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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. 🙂

NaNo 2014 – Complete

I’ve been horrible about updating this blog. I’m going to try to do better in the new year, but in order for that to happen, I actually have to have something interesting to write about. (Hopefully my life will be more interesting in January.)

The interesting news I have now is that I have won my first NaNo with a full-time job. And I didn’t only win – I also wrote 150,000 words! I hit 150k yesterday, and my total so far is 151, 713. My plan is finish this novel and then probably stop, as I’m really close to being done, but we’ll see how much time I have over the next few days.

I wrote more words last year (500k), but I think this year was the hardest mentally. There was a good while there when I didn’t think I’d be able to hit 50k at all, and then a longer time when I thought I would never get close to even 100k, let alone 150k. I hated the novel I had planned on writing because I didn’t plan it well enough. The first 50k I wrote was mostly random short stories and two sad, pathetic attempts at other novels. It took me over a week before I finally came up with a new idea. This one I didn’t plan at all, so this is my first attempt at completely pantsing a novel. It has actually been a lot of fun, and the words flowed a lot more easily with this one than they ever have before.

I also hit a new milestone – 3k in 30 minutes! I actually ended up doing 4131 words in 42 minutes. If I hadn’t been hanging out with friends who really wanted food, I would have kept going, and I probably would have gotten my first 6k hour. My hands weren’t even hurting! The good news is that even though I didn’t hit it this time, I now know that a 6k hour is possible for me, so I have my next goal in mind!

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?

50k Day One – Complete

For anyone who didn’t see it on Twitter yesterday –  I HIT 50,000 WORDS IN A DAY!!!

I wanted to sleep the whole evening before, but I ended up sleeping from 1-6 pm on Oct. 31. Then I started at midnight and pretty much did not stop writing until 10:18 pm, when I hit 50,001 – about 15 minutes after Sushi beat me to it. I was really hoping I could beat her to it, but she has done this twice before, so I really should have known better.

If you check out the hashtags #50kkillmenow and #50kdayone, you can see all the other awesome people who wrote 50k in a day – or at least came really close to it!

For those who are interested, here is my spreadsheet for yesterday:

Day One – 2013

And for anyone who would like a reminder of how I failed last year:

Day One – 2012

My fingers felt like they were broken by the end of the day. My back was killing me. My forearms were numb. And my novel ended at 46k. I was worried I wasn’t going to finish. So I started writing some intentionally horrible fan fiction with a drunk narrator. Not by best writing, of course, but it was cracking me up while I wrote it, so I’ll go with it.

I had a lot of fun racing to 50k yesterday. My arms and back and everything feel better this morning. That said, I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt 50k day again. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I have. But I will definitely be there to cheer on anyone else who wants to attempt this in the future! 🙂

And just remember – no matter what you wrote yesterday, you should be proud of yourself!

NaNo Goals – 2013

NaNoWriMo starts in less than 27 hours. Part of me is really excited to start writing again, and the other part of me is terrified that I’m not ready. I should probably be working on another outline right now, but I’ve reached that point where I just feel all prepped out. I used to get the same way before tests. I’d make study guides, but then I’d get tired of pretending to study and just say “Screw it – whatever happens, happens.” That’s pretty much where I am right now.

Before this thing actually starts, I suppose I should share my goals for this month. I’ve posted these on the NaNo forums, but it can’t hurt to post them here. More accountability is always good, right?

• 50k Day One
• 75k opening weekend
• 100k by end of week 1
• 250k by end of month (dream goal of 300k)
• Finish at least 3 novels (5 if necessary to reach word count goal):

  • Degeneration – Contemporary YA
  • The Story of Em – NA Romance
  • The Whole Truth – Literary YA
  • Trail Magic (formerly 2,000 Miles) – Contemporary NA
  • Imprisoned Lightning – Contemporary YA

• Another 50k weekend
• Write at least 2k every day (preferably 5k)

That looks like a lot, but I think I can handle it. As you might remember, last year I got to 243k, wrote 2 novels, one novella, finished a third novel, started a fourth, and wrote a bunch of short stories. I’m hoping my projects will be longer this time so I won’t have to deal with short stories. Also, I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten every school assignment out of the way – EXCEPT for the lesson plans that I need to write once a week for my student teaching experience. I’m still going to be spending two days a week at a high school. Plus I have two Thanksgivings to do to and several things on that second Saturday of the month. Other than, though, I’m completely free.

I have the first three chapter outlines finished. The fourth one is about three-quarters finished, which is enough to get me almost to the climax. Really, I should be able to figure out what I’m doing by that point. The last novel is the one I’m worried about. I have the basic concept and the characters, and I have my three-act structure planned out. Sadly, that’s about it. I was hoping to have the rest of it figured out by now, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. I kept changing my mind about what was going to happen. What makes for more interesting characters is making the plot suffer, and what made for an interesting plot had rather stereotypical characters.

That said, I’m holding that novel off for the end. Hopefully I can get to 250k with the four mostly planned novels. Imprisoned Lightning is going to be the backup novel. I also have another idea that I got from the OA chat. I have two characters and a basic concept for that one. Plus, there’s always the dystopian series I started last NaNo. I still don’t have that one planned enough, but I could start rewriting it if I had nothing else to write.

I have tomorrow off, so I’m going to spend the day doing laundry and making food for the next few days. I’m then going to sleep most of the afternoon/evening so that I can wake up around 10 or 11 pm and get ready to write at midnight. I’m hoping I can quickly get back to the 3k/hour I was able to write last November and really get 50k Day One off to a good start.

Degeneration is my Day One project. I feel a bit like I’m cheating since I’ve written this story so many times, but I’ve decided to go with it anyway. I wrote it twice as a screenplay and once as a novel, and each draft has taken me one step closer to something I’m proud of. The last draft I wrote for one of the 2012 camp sessions, and it was about 49k. Now I’ve added a whole different subplot and changed her trip from two days to a week. It really is a significant difference. I’m not just rewriting scenes I already wrote – I’m adding like seven chapters that weren’t there before. And I’m not going to be looking at any of the previous drafts while I write, either. It’ll be just me and my outline.

I’ll probably end up doing what I did last year and write a brief post letting you all know how my 50k day went. I feel more prepared than I was last year, but you never know. Here’s a link to the spreadsheet I’ll be using, if anyone wants to keep up with my word count as the day progresses: Quix’s Day One Spreadsheet

I probably won’t post again before NaNo, so good luck to everyone who’s participating! Remember – don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about your goal. You’re only competing with yourself.

Also – don’t call anyone else a cheater just because that person can write more than you can. Hopefully no one following my blog would ever do that, but I felt the need to mention it anyway. Also, just because someone writes faster than you do doesn’t mean that that person’s writing is horrible. We’ve already had people in the Beyond 50k forum tell us that our novels must be utter nonsense, and I’m really not in the mood to deal with that crap already. So, just, yeah – be nice to all the other participants! 🙂

The one where I decide to do NaNo over my own objections

For those of you who have known me for a while, you know that I usually do NaNoWriMo in November. You might also remember that I had a rather difficult month last NaNo. I wrote 242k, but my heart wasn’t really in it. If you go through the archives for all the November 2012 posts, you’ll see that I wrote a lot about all the hate directed at Overachievers – people who aim to write more than 50,000 words in November. I felt alienated from my region and most of the people on the forums, and it just really got me down. The competition wasn’t fun anymore.

So I decided to stop. I took all the NaNo stickers off my laptop. I wrote during the first Camp NaNo, but I didn’t join the cabins or post on the website; I just wrote with people on Twitter when they were writing. I tried to get into the cabin thing for the second camp, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t care about NaNo anymore, and I didn’t want to waste my time supporting something that didn’t seem to want me there at all. I still supported the idea of NaNo, but I swore I was never going to participate in another NaNo event again. I actually almost included that in my last post, but it was already getting kind of long, so I figured I’d write about it later.

Then, October 2, the day after I almost posted about how I would never do NaNo again, I got an email announcing the new forums. I don’t know why I looked. It was 6 am, and I had 20 minutes before I had to leave for school. But I looked anyway. I scrolled through the forums. And that’s when I saw it.

The Beyond 50k forum.

Finally, the Overachievers have a forum. A place where you can complain about how you’re having problems hitting 20k in a day, and people won’t criticize you. I was happy when I saw it, but I still didn’t think I would do NaNo. Once the joy of something dies inside me, it’s really hard to get it back. Or so I thought.

And then I started reading the comments. I saw so many people I hadn’t talked to in a year, people who had made me feel better when everyone else made me want to curl up in a corner and never speak to the world again. And I realized that part of me did still care. It wasn’t as much as it had been, but I wasn’t completely indifferent anymore.

And then I set a goal. And then more goals.

A total of 250,000 words.

A 50k day one.

At least one 50k weekend, possibly two.

Four or five novels, depending on how many I need to reach 250k.

I’ve decided that this is going to be my redo for last year. Last year I failed 50k day one (hit 30.5k instead). I failed my goal of 250k (hit 242k instead). This year I’m not going to fail. I’m not going to let other people get me down. I’m going to stay in my nice, safe OA forum. I’m probably going to avoid most regional events, although there are still some people in the region that I like (namely the ones who helped support me last year).

I’ve spent the last five days trying to figure out what to write. I still want to edit Tilt before the month ends. I’m going to rewrite Degeneration as part of NaNo. I have three other novels that I’m trying to outline. I’d really like one more novel as a backup plan, but I’m going to focus on the ones I already have for now.

I’ve already been doing my school work ahead of time, but I’ve doubled my efforts. I’ve done all but one assignment that’s due in November and that I can actually start early. I’ll be busier than I was last year, but I’m still hopeful that I can get this all done.

Zombie novella off to a good start

For those who don’t know, my February writing project is the zombie novella I wrote for Day One of NaNoWriMo – Choices. It was supposed to be 50k and ended up being 30k instead. I wasn’t thrilled with the length, but I think it works for this story. It doesn’t need to be longer. It probably would be if I went back and added in a bunch of stuff, but I don’t see that happening. There is a very simple plot to this story, and most of the action comes not from the zombies but by learning about the characters, and trying to drag out the story to fit some minimum word count would just be stupid.

This story came about based on a dare that my region sent out for NaNo. There’s a game that (I believe) one of the MLs came up with called “Make it Sadder,” due to his love of writing depressing literary fiction. Last October, as everyone was scrambling to plan (or not) for NaNo, someone came up with the idea of “A man goes to the grocery store. Make it sadder.”

I don’t normally use the dares that my region sends out, as I usually have enough ideas to work with on my own, but this one caught my attention. I had already been thinking of zombies lately, and this idea mixed with zombies perfectly. A man goes to the store because they ran out of food during the zombie apocalypse. How could I make that sadder?

Marcus, the main character, came to me fairly quickly. Usually my characters introduce me to them a little bit at a time, but he was much more forward. He told me that he was a college graduate with no real career prospects who was trying to take care of his wife and baby daughter. He lived with his friends from college, a group of nerds who managed to survive longer than everyone else they knew.

This is a zombie story, yes, but the zombies aren’t really the main focus of the story. I would compare this novella to Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test in that way. The characters have their own issues and secrets outside of the zombie problem, and those issues are the main focus of the story.

I’m a bit late to the zombie party, I know, but this story wouldn’t let go of me. For a novella that I wrote in 24 hours, it’s actually quite good. Obviously it’s not perfect – there are so many inconsistencies with some of the characters that it’s probably easier to just delete several sections than to try to fix them. There were thousands of typos. I need to rearrange a few scenes and provide more information in others. I definitely need to add more description, as there’s not enough even for me, and I usually hate description.

But I still like it. I like the characters. The inconsistencies that I mentioned aren’t that crucial to the plot. They definitely need to be fixed, of course, but once I delete a bit of text, it won’t be that hard to fix. I finished the new outline on Friday, and most of the scenes are going to stay in the same order. I can only think of a few scenes that I need to completely rewrite or add. For the most part I just need to clean up the text and fix the typos and inconsistencies. I don’t need to completely trash the whole thing, or even half of it. This is definitely an exciting moment for me.

I just finished fixing the first chapter of the novella. There are six chapters total. The second chapter is the one that is going to require a lot of fixing, as I have almost no description at all, and I’ve decided to reveal one of the major plot points later, so I need to fix that. I’m looking forward to it, though. I’m hoping to finish the second draft this week. Of course, I also just got six new books from the library, so I might be a bit distracted. I’m going to try to find a healthy balance between reading and writing, though.

NaNo Wrap-up

I meant to write this yesterday, but I ended up going to the regional TGIO party and helping my boyfriend’s family set up Christmas decorations and stuff of that nature, so I didn’t really get around to it. So, here we are. December. For the first time, I’m actually glad that NaNo’s finished. I sort of lost interest in writing during the last few days of the month. I learned about this Pitch Wars contest, and since November 26, I’ve been more interested in editing one of my manuscripts to prepare it for that contest than I have been about writing more first drafts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Now for some numbers from the past month.

Total number of words written: 243,374

That’s not the 250k that I was aiming for, but it’s still 20k more than I wrote last year, so I’m still pleased with it. At least it’s an improvement. And I know that I could have reached my goal if I hadn’t gotten distracted those last couple of days. And if I had prepared more ahead of time. I had planned on working on three novels. I was going to write drafts one of Alone and For Real This Time, both of which I thought about be about 100k. Then I was going to finish up draft one of Let Go for 50k weekend. I wrote about 45k of it for Camp NaNo, and I wasn’t even halfway through with what I was going to write for it, so it seemed like a good plan.

The only problem with my plan was that none of those novels turned out as long as I thought they were going to be. I’ve never written short novels before, but this time I ended up doing just that. I think they’re going to get longer during the second drafts, as I’m sure there are things that sounded good on paper but didn’t end up working in actuality. The fact remains, however, that even after I added another novella for my Day One project, I still didn’t hit my goal. But let’s focus on what I actually did manage to write:

Choices – 30,531
For Real This Time – 72,000
Alone – 70,000
Let Go – 35,000 (total novel 79,970)
Together (sequel to Alone) – 23,199
Other (short stories and new novel attempts) – 12,644

So I now have 3 finished novel drafts, 1 finished novella draft, 2 complete short stories, 1 incomplete draft, and 3 more novel/short story attempts that ultimately went nowhere. Still, I’m pretty happy with what I did manage to write. True, I should have finished Together, but I really didn’t think that I would get that far. Alone was just supposed to be one book originally. Then I realized that there was too much going on to be just one book, so I broke it into two books. I didn’t really think that I would get to book two, so I didn’t really plan it out much. I have a general idea of what the plot is, but I didn’t break it down into chapters like I had with book one, so I had trouble trying to write it. I don’t need to have every line of dialogue planned out before I write, but it’s helpful for me to have more than just the overall storyline.

Still, I’m quite pleased with most of what I wrote. Choices was my Day One project. It didn’t quite make 50,000 words, but I still managed to write the whole thing in a day, and that makes me happy. I still like the storyline, just maybe not the exact words that I wrote. I’m still glad that I wrote it, and I definitely learned some things about that story that I wouldn’t have if I had planned it out ahead of time. In fact, the title of that story was taken from a few scenes that I thought of at four o’clock in the morning, when I was half asleep, and it tied the entire story together. So I’m actually pretty happy with that one.

I’m also happy with the other novels that I finished. I like the short stories that I wrote. I’m not so happy with the stuff that I wrote during that last week, but I kept writing, and that’s what matters. I wrote more this month than I ever have in a month before, and I’m going to try to focus on that instead of the 6.7k that I didn’t write that would have taken me to my goal. This has still been a great month for writing. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t write, so I’m happy with that. And now for some other numbers:

Most words written in a single day: 30,531 (Day 1)
Least words written in a single day: 1,468 (Day 29)
Average words written per day: 8,112
Most words written in an hour: 4,306
Number of days it took me to hit 50k: 4

Those are good numbers. I’m going to be happy with those. I hit 50k two days sooner than I did last year. I completed 50k weekend two years in a row. I wrote more words in a single day than I did last year. I managed to write 4k an hour twice. I managed to write some first drafts that I actually like. I mean, sure, they need major editing, but I might not have to completely rewrite them all. Of course, I thought that last year and I ended up rewriting that one, but I’m hoping that’s not the case this year. Of course, I guess I’ll find that out when I read over my other drafts. 🙂

Short Story: The Awesome Ashleys

Okay, so this is the last time I post something related to the Overachiever debate – I promise! But I’m still thinking about it, and it lead me to write this short story. I never really share my writing on here, but I figured I would share this if only because it would never make sense to anyone who has not followed the overachiever debate. For those of you who are tired of hearing about this – I apologize. Like I said, this will probably be my last post on here about this. For those of you who aren’t tired of hearing about it – well –  enjoy.

Ashley A. was always very shy growing up. She only spoke when spoken to. She didn’t have any close friends. The people in her classes didn’t talk to her. Her parents became concerned that their daughter didn’t have any friends, so they sent her to a special club after school that they thought would help her make friends, as everyone in the club was named Ashley, and at least she would be able to say that she had one thing in common with everyone else in the club.

Ashley A. wasn’t sure that this would help her make friends, but she decided to try her best. Maybe she would actually be able to make friends for once.  So the first day of the club, she put on the nicest shirt she owned, and she went to the club, determined to make friends with at least one person.

But everywhere she looked, people were annoyed with her. They didn’t like the shirt that she was wearing. Some said that the green was too bright, that it hurt their eyes to look at and that it was ugly and stupid. Others said that the shirt looked expensive, and that she was trying to shove it in their faces that she had more money than they did. Still others sneered that it was probably of really cheap quality, and that their own shirts were obviously so much better than hers.

“It’s not cheap quality,” she tried to say, defending her shirt. After all, it was a nice shirt. She had worn it special for this meeting. She thought it was nice, and she didn’t like that other people were making fun of it.

“Oh, so you think your shirt is better than ours?” they sneered.

“No!” she said, horrified that they would think that. “I think everyone has nice shirts on!”

“Our shirts are nice,” the other Ashleys said, “but yours is horrible, and you’re ruining this club for the rest of us. Why don’t you just get out of here and leave us alone?”

Ashley A. was miserable. She didn’t want to go back there, but her parents were so excited about it that she knew she had to go back. So she did. She tried to look for a different shirt that wouldn’t upset them, but green was her favorite color, and that was her favorite style of shirt, so she had a lot of shirts that looked like that. She eventually just gave up and wore another green shirt, since she figured they would hate her anyway, so she might as well wear what she wanted to wear. She did wear a jacket over the shirt, though, so that the other kids might not notice.

This time when she went to the club, the people who didn’t remember her shirt from before were nice to her. She thought she was making friends. But it was getting hot in the meeting room, and all of the other Ashleys were wearing short-sleeved shirts, not jackets. She wanted to wear a short-sleeved shirt, as well. So she decided that it would be safe to take off the jacket.

But then the nasty comments returned, all of them saying that she was showing off again, that she should take her stupid green shirt and go somewhere else. Once again, Ashley A went home in tears, sad that she didn’t even fit in among the other Ashleys.

On her third visit to the meeting, she decided that she would keep her jacket on the whole time, regardless of how hot she got. If she couldn’t get the Ashleys to like her, what hope was there that she would ever find anyone to like her? So she went to the meeting, fully intending to keep the jacket on forever and just sit back and watch the others talk about fashion and show off their outfits.

But at this meeting, she met Ashley B. Ashley B. was wearing a bright green shirt, too, and the other Ashleys made fun of her, as well. Ashley A. was afraid to go up to her at first, but she finally did. She showed Ashley B. that she was wearing a green shirt, as well, but that she was hiding it so that the other people wouldn’t make fun of her. Ashley B. agreed that she would do the same, and that they could be friends and know that they, at least, agreed with what constituted a nice shirt.

The next meeting, though, Ashley A. and Ashley B. were talking when a new girl showed up. Her name was Ashley C., and she was wearing a bright green shirt just like they had been. The other kids made fun of her, and she didn’t care. She just kept her head held high.

“They won’t hate you so much if you cover up your shirt,” Ashley A. told her.

“That’s stupid,” said Ashley C. “I like the color green. I like my clothes. Why should I have to change them or hide them just to make a bunch of stupid people happy? If my wearing a green shirt makes them feel bad about their clothes, then that’s their problem. I’m not going to let them make me feel about what I’m wearing, though, and neither should you.”

Ashley A. and Ashley B. thought about this and decided that Ashley C. was right. The three of them decided to start their own club within the club. They called themselves the Awesome Ashleys, as they were the only ones awesome enough to wear green, which was their favorite color. Together, the three of them joked and had a good time. They were able to talk about fashion designs that the other Ashleys thought were stupid. They stayed in their little corner of the room, away from the other Ashleys, and they had a great time. The other people in the group still made fun of them and called them names, but they didn’t care as much since they had a small group of people to hang out with that they knew would support them. After all, they were the Awesome Ashleys, and they weren’t going to let these other Ashleys bring them down, not when they had enough other for support.

And for the first time in her life, Ashley A. had friends, and she was happy.

But then one day she showed up at the meeting and saw that Ashley C. wasn’t wearing a green shirt anymore. She had changed to a blue shirt, and she was hanging out with the people who always made fun of their green shirts.

“You’re not wearing green,” Ashley A. said when she saw her friend.

“Not today,” said Ashley C. “I wanted to wear something of quality for once. But hey, you should definitely keep wearing green!”

Ashley A. and Ashley B. were confused, but they didn’t say anything. They hung out in their corner anyway, talking about Awesome Ashley stuff and having fun. They even managed to make Ashley D., a new member to the club who also liked wearing green, feel welcome. So they still had their Awesome Ashley meeting, just without Ashley C. And they still had fun.

At the next meeting, though, things changed. Ashley C. came up to them and said, “Look, guys, you can’t call yourselves the Awesome Ashleys anymore, okay?”

“Why?” asked Ashley A.

“Because it’s not fair to the rest of the Ashleys. It implies that they’re not awesome, and that’s just mean. It makes them feel bad.”

“But they always made us feel bad,” said Ashley A.

“Yeah, well, they shouldn’t have done that,” said Ashley C.

“But they’re still doing it,” said Ashley A.

“Just ignore them,” said Ashley C. “You should be proud to wear green shirts. But you can’t call yourselves awesome.”

“But it makes us feel good,” said Ashley A. “And there are so many more of them than us. What do they care what a couple of people they already hate call themselves?”

“Not all of them hate you,” said Ashley C. “Some of them just get upset when they see the green shirts because they don’t have the ability to get a green shirt, and it’s not fair.”

“So we shouldn’t wear green shirts because they don’t have green shirts?” asked Ashley A.

“Of course that’s not it,” said Ashley C. “No one’s telling you that you can’t wear green shirts. You just can’t call yourselves awesome.”

“Why?”

“Because it hurts people’s feelings.”

“But they don’t care if they hurt our feelings.”

“Don’t let them get to you. Be proud of what you’re wearing.”

“But you don’t want us to call ourselves awesome.”

“No. Because it’s mean to the other Ashleys, all of whom are awesome in their own way.”

“But you started this group,” said Ashley A. “You were the one who showed me that it was okay to wear what I wanted.”

“And it is okay to wear what you want. And it’s okay to be proud of what you wear. But you can’t use words to show that you’re proud because it makes the other people feel bad.”

“Well this is making me feel bad,” said Ashley A. She couldn’t believe that her friend was turning on her like this. “Why do you care if a bunch of mean people get hurt but you don’t care that this is hurting me?”

“Of course I care,” said Ashley C. “But this club is for all Ashleys, and you’re ruining it for them.”

“And you’re ruining it for me,” said Ashley A. quietly.

Ashley C. still heard her. “We clearly disagree about this. Look, you and Ashley B. and Ashley D. should have fun. Go talk to other people. Be proud. But don’t vocalize your pride, okay?” Then she held out her arms for a hug. “No hard feelings, okay?”

Ashley A. didn’t know what to do, so she awkwardly hugged Ashley C. back and then watched as her supposed friend joined the ranks of their tormenters.