Two Books In…

Something interesting happened this month. I wrote a second book! Well, almost. I wrote about 57,000 words of a young adult novel that I hope to be about 60,000-65,000 words by the time it’s completely finished. This was an amazing accomplishment for me for several reasons.

I have a toddler now, and I managed to write a book. I had been afraid until now to try starting a big project because I didn’t think I’d be able to find time to do it between working full-time and being a mom. This month blew that assumption completely out of the water. I guess it’s really true that if you’re looking for an excuse, you will find one, but if you’re looking for a way, you will find it.

Another reason why I’m really excited is that I now have two books under my belt. Two! I mean, writing a book is great, but I had this inner fear that perhaps the first book had been a fluke and maybe I wouldn’t remember how to write when it came time to do the next one. These thoughts sound really silly now, but I think it’s something we probably always struggle with as artists. We shrug at our past accomplishments, looking our good efforts in the face and say, “Sure, I did it once, but I’ve surely lost all my capabilities for some completely irrational reason, right??”

This book was also different because I used extensive planning this time, with an outline, instead of “pantsing” (writing the plot as you go). I think that I found my preferred work style, because the outline really helped me fly through things and I finished writing my 50,000 words in 18 days.

I just wanted to give anyone following an update on my Nanowrimo journey. I’m very proud of my effort and also extremely exhausted. I need a break! And a maid. Oh, gee, my house is wreck.

Thanks for the good vibes and well wishes.

Thanksgiving

This is early, but I’m thinking about Thanksgiving, and it is crazy to me to think about how much my life has changed just in the past few months. We moved to a new home, and then shortly after, my son started daycare when my parents went through major health struggles and could no longer provide childcare. This was a huge adjustment at first, because I never imagined him being in daycare, and I had to deal with my own feelings of guilt and sadness over that, but the care he receives is wonderful and I can see him benefit greatly from it.

Daycare turned out to be a huge blessing for our family and not only reduced our commute time by almost an hour every day but gave my son additional opportunities to grow and gave us back more time in the evening as a family. Really, the only thing that is difficult is the fact that it puts a strain on our finances to afford it at times. But even so, we were fortunate to be able to have a wonderful, quality, safe daycare that we could afford.

I also started my second-ever novel for nanowrimo, and I’m now just a few thousand words shy of getting to the 50k-word goal. In fact, I had to raise the bar to actually go OVER 50k for this month, which would have only been a dream to me in previous years.

Thanksgiving is a good time for me to reflect on the fact that although things have been difficult at times, there are just as many wonderful things to be grateful for, and I can choose which I want to focus on.

Some Thoughts about Nanowrimo

Here I am, writing to you from the jungle of Nanowrimo. I’m in the middle of it. In the weeds.

I’ve been doing great. Every day so far, I’ve written above the suggested goal. I’m learning a lot about how to incorporate writing into my lifestyle as a parent and about how to just level up my writing speed overall.

But I think the most valuable thing I’m getting out of it is what I am doing this very night.

You see, I’ve been sick since yesterday. I have a monster cold and I ‘m stuffy, coughing, and incredibly tired. I didn’t get to write until after my kid went to bed today, and when everyone in the house was asleep, the last thing my exhausted body wanted to do was sit at a computer and type. I knew that it was possible that my kid would wake up several times in the night, and the mere thought made me even more exhausted. I had a word buffer of several thousand words, after all. I was ahead of my Nanowrimo word goal. I could afford to put it off for one day.

But I won’t.

Because this Nanowrimo, I have something to prove to myself. I want to prove that I can do this writing thing, no matter what. I don’t want to wimp out just because I have a “buffer.” I don’t want to let myself get cozy because I’m ahead of schedule. I want to challenge myself to write every¬† day.

I want to bring it. Every. Single. Day.

And it really stinks, because I want to go to bed right now, but I have 1000 more words that aren’t going to write themselves.

Stay strong, fellow wrimos! You can do this.

I can do this.

ApolloPad Mini-Review

This is going to be short, but I just wanted to share a new writing tool with you that I’m really enjoying. It’s called ApolloPad, and it’s completely free (for now)! ApolloPad is a word processor and novel/story management software that is completely online, and they even back up your data. Because it’s all online, you can access your stories from any device. It has many feature similarities to Scrivener, which is an excellent product also, but is not free. I have purchased Scrivener but never really adopted it into my writing process because of its complexity. The main advantage I see for ApolloPad, aside from the fact that it’s all online, is that it felt much, much simpler to use and less overwhelming. Maybe you should give it a try! That’s all for now.

Major Definite Purpose

Hola! It’s been a long time, friends. I’ve moved yet again to a new home, which is making me think of the early days of this blog when I discussed moving into a tiny apartment in order to pay off our debt. Our family went through many changes recently, including my son starting daycare. I took a break from the blog during this time to adjust, but now I am back and ready to continue chronicling my writing journey.

Continue reading “Major Definite Purpose”

5 Favorite Serialized Fiction Podcasts

I spend a ton of time in the car since my son’s childcare is pretty far away, so I listen to podcasts to help make the time go faster. That’s how my obsession started, anyway, but now it has morphed into a general love for podcasts and I look forward to times I can listen. It’s a form of therapy, in a way.

I’ve wanted to share my favorite dramatized fiction podcasts with you for a while. I hope you enjoy these and give them a chance!

1. Welcome to Night Vale

This was the podcast that started it all for me. It’s one that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a live showing of, and it’s the first podcast that I became a true fan of. I’m pretty behind on the episodes right now, due to the fact that I only listen to these when I can give them an almost meditative, rapt sort of attention that I can’t normally make time for these days. But I love this podcast and find it soothing to listen to.

For the initiated, this is a podcast about a creepy desert town called Night Vale, and it’s presented as if you are listening in to their local radio show. The radio host is laughably optimistic despite the weird horror-movie events that happen daily in this strange town, and every crisis is met with a sort of dry humor. It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s weird, and there is a “weather” break during each episode where you can hear new music that you might not find anywhere else.

2. Limetown

Creepy event that causes an entire town to just up and disappear? Check. Plucky protagonist who refuses to back down from her search for truth despite mysterious enemies threatening her? Check. Edge-of-your-seat suspense? Check.

3. Homecoming

I haven’t finished this one yet, but the suspense, production, and delivery are just fantastic. This is, on the surface, about a woman who works for a therapeutic program that helps veterans adjust to civilian life after returning from deployment. There couldn’t be anything sinister about that, right?

4. Deadly Manners

Funny, suspenseful, and well-produced, this audio drama is a whodunnit that will entertain you and make you laugh. This is one murder-mystery dinner you’ll be happy to attend from the safety of your earbuds!

5. The NoSleep Podcast

I had to include this podcast, not in the least because I’ve been recently featured in it as an author! It has free content and additional stories you can purchase for a fee. These horror stories run the gamut from suspenseful to downright grotesque, if that’s what you’re into. There’s something for the horror fan in everyone! Check out Season 11 and pay for the full episode 4 to listen to my story, Edgar Falls Run.


Writing/Life Update

I’ve gotten two rejections from agents already. Hurray! That means I’ve started the process and I’m a real writer! ūüėČ I’ll be resubmitting to more as soon as possible. I also got some exciting publishing news: My first-ever horror story was published in audio on The NoSleep Podcast!

At first I thought it was odd that a piece of horror would be one of my first published pieces. Most people I know probably wouldn’t peg me for a horror author. But then I realized that it might actually make sense. I have many anxieties, so why wouldn’t I be able to communicate those in story form? Those of us who feel fear can probably write about it all day! Yay for turning negative emotions into art!

Speaking of anxieties, we’re currently trying to figure out where we want to live next, as our time in our teeny-tiny apartment may be coming to a close soon. Where is that new, bigger, place going to be? I have no idea, but the search is consuming much of my mental and emotional energy.

Til’ next time, folks! Thanks for reading this far and for your support!

I’m Looking for an Agent!

I’m currently seeking agent representation for my 169,000-word science fiction. My hopes are high and I’m ready for this next big step.

I have ideas for 2-3 other novels at the moment, and I’m excited to get some time to start working on those in the future, as well as a few dozen short stories that have popped into my head over the last few months! It’s been an exciting journey so far with this first book and I know that it’s only the beginning. I’m enjoying writing, and the writing community, so much.

This is the verdict after writing and editing my first novel: I want more! I want to do this more, and on and on, for the rest of my life. I want to improve, learn, and meet other writers. I want to fill up with reading and life and the company of writing colleagues, and then I want to pour it all out into writing. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If you know of any agents (or if you are an agent visiting), feel free to send me any leads.

Featured photo in the public domain, courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.Net

The Daily Grind

I guess it’s time to talk. I’ve been avoiding you, reader. Not because you’ve done anything, no. Just because I haven’t had much to say. Just because I am working my tail off at a lot of things that are really important, but at the same time are not all that interesting to hear about because they involve small actions done consistently over time.

No dramatic announcements or updates. Just dirty, boring, sweat. Just showing up every day and doing the things I need to do. Not glamorous. Not interesting.

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Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net.

But it could lead to things that are more interesting.

Continue reading “The Daily Grind”

I Finished my Book. I Repeat: I Finished my Book!

Today, my husband watched my son (one of many times he has done this for me) while I finished the final draft of my first novel. And, amazingly, at the end of my writing session, I decided: It’s done. It’s ready.

One caveat: I am having someone else look at it for small things and copy edits, but other than that, I’m calling it. No more tweaking, people! Hands off!

This has been about two years in the making, and during the second year I experienced a lot of changes in my life, including having a precious baby boy! One of my biggest fears about becoming a mother was losing myself and losing my writing. And so, I have clung to it tooth and nail, making sure that my writing didn’t become lost.

And I had a lot of help.

My husband watches my son often so I can write. My mom even watched him once so I could get some time in. I’ve learned to use naps and even, in the newborn stages, nursing time as writing time. Because I have had to be so intentional about making writing a priority, I think it has instilled good writing habits in me. My husband even made the comment once that I actually seem to write¬†more now that I am a mom.

I don’t think this is far from the truth. While I was still on maternity leave, I entered and got first place in a creative nonfiction contest. In October, when my son got to celebrate his first Halloween, I got to celebrate my publication in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a fiction article I wrote during a lunch break at work.

My son has done nothing but enrich my life in a million ways since he has come into the world. He’s made me more efficient and compassionate and appreciative of so many things that I used to take for granted. And the restrictions on my time have bolstered my resolve to hold on to the things that are important to me.

Not long ago, I attended a writer’s event where someone made a comment to the effect of “So, I guess you’ll be writing again in about 18 years, huh?” and I was horrified at the implication. Who would give up their passion just because they had a child? What kind of example does that give to a child when their mother obsesses only over them and has no interests of her own?

For me, the things that used to be important to me are still important to me. The thing that has changed is that my son is the most important thing.

“No, I’m still writing,” I said to the dubious writer, and went on to give a few of the ways I found time to write.

Is my house kind of dirty a lot of the time? Sure. Does my husband cook a lot of (okay all of) the time? Yep. But am I happy and following my dreams? Yes.

Anyway, all this is to say that it has been a big year. And because of that, I haven’t written in this blog often, because I couldn’t justify spending time writing a blog post when I could be using that precious time to work on my book.

But I finished the book :).

Here’s the final shakedown of the numbers for this bad boy. For those friends who have been asking me about it every now and then, maybe you will understand now why it has taken so long, because, I’ve realized, I almost have enough pages/words for¬†two books I think.

Finished

This puppy is big. It’s so big that during the last few months, Microsoft Word has had enough of my antics and is “not responding” for a few seconds every time I try to save it. Pssh. It’ll forgive me soon, I know.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to finding an agent, pursuing the next steps, and getting to work on other writing projects!

 

 

What’s on the Fridge?: A Character Writing Exercise

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Image courtesy of Karen Arnold on publicdomainpictures.net

A common piece of writing advice when it comes to characterization is to show rather than tell. But how do we do that? I have created an example scenario with one possible way to do this for your characters. This is by no means the only way to characterize someone, but this is one possible tool.

I was editing my novel when I took a quick trip for a coffee refill. I opened the fridge for the almond milk that I use as a creamer (See One Poo at a Time if you want to know why I use that instead of regular milk).

While doing this, I really looked at my fridge for the first time in a while. I thought about how it might look to another person, maybe somebody who didn’t know me. It inspired this character-building exercise.

Let’s look at what’s on my fridge together. I’m going to use this as an exercise to show how something as simple as this can explain so much about a character.

Things on my fridge:

  • Family photos
  • A Medela magnet that shows how long breast milk stays unspoiled at different temperatures
  • A magnet showing the poison control phone number
  • A stack of unfilled recall slips for various baby products (3+)
  • Two scanned sheets of baby food recipes from a book

I’m going to pretend that I’m not talking about myself and make up some explanations for what these things could say about me (These guesses may or may not be true!).

The family photos show that I’m a woman with a family and a child.

Secondly the Medela magnet shows that I’m breastfeeding. If you were writing me as a book character, maybe you’d think I value natural things and that I’m a little bit of a “crunchy” mom.

The poison control number posted on the fridge probably shows that I’m safety-minded. The unfilled recall slips say the same thing, except they could say something else as well, since they haven’t been filled out or sent off yet.

The fact that I’ve collected the 3+ recall registration slips means that I value safety, at least in theory. However, why aren’t they filled out by now?

Maybe I’m not very organized or I’m just busy. Maybe I hate filling out paperwork, even the easy kind. Maybe I’m extremely forgetful. Maybe I’m not actually all that worried about recalls, but I feel like I should turn them in anyway, so they sit on the fridge for weeks with good intentions but no follow-through. Maybe I’m just really overwhelmed with tasks (many new moms are!).

The baby food recipes can also tell you a few things, especially combined with the Medela magnet that tells you I’m breastfeeding. I may be an overachiever mom. The person who put these things up wants to breastfeed and make her baby’s food from scratch, which suggests she cares a lot about the way things are done in regard to her child.

However, where it might get interesting is in the speculation. Seeing the stack of unfilled forms, would we wonder if this character actually makes all of her baby’s food? Does she have time for that? Or is it just another good intention?

Now let’s put the character in a situation. Let’s say someone the character knows tries to give her baby a taste of a new type of store-bought baby food while the character isn’t around and without her permission. She finds out about it later. How do you think the character might react, just based on what you have seen here?

She would probably freak out a little, right? Based on what we know about the character being very concerned about her son’s feeding and safety?

Are you starting to see how these simple things, like the state of one’s fridge, can give insight to a character?

Here are some other ideas of things you can look for and describe in a character’s home to help characterize them. Describe the things:

  • Hung on the walls
  • Saved to the desktop of their computer (also overall cleanliness, order, or disorder)
  • On their desk (objects, style, cleanliness, order, disorder)
  • On their coffee table – also could be any other furniture around the house (objects on, tidiness, dust or shine, books)
  • In the medicine cabinet – self-explanatory!
  • In/on their front or back lawn, if the character has one.
  • Said in their¬† bumper stickers (I realized when writing this that I missed a valuable opportunity to include this for some of my book characters!)

To try this exercise out, just choose one of these areas and start describing it with one of your characters in mind.

Have fun, and if you complete the exercise feel free to share your lists in the comments!