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 *

Camp NaNoWriMo 2021: Take Two (in which Kenzie writes a book)

good morning, cyberspace!

It’s no secret that I didn’t win April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. Or the NaNoWriMo before that. Or, dare I say it, the NaNoWriMo before that. (actually, I might have won that one? It was during quarantine, and I’m pretty sure I won. but anyway, back to my obviously important point.) Lately it would seem as though my NaNoWriMo success rate has been anything less than resplendent, and it’s come to the point where I’m almost too scared to participate, because I know there is a very likely chance that I will not come through on the other side victorious.

However, despite the little voice in my head telling me I should think about simply skipping this year’s second session of Camp NaNoWriMo in pursuit of a simpler, less stressful time, I’ve decided to go full gung-ho and dive headfirst into a chaotic summer of epic disaster!

…aka, I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month, peasants!

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CAMP NANOWRIMO 2021: TAKE TWO (in which Kenzie writes a book)

I know I should probably be dreading this, seeing as though my last few attempts at doing the NaNo were rather sad. But I’m honestly just so excited to dive back into this community. There was a time in my life when I was a constant lurker in the NaNo forums, when any conversation pertaining to me was nary without the mention of NaNoWriMo at least once. Or twice. Or three times. Usually within a single sentence. XD

And as I grow older and my NaNo track record decreases, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe I’m just getting too old for NaNoWriMo. Perhaps I’ve become one of those writers who’s too “seasoned” to participate in something as frivolous as a crazy writing month filled with intense word counts and an even more intense sleep schedule. (or, should I say, nonexistent sleep schedule, amiright? Ah? Ah? distant sobbing) But then I take a closer look at where these thoughts are coming from, and I realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with age or skill at all—I’m simply not putting my all into it as I used to.

It’s not something anyone likes to admit, but I’m sitting here today and putting these words down because they need to be said: the past few times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo, I’ve allowed myself to be buffeted by all that life has to throw at me and have let my writing fall by the wayside.

And that’s not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing! Life is important, and obviously I want to experience as much of it as this world has to offer. But I also want to write my books and share them with the world, and the only way that’s ever going to happen is if I have the courage to sit down and put words to the page, no matter how scary that prospect may seem.

So today, I am throwing all caution to the wind and shouting into the grand void that I WILL be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month! And—yes, I’m going to say it—I’m going to win.

Obviously I wrote a whole blog post about how I was going to win April’s Camp back in March, but … yeah. That didn’t work out too well, did it. XD Ah well. This time around, I don’t have anything fancy to share with you all. No great tips or tricks for defeating writer’s block. No special hats or survival kits or playlists. This time, all I have is me, a notebook, a pen, my laptop, and a story that I desperately want to get written. And chances are, the draft I crank out over the next couple months will be nothing like the story I eventually want to share with you all. But I’m getting the skeleton down. I’m figuring it out the only way I know how—by experimentation—and that, my friends, is an exciting adventure in and of itself. Future Kenzie may have a beast of a time trying to edit this monster, but Present Kenzie is going to enjoy herself to the highest extreme during this drafting process!

THE GOAL

As of right now, Project Goblin is sitting at a very sad 30,000 words. I promised myself I wouldn’t share any of my deadline goals here on the blog (you know, since I’m absolute garbage at actually following them once written), but I will say that at this current word count, I’m very, very far behind on where I wanted to be in this draft. I had a very solid word goal established for the end of June, but due to some unprecedented events and one too many days I let slip by without even trying to put pen to paper, I’m sorry to admit that it will take nothing short of a miracle for me to catch up to my final deadline.

That is, unless I’m able to write 50,000 words next month.

Some might call it idiocy to try and reach this goal. Some might call it madness. I prefer to call it a dash of optimism with a touch of insanity.

Under normal circumstances, I would take a moment to stop and think about the fact that my day-job is about to get a little bit more complicated and demanding (yay, promotions!) and do I REALLY want to tackle such a large commitment right through the thick of that? I would also sit myself down and say, “Kenzie. You do realize that trying to pump 50,000 words out within a single month is going to drain you both creatively and mentally, right? You do realize this is going to be VERY BAD for your mental health…right?” But to be honest, I feel exceptionally good about this very abrupt change of plans. I’m excited to push myself (healthily!) and see where I end up. I’m eagerto test my limits and see just how far I can go without falling.

I have no interest in hurting myself, of course, but if writing is something that I want to do full-time in the not-so-near future, then I have to take the baby steps to get there today. And those baby steps include fitting my writing life into my everyday living—not the other way around.

Of course, I’m not ignoring the fact that we are entering what is—by nature—one of the busiest months of summer (for me). But due to some unforeseen recent events (which I’m definitely not going to complain about), this month isn’t going to be near as busy as it normally is! Most of the events I participate in during the month of July have either been canceled or … I’m just not doing them. XD So aside from a road trip (more on that in the future, hopefully!), this month is wide open for ALL OF THE CREATIVE ENDEAVORS! And that is a very freeing sort of feeling, my friends.

THE PROJECT

I’ve already mentioned this above, but the project I’ll be working on this month is the first draft of Project Goblin! …..still. To be honest, I thought the first draft of this book would be finished by now, but alas. I guess my timeline was a little bit off.

I will say that while I’m definitely not trying to rush this drafting process, there are many other projects on my radar for 2021 which I’m very eager to get to (one of them being an editing project, which is extremely exciting!), and if I’m going to stay on track with my gameplan for those projects, Project Goblin’s gotta hurry up and get a move on. XD Normally I wouldn’t care so much, but the editing project has a very, very hard deadline, and I … well. Let’s just say that if I’m unable to complete the first draft of Project Goblin by August, it’s going to have to take a pause whether it likes it or not.

Also, I’m sure none of you are wondering this, but I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I want to try and blog during this crazy intense month of drafting. Every single time I participate in NaNo, I say that I’m going to blog through it. But then that sort of falls by the wayside (along with my project), and essentially I accomplish none of the things I said I wanted to accomplish. However, after much thought, I’ve decided to try this one more time.

As far as I’m able, I would really really like to blog during Camp NaNoWriMo! I’m not sure if it’s actually going to happen or not, but we shall see! It’s definitely on my radar of things I’d like to do, and even if it’s only weekly updates that take literally two seconds to slap together, I still want to maintain a presence during July. (you know. especially since I’ve been MIA for the past couple weeks. XD)

However, please do not be shocked if it turns out I’m unable to hold up to this. I have literally no clue what sorts of things July may hold, and because of that, I can’t promise that blogging is going to take a high priority. My first and foremost priority this month is drafting Project Goblin. After that … well, honestly I don’t really know. XD

But rest assured that whether or not I’m lurking around the blogosphere this month, there WILL be blog posts in August, and—if all goes according to plan—something very, VERY exciting happening that month, as well! (mwahahahahahahahahahaha!)

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talk to me, peasants!

Is anyone else participating in Camp NaNo next month??? If so, I’m actually using the website again this time around (I haven’t been using it previously, and the struggle is REAL), so please come and friend me! Also tell me what kind of project you’ll be working on, and whether or not you’ll be blogging during Camp! I want to hear about ALL of the fun creative things you’ve got planned this summer!

And as always, until next time …

* flings cookies in the air and disappears *

Life & Other Disasters! – an update

good morning, cyberspace!

So! Some of you might have noticed that I have not posted for a couple weeks. This was in no way supposed to happen, and I am really quite sorry that it did. However, as I am sure you will come to see in the next few paragraphs, life has been a little funky lately, friends. XD It’s in no way a bad thing–actually, two out of the three major circumstances are really quite good! But as it is, sometimes life prevents us from doing the things which we love.

Fortunately, the things we love have a way of sticking around until we can make it back to them.

So! Today, in leu of the fact that I don’t currently have a super amazingly epic blog post lurking around my drafts folder waiting to be posted, I’d thought I’d give a smidgen of a writing/life update!

Because clearly y’all love hearing me ramble, yes?

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LIFE (and other disasters of similar quality)

Soo. Where have I been, you might be wondering? Where could I–the great and powerful Kenzie–have disappeared off to for two whole entire weeks? (the horror!)

The answer, my friends, is really quite wonderful:

I went on a writing retreat! And technically it was a virtual writing retreat, which … you know … means I didn’t even have to leave my couch. so the fact that this kept me from blogging is entirely irrelevant *cough* but I MUST POINT OUT that during this writing retreat, I was simultaneously having a series of the worst weeks of 2021! So like?? I feel like I should get some slack there, yes? It’s really difficult for me to be productive and creative when my IRL existence is in shambles and crumbling down around me, but I digress. Life moves on, I discovered some really amazing writing advice from the curators of the writing retreat, and here I am today to tell you all about my progress in both my WIP (project goblin, for those keeping score), and my real life! (more on both of these things below).

But first, I want to tell you guys the reason that I missed a post for this specific Tuesday. Because technically the writing retreat ended last weekend, so I should have had plenty enough time to draft something. But I sorta kinda completely blew off writing a blog post for Tuesday to … er … go to a trampoline park?

…and then I completely busted up my ankle. While bouncing on a trampoline. At said trampoline park.

I didn’t say I was proud of it, okay? XD

So Tuesday after work, instead of following my initial plan to sketch up a blog post and throw it onto the internet, I decided to spend the evening with a whole gang of coworkers and friends. It was a jolly, high-energy time which I’m SO thankful for, but then, towards the end of the night when we were all beginning to crave Chick-Fil-A, I took a leap of faith on one final trampoline, stumbled, tripped, and face-planted into a giant foam mattress that completely absorbed me into its comforting embrace.

And suddenly there was an intense burning sensation in my left ankle.

Fast forward to today (Friday night), and I’m sitting on the couch sporting a deliciously galaxy-like bruise and questioning not only my sanity, but the sanity of anyone who dares enter a trampoline park.

And yet? I have no regrets, my friends. Absolutely none at all. XD #noregerts (except, you know, for the GIANT BRUISE ON MY ANKLE. But like it’s fine. I had fun. 10/10 will not be going back.)

But yeah, that’s about it for the life update! There are some Other Things going on behind the scenes that I don’t feel quite comfortable talking about yet (nothing but good things, of course!), but to give a conclusion on that aforementioned terrible series of weeks I experienced recently, I’ve been on the receiving end of God’s grace and His everlasting kindness the past couple weeks, and everything that was piling up around me to the point of near-suffocation has–despite all odds–been completely flipped on its head. Life is good. My heart is full. My foot looks like the backdrop for a wormhole.

I’m happy, guys. I’m really, really happy.

And also slightly in pain.

And now, on to the writing update!

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WRITING (Behind The Scenes of Project Goblin)

Okay, so this is something that I’m EXTREMELY excited to talk about, guys! I don’t have a whole lot to share right now (bummer), but I do have a lot of excitement for this story and where it’s headed!

I think the last substantial update I gave for The Girl and The Goblin King had something to do with my revelation/breakthrough, in which I discovered that this story had a slight Wizard of Oz vibe to it. Now, a month or so and 12 chapters later, I’ve finally reached a spot in this novel that I had yet to reach.

My friends, lords and ladies, children and hobgoblins–we have officially reached the hall of the goblin king.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for YEARS now. Never in all my rewrites, in all of my drafts, in all of my half-finished NaNo’s, have I gotten to the goblin king’s castle. Never. Not even once.

And yet….here we are. Technically I haven’t exactly stepped foot into the castle yet, but rest assured that this will be happening tonight. I have a wee bit of writer’s block at the moment from this being such a momentous occasion in the drafting of this novel, but the good news is that since I know the cause (MOMENTOUS OCCASION, YEET!), I know exactly how to fix it.

…just keep writing.

And since I’ve got a bum leg and a Saturday of doing nothing before me, I have a vaguely good feeling about what I’m going to be working on over the weekend. XD

Aside from the fact that we have now entered the hall of the goblin king, I’d also like to mention that my main terror child, Annalora, has decided to completely shut me out. She won’t talk to me–or even look at me, for that matter–but this is all fine and dandy since Todd has decided to become my new best friend. He’s a nervous mess, and apparently becoming a nervous mess about potential death and hallucinatory nightmares is enough to crack him open and get him talking? To be honest, I’ll take it. Annalora I can fix in a later draft. Todd is the man carrying this story at the moment, and I kinda need my leading guy to develop some sort of a personality within the first draft.

But I digress. Of more notable quality, Todd’s sanity is slowly whirlpooling down the drain, my walking tree got left behind because he couldn’t fit inside a tiny secret passage, and WE HAVE FINALLY DISCOVERED MY CREEPY TRIPLET BOYS!!

I’m probably most excited about that, quite frankly. My triplets are some of the most disturbing creatures I’ve ever dreamed up, and getting to flesh them out further on the page has been an experience. I’m not sure they’re quite up to par with the vision living inside my head, but you know what? This is a first draft. It’s allowed to be a little subpar every now and then!

As far as wordcount goes, I am very, very behind on my goals for June, but my progress through the story has been so substantial recently that I can’t bring myself to be disappointed. Currently, I’m deciding to focus on scenes rather than wordcounts. It seems a little less harsh on my mentality towards writing, and though I may not be progressing as quickly as I want to be, I know that I’m filling out these chapters in a way that feels right. Every book is different, I guess, and for right now, slow and steady is how this book is demanding to be written.

I do–as I might have mentioned previously–have a hard deadline for this book, but as of right now I’m not going to be sharing it anywhere on cyberspace. It’s not only a protection for my own sanity, but also to keep me from stressing about breaking yet another goal deadline in front of everyone on the internet. XD But rest assured that you will all know the moment the first draft of this book is completed! I am extremely excited to have the first draft of Project Goblin FINALLY under my belt, and though it might take a little longer than initially expected, I’m pushing forward with everything I have, and am determined to complete this manuscript before the year is out…!

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talk to me, peasants!

And that, my friends, about sums up my life update for today! Personal injuries, fun writing plans, and a whole slew of messy life-ish-ness… I gotta say, this year is really shaping up to be quite the whirlwind. But that’s quite enough about me! Tell me something about YOU!

Have you ever blown off writing priorities to spend a night with friends? Are you working on anything special during the beginning of these glorious summer months? What is the WORST injury you’ve ever sustained as a human? (not gonna lie–this one is ranking uip there)

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

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

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

UPDATE!: As I’d hoped, some of my lovely friends found where this thing originated! Supposedly it started as a twitter tag (which???? HOW DID I MISS THE TWITTER TAG. That sounds so fun??), #HowYouKnowIWroteIt, and was eventually brought over to the blogs!! Thank you SO much to Jenelle and Christine for finding this, and you can read both of THEIR blog posts of a similar nature by clicking on their names!!! (you guys are the best and I love you so dearly)

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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