Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

The Year of Wordsmithing

            Success depends on more than just acknowledging a goal with a glass of champagne in one’s hand at 11:59 p.m. on December 31st.  Resolutions—shed some pounds, kick the cigarettes, drink less caffeine, avoid speeding tickets, go 365 days without being arrested, etc.—are easily made and even easier to cast aside.  One can’t just spit out a resolution; one must also have the ambition and obsession to achieve.

            Let’s define these:


            Resolution:  the act determining upon an action or course of action, often made at the beginning of a new year and abandoned two weeks later.

            Ambition:  an earnest desire for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment, an element often missing from New Year’s resolutions.

            Obsession:  the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea or desire, the presence of which elevates resolution to ambition and gives one a chance at success.


            Okay, I might have tweaked those definitions but they’re still solid.  2014 is probably not the year I’m going to give up nicotine or caffeine, although I do plan on maintaining my “never been arrested” status and keeping a sharper eye out for radar-running cops than I did during 2013.  I do, however, have plans for myself.

            Not resolutions.  Plans.  Ambition + obsession > resolutions.

            All word-based.  Words require attention, sometimes hyper focus.  Words are beautiful, the love of my life, but they don’t come easily.  One must keep ambition foremost and feed the obsession that leads to success.

            So here are my writing, reading, and word-focused goals for 2014…


1. Read 80 Books.
            GoodReads promotes a yearly reading challenge, where members set their own “I’m going to read [#] of books in 2014” goals.  Setting the bar too high would be doomed to failure—I have the real life, adult world responsibilities like everybody else.  But setting the bar too low would be shameful because books are awesome and I have a massive stack of unread books waiting their turn.  So in 2014 I will read 80 books.


2a. Complete My Work-in-Progress.
            I began writing The O’Shaughnessy Reputation:  Put on Your War Paint as part of National Novel Writing Month.  I finished about half by the end of November and have kept putting fingers to keyboard since then (occasionally for frustrated keyboard-mashing).  When I wrote the first part in this series (You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid), I started in 2011 and didn’t finish until early 2013, and I won’t allow that to happen again:  I will finish this WIP at all costs.


2b. Complete an Edit of My Soon-to-be-Finished WIP.
            I will not only finish this novel, I will do at least a first pass, rough edit on it before November 1st.  I can’t start Kiss the Ring, part three of this series, for NaNoWriMo ‘14 until the events in part two have been smoothed into something resembling a coherent story.


Speaking of NaNoWriMo…

3.  Participate in National Novel Writing Months, including Original Flavor NaNoWriMo (November) and both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions (April & July).
            Providing concrete goals, a fast-approaching deadline, an active community of writers, and a nifty progress graph, NaNoWriMo has been one of the best things to ever happen to my writing life.  It’s a kick in the ass, a kick so hard I’ll put said ass in a chair to avoid the hit.  And half of writing is, after all, simply sitting your ass down to do it.


4.  Begin Work on Charm of the Pavement.
            The idea for this novel has been haunting me, bouncing around in my head for at least six months but doing little more than mocking my attempts to wrangle it into a coherent story.  No more avoiding the pen, you brat; the time has come. 


5.  Increase My Writer Circle
            The most successful writers seem to be those with a solid, expansive community of writers they consider friends.  The interaction acts like an injection of word-adrenaline, promoting creativity and keeping a writer focused.  I know several writers, a couple of whom are quite serious about it, and I’m determined to welcome more into my life.  Because writers are awesome…and other writers are the only ones who share my special brand of ‘not quite right’.


I have my pen.

I have my vices—coffee, booze, cigarettes.

I have my ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’ mug.

I’m ready.  Let’s fucking do this.





NaNoWriMo Chronicles: A Look Back (The Final Post!)

50,269 words.

82 pages.

28 chapters.

4.5 pages of outline completed.

1 bottle of Aleve (for the arthritis in my hands), 1 brace to combat carpal tunnel, and 2 magnetic therapy bracelets.

7 bags of coffee.

Countless frustrated hissy fits and spiteful ‘I should be writing but fuck words’ naps.

Above is a numerical summary of my NaNoWriMo 2013 experience, an impressive listing if I do say so myself.  (And I do.  My blog and all that.)  But NaNoWriMo isn’t about the numbers, is it?  NaNoWriMo is about the words.

So how did the writing go?

The writing went well enough to win but the words came with much more difficulty than I’d anticipated.  2011 was a breeze:  the words came like an avalanche, I won the month, and I went on to complete the novel, which just so happens to be Book 1 to this year’s Book 2.  2012:  my only trouble came from running out of story and having to pad it with a couple thousand words to meet 50,000, which I did without any problem.  But this year?  This year was hard.

I was cocky.  I was naïve.  I thought, “Hey, since this is a sequel, this ought to flow smoothly from the beginning!  After all, I’m just picking up where I left off.  All of this is outlined and I know the character better than I know myself, so this is gonna be easy!”  And lo, the writing gods did heartily laugh before making me regret said thought.

This was a sequel; I spent the past couple years consistently writing this character, so his voice is still very much second nature to me.  And yet getting started proved painful, I just couldn’t find any sort of flow.  Three false starts before I finally found a shallow groove, and the first 30,000 words felt like pulling teeth—my own teeth, no anesthetic.  Timelines just wouldn’t come together; the character voice was shaky.  So what happened?

My poor little brain took quite a while to figure out the problem, and when it did I wept, for the problem wasn’t something I could wave a red pen at and fix.  I’d reached the writer’s equivalent of a boss level.  What escaped my understanding at first was that meshing the second book with the first proved much more difficult than I thought, while adding in the need to do all the prep work and setup for the third added complexity, ravaging my brain and ultimately requiring extensive editing while writing—a big no, no during NaNoWriMo.  But what choice did I have?

None.  I had no choice.  So I tore at my hair, rent my garments, and threw myself back into the fray.

And standing here at the finish line, I wave a banner of 50,269 words.  They’re not good words nor are they coherent after the 40,000 mark, but they’re words and they’re mine.  I’ve got a long way to go on the novel itself:  my outline is 9 pages long and I only made it through 4.5 of those pages during November.  I’ve got a damn fine start on what will one day, after lots of editing, be a damn fine story.

That, my friends, is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.  Until next year!  (Or at least the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions!)

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: The End of Days

November 30th:  it may not be the apocalypse but it’s certainly the end of days.

The last day of the month, the day all WriMos dream of, strive toward, and alternately fear and love.  If we’ve done it right (or even done it badly but miraculously managed to get out the necessary words despite that), we hold 50,000 words in our hands at midnight on this, the last night.  Some victors can hold a sheaf of papers above their heads and cry, “Lo!  I have a completed novel!”  Other winners can point proudly to their words and say, “I’ve got a pretty damn good start, with my 50,000!”  And still others triumphed word-wise and then quietly burned the results, too bad to even contemplate continuing that hot mess of a story.  This time I am a member of the second group:  50,269 words but the novel is only about a third of the way completed.

Without exception, however, we all verify our word count and then, upon seeing that beautiful purple winner’s bar, promptly collapse into a pile of whimpering, tears, exhaustion, and aching fingers.

I have a wrap-up post planned, an overall look at the NaNoWriMo experience, so I won’t gush here.  Here I shall just post my victory pages from my Chronicles notebook, because a girl needs to brag without any need for coherence.

Consider yourselves warned:  much of this is merely me squeeing in ecstasy at having finally crossed the finish line.  Less a pat on the back, more of me bragging and waving my metaphorical dick around because I’m a writing bad ass.


Because damn it, the official NaNoWriMo winner badges don’t tell me I’m awesome enough! More dancing! More bad ass-ery! More victory arms! AND MORE DANCING!


A slightly more coherent declaration of my win, also explaining the benefits of writing a few hundred extra words before midnight. And see what I did with the dashes there? Ha ha, I crack myself up.

And now a mini Q&A session to finish this off:

Did I write 50,000 words and thus ‘win’ NaNoWriMo?  Yes.

Is the novel actually finished?  No.

Do I still have a lot of work to do?  Hell Yes.

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Four (Part Two)

And lo, we’ve arrived at NaNoWriMo’s formidable Week Four (Part Two)!  Rejoice, my friends, for we’re almost at the finish line!  Soon the frazzled explosion of words will be over—not to mention these image-laden posts will finally come to the end.  (I suspect no one is heartbroken at the thought.)


45,000 words! So hard to believe I’m here, so close to 50k. So exciting to reach this point, the thrill is unbelievable when the counter flips over to 45k, and at this point you know you’re going to make it, even if you cross the line a stumbling, stuttering, wordless mess.


And then of course something has to go a little bit wrong. This is in fact a major scene, although placing it where it needs to be (despite my original outline) wasn’t as big of a deal as my initial reaction implied.


A few thoughts of the new depth I discovered in two other O’Shaughnessys: Anna (the main character’s mother) and Shannon (his younger brother). They truly surprised me in some ways, especially Anna. A great writing session, even if I was sitting there screaming at Anna to stop being a sympathetic human being.


A list of those discovered depths in Anna’s character, because I was that shocked by her as I wrote.


If you ask Jesse, he’d tell you he doesn’t have mommy or daddy issues. If you take one look at his life, you’d know he’s so fucked up he doesn’t even know he’s fucked up.


Thanksgiving + writing is somewhat difficult, but that’s what wine is for.


I have all day to write before heading out for an important, long-awaited discussion, so what do I do? Not a damn thing, not until it’s almost time for me to walk out the door. I? Am a moron sometimes. Procrastination is great but only up to a point.


Writing is greater than ALL THE THINGS. Consider “writerly panic” appropriately cued.


Just a little bit of truth about Jesse Mother Fucking O’Shaughnessy.

And there, the end of Week Four!  The only thing left is the final day and yes, that mythical 50,000 words.

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Four (Part One)

So we’ve reached Week Four:  the home stretch.  For those of us who made it this far, there’s a manic energy that takes over as we make that final push towards 50,000.  So close yet so far.  Those words sum up the entire feeling of these final few days, and to fuel the end of the journey we’re living on junk food, coffee, and for thus of us whole indulge, booze and cigarettes.  We’re all a little crazier now, even more insane than when we first decided to attempt NaNoWriMo in the first place, and we’re so fucking close.

Note:  I’ve split this entry in two, as it’s a long one.


Goals and editing notes, because my God the process of sorting out my massive screw up is still trying to kill me.


My main character being snarky in edits, as if he’d ever actually listen to authority.


Another day of facepalming and editing.


My boy does indeed excel at holding a grudge.


Dear Self: I’m gonna need you to stop sucking.


Rejoice! The end of editing (at least this minor, minor pass) has come!


Shut. The Hell. Up.


Moving on…moving on…


A bittersweet moment: the last write-in of the year. As one of the best parts of NaNoWriMo, I miss them when they’re gone.


To the write-in regulars: keep writing. Always keep writing.

Stay tuned for Part Two…

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Three

Ah!  Week Three of the adventure that is NaNoWriMo!  (Yes, I’m aware that I’m actually posting this on December 2nd.  I’m a little bit behind due to focus on the writing of actual story words.  Don’t judge me.)  From my many sessions of NaNoWriMo Original Flavor and Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve learned many things, one of which is that Week Three is really tough.  Why, you might ask?  Because the adrenaline of Week One is gone, the determination of Week Two has worn itself out, so by Week Three it’s a battle of will, pure momentum and desperation pushing a writer forward.  There’s a flash of brilliance the beginning of the week:  the halfway mark.  25,000 words, it’s the downhill side of the mountain from here on out but the end isn’t quite in sight.  It’s easy to give up.  One is tired, the brain is starting to go on the fritz, there’s static and the words get stuck.  Even the very best outline can’t always help when things start to stall.

Case in point:  I seemed to have given my own outline the finger and for some reason subconsciously decided early on in my quest not to pay attention to the little details that become absolutely essential later in the story.  And when did I hit that point of “absolutely essential”?  Why, during Week Three, of course!

Cue facepalming until my face turned black and blue.

Enough talking.  Let me show you.


25,000 words! Celebrate, for thou art halfway through! And be a-feared of the dreaded slump (far more dreaded than thou expects, as thou shalt see).


As for the 16th, a day of rest. Sometimes reality supersedes writing, and this was one of those days. The 17th? Well, I intended to write 3500 words to make up for lost time, and yet Mother Nature interfered like a vicious bitch. I did manage to write 2000 words but only after spending some time on my balcony watching funnel clouds, considering how fucked I was if any touched down, and mourning the loss of my town’s Starbucks due to a direct tornado hit. Ah, such is life.


A letter to a certain government agency assuring them that my series of, ahem, ‘curious’ Google searches was merely story research, not evidence of dangerous crazypants.


Finally caught up on word count, and I learned something new! The average men’s shoe size = 10.5 The third result in the Google search to find this out: a shoe size to penis size conversion size. The answer to this unasked question: 8.5


Because my main character finally got the firearm he demanded after being shot in the course of his work.


November 19th: the 4th write-in. Really fucking cold both outside and inside the restaurant. The 20th: realization that I missed key parts of the information timeline, having apparently paid little to no attention to my own outline, and would be utterly, completely, extremely fucking screwed if I tried to write the next scene, a keynote scene that requires precision and delicate handling, if I didn’t fix it.


After much agonizing, I decided to go back and edit the four jacked up chapters, thus breaking the NaNoWriMo “rule” of no editing until December.


More hair pulling over the need to edit and risk getting far behind on word count. More facepalming.


My master plan for ‘Operation Make the Story Not Suck So Much’.


Cari’s Personal Rule for NaNoWriMo Editing: while editing, make sure to write MORE words than were in the original incorrect version. (This worked surprising well, despite my trepidation.)


Notes to myself.


Edit notes for Chapter 5.


My list of necessary edits for Chapter Five, the first of the scenes with info imperative to the timeline. LIES! SO MANY LIES WITHIN THAT CHAPTER.


This, my friends, is what a printed story page with hasty handwritten edit notes look like. Don’t read the story snippet itself; it’s terrible and not indicative of my usual writing quality.

So there you have it:  proof of how Week Three destroyed my brain.  Everything worked out okay in the end, by some miracle I managed to stay current with the daily word count, but holy freakin’ crap was that ever difficult.

Cue another facepalm just for good measure.

Until later, my dears!



NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Week Two

Week Two, widely known as the most difficult stretch:  the adrenaline high has worn off, initial bursts of inspiration are spent, and nagging little story issues are making themselves known, like that rattling noise in your car that you can hear quite clearly but can never quite pinpoint where it’s coming from.  This week sees a sharp decline in numbers as participants drop out and word counts lag even as the quota increases; there is a corresponding rise in hair pulling and caffeine consumption.  Things start getting weird right about now as story arcs do very un-arc-like things such as make sharp turns and characters do things like wander off without so much as a ‘by your leave’, chapters start popping up between other chapters where they don’t belong in the outline, and your brain goes a bit squiggly every time you think about 50,000 and how it seems forever and ever away, all the words away.  Yeah.  It’s like that.

A dear friend and fellow WriMo has hit upon an approach that works for him:  the boxed wine and words and more boxed wine system.  It shames me to admit that I lack his hardy constitution and, having no wish to dance on my own table in an inebriated manner (although anyone else’s table is a-okay), I’ve been simply plodding along, puttering and poking at the keyboard and mumbling to myself, occasionally cursing in a way to make sailors blush.  Allow me to present unto you, my dear friends, week two:


I do my research like a good little girl, only to twist it, warp it, and cover it in dirt for story purposes. Facts: I use them to make shit up.


Beware the Writer’s New Groove.


One of Jesse O’Shaughnessy’s Rules to Live By.


Edit reminders: because no one gets it right on the first try, not even someone as awesome as me.


Real life interferes and makes story time difficult. My god awful memory doesn’t help much, either. (But seriously: YAY! No cavities!)


One incident of ‘nearly forgetting the laptop on the way to the write-in’, a free food extravaganza distraction, and a strange, seconds-long interaction with a bum. An interesting evening, all in all.


Unfortunately, some days you really are just too sad (for no apparent reason) to write. Even more unfortunate is when those days happen during NaNoWriMo, when ass in chair writing words every day is the only way to make the Graph of Progress happy.


A little story snippet, because it frames Jesse’s state of mind quite well. (Of note: he was enraged that I had the nerve to shoot him. I pointed out that another character whom he happened to be trying to kill at that time was actually the one to shoot him, but my logic stood no chance against his anger. What a wuss.)


An actual bit of dialogue from the book. Jesse’s vocabulary is not for the faint of heart, easily offended, or those of delicate sensibilities.


Jesse’s line of work lands him in the ER quite a bit, and Polly is the nurse/administrator who oversees his many, many trips. Both are stubborn, both are caustic, and both are now engaged in a decade-long battle of wills. (This is one battle where Jesse’s chances of victory aren’t good.)

And lo, the end of Week Two!  I’m still in the game, word count is exactly where it should be, and although all might not be going amazingly, things are at least going.  Up and running, even.  *goes back to scribbling*

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