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A bit of an update

I knew it had been a while since I updated this blog, but I hadn’t realized it had been four months. Sorry, everyone. I’ve been meaning to write for a while now, but every time I tried, something else would come up, or I’d realize I didn’t really have anything interesting to say, or I would have a great goal for the next day, so I would want to wait and write about whatever marvelous thing it was that I was sure to do.

Now I’m forcing myself to write something because four months is way too long to go without writing something.

So far, I’ve failed almost every one of my goals for the year. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t even thought about writing every day. I haven’t added any fruits/veggies to my meals, at least not on a regular basis. I haven’t started exercising, at least not for more than a week at a time, and that only happened one week. I’ve technically lost 2 pounds since the start of the year, so I guess that sort of counts as a step in the right direction.

Really, the only goal I’m actually making progress with is my reading goal, which is 30 books this year. So far I’ve read 11. Three have been New Adult books, which means I’m ⅗ of the way to that goal. I’m reading my first of what I hope to be five non-fiction books. I actually bought 25 books at a library book sale this past weekend (and it only cost me $11!), 5 of which are non-fiction. I’m reading the first one now, a book called “Quarterlife Crisis.” It’s not as helpful as I was hoping it would be, but it’s nice to read about other people’s problems and know I’m not alone in thinking my twenties aren’t the best time of my life.

I also got four books on depression. This isn’t the same as getting help, which was another one of my goals, but I’m hoping they will still help a little bit. One of the reasons I’m hesitant to get actual help is because I’m not going to have this job (or therefore the insurance) after, like, June (maybe September since I think I’m covered through the year), and I’m hesitant to start something I won’t be able to continue.

As you all can probably tell from that last paragraph, I haven’t been feeling much better lately. In fact, this was a hard weekend for me. I did my taxes (first time on my own! Well, with only a program and my boyfriend, but still – progress!), and I was looking through old credit card statements and found a charge for the Kroger down the street from my parents’ house. And I started to cry. And I was sad all day over that fact, and I got teary and choked up when I was trying to tell my mom about how silly I was being.

I really hate living in Virginia. I love the area, but I hate being this far away from my parents. My parents are my best friends, and I hate that I can’t see them all the time. I knew moving out would be hard, and part of why I wanted to move to Virginia in the first place was because I was afraid if I didn’ get a job far away I would just live with my parents forever, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard. I thought it would be like when I went away to college – that saying goodbye would suck but then I would be happy the rest of the time.

But it’s not. I hate my job, which is a huge part of it. I never should have gone into teaching. Everyone who knows me said this was a stupid decision. I hate kids. I mumble when I speak because I don’t have the confidence to speak slowly and clearly. I don’t have the confidence to tell kids to shut up at and listen to me, at least not in a way that would have them actually listen. And worst of all – I can’t teach. I have no idea how to teach people anything. I thought college would help with that, but it didn’t, and now I feel even worse than last semester because now I have kids who are actually trying, and they deserve so much better than what I’m able to give them.

The good news is that there are only 9.5 weeks of school left until the end of the semester. I’m just about ¾ of the way through with this nightmare. I’ll still probably be trapped in Virginia for another year, maybe more (until my boyfriend finds a Latin teaching job in Georgia), and I’m not sure how we’ll make it work without my salary. I don’t want to find another job because then I wouldn’t have the vacation time to go and visit my parents like I can now, which still isn’t enough, but I’m afraid if I don’t find a job then we won’t be able to afford living here.

Every time I try to think about the past or the future, I get sad and my head hurts, and I feel like my brain is running in circles through a dense fog. But I can’t even really think about the present, either, because that is so upsetting, as well. My hope is that Camp NaNo, which starts in about five hours, will help me focus my mind on something else. So far I haven’t had the greatest success planning for this, but maybe something will come of it.

How have the rest of you been? Anyone doing Camp NaNo?

Camp NaNo: July 2014 Edition

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a few days. I hoped it I waited long enough I would miraculously think of something more interesting to say than my usual pre-NaNo posts. Then I realized that Camp NaNo starts in less than three hours and that if I was going to write this post at all, I’d better hurry up and do it now.

So, yeah, here I am, posting.

For those of you who don’t know, Camp NaNo is a spin-off of National Novel Writing Month, only in the summer. People can sign up for cabins, and you can choose your own writing goal. The lowest is 10,000 (I believe), and I’m not sure what the highest is. If you’ve ever wanted to do NaNo but wanted to do a separate goal, you should definitely consider Camp! (Or, you know, do NaNo and just not care that you don’t hit 50k.)

My official goal for this session of Camp is 75,000 words – or however many words I need to finish my novel. I’m writing draft 3 of DEGENERATION, my YA contemporary novel featuring Madison Carter, a high school senior trying to survive a family get-together with people she hasn’t seen in more than five years. I finished my outline a few days ago. It’s 14 pages and about 12,500 words long. I’ve never written an outline this long, but I’m hoping it will help me write a decent draft this time.

Normally the goal is to write the novel in a month. I’m aiming for two weeks. There are several reasons for this, which all sort of work together. Since this is my third time writing this novel (fifth if you count the two screenplays I wrote for Script Frenzy), I pretty much know what’s happening. There aren’t a lot of surprises, even though I am adding several scenes. The main reason I’m rewriting this one instead of just editing it is because it’s the writing that I don’t really like. Most of the plot was okay the first several times. Plus, I wrote a phase outline this time, which is basically just a condensed novel, so I shouldn’t have to wait and think of what to write next. It should all flow together.

Then there’s the fact that my boyfriend will be out of state for the first two weeks of Camp, and I’d figure I’d use that time to my advantage. We usually end up spending hours watching Netflix (I’ve finally started watching Dr. Who!), and I don’t get that much accomplished. Now I’m not going to turn on the TV at all. Just me and my computer. And, okay, sure, I’ll still have plenty of distractions online (2048, Twitter, NaNo forums, cabins, and chat…), but I’ll have at least two fewer distractions, and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on.

Since he’ll be gone for two weeks, I’ve decided that my goal is to have my novel finished by the time he gets back. I have another novel I’ve been planning for the past few days. The idea came to me while watching Sports Night, and it hasn’t left me alone since then. I’m still working on getting to know the characters, and I only have a few vague scenes in my head, but I’m still excited about it. I’m hoping to have enough figured out by mid-July to start writing something.

I’ve also just learned about a website called MyWriteClub, where you can track your progress in writing/editing and have others follow along and cheer on your accomplishments and stuff like that. I’m quixotic_hope over there, as well, so if you’d like to add me, you can do so here after you sign up!

Here on the east coast, there’s now just over two hours until Camp starts. Are you joining in? What are you working on if you are?

Camp NaNo – complete

Another Camp NaNo has come to an end. My goal this month was to finish draft 3 of Tilt Your Head and Smile, my NA novel about a young woman who graduates college, can’t find a job, and struggles to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Slightly before four o’clock this morning, I wrote the last sentence of the manuscript. I was four hours late finishing, but I still finished before I went to bed, so I’m counting this as a win. Here are some statistics:

Word Count: 105,897
Chapters: 25
Hours Spent Writing:48.5
Average Words per Chapter: 4,236
Average Words per Hour: 2,183

Now, the hours spent writing number is only the time spent actively writing, not the time I spent staring at the screen doing nothing or reading Twitter or playing stupid Facebook games. But I’m still happy with what I accomplished this month. This is the first NaNo I’ve done in grad school when I actually had a bunch of homework to do, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to write. I’m glad to say that my fears were unfounded. Of course, it helps that I only had school for half the month – although it was an intense half a month.

This morning was the first day in a long time that I didn’t wake up feeling like I was supposed to be doing something. It was nice, but now I’m just sort of sitting on the couch wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ll probably end up spending the day reading. I’ve started reading a non-fiction book that I feel will help me plan the next book I’ll be working on – my political dystopian novel.

Right now, my plan is to spend the month preparing for the next draft of Alone (the aforementioned dystopia). I’m not sure what I’ll do after that. I have three different novels that I want to edit (not counting the one I just finished). I also have several other novels that I’ve never actually managed to finish. I guess I’ll just take this one step at a time and see what I want to do after I figure out Alone.

Anyone else participate in Camp NaNo? If so, how’d you do? If not, did you accomplish anything else fun this past month?

Camp NaNo Update #2

I’m really bad at writing Camp NaNo updates. Part of my problem is that I want to wait until I’m done writing for the day to write them, but then I don’t finish writing until right before I collapse into bed, and that’s not really the best time to write a blog post. Since it’s been like a week and a half since my last update, though, I figure it’s probably best if I actually pull it together long enough to write this.

This past weekend (Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon), I was on vacation with my parents, my boyfriend, and my sister and her boyfriend. We rented a house on a lake, and we spent most of the time swimming and playing games. It was a lot of fun but not very conducive to writing. I had one good night of writing while everyone else was playing ping pong downstairs, but I still only managed to write 5,884 words the entire weekend.

Monday I drove back for my last class of the summer semester. I had a debate and a huge project due. I ended up getting an A on both assignments, and I learned that I passed the English GACE (the test that I needed to pass in order to get my teaching certification). I decided to spend the night relaxing and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend. Not a productive evening, but it was fun.

Last night I started being productive again. I wrote 7,893 words, which I feel is a good start on making up for the words I didn’t write this weekend. I have nothing to do for the next month, so I’m definitely going to be putting my all into writing. Well, writing and reading, because I have 3 library books out right now and 2 books that I promised people I would read and review. So, yeah, lots of reading to do, too. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks. 🙂

For those who don’t know, here are my current stats for Tilt Your Head and Smile:

Total Words: 70,104
Average Words per Day: 4,382
Total Chapters: 13
Average Words per Chapter: 5,842

At this rate, TYHAS will be about 135k – a bit much for a contemporary/literary NA novel. Of course, my novels tend to get shorter with edits, so that’s comforting. I have this problem where I’m always afraid that I’m leaving out important information. I guess I have this other habit of trying to skip scenes that are too hard for me to write, and I end up taking the easy way out and wind up staring at my “finished” manuscript, which isn’t really finished at all. In an order to fight that, I try to force myself to write everything, even stuff that should really just be summarized, and that’s how I end up with super long novels. That’s also why draft 2 tends to be shorter.

I am starting to work on a different method of outlining, though. I still have my original outline, which is about 6,100 words long and is broken up into chapters and details what happens with each different plot line in that chapter. I tried to put those in order within each chapter, but some chapters need a lot of switching around/breaking up/combining in other ways. This is all fine with me, as it seems to be working for now.

But now what I’m doing is going back through and outlining each chapter more specifically right before I write it. In the past, I’ve just gone through and made my notes a bit more detailed. Now, though, I’m also going through and trying to figure out which parts need to be actual scenes and which could just be summaries. I just started doing this last night, but it definitely helped me finish that last chapter faster – but in a way that still made sense.

Camp NaNo update: Going nowhere fast

So I’ve realized we’re about to finish the first week of Camp NaNo, and I haven’t updated this blog once. It’s time to fix that. First, some stats:

Current word count: 31,509
Average word count per day: 5,252

That’s not bad considering the fact that I didn’t write at all on Friday because I was finishing up a major project that accounts for 20 percent of my grade in my online class and the fact that I only got an hour of writing done on the fourth of July because I was out of the house with friends all day. I’ve finished through chapter 5 in my outline, although one of the chapters is going to be broken up, as it’s about 11k all by itself, which is a bit ridiculous. If I split that into two chapters, my average chapter length is the same as my daily word count, 5252. That’s still a bit longer than my chapters usually are, but maybe that’s just the way this manuscript is going to go, because I actually think most of my chapters are about that long even when I’m not finding the average.

As a reminder, this month I’m writing yet another draft of my NA novel TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE. I first wrote this novel for NaNo 2011. I wrote the first 50k, changed the format halfway through, and wrote another 50k, bringing my total up to 100k for that draft. Then I rewrote it for JanNoWriMo, and that draft was again 100k. I got about halfway through editing that one and rewriting parts of it when I decided to work on something else.

That was all before I realized that New Adult was a thing. I was calling my novel literary fiction. Now I’m calling it contemporary NA. I changed the plot around some. I added a romantic subplot. The romance really is just one of the subplots, though, so I don’t feel too bad about adding it. And April is now going to be learning more about herself than she was in the last several drafts, so I’m excited about this version. I’m still going to have to do major revisions when I’m done with this draft (because I tend to ramble just as much in my drafts as I do in my blog posts), but I’m excited because I think I might finally have the basic plot of this one figured out.

Of course, part of the problem I’m noticing with this draft is that I’m 31k into it and only just finished chapter 5 out of 26. If I continue at this pace, this story is going to be like 137k, which is just a tad too long (read: way too long) for a NA novel. I’m starting to think my goal of 80k was a bit too low. Still, I remember this happening the first time I wrote this, too. I think I just need to get into my groove and it will figure itself out. Or I’ll just end up cutting thousands of words when I revise. I usually end up doing that, too.

That’s one thing I’ve noticed about my writing process: I’m great at adding words to novels, but I rarely actually make progress with those novels. I mean, really, I’m 30k into the novel, and she hasn’t even reached her “to hell with all of this” point that makes her start looking for a real job. This novel takes play between May 2010 and March 2012, and I’ve only just reached the first week of June 2010. And I’m at 30k.

I have problems.

Still, this is a first draft. Well, okay, this is a third draft. But still. It’s a draft. It’s my first time drafting this particular version of this novel. I don’t care if it’s good. I care if it’s done. I’ll make it good later.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing to do. 🙂

Editing and preparation for Camp NaNo

Camp NaNo starts in less than an hour. I’m tempted to stay up and start writing exactly at midnight, but since I have to wake up around 5:30 tomorrow for training, I probably shouldn’t. I am, however, tempted to wake up at 5 instead and write for a little bit. We’ll see how I feel in the morning. I might just go back to sleep for an extra half hour. At the very least, I’m bringing a notebook and my notes for chapter 1 with me so that I can write at work.

Just the returning photographers are going to training tomorrow, and there’s not really anything that they can tell me that I don’t already know. I mean, I worked a job already yesterday, so it’s a bit late to try to train us. The only new thing I noticed was that there’s an extra alignment line thing that shows us where to crop the bottom of the picture to. They could explain that in an email. They don’t really need to call us all in and make us sit there for eight hours. But whatever. That’s why I’m bringing a notebook. The notebook will also be useful when they make us sit through that incredibly boring sexual harassment video that they make us watch every season, even though corporate only demands that we watch it once a year.

I’m a bit worried that I haven’t prepared enough for Camp. There are still a few details I’m not exactly clear on, and I haven’t decided exactly how to deal with the fact that the last like eight chapters of the book switch back and forth between Samantha and Chloe and completely ignore Natalie. Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure what I want Samantha’s relationship with another side character to be.

On the other hand, I also have descriptions for all of the main characters and several of the main side characters. I understand their motivations and know what they want and what they’re afraid of. I have an outline that summarizes all the major events by month. I have another outline that breaks up what will be in each chapter. I have another outline that just lays out all the important dates and what days of the week those events occur on. I asked two different Facebook friends for help on what two of my characters would be doing for their senior projects. I have plenty of information to draw on. I’m way more prepared than I’ve been for novels in the past. I’m just nervous, I guess.

My goal for the month is 60k or a finished first draft. I’d like the finished draft more, but I would also like to bring my total word count for 2012 up to 300k, and 60k this month would do that. That’s a little more than 1900 a day, which isn’t horrible if I actually stay focused and write at least one chapter a day.

I originally wanted to be finished with the first round of edits for Tilt before Camp started, but it looks like that’s not happening. I am pleased with what I’ve done so far, though. I’ve made markups of the entire manuscript, and I have a new outline of each chapter with notes for things to add and things to delete. I started trying to type up the changes as I went, but once I hit chapter 12, I ran into bigger problems, which led to a lot of shuffling around and major rewrites, and it was just easier to read the whole thing and tag problem areas as “delete” or “expand” and just deal with it later.

Tilt now sits at 96,575 words, down from the 101,478 words that it started at. In case anyone cares, that’s a net decrease of 4,903 words so far, and I’ve just finished fixing chapter 18. There were originally 39 chapters, but I’ve made notes to delete four of those. I’m on page 94 out of `189 (1.5 spaced, Garamond size 11 font, 0.7 inch margins, in case anyone’s curious). I’ve also just wrapped up December 2010. This means I’m pretty much in the middle of the novel no matter how you want to look at it, which is pretty exciting. I’m rather pleased with the draft so far. It doesn’t feel quite as…stifling…as it was before. April talks to people. She’s not just shut up in her room for half the book. Quite an improvement.

I’ll probably still end up making changes during August, but I’m going to try to focus more on writing Keep Going. I’ll finish editing Tilt in September. Then I’ll probably work on editing Degeneration. I’ve also been coming up with more ideas for the short story I wrote for my thesis class that I’ve always wanted to rewrite as a novel. I’m starting to see that world more clearly, and I look forward to getting more notes down on paper for that one. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be writing that one for NaNo this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I should simply try to get some sleep so I can wake up early and write tomorrow morning…I mean so that I don’t fall asleep during training.

Camp NaNo Day 10

The second weekend of Camp NaNo ended pretty well. I wrote 5,602 words today, bringing my camp total up to 17,579. I’m caught back up to where I’m supposed to be, which I was a bit worried about. I’m on chapter 9 of my novel, and it’s just 24,794 words long. I’m a bit worried that the novel’s going to be too short (since I only have 7.5 chapters left to write), but I’m trying not to let myself get too worked up over it. After all, I always worry that I’ll run out of plot, and yet my stories always ramble on and on. Besides, these are the plot-intense chapters coming up. I’m just going to write this novel and worry about the length later.

Up until this point, I’ve been basically following my screenplay. I add transitions between scenes and show what my main character is thinking, but for the most part what happened in the script shows up in the novel. Today I finally got away from that. I added a scene that wasn’t in the screenplay, and it was a lot of fun to write. I introduced a character a day earlier than I did last time (which doesn’t sound like much but considering 75% of my novel takes place over 2 days, that’s kind of a big jump), and I managed to include a line of dialogue that I really like but wasn’t sure where it would fit.

I also feel a lot better about my novel than I did a few days ago. I talked to my boyfriend and managed to fix a problem I was having, and I finished Keeping the Moon (review here), which helped me understand more about writing young adult fiction. That book actually helped me immensely because it showed me that climaxes don’t have to be huge battle scenes where someone’s probably going to die. Sometimes a climax just has to be standing up tall when someone tries to tear you down and telling them that you’re not going to take it anymore. I think I needed to be reminded of that.

In semi-related news, my mother went to the library yesterday and picked me up a copy of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and I promised myself that if I caught back up today I would get to make some. Midnight is a bit later than I was hoping to get started, but I really want cookies and haven’t gone to bed before 2 am in a long time, so I’m not going to let that stop me. We’re just about to take the first batch of peanut butter oatmeal cookies out of the oven. I don’t know how they taste yet, but they smell delicious. Of course, peanut butter usually smells delicious. 🙂