Holidays and Making Goals

Well, it’s honest check in time!

I am still pounding away at my manuscript in honor of NaNoWriMo, but sadly, I am super behind my word count.


That’s my secret. I’m like Bruce Banner from the Hulk. The secret is that I’m always angry er, Behind on a deadline XD.

I won’t make excuses y’all. I haven’t been keeping my writing times and I’ve been having a hard time getting through the scenes I have mapped out, but I’m still feeling better about this attempt at this particular project than previous attempts.

But that’s okay. It’s time for my own panic-fueled productivity burst. I wish all other behind the goal-nanoers the best. I’ll be putting rocket fuel under my butt for the next few days to try and meet that 50,000 word goal.

Good luck friends.

NaNoWriMo, the US 2016 Election and Motivation

At the moment, I’m sitting at around 15,000 words on my NaNo project. On Tuesday and Wednesday though, I didn’t write.

It was a motivation thing. I had the need to write, but we all get to that place in our projects where it feels like you’re paving mud instead of bricks. You just don’t feel confident about the work that you’re slapping down and it’s hard to make yourself work on something if you don’t feel confident about the stuff that you’re putting down. Everyone was telling me to push through the suck, like just by hearing the words I was going to be able to find that inner strength to Do The Thing.

As a contrary person who dislikes being told what to do, I procrastinated. Instead of noveling I focused on national and local events. I focused on the 2016 Elections.

I live in the state of Mississippi. It is one of the most misunderstood and joked about states in the USA. At least, when you’re living in Mississippi, that’s how it feels. It feels like you are always at the bottom of everything. Our education scores are low. In my town, only 2 of the public schools scored an average grade, a C. All the others scored D’s and F’s on their last review. We still struggle with illiteracy, a slow economy and a limit in opportunities. Our main breadwinners are usually men and our main caretakers are usually women. Traditional roles are the backbone for most visible successful families and values other parts of the country consider outdated are very much a litmus test for what makes a successful family.

The town I live in is service-oriented in most of it’s employment: Nurses, Doctors, Military staff from our little base. We’re full of servers and house cleaners. We have craftsmen and professors for our university. But the people that surround us make up the majority of the state’s population. They are the truck drivers, oil drillers, farmers, livestock managers and factory men and women. They are the people who bring America food, grow the food, find the fuel that lets the country run and the last of those who create American goods within the country’s borders.

They are deeply religious and hard working people who have been living in some version of the poverty scale for a long time and experience very little thanks for the work they do for the rest of the country. Yet they are also smart and kind; people who want to be friendly and to show courtesy. People who care, deeply, about the value of hospitality and good manners. People who watch one another closely to hold each other up to their values of their community and who, during disasters and crisis, reach out. Mississippians are proud and independent.

I often feel like a bit of an oddball where I live. I don’t have the same values, I don’t have the same interests as many of my neighbors and coworkers. I don’t have the same dreams. But I can’t help but be inspired by what I see around me. I even set my current project in a Deep South city because I wanted to show others the dichotomy of living a progressive and modern world view in a society that values different things.

Yet the last two days have struck me hard. The division that is in our country is so much more than just who was elected. It’s a division of values and focus. There are amazing and excellent people in the Urban zones, and by Urban I mean  big cities, who have found community in focusing on education, accepting that not all families look a certain way and comforting themselves by vilifying those who live differently. Communities that do no rely upon the weather for their job, or who need to spend week and weeks away from home just to make ends meet. In the Urban zones, (of which I grew up in) you can go to the store and your things are nicely lined up. There isn’t as much a need to cook because you can find tons of restaurants at decent prices all around you. Eight years ago, those urban people reached out through their grassroots and called upon the people to rise up and help them make a change. And so the world did. And when it did it ignored and shucked off the things those rural people found important.

In 2008, I was on my way home from college with a cold and stopped at a restaurant for food when I saw my country elect it’s first black president. When they happened, I was so proud. Because here were were, making progress.

Yet here I sit, eight years later. A full-time and working home owner in a state that has seen very little help or progress from the change I wanted in the world as a college student. I see people who I work with and live near and exist harmoniously with presented as two-dimensional on all my media. I see the outrage of the LGBTQ community, of which I am apart, at anyone who reached out for the message that the candidate Trump had and paint them with one color: Hate.

“They Hate Us” is what I’ve heard. “This was an election based on Hate!”

Yet for years, all we have done is mock them. For years we have held up their beliefs and mingled in our message with scorn and disdain.

“It’s time to step out of the past,” we’ve cried as we fought for equal treatment. “It’s time to put away your bigotry and your close mindedness.”

But if, for the sake of example, I am a Mississippi woman who’s husband is an oil man and gone for weeks at a time, if I’m a mother, do you know who helps me? My church. My christian church who supports me and loves me. My God who I have been warned others will scorn and try to get me to turn against. If I’m that woman, I don’t see a group that is trying to give love a chance, I see the devil wrapped in the clothing of lies because that was what I would have been taught to guard against. Who is going to listen to the lies that a stranger is telling them when around them they are surrounded by voices protesting on their side. They are in a bubble of acceptance and ignore the message that the left is giving them in favor of standing by the people they know and trust.

And we, those people who voted in the change and who voted in the new updates never took a single moment to think of how to connect with the people we were changing. We dismissed them and put ourselves in a bubble to try and be ‘Safe’. We created echo chambers in the name of ‘Feeling Okay’ and ‘Protecting ourselves’.

I’m done with the safe places. I’m done with the echo chambers and done trying to use simple terms to explain and understand complex problems. I haven’t written in two days because I’ve been digesting and processing what this new development in the setting of my life is going to mean. I’m not going to stand for unacceptable behavior. If I see racism, I’ll call it out, but now I’m going to try and figure out how to do it in a way that actually changes the behavior instead of insults the person behaving. If I see sexism, I’m going to try and make the conversation. If I encounter bigotry, I will deal with it but that extends to both sides. That extends to my side as well as their side. Because at the end of the day, we’re all on the Same side. The side of the United States of America.

For the next two years, I’m going to be connected. I’m going to absorb and focus on what I can do without alienating those I need to stand beside me. Make no mistake, we need each other and we need to stand alongside one another. I’m going to keep writing as well. Because just like the soggy bit of my novel where everything seems a mistake, I have to keep living in the world that feels like a mistake. I have to move forward in both prose and life.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. Keep breathing and keep writing.

NaNoWriMo 2016 – The Prep

I went and checked my NaNoWriMo stats and I have attempted this challenge since like, 2010.

Six years, y’all.

But you know, despite feeling like a nano ‘failure’, I don’t feel like I actually have failed in the final goal of being a better writer.

The first year I tried to do Nano I went into it with no prep. I had discovered the challenge a few weeks before it was going to start and got really pumped up. I came up with an idea and I just WENT for it, no planning, no prep, no characters, no plot… just a story idea that moved forward.

And I made it about 6 to 10k (I sincerely can’t remember) into the challenge and quit after about a week because November is a hell of a month for a college student to try and write a novel. Between papers and school and work? Nah bro. Didn’t happen. My story had no tension, had no real conflict and basically just curled up and died on the page because there was nothing there to hold it up.

The next couple of years I’d try again and I’d inevitably fail.

I believe I say ‘screw this’ last year, but I tried to just keep writing…and got disappointed and gave up.

That was frustrating as heck. I keep trying and I keep failing. I keep attempting this project that I’ve witnessed thousands of people complete around me and…this year it clicked.

For me, it will never be about completing a 50,000 word story in 30 days. It WILL be about the journey. It WILL be about not giving up. It WILL be about taking a deep breath and reviewing what doesn’t work from the past. And it will be about forgiving myself for not being like everyone else and accepting that I’m like myself instead.

This year I have a story I’ve been working on for a while that I’m going to work on. I’ll log my words and push myself to get beyond where I stalled out last time. This year will be about not letting those around me rush through but also about letting the mistakes happen and just getting through the book. This year will be about running the race.

My NaNoWriMo prep goes beyond the preparation of a book and about the prep of the writer.

NaNoWriMo, Twitter and Being an Extroverted Writer

So much of successful writing requires you to go off alone and play, intensely and vigorously with imaginary people. You must, from nothing but your own imagination, create vivid and complete people from your imagination. Then, from that same imagination you also must create a scenario for them not only to fail repeatedly in, but one that will temper who they are and make them someone greater in the end. All this in hopes that (at least for me) by sharing it out with the world in a finished and polished format that I can connect with people.

Because while the act of writing and habit of creation is a solo and internal process, I am not an individual who does well as a solo and internal human.

Myke Cole, a new writer I discovered at DragonCon this year, said it best in a panel: It’s hard to be an extrovert and a writer.

Y’all, I don’t even read military fantasy and I bought a copy of his Gemini Cell on the way home from Atlanta to read in the car.*

With my gripes about being a person who doesn’t like to sit alone and only talk at herself, I have come up with coping methods.

First, there is Twitter. Twitter is short and not too involved so I can chirp out something here and there at people using writing tags and not feel like I’m being a nuisance! Then, we have the writers community over at Ally Bishop’s Cerulean Project who are a daily inspiration to keeping my habits on check.

But the biggest and most community oriented writing event of the year is coming up: National Novel Writing Month.

Now, if you’re a long time follower of the blog, you’re aware of my very constant problems with completing NaNoWriMo. I have yet to ever start and finish a story within a 50,000 word limit and most of that was purely because I couldn’t habitially write daily. I tried to work on that A LOT last year by making myself do streaks. I even managed, for a few months, to keep up a 100 day streak before I went on vacation to Mexico. I have yet to top that many days of solid writing but hey, I’m back on the horse and knowing it can be done is just as empowering as anything else.

NaNoWriMo is such a great season of the year for any writer. Because suddenly, people who might never have thought of themselves as writers, people who might be like me and dread the thought of sitting alone in a room for hours just to talk to themselves, have others around who are on a cheer leading wagon of support and encouragement.

That’s precious beyond measure.

If you’re planning on joining over there, feel free to add me as a writing buddy. I’m dracoangelica over on the NaNoWriMo site. (Click Here for short link) Leave a comment below with your buddy name and I’ll add you back.

I am a rebel this year and as I already have a project that I’d like to try and finish, I’m taking NaNoWriMo as a time to concentrate and add on to what I already have. It’s almost the end of the year and I haven’t quite hit my new years resolution to FINISH a novel length project yet and I feel like this could be the year that I do it if I just keep pushing.

So join in! I look forward to seeing what everyone achieves.


*he’s a really cool dude in person by the way and his book has some damn good tension. I’m about to become a fangirl, I can tell

Introducing my AlphaSmart

I have, since sometime in 2012, been without a laptop computer. This has been extremely limiting for my mobile writing but I’ve gotten used to using Athena, my Massive Gaming Desktop Bohemoth for all my novel writing. While she is great for music, video, gaming and all sorts of other programs, it is very difficult to lug a tower around with you whenever you want to write, and while I adore my office and have found the habit of sitting in the same chair every morning to be very good for productivity and consistency, life doesn’t always allow us those set times. So, in response I’ve been shopping for an alternative.

One of my most googled searches was, “Ideal Writer Setup.”

I was thinking I’d get some sort of recommendation of a good tool for writing on the go. I needed three things: Something I could type on, something that I could limit distractions on, and something portable.

My husband and I skimmed through countless PCs, but we’re cheap and none of the ones we saw really seemed to fit what I had in mind. I was also feeling frustrated about the idea of having to purchase another copy of my beloved Scrivener just so that I could sync up my two projects.

Then, I found it. Exactly what I wanted: the most basic of basic typewriters.

An AlphaSmart Neo2.

Now, some people just use their tablets and to them, I say, “Good. Enjoy that.”

I have an older eReader-style tablet but I’ve never needed one of the bigger tablet PCs. I tried to sync a bluetooth keyboard to it, but the battery life is so poor on my eReader when I’m using it for applications.

When I was in college,tablets were hopelessly out of my student price range and I had a perfect functioning laptop. And now, it still makes my eye twitch to spend a couple hundred dollars on a device that will be so dependent on the internet for syncing and storing. (Though I won’t lie, I’d love to have a Microsoft Surface Pro 4)

Still. My AlphaSmart is better than all of that.

By KeesvL at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Koman90., Public Domain,

This device is a Smart Keyboard that was built in 2004. It lets you type, it lets you see four lines of what you type, it runs on 3 AA batteries and saves every keystroke as you make it, making it practically impossible to lose your work. It also calculates word counts.

For me? This is ideal. I spend 35$ and while there are a couple of keys that aren’t as responsive (Specifically the number four for some reason) and I’ve noticed that tapping the corner in an uneven manner will shut the entire system down, making the device difficult to use while moving around or jostling, I’ve found that the lack of distractions make any blocks I’ve had with my writing in the last few weeks completely worth it. And! Even when it turns itself off, I’ve never lost a single word.

Best of all, because it doesn’t require connection to the internet, I can use it ANYWHERE and the long battery life makes it ideal to sit wherever I want in a restaurant or cafe. I’m no longer tied to the power cord.

I won’t say this works for everything. After all, while I wrote this blog post on my Neo2, I still had to do all my editing and formatting on WordPress. I also don’t trust this device for any project that requires a lot of formatting or page previews. But for straight ‘Write The Thing’ effectiveness? It’s fantastic.

I’ve been able to write outside, on the couch, at cafes and most importantly, during my lunch break at work. It’s light and fits in one of my medium sized tote bags.

I was introduced to this device on the NaNoWriMo message boards and there are a lot of people who are fans.

If you are a writer who has to have access to their entire manuscript at all times while writing, this might not be the tool for you. I tend to get bogged down if I focus too much on what I’ve written before and that makes it difficult to move forward. I also am they type of person who takes a lot of notes on paper during the day. The AlphaSmart lets me take those notes directly with a keyboard and then later load them up to the document in question.

You can hold up to 8 files on the AlphaSmart at any given time for a total of about 10k words per file. As I have never in my life written that many words at one time in one sitting, I think the space restrictions will be fine for me.

I’ve designated files 1-7 for Mon-Sun and then file 8 for my notes and misc. Thoughts that needed to be uploaded. After I made a saved copy on Scrivener and Word, I’ve turned around and cleared the file, ready for the next go around.

This isn’t going to replace a laptop or a tablet. There are no apps, there isn’t any access to email and the font is the most basic of basic 90s style tech. Over all, the entire device resembles an overly large calculator. But I’m so pleased.

What sort of methods do you use for your writing? Do you use a tablet or longhand everything? Let me know in the comments below.

Your Manuscript is a Hawt Mess

Yesterday was a fantastic day for me.

I got up, wrote my way through my current action scene and started the end of Act I of my current manuscript. It felt glorious. I’ve been in the middle of this particular action scene for, oh, weeks. I might have gotten through it sooner but as I generally only have 1 hour a day set aside for writing and working on this book most of the time, I just had to keep pecking at it until I’d failed in enough ways to find the best way to approach it.

This method is very effective for me. However, it leaves a trail of broken paragraphs, half-finished and discarded scenes and general mayhem behind me.

So today, I’m combing through the manuscript that I have and storing all my non-connecting scenes in my ‘scraps’ bin that I keep with all my projects and just focusing on the manuscript flowing smoothly from point A to point B behind me. This is not an edit people. This is still drafting for me. However, if I get tied up later when I’m down by point J, I can go back and skim through what I’m keeping of point H,G, and I to identify where I went off track.

It’s a messy method of novel writing. I have started outlining….sort of.

I am calling it a Tailored Pantsing approach.

In normal pantsing I’d write several hundred unconnected pages without any care for how they all stitch together, then go through in my Editing phase with scissors and a red marker, linking and stitching my novel back together. Then I’d do about a dozen more edits to complete the book.

However I still can’t hold too closely to a tight outline. I feel strangled if all my steps are laid out so cleanly. Instead, I’ve drawn a sort of map that the story is going to follow.

So I have a chart: Opening/Hook -> Inciting Incident -> Act Two with x event and so on until I’ve reached the end.

Now instead of just writing twelve random scenes, I’m writing twelve versions of the scene that I need and then tossing the other 11 into the scrap pile a lot sooner and moving on.

The feeling of trailblazing that I love in writing is still there, but I’m not dangling from cliffs anymore.

All first drafts are gross messes though. We make typos and we accidentally forget that we gave our main protagonist a gun the scene before and heck, novels are long and holding such a detailed story in your head for an hour a day over the course of months is tricky. But here we are, machetes in hand, ready to take it on anyway.


Focus on the Writing or A Letter to myself in 2010

It’s 2010 and I’m at a writing conference for school.

I’d stayed with a classmate from my writing class and we’re both really excited to be at a Real Writing conference with Real Writers instead of just in a class full of Wannabe Writers. I spent probably 300-400 dollars on the hotel, food, getting there and my admission. I’m around tons of other local writers in Alabama and so stoked.

Except all the information that the conference is giving me? It’s all stuff I just spent 5 months learning in class. It’s all about things that I already…well, have been taught. We don’t do any major work shopping on any of my in progress stuff…or anyone else’s stuff. Well, I figure, I’ll just find out more about the publishing industry in this set of forums and figure out what to do with all these short stories I finished in class.


We didn’t really talk about publishing at all.

Everyone talks about how you don’t make much writing and how legitimacy is from big publishers but there is this shared grimace when the words ‘Querying’ and ‘Synopsis’ come up. I finally asked a question to one of the presenters about how to go about trying to submit something for publication. Tips, tricks, advice, ect.

He asks me, “Well first of all, do you have a finished Manuscript?”

I said “Not yet, but I’m close to done.”

And he waved his hand and said, “Well, for now, focus on the writing and don’t worry about the publishing.”

I felt so irritated at that. Because he just moved on to the next question without any explanation of WHY.

Sometimes good advice can be given in a shitty way. Which makes it bad advice.

I have since done tons of research on publishing. I’ve been reading blogs and publication guides for years on the process, on what I want to do with my own work, and then taking a good look at my own process. Here is what I’ve determined five years after this brush off.

Dear April from 2010,

Right now you are currently two years away from graduating college. You have finished a handful of short stories but your novel is languishing away because your school papers require more work and are currently more important than the novel-in-progress. Don’t worry about publishing because it will always be there. Don’t lose one bit of focus from your current goal of finishing. Don’t spare one moment of thought on things that will change as soon as you start them. If you want to know you’re next step, this is it: finish the manuscript. Then you keep writing. Because publishing is not the same as creating. Publishing is selling a finished product and without that lovely story all tight and shiny, you ain’t got nothing to sell suga.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into publishing. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t skim through agents and the prices of self-publishing. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look at tax-rates for a self published author or try and decide if you’d rather have the weight of a traditional publishing house behind your baby. It just means that you do those things after you’ve gotten your writing done for the day. You do those things while your brain is recharging from the long marathon of plotting you just did. You do all those things secondary to your drafting and crafting. Focus on the writing because if you don’t have the best novel you can make, it doesn’t matter if you know exactly who to send your baby to, the baby will be plain and boring and they won’t want it.

Sincerely, 2016 April.

The innate Boringness of Progress

Welcome back dear readers. I am so grateful for the thirty of you that check this space out whenever they are in line at the grocery store or procrastinating on their own projects. I had a great vacation and have managed for the last five days to get back in the writing chair and put time in on my current work in progress, code name Wisteria Wolf.

I was thinking today about how boring it is to talk about writing. Then I saw this great post by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I had to rethink the statement.

Contreras eloquently and accurately sums up all of my stress on this subject.

Essentially this blog is a record of my path. It’s a record of the falls and the rises. It’s my logging each little typity-writer-step towards completion on my first manuscript and hopefully will become a great place to talk to those who have supported me, a tool to speak to future readers and encourage those who are trying this with me.

But despite my fascination with talking about writing, it still puts people off.

Go ahead. Try it. When someone asks you how your morning went, say, “Oh today was great because I got 500 words added to my novel.”

The first time they’ll say enthusiastically, “Fantastic! I want to write a novel!”

Now. Do it again.
And again.
And again.
The only people who will be excited about this with you are going to be the other writers in your tags on Twitter. Everyone else will give you a little nod and move on with their day.

I don’t blame people for this btw. One, because they haven’t read My Most Excellent Book In Progres, they don’t have the emotion investment and Two, because reading is often a solitary activity. Which writing is as well while talking is communal and most groups would rather be entertained by the random facts you unearthed while researching your book than the book itself.

This was proven in the completely scientific atmosphere of Carnival Cruise ship hottubs last week.

See, we sit in rooms by ourselves and we just talk. We tell ourselves stories and we tweak them. It’s long. It’s tedious and often we don’t really verbalize why we do this.

In other words we’re practicing when we write.

When you go to a sports events it’s exciting because you get to see your favorite athletes preform skills you don’t have. But no one is selling tickets to practices. No one wants to follow a basketball player around while he spends three hours on cardio or two hours doing push ups or bouncing a ball. No one wants to wake up at 4am to see a world renowned gymnast get up, get ready and stretch so that she can put in 6 hours of hard practice. We don’t want to sit as she falls, look over her shoulder while she bandages the blisters or see her broken toenails.

(well…some ppl do and that’s why we have instagram)

We want to see finished things. We don’t want to sit with you while you erase forty sketch lines of someone’s arm. We don’t want to sneeze with you as you knit twenty rows wrong and unravel them to retry.

We want the book.

We want the game.

We want the performance.

We want the painting.

We want the sweater.

So fellow writers, if people’s eyes glaze when you tell them about the internal motivations of your main protagonist and how excited you are about that unwitting amputation in chapter 16, that’s ok. Those are people who don’t want to see the practice. I do though. Tweet me or leave a comment and we can reminisce about those stupid plots together.


The time has come dear readers. After months of planning, poking my budget and several FaceTime calls to my sister, at long last it is time for my vacation. 

Saturday I’ll head out with my baby sis and we will go cruising. 

In the meantime, I’ll be recharging and getting ready for another long writing streak. As of Saturday I will have 80 straight days of Writing Daily which is currently (to my knowledge) a personal best. I shouldn’t be interrupted in the composing process until September so hopefully I’ll break 100 straight days of writing after this. 

I feel like my progress has been glacial with 500 words here and every now and then breaking 1000 words there, but folks, it can be done. You can write your book in small chunks of focused time.

Until next week, keep writing. 

Novel Process

I was watching a really interesting blab the other day by Ally Bishop and she and her co-hosts were talking about process and the concept of the ‘Shadow Novel’. She talked about this weeks ago but it’s really been on my mind in terms of The UnSeen Writing…that feels like it takes up all my time.

My Shadow Novel is all the writing I put into characters and things that happen off screen. “But April,” you might ask, “If it’s happening, shouldn’t you put it in?”
Nah. Not really. I have my current story start off when there is action, when my two main protagonists are meeting one another during a very active and busy time, a time when they need one another and resent the situation. Yet for me to fully understand a character, I have to know everything about them. And while it might be important for me to know how Character A realized that he liked a certain thing, it’s not really great for the pacing and story if we follow him around shopping. I might use one line too reference it later but I actually spent 2 days using my morning writing to figure out that aspect of his character.

Not everyone is like this; writing out stuff and then only using a few words to reference it might not be your style. Hell, I’m sure that there are plenty of writers who don’t have to have all those things laid out in so much detail; they seem so gifted in just writing the line with an image in their mind as the only reference. But that’s still part of the Shadow Novel, the unseen bits of the iceberg as it were.

Today, after saying I was going to do this for oh, weeks, I sat down with Scrivener and began to label out the ‘notecards’ of my project and realized that while I have 39,500 words written in my current project, less than 10k are actually in any shape of a useable draft with the other 3/4th of my current manuscript composing of character exploration, outlining, plot determination, false starts and unlinked scenes that I needed to get down even if I don’t end up connecting to them.

Guys, I feel so much better now that I’ve done this. Is it disheartening to realize that I still have so much to go? Not as much as it was to think that everything I was putting down was unuseable.

It’s a slow process. I write one hour a day most days with some extra time on the weekends. So, honestly, I remind myself that while this work feels slow now, it could have been done faster if I’d had more time to do it. But I don’t, so slow isn’t bad.

I’m still here, one step at a time. I’m still dragging through, one scene, whether it goes into the final draft or stays in the shadows. That’s my process: keep churning it out and don’t get angry if the words I’m mining are diamonds or rocks.