues to feel not quite right. But it’s done! The long slog to draft two (and three, and … however many more it takes) will follow after NaNoWriMo.

For now, though: STATS!

 

Word tallies:

  • NaNoWriMo 2014: 50,017 words
  • personal FebNoWriMo = 36,947 words
  • CampNoWriMo June = 12,131 words (this is what I actually logged on the site, but the file itself and the count sheet I used both have a decent variance from this number)
    Final count: *113k words

*About 5k worth of bonus scenes aren’t included in the total, and another couple thousand scenes’ worth were taken out that will be moved to book two.

 

Timeline:

  • conceptualized – Oct 2013
  • CH1 written/submitted to NTSFW in Feb 2014
  • made NaNoWriMo goal 2014 (50k words)
  • came up short of secondary NaNo goal (goal was 40k in February)
  • made CampNaNoWriMo goal (12k words)
  • wrote another 20kish July – September
  • 1st draft finish Sept. 24, 2015
  • concept –> 1st draft = less than 2 years
  • actual “drafting” phase (NaNo) –> 1st draft = less than 1 year

 

Just a refresher, it took ten (that’s right, TEN) years to finish the first draft of my epic fantasy, which weighed in at 128k words. That the UF took less than a year (depending on how you look at it) to draft, and is only 15k words short from that is kind of mind-boggling. If you had told me two or three years ago that I could draft a full novel in a year or less, I would have smiled and nodded, but inwardly been like Yeah right, there’s no way I can write that much in a year!

Finding a process that works to get the words down on the page makes all the difference.

 

Any burning questions about the drafting stage of this project? Any other numbers or stats you’d like to see? Want to know what song I played on repeat the most during this endeavor? Ask away!

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NaNoWriMo: Save all the things!

This past November, I took a giant leap and tried out NaNoWriMo. I didn’t expect to complete it. I mean, I spent ten years to get a 128,000 word first draft out of my brain. Ten. Years. Attempting to write 50,000 in thirty days sounded like insanity. And yet, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe do this every year. What was the harm in trying? At least I’d be writing, and any amount of writing would be better than the zero that I was doing at the time.

Spoiler alert: I wrote 50k words and “won” NaNoWriMo. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the process (okay, maybe not at first) and took a lot more away from it than I thought I would.

NaNo forced me to change my writing process, for the better. Previously, I would spend an hour or more making sure the wording was right in a particular paragraph or section. I would stare aimlessly at a blank page, stressed out on making that first sentence not sound like garbage. This hasn’t been conducive for a while. So instead, I started pre-writing the bare bones of whatever section I wanted to work on. Then I typed it up, adding description and detail. The results? Two to three pages of longhand got me between 600 and 1000 words a pop once I embellished. Once those were typed, a lot of times I just kept rolling. Whenever I got stuck, I’d return to the notebook and write out another couple pages.

The NaNoWriMo website has a built in word count adjuster and graph to show you are each day. A bunch of people also make word count calendars and excel sheets in case you want more personalized tracking. I found one such calendar online, and it really helped motivate me to make the daily goal.

NaNo Count

This is my finished calendar at the end of NaNoWriMo. So many boxes!

There’s just something about filling in little boxes that is, sigh, so satisfying.

I also learned how important it is to SAVE EVERYTHING, especially when working with Scrivener. You see that last week of November on the calendar there? Those three days of 0 words? Those are the result of my desktop keeling over. The computer blue-screened about half an hour after I finished writing on the 23rd. It wouldn’t restart, so I let it rest the night. Monday evening I tried turning it on again, no dice. Husband attempted booting it through BIOS, no dice.

You might be asking yourself, “Chesley, why weren’t you saving to a flash drive? Or to a cloud drive? Or both?” I don’t have any reason for not saving to a flash drive, other than I stood naively under the, “It can’t possibly happen to me!” umbrella. I did, however, save it to Dropbox. Except when I tried to pull the backups, Dropbox hadn’t correctly synced with the computer somehow. All I had was the skeleton of my Scrivener project. No text files whatsoever. So just a fair warning, if you are saving to Dropbox or Google Drive or whatever other cloud service, make SURE the Files -> Docs folder actually has an obscenely long list of .txt and .rtf files.

I got stupendously lucky.  We were able to access the hard drive with a USB cable from Amazon, making it act like an external drive. We had to search for another hour to find the files – hidden – in the My Documents folder. I cried a little. Those (roughly) 33k – 35k words meant a lot to me.

 

Another funny thing happened by the end of NaNoWriMo – I was (and still am) excited about the writing that came out of it.

Your first instinct is to think you’d hate the resulting tangle of words, because you’re (ideally) writing so fast that you ignore spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, and characters going off on tangential dialogue that makes no sense to the rest of the story.  When you let go of form and let your fingers fly, though, beautiful things can happen. You write so fast that your brain starts throwing out ideas like beads at Mardi Gras. Inevitably, some of the ideas will be bad, but there will be some gold nuggets in there, too.

Even though my MC needs a ton of work, and I have a number of consistency/world issues to iron out, I like the partial first draft. Little foreshadowing details and hints of future plot threads emerged out of nowhere, but fit so well with the story as a whole. It’s kind of awesome to let your writer-self off the leash, step back, and watch the cool things that come out of your psyche.

To top it off, I enjoyed NaNoWriMo so much that I’m going to try and do another 20k – 40k words in February. Who wants to join me?!

 

The one thing I regret with NaNoWriMo is that I didn’t get involved in the community side of it. I didn’t make it to any of the write-ins. I missed the end party because I read the date wrong, and was mighty pissed at myself for it. So for NaNo 2015, I’m going to stop being a chicken and go write with other people.

 

*Remember folks, save everything. For the love of your characters and sanity, save everything two or three different ways. A computer won’t always give you a warning before succumbing to the deep blue screen.

* The pre-writing (or outlining) I mentioned that I used for NaNo is explained better in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k . It’s an insightful read, and gives good advice on not just writing faster, but writing better while you increase your word count at the same time.

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Where has the time gone?

Where, oh where, did 2014 go? I don’t know if I should blame work or what, but the year really flew by. There were some notable experiences — attended my first writer’s conference; went to my first author signing; attempted (and “won”) NaNoWriMo for the first time. Lots of good things!

Unfortunately, our year concluded in a bad way. [Warning, heavy paragraphs ahead.]

Shortly after NaNo ended, we became concerned about Commodore. He acted fine, but would barely eat. After several days he wouldn’t touch his normal dry food. We bought three or four different wet foods (to start) trying to entice him to eat. He’d work down maybe half a small can and then stop. We knew something was wrong, just didn’t realize how bad it was for cats not to eat.

The short version of the story* is that Commodore’s FeLV likely went from regressive to progressive, setting off Hepatic Lipidosis (fatty liver) and/or something worse like lymphoma.  For two weeks we force-fed him four to five times a day and gave him a steroid, trying to reverse the fatty liver and slow down the FeLV. We are happy that one of those weeks was a good one; his energy picked up, he became interested again in going outside, and he ate more treats. But despite our best efforts, the sickness prevailed. On December 28, we chose to help Commodore across the rainbow bridge.

It is, and will be for some time, hard to talk about him. Hard to glance at his tower in my study, now empty save for a pile of his toys. Hard to pull into the driveway and not see him sunning in the study window. Hard not to see him hobbling down the hall to meet us when we come home for lunch. To put it simply, he was a glorious cat and is sorely missed.

 

Commodore

 

Tomorrow we’re going up to my parents’ farmland in Virginia for a week as our holiday vacation. We’re going to bury Commodore’s ashes somewhere with lots of trees and birdsong, since he was an outdoor cat at heart.

On a happier note, my family will all be together for the first time in a year. We get to meet my older brother’s girlfriend. We can disconnect a little from the crazy stress of 2014 and re-balance for the new year. While there, I’ll be working on the next post. Suffice to say it should have a sunnier tone.  I do still want to talk about NaNo. It was a crazy ride, especially the last ten days or so. Book reviews will be coming too.

Most of the New Year goals I made in years past fizzled. I originally didn’t plan on having goals this year, but Commodore changed that. For 2015, I want to spend more time with family, friends, and our two dogs. I want to take a smarter approach to writing, so that more of my time is spent with those I love instead of wasting it on random websites. I also want to blog more about the books that move me, whether for good reasons or bad. I want to volunteer, or just give back in some way to the rescue that helped us out so much with our pirate cat.

 

What about you guys? What are your 2015 goals? What matters to YOU this year?

 

* If anyone wants the long story of what happened and our care plan, I’ll be more than happy to post it. I just didn’t want to drag down the whole post with giant blocks of text over the specifics.

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