A New Challenge for December

So I won NaNoWriMo. Here’s the proof:

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So, yay me?

It was a pretty cool thing to do. I wrote 50,000 words, and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t feel satisfied by this victory. I’m still hungry. It was fun to work on a different project for a while, but finishing NaNoWriMo doesn’t mark any progress on any of the other goals (writing and art) that I’ve been trying to achieve for the last couple years. I proved I have enough time to 50,000 words in a month. This month, I need to use that time to get stuff done.

I liked having a monthly project, though. That’s a nice, solid amount of time to focus on something. In December, instead of having a word goal for each day, I’d like to make some art each day. Therefore, I’m challenging myself to make 31 sketches during the month of December. My idea is that these can be warm-up sketches, twenty-minute sketches. A short exercise that won’t necessarily use up my entire creative output for the day (I’m hoping I’ll be able to sketch and then write, or sketch and then work on a more complicated artwork), but that will at least ensure SOME amount of creative output.

What do you think? I’d like to post sketches on the blog; do you want to see them? And would you prefer daily sketch updates, or a dump of several sketches every few days or week?

Here’s today’s sketch. I call it Grumpy Self Portrait. I tried to capture that back-to-work-the-Monday-after-Thanksgiving feeling, and I really focused on the expression and the asymmetry of my face. (And yes, I did a sketch yesterday for Dec 1, so this is sketch #2. I’ll share #1 later this week.)

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Please tell me what you think about the new project, and how often you’d like to see updates on the blog. Also, if any art folks are interested in joining me for this December Sketch-A-Day adventure, please let me know; it would be great to have some company. 🙂

 

NaNoWriMo: Final Countdown

Two days left, and my word count is 42,318. I wrote 7,036 words today (November 28), and I have to write 7,682 words in the next two days if I want to hit 50,000 by the end of November. The next two days are vacation days, so I’m pretty sure I can do it. I stalled during the middle two weeks of the month, but I’ve been playing some pretty intense catch-up since Saturday. Here’s the graph of my progress so far (the grey line represents the target goal of writing 1,667 words per day):

Thanksgiving NaNo Graph

 

For those of you who read my last post following week 1 of the challenge, I actually did manage to keep up my word count for the entirety of that weekend (days 8, 9, and 10 on the graph). I was so very tired at the end of it, though, that I couldn’t get it together to do any writing on my workdays the following week. Oh, and I didn’t know where I was going with the story. I haven’t known where I was going with the story, except for a few tiny revelations that were enough to keep me trucking along and putting words on the page. I didn’t really find the answers to any of the big questions until about 7:30 pm today. So my NaNo project isn’t a narrative, per say. It’s about 40,000 words of me flailing away at the story, writing (sometimes in depth, sometimes not) about any aspect of it that I could write words about, and world-building and begging the world to tell me what it’s all about so I can keep writing and win this silly and arbitrary 50,000 words by November 30th challenge. The project won’t be done at 50,000; it will be just getting started. And actually, I’m pretty sure the flailing-away-at-your-story-in-any-way-you-can is pretty much the point of NaNoWriMo, so the event is doing its job. During those flat periods on the graph above I didn’t think I was going to finish, and I thought that was okay because the story just wasn’t ready yet. It wasn’t ripe. But I still wanted to win, you know? I still wanted to finish what I set out to do. And while marathoning some words today, trying to reach that arbitrary goal that will make me a NaNo “Winner,” I did find that piece of the plot and world-building I was searching for. Not that there aren’t a gazillion other problems I don’t even know about yet that are gonna crop up later on, but my point is that writing is the best thing to do for writing. And that’s the point of this entire exercise, right?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and a big congratulations to my writing buddies (http://amorecolorfullife.com/) who already won the 50,000 word challenge. You rock!

NaNoWriMo Week 1

Hello Blogging World!

It is the one week anniversary of the beginning of National Novel Writing Month 2013. Three weeks to go. I am on track, and my novel word count is 12,613. I have succeeded in writing 1,667 words or more each and every day this week.

And the surprise is, it wasn’t even that hard. Turns out there IS time, in every day, for a few hours of writing. I haven’t even given up any of things I consider important. I’ve gone to work, kept my room on the functioning side of clean, and maintained a social life. That’s right, a social life. Plans for a drink with a friend on Friday? Finish the word count, then go out. Social running event with friends on Saturday? Finish the word count, then go. Coffee with the boyfriend on Sunday? Bring the computer to the cafĂ©, and get a start on that word count. What I haven’t been doing, or doing a lot less of, is schmutzing about on the internet and watching television.

I’m actually a little disgusted with myself for not realizing earlier how simple it is to make time in my day if I set a solid goal. Why didn’t I think of this earlier, you know? Why did it take NaNo to make me realize how fungible my time is, how much of my not-really-doing-much-of-anything time could be replaced by working time. I hope… well, I am wary of making sweeping statements because I have a great deal of difficulty sticking with any new routine or way of living beyond the first week or two, but I hope that when NaNo is over, I will remember how simple it is to find time in the day to work, and I hope I will apply that to all my other long term projects and goals.

Also, it’s not all smooth-sailing. We’re at week one, and my NaNo Novel is on the rocks. I really like what’s going on with the characters, and I like how it’s all developing, but at 12,000 words it’s hard to keep writing without knowing a few things about, you know, the plot. What is  the super-secret evil mastermind goal of my villain? What’s he doing it all for? How is Cor going to stop him, and what is Cor saving him from?

I’m hoping I’ll have a revelation while I’m driving the bus today. And then I’m going to have to try to make my wordcount in the car or something, because Mr. Huntington (the BF, and a very handsome fellow) and I are traveling to my folk’s house this evening to stay for a few days. Which, by the way, I only have about an hour to pack for before I have to go to work, and Friday is one of those days at work where they ought to just give me a time-traveling bus already, and perhaps an extra dimension in which to eat lunch.

So anyway, there’s your update. Can I power through the plot void and stay on track with my NaNo Novel, or will this be the weekend my word count falters? Stay tuned.

My NaNoWriMo Novel

So I’ve decided. I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. National Novel Writing Month. Writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. This is the first year I’ve been in a place where it sounded like a good idea (click for my thoughts on the subject a year ago). It’s a whole month where I won’t be working on Wanderlust, true, but I’ll be getting great writing practice, learning how to fit writing into my schedule, and maybe even making some writer friends in this area. I think it will be a lot of fun.

And you probably want to hear about the book.

It’s…

Well.

It’s something that I’m personally really excited about, and that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past year. Yet even as I’ve been world-building, collecting pieces of plot, and making exciting discoveries about how everything comes together, I didn’t think I’d actually be able to tackle the project for years and years. For a number of reasons. You see, it’s about these two guys. With Wanderlust my main focus right now, it doesn’t seem entirely wise for my secondary project to be ANOTHER story about a couple of guys—even though they (Cor and Tristan) are entirely different characters from Taniel and Vanya, and their story is a completely different sort of thing. The second thing is… it’s high fantasy. Swords and sorcery. Battles and blood. I have read a lot of high fantasy, and it’s one of my most favorite genres, but there’s a lot of it out there, and a lot of it is crap. I… this is probably my own issue, and I’m probably accidentally discounting some really good work, but I have trouble asking people to take me seriously as an aspiring author writing high fantasy when I know there are so many people out there writing books in LOTR inspired worlds with all their made up, fantasy-sounding names and it just isn’t any good. I wanted to establish myself with the urban fantasy, maybe that dystopian kinda book I’m working on, before I ask anyone to take my high fantasy seriously. And this project… It’s not just high fantasy. It’s high fantasy with history, with lore. The actual storyline I want to write deals with the aftermath of the big war ten years before. Beyond that, there’s some really long-ago history about why this [special] [magical] country functions the way it does. And farther back, the mythology. Looking forward, I even have an idea for the thousand years later story when all the magic has faded from the world (… or so everyone thinks!).

And those are the reasons I find my own story problematic for me, myself, right now. They’re also the reasons I think it will make a great project for NaNoWriMo. I need something that I’m not under too much pressure to take seriously, especially if I’m going to be banging out 50,000 words in a month. I also tend to have a really scattered writing style on a first draft anyway, and (not sure if this is entirely kosher with the nano rules, and I don’t really care) I’m giving myself permission to work on the lore, the backstory, all the connecty bits, whenever I want to, even if I’m not sure how they fit into the main narrative. It’s all part of the project, and I’m going to let all of that count towards the 50,000 words. And this really is a project I’ve been putting a lot of thought into, despite everything, and I’m excited to see where it goes if I let myself get to work.

The project. I haven’t even field-tested the title, you know? What if it just sounds dumb? I called it Tredaf back in high school (yes of course this is a resurrected project, but it’s really honestly changed A LOT since then and anyway I’m starting over from scratch) but that’s the name of the magical country and I think the country itself needs a name-change. The current working title is… badadadum… The Legend of the Blood Tog King. Or just The Blood Tog King. And here’s my question; a real, serious question. You can put your answer in the comments. Does it sound dumb?

It’s about this guy, Cor Daggerhand, who is blood brother to Tristan, the king. It’s a country where bonds between people have magical properties, and none more powerful, or more dangerous, than a blood bond. [These bindings are symbolized by tokens, worn around the neck or pinned to clothing. Over many years of use, the word “token” degenerates to “tog”, which now describes the whole concept.] Ten years ago Cor and Tristan won the great war, and Tristan reclaimed his rightful throne. Days after the victory, however, Cor skedaddled, and left his brother and the entire country behind him. Upon his grudging homecoming (the start of this book), he discovers that the past ten years have changed Tristan into someone almost unrecognizable—someone with terrible plans for the nation they both call home. Can Cor battle his own blood-brother to keep his beloved country free? And has the king truly turned evil/gone mad, or can Cor save Tristan from himself?

Someday I will finish this sketch.

Tristan and Cor (an unfinished sketch)

The Creative and the Subconscious

I dreamed the other night that I owned a beautiful book. I’d acquired it at a great discount at one of those places one sometimes acquires beautiful things at a great discount—the bargain bin at NMU’s bookstore, in this particular case. It had a sapphire and lavender cover, the colors fading and drifting into each other like a sunset. Think the cover of Bitterblue by Kirsten Cashore (one of the [many] [really good] books I am currently reading), but shinier. It wasn’t a story book; it had pictures and text and paintings of magical creatures and words about how to write and how to make art and references for mythology and all other sorts of things. Or only a few of those things, or none of those things at all. What I knew was that it was a beautiful book, and full of all the wisdom and inspiration that I most especially need. Something I was glad to have, and something I wanted to hang onto. With a lot of reverence, I placed the book on my shelf—and here, I ran into trouble. The spine of the book held both the title (some word written in silver flowing script, with multiple S’s) and an image of a white creature, either a dragon or a unicorn. When I placed the book upright, so that the title ran the correct way and the book would open right-side up when pulled from the shelf, I discovered that the creature was upside down. Ah, I said. It was a discount book, after all. I flipped it over, so that the creature was upright and centered, braced against the bottom of the shelf—and now the words were upside down, and ran the wrong way. No matter how many times I re-oriented the book, I couldn’t get it right.

Maybe you’ve already guessed my metaphor.

Nothing’s changed. I still want Wanderlust (the writing, the art) more than anything, but I’ve gotten lost somehow. I’m tripping between the pictures and the words, not sure what I should be working on, and unable to accomplish, or finish, anything—and all the time hunched beneath and wading through the pressures of REAL LIFE, and most days too tired (or too engaged in other things) to make headway on creative projects at all. I don’t know which end is up. I don’t know which way to hold it, and I can’t seem to get it right.

I present you with this blog post sheepishly, ashamedly, like a thief who returns a stolen object at arm’s length, ready to run. I haven’t been following your blogs, or reading your tweets or keeping up with any of you, my internet friends and supporters, and some real life friends too. When I withdraw from the internet, I do so pretty completely. Also, I noticed that each of my sporadic posts over the past MANY moths ends with something like, “I promise I’m going to start blogging more regularly. No, I mean for real this time.” Therefore, this time, I make no promises. What I usually forget about blogging, though, is how it makes you write. Writing is writing. All practice helps. And right now, I do need help.

One more thing. Something I’ve been ruminating on for the past few weeks. November starts in, what, a little over a week? I am… eep… considering doing NaNoWriMo this year. You know, that crazy thing where you write a novel in a month. I’m still undecided, but more tempted than I’ve ever been before. More on that to come. Maybe. If we’re all very lucky, and I manage to write another blog post soon.

-G

The Unicorn Writers’ Conference

Saturday, I attended the Unicorn Writers’ Conference at St. Clements Castle in Portland, Connecticut.

Some of my conference swag.

Some of my conference swag.

It’s the title I would have given to a writers’ conference if I were designing one when I was ten years old (or even more recently; you all saw my Race to the 8th Calendar). The conference color is even purple, which is totally my color. Both signs, perhaps. I found this conference HUGELY valuable, inspirational, and educational.

The Unicorn Writer’s Conference is a day-long event filled with workshops on various parts of the writing and publishing process. Many beginning writers attended, as well as all the professionals giving the workshops. Also in attendance were lots of literary agents.

If you registered and paid for it beforehand, you could have a one-on-one session with a literary agent during the day, who would give you feedback based on the first forty pages of your manuscript. I didn’t have one these sessions, as I am still holding my recently completed manuscript draft rather close to my chest at the moment. I did, however, go to the conference fully prepared with business cards, the prototype version of Wanderlust from from May 2012 (it has current illustrations, even if the text is out of date), and an only slightly-rehearsed 30 second pitch (actually, I have a very well rehearsed five-second pitch. It gets a bit fuzzy after that). And I spent much of the day talking to people about my book.

It was terrifying, of course, to actually introduce myself to John M Cusick, YA writer and literary agent, when I saw him sitting at a table just behind mine during lunch. Still, a chance to talk with people in the industry was one of the reasons I was there, and I didn’t want to leave the conference with any regrets. Mr. Cusick was very kind, and took several minutes to talk to me about my project. He recommended aging my characters down, if possible. I’m aware that my characters are slightly too old for typical YA, and it was good for me (like eating my vegetables) to hear that this might be a serious roadblock to publication. While sitting in my next workshop, I even began wondering if I could write a version of Wanderlust where Vanya and Taniel are 16 and 19, or 15 and 18, rather than 19 and 22. It would be a very different story in many ways. I really enjoy the story and characters I have now, and I believe there is an audience for the story I have written—but I’m not convinced I wouldn’t want to read the one with younger characters. It’s something to think about, anyway, especially as I move forward with the publication process and with getting Wanderlust to the right readers.*

We hear every day about self-published books that do well and get picked up later by big-name publishers. John Cusick, however, advised me to submit to agents before self-publishing. This is because it can be awkward for an agent or publisher to take on a writer if there are already some copies of that writer’s book in existence. Obviously this depends on the situation and the individuals, but he said that agents and editors will often ask for changes and revisions before publishing a book—and if a thousand fans already have a copy of the book without those changes? It might be enough of a hassle that the agent decides to pass on signing the writer after all. This might especially be a concern for me because, if I self-publish, I will be dealing with the entirety of the book design, including illustrations and how they interface with the text. If I get an agent and a traditional publisher, there will be a book designer working with my book. I don’t want any contract for Wanderlust that doesn’t include my illustrations, but it has occurred to me that Wanderlust might really benefit from someone more experienced than I in the ways of fonts and margins and chapter headers. Anyone who thinks that stuff is easy or unimportant has never tried designing a book. Getting it traditionally published might mean a very different visual look than what I would create on my own. Even though I know self-publishing doesn’t mean you can’t go the traditional route later, Cusick’s point made a lot of sense to me. I think you can approach it from either side. You might say, “It can’t hurt to self publish before querying agents.” You could also say, “Yeah, but it can’t hurt to query agents before self-publishing.” I think it depends on your book, on your luck, on which agents you’re submitting to, and on your long-term publication goals. I’m still figuring out which path to follow, but right now I’m leaning towards querying first. It can’t hurt.

7422080John Cusick is an agent at the Greenhouse Literary Agency and the author of the YA novel Girl Parts. He also has a wordpress blog (http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/). I highly recommend his March 4 post on the relationship between writing and work. Also, Girl Parts. I started reading the amazon preview today and I’m totally hooked. It’s dark, near-future, clean, scary, beautifully written, and very enticing. That’s what I got from the first few pages, anyway, and I’d like to read the whole thing very soon. Also, there is a FREE kindle short story set in the same world called Abandon Changes. I’m going to read it as soon as I finish this blog post.

I may get a lot of blog posts out of this conference, because talking with John Cusick was only ten minutes of a very full day. I have so many new things I’m thinking about that I hadn’t even begun to consider before. The Unicorn Writers’ Conference was right where I needed to be this weekend for my development as a writer and a professional, and I look forward to sharing some more of my insights with you in the days ahead.

____________

*Also, some of the reasons I’d prefer not to down-age is that Vanya is a very young 19-year-old, and the story doesn’t deal with any adult concerns like job, family, bills, etc. beyond the initial setup of Taniel’s “Lost my job, life is ruined!” sad-face in the beginning seven paragraphs of the novel. My point of view, given the above, is this: “These are young adults that teens will relate to, so there’s no problem with the current ages.” I’m aware that the flip argument is: “If they’re not really doing adult things and he acts younger than he is, why wouldn’t you just make them younger?” Ultimately, it’s a matter of figuring out where that line is between sticking to your artistic integrity and obstinately refusing to follow practical advice. Right now I think I’m on the side of artistic integrity, but if it’s something I keep hearing over and over again, especially from people who have read some of the book, I’ll have to consider changing my opinion.

Writing Marathon Day 7, and Tonight’s Winner

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Well, would you look at that. Day 7. We are ALMOST THERE.

The Writing Day

I’m making progress. I’m hanging in there. In fact, I’m working on the last chapter—although I confess that I skipped a fairly important section of chapter 11 in the interest of moving on. I did sacrifice a portion of my day to practicing music (worth it), but I’ve been moving forward steadily. Chapter 12 is long, though, and I’m 25% in at the most. It’s likely that I won’t be all the way to the end by the time I post the blog tomorrow… but without this event, and all your encouragement, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it half this far in the first week of February. And who knows, maybe some birthday-writing magic will kick in on the morrow.

These are the flowers my daddy got me for my birthday; aren’t they wonderful? (He brought them home tonight because we might get snowed in tomorrow!)

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We need a topic!

And the winner is…

Caitlin. Congratulations, Caitlin!

I haven’t seen Caitlin for four years, but we were roommates during a five-week study abroad trip to Ireland. When we met, we quickly bonded over a shared love of books and bookstores. Caitlin is running a really cool blog called The Hopeful Heroine that I suspect a lot of you would enjoy; it is all about books and especially teen and middle grade reads.

Caitlin’s entry: Think about your summer spent in Ireland. Remember your favorite place and/or moment. Take me there.

I had many piercingly wonderful moments during those weeks in Ireland. The place is rich with stories, chock-full of castles, and, like everyone says, so very green. It takes your breath away. If anyone were to ask me to name the most beautiful/magnificent thing I’ve ever seen, I would say the Cliffs of Moher without skipping a beat. The moment that came to mind when I first read Caitlin’s question, however, was the night I climbed Bray Head.

Bray is the last stop on the Dart train that stretches along the coast to the north and south of Dublin. http://www.irishrail.ie/maps/dart  One day, when I had arrived Dun Laoghaire in the afternoon, I was frustrated and started walking. I walked a couple train stops south, and eventually I got on the train and took it to Bray. It was already evening, and I used the bathroom at a casino and started walking down the beach. There was a large, rocky hill (or a very small mountain) at one end of the beach; it took maybe half an hour to climb. It was windy at the top, the sort of wind that blows into all your nooks and crannies and sweeps the gathered dust away. The setting sun turned the far off hilltops to gold, and I noticed there was a trail leading on. I followed it, even though I knew I had to turn around soon to catch the train. That trail beckoned me onward, and I walked until I caught  [Hang on, live blogging break, my brother just walked in the door (ahead of the storm!) to surprise me for my birthday. My mom already blew the surprise that he was driving down tomorrow, but then she assured me he wasn’t coming then because of the storm. I AM SURPRISED. 🙂] and I walked until I caught a glimpse of the coast to the south, and saw the trail stretching on before me. I followed it around one more bend, and then… It may have been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I turned back, climbed down the hill, walked up the beach, and caught the last train home.

That moment was my wanderlust moment. It encapsulates how Ireland enchanted me, and how I always wanted to go deeper. I had so many experiences in five weeks, and yet I barely broke the surface.

Thanks for your question, Caitlin, it was lovely to return to Ireland for a few minutes there. Everyone: don’t forget to visit Caitlin’s blog, The Hopeful Heroine. And Caitlin, you will be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

Good night, all! We’ll wrap up this whole shebang tomorrow, on the final day of the marathon. Thanks for sticking with me so far.

-G

Writing Marathon Day 6, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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Six days in!

The Writing Day

I’m not sure there was a writing day today. I had a really lovely day though; I exercised, played my harp, stir-fried some celery, had a great lesson, bought some oat bran, snuck in a tiny bit of writing that went really well, enjoyed choir practice. I’m hoping to dash out this blog post and get some more work in tonight. I’m past the part of chapter 11 that was really hard, and the editing process seems to have smoothed out again. It’s just that life got in the way today, and since I really like my life right now I don’t feel too bad about it. But hey, maybe I can still get some work in tonight!

Also, by the way, my number of followers has been climbing steadily this week, and I want to thank you all for that. I also seem to be following behind on responding to individual comments, but even if it takes me a day or two to get back to you please know that I read your comment and loved it.

Okay, we need a blog topic.

And the winner is…

Jess. Congratulations, Jess!

Jess is a friend, and one of my classmates from the Illustration program at Northern Michigan University. She’s a really great artist, so you should definitely check out her online portfolio: Icarus Falls Design.

Jess very kindly provided me with a question or a prompt to choose from, and even though the prompt looks like a lot of fun I am going to choose the question, because I suspect it will take less time to answer and I’d really like to make some more headway on Chapter 11 tonight.

Jess’s entry: What motivates you? When you’re thinking about writing or drawing, what is it that gets you to actually sit down and pick up the pen? What’s the first part of the project or story that comes to you?

The thing that usually gets me back to a story, and actually working on it, is the name of the main character. I don’t entirely understand this, but mentally I hang a lot of their personality, their very essence, on the sound of their name. So when I find myself walking around the house and whispering “Vanya” under my breath, well, I know it’s time to get back to creating him on the page (in image and word). Having the wrong name for a character can also be a major roadblock to working on something. Upon my return from Thailand, I had to complete a fiction writing assignment in order to receive credit for the trip. I already had one very good scene for the story that I had scrawled down in my sketchbook on the tour bus as we drove away from the ruined city of Ayutthaya, and I had the basic plot, but I was stumbling over the name of the main character and without it, I couldn’t make any progress at all. Then I took a shower to to clear my head, and the name came to me: Hadley. Just weird enough to be interesting, and with just the right sort of old-fashioned feel to it. It seemed both original and classic. Hadley. Now the story could begin.

Of course, motivation is a big, huge, complicated thing. Right now, I am motivated by tons of things. Here are approximate samplings of motivated interior monologue: “This has taken too long and I need to work harder so I can be done now.” “I want this to be done, yesterday.” “My only justification for living with my parents and not having a real job is that I’m working on this, so I’d better work on it.” “I can’t wait to see the finished book.” “I’m ready to stop messing around with the words and start illustrating them.” “I want to be rich and famous.” “I want to start marketing my book.” “I want to tell this story as well as I possibly can.” “I freakin’ love this story!” “I need to finish this and find out if anyone else will love it.” “I get to write about pretty boys and magical harps today, how cool is that?” “Ogodyes this scene… except I can make it even better, here, here, and here.” “Okay, need to work on this today because… Taniel. Vanya.” “Vanya.”

Somehow, it all comes back to the names. In the peculiar alchemy of my brain, they seem to encapsulate everything else.

Thanks so much for your question, Jess, I had fun answering it! You will receive your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

And it looks like I do have some time and energy left to tackle a bit more of Chapter 11. I will let you all know how it goes tomorrow!

Writing Marathon Day 5, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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So this is a writing marathon. A RACE to the 8th. This implies running through the remaining editorial tasks as quickly as possible, and finishing by Friday. This is a great idea and all, but sometimes the writing won’t run. Sometimes it plods. Sometimes it lurches. Sometimes it limps. Sometimes it crawls. Sometimes it lies on the ground and flails its way forward like an out-of-water fish. And if you try to make an out-of-water fish get up and sprint, it’s only going to lie there in a confused puddle, make some gurgling noises, and stop even the flailing that was moving it forward, however little at a time. So you have to accept the out-of-water fish-ness of your writing, because only by flailing along for a little while will you start crawling again (and limping, and lurching, and plodding), and, if you’re very very lucky, running.

The Writing Day

If you haven’t guessed from that intro, today was sort of an out-of-water-fish flailing day for the writing. Taking that into account, I actually did very well. I rewrote the whole intro to Chapter 11, and completely integrated that new scene with the existing scenes, and began tackling some of the new scenes. I’m about a third of the way through the chapter, and with only three days left… Well, I might not actually make it to the end of the book. I’m still so much closer than I was before.

Also, tomorrow may be an issue. I have a harp lesson tomorrow afternoon (which I am SO under-practiced for!) and then choir practice at night, and possible band practice after that. That’s a lot of chunks out of the writing day. I will absolutely do my best, but don’t be surprised if the blog gets posted later than usual.

Anyway. Let’s draw a winner.

And the winner is…

Ruthanne. Congratulations, Aunt Ruthanne!

Yes, Ruthanne is my aunt. She is also a 2012 NaNoWriMo winner, and one of this blog’s strongest facebook supporters. She and my cousin run a tie-dye business, to which the website is still under construction… but they have a facebook page! You can at least see some photos of their work on there, all of which is really good. Also, Ruthanne’s birthday is February 8th too! I have an older cousin (Ruthanne’s niece) who was born on February 8 as well. When I went to North Carolina this year we were actually all three in the same place for a photo op; it’s still my cover photo on facebook. 🙂

Ruthanne’s entry: I would love it if you would blog about blogging — why you decided to do it, how you set it up, how it motivates you or feeds you or plagues you with a commitment when you’re not in the mood to write — whatever it means to you. This would be of interest to me because I’m thinking of starting a blog — possibly on February 8th, when I turn 59.

I hope you do start a blog, I will be very excited to read it! For me, starting a blog was basically a necessity for my career. I want to be an author, and now-a-days, authors blog. Even if you’re going the completely traditional, send-your-manuscript to an agent route, the word is that you still need an author platform. Even with traditional publishing, a lot of promotion falls to the author, and the blog is  the most obvious way to do that, and to be present and able to interact with your fans. I was also influenced by Robin McKinley’s blog. McKinley is an incredible author whom I idolize, and then I discovered that she has a blog where she rants about life and dogs and bell-ringing and posts serialized blog fiction. She is seriously a world-class author, and if you haven’t heard of her for shame (no, not for shame, for joy! You still have all these Robin McKinley books ahead of you), and suddenly, through her blog, I felt like I knew her a little bit. Of course, Robin McKinley already had a gazillion fans when she started her blog, but reading her blog helped me begin to think of blogs as fun and worthwhile. And yes, it was a business necessity. I needed somewhere to send people for more information when I mentioned my book in a conversation, and I needed to begin building a fanbase in preparation for the book’s launch, and I needed a place to post my artwork. I’ve tried blogging before, but I had a book review blog (I’d link to you to it, but I’m a bit embarrassed about that one pro-twilight review), an art blog, and much later a writing blog. I didn’t keep up with any of them because the topics were too specific to sustain my interest. When I made this blog, though, with just my name at the top, I was free to write about anything. Since my projects vary greatly, I found this really freeing and a lot of fun. This will be my 62nd post on this blog, which seems pretty incredible. I think the reason I’ve been able to keep up with it so well is that, while writing has been a pretty big focus here, I’m free to write about anything else I find important.

As for setting it up, it’s really easy and free to set up a blog with wordpress.com. It’s also free on Blogspot, but WordPress generally looks a lot cleaner, and it’s really easy for other wordpress users to find and follow your blog (and easy for you to find theirs). It’s a really nice community in that way, although I confess at this point I’m not really sure how to reach out to readers beyond wordpress.com. I’ve purchased my own domain name, of course, because that feels more professional, and I also paid wordpress for the extra customization option, I think because some of the colors in this theme didn’t match the colors I wanted and that seemed really important at the time.

What I find most frustrating about the blog is that posting things publicly generates (in me, anyway) a desperate need for feedback. My plan is always to dash off a blog post in the morning and then write for the rest of the day, but sometimes I spend the rest of the day refreshing my email notifications every five minutes and searching for a sign that someone has read my post. This can be a real distraction for an easily distractible person! And sometimes, the posts that I think are my best posts get the least feedback, and don’t find a lot of readers. At times like these, I have to sigh and remind myself that I’m building a platform, and it’s going to take time.  For instance, I have over one hundred “followers,” and I am very grateful for every one, but that doesn’t translate to one hundred hits every time I post. Right now, I average about 20 hits on a day when I publish. People are starting to find me with some interesting search terms, though, which I think comes from the fact that I am always expanding my number of posts and topics. (By the way, detailed and easy-to-understand analytics for traffic on your blog is another good reason to choose WordPress.)

In conclusion, I really enjoy the blog. Keeping up with it has felt pretty natural; I usually enjoy writing the posts (the ones I don’t enjoy usually don’t get posted) and I do it because it’s part of the whole proces of becoming someone who gets taken seriously as a writer. This is also my second week-long blog event experience, and I’ll admit the writing a post every single night is getting really exhausting… but it’s also motivating me to work really hard on my book, and I’ve also picked up a good number of followers in the last few days (thank you all! I hope you stick around!) So I’m still trying new things, but overall it’s been really rewarding.

Thanks for your question, Ruthanne! You will be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February. And happy early birthday!

-Grace

Writing Marathon Day 3, and Third Contest Winner

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.50.29 PMThree days in already? It’s all happening so fast!

The Writing Day

Finished that pesky Chapter 10 (Swamp Times). It wouldn’t have taken too long… except for those couple paragraphs that took HOURS, and that one transition/flashback thing that, well, I actually just glanced at it again and I’m not even sure it’s a 100% now, even after all that work. Sigh. So anyway, when I thought I’d finally finished chapter 10 (which I keep wanting to call chapter 9 because it was chapter 9 for years before I added that whole thing about the wolves), I was a little emotionally exhausted from dealing with the peskiness of those scenes, but I still had a couple hours of writing time. Now, Chapter 10 was pesky because it was already pretty tight, but it needed small amounts of polish applied in hard-to-reach places. Chapter 11 is pesky because it’s a mess. I didn’t really have it in me tonight to put on the hazmat suit and start the serious cleanup. Instead, I went through and typed in the red-pen corrections I’d already made on my printed manuscript. I fixed anything that jumped out at me, and anything I had an easy fix for. More importantly, I read through the whole thing and asked questions and made editorial notes and let it soak into my subconscious to stew for the night. I actually made a fair amount of progress on the little things, and I’m looking forward to tackling the larger issues in Chapter 11 (The Harp and the Hound) tomorrow.

Time for that blog topic! Drawing a contest entry now.

And the winner is…

Laura! Congratulations, Laura!

Laura’s entry: If you woke up as the opposite sex one morning, would it change your life plan, and how?

Well, that’s something I don’t think about every day. And, seeing as my life plan right now is to become a published author and to travel as much as possible, I don’t think it would. Actually, being a guy might make the traveling part easier. There are certain dangers associated with traveling alone as a woman, and you sort of have to weigh those risks and cautionary tales against your common sense and good judgement and the fact that you can’t really live and experience life while playing it completely safe. It’s risky just being alive, of course, but I feel like guys have a little less to worry about in the safety department. I’m pretty sure I’d be just as good a writer as a man (some of my best writer friends are male), and, bonus, I’d finally have an inside view on that whole male camaraderie thing I’m always writing about. If my masculinity as a man were equal to the level of femininity I have as a woman, well, at 5′ 10″, it would be so much easier to find girls who are shorter than me than it is to find guys who are taller than me. If I remained completely feminine girl me in this hypothetical gender-bending scenario, I guess I don’t know what I’d do (besides wonder how I got stuck in an anime. My eyes just aren’t big enough, you see.) I know it takes a lot of strength to deal with that kind of confusion and mind/body disconnect, and I’m grateful that it’s a burden I haven’t had to bear.

Thanks for your question, Laura. Hmm, I actually came up with a lot of pros for that whole being-a-guy-thing. Good thing I really like being a girl. 🙂 You will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

Have a good night, all! I hope you enjoyed your superbowl and your superbowl snacks. I didn’t watch the game, but we did eat some guacamole. While making a batch of guacamole earlier this week, I reflected to my father that some people probably only get guacamole once a year, on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a depressing thought, and we shared a moment of silence. But anyway, I hope you had a good party if that is the sort of thing that you do. May your cupboard brim over with tortilla chips, and may your guacamole bowl never go empty.

-G