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?

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?

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? 

The NaNo Diaries: I Got A Jar Of Dirt

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Yes, I based this entire post off of this gif.

Because… Johnny Depp… And the looks on their faces…

If this gif doesn’t cheer you up, friends, then I’m sorry to say that you are quite possibly dead.

And did I mention that it  sums up exactly how I’m feeling just now, in the wake of NaNo madness?

It does.

My novel being the jar of dirt. Obviously.

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So it’s a metaphor, see? Because I’m smart like that.

Essentially, I am quite proud of what I accomplished.

But it is, nonetheless, a jar of dirt.However, I do believe his next line is, “And guess what’s inside it?”

The answer to that question – or so poor, deluded Johnny believes – is the heart of Davy Jones.

For me, it’s the heart of my story.

It’s in there! Somewhere… buried rather deeply, perhaps, but fear not, friends, it is there.

So NaNo was a success?

Absolutely.

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How did NaNo go for you? Are you happy with how it went? Do you feel like you captured the heart of your story? Is it deeply buried? Do you feel like it’s just a jar of dirt?

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The NaNo Diaries: What I’ve Written So Far

NaNo has been an amazing journey so far.

Obviously, I have written  a great many scenes – some of them just as much of a surprise to me as to my poor, abused characters.

All this time, I thought I was a plotter.

I’m not.

I’m a pantser. Apparently. Nobody bothered to tell me…

Which has led to the writing of a few scenes I didn’t even see coming. I am beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that my characters have come to life and have hijacked my story.

Weird, right?

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

1. Torture

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Yes, I have written torture.

Whose idea was that anyway? Certainly not mine. Because I am not the character-torturing type.

Oh, wait. Yes, I am.

2. Romance

Excuse me while I go puke.

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To put it mildly, romance is not my thing.

And yet.

Somehow a whopping total of three kisses have subtly worked their way into my story about death and darkness and the end of the world.

I feel like a hypocrite.

3. Sickness

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So much sickness. 

Physical sickness, mental sickness, emotional sickness, other random kinds of sickness…

You name a sickness, and I guarantee with something like 10% certainty that I’ve written it, pal.

Ebola? Even Ebola.

4. People going crazy

I touched on this already…

Mental illness. Good times.

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I’m not kidding. Mental illness is one of the most fun things I have ever had the opportunity to write. That quite possibly makes me a horrible human. But it’s true, nonetheless.

5. Animals

I didn’t even know that there were animals in this book!

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You would think my characters would have the courtesy of giving me some notice, right? But, no.

They like to spring things on me when I’m in the middle of trying to pound out my quota for NaNo.

Thanks, guys. I love you, too.

My villain randomly decided that he has entire pack of greyhounds. Who knew?

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Another character is apparently raising a baby dragon. Again, who knew?

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Not me. Definitely not me.

6. War

The entire book is supposed to be about war, technically.

But because I am a clever bean, I have managed to write a shocking little amount of war-related scenes.

For  which you, my friend, should be grateful. Because I cannot write war. Which is probably a good thing?

Maybe I am not such an aweful human, after all…

7. Witty banter

I have heard some rumors about this thing called “filler.”

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought.

Witty banter is my filler. Don’t tell anyone.

When I run out of things to write, when I still haven’t met my quota for the day and my fingers feel like are considering not only falling off but also moving to Australia, when I am depserate – I write witty banter.

Pages and pages of useless, witty banter.

I hate you, Witty Banter. You are evil.

8. Visions

Like mental illness, visions are a kind of weird, intangible thing to write.

But fun. Definitely fun.

9. Nightmares

Nightmares are… a little scary, honestly.

Nightmare scenes have been intense. I think that’s a good thing?

10. Seizures

Seizures are also intense.

In case you were wondering.

Not that I’ve ever actually had a seizure?

I am experiencing the weirdest things vicariously…

11. Wrestling

My two main characters, mostly.

And it’s not like that for-fun wrestling that little boys do – or little girls, in my case – it’s like “I-hate-you-and-want-to-crush-your-skull-on-this-stone-floor” kind of wrestling.

Told you they didn’t like each other…

 

12. Arguments

Arguments are fun. Arguments are the best. Arguments are my favorite.

I could write a song about how much I love arguments.

Because they’re so easy. I mean, I do so much arguing in real life, I have never had that moment where I wonder, “What would a real human say here?”

Something of a rarity for my introverted soul.

13. Useless conversations

Like I said before, filler.

It’s junk. It’s awful. It’s got to go.

Excuse me while I go rip those scenes to shreds so that no one ever finds them. Ever.

14. Useless scenes

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Entire scenes.

Of uselessness.

15. Scenes I loved

I know.

I know that first drafts are supposed to be the worst thing ever, and so ugly that unsuspecting strangers sometimes go blind when they see them, and that I, the author, am supposed to despise every word of it with the fire of three million angry suns.

I’m sorry. I don’t.

Some scenes? Yes. Emphatically.

Other ones? That I may or may not have slowed down enough to put some work into? Don’t tell, but I am actually kind of proud of those.

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I like them. Okay, fine, I love them. They are beautiful. I would like too frame them on my wall and drag J. R. R. Tolkien’s ghost over to and say, “Lookit! I wrote that!”

16. Scenes I hated

With the fire of three million angry suns.

17. Death

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I did kill a few people. 

And by a few I mean half my cast and entire races of unsuspecting strangers I have never met. And copious amounts of animals.

I am a murderer.

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18. Fire-Rain

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Because things weren’t interesting enough. And I kind of like fire. Just a little.

19. Fireballs falling from the sky

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Um, yeah. Those, too.

I am quite possibly getting a bit carried away?

I don’t know, though…

I mean, it’s perfectly normal for teenage girls to write mass destruction of human life, right?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

20. Earthquakes

This was fun.

Seriously. Is your life a little boring? Go write an earthquake.

21. A cavein

Two of my characters spend a good deal of time in a series of tunnels underneath a ruined city.

But I was getting bored of them just walking with the occasional argument-turned-wrestling-to-the-death-match, so I decided to liven things up a bit.

22. Injuries

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So far I’ve broken various limbs, dislocated other various limbs, caused burns, wounds, aches, pains, and other fun things I highly recommend never doing to yourself but doing constantly to your poor fictional children.

23. An amputation

Ew. This was gross. Don’t do this.

Especially if you don’t like blood. Like me.

Or surgery. Like me.

Just don’t do it, okay?

Because somehow I now have two characters with entire limbs missing and I’m disgusted with myself. And even more so with my characters for grossing me out.

24. Ghosts

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Um. This was completely unplanned.

What do ghosts have to do with anything, anyway? Who knows.

25. Children

Kids are hard to write. Ask anyone.

Oh. Just me? Fine, then. Be that way.

I find children hard to write. They distract from the action and win the hearts of readers more than my beautiful main characters whom I have poured my heart and soul into. Thanks a lot, kid.

Just as soon as I decided to cut the baby, a little kid waltzes into my story and steals the show.

I hate kids.

26. Dragons

Also a recent addition.

With the exception of the baby one I mentioned earlier. I knew about him. Sort of.

But now there is a whole race of dragons? They just kind of appeared out of nowhere.

And, unlike the small, cute one, they are kind of ruthless and fly around killing humans and then eating them.

I am a despicable human being.

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What have you written so far? Anything completely unplanned? Anything fun? Anything gross? Anything you loved? Anything you hated? Have you killed anyone yet? Are you a despicable human being? Please say you are even if it’s not true because if you don’t I will feel sad and lonely and you wouldn’t want that…

The NaNo Diaries: I Can’t Write… Blank

In the first installment of this series, I mentioned that this book looks vaguely like something that my nemesis created to destroy me, not something I thought would be genuinely fun to write.

As I began writing, the list of things I can’t write grew steadily longer.

Basically I can’t write. Anything.

Can we please just leave it at that?

No? Okay, fine. You demanding humans, you.

1. Action scenes

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I cannot write action scenes to save my life. Or, in this case, to save my character’s lives.

People keep asking me why all my characters are dead. Now you know.

But let’s be serious. Being vague feels like an easy way out, so I want to be detailed. I want you to be able to see it all in your head.

The problem, of course, is that people can move much faster than I can write.

2. War books

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And so I decided to write one.

Of course.

I know nothing about war – I’ve never fought in one, started one, or lived through one. I don’t know how wars work and I certainly don’t understand strategy.

I need to go play some chess…

3. Description

Description is my kryptonite. Historically, I am known to way overdo it.

So I guess you could say that it’s not so much that I can’t write it as much as I can’t write it the right way.

I can’t seem to find a happy place in between inundating you with several paragraphs of nothing but description until you know every detail of the room or character and no description at all because I don’t know how to slip it in between action scenes in a subtle way.

4. Transitions through time

This has to be my worst flaw.

I don’t know how to transition through time. What am I supposed to say?

“Three months later…”

“The next day…”

“That night…”

I sound like the narrator of a sad TV show!

And yet, if I don’t do this, all I have is a bunch of unconnected, choppy scenes that piece together like a puzzle that’s been forced.

5. Life as usual

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How do you paint a picture of life as usual? How do you show that things have been going on this way for days and weeks and months?

Without writing each and every one of those days and weeks and months?

I can’t say, “And that continued for five months.” I can’t, folks. It’s too ridiculous.

6. Music

As I mentioned before, I know nothing about music.

I know how to listen to it. I’m actually a professional music-listener.

I also attempt to recreate it every once in a while, preferably when there are no family members nearby.

But, technically speaking? I know nothing. I’m hopeless.

7. Female characters

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I can’t write heroines. Or women at all, honestly.

Which is odd, if you think about it. Because I am one.

I tried to model my female characters after Orual, from my favorite book Till We Have Faces, as she happens to be the only female character in fiction I have liked.

It didn’t work all that way.

Somehow they all still ended up weepy and weak and overemotional. In an attempt not to make them all Katniss.

There you have it!

All my secrets are now in the light.

Excuse me while I go dig a deep hole to hide in for the rest of the month.

How is NaNo going, people? Have you found out anything interesting about yourself? Like what you can’t  write? Or, on a happier note, what you’re good at writing? Tell me your deep, dark secrets! After all, I told you mine…

The NaNo Diaries: A Million Ways To Procrastinate

I am learning many things this November.

One of the most important, however, is mastering the art of procrastination.

I am a truly  gifted individual. Thank you for noticing.

As this is acknowledged to be a rare talent, I thought I would let you in on just a few of the ways procrastination can ruin your chances of winning NaNoWriMo.

You are welcome.

1. Bathroom breaks

I don’t know if it was just my body revolting ahaint the idea of writing down actual words in coherent sentences, but it seems as though I am trotting off to the bathroom at least every five minutes.

2. Water breaks

This is only is only slightly more legitimate than bathroom breaks.

For those of you who don’t know, I hate water.

I dont know who invented it, but it is a disgusting substance and I despise it with my whole being.

And so it rather laughable that I take breaks to drink it.

At least it’s a healthy form of torture?

3. Reading other people’s blog posts

Ask anyone.

I have never been so involved in the bloggish world than I have been this November.

So if anyone has anything pressing they want to say and are hoping I will take notice and read it, now’s the time, folks!

4. Surfing the internet

Another thing I never do.

Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if aliens have hijacked my body?

If somebody could go find the real me – most likely it is in Mars somewhere – that would be most convenient.

5. Hiding  from my book

When my little brother asks what I’m doing under the dining room table I tell him, “Reorganizing.”

I don’t think he believes me…

6. Snack breaks

Even though there are no snacks at my house.

Because we are healthy around here, obviously.

So I wander around moaning for snacks or pretending to ransack cupboards for the snacks I wish were there.

At this point, I am definitely more concerned about our lack of snacks than I am about my strange imaginary-snacking habits.

One upside to imaginary snacking is that you don’t gain weight! See? Positive thinking!

7.Meals

Eating meals is a great way to procrastinate.

It’s also necessary to stay alive, but we’re getting off topic.

8. Fresh air

I like the outdoors.

It is quiet and peaceful and there is no paper anywhere.

9. Exercise

This is the part where I go outside and play catch with my little brother and nearly freeze to death.

Whose idea was this anyway?

My little brother says it was mine. That I dragged him out here.

I give him skeptical looks.

10. Interacting with humans

You wanted proof that I’ve been abducted by aliens?

Now you have it.

11. Thinking of brilliant blog posts I could write

Ever wonder how I come up with my brilliant posts?

Now you know.

Wonder what I was supposed to be doing when I came up the idea for this brilliant post?

You got it!

12. Thinking of all the parts of my book I would rather be writing right now

Because the scene ii greener on the other side, as they say…

Or, at least, they should say.

13. Thinking how unoriginal my book is

It is so unoriginal…

If it had a face, I’m pretty sure it would look just like Katniss. And Frodo. Combined.

14. Staring into space

I spend hours doing this.

Space is beautiful. I want to live there someday.

15. Staring at the page

Which is almost as riveting as space – but not quite. In case you were wondering.

16. Listening to the music that is supposed to help me write

I don’t multitask well.

It’s unfortunate.

This is particularly evident when someone turns on music.

Whatever I’m doing comes to a screeching halt. My slams shut. My pen is suspended midair.

My brothers have learned that the only way to get my on is to turn on music I like.

I just can’t resist it.
17. Lip-syncing the lyrics to the songs that are supposed to be helping me write

Because the howls of pain that break out from all over my house when I sing out loud are so unanimous that I don’t feel I can argue.

18. Dancing to the music that is supposed to be helping me write

I like to dance, okay?

And besides, I didn’t ask for your permission. I do what I want…!

19. Updating my word count

More fun than actually writing the words, right?

20. Realizing how little practical knowledge about my book I have

I thought I was so prepared. Such a good little plotter. I mean, after six years of writing – make that trying to write – the stupid thing, what could I, the author, possibly not know?

Um, that would be everything.

How good at procrastination are you? What is your favorite method? Do you hide from your book? Where do you hide? Tell me  secrets, teach me your ways – that we may all lose NaNo happily together!

The NaNo Diaries: My Beauty

Recently I wrote a post in which I said, “So it begins” and told you all the things I was dreading about NaNo.

That was the first installment of what I plan to call The NaNo Diaries. Sounds epic, doesn’t it? 

Thank you. You are too kind.

As much as I would love to post about NaNo each and every day, that is simply going to be impossible. To be perfectly honest with you, posting at all during the month November feels impossible.

But for your sakes…

Well, suffice it to say I hope to post at least a of couple of these brilliant posts, because I love you all so much and would do many a harder thing for you.

Feel free to pause and let your heart melt just a little bit.

Moving on. This edition of The NaNo Diaries is going to be a linkup with my friends Cait and Sky to give you a bit of an update on how things are going.

And so, without further ado,The Glorious Questions, as Cait likes to call them…

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

I’m doing fine.

The amount of writing isn’t that hard, though I do feel like I’m under a lot of pressure. School obviously has to come first, so I am admittedly jittery until I meet my quota each day. And  relieved when I meet it… And then I start all over the next day.

And I have begun dreaming about writing, so that’s… interesting.

How is my novel going? I feel like the least-qualified person to be answering that question, sir.

It’s certainly not going the way I expected, that’s for sure.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

Mkali ran through the woods at a breakneck pace, panting for breath.

Well, don’t that sound exciting!

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

Makovu, all the way. But don’t tell him I said that.

What do you love about your novel so far?

The dialogue.

To be honest with you, dialogue scares me. I used to call it my weakness, but then I realized that wasn’t quite true.

It’s my fear.

Because when my characters start talking… it’s like I’m not in control anymore. They are.

They say what they want to say and there’s nothing I can do about it. Conversations take crazy turns and suddenly things aren’t going in the direction I planned at all.

So it’s scary. But fun. Definitely fun.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

I left the l out of plunked.

Punked. Sounds hipster, don’t you think?

I misspell my main character’s name regularly, which is slightly embarassing.

I have begun using the words write and right interchangeably.

And I just tried to write “lullaby” with four l‘s.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

Middle, I think.

Though I loved the beginning. And I’m excited about the end.

But the middle largely consists of Makovu being nasty and I adore him.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I occasionally listen to music on my tablet, but if I know the song and it has lyrics, I have a bad habit of doing more lip-syncing than writing. 

Instrumental music solves that problem, but not the one about how I like to dance.

Finally, I resort to Josh Groban singing in Portuguese, Italian, or French. Though I have actually memorized some of those, too, even though I have no idea what I’m saying…

I can’t write early in the day because of school, so I am forced to write almost exclusively during the evenings.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

I gave my mother a heads-up about it so she would be less likely to wonder what all his writing was for and I occasionally update my little brother on how things are going.

Other than that, I don’t talk about it.

I am a lonely soul. I will not accept hugs, but chocolate is always appreciated.

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

I told myself I would do this; I will do it.

That’s just who I am, folks.

I finish what I start.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

Have fun. Why else do people write, anyway?

Try not to think about anything that doesn’t have to do with putting the next words on the page.

Eat chocolate whenever possible.

I know, I know. My brilliance knows no bounds.

As always, a big thank you to the lovely ladies for hosting and the genius who comes up with the questions! If you don’t  the link to your Beautiful Books, I will hunt you down and murder you in your sleep… Also tell me how NaNo is going for you and who your favorite character is so far and what your secret weapon is and what you’re eating and listening to during NaNo!

So It Begins: 6 Ways I Could Possibly Die This Month

Today is the first day of National Novel Writing Month.

Let the agony begin!

I meant fun – let the fun begin! Silly autocorrect…

As some of you may be aware, this is my first time. I will admit to being a little nervous. I think I can do it, but I am slightly concerned about what will be neglected in order for that to happen?

I mean, will it be sleep, or meals, or school, or interacting with humans, or breathing oxygen, or reading that glaring stack of books by my bedside…?

What will it be?

And who put the books there, of all places? Where they can so easily murder me in my sleep?

Oh, yeah. That was me. Whew. I thought somebody wanted to kill me or something!

What were we talking about again?

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Oh, yes. NaNo begins today! Goodbye, cruel world…

No, I’m not being melodramatic! Who do you think I am?

I will have you know that my fears are perfectly legitimate.

For your reading pleasure, I will systematically list the ways I will die a horrific death this November.

1. I’ve Already Written Most Of This Book… Or Not

Why am I even doing NaNo again? To be honest with you, I think I may have dared myself.

Are you concerned? I am definitely concerned.

I’ve already written something like 90,000 words?

And since it has always been my goal to have this book be about a thousand pages long…

…And my nearly-math-fried brain says that’s about 300,000 words…

…Which means I need to write about 200,000 more words…

…And now my brain hurts. I hate math.

I think my point was that, unlike the rest of you, I am not starting from scratch.

My goal is to finish this beast. Or kill it, possibly?

Image result for how to train your dragon gifs i have brought down this mighty beast

Either one will do.

2. I Am Writing This Thing Longhand

Would everyone please come back here?

As I was saying, I am writing at least the first draft – okay, fine, only the first draft – longhand.

It’s how I started, okay?

So I wanna finish that way, too.

I am not crazy. Stop looking at me that way.

3. My Characters Are All Persons Of Few Words

None of them want to talk to me.

I’m serious.

A typical day finds me screaming in desperation, “Speak to me! Speak! What say you, already?”

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Why did I make all my characters so darn introverted?

I mean, it might be because I can’t relate to talkative humans, because I’m not one? But still. Dialogue is at a bit of a standstill just now.

In case you were wondering.

4. All My Characters Are Only Children

How did that happen?

I come from a large family. Seven kids. Two parents. Various pets. Marriages. Marriages with children.

It’s a complicated mess, basically.

So how is it that every single one of my characters has no living relatives?

Let us consider…

Keira? Yeah, her parents are both dead.

Aleks? His family is largely undeveloped, actually. All I know is that his father is living. And that they don’t get along.

Saint? Both his parents are dead.

Edmonde? Everyone he ever knew is dead. Except maybe a grandmother or something? But everybody else is quite certainly dead. And the grandmother will probably die, too, come to think of it…

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It would almost seem that I, in my infinite wisdom and mercy, decided to spare my beloved children of the chaos of large families. Not to mention the hand-me-downs.

In other words, I am the last person who should be writing only children! Obviously, I know nothing about it.

That said, a large family is on my list of “Things To Write Someday.”

5. My Characters Don’t Know What Anything Is

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Books. Pianos. Shelves. Carpet. Windows. Fire. Trees. Dragons. Animals other than dragons.

How am I supposed to write these things as if I only know what the character knows and the character has never seen any of this stuff before?

6. I Know Nothing About Music

And my book is full of it?

It’s a bit of a problem.

My brother is an incredibly talented pianist, but if I got any of what he apparently got, it remains deeply buried.

I know what notes are. Sort of.

I understand the concept of a tune. I think.

That is the extent of my musical knowledge.

Who is writing this book?

Not me, that’s for sure!

I seem to have a knack for getting myself into uncomfortable situations…

So.

I suggest you pray for me. Pray hard.

This could get ugly.

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Are you doing NaNo? Shall I pray for you as well? Do you have any introverted characters? What is your secret? How do you get them to open up and talk? How would you describe a book to someone who had never seen one before? A piano? A dragon?