NaNoWriMo – A Chance to Grow Stronger

Every November, writers and would-be novelists all over the globe commit themselves to writing 50,000 words in just 30 days. While that sounds like an unrealistic goal at first, a little bit of math reveals that it comes down to a goal of 1,667 words per day – which is much more manageable for some. “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” people say to themselves, and in October they sign up for a free account on nanowrimo.org, joining the clamoring masses on the Forums there to plan their strategy and hype themselves up for what is surely a challenge.

The goal is 50k, so the idea is usually to write as much as possible every day in November, without self-censoring, self-editing, self-doubting, or self-restricting. Write, they say. Just write. Write everything you can. When the challenge is done, when the draft is complete, you can go back and edit later. There is even a spring or summertime venture of the same structure, which they call Camp NaNoWriMo, and where they let participants choose their own goals, instead of the ‘strict’ suggestion of 50k.

There are some who poo-poo this endeavor, insisting that it is no way to become a ‘real’ writer, no genuine training for novel-writing, no real benefit to be had from this system. There are some who criticize the strategy of writing for the word count rather than the content – and who are quick to point out that in the end, on December 1st, even if you made it to 50k words you do not have a complete novel in your hands – all you have is the first draft. There is so much more work to be done after that… something the NaNo advertising tends to gloss over. However, a first draft is more than some people ever achieve, so as far as I am concerned, and it isn’t so much about Magically Climbing Everest While On Your First Time Hiking as it is about Getting Out of Your Own Way and Getting Hype About A Fun Project.

It’s subjective, I guess.

I am a huge fan of NaNoWriMo. I first heard of it during my freshman year of college, and I can’t remember how it came across my radar but I remember thinking it was a suicide mission. A no-win scenario. What kind of sadists are these, I thought. And then I got curious. Was it possible? Could it be fun? I knew the play I was in was going to open in November, which meant going through tech week and performances AND classes and trying to write a totally new novel from scratch. That sounded like insanity.

So I signed up.

I started writing something – as free-flowing and seat-of-the-pants as I could get, and explored what it was like to write with no idea what was going to happen or who my characters were. It wasn’t super productive, but it was kind of fun. I got discouraged quickly, though, as my classwork piled higher and my rehearsals got longer. I left the story by the wayside and ‘quit’ my very first NaNoWriMo after a week or two.

The next time I found myself in the trenches of NaNoWriMo was the fall of 2010, after I had graduated college, and I thought: Now! Now it is time to write again. I sketched out an idea from a dream I’d had and buckled myself in for the ride. It was a crazy amount of fun, and at the end I had a silly, time-traveling story about angels and fallen angels and artists through the ages. It might go somewhere someday, it might not, but it was so much fun to write that I didn’t care. NaNo was going to become a staple for me.

I wrote again in NaNo 2011, although this time it was not fiction that I poured my words into but non-fiction. I wrote down every memory, every story, every moment I could remember about my friend Meghan, who had passed away that July. I needed a way to remember everything I possibly could about her, and writing it all down seemed the best way to do it. I wrote 60,000 words in 17 days.

In 2012, I sat down during rehearsals and performances of a holiday panto I was doing with Piccolo Theatre in Evanston (not to mention my full-time job) to write my next NaNovel. It was a fantasy, set in exotic locations, with a handful of characters of varying genders, backgrounds, and sexual preferences, and it was a lot of fun to write. It was exciting, and a little sly, and set my imagination a-runnin’. I called it On The Isle of Sound and Wonder, and after some heavy rewrites and edits, it was published by Xchyler Publishing in November 2014.

In 2013 and 2014 I skipped NaNo on account of edits, rewrites, and a handful of failed new ideas along the way. In 2015, I skipped NaNo because I got married in November. Not to mention the crippling self doubt, ‘writer’s block’, and other fun things that were all up in my brain-stuff about writing The Next Thing…

HOWEVER. That being said, I am proud to announce that I got back on the horse again after this long hiatus. Despite a 5-day-a-week day job and weekends packed with two 14-hour days working and performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, I have just completed my first Camp NaNoWriMo in July 2016! I skated in at 51k words right at the tail end of everything, and I couldn’t have done it without Tegan, Sam, Randall, and Karaline – my new NaNo Power Squad.

Although the draft of my new story is nowhere near done, it is a heckuva good start and a brand new outlook on my life as a writer. I feel completely rejuvenated, and SUPER enraptured with the project I’ve begun. I will be talking more about it on my Patreon as it develops, and I can’t wait to keep working so I can bring this story to life to its fullest potential.

No, but really – I’m reeeeeeally excited about it.

this one’s got pirates in it.

Life Goals (Great and Small) For 2016

A Non-Comprehensive List

I understand I’m well over two months late for New Year’s Resolutions but WHAT CAN I SAY I like goals and lists so here we go!

In 2016 I will be attempting to…

  • Stay active with exercise and other activity – yoga, stretching, body weight exercises at home, and dance (ballet, ideally). Even though I have never consistently studied dance, it has popped up at different parts of my life, and every time it does I am healthier, happier, and more relaxed because I have that physical outlet. I get a little taste of that in running or in yoga, but nothing beats moving your body to music. Somehow, I aim to make time to do this a bit more regularly than I currently am – which is to say, even if I can do it at ALL that’ll be a win. I will openly confess that my current fitness icon is Daisy Ridley. Holy CRAP. 
  • Develop healthy eating habits – low sugar, balanced diet, stay within my daily calorie goals, etc. In the last year I have already begun to change my old ways – I am more conscious of what I choose to eat and how much I have, and I eat better on a daily basis than I did a year or two years ago. Cutting back on soda and sweets has helped immensely, and I’m learning to broaden my taste horizons as well. Since the Fella and I got together, I’ve really come to love spicy foods, whereas my 10-year-old self would have wept like Hecuba in The Trojan Women if you’d have made her eat red curry. NOT ANYMORE! I’ll try anything unless it has suckers, a face, or a beating pulse.
  • Learn Japanese! Haha, yeah, I know, like I’m not busy enough. And it’s not like there’s three alphabets to learn. I’ve been talking about learning for years, but it’s always been too daunting… but I recently downloaded some apps and did some digging online… and I made the leap. I’m doing it. A little every day makes a big difference. The Fella is joining me in this endeavor – did you know he was born in Japan? I love language and learning about other culture through language, so this is actually fueling me like a moon rocket right now. I am energized and excited and — well, I aim to keep that going as long as I can! できます!
  • Create and produce the Three New Projects I’ve mentioned on my Patreon and social medias. Yes, friends, if somehow you’ve missed the updates, I have three new projects in the works for 2016. Production has already begun on all three, and they will be ongoing throughout the year. These projects are as follows:
    • A comedic spacey adventure podcast called “Tiny Space Hat Pirates.” TSHP will be released sometime in 2016 or early 2017 – there will be ten episodes and a full cast of voice actors as well as (fingers crossed!) sound effects and exquisite musical introduction and interludes. Pew pew pew!
    • A satirical faux public radio spotlight on the All Orc and Goblin Community Theatre Project, called “DND20 Public Radio Presents.” We’ve already recorded the first episode and I’m in the process of editing it. This is a much more pared-down type of pod-fiction, and is primarily improvised by excellent and outstanding humans that I know in person. It will also (probably) be ten episodes long (for starters) and will be released (I imagine) sometime in the summer of 2016.
    • A serial fiction tale transcribed from gameplay sessions of a Fate-based RPG I’ve built from scratch (with the Fella’s help), in a world called Warda. The players are preparing for our first game (Game Zero) where we will join forces to discuss the world, the characters they’ve come up with, and how these things all link in together in wondrous and unexpected ways. I will record the game sessions and then transcribe and fictionalize them for you all in readable formats! How exciting! NEW FICTION!
    • Bear in mind that for all three of the New Projects (and any new projects that appear along the way), being a Patreon patron will get you early access and wonderful sneak peeks, not to mention voting powers when applicable! Do consider joining the party. Click here for more information!
  • Write my next novel. I cannot tell you how badly I want to delve back into the rhythms of writing, re-writing, and crafting a new full-length story. I’ve had ideas blip through my radar in the last year since On The Isle of Sound and Wonder was released, but for the most part, those blips were just blips. Now that I’ve been digging the trenches for the foundations of Warda (WORLDBUILDING IS ACTUALLY REALLY HARD) I am becoming more and more excited to discover the stories and people and things that live and exist within it. I have a running list of character notions, story ideas, and scene images. I’m armed, and I plan on using that ammo… I want to get the RPG/serial fiction bit going first, but rest assured I’m raring to go on a full-length feature fantasy. *adjusts collar of natty jacket* *slips into fancy gloves* *adds a jaunty Edwardian chapeau*
  • Travel somewhere new! This is a classic resolution/yearly goal for me. I love to travel, and I love to go new places. I think it’s a grand way to progress. So each year I strive to visit a new town/state/country (if possible). In 2014, I visited Utah for the first time. Last year, I visited South Dakota and Wyoming for the first time. (It is a westerly-moving theme thusfar, is it not?) This year, I’m not sure where that location will be, but I intend to visit somewhere that I’ve never been before – ideally with the Fella at my side. He’s got a fearsome hankering to return to his childhood home in Okinawa, and I’d love to see Japan for myself. We’ll see how finances work out on that front, but we may have to settle for something a bit more local that’s still a new frontier.

 

My list for 2016 is pretty ambitious. Attempting to learn a new language, travel to new places, write/create/produce content in fiction and audio format, keep up the Disney Odyssey and other blog content, not to mention the day job and other ‘real life’ obligations from month to month… But I am satisfied with my list. I am satisfied with my ambition, my desire to grow and learn and explore. I am excited to tackle my own challenges, and face the various challenges that are yet unknown. 2015 was an insane roller coaster of good things and bad things, including a lot of radical social and personal changes – including but not limited to being engaged and subsequently married to the Fella. There is so much change still in the air, and so many possibilities. I intend to continue to chase that potential all the way through the year.

Who’s with me? 😀

Slice of Pie: Danielle E. Shipley’s Wild and Sweet Fairy Tale Journey

For my next trick, I’ll pull a Danielle out of a hat! Or a Danielle-flavored piece of pie. Or a pie. Pie from a hat?

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.

11954335451981724984johnny_automatic_slice_of_pie.svg.hi

Who are you?

The jury’s still out on that. Our best guess involves aliens and cybernetics, elemental magic and England, an alternate reality or two, and a few dozen people clamoring for control of a single mind. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go with the name I use when trying to pass for human. Call me Danielle E. Shipley, wordsmith.

LE AUTHOR

Danielle E. Shipley

What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

Ah, this. I was just admiring the newly revealed cover of my next publication. I’ve been cranking out this series of fairytale mash-up novellas since mid-2013, and it’s all scheduled to come to a close this October with “The Story’s End (Book Seven of The Wilderhark Tales)”.

story

What do you love about this thing?

Well, for one thing, we’re talking about my book baby. That means I’m going to love it on principle, for it is the work of my hands – of my head – of my heart. Beyond that, the book belongs, in large part, to a minstrel. And a minstrel tale means music wafting through every page. Such stories as these delight me.

What do you hate about this thing?

It’s sad, dang it. And I mean, part of me likes sad. “Sad is happy for deep people,” I’ve heard it said. But good pain is pain nonetheless, and I’m not quite so far gone ‘round the bend that pain is my favorite. It’s also aggravating that I’ve still got several weeks to go before I can share my beautiful agony with the public!

When/how/where can people read the thing?

The official launch date is October 13th, 2015, though chances are people will be able to get their orders in at least a few days early. It will be available in both paperback (via Amazon and CreateSpace) and e-book (Kindle and Nook). And there’s going to be a multi-day online extravaganza party for the book’s release and the series’ farewell, to which absolutely everyone with a Facebook account is invited.

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

I’m going to Disney World! I’m going to Broadway! I’m sailing the seas on my own pirate ship! I’m building a castle in Sherwood Forest, complete with a private library full of all-ll-ll the books! And I had better save that stop for last, since I’m probably never stepping foot outside that door again. Unless a wizard drops by with an invitation to adventure. Then I might. (Which reminds me, I also need to visit Hobbiton, New Zealand…)

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

My current aural obsession is the soundtrack from Dreamworks’ “The Road to El Dorado”. I’ve been playing the songs into the ground for months, and I’ve yet to get sick of it. So, congrats, Sir Elton John!

ALSO! One Megan Ann Jacobs (we were once Town Criers together at the Bristol Renaissance Faire) has written, directed, and is soon to present an original play! To quote the info on the invite I received:
Alone in a New York apartment, the god of comedy is melancholy, and he wants everyone to know it.

Though bound to find a new person to inspire and complete an unfinished story, Sebastian, the last remaining Greek Muse, mourns the passing of his latest instrument and friend, amusing himself by successfully spooking, pranking, and sabotaging every opportunity for a potential replacement.

Until Nikki.

Driven by her own personal demons, Nikki stubbornly battles with Sebastian for mastery of the apartment. Though fully engulfed in their feud, things get all the more complicated when the two are plagued by an over-involved landlord, a well-intentioned fiancé, and a dramatic Sebastian-orchestrated duel between the two that results in good old-fashioned police intervention. “aMUSEd” captures and explores our tendency to honor the dead by refusing to live, and leads us, through the ancient art of comedy, to live with the past and move forward.

I had the privilege of reading an early draft of the play, which was a delight  – doubly delightful, in fact, because Megan tells me the first spark of inspiration for “aMUSEd” was my very own novel (serendipitously titled “Inspired”). The play’s scheduled to show at Brumder Mansion in Milwaukee, September 25th – October 17th. You can bet I plan to be there!

Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

It can only be blueberry. Plenty of tartness amidst the sweet. The deep, dark blue of the sky in the night. And bleeding its juices all over the place, much like the mess it made of my heart.

YE OLDE REN FAIRE PHOTOBOMB of Danielle by me

YE OLDE REN FAIRE PHOTOBOMB (of Danielle, by me)

Danielle is one of the most pleasantly off-beat people I’ve ever met – and we met at the ren faire, so that says a lot. Her tales are fun and lavish and her words are always chosen with mischief, love, and delight. She plays the lute because she’s a hardcore bard, and she rocks out new fairy tales like it’s her job. Which it is. Check her out at Ever On Word and her Facebook author page for more sweet stuff!

Slice of Pie: Nathan Thompson’s Gothic-Steampunk Orphan Tale

One of the things I love about being a creative type is meeting other wild and crazy folks who make cool stuff too! I am proud to have an eclectic plethora of strange and wonderful humans in my life, and so to help them keep making the art they’re making, I thought I’d offer up a new flavor on the blog. Presenting….

~A Slice of Pie!~

A tasty sample of something fresh cooked up by an artist of my choosing.

11954335451981724984johnny_automatic_slice_of_pie.svg.hi

For our inaugural Pie-tasting, we welcome Chicago actor/author/producer/oddball Nathan Thompson. Nathan and I met while acting in a production of Anton Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in 2012, but it wasn’t until our second show together (a British Panto called “Bah Humbug”) that we really started to talk shop about sci-fi, spec fic, and our writing projects. Since then, Nathan’s been an indispensable advisor on many topics, and we’ve worked on a lot of different projects together. I’m super pleased with his current work, which I’ve asked him to talk about.

Who are you?

“I am Nathan Thompson.”


What’s your thing right now? That thing. You know. That thing over there. What is that?

“That’s The Macabre Tale of Edmund Moulde. It’s a serial web-story that follows odd life of Edmund Moulde, an orphan who is adopted by the stern and mysterious Matron Moulde of Moulde Hall. He then has to deal with his new relatives who don’t like that Matron suddenly has a legitimate heir to her fortune.”

Edmund never thought he would be adopted.
Prospective parents just seemed to walk past him, looking for children with fuller cheeks, ruddier skin, or even just blinked a bit more often.
It wasn’t that he minded much — he wouldn’t know what to do with a family. It was just that he had never been beyond the gates of Mrs. Mapleberry’s Home for Wayward Lads and Ladies, and he had read and heard so much about the soot-choked city of Brackenburg that lay just half an hour away by coach.
Then, one day, Matron Mander Moulde arrived at the orphanage, and Edmund soon learned there was much more beyond that wooden fence then he could have ever imagined.

The Macabre Tale of Edmund Moulde is an episodic story posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Follow Edmund as he journeys from the rickety orphanage on the outskirts of town, to the Brobdingnagian mansion perched on Haggard Hill, and beyond.


Art by Ilana Brodsky


What do you love about this thing?
“Well, it’s writing, and I love writing. I also love that it lets me put my work out there for people to read at their leisure. There’s something primal about people you’ve never met suddenly finding you and striking up a conversation about something you both love.”

What do you hate about this thing?

“I hate marketing. I’m no good at it, and there are still quite a few people out there who don’t know about it. I should see if one of my friends is willing to put me on their blog or something…”

When/how/where can people read the thing?

“They can find Edmund at edmundmoulde.com. You could sign up to my RSS feed, get each post as an email, or visit the website every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to catch the latest update.”

Note: You can also follow Edmund himself at @EdmundMoulde. His peculiar word choices and vague understanding of Twitter are charming!

What thing would you do if you had all the money and time in the world right now?

“I’d…keep doing what I’m doing, really. Just with less Job. Write like crazy, act in plays, create art both online and offline, GM Roleplaying games, etc.”

What’s your new favorite thing that someone else has done/made?

“Why, THIS BLOG, of course! No, seriously…that’s a tough one. I like lots of different things and for different reasons… The first one that pops into my head is A Smile and A Gun, the Roaring Twenties blog of one of my friends. She periodically posts cocktail recipes. It’s good stuff! I should also shout out to Drinkin’ Dames, a periodic web-show about drunk women trying to recall old movies they saw long ago, and The Witching Hour, an upcoming webseries about two agents who try to drink away the pain of dealing with the supernatural.”

Possibly the most important question… If your thing was a pie, what kind of pie would it be?

Well, If Mrs. Kippling made it, it would be a Soup pie.

If Edmund made it, it would follow the following recipe:

1 1/2 pounds of Wrought Iron,

1 large Spooky Mansion, minced,

1/8 teaspoon of Over-dramatic Ennui Bouillon granules

4 cups of something bubbling,

2 tablespoons of freshly ground smirking

2 tablespoons of freshly ground smirking

1/4 cup of tea

1 crusty old crone pie crust

a pinch of Macabre to taste.

Edmund Moulde (art by Ilana Brodsky)

Check out Nathan’s work by following his Facebook page and subscribing to Edmund Moulde’s curious and unusual story. Also you can check out Nathan’s super neato spec fic novella “The Watch in the Sand.”