NaNo 2012 Update 4

November 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , , )

This is where I admit that I’ve learned two very, very important things this month.

First thing- trying to push myself to write every day around a full time job is basically equivalent to stomping all over my productivity. I am not a writer who paces myself. I’m a writer who binges on words and scenes and whole chapters at a time.

Second thing- I need to never, ever, EVER draft back to back. Going from a draft to an edit, all good. Going from an edit to a draft, still good. Draft to draft? NEVER AGAIN. I need time to recharge after a draft, and editing uses a very different part of my brain than drafting. Trying to draft two projects in a row, especially projects SO radically different, damaged something in my brain, I think.

That’s not to say my NaNo was a failure- it definitely wasn’t. I made my word count and then some.

More importantly, it’s taught me more about how I write.

There are a lot of books and websites and people out there purporting to tell people how to write. I kind of hate them. Not in a personal sort of way, but in a “it’s the principle of the thing” kind of way, because everyone writes in a different way. The important thing isn’t to learn “how to write”, it’s to learn “how YOU write”. Learning what does and does not work for you, for your productivity and efficiency, for your style and voice, for your characters, that’s essential to your growth as a writer.

And doing NaNo has taught me that doing NaNo is not necessarily what’s best for me.

I only wrote one day this past week- I spent Thanksgiving morning and early afternoon sinking into the words, got seven thousand or so of them down, and I’m happy with them. And then I didn’t touch it. I started the Christmas movies. I played with my new phone- or more specifically, played with the ringtones, which kind of makes me wish I received more calls. I pulled all my many MANY boxes and bags and containers of beads and started organizing them all. I repaired some old jewelry. I read some old manuscripts.

And I desperately needed that break.

Because I have a day off tomorrow, and I fully intend to go to my writing cave and lose myself in the story again. I’m super excited for what happens next, and I’m actually really near the end of the story, which always adds a certain thirst to keep going. In trying to force myself to write outside of my habits, outside of ways I knew worked for me, I made writing into a chore, rather than letting it be the joy it is and should be.

So I’m going to write tomorrow, but after that not for a few days, and we’ll see how it goes after that.

How is your NaNo doing?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 3

November 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , )

By now I’ve admitted to myself that the next time I do NaNo, I need to not worry about churning out daily word counts. I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed it, but somehow the attempt to write every single day actually made me less productive. My results this week show that to a very large degree, mainly because once I hit the NaNo goal, I went back to doing it my way.

(which is to take my days off and camp out in a public writing cave, where I don’t have nearly as many distractions, and whenever else in the week inspiration strikes)

14 November: Didn’t write at all. Instead, I took another reading day and lost myself in Reached by Ally Condie. It’s hard for me to read new stuff while I’m writing, so I tend to either reread old favorites, or save the new stuff for days where I know I’m not going to be writing at all. It keeps what I’m reading from sneaking into what I’m writing. Plus, after work, it was pizza and bad movie night with my brother. We’re continuing my education in the Bond movies, but I’m having trouble forcing myself through the list. The early ones hurt my brain SO BADLY.
Word count for the day: zero.

15 November: Day off, but also kind of an off day, at least writing wise. Went over to the mother’s house to do laundry while the brother baked pumpkin bread (which smelled and tasted DELICIOUS), and we watched Starship Troopers and John Leguizamo’s Freaks while those things were happening (oh, and Troopers? He’ll deny this vociferously, but that was my first official bad movie night). Then we went and saw Wreck-it Ralph, which, if you’ve grown up playing any sort of video or arcade games, you HAVE to go see. The story was cute, led exactly where it was supposed to, still had a nice little surprise, but the characters were superb and the gamer jokes AWESOME. Eventually got some writing done, but wasn’t really stressing about it. By this point I’d landed pretty solidly in the ‘meh’, not in the story but in the process.
Word count for the day: 1839

16 November: Full day of work, but felt pretty good afterwards, and I was starting to get into a really challenging, difficult, exciting part. I often find that the pieces that are the most difficult to write in any given story are the ones I most look forward to. We’re reaching a point of political and personal trauma, rapid changes, lines being drawn, and someone having to choose which of those lines to step up to or cross. All about decisions and choices, and most importantly of all, consequences.
Word count for the day: 2464

17 November: Full day of work, a good one but a busy one, and I came home completely brain dead. I was going to write- even opened up the computer and put one of the old standbys in the player- and then ended up reading some amazing Harry Potter fanfic while letting the Whitney Houston Cinderella play four times in a row because I was too lazy to get up and change the disc. Probably should have felt guilty. Didn’t.
Word count for the day: zero.

18 November: Schedule wise this was a weird day, but an ultimately productive one. Went to the mother’s and watched the brother play Lego LOTR, which was funny enough on its own, but then you combine the ACTUAL MOVIE VOICES and the ridiculous Lego in-jokes, and I was dying. Lunch instead of dinner with the family, because the mothers were on their way out of town for the week, and then I found a writing cave for a few hours. This early-dark stuff has my brain all turned around; it makes writing near windows very strange. BUT- lots of words and good scenes done, enough that I wasn’t that grumpy about having to go to the holiday meeting for work that night.
Word count for the day: 6911

19 November: Full day of work, then came home, put the South Park movie on repeat, and read more Harry Potter fanfiction. No shame.
Word count for the day: zero.

20 November: Day off, spent MUCH time in the writing cave, and came away with my most productive day of the month, applicable to word count, chapter tally, and just what I accomplished in the scenes I got down. Got less productive once I got home and had some chores to do, and then tried to write while watching Firefly, which gets a little un-shiny, but I was still REALLY happy with how everything turned out.
Word count for the day: 9482

Total word count so far for NaNo: 65310

So I’ve met the NaNo goal, but stopping now just seems silly. I’ll keep going until I finish the draft. Then I’m spending at least two weeks binge-reading all the shiny new things I’ve been stockpiling over the past two months.

If you’re doing NaNo, how are you doing? Check in below! And remember to back up your stuff, even if you just email it to yourself. After so much work, it would greatly suck for it to vanish.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 2

November 14, 2012 at 8:44 pm (NaNoWriMo) (, , , , , )

I have been…not as good this week.

In fact, I’d feel downright ashamed of myself if it weren’t for the gradual realization that maybe NaNo- as in the daily practice of NaNo- isn’t such a great thing for me. It’s not the overall word count I’m struggling with- it’s the effort of writing every single day whether I feel like it or not. That’s not really how my brain works, especially not when there’s a question of work. But, here’s the breakdown on this week’s walk of shame.

(and that’s completely personal shame- in no way am I pronouncing shame on you ‘if you didn’t do better’. I set an expectation for myself and failed to live up to it)

7 November Full day of work but came home and did some writing in the evening. This is kind of a strange book for me, the first one I’ve known so deeply, so entirely, that I’m forgetting to give things a foundation. There are two characters who are supposed to be particularly antagonistic to each other, and later on I remember to say that they’re appalled by the thought of agreeing buuuut…forgot to lay all the groundwork earlier for why. I foresee a great deal of editing in my future.
Word count for the day: 3879

8 November Day off! Some chores and errands to do, including a run across town (why do some companies make it so frickin hard to pay a bill?!) but overall, pretty happy with the day’s haul. Got out of the house for most of it, which seems to be the way I get more work done. Some fun chapters- fighting, pissing off a parental unit, and introducing a character I absolutely love and shamelessly dragging into the rewrite far earlier than he appeared in the original. Because you know? Some characters you just need more of.
Work count for the day: 7610

9 November Full day of work. Well, mostly full. I left a couple of hours early because there’s a galloping crud going around the staff. Tis the season, and in all honesty, I’d rather get it now and be done with it then get it any time between Black Friday and the end of January. Can we tell I work retail. Got some writing done but was just really feeling cruddy, so I mostly just curled up in the chair with the cat and some cocoa, a bunch of comfort foods, and watched the ultimate pretty that is Planet Earth
Word count for the day: 1763

10 November Worked a half day, still miserably sick. Hurt to swallow, which made staying hydrated rather difficult, brain not particularly wanting to work. More Planet Earth, more cuddling with the cat, but once the soup started taking effect, the brain started working a little more easily.
Word count for the day: 5066

11 November Day off, but still sick, so most of the day passed in the armchair with the rest of Planet Earth. Got a little bit done, came up against a dilemma with how to handle a specific scene, and I’ve learned I do not write well out of order. The writing I was planning to do later in the evening got derailed by the loan of all the Bond films, on the understanding that I have to watch all of them, in order, because I’m allowed to go see Skyfall. And may I just say, OH MY GOD these movies are hurting my brain. There’s so much in me that protests, and I’m not even through the Sean Connery set. Between the constant cringing and the massacre of unsuspecting brain cells, it’s incredibly difficult to write through these movies. But, you know, some writing got done in the afternoon.
Word count for the day: 3292

12 November Full day at work, feeling a little better but still cruddy. Tried to write, managed maybe five hundred words- so few I didn’t even bother to write down the number so I wouldn’t know just how ashamed I needed to be. So, feeling rather too self-indulgent, I curled up with a book. Doing projects back to back, I haven’t just sat down and read in a month and a half, so giving a whole evening over to just reading was GLORIOUS. Of course, it helped that the book was frickin AMAZING OH MY GOD PUNCH YOU RIGHT IN THE FEELS GORGEOUS (Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood and Starlight, if anyone’s curious, review will be coming up next month when I’ve had some time to process, stop drooling, and maybe if I’m lucky speak about it coherently). Should feel guilty but oh, it was just that good.
Word count for the day: mreh

13 November This was the day I’d actually planned not to write. Having the one day break last week seemed to do wonders for me, and I’d thought about rescinding it, given Monday’s performance, and then looked at what I needed to do in the apartment before company came over, including dishes, cleaning the bathroom, putting things away, and just generally tidying up. And, feeling a bit more cruddy than the day before, I decided to go with it. And by ‘it’, I mean rewarding myself after each block of housework with an episode of Castle.
Word count for the day: zero.

So, overall, not a fantastic week. Total word count for NaNo: 44, 599, not counting the couple hundred from Monday’s travesty. Near the goal, yes, but just…not the performance I wanted to put in. Would love to say this coming week will be better, but I’m still sick. Tonight’s not looking promising- came home from work, took out the trash, and now my brother is here for Pizza and Bad Movie Night. (More Bond, if anyone’s curious- Thunderball)

Those of you doing NaNo, how are you doing? Check in below!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Share the Love of Reading

November 11, 2012 at 11:21 am (General) (, , , , )

Most of us read because we love it, not because we have to do it. As a reader, as a writer, as a bookseller, there’s very little that makes me as happy as seeing a kid fall in love with reading.

So it breaks my heart a little bit when parents won’t foster that love by getting their kids books.

Breaks my heart even more when parents can’t.

I know this is a bit early, but over the next month and a half, as you’re shopping for the holidays, take a moment to think about kids who haven’t yet gotten to fall in love with reading, the ones without access to books. There are a shocking number of them out there, and it isn’t just that they don’t have books. Many of these kids have parents who either can’t or don’t want to read to them, or parents who don’t speak English.

These kids don’t usually have access to pre-school or head-start programs, and many of them start school not only not knowing how to read, but having never been read to. They start out at a severe disadvantage, a fundamental unfamiliarity with what reading it, and most of them never catch up. Most states don’t have an education system that allows for it. Held back academically, resentful of reading because of the difficulty it presents, this is something that follows them all through school and beyond. It limits peer associations and social skills, severely limits college opportunities and job possibilities. A number of them drop out because it’s clear they weren’t going to graduate anyway.

It’s a bleak future for kids who never really had another option available to them, but you can help.

Many, many bookstores do book drives through the holiday season to gather books for different organizations. Usually they’re aimed at the youngest children, trying to foster a knowledge and love of reading before they get to school so it’s something they’ll pursue on their own, whether their parents are willing/able to help them or not. Most of the books for this age range, not counting the hardcover picture books, range from $3.99-$7.99. If you can do even just one book through the season, it makes a big difference. That’s another kid who’ll get a book, something that’s purely theirs, and many organizations, rather than simply giving the book and leaving, will work with both child and parent to foster these important skills.

Holiday shopping brings with it a deluge of requests for donations for a lot of good, important programs benefitting a wide range of people, and we all filter through those requests by what’s most important to us and what we can afford.

If this is something that’s important to you, check with your local bookstore and see if they’re supporting a book drive this year. For the holidays, most of the organizations request new books, but if you gently used books to donate, you can usually get the organization’s information from the store and give them your books for other purposes through the year.

A single book can make an amazing difference in a child’s life.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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NaNo 2012 Update 1

November 7, 2012 at 10:07 am (NaNoWriMo, Writing) (, , , , , )

Just a quick update here, and then I’m off to write to make up for yesterday (see below).

1 November: First day, you want to start strong out of the gates, mostly to prove to yourself that you can, and because you’ve been psyching yourself up for days, weeks, or even months. The rest of the month is for pacing yourself. It took me a little while to find the voice for this project, mainly because it’s not a new new project (bizarrely enough, in the same way that he is is the new new Doctor). This is a rewrite of a book I wrote three and a half years ago, the first thing I queried with. I love the original book like cake but when I retired it from the queries I knew I had to think long and hard about how to salvage it. Finally, after three years of finding small pieces that needed to change, the big thing finally clicked. Sharpening a voice I already love and know so well is HARD.
Total word count for the day: 8429

2 November: Unlike the 1st, had to work this day, and I’m really not good at writing after work (or getting up uber early to write before work if it’s an opening shift). Getting a decent word count made me very grateful.
Total word count for the day: 2502

3 November: Another work day, a long one, and a pounding, throbbing headache due to a low pressure front coming in (yes, my skull likes to tell me the upcoming weather). Made some words but not the word count, and then got to the site ten minutes too late to update. Not a good day.
Total word count for the day: 990

4 November: A day off (yay!) which mean I could get a bit more done. Voice is coming more naturally, so now it’s more a question of what do I save from the original while still implementing these necessary (and kind of interesting!) changes? Kind of feel like I’m giving short shrift to some of the characters, then look back at original and realize I always kind of did in the beginning.
Total word count for the day: 7402

5 November: I did not expect this to be a good writing day, partly because I worked, partly because a new toy arrived, and whenever a fun piece of electronic wonder comes in, I like to play with it for hours and hours and hours. BUT- then Erin Bowman, Sarah Maas, and Susan Dennard threw out a Writing Sprint challenge on Twitter, and I’m kind of competitive. It turned a day that otherwise would have been a dismal 443 into:
Total word count for the day: 2530

6 November: Election Day. Didn’t even try to write today. Had some initial ideas about getting up uber early before work, but I’d stayed up later than I intended to the night before, and then my blankets and cat were just so comfortable, I said screw it, I’ll deal with the guilt. Didn’t try at all once I got home from work. I made dinner, found a couple of decent sites online, and settled in to watch the election results come in.
As a side note: Thank you, thank you, thank you, to every single person who voted yesterday, or in early voting, thank you to the people who stood in those insane lines, thank you to all the people gathered together either in person or through social media to watch the course of America. No matter who you voted for, you made a difference. Don’t believe me? They’re still counting votes in Florida, and take a look at some of the other states where both major candidates had 49% of the vote and the difference in calling it was only a few thousand. When you’re looking at millions and millions of votes, a few thousand is a HUGE deal. So thank you.

Total word count for NaNo so far: 22,532. I make tweaks as I go so sometimes the word count isn’t as easy as a straight addition from one day to the next. It’s a good start, but now I’m off to try to get some decent words in before work, so I can make up for yesterday.

How are you doing? Check in below if you’d like!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Civic Responsibility

November 4, 2012 at 3:59 pm (General) (, , )

Chances are, if you live in America, you are heartily sick of hearing about the election. For well over a year now we’ve been inundated with speculation, ads, debates, mud-slinging campaigns, and a news-media focused on it nearly to the exclusion of all else. Every single thing that happens is somehow tied to how it will (or could, or should, or won’t) affect the election.

Drowning in election BS, it’s easy to say you don’t want any part of it.

It’s easy to think your vote doesn’t count for anything, it’s easy to think that voting shouldn’t be selecting the lesser of two (or however many) evils, it’s easy to think you’re feeding into a negative process and making it worse.

But our rights aren’t just privileges, they’re also responsibilities- which means they’re not always easy.

If you’re over eighteen, your vote is one of the important things you will ever have.

I’m not going to tell you to vote for Thing 1 or Thing 2. I’m not interested in telling you who or what to vote for, because I think your vote is also one of the most personal things you will ever have.

Your vote is your hopes and dreams, for yourself, for your family and friends, for your future, for the future of the children you have or may someday have. Your vote is your expectation for what this country will or should be both domestically and internationally. When you vote, you are genuinely staking your life on the outcome, because one election genuinely can change everything.

I’m not going to share ads for one candidate or another, not going to wave proposed amendments in your face and tell you what you should take from them. I respec the right of people to wave their opinions around, even- and I know this has been an issue for some- if they’re authors and have a fanbase. If they have a platform, more power to them if they choose to use it to talk about things they believe in. I simply choose not to do so.

What I am going to do, passionately, respectfully, is beg you to educate yourselves on the issues, on the candidates, and vote.

A lot of counties have mailed out sample ballots. If you haven’t received one, check online and see if there’s one for your precinct posted. Read the ballot- if you don’t understand one of the propositions, you have a few days to research it so you do. Understand what the articles up for approval are asking, and understand what it is they’re asking you to decide. Educate yourselves on the candidates- not just on what they’re saying but what they’ve done. Look at the people close to them- the president (or the governor, or senators, county commissioners, sherrifs, any elected official) isn’t the only person of power. The people around them also step into important positions that change the way policies are made and enforced. Recognize the bias in any given article or news report or campaign ad, and don’t be afraid to spread a wide net. Read things for a candidate, but also read things against a candidate. It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to get an accurate portrayal of a candidate, but don’t let that stop you from trying.

As you’re researching what’s up for election, think very VERY hard about what things are most important to you. Education? Foreign affairs? Taxes? Corporate regulation? Medical rights? Find and name the things that you are most passionate about, take the time to define for yourself what you want for those things, and then find out what the candidates are saying about them, what they’ve said and done in the past on these issues.

Chances are, you are never going to find a candidate with whom you agree exactly on every issue. So find the one that agrees with most of your perspective on the most important issues. That isn’t voting for the lesser evil- it’s voting for the person you think is better for the job, considering what you expect out of that position.

YOUR VOTE COUNTS, and don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. Iif you think it doesn’t, you’re not the only one. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people convince themselves that their voice doesn’t matter, so they don’t vote. Some presidential elections through history have been so close that every single vote was essential to victory or defeat. Sure, it can be funny to write in Doctor Who (although, let’s be honest, he would make a TERRIBLE president) but that’s making light of something that’s incredibly serious.

When black men finally had the right to vote, there were many who did everything they could to prevent them from exercising that right. Jim Crow laws, lynch mobs outside of voting precincts, severe beatings, and it wasn’t just about racism- it was brutality in the face of the realization that THOSE VOTES MATTERED. Those votes had the potential and the power to change the course of America, and there were many who didn’t want it changed. Every single vote mattered. Women have had the vote for LESS THAN ONE HUNDRED YEARS. It took women (and men) putting their voices out there for DECADES before our right to vote was guaranteed by law, and OUR VOTES MATTERED. They still matter, perhaps more now than ever.

The right to vote is not an easy duty. It requires active attention. We actually have to put in the time and effort to educate ourselves, to sort the truth from the blustering. It requires us to make sure we’re registered to vote, to find out where our polling station is.

Back when I was in high school (so, you know, before I could vote) I was keenly aware of what was going on. I watched and I read and I debated and discussed, and I was incredibly frustrated by the fact that my voice wasn’t official. I could talk about it all I wanted but I couldn’t vote, and in the end, that vote was what would matter. In some ways, I’m less vocal about it now. I don’t much like to debate politics with other people because it quickly gets nasty and not all friendships or relationships are up to that kind of strain. What was once a very public forum for me because something personal for me, and it’s my choice not to put my opinion on a lot of things out there. What I am public about, what I am vocal about, is the need to make your voice heard. Because back in high school, there was a lot going on (or not going on) that I hated, and I hadn’t had a voice in it. When I got to college it was summed up more neatly: if you don’t use your voice to vote, you can’t use it to bitch when you don’t like how things are being run.

Sometimes we vote and the candidate we vote for wins but disappoints us. Sometimes we vote and the candidate we vote for loses, and we spend years disappointed by how the other person is running things. BUT YOU PUT YOUR VOICE WHERE IT NEEDED TO BE.

I’ve heard some people say that so-and-so is clearly ahead in the polls so their vote isn’t needed.

But let’s be honest: polls are bullshit. The ‘random samplings’ polled are rarely random, and questions are asked in such a way as to provide specific answers. It’s not an accurate representation of how the public is actually going to vote when it comes right down to it.

We live under the Big Top of a ridiculous media circus that frequently loses sight of the important issues, with news outlets that are completely out of touch with both reality and the larger audience beyond the people still tuning in. As social media had evolved in leaps and bounds, the bones of the electoral process get lost in all the glitz and fluff and mud. We let names like Republican and Democrat mean more than they should, we let labels try to drive us into blind, rapid obedience. Billions of dollars are spent on campaigns and think-tanks so candidates can tell us what they’ll do for things we are about, but once they’re in office, the money just isn’t there. We exist in an inately flawed system.

But that doesn’t make our responsibility any less.

Educates yourselves on the issues.

Educate yourselves on the candidates.

VOTE.

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