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?

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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?

Getting new Experiences as a Writer

When a good friend approached me with the idea of taking adult artistic gymnastics classes I was sure I wasn’t interested. I did rhythmic in my early teens, but I’ve never done artistic. I was never able to do a handstand or a round off. I’ve always been hesitant with dynamic movement and scared of heights (I’m a big chicken). Adult gymnastics would put me well outside my comfort zone.

Somehow, I found myself thinking about it in the weeks after my friend brought it up. I’ve always wanted to be able to do a handstand, even though my heart beats a bit faster just thinking about kicking up into one (I mentioned the hesitancy about dynamic movement right?). Re-learning to do a forward roll and a cartwheel might be fun. I like organized fitness classes, it was possible I would enjoy it.

For a few weeks I thought about it. I talked it over with my husband. The timing was fine, the money wasn’t an issue, and if I hated it I would stop at a single term. He also pointed out that gymnastics would help with my fear of hesitancy in dynamic movement. Things like that wall I couldn’t get on top of at mud hero would become easier. I really want to scale that wall at mud hero next year.

There are two things that finally swayed me to give adult gymnastics a try:

  1. A writer needs new experiences. If I hate it, I can stop at one term. By at least trying it I have a new experience to draw on as a writer.
  2. I really like exercise clothes and my husband suggested I would need new capris and a tank for gymnastics.

When I found myself looking for just the right pair of capris (not too long, but tight to the bottom), I knew I was going to take the class. I still made my friend hold my hand (figuratively) while I hit the submit on my class payment though.

We had our first class on Wednesday and it was fun. Really FUN. I kind of remember how to do a cartwheel. My hands and feet are moving in the right order, but I have a ways to go to get vertical again. As expected, I’m too scared to really kick up into a handstand, but I’m not bothered by taking it slow. After one class I’m already thinking I’ll probably sign up for the winter term too.

What new things have you tried recently? Do you ever do new things just to be able to write about them?

My First Handbound Journal

Floral covered handbound journal.Last night I went to a program about bookbinding at my local library. The two hour session started with a brief introduction, and then we got to make our own journal/notebook. You can see mine on the left. I’m really happy with how well it turned out, especially for a first attempt!

First we had to select the pieces that would become our journals. We needed cardboard for the cover, 36 pages for the inside, thread for the binding, and decorative paper to wrap around the cover.

Next up were the supplies to put everything together. Scissors, glue, needle, pencil, a thimbles, and an awl. In the end I didn’t find the thimble overly useful, and while the awl was great for putting the holes in the cover, I preferred a large needle to make the holes in the paper. The needle I used for threading the binding was curved, and it made the whole process nice and quick.
bound edge of journal

I decided to use one coloured sheet for the outside of each section (in this case six sheets stacked and folded in half). This meant, as you can see on the right, each section of the binding was bright and colourful. In the green sections I used dotted paper, and in the rest plain paper. We assembled the journals using a kettle stitch. It was easy to learn, and once I got the hand motions down, surprisingly fast.

I really enjoyed making this journal, and can definitely see myself making more. I think I’m going to use the plain sheets in this one for some smaller writing projects that don’t need an entire notebook. The dotted pages are going to be used for quilting sketches.

Have you done any bookbinding? Do you know of any great online resources for learning more about book binding?

Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

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?

March Goals

My goals for February were:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word postsDone!
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent – Done!
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times – Calling it Done!
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt – Done!

I’m going to call this month a win. For writing I wrote more than double my goal, although I didn’t write any 500 word posts. For the biking I did 6/8, but I was sick for the last half week of the month when I would have easily done, and had planned to do, the last two workouts.

My goals for March are:

  1. Workout 10 times (bike, swim, or run)
  2. Write 10k
  3. Clear out at least three boxes/big items from the basement
  4. Use my bullet journal all month

Yearly Update:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 1/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 22k/110k (not including Nov)
  4. Submit to critique group eight times – 1/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 14/96

Declutter Update: I haven’t done as much this month as I would like. I did go through my clothes and get a pile of my son’s old clothes out of the house. I need to move on to paper and the basement next. If I can clear out the basement I have room to put more things in storage down there.

How did you goals for February go? Are you doing anything new in March?

Asian Dramas – Love Stories

I’ve been watching a lot of Asian romance dramas lately. The first one I watched was ‘Good Morning Call’ by netflix. Because I watched it, I started getting recommendations on netflix for other Asian dramas.

Since I’ve been enjoying them so much, and because I’m a writer, I started thinking about why I’m drawn to these stories. First for those who aren’t familiar with Asian Romance Dramas a few common themes:

  1. Kissing (even touching) between couples is kept to a minimum. For high schoolers and in most Korean Dramas a kiss is nothing more than a press of the lips (held for a silly length of time without moving). My understanding is this is in part because of censorship.
  2. The male half of the couple is almost always handsome, rich, very smart, and/or super talented.
  3. The female half of the couple pretty much always has more than one guy vying for her interest. Often for the first half this doesn’t include the male half of the couple.
  4. Fake dating, oops I tripped and my lips landed on your lips, one of the characters ends up in the hospital, rushing to the airport to catch your love before it’s too late, etc are all common occurrences.
  5. Many of the shows are based on manga.

There are a number of reasons I’m enjoying these shows, but I want to focus on why I’m enjoying the stories themselves.

1.)  Friends don’t try and steal each other’s boyfriends. Female friends seem to have more genuine friendships. This makes it easier for me to relate to the characters. They are supportive of each other and don’t tear each other down. They don’t scheme behind each others backs, unless it is to try and get the main couple together.

2.) I like the predictability and over the top story lines. It sometimes feels a bit like watching a fanfic. It is almost always obvious who the main love pair is from the credits of the show. So far I haven’t hit a show that didn’t get a happily ever after ending.

3.) Because every physical touch is a big deal you really pay attention to body language. I struggle with body language in my writing, and while I’m unlikely to write a romance with so little touch, it has made me more aware of other ways people show they like someone.

4.) They are short. They almost always wrap up in a single season of around thirty 45 mins-1 hour episodes.

There are common trends that bug me, but over I can ignore it in favour of the parts I enjoy.

What are your favourite kind of shows to watch? Have any recommendations for Asian Romances I should watch on Netflix?

2017 Resolutions Update – January

My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops
  2. Finish at least three quilts
  3. Write 10k a month
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times
  5. Exercise twice a week
  6. Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
  7. Set up the crafting corner in the study

Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 8/96

Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.

The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.

Declutter update:
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.

Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?