NaNoWriMo 2021 Final Update

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So here we are on the final day of November. I did not reach 50,000 words. I didn’t really even get close. But I did write every day except one, I took Thanksgiving Day off. That is way more of an important win than how many words I wrote. Because honestly, I’m not sure how many of those words are actually useful. I started the month without a real story in mind. I had hoped in expanding on the drafts I already had, one might start emerging. That did not happen, and I think I’m more confused now than when I started. Now I’ve got even more fragments, random scenes, and character background and less idea of the story I want for these characters. But I’d rather not dwell on the downsides.

There is a much bigger bright side. I managed the longest daily writing streak I’ve had in I don’t even know how long. The other major outcome of this month, has been a better sense of how to structure my days and schedule my writing time. Since I left my job earlier this year, I haven’t been very good at sticking with a routine or daily schedule. I’ve been switching it up often trying to figure out what works best. I finally realized that if I want to write every day, I think I do, it’s best to stick with the same time every day. I also concluded that it’s best to get my writing done in the morning. The days I had afternoon write-ins scheduled, it was easy to lose track of time in the morning and end up wasting time instead of working on something else. So yeah, a month well spent. I’ll just share a few stats to finish things off.

  • Total word count 30, 883
  • Highest daily wordcount 2,052
  • Daily writing streak 24 days
  • Average daily word count 1,028

NaNoWriMo 2021 Week 3

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Week three went about as good as I expected, which wasn’t great. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. I mean like literally, I still don’t really have a story. I’m working with a vague idea and couple of characters. I thought working with workshop drafts would have inspired some new ideas, but not so much. I expanded on a few of them, but they weren’t as productive as I thought they’d be. This week I had to start from scratch and it was an uphill battle all week.

I had the added bonus of feeling kind of sick all week. Nothing major just a little congestion but also feeling really run down. Didn’t get much of anything done all week. I still managed to write everyday, which at this point is a bigger goal for me than my wordcount. I’ve completely given up on catching up and reaching the 50,000 word mark by the end of the month. I’m going to keep it up though. I lost of a bit of momentum, but I feel like writing everyday has had an effect on my productivity. I hope to keep it up after this month.

NaNoWriMo 2021–Week 2

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The Project

This year’s project revolves around Dante, a character I’ve been writing about for quite a few years. (Check out her fictional blog) I haven’t posted to the blog in some time, but she’s still very much in my head. For a while every workshop prompt would end up being about her or somebody in her world. So I have all these bits and pieces that I decided I would type up, finish, expand, whatever. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I don’t really have a story in mind yet, just barely the tiniest spark of an idea. But I decided to go with it any.

Week 2 Writing

So far it’s been pretty easy, mostly I’m just typing up handwritten drafts. As I go along I’m adding extra little bits and expanding or finished incomplete scenes. I’ve still been running behind on my daily wordcount. Hosting the write-ins have been extremely helpful, days I really didn’t feel like writing, I pretty much had no choice. While I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, it might have been a good idea not to skip days. It pretty obvious the days without write-ins I’m a whole lot less productive. Wednesdays seem to be the worst day, two weeks in a row, I only managed a few hundred words. I’m trying not to stress too much on it. Instead I’m focusing on the achievement of writing everyday. That a big win to celebrate no matter what my actual output is. I knew this would be a big challenge, especially since I’m not solely dedicated to the NaNo project.

This week I finished all of the drafts I had. Now I am working completely from scratch. So, we’ll see how I progress going forward. Today is officially the halfway point and I’m at 19086 words, my average words per day is 1272 and I’m on track to finish by December 9th.

Participating in NaNoWriMo 2021

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I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2015. I finished my story but was still short about 5,000 words. For me that was accomplishment enough. It was the closest I got to the 50,000 word goal for the next several years. Then last year, I finally won working on memoir writing instead of a novel. I’m still working on editing, rewriting and organizing a workable draft. But memoir writing can be pretty heavy. So I decided to lighten things up by working on some fiction for NaNoWriMo. My goal is to work on both at the same time, but we’ll see how it goes.

To help keep me on track I’ve decided to host some virtual write-ins. Something I started doing this past July for Camp NaNoWriMo. It helps to have company and to be obligated to show up to write. I have four of those scheduled throughout the week in addition to group writing sessions I already attend. It should be more than enough writing time to hit the goal, but my main issue is losing momentum on the project I’ve already been working on.

Week one

Usually the first couple of days or week I try to go beyond the daily word count. It helps to get ahead early, because I will likely loose steam at some point. I wasn’t able to manage it this week. In fact, I’ve been behind all week. Starting off the week with an average of 15000 words a day. Wednesday I barely managed 200 words. I don’t know if it’s the schedule, the change in weather, or just my body being weird, but I’ve been exhausted. I mean tired enough that by two in the afternoon I need a nap. I managed to pick up the pace later in the week and almost catch up. Saturday I even thought I might be back on track, but fell behind again on Sunday. I have a usual routine that includes being a lazy bum and binge watching a TV series. (This week it was Lock & Key.) I managed to get in about a thousand words first though.

In all I guess my first week wasn’t so bad. I’m happy with my progress, I wrote every day. I also managed to keep up with work on other projects I have going on. Maybe not as much as I would have liked but I’m not trying to overwhelm myself. Spent way too many years overworking myself just to burn out and give up on everything. Not doing it again. Well, I better be off to do some actual writing.

For more info and to register for upcoming write-ins, check out the Eventbrite page.

Book vs Movie: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker

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I like to keep things interesting and mix things up a bit with these posts. For this book versus movie, I decided on a short story instead of a full length book. I’ve been wondering for quite some time how different that experience would be. I picked “The Midnight Meat Train” from The Books of Blood by Clive Barker, one of my favorite horror writers. (Seriously, I have a Hellraiser obsession, but we’ll talk about that another time.)

The story starts off telling us about a relative newcomer to New York City, Leon Kaufman. After three and half months he’s realized it is not the sparkling dreamland he’d been pictured. He moved to the city because of his life long infatuation only to be disappointed in the gritty, violent reality. We don’t find out much about Leon except the way he views the city. In particular, we hear at length his thoughts and disgust at a recent news story about murdered subway riders strung up like cattle in a slaughterhouse. Then we meet Mahogany, the subway butcher just doing his duty. After a late night at the office, Leon’s commute home lands him face to face with the subway butcher. The two face off in a battle for survival. What I like most about this story is the way it captured the city. It screamed 1980’s New York. It taps into the alluring excesses of New York and it’s brutish underside that was often ignored.

Not surprisingly, the movie gives us more of a back story for Leon and tries to give a little more context to the plot. Leon is no longer an anonymous office worker. He’s a photographer trying to break into the New York art scene by exposing the rougher side of the city. He also has a beautiful girlfriend that he proposes to at some point during the movie. Neither element really adds to the story, but I guess it didn’t hurt either. My biggest complaint about the movie would be the larger changes to the story don’t really make sense. In the story, it’s essentially dumb lands him face-to-face with Mahogany. But in the movie he actively seeks him out suspecting he might have something to with a woman’s disappearance because he was on same train. It gets really intense really quickly and just doesn’t seem believable.

For this one, I’d go with the original story. It’s quick, to the point and damn good horror. The movie didn’t do much justice to the story, the additional characters, scenes, or background didn’t really add to it. Plus it didn’t have the same atmosphere or momentum. It wasn’t exactly horrible though, not very logical, but okay. Plus I didn’t mind watching Bradley Cooper for an hour and change.

Book vs Movie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Been quite some time between Book vs Movie posts, but I had to squeeze The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in for SciFi September. I’m starting to realized that I don’t read many funny books, like straight up comedy or even mixed genres like comedic horror or this silly scifi novel. I watched the movie at some point but never picked up the book. I’ll have to work at that, especially considering how much enjoyed this.

The book’s introduction tells us it’s the story of a “terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of it’s consequences.” It also tell us its the story of the fictional book titled, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s not really. Its mentioned a lot and is useful tool for exposition and random tangents but that’s it. The story is about Arthur Dent, an earthman thrown in the weird and wonderful world of space travel. Thanks to his alien friend, Ford Prefect, he hitches a ride on a Vogon ship and survives the earth being demolished to build a hyperspatial express route. From there he embarks on a fantastically improbable adventure.

While the movie keeps a lot of the major elements of the book, it also changes a lot. The sequence of events were switched around, or happen off screen and the basic plot is very different. It seems like most of the changes were to play up the absurd comedic elements. I guess it works, it’s a pretty funny movie. But it lacks that special something the book has. One major loss was the strong role chance and coincidence played in the events. Everything in the novel, while being ridiculous still seemed natural and inevitable. But in the movie it felt forced.

I have to give this one to the book. The movie felt like it was trying way too hard. Without reading the book, you wouldn’t know and might enjoy it. But, I just felt this nagging sensation throughout the movie. I can’t explain it completely. Part of it was that it seemed like they were just trying to make it as ridiculous as possible for no good reason.

Book vs Movie: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Book cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

When I started planning my next Book vs Movie post, I wanted to go with something fun and easy. Unfortunately, the book I really wanted wasn’t easy to get my hands on. So I browsed the library’s YA section and found this bad boy. With that my luck had improved because they also had a copy of the movie available. Sometimes a plan just falls into my lap.

Normally, I wouldn’t have read this, it looks like it’s geared towards the younger end of YA. It was a good read, I enjoyed it but it seemed more fairy tale than a fantasy adventure. There was something very childlike about the story and characters. It starts with Jakob growing up hearing his grandfather’s stories about living in an orphanage full of children with special abilities, then leaving to fight monsters. Jakob stops believing the stories as he gets older until his grandfather is killed by a pack of feral dogs or so everybody but Jakob believes. Encouraged by his psychologist, Jakob and his father visit the island where his grandfather grew up to find out more. This is the first book of the series and includes a lot of the setup and world-building for the rest of the books. There’s a slow build-up to the major conflict where we get to know all the characters and fill in some of the backstories. But we don’t get much of a resolution, in fact it feels like the story is just starting.

There are a lot of minor changes that add up and make the movie quite different from the book. Some are for obvious reasons, eliminating unimportant details and speeding the story up, and don’t have much of an effect on the story. For example, beginning with the grandfather’s death, then using a flashback to provide the information from the prologue. But others didn’t make much sense to me, like switching Emma and Olive’s abilities; Emma is a fire-starter and Olive can float. The movie makes Emma float and also expands her ability to generally being able to manipulate air. It doesn’t really make sense and becomes the go-to answer to every obstacle. Most of the changes end up simplifying the story and it loses something. We don’t get as much built up or suspense and everything works out to easily. It’s understandable they had to wrap up the story for the movie but it feels too convenient. The book, or rather books, is a lot more complicated and throws a whole lot more obstacles into the kids plans.

About twenty minutes into the movie I predicted that I’d be picking the book. It was mostly for fun and had hoped I’d be proven wrong. But I likely already saw it was lacking. I have to go with the book on this one. The story is much better developed and all the little details they left out of the movie really add to the worldbuilding. The movie wraps it all up neatly, defeating the big bad a little too easily, but the books open up to a much wider and expansive story. Fair warning, this is a not a series you can just dip your toes into. The first book introduces us to this world and the major conflict for the characters, but leaves you hanging. Curious I read the second book and again was left with a cliffhanger ending. If you decide to read the book, be prepared to read the whole series.

Recommended Reads: Verse Novels

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It’s National Poetry Month so you should be reading poetry. My obsession with verse novels has continued and expanded to memoirs and biographies written in verse. I’ll be working my way through a few of those this month. Meanwhile, here a few books I have read and highly recommend, even to people that aren’t big poetry fans.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds–On his way to avenge his older brother, 15-year-old Will is confronted and forced to face the cycle of violence he’ll be contributing to. The whole book takes place on an elevator, a ride that seems to stretch time and pass too quickly. It’s a quick read but it will stay with you for long after you’re finished.

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow–Criminals, lawyers, and feral dogs that also happen to be werewolves plotting world domination. Throw in a romance between a werewolf and dogcatcher and this is the most interesting verse novel I’ve read so far. It’s such a great story, you almost forget it’s written in verse.

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill–Peek inside the minds of the young girls who sparked panicked witch-hunts in their community. Through shifting points of view, we see how a game has deadly consequences. High recommended for anyone interested in the Salem witch trials.

The Language of Fire: Joan of Arc Reimagined by Stephanie Hemphill–I jumped into this without really knowing much about Joan of Arc. I didn’t just learn her story but felt like I was a part of it. It was equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking.

Check out my Bookshop list for more verse novels and other narrative verse suggestions.

Movie vs Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give book cover

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I’ve wanted to read this book for a while. When the movie came out it was added to my list for future posts. But then I stalled, and stalled and stalled. As interested as I was in it, I also didn’t really want to face it’s realness. The book revolves around Starr, who witnesses her childhood best-friend, Khalil, get shot and killed by a police officer. She struggles with fear, guilt and shame as the people around her pressure her to either stand up for her friend or stay silent for her safety. This builds on the pressure she already feels attending a private school with mostly rich white kids.

I knew this book would not be an easy read, and would likely bring me to tears. I was absolutely right. Hearing everything from Starr’s point of view is heartbreaking. The realness of the story also makes it hit hard. The characters are flawed. Khalil questions the officer, responds with an attitude and doesn’t follow his directions. You may find yourself judging him, it almost seems as if Starr does too in the moment. But as Starr points out, he didn’t do anything wrong, certainly not anything to deserve to die. It also accurately reflects real world stories where the victim ends up being more scrutinized than the police officer. Starr also has her own complicated and conflicting issues. The story is just too real not to hit home.

The movie sticks pretty close to the book. They switch the order of scenes, eliminate some characters and make a few changes that don’t have a major affect on the overall story. I didn’t like the changes they made to the story line following her school friendships. In the book, Hailey’s racist behavior is more of a ongoing issue extending beyond Khalil’s murder, the movie makes it the catalyst for all the conflict between with her friends. In the book it’s a lot more complicated, a lot the deeper issues Starr and her family struggle with are just barely mentioned in the movie. They also threw in an extra confrontation between police officers and the family that seemed just to be there to shock viewers and drive home the main theme. Generally it was a good movie, and a pretty good adaptation. What’s odd is that for a fairly long movie, a little over two hours, it felt rushed. It also didn’t seem to have the same natural flow as the book. The order of events and scenes felt disjointed and pieced together. There are also elements left out of the movie that would have added more depth. I think the narrow focus on Starr, made the other characters fall flat.

Overall, I’d say the two were pretty comparable. They both manage to tell a difficult story that shines a light on a very real problem. While the movie has a very narrow focus, I think the book really highlights how the events affect more than just the individuals involved. In the real world it’s hard to see the connections, but the book really shows how the events ripple out to family, friends and the communities of the victims of police violence and abuse. I preferred the book over the movie but I really think this is a story everybody should hear in either form.

Book vs Movie: Princess Bride by William Goldman

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The movie Princess Bride is an old favorite of mine and a better love story is inconceivable. There’s something for everybody, romance and a hot hero for the ladies; revenge and sword fighting for the guys. I won’t even try to imagine how many times I’ve watched it; there was a time it was on at least once a week. (That might be a little exaggerated.) I was pretty shocked to find out there was a book, and that it took me this many years to know. Wasn’t it lucky when ebook came up as a freebie through Prime. I know Amazon is horrible but it’s so convenient. I made up for it by borrowing the DVD from the library. That works, right?

I was pretty excited to read the book. I’d always loved the movie so naturally I expected the book to be even better. I will say it was interesting. The book is presented as an abridged version of a fictional novel the author’s father read to him as a kid. The introductory first chapter sets up the premise with a bit too background about how he ended up doing this abridged version. I didn’t read the whole thing, about half way through I jumped to the actual story. He also interjects the story randomly, explaining things he left out or other related notes. They didn’t distract too much from the story and some were a bit humorous but I could have done without them.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched the movie and it was still just as good as I remembered. Besides some minor changes the movie sticks pretty close to the book. They incorporated the author’s premise of the kid being read to, but it really fades into the background you kind of forget about it. I’m pretty surprised that the whole thing wasn’t completely committed to my memory. How I forgot about the R.O.U.S, I have no idea. Of course, I did remember my favorite parts, mostly the end when they rescue Buttercup. Never could get those scenes of Westly barely able to move out of my head. (I’m wondering if that says something about me.)

This is one of the few times where I have to say, I liked the movie better. The book isn’t bad, I actually really like the story. The biggest issue was the chapter introducing the whole fictional novel premise. It was too much, too many tangents, too much information, just too much. And the interjections became a little annoying after the first couple. So yeah, if you were thinking of reading the book, I’d say just skip it and watch the movie again.