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Saturday, December 17, 2011

NanoWrimo 2011 - Crossing the Finish Line

180x180 NaNoWriMo 2011

We blogged about six weeks ago, telling you about our NanoWrimo plans; how we were feeling, how we planned to get it done, how scared and excited we were. So, we thought we'd come back and tell you how it went.

Today is December 14th. Exactly fourteen days ago, I finished NaNoWriMo. My final count was somewhere around 53,000 words. For those of you keeping track, yes, I wrote over 50,000 words in a month. It was incredible and draining. It was inspiring and soul crushing. It was a million other emotions I can't put into words. How did I do it? I'm not sure. There were several days I was beyond exhausted and couldn't fathom writing another word. I'd look at my word count ticker and wonder how I was going to make it. However, I did. The day I reached my goal, I cried and danced with my husband. Why was it such an emotional journey? Well, let me tell you…

Writers are artists. Like painters, we have a blank canvas, a palette of paints, and a vision. For writers, we have a blank page, a brain full of words, and a vision. No matter the medium of art, we all have to figure out how to make our vision come to life. Writers are notorious for writing and deleting (or erasing, however one rolls) while letting self-doubt to slowly leak into our brains, making the entire process come to a screeching halt. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great. There is no time for self-doubt. There is no room for deleting or self-loathing. You just have to do it. That is the difference, in my opinion, that makes people successful in winning NaNo or not.

Look. We all have busy lives. We work, either in or out of the home, have families, have bills, commitments, etc. These are all valid excuses, but if the hearts desire isn't there, it won't happen. I will say that there were days, several of them, when I was so behind, I thought giving up was my only option. I listened to people say, "Oh…You've done so good no matter what!" But you know what? That wasn't good enough for me. It wasn't good enough because if I didn't finish, if I didn't push myself when I thought there was nothing left for me to give, I wouldn't have known my full potential. I wouldn't have learned what it meant to commit to characters so near and dear to me, and watch them come to life, in just thirty days time. I wouldn't have known the virtual hugs and hand-holding, the over abundance of encouragement and support, not just from my WBP girls, but from an enormous community of writers I've found on the same journey. We lifted each other up, carried one another through, and celebrated at the finish line. I have felt no greater feeling in my life since giving birth to my son. That is how powerful of an experience this was. Seeing the culmination of something you created come to life, seeing it breathe the air and see the light of day, was nothing short of absolute bliss.

Where do I go from here? Well, I go right back in and finish this sucker. NaNoWriMo may claim you can write a novel in a month, but I beg to differ. I think what you have at the end of the month is a novel missing words, lacking in structure and a overall mess. Does that mean it’s garbage? No. It just means it needs some TLC and that is where editing comes in. This is where I am right now and will be for the months ahead. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or a month, and neither was a well-rounded novel.

You hear that people? It may not be perfect, but it’s mine. Every word was from my heart and now, I’m going to make them look as beautiful as I know they can be, but for now, I’m just going to relish the fact I won NaNo. I won, one agonizing word at a time, and I feel pretty freakin good about that.

Sometimes, things seem insurmountable. Because of that, those very things are intimidating, which is often all it takes to make people shy away from attempting them.

NaNoWriMo was not one of those things for me.

Maybe it makes me cocky, but I knew I could do it; it was simply a matter of putting my mind to the task and, of course, focusing on a plot and set of characters I could really sink my teeth into.

What NaNo taught me was that, when I am focused, I can write quickly and cleanly. It taught me that, when I want it to be, my focus can be sharp as a razorblade. It taught me that I can think on my feet.

Because, you see, I NaNo’d in 16 days.

51000 words in 16 days.

Honestly, I look back and I don’t quite know how I did it. The month of November is a blur of words, cramped hands, turkey, and the general craziness that is life. I do know that I set stretch goals for myself, and when I met them, I didn’t allow myself to slow down. I wrote. And wrote.

And then? Yep. You guessed it: I wrote some more.

It was this insane thing; never had I written with such fervor in my life. There just wasn’t time to treat it any other way.

I began this novel on November 1st, and by about 11:45 on November 16th, I crossed the NaNo threshold and basically danced my way around my living room for about half an hour (to the sounds of Robyn, in case you were wondering). I couldn’t sleep; all I wanted to do was tweak and edit and add and then dance some more.

I think the most valuable thing I gleaned from NaNo came in the form of a reminder:

Writing is like air for me. I need it, and when I don’t have it, I become about as pleasant to be around as a teething toddler - petulant and whiny and generally grumpy. It’s like there’s a lifeline between my fingertips and the keyboard, and if I ignore it for any period of time, it begins to scratch and poke at me until I give it the attention it deserves. It reminded me of how badly I want to be an author.

And for that reminder, NaNoWriMo 2011 was worth every ounce of stress and every minute of missed sleep I sacrificed.

If I tell you a secret about my Nano experience, do you promisepromise, pinky swear, cross your heart and hope to die, that you won’t tell anyone? Crossies do NOT count.

Okay. Here’s my secret.

I went into Nano with no expectation of finishing. None. I even set up a list of reasons why I wouldn’t be able to finish. I was ready to fail.

I think, in some ways, I was looking to fail.

It’s amazing. When you are looking to fail, you will find a million different ways in which to fail to the epic degree. And guys, I found a boatload.

On day 3, I went back and read what I’d written. Consumed with how little it had in common with the story in my head, how downright terrible it was, I almost threw in the towel.


So, I took a few days off. And when I came back, I took everything I’d written so far, stuck it in another doc, and started again.

On day 10(ish), I realized that I was writing with no specific story in mind, just random bits that weren’t going to fit anywhere. I started to wonder why I was ‘wasting’ a month writing these bits, so I almost threw in the towel again.


I soldiered on, trying not to delete words, trying to get comfy with the idea of the (really) shitty first draft. I had my girls with me, cheering me on and sending me blog posts to give me perspective. Then, I decided to read The Hunger Games. And Catching Fire. And Mockingjay. And then I needed time to process the massive amount of amazing/heartbreaking/perfect/awful that I’d just read.

On day 26, I blogged. I had 33,000 words. I hadn’t written in four days. And I was right on the verge of fulfilling my initial expectation of not finishing. Some people were right there, about to finish. Some people had finished days ago. *looks up at Ang* And here I was, 17K words from the goal with five days. So, I’m sure you can guess, I almost threw in the towel again.


But, I had this vision that if I could just hit 40K, I could make it. I busted hump to hit 40K. Then busted hump some more. Then I verified my word count on the Nano site, only to realize I had lost over 1,000 words. So, I almost... whatever, you know what I almost.
In the two days that followed, I literally wrote like my fingers were on fire. Some of it is crap. Hell, most of it is crap. But, around 2:00 AM on 11/29, I hit 50,084 words. I won NanoWrimo.

I’m going to chime in with Mel here. 50K words and one month does not make a book. In fact, it makes one hell of a mess. But it gave me a really good start to my first novel, a story that has been through so many changes, it no longer resembles its initial idea in any way. A story that, over the course of twenty eight days and many, many cups of coffee, refused to let me give up on it.

What used to live only in my brain, now lives on a page. It’s full of plot holes and typos and things that will never see the light of day. Would I call it a book? Well no, but...


We did it! We all won NanoWrimo 2011! And it feels amazing. We want to say thank you to those that helped us achieve our goals; we couldn't have done it without you. Also, our congratulations go out to all of our fellow Nano-ers. Whether you hit 50,000 words or not, you are winners to us. Even if you opted not to Nano, because you were already in editing mode, or you knew this wasn't a process that would work for you, or because you realized that November is a cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs month to try and write a novel, we love you and think you're awesome.

What's next? Well, as our fellow writers know....

So we're editing. And writing. And drinking coffee. And we'll keep doing that, not because it's what we do, but because it's who we are.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Are we crazy? No. Let’s just say we’re ambitious.

Okay, so, three of us gals here are doing NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is an internet-based project that happens every November and challenges writers of all genres and ages to write a novel in a month (or 50,000 words.) Sounds nuts, huh? Yeah. We think so too, but we’re going to do it, along with approximately 200,000 people from countries all over the world.

Why am I doing this? I’m not quite sure, but feel compelled to do so. The YA novel I’ve been working on needs it. (That said, it’s sorta ‘cheating’ to participate with a project already in progress. However, I’m committing to do the 50k words. Cheating Schmeating. Don’t tattletale.) Committing to NaNoWriMo, I’m giving this story the huge, undivided attention it deserves.

I don’t expect to win a Pulitzer for what I write during NaNoWriMo, but I do expect to have enough words to finish the first draft of this book. That, in and of itself, will make the whole thing worth it. It’ll be worth the anxiety attacks and sleep deprivation. Luckily, I have the IV caffeine drip all set up.

See you on December 1st. xo

NaNoWriMo is this crazy thing. I know that. 50K words in 30 days? What the hell am I thinking?

But see, I work well under pressure, so I kind of think NaNoWriMo is engineered for weirdos such as myself.

My plans are to begin and hopefully finish the first draft of book one of Gaby’s story. It’s dystopian, though that will really hardly matter once we get going, and also faerie-centric. I have some absurd goals, which I’ll post about on my personal blog (example: 15K words by 11/5, for reasons I’ll get into later), but I am extraordinarily amped for this challenge.

No Twitter. No Facebook. No gchat. Just me, my laptop, and words.

See you in December, folks. MWAH!

Word Goal = 50,000
Days = 30
Characters = 6(ish)
Scrapped Outlines = 1
Plot = ½?
Unnaturally calm authors who should probably be having nervous breakdowns right about now = 0

I should be freaking out, right? Normally, this is exactly where I’d be freaking out. Come to think of it, WHY AREN’T I FREAKING OUT? I’ve got 87 different variations of a plot dancing around in my head, I haven’t written more than a couple hundred words at a time in almost six months and my schedule would make lesser women weep (okay, sometimes, it makes me weep). So freaking out would be totally acceptable here.

And yet, I’m not. I’ve been oddly calm (‘oddly’ because calm and I don’t exactly hang out) about the whole thing. Word on the Nano street is ‘no plot, no problem.’ Well, I’ve got this no plot thing wired.

You see, I can't fail. For me, Nano this year IS about getting the first draft of my novel written. And on some level, it is about hitting 50,000 words. But more than that, it’s about BEING a writer again. Making daily writing a habit. Trusting that I know what is best for my characters, that only I can tell their story. Learning to go with my gut. Understanding that there is a time for writing and a time for editing, and that now is a time for writing.

If I achieve these goals, 50,000 words or no, I win.

The plan to get there? Minimal internet. No Twitter. A strong support system. A person to spill my fears to (Jan, I will never stop thanking you.) Lots of coffee. Comfy pants. A quiet room. Google Docs. My characters. And me.

No big, right? We'll find out. See you in 31 <3

We'll check back in once the month is over. We'll let you know if we 'won', how it worked out, and if we went nuts in the process. Or, you know, more nuts than we are now ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

On the Same Page - The Spark

On the Same Page - a monthly round table discussion on topics relevant to our writing experiences.

The six of us here at White Blank Page are all at very different stages of the writing process. Some of us are still planning, some just beginning to carve out some shape on their blank pages, some are halfway done or almost done--some completely done and starting round two. But regardless of where we happen to be now, we all remember what it's like at the beginning, how we went from being normal, (mostly) functioning humans to these completely distracted individuals who live the majority of lives playing with made up people inside our own minds.

It turns out that though we all ended up in roughly the same place, the ways in which we got there were all very different. And that's the story we're telling today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Night Circus Winner!

Well, you guys we just awesome giving me all kinds of upcoming book recs! I added some new ones to my list, so thank you.

For the record, the book I'm most eagerly awaiting is Lola and the Boy Next Door. I'm counting the minutes. That and The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Macker. And I could go on and on...

But instead, I'll get to the point. And the point is, one of you lovelies has a copy of Erin Morgentstern's The Night Circus coming to you. And that someone is...


Shoot me your email address and this baby is all yours.

Thank you for making that easy. Thank you all for playing. Thank you to Random House for throwing the awesome party so that we could give this away. Thanks Mom, you were always there for .... sorry, I got a little carried away.

<3 Becci

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Night Circus Giveaway

I want to tell you how cool/crazy good/amazingwonderfulstupendous The Night Circus is. Sadly, I can’t. But only because I haven’t read it yet :) I can tell you that I’m dying to read it. And I can tell you that I’m dying to read it even more after getting a chance to meet the author, Erin Morgenstern, last week.

I got the chance to go to the pre-launch party for this book last week, which was really exciting. And by exciting, what I mean is ‘how cool...oh god, what am I going to wear... repeat after me, Becci, you will NOT do that thing where you ramble off random babble just because you get nervous in groups of people you don’t know... oh god, WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR...’

And that is just a little window into the crazy, folks.

But I went, and it was incredibly cool. The party was held at Verrill Farm in Concord, MA (and I totally took a wrong turn and started driving to Walden Pond... how cool is that?), which is where the book is set. There were tents and strings of lights and circus-y folk. It was really sort of magical.

And there was one very grateful, gracious, lovely author in Erin Morgenstern.

So, I have an ARC of The Night Circus for me, which I will be digging into very shortly. AND, because I think you are all special snowflakes, I have an extra one for one of you!

The book hits stores on September 13th. I’m going to make this giveaway a quick one, so that you get it before then. Heck, you’ll probably even get it while I’m still reading, since I read like old people... well, let’s just say it’s not fast. And then, we can send each other delightful little messages about how much we love it, because I just have a feeling we’re going to.

What do you have to do? Hmmmm. In the comments below, tell me which book, one that hasn’t been released yet, you’re dying to read (before 11:59 PM EST on 9/4). This one? Another one? (This is a nice way to enter, and it’s also a shameless way for me to find out books that are coming up that I might not know of yet. I’m shellfish, what can I say?)

Open to U.S. and Canada only. Closes 9/4 at 11:59 PM.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't You Dare Call Me A Writer...Yet.

What the hell am I?

I must ask myself this question, at least, five times a day. I’m clearly having issues with calling myself a writer and telling the world what I’ve committed to do with my life. Maybe this would be better explained with a real life conversation that occurred between me and my husband.

Me: Honey, did you see the writing blog I’m doing with the girls?

Mr. Mel: Yeah, it looks great. I posted it on my Facebook so everyone can see.

Me: :::blank stare::::

Mr. Mel: Yeah, I was so excited for you that I wanted to share. It’s awesome.

Me: You did...wait...what?

Mr. Mel (starting to look scared): that a big deal?


Mr. Mel: Well, I think the world knows anyway, dear. You just put it on a blog...with your name...and your picture.


Mr. Mel: Wait. You’re writing and that’s awesome, but you don’t want people to know?


Mr. Mel: Honey...


Things grow fuzzy in my recollection after this. I think there was more screaming on my part and even more confusion on my husbands. Yes, the Facebook post was eventually deleted.

I consider myself lucky that I have a husband that believes in me so much that he wants to share with everyone he knows that his wife is a writer. However, I’m not
a writer. Technically.

I touched on this in my bio actually. Having a career as a writer is so far out of the realm of what I anticipate, I don’t entertain the idea much. Yes, I write. I love it. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I’m trying to make something out of that love inside me, but I don’t know where it will go from there. Why put myself out there, label and all, when I don’t even know what I’m doing? On the other hand, according to my husband, why shouldn’t I share?

Oh wait. Don’t answer that. I know the answer. My favorite f- word. Well, second.


If I tell everyone I’m writing, that I’m a writer, I set myself up for all kinds of expectations. At this stage of the game, I think my very fragile ego wouldn’t be able to take disappointment. I’m a very sensitive, delicate flower (or so I’ve been told on a few occasions.)

Hypothetical: Let’s tell all my family and friends I’m dedicating my time to writing a novel and when I possibly have nothing to show for it some day, they can all conclude I’m a big, fat failure. They can look at me with a sad look and say, “So, are you still doing that writing thing?”

Can you see my hesitation?

Okay, so maybe I have a teeny problem with self-deprecation.

Then this other conversation happened yesterday.

Best Friend: So, what else have you been spending your time doing?

Me: Ohhhhhhhh. Nothing much.

Best Friend: Do I have to drag it out of you? Your husband told my husband you’re writing a book.

Me: Oh! Well...I...I...dunno.

Best Friend: Why didn’t you tell me?! This is fabulous! You’ve always had a gift for writing and I’m so glad you’re doing something with it.

Me: I...just...was nervous telling anyone.

Best Friend: Why?

Me: Because what if I fail?

Best Friend. What if you don’t?

Me: The chances of...

Best Friend: (interrupting) Mel...But what if you don’t?

Everyone needs a best friend like this.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing... LIKE A BOSS.

"If you write every time you feel like it, you will have pages. If you write everyday, you will have a book."

Reading that quote the other day was a major brick-to-forehead moment for me. Because, I mean... duh. Obviously it's true, but I've just never thought about it like that. I think about writing as this organic ~artistic~ process, and approach it the same way; I write when the inspiration is there, when I feel motivated, when the characters are the loudest in my head. 

And maybe for some people, inspiration and motivation are there all the time--or even just at the right times--but for me? Inspiration and/or motivation hit in the middle of meetings, or at three in the morning, or out on the football field during my son's practices. It's never at the right moment, never when it's practical or easy for me to drop everything and escape into my little room of quiet focus. (By the way, do those rooms exist? I need one.)

What I've begun to do is approach writing like I would a second job. I've scheduled as much time as I have on a daily basis (which, admittedly, during August football season--with its three hour practices every evening, oh joy--isn't much). I've set aside a place for myself to write--a place where I am not allowed to do anything but write. I've set a deadline and some attainable progress points to meet along the way.

Pimp My Novel has a really excellent post up about this very thing, and I intend to print it out and stick it to my wall.

It feels good. It feels focused. I need to realize that no one else is going to make me write. Whether I finish this project or not does not matter to anyone but me. No one else will regret it if I don't. No one else will live with that lost potential. Just me. So I need to be my own boss about this.

So I'm gonna write like a boss. Awww yeeeaaah.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lists and Bad Days and Tim Riggins

“The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.” - H. Allen Smith


It is a running joke between me and my closest friend that there is nothing I love more than a good list. Shopping lists, lists of books, to do lists, lists of songs, more lists of books, lists of my lists. Okay, not really the last one, but now that I think about it, it’s not a bad idea.

In my day job, lists are essential. Lots of things to do, lots of details to remember, and only one me. So my desk is a veritable wonderland of lists. On paper, online, on one of three dry erase boards.

The thing is, lists work, at least for me. When I have one, things feel more organized and less chaotic. And let’s face it, between the full time job, the husband and two kids, and attempting to write a novel, organization is key.

My point? Getting there. I do have one, I promise.

So, after reading about my adoration of lists and all things organized, one would imagine that when I’m writing, my outline is my bestest best friend that I snuggled with and loved up on and relied on to keep me sane.

One would be incorrect.

In fact, outlines scare the bananas out of me. And the the strange thing is, I’m not really sure why. And outline has a lot in common with a list, right? It helps with organization, gives some course of action, yada yada yada. I should be all over an outline like a donkey on a waffle.

But I’m not. Maybe it’s because outlining is really hard?

Why, oh why, must I suffer for my art? (Said a la Scarlett O’Hara, complete with my head thrown back dramatically and the back of my hand resting on my forehead).

Outlining is hard for me. The process is basically the antithesis of how I write. It’s all overview and high level and light on details. Details are my world.

Or maybe it’s because I feel like it takes some of the magic out of the writing process. I have this illusion (i.e. delusion) that authors go into a room with nothing but a coffee pot and a toilet, draw the shades, write like the keyboard is on fire and emerge three weeks letter with a perfect, fully edited work of literary genius.

In reality, I know that’s not true. But the writer in me is also a dreamer. And the dreamer in me doesn’t seem to want to accept that this is work. Hard work.
I know some authors outline, and some don’t. So why not be one of the ones that doesn’t? Why not just be a fly by the seat of your pants type of gal? (Moment to moment, that’s me. Yes, I’m quoting Pretty Woman at you).

It doesn’t work.

Historically speaking, without an outline I get halfway through (that’s me being generous with myself) and I can’t remember what I envisioned happening anymore, I can’t make decisions about where I want it to go. I get stuck.

Of course, historically speaking, with an outline I feel stifled and locked in and I can’t remember why I wrote down that I wanted those things to happen in my story. I get stuck.

And I really don’t want to get stuck on this. I love my characters (obsessively so) and I want what’s best for them. I don’t want them sitting in the middle of a half finished manuscript saying ‘Wait! Where are you going? What happens to us??” I can’t bear the thought of them suffering. Unless, of course, said suffering is part of the story.

So I bit the bullet. I outlined.

Of course, I then immediately changed my mind on so many things that I had determined were completely static. I was so certain of something one minute, but when I looked at the outline as a whole, I found things that wouldn’t work.

Just a guess, but I think a few of you are going to relate to what came next.

My head kersploded. I feel apart. I became this utterly useless piece of whiny writer.

Because if the things I thought I knew turned out to be false, then how do I know what is true? If I found that many flaws while writing the outline, how would my story survive writing the book??

And the answer is simple. (By simple, I mean that it took me three weeks, several emoils (emails full of whine and flail - many thanks and apologies to my WBP girls and Jess and ALL the other recipients), and some serious denial partying with Riggins*.

It won’t. The story as I imagined it when I first came up with the idea won’t make it through this process.

So I’m quitting writing to watch Friday Night Lights full time? No. Although, brutal truth, I contemplated it a lot in the last few weeks, and almost decided to hang up my hat. And in those truly dark moments, I emailed just one person and said ‘I want to give up.’

Thankfully, the people in my life know me well, and love me regardless. Because the response was exactly what I needed to hear (thank goodness for Meri).

Recharge your batteries. Do what makes you happy. Read. Watch a show. Snuggle. You'll find your way.

You’ll find your way.

And that way? It’s not in the outline. There is no map from where I am now to where I’ll be when I finish. There are no step-by-step directions to guide me. I need to learn that anything can change. I need to decide what are the pieces my book can’t live without, and which ones can be sacrificed. I’m not scrapping the outline, but I am looking at it for what it is.

I’m going to learn to work without a net. I’m going in the direction that feels right at the moment. Sometimes that will be the right path. Other times, I will wind up at a dead end and have to turn back. I’ll make choices without any idea if they are the right ones. I’ll fall. I’ll fail.

And I’ll find my way.

*FNL footnote: What is it about a beautiful, broken boy? Tim Riggins is perfect. That is all.