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Books Read in 2018: My Reading Recap | #amreading

Monday, January 14, 2019

Wow, I’m way behind on getting my 2018 recaps posted. My only excuse is that I’ve been so busy planning for 2019 (see here and here for more info on that process).

The Goals

My first goal was to read 60 titles (books, short stories, long-form blog, etc.). My second goal was an A-to-Z author challenge—two authors for each letter. I planned to challenge myself throughout the year—from one writing/craft book per quarter to at least four critical reading to reading books from a list of categories/genres.

Results — By the Numbers

I had a major reading slump the second half of the year, so I really had to push myself to get sixty titles in. But I just managed to do it at the literal eleventh hour.

Those 60 read titles broke down like this:
Physical Book(s): 1
eBook(s): 26
Audiobook(s): 33

Fiction: 43
Nonfiction: 17

Full-Length Books: 45
Short Stories: 15

Critical Reading: 0
Writing Craft Books: 2

Results — By the Letters

Since I got so far behind on the overall numbers toward the end of the year, I stopped worrying about the authors’ last names and just read. That’s the only way I was able to at least meet one of my challenges.

How did you do on your 2018 reading challenge?

My 2019 Word – RELEASE

Monday, January 7, 2019

Yes, it’s that time of year—time for resolutions and goal setting; time to rehash last year and set new goals and challenges for this year.

And it’s also time for me to jump on the “word of the year” bandwagon and choose a word that will be my theme/focus for 2019.

My word—my theme—for 2019 is RELEASE. I know that sounds weird—but as someone who hasn’t written in more than five years because of the stress and trauma caused by my last writing contract/book, there’s a lot that needs to be released before I can regain the joy I once took in writing: release the anxiety, release the stress, release the expectation that I have to do anything with my stories other than write them for myself.

There are a lot of other areas of my life in which release is needed . . . but those are a little too personal to get into online!

Do you have a word/theme for this year?

2018 #NaNoWriMo Results: Did You Hit Your Goal? | #amwriting #NaNo

Friday, November 30, 2018

I’m not a big fan of the terminology of “winning” NaNo. This isn’t a win/lose situation—any words you write are a win!—and it sets up the mindset of failure if you don’t happen to reach an arbitrary word-count goal.

That said, drumroll please . . .

I HIT MY WORD-COUNT GOAL FOR NOVEMBER!!!

I’m still struggling with the desire/motivation to write. More than five years of not writing at all is a long, hard habit to overcome in just four weeks (three, because Thanksgiving week and thereafter was a total washout). But that’s one of the reasons why I set such a realistic goal for myself. Because I know me. And I know that I’m one of those who, when faced with what seems to be an impossible word-count will . . . consider myself a failure and give in to the self-pity, self-deprecation, and depression that comes from not being good enough or perseverant enough to meet a 40-50k goal.

Most of these 15,000+ words stink. Most will have to be revised, rewritten, or removed. BUT! They exist. And that’s 99% of the battle won right there!

How did YOU do?

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#NaNo2018 Half-Month Check-In | #NaNoWriMo #amwriting

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Hey, fellow NaNo-ers!

Believe it or not, November is already half over. How are you doing on your goal(s)?

As of yesterday (14 November), I was 2/3 of the way to my personal goal of 15,000 words.

I’ve actually been able to use a lot of the “awful” stuff I wrote years ago, the last two times I tried to write this story. That’s one of the main reasons I printed it all out before I started, so I could do this:

Which turned into this:

Even on days like today, when I know I have some old stuff to copy/paste over into a new document and revise/rewrite into my current draft, it’s still hard to make myself sit down at the computer to do it. And then that makes me sad, because I shouldn’t have to make myself write—I should want to write. And then when I do, I know that it’s not very good and so I get caught up in a negative loop of self-doubt and anxiety.

And then I remind myself that I’m already making so much progress because of the tiny bit of work I did four or five years ago on this story. So if I work through it now, figure out the characters and conflict as I go and get an entire draft finished, then—in the NEXT draft—I’ll have a whole lotta stuff already written that I can use. And I have learned that I do prefer the revision process to the writing process most of the time anyway. So I have to give myself something to work with!

How is your writing going this month?

Happy #NaNoWriMo Day! Let’s Start Writing! | #NaNo2018 #amwriting

Thursday, November 1, 2018

It’s here! November 1! NaNo month blew into Clarksville, Tennessee, with pouring rain and strong winds; and every time I look out a window today, I’ve been humming Stacey Kent’s “‘Tis Autumn,” as there’s just something about the gray rainy chill that makes me happy this time of year. (Give me a few months of this, though, and it’ll be a different story!)

I read a great post this morning by Chuck Wendig on “…How You NaNoWriMo…” This portion struck me as particularly motivational:

You have a choice —

You can leave the page as is, open, unscathed, unmarked, a snowy expanse after a fresh winter storm.

Or you can ruin it.

You can start putting crass LANGUAGE MARKS across it: clumsy, dirty scrawl denoting the gabble-gibber of humantongue. You can write words into sentences into paragraphs. You can stomp your muddy boots all over the damn thing. You can shit it all up. What once was an innocent tract of unbroken order is now a landfill of chaos.

So, that’s your choice.

Keep it perfect and pure.

Or ruin it. . . .

Today, you’re going to ruin one page. You’re going to fill it with words. Some will be amazing words. Some will be brutally inefficient. You will string them together and when read aloud, they will make music just as often as they make the sound of a tuba kicked down a set of steps. And you’re not going to care, because that is what it takes: the willingness to do a thing poorly, the eagerness to ruin an uninterrupted space, the sheer bloody-minded delight of carving your ideas down into rock even though the only desire of the rock is to be left the hell alone.

Chuck Wendig, “Here Is How You NaNoWriMo, You Ruinous Monster, You.” From http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2018/11/01/here-is-how-you-nanowrimo-you-ruinous-monster-you/

As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, something that’s very important for completing a writing marathon is setting and sticking to a schedule.

Scheduling My NaNo Success
In order to start “ruining” pages with “language marks,” I sat down last week with my calendar and blocked off writing time on all of the days of the month on which I know I’ll have time to write. I even built in extra blocks of time on the weekends, just in case.

But there’s another block of time that I’ve appended to the writing block each time, as well:

Because I have a tendency to spend so much time on the computer, ether working (I work from home, though I do have a separate work-provided laptop) or for entertainment (watching YouTube subscriptions, reading newsletters/websites/blogs, playing games, engaging in social media, etc.), it’s difficult to make the mental transition from “regular” computer time to “writing” time—even if I’m planning to write longhand and not on the computer.

What Does “Preparing to Write” Entail?

I don’t yet have a set idea for what I’m going to do during that 30-minute block of time. I know I’m going to make sure that my writing space is set up with everything I need—in addition to my writing tools and story information, I’ll need something to drink and maybe a snack; a comfortable, clean writing space; music ready to go; and so on. There is one thing, however, that I know I want to try to do, at least tonight, being the first night—I want to spend at least 10 minutes meditating on why I deserve to write this month. Why I need to write this month. Why writing is joyful. Why writing is healthy. Why writing frees me to be who I really am.

I might journal this, or I might just do this as a mental exercise. But because of the lingering anxiety I have from my bad experiences at the end of my previous publishing experience, there are a lot of mental blocks that have kept me from writing for the last five or six years. Therefore, putting myself in a positive frame of mind and preparing myself to find enjoyment and contentment in the act of writing, rather than stress and anxiety is going to be vital for my success.

What does your schedule for finding writing time for the next 30 days look like? Do you have time to build even just a few “Prepare to Write” minutes into that schedule?

#NaNoWriMo Prep: Take Your Characters on a Road Trip | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

Instead of filling out charts and questionnaires and mindmaps and GMC lists, there are many other ways to figure out things about our characters (and, by extension, our stories) that may actually be more creatively fulfilling. One of the things I’m a big proponent of is putting characters in a mundane situation and seeing what happens. And this can happen before the writing begins or when that “stuck” feeling happens in the middle of writing the story.

When I’m writing a contemporary setting, I send the characters to the grocery store to see what they buy, how they go about it (up and down each aisle? with or without a list? impulse buyer?), and whom they might run into. But there’s an even better exercise that I did this weekend that would work for pretty much every genre—and that’s taking the characters on a road trip. There are actually two different ways to do this, and I recommend both of them!

Taking a Literal Road Trip

If you’re like me, sometimes it gets really hard to be creative when you’re staring at the same four walls in the same house for hour after hour. Autumn is my favorite season, and in my area (northern Middle Tennessee), it’s gray and/or rainy a lot. So when I heard that we were supposed to have a rare sunny day yesterday, I knew I had to get out and make the most of it. I’m about a 45-minute drive from Paris Landing State Park and the Land Between the Lakes area, so it seemed like the perfect place to go to enjoy a beautiful fall day. So I loaded the dog up in the car (which isn’t hard—she only weighs 13.5 lbs) and took a drive.

But I didn’t want to lose any time preparing for NaNo, either. So while listening to my characters’ music, I purposely set out to brainstorm about my characters. I knew I’d be stopping frequently enough (to take photos) that if I had any great ideas, I’d have the opportunity to jot them down (mostly using voice notes) on the phone.

Because my characters are coming into this romance story as two people who grew up together and have dated each other off and on their entire teen/adult lives, there’s a lot of history between them that I don’t know yet. Exactly how many times have they dated, what did that entail, how long did it last, how did they get together, how did they break up, etc.? What lingering artifacts/mementos do each of them still have? What are the differences in how each of them remember things that happened in their relationship? Did they go to prom together? Homecoming? And so on. I didn’t come up with a whole lot of definitive answers, but now that I’m thinking along those lines, I’m sure the characters will reveal answers to me once I start writing.

They did, however, reveal one very important thing to me—about which I won’t go into detail, but do have a teaser image:

Taking a Figurative Road Trip

If you don’t have the time or opportunity (or desire) to drive out into the country for a couple of hours, then send your characters out on the road. There’s a reason why there are so many scenes in books and TV/movies that involve the characters being stuck together in a car, carriage, escape pod, scary forest, etc.—because it creates a setup for conflict to happen. The rebooted Hawaii Five-0 TV show even coined a term for the many (many) scenes featuring Danny and Steve in this exact situation: carguments.

Sending your character(s) on a road trip immediately creates a bunch of questions to write the answers to:

  • What’s the mode of transportation? (car, carriage, by foot, etc.)
  • Who’s traveling with the character? (friend, foe, romantic interest, enemy, strangers?)
  • Do they have a specific destination in mind?
  • Do they have a deadline to get where they’re going?
  • Do they know how to get where they’re going?
  • How long will it take to get there?
  • Does this trip put the character in a good mood, bad mood, or are they neutral about it?
  • What could go wrong to send this road trip off track?
  • What sounds do they hear (are they listening to music? wagon wheels rattling? beeping of electronic sensors?)
  • Go into all five senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, taste—yes, even taste!
  • And so on…

This is a really good exercise for a writing marathon such as NaNoWriMo, because it’s something you can do if you sit down for your designated writing time but can’t think of anything to write. Sending your characters on a road trip gives you a kickstart to a scene that, even if you don’t end up using it in your final product, should teach you something about your character.

Assignment: If you don’t take an actual road trip, sit down and imagine your characters on a road trip. What can you learn about them that way?

#NaNoWriMo Prep: Preparing for Old-Fashioned Writing by Hand | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Sunday, October 28, 2018

NaNoWhen I was writing books under contract, I did it mainly on the computer—whether at the desk or with a laptop in bed or out at a coffee shop or library. But when I first started writing—and when I would get creatively stuck—I always turned to pen and paper. Getting away from the computer (and, by extension, all the distractions on the computer and Internet), enables me to tap into my creative side in a way that typing doesn’t.

Preparing to Write without Technology

One thing I really want to do during November is take the time at least a couple of times each week to write remotely—away from home. But I don’t want to have to feel obligated to take the laptop with me. Instead, I’d rather take a notebook to write in—but if I do that, I wouldn’t have access to things like the characters’ backstories, the list of locations/businesses in my fictional setting, my hand-drawn map of the city, and so on.

One of the first things I did was pull up the final manuscripts of the three previous novels in the Bonneterre series. I searched for Jenn’s and Clay’s names and copied/pasted the lines or scenes in which they were mentioned or appeared into a new document. I then printed everything I’d written last time I tried working on their story. I went back into the archived folder from back then and put together a couple of collages of ’shopped photos in which I put the two templates together and pulled up the fake book cover I created (I use Corel PaintShop Pro) and printed those. Then, I printed and filled in my calendars.

Putting My Longhand Writing Notebook Together

I put everything together in a three-ring binder, along with plenty of blank college-ruled notebook paper. Then I started adding all the pieces:

Month-at-a-glance calendar for tracking words

Week-at-a-glance schedules (and the fake book cover)

A collage of my templates and the story summary I posted on the NaNo site, followed by everything that I pulled from when I tried writing this story five years ago. And, yes, I printed everything in a handwriting-style font on regular notebook paper.

My hand-drawn map of Bonneterre and list of business/setting names.

Background info for the characters (from my story bible).

All mentions and scenes from Stand-In Groom, Menu for Romance, and A Case for Love.

Assignment: What kind of “kit” can you put together that will help you to write without the assistance of technology?

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