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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: 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*

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year, my friends!  No, not the full onset of autumn.  And no, not the pumpkin spice everything that’s currently available.  And no, certainly not the upcoming holiday season.  (For isn’t there always that moment of clarity when you’re at Thanksgiving dinner, eating mashed potatoes you don’t even want and listening to people ask yet again when you’re having those kids they know damn well you’re never going to have, that terrible moment when you remember how you swore last year to skip this year and wonder with horror how they managed to suck you back in again?  No?  Just me?  Damn.)  No, my dear readers, I speak of but one magical thing:


For those who somehow don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, I give you the official explanation from the website:  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.  On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 on November 30.

That’s 1667 words per day.  You cannot start writing before 12:01 a.m. on November 1st.  You must verify your word count by 11:59 p.m. on November 30th.  For four glorious weeks, you must write with the speed of a bat out of hell.

NaNoWriMo, at its heart, is insanity.  Trying to write an entire novel in 30 days is absolutely batshit, and by the end of the month, the writers are just as psychotic.  We’re sleep-deprived and over-caffeinated, lost in chaotic fantasy worlds, mumbling to ourselves about worlds and people that don’t exist outside the page.  Here’s the breakdown of how the month goes:

Week One is pure excitement.  The writer is still fresh, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, fingers flying over the keys and bursting with ideas.

Week Two is when the story grows uncooperative, throwing up blocks and grinding to a crawl, characters wandering off to do anything and everything but contribute to the epic tale promised during Week One.  This is when the writer begins to bang her head against the wall—repeatedly.

Week Three is when the crazy sets in.  The writer’s brain begins to ache, thoughts twisting and going rogue, focus deteriorating both in fiction and in real life.  Sometimes there are tears; other times there are hissy fits and desperate naps.

Week Four is the home stretch, when the crazy turns into something strangely helpful.  The writer is once more bright-eyed due to the mania that enables her ability to power through the final few thousand words.  The end is in sight, assuming the writer doesn’t drop dead of exhaustion first.

November 30, Midnight is when the writer stumbles across the finish line, clicks the ‘Verify Word Count’ button, and collapses.

This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo.  (I’ve also participated—and won—three sessions of Camp NaNoWriMo, sessions held in the spring and summer.)  Out of my previous three attempts at Original Flavor NaNoWriMo, I’ve won two; the very first one was derailed by the real world, a family emergency that told pretty much everything to go fuck itself.  That’s my history, folks, and I’m quite proud of it.

I’m also aware that every year I sign up is yet another year I’ll reach new levels of insanity.  My friends expect me to disappear; my family knows I’ll be mental well before Thanksgiving.

With less than a month left until kickoff, the preparation period has begun in earnest, the planning happening at a fevered pace.  I have a title, I have an outline, I have a synopsis, I have notes scattered around my apartment, and I have Evernote at the ready to keep track of all the revisions I’ll have to make when it’s all over.

Because every story is inevitably shit.  Absolute, utter, undeniable tripe.  Rubbish.  Not fit to even be called writing.  Assuming one doesn’t toss the story completely, there will be extensive revisions, many more hissy fits, and dark moments of hopelessness.  But if one commits, if one keeps pushing through, if one is lucky, that NaNoWriMo project will be revised into something coherent by the time next November arrives.

So I’ve stockpiled coffee, filled my cabinets with bags of Halloween candy, and purchased stock in Aleve for when the arthritis in my hands flares up due to the incessant typing.  (I say again:  I’m already old at 28.)  I’ve already targeted the walls upon which I’ll bang my head when everything goes to hell.  (Hint:  all of them.)  Everything is ready to go.

And I can’t wait.  I cannot freakin’ wait to go insane with the word-making and storytelling.

So wander back here in November to witness my unavoidable mental breakdown.  It’ll be quite the show, I promise.



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