NaNoWriMo 2015 Update: Week 1

Last year I reviewed NaNoWriMo in weekly updates, and besides having blogging as an excellent procrastination tool, it helped me break down how the month was going for me and assess how to do better in the following weeks. So, only a day late, here is The Good, The Bad, and The Excerpt.

The Good

I actually started! I was so worried about NaNo this year, because I hadn’t given my WIP the same amount of time to percolate as I had to Expiration Date/Small Things before writing it. However, I came into November with a list of scenes I could write for the entire first half, and despite not knowing my characters as well as I did Treyton and Hayleigh when I started Small Things, I have a much better understanding of plot. Which has made writing a lot easier, to be honest. I know what happens next and not just at the major milestones.

Plus, by the end of November 7th, I was ahead on word count! I had 12,459 words when the par was only 11,666 words.

I’m beginning to understand the characters better and have a more fleshed out first act than I had with Expiration Date. I’m looking at 15k per quarter of the book in my rough draft, which is a lot more than I usually get written in a rough draft!

The Bad

I didn’t write at all on Thursday, between not having daycare for Alexis and having worse pregnancy aches and pains than usual. I’m a little farther behind on my editing work than I’d like to be as well. Though I don’t have a day job like I did last year, writing with a 16-month-old while eight months pregnant is much harder than writing with a 4-month-old.

Not entirely bad, but I think I’ll have more editing work cut out for me than I did with Expiration Date/Small Things. It’s ironic, considering that much of Expiration Date was pantsed while I’ve done more outlining for Blackberry Jam, but I’m weaving a more complicated plot this time. I have three, four, or five story lines I’m trying to weave together, unified by theme. But the theme I wrote down when planning isn’t working out exactly the way I want it to.

Here’s to hoping when I re-read in December/January that it’s better than I currently think it is. That’s what happened last year. 🙂

The Excerpt

Like last year, my first excerpt will be from the first scene. Enjoy! (And remember that it’s a first draft.)

***

The last day it rained, Emma Gladstone, my second-best friend in the world, asked me to take her to the corner mart on Main Street in Hainsville. We didn’t live in Hainsville.

“Not because I need one,” she said. “But just in case. For emergencies.”

I believed her and we drove through two towns while torrents of rain blurred them into pretty watercolors, hundreds of still lifes bleeding down my windshield. I never liked driving in the rain, but she had asked and I was willing enough, if only to get away from my mother for a few rain-soaked hours.

Baseline changed from a two-lane freeway back into a main street with little warning. Open road and farmland stretched out on either side of us until a stoplight, the colors blurred from sheets of rainfall, seemed to appear out of nowhere. But despite being more than ten miles away from home, Hainsville was familiar. It had four times the population of Piney Grove, and all of the convenience. I didn’t need the blurry neon signs to tell me when we’d reached the corner mart. I pulled over and turned off the car, digging through my pockets for loose change for the meter.

“I’ve got it, Blanca,” Emma said, still refusing to look at me. Our drive had been silent except the pattering on my windshield. “Thanks for taking me.”

I reached across the seat to squeeze her hand. “I just hope you don’t really need this.” She didn’t answer.

No one else wandered the store, and Emma pulled me to the far right corner, by the beers. “Will you buy it for me?” she whispered, still looking around as if we were being stocked.

“What’s wrong? Do you need money or something?” I started unzipping my purse, but she grabbed my arm to stop me.

“No, I’ll give you the money. I just think it will be more… plausible. Or, I don’t know. Acceptable. You could just speak in Spanish.”

I took a deep breath before answering her. I no longer believed this was a pregnancy test she was buying just in case. Without even meaning to, my eyes flicked to her belly, normally flat and tight. Was it looking looser? Was she gaining weight? I hated myself for asking the questions, even silently. I decided to play dumb. “Your Spanish is better than mine is. If you want to speak Spanish, feel free.”

She smiled, a painful smile, like it was costing her. “Like someone with blonde hair and blue eyes is gonna look like an immigrant. Just use the accent you use with your Mama when y’all get talking about jam recipes.”

I crossed my arms, any pity I’d felt for her disappearing. “So you want me to do it because I’ll pass for an immigrant? Because it’s all right if I get mistaken for a no-good teenage mother dropout, but not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who’s actually—I assume—had sex?”

She placed her hands on my shoulders and met her forehead against mine. “Please don’t be so loud. Fine. I’ll do it myself. It’s not like I meant any offense. But… will you still come with me?”

I lifted up my hands to copy her, squeezing her shoulders. “I’ll still come with you.”

We held hands as we wandered through the aisles, trying to pretend we were browsing for nothing in particular. Our conversations were usually lighthearted, with constant chatter, but we wandered the corner mart solemnly, like something sacred. Or maybe we were just scared.

Neither of us could meet the eyes of the older woman working the cash register. Emma just placed the test on the counter with a pile of cash. “Keep the change,” she muttered, taking the test and shoving it into the wide pocket at the front of her hoodie.

“There’s a bathroom ‘round the side,” the woman said, but Emma ignored her. She ran toward my car like she was trying to avoid the raindrops, but her hood was down, her blonde hair soaking. The water that dripped on her face seemed intentional, like it was trying to hide her tears.

***

How’s NaNo going for everyone else?

NaNoWriMo–Crawling to the Finish Line

You might look at the title of this post and think I’m crazy. The first week of NaNo isn’t even over yet–why should you be crawling to the finish line? You probably still have the momentum built up from adrenaline and waiting to start on this novel for however long between idea and November 1st. Or you’re still in the honeymoon stage of a new idea, typing out words with abandon.

November 30 and 50,000 words are far from your mind. In all honesty, they are from mine, too. What I mean by crawling to the finish line is something completely different.

In the NaNo forums, they have a section devoted to word wars, sprints, and prompts. The section has things you’d consider standard: “I’m sprinting on the :15 if anyone wants to join me,” or a race to 500 words or whatnot. But it’s also full of what I consider to be the best motivator for a long day of writing: crawls.

There are tons available now: the original pub crawl, crawls based on Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter… even a few crawls devoted to cleaning your house or getting other chores/non-writing things done.

What is a crawl?

It’s a step-by-step process, some driven by role play, that forces you to write x words in y time, or write for y time, or write x words, or any number of things like that. The role play is what makes it useful to me. This year I’m working through the Harry Potter crawl. On a first read-through, it can be really confusing. What’s going on? Why? Well, in a dice-based RPG, your moves are based on the standard game plus choices that you make. You choose certain strengths, and those strengths plus the role of a die determine whether you succeed or fail at each given task. (Basically. Honestly I haven’t played a dice-based RPG…)

In the crawls, it works out similarly. For the Harry Potter one, you choose a difficulty level before you begin: easy/medium/hard are split up as Muggleborn, Halfblood, and Pureblood. You earn Galleons by successfully completing challenges, and can use the Galleons to skip future rounds. I’m going to copy and paste the first three rounds of the crawl here and explain each one separately, since they cover all but one kind of turn.

You receive your Hogwarts letter by owl and are completely ecstatic to head out for your first year at Hogwarts. Sprint to 100 to let out your excitement and energy.

In this challenge, you write 100 words. It could take you a minute or 30, but you don’t get to stop until you reach 100. It’s a great way to ease into writing for the day. After all, it’s only 100 words!

You arrive in Diagon Alley and your first stop is Gringotts, wizard bank. Write for ten minutes. The amount of words you write will determine how many Galleons are in your vault.
Muggleborns
Less than 100 words: 1 Galleon
100-200 words: 2 Galleons
More than 200 words: 3 Galleons
Halfbloods
Less than 150 words: 1 Galleon
150-250 words: 2 Galleons
More than 250 words: 3 Galleons
Purebloods
Less than 250 words: 1 Galleon
250-350 words: 2 Galleons
More than 350 words: 3 Galleons

The second challenge is a little less straightforward. You write for a specified amount of time and earn Galleons based on how well you do. It’s similar to a challenge you’d take on with a friend, where you compete for the most words in x minutes. But this one requires no friends, and we all know that as writers, that’s an advantage. 😉

You step into Ollivander’s wand shop. Roll a die and multiply your roll by 100. Sprint to that many words.

This type of challenge incorporates traditional RPGs with the sprint. The number of words you have to write is controlled by a die.

So far I’ve used this crawl five out of six days of NaNo (yesterday, in the common third-trimester battle of Braxton Hicks vs. self, the contractions won. 🙁 ) and am way ahead on word count compared to where I normally am. Especially considering I didn’t write at all yesterday and the fact that I’m not holding myself “winning” with 50k.

Having the challenge to complete (and wanting to finish in time to complete the second-year crawl, too!) has kept me so motivated. I feel like I’d be letting down my Ravenclaw status by giving up. And for whatever reason, I’ve gotten way more into it than I normally do into RPG-type things. I seriously have running commentary in a Scrivener notes file about how well my challenge is going. I even named the owl I got (Her name is Bugle, in case you’re wondering, and she got me out of having to socialize with the other Ravenclaws just after I got Sorted.)

You can get as into crawls as you want to, like me, or just use the various prompts and fail points throughout as a guideline for writing in chunks.

Do you have a favorite way to get the words out?

The Best Part of Being an Editor

There are a lot of things I love about being an editor. I love getting to have input into shaping stories, questioning things, making them stronger. Back when I edited for an engineering company, I used to tease that I spent my days telling people they were wrong–and got thanked for it. 🙂

But there are easily two things I love best about being an editor. The first is watching my clients improve. When I edit a manuscript, leave suggestions, and see them improve above and beyond what I expected, I get absolutely giddy. And this happens All. The. Time. I love it. I feel a rush of pride when stories and theses improve beyond what I could have imagined.

The other thing I like best is something that’s relatively new to me: seeing my clients in print. While all my dissertation students have had their theses published, seeing a client on Amazon is a new experience, and I think it’s one I’m going to enjoy.

Today, Yvette Bowlin has published The Declutter Code, a book about minimalism and, obviously, clearing clutter from your life. If you’re looking for a book that dives deep into how we collect clutter and what we can do to stop the cycle in its tracks instead of just buy things/donate them/repeat, this is the book for you.

The Declutter Code

It is both theoretical and practical, with ten steps to decluttering she invites us to practice over ten weeks, dedicating a week to each step. Even as I was editing it, it challenged me to slow down and think about what I let into my life and why. And I had already declared myself a minimalist (in theory; working on in practice) before I read it.

I highly recommend checking it out. It’s on sale for $0.99 for a few days only, so get it while it’s cheap!

Also, another client, Stephen Wolf, recently saw the release of the first book in his epic fantasy series, Red Jade. While I didn’t edit the first book, the series is excellent–and gets even better with each book. The plot twists, the interweaving stories of the four main characters, all of it keeps me glued to my seat, even as I’m editing. It’s seriously a fantastic undertaking and the worldbuilding is phenomenal. Also, it’s LBGT-friendly, which never hurts. 🙂

Journeys in Kallisor

I know everyone’s TBR lists are already long, but these are two I highly recommend. Also, can we talk about how gorgeous their covers are?

Now that I’ve reached this awesome milestone, I’ve added a new page to my blog with a list of books I’ve edited. I can’t wait to brag about more of them!

NaNo Prep–Proof that Outlines Don’t Stifle Creativity

Once upon a time, there was an ingenious author (um… *cough*) who had a feisty critique partner who dared suggest a way to improve her book. Since my adjectives are exaggerations, if not downright lies, said author (read: me) realized the changes were awesome.

My critique partner recommended fleshing out an argument near the beginning of SMALL THINGS from one point and counterpoint to as many as possible. She gave a list of potential points, and I loved it. My right brain was apparently on vacation because even with her ideas, I had no idea where to start with the revision. So my left brain, poor frazzled substitute, did the only thing it could think of. I made a list. It looked like this:

Trey needs to take longer to convince Hayleigh. His arguments:

  • He thought she wanted to spend his last day with him
  • He thought she wanted to prove he wasn’t going to die
  • It’s her chance to finally do something

Hayleigh’s (even more important) arguments:

  • The shaman not changing anything
  • Not being able to prove it if he says he’ll die (or not)
  • Her parents being mad
  • Babysitting Charlotte

Checklist complete, I still didn’t feel ready to tackle the revisions. So I created a bare-bones, dialogue only version of the scene, starting from right before I knew I’d have to revise. One part of it looks like this:

H: No, because I’m still not going.

T: Why not? You said you wanted to keep me company.

H: I do. In Kenai. My parents will kill me if I just disappear for the day.

T: I highly doubt that. I’ve seen them. They’re still living in a haze trying to come to terms with Hunter not being here. Are you sure they’d notice?

H: (stubborn) Yes. They care about me and where I am. Even on Saturdays.

T: Text them in the morning, then, and say you’re with me on my last day. They’ll get it. They haven’t written you off yet. They want you to be happy.

H: You’re right. It’s Saturday. I have to babysit Charlotte at two.

T: On a Saturday?

H: You don’t get a 9-to-5 when you choose to be a doctor. I think they’ve been working overtime recently to prepare for taking time off before their trial. Why can’t we stick around and help?

Once I finished this bare-bones version, my right brain popped in, luggage in hand, a pic of the PDX carpet on its Instagram. Thankfully, it was ready to get to work. Thanks to the two exercises above, I knew where their arguments would start and how they would play off each other. So I got to (re)writing.

This is how that part turned out:

“No, because I’m still not going.”

“You said you wanted to spend the day with me.”

“I do,” she says, crossing her arms. “In Kenai. My parents will kill me if I disappear for the day.”

“I highly doubt that. I’ve seen the way they’ve been recently. They’re still living in a haze that won’t clear until they’re sure that Hunter’s gone. Seeing you probably makes it worse, since you look so much alike. Maybe a day off from you will be good for them.”

“Don’t talk about my parents that way,” she says. “They’re dealing the best they can.” She does not look me in the eye.

“They should be over it by now. That’s the point of expiration dates. I bet you they would be over it if they didn’t have Hunter’s lookalike still living with them.” I march down the stairs toward her and she backs up as I move, like she’s scared of me. Good. I want to intimidate her. I also want to get away from the house so we don’t wake up my own parents. I stop pressing forward when we reach the sidewalk.

“My parents cared about Hunter and they care about me. They care about where I am. Even on Saturdays.” She’s so assertive I’m sure she’s trying to convince herself more than me.

“Then text them in the morning. Let them know you’re with me. Remind them it’s my expiration date and get some pity out of it. Just don’t mention where in Alaska we actually are. If you’re right, they’ll get it. They will want you to be happy.”

“Look, Treyton. It’s not just them. I have to babysit Charlotte at two.”

“On a Saturday?”

“Doctors don’t exactly work a 9-to-5 schedule. You know that. And they need to work as much as they can. I think they’ll be taking a lot of time off to prepare for the trial and get Charlotte through her medical exams. Why can’t we just stick around and help? Charlotte misses you, you know. She’s stuck at the final boss in that video game you two love so much. Seems you were right: she can’t beat it without you.”

I grit my teeth and pull my camera close. Staying with Charlotte is tempting. Easy. Spending my final hours in her house, playing video games like everything is normal. Although then she’d have to witness my heart attack. I couldn’t do that to her. And I know in my gut the most useful place we can be is not cooped up in Kenai.

It’s probably pretty easy to tell that the dialogue isn’t the same. In the “script” version, I wanted to know where the argument was going, but I wasn’t worried about how they would say it. Once I knew that, I was able to turn my right brain on again and be creative. I surprised myself as I wrote that Treyton moved down the porch steps toward her, even though it made sense with his mood.

The takeaway:

Planning, even to the extent of a nearly line-by-line exchange, does not stifle your creativity. In fact, a little bit of left brain work can get your right brain home from vacation again, newly inspired.

This doesn’t only work with revisions. If you’re planning on tackling NaNoWriMo this year (I am!), October is the month for planning. Plan anything you’re stuck on. Let your left brain take a look and solve the puzzles so that when November 1st hits, your right brain is inspired and ready to get to work.

NaNo Prep–Broad Strokes

I saw this video on my Facebook News Feed today, and as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think of the WIP that I’m brewing. Watch the whole thing if you have time. At least watch the first three minutes and then the last thirty seconds.

Amazing drawing by an amazing artist <3

Posted by Alon Gabbay on Thursday, June 4, 2015

I’ve said it before with my own artwork: the difference between a professional’s work and an amateur’s is often time.

By about the halfway point in the above video, I was thinking, “Wow! What an awesome picture! It looks so realistic!” Then I saw the end result.

As September starts and I get geared up for another year of NaNoWriMo, this video was a perfect object lesson for me. Paint in broad strokes first. As this artist works, he gives a general outline of the face, then fills in the dark spots in various colors. Very early on, you get a sense of the hair, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth–and he hasn’t done anything but paint in the shadows.

The book I want to write for NaNo is slowly taking shape in my mind. I have four of the main characters, a few snippets of scenes I want to write, and a few themes and symbols I’m playing around with. This video was an excellent reminder that I don’t need to worry about details yet. The book will start to look like a book much sooner if I work on getting down the gist of the conflict and the ways the various subplots will build on each other.

If I just stick with the scenes I’ve decided on already, there’s a chance the “finished product” (i.e., my NaNo draft) will look much more like this:

than like the finished painting in the video.

Who cares if the scenes you’ve written have beautiful language and excellent symbolism if they don’t fit in seamlessly to the story as a whole?

Rosa’s Cookies

Continued from last week’s post, The One That Got Away Comes Back. Please read that one first. 🙂

***

In the weeks following Valentine’s Day, Rosa often wondered if turning Miguel down was the right decision. Whenever she would begin to forget about their strange encounter, her brain would spin into overdrive and remind her just how handsome he was and how good he smelled and how much she had missed the electrifying, breath-hitching feeling of his hand in hers.

After a few minutes of this, though, her pessimistic side would turn back on. It had been ten years. She knew nothing about the man, only about the boy he had once been. And who knew how much war had changed him? Inside his sparse apartment, they had cuddled on his cheap futon like old friends rather than ex-lovers. He had refused to answer any questions about his personal life–not about the war or anything he’d done since. Rosa wasn’t even sure what he was doing for work now that he was a civilian again.

He had kissed her by lunchtime, but even in the moment it had felt off somehow. Too desperate? She couldn’t name exactly what the problem was, just that she felt it even underneath their immense chemistry.

Miguel had wanted more almost immediately, too, and that was when Rosa pushed him away and said she had plans. She took a long bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon and tried to quantify what was off about him. Instead she mostly fantasized about what he looked like underneath his form-fitting sweater.

As she passed Starbucks on her way to work one morning in March, she thought about him once again. She’d been tolerating the tar-coffee at her office in an attempt to avoid any awkwardness, but today the line was short and she needed some caffeine that tasted good. Caramel macchiato in hand, she strode confidently to her desk.

She sat down, but something seemed off. Her mouse had been moved slightly to one side, and in its place was a chocolate chip cookie. Definitely store-bought, but it still looked tasty. Maybe she hadn’t needed the fancy coffee after all. “Who bought cookies?” she called out, grateful.

“What? Someone brought cookies?” Justin yelled from three cubicles over. “Where’d you find them?”

Fantastic. Apparently, cookies weren’t waiting on everyone’s desk. “It was just sitting here. Must be the cleaning crew didn’t throw it out. I brought a cookie for a snack yesterday and took it out in the afternoon but never ate it,” she lied.

“Day-old or not, I’ll take it!”

“I’ll just eat it myself, but thanks.” Though it was still early, she figured it must be a special occasion (Rosa firmly believed that any time you are randomly given cookies is a special occasion), so she ate it. Definitely not day-old. It must have just come out of an oven, and it tasted fantastic. There was nothing like a breakfast of caramel macchiato and cookie to make you feel like you can do anything–even eight hours of data entry.

The weird thing wasn’t the first cookie, or even the second or third. Within a week, though, what had been a welcome treat became eerie. No one saw who left them, although her co-workers insisted the fresh cookies weren’t there when they arrived.

“Must’ve been looking at my computer,” Emily said.

Alison said, “I never notice those kinds of things. Sorry, Rosa.”

“Well, maybe you should!” Rosa said. “It wouldn’t kill you to pay attention.”

With her co-workers being zero help whatsoever, Rosa changed her routine and began getting to work early, trying to catch the culprit herself, but he was always faster. (Rosa had already labeled the cookie-bringer a “he,” certain she had an in-office admirer.)

As the second week began, her suspicions that her co-workers knew and refused to tell her were basically confirmed. By Tuesday, Emily’s answer changed to a simple “no,” but one she couldn’t let out without some escaping giggles, too. Alison always answered her with, “Still no clue, Rosa,” but she stopped meeting her eyes. As if Alison could ever be absorbed in a spreadsheet.

By Thursday that week, Rosa gave up asking. Maybe it was just Danielle McGregor out to make her fatter. Rosa wasn’t even sure why she cared so much about who it was. They were just cookies. (Delicious cookies that melted in her mouth and tasted like heaven, but still just cookies.)

Like things tend to happen, Rosa got her answer right when she’d given up guessing. That Friday, next to the cookie there was a note written in careful handwriting and all caps.

It’s been ten years since I let you go and they are ten years I’ve constantly regretted. You always were my cookie, my love, and now you have ten cookies–one for each year I’ve missed you. I don’t know how I screwed Valentine’s Day up so thoroughly that you won’t even call me back, but please give me another chance. Mi querida, eres mi vida. No tengo un razon de vivir sin ti. I’ll be waiting for you. The details of when to meet me and where (and what to wear–the past ten years have taught me something [still sorry about our six-month anniversary date]) are in your email.

Always,

Miguel

The note was sweet–like a concentrated version of the Miguel she remembered. And she definitely hadn’t forgotten the catastrophe of their six-month anniversary, when she’d shown up in jeans and a crop top for what was supposed to be dinner at Chicago’s fanciest restaurant. She looked across the room at Alison and Emily. They were grinning. Of course Miguel had sworn them to secrecy. It was just like him to be unnecessarily secretive and romantic.

She opened her personal email account in a browser, wondering what he had in mind. As the page loaded, she couldn’t help but wonder how Miguel had always beaten her to the office. And now that her last cookie was gone, she was sure she would be missing it the next week.

***

The holiday weekend through off my writing schedule, but I’m back with Rosa and Miguel! (and will continue their story with the next prompt)

Mid-Year Goal Update

I can’t believe the year is more than half-over already. So far, 2015 has been excellent, but I’m not entirely on track with my goals. That said, with how much has changed in my life since January, I’m surprised I’m on track at all.

As I set out to write my 2015 resolutions in late December and early January, I had a six-month-old daughter I was still getting to know, a full-time job, and a steady influx of academic freelance work. I was loving posting on my blog and would often take time away from my full-time job to write out a post or two.

Now I have a one-year-old daughter (who loves walking and making mischief and is all-around adorable). I quit my full-time job more than three months ago and have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of freelancing work I’ve gotten done.

Oh, and I’m also pregnant with our second child, due in December. While intentional, having another kid before the year was out definitely wasn’t on my mind when I was writing my resolutions, and my yearly and second quarter resolutions don’t reflect how tired pregnancy makes me, that’s for sure.

This year, I set to work on three different areas of my life: spiritual, professional, and quality of life.

Spiritual Goals

At the beginning of the year, I had two spiritual goals: complete the 2015 devotional I got for Christmas, and read through the Bible chronologically.

Reading through the Bible. In March, my chronological Bible was stolen while we were in Disneyland (an ironic thing to steal, I’m aware), and since I’ve read it through before, I decided not to replace it.

2015 Devotional. This one has been easy to stay on track with, since it’s only a page a day. It’s also extremely simplistic theology, that breaks down the complex nuances in the Bible into nuggets that are supposed to apply well to “modern women” (which, naturally, stereotypes women a lot). I don’t love the reading, but every now and then a good one comes along that makes it worth continuing. Plus, it was a gift, and I feel that reading it honors my mother.

Bonus. Since minimalism and intentionality have been goals this year, we went through the garage and I asked my husband to go through boxes that have moved with us since we got married. He found a bunch of college textbooks, including a NRSV Bible with a ton of commentary written for scholars rather than spiritual reasons. I love this and plan to take a deeper look at it soon.

Professional Goals

Since this was the main area I wanted to grow, I had a lot of things I wanted to do. Quitting my full-time job was definitely on my mind, but I wasn’t brave enough to write it down as a goal, and it took reaching my breaking point in January to get me to commit. However, you can still see my desire to become a full-time freelancer in my goals, as well as my work on getting a novel published.

Join two freelance editors’ guilds/associations. I had this complete by mid-January, since I’d been scoping them out for half of 2014 anyway. So far they’ve proved useful enough, even though I haven’t made a ton of money from them. At this point in my career, since I can only claim five years’ experience, I get giddy when I make it into the top few someone is choosing between, and that feels like a win enough.

Create a blog calendar and PLAN. Yeah, so I downloaded the plugin that would give me a blog calendar, but planning just… isn’t my forte. At all. I still have to finish my Taylor Swift series, I intended to update the blog with my goal progress monthly rather than semi-annually, and I’ve been too tired (see: pregnancy) to write blog posts in advance.

Publish 50+ blog entries. I just went back and counted, and I’ve posted 19 on this blog and five on the Query Tracker blog, meaning this is my 25th blog post! I thought I was doing way worse than that, so yay! Hooray for how much I wrote in January making up for how little I’ve written recently. Also, I meant to make my goal 104 posts (two a week), I just mis-mathed. Now I’m really glad I did.

Query at least 50 agents for Expiration Date, or until signed. Obviously, there are a lot of steps that needed to happen before I could get to this point. And the number is arbitrary: I know all the true-isms in the writing field, like, “It only takes one ‘yes’,” reminiscent as they are of Christian true-isms like “God never gives you anything you can’t handle” and “God’s timing is best.” I’m well on track, though. I’m fairly satisfied with the current draft of Expiration Date. All the writing true-isms leave me hesitant to post where I am on querying (or even if I’ve started), so I won’t. 😉

Plan and outline next book. I’m not one of those authors whose ideas are constantly flowing and whose decision on what to write next is choosing which of many ideas is worth pursuing. Instead, I have to take the mustard seed of an idea (always only one at a time, usually planted about halfway through the first or second draft of what I’m writing) and massage it into something for a book. Right now, I have three separate strings and I can’t tell if they’re one, two, or three books. I’m working on it, but slowly, since Expiration Date is still my focus.

Quality of Life Goals

Complete 2015 Book Challenge. I’m almost on track with this, although the fact that I did next to nothing in May, including read, wasn’t useful. See updated book challenge page here.

Stick to minimalist wardrobe plan. This has been surprisingly easy, even with my growing bump (which is growing very high, so I can still wear normal pants, even at almost 18 weeks pregnant!!). I guess once you get out of the habit of shopping as a form of entertainment, it’s relatively easy to avoid. The only shopping I’ve done was for a dress to wear to a wedding (my form-fitting ones didn’t work with my growing bump… boo) and a black t-shirt to replace one that insisted on turning my armpits purple every time I wore it. (TMI? Sorry…)

Replace husband’s car with a small loan. Not particularly interested in giving direct numbers, since this is neither a finance nor a minimalist blog, but we did it! Our loan is under the amount I wanted to pay, and we ended up with a used 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI in a beautiful dark gray with only 3,000 miles on it–pretty much exactly what we were hoping for (and more than, regarding the mileage).

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Now that I see my goals written out like this, I’m so happy with how well it’s going. Apparently, even in the middle of a ton of life changes, if you set goals that are true to who you are and who you want to become, they are achievable.

The One That Got Away Comes Back

The Starbucks across from Rosa’s work was decorated in infuriating shades of pink and red. She felt like there had been a board meeting at headquarters where some up-and-coming slimewad said, “Hey! Let’s make sure our decorations for February make it clear this is Rosa Gonzalez’s twenty-eighth consecutive Valentine’s Day without a boyfriend.”

Admittedly, it was also a Monday, which was never good, and she was still slightly hungover from the “Almost Thirty and Still Single” pity party Yasmin had hosted the night before. At least she wasn’t twenty-seven and perpetually single, like Keisha. Rosa had had boyfriends. They just were all allergic to having a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

She shivered and shuffled away from the door as the snaking line began to move. At least with no boyfriend, she didn’t have to care that her black puffy jacket was warm but not flattering. There was nobody to flatter.

As slow costumer after slow customer placed their orders, Rosa pulled out her cell phone to check the time. She would definitely be late for work now, but what did it matter? A Master’s in Art History and she was still entering data into spreadsheets. No one ever looked at them after she finished, anyway. If she left the line now, she’d still be late. A few more minutes and she’d be late and have her caffeine. Anything to avoid the tar the office assistant called coffee.

Rosa loosened her tense shoulders when it was finally her turn to order. The paper hearts and PDA were making her nauseated. “I’ll have a grande caramel–”

“Macchiato,” a deep, but nearly familiar, voice said from behind her. “Nonfat, extra whip, extra hot. And my treat.”

Stunned, Rosa turned to stare at the man who dared to know her order. He was short but muscular, hair buzzed. He had a five o’clock shadow covering his dark skin even at eight in the morning. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him and her mouth had gone too dry to speak.

“Nothing for me,” the man insisted to the cashier. Then, “Come on, Rosa. Other people are waiting to order.”

Numbly, she moved to wait for her drink, then evaluated her untidy hair and ugly puffy jacket against Man Who Knew Both Order and Name. She didn’t even come close to comparing. Even her usually on-point makeup game was only half-functioning. The hangover had provided excellent assistance in sleeping through three alarms.

When her drink was called, the familiar stranger picked it up and took her by the arm. “It’s been forever. We should go somewhere. Catch up.”

“I do know you?” she managed.

He laughed, but only after a hint of disappointment deepened the shadows beneath his cheekbones. “Yes. And you’re well-acquainted with the backseat of my car, too.”

Rosa zipped through her catalog of ex-boyfriends until she got to senior year of high school. Miguel. He returned to her in floods, though ten years ago he was at least nearly as awkward as she was. None of his awkwardness remained. “You joined the army. You said you weren’t coming back.” It was kind of like a hello, she supposed.

“Ten years was long enough. I’m in Chicago for good this time. What have you been doing?”

Rosa took a long drink of her coffee, scalding be damned. What do you tell the man who was your first kiss and your first “I love you,” the man who knew you wanted to design costumes for the theater and the man you once wanted to marry?

Miguel had asked her to be his girlfriend in March of her junior year, his senior, but ended it abruptly at the end of January, saying he had joined the military and didn’t want to make her wait for him. She would have, though. He was a man she easily could have waited for. Walking with him now, her glove on his forearm, it felt like she had been waiting this whole time.

“I work for a collections company,” she finally admitted. She’d rather be mistaken for one of the collectors than say she just did data entry for them. “In fact, I’m late. I should go.”

Miguel stopped her with a hand on each of her triceps. “Call in sick. Please.”

Rosa thought about protesting, but she never used her paid time off. Student loans wasted any money she might have had for vacations, and she never took time off just because. “Fine.” Even through her puffy jacket and sweater and his gloves, the energy pulsated between them. She hoped he would lead her inside soon so she could ditch the jacket and touch his hand properly.

“Can we go inside somewhere? I can email in, but not with gloves on.”

He smiled. It was everything she remembered, but there was something about it that made her nervous. “My apartment is just a few blocks away. Oh, Rosa, we have so much catching up to do.”

The way his tone changed almost made her turn around and march right back to work. But she followed him anyway.

*****

Today’s prompt was “You bump into an ex-lover on Valentine’s Day, the one whom you often call ‘The One That Got Away.’ What happens?”

Since the story got away from me a little, I will continue Rosa and Miguel’s interactions for the next few days, see where they take us. Not all of the prompts are appropriate for their story, but I’ll make as many work as I can. What do you think?

Writer’s Digest Boot Camp Day 1

Dear Writer’s Block,

I hate to do this in a letter, but you’ve given me no other choice. See, here’s the thing: you always disappear when I confront you. So I’m just going to leave this on my desk and assume you find it.

All the usual cliches assault me as I sit down to tell you why we have to break up: it’s not you, it’s me; our lives are heading in different directions; I have a strong suspicion that you’re seeing other people. But cliches become cliche because they’re true.

It isn’t you, it’s me. I’m willing to take ownership of that. The truth is I know plenty of people who would be happy with you. I’m just not one of them anymore. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but keeping you in my life would be nothing short of settling, and I’m deciding I deserve the best. Which brings me to my next cliche.

Our lives are heading in different directions. You’ve already found your life’s purpose. You know you’re meant to frustrate people and keep them distracted from writing. You are the voice in authors’ heads insisting their ideas aren’t good enough. I’m happy you’ve found your purpose, but I’m finding mine, too. My purpose is to write. Surely even you can see that we’re just not compatible anymore. I must stop using my relationship with you as an excuse, so I have to end our relationship.

Not that your influence is entirely negative, by the way. I don’t want you to think that. I wouldn’t be such a master at Bejeweled without you. I doubt my house would be as clean, or my other art projects finished. My sock drawers are organized, my books alphabetized, and my Netflix queue has never been so close to empty. But that’s not what I’m looking for in a partner. Among other things, I am looking for fidelity. And, per cliche number three, I’m sure you’re seeing other people.

When I ask my writing friends what they’ve been writing recently, they bow their heads and mention you. Embarrassed, yes, but they seem to be unaware of our long-term relationship. Am I that unimportant to you?! Sometimes I think you’re chasing after anyone with the potential to take your bait, just hoping to get them cozy in bed with you rather than their laptop. Yeah, I get it, you have a life’s purpose you’re trying to fulfill.

But from my vantage point, you’re just a cheating workaholic with no concern for me or my feelings or my own work. So that’s it. We’re done. For real this time, too, none of that on-again off-again stuff you tease me with.

Adieu

P.S. Your brother’s kinda attractive. You know the one. Procrastination. I hope you won’t be offended if we hook up sometimes. He’s already promised me a long weekend getaway.

Writer’s Digest Boot Camp

I’ve been really bad at a few things lately, including, but not limited to:

  1. Blogging; and
  2. Writing

So I decided to pick up the Writer’s Digest Boot Camp for two weeks of writing exercises. While I wait for CP feedback and let my newest idea distill like wine, I figured a short challenge would be good for me. And I’ll be posting the results on my blog! Starting July 1st, I’ll post the following:

  1. A break-up letter to writer’s block
  2. A story about “the one that got away.”
  3. A story about a simple act of kindness turned insidious (probably. This is my current interpretation of the prompt)
  4. A story about sending something sensitive to the wrong printer at work
  5. A story about finding graffiti about someone you know
  6. A 26-line poem starting with consecutive letters of the alphabet
  7. A man comes from the future to save character’s life
  8. A real estate agent debates coming clean about a house’s sinister past
  9. An obituary for my favorite fictional character
  10. She gets change for a twenty, and the ten has a list of instructions that must be carried out
  11. A stranger in the dark has a strange request
  12. A letter of resignation to something nontraditional
  13. A tire blows out as the passenger confronts their own breakdown
  14. A story featuring a Ouija board, a search engine, and a self-help book

Bonus entries!

  1. The boat is sinking, but the worst that could happen was last night, not now
  2. A stranger borrows your cell phone and returns it teary-eyed with a heartfelt apology

YAY! Even just writing down and interpreting the prompts has made me excited for this. I hope you all are, too.