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 Samples

For the Love of Coffee (A Mostly-Fictional Short)

Recently, I received an ominous Facebook message from Jonas Lee, a friend and fellow author. It read: Describe that first cup of coffee in blind man’s detail. This is your daily challenge 🙂 Okay, the smiley face ruins some of the menace. Now, I’m not normally one to take on writing challenges. A) I generally stumble upon them at times that are not conducive to writing and then promptly forget about them. B) I am incredibly insecure about putting “unedited” or “free-” (as in free-thought, not $0) writing out there in the world, because I do not want people judging me based on something I just slapped together in a creative frenzy. But coffee? Surely a writer must jump at the chance to muse on coffee! Ha! I hate coffee. In fact, that silky whore and I have a score to settle… The following is a slightly fictionalized, mostly exaggerated account of my daily interactions with coffee.

My husband crawls out of bed at six-thirty a.m. He knows the shifting weight will probably wake me. Even if it does not, he knows his heavy footsteps, shaking the floor like thunder rattles windows, definitely will. But he doesn’t care. He needs her. Now.

As I leave the warmth of our bed and get ready for the day, I hear her begin to stir. A soft gurgle, a steady babble, a short beep. Her mating call. When I tiptoe to the stairs, her scent greets me at the top. It is the only thing I like about her –natural, nutty, a hint of spice. The aroma grows stronger with every step I take, until finally, at the bottom of the stairs, I can feel it tingle my lungs.

My husband is sitting on a stool, having his way with her on the kitchen counter. His lips press around the edge of his mug, letting her slither over his tongue and slide into his gut. At first, the sight repulses me, reminding me of my few tastes of coffee. Water, flat milk, ground plant –mixed together to create something that, contrary to the barista’s smirking insistence, tasted nothing like chocolate.

Upon a second look, I wonder what my husband tastes. The steam has fogged the bottom half of his glasses, but I can see that his eyes are closed, his hands cradling the mug. A moan escapes his lips, guttural, animal. We don’t call coffee his “mistress” for nothing.

Opening his eyes, he notices my presence in the kitchen and smiles, motioning for me to come closer. I obey, holding in air to avoid his sour breath. He kisses me, and when he pulls away, instinct makes me lick my lips. Her taste lingers in his kiss. Bitter.

We say our goodbyes, me rattling off a honey-do list — Call the leasing agent, Make your doctor’s appointment, Write your grandmother — and him reassuring me — I’ve got this, Have a good day, I’ll have dinner waiting for you.

When he wanders back upstairs, refilled mug in hand, I grab a pen and sticky note. I know that I can never replace her. Caffeine is a drug, and I am merely a woman. But I also know that, while she may warm his stomach and awaken his brain, only I can touch his heart. Today, my touch will begin with a smile, sparked by a poem, stuck to the coffee pot.

I want to be your sugar

crystals melted on your tongue

sprinkled in your coffee


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?

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2015: Week Two Update

star wars
Evidence that I am not the ONLY culprit here.

Due to a mixture of good and not-so-good things, I have had a pretty underwhelming week two of Camp NaNoWriMo. On the positive side, socializing with great friends and some very exciting progress with The Cogsmith’s Daughter kept me from writing on this draft. On the negative side, entirely inexcusable procrastination and one family emergency stalled my writing progress as well.

The good news is that things are looking up for Week Three. I intend to be anti-social, the emergency is under control so far, and this post and my Camp NaNoWriMo graph have thoroughly shamed me into catching up. While I am not sure if it is chronologically possible for me to reach my goal after this week, I am determined to at least put in a good effort. And Baby Groot says, “I am Groot,” which is always comforting.

For a happier Kate, see my Week One Update.

Here is my not-so-productive week in review:

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

Total Words Written: 17,056

Words Written This Week: 3,901

Day 8: 1,283

Day 9: 1,062

Day 10: 0

Day 11: 0

Day 12: 0

Day 13: 0

Day 14: 1,556

Estimated Writing Time: 2.75 hours

The experience so far: Obviously, this has been a rough week. I’m trying very hard not to beat myself up too much. I am always my worst critic.

timingMotivation: Does potentially insane optimism count? For some reason, I still feel like I can pull this off. Yes, it is going to be brutal, and yes, I will probably have to put in at least one 10k day over a weekend. But I still think I can pull this together and get this draft written (at least by early May) so I can go back to the safe (ha!), comfortable (ha ha!) world of Desertera.

Biggest Triumph: Getting back to writing after four days off. I know that seems simple, but once I get in a rut, it is really hard to get back on the horse, so-to-speak. My secondary goal for this Camp NaNoWriMo is to figure out a more sustainable writing routine. No more insane word counts and one-month, one-book quick fixes for me. I need to get in the routine of writing at least five days a week or I will never sustain this as a business.

Biggest Setback: There is a rather ginormous reveal at the end of this book, which necessitates a lot of foreshadowing throughout the draft. Silly me, I revealed way too much too early, and I had to go back and rewrite a scene. In total, it took me about 20 minutes of typing, but it also took me about three days of procrastinating and avoiding fixing it.

Helpful Insights: If something is bugging you about your draft, go in and fix it. Now. Seriously, right now. I don’t care what they say about not revising during a NaNoWriMo event. If whatever has happened is preventing you from moving forward, just go back and put at least a passable bandaid on it — whatever it takes to get you over it and writing forward again. You can stitch it up properly when you edit next month.

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

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2015: Week One Update

baby groot worldWhenever I do update posts, I feel like I always marvel at the quick, fleeting passage of time. But it’s always true. The first week of Camp NaNoWriMo has gone quickly. To catch up on my plan, read this.

On a personal level, I am satisfied with and optimistic about my progress. I have written quite a lot, despite family commitments and working overtime at my day job. However, on an anal, graph-stalking level, I am a little concerned that I will not be able to meet my personal camp goal, and the pressure is on.

Here is how I have done so far:

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

Total Words Written: 13,155

Day 1: 1,082

Day 2: 1,479

Day 3: 0

Day 4: 5,526

Day 5: 1,571

Day 6: 1,460

Day 7: 2,037

Estimated Writing Time: 9.5 hours

The experience so far: With NaNoWriMo last November, I put all this insane pressure on myself. It was my first real attempt to write a novel, and I wanted to prove to myself (and everyone else) that I could do it. I’m not sure if it is the “Camp” part of this event or the fact that this is my second novel, but I feel way more relaxed. I’m not forcing myself to stay at the keyboard or type as quickly as I can. I’m just plodding along at a pace that feels comfortable and stopping when I need to stop. It’s nice.

baby groot plotMotivation: My motivation this week has been staying accountable to my cabin mates. It’s been nice to have people to give updates to, and to receive updates and cheer each other on. I wish “regular” NaNoWriMo had this same structure. You can follow our cabin adventures with #wordcountslayers. (Yeah, we’re legit.)

Another great motivator has been taking photos of my writing mascot, Baby Groot. I feel like I have to write to pose with him, otherwise it is dishonest. So, in a weird way, his adorable-ness has been very motivating. You can follow his adventures on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook, or by using #BabyGrootWrites.

Biggest Triumph: Having fun. Don’t get me wrong — I had a lot of fun writing The Cogsmith’s Daughter. But Desert Child is a whole other animal. It’s wild and untamed. Vague spoiler alerts: I’m actively getting to kill characters; there’s magic; there’s high-action scenes. It’s very refreshing after a more “political” and “dramatic” novel.

Biggest Setback: The first 3,000 words were like pulling teeth. I felt like a peeping Tom spying on my characters from the outskirts of their village. It was like I didn’t belong in their world. However, now that I’m in the groove, we’re all solid.

Helpful Insights: If you are writing your first draft, just let go. Let your characters guide you. Let crazy things happen. Have fun. This doesn’t mean that you don’t follow an outline (if you made one). This doesn’t mean you go rogue. It means you unleash the full extent of your creativity and be the writer bad ass you truly are. You can tone it down with edits later.


I did not do this last NaNoWriMo, but we weren’t as good of friends then, were we, guys? Here’s a tiny excerpt from my writing this week — entirely unedited. It’s actually the opening of Desert Child.

She dead.

I heard it like you hear a landslide. Soft, at first, slow, a single pebble bouncing down a hill. Tap. Tap. Tap. As they came closer and more voices joined them, it grew louder. A cascade of pebbles slipping out from under a boulder; the boulder breaking loose. Taptap. Rumble. Crunch.

When they finally reached the edge of the cliff, I thought the canyon would collapse around us under the force of their cries. I looked up at them from where I stood, ankle deep in the cold stream, used my hands to shield my eyes from the sun. I wanted to see them clearly, see their dirty, tear-stained cheeks bulge above their smiles.

There were ten of them. They stood in a straight line, tiny toes wrapping around the edge of the cliff. I wanted to warn them, to holler at them to back away, lest they slip and join her. But I couldn’t, because at that exact moment, as their high-pitched voices bellowed the news across the canyon, it finally hit me.


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