Camp NaNoWriMo | April 2016

I would say that April was a rousing success!

I surpassed my goal of 30,000 words and won Camp NaNoWriMo. But, that’s not even the best part.

The writing this month has been easy. The plot just works. The characters are full and interesting.

This is the first time ever that I have been excited about a book at the end of a NaNo month. I feel like I will have the energy and desire to keep writing into May and finish this book. Then edit the book. Then publish the book!

I’ll be back next week with an actual report on April’s numbers – hours spent writing, words written, and average speed.

Now, I am off to celebrate!

Keeping Me Going In a Down Week

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.

Ira Glass

We Now Interrupt This Life…

My daughter wrecked her car on Friday. She’s fine. The only damage was to the car (and her pride and wallet). Nobody else was involved.

Unfortunately, that cuts into my life and my time. I spent all morning dealing with the fallout, both in dealing with getting the car fixed and running her around to get things taken care of.

All of that eats up valuable time.

I told her this morning that sometimes being an adult just sucks. She’s only 16, but I think she agrees.

Second Act Slog

So, it turns out that even an outline can’t save you from the second act slog.

I was writing yesterday and things just got…hazy. Like, I’d lost my way. The writing didn’t feel as good. I wanted to quit. I was procrastinating by reading one-star reviews on Amazon.

It’s been a month since I felt that way.

What happened??

It was a motivation problem. Not mine…theirs. <shoots dirty look at characters standing in a cliquey group in the corner>

Like a bunch of method actors, they started throwing up their hands and whining about how they weren’t sure what was motivating them to act the way they were and demanding Perrier instead of off-brand bottled water. Bunch of…

I digress.

I shut the laptop, put on a Creative Penn podcast and spent an hour cleaning the bathroom.

I felt better after that (and not just because the bathroom got cleaned) because one of the things that were talked about was how we shouldn’t just count the time we are actually typing words as writing time.

I guess I’d lost sight of that in my push to finish this book (and my goal of being able to publish 3-4 books/year). It’s easy to do, too, because ultimately, getting the words into Scrivener is what creates the end product. Thing is, all that work I did before one word went down counts too. That’s three days of “lost” work if you go by the number of words on a page as your only indicator of progress.

When the podcast (and bathroom) were done, I sat down and checked Rachel Aaron’s blog. She wrote a great post on GMC (seriously, go read it) and turns out it was just what I needed.

I acted on it right then – sorted out the GMC for all of the characters so far – and things are starting to click again. There’s some clunky stuff that had to be gotten past, but I feel confident that an editing pass can sand those rough edges down.

None of that work yesterday counted towards my end word goal. But, it did count toward the depth and quality of the story I am trying to tell. So, it counts.

We’ve got one more week in Camp NaNo and I want to blow that goal out of the water. I’m almost there.

Camp NaNo Check-In

Today is the halfway point of camp. I feel like I am in a really good place. I passed the halfway point yesterday toward my goal, so even though my word count today was a little on the low side (yard work…) I’m okay.

I think the best part of all of this is finally feeling like this book might actually be good enough to make it past the first draft stage. Like, I mentioned to my husband that he might get to read this one.

​He was excited. I think.

March 2016 | Writing Report

I didn’t really go into March with a goal in mind since I thought I would be working on a second draft, editing and such.

Look, I know first drafts are allowed to suck, but this one was a pile of horse sh!t, and that is really giving horse sh!t a bad name…

Anyway, in the throes of despair, I started over (again) with a better plan and managed to write fresh new 14,464 cohesive, clean draft words.

I set a goal of 30,000 words in April for Camp NaNo. Friday is the halfway point and I’ll be updating my progress, then giving a final accounting in May.

Writing, Hard Stuff, & Suicide

The last two weeks have been a series of trials that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. We have been rocked by two suicides in as many weeks, followed by funerals and memorials, and all the other work and events that surround death.

At one point last week I turned to my husband and said, “Even death requires its own special bureaucracy…” It has been….weird.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was especially close to any of the victims, but I am close to those that were closest to them. In some ways that meant that I was only there as support. In other ways, it meant that my own feelings had to take a sideline. It has been one of those situations that have been difficult to navigate because there has been no real place for me in this, I have no real role.

It’s awkward to be in that position. I felt a little like a ghoul sometimes, an observer of others grief, feeling only a mild sense of sorrow of my own. I feel like I have the very beginning of an understanding of what life may be like for those on the autism spectrum: Observing the very strong feelings and reactions of others and not being able to feel those same feelings. And in case there is any question, I say that not to make light, but to say it is an awkward space to occupy, and it opened my eyes to the daily struggle of those that live in that space. I appreciate anything that can help me understand others journeys.

As for writing, I managed to grab keyboard time through the first instance, as they were simply geographically closer and in familial terms, more distant. The second death was both geographically farther away and closer in a familial sense. That demanded more time, both in support and in driving time. I have done no writing since last Wednesday.

There was a little time on Saturday, but I just….couldn’t.

Mentally descending into an imaginary world was the last thing that I wanted to do.

The why is more difficult.

The bald truth is that writing is an emotional sport for me. Being emotionally drained makes writing, for me, nearly impossible. And I have to step back and acknowledge that the last two weeks have been draining. I have expended tremendous emotional energy supporting the grieving processes of others. Add to that the natural exhaustion of being an introvert forced into a week of constant socializing? There’s just nothing left in the tank.

I don’t have any tried and true suggestions here. I don’t have the experience to fall back on. But, I think I have a plan. I’d like to share that and then report back later this month on what I’ve learned.

1. Write this post. Sharing things like this can be cathartic. Just getting the words out to those that care, but aren’t in the depths of their own grieving? Nobody wants to hear my petty whining about the toll this has taken on me and my writing in real life. It feels even petty and selfish to me in a way, but here it is.

2. Privately write through my own feelings. While I didn’t have a close relationship with either of the deceased, there are still some feelings that need to be processed. I need to be gentle with myself. There’s some anger and frustration and confusion to be dealt with because of the events surrounding these deaths.

3. Start writing. I can’t put it off indefinitely. Not if I want to make this my full-time work. Life goes on. While I don’t want my fictional world to be overtaken by the tragic events we have waded through these past two weeks, I have to keep working. I am hopeful that dealing with actual events in other writings will allow me to get into a better headspace when it comes to my fictional world and characters.

4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 for as long as it takes. I have to remind myself that this is a process and I can not put arbitrary ‘done’ dates on it. These feelings will pop up, probably less frequently as time goes on, but each time they do, I need to allow myself time and space to process.

Side note: Depression sucks. It’s a real thing. People with depression are ill. I look at it this way: When you get sick, when an organ gets ill, you take medicine, and there’s no shame in trying to heal that organ, that body part. Except for brains. People are ashamed when their brain, which is an organ in your body, gets sick. They won’t accept treatment, they don’t take meds, because too often people tell them to just “be happy,” or that they need to “just get over the sads.” But, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Please, if you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, talk to someone. Don’t be ashamed to seek treatment.

Please, if you are thinking that ending your life would “just be better for everyone,” YOU ARE WRONG. Suicide is never the answer. Please, I am begging you, please call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to someone. They’re available 24/7 and they GET IT. 

Be kind to one another out there. And, most importantly, be kind to yourself.