NaNo No Go Go

This one goes out to you NaNo folks! This is super long so sorry in advance.

Look at the date! I can’t believe I’ve gone this far into the month of October without shouting out about NaNoWriMo.

For the un-anointed, thats short for National Novel Writer’s Month, which is a writing event that takes place during the month of November. The intention is to give birth to 50K words, basically a novelette.There aren’t any rewards other than little images you can use on your social media, however just the process of writing is pretty rewarding in itself.

So here we are on October 22nd and I’m so buried in rough drafts of stories ready to be fleshed out, short stories that have been started, and manuscripts in their final phases of development, that I have NO SPARE TIME to devote to NaNo this year. But IF  I were to participate the badge would look like this:

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It’s almost sad. But not quite.

There is a multitude of beauty in NaNoWriMo. Not only can you use it as an excuse for alone time: Sorry, I’m busy tonight, I have to get my words in. But if you use it right, you’re creating a rough draft that is quite voluminous, so you are ready to dig in and sculpt it for the eleven months that follow, leading up to the following November. You could, if you were that kind of person, even write a new book every year, and finish it in between.

I’ve participated every year except one since 2007 or so. Sadly, they have a new website and it erased my previous contributions, so I can’t confirm the date. But I think that’s right. Some years I got crap, other years I got gold. What kept me going was not just the hope for gold, but the thrill of writing unhindered, without worry of having to edit or be judged for that matter. It’s quite exhilarating.

Anyhow, I thought I’d share some tips and tricks for those of you in the thick of it. If you want to use this for plain old traditional writing, you’d have to make some variations (like pay attention to your family more for goodness sakes!) but it would work too.

So here we go:

Make a schedule. Here’s my *pretend* nano schedule. Keep in mind when I’m NaNo-ing that the writing portion is more like 1 – 2 hours a day, every stink’n day. When I first started it was 3 hours, so I shared that here, but on a good day I write on average 2000 words an uninterrupted hour now, so things have improved. As you can see there are lots of empty spots on this schedule. We’ll get to those soon.

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Set a goal for word count. For an on-time easy-peasy NaNoWriMo month, 1667 words a day will do it. More on that in a minute. Here’s a snapshot of my Excel spreadsheet.

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Write all the time, even when you’re not scheduled to. All of those blank spots? When I’m on NaNo (or yeah, on deadline,) all of those times when I’m left waiting for a kid or a dinner timer to chime? I’m writing. Constantly. Or doing the business of writing, which you are hereby relieved of for NaNo month. When you do this, you’ll get ahead in your word count. Trust me you want this. Really bad. There will be viruses. There will be whiney friends/relatives/kids/animals who need attention. There will be Thanksgiving. You will need some word padding. Find them here.

Don’t let yourself read more than the last paragraph, or the last chapter if you’re a speed reader. If you let yourself, you will get stuck in the very destructive mind frame of: this needs to be fixed before I can write more. The problem with that is that you’ll never get to the end. I have seriously met folks who have been writing their book for ten years. No joke. So do yourself a favor and just stop it already, don’t re-read unless it’s to catch you up on where you were at.

Editing is a huge no-no. See the above paragraph. Editing will slow you down and quite possibly give you writer’s block. You don’t need that.

Know your genre. I say this because once upon a time I wrote an entire story thinking I was writing Women’s Fiction. It never went anywhere. The story was flat. Years later I looked back at it and realized it was supposed to be a dark comedy/thriller. Now I can see where it was supposed to go. See? This step is hard when you’re just starting out, but try anyhow.

Know the age group you are writing for. This one might be a no brainer for you. It might not. I have a potty mouth. I write sexy and sometimes grotesque. My writing does not lend to YA. I didn’t know this about myself until I wrote quite a bit. But again, give it your best shot. Get to know yourself and you’ll know what your age group is.

For speed of writing, you’ll need these tools.

  • Thesaurus – seems like cheating, and I’ve heard those advise against it, but sometimes when you’re speed writing you just get stuck and your brain says one word but it means another. Like voluminous instead of voluptuous or vice versa. Or you keep saying something is cute and you need some more ideas. Boom.
  • Dictionary. For spelling, duh. Well, sometimes. But in this case, the pressure of writing will do funny things to your brain. What’s that thing-a-ma-jig called that you put your foot on and make the wheels go? Is it a snowboard? No?
  • Caffeine. Because duh. We could add alcohol too but it puts me the fuck to sleep. Same with marijuana. So for the sake of remaining pure, we’ll stick with this.
  • Carbs. Also a no brainer. Cookies. Cupcakes. Doughnuts. French bread. Brownies… I could go on but I’m making myself hungry. These things fuel your writing. Seriously. So you’re a health nut you say? Make them high protein with healthy sugar/fats. But still, carbs are a must.

Pantsing -vs- Plotting

There is a huge debate about who is right: Pantsers or plotters. I don’t have an answer for you here. However, promise me you won’t just stop reading this if you’re one or the other. There is some important stuff you’ll need here to start.

Character sketches. What happened to your protagonist(s) and antagonist when they were five to make them who they are today? What’s their family life like? What’s their psychological bend? Funny quirks? Favorite swear words?

Setting profile. Sometimes it will be really simple and it’s in a real place and all you have to do is look it up on Google maps. Others it’s made up. In that case you might have to draw it up so that when you’re describing a scene it makes more sense.

How does your story begin? I know I know, you’re a pantser not a plotter! You don’t need this. Well, you might not need it on paper, but you do need to be able to envision it in your brain. Repeat this to yourself as you read on. The most important part for you pantsers is that you can see each of these plot points inside of your head.

What’s the inciting incident? This is called so many different things in so many different books. It means the point where the story begins, and not page one… that’s different. The event that turns your character’s world upside down and now they have to spend the rest of the book trying to put it back to normal.

Do you know the climax? This one might be asking too much of you at this point, but if you have it the story might flow easier.

What’s the end? Secret: I often write the first scene or three, then the inciting incident, followed by the end before I go and do the rest. It feels like cheating, because then I know a lot about the story before I think I should but boy does it help.

Now for the plotters: If you could put all of this in an outline form complete with plot points on real actual paper, ala Save the Cat or any other, you are more than golden. Trust me, the outline will change a bazillion times as you write, but it’s helpful when you’re getting off track.

I want to point out there are at least 681 THOUSAND books out there on how to write a book, so my post here is extremely lean in providing information. If we really wanted to, we could get all kinds of wrapped up in a character’s, even each of the scene’s Goal(s), Motivation and Conflict. An entire book has been written on that. So we’re gonna bypass it.

But this should be enough to get you started.

If that isn’t enough homework for you, (Ye gads are you seriously asking for more? Really?) Here are some chewy books that will help, in addition to the NaNo website I’ve hot linked up on the top of this blog.

Good luck NaNo-ing!

Garden Gnomes and Book Club

Hello September!

I live in an eclectic town that is plum full of characters. My current favorite looks like a garden gnome. Hardly a day goes by without seeing one of the many interesting faces that live here. If you’re like me, it’s almost torture, in that every time I see one of them my mind starts spinning. It goes one of two ways. Either I can see them in one of the stories that I’m chewing on, or I start creating a story around who they are and what they are doing there.

Writing is going well, even though I never feel like I do it enough. How could it not go well with all of the great material my fair city is providing :-)? I think I’m almost done polishing Bliss. Long story short, I ended up tearing it apart with my Critique Partner’s (CP) comments, and then I put it back together again and cleaned up the fallout. It was so freaking hard, and yet, at the same time, much easier than doing it all on my own. I’m very satisfied with the results. Soon, after one more CP run through, I’ll be moving on to querying.

I’m actually so close to that being done that I’m dreaming about the next step for Glitter, which is in the beginning stages at 52K words. I guarantee it will have more than one of my neighborhood characters in it. Exciting I tell you.

Meanwhile back at the castle I’m happy to say that I’ve finished September’s Book Club read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’ve started the Book Club blog complete with questions, and will schedule it to go up on September 30th. Woot! That gives you FIVE days to read it. 5. You can do it! Have you ever wondered how many of the characters from the Harry Potter series were weirdos wandering around Edinburgh, Scotland? I am now. Anyway, read it, send me book club questions if you want them to go up with the blog, and come participate!

Now that Potter is finished, I’m moving on to The Strain, October’s Book Club pick. I’m about 140 pages into it. So far I’m really enjoying it. A quick heads up: the TV series under the same name butchers the heck out of the book. Anyway, October’s Book Club Pick will be the next blog to go up.

Happy reading!

 

Ghost Cats Who Read

I am a sad little mess today. It’s been almost a month since my kitty left us and didn’t come home. A busy sad little mess, yes, having not only three manuscripts I’m critiquing and editing (Two out of three done! Woo hoo!) but we just got back from camping AND a writers workshop. Then there’s the fact that by day I’m also helping the Pacific Northwest Writers Association put their conference on. Its next week. Eeks! Oh yeah, and reading my book club book. Can’t forget that.

Deep sigh.

For a while I saw ghost mice everywhere. Camouflaged cats too.

I went for at least two walks a day looking for her after she left us, for the first two weeks. Once I saw a dead mole. I was like, SEE? My cat is ALIVE! She used to bring us baby moles and little mice and baby rabbits almost every day. It was truly disgusting but we were honored that it was us she was giving these obvious gifts of love to.

We only had her for 2 years, an old stray by nature, she had quite the sordid past when it came to owners. Suffice it to say we weren’t her first. I will never forget the day Ms. Kitty did me the honor of sleeping with me for the first time. That first night she waltzed into our bedroom, jumped onto our bed and stomped across. She was all muscle, her paws digging painfully into my organs as she crossed, finally throwing herself across my chest, and nuzzling my lips with her mouth. It took me a while to realize that she was trying to give me a human kiss. I about died I was so charmed.

And then I remembered watching her lick those dead bunnies. Ew.

She did everything in that manner, with her whole heart. She wouldn’t sit in your lap, she’d turn daintily and then fall into you, landing almost vertical, making sure she could feel your heart beat. I’d have to hold her up sometimes because she was so precariously perched, but she didn’t care. I knew she loved me with everything she had.

We have some new neighbors who are kind of dicks. Their large dog got ahold of TK when they “accidentally” let him off leash and “gently” got her in his muzzle. She was pissed, scratched him, which put an end to that attack pretty quick. There were some minor flesh wounds and we thought she was okay. But a week later, the same jerk’s little dog (they have/had 3) got out and chased my poor little Tiger. We haven’t seen her since. I’m heart broken.

She was my muse for Gods sakes. She was the one that made all the assholes in the world easier to deal with.

Oh Gah.

I hate people.

Except you. I love you. Really.

Just not my next-door neighbor. And a whole host of other assholes. But not you.

Anyway.

The Save the Cat Beat Sheet Workshop this past weekend was stellar. The long and short of it is that a very talented writing coach helped a handful of us massage our ideas and turn them into something that folks actually want to hear about/read/watch, using the Save the Cat technique. I brought an old manuscript idea that I thoroughly destroyed when I tried to write it. I really blew that one to hell. Thanks to our writing group I think I have a good grasp on where to go with it now. It was worth every penny. I highly recommend taking one if you ever get the chance. Only, now I’m a bit depleted. So worth it though.

Luckily I had STORM FRONT, our book club book, in my hot little hands while traveling. It is so good. I’m maybe 2 chapters from the end. I’m gonna sticky my last post that I started some comments on to the top of this blog. I’ll hold off on putting up more questions until I’ve finished. But oh man. So glad this was the first book for our Book Club of the First. Its helping me forget about the little lady disappearing.

Damn it all.

Except it isn’t helping right now.

Maybe its time for a glass of wine?

 

Just Start

Kind of a strange week.

I’ve been gearing up to submit a few stories to the PNWA’s Literary contest. In the way back of my mind I have a list of things that need to be accomplished. I’ve been overwhelmed by the writing thing and unable to concentrate on some really important stuff. Bad mommy. Don’t ask me why, but I’m inwardly cringing thinking about sharing this serious topic with y’all.

Let’s just do a quick reminder here, for the sake of all things internet I refer to my oldest child as Bunny Wabbit, who identifies as a trans male, and the youngest as Little Bear.

So here goes. I have to find a new therapist for the kiddo. And an LGBTQ support group for him. Oh yeah, and me too. The support group part. Pretty important stuff that’s getting overshadowed by my hobby that accidentally on purpose is turning into a job. Again, bad mommy.

Bunny Wabbit has been seeing his current therapist for a year and a half – ever since the revelation that he was deeply depressed. We saw much success over the first year, but it seems to have plateaued. This is daunting, as the kiddling is approaching his eighteenth birthday and we’ve yet to succeed in getting him to get his driver’s license, nor leave the house for anything but school and family outings. But, hey, school! That’s a success, right? At least he goes, and does his homework, albeit at the last minute.

I called our local community center because they were advertising on their marquee that they have an LGBTQ support group. I got really excited and finally gave them a call. First they transferred me to the senior center. This probably should have alarmed me but back in the day they just used that location like any other and held classes and such there for anybody. Guess what? The support group is for folks 50 and over. So Yay! THEY HAVE AN LGBTQ SUPPORT GROUP FOR FOLKS 50 AND OVER!! And boo hiss I still have to drive pretty far to get to one for someone his age… and mine. 

When I brought this up to my good friend as we were out and about, she got excited. She too is a trans parent. And she too got bummed out at the age restriction. So I’m thinking just as soon as I get my act together, (When will that happen? Anyone? Anyone?) I’ll contact the community center and see about creating a support group for youth as well as their parents here. We sorely need one.

Which bring us to this meme I saw today.

Made me think. If my kid hadn’t opened up to me about his problems, we’d never have started this crazy journey to healing. We’d still be stuck in the angry mess we were in. So yeah, this is more than a little beautiful.

I did manage to submit my entries this evening. Now I’m a ball of panic that there are a million things wrong with my entries and that I’m totally wasting my time. But I have to keep starting. Because if I stop every time its scary, every time my hands shake, then I’ll never get anywhere.

Sometimes, the internet speaks my soul.

 

Hey! Guess What? I’m Not Dead!

Surprise!

I think some of you might have noticed that I all but disappeared about a year and a half ago. I went ahead and blogged about our trip to Europe, which was fun. But that was where it ended. You may have followed me over to the new blog or you may have been relieved I stopped filling up your inbox :-). Either way, its about time I put my big girl panties on and explain.

There was a pretty huge reason or ninety that I stopped writing here. Its kind of funny because this format, the way I’m sharing what kept me away, reminds me of those essays that teachers assign at the beginning of the school year: Class, please write me an essay on what you did this summer. Ha ha. So yeah, here’s what I did last summer. And the entire year before that. 🙂

In a nut shell, my excuses embody erotica, of all things, and my children.

Erotica made me do it: I started writing women’s fiction many years ago, and was surprised that when I finally figured out the formula for writing sex scenes, they just poured out. I was able to write manuscripts with very sexy scenes. This disturbed me in some ways. I actually went and deleted a ton of those scenes, they were so, um, detailed? One of which I was lucky enough to have published in an anthology. Go figure. It was clear to me that I didn’t want my children sidled with embarrassment and guilt because of what their mamma wrote. So I created Audrey Valiant and off went my stories in that direction. I decided it was time to keep my writing journey separate from this blog.

Or maybe it was the kids: A few months before the creation of Audrey Valiant, my then sixteen-year-old shared that he is transgender, and very depressed. I don’t know about you but when my child is in distress I totally shut down. He’s still living in that head space, but we have him in therapy and we’re a happy tight little family so its going to be okay.

So what’s different now? What is making it okay for me to tell you that Audrey Valiant and Jennifer Douwes are different brands of the same person? The kids are older now. They’ve known all along about my achievements. Before, hiding behind a different name was more because I didn’t want their friend’s parents knowing what I sometimes write. They’d have to work hard to figure out it was me all along behind the pen name. I’ve come to accept that we are, at our core, sexual beings. If the parents can’t deal with that, then I guess good riddance.

What’s different is that in all of that healing my kid is going through, he’s learning who he is. I find myself saying, “Be who you are. Embrace your amazing self. Fuck societal norms. You don’t have to conform to gender stereotypes.* We love you for who you are and that will never change.” So who am I to not do the same when I’m representing myself? What kind of role model is that?

Why am I back? There are a few reasons.

I really want to help others going through the same things I am. When I started this journey as a trans parent a year and a half ago, it was very surreal. Still is at some turns in the road. One of my best buds is quite educated on raising trans teens and guided me through it for a bit. After that I didn’t really feel like I needed any help. Turns out I was dead wrong. So I enrolled the help of my friends and family, and we’re slowly getting through this. The thing is, I know there are more people out there like myself.

Social Media is killing me. I’ll admit it, I look at Facebook and Twitter. There are so many ill-informed, fear mongering people out there that its driving me a bit crazy. I’ve held my tongue long enough. Okay, well, I did delete a few people off of Facebook for their ignorance after spewing information that probably made no sense to them. If there is any chance I can help these same people who make me want to scream understand some issues that I had to take the long way around to make sense of, that would be pretty great.

Especially when we live in a society that embraces hyper femininity, rape culture, and let’s face it, the over sexualization of women. I kind of figure that if it’s so difficult for me to wrap my brain around, I probably can help others who are battling the same issues. Kind of like a math teacher with dyscalculia. They are probably going to teach it better than a math teacher who it made sense to from the get go.

So beware, along with the normal stuff I talk about: wine, happy hour and the merit of wearing slippers to the grocery store, I’ll be lamenting about life with my trans teen and my daring diva – who really is a tomboy in a tiara, if there ever was one. ‘Cause this shit is hard.  I vow to *try* and stop editing what I want to say to you guys. It might be controversial. It might make you want to plug your ears (or cover your eyes.) Or maybe even flat out not like me. But its time, I guess, to just be who I am. If I’ve learned anything from having kids its that.

For the record, my other blog is still active, as I’m having new stories published now and again. But the rest of my writing will be under my real name. Because I’m not hiding anymore.

It might be a slow start as I get used to being transparent about the crazy life we lead. But haven’t you ever sat back and watched the kids screaming and rolling around on the floor while the dog barks madly, with the TV blaring ’cause grandma can’t hear it over their laughter while she waters the green carpet with her oxygen on, cigarette hanging from her free hand, and the only thing you can do is sit back and laugh?** Cause life is never neat and perfect. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. And kind of fucked up sometimes.

Its time to embrace my terrible beautiful fucked up self and get on with it.

See you around!

* Conformity is a touchy subject. Though I am a rule follower and conformist by heart, there is a very large part of me that can see all sides. If all sides don’t agree, then its time for some new rules. If no one is going to make new rules that make sense, then conformity is no longer advantageous and must be abandoned for better pursuits. If you can be a non-conformist with respect, then you’ve nailed what I’m talking about.

** Taking some creative license here, all of these things happened to someone I love, but not at the same time. But you get the picture.