NaNoWriMo – Week 1 update

Total words written since last Saturday = 15,850.

I started out slow but have gained a lot of momentum in the last few days.  It’s amazing what an outline and few zippy action scenes can do for you.

Wish me luck for week two.

Write on.

On graduation, moving on, and NaNoWriMo

<tap, tap, tap>

Is this thing on?  Are you still out there?

Yeah.  It’s been a while.

Okay, six months.  But really, who’s counting?

Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by throwing out some half-baked excuse. The truth is: I haven’t been in the mood to blog.  I offer no apology.  It is what it is.

On graduation…

So, as some of you may recall (or not…it has been a long time), I’ve been busy doing that whole college thing.  It dominated my life for a couple of years, but in May, I finished one leg of that journey.  I have to say, I was a little unimpressed with the whole graduation thing.  It was anti-climatic and…well…boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my accomplishment, but there is this sort of fizzling deflation to it all.  I spent a long time entrenched in projects and presentations, lectures and exams.  I endured the humiliation of “yoga for a grade”, suffered the frustration of group work, and survived a brief foray into historical geology. All of it accomplished without breaking a bone or committing a single felony.  Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did spend two months in physical therapy for a blown hip-flexor after the whole yoga fiasco.  But thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to run the instructor over with my car – hence the felony-free status.

Namaste, bitches.

I suppose it’s my own fault really (the graduation thing – not the yoga thing).  In my single-minded pursuit of that little piece of paper, I allowed myself to develop unreasonable expectations for what it inferred.  I elevated its celebratory value to an unattainable height, and summarily, set myself up for devastating disappointment.

The lesson learned here:  next time I will skip the commencement and opt for something a little more exciting like watching the Bourne trilogy on Blu-ray in my pajamas and mortarboard, eating take-out, and drinking a bottle of Costco’s finest store brand Cabernet.

Moving on…

My post-graduation summer was low-key – just how I like it.  I read a few books, dabbled in a bit of writing, staked out my favorite table at the local bagel shop.  I took it easy – a well-deserved break.  By contrast, fall has been a whirlwind.  My daughter is a high school freshman in the marching band.  That’s a blog for another day, but let me just say one thing on the subject: EGADS.  Fortunately, this Saturday marks the end of competitive marching season.

It’s also the beginning of NaNoWriMo.  Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

A coincidence?

I think not.

I have participated in two Camp NaNo events – you now the one with the adjustable word count?  But I’ve never had the time come November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

Until now.

I’m excited for the new challenge, but a little intimidated.  My writing style – the physical act of writing – is slow and tedious.  I like to ponder an idea; try it on; strut it out in front of the mirror – really get a feel for it before I buy into it.  Definitely not an efficient way to write fiction and needless to say, my current word count reflects such.  That will have to change, of course.  Otherwise, I will be doomed to failure.  I think I’m up for it, though.  I’ve started a new project, fallen down the research rabbit hole, dusted off the old Scrivener, and fleshed out a workable plot – albeit rough.

I’m ready for this.

Bring it, NaNoWriMo.

Write on.

The best-laid schemes…

I have spent the last few days ridding my house of nauseating Christmas cheer.  The holidays are all fun and games in the outset, but there comes a point where the scale is tipped, and all those decorations begin to call to mind a tinsel and glitter infused bordello – or at least, what I imagine such an establishment might resemble.  I’m not one to suffer clutter for long, so the purge was swift and exact.

Of course, now that the tree is gone, the nephews departed, and the NYE champagne hangover nursed, there is a question of what comes next.

I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.   Rash promises made in the heat of a self-loathing pity party aren’t normally destined for fulfillment.  In my 41 years, I have only realized one true resolution – a weight loss of 50 lbs some seven years ago. I did keep it off, so maybe that should count double.  Hmm…I digress.  As I sit here on this cold January morning, sipping coffee and listening to Norah Jones shoot the moon, I have the itch to plot a path forward.

So, I asked myself this question:  What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

I had to make a list.

  • Write 2000 words per day, everyday.
  • Finish Retribution rewrite #7 (or is it #8 now?!?) by spring break.
  • Publish one kick ass blog entry per day.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Graduate.
  • Conquer fitness boot camp and run a 5 K.
  • Read two non-academic books per month.
  • Learn to kayak.
  • Take kick ass photographs from moving kayak without drowning.
  • Learn to speak Italian.
  • Attend the U.S. Open – it’ll be Federer’s come back season, I can feel it.
  • Complete an outline for Summer of ’87.
  • Complete a draft for Summer of ’87, and win NaNoWriMo doing it.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

Too ambitious?  Yeah.  Who am I kidding?  Federer isn’t going to stage a come back this season…or anything other season, for that matter.

As for the rest…well, as much as I’d like to say it’s doable, it’s obviously not.  I have a life – work, family, school, outside obligations, nagging phobias.  After a healthy dose of reality and little soul-searching, here is a more reasonable list:

  • Write four days per week.
  • Publish 3 blogs per week.
  • Post a daily “photo of the day” on the blog.
  • Complete a working draft of Retribution by summer.
  • Graduate.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Read one non-academic book per month.
  • Get within five feet of a kayak; take a kick ass photo of said kayak; post it on the blog.
  • Attend the U.S. Open; cheer for Djorkovic.
  • Consider validity of YA/coming of age concept novel Summer of ’87; participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

A decent compromise, I think; and one that has potential.  It helps that for the first time since last spring, I am feeling creative and inspired – and open to interaction.  The latter is always difficult for me, especially in this particular forum.  I’m going to work on that.

Alright.  Let’s get ‘er done.

Write on.

Things I learned on vacation…

…and beyond.

You might have noticed that, with the exception of a few photographs, I’ve been largely absent from the blog in recent weeks.

Or then again, maybe you haven’t. 

That’s okay.  Sometimes, I don’t even notice when I’m missing. 

June turned out to be busier than I anticipated.  I had an impromptu week-long visit from two of my nephews, participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, turned forty, traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation with the family, and had an unexpected sharp increase in caseload at the office.  This inability to adequately judge my level of anticipated activity seems to be a recurring theme in my life.  You would think by now I’d have worked out the kinks.

As you can imagine, all of this activity came with a laundry list of new things learned.  Over the last month, I learned…

…that no matter how you try to spin it, turning forty sucks.  And, please, spare me the “forty is the new thirty” bullshit.  Turning thirty sent me into a depression so deep it took four years to recover.

…that my nephews think that I may not be completely human.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Nephew #1:  Aunt Peggy, don’t you ever get tired of typing (I was working on my NaNoWriMo word count).

Me:   No.

Nephew #2 (in a hushed voice):   Aunt Peggy is a cyborg.

This revelation was followed by a fit of giggles.   Of course, in response, I gave them my best stink eye.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all.  This earned me a fresh round of giggles.  It seems my stink eye needs an upgrade.  I’ll have to work on that.

…that as humans, we have been conditioned to stand in line, to patiently wait our turn. It is ingrained in our psyche even as we whine and cry and complain about it.  If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. or any tourist hot spot, for that matter, you know that a great deal of time is spent standing in line.  There are lines for transportation, lines for security, lines for admittance, lines for viewing.  It is the way the world works, and something that we’ve come to accept as the natural order of our day-to-day lives.  It brings us comfort, gives us a sense of organization, and takes the thought process out of our hands.

At the National Archives, they like to mix it up a bit.    Sure, they shuffle you in like herds of cattle.  Force you through a line for the metal detector, another to search your bag, then corral you into a long snake-like line at the base of the steps into “the vault.”   However, once you cross the threshold into the room that holds our nation’s most revered documents, the rules of the game suddenly shift.   You will be instructed to go against your intrinsic nature.  Lines are not permitted.  You must move freely about the room and view the displays at your leisure.  Such a radical departure from the norm will cause you to cast a panicked look at the person standing behind you.  They will appear as shell-shocked as you feel.  No lines?  Crazy talk.  That’s simply not the way these things are supposed to work.  Of course, in reality such instructions are futile.  Humans behave invariably in the manner in which they are most accustom.  On my visit to the National Archives, that’s exactly what the masses did – they filed into the room, walked directly to the exhibit at the far left, and worked steadily to the right, in a nice neat single file line.  Myself included.

No line?

That’s the most barbaric thing I’ve ever heard.

…that in large metropolitan areas where public transportation is consistently utilized, there are rules of etiquette that must be followed when riding the escalators that lead to and from the underground metro system.  Stand to the right, or get your ass run over.  Lesson learned.

…that my family doesn’t understand or share my love for history.  This week I learned that some of the Dead Sea scroll fragments, along with other artifacts from the time period, are on exhibit just up the road in Ft. Worth.   So thrilling!  After a little digging, I discovered that in addition to the exhibit, there will be a series of lectures offered on varying subjects related to the scrolls and their impact on the history of Judaism and beyond.   I enthusiastically shared this news with my husband, my mother, my best friend, and my daughter.  All of them metaphorically patted me on the head and said “you have fun with that.”  I guess that means I shouldn’t buy them a ticket.

…that taking 5 days off in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo is detrimental to the success of the project.  I did manage to rack up 30,000 words in the first 20 days.  That’s pretty darn good for me so I’m going to take a page out of the Book of Sheen and declare myself a winner.

…that the path that hugs the Tidal Basin and offers up a view of the Jefferson Memorial across the water, looks better in my head than it does in person. I will now have to adapt a scene I’ve already written to accommodate the lack of suitable spots for a clandestine meeting.  Bummer.

…that my daughter thinks my detailed character profiles complete with photographs are “cute.”   I’m not really sure, but I think she is mocking me.

…that last, but not least, this week’s (month’s) awww moment is brought to you by a duck I encountered while visiting the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  I had the distinct impression that he was a waterfowl on a mission.  His waddle was very determined.

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Irises

I’m still plugging away at my WIP, trying to keep up with the daily word count quota so that I can mark Camp NaNoWriMo off my list of to dos as a successfully completed challenge.  Unfortunately, I’ve hit a bit of snag.  You know, one of those minor speed bumps where you write an entire scene that is completely out of sync with your character’s profile, or you kidnapped a bad guy when you should have just killed him – now what the hell are you going to do with him – or the pulsating club scene has unfocused dialog that circles around but never quite hits the mark.  What is it that Elliot is trying to get out of Gerhard?  Do I even know?  I think maybe I don’t.

I’m a little frustrated.

So I took some pictures.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. 

Why on earth would you take a black and white photograph of beautifully vibrant irises?  Seems a bit pointless, I know.

Indulge me for a moment.  I am practicing the art of avoidance. 

Plus, it’s growing on me.  I think it may even look a little bit…cool.

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Distractions

I should have been writing.  I am a few hundreds words behind on today’s Camp NaNoWriMo word count quota.  But it was an extra hot day, and the plants on the patio needed to be watered.  Of course, with water comes dripping droplets that reflect the sun just so, and I was powerless to fight the urge that began to build within me.  I had no choice – no choice, I tell you – but to pull out the camera and waste an hour of valuable writing time taking pictures.

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Week one – Camp NaNoWriMo

Life is all about choices, and accepting responsibility for those choices – good or bad.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I am in the midst of rewriting a novel that I have struggled with for a very long time.   At the beginning of the year, I tried to force myself into a whirlwind of writing in order to finally complete it.  That backfired on me and I wound up walking away from the entire project.  In March, I picked it back up and decided to approach it differently.  I drafted a detailed outline.  I hated every minute of it, but it helped.  In mid-May, I started the rewriting process in earnest.  It was slow and tedious – almost as painful as the first go around.

In the last few days of May, one of the members of my writing group mentioned a June installment of the November NaNoWriMo challenge.  I’ve never participated.   November is a crazy month around my house between school, work, family, the incoming holiday season, and my irrational desire for sleep.  By contrast, June is a relatively easy month.  I took the plunge.  I signed up.

I’ll be honest, the prospect of writing 50,000 words in 30 days scares the shit out of me.  Not because it is this great unattainable thing, but because I have never before produced that volume of words in such a short time frame.   I see other writer’s do it and I am in awe.  Julie over at Word Flows is a prime example of this.  She is a writing machine.  I envy her free-flowing ability.   I’m not like that.  I’m a slow, methodical writer.  I tend to write for a bit, stop, go back to review and reassess, ponder my position, let things percolate around in my head for a while, and then rewrite it before I move on.  In my professional world, this works out great for me.  Unfortunately, in my creative world, its debilitating.

When I went into this challenge, I knew that I was going to have to let go of my notion of perfection, understand that the story wasn’t always going to gel completely, and accept that I was going leave a trail of mistakes in my wake.   The thought of that made me all itching, but I chose to do it anyway.  The first few days were tough.  Around day three the little perfection troll that shares my head with my phobia troll pulled out all of his hair and ran screaming from the building.   That was the best thing that could have happened.  My head is much quieter now and I am letting go of old habits, rereading only the proceeded paragraph, and referring to my rough outline for guidance.

As of last night, I was right on track with 12,034 works written.  Each day it gets easier to just let it flow and I find that I am enjoying myself.  It’s been a long time since I felt a connection to my writing like this.  It seems this is exactly the kick in the pants I needed.

Only 23 days and 37,966 words to go.