Free Writing, Uncategorized

Time Flies While my Writing Stalls….

Has it really been 7 months since I’ve last updated this thing? Wow…time flies.

I am still unemployed, but I’m making the best of it by being a full time student again. I’m finally finishing up my college education. Going for my double major in Accounting and Business Management.

I haven’t even touched Soul Weaver.

Well, that’s not completely true. I have. I honestly don’t know why, but I can’t seem to write that last chapter.

That’s it! Just ONE MORE CHAPTER and this thing will be FINISHED! But for the last 7 months I’ve dreaded touching it. I open up my scrivener just to stare at all 72 chapters. Every time I think “This is it, I’m going to finish it!” I draw a blank, get major writer’s block, and stall. Then I start doubting the entire book. “It all sucks! Why bother finishing it!?”

Then I just close down the program and push it away for another month.

The most I’ve really done on Soul Weaver is tweak the cover – yet again. Even that was done back in February after I was laid off. This version was to just lighten it and make it more easily readable. Especially in a thumbnail version (what you’d see on Amazon), the black lettering was very hard to see.

Comparison:

SoulWeaverBookCoverLightenedMedSize SoulWeaverBookCover426x567

Will I finish Soul Weaver this year? I’d like to. But I’ve been saying that for 7 months now. Who knows, maybe when NaNoWriMo comes back around it will finally motivate me again. Right now I’m kind being a little laissez faire. In the meantime, at least I’m being productive.

But you know what makes me feel even worse about it all? I haven’t read a single book since I started writing Soul Weaver. Seriously. A year and a half and I haven’t read a SINGLE BOOK. Originally I had the mind set that if I read another book, it would influence my writing, but now I’m almost wondering if that’s why I feel so dry when it comes to my own book.

Things to ponder…..

Kudos to you for reading all the way through my own musings. Thank you. ❤

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NaNoWriMo 2014 – WINNER

I honestly didn’t think I would make it, but as you can see from the title, I managed to win NaNoWriMo 2014! I was behind for almost a week, got caught up, and then fell behind again during the holiday. On the last day, I bust out little over 3k words to hit 50,002 words (according to Scrivener – Validation gave me over 51k.) This time I didn’t count any notes, blog posts, or word sprints. Only words that went directly into the novel itself.

 

Sadly, I’m still not finished with Soul Weaver. My word count currently sits at 115,806. I’m estimating about another 15-20k words (give or take) before I can officially say that the first draft is complete.

NaNo14WinnerGraphTo be honest, I’m worried that I’m pushing the limits on my word count. If I were to self publish I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I have plans to try to submit to a few publishers first and I know that they may refuse my manuscript on excessive word count alone. That being said, I know that a lot of it will be cut during the first round of editing. I’m banking on that.

With that in mind I’m fighting the urge to start learning how to edit. While I’d like to think that most of my first draft doesn’t have too many grammar and spelling mistakes, what I’d like to learn is how to make sure I have proper flow and continuity. That my characters are fleshed out and consistent. That there’s a great hook at the end of each chapter to keep readers reading. Everything that a professional editor would look at. That’s what I want to learn. My goal is to have my novel impeccable before submitting it to any publishers. The less work their editor needs to do, the better.

NaNo14WinnerCertificate2I’m also starting to do some research about beta readers. I won’t start taking names until I’m through the first round of editing. I’ve already got my two teenage boys who are chomping at the bit for me to finish so they can read through it and help me out, but I’ll need more. Preferably readers who have beta’d before and can offer some awesome feedback.

 

But all that can be saved for the future. Right now, I still have a few more chapters to write. If all goes well I’d like to be done with the first draft by the end of December. I’ve already got a few ideas in mind for what I’m going to write in April.

Speaking of April. I’ve managed to motivate both of my boys to join me for Camp NaNoWriMo! I even got them a copy of Scrivener to use. My younger son has already started using it to transcribe the book he’s been writing for the past few months. All he had before was a notebook full of scribbling so he’s excited to see it all typed out and divided by chapter. I’ve directed him towards the Young Writers Program that NaNo offers as well. So lots of awesomeness to look forward to.

 

For those who won WriMo – CONGRATULATIONS! To those who didn’t – as long as you wrote, you’re still a winner. Even if you only wrote a couple words, it’s better than nothing. Just keep at it! And keep in mind, there’s always CampWriMo in April and July too.

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo Day 18: Record Breaking Change of Plan

See that picture right there? Yeah, that one to the left, and there’s a larger one at the bottom. See them? That’s what getting caught up with NaNo after being almost two weeks behind looks like. That’s what forcing myself to pound out nearly 6,000 words looks like. That’s what writing my butt off looks like. (And I mean that quite literally. My butt was numb for quite a while yesterday.)

I know to some of you that may not seem like much, but to me it’s the most I’ve ever written in one day. My previous record was a little over 5,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

I know the more I force myself to write every day, the easier writing will come, but I noticed something in common with both of those record breaking days:

I planned.

That’s right, this so-called ‘pantser’ actually sat down and took the time to plan out where the story was going. It was only after planning, that I was able to pound out 5 and 6k words. Almost like they were nothing.

 

I think it’s also getting easier because because I’m nearing the end of the book. Soul Weaver currently sits at 94,515 words with a total goal of around 115k. But that’s only for NaNoWriMo purposes. I won’t be disappointed if I only write another 5k before typing “THE END”, but I have a feeling that’s not going to happen. There’s so much I have yet to write. The climax is coming. The MC needs to grow. The bad guy needs to be defeated. People need to die. (In the book! In the book!) I know I have another good 10-15k to write.

 

The problem with being a pantser is that you never really know what to write until you write it. There are times you get stuck because you’re not sure where it’s going. Like introducing a new character. Or ten. That was the case a few days ago when my MC met a group of people that I knew would be instrumental in the end, but I had no idea how to write them. I had to take the time to sit down and name them; give them a back story; find out what their personalities were; and what their role would be, before I could continue.

Had I planned all of it out from the beginning I would have been able to write through that chapter without an issue. So after I wrote them into the story, I took the time to plan out where the rest of the book was going.

Chapter by chapter I wrote what needed to happen next. I gave myself some flex room in case a character decided to do something odd without asking first. (We’ve all had those moments right? We think our characters are going to do something, only to find out that they do something totally different.) In the end, I planned from the next chapter until the end of the book.

And you know what happened? I was able to punch out 3k, 4k, and almost 6k words in one day. Not only that, but I felt much more comfortable with my writing. By this time I know my MCs well enough that was easier to write their story in the direction I now know it’s going.

 

To say that I think I may have learned a lesson here would be an understatement. I have a sequel in mind after finishing Soul Weaver and it might be safe to say that it will involve a lot more planning beforehand. Maybe I’ll be able to be one of those people who finish NaNoWriMo in one day!

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe I can just shoot for 75k in 30 days instead. Yeah, that sounds a little more reasonable.

 

So I leave you with this: If you’re still lagging behind, struggling to catch up, and maybe thinking you won’t be able to finish – try doing something different. Something you don’t usually do. If you’re a planner, try pantsing. If you’re a panster, try planning. If you’re a little bit of both, take a break and challenge yourself by writing a short back story for a side character.

Another thing you can do is to find someone to challenge you. A little bit of writing truth or dare if you will. My friend Aaron Steinmetz and I did that during Camp WriMo this year and I’ll be darned if one of his challenges didn’t wind up becoming an important part of my novel.

If you’ve never played, it goes like this:

You: I dare you to write about a three legged dog.

Friend: Okay, I dare you to have one of your characters use the word ‘fart’.

It’s as simple as that. You both write the other person’s challenge and before you know it, you’ve just added another couple (or hundred…or thousand) words to your novel. Rinse and repeat. Keep in mind: if you don’t like it, you can always edit it out later.

 

If you’re still struggling, don’t fret. NaNoWriMo is meant to get writers into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few words. So if you don’t wind up with 50k words by November 30th, but you continue to hammer away at your writing every day then you, my friend, have already won.

 

CaughtupNaNo2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo Day 9: There’s Still Hope

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’ve only written 7,807 words. Yes, I’ve fallen behind. I fell behind after day 4, but I wasn’t worried because I thought I had time to catch up. But the day I had set aside, wound up being an incredibly dramatic day for my family.

Without going into detail, I will say that my eldest son has had some very rough times lately. Two days ago he decided it was too much to handle and attempted something terrifyingly drastic. It wasn’t something I would have ever thought he would do and thankfully, he failed. Let me tell you, as a parent, I would not wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

The feelings of helplessness, guilt, fear, and not knowing what to do next was overwhelming as I drove to meet him and his father. No parent should ever have to feel this way. And no child should ever feel that the things that happen in their life are that bad.

When I met up with my son, he immediately ran over to me and hugged me tight. I held him for what seemed like forever as we both cried on each other’s shoulders. He apologized and swore he would never do anything like that again. While he seemed to understand the consequences of his actions and is more than willing to attend the counseling he will now need, he and I also know that things won’t be the same for a long time. If ever.

I’m grateful that I was able to take him home with me that night. Along with his little brother and sister, we all had a fantastic weekend together. Afterwards, he told me that he was glad he spent this time with me. He said it was relaxing. That he was able to forget about the stress of everything for a while. That made me smile and warmed my heart.

I’ll admit that even though I was on my guard in case he slipped, I had a great time as well. One of the coolest things we did was stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about a book that he wants to write. He’s well aware of my endeavor to finish Soul Weaver and would frequently ask me how it’s coming along. He’s even read the first few chapters, but told me that he won’t read the rest until I’m finished and that I have to finish it. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard him talk about being interested in writing, let alone any sort of novel.

We spoke for a long time about what it would be, and the more we talked, the more the plot was painted in our minds. He wants to write a historical fiction. A steam-punk Civil War along the same lines as the Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfield. We got online and did some research. We plotted out time lines. We looked up the technology that was used. We came up with names for the main characters and a little bit of their back story. We even came up with a name for it. Ideas were pouring forth as we wrote down everything we could think of.

In the end we wound up with nearly three pages of notes and something that we could bond over (outside of video games). I can only hope that after this weekend this project can be this is something that he can look forward to. Something that he can escape reality for and pour his creativity into. And though it will be his own project, I hope that this can be something that he and I can share and work on together. Maybe, just maybe, it will give him something to focus on when he thinks things are getting too much to handle again. As long as it’s only a side project and doesn’t add to his stress, I will support him one million percent in his endeavor.

Now I have the perfect motivation to keep pushing forward with Soul Weaver. Now when he asks how it’s coming along, I can tell him that I’m still dutifully slugging away. Now, I can ask him how his is coming along as well. Now we can motivate each other.

 

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’m behind. But I will get caught up. Because I want to show my son that it can be done. And son, if you’re reading this, maybe this time next year you’ll be a part of this event with me. Slugging away at our novels and helping each other to the finish line. A mother can only hope, right?

 

Hope

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NaNoWriMo 2014 – Day One: Are We There Yet?

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo is here. I started at midnight, and at 3:30am I made 2116 words. I’m happy with that. 🙂

I suppose I should be called a “rebel” for this WriMo because I’m actually continuing Soul Weaver from this April’s Camp WriMo. I made it over 65k words before November started, but I know it still has a lot more to go. So between finishing the novel and editing what I’ve already written I still have a goal of 50k words. I took a long break after April and I plan to take December off as well, but come January, I’ll be doing some heavy editing and possibly even sending it out to some beta readers. (So if anyone who reads my blog is interested, shoot me a line and I’ll put you down as a beta.)

Today’s only the first day but I’m already thinking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

To which I think of Pixar’s The Incredibles: “We’ll get there when we get there!!”

(This whole scene is pretty much NaNoWriMo in a nutshell!)

Good luck to my fellow NaNoers! Feel free to buddy up with me on the NaNo site!

 

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The Reason I Can’t Sleep….

It’s easier not to think about her during the day. I can distract myself with other things like my daughter, or I can make my mind go blank by watching a TV show.

It’s at night when I can’t get her out of my mind. Alone in the dark, when everyone is asleep, all I see is her face. Her adorable face. Staring at me with a sort of ‘deer in the headlight’ look. Confused. Unsure of what just happened. But she had heard my voice. She heard me call her name and reacted instinctively.

My heart sunk into my stomach when I rounded the corner and saw her. I hadn’t believed the noise I’d heard. The ‘thunk’ from the truck that was driving past didn’t make sense. It was as if it hit a pot hole. There are no pot-hole’s in front of my house. My mind didn’t put it together until I saw the lady with her dog across the street. As the truck drove slowly on, I knew my baby girl was going to want to play with that dog.

But she wasn’t in the yard with Kabuki. There he was, in mid-pee, staring at the road. But she was gone. And there was that dog across the street. And that truck. The thunk.

I called her name before I saw her. She was simply next to my car in the driveway looking at the other dog. She had to be.

I’m always so careful. So careful not to let her out when there’s anyone outside. She loves people. She loves dogs. I know she’ll go say hi to them if they’re outside when I let her out. Every time I wonder why I would let her outside without her leash, but I convince myself that she’s a good dog. She’s only two feet away. She doesn’t take long. Besides, if I’m careful she has no reason to do anything but her business and come back inside.

I wasn’t careful this day. She paid for my carelessness and irresponsibility.

The look on her face when I came around the corner is what haunts me at night. How her head shook as if she was having a seizure. She stumbled a step or two. Enough to reach me. Before we both collapsed on the road at the same time. My knees hit the rocks but I felt no pain. My arms wrapped around her as I called out her name over and over.

Talia. Talia. My baby girl. My Talia.

At some point I screamed for my husband. A sound for which I didn’t realize I made, but I’m told was frightening to hear.

I had no idea what to do.

Blood was everywhere. Thick. Red. A pool of it in front of her. Blood that still stains the road in front of my house. A stain that I can’t bear to look at when I go outside.

I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Her fur was clean. No scrapes. No bruises. No missing appendages. I was confused. My mind drew a blank.

I had no idea what to do.

Maybe it was my own voice in my head. Maybe it was the lady across the street with her dog.

Your other dog.

Kabuki. Kabuki, who was now coming up to sniff at his big sister in the road. I screamed for my husband to take him back inside. At some point he asked who hit my baby girl. I pointed to the truck that was not far off. Apparently the driver decided not to run, and to turn around. I wanted to be mad at him. I wanted to yell at him for not paying attention.

Looking back, I know there was no way that he should have hit my baby girl. The speed limit along with the direction he was coming from. He was probably not paying attention to the road. Maybe he was oggling the lady across the street with her dog. I can’t say for sure.

I didn’t think of any of this at the time. All I could think about was this was my fault. My fault for not being a responsible pet owner. Not having my precious baby girl on a leash. I take so many precautions with my toddler. Why did I take the safety of my dog for granted? Am I truly that bad of a person.

As the images of her face flash through my mind in the darkness of the night, I know the answer. Yes. I am.

She lay on the ground as I knelt over her. Crying. Sobbing. I pet her long beautiful coat as she lay there trembling and twitching.

I don’t know when her movement stopped. I just knew that when it happened a part of me died at the same time. I knew my baby girl was gone.

I buried my face in her fur. I couldn’t stop myself.

Talia. My Talia baby. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry baby girl. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.

It was all I could say.

The man driving the truck stood a few feet away. I vaguely heard him say there was nothing he could do. That my dog ran out in front of him.

I didn’t care. My husband came out with a blanket, ready to rush her to the vet. I may have noticed him tense up when he saw the driver. I may have just imagined it. But I didn’t care.

Even now, I can’t blame him. I know where the blame should lie. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault, I say. It was mine. Mine.

It’s my fault baby girl. I’m so sorry. It’s my fault.

As I crouch over her in nothing but my nightgown. I hold my baby girl and realize her eyes are open. Unfocused. I close her eyes with my hand but they won’t stay closed. I can’t bear to see that unfocused stare. I kept my hand over her eyes.

Close your eyes baby girl. Close your eyes. I love you so much baby girl. Close your eyes.

At night in the dark, those eyes come back to me. Unfocused. I realize I have a picture of her that way. I thought it was funny at the time. Now I can’t bear to see it. It was as if that picture was foreshadowing this wretched day. That picture is exactly the way she looked that day in the road.

I turn to my husband and tell him she’s gone. She’s gone. My baby girl is gone.

Hours later. Maybe it was years. Minutes. Time didn’t matter. She mattered. She mattered and she was gone. My husband told me I have to get up. He says I have to go inside and clean up. He says he’ll take care of her.

No! I can’t leave her! I don’t want to just leave her there! I can’t leave my baby girl!

I hear a woman’s voice tell me she’ll stay with her while I go inside. I don’t know who this woman is. Not the lady with the dog. She must have walked on. A random stranger. Her words allowed me to stand and make my way inside.

I stumble to the kitchen sink. I vomited at some point while cleaning myself up. My husband tells me he has to take her to the vet. I can only nod through my sobbing.

As I make my way to the bedroom I collapse in bed. Seconds later. Maybe it was minutes or hours. My husband comes back. He and my toddler lie with me in bed as I cry.

Every night since then this is the scene that plays out in my mind as I lie in bed. This is why I can’t sleep. It was the way she looked at me. The heart-crushing way she looked at me when she heard me call her name. She came to me. Using the last of her strength. She came to me. To be with me in her last moments. Always my dog. Till the end.

And so I am robbed of sleep. But I don’t complain. I can’t. How could I? She was robbed of her life. By me. How could I possibly complain of such a little thing like sleep?

Sometimes when I look at Kabuki, I see his sad eyes. I can tell he misses his sister. She’s the only family he’s ever known. Kabuki is still so young, but sometimes I see my guilt reflected in his eyes. As if he blames me as much as I do. But I know he doesn’t. He and I have grown even closer since that day. We two who loved her the most. We two who were hers. Our hearts will never be the same. Which makes Kabuki and I one and the same.

 

The best dog I ever had. The most friendly, loving dog. Not a single person disliked her. Everywhere she went she made people smile. She would greet you with a warm nuzzle and a kiss. She wanted nothing but to make her humans happy.

She guarded my daughter even from us. She would bark and dance along as we played and tickled my daughter. She would chase her around the house. She would lie next to her when she was asleep. She would lick the water that dripped from Kabuki’s jowls and play with him for hours. She would fetch a ball like a pro. It was her favorite thing to do.

She ran like the wind. Graceful and beautiful. She kept all the dogs in line at the daycare center. She would play with them all and make sure they kept out of trouble. In the end, she was always my dog. She could be sound asleep, but if I moved, she would wake up and follow me. Even to the bathroom. Especially to the bathroom. If she wasn’t laying at the foot of my bed, she was on the floor where I could drop my hand and run my hands through her long coat. She would nuzzle my arm, letting me know she was there as I sat at my desk. She would be happy just to have a single finger touch her. And she loved her treats.

This was my perfect dog. That I was lucky to have found her is an understatement. She blessed our home for such a short time. Only a year and a half. I didn’t deserve her, but she filled my heart with joy that only a dog like her could.

She left us much too soon. And in such a tragic way. It haunts me every night.

 

I miss you baby girl. More than I could ever say.

 

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Talia
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Down in the Writing Dumps…

Click for larger image.

I saw this image on Pinterest and I just had to save it. I think every writer goes through this.

Right now I’m most certainly feeling the images on the right. There are times when I don’t feel like writing. Just opening up Scrivener – no, just looking at the icon on my desktop – makes me cringe.

Since Camp NaNoWriMo ended I have written all of 16,000 words. 16,000 words in the past 37 days. How is it that I can pound out 50,000 words in less than 30 days, but the following 37 days I can’t even break 20k? Even though I took a week off after Camp, that’s still 30 days, and all I’ve been able to write is 1/4th of what I was able to write in April.

Why is that? Why is it lately that every time I sit down to write it feels like a chore and not something that I enjoy? Why is it that as I’m typing the words, my mind wants to drift off until I eventually find myself browsing Facebook or Twitter? Or finding something that needs done in the house?

I think I know why. This image describes it exactly. Sometimes I feel like my scenes are hideous. I feel like my story is awful. I feel like I’m a despicable writer. And lately, all I feel like doing is sobbing because I’ve been telling myself that my writing will never amount to anything more than “meh”.

It’s a combination of a lack of self confidence, too high of expectations, and a lack of stick-too-itiveness. In April I had a goal of just simply writing. In April I had a goal of not caring if I get published. In April I just wanted to say I wrote a book. In April I wasn’t comparing myself to other writers, I just wanted to tell my story. In April I just wanted something that I could leave to my children when I’ve left this world; something that I could be proud of.

For some reason, my goal has morphed into much more. I want to be published. By TOR no less. I want to be found in bookstores. I want to be told my story is excellent. My characters believable. My scenes intriguing. I want people to tell me that my writing is a million times better than anything I wrote ten years ago and ask me why didn’t I stick to it back then because I could have written this a long time ago.

I want to be told this, because it’s not what I think of myself. I think, “What else have you written, Amanda? A couple pieces of flash fiction almost ten years ago – romance fiction at that – and you think you can just step into the world of fantasy writing? You think you can call yourself even remotely ready for any sort of publishing just because you’ve managed to write 50,000 words? Crappy words I might add. Words that suck and are going to need editing a dozen times. Call it quits now. You don’t even have a chance at publishing traditionally anyway. Those publishers are going to chew you up and spit you out. You have no online presence. You have no style. You have no talent. You haven’t even developed your own writing voice yet. Do you really think anyone is going to be even remotely interested?”

To which I reply to myself, “But I’m interested. Every time I go back and read previous chapters I become engrossed in it. I want to keep reading as if I’m reading someone else’s work. Doesn’t that count for something?” That’s when I start getting impatient. I want to start editing what I have so far. I get excited and I think maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this.

That’s when my self doubt comes back and gives me the same argument as before. Instead, what I need to do is get back into the mindset I had in April. Write for the joy of it. To say I’ve finished a novel and be proud. Then take a step back and breathe. After some time away, I can come back and go through the first edit. Only then should I start thinking about possible publishing. And as much as the thought feels like a needle stabbing me in the heart, I need to forget about TOR. Sure I can submit an inquiry, but I shouldn’t expect or even hope for any sort of positive response. This is my first novel after all.

I know that may sound pessimistic, but I’ve always been one to think “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” If I get lucky, I get lucky. It’s not like I don’t know the amount of work involved before I will even be close to that point. I’ve done my research. The problem is, I’ve done so much research that I think I’ve overloaded my brain.

What I need to do now is re-wire it. Go back to the excitement of April. The can-do-it attitude and the thought of “I don’t care if this is published. I just want to finally say I’ve done it.”

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