What’s Up Wednesday

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Hey all! It’s been a little while, but I’m back for this week! 🙂 What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

What I’m Reading

Just finished Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo and LOVED (of course). Ruin and Rising is next, but I think I’m procrastinating because I don’t want it to be over yet. If I could only be half of a fraction of her amazing, I would be content.

What I’m Writing

Between leftover CampNaNo burnout (yes, still) and having an illness relapse (you can read more here and here), the words haven’t happened much lately. They’ve happened somewhat, but still not anywhere near my normal. I did get a couple good 1ks in, so I’m not too bad, but I was hoping to get this draft finished by the end of summer–and seeing as classes start on Monday, that’s not going to happen. I’m about 15k short, so hopefully I can knock it out pretty soon 🙂

What Inspires Me

Lately, my CPs have been especially brilliant (impossible, I know). We’ve had some amazing brain babies (brain storming sessions) lately and not only have we made some great progress on my own WIP, but listening to and working on their projects can be just as helpful and inspiring.

What Else I’m Up To

I am all moved in! I have been staying in my first apartment for a couple weeks now, and am loving it. Of course, being close to my CPs now helps too 🙂 I will probably regret this in a week, but I am actually looking forward to classes starting. Now that I am in my third year, my classes are all related to my major and career and I find them interesting and even enjoy them (shocking, I know).

Hope everyone has a great start to the new school year, and have a great week!

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The Fog

It’s inescapable and suffocating, a fog that consumes me entirely.

No, I’m not talking about that fog–the killer horror movie kind–but the kind that is always inside of me, all the time. Its name is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and today it came out with a vengeance.

If you know me or are familiar with this blog at all, you’ve likely heard me mention it before. Honestly, I don’t talk about it very often because I try not to focus on it. I refuse to let my illness win, become a part of every aspect of my life, and suck the joy out of everything that I enjoy.

But today, it did just that.

Sorry for the past few days of relative silence, but I’ve had a good reason I promise. Normally, I’m good about “powering through” my bad days. I’ve been living with my illness for more than seven years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. But if you are one of my unfortunate comrades who have chronic illness yourselves, you are all too familiar with the fog.

I’ve been reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy, so I am comparing it to the Fold. A lot of days, I am able to summon enough light to pierce through the fog, just like Alina, but others, I don’t have the strength, or it’s just not enough.

Today was one of those days. After I was up all night being physically ill, my body is completely wiped. I slept for twelve hours, then napped, and still didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed. I haven’t been able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling dizzy, let alone make it out of room or down a single flight of stairs. I didn’t even have energy to hold a conversation with my boyfriend or family, and spent the day more or less in isolation, but for my ever present cuddle buddy and sick day companion.

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It has been a long time since I have had such a bad day as far as my illness. But I am reminded, even now, when it is difficult to summon enough strength to write this post, that no matter how bad things are in this body, I can escape to a hundred others.

Being trapped in this bed can feel an awful lot like sitting in a jail cell–but books and writing are a portal to an endless possibility of worlds, and freedom.

This is why I love writing, and why I will never, ever stop being a writer. I can’t. Words and ink are like oxygen and blood to me. They are my light, to pierce through the fog and the muck of this life, no matter how dark it seems.

Reading Siege and Storm got me through today. For a few hours at least, I could forget the pain and discomfort of this body, and become someone else entirely, lost in a rich, vivid, fantasy world. What could be better than that?

The reality of my illness means that I cannot always push through, and I will have to miss out on things, sometimes things that I love. I’ve missed staying connected with the writing community, work, a party, and interacting with friends and family. Please be patient with me in times like this, and know that I have not forgotten about all you lovely people, I am trying my best 🙂

I will have this illness for the rest of my life, and nothing can change that until there is a cure.  In the mean time, though, books make life a whole lot better.

And with that, I am going to finish this book, and then nap for the third time today.

CampNaNo: Halfway There

I know, this one’s a little late, but I was out of town for most of this week. So this week’s update is relatively short.

In the first week, I built enough of a cushion that I was able to relax and enjoy my vacation without worrying about word count, though I did get a few words down in my notebook. Then on the drive home, with ten hours (and boyfriend asleep the whole way) I was able to longhand a little over 1700 words in my notebook, so I didn’t get too far behind.

My word count now is 10,967 for CampNaNo, and 32,914 overall. I made the halfway point for both my NaNo target, and my word count goal overall!

I am feeling good, but am starting to get burned out on writing everyday–which I am not used to doing, at all. I usually write better in bursts. Nothing for a couple days, then sit down and write a couple chapters all at once. To fight the burnout, I’ve been reading more lately, which has helped for inspiration, to recharge, and still feel like I’m doing something bookish and productive.

I am sort of dreading the third week, as it is notorious for lack of motivation, and I’m already starting to feel it. The last few writing days, the words have been more and more like pulling teeth. I’m hoping I can stick through it though.

How is your CampNaNo journey going? How do you recharge and refresh your inspiration?

 

CampNano: First Week

Hey all! Thought I would do a quick update on my CampNano progress and thoughts so far 🙂

In my last post I shared how I’d already had a rough day, and trouble meeting the word count. Since then, there’s only been one day where I didn’t meet my word count, but I built myself enough cushion in the first few days that it didn’t really matter. And after that, I was able to write enough words to catch up.

As of now, I have written 5,762 words for CampNano, which means I am past the 25% mark on my target, and brings my manuscript to a little over 28k total! As far as my schedule, I am three days ahead in word count, though I did that intentionally as I will be leaving for vacation on Tuesday. 

I’m feeling pretty good 🙂 Some of the scenes have been a struggle, others came naturally. And sometimes, when I went back to those scenes the next day, the right words came. So I am learning to trust the process. 

I’m discovering all new layers to Kera and Torren, and they keep showing me that there’s even more to them than I thought, so that’s been interesting and fun. They are full of surprises 🙂 

The CampNano community has been great. I’ve been doing the #NanoWordSprints on Twitter, and my cabin is awesome! They are all great WordPress bloggers, and I am super impressed with our word count. 

Again, with everything going on (and especially as I leave for my trip) please be patient with me, as I won’t be able to respond on social media or WordPress right away. I will get to you though, and I’d still love to hear from you 🙂

What do you think of CampNaNoWriMo? If you’re participating, how is it going? If you’re not, what has stopped you?

Have a great week!

 

CampNano: First Impressions

I’ve officially survived the first two days of my first ever CampNaNoWriMo! Actually, this is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, ever. What are my first thoughts?

Well, first it’s really not as scary as I thought it would be. Maybe I would be thinking differently if my goal were the full 50,000 instead of 20,000, but nevertheless, 646 words a day isn’t as much as it seems. 

The first day was pretty awesome. It was exciting to count down the minutes, and start the words just as midnight struck. I enjoyed interacting with other campers, meeting my cabin mates, and participating in some NaNo word sprints. Add that to not only meeting my word goal for the first day, but the second day as well, and I was feeling pretty good. 

But later that night, I was not feeling so chipper. With the initial rush gone, I was left with my own competitive drive, perfectionism, and self-doubt. Every single word was like pulling a tooth, and was just as painful because I knew every word was wrong, but I forced myself not to edit, and just kept stubbornly plugging along. 

Enter: day two (really? It seems like it’s been a week, already). I. Am. Exhausted. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have been busy all day, non-stop, on only two hours of sleep. I don’t know how I’m functioning at this point, honestly. Thinking about coming home and having to get some words on the page felt overwhelming. I wondered why the heck I signed up for this in the first place, during what could be the busiest month for me in a long time. 

I am sleep-deprived, worn down, and still just as stubborn. Somehow, when I sat down to force myself to hammer out a few more words so I could sleep easy tonight, the words flowed. Not a lot, but this time they came of their own accord, and they felt right.

I guess it just goes to show you have to trust in the process. When I was fired up and ready, the words felt wrong. But I wrote them anyways, and now, when I am on the brink of collapse, somehow the right ones came.

My current word count is 1656, though I plan on getting a few more down tonight before collapsing in a heap of exhaustion. I’m trying to get as far ahead as possible, to build myself a nice cushion so I don’t have to stress out later, and have some flexibility on my trip next week. 

Please bear with me, as I can’t promise I’ll be as engaged on Twitter or WordPress this month, with so much else going on. I still love you all ❀

Hopefully the rest of this ride isn’t as much of a roller coaster as the first two days have been. Thankfully, I’m in a cabin with an awesome group of people, and the CampNano community is already amazing. I’m hanging in there, and I’ll try to update as much as I can. I still love to hear from you–both campers, and otherwise! Have a great week 🙂

 

What Am I Getting Myself Into?

My very first blog post had this title, but it’s been a long day, my creativity is spent, and that’s exactly what I’m feeling right now.

I’ve heard so much about NaNoWriMo, for years now, even before I jumped into this whole thing. I just never thought it would be possible for me. First of all, being in school full-time, I would never have time in November. Plus, before a couple months ago, I’d  never tried a monthly word goal. So, 60,000 words in a month?? Impossible.

Now I am signed up for CampNaNoWriMo, with one day left before it starts.

Cue panic mode? Check.

At the time I didn’t know that you could aim for anything less than the 60k, but you can. So, I am aiming for the much more manageable 20,000. After all, this will only be my second monthly word goal ever, and I do have an actual life too. 🙂

I’ve only been signed up for a few days, but am already finding all kinds of lovely people. Once again, the writing community is amazing! I’m all snuggly in a cabin with a few awesome bloggers, and have taken a break the past few days to rest my creative juices.

To get ready, I’ve outlined the next 20 chapters or so on notecards, as a general guide for where to go. This is new for me, since I really don’t plan before I write, outside of major concepts and arcs. But, I know that with no direction, and pressure to write everyday, I would find myself coming up blank too often. Here’s the first half of my notecards ready:

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The organization and planning help to lessen the panic, but also make me feel a little stuck and forced. I’m not used to so much planning! Campers, how are you getting ready? Are you meticulously planning every detail out ahead of time, or are you ready to fly by the seat of your pants? If you’re not a camper, then you really should look into it. It’s not as scary as it seems, I promise.

With one day left, I’m feeling nervous, but I’m looking forward to this. I’ll tag all posts under both To Build A Story and CampNano, and I will keep you updated on my progress and my journey as I go through this 🙂

Good luck!

 

The Voices in My Head

Character is what drives the story. Not fantastic world-building, creativity, or exciting plot. A book can have the most beautiful, unique world, with a great concept and cinematic plot–but it is nothing, without character.

What books do you remember most? Which are the ones that stick with you?

Maybe it’s the one that kept you on the edge of your seat. But more often, it’s the book with the voice that stuck in your head, and wouldn’t go away. It’s the one with a person you lived inside, for the hours or days it took you to read that book, and forgot who you were. You felt them. You became them.

As a reader, I love that. Isn’t that one of the biggest draws of books, stories? That we can escape into this world of ink and paper, and forget who we are, and let our world, our reality, fall away?

As writers, how do we create that?

I’ve been writing stories my entire life–meaningless stories. Stories where the plot drove the characters, not the other way around. A few years ago, I finally recognized this, and set out to create the perfect character.

I did my research, I read the articles and the books, I did the character sheets, and inspirations, and trait lists. I could tell you about the tattoo on their ankle, what their middle name was (and whether they hated it), and which side of the bed they slept on. I came up with quirks and flaws and strengths.

And what did I have? Paper.

I had filled them full of things meant to make them feel real, but they still felt flat, hollow. They were real, but they weren’t alive. Characters are not devices, or plot points, or vessels for your wit. Characters are people.

I am not discouraging anyone from studying the craft, and doing character exercises. They were critical in starting to learn who my characters were. It got me to stop thinking about them as characters, and start thinking of them as people. That, I think, is when they started to take shape on their own.

I stopped worrying about adjectives and quirks and fears. I stopped seeing them as words, and started seeing them as people. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but something shifted. First, it was Falcon. I could see her reacting, to every situation I was faced with. I could feel how she would, what she would think, what she would do, right in that moment. Sometimes she even reacted to me. All of the sudden, it was like there was this person inside my head.

I know, that sounds absolutely crazy. Like, I should be checking myself into a mental hospital crazy.

But I’m completely serious. That was the moment she became real, and my story came alive. She was the first of many voices (some of which you’ve seen glimpses of, in snippets or yesterday’s character hop). They peeled themselves up off the page and started talking and walking, and erasing things and rewriting their own story. Sometimes, when I’m writing, it’s like my hands are not my own. I can go in with one intention, and end up with something completely different.

I’m discovering this all over again while writing Nightfire. I started with literal, flat concepts of characters–a wild, fur-wearing girl with beads in her hair, a monstrous bear-wolf hybrid with humanly amber eyes, a skilled hunter with a shaved head and criss-crossed swords at his back. I started with the concepts, and as I wrote, they started to emerge. The hunter boy wasn’t cold and calculated–he was skilled, but also surprisingly soft, and loved to talk whether anyone listened or not. And though they’re still not entirely whole, I’m discovering more of them everyday. It’s kind of exciting, like getting to know a new friend, or even falling in love, bit by bit.

Maybe I’m taking this too literally. But it frustrates and even saddens me when I see so many writers in the blog-o-sphere so caught up in technique and development and word count, that they forget the story. Not the plot, the story. The one our characters are screaming at us, we’re just too blinded by ourselves to listen. I’m not trying to preach this, or say that my method is better, or anything. Maybe it’s not, for you. Maybe you haven’t really tried.

I realize there’s no way to guarantee this will happen. There’s no magic spell or incantation or rain dance to make them come alive (what do you think I am, crazy?) Don’t be worried if it doesn’t happen. It didn’t happen for me, for years–most of the time that I’ve been writing. But we have to stop being so caught up in ourselves, that we don’t see our characters right in front of us. We have to stop worrying about how to make them unique or interesting or whether they would really do that, and just let go. You have to give them room to grow.

Even when I set out to create the perfect character, I didn’t realize they were already there, in my own writing. I just had to get to know them. Spend time with them, feel them, laugh and cry and talk with them. The same way you get to know a person, sit down and get to know your characters. Because they really are people, just made of ink and paper instead of flesh and blood.

Make friends with the voices in your head. You’ll thank me, I promise. 😉