Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

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I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

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Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

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My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

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I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

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I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

Wordy Wednesday: Zero Drafting

Hey there! Sorry this post is going up after midnight. Today has been weird. Mostly because I HAD MY LAST FINAL EXAM OF UNDERGRAD WHICH MEANS I AM NOW DONE WITH COLLEGE AHHHHH.

It still hasn’t quite set in, the fact that it’s basically summer now (outside of graduation), and that I’m actually done with school in time for my birthday this year (the first–and, you know, last–time that’s ever happened), and also I AM DONE WITH COLLEGE WHAT IS LIFE.

Things that have happened in the past week:

  • I had my honors thesis reading! It was crazy, after going to those the past few years, to finally have one that was mine. (Also, it was such an honor to share the evening with the other creative writing honors thesis students. Everyone did amazing, because they are amazing, and I’m so happy for them.) (I’m also happy because afterward my family took me out for tacos.)
  • My picture book came in! It’s not, you know, a real book, of course. It’s just the final project for my writing children’s literature class. But look at the pretty!

The picture book I wrote and illustrated for my children’s literature class arrived! #SeniorYear #GoBlue #BlurbBooks

A photo posted by Julia Byers (@julia_the_writer_girl) on Apr 14, 2016 at 1:49pm PDT

 

  • I did income taxes! (*cough* My parents stepped me through my income taxes.) Fun fact: being a full-time student with two paying jobs and also owning a small business = no fun at tax time.
  • I finished writing Time Travel Heist Story! Okay, so this draft is awful (which I will talk about more below, actually), but also it’s done and it’s my sixth completed novel and THANK GOD BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THIS THING FOREVER.
  • I had my last day of work at the bookshop! I’m so sad to be leaving, because I really enjoyed doing the social media and working the register and just spending so much time in a used bookshop in general this past year, but (at least for now) it’s time to go.
  • I FINISHED COLLEGE! I know I already mentioned this one, but like, OHMYGOSH I AM ACTUALLY DONE WHAT IS THIS MADNESS OHMYGOSH. (Also, in my last three classes we played with a giant parachute out in a field, got free donuts from the professor, and had a pizza party during which we had story time like we were in elementary school. So like.Way to go out with a bang, college. Go blue.)
  • Aaand I turned twenty-two? I mean, it is technically after one AM at this point, so I am now very much twenty-two years old. Time to be a living cliche and break out the T-Swift.

And now, to expand upon the aforementioned “this draft is awful” in reference to Time Travel Heist Story: this week’s Wordy Wednesday (er, Wordy Thursday) is a writing process post.

So, I’ve been working on Time Travel Heist Story (also known as The Story that Refuses to Be Named) since last July. However, I didn’t start working on the draft I just actually finished until NaNoWriMo. This is because trying to figure out what is even going on in this story has been torture.

I’m a pantser. I basically never know what I’m doing during the first draft of a story. I make up the plot as I go and generally don’t know what the ending will be until I’m halfway through the climax. And this has worked out fine for me in the past.

However, after struggling and struggling to get literally anything to work in Time Travel Heist Story for most of the summer and fall, I realized that my usual pantsing ways just weren’t going to cut it with this novel. I had no idea who my characters were and I knew too little of the plot to be able to properly construct it. (It turns out that, unlike in most stories, when dealing with time travel the writer actually has to have some idea about what’s going on.)

Still, I can’t really do the whole “planner” thing–my mind doesn’t work that way–so just sitting down and outlining the novel wasn’t going to work. And this story needs that sort of preparation.

So, when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I decided to take a different approach: instead of trying to make my rough draft anything at all attempting to be decent, or even (gasp) taking up planning, I’ve spent it thinking on paper (or, you know, a Word doc)–exploring ideas and working out plot kinks and character arcs and world-building details, without ever actually doing much real writing.

This has led to a really rough draft. Like I’m not joking, it includes things like this:

zero draft example a

However, after months of struggling, this draft is actually done. And now I can look over all of the things I developed in it and use those to figure out what’s truly happening, in a kind of after-the-fact outline (which is something my mind does work well with)–and, using that, when I get started on the next draft (which will be a complete rewrite, because yeah) I’ll actually, hopefully be able to finally make Time Travel Heist Story work.

With all of this in mind, I’ve taken to calling this super rough draft the Zero Draft. It’s something more than an outline (because it is ~60,000 words of novel) but something less than a legitimate first draft (because a good tenth of it has to be me making dumb meta jokes that have nothing to do with my narrator and everything to do with the fact that I wrote a lot of it during literature classes). So, what I finished writing Sunday doesn’t quite deserve to be called the first draft. But it’s leading me in that direction.

And yeah. I’m really proud of my weird, discombobulated little Zero Draft. And I’m really excited to get to work on the after-the-fact outlining and then the real first draft.

As you can see, this new method’s been working pretty well for me so far, so I figured it might be good to share it. Depending on how the next couple months of outlining and writing go, I’ll update you on whether or not I truly recommend Zero Drafting as a noveling method. But if you’re likewise struggling with your novel, it could be something to consider. (Who knows. Maybe you have 60,000 words of half-baked ideas rolling around in your mind too.)

Have you ever tried to change up the way you write? How so? Did it work out for you?


(I’ve got a special Wordy Wednesday planned for you already for next week, so this poll’s for the week after!)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! Like last year I’m writing this post on the last day of the old year, but scheduling it to go live in the new year.

2015’s been a pretty great year. Of course, some bad stuff happened (some bad stuff always does), but the good things definitely outweighed it and I’m grateful for the past twelve months.

With that in mind: Resolution Time.

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How I Did with My 2015 Resolutions

1. Have at least one adventure a week. Accomplished. A lot of them were small, but I had at least one a week and it was really nice.

2. Intern somewhere this summer (or get a regular summer job). I ended up doing both! I worked at a bookstore for the first half of the summer (while interning remotely), then interned in person in NYC during the second half. It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had. (And I’ve continued to work at the bookstore and intern remotely since school started back up.)

3. Volunteer. Accomplished! I’m still not volunteering as much as I’d like to, but I’ve started doing things with some local organizations (like 826Michigan) and I’m really enjoying what little volunteer work I do get to do. (Aaand you should totally check out 826Michigan, by the way. They do really important work and are a bunch of amazing people. Just saying.)

4. Pass all my classes with at least a 3.5. Accomplished! I actually managed to get a 4.0 all three semesters I completed in 2015 (winter, spring, and fall). I still want to try to bump my GPA up a little higher, but it’s much healthier-looking now than it was going into 2015, thank goodness.

5. Work out at least three times a week and keep doing my daily situps. Ehhh. EHHH. I really failed at this one. I started off strong–I even was up to biking thirty miles a day at one point over the summer–but then I got injured and ended up spending two months in a knee brace, and it looks like I’ve had a partially torn muscle in my shoulder for like a year and a half now (although I still haven’t had a chance to go to a doctor about it), and life has gotten so crazy busy that I just haven’t had the ability to keep working out regularly. Here’s to healing and getting back into shape in 2016.

6. Take better care of myself in general. I did pretty terribly with this one. (See Resolution #5.) As well as stopping exercising, I also stopped eating well, like, at all. Like basically all I eat these days is cheese and carbs. I’ve taken to spending entire days curled up in bed with my laptop, only ever leaving my cocoon of blankets to grab junk food or order takeout. My body is ready to murder me. I definitely need to revisit this resolution in 2016.

7. Make new friends. Accomplished! I met some pretty awesome people in 2015. (Hi, guys! Love you.)

8. Get better at running Chapter One Events, LLC. I’m honestly not sure if I accomplished this one. Some days I want to say yes; some days I want to slap myself for the days I want to say yes. I’m still figuring all this stuff out, learning and growing as I go, but I’m starting to think there will never be a time when I feel fully on top of things (and that’s okay).

9. Clean my room. Oops.

10. Read fifty two books. ACCOMPLISHED. I actually read sixty-seven this year! Eighteen were full manuscripts for my internship; nine were books for literature classes; and the other forty were just for fun.

11. Travel a lot. Accomplished! I went to Chicago several times for Ch1Con-related things, up north skiing with my family, spent Independence Day in D.C. with my family, and of course interned for two months in New York City (during which I went on weekend trips to Ocean City, NJ with two of my critique partners and to the Hamptons with Hannah). I’ve also had lots of day trips around Michigan (like that time some friends and I spent Halloween in Hell). It was nice getting to see so much of the country this year.

12. Let what happens happen. I’m still struggling a lot with this one. If 2015 proved anything, it’s that I’m very good at making rash decisions and being stubborn to the point of it being unhealthy. (Like that time I tried to just power through my knee injury for a week before realizing all that was doing was making it worse. And then, I repeat: two months in a knee brace.) Sometimes being rash and stubborn is okay, though. And it’s okay to hold on. Some good stuff is coming out of those decisions.

*****

2016 Resolutions

1. Get straight As my last semester of undergrad. I’m not sure how possible this one is, because I’m currently registered for eighteen credit hours and next semester is going to be my busiest since college began. But it’s also my last and I want to go out with a bang.

2. Read at least fifty-two books. If 2016 is anything like 2015, this should be more than possible.

3. Have at least one adventure a week. This was a really good goal to have last year.

4. Get outside more. I spent a lot of time outside this summer, but that dropped off as school started back up and I miss the sun.

5. Do a publishing intensive (or intern somewhere). I’ve been looking forward to attending one of the summer publishing institutes since I first learned they existed and I’m so excited that I’m finally about to be at the point in my life when I get to go to one. (You know. If I get in.) If I’m not accepted to a publishing institute, then I want to spend my summer interning somewhere.

6. Get a grownup job. Scariest goal of the year (and also the most necessary).

7. See the world. I have tentative plans for several big trips in 2016 and I really, really hope they all work out.

8. Make new friends. As always, I think this is a great goal with which to go into any year.

9. Develop healthier habits. I feel so disgusting all the time right now and that needs to change. I want to get back into working out and eating well. I want to feel good again.

10. Apply to grad school. I’m still not positive what kind of graduate program I want to do (hence why I’m taking a gap year between undergrad and graduate), but I know that I really want to get a masters. I love learning. There’s no way I’m done after this.

11. Finish writing the first draft of Time Travel Heist Story. I’m so in love with this story. I’ve been having trouble getting much work done on it since NaNoWriMo ended, but I need to find the time.

 12. Remember to breathe. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on right now. And while I’m pretty happy about all of it, I do also have a tendency of working myself until I’m too stressed to function. I’m going to do my best to be better about this in 2016. (Also to remember that it’s okay to have fun sometimes.)

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So, those are my resolutions. What are your resolutions for 2016?

Happy New Year!

~Julia

 

 

Wordy Wednesday: Angell Hall

Hey there! It felt so weird not writing a blog post yesterday.

Not much has been going on the past couple days (just lots of classes and homework and work), but one of my classes did watch Clueless last night, which is always a good time, and yesterday I REGISTERED FOR CLASSES. FOR THE LAST TIME IN MY UNDERGRADUATE CAREER.

Upside: I got into all the classes I wanted, including a children’s literature one with a professor who always ends up with a massive wait list! (#SeniorPerks)

Downside: I maybe registered to take seventeen credit hours my final semester of college. Including three literature classes and my honors thesis. And of all those classes, I only actually technically need one to graduate.

However, the three literature classes I’m registered for are two children’s lit courses and a spy fiction one, so like, they’re going to be incredibly fun and they should make the workload worth it. (There was also a dystopian fiction class I really wanted to take, but alas, there was just no way.)

Hopefully with all these lit classes, I’ll at least have lots to share with you next semester?

In the meantime: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

*****

The stillness of Angell Hall at
six PM, two weeks before the end,
silent save for the buzzing lights,
the hum of hot air in the walls,
a window at my back and
only the stray student hurrying by,
bundled in parkas and maize and blue hats and caffeine,
home so close, it’s a flavor in the air–
these are the moments I stop
and let my eyes drift closed
and take a breath
and think about
how much this one random spot,
these grey wooden benches pushed up
against the strips of plugs and towering glass walls,
has defined the past four years–
blog posts and novel chapters and papers and emails and short stories and poems
have found their way into the world here–
and sometimes a tour guide goes by
with maybe-someday-future students
and once upon a time I was there, walking by
not realizing, not realizing,
because you never realize,
and now I am the senior who is
sentimental about benches.
It’s silly the things time
makes us scared we will miss.

*****

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

NaNo Day 30: End of an Era

It’s the last day of November 2015, and with it the end of competing in National Novel Writing Month as a college student.

I wrote a lot of bad partial-novels over the course of these four Novembers. (And spent a lot of time binge eating nachos with my hair in a bun.) But I’m also so, so proud of all of these words, and making it to 50,000 every year, and the fact that I took a leap of faith in doing NaNoWriMo freshman year, when everyone was telling me it was a bad idea. (Because college.)

I’m not going to disagree, honestly. I haven’t seen most of my friends since October, and when I have seen people this month, I’ve generally been stressed and distant and not at all the friend they deserve. I’ve had a headache for like three days straight now and I’m so out of shape I feel like a slug.

But also, I have collectively written 204,194 words for NaNoWriMo since college began. And although most of them are completely terrible, that first NaNo freshman year led me to the novel I’ve spent the rest of college revising. And this year’s NaNo has led me to a world I love so much, I can’t wait to finish this crappy first draft so I can go back and rewrite it into something slightly less crappy.

November’s my favorite month of the year. Because writing is breathing, and NaNoWriMo is like spending the month high on oxygen.

This has been a really weird November, between our mood swing weather and my work load and the fact that it’s my last year of college. But I’m also so grateful for it. (And for you. For supporting me and reading these daily blog posts all month, even when they suck, and just always being there to listen to me rant or ramble or be tired or excited or whatever else.)

Thank you for coming on this journey with me, whether you’ve been competing in NaNo this year as well or just reading the blog. And whether you made it to 50,000 words this month or not, remember that you are a champion just for trying. (Seriously. You are incredible. You are a writing warrior.)

I don’t know where I’m going to be this time next year. And that’s scary. But at the least, I know I’ll have NaNoWriMo waiting for me next November. (And maybe even daily blogging too?)

Thank you for everything. It’s been a fun ride.

I’ll talk to you Wednesday.

nano-2015-winner-badge-large-square

Goal for Today: 0
Overall Goal: 50,000
Current Word Count: 50,423

~Julia

NaNo Day 16: #Lyfe

Today’s another boring day, as far as having things to blog about. Went to class, made lunch, backpacked* courses for my final semester of college, did some homework, went to another class–where I took a pop quiz–, bought groceries, did some work, ate dinner, did more work, and now I’m about to start on more work.

At some point today, I also need to write 3k in NaNo. But that’s going to have to wait for after finishing this reading for Mexican cinema. And the assignment due tomorrow for my honors thesis. And these budget proposals. (And possibly finishing Carry On, because this book is weirdly addictive?)

I’m really happy with my life right now. I’m doing things I’m passionate about and that I never thought I’d actually get to do–

But yeah.Things are also a little crazy right now.

Here’s to real life and following dreams and how sometimes that means not having much time for anything?

Goal for Today: 3,000
Overall Goal: 29,000
Current Word Count: 26,181

~Julia

*For anyone whose school doesn’t use that term: I picked out classes and put them in this holding pen thing on the university website so I can register for them more quickly in a couple weeks when registration opens (aka: the University of Michigan’s version of the Cornucopia bloodbath portion of the Hunger Games).

NaNo Day 5: Sleepless in Ann Arbor

Strap yourself in: this is gonna be a long one.

After being hecka sleepy in my film screenings again last night, my plan for the evening was to come home and go straight to bed. However, my NaNo schedule called for 2,000 words and I’d only written about 800 so far.

More than I wanted sleep, I didn’t want to get even further behind than I already was, so I decided to tough it out and try to get in the rest of my 2k. (Like seriously. This falling behind thing has been getting crazy.) So, I burrowed under my covers with my laptop and headphones and opened my Word doc–

–Only to realize that, once again, the story wasn’t working.

Here’s the thing: This is my eighth year doing NaNoWriMo. I know that the way to fast draft a manuscript is to throw quality out the window and just get words on the page. I’ve won seven NaNos that way; I’ve completed five manuscripts.

But that only works when the plot and characters are going in the right direction.

I’m a pantser, which means I never really know where the story’s going. Despite this, I can almost always tell when I’m writing something inauthentic (like maybe a character does something that s/he would not realistically do, or something else along those lines). Once you reach a certain point in the story, it’s better just to write through these issues. After all, your worst writing is still better than no writing at all, and you can always go back and fix problems in revisions.

I know this. I’ve done this. In the first draft of one of my previous manuscripts, my killing-averse heroine lost control at the climax and shot like a billion bad guys. I knew as I was writing it that that is not how that scene should ever unfold. But I also knew that I needed to write through the crappy, wrong version of events in order to be able to finish the MS and thus then be able to go back and rewrite it as it actually was supposed to be.

However, that kind of logic doesn’t really work when you’re still at the beginning of the novel. When I opened my Word doc last night, I was just under 4,000 words into the MS. I hadn’t even reached the inciting incident yet. (I’d only just passed the catalyst.) Purposely doing something wrong at that point is like purposely building your entire house on a broken foundation.

I’ve been struggling a lot with this MS. As I mentioned a couple days ago, I’ve restarted this novel maaany times now. If we’re being honest, Time Travel Heist Story is me reattempting my NaNo from two years ago with lots of changes, because what I tried two years ago did not work At All but I liked the general concept behind the time travel in that one. (I’ve also stolen the scavenger hunt element from lat year’s NaNo.) (Basically I am really bad at coming up with new ideas these days.)

The point of all this is: I’ve been struggling. And when I opened that Word doc last night, it was with the knowledge that I would probably have to start over again if I wanted this MS to go anywhere. And after how many failed attempts I’ve made at telling this story, I wanted desperately for something to work.

I did like the first couple pages of this version, so I decided not to entirely start over from scratch. I’d just tweak those pages, delete the rest, and rewrite from there. I just needed to get this opening right if I ever wanted to be able to move on. Then maybe I could stop doing this constant restarting.

So I started tweaking. And reworking. And adding.

And as I went, I slowly realized that this time–well, I was wrong about needing to rewrite. The pages I was so worried about, that I thought needed to go? They just needed some more fleshing out. Some clarification. Some work on character development and dialogue.

And, more than anything, they needed me to trust myself and the story I’m telling.

There’s nothing wrong with starting over if you need to. It happens. In fact, it’s kind of my M.O. (Throwback to Camp NaNoWriMo way back in the yesteryear of 2012.) But I’d begun to fall back on it as a crutch, out of fear and anxiety, and that is the opposite of good.

I ended up adding all of the words I needed last night just in reworking. Then I was so swept up in the story, I kept writing. And I had to force myself to shut down my laptop after 1:00 AM. Then I lay in bed–unable to sleep, my brain was whirring so much, so high off of writing–that it was close to three before I finally drifted off.

And I’ve been thinking about the story all day, in all my classes and all through work. All I’ve wanted to do is come home and write. And even though I’m exhausted, I’d gladly stay up all night just to work on this thing.

I haven’t felt that way about a manuscript in a long, long time. And I know I currently feel that way about this one because I took a step back and reevaluated what I was doing before making the mistake of hitting delete.

So, the point of all this rambling: It’s okay to backtrack if you need to. But only do it if you really, actually NEED to.

Sometimes, if you’re lost, it’s not about starting over. It’s about finding yourself in what you’ve already written.

Goal for Today: 2,000 + 2,500 (from Sunday)

Overall Goal: 10,000

Current Word Count: 5,781

I’m off to do today’s writing. Maybe I’ll even catch up someday soon?

How are you doing? If you’ve been struggling with NaNo so far, are you maybe also finally getting into the swing of things? (Either way: Look at you, you magical writing person! Whether you’ve written one word or a hundred thousand at this point in the month, you are amazing simply for taking the effort to write at all. We’ve got this.)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: November Fourth

IT’S SO NICE OUT TODAY. It’s honestly kind of scaring me. Seventy-five and sunny on a Wednesday in November? I should not be sitting at a table outside Espresso Royale with bare legs right now. But I AM.

I ended up being up past midnight again last night, not even because I was writing, but because I made the mistake of looking at the course guide for next semester (MY LAST SEMESTER) and, dude, that is a dark hole of despair you do not want to go down. (THERE ARE SO MANY CLASSES I WANT TO TAKE AND I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO TAKE THEM AND WHYYY.)

(Sorry for all the caps lock today. I blame the apocalypse sun for messing with my ability to probably format things.)

Despite going to bed later than I wanted, I also woke up an hour early this morning for no apparent reason. Upside: I got almost a thousand words written before class! So I just have another 1,200 or so words to go to meet my goal for today. (Although I do still have that extra 3,000 left to do from Sunday.) (Still.) (Ugh.)

Anyway, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

**********
The day was so long that
by the end I had forgotten
the beginning, and
I had forgotten how to sit
without eyes drifting, drifting—
but the last class didn’t begin until
seven, and five minutes were
empty before it,
so I grabbed tomato soup and fresh baguette
and I watched the world grow dark,
a warm blanket thrown over the buildings
and trees and shuffling steps. I kicked leaves into
a kaleidoscope of orange
and yellow,
and I woke up, woke up
on the walk to class.

I will miss this place.
I am so grateful for this place.

**********

Goal for Today: 2,000 + 3,000 (from Sunday)

Overall Goal: 8,000

Current Word Count: 4,175

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

NaNo Day 1: And So It Begins

HAPPY NANOWRIMO!!!!!

Goodness, can you believe it’s already November 1st? As much as I love this month, it’s crazy how fast the year goes.

I’m absolutely terrified for how I’m going to handle everything this November. Senior year is kicking my butt at the moment, and add writing fifty thousand words and blogging every day on top of that? This is going to be interesting. (But also, like, what else is new, amiright? #College)

My NaNo this year is currently The Novel that Refuses to Be Named, also known as Time Travel Heist Story. I’ve been working on it since July-ish, but I realized a couple weeks ago that I need to start at a different place in the plot–so despite my best efforts to be productive with writing the past few months, I, once again, am beginning NaNoWriMo at Chapter One. (Yay accidentally playing by the rules?)

What this does mean is that I have a vague idea of what I want my characters and plot to look like, which goes against every instinct in my little pantser heart, but also means writing should HOPEFULLY be a little easier (and less time-consuming) this time ’round. Which also means hopefully I won’t die between now and November 30th.

Description from my NaNo profile:

Fifteen-year-old Regina is a sophomore at the prestigious Zeteo Academy, acclaimed for sending graduates everywhere from the White House to the moon. Zeteo breeds loyalty, bravery, and the ability to keep a secret–but the biggest secret is the boarding school’s unorthodox education itself, involving a dangerous, seemingly endless scavenger hunt. Called simply “the Game,” the scavenger hunt sends students around the world to gather clues leading to a prize so old even the rumors surrounding it have died.

When the rules of the Game change for the first time since its founding over a century ago–and, in the process, Regina becomes the first Zeteo student ever to come face to face with a game-runner–she decides it’s time the students of the Zeteo Academy finally figured out the truth about the Game that rules their lives.

Oh, and P.S. there’s time travel.

So yeah. This is going to be a veeery rough first draft (how does one even write time travel?), but I’m also in love with the plot and the world, so I can’t wait to dig in.

Are you competing in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing about? (Also: wanna be buddies?)

Goal for Today: 5,000

Current Word Count: 271

Whoohoo! Let’s do this thang.

~Julia

Oh, and P.S. Happy Day After Halloween from Hermione and Harry!

A Very Potter Halloween

Wordy Wednesday: Falling Back in Love with Writing

I spent this past weekend home with family and some fun things happened during that:

  • Friday night, my cousin was an extra on Hawaii 5-0! Super proud to be able to say I knew him when. (He played a SWAT officer. Check it out.)
  • Saturday I went to afternoon tea with my mom and aunt and grandmom at this place that was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed. It was super fun and if you’re ever in Michigan and looking to have a tea party, I highly recommend it: www.madhatterbistro.com
  • Aaand finally, Sunday, we did our annual family 5k! (Well, my mom, aunt, and I did. My dad did an entire half-marathon because, unlike the rest of us, he’s actually athletic.) Then that night we sat out on our back patio and watched the eclipse while eating caramel apples and listening to the crickets, which was a perfect last dose of summer before the weather turned cold this week.

  
All in all, a very good weekend (even though I spent the entire thing not being able to breathe out of my nose).

Now, it’s Wednesday—which means, you guessed it: Wordy Wednesday time.

This week we’ve got a writing process post.

I haven’t talked about it much on here yet, because it’s still so small and who knows if it’s actually going to go anywhere, but for the past couple months I’ve been working on a new WiP.

This has been really hard for me, because writing has turned into such a strange thing over the course of college: I haven’t finished a novel since freshman year and almost all the writing I’ve done since then has been for something (school or NaNoWriMo, mostly) rather than for myself. (Like, I’ve been writing because I’m required to turn in x-amount per week or whatever, rather than because there are actually certain ideas and characters I’m dying to work on.)

It’s weird starting something just because I feel like it. No deadlines. No word or page count requirements. Just a Word document and me and what little time I can carve out of my week.

It feels good, in a weird kind of way. Like when you’re working out and your muscles start to burn and you know you could stop if you chose to, because no one is requiring you to do this, but you keep going out of sheer force of will. If you’re running a marathon or something, you know you have to keep going because you’re required to. But no one’s requiring anything of this, or me.

I’m finding that it’s important to have projects like this. I get so burned out writing things out of obligation rather than want. After a while, the words simply stop working.

Writing just-for-fun, on the other hand, is reminding me what it’s like to WANT to write. What it’s like to really like it, again. It’s been so long since I wrote for myself that I’d honestly forgotten, and remembering that sort of thing—actively feeling that sort of thing—is so, so important in creative industries like this.
Doing something creative for school, or a job, or even an activity as simple as NaNoWriMo is dangerous. It’s easy to run yourself dry. To lose that spark that made you want to take up writing (or whatever it is you do) in the first place.

I’d gotten to the point this summer where, if people asked me if I was a writer, I just kind of shrugged and said something along the lines of, “Technically? But I haven’t written anything in a long time.” Which isn’t true—in the year leading up to this summer I’d written 50k of a novel, about half a play, at least a dozen short stories, the first act of a screenplay, and over a hundred blog posts. But I’d written all of those out of feeling like I needed to, rather than wanted to, and that made all the difference. “Writer” had become a job description—a surface description—rather than something I was at my core.

Of course, it’s also important to have the projects that do have strings attached. Because they pull different things out of you, they stretch different muscles. It’s good to work under pressure—it teaches you to really create something out of nothing, to work through blocks and climb over walls. But not everything can be that way. It’s just not sustainable.

So, I’m learning to write for fun again. I’m re-teaching myself what it is to enjoy things like blogging and NaNoWriMo, which used to be projects I did for fun but that had started to feel like chores.

I don’t want to lose writing. It’s too important to me. I’ve put too much into it and care too much for it. With this WiP, I’m doing my best to take writing back. I’m going to make it my own again.

If you’re going through a similar process right now—if writing has started feeling like a chore rather than something you do for fun—hang in there. Take some space, take a breath, and remind yourself what you loved about writing when you began. Try to get back to that. You can. You will.

We’ll make it through together.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia