Winning NaNoWrimo 2014

Another year of National Novel Writing Month has happened in my little world of writing, and I’m happy to say that I validated my novel today for another win. I’m pretty happy about this, moreso because not only did I win, but I also reached my personal goal, which was to write three novels and/or 150,000 words.

I had a few different ideas that I wanted to write about, and I thought a month of binge writing would set me up to revise the rest of the year. Because while I can type like crazy, I suck at revising. If there was a NaNoRevMo, I’d fail miserably.

Winner-2014-Web-Banner Putting in this many words ended up being a fairly daunting task. The first novel went quickly. I had it done by day seven and I was feeling pretty good about it. My second novel was about the same. I didn’t outline that one, so I ended adding some unexpected elements and it came together quite nicely. The third one started out strong, but by the time I got to the end, I was burnt out and my characters weren’t doing what I thought they should be doing, and I was frustrated with them.

I finished their story, but I came up short by about 20,000 words, so I decided to start parts of the next novels I had in mind. I ended up writing the first couple chapters of each of them and calling it good at a little over 150,000 words. By then, I was ready to call it a month.

I don’t think I’m going to be setting this goal for myself again for 2015. I might change my mind by next November, but right now, I think instead of going for quantity in a genre I’m comfortable writing in, I might go outside my comfort zone and try to write in a different genre. I have so many story ideas in my notes, and I think it would be just as much of a challenge to try to write a science fiction, mystery, or horror novel. I’ve also thought about finishing up the several stories I started and never finished.

Beyond the writing, NaNoWriMo 2014 resulted in some really good times with really good people. This was the first year I engaged in actual “write-ins” with the people from our Writer’s Group, many of which took place at my apartment. Since moving back to MHK, I’ve found that I love having people over. Most of our write-ins turned into TV watching or chat sessions, but we were still able to get things accomplished and crank out some good word counts.

I’m debating applying to be a municipal liasion next year. In the meantime, NaNoWriMo has inspired me to try to be more active in our Writer’s Group and in trying to organize regular “write-ins” as well as writer workshops and discussions. Hopefully I can keep this momentum going. I also plan on taking the pledge to revise my novels, because even though I know they’re really rough right now, I think there’s some good stuff hidden among all those words.

Congratulations to all those who won, good luck and keep going to all those still pushing through until the end, and don’t sweat it if you decided not to finish….just keep writing and doing your thing! It’s a process. Just make it yours and make it fun.


Coursera, Code Academy, and Why I Love MOOCs

I’m two weeks from finishing my third Coursera course. Even though it’s meant extra time management, I’ve had a lot of fun. This most recent course, Music’s Big Bang: The Genesis of Rock ‘n’ Roll, has turned me on to a lot of music and taught me some interesting history. I found out that I’m not a fan of old, guttural blues, but Fats Domino is pleasing to my ear. I know why Chess and Sun records were such big deals, and I realize that Led Zeppelin, one of my favorite bands, owes a great deal of their catalog to artists who predated them by a few decades.

Before this, I took a course about nutrition and diet trends. Before that, my first course was one about irrational behavior. From each of these, I came away with knowledge that changed some of my thinking and some of my behaviors. I took the classes at my own pace, and it didn’t cost a thing.

I love MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

I have no desire to go back to school, but I like to learn new things. The structure of weekly lessons, videos, tests, and the occasional assignment is just my speed. Coursera has certified options for those looking to have something more official, but you can receive a certificate of accomplishment just for taking the tests. Different classes have different requirements for earning a certificate. You can do as little or as much work as you want.

Coursera also offers message boards where you can interact with other students, and some classes count your interactions as part of your final grade. Because I’m not a message board person, I generally opt for just watching the videos and the taking the tests. For people who tend to be group learners, this feature is awesome.

Another learning opportunity I’ve recently started is Code Academy. Jon clued me in to this site when I told him I wanted to learn more about coding. I’m not the best at wrapping my mind around tech concepts, but I think if I focused and put time into it, I could be. In fact, were I to go back to school, it would probably be to get a degree in coding or programming.

Code Academy gives you points and badges for getting through step-by-step lessons and learning the building blocks of code. I did three fun ones before starting the actual course. It’s fun, though it’s a little bit harder for me than the Coursera courses.

There are other sites on the web that allow you to sign up for courses and lessons. Some are free, some have a fee, and some are a mix of both. If you’re looking for an actual degree, you still have look into classes from an accredited school, but I think the implications of MOOCs as other avenues of learning are exciting.

Plus, if you’re a geek like me, learning for the sake of learning is a blast.

Question: Have you ever tried a MOOC?
Bonus question: Do you think MOOCs could ever replace a college classroom setting?

*I haven’t been asked by either Coursera or Code Academy to do this post. I really just wanted to share something cool with my readers. 


February Goals and Progress with Revision

This past weekend was spent doing almost nothing. I think I was still fighting an infection because the stomach pain from the sickness I had last week didn’t go away, so I wasn’t feeling up to doing anything besides sitting around and reading and watching cute movies on Netflix. The highlight of the weekend (or lowlight as it were) was probably a bad haircut, though realizing it as a bad haircut was kind of a delayed reaction. Either way, I’ll be rocking the headbands for the next few weeks. My hair grows fast, though.

My stomach pains seem to have gone away. I’m avoiding soda and carbonation until I know for sure, but today was good. I was even able to walk on my breaks and get a workout in at the gym before we headed home. We’re waiting for a big snowstorm to hit. The city of Manhattan and the university and all the schools are already closed for tomorrow. My place of work is still open, however. If it’s not too bad in the morning, I’ll probably still go in. Current projects are much easier on my dual monitors. But if it’s bad in the morning, I’m prepared to work from home.

Since we’re into a new month, I’ve been trying to come up with some good goals for February. My writing goals included putting together the second draft of my novel and sending it to my beta readers, a goal which I accomplished tonight. I’ve set the deadline for the end of this month, which means March will be more revision and formatting. But now, other than the small bit of anxiety I’m getting with actually putting my work out there with the intention of maybe publishing it, I can rest for a few weeks and focus on some other things.

Seriously…even if this book doesn’t happen and even if everyone who reads it hates it, I’m going to feel good about the fact that I’ve gotten this far.

The two main goals for this month are going to be to finish my current/newest knitting project and to recommit to three days a week at the gym. Though I’ve been active (with the exception of last week, which turned into a seven day rest to heal from my illness), I haven’t been putting in the gym time, which is fine, except I’m paying for the membership. Since this might go away soon, depending on the job and money situation, I feel I should take advantage while I have it. Once the weather gets warmer, I’m going to be putting my goal focus into walking and running goals, so might as well take advantage of the gym while the weather dictates.

I may come up with some other goals later. My brain is all over the place right now.

It’s past my bedtime and work is likely to still happen tomorrow, so I’d better get a shower and get some sleep.

Side note: Cress releases tomorrow! I can’t wait! I’d be tempted to stay up until midnight to download it, but that will lead to starting it, which will lead to staying up all night reading it, which means nothing would get done tomorrow, and I need to be functional.




Weird Back Pain and Nanowrimo Revision

I woke up this morning with a sore lower back that persisted all day long. I don’t know what caused it for sure. We walked yesterday but didn’t do anything overly strenuous. Maybe it was how I slept? I know that sometimes it just feels sore for a day or so, and then goes back to feeling fine, so I’m hoping today was just an off day and that tomorrow it will feel better. The pain meant not being able to walk on breaks or lunch, and I opted out of a post-work walk to give it more healing time. However, I want to get back into some activity tomorrow, so here’s to hoping.

Between the back pain and the normal Monday workload, the day was productive but still stressful and overwhelming. I was glad to call it a day and come home to Jon, who had the day off for MLK day, and the crockpot deliciousness he’d cooked up. Over the course of the night, I managed to put away laundry, pack for housesitting tomorrow night, watch four Coursera lecture videos, and…wait for it…finish the first revision of my Nanowrimo project!

The funny thing about the revision is that it’s been hanging over my head, and when my friend asked about it today, I said I didn’t think it was ever going to get done. At the time, I truly believed that. The last chapter I’d revised prior to tonight made me mad…I hated how it flowed, but I was at a loss on how to fix it. However, I was thinking about my goals tonight and knew I wanted to still get it done, even if it meant waiting until later to fix that chapter. So I sat down, got focused, and finished revision on the last few chapters and the epilogue.

It’s not horrible! It’s got some good things going for it, and it has some stuff that I need to work on. My main worry is that it’s going to be super boring and I’m not going to know how to fix the overall plot.  I’m going to take the initial feedback and prepare the first revision for some beta readers, which brings me one step closer to possible publication. Admittedly, this is the furthest I’ve ever gotten on a novel. I’ve written several. I just haven’t revised them. Now that I have this revision under my belt, I’m kind of excited to go back and revise and re-work some of my older projects as well. However, to avoid that feeling of being bogged down in something, I’m reminding myself to take baby steps.

Since I met my January goal, my next goal is to make the initial changes, prepare the second draft as one document, line up my beta readers, and send them the draft. I already have a couple in mind, it’s just a matter of contacting them. I’m aiming to have that all done by the end of February, though since that’s a lot of time, I’ll hopefully have it done sooner.

Now that I feel super accomplished, I’m going to go shower and lay down for some reading and sleeping time. Here’s to hoping the back pain goes away and that tomorrow is super productive.


Writing at 9 Years Old

The year continues to be challenging, but I’m hanging in there.  This past weekend was spent  avoiding snow and cold temperatures and pretty much staying inside. We also stayed home on Monday, partially because of the conditions and partially because we were both feeling under the weather. Today was my first day back at work, and it felt like a Monday. Jon also got news of a wrench thrown into our budget plans for the next few months, so that was pretty disheartening. I’ve been depressed anyway, so I’m having a hard time going with the flow right now.

On a positive note for the night, it was chilly but not horrible, so Jon and I took a walk down Poyntz. I was in a funk, so I didn’t really stop to enjoy things, but being outside was somewhat therapeutic. We also attended a geocaching event at the mall. It was just a quick flash mob, but it gave me a chance to wear my jersey, which still doesn’t fit well, but I can put it on now. Progress!

One interesting thing I did this weekend was to read some of my old journals. Blogging really isn’t new to me, I just did it using pen and paper for years. Oh, and I kept it secret. Which is good, because the first journal I picked up to read was from my second semester in college, and boy…was I strange. I was angry and stressed, my priorities were completely out of whack, I had mean thoughts about everyone and everything, and I spent a lot of time “having fun.” I always remember college fondly. When anyone asks me, I truthfully say that I had a blast in my time at Lake State. But my journal reminded me that not everything was sunshine and roses. Of course, it was only a short time frame I was reading about because I tended to write pages and pages for just one night or one event. Still, it was a bit uncomfortable.

After traveling back to freshman year, I went even further back and pulled out my diary from third grade. Hilarious!  I talk about all kinds of important things, like what I had for lunch, who I hung out with at recess, the recap from the latest episode of Jem (because she was, and always will be, truly outrageous), and the boys I thought were cute (2/3 of the list was actors).  My favorite thing, though, was a story I started writing. Besides the content, it was funny to see that I’d very carefully written out every word, like I wanted it to look like it had been typed.

To perk myself up and to show what a goofball I was at such an early age, I’m going to share my story here. Feel free to skip if you’re not into the (word for word, I kid you not) creative writings of a nine-year old.

The Stranger – by Amanda S. 

A man in a black suit walked down the street. His pants were tight-fitting. His shirt hung loose around him. His black jacket was slung over his shoulder. His black boots were dusty. His shirt was tucked into his pants and his pants were tucked into his boots. His hair was black, and he wore dark sunglasses.

Nobody in the small town of Alonta, Michigan had ever seen him. Little did they know, he would become their worst nightmare.

Sue Antonio was daydreaming as usual on the job in the “St. Luey” coffee shop. She was an unmarried woman of 23. She was tall and slender. She had frizzy, strawberry-blond hair, and bright blue eyes. On either cheek, she had a small sprinkle of freckles. Sue worked in the St. Luey coffee shop from 9:00am to 12:00pm. She lived with her boss, also her best friend, Maria Maio.

Sue got payed well enough to buy herself a house. But she had come to think of Maria’s house as home, so she never left. 

Sue was the first to ever see the man. She was working late one night when he walked in. 

“Hello. May I help you?” asked Sue. 

The man sat at a stool near the counter. 

“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll have a coke.”

She got him his coke, then leaned against the counter.

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

Sue was too wary to give him her name, so she said, “What’s yours?”

“I asked you first,” said the man, without even flinching. Sue didn’t like the way the man was looking at her. “Sue,” she replied, hesitantly. 

“Just call me Wolf.”

Epic, right?? Besides the fact that I think I’m describing Danny from “Grease,” I have no idea where I came up with this stuff! Also, do baristas really make enough to buy a house? Especially when they only work for like four hours a day? I really did spell it St. Luey, and I love the melodrama of “He would become their worst nightmare.”

I kind of want to write this as an adult, now. I’m pretty sure I already have some ideas of where to take this.

On that note, I’m cold and tired, so I’m going to shower and sleep. Hoping tomorrow is a better day all around.



Winning National Novel Writing Month

I have officially won National Novel Writing Month.

Technically, I won it a few days ago when I broke the total word count of 50,000. However, that was split between two novels I was writing simultaneously. Today, I focused on my first one and managed to finish it completely at just over 53,000 words. I still have a few days before the official end of Nanowrimo, but since we’ll be traveling, I’m not sure how much time I’m going to be able to give to the second novel. The goal now is to try to get a high word count to at least be in the running for Marissa Meyer’s contest. However, even if I don’t make that one, I’m still pretty excited with this accomplishment.

Also, I don’t completely hate the story I wrote, and other than the fact that I’m a bit squeamish about letting my family read it, I might actually work on revising it in the coming year.

We slept in a little bit today because it was freezing and I couldn’t seem to get out from under the covers. Jon discovered that we didn’t have a great deal of hot water, so I decided I’d suck it up and take a shower at the gym after a workout. I took him to work, then decided to run errands. This turned out to be a good thing. One of my errands was to return some laundry balls to Forsh, who told me I could use her place for chilling and showering. I took her up on that offer, which meant I got a ton of writing done in a comfortable chair and got to shower without trying to maneuver around a fairly public locker room. Thanks, Forsh!

Instead of going to the gym, I ended up taking another walk around the neighborhood. It was still cold, but not as cold as it was over the weekend. I did a zombie mission and ended up making it around the big block, then making a lap around a smaller one. I had four zombie chases, and on the fourth one, I actually had to push through some leg fatigue. It was still fun.

After I picked Jon up from work, we went to the grocery store to buy some travel snacks before coming home. I broke out the snuggie right away, because even though the heat is on, the apartment is not as warm as I would like it to be. I finished my story, but I didn’t get much else accomplished. Luckily, we’re almost completely packed for tomorrow, so there’s nothing besides some last minute things to throw into the suitcase, and those can be done tomorrow morning before we leave.

I think I’m going to finish off the night with some reading. We’re off early tomorrow for St. Louis! Whoo hoo!


Random Updates on Things

This week is moving along at a decent pace, but today was another day where not much really happened, at least nothing that’s blogworthy. So based on things I did today, I thought I’d give a couple general updates.

Health and Fitness: We walked the track tonight since it wasn’t too cold and we wanted to do something different from the gym. I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made with walking and just being in better shape in general. I can walk a mile in just under a half hour now, though if big hills are present, it takes a little longer. As I mentioned in some recent posts, I’ve recently acquired an interest in jogging…which seems weird for me…so I’m rolling with it. I haven’t done much yet, but I’ve moved from walking zombie chases with the Zombies, Run app to jogging them, and I’ve been feeling really good about what I’ve been able to do.

It’s not always easy for me to remember that it’s okay to be a beginner, but I’m working on it. Eventually I plan on moving into the C25K training with jogging and walking, but baby steps have to happen for me to get there. And there’s a chance that those baby steps will take me two years, but I’m okay with that.  In the moment, I actually need to take a step back and handle current issues, like my sore hip. I keep saying I’m going to the chiro for it, and yet I keep putting it off. I have no clue why I’m procrastinating, but tomorrow…tomorrow is the day I make my appointment.  Tonight will be heat and Biofreeze.

Nanowrimo: I’ve made really good progress with my Nanowrimo story. However, for various reasons, I’ve started a second piece to work on at the same time. My first one is erotic fiction, and I’m finding it challenging. Sometimes the writing flows well, and other times I get stuck trying to make one scene sound decent and not being happy with it, so I give up. Plus, I like to use my breaks and lunch to do some writing sprints, and I’m not sure how comfortable I am writing sex scenes at work. So I decided to start another story to write at work while I work on my first one at home. Combined, I’ve broken 30,000 words.

I’m not sure if this can be considered cheating, but don’t worry, I’m still planning on breaking 50,000 with the one story. Part of the reason I’m doing two is to enter a contest that Marissa Meyer is holding (thanks to Erica for cluing me into this one) and I don’t think the material for the first book will go much over 60,000 words. Also, I find that switching between the two projects helps me write each one faster. I don’t know why, but it does. And I don’t have an outline for my second one. I picked a starting point and went with it and I’m having a blast doing it that way. If I want to make something of it, I’m going to need to do more research, but the joy of Nanowrimo is that I don’t have to worry about that right now. I just have to write.

I think that’s all the updating I have for now. There’s a chance I won’t get a post done tomorrow night. It depends on what time I get home from a Girls Night In. Come to think of it, late night gaming might get in the way of a Friday post too. But this weekend should be pretty chill, so expect some catching up if I miss out on the next two nights.

Until then…


Writing, Knitting, and Zombies

Today was much better than yesterday as far as mood and depression went, but it was fairly uneventful.

I spent my lunch and break times writing my Nanowrimo story. Not going to lie…I’m way ahead. I’m happy about this because I’m hoping to have it done before Thanksgiving so I don’t have to worry about it while we’re in St. Louis. This one is a challenge, and I’ve gone from being really psyched about it to wanting to quit. But have no fear, I will push on.

After work, we walked the rec center and did zombie missions. I tested out the GPS tracker, but I think I’m going back to the accelerometer. I didn’t get any zombie chases. I did pick up quite a few supplies though.

I did some more knitting tonight and watched a couple movies. I had several requests in the office for knitted items, so I’m doing them as people bring me yarn. I’m having a hard time picking up some old projects, but I’ll get to them eventually.

I’m feeling a little sniffly and stuffy tonight, so I’m heading to bed in hopes of feeling better tomorrow. I don’t want to be sick for the weekend.


A Challenging Find and Scary Games

I realized that I didn’t do my blog last night, opting to crash out after time with friends rather than try to push through a post. It’s early right now, almost 8am on new time (did you remember to “fall back” last night?), and though I was going to get my Nanowrimo session done first, I figured I’d go ahead and kick out yesterday’s grind.

I started my day off with some hot tea and writing, working on my piece for Nanowrimo. I settled on erotic fiction, since it’s a genre I hadn’t yet really tried, and though I’m not regretting it, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable letting anyone in my family read it. So far it’s coming along nicely, though. Like most of the things I write, it’s doing things I didn’t expect, which is always fun and why I use a very loose outline when I write. Yesterday, I broke 6,000 words, and I’m hoping to break 8,000 this morning before getting started with the rest of the day.

Once we left the house, we headed out to the Wamego Boat Ramp once again to try to find that geocache. After talking about it with the cache owner and some others who had found it, we wanted to give it another try.  NCC had helped us eliminate some of the possibilities, so we focused our attention elsewhere this time. Within a few minutes, I saw a place where it could be, and Jon managed to get into a position to check it out. Sure enough, there it was! Talk about a sense of accomplishment.

From there we went to Zeandale to grab a few more on one of the back routes to Manhattan. This trek took us to Pillsbury Crossing, an area that we’d heard about and talked about but had never been to until yesterday.

It was a little weird driving across here.
It was a little weird driving across here.
Swing time!
Swing time!
Had to make a short hike to get down here, but the view was worth it!
Had to make a short hike to get down here, but the view was worth it!

We found one cache in a picnic area. There was another one near the rocks in the lower picture, but we decided to save that one for a day when we were geared to handle wet and rocky terrain. We ended the day with five finds and one DNF.

We called it a day there because we were hungry and because I had some prep to do for a small one-shot horror game I was testing out, After stopping at Taco Bell, we headed over to Forsh’s for puppy sitting. I finished up my game’s back story, and we watched the latest episode of “American Horror Story: Coven.”

Around six, Terry and Erica came over. I transferred some music over to Erica for her workouts and we ordered pizza, ate too much candy, and got the game going. Though it was only supposed to be a one shot game, we put it on hold to finish at a later time. It’s story based, so even though I had a general outline for it, I had to veer a bit since the players basically dictated what happened. This is actually a really fun way of running a game, at least for me. It’s like storytelling improv. To my knowledge, I only made one mistake in the telling, and I’m blaming that on being tired.

The goal for today is to “detox” and get back on track with eating well and exercising. When I say detox, I’m really just going to avoid sugar, drink a lot of water, get a good workout in, and maybe have a green smoothie for lunch for a nutrient boost. Last week was SugarFest 2013 (thank you, Halloween) and a short gym hiatus, but I want to get back into a routine. We have our St. Louis trip coming up, and I want to be ready for that and the high amounts of walking we’ll be doing.

For now, going to work on my Nano.


Murder Mysteries and Misty Weather

The current big thing in the office right now is our Halloween week murder mystery. This was an idea that my group came up with and we’re having a blast running it. I’m pleased with how it’s going so far.  The back story is that someone killed a local auditor and hid the body somewhere on campus. Now the players must solve the mystery and lay his ghost to rest.

I’m going to be honest…I’ve never played in or set up a murder mystery before, so this one is very experimental.  For the clues, I gave everyone participating three to four clues that they could share with each other. Then I chose “witnesses” from other parts of the building. My “informants” give the players a clue as to which witness they need to find, they give that witness a password, and they receive two new clues (from a larger pool of clues, so they have to continue to interact and trade clues).

Technically, it’s a team building exercise, but it’s also an individual player contest, because whoever solves everything gets a prize. Either way, creating and executing this has been a blast and has started the creative juices flow, possibly in preparation for NaNoWriMo (if I decide to do it).

Besides that excitement,  Forsh brought in Halloween candy today and got us all sugared up. I’m usually a holiday humbug, but this year I’m kind of having some fun with Halloween. I’m never one to costume up, but I’m going to enjoy the rest of it.

The weather was weird and misty today, and since I worked the later shift, I wasn’ t feeling up to fighting the gym crowd. Our original plan was to take a walk around the rec center and do a zombie mission. Instead, we went out geocaching after work, deciding it would be some good activity but we could still write today off as a rest day. Our first cache took us to a local cemetery that we’d passed on the road a few times but had never visited.  We drove into it and couldn’t believe how huge it was. It just kept going. It was beautiful, and with the misty and chilly weather, the atmosphere was perfect.

100_2120 100_2121 100_2124 100_2125 100_2126 100_2129

We found this cache and two more nearby before heading to another part of town where we found one more. We looked for one that was recently published in the area but had to log as a DNF. It was dark by that time, and the ground was wet so we weren’t getting low for the hunt. I figure we’ll probably go back soon and try to find it again.

We chilled at home with some dinner and one of my guilty pleasure shows, Toddlers and Tiaras. I will say that the new season on Netflix is slightly annoying thus far. We’re only two episodes into it, and I’m already tired of seeing little girls be taught cattiness by their nasty mothers.  I know the show is edited for that type of reaction, but I wish they’d edit to show the good parents more. I think the light they show these pageants in is why so many people hate them, even though I think there are some major positives to these competitions.

That’s a subject  for another post though. I’m going to finish up here, get a quick shower, and settle in for some reading. I checked out a book at the library on a whim, but it’s a “Sizzler,” and it’s due back tomorrow. I’m over halfway through, so I have to finish it tonight before I fall asleep.

Tomorrow’s Wednesday, so make like camels and enjoy your Hump Day! (Yeah, that was really bad. Sorry!)