Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fell Off The Horse

It is the 29th of November; I have today and tomorrow to finish my novel of 50,000 words. I am currently at 37,140. It is a decent amount written this month, but it will be a true grind to get the remaining 12,860 written. It's not an impossible task, though. I just need to write 6400+ words today and again tomorrow. I've written one shots that long before. I've written that much in one day before. Not THIS year, but I've done it.

It will be a challenge, that's for sure, but not an impossible task. Shame I don't count my blog posts as "words written." Yeah, it's cheating a bit if I did, because they aren't words towards my novel. Still, this post alone is 1729 words; which is over 100 words more than a day's normal Target Word Count.

It just bums me out that I'm so far behind, because Hubby took vacation time this week, and this is my only day off with him. Instead of spending it enjoying the day together, or getting errands done, or even cleaning the house, I'll be hiding in my room writing.

I had hoped to catch up at least a LITTLE last night so this last-minute crunch didn't seem so daunting. However, apparently the drain of the weekend was a bit more than I thought. As soon as I secluded myself in my bedroom to write, I typed up about 500 words, and then promptly passed out.

Poor Husband. He stayed out in the living room to try to not disturb me; patiently waiting for me to emerge and let him know I was calling it quits for the night, and that we could go to bed. He ended up passing out on the couch, and it wasn't until 3am did he decide to venture into the bedroom. Since neither of us had work today, he assumed I was downing coffee and grinding out words for the last five hours.

Nope. I was snoring away that whole time. Poor thing.

I did manage to get SOME writing done over the Thanksgiving weekend, though. The Saturday of our get-together, I managed to knock out over 2300 words, which kept me on track for my normal "two days off" word goals. Sadly, I had already missed three days, and I didn't write anything on Sunday. Four off; three on; and not hitting 2000 words most of those days. This week I did indeed fall way behind. I was doing so well this year, too.

I was on top of things week one. I began to slip in week two, but I managed to play catch-up, and was only a couple thousand words behind. And then this past week just killed me. I don't even have the "Oh, I was super depressed" excuse this time. It was just poor time management. November is just too chaotic, and instead of saying "NaNo; sorry, I can't hang out" I instead was like "Eh, I can catch up on writing later; let's do the thing." Dumb move.

I'm the closest to winning that I've ever been, and I haven't given up hope yet, but this will be an annoying final two days. I'll know better for next year, though. I really DO need to keep my writing time fiercely protected. I also will make sure to have the book play out in "real time," so to speak.

See, most books take place over the course of a few hours, or a few days. Some will take place over the course of a few months where the time jump happens between chapters. There are rare books that try to cover multiple years, and when they do, there's usually a consistency with it. The male and female protagonists meet up every summer. The main characters go back to school every September. The protagonist hits another growth milestone: walking; talking; school; first love; etc.

Jolene's story is similar to that last example, but a lot more chaotic. For the stories that cross over large passages of time - such as a memoir - each chapter is typically one major event before jumping to the next major event. This chapter is about a birthday. That chapter is about the wedding day. The next chapter is about letting the parents know she's pregnant. So on and so forth. Well, Jolene's story is about each of her boyfriends. I was going to have a boyfriend per chapter, but then I realized that a single chapter couldn't really cover months-long relationships from introduction, through the romantic gestures that got them to fall in love, to the chaos going on in the guy's head, to their inevitable break up. There is just too much to tell in just one chapter. Plus, there's too much time to cover. If I were to keep it as one chapter each, there would be about a dozen time-jump breaks through each chapter. I'm not a fan of that.

So, instead, I ended up writing multiple tiny chapters per beau. When I say "tiny" I mean they all average about 1900 words. On a typical 8.5x11" paper, 11pt font, these chapters are about two or three pages long. Upon the rework, I feel like I want to find a way to combine them into their own chapters, but I still don't know how to do so without either twenty time jumps, or really broadly showing each relationship.

As of right now, I give a quick recap of what advanced in the relationship since the close of the last chapter, and then I drop into a specific moment. I show them interacting and talking with each other. I go from fast forwarding through the mundane, to stopping at a specific moment to showcase their relationship. I then fast forward again.

To cut back on the time jumps, I'd have to not showcase these moments. It would simply be: this is how they were introduced; this is the nature of their relationship; this is when she realized she loved him; this is when he told her that he loved her; this is the moment he broke her heart. End of chapter; next beau! There really wouldn't be much dialogue and "show vs tell" except for the beginning and ending of each chapter. Showcase how they met. Give broad "telling" of the relationship as a whole, and hope the reader connects with the guy the way Jolene does; understands why she likes him so much. Then I can do another showcase for the reader to see their break up.

Now isn't the time to think about that, though. Now is the time to just get the story down on paper - as it were - and once I'm done writing everything leading up to Rensin, I'll stop. I'm fairly certain my readers would want to know how her love life story ends, but I don't have a conclusion. Also, I'm respecting Rensin's wishes - the player - in not including Rensin - the character - in any fanfiction. So, her story will stop upon the morning she's informed that a ship is about to crash land at Guthram. From there I'll set it aside; maybe read it at group to get insight on where to start with edits. Then I'll attack it again.

Getting to the editing phase will probably be later than my original January thought. Considering I'm still not done writing about Jolene's fifth main love: Searl. Once I have him kick her to the curb I still have close to four years of her life to cover.

She still needs to join a brothel, learn to become a prostitute, suffer there enough to get out of the brothel, and work solo until Bannerman Marcus sleeps with her and nearly kills her. Then it's off to the Thieves Guild to learn how to better protect herself. She's there a year learning a new trade while sleeping with Sandy, and the complicated relationship they had while she still prostituted and slept with the guild leader Pezer. Once she leaves the guild there's a huge blank space in her timeline where it's just generic "She prostitutes herself out, and then steals from her Johns before skipping town, and doing the same in the next village." She begins getting called the "Golden Succubus." Tragedy again strikes Jolene, which leads her to her first female "relation" while drunk in a bar with a pirate friend who is a repeat customer of Jolene's. Then she meets Orick, who falls madly in love with her, but she no longer believes that anyone COULD love her, so she skips town without giving Orick a second thought; he becomes a stalker of hers. Jolene winds up in a major city state, and ends up seducing the closing bartender and barmaid in order to steal the full night's till. That was when she noticed the wanted posters of herself going up, and heads to Guthram. I then need to write about her short experience while in the "Thief Port" for about a week leading into my conclusion: the serpent-wrecked merchant ship carrying Rensin crashing into Guthram's port.

I am NOT going to get all that done in the next two days. The story will probably push 100,000 words when all is said and done. This was a much larger undertaking than I thought when I tried to conquer it.

So, I will write my little heart out to try to make it to 50,000 before midnight tomorrow. Then I'll probably calm down to only a couple nights a week of writing. I might finish Jolene's epic by February. Then I'll take a month off to let it process. Then back at it in April; if I don't try to again take on Script Frenzy with this new Plantser process. I might have the second draft ready for Shadow to read come summer. I wonder if he can hold out that long.

Life would be so much easier if I could get back into writing at work. Silly store actually getting customers; or the chain manager hanging around....

Oh well, you need to work with what you've got. And right now I've got a little less than two more hours before this blog is supposed to go live, so I'm going to try to use them to up that word count!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Giving Thanks

OK, so... um.... yeeeeeaaaaaahhhh.... about last week.....

So, I allow myself to go ahead and be all emo and vent-y in this blog for three reasons. First, because my mood does greatly effect my writing, and as a writing blog I feel it is only fair to explain this issue to my readers. Second is because I feel it's important for me to see the times that I was down, and remember that I bounced back. To see that with each passing year my "Why am I bothering" posts get less and less. Perhaps one year I'll actually make it through all twelve months without feeling lost; at least, in regards to writing. Finally, I write those posts on the off chance that someone else feeling just as low and worthless stumbles upon my blog. Upon reading my rock-bottom moments, maybe they will feel like they're not alone anymore. Someone else has been in the same place they are. They aren't a freak. Others go through the same thing. And each following week I usually feel better. So, maybe said hypothetical reader will see it as hope.

Thus I keep in emo posts that apparently freak people out, and then I subsequently get about four different IMs from people asking me if I'm OK.

Um.... whoops.....

I appreciate the love, though.

So, that, plus the fact that American Thanksgiving is this Thursday, leads me to start this post with some positive vibes: 30 things I'm grateful for; Writing Edition.

  1. I've discovered that writing is my passion, and I did so early in life.
  2. As much as I whine about not being good compared to others, if I were to look fairly objectively at my work, my first drafts are actually really good compared to most. I just need to do a few structural edits, tighten things up a scooch, and/or fix a handful of grammatical/typo errors; for the most part.
  3. Everyone I know gets that I'm a writer and cheers me on. I even have my co-workers thumbing over at me and stating "she's the writer..." People understand and accept that I'm as much a writer as I am a female, Caucasian, or 5'3". It just IS. I don't have a single nay-sayer surrounding me, and the only one I've ever really come across my whole life was my college creative writing professor. Apparently I'm beyond lucky with this lot; most of the people I talk to have friends, family, spouses, kids, and/or co-workers who don't understand the calling that is being a writer.
  4. Along those lines, my blog has increased to close to 50 reads every week, and 11 followers. I know this is pathetically small in the grand scheme of things, but considering I only had about 11 hits each week when I first started, it's an awesome improvement. Especially since this is a glorified diary, and not an informative blog like most are this day and age.
  5. The passion my mother has for my writing, even if I don't ever seem to write in the genres she enjoys to read; it's more stuff my dad would have loved. She's my biggest cheerleader - sorry, ChibiSunnie, but you can't surpass a mother's support! Even in weeks, such as this past one, where I feel like writing is a waste of time, she has relentless faith that my calling to write will get me somewhere. She is willing to do whatever it takes to push me there.
    As a side note, writing a list of things we're thankful for in November is her idea that she instilled in us since my sister and I were super little, so you can also thank her for this list!
  6. Proof of my mother doing whatever she can to help me succeed: her buying me MasterClass lessons. They are inspirational and informative. I still find myself referencing back to the James Patterson lessons. In fact, those lessons were the main reason why I'm a NaNo "Plantser" this year - "[finding] the sweet spot between plotting every detail and jumping in blind." I like to think I am so successful with NaNo this year because of that, and I wouldn't have thought to do so to the extent I have if it weren't for my mother getting me into that MasterClass. At least, I wouldn't figure it out on my own so quickly.
  7. I have an awesome writing group that I can go to every other Tuesday; and today is one of those Tuesdays! Everyone is super supportive, and I've made some friends there that I enjoy seeing every meeting; as well as chatting with via Facebook the rest of the time.
  8. She may still think that it's needless elevation of her, but I still consider Ali Luke a writing mentor of mine, and it's great that we're such good friends. I appreciate being able to connect with her, and having her cheer me on.
  9. While we've been slacking with the back and forth, Ali set me up with a really awesome writing pen-pal. We really do click, and we're supportive of each other. It's nice to have such a large supportive net surrounding me.
  10. While most of my Facebook posts and statuses seem to go unnoticed - simply due to the lack of reactions/comments I ever get - every single post I've made this month in regards to my NaNo progress has had "likes" and "loves" as well as words of encouragement. And not just from my mom, either.
  11. Even when I'm exhausted, I can manage to crank out at least a few-hundred words towards NaNo. It helps keep me from feeling like a slacker.
  12. I gave myself permission to miss up to two days each week by going with the "write only on weekdays" word count. Granted, I'm still behind by a little over 1200 words, but that's a heck of a lot better than I've done in the past.
  13. In past NaNo's I usually have already given up by this point in the month. I'm basically insanely behind in word count, or I lost track of my story, or life just got in the way and I couldn't find any writing time; it was depressing. Which is why I didn't bother with it last year. But this year has been going amazingly, even if I am behind. I can still smile at the progress I've made, be proud, and press on knowing that if I get just ONE good day in, I can easily make up the words I'm behind.
  14. I have almost viciously loyal fans. Granted, they are only about five in number, but how many aspiring writers can say they even have one? If you are one of those fans, know that I love you and I'm beyond humbled by your undying love for my craft!
    Hacker Girl
    Facebook Sticker
    by Birdman Inc
  15. Ever since I started working at my new job in April, I've had tons of time to write and craft. It's fantastic to have a job that allows me the downtime to be creative so I am less stressed about having to fit it into my limited "outside of work" hours. It gives me the evenings to clean, snuggle with Hubby, and/or socialize. It really relieves the pressure of trying to shoehorn writing into my life; keeping it from feeling like a "chore."
  16. Even if Hubby and I haven't had much time together, if I tell him "OK, I didn't find time to write today, I have to hide away for an hour or two" he gives me a kiss, locks me away in the bedroom, and wishes me luck in finding inspiration. I know our alone time is precious, especially since it will nearly disappear once we start having kids, so it means a lot to me that he understands how important writing is to me, and is willing to sacrifice some of his time with me so I can do what I need to.
  17. Silly thing to be thankful for, especially since one could argue that it's made me lazy in my learning, but God bless whomever thought of the concept of a spellchecker, and added kudos to whomever thought to include it automatically online. I've always been an atrocious speller, and spell check has kept me from looking like an unintelligible idiot for years. A+, Spell Check.
  18. Aside from two slip ups this year - I believe it's only two, and fairly recently - I've been able to consistently write for this blog each week. It kept years, but I think I finally found a good rhythm and schedule. Now to figure out when the heck I'll actually be home on Tuesdays in order to coordinate my promoting of the blog at the same time it goes live.
  19. I've seen a lot of my friends hit hardships with their writing and more-or-less give up, even though you can tell that it pains them to do so. If this wasn't a passion for them they'd just be like, "yeah, I wasn't that good. It sucks, but I'll figure something else to do." However, you can hear the frustration in their voice that they just can't get the words and the story they're trying to tell out of their head. To these friends, I wish you the ability to figure it out, and a reminder that I'm around to talk to if it would help. However, they are also reminders to me of what could happen if I stayed in the mindset I had last week.
    So, this bit of thankfulness is dedicated to the fact that I can bounce back, and - aside from a near six-year hiatus after the discouragement from my aforementioned professor - I haven't given up writing for more than a few weeks.
  20. The shear fact that my friends have come to me with their writing concerns is also a big thing for me. In times that I feel useless and bottom of the barrel in regards to writing, it's nice to have others come to ME. They find me comforting and supportive enough to want to bring their problems to me, and occasionally they do so because they hope I can give them advice. It's nice to get these reminders that I can "pass it forward", in regards to mentoring and supporting other writers. It shows me that I have something that I can give back to the writing community; that I'm not just taking all the time. I have something of value that others wish to tap into. 
  21. Many blessings to YouTube, MP3 players, CDs, and music in general. If I'm not in the right "mindset" for a scene I need to write, I can just bring up a playlist I put together as a sort of "soundtrack" for the scene - or the character as a whole - and it brings me exactly to where I need to be in a song or two. Also, music keeps me productive. As I'm writing this post I have a whole playlist of 90s songs going in the background.
  22. While I may be running out of steam throughout the story - some parts awesome, some parts complete trash - I'm still so grateful that I am inspired enough by Jolene to be able to get the nearly 33,000 words that I already have. I'm not even half-way through her backstory yet! Talk about character epics!
  23. Along those lines, I am grateful that editing is a thing. I'm going to need to hit this story pretty hard-core come January; after a month of taking a writing breather and setting the story aside so I can come at it with fresh eyes.
  24. Even when I feel clueless on how to start a chapter, a scene, or this blog, I can generally just place my hands on the keyboard and work my way through. When I feel I have nothing to say, I can still fall into a groove, and end up with a great deal to tell. May I never take this ability for granted.
  25. The amazingness of my Wonder Twin, Ronoxym, and the fact that we've been chatting a heck of a lot more the past month or so. Apparently, my writing inspires him, and anyone who has read this blog long enough would know how much he inspires me. In most cases, we are on such the same wavelength that I can always go to him if I'm stuck with something. It's also so much fun to see what new Plot Bunny is hopping around in his head. Now, to try to get him to actually MATURE one of those suckers!
  26. I have to give a special shout-out to Shadow. He's been in love with Jolene pretty much as soon as she was introduced in-game. His passion for her, and his need to know her story, is what really helps drive me to keep going. Plus, his determination to not read my story - even though I shared it with him - until I tell him it is complete and edited, is really going to push me to not just toss this to the side once November is over. On top of all that, he digitally pokes me nearly daily to make sure I'm writing instead of wasting time on Facebook.
  27. I'm thankful for my new laptop. Yes, it still annoys me nearly daily, but I think that's because all computing devices got together one day and made a pact to never work properly for me. Still, about 95% of the time it works beautifully, and it's amazing how motivating it can be to have functioning equipment when trying to do something.... such as writing.
  28. I've been able to not just get reading in this year, but a LOT of reading in; at least, compared to past years. It's a part of writing that I've neglected under the assumption that "I should be writing my own story instead of wasting time reading stories others have written." So, I'm glad that I can get past that mental block and again enjoy good stories, while also mentally noting what I should do to improve my own.
  29. Fanfiction being a thing is amazing to me. The fact that people accept that others want to continue an already established story just might be my bread and butter someday. I may use it as a crutch to avoid doing the work of creating an original world - or original characters in some cases - but it keeps me writing. Those times I try to be original and it results in me pulling out my hair, I can fall back on fanfiction writing to keep me from hiding in my emo corner. I can use my imagination to try to think of new situations or scenes not explicitly seen, and go to town. Keep my skills sharp. Keep me from getting too down on myself. Keep me writing even when I think I can't do this properly. Keep me posting things for others to read, and then, presumably encourage me to keep going. Fanfiction keeps me positive, active, and pressing forward. Three cheers for this genre!
  30. You guys! My readers! I will always write because it is who I am, but the validation I get by having people read my work is unquantifiable. Seeing people respond to my writing, seeing my blog hit-counter go up, seeing my followers expand, it all energizes me and encourages me. It holds me accountable. If I was just writing for me, who knows if I'd post here every week? Who knows if I'd try so hard to get stories written and completed? Who knows if I'd bother to attempt writing challenges? Who knows if I'd try to expand and improve? All of this. All this growth. All this determination. All this dedication and discipline. All of this is because of you, dear readers, so super THANK YOU to each and every one of you!
    Facebook Sticker
    by PRANEAT
Whoo! That was an exercise! Now, to try to remember all of those points in the future so I don't get as bummed out anymore.

As for my NaNo progress, well, I am 1200 words behind where I SHOULD be, as I mentioned above. However, that still has me at nearly 33,000 words, which is more than I've ever written for NaNo before. Most I've ever written in one month. All of my stories with more than 30,000 words have been written over the course of months; even years.

The best part is that while there are definitely parts of this story that I want to skip over because they just aren't entertaining for me - so I can only imagine how boring they can be for the reader - I'm not burnt out. Not like I thought I would be.

Writing has become a daily routine; as it should have been ages ago. Even if I write 500-words; that is still SOMETHING to bring me forward. It's still 500 more words than I would have had if I just went "meh; don't feel like it today." I'm FINALLY making writing an equal priority. Plus, hiding away for about an hour isn't that bad right now, while I have limited other responsibilities.

Will I be writing 1600 words every day once NaNo is over? Probably not, but I do think I'll be in enough of a habit to keep pushing forward with daily.... SOMETHING writing related. Which is the main point of NaNo: get yourself into a writing habit. "Winning" NaNo with a 50,000-word novel once the month is done is just frosting.

Also, the more I work on Jolene's story, and the more the D&D sessions take Jolene and Rensin in the opposite direction I thought they'd go in, the more I want to work on Gyateara, and working on Amara's story finally. I have to admit that the similarities between Amara and Corlmitz has helped bring the poor girl back to the forefront, after being hidden in the corner by my X-Future girls.

I have so many stories that I want to tell, and I want to complete. I have this drive now that I haven't really felt before. I have this determination. It is invigorating!

The rest of 2016 may have been a disaster-and-a-half, but for writing - and my ability to get out of working in the local grocery store - this year has actually been quite awesome!

Here's to pushing forward, keeping this passion and discipline, avoiding the "woe is me" pit-traps, and having an even better 2017!

For my fellow Americans, happy Thanksgiving. And for everyone, I'll catch ya next week with my last drive to hit 50,000 words before the close of the month.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Climbing Out of a Little Depression; Don't Mind Me

I feel like I need to start off with the elephant in the room: Donald Trump is the United States' president-elect.

Now, I won't get into the politics of this and the social effects this has. That's not what this blog is for. What I will say is that regardless which side you were on with this election, this week was emotionally draining, and a bit of a shock.

So, I was already in a daze from the election. That Wednesday evening I was hoping for some much-needed distraction. Due to their move and lack of internet, Bear had to cancel two games, so he had one of the "make up" sessions last Wednesday. During said session Rensin - and Dunina - was frozen in stone by a basilisk gaze. So.... still emotionally charged.

I was itching to write Jolene's entry on this, but the characters weren't in a good resting spot, so it didn't make in-game sense for her to journal about it. I'm waiting until the "dungeon" is cleared before I post my next journal, but boy howdy will it be long!

At least two others couldn't wait, but I'll get to that in a bit.

This week for NaNo, I was writing about Jolene's third love: Parvil Kiv.
Addison by CrystalCurtisArt
Commissioned by WindyAutumnMoon for her character
It occurs to me that I don't think I shared the images I found for each of Jolene's loves, so I'll backtrack real quick before continuing on.

First up is the first - and strongest - love of Jolene's life. She's loved others since him, and Rensin is super close to being on par with the love she had for him, but this is the ruler others are measured against: Jacob Highwin.
How I picture Jacob dressed up
and while working the forge
Yvad Trevelyan - Skyhold Outfit by Slugette
Imagine Jacob with honey-brown eyes
instead of these purple ones
Yvad Trevelyan by Slugette
The last gentleman I'm going to share this week is Jolene's second love Teo Apenell. There's actually a really awesome scene that I wrote between him and Jacob. Poor sap didn't realize he'd hurt Jolene almost as much.
Image found via Pintrest
Original source unknown
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I was writing about Parvil this week. Sadly, I don't really have much on Parvil. His relationship with Jolene was basically "rebound boy after being heart broken over Teo," and he was more into a physical relationship than an emotional one. He was the "rebel" she was with for a brief stint. Good for backstory purposes, but now that I have to write out the actual relationship, I've got nothing. I'm running on empty.

I wrote the chapter that introduced him, but I just can't write the next one. I've been chipping away at it a few-hundred words at a time, but I really should have had this finished by Thursday at the latest.

Proof that planning really DOES help with writing momentum. I had so much figured out for Jacob, and he ended up sticking around for four chapters. Then I had a nice chunk of information figured out for Teo, and he was another three-chapter character. Now that I'm Pantsing the part I'm writing about Parvil, I'm slugging along.

It also doesn't help that I know this chapter is most likely the one where Jolene finds Parvil with the lusty barmaid. It's already an emotionally charged week; I just can't mentally put myself there without sobbing and curling in the corner to weep. It actually already happened this week.

See, along with the emotionally draining election, and the emotionally charged game where Rensin got frozen in stone, there were at least two other things that got me really emotionally raw this week.

While part of me doesn't want anyone to see my unedited work - which is why I'm not posting it here - I still kind of want input. So, since I was going to convert the edited version into the canonical back story for Jolene anyway, I decided to share my progress on the forum Mouse made for the game.

I warned people that it was raw and unedited. Not a problem. I then posted the link to the Google Doc I'm constantly updating. Still good to go. Theeeeeen I noticed that Rensin responded to my link.

Seems he was burnt, bad, by a fanfiction writer before. To the point where he cannot stand fanfiction or fanfiction writers. It felt like he thought them downright deplorable. This stung. This drove a knife right to my core.

Everything I had told myself over the past years - all my writing doubt - it came erupting to the surface. The thoughts that I'm not an actual writer because I need the crutch of someone else doing the work of world-building and/or character building. The hate that I'm incapable of doing something original. The slacker attitude that I was doing FANFICTION for NaNo while there are thousand others "doing it correctly" by writing something completely original this month.

It was like my inner editor and writing doubts were given a mouthpiece, and it was someone I respected for his writing; someone I wanted to better befriend. Instead, I now shrink away from him. I feel just completely unworthy, and almost fear meeting him outside of the game setting. It.... it was bad. I couldn't think about my story for a day or two. I just kept thinking that he was right, that I was deplorable for writing this fanfic instead of trying to do something myself.

Mouse came to my rescue. She told Rensin that it was fine; that she and Bear knew me and trusted me; trusted my writing. She then cheered me on.

Still, the wound was there, and her standing up for me - and Rensin's subsequent "Oh, okay then" - couldn't stitch it closed. I tried to ignore it. I tried to let it be, but every time I logged onto the board and I saw Rensin's name as "last poster" on my NaNo thread I hurt. So, against my better judgement, I explained my hurt to him. I tried to be diplomatic about it: This is how you hurt me, please think stuff like that through before you attack someone next time. However, I was still emotionally raw from everything else this week, so I guess it came across as me being the one doing the attacking. So, Mouse again stepped in by telling us to be civil.

CIVIL!? I didn't realize I was being hostile. If anything HE was the hostile party, and yet she asked for us to be civil after I posted. That cut me harder; realizing how misunderstood I was.

I guess now I understand how Jolene could be misunderstood in-game. If I couldn't explain myself without people feeling attacked, how could she? No wonder arguments seemed to pop up out of nowhere around her. No wonder her calming, carefully chosen words meant to show concern were always seen as harsh and criticizing.

Again, I sunk further into my writing funk. If I couldn't properly explain or present myself in writing when it comes to my own conversation, how could I possibly do it in my fiction? If my simple words could be so misinterpreted how could I properly tell a story to another?

That inner editor that was supposed to be locked away this month busted out of his cage and was roaring around me about how inadequate I was. I'd read what Rensin wrote on the board in the Myths or Journal sections. I'd read what Corlmitz wrote in his journal, backstory, or Legends section. I'd read what Mouse would put in Mahtab's journal or more world-build info about the various religions. I got emotional. They all provoked such strong emotions in me: anger, fear, sadness, joy, etc. And I watch people react to these posts stating just that.

Then there are my posts: Jolene's posts. Nothing. I'm not even sure others read them. No one ever comments. I am amazed by the writing the others do, and I feel so subpar. It took everything I had to push through. To keep going. To just write this week, even when every ounce of me told me to quit; it wasn't worth it; no one cares; I enrage people with my effort.

If that wasn't bad enough, we then had game on Saturday. We had continued through the "dungeon" - it's a set of sewers under the city they were in - but we're not quite done with it yet. Hopefully, we'll complete it tonight.

Anyway, Jolene is already on edge from Rensin being turned to stone, but he's back to flesh, so she's kind of elated at the same time. Then they came up against a vicious monster. It should have been challenging, but a lot easier for us to take down. Sadly, the dice were not with us that night, and we all rolled far too low to do anything more often than not. This resulted in Rensin and Dunina again nearly kicking the bucket.

Mahtab was able to get them both to full-health - or close to it - easily enough, but she admitted that she probably wouldn't be able to do much more healing that day. That's when Jolene innocently suggested that they retreat, regroup, let Mahtab rest, and possibly get other means to heal so they didn't need to rely on her as much.

Mahtab wasn't hearing it. According to her, she never retreats. Then she basically told Jolene to hide in the back if she wasn't brave/strong enough to fight. That stung. Jolene announced that she was pretty much the only one who came out of the fight unscathed and that she was more worried about them than herself. Frustrated that she again got misunderstood and ridiculed, she stormed ahead. If they wanted to march to their deaths she was done trying to stop them.

That was when the shit hit the fan. Rensin called out for her to "go home" since he couldn't handle her whining and fighting all the time. Jolene argued back that her fighting all the time was to protect HIM since she had to watch him nearly die THREE TIMES within the past week. She couldn't handle it because she loved him. It was the first time she admitted - even to herself - that she loved him.

In truth, I didn't expect Rensin to scoop her up and start a make-out session, overjoyed by her confession; they'd been through too much and she cut him too deep for that. I did, however, expect him to at least sigh and state something to the effect of "about time you admitted it." Or for SOMEONE to state something to that effect. It was obvious to everyone but her that she was madly in love with him. "About time you admit it" and then a "but we have to do what we have to do; we'll discuss this further later." That was more-or-less the reaction I was expecting.

Instead, Rensin swung from left field. He blurted out that he was sick of hearing Jolene focus so much on herself and how what the party does - whether or not they survive - effects HER. He then accused her for not understanding him. That's when he dropped the bomb that he re-evaluated his feelings and realized what he felt wasn't love; never was, and never could be.

Well, I was right there sobbing beside Jolene. And not a single party member tried to comfort her or reprimand Rensin for his harshness. They all stood there, more-or-less releasing a sigh of relief that the volatile relationship finally came to a close. The only one who reacted was Corlmitz, but even THAT was unexpected. He went off on BOTH of them for acting like children and finding the most inappropriate times to hash out their doomed courtship.

The night kind of spiraled from there.

First, there was the emotionally draining election. Quickly followed by an emotionally charged D&D session. That was followed by Real-World Rensin's criticism about me writing fanfiction for NaNo. Which, compacted with how I view everyone else on the board and how I'm sort of the outsider of the group, just tore the dreaded Inner Editor out of my head and plopped him right in front of me to try to battle. I saw myself the way Jolene sees herself within her group: an outsider always misunderstood as selfish and uncaring; disconnected. Then there was character Rensin's random outburst to implode his relationship with Jolene, followed by even more ridicule from Corlmitz. Again, I felt like I WAS Jolene. Was Rensin's harsh breaking off of the relationship somehow emotionally backed by me and Real-World Rensin butting heads about my story? Finally, I have to break poor Jolene's heart a second time by writing her finding Parvil in the arms of another.

I couldn't do it! I couldn't keep working on my story this week. There was just too much. I was just too depressed. I had to climb out of that hole before I was lost to despair.

So I switched over to "Some Like It Flame Broiled."

Can't handle a break-up scene due to crushing depression? Switch over to a smut story filled with violence!

I finally finished it, but I have to also admit that once the foreplay was done the story kind of died off. Apparently I'm great at foreplay, but the actual sex scenes and post-sex fight scene? Meh.

I sent it over to Ronoxym while playfully yelling at him for it. I needed a happy place to hide from Jolene for a while, and apparently that "happy place" was a smut story between Trish and Dark Devon.

Ron got a nice chuckle out of it and we playfully teased each other over the weekend as I kept using SLIFB as my "safe space" to further avoid Jolene and the depression that came with her. However, after I sent the story over to Ron, he agreed with me: about 65% through the story it just kind of died off.

However, with just a quick read through my 13-pg story, that was his only criticism thus far. He even pointed out a line that was perfectly in-character for Dark Devon, and it was during the "meh" part of the story. So... win? I was so concerned that I wasn't going to keep Dark Devon in-character, especially after everything about fanfiction writing this week.

Ron still needs to give it a better read to actually put his Editor's Hat on, but the fact that there weren't parts that he instantly stated as "he's out of character" gives me hope. He joked that he'd help me figure out why the story went sideways at the end. "Together we shall save this smut!" HAHA.

Um, thanks, Ron. I'd really like to have something that is strong all the way through, but at the same time.... all this effort on a story that will most likely never see the light of day....

I also used my depression a bit this week. I did write up Jolene's journal entry while the emotions were still raw. I just have it saved to add to and edit depending on how the rest of the dungeon goes. I'll then post once I'm done.

I've also started writing Jolene's farewell letters to everyone. An individual letter for each party member. I have Mahtab's, Rensin's - which he can't read himself yet...., Corlmitz's, and Dunina's written already. And they are LONG! Sorry, players!

So, I have written a LOT this week. More-or-less 1227 words in SLIFB, 1360 words for Jolene's journal, and 2897 words for the farewells written thus far. Add in the words that I did write, and the fact that I'm scheduling myself Saturdays and Sundays off, and I'd be ahead of the overall word count I should have been at, instead of about 8,000 words behind. I wish I could count it....

Before I get even more depressed with tonight's game, I'll have to push past Parvil's break-up scene. Maybe if I get to the point where I'm writing happy thoughts again - like the start of Jolene's relationships when they believe they're in love - I can push through. I can write.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hitting Ten-K!

I started off really well this month. In fact, I started off awesomely! And then, as per usual with me, I took a nose-dive. I'm hoping to pick up the pieces fast enough, though.

First of all, today is a very important day in history for the good ol' USA.
Also known as "Holy Crow! We're boned!" day...
I'm not going to get into my political views on this, but I did want to mention that this is a BIG DEAL this year. Bigger than most, or maybe even all, of the past elections. So, if you are reading this on Tuesday, and you live in the US, and you are registered to vote, but haven't yet, get out there!

It's also a big month due to NaNo. If you're joining me with NaNo, and want to include me as a buddy, I'm LycoRogue over there too. Just drop me a line to let me know who you are - a reader/friend/whomever - when you ask me to friend you.

I had found a really awesome NaNo-themed calendar last week while looking for my graphic to show off this year's NaNo theme. In fact, I found a lot of really awesome calendars. Go ahead, google them if you haven't tried it yet! Anyway, the reason I like this calendar in particular is that it has such a great visual aid for keeping track of how many words you've written thus far, it has little reminders such as "back up your story" and "quarter of the way done", and it also has a breakdown if you don't want to write every day. That's my favorite part.
Calendar by Dave Seah: Investigative Designer
You can find more productivity calendars like this here.
See, I never really thought before about the possibility of eliminating just two days, writing the remaining five, and then reconfiguring my daily word goal numbers. I don't know why; I just never did. I always figured out what my weekly goal was, how up or down I was based on daily count vs daily goal, and then played hectic catch-up on the weekends.

Well, I don't really HAVE weekends any longer, and the above calendar accounts for that! Dave counted up all those green-colored weekdays, and he divided 50,000 by them, and ended up with a new word count of roughly 2272 words every weekday. That gives me the weekends to join in on my D&D sessions, drop Hubby off at work, work myself, watch football, and generally try to catch up on sleep. All without the guilt or stress of not writing.

Weekends are my "down days" where I can work and get ahead if I wish, but I don't feel OBLIGATED to. It's really helping on my writing stress levels, as well as keeping my motivation high. I'm not falling into the same writing funk I have in the past as I stressed out about dropping the ball, or going a day without writing.

Best part is that I already DID drop the ball - November is SUPER hectic for me! - but I just chose a weekend day to play catch-up with. Just flipped my days off to pick up the slack. According to where I should be based on the above calendar, I ended the week about 1000 words over where I should have been.

Tuesday was the start of NaNo, and I was avoiding it all day. I never know how to start: with this blog, when I'm telling a story verbally, when I'm writing a story; those opening lines always snag me up. I usually stumble in chaotically, find my footing, and become a much more elegant storyteller about two or three paragraphs in.

Sure, it's a rough draft, and in NaNo no less, so I shouldn't have worried so much. It's supposed to be crappy the first go! Don't dwell on the proper wording or sentence structure; worry about getting the tale out of your head!

Well... easier said than done. So, there I was, late at night, trying to figure out how to start. I put in my headphones. I played the Jolene playlist I created slowly since the start of the gaming sessions. A new song is added roughly every game to best personify her feelings about that game's events, as well as her past. Anyway, I played the playlist to get myself in the mood, and it worked beautifully. I dove into the zone. I came out at about 1700 words; daily word goal if you're going for all 30 days is 1667. I was proud of my accomplishment, until I noticed the five-days-a-week option listed on the calendar.

I could ignore Saturdays and Sundays: the days I would struggle to write anything at all if I didn't write at work. This was a golden opportunity that I should have always known about, but I needed someone else to show me. It's like that quaint restaurant you drive by on your commute to and from work, the one you never notice as you drive by it, even if you've done so hundreds of times. Then your buddy takes you to it, and you go "Wow! I never realized this was here!" Yeah, this ah-ha moment about five days a week was like that.

It was only about 500 more words than what I already had thus far, I could do that. And I did. I actually wrote another 600 words, just about. I checked my count again once I surpassed 2300 words, but I had so few left to go to finish off the chapter. So I did. I finished my first day of NaNo - a task I was avoiding all day - with a completed first chapter I enjoy, as well as over 2500 words for the first day.

Day number two wasn't nearly as successful with all the running around I had to do, but I still had about 1500 words, if you count the excess I had the day before, I was still well on par with writing 1667 words every day.

Day three I actually had off, so I could join in on the NaNoWriMo write-ins at the library that my writing group organized. We do writing "sprints" while there. I'm sure I explained this before, but to go over it again.

A writing sprint is when you set a timer for a short period of time; five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen, twenty, etc. You then make sure to block out all distractions - no emails, no facebook or other time-suck webpages, no texting, no messenger, no communication with others around you, no TV pulling at your attention, no researching - it's just you and your writing for that brief moment you set your timer for. Then you write. That's all you do. You laser focus on writing, and push to not stop at all during that timed session. You don't pause to figure out the perfect phrasing or the perfect word. You don't hit the delete or back button in order to edit the same sentence multiple times. You just write; however crappy it turns out; just write. You can edit later. Once the bell goes off, you may THEN go back and edit, if you have the free time to do so before the world beckons again.

Well, in our write-ins, we do twenty-minute sprints. Then we have twenty minutes of discussion: how is everyone doing, what are their stories about, where are they stuck, do they need help with anything? That sort of stuff. Some people like to read what they wrote; most did not.

Once the buzzer goes off again, we stop our conversation dead - one poor woman was stopped mid-sentence - and we go back to writing for twenty minutes. Rinse and repeat. It was particularly helpful for me; to have those three hours to dedicate to writing, but to have those breaks to talk so it didn't seem so daunting to write for a solid 180minutes. Even if you just grouped together our writing sprints, that would still normally be over an hour and a half of straight writing. I mean, I've done it. I typically write in large chunks like that. But spreading it out over three hours with people I could talk to really energized me.

Hearing people ask me questions I needed to figure out. Having them wonder what would happen next to Jolene. Hearing how they felt about my general description of my characters, and getting feedback that let me know how to better make them well-rounded. And the ability to plug in my earphones and listen to the Jolene playlist during each sprint. It all energized me!

I didn't write as much as I did on day one, but I was close. I was over 2400 words. I was still technically three-hundred words behind where I should have been with the weekday writing goals, but that is easy enough to catch up with. That's like two or three paragraphs.

Then on Friday my writing came to its first crashing halt. I wasn't feeling well. I had customers. My boss's boss was in the store, so I couldn't use work down time to write. I got maybe eight words down before I had to stop. I then stayed late at work to finish up with a customer who didn't even buy. I raced home to get changed before heading out for a friend's birthday party. I nearly got lost on the way to said party. Stayed fairly late. Got home around midnight. Crashed.

Saturday I tried to make up for it. I did manage to get about 1300 words down at work, but then I crashed once I got home. Bear and Mouse still didn't have internet after moving back up north, so D&D was cancelled. I tried to add to my word count, but I was feeling so melancholy that I just snuggled Hubby on the couch, watched some movies on Netflix - the original definition of Netflix and Chill - and I installed a whole bunch of my computer games onto my laptop finally.

Sunday was my true catch-up day. I had it off. Hubby asked for it off to recover from a very active weekend for him. We had the extra hour due to daylight savings still being a thing for some reason. So, before football started, and then during games that weren't particularly entertaining for me, I wrote. It was a slow, chip-away process all day. My head was still in a haze from my illness from Friday. I was not feeling the writing of this fourth and fifth chapter of my story. Still, I wrote. I reminded myself that I'm just getting the basics down. I'll fix it later.

In the end, I walked away with another 2300 words down. Not where I wanted to be, but more than made up for the missed and under-written days this past week. It also got me to the 10,000 word total goal. Then I realized, that was the goal if I had written 1667 every day. My 2272 word goal was just for Tuesday through Friday - the week days - and so my goal before the start of Monday was only about 9000 words! I was about 1100 words up from where I was supposed to be!

So, I not only kept par with the daily writing goals, but I managed to surpass my weekday writing goals. Not too shabby for my first week. I might actually make it this year! I just need to stay focused.

Posting my word count every day on Facebook helps. It holds me accountable, because I want to share a good number with everyone. Having people like the status, as well as send me their praises on a job well done, has really helped me keep my writing self-esteem up, as well as my overall morale.

Being a "Plantser" - as NaNo describes it - has been a huge help as well.

Generally, I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" - or a "pantser" - kind of writer. In the past, I've called it "channeling" or "medium" writing. It's like I don't come up with the stories. It's like I just mentally zone in on a person or event that is happening in a parallel universe, and I'm just transcribing what I see/hear. These truly are my characters' stories, and I'm just the medium used to relay them over to you fine folks.

There is no planning. You just figure out an inciting situation, and then give the characters free reign on getting from point A to point F.

It's fun, and I feel like people really enjoy my characterization when I write like that, but it doesn't get anything completed. I tend to lose sight of where everyone is going, or I lose characters that are crucial to the story.

The other main category of writer is typically known as a "Planner;" in the past, I've called them "director" type writers. These are the ones that have a strict guideline before committing anything to paper. Their characters have no free reign. They are given exact directions, and a completed script. If something doesn't work, this writer goes back to the drawing board and tweaks before moving on. These are the types of writers that tend to spend most of the writing in the pre-production stage, and barely need to do much editing once all is said and done.

This is the kind of writer I SHOULD aspire to. It would allow me to actually complete my stories, and do so in a fairly quick manner. It doesn't work for me, though. It feels like it takes the creativity out of the story. Plus, my characters don't feel as fleshed out if I'm forcing them to fit the mold I created for them, instead of letting their real-life qualities unfold before me; just like with any actual person.

So, I've snuggled into the gray space between "Pantser" and "Planner": the "Plantser."

By NaNo's definition, these are the people who create a basic plan of where they want to go, and how they want to get there, but still let the characters take the lead. If they meander, the Plantser writer gently brings them back to focus.

In truth, I guess I've always been a plantser. I've always had a basic skeleton of my stories and where I want them to go. It's rare that I'm a true Pantser in my writing.

It's just, I've never been SO detailed in my outline. I have the basic highlights of Jolene's life, especially within each relationship. I know how long each relationship lasted, how long before she got over it, and how she met/fell for the next person. It's been working out wonderfully.

So, there you have it. I'm a Plantser, but I need to be a bit more heavily sided on the Planner half in order for me to work the most diligently.

I have another hour-long write-in tonight leading into my writing group. I also have a few things to read now - about 10,000 words worth - so it will be a fun session tonight, I think.

Now, to just ignore Facebook and the backlash of whichever side of the election lost after today....

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Kicking Off NaNo!

That's right! It's that time of year again! The month where I get excited about trying to write a 50,000-word novel for about a week, and then spend the rest of the month whining about how far behind I am....

Again, real quick for anyone not familiar with NaNo; the concept is to start writing a 50,000-word novel on November 1st, and complete it by November 30th. If you manage the 50,000-word novel within 30 days, you are considered a National Novel Writing Month "Winner." There's no real prize aside from a neat icon on your NaNo profile pic and the ability to download/use "NaNo Winner" icons for your online presence. Mostly, "winning" NaNo is for the bragging rights, the pride of completing a novel in such strained circumstances, and the realization that you CAN write a novel. You might want to stretch it out over a couple of months to not stress out, and that way you have time to edit and polish, but if you can write 50,000 words in one month, you can easily do it in a season, or six months, or even once a year. This is your jumping point. This is your motivation. This is your chance to stop postponing, and finally BECOME that writer you always knew you were.

It's also a great time to test what works best for you: plan or fly by the seat of your pants, write in the morning or at night or sometime in between, write a few minutes daily or one lump chunk once or twice a week, secluded area or bustling coffee house, edit the last chapter before writing the next one or wait and edit all at once, etc. I do have to stress, though, that the nature of NaNo is one where editing is placed on the backburner. You just don't have the time to go back and edit while still making enough progress to complete in a month. Get the novel written during NaNo; then edit. There's even a mantra for NaNo: "Take my inner editor." Basically, asking to shut down the part of the writing brain that sees what's wrong with the work and wants to fix it before the work is complete.

Anyway, except for last year, I have tried NaNo every year since my first attempt in 2012. I have failed miserably each year. I think my first attempt I managed close to 25,000 words, and haven't gotten close since. Over the course of four NaNo attempts I STILL haven't hit 50,000 words; total, among all of my novels. It's a kind of depressing thought, but I'm still excited about tackling this rival again.

Mostly because I'm trying to do a few things different this year. First: Jolene. I'm super excited about her and have been struggling to write anything NOT about her for nearly two months. I've been consistently writing, too. So, even if it isn't a complete story when all is said and done December 1st, I'm fairly confident that I'll at least hit the word-count goal. Second: I have a job that doesn't suck the life out of me, and, in fact, it allows me time to write WHILE at work. So I should be able to get my daily word count in AND still socialize/watch football. That will take a large load off of my stress-plate, and probably make it easier for me to stick with it this year. Third: I'm participating in write-ins with my writing group. At first I was bummed because they were every Thursday this month; while I'd normally be at work. Well, the Writing Fates aligned, or something, because I coincidentally have two out of the three Thursdays off. I'll miss next week's write-in, but I'll just go to the "early seating" for group.

See, not only did our writing group reserve a room in the library for our evening write-in sessions every Thursday this month - minus Thanksgiving, of course - but we also reserved our normal bi-weekly Tuesday room an hour earlier. That way NaNo-ers can come in to do a quick write sprint together before our meeting officially starts. For those that don't know, write-ins are pretty much exactly how they sound: a group of writers gather together to quietly do write sprints - writing continuously for a short time; say ten minutes - as well as talk about their progress in-between the sprints. With all this time specifically dedicated to writing, and then talking to others about my novel, I think I might actually stay on track! I will get pumped and excited about my story. And continuing to roleplay as Jolene each week will just help me stay in character more. I'll feed off of the games, and the writing will help me better evolve Jolene into a more concrete person.

I'm super psyched about this year's NaNo. I just hope this excitement lasts, because this week proved that it can snap and shrivel up on a dime.

I started off decently enough. I managed another flash fiction for Ronoxym's writing challenge. I had to cheat this time, though. One of my rules is that I'm not allowed to use a pre-existing character that I created. Well.... I did. I used Jolene. As I already mentioned, I can't think of anything to write EXCEPT for something dealing with her. Especially with NaNo, I HAVE to be laser focused on her, or I lose my momentum.

I considered it part of my prep-work to make up for the rule-break. Last Tuesday I had spent a great deal of time working with Jolene's timeline some more. I figured out when Jolene got pregnant, discovered her pregnancy, as well as when the pregnancy ended each time. Still not sure how she REACTED to each ending, nor do I know why she gave up her daughter, but I have a start. I also know that the beau she had while with the Thieves Guild was more outwardly hurt by Jolene's stillborn son than she was.

This is where the flash fiction came in. I just had this quiet moment between Jolene and Sandy pop into my head, and not leave me alone for about three days. I eventually caved and wrote it for this week's challenge entry; rule-break be damned! At least I'm still writing and keeping these brief. I'm still not sure if I'm "getting" the concept of flash-fiction, though. These seem more like scenes than mini-stories. Is that how it's supposed to be?

Anyway, if you want to read about Jolene and Sandalah while having a quiet moment near the end of her pregnancy, feel free to check it out:

"My Little Thief"

Things went quickly awry shortly after publishing that story.

Namely: I lost my flash drive. A few years back, to commemorate my first attempt at NaNo - even if I did fail pathetically - I bought one of their flash drives that is embedded into a plastic wrap bracelet. The cover for the drive is the closing connector of the bracelet. It even has "My Novel" and the NaNo crest printed on it:
Point being; it's a cool flash drive!

That's not really why I was upset, though. I'm sure I could still find and purchase another one online. The real kicker is that - after four years of having the thing and only using it to transfer things from one computer to another - this year I was actually using it as a hard drive. All of my prep work I had been doing was on that drive. My images of Jolene's past loves and lovers, along with all of their names. The backstories of each romance. The time frame for each romance. Jolene's timeline I was painstakingly working on for a couple of weeks. The detailed reason why each romance ended. Notes on more to research and figure out. All of it. Everything I had been building throughout October was just gone.

That happened Thursday. I tried to move past it on Friday. I tried to remember that I had most of it in my head, and I just needed to recreate it, or add to it on my netbook with the hope of finding the drive before today. I opened up my netbook Friday; Saturday; Sunday. Each time with the call to just move on and write more so I was prepared for November. Each time I was stuck in an "I can't believe I lost it all!" writing funk. I couldn't work at all on my writing. I was too depressed, and so not a single word came to mind.

I did manage to find the drive again while revisiting a friend on Sunday. Crisis averted, I was once more excited for this month. However, there was still four days lost to writing funk. I'm now backing up all this info, and then backing up the back-up. I'm going to make sure I can have SOME way of reaccessing this stuff if something like this happens again. No more writing funks due to lost work!

I did manage to get a bunch of reading in during those lost four days, however.

I haven't really updated you guys on my reading progress in a while, have I? I keep meaning to include it in a weekly double-post to make up for missing two weeks, and yet the week runs away from me before I get a chance to write the second post.

I'm going to once again attempt a double post this week, especially since NaNo will still be fresh, and my word-count should still be on-par. In the meantime, I'll at least leave you with an updated checklist for you to see where I am at.

I'm currently working on "a book published this year" by reading Rick Riordan's "The Hidden Oracle"; the first book in his new series "The Trials of Apollo."

I think I'm also borrowing "1984" for my banned book; still need to figure out a book I should have read in school. I may just sub with a second "published this year" and read Riordan's "Hammer of Thor"; the second book in his "Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard" series. Either way, I need to write my own novel while reading two books this month - or next month - in order to complete this challenge on time. About a week or so in and I'm about 70% done reading "The Hidden Oracle" so I probably can get another book in this month.

Anyway, here's my updated checklist. Anyone else working on this challenge? How are you doing with it? Did you beat it already? Getting close? Let me know in the comments.
Challenge created by ModernMrsDarcy