Fights and the Finish Line (NaNo Week Four)

Nano Progress Week 4

The final week of NaNo… The fights were literary AND real. I attacked my first fight scene in the novel with some trepidation. I also had to fight to sit down each day and write. As much as I love my story (still!) it is difficult to tune everything else out and get over that initial hurdle to write. There are officially two days left in the month and contest, but I am proud to report that this week, I crossed the imaginary finish line! I have a stretch goal of 60K for myself, but I made it to the NaNo winner’s circle, and it was a nice little boost, despite how far my story still has to go.

Total Word count: 56,878 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week: 
– I hit 50K!
– I managed to keep writing despite hitting 50K. This one was harder than I thought. It was exciting to reach the winners page and watch the fun cheering video, but then I stopped writing that night, short of my daily goal. I came back though and wrote a lot on the next day.
– My fight scene isn’t awful. It was weird to write, but I think I was psyching myself out too much beforehand. I took the time to outline it step by step on some scrap notes and was then able to just sit and write, having already thought of the necessary hits, injuries, etc.

Struggles this week:
– Sitting down to write after thanksgiving. I had planned on possibly writing something that day, because I wasn’t sure how long dinner and socializing would be here. This is our first year in Bush Alaska, and we celebrated with other teachers. Dinner was fantastic and the company was even better- we didn’t go to sleep until after midnight. Because of that, I slept late and as I have been normally taking mornings to write, I was thrown off. Habits are good, but sometimes they inhibit you as well.
– Writing when my husband is home is harder for me. I love to spend time with him, but he distracts me! Perhaps that was why writing in the mornings when he was at school was so much easier.

Inspirations and Surprises:
While on the forums this week I was connecting with others who have hit 50K and are still writing… now I big conflict a lot of people seem to have is the whole quality vs. quantity debate. I however, felt that while I was writing a lot, and staying above the daily goals, was not writing crap. I don’t see the point- If what I write is bad, why write it in the first place. Now, I know it isn’t perfect, but it is the best I can produce the first time around, and I think it is good. So when I came across this ‘Overachiever’ Pep Talk by Catherynne Valente I was stoked. This is what I needed. She says:

“You can be good and fast at the same time.

Though it is important not to put too much pressure on yourself, it is also important to know that quality and speed have absolutely nothing to do with one another. You can write something heart-catchingly brilliant in 30 days. You can do it in 10. There is no reason on this green earth not to try for glory. You’re going to spend these 30 days at the computer anyway. You might as well be mindful while you’re there.”

YES.

-Also for the week, I really forgot how much I love Twitter. The sprints motivate me, and I also love the wealth of information that some of the editors and publishers out there share. It keeps that long term goal in my mind, and jumpstarts me to writing, and finishing my draft!

-Weird confession… I have been looking up agents who would be good to submit to (a loooong time from now when my novel is shiny and polished and the best it can be) when I am feeling down. I did something similar to this when I worked in theatre, where I would apply for the next freelance job and it made me feel better. I don’t know what it is about it, but I now have added a couple of their headshots to my (secret) Pintrest board for my book. It sounds a little creepy when I say it like that…

Anyway, thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the fourth week? Did you enter the winner’s circle?? Let’s continue the conversation below!

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Wrestling, Words and the Z.W.D. (NaNo Week Three)

Nano Progress Week 3

This week was an enlightening one for me- I feel like I’m learning a lot from my NaNo journey. As someone who grew up and ended up working in the Arts, I am prone to self-evaluation, and for the most part I think that has helped me grow. So, even though I am sitting here today, not having yet written my words for today, I decided that it was important to reflect on this week, and how it has unfolded. My writing is chugging along, and if I get in my words today I will be exactly on target for my personal goal, and still ahead of the NaNo goal. While I may not be one of the people validating my 50K just yet, I’m still on a roll. So here’s where I stand:

Total Word count: 42,037 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
I have managed to stay ahead of the word counts, while still writing what I think are quality scenes. I am also hitting some of the more touchy subject matter in the story, and I believe that I have handled it with care. I’m trying to write a book that is about all the types of beautiful and diverse people that I’ve met- and although my protagonist may be a white girl from small town USA, I’m trying to show that when she leaves her small town, there is a world of people different from her- and they aren’t alien. But rather, human and real. It’s something I’ve personally experienced, and I think it is important to write about- sometimes a book can open someone’s mind and heart, if they haven’t been able to go out into the world themselves.

Struggles this week:
This week I hit a part of my outline that was pretty vague… essentially it said: “Discovery of The Sister” and then, “Introduction of ‘this character'” followed by, “Introduction of ‘this other character'”. Brilliant.

Although I knew what had to happen, I hadn’t decided HOW to show this to my audience. So instead of being able to focus on writing the scenes and making them strong, I was worried about where we were and what we were doing. This made the writing so. dang. slow.

So finally, after a day of agonizing writing that was like wading through molasses to get from word to word, I made myself a cup of tea, and sat on the couch with my husband. I started to talk it through. What did my characters want? What would they be doing to get that? What was it like where they were? By asking these questions, and with the occasional comment from the husband (who was pretty wrapped up playing Skyrim to be honest) I figured out where I was going with the outline. So then I sat down and typed up the basic idea for about the next 5 or 6 scenes that I had to write.

The next morning, I was back in the groove. I could picture the scene and live in it, so that I was just writing what I saw happen. It was wonderful.

Inspirations and Surprises:
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned this week is that sometimes it’s okay to take a break. I’ve always been an overachiever and someone who would literally push myself to the breaking point (and end up sick) to achieve a goal. This week started out difficult, but I took a day off to travel with the school’s wrestling team to a tournament in Bethel (I will blog about this after November!) and -gasp- didn’t write a SINGLE WORD on Friday. The dreaded NaNoWriMo Z.W.D. (Zero Word Day) And Surprise; It didn’t kill me. I’m not drowning in good old Catholic guilt. I am sitting down today, and I’m going to write, with a clearer mind, and excited again about my project. Like everything, persistence is important but you can overtax yourself- taking a break is okay- as long as you make sure you get back to work!

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the third week? Did you hit the goal yet?? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Milestones and Stumbling Blocks (NaNo Week Two)

Nano Progress Week 2

I entered NaNoWriMo with an indomitable spirit; sure that I was stronger than the masses of people who complained about how they got tired and how the pressure to write would effect their lives. After all, I am a pretty level headed person, and I have a lot of time on my hands right? Well, the second week of NaNo was full of ups and a few pretty dramatic downs for me. I worked a full week subbing, and hit a few walls in my writing marathon. Let’s review:

Total Word count: 30,703 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
Starting with the positives! I’m over halfway- both for the Nano goal of 50K and my personal goal of 60K. I think it’s going to take more than that to finish, but I’m happy with my progress thus far.

I am consistently writing. Even on days where I want to do anything but, I’ve sat down and worked. I think I’m a little bit harder on myself than some NaNo participants because I absolutely refuse to write garbage for the sake of a word count. If I know it is going to absolutely be edited out, I’m not going to write it in the first place. So actually getting words down that I’m okay with each day is a big deal. I’m not saying any of it is perfect (No one is that good!) but I know what I’m writing progresses or adds to the story.

I’m happy with how things are going. I’ve gotten past the exposition this week, and my rising action is working. Next week I’m going to be getting into some of the real meaty stuff, including a bunch of new characters we have been waiting to meet, so I’m still excited and positive. The story is still working- which I attribute to my extensive planning and outlining. I don’t have to think about where I’m going because I’ve already done that. I can simply immerse myself in Mae’s world and focus on writing well.

Struggles this week:
From the previous paragraph you might think that it has been a smooth journey this week, but that is not the truth of it. I am using a really great app called Writeometer on my phone to track my writing progress and I love that I can add comments to each separate writing session. There were quite a few this week where I had some wonderful comments, such as:

“Aggggg!” (Nov. 9th 9:59 PM)

“Ugh. Today it is like pulling teeth to write. Just not feeling it.” (Nov. 11th 8:35 PM)

“Arrrrrrgh. Done for tonight. Blagh” (Nov. 11th 10:57 PM)

November 11th was hard. I didn’t start writing until much later in the day, and I’ve found that I don’t work as well late at night… at least when it comes to writing, which is interesting because I’ve always considered myself a night owl. Maybe moving to the Tundra where the sun sets at 5pm is starting to really effect me!

This week I also faced the struggle to keep up with my regular life duties in addition to work and writing. My husband and I had a tense moment over something (probably dishes or ironing… two things I have been avoiding) and he showed me amazing grace. I was snappy and just stressed. Later we talked it out and he told me he almost said “Talk to me after November is over”. Looking at how I was behaving- I don’t blame him. It was a rough couple of days there.

Inspirations and Surprises:
The past couple of days I have turned around my attitude. I’m actively choosing to be happy and positive- something I like to practice in my life anyway, and quite frankly it is a great thing during this process. I surprised myself how much more I could get done when I was happy. Something as simple as putting a smile on my face could get me excited about what I was writing, even when it was difficult.

ChooseHappy

In terms of Inspiration and happiness, I downloaded the new Taylor Swift Album, 1989 on Friday. I’m in love with it and it is so much fun. As long as I keep the volume low I can write with it on. The upbeat vibe and sound are a great backdrop- even when I’m writing stuff that isn’t exactly uplifting.

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the second week? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Not Another NaNo Update! (Week One)

Nano Progress Week 1

I know, I know, there are a TON of NaNoWriMo updates going on right now- but ’tis the season right? I am going to keep mine weekly so that I am more focused on writing the Important stuff this month (the novel!) and not endlessly bombarding everyone with word count updates… so here it is, week one:

Weekly Word count: 15,586 (as of Saturday Morning)

Successes this week:
I started out on a roll this week- writing a lot my first two days, and I have stayed about 1 or 2 days ahead of the suggested word counts. Mostly this is due to the fact that I set a higher goal for myself, had good habits and made time to write. I am really lucky that I only work as a substitute teacher, and only worked 3 days this past week, so I have plenty of time to write, but in reality I probably spend less than two hours each day typing, except for on the weekend.

My outline is working, and I’m happy with how the story is unfolding. I share what I have written every day with three people- my mother, sister, and a friend (and writing buddy!) from back home. I just paste the words into an e-mail and send it. I don’t ask for feedback or advice, but just the act of sharing it has been really freeing for me. I want to publish down the road, so people ARE going to read what I write. Sharing it now helps me break down that heavy emotional relationship I usually have with my work, so I will be able to talk about it, share it, break it down and make it better.

Struggles this week:
About 5 scenes into my outline I had a lot of question marks. Until the inciting incident I had a clear idea of setting, etc. After that point I knew what would be happening as a result of the inciting incident (a large Solar Event shutting down the North American Power Grid) because I had done a lot of scientific research. What had me hung up, was how did I show these effects when locked into a 3rd person limited POV? I struggled for a couple of days- talked it out with some people close to me, and figured it out. I have started keeping secrets from the reader, and as an author this is scary because I want them to know everything I know- after all, I did tons of research- but in the end, this makes the story better!
Here is a picture of all the edits and additions on that section of my outline:

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Title trouble has also plagued me this week. I was lying awake the other night trying to think of something better because I’m just not happy with “Sky Full of Stars”. First of all it is one letter removed from a Coldplay song, and secondly, I don’t think it will fit the overall book. In the end I have decided to just keep it as a working title and jot down ideas as the come. This is something I can worry about later- after all- what good is a title for an unfinished book?

And yesterday I started out strong, with a great writing session of almost 1,000 words. Then life got in the way- as it has a way of doing. I had to pack for my husband and arrange travel plans for our puppy which turned into a much bigger problem than I had anticipated. I worked a book fair that night and thought I would get some writing done during the downtime, but instead was distracted by friends and books… so that isn’t really a bad thing right? Well, that is why we write extra on other days!

Inspirations and Surprises:
I really loved the pep talk from Veronica Roth this week. There seems to be a ton of polarization on the NaNoWriMo forums when it comes to writing styles. Plotters vs. Pantsers and the like. She essentially says to throw all of that out and just write- what is working for you right now, may not always work- and when you get stuck, try something new. The advice helped me for sure this week when I had to slog through some scenes that I didn’t see so clearly.

I personally re-read and do a quick edit of everything I have written for the day,, and in the process I like to pull out some of my favorite lines. Usually they are ones that make me laugh, so I would like to share some with you now:

Chapter One:
“Super important mission from the Mayor?” Jackie asked.
“Something like that.” Mae replied. “The town’s economy is going to be destroyed if I don’t go get some Shake n Bake right now. Serious business.”

Chapter Two:
Jess was sleepily walking down the stairs. “Power’s out.” She said, stifling a yawn. “Guess that sun thing actually happened.”
“End of the world as we know it right?” Mae said smiling at her friend. “Is it everything you thought it would be?”
“Cold showers and no lights? Yeah, pretty much.” Jess quipped. “I’m just waiting for the zombies to show up at the door.”
“Damn it, I am so not prepared for zombies!” Mae cried in mock distress. “What are we going to do?”
“Dan keeps a baseball bat in his car, just for this very reason.”
“Seriously?” Mae said surprised.
“Yeah.” Jess laughed. “That’s why I like him. He plans ahead.”

Chapter Three:
Maybe if the power doesn’t come back on by tonight I can eat the whole thing of ice cream back home, and not have to feel guilty about it. The thought made her smile. She didn’t want to mope around, especially if he had so publically moved on- and she had been the one to break up with him- but in the end, she couldn’t see letting a whole tub of ice cream go to waste either.

Thanks for checking in with me! How is your NaNo Journey coming? What struggles or surprises did you face in the first week? Let’s continue the conversation below!

Halloween in the Bush

Pumpkin Carving Contest at the School!

Pumpkin Carving Contest at the School!

The week of Halloween was very exciting here in Napaskiak. I was subbing the whole week for a class of 9 fourth graders who were simply wonderful, and I got to enjoy all the fun activities happening over at the school. On Wednesday night there was a carnival for the community. Various student groups as well as groups like the church from the community set up games or booths in the gym. Lots of people came to support and have fun! Nathan was in the sponge toss where kids could pay to throw a wet sponge at various teachers, and the principal.

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I helped set up the ‘Cake Walk’ a musical chairs-like competition where you could win a cake, and then announced over at the “Wheel of Fortune” where you could win tickets to use on other games.

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The Wheel of Fortune! (with a lovely colored pencil for the pointer!)

The Wheel of Fortune! (with a lovely colored pencil for the pointer!)

I found it interesting that the people who complained the most that night about losing were the adults! The kids loved it, and I had lots of fun announcing the games and getting people excited to play. It brought me right back to my days working at Sylvan Beach Amusement Park as a kid.

Thursday of Halloween week brought us to pumpkin carving in class. I printed out a pumpkin template and had the kids design two or three ideas each. They then voted on the ones that they liked the best for the two pumpkins the class had been given. Pumpkins are extremely expensive out here, because you can’t grow them on the tundra, so they have to be shipped in. I love that the school provided pumpkins for every class K-12 so that the kids don’t have to miss out on this great American tradition.

The Pumpkin Designs.

The Pumpkin Designs.

The kids voted to carve a Hello Kitty pumpkin (the girls were thrilled) and a Puking pumpkin that had been stabbed (this pleased the boys to no end) so in the end, everyone was happy. I didn’t trust the 4th graders to use the knife, even though a lot of them have experience with preparing animals and such after hunting, so we divided the labor- I would carve each design that they wanted, and they got to pull out the ‘guts and brains’ while separating the seeds that I would then cook for the next day. They seemed more than okay with this division of labor, and in the end, our pumpkins looked great:

Our Completed Jack-o-Lanterns

Our Completed Jack-o-Lanterns

Although we did not win the Jack-o-lantern contest the next day (Nathan’s class did though so that was exciting) it was great to see them all excited about the hard work, and all the creative designs that the kids in school had come up with.

In addition to the jack-o-lantern contest, Friday being Halloween, students and teachers alike all donned their costumes before coming to school. Fridays are half days for the students here (with teacher professional development in the afternoon) so during the hour they normally would do traditional Yupik dancing, an assembly was held in the gym. Each grade level showed off their costumes, and even the kids who were too young to be in school came in and paraded around.

The itty-bitites and their costumes! They were so adorable!!

The itty-bitites and their costumes! They were so adorable!!

I dressed up as a Lady in Waiting, and Nathan was Frodo Baggins from LotR. Both having theatre backgrounds we enjoyed dressing up very much. And a shout out to my awesome mother for making some key pieces in these costumes! (My whole outfit, and Frodo’s vest and cloak)

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Trick or Treating started at 3pm on either end of the village. The kids met up with the Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO’s) and went house to house in two big groups. Nathan and I headed to the Principals house, which is a part of the old school building, to work on their haunted house. I gave out candy to the kids who then either chose the ‘scary’ or ‘not scary’ routes out of the house. It was a whole lot of fun and in the end we had a lot of candy left over because we had combined three families worth to give out, so Nathan and I are set until Christmas!

It was exciting to be done with the holiday by 6:30pm. There was a dance later that night from 8:30 – 11 but I was so exhausted from the past two weeks that I wanted to just come home, get into my pj’s and read. Overall, I had a lot of fun, and am already starting to think about costumes for next year!