Archive | October, 2013

Introduce Your NaNoWriMo Novel! (aka, how prepared are you?)

30 Oct

ImageI had grand plans for October. Not only was I going to get my articles done on time, but I was going to make some headway towards my articles due at the end of November, too. I was going to be a writing machine, forging a path towards NaNo Greatness with all the time in the world to write my novel.

Yeah, right.

Tomorrow is October 31 and I still have one more October article to finish. Never mind the November articles I never even started. Ha! I probably could have finished that last article tonight, too, but I am burnt out creatively. I keep complaining that “I hate writing” and “why do I continue to do this to myself.” Honestly, I think every writer reaches that point in their lives. It usually coincides with a due date.

I keep thinking about Friday, a mere 27 hours away here in Australia, and want to bury myself in a pillow fort until NaNo Season 2014 rolls around. Of course this is the year I chose to write a novel that, if done well, needs heaps of research. I’ve barely researched anything. What sort of mattresses did they have in 1773? What did they use to brush their teeth? What kind of poisons native to the Americas would kill a man if placed in his evening cup of tea? And just what is the point of this novel, anyway?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m planning on doing an extended NaNo-like marathon that covers 85,000 words and 3 months. So perhaps the pressure isn’t on so much. And yet I can’t help but feel that pull, that irresistible tug that tells me I need to complete 50,000 words in November. The pressure of so many completed NaNos is on, and there’s this whisper in my ear that says, “It’ll make December and January easy–15,000 a month is nothing!”

Whatever I decide to do, I still feel woefully unprepared. I think I’m just going to have to say “whatever.” That’s what NaNo is for, right?

I’m planning on doing the same thing I did for Camp NaNoWriMo back in April: status updates! I hope some of you will join me in this, as I loved seeing your updates as well. I’ve switched up my survey a little bit in order to suit this month’s novel. Feel free to use this survey or the last one (found by clicking the above link), or make up your own questions tailored to your novel and your NaNo journey!

1. How many words did you write today?
2. How long did it take you to write them?
3. How many times did you use Write or Die?
4. What is the most interesting thing you researched for the sake of plot today?
5. What didn’t you research today that you probably should have?
6. What unexpected turn did your novel take today?
7. Best/Funniest novel moment today?
8. Total NaNoWriMo Word Count So Far:
9. Words Remaining:
10. Days Left:
11. Today’s Excerpt:

As I said last time, this has the potential to evolve over the course of the month (or months). I’ll be posting one update every day when I finish my word count–fingers crossed! My main goal this time around is to post an excerpt every day, no matter how horrible. We’ll see what my confidence does as the month goes on.

Now for the fun bit. I’d like you to introduce your novel! That’s right. Let me know what you’re writing this month. They say the hardest part about writing a novel is telling other people what it’s about. Consider this an early pre-NaNo writing exercise. It’ll get your gears turning. As for mine:

The Millerstown Witch is a YA historical fantasy set just before the Revolutionary War in a small town in Massachusetts. Magic is widely known and accepted, but strictly controlled by an association of wizards based in London. When the colonials start experimenting with spells to cure a new illness that’s popped up in the frontier towns, the London association sends in representatives to stop the experimentation by whatever means necessary. Main character Cora Lyons is planted as an assassin in Millerstown, where lives an elusive witch on the brink of a cure, and she’s meant to kill any Londoner who comes to town. Things get complicated when the association representative arrives and she finds out his magical ability is to know when someone is lying, making it difficult to maintain her cover as a simple maid at an inn. Plus, she thinks he knows something that could be useful in driving the association out of the colonies for good, and she’s determined to find out what it is.

Leave your novel’s introduction in the comments below. I can’t wait to read about them!


Crowd-Funded Travels: providing everyone the means to travel?

23 Oct

I follow a vlog called Steps to Wander about a couple who recently went on a trip through Europe and their adventures there. They just posted a link to this website on their Facebook page: Crowd-Funded Travels.

There isn’t a lot of information about it yet, but from what I gather, the idea is that you plan a trip and other people will provide the funds. Honestly, all I’m going on is its little tagline: “Plan an extraordinary trip and get it funded by inspired people, amazed friends and generous sponsors.”

I have no idea how it’s set up. Are there contests for “best trip?” Do these sponsors send you something to promote during the trip? Do your friends “like” your trip, and which ever trip has the most likes you get money for it? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.

Funding a trip is probably the hardest part about traveling. Cal and I have been saving scrupulously for our Europe trip for a year and are now mere dollars away from our goal. But a year is a long time. Other expenses might come up, cutting into your savings, and you might have to wait even longer.

Honestly, I love the idea of “crowd-funded travels.” I believe travel is almost a basic human right. Everyone should have the chance to see the world, but not everyone has the means to do so. Something like this is a perfect way to solve that. Or at least I think it will be–can’t wait to see more about it.

Check it out: Crowd-Funded Travels.

The Historical Dictionary of American Slang

22 Oct

Today I tried to focus on research for my NaNoWriMo novel, which will be set in the American colonies just before the Revolutionary War. I haven’t done nearly as much research as I should, so I put my nose to the grindstone today and came up with a really good find:

A Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

The website allows you to enter a time frame and spits out words used during that time. Okay, so I’m not entirely sure how accurate it is, but for the 1770s the few words that they have sound about right: clink, togs, dern, Golly. I mean, it’s better than nothing, right?

I intend to do a lot more research in regards to language. It’s one of my hang-ups when reading historical fiction. If the characters don’t sound like they belong in the time period, I’m not likely to enjoy the book. I’ve been immersing myself in a few 1770s journals, but for a quick fix–or to check if a word is okay to use in a certain era or not–I think this will work wonders.

What resources do you use when researching for your novel? I’d love to hear about them!

Book Review: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber

21 Oct

ImageIn this sequel to Darker Still, Natalie and Lord Denbury are back and on the train out west to escape the magical and demonic goings-on that they left behind in New York. But they can’t stay long; soon after arriving, Denbury runs into a man who seems to think he’s still the demon. And Natalie starts having dreams again, this time about her friend Rachel, who appears to be dealing with some ghostly nuisances of her own. Meanwhile, Denbury must face down one of the scariest men of all… Natalie’s father.

Just for reference, I gave Darker Still 4-5 stars. I gave this one two.

My problems with this book aren’t entirely down to the author, I don’t think. The whole thing read like huge chunks had been taken out and the transitions had been forgotten about. Here are my complaints:

1. Timeline. From the first few chapters I was incredibly confused about how much time had passed. The book picks up right where the last one left off–Natalie and Denbury are on a train out of New York. We’re given very little indication about how long it takes the train to travel halfway across the country, and it seems like the pair are halfway across the country for a matter of hours. In which case, why was everyone panicking quite so much when they returned?

2. What was the point of going out west anyway? When this pair got on the train at the end of Darker Still, I was so excited for the sequel because I assumed the next book would be taking place out west. And yet, they were there for all of a few minutes and then back they trotted to New York. Everything that happened out there could have just as easily have happened in New York, and honestly, I don’t think they really tied it all back together at the end, either.

3. The romance. Okay, so I mentioned this in Darker Still as well, but the romance is just over-the-top. I mean, for something set back in the day with an upstanding gentleman who intends to make this woman his wife and a middle-class girl who must have some standards, they go a little too far for my taste, and anyway, it all seems practically irrelevant to the overall storyline. It would have been far more interesting if they were at each other’s throats for most of the book and loved each other at the end.

4. What was the point of Nathaniel? When they get back from New York, Denbury runs off to London to sort out his affairs and sends a message to Natalie telling her to go meet up with Nathaniel. Honestly, the only thing that came out of that really was that she then had a dream about kissing Nathaniel which Denbury walked in on and he was momentarily upset but swiftly got over it. Attempt at love triangle? I have no idea. And then he didn’t show up until the very end of the book after that.

5. Maggie was useless again. I wrote about my misgivings about Maggie’s place in the story in my review of Darker Still and said “maybe she’ll have more of a point in the sequel.” I suppose she did, but all was not revealed until the very end, and even then it seemed like it could be cut.

6. The plot took place in too many different settings, over too short a period of time, with too many plot points that went largely undeveloped. It was like the author was juggling far too many apples at once. I saw two main strands of plot: people are trying to create Frankenstein, and the demon is back. I think these two were supposed to be intertwined, but they weren’t. They were simply separate, a little convoluted, and disappointing.

I honestly can’t say much in way of good about this book, except that it has a good prequel. Darker Still is well worth the read (you can find a link to my review at the top of this post). I mentioned in it that it didn’t seem to need a sequel, and I maintain that. I highly recommend reading Darker Still if you’re interested in historical ghost story type books, but be warned: you might be disappointed in the sequel.

How To StayFocusd On Writing: The Bane of Online Distractions

18 Oct

After a few completely distracted weeks, I was at the end of my rope today. I’m several articles behind schedule, I haven’t done the research I need for my NaNo-novel, and forget about reading for fun. It’s been Facebook, YouTube, BBC News, Nameberry, YouTube, NaNoWriMo site, YouTube for me.

Distractions are a hazard when working from home. Seems like it should be easy–no commute, no need to get ready for the day, so you have all the time in the world to get your work done, right? Well, never mind the cooking, cleaning, and laundry to be done. The computer has turned out to be my #1 enemy, and the thing I depend upon the most to actually get anything done.

It’s a conundrum, but turning off my WiFi doesn’t exactly do it for me. I need the internet for research–sometimes research takes up more of my time than actually writing the article. Unfortunately, the internet comes with all the above distractions and more. Self-control simply hasn’t been cutting it for me. Get all my research tabs open and then turn off WiFi? But I can just press a button to turn it on again, no problem. Reward system? But the chocolate’s right there, and no one’s stopping me from eating it. Negative reinforcement? But depriving myself of YouTube is already the problem…

Today I decided something had to give. I was supposed to have started writing at 9, and at 9:40 I had ten words written. Yuck. I started Googling and found a few programs that allowed you to block certain sites for a certain amount of time. Wrinkling my nose, I wondered if it was worth the $10 to try them out.

Luckily, I didn’t need to find out. I was directed to a Google Chrome extension called “StayFocusd” which is everything I needed and more. 

Basically, the extension allows you to add sites to “allowed” and “blocked” lists. Its main thing is that it only allows you a certain amount of time on the blocked sites per day–which is kind of the opposite of what I was hoping to achieve. However, it has a “Nuclear Option” which blocks the blocked sites for a set amount of time, to great effect:



Basically, I blocked all the usual culprits: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Nameberry, and even Hotmail, among others. The best part is that you can block the extension page–which means there’s no going back to change any settings while you’re in Nuclear Mode. That means that your hands are well and truly tied, and you’ll simply see the above message if you try to procrastinate. No easy button to press to get out of it–just true productivity.

The extension places a button on the Chrome task bar. This button is blue if you’re on a site that isn’t blocked, red if you’re on a blocked site, and yellow and black when you’re in Nuclear Mode. When you press it, you’re given the option to block whatever site you’re currently on. So, for instance, if I was in Nuclear Mode and found myself wandering needlessly to WordPress a lot, all I would have to do is click “Block this entire site” and it would do it for me. More productivity!

More importantly, because I know I can’t get around the block (unless I use a different browser–but I don’t), I try to go to the sites less than I normally would. My mouse doesn’t hover over the Facebook icon half as much as it usually would, meaning I’m not wasting so much time looking at the “Shouldn’t you be working?” page either. 

“StayFocusd” has really worked wonders for me today. Knowing I can usually get articles done in two hours or so while completely on task, I set the Nuclear Mode timer for an hour and wrote, took a fifteen minute break, and set it for an hour again. The result? A finished article, two hours and fifteen minutes in. I did it again in the afternoon with the same result. That left me time in the evening to read for pleasure and research for my NaNo novel–perfect!

The extension comes with a few different options which you’ll have to explore for yourself. I’ve only fiddled with the Nuclear Option so far. The regular mode seems a bit strange to me, but good if, perhaps, you were attempting to cut down on your social media time (which I might do soon!).

Like I said, I believe it’s only available for Chrome, but other browsers might have other options. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re having a hard time focusing like me! StayFocusd on your work so you have more time to play later. Happy writing!

It’s almost time for NaNoWriMo! But…

2 Oct

I am in love with NaNoWriMo. No, really. After discovering it nine (what!) years ago, I’ve avidly participated every November, along with several Camps and other “unofficial” NaNoWriMos, too. For me, November is a great time to kickstart that writing habit again if, like me, you failed in your New Year’s resolution to Write Every Day. (Yeah, that didn’t happen.)

So you might be surprised to learn that I’m considering not doing NaNo this year. At least not proper NaNo.

For me, NaNo was always about reaching that 50,000 word goal. I know that’s the point, but I was never able to push past it to actually finish a novel. The only time I really finished a novel was for my Senior Thesis when it was for a grade, and without the threat of that hanging over my head, I’m worried I might not be able to finish something ever again.

Okay, not really. But I’m getting frustrated with my lack of writing and I know that if I were to get into the habit of writing every day again, I might actually be able to accomplish something.

The problem with NaNo is that NaNo ends. I’ll write 50,000 words and probably won’t look at the story again because I’ll be so sick of it. For me, 50,000 words is never enough to tell the whole story. Then again, I try to push past it and end up with 135,000–that’s not good either.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to set myself an end-goal word count of around 85,000. That’s at the long end of the “average” count for a first-time YA author. I’m going to give myself three months to complete this goal. At the end, I need to have a completed first draft of a manuscript.

There are 92 days between November 1 and January 31. That means the word count averages out to around 925 words per day–more manageable if, like me, you’re expending creative energy throughout the day by writing for work and just want a brain break at the end of the day. A slower, steadier count will hopefully lead to a more coherent, less rambling story as well. That’s the goal, anyway.

I feel a bit weird even considering not doing proper-NaNo. Doing this, I’ll only have around 30,000 words at the end of the month. But I think I need to switch it up and try. My only worry is that I’ll fizzle out by the time December rolls around and won’t have much to show for it!

If anyone’s interested in doing this with me, I’d love to hear from you. Part of the appeal of NaNo is, of course, that thousands of other people are writing with you. If that energy continues into December and January, I know I’ll be able to push through. What could we call ourselves? National Novel Finishing Quarter? NaNoFiQu–eek, maybe not!

Are you participating in NaNo this year? Or do you have something else in mind? What are your writing goals, and how are you going about accomplishing them? I’d love to hear your stories!

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