Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your latest NaNoWriMo WINNER!


With thirty minutes to spare - and 50,205 words at time of validation!

Now I need to sleep.  For a week.

And then finish the story which isn't done no matter how many words I busted ass to pull out in the last month. This first rough draft demands to be finished.

Stay tuned, you know I'll tell you all about it...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The home stretch stress

Five days left of November and I've written 32,783 words since the beginning of the month.  I should have ten thousand more than that but I got derailed this past week with the holiday and family responsibilities after I had gotten caught up from my first sidebar into the weeds.  I've got characters who have taken me places I hadn't thought of, characters who I've had to re-invent to work better with the world and story I'm building as things develop.  Despite all of that, I'm pushing hard for the end.  I have five days left and at this rate I have to write more than three thousand words every day in order to win NaNoWriMo.  I haven't given up yet - I wrote two thousand words between the end of a family party last night and going to bed this morning after two AM.  And I still have two more days of a long weekend to do some major catch up.  I'm not going to lie, I get anxious about my chances of winning when I look at the daily numbers.  But I'm still on track and  still have the basic idea of how things are going thanks to my fabulous plot structure and I've still got great momentum.  I have not yet resorted to word-padding shenanigans (which I have done in years past).  As long as I can find the energy and drink enough coffee to stay awake long enough every night to hit that target word count I'll be golden.  Ready or not, here comes one of the craziest week of my life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

New beginnings in unexpected places

Here we are in week three of NaNoWriMo.  And what a wild ride it has been.  I thought a couple of times that I might be sort of cheating this year since I've *technically* been working on the same novel I originally started with back in 2008.  But I used the following rational to counter that:
  1. I had scrapped every piece of shitty writing I'd done to date and had no plans to even look back at any of it for reference.  (yes, it was that shitty!)
  2. I had plotted out a structure for the entire story complete with several subplots all neatly tied in with each other
  3. I had even changed the main character's name since we named Baby Sister the original character name when she was born
With the new plot and new character motivations I knew the book would be far different than I had envisioned when I first came up with the idea.  But guess what?  I never needed to rationalize a single little thing!

I had a rough start after I got through the prologue (which hasn't really changed much over each iteration of attempts).  I wrote myself into a corner where I knew my character would never be stupid enough to do what I was trying to make her do as a means to get her physically from one place to another.  I wasted days of writing more crap dragging one scene out and never getting anywhere but behind in my target word count. I was honestly getting worried.  What if I hadn't prepared enough?  What if I couldn't figure out how to translate a plot to a real story?  What if I failed?

Then I went for a run.

And I had the best run of my life - five miles in a hour which is insanely fast for me!

I must have shook up my brain with all that pounding of treadmill because I came off that run with a shit-eating grin glued to my face AND a way to get myself out of the corner and fix everything!

I rushed home and wrote like a mad woman.  I was able to salvage most of that original crappy chapter and after adding seven hundred or so words I was back on track toward where I needed to be heading.  I was even on my way to the next mile-marker plot point.

And I know I was still high from that amazing run when the next morning in the shower I had the one piece of unknown I'd been trying to solve SINCE THE BEGINNING IN 2008 just fall into place.  It was so earth-shattering when it happened I expected to feel the earth move beneath me.  But it didn't.  One minute I had this question of "how does that happen that will make sense and be believable" playing over and over in my subconscious.  And the next it was clear as day how it would all work.  The last loose end was no longer loose!  Plus, it was so fundamental that it changed everything.  Including the title which had been the one constant from the beginning.

I wonder if anyone else who embarked on this journey is experiencing anything similar.  Because it is crazy how unbelievable it all is and I'm only half done!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy-peasy... that's what SHE said!

We are officially nine days into November and when I finally went to bed last night, I felt amazing. I pushed past head-nodding and what I know is crappy-writing-that-will-have-to-be-edited-like-crazy to hit the ten thousand word mark for this year's NaNoWriMo. Well on my way to that fifty thousand needed to get me a winner status by the end of the month. Sounds great, right? Except the little stats page on the official site is telling me that "at this rate" I'll finish well into December because to date I have *only* been averaging 1,121 words a day.  So much for that buffer I started with when I stayed up on Halloween to write for two hours when it officially became November, huh?

But guess what?  I DON'T CARE!

This year's progress tracker on the NaNo website - which for those of you contemplating participating at a later date makes registering as a participant worth it alone - is much better than in years past. I say this because I am a numbers girl.  I need the data at my fingertips, calculated for me, so I don't obsess and waste valuable writing time assessing for myself just how much writing I have done or have left to do. As in years past, it tells you what your target word count for each day is if you write slow and steady and do the recommended 1,667 words a day.  But this year it tells you what you personally average every day and how many words a day you personally need to do at any point in order to finish on time.  Whoever thought of this improvement should be kissed.  Sloppy and loud -- on the mouth -- with tongue!

Here's why.  November fifth is my wedding anniversary.  I take that entire day off from writing every year. But this is well enough into the month - almost a week - that we are already into some serious numbers on the daily word count targets.  Those daily 1,667 words add up quickly, kids!  The target for the fifth day is 8,333, but instead I stagnate an entire day at only 6,666.  Then when I go back to it on the sixth day and my word count target for the day is 10,000... well, you can imagine the stress and head games that go along with those two numbers and how far apart they are.  The pressure imposed on catching up such a deficit, I admit, completely derailed me the first year I attempted this crazy adventure.  But I don't have the option of not celebrating my anniversary!  Hubby is super supportive of my writing but even he would have issue with that...

Fast forward to this year when the same thing happened.  PLUS, I had to work last Sunday when I would normally have had plenty of time sitting in front of a football game on TV to catch up on my word count.  AND I've been unable to push myself to stay up super late this week without falling asleep on my keyboard.  Or worse, writing incoherent crap that I have to delete the next day.  Which results in my only having 10,092 words out of yesterday's target of 13,333.  

But guess what!  My super duper nifty stats page tells me that all I have to do is write 1,814 words every day from now on to make up the difference and still finish on time.  That's only an extra 147 words per day from the original daily target or only about 700 more words a day than I have already been averaging this month.  And totally doable when presented in this fashion.


My stress level for NaNoWriMo this year is more manageable all because of someone somewhere (who probably doesn't get paid for helping on this non-profit adventure) who is a numbers person like me.  Wherever that person is, whoever she or he is, I hope someday they stumble upon this blog and know just how much I appreciate this one stroke of genius.

If there is one piece of writing advice that I have found to be universally true no matter who asks it, it is this:  Write.  And write every day.  I'm at ten thousand plus words in a week just by carving out two hours a day, every day except my anniversary.  If I can do it with a full time job and hectic home life when the only time I have to devote to writing is the time I'm awake after my kids go to bed, then anyone can!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Want to know what running is like?

I just saw this video and it so accurately sums up how I feel about running that I had to share it...


Thanks to a good friend and fellow runner for sharing it with me, my heart gets lighter every time I watch it and my feet itch to hit the pavement.  Even though I know I shouldn't until I do a bit more physical therapy for my injured foot.  I'm a stubborn bitch, everyone knows that already, right?

Las Vegas - Ragnar Style

You know it's November, right?  Which means I SHOULD be writing my novel and not recapping Ragnar.  But if I don't do it now all the amazing things that I want to remember will fade as all memories do.  And that would suck.  So I'm taking one for all of you and will just suck it up and drink an extra cup of coffee so I can stay up later tonight to meet my writing goal after I finish this post.  Aren't you glad I love you, my readers?

The things that make a Ragnar a Ragnar don't ever change - you still have twelve people split between two vans who run leapfrog style taking turns running their way through two hundred miles to the finish line.  In between, there's three runs a piece, two periods of "rest" when your van is not the one with the active runners, and lots and lots of driving.  So, I won't regale you with the sweaty details of the parts you already know about.

What was different between Vegas and Wasatch Back?

1.  We had different van mates.

This time we were invited to join a team and I was NOT the captain.  What a refreshing change for me not to have to worry about every little detail!  Hubby and I and Steven got to ride and run with two of our friends that were in the "other" van on Wasatch Back - Carrie and Nancy - driven by Nancy's hubby, Trent.  We rounded out the sixth with one of my brother's friends - Austin - who fit in amazingly well.  Probably because he is as sarcastic and fun as we all are.  I'm telling you, the people in your van make all the difference in the world on the experience you will have.  If you ever do one, you want to stack your van with YOUR peeps, provided you have peeps that are crazy enough to do this race with you.

2.  The other van was full of elite runners.

Four of the six people in the other van did the same race last year as an ultra team.  Which means they are crazy enough to do the entire two hundred miles split up between only six of them instead of twelve.  Because the entire van were elite runners with sub eight minute mile paces (that is INSANELY fast for those of you non-runners) we didn't have much down time between our running.  The first time we had about three hours.  That was just enough time to get to the next exchange point to wait for them, snarf some amazing food (tri-tips and chicken grilled to perfection with a side of delicious pasta salad) sitting on asphalt in a dark parking lot and then sacking out in the gravel between the bushes of the planter boxes of the same dark parking lot.  The second time we had about five hours in the wee hours of the morning.  Not being locals, we had to follow the course the runners were on, through winding dirt and gravel roads, to get to the next exchange to wait.  That drive ate two hours of our time up and later we learned we could have taken the interstate and a much more direct route.  If only we had known.  This is also why Steven and Austin didn't really sleep.  Steven because he took over the driving detail when Trent started falling asleep so we didn't all die.  I think Austin is just not used to sacking out with strangers...didn't want to let his guard down, maybe?

3.  Fewer teams on the course.

This is a huge catch-22 for me.  Wasatch Back allows one thousand and fifty teams and sells out every single year.  That's twenty two HUNDRED vans on the back roads between Logan and Park City.  Vegas had about four hundred fifty teams total and it really was much better.  There wasn't as much chaos at the major exchanges.  We could adequately support our runners without fearing we wouldn't make it to drop the next runner off in time.  All the things those people who don't want me personally to get OFF the waiting list for Wasatch Back 2012 have said in protest when they talk about allowing more teams.  I get it now.  Fewer teams means a more laid back race for everyone.  And I really enjoyed that part of the Vegas race.

4.  The scenery sucks.

I'm sorry to anyone who thinks that dessert landscape is beautiful, because I think those people are nuts.  I had to run through desolate stretches of ugly ass scenery twice with the sun baking down on me feeling like I would shrivel up and die.  Like some dead lizard.  And no one would ever find my body.  I'm used to running in the majestic beauty of northern Utah and by comparison this totally sucked.  Not a tree in sight, no shade for miles, and dirt.  In eight six and ninety degree heat respectively.  For the record, I know why the Vegas race is where they give you double medals.  Otherwise, no one would want to do it!  Of course, there were some pretty parts - Lake Mead at the first major exchange point between vans, and the Red Rock area near the finish were both pretty.  And the one bad ass hill we had to climb had a few trees at the top with a small section where it could be called nice.  However, I did not get to run anywhere near any of those places.

5.  The jokes were a lot more funny this time around - probably because we were all so much more sleep deprived!
  • Every time one of us would do something dumb, someone would smile and reply "aw, at least you're pretty".  This little saying was used so often it ended up written on the window by the end.
  • Bad ass honey badgers.  If you haven't seen the youtube video, you should.  Although it will never be as funny as we all thought it was with zero sleep when we had it playing on one of the iPhones in the middle of the night.  We picked up and repeated two lines from this little gem:  "You're a bad-ass honey badger - you don't give a shit!" and "I'm a tired little fuck".  Trust me, even I thought it was less funny when I got home and had gotten a little sleep so don't feel bad if you don't 'get it'.  (at least you're pretty!)
  • Austin obsessing about how all he needed when he got done running was a banana - and me meeting him at the exchange after his hardest leg with one.
  • Strobe light effects from a high-powered mag light accompanied by cow bells out the window in the middle of the night, compliments of Trent the driver extraordinaire.
  • "You guys can take your vests off now".  Three of us in the back seat had fallen asleep on the two hour drive from hell.  When we arrived it was daylight and we all still had our night gear on.  
  • The anonymous chalk message written on a part of the course Austin ran that said "pick up your vagina and run faster!"  It became our mantra.
  • When the girls weren't feeling so fresh anymore, Carrie stopped and bought a little bottle of baby powder that we then used to freshen up.  Guess what - you can overdo powdering your girl parts in compression shorts... afterward, we had the insanely funny idea of calling our team the "Powder Pussies" the next time we raced.  Something tells me that name might not be allowed.
  • Relating an injury to the other van and referring to it as "I bruised my vagina".  Oh the jokes that followed that one...  

There were so many other noteworthy things that happened in those thirty three hours that I could go on and on about:
  •  Steven saying randomly over and over, "Austin, have I said 'thank you' lately?" every time he thought about how he was originally assigned to the runner position Austin did.
  • Taking time to set up a tent at the last major exchange so we could all go inside, strip down and take a baby-wipe shower.  "You know you're on Ragnar when a baby wipe shower is the highlight of your weekend."
  • Hubby getting mad at the inconsiderate and obnoxious college-aged children who wouldn't shut up so we could sleep on the ground around them.
  • Carrie and Nancy running all three times in the dark.
  • Steven's sprint finish on his last run.
  • My getting the shaft and having to run TWICE in the dreaded heat - in the ugliest parts of the course to boot.
  • Watching Austin power through his TEN mile run - six of which was brutal uphill and then being stubborn to a fault when asked if he wanted/needed someone to take over and finish it for him.
  • Losing Carrie at the second major exchange after she handed off to the other van.
  • Lake Las Vegas at night is so amazingly beautiful!  We all said we wanted to come back to Vegas and stay there instead of the usual places you think of when you think Las Vegas.
  • Hubby starting the weekend saying "this is my last Ragnar".  And then kicking ass and feeling so great at the end that he was asking when the next one is.
  • The wonders of 'Sore No More' cream - just don't put it near your girl parts!
  • Nancy crying out "That's MY girl" when a confused runner from a different team slapped her bracelet on Carrie who was waiting for Nancy to hand off to her.
  • Nancy and Carrie both running personal-best fastest times - on their THIRD runs when they were the most tired.  Both of them ran sub-nine minute miles.  A-maz-ing!
  • Nancy commenting on how fast this adorable, young girl runner was when she left the exchange significantly ahead of Nancy - and then Nancy running so fast she overtook the same girl while we all cheered her on with cowbells.  Then when Nancy passed off to Carrie, she paced the entire leg with the same girls' husband who happened to be the same guy who offered us bananas at the first leg when Austin was obsessing about how badly he needed a banana.  See, smaller is better!
  • Wine for the women at the finish line.  The bottle we bought in a gas station and had hauled with us the whole way in the cooler.  Drank from a shared paper cup we swiped from the hotel room.  Best glass of wine ever because it was so deserved.
  • Feeling sorry for people we saw at the finish line with "only" one medal because this was their first Ragnar of the year.  Saints and Sinners medal for those of us who did Wasatch Back this year and Deuces Wild medal for those who had done at least one other one plus Vegas this year.
  • Walking through The Paris hotel casino after the race was over.  Sweaty, stinky, haggard looking while women in hoochie skirts and hooker heels made up perfectly passed by on all sides.  And not giving a shit because just being there meant we were headed to a shower and a real bed.
  • Crashing in the room and not seeing a single typical Vegas sight before hitting the road to come home the next day.  Although Steven did!

So what about my own personal experience running this time around?

The highlight of the running part for me was my night run at one in the morning.  It was chilly enough for a light jacket, I could see the Strip all lit up in the distance, and the run itself was easy and enjoyable.  Well, that is until it was longer than advertised and I had spent everything I had in me thinking I was almost done.  Luckily, Carrie had back-tracked to find me in the dark after they parked and we ran in together the last half mile.  I was hurting and spent and she kept trying to distract me by making me think about what I was going to do the minute we got done and what drink we were going to celebrate our finish with.  I don't know if I ever even answered her, but just having to think about it in my head and knowing she was right there with me kept me pushing to the end.  She's my favorite little ferret.

The lowest part for me was when I had to admit I couldn't finish my last run.  I'd been ignoring a pretty significant running injury for months (ha, still am!) and after the end of my second run I knew the third was going to be brutal.  Luckily, it was going to be one hundred percent downhill.  Not a single foot of elevation increase according to the race maps.  I started out feeling great and pounding the miles out.  About two miles into my six mile run it wasn't downhill anymore.  And uphill aggravates my injury worse - plantar fasciitis - as it pulls the tendon on the bottom of my foot in a bad way.  I was still in good spirits and made a deal with myself and my burning foot:  walk the distance between every other barrel cone and run the rest.  That worked for about a mile and then I could barely walk and had to stop at every barrel to stretch my calves just so I could walk to the next one.  Every step sent sharp pains shooting up from my foot and I literally thought I was going to die.  No more running for this girl.  Not that day.  So I walked - and cried - and cried harder as each person passed me - until I could see my van appear over the next rolling hill.  Nancy was walking toward me and as I came within earshot she asked if I was all right.  I told her 'No' and cried harder as she took off running back toward the van.  My amazing Hubby - who already knew it was too bloody hot out and too much rolling hills for me to handle - had already suited up and warmed up and was ready to go.  He crossed the two-lane highway, hugged and kissed me and let me cry on his shoulder for a second and then finished my last mile and did his six.  The fact that this is my lowest point and most likely made his Ragnar all at the same time is only a little ironic.  Almost as ironic as knowing he was unable to finish his last leg on the Wasatch Back and had trained super hard for Vegas so as not to repeat it.  He was certainly my hero that day.  

After, we talked about how this Ragnar was Blood, Sweat and Tears.  Hubby had bled when he banged his leg on the tailgate at some point, we were ALL sweaty and stinky, and I had cried like a baby... In the end, we all decided that Ragnar is really about being with friends for thirty six hours straight.  The running  part is just a reason to make the time and do it.

Here's hoping we get a spot for Wasatch Back in 2012.  And if not, we'll find another one to do instead!