December Sketches (Sketch With Me!)

Officially closed out NaNoWriMo at 58,504 words. No, I didn’t make 70,000, but I’m still writing. And forget NaNoWriMo; it’s December. As usual, I’m trying to sketch every day of December, for a total of 31 sketches. I haven’t actually finished the challenge yet, but perhaps this third year will be the one!

I haven’t done my Dec. 1st sketch yet, but here’s the self-portrait I made yesterday. It’s my third annual Monday After Thanksgiving Self Portrait. A little less relevant since I didn’t actually get a day off for Thanksgiving, and also Monday was still in November this year, but what can you do?

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.40.39 PM

You can find my 2013 portrait is here, and the 2014 portrait here.

And, calling all artists, are you looking for a challenge? How about 31 sketches in 31 days this December? Join us! You can post sketches to your blog, and we also have a facebook group for posting sketches and encouragement. Just search for the closed group December Sketch-a-Day Challenge and request to join. Hope to see your sketches!

Day 25: Winning

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

Yeah that’s right, I won early! I reached 50,000 words this Sunday afternoon, more than a week before the end of November. This is a first, for me. Here’s what my progress graph looked like on Sunday:

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 3.57.32 PM

I love these graphs, by the way. If I could add any feature to the NaNoWriMo website, it would be the ability to compare graphs side-by-side, or spliced on top of each other. You could compare your current year’s progress to every other year you’ve participated, or you could compare your own graph to any of your writing buddies’. I think that would be neat.

I didn’t stop writing, by the way. I’m now trying to reach a new goal of 70,000 before the end of November. Wanna see another graph? ‘Cause I sure do. Here’s where I am today:

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 3.39.05 PM

See how the bars are above the goal line?

Current word count is 55,483, and I’m still lagging about a thousand behind where I want to be for today.

Every single person writes differently, but here’s how I made my win happen:

It started with travel plans for the weekend. I thought I would be away on the 21st and 22nd, and I didn’t know if I’d find the time to write. Starting on Monday of last week, I made it my mission to get as far ahead as possible before the weekend hit. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I have time to write at the end of my workday before it’s time to go home, of which I took full advantage. It was nice. And so the following few days, when I taught right to the end of the school day, I did the same thing. I stayed late at my desk as long as I could, and typed until I had met my word count. Then I cancelled my travel plans at the last minute, and I was already so far ahead and on a role that I said, hang on, I think I can get to 50,000 by Sunday. And so I did.

My new goal, 70,000, will bring me a lot closer to the end of the story than 50,000. I’ve written this story completely linearly so far; it starts at the beginning and follows a plot and there are no missing pieces or pieces that obviously don’t belong. This is unusual for me, and after the current mess of my dragon book I find it relaxing. Even if I don’t make 70,000 this month, or if the story still isn’t done at 70,000, I want to keep writing until I find the end.

Cheers!

Day 18: Still Okay!

I’ve admired my Aunt Ruthanne’s consistent Wednesday blog updates for years now (A More Colorful Life! Erry Wednesday!). I don’t have any classes Wednesday afternoons this semester and, seeing as this is my third blog post in three Wednesdays, maybe I can follow her example and make Wednesday posts a regular thing.

I won’t write much, though, because I’m trying to get as far ahead on NaNoWriMo as I can before the weekend.

Here’s my progress graph! I’m at tomorrow’s goal, and I haven’t even started writing for today yet.

32,007 words!

32,007 words!

 

I like how this book is coming together. I like the shape of it. I like the characters that are popping up out of the darkness. I like my ideas for the ending. The book feels complete, somehow, in a way my books rarely do at this stage in the writing. I know there are some threads that are missing, and I know I will have to go back to the beginning to weave a few new colors into the story, but I feel like I can hold the whole thing in my hands and I feel it is good. This feeling probably means I am in for a lot of surprises, but I’ll enjoy it while it’s here.

I’m also having fun writing this book. I want this to be my job. How do I make this my job? Oh yeah. Keep writing.

Good luck on NaNoWriMo and every other thing, you beautiful people, you.

NaNoWriMo Day 11 Update: It’s Going Okay

The curve of my NaNoWriMo graph has a different shape this year than it did last year and the year before. I won both years, by the way—when I start NaNo, I finish. Usually I start out strong, though and things don’t get difficult until week 2. In 2013, I fell behind on Day 11. Last year, it was Day 9. This year, well, take a look. I started out behind, and didn’t even catch up until Day 7, the end of week 1. And today finds me behind again, but only by 3,000 words. I’ll catch up tonight or tomorrow.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 12.47.52 PM

Last week, nothing was working. The intro I’d planned turned out to be the wrong way into the story. I couldn’t get a feel for my main character. The next episode of Parks and Rec kept happening on Netflix autoplay. Mentally, I think I was exhausted from all the hard story work I’d been doing on my dragon book right up until I put that project down for Nano. My subconscious story-generator needed a few days’ rest before it could start cranking out ideas for a brand new story—even if it’s actually an old story, and even if it’s a story I chose because I thought it would be less complicated.

This is what I like about NaNo, and the monthly goal. It would be really easy to let a necessary few days of rest turn into gratuitous months or even years. I’ve done it before. But when the clock is ticking and a goal is set, it creates a constant nagging reminder that your writing needs you. So even though I didn’t like anything about my story and even though I was feeling discouraged, I showed up on Saturday to see what I could do. It turned out I could do a lot. I wrote 10,500 words that day, which is a personal best.

So, yay?

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let a few days of inaction towards a goal make you feel bad. Maybe your brain needed that time to recharge. Maybe your spirit needed that space to find the story. Just stay focused on the big goal, and keep showing up to write.

 

NaNoWriMo and December Sketch-a-Day Challenge

Winner-2014-Web-BannerI finished NaNoWriMo today. I wrote my 50,000 words, and that’s a wrap for November. Here’s the graph; I even managed to stay pretty close to par all last week, despite traveling to Boston for a really lovely Thanksgiving dinner and weekend with cousins and friends.Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 6.25.21 PM

I have a lot more time to do creative work than I thought I did, but I need to be working hard every month of the year, not just November. Last year, in the wake of NaNoWriMo, I instigated a Sketch-a-Day challenge for December. I didn’t finish in time, but Ruthanne of A More Colorful Life sure did and I still think it’s a great idea. So this year, I’m doing it for real. If you need an artistic kick-in-the-pants, please join us! I’ll link to your blog if that’s where you’re posting December sketches, and if you’d like to join the online December Sketch-a-Day Challenge community, do a Facebook search for the group I made (it’s called December Sketch-a-Day Challenge) and request to join. The goal is 31 sketches, 31 days.

The Sketch-a-Day Challenge is my big goal for December, but I don’t want to stop writing. I also don’t think I told you anything about my NaNoWriMo novel? It’s the self-indulgent telepathic dragon novel I never knew I had to write, and I don’t think I’m even fifty percent through the story at 50,000 hastily-written words. I have a lot of good stuff, especially good ideas, but a lot of those words are unusable and a lot of them will change once I figure out some answers to the Big Story Questions, and I’m finally at a place where I know which Big Story Questions I should ask. So I’m going to keep working on it. Most especially, I am going to take some time for outlining and researching and organizing—all the things I didn’t have time for during NaNoWriMo. I know I need to do lots of non-word-count related work on the story, and I know my sketch challenge will take up the majority of my daily creative energy, so I am setting a very small writing goal of 500 words a day. This makes a total of 15,500 words for the month. That’s sure a significant drop from 50,000, and I’ll top it if I can, but I think 500 words and one sketch every day will be enough to be getting on with. And I think I’ll get tired. But I think I can do it.

What are your goals for December?

NaNoWriMo, By the Way

NaNo Stats for 22 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Stats for 22 November 2014

I’ve been quietly doing NaNoWriMo all month. That stats photo above is from yesterday, my most heroic day of writing so far, where I wrote 7,027 words and caught up on four days of writing in one 12-hour period. It was day 22, yesterday, and last year I didn’t break 37,000 words until day 28, so historically speaking I’m ahead! And most importantly, caught up to par, if I can manage around 2,000 words today (which I’m sure I can).

Having a local writers group who are also doing NaNoWriMo has helped a lot this time around. We’ve met up for write-ins a couple times a week, sometimes at apartments and sometimes at bars, and it helps so much to be able to discuss plotting and inspiration issues with other folks who are sharing the same frustrations.

I think the best thing about NaNoWriMo this month is that the consistent goal has allowed me to notice patterns, and to be more aware of how the choices I make affect my workflow. This week, for instance, I began the week officially Caught Up after some pretty intense work days over the weekend. Monday, I stayed on track because I didn’t play a really fun looking board game with Brother, Mr. Huntington, Brackett, and Ranger B. Instead, I said hello to everyone, went into my room to write, and then said goodnight and went to bed. Tuesday, I stayed on track because I didn’t plan a big dinner for myself and Mr. Huntington. Instead, I microwaved something for myself after work while I caught up on my word count, and then I invited him over afterwards to watch Adventure Time and drink hot chocolate. Wednesday, I had a horrible, no good, very bad day at work, and I didn’t write because I only had enough energy afterwards to eat the dinner Mr Huntington cooked for us and go to bed early. Thursday, I didn’t write because I attended an event with Mr Huntington after work, and then got dinner with friends, and then it was bedtime. Friday I PLANNED to write, and I invited over some writing buddies for that express purpose… but sometimes your writing night turns into a medley-themed party (we had a carrot medley, a ravioli medley, and a wine medley) and I had a beautiful time talking with my friends and didn’t write a single word. And all of this was allowable, because I did have a spare 12 hours on Saturday, yesterday, in which to write for all four days.

So the lesson is compromise? It’s always been compromise, but when I don’t have a clear goal the things like boardgames and events and nice home-cooked dinners always take precedence over spending a few hours alone with my computer. And I think we’re somewhat conditioned to choose the social activity, to do the thing, to not be lame and not be a hermit. And I don’t regret the choices I made on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to be social rather than productive. The social activities were seriously important and productive in their own ways, good for my relationships and good for my mental health. The difference between this week and every other week was that I knew what those choices meant for my writing goals as I made them, and I traded those three nights for my entire Saturday. And then I followed through, and caught up to my goal.

ADDENDUM: Speaking of goals, remember that Sketch-a-day challenge I started in December last year? I didn’t complete it last year, but this year I’m going to try again and think I can do it. Stay tuned.

A New Challenge for December

So I won NaNoWriMo. Here’s the proof:

Screen Shot 2013-11-30 at 6.44.32 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 8.05.06 PM

 

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 café, 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)