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December 2018

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I'm a fan of the annual holiday letter. I know they're sometimes mocked for being sugar-coated and braggadocious, but I love receiving them. I have a few friends and family members who still send a holiday letter out. They're a snapshot into someone's life, a way to catch up on the big events I missed, and insight into what matters most to the writer. In that spirit, I thought I'd share my own end-of-year letter on this blog.

Major Takeaways

For the first time since age 13 I found myself unemployed this year. From July through November I lived off savings and job-hunted, after leaving a job I enjoyed because of an erratic boss. Those five months were....great. Every weekday I packed up my notebooks, laptop, lunch, and a thermos of green tea, and Citibiked across town to Columbia's Butler library. I holed up in a beautiful little cubicle that looked like this:

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And I spent the whole day writing. 10-4, 5, or 6pm each day, depending on how in the flow I got.

For the first month I finished revising The Devil's Wall. Starting in August I began a brand new novel, Stardwellers. And in September I began querying agents for TDW. I'll remember 2018 as the year of full-time writing, my taste of that life I'd always dreamed of. It turns out I don't particularly need to see or interact with other people on a daily basis. I didn't miss it at all. What I really want from an occupation is just a sense of purpose and a reason to leave the house every day. That, and money. All of which is why I very, very happily accepted the new job I was offered and began this month!

Highlights

In July my mother and I spent a week in my favorite town in America, Milford, PA. We stayed at an Airbnb, a compact house on an acre or two of lush green woods. We ate every meal outside on the covered porch. We hiked and saw gorgeous vistas. We kayaked down the Delaware River (kind of a glorious disaster). We saw deer, eagles, rabbits. My favorite memory from the trip is us sitting on the porch as a rainstorm came in. As it grew cloudy, we watched gusts of wind wrench distant trees, muss the tall grass in a nearby field, and finally tear through the trees in our yard. The rain followed the same route. For a long time we stayed outside, enjoying the noise and the cool mist that reached under our awning, a treat after a long, scorching day.

Good Things

I keep a jar on my bookshelf that's filled with "Good Things": a few words apiece on scraps of folded paper. I write down beautiful sights, funny conversations, dear memories, and accomplishments of all sizes, and save them in the jar. At the end of each year, usually on New Year's Eve, I pour them out and reread them, and am filled with joy from remembering so many things I'd already forgotten.This year the jar was full of the new job, writing achievements, time spent with family, fun volunteer days, my writing groups, and new friends made (I was shocked to remember that I only met my amazing mentor just this year!).

So while it was hard to leave a job I liked, to live in a country periodically losing its mind, to watch my grandmother's health weaken, and to have my brother decide to join his fiancee in Chile because of the US's impenetrable visa system, it's the good things I want to keep with me. Those are the events I want to shape my personal narrative. It's the small joys along the way that make everything else worth it.

<3 Carolyn

NaNoTyMo

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For the month of November I'm going to track my progress in typing up my Stardwellers manuscript! Because you know there's nothing I love more than ticking things off a list or tracking my progress towards a goal.Btw, what is NaNoTyMo? National Novel Typing Month, of course! :-DMy total word count is just an estimate, but I think I've got around 95,000 100,000 words of draft 1. So eight days into the month, I'm a third of the way there! :-DHere's the bar I'll use to track my progress, with updated date below:

104192 / 100000 words. 104% done! Finished on 11/19!!

I did it!!!!

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Oh, beautiful checklist of chapters. Look at you now:IMG_2770I did it, I did it!!!!So, yeah. Draft 1 of Stardwellers complete. Even though I plotted very carefully in advance, I still feel as if I have a big ol' mess on my hands. But not as messy as The Devil's Wall draft 1 was. This one's messy in a different way. It lacks strong protagonists. That's work I didn't do in advance - sketching out my characters enough. Live and learn! I'll do that between drafts 1 and 2, and then find out if it's fixable.Also, I decided that it should be multi-POV. Because why write from 2 POVs when you can write from 5?! Aren't I full of great ideas!? To be honest, I'm looking forward to writing those new POV chapters. I didn't get to explore the secondary cast nearly as much as I wanted; I didn't have the room. So now I'm going to let them elbow their way in.But for now, my next step is to type up the manuscript. That's my NaNoWriMo goal. I'm calling it NaNoTyMo. Maybe I'll track my progress here, or on Twitter. Or...on my wall! Checklist #2, coming up!Go, me! :-D

Nearly 3/4 of the way there

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I've had this checklist on my wall since mid-August. Steadily marking my progress has brought me so much joy:IMG_2729On the one hand, I thought I'd be further along by now. OTOH, I realize how ridiculous that is, and am SO PLEASED WITH MYSELF. Look at all those chapters I've drafted!!! Even better: look how few I have left to go!!!!!I've written about 250 pages in 2 months. That is thanks to writing full-time, of course. I missed a couple of weeks here and there, but overall, I've devoted most of my sabbatical to writing. And it's been so much fun.The amazing thing is that I wasn't sure if I could write this novel at all. I approached Stardwellers with a very new process. I'm a lifelong pantser, but this time, I plotted everything out in advance -- every single scene. It's felt a little mechanical at times. And I haven't connected with the characters deeply. Most of my edits will have to focus on character -- but at least, 15 chapters in, I think I've figured out their key arcs.Here's the other surprise: I wasn't sure if I could write full-time. I worried that 8 hours of writing on one day would leave me too drained to write the next. That hasn't been the case at all. Oh, it happens sometimes -- but I've pretty consistently been able to write day in and day out. Great practice for if I ever am able to afford living as a full-time writer. :-DOverall, the point is: I did it. I haven't finished yet, but I'm nearly there. Just look at that checklist!! I am totally pulling. It. Off.PS: Because I've been dying to share this with the world but not really ready to, here is the aesthetic I created for Stardwellers!! :-DStardwellers Aesthetic 2