Failure To Launch: My NaNoWriMo Experience

failure to launch

It seems so long ago, now. It was November 1 that I announced my intention to participate in the National Novel Writing Month project: an attempt to write a functional first draft of a novel in one month. 50,000 words. 30 days. Piece of cake, right?

And now, I sit at my desk, 14 days removed from last writing anything at all. November is behind me, my path forward lit only by the flickering embers of my dream of writing a whole novel in one month.

So, what the heck happened?

That Which Burns Brightest…

It didn’t seem like an unreasonable idea. I write a pretty substantial amount in any given month. So, I thought, why not turn that effort into focus on a single project? Turn my attention to one project with a laser-like focus, ignoring all other distractions, and complete a first draft.

I announced my intentions and signed up at nanowrimo.org. I even built a Tumblr page to log my daily activity.

Then, on November 1, I started, full of fire and enthusiasm.

At the end of Day 1, I was about 1,500 words in. A little short, maybe, but I was on my way. Day 2 was similar. Day 3 I had seriously slowed down, and was looking forward to a group meeting of fellow NaNo writers, who I thought would give me a hand and some encouragement.

The meeting was…not exactly what I expected.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that you have to be responsible for your own journey in life. You can’t count on others to provide your motivation or your effort. But, surely, a little camaraderie was not too much to expect?

Instead, I found a group of people who were all long-time veterans of NaNoWriMo. Some had participated 3, or 5, or even 7 years in a row. Encouraged, I asked how many of these books had been published.

A bit of a faux pas, as it turned out.

Apparently, by the tenets of the group I visited, the point wasn’t to publish a book. Oh, heavens, no! It was to write a book. And, then, apparently, to lock it away where no one would ever read it.

When I confessed that I had just published my first book in September, the temperature dropped. “Self-published, I suppose?” asked one of my fellow NaNoers.

When I confessed that, no, I had been published by a real, live publisher, the temperature dropped all the way to glacial. Conversations immediately formed in groups around me. I felt like the last kid to be picked at recess.

I have always thought the point of telling a story was to share it with others. My opinion wasn’t shared by this group, and I left early, feeling uncomfortable and isolated. And with no new ideas or motivation.

…Burns Out Fastest

Discouraged, the next day I went to my #1 advisor: Lor. I confessed to having run out of “creative juice” only 3 days into the process. She pointed out that I had a perfectly good idea for a Fantasy novel that I had been sitting on for over a year. Why was I not using that premise, instead of this entirely new one?

Well, because that felt somehow like I would be cheating? I should come up with an entirely new idea for this project, right?

Returning to my tale of woe from the previous night, she asked me: was the idea to follow a set of self-imposed rules, or to tell a story I wanted to tell?

Stung by the (all too correct) comparison to the folks I had complained about the night before. I pulled out my notes and got to work.

Despite my new motivation, it was still rough going. I would sneak in 250 words here and there, between other jobs. I had edits to read. Web pages to be updated. Blog posts to write. Even some honest-to-goodness contract work to be done.

And, of course, about 10 days into the project, my muse raised her head. The time I should have been spending working on NaNo was suddenly being spent working on the sequel to Inheritance.

Crash And Burn

As of Day 16, I had only managed 21,286 words on my NaNo project. Several of my acquaintances and mentors were already done with their projects.

I have not mentioned that, through all this, I had been having intermittent problems with my PC. Random power outages, strange graphics slowdowns, and the like. I finally took the thing apart and determined that the graphics card was overheating. Bidding adieu to my ability to run anything over the level of Facebook games, I pulled out the graphics card and got back to work on about the 10th of the month.

On the 17th of the month, the true problem revealed itself – my power supply gave out completely. I now realized that intermittent voltage from the power supply had first fried my video card. I now had no source of power for my PC and no way to replace it.

It was Thanksgiving week anyway. I dusted my hands of the whole problem and resolved to continue writing with a stylus and my Kindle after the holiday was over.

On the 21st I received my weekly Grammarly report. Apparently, I had worked on 78,000 words the previous week. About 7K of which was part of my project.  On Twitter, I lamented that I could totally be kicking this writing project’s ass if I could just stop writing other stuff.

Holiday Malaise

The icing on the cake turned out to be the holiday weekend. My grand-niece was suffering from a sinus infection during the festivities. By the end of the holiday three-quarters of the family had contracted it – including Lor and me.

This was not an “oh, I have the sniffles, I should man up” kind of thing. This was an “oh my God, my head is pounding, I can’t breathe, and it hurts to move” kind of thing. And it completely destroyed my productivity all the way into the first days of December.

So, my totals for the project:

5,000 words in my first, aborted project.

21,000 words in the “official” project

6,000 words in outline and scene sketching for the sequel to Inheritance

130,000 words in “other” stuff.

For a grand total of 165,000 words for the month. With no activity whatsoever for the last week of November, breaking my streak of producing something creative every week at 19 weeks.

The Discomfort of a Moral Victory

So, instead of having a completed novel to show off, I have to be content with the fact that I produced enough content for 3 draft novels instead.

Except I am not content at all, of course. I wanted to, in the words of my fellow author Martin McConnell, #finishthedamnbook.

But, I didn’t. Such is life.

I now have a new set of responsibilities to start working on. The sequel to Inheritance needs to be worked up through December, and be ready to be peer edited and prepped for serialization by January. I have tons of work that I skipped the last 10 days to make up. And, you know, holidays, family gatherings, blogs, advice, etc.

At least I am not doing it on a tablet with a stylus. My family was able to come up with an old retired laptop that I could use. So I am counting my blessings for their generosity.

So, what about the abandoned fantasy project sitting there at 21,000 words?

I’ll stick it in a metaphorical drawer, I suppose. And, who knows? Maybe it will still be there next November.

Is It Cheating To Start NaNoWriMo 2018 With A Headstart?

Jeremy

 

Fighting Off The Food Coma

Fighting Off The Food Coma

The time has come, the season has arrived: The Holidays are here. And along with the family gatherings, football games, and presents will come a whole lot of opportunities to do Bad Things to your diet and your physique.

How bad? Well, the average person will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the 40-day period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Do that ten years in a row, and congratulations: you’ve added around 50 pounds of body mass from holiday eating alone. Never mind aging, injury, or other dietary hiccups that might arise.

So, yeah – this presents a problem.

What are you going to do about it?

Watch Your Drinks

If you want to help yourself avoid the potential for damage, first give yourself the ability to succeed. The great majority of the caloric damage at these gatherings doesn’t come from stuffing or Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake.

No, the majority of the empty calories will come from what you drink.

Think about it: how many Cokes will you consume over the course of a holiday gathering? Because each and every one will set you back 140 calories. Worse yet, that 140 calories has ZERO nutritional value to you. No vitamins, no minerals, no protein. Nothing but processed sugar that will go straight to the “Store me as fat, please” list.

Beer isn’t much better. A can of the most popular “Light” beer, Bud Light, works out to 110 calories. Only a few less than a Coke. And the problem with beer is simple: the alcohol impairs your judgement. The more beers you have, the more you think it is OK to have. You could get yourself outside of a six-pack of beer (and the accompanying 660 calories) before you even meet the temptations around the dinner table.

Stick to water, if you can. If not, coffee or unsweetened tea are OK as well. But give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Because you haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet.

Rein In The Impulses

I know what you are thinking. “But Jeremy,” you say, “everything is soooo good during the holidays. How can I resist it all?”

Simple. You can’t.

The theoretical person exists that can surround themselves with holiday goodies and not indulge. In the same sense that theoretical alien life exists: it may be out there somewhere, but in the meantime just hand me another slice of that double-chocolate Pecan Pie.

So, if the cornucopia is too much to resist, don’t resist. Direct the flood that you can’t contain.

Instead, try everything in very small doses.

Do you really need a pound of everything on your plate? No, not really. Get a tablespoon-full, or a small slice, or a single item of whatever. Then, as you eat, focus on the folks around you. You probably only see them once or twice a year, right? Take a bite of your small serving of food “A”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person to your right and chat about whatever for a moment. Return to your plate. Take a bite of your small serving of food”B”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person on your left and chat for a moment.

Repeat this process until you’ve tried everything on your plate. Still hungry? Start around your plate a second time, this time focusing on the items you found particularly yummy.

By the time your stomach tells you “Stop! I’m full!”, you’ll have had a fraction of what everyone else around you did. And you’ll have had some valuable time catching up with friends and family members.

 

A Call To Action

No joke – this technique really works. The reason it works is because your stomach is slow to report to your brain about when it has reached capacity. If you start with a huge pile of food and rush through it, you will reach capacity and pass right through it and not know about it – until you are uncomfortably bloated and nodding off on the couch, wondering how you could have possibly eaten so much. Again. Just like last year.

So, just dodge that bullet. And give yourself some extra tools to use to fight the “Holiday Bloats.”

Another thing you can do to help out? Stay active.

Now, I am not inviting you and your family outside for some brisk snow-field volleyball. (Though if you live in Florida, or California – heck, why not?)  But, seriously, how much fun are you having sitting on the couch watching football? Listening to everyone’s digestive processes?

So, move around instead! Go grab some photo albums and look through them. Volunteer to wash the dishes. Play with the kids or the grand-kids. Even just wandering around the yard (if one is available), or throwing around a football (rather than watching one being thrown.)

Also, is this gathering taking place at Mom and Dad’s? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s? I will bet a significant amount that if this is taking place at the home of an older family member, there are some things lying around the place that could be done. Rake some leaves. Repair a squeaky door. Help organize a library, or a craft room, or a garage. Every minute you spend moving is a minute your body is using fuel, not adding it to long-term storage.

And if you can contribute to a family member at the same time, well: isn’t that what the holidays are all about, really?

Making The Holidays (Not) Count,

Jeremy

PS: I recently had the opportunity to create a guest blog post for the folks at Prairie Sage Wellness Center. Feel free to check it out here!

You Had One Job….

So, from the “distracted by real life and NaNoWriMo” file:

I forgot to press the Publish button.

No, really. It’s not like this is the first time this has happened, either.

So, for all those that were hovering around your Inbox on Monday, waiting for an update notice that never came, my sincere apologies.

This turned out to be a serendipitous mistake.  Yesterday  I was invited to write a guest blog post on the very subject I thought I had published on Monday. So, there is that. A repurposed blog post is still a valid one, right? (I will blast the link  out to social media as soon as the guest post is published.)

Also, in the “distractions” file: I found out that the seller we went through to sell Inheritance online was a clunker. Several hundred copies of the book were abandoned in shopping carts when potential buyers couldn’t complete their transactions.  I attempted to fix the damage, but then Providence intervened: my novel finally got published to ebook format on Amazon. And immediately started selling copies – top 500 in pretty much any subject involving the word “Vampire”.  Feel free to head to Amazon and pick up a copy for the handheld device of your choice. Heck, buy two copies. It’s only $5, after all.

And, we’ve had some changes in our household. We’ll bring you up to date on that for our pre-Thanksgiving episode on Monday. When I will NOT forget to press the “Publish” button. Honest. I’ll have Lor stand behind me with a baseball bat and everything.

Darn time change. And NaNoWriMo. Or maybe Real Life. And…

Excuses and Excuses,

Jeremy

 

When The Cold Arrives

When The Cold Arrives

Right on schedule, Winter has shown up.

Oh, there are still leaves on some of the trees. Days here in Albuquerque are still getting up into the 60s. But the malaise that accompanies shorter days and lower temperatures is fully in effect.

The purists might say that it is still Autumn, Winter doesn’t start until December 21, etc. But we know it in our bones: Winter Isn’t Coming. Winter Is Here. November is no more Autumn than March is Winter.

Even our local homeless population are now all holding signs asking for money for bus tickets to Houston. Winter is no fun.

Winter: Obesity’s Secret Weapon

The big secret about Winter and physical fitness? They don’t go together.

Winter brings us our most celebrated gluttonous holidays, all within a 90-day span. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl are always used as excuses for over-eating. (And over-drinking, in the case of the SB.) At the same time, there is no useful offset to balance these binge-eating, diet-destroying occasions. Who eats two pounds of mashed potatoes and half a pecan pie then goes out and runs a few miles to work it off?

No one, that’s who.

Winter conspires against us, I tell you. Colder temperatures mean lower energy levels. Darker days mean a sense of malaise – energy-sucking black holes that park us on the couch huddled in a blanket binge-watching Stranger Things rather than doing anything active. And short days mean that we don’t have any time to go do anything anyway, even if we were so inclined.

So, we sit on the couch. We drink beer. Every once in a while we look out the window and shiver, then turn up the thermostat. And we shake our heads at those lycra-clad crazy people jogging or riding through our neighborhoods. Who the heck works out during this time of year?

Everyone who doesn’t want to arrive at March and burst into tears when nothing but sweats fit anymore, that’s who.

Turning The Volume Up (When The Thermometer Goes Down)

I will not go all Richard Simmons on you and proclaim that keeping fit during the winter is “fun.” It isn’t. You are fighting against your depressed metabolism, your body’s desire to conserve energy via fat storage (hibernation), and your own desire to stay warm.

So, when getting to the gym just seems like too much to bear, here are a few other things you can try.

YouTube: Did you know there are a TON of useful exercise resources on YouTube? There are weight-lifting routines. Body-weight resistance plans. Yoga and Aerobics and Tai-Chi galore. Many folks get worried about the expertise of those on YouTube, but the easiest way to locate something reputable is to dig into your favorite health/fitness magazine, find some articles that you like, then go looking for the author’s YouTube channel. That’s how I located B.J. Gaddour’s StreamFitTV, for example. If you can’t bear to leave the house, bring the gym to your living room.

AceFitness: Yes, I am an Ace Fitness Personal Trainer, and I am biased. But you can actually gain a ton of exercise advice (including demonstrations) for free from the Ace Fitness Exercise library. Need to learn how to do a plank? Check it out here. Need to tackle body-weight squats? Visit this page. Oh, have zero equipment in your house or apartment and want to use that as an excuse? Nope: ACE Fitness has 100+ exercises you can do without a single resistance band or dumbell.

The Step: Some of us are lucky enough to live in homes with stairs: multi-story homes, apartment buildings, etc. If you do, you can do a great aerobic routine just by doing stair interval training. However, if you don’t have a staircase handy, there is a secret weapon I will share with you: The simple aerobic step. Though pricing can go all the way up to well over $100, there are plenty available for less than the cost of a single month’s gym membership. (Here’s one for around $30, for example.) Park your step in front of your television. Step up and down for the duration of your favorite home remodeling show. Or travel show. Or reality show. You get the idea.

(Food Network not recommended.)

Dodging The Ice-Cold Missiles

Of course, lack of physical activity isn’t the only danger that accompanies wintertime. Illness and binge-eating tend to skyrocket over the turn of the year. What can we do to fight back?

Staying healthy during winter can be a major challenge. Every sniffle, cough, and sneeze brings instant paranoia about what malady might be invading. (Well, it makes ME paranoid at least.) During winter it is so important to take some common sense steps. Up your vitamin intake. Get a flu shot. Stay hydrated. Losing days or weeks of activity to illness will wreck your fitness just as surely as overdoing it at Grandma’s house on Thanksgiving. Do everything you can to fight off microbial invaders. Be especially diligent at work – your unhealthy co-workers will be more than happy to contaminate you with their illnesses. I am a big believer in mega-doses of hand sanitizer while in places that are being regularly contacted by less diligent human beings.

Avoiding binge eating can be a trial to any of us. All the best stuff gets trotted out over the holidays, and it seems impossible to not try everything! But, rather than looking around a kitchen in despair at all the stuff you shouldn’t eat, make sure that you have come prepared with something that is diet friendly. Bring your own lean protein, or vegetable platter, or salad. That way, if nothing else works, you have something to fall back on. Fill your plate with your healthy selection, then try a few small bites of the items you can’t resist.

For example, I am especially bad about “sampling” desserts. So, Lor started preparing protein-filled cupcakes she calls protein brownie bites that we now take everywhere where there are likely to be tempting sugar-bomb desserts.

And, wouldn’t you know it, they are so popular that they now get requested at every single get-together we attend. Who says healthy can’t taste good? (As an aside I highly recommend The Big Man’s World for recipes – I literally have yet to find a recipe there that I didn’t like.)

The Coldness of the Mind

Lastly, and most importantly, during the winter months, depression and suicide attempts drastically increase. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) can be a more serious problem than any amount of binge-eating or couch-planting. The disorder isn’t very well understood, but a few things can help to keep it at bay.

First, try to stay plugged in. Our natural tendency during winter is to “turtle” – to stay in our homes, huddled around ourselves. Instead, do your best to get plugged into some social circle – anything that will keep you in contact with other people. A bible study, a knitting circle, a weekly role-playing game: just about anything that keeps you interacting with humanity is a great way to keep these feelings of isolation at bay.

Secondly, stay physically active. We all know that exercise increases brain function and releases “feel-good” hormones into the bloodstream. If you can’t make it to the gym or Crossfit, at least try one of the ideas above.

Lastly, if you aren’t getting better – get help. Talk to a family member, a friend, a pastor, a counselor – let SOMEONE know what you are going through. The worst thing you can do is to assume that no one else understands how you feel. Trust me – I also struggle with depression and know first-hand how isolating it feels. But you have TONS of value, even if you can’t see it right now. Someone else can help remind you.

Turn Your Attention To 2018!

Let’s all help one another get through to next year! Do your best to stay true to yourself, keep the blood flowing, and know that, eventually, this too shall thaw.

Spring Is Coming,

Jeremy

The Deep Breath Before November

Technically, I should be working right now. I have a website to maintain, articles to write, other author’s short fiction to read for Fiction Vortex, and a thousand little projects around the house patiently waiting for me to get off my butt and get to work.

Instead, I have given myself the day off. Except for this communication to my Misdirected readers, I suppose. But that doesn’t really feel like work. More like a one-sided telephone conversation with a really large group of friends.

Celebration of The One (Out of Two)

Today’s day off originates thanks to the day itself: Halloween. Those of you who know us and love us know that Halloween is one-half of the two monster holidays celebrated in our joint household. (The other being Superbowl Sunday. We’ll talk about that one closer to February.)

This year, as usual, we have decorated, bought candy, re-decorated, considered and rejected costumes, made some additional changes to our decorations, and finally arrived at today – the holiday itself.

Lor will undoubtedly make more changes to our decorations today, though.

We discussed moving to a “skeleton” theme this year but ran out of planning time. So, instead, we pulled the trusty “spider” motif out of storage. Upon applying it to the house, we decided it needed a little more “Oomph.” We added bits here and there, and now it looks like this:

Yes, that is a gigantic spider hanging just over the mailbox under the eaves. Let’s hope our mailman is not an arachnophobe.

Now, we sit and wait for the hordes of little monsters to come and beg for candy and toys. (Yes, we give away both. The kids actually like the little 10-cent bubbles and slime better than the actual candy. Who knew?) Lor still has to carve her pumpkin, but otherwise, we rest in the calm before the storm.

Speaking of that…

The (NaNoWriMo) Storm Descends

A month from now I’ll be an author.

Again.

Well, sort of.

For the first time, I’ve decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month event. This is a challenge to novelists to complete an entire novel in the month of November.

Well, sort of.

The target for the month is 50,000 words, which would be a very short novel indeed. (Inheritance, for example, clocked in at 85,000 words +/-.) So, really, what I’ll be left with at the end of the month is a framework of a novel. Hopefully a beginning, a middle, and a resolution. Introductions of my main characters and plotlines. And the warm and fuzzy glow from having actually finished a book.

Well, sort of.

For me, the main goal is to see if I can finish a story in a month. My stories normally are long and rambling affairs that take me literally years to complete. I cut dozens of scenes totaling thousands of words out of Inheritance. Over the course of seven years! With the majority of that work taking place in the last two years, of course.

So the real question is: can I remain focused enough to write an average of 1,600 words a day? Every day? For a month?!?!?

November is gonna be a beast. I still have my commitments to Fiction Vortex: I will be reading and editing 10,000 words of text every week.

I still have my commitment to Misdirected: I will still be blogging once a week here.

And I still have client writing work: you know, the stuff that actually pays for food and coffee.

Somewhere, in all this, I am going to have to find time to write an average of 1,600 words a day. Every day. For a month.

I am simultaneously frightened and excited. What if the whole thing crashes and burns and I give up after 4,000 words?

But, a little voice keeps asking me: What if it is good?

Starting tomorrow, I am about to find out.

 

…And A Question For You

As part of the project, I am going to be keeping a log of sorts of what I manage to do every single day. Otherwise I will never finish. I know myself well enough to be aware that if I don’t hold myself accountable, I will hit a rough patch and say “Oh well, couldn’t do it.”

So, the question becomes: are you, the readers of Misdirected interested in this log?

If you are, I will log somewhere public. I have a Tumblr page that has literally been sitting ignored for months that I could dedicate to a “micro-blog” tracking my progress.

But, if no one is interested, I will simply write things down in a journal for my own edification. Let me know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.

Hyper Ventilating,

Jeremy