9 Things I Fell In Love With In 2016

I know this is rather delayed, guys, and I’m sorry. Can we all just get used to the fact that I am not one of those cool bloggers who manages to do end-of-year wrapups before the year actually ends? I think I’ll be attempting to wrap up everything I did in 2016 all year, honestly.

Want excuses? I got excuses, mon. I just got back from a lovely roadtrip to see extended family – I also managed to get sick while I was there… let’s just say taking a plunge or two into freezing water while canoeing wasn’t my best idea. And then when I got back, I had surgery to have my wisdom teeth removed.

Good enough for you?

Good. Let’s move on.

I’ve never kept track of things like this before, but this year, well, it was a year of falling in love, okay?

1. Hamilton

Sarah and Grace will have to split the credit for this one. Sarah piqued my interest. Grace patiently answered my questions. Ladies, I am indebted.

Not to lessen their part in any way, but Spotify also played an essential role. Spotify means I can explore new music and find out whether I like it or not for absolutely free. See, I don’t like the risk of spending money on something I’m not sure about. Spotify is perfect.

So. Hamilton. If you have not yet experienced this musical, you need to. I’m not a big history person, guys. As embarrassing as this is, I didn’t know who Alexander Hamilton was. I didn’t know who Aaron Burr was. I didn’t know their story.

Now I do.

And I can honestly say that this musical has changed the way I feel about history. Here’s the deal. I love stories. So if someone can present history to me in the form of a story, I’m all in. But the truth is, we don’t know all the details. We don’t know how that figure in history felt at that moment. Sure, we have letters and journals sometimes. But we still don’t know. Not for sure. And that bothers me. Because no matter how well they bring it to life, I know that they probably got something wrong.

Hamilton brings history to life. And I feel like they got it right.

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I look forward to more stories like this one. More stories from history brought to life. More musicals featuring modern music and rap. I’m even into history now. Because I can see it in my head, now. It’s more real to me. These things actually happened. To real people. People like us, with complex emotions and personalities.

2. My tablet

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Fondly named “Alexander Hamilton,” my tablet has become my constant companion. I write lists and blog posts, read books, keep up with reading your blogs, respond to comments and emails, and jam to music on Spotify.

Seriously. If my precious Alexander runs off and gets shot in a duel, I will be crushed.

3. WordPress

You guys are probably getting sick of hearing it, but I used to blog at Blogger. And nothing much happened.

I switched over to WordPress because Blogger was eating gifs and text, and I couldn’t be happier with how it worked out. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not entirely sure whether it was my renewed effort to get to know other bloggers or my new site – all I know is that I have readers now, and I’m loving every minute of it.

4. Twenty-One Pilots

Wow. I have been hearing so much from my fellow bloggers about this duo, and, I’ll confess, I thought it was a little overrated. I had heard a couple songs on the radio and wasn’t terribly impressed.

I owe my change of heart to Abbiee. Basically, Abbiee said, “My soul is encapsulated in the song Forest,” and so I thought, “I’d like to see a picture of Abbiee’s soul.” Besides, I had been telling myself I’d check out their music for ages.

Wow. Again. These two young men are doing something so admirable. They’re fearlessly singing about some incredibly difficult things – suicide, depression, rebellion, doubt, religion, God – and they are doing with hope and a unique style I love.

Want a few reasons to check them out? They sing passionate songs. They do rap. They’re witty. Every song is filled with hope. They scream. A lot.

I love it.

Thanks, Abbiee, for convincing me.

A few of my favorite songs are Trees, True, Addict With A Pen, and Holding On To You. Another fun thing is that their music is always clean, which means my little brother and I can listen together. He loves the song The Pantaloon. In case you were wondering.

5. Spotify

You probably saw this coming, but how could I overlook my dear friend?

As I mentioned earlier, Spotify gives me a way to find new music risk-free. I’m not spending any money. And if I hate a band or a song, I can delete it – delete the whole playlist, if I must.

Before I had Spotify, I didn’t get to explore much in the music world. Now I eagerly try out any and all recommendations I receive.

Oh! And another thing. Abbiee also inspired me to go absolutely crazy with the playlists. She did this completely fantastic tag where she explained how she creates playlists for every novel she writes. So, taking a leaf out of her book, I decided to not only create a playlist for each of my writing projects, but also to create playlists for each character, for writing in general, and for certain types of scenes.

6. Musicals

Okay, I’ve kind of been obsessed with musicals for a while. But I realized it this year. Yes, Hamilton had something to do with it.

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But then I started watching The Phantom of the Opera on YouTube. And Kit recommended Broadway’s Little Women. And I auditioned for Beauty and the Beast.

So, yes. I think it’s safe to say that I am obsessed.

7. Writing

For many years, I kept quiet about my writing. Blogging forced me to open up, and, but by bit, I spilled my guts and realized that there were other people on this planet like me with whom I could screech about the agonies of writerliness.

And so I made friends and came out of my shell. I’ve embraced it, guys. I’m a writer. A proud one. People can think whatever they like – I will not be shamed.

8. Blogging

Man, I could write an entire post about how much I love blogging, okay? Actually, it’s in my draft list right now.

But, briefly, let me say blogging is one of the great joys of my life. I’ve made friends. I’m being proactive about my writing career. I have something that is my own and I’m in charge – the power!

9. NaNoWriMo

Hear me out, friends.

NaNo is one of those things that works for some people… And decidedly does not for others.

I just happen to be one of the lucky few it works for. The peer pressure motivated me to do something I never would have done otherwise.

Ironically, I don’t plan to do it next year. Or for several years after that. Why not, you ask? Next year is my senior year in high school. And I desperately need to graduate. After that comes four grueling years of college.

So. While I rabidly recommend NaNo to you, your cat, and other stray animals and random women in grocery stores, I myself will not be participating.

There you have it, friends!

Let us commence to shriek together in the comments!

What did you fall in love with this year? Any music recommendations for me to try out on Spotify? Have you listened to Hamilton? If not, you are missing out, my friend! Any other musicals you are obsessed with? Have you ever auditioned for a play? Does your device have a name? Do you have a favorite band or singer I should check out? Are you on Spotify? Can I stalk you?

7 Reasons Mary From “It’s A Wonderful Life” Is A Worthy Heroine

I have told you that The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie. But now I am going to confess that it was difficult to write… because I love It’s A Wonderful Life so much. I wasn’t quite sure which I loved more.

Of course, Jimmy Stewart is the heart and soul of the movie. But this year, something else jumped out at me as I watched the film for the millionth time.

Mary.

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Talk about an unsung hero.

There are funnier characters. There are prettier women. There are better actors, to be honest. But as a character, there is something appealing about Mary.

So I’ve identified a list of qualities in Mary that I admire.

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1. Knows what she wants

Right from the start, Mary is the one who knows what she wants. In contrast to Violet, who selfishly wants everything, Mary has set her sights on George Bailey.

That’s quite a bit of vision for a seven-year-old girl, isn’t it?

Not only that, but she holds onto this dream all the way into her teen years. And when she sees that old abandoned house, she knows that’s where she wants to live.

I admire Mary’s decision, determination, and goals. And that she lets herself dream.

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2. Doesn’t make herself ridiculous in pursuit of it

Again, there is such a contrast between Mary and Violet. Violet truly does make a fool out of herself in pursuit of George. And though he perhaps a bit distracted by Violet on occasion, I like to believe that he is never stupid enough to fall for her act.

Mary mentions at the dance that George “passes her in the street every day.” The implication is that he never noticed her. And that doesn’t exactly seem complimentary, does it? But if you think about it, it is. Tacitly, this implies that Mary was not like Violet – not trying to catch anyone’s eye, not trying so hard to impress that she looks silly in the process, not trying to flaunt herself.

Personally, I think that’s something to be proud of.

Something else that stands out is that Mary is dating Sam Wainwright when George and Mary get engaged. Now, we do get the impression that Mary’s mother is pushing for this, but you have to admire the fact that Mary isn’t “conveniently single” whenever George is around.

3. Has a sense of adventure

Living in a shabby house in your small, boring hometown doesn’t sound particularly exciting. At least, not to a person like me. Like George, I want to do things, go places. So I can’t say that I relate to Mary’s contentment.

But she does have a sense of adventure.

That house is seriously spooky. She has the spunk to be willing to fix it up and turn into a livable home. And she seems completely happy about touring Europe.

Maybe I can relate to this woman, after all.

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4. Is generous with her own money

When the bank crashes and the people are in a panic, it’s Mary who holds up her wad of cash – money that was to be spent on a luxurious honeymoon – and offers it to the scared citizens of Bedford Falls.

Every time I see this scene, I am struck by how sweet this gesture is. How many wives would be angry with their husband of only a few hours running off and leaving her on their way to their honeymoon? I’m gonna venture a guess that most of us in Mary’s shoes wouldn’t react the way she does.

5. Is not afraid of poverty

This might be the most obvious of Mary’s admirable traits.

Mary honestly believes that as long as she has George, she doesn’t need anything else. She’s happy to live in an old house someone else abandoned, in a sleepy little town she has lived in her whole life.

She doesn’t aspire to see the world, the way George does. She doesn’t dream of changing the world, the way George does. He is all she wants.

She’s not scared of a hard life. George cannot comprehend this.

6. Has a sense of humor

There’s this one scene where George comes home, feeling like a failure. Mary wakes up and George asks her point-blank, “Why did you Mary a guy like me?”

I adore her response. It makes me laugh.

She says, “To keep from being an old maid.”

She’s got spunk!

7. Protects her children

At the end of the movie, George is distraught and is taking out his frustration on his wife, his children, and his daughter’s teacher. And his daughter’s teacher’s husband.

I’m always impressed by how Mary is willing to absorb his anger toward her – but she refuses to let him scare her kids.

I can’t help but think, “Good for her.”

She understands that he is scared and frustrated, but she has to protect her children.

What say you? Who is your favorite character in It’s A Wonderful Life? Anybody for Mary? Anybody for Violet? Are there any other admirable traits I missed? What is your favorite Christmas movie?

Who Is The Hobo From “The Polar Express”?

The Polar Express is my favorite Christmas movie. So I hope you have seen it. The animation is slightly horrifying and the main character is never actually given a name, but there is one all-redeeming feature. The hobo.

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That’s right.

There’s a hobo in this movie. If you didn’t want to watch it before, you surely do now.

Now, if you have already watched The Polar Express, you have probably wondered who the heck the hobo actually is.

This post is dedicated to that question. We’ll take a vote at the end.

1. Santa

This has always been the thought lingering in the back of my mind when I am watching this movie.

I mean, he does a spot-on Santa-laugh impression. And whips a random Santa hat out of his coat. And wears bright red fingerless mittens. And calls himself “the King of the North Pole!”

All good reasons to believe that he is Santa, to my way of thinking.

2. The Boy’s Guardian Angel

You would have to admit that this dude is always conveniently present when the boy’s life is in danger. Not to mention that no one else ever seem to see him.

Definitely seems personal to that particular boy.

3. A Fallen Angel

On the other hand, he is awfully dirty. And generally fits the image I’ve always had of a fallen angel trying to redeem himself.

Kind of like Clarence?

4. The Voice Of Doubt

This hobo seems just a tad cynical? So perhaps he is supposed to represent the more practical, realistic side of the boy’s mind. The side that doesn’t want to believe in Santa, or the Polar Express, or magic.

But that would make him the bad guy in this story… And that just doesn’t seem right.

5. The Boy’s Subconscious

You ever notice how the hobo always seems to be saying the exact same thing that the boy has just said?

Almost like… the hobo is a visible representation of how our brains work?

In which case, I would like to see what my personal Hobo looks like.

6. The Ghost Of Someone Who Died On The Train Or Was Hit By The Train

This story needs a retelling, don’t you think? So much possibility!

I mean, I’m still confused why the story is about the boy when the hobo so clearly has more story potential?

Oh, well. Not everyone possesses my creative genius.

7. Homeless Guy

I know. How boring.

And how many homeless guys do you know who can also disintegrate into mist? That’s what I thought.

So can we just agree that this idea is preposterous? Good.

Who do you think the hobo is? What would your Hobo look like? And most importantly, how many homeless guys do you know?

Home Alone: What I Do

When you have a big family – and I do – it’s something of a rarity to have the entire house to yourself. But when it does, I go crazy.

Seriously. Crazy.

I pull out the disco ball and invite over a bunch of fri–

What am I saying? Friends? People? Humans? No.

No, no, no.

Lies. Rubbish. Who is writing this post anyway?

The point was that I love being home alone. It’s inspires a lovely feeling of independence in my introverted soul and I just revel in being able to do whatever I want.

Now, I am not ten. Not a little boy. Don’t have blond hair.

But I thought you might enjoy my own version of Home Alone.

1. Read books

Um, this should be obvious? I am a bookworm, am I not?

So I read books. And as a fast reader, I can plow through chapters in mere minutes when there are – at long last – no distractions.

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Truly, there is no feeling in the world quite like knowing you have finished three books in one day.

Those non-reading folk? They missing out, mon.

2. Play music loudly

I love music, as you all probably know by now. I love it even more when it’s pulsing through your veins and throbbing along with your heartbeat and shaking your car just a little bit so that random strangers get to enjoy it along with you.

I see you rolling your eyes. Saying, “Oh. She’s one of them.”

Yes. Yes, I am. And proud of it, thankyouverymuch!

Life is too short not to turn up the music, my dear. So turn it up. Belt it out along with ’em.

Yes, I sing, too. Don’t worry. I lip-sync when there are humans nearby. But when I’m alone? Josh Groban and I have done some spectacular duets.

3. Eat stuff

I am a self-diagnosed Bored Eater. This, of course, means that I don’t eat because I’m hungry – I occasionally do that as well – but because I have nothing better to do.

So when the house is empty and I am filled the contentment that comes from having finished several books, I begin rummaging through the fridge for leftovers, which I proceed to eat cold with a tall glass of milk. Not terribly sophisticated, I know. But I ask you – what could be better than a slice of pound cake and some hot wings for a midmorning snack?

Didn’t think so.

4. Prowl

I cannot be still. It’s a sad fact.

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Reading books is about the closest I ever get, and even then I wiggle my toes or swing my leg like a pendulum.

I pace when I have a lot on my mind. I prowl when I’m bored.

This essentially means that I meander purposelessly through the house, probably muching on something, and start half a dozen projects that I leave blissfully unfinished because I’ve thought of something else I need to do.

As you can probably tell, I get a lot done. I am efficient. Organized.

What can I say? It’s who I am.
5. Watch chick flicks

Do. Not. Tell. Anyone.

Ever.

If you do, I will hunt you down and kill you.

We wouldn’t want my reputation as a hardcore, intense writer to be destroyed, would we? Don’t answer that.

I am a writer.

I am strong. Hardcore. Intense.

I do not watch sappy, romantic movies. Like Pride And Prejudice. Or Little Women.
6. Eat chocolate chips

Because clearly this deserves to be in its own category. Completely separate from the one that said “Eating Food,” or something like that.

Chocolate always deserves its own category, friends.

Do not question me.
7. Talk to the dog

Fun fact about me, coming right up.

I have a dog. Ta-daa!

She is a she. Her name is Sophie. I came up with it myself. It means “wisdom.” If you could see my dog’s eyes, you would understand the prophetic nature of my naming skills. She is an adorable black Labrador retriever. She is far chubbier than she ought to be, thanks once more to those eyes of hers.

We have the most fascinating discussions.

To be perfectly honest with you, I talk to myself. The dog just conveniently happens to be there.
8. Redecorate the house

Let’s just blame my restless nature once more, shall we? Good. I feel so much better now.

And of course my family is thrilled with the changes when they come home. How dare you doubt me for even one moment? My taste is unparalleled. Humans come to me from the four corners of the earth for my interior decorating advice.

I speak the truth.

9. Rearrange furniture

I get bored of things rather easily.

So I like to switch things up, you know? Move things around. Give the place a new look.

So what if I do decide to change it to something new a few days later? It’s my life. My house. Sort of.

10. Clean my room

My room is usually clean.

Or… you can see the floor, anyway. In some places.

But we’re straying from the topic at hand.

I like to clean. This most likely boggles your mind, but it’s true. I also like clutter. I like watching clutter build up so that I can clean it.

Particularly the unruly stack of books by my bedside. Things do tend to get out of hand there. During the week I’m too busy to put things back nicely. So by the time the weekend rolls around there are three or four piles of books, a veritable landslide of paper, pens, highlighters, and my trusty red mini-stapler. Oh, how I love that stapler…

Your turn! What do you do when you’re left home alone? Do you talk to yourself? Do you have a dog (introduce it!)? Is your room clean right now? Can you see the floor, I mean? What is the weirdest cold, leftover food combo you have ever eaten?

How To Win NaNo In Sixteen Days

In the beginning of November, Cait wrote a post entitled “How To Win NaNo In Three Days.” Alas, I have not yet attained Cait’s superhuman writing skills. But I did finish my first NaNo in sixteen days. And that is not too bad, if I do say so myself.

So I’ve identified six keys to NaNo success.

Step 1: Add Cait, Mary, and Christine as buddies on the NaNo site

This is clearly a crucial step.

I blame these three lovely ladies with my sixteen-day NaNo victory. Wholeheartedly.

Without their motivating presence, I would have been content to chip away slowly at my wordcount. My original plan was to write about two thousand words a day.

But when I saw their wordcount tubes filling up at around one week, my competitive side kicked in. At this point you are probably thinking, “Your competitive spirit must not be too strong,” because, indeed, all three ladies hit fifty thousand long before I did.

As much as I would’ve loved attempting to beat them at their own game – actually Mary was a first-timer like me – I resigned myself to the fact that I had to make school a priority. I simply couldn’t fall behind… I agreed to do NaNo with the understanding that it had to come after other things, not before. If I had thought my schoolwork would suffer, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it all.

So yes, they beat me.

But they also motivated me.

Step 2: Clear Your Schedule

Perhaps the biggest key to my NaNo victory was how much time I had one my hands.

I did not clear my schedule for NaNo. Not a bit.

However, I have a clearer schedule than most people. I have exactly three outside-the-home activities. I go to church on Sundays, volunteer with local children on Wednesdays, and play volleyball on Thursdays.

I’m sure that most of you have busier schedules than that. So you have to clear it. Cut down on your social life just a bit. I know it’s painful. But I believe in you. You can do it.

 

Step 3: Make A Daily Goal

As I said, my original goal was to write two thousand words each day. This seemed reasonable, though difficult, and was even a bit over the suggested daily goal. I assumed I’d have to skip a couple of days… If I got sick, and obviously I anticipated getting nothing done on Thanksgiving.

Goals are important to me. I am excessively goal-oriented. So I can’t say with utter certainty that this will work for you. All I know is that having something to aim for was one of the reasons I won NaNo.

Step 4: Never Skip A Day

I never skipped one day. Not one.

I wouldn’t let myself.

Of course… I did skip all those days after the 16th of November? But I was kinda done at that point, so…

The point is that you can’t let yourself slide. You can’t say, “I’m too busy today,” or “I’m too tired today.” You can’t.

Even if you don’t meet your goal, you must write something. Chances are, once you start writing, you’ll knock out a decent portion of your goal anyway.

Step 5: Keep Raising The Goal

If you find that you can reasonably meet a certain goal, raise it and try to meet that one. For example, I knew that in order to finish on time, one would have to write 1,667 words each day. So I set out to write a nice, even 2,000. But as soon as I realized that I was able to meet that goal with ease, I raised it to 3,000. I hovered there, but on weekends I pushed myself to write 4 or 5 thousand words. I accomplished this at least three times.

Step 6: Slow And Steady

Don’t go crazy with trying to knock out a huge portion of your novel on the first day. I know some people recommend this – apparently it works for them – but I don’t. You don’t want to get tired of writing before you’ve quite begun.

And that’s it.

You are befuddled. Don’t try to deny it. I can see the befuddlement written all over your lovely face.

“Where is step about doing wordwars with friends? The step about doing word sprints until you drop? The step about doing every word crawl ever created?”

I didn’t do any of that stuff.

It’s true.

I didn’t even try any of it. And while I am fairly convinced that they wouldn’t have worked for me anyway, I can’t say they are no good if I haven’t put forth the effort to at least attempt them.

Perhaps another year…

You see, I knew that I couldn’t allot a certain block of time to writing and know one hundred percent that I wouldn’t be interrupted, called away to do something else. Like dishes. Or school. Or helping my little brother with his homework. These things happen.

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And so I thought it would be more awkward to start a wordwar and then come back three days later to my bewildered friend to explain that I had quit about two minutes in to attend to an urgent matter. Called “family.”

Or to start a word sprint that I would have to walk away from right when I was getting into a groove.

Or to begin a word crawl I probably wouldn’t finish. Even though that Hamilton one was tempting in the highest degree.

You might consider these excuses.

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They probably are. After all, even word sprinting for five minutes would have been better than nothing, right? Definitely. You are wise, my friend. Go heed your own advice and ignore mine and proceed to be an excellent writer. I admire you.

The truth is that I am just a smol baby writer and I don’t have it all together just yet.

I probably should’ve tried out some of these lovely tools. But I was too lazy.

I tried word sprinting informally a few times… And found that I was writing drivel, scenes I will almost certainly scrap when it comes time to edit this ugly beast.

So I just plodded along at my own weird pace and followed my own made-up rules… and, heck, it must have worked, because I wrote a book, friends. And I’m happy with how my NaNo went.

Alright, spill it! What sneaky tricks got you writing back in November? Did you do the word crawls? How did they go? Did you like them? Hate them? What tool on the NaNo site did you find most helpful? Are you a word sprinter? Did you do any wordwars? Any tips you’d like to share? 

The NaNo Diaries: What I Learned

My NaNo is long over.

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And you are probably sick to death of hearing about it. But it would seem that I can’t shut up.

For the last two Novembers, that was me as well. And even when I plunged into this NaNo adventure, I didn’t expect to turn into such a hardcore believer. Oops.

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NaNo was one of the most fun things I have ever done, but perhaps the best thing about it was how much I learned from the experience.

Things about myself and my novel that I had no idea about.

1. It’s hard to kill a character.

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So much harder than I expected.

One of the first scenes I wrote during NaNo was a death scene involving a teenage girl. Not a main character, exactly, but an innocent one.

And it wasn’t one of those implied deaths – you “see” it happen through the eyes of a main character.

I found that it was oddly emotional for me. I guess I kind of assumed that my dark writer’s soul could handle it, especially since the death wasn’t coming to me as a surprise; I had been planning to do this scene for a while. And yet… it was difficult.

Who’da thunk?

2. My outline was not specific enough.

As aforesaid, I have been working on this story for six years.

That’s a long time. In case you were wondering.

So I thought there was essentially nothing I did not know about my novel. I thought I had it all figured out.

I didn’t.

There is a world of difference between having an idea in your head and trying to translate that idea into coherent sentences in strings that becomes paragraphs and chapters.

And so – within the parameters of the existing outline – I did a lot of what is formally called “pantsing.”

It was fun, but admittedly scary. As a perfectionist, I like to put everything in little boxes and label them neatly. Pantsing does not allow for that. An idea pops into your head and you just go with it, allowing it to lead you where it will.

Ultimately, I narrowed down what genre it was that I was writing, killed characters I never planned on killing, and threw in a few natural disasters and injuries that weren’t in my original outline.

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3. I can be funny.

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A while ago I realized for the first time that while I am funny in person, I was not all that funny on paper – or on screen – and thought that may have been part of the reason why my following did not seem to be growing.

Needless to say, I have been trying to improve my skills in that department. To lecture less and use my natural sarcasm more.

Well. It must have paid off, because as I was writing for NaNo, I found myself snickering at my own wit every now and then.

4. I write faster on lined paper.

As some of you know, I wrote my novel by hand. This is mostly because I don’t have access to a PC on a regular basis. I will admit, however, that writing by hand has grown on me over the years. But that’s a discussion for another post.

I knew that I would be writing my novel by hand, so I gathered a stash of “scrap paper” – paper that has been used on one side but still has one side free.

This, of course, means that the paper is printer paper, unlined.

I didn’t make it even halfway through the stack that I had gathered. Writing on unlined paper was… less-than-motivating. For one thing, unlined sheets of paper somehow look larger than sheets from a notebook.

Don’t ask why. Maybe they actually are? Who knows.

All I know is that I started allowing myself to write in a notebook – and the carefully hoarded pile of scrap paper was left to sit on my bedroom floor in a sad bundle. Oops.

5. Writing a book is hard work.

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For those of you who didn’t already know.

When you write a book slowly over the period of six years, it doesn’t seem too hard. Only boring perhaps.

NaNo made me realize that writing a book – actually writing a book – is anything but boring. And far more difficult than I had previously thought.

As I mentioned before, I got about the same amount of sleep as I normally do. So it wasn’t as much physical exhaustion as mental.

After a while, I couldn’t seem to think about anything besides my novel. Couldn’t focus or make any kind of progress on other hobbies or pursuits.

Gives you a new appreciation for the people who do this for a living, doesn’t it?

6. Journaling is helpful.

I stole this from one of the pep talks on the NaNo site. Just so you know.

Journaling before and after writing helped me to ease into writing and to process what I have just written.

I found that I needed a place where I was allowed to scribble and be messy, where I could think out loud, ask questions, explore ideas.

And, I think my favorite part of this idea is something the writer of the pep talk said – you are writing the “story of the story.”

7. Black pen is better than blue.

I already knew this, to be perfectly honest.

As someone who uses pen on a daily basis, take it from me – black pen is the only way to go. Red, of course, is horrifying. Blue is more like… annoying.

Can we all just agree to only use black pen? Please?

8. Writing crazy people is fun.

Which is scary. Perhaps I should be concerned about my own mental health?

But, let’s be honest. I’ve always been a little crazy.

Maybe that’s why I’m so good at writing crazies…

9. Music is hugely unhelpful, silence is awesome… and hard to come by.

When NaNo was looming, everyone began talking about the playlist they had designed to write to.

I tried it. I did.

It didn’t work.

I love music. That’s not the problem. Or is it? I l think I love it too much.. and that’s why I can’t listen to it and write at the same time.

So while Lindsey Stirling and Dia Frampton’s We Are Giants and Pentatonix’s Na Na Na make the best NaNo anthems you can imagine, I See Fire by Ed Sheeran could be the theme song for one of my villains, and Christine‘s recommendation of the soundtrack for The Elder Scrolls and the Game of Thrones soundtrack should have been fantastic writing music for the type of novel I was writing, I found that nothing was as good as silence.

Or as hard to get ahold of…

10. I am a pantser.

It never even occurred to me that I could be a pantser. I just assumed that I was a plotter. It made more sense for my personality – I like to have things all planned out ahead of time.

I surprised myself.

But you know what? I’m okay with that. We’re all bundles of contradictions, yes?

So I’m a pantser!

What did NaNo teach you about yourself and your novel? What color pen do you like best? Do you ever write by hand? Are sheets of unlined paper bigger than sheets of notebook paper? Are you a plotter or a pantser? What did you listen to as you wrote? Do you journal?

I Got Time… I Don’t Got Time

I don’t know what is going on with my schedule right now, honestly.

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It’s been a weird couple of months.

I’m blaming it on my tablet. Ever since I got it, I have no time.

Or perhaps I should say I only have time for certain things.

Like reading blog posts. And writing blog posts. And commenting on blog posts. And responding to comments. And finding new blogs to follow and comment upon. And deciding to jump onto the bandwagon called National Novel Writing Month. Things like that.

On the other hand, I don’t have time for…

1. Spanish

No. Definitely don’t have time for Spanish. How do you say hello again? Hoala?

2. Anatomy

Who even needs to know all that stuff anyway? I call this piece an arm and this one a leg and this is my eye. Clearly I know everything there is to know.

3. Geometry

Ugh. Math. I hate math.

4. Reading books

This makes me sad.

There is something wrong with life when you don’t have time to read books.

But I haven’t read anything in… forever. I haven’t visited a library in… forever. I haven’t checked anything out of a library in… longer than forever.

5. Interacting with humans

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Let’s not be coy. I rarely interact with humans even on the best of days.

6. Brushing my teeth

This may seem random to you, but there was actually a night not too long ago where I thought to myself, “Eh, I don’t feel like it. I’m too tired. I have other things to do – I don’ have time to brush my teeth.”

There is something wrong with this picture.

7. Cleaning my room

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Ew. Do not look at my room right now. It is not a happy place.

8. Writing my book

Which is ironic, since I joined that lovely bandwagon called National Novel Writing Month.

Oh well.

I enjoy contradicting myself. Apparently.

What’s up, people? Time flying? Do you have enough time? Or is time precious and hard to come by these days for you as well? This one’s important: are you brushing your teeth regularly? What is being pushed aside? What do you still find time for, somehow?

 

 

The NaNo Diaries: What I Did This Month

November, for me, is typically a slower month, with the exception of the usual Thanksgiving craziness.

This month was a little different.

I decided, at the last minute, to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Which meant that this November was going to be unlike any other November I had ever had.

As I expected, there were crazy moments of stress and pressure. There were also beautiful moments of inspiration and pride and laughing my head off. 

See that there on the floor? That’s my head.

Anyway. Here are just a few things I did this November…

1. Scared myself with creepy characters.

Yes, I did. I actually broke into gooseflesh at one point.

Some of my characters are scary, mon…

2. Got so excited when I introduced my favorite character. Who may or may not be Makovu.

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Okay, fine, who am I kidding? It was Makovu.

3. Ate an unhealthy amount of tortilla chips and salsa.

Because tortilla chips and salsa are an delicious… And one of the only ones we keep in the house all the time.

4. Scrubbed every surface of my house.

Random, right?

Oh, well. It was refreshing to get a break from thinking about plot holes and timelines and character arcs.

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5. Made an “Inspiration Binder” which I ended up being quite proud of.

At first, I felt guilty because it seemed like just another way to procrastinate.

In the end, though, I was glad that I made it. The snippets and drawings and writing rules and tips became an instant inspiration when I was running low on excitement about writing.

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6. Memorized most of Hamilton.

What can I say? I love musicals.

Many of you may not know this about me but my love for writing pales in comparison to my love for acting.

So I blame my inner actor when my first reaction to watching a musical is “I must memorize the entire thing immediately!”

Needless to say, my brothers are less-than-pleased with this unexpected turn of events.

But I don’t care. I love it.

 

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My favorites so far are Nonstop, Wait For It, That Would Be Enough, Guns And Ships, Room Where It Happens, and Helpless. Check them out.

7. Played football on breaks.

Not the tackle kind.

In case you were wondering.

Just the throw-and-catch variety. If you must know, my skills have improved drastically in recent months.

As in, I no longer run away shrieking when the football is thrown in my direction.

It’s an improvement, believe me.

8. Maintained the appearance of doing school.

Notice that all-important word “appearance.”

Because, honestly, I got a digustingly little amount of schoolwork done.

It’s not too big of a deal, though. I was ahead anyway.

9. Read absolutely nothing, which is… shocking.

A whole month – or, you know, sixteen days, which is almost the same thing – without reading?

Scary.

10. Wrote 2,000 words each day at first.

I figured that this would fulfill my quota and get me ahead by a little bit each day.

After a few days, I realized that 3,000 words wasn’t that difficult for me to squeeze in.

So I picked up my pace.

On days when I had more time, I shot for 4- or 5,000 words.

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My sudden sense of urgency may or may not have been due to superhumans Cait, Mary, and Christine.

11. Ate meals with the family.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Based on what everyone else was saying, NaNo meant sacrificing leaving the house, eating regular meals, sleep, and communicating with family members.

Don’t ask me how I managed it, but my life looked exactly the same as it always does. I left the house on Wednesdays and Thurdays to interact with humans, just like I always do. I ate three meals a day, just like I normally do. I spent all day trying to concentrate on school and failing, just like I always do. I got, on average, eight hours of sleep each night, just like I always do.

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12. Celebrated Thanksgiving just like I always do.

Thanksgiving is my second-favorite holiday.

Christmas is my favorite. But Thanksgiving comes close.

All that cooking. All that food. My nieces and nephews. Fall colors. Leftovers.

Thanksgiving rocks, mon.

12. Wrote 50,000 words.

I have been made aware of the fact that this is indeed the point of NaNo.

I may have forgotten why it was that I was slaving away so tirelessly while I was in the thick of things.

14. Hung out with my nieces and nephews because they are my favorite humans on the planet.

Family is everything.

Feel free to break out the tissues.

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15. Found time to write blog posts.

I find it ironic that the same month I participated in National Novel Writing Month was the same month I wrote double the amount of blog posts I normally do.

Weird.

16. Stayed up late.

I said I got about the same amount of sleep as I normally do. I never said that I got enough.

I love sleep.

In my humble opinion, you can never get enough sleep.

Most people survive on four or five hours.

I like to get ten, though I typically get closer to eight.

17. Got up early. So early.

Too early.

Ugh.

18. Was thankful for the schedule button that saved my blog.

November is the month of thankfulness, yes?

I am thankful for that lovely little “schedule” button.

My blog lives because of that button right there.

So. What did you do this month? What are you thankful for? Did you participate in National Novel Writing Month? How goes the writing? Are you done? Are you close? And, most importantly, have you listened to the Hamilton soundtrack? Which are your favorite tracks?

I Owe It All To…

I am not a sentimental person.

So I don’t do inspirational, holiday-themed posts.

I just don’t.

That said, I’ve come a long way, and I think it’s important to recognize that I haven’t gotten this far on my own.

This post is vaguely thankful. So I’m posting it on Thanksgiving Day.

As I said, I don’t normally do this. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile… And it conveniently happened that Thanksgiving was coming up.

So. Now that I have appropriately justified this post…

I Owe It All To…

1. My dad…

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For reading to me, even when you  tired after coming home from work and we had read the book a million times before. You ignited my passion for stories at an early age.

I owe it all to you.

2. Charlotte’s Web…

For showing me that reading could be fun, if difficult – at first, anyway.

I owe it all to you.
3. My big brother David…

For giving me books that were way out of my league and thinking that I could handle them because you thought I was smart.

I owe it all to you.

4. Ted Dekker…

For being my first obsession. I couldn’t get enough of your terrifying, mind-bending books, some of which are still favorites.

I owe it all to you.

5. My big brother David…

For accidentally finding my story on the family computer and helping me realize that what I was doing was unusual. The look on your face when you realized I wrote it… I’ve never been so proud.

I owe it all to you.
6. My little brother Timothy…

For laughing at my first attempts so that I felt like the world’s greatest comedian.

I owe it all to you.

7. Tolkien…

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For being an absolute genius. You are my inspiration. If I write anything even half as amazing as you did, I would be the happiest girl alive.

I owe it all to you.

8. Annette…

For coming up with the idea that I should have a blog in the first place! Clearly, I would not be here if it weren’t for you.

I owe it all to you.

9. My little brother Timothy…

For always just going with it – even when I use you as a sounding board and ask you the most absurd questions and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Like why I would want to know how best to annihilate an entire race of people.

I owe it all to you.

10. My big brother David…

For asking me to write scripts and movie scenes for him – as if I was good enough! One day we’ll be famous. I promise.

I owe it all to you.
11. My new sister Erin…

For aiding and abetting my reading habit with Barnes And Noble gift cards and loans from her extensive library. Finally, someone who understands!

I owe it all to you.

12. The wonderful blogging community…

For welcoming me with open arms.

Anna was one of my first followers at my new digs.

Miss March and I have so much in common and love to have long discussions about it.

Cait took notice of a little youngster – me – even though she’s practically famous.

I owe it all to you.

13. The library…

For cheaply feeding my passion. I couldn’t have done it without you, my friend.

I owe it all to you.
14. Blogger…

For getting me started.

I owe it all to you.

15. WordPress…

For getting me going.

I owe it all to you.

16. Sweet librarians…

For recommending books… that I didn’t end up liking, but, hey, you tried.

17. Books…

For teaching me how to write. I never had a better teacher!

I owe it all to you.

18. My cousin and penpal…

For putting up with my voluminous letters – and occasionally writing back!

You have been there, every step of the way – not only in my writing journey, but in my life journey as well. I love you.

I owe it all to you.

19. My extended family…

For believing in me.

I owe it all to you.

20. My followers…

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For the same reason.

I owe it all to you.

When did your writing journey begin? Who are you thankful for? Who has influenced you the most? To whom to you owe it all? Do you eat turkey or ham on Thanksgiving? Do you watch football?

 

The NaNo Diaries: I Broke The Rules

It’s time I made a confession.

Prepare yourself for something despicable. Because we all know how despicable I can be.

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I broke the rules of NaNo. Not just once. Many times.

I am a truly despicable human, I know.

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1. I rewrote the same scenes over and over. Some might call this editing, but that’s not what I mean.

I mean that if I didn’t like how a scene turned out the first time, I just wrote it all over again.

And counted both toward my wordcounts.

I do feel guilty about this.

2. I jumped around in the story instead of writing it in chronological order.

Not that this is an official rule or anything? I’m just assuming that this is what the rest of you did because it sounded like it based off of blog posts that I read.

Maybe I’m weird – let’s not be delusional; I am weird – but I get bored easily.

I did try to write chronologically, for the record. For the first week or two.

After that, I decided finishing was more important than proving to myself that I had an attention span slightly superior to that of the common squirrel.

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4. My daily wordcounts were just estimates because, as some of you know, I did NaNo by hand.

I have been accused of being an alien form of life. This may or may not be true. Let’s leave such things to the experts, shall we?

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A common estimate for how many handwritten words fit on a single sheet of paper is 300. And even though I think I can write closer to 400 words a page, I stuck with that because there were scenes when I was writing dialogue that ended up being less, or I wrote big, or I got sloppy. It happens.

Hopefully my wordcount was not too far off. And if it was inaccurate, I hope it was on the side of having written more than 50,000 words, not less.

5. I didn’t enter my whole book to officially win.

As aforementioned, I wrote it by hand.

So, needless to say, my poor little right ring finger was screaming in agony at the end of each day. My wrists were cramped. My hand ached.
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There was no way I was going to attempt to get all those 50,000 words typed up into my computer just to make sure everything was legal.

6. I may have switched genres halfway through?

If it comforts you at all, this was as much of a surprise to me as to anyone.

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I’d known for a while that I was writing about the end of the world. It’s actually rather shocking how long it took for me to realize that…

Then it hit me – apocalytic fantasy falls under the category of urban fantasy. And here I’d been writing medieval!

See, I’ve had this picture in my head for the longest time. It’s of a barefoot, skinny-jean clad girl walking down slick shallow steps in darkness lit only by torchlight.

And no matter how hard I tried, this picture wouldn’t let me go. I had to write it.

But people don’t wear skinny jeans in the medieval ages.

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It was, indeed, a problem.

Now I can have both. My creepy tunnels and torchlight and candles and swords and horses and ruins and elegant dinner parties… And my machine guns and sniper rifles and skinny jeans and bombs and abandoned subway stations and rusting cars and wrecked trains.

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I am in love.

7. I wrote in a notebook instead of using my stack of recycled paper.

You are confused.

Allow me to explain.

I try to recycle paper whenever possible. Because I use a crazy amount of paper and paper ain’t cheap, my friends.

And, obviously, because when the Tree Apocalypse happens, I don’t want them coming after me. I am a sweet bean at heart and I do love the trees. I just also need them to write on.

The Tree Apocalypse is a real thing, in case you were wondering. It’s gonna happen.

Where was I going with this?

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Ah, yes. I wanted to recycle paper. But I found that I could write much faster and easier on nice, lined notebook paper. And so the stack of paper-to-be-reused sat in a sad heap shaking its fist and weeping and shouting things like, “You will regret this decision!”

It preyed upon my mind. It did.

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So, tell me – did you break any NaNo rules? Do you ever write by hand? Or do you, too, think I am an alien? Do you fear the Tree Apocalypse? Did you switch genres? Even a little bit? Did you write your novel in chronological order or did you jump around?