ROW 80 Update – 8-3

So as part of this ROW 80 Writing Challenge all of us have to post updates every Wednesday and Sunday on our progress towards on our writing goals. Mine was to write 500 words – of just my novel – a day. And read a book a week. And I started late – most people started July 4th and I started July 31st – so this is my first “update.”

So how’d I do?

Hahaha. Well.

I blogged every day. Each post was something like 700-1000 words…

I went to work, ran even when it was 95 degrees outside…

Except for today, which I took to do laundry and PACK ahead of time so I’m ready when I go back to my home and leave DC on Saturday (after a traumatic packing experience in which I had less than a week’s notice that I’d gotten a job and had to empty my DORM room in one day… or should I say an afternoon till 5:30 AM…) (I did walk for an hour to come back from work though!)

I have also been thinking about my novel and making some decisions about character development, and sat at my computer for half an hour trying to write more than 300 words from one day…

Let’s just say that my writing goal might have been too ambitious for this week.

(I think part of the problem is that I’ve planned out so many scenes and I’m trying to write scenes that I haven’t ‘seen’ in my head or planned out completely yet, because they happen ‘first’. Tonight I’m going to try telling the story of this character I just thought of weeks ago, who I can visualize and whose scenes I can ‘feel’ right away, if this makes sense…)

BUT I’m keeping it as it is now, because of this:

To get into the routine of exercising regularly (5-6 days a week), I had to tell myself to exercise EVERY DAY first. Did that for almost two weeks, before I read somewhere that you had to take breaks. The week before I started on that? After a month of no exercise at all? I went running outside, a grand total of three times in a week. And did quite a bit of walking. I see that week now as my ‘transition’.

If I want to be a serious writer, I need to make myself work on this novel (as in the writing CRAFT and not just the plot) every day. So I see this week as my own ‘transition period’ – we’ll see how long it takes until I get in the hang of it. Today I’m working on at least 500 and up to 2000 words… but I won’t go crazy trying to catch up at this point. Slow and steady wins the race? Mayyyyyybe?

Time to read other ROW 80 updates, dry my laundry, and start writing!

(this music below would be like the background to the climatic scenes that I’m probably going to write tonight – yes, even that ending part fits! – if only I had the as much skill in writing as Yoko Kanno does in composing…)

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Work+Concentration+Internet+Goals!

Look at who can FOCUS ON ONE TOPIC!!!!!!!

Hahaha just kidding. I’ll break this down.

This is basically a ‘ahhh… surviving WORK’ post and a ‘I spent too much time on the internet yesterday!’ post in one. But also a Life List Club and ROW 80 -related post. I was going to have links here to each different part of this post but am having trouble with the HTML… =/ Feel free to skip or skim!

Work + Concentration

Today I had a reaaaaalllly hard time concentrating at work. This is my eleventh and last week of my internship, in which I’ve organized this Metro bus wash monitoring project – largely independently, doing research and visiting sites on my own without too much orientation (except for one very helpful mentor who knows all about controllers!). Sometimes I had reports or a presentation to do, oftentimes I was on the phone asking salespeople for specifications or quotes, and at one point I was even doing water testing – in our three-foot square temporary kitchen in the office… =)

However this week I just have two deliverables – a last project report with instructions on how the project should be continued when I’m gone, and a Powerpoint presentation with that same information. I was planning to have that report done by today… but I. could. not. focus. It was really strange. I usually work with my headphones on, my email accounts open, and maybe before 9 or around lunch check out a fun site for a few minutes or chat (we have an hour for ‘lunch’ and we can adjust our hours… well, by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ as I’m now the only intern in the office, with just two project managers…). But I have goals for the day in mind, write them down, break them down, and get them done. Each day.

Maybe the ‘finishing up’ part is the hard part for me. If I was going to continue to be involved in the project, I think I would be getting this out-of-the-way faster so that I could… DO STUFF! Like PROGRAM! INSTALL THINGS! Find INTERESTING data and ANALYZE IT! But this isn’t really a ‘final report’ as much as a ‘progress report,’ but it’s my own ‘final report’ – I guess I find it hard to finish something that doesn’t seem finished to me. Even though what would count as ‘finished’ (or at least result-worthy) to me will need even more weeks of time and installation – weeks after I leave. And if I finished that report today, and that presentation Tuesday, what would I do for the rest of the week? (Edit them. Add to them. Discuss them with my supervisor and mentor. Duhhh. Tell that to my subconscious or whoever calls the shots around here.)

Finishing things has ALWAYS been difficult for me, though. I kind of wonder why. Whether it’s taking a social research project past the research level, planning an environmental club at MIT, designing posters for the UA Sustainability Committee at MIT, getting exercise groups at my living group organized – I’ve entered each with enthusiasm and found my feet stuck in cement when it came to pulling them through. If there’s a ‘Just FINISH IT Group’ in the blogger-sphere… take me THERE.

Well, I am finishing my report TOMORROW (Tuesday – leaving early to FINALLY get my visa to China as well!), and the presentation by Wednesday/Thursday. Despite my short time here, it will feel AMAZING when I am finished with my part of the project!

Internet + Goals (update!) This weekend I somehow had too much time on my hands, and wandered all around the internet. Around blogs, in particular. This is how I discovered the “Life List Club” and “ROW 80” – two groups that encourage people to make goals and give support in the forms of posts and comments. And that’s why I went a little crazy yesterday and started my own “Life List Club” page and “ROW 80” page (the latter is a writing challenge). And I don’t regret it one single bit. That statement will probably have more weight when I say it on say September 22nd (the end of ROW 80) or July 31st, 2012 (the end of the first 12 months of my “Life List” – and my first set of goals). I encourage everyone to check out both clubs – Life List Club and ROW 80 – and try them out!

I thought I’d just give an update for my first day for both, not that I’ll be updating these lists daily:

Life List Club – I’m planning to add ‘drink 8 glasses of water a day’ and ‘sleep 8 hours a day.’ I think in junior (or senior?) year in one class, when my English (or government?) teacher asked what the most valuable lesson we had learned over the summer was, one girl said “Drink water. Trust me. It is SO important. It CHANGES YOUR LIFE.” Did I listen? Of course not. But I remembered. Water has helped me soooooo much here – every day is better with enough water.

And the same goes for sleep. When I was trying out rugby last spring at school, even though I wasn’t quite in shape, with ten hours of sleep I had enough energy to be involved for my whole B-side game (and awkwardly block the forwards while I was at it because I was a n00b and didn’t know where to go… ANYWAY…)

Got to work half an hour late (one of my goals is to be on time) – we technically do not have strict hours so it did not realllly matter – the reason was that I packed my food and left it and had to buy food on the way >.< New goal: ‘REMEMBER YO STUFF?’

ROW 80 – I planned for 500 words a day and have 287 from yesterday. Plus (not including) this snippet I wrote while trying to get started:

Hello world…

Today be the first day this girl woman specimen thing here err-writes for this here err-challenge-err when she’ll be writing 500 words a day. 500 words a day folks? That right there is almost as frightenin’ as that ol’ Jack Sparrow thinger come to life agi’n man. But she insists she c’ do it, ’tis only a paaai~ge (or two paiges double spaced methinks laddie?). So what can I tell ya. Notin’ I can do ‘ere ‘cept sit ‘n watch ‘n wince ‘n chew me tabacco or bark cause they’re cheap ’round these isles an’… “SHUT UP I’M ACTUALLY DOING THIS!!!”

So anyway… I got work done, but I still need to get in the habit of creating SCENES. And writing all the back-story. Without just barfing out exposition. How does 723 words tonight sound? Possible? Feasible? Maybe not really… since I have an oovoo call with friends, and am getting out of work early tomorrow, I’ll do some tonight and catch up tomorrow. WooHOO!

(Just started using this wordpress spell-check thing and it doesn’t like me much at all, especially my talking to myself and my WooHOO’s, oops…)

All right, end of updates! MUSIC TIMEEEEEEE

Goals for ROW 80 – A Writing Challenge!

(I believe it is now ROW 53 for me? The original challenge, to plan and meet a writing goal in 80 days, was meant to be from July 4th to September 22nd. But apparently you can jump in every three days by writing up your goals and posting to the ROW 80 writing challenge site – the challenge would still finish on 9-22. Check it out!)

Yosemite! Mountain! Challenge! CLIMB!

Wooo a WRITING CHALLENGE!!!!

So say my goal is to write 500 words of my fantasy novel a day. In 53 days I should have 26,500 words? This number doesn’t really take editing or content “borrowing” from the 40 pages I already have (and am totally destroying and rewriting) into account. I have a feeling that there will eventually be more cutting down than adding if I do this right.

So my goals are:

1. Write 500 words of my novel a day (think of it as developing a scene a day, even if it’s just a ‘background’ scene or experimenting with POV’s – anything as long as it’s story and not just planning – I’ve done plenty of that!)

2. Have 25,000 words down by September 22nd (because 25k is slightly easier to remember and say than 26.5k, and I’m sure I’ll be editing it down…)

3. By September 22nd – have a plan/outline for working on the story further (stick to a daily quota, or just stick to writing daily? Dedicate time over winter vacation, weekends, or next summer to it? Study the craft of writing more to develop my voice and style and improve the whole story? Probably going to write this plan… on September 21st!)

4. Read a book a week (part of learning/developing as a writer – that means about 7-8 books!)

I’m being pretty ambitious in these goals because now is the best time – my summer internship is ending this coming week, and I want to carry on the momentum I have been through freedom, a trip to China, and the very start of school, as best as I can. I sometimes (um often) set goals that are too much for anyone sane to handle. However, I think that this is the best way I can get my story going now, as I really need that push to get off my blog or computer and start writing what I really want to.

So the way ROW 80 apparently works is other ROW 80-ers post helpful or inspirational posts on the main site, read each others’ progress to get even more inspired, and inspire each other by posting inspiring comments?

Too much inspiration to handle… O___________O

Anyway, I’ll keep this post (which I’m making a page) updated with my progress! =)

Inspiring Blog Posts!

Hey all, this is the lazy post where I refer you to other blogger’s SUPER AMAZING ones! I’ve been surfing the blogs a bit and found a plethora of content regarding productivity, writing, design, traveling, etc. etc.
Without further ado here are two writing AND productivity related posts:

What Training for a Marathon Taught Me About Writing a Novel

Training Marathon Site

Here I just told a potential physical trainer that my goal was to run a marathon by next spring… (and, since it’s > 4 months away, a triathlon too…) and a novel at a more unspecified time, which sometimes seems like it will take another two lifetimes to get onto paper… and guess what I come across?

An inspiring post with great, common-sense advice about finishing any large goal – from a writer who has done a marathon.

New role model? =DDDD

“Why Slacking Off Might be the Key to Achieving Your Goals”

Slacking Off Post

Another writing-related post. Hahahahaha. So much of the advice you find in these blogs is advice that you’ve heard, nodded to and said, “yup, common sense, of course,” but it takes reading that advice in a well-written form, with anecdotes to support it, from someone who’s “been there done that” to actually absorb it. Like that whole “don’t be so strict – be flexible with your schedule because you aren’t going to always have time to write three hours a day – there might be an emergency.” Not that that emergency happens every week or every other day… but you know what I mean. Sometimes you need to “slack off.” (Even if the writer of that article isn’t quite what I’d call a slacker, doing software development and working out and writing, but… =P)

And awesome blog of the… um… summer! (O_O… This IS my first post about other blogs… but it TOTALLY deserves it!)

The Longest Way Home

The Long Way Home

Wow. Such a detailed travel blog. Has stories and advice for traveling in 20 countries from over 6 years of travel, from cultural notes, daily cost including hotel/hostel and food, food notes, and… whether the author thinks that that country is a place he wants to call home. Because his goal is to find a home… you can read his story and background on the about page on the site. It’s pretty amazing and inspiring, and makes the site not just a travelog, but a travelog with a unique purpose. Highly recommended!!!!!

What are your own favorite blogs or posts? I’d love to hear about them!

(Would this be complete without music? Hopefully I haven’t posted this here yet? I listen to this despite the screaming for the clean chorus =D)

Random Attempts to be Productive

Photos above are each from freedigitalphotos.net… free if I refer to them =)

So the thing about being productive, is that it’s hard to do if you go about it, erm, randomly…?

Yup. I believe that’s common sense to, maybe, most people. And I have plenty of empirical evidence.

Random is not a very precise term, though – you can’t really be productive when you have 2 hours and a million things you want/have to do and have not quite settled on which one to do.

Let’s go with this example:

– It’s 9:20 PM. I’ve gone to the gym (yes, one thing off the to-do list…!) so I’m sitting at the computer. Had arrived at 5 PM, eaten, and then wasted 2.5 hours distracted by the question – ‘Should I go the gym? Should I run outside? Should I… (repeat)’

– OK so back to 9:20 PM. I start…

— Researching types of brain injuries for my SPN fanfic in progress

— Looking for existing SPN fanfic for ‘ideas’

— Downloading Firefox Web Developer and going around the Drupal site to see exactly where to edit CSS (since the changes I saved in the CSS files I have… aren’t showing up…)

— Looking at the collage of open source pictures of African animals and children (pictured!) I have and want to put into a header and maybe background for this website in Photoshop

— Think out scenes of this OTHER SPN fanfic I’ve had in my head for *cough maybe two or three years cough* until it has at least ten significant characters and romance and a lot of things happening and try to refresh the scenes in my head since I thought of it last summer

— Think out scenes of this NOVEL idea I’ve been telling everyone about that’s been in my head since at least 9th or 10th (or in a vastly different form maybe even 6-8th) grade, and wonder if maybe I could use this idea I had in 10th grade about transformation that I discarded then but think miiiiight work now in it, and dream up more AMVs with my characters to music…

— Realize I have to get my Chinese visa done like this weekend/Wednesday at the LATEST (was going to go today but it was too far!)

— Realize I have to get an interview done for UPOP (MIT sophomore internship program) supposedly by the end of July

— Want to meet two friends in DC maybe tomorrow… but have to contact both of them now, oops

— Visit Dramabeans

— Visit Rebel Souls

— Look for the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument test I had taken in UPOP, where I had scored 70% right-brained and 30% left-brained, mostly falling into the upper right, ‘creative space cadet’ category and weakest in the lower left, ‘conservative, controlled, sequential, detailed’ quadrant.

I was looking for activities that develop my weak lower left quadrant. Found ‘Assemble a personal property list,’ ‘Find a mistake in a bank statement,’ and ‘Jog, don’t run.’

How do you develop your upper right brain? ‘Run, don’t jog.’ And ‘Invent a ‘gourmet’ dish and actually prepare it.’

…Is it OK if I like hanging out in my right brain?

(This is the report I found, that has that information and some more if you are interested!)

— Realized ‘I had this goal to write EVERY DAY RIGHT (and not just compare plot points and plan out mental AMVs)????’

— Decided to blog.

Now…. website or writing… website or writing…

Hmmm…

MORE MUSIC!!!!!!

Wrote a story in 3.5 hours!

That being said, while I’m totally trying to brag I probably shouldn’t because:

A. It’s fanfiction – and on top of that, SUPERNATURAL fanfiction – and a good amount is retelling of canon events, with a subtle twist

B. It’s 3:10 AM… and I have work tomorrow… (I’m leaving early tomorrow… but have pilates that’s gonna kill me… after doing inclined sprints AND pilates today… X___X)

Whatever. I wrote more than 3000 words! So there!

Now I should really sleep. But I haaddd to brag brag brag.

(It’s so much harder to get started on the stories that have more complex plots… but practice in the craft is AWESOME…)

If you’re interested the link to it is here: Going On

If anyone wants me to post it here, let me know!!! I looooooooove comments, on posts, and I’d LOVE comments on stories =D As few as there may be at this point – just starting out!

I’m hesitating on posting it here because, well, it’s fanfiction and this isn’t a livejournal, is it? Maybe it would be cooler to do original fiction here. But not too much novel stuff, as I’m hoarding that… =P (If I did post stories I would put them in their own section and have them as their own posts.)

ETA: Also, this particular story probably won’t make much sense unless you have seen the episode it’s based on in Supernatural (2×01), since I didn’t spend too much time on the background… =(

Video of the early morning, a fitting one that has metal and punk… metalpunk? Post metal? (I have no idea how these get classified…):

Here’s an embed, just music:

And the actual music video along with the music, which you can see on youtube:

Story Writing!

Random Video from the band that is now on my workout playlist:

(for some reason this vocalist’s looks and actions reminds me of the lead vocalist from Back On… like from Sands of Time or Flyaway, even if the latter has a much higher voice and is just different… or maybe I just listen to too much J-rock)

Question for you all: Are there any budding (or veteran) writers among you? If so, perhaps I’ll write a bit more about… writing! =)

Okay, here’s the plan. From 11 PM to midnight I’m going to be working on this story idea I’ve had since forever.

I’ve read writing magazines that say ‘Start Writing!’ or ‘How to Become a Writer,’ etc., at Barnes and Noble. But they say things I already know. Or heard a million (+1) times.

1. Write every day.

This one I don’t mind hearing, since you might have to HEAR it every day until you say ‘SHUT UP, I’ll DO IT!’ Took just a few years for me to say it. I’ve been on a (creative writing) roll for… less than a week. Took writing classes over others just because I knew they would make me write. But I wanted to make writing something I did on my own. Like I wanted to make exercise something I did on my own, even if I wasn’t on a team or doing martial arts. Mayyybe become an ‘athlete’ – an independent one? Mayyyybe become… an actual WRITER?

2. Know the elements and format of a story – beginning and introduction of characters/setting, conflict, climax, resolution. And maybe even get into types of conflicts – environmental, caused by others, caused by self, types of resolutions, blah blah blah…

It’s like the 5 paragraph essay. You know what it’s supposed to do, but are you really going to use it forever? How boring. There are all different types of stories, and some of them aren’t balanced – they focus more on setting, or characters, there might not even be a clear climax… a lot of ‘modern writing’ in particular loves to break these rules. (Credit to Mr. Garfinkel from AP English Lang in high school for having us demolish those five paragraphs).

You’ve got a story. What makes it interesting? Why do you want people to read it? For the journey, to live on the streets of 18th century France, smell the scents, maybe see it in a completely different lens than before? Or do you want them to read to find out what happens during the assassination of some fictional (or whatnot) president that your characters are planning?

Plot, setting, climaxes, characters – those are your elements, your tools in your sandbox. Just go ahead and make the story interesting, in whatever way works for you. The conflict-climax-conflict-climax formula doesn’t tell you how to write. Unnn-helpful.

Others: Show, don’t tell; show, sometimes tell; give characters depth; don’t use too little or TOO MUCH detail (that was a problem for me in one class)…

One thing I did find interesting was this idea: outline the story before you start. And roman numerals aren’t your only option; try using index cards for each scene!

I might actually try this (or type those ‘index cards’ out), but I think I need more scene-writing practice first.

Here’s one idea that I have, that might be useful for writers that are looking to improve their craft and descriptions, and not just their plot structure?

Details are everything. You want to know and visualize the settings in their entirety, and then translate those images into words. I think that process itself is an art form – how do you paint just the right amount of strokes, in the right places, so that readers see (and hear, and smell…) what you want them to, while also having room to enrich their experience with their own imaginations?

I’m planning on making a page for each setting that I am thinking of – whether it’s a cave or a forest trail in the west side or on the east, or a city, or school – and write all of the words and phrases that I can think of to describe them. I think this will make it much easier to write scenes and get them going, because I won’t be fishing around for words and thinking, ‘Is this cave dark? Is it damp? Musky? Are there lights on the right or left side?’ Then I can focus more on the action in each scene.

Look at the time – 11:03 PM! Guess I’ll write till 12:03 then.

One more thing (I can stay up ALL NIGHT you know… or maybe not really…):

I find music to really help me with the creative process. I just imagine music videos with my characters as I’m listening to each song. And I just had a kind of breakthrough. As in, a few new VERY important characters, a whole new plotline, and more experiences for my current characters.

This makes me incredibly happy because for the longest time I’ve been focusing on only one main plotline (with supplemental backstory plotlines), and I’ve been thinking, ‘I’m spending so much time thinking about this. What if I write it, and it’s no good – or it’s underwhelming?’

But now that I have a whole different addition to the story that is solid in my mind, and not just a wispy concept that I hadn’t totally decided on…

It’s like having multiple stories in one (technically, multiple interconnected stories in one world! If I don’t start adding worlds)!

The only issue is that the new set of events I have planned makes one side (or part of the side) clearly bad and the other side clearly the victim that started out… not as bad. But I’ve been wanting to avoid black and white in this story. I think some events may just turn out to be black and white… sometimes, as my new character says once, ‘It’s just that simple’ – but hopefully that won’t be the overall case.

Enough vagueness and rambling, hour of STORY TIME!

(Second) Video of the day (this is, I think, the song that was playing when I got the idea for the new plot arc – and no, that arc is not about an arsonist… or maybe it depends on your definition of ‘arson’… hopefully that’s not a spoiler =P And “Inner Universe” by Yoko Kanno helped me develop it further… =D):