November 15: Halfway Heaven or Hell?

It’s November 15, and we are exactly halfway through November now. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you should be approaching & passing the halfway word count sometime today — 25,000 words!

Whoa.

If you’re like me, and still in school, maybe you’re realizing that this is week 12 of the semester & you really only have 2 weeks of anything left. Because finals don’t count; or you’re in grad school, as I am, and you don’t have finals, so you just lose that whole last week. (Bah humbug!)

Either way, on November 15, you’re probably in either Halfway Heaven (so you rock! and we also kinda hate you) or you’re in Halfway Hell (so you still rock! but you kinda hate yourself).

Which is it?

I am in Halfway Hell. November has been productive, so productive, and now I just want to curl up in a little ball and sleep. Which is actually what I did most of this week, and now that I’ve metaphorically woken up, I’m in this cold place and feelin’ kinda panicky.

You see, I had lots of things to do this week and I did nothing. NOTHING. But, because I never started anything, I can’t actually be further behind than I am now, and that’s a weird & backwards sort of silver lining. You know, like, “I couldn’t possibly be more behind that I am now, so the only direction is forward!

So now I am going to use November 15 for everything it’s worth: getting caught up (or, at least, getting started on catching up). November 15 is a great day to realize that you can still accomplish your November goals by just readjusting your original daily goals  — whether they be word counts for a novel or page counts for a school paper.

Here is how I will spend my November 15: (1) grading four major projects, and (2) creating a workable outline for 1/2 of my Wikipedia paper, and (3) submitting my degree plan for graduation, and (4) going to class, and (5) watching my boyfriend’s soccer match.

There are a lot of great things about this November 15. First, I get to feel accomplished for doing something I have to do anyway — going to class, where I will give a presentation, yay! — and I scheduled in some fun break time — watching my boyfriend play his last match of the season. And both of these things should help me stay motivated to accomplish real grad school tasks — the seems-endless-in-the-moment grading gauntlet, and the outline for the paper that will represent my writing in my Master’s thesis portfolio in April, eek!

So, are you in heaven or hell today? If you’re in heaven, congrats! If you’re in hell, welcome.

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No NaNo for Me

This year I am not participating in NaNoWriMo.

This is the first November since I became a NaNoer in 2004 that I have not participated in this crazy, tremendous writing event. This is the first November I’m not even bothering to attempt a novel. I didn’t win ever year, but I always put in the effort to start. I always spent October planning, and getting some words down in November. I have always stretched my creative mind in November, even when it’s just a little bit, because I am a writer and that’s what I have to do.

But this year, I am not.

And a large part of me fears that I’m not participating because, for the first time since 2004, I just don’t have anything to write. I don’t have a story to tell. Or, I don’t have a story I want to tell.

I know, I know. I spend a lot of time talking, blogging, and tweeting about that novel-in-progress I have — and, I guess it still is a novel-in-progress. I still believe in and love the story I’m trying to tell. These last few months, though, I haven’t written a word. I haven’t jotted a note. I haven’t doodled an outline.

What have I done?

I’ve opened blank document after blank document. I’ve flipped through blank journal pages. Essentially, I have done nothing.

My word document is blank, and my mind is blank, and something about this scares me. For the first time since I can remember, writing — writing anything — is not just hard. It’s not possible.

In case you’ve been wondering, yes, this has definitely impacted by blogging and tweeting, as well. It’s even impacted my reading. It’s like I’ve disconnected from the written, fictional word entirely.

So here is my odd, spontaneous November confessional. I am in the worst place possible with my writing, and I have no idea how I got here, and I have no idea how to get to a different place.

V.E.D.August 3

Plotting & Planning for Writing

I’m getting sick. In August. In Texas. I can hear it in my voice. Or maybe it’s just really bad allergies. Yes. I like that better.

Further Clarification: I don’t plot out or even know of every scene that happens in a book. I know the major scenes, including the opening, the point of no return, the complication(s), the climax, and the ending. I do know extensive character histories, and while I know most of those details will never be explicitly put into the book, they do define and shape character arcs. The details and the connecting scenes remain a mystery until I am at that section of the book — sections begin and end with the major moments I knew before drafting.

#nalitchat was a total blast last night, and I’m still very encouraged by the smart & curious discussions that take place during that chat event. If you missed it, read the transcript here.

Leave comments about your plotting & planning process — it really is one of my most favorite things to discuss about the writing process.

V.E.D.August 2

Motivation for Writing, for NaNo and all year long

I promise my top-of-the-head videos get less awkward a few days into doing them; it just takes a few days’ worth of video to get back into the groove.

Tonight, 9pm EST is #nalitchat

Tonight’s topic is “Why not YA or Adult?” and we are continuing our discussion of category boundaries. EJ Wesley will still be hosting through @NALitChat and Victoria Smith will be moderating via @NAAlleyBlog. As always, the most pertinent information about the weekly #nalitchat is the NA Lit Chat blog, and if you can’t make tonight’s chat or if you missed last week’s chat, transcripts are posted there the day after.

Last week I posted some links I thought would be helpful to read before the chat event, links that I think ground the week’s chosen topic in previous discussions. I want to do the same thing this week, so following are links I think help us define what NA is by asking what it is not.

  • “In Support of New Adult Fiction” by J. Lea Lopez, posted on From The Write Angle —  New Adult is not condescending or prescriptive. I really think that’s at the heart of the discussions and misunderstandings surrounding the NA category. Lopez’s blog post answers several more important questions, but the first several focusing on prescriptive intent are, to me, so incredibly valuable.
  • Where are all the young ‘adults?’” posted on Young Adult Review Network and “Putting the A in YA” by Sarah LaPolla, posted on Glass Cases  — The second post by LaPolla is a response, and not really a positive one for NA, to the first post, which mostly asks questions instead of giving answers.  You should recognize these two posts from the Lopez article. Together as a pair, these posts begin to seek out the category boundaries between YA, NA, and adult.
  • “Young Adult vs New Adult vs Adult” by S.M. Boyce — this is one author’s attempt to outline the differences between each category (though she calls them genres, they are, in fact, categories; genres are “fantasy” or “romance” or “crime”). The comments here are really worth the read and expound on her very simple & basic outline (her outline mostly defines age, sexual content, and swearing levels). I don’t think this is a comprehensive attempt to understand boundary lines, but it is a place to start — and age (and what’s appropriate for certain age groups) seems to be where everyone begins with categories.

My two-cents on this topic:

What I always remind myself, and try to discuss with others, is that category boundaries are rooted in understanding categories as a marketing tool. Publishers don’t really believe only teenagers read young adult fiction; publishers are neither stupid nor naive. What publishers know is that young adult fiction is marketed to teenagers (~ 13 to 18), and that when a YA book is marketed well to its “target audience,” the book can gain its broadest appeal. With good marketing, with focused marketing, a YA book will appeal immediately to teenagers, to a nostalgic adult, and to a forward-glancing middle-schooler. This sort of categorically-grounded marketing is how we understand the layouts of bookstores and online booksellers, and it only seeks to connect readers with books they’ll enjoy in the massive library that is published books.

Which is why discussions about how NA books are not YA or adult books is so critical to pushing the category further, and making it more broadly appealing to anyone who loves to read.

V.E.D.August 1

It’s August, so I’m making videos every day this week.

Links Mentioned In Video:

Click to see Kenzie’s VEDA video.

Click for more information about Writers’ Hangouts (every Wednesday at 9pm EST) — leave a link to your Google + profile in the comments to be added to the WH circle, and you’ll get the invitation directly from me every Wednesday night.

Click to visit the Camp NaNoWriMo website, and you should sign up. Really, you should. I’m CeruleanNotion on Camp NaNo, if you can figure out how to find me. I can never seem to find other people on the Camp site.

Writers’ Hangout Scheduled

I am happy to announce the schedule for Writers’ Hangouts in August:

  • Wednesday, August 1 — 9 PM EST & 12 AM EST
  • Wednesday, August 8 — 9 PM EST
  • Wednesday, August 15 — 9 PM EST
  • Wednesday, August 22 — 9 PM EST
  • Wednesday, August 29 — 9 PM EST

We have decided to do the video chats on Wednesday nights again this summer because it worked out so well last summer, and because it’s a night that works for both Justine and I. The first of August happens to be a Wednesday, so we get to do the big launch on the same day the Camp launches! How fun is that? Because it’s the first night, and because we want to be available for anyone in any time zone, we’re having an initial start time of 9 PM EST, and we’ll have a second Hangout beginning at midnight EST. The other Wednesdays, the log in time will be locked in at 9 PM EST but after the first night it becomes clearer when we do writing times and break times, and as long as you butt in during a break time, I don’t mind if you join later than 9 PM EST. (If you want to join later, be sure to just tweet me and I can let you know when it’s a break time.)

A few things to remember / know about Writers’ Hangout:  we use the Google + Hangout feature, which does require a working webcam and microphone. You can opt out of having your webcam on and display a static picture to the group*, but you must be able to voice chat. Because this is a voicechat feature, you must use headphones. We don’t need to hear the echo of everyone out of your speakers. To be included in the invite list for this event, you must add me on Google + AND tell me you’re part of this so that I add you to the correct Google + circle on my end.

The log in time is set to 9 PM EST, and that means the first WRITE session will start promptly at 9:20 PM EST. That gives you twenty minutes to log in and introduce yourself / say hello and prepare for the WRITE session. For now, that’s all you need to know. When you log into the Hangout, Justine and I will brief everyone at the same time on the timed plan for the evening.
I really hope to see so many of you there in August! We’ve had a lot of fun and success with this event in that past, and a few times I think we pushed the limits of how many people can being in a Google + Hangout. I have high hopes that this feature has improved since last summer (and it was great last summer!), so that we’ll be able to do even more writing with everyone!

* I think. It’s been a year since either Justine or I have used a Google + Hangout, and we’re going to be testing it out before this event launches, but before you could freeze frame a static picture instead of using your webcam. Sometimes, web cams freak out for people, so this was a usable option.

Saturday, from Albuquerque

So it’s Saturday and I’m sitting at a Starbucks in Albuquerque, and I should be working on my novel for #NaNoWriMo but instead I’m blogging. I’m already impressed with how much time I’ve put into this novel on this trip so far. I spent my first flight yesterday typing away and I spent an hour waiting (I met my family for breakfast) in a restuarant this morning drinking free coffee refills and typing. And yes, this is odd for me.
I’m a pretty structured person. In past years I’ve won because I wrote the necessary 1,667 or more during my scheduled writing time: usually one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. In free time, I didn’t work on my novel. I had novel-working time and that’s when I worked. But this year, I decided not to have scheduled writing time because I have so much other work that needs to get scheduled and get done. Working on this novel this year is entirely a matter of finding myself with free time, opening my computer, tablet, or notebook, and getting down whatever words I can. It’s been a completely out-of-my-element process and, truthfully, it’s been successful so far. Or, it was the first few days, but now I’m travelling, I only have my tablet, and the word processor on my tablet doesn’t have a word count tool. So I’m more guessing that I’m about on track because I’m averaging the same number of pages, so that should be close to the same number of words.
At some point on this trip, though, and probably tonight because it’s the only time I’ve got, I need to sit down and do school work. I’m not looking forward to that because I definitely can’t do real work outside of my element. For that, at least, I am still tethered to my structure and my schedule and I feel out of sorts trying to think outside of my apartment-office. But, those 20 page papers won’t write themselves, and my project has definitely proven that it doesn’t do itself, despite my many attempts to change that fact.
Have a good weekend, folks! Stay warm!