Archive | December, 2009

111.43% | (The End)

31 Dec

Why didn’t anyone tell me that reaching the end of this draft would feel like winning the lottery, or meeting the entire cast of Lost, or finding out that Starbucks would like to give me free lattes for the rest of my life?

Or, that finishing a second draft (also known as a complete rewrite) would feel utterly satisfying, but in a drastically different way than finishing the first draft did?

Or, that knitting a zillion strands of gossamer spiderweb, without leaving loose ends, would be as rewarding as it was challenging?

Or, that by the end of the novel, when you’ve basically just been this diligent stenographer spying on the lives of your characters for months, watching them struggle and conquer and feel, they peek at you through that fourth wall, satisfied with you for being patient enough to see them through to the last page and tuck them in for sleep?

This is how I feel. 

Months of patient plotting and planning and crafting did not prepare me for the satisfaction I felt when I typed word number 78,000 yesterday.  That’s a full 8,000 words past my original goal (hence the title of this post, as 78K is 111.43% of that goal), and I’m more than pleased.  This way, the manuscript can gain or lose a few thousand in edits and still be a good length.  

Because this post will turn into a jumble of randomness if I don’t structure it somehow…

…here are some things I learned along the way.

1) Goals are Good.  Seriously good.  Diligent December was a raving success, as I wrote 26,290 words this month.  Though I didn’t get to write every day, I tried.  When I did get to write, I made the most of it.

2) I Can Write More Words/Day Than I Thought I Could.  I wrote 26,290 words this month, with only eleven days of actual writing.  That’s an average of 2,390/day.  Turns out 1,500 words every single day is hard for me, but 2,300 every other day works well for me.  Weird.

3) I Like Writing By Hand.  With the exception of the last chapter, I wrote everything in December by hand, and then typed it up as I went.  That means I drained at least two pens of their poison and filled two Moleskine notebooks.  (One was fuschia, and the other was lime green.)  This helped me feel more attached to my characters and their stories, possibly because I felt like I was journaling about my own life.  Also, it was easier not to dwell on how many words I’d written without a running total at the bottom of my screen, and it was easier to remain focused without the Internet at my fingertips.

4) It’s Important To Feel.  Without feeling, words are dead.  Without closing my eyes and trying to experience what the character is feeling, or think how she’s thinking, it’s hard to get into a scene.  Conversely, it’s amazing to get wrapped up in the emotion of it all.  The word visceral comes to mind.

5) Therefore, It’s Important Not To Rush.  The last day I posted (22 Dec 09), I was so incredibly tempted to FINISH, since I was only 2100 words away from my goal (even though I’d already written 3600 words that day).  I made the decision to wait, to not rush the climax.  It was a good one.  Monday rolled around, and unlike most first-days-back-from-long-vacations, it was a Monday of Awesomeness.  I wrote 3450 that day, putting my heart on the page, but it still wasn’t done.  Same story with Tuesday; several hours and 3834 words into that day, I was so ready to be done, but again, I didn’t want to rush the end.  Wednesday came around: 2810 words later, with heart and soul and time put into it, I reached the end.  I’m glad I ended up with 10,000 extra words of quality conflict and resolution, rather than 2,000 words of crammed, subpar, just-to-say-I-made-my-deadline-and-I-really-want-to-finish crap.

6) Enjoy the Process.  It’s been over a year since I started working on this novel, and I’ve still got several months of edits ahead of me.  I’ve loved every single challenging minute of the process so far, and I think that’s an imperative part of being an aspiring author.  I love learning how to do this, learning how to be diligent, learning how to use so many different parts of myself to their maximum potential.  Being a writer, you have to create, think, feel, communicate, organize, prioritize, observe; you have to be ruthless, passionate, subtle, patient, economical, and honest.  I’ve used so much more of myself than I ever have in any single paid job I’ve ever had.  Ever.

7) Alone ≠ Good.  Though writing is a solitary act, usually (for me, always), having people in your life is imperative to being healthy, happy, and productive.  I’d still smell like coffee grounds and spilled milk, and my manuscript may or may not stink just as bad, if my amazing husband hadn’t been so supportive and encouraging with my desire to write. (Thanks, Love!) Also, I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to connect with such a rich group of supportive blog friends, and that you’ve pushed me, encouraged me, and held me accountable to do what I set out to do.  Thank you, too.

8 ) Enjoy It, Then Keep Working.  One thing my workouts and my writing goals have in common is this: I get to a point where I start getting excited about what I’ve accomplished — doing yoga, running a mile, saying no to cheesecake, meeting whatever writing goal it is that I’ve set — and then, somehow, I get comfortable.  My workouts slip…and I eat cherry pie…and have whipped cream on my mochas…and then it’s back to square one.  Treadmill time.  

I’m determined to avoid this with my novel, so here’s the plan: I’m taking two weeks (until January 18, the Monday after my birthday) away from my it, and then it’s time for a read-through.  In these two weeks, I will rest and relax but also continue on with being diligent, in areas such as (much-neglected) organizing of closets and storage bins and stuff like that.  I plan to catch up on everyone’s blogs, though (I’ve gotten so behind, but I’m really really excited to see what you guys have been up to!), and finally finish reading The Time Traveler’s Wife (How, oh how, did I manage to keep that thing on the table and not get utterly lost in it this month?).

Sorry for the week I’ve been absent, by the way.  Thank you to all of you who’ve been patient and stopped by in the meantime.  Guess all those blogs I haven’t written in a week were just dying to get out, and spilled themselves into this one, very huge, post.

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone — be safe and have fun!

Can She Do It?

22 Dec

Probably not, if she keeps playing with adorable pictures of Mr. Cat wearing Christmas bows.  However, that’s not the plan for the day.  The plan for the day?  To finish.

Hopefully.

Due to various bouts of sickishness, three weekends full of plans (two vacations and one wedding gig), and the realistic expectation that going to visit my parents for Christmas will be — as usual — like taking a brief trip to another planet on which all we do is eat, play games, and have Lost marathons, it all comes down to today.

And today, my friends, is daunting.  

The good news is that my average word count, on the days I’ve gotten to write, is about 1,500, with the past four days averaging around the 2,000 mark.  Then, there’s the…let’s call it other news, shall we? (Not bad.  Just other.)  That news?  In order to meet my Diligent December goal, I still need to write 5,121 words.  Today¹.  

It’s still early, though, and I wrote about 600 before the sun poked its shiny little face above the cloudy horizon, so I’m encouraged!  I also have a pretty good idea of what I want to write, it’s just the whole getting it on paper in the right way that may be challenging.  Also challenging?  The sheer number of words.  

It can be done, though, and I hope it will be done.

Thanks for all your encouragement, you guys!  It’s super valuable to me as I go through this process, and my writing is better because of you all.  I’ll try to be back with a status post later today or tomorrow with the results of my mini-marathon² today!

Okay.  Time for another coffee.

Diligent December Update: 64,879 down | 5,121 to go | 92.68% finished!


¹Technically, I need to write them by Christmas Eve, but hey, even the most diligent among us would have a hard time resisting the pull of Planet Let’s-Watch-Lost-And-Eat-And-Play-Games-And-Oh-Yeah-Christmas-Too.  So realistically?  Today.

²By the way: I am a member of the slow-and-steady-daily-goals camp, as opposed to the write-as-much-as-you-can-every-now-and-then camp.  However, I am also a citizen of Meet-Your-Goals Land and despite my best efforts, I need to take a brief voyage to the other side of the lake (via canoe), sit by the fire of write-as-much-as-you-can, and then do a little tribal celebration dance³ when I reach the end via their foreign methods.

³Oy vey.  Better go while I’m still ahead.

News flash!  This just in!  Extra bonus update so I don’t leave you all in suspense until the next time I get to post…since I’m not sure when that will be: I didn’t finish today, but I’m okay with that for several reasons, which I shall now list for you!  

One: I cut my “need to write” words from 5,706 to 2,093, which means I wrote 3,613 today – I’m pleased with that, for sure.  

Two:  those 3K+ words were quality, and I’m excited about them.  

Three: I stopped right after major drama and right before even bigger drama.  Didn’t want to rush through my ending just for the sake of finishing a goal.  Quality trumps speed, in this case.

Four: Um, two words: present wrapping.  I did a lot of it tonight, plus packing, plus kitty control.

Five: Though I have just over 2K to my goal, I think the book will run longer.  Therefore, I’m putting writing on hold for the holiday, will resume on Monday, and plan to finish by New Year’s Eve.

In case I don’t get to say it before then, Merry Christmas, everyone!  Thanks for your sweet comments and support, and I’m sorry I haven’t been able to respond well yet.  They encouraged me greatly today, so thank you!

Nothing Like Relaxation

19 Dec

Just wanted to drop a quick note to all of you to say I’m surviving, thriving, and taking a break from all Diligence this weekend.  My sweet husband booked us a weekend in a fun hotel to celebrate no-more-grad-school-(for a month)-and-happy-almost-Christmasness.  So…that’s what we’re doing!  

With less than 8,000 words to my goal, and the gravity with which the end of my novel keeps sucking me in, taking a break for the weekend seems to be an alright decision.  Never fear, though – Monday and Tuesday, I plan to dig deep, sit long, and write until my hand falls off.  Then I’ll put it back on, drink another latte, and keep going.  

I miss you all, which is why I wanted to drop you a quick line.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze in one or two more posts before we leave for Christmas.

Take care, all, and I’ll see you again soon!

Diligent December Update: 62,214 down | 7,886 to go | 88.73% finished!

PS: To clarify, it’s my sweet husband who is in grad school.  Just in case you thought I’d left out a sort of major detail of my life.

15 Dec 09 | Diligent December Update

15 Dec

Between receiving LOST: Season Five from the blessed UPS lady’s hands and the fact that I wrote almost 3,000 words today (2,915 to be exact), this Tuesday has rocked pretty hard.  

After a stellar Friday, the weekend was, in a word, bleak.  Okay, I exaggerate.  The weekend itself was pretty good; only the word count was bleak.  Three days of zero words in a row?  Not pretty.  At all.  Unless you’re particularly fond of zeroes, and also fond of no progress made whatsoever.

But!  This morning, I woke up with determination, I woke up with zeal, I woke up with…well, you get the picture.  I woke up.  In haste, I tied my unruly curls behind my head, threw on some clothes, purchased my latte (With a gift card!  Bonus!), and returned home to settle in for some serious work.

I accomplished way more than expected in the most unusual of settings: I sat in semi-darkness on my couch, beside our so-not-yet-decorated-it-isn’t-even-funny Christmas tree¹, with a lap desk, a pen, and an almost-full lime green Moleskine notebook.  To answer the question you didn’t ask, why, yes!  I am still writing by hand, still loving it.

Speaking of writing by hand, here’s something fun…I ran across these last time we went for a visit at my parents’ house.  Twenty years of writing, and it all began with this.  Take a look at the ridiculous stuff my six-year-old, second-grade self created (complete with some unique illustrations)(click to enlarge):

“The scariest monster I ever saw was Frankenstein.  He had fourteen eyes!  He had a pumpkin head.  It was black, purple, green, pink, and orange!  He had a screw in his neck.  His clothes were black.  And he had slime hair!  And he lived in a mummy case!  He flew a nasty old kite.  He had twenty feet!  And forty arms!  The End…(His Kite)” – October 25, 1989

- and -

“‘A Halloween Ghost’ – There was a ghost that lived in a haunted house.  His name was Kooky!  He kooked alott [sic].  And he scared peppole [sic] too.  He wasn’t terrible.  He was silly.  The End.” – October 18, 1989

Diligent December Update: 59,744 down | 10,256 to go | 85.35% done!

¹Perhaps I should make the Christmas tree its own post altogether.  Long story short, we are trying to train certain feline cohabitants that the tree is not, in fact, their new cat food, nor is it a bed.

Scarves, Shoes, and Other Good News

11 Dec

  After a lackluster start to this week, I must say, it’s ending on a high note.  And, might I add, not one of those wow-that-is-such-a-high-note-that-it’s-gonna-crack-the-glass sort of high notes.  The good kind.

Aside from the excitement I feel about the new things pictured here — this pair of on-sale Nine West cuteness, a dangly-yet-simple-and-classy gold(ish) necklace, and a scarf I crocheted in my most favorite color — there is a whole blizzard of cool things going on.  For one, I get to wear all this stuff this weekend, to a wedding.  Another?  The bride opted to pay me on the high end of my price range for playing the piano for her ceremony — a timely bonus.  Yet another?  My completely incredible husband, who works so hard, all day every day, has finally been rewarded for his integrity.  His bosses gave him a stellar review along with a 12% salary increase.  Also timely.

Still more good news: Diligent December is finally, um, diligent.  In the past two days, I’ve nearly caught up to where I should be, despite not writing a word for three out of the past eight days.  Not only is my word count up, but I’m feeling involved in the emotional aspects of the story, enrapt, and am confident that the quality is there, too.  The scenes I wrote this morning were intense, emotional, important.  They’re the beginning of what I’ve been building up to this entire time.  Just as I was completely satisfied with the Glee winter finale, it’s nice to see loose ends begin to wrap up, lies get exposed, drama unfold.  Consequences.  

On top of all that, it is cloudy and cold and I love it.

In honor of the Glee finale, and in hopes that December stays awesome, here’s a link to a fantastic rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” as performed by Lea Michele in this week’s episode.  So.  Very.  Good.

Thanks for all your support in this process, you guys.  I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to have connected with you all.  

Diligent December Update: 56,829 down | 13,171 to go | 81.18% finished!

4 • 8 • 15 • 16 • 23 • 42

9 Dec

Now that I’ve dethroned the reigning Boggle Czar (also known as: my dear, sweet husband) and eaten tasty food (despite the fact that I forgot to buy pine nuts for my pesto, and despite the fact that I accidentally put way too much garlic in it), I thought I’d give a quick update on today’s progress.

I spent some time on my novel, though it wasn’t all spent writing new words – actually, I’m getting to a place where I’ve been planning to borrow some stuff from the first draft and work it in to this one.¹  So, I pulled out the old manuscript, and wow.  I knew my second draft was different, but man, it kind of blew me away to see just how much it has changed in these past few months.  

In the time I spent working today, I searched the old draft for stuff I want to work into the current one, then picked pink as my trusty highlighter-of-choice² for the day and began to mark sections that would still work.  I spent some time figuring out how to weave the old scenes in, then wrote a little bit, went to yoga, and called it a day.  (So far.)

Depending on how you define progress, I made some.  Looking forward to making more tomorrow, and maybe even tonight, if I get really ambitious.  

How are you guys doing with your Diligent December goals?  

Encouragement of the day: you are only one person, and if you’re like most people, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now.  In each day, you have things you must do (eat, sleep, care for family, order Lost: Season 5 on DVD, etc.), things you should do (strive to meet goals, be diligent with work/home responsibilities), and things you want to do (read and/or write all day long, while drinking lattes from pretty mugs, beside a cozy fire, with Remy the Cat — or the adorable-cat-equivalent-of-your-choice — curled up on or beside you).  Sometimes the musts, the shoulds, and the wants overlap, but not always.  As we are all acutely aware, we only have so much time, and being but one person, we can only do so much.  So!  All that to say?  Life happens.  Do the musts, prioritize the shoulds, and sprinkle in some wants.  Set goals, strive to accomplish them, aim for greatness in whatever you do, and enjoy the things you do as you do them.  If you run out of time, you run out of time.  Sleep, sleep well, and then get up again the next day, ready to go forth and conquer some more awesomeness.  Take it from a former serve-everyone-but-herself-all-day-every-day-for-years kind of girl, the road to burnout is paved with extremes, guilt, joyless work, and being a people-pleaser.  

I feel like a fortune-cookie therapist.  Your lucky numbers today are  4  8  15  16  23  42.

¹Perhaps now is a good time to tell you, since I don’t know if I have, that this second draft is pretty much a complete re-write of the first one.  The basic plot and characters have remained in tact, but after much thinking, rethinking, and note-jotting, it has more depth, stronger subplots, and is generally more cohesive this time around.  I’ve hardly used any actual writing from the first draft.

²Always a difficult decision.  I love my ten-pack of Sharpie highlighters.

Amendment: The former Boggle Czar would like it to be known that I have only temporarily dethroned him, and that I only beat him by one point.


8 Dec 09 | Diligent December Update

8 Dec

In my last post, “Numbers,” I wrote “I’ll be back tomorrow!”

And…then, tomorrow came, and with it, life.  Before I knew it, I was on a plane to New Orleans, also known as the-land-where-I-did-not-have-Internet-access-and-even-if-I-did-I-probably-would-not-have-posted-since-I-was-visiting-a-good-friend.

So, I’m sorry to have (gulp) lied about that whole see-you-tomorrow thing, if you even happened to notice it.  I’m not one for empty promises.  (Who is?)

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for a Diligent December update!  Between the traveling, the hanging out, and the stomach bug that plagued me on Sunday night (and the subsequent zero hours of sleep that ensued), I’m pleased with what I’ve managed to do on my book.  I wrote on the plane¹ and then I wrote a bit in the airport before the return flight².  I now have 1524 words more than I did before the weekend, and considering these were days included in the “I probably won’t get a chance to write” group of days, I’m pleased.  Still need to get after it today, though, something that may be difficult since I am now completely wrapped up in The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I started reading on the flight home³.

I’m also looking forward to catching up on all of your blog posts — looks like I missed quite a bit while I was away.  Oh!  In addition to Merrilee Faber and Jennifer Neri, Linda Cassidy Lewis and Joy of Dawn have added some Diligent December goals of their own — Linda’s striving to finish the final polish of her novel by the 18th, and Joy of Dawn’s goal is to create a schedule and stick to it so she can get the most out the many things going on in her life, writing included.  Merrilee wrote a post the other day about the specifics of her goals (she has a long list of short stories she’s hoping to tackle), with many Diligent December goal-setters of her own who have posted in her comment section.

With that, I bid you guys zai-jian for today, and I’ll see you ming-tian!†

Diligent December Update:  53,234 down | 16,766 to go | 76.05% finished!

¹Hooray for awesome (quiet) plane buddies who read on their Amazon Kindles the whole time, then offer a well-thought-out opinion of said Kindle, and only speak three sentences to me — one sentence about the Kindle, and the other two being, “What’s your name so I can find your book when you’re famous?” and “I’m going to visit my daughter and my new grand-puppy!”  Nice.

²Yes, after I’d been sick and awake all night.  Needless to say, I did not write very much after that awful night, but I did attempt to write some.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad.  Should have pushed myself to do more.

³Not very far in, yet, so DO. NOT. SPOIL. ANYTHING. for me.  A very emphatic, preemptive thankyouverymuch to you all.  

†(Wow.  Random Mandarin Chinese alert!)

Numbers

3 Dec

Project Diligent December is well on its way, though I must admit it has been diligent in every way except for writing.  While the past two days have been extremely productive, as far as home and health are concerned, I’ve been starved for a chance to write, write, write.  

Right before I wrote this, I crunched numbers and set some concrete daily goals.  I’m aiming for a total of 70,000 words by Christmas Eve.  Right now, I’ve got 51,710.  That’s a total of 18,290 in the next 22 days: not bad, not bad.  This means I’m 73.87% to my goal.

So, in order to meet it, I counted the number of days that are already filled with plans:  this weekend (a trip to New Orleans), the next Saturday (I’m the pianist for a wedding), the next weekend (weekend date/trip-to-a-fun-hotel with my sweet husband!), and then, of course, travel to my family’s house on the 23rd.  That leaves about fifteen relatively free days to work.  After calculating how many words it would take if I only got to write the minimum amount for those fifteen days (1,219), and then calculating how many it would take if I wrote the minimum every single day (831), I’ve settled on an average of those for my daily goal: 1025/day.

Can you tell I love Excel spreadsheets, by the way?  Maybe not, because all you see are the numbers.  A while back, I created a table that easily calculates all this information for me.  That way, I can insert one number (my grand total) and see, at a glance: how much I’ve written that day, how much I need to write to meet my daily goal, a running total of how ahead/behind I am, how many total words are waiting to be written, percentage of completion, and a monthly total of words written.  It’s color-coded and pretty, too.

Okay, friends!  Thanks for bearing with my inner math-nerd today.  It helps just knowing other people are aware of my goals – much harder to make excuses that way.  

I’m so ready to write, but alas, I have to take care of two more things before I can work on the novel today.  So far, Merrilee Faber and Jennifer Neri have added some writing goals to the Diligent December comment section – anyone else want to join the ranks for some encouragement and accountability with this month’s goals, whatever they may be?  If nothing else, feel free to click on over to their blogs, poke around their archives, see who they are and what they’re all about.  I’ve learned a lot from these two, and I think you should get to know them, too.

Happy diligence, all, and I’ll be back tomorrow – hopefully with good news of forward progress!

Project: Diligent December

1 Dec

December’s here, and I can’t believe it, really.

Time’s flying, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  Seriously — it feels like just a few days ago that I was embarking on my Oktoberzest project, just a few days ago when NaNoWriMo started (then promptly ended).  

Now, here we are, first day of the last month of this decade.  

I haven’t written anything on my novel since before we left for Kansas, but that is about to change.  Though I have a surprising amount of catching up to do from our time away — emails, phone calls, all those people I told, “Let’s hang out the week after Thanksgiving break – I’ll be free then!” — I’m close to the point where I can kick it with my writing goals again.

Eesh.  I’m at a Starbucks — a very crowded Starbucks — and I’ve just been encroached upon by an unavoidably unfortunate whiff of something that smells like too-fruity teenage lip gloss.  Oh — wait, what’s that?  Thank you, thank you, no seriously THANK YOU, kind sir in the cowboy hat and cowboy boots for offering to share your large table with Tooty-Fruity-Lip-Gloss-Lady.  My nose appreciates your generosity.

Now that that’s resolved: where was I?  Oh, yes.  Goals.  December Goals.  

My daily word-count goal for December is yet to be determined, but the overarching goal: finish this draft before Christmas Eve.  It’s more than possible; I’ve got somewhere in the twenty-ish-thousand range remaining.  If I really hunker down (yes, I did just say ‘hunker’…) I’ll be done sooner than Christmas Eve, even.  So, Project Diligent December is now on!  Doesn’t flow as well as Oktoberzest, but whatever.  

Any of y’all have goals you hope to accomplish during December?  If you need/want/require/will-just-die-without accountability — especially with busy holidays fast approaching, or perhaps you have post-NaNo burnout but still need to get stuff done — feel free to post your own Diligent December goals in the comment section.  Encouragement and accountability shall be yours in return!

In closing, I’m proud to mention (something that has nothing to do with anything) I can now actually call myself an honorary Norwegian.  I married into a family of lefse-making experts, and have struggled to get my lefse¹ to work out ever since our first year of marriage.  Today, though, I made a perfect batch.  It’s thin, fluffy, light, and best of all, the dough didn’t stick to one single thing.  

December is already working in my favor.

¹Lefse, in case you don’t know, is a traditional Norwegian food.  Basically, you make a dough out of mashed potatoes, roll it out, and cook it like a tortilla.  My husband’s family makes it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it’s traditional to drink a lot of beer while doing so.  We butter it and pour ghastly amounts of sugar on it, roll it up, and enjoy.  In the past, my mashed potatoes always turned out too wet, and the dough would stick to the pastry cloth and the rolling pin.  Not pretty.  (Oh: the picture at the top is of lefse-making utensils.  I think they’re cute.)

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