“The mundane is the edge of glory.”

11wks

That, messieurs et mesdames, is my daughter or son. At 11 weeks old he or she was twitching and moving in the womb, waving her arms and beating her heart as fast as she could. Yesterday I went for my nuchal test;  the little one was bigger than ever and even more active, wiggling so much that the ultrasound tech struggled to make the measurements.

It’s so strange to think that all of this movement is going on–perhaps at any hour of the day and night?–without my knowledge, inside my very body. I am eating, working, sleeping, watching terrible television, reading. Meanwhile this tiny person is building a spine, organs, and arranging her cells in preparation for life among us. This is all a mystery.

When I think about it too much I feel light-headed.

So, I don’t think about it too much. Half my time is spent eating or thinking about eating. The rest of the time, I’m trying to write, exercise, draw, and keep my head tightly screwed on to the rest of my body.

Exercise
Hitting 10,000 steps most days, although my goal is still 12,000-15,000. Once in a while I squeeze out a 17,000 step day, but that’s few and far between compared to how far I used to go. I do the occasional prenatal yoga video, but I think this is less strength/cardio and more stretching.

Drawing
I’m not doing the best job this go around, But I have been making some progress on drawing faces in perspective.

Writing
Making a surprising amount of progress here. Doing nano, at a rate of 2,000 words a day. I’m on track to finish my novella before Thanksgiving–probably won’t write a full novel, which is not something I do for side venture anyways. I handed off space opera partial to an alpha reader and got positive feedback. I’m feeling optimistic about this project.

Side Venture
Projecting $12,000 for 2015, which is $2k beyond my initial for 2015! I’m delighted beyond words. Will do a full accounting at the end of this year, but I am happy with how it went this year. I’m scaling goals back for 2016 due to baby ($6,000?), but very satisfied with the success of SV this year.

I have a lot of plans for writing in 2016, but not quite as much where publication goes–at least until the fall. I want to spend the first half of 2016 writing, the summer polishing and getting covers lined up (to skip over the summer slump), and then some fast paced publishing come fall. I’ve got plans. Yes, I do. If I play my cards right, 2017 might be very interesting indeed.

Or, it could be a total flop, in which case I will bury my nose in my baby’s sweet neck and let it go. The prenatal yoga videos encourage me to think about the word surrender, which is a good virtue for the pregnant state, but I can’t bring myself to do it completely. I have an irresistible urge to keep pushing at everything, but at work and writing in particular. Partly with the knowledge that I can’t predict how productive I’ll be once baby comes, but also because I feel like I can and should and want to push myself.

For now, the motto is: work hard, and then surrender.

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“If you can think of the times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency…”

“If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves.  To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself.  And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that.  I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.  I know that sounds a little pious.” – David Foster Wallace

I am married. And honeymooned. And today, utterly fatigued by the weight of the carbohydrates and protein that I have ingested in the last twelve hours. Thanksgiving seems a good day – an excellent day! – to return to a more reflective way of living.

I’d kept my private journal updated daily in October, but this month has been sparse on account of finishing Nanowrimo for the first time in the proper month of November – I finished Camp Nano in June 2012. I have not thought of much else but writing at breakneck speed, and keeping up the usual professional and familial obligations. I pulled a marathon writing session this past weekend, averaging 3500 words a day so I could finish the novel before Thanksgiving. It actually happened. Wow.

Tuesday night we stayed with mom on the way down from SF, and then drove the rest of the way down on Wednesday. Today was nothing but food, food, and more wonderful food. One of my lifelong wishes is for science to develop diet that emphasizes the heavy, unlimited consumption of simple starches and sugars.

What has changed in the last three months? Marital status, sure; but have also found a new writer to add to the pantheon of my favorites (above), and added a new country to my passport, and many small and grateful realizations about family and maturity.

I’m looking forward to winter. Ahead: family, daily writing, figure drawing & exercise. Happy Thanksgiving.

“Stepping outside onto the crisp yellow grass and feeling the unfiltered night breeze on the nape of her neck was like waking up after a hundred years’ sleep.”

“Stepping outside onto the crisp yellow grass and feeling the unfiltered night breeze on the nape of her neck was like waking up after a hundred years’ sleep.” -my June 2012 Nanowrimo

Hello, world! It’s July 1, and I’m back (and better than ever?). I completed my first Nanowrimo yesterday. Yes: against all odds, a full time job, a dog, a boyfriend and a house, I finished. My first YA science fiction (ish) novel. The reasons that I think I completed this time and failed the last two times that I attempted Nano are the following, with lessons learned in italics:

  • Extensive advance planning. I started planning this novel about a week and a half before Nano started. The idea had been percolating in my consciousness for awhile; I had tried to write it without planning for Nano 2011, but gave up three or four days in. This time I made it through because I created character sketches, planned out chapter by chapter and scene by scene as much as possible, without doing any extra writing. I used Evernote for my planning notes.The only thing that I did that may have qualified as a slight cheat was that I ended each chapter plan with a “hook”; something interesting or plot-developing to end a chapter on, and on occasion these would be sentences (something dramatic, i.e. “…’and then we will kill him.’ She cackled with incandescent glee.”). In the process of writing, I realized that I stalled the most/struggled the most when I didn’t know what would happen next. This killed the 2-3 hours a day that I had to write. From a pure practical standpoint, for my writing style, I need a plan, and one that goes from the beginning to the end of the story. Alas for not being one of the people who can just wing it, but I can’t do it.  Good to know.
  • Dedicated time to work. I knew that there were hours in the day that I had to write. And if I didn’t get it done by then, then I’d make no progress towards my goals. I’ve read before that you make room (and time) for what’s important, and that’s true of writing. 
  • Detailed word/writing daily goals. I used shareware Focuswriter for writing. It has a great automatic wordcount function, as well as showing percentage of daily writing goal achieved as I wrote. So I could check to see that I’d gotten at least, say, 20% done by a certain hour. It also has a nice distraction free full-screen writing mode, but I hardly used this as I was usually checking against my writing plans in Evernote. Good tools are useful but will not make up for a lack of plain ole gumption.
  • A supportive partner. Carter offered consistent support and encouragement. I think he had more faith in me than I did sometimes, which was  fortifying. He even took on some household tasks so that I would have the time I need to write on days when I was especially behind or needed to get the work done. What a man. Every woman should be so lucky. Never underestimate the value of a cheering section.

Other things I’ve learned:

  • Bad writing is better than no writing. My novel started out really well, and then the quality of the writing decayed over the course of the month. During that first transitional period when my writing was going from “decent! :D” to “unhappy bad grammartimes,” I felt the temptation to quit. There were moments when I’d read what I’d just typed, wince, and try to think of a way to go back and edit it, but then I’d look at my word count, gnash my teeth and realize that I’d just have to plow ahead. The focus of Nano on quantity over quality won over my sense of perfectionism, and I got a novel written in a month. Sure, it’s a questionably plotted, obnoxiously inconsistent novel, but it’s 50,000 words. I’ve never, ever written that much before, and that’s really something for me.
  • Write now, edit later. A corollary of the above; my novel veered drastically from my initial plan, which is what made the second half of the month more difficult. There are lots of terrible dead ends and contradictions and excessive exposition and unnecessary characters. (Also, to get my word count up, I added lots of gratuitous dialogue and adjectives. But considering that I thought dialogue writing was one of my weaknesses before Nano, I’m pretty happy with this development). Upon completion I have a better sense of what I can do with the narrative. I can see a lot of potential for revisions should I decide to go down that path. On the other hand, I also see a lot of reasons to just abandon this draft/story, call it a win for what it was, and move on to something else.
  • Writing is work. Work work work.

I’ve read about much of this before in writing classes and even anecdotally, but there’s nothing quite like actually going through the process to drive all these points through my thick, stubborn skull. Some part of me still thinks brilliance just pours from the hands of some ethereal muse, but that’s been relegated to a pretty small part of my understanding of writing as a craft. All good things.

I’m now trying to decide whether I want to finish this novel in my spare time, or start planning the chick lit novel that I’m hoping to write in August or November.

As a general salute to Nano, here’s the first chapter of my June 2012 novel. Now: before you read it, remember that this was chapter churned out in three days. It’s unedited. So, it’s not perfect. But this is the first chapter of the first long story that I’ve ever attempted, so I have a little bit of maternal pride, even if my child has her flaws. It was grand fun. Thanks for sharing in it, anonymous readers and nonymous friends, and if you have a moment, let me know what you think!

*The photo above: a few weeks ago I noticed a swath of white webbing wrapped around one of the trees at work. I noticed little cocoons tucked in all over it; some were empty and some were still occupied. This picture is of one of the moths that was just emerging. I could see her little antennae flexing. Today, as I was composing this post, it seemed oddly apropos. I also have a photograph of two moths getting frisky on top of my shoe (I guess they copulate as soon as they emerge!), but that seemed a little too R-rated for these here parts. 🙂

Ines folded her hands. “And perhaps, we will have a weapon.”

Well, all (blog) evidence to the contrary, I am still chugging away with Nano! I’m aiming for 35,000 words today. I am one part impressed with myself and another part mildly disappointed with the direction my story is headed. However! It is too late to change horses now. I am going to finish this bad boy if it kills me. Which is, I suppose, the soul of Nanowrimo!

I have some ideas for the chick lit Nano I’d like to write this fall. But I’m trying to not let that distract me from my current project. Work is work, and life is life.

Ines folded her hands. “And perhaps, we will have a weapon.”

“She downed a cup of sarsparilla”

Only wrote half my goal for Friday, but catching up today. I hate playing catch-up.

Maggie promised to bring back a slice of cake for Ines and disappeared into the milling people. She weaved through the crowd and felt oddly grateful for once that she was shorter than average. Once she found a spot at the buffet, she seized a plate from Moses’s younger sister and began to pile food onto it as quickly as she could: cornbread, roasted pig-rib, molasses cookies, stewed mustard greens, plum fritters, nuts, and egg-cakes. She downed a cup of sarsparilla and retired to the shade of a tree to eat. Not wishing to stain her good gloves, Maggie pulled them off and stuffed them into her pockets. On account of rarely having the chance to eat so well, she polished off the plate fairly quickly, and got up for a second serving of her favored bits–the pig-rib and the plum fritters. As she chewed dreamily at the cartilage on her pig-rib, she could feel someone approaching her behind the tree. 

“An unending canvas.”

Surprised that I am still on track. Today’s Nano excerpt:

Suddenly she could see the sound: an unending canvas of black and white pinpoints, where each pinpoint was a prick of pain. Out of the pinpoints something slow and terrible rolled underneath, and Maggie could see nothing else. She was blind to everything but the indistinct shapes forming and shifting. 

“Mothballs and expensive moonshine.”

Slowing down a bit this week but I’m still on target!

It seemed to her that most of the town’s aldermen tended to be Westcotts, and Mr. Jacob Westcott in particular had held that title for the last four years. Maggie recalled that he smelled like mothballs and expensive moonshine. He was posting something to the notice board; Maggie squinted some more. She scraped the last bit of rosy peach flesh off the pit with her front teeth –only slightly rotten–and spat out the pit from her perch.