You Might Be Reading A Kenzie Keene Book If….

good morning, cyberspace!

A long, long time ago, I saw something floating around the blogosphere in which bloggers were spilling all their dirty secrets and revealing common themes found within their manuscripts. I wish with all my heart that I could find those original posts again, but for the life of me I’m unable to track any of them down. (although I DO believe that Christine Smith did one of them?? I just??? cannot seem to find it????? *much confusion*) I think it was started as an original blog concept and then turned into a sort-of-tag, but to be perfectly frank with you all, I honestly have no clue what the origins of said posts were. I just know that it looked like fun, and when I had the idea for this post a few weeks ago, I realized that I’d seen it somewhere before. That, unfortunately, was as far as my brain would take me, for I’ve since been unable to find someone to credit the idea with.

But I digress. If you remember seeing these posts–or even have links to said posts–please feel free to shoot them at me so I can properly credit whoever came up with this concept! For the time being, however, I guess we’re moving on. XD

Ahem.

I’ve been in the writing industry for *quickly counts on fingertips* 10 years now. Ish. My first novel was completed at the tender age of 12, and many, many scribblings had been scribbled and typed before that. During all this time, it would make sense that I’d start to notice patterns within my manuscripts–certain little similarities which make me pause and think, “huh… sure seems like I’ve seen that before…” before prattling on aimlessly as I always do. And I would absolutely be lying if I said I haven’t–on more than one occasion–realized I’d used a particular plot thread or theme or character archetype in a previous book before inserting it yet again into my newest WIP.

I can’t help it, folks. There are just certain things that make my heart squish with all the writerly feels, and I’ll be darned if I don’t continuously find ways to incorporate them into my stories.

So today, I figured I’d make a list of just a few of these common threads in order to bring you all an inexhaustive list of what it takes to write a Kenzie Keene Original!

Because who doesn’t want to emulate my writing style? That’s what I’d like to know.

No Idea Idk GIF by SomeGoodNews

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YOU MIGHT BE READING A KENZIE KEENE BOOK IF…

  • there’s death and/or mutilation within the first 3 chapters

Or, in the case of everlost, within the first chapter. Because clearly this sets a tone that readers will find comforting and acceptable and will 100% not scare them off at all.

Mr Bean Thumbs Up GIF
  • one of the main characters is a young child (typically a girl) with a penchant for murder destruction

Adaline, Annalora, Shelby…

From my three main novels come three young girls who will 10/10 destroy an entire city block in order to protect those they love. Or, in Annalora’s case (The Girl and The Goblin King, for those wondering where this particular child hails from) an entire universe.

Aha… This story is a fun one to write, guys.

  • the main character–or one of–is male. and also severely snarky and/or clueless

I have so many of these, guys. XD In fact, I don’t think it would be a Kenzie book at this point if it didn’t include an entirely clueless, snarky, and potentially unreliable male narrator. Probably the most well-known of these is Thao from everlost, but I also have Ed and Fitz (Project Sunset), Todd (The Girl and The Goblin King), Peter (everlost again), and Finnigan (N/A).

  • there are multiple points-of-view

Sometimes–very infrequently, but sometimes–people ask me how I write such large books. “Why are your novels hundreds of thousands of words long, Kenzie?” they ask, their eyes round and innocent and completely oblivious to the true horror of watching your manuscript grow to the size of a small rhinoceros. And every time I sort of flail awkwardly, not truly knowing how to answer. But I think I’ve finally hit on the reason for it all, and that, my friends, is the above bullet point.

I have too many POV’s per book. everlost, which is 150k+ words, had four unique POV’s, and within each one I tried to create a personal character arc and storyline. It was a beautiful chaotic mess, and I have since come to the conclusion that in future stories–to rid myself of horrifying word counts–to cut points-of-view down to two at the most. Maybe three if I’m feeling particularly auspicious.

Project Sunset had two POV’s, and the first draft of that novel came out at around 120k–still large, but far more acceptable. The Girl and The Goblin King has exactly one, and I’m shooting for a goal of 90,000 words.

Actually, speaking of large word counts…

  • it has 150k+ words

*points dejectedly towards above checkpoint*

  • there’s light romance (read: none)

I’m not huge on writing romance (which is strange, coming from a hopeless romantic, but I digress). I understand that this is something that makes the publishing industry–and even the movie industry–go round and round and round, but to be honest, I find it far more fun to write other things. Things like goblins and fairies and death shadowy creatures with big teeth. I prefer to focus on the adventure aspect of story, and if I have any romance whatsoever, it typically comes in the form of–

  • a random Scottish man is pining after a prim Englishwoman

Most people are probably like ????? right about now. After all, this seems like a very specific thing to write into one’s stories. But after two stories organically producing characters built upon this precise metric, I feel like it’s a little too coincidental not to note it down.

And also can someone please help me figure out where all the Scotts are coming from, because they’re getting a wee bit out of hand and I’m frightened.

  • the mentor dies

I’m sure this is less a “Kenzie thing”, and more a “fantasy genre” thing, but I still feel it’s worth noting. Mentors die. No one likes it. No one looks forward to it (unless it’s a really idiotic mentor, which … that’s a whole thing in and of itself). But it happens and it’s there and it’s a wonderful motivator for the final act of a story. And so, to become the cliche I’ve always been destined to become, I tend to milk this particular trope for all it’s worth.

You just can’t dodge the facts, friends.

  • found family/fierce friendships

I’m a sucker for a good found family, okay? There’s just something so wholesome and pure about a group of complete strangers coming together and saving the world and–GASP–learning to love each other like the weird little family that they are.

everlost, Project Sunset, and The Girl and The Goblin King all use this particular thread (albeit differently) and I’m not sorry about it in the SLIGHTEST. It’s one of my favorites, and it will continue to be one of my favorites until the day that I stop obsessing over Jim Moriarty.

(i.e. this will never happen #yeet)

  • bromance

Yeah…. Unashamedly, I tend to write some stellar bromances into my novels. Peter and Thao, Ed and Fitz, Sam and Eugene… Fierce bro friendships make me uncannily happy, guys. I cannot explain it. XD

  • fairytale elements & retellings

I feel like I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it until the day I die: I adore fairytales and fairytale retellings. I simply cannot get enough of them! And, more specifically, I love writing fairytales and fairytale retellings.

I’ve often said that The Girl and The Goblin King is a fairytale of my own making, and *cough cough* I may or may not have written a secret fairytale retelling in the past. Fairytales are something I’m just so passionate about: the magic, the whimsy, the forests filled with secrets and twinkly twilight atmosphere. Whimsical stories will always have my heart, and I’d be extremely disappointed in myself if someday I discovered that I didn’t love them as deeply as I do now.

  • villains you love to hate
Proud Starz GIF by Outlander

This one’s a wee bit newer. (for anyone who’s read everlost, you will probably know I struggled a wee bit with the antagonist) But within my more recent manuscripts, I feel as though I’ve locked in on my own particular brand of villain.

I’m especially excited for the villain of The Girl and The Goblin King. I technically haven’t even written him yet, but–with any luck–that will soon change. And I am SO. EXCITED. to finally get to meet this guy! He’s so creepy and weird and charming and 10/10 will murder your uncle for a piece of chocolate cake.

  • themes of brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption

And last but not least, we have reached our final point for what it takes to write a Kenzie book!

I think, more often than not, writers often infuse their stories with the themes they’ve experienced personally. As for me, I’ve had many instances in which I’ve dealt with the three themes above, and I think it shows in the stories I create. I love writing about how broken things can still shine–how their brokenness can actually make them shine brighter. I love themes of forgiveness, of finding yourself after you thought you were broken beyond repair and would never return to the you that you were Before. I love redemption arcs.

I love stories which show the cracks of human nature and the all-encompassing forgiveness of God.

And I think, in the end, that’s why I write these books. Because I’ve experienced the failure, the collapse, the darkness which grows in your heart when you feel the furthest from grace that you’ve ever felt. And I’ve felt the release, the understanding that there is Hope in a world which is nothing but darkness and shadow. I’ve been broken and forgiven. I’ve fallen and have been helped up. And it’s a beautiful wonderful magical thing–something I want to share with everyone who reads my words.

And while I understand that you can’t write the same theme into every story, I also know that there’s hardly a day that goes by in which God doesn’t show me His grace through even the smallest of things. And if He can continue to find new ways to show me His love, why can’t I do the same in my novels?

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talk to me, peasants!

Let’s talk common themes! What sorts of things do you find reoccurring within your stories? Are you a writer who tends to write the same–or similar–themes into your novels, or do you prefer a fresh start with each and every WIP? Are you a fan of Found Family? Bromance? CHARMING VILLAINS??? As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below! And until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

featured photo by Fang-Wei Lin on Unsplash

CAMP NANOWRIMO 2021 – The Results

good morning, cyberspace!

The end of April is nigh upon us, and I have–once again–gone the whole month without any sort of update on the going’s on of Camp NaNoWriMo. I would love to say that this is because I have been writing myself into oblivion, diving deep into the heart of the stories which I so proudly claimed I’d be working on this month until my well of creativity simply burst with all the excitement and inspiration of which drafting a goblin book should produce.

This, however, would be a lie. Like many people, I undergo ruts of creative dryness. It’s something I try very hard to push through, and, in doing so, usually tend to scrape myself so dry that the time needed to recover thus inflates dramatically. And I think, my dear peasants, that this is what happened last month.

And potentially the first four months of 2021. Lololololol.

It’s been a slow period for my writing so far. According to my writing tracker, I’ve written 40,336 words this whole year–which, looking at as one complete sum, doesn’t seem like a grand total one should turn their nose at. But behind those words have been truly painful moments of confusion, wondering if I’m really cut out for this whole thing, and swatting at the little voices inside of my head which tell me I should simply give up, shave my head bald, and become a goat herder in northern Italy.

(for reference: my google search history now has “does italy have goat herders” plastered to it, and I’m pretty sure my personal FBI agent is wondering if I’m okay. [answer: no, bob. i am not okay.])

But I find that no matter how many creative ruts I may go through–no matter how many times I may need to step away from the world and reevaluate what’s important in my life–it seems that I always come back to the same conclusion: this is what I want to be doing. Despite how many words I write in a month. Despite how many times I fall short. Despite how many experiments and events and ideas fall through the cracks, I am a writer, and it’s pushing through those dark days which prove it. Because if I didn’t love writing, if this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life, if this was just some passing phase for me, I wouldn’t keep coming back to it. I would have given up by now. I would simply disappear in a cloud of smoke and maniacal laughter and become a used car salesman.

And the fact that this has not yet happened is a testament to the fact that this–no matter how badly I failed Camp NaNoWrimo–is where I’m supposed to be.

And so, my friends, it is with mild shame and more than a few “I should have seen this coming”s that I tell you last month did not go accordingly to plan. And I realize that I technically had two plans for how April should have gone, but alas. Neither of these happened.

…at all.

Oh, I tried to follow the plan, of course. I think we can agree that I always try. But like with many of my grand ideas, things happen, Life hits, and suddenly I’m swept off my feet down a swiftly moving river towards who even knows where, only to end up deposited right back at square one three weeks later.

And this is where I am today.

But I can’t say as though I’m horribly disappointed with my progress this past month. Sure, it isn’t anywhere near the 30k I had initially planned on, but I can’t say that the whole month was a total waste. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I’m pleased with the direction this Camp took, because it has led me to things far greater than a heavy word count ever could.

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CAMP NANOWRIMO 2021 – THE RESULTS

i. the girl and the goblin king

As of the moment I’m writing this (April 26th, 11:06 AM, for anyone weird enough to wonder that), my current word count for Apirl is 12,994 words. This puts me 17,006 words away from my 30k goal, which is lowkey disappointing, not gonna lie. At this point, I would have to write about 4.2k every single day till the end of camp to catch up. And since I’ve just started to gently rekindle the spark of my creativity, I’m not even considering trying this. In life, there are some things we must simply give up on.

Today, I’m choosing to give up on Camp NaNoWriMo.

bill murray comedy GIF

But not completely! I may not be able to hit my first goal of 30k, but 15k is looking preeeeeetty charming right about now. And since–as anyone who read my last post will know–I started rewriting this story right at the end of March, having 15k down during the first month of drafting is not something to sneeze at. (actually, please don’t sneeze at anything in today’s day and age.)

So my new, unofficial goal since it’s too late to change my goal on the website for Camp NaNoWriMo is 15,000 words towards Project Goblin. I only have to write 2,006 words in four days in order to hit it, and if I somehow manage to mess this up before May, you have my permission to slap me in the face with a fish.

A rotting fish, specifically, as I find those are most suitable for proving a point.

ii. project sunset

i did absolutely nothing towards this goal for the entire month of April, and I have no shame since I am not quite ready to jump back into this story quite yet

The Girl and The Goblin King decided to take up all of my story brainpower this month, and while I’m disappointed that I couldn’t reenter the world of Shelby and Ed as quickly as I’d have liked, I’m extremely excited for the twists which TGaTGK has taken, and look forward to reading through my trash draft of Project Sunset in the future.

Also read as: ASDFGHJKL THIS MONTH WAS A MESS LOL

in conclusion…

…April’s Camp NaNoWriMo wasn’t the 30-day creativity-filled writing retreat which I had planned on it being. Instead, it was a bumpy, messy, “holy guacamole, what’s happening” kind of time, and while I’m extraordinarily thankful for all that it has taught me and all the many things I’ve discovered along the way, I can’t shake the slight disappointment within me that says I should have–could have–done better.

And maybe you’re a bit like me. Maybe your April wasn’t quite what you’d expected, either. Maybe your plans were stacked so high that the weight of them crashing down nearly crushed you. But the truth is, if given the chance, I wouldn’t go back and change anything about the past month. Yes, it was chaotic. Yes, it was messy. Yes, I made wrong decisions and mistakes and should have chosen different paths than what I did at the time. But the fact remains that all those left turns and obstacles brought me to this moment right here, where I can honestly look you in the webcam eye and say, “I wrote 13,000 words this month. I have 13,000 more words in my pockets than I did 26 days ago, and I am proud of those words, because I know I poured every bit of my heart and soul into them.” And while it isn’t 30k, it is 7 chapters of a novel which I’m excited to be writing. It is 13k that I didn’t write just because, but which I wrote with intention and passion.

So could I have done better? Maybe. But I know for a fact that what I did do is work that I’m proud of, and my wish is that, at the end of this crazy month, you can look at the work you’ve done–however big or small that may be–and say the same.

talk to me, peasants!

to all the ones who participated in NaNoWrimo: how did your month go? were you able to write all of the words, or did you, like me, learn valuable life lessons instead? XD

to those who didn’t participate in NaNo: what sorts of adventures–or non-adventures–did you get up to during the month of April? have you been reading good books? journeying to new places? discovering new hobbies?

Let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below, and until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

CAMP NANOWRIMO, 2021 – a subtle change of plans + my camp nanowrimo survival kit

good morning, cyberspace!

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I suppose I should have seen this coming, since nothing I plan ever goes quite like how I want it to, but I can’t say as though I’m disappointed with the very sudden turn of events my life–most specifically my writing life–has taken.

Do you guys remember how I mentioned very recently how The Plan for Camp NaNoWriMo 2021 was to finish the first draft of Project Goblin? A draft which I was already upwards of 30,000 words into? The draft of which I was confident I could finish within a single month?

Lol. Yeah, that plan flew out the window towards Neverland and hasn’t been seen since.

So, as it turns out, I’ve been struggling with writing this book for a couple months now. As a Plantser, I never truly know where the story is taking me until we get there–that’s part of the fun and mystery of writing for me–but I am familiar with the gut feeling that what I’m writing is wrong. Somehow, inexplicably, I can feel when what I’m writing isn’t what’s supposed to be written, and this division between my conscious and subconscious completely stalls the process.

And for the past two months or so, I’ve been feeling this exact phenomena. Day after day I’ve sat down to write, only to find myself staring at a page half-filled with words which don’t feel true to the story I’m trying to tell. And day after day I’ve wondered if perhaps there was something about this story that I’m missing. But the stubborn writer inside of me decided that this was just a phase–that if I just kept pressing forward, I would eventually hit the rhythm that I’ve been searching for.

Unfortunately, I can now report that this did not happen. I did, however, find something a little bit better.

I found an epiphany.

I don’t have these rare moments of brilliance often. In fact, I’ll confess that I typically only have one true moment of complete genius per book–if, of course, I even have one at all–but every so often, usually at the peak of frustration, all the pieces I’ve been struggling to fit into place finally click together. Suddenly, everything that was once foggy and uncooperative is perfectly clear. And that is precisely what happened with my smol trash gremlin, Project Goblin.

I was sitting at Pizza Hut, scribbling down a list of the story’s main cast members in a tiny notebook with a garish pink pen, when all of a sudden I had this beautiful, mind-boggling epiphany. An epiphany so shiny and perfect and new that I immediately began scribbling down ideas for it, completely ruining my linear character chart and ignoring my sad slice of pizza as it sat steaming on the plate in front of me.

All thoughts of food were gone; there was only room in my head for a single thought.

“they’re off to see the wizard”

Except it isn’t a wizard they’re off to see, but a goblin. And they weren’t going to ask for something they never had, but what was once stolen from them.

Despite the fact that “they’re off to see the wizard” really has absolutely nothing to do with the new direction of my book at this point, it still serves as the main epiphany moment, and is therefore my battlecry as I set off on this brand new reinvention of the story before me. 30,000 words of Draft Zero were stuffed away in a separate drawer–potentially never to be seen again–and I am now working from a brand new document, titled Project Goblin 2021. (I’m very clever with naming things, you see.) I’m about 2 and a half chapters in, my main character is finally (oh my WORD IT’S HAPPENING) starting to act like an actual human, rather than a cardboard cutout that just sort of wobbles around the world I’m building from scratch, and–best thing of all the things–I’m finally excited about this story again. That thing I thought was missing has finally been found, and I no longer have to question whether or not I should press forward or head back. I have direction. I have inspiration.

I finally have hope for this mess of a book.

And in honor of the fact that I completely ditched everything I’ve written for the past five months lolololololol finally have direction, I thought it’d be fun to finally reveal everything inside of my NaNoWriMo survival kit! Because I promised if I got around to it, I’d share that with you all, and I figure this will be a NaNo quite desiring of a survival kit if ever there was one before. (my sanity ditched me like five days ago and hasn’t since returned, so.)

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kenzie’s camp nanowrimo survival kit — 2021 edition

i. greg

Some of you may know this, others may not–my laptop’s name is Greg.

I do not, despite popular belief, tote around a singular man named Greg where’ere I go for writing inspiration. If, however, your name is Greg and you would like to apply for the position of part-time writing assistant, the fact that your name is Greg will probably (not) give you an edge on your application.

ii. usb drive

I haven’t backed up my novel in about five months. This is actually a terrible decision, and I wholeheartedly recommend NOT doing this if you’re planning on making any considerable sized dent in your manuscript this month. XD

Please, please–if you have any sort of consideration for your novel and time at all–buy a good (emphasis on GOOD) USB drive and backup your novel. Frequently. Once a day is good, but TWICE a day is better, especially if you’re writing a lot.

Many years ago I went through this phase of using adorable animal-shaped USB drives, and every single time my novel got corrupted and I lost thousands of words.

It was awful. I soon despised that penguin and octopus, let me tell you. So while the dark, stick-shaped drives at Best Buy might SEEM boring and unassuming, sometimes that’s precisely what you need in order to make sure your manuscript is safe.

Don’t trust your book to an octopus, friend. I beg of you.

iii. story-themed notebooks

Even though I tend to write my books on my laptop, it doesn’t feel like I’m actually writing a book until I have a story notebook to go along with it. everlost had a bunch of wide-ruled school notebooks–bits and pieces of story and plot bunnies scribbled out across them to the point where finding what I was actually looking for was somewhat of an impossibility. Project Sunset had a single squatty journal purchased specifically for that project. (the theme color for the story was yellow, and therefore I obviously needed a yellow notebook) And Project Goblin has an adorably wonky looking thing which I got from one of my coworkers as a birthday/parting gift when I left my last job. So, in order for this month to be a success–or, at the very least, survivable–I’m keeping this notebook close at hand for any moment when writing on a screen just won’t cut it.

Sometimes you just need a good stack of paper and a pen in order for the thoughts to start flowing, and when that time comes, it’s a lot easier to have a notebook already squared away for that exact purpose than to start asking random strangers in the restaurant for their napkins and half-chewed pens.

iv. pens & pencils

To go along with the notebooks, you always need a fresh assortment of pens and pencils to keep your creativity flowing during a high-stress month such as this. In fact, I would highly recommend beginning your collection of favorite writing instruments sooner rather than later, because those things have a nasty habit of disappearing right when you need them most.

v. project playlists

I recently got Spotify Premium with my family–hello, no ads!–and oh my goodness, I’m obsessed with making playlists! Most of them are for my drives to work or actual work (we get to play our own playlists over the speakers. it’s phenomenal), but quite a fair few in my dragon hoard are handcrafted playlists perfectly tailored for my books. The ones I’ll be using the most this month are for The Girl and The Goblin King and Project Sunset, since those are the stories I’m currently working on, but blogospherical is another well-loved music set which will be used quite frequently. XD

vi. my writerly muse

a.k.a. my smol bird friend, Durachi. I think the majority of you know by now that I have a cockatiel, but I think I fail to mention just how integral he is to my writing life. Durachi is incredibly helpful during the drafting process. He’s very patient with me when I start daydreaming during play-time, and exceedingly helpful with choosing which pens and pencils to use.

The scary ones, of course, get thrown away. (my hunch is that he can sense when they have no creativity left inside them, and therefore that makes them frightening. which, I mean, same. XD)

vii. my kindle

Since I’m going to be reading and taking notes on Project Sunset this month, I kind of need something to read it on. And since reading it on my laptop will only make me want to go in immediately with a red pen and edit All Of The Things, I’m going to read it on my kindle instead. This way, I can train my brain to see it in actual ebook format, rather than “writing” mode, and the only remaining danger is accidentally setting my entire kindle on fire out of sheer embarrassment and having to buy a new one from Amazon!

viii. reading material (for when I’m stuck)

I recently stopped at the library and picked up an embarrassingly large stack of tomes to read when I get creatively stuck, so hopefully these will get me through those annoyingly depressing dry spells….

(and also I hope I can renew these because there’s NO way I’m gonna read them all in two weeks….)

ix. an assortment of snacks (for when I’m hungry)

Aside from the typical chocolates and candies, I’m also going to start squirreling away tea and Dr. Pepper. Because sometimes you really just need a caffeinated boost to get you through the writing day, and there is truly no caffeine boost like that of the Dr. Pepper…

(I also work at a coffee shop, so for the most part I’m set on tea. In fact, I should probably stop drinking so much of it when I’m there. XD)

x. a good dose of dedication, persistence, and just a singular ounce of sanity

To be fair, I usually don’t have a whole lot of either of these at any given time, but I’ve learned that if I’m very, very careful, I can typically find a little bit of each if I try hard enough.

The sanity is entirely hit or miss, though. I never know if I’m going to have my head when I wake up in the morning, but by golly, I’m officially getting good at going throughout my day headless. At this point, I should probably move to Sleepy Hollow or something.

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talk to me, peasants!

And that, my friends, is my Camp NaNoWriMo update/what’s inside my survival kit! For all my fellow Wrimos out there, what sorts of things do YOU put inside your survival kit? have your camp nanowrimo plans altered at all since the start of the event? and have you ever had an epiphany so wonderful and huge that it made it physically impossible for you to eat pizza? (this was a first for me, and I’m genuinely curious if it happens to anyone else.)

As always, let’s talk about All Of The Things down in the comments below, and until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

Camp NaNoWriMo, 2021 – preparation

good morning, cyberspace!

Camp NaNoWriMo is just over a week away, and I am officially starting to panic. Not in an “oh my goodness I’m going to die” kind of way, but an “lol things are happening and I’m not sure if they’re good but YEET LET’S DO THIS ANYWAY” kind of way. It’s honestly very inspiring, and I’m even more excited for April than I was before, which is … saying something.

Aside from panicking about the approaching NaNo, my brain has also decided to start splitting itself away from the projects I’m supposed to be focusing on, and has instead popped a very intriguing, very time-consuming idea into my head. As of right now, it’s still in the very first stages of speculation. I still don’t know when or if or how long it will take to finalize should I continue with it, but I can say that while this new project is exceedingly exciting, I’m forcing myself to keep its progress to a strict minimum in the weeks to come. Most–if not all–of my writing time is currently devoted to Project Goblin, this blog, or writing random short stories for my own sheer amusement. Anything else is simply a distraction.

…or that’s what I’m trying to tell myself, at least.

I definitely did not start a Scapple board two nights ago onto which I’ve started flinging all of my wildest hopes and dreams for this project. Definitely not. (stop looking at me like that, I’m completely fine.)

Anyway, in honor of Camp NaNoWriMo’s ever-quickening approach, I’ve decided to make a list of completely non-writing related things I’d like to accomplish before the first of April! I mentioned in last week’s post that there really wasn’t much to do for Project Goblin prep-wise, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing I can do to mentally prep for NaNo! So without further ado, let’s dive right in!

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camp nanowrimo, 2021 — preparation

one – deep-clean my room

First thing’s first, I’ve been undergoing a deep, DEEP clean of my room lately, and I’d like to get that finished up before Camp NaNo comes. It’s not so much of a “this will help get me in the mindset for writing” kind of thing, but more of an “if I have all of this random stuff-purging done before April, I won’t have any excuses to procrasticlean”. And let me tell you–I am the QUEEN of procrasticleaning.

So the first step on my to-do list is to get all of my random junk tidied up and sorted out! And while I’m sort of half-n-half when it comes to cleaning, I’m actually weirdly excited for this one. I’m really enjoying the purging process, and I feel like once I’m done, I’ll have more of the things I truly enjoy, and less of the stuff that’s simply taking up space.

two – set up my story board

Or, as my writing group fondly dubbed it, my murder board. Essentially, I recently had the grand idea to start plotting out the scenes that still need to be written for Project Goblin–and any editing notes I’m going to be making for Project Sunset–out on my corkboard! My mom gave me a whole stack of neon-colored index cards which are PERFECT for color-coding different stories, and I’m extremely excited to start. Plotting has never gone too well for me in the past, but I think if I leave it open enough, my curious brain will still find nooks and crannies to investigate and pilfer through, which will continue to add a sense of discovery to the writing process which my brain so clearly craves.

three – prepare Project Sunset notebook

In order to start taking notes on Project Sunset, I need to get my notebook ready. I haven’t taken notes on a draft since everlost, and I’ll admit I’m a little bit rusty. But I have some Thoughts on how I want to take notes for this project, and while it may seem a little too advanced for my simpleton of an easily-distracted brain, I’m still choosing to be optimistic about this approach.

I also have a really cute notebook that I used while drafting this book, and MY GOODNESS I’m so excited to use it again… Toting that notebook around literally made me so happy when I was writing Project Sunset, and getting to bust it out again kinda feels like coming home.

four – equip myself with proper work attire

Fun fact: both jobs I’ve held within the past two years had mandated work attire. At Goodwill, I had to wear a bright blue shirt and–for the first 8 or 9 months–khakis. (this later turned into jeans, and my dear goodness it was the most wonderful change) At the coffee shop, I have to wear a store shirt and either a hat, visor, or headband. (I usually choose the hat.) I never really put much thought into mandated work attire other than the typical “huh. I wish I didn’t have to wear this today” kind of thing, but recently….recently I’ve begun to notice something.

The first day you wear your work uniform, you have this weird sense of imposter syndrome. You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder how on earth you managed to hoodwink your employer into hiring you, because holy guacamole you’re underqualified for this position. But then, as you get trained (or, in the case of Goodwill, thrown on the register and wished the best of luck) and begin to learn the ins and outs of the industry, you start to feel this strange sense of belonging when you go to work. You know what you’re doing (kinda), you love what you do and do what you love, and your uniform signifies that. You’re no longer an imposter in a hat. You’re someone who belongs.

And not only that, but for me, personally, I’ve noticed that whenever I’m at work, I have no trouble getting myself to stay dedicated and determined to succeed for my allotted time on the clock. There’s no sense of wanting to procrastinate. There’s no endless scrolling on my phone as soon as there’s a lull in work. Whenever it quiets down and there’s nothing straightforward to be doing, my brain automatically clicks into “find something productive to do” mode.

It shocks people when I tell them I’m a disorganized mess. It boggles their brain meats. Why? Because the person I give to others at work is a complete opposite of the person I give to myself. When I’m working for someone else, I’m committed and “on” at all times. I’m dedicated to my work and am willing to learn and grow and get better with each passing day. When I’m working for myself, I tend to grow stagnant. I tell myself that this pressing thing I’m supposed to be working on can be done tomorrow. I let myself procrastinate. I tell myself deadlines don’t matter.

But spoiler alert: deadlines DO matter. And as someone who hopes to someday be self-employed, I need to start treating my personal deadlines and goals with as much respect as I treat those imposed on me by others.

So I’ve been doing some self-reflection. I’ve been digging a little deeper into my psyche to understand the why’s behind this most confusing jumble of mental blockages. And after much thought and one too many lost staring contests with the floral patterned wall, I realized that there is one significant difference between my days clocked in as a writer and my days clocked in as a barista.

…at the coffee shop, I have a hat.

And it may not seem like much, but I have come to the conclusion that this hat is instrumental in my excellent work ethic. So after some digging, I decided to purchase a writing hat.

It’s coming in the mail on Friday, and I’m going to start wearing it every time I sit down to write.

…I cannot be stopped, peasants.

five – gather and curate my nanowrimo survival kit

Every year, I try to create a survival kit for Ultimate NaNo Success, and every year, I hardly use the things which I so carefully place inside of it. But this year … yeah, this year isn’t going to be any different. But I’m still going to create my survival kit, because GUYS. IT IS FUN.

And if you don’t believe me, you’ve clearly never created your own survival kit, and therefore I urge you to go change this immediately.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to be placing inside my Survival Kit this year, but I guarantee it’s going to have some sort of Goblin-esque themed notebook, my USB drive (a must for intense drafting), and an assortment of pens and pencils I shall completely ignore in favor of a random black pen I find in the family pencil basket. (I’ve accidentally stolen a lot of those pens, actually… My apologies to my family members who can never seem to find a normal pen anywhere.)

Also maybe some snacks, my laptop (obviously), and a carefully curated playlist which I will also completely ignore in favor of my work playlist, which is fondly dubbed ’tis but a bop. (I’m so clever, oh my goodness.)

If my survival kit turns out to be something rather noteworthy, I’ll do my best to write a blog post on it! But for right now, I’m gonna stick with a Vague Mention of the thing. XD It really is fun putting these together, though, so seriously. 10/10 recommend creating one for yourself. (and if you DO end up making one, tell me all the things you put inside of it in the comments! I want to hear about others’ survival kits!!)

>>> <<<

talk to me, peasants!

And there you have it–my list of to-do’s to mentally prepare for the gloriousness that is Camp NaNoWriMo! Not listed are the sleepless nights and internal screaming matches between me and the Void, but I figured those were safely implied.

But now it’s your turn! what sorts of things do you do to prepare yourself–physically, mentally, etc.–for NaNoWriMo? do you have any “writing attire” that you wear while writing, or–similarly–any talismans that bring you good luck when writing? what kinds of things do you store in your writerly survival kit? are you participating in Camp NaNo this year, and if not, how can I convince you to change your mind? XD

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below, and until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

Camp NaNoWriMo, 2021 — planning + plotting

good morning, cyberspace!

In honor of nothing particularly interesting happening in February in regards to my writing journey, I move to completely ignore last month’s statistics and instead pretend like everything is fine and my goals for the year are definitely not going up in flames before my very eyes. All in favor, say aye!

Lovely. Let’s move on!

So! It’s March! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, my writerly muse has finally decided to return from his extended vacation in the Bahamas (thanks, Chess), and I–after a long, tiring winter–have decided that now is as good a time as any to dust off the potential I left to rot in the back of my closet and scrape together some semblence of a writing routine to get me through the next few months! And–with any luck–finally make some substantial progress on my current works-in-progress!

This surge in creating inspiration is aided by the fact that Camp NaNoWriMo begins next month (!!!). This will be my fifth year participating in the Camp session of NaNoWriMo, and let me tell you, folks: I could not be more excited. Camp NaNoWriMo–April’s session, in particular–holds a very dear place in my heart. It has helped me stay accountable to and finish so many of my writing projects, and–with any luck–this year it will be instrumental in doing it again.

I have many plans and ideas and goals for this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and while a part of my brain fears I may be biting off a wee bit more than one man can chew, I’m also incredibly excited to see what the next couple months have in store for both me and my projects!

…ah yes. You read that correctly. I’m going to be working on project(s) next month. Because I am nothing if not incredibly optimistic about the amount of side-hussles I can maintain.

>>> <<<

camp nanowrimo, 2021

With Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, there are two types of people crawling out of the woodworks: the writers who squeal and scream about Camp Nano and all their exciting plans for the month ahead, and their friends, who are even now buying earplugs to avoid the long, endless ramblings of writers who know not when to stop talking about half-bred goblin kings and monstrous trolls who may or may not actually exist.

I, of course, belong in the former category, and rightly so. I earned my “I’m a NaNo Fanatic” badge at the tender age of seventeen, when my friends would roll their eyes every time I started in again on the gloriousness which was Camp NaNoWriMo. “Here we go again” was a phrase I quickly became acquainted with, and one I adjusted to with just as much ease. There was a time when I wondered if perhaps I was a wee bit overexuberant in my NaNo excitement.

I now know that there is no such thing.

This year, however, while I’m planning on working on multiple projects, I am hoping that it’s a quieter sort of NaNo for me. I’ve only just gotten my excitement for writing back since it slipped out the window last autumn, and while I’m trying to get as much out of this sudden inspiration-fueled stint as I possibly can, the last thing I want is to use it all up and be left stranded again. So the plan is to gently grow my creativity over the next two months, carefully easing myself into longer writing projects as I reestablish myself into the writing groove I completely fell out of. Of course, as with most of my plans, I’m not holding out much hope for its success. But they say the best way to grow is to try everything you possibly can until eventually something sticks, so I guess I’m on a solid path.

(me. i said this. don’t judge me, please, i’m small.)

But all that aside, the projects I have prepped for Camp NaNo 2021 are–if I do say so myself–some of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on in a while. They’re books which feel like stepping stones towards the writer I want to be someday, and with a month filled with stories like that, well … what can possibly go wrong?

(*nervous laughter*)

project one – the girl and the goblin king

For anyone who’s been paying attention (lol, not me), The Girl and The Goblin Kingi is my YA paranormal fantasy, complete with goblins (duh), a starving artist, creepy triplets, and an anthropomorphic tree. So, essentially, it’s like a nightmare come to life, and I adore every single part of it.

There’s not a whole lot to do in regards to prepping this one, actually. I’m currently knee-deep in the first draft, so the majority of prep-work is simply me showing up to the story every day and putting words to the page–something I have obviously been struggling with. In a perfect world, I’d like to work out some of the kinks that I’ve begun to find within the narrative before April so I can start with a mostly clean slate, but this is, unfortunately, a first draft. And first drafts are messy, complicated, and in more ways than one, honestly terrifying to look at. If I’m able to simply hit the midpoint before April 1st, I’ll count my preparatory work as a win.

As for the actual NaNo-ing part of this project, my goal is to finish the first draft of Project Goblin by the end of April. March 31st is my soft deadline for this story, but with such a wild winter, I’ll be more shocked if it happens than if not. So my hard deadline for this project is April 30th, and if I don’t hit it, I will cry and eat a cookie in compensation give myself grace, because that is what I would give to anyone else in my shoes.

(oh, look at that. i think i spot some growth.)

project two – project sunset

Ah, yes. Anyone remember my sunshine child from last April? The gang is returning for another Camp this year, but this time, I’m going to be reading the words I wrote last year! (much nail-biting. such fear.) I literally have not done a deep edit or revision since the Great Everlost Expedition of 2018, and–if I’m being perfectly honest–I’m kind of scared to dive in, here. BUT. I remember greatly enjoying the revision process. It’s something I’ve come to love over the years, and taking something that was once pretty good and turning it into a semi-polished really good thing is where I feel I can really shine as a writer. Or perhaps I just feel that way because most of my first drafts are absolute garbage and I’m trying to convince myself that this does not make me a terrible writer. WHO CAN KNOW. XD

Prep-work for this simply involves compiling all the chapters I’ve written into a PDF (already done), and sending it off to my kindle for reading (soon to be done). Since all I’m doing for this project in April is reading through the book and taking down notes for revision, I’m not too concerned about finishing it within a month. This is mostly a “my brain needs a break from Project Goblin–OH LOOK. SHINY NEW THING” kind of project, so it’s very low-pressure, which is NICE.

I would, however, very much like to get the whole book read and have a solid plan for revision come May if I can! But that’s simply a cherry on top of the Project Goblin First Drafting cake. If it turns out that Project Goblin gets finished, and this poor, unfortunate little pancake is left miserably on its own till the end of Camp, I can’t say as though I’ll be disappointed. I’ll be too ecstatic over my brand new book baby to care too much. XD

>>> <<<

In all truth, I really just want to have some fun with my writing next month. I’ve spent so much of my career wondering if I’m “professional” enough to be a writer–if my words were good enough, bold enough, deep enough. Everyone looks at the greats and sees their writings as these deep, existential plunges into the human existence, and there are moments when I look at my life and the words I piece together and wonder how on earth I could ever compare to those who came before me. I’ll never be the next Hemingway or Tolkien or Lewis. I’ll most likely never write something that will be praised by the masses for its intricate tug into the heart of human life. But I can write things that are strange and quirky and odd. Things that will keep both my readers and myself questioning my ever-decreasing sanity. And I am so excited to take that deep, irreversible plunge into my own originality next month. I want these to be the first steps I take in which I truly allow myself to breathe, to stretch my wings and step off the cliffs of normality into the piercing waters of the unknown. And if it turns out that what I create truly is awful and unfit to be published, then I guess the intense fun I had while writing it will completely outweigh its crippling uselessness to me. XD

talk to me, peasants!

what are you guys working on next month? are any of you participating in camp nanowrimo? have you participated in the past, and if so, do you prefer camp or the OG nano? and for all the writers like me out there, have you ever had to remind yourself that writing should be not only an adventure, but fun? I think sometimes we get so caught up in the act of thinking of our writing as a profession that we forget to have as much fun with it as possible in the process–and I don’t want to stay inside that rut.

Anyway, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below, and as always, until next time…

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

featured photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

All About That WIP! – in which we take a sneakety peek at each of my projects for 2021

good morning, cyberspace!

A while back, I did a poll over on my instagram as to which post y’all wanted to see from me next, and All About That WIP! sorta kinda won by a landslide. Which … I guess you guys are just really interested in my works-in-progress? Which is wonderful, I’m sure. This is pretty much every writer’s dream, right? To have people interested in their books and wanting to learn more about them?

Unfortunately, I prefer to keep all my projects under a pile of moth-infested blankets stuffed in the deepest, darkest corners of my mind where they can ne’er see the light of day, but I digress. Spilling all the nitty gritty details of my books is DEFINITELY not my worst nightmare which wakes me up screaming in the depths of the night! Lol, no not at all!

….

….

….

All right, let’s just get this over with.

>>> <<<

ALL ABOUT THAT WIP

So! You want to know about Kenzie’s story projects for 2021, do ya? Well, you’re in luck, my friend, because today’s post is all about the projects that I’m hoping to work on this year! Or rather, projects that I’m hoping to continue working on this year, because–not gonna lie–most of these have already been started and then just left to dangle ominously in the middle of their prospective plotlines until I find time to work on them again.

The life of a WIP is a very sad life, indeed.

But anyway. I should probably mention now that I’m not going to be going SUUUUUUPER in-depth on all of these projects. As always, I like to keep some sort of thinly-veiled mystery when it comes to my precious children, simply because I find that spilling the beans on everything often makes me no longer want to work on the story. But, at the same time, talking about my WIP’s helps me gain momentum to continue working on my projects, so essentially it’s just a very complicated balance of how much to share and how much to keep secret.

(are you confused yet?)

But hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have gleaned a better understanding of the names and projects I’ll most likely be throwing around in a few weeks’ time, so for that, at least, this post should be fun!

But enough about that. Let’s start with the most important project you’ll be seeing around here…

i. PROJECT GOBLIN / THE GIRL AND THE GOBLIN KING / WELCOME TO INKWELL

beautiful mock cover designed by Shannon Aardsma! (links to socials below!)

Ah, yes! Project Goblin! I’ve been talking about this one rather frequently for a few months now, but the first time this particular WIP made its appearance here on Smudged Thoughts was back in 2018 as I was preparing to write it for my NaNoWriMo novel.

I ended up winning that NaNo with over 50,000 words, but–unfortunately–the story I was writing was not, in fact, the tale which I was hoping to tell. In 2018, PROJECT GOBLIN was known primarily as THE GIRL AND THE GOBLIN KING, but over the years, I became rather confused with what its name should actually be, and the name soon evolved into many different forms: The Girl and The Goblin King, Welcome To Inkwell, and simply Inkwell to name a few. The most recent variation, however, has returned to The Girl and The Goblin King, and from here on out, that is what we’re referring to it as here on the blog until further notice–or publication. *nervous laughter*! (and also Project Goblin. Because that is a LOT easier on the typing hand, my friend.)

All Bartholomew Todd wants in life is to draw comics that will make people smile. Unfortunately, when all you’re capable of drawing is the stuff of nightmares and horror films, it’s a little difficult to accomplish this.

More often than not, they run away screaming instead.

But when Todd is inadvertently kidnapped by the very creatures his hands have created, he finds himself torn in a war between two worlds: one he’s spent his whole life struggling to fit into, and one which relies on him–and him alone–to save it.

With a rogue band of misfits in tow, Todd must retrieve a little girl’s stolen smile from the lair of a wicked goblin king before it’s too late—both for Inkwell and himself.

Not gonna lie, this book has become exceedingly difficult to write over the years. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve been trying to write it since 2018, but I feel like the core of this story has evolved and manifested into something so intricate and deep and whimsical that anything I try to write can’t possibly do the world I’ve built inside my head justice. But the characters, the world, the all-around vibe this book has grown into … words alone cannot possibly describe how excited I am to get to share it with you all someday.

If EVERLOST was my trash gremlin and PROJECT SUNSET my Sunshine Child, then I can only claim PROJECT GOBLIN as the book which is–at its very deepest of hearts–my true identity as a writer. This book has bits and pieces of every single one of my sides–darkness, humor, whimsy, pickpocketing gnomes, a guard dragon, goblins, magical pencils, curses, hope, love, enchanted enchantresses, fairies, pixies, potentially a troll or two, a scythe-wielding little girl… The writing of this novel is a complete and utter adventure–as most novels typically are–and following it down every single twist and turn is an honor I’m truly blessed to have.

(also also also! can we just take a moment to appreciate the absolutely DELIGHTFUL mock cover that Shannon Aardsma made for me??? this girl is absolutely wonderful, and I’m so so blessed to have met her through the writing community! you can find her over on instagram @shannonaardsmawriter, or over on youtube! definitely go check her out, guys. she’s incredible!)

ii. PROJECT SUNSET / SK

Writing Project Sunset was the highlight of my creativity in 2020, not gonna lie. Writing a whole book during Quarantine, having my first ever (and most likely only) 10k writing day, scribbling away late into the nights and sleeping way too late the next day… It was a process which I’m so utterly thankful to have had, and while the plot of this book desperately needs some first aid, I have hope that the editing phase will prove just as rewarding as the first drafting.

…with that being said, however, the plot of this book desperately needs some first aid. XD Part of the joys of first drafting is throwing every single idea at the wall and watching the chaos unfold, but unfortunately for me, this means my second drafts are very much me trying to scrape bits of noodle off said kitchen walls and cursing myself for not simply tasting the noodles to see if they were al dente in the beginning.

(…I swear that analogy made sense in my head before I wrote it out.)

Anyway. Once I finish up the first, very messy draft of PROJECT GOBLIN, my next project is going to be reading through the first draft of PROJECT SUNSET, making ALL OF THE EDITORIAL NOTES, and then promptly ripping my hair out as I try to edit the second draft into perfection.

Or rather, into a somewhat messy glob which, if you squint just right and tilt your head at a 90 degree angle, looks slightly like perfection’s second cousin, twice removed…

…we’ll get there eventually, okay. Anyway, some of the more interesting details about this book include:

  • a main protagonist who is obsessed with comic books
  • a group of very old friends who would legit die for each other
  • a black hole
  • a dude named Casey
  • an hourglass which holds the key to time manipulation
  • death
  • a theme of self-forgiveness
  • a single toupe

After the whirlwind that was the drafting process for this book, I’m just SO excited to dive back into it! Part of me wishes I could start immediately, but I have WAY too many things I’m juggling at the moment. ’tis a shame, of course, but sometimes life just be like that.

(also 10/10 already have this thing formatted into PDF for reading on my Kindle. I just need to catch up with myself, apparently.)

iii. PUMPKALAGOO

Aha! A project that I’ve only just briefly mentioned back in my 2021 Goals & Aspirations post! For the most part, I’ve kept rather silent about this project because I literally know virtually nothing about this story. But I’ve also kept quiet about it because … I legitimately do not even know what I’m doing with it anymore.

Obviously I’m still planning on writing it–I’ve had the idea stewing for far too long to let it go so easily now–but the fact remains that this book is … bizarre. It follows a teeny tiny witch and her teeny tiny black cat who live on the edge of a teeny tiny little lagoon which is currently inhabited by a teeny tiny octopus, and their adventures as they try to save their crow friend from the evil clutches of a king who really just wants some delicious pie…

…honestly, at this point, I’m just throwing random gibberish at the wall to see what sticks (I do this a lot, apparently), and unfortunately for me, all of it is sticking. Which means this book is getting oversaturated with absolute nonsense.

Which is, of course, my favorite kind of story.

Sometimes I wonder if I should physically be allowed to write books for kids. After all, I am the one who wrote a whole book with a severed arm which slowly decayed over the course of the entire plot. But then I remember that the minds of kids are far more deep than we give them credit for, and–more often than not–my deepest conversations are held between myself and children over half my age.

Also, what kid doesn’t want to read a rollicking fantasy about a teeny tiny witch who befriends a mismatched-sock-wearing octopus whilst crows get baked into pies?

It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I definitely should be a children’s author. 100% (tell me otherwise and I’ll either cry or stab you with a pitchfork. ye have been warned)

>>> <<<

And that, my friends, are the three main projects that I’m hopefully working on this year! Obviously I’m already working on PROJECT GOBLIN, which, you now, means I’m clearly ahead of schedule and am totally crushing this yearly goal thing….

….

….

lol.

Anyway. There are, of course, some projects I’m working on that were not listed among these, but those will continue to remain slightly secret until I’m more prepared to share them. Which obviously means you will never hear about them ever.

So clearly you should be as excited about them as I currently am. XD

But I digress! I’m extremely excited to dive into these projects, and am even more excited to get them into your hands someday. Eventually I’d love to get to the point where I can throw books at your faces and declare what a pleased novel-mommy I am, but before that can happen, I think I need to … you know … actually write the books.

So please excuse me whilst I go do that. The forests of Inkwell are calling my name, and I must answer.

talk to me, peasants!

what sorts of projects are YOU working on this year? are you someone who typically works on multiple projects at once, or do you prefer to work on a singular project at a time? (and if you DO work on multiple projects at once, how do you juggle them in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming? [this smol writer needs some MASSIVE help. XD])

as always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! and until next time….

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

Another One Bites The Dust

good morning, cyberspace!

Well, here we are! The post you’ve all been waiting for. I hinted last week two weeks ago now (lol, oops) that I had some exciting news to share, and this post right here is the one in which I spill the beans. *rubs hands together gleefully* I may or may not be a little too excited about this…

But anyway! Some of you may already know my news. Some of you may not. I’ve been trying to keep it a secret until this post could come out, but if you’re in my inner writing circle, you proooooobably already know what this is. Maybe. I don’t know for sure. But we’re all here today and I’m ready to finally–officially–announce it to the universe.

So here we go!

Drumroll please…!

Here it comes…!

I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF PROJECT SUNSET!

Oh my goodness. OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I’m actually typing these words right now! But it’s real and it’s true and I finished it! I mean, of course the first draft is kinda … you know … less than ideal. But it’s mine. This tiny child of trash and sunshine is mine, and oh, how I love it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted it to be and so much more. And–not to give spoilers away or anything–the last three chapters that I wrote almost made me cry.

Like actual, eye-burning, cheek-wetting tears. Of course, I was able to suck it up like a man and didn’t actually shed anything, but it was still really weird to have something that I wrote make me tear up. There was one specific moment where I literally shoved my laptop away from me in frustration (not from the writing itself, of course, but an event within the story that was … unexpected), and I’m pretty sure in that moment I realized how horrible of a human I truly am.

i’m sorry, my children…

It was, in a nutshell, an all around strange day.

But I digress! Now that the first draft is done, I’m forced to reflect on this project as a whole, and I just … what a whirlwind this story has been. I first began drafting this book in April of 2019, tried NaNo-ing it in November, scrapped the majority of what I’d written (with the exception of exactly two chapters), and then wrote 90,000 words during quarantine, with 60,000 of that being written in April alone.

Just… *head implodes* This has been a crazy experience. And today I’d like to share some of the whirlwind with you all! (and also some sneaky peeks into the story itself, but SHHHH. that’s a surprise.)

PROJECT SUNSET: THE FIRST DRAFT

37 chapters

125,000 words

much death

Where to begin, where to begin. Project Sunset first came to me on a Saturday morning about two years ago, when I was reading through blog posts and thinking about basically nothing at all. I think that’s when the best ideas come to us, actually. Those spare snatches of time when our brains are filled with a blissful nothingness, perfectly open to whatever random, beautiful ideas may come knocking.

The idea for Project Sunset wasn’t my typical plot bunny, however. It wasn’t a scene or a character. Not a setting, a theme, or even a plot twist. Instead, it was a single, specific sentence. One sentence–a concept, really–so intriguing that the minute it fluttered into my brain, I knew there was no hope of shaking it.

In my experience, there are many forms of plot bunnies. Some of them are “maybes”, some of them “somedays”, and others are bunnies so floofy and smol that you just know this was a book you were always meant to write. It’s like it was designed for you, waiting for you to finally think the right thought to blossom it into existence. That’s what happened with The Dragon Elements. It’s what happened with everlost. And it’s what happened with this particular manuscript, as well. As soon as I had the idea, I knew that this was it. Project Sunset was supposed to be my next novel.

black and white love GIF

As with all things in my life, though, there were many detours along the way to this manuscript’s completion. But now, almost two whole years later, it is here–rough, choppy first draft though it may be. Project Sunset is written, and while I’m sure a road filled with excruciating editing is before me, I’m still so excited to be able to have something to edit. Something hard and concrete–more than just a few blank pages and an idea.

I won’t go into the details of the plot right now. (some things must still remain secret, of course! mwahahaha!) but–as promised–I will be sharing some snippets from the book! (but please keep in mind that this is VERY rough draft material. like, so rough it could probably impale you if you touch it. Ye’ve been warned.)

And for anyone who enjoys playlists, I’ve got one of those coming your way, as well! *thumbs up*

— SNIPPETS —

Ed woke up with a frown on his face. It was there when he first looked in the mirror as he rolled out of bed, there when he got dressed—his green-checked flannel shirt fit a little bit tighter around the middle than he remembered—there when he smoothed back the grey wisps of hair crowning his head, there when he yanked his cane off the hook on the wall and plunked it into the carpet, and there—more pronounced than ever before, shrouded beneath two thick grey eyebrows and one big, bulbous nose—when he finally found himself squished at the rickety table in Setting Suns’ sunlit dining hall between Samuel Plinkett and Eugene Crandall.

As it turned out, Eleanor was not joking about the ice cream. Much to Shelby’s shock and Ed’s very transparent, very audible displeasure, Carlos whipped Stanley’s van into the teeny parking lot of Mel’s Ice Cream Shack, nearly hitting a child on a glistening green tricycle in the process.
The child, quickly attended to by his frantic mother, dropped his baby-sized mint chocolate chip ice cream cone and proceeded to promptly have a temper tantrum right in the middle of the parking lot.
“Nasty kid,” Carlos muttered, jamming the stick into park and dislodging the key from the ignition. “Has no one taught him the rules of the road?”
“He’s three years old, Carlos,” Eugene pointed out from the back seat.
Now that Liam and Beau were absent, everyone fit perfectly on the back bench, and for the whole fifteen minute drive back to the city center, no one bothered to complain about the cramped quarters.
The silence had nearly been deafening.
“And I’d be willing to bet my left foot that he knows more about the rules of driving than you do,” Sam added.
“Your left foot is the one with the fungus, right?” Eugene asked.
“Yep.”

“What are you ladies getting up to over here?” Eugene sidled into the booth beside Shelby, handing her a slightly lopsided Super Mega Chocolate Fountain Sundae with a plastic spoon stuck into the side, its indent already dripping with gooey hot fudge and a few dislodged sprinkles.
Shelby blinked down at the sundae, and her eyes caught on an already scooped out section, where someone had clearly taken a scoop and a bite.
“Hey!” Shelby said. “You ate my ice cream!”
Eugene licked hot fudge off his thumb and bit a section off his mint chocolate chip cone without acknowledging her.
Eleanor and Juanita pulled apart begrudgingly as Sam puddled in beside Eugene, his hands cradled around a massive milkshake in a Styrofoam cup.
“You two look like you’re scheming,” the old man said knowingly, draping his white cane across his knees. He pointed his milkshake towards them, jabbing the straw their way like an extendable finger. “Spill.”
“We’re not scheming anything,” Eleanor answered. “We’re talking. There’s a difference.”
“When two women get to talking, rarely anything good comes out of it,” Sam said, and shot Shelby a wink.

“You can’t just leave me here!” Shelby’s bare feet slapped across the kitchen floor after her brother, but Stanley was doing a fine job of ignoring her. Grabbing his wallet off the counter, he walked out of the kitchen without even bothering to glance her way. “Stanley!”
Stanley sighed—she could see his shoulders rise and fall with it—but even though he spoke, he still didn’t turn to look at her.
Maybe he couldn’t.
“Shells… You know I don’t like being the bad guy, but—”
“I wasn’t just wandering around!” Shelby argued. Plowing forward, she pushed herself in front of him and spun on her heel, forcing him to look at her.
Or, at the very least, to stop walking.
Stanley sighed again, and this time he turned his gaze out the front window. “Those people you were with—”
“They weren’t trying to hurt me!” Shelby insisted. “They were protecting me!”
The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she froze, her teeth chomping down on her bottom lip far too late.
Now she’d done it…
Stanley’s eyes met hers now. The confusion inside of them was tangible. “What?”
“They wouldn’t hurt me,” Shelby repeated, dodging his question. “I know they wouldn’t. They’re kind.”
“How much did you talk to them?” Stanley asked. “Shells, if you told them anything about us—”
“Why are you so concerned about a bunch of old people?” Shelby asked. “You’re always telling me to make friends. I’m just doing what you wanted me to.”
“Yeah, make friends with kids your age, not some crackpot band of old folks rotting away in a nursing home.”
“Retirement village,” Shelby muttered.
“Whatever.” Stanley waved her away. “People were talking about them, Shells. They were telling stories about the strange group at table two, and I just … I don’t want you hanging around with them anymore. I don’t trust them.”

Maria was late. Shelby had time to make popcorn and find the perfect angle of squish from the couch before the doorbell rang.
Tossing a slightly burnt kernel into her mouth, she rolled her eyes. “COME IN!” she screamed, her voice rising above the television, which she’d cranked up to 20. Captain Blade reruns were supposed to be enjoyed at maximum volume—a fact her mother had taught her, and one that Stanley greatly disagreed with.
Why was Maria even bothering to use the doorbell? She was always Shelby’s babysitter—not that she really needed one. Maria was more like a super cool older sister who typically barged right in, throwing assortments of chocolaty snacks and watercolor supplies everywhere with a soft, “Today—we create.” She was an amazing artist, and an even better friend—one who wouldn’t complain that Shelby’s breakfast of choice had been buttered popcorn—so it was no surprise that Stanley had a huge, secret crush on her. Of course, he denied it every time Shelby brought it up, but the beet redness of his cheeks was enough of a tip-off. And why else would he insist on Maria always coming over whenever he left? Shelby was almost twelve. She could totally take care of herself by now.
The doorbell rang again.
“COME IN!” Shelby screamed. This time she was positive her voice exceeded that of Captain Blade, who was mid-battle with a zombie from planet Gorgon. “THE DOOR’S UNLOCKED!”
The doorbell chimed for the third time, and this time Shelby groaned, pulling herself off the couch with some difficulty.
It was rare she was able to find the perfect amount of squish. She’d have to wriggle around for another thirty minutes just to find it again.
Her bare feet padded across the wood floor, and she whipped the door open without thinking to check the front porch first.
“The door was open,” she said, swinging it back so that a warm autumn breeze swept in. “Are your hands full or somethin—”
Shelby stopped short. It wasn’t Maria standing on her front stoop. Short, beautiful Maria with the caramel skin and the hair that always seemed to be changing colors.
It was a man. A tall, thin, horribly familiar looking man.
“Well. I must say I was hoping you would have better manners for someone your age,” Casey said, staring down at her. He was neither smiling nor scowling. It was a sizing-you-up kind of stare.
The kind that made Shelby’s heart drop like a stone.
“You’ve been taking lessons from Sam and Eugene, no doubt.”
Shelby’s fingers tightened against the door, but something kept her from slamming it closed in his face. She was frozen. Completely, utterly frozen.
“Oh, come now, don’t look so frightened,” Casey said cheerfully. His voice was like a strange, methodical coo. “I’m not here to hurt you, my dear. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Shelby’s heart hammered against her ribs, and her eyes flicked out into the street.
Please, please come, Maria. Please, please, please, please…
“That won’t do you any good, Miss Westburn. Let’s just keep this little thing between you and me, yes? We wouldn’t want anything to happen to that special big brother of yours, now would we?”
Shelby’s eyes widened.
Stanley…
“What…” Her voice cracked, and she tried again, forcing her legs to remain steady beneath her. “What do you want from me?”
“Ah, nothing much, my dear. Nothing much at all.” Casey smiled at her now, and the sight was so warm and genuine that it almost had the reverse effect—it was cold and cruel and horrid and welcoming all at once. Slowly, he extended one wrinkled old hand towards her, veins flashing blue beneath the sunlight. “All I ask is that you come with me.”

I can’t remember if I’ve shared the playlist of this book before, but either way, I’m pretty sure there have been some new additions to the lineup. So, here’s the newest version of the Project Sunset playlist! (for all you peeps out there who enjoy listening to music…)

I also have a few songs that are “character specific”, so for anyone who’s into things like that, here are some of the songs which my darling have adopted for their own:

ED – Song for Ten

SHELBY – Song for Sienna

EUGENE – Honeycomb

LIAM – Time Warp

CARLOS AND JUANITA – Sway

CASEY – Who Wants To Live Forever

SAM – The Show Must Go On

>>> <<<

Obviously I’ve left out some major factors of this book. The plot is still something that I’ve been meaning to tweak, the characters are still going by their pseudonyms rather than their actual titles, and there is–I’m not going to lie–something rather obvious that I’m not ready to share yet. But I’m so beyond excited to share this story with you all someday–because I WILL share the entirety of this story with you all someday–and when that time comes, I can’t wait to spill every single bean I’ve been collecting over the course of the past two years.

For today, however, I hope this is enough to tithe you over until the book is a little more polished and “shareable”!

>>> <<<

talk to me, peasants!

  • Do you have any questions about Project Sunset? I can’t promise I’ll share ALL of the gory details, but I’m definitely open to answering any non-spoilery things!
  • How long does it typically take you to finish a first draft?
  • How long do you wait after finishing a first draft to dive into edits? I’m thinking I’m going to wait at least three months for this one, but I’m not entirely sure yet. (I may or may not have a smol goblin story that I want to write next, so we’ll see if that happens or not!)
  • Is there a particular character you would like to see interviewed for a sort of celebratory interview post? I’m open to anyone as long as we don’t pit Sam and Eugene together again. I don’t think I can handle that right now. XD

And most importantly…

WHICH SNIPPET WAS YOUR FAVORITE?

Assuming, of course, that you had a favorite. XD

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…

Kenzie’s Chaotic Return To The Blogosphere!: Ft. Where I’ve Been & What’s To Come

good morning, cyberspace!

*crashes through brick wall*

*skids to a halt*

*whips pitchfork onto the sofa*

I’M BACK, PEASANTS! Didja miss me? Didja not even notice I was gone? Do you wish that I would stay away for the next three thousand years and ne’er return because I am an amorphic blob of a mess who needs continual emotional support?

actually, don’t answer that.

Anyway, anyway. I am officially back, and it feels so so so SO good to finally be posting again! I mean, I realize I was only gone for a total of two weeks, but this past two weeks has been interesting, my friends. I broke a ukulele string (the horror), had a pre-midlife-crisis, and also started drafting a super secret project which I’m super secretly excited about! (shhhhh. it’s a secret. [but also more on this in a moment.])

I’m also still in quarantine. Which–I’ll be honest–is kind of making me lose my mind at this point. I COULD go over to the calendar and count how many days I’ve been in quarantine–I vividly remember my last normal day outside–but I’m pretty sure in doing so I will literally lose my mind. SO. We shall refrain from counting the days and instead focus on the fact that–with any luck–quarantine for my state will soon be over.

Hopefully.

Probably.

Please get me out of here. . . .

. . .moving on.

Seeing as though we are now halfway through May (excuse me, yes, I would like a refund on the year 2020, please. . .), I thought it would be fun to not only look back and reflect on the past two weeks of my absence, but also on the past four months.

If y’all remember, I made a list at the beginning of the year of all my super mega awesome goals for 2020. This post–alongside a giant, totally-doable timetable, also outlined a step-by-step plan that I fondly called The Four Month Fandangle Fantastic.

i am also beginning to deeply regret this name, so let’s just ignore that for now. XD

This plan was to ensure that I kept my aforementioned “totally doable” goals within check all throughout the year, and since we’ve just stepped across that first four-month threshold, I think now is the perfect time to take a peek back at that list and see how we’re doing!

And also make some much-needed revisions, because goodness knows we’re gonna need it.Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO CONTINUES!: Episode V (and a half) – Wordcounts and Laptops

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

Today I’m popping in to say that I really don’t have a blog post this week.

. . .which is kinda weird, since I’m technically posting this as a blog post, but . . . you know. Ignore that oxymoron.

Basically, I’ve been really enveloped in my Camp NaNoWriMo story, Project Sunset, and haven’t exactly made the effort to carve out any of my writing time for blogging. I could say that I deeply regret this decision, but honestly? The fact that I’m so in love with my book is a wave that I’m going to ride for as long as I possibly can, because soon enough I’ll be absolutely dreading even trying to write a single word. And at that point, I’ll probably bust back into the blogosphere with all the force of a thousand suns.

(oh, look at that. I’m finally beginning to understand my own brain! hallelujah.)

So instead of an actual blog post this week, I thought I’d just bullet-point a few highlights from the past week of NaNo!!! Because that’s both simple AND recap-ish! It’s a win-win situation, amiright?

*claps hands together* Let’s go!Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO CONTINUES!: Episode V – Weeks 1 & 2 (and LIVESREAM NEWS!)

First thing’s first, before we pop into the main topic of today’s blog–I HAVE SOME SUPER IMPORTANT LIVESTREAM NEWS!!!

Today (April 18th), Phoebe, Ally, and I are going live over on Ally’s Youtube channel (The Nature of Pages) for our second ever Plots & Plans livestream!!! We’re going to be talking about writing and Camp and hosting writing sprints, so if you want to come and join the fun, come join us at 3 pm EDT right HERE! (please come. I’ll give you cookies!!)

. . .and now back to your regularly scheduled programming. . .

Blog Divider

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

This blog post is late. Obviously. You can probably tell that by the slapped together graphic and the fact that it was NOT released on Tuesday morning. Which, despite the fact that I pretty much never post on a Tuesday morning anymore, is actually my reserved posting time.

But I digress.

Truth is, this post is late in going up because I have been reading. And also writing. A lot. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve become so infused with fictional realms that I’m really quite astounded I haven’t dissolved into a flurry of paper and ink by now. (there’s still a potential this will happen soon, so if I spontaneously disappear from the internet, YA KNOW WHY.)

But all this writing and reading and very-much-not-being-here has a very simple explanation, and I’m sure you all know what it is.

CAMP NANOWRIMO. It’s in full-swing, folks. We’re officially two three? who even knows anymore weeks in. And holy guacamole, my friends, have I been writing a book.Read More »