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Twitter hiatus, NaNoEdMo, and other reflections from March

March has finally come to an end, which means one thing: my Twitter hiatus is OVER.

Thank. Goodness.

 

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Elroy dropped by for moral nap support.

 

I’ll be honest, sticking to the hiatus was harder than I expected. I knew I was erm, addicted somewhat, but not to the extent I thought. Day one was fine. Days two through twenty-something were frustratingly boring, especially at my dayjob. Probably 90% of the news I intake – be it publishing/writing, politics, pop culture, etc. – comes from Twitter…which means I was pretty much in the dark for a whole month. Totally not fun, so if I ever make such a pact again: TALK ME OUT OF IT. Moderation, yes; complete blackout, no.

 

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So much revising.

That said, NaNoEdMo went really well. I logged over 66 hours of revising time, completing four chapters in the process. I *gasp* actually enjoyed revising for like…a whole week. Coincidentally that was the week where I revised 49 pages in total (one of them a 15 page day!). So as much as I hated being away from Twitter, clearly it had some benefits.

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Progress-by-stickers!

In terms of progress, I’m down to the last three chapters. I’m expecting to have to rewrite at least a couple scenes in one of them, because the language is practically gibberish compared to the images I’m trying to convey. The final chapter needs just a little bit of smoothing. If everything goes better than expected *crosses fingers* draft 3 will be done in the next two weeks, and I’ll have enough time to go back for another pass before sending it off to betas at the end of the month.

 

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Also during the hiatus…

I came across Tim Clare’s “Couch to 80k” podcast and am loving it so far. Like the site suggests it’s not just for people who want to take an idea they have and turn it into a book, but for those already writing who are burnt out or struggling with a block/anxiety.

Seriously, it’s awesome. Let me get personal for a second: I have a difficult time with writing prompts. I don’t fare well going to writing meetups unless they’re with my main set of writing friends, or the critique group I’ve belonged to for four years. I always feel this giant pressure to perform or produce and it locks me up. I’m a wording perfectionist in front of others, so trying to produce something on the spot that feels “good enough” is a struggle. Taking steps to better my mental health has helped, but those feelings aren’t gone.

However. In two weeks of exercises I’ve written:

  • A fun Loki/Thor brotherly fanfic snippet
  • Possibly the start of a short story, taking an early prompt (picking an “interesting object in a character’s bag”) and adding a strong emotional tone

These may not seem impressive or anything to be happy about, but to put it in perspective – the last time I wrote fanfic was pre-college, during my online forum-based rpg days. And the last time I had a short story idea, let alone tried to write one, was probably close to three years ago.

The freewrite exercises during gave me freedom to play around with, well… anything and everything. I dabbled in poetry. I ranted a little about politics. I wrote meaningless vignettes. Exchanges that may or may not happen further down in the urban fantasy series.

 

It seems like such a small, no-brainer thing to give ourselves permission to write freely for no one but ourselves, without judging the words or where our head/heart lead us in the idea – but it’s not. Not when you have deadlines, imposter syndrome, a nasty inner critic, or some combination of those three. They don’t even have to be contracted deadlines! The way we compare ourselves to others to measure and define our success is so, so harmful. We [writers] need to remember that we are our, essentially, our own first readers. Forget everyone else; we should be happy with the story, ideas, characters, etc. ourselves, even if it’s not perfect on the page yet.

If you need permission to do that, to find self-satisfaction in your writing, to let your imagination free to roam and get dirty and fuck up – you have it. You have permission – more importantly, encouragement – to do just that.

So yeah, give the podcast a listen. It hasn’t banished my writing blocks or anything like that, but I’ve seen so much potential in just taking 10 – 20 minutes a day to let my mind wander and see what it comes up with.

 

I also want to talk about falling in love with BTS, but I think that deserves its own post (or Twitter thread, at the very least). You’ll just have to wait for all that fangirling.  Until then, HAPPY APRIL!

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Really enjoyed reading Warcross, too! Where is the sequellllll???

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Top songs of 2017

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Aside from the raging trash fire that is the (US) government, 2017 was – for me – a year of renewal. A year of getting back to happy, remembering (and reminding, esp. on hard days) why I write, and finding excitement in it again.

That’s not to say it was easy, because haha rewrites and revisions are freakin’ hard, BUT my dreamer/creative side came storming back full force. Actually it’s probably more apt to say my imagination went into overdrive, since I paused revisions to do NaNoWriMo on three *new* ideas. (It was either that or let my brain explode, and I’m pretty sure that’s not in anyone’s best interest. Lots of stories to tell, no time to waste on expending brainmatter, etc. etc.)

Anywho, I wanted to share my favorite tracks from 2017 – the ones that went above and beyond in terms of inspiration and propelling my writing endeavors/aspirations. It’s a little difficult to tell from the list, but 2017 was, uh, interesting…musically speaking. I actually have country songs (yes, that’s plural) on at least one of my playlists now. Never thought I’d see that happen.

Without further ado, I give you my top songs of 2017!

10. Dance Again – Neffex

9. Ashes – dEMOTIONAL

8. (A)tension – Versus Me/Craig Mabbitt

7. Electric Eye (Zardonic Remix) – Celldweller / Zardonic

6. Black Wedding ft. Rob Halford – In This Moment

 

5.  Hypnotize – Awaken the Giant

I love the melancholy, spacey vibe of this track.

 

4. Omen – Redeem/Revive

Upbeat and angry – a perfect song for kicking ass. I love the combination of the clean vocals and guitar riffs in the chorus as well, because it brings to mind a character triumphing over an obstacle, or a situation where others expected them to fail.

 

3. Hopelessly Hopeful – Asking Alexandria

Another upbeat tune, but less aggressive or harsh than Omen. I really enjoy the tempo of this one, and the way it all comes together to sound “softer,” in a way, without weakening the intensity

 

2. Invisible – Don Vedda

Don Vedda is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. This song is just…gah, so perfect. It has something of an 80’s vibe, but the synths don’t overwhelm or drown out the rest of the song. The bass line is heavy and groovy (omg the fret slides!). The guitar solo fits so well with the atmosphere and style. Don’s voice practically a work of art. And the video is gorgeous. (Honestly, the rap bridge is the only downside to the track. It’s not a bad idea, and fits pretty well with the track as a whole, but those lyrics are meh.)

 

1. Bulletproof – Desasterkids

This song makes my dark little heart sooo happy. Heavy bass, dirty guitar, futuristic keyboard/synth parts – perfect for a near-future SF project, don’t you think? And don’t even get me started on the video… *swoons*.

 

 

BONUS: There’s Nothing Holding Me Back – Shawn Mendes

This was actually the song I listened to the most according to Spotify. It’s sweet, fun,  playful, and fits the main couple of the paranormal romance I started so perfectly. Every time I hear it I either get this stupid grin on my face, or my chest does somersaults – just from imagining the two of them and the shape of their story. It is completely, utterly joyful, and I can’t wait to get back to writing them!

And there you have it! Maybe one of these will spark your own fancy idea, or a give new insight for one you’ve been sitting on for a while.

Are there any particular songs you listened to in 2017 that have stuck with you, or provided inspiration for a particular character/scene/element? Let me know in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2017 Reflection

November’s come and gone, and with it, the excited frenzy of NaNoWriMo. I’ve posted at least once before about how much I love NaNo, and how it kicked me in the butt to start putting the stories in my head onto paper/screen, so of course I participated again this year. As long as I have a choice, I’ll participate every year!

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Hufflepuff, so helpful.

 

This time around, I decided to work on three *new* stories I’ve had simmering in the back of my braincave for a good while. It was more than just an itch to write them – I needed to free up some brain space and get some idea of which one to work on next.

Which would have been great…if I also hadn’t decided to try and up my word goal by a lot. Somehow I got it into my head that I could write 80,000 words. Previously my max had been 60.5k in 2015, so 60k became my min goal.

Now, projects! What have I been cooking up, and how much did I want to accomplish for them?

Project #1 = adult paranormal romance, commonly referred to as the Dryads project. I’m super in love with the main characters in this one. It’s much more lighthearted, fun, and funny than anything I’ve written thus far. Goal: 20k words min, 30k aim.

Project #2 = YA space opera involving dragons, thus called the space dragons story. I like the concept of this and had some ideas of scenes, but hadn’t really settled on a plot. Of the three projects, this one felt like the weakest or hardest going in. Goal: 10k words min, 20k aim.

Project #3 = adult cyperbunk or post-cyberpunk, code-named TC. This was the newest idea out of the three, but I was really excited to dive into it. Goal: 20k words min, 30k aim.

 

One other thing to mention before I get into the results – this year I decided to write pep talks to myself to read at word count milestones. I did this a week or week and a half before NaNo and sealed them up in envelopes, thus ensuring I would probably forget what exactly was on them by the time I reached the goal. These also had rewards on them for motivation, like buying a slice of cheesecake for myself or getting to buy a book off my Amazon wishlist.

I kind of wish I had thought of the personal pep talk thing sooner, because I really enjoyed getting to open up the note and see the encouragement from past-me. The me that was SUPER EXCITED to write three projects, putting down new characters and worlds on the page before realizing I should have prepped more.

 

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Pumpkin seeds, water, and a cocktail in the skull jar = writing essentials.

 

So, how’d I do?

Dryads = 38,282 words
Space Dragons = 5,321 words
TC = 5,270 words
Orobouros = 1,011 words

TOTAL (based on my validation file) = ~50,140 words. There is always a discrepancy between whatever word processor you use and NaNo’s actual validation program. I think I actually had around 50.4k combined between all my docs, but didn’t keep track of the last few days well.

But wait, what’s that? That extra project at the end? That, my friends, is another random project I’ve been sitting on for about a year. My brain spontaneously decided to give me the opening for it, and I couldn’t very well just let it languish.

As you can see, the results were 10k less than my min and almost 30k less than what I wanted. Still, if I’d been working on a single project, that 50k would be pretty close to half a book for me.

It’s hard to keep perspective of the words you have written if you’re comparing them with where you want to be. There was one particular Sunday during NaNo where I needed like 8500 words to break even on progress, and all I could manage over the whole day was something around 4100 words.

I was so frustrated! Sitting there, hour after hour, with words coming out but not fast enough to get where I wanted to be. And, I don’t know, after maybe ten minutes of stewing in that frustration and looking back over my word count/progress, it hit me.

I had written ~4100 words on the day. Four thousand one hundred words. Yet I was stuck on this incessant need, this fuckin’ wall I’d built up in my head to scale and haul myself over to consider it a successful day.

You want to know what my normal drafting average is? Probably somewhere between 1500 and 3000 words/day. Previously the most I’ve ever written in one sitting was ~4600 words. This November I had a 6k day (my new PR), a 5k day, a 4k day, and at least a couple 3k+ days. Word counts aren’t everything, but comparing my previous drafting counts to then/now? That’s pretty awesome progress, folks. I had no reason to be ashamed of falling short of that 8500/day goal, or to be hard on myself.

To reiterate: if I had written 80,000 words in 30 days, it’d probably be equivalent to a full first draft on the Dryads project. That. Is. Insane. But…I could probably do it. Possibly even in the next few years.

 

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And, you know, with a ton of coffee.

 

Unrelated to word count, working on these three projects revealed pretty clear strengths/flaws in my original plans:

  • trying to get 80k words from three different ideas is a baaaaad idea
  • I need to study Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen series for POV/character weight before attempting to write TC again
  • Dryads will definitely be the next project up for drafting/revising after my UF is out the door
  • If I say I’m going to take all of October off to prep for NaNo, I SHOULD ACTUALLY DO THAT
  • personal pep talks are awesome, and will return
  • not all stories/ideas can be, or should be, fast-drafted

 

This last point is something that will sit with me for a while, I think. Dryads has been pretty easy to draft, so far, because the plot and characters have been solidifying in my head for five or six months. I have the feeling TC will be pretty easy to draft too, assuming I get the plot and POV ironed out. Both of those projects are closer to the modern world as we know it, so maybe that’s why.

Space Dragons and Orobouros will take longer because even at this stage they have  richer and deeper voices. I don’t want to sacrifice that to get all their words on the page, if it means I’ll have spend months rewriting them. My goal is to write cleaner first drafts so rewrites and revisions don’t eat up gobs of my time. For some ideas that means plotting or outlining better from the outset; for others it will mean writing slower in what snatches of time I find between other projects.

Or it does for now, since I’m not under any deadlines but my own!

 

My take on NaNoWriMo is that it’s worthwhile to participate so long as you learn something from it, even if what you learn is that you don’t write well under pressure or need to have some extensive outline before starting. Though the default goal is 50k words, word count really does come secondary to the writing itself. And through the writing, putting yourself in that pressure cooker up against a deadline with a suggested word goal, I have a feeling you’ll learn a fair bit about what does and doesn’t work for your process.

If you did NaNo this year – congratulations! Whether you wrote one word or one hundred thousand, that’s still more words than you started with.  If you haven’t tried NaNo yet, do it! Give CampNaNoWriMo during March (or is it April?) or July a whirl. You can make your own goals for camp, but still have a deadline. It might help you ease into the frenzy that comes back around every November =).

 

 

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Fall Update + The Mighty Pens

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, but I actually have writing updates and stuff I can post about. Let’s get those out of the way before we talk about my favorite writing time of the year.

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Obligatory floof with some of this year’s new releases.

First and foremost – I FINISHED THE MOTHER F’IN REWRITE!

Eighteen months from start to a complete second draft, and I am THRILLED that is behind me. Draft 2 came out to 110k words, seventeen chapters total. I can’t remember the first draft count off the top of my head, but it doesn’t sound like much of a cut.

Much of the overall plot remained the same, but it was tightened a fair bit. I cut characters, added new ones that made sense. Added A TON of setting details and character stuff I neglected in the first draft. The resulting story is far and away a better version of what I originally wanted and envisioned. It’s finally *my* vision of Charleston, the main characters, and the plot.

Long story short on other things (because I really want this to be a shortish post):

  • Entered Pitch Wars, didn’t get picked*
  • Put up a blurb during #CPMatch and ended up with three new CPs
  • Pitched during Pitmad for the first time
  • Bought a new house!
  • Sold our old house!
  • Adopted a new kitten!

Before I move on, one other note and shout-out regarding my rewrite: I have been so, so lucky and am eternally grateful for my writing buddies/critique partners – Leah, Amy, and Lindy.

Leah, Amy, and I met at DFWCon 2015. We don’t write the same things, but we’re always there to support one another (oozing confidence is our thing). Lindy joined the fold after DFWCon 2016, and she’s been my alpha reader/confidante/sounding board pretty much ever since. She helped me hone my pitch, and read ALL of my chapters as I rewrote them for the WIP. Like, the last year of the rewrites were so much more bearable – AND PRODUCTIVE – because of her. All three of these wonderful ladies’ enthusiasm and support have helped keep me afloat; my tribe means the world to me, guys.

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Yuri On Ice ties with Pride and Prejudice (2005) for best-stress-reliever.

Okay, onto the other important thing.

I love NaNoWriMo. No, seriously, I do. NaNo taught me how to get shit done. (The drafting part, anyway.) I like charity and helping people in need when I can, too.

So it’s really cool that two awesome authors, Kat Brauer and Susan Dennard, put together a group (The Mighty Pens) which joins the writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo with fundraising for an awesome cause: the Malala Fund. You can read more about the group and fundraiser in the links posted, but in short, the Malala Fund is dedicated to providing twelve years of safe education for girls.

How does this relate to NaNoWriMo and/or me? Like a race or something like Jump Rope for Life (if you’ve heard of that, not sure they’re still doing it), people get sponsorships of donations depending on how long they run, or how many minutes they can jump rope. The Mighty Pen has a similar goal – drive donations and/or sponsorships based on how many words we write for NaNoWriMo.

MY GOAL:

  • 80,000 words, all of it for new projects. This isn’t for one book, either. I have three stories (technically more but I have to at least strive for an intact sanity by the end of November) I want to get started so that when I am finished with revisions, I have headway into new words. My ideal breakdown is:
    • 30,000 words on a paranormal romance
    • 30,000 words on a cyberpunk sci-fi
    • 20,000 words on a YA space opera

If you’d like to sponsor me, whether it’s $1 per 10,000 words or $10 for every $10,000 words, I would be so, so grateful and you’d be helping girls all over the world!

 

How will I know how many words you’ve written, or current progress?

  • I will be updating my word counts on my NaNo profile with each writing session.
  • Though I am going to try to stay off of Twitter and other social media to maximize writing time and reduce distractions, I will do my best to post my word count at least once a day.
  • Ask me!

 

That’s all I have for now. For any other writers – I hope to see you burning up your keyboards or notebooks with how quickly your stories are coming out of you. May your words flow bright and strong!

 
*I hoped I wouldn’t be picked, actually, which sounds sort of… counter productive, but I can go into that more sometime later if anyone wants. I definitely wanted to apply just to give it a shot, but was less stressed about not getting picked than getting picked.

 

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How writer brains work

So just a quick post – sort of gushing about another “Ah ha!” moment, while also to show how your brain comes up with shit that will work if you don’t hamstring it.

I’m trying to finish all remaining rewrites (a.k.a. draft 2) on the urban fantasy project by end of June, plan being to send CPs/Betas the first half by end of May.  Which meant starting from the beginning. I rewrote chapter 1 and the first scene of chapter 2 in February or March at some point, then dropped them. Because the second scene in chapter 2 just wouldn’t work.

Can’t exactly avoid it any more, though. It has to get done or other goals this year *coughPitchWarscough* won’t happen.

I was supposed to finish it yesterday. Didn’t happen. The new words sounded just as boring and overdrawn as the first set. To bypass some of the stress and anxiety of missing yet another deadline, I decided to plow ahead to chapter 3 and come back. As I started jotting out the first scene in chapter 3, this is what happened:

“Okay, where exactly are all these things in this container?”

*Tries to sketch out how it’s laid out. Looks up cargo container packing pictures.*

“How is there any room for her to move in there? And why would they pack the stuff that they need to unload and hide IN THE BACK?”

Brain – What about making it a pirate ship instead?

“Don’t be silly, there can’t be any pirate ships in this thing. That makes no sense-”

*Googles old merchant ship holds.*

“How can I make this fit the rest of the world? How can a pirate ship fit in an alternate, modern Charleston?”

Brain – Here’s all you need to know to tie it into this moment and recent past.  *Dumps out ideas and possible subplot threads.*

“…NOW CHAPTER TWO WILL BE SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

 

And now (well not right now) I can go back to chapter two and give it the oomph it deserves. It won’t be pirate ships… exactly.  Mwahahah.

Moral of the story: don’t quash the little voice that offers up what sounds, at first, like an outlandish idea. It might be the solution you’ve been banging your head on the keyboard for.

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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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Life Lessons – the dentist

If you have a bad experience with a dentist, don’t wait more than a year to find a new one. Especially don’t wait five.

Short story time!

My first root canal (~5 years ago) went poorly. I received no pain medicine ahead of time, and they had to numb me three times before I could no longer feel the drill digging through an old filling. After the roots were out, the dentist felt the need to marvel at them with the assistants while I sat patiently angrily waiting. When it came time for the permanent crown a few days or maybe a week later, they filed or drilled down a healthy tooth on the top to get the crown to fit.

Needless to say I never went back.

About five years and one checkup later and I now need:

-wisdom teeth out(granted, knew this was coming)
-two root canals

And that’s just what they’ve highlighted as the most pressing issues to take care of. Knowing my history with cavities, if I’d gone sooner they probably could’ve gotten by as just needing fillings.

I do brush and floss, I swear. Some people are just more prone to cavities, and other people more susceptible to gum issues.

If nothing else, the new dentist and hygienist we’re going to now seem to be wonderful. They explained everything, assuaged my worries about the wisdom teeth, and didn’t bombard us with every little thing wrong – just the most urgent issues. For tomorrow’s root canal, I’m optimistic that it’ll be a much smoother and less painful process.

 

So yeah, don’t put off dental healthcare, it’ll just come back to bite you in the ass later.

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