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.

BUT THAT IS OKAY. BECAUSE I AM ALWAYS BEHIND!

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.

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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Traditional roles are the backbone for most visible successful families and values other parts of the country consider outdated are very much a litmus test for what makes a successful family.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

On Being Stuck (Or: Another NaNoWriMo Update)

I’m extremely behind on my NaNoWriMo today.

And yesterday.

And the day before that.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve made any significant progress for days. Which is hard because I want to be doing well and I want to be putting those words in, but I am suddenly hitting all those road blocks that hit me every time I try and get through a project like this.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. Other than not writing which is always the wrong option.

My first trip up came with hardware. The tablet that I use to write away from home is called Winston because it, like the great Churchhill for which it was named, has narcolepsy and will shut itself down whenever it wants. This is also a busy time of the year at my day job along with the pressures that comes with the holidays.

I keep telling myself not to give up. Reminding myself that I’ve pulled off bigger wordcounts in less time before. But it, so far hasn’t been great.

It’s very tempting on this blog not to report my struggling. I feel, like Facebook or any other version of social mediums, that it’s best not to air your ‘dirty laundry’

But let’s be honest. All writers have these moments. Moments of sitting where the words won’t come or where we just type at ourselves and make no sense and get frustrated.

I recommend that if you are in this situation that you NOT follow my lead which is binge watching Parks and Recreations on Netflix while playing ‘Bejeweled’ on Zen mode for four hours. Or, as I did today, bake and cook for the entirety of the day. (Though, at least if you’re cooking you get bread, brownies, glazed chicken, as well as a side dish of rice and gravy). I think that’s why I turn to games and cooking when the writing gets hard. It’s a place where I can see tangible results instead of a muddy stream of words.

My plan for tomorrow is dictation. Maybe if I can speak the story and type it out, I can break through the string of no writing days. We shall see.

When you’re going through the muddy middle, don’t sit in the middle. Just keep walking.

Nano Update Part 4

Well, just like a business has it’s dips and peaks, my NaNo is now officially in what I believe professionals call, “The Swampy Middle.”

My protagonists are struggling to find their purpose and since I am not much of an outline writer, we are having issues staying on top in the composing and drafting process of writing. I have a basic road that I’m following, but as overall structure of my novel is something I am coming up with as I go, I’m running into problems with keeping everything on track. Tangents happen at this stage in writing for me.

I think I’ve used the metaphor of gardener versus architect before and this part is the most apt to compare the two. As I am letting my little seeds sprout and watering them and tending them, they have all decided that they are going to lean to the right at the same time. So I have to figure out a way to get them to straighten up OR make up my mind if right is the way that the story is going to go.

In short, I hate this part.

Writing is fun. It is the process of creating and sharing what is in my head with people who live outside of it. Yet, when I get to the hard parts like this, it’s easy to let the distractions of the outside world interfere more with the creation process. After all, no one is going to tell me that I’m not being productive if I spend my non-writing time cleaning my house or cooking. If I’m focused for an hour on the household budget when I should be digging into the word garden, only I know that I’m procrastinating.

Heads up everyone: I’m procrastinating.

Right now the benchmark for NaNoWriMo should be 16067 and the last I checked, I’m sitting in the 11000s. So, welcome to the land of catching up.

I’d be more worried about it if I knew I had less time. My new goal for writing is to pound out at least 2k a day until I catch up and then TRY and have a day where I have some word slack so I can enjoy the holidays without knowing that my word count is going to kill me. I have had some technical challenges in using a tablet to write instead of a laptop. (Another story…).

How is everyone else doing? If you’re participating in NaNo, please leave a comment and share your woes. We’re all in this mess together after all and it’s ok if you’re also stuck in the trenches of the swampy middle. Just as long as we keep walking, we’ll eventually get out of here.

NaNo Updated Part 3

We’ve had a couple write-ins so far and progress is going well.

I’ve added a word count widget on the sidebar of the blog for accountability sakes.

When I started doing my Word Challenge with my friends in March, there weren’t daily goals so much as there was the challenge to see what others were writing and the attempt to keep up the habit of the daily word work. Now, I’m running into the challenge of sticking with one project and only one project. Before I’d hop between two to three projects a month. Sometimes this short story, sometimes edits on that short story and a chapter here or there on a novel in progress. NaNoWriMo is much more intense.

Because I’ve worked on the same project for the last two days and it’s NOT a short story.

Usually, at least for me*, a short story has one to three talking characters with three try-fail/scene-sequel sequences. Then, there is a conclusion. Novels, on the otherhand, I set up more like this long rollercoaster.

Chapters 1-10 are the cranking chapters. I like to lay out my dominoes so that I can knock them over, explode them, or shoot them down in a spectacular manner later. Around chapter 20 or so, I like to dip you down to the lowest part of the story, let my main character hang naked over the volcano of her problems for a while then have her haul herself up, cut her feet out from the ropes with the knife she hid in her hair peice and climb her way back to the top and take out the figurative-marauders that put her in that pickle in the first place.

Well. That’s the idea and the plan. The truth is that I’ve never successfully completed a novel. I usually get the first cranked up chapters and then quit because the writing bogs or gets boring. :/

So here is to a year of breaking through barriers and not quitting. It’s Day 5 of Nano today and hopefully we’re all the word goal of 8335 or at least getting there. Hang with me dearlings, and we’ll ride this challenge out together.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is that of an unpublished writer who is documenting progress as she works towards full time freelancer status. I am not an expert. I just am creating a record of what I do in this business every week so that those who are learning like me have a place to reference or learn from.