Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: April 2017

Well, I’m back from Camp NaNoWriMo, covered in bug bites and stuffed to the brim with smores. While I didn’t win (darn it!), I did add nearly 40,000 words to my draft of Desertera #3. This puts me well on the way to done, and I should have the manuscript wrapped up over the next week or two.

To be honest, most of April is a blur. Specifically, a blur of Scrivener documents, penciled outlines, and story discussions with my alpha reader. Still, I managed to sneak in a little bit of fun. In preparation of my husband’s graduation from Yale, we’ve started a taste tour of local restaurants and have had many fun double dates and friends’ nights.

It’s definitely been a challenge to balance writing, business, my day job, and my social life, but I’m doing my best. That’s all any of us can do, right? As for May, the first half (and a bit) will be focused on getting Desertera #3 to the editor. Over the second half, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s graduation and spending time all around New England with him and our parents. It should be a lovely (and well deserved) break!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – back on track!
Write Desertera #3 – almost done!

Thanks to the pressure of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made fantastic progress on my manuscript of Desertera #3. My main goal this month will be finishing it up and completing the necessary content edits before it goes to the professional editor in the middle of the month. Because I’ve been editing as I write, this process should be pretty easy!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – slightly behind
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As tends to be my pattern, I struggled with balancing my writing and other business activities. However, I did blog at least once a week, and I did participate in two separate marketing events. Given my editing deadline and upcoming personal commitments, I anticipate more unevenness this month. Luckily, I should have plenty of time to get caught up in this area over the summer.

Books Read:
None

Book in Progress: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – better than zero
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – pretty much done

Even with all the craziness and uncertainty coming up, I’ve stayed in positive spirits and haven’t fallen back into bad habits. Most excitingly, my husband and I have made our plan for after his graduation from Yale, and while we still have a few minor details to iron out, we’re in good shape for our short- and mid-term future. We’ve also planned two fun mini-vacations for the end of the month, so watch my Instagram for photos!

Goals for May
Send Desertera #3 to my editor
Enjoy our post-graduation mini-vacations
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? Any exciting plans for May? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: March 2017

March has put me in a difficult position for my monthly update. I have two steadfast rules for my website: I try to be completely honest and transparent, and I try to be positive and encouraging. Balancing the two will be tough for this post, so please forgive me if it’s a bit of a downer.

This month, my grandpa passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This came only two and a half months after another family death, a horrible, unexpected tragedy that occurred two days after Christmas. While my grandpa’s death wasn’t unexpected (his health had been declining rapidly over the past year), it was still difficult to watch my family go through it from 2,000 miles away (I was home at Christmas). I already feel a great deal of guilt about living so far away from home (even temporarily) and this experience brought all that negativity to the forefront. Fortunately, I was able to say goodbye over the phone and travel home to attend the celebration of life.

Why am I telling you this? Because I learned a few valuable lessons this month that might help you, too.

First, there’s a difference between procrastination and needing time off writing. Even with all this heartache, I still felt guilty about abandoning my writing while grieving. It took a very loving, and appropriately stern, talk from my husband to help me realize that sometimes it’s important to give yourself a break. If you need that permission, here it is: sometimes other aspects of life trump writing; get through them so you can get back to your craft.

Second, I realized how thankful I am to be alive and in my life. My grandpa went into hospice care on my 25th birthday, and the collision of these events forced me to take a hard look at my situation. All I could come up with was gratitude — for my health, for the end of his suffering, and for the fact that, out of all the grandpas in the world, he was mine. The lesson? When tragedy comes to you, focus on the good.

Last, story is powerful. At my grandpa’s celebration of life, several friends and family members shared stories about him and what he had meant to them. Not only did this pay tribute to him, but it proved just how significant storytelling is. As writers, even of fiction, we bring real-life experiences and pieces of real people into our work. We give escape. We offer connection. We grant immortality. I have never been so proud to be a storyteller as I was that night.

All that being said, it won’t be a surprise that March was an unproductive month. Therefore, I’ll keep the rest of the update short and sweet. As always, I would love your comments, but please don’t feel obligated to mention my loss. I didn’t share for pity or compassion, only to share those writing lessons.

And for April? I’ll be diving headfirst into Camp NaNoWriMo to get my draft of Desertera #3 back on track. With a few other promotions lined up, it’s going to be a very busy month, but I’m looking forward to it. At least in Desertera, the only problems belong to my characters!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – behind
Write Desertera #3 – behind

Time to get caught up!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – catching up

In positive news, my husband went home to visit friends and family in Australia, and delivered several signed paperbacks. To my surprise, they bought up all the copies of The Courtesan’s Avenger I had left–so I actually had a decent month from a financial perspective. The blog stayed on track, thanks to my scheduling ahead and a few announcements and guest posts. I let social media fall to the wayside, but I did do a little extra reading to distract myself from everything, so that was good!

Books Read:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Volume 1 by Christos Gage — 5 stars (maybe my favorite Buffy comic yet!)
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Volume 1 by Victor Gischler — 4 stars
Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis — 5 stars
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — 5 stars (totally lives up to the hype!)
Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul S. Boyer — 4 stars

Book in Progress: None right now!

Next Up: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – surprisingly, still good!
Exercise 3x per week – um…
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – coming along well

As I shared in my lessons above, I’ve made an effort to stay positive, and it’s really paying off. My husband and I are also making great progress with our plans for after he graduates from Yale … though at the expense of the gym!

Goals for April
Continue drafting Desertera #3
Participate in the Brains to Books Cyber Convention this weekend (April 7, 8, 9) — (Sci-Fi fans – join the Facebook group here!)
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did March treat you? Will you be heading off to Camp NaNoWriMo this April? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Camp NaNoWriMo: July 2015

campingCamp NaNoWriMo sneaked up on me this time around. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have remembered at all if one of my April cabin mates had not emailed me about putting together another cabin for July. Luckily, she did, and I have signed up for the challenge.

For July, I am setting a much lower (though still challenging) word count goal of 30,000 words (as opposed to 75,000 in April). I’ve found that I can write 1,000 words a day pretty comfortably, but it will still be a stretch given our Independence Day weekend vacation plans and the fact that Daniel and I are moving on August 1st. I will be continuing the first draft of the sequel to The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), creatively-titled Desertera #2 at this stage. Of course, I cannot tell you anything about it without ruining most (if not all) of The Cogsmith’s Daughter.

Now, as you may or may not remember (hopefully not), my Camp NaNoWriMo in April was not very successful. Based on this experience, I wanted to share my top five lessons from April so that you all do not repeat my mistakes.

1) Be realistic with your goal. Take into consideration the scope of your project and the non-writing demands in your life. You can always raise/lower your goal during the first two weeks of the event.

2) Be active in your cabin. Having a group of writers around to support you is a great resource. Cheer them on, and let them do the same for you. Share successes and failures, and use theirs to encourage yourself.

3) Don’t worry about other projects. I “lost” Camp NaNoWriMo in April, because I abandoned my draft upon getting the content revision feedback for The Cogsmith’s Daughter. However, I didn’t really start revisions until May anyway. If you can help it, stay focused on your Camp project for the entire month. Unless you have a huge deadline (in which case you probably shouldn’t be doing Camp anyway), other projects can wait.

4) Try new writing techniques. Camp NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to experiment. In April, I found that I actually could write in small chunks of time and that I did not have to end each writing session with the end of a scene/chapter. Breaking these old habits has helped me immensely in my everyday writing.

5) Don’t take it too seriously. The whole point of Camp NaNoWriMo is to have fun. If you go stressing yourself out over your goals, that is even worse than losing or not participating at all.

baby groot worldNow, before I end this scatter-brained post, I need a little help from you all. During April’s Camp, I had Baby Groot as my writing mascot. The question is: should I keep Baby Groot or introduce a new mascot? Vote below!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Camp NaNoWriMo

Hello, everyone! As you may remember, I had an AWESOME cabin for April Camp NaNoWriMo. If you want to (re)join the fun this July, shoot Amo your username. She will be our cabin master this time around!

amo vitam

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-BannerCamp NaNoWriMo is upon us again! In case you don’t know, Camp Nano is the “light” version of November’s NaNoWriMo, world’s greatest yearly online writing event. During November, crazy writers all over the globe pledge themselves to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month, from Nov. 1st to 30th. If you’re not up for that level of insanity, or, conversely, if you’ve done NaNoWriMo and it has you gasping for more but you can’t stand the wait until November, there are a couple of easier events happening in April and July.

During Camp Nano, you can pick your own style of project. It can be anything from 10,000 to 100,000 words long, and, unlike the November Nano, can be fiction, non-fiction, novels, short stories, memoirs, poetry, or what-have-you – actually, it doesn’t even have to be a complete “writing” project; it can be editing or continuing a previous…

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Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2015: Week Three Update

daisyIt is safe to say that I will not “win” CampNaNoWriMo this time around. Could I have won? Given my word count from last November’s NaNoWriMo, I think the answer is “yes.” However, so far, I think I am walking away with something even more important than a finished manuscript — two lessons.

Lesson one: I have figured out my best time to write each day. Unexpected events aside, I can easily write 1,000 to 1,500 words in an hour. It’s nothing compared to the vigorous pace of “regular” NaNoWriMo, but it is sustainable. That will get me much farther in the long run.

Lesson two: I am learning how to balance and prioritize. Often times, I focus too much on “20%” activities, such as social media or blogging, and my writing gets sacrificed. While I love putting out a blog post every day and interacting with you all consistently, writing is where I should focus more of my time. And I’m going to try to keep it as my top priority in thought and practice going forward.

Okay, enough epiphanies. Here is my week three summary:

My Personal Goal: 75,000 — or the finished first draft Desert Child, whichever comes first

My Secondary Goal: Create a sustainable writing habit for the future

Total Words Written: 28,938

Words Written This Week: 11,882

Day 15: 1,377

Day 16: 397

Day 17: 1,673

Day 18: 4,564

Day 19: 1,241

Day 20: 1,000

Day 21: 1,630

Estimated Writing Time: 6.5 hours

thinkingThe experience so far: I feel like I am maturing as an author. I am going at a consistent pace, avoiding burnout, and being kind to myself, even on less productive days.

Motivation: My motivation this week has been to keep my writing routine consistent. Even when I hardly have any time, I am still sitting down and producing work. While I will not finish this draft by April 30, I still want to finish Camp strong.

Biggest Triumph: Learning to write in tiny intervals. I’m one of those people who has to finish reading at the end of a chapter. Previously, this anal tendency had crossed over to my writing, making me write for huge chunks at a time to complete a chapter or scene — or simply not write at all. It was all or nothing. Now, I can sit down and write for ten minutes (as opposed to skipping it altogether) without stressing myself out. (Seriously, one of my characters is in the middle of being cremated right now, her corpse on full display before the tribe, and I don’t even care. Normally, I’d have to save her from the humiliation.)

Biggest Setback: There is construction on the highway, so my commute takes longer. Plus, I’m helping cover for one of my coworkers who is on vacation. Long story short, I’m tired a lot.

Helpful Insights: Push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge your writing routine. I thought writing a chapter each session worked for me — and it does, but it also prevents me from stealing smaller bits of time for writing and limits what I can do in a session. By expanding how you work, you will be more productive and more versatile. This leads to increased sustainability and more consistent writing even when challenges aren’t happening.


How are your Camp NaNoWriMo adventures going? Anything fun to share? Any advice for your fellow campers?