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NaNo 2015 Wrap Up

So NaNo ended a couple of days ago. For anyone curious, I did not end up hitting a million words. I didn’t even get close. I ended with 503,305 words, though, which still makes this my best NaNo as far as word count is concerned. I also broke some other records this month: I wrote 58k on day one (previous best was 50k) and I managed a 6k hour (previous best was 5k). That’s pretty exciting, even if I don’t think I’ll be breaking those records anytime soon, if ever.

A big part of why I did not write a million words last month was because of my hands. They started really hurting after the first few days, so much so that they didn’t feel better the next morning. I realized that there was no way that I could maintain the 33k a day that I would need to reach my goal. I had a really hard time admitting that I was giving up so soon, but I was much happier  once I accepted it.

The other part of why I didn’t hit my goal, the part that was harder to admit,  was that I just didn’t have the mental strength or will or determination on whatever you want to call it to keep writing. Even if my hands had held up, I wouldn’t have made the million. I would write 15-20k most days, and that was only half of what I needed for the million. I hated feeling like I was always behind, like I could never catch up. Even 500k was too stressful to think about. I had no goal for a while and then when I hit 300k I felt like I could safely go for 400k, and then when I hit that with over a week left in the month, that was when I finally set my goal to 500k – well, 501,105 so I could end on a palindrome and beat my previous best. And then I hit that with 2 hours to spare and kept going.

I realized this year that aiming for ridiculous numbers isn’t that fun for me anymore. Of course, I still think of 300k as “easy,” so my definition of ridiculous might be ridiculous on its own, but that’s okay. I think I will be sticking to the 250-300k range in the future, assuming that my typing speed has increased by then. The reason it is so slow right now is because I have decided that it is finally time for me to learn the Dvorak layout. I said I’d do this years ago and didn’t, but the pain this year made me realize it was probably time. My hope is that this will allow me to still do over 50k for NaNo without pain. If it doesn’t help, I’ll have to lower my future NaNo goals even more, which I don’t want to have to do.

What about you? If you participated in NaNo, did you hit your goal? If you’ve switched to a keyboard layout other than Qwerty, let me know about it! How long did it take you to get back to a normal speed? Was it worth it?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – NaNoWriMo season!

National Novel Writing Month starts in just under three weeks. This will be my ninth year participating and (hopefully) my seventh win. It will also be my fifth year aiming for something more than the traditional 50k. Last year, I wrote 151k while working full-time as a teacher. The year before that, I wrote 500k while unemployed and going to school a few times a week.

This year I’m going for 1,000,000. Yes, you read that right. I’m going for a million words.

This is the craziest thing I’ve ever attempted in my life, and I’m including my year teaching. Other people have succeeded in writing a million words in a month, but I’ve never thought that I would try to be one of them. When I did 500k, I swore I would never try to write more than that. But then some other people on the forums – people I raced back in 2013 – decided they were going for the million, and I realized I had enough novel material to get me there, and I’m working from home and set my own hours, so I can basically have as much time as I want to write. Somehow, the idea wasn’t sounding so crazy anymore.

What does a million words look like? For most people, that breaks down to 33,333 words a day. For me, it’s a little more complicated because I’m going to be driving down to Georgia for five days over Thanksgiving break (Nov. 24-29), and I want to be able to spend that time with the family I rarely get to see, not spending 12+ hours a day writing. I also have a wedding to go to (also in Georgia) that will put me out of town from Nov. 6-9, though it’s for my boyfriend’s relative, so I anticipate writing on the way down and while there, breaking only for the actual wedding and reception.

This means that I’ll need to write more than average the other days if I’m going to reach my goal. I have 14 novels planned and another 80k worth of short stories that should get me to a million. I plan on writing one novel every two days, with the exception of the four novels that are 50k-55k each, which I hope to be able to write in a day. I’m looking at 30k-40k a day most days, which is 8-10 hours of writing a day – not counting breaks, which will definitely be needed.

The closer we get to November, the more nervous I am about my goal. The math makes it look relatively easy, especially since I can do 1k in about 10 minutes. That means 4k an hour is definitely sustainable, and I should be able to get a few 5k hours in there (I’ve already done that at least once and hope to get at least one 6k hour in by the end of the month). What the math doesn’t take into consideration is the strain this will put on my hands, the boredom I’m sure to feel with the novels that currently sound like a lot of fun, my puppy who is not going to like being ignored for hours a time – no matter how many treats and toys I give her in the meantime.

I’m not going to put my health at risk for this – if my hands start hurting more than normal, I’ll take a break. If I start hating myself and everyone and everything around me, I’ll dial it back a bit. That said, I really want to see if I can do this. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year, so this might be my only year to try this. If nothing else, it’s the only year that so many other awesome people are also going for a million, so this is my only chance to see if I can keep up with them.

Just under three weeks. I can’t decide whether that’s too long to wait or not enough time to finish prepping everything, but I’m excited nonetheless. 🙂

Book Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Title: Awaken (GoodReads)
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Page Count: 309
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian

Goodreads Summary:
Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

This book is set in the year 2060, and it follows a pretty natural progression from our current world. All schools are online. People rarely leave their houses, choosing instead to chat with people online and join online groups. Maddie plays soccer in person, but that’s about the only time she leaves her house. People’s food – or the processed crap they say is food – is sent to them, so they don’t have to leave their house for that reason, either.

The scariest thing about this book is that so much of it sounds exactly like life is today, or else it sounds exactly like what we’re heading toward. I can see much of this happening, and that fact is the main reason I kept reading this book. I wanted to see how much of this world was like ours. I was hoping for more explanations for how certain things got to this point – not that it needed much explanation as, like I said, so much of this is already happening now. This book has such a great premise, and the relatability of the concept is such that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this book reviewed more places.

And then I read it, and I’m sad to say that this book did not live up to it’s potential. The world building was a big part of the problem. I wouldn’t have thought she would need to do much world building here, as it’s basically our world fifty years from now, but it turns out it needed more information. It’s almost as if the author couldn’t tell whether she wanted to make it exactly like now or try to change to have it be “futuristic,” and so she ends up with this weird mix of present and future that doesn’t really make sense. It’s illegal to chop down real trees, but her mother gives her a paper journal. How did she get it? If the trees aren’t real, where do we get our oxygen? If they don’t leave the house for anything, why would they have a soccer teams? Why wouldn’t they just play virtual soccer?

My main problem, though, was that there was a lot more “telling” than “showing.” This is a problem that I have with my own writing, so I’m sympathetic, but I still found that weakened the story. There were a lot of info dumps, and we get to hear the message on practically every other page. While I get that it’s probably really hard to write a book like this without talking about the evils of technology, it would have been nice to see that worked in a bit more and not just front and center the entire book. There were also even times when instead of showing Maddie talking, we would see her speak, and then she would say something like “I said x” where “x” was literally what she would have said. It doesn’t save time, so all it did was take me out of the novel.

I also didn’t like the love interest, which brought the whole book down. For a “selfless” person, Justin spends an incredibly large amount of time talking about himself and his commitments and how valuable his time is. He always knows the right thing to say to Maddie, but we don’t really see much of why he knows her so well, so it comes off as creepy. Or at least it did to me. I didn’t trust him. He and Maddie have a lot of deep, intense, and/or personal conversations that don’t really seem to fit the situation.

I did like, though, that Maddie didn’t just immediately betray her family for the boy she supposedly loves. You see that all the time in young adult books, and I appreciated that that didn’t happen here.

Overall, this was a great concept for a book, but it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I kept reading because I was hoping it would get better, but that never happened. I found Maddie’s emotions to be all over the place (and not in a way that would make sense), and the end just sort of falls together, and that just made things worse. Apparently this is the first book in a trilogy (or at least a series), but I will not be reading the rest of them.

1.5 stars

Book Review: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Title: 17 & Gone (GoodReads)
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Page Count: 353
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA Mystery

Goodreads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

I had high expectations for this book. I recently read Suma’s Imaginary Girls, and I greatly enjoyed that novel. I expected the same level of beautiful and creepy writing that I found in that one. And to an extent I found that. The writing itself was creepy and beautiful. I could clearly see all the girls and the places Lauren went.

Sadly, that’s about the extent of my praise for this book, at least not without getting into spoilers. All I’ll say about the ending (really, the last third of the book, maybe a little more) was that I really liked it, and it mostly made up for the first half of the book. I nearly put the book down after 100 pages, and I have to say that I’m mostly glad I finished it.

That said, this book didn’t suck me in like Suma’s other novel. I felt no connection with Lauren, probably because she doesn’t really have much of a personality at all. We meet Lauren when she meets Abby, and after that she’s obsessed with learning more about these girls and figuring out what they want her to do and how she can stop herself from being like them. Once she meets the girls, I understand why she gets obsessed. The novel wouldn’t work if she weren’t. I still wish, though, that we got to see more of Lauren before she meets the girls. Her friends think she’s acting weird, but we don’t really understand why because we’ve never seen her acting normally.

This is also a novel where not a lot happens. As a lover of literary fiction, you’d think I’d be okay with that. Maybe I’ve been reading contemporary too long. Maybe this one just didn’t do a good job. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for a slow book. Whatever the case, I found myself bored with this book, particularly during that first hundred pages. I kept expecting the girls to talk to her or show her stuff and have her life be inconvenienced by them more than just “oh, I’m late for school.” I did eventually get all of that, but the beginning was a bit slow for me. I didn’t care what happened to Lauren or Abby. I didn’t really care why Lauren could see Abby. Really, after the first thirteen chapters, I took my bookmark out and decided to take it back to the library.

Obviously I had a change of heart. I’m not sure why I decided to give it another shot. The book did get better after that. We met more girls, most of whom I found more interesting than Abby. More things started happening. The novel got more surreal – in a good way. Lauren’s not the world’s most reliable narrator, but that just made things more interesting.

Overall: This books started out slow but got better near the end. I recommend giving this book a chance for yourself.