Fauxdori and Bullet Journal Update

It’s been about six months since I posted an update on my bullet journal. I’ve made a few changes, but they’re all small. I love that I’ve hit the point with my bullet journal that I’m only making small tweaks as needed.

My Fauxdori
These days I carry three notebooks in my fauxdori. First is my current story notebook, next my bullet journal, and finally a scrap notebook. I’ve switch my bullet journal to be on the second elastic with the scrap notebook. I don’t care about being neat in the scrap notebook, so I never remove it to write in it. I pull out my story notebook frequently to keep it legible. Giving the story notebook its own elastic was a very small change, but  seems to have made a big difference in my willingness to pull it out as needed.

The rest of my fauxdori is the same, I have my picture insert around my BuJo and my plastic pocket around my scrap notebook.

My Bullet Journal
I’ve just switched to a large squared moleskine cahier. I’ve wanted one for a few months, but I had to wait to be ready for a new BuJo. I started a new one December 1st, and I LOVE the squared format. The lines are a bit smaller, so I have almost ten extra lines on each page. This is great for my monthly layout where I couldn’t fit on two pages. Now I can easily fit on two pages. One side for my days of the month and goals, the other for my fitness tracker and legend. The squares also make it easy to switch a page to be landscape instead of portrait. Love it!

BuJo Monthly fitness tracker page

Speaking of the fitness track, that was one big change I made a few months ago. I now have a monthly fitness tracker. I’ve kept it very simple. This month I’ve included each day of the month on the left, a column for the types of exercise I normally do, and a column for notes. Hopefully having all days of the month will allow me to track times when I stop working out. Last month I did very well until the end of the month when I took an unplanned week off. In my previous BuJo I didn’t have room to track each day. I could only include days I’d done something. (loving those extra ten lines).

Future log with calendar in bullet journal

The last change I made was to my future log. In my newest BuJo I’ve include a mini calendar next to each month. Sometimes when I’m trying to schedule something in an upcoming month, I run into trouble because I have no idea what days are weekends etc. This should help when my critique group needs to set the next meeting or when my Mom wants to know what day we should book a family dinner.

Everything else is pretty much the same. Daily logging, but I only migrate when I move to a new page instead of every day. I keep my collections few and far between. I index each month from the first to last page used for the month so I don’t have weird number sets because of collections. Instead of 1-2, 4-6, 8, 11-12, I just have 1-12.

Do you use a Bullet Journal? What little changes have you made that made a big difference?

 

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NaNo Daily Challenge – 15th-21st

As promised here are the next seven things I’m going to be focusing on for my NaNo Daily Challenge. I am going to repeat a few I really enjoyed earlier in the month. Also I’m struggling to ‘break’ my character, so a bit of a focus on that this week.

  1. focus on voice
  2. Someone betrays your main character
  3. Use more than sight to describe things (touch, sound, taste, and smell)
  4. Use “yes, but” or “no, and” to solve problems
  5. Show the characters have affect on the story
  6. Let the worse case scenario happen
  7. Find ways to increase the tension

Time to get writing.

My Love of Notebooks

A pile of unused Moleskine large cahiers

I love notebooks and journals. The pile of journals in that picture? My UNused large Moleskine cahiers.

The first time I really fell in love with a journal was when I was in Italy in high school. My parents took me, and my best friend M to Europe for three weeks. While we were in Italy we ended up in this little store that sold daily planners. They were simple school planners. Each day had a page, and they weren’t year specific. Anyway M and I each picked one out. They were about 5 inches across, and 7 inches tall. Mine had a pinkish floral design (which is funny because I’ve never been a pink kind of girl). I wrote in it every day for most of the year. The writer in me wishes I’d kept it, even with all its embarrassing confessions.

After that I started using whatever notebooks I could find. Coil bound 5 star notebooks in various sizes were a favourite. They were cheap and you could get them for multiple subjects. they laid flat when you were writing in them. The coils got in the way on the back of the page though, so I often only wrote on one one side.

When I started university I discovered those blue lab notebooks. I bought an extra a few times and they became my go to for writing fanfic. I liked the hard cover, they didn’t get messed up being tossed in my backpack, and they weren’t too expensive. The bright blue took some getting used to, but it wasn’t out of place on a university campus.

Then my husband, technically boyfriend as this was before we were married, discovered the ‘Everyman’s journal‘ from Lee Valley. I filled one with fanfic stories of my favourite show at the time. A second is still sitting in my study untouched. They are lovely journals, but big. Not something I want to drag around with me all the time. I certainly can’t throw one into my small L.L. Bean boat and tote.

Through university, and after, I would pick up notebooks when I found them on sale racks, or when I just needed something new to write in. My father was a Moleskine fan, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on my notebooks. Sometimes I bought coil bound, sometimes a regular book bound one. I ended up with countless half finished notebooks. When my father passed away one of the things I did was raid his notebook stash for the Moleskines. There is still one left, with a beautiful blue map cover, that I know I’ll grab someday, but so far I can’t bring myself to take the last of the ‘good’ ones from him.

Squared, unlined, and lined Moleskine cahiers.Over the years I’ve culled my notebook collection. Getting rid of things that were full of scrap notes, or old course notes. Keeping the filled ones that had value to me. These days I usually use Moleskine large cahiers. I sized my Fauxdori to fit them. They are small, but still last a few months when used as a Bullet Journal. The paper is decent and the notebooks are cheap, so I can use one per novel idea and not feel guilty about it. Plus they come in lined, unlined, and squared.

Do you love notebooks? How many notebooks do you have?

Day 3 – Daily Challenge Update

Yesterday was day three of NaNo, and the third day of my NaNo Daily Challenge. The start of my writing day was slow. It felt a bit like pulling words from a muddy swamp. By the end of the night things were flowing much better. I ended the day with 2,490 words. That brought my word count total up to 7,129. I was hoping to hit a little closer to 7,500, but I’m still in fine shape to hit my goal of 10,000 before going to bed tonight. Especially since I’m hoping to go to my first write in of the month.

My daily challenge for Day 3 was to show my character’s flaws. To not make her too perfect. She isn’t perfect, but I didn’t do as well at showing her flaws as I would like. Partially I think this is because one of her flaws has been so obvious since the beginning that I was blinded by it and not seeing the smaller things that make a person more human than perfect pretend version of human. Something I’ll have to continue to think about going forward.

Today my daily challenge is to ‘show, not tell’. Great advice for NaNo, since showing takes so many more words than just telling. Let’s hope I can hit that 10k goal.

How is your novel going this month? Are you meeting your word count goals?

NaNo Daily Challenge

On October 30th, I took Mary Robinette Kowal’s No Prep NaNo Course. I’d heard she has great courses and wanted to try one. This one fit in my schedule, my budget, appealed to my interests, and was timely. The course was great, and I learned a lot.

The thing that really got me though, was an off hand comment she made. She mentioned that she thinks NaNo is a great time to work on skills. She will often pick a specific skill to work on each day. That really clicked for me. I enjoy NaNo, but I seriously considered taking a break from it this year. I’ve won ten years in a row, and it’s a LOT of writing to fit into a single month. But suddenly I had this idea of using the entire month of November as a way to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy (in the words of Miss. Frizzle). Suddenly all of November has become exciting again.

There are plenty of things I want to improve on in my writing. So many that, I’m often crushed under the weight of trying to remember and deal with all of them at once. This year I’ll focus on one issue at a time, and I’ll deal with the rest in edits. I’m calling it my Daily NaNo Challenge. I like love lists, so I’ve made a list of the first seven days worth of challenge points below. I’ll post a new list each week (the 13th, 20th, and 27th) Feel free to make your own list and start tackling some of your weaknesses. I’m calling this my #NaNoDailyChallenge

  1. Use more than sight to describe things (touch, sound, taste, and smell)
  2. Focus on making dialogue sound natural
  3. Your main character isn’t perfect. Show their flaws.
  4. Remember to show, not tell
  5. Don’t start every paragraph with a name or dialogue tag
  6. Use “yes, but” or “no, and” to solve problems
  7. Show your characters emotions through actions

What are some of the things you’re trying to focus on in your writing? Have you started writing yet?

It’s NaNoWriMo time – Are you Ready?

grey notebook for NaNo 2017Tomorrow the yearly marathon of writing, called National Novel Writing Month, starts. Hopefully you feel ready. Ready for your fingers to fly, your imagination soar, and your stress level to rise. Ok, so that last one isn’t as exciting. I don’t think there is any advice that can completely take the stress out of NaNo, but I think it can be helped by being prepared. Also this is a personal challenge, that means you have the ultimate control over your goals and intensity.

If you are looking to get more prepared for NaNo, I might be able to help. My NaNoWriMo Series from 2015 still has a lot of valid information and ideas. It starts with How to get ready, and includes an entire post of tips and tricks to make the most of the month. I think the most important thing to remember is that NaNoWriMo should be fun, at least some of the time.

This year, I’m aiming to keep something of a journal to track my progress. My plan is to post twice a week, although I might choose to post more often than that. I want the updates to be brief and to the point, but hopefully they will serve as a record of what my NaNo experience was like this year. My first update will probably be on November 2nd. If I manage to get any words on November 1st, they will be too late to want to talk about them once they are written.

Are you ready for NaNo? Do you find NaNo stressful?

Creating a Calm Zone

My son, like most kids I guess, sometimes needs a space to calm down. We live in a small, or so I’ve been told, house and we didn’t have a dedicated quiet space. About a week ago we decided what we needed was a calm zone. A simple, calm, uncluttered space, with quiet toys to be used only in that area.

Finding a space was a bit of a challenge. Our dinning room and living room weren’t going to work, so we were left with finding space in my son’s bedroom. He has a half loft bed, and we thought about utilizing some of the space under it, but it is already used as a play space and is cluttered with toys even at the best of times. Then my husband had a great idea. The closet!

Our house is old enough that my son’s closet is only a half closet, the bottom half  is a wooden box hiding the fact that the space has been used to make head room for the stairs underneath. The good news is, that because of that box, his closet makes a great seat. I loved the idea, and set out to make it work. I had the space cleared out (and a big bag to go in the donations box) in one afternoon.

Then, I bought the supplies to make a seat cushion and a throw pillow. One night I put my sewing machine to good use and pillows! I’m pleased with the results since I’ve never made a seat cushion before, and I wasn’t starting with a straight forward rectangle. I made sure to include a zipper, so the cushion cover can be washed when needed. For the throw pillow I used a simple envelope cover pattern. My son chose the fabrics himself. The elephants are flannel because he liked how soft it was against his face, for the seat cushion I used a home decor fabric.

A simple calm zoneIn a little over a week we had a finished calm zone. The red suitcase is from IKEA, and it holds his calm zone toys. We picked quiet toys, books, a stuffed animal, and a notebook from his current toys. The bolster was a leftover from an old couch. I will probably recover it at some point.

The space is simple, but it works. He has added our battery powered camp lantern and enjoys reading in his calm zone before bed, or drawing in the afternoon if he just needs a break.

Do you have a calm (or chill) zone in your house? Where do you go when you need time to yourself?

Time to Prep for NaNoWriMo ’17

Three weeks to NaNoWriMo. It’s time to get ready!

Getting Ready
I’ve already signed up on the NaNoWriMo site with my novel for this year. Have you? This year, I’m going somewhat down the middle between pantser and plotter. I want to have a very simple plot, so I am not floundering, but not so much I feel guilty if I want to go in a different direction. Now I need to start filling up my story notebook with ideas, plot points, and some character outlines. I’ll add to my notebook as I go.

Story Idea
This year I came up with my story idea without any real work. The basic plot and main character just sort of dropped into my lap one day and I made a few notes in my bits and pieces scrivener file. That folder is the first place I look for inspiration for NaNo novel ideas. If I hadn’t had an idea ready and waiting, I would have done some brainstorming work to find something to write about.

How many words per day?
I’m thinking about trying something a little different with my daily word goal this year. I’ve written before about how many words I like to write per day during November, but I came across something called the reverse NaNo, and I think I’ll try it this year. Basically with a reverse NaNo you write 3,346 words on Day 1, and then write a little less each day until on the 30th you only need 1 word to finish. Currently I’m sticking with a tradition word goal of 50,000, but who knows. If I’m having a good year, maybe I’ll up it.

Other NaNo Posts
I did my first NaNo in 2007. Since then I haven’t missed a November. With ten wins under my belt, NaNo is something I post about fairly frequently. In 2015 I even did a series of NaNo posts.

Are you doing NaNo this year? What are you doing to get ready?

Fun with Writing – Character Swap

When I start to lose motivation to write, or when writing has lost the spark that makes it enjoyable, I often look for a new writing exercise to get me going again. Lately, I haven’t been writing as much as I should. Life has been busy, I mean really busy, but I also just haven’t been interested in writing. Nothing has grabbed me to the point of needing to write. So, to get myself going again, I set up a new writing exercise with a friend.

With NaNoWriMo ’17 prep in full swing, it is the perfect time to shake things up a bit. I’ve had a concept and a main character for a few months. My friend, after some group brain storming, has a world and a basic concept. The main area we are both lacking … characters. Hence our Character Swap idea.

We each wrote out a very short paragraph about our story, and filled out a questionnaire about our main character. The usual stuff: name, age, what they look like, skills, job, family, weaknesses, annoying habits, etc. Then came the fun part. We each got to make a character for the other’s story.

I often find myself falling into the trap of fitting a character to a story, instead of letting the character be an individual who happens to be a part of this story. The joy of this swap was that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have enough information on what she is writing about to tailor the character to the story. I did consider why this person and the main character would be friends, but also tried to think about my own friendships – why we fit, and how much do we really have in common? It was fun to make a character without worrying about the story they would be put into, or what they could give the main character. Maybe I need to focus on my characters earlier in my planning/plotting phases.

What are some writing exercises you have enjoyed? Have you started planning for NaNoWriMo?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?