New Year Update

Well, it’s been two months since my last post. Time to check in and see how things went.

I did manage to write 50,000 words in November. Unfortunately, almost none of them were on the original novel I had planned to write that month. It was on the Dramione story I’ve been working on. I’m glad that that story is going so well, but it’s frustrating that I didn’t succeed in making progress with my original novel. I’m trying to figure out where I went wrong–why I can write several hundred page fan fictions, but that I can’t seem to find the steam to move forward on my original stories.

I’m not sure if it’s a motivation issue, a world building issue, or plot.

When I post fan fictions, the characters I’m writing about already have a big following, so I get lots of feedback as I go along, and it spurs me on to keep writing. I’ve archived over a million words of fan fiction and constantly have new ideas for more.

Maybe it’s a world building or character creation problem. Writing fan fiction is easy for me because I take characters I like and know well, and put them in a situation I’ve dreamed up (no magic for Draco, a terrible law, etc.) and respond in the way that feels natural for the character. Maybe I just don’t know my own characters well enough before I try to write an original novel?

Or maybe it’s just the sort of plots I’m trying to write. Most of my fan fictions have an overarching plot, and a slow-burn friendship into romance over the course of the story. When I tried to write the original novel I came up with this fall, I tried to write something entirely without romance, and never assigned a gender to my main character. Maybe I’m just better at writing romances? Should I just admit that that’s what I’m good at? Or is there a way to improve my skills?

The stories I loved best growing up–the Prydain Chronicles, Artemis Fowl, The Lord of the Rings, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even Harry Potter, didn’t put romances front and center in the story. The stories I liked best were about changing (or saving) the world and finding out who you were. That’s the sort of story I’d like to be able to share with the world.

Goal one: In 2016, I want to improve my writing skills and write an original novel. It doesn’t have to be finished, or perfect by the end of the year, but I want a story.

I also want to do more hands on crafts this year. 2015 was an amazing, crazy, wonderful year. Our business grew from 8 to 26 employees. This year, I stayed home all of Christmas weekend, and relaxed and had a wonderful time with my husband. Last year, we were working long days, 7 days a week. Now, I’ve got more time for hands on crafts again.

This Christmas, I made a Christmas stocking for my stepdaughter. Can you guess which one is hers?

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Goal two: In 2016, I want to keep working on hands on projects and learning new skills. I want to sew, and crochet, and learn modeling software to 3D print things.

One of the pitfalls of working long hours and having no time, is that I ate a lot of food that was terrible for me in 2015. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most of it. But whereas in 2013 and 2014 I experimented with a lot of new recipes and had fun with them on my YouTube channel, in 2015, I ate out. Fast food, restaurants, take out, you name it, a lot of days, I was too tired to cook.

However, now that I have more time on my hands, I’m committed to cooking good food and eating healthy. In the last month, my husband and I have cooked everything that we’ve eaten. I’ve dropped 10.2 pounds as of this morning. I cut out refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, wheat, dairy, and corn. Whole grains, veggies, fruits, meat, and healthy fats are now the rule of thumb in the house. My husband has come up with some fantastic recipes. For example, look at this beauty from Christmas night:

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Quinoa, with yellow squash, onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers, and a a piece of duck breast with almond flour, cooked in a little olive oil. It was amazing. Absolutely brilliant. (Seriously, how have I never discovered Quinoa until now? It beats rice hands down.)

A month into eating this way, we feel better, have more energy, and our clothes fit better. While I might relax a little–a slice of cake or glass of wine now and then won’t kill me–I feel so much better eating real food that I want to keep doing it.

Goal three: In 2016, I want to keep experimenting with new cooking recipes and fabulous new food that’s good for me. 

Well, there’s my start of the year update. What are you looking forward to in 2016? How was your 2015? What changes do you want to make in your life? What do you want to keep the same?

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Confession

Happy Friday, everybody. Or, Saturday. I probably won’t post this until tomorrow.

I took the plunge and did something I’ve been putting off since I hit my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal on November 29th. I reopened my story for editing. This might not sound like a big deal–I got the words on paper, I did the hard part, right? It’s just time to go back and clean it up a bit, yeah?

Well, I have a confession to make. It’s probably going to make me sound like a bad writer. The truth is, maybe I am.

I’ve never seriously edited a story before.

I’ve sent out 1.3 million words’ worth of stories into the internet to hopefully entertain and delight fantasy fans, and I’ve never seriously edited them. Most of those stories were fan fiction. I had strong characters as my starting points and I put them in a situation and just let the characters dictate what their natural responses would be to the situation. The stories just kind of evolved, and I’d post a chapter at a time, as they came to me–there were a couple of stories that were 8 years, start to finish, as I pretty much took a break from fan fiction throughout all of college and a couple of years after and only returned to it intermittently until recently. There are pros and cons to this I suppose. Pro? I had to stick with what I’d written because it was already out there and I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point after the fact. Con? I couldn’t change my mind about a plot point because it was already out there.

Maybe it’s just a decade of habit now, but when I think about my stories, I rarely ever give much consideration to major changes. Pretty much everything I’ve posted on FanFiction.net could use going over with a fine tooth comb–there are typos that need to be fixed that embarrass me. But I’ve never really thought about dismantling the stories and changing any major facet about them. The characters told me what felt right for them and the story worked. If I didn’t know what the characters needed or I wasn’t sure where it was supposed to go…then my reviewers waited a long time between chapters.

Participating in NaNoWriMo this year and really pushing myself for the first time in writing an original story (as original as a fairytale gets), I discovered some of the problems with my method of writing. If you have characters you know like the back of your hand, characters you feel like you know as well as anyone in the real world, it’s possible to feel pretty certain that you’ve chosen a natural response for them in a situation. But what about when you don’t really know who your characters are yet? When their backstories are still largely unformed?

For example, part way through my NaNoWriMo story The Making of a Beast, I decided that the main character’s friend and confidante wasn’t a friend who he’d grown up with–it was his father’s friend, who had watched him grow up. I’m fairly certain he’s going to abandon the main character at some point, but I’m still not sure who he is and what the reason for it might be. So I just skipped over that bit.

That’s right–I skipped over chunks of the story during NaNoWriMo, which is something I couldn’t do when I was writing fan fiction. Again, you’ve got the pros and cons there–by being able to skip over it in this case I was able to keep writing, and moving on, and I know I can go back and fix it when I’ve made decisions. It’s been over a month and I haven’t wanted to think about it–I haven’t made those decisions, and I don’t have any better idea about who my characters are. When I write my fics, if I can’t decide on something or I’m not sure about it, it delays the whole process, because I can’t go back. B has to follow A and C has to follow B or the whole alphabet will hate me–though occasionally there’s a good excuse for a flashback and things can be jumbled up a bit.

Here I am now, more than halfway through January, and the only headway I’ve made is to promise myself that I will go back to this story, and that I will do NaNoWriMo again. I have 50,000+ words of unedited something with all these decisions still waiting to be made and these gaping holes in the story as I jump from one part of it to another. Thinking about it, I think I was trying to rush things. I predict all said and done this is going to be a roughly 200,000 word story. I’ve written stories over 150K before (and my current fan fic is nearly at that mark), but it’s never something like this.

I used to always find I had the best chance of editing something if I printed it out and took a pen to it–it’s easy to gloss over things on the computer. I opened my story tonight for the first time since November and started nipping and tucking at the prologue, changing a word here or there. Then I decided to print it. Surely I can do it all if I just take it a piece at a time. And then I found myself wondering what I was doing, trying to edit it piecemeal. Shouldn’t I read the whole thing again and then go to work on the pieces?

Honestly? I haven’t the foggiest. I’m leaning towards that, so that I have a better idea of what I’ve already written. I told myself from the beginning that sections of what I’ve written were probably going to have to go, but I find myself reluctant to part with any of it–something I remember feeling in the creative writing classes and projects I did a lifetime ago.

How do you feel about the editing process? Does it make you cringe? Or is there satisfaction in purging your story, making it better, getting the perfect fit for it? The perfect fit really does make a difference in most things in life. I could probably wax philosophical on that for a bit, but I think it’s time to call it a night. If I manage to hit “publish post” in the next 30 seconds, it’ll still be Friday.

Too late. Saturday is here. Oh well. It’s still Friday somewhere, isn’t it? Time to curl up and sleep.

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And before I forget, here are a few things you can expect to hear from me about in the next couple of weeks:

Stay tuned!

NaNoWriMo: Win! (A Reflection on Wins and Losses This Year)

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am. I really needed this win. I had a slew of goals last January for things I wanted to accomplish this year: I wanted to get into the habit of making a Vlog and updating it regularly, I wanted to blog regularly, teach myself how to make new things, get into better shape, and write.

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I have had a few victories this year. For example, I have started Vlogging for the first time in my life, but I haven’t been updating my YouTube channel, ErinMakesStuff, very regularly. I also created this blog, and there have been some updates, but not as many as there could have been.

I did make some progress in the world of fan fiction. I finally finished a 100,000 word story I started 8 years ago about Neville Longbottom, wrote a short story I’m rather proud of about how Peter Pettigrew became the Potters’ secret keeper and betrayed them.

I made a hat in January, a really cool handbag this spring, and learned a bit more about 3D printing, even venturing a couple of prints on my own. But you know what? I haven’t touched my crocheting in probably six months now. I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up my cross-stitch. And I’m disappointed by my lack of patience in trying to teach myself how to use Zbrush for 3D printing.

I lost numerous inches from my waist and hips. I got stronger and faster. I dropped a couple of minutes from my rather terrible best 1 mile time, and managed to improve my military press to 70 pounds and deadlift to 135 at my best (my squats are still rather pathetic). I cut down significantly on my sugar content (for a time). It wasn’t until I tried to cut out sugar and found myself with carb flu that I realized how much of it I was consuming.

Well, it’s pretty much all come back. My goal was a healthier me and it still is; I’m just not there yet. I have a good understanding now of what it takes for me to be healthy, and the knowledge that I can make progress. I also know in the past year and a half, I’ve yo-yoed 40 pounds total and ended up about where I started. At my best, I was down 20 pounds. It definitely feels bitter to be relosing the same weight, and knowing how much farther I’d be if I exercised better self-control.

I tried to commit myself to a 4 week, 8 session self-defense class in October, saying, “This is it, this is where I get back on track.” I only made it to the first 4 sessions.

I’ve been a temp worker at my current place of employment for 14 months. I like it there, but I’m still waiting for a permanent position to open up. I know I’ve learned a lot, but it’s discouraging sometimes to have worked full-time for so long and not be considered permanent.

And while I’ve written quite a lot of fan fiction this year, up until November snuck up on me, I hadn’t spent any time this year writing original fiction.

So, by the time I started seeing people talking about NaNoWriMo, I really needed a win. And I was so on my game for the first to weeks. Every day except for one, I was on track to finish on time. I was sitting pretty happily at Day 15.

And then I didn’t write, for most of a week. And I just couldn’t catch up. I disliked my story. I felt frustrated at the inconsistencies I knew where there because I didn’t have time to go back and fix them, not if I was going to catch up. And I couldn’t seem to make decisions about how certain things in the story were supposed to go (as if I couldn’t fix it later). Last weekend, on the 23rd and 24th, I wrote about 10,000 words. It still wasn’t enough to catch me up, not nearly. Yesterday, with the day off for Thanksgiving, and not being responsible for much cooking, I managed to write 5000 words. I was on track for the first time since November 15th. It felt good. Today, I managed to knock out the last 3000 words. And here I am. I needed this win. I’m glad I made it. I couldn’t have done it without all the support and encouragement from my boyfriend–he really was amazing, all the times I thought I couldn’t do it, knowing when to tell me it was okay if the words just weren’t coming that night, and reminding me that I could do this.

Here’s my current NaNo stats if you want to see what my progress looked like:
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As you can see, I was going slow and steady up until the midpoint, and then yeah.

Now that I’ve met my goal, I’ve got a few things in mind. I do want to go back and fix this story, and finish writing it. It’s far from complete. I’m guessing it will be a 200,000 word story if I had to hazard a guess, though I’m not sure I’ve written that much. Most of my novel length fan fictions have been around 100,000 words, some of them 136,000. I may need to not look at this story for at least a week though. The story and I need some time apart–the title is still my favorite part.

I’m still kind of boggled by the sheer number of words I’ve written this month. The tally stands:

  • 50327 words for NaNoWriMo
  • 22437 words for Law and Marriage, my Harry Potter fan fiction
  • 4093 words on this blog

Grand total? I’ve written 76,857 words in the past 29 days. I feel pretty good about that. I wanted to keep up with my fan fiction since it was gaining steam while writing my NaNoWrIMo novel. I also wanted to keep writing it because it was a good release when I felt like my novel wasn’t going anywhere. I’m proud of some of my fan fiction. And I certainly feel like my current story is more polished than my novel is at this point. That being said, I was able to keep up with it for the first 2 weeks and a bit–my last update was November 18th, and I wrote like the wind on the 17th and 18th to make that happen. I haven’t written on it since, but I promise, it’s on the list.

My next step is basically to follow up with pretty much everything. Without a looming deadline now, I can keep working on my fan fic again, and let it bring a little joy into my creative process. I’ll be able to go back and do some serious revision on my novel and see if it’s worth salvaging. And reading.

I haven’t allowed myself to really spend any time in November reading any novels, because, really, I don’t just read one novel. I’ll read the series. I haven’t seen Catching Fire yet for that reason–I wanted to reread the series first. I didn’t get around to it before November (the books are so emotionally draining), and once November hit, there just wasn’t time. I have so many books I want to read at the moment. I’ve also decided that now that I don’t have a midnight deadline of how many words I need every day, I’ve lost my excuse to stop working out. Even if I don’t make it to the gym, I’m bringing the dumbbells out into the living room, where they will be looking at me if I get off the couch without paying them a visit.

So, here’s to 2013, it’s not over yet, and the fight to improve myself and create awesome things still going.

Is anyone planning on making any cool crafts for Christmas?

NaNoWriMo, Day 23 Check-In

Hey, folks,

This is just a quick check-in about how my NaNoWriMo is going. The good news is I’ve written 54,534 words this month (not counting blogposts). The bad news is only 33,510 of those words have been on my NaNoWriMo project. You might say, 33k is a lot! That’s great. Well, keep in mind that it’s already November 23 (the Day of the Doctor!). That means I’m about 6,000 words behind still, and that’s after having written 4000 words today before and after the Day of the Doctor aired–I did not write while I was watching it.

I’m pretty pleased with the 4000 I’ve written today, but the fact is, this has not been a good week for writing. I was so thrilled to reach the halfway point this month and be exactly on target, which is where I was during my last blog post. That was followed up with me writing absolutely nothing on my NaNoWriMo story for the next three days. I was off sick from work one day and didn’t even write anything that day–I was just too miserable. I did write several thousand words that Sunday, but only on my fan fiction. Still, I made my Monday update deadline, despite not having worked on my fan fic since the previous week. I shoot for between 5000 and 10,000 words per chapter on that story.

I managed to get back into writing again on the 19th, and 20th. The 21st was a rather exhausting and late day at work, and not much happened.

So I’ve had a fairly off-kilter week. It’s put me behind. I’m doing my best to catch up. I’m still determined to get through my 50,000 words for this story this month. I know I can write a fan fic–I enjoy writing fan fic–I want to know I can write a novel. That I can set a goal and stick to it.

On the fan fiction front, the results came back on the blog award I was nominated for–I received second place. Thank you, to anyone who voted, or anyone who read the story and enjoyed it.

Anyway, I still have terribly mixed feelings about my story, which isn’t really helping the creative process. On the days when I desperately want someone to read it and give me feedback, it’s almost easy to write. On the days when I just want to hide it under a mattress and never let it see the light of day….well those are the days when the writing just doesn’t seem to happen.

I’ve still got about 40 minutes ’til midnight, and no time I have to get up in the morning. I’m hoping to get another 500-1000 words tonight, and hopefully enough words tomorrow to be nearly caught up. If at all possible…I still need to write most of a chapter for my fan fiction tomorrow or I won’t make my Monday night update goal.

How do you stay focused when you’re not sure you like your story anymore? What do you do when your story begins to look far different than what you were anticipating? I know this story will be far from complete at 50,000 words–there’s simply too much story to tell. But 50,000 and a good start is my goal.

‘Til the next timey-whimey.

P.S. Do you think if time went Wibbly-Wobbly I might have a bit more of it to finish my story?

(Please forgive the lame Doctor jokes. Accept this picture of my kitten as my apology.)

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Half-Way Through NaNoWriMo

Good evening, everybody. First, let me take a minute to introduce you to the newest member of the family: Spice.

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Well, it’s a couple hours until midnight, and today’s date is November 15th. That’s right, folks. NaNoWriMo is nearly half over, and guess what? I’m halfway to my NaNoWriMo goal. I’ve written 25,112 words on my novel Making of a Beast: The Fall From Beauty. I’m not going to lie, some days, I don’t even want to look at it, let alone keep writing it. Other days, I’m on a roll and I don’t even really want to stop. As I noted earlier in one of the NaNoWriMo groups I’m in, I’m torn between begging someone to read it so I can get some feedback and maybe fix some of the problems I see emerging, and wanting to bury the darn thing underneath 25 mattresses so it never see the light of day again.

I’m sure I’m not the only one having a love/hate relationship with my novel, but you know what, for at least the next 15 days, I’m committed to it, ’til December parts us.

I have to say, I’m blown away by the sheer volume of words I’ve written in the past fifteen days. I’ve written 25,112 words on my novel, and 13,525 words of fan fiction, bringing me to a whopping total of 38,637 words (not counting blog posts and other incidental writing that crops up in my life of course). For the first week, it was pretty much par for par that I was writing as much fan fiction as I was my novel. Since I wasn’t liking my novel much at that point, writing a good bit of fan fiction helped keep me sane, because I was enjoying that. I love writing fan fiction. I’ve had some great discussions on topics I enjoy with some fantastic people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I do feel like it’s helped me become a better writer in many ways, though I know I still have a long way to go. I was really touched this past week when I received a message from someone saying that my current work in progress was nominated for a fan fiction award on that person’s blog. It’s not exactly a Newberry Medal or a Nebula Award, but it felt pretty cool to be appreciated. If you want to check out my fan fiction, the person who runs the Energize W.I.P. Awards posted the link on her blog here where you can vote until November 20th. If you want to see my story (and I’ll admit I’m kind of hesitant to post the link here), Law and Marriage is located here. I’m not going to call it brilliant literature, and there’s certainly a number of things I need to go back and fix, but it was new territory for me when I started writing it, and for that, I am proud of it.

I’m also proud of the fact that by and large, I’ve managed to stay on track with my novel this month, no matter how many times I wanted to throw in the towel. I didn’t manage 1666 words every day–on days when things were really flowing I wrote more because I knew there would be days when I felt stuck. I was on par for my total word count every day but the 12th. As sick as I’ve been the past week or so, I can live with that.

I thought I’d mention a few of the problems that have cropped up for me while making myself work on my novel:

1. I killed off my villain on page 2 when she unleashed her vengeance on the main character for something he did before the story starts.

  • This was kind of stupid. How do you move the plot forward when your villain is gone?
  • Actually, this wasn’t as stupid as it could have been. Several of my favorite books (Ella Enchanted, Howl’s Moving Castle, Beauty) revolve around the fact that the main person is in a bad situation, without there necessarily needing to be a showdown between good and evil. Admittedly, Howl’s Moving Castle does have a pretty nasty villain, but she hovers around the edges of things once her task of putting Sophie into a situation is accomplished. Given that I enjoy these sorts of books, I shouldn’t be surprised that that’s how I wrote this.

2. I don’t have a full idea of who all of these characters are yet or what I want to do with them. I need a fuller understanding of their personalities, and then their actions and motives will speak to me, which is closer to how I normally write.

  • That was one of the advantages of fan fiction, I’ll admit. Some people minutely plot out their stories far in advance. I’ve never written that way. A situation will cross my mind, and I’ll say, “That’s interesting. I wonder how X would respond to that.” And it goes from there. The things that feel like the natural action the character would take are the things I write. I let their personalities tell me where the story is going. That has worked pretty well for the 1.4 million words of fan fiction I’ve written since middle school. It’s a whole lot less effective when I don’t really know who my characters are yet.
  • On the bright side, I am learning who my characters are, and deciding what does and doesn’t feel natural for them, what makes them tick. It’s just going to be a slow process.

3. I don’t really have any concept of how long this novel is going to be or how long I need to spend on the different sections of it. I’ve rather imagined this story taking place over the course of several hundred years–long enough for a kingdom to stop missing its king.  In the beginning I felt like I needed to get to the later things quickly, and I was frustrated with how long it was taking to get there. Well, that’s ridiculous. The first part of the story does need a reasonable amount of time spent on it, and I’ll give it what it needs.

The first 2 things on this list were my two biggest problems, though I’m sure I’ll think of more as soon as I’ve hit “publish post”. That’s always the way of things, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m halfway done. I’ve got another couple of hours before midnight, and today’s goal has been met. Now, it’s time for me to work on my secondary goal: getting the next chapter of my fan fic written and ready to be posted on Monday.

Are you involved in NaNoWriMo? How is your storying going? Have you written yourself into a corner? Does it look like smooth sailing?

Are there any new recipes you think I should try when it’s time to take a break from writing? I plan to post a YouTube video soonish of my favorite quiche recipe. And because you have sat through a long and rambling post as I procrastinate on the writing I promised myself I’d do, I thought you deserved another picture of our adorable kitten.

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Well, Spice says it’s time to get to work!