When the greatest barrier is me

November has come to a close, and Nanowrimo has drawn to an end. My goal this year was around 12,000 words — a mere fraction of the 50,000 some of you brave writers committed to. If you succeeded, congratulations! If you fell a little short, don’t be disappointed. I’ll leave a tweet below from the official Nanowrimo account that perfectly captures my feelings:

For me, November had a bumpy start. I didn’t start writing until the month was already half over (oops) but when I got going, I wrote every night for 45 min-2 hours. I used writing sprints, roughly writing 800-1200 words per night. It ended up requiring quite a bit of discipline, there were multiple evenings when I just didn’t feel like showing up. Taking that time to work on my goals gave me a small sense of accomplishment which kept me coming back.

So, did I make it? Just about. I find myself about 200 words shy of my 70,000 goal for this draft of The Tower Project. This is the farthest I’ve come in the 10 years I’ve been writing.

But I’m having a hard time crossing the finish line.

My current Nanowrimo status, sitting at 66,941/70,000 words

There’s this thing I do, when I get to the last piece of Halloween candy or the last drop of my favourite shampoo or the last serving in the box of cereal  — I stop myself. I don’t want it to be over. I don’t want the good things to run out. I don’t wanna miss out tomorrow, when I really want that candy bar.

I think I’m afraid to finish this draft, because life has changed, and I don’t wanna miss out on the good I had planned.

I remember telling my husband that when I finished we would celebrate. Go to our favourite restaurant, get a babysitter, have expensive food and expensive alcohol and celebrate it as a milestone. An accomplishment. The support it’s taken, the dedication. The hours and hours. The tears.

My husband left me this summer. The last few months I’ve been forging ahead on my own and I’ve had to reevaluate a lot of things, including how much of my own accomplishments and successes I contributed to him. I discovered how much of my language had to change. I had been saying “us” and “we” for years, when what I meant was “I”. I wanted to acknowledge my husbands role in my work. His sacrifice, the time we didn’t spend together that I was hunched over the computer or locked in a room with a notebook. I wanted to thank him for supporting me. For cheering me on. I’m finishing this draft without him. And it feels really really hard. Much harder than I expected.

I’m trying to find empowerment in finishing this alone, but I wish I could celebrate with the other loved ones who have been on this journey with me. Miki, Carolyn, Amy, Sabrina — and all the peeps in our writing group. I love you so much right now. I’ve gotten a lot of advice and support on how to make this milestone special. Top suggestion is to order expensive takeout, put on a face mask, and have a bubble bath. I’m into it. My personal desire is to drop $400 on a single item of clothing because that’s how my dreams usually end, but I may have to resist. I’m gifting myself an IOU as I put the last words on the page, an IOU for a babysitter and a post-COVID-19 dinner with loved ones. I can’t wait to hug you folks. COVID-19 makes all of us more isolated, makes everything harder.

If you’re out there struggling to celebrate, whether it’s finishing Nanowrimo or reaching some other goal — I’m thinking about you. Your accomplishment is no less valid, even when we can’t be together. Your success is no less yours, and no less worthy of celebration, even when the celebration looks different than you anticipated.

These words are for me, but they’re also for you.

I have 200 words left to write in my novel, and I’m doing it tonight.

Character Aesthetics: Thomas

When I get stuck sometimes I need to get away from the word processor and use other parts of my brain. I’ve found that keeping focused on my WIP, but trying something creative other than writing, can be a great way to get myself unstuck! Lately, I’ve been venturing over to Pinterest where I spend time wading through the many many images and curating the ones that most clearly encapsulate my characters and plot. This has helped me flesh out some of my minor characters, as well as keep up my momentum and boost my creativity!

Writing exercise (kinda): creating character aesthetics.

Character moodboard/aesthetics for my MC, Thomas

Thomas Tower is the main character in my WIP (now that placeholder name ‘The Tower Project’ makes sense, huh?). He’s blind, has a rebellious streak, and a mop of curly dark hair. He’s a big coffee drinker, his sister is his prime motivator, and oh ya… he might be haunted by a ghost.

Exercise: What’s in your protag’s pockets

The things in my main characters pockets are: a wallet with a California ID and folded money, a key ring, playing cards, candle stubs, pocket knife, lighter and business cards
What’s in Thomas’ pockets? A wallet with California ID, cash, key ring, playing cards, candle stubs, pocket knife, lighter, business cards.

After a brief separation from my WIP, The Tower Project, I recently re-committed myself to finishing this draft. As I do, I’m collecting inspiration and actively plotting draft two. One of the things that’s helping me get ready for this next phase in the writing process is … Pinterest boards. Specifically character aesthetics/moodboards.

Pinterest can be a powerful tool for writers, from collecting character inspiration through portrait photography, to world building and writing craft tips. I’ve started to deepen my understanding of my characters through collecting images that remind me of them and thus, the challenge: What’s in your Characters Pockets? was born.

Above: the things that I have said, over the last 50,000 words, Thomas Tower is carrying in his pockets. I may have even gone so far as photoshopping a fake ID and custom business cards. The depths of my procrastination truly knows no bounds.

Here’s the list:

  • A wallet with a California ID and paper money, folded for ease of identification
  • A ring of keys
  • Several stubs of candle
  • A stainless steel lighter
  • A pocket knife
  • A deck of playing cards (with raised braille)
  • Business cards

Your turn, it’s time to turn out your protag’s pockets. Tell me what they’re carrying in the comments!

gif of people emptying a tremendous amount of things out of their pockets