January 5 2017

Weekend Getaway

So, the hubby and I did something really cool this year over New Year’s weekend. We decided we wanted to get away from the city and we went to a cabin for the long weekend with no television, no WiFi, and sketchy cell coverage. It was great!
We ate at the local Pizza King on the way into town Friday night. It was the only thing open besides maybe a bar or two. Even the grocery store was closed already and it wasn’t nine o’clock yet. We brought a bit of food from home, but would need to visit the grocery store once it reopened on Saturday.
The cabin came equipped with two twin beds, a queen bed and a queen sofa sleeper, but you must bring your own sheets and blankets. It also has a coffee maker and filters, a two-slice toaster, a microwave, as well as a full-sized stove and refrigerator. Hey even supply the basic pots and pans, but you must bring your own food, drinks, plates, silverware and cooking utensils. We usually bring an electric teapot and at least a cookie sheet. When we grocery shop, we try to buy things that don’t require much in the way of seasoning or condiments so we don’t need to buy all that stuff and haul it back home or throw it out.
Now you might be asking why we would want to get away only to have to cook our own meals, and have nothing to entertain ourselves with. Well, the biggest reason is to get away from the stress of work and the idea that if we are home for the long weekend, we should be working on unfinished home improvement projects. So hubby and I have been to these particular cabins numerous times over the years so we know what we are getting into and how to pack for the trip. We keep plastic tubs stocked with the bedding needed for all the beds at the cabin, so when the time comes we just grab the tub and load it in the car. We have in years past, when the kids were much younger, brought along portable DVD player and several movies they wanted to watch. The problem with that is the screen was barely big enough for one person to watch at any given time. We both brought along our laptops, hubby so he could play games that didn’t require internet and me so I could write, though I barely go mine out and did no writing. Hubby brought along two Christmas themed jigsaw puzzles that have been in the family and traditionally get worked almost every year. We worked one on Saturday night, then hubby put it away before breakfast on Sunday morning. We, of course, brought a few books and magazines to read. I brought along my crochet basket and managed to get three hats made. I also took my bullet journal stuff so I could work on the spreads for the new year. We thought we might go hiking but never got around to it. It was very relaxing, nothing planned except make simple food when we got hungry. It was very quiet, nobody visiting, no extra people around to keep us from some much-needed rest. This is the first time we have gone to this particular park without at least our two kids, who are now adults, along for the fun. It was very different this time, but in a good way. I could see a bunch of writers getting together and renting one or more cabins for a weekend to just write. It would take some planning and cooperation if six writers were to all stay in one cabin, but it could really be fun. So, if you need a chance to just get a way and have never been to a state park cabin for a weekend, you really should give it a try.
Note: The photos below were taken at Whitewater Memorial Park in Liberty, Indiana.
 
December 18 2016

​When you can’t find time to write…

Make a writing date with someone else who needs to write, go to Panera or some other writing-friendly place that doesn’t mind if you hang out for a couple of hours. Take out your notebook and pen, laptop, tablet or whatever your writing tools of choice are and do word sprints together. Mix it up, start with some short 5-10 minute sprints then do a longer one, maybe 25 minutes. Have a goal in mind. Maybe your goal is writing and editing an entire blog post, or writing your holiday newsletter, or a short story or article.
Have a goal and set aside some time to write with other writers. Make it a regular writing date.
We started a group after NaNo last year and we meet every Thursday night at a Panera (we rotate amongst a few local ones on an odd schedule) and we write. I get my dinner and eat it then I won’t let myself eat the 99 cent pastry I always let them talk me into until I have written at least 500 words for the night. Some Thursdays we have just 1 or 2 of us, sometimes we have as many as 8. It is sad when I am the only one to show up, but I have made the comittment to show up and write and I just do the writing sprints anyway, then maybe during the breaks between sprints, I grab a drink refill or read some in whatever book I am currently reading. When we have more people, we can chat and catch up between sprints, but during those sprints we write.
Our Thursday Nights Writing @ Panera Group has a closed Facebook group page just for us where we can post the events, let each other know which of several Paneras we are meeting at that week and also post who is going to be able to get there and who will be elsewhere that week.
Being part of the Thursday writers group has made all the difference in making me into a year-round writer instead of a November only writer. If you don’t have local friends, make a virtual date and meet via Skype, or Google Hangouts or FaceTime or whatever. Hold each other accountable, show up and write. It works. For me, writing is a group thing. I used to get really down after November because all the hype of NaNoWriMo was over and I needed that energy to write, having a regular writing date each week has made me keep writing in my life throughout the year. Make no mistake, I don’t write with the frenzy or frequency during the rest of the year that I write during November, but the meetings of fellow writers once a week means that no matter what else is going on in my life during the week, on Thursday, I will take the time to write.
Basically, everyone has time to write if they want to write. You may easily find excuses as to why you have no time, but they are just that…excuses. I have dragged my computer to work with me in November and written while I ate lunch during my 30 minute lunch break. Give an honest look at how you send your time. Do you watch tv? Are you on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, YouTube or Twitter? Do you check your emails. Chat on the phone, text back and forth with friends? Read the newspaper, magazines or books? You can choose to do these things or you can choose to write. Not writing is a choice you have been making, I guarantee if you REALLY want to write, you will find a way to do so just like you find a way to do other things you want to do. If you have to, carry a notebook and pen with you into the bathroom and multi-task for 10 minutes a day. Ok, you’re right, I shouldn’t have gone there. My point is you CAN find time to write, you just have to want to write.
The real question here is, what are you willing to give up or cut back on to MAKE time to write? Think of all the time you would have to write if you gave up making excuses and just do it!  
December 11 2016

NaNoWriMo Lessons

November has come and gone and I seemed to have let posting blog entries go by the wayside way back in mid-September. The reason is because for all of October and part of September I start to focus on reading writing craft books and not reading fiction. I also start trying to plot the novel I will write in November. 
This year marks my fourth attempt at NaNoWriMo and also my fourth year of winning the challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days that make up November. I knew I could make it to the goal if I applied myself, but this year I had hope to also write enough words to actually complete the novel. Needless to say that didn’t happen. Due to some extra responsibilities at work, I was working longer hours and had trouble getting out of work early enough to get to some of the write-ins we had in the Indianapolis Region. I was careful to make sure I didn’t get too far behind because I know from past experience how difficult it can be to come back from being way behind on my word count. The problem with writing enough to finish the book was mostly a plotting problem. I still feel like I am not good at the whole plotting and story arc thing. So what I thought I had extremely well planned before November started ended up a little off course about a week into the month. Now before you say that I am the author and I should have just written myself back on track with what I had outlined, just know that I felt like what I was writing was better than what I had planned. Now it may or may not have really been better, but I felt like it was at least good enough to con sider going off track, err off outline worth while.
So I was looking at my bar graph after the win was recorded and thinking about how even though I felt like I was behind a good deal of the month, I wasn’t very far behind at any point and this was really the most consistent year I have ever had during NaNo. 
So at this point I would like to post here for all the world to see, the four years of bar graphs. See those below. As I looked at the graphs I decided it might be kind of cool to compare the four years and see what we can learn from them.

Year    Won    Word Count
2013    27th    50,155
2014    29th    50,063
2015    27th    56,505
2016    27th    53,568

Notable Things about Each Year:
2013 – Behind until day 23 with almost no words until day 4.
2014 – Behind until day 28, basically no words until day 9. First time writing fiction.
2015 – On track until days 6-15, a little behind and then caught after day 15.
2016 – Ahead days 4-7 and 12-15 behind days 8-11 and 19-24.

Advice to First Time NaNoWriMo Participants:
~ Spend some time planning or reading craft books. You can obviously do this any time of the year, but I usually try to cram this info into my brain in September and October. 
~ Get your word count (1,667 words) every day if possible.
~ Get ahead and stay there. Whenever possible, write more than the daily goal and bank those words for the tough days when you get sick, the words aren’t flowing or you just are too tired to write.
Get to know your characters and their back story before November.    You can write back story or character sketches before November if you like, but these words do not count toward word count goals in November.  
~ Try not to schedule any appointments, dates, errands, etc. In November, instead opt for October or December instead.
~Go on the NaNoWriMo.org website and declare your novel, choose your home region, check the calendar for your region and go to as many local writing events as you can fit in. It has been our experience in the Indianapolis area that those who participate usually stick to the goal and do the work required to win. You get to know other writers this way and can help hold each other accountable and motivate each other to write.
~ Writing Sprints! Whether you are at home alone or in a group. Set a timer for a designated amount of time (try 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes) start the timer and focus only on writing as much as you can until the timer goes off. If in a group, compare word counts during the sprint, cheer the achievements. If alone track your word counts. Get to know what you are capable of writing in a given amount of time. Try to beat your own best score. When the timer goes off get up, go use the restroom if needed, grab a drink or snack, move around chat amongst yourselves if in a group, read your favorite lines from that sprint if you like. Give yourself a 5 or 10 minute break then do another sprint. Before you know it you will have written your daily goal.

New things I tried this year and really liked:
~ #1k30min Set the timer for 30 minutes and try to write 1,000 words. You have to write so fast, the inner editor doesn’t stand a chance!
~ When I can’t go to a live write-in near me, I find a virtual one on YouTube. There are some on the NaNoWriMo channel, @NaNoWordSprints or #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, the WordNerds (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSKHG1eUF7vnL1kieYiVasA) have virtual write-ins every Sunday evening during their live chat so check their channel, also Tamara Woods has some on her channel, PenPaperPad (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCUt-YGmeMSHZfXQQe4XF0g) also has some, I really enjoyed writing with her, probably because she isn’t a giggly high school or college girl. There are most likely many others too. Search on YouTube for “Virtual Write In” or “NaNoWriMo Virtual Write in” and give some a try.

After watching the WordNerds YouTube videos and live streams for a couple of years, I find myself wondering if I can find a group of writers willing to give Google Hangouts a try and doing our own virtual write ins. This would be great for when one of our local members relocates to a different state or when the weather is bad and prevents you from going to a live write-in isn’t an option. What do you think? I have also wondered about doing a crafting club this way where everyone knits or crochets on camera.

December 11 2016

​Bullet Journal Adventures

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This year, at the end of September, I discovered a cool thing called a Bullet Journal.  I was intrigued by all of the colorful photos on Pintrest, FaceBook and Instagram and was seeing people mention it more and more often. I got tired of seeing it mentioned and not really knowing what it was, so I figured if all these people were hyped up about it, I should at least see what it was all about. I have really never kept a journal except when we travel as a family on vacations, then I would try to journal about where we went and what we did during our trip. I eventually quit even doing that because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with it and didn’t want to write it after the fact because that really wasn’t the point of the whole thing and I knew I would forget a lot of the things I wanted to record in the travel journal. In other words, my perfectionist reared its ugly head and told me I shouldn’t bother because I wasn’t doing it right/perfect.

So enter the Bullet Journal which would be a place to house everything. It is more than a planner and allows more freedom than any traditional day planner or calendar system I have ever found.  It looked as though it would also allow me to be as colorful and creative as I wanted to be. I could try a spread and if it wasn’t the right one for me I could move on and try a different one next time. I read many articles about using the bullet journal system for all aspects of your life.

Ryder Carroll, who designed the Bullet Journal, called it “The analog system for the digital age”. If you are interested in learning more about using a Bullet Journal, go to http://bulletjournal.com/. On his website, he gives the very bare-bones basic version of a bullet journal.

If you want to learn other really cool ways to use the bullet journal you may want to check out:
~My Pintrest page for Bullet Journaling
https://www.pinterest.com/KarenBeidelman/bullet-journaling/
~Kara of Boho Berry
http://bohoberry.com
~Dee of Decade Thirty
http://www.decadethirty.com/
~Jessica of Pretty Prints and Paper
~Look into the following monthly challenge tags on FaceBook:
#RockYourHandwriting
#PlanWithMeChallenge
So, you are probably wondering how I have been using a bullet journal to get myself organized and are wanting to know how I personally find it helpful. Well, I’m glad you asked. I have been using a Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium Notebook – Ruled – Lime Green Color as my first actual bullet journal (BuJo). I wish it were a dot grid, but it was one I had on my shelf for years and was too paralyzed by perfectionism to actually write in because I might write sloppy or misspell a word and you can’t tear the pages out, you know? But I decided to jump in and didn’t want to wait for the perfect journal (Leuchtturm1917 Notebook (A5) Hardcover, Dotted, Purple) so I was excited to finally have an acceptable use for the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover A5 Notebook – Ruled – Lime Green Color that was gifted to me years ago, but was as yet untouched.I went through most of October trying spreads I thought would work for me and then decided to see if we also had any of the black and white marbled Composition Notebook in the school supplies cabinet. We did, so I set one of those up for my Writing Bullet Journal. This was just in time for November and NaNoWriMo. I thought the black and white too boring and uninspiring, so I colored the front and then Covered the front with strips of packing tape to keep it looking pretty and so it wouldn’t possibly get wet and bleed off all over things. I used it for a few days and realized the back didn’t feel as smooth and nice as the front so one day I colored and taped the back as well. The bright colors make me smile and want to use the writing bullet journal.I also found an old steno notebook half-used around work that we were going to throw away, so I took all the used pages out and decided to use it to practice a few weekly or daily layouts in and to make lists in before messing up the green BuJo. Yes, that perfectionism is still a thing, but I am getting over it slowly. I am using a bunch of Sharpie brand markers and some Bic MarkIt brand markers too that my daughter had and noticed they bleed through the pages, but I decided I didn’t mind not using the backs of the pages all the time so I found out that I just put a catalog under the page I am working on with these markers to keep the markers from ruining more than just the back of the page I am currently working on. I tried my hand at lettering and did some of the prompts from the challenges I listed above. I am actually embracing the use of cursive writing a bit again after being told in high school to print my essays instead of writing them in cursive (yes, youngsters, this was the age before computers were much of a thing). I have found it isn’t too bad if I take my time and focus on what I am writing, letter by letter. I doubt I will ever convert back to writing much in cursive but it is kind of cool to practice it once in a while.

The spreads I find most helpful at this time are:
~ When Did I Last…(replace batteries, flip mattress, clean outside dryer vent, etc.)
~ Word Tracker (to track my word counts on a monthly basis)
~ Weekly/Daily (mine is sort of a combination right now)
~ Waiting On (to track online orders and know they all come in)
~ Holiday Gifts to Buy

I am just on my second week of doing the daily/weekly thing. Mine are kind of just daily entries, but I lay them out a week at a time. After the first week which I set up for Sunday through Saturday on two pages, I decided that I wanted the entire weekend together, so this week I did eight days on one page beginning and ending with Sunday so that beginning next week, I can start my weeks on Monday and end them on Sunday. I also started last week adding meal planning using small post-it strips that can be moved if needed and when the week is over they can be put onto the meal ideas page to be reused another week. I find that I don’t need to migrate a task if it doesn’t get done on the day it was listed as long as it gets done before I turn the page. If it doesn’t then I look at each task and either migrate it to the next week or decide not to worry about getting it done at all.

It will take me some time to figure out exactly how the BuJo will be most useful to me. I plan to keep working on my chore list and designating each entry as daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. I plan to keep building my master meals list so menu planning with hopefully get easier as I go along. I haven’t figured out yet if I want to use my BuJo for a grocery list or not, there are plenty of apps for that on the phone. I had thought to make a grocery list page with an outlined spot to hold a large lined piece of post-it note most likely in a bright neon color, but am not sure I will want to put out and take a sticky not e with me.

It is still a work in progress, but already I can feel myself taking back control of my life where once it tended to spiral out of control. I find working in my BuJo is a good way to de-stress at the end of the day. I find myself looking for ways to add color to my life via my BuJo. I’d love to know if you use a bullet journal, so please email me or leave a comment on the Contact Us page. What are your favorite pages to include? Would you find it helpful to see photos of my Bullet Journals Spreads or My Writer’s Bullet Journal?

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September 9 2016

Creating Characters

Picture

I get my characters from real life. Sometimes they are loosely based on an actual person I have met and admired. Most of the time my characters are a compilation of characteristics of many different people I have come across in my life. I may take the looks from one person and add in the personality of another person with the odd quirks from someone completely different from either of the two people the character is based on. Sometimes my characters are based more on ideal people than actual people. I imagine a person I would like to meet and how that person would behave in a given situation.
I had the idea for the Crafty Ladies Club and wanted them to all be in the 45 to 70 year old age range. I wanted them to all have different crafting specialties, so I began making a list of the various types of crafting they might be good at. At first, they were listed as Crafty Lady #1, Crafty Lady #2 and so on. Then, I wasn’t sure how to make them realistic. I remembered a co-worker who was creepy accurate with describing a person he had just met based on learning their zodiac sign. He had apparently made a study of how various zodiac signs interacted with each other and how they behaved. I witnessed him telling a woman she likely had a shoe collection that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. He told her that she behaved like this or that and her eyes got as round as saucers and she was shocked how accurate his guesses about her were. He went on to tell her that she likely had a good friend who was a particular zodiac sign and that she had trouble getting along with another zodiac sign. She thought he was psychic or something. So, remembering that, I decided that I had come up with twelve character that I needed to know more about, so I assigned the twelve zodiac signs to them to make sure I had variety in my characters. I studied a sheet listing the signs and a few characteristics about each one and decided which craft or job a person with that zodiac sign would be best suited to. Some were very easy to match up and others were harder, but I really liked having a little guide to help me create each character and decide how he or she would act.
I have heard of authors who use the personality types for their characters. There are numerous websites and tests you can take either as yourself or as one of your characters. One site to help explain the sixteen personality types is https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types. It can help you to get to know your characters better by answering the questions on the test as though you were that character. I have taken the test a few times at different times, but have never used it to help me with story writing or character development.
Now, I have no idea if this is an original idea I came up with or not. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea but it was a place to start and at the time I really had no idea how to do it any differently or better. My characters went through most of the first draft of the first book in the series with names like The Sheriff, Deputy One, Female Deputy, Store Keeper and that sort of name. They were place holders. One time, my main character’s late husband went through most of the book being called Hubby and with me having no idea what sort of job he had, but knowing it needed to be a decent office type job that paid well enough for his wife not to have to work. I think I was so afraid of picking the wrong name and occupation for him that I just kept putting it off and thinking about it.
I don’t really create character profiles, but I do try to carefully record in a character sheet each detail about that person as I write it into the story to keep myself from having trouble remembering what I have written about them later.
When I come across a person that I think would make a good character, I try to write what ever I know about them on an index card or scrap of paper so I can add it to a character list I have in a document in my computer. One time I was perusing the forums on the NaNoWriMo.org website and found a place where NaNos could offer themselves up as characters for others to use in their writing. They would give as many details as they felt were needed and that they felt comfortable putting out there for the world. I found several that I thought I could use, so I copied the details down for later use. Most of these people just wanted to be told if they were used as the basis of a character and be given the chance to read all about their fictionalized selves if they were used. This was extremely interesting because many of the “characters” had details listed that I wouldn’t have thought of or have put together in the same person.
So, what about you? Are you a character? Would you want someone to fictionalize you? Where do you get the characters for your writing from? Do you write about the real people in your life, your family members or maybe the strangers you see at the mall? I have been known to sit in crowded public places watching the people and trying to imagine what they do for a living, what their relationship to the person they are with is or what sorts of trouble they have seen in their lives. Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to take photos of them so I could describe them better later on . Have you ever looked at the photos at peopleofwalmart.com? I have often wondered how those photos get taken without someone getting suspicious or angry about their privacy being invaded. Heck for all I know the photographer (and I use that term very loosely) walked up to the person and asked if they would mind having their picture taken. From what I have seen there, that scenario is entirely possible. I’ve thought of using some of those photos as inspiration for characters, but then talk myself out of it because they would never be believable characters. But then again, they are already real people, so I supposed there is no reason they wouldn’t make believable characters. Maybe I am just not imaginative enough to create the right setting and story for them to appear in.