Tag Archive: NaNoWriMo

November, briefly

Being a writing buddy is exhausting!

Usually, November ushers in snow and cold weather and I start to get a case of the winter blahs. We have been especially lucky this month to have mild temperatures (for the most part), and I’m in much better spirits than I normally am at this time of the year. This November has been very productive and fun, and I owe a lot of that to the fact that I’m back in a solid writing groove.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I finished a (very sloppy) first draft of a YA contemporary thriller I have been conjuring up in my head for several months. I used this first draft to get to the heart of the story and show myself what it’s really about. As usual, my characters had different plans than I did, but for me as an author, those revelations are half the fun. Now that I have words on pages and know my characters better, I can work at refining the mess and getting the story to look on paper how it does in my head. Which is always the hardest part…

Reading: I finished two excellent Sweet Sixteen debuts: Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson, and The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander. The former is told entirely in texts, chats, and blog posts, and I loved its creativity and how totally real the characters felt. The latter, about a girl haunted by the drowning death of her twin brother who begins to challenge her fears through freediving, is beautiful and haunting and evocative. I also read Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, whose writing is in a league of its own. Her autobiographies are many things, but inspiring tops the list. I ended the month with Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, a book I had been eager to read, and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the humor and heart, and how relationships were portrayed– family bonds, friendship, and romantic love.

Watching: After hearing so many great things about Westworld, I knew I had to start the season and give it a try. (My husband was surprised I suggested it since I’m not usually a huge fan of sci-fi.) We were both sucked in right away by the totally imaginative concept, plot twists galore, and fascinating, multi-dimensional characters. I’m glad I ventured outside of my TV comfort zone!

I love Christmas, so I’m looking forward to all that December brings… picking out a tree and decorating it, wrapping gifts, spending time with friends and family, and eating all the holiday food! Wishing you all the best in the last month of 2016!

November, briefly

I’ll be honest: November has been a bit of a roller-coaster month, with pretty sharp ups and downs. I started the month feeling super-positive, but when a lot of things on my to-do list piled up, I started getting anxious and stressed. A particularly frantic moment inspired me to write this post and led to a mini-break from writing to focus on things not on my to-do list… Namely, shopping, wine, and long walks. I came out of my writing break feeling refreshed and eager to write new words. If you’re a writer struggling with burnout, my advice is to not feel guilty about taking some time away. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with guilt at first, but now I can see that it was the absolute best thing for my mental state. And November turned into a pretty awesome month.

This month, I have been…

One of the highlights of my November– a hike at Fanshawe Conservation Area.

Working on: I’m a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. I love fast-drafting and the excitement radiating off the whole writing community, and there was a new idea percolating in my head, so I went for it. I didn’t tell many people I was NaNo-ing. I didn’t do word sprints on Twitter and I wasn’t public about it like I normally am. I guess you could say I was a ninja NaNo-er? Either way, after my writing break, I was way behind on my word count, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to “win.” But I love nothing more than a challenge, and I’m proud to say I passed the 50K mark and have a shiny first draft of a book I’ve been describing in my head as “trouble.” Well, it’s not all that shiny. It’s kind of tarnished and rough around the edges, but it’s words on pages and those words make up a book-shaped thing that I’m excited to start revising.

Reading: November has been another stellar reading month. I started out by reading my Sixteen to Read sister Shannon Parker’s THE GIRL WHO FELL, a book I had been deliriously craving since what felt like forever. And… wow. Shannon’s writing is electric, her characters vividly real. THE GIRL WHO FELL is the story of Zephyr Doyle, a senior who has life mapped out– until cute new boy Alec shows up at school and turns her world upside down. She thinks she’s in love– but love isn’t supposed to make her feel bad, and it’s not supposed to hurt. Zephyr’s story is both heartbreaking and hopeful and I know this book will leave a huge indent in the YA world.

Next, I read Kerry Kletter’s THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED, another debut I had been (very impatiently) waiting for. I went in with high expectations, all of which were shattered to pieces. This story is about a lot of things– losing yourself, finding yourself, first love, second chances– but centers around a very tenuous and toxic mother-daughter relationship wherein secrets are buried so deep they can’t be seen from the surface– so deep that the main character, Cassie, can’t bring herself to remember them. Kerry’s writing is lyrical, poetic, and strikingly original. This is a book I’ll read more than once and pick out new details every time.

I finished the month with Kathryn Purdie’s BURNING GLASS. I tend to read less fantasy than contemporary, but the premise for this book hooked me right away. (Plus, the cover is so stunning!) The main character, Sonya, is an Auraseer– she is gifted with being able to feel the emotions of those around her. But when she’s tasked with serving the emperor and sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is thrown into a world where she has to figure out who she can trust and how to harness her powers. I was immediately swept up in the magic, the lush setting, and the romance of this gorgeous book.

Watching: My husband and I finished Scandal and were in a bit of a Netflix funk until we started Wentworth, an Australian drama set in a women’s prison. I started out comparing it to Orange is the New Black (and missing my favorite character, Crazy Eyes), but after a couple episodes, I definitely like it as much, if not more. There are obvious similarities– including glimpses into the lives of the women prior to prison– but lots of differences too. Wentworth feels grittier and darker to me, which I love. I’m looking forward to watching more (aka binge-watching the rest of the episodes, since I have no self-control when it comes to Netflix).

Well, that’s my November in a nutshell. Now that the colder weather and snow have arrived (sob), I’m getting excited for the upcoming Christmas rituals– decorating our tree, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged, baking this delicious and addictive treat, and scrambling to get my shopping done. It’s really hard to believe that FIRSTS comes out in just over a month (!!!), and that 2016 is almost here. But in the meantime, I’m going to squeeze all the fun I can out of what’s left of 2015!

Oh, and stay tuned… there’s some really fun stuff related to FIRSTS that I’ll be sharing very soon!

My NaNoWriMo experience

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. In fact, I had firmly decided to sit this one out.

I’m invested in another WIP, one I wrote very quickly after Pitch Wars. A story that I have put together, pulled apart, ripped open, and dissected. A story that has been through one full draft and a bunch of false starts at rewriting. A story currently existing in half a dozen Word documents and scribbled on countless Post-It notes. Starting a new project would just complicate things. The timing was wrong. Right?

But at the same time, there was another idea percolating in my head, and a character who demanded my attention at the most inconvenient times. I was itching to fast-draft again, to let myself be free with my words. I wanted a ticket past the critical self-editing watchdog taking up residence in my brain. I wanted a magic formula to unstick the places I was stuck in with my WIP.

And while I’m pretty sure that magic formula doesn’t exist, NaNo does, and maybe that was exactly what I needed. Time away from my WIP. I wondered if absence really would make the heart grow fonder.

So I dove in. In the end, I only spent 16 days of November working on my NaNo novel for a total of 50,014 words, including a 15K sprint for the finish on November 30 that left me bleary-eyed and sore-wristed. It’s probably the loosest, most sparsely detailed first draft I have ever created. (I recently described it to my CP as a “hot mess.”) But that’s okay, because it’s a first draft, and that’s all it has to be for now.

And more importantly, that time away from my WIP was invaluable. It was different than just taking a break from writing entirely, which I have also done in the past when I felt burnt out. Because as I was typing those fresh words, the puzzle pieces of my WIP were also coming together inside my head. Shifting, interlocking. Taking shape.

Maybe that would have happened without NaNoWriMo. Maybe I would have figured things out without fast-drafting something new. But I think that by giving myself that freedom, by not treating my words like glass that would break if they weren’t placed in careful sentences, I helped shut that self-righteous editing watchdog up.

Does anyone else use this strategy, fast-drafting to stimulate creativity on other stalled projects? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

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