Second Season Renewal

Cue the dramatic movie trailer music, get ready for the gravelly voice-over, and prepare yourselves for the epic continuation of last season’s debut novelist blog series. This summer, coming soon to computers near your…

The Blog Returns

Spirited Away celebration

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An Announcement

Today will be a short post because it’s mostly here to herald a more detailed post to come later. For now, I can simply say that I am thrilled and honored to announce that my work will now be represented by the incredible Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Full story to follow after I return from my Golden Week holiday in Seoul. In the meantime, always remember:

follow your dreams sloth

Winter Wrap-Up Part 1: NaNoWriMo

writing with pancakes

Writing longhand in Osaka

This was my first NaNoWriMo and I was TERRIFIED. With a daunting 50k monthly word goal and the whole first weekend of the month earmarked for a friend’s wedding in far-off Osaka, come November I knew I had to hit the ground running. I forced myself to wakeup at stupid o’clock on the morning of the 1st and pushed out nearly 1k before work, which set a good (if not sleepy) tone for the rest of the day. Thanks to the Wi-Fi desert that is the Tokyo Metropolitan Area transit system, I managed to make over 3k on my furious train-hopping to Kansai, twice the daily goal, but since I basically spent the rest of my weekend eating and catching up with friends, the head-start definitely helped keep me from panicking later on.

Being so singularly focused allowed me to break quite a few personal bests, amass a great 2k+ average daily total and eventually finish November off with an unbelievable 70,131 words. The best part was that the story was so close to being finished that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! Even while planning for my winter break, in the first two weeks of the December I polished off the story with one whole day to spare before a hard-earned vacation. Aw yeaaah.

VICTORY DANCE!

So, long story short, NaNoWriMo was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to try again next year. There’s something about watching that little graph bar go up and up and up that sparks something primal in the monkey-brain. Having a whole bunch of other people all going through the same stress, sorrows and triumphs helps immensely and my only regret is that I didn’t give it a try earlier.

See you again next year, Wrimos!

3 Things I’ll Never Do Again

October comes to a close, All the Eves Hallowed and the trees turning bare. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon and the cold weather keeping me in bed longer and longer, I’ve started to reflect on the last two months since completing my latest project. I’ve come to the realization that through September and October I have simultaneously:

  1. Edited a 70k project with structural tweaks, all new scenes, rewritten scenes and page-by-page line edits. Final line edits completed last weekend.
  2. Started a new project, completed yesterday(!), the first draft now roughly 75k but I expect it to be around 85-90 upon redrafting next year.
  3. Laid plans for a NaNoWriMo novel with first drafting to begin TOMORROW. (My NaNo username is dinosaurlace and I need writing buddies!)

Wow, so productive! Great idea, right? No. A hundred times, no. Dear future self, NEVER DO THIS AGAIN. At least not only in two months and not all at once. Give yourself three, I promise you’ll be happier.

What is life? What is sleep? Don’t ask me, I’m a writer.

Calcifer falls into pot.

Bathroom Centipede Distraction! and Other Random Instant Inspirations

note reads: "bathroom centipede distraction"

I could say this makes sense in context, but that would be a lie.

You know you’re a writer when you wake up in the middle of the night with a the perfect idea for your story. It fixes the plot hole in chapter 3, it gives character X the right motivation to get involved with character Y, it’s the hidden gem that expounds the theme, raises the stakes and incites the conflict all in one beautiful swoop. Or maybe it isn’t really the panacea you want it to be, but it’s a damned good idea and you will definitely remember it tomorrow morning.

Hahaha! If only. Nine times out of ten*, you won’t.

The only way to be 100% sure that brilliant, unconscious breakthrough manages to last through your next REM cycle is to jot that sucker down. This is how the memo above came to be. (And if you aren’t sure about the 1AM scrawl, yes, it does say “bathroom centipede distraction”)

According to literary legend, Truman Capote could only write lying down, and even Jack Kerouac believed the best time for writing was in the middle of the night.  Maybe something about night, sleep and our proximity to unconscious helps break down those creative walls we build with our own self-doubts. Keep paper and pens by your bed when you sleep. You never know when and how they’ll come in handy. Even if you wake up with no recollection of the weird instructions you wrote yourself when sleep-plotting, that idea might still be funny enough to post on your blog. (Centipedes? Really, 1AM me? Well, if you insist…)

* Disclaimer: Welcome to my blog, where the statistics are made up and the math doesn’t matter.

Sound off on your own experiences in the comments! What’s the oddest note you’ve written for a story?

NaNoWriMo Stretch Report

Previously on Kate’s Blog: A week-long experiment to get a taste for the challenges of NaNoWriMo before November hits. Will our hero succeed, or will she get distracted by cat .gifs on the internet? Tune in this week on Kate’s Blog for the shocking conclusion!

tortoise beats hare

If you read that in movie announcer voice, good for you.

10/01

This proved to be a great day for starting. Hooray for downtime! I managed 500+ words before heading to work, then chipped away on the rest during breaks.  Success! I even finished before lunch, so I was able to spend the afternoon working on edits for a separate story.

Day 1: 1726/1667 words

10/02

My second day was smooth sailing as well. I had a ton of free time in between tasks, but I think that led me to procrastinate a bit more because I knew I had wiggle room.

Day 2: 1737/1667 words

Total: 3463 words

10/3

Typically Thursdays are my busiest days, so I was afraid of slipping on my count. But given that I didn’t have a lot, I was more determined to make the best use of my time than I was with most of my other days. Between that and having a ton of fun with the scene I was writing, I actually managed to get more work done this day than any of the others during my stretch.

Day 3: 1955/1667

Total: 5418 words

10/4

I didn’t have as much time as I thought I would and I ended up being pretty worn down by work by the end of the day. It was a struggle to make the count before bed, but I squeaked by with a few words in change.

Day 4: 1727/1667

Total: 7145 words

10/5

Ah, the weekend! I wasted too much time watching the sky to see if it would rain to get in a heavy session before I headed out for the day, then wasted time again in my few hours at home before going out to a birthday dinner. I came back home and forced myself to finish the word count before I could sleep, which lost me an hour and a half or so of nice REM-cycle rest. Well, it ain’t NaNoWriMo without an (un)healthy dose of sleep deprivation, right?

Day 5: 1829/1667

Total: 8974

10/6

Library day! I went and parked myself in the public library with no other plan but to write. Since I’d been going over word count every day since the stretch began, I calculated that I wouldn’t need much more padding to make my personal goal (getting to 50k on my WIP before the end of the challenge) and I managed to hit the mark in about 2 hours. The rest of the time I spent focusing on editing another manuscript, which had been sorely neglected since my stretch began.

Day 6: 1690/1667

Total: 10664

10/7

LAST DAY WOOO! Morning writing went great, but lack of breaks and a lot of great TV to catch up on meant that I ended up staying up half an hour later than usual to hit the mark. But hit the mark I did. And you know how that feels?

bunny falls asleep at computer

Feels like it’s time for bed.

In conclusion: Experiment was a resounding success. Tough in parts, but I won’t have to run myself ragged the entire month of November. You hear that, NaNoWriMo? BRING IT.

The NaNoWriMo Seven Day Stretch

Sometimes the creative process is like a muscle. The more you work with it, the stronger and more efficient it becomes.

For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month begins its annual creep on the collective soul of the writing community on November 1st. I’ve done a lot of writing over the last few years, yet NaNoWriMo and I have always passed one another like two joggers trying to squeeze down the same path, huffing away in separate directions and desperately avoiding any sticky sweat-to-sweat contact. This year, however, I’ve decided to commit to the very first NaNoWriMo of my writing career. I shall henceforth offer up my heart (and free time, social life, sleep cycle, etc.) to the spirit of November, for her to break as she pleases.

What does that mean? It means that if I’m going to take on this marathon, I’d better hit the gym.

Jump rope fail

Metaphorically, because I’m a writer and sweating is hard.

As a prelude to November and as a personal challenge, I’ll spend October 1st – 7th with the same word count goal as a typical NaNoWriMo day in November. That means producing an average of 1667 words a day and taking all the stress that comes with it. When NaNo hits me like a truck come November 1st, I hope this exercise will give me an idea of how to keep crawling along to the finish line.

So, uh, wish me luck? I might need a lot of it. And to all you WriMos out there gearing up for November, best of luck to you as well.

– K.

Hooray sports! Do the thing. Win the points.

Like this! But in a quiet place by yourself with a word processor.

Three Libraries, Three Days

I live in Japan, where we were recently graced with a three-day weekend. (Thank you, Respect for the Aged Day!) As the three-day weekend is the unpublished author’s holy grail of productivity, I was determined to make the best use of mine.

The Master Plan: Three libraries. Three days. No mercy.

Perfect! In theory, at least. In practice? Well…

Day 1: Kiryu City Public Library, Main Branch

After biking down and having lunch at a cafe in town, I parked in a lot that was pleasant, spacious and accented with the natural beauty of greenery. Unfortunately, the parking lot was the prettiest thing about this building. It was a whitewashed rectangle with no distinctive qualities. Being in Japan, the “whitewashed” exterior was actually many gross shades of tarnished brown, because pressure washers aren’t really a thing here. Oh well.

Kiryu Public Library Building

Isn’t it lovely?

I had to pass through a shadowy cavern created by the veranda above to get to the library doors. The interior had a vaulted ceiling and unflattering yellow florescent lights, like a warehouse straight out of 1953. The bathrooms seemed about as old, with nary a western toilet to be found. Even in their (relative) cleanliness, they had absorbed the pee-smell of the ages and even walking down the hallway made we want to pinch my nose.

As for the amenities, computers were not allowed in the study room, so I found a seat at the end of one of the stacks and set up with my laptop. Once my document was booted up, one of the library employees came up and told me I couldn’t actually use a computer there. She directed me up to some sketchy table near a rack of CDs from the 80s and so I tried to work there instead. I actually ended up getting a good chunk of work done, but as I was to find out, readily available plugs are not really a thing encouraged in Japanese public libraries, so I had to pack up and go when my battery called it quits.

I ended up finishing my goal for the day in a small cafe where I knew I could plug in, and enjoyed a delicious mango parfait while I wrote. The music got annoying after a while, especially when the songs started repeating, but at least they had electricity!

Verdict – 2/5

Kiryu Library Interior

Fun Fact: Used as a background in the anime Aku no Hana.

Kiryu Library in Aku no Hana

Which makes it at least 200% creepier…

Day 2: Midori City Public Library, Omama Branch

This library was the closest to my house and I’d been here before in a book-borrowing capacity, though I’d never brought my computer and sat down to work. It was a Sunday and relatively crowded on the bottom floor where the stacks were, so I retreated upstairs. The study room, like the previous one, didn’t allow computers, but I settled in a nice lounge area that had (gasp!) open plugs. There weren’t any proper desks or tables, but the couches were comfortable enough and what is a laptop for if not to put in one’s lap?

Midori City Public Library, Omama Branch

Pretty flowers!

My peace lasted about five minutes before two high school girls came upstairs, parked on one of the other couches and proceeded to blab to one another for the next couple of hours. This was partially my fault, as it was one of the areas marked okay for talking. It also happened to be the defacto lunch/snacking area. The worst part were the kids who came upstairs about an hour into my session and not only talked in voices far too loud for a library, but decided to play keep-away with their friends wallets until a library employee came by to shush them.

Verdict – 3.5/5

Day 3: Takasaki City Public Library, Chuo Branch

Biked to the station in the middle of a typhoon to catch the train. Soaked through my coat and “waterproof” pants before I got there. Had to buy a new raincoat and a new pair of pants. Got yelled at for trying to use a computer in a non-designated area. Again. No plugs to recharge my battery. Friend I was supposed to meet for lunch cancelled via Facebook (psa: not everyone has a smartphone) after I’d already left on the train instead of texting my phone or actually calling me. Restaurant was closed anyway. Had to walk back to the station in gale force winds and soggy everything.

Face down in the rain. Yup.

Verdict – 0/5

Things I Learned: Home might be distracting, but at least the only people talking are the ones in my head, there is always electricity and the pants are optional.