August Update

Camp NaNoWriMo has concluded, and I can assert it was a success. My goal was to write 50,000 words for the month, and I called it a night on the thirty-first at a total of 66,289. More importantly, however, was the reinforced discipline of writing 2,000 words a day.

While I’m unlikely to reach the million-word mark this year, I’m a person of ambition, and I’m going for 500,000 words written for 2017. My current goal for NaNo17 is 250,000 words, so this should be doable… even more so if I decide to go for the half million in November! It’s been a dream since 2015, but since 2016 was not a viable contender, the half mill has been pushed back. I’m making no promises, though. It’s too early to know if my November will be optimal for that.

Camp was also a great exercise in brainstorming for my next books. The Cursed trilogy (which started as a single book, morphed for fun into a duology, and has continued forth for the last two years as a trilogy) has now decidedly become the Cursed quintet. I also still like my tentative real title for the first book, so I think that might be here to stay. Maybe. Possibly. I’ve edited up to almost one hundred fifty pages of the first book, met my goal for July (to edit through chapter sixteen), and hope to use next week’s “writing sabbatical” to break through to at least to chapter twenty–hopefully beyond, as I’m guessing I’ll have completed chapters seventeen and most of eighteen this week. As it currently stands, there are thirty-five chapters, but one needs to be written yet. Overall, I think I’m looking at about 80-85k words for the first book, maybe a toss more.

In also awesome news, I’ve started taking official violin lessons! I’m so pumped. I’ve only had three lessons so far, but I am loving it. There is something so distinctly compelling and therapeutic about drawing a bow over the strings, even if the only sounds I make right now are strident and amateurish. I will prevail! And since I’m learning music as I go (alas, being able to play by ear has made me, over the years, too lazy to learn how to properly read music), it’s both a physical and a mental challenge. The very best kind! Exclamation points for everyone!

Reading–alas, so little time! I haven’t even burrowed into the fourth Throne of Glass book, even though it’s been two weeks since I finished the third. It’s not for lack of want that I haven’t been reading that much. It’s simply not a priority right now. *slaps self and sniffles* I’m one of those people who likes to stack my activities one on top of the other, and though I could make time to read, I often find myself giving that time over to writing or violin practice. Or just sitting with my dog. Because she’s awesome. And also she’s needy and vindictive and if I don’t give her attention, she does spoiled rotten things not tasteful for detailing here… jerk. I love that dog.

And so, to conclude what will otherwise become a rambling treatise on my affection for my canine, here’s some awesome music by Two Steps from Hell I’ve been listening to the entire time I’ve been writing this post, which you need to hear if you haven’t already, and if you have, you need to hear again:

Happy writing, everyone!

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July Update

July means Camp NaNoWriMo, and Camp NaNoWriMo means prep for NaNo itself. It’s been a long time since I wrote regularly (despite all my promises to the contrary). Camp has thus far been a helpful tool to get me back into writing (my goal this month is 50,000 words), though it feels a lot like exercising an atrophied muscle. The distractions are strong, too: I keep thinking of my November goal and then having to zero my focus back in on what matters now. Continue reading

March Update

And . . . she’s back! I know I’ve been MIA for the last several months; I promise this is not because I lost steam or “got distracted” in an unintentional sense of the term. I finished the latest draft of Cursed in early February, then put the kibosh on all other writing endeavors—all other creative endeavors, in fact—in favor of throwing myself into the Tartarean pit that is academic study. Perhaps that’s an unfair evaluation of the matter, as I enjoyed it. I was so engrossed in the information, however, I would dream about my notes.

This story has a happy ending: I passed the certification exam, I no longer have to lose myself in studying, and I’m now clawing my way back up out of that chasm and into the more varied routine of daily life. I feel a burst of creative inspiration because I’ve kept it bottled for so long, and I’m now working on harnessing that energy to dedicate to a particular task or tasks.

On the docket for this month, at least as far as writing is concerned, is to get back to writing 250 words a day. I’m going to try my hand again at writing short stories, since I consider them to be my weakest writing skill. In the meantime, I’m glossing over Cursed to refresh my memory on the details of the story, write notes in the margins, and otherwise prepare for the first post-rewrite edit.

Having restricted myself from doing very little else creative beyond playing piano for about twenty minutes every other day or so for the last two months, I’m brimming with ideas that range from the literary to the entrepreneurial to the adventurous. I’ll be adding more relevant posts than this in the near future!

2016: Statistics

Sorry–final post about 2016. While it was not a million-word year, I’m still pleased with the statistical outcome. This year also saw the developmental progression of what started as a mid-grade fantasy, veered into YA, returned to MG, and is solidified for the (hopefully) last time as a YA. I didn’t fully finish any draft of the novel in 2016, but I came close three times, and this last attempt is truly the final one for this “first” draft.

2016 Overview

Total Words Written: 655,507

Most Prolific Month: November (104,327 words)

Most Prolific Non-NaNo Month: February (72,878 words)

Worst Month: October (24,821 words)

Most Words in a Day: 7,042 (November 1)

Most Words in a Non-NaNo Day: 6,391 (February 7)

Fewest Words in a Day: 500 words (October 27)

Days I Didn’t Write: 11

Started Projects: 16

Finished Projects: 6 (2 novels, 4 short stories)

So far, 2017 has brought a lot of other obligations to the forefront, most notably of which is my studying. My test is in March, and the more I study (and the more I talk to experienced test-takers), the more I discover it’s going to be a challenge. Happily, I love challenges, so we’ll see where this one and all others take me.

Hopeful

Happy New Year, everyone!

After a year of incredible volatility and change in so many facets of life, 2016 is coming to an “explosive” (if the pyrotechnical tendencies of my neighbors are to be considered) close.

For me, 2017 offers a continuation of a great many opportunities that came to me in 2016. I’ve outlined several of them already, so you will see a little redundancy, but, more for my own use than for anyone else’s, I thought I would be unique* on this of all nights and list them comprehensively here. It’s always entertaining to compare new year goals to what I have accomplished throughout that year, and while I’m not a “New Year’s Resolutionist,” I do enjoy using this time as an excuse to regroup and reevaluate where I’m at. I’m not going to beat myself up over failing to achieve any of them. Things always happen for a reason, and while I’m not going to let 2017 run me over, I’m also going to be adaptable where necessary.

*/sarc

Things I would like to accomplish this year, AKA my annual bucket list:

  1. Pass my certification exam for financial planning (already discussed)
  2. Finish current draft of, edit, beta-read test, and polish Cursed (AD)
  3. Lose final ten pounds, eat for nutrition, and exercise four times a week (AD)
  4. Read a chapter of the Bible every day
  5. Pray for ten minutes (five in the morning, five at night) every day
  6. Journal once a week
  7. Go to bed by 10:30PM every night
  8. Finish remodeling my room
  9. Begin and finish curb appeal project
  10. Take self-defense classes
  11. Buy a violin/take violin lessons
  12. Double my current savings rate
  13. Travel somewhere I have never been
  14. Read one nonfiction book per month
  15. Read one fiction book per month

My best to all in your sundry endeavors this year. Remain ever hopeful, remain ever strong, remain ever visionary, remain ever determined. Own your actions. Own your words. Own your life. God bless!

 

via Daily Prompt: Hopeful

2016 Reflections

A festive evergreen-and-cinnamon simmer pot bubbles quietly on the stove, spreading the scent of home and good cheer. The tree is dressed, surrounded by an audience of enthusiastic presents, while the stereo casts out the lilting strains of a haunting Christmas melody. In the kitchen, pies bake. Last-minute arrangements are made to impress visiting relatives with over-cleaned floors and counters. Cookies are snagged as mid-afternoon treats, and in the evenings crystalline lights along the roof edges twinkle in the darkness.

Merry Christmas, all!

While 2016 has thus far offered, as everyone knows, more content for assessment than is the scope of this blog to cover, I’m going to concentrate less on the external and more on the internal.

When first I conceived the notion for 2016’s personal challenges (writing 2000 words per day, reading for 15 minutes per day, and editing for 15 minutes per day), I knew I was setting a high standard. For those unaware, during the course of 2016 I worked full time, went to school part time, and took on freelance jobs here and there. During 2015, I struggled with the challenge of writing 2000 words per day, without any other specific goals or challenges claiming my time—at least in any official capacity—and without the urgent demands of schooling. My reasoning for increasing my challenge goals for 2016 after a year of (successful) struggling was the refusal to step backwards. I already knew I could write 2000 words a day. I wanted to see if I could do more.

But each year comes with its own costs, distractions, and idiosyncrasies, and I was faced with several expected, unexpected, and should-have-been-expected stakes on my limited schedule. I struggled. I really struggled. I gave myself a few days off twice this year for fear of burnout. I took days off work for the express purpose of reordering my routine to better equip myself moving forward. And, as long as I was moving forward, I was okay with lowering my goal from 2000 words to 500 in July and scrapping (after an obsessive reading binge at the beginning of the year) my editing and reading goals.

I’ve related some of my struggles on this blog already, and some of my successes, too, so I’m not going to waste time and space reiterating them. Each year, however, I consider a one-word holistic theme that describes the year. In 2013, that theme was endurance. In 2014, it was patience. 2015’s theme was learning.

I bandied about several ideas for 2016, depending on how I felt at a given moment. Stress was on the list for a while, but I thought it tended too much toward the negative, and I don’t like basing anything on emotion. A leader for a long time was organization.

But I think the word that best sums up the year is prioritization. I had my hubris handed back to me on a brass platter (the situations weren’t elegant enough to justify silver) on several different occasions. My moments of idleness became not just moments of weakness, but moments of destruction. In my mad rush to do the things I needed to do after having procrastinated, I split my concentration between too many tasks, which left me not only exhausted and frustrated, but confused, defeated, and compromised. My studies suffered. My writing suffered. What energy I had I poured into work, as it was there my contractual obligation lie.

Don’t misconstrue my words; I enjoyed 2016. I cannot pick any event out about which I can complain except those I brought on myself, and on those instances I lose any right to gripe. I love where I work. I had my ups and downs with my stories, but I would wager significantly fewer downs than in previous years. While I didn’t improve as much this year as I would have wanted, I know I did improve. I’m content with that.

The trick for me this year has been to establish the priorities of my life and learn how to balance them. For the longest time, I ran off of a list of daily to-dos, most of which were impossibilities no matter how conscientious I was with my time. Then I would grow annoyed because I had “failed” to finish my list. Somehow, I always placed the blame on my liberal lack of discipline, or the distractions of a hundred other tasks. That’s not to say that discipline wouldn’t have solved the issues at hand, but lack of discipline, I have discovered, is really just a symptom of a larger weakness: lack of focus.

And so I look toward 2017. I fix my gaze on a more realistic prize, one still measured by numbers (500 words per day, continued), but measured, more importantly, by consistent balance. Following the guidance of various advisers, I have narrowed my concentration to three priorities:

  • Finish draft of, edit, beta-reader test, and polish Cursed
  • Take and pass the financial planning exam and, once passed, climb the hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy through real-life and simulated application
  • Improve health by losing final ten pounds alternating a regimen of cardio, weightlifting, and stretching; maintaining a healthy diet; and retiring to sleep before 10PM

Broken down even more, they come to three active verbs: write, study, condition.

Of course, I still have other adventures I want to go on and tasks I want to finish and skills I want to learn. There will still be times when distraction or tiredness reigns. But I’m going to do my best to keep those goal-killers at bay. Instead of waiting until the end of 2017 to affix a theme to the year, I’m starting off with a theme I choose in foresight, not one I merely find in hindsight. It is an attribute that stands not only as a generic theme, but as a goal, a reminder, an admonition, an encouragement: focus.

Post-NaNoWriMo Reflections 2016

The word for this year has been distraction. I’ve been pulled in about seven thousand different directions (give or take a couple), and that didn’t change just because NaNo16 started up. In the months leading up to it, I knew that I wasn’t going to reach the astral heights of which I dreamed at the conclusion of NaNo15, and as the start date stalked ever nearer, I even had to resign myself to the unlikelihood that I would much surpass even my “minimum” goal.

Then, during the actual competition, I lost focus. Rather, I never had focus to begin with as I tried to juggle the responsibilities of everyday life. As I have before observed, my time management skills require more practice. Going “back to school” while working full time, doing freelance projects for clients, and writing every day continues to test me beyond anything I have ever before experienced, and with NaNo pushing me to write even more, I found myself struggling to keep my head above water.

Through it all, however, I managed to write. It didn’t matter how late at night it was. It didn’t matter if I was disenchanted with the scene I worked on. It didn’t matter if I simply didn’t feel like writing. I sat down, thought, and typed. I can use this experience–this difficult NaNo–as evidence that I can work through even the toughest moments, that intrepidity can pay off, and that I am still, above all else, a storyteller.

So while this NaNo was not my best, and though I’m walking away with only one completed project (but, hey, it’s a completed rewritten second draft!), I can, with relief, assert to myself that next year will be different. Even if I’m ten times busier than I was this year, I now know that lack of focus is a hurdle for me, and I can prepare for it with greater deliberation and better time management, both of which I can work on in the next eleven months before NaNo17.

NaNoWriMo Day 30

Sighs of relief, a grimace of sadness, the focus of life shifting away from competition and toward the indefatigable determination to keep moving forward–all indications that this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge is complete.

This was a rough year for a hundred thousand reasons, but instead of lamenting what could have been, I’m celebrating the accomplishment of my goal in what was a very challenging, time-management-oriented NaNo that may not have broken records, but which tested me in enlightening ways. On top of that, this marks the end of my ten-year NaNo-versary, and my ninth win!

Some stats:

  • Total words written: 104,327
  • Most words in a day: 7,042 (11/1)
  • Fewest words in a day: 586 (11/22)
  • Daily average: 3,477
  • Strangest writing place: On my laptop, the screen to which won’t close and hangs open at a 165 degree angle
  • Number of words past original goal (100,000): 4,327
  • Number of words past previous best (425,524): -321,197
  • Total NaNo word count: 1,415,130
  • Average hours of sleep/day: 5.5
  • Painkiller of choice: Aleve
  • Total deaths: Indeterminable
  • Total MC/SC deaths: 1
  • Cried for characters: 1 time
  • Projects worked on: 3
  • Weight lost: 6 lbs.

1nano

I will continue to write at least 500 words per day for the next month, and will reevaluate, come the end of December, my constraints in order to determine my challenge for next year.

If you’re still wrapping up NaNo, may you finish strong, happy, confident, and blessed!

NaNoWriMo Day 29

Way past midnight here. Exhausted. I’m up to 99,200 words, stopped on purpose before reaching 100K (I have to leave it a little suspenseful, right?).

Come on, everyone! One more day! Make it great!