Fun Friday: How I’m Preparing for my First NaNoWriMo

 

Obviously, it is October at the time of my posting this. National Novel Writing Month (otherwise referred to as NaNoWriMo) is not until November. If you’re wondering why the heck I’m writing about my experience before I experience it… congrats! You’re in the exact same shoes I was in a few weeks ago. But I’ll get to that point.

When I graduated from college a few months ago, I set a few goals for myself. I’d always loved writing but hadn’t quite had the time to write for fun. In my final semester I took a creative writing class that reignited my love of it. What it did not reignite, though, was my motivation and the ideas I’d once overflowed with. Creativity is a muscle just like anything else. Unfortunately, it was a muscle I hadn’t flexed it in years. It was initially quite difficult for me to justify writing with no clear goal. That class challenged my boundaries and I wanted to do more – so I set myself to writing more! I took baby steps. First, I started reading more. That’s all documented on my bookstagram (@Paiges_next_pages) and also here on my website! Though I read a fair amount prior, I read more mindfully now. I ask myself why something made a story more or less enjoyable. My Fun Friday posts are also a practice in giving myself a prompt, instead of writing to what somebody tells me. That all, though, was very light prep. I felt like I’d stretched for my marathon… but at the start of October, I realized I still didn’t know the route I’d be running.

And thus, I learned that the best practice for NaNoWriMo success was the work done in Preptober. Frankly, my prep is highly likely to fail miserably. I have never charted a book out before. The longest story I’ve written for a class was about forty pages. I absolutely do not expect that, at this time next month, I’ll have anything even remotely resembling a publishable novel. 

But what I do expect is to learn a lot. 

I expect to learn what I should’ve been doing this past month that I overlooked.

I expect to learn more about my own time management methods.

I expect to learn what I did this month that helped my life go more smoothly. 

Most importantly, I’m hoping to cement into my brain something I have learned but never quite managed to internalize. It is so, so much better to have something flawed and clunky to edit than to have never written anything at all. 

So, what have I done for prep this month?

First I had to get an idea. Maybe I’ll decide I hate it and make a game-time change, but for right now I plan on writing something to get myself in the Christmas mood! A fluffy romance that’ll give me plenty of opportunities to watch Christmas and rom-com movies for research. 

The next step, which has been the main focus of my month, was trying out a new planning style! For classes, I flew by the seat of my pants. The issue is that that made me slow and hasn’t worked well for longer pieces. I get too distracted and end up down a Wikipedia hole every time. Instead, I’ve written out the skeleton of what scenes I absolutely want to happen. I’ll focus on writing those first, and if I finish all of them (Ha. I can dream) then I’ll circle back around and write the connections – whatever it takes to reasonably get from one scene to the next and explain any background I missed. 

Again, this is an experiment. I might fail miserably. I am actually very likely to fail miserably at the actual goal of 50k words. But if you think I’m going to fail miserably with this method… maybe wait to let me know until after I learn that lesson for myself? 

Have a great weekend and Happy Halloween! 

Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix Harrow

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix Harrow
Publisher: Redhook Books
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Length: 528 pages
My Rating: ★★★★★
5/5 stars

SUMMARY

“In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.”

REVIEW

Between this book and The Midnight Bargain (review coming soon!), I think my new favorite oddly-specific subgenre of books is “ultra-feminist witches fighting the patriarchy with books”. 

More specifically in The Once and Future Witches, three sisters caught up in the suffragist movement in their alternate United States reawaken magic that had long been erased. This book felt so real that, on several occasions, I had to stop and ask myself if some of these characters were real historical figures. They weren’t, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t feel like they absolutely could have been. Even the most fleeting of side characters had a personality that felt lifelike and multifaceted. Coming from a family of three sisters myself, I loved the focus on the sibling relationship and the power that can come from it. This book was beautifully written, smartly plotted out, and carries a message like every good fairy-tale should. Instead of analyzing three aspects of the book, I’m just going to highlight some of my favorite quotes that I earmarked throughout my read!

“Witching and women’s rights. Suffrage and spells. They’re both…” She gesture in midair again. “They’re both a kind of power, aren’t they? The kind we aren’t allowed to have.”

pg 47

Except she doesn’t get to choose for herself anymore. She smooths her blouse over her belly. “I can’t start any trouble. For her sake.”

Juniper looks down at her hand. “Oh, I think you’ve got to. For her sake.” She meets Agnes’ eyes, challenging. “Don’t you want to give her a better story than this one?”

pg 126

“I wonder sometimes where the first witch came from. If perhaps Adam deserved Eve’s curse.” His smile twists. “If behind every witch is a woman wronged”

pg 222

In short, I really loved this book. I’m fully ready to go take up witchcraft and smash an oppressive patriarchy. On that note, I will also leave you with one of my favorite tumblr text posts of all time and a reminder to my American friends: GO VOTE.

Fun Friday: The 5 Ways I Started Listening to More Audiobooks

I know, I know. The audiobook debate is a very touchy topic in some circles – but studies have found that in brain scans, the regions and intensity of brain activity while reading books or listening to audiobooks are indistinguishable. Don’t let any debbie downer get in the way of you enjoying more books – it’s the same thing either way!

I’d always been turned off from trying audiobooks because I figured I’d be too distracted to listen properly. I simply couldn’t think of times where I would reasonably sit still and listen instead of sit still and read. Maybe this is something everyone else knows… but there’s a lot more of those moments in my life than I realized. Some moments were very specific to my own life and hobbies, but taking advantage of those moments has helped me read so many more books! I’m absolutely an audiobook convert now. Right now I’m in the middle of Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff on Audible. So between all the rest I have going on in my life when the heck do I listen to audiobooks? I approached it by thinking about the times I listen to music or would be chatting with someone on the phone.  If I can focus on that, why couldn’t I also focus on a book?

  • In the car –
    • I’ve been listening to audiobooks on the drive to work. This was initially where I would solely listen since it was the lowest hanging fruit. Obviously, I don’t recommend this if you’re in bumper to bumper traffic and just trying to get in the next lane without dying (something I’m familiar with, having grown up in Southern California) but if your drive anywhere is a nice open road like we have here in Mississippi, it’s the perfect recipe for some easy listening.
  • Cooking meals –
    • Normally if I’m cooking, I’ll listen to music or call a friend up. Sometimes I’ll listen to podcasts but I’m not a podcast person. The only one I listen to is Writing Excuses, which I would HIGHLY recommend if you have even a passing interest in writing fiction of any kind. But I digress. Lately, I’ve been popping my headphones in and listening to books instead!
  • Working on hobbies –
    • I do a lot with my hands besides cooking. I am very true to my personality type and tend to pick up a new hobby for every passing moon. Embroidery, gardening, painting… you name it, I’ve probably tried it. A lot of those tend to lend themselves to turning on music. Lately, I’ve been interspersing that music with books and it’s been so nice! Having a story to listen to has also boosted my creativity in times where I worry I’m falling into a rut. I just switch back and forth from music to books whenever it seems like my brain is starting to idle.
  • Doing Chores –
    • I recently had a rude awakening when I moved out of my college dorm room. There I was only responsible for cleaning up my small postage stamp of personal space. Now, though, I’m living in a house where I have to, you know, mop and vacuum and dust and scrub and all manner of basic chores around common spaces outside my bedroom that weren’t my issue before. Do you know what makes realizing you’re an adult with responsibilities hurt much less? Listening to a nice fluffy romance novel and pretending you’re not scrubbing a toilet. Trust me, try it.
  • Falling asleep –
    • I am guilty several times over of falling asleep with a book next to me, all the still lights on and the pages irreparably bent. What Iove about audiobook apps is I can lay my phone next to my bed and set the sleep timer on. I’m a lot less likely to stay up way too late on a weeknight that way, and I don’t have to worry about damaging my book if I happen to pass out on top of it. I just shut the lights off and let someone read me to sleep.

So, if you’re looking to get into audiobooks give one of these times a try and let me know what you think! If you’re an audiobook listener as well, please drop a few of your favorite times to listen in the comments as well for myself and others to. learn from!

Have a great weekend!

Fun Friday: Arranging, and rearranging, and undoing everything

Now that I’ve finally settled into a more permanent, spacious living arrangement after four years of living the oddly transient lifestyle of a college student, I’ve begun slowly restarting my book collection. When I lived in sorority housing I shared a room that was so small I couldn’t even lay across the space between my roomates bed and my own – and I’m only 5’4! Plus, every summer we were quite unceremoniously sent to sublease or move back with our parents while the house shut down all operations for the season. With space at a premium and having to move boxes of my things twice a year for four years, I wasn’t exactly able to keep many belongings with me. This little shelf encompassed the only physical books I had with me, and most of those were gifts or impulse buys from Square Books

What’s crazy is that before college, I was absolutely guilty of being a book hoarder. Growing up I remember begging and pleading with my mom to not make me get rid of a single book, not even one. We counted once when I was in high school and I had over 200 physical books accumulated even with donating regularly to the library, selling some, and having many more stored on my Kindle.

As I’m sure you can imagine I was more than a little excited when I graduated and moved into a place where I could keep as many books as I wanted! Now that my collection is finally growing again, I’ve encountered an issue I really should have predicted.

I’m already running out of the room I’d set aside specifically for books.

See, I’d bought these two beautiful wooden bookshelves for such a good deal at HomeGoods right before I moved in. Aren’t they so cute on both sides of the bed?! This pic was taken on the day I moved in, in May.

They have a weight limit though and, as I learned from moving about 10 times in four years (thanks for the extra craziness, Covid!), books are incredibly freaking heavy. So I set aside some sections for books, some sections for decor, and bought even more shelves because I knew what would be coming. I also have my old school books and such in a box for the time being. I really thought it would take a while to fill them all to capacity.
This is what the overflow shelf looked like two weeks ago, shown with my dresser and some cute extra goodies I’ve found on sale – it’s so pretty, this corner relaxed me just looking at it! I even posted it to my bookstagram last week. And yes, I do have a minor obsession with pothos plants going on in my room.

But, I realized some of my new rows of books on the matching bedside shelves might be too heavy. So, I moved it… and now my backup shelf looks like the next pic. It’s gorgeous, it makes me happy every time I look at it. Until I received a super sweet, surprise gift in the mail today.

Two more books from a new friend.

Two more books that need a home somewhere in my room.

The best/worst part is that all those books I mentioned owning in highschool? They’re still sitting in California, waiting for me to ship them all from my parents house to my house. I’m going to need a place for all those stories, because I love them all so much! My dream is to someday have one of those houses with floor to ceiling books in one room. There are inspiration pics all up and down my Pinterest, stretching back years and years. I think I had bookshelves pinned before I even had a wedding board. I just somehow never imagined what that awkward phase would be like where I have a good number of books but not enough for one big statement section. I also just graduated and couldn’t afford floor to ceiling bookshelves without selling a kidney sooo, maybe I need to go buy some lottery tickets? Who knows. None of it matters anyway because I’ll probably reorganize again by Monday and buy new books by the end of the week anyway. I guarantee my bookshelf arrangements will be completely different by midwinter at the latest. Do you have a collection of anything? How do you store it?