NaNoWriMo Summary

I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. However, I have a really, really good excuse…. NANOWRIMO. And yes, I did win this year, because I am awesome. Now that NaNo is over, I think it’s a good time to do a little recap of the month and what I’ve learned over the past 8 years (because yeah, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo since 2008, and there was just one year that I didn’t make it).

Week 1
Week one is the easy week. I’m full of excitement for my novel. God, I can’t wait to put write all of these incredible ideas I have, it’s going to be so great, this is my best story yet! I usually manage to write well over my word count every day.

Week 2
Week two starts off well and then things start getting dark… This year, I installed the app “TimeHop” on my iPhone. Basically, it shows me what I tweeted/Facebooked/Instagrammed 1 year ago, 2 years ago, 3 years ago, and sometimes even 4 years ago. During the tail end of week two of NaNoWriMo, I started to really hate my characters. My writing sucked. I was terrible. This was a big fat waste of time.

I opened up TimeHop to see that in years past, I had felt this exact same way about NaNoWriMo at the exact same time. 1 year ago I was complaining about how much I hated my characters. 2 years ago I was whining that this story sucked. 3 years ago I was lamenting and ranting at this stupid thing I was doing.

It’s a pattern. At some point, you’re bound to hate your work and to think it’s stupid. DON’T STOP. Keep going. Seeing the pattern emerge on my TimeHop app was one of the many things that made me forge on this year.

Week 3
Week three was a fun week. At this point, I’m really getting into the meat of the book and I’m starting to get pretty freaking excited about it. New plot points emerge, my characters start to assert themselves, and shit gets exciting. Week three might be my favorite week.

Week 4
The week of lost steam. By the time I hit week four, I’m tired. I’m ahead of the game, usually, so why try to get extra ahead? I’ll just do what’s called for, a little bit every day, and stay on top of my game. By the time I’m past 50k, though, I’m back on the wagon of excitement. I MADE IT and I’ll be damned if I am not going to finish this book that I’ve begun (because I have never, NEVER finished a novel in 50,000 words).

If you participated in NaNo this year, I’d be interested to hear how it went for you, and what revelations were made on your end.

Viva NaNoWriMo!

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NaNo Prep

NaNoWriMo starts this weekend. Normally, I’d be a lot more prepared, but this has been an interesting year. Outlines haven’t turned out the way that I want them to. I’ve been tired and very focused on work and not able to really prepare for the massive amount of November writing as much as I’d like to. Last year, my prep involved outlining, cleaning, sleeping, reading, and caffeine. Let’s dig into what prep means this year.

Pinning

I know this sounds kind of lame, but Pinterest has been oh-so-helpful. I am not writing an outline this year (because every one I write fails  me), so instead I created a Pinterest board. It’s been so fun to search for things related to my characters and the world I’m creating—it’ll be a great place to go when writer’s block hits, as well.

Writing Notes

I’ve been jotting down notes since September whenever an idea hits me (either via Evernote or in my handy dandy notebook). Having these notes about characters, ideas for the plots/world-building, and brief scenes will help spark ideas when I’m stuck, as well as help keep me on track.

Reading

I don’t generally read during November, so I gotta get some quality reading in before all I have time for is writing. What I’ve been reading lately: Premonitions, Dandelion Wine, A Song of Ice and Fire series (I’m on book 3), and a few more miscellaneous books here and there. Got any recommendations for me for after NaNo?

Fixing my space

The desk where I do my writing is very important to me. I need it to be uncluttered, with pen and paper on one side, books and other reference materials on the other, and not too many distractions. Right now it’s a mess. Hopefully I can get it cleaned up by Saturday!

Snacks/Beverages

This year, I’m not drinking caffeine (gasp! shock!). I know, I know. November will be hell without it. Regardless, I still have a plethora of herbal tea, kombucha (yum), an unopened bottle of tequila, and a four-pack of a super delicious beer (Backwoods Bastard from Founders Brewery—bourbon barrel aged scotch ale, how can you go wrong?). I have snacks that range from rice cakes (I love them, ok? They are delicious… and yes, I put butter on them) to gummy bears to crackers to a delicious mango sorbet. When it comes to food, I’m ready.

Scheduling

I find that scheduling is really good for me. I’ve been using my phone as a calendar for a while now, but I’ve found myself craving the way I used to stay organized—a planner. So, I bought myself one and I’m going use it to schedule out writing time and keep myself goal-oriented. For example, on Saturday I won’t be writing until around 4pm, but when I start I have a plan. Tea + writing until 5:30pm. Break for dinner, then more writing in the evening. Most likely will head out to a coffee shop for a change of pace.

It’s gonna be a great (/difficult) November, guys.

How do you prep for NaNo? Any advice?

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Stepping out of my (writing) comfort zone

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a comfort zone, and it’s fantasy.

I love writing fantasy novels. I love making up worlds, creating cultures, and weaving it all-together. I like creating my own politics, because I sure as hell hate today’s politics.

I also love lists. I love outlines. I love character sheets. I love organization.

So, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I am not going to use an outline. I am going to brainstorm, yes, and probably create a few character sheets, and write notes about all of this, but I will not outline or create a list of things I need to do. WHY would I torture myself so, you ask? Because I keep trying to write outlines and it keeps not working. Every idea I come up with, I hate. I like it at first and then the more than I think about it, the more the ending is not right. The more the characters seem all wrong. The more it doesn’t fit.

I’m pretty notorious for thinking too much, so this year I’m going to try not thinking so far ahead. Going to try to focus on writing now and let that be enough.

Oh, the fantasy thing… I’m still doing fantasy. BUT! It’s urban fantasy. It’s set in today’s world with the elements of a fantasy novel (namely: witches). Which is something I’ve never done for a short story, much less a novel, so it’s a little daunting and very exciting.

I have characters in mind. The barest outlines of a plot. And November is creeping up on me, slowly but surely.

I remind myself pretty regularly that there is no need to panic. We’ll figure it out when it comes, one way or another.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Got any plans, or are you winging it?

CreativePower

We made a zine.

I would like to present the first-ever issue of Thujone, a zine! My writing group has been working pretty hard on this for a while, and we’re proud of the end result. Please take a gander and maybe read its contents (two poems, three short stories, and a comic).

GO LOOK AT IT HERE.

My short story is on page 8. The zine also includes the work of Micmit, Katerina Barrett , Shannon Greene, Mark Jones, and Evan Leihy.

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Why Writing by Hand (Journaling) Is a Great Idea

I love journaling. I’m not always very good at it (read: sometimes I journal every day for a month, sometimes I skip months at a time), but I love it. The way it always me to honestly look at my actions, dreams, and wishes. The release that comes from writing down my thoughts and feelings. The relief from being honest with myself about something—honest enough to write it down (it’s a big deal, I’m tellin’ you).

I don’t always journal, per say. Sometimes I write writing prompts (in fact, I have a journal just for that). It has been so instrumental for me to write about my day (and also write about little things I will forget about in six months).

SO! Let’s talk about why I journal and why you should.

My beautiful writing prompt journal!

My beautiful writing prompt journal!

Benefits of journaling:

  • Connect with yourself
  • Gain clarity
  • Create a judgement-free space about yourself (this is hard—but worth it)
  • A place to vent and complain
  • Mental health benefits
  • A place to get creative
  • WRITING IDEAS (I’ve gotten novel ideas, short story ideas, and poem ideas from journaling)
  • Actually physically writing stuff down gives you more time to think than typing does

Got anything to add to my list? Do you journal?

Anxious.

anxious

I never really thought of myself as being anxious.

But when I first moved to South Carolina, there was this time that I sat on our outside steps, sobbing hysterically and unable to breathe, and Jacob said, “You’re having a panic attack.”

And I thought, What? I don’t have panic attacks. Except that I do. And just like that, the rose colored glasses were lifted. Looking back on my life, I saw things a different way. Unable to focus on work because there’s a big rock in my stomach and it keeps twisting and pinching. Can’t sleep and lie awake fighting tears and irrational thoughts. Convinced that a friend now hates me because I said something that, while true, was hard to hear. Eating my lunch in the bathroom at my new high school, afraid of even venturing into the dreaded cafeteria.

Anxious.

I hate that word, but it sums up so very much about my daily existence. It’s even difficult to talk about, especially to the masses (aka you): but a friend told me recently, if you aren’t vulnerable in your writing then no one gives a shit. I’ve been told that I seem generally confident and in control of myself, that I am smart and capable and I have nothing to be anxious about.

Yeah, well. Anxiety is still there, pressing into my head and resting there on a pressure point. I’m on a new project at work and I am sure I keep making mistakes, so when I pull up the materials my palms get sweaty and breathing gets a little bit difficult. If I think too hard about where my future is going then my stomach starts to hurt and I have to delve into a book or else begin to cry. The panic attacks are, thankfully, fewer and farther between, but they still hover just underneath the surface, ready to latch onto me if I let my anxiety spiral out of control.

Sometimes my mind is a very scary place to be.

I think that’s where my incredible ability of lying to myself comes from. Anxiety. My anxiety builds and builds and builds until I feel like I am choking and I cannot possibly continue on, but no—it’s fine, your past mistakes don’t affect you now. Oh, but they do. And my lying has caught up with me. I can no longer pretend that everything is going to be fine. That is a lie I tell myself to avoid confronting reality.

My good friend and I like to say, “This is a problem for Future Vanessa.” Anxiety comes crawling in when I can’t figure something out or when things are uncertain. Like, for example, the fact that I need to buy a car soon. There’s a lot of shit to consider and think about and I have never done it before and as I think about everything that’s involved, I start to panic. I tell myself, frantically, you’ll figure it out, you’ll figure it out, think about something else. It works until that thing comes up again.

I had terrible acid reflux a few weeks back, and we had to go to the ER. Initially, when Jacob said, “I think we need to go to the hospital,” I panicked. Anxiety reared its ugly head and I immediately began to sob. “They will prick me with needles and it will hurt and it smells strange and sterile and they never tell me what they’re doing before they DO IT and I can’t go, I can’t”—and he let me sit there until I finally stood up and said, okay, I’m ready to go.

And you know what? The anxiety didn’t magically go away. I was swallowing over a lump in my throat all night, I was fighting tears and reminding myself to breathe. But I went instead of sitting at home, hysterical, because I was afraid to do what I knew I needed to do.

It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had to learn to live with my anxiety, to respect it and its wishes. And to know the difference between letting it rule me and knowing when I need to overrule it. No, I do not want to go dancing where men will, undoubtedly, come up and grope at me. Yes, I do want to you read my very personal poem even though you may see me differently. No, I don’t feel like going to the bar tonight, I don’t want pressure to drink and make conversation and then have to worry about how much I’ve drank and when I’m safe to go home. Yes, I do want to go to that poetry reading even though I won’t know anyone there.

I’ve had to stop lying to myself. I’ve had to deal with some hard truths and let a lot of things ago, and I’ve had to learn to cope. To deal. To be okay anyway. I’ve had to tackle things head on inside of running and hiding around the next corner.

Anxiety is a part of my personality. I don’t foresee it going away, not yet—but I see it calming, lessening, letting me breathe a little as I learn to understand it. To live alongside it, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s a harder route to take, but it’s slowly getting easier.

Maybe.

Summer

Summertime used to mean bathing suits and lakes, canoes and campfires. It used to mean ice cream outside and long drives up north. It used to mean sprinklers and water balloons, watermelon and mosquitoes.

This is my third summer in the workforce as a full-time employee. This is my third summer where I haven’t had the summer free (okay, not entirely true—I’ve worked for a while, but having a full-time job doesn’t compare to summer classes and a part-time job).

I’m still not over it, to be honest. I miss my summers. I miss long camping trips and visits with cousins. I miss picking fruit up near Niagara Falls, I miss the gentle heat of Michigan summers. I miss the freedom. It’s how it always goes with me (and, most likely, with all humans). I miss things that have gone away. I get nostalgic, and now, the idea of summer as it once was has a feeling that goes along with it, always very, very specific (does this happen to you, too?).

Summers in high school feels like walking barefoot in cool, damp grass, and they taste like my Oma’s peach pie.

Summers at Oakland Community College sound like Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night album, they smell like a smokey campfire, and they feel like guitar strings.

Summers at MSU feel like the skyscrapers of NYC and they taste like Jose Cuervo, they sound like the slurping of iced tea from the bottom of a glass.

But hey—summers now are pretty cool too. Summers now are mostly inside of an air-conditioned building doing social media strategy, designing neat things, and eating carefully prepared lunches.

Summer is also fruity iced tea. It’s baking parties with my friends, eating leftover icing and complaining about how hot the little kitchen is. It’s day trips out of town and it’s writing in the mornings. It’s staying up late to drink beer on the porch, it’s finding new restaurants and eating outside. Summers smell like the hot inside of a car and taste like cold, hoppy beer.

I don’t get summers off anymore, but I still love them. I love the juxtaposition against the winter I just survived. I love the way they make me ache for fall. I love the heat of the day and the warm walks at night. I love the sound of crackling wood, the smell of a campfire on the block. I love the warm rain.

In certain ways, I love the promise of summer more than summer itself. I’m not a kid anymore and I’m not in school anymore, but summer still seems to mean adventure.

And no matter how small the adventure, that’s what I always want summer to mean to me.

Summer