Little Home, Big World

…what would Ma do?

30 Before 30: Redux June 3, 2011

Filed under: 30 before 30,Blahging — bethanyjoy @ 9:00 am
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I had great plans last summer to complete my 30 before 30 list. Then life happened. Which is fine…my motivation behind the original list was a desire to live with intent, rather than letting life sweep me along. Intentional living involves planning…but it also involves seizing the opportunities as they come, rather than being so fixated on any given goal that you miss the chances that grow out of a busy life. Here’s where the 30 before 30 list ended up:

Bethany’s (revised and altered) 30 before 30

(for the original list, click here)

  1. Go to an amusement park without the kids and ride all the big roller-coasters August 8, 2010
  2. Assemble a family tree picture wall. It didn’t happen quite as I envisioned it…but I did sort, print, and frame a bunch of family photos…and even got them up on the wall. September 2010
  3. Start jogging with my 6-year-old. He wins.
  4. Sew a slipcover for the couch.  July 2010
  5. Knit Bry a sweater. October 2010
  6. Design and publish at least two new knitting/crocheting patterns.  They aren’t online yet, but I’ve written a few for the students in my knitting class. January 2011
  7. Find super comfy jeans that fit. May 2011 (This is always worth celebrating. 😉 )
  8. Stop biting my fingernails  April 2011
  9. Write another NANOWRIMO novel.  Completed November 29, 2010! 54, 755 words. Woot-woot!
  10. Write my 3rd novel. In progress…
  11. Spend weekend stripping wallpaper, painting, and visiting with my Nana. Nov. 2010
  12. Get a book I own signed by the author  “The Gathering” signed by Kelley Armstrong, May 2011
  13. Learn how to make really.really.really.yummy custard. Mmmm. April 2011
  14. Find a new band/musical artist that I *love*. Mumford & Sons! February 2011
  15. Start writing poetry again. Ongoing!
  16. Make my own pasta. Not quite…but I’ve developed kickass bread-baking skills instead. Yum!
  17. Learn to make beaded stitch markers. Knitting bling. It’s all that. 😉
  18. Share written work with others for critique and input. Winter/Spring 2011 – This is probably the goal I’m most proud of, it required a massive amount of willpower/courage for me, but has proved incredibly helpful and encouraging.
  19. Go away with hubby for longer than 24 hours! We owe the Ultimate Uncle and Awesomest Aunt big-time. 🙂
  20. Discover new (to me) authors I enjoy: Jeanine Frost, Seanan McGuire, Lois Macmaster Bujold, Rob Thurman, Jennifer Estep, Scott Westerfield.
  21. Use the camera on my iPhone. So it’s not DSLR…but since it’s always within reach, at least I’m using it to document life on a regular basis. 🙂
  22. Grow hair out. Although, I’m not giving up on the purple yet…
  23. Find & attend a writing circle. Winter 2011
  24. Learn how to remember people’s names when I meet them. Still needs improvement, but I’m getting better. The key is to use the name at least 3 times in the initial meeting, if possible.
  25. Go downhill skiing. No…but I went zip-lining instead. Wheeeeeee!
  26. Learn to knit with beads. Lace with beads, even. Mad skillz, those… 😉
  27. Get a part-time job. This one was an unplanned goal, and has had a major impact on the changes to this list. It’s been good, though – a few hours out of the house each week is good for one’s sanity.
  28. Complete ACE English (final grade: 95%)
  29. Start teaching knitting classes. Another unexpected event! One of my favorite things now…
  30. Take bellydancing lessons. I still want to do this! Unfortunately I’ve somehow ended up taking math instead. Don’t ask me how THAT happened. *sigh*

And since this post is all about lists, here’s another:

Lessons Learned in the Last Year:

  1. Perfection is a foolish goal. Strive for excellence instead.
  2. You’re less likely to say something in anger that you’ll regret later if you sit down, lower your voice, and look the other person in the eyes during an argument.
  3. Colorful scarves and nail polish make any day better.
  4. Deep breathing is almost as good as chocolate when you’re feeling stressed. (Chocolate + breathing = even better.)
  5. Peace comes from knowing who you are, what you need, and where you want to go.
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Nano-Diary: DONE! November 29, 2010

Filed under: 30 before 30,Blahging,Writing — bethanyjoy @ 8:15 pm
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I won, I won!!! (Which is just a fancy way of saying, “I finished my first draft!”)

Let me break it down for you: 56, 755 words, 22 chapters, 31 scenes.

 I used the word “The” 2, 909 times.

 Printing my rough draft will require a small tree – 250 pages, double-spaced with 1″ margins.

I only spent 14 days actively writing. 10 of those days, I wrote at least 3,000 words. My most productive day, I reached a wordcount of just over 8,000.

 In case you are wondering, I type an average 90 words-per-minute. 😉

 There are approximately 2 subplots that need better development, two scenes I plan to remove entirely, and four more I would like to add.

I have a boatload of editing to do.

And I feel abso-freaking-lutely ecstatic! There is nothing – but nothing – that feels as good as reaching a personal goal.

This is what it looks like:

P.S. This means I also get to cross another item off my 30 Before 30 list. Bonus!

 

Nano-diary, Day 16: Voices November 16, 2010

Filed under: Blahging,Writing — bethanyjoy @ 8:09 pm
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…no, I’m not talking to – er – about the ones in my head. Well, not entirely; they do play a part in this…I’m talking about character voices. I remember reading (although I can’t remember where I read it) that ideally each character in your story should have such a clear voice that dialogue tags – he said, she said – aren’t necessary.

I’m eons away from that being true in my own writing. But this Nano, I think I’m getting closer. I can write Michal and Donovan – they’re my heroine and hero, respectively – in a scene, and they actually sound like, well, themselves. Not me. And not like each other. They are individuals, and so uniquely clear in my mind that I can hear them speaking, and it’s just a matter of writing it out.

Even more exciting? The story is written in first-person point-of-view, told through Michal’s eyes, and about 75% of the time, it’s her voice that’s coming through in the narration. Not me. (The other 25%…well, that’s what editing is for!)

If you’ve ever tried your hand at fiction, you know how exciting this is. If you haven’t – go drink a double espresso, eat a bar of dark chocolate, and come back to finish reading this post – your overall excitement level might be close to what mine is right now. Or maybe not. You’ll probably need to down a couple bottles of Dr. Pepper first.

And if you’re a writer – you get it. Or I hope you get it. And if you don’t, I hope you get it soon! 🙂

 

Nano-Diary Day 8: You Can’t Go Back November 8, 2010

Filed under: Blahging,Writing — bethanyjoy @ 9:10 pm
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Second chances are just that – a second chance. An opportunity to give it another try. It’s as close as we get in real life to a “do-over”, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a few of them when it really matters. Most of the time, though, we don’t, because our initial choice caused a change that instead of providing us with a chance to do it over just gives us a new opportunity to wish for a do-over.

It’s called life.

And yeah, it’s a little scary.

Knowing that your choices have consequences is like the day you stand in your own house and realize that if you don’t clean the floor behind the toilet…nobody else will.

We learn to cope, for the most part, with the knowledge that this is our single go-round in life. But then…then we sit down at our keyboard and begin writing. We get swept along in the wave of imagination and grow giddy with the power of creation; we invoke lives on the page and hold their fate in the strokes of our fingers on the keys. This is POWER, this is AMAZING, this is…A CHANCE TO GO BACK AND FIX OUR MISTAKES! FINALLY!

Delete. Backspace. Delete.

There’s a place for that; it’s called editing. It’s an important part of the process…but here’s an important little tidbit that has taken me no less than two dozen half-finished stories to figure out: editing does NOT belong in your first draft. (Or your Nano novel, in this case.)  The minute you start down that I’ll-just-go-back-and-fix-that-scene road, you will entangle yourself completely in word choices, plot holes and flawed dialogue. You will lose momentum.

More importantly, you will begin to doubt your story. And doubt will kill your Muse (or imagination or inspiration or what-have-you) faster than anything else.

But what do you do when you’re 19, 001 words into a story and realize that scene #3 – pages and pages ago – is WRONG? Not just a little wrong, but horribly wrong – it doesn’t fit your character, it will screw up your plot, it was a HORRIBLE mistake written at 10:41 pm when you should have been in bed anyway kind of wrong? 

Good question.

Panic is an acceptable option, as is raiding the chocolate stash, but as in real life neither is going to do a darn thing to solve your problem. What I propose is taking a clue from real life – treat your first draft as if you can’t go back. It is what it is – for now. Take your writer’s notebook and make a few notes about the scene you want to go back and change – what went wrong, how you’ll fix it, maybe even the page number or chapter location. Then put down your notebook, and keep writing your draft as if you’ve already fixed that scene.

There; the nagging worry is off your mind, your characters are back on the right track, and your word count hasn’t suffered from an accidental amputation in the throws of my-writing-sucks-let’s-just-delete-those-first-few-chapters-itis.

Problem solved.

(Just don’t leave your notebook near the children’s crayon box…)

 

Nano-Diary, Day 3: A Session of Parliament November 3, 2010

Filed under: Blahging,Writing — bethanyjoy @ 4:47 pm
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Writing fiction is like being the Speaker of the House. (See #1 above.)

On one hand, you have the Government (See #3; also known as the Right Brain, but only for the purposes of this post; there are limits to even my imagination) – this side is the hotbed of activity and agendas, a chaotic assortment of inspiration. (Ok, so Government and Inspiration in the same paragraph is a stretch. Work with me, people.) 

On the other is the Opposition (See #4; for the purposes of this illustration, they represent the Left Brain. Interpret as you wish…) whose main goal in life is to sabatoge the Government in any way possible that will make themselves look better. In terms of writing fiction, the Opposition will nitpick your word choices, question your plot lines, and eat away at your own belief in your story until you’re convinced you have written 13, 188 words of complete drivel.

And seated there in the middle – undoubtedly with a roaring headache – and representing the humble author, is the Speaker of the House. If you’ve ever watched CPAC (televised parliament sessions, for my friends in the USA) you know what this poor soul has to do. If you haven’t, picture a mother with 308 two-year-old kids who just ate about a hundred chocolate bars all left in a room with a single toy. Now pretend the Speaker of the House is that mother.

(Note to self: that would be a great plot for a horror story…)

It’s the Speaker’s job to make both sides play nice, to vote in a way that balances free speech with efficient management of the country’s business (HA! Sorry. I know I’m pushing the believability here.)

Writing a story involves the same political juggling act. You must somehow balance the Government and the Opposition, because both are needed: Government alone would be unbridled creative chaos, lots of great ideas strung together in haphazard alignment, while unchecked Opposition would result in spending the day at the computer and ending up with an alphabetized grocery list as your only creation.

No matter what your personal political leanings are – if you’re more apt to write from the left or right side of the brain –  it is your job as a writer to bring out the best of each.

“Damn good reading is damn hard writing.” – Mark Twain

 

Nanowrimo Diary, Day 2 November 2, 2010

Filed under: Blahging,Writing — bethanyjoy @ 4:51 pm
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Literary abandon. Isn’t that a delicious concept? It’s the premise behind NANOWRIMO and what it translates to is a dizzying whirl of typing fingers, bleary eyes, sleepless nights and, if you’re a mother, lots of crockpot dinners.

This is my second year of participation, and I’m pleased with my progress so far. My total word count, as of Day 2, is 9,274 words. That translates to 3.5 chapters, or 7 scenes, in this particular novel.

I’m a little nervous about how well the writing is progressing. It’s going too smoothly. Which probably means my computer will crash and I’ll lose my manuscript. Or the cat will eat my power cord. Or we’ll all get the flu like we did LAST November; yeah, those were good times.

It couldn’t possibly be that the three months I spent researching, developing and outlining could be paying off. Or that I’ve been writing regularly throughout the past year, compared to jumping into the previous NANOWRIMO with rusty story muscles.

Couldn’t be; that’d be too easy…no, I’m sure that in a day or two I’ll plow headfirst into the concrete wall known as “writer’s block”, and then I’ll be here moaning about characters who don’t cooperate and plotlines that unexpectedly fizzle.

But in the meantime, I’ll be giving myself over to the process. Literary abandon. It’s what happens when you stop arguing and let your imagination speak. And it’s a beautiful thing.

P.S. Here’s a less beautiful thing – my fake “cover” for my novel. It’s rather lame. Graphic artist I am NOT. But it made me grin, so I’ll share…

 

 
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