NaNoWriMo Preparations/Introduction 2016

It’s nearly that time of year again! Today is Halloween, which is all well and great and spectacular in its own right. And while Halloween is one of my favorite holidays ever, the day after is even better. It’s my grandmother’s birthday, yes! She’s turning 80, and she’s pretty fantastic.

November first also marks the start of National Novel Writing Month! Every November, people challenge themselves to write 50,000 words towards a single writing project. For me, this means buckling down and pounding out a good chunk of my first full draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 7th grade. Yes, I’ve been stewing this idea for a full 12 years. It’s time, I’ve decided, to focus and write as much of it as I possibly can this month.

Every November, people challenge themselves to write 50,000 words towards a single writing project. For me, this means buckling down and pounding out a good chunk of my first full draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 7th grade. Yes, I’ve been stewing this idea for a full 12 years. It’s time, I’ve decided, to focus and write as much of it as I possibly can this month.

The daily writing goal is 1,667 words. Normally, this sounds incredibly intimidating to me. But Thursday night I had a dream that turned out to be more than 3,000 words of a completely new story that I scribbled down during the two hours my cousin was taking his nap, and after that, well, 1,667 doesn’t sound that bad.

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The story I’ll be writing this year is fantasy/adventure. It will probably end up being a Young Adult novel, but there’s a chance it could go either Middle Grade/Juvenile Fiction or Adult Fiction depending. Mostly likely it’s going to stick to YA.

A brief description of my story would be that a girl in contemporary America wanders into a portal that takes her to another world, where magic and mayhem ensue. Oh, and the whole planet is in the Middle Ages. Super vague, I know, but you get the general idea without me giving anything away.

So far, the majority of my ‘NaNo Prep’ as people have been calling it, has just been organizing all the millions of notes I have for this story. Part of this was made easier by the fact that I moved, so I had re-locate and consolidate into notebooks every scrap of paper I needed before I left New Jersey. This meant that when I arrived in Boston, I already had everything together at least, if not cleanly laid out.

Next, I reformated much of my character list so that I could organize people by place of origin as well as age, and made it easier to figure out who is contemporaries with who. Because when you create a new world, you inevitably end up creating an entire history for that world, and you end up with tens of millions of people. I’m not there yet. I’m only at ~150. But after 12 years, each of those people has a personality and a backstory that I really wish I had the time to tell. It’s an actual difficulty that I have, deciding who’s stories are important enough that they need to be shared with the world.

The hope is that by organizing all of my background information beforehand, I won’t get lost in making it up in the middle of the actual writing, as I did last year when I ended up stalled at close to 5,000 words because I disappeared into writing the history again.

Being that I live in Boston now, where there are actual people, as opposed to on my mountain in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey (which I love, but it’s not NaNoWriMo conducive), I can actually attend write-ins, where NaNoWriMo participants gather together and write in one place. We can bounce ideas off of each other, share snacks, and enjoy some company that understands what we’re up to (aka, commiserate).

Last year I participated in some of the virtual write-ins, but it’s extremely hard to watch the chat screen and listen to the host and actually get any real writing done.

Today was the Boston region’s NaNoWriMo kick-off party, hosted at the Cambridge Public Library. Around 60 of us were able to make it, and I really loved getting to meet everyone. We got goody bags and participated in a raffle, where I won one of this year’s NaNoWriMo posters! I’m pretty excited. We also had lots of snacks, chatted with fellow writers, and raised some money to go towards NaNoWriMo and the Young Writer’s Program, which you should definitely check out, especially if you’re a teacher!!

It was a great experience, and I can’t wait for the write-ins to start. While I can’t participate in the weekday write-ins for the most part because I’ll be working, I’m planning to attend the weekend sessions as much as possible.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy (LadyWoods13)! Just comment below before you send the request so I know you came from here! 🙂

Until next time,

Amanda

October Update – 2016 Goals Check-in

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This month felt like a solid decade.  I meant to write this post like I did the others, around the middle of the month, but I found I was just too emotional to do it justice. Packing for the move, finishing my last couple weeks at the bridal shop, prepping for NaNoWriMo, there was a lot more going on than I was ready for.

The month started out with me realizing that I actually was moving. I’d been discussing the idea with my aunt and uncle for so long that it seemed like it would never happen. Being a pro at packing because I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase for the last 10 months when I was staying with Big Red, I kept feeling like I was missing things, but for the most part I wasn’t. The only things I forgot in the move were soap, my razor, tape for my posters, my yoga mat, and my desk chair that didn’t fit in my car anyway. Otherwise, my entire life fit in my little blue Prius. It’s a weird feeling when you realize that your life can fit in your car. Very scary and yet freeing as well. I plan to go out and purchase a bookcase for my room since I brought about 25 books with me, plus all of my writing notebooks. I know. I brought books with me. But I only brought the ones I plan on reading before I visit my parents again since I really don’t have space here to store all of my books. It hurts, not having all of my books in one place. #BookishProblems

I attended homecoming at my alma mater, East Stroudsburg University in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, on the 15th. My friends Jordan, Connor, and I revived our radio show The SoundWave for the day, which was fantastic. Then we wandered around campus and grabbed a bite to eat downtown. It’s one of the best feelings, returning to a place that brought you so much joy and taught you so much about life. ESU and WESS 90.3 FM are a couple of those places for me.

Hanging out with my local friends one last time before I made the move was hard. I know I’ll see them during holidays and everything, but with everyone basically out of college now and working, it’s difficult to make time to see each other, especially during this time of year. I’m so thankful they were all able to take the time out of their busy schedules to see me before I moved.

The hardest part of making this move was leaving the bridal shop. The last 10 months there have taught me an extraordinary amount of things. My customer service skills have increased tenfold. My understanding of logistics and conversion rates, and sales in general, has improved astronomically. I now know the difference between the colors Guava, Punch, and Coral, Blush, Bellini, and Petal, Pool, Malibu, Spa, Oasis, and Capri, and Portobello, Mystic, Mercury, and Pewter, something I never thought would be relevant to my life, but now seems indispensable. The ladies I worked with showed me new points of view to just about every aspect of life, and I made some friends there that I will never find the likes of anywhere else. I truly hope I never lose touch with them. Working at that bridal shop has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I will never, ever, regret it.

Still, making this move, I think, was the right choice too. I’ve always been one to explore new things and love new experiences, and so far I’m loving my new city. Boston feels pretty homey. My arrival here wasn’t full of hoopla or craziness. Walking the streets, even for the first time, feels like greeting an old friend I haven’t seen in years. Yesterday I overheard two girls talking about their new favorite word, ken, which comes from Gaelic and means to know. I’ve always liked that word, and I find that I like it when other people have really crazy intelligent conversations just walking down the street. Living near Harvard has its perks. I passed a group of stay-at-home-parents the other day, and two stay-at-home-dads at the back of the pack were discussing toxicology. How neat is that?

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Source: MemeGenerator

 

Let’s take a look at how I did on my goals. I’m sure it’s atrocious.

TOTY 24 Goals:
Write Every Day – This didn’t happen, again. But I’m getting better! I actually had a dream Thursday night that turned into 3,000 words of a new story, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of the month packing all my stuff and working, so I didn’t have a lot of  free time to locate my notebook and get some writing done. I did, however, do a lot of organizing of my background material for my novel. This will hopefully help me not get distracted when I attempt NaNoWriMo next month.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a project that people sign up for, where the goal is to write 50,000 words of a story during the month of November. why November, nobody knows, especially since we have Thanksgiving in there and everything. It’s exhausting. I attempted it last year when Iw s taking a break from my main storyline and working on a spin-off, but I only got 4-5,000 words into it because I kept getting lost in my background information. This year I’m hoping to tackle a full draft of my main story, so it’s going to be an interesting ride!

Apply to Full Time Jobs – I think I’ve succeeded for the year with this one! As I mentioned before, I’ve moved to Boston, MA to nanny full time for my baby cousin. He turned 7 months old on Saturday! I’m beyond excited, and so far I’m enjoying myself. I’m only a week in, and while my muscles are tired and I’m actually really, really exhausted, I absolutely love it. And I’m getting more writing done than ever before because nap times are a wonderful thing. So, check getting a full time off the list for this year!

Apply to Grad School – I’m going to the graduate open house at Emerson this weekend! But I haven’t done any GRE prepping yet beyond buying a GRE prep book…

If I like the school on Saturday, I’ll start prepping on Monday. I know it’s going to be hard. Supposedly the math portion goes up through Calculus?? 😦  but I’ll survive. I do still have to look into where/when the test is being offered in/around Boston, and I’ll need to contact professors to ask for recommendation letters, but there’s no point in jumping the gun if I end up not liking the school, is there?

 

October Goals:
Read 7 books – Ha. Ha. Ha. With all the packing, I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at the beginning of the month, attempted reading A Passage to Shambhala and gave up after 2 weeks and getting nowhere after 400 pages, and I just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I read this week during, you guessed it, nap time. So that brings the total up to two? and a half? maybe one and a half? It all depends on whether you count Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as this month or last month because of when I read the majority of it vs. when I finished it.

Exercise – Does walking 4 miles round trip to visit a bookstore yesterday count?  I hit 10,000 steps for the first time in ages. It seriously only used to happen when I went to NYC like once a year.

Write 5 posts – I wrote my moving info post on October 1st, and I haven’t posted since. Oops! Well, here is number two, and my NaNoWriMo prep post should be up tomorrow. So that makes three! Next month you’ll mostly be getting my weekly NaNo updates, as well as a post or two about exploring my new city, and of course the monthly update, so you can look forward to 6-8 posts next month at minimum because let’s be honest, I’m probably going to gush about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when it hits theaters in two weeks as well.

Write 10,000 words – Well, if we count the dream I had that turned into ~3000 words of a new story, I wrote a total of 5,519 words this month. which isn’t bad, but it’s nothing close the the 50,000 that I’ve signed up to write next month as part of NaNoWriMo. And a lot of it went towards that new story, which doesn’t help me in the long run with working on my main novel.

Move to Boston – Now this, I succeeded at. I’m currently writing from my desk in my new room. It’s in the attic, so I think I’m going to call this place the Aerie. It feels fitting. My desk chair only arrived yesterday, so I’m very excited. I’m headed to Target tomorrow to buy a bulletin board. I thought I could live without one, but my desk is kind of small and I am in desperate need of space for NaNoWriMo notes, so to the store I go!

Write 14 book reviews – This one was heavily dependent on me reading all seven books on my TBR list, and since that included the last three big Harry Potter books, A Passage to Shambhala, and Moby Dick, I’m not really that surprised that I got nowhere near this goal. I have written 5 reviews so far, and I’m halfway through a sixth. I’m hoping to finish the sixth and complete another one tomorrow before the month ends, bringing my total up to seven. Also, in case you were wondering, Moby Dick has been tabled until further notice, because I can only have one massive and boring book in my TBR pile at a time, and A Passage to Shambhala has usurped that position.

November TBR:
Will Definitely Be Reading:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the screenplay, which I have on pre-order)

Might Be Reading:
A Passage to Shambhala (~300 pages left to go!) – Jon Baird and Kevin Costner
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
You Are A Badass – Jen Sincero
Thrive – Arianna Huffington
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo
Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
Manage Your Day-To-Day – Jocelyn K. Glei

Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) – Mary Balogh

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Source: Goodreads

Ralph Stockwood escaped the Napoleonic Wars with only the scars on his body. He lived. But he can never forgive himself for the friends who didn’t. Being a member of the Survivors’ Club has helped Ralph keep his head up, but even they can’t help him find his way forward in a world so full of the change that he detests.

After a few London seasons and a scandal that she won’t soon forget, Chloe Muirhead never wants to see the city again. She keeps telling herself that she is perfectly happy being a companion to her grandmother’s best friend, the Duchess of Worthingham, who lives a quiet life in the country. But deep down she knows that’s not true, and when an opportunity comes knocking, Chloe finds that she cannot say no. She only asks that Ralph makes her one promise: that he will never make her return to London.

This fifth novel in Mary Balogh’s best selling Survivor’s Club series is tied with the fourth, Only Enchanting, for being my favorite. Phoebe is possibly my favorite of the heroines. She is spirited and witty, and that’s always nice in a historical fiction. While this story focuses more on the secrets people keep than forgiveness, both are essential to the plot of the series as a whole. Phoebe never wants to return to town, and while Ralph doesn’t particularly care, he is a man of duty, and this causes numerous problems.

Near the end of the book, there is a large party and the much of the ton is in attendance. It may be the only real ton party we see in the series actually, I forget, but at this party we get little cameos from not one, not two, but three of the Bedwyns! The Bedwyn family makes up the central characters of Balogh’s Slightly series, which is one of my absolute all-time romance favorites. I think I actually shrieked when I saw their names on the page. It’s crazy that after reading the Slightly series nearly 5 years ago I would still recognize their names, but I did! I might have actually shed a single tear of happiness as well, just because I was so excited. The Bedwyns and their dry humor are just fantastic and never fail to make me smile.

The romance, miscommunication, secrecy, and mistrust are simply so well done in this book, and the character development is superb. Highly, highly recommend.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #4 – Only Enchanting
Book #6 – Only A Kiss
Book #7 – Only Beloved

The Fairy Tale Bride (Once Upon a Wedding, #1) – Kelly McClymer

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Source: Goodreads

Simon, Duke of Kerstone, has returned after five years at war. He’s changed since he was last in England. His hopes for a future of happiness have been replaced by a new plan for freedom, and he only needs to wait six months to put them into action.

Everything is going perfectly until Miranda shows up. The girl he’d planned to wed is still unmarried, and soon in need of help. but Miranda believes in fairy tales and refuses to accept that some things cannot be changed. Will Simon choose Miranda over his freedom? or will both their dreams for a happily-ever-after never see the light of day?

I began this book assuming the characters would be borrowed from fairy tales and repurposed for the story, but I was mistaken. The only fairy tale elements, unless you count a passing likeness of Simon and Miranda to Beauty and the Beast, are brief references Miranda makes to different stories here and there, as well as little ice sculptures at a party that look like fairytale couples. Otherwise, this is a good-old historical romance, with the caveat the Miranda is expressly looking for a fairy tale happily-ever-after.

On a general level, the story was good. If we’re going to nit-pick though, I thought they told the reader Simon’s secret too soon, resulting in the reader knowing for most of the book, when it would have made better sense for us to find out when Miranda does. I also had a hard time near the end with some of the scenes because it skipped around a lot, and there are some scenes we needed from Simon’s point of view that we didn’t get, resulting in me as the reader being confused and frustrated, and overall a bit disappointed.  I would recommend it to anyone who reads a lot fo historical romances, simply because the storyline was intriguing, and I think they would find it rather enjoyable and interesting, excepting, of course, the quick wrap-up at the end.

HHC Rating: 3 Stars

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5) – J.K. Rowling

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Source: Goodreads

Frustrated and lonely, Harry is stuck at number four, Privet Drive, for yet another summer. Making matters worse is the lack of news from the wizarding community. The Ministry of Magic and The Daily Prophet are refusing to allow the truth to be printed, the magical world is completely in the dark. Worst of all, Harry faces potential expulsion even before the school year begins. With the Dark Lord back on the loose and a scary new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher watching their every move, it might just be time for the students of Hogwarts to take their futures into their own hands.

This fifth story in the Harry Potter series is a tough one to get through. At 870 pages, it’s the longest book, and the first 100-150 pages move as slow as molasses. Even worse, just about every character (except Hermione, who accomplished this feat in book four without much fuss) hits puberty. Harry becomes whiny, Ron sulks a lot, and Ginny starts dating. Of course, all of the adults continue to treat them like children and hoard information from them, with naturally disastrous consequences.

On the bright side, this book introduces what I like to call the silver trio. Much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione are often referred to as the golden trio, Ginny, Neville, and Luna quickly spring to mind as a second grouping, which I like to call the silver trio. Ginny finally becomes a real person in this book, as does Neville and many of the other secondary characters. Luna  Lovegood, aside from a brief mention of her family near the start of the fourth book, is really introduced here.  Luna, in a way that only Luna could possibly do, quickly becomes near-central to the main storyline. It always surprises me how seamlessly J.K. Rowling weaves Luna into the story, with her odd habits and strong opinions. Luna, so shamelessly herself, is easily one of my favorite characters of the books, and we don’t even meet her until more than halfway through the series!

While it is widely acknowledged that this book is really too long to be its best, it is difficult to find things that could be cut out. The only possibilities would be the cleaning scenes and the emotional roller coaster that is Harry’s thoughts in this book. However since these things really make up most of the story and establish multiple relationships that are important later on, they really have to be left in.

The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is a nightmare. I actually had a teacher in highschool who closely resembled her in not just looks, and we subsequently warned anyone who would listen about “Umbridge”. I actually had an underclassman insist that I was wrong for an entire year because they were convinced another teacher should have the title. The next year they had a class with the real “Umbridge” and promptly apologized for doubting me. I am aggressively not sorry we gave her that nickname.

Personal stories aside, this book, although seriously massive and slow except for the last 100 pages, was pretty great. The character development is so on point it’s almost painful (because puberty). Everyone becomes so much more complex in this book and it’s wonderful. Definitely recommend.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Check out my other reviews in the Harry Potter series and follow along on my journey to The Cursed Child!

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book #2 – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Book #3 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Book #4 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Book #6 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Book #7 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Book #8 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Fantastic Beasts #1 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) – Mary Balogh

Source: Goodreads

Flavian is one of the seven members of the self-styled Survivors’ Club. Though he escaped the war physically unscathed, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, still has a stammer and suspects he suffered brain damage from battle. Due to a number of marriages amongst their group in the past year and the birth of the first child to one of their number, The Survivors’ Club has agreed to host their annual reunion at Middlebury Park, the home of Lord Vincent and Lady Sophia Darleigh, rather than Penderris Hall, the immense and distant home of the Duke of Stanbrook.

This, of course, means being within proximity to the town of Inglebrook, where Agnes, a widowed artist, is just as happy to be living with her sister, as she is to be away from her step-mother and her over-bearing vicar brother. She has no intention of looking for a second marriage. But is there anything she can do to combat love once it has found her? Agnes and Flavian’s pasts collide in this story of trust, remembrance, and forgiveness.

This fourth book in Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series is tied with the next one, Only A Promise, for being my favorite. After the first three novels happened nearly simultaneously, it was refreshing for this story to pick up just afterward. It did a good job of developing the new characters – Flavian, Agnes, Dora – while updating us on the lives of the three couples we’ve already come to know and continuing to enlighten us about the rest of the survivors. While a quick wedding is a big trope in historical fiction, I’m not usually a fan of it. Most times, it’s a marriage of convenience. Balogh managed to take this idea and spin it, not on its head, but some way that is even better, where the characters themselves have differing ideas of what is going on and the miscommunication is at an all-time high.It’s a masterful work of art, and Balogh really outdoes herself. I’m pretty sure I read this one almost cover-to-cover in one sitting. This book is the one that made me wish this series

It’s a masterful work of art, and Balogh really outdoes herself. I’m pretty sure I read this one almost cover-to-cover in one sitting. This book is the one that made me wish this series could be made into a miniseries or something of the kind; because the characters are just so fantastic and real to me. 100% would recommend.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Proposal
Book #2 – The Arrangement
Book #3 – The Escape
Book #5 – Only A Promise
Book #6 – Only A Kiss
Book #7 – Only Beloved

I’m Moving!

Not to worry, this website isn’t going anywhere. However I, physically, literally, am moving! If you read my September Update a couple weeks ago you already know this, but if you didn’t, now you do! I’m sure you have some questions, so allow me to start off by answering the big ones.

Why are you moving?

I found a job I love better than the one I currently have, and it requires me to relocate. It’s not in retail, which I have enjoyed, but am not looking to make my career in, and it’s full-time! I do love the job I have now, especially the people, but the job I am going to is beyond rewarding, and something I’ve always wanted to do. It will also help me save up for graduate school if I decide to go that route.

What will you be doing that you’re so excited about?

I’m going to be a live-in nanny! And I don’t have to worry about not getting along with the family or anything like that because I’ll be nannying for my aunt and uncle. They will both be working full-time, and they need someone to watch my six-month-old cousin. He’s the one I was babysitting last month who’s super adorable and happy all the time (cross your fingers he stays that way!). This means no more hour-long commutes, but also some quiet time in the evenings for reading/writing, and weekends off!

So… Where are you moving to?

I will be moving to Boston, Massachusetts! It’s a city I’ve always been interested in living in (despite being a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees), and I’m super excited to finally have the chance to explore it!

When are you moving?

The plan is to make the move near the end of the month since my uncle starts his new job in November. I’ll be sure to share photos and tidbits as I move in!

What are you most excited about checking out in your new city?

The Boston Public Library, obviously. Besides that, I’d like to explore Boston Commons, the local bookstores, the downtown restaurants, the publishing houses in the city, the waterfront area, the local bookstores, Emerson College (where I’m thinking about going to grad school), the community Quidditch Teams (because Harry Potter rules, duh),  Harvard, BU, MIT, the city ballet, and the local bookstores. If you have any recommendations of places I should check out, let me know on Twitter! I’ll try to post once a month or so about the places I discover in and around the city.

Overall, I’m PUMPED about the move. I can’t wait to explore my new city. And just to sweeten the deal, I’m moving just before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts! This means I’ll be able to attend meet-ups IRL, something that was impossible where I live now in the middle-of-nowhere, NJ. I love New Jersey, but it’s not all that conducive to making writing and bookish friends. I’m thrilled to be able to meet and get to know Boston’s NaNoWriMo participants. I’m hoping to be able to read and write more once I’m up there and no longer community an hour to my part-time job. This move is going to be so good for me.

 

Until Next Time,

~Amanda