Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day #8496 - Finished (Sort of)!

It has taken me quite a while. To get here, I have sacrificed my evenings to slaving over my keyboard and my lunch hours at work to outlining in my steno pad trying to figure out where the heck I am going. But this crazy journey that started on November 1st and seemed like a completely impossible goal has now been accomplished: I have written 50,000 words on a brand new story idea in the last 27 days.

Woot! *insert happy dance here*

I never thought I'd actually be able to take on the beast that is National Novel Writing Month. I mean, it's a ridiculous notion. Who the heck can write an entire novel in a month? It's crazy! It's insane!

It's also not me.

Let me explain. Yes, I did hit the 50,000 word goal that NaNoWriMo sets out for participants, so in that light, I am indeed a winner. But is my story actually done right now? Have I yet typed "the end" and brought the plot to a conclusion? Not so much. So in that regard, I am still a bit of a loser. But still, I'm excited because between work during the day, grad school at night, my two blogs, reading, and the many other things that make up my life, I still think it's pretty cool that I managed to write this much in this amount of time.

So here's to my second story being significantly closer to being done than it was 27 days ago. My hope is to have this first draft completed within the next two weeks, then I will probably take a break from this story and go back to Manuscript #1 (which I really want to come up with a cool code name for) that I wrote this summer and get to editing/rewriting. But I do feel like the pressure is off a bit. While I will still probably write every day, it will be because I want to and I can take my time with it, not because I feel like I have to.

So there you have it, folks. To my fellow WriMos, good luck here in the home stretch. To my fellow writers out there, I wish you luck and success in your own endeavors. What a long and winding road writing a book can take us on as we spend so much time inside our own heads, but what a feeling when you do it, right?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Day #8494 - New Look!

For the first time since I started this blog back in 2008, I've made the jump to go ahead and try a new look. I'll probably be playing with it in the coming weeks and months, but I decided that change is good and a fresh look is just what the doctor ordered.

Plus playing around with settings and colors and Photoshop are all excellent procrastination tools for avoiding my NaNoWriMo story. Not that I don't want to write, I almost always do, it's just that I know this next scene coming up is going to be challenging (emotionally speaking - it's the first scene I thought of for this whole book, so I've been thinking about it for MONTHS and I've unintentionally put a ton of pressure on myself to get it perfect now that it's time to add it to the story - eek!). So there's that, too.

I loved you, old layout, but I think we both know this is for the best. Life needs color, and so does this blog.

Goodbye, 2008!

So let me know what you all think!

Okay, really need to get back to writing now....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day #8492 - Christmas Came Early

I know that Thanksgiving is supposed to come first and that's not until tomorrow, but I am almost positive that Christmas was actually on Monday night because I got to meet ten fabulous YA authors at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

For a librarian's/more professional perspective on why these events and independent bookstores are a great thing, I suggest you check out my book review blog here. Right now I'm about to express nothing short of love and gratitude for these writers.

You have been warned.

But seriously, who knew that Mondays could ever be so great?! First of all, the whole event was moderated by author/editor extraordinaire David Levithan (Every You, Every Me; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Boy Meets Boy) which was fantastic. He asked great questions that someone like me who's not really in the business (yet? haha) wouldn't have thought of.

First off I got to joke around and talk about "old-school, MySpace self-portrait skills" with A.S. King, author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants, two books I'm insanely excited to read. There was Stephanie Perkins who I got to talk to and she signed my copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door. She's incredibly nice, has a sense of style I wish I were bold enough to pull off, plus she's a Nerdfighter - she's easily one of my favorite writers.

Me with Stephanie Perkins

Then there was Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher who each signed my copy of their brand new book The Future of Us (which I'll be reviewing over at The Fuma Files shortly once my grad school semester ends). I was so excited to tell them that the students at the school I work at voted for them as some of their favorite authors and it felt really good.

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I continued making my way around the room and talked briefly with Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, and David. I asked if I could get a picture of the two of them for my students (it makes me sound slightly less like a nerdy fan-girl) and they did, which was awesome. Then David asked if I would mind taking a picture on his phone so he could send it to Heather. And I gladly did. That's right, folks. I got to hold THE David Levithan's iPhone haha. Then I got a picture with Heather and she asked if I'd gotten any swag yet. I admitted that I didn't, so she gave me a Vlad Tod tote bag AND t-shirt. You can bet your bottom dollar I checked out the first book from her series the next morning as soon as I got to work. I'm excited to give vampires another chance.

David Levithan & Heather Brewer

Rocking my new Vlad Tod shirt with Eighth Grade Bites

Then there was talking about cicadas and colored hair extensions with Jackie Kessler (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Riders Quartet) and C.J. Hill (Slayers). I shared with them the secret of my incredibly bright blue hair, and in return they let me get a picture and gave me signed posters.

Jackie Kessler & C.J. Hill

Also there were Coe Booth (Bronxwood) and Jeff Hirsch (The Eleventh Plague), neither of whom I got to talk to but they both seemed incredibly nice and I'm anxious to read their books as well.

So long story short, I'm super pumped now to keep going with my draft. I know I've been a bit whiny lately that it's dragging on, this month is so long, blah blah blah, but at the end of the day, writing and telling stories makes me so incredibly happy that it's all worth it. I was so bummed when I got home that I couldn't just burn the midnight oil and write in to the wee hours of the morning, but my students and work deserve my full attention during the day so that would hardly have been fair to them. All in all, though, it was an amazing night, I'm so glad I went, and I hope I can continue going to events like this which encourage people's love of reading in the years to come.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day #8489 - Park and Bark

Back when I was in my high school marching band, every year we would learn a halftime routine that we would then perform at all the home football games. A common element in these routines would be something known as the 'park and bark' - everyone would stop moving, typically we'd all take a step so our feet were shoulder-width apart at the same time, and we'd just wail on our instruments, letting the sound fill the stadium on cool autumn nights. It wasn't always the most musical of moments because sometimes we'd get a bit caught up in the moment or carried away, but it was all about just laying it out there.

In a way, NaNoWriMo is sort of like a park and bark. For one month, you sit down with your story and let it run wild in whatever direction necessary to just get it out of your head. But the park and bark is hardly ever put at the end of the song, you still have a lot more choreography to do afterwards, so you better make sure to conserve some energy for what comes next.

Long story short, I feel like this is where I'm at with National Novel Writing Month. I've been writing an average of 2,000 words a day for the last 19 days. This story, which I have been cultivating in my head for the last few months, is finally being given a voice and while that makes me happy, I don't feel like it's the voice that the story really needs. Like my story is walking around doing a fake New York accent while walking around Brooklyn because it wants to fit in even though it's from Chicago.

I am, simply put, running out of steam. I'm trying to charge through everything so fast that I'm going back and finding contradictions all over the place and it makes me sad that the story I was so excited to write isn't really getting the care that I think it deserves even if it is "just a first draft." I think that part of taking seriously if you really want to make a go of it is to take all parts seriously. I'm not saying first drafts will be perfect or that if you're having an off day it's not alright to throw something completely random into the mix just to see what happens - it totally is and different things work for different people - but for me, a solid first draft gives me a strong foundation to then work up from.

Right now things in my draft are coming out sloppy, not to mention the pacing of the story is suddenly all over the place (I just realized that the last four scenes I wrote are all supposed to take place on the same day while every other part clips along a bit quicker). However, I'm keeping my chin up. I'm confident that I'll "win" and meet the 50,000 word goal set by the the organizers, but my draft probably will not be completed by November 30. The thing is, I'm more than okay with that. Every story will be told in its own time, and it just so happens that this one of mine needs more than 30 days.

So hang in there, fellow writers and WriMos! The end is nearly in sight, we can finish this thing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day #8483 - Goals and Games

Today I had my first all-district institute day for work. It might not sound all that exciting, but it actually made for a very interesting day. Lots of very important library things were discussed and it made me really excited about my profession. It's easy to get bogged down in weeks going by and feeling like people see librarians as nothing but shelvers or baby sitters, but today rejuvenated my enthusiasm about the fact that while much of what I do is behind the scenes, but it still matters a great deal.

But this is (supposed to be) a blog about writing. So more on that, eh?

Yesterday I hit a bit of a milestone with NaNoWriMo, which is exciting: I hit 30,000 words, which is halfway to my goal. I'm exhausted, it's hardly my best writing, but the story is still moving forward and I suppose that's a good thing. While I'm happy to have given this endeavor a shot, I'm quickly figuring out that this particular way of writing may not be the best fit for me. I work a full day, come home and do my own school work, and then on top of that I HAVE to write 2,000 words a day. I don't want writing my story to feel like a chore, and I fear that it's heading in that direction. And more than all of that, I really like my story! If I didn't, I wouldn't be writing it!

Maybe it's just the tired talking, but let's just say that I don't think I'll be signing up to do this again next November. I have a huge amount of respect for the people that do, though - it takes quite a lot of gumption, spunk, and perseverance. It's a fun idea, just not quite my cup of tea.

In other news, I'm totally pumped that the first full trailer for The Hunger Games came out today! The trilogy continues to blow my mind as well as fly off the shelves of my local libraries. Katniss is such a brilliant character and I love that she doesn't remind me of anyone else. As with any film adaptation, I'm nervous about how faithful they are able to stay to the novels, but I have high hopes. Anyway, if you haven't seen the trailer, check it out:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day #8478 - The Reality of WriMo

I'm just going to tell it to you straight, Internet. We're only nine days into NaNoWriMo and I still don't know what to make of it.

On the one hand, it's going pretty well. I'm finding that the rough outlines I've been making are really helpful in keeping me moving forwards, but not so constricting that I'm afraid of deviating from it if that's where the characters or scene should take me. I'm liking most of my characters (and enjoying disliking the ones I don't want people to like). And more than all of that, I like being disciplined in my writing and doing it every day. Taking it seriously makes me happy. Plus today I crossed over the 20,000 word mark, which feels pretty darn good.

*Insert happy dance here*

But then, there's that pesky other hand.

Because over on the other hand, word count wise that means I'm only a third of the way to my goal. I know it's a marathon and not a sprint (but at the same time, who are we kidding - of course it's a sprint!), but I'm already feeling quite drained and as I've already said, it's only day nine and there are 22 days to go.

I can see what Maggie Stiefvater meant now in her anti-NaNoWriMo blog posts about how the whole concept of the project works very much against people who have families or jobs or other commitments other than writing all of the time...wait a minute...that sounds like pretty much everyone. So this is one of those moments when I'm not complaining but I really am but just a little bit! It's hard for me to get into a writing groove when I get home from a full day at work because I'd love to kick back a little, visit with my family and unwind. If weekends have taught me anything, it's that my best (and usually most productive) writing happens in the middle of the day, but seeing as that is when I am work during the week, that's not really an option. Plus this past week I have been woefully neglectful of my graduate studies.

(But on the plus side, I registered for next semester and will be graduating in May! *insert second happy dance here*)

Perhaps this month I have bitten off a bit more than I can metaphorically chew, but I'm hoping that since I don't have work on Friday due to Veterans Day, the extra time will allow me the chance to get the many writing and book-oriented aspects of my life (which is most of my life) back on track.

So NaNoWriMo, so far I think we're okay, but I'm not so sure I am about making this thing we have a permanent deal. The writing part can stay. The writing a first draft in 30 days thing while also trying to manage the rest of my life and sleep and be a functioning human being? Yeah, I'm not so sure about that one actually happening.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day #8476 - Blog Reboot

To say that it's been a while since I've written here is an understatement, as would the remark that for the exception of the summer of 2008 when I started this blog before studying abroad, my entries have been sporadic at best and completely random at worst.

But things can change. Blogs can be updated and repurposed and before you know it, they're like new again. And that is my hope for this blog.

What started out as a place to share my thoughts and experiences while traveling around Italy eventually became a spot where I wanted to share my many grand ideas with the world. It would get discovered by a plethora of readers who would find what I had to say interesting and it would be EPIC.

Or, you know, not.

So that didn't happen, but that doesn't mean it never will. But until it does, this blog is going to be getting a facelift and a new direction. Rather than simply being a home to my rants and ramblings, this is going to be a place where I more specifically document my writing life.

To some people, this may be a bit of a surprise because since when is Monica a writer? I know, it was a bit of a shock for me too. But since July of last year, I've been consistent about writing in my journal (a habit I would occasionally turn to in college). But I've actually written entries in my notebooks every day since mid-March, and after a few months of that, a thought formed: I feel better when I'm doing this.

So this past summer, I wanted to take it a step further. Writing down my thoughts and feelings and the things that were happening to me was all good, but I kept wanting to play with those things. What if this had happened instead, or it took place here, or I'd said the clever remark that I didn't actually think of until two days later? I'd been kicking around ideas for stories for years, but I never had the courage to seriously try to write. I figured there was no time like the present, so four months and 60,000 words later, I had the first draft of a young adult novel completed.

Let me tell you, it felt great. I still need to massively reread and revise and all that fun stuff before the next step that comes with being a writer, but to say I got a draft down of a BOOK is a dream I never thought I'd be able to actually accomplish.

And now it's the seventh day of my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who are just as new to the party as I am), I'm just over 15,000 words in, and so far, so good. Every day I come home from work and I'm anxious to get back to my characters. Even as much as I plan and ponder, my characters are the ones in charge (for now - it's a first draft) and they're surprising me left and right.

Guess I might actually be more of a writer than I thought after all.

So who knows where this road may lead me. My expectations are low. I don't expect anything to come of this. All I know for sure is that I like writing. Whether or not I'm any good at it is a whole other ball of wax.

So that is what this blog is going to be about until further notice: me writing about writing. I'll be going through past posts and cleaning up what I'm actually comfortable with the rest of the world reading and what is probably best filed away. I'll be adding labels and tags and even picking a new page design because I've had the same one for over three years.

Sometimes change is scary. But it can also be liberating, and you never know what wonderful adventures it will lead to.

Comments always welcome, and let the blog reboot begin!