The Fourth NaNo 2020 Progress Report (A Breakthrough!)

National Novel Writing Month -

This NaNo was a near thing, or rather, my participation was this year. I haven’t missed a single year since I started, but it’s been getting rough. I failed to complete my 50k for the first time two years ago, my sixteenth run.

Then last year, I ensured victory by throwing away the NaNo traditional rules and running a rebel campaign. While that worked, it did not move me forward as much as I’d hoped and encouraged my scattered state. To be honest, I made progress on a variety of projects that otherwise would have remained a single note.

The problem is, it’s progress I won’t see the advantage of until I start those titles.

I had glimmerings of a problem this year and planned to do a complete outline of something, anything, to avoid it. Then suddenly it was November, and I had nothing. That’s when any reasonable person should have walked away, but who ever used the word “reasonable” in the same sentence as me…at least without a strong negative modifier?

Already behind before I started, I made a copy of last year’s rebellion, and marked off my finish point so I would only count new words. Then I created new sections for the non-fiction (marked with 2020) and off I went…at a crawl. But at least I was crawling.

I am keeping a writing diary as well, something I’ll talk about more in December. The beginning entries are full of whining about how it is too difficult, too much of a muddle, with a lot of heartfelt sighs to go with. Still, I’m too stubborn to give up, and soon the entries started to be filled with, “enough whining. It’s time to write.” After that, little bits of planning started creeping in, first just where I wanted to be tomorrow, then complete maps of the Seeds Among the Stars series.

The diary is, for the most part, a letter to myself. I discuss what’s holding me back and figure out ways around or through it. I now encourage myself instead of accepting excuses, and point out places where I discover things either again or for the first time. It’s proved quite interesting…to me at least.

Back to the actual writing, what I’ve written this month might not be the best ever, though there are some stellar moments, but it’s words. Words can be edited when their time comes. A blank page is just that: blank.

But in the title, I mentioned a breakthrough. Improvement and progress are definitely to be celebrated, but a breakthrough implies something more.

I wrote the following on the morning of the twenty-second.

I woke up with less than five hours of sleep. One of the “advantages” to fighting chronic pain is I’ve reached the point where sleep is not only possible, it’s unavoidable. My body shuts down when my treatments fail to manage the pain, and out I go. After years of too little sleep because the pain woke me up, I now get too much. I know, never satisfied.

In this case, I could tell I wasn’t done yet. Like something in the microwave, it was time to turn me over and go a second round.

Only I had a glimpse. A fragment of a scene belonging to the next book (which I know because I laid out the order yesterday) in Seeds Among the Stars. It may be the beginning scene, or close to it, but since I have nothing but scattered notes, I don’t know.

What I do know is this glimpse is the first true inspiration I’ve had this November. I’ve been writing, and sometimes it clicks more than just covering the bases laid out in my scene blurbs…okay more than sometimes. But that’s not the same thing as standing in the corner and watching a moment in my characters’ lives unfold.

I considered going to my computer (still on from yesterday), but I was so tired and it would require only a few sentences to capture. The glimpse was an assignment officer asking Deluth a tough question. I keep my phone handy for just this reason, and One Note helps make sure the information is accessible from any of my machines.

Not the most comfortable, or easiest, device, but a sentence or two and then I could be back in dreamland to counter my pounding headache.

At least I was smart enough to perch on the edge of the bed rather than leaning on one of my shoulders. My posture wasn’t great, but the position was better than it could have been. And a few sentences…what harm could it do?

Then I had to set the scene (note the use of “had”)…and the assignment officer appeared.

Tibari is a fascinating character with a personal touch, the ability to read nonverbal cues, and an eye for the bigger picture rather than just the next assignment. He’s also dark as a shadow with a shock of white blond hair surrounding his head, quite likely an affectation to contrast with people’s surprise at his skin color. He didn’t tell me. Flamboyant comes naturally to him, but he’s far from all show. Tibari genuinely cares about making the right decision for the spacers who come looking for their next assignment, even when they might not see things as he does.

I can see him in my mind’s eye, but even better, I can sense how he wants to handle things. There was no way he’d let me jot a few summary sentences and crash. He knew all too well the power of his scene needed to happen in the now. If not, when I finally got to it, it’d be just as lukewarm as the other scenes I’ve been writing. Not bad, just not as vibrant as Tibari needs to be.

You probably guessed it, but I spent the next hour and a half hunched over my phone. Okay, not hunched, but using both thumbs to type the entire scene as I started to ache, then burn. An artist suffering for the craft. The only regret I have is snarling at my husband when he tried to say something to me (I still don’t know what).

I wrote the last line and crashed back to sleep. I didn’t even go back to fix the continuity error I’d introduced (and luckily remembered when it came time to transfer the almost 1,100 words into my Scrivener file).

So there you go. It took almost twenty-two days and a lot of self-pressure, especially when my progress landed in the less than 500 words category (including the day of one word). Still, I had a moment.

You might be able to tell from the tone of this update how it’s bestowing as much energy as it drains from the consequences. I needed to feel the wonder of inspiration again, and though I doubt I can sustain at these levels for much longer, NaNo is now within reach. Even better, I may just get to keep writing this time instead of letting my body steal that from me.

NaNo was easy when I first started some eighteen years ago. But without that start, I’d never been in the position now where NaNo has shown me a path forward. If you’re still thinking about joining in next year, let my example help you decide. Whether it’s NaNo or just committing to your creativity in whatever form, you might have to start slow, but your moment can come when you least expect it.

It’s now the twenty-fourth, and my counts have stayed high. Still a random scatter between projects, and nothing more on Deluth’s book, but progress that might just be enough to push me over the finish line. Oh, and my son suggests while Tibari is an incidental character, who shows up once, if I like him so much, maybe he deserves a side story. I’ll have to think on that one.

How about you? Has this year offered any breakthroughs in progress or understanding? If not, there’s still time.

And stats which are looking much better, though it’s still a push:

DayNew WordsRunning Total
Posted in Challenges, Goals, Inspirations, Muse, NaNoWriMo, News, Writing Process | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

5 Interesting Links for 11-20-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Research (Exercise)

With the popularity of step counters to measure exercise and healthy behavior, recent studies are trying to determine whether the 10,000-step goal is anything more than a marketing gimmick. They’ve had some interesting results.

Computers (History)

The story behind the hard-crash sequence of Ctrl-Alt-Del speaks to the advantage of programmer shortcuts made available to the public.

Artists (Interesting People)

Garret Kane combines 3D printed figures with natural materials to create stunning sculptures. The second link has more examples, but the first article focuses on Golemecha, a sculpture incorporating additional elements:

Physiology (Stress)

Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman is studying the visual components of the stress system to find ways to ease stress and so improve health, especially under the weight of COVID-19.

Philosophy (Writing)

Author Phoebe Darqueling discusses techniques and difficulties involved in writing an anti-heroine using her series and other examples. Readers appear to have a harder time seeing behind a female character’s hard exterior to the heart of gold than with male characters. She also looks at the effect of myths surrounding historical gender roles and the difference between what was considered the ideal female versus reality.

Gifts, The Steamship Chronicles, Book Three- Twitter

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Marry Me for Real, Cowboy by Valerie Comer

Marry Me for Real, Cowboy by Valerie Comer

I found the opening of the first Cavanagh Cowboys Romance fun. The story jumps right in to their first strange meeting. In another’s hands, the situation could have been scary, and some aspects were. But the muddle between Adam Cavanagh and Riley Dunning, confused as it is with instant attraction and both in a position of needing something unusual, is lovely. It’s also a nice way to bring up the dysfunctional mess of the Cavanagh family.

This book is an interesting twist on the miscommunication and fake engagement tropes. Adam and Riley both know exactly what’s between them from the start, having laid the ground rules in that first meeting. Unlike many fake engagement stories, though, instinct, if not love at first sight, drives them to make this foolish bargain as much as necessity. Theirs isn’t a quick, public moments-only, engagement either. Their growing connection challenges the plan with a tangible attraction between them. The problem is neither knows the other well enough to tell where acting leaves off and turns to real affection. It doesn’t help how both have been burned in the recent past, making it hard to take the leap of faith love requires.

There’s a lot of supposedly for show kissing going on, but it’s mirrored by guilty consciences and a growing awareness of how many people they will harm. Both Adam and Riley are genuinely nice people who suffer from living a lie. But they cannot see any way around it after claiming the engagement.

Adam is blinded by a narrow focus on what has been taken from him, which colors his judgment in many ways. Riley has good reasons for lying low where no one can find her. Why they gave into the temptation to construct the false engagement is clear. My respect for both grows as they find their lies unendurable once faced with those they’d hurt, and yet for the same reason, they can’t admit to the lie.

Cavanagh Cowboys Romance is a spinoff from the Saddle Springs Romance series. This book occurs simultaneously with the last of the Delgado books. I enjoyed remembering Sawyer’s story from the side mentions, and we get to see some of him, too. Nor is this series isolated from her non-cowboy ones. I didn’t recognize the town name until a mention of the geo-caching event, but it’s neat how this area, and the stories within it, tie together.

What’s important about the first connection is, as with Sawyer, it means Adam has just recommitted himself to Jesus. He’s still working out what that means, not always successfully. The fake engagement is a big stumble, no matter how much he tries to convince himself it’s the only way to reclaim his heritage. His concern for those around him, despite his poor choices, says a lot for his character, though.

Riley’s full story comes slower, but we learn bits and pieces early on. I particularly liked the description of her in the first scene, revealing she’s not some frail weakling nor afraid of a good meal. Having a female lead of healthy weight is always nice, but in this case, the note also adds to our understanding of her situation. It crosses out the image of a desperate runaway waif starving in the streets and tells us there’s more to the story if we’re patient.

When the conversation turns to the Bible, between the brothers and in Adam’s contemplations, I enjoyed how they explore different passages and their meanings. It’s not just quotes with quick answers, but contemplation in the context of their lives. There’s also an interesting perspective on newly renewed faith coming across as “holier than thou.”

Speaking of the situation within the Cavanagh family, I liked how it isn’t as straightforward as Adam believes. He had issues with Declan in his teens, and as soon as he could, he ran away to the rodeo. He let those teen issues fester while his brothers stayed and grew up. It’s only hints for now, but there are indications his perspective is warped, and I have a theory why. Regardless, I like that Declan, Adam’s stepfather, is stern but fair, not just with his blood sons, but with his adopted ones as well, even with Adam.

I’m a long-term Valerie Comer fan, and there’s something special about her cowboy books. While the occasional chauvinistic mention still jars (I noticed only one in this book), their sense of history and connection with the land speaks to me. The biggest difference between this book and the Saddle Springs ones is the shift from being raised in a loving home compared to a broken one. Call me optimistic, but I have hope on that side. The Cavanaghs are a different family from the Delgados, and in many ways, a more complicated one. I look forward to seeing how they can get past old grudges and find happiness in love and faith as the series unfolds.

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The Third NaNo 2020 Progress Report (Still Learning Things)

As of Thursday 11/12:

I’m making this note to myself on Thursday 11/12, but I’m hoping there will be more good days than bad going forward.

National Novel Writing Month -

If you followed my NaNo posts last year (or two years ago?), I discovered a root to my editing being too difficult and my NaNo efforts being a struggle is in not having an outline ready before I wrote the first draft. The editing difficulties were because though I know what needs to happen, without an edited outline (plot blurbs), I don’t remember whether I’ve already added that part and so am likely to do it again. I do believe I promised myself never to set myself up for failure again.

Well, apparently, I needed that lesson renewed when there’s nothing I can do about it.

There were two reasons my NaNo writing had slowed to almost nothing this year (not that it had been great to start with). I knew part of the problem was not being able to see ahead to how the next scene would unfold. This broke down into two parts: the actual events and which of my two POVs would carry the narrative.

It added up to a case of writer’s block, which for me is almost always planner’s block. I broke through the block this morning and answered both questions, only to get slapped with the other issue of an incomplete outline.

My notes called for a specific thing to happen, which would break the chronology slightly. It should have already happened before the end of the previous scene in the other POV. But that meant breaking the previous scene in two to fix the timeline, something I didn’t want to do. Luckily, I popped back to the previous scene from the same POV. There it was, almost word for word, the same event I was trying to use as the opening to the scene I’m about to write. Oops.

Good news! I no longer have to worry about the chronology. In its original spot, it’s at the right time. Also, I have an alternate for starting the new scene that avoids an awkward “this is what happened when they got here a little while ago” paragraph.

Just frustrating that I’m repeating old errors, but at least I’m moving forward now.

And now:

I’m still not caught up, though I’m no longer as far behind as I have words. There are also more hopeful notes in my writing diary as compared to the sighs and groans of before. One way or another, winning or not, this NaNo has helped get me moving forward with the writing and thinking beyond the obstacle of getting Apprentice out to my readers. That manuscript still lies in others’ hands, but should the reports come back positive, I’ll have the drive to push the final length and get it done.

Here are some clips from my diary entries free of spoilers beyond what’s already known in a general sense for where Seeds Among the Stars is headed. Enjoy:

I remembered a short story I started about a natural, or rather about the captain’s sextant, I think. I wonder where that is and whether I finished it?

But I don’t think so.

One task I need to push myself to do is move the blurbs from the various novels into this file along with the links. Hmm, I wonder if I can import the spreadsheet page with all of that instead of doing it manually? It should be possible. Cue wasted time trying 2-3 methods, each failing for a different reason. Sigh. Manual copy over it is, but not today.

So much for the not today. I got started by copying the new blurbs for the Mad Dragon series. I really don’t know if I have enough meat to write that series yet, but it keeps poking at me. (Note: These blurbs are not added to my NaNo total because I wrote them before NaNo. Mad Dragons is the series connected to my short story published in How Beer Saved the World 2.)

11/14 NaNo Diary

One decent writing day followed by a day and a half of collapse wouldn’t have managed NaNo even if I started at the beginning rather than so far behind.

There is some hope coming, though. The next few scenes, after I get past this point, are well fleshed out in the blurb, making writing them easier, I hope. I am trying not to worry about this bridging story. It should come together and points things in the right direction for the next couple of books while offering an intriguing thought or two. It also gives a good jumping off point for the Colonist spinoff because readers might wonder what’s happened with the colony considering Trina left with things still getting settled. Once they arrive, all those traveling frozen, including her uncle, would awake expecting their colony to be the same. It’s not only Katie’s life scrambled by all of this.

I really should outline both Deluth’s side story and Katie’s mini-series so I’m ready to jump into writing them. We’ll see whether I can manage that. For now, I’m happy just making progress on Passing the Grade. I almost wish I could come up with a mini story that doesn’t click into the timeline at all. It would be good to have something to give to my fans as a thanks for their patience.

11/15 NaNo Diary

Turns out I missed the standard NaNo yesterday by a mere 33 words. This would be nothing if I were caught up. I’m not, but neither am I giving up hope. The next few scenes have been better fleshed out, and some is even written. The written won’t help me, but the parts where every detail of the scene is described in the outline should go much faster. It should also burn my brain less because I won’t have to tap into the planning part. Nice of that to fall on this day in particular. It’ll require a bit of juggling because the outline is in the text for these since it was written for last year’s NaNo, but I’ll figure it out. Yay for square brackets, right?

11/16 NaNo Diary

And finally, my stats.

Overall, I’m speeding up, but I’m still tending toward a good day, then a recovery day and a half before another decent day. On top of all the writing stuff, I’m learning how to work with my disability better. For example, I used to get 1000-1800 words per writing session. Now, if I push beyond 250-500, that’s it for the day. It’s a process, and I’m not there yet, but the more I learn, the better I’ll be once NaNo is complete.

How about you? Do you use NaNo for a learning process or just a mad scramble for words? If the first, are you willing to share something you’ve learned? I figure for everyone who learns something, there are others who are still working on that puzzle who might find your answer useful.

Posted in Challenges, Goals, NaNoWriMo, News, Outlining, Writing Process | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 Interesting Links for 11-13-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

History (Entertainment)

Video, and now streaming, rental companies may have thought themselves innovators, but an examination of newspaper advertisements from the mid-to-late 1800s suggests an earlier incarnation. The video equivalent in the Victorian Era, a magic lantern, was accessible to the middle class through similar arrangements.

COVID-19 (Health)

Researchers retooled a project originally studying Alzheimer’s to identify COVID-19 in both symptomatic and asymptomatic sufferers through changes in a cough. This evaluation is useful as an early warning system rather than replacing the test, but it would have the advantage of greater accessibility. Any positive would need to be confirmed with a COVID-19 test since the changes might be for another reason. (Via AARP)

COVID-19 Research (Interesting People)

The pandemic has caught everyone’s attention, especially in the medical fields as researchers struggle to find a prevention, cure, or even viable treatments to help those on the front lines. Sometimes, though, progress comes from unlikely places. The 3M Young Scientist Challenge encourages students in 5th to 8th grade to study science, something Anika Chebrolu took to the next level. She found a way to bind a protein on the COVID-19 virus, making the protein unable to function and offering a potential method for stopping the virus.

Innovations (Promoting)

Author Jennifer S. Alderson explains how to promote your books passively through creating a public Google map. Your map can highlight existing places key to your novels and even include snippets or behind-the-scenes notes to intrigue potential readers. Note: The article images appear broken, but the links to her maps still work.

Cultivation (Resilience)

This article looks at the myths surrounding the concept of resilience and how we can cultivate resilience in ourselves as well as seeing it in others. It’s an important reminder both for our own mental health and how we perceive those around us.

How Beer Saved the World 2 edited by Phyllis Irene Radford
Posted in Entertainment, Health, History, Interesting Links, Interesting People, Promoting, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment