3 Tips for NaNoWriMo ’16

tape3tipsHappy Halloween!

I hope you find yourself having a little more fun than I am on this little holiday. I have a class tonight that I will need to attend, but before that I actually plan to have an early “Pre-NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Party” with my writing buddy between 4:30 p.m. when she gets home from work and 6:50 p.m. which is literally the latest I can wait before I need to dash off to class. We plan to do writing sprints over Skype and basically just get a headstart on NaNoWriMo because we’re old-timers now and can’t stay up till midnight to start writing. (Well, I could. But I won’t want to!)

I’m so excited she’s decided to participate this year, even though she’s more on the revising side of writing right now. We’re going to try to Skype every Tuesday, Thursday, and one weekend day each week and be accountable to ourselves to reach our respective goals.

As I’ve been horrible about blogging this past month, I did want to make sure to do a little post that hopefully you will find helpful if you’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. If you haven’t heard of it, basically the goal is to write 50,000 words by the end of the month (here’s a LINK to the official website where you can learn more and make an account, and/or ADD ME as a buddy). It’s not to late to decide to participate if you haven’t already! It’s low risk (no one will publicly shame you if you don’t win) and offers high rewards (in the form of a novel draft).

I’ve managed to condense my most important tips for surviving and winning NaNoWriMo into three points listed below. (I also provide a bonus tip for finding inspiration down below).

1. Plan Ahead and Be Flexible

Writing 50,000 words in one month may be a massive undertaking if you are not in the regular habit of writing. I’ve found the more you practice, the faster you will become. But there’s still a learning curve as you figure out how to get yourself in the writing mindset, by which I mean the mindset you need to be in see your world and characters and know where you want to take them. For me this usually involves reacquainting myself with what I’ve written previously or my story notes. I don’t have the luxury of thinking about my story all day, so I personally need to account for time spent warming up to write when I sit down to write.

Most of us don’t have all day to think about and write our stories. You, like me, may be a student or have full-time job you can’t afford to lose or even be a parent. Life becomes a juggling act during NaNoWriMo, so I recommend that you make lists or do whatever equivalent to that to make sure you don’t let any of your other commitments fall slack or by the wayside. I have personally have a calendar with major deadlines and trips so that I can visualize the month. And every week, actually more like everyday, I make time to write a to-do list of all the homework and chores I want to get done. I don’t always get everything on my to-do list done, but I often plan ahead so that there’s time later for tasks that can flow onto the next day. So remember to plan ahead and be flexible.

2. Know Where You Want to Go (Plot-Wise)

Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, I think anyone who’s serious about writing can only benefit by knowing where a scene or the whole story more broadly speaking needs to end up. I used to be a big-time panster, so I would plot a little as I went but never feel the need to stick strictly to my plans. The only real guide in my head, if you can call it a guide, was a basic idea of when a plot turn needed to happen. I don’t really recommend this method if you want to write something good, something that might one day be publishable.

Instead I would recommend having at least 5–7 major scenes planned for your story (or whatever makes sense for the size of story you’re shooting for). Because if you have these scenes in mind then you’re major task is then just to figure out how to best connect them, and that might be a good guide which still allows you to discover the story along the way (à la pantser). Along the same lines, having at least the vaguest idea of where a scene needs to go before you start writing each day could also help keep your story from spiraling out of control.

3. Set Aside “You” Time

Writing is supposed to be fun, so you don’t want to end up hating it or life in general by the end of the month because you’ve burned out. Balance your time for writing with time for other things, like homework, chores, and exercise. You may find yourself actually wanting to do homework and chores when you’re supposed to be writing, and vice versa so as long as you’re being productive and remember to balance everything out by the end of the day or week, you shouldn’t need to feel guilty while working on anything.

Exercise can be really good for stimulating your mind as well as your body, so I strongly recommend it, even if it’s not something you regularly do. It’s not that hard to add some leisurely walks to your daily routine, and you may even find walking around might give you some new story ideas. If you’re like me and don’t like to feel like you’re working out, I recommend something like Pokémon Go to distract you. Audiobooks are also a great idea if you find you’re reading suffering during NaNoWriMo. In addition to being good for you, exercise may also make you feel better about yourself so I can’t recommend it highly enough.

For Inspiration

Other than reading or immersing myself in other forms of storytelling (i.e. TV or film), I often feel most inspired when I find writing advice and tips from other writers. Don’t let yourself spend too much time searching for stuff by your favorite author, especially if you’ve never done this before, but I would say if you’re feeling low and wondering if you have what it takes, spend some time looking to the words of wisdom on writing process from other writers who are doing what you want to do.

If you’ve read (and liked) the Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer’s 9 Steps from Idea to Finished series might be of interest to you. V.E. Schwab also often blogs about writing and I enjoy reading her honest posts as she works on her novels.

Thank you for reading!
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The Last Week of October ’16 | Life & Mind

lastweekoctI’ve been a little stressed recently by how little time I’ve felt I’ve had for recreational reading. In addition the readings I’m assigned every week for my three classes, I’ve also been reading a lot of articles related to my research topic. So it’s not that I’m not reading, it’s just that I have a lot of untrackable reading. But I’m thinking I’ll start talking more about some of the more interesting academic articles I read here on my blog.

I like to reflect on what I read, which is why I love documenting every book I read on Goodreads and in wrap ups each month. I feel like it makes it easier to look back and remember what was going on in my life whenever I read any given book. So I want to talk more about the reading experiences I have as a student, as there has been so much recently.

This is something that’s been on my mind recently, and since I haven’t posted in a while I wanted to do a random little post talking about some of the things on my mind as the month is near its end.

Currently Reading

I just finished Slasher Girls and Monster Boys which I decided to finally pick up this weekend while I was house-sitting for my parents. It was the first weekend I felt I could allow myself a personal book selection and it felt so luxurious. It was a fantastic read, overall, and I still find myself marveling over the beauty and the horror of some of the stories in this anthology. If you possess this book and haven’t yet read it, I think this is the perfect time of the year to read it.

This week, I will be reading Cat and Mouse by Günter Grass which is due for next week. I’m hoping to finish it before the weekend so I can start another book before the end of the month, possibly Boxers by Gene Luen Yang which is a graphic novel I’d love to be able to breeze through, along with its companion novel Saints. I have to read three additional books for my German lit. class over the next couple of weeks so that might preoccupy the first half of November’s readings, but I’m also hoping to squeeze in some fantasy novels.

I’m still planning to participate in NaNoWriMo 2016 this November, and I really wish I had more time to read books that have inspired my own novel with the hopes that by reading good writing I’ll be more likely to write good words. We’ll just have to see how the next couple of weeks unfold, because like I said before, I also have a lot to read that isn’t just books!

NaNoWriMo 2016

I’m sorry I never quite worked out the time for my NaNoWriMo Prep series! Some of my most favorite posts to do are on writing tips/advice, so do know that all the posts I proposed earlier this month will most likely come out eventually. Even if they don’t make it out over November. I might have a laid back summer next year, so maybe I’ll generate some sort of plan for June/July geared towards preparation for Camp NaNoWriMo July.

I haven’t had much time to work on my story at all this month, except for maybe 2–3 days here and there. I’m a little worried about what I’ll come up with over November, but not so much that I’m in a panic. I have a rough outline for the novel I want to write, but I’m actually open to specific parts of that changing, so I’m not going to kill myself trying to stick to the outline. Unless I’m able to work on the outline this weekend and fix the problem areas I’ve already identified, in which case I do hope to stick the outline!

But I also have been keeping a list of short story ideas for side characters in this novel, so I’m prepared to be happy with a combination of a novel and some short story drafts. I think my flexibility here will ensure that I’m able to write 50,000 words and end the month with a good foundation, which is all I really end right now I think.

End Note

I hope you enjoyed this little post. I feel like I definitely psyche myself out sometimes when it comes to writing them, when blogging should just be a fun way to organize and record my thoughts. There’s a lot of post ideas swirling around in my brain, so I’m hoping those will materialize this weekend. I’ll probably do an official What I’m Writing for NaNoWriMo post soon, along with some sort of wrap up for the month. I also want to do a post about my grad school research and potential projects I’ll be starting soon. I just need to get on top of my school work and some upcoming deadlines in November.

Thanks for sticking with me! Let me know in the comments what you’d like to see more of in the future from this blog!

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Fall ’16 TBR

As promised, I am finally doing my comprehensive Fall ’16 TBR. I enjoy doing the monthly TBRs, but I will have to begin working on two 10-page research papers soon, and of course there is also NaNoWriMo to think about, so I know I won’t have very much free time to read as much as I’ve liked until the semester is over. I do still want to complete my Goodreads Challenge of 60 books by the end of the year so that does mean I need to read 16 more books by December 31st, but I think it’s possible.

Required Reading for German Lit. Class

I will be doing a presentation on Heinrich and Thomas Mann in November, so I really need to finish Man of Straw and Dr. Faustus as soon as possible so I know I will be talking about! I also will need to read Cat and Mouse by Guenther Grass and Man Outside by Wolfgang Borchert by the end of the semester. And as soon as I can find the free time, I also want to finish A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1889–1889 by Frederic Morton because I see it informing my world-building in novel.

Series I Want to Complete

There are two book series I want to complete this year, including the rereads of the books leading up to the long-awaited finales. The first series is The Queen of the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen. I discovered this series in Spring 2015 and it was love at first read. I loved just about everything about the protagonist and her world. Since I’ve actually only read the arc of The Invasion of the Tearling (#2), I’m excited to see if there’s anything different to what I can remember. The final installment The Fate of the Tearling (#3) is going to be released on November 29, 2016 so it’ll most like be the first book I read over winter break.

The second series I want to complete is the Starbound trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. These are the first YA science fiction books I ever read that really appealed to me. The romantic aspect of these books is really satisfying and feels fresh, and I really love how the stories are linked by the common world (or should I say galaxy?) conflict. I also read These Broken Stars (#1) and This Shattered World (#2) in Spring 2015, so I’m really excited to finally get my hands on Their Fractured Light (#3) which comes out in paperback on December 6, 2016.

Some Books From the Library

Last month I checked out several books after browsing the Juvenile section at the library. I wouldn’t categorize any of these books as dire or essential reads, but I think they’ll prove short reads that I can finish easily. The first I want to get to is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, because I read Salt to the Sea recently and adored it. These books are just such perfect compliments to my German lit. studies. Then there are Boxers (#1) and Saints (#2) graphic novels which are part of a duology, which I’m excited to explore because I enjoy reading in this format and don’t do it often enough.

Some Other Random Reads

I have a small selection of books I own which I decided to bring with me from home, so I want to get to as many of these as possible so I can switch them out over winter break. The first I would really like to get to before Halloween is the Slasher Girls and Monster Boys anthology compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke. Then there’s a research book I bought this semester just for fun Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in Networked Culture by Henry Jenkins who is a scholar I really admire. Then there are some smaller tomes I think would not take too much time to read, most notably including The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

Thank you for reading!
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Time to Catch Up | Life & Mind

Hello, everyone! And welcome to my new followers! It’s always such a little thrill when I get that notification email that someone else has decided to start following my blog. I’m especially sorry I’ve been a little absent lately. So much has been going on with school and I’ve had to do a lot of thinking about the future. I think it’s very appropriate that I do a life update today because I finally I made a decision I’ve not wanted to make.

But first, I thought I’d catch you all up on what’s been going on, starting with moving into my apartment last month…

I moved into my on-campus apartment finally! 

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At the end of September I received an email telling me I received a placement! I have a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with an undergraduate, but she’s been quiet and sweet so it’s not been too bad (although I’d still prefer a private apartment). The only thing that has sucked is that the building has had an on-going bug problem, so the week I moved it I was getting eaten alive. It was really bad, my legs and feet are still healing. I seriously thought it was bed bugs, but luckily that’s been debunked. So now I just need to spray every now and then for safety, and I’ve not had any problems on that front for a couple of weeks now.

My car was rear ended in the apartment parking lot.

It happened the week I moved in and was so frustrating. Luckily I saw the girl do it so I was able to get her license plate number, but she was pretty cooperative. She didn’t want to settle with insurance, though, so there was a lot of stress on my end with finding where to get my car repaired (a tail light cover had to be replaced) and getting an estimate for her so she could write me a check. I’m so glad that’s over with now.

Film studies is the bane of my existence right now.

The instructor is a very harsh grader. I’ve gotten no grade higher than a B- on the two major assignments I’ve turned in and it honestly feels very unfair. I know I’ve not turned in A-quality work or anything, but I don’t think they’ve deserved Cs either. I wish I could drop the class, but it’s requirement I’ll need to get out of the way eventually. And I need to be a full-time student to keep my scholarship. She’s letting us revise all our papers, but I honestly don’t know it’s worth the effort or not. I have some time to decide what to do. I might need to go in and have some words with this woman.

& in more exciting, slightly more positive news…

I’ve refined my research goals for the semester.

I’ve been struggling in my research methods class because I have a stronger affinity for critical theory research and it’s been an adjustment to think about more quantitative research. I’ve definitely seen the value in it, though, and see how it will make me stronger academically. I also feel confidence that my interests are leading me into slightly uncharted waters, which is exciting because I feel like I’m carving out my own place in academia.

I think I want to do a whole post on what I’m researching in the near future, especially now as I have a better idea of where I’m going with it after speaking with my instructor today. It very much ties into book blogging and online community, so hopefully you might be interested in it! I’d also like to involve any of you who are interested in it in some way, shape, or form as I discover how I want to collect data.

I’m extending my studies at UT Dallas.

This is the tough decision I did not really want to make, but realized today is in my best interest. In my last Sunday Snapshot, I talked about realizing where I wanted to go to for my PhD and registering for the GRE. Well, I’ve realized that I probably will have a better chance of being admitted if I do another year at UT Dallas. I can get more TA experience if I stay. I’ll have more time to develop research projects that I’m finally establishing now this semester. I’ll also have more time to build my CV with publications and conferences. So yeah…It’s not really the worst.

Now I know a lot of people in the program and will be able to build stronger connections here. I’ll also be able to take more advantage of the specific professors I have here and what they can teach me. Today I went to a workshop where I learned about Lilypad Arduino and learned about the possibilities of wearable technology. Fun, cool stuff like this is why I’ve loved this program and make me think that another year here will not be the end of the world.

So, I need to decide what I’m doing with this blog next…

I do not intend to stop, but I do feel the itch for change again. My domain name is going to expire this year, so I’d like to change it to something more catchy, shorter, easy to remember. That will also entail some new blog graphics which I only just did this summer! But I know it’ll be worth it. I’m honestly thinking of working with a professional to create something cool and unique that I won’t be tempted to change every few months.

As for what is immediately coming next (as in this weekend), I intend to do a Fall ’16 TBR with the list of books I want read by the end of the year. I only need 16 more to complete my Goodreads Challenge, so I’m going to start looking for shorter books so that I can accomplish this because I just don’t have the time, or inclination really, to be devouring so many books each month anymore.

I also want to do my NaNoWriMo Prep Series either next week or the week after that (last of October), because I still intend to participate in NaNoWriMo and I know a few of you have been waiting for it and I’m so sorry! I intend to dedicate some good time and effort to those posts so they were worth the wait (hopefully)!

Thank you for reading!
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September ’16 Notes

This post is coming a little later than I had originally planned! My apologies to anyone who may have seen an unfinished version this past weekend. Part of the reason I held off on finishing it was I was struggling to finish Six of Crows so that I could crack open Crooked Kingdom, and I wanted my reread to count towards last month. So silly. So even though I read most of it in the beginning of October, I’m still including it here!

September was a crazy month for me and I don’t quite have time to share everything that’s been going on in my life over the past couple of weeks in this post, but I might do a Sunday Snapshot this weekend just so you know what I’ve been having to deal with. It’s not been all fun and games in this blogger’s life.

Without any further ado, here are some mini-reviews of all books I read this month along with some of the books I’m currently reading. I also summarize what I got done in writing this month and provide an update on the October NaNo Prep series which I’m still planning to do, although possibly not this week.

What I Read

For the most part I stuck to my September ’16 TBR very well. The only three books which I completely bypassed which I do not fully regret to have skipped; I’m sure I’ll read them in the future. In total I read eight books and am in the progress of reading two.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton ||  I was wary of this book going into it, because I feel like it was over-marketed by the publisher. Too many BookTubers talked about it all at once and it was very clearly the recipient of ad sponsorship. But I was glad I ultimately picked it up when I saw it at the library because I thought the world was really fun and I like to read fantasy books that kick off a series. If I see the sequel at the library, I’ll most definitely be picking it up. I feel no temptation to buy it though. || ★★★½

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas || I ordered this book via the Kindle app on my iPhone as this has just been the medium I’ve used to read this series from the beginning. The only book I’ve read in a physical copy is Heir of Fire and I’ve semi-regretted not buying it because it was my favorite book in the series. Until I read this book that is! Actually, they may be about equal. Heir of Fire feels a lot more original, Empire of Storms I feel like SJM learned a lot from Six of Crows on how to write Aelin better (she seemed a lot more like Kaz than she did before). Anyway, I loved this book and can’t wait to see what happens next. ||

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque || I was assigned this book in my German Lit. & Ideas class and I found it a very quick but moving read. I’d never read it before, although I do remember learning of it in AP World History (10th grade). I’ve read books that are critical of war, which have no doubt been influenced by this book. But I’m appreciative of having been able to read it in this context where I’m learning about German culture and society during this time. ||★½

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer || This book started of a bit rocky for me. I’ve read and loved the books of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling, but this book just didn’t all the way do it for me. I think because Schumer is so far off from me and I cringed with disgust at a lot of stories. I do like what she does, though, and this book ended on a very strong note for me. Not worth buying, but if you find it in the library (as I did), have seen Trainwreck (2015), liked it and want something out of the norm, I’d say why not. || ★★★½

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol || It took me a while to trudge through Amy Schumer’s book and so I picked this book up when I discovered the Juvenile Lit. section of the library. I feel like Amazon and/or Goodreads has tried to recommend this book to me in the past with no success (except I guess cover recognition), and as it was so small, I decided to give it a go. If only to get a quick read in. I think I might have liked it when I was little, but it’s very much…juvenile. It’s not that complex a story and the resolution did not feel too…realistic. || ★★½

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie || I had picked this book up in August when I was in a mood for mystery, then ended up saving it for the Mystery-A-Thon which I ultimately wasn’t able to participate in. So I decided to finally get to it this month. I’m sorry to say it was probably my least favorite of the Christie books I’ve read (there’ve been two others), but I can see how this book has set a standard in the mystery genre. It was a intriguing read I think I would have been able to better appreciate when I was younger. || ★★★½

Film: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Wood || I don’t really know what I can say about this one. It was required reading for my Intro to Film Studies class and is exactly was it claims to be. It was a very easy and quick read, illuminating as I have no background in the history of film or its theory. ||no-rating

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo || I started this book on the last day of September after I had already been able to receive Crooked Kingdom (it unexpectedly arrived the day it was released!) Because I knew what was going to happen, I did drag my feet a little on reading this book. But ultimately I was drawn in again because of this fantastic world and great characters. This book is literally…everything. There were a few things I had forgotten about the end, so I’m really happy I was able to read this again before I jumped into Crooked Kingdom. || 

CURRENTLY READING

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo // I hadn’t thought I would receive this book the day it debuted, but Amazon definitely surprised me! I started it this weekend immediately after finishing my reread of Six of Crows, and I expect to finish it as soon as my school week is over.

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks // I’m really enjoying this book so far and am happy it was recommended to me. I love hooks’ perspective on how education can, and maybe should, be linked to self-actualization.

What I Wrote

In September I made a lot of headway on my novel. I plotted my MC’s entire journey through The Hollow Combs and did some extensive world-building by establishing the magic system, more of the world’s history, population diversity, and societal structures. I feel like the world really came to life this month. The latest thing I’ve been working on is the villain and how she has influenced the course of history and magic for my protagonist. She’s been a gateway through which I’ve discovered a lot more about this world.

In my latest writing post, I announced the NaNo Prep series I will be doing this month leading up to NaNoWriMo 2016 in November. To be quite honest, I wasn’t quite ready to upload that post but left it up anyway because the bare bones of the info was there. I’m still planning to do the posts I listed in that series, but I’m thinking of making it a week-long series so I’ll share more on that over the next few days.

End Note

As I write this note, I am actually procrastinating on two assignments which are currently driving me crazy, which is the only reason I have found the time. Other than reading Crooked Kingdom, I haven’t been able to do much for myself this week and I nearly fell into a blogging slump. I have a few more things I’m hoping to change around here and on my online presence as a whole, nothing crazy drastic, but there are some things I’ve been putting off for a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to explain more this weekend as I start to implement these changes.

I will tell you a domain name change is potentially on the horizon…

Thank you for reading!
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