The In-Between of Publishing

good morning, cyberspace!

Lately I’ve been suffering from a conundrum. Of course, you could probably say that I’m suffering from a conundrum every single day of my life–“what am I?” “what is the meaning of life?” *indefinite existential crisis*–but this particular conundrum is one that I’ve been suffering through for a while now, and therefore I no longer know the correct way to battle it.

So, because everything seems to become clearer when I put my fingers to the keys and type, I’ve decided to write a blog post about it. Because maybe then I can finally understand what is happening inside my head, you know?

The focus of this post may be a little bit messy. (apologies in advance for that. i know how much you guys love my totally professional blogging style. [*awkward cough*]). I’ll do my best to clean it up and form a concise theme once I’m done spewing out the first draft of whatever this turns into, but this is just your friendly neighborhood warning: here there be rambles.

Still with me? Wonderful. Tally ho, soldier.

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Good Morning, May!: recaps & what lies ahead

good morning, cyberspace!

It is officially May, my peasants! Goodness gracious, this year is tripping by fast. Camp NaNoWriMo, especially, slipped through my fingers before I could fully get a handle on it. But if I’m being honest, April was so refreshing. There was a restoration within it that I wasn’t expecting, but was oh so needed. I’m actually genuinely excited to see where this new month takes me, which was NOT how I was feeling about four months ago. XD

April was truly a blessing to me. May, on the other hand… well, we’ll get into that in a moment. *insert nervous laughter*

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Good Morning Month post ’round here, so please bear with me, friends! I have a feeling a lot of this is going to be slapped together with sticky tape and pixie dust, but the main goal is to give you all a brief little peak into what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been, where we’re going, and–most importantly–how Camp NaNoWriMo, 2022 went!

onwards and upwards…!

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CAMP NANOWRIMO: A BRIEF RECAP

PROJECT SUNSET – 30,000 WORDS

My goal for PROJECT SUNSET was 30,000 words for the month of May. This… unfortunately did not happen. Aha. However, I did manage to revise 11,000 words of the project! Which, personally, feels like a rather large accomplishment for me. Especially considering the fact that I’m doing a very deep, very gritty revision of this book. I’m sure other writers could whip through this much faster than I, but I’m trying to remind myself that in regards to revision and plot dynamic, I’m still a relatively green creature. Some things can only be learned through time and patience, and I am of the stout mind that revision–good revision–is one of these things.

Not gonna lie, even though I didn’t hit my word count for this book during the month of April, I still took a small break from writing after Camp. I had every intention of keeping the momentum moving between months, but–as we will discuss momentarily–May had other plans for me. *nervous laughter intensifies* I’m starting to ease myself back into it all, though, and though the chapter I’m currently working on is a hot mess and a half, I’m still very excited for where I know this story will eventually lead! I just need to grasp the enthusiasm for gritty revision first, I guess. XD

Oh! Abd I have also created a new deadline for this book since I’ve completely blown past the first three I’ve made, but we don’t talk about Bruno that.

THE WORST PROJECT – 5,000 WORDS

My second goal for the month was to work on THE WORST PROJECT. Unfortunately, due to conflicting schedules between me and my co-conspirator for this project, we weren’t able to work on it at all in April. However, I’m super hopeful that we’ll get to find the time to do so sometime soon! This project is going to be such a weird, quirky little thing to create. I can’t wait for y’all to see more of it!

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WHAT’S UP, MAY?

In a nutshell, Camp NaNoWriMo could have been a bigger success. There were definitely some days (and some nights!) where I could have chosen to write and didn’t. There were moments where I picked books and movies and less “brain-intense” methods of passing the time. But at the end of the day, I’d consider this yet another successful Camp in the books. It was fun. It was leisurely. And it was just the right dose of chaotic playfulness that I needed after the first few stress-intense months that 2022 threw my way! And at the end of it all, I have some happy, deeply revised words in my pockets!

I’m still nowhere near done with completing PROJECT SUNSET. There’s so much work ahead that sometimes, if I think about it for too long, it becomes slightly discouraging. But I knew this project would be an undertaking when I accepted it. I knew what lay ahead of me, and I’m not planning on backing down any time soon. Despite the frustration of plot holes and character development and all the beautiful things that happen in revision, despite the fact that deadlines have been pushed (and pushed again), despite my fear that I might be nothing more than twenty frauds in a trench coat, the hope still stands: I will complete this book. And it will be my beautiful, disastrous mess.

And oh, how I will love it.

That being said, the month of May will not be a strong writing month for me–however very desperately I would like it to be. The coffee shop is in a heavy hiring period right now as we prepare for summer, which means a heavy training period, which means a slightly exhausted Kenzie as she struggles to balance it all. But the more balls thrown at me, the more I learn how to juggle them, and at the end of the day, I think I’m doing okay!

*massive explosions in the background*

Please ignore that.

So what is the plan for May, you ask? Honestly, other than simply surviving, I’m not entirely sure there’s much of a plan. As we teeter on the precipice of summer, I feel the best thing for both myself and this story is to just take it slow and steady. It may not be a wild burst of productivity every day, but I can easily write 300 words! And after a month of consistent 300 word chunks, perhaps June will see some actual progress. *crosses fingers and eyes and toes*

So yeah! That’s my plan for May! Survive. Have fun. Read good books and write good words. Take tiny adventures here and there. I just want to enjoy this summer, you know? This is the only May this year will ever have, and I want to make it a good one.

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talk to me, peasants!

So tell me!: what are YOUR plans for May? Are you writing anything special? Finishing school? Discovering any new favorite authors? Tell me all the many things you’ve been up to, friends! And also your plans. Because those are also fun. XD

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

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2022 – In Which I Will Most Certainly Regret This

good morning, cyberspace!

Camp NaNoWriMo is back, peasants!

I’m a sucker for a good April Camp NaNoWriMo session, and I could not be more excited for the projects I’ve decided to tackle next month! It’s going to be a highly chaotic adventure filled with words and characters and ALL of the storytelling goodness, and I am very very excited to bring you all along for the ride! I will also most certainly regret biting off this much, but ya know. It’s all part of the journey, right? XD

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Behind The Scenes of Project Sunset – Writing is Rewriting is Rewriting is Rewriting…

good evening, cyberspace!

*cough cough* Please excuse the construction dust around here, friends! I’ve been reformatting some of this blog’s old pages and behind-the-scenes features, so while things might not look too awful different… there are definitely some new things happening here at the Smudged Thoughts headquarters…

One of which being the revival of the writing update series that I created approximately 3,000 years ago and then promptly forgot about! As one does, naturally.

look, I never said I was perfect, okay XD *kicks the amount of times I’ve called myself flawless under the carpet*

Anyway, back when this series first aired, I named it WIP It–a title I have since come to deeply regret. XD I’m still not sure exactly what I’d like to call this series–or how often I’ll even update this–but for right now I’m calling it “Behind The Scenes”. Because it’s… behind the scenes… of the book I’m writing… aha….

(by now it must be obvious that I have no clue what I’m doing.)

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NANOWRIMO, 2021: The Final Stretch

good morning, cyberspace!

Well, friends, we made it! it’s officially December, and NaNoWriMo is behind us once and for all. In case you didn’t notice, I kind of disappeared halfway through the month, but this was less because I didn’t feel mentally capable of writing blog posts, and more the fact that every spare moment I had to write, I was working on my book.

Because by golly, my friends, I was determined to win this NaNoWriMo. Sometimes, however, things don’t go accordingly to plan. Like here. Or right here. Or… ya know, in 2020 when I also failed NaNoWriMo but was wise enough to not document the crippling disappointment. I feel like a constant theme in my life lately is God stabbing a stick of dynamite into my plans before whispering, “Wait. I have something even better planned.”

Except I’m still not sure what that ‘something better’ is, and–though I truly believe He’s right with my whole heart–it’s starting to feel a little bit like clickbait. XD

So when I started off on this NaNoWriMo 2021 journey, I wasn’t holding out that much hope. 15 revised chapters in 30 days certainly seemed like an achievable goal. It sounded easy. But not everything that sounds easy is easy, and nothing is truly quite how it seems.

Which is why I wanted to take this first post of December to recap on what, exactly, happened during those final two weeks of NaNoWriMo.

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NaNoWriMo, 2021 – The First Week

happy november, cyberspace!

I was going to do a whole introduction post for the first day of NaNoWriMo last week, but alas alack, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

Whoopsies Oops GIF

The past two weeks have been silent here on my end of the blogosphere, but let me tell ya, folks: that time away was used for some much-needed rest. I have exactly 0 regrets. XD I’ve definitely missed being present on the blogs, though, and now that I’m back, I thought it would be fun to jump back in with a Weekly NaNoWriMo Recap! It’s crazy to think that we’re already a solid week into November, but I guess time truly does fly when you’re having fun! *awkward laughter*

Let’s take a look at the first week of NaNo, shall we?

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PREPTOBER 2021 – Behind The Scenes of The Project Sunset Playlist

good morning, cyberspace!

And welcome back to the 2021 Preptober series! Today’s post is a little more on the lighteared and fun side, which I feel provides a nice little relief from the nitty gritty topics we discussed last week. This particular idea wasn’t voted on too heavily during the Instagram polls, but some of y’all really wanted to see what I had up my sleeve in regards to my Spotify playlists! And who am I to tell you no? If it’s behind-the-scenes content you want, it is behind-the-scenes content you are going to get!

So without further ado, let’s dive into my playlist for Project Sunset!

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BEHIND THE SCENES OF PROJECT SUNSET – THE PLAYLIST

Not gonna lie, this playlist was one of the highlights of drafting Project Sunset. I absolutely adore creating playlists, specifically ones with themes or inspiration for character casts, and this one is by no means an exception. The creation process of this playlist was a labor of pure and intense love, and I am so excited and proud of how it turned out. (and since we’re only just beginning the second draft, I have a feeling it’s only going to grow as time progresses.) However, since this is a Behind The Scenes sort of deal, I feel it is not only necessary, but my duty to share the nitty gritty details behind some of the song selections. Because there is a LOT of thought that goes into choosing a song for a story playlist, my friends. A lot of thought.

And at the forefront of my mind at all times, no matter what song I’m listening to, there are the characters.

I’ve mentioned multiple times that I’m a character-driven writer, so it’s by no means a surprise when I say that my playlists are typically driven by my characters, as well! One of my favorite things to do when learning the “voice” behind the cast of my novels is to find songs that perfectly match their unique personality. And since Project Sunset has so many characters, I have quite a few songs that are character specific.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE CHARACTERS

ED WHITTAKER

As the Main Main character of Project Sunset, Ed Whittaker’s main theme is technically double-sided. Not only is it his theme, but it’s the Main Theme for the entire novel as a whole! He also has two theme songs in particular, whereas the majority of other characters only have one–thus is the curse of being a side character.

behind the scenes: this is Ed’s Main Theme song, and also one of the very first songs I chose for this playlist! When drafting the first scene of the novel, Song For Ten was the track I listened to in order to orient myself into what I wanted the vibe of the book to be. I still use it to reorient myself into the novel, even, and when I switch over to re-outlining later today, this will be the first song I play before working on my outline.
behind the scenes: this particular song has a very specific part to play in the story of Project Sunset, and I have listened to this track a LOT during the first drafting process! There’s something about the guitar in this song that gets me every time. XD

SHELBY WESTBURN

As the other main character of Project Sunset, Shelby’s theme song is, once again, directly integrated into the plot. I discovered her song while listening to Pandora one day, and it immediately stuck in my head. I knew that it would play during a pivotal scene for Shelby (one that I had planned since the very inception of this novel), but trying to find the song after it stopped playing on our Alexa was nothing short of a nightmare. (curse you, lyric-less music XD)

behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the scene this song was chosen for may or may not have brought tears to my eyes when I drafted it. I’m… not exactly excited to get back to it during the second-drafting process. (even I’m not proud of my Vulcan soul sometimes, friends.)

LIAM FITZ

Not necessarily a Main Character, but still one of my favorites–Fitz’s theme song is one that I still jam out to to this very day… I even went so far as to add it to my work playlist so that all of my coworkers could jam with me. (it’s fine. they love me. kinda.)

behind the scenes: I actually used to HATE this song, and I’m not entirely sure why. Thankfully, I wizened up, because holy guacamole, this song is a bop. Now I can’t help but think of Fitz every time I hear it, and it makes my heart weirdly happy. Any day where Fitz pops into my head, I know it’s gonna be a good one.

CARLOS & JUANITA GUTIERREZ

Not gonna lie, these guys impacted the playlist a LOT. XD Carlos and Juanita love music–particularly songs they can dance to–and there are at least two or three songs on this playlist that they directly influenced due to their passion for dance. However, the song that I’ve chosen to highlight was their “first dance”, if you will. It was also my initiation into actually enjoying some of Michael Buble’s music, which I still blame Carlos and Juanita for to this very day.

behind the scenes: this song is what I envision to be playing in the very first scene in which Carlos and Juanita are introduced. It makes my heart happy to listen to this song now, because all I can see are these two characters being absolute goofballs. (also, a bit of a side tangent, but one time I was working at my old thrift store job, and a guy with the same last name as these characters came through my checkout line. I was so excited I might have fangirled for a moment…and then they never came back.)

BONUS TRACK!

behind the scenes: Another song that is specifically Carlos and Juanita! This song used to come on ALL THE TIME at the thrift store, and I would dance through the aisles, hanging up clothes and trying not to look like the delusional psychopath that I definitely am.

EUGENE CRANDALL

To be honest, this guy is such a minor character that he probably shouldn’t even have his own theme song. But one day my mom started playing this randomly during dinner and… well, honestly the rest is history.

behind the scenes: to be perfectly honest, I have no clue why this song reminds me of Eugene, but if you know the character and his personality… it just… it just makes sense, okay. Trust my word on this one. XD

SAM PLINKETT

Similar to Eugene, this is another minor character who somehow managed to get his own theme song! I can’t really complain, though, because Sam was one of my favorite characters to write during this first draft. He was unpredictable and chaotic, but with a soft heart of gold that made my own Vulcan soul melt. If I’m excited about anything when it comes to this novel, it’s for you guys to meet Sam Plinkett.

behind the scenes: I first heard this song on The Blacklist, which is–oddly enough–where a few of the songs on this playlist came from. XD (tbh, The Blacklist had a BOP of a playlist, so if you haven’t checked that show’s soundtrack out yet, I highly recommend it.) It wasn’t until much later that this song would appear on this playlist, but I love that about music. It’s eternal, in a way, and sometimes the songs you heard a year ago won’t click until they’re meant to.

CASEY CRAWFORD

And last, but certainly not the least, on the flipside to Ed, we have our antagonist–Casey Crawford. And if Ed, our hero, has two songs dedicated in his honor, it only makes sense for the villain to have two songs, as well.

Parallels between Good and Evil and all that.

And that, my friends, is exactly why Casey has two songs! (that, and two songs claimed him organically, so it only made sense to feature both) The songs I chose for Casey are not only ballads, but by one of the greatest musical artists of our time… The man. The myth. The legend. Scott Sterling! Freddie Mercury.

behind the scenes: I’ve always loved Queen, but it wasn’t until Project Sunset that I was finally able to give one of my villains the Queen ballad that they truly deserved. XD I don’t know what it is about this band, but there is ALWAYS a Queen song on each of my story playlists. Always. It literally makes no sense.
behind the scenes: not to give away any spoilers or anything, but the selection of this song was pure genius on my part. Once you know, you know.

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THE SONGS BEHIND THE BOOK

Despite the fact that there are about a gazillion characters in Project Sunset, not all of the songs on my playlist have a specific character to correspond with. Sometimes, a song makes it through simply because it matches the vibe of the book–that particular blend of guitar riffs and vocals that takes you away from this mortal plane and deposits you swiftly into the world of your story.

So while the next few song highlights may not be driven by any character in particular, they are still driven by the story as a whole, and without them, I could never have captured the sound of Project Sunset.

behind the scenes: once again, this song was added very early on when creating the playlist. I knew right away that I wanted Istanbul to be a main staple for this book, and this song along got me through many a tough scene when first drafting.
behind the scenes: if you’ve ever watched a movie in which this song played, you will know the impact it can have during a critical scene. I don’t pride myself on my action/fight scenes. In fact, I think they’re one of my greatest weaknesses as a writer. But this song pushed me through the difficult battles and helped me keep writing, even when my brain was screaming at me to quit and become a goat herder.
behind the scenes: …yeah. I got a lot of my music from The Umbrella Academy. I mean, can you BLAME me? XD That soundtrack was a BOP. But also, I’m just eternally in love with Fitz and The Tantrums. They’re incredible, and they’re music has been used in many of my playlists–both writing and personal.
behind the scenes: I have used this song in almost every single project playlist I have ever made. There’s something about the vibe of this song that just screams “found family”, and I’ve been in love with this track ever since the days of everlost.
behind the scenes: not gonna lie, the only reason I’m including this song is because it reminds me of my one eternal love, Jim Moriarty. That’s it. That’s the Behind The Scenes information. XD

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THE PLAYLIST

And lastly, in case you just wanted to take a peek at the playlist as a whole and listen to it for yourself, I’ve included the entire thing right here for easy access!

Of course, please keep in mind that this playlist is still very much a work in progress, and I’m constantly adding and removing tracks as I see fit. Some songs help me write for a little while before I realize they don’t match the specific vibe I’m going for, and then I’m forced to remove them to make room for the tracks which do fit the vibe. But all in all, this playlist has been–and will continue to be–my constant companion when drafting Project Sunset. And as I prepare to head into this story’s second draft, I expect it to continue morphing and changing with the theme of the story.

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talk to me, peasants!

Okay, y’all! It’s time to talk about one of my favorite topics–MUSIC!

do you create specific project playlists for your stories, or do you prefer to work in silence? if you’re a music listener, what kinds of songs do you typically listen to when writing? and for my non-music friends, do you create playlists to listen to when you’re NOT writing, or do you prefer other methods of inspitation–such as pinterest or aesthetic boards?

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below!

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

PREPTOBER 2021 – My NaNoWriMo Survival Kit: Rebel Edition

good morning, cyberspace!

It’s that time of year again, folks! NaNoWriMo is on its way, and for our first Preptober 2021 post, we’re bringing back a yearly tradition! That’s right! It’s time for this year’s NaNoWriMo Survival Kit: Rebel Edition!

honestly the only reason I’m claiming my rebel title this year is because it reminds me of the Rebel Alliance. do NOT judge me. XD

This year’s survival kit is a wee bit different than years’ past since I’m revising a novel rather than first drafting it, but there are definitely some familiar staples I’ve included! Also, I’ve been trying to fit most of this stuff into my writing bag, and it’s… kinda chunky at this point? Almost back-breaker level chunky. I definitely will not have a hunch by the time this NaNoWriMo is over from hauling this guy all over the place. Absolutely not.

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The Book Behind The Blog

good morning, cyberspace!

Okay, friends, I have a solid question: how on earth are we already in the final stretch of August? I feel like August started just yesterday, and then suddenly I blink and… POOF. We’re already so close to September? Somehow I feel like this shouldn’t be so. (someone grab the TVA because I sense a break in the sacred timeline over here…)

Ahem. Anyway. As promised, I still have so much that I want to talk about during my Blogiversary month, and I figured that with just one more Tuesday left in August, now was as good a time as any to get those posts drafted up and sent out into the blogosphere.

Today’s post, in particular, is one that is very near and dear my heart, because it deals with the book which essentially started this very blog that you’re reading right now. The funny thing, though, is that on this very date five years ago, I didn’t even know this book existed.

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Camp NaNoWriMo 2021 – Week 3 (?): lol, idk what’s happening at this point

good morning, cyberspace, and welcome to Kenzie has a slight mental breakdown but it’s fine because Camp NaNoWriMo is supposed to be FUN!

This is my favorite time of year, guys. Absolutely. Literally nothing has been going wrong the past two weeks and I am THRIVING! *nervous laughter intensifies*

Ahah…. Okay, let’s just get to the stats, shall we?

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CAMP NANOWRIMO WEEKS 3 — THE STATS

CURRENT WORD COUNT — 10,467
REVISED WORD GOAL — 33,000
WORDS BEHIND ORIGINAL GOAL — 39,533
WORDS BEHIND SECONDARY GOAL— 22,533
WORDS PER DAY TO CATCH UP — 3,756
PROBABILITY OF THIS HAPPENING — 0.002%

Ahem… Well. As you can see from the above statistics … it is highly unlikely that I’m going to win Camp NaNoWriMo with these goals. XD Which, you know, is kinda disappointing, I’ll admit. But I’ve made peace with the disappointment and have decided that, while I could choose to beat myself up over this most unfortunate circumstance, I’d rather embrace it, instead! Why? Because throughout this crazy month of complete and utter chaos, I’ve also rediscovered three invaluable truths about my creative process–truths which have provided more creative momentum for me in the past week than I’ve had in the past six months.

What are these truths, you may be wondering? I’m so glad you asked. XD

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KENZIE’S FIELD GUIDE TO CHAOTIC CREATIVITY

RULE ONE — goals are good. adjusting your goals once they become problematic is better.

I did this once already this month when I dropped my initial goal of 50,000 words down to 33,000. Obviously at the time I thought this would be sufficient enough, but it has since come to my attention that this is STILL too big of a chunk for this month. So, in the vein of acknowledging this season of writing I’m in and being kind to myself, I’ve decided to drop my goal once again to a grand total of 22,000 words!

(there actually is a solid reason for 22,000 words, but that will probably become more apparent next month. so. just go with it for now. XD)

Am I sad that I won’t be hitting 50k by the end of July? Yes. But am I going to consider myself a failure for not meeting it? Nope! This is a very strange, malleable time of life for me, and I’m choosing to enjoy the process rather than burn myself out over deadlines.

RULE TWO — words don’t get written unless you write them

This one sounds so blatantly obvious, but like … it’s true. XD I tend to think that procrastinating my writing till the very last dregs of the day is going to be enough for me to hit my word goals of 1,000 to 2,000 words, but trust me when I say that this RARELY. EVER. WORKS.

Writing takes time. Time takes dedication. Dedication means prioritizing, making a plan and sticking to it, and finding a writing routine that WORKS.

For the longest time, I didn’t have a writing routine. I just let myself write whenever I found a spare moment, which meant there was never much structure to the way I did things. I’ve always prided myself on my “chaotic energy”, but something I’ve learned this month? You can still be chaotic within structure. In fact, it’s 100% more fun to do it that way, because you actually get things DONE.

Which is, you know, more than I can say for the way I did things a month ago. XD

RULE THREE — it’s okay for your process to change

I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t really like change all that much. It scares me. Makes me queasy. I like things to be easily understood and quickly accomplished, and anything that requires blind trust and shaky footsteps into the unknown is certain to make me scream. But just as I’m learning that it’s okay to give yourself grace when you fail, I’m also learning that change is a good thing. Change is progress.

Change is what makes us grow.

And though it TERRIFIES me that my writing process–and even my writing style?–has begun to change, I know that there is growth within the change. I’m learning. I’m experimenting. I’m creating. And that’s okay.

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At the end of the day, this session of Camp NaNoWriMo has–once more–gone nothing according to plan. My commitment wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, I chose to spend time away from the screen in favor of reading good books and spending time out in the real world, and while I know that’s a solid part of being a writer and prioritization, it still hurts to know that once again I’ve managed to put all my grandiose plans to flame. But you know what, friends? There’s always a gleaming light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope that says “there’s another chance to try again, my dear”. And that gleaming light, that glimmer of hope … it’s called November. *manic laughter intensiFIES*

Evil Laugh GIF

also yes this blog post is completely all over the place because I have a RESCUE MISSION TO WRITE, FRIENDS. brb gotta go bust a scarecrow, wizard, enchanted enchantress, and not one, but TWO little girls out of a goblin king’s castle. it’s fine. everything is fine.

talk to me, peasants!

for all my fellow NaNo participants out there: how is YOUR camp going? are you crushing your goals like the good little goal crusher that you are, or is the writing coming a little bit slower than you would have liked? either way, you are doing FANTASTICALLY and I have cookies for you over on the side-table. (grab one on the way out, won’t you?)

for those NOT doing NaNo: how has your month been so far? reading any good books? going on any fun adventures?

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 *